Archives for October 2011


“Morihei’s ‘Ueshiba Juku’ — Launchpad of a Martial Arts Career,” by Stanley Pranin

Morihei in Ayabe c. 1921

Early in my career as a researcher into the life of Morihei Ueshiba, I was misled by two prevailing myths concerning the history of aikido. The first was that Daito-ryu jujutsu was merely one of a number of older martial arts that influenced the technical development of aikido. This proved to be a misrepresentation of historical fact in that Daito-ryu was, technically speaking, by far the predominant influence on aikido. The second myth was that Morihei Ueshiba had something akin to a “star” status within the Omoto religion that placed him almost on a par with Onisaburo Deguchi, and that he was somehow a “non-member” member of the sect. (1) This view, too–in retrospect absurd on its face–proved easily refutable after a cursory research into Morihei’s involvement in the religious sect. Both of these viewpoints were promoted by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in the postwar years to enhance perceptions of Morihei’s status and originality as the founder of aikido, by downplaying the pivotal roles played by Sokaku Takeda and Onisaburo Deguchi in Morihei’s career.

In this article, I will focus on the events surrounding the launch of Morihei Ueshiba’s career as a martial artist on opening his “Ueshiba Juku” in 1920, and the role of Onisaburo Deguchi, co-founder of the Omoto religion, in introducing the aikido founder as a “martial art kami (deity)” to the rapidly growing Omoto religious network.

Morihei in Hokkiado

First, a bit of background information. Prior to Morihei’s relocation to Ayabe in 1920, he had lived in a remote area of Hokkaido for seven years as a settler, together with a group of families from his hometown of Tanabe in Wakayama Prefecture. From the standpoint of the development of aikido, the most notable aspect of his stay in Hokkaido was Morihei’s meeting with famous jujutsu master, Sokaku Takeda, and his subsequent training in Daito-ryu jujutsu. Morihei trained intensively in Daito-ryu under Sokaku for a period of about five years. In other articles and books, I have made a case for the substantive role of Daito-ryu in the evolution of Morihei’s martial techniques that would eventually culminate in modern aikido.

[Read more…]


Video: Morihiro Saito teaches jodori and jonage techniques inside the Iwama Dojo

This is a rare video indeed of Morihiro Saito Sensei instructing jodori and jonage techniques inside the Iwama Dojo in September 1988. These seldom taught jo techniques are advanced level material that form an integral part of the Iwama Aikido weapons curriculum.

Jodori (staff-taking) refers to a series of techniques where the empty-handed partner defends against jo thrusting attacks. In jonage (staff-throwing), nage holds the jo and uses it to execute a series of throws against an opponent who attempts to grab the weapon. Each technique is thoroughly explained and demonstrated by Saito Sensei.

The original footage was recorded on VHS videotape. Both the image quality and Saito Sensei’s instruction are excellent and easy to follow. Pat Hendricks appears as uke and also provides the interpretation. In addition, the footage is subtitled to facilitate study of the techniques presented.

We are indebted to Bernice Tom of Sunset Cliffs Aikido in San Diego, California for offering this video for the benefit of the larger aikido community.

Duration: 23:03
Access: Paid subscribers

Paid subscribers click here to logon to Aikido Journal Members Site and view this video of Morihiro Saito Sensei teaching jodori and jonage inside the Iwama Dojo


Historical photo: “Noriaki Inoue, Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer,” by Stanley Pranin

“I rang the doorbell, and a diminutive woman, perhaps in her 70s, opened the door. She look up and saw this six-foot gaijin staring her in the face, and I thought she would faint on the spot!”

Of the the areas I have explored in my long study of the life of Morihei Ueshiba and the creation of aikido, I think two in particular stand out for having caused a fundamental rethinking among the aikido community of how our art evolved. The first involves the role of Sokaku Takeda and his art, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, in providing the technical basis for what would later emerge as aikido. The second is the part played by the Inoue family of Tanabe, especially Morihei’s nephew Yoichiro, in the progression of early events that allowed the Founder to pursue his martial arts career, and eventually develop the art we practice today.

Interestingly enough, my exploration of both of these aspects of aikido’s early history resulted in many problems for me personally and professionally due to the controversies they provoked. Sokaku’s role had been greatly minimized and distorted, while Yoichiro–later known as Noriaki–had been relegated to a “bit player” in accounts of aikido history. When I wrote an article titled “Yoichiro Inoue, Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer,” about ten years ago that was also published in Japanese, it caused an uproar behind the scenes, and an incident highly embarrassing to the Aiki News staff in Japan and myself.

