Archives for August 2011


“Chronology of Sokaku Takeda,” by Stanley Pranin


Year Event
Sokaku Takeda born on October 10, 1859 at the Takeda Mansion in Oike, Aizu Bange-cho, in present-day Fukushima Prefecture. Father, Sokichi Takeda (1819-1906), mother Tomi (unknown dates), daughter of Dengoro Kurokochi.
1867 As a boy of eight, witnesses battles of the Aizu War taking place all around him.
on December 14.
1868 [Mass suicide of family of Saigo Tanomo, chief councillor (karo) of Aizu Han during Aizu War.]
on December 14.
c1869 Studies Hozoin Takada-ha Sojutsu from his father-in-law, Dengoro Kurokochi.
c1870 Studies Onoha Itto-ryu sword began as a boy at the Yokikan dojo of Toma Shibuya in Aizu Bange-cho.
c1871 Competes and wins in sumo matches in regional tournaments without his father’s permission.
1872 Expelled from temple school due to misbehavior.
Becomes a live-in student (uchideshi) at the Jiki Shinkage-ryu dojo of famous swordsman Kenkichi Sakakibara (1830-1894) in Tokyo. Curriculum includes sword, staff, spear, small bow, kusarigama, naginata, and other weapons.

c1874 Participates in Gekkenkai fencing tournaments popular at the time.
1875 Returning home from Sakakibara dojo for visit, narrowly escapes gang battle on bridge in Inawashiro in Fukushima Prefecture. Cuts several attackers and saves himself by jumping into the river.
1876 Death of older brother, Sokatsu on September 2. On return home, encounters three outlaws waiting in ambush and kills one with his sword and seriously injures other two.
Father Sokichi decides Sokaku is to enter priesthood succeeding his late brother. Enters Tsutsukowake Shrine precinct in eastern Shirakawa County in Fukushima Prefecture under the tutelage of Chikanori Hoshina (Tanomo Saigo).
Abandons priestly duties to join Takamori Saigo’s anti-government forces in Kyushu.
Kenkichi Sakakibara provides Sokaku letter of recommendation to Shunzo Momonoi (1826-1886), Headmaster of the Kyoshin Meichi-ryu sword school of Sakai City, Osaka. (November)
1877 Secretly departs from Osaka to join Takamori Saigo’s army, but later abandons plan.
Set out on journey to Kyushu for self-training (September). Joins a troupe of acrobats in Nagasaki Prefecture.
1878 In Kumamoto Prefecture, observes Okinawa-te (karate) arts, and defeats karate expert.
Tours Kyushu and Okinawan islands.
Possible journey to Hawaii (undocumented).
1879 Returns to Kyushu from Okinawa. Engages in sword training while traveling around Kyushu.
Encunters religious ascetics and practices esoteric Buddhism.
1880 Engages in spear training at Sakai dojo in Kumamoto. Loses two front teeth in match with two opponents using real spears.
1882 Engages in fight with gang of construction workers in Fukushima Prefecture during which he kills several attackers. Jailed for one month before being acquitted after verdict ruling deaths self-defense.
1887 Accompanies Tsugumichi Saigo, younger brother of Takamori Saigo, to Hokkaido.
c1888 Marries Kon and union produces two children.
c1890 Visits of unknown duration to Nikko Toshogu and Ryozen shrines to study under Chikanori Hoshina.
1891-1897 Possible periods of training under his father Sokichi that included Daito-ryu techniques (speculative).
1898 Conducts Daito-ryu seminar in Miyagi Prefecture in May, earliest record from Sokaku’s enrollment books (eimeiroku)
1899 Conducts a series of seminars in Miyagi Prefecture.
1900 Conducts seminars in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures.
1901 Conducts seminars in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures.
1902 Conducts seminars in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures.
1903 Conducts seminars in Iwate Prefecture.
1904 Conducts seminars in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures.
1905 Conducts seminars in Miyagi, Fukushima and Yamagata Prefectures.
1906 Conducts seminars in Yamagata Prefecture.
1907 Conducts seminars in Yamagata Prefecture.
1908 Conducts seminars in Yamagata Prefecture.
1909 Conducts seminars in Yamagata, Miyagi, and Akita Prefecture.
1910 Conducts seminars in Akita and Fukushima Prefecture, and Hokkaido.
Accompanies Akita prefectural police chief Takarabe Sanehide to Hokkaido.
1911-1912 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido.
1913 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido.
Marriage to Sue (1890-1930) about this time. Union produces seven children, including Tokimune Takeda, Sokaku’s successor.
1914 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido.
1915 Meets Morihei Ueshiba in February at Hisada Inn in Engaru on introduction of Kotaro Yoshida (1883-1966).
