Archives for May 2012


Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei welcomes two Americans dressed like cowboys to Hombu Dojo to test their mettle. A true adventure… with humor!

This film presents the full, uncut version of a fascinating U.S. television documentary on aikido produced in 1958. It follows the adventures of an American tv crew who first cover the opening of the majestic Tokyo Tower with all its pomp and ceremony. Next, they pay a visit to the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo to find out what aikido is all about. There they meet famous Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, his son Kisshomaru, and Koichi Tohei. Two members of the crew don training uniforms and try the art out for themselves, often with humorous results.

An unforgettable scene is the “challenge” by one of the skeptical journalists handled by Koichi Tohei. Another highlight of this film is the interview of O-Sensei, with Koichi Tohei acting as interpreter. You will hear the Founder’s actual voice and watch him intone a haunting Shinto chant. The exciting finale features a special demonstration by O-Sensei of taijutsu, aiki ken, aiki jo and multiple attacks. Nobuyoshi Tamura and Yasuo Kobayashi are among those taking falls for the Founder. Incredible action!
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Morihiro Saito portrait: “Decked out in a beautiful formal kimono before the Aiki Shrine”

This is a heads-up for any of you who would like to download a high-resolution file of one of the most beautiful and famous portraits of Morihiro Saito, 9th dan. We’ll be launching this product tomorrow. It will be priced at $3.99.

“This is one of the finest of the surviving portraits of Morihiro Saito Sensei. It was taken by Stanley Pranin on May 4, 1996 in front of the Aiki Shrine in Iwama. The occasion was the celebration of Saito Sensei’s 50 years in aikido. Many aikido dignitaries from all over Japan and foreign students attended, including present Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. This photo was taken with a Minolta medium-format camera and is of extremely high-resolution.”

One of the nice things about these high-resolution downloadable files is that you save a ton of money not having to pay for shipping, not to mention the much lower cost. You can then resize the file for local printing as you like. It’s great for both dojo and personal use. We’ll have many more beautiful historical photos for you in the near future.

If you can’t wait until then, check it out here.


Morihiro Saito: Takemusu Aikido, Volume 2 — More Basics, now an ebook

“Master every Yokomenuchi, Kotegaeshi, and Iriminage imaginable!”

This volume, titled Takemusu Aikido: More Basics, is the second of the comprehensive technical series authored by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, presenting the aikido of Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei. This manual covers in exhaustive detail 76 techniques from the following series of basics: shihonage, kotegaeshi, and iriminage. Volume 2 is presented in bilingual format (Japanese-English) and provides clear, step-by-step explanations of each technique featuring over 700 illustrations.

Morihiro Saito is the author of the acclaimed technical series, Traditional Aikido, published in the early 1970s. In addition to the Takemusu Aikido technical manuals, Saito has produced a series of highly-regarded instructional DVDs.

Saito enrolled as a student of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba in 1946. One of the art’s foremost technicians, he was the acknowledged authority on Aikido weapons training. Saito operated Ueshiba’s private dojo in Iwama, Japan and served as caretaker of the Aiki Shrine for more than 30 years until his passing in 2002. He traveled extensively throughout the world for over three decades teaching his comprehensive training methods while building large followings in the USA, Europe, and Australia.

Right click here to download the sample PDF file of Takemusu Aikido, Volume 2

76 techniques: Shihonage (32 techniques), Kotegaeshi (21 techniques), Iriminage (24 techniques)

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“Masters of the Universe, the Aikikai and the Shihan Certification,” by Christopher Li

“Who gets it, who doesn’t and would you want it anyway?”

One of our readers kindly sent a link to a very interesting article written by Christoper Li of the Aikido Sangenkai. It has to do with the title of “Shihan” and the differing standards for referring to oneself as Shihan within the Aikikai system. I highly recommend that you read this piece.

“Shihan” – most often translated as “Master Instructor”. Sound pretty important?

The term wasn’t used much when I first started Aikido, but it seems to be the title to have nowadays.

In Japanese, the Kanji for Shihan (師範) break down to “instruct” and “model” – or “model instructor”. This makes sense, especially considering normal Japanese methods of instruction – this would be the guy that everybody else copies, or hopes to copy.

The regulations appear to be fairly straightforward, as is Tani’s clarifying statement – until we get to this section:

Click here to read the entire article


“Can you write a great ad headline for me? Win an ebook by Morihiro Saito!” by Stanley Pranin

Tomorrow we’re going to launch a new ebook titled “Takemusu Aikido, Volume 2 — More Basics” by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan. I’m super busy at the moment and I know that there are a lot of smart people out there.

