Mar
26

Shinken shobu… training in dead earnest: Michio Hikitsuchi’s “Essential Teachings of Aikido” Online Course in 61 lessons

Thanks for joining us as we continue our look at the aikido of Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei, 10th dan. Today’s focus is on the all important concept of “Shinken shobu”, acting in dead earnest, something indispensable in aikido, the martial arts, and life. Think how often it is that we find ourselves training in a light, playful mood, oblivous to the outside world. Of course, we should enjoy our practice, but neither should it be a casual endeavor.

The techniques, tactics, and attitudes that we develop through our aikido training are for the purpose of navigating life with all its unexpected turns and challenges. At times we need to draw upon a heightened awareness, a determined resolve, and high-level martial skills. So, how do we develop these abilities? Shinken shobu describes this mindset. Listen to what Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei has to say about this topic.

Perhaps you can see the importance of these ideas to our aikido journey. What Hikitsuchi Sensei is talking about here reflects the vision of the Founder O-Sensei. This is how Morihei Ueshiba viewed aikido and its potential for enriching our lives.

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Mar
25

Haruo Matsuoka Sensei’s Aikido Journey: Part 1

Haruo Matsuoka Sensei


Haruo Matsuoka Sensei

“Haruo Matsuoka Sensei reminisces about his early Aikido
career and training under Steven Seagal Sensei”

This is part one of a multi-part interview with Haruo Matsuoka Sensei. Over the course of an evening, Sensei was gracious enough to share the stories of his aikido journey in great detail.

Haruo Matsuoka Sensei: When I was probably six years old, I saw a master named Seigo Yamaguchi, I’ll never forget. I was a child. My father took me, and I saw aikido for the first time in my life, and wow, that’s it. It made a very strong impression on me as a child.

Josh Gold: And your father he was familiar with aikido at the time, right?

Yes. My father met O-Sensei and studied macrobiotics under its founder, George Ohsawa. My father became a disciple of George Ohsawa right after World War II. One of Mr. Ohsawa’s good friends was Morihei Ueshiba (O-Sensei).

Oh really?

Yes. That’s how my father met Ueshiba Morihei. He was introduced by George Ohsawa, and then my father immediately went to practice. Even though my father was a disciple of Ohsawa, Ohsawa Sensei sent him to O-Sensei’s place to study aikido. Unfortunately, my father was only able to study for a short time.

 Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei (1924 - 1996)


Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei (1924 – 1996)

So you saw Yamaguchi Sensei’s demo when you were younger, but didn’t start training until you were in high school. Correct?

Exactly. There was no dojo in my town so I didn’t have an option to train. However, as I became a high school student, I had more freedom. I could take the train and go to different cities. I found a dojo that my father’s friends used to go to. That place ended up being Ten Shin Dojo, actually.

You’ve mentioned before that the dojo wasn’t in the best area at that time…

Right. Juso was not a good neighborhood at the time, but now it’s much better. During the Japan trip in May 2014, Craig Dunn and I went to the old neighborhood, and everything has changed.

And so the first dojo you went to was Ten Shin Dojo?

Actually it was in the same building, but it wasn’t called Ten Shin Dojo at the time. About a year after I started training, Seagal Sensei moved from Tokyo, and took over as chief instructor.

So I actually didn’t know this before, but there was another chief instructor at the dojo when you started right? And then all of a sudden he left?

Yes, he left.

And then there was nobody teaching?

Right.

And you kept showing up to take a class and no one…

No one was there. And where was his staff? The building was there, the dojo was there, but nobody was there. I was a high school student, and just kept going. That’s why I was looking for another dojo, and I found Abe Sensei’s dojo by coincidence, in Suita. But I couldn’t see Abe Sensei when I went there. If I could have met Abe Sensei, I probably would have joined. I met one of the instructors there, and he asked me, “Where do you live?” I told him I live in Toyonaka city. He told me “Oh that’s very far away, you shouldn’t come here. Let me introduce you to another dojo that is near your home.” I said, okay. That’s why I didn’t join Abe Sensei’s dojo. But if I had, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. So life always has meaning you know.

