Archives for March 2012


Morihei’s Adventure: “They were thrown in jail… and left in their underwear!”

“When they were thrown in jail, all their clothes and belongings were taken from them, and Deguchi, Ueshiba and the others were left with only their fundoshi underwear!”

Access: free through Tuesday, April 3


  • Editorial – “The American Aikido Federation,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Kawaridane Nihonjin (15): “Admirals and Generals among O-Sensei’s students”, by Kazuhiko Ikeda
  • Low-cost transportation to Japan for Aikido students
  • Letter from Yoshimitsu Yamada of New York Aikikai on formation of American Aikido Federation
  • Draft of Constitution of American Aikido Federation
  • Outline History of Aikido
  • Glossary of Japanese terms used in names of aikido techniques
  • Lee Green’s “Rendez-vous with Adventure,” tv documentary on Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei

Aikido Journal Members Site subscribers: If you are already a subscriber, click here to login and download the PDF file of Aiki News Number 15


“Three Critical Assumptions,” by Nev Sagiba

When someone plans to assault you, they usually take care to make sure that the assault will be as unfair as possible so as to advantage them and disadvantage you.

Of course, when you successfully defend yourself they will whine and attempt to say that you used “asymmetrical” means, but that is mere misdirection to detract from the fact that they were in fact doing the “asymmetry” in the first place. That’s what any attack is, irrespective of cute rhetoric attempting to give it a fancy dress. Most judges see through this charade.

Never will you get six weeks notice in writing in triplicate giving you advanced warning of the attacker’s intention. This would constitute sufficient evidence of intent in civilised land to warrant an arrest.

Nor do the malintentioned send one single anorexic midget. Having said that, never underestimate a midget or a transvestite in a fight. The midget has not only the lower centre of gravity (Shades of O’Sensei), but also better short path targeting of areas I would consider vital.

As for transvestites they are as strong as a man and as cunning as a woman. The combination makes danger plus. ‘Nuff said.

But mostly, assaults are not exotic, rather carefully planned and dangerous. (Fortuitously, those who rely on violence generally have several screws loose, so their planning capabilities are often self-defeating provided you are not intimidated by appearances.)

So what are these things you must always assume?

1/ That attackers will size you up and try to send someone bigger and/or stronger.

2/ That there will most often be more than one.

3/ That they will usually seek to arm themselves.

Anything else is not usually a fight, but a scuffle with nothing much at all to harmonize. You probably could talk your way out of at least half single person attacks. If you do in fact practice Aikido and not social chit chat dance, the single attacker will use you as a means of seppuku.

Aikijutsu was designed for real situations and not sport, and that is what gives Aikido its unique way of moving. It’s not really for self-obsessed egotistic dancing to feel “spiritually” important in denial of reality as it is.

Aikijutsu was designed to face reality of the harshest variety such as cosy suburb dwellers seldom, if ever, come across.

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“Morihei’s Prewar Budo: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 4,” by Peter Goldsbury

Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei and Nobuyoshi Tamura demonstrating sword kata c. 1960

“Morihei was unique: a martial arts genius, and therefore in the nature
of things, this unique quality cannot be quantified or reproduced.”

The previous column ended with a brief discussion of the third proposition relating to transmission:

(c) Morihei Ueshiba appears to have made no attempt to check whether they had understood what they had learned from him.

As I stated earlier, I think the truth of this proposition is a consequence of the Teacher as Living Model and the Learner as Mirror paradigm. In Aikido Masters many of the uchi-deshi at the Kobukan stated that Morihei Ueshiba rarely showed the same waza twice and would not stop to give any technical explanations. The explanations given at the beginning of Budo Renshu are exclusively concerned with how to attack and how to move when so attacked. Of course, there are brief explanations of the drawings in the book, but these are of little value to those who do not already know how to practice the waza and Zenzaburo Akazawa suggested this in Aikido Masters.

