Archives for July 2011


Slideshow of highlights of the 1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration, Tokyo, 1985

Gallery of screen captures from one of the most important aikido demonstrations ever held. The 1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration took place on April 7, 1985 before an audience of more than 900 people. It features the following top instructors: Kanshu Sunadomari, Mitsugi Saotome, Morihiro Saito, Shoji Nishio, Yasuo Kobayashi, and Yoshio Kuroiwa.

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“Building a Bridge between Heaven and Earth,” by Alister Gillies

West Meets East

“The farthest west is but the farthest east.” Henry Thoreau

At the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century the writing was on the wall for all to see. While the destructive force of war and the emergence of new political alliances, with even greater potential for annihilation, highlighted the need for a new spirit of the age, it was to be an age marked by uncertainty.

Throughout history humanity has faced similar situations. Whole civilisations have come and gone, often leaving barely a trace behind. But what is different about our modern age is the sense of helplessness that we all feel in the face of rapid change on a global scale. Our dilemma is that while we are highly conscious of what is happening, we seem to be powerless to do anything about it. As we get smarter, we are not getting any wiser.

We are incredibly well informed about the problems that we all face, but this does little to assuage the collective and individual anxiety that we all experience. Often we describe our problems in objective terms as something that can be managed: ‘the environment’, ‘pollution’, ‘economic situation’, or even indeed, the ‘pace of change’ itself. What we all too often fail to recognise is the source of the problem – ourselves.
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“Reconnecting with the Masters of Old,” by Stanley Pranin

New practitioners of aikido today have vastly more options than those of us who began decades ago. Aikido has grown enormously as an art and many fine teachers have emerged over the years. The march forward of technology has also provided an abundance of pedagogical materials that would have been unimaginable in the past.

But there is something that newcomers have missed. They have been denied the opportunity to study directly under many of the art’s top masters of the early postwar era. I refer to names such as Founder Morihei Ueshiba, Noriaki Inoue, Koichi Tohei, Morihiro Saito, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Kenji Tomiki, Minoru Mochizuki, Gozo Shioda, Seigo Yamaguchi, Shoji Nishio, Kisaburo Osawa, and Rinjiro Shirata to mention many of the best known figures.

At Aikido Journal, we have taken upon ourselves to partially remedy this situation by documenting and disseminating the techniques and theories of these past masters. Today’s aikidoka may not have had a chance to learn directly from these masters, but they do have access to excellent study materials such as the many books and DVDs offered through this website.
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“Yoga Warmups for Aikido,” by Stanley Pranin

“Incorporating Yoga Exercises into Aikido Training”

Recently, I wrote a blog titled “How I solved my chronic back problem.” It elicited a lot of comments from others with back problems, some describing their own experiences, and some asking questions. One reader requested that I explain in more detail what yoga exercises I was doing.

In thinking about it, I thought that a video would be the best way to show what yoga postures we had incorporated into our aikido training in my little garage dojo. So here is that video demonstrating the yoga routine we use as part of our aikido warmups. Please feel free to add your comments.

I would be particularly interested in getting commentary from you yoga adepts out there. What this video shows is very, very basic. There is much more that can be done if one cares to delve deeper into this ancient discipline. I find it a perfect complement to aikido training.


“What If You Could Learn the Truth About How Morihei Created Aikido?”

“Much of what you believe and have been told about the birth and development of aikido is not fully accurate or distorted through omission of important facts. “Aikido Pioneers – Prewar Era” will go a long way towards rectifying many of the misconceptions and errors that have persisted for decades and bring the character, technique, and accomplishments of Morihei Ueshiba into sharp focus. After reading this book, there is little doubt that you will become an authority on the subject!”

We would like to bring to your attention the availability of one of the most important books on Aikido history ever published, Aikido Pioneers-Prewar Era by Stanley Pranin. This essential title weighs in at a hefty 364 pages and contains in-depth interviews with twenty of the most important early students of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. These early disciples of the art witnessed and participated in the process that culminated in the birth of modern Aikido. Their testimonies constitute an invaluable source of information for those seeking an understanding of the roots of aikido.

The list of those appearing in Aikido Pioneers and sharing their remembrances and stories reads like a Who’s Who of Aikido: Yoichiro Inoue, Kenji Tomiki, Hisao Kamada, Hajime Iwata, Minoru Mochizuki, Shigemi Yonekawa, Rinjiro Shirata, Gozo Shioda, Yoshio Sugino, Kiyoshi Nakakura, Takako Kunigoshi, Zenzaburo Akazawa, Bansen Tanaka, Tenryu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Minoru Hirai, Koichi Tohei, Kisaburo Osawa, Shigenobu Okumura, and Kanshu Sunadomari.

