Jul
29

“The Origins of Modern Aikido: The Shomenuchi Dilemma” by Stanley Pranin

shomenuchi-by-koichi-tohei

“If you want to know how aikido techniques changed
after the war, here is a good place to start!”

stanley-pranin-thumbnailLast year I published an article that dealt in some detail with the Shomenuchi Ikkyo technique of the prewar era. It discussed an earlier approach to doing techniques from the the shomenuchi (overhand strike attack). Several examples consisting of photos of Morihei Ueshiba and Gozo Shioda were presented. The thrust of the article was that it was important that nage (the person applying the technique) initiate the encounter in order to preempt a high-speed attack by uke and avoid a collision, something decidedly against the principles of aikido, the “art of harmony”.

Now, please have a look at the two photos above that depict Koichi Tohei, 10th dan. These photos are the start of the Shomenuchi ikkyo technique described in Tohei Sensei’s technical volume “This is Aikido” published in 1968.

Let us make some observations about these two photos. First, in photo #1, Tohei Sensei (nage) is standing in hanmi awaiting the shomen attack. His uke — Seishiro Endo — has launched a shomenuchi attack. Allowing for the fact that the photos may be artificiial in that they are posed, we must stilldeal with the reality that nage has only a minute time frame to respond to uke’s attack that is already in progress.

Next, look at photo #2. What is described as a blend could equally be construed as a collision between nage and uke as their arms traveling in direct opposition make contact. In fairness, let us quote part of the description of the beginning of this technique from the book which describes the thinking behind this approach:

Although you throw your partner with an ikkyo much as you do in the kata-tori ikkyo…., since, in this technique, his attempted strike moves downward, it is easy for you to collide with his strength and difficult for you to force him down backward. The irimi here, therefore, consists of turning your partner’s strength against him…

Maintain a mighty outpouring of ki from your hands and swing your arms up…

If you’ll take the trouble to read the earlier article I mention, you will realize that a totally different approach is used. Nage is proactive and initiates the movement thus effectively neutralizing uke’s shomenuchi attack altogether and eliminating the risk of collision alluded to above.
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Jul
03

Where do you stand? “The Kotegaeshi Challenge” by Stanley Pranin

“Can you prevent your attacker from striking you?”

Kotegaeshi, aikido’s wrist twist technique, is a special case among the art’s basic techniques. It can be seen performed in practically everything aikido demonstration, usually with the attacker taking a high fall when thrown. The technique is a crowd favorite as it appears spectacular, but at the same time it has a potential vulnerability.

Take a look at the above photo of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba performing kotegaeshi in a photo appearing in the Founder’s technical manual “Budo” from 1938. You will seldom see kotegaeshi executed this way today. What it unusual about this photo is that Morihei is positioned to uke’s blind spot; uke is off balanced to the rear, and his fist is balled up as kotegaeshi is applied.

An instructive exercise would be to do a Google search for “kotegaeshi” and observe the final stage of the technique. In virtually every case, you will see the attacker in the process of taking a high fall. However in the above photo of the Founder, uke cannot take such a high fall since he has lost his balance to the rear.

What is this potential vulnerability with kotegaeshi I mention above? Once again, I would refer you to the many images you will see resulting from your search for “kotegaeshi”. I would like you to focus on uke’s free hand just at the moment he is leaping into his high fall. This line drawing from “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere” illustrates the problem.

kotegaeshi-line-drawing

Do you see where uke has an opportunity to strike nage with his free hand as he turns into the fall? This is often the case if you carefully study these photos. What happens typically is that the action is so fast that the average person cannot see what is occurring.
[Read more…]

Jun
25

Confusion abounds! What really happened with Koichi Tohei’s 10th dan promotion?

The unclear point has to do with the fact that an “Inauguration Party” for Tohei Sensei’s 10th dan was held on October 16, 1970, fully 18 months after the passing of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. What was the reason for the delay and did Morihei Ueshiba actually authorize Tohei Sensei’s 10th dan promotion?…

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Jun
25

A way out of an apparent contradiction… “Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido to the rescue!” by Stanley Pranin

So, if we wait to be sure that we are being attacked before defending ourselves to be legally in the right, we are likely to become victims and be injured or killed. If, on the other hand, we launch a preemptive attack to better the odds of our prevailing, but in the process injure our presumed attacker, we end up in hot water with the law. What to do? Enter Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido…

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Jun
25

Aikido’s Greatest Figures! “In-depth testimonies of Morihei Ueshiba’s most talented students” by Stanley Pranin

In 2010, I published a book titled “Aikido Pioneers — Prewar Era” that contains 20 interviews with most of the important students of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei from the period when aikido was gradually separating from Sokaku Takeda’s Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.