So if you have a knack for writing great ad headlines, please go here, read the product description, and come up with your submission. Just post it as a comment, please. If I use your suggestion instead of my own… which I’m keeping secret, you’ve just won a free copy of this great 206-page ebook by Saito Sensei.

I need it by 10pm eastern time, por favor!

Thanks Folks!



Stanley Pranin’s Aikido Pioneers — Prewar Era, now an ebook!

“20 interviews meticulously edited from hundreds of hours of conversations conducted over a 30-year period with those closest to Morihei Ueshiba.”

Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) drew on his extensive martial arts experience as a young man, fusing this knowledge with his deeply-held religious beliefs, to create the modern self-defense art of Aikido.

During his long career, Ueshiba associated with some of prewar Japan’s most colorful characters, including famous jujutsu master Sokaku Takeda, the charismatic religious leader Onisaburo Deguchi, and numerous members of Japan’s military, political, and business elite. Here is the captivating story of the birth of aikido, based on the first-hand accounts of Ueshiba’s top students prior to World War II.

The 20 interviews contained in Aikido Pioneers – Prewar Era have been meticulously edited from hundreds of hours of conversations conducted over a 30-year period with those closest to the Founder. These early devotees of the art offer an insightful portrayal of the character of the Aikido Founder, and a detailed description of his teaching and activities, spanning nearly half a century. More than 100 photos, many published for the first time, add an important visual dimension to the testimonies of the interviewees. This massive 364-page tome is an essential volume for those desiring to discover the roots of Aikido, a true cultural treasure of Japan. It is now available for the first time in ebook format affordable priced at $8.99.

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“The Immutable Thread,” by Nev Sagiba

“Violence requires the idea of separation in order to exist.”

Aikido is not a mushy art, or a way to fight and aggress, or defeat enemies. Or to manufacture enemies where none needed to exist because of pride, hubris, arrogance and stupidity. Or the disease of lack based belief systems which drive thieving. Nor is it a way to dominate or control others or to impose, infringe, steal, cheat or bastardize anything at all.

Aikido is Kannagara no Michi expressed through the Hito Jinja. That’s all Aikido is. The immutable thread of balancing power indwelling throughout Eternity that reconciles all things back to creation and the harmony that sustains it.

Everything is on loan from that source and to it must inevitably and unstoppably return. Resistance is futile. Prolonged resistance the height of folly and the cause of all suffering.

Destruction as temporary as itself. As are manufactured, forced agendas. Nothing exists which is not subject to creation, which in turn is subject to pure harmony. No being exists who is above the law or can have a dispensation to break the Supreme Law of Harmony save by being subject to the laws of creation itself. The Laws of Creation and Harmony. Everything has a price and consequences that arise from action.

The most secret and esoteric teaching in the universe cannot rise above this, as it is.

There is a common understanding in the universe. A current and a thread that runs though all things. It is soft, subtle and true. There are no mysteries higher.

All life knows it. Including those that don’t know they know it.

All the esoteric mumbo jumbo in the world, “teachings” that are merely words and concepts, interesting calculations much like astrology, and other methods, are but loose guidelines based on the experience of others. All experience is good and so is learning from that of others; but in the end you will need to get your own unique perspective through your own unique experience, and draw your own unique conclusions. These too will change over time.

What works well for one person may not be suitable for another.

Much like Budo practice, neither knowledge nor wisdom is a rubber stamp or formulaic method which can be simply copied. Rather it is malleable and alters, if only by nuances, as the universe itself confabulates each microsecond day by day by the minute and only you can make the choices that will enable you to navigate your own unique trajectory through existence.
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Startling Revelations: Rare interview with Morihei Ueshiba

“Cutting people means being defeated by the world. Those who
are cut are losers, too. Both are losers in that type of practice”

Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido, c. 1965

The following interview was published in the “Shukan Yomiuri” newspaper on May 27, 1956, and is published with the kind permission of the Yomiuri Shimbun Company. O-Sensei was at the time 72 years of age.

Interviewer: Aikido is increasing in popularity, isn’t it?

Ueshiba Sensei: It is all due to you and people like yourself, Sir.

No. No.

Yes, it’s all thanks to your support.

You are good at making compliments, not Aikido! I wonder how old you are?

I have forgotten my age… I was born in 1883, but I tell people I’m 25 years old. Please keep that in mind. (Laughter)

You are the same age I am then! (Laughter) They say that people stop growing physically at about age 25.

I didn’t stop growing. I grew until I was 55 years old. I became taller, too. I was my strongest when I was 50. I didn’t have much strength when I was in my twenties until the age of 32 or 33.