After no one showed up at the dojo for months, I finally stopped going. Then I saw a TV quiz show and they showed three or four foreigners (Americans) and asked “Who’s teaching Aikido at a dojo in Osaka?” It was Seagal Sensei, and they showed the dojo building on TV. I recognized it – that was my dojo! Haha. So the next day …

You went back…

Yes. And I met Seagal Sensei, he asked me how old I was. I told him 17 years old. That was our first conversation, and this is how I started. Re-started actually.

Steven Seagal Sensei


Steven Seagal Sensei at the Juso Dojo in Osaka, Japan


And how old was he at that time do you think?

Very young. I was 17, so I guess he was in his late 20’s.

And what was his aikido like?

I was inspired very much. And immediately I was glad that I didn’t go to any other dojo. His style was so attractive to me as a teenager, so I immediately re-joined on that day.

And were there many students there at that time?

Yes. Many people rejoined after the dojo reopened. At the same time, many foreigners who lived in Osaka began to join, so the dojo was really international. It was a bit unusual. There were people from Europe, the Middle East, America, and other places. They started joining every day. It became a community of foreigners helping each other in Osaka.

And this was about 1976?

Yes, 1976 is when I joined.

And didn’t you say you first met Abe Sensei through Seagal Sensei?

To Be Continued: In part two of the interview, Sensei recalls his first meeting with Seiseki Abe Sensei (10th dan and O-Sensei’s calligraphy teacher) and talks about his shodan test.

This interview originally appeared on the Ikazucho Dojo website and is reproduced here with the kind permission of Josh Gold.

Mar
25

Decidedly martial… O-Sensei’s prewar and postwar iriminage!

Consider these two photos of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei executing iriminage. The first is from O-Sensei’s 1938 “Budo” book, while the second viirtually identical one was taken in the early 1960s. Considered in this sense, this early iriminage is decidedly modern. People don’t realize that “Budo” already contains some of the trademark techniques that we associate with O-Sensei’s postwar aikido of the Iwama years.

Notice that uke has no control over his body since his balance has been broken, and therefore doesn’t have the option of taking a high fall out of this technique. This is very different compared to the “high fall” ending commonly showed today in aikido demonstrations. O-Sensei’s approach is decidedly “martial” whereas today’s version is mainly for demonstrations and to impress an audience.

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Mar
25

Speed transcending time and space… Michio Hikitsuchi’s “Essential Teachings of Aikido” Online Course in 61 lessons

Hi, I’m Stanley Pranin. Thanks for joining us as we continue our exploration of the aikido of Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei, 10th dan. These video clips we have selected from Hikitsuchi Sensei’s “Essential Teachings of Aikido” stress an extremely important principle of aikido.

I’m referring to nage, as the initiator, exerting complete control over the encounter with an opponent. Nage never lets uke gain the initiative. Uke can never land an attack. The exchange is over in a flash. This concept of speed transcending time and space, which O-Sensei referred to as “katsuhayabi”, is mostly absent from today’s aikido. Yet it is a cherished principle of the Founder that should never be forgotten. Let’s watch Hikitsuchi Sensei’s demonstration now.

We are very happy that this wonderful video documentary of Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei has found its way into the Aikido Journal archives. By offering this “Essential Teachings of Aikido” Course to the aikido public, we are able to focus attention on the theory and practice of aikido as conceived by its Founder. Michio Hikitsuchi was a life-long advocate of the teachings and philosophy of O-Sensei and we look to him for a better understanding of the Founder’s genial art.

