Archives for June 2012


Kisshomaru Ueshiba, John Stevens, and Kodansha: “Shapers of the Image of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei,” by Stanley Pranin

An old saying attributed to Winston Churchill is, “History is written by the victors.” I think that most people would agree with the veracity of this observation. Certainly, those who control the flow of information in a particular context will indeed influence, and ultimately arbitrate, public opinion on a given topic.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba (1921-1999)

In the case of aikido and its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, I would say that this axiom certainly holds true. The main sources of information on Morihei Ueshiba in the English language are books written by his son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and American author John Stevens. Both have written a series of books dealing with Morihei and his writings that have been widely distributed in English and translated into several European languages.

A large percentage of these books have been published through the Kodansha Limited Company, Japan’s largest book publisher. Parenthetically, there is a historical relationship between Morihei Ueshiba and Seiji Noma, the founder of Kodansha. As Kodansha ceased its English publishing house in 2011, it is not known if other publishers will pick up the slack in producing books on Japanese martial arts including aikido.

John Stevens

Not surprisingly, the contents of Kisshomaru’s books on Morihei present a family viewpoint, and one that reflects the agenda of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, aikido’s largest organization. Mr. Stevens’ biographical works on Morihei have have been directed towards a popular audience, and have portrayed the Founder in a flattering light as one of the greatest martial artists of all time. Stevens has also translated a number of other books such as Morihei’s 1938 manual Budo, and various spiritual writings attributed to O-Sensei.

I have noticed the impact of these publications over the years because these authors are quoted and misquoted with great frequency by legions of writers treating the topic of aikido and its founder. This tendency has been magnified exponentially by the Internet. The works of Kisshomaru and John Stevens have thus played a critical role in shaping the image of the founder that has entered into popular culture, and been embraced by a majority of aikido practitioners.

Peter Goldsbury

In recent years, authors such as Dr. Peter Goldsbury and Ellis Amdur have written books and articles offering alternative views that have garnered a certain amount of attention. Dr. Goldsbury, a university professor, has approached the subject by offering a social and historical context to better interpret the major events of Morihei’s life. Ellis Amdur–a colorful writer with a provocative style–has suggested various historical scenarios to explain some of the poorly understood areas of Morihei’s life and martial arts’ training. Both have made an effort to document their sources in contrast to Stevens’ writings which give little attention to this area.

Prof. Fumiaki Shishida

On the Japanese side, Prof. Fumiaki Shishida of Waseda University has produced a number of well-researched articles that discuss aspects of Morihei’s life and teaching in the prewar era. Prof. Shishida is a student of Kenji Tomiki, and also discusses the influence of Judo Founder Jigoro Kano and the theory of competition as applied to aikido, a viewpoint espoused by Tomiki. Since Prof. Shishida’s publications are mostly academic, they have not had as wide an impact as they deserve, even though a few articles have been translated into English.

The only other major source of information on Morihei Ueshiba and the history of aikido that I am aware of is the material that we have published for the last 38 or so years, first as “Aiki News,” and now as “Aikido Journal.” One of the best gages that I have encountered that suggest that Aikido Journal has had a significant impact in this field are the amount of references in aikido-related entries of Wikipedia that cite Aiki News/Aikido Journal publications, many of which I am the author.

Little by little thanks to the Internet, other viewpoints on aikido history are gaining attention, and some of the historical accounts that have long been accepted as gospel are now being questioned. Also, a number of glaring omissions that reflect the intent to avoid or gloss over certain delicate historical topics are being addressed. I firmly believe that the next generation of aikidoka will have access to more accurate and richer materials that will help them better understand the enigmatic figure of Morihei Ueshiba and the evolution of aikido. Tomorrow’s “victors” had better have an iron grip on the Internet else their formerly unchallenged prerogative of writing history will be snatched from their hands!

Check here for rare videos featuring Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba


“I had this Daito-ryu pin applied to me, and I thought I would die!”

“The pain was excruciating, and I was left with
no doubts about Daito-ryu’s effectiveness!”

“One day about 20 years ago, I visited Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei’s Shimbukan Dojo in Tokyo. We had just finished a photo shoot for a book. During our discussion after filming, Kondo Sensei began to demonstrate various Daito-ryu techniques on me.