Noriaki Inoue was the son of Morihei Ueshiba’s eldest sister Tame, and her husband Zenzo Inoue (Yoichiro’s father), one of Tanabe’s richest citizens. Inoue and his family were involved in virtually every important step taken by Morihei, at least through 1931 when he 47 years old. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Ueshibas and Inoues acted as a joint-family unit in many areas that set the stage for Morihei having the opportunity to launch his martial arts career. I would refer readers to the above article for a detailed study of this relationship.

By the early 1980s, fairly early into my research, I began to notice that each of the prewar students of Morihei I met would frequently mention “Yoichiro” in their recounting of the events of aikido’s early days. Their portrayals of his character and deeds were not always flattering, but it became apparent that Yoichio–at least as a senior instructor–served as Morihei’s “right arm” over a 15-year period. The fact that this “Yoichiro,” then going by the name of “Noriaki” was still active teaching in Tokyo began to really pique my curiosity. I set out to meet, and hopefully interview him, to hear his side of the story.

To say that this would prove a challenge would be somewhat of an understatement. My efforts to meet Inoue Sensei were either ignored or rebuffed over and over. I can’t remember the exact sequence of events, but probably due to my persistence, he finally agreed to meet me with the proviso that I bring along a couple of “old-timers” with me. This was not exactly what I had hoped for, but at least it gave me a chance to get “a foot in the door,” so to speak. Fortunately, I was able to arrange for Shigemi Yonekawa and Zenzaburo Akazawa, both of whom I had already interviewed, to accompany me. The three of us finally met Inoue Sensei in Tokyo on December 9, 1981. I was almost totally excluded from the discussion, but did manage to tape-record everything. The transcription of that meeting exists, but still remains unpublished.

Getting my “foot in the door” turned out to be getting “the door slammed on my foot.” My efforts to meet with Inoue Sensei and do a proper interview were blocked by his front office, and I finally gave up… at least for the time being.

Finally, by 1986 I could no longer stand knowing that perhaps the most important person after the Founder himself was still alive and living only a few miles away from me. I decided to act. My solution would be a diabolical scheme that only a “henna gaijin” could concoct. I took the transcription of the conversation recorded five years earlier supplemented by a polite letter and headed out to Kunitachi, a few miles west, where he lived. I rang the doorbell, and a diminutive woman, perhaps in her 70s, opened the door. She look up and saw this six-foot gaijin staring her in the face, and I thought she would faint on the spot. I gave her the envelope with my letter and the transcript, excused myself and left. The letter said that Aiki News would publish the interview in the next issue of the magazine as is, since we had been unsuccessful in getting assistance in doing a proper editing job. We regarded the role of Inoue Sensei to be too important to be ignored, and would do the best we could, etc….

Photo taken at Inoue Sensei's birthday party in 1988

Photo taken at Inoue Sensei’s birthday party in 1988

I undoubtedly caused a furor with my unorthodox action, and I’m sure someone got scolded. Still the front office refused to allow me to meet him. At my wit’s end, one day I called the office head in my serviceable Japanese such as it is, and proceeded to get mad, really mad! I told him that I was sure he was doing his job as best he saw it, but that he was preventing me from doing my job, which was to tell the truthful story of aikido’s creation. Wasn’t he aware that his teacher Inoue Sensei was being maligned and excised from aikido history? How could this unfair state of affairs be corrected without cooperation from the Inoue side? Did he think that I was being insincere in my desire to accord Inoue Sensei his rightful and prominent place in aikido history?

He fell silent, and my Japanese editor who had overheard the conversation, looked at me in disbelief! But it worked. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to Inoue Sensei’s home. Laden with old photos and historical documents, my Japanese editor and I made our way out to his home. We were greeted by Inoue Sensei, the office head, and a room full of his students. I suppose they thought that I was a “loose cannon,” and wanted to make sure that I properly behaved! Fortunately, once I got him talking about the old days and “what really happened,” he started to take a genuine liking to me, and I to him. This occurred in 1986.

Thereafter for a period of two years, I was given almost unfettered access to Inoue Sensei, and would always take a tape-recorder with me since I never knew when he would begin to talk about the old days. I never could do a proper interview with him, so I must give great credit to my staff who were able to cobble together edited manuscripts from the miscellaneous tape-recordings I presented them. I think we published four or five interviews of Inoue Sensei during this period.

