Video Blog: “Should Weapons be a Part of Aikido Training?” engenders lively discussion on Facebook

Stanley Pranin’s Video Blog: “Should Weapons be a Part of Aikido Training?” published yesterday has stimulated a great deal of discussion on this controversial topic on Facebook. The prevailing opinion seems to be that weapons form an important part of aikido training. Here is a sampling of the comments appearing there from aikido practitioners across the globe:

Ana Carolina Souto Maior
In my opinion, weapons training is as essential as training taijutsu for the development of Aikido. After I started training weapons seriously, I noticed the improvement of my taijutsu techniques. They are becoming stronger, more precise, true empowered with kokyu instead of strength. For me, there is no Aikido training without weapons.

Ken J. Good
Well done. Enjoyed the video and your presentation of the material.

Steff Miller
You can tell if someone has done weapons in the way the execute the techs and strikes.

Mark Lipsinic
Great video Pranin Sensei. However, Shoji Nishio Sensei also studied Shintō Musō-ryū jōjutsu (jo) and Hōzōin-ryū sōjutsu (yari).

Aikido Journal
Yes, it’s true that he did. What I gave was a quick summary.

Todd Ward
As you mentioned in the video, people will probably do what their teacher does and it is a loosing battle if one were going to try and change that. However, in my personal experience training at an Iwama dojo for 5 years (Aikido of Reno), weapons do a lot for developing body alignment, etc… Everyone I’ve seen that has good weapons has good taijutsu and everyone I’ve seen that has bad weapons has bad taijutsu.

Mark Lipsinic ‎@Todd Ward:
I would second your statement for the most part if the Aikido practitioner had no other martial arts experience before they studied Aikido. However, I have seen Aikidoka who studied Judo or Jujitsu before they studied Aikido who have good Aikido technique.

Garth Jones
Thanks for the perspective. I’ve been training for about 23 years now and I’ve never had anybody say to me that weapons are not central to aikido training. Of course for the last 15 years I’ve been in the ASU and Saotome and Ikeda Senseis… take weapons training very seriously. I mean no disrespect to the current Doshu, but my teachers have all been training longer than him and I see my lineage going straight back to O’Sensei. I guess that whatever is happening today in Tokyo just doesn’t seem that relevant.See More

Aikido Journal
The stance of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo and the current Doshu is that the aikido core curriculum consists of taijutsu with weapons only being an optional, adjunct study.

Mark Lipsinic
It’s hard to accept that explanation of Aikikai Hombu Dojo and the current Doshu’s stance when followers of Nishio Aikido are told that they can no longer give out rank in weapons or they will no longer be promoted by Aikikai.
Many people who tested under Nishio Aikido here in the states have had their yudansha certificates held “hostage” by hombu due to this over the last several years. It has only just recently been resolved due to the administrative foresight by Nishio Sensei before he died. They never denied promotions from Nishio Sensei when he was alive.

Garth Jones
Yep, that’s what I understood from the video blog. For me, weapons have always been an essential part of my training and understanding of the art.

Larry Clements
Truth is there is always a need to understand the fundamentals of body movement with weapons to be able to consider defending against weapons. End of story, why try to tie a knot with one hand when you don’t have to. Weapons were always a part of the art for very good reason.

Dario Darqberry
Aiki-Elements of Time & Space cannot be explained without weapons. Weapons are a major part of the world we live in today, so why leave it out of your training?…I concur with LarryC

Ananga Manjari Devi Dasi
Yes, although many practitioners who run or own schools omit this important discipline, which is a shame. I had to travel over 40 miles away from home to train with a school, which was the only one in Wales to offer weapons training.

The Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo DVDs by Morihiro Saito Sensei referred to in this discussion are available at the special price of $24.95, this week only.


  1. i agree!.. .weapons is a must in aikido training.. it help me a lot in taijutsu, for hombu i think they want to control all aikido schools , try to make 1 standard in aikido training since none of them teaches weapons anymore or worst no one know the art anymore since most of the old sensei already pass away or being remove from aikikai affiliations like saito sensei.

  2. Some of the arguments exposed here do not look so evident to me. Let’s try to look at the facts.

    We should remember that O sensei not only forbid teachers to teach weapons in Tokyo, but he also didn’t teach himself weapons in Tokyo. Here’s an anecdote from Nocquet Sensei : “He used bokken during shows, but didn’t teach it. I never saw students with bokken in hand execute suburis with him. (…) One day I was invited for a journey to Iwama, 200km from Tokyo. This time, O Sensei showed stick techniques to me. I asked him why we weren’t taught the stick in Tokyo. He answered : ‘Oh, there, there isn’t enough space. We haven’t enough time…’.”
    So a simply logical question is : if O Sensei thought that teaching weapons is essential in the process of teaching aikido, why didn’t he teach them in the Hombu dojo ?