I don’t remember all of the techniques he applied, but I sure remember the one shown in this picture. My leg was twisted like a pretzel. The pain was excruciating and I was left with no doubts about Daito-ryu’s effectiveness!

I am very thankful that I had a good deal of exposure to the history and techniques of Daito-ryu during my years in Japan. It really helped me put the evolution of aikido techniques in perspective.” – Stanley Pranin

Katsuyuki Kondo: Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu – Part 2

Part 2 of Katsuyuki Kondo’s Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu instructional videos continues the presentation of the art’s 10 Tachiai or standing techniques. These represent a portion of the basic Daito-ryu curriculum that form the historical basis of aikido techniques.

Morihei Ueshiba began studying Daito-ryu jujutsu under Sokaku Takeda in Hokkaido in 1915. He was an enthusiastic student and was responsible for Sokaku moving to Shirataki village in order to instruct Morihei and his companions. As a result of his years practicing under the tutelage of Takeda, Morihei made the decision to pursue a career as a martial arts instructor. The result of his long study and refinement of Daito-ryu techniques was modern aikido.

Click here for more information on Katsuyuki Kondo’s Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Hiden Mokuroku video


“Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi: Part 7 – Renzoku Uchi Komi” by James Neiman


This is the 7th in a 27-part series on the Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi presented by James Neiman, Dojo Cho of Shugyo Aikido Dojo, where martial arts instruction in Union City, California is offered. All the articles are paired with YouTube video demonstrations of each of the Suburi (click here to subscribe to the channel, and click here to view all the articles in this series). These paired demonstrations and articles are offered to Aikidoka who would like to more fully understand the precise mechanics within each of the Suburi, how they can be practiced in both solo and partner settings, and how one can align the Suburi with taijutsu to develop increasing competence and precision with both basic and advanced technique.

Renzoku Uchi Komi

In this article we examine Renzoku Uchi Komi, which is the 2nd of the Aiki Jo Suburi in the series known as the Shomen No Bu. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. In summary, Renzoku Uchi Komi is an continuously repeated overhead strike. It builds on many of the same body dynamics that you learned in the Tsuki No Bu series, focusing on the body movement that naturally results in a striking motion. Renzoku Uchi Komi builds on Shomen Uchi Komi and its lessons of dropping into position, getting off the line of attack, and counterattacking. This suburi adds a second overhead strike to the pattern, bringing the focus of the exercise on continuous striking attacks and forward motion. The basic body movements derived from this practice begin with the dynamic and fluid movement involving both uke and nage, and continue with the kinetic chain involved in forward, backward, and continuous striking movements. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 2 major sections that are based on the context of having already studied Shomen Uchi Komi:

  1. Drop back
  2. Enter and strike twice

The movement begins with the jo being held in shomen kamai, meaning that it is held in front of your body with the tip pointing toward an imaginary opponent’s throat. Your right foot is forward, and ideally pointing directly in front of you. Your left hand is at the tip closest to you, positioned about 2 inches below your navel. Your right hand is positioned further up the jo at a distance from the tip that is equivalent to the length between your wrist and your elbow. Your left shoulder is back and relaxed. Drop your center by bending your knees while staying in an aligned posture. Begin to kokyu your left hand so the tip of the jo begins to left. Shift your weight back onto the ball of your left foot while coiling your left hip. Push off your left foot and open your left hip so you travel backward and slightly to the left of the line of attack, transferring your right foot behind you, allowing your right hip to absorb your backward momentum and finishing with the majority of your weight over your right foot. By the time your right foot is in its new position, the tip of the jo should be up and behind you, ready to strike. Be sure to keep you elbows in. This completes the drop back movement.
[Read more…]


Historical photo: “Morihei Ueshiba’s remarkable physical development,” by Stanley Pranin


“Look… O-Sensei had no wrists!”

This is quite an interesting photo taken in the early 1960s at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo which would put the Founder in his late 70s. O-Sensei’s body development was quite remarkable, and the Founder took pride in his physical conditioning.

