Archives for July 2012


Stanley Pranin’s Las Vegas seminar status: Oct. 5-7, 2 spots open; Nov. 2-4, 6 spots open

6 spots open for the November seminar.”

This is Stanley Pranin! I would like to cordially invite you to join me October 5-7 or November 2-4 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I will be conducting weekend seminars–the first of a kind–whose theme will be “Exploring Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Aikido.” During the weekend, we will spend quality time together in a private dojo setting with a limited number of attendees. I would like to explore with you what I consider to be the central points of Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido that have been largely lost in today’s practice. If you wish to have a preview of what the seminar content will cover, I refer you to my article “Exploring the Founder’s Aikido” where I discuss my views and offer supporting documentation.

The Las Vegas seminar will be a special event with an intimate format. I look forward to spending many hours training and conversing with the participants and am sure that this experience will be life-changing for all of us. We are in a position to offer very affordable accommodations for most of the seminar participants to keep costs to a minimum. Since the dojo is limited in size, I would encourage you to reserve a place early if you are certain you would like to attend. When the seminars fill up, we will make an announcement to this effect on the website. The link to make your reservation is below.

Dates: October 5-7, 2012 (indicate your choice when registering)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Enrollment: $135.00

Dates: November 2-4, 2012 (indicate your choice when registering)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Enrollment: $135.00

Theme: “Exploring Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Aikido”
Instructor: Stanley Pranin

Limited participation on a first-come, first-served basis

Event Schedule (subject to change)


  • Check-in – 6:00 pm
  • 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
  • Informal group chat


  • Morning Session: 9:30 am – 11:30 am
  • (Lunch break)
  • Afternoon Session: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Q & A period: 4:00 pm – 4:45 pm
  • Dinner party: 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm


  • 9:30 am – 10:30am
  • 10:45 am – 11:45 am
  • Informal group chat
  • Pick-up gift pack / Departure

Stanley Pranin Bio

Stanley Pranin began aikido in 1962 in a Yoshinkan Aikido dojo. After a few months, he joined an Aikikai group learning from instructors trained by Koichi Tohei, from whom he received his shodan and nidan rankings. Pranin relocated to Japan in 1977 where he lived for 20 years. He studied in Iwama under Morihiro Saito for several years, and accompanied Saito Sensei during the 1980s as his interpreter to the USA, Canada, and numerous European countries.

In 1974, Pranin began a newsletter called “Aiki News,” which later was renamed as “Aikido Journal.” The successor of this publication continues today on the Internet as the “Aikido Journal” suite of websites. Pranin has published hundreds of articles, interviews, books, and videos during his career as an aikido journalist/historian. He is the organizer of the trail-blazing Aiki Expo events held in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Pranin brings with him 50 years of aikido training and teaching experience, and a vast knowledge of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and the history of the art.

Suggested reading: “Exploring the Founder’s Aikido,” by Stanley Pranin

Those making reservations will be sent detailed information concerning the location of the event, optional accommodations for attendees, and notification of the deadline for payment of the balance of the seminar tuition.

Click here to make a non-refundable $25 deposit to
reserve a place at the seminar (Limited attendance)


“Maai, an Aiki perspective,” by Francis Takahashi

“Once the student can successfully control his maai, the ability to then apply appropriate kuzushi, tsukuri and kake, are greatly enhanced.”

Ma, in Japanese, refers to a “space, or an interval” between objects. As a principle commonly used in martial arts, it refers to the “physical spacing” between individuals, and can also determine the outcome of any martial encounter. The term used to describe this phenomenon is called “Ma-ai”.

No one should have the right to invade the personal space of another without permission. This basic truth lies at the very heart of any valid claim to preserving one’s security, and the natural right to act resolutely in one’s own defense. No fully trained or accomplished martial artist, would willingly abdicate this right without justifiable cause or reason. Being vulnerable at any one time is understandable. To exist while being defenseless is not.

One aspect of proper maai may refer to an “inner space”, within one’s consciousness, that an individual requires for solitude, privacy, peace of mind, and the ultimate freedom to think and act independently for him/herself. This right is inviolate, and must be defended with every ounce of vigor and practiced preparation, whenever challenged or attacked.

The other aspect of proper maai refers to the “outer, or physical space” that is required by the individual to move in or out of, and to efficiently deal with any real or perceived threats to his welfare. This is the more troublesome of the two examples, as reasonable notions of proper boundaries are quite often blurred, and ill defined. Being social animals, we may be naively duped into relying on the agendas and decisions of others, in foolishly determining what really is in our own best interests.

In aikido training, this regard for personal (inner) , and for interpersonal (outer) “maai”, involves ongoing thought and interactive training. Throughout this lifelong process, each person must resolve to remain individually accountable for personal safety, and mutually responsible for respecting the rights, welfare, and boundaries of the others we train with.
[Read more…]


“There Is No Such Thing As A Wrong Attack,” by Nev Sagiba

“A peaceful person does not talk about “problems” or being a victim, because he does not see problems, only opportunities to harmonize.”

