Aug
31

“A bit of Aikido…” by Nev Sagiba

“Even though we should be training as if preparing to go to war tomorrow, the reality is that Aikido is not for war but for finding peace within oneself.”

I recall in the mid 80′s, a woman joined the dojo, trained one session and then became briefly famous in that small country town for daily boasting, “I’ve done a bit of Aikido…” If it was a bit she was referring to, then it was a very, very little bit indeed.

I recall the class content of that fateful day: We talked, I conducted a brief orientation on the history of Aikido, we warmed up, did jumbi-taiso, bowed out, enjoyed cups of tea and went home. It was a light and preparatory introduction.

Another, a few months later, haughtily demanded a refund for a seminar I had inaugurated to introduce the art and to subsidize the cost of mats. Asked, “May I have your reason?”, the reply was, “I’m high up in the aikido world. I have a shodan. I don’t need to practice ukemi.”

I happily gave her her money. If that was the price to find out her characteristic attitude and let her exclude herself from future classes, it was well worth it.

Indeed that particular introduction was all ukemi because most attendees were raw beginners and my dojo policy is safety first.

“A bit of aikido.” “High up.” What do these sorry statements mean?

As for the “bit,” that’s not what Aikido is for. Even though we should be training as if preparing to go to war tomorrow, the reality is that Aikido is not for war but for finding peace within oneself. It is a Do, Path or Way of self transformation. It is not the only one. But as a Do there is no arrival. It is a journey that makes you a better, truer human being as it gradually enlightens you over time.

As O’Sensei states in his 6th Rule of Training: “The purpose of Aikido is to train mind and body and make an individual sincere.” In this case, the word “sincere” is loaded with many connotations.

Whilst there are many Ways and Paths that enable a person to face up to themselves and to bring forth their immense potentials, none are overnight affairs, but can only be embraced as a Way of Life. Aikido has the added benefit of harmonizing, uniting body, mind, spirit and other attributes in that it teaches to do so under duress, under attack.
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Aug
30

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

“Exploring Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Aikido!”

2 spots have opened up for Stanley Pranin’s October 5-7 seminar in Las Vegas due to cancellations. If you would like to attend this event or the November 2-4 seminar, you may still sign up. The seminars will explore the central points of Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido that have been largely lost in today’s practice. A video greeting that explains the purpose and content of the events is available.

Click here to sign up for Stanley Pranin’s Las Vegas Seminars

Aug
29

“Passing of Red Sakamoto,” by Francis Takahashi

It is with a heavy heart that I share the sad news of the passing of an unknown “little giant” of Aikido in America, Robert “Red” Sakamoto, in Phoenix, Arizona.

I just received confirmation from his lovely bride, Johanna “Ninjin” Sakamoto, that her beloved husband had passed away after a prolonged illness. Red was a Shihan level aikido instructor in his own right, affiliated with M. Saotome of the ASU, and an accomplished Iai master as well.

Red was a key founding member of the original Chicago Aikido Club back in the early 1960’s, that oversaw a succession of historic instructors represent Aikikai Foundation. Red preferred to work in the background, downplaying his undeniable role of support for Messrs. C. Sasaki, K. Hirata, F.Takahashi, I. Takahashi, A. Tohei, K. Choate amongst others over a 30 plus year span.

Red is survived by his wife Ninjin, son Joey, nephew Alan Nagahisa, 7th dan Aikikai of the Ohana Aikido Dojo in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is already sorely missed. May he indeed, Rest in Peace!

Aug
29

“Kakarigeiko Is Not Randori,” by Nev Sagiba

 

The real Budo, the truest Aikido resides in holding the line, maintaining and protecting standards and infrastructures that uphold core human values and integrity in the world of today, as it is right now.

In real life the other attackers do NOT wait their turn. They seek your back while others strive to get your frontal attention.

Real attackers do not run forward smiling with both arms outstretched as if to hug, or grab your wrist(s) or shoulders without a reason and then jump when you pretend. They attack! They exercise every faculty to achieve maximum harm. Mostly striking, stabbing or a mixture of any variable they think will work.

Some of the popularised wishy-washy stuff that is passed off as Aikido is sad, not only because such fake attacks are a transparently pathetic attempt at deception, but because real fighters tend to laugh at the bogus they see being portrayed as “aikido.” Such things are not ambassadorial and portray Aikido in a poor light.