I once remember Sadateru Arikawa Sensei saying, “The Founder had no wrists!” By that he meant that the thickness of his forearms extended right into his hands so that it appeared he had no wrists! This photo demonstrates what Arikawa Sensei was talking about.

For another take on the Founder’s powerful physique, here is a comment from Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei of the Shin Budo Kai:

morihei-ueshiba-shirtlessOne other time I saw O-Sensei’s naked figure. One day Saburo Sugiyama, a member of the board of directors of the Aikikai, invited O-Sensei to try out a whirlpool bath at the clinic he owned in Nihonbashi. In those days, it was very rare for a person to have a whirlpool bath. As you know, they are very popular now. We took a taxi to the clinic from Hombu Dojo. When we arrived we were led up to the whirlpool room. I helped O-Sensei take off his clothes. He was dressed in nothing but a loincloth and entered the bath by himself. While I was waiting for him to return to the dressing room I watched him through the glass because I had to remain alert in my capacity as his assistant. It seemed to me that he was enjoying this new experience. When he came out, I began to prepare a bath towel for him to dry off. I was surprised at how thick his chest was. His breasts were hanging down like an old woman. Although he was in his eighties at that time, I could imagine that he had muscles of iron in his prime. If you doubt my story, you should look at the photograph of O-Sensei naked from the waist up on page 20 of Budo – Teachings of the Founder of Aikido by Morihei Ueshiba published in 1991 by Kodansha International, Tokyo.


Click here to discover the secrets of the highest
level of aikido to accelerate your progress!


The Morihei Ueshiba Founder’s Course is O-Sensei’s video legacy starting in 1935 and covering a span of 34 years until just before his passing in 1969. Besides the more than 30 films of the Founder, the course includes three rare audio interviews of O-Sensei with complete subtitles. These are wonderfully intimate conversations with the Founder that convey his bright personality, playfulness and sincerity. In addition, the course includes a series of video documentaries by Stanley Pranin on the life of the Founder and the spread of his art worldwide.


JMAS President: “Interview with Phil Relnick,” by Stanley Pranin and Ikuko Kimura

AIKI FORUM features discussions with individuals involved in the martial arts in various capacities, such as writers, editors, video producers, etc. In this way we hope to offer alternative viewpoints in order to gain new perspectives on how others view aikido, Daito-ryu and the martial arts in general. On this occasion our guest is Phil Relnick, President of the Japan Martial Arts Society, one of the true “old hands” among foreign practitioners of Japanese martial arts and ways.

Tell us a little bit about your personal history.

I was born in New York 52 years ago. I joined the Air Force after high school and was stationed in Misawa, Japan from 1956 to 1958, a total of two and a half years. During that time I started doing judo. I not only got hooked on judo, but also on Japan. Then I spent a year in Germany and was active there in judo, which was at that time a little known art. I guess I was really captivated by judo and Japan, because by mid-1959 I was already making plans to go back to practice judo. I got in touch with Donn Draeger [1922-1982, author of the three volume series, The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, and co-author of Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts; held dan ranks and teaching licenses in judo, Shindo Muso-ryu jojutsu, and Katori Shinto-ryu, among others] who was already living there and with his help I was back in Japan in late 1961. During the next seven years I did mainly judo and jodo, and a number of other martial arts such as aikido, iaido, karate, and t’ai chi ch’uan. For the last four years, in addition to my martial arts practice, I was a full-time student at Waseda University. I had thought I would only be able to afford to stay for one year, but as it turned out, I became a conversational English teacher and was able to support myself completely on that.

Then you went back to the States. How long was it before you returned to Japan?

I got back to the States on December 23, 1968. I had to work a bit before I went to grad school at the University of Michigan, and I was there for two years. Then I took a job with a company, hoping to get back to Japan. But I ended up in Hong Kong. That was back in early 1973. I came back to Japan in November 1974, and I’ve been here ever since.

Donn Draeger

You mentioned Donn Draeger, known today as a very accomplished martial artist, who studied many different martial arts in addition to researching the East Asian martial arts. Is he the one who paved the way for you to begin your study of martial arts?