The customer is always right. If you want his money that is.

The attacker is always right. At least he will believe so.

The salient feature of Aikido is that it does not evaluate, but harmonizes everything that is thrown at it. Well, real Aikido, I don’t know about pseudo-budo.

When you evaluate the “rightness” or the “wrongness” of an attack, you become entangled in the attacker’s unwell, or inventive attacking mindset of conflict, instead of simply dealing with the actuality at hand. Ideas and opinions don’t win fights. Good responses do. Conflict is merely a reflection of the torment the attacker carries in his mind. Adding to it is like adding petrol to fire. Explosive.

A peaceful person does not talk about “problems” or being a victim, because he does not see problems, only opportunities to harmonize. Therefore, such a person can not feel as if they are a victim. Merely a processor of discord, such as an alchemist transmuting a base into the gold of harmony.

On this basis regular training is work in progress. In any case, in life, there is no escape from conflict. But you can capitalize on the opportunity conflicts provide. In the ocean, you can complain and be buffeted by wind, wave and weather, or you can use them all to navigate. It’s a choice to survive effectively against what would otherwise be overwhelming forces.

There is no such thing as a “wrong attack.” You can’t blame the attacker. It is you who must take responsibility to correct your response. If you want to stop the barrage that will follow, that is. Those overwhelmed with their own stupidity will be overwhelmed by the attack. Burdened by opinions and preconceptions is no way to prepare for battle. Or to seek awakening. Or survival.
[Read more…]


“Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi: Part 10 – Gyaku Yokomen Ushiro Tsuki” by James Neiman


This is the 10th 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.

Gyaku Yokomen Uchi Ushiro Tsuki

In this article we examine Gyaku Yokomen Ushiro Tsuki, which is the 5th 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, Gyaku Yokomen Ushiro Tsuki is an reverse overhead strike combined with a rear moving thrust. It builds on the basic techniques you have learned in the Tsuki No Bu and Shomen No Bu series. Gyaku Yokomen Ushiro Tsuki is an advanced exercise in dealing with multiple attackers, using the basic combination of 2 attackers: one in front of you, and one behind you. In this case, the movements are preemptive. The basic body movements derived from this practice begin with a dynamic preemptive overhead strike from left hanmi, and continue with the kinetic chain involved in transitioning to a rear thrust movement. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:

  1. Enter and strike
  2. Re-orient your body for movement in the rear direction
  3. Complete the rear-moving thrust

[Read more…]


From Nev Sagiba: “Just tap out and live to fight another day! ” by Stephan Kesting

“A lot of old school MMA fighters have said they
would rather die than tap out in the ring.”

Stan, the attached email articulates as well as can be stated, something I’ve felt strongly about all my life, having often witnessed abuse in training. Regards, Nev

Sometimes the worst thing you can do is take advice out of context.

For example, a lot of old school MMA fighters have said they would rather die than tap out in the ring. To them, tapping out to signify their surrender to strikes or a submission is a fate worse than death.

I’m not saying that this is a good attitude, but I understand where they are coming from. These are professional fighters competing at the highest level, who understand the risks of having this do-or-die mindset. Ultimately it’s their decision to make; whether they should tap out or take the consequences.

The trouble starts when brand new BJJ students adopt this kamikaze, all-or-nothing attitude while training in class.

Let’s say you want to fight in the UFC, and as part of achieving that goal you start training BJJ. Now suppose that you overhear some fighter talking about dying rather than tapping, and so you decide that that’s how you’re going to train. You’re gonna be a badass! Never tap out!! Fight to the last breath!!!

I’m not psychic, but I can promise you this. After just a few months, long before you get anywhere near the Octagon, your body will be completely destroyed. Surgeons will smile when they see you coming, because fixing your body will help them make their next Lexus payment. And if you’re very lucky, some day you’ll walk without a limp again.
[Read more…]


Greetings from Bernie Lau, the first “haole” to learn aikido in Hawaii

The comments below from Bernie Lau have been retrieved from our Facebook page. Bernies is, quite probably the first Caucasian to have studied aikido in Hawaii back in 1955. Bernie is a well-known figure on the martial arts scene and has published a book sold through Amazon on his amazing life.

Hi Stan,

I covered the period of when I met Tohei sensei in my recently published memoir – “Dance with the Devil: Memoirs of an Undercover Narcotics Detective”. Back home in Seattle, I have a photo and the names of all who were in attendance that first night I started Aikido under Tohei sensei at a Japanese Tea House in Hilo in 1955

There is a photo of Tohei sensei putting sankyo on me that first night. You’ve probably seen the photo of me as a young haole boy, crew cut, wearing very short Gi pants. I am jumping up in the air as Tohei applies sankyo on me. In attendance were Mr Nagata (at the time Chief Instructor of Aikido in Hilo, Mr Nonaka (later the Chief Instructor of Hilo Aikido, Mr. Iwasa, Mr Takaki, and of course, Michael Frenz and myself.

