Archives for June 2012


Can You Get The Same Result Without Training?

If we are to believe some experts everything is the result of random accidents and not order. This of course fails to explain too many things. All biased views do.

Evolution is a long series of trial and error events, each with a learning curve or more attached. These potentials, unless activated and unlocked, will atrophy and die, never to be explored, never to have been given life.

It follows that any training will be similar in principle. Activate the latent or lose it.

The building of neural pathways requires necessity. In training we manufacture necessity in order to get practice at resolving it. This evokes the activity of the creative principle of Nature and The Universe to unlock creation from the subatomic levels, which then converges as intention or will; or as we say: ki. The more advanced being: aiki – skill or harmony in action.

Movement is a natural part of life. Lack of movement is a natural part of death.

There are individuals around who think that merely by thinking or watching movies they can still achieve the same results. But this is delusion. Or that by trying something only once, or twice, they can evaluate their potential as being somehow “different” from that of anyone else. Such outlooks lead to sad, self defeating outcomes where immense talent is wasted, thrown away and a gift disparaged.

How people can arrive at such conclusions is difficult to comprehend since the trail they leave proves them to be in error.

If you can walk or talk, you can do anything else that anyone else who can walk or talk can do, similarly or just as well. This has been tested and proven by those who did take up an active and regular programme of personal change, exercise or budo.

The question is not whether you can or not, but rather whether you are prepared to go through what it takes to do so!
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Free video: The incredible skills of Hiroshi Ikeda, 7th dan, at Aiki Expo 2002

Hiroshi Ikeda, 7th dan, is the chief instructor of Boulder Aikikai in Boulder, Colorado. He is one of the top aikido instructors in the USA due to his incredible skill level and extensive travel schedule which has carried him all over the USA and many foreign nations. This video clip taken at Aiki Expo 2002 which took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, captures highlights from classes he conducted at that event.

Ikeda Sensei’s aikido is minimal and elegant at the same time. He has mastered the use of precise movements to quickly unbalance his uke and exert control with almost no physical effort. You will see his uncanny skill as you view this video clip.

Born in 1950, Hiroshi Ikeda began aikido training under Mitsugi Saotome while a student in the aikido club of Kokugakuin Univesity. He entered Saotome’s Reimeijuku dojo in 1970. In 1976, he relocated to Sarasota, Florida where he taught from 1978-79. Ikeda Sensei moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1980 and established the Boulder Aikikai. He travels extensively throughout the USA and abroad conducting seminars.

Duration: 11:40 minutes
Access: free

Click here to view the free video of highlights of the seminar taught by Hiroshi Ikeda, 7th dan, at Aiki Expo 2002


“A Biography of Rinjiro Shirata – Part 1,” by Kozo Kaku

A Talent known as the “Kobukan Prodigy”

A Contest Between Different Styles

“Fold them in two,” is a good way to put it. This certainly describes Rinjiro Shirata’s attitude. He was tough on opponents who challenged him, to the point of being uncaring. It was hard not to feel sympathy for the challenger.

Of course, he had good reason for his demeanor.

Construction of the Kobukan Dojo was completed in April 1931 on the site where the present Aikikai Honbu Dojo now stands. The dojo held 80 tatami mats and was headed by a great master of the period, Morihei Ueshiba. At the time, he was teaching a martial art called things like “Ueshiba-ryu Jujutsu” or “Aiki Budo.” Important people such as business leaders and high-ranking military officers were drawn by his fame and lined up to be his students.

At the same time, Morihei attracted young men from all over the country who came to the Kobukan in an effort to meet him. But Morihei wasn’t trying to spread his personal budo across the world. Instead, his efforts were directed toward further progress and the refinement of his personal technique. He didn’t say it was a nuisance; he just did not have much interest in having many students, especially uchideshi, or throwing his doors wide open. It could be said that, for this reason, he never admitted an aspiring student who asked to join without a proper introduction from a sponsor, and this reinforced a mystique that covered the private confines of the Kobukan like a veil.

Happily, Rinjiro Shirata, who aspired to be an aikidoka, was blessed with a sponsor and, with the teacher’s approval, became an uchideshi in 1932. A year later, he had distinguished himself among the uchideshi.

“Hey Shirata, see who’s out front!”

Whenever there was a menacing visitor, the senior uchideshi always had Rinjiro take care of it. Indeed, he had a good physique. His height was 5’ 7”, his weight, 165 pounds, and he was 20 years old. He was a son of the Yamagata “Mountain Forest King” and it showed in his countenance. His fair skin, eyes, nose and mouth projected the clear image of Momotaro, the Peach Boy, straight out of a fairy tale.

