Aug
09

“A Tribute to Sadateru Arikawa Shihan,” by Stanley Pranin

sadateru-arikawa-leg-pin

“As close as I was with Arikawa Sensei, he will always remain an enigma. He was extremely intelligent and perceptive and yet preferred to remain in the background.”

Sadateru Arikawa (1930-2003)

On October 11, 2003, the aikido world lost 9th dan Sadateru Arikawa, one of the few remaining giants of the postwar generation of instructors that played a predominant role in the dissemination of the art worldwide. I had the pleasure of knowing and associating with this enigmatic figure over a 33-year period. During that time he taught me a great deal about Japanese martial arts history, research methodology, etiquette, and the ins and outs of the aikido subculture. Arikawa Sensei was talkative, tireless, severe yet cheerful, fearsome on the mat, and fiercely loyal to the Ueshiba family. There was no one more knowledgeable than he on all things aikido-related. He was a walking dictionary and a martial arts’ historian par excellence.

In this tribute, I will endeavor to provide an insight into this colorful figure by describing some of the highlights of our long association.

I initially encountered Sadateru Arikawa on my first trip to Japan in the summer of 1969. His reputation of being ferocious on the mat had preceded him and I wasn’t disappointed when I participated in one of his classes for the first time. With a big smile on his face he would apply painful joint-locks (kansetsuwaza) and powerful throws to any and all who would knowingly or foolishly volunteer a limb. I think I only attended two or three of his classes during that summer figuring that I would be tempting the hands of fate if I trained in his class on a regular basis.

At that time, there was a series of cartoons drawn by a British aikidoka circulating at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. The drawing depicting Arikawa Sensei showed the figure of a cowering student crawling underneath the tatami in order to escape treatment at the hands of “Harry”–a pun on the first three letters of his name and a reference to his thick, black shock of hair–as Sensei was affectionately known among the foreigners at the dojo.

Cartoon by Eric George circulating at Hombu Dojo in 1969


[Read more...]

Aug
08

Slideshow for “Aikido with Ki” featuring Koichi Tohei, 10th dan

[portfolio_slideshow]

“Aikido’s First 10th Dan”

Where did the aikido we practice today come from? A man who played a critical role in the gestation of modern aikido is Koichi Tohei. Today, Tohei Sensei is a forgotten name in many quarters, surely an unconscionable omission. Through his many books in both Japanese and English, and his extensive travels in Japan and the USA, Tohei Sensei left a permanent mark on the content and pedagogy of aikido during the postwar period.

For this week’s Aikido Journal special, we offer the first and only DVD to cover the topic of Koichi Tohei’s many contributions and activities in the early spread of aikido. This DVD also explores the preparatory exercises and basic techniques developed by Tohei Sensei aimed at developing the use of ki in aikido. The highlight of the program is a lengthy section featuring rare footage of a seminar taught by Tohei Sensei in his prime.

The second product you will receive as a bonus in this special is a one-of-a-kind DVD containing thousands of pages of magazine articles covering every aspect of aikido. It features the entire contents of Aiki News / Aikido Journal published over two-and-one-half decades in easy-to-access PDF format.

Order This Week’s Special Offer Now for only $24.95!

Aug
07

Reminiscences of Minoru Mochizuki (Part 1)

Minoru Mochizuki in France c. 1951

“Sokaku Takeda: An Intimate Glimpse”

I conducted an interview with the famous Minoru Mochizuki at his Yoseikan Dojo in Shizuoka in 1985. During the time he spent with the Aiki News staff, he shared a series of fascinating anecdotes that riveted our attention.

In one section of the interview, Mochizuki describes the visit of the legendary Sokaku Takeda to Morihei Ueshiba’s Mejiro Dojo in May 1930. Mochizuki describes Sokaku’s behavior and conversation in detail. This is one of the few existing first-hand accounts of Sokaku that paint such a vivid picture of this jujutsu master. – Stanley Pranin

Kisshomaru Sensei’s words

It is natural for a man to thrist after strength. The other day I had some business at the Hombu Dojo and went there taking several of my students. There we listened to a talk given by Koetsu (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) Sensei. He made the following remark during his speech: “Nowadays, the streets are well protected by the police and I have almost never seen any violence. Therefore, we should disregard such notions as who is stronger or who are losers.” I thought that what he said was quite reasonable. However, on the way home my students asked me: “Sensei, did he really mean that? He may not be reading the news.” Actually, many incidents appear on the third page of the newspaper. In the old days there was a saying that, “Three years spent developing an army is all for the purpose of using it for a single day.” Although there are many soldiers, they are to be used only for emergency situations and are not usually needed. In other ways, this saying signifies that “bu” or martial arts serve as a precaution. We must of course go beyond fighting. But if young people overemphasize this idea and believe that armed forces are no longer needed because there is no need to attack anyone, this attitude presents a problem. Most of the time youngsters come to the dojo wanting to become strong.