No, he wasn’t. I first started in a little machi (town) dojo in Misawa. It just clicked. I can’t say what made me do it. The dojo was dirty, a very old building with broken windows. Back in 1957 every street except for the main road in Misawa was dirt, so when it rained or snowed there was mud knee deep. So to go anywhere you had to wear boots.

After the service your reason for coming back to Japan was primarily to study judo?

Yes. I also wanted to go to university. I went straight from high school into the military. I wrote to Tenri, Sophia, and another university in Tokyo. I never got an answer from anyone, but I was determined to do it. As I said before Draeger helped me to get here.

So you continued with your judo, and I believe you also said you did some aikido shortly thereafter.

I was doing judo, and during my first year back I was going to Sophia University at night. I did judo for two or three months and hurt my back. I think it happened because I was just doing too much. I hurt it pretty badly, and I couldn’t do anything for about a month. When I could start moving again I couldn’t do judo, but I thought maybe I could do aikido, so I went and joined the Hombu in February of 1962.

Was Terry Dobson there at that time?

Yes. He was one of the first people I met there, and he showed me what was going on. Terry Dobson and Quintin Chambers. Through them I learned a lot about aikido.

Who were the teachers at the Hombu at that point?

O-Sensei, his son, Kisshomaru, Tohei, Yamaguchi. Tamura was there, he was still young, about a sandan or a yodan. Chiba was only about a shodan or a nidan, I think. Then Saotome was there. He was very friendly. I trained with him quite a bit. And I trained with Tamura quite a bit. And then there was Osawa Sensei, who was older, who I used to train with in the mornings. He was a very nice person, I got a lot of good training from him. I liked the way he taught. I liked his clean movements. Saito Sensei came [down from Iwama] a bit later on.

What was your reaction to aikido after having been a judoka?

It was easier on the body physically. I could see the relationship immediately. They’re like cousins. But I missed the randori (free training) that you’d get in judo.

When you’re doing judo you’re not working in any particular rhythm together purposely. You’ve got to draw the guy into you, you’ve got to work him into your rhythm, and he’s always trying to change the rhythm so as not to get caught. Judo seems more “real” to me. But it was good for me to learn aikido.

What about your impression of O-Sensei? What was a typical class like that he would teach?

He would philosophize quite a bit. I had introduced my wife, Nobuko, to aikido about a month or so after I started. She interpreted most of what he was saying to me. He used to talk about the earth and the stars and the solar system and the gods; everything all mixed up. She said she couldn’t figure it out. He was quite friendly. He did show techniques. In fact he threw me a couple of times, which I feel proud of. He’d walk around and he’d talk, and he’d come up to you, and throw you, and then he’d talk about that throw.

The entire interview is available free at the Aikido Journal Members Site


Katsuyuki Kondo lifts the veil of the secret world of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, the source of Aikido techniques

“An expertly taught basic course in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu techniques”

This video and book collection is the perfect introduction to Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu for anyone interested in the origin of modern aikido techniques. Expertly demonstrated by Soke Dairi Katsuyuki Kondo, two video cover in depth the tachiai ikkajo techniques of the hiden mokuroku transmission scrolls of the formerly secret Daito-ryu school.

Daito-ryu aikijujutsu has in recent years become the best known of Japan’s surviving jujutsu systems. Its newly-acquired recognition is due in large part to the phenomenal international success of the art of aikido. Sokaku Takeda—the man who developed and taught Daito-ryu aikijujutsu during the first four decades of twentieth century Japan— was the dominant technical influence on aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. The complex, symbiotic relationship between Daito-ryu aikijujutsu and aikido was shaped by historical events that have left the two arts irrevocably intertwined.
[Read more…]


“The Way of the Warrior as a Path to Spiritual Mastery” by Charles A. McCarty

“He finally rebelled from this dark world of pasty-skinned scholarship,
and plunged into daylight in a contest with sun and steel.”

Yukio MIshima (1925-1970)

Those who have known me for long might be astonished to find with what difficulty I have found myself beset in undertaking the actual writing of this thesis. I am generally both prolific and relatively at ease in my writing. My research is done, my thoughts are more or less ordered; and yet a curious reluctance has paralyzed me for months; an unformed dread like a half-remembered bad dream.

