Oct
25

Historical photo from 1974: Morihiro Saito brings Iwama Aikido to America!

“Sensei had the presence of mind, lightning-fast reflexes and physical strength necessary to pull off such a feat. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since!”

This is an important photo that was taken in early October 1974 by Charlie Watkins at Aikido of San Francisco. Saito Sensei was visiting the USA for the first time and this trip was the first time he had traveled outside of Japan.

He was accompanied by Shigemi Inagaki, then a 5th dan, and gave seminars at the San Francisco Dojo and at Stanford University on back-to-back weekends. Here is an excerpt of my impressions of Saito Sensei from that trip from the October 1974 issue of Aiki News:

Saito Sensei’s effectiveness as a teacher was indeed remarkable. And this was achieved without knowledge of the language of his students. His method of presentation consisted primarily of slow-motion pantomimes of the individual techniques with a minimum of verbalization. This coupled with careful groupings of related movements provided a well-focused perspective of many aspects of the Aikido system.

Those present could not help but remark the excellent poise displayed by Saito Sensei during the course of the two gasshuku both on and off the mat. He remained centered and calm despite the fact he found himself immersed in a foreign culture for the first time. Noteworthy also was Saito Sensei’s outstanding stamina. He participated fully in all sessions instructing students individually and taking falls…. The impact of his presence and teaching manner was very powerful and will continue to resonate in this region for a long time to come.

I also recall a remarkable feat by Saito Sensei at this time in a commemorative article I authored following his passing in 2002 titled Remembering Morihiro Saito Sensei

There was a particular episode from this trip that I will never forget. Sensei was teaching a class at Aikido of San Francisco and was demonstrating a kokyunage technique, if I remember correctly. His uke was David Alexander. Sensei threw David horizontally but misjudged the amount of space he had free. Right in the middle of the throw when it had become apparent that David would crash into the people who had crowded in close to better observe, Sensei stuck out his left arm and caught David in mid-air thus preventing a collision. No one could believe what they had seen. Sensei had the presence of mind, lightning-fast reflexes and physical strength necessary to pull off such a feat. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

This visit by Saito Sensei to America was historic in many ways. It marked the first time that most people had ever experienced Iwama Aikido with its vast technical repertoire that included a myriad of empty-handed techniques combined with the Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo. Soon, many schools in the Northern California began to incorporate weapons training in their curriculum, using the Traditional Aikido books that Saito Sensei had begun publishing as their reference.

Saito Sensei visited the USA again several times in the 1970s, and also expanded his student base in Europe, especially Sweden, where he had many followers. These instructional tours and the publication of more books stimulated an uninterrupted stream of visits to Iwama by foreign students desiring to learn directly from Saito Sensei. Many of these hardy aikidoka would return to their respective countries and teach the Iwama style of aikido. Over time, this produced an international network of hundreds of schools practicing the Iwama methods. Today, many of the Iwama schools follow Saito Sensei’s talented son, Hitohiro Saito, while others practice Iwama Aikido under the umbrella of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo system.

Take a close look at today’s photo which captures the instant of the completion of a sword kata. Notice Saito Sensei’s stable base, powerful extension, and total focus. Saito Sensei’s weapons system gained traction in America from this moment forward.

Morihiro Saito was certainly a giant in postwar aikido, and one of the art’s most notable teachers whose influence continues today unabated.

—————————–

MORIHIRO SAITO’S “LOST SEMINARS” VIDEO COLLECTION…

Click here to order Morihiro Saito's “Lost Seminars” Video Collection in downloadable format for $49.95

Oct
24

“Historical photo: Sadateru Arikawa, 8th dan, in action… mind blowing!”, by Stanley Pranin

“I really don’t know what to do about all of these tapes. Historically, they are very important and contain a lot of ‘bombshells!’”

Let me start out by saying that technical photographs of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei are very rare. It’s ironic because he filmed and videotaped virtually every important aikido figure repeatedly during his long career. His collection of aikido and martial arts documents is legendary.

I had the “fearful” pleasure of meeting him in 1969 when I first went to Japan to train at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. But our real interaction began in the late 1970s when I moved to Japan, and lasted until shortly before his death in October 2003.

