Jun
25

“Keeping up with technological innovation,” by Stanley Pranin

I usually date the start of my formal aikido research activities as April 1974. This was when I first published “Aiki News,” a very modest four-page newsletter. This little labor of love was centered around the translation of a series of biographical articles on Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba published in a Japanese sports newspaper. These early newsletters were produced on copy machines since the print runs were too small to justify offset printing. The sheets were then folded and stapled together by my “volunteer” students who didn’t manage to escape fast enough from the dojo after class!

Around the same time, I offered for sale 8mm films, mainly of O-Sensei, as a resource for those wishing to see what the Founder’s techniques actually looked like. 8mm film was and is a surprisingly durable medium. I still have the film masters which have seemingly withstood the test of time well. All of this was just a hobby, but the satisfaction of the work made me continue.

Moving forward to the early 1980s by which time I was living in Japan, videotape became ubiquitous and all of the O-Sensei films had to be transferred to this new medium. In those days, editing of videotape without employing the services of video professionals–very expensive!–was very primitive. What I could do consisted of little more than insert titles, sometimes handwritten or made by rubbing on letters from plastic sheets available at stationery stores. The newsletter had become a bilingual magazine of sorts, large enough to justify being printed on an offset press. This, too, was quite expensive and usually ate up any revenues from magazine subscriptions.

Around 2000, consumers were turning away from videotape and adopting DVD technology. This was a tremendous step forward because the image quality was very nearly equal to that of the original film footage used, and simple video editing software started to appear at the consumer level. It was still very basic, but one could do nice titles and simple, clean edits. It took several years to transfer and re-edit the most important of the film material in our archives to DVD. I still haven’t finished!

This timeframe also corresponded with the advent of the great technological wonder… the Internet. As a result, I had a new medium to reach out to aikidoka everywhere in a much less expensive, far reaching way compared to the printed word. I made the decision to stop printing the magazine after 26 years and concentrate on the Aikido Journal website.

The Internet was and remains a total revolution–a veritable technical explosion–where major advances are occurring so rapidly, it is difficult to keep abreast. This process has continued unabated, and has even accelerated now that we have entered the second decade of the new millenium.

I spend a significant portion of my time reading about and integrating new technologies into the Aikido Journal business model. I must confess that, at times, I have to struggle with many difficult concepts. Everything is so new, and much of what we have at our disposal is at the cutting edge of technological advancement.

This type of study is a brain-expanding exercise, that’s for sure. Although I’m a bit slow, I can usually manage to figure out how things work given enough hours of study. Fortunately, I really enjoy the learning process. When you think of it, I’m a lucky guy. Keeping up with all this new stuff is almost as much fun as broadcasting aikido’s evolving story over and over via the Internet to aikidoka worldwide!

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Comments

  1. Clark Bateman says:

    …and we in Aikido are all so much the better for it that you have preserved so much. Please keep up this most important work!

  2. I must completely agree. I even discovered aikido in internet (I was looking for something else, and I got lucky :) ).

    Thanks a lot for all your previous work, and congrats for your adaptability (not easy at all to be aware of and open to new ways).
    Thanks a lot, and keep on!

  3. Sometimes using technology can be compared to reviewing Ikkyo time after time again.