Nov
20

What if you die? “Death and Aikido” by Bokkemon

[A]ssuming that we are facing a real battle, the possibilities of victory are at least equal to the chance of dying. This is quite obvious, and yet that possibility never arises in Aikido training. It is assumed that, in the clash against a more or less expert Aikidoka, the enemy will end unscathed, and with the understanding that violence is unnecessary. It is assumed that the enemy will experience a kind of psycho-spiritual enlightenment that will transform his violent way of relating to the world and will lead him to abandon his aggressive intentions, in a sort of loving conversion…

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Nov
20

Long, fateful bond: The First Encounter with Master Sokaku Takeda

It was in February of 1915 while visiting Engaru in Kitami that O-Sensei met Takeda. They were both staying at the same inn and they met in the halls of the inn. Ueshiba, who was about 30 then, studied with him at the inn for only a month, but while he was being taught he felt some kind of inspiration that spiritually he didn’t quite understand, so he invited Takeda to come to the Shirataki area where about 15 of Ueshiba’s deshi and servants received instruction from Takeda in Daito-ryu…

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Nov
20

Rarely studied treasure! “A Look Inside Morihei’s Revolutionary Training Manual”

When I discovered Morihei’s little 1938 training manual during an interview in 1981, little did I realize how important a find it was. I immediately showed it to my teacher Morihiro Saito who had no idea that such a document existed. Saito Sensei was delighted at the discovery because “Budo” contained irrefutable evidence that his way of teaching in Iwama was faithful to the Founder’s curriculum as he had learned it after the war directly from Morihei…

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Nov
20

“Death and Aikido” by Bokkemon

samurai-battlefield

“We need an Aikido which does not sell illusory hopes of any kind; an Aikido that recognizes how vulnerable and fragile and worthy we are.”

Death is a taboo in the contemporary Western world: the bourgeois socio-economic system sells and instills the illusory possibility of being able to consign death to oblivion, avoiding it as much as possible and thus ensuring a continuous flow of compulsive consumers. The contemporary Western bourgeois class lives as if it will never die.

This illusion permeates Western culture, even infuses the areas where death should be a logical presence, at least in hypothetical terms. One of those areas is the practice of martial arts in general, and Aikido in particular. I use the term “martial art” in a narrow sense, referring to those arts that claim to be the embodiment of the Way of the Warrior, and not including the sport oriented ones. In this case, the martial practice is shaped to this illusory vision, and embodies the possibility to definitively escape death, which means basically, “if you do this or that, you’ll be able to come out victorious in an eventual fight”.

In the specific case of Aikido, which proclaims to be a martial art in a strict sense, we observe a set of techniques, methodologies and concepts that seems to mix up the aseptic place of training with the place of life in its most obvious sense: that which is being observed by death. Aikido and its practice are aimed towards victory over a real enemy. Aikido openly assumes that by training more, the practitioner will be closer to achieve victory, that is, to cheating death.

But assuming that we are facing a real battle, the possibilities of victory are at least equal to the chance of dying. This is quite obvious, and yet that possibility never arises in Aikido training. It is assumed that, in the clash against a more or less expert Aikidoka, the enemy will end unscathed, and with the understanding that violence is unnecessary. It is assumed that the enemy will experience a kind of psycho-spiritual enlightenment that will transform his violent way of relating to the world and will lead him to abandon his aggressive intentions, in a sort of loving conversion.
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Nov
19

Pinnacle of classic Japanese martial arts! Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu Documentary

This is Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu – Japan’s oldest and most traditional sword school – considered the pinnacle of classic Japanese martial arts. This clip features part of a rare interview with Otake Risuke, the school’s instructor. See the full clip as part of the feature length movie, “Art of the Japanese Sword.” Produced by Empty Mind Films…

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Nov
19

Free PDF Download: Magazine: Aiki News Number 37, 1981

“I think O-Sensei is the man who was able to underpin the idea of brotherly love with security. His art has a person move back and forth between life and death, to experience enlightenment of the self, and to express love for mankind.” — Mitsunari Kanai

Contents
● Editorial on Mitsunari Kanai, by Stanley Pranin
● Interview with Mitsunari Kanai, by Stanley Pranin
● Morihiro Saito’s Technical Notebook — Katatedori koshinage, Katatedori koshinage,
Ryotedori koshinage, by Morihiro Saito
● World Aikido Directory
● The Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, “Idol Among the Soldiers, Chapter II – Part 4,
by Kisshomaru Ueshiba
● Back cover: Noma Dojo photo with Morihei Ueshiba and Shigemi Yonekawa