I think this is one of the most important historical works on aikido published thus far. You will gain a depth of understanding of the roots of aikido and the trials and tribulations of Morihei Ueshiba experienced in creating aikido.

“Aikido Pioneers” is also included in the THE AIKIDO LEGACY PACKAGE. We are certain that “Legacy Package” will become your go-to resource for all things related to aikido. Please click the link below and prepare to be blown away by the amount and quality of materials that await you! …

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Jun
24

Just for fun! “Adventures and misadventures of the intrepid Ninja!”

This is a well-done spoof on the hilarious adventures and misadventures of two Japanese tv ninja. Must viewing for every martial artist!…

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Jun
24

Katsuyuki Kondo… to do or not to do: “I worried about revealing the secret teachings of the art”

In truth, when first approached about publishing a technical volume on Daito-ryu, I had quite a few reservations…. Given the traditionally closed, secretive nature of Daito-ryu, I worried to what degree it would be appropriate for me to disclose the oral and inner teachings of the art with which I have been entrusted to those outside the school. On the other hand, given the growing proliferation of technical manuals, videos and the like, not to mention the unprecedented availability of all kinds of information made possible today by the Internet–much of it incorrect and of dubious origin, I might add — I decided that it would be in the best interest of Daito-ryu to publish a written and pictorial record of the most fundamental points of at least the first portion the school’s technical curriculum, so that these do not become lost to posterity…

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Jun
24

Encounter of two giants… Morihei Ueshiba meets Sokaku Takeda in Ayabe

One of the things I most enjoy is taking random bits of historical data and organizing them together, hopefully to come to a deeper understanding of a particular subject. One of the most logical ways of doing this is to line up events in chronological order. One day, I did this with an assortment of happenings in Morihei Ueshiba’s life for the year 1922. Here’s what I found…

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Jun
23

Power and precision combined! “Hayato Osawa demonstrates suwariwaza, hanmi handachi, and standing techniques”

This video showcases the incomparable aikido of Hayato Osawa Sensei in a demonstration of suwariwaza (seated techniques), hanmi handachi (seated vs standing), and standing techniques. Osawa Sensei’s aikido is power-based and very precise. His movements are very quick and explosive. This is a go no sen aikido…

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Jun
23

Sokaku polishes his art… “Traveling the length and breadth of Japan to test his mettle”

Sokaku Sensei traveled all over, from Hokkaido in the north all the way to Okinawa in the south. It is also remarkable that he taught not only in police departments of one particular region, but throughout the entire country. I believe that if his technique was fake or ineffective, he would have been considered useless because police departments could easily exchange such information. The case would have been the same with the military. He also taught at many military establishments. It is sometimes said that Sokaku Sensei’s relationship with the military was limited and only through the Omoto religion and the connection with Morihei Ueshiba Sensei. In fact, however, Sokaku Takeda Sensei had direct connections to the military. This is clear from the enrollment books he kept…

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Jun
23

In the shadow of World War II… “Morihei the powerhouse!”

During the Kobukan period, Morihei Ueshiba rubbed shoulders with the elite of Japanese society associating with luminaries from military, political, business and religious circles. Though not politically motivated himself, Morihei taught and interacted with many of the leading figures of the times, men who had deep respect for his incredible martial skills and who would shape Japan’s destiny as it hurtled toward war on the continent and in the Pacific…

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Jun
22

Colorizing history! “Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba”

One of the interesting aspects of my work is the abundance of technology I must use to produce the materials we publish. Since we deal with a lot of historical material, most of the images and videos we have preserved are black and white. To give an example, look at the inset photo from this image of Morihei Ueshiba. The portrait was taken around 1957, naturally in black and white. I have always been fascinated by the process of colorization and recently for the first time asked a professional graphic artist to work on this photo to see what could be achieved…

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