The Apple Tree by Tony Sargeant

I was inspired to write this while under the showerhead.

The thing about the showerhead is you have a choice. You can change the heat ‘up or down’ the same in life you make choices – at least in the western world. That must be why my destiny sent my seed and fate to this part of the world.

What I did not know until recently was I am free to think and act on my thoughts and rely on them.

“Why and How?” you may ask, it’s all down to my wonderful teacher Morihiro Saito Sensei 9th Dan Aikido sadly now passed away. What I am saying makes more sense now than ever before in my life.

I would like to say about how I feel the true way of teaching Aikido should be and how it was for me.

Students come to Aikido for many reasons, they know nothing about the full extent of the art but wish to try it to see if what they thought is Aikido – either through being told, reading about it, seeing a class or perhaps in a film.

For a few weeks, they enjoy what they do and tell all in their path of this new great art that everyone should do; at first, they are the best advert a club can get.

Then it happens! “What,” “what happens?” They start to realise how amazing the teacher is. It’s deeper than what they have been seeing while watching him/her demonstrating a few movements before. They have just touched a new path of enlightenment and want what they have seen for themselves – and quite rightly too!

At this point, the student becomes weak as a person because they realise they have nothing compared to this great person who can throw the higher graded students at will. Bodies being thrown as if they were as light as a feather. However hard they attack it seems they have no chance of penetrating the teacher. Sometimes two or more attack all at once just to find that nothing stops this amazing art.

I remember it well, thinking: ‘I want what he’s got’.

As time goes by the keen student will put more trust in their teacher listening to every word. It is as if they cannot do anything or make a decision themselves – as far as Aikido is concerned. They look, listen and train; in hopes of becoming the same as the great master they follow.

The teacher plays their part, telling the best students off constantly giving them the worst time out of all the other students.

I remember thinking: “Why do I get into so much trouble? Why does Sensei pound me when he uses me yet lets others down with ease? Why does he pick me for the painful techniques?”

I realise now that I wanted to be used night and day as uke. I wanted him to make me the best. I wanted a lot, didn’t I? Perhaps I deserved the pain.

After a few years of giving yourself to the teacher, they think it’s your time to go for a black belt and you pass…what a relief.

At this stage, it takes about six months for one to fit into the grade. What I mean by this is your mind starts to settle. You realise that you do not know everything, but you have accomplished a lot and start to feel like a person who can make decisions again.

You still think the teacher is a great person, but it’s now time for the teacher to let them go and help the next hungry student that was once you. Your part now is to help the lower grades and one day the up and coming student will think the same thoughts about you, being the teacher.

Now you are wiser in life, due to what you have been through, you need to look back but mostly forward on how to improve your enlightened knowledge.

Back to ‘The Apple Tree’ or showerhead

I had a few teachers before Morihiro Saito Sensei 9th Dan Aikikai, and in 1982 he used the same words then as he did to the day he passed away. 

Think of an apple tree full of apples, some of the fruit is good and some bad. You never see the tree with perfect fruit all at once. If you were to pick some, what would you pick?

Let’s say you are a really good person. You may pick the rotten ones. Why and what would you do with the rotting apples? Would you throw them away to leave a clean tree, free of disease? Or would you take them home and make something of them? 

There are many answers to this question, but to keep to the story, I will say that you would remove them and throw them away to save the tree.

There’s a clear distinction between rotten apples and good ones. Now we start to be picky because as you look at the rest of the apples you see defects in many of them. So do you leave them or do you remove them also?

Let us say that there are too many imperfect ones to remove and that it would be easier to just remove the good ones. You have a closer look and make a clear judgment on what is best for you to take away and digest as the fruit of your choice.

So we are back to my Sensei’s saying:

“Think of your life as an apple tree.”

Whether you train in the art of Aikido or not, the lesson is the same – once you have ‘a sound head’. For those who do train, this is his advice:

“Please go and see as many teachers as you can! Take what you need and leave what you do not!”

The Appletree theory has been my guide for many years, I now hope it will help you. 

Be humble because all the teachers think they are telling you only ‘good’.

My advice is to remember that you do not have to tell the rotten apples you do not want to eat them or need what they wish to give. You do not have to digest it or you may become diseased and may never find the path back to staying a ‘clean tree’.