“I’ll take care of it.”

You may login and read the entire article on the Aikido Journal Members Site here


Rinjiro Shirata — Prewar “Aiki Ken,” Part 1, Hi-res video

“Echos of Morihei’s Prewar Sword!”

This video is a very important historical document as Rinjiro Shirata demonstrates a lengthy series of Aiki Ken suburi and kata based on the prewar swordwork of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. The sword content in this video program follows Morihei Ueshiba’s sword in the 1935 Asahi News film. There is no other source of similar material as many of the uchideshi of the prewar era ceased training following World War II. This video was recorded in 1981 when Shirata Sensei was 69 years of age in Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan. The sounds of all of his movements and breathing are clearly audible and this is an indispensable document for those interested in the evolution of the sword in aikido.

Born on March 29, 1912 in Yamagata Prefecture to a family of Omoto believers, Rinjiro Shirata was accepted into the Kobukan Dojo of aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba as an uchideshi in 1932. Known for his modest character and great physical strength, he quickly became one of the star pupils of the “Hell Dojo,” as the founder’s early school was called. Shirata later spent a short period teaching Aiki Budo in Osaka before being drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army. He spent the war years stationed in Burma until his repatriation.

Shirata’s training was interrupted for several years due to the war, but he began actively teaching again in Aomori in 1959. In 1962, he received the 8th dan rank from the founder. At this time, his teaching activities were concentrated in his native Yamagata. Shirata was awarded 9th dan in 1972 by Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and is one of only a handful of people ever to have achieved this rank. Shirata was also active in the International Aikido Federation following its establishment in 1976. He occupied several high posts and served on the technical council. He traveled to Honolulu in 1978 in connection with the IAF and to Chicago in 1984 at the invitation of Akira Tohei Sensei. On both occasions, foreign practitioners responded enthusiastically to his skillful, yet gentle approach to teaching.

Devoted to the spread of aikido and one of the staunchest supporters of the Ueshiba family, Shirata was a regular participant over the years in major Aikikai-sponsored events such as the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration, the Iwama Taisai, and the Kagami Biraki New Year Celebration at the Tokyo Hombu Dojo.

Duration: 34:07
File size: 516 mb
Frame size: 720 x 480

Click here to purchase Rinjiro Shirata’s 1981 Aiki Ken video


“Some Thoughts on Sword,” by Charles Warren

Maybe 30 years or so ago Harvey Moskowitz taught a class at the Aikido Summer Retreat (Dominican College, San Rafael). His topic was “two swords”. At the time there was an edition of Musashi in print with a subtitle “Japan’s Answer To The Harvard MBA”. It wasn’t that Harvey had “mastered” two sword waza, but he had class time and permission to share his explorations. In that spirit and starting from about there let me share a couple ideas I’ve had in the interim.

Just a preface – in the nature of my training I’ve had a lot of time to think. It’s a long story but I do a lot of “hitorigeiko” (training by observation) and weapons. (A stick will never deliberately thwart you or complain about “your energy”.) I started aikido because I thought I needed to refresh and improve my fighting skills. A belief in the reality of violent conflict at any time conforms to my life experience from childhood and has provided motivation for daily training. On the rare occasions that the potential of conflict has become reality, aikido has stood me in good stead. So perhaps my musings might have some interest to others.

Starting with Harvey, I recommend you try moving with a bokken in each hand. You can try cuts, thrusts, two-step, tai-no-henko, maybe even invent an eight direction move or three. If you’re like me, you won’t be satisfied and will wonder how to proceed.

I think the more conventional line of exploration starts with simply doing Iwama style suburi on the opposite side, right hand at the base and left foot forward for ken kamae. After all, we do tai-jutsu on both sides. We do ukemi on both sides. Why not? There is even something I read in one of the old books recommending that if you try a sword technique twice without success in a fight, you might try changing hands. So, what’s the harm? If you’re like me you’ll find it takes some time to feel equally comfortable “right” and “left” handed.

Suburi can be expanded to happo-giri (eight direction cut) on both sides, then kumi-tachi and ki musubi no tachi. If you don’t have a partner, just treat them as forms, like jo kata. That’s also a safe way to introduce (relative) beginners to kumitachi.

