“Aikido’s Library of Alexandria,” by Stanley Pranin

The Alexandria Library was celebrated as the most important treasury of information in the world at the time. Its disappearance is rightly seen as a catastrophe and symbolic of the loss of respect for knowledge that followed the collapse of Classical civilization.

That’s how I conceive of the new Aikido Journal Members Site… “Aikido’s Library of Alexandria,” a repository for thousands of articles, photos, videos, audio recordings, and every sort of documentation pertaining to aikido and related subjects.

You know, I began research into aikido back in the early 1970s by translating a series of newspaper articles about Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Since that time, I’ve conducted more than 200 interviews with many of aikido’s greatest figures. A large portion of these edited conversations are housed in our indexed archives on this site.

During this long period, I have experienced the joys of many wonderful moments and research breakthroughs… meeting with scores of extraordinary people from all walks of life, the discovery of old photos, films, documents, and much more. I have also been frustrated by the realization that many of the most important aikido documents kept in private hands will never see the light of day. Far be it for me to judge the reasoning of those who have chosen to keep important materials to themselves, but the fact of the matter is that these precious documents might just as well not exist. As the years pass, the disappointment I have felt due to this state of affairs has diminished, for there is much to do. In fact, recently, I have come to the realization that I might be guilty of this same sort of neglect unless I take action. What do I mean by that?

Well, even though we’ve been active for several decades and have published thousands of pages, photos, and all manner of documents about aikido, there is much more material that remains stored away… unedited and unpublished. You see, we’re in a race against time. How many years will it take to process and publish all of the important items in our care? A long, long time, that’s for sure. The sense of urgency I feel is palpable….

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  1. Good Morning Stan!

    From one Sensei to another,

    You have set the mark for others to see & follow! May you continue on your
    journey with unending fervor & enthusiasm. The greatest gift in one’s journeys
    is the ability to hold the journey in one’s hand & heart then pass it to another
    with a smile & a lesson unending!
    Do Mo Arrigato Gozai Masu!

    kojitshu Stanley Pranin San

  2. bruce baker says:

    I have seen many many technically proficient practitioners of Aikido, and indeed they are able to visually exhibit and correct their students and friends in their form and physical execution of the art, but the internal visualization, the connection that is the other level of thought that makes the body seem twice as strong, twice as fast, and exemplify to the watcher an above average proficiency … is not so easy to come by.

    All secrets to the physical part of Aikido are found in the human body’s weaknesses, and the study of that physical form. Pressure points, acupuncture are probably the best way to understand why we use the short-hand movements taught in aikido and how they translate into the techniques that can immobilizes or injure an opponent, but that does not address the mental awareness and the preprogramming of the mind that can call up commands quicker than the person can think of a command or a technique to be used.

    There is a place where the mind and the physical world connect in a set of physical signals and subliminal signals …. where the results are visible, where most people are unable to explain exactly how that exceptional strength, stamina, and prowess occurs, but they are able to combine …. mind, body, and spirit, which is actually the waking mind, the physical body responding to stimuli, and the subconscious mind which can block pain or fool the waking mind and physical body into being faster, stronger, more proficient once all these things work in harmony.

    The simplest exercise is to have one person lift another. When both people think the other is light as a cloud, the person being lifted seems much lighter, hence we enjoy the fully committed attack for practice … much lighter dealing with someone in motion than a sack of potatoes, eh?

    When the person lifting imagines the person being lifted to be heavy ,,, they are heavy, although the subliminal signals of the person being lifted might be slightly different if they imagine themselves heavy or light, it depends on how relaxed they are physically verses the mental picture, so indeed there is some physical aspect to even this practical demonstration.

    Most of you know what I am talking about because most of you have heard or practiced the practice of “having a light spirit” or “putting Joy into your practice” which will make the practice and your practice partners seem nearly weightless at times, and yet … do you realize how much of that is both of you either harmonizing or dis-harmonizing with your thoughts as well as your subliminal signals from either your emotional state or your physical actions?

    What is my point?

    Pay attention to what you are thinking and how what you command your body to do as well as the pictures you create in your mind either are more effective or less effective as commands to do the physical effort of aikido practice.

    I know it’s not easy, and really doesn’t happen until you feel comfortable with the physical practice, but in everything you read about the masters who give lessons to their students, they are in some way, some shape, some form giving their students a method to embed mental commands to create the physical form of practice we see with our eyes, feel with our bodies when we are practice partners. Some people are very good at it, and some are not .. but that has to do with the fact that we all seem to have similar command structure with many different pictures and subcommands that allow us to correct for the anomalies that might occur during practice.

    I might be thinking about reaching towards an object or a point across the room, and you might be thinking of something completely different when you do a technique … I can’t see into your mind and you can’t see into mine, so we try to fix the physical aspect of what we see the body doing … but … it is up to you to put the command structure in your head in order so you can do the technique without thinking with the waking mind. I think that is the ultimate goal of practice, to have some sense of the physical events around your, without looking, and to be able to do a technique without thinking about it.

    Over and over and over again we are placing a mental picture that allows us to be physically comfortable so we now have the capacity to allow both the subconscious mind to take in new stimuli, new signals and plan ahead, put options on the table, as well as open the awareness of the waking mind where you can have some input as to what choices you make based upon what that part of the minds senses physically with not just your eyes but all you senses and still has room, or should I say time, to consider options as your perception of movement is almost in slow motion allowing the mind to think.

    Everyone will experience this slow motion of movement at one time or another as the mind races to think of what you should do, considering solutions. Wouldn’t it be great to have a complete set of solutions preprogramed in your head? Never gonna happen, so our choice is to train, try to get enough general commands and structure in place so we are able to deal with the majority of physical movements or mental gymnastics we might need to deal with.

    Indeed, Aikido is not just a PHYSICAL Exercise … IT IS A MENTAL DISCIPLINE and you need to get serious about that part of your training when you think you are comfortable, or bored, with the physical practice.

    The LIBRARY is a great place to gather information, but to have information is not the application of information. Figure out what pictures you need, what commands you need to put in place in the subconscious mind … it will surprise you how well it works, that is if you aren’t already using this technique of training. I also think …. you will find greater understanding for many of the interviews and articles in the Aikido Journal Library …

    Depending on how you have organized your mind … some of the pictures that the Master practitioners describe may actually work for you … ya never know until you try, eh?

  3. Stan – banzai!

    Once upon a time Bob Nadeau was commenting on some or other aikido politics and he said, “…but we (the Northern California Aikido Yudanshakai, in the day) have demonstrated how to enlarge the art.” I’ve never really had much to do with the politics, but Tom Everett, my sempai at San Francisco, explained the Yudansha-kai to me as follows, “All yudansha are automatically members. Any two constitute a quorum. So, what do we want to do?” I’m told that things are “more organized” today. But it isn’t important. Outside this forum I haven’t had anything to do with any other aikido yudansha for years. Tom has pretty much retired. He told me he has an ankle injury that gets in his way. Now I think of the parable from Scriptures about how some seed is sown on fertile well watered soil, and some in other less favorable places. So, if the seed is sown on stony dry ground, well, it won’t thrive.

    Meantime, Stan, please continue your project. May it encourage and sustain the growth of aikido, particularly for those of us who are ignorant of Japanese.

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