I came to study under Ueshiba Sensei for the same reason. If Ueshiba Sensei were a weak-looking man who appeared as if he would fall if I swept his leg from underneath him I wouldn’t have followed him. I was very vigorous then because at the time I used to appear in championship judo tournaments. But he grabbed hold of me and flung me around as if I were insignificant. Ueshiba Sensei was great and I was surprised. After all, I thirsted after strength in those days. So I don’t think we should deny the existence of this type of desire. We should take a hard look at reality. Budo are not sports. They are traditional martial arts and an instrument of war. We must be prepared for emergencies, in a spiritual sense, I mean. Budo cultivates this spirit.
[Read more...]

Aug
07

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Special Training Session conducted by Menkyo Kaiden Katsuyuki Kondo to be held in Katsuura, Chiba, August 14-20

Katsuyuki Kondo Hombucho

We have been asked by Menkyo Kaiden Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei to post information about the upcoming Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Special Training Session to take place in Katsuura, Chiba, from August 14-20.

From the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Headquarters website, we reproduce the following:

“To all branch dojos

Please make sure to be careful and protect yourself from dehydration and heatstroke while training.

Please note that the 2011 Headquarters seminar in Katsuura, Chiba will still be held in August, from the 14th to the 20th, as scheduled.

Despite the fact that the situation remains dire in the area around Fukushima and the surroundings, we can assure you that the situation in Tokyo and further south, where the seminar will be held, is safe; there are also presently no issues whatsoever with radiation, and there is no reason to believe any problems may arise in that regard.

Therefore, there is at the moment no reason to worry about coming to Japan for the duration of the seminar.

Please feel free to contact the headquarters in regards to any questions you may have on this subject.

8th of May 2011
Daito-ryu aikijujutsu headquarters
Kondo Katsuyuki Hombucho”

Click here for more information and to sign up for the special Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu training session.

Aug
07

Aikido, The Stuff of Bodhisattvas?

There is a lot of wobbly theorising about the concept of so-called “karma.” Be that as it may, there is no doubt that, in the Nature of the Universe, the pendulum must swing, cause must beget effect and rebound is inevitable. “Every jot and tittle is measured..”

The Laws of the Universe are precise, exacting in the long run, it would appear. Equilibrium is everything.

Scientific understanding is slowly catching up with what the ancients simply knew.

This is a vast and broad subject, but to keep it brief, I’m going to the nitty-gritty bottom of the barrel. Violence. Attrition. Friction. Stress. Something every living being, in some way, has to contend with, on a daily basis.

Why am I suggesting that Aikido may hold the potential stuff of Bodhisattva training? Well, nothing awakens in a comfortable state of stagnation. The whole of evolution is composed of battles for survival. This develops awareness and skill and the long journey to awakening then takes place.

The complacent become extinct and get recycled.
[Read more...]

Aug
05

“Did Morihei ever injure or kill anyone? Here is what we know…,” by Stanley Pranin

Morihei Ueshiba at Kobukan Dojo c. 1936

A recent blog on Aikido Journal that touched upon the subject of competition in martial arts resulted in a rather animated discussion. One reader wrote an interesting comment from which I will quote a few of lines:

“… [O-Sensei's] art and attitudes changed over the course of a lifetime. He lived in a time when defending one’s well-being against an opponent was not a voluntary act, and he no doubt maimed and killed a number of human beings. I have no doubt that in his later years he would frown on competition just as other masters of his era did, but this is a different era. In his younger years, he joined the military and went to war; he injured human beings and took lives. Aikido philosophy is no doubt heavily influenced by that fact.”

[Excerpt slightly edited. -Ed]

I had quite a strong reaction, especially to the part of there being “no doubt” that Morihei had “maimed and killed a number of human beings.” The voice inside me protested that this was simply not true. Then I thought about it for a while and realized that some readers of Morihei’s biography might conclude that such incidences may have taken place.

