Historical photo: “Morihei Ueshiba’s forgotten Ushiro Eridori technique rescued from oblivion!” by Stanley Pranin

The other day I had a wonderful surprise waiting for me when I read a comment from Marius concerning the Noma Dojo photo I had posted earlier the same day. Here is what he wrote:

The wonderful collection of Noma Dojo photos was published in several books of Professor John Stevens. All in all, there can be found about 550 photos out of nearly 1200, so it’s only half. But there is another problem. In many cases, the photos are not sequential. The reason for this is because the photos from the original scrapbooks for some reason were removed in random order, so pictures had to be rearranged for publication. What I did was to scan all available photos and rearrange them again. It took me whole week to do so!:) It’s really a hard task since many photos depict never before seen techniques, and many segments are missing, and because I only have half of the collection. So it was a real headache. But in the end I ended up with many beautiful sequences.

Stan asked us the question, “Can you reconstruct this technique and figure out how Morihei was able to get into this position?” Well, I cannot describe it, but I can show it: http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/692/noma3.jpg/ and http://imageshack.us/f/703/noooma.jpg/

As you can see, some segments are missing, but it’s obvious that the initial attack was ushiro eridori. So, we will eagerly wait till Aikido Journal makes this wonderful collection available for us. I value Stan’s work highly. Without him, what would we really know about aikido history? Also, I would like to see Takuma Hisa’s Soden someday.

I, for one, can appreciate the massive effort Marius has made to reconstruct as many technical sequences as possible from the limited selection of photos he had available. This type of work is something akin to piecing together fragments of an old manuscript to reconstruct the ancient text, and then translating it into a modern language.

But do you also notice what he has achieved? Look at the first link. I believe Marius has correctly concluded that the technique starts with an ushiro eridori grab. The sequence presented shows the remaining part of the technique, beginning with Morihei turning and executing a double atemi to uke, and then ducking under to control him from the rear. Notice, too, the leg pin to finish off the technique. This is pure Daito-ryu jujutsu! Who could have thought of such a technique? Was it Sokaku Takeda, or did Morihei Ueshiba figure this out for himself based on the Daito-ryu principles he learned.

I am really grateful to Marius for having shared his research with the Aikido Journal readership. I now know that there are at least two “nuts” who are willing to spend untold hours doing this sort of tedious work. I’ll bet there are quite a few more aikidoka who would be willing to get involved given the chance. Then there surely would be a much larger audience who would be interested in the final product: a reconstruction of the prewar Aiki Budo techniques of O-Sensei!

Remember, we’re not limited only to the Noma Dojo photos as source materials. We also have the Takeshita notes (c1928-1930), Budo Renshu (1934), the Soden of the Takumakai (c1933-1939), and the Budo technical manual (1938) that can be consulted. They all need to be cataloged and analyzed.

The way it could be done would be to open a new Aikido Journal forum for research teams to be able to work together on small sections of a project, and then combining together the fruits of their labor for the benefit of the entire aikido community. I don’t see this happening any other way. To my knowledge, there is no other entity or organization with the resources or interest in undertaking such a project. Aikido Journal can’t do it alone. It will take many participants from the aikido world.

People usually don’t move out of a desire to be charitable. They move because they see the possibility of personal benefit. In this case, the “personal benefit” would be the availability of the rich technical, historical, and spiritual legacy which is Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s git to us all. It is a vision that can and has dramatically transformed countless lives. It’s all there, but we are obliged to dive in and study this vast amount of material to mine the nuggets of knowledge that await us.

I envision the Aikido Journal Members Site to be the home base for those interested in making these dreams a reality.


  1. Scott Santarpio says:

    This is GREAT and I would love to help any way possible Thank YOU Love & light to this dream!

    • Jeff Dowdy says:

      Sounds wonderful….it also seems a good opportunity to catalogue the many photos already on the site into searchable categories.

  2. I think harnessing the energy of many people is a great idea, and hope a workable method to enable it is developed. I for one would love to help, though being a relatively new aikiido practitioner would not be of much use in tasks like putting photo sequences in the right order. So as the member site develops please think from time to time how non-experts might lend a hand.

  3. I feel now even more encouraged by your kind words about my work Stan. I am definitely going to continue my own research about the Founder’s aikido,a nd then participate, if possible, in any of your research labour teams for the benefit of aikido community. And yes, I am definitely this kind of “nut” who is willing to spend untold hours doing this sort of work. :)

  4. Tony Wagstaffe says:

    It’s in the koryu dai go of Tomiki/Shodokan aikido….

    • Tony,

      Can you provide us with a link where this technique is shown?

      • Tony Wagstaffe says:

        I may be mistaken but there was a standing version of this waza where uke would grab the collar or shoulders with both hands in a jacket grasp as if to attempt a head butt or strangle. Tori would apply a double atemi to ukes hip nerve points, followed by taking the right arm over the left arm of uke and bringing the (tori) right elbow down smartly to affect kuzushi on uke, tori “ducks” under uke’s right arm by lowering posture and applies pressure against the shoulder with right tegatana turning the hips to the right, throwing with the left hand, uke’s right leg at the shin, putting uke in a forward fall. It’s quite an effective throw…. I have just checked my records and found it is in the Koryu dai Roku termed as sukui koho nage Part B tachi waza…..I thought it was in the Dai Go, my mistake…..It’s been about 15 years since I last practised all the Koryu katas. Waza number 164 in total.

      • Tony Wagstaffe says:

        I have just thought that there were a couple of versions of this waza one I have hopefully explained as best I can, the other version is almost identical except at the beginning where tori steps to left rear and strikes uke’s vital point on the right of the jaw, followed with the waza as previously explained….. Of course this can transfer to suwariwaza as seen with Proff Ueshiba above. Hope this helps….

    • Tony Wagstaffe says:
  5. Crowdsourcing is great. I’ll join the crowd. For a number of years now I’ve been exploring variations of ganseki o-toshi. The classic as in the Takeda Sensei photo is a “little guy” technique. I’ve had it come out naturally (as a mistake) once with a guy who was tall, lean and a bit wild. So, with that experience on board, as I say, I’ve been exploring. There is SO much out there. The teaching curriculum, to me at least, seems like teaching us how to read and write. Isn’t it a shame that so many of us never leave the material in our copy-books?

  6. I’d love to help with this. I have a fairly extensive library, and I have spent a long time trying to decipher the Noma Dojo pictures. It really surprises me that what O Sensei demonstrates in pictures and videos often doesn’t clearly resemble what we all have come to accept as the “basics.” I love getting to the source and trying to tease out what the movement was on a picture.

    • The more I think about all of these projects that I would love to divert resources to, the more I need to figure out ways of getting people involved and subscribing to the Aikido Journal Members Site. This is the key to allowing Aikido Journal staff to spearhead all of these worthwhile projects that, I think, would have quite an impact. It would fundamentally change people’s view of the art and improve practice methods to produce better aikidoka.

  7. Dear all,

    Primo, Stan does a wonderful job in showing all aiki-practitioners that ‘aiki is aiki’ and the different pedagogical frames are merely a way to learn the same thing from another perspective.

    Secundo, this technique resembles a Yoseikan ‘te hodoki’. It’s in our school a basic technique to free yourself from a grab in order to apply a technique if need be.

    Kind regards,

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