Archives for July 2011


Methods of Training – All Good Budo

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

The words “form,” and “style,” tend to allude to and to calcify in the mindset of beginners, that of a dogmatic approach. They then become well-intentionedly frightened to depart from this stricture, in case of displeasing someone or another, or straying from what they imagine is the path. Or simply because they mistake the finger pointing to the moon as the source of light! And so further new discovery and refinement stops dead. A living art becomes a rote and dies.

This strange human predisposition of bending the facts, and following the ape seen as “powerful,” even into misfortune, probably first arose in the minds of our ape ancestors and their clans, an early evolution of the cult politics of the simian. The assumption of there being security in numbers if even on a self-extinction trajectory based on erroneous belief, is a strange predisposition. Looking at the world today, this quirk appears alive and well and is devouring us as a species. All someone has to do is to get on a stage and sing a song and suddenly numbers of people imagine he has the answers to all their problems.

And so, the wheel of life captures us in its thrall and keeps us rotating in meaninglessly stagnant circles, stopping us from expanding our horizons. Sometimes sadly, human beings even engage cruelty and injustice to inflict parochially outdated, dead views, as history reveals.
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Yomiuri News: “Interview with Morihei Ueshiba”

The following interview was published in the “Shukan Yomiuri” newspaper on May 27, 1956, and is published with the kind permission of the Yomiuri Shimbun Company. The text is being presented in two instalments, this being the second. O-Sensei was at the time 72 years of age.

If there were only right-minded people things would be fine but there are many with mistaken beliefs. If the Emperor were surrounded by such persons the results would be disastrous. I don’t understand why he doesn’t use people like us as his close associates. (Laughter)

That’s right. The things that have occurred up until now could not have been avoided and we are still a feudalistic country. Therefore, what I am suggesting is that we should discard our old clothes and convert Japan into a true, new country which we should all serve. This is what I would like to happen. You work hard and deal wisely with those you dislike and set an example no matter what people say about you… Well, having too many fools like this is a problem too, isn’t it?

“Fool” (ahoo) is written with two Chinese characters which mean “easy to handle”. Well, if everybody becomes a “fool” the world will be easy to handle, won’t it?

I am content to be called a fool. This fool thinks in his own way and doesn’t belong to any group. Those who are making a scene are the ones who want to show how great they are. There is nothing to be gained by participating in such a group. (O-Sensei recites a poem) “The beautiful form of heaven and earth is a manifestation of a single family created by the kami…” Although I am an ignorant fool, it is my opinion that, if there is no center in a family, it is the same as several different families living in a single household. Such a conglomeration of families doesn’t work. Everybody insists on expressing his own opinion and a leader cannot be chosen. But if there really is a great individual, everyone will follow him at any time. I have my assigned mission which I must complete and you, Sir, have your own mission. A newspaper has its own mission and a farmer his. Everyone has his own mission. Thus, all we have to do is to complete our heavenly chosen missions. If this were the case, there wouldn’t be any disagreements, would there?
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“Aikido and Mind-Body Integration,” by Curtis L.V. Adams, M.D.


“Aikido is another way a person can develop a more accurate perception of self and a more nearly accurate conceptualization of external reality.”

Author Curtis Adams, M.D.

Author Curtis Adams, M.D.

In 1967, after four years in the General Practice of Medicine, I started a residency in Psychiatry. A large percentage of my general practice patients suffered from psychiatric conditions and I read psychiatric literature voraciously, as I did during my first year of residency. I became more and more mystified during that year, as we were presented so many systems of psychology and psychiatry, each of which, taken by itself, seemed to “make sense”. Taken together, those systems seemed conflicting and confusing. During a discussion of this confusion with my brother, then a graduate student in speech and communications, he suggested I learn about an epistemology called General Semantics. After I followed his suggestion, and applied Korzybski’s principles about abstracting to my studies, my confusion cleared remarkably. I enjoyed teaching those principles to students, residents, preceptees, patients, etc., over the years. It was always fun to see the comprehension bloom when I could get a student to sit long enough with a person overwhelmed, for instance, by a quandary without diagnosing or classifying so he could see the person and help him clarify his situation and arrive at a workable solution.