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Nov
19

A visionary on a unique voyage… One Man, One Vision by Stanley Pranin

But, Morihei Ueshiba’s broad appeal by no means ends there. He was a heroic figure in many respects who lived in exciting times and whose life was interwoven with those of many exceptional individuals of Japanese society. The Founder was the proverbial “driven man” who focused his energies on his own training and ventured forth on a unique voyage of inner discovery that culminated in the birth of aikido…

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Nov
18

Target acquisition and lock-on… “Setting up an Aikido throw” by Charles Warren

I know many folks go to other arts for, say, strikes and kicks. I wouldn’t ascribe that to a deficiency in Aikido as much as a deficiency in the style they studied. I grant that I know no Aikido technique that relies on a knockout punch or kick. But even in striking arts, knockouts are regarded as having a large element of luck. Many boxing matches are decided on points. Few MMA matches end with knockouts. Lots of people in daily life get concussions falling down. Especially as I get older I’m not too proud to let gravity (may The Force be with you) do the hard work…

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Nov
18

Using natural, relaxed movements! Seishiro Endo, 8th dan, demonstrates how to disrupt uke’s balance from shomenuchi

A stunning video with excellent production values in which Seishiro Endo Sensei, 8th dan, explains and demonstrates various ways to disrupt uke’s balance using natural, relaxed movements. His commentary that appears in English in the subtitles is particularly illuminating. If studied carefully, this video will suggest new avenues to explore in your personal training…

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Nov
18

Essentials skills for sword mastery: “Ken suburi and kumitachi”

The basics of the Aiki Ken are centered on the suburi and kumitachi. Familiarity with these fundamentals leads to an ability to acquire more advanced sword skills such as tachidori or “sword taking” techniques as shown above…

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Nov
18

“Target acquisition and lock-on… Setting up an Aikido throw” by Charles Warren

bulls-eye

“Aikido has an elegance as a strategy which is rare in the realm of conflict.”

This blog was originally written as a comment in reply to The Martial Artist’s Dilemma: “Traditionalism vs. Innovation,” by Charles Humphrey . I found it to have several valuable perspectives and thus worthy to stand on its own.

“Ueshiba did this, why can’t you?…” The man had a powerful physique in his youth. He wasn’t born doing this quasi-no-touch stuff. He went through a whole process to that eventual end. You must do the same. Be traditional, but be smart, use your traditional curriculum as a tool, and use that tool in accordance with what we know to work well when learning skills. Read up on neuroplasticity and various ways of working the memory and nerve growth and body maps and all the wonderful research out there. It beats the pants off this fuzzy mysticism we often get trapped into because we’re afraid of being limited by the state of current scientific knowledge (and I’m guilty of this as much as the next guy.) Yes, science can’t explain everything. Yes, if you stick to a scientistic point of view, which is inherently limited by the state of progress and the limits of specialization, you will become just as calcified as you would by sticking to the mystical traditionalist approach. But scientific research combined with personal experience can be a springboard of immense value that can launch you into a realm of understanding well beyond the limits of mystical dogma AND scientific rigidity. All it takes is a bit of courage, common sense and a desire to be the best you can be…”

Couldn’t have said it better. Techniques don’t work, at least if you think of them as techniques. Techniques work (nearly) perfectly if they are ingrained into your body as, say, touch typing. Go for a walk in the Sierra foothills. If you aren’t following a deer trail or something similar, you’re working too hard. Go ahead. Bush-whack your way up crag and down canyon. I give you maybe half a day if you’re really stubborn to stop “innovating” and “go with nature”. In aikido we’re blessed with such trails. They’re called techniques. Once you learn how to follow trails you also become better at finding them. I haven’t been very many places, really, but it is no trouble for me to find trails in new ones. Variations of techniques are similar. Deer trails have parameters of slope and size of obstacle which can be a bit challenging to us bipeds, but generally much easier than the alternatives. I would propose the same for Aikido. I have no problem with other martial arts. If they didn’t work, they would only survive in environments where they are athletic recreation. I happen to have spent a long time with Aikido. At least the way I visualize it, it’s comprehensive.
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Nov
17

You have only your left arm to use… “Interview with Aikikai Shihan Seishiro Endo”

Anyway, that’s how I began my “squishy” approach to training. I took extreme care to avoid getting frustrated, because I knew that doing so would send me right back to relying on strength. When I was taking ukemi for Yamaguchi Sensei he would murmur things under his breath like, “The more you let go of your strength, the more your ki will concentrate,” and “Focus your strength in your lower abdomen…

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