Archives for October 2011


“The word Aikido” by Francis Takahashi

The word “Aikido” is simply a word. Like the word “Love”, or “Hate” or even “Peace” are each but mere words. Like when looking at our atmosphere, we may see “blue” skies, or fiery “red” sunsets, or even the “grey” cloak of sunlight intercepted darkness. Does our description of what we see actually define what it is? Or do we need to explore, digest and understand more of what our minds and emotions may reveal by taking the time necessary to truly evaluate what our senses are apparently revealing to us? Perhaps we will discover what conclusions or judgments we make, by examining the actual lenses we look through, or what filters we construct and employ to better discriminate amongst the sensations and sensory inputs we encounter.

In the seeming cacophony of definitions, descriptions and theories of what “Aikido” is or may have significant meaning to us individually, is it any wonder that we must truly fail whenever we attempt globally to reach any general consensus of what Aikido truly is.

Traditionalists may want to begin with the root definitions of the Japanese characters or kanji, but even then do we find conflicting and agenda driven positions taken by the “experts” and scholars amongst us. How is a “newbie” to make any sense of, or take comfort in having faith in the word or its origin? Does “Ai” really only mean “love” or “harmony”? Does “Ki” only mean “spirit”, “mind” or “energy”? Does “Do” only refer to a “path”, a “way” or a process? And what of the choices of meanings that are possible with the combinations of those terms?

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Video: Rare clip of Aikido Pioneer Isao Takahashi in 1964

Here is a long-forgotten video clip of Aikido Pioneer Isao Takahashi Sensei from a demonstration he gave at the University of Southern California (USC) way back in 1964. Takahashi Sensei was one of the early Hawaiian students of Koichi Tohei in 1953 in Honolulu. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1960 to become the chief instructor of the Los Angeles Aikikai. Takahashi later moved to Chicago to serve as chief instructor of the Illinois Aikido Club. He was a major force in the early development of aikido in the western United States and Chicago region.

Isao Takahashi (1912-1972)

On a side note, Takahashi Sensei was my second aikido instructor and he greatly influenced my life. He would often explain techniques and write their Japanese names on a blackboard using kanji. I marveled at the beauty of the characters, but at the same time, felt frustrated that I couldn’t read them. This is what stimulated me to begin taking Japanese in college. I will be eternally grateful to Takahashi Sensei and his family for their impact on my life.

I would like to thank Francis Takahashi for providing the link to this video uploaded by the USC Aikido Club. I blush to confess that I, too, appear briefly in the video clip at age 19!

Stanley Pranin

Click here to view the video clip on the Aikido Journal Members Site

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Video: “Spectacular Daito-ryu Demonstration by Menkyo Kaiden Katsuyuki Kondo!”

“Learn about Aikido’s technical lineage!”
This video captures the entirety of a spectacular Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu given by Menkyo Kaiden Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei and his senior students in 1988. The demonstration takes place in the world-famous Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo.

The techniques demonstrated include high-level advanced movements that display Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu at its finest. Those who have never seen this precursor art to aikido will be fascinated by the precision and complexity of Kondo Sensei’s martial arts display.

Order This Week’s Special Offer of Katsuyuki Kondo’s Instructional DVDs Now for only $24.95!

Aikido practitioners are sure to deepen their understanding of the roots of aikido technique through a careful study of Kondo Sensei’s demonstration. Video analysis is an excellent way to train the eye to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of one’s own martial arts skills.

Duration: 8:23
Access: Free for limited time!

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“Modern Learning: A Decline in Stealing?,” by Peter Goldsbury

The Founder of aikido has been quoted as good-humouredly telling his deshi, “Don’t expect me to teach you. You must steal the techniques for yourselves.” The stealing of techniques, coupled with the relationship known as SHU-HA-RI, is sometimes regarded as the most traditional and appropriate method of learning in Japanese traditional arts. A double transformation takes place. There is a gradual transformation in the learning process, as the deshi in fact learns how to learn by stealing, and this is paralleled by the gradual transformation in the relationship between master and deshi. At the end of the process, the deshi has mastered the kata as the master has presented them, has understood the principles underlying the kata, but also gone beyond the master’s kata and created something of his own. In the case of Japanese traditional arts, the vehicle of this double transformation, the expedient means, is regular training or practice.

