The Parable of The Leather Coat

Mr. Tohei went to Hawaii in 1953. On his return, he brought back a leather coat which was impossible to obtain at that time in Japan. It had fringes like the ones you see in western movies. He had a leather coat when it was impossible even to obtain leather shoes! I really thought it was amazing. Then, that coat was skillfully stolen. That was what had happened when I turned up for training. I saw that all of the uchideshi had been made to sit in seiza and Mr. Tohei was shouting something. Then I heard that Tohei Sensei’s coat had been stolen. At that time Mr. Noguchi, Mr. Genta Okumura and Mr. Sunadomari were some of the uchideshi. Then O-Sensei appeared asking, “What’s up?” When Mr. Sunadomari explained what had happened O-Sensei responded: “Oh, it was stolen, was it?” (Laughter) Then he came into the dojo. Tohei Sensei also sat in seiza because O-Sensei entered. O-Sensei started to walk around them. We were really wondering what he was going to say. What he said was: ‘You’re the one to blame, Tohei.’ Then, he disappeared. Tohei sat silently for a while. Then he, too, disappeared. Everybody was relieved and started training.

After practice, I was leaving for home and ran into O-Sensei who was on his way to the bathroom. I went up to him and said, ‘O-Sensei!.’ He said, ‘Ooh!’ I asked, ‘A few minutes ago when Tohei Sensei had his coat stolen, you said he was the one at fault. Why did you say that?’ He answered, ‘Don’t you understand why? Those who practice budo shouldn’t have that kind of spirit. One shouldn’t show off things which people desire to have. You can show off things you can give, but otherwise you shouldn’t act that way. Poor man, he took the coat because he wanted it. However, by taking it, he became a thief. It’s all right to have the coat stolen, but he was made a thief. Stealing is a bad thing, but the man whose coat was stolen committed the original sin. He created the occasion for an opening (suki) in the man. As a budoka, that’s bad.’ I was really amazed and I learned the depth of Aikido.”

-Shjoji Nishio

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