Many so called akidoka of today are self deceived and practicing to die if ever attacked. Many “black belts,” are not even a pale shade of grey. Yellow maybe. Many demonstration would be better off withheld as they openly reveal technical incompetence, bluffing only the very gullible and inexperienced. The only elevation of some “high ranked” is that their opinions are in the clouds if they think such rubbish remotely resembles Aikido or Budo of any kind. It is not certain whether such deceptions are a deliberate attempt to obfuscate or whether said practitioners are deluding themselves. Finding out the hard way is a sad thing as some video footage reveals. Real attacks happen on the ground and this is where we must firmly have our feet. Training should progressively strip away our delusions, not make them more.

Some people use the excuse of “hard training can be dangerous.” In so doing they denote their lack of understanding of Budo. Indeed there is an element of risk in proper training. About the same to that of crossing a road. Considerably less if you are a regular trainee with improved observation and coordination. Training is not for point scoring but to open the mind and to learn and to increase clarity of observation and skill thereby.

“Hard” and “skilled” are distinctly different things which are never mixed in Budo training unless accordingly modulated. Only in life saving deployment does one unleash a fuller measure of potential. Dojo is for safe training only. If you don’t know this or don’t understand, go back to square one, you have not passed kindergarten.

True Budo is 90% or more skilled administration in society that is of a constructive nature that identifies and foresees adverse trajectories and takes steps to mitigate detrimental outcomes. It has very little to do with physical fighting as such.
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Aug
28

“The habit of excellence,” by Francis Takahashi

There is nothing in nature that does not belong. Nothing is “unnatural,” as long as Nature gives its approval to exist or to happen. Nature does not have to “practice to get it right,” in anything.

Humans curiously find it imperative to constantly “do better,” striving to reach arbitrarily envisioned heights of accomplishment, and for goals of dubious importance that, the vast majority of them fade from memory faster than a rainbow after the rain. It is almost as if the human race was preordained, and was both empowered and obligated to improve on Nature’s design whenever and wherever possible. Verily, that was our job description from day one it seems, and nothing will make us happier than accomplishing these self fulfilling goals. This is why we were born. This is why we now exist, correct?

Nature, as far as we can perceive or conceive it, seemingly belongs to us, to serve as the template on which we make our marks, constructing, reconstructing, replacing and ever improving the original design of anything we see and encounter. Weren’t we, after all, made in God’s image, and isn’t that how He behaved in the first Seven Days of Creation? Now, isn’t it our turn, to make good on this gift of Original Entitlement, to continue the righteous and necessary work of improving and finishing His Grand Opus?

So far, so good, if only any of the above had any chance of being remotely accurate or true. If true, there would be no need to fret over our missions in life, our noble callings to achievement, or for providing any proof of the necessity for our participation and role in Nature’s Grand Design. If only……

But what if none of the above is true? What if there is no way to prove or substantiate any authentic claim for the human race’s pre-emminent role in managing that Grand Design? What if our research comes to prove the very opposite, that our puny and shortsighted efforts are simply being absorbed by Nature’s infinite capacity to adapt, and “naturally” being incorporated in its ever changing design, and not necessarily to our liking? What if we realize that no matter what we do, we could never do anything “unnatural,” or to significantly or appreciably disrupt or alter any Grand Design by God or Nature, and that whatever we do, IS, and always WILL BE a part of that inviolate plan.
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Aug
26

Hombu Dojo 8th dan: “Interview with Shigenobu Okumura” by Stanley Pranin

Shigenobu Okumura Sensei demonstrating a jodori throw

“It was because of Doshu Kisshomaru Sensei that the dojo was saved. Every time a fire bomb was dropped they put out the fire using buckets in order to save the dojo.”

“Tomiki Sensei was doing the same as Hombu. After the war, he took the position that it was necessary to transform Aikido into a sport in order to modernize it. We took the position that Aikido could be modernized without turning it into a sport. For example, in the case of zazen or iai, you can’t talk about winners and losers. In Aikido, one can proceed at his own pace, thus, it is equivalent to a “moving zen.” You can’t talk about who is first or who is second in these things. If anything, those who train religiously are the best… ”

Click here to read Stanley Pranin’s interview with 8th dan Shigenobu Okumura Sensei

Aug
24

“Balance, Breathe, Move, Notice!,” by Nev Sagiba

“To survive a multiple attack situation, to increase your chances of survival, it is imperative that you are firmly grounded, balanced, breathing, moving and know where everyone is at all times! Why?”