Arikawa Sensei was very interested in what I was doing research-wise. Who did I meet? What did they say about this or that? Did I get any interesting documents? He visited me many times in Iwama and Tokyo, always privately for lengthy talks. He loved doing this, and so did I. He would walk into my apartment where I had many books and videotapes on shelves. He would scan my collection, and say, “That’s new. Show it to me. Koopi chodai! (make me a copy).” He was a real character!

Arikawa Sensei was also THE world authority on all things aikido-related. He knew a great deal about Daito-ryu as well, and would chum around with Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei just like he did with me. He was a walking encyclopedia about every aspect of budo and its history.

He was difficult to understand when he spoke because he had a whispery, hoarse voice due to an injury he suffered as a boy. Many people avoided him because of this since it was so hard to understand what he was saying, and he loved to talk and talk!

Almost every time I met him, I would tape-record the conversation. Sometimes he would make me turn off the recorder when the conversation jumped to a sensitive topic. I was always trying to turn it back on! Eventually, he would get so involved in what he was saying that he would forget about it. I really don’t know what to do about all of these tapes. Historically, they are very important and contain a lot of “bombshells!” Yet another project awaiting.

I could go on and on about him because he was such a man of contradictions. He once injured me quite severely so that I couldn’t train for several months. Still he came to see me, but I never let him touch me on the mat after that.

Arikawa Sensei was a very suspicious person. He once told me that he was a “spy” for the Hombu Dojo to keep tabs on what I was doing. He attended all of the Aiki News-sponsored Friendship Demonstrations of the 1980s, but would sit in the back of the auditorium. But I really didn’t care. In his own way, he showed a lot of affection toward me, and I genuinely loved the man.

I believe that Peter Goldsbury and I were the last ones to visit him in the hospital when he lay near death. He was by himself when he expired. Someday, I will write what I know about him after I have had an opportunity to review the tape-recordings.

In any event, take a look at this photo. Have you ever seen anything like it in aikido? Look at how he is using his leg as part of a Daito-ryu pin! He was always secretly studying Sokaku Takeda’s art. We have a wonderful heritage to protect. Join me in bringing as many of these treasures as possible to light. Believe me, your role is very important!

Oct
24

“O-Sensei’s long-forgotten article resurrected after 52 years,” by Stanley Pranin


発刊の言葉
道主 植芝 盛平
 世の創めより天地は生成発展を重ね、天運循環、照徹弥益々に栄光を放つ昭和三十四年目出度く初春を迎え、茲に国土挙ってことほぎの声一同勇み立つの時とはなりました。この時にあたり宇内創成の精神にのっとり、世の為め国の為めに万有の上を憂いつつ武産合気紙即ち合気道新聞の発刊に至りましたのは宇宙真理完成への誠の現れであります。

私も世界の一分身、一分業として生成化育の道を愛護するに日夜の精進を続けて居る者であります。身変る聖者の如く、又顕幽神三界を万古より守護なし来れる木花姫の神(観世音)の御神業、和合達成に神習い引添いて世を守るのが真の日本の道であらねばなりません。この日本の道を産み顕すを武産合気と申します。さて此の世の生命であり此の経営の根元たる至愛の上に愛を守る愛の働きは、言霊の妙用となりみそぎの道となります。吾人は万有万神の律法を明らかにし、宇宙の真理を把握し、身を以て自己の使命に当り、地上経綸完成の為め、人生の勤めを達成せねばなりません。それには至誠の道を練磨する事であります。至誠は本を忘れず自己を知り、自己完成大生の道であります。世の完成を望む者は自己も又幸福なる完成をせなくては人の真のつとめは望めません。茲に合気の道を愛究される誠友は先ず真空の気と空の気を、性(さが)と業とに結び合い、喰い入り乍ら業の上に科学以て錬磨するのが修業の順序であります。私も老いて愈々益々広く天下の士と交り、濁流を清め、幸福の御代を迎え、共によろこびを讃えたいと誓い、一歩、一歩と怠らず修業を致します。

次回よりは最も合気に必要な言霊を説き其の実行を教え、又人たるの理解を示し武産合気の本文に進講致し此の合気道新聞発刊の挙に懸命の奉仕を致し度と存じます。

合気道新聞
昭和34年4月10日
(transcription by Kaoru Vaiasuso)
[Read more...]