I discovered my second passion in 1974. That summer, my family and I spent our vacation in an isolated lake cabin. I ate a lot, fished, and read potboilers. One of those books featured a hero who used Aikido to deal with bad guys. I had a book on Aikido in my library, and got it out as soon as I returned home. Serendipitously, in September of that year, Dr. Greg Faulkner moved to my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, to work in the space industry. He started an Aikido Class, which I joined. I have practiced since then and taught for a number of those years.
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Renovation of Iwama Dojo

Renovation of Iwama Dojo, courtesy of Ulf Evenas Sensei

We just received this undated photo showing the state of the renovation of the Iwama Dojo from Ulf Evenas Sensei of Sweden. The country dojo of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba was heavily damaged in the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. The Aikikai Hombu Dojo is currently undertaking the restoration of this important cultural structure that occupies a key role in aikido history.


“Aikido: Dichotomy between the Martial and Spiritual,” by Alister Gillies

“Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves. — William Hazlitt”

Aikido is a relatively modern martial art that tacitly acknowledges links with its Koryu (Japanese Classical Budo Arts) past. It stems directly from the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu of Sokaku Takeda (1859-1943), who departed from the Aizu clan tradition and began to teach selected individuals outside the clan system around the turn of the nineteenth century.

Takeda deliberately targeted dignitaries and public officials of high rank and influence as potential students, and was not averse to rejecting people of dubious character. He had a strong sense of social responsibility, and a horror of his teaching falling into the wrong hands. During his lifetime he is said to have had some thirty six thousand students. His best known student was Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.

Takeda himself had been taught martial skills by many different teachers, and had reformulated the techniques of Daito-ryu that had originally been taught to him by his father and the priest Chikanori Hoshina. The origins of Daito-ryu are far from clear, but it is believed that the art has the same root as Sumo in an ancient art called Tegoi.

The art of Tegoi, it is claimed, was passed down from the descendants of the Emperor Seiwa (858-876), through the Seiwa-Genji family line. Shinra Saburo Minamoto no (Genji) Yoshimitsu (1045–1127) was instrumental in much of its later modifications, adapting the art as circumstances and knowledge permitted.
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Autobiographical article (2): “Koichi Tohei – Training in Japan” by Stanley Pranin

In my last article I covered the circumstances under which I began my practice of aikido in 1962 and some of my strongest memories from those first few years. I would like to pick up the thread of my narration where I left off last time. The year is 1965 and I am a student at the University of California at Los Angeles. In the intervening two years I had been promoted to ikkyu by Takahashi Sensei. Although the demands on my time for studies were heavy I managed to continue training on Fridays and weekends. Also, my interest in aikido had grown to the point that I began to take Japanese language classes as an elective at the university.

At that point in time I did most of my training at the Los Angeles Aikikai. It was one of the first dojos established in the mainland U.S. and continues to operate today. Besides the chief instructor Isao Takahashi Sensei, most of the senior students were nisei or sansei and several of them had moved to California from Hawaii where they had earlier begun their aikido training. As I recall, more than half of the dojo members were of Japanese descent. Some of those early aikidoka did much to spread aikido in California during the early years and such names as Clem Yoshida, Rod Kobayashi, Dan Mizukami, Francis Takahashi, and Daniel (Kensho) Furuya stand out most in my mind.

That summer at the dojo was a very exciting time for everyone as we were anticipating a visit from the Head of the Instructors’ Staff (Shihan Bucho) of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, the famous Koichi Tohei Sensei. Tohei Sensei was at that time perhaps the most well-known aikido teacher in the west due to his frequent travels to America and the publication of his early books in English. He had introduced aikido to Hawaii in 1953 and remained there teaching for about two years. At that point in time, the image of aikido in the minds of most foreigners was primarily shaped by his concept of the art which emphasized ki and, in this sense, Tohei was more influential outside of Japan than even the Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Tohei was known for his unrivaled technique, and easy-to-understand, entertaining teaching approach. For those of us who had never met him, we were anticipating a man almost bigger than life.

