Archives for July 2011


“How I solved my chronic back problem,” by Stanley Pranin


“I too would enter the dreaded realm of
“seniordom” and join the “old foggies” club.”

Back in 1997, I published an editorial that proved one of the most controversial pieces I have ever written. Perhaps shamefully, I adopted a sarcastic tone in that article, which is something I seldom do. It is titled, “The Body is the Temple of the Spirit,” in case you want to refer back to it.

Basically, I expressed deep disappointment with the aikido displays of several “senior” shihan at the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration held yearly in Tokyo. I called them to task for allowing their bodies to deteriorate to the point that they were moving like “teetering old men.” I implied that their sad physical declines and substandard performances were not attributable to the onset of old age, but to bad lifestyle choices and general neglect of their health.

I presented every possible excuse I could think of that might be trotted forth to justify this lamentable state of affairs. Then I proceeded to dispatch these one by one–at least in my own mind!–until the hypocrisy of these old men who call themselves “Shihan” was laid fully bare.

In retrospect, I took a big risk in writing this article. I was 52 years old at the time and still capable of training at a high level. However, with the passage of time, I too would enter the dreaded realm of “seniordom” and join the “old foggies” club. What if I was no longer capable of vigorious training? I would have to eat my words, and be equally guilty of hypocrisy! I would have to steathily remove that old damning editorial from our archives, and drop the subject altogether lest I be taken to task.

I knew that if I became unable to train hard in later years, it would be due to some injury or chronic health condition. It would not be due to my having adopted an unhealthy lifestyle and becoming a “stiff old man.”

What I feared most was that I would no longer be able to manage the chronic back pain that I had already been experiencing for several years. I could still do the hard workouts, but I would pay the price afterwards in terms of back pain. There were several occasions when I was unable to walk, it got so bad! Surely this condition would only worsen with the passage of time. What would I be like at 65?
[Read more…]


“Rebirth of the Aikido Journal Newsletter!” by Stanley Pranin

Some weeks ago, we suddenly became unable to send out our daily newsletter due to the unforseen demise of one of our Internet service providers. Many of you wrote in asking what happened because you looked forward to your daily AJ newsletter like you do to “your morning cup of coffee”–the exact words of one subscriber!

Many of you then contacted us asking what to do to be put back on the list. Here’s the simple answer: you can easily get back on by entering your name and email address in the opt-in box on the upper right of the screen. It takes less than a minute to sign up. You will receive a confirmation email with a link. You click the link and you’re done! Naturally, you can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of any newsletter. It’s a simple one-click operation.

What we have done is set up a new email list handled by, one of the leading autoresponder services. From Wikipedia: “An autoresponder is a computer program that automatically answers e-mail sent to it. They can be very simple or quite complex… Autoresponders are often used as e-mail marketing tools, to immediately provide information to their prospective customers and then follow-up with them at preset time intervals.” Learning how to use this tool has been a laborious process because it has meant that I have had to acquire yet another new and fairly complex skill.

During this interim period, I have been busy as a bee learning the ins and outs of this new autoresponder service. Only in the last couple of days have I figured out how to send out a newsletter in html format. By that, I mean a pretty one that shows up in your email inbox with images and nice fonts and colors, instead of the plain text messages you’ve been receiving of late. It took me quite a bit of time to put together the first one yesterday since it’s a new skill. But don’t worry, I’ll get faster!

On another related subject, I’ve been studying Internet marketing like crazy for the last few months. I have to get good at using these new digital tools in order to create the time and space to do what I really want to do: spend time writing and research about a wide range of aikido-related subjects, with special focus on the life and art of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei. I can’t just spend my day in this way without first getting Aikido Journal up to speed with the new technologies.

There is something else I want to mention in closing. I know that these are tough economic times with no end in sight. The reality is that only a percentage of our readers will make purchases of the products that we offer here at Aikido Journal. Well, it doesn’t matter that not everyone buys our stuff. I have found that if we put out good, solid content on a consistent basis, people will find our website. And they will keep coming back. Thousands of you access the site every day.

Even in our advertising, we want you our readers to always derive some benefit from simply looking over our materials. Even if you don’t purchase something now, you will find some written content, cool videos, great photos, etc.–all for free–that will make your time spent worthwhile. Read, watch, learn and improve! We’ll provide top-notch material to guide and accelerate your progress in aikido. That’s my promise to you!

Until next time!

Stanley Pranin


Reply to George Ledyard’s Open Letter: “Some Reflections,” by Alister Gillies

This reply was actually submitted as a comment to George Ledyard’s earlier blog, Open Letter to My Students. I found it so well written and thought out that I considered it deserving of being posted as a separate blog. – Editor

Aikido is for everybody; but not everybody is for Aikido.

There may be moral and spiritual benefits from adhering to an essentially feudal form of practice like Budo, and I am sure that this is true for some. For a few individuals, Budo is a practice that is intrinsically rewarding; it transcends both time and circumstance, at least for those who are romantically inclined. It exudes universal values and principles of harmony and connection. This is its attraction. But who is it attracting?