I believe Michael and I were the very first two haole boys (white dudes) to start taking Aikido in Hawaii and in the entire USA. I don’t believe Aikido had yet been introduced to the mainland United States back in 1955 as Hawaii was not yet a State. Please check to see if I have bragging rights to be the first white guy to start taking Aikido in Territory of Hawaii and in the entire United States. Later I received both shodan and nidan from O’sensei. The shodan certificate was the old three fold style (Photo on my facebook). My sandan and yondan were from Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. No more promotions after that. In my thinking, having a third kyu certificate from Tohei Sensei, two dan promotions from O’sensei, and two Dan promotion from Doshu is good enough for me I guess I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time during the beginning days of Aikido in Hawaii.

Bernie Lau


Safety Tips for Aikido Training: The collected wisdom of Aikido Journal readers

We recently published an article by Stanley Pranin titled “Constant Alertness Needed to Avoid Dojo Injuries.” The article contains a number of hints for preventing injuries during training. The article generated many comments with further safety suggestions. The following is a summary of the collected wisdom of Aikido Journal readers on the topic of dojo safety. Please feel free to contribute additional thoughts on this extremely important subject.

  • At all times–not just when the mat is crowded–have training partners throw parallel to each other and aim toward the outside of the mat. In other words, all throws occur along parallel planes away from the center line dividing the mat.
  • Under crowded conditions, divide the class into groups of three. The third person who is awaiting his or her turn to throw can then operate as a “traffic cop” to make sure that there is always sufficient distance between training pairs.
  • Use kakarigeiko training, where lines are formed, and one person throws each line member in turn before being replaced by the next member.
  • Very crowded conditions can be handled by a “platooning” strategy, that is, by dividing the class into two groups. One groups trains while the other observes.
  • Minimize forward rolls under crowded conditions. Such falls are used mainly in demonstrations and are not realistic in most situations. The application of martial techniques is designed to gain complete control of uke’s body. Most techniques in aikido training involve backward rolls or falls face down, and don’t require nearly as much space as forward rolls.
  • Explicitly explain that it is everyone’s responsibility to try to avert collisions. Seniors are not to assume the “right of way” in the moment before the impact.
  • It is very important to know everyone’s first name. Being able to call out to another aikidoka in the other “lane” when you see you’re in danger of hitting them can buy a split second and save an accident.
  • Under crowded conditions, practice suwariwaza (seated) techniques.
  • Use short compact rolls keeping feet and legs tucked under like in shikko (knee walking). This helps prevent the legs and feet from accidentally hitting others and also reduces the speed of the legs and feet a bit while taking ukemi.
  • Since many collisions takes place when uke is coming out of the roll head first straight into another uke also being thrown, always hold your arms and hands in front all the way through ukemi to protect yourself and others.
  • Walk away from any training partner who refuses to train slowly under crowded conditions.
  • Avoid creating an atmosphere which allows for competition, struggling, or even fighting.
  • Show, from time to time, those things which are dangerous on the tatami, but possibly good on the street. And explain why and how to do it in a different but efficient manner.
  • Encourage people to smile while they practice. Then they are naturally relaxed and alert at the same time.
  • Intervene when you see two partners fighting each other or resisting too strongly. Such situations tend to spiral out of control suddenly.
  • The uke on the ground has the right of way. All others have to find an open space to take falls.
  • Teach students to take ukemi properly. Learning how to fall correctly is your first line of defense against injury.

50 techniques that Morihei Ueshiba taught that we know about with certainty

Morihiro Saito presents “Budo,” O-Sensei’s 1938 Technical Manual!

This week’s special includes two treasures for those interested in studying directly the techniques taught by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. The first item is a fascinating DVD titled “Budo: Commentary on the 1938 Training Manual of Morihei Ueshiba” by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, that is a recreation of all of the 50 techniques of Morihei Ueshiba’s 1938 training manual “Budo.” This video is a gold mine for aikidoka desiring to go to the source and familiarize themselves with the actual techniques executed by the Founder, rather than the various derivative forms seen today.

[Read more…]


“Constant Alertness Needed to Avoid Dojo Injuries,” by Stanley Pranin

“It is amazing to me that otherwise intelligent and prudent people will abandon their normal attitude of alertness when immersed in the warmth of the “family atmosphere” of an aikido dojo.”