Oct
24

“Interview with Miles Kessler Sensei of Aikido Without Borders,” by Tom Collings

Miles Kessler spent many years in Japan studying aikido as well as practicing intensive meditation in Burma. Since 2005 he has been living in Israel where he directs the Integral Dojo in Tel Aviv teaching Aikido and Dharma practice. He is also the founding director of Aikido Without Borders, a N.G.O. which uses aikido and youth leadership training to bring Israeli and Palestinian people together. The interview was conducted by Tom Collings in October, 2011.

TC: Miles, could you share something of your background and how you ended up living and studying aikido in Japan?

As a boy I was nurtured on fringe cultural fantasies of martial arts and eastern mysticism. In addition to growing up doing various sports, I was also into several martial arts and I had always dreamed of going to Japan to study with the masters. That dream came to fruition at 25 when I traveled to Iwama, Japan to train as uchi deshi with the late Morihiro Saito Sensei.

Incidentally, I am deeply grateful to Stan PranIn of Aikido Journal because it was through our correspondence that he kindly provided me with the introduction letter to Saito Sensei. Back in those days it was not possible to enter the Iwama dojo without such an introduction and this simple act of trust on his part turned out to be a key which opened a door to a path that I still walk to this day.
[Read more...]

Oct
23

Special Offer… Subscribe to the Aikido Journal Members Site and receive a Free DVD!

The Aikido Journal Members Site has the world’s largest archive of Aikido-related material including articles, interviews, images, chronologies, and audio and video clips. As an Aikido Journal Members Site subscriber, you will have access to all of the thousands of resources reserved exclusively for members.

What will I find on the Aikido Journal Members Site?

  • Full access to the ever-growing Aikido Journal archives consisting of more than 675 articles filling over 5,000 pages of essential information.
  • Full access to Stanley Pranin’s “Encyclopedia of Aikido” featuring some 800 entries with over 200 rare photos.
  • Full access to an ever growing collection of technical and historical video clips featuring many of the best-known exponents of aikido, Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, and other martial arts
  • An expanding collection of audio interviews and lectures by some of the leading teachers in aikido history

How will this personally benefit you?

  • Imagine the impact of having this rich resource of well-organized and indexed information at your fingertips 24/7
  • The answer to virtually any question regarding aikido you might have can be discovered through a few mouse clicks and a little–or a lot–of reading
  • You will have direct access to the wisdom and techniques of many of the aikido masters of the prewar and early postwar generations–those that developed and spread the art the world over.
  • Read the experiences, and questions and answers of many just like yourself who have come to aikido wishing to master the art and develop self-confidence, and a healthy body and mind.

To sweeten our subscription offer especially for the fast-approaching gift-giving season, we are also offering one-year subscribers one free dvd, and two-year subscribers two free DVDs of their choice. The same offer applies to those renewing for one or two years. You pay only the cost of shipping and handling the DVDs.

Here you will find a complete list of all available DVDs. Choose any you like!

Please subscribe for your choice of one or two years here.

After purchasing your subscription, email us here to inform us of your DVD choices.

Oct
23

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.

Oct
22

Audio: Kanshu Sunadomari Interview, August 15, 1983

“Kanshu Sunadomari: Wartime Student of Morihei Ueshiba,
and Founder of Manseikan Aikido”

This audio captures an early interview with Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei (1923-2010) conducted by Stanley Pranin and Aiki News Editor Ikuko Kimura in Kumamoto, Kyushu.

About Kanshu Sunadomari
Kanshu Sunadomari was from a family of devout Omoto believers. His elder step-brother, Kanemoto Sunadomari, was the author of the first biography of Morihei Ueshiba. His sister Fukiko was a confidante of O-Sensei for many years in the postwar period. Sunadomari Sensei was totally devoted to spreading the teachings of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and ran a private dojo in Kumamoto for over 55 years. He created an organization centered in Kyushu called “Manseikan Aikido.”

Sunadomari was noted for his dynamic ki no nagare technique and emphasis on the principle of kokyu. He was the author of several books on aikido, including one in English.