Conducts back-to-back seminars in Engaru with Morihei Ueshiba participating (February to March).
1916 Conducts seminars in which Morihei Ueshiba participates, possibly in Shirataki (February to March).
Establishes residence in Shirataki around this time.
1917 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido, probably in which Morihei Ueshiba participates.
1918 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido, probably in which Morihei Ueshiba participates.
1919 Morihei Ueshiba departs Shirataki leaving house and possessions to Sokaku Takeda (December).
1920 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido.
1921 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido and Fukushima Prefecture.
1922 Conducts seminars in Fukushima Prefecture (February-March).
Visits Ueshiba home in Ayabe, near Kyoto, where he teaches in “Ueshiba Juku” (April 28 to September 15).
Awards Kyoju Dairi teaching certification and Shinkage-ryu sword transmission scroll to Morihei Ueshiba (September).
1923-1928 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido.
1929 Admiral Isamu Takeshita studies under Sokaku Takeda, presumably with Morihei Ueshiba present (unconfirmed testimony of Tokimune Takeda).
1930 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido.
Interviewed by Tokyo Asahi News journalist Yoichi Ozaka in July. Article appeared in print on August 17, 1930.
Second wife, Sue, perishes in fire in Shirataki.
1931 Conducts seminar in Morihei Ueshiba’s Tokyo dojo just prior to its official opening (April).
Conducts seminars in Hokkaido and Yamagata Prefecture.
1932 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido.
1933 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido and Yamagata Prefecture.
1934 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido and Iwate Prefecture.
1935 Conducts seminars in Fukushima, Yamagata, Iwate Prefectures, and Hokkaido.
1936 Conducts seminars in Miyagi and Saitama Prefectures, Tokyo and Osaka.
Takes over instruction of Osaka Asahi News dojo from Morihei Ueshiba.
1937 Conducts seminars in Osaka and Hokkaido.
Awards Kyoju Dairi teaching certification to Takuma Hisa.
1938 Conducts seminars in Osaka.
1939 Conducts seminars in Osaka and Hokkaido.
Awards Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Menkyo Kaiden certification to Takuma Hisa and Masao Tonedate of Asahi News dojo (March).
1940-42 Conducts seminars in Hokkaido.
1943 Conducts seminars in Aomori Prefecture.
Dies of stroke while teaching in Aomori on April 25.

Click here for further information on Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and to find products!

“Adjacent Techniques, Predictable Irrationality and A Deeper form of Logic,” by Nev Sagiba

It is a well known rule of thumb for wrestling, that at least three body parts must be connected otherwise you are leaving holes in your strategy. This principle does not change when standing up but becomes more sophisticated in the following manner:

Excluding air space in combat is vital. The space, when found by an opponent, can be used in a number of ways including atemiwaza, to escape, to capture you, lock you and so on.

When practicing a range of transitions and counters until they become second nature, you will find some to be magical flows and others to be close to silly.

Why then, do I recommend to practice all of them? (“Such as in my Book “FOUR DIAMONDS 1024“)

The reason is this: By practicing the full range of possibilities it opens up the faculty of noticing variables. So much so that you soon begin to notice anything from three to several times that much, adjacent to the technique the opponent is in that moment thwarting. When you are conscious of them, adjacent techniques become spring loaded and ready to turn on a dime and unleash. Otherwise they remain unenergised, unknown, dormant potentials unable to be tapped on demand. Similarly to the logistics of battlefield strategy, often adjacent deployments will also lend support to the main thrust and thereby give rise to fuzzy notions of “mysterious power” in the minds of those not fully understanding what is in fact transpiring.
[Read more…]


“Cultivating a Martial Spirit,” by Stanley Pranin

Everyone beginning aikido practice is motivated by a particular purpose or set of goals. Among the most common are a desire to learn self-defense, develop physical fitness, or seek companionship. Over time these initial goals take on a different meaning as one begins to experience the transforming effect aikido has on one’s life.

