Apr
24

The pitfalls of history by omission! “Morihei in Tanabe,” by Stanley Pranin

Unlike other periods in the life of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, his early years in Tanabe and family circumstances are not well documented. Our principal sources of information on this period of Morihei’s life are the biography of Morihei Ueshiba published by his son Kisshomaru in 1977, later interviews and conversations with the author, and a few pages from the first biography of the Founder written by Kanemoto Sunadomari in 1969. To this can be added the recollections of members and relatives of the Ueshiba and Inoue families…

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Apr
24

Genial paired weapons practice! Morihiro Saito demonstrates ken tai jo

This is an excellent video clip of Morihiro Saito Sensei, 9th dan, demonstrating three ken tai jo exercise: choku barai, kaeshi barai, and kaiten barai. These are excellent practices for developing a better understanding of distance and timing with weapons. This video was shot at a San Diego seminar in the early 1990s…

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Apr
24

Takumakai demo… “Amazingly ingenious Daito-ryu techniques!”

Here are scenes from a video documentary released in 1980 featuring a breathtaking demonstration of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu techniques under the supervision of Menkyo Kaiden Takuma Hisa. This is an opportunity to observe the intricate Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu taught by both Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda in Osaka in the 1930s. This film is perhaps the earliest one ever produced on the subject and is beautifully filmed with multiple camera angles.

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Apr
23

Radical change in brain chemistry! “Responding to Aggression — Part 2,” by Tom Collings

In less than a second the heart can race from a resting rate of about 80 to double or even triple its normal function reaching over 200 beats per minute. Respiration becomes faster and shallow further increasing heart rate. Most fine motor coordination (manipulating things with our fingers) and hand-eye coordination is significantly impaired. Complex motor coordination (tasks requiring a series of movements) become more difficult. Only gross motor skills – individual large body movement is enhanced under stress…

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Apr
23

Life and death encounter! “Sokaku Takeda: Bodyguard in Hokkaido” by Tokimune Takeda

About ten days after his arrival in Hokkaido, he went to a public bath in the town since he liked taking morning baths. Three gambler types were in the bath and were talking and laughing with each other as they pointed at Sokaku. Sokaku knew by intuition that they could provoke him into a quarrel, so he watched them carefully. They somehow found out who the man was who was newly-appointed as the court guardsman. They found Sokaku to be a small man, less than 5 feet tall (151.5 cm) and weighing only about 115 pounds (52.5 kg). They were waiting for an unguarded moment of Sokaku who was quite unarmed wondering how such a small man like him could possibly be a bodyguard…

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Apr
23

The subtle deception… “Sokaku Takeda and the Daito-ryu Tradition” by Stanley Pranin

What is it that lies at the core of this obvious reluctance to render justice to the contribution of Daito-ryu to the development of Aikido? Clearly, a major part of the problem is that the two arts are often confused with each other because of the ambiguity surrounding the term “Aikijujutsu”. It is frequently used as a short-hand for Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu on the one hand, and also to refer to Aikido in its prewar form prior to the “Aiki Budo” period on the other.

This obviously irks proponents of both arts and they at times go to great lengths to point out the differences between them. Another factor at play is that at some fairly early point in their relationship a rift developed between Sokaku Takeda and Morihei Ueshiba. Something like a “love-hate” relationship existed between teacher and pupil and this fact immediately becomes clear when talking with either side.

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Apr
22

From Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu to Aikido: “The Noma Dojo photos capture a technical revolution!”

In 1936, an historic event took place that provides a clear snapshot of the techniques of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba at this stage of his career. The Founder, together with his devoted uchideshi Shigemi Yonekawa, were photographed performing hundreds of Aiki Budo techniques, running the gamut from basic to advanced. The Noma photos are full of complex joint-locks and pins and retain many of the characteristics of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu techniques. These images capture the Morihei Ueshiba during a transition phase on his path toward the development of modern aikido…

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Apr
21

The Daito-ryu legacy… “How Sokaku Takeda’s art shaped modern aikido!”