A revolution in the study of aikido history
Through the burgeoning 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, 59:48, 57 mb; part 2, 66:06, 57 mb
Format: mp3
Language: Japanese

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

Oct
22

Historical photo: Koichi Tohei, 10th dan, escapes from bear hug of huge American soldier

This is a rare photo of Koichi Tohei Sensei, 10th dan, teaching a group of military personnel in Hawaii. Here he seems perfectly at ease even while a large American applies a powerful bear hug from behind. Tohei Sensei had an uncanny ability to easily escape from such holds by maintaining his center and a perfectly relaxed state. No doubt he won over a number of converts among the military through his convincing demonstrations.

Tohei Sensei is credited with being the first to introduce aikido to Hawaii in 1953. Subsequently, he made many trips to the islands solidifying a large group of dojos and developing many instructors. Several of the senior Hawaii instructors relocated to California and helped with the early spread of the art on the west coast of the USA.

Koichi Tohei was the only person to be officially awarded the 10th dan by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Moreover, he was the “shihan bucho” or chief instructor of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo for many years until his resignation from the Aikikai in May 1974.

Tohei Sensei was by far the most recognizable aikido teacher in the west mainly as a result of his extensive travels and publications on aikido and ki, which were also translated into several European languages.

Following his departure from the Aikikai, Tohei operated the Ki no Kenkyukai (Ki Society) with centers in Tokyo and Tochigi Preferecture, and branch schools in many foreign countries for many years. Aikidoka the world over were reminded of Tohei Sensei’s huge contributions to the early growth and spread of aikido following his passing in May 2011 at the ripe old age of 91.

The are many documents on Koichi Tohei Sensei including articles, photos, videos, etc. on the Aikido Journal Members Site.

Oct
21

The Best Tool for Improving Your Aikido

Hi Folks!

What if you could hear the revelations of the world’s leading aikido experts:

1. How they began their training and with whom they practiced
2. How they developed their skills
3. How they promoted their art and built their student base
4. What their lessons and best-kept secrets for advancement are
5. What advice they would give YOU to become a top aikidoka and transform your life

I’m talking about the LEGENDS telling you how they did it, and how you can too.

All of this information is available to you TODAY! No waiting…

Sign up for a free subscription to the Aikido Journal Members Site, and take the first step.

Yours in Aiki,

Stan

P.S. I forgot to mention who you will find on the Aikido Journal Members Site waiting to tell their stories and share their collective wisdom:

– Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba
– Kisshomaru Ueshiba, O-Sensei’s son and Aikido’s Second Doshu
– Koichi Tohei, the Founder of Ki Aikido
– Gozo Shioda, the Founder of Yoshinkan Aikido
– Morihiro Saito, one of O-Sensei’s closest students and technical genius
– Noriaki Inoue, the Founder’s nephew and aikido’s “forgotten pioneer!
– Kenji Tomiki, student of both Morihei and Jigoro Kano, and creator of competitive aikido
– and too many more to mention!

Over 5,000 pages, and thousands of photo, video, and audio documents await you.

——————-
Stanley Pranin
Founder, Aiki News / Aikido Journal
Author, “The Encyclopedia of Aikido”
Author, “Aikido Pioneers — Prewar Era”
www.aikidojournal.com
members.aikidojournal.com

Oct
21

“Historical Photo: Enter the Noma Dojo and prepare to be amazed!” by Stanley Pranin

“There is much to say about this priceless Noma Dojo collection that is the most complete visual representation of Morihei’s art in existence.”

You’ve heard of people who have achieved what can be called a “legendary” status. Aikido has its share of legends to be sure. But it’s seldom that documents attain such a status. But the visual image we are introducing to you today is part of a photo collection that is indeed the stuff of legends.

Our photo is part of the collection of extraordinary images of Morihei Ueshiba taken in 1936 inside the Noma Dojo, a private kendo dojo of note. His partner and remarkable uke is Shigemi Yonekawa. Why are they so famous? They depict Morihei O-Sensei in his physical prime at age 52, in an incredible display of technical virtuosity. The complex throws and pins, the precision and complete command of his martial art as revealed in this collection are a wonder to behold.

Have a closer look at today’s photo. Can you reconstruct this technique and figure out how Morihei was able to get into this position? Do you practice this technique in your dojo today? I doubt it!