(Akazawa actually stated that, “The only trouble is that things rarely work out as neatly as in those drawings because your partner is a living person. There’s always the danger of people coming to rely too much on this one book. Even though, those illustrations [NB. Not the explanations, which Akazawa never mentions] may well serve as guidelines or as a kind of yardstick. The sort of thing that helps you realize, ‘Oh, sure, in that situation that would be a possibility.’Aikido Masters, p.263.).

Click here to read Peter Goldsbury’s article
“Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 4”


If you have an iPad or Kindle, please lend a hand!

Aikido Journal will soon begin marketing a variety of ebooks. We’re setting up the infrastructure now and would like to conduct a bit of testing. I have a simple request if you have an iPad or Kindle device at your disposal. Please download and view the following PDF file on your device:

We would like to confirm that the pages which are excerpts from one of Morihiro Saito Sensei’s books display properly on the screen. Please post your comments and selections below.


Stan Pranin


“Sokaku Takeda and Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu,” by Stanley Pranin

“The rumor is that Sokaku fled to Hokkaido to escape the authorities after being implicated in a killing. This story and others were repeated, it seems, in an attempt to discredit Sokaku, thereby making Morihei Ueshiba’s parting-of-the-ways with his teacher seem more justifiable.”

From Aikido Journal #104 (1995)

Portrait of Sokaku Takeda, c. 1915

Sokaku Takeda is well-known as the principal martial arts instructor of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido. As I have pointed out on several occasions, the revival of interest in Takeda’s art, Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, is largely due to the popularization of aikido in Japan and abroad after World War II. It seems inevitable that with hundreds of thousands of people having now studied aikido, there would be a certain interest in the “roots” of the art. In the first two articles of this series we have tried to place Daito-ryu in historical context and trace Sokaku’s formative years. Now we will turn our attention to his unparalleled teaching career that spanned more than fifty years and touched the lives of some 30,000 students.

Apart from an abundance of anecdotal evidence concerning Sokaku gleaned from his son and students, our main aids in tracing his activities are the enrollment registers (eimeiroku) and payments received ledgers (shareiroku) that he meticulously kept over some forty-five years. Since these documents comprise over 2,000 pages, our research thus far has been limited to a preliminary study of the eimeiroku.

Nonetheless, by charting a chronology of Sokaku’s movements from 1898 through 1943, for example, quite a clear picture of his teaching activities emerges. We find that he spent most of teaching career in northern Japan, and more than half of this time he was in Hokkaido. What follows is a summary of his activities during this period.

Spring 1898 through fall of 1910: Tohoku region with lengthy periods of stay in Miyagi, Iwate, and Yamagata prefectures. Shorter sojourns to Fukushima and Akita during this time are also recorded. There is mention of a brief trip to Hokkaido in July of 1904 as well….

Click here to read Stanley Pranin’s article
“Sokaku Takeda and Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu”


Pat Hendricks: San Francisco Bay Area Mom, Aikido Master Reaches Highest Level

“Pat Hendricks has studied aikido for more than three decades. In May, the martial arts master and mother will achieve the highest level of black belt. Elizabeth Cook reports…”

So reads the byline of a video news special from CBS San Francisco about Pat Hendricks Sensei, newly awarded 7th dan by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo.

From the Aikido of San Leandro website:

“Pat Hendricks started studying Aikido in 1974 with Stan Pranin and Mary Heiny. In 1976 she moved to Iwama, Japan, to study with Saito Sensei Shihan. For the next 30 years, she returned to Japan over 25 times of which 6 years were uchi-deshi. She holds a menkyo kaiden in weapons certification and was certified to test for the U.S. She served as Saito Sensei’s representative for the U.S. and runs the Iwama division in the California Aikido Association (CAA). Her own dojo, Aikido of San Leandro, attracts students from all over the world, including Japan.”

Click here to watch the special report on Pat Hendricks


Magazine: Aiki News Number 33, March 1979

“It’s not good to teach only flashy techniques
in order to be regarded as a great teacher.”

“During practice O-Sensei would teach the techniques he had developed up to that point as if systematizing and organizing them for himself. If we started doing suwariwaza, we would continue doing that only, one after another. The sempai and kohai would practice together and the kohai would take ukemi. When the sempai finished the right and left sides and the kohais’ turn came, it was already time for the next technique!”