Click here to read entire article.


“Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda,” by Stanley Pranin

Sokaku Takeda & Morihei Ueshiba

“The Love-Hate Relationship between Two Martial Arts Giants”

This series of articles will focus on the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, and the development of his innovative martial art. Our approach will be to recall some of the highlights of his long career through his association with various historical persons of note. Hence this initial article will attempt to shed light on the highly significant but little understood relationship between Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda.

Let me start out by stating categorically that the major technical influence on the development of aikido is Daito-ryu Jujutsu. This art, which is said to be the continuation of a martial tradition of the Aizu Clan dating back several hundred years, was propagated in many areas of Japan during the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods by the famous martial artist, Sokaku Takeda. Known equally for his martial prowess and severity of character, Takeda had used his skills in life-and-death encounters on more than one occasion.

Takeda was 54 years old when Morihei Ueshiba first met him at the Hisada Inn in Engaru, Hokkaido in late February 1915. This was to be the beginning of a long, stormy yet ultimately productive association between the two lasting more than twenty years.

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“Aikido and Hands,” by Bartłomiej Gajowiec

As I stated in my recent article on shoulders in aikido, shoulders are everywhere in the art and so are the hands. From the mechanical point of view, the hands are a very complicated complex of joints, muscles, tendons and sensors that are all connected together for the purpose of controlling the most precise actions ever imagined: sensing with touch, touching itself, grasping, holding, drawing, painting, hitting, pushing, pulling, pinching. Everything we think of, we translate into hand language and make them carry out our every intention. We share our hands with other people, offering them to shake; we heal with our hands; we hurt with our hands; we embrace our children with our hands; we put them to sleep and stroke their heads for comfort; we play piano, violin, sew, hold cups… Our hands seem to act hand with hand with our will.

Aikido is also hands. Our hands are always in front of us. They “welcome” all attacks, blend into them with their softness (and the rest of the body and mind), and respond to them when applying a chosen technique. We direct our ki through our fingers. We finish off every technique with our hands to give it the exact direction according to what we feel, sense, and read in uke.

The hands cooperate with the eyes. The eyes and hands are like a couple that complement each other. The ability of your eyes to track strengthens your actions because of the cooperation of sight with postural muscles, body tension and mobility. Please, check this by placing your fingers gently right under your skull where it meets the neck and look right or left. You will easily feel muscles acting there just when your eyes turn! They rule the rest of the body since those sub-occipital muscles are kings of the spine muscle action kingdom. So looking toward the direction of movement helps your hands because it helps your coordination.

Hands are very strong but very delicate.
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Administrating Peace

“Who loses and who wins, who’s in, who’s out—
And take upon ‘s the mystery of things
As if we were God’s spies. And we’ll wear out
In a walled prison packs and sects of great ones..”
King Lear: Shakespeare


We are such stuff
As dreams are made on,
and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Tempest: Shakespeare

We of today’s world, only a few hundred years out of a multitude of primitive feudal eras, and still in one now, only this time using devastating weapons of mass destruction bearing importune and massive consequence, like to imagine ourselves “advanced” and “civilised” because we have a few gadgets and working systems we’ve copied and plagiarized, which we then bend badly out of proportion.

We still struggle. But in a different way. Our time is stolen from us. Our minds are tormented. And like living batteries tapped by weak others who live in fear of lack in a universe of infinite abundance, fail to shine. For the greater, as a result of our attitudes, we do not have access to our own immense resources, be these internal or external.
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“Applying aikido in real life on the train in Japan,” by Stanley Pranin

“I immediately stood up and ran to the other end of the car. Neither man saw me coming. One was in a rage and the other dazed.”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley PraninMany people who practice aikido have read the famous story titled “A Kind Word Turneth Away Wrath” written by Terry Dobson about an incident that occurred on a train in Tokyo. This tale gained fame due to its publication in “Reader’s Digest” sometime in the 1970s. It appears all over the Internet and is pointed to with pride by many aikido practitioners as an example of the lofty principles underlying the art and true conflict resolution. You can find the story here. I heartily recommend you read it.