I have come to value such apparently sterile plateaus, for they seem to overlay a gestation, or a working through, of concepts subliminally vital to an ongoing work. With the suddenness characteristic of discovery of that which was always underfoot, I have identified the barrier—that of words, and the power they have to form and delimit our existence.

Years ago I read a book by a Japanese novelist, Yukio Mishima, Sun and Steel.(2) I was disturbed by this personal testament, for it expressed an orientation and outcome of martial discipline far removed from the spiritual growth which I envisioned. I set it aside, uncomprehending. I have been drawn back to it in recent weeks. Though still unsympathetic with the personal ideals of Mishima, I found that he had grappled with the same reluctance, the same dread which stilled my pen just when it seemed the task was about to be mastered.

Mishima recognized the corrosive power which words have on our experience. He described them as “white ants” eating away at the structure of reality, weakening and rotting, reducing the whole in order that it may be shared: For all that we share must first be attacked by the white ants of words. Shared meanings of language and culture both carve and shape the nature of individual experience, and limit the transmissibility of experience that has transcended words.(3)
[Read more…]


“Aikido Because It Is Hard,” by William Terrell

“What we do on the mat is sacred. It is life writ small. It is tradition lived in the present. Aikido is the gift to us from O’Sensei…”

I have no romantic notions of what it means to be a warrior. I served in the United States Marine Corps and worked for ten years as a deputy sheriff. I have seen the dead and the dying, the deliberate and the accidental. I have seen people shot, cut, burned, beaten, strangled, crushed, even literally hammered to death. I understand how fast violence can erupt/interrupt into our everydayness and destroy our lives. My goal is simply that of any warrior/father/husband: to be prepared to protect and defend myself, my family, my community.

One of the ways I choose to do that is through Aikido. I enjoy Aikido because it is hard, because it forces me to change, because it forces me to face myself. My first Sensei was irascible and difficult, but he gave me a solid foundation in some of the basics. His emphasis was on techniques for the world off the mat, especially the breaking and keeping of uke’s balance and in delivering solid strikes.

He believed (and rightly so) that Aikido is not a game nor is it a sport. Aikido is a matter of life and death. To treat it as anything less is a waste of time and an insult to the memory of O’Sensei. What we do on the mat is sacred. It is life writ small. It is tradition lived in the present. Aikido is the gift to us from O’Sensei and all those who taught him. His gift passed through Yamada Sensei to Dee Sensei to me. I am being forged as the next link in the chain.

Some critics dismiss Aikido as at best anachronistic and at worst a waste of time that instills a false sense of security in the practitioner. Would O-Sensei have developed and promoted Aikido if he did not believe it to be effective? Of course not. My answer to the critics is get on the mat and hang around long enough to understand what is going on. Feel the burn of nikyo, the swirling confusion and abrupt reversal of irimi nage, the panic of koshi nage done full speed. Test yourself in randori. Find out how to react when facing multiple attackers. Learn that getting your lip busted or being thrown hard will not kill you. Understand the power of Aikido before passing judgment.

Accepting Aikido as a way of life has to be a choice. A choice repeated week after week, day after day. The mat is the battlefield upon which we overcome ourselves and it is in the persistence, the refusal to succumb to inertia that we are made strong. Week in and week out I get on the mat because I have to, because it satisfies a basic primal need and is a way to channel the warrior instincts. It is not just the mat, Aikido permeates my life. Even driving 100 miles round trip is in itself an act of entering, of being uke. Trying to perfect the process of resolving one conflict while looking/preparing for the next. It is in the knowing when to push and when to pull, when to enter and when to turn.

Am I absolutely prepared for anything life throws at me? Of course not. Am I much better prepared? Indeed, I am.

November In My Soul
Learning To Be Silent


Screencast: “Time Travel Back to the Old Aikikai Hombu Dojo and Prepare to Train!”

“Enter inside the old Aikikai Hombu Dojo and prepare to train!”

In this screencast, Stanley Pranin presents a detailed layout of the old Aikikai Hombu Dojo as drawn by Mariye Takahashi. Also, shown are several fascinating photos from the 1950s and 60s taken inside the dojo. In this episode, you will actually have a chance to enter the dojo and prepare for training. We will guide you every step of the way!

