Jul
31

“Shihonage: Show vs. Realism” by Stanley Pranin

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating shihonage from his 1938 training manual Budo


Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating a perfectly executed shihonage from his 1938 training manual Budo

Shihonage is known as aikido’s “four-corner throw”. It involves twisting a partner’s wrist, a rapid pivot resulting in a powerful control of his wrist, followed by a throw.

 Shihonage performed in practice with a single hand controlling the opponent


Shihonage performed in practice with a single hand controlling the opponent

 Present Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba performing a one handed shihonage during demo


Present Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba performing a one handed shihonage during demo

But like anything else in aikido there, are a variety of different styles of performing the technique. Although the basic technique calls for holding your partner’s hand firmly with two hands, it is customary in many dojos to finish the technique holding your partner’s wrist with only one hand.

This can often be seen in aikido demonstrations where an attacker is quickly dispatched with a shihonage controled through a single hand. Often this will be accompanied by a spectacular high fall which never fails to impress an audience.

 Morihiro Saito executing a shihonage with full control over the opponent seen from a different angle


Morihiro Saito executing a shihonage with full control over the opponent seen from a different angle

But what if we consider shihonage as a powerful tool to allow us to subdue and control an opponent? What would the technique look like then? Here are some examples where shihonage is applied with both hands controlling the opponent. Uke is locked in a backward falling position with no change to escape or execute a counterattack.

 The author executing shihonage where its off-balancing effect on the opponent is clearly visible


The author executing shihonage where the technique’s off-balancing effect on the opponent is clearly visible

Jul
30

Closing up the loose ends: “More on Aikido’s Shihonage Dilemma” by Stanley Pranin

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba has overcome an overhand knife attack by initiating and delivering an atemi


Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba has overcome an overhand attack by initiating and delivering an atemi

“To overcome the thesis presented here, you must explain how a motionless person can recognize an attack, devise a plan, spring into action, and overcome a high-speed attack in less than a second.”

Yesterday’s blog on the “Shomenuchi Dilemma” generated a good deal of commentary among Aikido Journal readers, especially on Facebook. There were those who agreed with my thesis — actually points stressed by Morihei Ueshiba, Morihiro Saito, and Shoji Nishio in their aikido instruction.

Still there were those who sidestepped the main point. A powerful shomen attack by an uke does not allow nage who is standing still to respond in time. The window of opportunity to analyze, initiate a move, and execute a counter-movement is too limited. This argument was ignored altogether by many of those offering comments.

Some opined that the purpose of this exercise is to blend with the overhead attack. Yes ideally that would allow nage the possibility to gain control over the encounter. This ignores the fact that nage who is responding only after uke’s attack doesn’t have enough time to blend. Look again at the two photos: nage is motionless and uke is at the halfway point of delivering his shomenuchi attack.

Another viewpoint expressed was that nage is not clashing against uke’s shomenuchi but rather that his left hand is moving up to blend with uke and then control the movement. I would agree that in a slow motion scenario this might be possible. But we’re not talking about a slow motion scenario but rather a high-speed overhand attack.

Still another comment was that the arms of nage and uke were not on a collision course and that the photos, being static, gave a misleading impression. I granted that the photos were “posed” and therefore lacked the dynamism of a practice session, but read again Tohei Sensei’s explanation:

… 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…

This is of course the objective and theoretically possible, but only against an uke delivering a slow-speed attack. If uke attacks powerlully, with full intent, and nage stands waiting for uke to initiate, nage will be overcome by the overhand blow because he has too little time to respond. He has an impossible disadvantage to overcome.

This is why Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba — echoed by Morihiro Saito — stressed the importance of nage initiating against a shomenuchi attack rather than responding.

If you think you can overcome and reverse a powerful overhand attack starting from a motionless posture, please watch this video by UFC Champion Chuck Liddell:

And for a humorous look at the result of a powerfully delivered shomenuchi, check this out:

shomenuchi-devastating-blow

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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 artificial in that they are posed, we must still deal 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.
[Read more…]

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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