Source: Aikido Shugyo – Gozo Shioda’s Autobiography, via The Aikido FAQ
Avoiding the concentrated fire of revolvers
Talking about weird things, let me talk about an extremely strange event. This is also something I actually witnessed with my own eyes.
One time an official from the munitions department of the army, together with 9 military personnel, came to visit the Ueshiba Dojo. They came to watch the wonderful art of Aikido that they had heard about. These people were arms inspectors. They tested new weapons and judged whether the sights were accurate or not. Their shooting ability was Olympic level, and I noticed that they hit the target every time.
Ueshiba Sensei, who had done a demonstration before these people that day, had claimed “Bullets cannot reach me.” I had, of course, previously heard that when he was in Mongolia he had avoided the bullets of horse-mounted brigands, but this was quite different.
The inspectors’ pride was hurt and they were quite angry.
“You’re sure that the bullets won’t touch you?”, they asked.
“Oh, no, they won’t.”
“Then would you like to try?”
They took him at his word and promptly arranged the date that they were to meet at the Okubo Army Shooting Center. Before the date, they made Ueshiba Sensei write officially that he had agreed to become a living target for the army officers and got him to place his fingerprint on the document. As a further precaution and verification, they took the document to the army court. Therefore, even if Sensei was shot and killed, nobody could lodge a complaint.
The appointed day arrived, and a military car came to pick Sensei up to take him to the shooting area in Okubo. Mr. Yukawa and myself accompanied him. Naturally, Sensei’s wife was very anxious and beseeched him to change his mind. but Sensei kept replying light-heatedly, “It’s all right., they will never hit their target.”
Mr. Yukawa and myself were also very concerned; to the point where we were wondering if it wouldn’t be wise to make funeral preparations. When we reached the shooting area, another surprise was waiting for us. I was expecting only one gun to be aimed at Sensei, but we discovered that six men would be firing pistols at him. The best range for pistols was 25 meters and, normally, a target in the shape of a human is placed at this distance. This time, however, Ueshiba Sensei was standing there in place of the doll. The six men then positioned themselves, aiming at Ueshiba Sensei. While staring at him, I kept thinking helplessly that twenty-five meters is a considerable distance, and was wondering what on earth Sensei could do from there.
One, two, three. The six revolvers fired at the same time and a cloud of dust whirled around us. Then, suddenly, one of the six marksmen was flying through the air! What had happened? Before we could figure it out, Sensei was standing behind the six men, laughing into his beard.
We all were bewildered. I really and truly could not understand what had happened. Not just me, but everyone present was so stunned that we could not find words to express our shock. The six inspectors were not yet convinced and asked if Sensei could do it again. “All right” he answered indifferently.
Once again, the six barrels were aimed at Ueshiba Sensei and were fired. This time the inspector at the edge of the group flew into the air. In exactly the same way as before, Ueshiba Sensei was standing behind the six inspectors before we knew what was happening. I was dumbfounded. That time I had promised myself to watch carefully in order to see exactly what Sensei was doing. But even though I had tried very hard, I was completely unable to see how he had moved.
Facing Ueshiba Sensei were the barrels of the six revolvers which had been fired. This far I could remember clearly, but the next stage, where Sensei had moved the distance of 25 meters and thrown one of the six marksmen, I simply could not understand. I couldn’t find any explanation for other than “God techniques.”
Flying golden balls
On our way back I asked, “Sensei, how could you do such a thing?”, and I received the following answer.
Before the explosion, as the trigger is pulled, a flash like a golden ball flies off. The actual bullet of the revolver comes later, therefore it is easy to avoid.
In this case, even though the six men intend to shoot at the same time, they are never exactly together. Because they shoot at slightly different times, I just have to go to the one who is going to fire first. “The golden flash has a spectacular noise,” said Sensei. According to him, after the noise he would begin to run. He ran in the shape of a ninja with his back bent, taking short slow steps. The real bullet would come after he had already leapt forward about half the distance. Sensei said that the time between the flash of gold and the bullet was quite long, but for us watching, everything happened so quickly that we had no idea that he was trying to get close enough to throw the first man that had fired.
“God has said that I am necessary for this world and has decided to let me live. My period of purification is not over so I cannot die. When I am not necessary for this world anymore the gods will let me pass away.” Sensei seemed to be convinced, but of course we couldn’t understand what he meant.
I know that you readers will have difficulty believing in stories like this, but these kind of strange things really did happen.
Challenge with a master hunter
There is another story that relates to the previous one.
One of my acquaintances, Mr. Sadajiro Sato, was a hunter from Yamanashi Prefecture. He was known as a master of gun hunting. For example, hunters usually aim at and shoot pheasants when they are descending to the ground. At this moment it is said that their flying speed is around 200 kilometers per hour. If the pheasant is shot in the head it will drop straight to the ground, but if the bullet hits the body it will fall a long way away. Accordingly, hunters would try to aim for the head, which is not an easy target to hit. The point is that Mr. Sato would hit the head every time he shot—he was the master of masters.
One day I told Mr. Sato the story of Ueshiba Sensei avoiding the six revolvers. “Even if he did that I am sure he won’t be able to avoid mine,” said Mr. Sato confidently. “A human head is much bigger than that of the birds that I am used to shooting. I cannot imagine missing that.” Having said that, Mr. Sato came down out of the mountains to challenge Ueshiba Sensei. I accompanied him to the Ueshiba dojo land told Sensei that Mr. Sato wished to challenge him. Sensei accepted the proposal.
I watched carefully, and a bit anxiously, as Sensei sat down in seiza at the far end of the dojo while Mr. Sato took distance and aimed. And then just as he was on the verge of pulling the trigger, Sensei dropped his head in recognition and said, “Wait! Your bullet will hit me! Your thoughts are undistorted, and clearly you want to hit me. From the beginning you’ve known that you are going to hit your target. I cannot avoid the gun of such a man, you are a true master!”
Mr. Sato returned happily to his mountains.
I was deeply impressed. Mr. Sato was a gun master, and Ueshiba Sensei recognized that and withdrew. It was proof that a master can recognize another master. I was very fortunate to have been able to see two precious masters challenging each other.