Duration: 8:14 minutes
Access: free

Transcript of screencast

Hi, I’m Stanley Pranin, and welcome to another episode of “Focus on History”

I first arrived in Japan in June of 1969. By that time, the old Hombu Dojo–also known as the Kobukan Dojo in the prewar period–was no more. It was of course this first dojo in which much of early aikido history unfolded.

I have seen a large number of photos of the interior of this legendary dojo, especially taken after the war. Sadateru Arikawa, the late 9th dan sensei, even took the trouble to draw a rough sketch of the layout of Morihei’s old dojo and the Ueshiba family residence. This sketch, which we published a few weeks ago, gives only an approximation of the relative sizes and locations of the dojo and the interior rooms, and I still had trouble visualizing the actual layout.

Fortunately for all of us, my long-time friend, Mariye Takahashi, has at last created a drawing which brings the old dojo back to life in bold relief. Look at what she has drawn… entirely from memory! Mariye was a student at the old dojo from 1961 to 1963. Although she commuted to the Hombu Dojo while a university student, she was very regular in her attendance, and knew the Ueshiba family and the uchideshi of the time very well. Mariye also had a fair amount of contact with Morihei Ueshiba, experiences which she treasures to this day.

Based on her drawing, I started searching out old photographs and could finally imagine quite clearly what the dojo looked and felt like. “Oh, there is the tokonoma in the dojo, there are the fusuma (sliding doors), the windows, the weapons rack, the dressing room, the water closets, the wash basins, etc.” Suddenly, the interior of the dojo took on a familiar look. It’s very exciting, after all these years, to have a clear vision of the look and layout of this historic dojo. I would like to share this with you in this episode…

Click here to watch Stanley Pranin’s screencast about the old Aikikai Hombu Dojo


“Autobiographical article (2): Koichi Tohei–Training in Japan,” by Stanley Pranin

“I felt poorly prepared for the fast pace of training and the variety of styles
where the same techniques were executed in fundamentally different ways.”

This article is the second in a series of four autobiographical articles by Aiki News Editor-in-chief Stanley Pranin and was first published in 1990 in Wushu, a Japanese-language magazine dealing with Chinese martial arts.

In my last article I covered the circumstances under which I began my practice of aikido in 1962 and some of my strongest memories from those first few years. I would like to pick up the thread of my narration where I left off last time. The year is 1965 and I am a student at the University of California at Los Angeles. In the intervening two years I had been promoted to ikkyu by Takahashi Sensei. Although the demands on my time for studies were heavy I managed to continue training on Fridays and weekends. Also, my interest in aikido had grown to the point that I began to take Japanese language classes as an elective at the university.

At that point in time I did most of my training at the Los Angeles Aikikai. It was one of the first dojos established in the mainland U.S. and continues to operate today. Besides the chief instructor Isao Takahashi Sensei, most of the senior students were nisei or sansei and several of them had moved to California from Hawaii where they had earlier begun their aikido training. As I recall, more than half of the dojo members were of Japanese descent. Some of those early aikidoka did much to spread aikido in California during the early years and such names as Clem Yoshida, Rod Kobayashi, Dan Mizukami, Francis Takahashi, and Daniel (Kensho) Furuya stand out most in my mind.

That summer at the dojo was a very exciting time for everyone as we were anticipating a visit from the Head of the Instructors’ Staff (Shihan Bucho) of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, the famous Koichi Tohei Sensei. Tohei Sensei was at that time perhaps the most well-known aikido teacher in the west due to his frequent travels to America and the publication of his early books in English. He had introduced aikido to Hawaii in 1953 and remained there teaching for about two years. At that point in time, the image of aikido in the minds of most foreigners was primarily shaped by his concept of the art which emphasized kiand, in this sense, Tohei was more influential outside of Japan than even the Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Tohei was known for his unrivaled technique, and easy-to-understand, entertaining teaching approach. For those of us who had never met him, we were anticipating a man almost bigger than life.