So let’s take a look at what we know about Morihei on this subject during his early years. As far as injuries go, this would presumably refer to various fights that Morihei had participated in as a young man. Kisshomaru refers to various altercations in which Morihei was involved as a youth in Tanabe. The accounts are few and vague and no serious injuries, and certainly no deaths, are mentioned.
[Read more...]

Aug
04

Do you know the story? “O-Sensei’s Adopted Son and Heir Apparent”

Kiyoshi Nakakura aka Morihiro Ueshiba


Interview with Swordmaster:
Kiyoshi Nakakura (1)

The story of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei and his adopted son and heir apparent is little known, but a very important phase of aikido history. In consultation with noted sword master Hakudo Nakayama, Morihei sought a suitable husband for his eldest daughter and an heir to his martial art. He chose one of the top young kendo competitors to marry his daughter and become his successor. You should know this story, and here it is direct from Morihei’s adopted son…

Aiki News: We understand that you came to the Kobukan Dojo as the adopted son of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei and your name at that time was Morihiro Ueshiba.

Nakakura Sensei: That’s right. I married the daughter of Ueshiba Sensei in 1932. Two Chinese characters, each from the names of two masters were used for my name, “Morihiro”. One was “Haku” (can also be read “hiro”) from my master, Hakudo Nakayama and “Mori” (can also be read “Sei”) from a famous master named Seiji Mochida. Therefore, when I was in the Kobukan I was known as Morihiro Ueshiba. Some old-timers still call me “Mr. Ueshiba.”

Aiki News: Was it due to the relationship between Ueshiba Sensei and Nakayama Sensei that you entered the Kobukan dojo?

Nakakura Sensei: That’s right. They became acquainted with each other for some reason. Ueshiba Sensei used to say that Aikido is closer to Kendo than it is to Judo. Therefore, he expressed his desire to receive an adopted son from the Kendo side. Ueshiba Sensei asked if Nakayama Sensei knew any appropriate person. There were lots of people from Kagoshima Prefecture in Ueshiba’s dojo then. For example, there was Count Gombei Yamamoto [2]. He was the one who called Mr. Ueshiba from Kishu, you know. There was also his son, Kiyoshi Yamamoto who was a lieutenant and his nephew, Eisuke Yamamoto, also an admiral who was a Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet. Then there was Isamu Takeshita who had a keen interest in Aikido and was practicing the art very seriously. He also was an admiral and was from Kagoshima Prefecture. Given this situation, Nakayama Sensei chose me since I was also from Kagoshima Prefecture. Then Nakayama Sensei stood as my guarantor in place of my parents.

Aiki News: Did you practice Jujutsu while you were in the Kobukan?

Nakakura Sensei: I was practicing both Kendo and Aikido. Although I was practicing Aikido, I found Mr. Ueshiba to be superhuman and felt that I would never be able to master the techniques he was doing and so would not be able to succeed him. I felt that I should not cling to the position as his successor. Then I went to see Nakayama Sensei and told him that I did not think I would be able to succeed him and would like to leave the Ueshiba family. Nakayama Sensei said that he understood but told me to wait since he himself would go and talk to Mr. Ueshiba. It was just before I left the Kobukan. I departed in 1937.

Click here to read the entire article

Aug
03

Koichi Tohei – “Aikido With Ki” on DVD + Complete Back-Issues Set!

“Aikido’s First 10th Dan”

Where did the aikido we practice today come from? A man who played a critical role in the gestation of modern aikido is Koichi Tohei. Today, Tohei Sensei is a forgotten name in many quarters, surely an unconscionable omission. Through his many books in both Japanese and English, and his extensive travels in Japan and the USA, Tohei Sensei left a permanent mark on the content and pedagogy of aikido during the postwar period.

For this week’s Aikido Journal special, we offer the first and only DVD to cover the topic of Koichi Tohei’s many contributions and activities to the early spread of aikido. This DVD also explores the preparatory exercises and basic techniques developed by Tohei Sensei aimed at developing the use of ki in aikido. The highlight of the program is a lengthy section featuring rare footage of a seminar taught by Tohei Sensei in his prime.

The second product you will receive as a bonus in this special is a one-of-a-kind DVD containing thousands of pages of magazine articles covering every aspect of aikido. It features the entire contents of Aiki News / Aikido Journal published over two-and-one-half decades in easy-to-access PDF format.

Order This Week’s Special Offer Now for only $24.95!