See for yourself what we mean…

Click here to view or download (right click) a sample PDF file of “Aikido Pioneers-Prewar Era” containing about 1/4 of the pages of the book

Click here for further information and to order “Aikido Pioneers – Prewar Era”


Kami no Hikari – The Light Filament Inside The Glass

I’m not the first to use this analogy and probably won’t be the last. I dislike repeatedly quoting O’Sensei, but I think he said it too: The getting of useful wisdom is more akin to polishing the glass covering a powerful light. If you force it, it breaks the glass and the light dies and goes out. If you do nothing, the mud covering it plunges life into darkness. To best succeed, you have to polish daily, gently, regularly, diligently and with calm persistence, no matter what.

Aikido is one such Way of daily polishing.

It does not take any wisdom to point out the obvious, but to some it may not appear as wisdom until it becomes obvious. To them.

Hey, there’s a river there! Or, there is a mountain! Or a tree, or whatever. I suppose if you don’t often see rivers, mountains and trees; they must appear quite a novelty in the first instance.
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“Detoxifying your body with stretching!,” by The Martial Arts Guru

“The blood has another function as well as feeding our cells with oxygen/nutrients. It also removes the byproducts of metabolism from our cells to prevent cellular damage, which over time can cause problems such as some forms of cancer. This is why I named this post “detoxifying your body with stretching.” We need to take our stretching routine and implement parts of it that can be done easily every single day to get the body moving and the blood flowing. Our bodies not only have the arteries and veins and most people think of when its traveling our bodies, but it also has smaller vessels called capillaries. These vessels have much less muscles tissue surrounding them and blood can pool in these areas and not circulate as well as it needs to. This diminishes its ability to effectively remove toxic byproducts from our body and this is the very thing we are trying to avoid.”

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1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration with Saito, Nishio, Sunadomari, Kobayashi, Saotome, and Kuroiwa Senseis!

Our special for this week offers you an incredible value… You get the classic “1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration,” a 2-DVD set featuring outstanding performances by six Aikido greats: Morihiro Saito, Shoji Nishio, Kanshu Sunadomari, Yasuo Kobayashi, Mitsugi Saotome, and Yoshio Kuroiwa. All of this delivered to your door for the price of $24.95 during this 24-hour sale.

Why should you want to own this DVD set? This is one of the most significant Aikido events ever held. The demonstration took place in Tokyo in 1985 and was sponsored by Aiki News, the predecessor of Aikido Journal. It attracted more than 900 open-minded aikido enthusiasts who spent the better part of the day glued to their seats.

What was unique about this demonstration? These six teachers had an opportunity to express their training philosophies, and display their technique in depth, each one in turn. No three-minute, bam bam bam demonstrations, and off the stage! In their respective lecture demonstrations, each instructor lays out for you the best of his art, the product of decades of training under the tutelage of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. You will have these moving images and their words—completely translated into English—at your fingertips whenever you need guidance and inspiration in your training.

Here is the roster of demonstrators, most of whom need no introduction:

MORIHIRO SAITO – One of Aikido’s most famous figures, 9th dan expert in taijutsu and the Aiki Ken and Jo. Famous for his authoritative technical books on aikido, and world traveler in pursuit of the spread of O-Sensei’s art.

SHOJI NISHIO – One of the art’s true innovators, possessor of a dynamic style built on long years of study in other disciplines melded superbly into his unique aikido. Speed, effectiveness, and elegance are the hallmarks of Nishio Sensei’s aikido.

KANSHU SUNADOMARI – An unknown gem in aikido’s history. Did you know Sunadomari Sensei also received an oral 10th dan from O-Sensei? His aikido is amazing and his skills blew away the audience!

YASUO KOBAYASHI – A unique man, very charismatic, who built a huge organization within the Aikikai network in Japan and abroad. His aikido style is classic Aikikai. He still takes ukemi for his students even though he in his 70s!

MITSUGI SAOTOME – One of the most highly regarded of contemporary aikido masters. His style of aikido is minimal and powerful. Razor sharp technique with superb control!

YOSHIO KUROIWA – A little-known aikido genius and former boxer captivated by O-Sensei’s aikido. As a young man he was notoriously strong… Also, an excellent essayist with a compelling message. His aikido is like no other!

In addition, the DVDs contain five rare bonus films featuring Morihiro Saito, Yasuo Kobayashi, and Mitsugi Saotome. This is amazing historical footage you’ve never seen before!

Order This Week’s Special Offer Now!


“Dashing Duels Fuel A Young Man’s Fancy,” by Stanley Pranin

A poster from the 1962 film starring Toshiro Mifune

I have described elsewhere the circumstances surrounding my beginning aikido in 1962. There was, at the same time, another influence that served to spark my imagination, and spur me on to attend aikido class regularly. Let me tell you what happened.