At that point, if you are still curious, I suggest going back to two-swords. I found the kumitachi most accessible. Ki musubi no tachi can be a little confusing and happo giri… Well I guess my two-sword happo giri bears some resemblance to the two Iwama versions I know for one-sword.

Of course there’s always something to work on. Within the last year I feel I’ve smoothed out my transitions between right and left handed suburi. Consider making the hand change when the sword is raised between cuts.

Is this trip really necessary? Probably not. In Hagakure a writer asks “Why study martial arts for thirty years? You’ll just be an artist. You can be a samurai right now. When given a choice between life and death, choose death.” O Sensei is more subtle and recommends to be attached neither to life nor death. That subtlety might take a bit longer to achieve.

The less conventional path, which might interest you includes European styles. I recommend the 2nd disc in Reclaiming the Blade for a number of the practice videos. There is also, though it may be getting rare, The Blow By Blow Guide to Swordfighting in the Renaissance Style

Why bother with European fencing? Same reason as practicing kicks. There aren’t any kicking techniques in aikido (to my knowledge) but other folks do ’em. So kick for exercise and understanding. Consider European sword styles in the same vein.


Shindo Yoshin Ryu: “A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye!”

“A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence.”

Having undergone special training in Shindo Yoshin-ryu jujutsu as a boy, Yukiyoshi Takamura left Japan while a teenager and eventually settled in San Jose, California, USA. He operated a dojo in California in the 1960s and 70s choosing to provide rigorous training to a small group of dedicated students. His art, now called Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu, embodies the philosophy and spirit of an earlier era of Japan adapted to a Western setting. Takamura’s deep insights into the essence of martial arts will surprise and stimulate modern budo practitioners.

For our readers who are unfamiliar with the Shindo Yoshin-ryu system, would you talk about its origin and characteristics?

Yukiyoshi Takamura (1928-2000)

Shindo Yoshin-ryu was founded by a Tokugawa clan retainer, Katsunosuke Matsuoka in 1868. Matsuoka Sensei studied Yoshin-ryu, Hokushin Itto-ryu, Jikishinkage-ryu, Tenjin Shinyo-ryu jujutsu, and Hozoin-ryu. He based Shindo Yoshin-ryu on Yoshin-ryu, but added concepts from other schools as well. He believed that the Yoshin-ryu concept of passive defense was incomplete and needed the balance of positive heiho or tactics. The original Japanese characters of Shindo Yoshin-ryu were “new willow spirit,” but they soon were changed to “sacred willow spirit.”

The original Shindo Yoshin-ryu curriculum could be more correctly considered a bujutsu than jujutsu as many weapon techniques are included in the curriculum (mokuroku). However, the popularity of judo and the waning interest in weapons training resulted in much of their influence being lost by the early 20th century in the mainline martial arts traditions.

Several of the roots of our school begin in the early years. My grandfather Shigeta Ohbata was originally a Yoshin-ryu student of Hikosuke Totsuka like Matusoka. Totsuka was evidently quite fantastic. My grandfather trained at his dojo before he met Matsuoka Sensei. In his day, Totsuka was thought to be the match of anyone. An absolutely wonderful technician. In his prime, it is said he was unbeaten by anyone including opponents much larger than him.

Despite my grandfather’s great respect for Totsuka, he left the Yoshin-ryu after meeting a student of Matsuoka named Ishijima. Shigeta eventually received a menkyo kaiden (teaching license) in Shindo Yoshin-ryu around 1895. Matsuoka and Shigeta both trained in Jikishinkage-ryu under Kenkichi Sakakibara so they developed a close friendship. My grandfather did not intend to start his own school but had effectively done so by the early 20th century. This became known as the Ohbata school. He built his own dojo with the help of a friend named Hasegawa in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.

Shindo Yoshin-ryu is well-known in the Japanese karate world because Wado-ryu jujutsu kempo (karate) founder Hidenori Otsuka received a menkyo kaiden in Shindo Yoshin-ryu. A common misconception of most Wado-ryu practitioners is that Hidenori Ohtsuka became the headmaster of Shindo Yoshin-ryu. While he did receive a menkyo kaiden in Shindo Yoshin-ryu, several others did as well resulting in several schools. The original (Matsuoka) line succeeded through Motoyoshi Saruse to Tatsuo Matsuoka and still exists today in Japan.

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“Zen and Aikido,” by Shigeo Kamata and Kenji Shimizu now an ebook

Zen — the Japanese philosophy rooted in ancient India and China adopted by the warrior caste to enable samurai to face death with a serene spirit. Aikido — the modern Japanese martial arts which incorporates powerful techniques applied in a spirit of harmony and reconciliation. Zen and Aikido offers a lucid interpretation of aikido viewed through the centuries-old martial tradition of Japan, long a subject of fascination to Westerners.