    I suppose that if he taught everything but the weapons in Hombu dojo, even to students that were close to him like uchi deshis or main teachers, perhaps should we infer that weapons training wasn’t so essential, just another way to express the same thing. As was kototama training, or the tanren exercises included in his daily misogi rituals for example.

    • As you say, let’s look at the facts.

      One of the reasons that O-Sensei forbade the practice of his weapons in Tokyo is because there was no qualified teacher among the Tokyo staff.

      Morihiro Saito did teach weapons at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo for 10 years with O-Sensei knowledge and consent.

      O-Sensei was primarily in Iwama until the 1955-56 period. After that, he divided his time between Iwama, Tokyo, and his regular travels to the Kansai area.

      The Founder did not teach with any regularity at the Hombu Dojo throughout the rest of his life due to the fact that he was constantly moving around and was an impulsive person by nature. His last trip to Kansai was in January 1969, a few short months before his death.

      As I mentioned in my video blog, O-Sensei would appear in the Hombu Dojo at unpredictible intervals, and sometimes would lecture for the entire class. Have you had a chance to view the video?

      O-Sensei was not the major technical influence in the postwar Hombu Dojo. The two main figures were Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei. Also, Kenji Tomiki, Kisaburo Osawa, Morihiro Saito, Seigo Yamaguchi, Shigenobu Okumura, and Sadateru Arikawa were influential to a lesser degree during the 1950s and 60s, and taught regularly, each having their followings among attendees at the dojo.

      • Let me clarify, so aikikai style aikido is basically an incomplete version of O-Sensei’s aikido? Since there’s no weapons? So iwama style (saito) is much O-Sensei’s style?

        I’m kinda mixed up. Iwama style is kinda different vs aikikai.

      • I’m sorry to say that, but you didn’t answer my claim, actually.
        1) Did he teach classes in Hombu dojo ? Yes he did, even if it was not on a regular basis.
        2) Did he teach weapons during these classes ? No he didn’t.
        3) If teaching weapons is essential in the process of teaching aikido, would he have taught weapons in Tokyo as he did for empty handed techniques ? Yes he would.

        • I have presented my historical analysis in this video and numerous other writings on the subject. My conclusion is not that weapons practice is necessary in aikido but that two general schools of thought exist on the subject. Students will quite naturally adopt the viewpoint of their teacher and the established policy of the organization to which he/she belongs.

          O-Sensei was very interested in the study of weapons particularly in the late 1930s and all through the Iwama period through the mid-1950s. There is also photographic evidence of this if you care to peruse the articles. You and I differ only in that what I am saying is that weapons were an important part of the study and research of the Founder. If your interpretation of the historical facts is otherwise, so be it.

        • Damien,

          its pointless to debate .. be open minded .. try attending an iwama class and see the difference. Make a thorough research about history of aikido. There may be some internal stuff you may not have heard of, but the rumor inside hombu is that there are lots of politics involved.

          I’ll be your sensei didn’t teach you weapons since he/she doesn’t even know how to use them. Like the Aikikai hombu, since they don’t even know how to use weapons,they might as well cover the fact up by saying weapons are not important..

          But, it’s very obvious aikido movements are all derived from weapons.

  3. Victor Arcega says:

    A third argument settles the question of whether or not weapon practice is part of aikido training, both aiki ken or aiki jo.

    Saito Sensei had made it clear that weapon positions and maneuvers establish a deeper understanding of taijutsu arts, mobilizing, among others the hanmi, the kokyu-ryoku, the proper tori holds and grips, the power of kaiten, the effectiveness of shomenuchi, yokomenuchi and munetsuki, the value of the low elbow, the sankakutai posting, and so on. These wooden sticks called jo and bokken, obviously the substitute for those nasty looking kens and bos, are mental portals and extensions of the energy that is otherwise latent and possibly misunderstood.

    Elsewhere in Sensei’s books was a thorough discussion of what he called Riaijutsu, a desirable system of well-rounded aikido which feeds the essence of bokken (sword) and jo (staff) techniques into the taijutsu (body) practice, which is the aikido training proper. From the Iwama-machi dojo, I have passed this on to my students who have absolutely understood and gained from the riai .

    It must be remembered that the aiki-ken and aiki-jo systems are what they are, selected aspects of the traditional kenjutsu and bojutsu essential only to aikido development. An aikido sensei who had seen training with Katori Shinto-ryu, for instance, had pointed out some basic differences between the teaching of aikido shomen strike (top head center to front) and the kenjutsu sword strike (side of head to front), along with managing of seigan kamae, the figure-eight sword versus bokken returns, etc.

    Most of all, there is not about to be a complete aikido training based exclusively on weapons.

Leave a Reply to Victor Arcega Cancel reply