If we look dispassionately at the structure of Budo, it is no different from the kind of structure we see in Herman Hesse’s novel ‘The Glass Bead Game’. At the top of the heap there are a small number of high priests (shihans), whose exalted position is both secure and precarious; they depend for their very existence on the strata below and for that reason they cannot afford to be complacent or relax their vigilance too much: the Tao Te Ching reminds us that what rises also falls. The entire system only works if everyone, or a significant majority, ‘plays the game’.
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Gallery of Screenshots from Morihei Ueshiba’s “Aiki Budo” DVD

Screenshot displaying Morihei's magnificent technique from the 1935 film "Aiki Budo"

35 magnificent stills from Morihei Ueshiba’s Film Masterpiece!

We have just uploaded a series of 35 screenshots from the famous 1935 “Aiki Budo” film, the only surviving film document from the prewar era.

Stanley Pranin comments: “If you want to know why I have been captured all these years by aikido, have a look at the amazing techniques of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, and you will understand why he has been such an inspiration all these years. Get these DVDs, your eyes will open wide!”

The “Aiki Budo” DVD together with the “Founder of Aikido” film comprise this week’s special offer, affordably priced at $24.95.

Click here for information of these wonderful DVDs. Get inspired!

Click here to view the screenshots from “Aiki Budo” on our Facebook page.


“Open Letter to My Students,” by George Ledyard

Aikido is a form of Budo. Budo is basically the use of the martial arts for personal transformation. Aikido as Budo is a “Michi” or Martial “WAY” (the “do” in Aiki-do). O-Sensei, the Founder, actually believed that through Aikido, the whole world could be brought into a state of harmony; he called our art “The Way of Peace”. For him, Budo was a life and death matter. Given the right level of commitment one could truly become a better person, less fearful, stronger, braver, more compassionate. One could, in his or her own Mind and Body understand that everything in the universe is essentially connected. His creation of Aikido represents a radical transformation of how Budo was viewed historically. It is a unique art. It is not a “hobby”, it is not a “sport”, it is not a “workout”, it is a Michi, a Way. The central maxim of Aikido is “masakatsu, agatsu” “True Victory is Self Victory”.

Click here to read the entire article on George’s “All Things Aikido” blog site.


“Working along the tether: a geometric approach,” by The Martial Arts Guru

“That range on the outside of your partners reach is where the technique needs to happen, otherwise you will be working within his strength zone. (This distance is also a critical distinction between Judo and Aikido) I just show this on the arm of the stick man, but you can apply this to any technique on any part of the body. Also, this same image can be merged with what O Sensei liked to draw…

…the main point here is to learn how to work these tether distances. Once you become comfortable using them you can start to place yourself in ideal positions to take full advantage of them. Think of this as a tool, that can be fully utilized to analyze your technique, distance between your partner (Mai), and the amount of strength needed to complete the technique.”

Click here to read the entire article.


“Aikido and shoulders,” by Bartłomiej Gajowiec

Shoulders are everywhere in aikido; bare-handed or armed, we use our shoulders.

The shoulders are highly mobile joints, yet open to so many limiting factors. Their stability and function are governed by anatomical structures such as the short and strong muscles originating in the shoulder blades, superficial trunk muscles, and passive stability apparatus like the capsula and ligaments. The shoulders are vulnerable to many injuries (static and dynamic), due to the complexity of their structure and behavior. Since all aikido techniques are hand techniques, they involve the shoulders. The shoulders are forced, pulled, pushed, compressed, twisted, and made to accomodate body movements, mostly of the rib cage.

The shoulders are operated by distant muscles as well: for example, the latissimus dorsi that attaches to the pelvis and lowers the arm and rotates it internally; the levator scapulae that goes down the neck to the shoulder blade and controls its rotation (the sliding on the rib cage, known as an anatomical, or “false” joint); the very strong, wing-like pectorals that function as internal arm rotators; the elbow extensors, etc.

There is just one small bony contact point that delivers all of the forces from the shoulder to the trunk and back again. This is akin to speaking about a single fulcrum from which the entire Earth can be moved. This is your clavicle or “key bone” (clavis = “key” in Latin), and that bone is the real key to arm and shoulder efficiency. Without it, there would be no stable arm movement, no strong arms, just limbs hanging down from your trunk.
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“Training – The Power of Modulated Challenge to Transform and Add Life,” by Nev Sagiba

The real emergency makes demands of its own accord and takes not into account the participants. Most, the unprepared become its victims. Some survive, injured, but carry post traumatic after effects. Few are able to take charge.

Conversely, the too comfortable too easily fall into decay. You seldom hear of someone graced with cheaper public housing setting about utilising that opportunity to develop a chain of supermarkets. They are more likely to expend inordinate efforts to get more handouts instead.

Where is the balance between extremes and how can it be found?

If you have a goal, when you believe it, and then follow up with regular manageable installments, you will see it happen over time. It’s much like walking, persistence, one step at a time. Everything in nature teaches us, but only when we choose to be open to learning.

The mind being a dispassionate tool, it will magnify and bring about whatever material you feed it. Equally as powerful can be self defeating beliefs. We defeat ourselves with the assumptions we make, excuses being the most destructive.
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