Since aikido—and martial arts in general—are disciplines that teach techniques capable of injuring and killing an adversary, they should be practiced with a sense of seriousness and attention to minute detail due to the inherent risks involved. Training in such a focused mental state leads progressively to the cultivation of what might be described as a “martial spirit.”

We use the term “martial” here in the same sense as the word “bu” in Japanese as interpreted by the Founder, from “budo,” usually translated as “martial art.” “Bu” encompasses two key concepts. First, it connotes an Oriental system of fighting skills with classical origins primarily aimed at teaching self-defense. Bu also incorporates the notion of an activity or pursuit intended to lead the practitioner along a path of spiritual advancement. Both of these ideas are contained in aikido as conceived by the Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Training with a martial focus

The bu or martial element is so vital a part of aikido training that to remove it would be to reduce the art to a mere exercise system or health method. It arises from an awareness of the inherent dangers of training thereby introducing a kind of mental tension during practice that in time produces a state of heightened sensitivity. Here are some of the dojo processes that promote the development of this martial mindset.

Click here to read entire article

Masterful techniques of the Founder: A slideshow from Morihiro Saito’s “Budo” DVD


“Highlights of O-Sensei’s 1938 Training Manual presented by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan”

The images present in the above slideshow have been captured from the “Budo” DVD by Morihiro Saito Sensei, 9th dan. In this program, Saito Sensei reads, explains, and demostrates the technique presented in Morihei Ueshiba’s 1938 book of the same title. This DVD together with the “Takemusu Aikido Special Edition: Budo” book covering the same subject comprise this week’s special from Aikido Journal. Both are available as a set for the special price of $24.95.

Here is the video trailer for this week’s special…

Order This Week’s Special Offer Now:
Book + DVD only $24.95!


“Yoichiro Inoue: Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer,” by Stanley Pranin

Inoue with Yoshitaka Hirota c. 1935

Morihei Ueshiba is universally recognized as the founder of aikido. Historians of this martial art mention to varying degrees the significant roles of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu and the Omoto religion in providing the basis for Ueshiba’s technique and spiritual beliefs, respectively. Similarly, the founder’s debt to such benefactors as Admiral Isamu Takeshita, Kenji Tomita, Kinya Fujita, and others who assisted him over the years is clearly acknowledged. Several of Ueshiba’s early students including Kenji Tomiki, Minoru Mochizuki, Gozo Shioda, Koichi Tohei, and his son Kisshomaru are also widely known for their contributions in spreading the art in the postwar period as the heads of their respective organizations. In contrast, the name of Yoichiro Inoue is mentioned only occasionally as one of Morihei’s early students who also happened to be his nephew. That such an important contributor to the development of the art has been given such short shrift in aikido histories is an inexcusable omission and one that I hope to right through the article that follows.

Because of a lack of historical context presented in Morihei biographies published thus far, one is easily left with the impression that the founder made several major life decisions that proved key to the subsequent birth of aikido primarily on his own initiative. I refer specifically to such important events as his stay in Tokyo in 1901 with the intention of becoming a merchant, his relocation to Hokkaido as a settler in 1912, and his precipitous move with his entire family to the Omoto religious community in Ayabe in 1920. The reality of the matter is that the wealthy Inoue family of Tanabe to which Yoichiro belonged played a significant part in all of these major life choices of the young Ueshiba. The Ueshiba-Inoue family link is an undeniable fact of history and the names of Zenzo and his son, Yoichiro, as well as Zenzo’s younger brother Koshiro emerge with conspicuous frequency in connection with Morihei Ueshiba from around the turn of the 20th century through 1935.

Click here to read entire article


“The Energy Body,” Alister Gillies

Ainu shaman

The roots of Qigong (pronounced ‘chee gung’), according to anthropologists, can be traced back several thousand years to the shamanic practices of nomadic peoples who inhabited northern Asia and the Ural Altaic region.