Stanley Pranin with Noriaki Inoue, Kameoka, 1987

Stanley Pranin with Noriaki Inoue, Kameoka, 1987

There were several highlights of the precious times I was able to spend with Inoue Sensei. The first took place in the summer of 1987 when I was invited to attend the annual gasshuku he gave in Kameoka at the Omoto administrative headquarters. I was allowed to freely videotape his classes and take photos of the various activities surrounding the event. I have probably 5-6 hours of videotape that have never been shown stored away. Their place is in our archives on the Aikido Journal Members Site. I will eventually get to it with your support and encouragement.

The second was a large public demonstration we arranged in Yotsuya in April 1988. It was attended by a sold-out crowd of about 550 people who grabbed at the chance to see this living legend in action, perhaps for the first and only time. Everything was filmed and photographed. Inoue Sensei was 85 years old at the time and not very mobile, but he still had a strong presence and was very well received. Those who attended were quite aware of the historical significance of the event. Many martial artists showed up too, and some were able to meet and chat with Inoue Sensei at the party following the event.

I had very little interaction with Inoue Sensei and his group after the big demonstration. I had met him perhaps 15-20 times and was fortunate enough to get a lot of information, but it was difficult to get opportunities to talk with him as I always met him in a group setting. Also, I was very busy with Aiki News-related work and traveling with Morihiro Saito Sensei as his interpreter at this point in time.

Much later, in April 1994, I received news that Inoue Sensei had passed away at the ripe old age of 92, having continued teaching until very near the end of his life. I attended his funeral ceremony along with a hundred or so other mourners including his first cousin, Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. There I met one of Inoues’ nephews. This happening was to lead to a whole new phase in my research of Ueshiba-Inoue family history and provided me much needed information and perspective to better establish the importance of this family relationship in Morihei’s early life.


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“Morihei Ueshiba and Gozo Shioda,” by Stanley Pranin

“Gozo Shioda (1915-1994), Founder of Yoshinkan Aikido”

When it comes to showing aikido to the general public in a way both attractive and easy to understand, Gozo Shioda stands alone. He combines a lucid analysis of aikido theory with crisp technique and a liberal dash of humor. The observer of a Shioda aikido demonstration is almost invariably caught up in the mood of the experience and is ready to join an aikido dojo without the least bit of coaxing. Moreover, Shioda never fails to acknowledge his teacher Morihei Ueshiba and the fact that aikido evolved from the techniques of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. In part seven of this series, Aikido Journal’s own editor-in-chief, Stanley Pranin, relates some of the highlights of Shioda’s fascinating career.

The second son of a well-known pediatrician, Seiichi Shioda, Gozo was born in Tokyo on September 9, 1915. A small, sickly child, Shioda credits his very survival to the medical skills of his physician-father. Young Gozo enjoyed a privileged upbringing, but at the same time was subject to the directives of his strong-willed father.

His fateful meeting with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, came about in a rather unusual way. Mr. Munetaka Abe, Gozo’s middle school headmaster, was struck by the outstanding mental attitude of a young woman, Miss Takako Kunigoshi, who cleaned a nearby shrine every morning. When asked about her exemplary bearing, she gave credit to her aikijutsu teacher and suggested the schoolmaster observe a training session. Thoroughly impressed by what he saw at the nearby Ueshiba Dojo, Mr. Abe urged Gozo’s father to enroll his son there.

Shioda at about age 20

On May 23, 1932, the seventeen-year-old Gozo appeared at the Ueshiba dojo to witness a demonstration. Having a strong background in both kendo and judo, the confident young Shioda was skeptical of the clean, controlled techniques he saw performed. Sensing the lad’s attitude, Ueshiba invited him to attack, and in the blink of an eye, Shioda found himself flat on his back, rubbing his head, after an unsuccessful attempt to kick.

[Read more…]


“Satsujinken and Katsujinken,” by Dane S. Harden

Sometimes the movies get it right…

“Go seek balance Daniel-san”…these were the words Miyagi Sensei spoke to his pupil at a time in Daniel’s life when he needed help. All of us face challenging times in our lives. Those times require fortitude, discipline, persistence, bravery, and a balanced approach in order to properly address our difficulties. The swords of life and death are a metaphor regarding balance, center, and free will. In the old film, “The Karate Kid,” this idea was exemplified and ultimately proven in Daniel’s personal realization, “that you train so you do not have to fight.” It was poignantly emphasized by his teacher’s response: “Ah, Daniel-san, Miyagi has hope for you!”