Koichi Tohei in New York, c. 1967

When Tohei Sensei actually walked into the dojo that warm summer day in 1965 I indeed felt a powerful presence. Since his English, though quite serviceable, was difficult to understand, one had to pay close attention to his words. When he stepped on to the tatami to teach, he would often smile and relate amusing anecdotes to convey key points regarding techniques. Tohei Sensei’s movements were very graceful and he would often jump or hop while executing them. Although he was heavily muscled, even a bit stout, I found his motions more dance-like than martial. At the same time, there was certainly no doubt that he had plenty of power in reserve if he ever cared to call upon it.

Being raised in health-conscious California I was somewhat disappointed to find that he smoke and drank, although in retrospect having lived in this country (Japan) for many years, I now understand that there is nothing surprising about any man having such habits from the Japanese cultural standpoint. I also had occasion to seen him in social contexts and he was very charming and entertaining and quite adept at social dancing.

Tohei Sensei’s approach to teaching was simplicity itself. He started presenting a series of preparatory exercises done alone or with a partner designed to teach one to move in a relaxed, circular fashion. He had also developed a series of “ki testing” drills where one would check to ensure that his partner was “extending ki” properly. These exercises were a lot of fun and were something you could show to impress and mystify your friends. I remember in particular the “unbendable arm” and “unliftable posture.” Tohei Sensei taught a core of some 50 aikido techniques and each was executed in a highly individualistic way and clearly bore his stamp. He would demonstrate techniques in a casual, playful manner, as if to suggest that if one mastered the movements of aikido executing them was mere child’s play. We were taught that it was wrong to attempt to develop or resort to physical strength as this would impede our ability to learn to apply ki when executing techniques. What we were doing was in one very real sense an “unlearning” process in that we were reprogramming our bodies and minds to deal with physical reality in a new, more efficient manner.
[Read more…]


Remarkable hi-res video footage of Noriaki Inoue, long-term collaborator of Morihei Ueshiba

“There is a strong flavor of prewar aikido,
yet with a smooth, modern edge.”

This video is the second part of a collection of rare footage of Noriaki Inoue, a nephew of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and a man of tremendous importance to the early history of aikido. Inoue was raised during a part of his youth in the Ueshiba household. He was in Hokkaido at the time Morihei Ueshiba met Sokaku Takeda, and became a member of the Omoto church just prior to his famous uncle. Inoue also collaborated with the Founder during the early years in Tokyo and Osaka and played a significant role in the early spread of Aiki Budo in Japan.

Continuing where part 1 left off, this video contains rare footage of Noriaki Inoue from 8mm films shot between 1972-1976. The techniques covered in this section are “tachiwaza,” or standing techniques, of which there are a bewildering variety. The technical content of these films is fascinating. There is a strong flavor of prewar aikido, yet with a smooth, modern edge. A viewing of this footage will suggest to today’s practitioners that many aikido techniques from an earlier age have been forgotten, thus somewhat diluting our technical legacy. Serious practitioners of the art will dig in, and study these films in every technical detail, to glean insights that will benefit them in their own practice.

Price: $4.99
Duration: 18:04
File size: 272 mb
Frame size: 720 x 480

This video contains extremely rare footage of the amazing Noriaki Inoue, nephew and collaborator of Morihei Ueshiba. It is offered here in a high-resolution mp4 format for your personal video collection. You will be watching your video within minutes of your purchase. This video is affordably priced at only $4.99. It is no longer necessary to pay for shipping, customs charges, or lost packages. Nor is there any need to wait!


Aiki Expo 2005: Free Video of Highlights of Seminars of Top Martial Arts Instructors

This video features highlights from seminars given at Aiki Expo 2005 by the following instructors from aikido and related arts: Christian Tissier, Hiroshi Ikeda, Vladimir Vasiliev, Kenji Ushiro, Bruce Bookman, James Williams, Toby Threadgill.

On May 27-29, 2005, one of the most significant martial arts events of our time was held in Los Angeles, California. Aiki Expo 2005 featured a stellar lineup of 36 top instructors from aikido, Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, traditional karate, Russian Systema, and several classical Japanese martial arts. Over 500 practitioners were in attendance for this memorable weekend. All practitioners of these and other arts will find a treasure trove of valuable material in these seminars captured live on video.

Watch this free video of Aiki Expo 2005 here