The Anma arts, a form of body energy work combining acupressure, massage, manipulation and bone-setting, predate Reiki and Shiatsu by some 3000 years. Originating in China, the Anma arts spread from Korea to Japan where they became a specialised skill of retired Jujutsu practitioners. Albinos were said to be particularly gifted in its use, and it was also an integral part of a Zen monk’s medical training. Such practices are still extant today among the Sakha (Yakut), Chukchi, and Evenki peoples of Siberia.

Core shamanistic beliefs, which include body forms derived from dance, breath work, trance inducing techniques, animistic and polytheistic beliefs and myths, art, music and images and symbols were all assimilated by other major cultural and religious movements like Buddhism (India), Taoism (China) and Shinto (Japan).

Within ancient pre-literate cultures a shaman was an individual, usually someone with certain unique characteristics, who stood out from among the other members of their tribe or society. They could be left handed, epileptic or even of indeterminate gender; often shamans would be associated with particular families that passed on certain genetically inherited traits, such as a physical disability.
[Read more…]


“The book that vindicated Morihiro Saito Sensei”

“Benefit from Morihiro Saito Sensei’s expert analysis
of one of Aikido’s most important treasures!”
Has there ever been an aikido sensei who has organized the curriculum of the art so thoroughly as did Morihiro Saito Sensei? He was a veritable encyclopedia of aikido and its technical evolution. For years in his seminars, Saito Sensei would bring along a copy of O-Sensei’s rare book, Budo to verify the authenticity of his teachings.

A remarkable discovery
Elsewhere I have written the following about the importance of Budo and its discovery:

One day in July 1981, I was conducting an interview with Zenzaburo Akazawa, a prewar uchideshi of Morihei Ueshiba from the Kobukan Dojo period. Mr. Akazawa proceeded to show me a technical manual published in 1938 titled Budo which I had never seen before. It contained photos of some fifty techniques demonstrated by the founder himself. As I slowly turned the pages of the manual, I was amazed to see in the photos that the execution of several basics techniques such as ikkyo, iriminage and shihonage were virtually identical to what I had learned in Iwama under Saito Sensei. Here was the founder himself demonstrating what I had up until then regarded as “Iwama-style” techniques. Mr. Akazawa, who lives only a few blocks away from the Iwama Dojo, kindly lent me the book and I hurried to show it to Saito Sensei.

I’ll always remember the scene as I called at Sensei’s door to share with him my new discovery. To my surprise, he had never seen or heard mention of the book before. He put on his reading glasses and leafed through the manual, his eyes scanning the technical sequences intently. I felt compelled then and there to apologize to him for having ever doubted his assertion that he was making every effort to faithfully preserve the founder’s techniques. Saito Sensei laughed and, obviously with great pleasure, bellowed, “See, Pranin, I told you so!” From that time on up through the end of his life, Saito Sensei always had along his copy of Budo in the Iwama Dojo and on his travels to use as proof to show that a particular technique originated in the founder’s teachings.

O-Sensei's 1938 "Budo"

Proof of the eclectic nature of Morihei’s teachings
Another large collection of technical photos of Ueshiba taken at the dojo of the Kodansha Founder Seiji Noma also survives, but these photographs dating from 1935 have never been ordered or classified. Moreover, Budo provides clear testimony to the eclectic nature of Ueshiba’s technical system that included not only hundreds of empty-handed arts, but also numerous weapon-based techniques. Ueshiba’s fascination and experimentation with weapons training lasted most of his martial career. His training with the sword and staff, in particular, heavily influenced his understanding of the martial principles of body movement (taisabaki), entering (irimi), combative distance (maai), and timing.

A leap forward in technical development
Although Budo was published in 1938 during the middle phase of the development of aikido, it is surprisingly modern in the sense that the Founder had already distanced himself from the more rigid jujutsu techniques of the Daito-ryu school in favor of the flowing, circular movements which would come to characterize modern aikido as we know it today.