Kenji Shimizu, 8th degree aikido master, was one of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s last and best-loved disciples. Shimizu Sensei currently operates the Tendokan School of aikido in Tokyo and makes yearly instructional trips to Europe. Combining a strong background in judo with his expertise in aikido, his smooth, powerful techniques embody the ideal of effectiveness and control. Shimizu Sensei offers clear insight into his training methods which will surely prove invaluable to both beginning and advanced practitioners of aikido and to martial arts enthusiasts in general.

Shigeo Kamata is a professor of Eastern Culture at Tokyo University. A renowed authority on Zen Buddhism, Professor Kamata has written numerous works dealing with the philosophies of China and Japan directed at both scholarly and popular audiences. An avid practitioner of aikido for more than twelve years at the Tendokan Dojo of Kenji Shimizu Sensei, he is uniquely qualified to introduce to Western readers the essential concepts of both Zen and aikido with their relevance to daily life in a conflict-riddled world.
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Hitohiro Saito: “Going back to Japan” by Renae Murray

Hitohiro Saito Sensei in front of Aiki Shrine, c. 1995. Photo by Sonoko Tanaka

“Saito Sensei ran hot on our heals and ready to teach those
of us crazy enough to brave the harshest season from distant lands.”

Going back to Japan is like going home. I remember the smells, the tiny houses, the narrow roads, the taste of Japanese food, and the fast rhythm of the language. I hit a hard landing in Narita, veering sharply to my right side, nearly ending up in the lap of the poor student going home for Christmas next to me.

The sun fell quickly and I had to make my way through the maze of railway lines back to Iwama. I knocked on the door, I felt scared, I wondered if Sensei had forgotten about my email, and even if Sensei remembered me. So many people have crossed through Sensei’s life, did my line of destiny make an impression deep enough? I inhaled the smell of incense deeply, its warm fragrance was a sharp contrast against the cold air.

I knocked, the smile on Hitohiro Saito Sensei’s face erased all doubts, he opened his arms and gave me a big bear hug!!! It was 9pm and he was dressed in a traditional royal blue yukata, and Hisako-san, his wife, led me to the Shin Dojo. It hadn’t changed since the funeral of his father, Morihiro Saito Sensei.

A long wood table speared through the middle with a wood stove desperately struggling to keep pace with the cold. After my futon was set up, on the mezzanine level, two students, Pedro from Portugal and David from Zurich, busily attended the stove in the old Yamabiko, the new shokudo preparing dinner. They informed me I would be allowed to sleep till 6:30 and would be exempt from walking the dogs for my first morning. Even though exhausted, I slept little, and was up at 6 a.m. with the first noises of the morning. We walked to the Tanrenkan dojo. It was my first visit, again the smell of incense was a perfume from heaven.
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Koichi Tohei, 10th dan, and Ki Aikido 1974 Seminar, Part 1, Hi-res video download!

“Breakthrough video featuring Aikido’s first 10th dan in his prime!”

Koichi Tohei Sensei needs no introduction. He is one of the most important figures in the postwar development of aikido, and was the first and only person to be officially promoted to 10th dan by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Tohei Sensei played a pivotal role in spreading the art in Japan and the USA from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s. He traveled abroad on numerous occasions during his active years conducting seminars and demonstrations. He is also a prolific author, having published many works in Japanese and English. His publications had a strong influence both technically and philosophically on early aikido practitioners.

This downloadable video is the first part of surviving footage of a seminar conducted by Koichi Tohei in 1974 in San Francisco, California. This was near the period of time of his resignation as chief instructor from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Tohei Sensei was teaching a mixture of his style of aikido techniques together with the “Ki” exercises that comprised his curriculum. Though physically very powerful, Tohei Sensei emphasized a relaxed, circular form of movement where the intention was to blend with one’s partner and lead his mind. His approach to aikido can be clearly seen through a viewing of this rare video.

This historical film has been digitally remastered using a high-end film frame scanner. It has been output in a high-resolution format for the highest possible image quality on any device you choose to view your video.

This important historical video will provide you with an excellent introduction to the Ki Aikido of Koichi Tohei, 10th dan. You will be watching your video within minutes of your purchase. This video is affordably priced at only $3.99. It is no longer necessary to pay for shipping, customs charges, or lost packages. Nor is there any need to wait!