The problem is that these photos have been surpressed for many decades. Why would this be the case? The reason is that the obvious influence of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu on Aiki Budo–the name of O-Sensei’s art in the prewar period–is clearly evident in these photos, and Morihei and his successors chose to distance themselves from Sokaku Takeda’s art for a number of historical reasons which I have touched upon elsewhere.

A few years ago, a sampling of the Noma Dojo photos was finally published in one of Professor John Stevens’ books. But only a small part of the collection was offered, and there was no attempt to provide a technical analysis or discuss the role of the photos in understanding aikido’s technical evolution. All in all, there are more than 1,100 images that have survived in two separate collections that I was able to unite back in the 1980s. That is a convoluted story in itself, full of political intrigue!

Here is an interesting side note. Do you know who photographed Morihei on this occasion? It was a man named Hisashi Noma. Who was he? One of Japan’s top young kendoka of the 1930s and a leading kendo competitor of the era. Hisashi was a close friend of Kiyoshi Nakakura, aka “Morihiro Ueshiba,” who was O-Sensei’s adopted son in those days and married to O-Sensei’s daughter.

Hisashi was an admirer of Morihei and wanted to preserve his wonderful techniques. Moreover, he had the means to take all of these photos using a professional Leica camera, a very expensive and rare item at that time. Hisashi was able to do this because he was the son of the famous Seiji Noma, one of Japan’s greatest entrepreneurs of the day and the founder of the Kodansha publishing empire. Collectors of aikido books will immediately recognize this name because Kodansha has been the largest publisher of aikido-themed books for many years. So you see, the connection between Kodansha and the Ueshiba family extends back many years before the war.

There is much to say about this priceless Noma Dojo collection that is the most complete visual representation of Morihei’s art in existence. Through this website, I would like to undertake the work needed to reconstruct and evaluate these forgotten images, and make them available to the aikido community. It will take a lot of work. The availability of such documents will open new vistas in your practice.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into the glory days of aikido and come to better appreciate the proud lineage of the art you are practicing today!

P.S. We have somewhere approaching 200,000 photos in our archives. You seem to be really enjoying seeing them and learning the story behind the story, as it were. I will make it a priority to spend due time on this aspect of my work. It has resulted in a real traffic spike for the website that caught me off guard! To continue to get access to these photos, and a lot more good stuff, treat yourself and subscribe to the Aikido Journal Members Site.

Oct
20

1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration with Saito, Nishio, Sunadomari, Kobabyashi, Saotome, and Kuroiwa Senseis!

Our special for this week offers you an incredible value… You get the classic “1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration,” a 2-DVD set featuring outstanding performances by six Aikido greats: Morihiro Saito, Shoji Nishio, Kanshu Sunadomari, Yasuo Kobayashi, Mitsugi Saotome, and Yoshio Kuroiwa. All of this delivered to your door for the price of $24.95 during this sale.

Why should you want to own this DVD set? This is one of the most significant Aikido events ever held. The demonstration took place in Tokyo in 1985 and was sponsored by Aiki News, the predecessor of Aikido Journal. It attracted more than 900 open-minded aikido enthusiasts who spent the better part of the day glued to their seats.

What was unique about this demonstration? These six teachers had an opportunity to express their training philosophies, and display their technique in depth, each one in turn. No three-minute, bam bam bam demonstrations, and off the stage! In their respective lecture demonstrations, each instructor lays out for you the best of his art.. the product of decades of training under the tutelage of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. You will have these moving images and their words—completely translated into English—at your fingertips whenever you need guidance and inspiration in your training.

Here is the roster of demonstrators, most of whom need no introduction:

MORIHIRO SAITO – One of Aikido’s most famous figures, 9th dan expert in taijutsu and the Aiki Ken and Jo. Famous for his authoritative technical books on aikido, and world traveler in pursuit of the spread of O-Sensei’s art.

SHOJI NISHIO – One of the art’s true innovators, possessor of a dynamic style built on long years of study in other disciplines melded superbly into his unique aikido. Speed, effectiveness, and elegance are the hallmarks of Nishio Sensei’s aikido.

KANSHU SUNADOMARI – An unknown gem in aikido’s history. Did you know Sunadomari Sensei also received an oral 10th dan from O-Sensei? His aikido is amazing and his skills blew away the audience!