That very book is the subject of a special set consisting of a book (Takemusu Aikido Special Edition) and DVD (Budo) by Saito Sensei, that presents in great detail the famous 1938 technical manual titled Budo of O-Sensei. By purchasing the book and DVD on Budo together, you will realize a tremendous savings off the retail price of these companion products purchased separately.

Saito Sensei does a masterful job of demonstrating and explaining all of the techniques of Budo in his book and DVD that comprise this Special Set. There are several reasons why the manual Budo is of great importance to aikido history. It is the only source of organized technical sequences demonstrated by Morihei Ueshiba replete with explanations.

Order This Week’s Special Offer Now:
Book + DVD only $24.95!


‘FOUR DIAMONDS 1024’ Now an eBook!

The ability to adjust seamlessly between techniques defines mastery. In most cases, this essential attribute of Aikido has been either ignored or guessed at, thereby often giving rise to incomplete training curricula. This book not only reveals the innate simplicity behind the apparent complexity of Aikido’s Transitions and Counters, but it provides a full spectrum of possibilities for practicing. Here it is, simplified in single drills of two techniques. When you can do these drills easily, you will be able to effect spontaneous responses to any attack economically and without forcing.


FOUR DIAMONDS 1024 – Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido

This updated high resolution PDF e-book version of FOUR DIAMONDS 1024 – Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido, contains comprehensively linked bookmarks entries configured for instant searching on a desktop, laptop, iPad or suitable phone. 

Not for beginners, it is recommended you purchase only if you thoroughly know your basic techniques. Otherwise you may not understand its purpose or intent. If you have a flexible mind of exploration and research, this book will enrich your Aikido beyond your wildest expectations! Include the 1024 exercise drills in your training practice and your mastery of transitions and counters will gain you consummate skill in Aikido.

FOUR DIAMONDS 1024, provides complete sets of exercise drill guidelines designed to remind you to explore a range of basic transitions and counters and their potentials. Work the drills. When practiced they unlock a further multitude of possibilities. This method of supplementing training allows you to discover the points of optimum efficiency best suited to your type.

Watch the VIDEO examples demonstrated here:
( * These are randomly selected Ikkyo sequences taken from the book’s first four facets on pages, 29, 47, 65 and 83)

  1. Transitions from Ikkyo to other techniques
  2. Transitions from any technique into Ikkyo
  3. Counters receiving Ikkyo into other techniques
  4. Counters receiving any technique into Ikkyo
  5. Ikkyo variable counters
  6. Ikkyo variable counters and some transitions

Win a free copy!

Win a free copy! One of the above video clips (1, 2, 3 or 4) contains a sequence that does not belong in the category it is shown. The first 3 people to identify it and the name the technique(s) correctly, will get a free copy of the e-book!

RESULTS – FOUR DIAMONDS 1024 Win a free e-book competition.
The competition is now closed.
The answer is 4 – Counters receiving any technique into Ikkyo

The first technique is converted into Sankyo instead of Ikkyo.
The first winners with correct answers were:
* Miklos Kanyo
* Robin Karlsson
* Lee Wood  and * Andrew Pratt came in together so both received a copy of the e-book.

Thank you to all participants.
Quite a few people also said 2 but if you look carefully the techniques do in fact get transitioned into Ikkyo. Even though for example the elements of the previous technique remain, the focus of ki is on the main technique which in this case is Ikkyo. Adjacent Techniques will have to be the subject of another book, chapter or at least a blog article.
Best wishes,
Nev Sagiba

In the book, these four methods are outlined using the following key techniques, exploring their interrelationships and extrapolating each basic technique in 64 ways (16 in each allegorical facet within the diamond). The method outlined provides an intuitive yet comprehensive array of training modalities from each kihon, yet based on simple and obvious principles that do not require memorising more than the 16 core basics, in order to unlock not only the 1024 possibilities revealed here, but endless more.

The Sixteen Key Techniques covered in this book (each technique extrapolated in 64 variables)

  • Ikkyo
  • Nikkyo
  • Sankyo
  • Yonkyo
  • Gokyo
  • Jujigarame
  • Kotegaeshi
  • Shihonage
  • Kaitennage
  • Iriminage
  • Tenchinage
  • Gyaku-Iriminage
  • Sumiotoshi (omote and ushiro)
  • Koshinage
  • Aikiotoshi
  • Obiotoshi

If you know your Aikido basics, you will love the possibilities it will open up. FOUR DIAMONDS 1024 – Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido, contains years of solid dojo work. The first layers of mystery that make Aiki effective are stripped away to expose how simple the endlessly adaptive pathways of Takemusu variables can be.