Why did Morihei Ueshiba place multiple attack training on top of his list of priorities? Why did he make it a point to denote this in part 2/ of his: Six Rules of Training?

For a start he had live experience. Secondly, he was able to actually do what he preached. And third but not least, he practiced incessantly.

But let’s break it down and analyze it. Since we are not right now being assailed with an attack, it is possible.

A) Why balance? One, “accomplished martial artist,” said to me in 1987, “What has balance got to do with surviving an attack? The same individual, watching us train also said, “That wouldn’t work in real life,” and watching buki tori, “Yes but, (my favourites are the yes butters) if that was a highly trained swordsman.. yada, yada..”

Who meets “highly trained swordsmen” on a rampage every second day in today’s world?

B) Why breath? Aside from fancy convolutions which are totally unnecessary, why is breath vital?

C) Why move at all? Why not just stand there?

D) And why do you really need to be aware of who is behind you with something sharp?

To survive a multiple attack situation, to increase your chances of survival, it is imperative that you are firmly grounded, balanced, breathing, moving and know where everyone is at all times!

Why?

Why is it that we PRACTICE like this? Why did the Founder of Aikido? Why should we continue to do so?

This is a contributive exercise. What can you bring to this as a discussion from your experience both in the dojo and live situations?

Please respond with your view.

Nev Sagiba
aikiblue.com

Aug
22

“Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi: Part 12 – Katate Toma Uchi” by James Neiman

Introduction

This is the 12th 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.

Katate Toma Uchi

In this article we examine Katate Toma Uchi, which is the 2nd of the Aiki Jo Suburi in the series known as the Katate No Bu. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. In summary, Katate Toma Uchi is a wrist-centered countertechnique that moves from a high to low position. It builds on Katate Gedan Gaeshi, transferring the energy in the turning dynamics to the point of contact with uke through the wrist. Katate Toma Uchi forms an essential basis in ki no nagare applications in which one drops into an uke’s center with a kinetic chain transferring energy from a hip rotation into a wrist-centered strike. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:

  1. Drop
  2. Turn
  3. Extend

 
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Aug
18

The Finest in Books, Ebooks, DVDs, Videos, and more…

We would like to invite all aikido enthusiasts to peruse our Aikido Journal Store for a large selection of downloadable products including books, ebooks, DVDs, videos, and other items featuring Aikido’s most important teachers. There are many instructional products which will be of benefit to serious practitioners who wish to improve their understanding of the techniques and philosophy of the art.

Some of the teachers whose books and videos are available for those interested are:

Morihei Ueshiba — Founder of Aikido, a true martial arts genius with a humanitarian vision for his art

Koichi Tohei — Aikido’s first 10 dan, and one of a few responsible for the dissemination of the art in Japan and the USA

Morihiro Saito — One of Morihei Ueshiba’s closest and most talent students who codified a superb curriculum including both empty-handed and weapons techniques.

Seigo Yamaguchi — A postwar student of the Founder whose individualistic style of aikido broke new ground and attracted thousands of students in Japan and Europe.

Shoji Nishio — One of the art’s most innovative instructors with an eclectic background who developed his own unique style like no other.

Noriaki Inoue — A nephew of Morihei Ueshiba, and one of those who most contributed to his uncle’s success as a professional martial arts instructor. Also, one of the art’s most skilled performers and a dead ringer for Morihei.

Aug
15

“Thrust Beats Cut,” by Charles Warren

“Three inches of penetration beats a foot of slash wound.”

Pranin Sensei has challenged me to organize and present some thoughts that occurred to me while watching this video. The big problem is that each thought digresses into other equally interesting areas. So, my attempt to solve that problem will be to give a summary with reference to following paragraphs. As many of these impressions are visual, I will try to find video examples. This is organized as brief observations or statements with expansions below, indicated by asterisks.

First of all, go to 2:58 in this video clip. Notice that Misawa, the master in brown, has used atemi with the hilt of his sword to his challenger’s throat.