How about your skill in martial arts?

I get better with age.

It’s strange though. You kept growing taller until you were 50 years old!

Take it any way you please. (Laughter) If I emphasize that too much, I will be criticized.

You must be joking! You’re a difficult one to talk with!

Well, Sir, you and people like yourself know well about what’s going on in the world, and so we, the people, follow you. By the way, it is the martial arts which lead us to the way of harmony. Anything which strays from the path of harmony is useless. I believe that the martial ways of our nation will only last in the presence of harmony. “The beautiful form of heaven and earth is a manifestation of a single family created by the Kami.”

We should become a single family spiritually and make an effort to improve the nation of Japan. We have to try to achieve harmony at least here in Japan. We should become good friends with one another, all taking care of each other. The foundations of this harmony is Aikido. It is this Aikido which is the true budo. Budo used to be used for military rule or by feudal lords in battles for dominance among clans. I want to get away from that hostile world.

Your talk on Aikido philosophy started suddenly, didn’t it?

Democracy means the principle of nonresistance. True Japanese budo is the principle of nonresistance.

But unless you resist, it isn’t budo. That is why I don’t like it.

You’re talking about budo used for military rule. Kendo and Judo are said to be Japanese budo, but they are concerned with winning, aren’t they? Since Aikido pursues harmony, it is different from those arts.

Click here to read the entire interview with Founder Morihei Ueshiba


A super strong 45-year-old Morihiro Saito demonstrates amazing technique in hi-res video!

“You asked for inexpensive video downloads
of Aikido Greats… Here’s another one!”

This is the famous NHK film documentary shot on location in Iwama and at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1973. Morihiro Saito was the chief instructor of the Iwama Dojo and Guardian of the Aiki Shrine from 1969 until his passing in 2002. There are a many actions scenes inside and outside the old Iwama Dojo including a splendid demonstration by Morihiro Saito Sensei.

This period represents the heyday of the Iwama Dojo when the first wave of foreign students began to live and the train as uchideshi. Since then, thousands of Japanese and foreigners alike have come to train in this dojo established by Morihei Ueshiba. Among the early American aikidoka that appear are Bill Witt and Hans Goto.

The power and precision of the art of Saito Sensei is captured on film in vivid detail. At a young and vigorous age of 45, his mastery of empty-handed and weapon techniques is extraordinary to behold. The final multiple-attack scene that takes place outdoors in the fields of the Iwama property is classic!

Duration: 16:07
File size: 243 mb
Frame size: 720 x 480

You asked for inexpensive video downloads of Aikido Greats… Here’s another one!


“What motivates us to start practicing martial arts?” by Grasshopper

This has been a year of reflection for me. I have been thinking about how everyone around me started the practice of martial arts, and how the dojo became my second home. Over the years, I have been fortunate to meet many incredible practitioners and teachers.

I can’t truly remember the exact year when I started my practice. My initial exposure came from friends practicing for demonstrations of various techniques, not affiliated with any style or dojo. I was barred from practice after a few sessions because of my gender. I was told to dance instead of practicing, do something that a girl should do. Being stubborn as I was, I have done just the opposite, although not immediately.

Early on, I got into a few fights to protect myself. One of these was most significant. For some unknown reason, a female teenage gang member decided it was my day to get a beating. As she pounded my head against the wall, I kept thinking in a haze about why this was happening. She pulled me away and tried to punch me in the face. At that moment, I saw my own hand moving towards her face. Internally, I was screaming “No!”, but my hand kept moving slowly on autopilot, independent of my thought. Everything slowed down. Then, all I saw was blood running down the poor girl’s face. She was rushed away to the bathroom to get cleaned up and stop the bleeding. This took nearly an hour. I spent that time in the classroom with my schoolmates. The teacher dismissed me so I could go home, just to keep me safe, because once the bleeding stopped, the gang member would have come after me.

I remember standing in front of the building where I lived, waiting for the inevitable to happen, for her to arrive. Another gang member came to me and told me to go home to protect my life. I didn’t show up to school, and hid at home for two days. But eventually I had to go back. It was hard. I went to the girl I punched and apologized. Surprisingly, she accepted!

However, I didn’t start practice even then. I began thinking about what had happened. Then, some of my friends joined a Kyokushinkai Karate dojo far from where we all lived. After their practice, we all went to spend some time together in the area. I sat and watched my friends practice for six months. Finally, the sensei got tired of me just sitting there next to the dojo in the waiting area and pulled me into class.

How did you start? What was your motivation?