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Mar
24

If O-Sensei looked at you suddenly, you were frozen! Interview with Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei, Aikido 10th Dan

“In those days, O-Sensei had an amazing body. He looked like an old style Japanese partition screen, wider than it is tall. He was 53 years old, weighed about 200 pounds, about five feet tall, and very broadly built. His body had strong joints and bones, and he was full of vigor. His gaze was very kind, but his eyes also had a fierce light in them, as though they were glowing. It could be intimidating! If he looked at you suddenly, you were frozen — unable to move…”

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Mar
24

Shihonage through the eyes of a 10th dan! Excerpted from Michio Hikitsuchi’s “Essential Teachings of Aikido” Online Course in 61 lessons

Hi, I’m Stanley Pranin. Thanks for joining us again as we continue our presentation of the aikido of Michio Hikitsuchi, 10th dan. Today, we introduce a clip of Hikitsuchi Sensei’s demonstration of shihonage, aikido’s four-direction throw, taken from his online course, the “Essential Teachings of Aikido”.

Hikitsuchi Sensei describes shihonage as a method for dealing with an attack “by several people coming from all directions”. When performing shihonage, Sensei makes a full turn to uke’s shoulder which completely takes his balance. You’ll notice that uke takes a back fall because he is no longer in control of his body. Contrast this with the high falls you often see in demonstrations.

We hope you enjoy this quick look at Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei’s approach to shihonage in this video. We’ll have more of his aikido for you, so please stay tuned!

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Mar
20

Sensei’s back was exposed for a strike! “It Sometimes Does Happen” by Nev Sagiba

I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday. It was at the West Ryde Gym Dojo in 1970. We were practicing multiple attacks. All young men. Sensei would exemplify and then we would attempt to match his example. He had gone first and there were at least eight, maybe ten attacking him. Because we thought Sensei was invincible, we would go all out and as hard as we could, trying to plant a strike…

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Mar
20

Necessary for safe practice… Etiquette and the Preservation of Well-being by Stanley Pranin

What about etiquette inside the dojo? Many teachers I have seen over the years attach great importance to this subject. In dojos which observe strict etiquette, the teacher and students bow to each other to begin and end each class. Students also bow to each other when pairing off to train and after training together. I interpret the act of bowing in the dojo not only as a custom of respect, but also as an implied promise on the part of both sides to practice within safe bounds. Thus, in the dojo as well, etiquette serves to create a training environment where inherently dangerous techniques can be practiced with a predictible outcome…

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Mar
20

Aikido secrets! Morihiro Saito’s Morotedori Kokyuho: “Envelop uke to prevent his escape!”

When your partner stands in right hanmi and grabs your left hand, move your left foot to your partner’s right foot and turn your hips to change from left to right hanmi. Do this movement with the feeling of dropping your shoulder, elbows, and hips slightly. Turn to a position beside your partner, looking in the same direction. This is basic for all kokyuho exercises. The spacing, or maai, between you and your partner will be wrong if you look at him. If you face the same direction with the feeling of enveloping him, you will stay close to him and he will be unable to escape…

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Mar
19

Powerful, yet soft and relaxed… Seigo Yamaguchi, 9th dan, at Special Aikido Seminar (1990)

This video consists of excerpts from a special aikido seminar taught by 9th dan Master Seigo Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi Sensei was known for his flowing, yet powerful free-form techniques. He emphasizes softness and relaxation, while at times demonstrating explosive finishes to techniques. There is much to study from the unique approach of this incomparable aikido master. Full English subtitles are included…

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Mar
19

Consistent drilling works best… The Martial Artist’s Dilemma: “Traditionalism vs. Innovation,” by Charles Humphrey

How many of you have consistently explored kotegaeshi in combination with GPP training for four to six weeks straight? Maybe some have. Most, I bet, have never spent more than one or two classes drilling one particular movement. Even when teachers try to impart the importance of consistent drilling, they undermine this by constantly shifting the focus of the class to new things. The best teacher I ever had in this sense at least tried to encourage us to stick to basics, but he couldn’t control himself, and would often then suddenly switch emphasis to something completely different, or use completely new training modalities or concepts that would just overwhelm us…

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Mar
18

Aikido greats in action! “Yoshimitsu Yamada and Nobuyoshi Tamura Free Style 1999!”

This video contains highlights of the instruction of aikido greats Yoshimitsu Yamada and Nobuyoshi Tamura during a seminar held in Venezuela in 1999. Uke: Gustavo Tolone…

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