Aug
02

“Ah, the many sleuths among you!”, by Stanley Pranin

As I sit down to write this, 17 of the sleuths among you took the time to write down your views on the seven points I listed as “common misconceptions about aikido.” Job well done, guys! I recommend everyone read these comments.

What do you say we have some more fun? Are you up for a little more detective work? Ok, this is what we’re after… historical exchange rate equivalencies between the Japanese Yen and the US dollar. Here’s why:

“After he returned from the scouting expedition, O-Sensei began to promote a group settlement in Hokkaido and received a tremendous response. Fifty-four heads of families applied, for a total of eighty people in all. With the exception of a few families, however, most of the prospective settlers couldn’t afford the costs of relocation. O-Sensei asked his father Yoroku to contribute ten thousand yen as financial support for these less well-off families. an amount equivalent to two or three hundred thousand dollars in present-day money.” [1912]

A Life in Aikido, by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, p. 86

“The money [the Ueshibas] needed for the move [to Ayabe], about ten thousand yen, was raised through a five-year loan using O-Sensei’s inheritance from his father as collateral.” [1920]

Ibid, p. 117

Do the two quotes above not seem somewhat at odds to you? Think through the implications. Imagine that you are imprisoned like the Count of Monte Cristo in the Château d’If, and have plenty of time on your hands to reflect and analyze!

These elusive exchange rate equivalencies will come in handy in other instances where large sums of money are mentioned at key intervals in O-Sensei’s life. Here are the questions to be answered:

How much was ¥10,000 in 1912 equivalent to in today’s money?

How much was ¥10,000 in 1920 equivalent to in today’s money?

Please come up with the approximate equivalencies and links to the sources you used to determine the amounts in today’s money.

The answers to these questions will help us solve another controversial monetary issue that would haunt Morihei for many years and place his character in question. I’ll save that story for another time.

Lend me your brain power!

Aug
01

“Common Misconceptions about Aikido History,” by Stanley Pranin

morihei-ueshiba-portrait-575

Have you heard or read any of these?

I began the publication of Aiki News in 1974 centered on translations of a series of Japanese newspaper articles on Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. From this modest beginning, I gradually came to realize that many of the notions about aikido history I began with ran contrary to actual fact.

Over the years, I have endeavored to correct what I regard as erroneous information through editorials and essays published in Aikido Journal. Rather than offer undocumented opinions, I have attempted to clearly state my sources of information and the reasons for reaching such conclusions.

Many of the common mistakes made by historians have been perpetuated in print for decades. Unfortunately, they are here to stay. This is especially true for works written in Western languages which, in almost all cases, draw on secondary sources. Although Aikido Journal has a broad readership built up over 37 years of publication, we do not represent the mainstream of thought in the aikido world on historical matters.

Below I have listed a number of oft-repeated viewpoints on historical issues relating to aikido that one frequently encounters in mainstream publications. Have a careful look at these statements purported to be historical fact and see if you have encountered any of them.

1. Morihei Ueshiba’s father, Yoroku, was a wealthy farmer and councilman in Tanabe, Morihei’s birthplace. He funded Morihei’s activities as a young man. Moreover, he lent large somes of money to Tanabe families who joined Morihei on his move to the wilderness of Hokkaido. He also provided the financing of the considerable sums paid to Sokaku Takeda for Morihei’s instruction in Daito-ryu jujutsu.

2. Morihei Ueshiba learned only a short time under Sokaku Takeda. Daito-ryu was one of several old-style martial arts that influenced aikido. Morihei drew from several technical sources when creating aikido, not mainly Daito-ryu.

3. Morihei was not a regular member of the Omoto Sect, but rather a personal follower of Onisaburo Deguchi.

4. Morihei’s son, Kisshomaru, was groomed to succeed his father from childhood.

5. Morihei Ueshiba took an active role in the postwar dissemination of aikido.

6. Postwar aikido instructors studied directly under Morihei Ueshiba for lengthy periods in the 1950s and 60s.

7. Historically speaking, aikido forms are based on taijutsu or empty-handed techniques. The study of weapons is optional, and an adjunct to empty-handed training.

Please weigh in with your opinions on these viewpoints. Have you come across any of these in your readings? In what context? Add you comments, please. We have many smart and articulate readers here, and I would love to hear your viewpoints.

After we have heard from you, I will write a follow-up article to explain what I have found to be historical fact on these subjects. I will point to my sources and how I arrived at my viewpoints.

Over to you!

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