Jun
09

“Koichi Tohei and his long-forgotten letter,” by Stanley Pranin

As a follow-up to yesterday’s blog consisting of an overview of Koichi Tohei Sensei’s early years in aikido, I would like to address a subject that has long been shunned. It is an important point, historically speaking, because it marks a major fork in the evolution of postwar aikido. As with most things, there is a story behind the story.

I refer, of course, to Tohei Sensei’s resignation from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in May 1974. The impact of Tohei’s withdrawal from the Hombu Dojo was amplified by his sending of an open letter to a large number of aikido schools and instructors the world over explaining the reasons for his departure.

To my knowledge, the letter has never been published and cannot be found anywhere on the Internet. Why? Is this a conspiracy to keep today’s aikidoka ignorant of these major events of long ago? If it is a conspiracy we’re talking about, then both concerned parties–Tohei and the Aikikai–are participants and have adopted the same tact: virtual silence.
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Jun
09

“Do I Feel Lucky?,” by John Vesia

“Are you learning or know how to disarm an attacker with a weapon? The featured weapon of choice in most martial-art schools is the receiver-friendly rubber knife. Most novice trainees have been shown at least a couple of basic knife disarming techniques. To be honest, some of these moves are predicated on the notion that the knife wielder has no clue how to properly handle their weapon. The way of the knife is an art. Elite military personnel take their knife fighting skills to a level that would render most McDojo self-defense techniques utterly useless. The saying “never bring a knife to a gunfight” should be a reminder that everything is relative. How would an unarmed martial artist fare against a gunslinger? Would you actually consider trying to take out somebody brandishing a Glock 22 or a .357 Magnum? The following is in part an excerpt taken from The Secret of Inner Strength: My Story, by Chuck Norris with Joe Hyams:”

Click here to read entire article.

Jun
09

“Aikido for Dummies,” a poem by Mark Shaughnessy

I saw a sign while in my car
For an Aikido seminar
That humbly promised to impart
A path of peace through martial arts.
The teacher was to be a man
Of strength and wisdom from Japan,
And I was nervous, I’ll admit,
For word was this guy was legit.
But in I went and then, at last,
Ikeda Sensei started class.
“I say this first, you must refrain
From flailing limbs about in vain!
We use not strength, but other talents
To blend and so take Uke’s balance.
The secret, and it may sound strange,
Is find the line and make a change.”
Okay, I thought, no longer queasy
For all that sounded pretty easy.
So with a partner just like that
I bounded out onto the mat,
An said, “Now, Uke, I’m just fine,
But I was told there’d be a line.
So, wait a minute,” then I walked
Just off the mat to get some chalk,
And said, “Be patient, pardon me
While I draw one right on your Gi.
And goodness, you look big and strong,
But we’ll get through this, play along.”
So blithely I put forth my fist,
Then Uke firmly grabbed my wrist,
And though I had a lot to prove,
That stubborn Uke wouldn’t move!
“Um, Uke Sir,” I meekly quipped,
“Perhaps you haven’t read the script.
It clearly says that when I go
Like this, then Uke, well, you know.”
And as I stood there, getting riled,
Uke shook his head and smiled.
And I smiled back, then through my grin,
I swiftly kicked him in the shin,
And pushed and pulled, and thrashed around
Just trying to get Uke down.
This might have gone on the whole day
But Sensei came to wryly say,
“If you cannot make Uke fall
Relax your mind with alcohol!
And when prepared, rejoin the group
And move your hips like hula hoop!”
Not realizing he spoke in jest,
I went for broke and did my best
To limber up my stiff Aikido
By pounding down a few mojitos.
Feeling good, I staggered back
Onto the mat to get on track,
And hooped my hula in the groove,
But still that Uke wouldn’t move!
Again, our Sensei came along
To point out just where I’d gone wrong.
He said, as I knelt on the mat,
“Now, don’t do this, instead do that.”
So I said, “Sensei, to my shame,
To me those two things look the same.
And I’m starting to think this whole shtick
Is just some ancient Jedi trick
Where Sensei stares and with a frown,
Says, Uke, you will now go down!”
“No, no,” said Sensei, “That’s not it.
No mind control do I emit.
I have no mystery to hide,
As you must learn to move inside.”
“Inside?” I said, still quite the dunce.
“Well, I’ll try any fool thing once.”
So I again put forth my fist,
While Uke firmly grabbed my wrist,
Then inward I forced my attention
And blurted out to ease the tension,
“My inside’s moving! Stop the Class!
Oh, never mind, it’s only gas.”
Then Sensei said, with some dismay,
“No more will I teach you today.
What more there is you may derive
For only $19.95,
As much more teaching you can get
Right over there in my box set,
Where all this wisdom is preserved”
(Ikeda Sensei, rights reserved).

Jun
08

“Thomas Russell Hillier McClatchie (1852 – 1886),” by Laszlo Abel

“Australian Laszlo Abel arrived in Japan in 1976 in search of “noncommercial” martial arts. After trying out “ninjutsu” and finding it unsatisfactory, he turned to Yumio Nawa Sensei’s manrikigusari, or chain art. Unanswered questions about the roots of the art led Abel on a fascinating odyssey of historical research. In this article published posthumously, Abel pieces together the highlights of the life of Thomas McClatchie, one of the first foreigners of the Meiji period to have studied Japanese martial arts.”