It is an interesting reiteration of O’Sensei’s teachings and relates well to the discussion of balance and its relationship to the two swords. Also, interestingly enough, whom we choose to study under and learn from will affect what we will ultimately become as we shape our own destiny and sharpen our swords through our training, study, and teaching. This was clearly demonstrated by the protagonist in the movie who advised his students that “there is no sympathy in this dojo” and that “mercy is for the weak.” O’ Sensei would take the more benevolent approach, but only after a lifetime of learning through challenges, struggles, and uncommon life experiences. The challenges we face are like a forge and anvil. We are shaped in the sword smith’s shop of life experience. The yin and yang concepts—in all evil there can be some good, and in all good there can be some evil—point to this duality of natural law as it can be related to our choices. This then is a discussion of my life experience and my relationship with the concept of the two swords.
[Read more…]


Historical photo: “Takuma Hisa, the bridge between Daito-ryu and Aiki Budo,” by Stanley Pranin

“I saw a small, yet sturdily built middle-aged man walk on to the screen. He had a big mustache and a strong physical presence about him. It was Morihei Ueshiba at age 51!”

Back in April 1979, I met a slight old man who had suffered a stroke and spoke in a halting, somewhat slurred voice. I am embarrassed to say that I can’t remember the circumstances of my introduction to old gentleman. I think I was told that he was an important person in the early history of aikido. I didn’t know anything about him really when I went to visit him at his home in Nakano Ward in Tokyo. The man’s name was Hisa Takuma.

I must say he was a charming person, and he kept attempting to speak to me in English. I appreciated this because my Japanese was not very strong at that time, but it made the conversation tediously slow. Little by little, I was able to piece together that he had been a student of Morihei Ueshiba first, and then Sokaku Takeda, at the Asahi News dojo in Osaka. Having learned this, I began to sense that perhaps this man might have played some important role in the early evolution of aikido. Toward the end of our conversation, he began to sing me a song. I remember the introductory words very well: “You came, you came, you really came…” He really like me, but I don’t exactly know why because I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to ask very many intelligent questions at this early stage of my research. Perhaps it was simply the fact that I was a foreigner, a journalist of sorts, and had shown interest in an aspect of his younger years that was very important to him at this last stage of his life.

After our first meaning, he began to write me regularly in broken English. He sent me the newsletters that he was publishing, and one of them mentioned my name and the fact that I had visited him at his home. Soon after this, something dramatic happened.

In our conversation, Hisa Sensei mentioned an old film of Morihei Ueshiba that was shot before the war. I knew of the existence of this film and desperately wanted to see it. A friend of mine did some research and located a film from the prewar period that might possibly be the footage I was looking for. I went to a film archive facility in Tokyo where a special viewing had been arranged for me. As the projectionist prepared the film, I became very nervous in anticipation. Then the first image flashed on the screen with the title “Budo.” I felt my heart sink because there was no mention of anything related to “Aiki.” Resigned, I thought that, still it would be interesting to see this prewar “talkie” film because it might contain footage of some important martial artist. Then it happened.

I saw a small, yet sturdily built middle-aged man walk on to the screen. He had a big mustache and a strong physical presence about him. It was Morihei Ueshiba at age 51! I immediately felt tears well up in my eyes, which was very embarrassing. Fortunately, the room was dark and the fellow showing the film did not notice anything.

Takuma Hisa at age 44

Then another man, much larger and very powerful looking appeared on the screen. He was obviously the leader of the group. He sat down in seiza and opened a scroll and began reading in a loud voice. This was Takuma Hisa, the little old disabled man I had met only a few weeks before!

I was an emotional wreck but so very happy at that moment. And then the action started! My God, Morihei put on a fantastic display. Strong, but elegant technique, applied with a palpable, dynamic energy. And the finale was breath-taking! You can see the film here.

In any event, I called Hisa Sensei and told him about my discovery. He was overjoyed because he had never seen this film made way back in 1935. 44 years had elapsed. I really felt that I had to arrange a showing for him. So I contacted Shigemi Yonekawa–the man who is Morihei Ueshiba’s uke in the Noma Dojo photos–whom I had recently interviewed and who appears prominently in the 1935 film. We set up a date to travel to Hisa Sensei’s home for the private showing. Yonekawa Sensei, a very reserved man by nature, was obviously most pleased.

