Recommended reading: “A Revisionist View of Aikido History” 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.

The other day one of our readers was kind enough to send along a page from an issue of the International Aikido Newsletter published in December 1994. I believe this newsletter is a publication of the European Aikido Federation. It contained answers by a well-known 8th dan shihan, in reply to questions posed by participants at a recent Dutch Summer School that he conducted. One of the questions reads as follows: “Why doesn’t the instruction of aikido include training with weapons?” To this query, the shihan responded…

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  1. This is fairly accurate, I was there for this lecture, maybe 14 years ago. I agree with your standpoint. I was confused by this Shihans statements and came to believe, as I do with a number of other Shihans, that either his lack of expertise or unfamiliarity with weapons played a greater role in his philosophic musings than anything O Sensei actually taught. This same Shihan was well known for some pretty “violent” versions of iriminage, albeit always done with a smile. The loss of weapons forms in Aikido in my mind threatens the fundamental basis of Aikido, a system designed to deal with multiple attackers wielding weapons. If alone for the training of mai and sen, weapons should never be dropped, and as much as we love to talk about “sincere” attacks in Aikido, nothing gets your attention quite like a bokken flying at your head.

  2. I think Revisionism assumes a conscious effort to reconstruct history. Perhaps this is more a question of a very Japanese paradox, the life-giving sword, being lost in translation. Unfortunately, this loss is very widespread. And its loss robs many students of the educational value of the dichotomy.

  3. Dean Burns says:

    I thought I was practicing aikido when I was training with the Jo and Bokken. I have also seen numerous videos and pictures with O’Sensei using the Jo and Bo Ken as well as many of his original ukes or uchideshis using the same. When the art evolves to far from its founding source, it is no longer the same art. That is when a new art is started and should be given a new name.
    Also, I enjoy the historical essays and articles of O’Sensei’s exploits and teachings. It’s inspirational and gives one something to contemplate about the art, its history and its aim.

  4. Opinions are like anuses; everyone has one.

    First there is, and always will be Aiki.

    O’Sensei delved into this endless realm of possibilities, to select those elements of study we can now recognize as Ueshiba Aiki.

    From his continuous studies, up to the moment of death, he created, and relentlessly strove to improve his own unique creation we now inadequately claim to know to be the Founder’s Aikido.

    We would do well to emulate his awesome and inspiring example, and avoid being trapped by limitations others may place on us.

    Freely identify and incorporate your piece of Aiki into your personal quest. Study well what the Founder did with his search, and have the courage and vision to create your own.

    In Oneness.

  5. First, you will NEVER understand Aikido or any Budo, until you master and understand weaponry.
    Second, blowing smoke does not assist survival of any kind. Or education.
    Thirdly, what on earth is a “shihan” ? I don’t recognise the term. Is it a recent invention that came along with “soft” martial arts, whatever that means?
    I’ve heard of sensei, sempai and kohai.
    Up the garden path may fun for a brief sojourn, but after smelling the roses and cherry blossoms it soon comes time to wake up; and I hear green tea has almost as much caffeine as coffee.
    And finally, outside of a feudal era, academics who’ve never worked outside the safe confines of the protection a dojo provides, no longer end up pushing up daisies, but rather prefer to spread other kinds of not so fertile fertiliser. The intellectual kind. Never having been there, they can fictionalise volubly.
    Reality has other plans.
    Stan, keep revealing the facts, the history and the quirks, warts and all. You said it more correctly and like a gentleman.

  6. “Shihan” is not a new word. It’s used in many martial arts and also things such as flower arrangement to simply mean instructor. In Aikido, it often means a high ranking instructor (at least 6th dan)

    There are many similar words that float out there. Shidoin, Kyoshi, Hanshi, Renshi are also common in the martial arts. There are more Japanese words that are subtly different words for teacher or master like kyoshi for school teachers, kyojyu for professors, kyokan for instructors, or shifu which is less usual in Japan.

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