Jan
30

Fast & precise! Shoji Seki’s powerful display of technique at 10th International Aikido Congress

Shoji Seki, 7th dan, is one of a group of Aikikai Hombu Dojo instructors who began their careers in the late 1960s. He has maintained himself in excellent physical condition, and his technique is fast and precise. Although Seki Sensei is not verbose in his explanation, he repeats the technique he is demonstrating many times, and it is possible to catch the fine points of his movements through careful observation…

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Jan
30

Rare photo! “Steven Seagal can’t lift Koichi Tohei!”

Although Koichi Tohei is treated by many Aikido practitioners as someone who does “a different brand” (or some other minmization), Tohei had some innovative ideas that I think the other styles would do well to borrow, particularly in light of the recent (and very late) realization that many of the “ki” things Tohei speaks of are substantive and they are essential components of Aikido techniques…

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Jan
29

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu: “Is there really a strong influence of Sokaku Takeda in Aikido?”

One of the highlights of the 3rd Aikido Friendship Demo held back in 1987 was the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu demonstration given by Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei and members of his Tokyo-based Shimbukan Dojo. This demonstration was particularly significant because the aikido public was not very aware of the connection between aikido and Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu at this stage. Thus, there were a lot of curious onlookers wanting to find out exactly what this old art that supposedly influenced aikido was really about…

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Jan
29

Swamp spear! “Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei performing the misogi jo, c. 1965,” by Stanley Pranin

This series of photos shows Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei performing misogi jo movements inside the old Aikikai Hombu Dojo, c. 1965. If you look closely, you will see that he is actually using two separate weapons. One is the familiar jo, a stick a little over four feet long, and the other a pointed weapon of similar length called the “nuboko.” Mention of this nuboko, literally the “swamp spear”, will be new to many aikidoka…

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Jan
29

“Morihiro Saito Sensei… Center stage, where he belongs!” by Stanley Pranin

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“Morihiro Saito is a giant of a figure in aikido who has no match as a technician”

In recent weeks, I have lamented the fact that a number of famous figures of earlier eras of aikido history have been neglected or outright expunged from mainstream accounts. Among these important names figures my personal teacher, Morihiro Saito. After serving the Ueshiba family, and studying and teaching aikido from 1946-2002, he was summarily excised from the records of the Iwama Dojo following his death. Various other important personages have received similar treatment. I have resigned myself to this fact, and by way of compensation, attempted to give these important figures their due through my writings and publications.

Recently, however, something else has occurred that caught me totally by surprise. Allow me to elaborate. Since I have long been associated with instructors and practitioners who follow the Iwama approach based on the teachings of Saito Sensei, I often hear accounts of happenings and trends in this arena. It seems that the Iwama groups are roughly divided into two camps: the old style advocates who adhere closely to Saito Sensei’s teachings, and the new group that favors the methods of Saito Sensei’s son, Hitohiro Saito Sensei.

Hitohiro Sensei is truly an outstanding exponent and teacher of aikido. There can be no doubt of that. At the same time, Morihiro Saito is a giant of a figure in aikido annals who has no match as a technician. While compiling the “Complete Guide to Aikido”, I was reminded over and over again of his outstanding abilities and teaching acumen. Saito Sensei formed tens of thousands of young people in aikido, many of whom have gone on to reach expert status in their own right.

This week in conjunction with the launch of the “Complete Guide to Aikido”, we are featuring a number of video clips from the included technical material. If you never had an opportunity to train with Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, or are not familiar with his extraordinary talents, then by all means have a look. Prepare to be blown away!

Watch this video of Morihiro Saito, 9th dan

Jan
28

Rare footage! Video: Shoji Nishio and Kisaburo Osawa at 1971 Edogawa Aikido Demonstration

This is a rare video with excellent footage of Shoji Nishio Sensei, 8th dan, and Kisaburo Osawa Sensei, 9th dan, in their younger years. Nishio Sensei performs paired sword katas and related taijutsu movements. Osawa Sensei demonstrates his fluid, rock-solid style of aikido which is the epitome of grace and beauty…

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Jan
28

Last generation of uchideshi… “Perfect Aikido” demonstration by Mitsugi Saotome Sensei

This is a fascinating video clip of Mitsugi Saotome Sensei demonstrating some very subtle and sophisticated aikido techniques, many of them unseen in mainstream aikido. Saotome Sensei is the founder of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba organization and was one of the last generation of uchideshi to have studied under Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo…

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Jan
28

Let him teach you all of the intricacies… “Only Morihiro Saito Sensei could show 8 different nikyo variations!”