Access: Free through Wednesday, March 28


  • Editorial – “Lifting the Veil of Obscurity Surrounding O-Sensei,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Interview with Morihiro Saito Sensei (2), by Stanley Pranin
  • Morihiro Saito Technical Notebook (2) — Katadori Dai-nikyo “Kihon” (Basic); Katadori iriminage; Katadori koshiwaza,” by Morihiro Saito
  • Kawaridane Nihonjin (3): “悲願の岩間隠せい 修行のやり直し専念” (Japanese)
  • O-Sensei Biography — “The Unchanging Path” (Chapter 1, Part 4), by Kisshomaru Ueshiba
  • East Meets West: “On Harmony,”by Midori Yamamoto

Click here to login and download the PDF file of Aiki News Number 33


“A Successful Defence Takes Place Before The Attack,” by Nev Sagiba


When you see anything from a brawl to a major war you are witnessing inept fools playing catch-up!

In the case of media cover ups-of wars, more so. Obfuscation does not make reality go away. Suppressing facts about incompetence is the skill of fools. It merely makes a lie and a mockery of our pretext to be civilised, thinking beings.

Sun Tzu, was an enlightened strategist. He clearly understood the principles involved, Hence, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

In the next step up there is no appearance of war. Not because the media is suppressed but because victory is already in hand, advanced victory, the physical side of it becomes irrelevant. Fool is the man who thinks that by turning up to be killed he stands any chance of anything other than being killed. Or being left standing in an empty field with no response. The violent fool ignored, left behind by a world moving forward into a bright future.

“Even standing with my back toward the opponent is enough. When he attacks, hitting, he will injure himself with his own intention to hit. I am one with the universe and I am nothing else. When I stand, he will be drawn to me. There is no time and space before Ueshiba of Aikido — only the universe as it is.” Morihei Ueshiba

Now either these men were inhaling seasonal mushroom spores or their consciousness was attuned to a realm that those who choose to remain somnambulistic cannot reach.

Ueshiba lends some clarity with his references of, “Budo is God’s Love, the spirit of loving protection for all beings…” and “Budo is not for felling our opponent by our force; nor is it a tool to lead the world into destruction with arms. True budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature… The training of Budo is to take God’s love, which correctly produces protects and cultivates all things in Nature and assimilate and utilize it in our own mind and body.”

On this basis, before any meaningful or lasting victory of any kind can be achieved we first need to be working towards attaining Masakatsu Agatsu. True victory.
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“Meditations on Violence” by Nick Lowry

“Some retreat from violence and instead become immature pacifiers; this is the one who puts up with it all, the one who suffers in silence, the one who hides from conflict…”

Some starting points: How do we hold the realities of violence? How do we interact with the suffering and trauma of violence? How do we transform and heal in the face of violence? What do dojos and budo (martial arts) have to do with all this?

We are all touched by violence. No one comes through the door of a dojo who has not been marked by this fact. Some are victims, others are victimizers. Some want relief from fear, others want to gain more power and control over their world in the face of chaos. Some dream of becoming a hero, wielding power like a weapon and doing violence for “good and just” purposes; vanquishing evildoers for the greater cause. Others just enjoy the paradoxical dance, the dance that turns so beautifully on the edge of something so ugly– the dance that somehow, transcends.

All must look deeply into the shadow of violence in order to transform it. To Heal. This is the price we pay for the power that we gain by learning this potent dance. The price is high, but necessary, for what we do not look into deeply, what we keep in our shadow and continue to neglect will inevitably come out— too often in some sideways and tragically inappropriate way, and we find ourselves asking, “Why did I just do that?”… “What is wrong with me that I would do That?” “How could I be the perpetrator of violence?”

So, how do we enter this dance? Insight requires reflection.