The practiced will find the contents of this manual obvious. The sincere will find a way to interpret the Transitions and Counters revealed in it. The merely curious will find nothing.

Unless you have been practicing Aikido attentively, do not purchase this book.

The complete e-book:

FOUR DIAMONDS 1024 – Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido: $24.99 AUD


“Trains are dangerous in Japan… You need Aikido!”, by Stanley Pranin

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about an experience I had on a train in Japan many years ago that involved a violent altercation. Actually, I was involved in a second incident that took place a few years later that I’d like to relate.

One day, I was on the train heading to a city in Northern Japan to do a film show. It was a rainy day and many people were carrying umbrellas as is the custom–and necessity–in Japan. As I was seated relaxing on the way to my destination, I noticed a drunk man a few steps away from me disturbing other passengers.

This fellow would turn to different passengers making rude comments and trying to provoke a fight. He was a little fellow, not at all imposing, but he was certainly making a nuisance out of himself. I kept watching him carefully because he made me uncomfortable, and I was concerned he might attack someone. As in the previous episode I described, the other passengers were watching the man, but sat there doing nothing. No one dared intervene.

Shortly thereafter, the man went up to a middle-aged woman, and tried to engage her in conversation. She simply turned around hoping that the drunk would leave her alone. He then grabbed the lady’s umbrella and took it away from her. She was angry, but did not dare to try to take it back.

I could feel my body and mind kicking into a ready state. I knew that the drunk’s actions were totally unpredictable, and that he now had a weapon in his hand in the form of an umbrella.

The drunk, for his part, was angry with the woman who attempted to ignore him. Suddenly, he raised the umbrella as if to strike her. At that instant, I moved quickly from my seat because it did not take any great leap of imagination to see that he might hurt the woman. I felt no hesitation. It was almost like training in the dojo.

I moved toward him quickly and extended my arm under his chin as we do in iriminage. Having secured his head, I pushed on the small of his back and pulled him backward off balance. From there, it was an easy matter to take the umbrella away from him.

While still controlling the drunk, I gave the umbrella back to the woman, and moved him toward the sliding door. Soon, the train arrived at the next station and I ushered the drunk out of the train onto the platform. As I had all of my gear with me, I quickly reentered the train, and sat down to resume my journey.

The woman looked at me and bowed her head in thanks. I was relieved it was over, and a little upset by the fact that no one else nearby took any steps to defuse the situation.

I must say that I at no time felt any personal danger. I was huge compared to the small, drunk man. His coordination was impaired by his condition, so physically he was no match for me. Also, I was in Japan where the possession of a weapon in a public place is a rarity. In reflection, I might not have chosen to intervene in the way I did had I been in another country. If the person was large, or had companions, and possibly had a weapon, that would have changed everything. I felt that it was very important to be able to rapidly assess your surroundings and gage the probable level of danger.

I was really thankful that I had been doing aikido for a long time and could respond unhesitatingly in such a situation. Just another day in Japan!


“The Paradoxes of Aikido Training,” by Nev Sagiba

“If you’ve been hit, you know what it feels like. No academic theories
can infest the mind of one who knows from direct experience”

Aikido is a study in the harmonising of the discordant. This itself is not a paradox. It makes good sense.

In its implementation, however, we come across certain problems.

At a physical level, apparently good people are often incapable of simulating a serious attack. Being most often reasonable people, having grown in reasonably comfortable situations, such people lack insight into the nature of evil as would mount a real and deadly attack.

This is not to say, however, that such individuals are saints or anything like that. Merely paralyzed in the ways of interpersonal physical survival, much as that of a child who has grown up overly shielded from life in a monastery and who lacks a certain degree of street sense.

Within this naivety, sometimes a greater evil than physical attack often emerges through that of underhanded organizational politics that can destroy good structures.