“Noriaki Inoue: Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer,” by Stanley Pranin

“A Master of Early Aikido Nearly Written Out of History…”

Noriaki Inoue (1902-1994)

Morihei Ueshiba is universally recognized as the founder of aikido. Historians of this martial art mention to varying degrees the significant roles of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu and the Omoto religion in providing the basis for Ueshiba’s technique and spiritual beliefs, respectively. Similarly, the founder’s debt to such benefactors as Admiral Isamu Takeshita, Kenji Tomita, Kinya Fujita, and others who assisted him over the years is clearly acknowledged. Several of Ueshiba’s early students including Kenji Tomiki, Minoru Mochizuki, Gozo Shioda, Koichi Tohei, and his son Kisshomaru are also widely known for their contributions in spreading the art in the postwar period as the heads of their respective organizations. In contrast, the name of Yoichiro Inoue is mentioned only occasionally as one of Morihei’s early students who also happened to be his nephew. That such an important contributor to the development of the art has been given such short shrift in aikido histories is an inexcusable omission and one that I hope to right through the article that follows.

Because of a lack of historical context presented in Morihei biographies published thus far, one is easily left with the impression that the founder made several major life decisions that proved key to the subsequent birth of aikido primarily on his own initiative. I refer specifically to such important events as his stay in Tokyo in 1901 with the intention of becoming a merchant, his relocation to Hokkaido as a settler in 1912, and his precipitous move with his entire family to the Omoto religious community in Ayabe in 1920. The reality of the matter is that the wealthy Inoue family of Tanabe to which Yoichiro belonged played a significant part in all of these major life choices of the young Ueshiba. The Ueshiba-Inoue family link is an undeniable fact of history and the names of Zenzo and his son, Yoichiro, as well as Zenzo’s younger brother Koshiro emerge with conspicuous frequency in connection with Morihei Ueshiba from around the turn of the 20th century through 1935.

The Inoue Family

Zenzo Inoue

Yoichiro’s father, Zenzo, was born in Tanabe about 1861. He was the patriarch of the Tanabe Inoue family and it appears that he inherited his wealth from his father Isuke. Zenzo married Morihei’s eldest sister, Tame, about 1889 and together they had eight children, the fourth of whom was Yoichiro. Yoichiro was born in Tanabe in 1902 making him Morihei Ueshiba’s junior by 19 years. Zenzo owned a great deal of property in Tanabe and elsewhere and was involved in various manufacturing activities.

Zenzo and his younger brother Koshiro relocated to Tokyo around 1887 at the urging of their father Isuke. They both achieved success in business, but Zenzo later returned to Tanabe leaving the business ventures they had established together in the hands of Koshiro. At a later date, Zenzo operated a clothing business in Kyoto as well. At various points in his career Koshiro was involved in the soapware business, metal goods and paper manufacturing and sales. According to his son, Koshiro made his fortune during the Russo-Japanese War period when he provided a range of products of necessity that were in short supply. Eventually, Koshiro would become one of the top ten of Japan’s highest taxpayers and a mentor of Konosuke Matsushita, founder of the Matsushita group of electrical appliance companies.

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Noriaki Inoue — Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer, Part 1, Hi-res download

“The technical richness and martial spirit of the art demonstrated by
Noriaki Inoue will prove inspiring to aikido practitioners of all styles!”

Morihei Ueshiba is widely recognized as the founder of aikido, a modern Japanese martial art with a strong spiritual emphasis. What is known only to a few, however, are the contributions of Ueshiba’s nephew, Noriaki Inoue, to the development of the precursor of aikido called “Aiki Budo.”

Noriaki Inoue was raised in the Ueshiba home in Tanabe in the early part of the 1900s. He was with Morihei when his uncle studied Daito-ryu Jujutsu in Hokkaido under Sokaku Takeda. Inoue also became a devout member of the Omoto sect having extensive personal contact with Onisaburo Deguchi, and developed a deep spiritual understanding paralleling that of Morihei. When Morihei taught his budo in Tokyo and Osaka during the 1920s and 30s, Inoue served as his senior assistant playing a pivotal role in the creation of Aiki Budo.

This video is thus a breakthrough product consisting of never-before-seen footage of Noriaki Inoue during his prime. Technically speaking, these films provide a glimpse of what prewar aikido looked like. The astute viewer will note that the scores of techniques shown share a great deal in common with the Iwama Aikido of Morihiro Saito. The technical richness and martial spirit of the art demonstrated by Noriaki Inoue will prove inspiring to aikido practitioners of all styles.

Inoue’s bearing and technique reveals an uncanny resemblance to his uncle Morihei. His movements are extremely fluid, precise and punctuated by bursts of power.
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