From Aikido Journal #101 (1994)

Recently I received some shocking news from the United States. A female aikidoka suffered a crippling neck injury during a training accident in a Northern California dojo. I have very little specific information on the circumstances of the actual injury, but it seems that the young woman collided with a large man who landed on her neck, causing a severe spinal injury that has left her paralyzed. I don’t know what the prognosis is for a full or partial recovery–hopefully there is a chance for significant healing–but this tragic incident should be a sobering reminder for aikido practitioners everywhere.

Whatever the cause of the injury, the fact that it even occurred is proof that the practice methods employed in the dojo were unsafe. I don’t mean to single out this particular dojo for criticism. I’m sure that everyone involved is painfully aware in retrospect of the inadequacy of their approach. I am equally certain that the teacher in charge was simply conducting classes the way he had been taught by his seniors without giving much extra thought to the issue of safety.

It’s been my experience that this type of injury could have occurred almost anywhere in the aikido world. It is amazing to me that otherwise intelligent and prudent people will abandon their normal attitude of alertness when immersed in the warmth of the “family atmosphere” of an aikido dojo. I have practiced and observed aikido in numerous countries and it is not uncommon to see classes conducted under crowded conditions where injuries can easily happen. The danger is especially great during ki no nagare practice where big, flowing movements are used. Apart from a few words of admonition from the teacher in charge to be careful, I have seldom seen a systematic approach to insure a safe training environment. Students tend to throw freely into any open space.

An extreme example of what I am referring to can be seen at large seminars–usually attended by hundreds of participants–where it is virtually impossible to train with peace of mind because far too many people are crammed into a limited mat space. The only “self-defense” that one can learn under such circumstances is the fine art of how to avoid colliding with one’s fellow trainees! For this reason, what could be a valuable learning experience often ends up being little more than a stressful exercise in surviving with one’s body intact.

I think that one of the main factors at the root of these unsafe situations is that aikidoka are frequently lulled into complacency by their perception of aikido as a harmonious, peaceful art. Indeed, if the aim of aikido is to learn how to get along with others and practice is conducted in an atmosphere of harmony, shouldn’t aikido training be inherently safe?

[Read more…]


“The Martial Artist on Stage,” by David Lynch

Gozo Shioda in scene from 1958 film

“Aikido demonstrations should have a clear purpose; they should be educational; they should reflect the actual daily training of a dojo; they should not be merely for entertainment or the promotion of a school.”

This was the gist of an Aikido Journal bulletin board essay by Patrick Auge, veteran aikidoka of the Yoseikan school. Most other contributors to the discussion agreed with him.

Mr. Auge divides demonstrations into four different categories, which, paraphrased, (with apologies) are: “Mindless” (having no clear purpose), “Entertaining” (just to please the crowds), “Promotional” (to increase membership), and “Educational” (truthful).

Demonstrations should, he felt, also reflect the true personality of a teacher and the ethos of his school. They did not need any special preparation.

The four divisions above are fine in theory but I find it difficult to pigeonhole in this way some of the senior teachers whose demonstrations I have witnessed in Japan.

In the first place, there is more to a demonstration than entertainment, promotion or education. There is also artistic expression. In this respect, the martial artist is like any other artist, and his audience is likely to judge him by the impact his art has on them on some deep level, regardless of other factors. He need not be motivated by mundane considerations at all.

[Read more…]


“After an Event – REGROUP!”, by Nev Sagiba

Napoleon Bonaparte would severely punish any of his troops found celebrating a victory.

The reaction you have reading this statement defines you and determines whether you will survive a real emergency requiring the output of skill.

Think for a moment. Did you think this was unfair?

Or did you know?

If you thought it unfair, you are unprepared, ego driven, blinded by it and not likely not survive a real emergency event, be this violence, natural disaster or other.

If you understood, you either have experience or insight or both.

Wasting time feeding ego makes you most vulnerable. Any enemy worth his salt will conduct an assault while your guard is down. In real survival the seeking of accolades would be a distraction. Survival is the reward in and of itself. The only one you really need.

Regrouping, recovering and making yourself prepared again is vital. Otherwise you risk squandering mind and energy, which you will need later. Increments can make the difference.

The fact is this: When it’s over, it’s usually not over. Any war of attrition is composed of many battles. Any goal sought requires many steps.

Sometimes, in life as in battle, the only rest and recovery you are going to get is that which you can catch on the hop. When you learn to identify and to claim those brief moments that appear in the aiki of life’s circumstances and extract a brief breath, nourishment and meditation, it can mean the difference between success and failure.
[Read more…]


Seishiro Endo at the 2010 All-Japan Demo at the Budokan in Tokyo

This is another fine demonstration by Seishiro Endo, 8th dan, at the 2010 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration in Tokyo. This is very high-level aikido. Notice how Endo Sensei is very relaxed and blending very subtly with excellent balance and posture. An exemplary performance!

For those interested in more background information on Seishiro Endo Sensei, please read this interview conducted by Stanley Pranin