Price: $3.99
Duration: 17:25
File size: 263 mb
Frame size: 720 x 480

Part 1 of the 1974 Seminar with Koichi Tohei, 10th dan, may be purchased here


Do you need one? “Aikido and joint replacements,” by Stanley Pranin

“Many were forced to curtail or entirely stop certain physical activities or risk becoming invalids.”

Today I was doing a bit of research on the subject of joint replacements. This was prompted by a recent discussion with an aikido friend of mine who is considering a knee replacement.

I did the requisite google search and found a few comments on the subject from aikido practitioners, mostly on hip replacements, which appear to be far more common. It seems that people in their 50s and 60s are the most frequent candidates for these surgeries. The years of wear and tear on the body, the accumulation of injuries, and constant pain are what commonly bring people to the point of considering surgery.

Based on the anecdotal evidence of aikido practitioners I came across, most seem to have been satisifed with their operations, and have been able to return to training, albeit with certain limitations on their activity while on the mat.

Several aikidoka who had undergone operations stressed the need to carefully select the doctor, clearly specify the type of activity level you expect to engage in following surgery, and discuss the pros and cons of the different types of surgery and materials used, and possible risks of failure.

Previous generations of active people did not have the many options we do today. Many were forced to curtail or entirely stop certain physical activities or risk becoming invalids.

Although the results of years of physical activity affect everyone in some way eventually, those who take care of their bodies, maintaining flexibility and keeping a normal body weight, can postpone or even avoid these invasive surgeries through intelligent lifestyle choices. But in the event surgery seems to be the best course of action, today there are many options that promise to permit the return to normal life and activity, and the technology is steadily improving.

I think our aikido readers would be very interested in the experiences of those among you who have had or know about cases of joint surgery. Please tell us about the  conditions that brought on the decision to choose surgery, the recovery time and physical therapy needed, and the eventual outcome and return to active training.


“Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi: Part 6 – Shomen Uchi Komi” by James Neiman


This is the 6th 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.

Shomen Uchi Komi

In this article we examine Shomen Uchi Komi, which is the 1st 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, Shomen Uchi Komi is an 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. Shomen Uchi Komi provides important perspectives on the most important core principles of Aikido: namely, dropping into position, getting off the line of attack, and counterattacking. 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 striking movements. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:

  1. Drop back
  2. Enter
  3. Strike

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Understanding the Evolution of Modern Aikido Technique: “Takemusu Aikido — Special Edition” now an Ebook

“Your Key to Understanding the Evolution of Modern Aikido Technique!”

Among the technical volumes authored by Morihiro Saito, certainly the most unique must be his publication of “Takemusu Aikido – Special Edition.” This 176-page book is an exhaustive analysis of the famous 1938 technical manual published by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba in 1938. This prewar volume is a landmark document that provides the missing link to understanding the technical evolution of aikido from its Daito-ryu jujutsu origins to the modern form of the art.

Now for the first time, Aikido Journal is offering Saito Sensei’s wonderful treatise on Morihei’s technique in ebook format. This PDF publication is extremely high-quality and affords readers the opportunity of being able to zoom in to inspect details of the images of Saito Sensei performing each technique. This is a tremendous advantage in that fine points such as hand and foot position become easily discernible, something not always possible in the print edition.

Click here to view sample pages from the book

The 50 techniques covered include preparatory exercises, basic techniques, knife (tantodori), and sword-taking techniques (tachidori), sword vs. sword forms (ken tai ken), mock-bayonet (juken) techniques, and finishing exercises (shumatsu dosa).

Takemusu Aikido Special Edition also features a fascinating essay by Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin on the history and background of the publication of Morihei Ueshiba’s prewar manual “Budo” containing newly-discovered findings.

About the author

Morihiro Saito, is a 9th degree black belt and author of the highly acclaimed technical series, Traditional Aikido. Saito Sensei enrolled as a student of aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba in 1946. He had the rare opportunity of being able to train in Morihei’s Iwama Dojo and privately with the Founder for many years.

One of the art’s foremost technicians, Morihiro Saito was the acknowledged authority on aikido weapons training. Saito Sensei operated Ueshiba’s private dojo in Iwama, Japan and served as guardian of the Aiki Shrine for over 30 years. He traveled extensively throughout the world teaching his comprehensive aikido methods during his long teaching career. Morihiro Saito passed away in Iwama in 2002.

Contents of “Takemusu Aikido — Special Edition”
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