To what extent is the stealing of techniques coupled with the SHU-HA-RI relationship? In other words, is it necessary to steal because of what is being stolen, because the latter are techniques, presented as kata—and cannot be learned in any other way? Or, is the stealing necessary because of who they are being stolen from? A master accepts a deshi and the latter is offered a microscopic view of the master in daily pursuit of the art. In some sense formal teaching could never be a substitute for this, since a very close bond is formed between master and deshi and the latter comes to know the master so well that he learns things the master does not show, or is perhaps not even aware of. Thus the possibility of stealing appears to depend on the closeness of the relationship.
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Server upgrade in progress

Hello All! Just a heads-up to let you know that we are in the process of migrating to a new, faster server. This process should be completed within 48 hours. We are trying to avoid any downtime, but if we should happen to have some glitches along the way, we ask for your patience. There should be a dramatic performance improvement once the move has been completed.

Thanks, Stanley Pranin


Video: Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba at the 1993 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration

This is a video clip of the present Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba, from the time when he was still known as “Wakasensei,” or “Young Master.” This was prior to his becoming the Third Doshu following the passing of his father, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, in 1999.

Moriteru Ueshiba Sensei was groomed from a young age to eventually become aikido’s leader as a successor of the family bloodline. His aikido training began in earnest following his graduation from Meiji University. For many years, he trained at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in the general classes with other practitioners. As he matured, Moriteru Sensei was assigned more responsibilities, and eventually became the Dojo-cho, at which time he was able to assist the Second Doshu in fulfilling various administration functions.

In this demonstration, as Dojo-cho, Moriteru Sensei performs a flowing demonstration of aikido techniques, typifying the style of the art developed by his father. His presentation is highly polished and his ukes’ falls are often times acrobatic in nature. Many aikido practitioners the world over strive to emulate this style of aikido technique as the official standard promoted by the Hombu Dojo.

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Interview with Kenji Tomiki (2)

by Stanley Pranin
Aiki News #44 (January 1982)

The following is the second and concluding part of an interview conducted with Professor Kenji Tomiki in January of 1974 at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.

Aiki News: I have a much clearer background now, a much clearer understanding of why Kano Sensei formulated and modernized the jujutsu techniques and what his goals were. And I also understand your efforts to modernize the jujutsu forms to work from a greater distance, rather than grappling. Could you, in the time we have remaining, talk about what it was that brought Kano Sensei, Ueshiba Sensei and yourself together? What made you spend time with each other to talk about budo? Was it true that Kano Sensei sent some of the top judo people to study aikido with Ueshiba Sensei? What was it about his art that was important? What was the association like in that period of time?

Tomiki: Well, yes, it was in the fall of 1927 that Ueshiba Sensei left the Omoto-kyo Headquarters in Ayabe and came up to Tokyo. That was just at the time I was a graduate student at Waseda University, and I acted as his uke, or actually, he made sure I took the ukemi! (Laughter)

Anyway, it was Admiral Takeshita who brought Ueshiba Sensei and Kano Sensei together. This Mr. Takeshita later became a deshi of Ueshiba Sensei.

You may remember that American President Theodore Roosevelt had acted as a go-between in mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War. He was at that time pro-Japan and he became aware of the existence of jujutsu here in Japan, and actually became very interested in spreading it in America. He invited Kano Sensei’s number one student, a man named Yoshiaki Yamashita to come to America and teach judo. The person who acted as contact man for all of this was Admiral Takeshita. Later this same Takeshita invited Ueshiba Sensei to come up to Tokyo.

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Rare old film of UK’s Kenshiro Abbe Sensei from 1960

I have received a previously unseen video of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei from Mrs Teresa Reeve the widow of Bill Reeve Sensei who was the first ‘personal aide’ to Abbe Sensei in the 1950s and early 1960s . The video was taken in 1960 at the ” Mount Fuji Judo Club ” in Halifax, Yorkshire.
Mrs Reeve has kindly given me permission to add the video to YouTube.

Click here to watch Kenshiro Abbe video on

Henry Ellis