Often a good dojo under the tutelage of a talented teacher, who whilst not necessarily a master, has a few years on those he teaches and thereby something useful to impart. Such a teacher will be ousted, by way of the political machinations, a tool of the weak and cowardly hubristic dunderheads, who then implement their takeover bid. This usually destroys a dojo within six months. I’ve seen it often in budo and other organisations. It is a cancer of the mind, which when combined with greed, brings about such all-lose scenarios.
[Read more…]


“The dainty lady who lit up Morihei Ueshiba’s Kobukan Dojo,” by Stanley Pranin

Takako Kunigoshi in 1992

While I was living in Japan, I had the pleasure of speaking with a diminutive, elderly lady on two occasions. She was not your typical senior citizen. She had a bright light in her eyes and an infectious smile. Her stories held me transfixed as she spoke to me of her youth and devotion to training in Aiki Budo.

Decades earlier, Takako Kunigoshi was a phenomenon in Morihei Ueshiba’s Kobukan Dojo, known as the “Hell Dojo.” She dived into training with the rough young uchideshi of the day, and charmed everyone with whom she came into contact. She was treated the equal of everyone else, neither asking nor giving any quarter.

Miss Kunigoshi also left her mark in aikido history as the illustrator of the 1934 technical manual titled “Budo Renshu.” She captured the essence of Morihei’s prewar technique with her artistic sensibility and left for posterity an intimate glimpse of the times.

Interview with Takako Kunigoshi,” by Stanley Pranin

Editor: Kunigoshi Sensei, when was it that you first became involved in Aikido?

Takako Kunigoshi throwing
Shigemi Yonekawa, c. 1936

I started in January of 1933, the year that I graduated from school. I was then able to continue up to a little before the air raids began over Tokyo. At one time I had been asked to teach self-defense to female employees of a company located next to the famous Kaminari Mon (Thunder Gate) of the Asakusa Temple in Tokyo’s old town district. I went there with the grand daughter of Yakumo Koizumi (the well known Meiji period author better known to foreign readers as Lafcadio Hearn), Ms. Kazuko Koizumi, and we would teach there together. She is dead now, however. Then the air raids started and there were always warnings and alarms and things were getting a little dangerous so we had to stop. We never got to train very much there…

Editor: I imagine there weren’t very many women among the deshi in those days.

There were only two of us! The other woman was two or three years younger than myself. I received New Year’s greeting cards from her up until a few years ago. Even now it seems that her nephew is going to the dojo. But as you said, in those days not many women went to train. Ever so, Ueshiba Sensei never made us feel different by changing things “because you are a woman.”

This and a second interview with Takako Kunigoshi are featured in Stanley Pranin’s book Aikido Pioneers – Prewar Era.

Click here to read the entire interview


“Who is Koichi Tohei?”, by Stanley Pranin

“Tohei became the best-known figure in aikido due to his extensive travels and publications, even eclipsing the Founder and his son Kisshomaru.”

Koichi Tohei (1920-2011)

In May, 1974, an event occurred that shook the roots of the aikido world to its very foundations. It was then that Koichi Tohei, the chief instructor of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, resigned from his post and left the headquarters organization to form his own school.

Many aikido associations, dojos, instructors, and students, particularly in Japan and the U.S.A., were compelled to make a choice of whether to stay within the Aikikai system or join Tohei’s newly-created Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido organization.

The impact on those who remained within the Aikikai system was nonetheless traumatic because they saw the illusion of harmony at the highest level of leadership in the aikido world shattered. Regardless of where one stood on the issue, aikido at large had suffered a huge black eye.

From the viewpoint of the Aikikai, Tohei’s actions and attempts to dictate the technical curriculum and teaching methodology were unacceptable.

In Tohei’s eyes, the aikido headquarters had snubbed his leadership and failed to sufficiently acknowledge his many accomplishments and contributions to the postwar spread of aikido, both in Japan and abroad. The contentious issue was further complicated by a web of long-standing personal relationships that had gone sour.

The upshot of this tragic situation was that, in the aftermath of Tohei’s departure, neither he nor the Aikikai has wished to revisit this unfortunate episode and the issue has been effectively swept under the rug for more than 35 years.
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