Fortunately, I had lugged over to Japan a heavy old 16mm movie projector when I moved there in 1977. Armed with my projector, I met Yonekawa Sensei at Tsuchiura Station on the Joban Line and we rode the train down to Tokyo, and then out to Nakano to Hisa Sensei’s house. Neither Hisa nor Yonekawa had seen each other since before the war. I was so happy to see the two of them united after so many years. I could kick myself now for not taking photos and recording the conversation, but I was young and green as a researcher, and had my hands full as the projectionist.

I finally got everything to work including the sound, and the film started. Hisa Sensei immediately started to cry tears of joy! I became emotional too, but once again, the darkened room came to my rescue. Sensei started giving a commentary on the film in a slow, but animated voice. It was altogether an unforgettable moment, and one of the highlights of my research career in Japan.

After the film showing, the steady stream of letters and documents from Hisa Sensei continued. Then one day a package showed up at my door. It contained four boxes of microfilm. I opened the boxes and–not having access to a microfilm viewer–pulled out a strip and held it up to the light. The package was from Hisa Sensei and the microfilm contained image after image of jujutsu techniques. I could tell that neither Morihei nor Hisa were in the photos, and I really had no basis to evaluate what these photos were or their importance. Much later, I Iearned that Hisa Sensei had sent me the entire Soden collection of the Takumakai, the Daito-ryu organization set up around him after the war. There are over a thousand images documenting the techniques taught by both Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda at the Asahi News dojo over a period of six years from 1933-1939. A true treasure whose significance I was only able to appreciate many years later.

Those images are still in microfilm form and need to be scanned and uploaded. They belong on the Aikido Journal Members Site and to be made available for universal access.

I saw Hisa Sensei only one time after that at the 1980 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration. He passed away in October of the same year. Only later, after researching Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and Sokaku Takeda was I able to appreciate Takuma Hisa Sensei’s important place in aikido history. There is much more to say about the subject, but you can start here for further reading.

Forgive the rather lengthy introduction to today’s historical photo. Here you see the dynamic Takuma Hisa executing a Daito-ryu projection technique sometime in the late 1930s in Osaka. The imprint of Morihei’s instruction is readily apparent in this beautiful photo.

Scans of postcards received from Takuma Hisa Sensei



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Audio: Kisshomaru Ueshiba Interview, May 30, 1978

“1st interview of Kisshomaru Ueshiba by Stanley Pranin”

This audio is the complete recording of an interview of Kisshomaru Ueshiba (1921-1999), Second Aikido Doshu, conducted by Stanley Pranin with the assistance of interpreter Midori Yamamoto on May 30, 1978. It took place in Doshu’s home situated next to the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

As the son and successor of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei played a pivotal role in aikido history. From 1942 while still a student of Waseda University when he was given administrative control over the old Kobukan Dojo up through his passing in 1999, Kisshomaru Sensei left an indelible stamp on the evolution of postwar aikido, both organizationally and technically.

Doshu was also the foremost historian of aikido having experienced first-hand many important historical events, and being on familiar terms with most of the key figures of the early era of the art. As such, this interview is an historically important document as Doshu discusses the circumstances surrounding the writing of his biography of his father Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, and various aspects of the evolution of O-Sensei’s art.

Non-Japanese speakers should not hesitate to listen to this interview. All of the questions are posed in English by Stanley Pranin. Doshu’s responses are in Japanese. Also, the complete interview was published in English in an early edition of Aiki News–the forerunner of Aikido Journal–and is available below.

A revolution in the study of aikido history
Through the growing number of documents being added almost daily to the Aikido Journal Members Site, you are now able to access carefully organized information on every aspect of aikido that was previously unavailable. Now, as we systematically upload the actual audio recordings of Stanley Pranin’s interviews, you will have the ability to listen in on hundreds of fascinating conversations with the greatest figures in aikido history! Despite the fact that most of these interviews are conducted in Japanese, you will gain a clear insight into the personality and mode of expression of each teacher. Moreover, most of the interviews have been translated into English for those who wish to delve further in their research. Your time spent educating yourself by listening to these recordings will surely have a profound impact on your study of aikido!

