Video: Morihiro Saito demonstrates outdoors in Iwama in 1964 (member video)

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“The early Morihiro Saito demonstrates in the fields of Iwama!”
This rare film captures Morihiro Saito Sensei performing taijutsu, and basic Aiki Ken and Jo movements outdoors in the fields of Iwama. Saito Sensei is a young 36 years old, and this film represents some of the earliest surviving footage of this master.

The scenes shown here, entirely in slow motion, reveal an early stage in the development of Iwama Aikido. Aikikai Hombu Dojo instructor Yutaka Kurita, for many years a teacher in Mexico, serves as Saito Sensei’s partner. The original film was shot in 16 mm resulting in a much higher quality image than other films of this era.

Saito Sensei’s performance of various basic techniques is somewhat different from that of his later years. The same can be said of his Aiki Ken and Jo suburi and kata, which predate the sharpness and sophistication of his later technique. Interestingly, you will notice that the 31-jo kata has a different ending in this film!

This video clip offers an excellent glimpse into the tentative early phase that would later blossom into the vast, tightly structured curriculum of Iwama Aikido that took root all over the world beginning in the mid-1970s. In the same way a careful study of Morihei Ueshiba’s 1935 film reveals much about aikido’s roots, through this video we can much better appreciate Saito Sensei’s formative phase and the evolution of his technique.

Duration: 7:46
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  1. Tom Collings says:

    I have been studying this 1964 Iwama film for about 2 years, it is a real treasure. I have several questions about it – I wonder if Stan or anyone else could answer:

    I believe it was made available by Bob Nadeau, did he film it ?

    Although it is clearly Iwama style technique there is a softness to Saito Sensei’s movement I never saw before. A soft Iwama aikido, amazing! Was this his usual practice in his thirties or was this fim made for a special purpose ?

    As Stan mentioned, the 31 jo kata in this film ends differently than he taught us, ending with hasso gaeshi – a fun finish which I have put into my kata practice. He also does an amazing series of jo movements ( kata?) so similar to the films of O’Sensei doing spontaneous jo waza – does anyone know what the kata is or is it just spontaneous beautiful movements?

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