Actually, I too have a true story to tell about a violent incident in which I was involved that took place on a train in Japan.

The incident took place in the early 1980s one morning when I was riding on a Tokyo subway. I was seated lost in thought when I noticed a commotion at the other end of the car in which I was seated. Two men had come to blows, and one was clearly dominating and had by that time thoroughly bloodied his adversary.

No one made any effort to stop the fight, or for that matter, do anything. My fellow passengers stared as if hypnotized by the violent spectacle unfolding before their eyes.

After a few seconds, something horrible was about to happen. The aggressor grabbed his hapless opponent by his collar and hair and started to bang his head against an upright steel post that people grab to steady themselves when standing. I don’t remember thinking about much of anything other than the man could be critically injured or even killed as a result of what was happening.

I immediately stood up and ran to the other end of the car. Neither man saw me coming. One was in a rage and the other dazed. As soon as I approached within a couple of feet of them, I let out probably the loudest kiai shout I had ever mustered in my life. The man who was inflicting the damage looked in my direction in a state of utter shock. He back away slightly.

Again, I don’t remember thinking about anything, but I reacted without hesitation and grabbed the arm of the victim and started quickly leading him away from the scene of the fight. He offered no resistance to what I was doing. I frankly doubt that he could even think coherently in the sad state he was in. I moved him quickly out the other end of the car and walked him down further about three cars away from the scene of the fight. I wanted to get far enough away in case the other man tried to follow.

By that time, the train was pulling into the next station, and I walked the poor man off the train and asked him if he was alright. Apart from being bloodied, he seemed to be okay. To be honest, I can’t remember much of what happened after that. The train we were on pulled away, and I waited for the next one to come to continue my journey.

I never saw either man again. I have no idea what happened to either subsequently. All I did was move unhesitatingly with full intent. I acted tactically to distract the two fighting men with a loud, unexpected shout, so that I wouldn’t have to get entangled in their fight. I chose to deal with the victim as I didn’t anticipate any resistance on his part. The attacker was as if paralyzed by the unexpected turn of circumstances.

Was this an application of aikido? I suppose so. I didn’t actually apply a technique. I personally did not feel endangered, but I was fearful of the fate that may have befallen the weaker of the two men.

That’s my story!

Please share yours…


Watch these videos for insights into solving the
technical problems that hold back your progress!

Click here for information on Stanley Pranin's “Zone Theory of Aikido” Course


Spotlight on one of Aikido’s most historic events

“It’s never happened before or since…”

How many times did the likes of Morihiro Saito, Gozo Shioda, Minoru Mochizuki, Yoshio Sugino, and Kenji Shimizu demonstrate together on the same stage? Only once, on October 25, 1986. Aiki News, the forerunner of Aikido Journal, organized and sponsored the event known as the “2nd Aikido Friendship Demonstration.” We have the video of the complete demonstration for you, fully translated into English.

Imagine the impact on your training had you been able to be there in person. Alas, all but one of these martial arts’ greats have left us. But their visual and spoken record remains intact for posterity, and you have access to it now.

A closer look at the participating senseis…

Morihiro Saito: 9th dan, and one of aikido’s most respected teachers. Saito Sensei was one of O-Sensei’s closest students and achieved worldwide recognition due to his numerous international seminars and the publication of many authoritative technical books.

Gozo Shioda: One of O-Sensei’s most skilled students from the prewar era and founder of Yoshinkan Aikido. Shioda Sensei taught an effective, martial-style of aikido that attracted tens of thousands of students over his long teaching career. He is also the author of numerous technical manuals on Yoshinkan Aikido.