Laszlo Abel was a close personal friend whom I met in the early 1980s in connection with the Japan Martial Arts Society. Of the many foreign martial artists and researchers I encountered during that period, Laszlo was perhaps the most thorough and objective scholar of them all. Although he only published a few articles, they are fine examples of the research of a gifted historian who sought to bring to light the essence of various classical Japanese arts. Another area he devoted special attention to was the role of early foreign practitioners of Japanese martial arts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This article in final form would have comprised a chapter from the book he had long planned to complete on that subject.

Stanley Pranin

Click here to read entire article.

Jun
08

“Seisei-Ruten (The universe is constantly growing and moving),” by Shinichi Tohei

“The world is constantly changing. At the same time, the status of our mind and body is also constantly changing. There are people who feel they are very much aware of the changes in the outer world, but may not be aware of the changes of their inner world.”

Click here to read entire article.

Jun
07

Brian Kagen pick: “Discovering Aiki,” by Daniel A. James

“Aikido is a tough art to learn and its all to easy to go through the motions on the mat and just have a good time. Aiki is not an intuitive concept to grasp (see – About Aiki) It is present in many samurai koryu martial arts and gives the practitioner a way to deal with someone that is faster, stronger and has an advantage over you through an attack that has taken your centre.”

Brian Kagen is an avid web researcher with a particular interest in martial arts. His training background includes both judo and aikido. He has contributed hundreds of article links over the years for AJ readers.

Click here to read entire article.

Jun
07

“Striking Takedowns,” by Markos Markou

“Take downs are a major part of martial arts. For MMA, they provide one with the opportunity to ground and pound, or work for a submission hold, and for self defense, taking down your opponent can provide you with the chance to flee the area quickly.”

Click here to read entire article.

Jun
06

“Martial Arts: A Teaching, A Way of Life,” by Robert Carrera

“Many people I know think that my martial art training is just a hobby. I continuously have to tell and show them that what I do is much more than just a hobby, it’s my life. Ever since I started my training, I have changed as a person in so many ways. For a long time I felt that there was a space, a void in my life, something missing. As soon as I started my training in the art of Aikido that space seemed to be filled. I seemed to become enlightened, completely reborn as a stronger, more confident individual. My training has also opened my eyes to an amazing, beautiful culture as well as many different ideologies. I have learned so much about the Japanese culture and have learned to appreciate the art of Aikido so much more.”

Click here to read entire article.

Jun
06

Recommended reading: “Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?” by Stanley Pranin available in 14 languages!

The article below has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

After practicing and researching aikido for a number of years I gradually arrived at a hypothesis that went against conventional wisdom and the testimonies of numerous shihan who claimed to have spent long years studying at the side of aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba. I had over the years attended numerous seminars given in the USA by Japanese teachers and also made several trips to Japan where I had seen and trained with many of the best known teachers. My theory was simply that aikido as we know it today was not the art practiced and taught by O-Sensei, but rather any one of a number of derivative forms developed by key students who studied under the founder for relatively short periods of time.

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Jun
05

“Spirit Training,” by Krista de Castella

“Every now and again Sensei tests us with one of those hard and unexpected sweat sessions. Tonight was one of those nights. After an hour of warm-ups and hojo undo, Sensei told us that we’d be doing some traditional hard basics – in memory of An’ichi Miyagi Sensei. According to Okinawan funeral customs, after a person dies their spirit remains in a kind of purgatory on earth for 49 days until it passes into the spirit world. Sensei explained that An’ichi Miyagi Sensei’s spirit would remain with us until the 15th and until that time we’d be doing traditional hard training in his honor.”

Click here to read entire article.

Jun
05

Recommended reading: “Interview with Kanshu Sunadomari (2)” by Stanley Pranin

The article below has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Sensei understood the word “takemusu” as the revelation of one of the kami. “Takemusu” is the basis for the creation of all things. Aikido represents the form which creates all things through the body. O-Sensei said, “Aiki is to teach the basis for the creation of budo in which techniques are born as one moves.” So you have to understand the basis for the creation of techniques. The basis is kokyu power. There is nothing else. When you develop kokyu power, countless techniques emerge.

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Jun
04

VI. “The Expression of Ethics Within the Martial Path,” by Charles A. McCarty

A. The Way of the Warrior and Ethical Existence

Though even in an age when violence (or concern about violence) is increasing we may seldom encounter the immediacy of threat faced by the Zen masters just quoted, the ethical constructs adhered to by a modern martial artist such as Uyeshiba may be of value in our daily lives. The form is of no particular importance, indispensable though it may be to the ultimate goal of development of the self. The Way of the Warrior is particularly suited for development of intuitive ethics, for the contrast of ethical behavior with deadly skill makes it clear that technical expertise and spiritual development are of no particular value unless integrated with each other. Only when practiced in harmony with ethical principles of humaneness, propriety and loyalty can the potential value of the Way of the Warrior be realized. An art which deals so intimately with life and death cannot be approached irresponsibly without disastrous results.(119)
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