Some may pursue the path toward becoming the Ultimate Bad-Ass — As my friend Larry’s old t-shirt said, ”For yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, Because I AM the Baddest S.O.B. in the Valley!”–a tragic response to deep fear that plays out as an immature, posturing warrior. The bully archetype–cowardice and impotence dressing up like power, and it is sadly true that dojos certainly can play into these fantasies. Young men climb into octagonal cages every day at an alarming clip. Ultimate warriors abound. How sad.

Some retreat from violence and instead become immature pacifiers; this is the one who puts up with it all, the one who suffers in silence, the one who hides from conflict, the one who embodies fear under the guise of “keeping the peace,” but who is really just keeping the status quo. “Don’t rock the boat, stay quiet, we don’t wake the sleeping dragons. It will all work out some day.” Stoic and long suffering, dying inside by degrees. Tragic as well.
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Historical photo: “Time Machine Back to Osaka in 1935,” by Stanley Pranin

“Morihei Ueshiba’s Vanguard Dojo in Japan’s Second Largest City.”

This is a rare photo of unusually high quality depicting Morihei Ueshiba in Osaka with the leading figures of his Asahi News dojo. The photo is almost certainly from 1935 judging by Morihei’s visage, and the fact that it was taken at a time prior to Sokaku Takeda’s arrival in Osaka in June 1936. The people who appear in the photo reflect aspects of Morihei’s activities that extend beyond his martial arts teaching into family areas and the political realm.

First of all, here is a list of those persons we are able to identify by assigned number:

1. Mitsujiro Ishii
2. Kenji Tomita
3. Takuma Hisa
4. Morihei Ueshiba
5. Hatsu Ueshiba
6. Kiku Yukawa
7. Yoshitaka Hirota
8. Yoshiteru Yoshimura
9. Tsutomu Yukawa

Mitsujiro Ishii (1889-1981)

Mitsujiro Ishii

We start with Mitsujiro Ishii. Ishii was an early student of Morihei Ueshiba beginning around 1927 when O-Sensei was being actively promoted by Admiral Isamu Takeshita in Tokyo. In 1933, he provided the introduction that led to Morihei becoming the martial arts instructor of the Osaka branch of the Asahi News. At the point in time this photograph was taken, Ishii was a managing director of the Asahi News company headquartered in Tokyo, and wielded a tremendous amount of influence in the Asahi company. He was a mentor and supporter of Takuma Hisa, who also appears in this photo, and helped in the formation of the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Takumakai after the war.

Ishii would later become an important figure in Japanese postwar politics. At one point, in 1957, he was one of the top candidates to become prime minister of Japan. Ishii served as a cabinet member in several administrations from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. He was also a golf enthusiast and served as president of the Japan Golf Association. Parenthetically, Ishii was the father of Yoshiko Ishii, a famous Japanese chanson singer who was a Japanese star for many years, and was also well-known in France and performed in major European venues….

Click here to read Stanley Pranin’s “Time Machine Back to Osaka in 1935”


Morihiro Saito: “I saw nothing but the real thing for 23 years!”

“It is a big mistake to think that there is no ki no nagare practiced at Iwama. The ki no nagare techniques of Iwama are executed faithfully as O-Sensei taught them.”

The article we published yesterday, “The Iwama Aikido Conundrum,” by Stanley Pranin, generated a strong response. One commenter, Marius, submitted a list of quotations–many from Aikido Journal’s published interviews–of Morihiro Saito where he clearly explains what and how he was taught by Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, and his personal contributions in the form of devising a technical methodology to preserve O-Sensei’s technical curriculum. Taken together these comments shed a great deal of light on this fascinating subject. Here they are:

“I don’t know any aikido other than O-Sensei’s.”

“Many shihan create new techniques and I think this is a wonderful thing, but after analyzing these techniques I am still convinced no one can surpass O-Sensei. I think it is best to follow the forms he left us.These days people are inclined to go their own way, but as long as I am involved, I will continue to do the techniques and forms O-Sensei left us.”