File size: part 1, 41:16, 37 mb; part 2, 12:15, 11 mb
Format: mp3
Language: Japanese and English

Note: Please use a headset to listen to this interview for best comprehension.

Click here to log into the Aikido Journal Members Site and download the Kanshu Sunadomari interview recording


“Historical photo: Hiroshi Tada, 9th dan, Aikido’s Mr. Dynamic!,” by Stanley Pranin

Observers of the annual All-Japan Aikido Demonstration have for decades been impressed with the performances of a tall, slim man with amazing technique. It is as though his body is filled with a pulsating electric current. His movements flow in a rippling cascade and the man seems deep in a trance. This would be Hiroshi Tada, 9th dan.

Today, Tada Sensei is a noble looking Japanese gentleman 82 years of age. The execution of his techniques appears to be that of an athlete in his prime. I have always admired his healthful lifestyle and regal bearing. He has outlived all of the senior level instructors of his generation. He is a sterling example of what is possible through a lifetime of training.

Take a look at this photo taken early in his stay in Italy about 1966. Even in this still shot, the strong connection and projection of energy in Tada Sensei’s execution of the technique is obvious.

Tada Sensei is the Aikikai’s senior representative for Italy and makes regular visits there to conduct seminars. From this base, he has taught all over Europe for many years.

In addition, Tada Sensei developed a system of breathing and meditative exercises to supplement aikido training called “Ki no Renma” (Cultivation of Ki). No doubt this regime has also contributed to his dynamic health and youthfulness.

Although this is a wonderful photo, Tada Sensei’s aikido must be seen to be appreciated. It goes without saying that we have an excellent example of this. We have archived the demonstration of Tada Sensei from the 2004 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration on the Aikido Journal Members Site. Paid subscribers may click on the link below to log in and view this mesmerizing video clip:

Video: Hiroshi Tada, 9th dan, at the 2004 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration (member video)


Video: Seigo Yamaguchi, 8th dan, at 2nd IAF convention in Honolulu, 1978

We present yet another excellent demonstration by Seigo Yamaguchi, 8th dan, filmed in a rather unusual venue. This performance was given at the Second Convention of the International Aikido Federation in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1978. Many top teachers of the era from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo were on hand.

His uke for much of the demonstration is Francis Takahashi Sensei, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for contributing this footage. Francis was a formidable opponent being about six feet two inches tall, and weighing in at around 220 pounds while being very agile.You’ll notice a difference in tempo when he attacks compared to the other ukes.

Yamaguchi Sensei was 54 years old at the time of this demonstration and in top form. This was also the period he had begun receiving frequent invitations to travel abroad. Soon, he would make regular visits to foreign destinations, especially France, where one of his top students, Christian Tissier, had become highly successful.

Duration: 2:55
Access: Free and paid subscribers

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Typhoon Relief sent to Motomichi Anno Sensei of Shingu

Motomichi Anno Sensei

Dear Aikido community,

Thank you very much for your caring response to the massive typhoon and flood damage in Kumano, Japan, where Anno Sensei lives. A number of you sent donations for relief funds, which I sent to Anno Sensei last week. He was very moved by this group gesture of support. Below, I have translated both my letter to him and his letter to all of you. Read on!As you probably recall, I have had to cancel my trip to Japan, which was scheduled to begin Oct. 28. There has just been too much typhoon damage in Kumano, and it will take months for the people and places there to recover. I plan to go in the spring. Meanwhile, I feel it is important to continue to put energy into maintaining the connection with Anno Sensei and Kumano, which has brought so much to all of us in Aikido. Take care everyone, and thank you for your loving support!

–Linda Holiday

October 20, 2011
Dear Anno Sensei,

This October in Santa Cruz has been a strange mix of hot days and cold days. I have been spending almost all of my time working on the completion of the book. I have just been on a five day writing intensive in Monterey.How has the recovery from the typhoon been, in Kumano? I know it is a really difficult time, but I am sure that everyone is pulling together and helping each other through. On Monday, I sent a wire transfer of $2000 to your bank in Shingu. I wonder if you have received it already. Usually when we send a wire transfer it is for the Aikikai registration fees. But this time the money is for a different purpose.This time, the funds I sent are for you and your wife. They are disaster relief funds from Aikidoists in America, from people who made donations to my dojo when they heard that your house was completely flooded in the typhoon. It is not a huge amount of money, but we would be very happy if you would accept it as a token of our love and respect. If it turns out that you and your wife do not need the assistance, could you please pass these relief funds on to people in your family, or in your dojo, who are suffering from the damage caused by the typhoon? Thank you. We are praying for your health, and for the well-being of all the people of Kumano.