If a friend were to ask you about the origin of aikido techniques, could you answer intelligently? The sad fact is that few practitioners today know that, technically speaking, aikido is based on Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, a Meiji era jujutsu art taught by the famous Sokaku Takeda. The saga of this fascinating historical connection between the two arts is of vital importance to an understanding of modern aikido.

The history of Morihei Ueshiba’s study of Daito-ryu has been carefully documented, and irrevocably leads to an affirmation of the martial roots of aikido. The Daito-ryu curriculum contained hundreds of joint-locks and throwing techniques, many of which have been incorporated in modified form in aikido. Practice was very severe, and the art’s techniques were highly effective, even devastating.

Although modern aikido techniques are descended from Daito-ryu, many styles of aikido today pay little attention to the martial pedigree of the art, and practice what could be better described as an exercise or health system. The fact is that aikido techniques were “defanged” in the postwar era to match the mood of the times.

Many uninformed aikido practitioners have swallowed the story that Founder Morihei Ueshiba studied several traditional martial arts and combined the best of each, inventing his own art called “aikido”. This is an intentional distortion of the facts!

Morihei Ueshiba began his study under Sokaku Takeda in 1915 in Hokkaido. He became a certified teacher of Daito-ryu in 1922, and taught as Takeda’s representative for about 10 years. There is no escaping the fact that Morihei was one of the leading experts of Daito-ryu, and that most of aikido’s techniques have their roots in this old-style jujutsu. It would be ingenuous to deny this well-documented connection.

So how is it that a large segment of the aikido world blissfully continues forward without acknowledging the art’s roots and the relevance of Daito-ryu in aikido training today? Could it be that a concerted effort has been made to obscure the historical link between aikido and its jujutsu ancestry?

If this is the case – and it is! – what would be an intelligent approach to remedy this long-standing situation? Where could serious instructors and practitioners go to fill this gap in their training and knowledge of this crucial subject? The video linked here broaches this subject more in detail and explains how aikido practitioners can explore the martial dimensions of the art through a study of its precursor, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu…

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Apr
21

Eye-popping action! “Katori Shinto Ryu featuring members of the Viet Nam Dojo”

Saito Sensei’s classes were always full and he enjoyed a reputation as perhaps the finest technician teaching at the Hombu Dojo in those days. His explanations were clear and methodical in contrast to most of the other Hombu teachers that simply demonstrated a technique with little or no commentary. He was always smiling and circulating around the dojo giving a lot of personal attention to students. In addition to his superb taijutsu, Saito Sensei also spent the last part of his class teaching the aiki ken and jo, the only teacher to do so when I was there. Sensei would show the basic striking and thrusting movements of the ken and jo and then incorporate them into a series of paired kata. I thought his system of relating taijutsu and weapons was very genial and hoped to have a chance to do more of this kind of training at some future date…

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Apr
21

Hiroshi Tada, 9th dan: “Geriatric Genius in Action!”

This is a remarkable video of Hiroshi Tada, one of the last of the postwar generation of Aikikai instructors. Tada Sensei, now aged 84, reveals his highly developed sensitivity, ability to blend, and incredible stamina. What a model for all aikido teachers to emulate! Tada Sensei has always led a moderate lifestyle avoiding the excesses to which many of his generation succumbed. The obvious result is his longevity and vigorous health forged through aikido training as can be seen in this video…

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Apr
18

How Aikido really got its name… Interview with Minoru Hirai by Stanley Pranin

In other words, the term “aikido” was a cover-all term that could include other things as well. Mr. Hisatomi’s idea was to intentionally select a name that would not be opposed by kendo or other martial arts, but rather an inoffensive, comprehensive term to group together all of the yawara schools. In the end, no one opposed this proposal…

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Apr
18

Sophistication in action! Seigo Yamaguchi, 8th dan, at 2nd IAF convention in Honolulu, 1978

We present yet another excellent demonstration by Seigo Yamaguchi, 8th dan, filmed in a rather unusual venue. This performance was given at the Second Convention of the International Aikido Federation in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1978. Many top teachers of the era from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo were on hand…

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