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“These techniques are all part of the neglected legacy left by O-Sensei”

As I was creating the “Complete Guide to Aikido”, I once again had occasion to marvel at the technical virtuosity of my teacher, Morihiro Saito Sensei. In the video footage I was editing, I found this particular section on nikyo — every practitioner’s favorite technique! — in which Sensei demonstrates eight variations. Yes, that’s right… 8! Watch the video!

Can you reel off 8 nikyos? Can your teacher? Yet, these techniques are all part of the neglected legacy left by O-Sensei. Morihiro Saito was one of the Founder’s dedicated students who spent his career promoting Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido. The “Complete Guide to Aikido” serves as a repository for this amazing body of knowledge.

Please watch the nikyo video with our compliments, and allow us to explain the purpose and content of Morihiro Saito’s “Complete Guide to Aikido”.

Jan
27

Student of Kisaburo Osawa! Katsuyuki Shimamoto, 8th Dan Aikikai, in Holland (2011)

Katsuyuki Shimamoto Sensei, an 8th dan Aikikai shihan, is also a practicing Soto Zen-Buddhist Priest. A student of late Kisaburo Osawa Sensei, he practices a style of Aikido that is sometimes soft and fluid, and sometimes very sharp and direct…

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Jan
27

Saved by the “Guide”… “He already had it but couldn’t find it!!”

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“Finding ‘lost’ techniques at light speed!”

stan-pranin-closeupToday I was contacted about our new “Complete Guide to Aikido” by a reader with a question. This gentleman had previously obtained Saito Sensei’s “Lost Seminars” DVD series containing about 14 hours of video footage which is indexed in the “Guide”. He was especially interested in materials on Ken-tai-Jo — sword vs. staff — exercises, and they’re weren’t any on the DVDs in his collection…

Well actually, I specifically remember some Ken-tai-Jo sections in those seminars, so I fired up the “Complete Guide to Aikido” interface and clicked on “Ken”. I was instantaneously taken to the section of sword video clips and here’s what I found:

KEN
Ken demonstration-(1985-86) [mp4 file] – 2:41
Ken-jo-taijutsu-riai (1989-09) [mp4 file] – 4:49
Ken-shomenuchi kokyunage, Vol. 6 [pdf file]

Ken-tai jo (1992-09) [mp4 file] – 4:17
Ken-tai jo-demonstration-(1991-09) [mp4 file] – 2:47
Ken-tai jo-introduction-(1991-09) [mp4 file] – 1:58

Ken-tai ken-(kote), Vol. 6 [pdf file]
Ken-tai ken-(men), Vol. 6 [pdf file]
Ken-tai ken-(tsuki), Vol. 6 [pdf file]

As you can see, there are three videos covering Ken-tai-jo materials. It took me only about 10 seconds to locate these videos. I could have been watching the footage moments later.

So this gentleman actually already had the instructional videos he was looking for but couldn’t find them! I was very happy to be able to use the “Guide” for the purpose it was intended, and was amazed at how quickly I could locate things. No more lost needles in the haystack for aikido practitioners!

Check out the “Complete Guide to Aikido” here

Jan
27

Flashback to 1927! “Morihei Ueshiba captivates budo aficionados among Tokyo’s elite” by Stanley Pranin

The photo below is one of only a few that survive from Morihei Ueshiba’s early years in Tokyo. Here in a single image that tells a story with many threads, we see a 43-year-old martial arts phenomenon at the outset of his illustrious career. Some names you will recognize, others are essentially lost to history, but several of the individuals appearing here played important roles in Morihei’s early success in Tokyo…

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Jan
26

Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, on Koshinage and Kotegaeshi from the “Complete Guide to Aikido”!

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“I don’t get tired even if I throw from morning to night!”

Here is a great video clip of Morihiro Saito from his “Complete Guide to Aikido” footage. You’ll see Saito Sensei in his best form, and full of humor, and he explains the fundamentals of koshinage and kotegaeshi.

Through the simple interface of the “Complete Guide to Aikido”, you’ll have the ability to rapidly access over 500 empty-handed and weapons techniques via 1,100 links to videos and technical explanations in book format. This is the most extensive technical reference on aikido ever compiled.

Click here for a tour of the “Complete Guide to Aikido”