Among my mates at the aikido dojo was a man about 35 years old named Bill. Bill was among the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and he opened up new worlds to me at a time when I was very impressionable. One day, Bill invited me to drive up to Los Angeles to see a “samurai movie.” “Watch the heck is a ‘samurai movie’,” I wondered. At 17, I was game to try anything. He wouldn’t tell me very much about what we were going to see, and he purposely tried to create an aura of mystery.

So we drove up to the Toho La Brea Theater in Los Angeles one Saturday evening to see my first samurai flick. I don’t remember what movie we saw, but I certainly recall the laser-focus and emotion that engulfed me when I saw my first dueling scene! The stirrings that welled up inside me were almost overwhelming!

Bill pointed out to me how the physiognomy of the noble samurai differed from the characters from the lower caste. He stressed their self-control and discipline, and how this was essential to battle strategy. This was really a new world for me! And fortunately, I now had somewhere to go to act out the fantasies paraded before me on the big screen–the aikido dojo! It was a potent combination. I was really motivated to return to training  with a new intensity and seldom missed a practice!

Of course, before long, I began to know who Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune were. I saw all the famous samural flicks: “The 7 Samurai,” “Yojimbo,” “Sanjuro,” “Red Beard,” “Miyamoto Musashi,” and so on. Oh, and another film whose title I will never forget, “Katame no Ninja” (One-eyed Ninja), introduced me to the world of Japan’s “secret agents,” who were polar opposites of the glamorous James Bond who was so popular at the same time.

Everyone who was studying aikido seriously at the time went to watch these samurai movies. We went not just to entertain ourselves. We would enter almost a trance state with our eyes glued on the movie screen. We imagined ourselves becoming the modern equivalents of these incredible and exotic warriors of the Far East. We too would come to exude the same super-cool as the samurai heroes dashing about before us on the giant screen. And to make these dreams a reality, we had to put in our time on the mat training.

Last night, I scoured youtube for a good dueling scene for you to watch. Most of the better ones I came across from that era are too long. Then, just before retiring, I ran across this excellent sword fighting clip I think you’ll find interesting. A ronin–an itinerant samurai–shows up at a kenjutsu school to present a challenge. This is the kind of thing that Sokaku Takeda was doing in the late 19th century when he roamed about Japan honing his skills.

Click here to see the sword fight scene

And lest it be thought that nothing equivalent exists in western movies, have a look at this sword duel from “The Mark of Zorro.”

Click here to watch Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone battle to the death!


Recommended reading: “Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?” 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.

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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Human Logic Is Not Always Logical

Human logic is not always logical. Especially when it comes to matters of violence of any kind. This is because violence itself is entirely devoid of logic, being the intention to destroy instead of communicate.

Much of what we as humans, with our 98% or more unconsciousness, call logic, is by far totally illogical. But it sort of makes sense to us, in a similar manner as does running in front of a speeding car to livestock. I guess we will never know why that is so.

The Universe has other plans based on sustainability instead. But to apprehend this condition of existence, it is a requirement that we first open the eye of the soul, call it what you will.

The 98% or more we do not see, fail to see, or refuse to look at, or notice, has by far superior and more refined modes of operation.
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Return of the Bad Back!

I guess I have to be grateful to my “chronic back pain!” What the heck does that mean?

Well, the little article I wrote yesterday about my bad back apparently touched a lot of other bad backs! In fact, many of these “bad backs” wrote back! (Sorry I couldn’t resist!)

You’ve already offered 20 comments on this subject and more keep coming in. This is what I really like: a stimulating dialog between you and me, an intelligent exchange that can be read by people all over the globe. Anyone so inclined can join into the discussion. Ah, the new world of the Internet! Things will never be the same.

Do you know what else happened? A gentleman from Denmark gave me a homework assignment. Can you believe it? Here’s what he says: “I am happy for your recovery but your story/information is really not of much use to others unless you would be so kind as to elaborate on what kind of Yoga and what specific exercises have made the difference. I could personally not manage to try out all different styles of Yoga and all exercises to rediscover what you learned. Please help!”

Point well taken. I think he’s absolutely right. Here’s what I promise to do very soon… like next week. I will write in some detail about what kind of yoga I have practiced, and what seemed to help the most. I will talk about a couple of setbacks I had in my yoga training because I pushed too hard, and how I learned to be more prudent. I will further talk about how I set up my schedule to ensure that I do my exercises regularly. I will find a couple of links to yoga routines on youtube for those of you who don’t have easy access to yoga instruction. Finally, I will go out in the garage where I have my little dojo set up and demonstrate on video the simple yoga exercises I have incorporated into our aikido warmups!

Ok? Is it a deal? Good!

Thanks guys and gals!