Respectfully yours,
Linda Holiday
[Read more…]


Historical photo: “Kisaburo Osawa, 9th dan — Aikido’s éminence grise,” by Stanley Pranin

“Osawa Sensei was heavily involved out of public view in an attempt to assuage many key figures in the aikido world who were affected by this cataclysmic event.”

Our photo today is an action shot I took at the 1989 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration held at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. The grey-haired gentleman executing the technique is Kisaburo Osawa Sensei (1910-1991), a 9th dan and one of aikido’s most important figures of the postwar era.

Osawa Sensei entered Morihei Ueshiba’s old Kobukan Dojo in 1941, when war was raging in Asia. He rejoined the Aikikai Hombu Dojo shortly after World War II, and soon came to be one of the major decision-makers of the headquarters. Osawa Sensei’s role in an organizational sense was that of one of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s closest advisors, his right-hand man, so to speak. He held various positions such as “Dojo-cho” and “Doshu Hosa” (Advisor to Doshu) over the years.

Beginning from the time when Morihei was still alive up until shortly before his death, Osawa Sensei was called in to solve problems of a delicate nature behind the scenes. Over the years, I again and again heard first-hand accounts of Osawa Sensei’s unseen role in “putting out fires” that Kisshomaru Ueshiba as Doshu preferred not to become publicly involved in.

For example, when the Yoshinkan became operationally independent from the Aikikai around 1955, the functional status of the two organizations vis-a-vis each other had to be worked out. Osawa Sensei was right in the middle of the informal talks between the Aikikai and the Yoshinkan, and met with Gozo Shioda Sensei to discuss the issue.

When Koichi Tohei Sensei resigned from the Aikikai in 1974, Osawa Sensei was heavily involved out of public view in an attempt to assuage many key figures in the aikido world who were affected by this cataclysmic event.

On one occasion in the 1980s, I had a difficult problem to solve involving my research that was tied to some of the publishing activities of the Hombu Dojo. The person requesting historical documents from me was a top European martial artist and a higher-up in the police system of his country. I could not ignore his request, but neither could I comply with it for reasons I don’t wish to go into now.

The long and short of it is that I requested and was granted a meeting with Osawa Sensei to discuss my problem and decide how to proceed. It was the only time I was ever to have a conversation of any consequence with Osawa Sensei. His handling of the situation was utterly amazing and highly comical at the same time. My problem placed him in an impossible situation, but he managed to stay centered and unwavering while representing the position of the Hombu Dojo. Someday I will tell the whole story, but it was indeed a delicate matter.

Osawa Sensei was a fine aikido technician and highly respected for his skills. Many famous teachers who were his junior were heavily influenced by his outwardly “soft” style. Although diminutive in stature being only five-foot two or three, he was actually quite strong and wiry. During the 10 weeks I spent in Japan in the summer of 1969, I saw him in the shower room on several occasions. He was around 59 years old at the time, and had a very compact physique and was quite muscular.

Osawa Sensei’s technique appeared gentle and not at all martial much of the time. However, he would suddenly execute an explosive movement when least expected, belying his generally soft technique.

Click here to view a video of Kisaburo Osawa, 9th dan, at the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration



Video: Kisshomaru Ueshiba — Private Demonstration at Aikikai Hombu Dojo, 1964

Kisshomaru Ueshiba, son of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, was aikido’s Second Doshu. He was one of the most important influences in the spread of the art in the postwar era in Japan and abroad. Kisshomaru’s impact on aikido was felt strongly in a pedagogical, organizational, and especially after 1974, technical sense.

This particular demonstration is a part of a long-forgotten documentary on aikido. Kisshomaru Sensei’s uke is none other than Kazuo Chiba. The latter played a major role in the development of aikido in the UK, and later in the USA.

This performance presages the style of aikido that would become standardized among the modern generation of Aikikai-trained instructors. It is characterized by free-flowing techniques expressed in large, circular movements. The present Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba, was heavily influenced by his father’s technical curriculum, and his demonstrations feature similar techniques.

Duration: 2:27
Access: Paid subscribers

Paid subscribers click here to logon to Aikido Journal Members Site and view this rare video of Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba