Archives for November 2011


48 hours more for Free “Encyclopedia of Aikido” Download!

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“Grab this rare reference work now while there’s still time!

We have been deluged with inqueries from readers wishing to get the free download of Stanley Pranin’s “Encyclopedia of Aikido.” We would like as many people as possible to have an opportunity to own this rare book on their computer. So we are going to extend the download period for 48 more hours. It will be available until midnight Friday evening for those of you who have not yet downloaded their copies.

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Ellis Amdur: “More on Irimi”

Thank you for the wonderful comments. This essay became part of Dueling with Osensei, my first book. The only thing I would add, now, is a paragraph on the idea that aikido is a manifestation of the sword.

People usually think of this as “aikido is kenjutsu without a sword in your hands.” No. What I mean is that you become like a sword. Think of a swordfighter doing a perfect irirmi in the method I described regarding Itto-ryu “One place we see this is in kenjutsu, and an exemplar of it is in Itto-ryu (remember the deep ties that Itto-ryu has with Daito-ryu). As the enemy cuts, so, too, do I cut. Not “along” the same path. ON THE SAME PATH. Two objects cannot occupy the same space, and I, with greater power/speed/timing/postural stability, etc, take that space.”

If the sword is made of inferior material, it will bend and break, and even though your technique is perfect, you will die. Similarly, perfect irimi requires a “forged” body. Osensei practiced – and taught – specific methods of breathing and exercise to “temper” the body like iron becomes steel.

In short, to create irimi requires a body like a sword – forged and strong, in a particular way. How, otherwise, could Shioda Gozo, perhaps 130 pounds dominate much bigger men as he did – and clearly he did this beyond people merely taking “good ukemi.”


“Irimi,” by Ellis Amdur

I recently read a post which includes an oft-used phrase—“get off the line and enter.” Not only does this phrase not do full justice to the concept of irimi (I confess I’ve used it myself), it leads to a mistaken understanding of aikido technique. This mistake is not only intellectual, but expressed physically, probably lies at the root of the technical deficiencies that are, allegedly, so rife in aikido.

“Getting off the line,”at least as most people I’ve observed execute it, is reactive. We side-step, get out of the way of the attack, etc. Irimi is then imagined to be a counter-attack on an angle—martial arts as the application of geometry, so to speak.

In Japanese, reactive counters are often called “go no sen,” which is a counter to the other’s initiative, but even this is not accurate. In fact, reactive counters are commemorated with tombstones.

In Go no sen, one takes the initiative away from the other and rules him. Imagine a conversation in which someone raises his voice, and in the middle of his tirade, I hold my hand up and out and say, “Not one more word. Be still.” And they are silent. An argument is reactive, as in, “I don’t like your tone of voice! And you are wrong,” to which they reply again, and I respond to that. An argument is often referred to as verbal sparring or verbal fencing. Go no sen is dominant—one cut, one life.

[Read more…]


Koichi Tohei: “Learn from Aikido’s First 10th dan!”

Where did the aikido we practice today come from? A man who played a critical role in the gestation of modern aikido is Koichi Tohei. Today, Tohei Sensei is a forgotten name in many quarters, surely an unconscionable omission. Through his many books in both Japanese and English, and his extensive travels in Japan and the USA, Tohei Sensei left a permanent mark on the content and pedagogy of aikido during the postwar period.

For this week’s Aikido Journal special, we offer the first and only DVD to cover the topic of Koichi Tohei’s many contributions and activities to the early spread of aikido. This DVD also explores the preparatory exercises and basic techniques developed by Tohei Sensei aimed at developing the use of ki in aikido. The highlight of the program is a lengthy section featuring rare footage of a seminar taught by Tohei Sensei in his prime.

The second product you will receive as a bonus in this special is a one-of-a-kind DVD containing thousands of pages of magazine articles covering every aspect of aikido. It features the entire contents of Aiki News / Aikido Journal published over two-and-one-half decades in easy-to-access PDF format.

Order This Week’s Special Now, Only $29.95!


“Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?”, by Stanley Pranin

After practicing and researching aikido for a number of years, I gradually arrived at a hypothesis that went against conventional wisdom and the testimonies of numerous shihan who claimed to have spent long years studying at the side of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. I had over the years attended numerous seminars given in the USA by Japanese teachers, and also made several trips to Japan where I had seen and trained with many of the best known teachers. My theory was simply that aikido as we know it today was not the art practiced and taught by O-Sensei, but rather any one of a number of derivative forms developed by key students who studied under the Founder for relatively short periods of time. This would account for the considerable divergency in styles, the relatively small number of techniques taught, and the absence of an Omoto-like religious perspective in the modern forms of the art. This was not meant as a criticism of these “modern” forms of the art, but rather an observation based on historical research that ran contrary to common perception.

When I moved permanently to Japan in August 1977, I made a personal decision to study in Iwama under Morihiro Saito Sensei. In the final analysis, what attracted me to Iwama was the emphasis on firmness and precision of technique, and the inclusion of the aiki ken and aiki jo in the training curriculum. I’m sure that the proximity of the Aiki Shrine and the fact that training in Iwama took place in O-Sensei’s personal dojo were also contributing factors.

At the same time, I would hasten to mention that I didn’t consider Saito Sensei’s technique to be a faithful continuation of the aikido of the Founder, but rather regarded him as a technical master in his own right. Looking back, I put Saito Sensei in the same category with well-known teachers like Koichi Tohei, Shoji Nishio, Seigo Yamaguchi, and others who were all highly skilled and had developed original teaching styles which, though initially inspired by Morihei Ueshiba, had evolved into quite different directions.

I recall clearly that, even though my Japanese language skills were rather limited at that stage, I managed to communicate to Saito Sensei my thoughts on this subject and doubts that his aikido was essentially the same as that of the Founder as he claimed. My perception was based on the fact that Saito Sensei’s technique appeared to be quite different from the aikido of the Founder that I had seen on film. Somewhat amused at my skepticism and no doubt my cheekiness considering that I was his student, Sensei patiently explained that the reason for my confusion was that most of what was preserved on film of the Founder were demonstrations. He pointed out that the public displays of technique of the Founder were very different from what O-Sensei showed in the dojo in Iwama. Saito Sensei continued to insist that it was his responsibility to faithfully transmit the aikido of the Founder and that it was not his intention to develop a “Saito-ryu Aikido.”
[Read more…]


Video: Introduction to “Aikido With KI” featuring Koichi Tohei, 10th dan

One of the most important Aikido instructors–a man known worldwide for his early efforts in disseminating the art–is Koichi Tohei, 10th dan. Tohei Sensei’s contributions to the art are legion: development of a technical curriculum based on ki principles, later known as Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido; publication of many of the first books in English on Aikido; personal training of several prominent athletes including home-run hitter, Sadaharu Oh, and sumo champion, Chiyonofuji; the first man to receive a 10th dan in Aikido, directly from the Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Duration: 5:50
Access: Free to all!

This video is an introduction to the documentary film titled “Koichi Tohei: Aikido With KI.” It discusses the considerable influence of Koichi Tohei, aikido’s first 10th dan, in the early prewar era prior to his departure from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo organization in 1974.


  • Documentary: a presentation tracing the early life and aikido background of Koichi Tohei through his years as Chief Instructor of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, through his establishment of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido in 1974. Many historical photos capture the highlights of Tohei Sensei’s stellar career and explain why his efforts and accomplishments have left such an indelible imprint on modern aikido.
  • Warmups and preparatory exercises: this section presents the elaborate warmups and exercise system developed by Tohei Sensei as a prelude to training in aikido techniques. They emphasize stability, relaxation, and the proper use of ki.
  • Techniques: a presentation of the technical curriculum taught by Tohei Sensei during the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s, during his tenure at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Tohei Sensei demonstrates most of his “50 Arts of Aikido” from a 1967 film.
  • Seminar: nearly 40 minutes of rare film footage of a 1974 seminar conducted by Tohei Sensei in San Francisco. Scores of techniques from his curriculum are clearly demonstrated. This historical film has been digitally remastered for the highest possible image quality.
  • Demonstrations: bonus footage of four demonstrations by Tohei Sensei: 1952 demonstration outdoors, also featuring Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Tadashi Abe; 1967 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration; 1968 Special Demonstration at Hombu Dojo; 1973 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration.


“Interview with Koichi Tohei (1),” by Stanley Pranin

Aikido has grown explosively since World War II. Koichi Tohei, a distinguished contributor to this development, is perhaps one of those most qualified to talk about the history of aikido. Most of the active aikido shihan (even those 7th dan and above) in the world today were taught, at one time or another, by Tohei.

Feeling strongly that future generations will decide their own destiny, Tohei has chosen to speak out very little over the years. At long last, on the condition that we represent his organization’s activities and thinking as they are, Tohei Sensei has finally agreed to this exclusive interview with Aikido Journal.

As the only student of Morihei Ueshiba to be officially awarded tenth dan and a figure of central importance in the post-war aikido world, Tohei has taken the opportunity to speak frankly with us about his views and experiences. (Interview, July 11th, 1995)

Sensei, tell us about your approach to aikido.

As we move into the twenty-first century, the world we live in is becoming more and more relative. Because there is ahead, there is also behind. Because there is up, there is also down. Within this relativistic world, nothing is absolute in its correctness. It is not possible, for example, that north is correct while south is not. Both are simply “facts.”

The only sure way to be absolutely correct is to avoid being caught in the whirlwind of these so-called facts of the relativistic world and instead be in accord with the absolute principles of Heaven and Earth. When it comes to standards of judgment, that which is in accord with the principles of Heaven and Earth is correct, while that which is not is not correct.

Decisive action is born of an understanding of that which is in accord with the principles of Heaven and Earth. A lack of this understanding leads to “unreasonable effort,” or muri, the literal meaning of which is “lack of principle,” and should be avoided. This has always been my way of thinking and the reason I have scrupulously avoided acting in ways that involve unreasonable effort or that go against these principles.

Aikido is essentially a path of being in accord with the ki of Heaven and Earth. Many of those involved in budo, however, tend to talk about things that are illogical and involve unreasonable effort, things that are impossible. But my way of living is to avoid doing anything that is not in accord with principle.

What was the most important thing you learned from Morihei Ueshiba?

The way people most talk about ki these days tends toward the occultish, but I will say that I have never done anything even remotely involving the occult. Much of what Ueshiba Sensei talked about, on the other hand, did sound like the occult.

In any case, I began studying aikido because I saw that Ueshiba Sensei had truly mastered the art of relaxing. It was because he was relaxed, in fact, that he could generate so much power. I became his student with the intention of learning that from him. To be honest, I never really listened to most of the other things he said.

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Yasuo Kobayashi, 8th dan, at the 20th Anniversary of Kobayashi Dojos Demonstration

Yasuo Kobayashi, 8th dan, enrolled in the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1954 at the age of 18 while a student at Meiji University. After teaching at the Aikikai and various university clubs for several years, he established his own dojo in Kodaira in 1969. Kobayashi Sensei’s dojo network spread in size both in Japan and abroad and presently numbers more than 120 schools. He has made numerous overseas trips to conduct seminars. Kobayashi Sensei is assisted by his son, Hiroaki, and a group of professional aikido instructors that belong to the Kobayashi Dojos organization.

This demonstration was held in commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of Kobayashi Dojos, the organization formed within the Aikikai umbrella in 1969 by Yasuo Kobayashi, 8th dan. This clip captures Kobayashi Sensei performance in its entirety. His art bears the stamp of his formation within the Aikikai. It is very flowing and beautiful. In particular, his demonstration of suwariwaza (seated) technique is exemplary. Many years went into developing this ability to work freely from a seated position.

Duration: 5:31
Access: Free for limited time

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“Challenging the Status Quo,” by Stanley Pranin

Originally published in Aiki News #98, 1994

The role and direction of Aiki News has periodically shifted in the twenty years since its inception. We began our research focusing on the life of the founder and evolution of his technique. Our findings gradually steered us towards an in-depth study of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, the technical fount of aikido, and its connection with modern aikido. This effort in turn led to a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda. In a similar manner, our recent thrust has been to delve into the topic of the Omoto religion and its charismatic leader, Onisaburo Deguchi. The subject of the influence of the Omoto sect on the thinking of Morihei Ueshiba has not thus far been treated to our satisfaction and we wish to conduct a thorough exploration to further our knowledge and for the benefit of our readers.

As we have passed through these various stages, quite naturally, our understanding of the nature of aikido and its philosophy has deepened. We have found that many of the representations of the man, Ueshiba, and his art, aikido, found in books and articles prior to and coincidental with our own efforts have been superficial, misleading, and exclusionary. This has often placed us in the awkward position of publishing research whose results have stood in direct contradiction to prevailing views. This approach has brought us both accolade and condemnation, such I suppose being the lot of historical journalism.

Let me sum up our “controversial” conclusions on the founder and his art. Morihei Ueshiba was an eccentric nonconformist who pursued a highly personal path in his development of aikido. Many of the opportunities afforded him in the first half of his life were made possible by the generosity of his loving father, Yoroku, and his considerable means.[1] Ueshiba’s creation of aikido was viewed by the Daito-ryu school as an act of rebellion and show of disrespect towards Sokaku Takeda. Ueshiba was, on the other hand, loyal in the extreme to Onisaburo Deguchi, and many of his ethical views on budo were derived from this Omoto leader’s teachings. O-Sensei expressed his visionary views on budo as a tool for the peaceful resolution of conflict largely through the metaphors and symbols of the Omoto doctrine and this message has been simplified and altered with the elimination of this religious context as aikido has been popularized.