YASUO KOBAYASHI – A unique man, very charismatic, who built a huge organization within the Aikikai network in Japan and abroad. His aikido style is classic Aikikai. He still takes ukemi for his students even though he in his 70s!

MITSUGI SAOTOME – One of the most highly regarded of contemporary aikido masters. His style of aikido is minimal and powerful. Razor sharp technique with superb control!

YOSHIO KUROIWA – A little-known aikido genius and former boxer captivated by O-Sensei’s aikido. As a young man he was notoriously strong… Also, an excellent essayist with a compelling message. His aikido is like no other!

In addition, the DVDs contain five rare bonus films featuring Morihiro Saito, Yasuo Kobayashi, and Mitsugi Saotome. This is amazing historical footage you’ve never seen before!

Check out the descriptions of this 2-DVD set jam-packed with some two-and-one-half hours of brilliant content:

Part 1 – Demonstrations by Yasuo Kobayashi, Mitsugi Saotome, Kanshu Sunadomari, Yoshio Kuroiwa.
Part 2 – Demonstrations by Shoji Nishio and Morihiro Saito.

Order link for special: Complete 1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration DVD Set for $24.95

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We again look forward to this opportunity to serve you!

Stanley Pranin

Oct
20

Historical photo: Who was really the first person to introduce Aikido to America?

Morihei Ueshiba's student and patron, Admiral Isamu Takeshita, receiving the keys to San Francisco

A number of years ago, Joseph Svinth wrote an article with this eye-catching title: “Aikido Comes to America: September 1935.” As a student of aikido history, I was immediately hooked by the title! I found the article itself, based largely on English-language newspapers of the times, full of interesting tidbits on a giant figure in aikido history. This would be Admiral Isamu Takeshita (1869-1949).

After the Founder Morihei Ueshiba, I think Takeshita is the person who holds the most fascination for me in all of aikido history. In no particular order, here is a small list of the old Admiral’s qualifications and accomplishments: Admiral of the Japanese Imperial navy; member of the inner circle of Showa Emperor Hirohito; long-time patron and student of Morihei Ueshiba; close friend and training mate of President Theodore Roosevelt; interpreter-diplomat at the Portsmouth Treaty negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War in 1905; close associate of Judo Founder Jigoro Kano; President of the Japan Sumo Federation; polyglot speaker of at least four languages, including fluent English; first chairman of the Kobukai Foundation, the legal entity representing Morihei’s Kobukan Dojo; compiler of hundreds of pages of detailed notes of Morihei’s instruction from the period of the late 1920s; author of lost article on Sokaku Takeda; world traveler, etc.

Admiral Takeshita was the Japanese version of a Renaissance man, or perhaps more aptly, the perfect incarnation of the ideal of “bunbu ryodo,” an accomplished man of letters and military arts. Morihei’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba told me personally that there would have been no aikido without the intervention and support of Takeshita on behalf of Morihei Ueshiba during the prewar period. The Admiral was the one who introduced Morihei to the elites of Japanese society in the mid-1920s. He was an ardent practitioner of the martial arts and trained under Morihei for many years. Takeshita saw to it that Morihei got the needed financial support during the lean years of the Pacific War when few students remained at the Kobukan Dojo.

Sample of Takeshita notes

Sample of Takeshita's notes

Interestingly enough, Takeshita’s main contribution to aikido may yet to be made. As mentioned above, he recorded hundreds of pages of notes describing in detail the contents of Morihei’s instruction during the late 1920s. We have a large collection of these notes in our archives. They have already been transcribed into modern Japanese. They need only to be translated into English. What a treasure the publication of these documents would be! Another project for Aikido Journal…

The photo above from the personal collection of the Admiral shows him receiving the keys to San Francisco in 1935 during the same trip where he demonstrated Aiki Budo in Seattle as recorded in Joseph Svinth’s article. So, yes, it can be said that Aikido–at least in its prewar form–was first introduced to America at this early date by Isamu Takeshita.

We have many wonderful photos of Admiral Takeshita that we will upload for you in due course.

Please take out a subscription to the Aikido Journal Members Site and we will continue to expand the documents in our online archives. This will transform and enrich your aikido experience!