“Morihiro Saito, Keeper of the Flame,” by Stanley Pranin

“O-Sensei, free from the distractions of city life, engaged in extensive experimentation, and made tremendous strides both technically and spiritually.”

Morihiro Saito Sensei always emphasized his role as the preserver of O-Sensei’s postwar technique of the Iwama years, comprising the period of about 1945-1955. It was during this time frame that the Founder formulated his concept of “Takemusu Aiki,” that is, the spontaneous execution of unlimited technique perfectly attuned to a given set of circumstances.

O-Sensei’s art underwent a dramatic transformation during these years, discarding much of the rigidity and harshness of prewar technique in favor of the flowing, yet powerful techniques of the Iwama period. It was this stage of the Founder’s development that is identified with modern aikido.

Morihiro Saito at his last USA seminar in 2000

Iwama was O-Sensei’s laboratory. It was in this environment, free from the distractions of city life, that he engaged in extensive experimentation, and made tremendous strides both technically and spiritually. The technical repertoire of the Iwama years was especially rich. It included hundreds of taijutsu techniques, weighed equally with the regular practice of the aiki ken and jo.

Much of this technical content fell into disuse after the Founder’s passing. In fact, many of today’s practitioners have never been exposed to these techniques. The reason that the number of techniques practiced today is relatively small compared to the Iwama years has to do mainly with historical circumstances. Please have a look at my essay titled “Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?” for more on this subject.

Morihiro Saito was one of the Founder’s closest students and happened to have been taught precisely during the years immediately following World War II. Always an advocate of the Founder’s eclectic approach to the art in contrast to the “toned down” forms of the art that were broadly propagated after the war, Saito Sensei earned both widespread praise and criticism for his unyielding adhesion to the Founder’s ways.

When Aiki News joined together with Saito Sensei to publish the “Takemusu Aikido” book series starting in the early 1990s, one of my intentions was to record and catalog as many techniques from this Iwama period as possible. Although we by no means covered all of the vast repertoire, we did manage to record most of the basics and quite a few very unusual techniques that I have never seen taught by instructors from other styles of aikido.

In order to illustrate my point, I have prepared a PDF file with two such techniques: one a rare form of nikyo, and the second a sankyo variation, for your study and enjoyment.

Please click on this link to view the nikyo and sankyo techniques.

These pages are taken from “Takemusu Aikido, Volume 1: Background & Basics,” a book that in my estimation should be in every aikidoka’s collection.

It forms part of the six volume “Takemusu Aikido” series that represents one of the finest presentations of aikido techniques and pedagogy available anywhere.

Thanks for tuning in!

Stanley Pranin


  1. …perhaps it is inevitable that we explore beyond the basic forms. therefore even more credit must be given to Saito sensei for refraining from doing that, at least publicly. there is one tiny clip i’ve seen of him doing what might have been REAL “Saito-style”, but he never taught it in my presence…

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