“It is a big mistake to think that there is no ki no nagare practiced at Iwama. The ki no nagare techniques of Iwama are executed faithfully as O-Sensei taught them. People tend to train in a jerky way. And when people do soft training they do it in a lifeless way. Soft movements should be filled with the strongest “ki.” People can’t grasp the meaning of hard and soft because they didn’t have contact with O-Sensei.”

“The aikido world is gradually distancing itself from O sensei’s techniques. However, if the techinque of aikido become weak it’s not a good thing, becouse aikido is a martial art. My practice of aikido is always traditional, the old-style way. Now I am looking after my Sensei’s dojo. Also, I am guardian of the Aiki shrine, the only one in the world. Many teachers create their own techniques, but I can’t do that, I’ve got hard head! I’m following exactly the teachings of my Sensei.”

“O-Sensei taught us two, three or four levels of techniques. He would begin with kata, then one level after another, and finally, it became just so… and now I teach in exactly the same way. Because O-Sensei taught us systematically I’ve got to teach in an organized way, too. Generally speaking, 0-Sensei would make remarks like the following: “Everything is one. Everything is the same.” He taught us in that way. I’m just following his example.”

“When O-Sensei explained Aikido he always said that taijutsu (body techniques) and ken and jo techniques were all the same. He always started out his explanation of Aikido using the ken. Although he didn’t use a one-two-three method, he always taught us patiently and explained in detail what we should do.”

“O-Sensei also drilled us in a step-by-step manner. I am simply trying to make this method my own through hard study and to have others understand it. As I follow 0-Sensei’s instructions my students are appreciative.”

“O sensei would say: “That’s not the way. Every little detail should be correct. Otherwise, it isn’t a technique. See, like this… like that!” I was very lucky O-Sensei taught me thoroughly in detail, and I’m following his example.”

Morihiro Saito with Pat Hendricks, c. 1988

“When I starting teaching myself I realized O-Sensei’s way of teaching would not be appropriate so I classified and arranged his jo techniques. I rearranged everything into 20 basic movements I called “suburi” which included tsuki (thrusting), uchikomi (striking), hassogaeshi (figure-eight movements), and so on so it would be easier for students to practice them.I was taught first how to swing a sword. I organized what I learned and devised these kumijo and suburi for the sword. O-Sensei’s method may have been good for private lessons, but not for teaching groups. In his method, there were no names for techniques, no words.This was why I organized the movements into tsuki (thrusts), uchikomi (strikes) and kaeshi (turning movements) and gave them names.”

“I saw nothing but the real thing for 23 years, I don’t really know anything other than Iwama style, my role is to preserve these teachings. That’s the main thing.”


“The Iwama Aikido Conundrum,” by Stanley Pranin


“How could such an elaborate technical system have developed in the isolated countryside of Iwama if Morihiro Saito were its creator?”

I have always felt that the origin of “Iwama Aikido” presents a conundrum for students of the history of modern aikido. For those unfamiliar with the subject, Iwama is a small town in Ibaragi Prefecture where Morihei Ueshiba relocated during the war. It remained the Founder’s official residence until his passing in 1969.

Founder with Morihiro Saito, c. 1955

What is commonly referred to as Iwama Aikido is a vast technical system consisting of taijutsu, aiki ken and aiki jo techniques. The taijutsu component alone includes somewhere in the vicinity of 600 techniques. Add the various weapons suburi and paired exercises and you have well over 1,000 distinct forms. This curriculum is far more elaborate than those of the Yoshinkan, Aikikai, or that of Koichi Tohei prior to his departure from the Aikikai. It is these latter systems that provide the basis for the styles of aikido that spread in Japan and overseas after World War II, rather than that of the Founder. This is not to imply that the Iwama system is superior but simply that it differs in important ways in content and scope compared to the other major aikido styles.

A fair question to ask is how could such an elaborate technical system have developed in the isolated countryside of Iwama if Morihiro Saito were its creator? Saito had only a middle school education and, aside from a short work assignment in Tokyo as an employee of Japan Railways, spent his life up to the age of 46 years in and around the town of Iwama. His studies of judo and karate as a teenager were brief and superficial, his main influence being his apprenticeship under the Founder starting from 1946.
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