[Read more…]


Historical Photo: Morihei Ueshiba in front of Shimbuden Dojo in Manchuria, 1942, by Stanley Pranin

This photo was taken in 1942 in front of the Shimbuden Dojo, part of the campus of Kenkoku University in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. Seated in the center are Kenji Tomiki and Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Standing in the back row second from the left are Hideo Oba, and second from the right, Shigenobu Okumura.

This photograph was taken in the summer of 1942 at the time of a demonstration given at the university’s martial arts hall, the Shimbuden. The occasion was the 10th anniversary of the founding of Manchukuo, the Japanese puppet government of Manchuria, whose titular head was Pu Yi, China’s “Last Emperor.”

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating inside Shimbuden Dojo in Manchuria, summer 1942

This would be Morihei’s last visit to Manchuria where he was invited several times to teach and demonstrate between 1939-1942. In the photo, we see Morihei looking rather gaunt and obviously thin compared to his normal robust physique of the prewar days. Shortly after Morihei’s return to Japan from this trip, he quit Tokyo which had already been firebombed in April 1942 and retreated to Iwama. He is said to have been quite ill at this time and retired to Iwama to recuperate.

Kenji Tomiki relocated to Manchuria in March 1936 through an introduction provided by Ueshiba. He later became an instructor at Kenkoku University, which opened in the spring of 1938, and headed the Aiki Budo program, a regular part of the curriculum, with the assistance of Hideo Oba, his long-time assistant. After the war, Tomiki because a professor at Waseda University and created “Tomiki Aikido,” a form of aikido that includes competition.

Shigenobu Okumura was one of the main figures in the postwar Aikikai Hombu Dojo and was eventually awarded the rank of 9th dan.


“Proficiency and Aikido,” by Francis Takahashi

Perhaps not quite common knowledge, but it is no secret that the Founder, and Aikikai Foundation, the organization developed by the late Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, remained committed to maintaining appropriate and lasting relationships with most of the Founder’s students, past and current. Organizations such as the Yoshinkan (Gozo Shioda), Yoseikan (Minoru Mochizuki), Takemusu Aikido (Morihiro Saito), Nishio Aikido (Shoji Nishio), amongst others, retained positive and respectful ties to Aikikai Foundation, and still appear to do so. In terms of legitimacy and genuineness of purpose, there never was, nor should there ever be, any need to “rank”, or otherwise categorize any individual or organization by any standard other than the unconditional allegiance to the principles of the Founder’s Aikido.

“Proficiency”, which will always be a key goal of training, is not, nor should ever be a part of any conversation regarding any evaluation or comparison of the Aikikai Foundation’s system of Aikido, with those of any other Aikido system developed consistently with the Founder’s Aikido. For all such systems, the fact of proficiency in their own respective applications, is a given, and not a basis for comparison or contrast. They all have their roots, and legitimacy, stemming directly from their connection to the Founder, his vision, mission, and to the principles he advocated and lived.
To do Aikido “the right way”, then, when is it ever “good enough”? Does each student of Aikido need to aspire primarily to “martial excellence”, as opposed to the study and pursuit of any other values inherent in Aikido research and training? Was it the Founder’s intent to train “super warriors”, or to encourage and assist in the growth of extraordinary and accountable human beings?
When one learns a new language, or even the one native to that person, must it be with the purpose of being able to ultimately write scientific or literary articles, blockbuster novels or widely acclaimed treatises for a Phd. degree? Would any lesser degree of achievement be deemed a “failure”, or be ignominiously tagged with the status of being ordinary or even mediocre?

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We are offering a 48-hour Thanksgiving Sale that You are Going to Love!

Order a 2-year subscription to the Aikido Journal Members Site and get THREE FREE DVDs free during this 48-hour sale to end Friday at midnight!

Paid subscribers have access to all available materials on the Aikido Journal Members Site. At the present time, this includes over 2,000 articles, encyclopedia entries, interviews, chronologies, images and videos. The vast amount of content covers virtually every aspect of aikido and related disciplines.

These materials are fully indexed for easy search and retrieval of specific content. Paid members have the means to quickly inform themselves on any covered subject, and further deepen their knowledge of all aikido-related areas. Paid subscribers also receive our newsletter containing timely information on new content on Aikido Journal, aikido resources, special discounts, etc. There is no better investment for the serious aikido practitioner!

These Aikido DVDs are wonderful study aids and make great holiday gifts for your training partners! Save time… save money! Act now!

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