Point and edge – The first thought is that thrust beats cut most of the time. This was noted in Richard Burton’s “Book of the Sword”. It was also noted by Musashi in his comment that spear gives an offensive advantage over halberd (naginata). Napoleon urged his cavalry to give up the edge on their sabers. The British found, as the Romans before them, that three inches of penetration by a French hussar usually beats a foot of slash wound. Patton redesigned the US cavalry saber in the early 20th century along the lines of the Hungarian saber now used in competitive fencing, straight, favoring thrust over cut. O Sensei is often seen using thrusting atemi against cutting attacks (shomen and yokomen uchi).

As Burton noted, it’s simple geometry. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Ukemi as the foundation for countermeasure – The “attacker” in the movie clip could have availed himself of a roll to the rear* in response to the atemi to the throat with the hilt. Would it have changed the outcome? Up to the choreographer, but it would have been classy and practical. It would have extended the distance between the combattants and given the “attacker” a chance to reverse the situation if Misawa had followed up incorrectly**.

This goes back to a thought that Inagaki Shigemi once shared that aikido is as good as any other fighting art, and probably better for multiple attackers. In an aikido multiple attacker scenario you (almost?) never stick with one. Get in your hit or simple technique and move on.
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Aug
14

“Multiple Attacks and Ground Wrestling,” by Nev Sagiba

Multiple attacks and ground wrestling are the singular best forms of training practice you can do.

However, in a live survival situation, these are the very things you try to avoid.

Why the apparent contradiction?

There is none. These are the essential backup you will need when things vary from preferred of standing up and fighting the rare one individual which seldom happens.

These are the extremes that do happen.

The worst mix is to get caught on the ground when the opponents are multiple. There are training techniques for this which are concealed by the partly veiled Hanmihandachi (also: Hanza Handachi) methodology. This is the most critical of all training, if you intend to be a survivor of, “crunch time.”

On their own, these forms of training teach much but only in the context of thoroughly understanding the basic techniques. I won’t even begin to go into the benefits of ground wrestling but it opens your mind, enhances your body-mind connection, fortifies your ki and your ability to read intention, teaches balance and among many other things gets you immensely physically fit, augmenting your cardio/stamina as well as muscle strength, resilience, flexibility and co-ordination.

Multiple attacks training is the preeminent survival training. Words don’t cut it. Do it.

Hanmihandachi, now grossly misunderstood and mostly poorly practiced as mimicry without understanding, holds the keys to not ending up on the ground and many other things not easily depicted in words. Here too, do it, train and practice with a thoughtful and questioning open mind.

Long before a certain shoe manufacturer thought of it, one of my best teachers would often say, “Just do it!”

As for Budo, this I recommend most heartily, particularly when exploring to uncover the immense potentials of Aikido.

Tomorrow never comes. There’s no time like now.

Nev Sagiba
aikiblue.com

Aug
13

“Awaseru, an Aiki perspective,” by Francis Takahashi

“I am content to train each day with the goal of mutual benefit in mind, and to find ways to practice “awaseru” with each new partner I am blessed with.”

Awaseru, in Japanese, means to “put or join” things together. It can also celebrate the uniting, combining, connecting or merging of otherwise disparate pieces, to fit comfortably together for yet another purpose or desired result. This result can signify the birth of a new sense or level of appreciation for true beauty and genuine accomplishment, which was not possible back when the respective parts were separate and non-conversant.

Some would say that paired partner practice, normally experienced in Aikido, represents a structured, yet subconscious attempt, to reach mutually beneficial training goals without fear, or undue harm and avoidable injury.

Each Uke and Nage strives to remain within his/her respective roles, while subconsciously and knowingly training at a balanced, goal oriented, and low-risk pace. This allows each participant to monitor his intensity of effort, and to be in command of the attendant risk levels. Mutual security and increased confidence are worthwhile objectives to have while pursuing the highest level of technical proficiency and martial effectiveness possible. This merging of talent, technique and tradition, is called awase training.

This perspective of the word “awase”, as often used in a kumi tachi or kumi jo format of training, can provide a most useful understanding, and a unique opportunity for increasing the speed and intensity of training. Not failing to maintain proper maai, correct shisei, and the further development of enhanced timing, are included as desired goals of training. How better to gain a true and genuine appreciation for the real potential of O Sensei’s creation, than to incorporate the very principles utilized by the Founder himself in his training.
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