Minoru Mochizuki: A leading student of judo founder Jigoro Kano sent to study with O-Sensei in 1930. Mochizuki Sensei underwent rigorous training in numerous martial styles during his career and created Yoseikan Budo, an eclectic martial art incorporating aikido, judo, karate, swordsmanship, and other arts. He was one of the only students to have learned extensively from both Jigoro Kano and Morihei Ueshiba.

Yoshio Sugino: A judo and Katori Shinto-ryu master who studied under O-Sensei in the prewar era. Sugino Sensei was one of Japan’s most famous martial artists, and choreographed the fighting scenes in Kurosawa movies such as “The Seven Samurai,” “Yojimbo,” and others.

Kenji Shimizu: One of the last and most talented students of O-Sensei who came to aikido after a successful judo career. Shimizu Sensei later created Tendokan Aikido, and developed a following of thousands of students throughout Europe.

Why are these DVDs a must for your collection?

A careful study of the 2nd Aikido Friendship Demonstration DVDs will fill in important gaps in your understanding of aikido’s roots and evolution into its modern form. These videos contain a wealth of information on aikido and koryu techniques, as well as explanations of key principles necessary for a well-rounded development in the martial arts, from which you will greatly benefit. Although all but one of these senseis have since passed on, their legacies live on through documents such as these DVDs that are readily accessible to Aikido Journal readers. Now is your opportunity to deepen your study and further hone your skills. It will soon show in your dojo training!

Order 2-DVD Special Offer Now!


“Martial arts practice and the deceived mind,” by Stanley Pranin


“I want to feel safe so I train. Now I have trained and feel confident,
so I voluntarily place myself in a situation where I am in danger.”

This blog has been brewing in my brain for a long time. I have noted what to me is an inexplicable phenomenon in the thinking of many martial artists. Allow me to lay out the scenario.

Although there are many reasons for wanting to take up the study of a martial art, certainly the most common one is the desire to learn to defend oneself usually born of fear. Nothing surprising here. That was certainly the case when I began.

So one takes up the study of a martial art and, little by little, begins to acquire a certain amount of proficiency.

The realization that one has attained some skills often leads to an aggrandized ego, and a false belief that one will be able to handle himself in a violent encounter; this notwithstanding the fact that his skills are untested.

If one reaches the level of becoming a senior student in a martial arts school, in many cases there is pressure on him to begin entering competition. If the school can turn out “champions,” it is very good publicity to attract still more students.

If our hypothetical senior-student-turned-competitor does indeed enter the ring, and fares well, we have an interesting conundrum. Here is a young person who chose to study a martial art to learn to protect himself, to avoid injury. This same person places himself in harm’s way for fame and perhaps monetary reward.

The fear of the inability to defend himself is replaced by the fear of the potential for injury during competition. The novice faced with violence may be in an unavoidable situation. The competitor in the ring is there as the result of an act of volition.

The competitive environment may be far more dangerous that a common fight against an untrained opponent. This time, the adversary is likely to be skilled in various fighting arts, and capable of dealing a deadly blow in some circumstances.

Perhaps it is the illusion of safety promised by rules that deludes the young fighter into believing he is not risking his health and well-being. Or perhaps the lure of fame and fortune clouds his thinking.

Why is there a doctor on hand, and medical equipment, and an ambulance on call? If you play golf or tennis or go bowling–all forms of competitive activity–such precautions are not necessary.

Do you see the fundamental contradiction? “I want to feel safe so I train. Now I have trained and feel confident, so I voluntarily place myself in a situation where I am in danger.”

This is not the aikido way. This is the realm of sports and competition. It appeals to the lust for blood and violence that is instinctive in much of mankind. Those that participate and those that spectate at these events share a common mentality and morality.

What should be the goals of our aikido training?


Watch these videos for insights into solving the
technical problems that hold back your progress!

Click here for information on Stanley Pranin's “Zone Theory of Aikido” Course