Archives for August 2012


“Morihei Ueshiba’s Six Rules – Are You Really Practicing Aikido?” by Nev Sagiba

Are you really practicing Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido?
Or something else?

The Founder of Aikido penned (or brushed) six “Rules of Training.” These were often displayed on the wall of a dojo. These precepts have appeared variously in such publications as, “AIKIDO” by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and; “AIKIDO, The Arts of Self-Defense” by Koichi Tohei Edited by Morihei Ueshiba, and also some exclusively Japanese Aikido publications.

Let’s look at Morihei Ueshiba’s six rules of practice.

At a cursory glance, they may appear simple.

Don’t be deceived by their brevity, however.

Because of their succinctness and apparent simplicity, it may be possible that these vital admonitions have been largely overlooked or have not been considered with the seriousness they deserve.
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Autrelle Holland demonstrates self-defense strategies on tv news

Autrelle Holland demonstrates women’s self-defense maneuvers for an upcoming seminar he will conduct. Autrelle has contributed a number of well-received articles to Aikido Journal as is based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Click here to view women’s self-defense demonstration

“Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi: Part 11 – Katate Gedan Gaeshi” by James Neiman


This is the 11th 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 Gedan Gaeshi

In this article we examine Katate Gedan Gaeshi, which is the 1st 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 Gedan Gaeshi is a wrist-centered countertechnique that moves from a low to high position. It builds on Tsuki Gedan Gaeshi, transferring the energy in the turning dynamics to the point of contact with uke through the wrist. Katate Gedan Gaeshi forms an essential basis in ki no nagare applications in which one lifts uke’s center with a kinetic chain moving from the feet all the way to the wrists. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:

  1. Drop
  2. Turn
  3. Extend

The movement begins with the jo being held horizontally on the right side of the body while standing in hanmi with the left foot forward and angled slightly. Your right shoulder is back and relaxed. Sliding both your body and the jo diagonally back and to the right, drop your center by bending your knees while staying in an aligned posture, loading onto the ball of your right foot, coiling your right hip. As you complete this initial blend, both hands should be at the front tip of the jo, with the back tip of the jo extending back and to the right along the same diagonal of your initial movement. This completes the drop movement.

Begin pushing off the ball of your right foot, opening your right hip and slightly raising your dropped center of gravity. As your weight transfers forward, allow the hands to move upward in front of your center, until the jo is extended in front of you and is parallel to the ground. Keep your right elbow dropped, release your left hand from the jo, extending your energy through your right wrist in order to maintain the stability of the jo in this position. You must use this extension so your wrist can maintain its position while holding the weight of the jo. The jo has momentum at this point, and has partially completed an upward moving counterclockwise arc, representing the upward moving spiral in your hip turn. This completes the turn movement.

The final part of this suburi completes the motion you began with extension at the apex of the movement. Your weight is now mostly on your left foot. Continue the motion by pushing off the ball of your left foot, extending through your left leg and allowing your right foot to step in front of you. As you do this, allow the jo to continue its counterclockwise upward-moving arc. Catch the jo with your left hand as it arrives at a point diagonally to the left and behind you. Your left leg should be fully extended, and your right hand should be just to the left of your face. You have now completed the extension.

At this point there is opportunity to discuss the dynamics of this suburi: the drop leads you into a low to high movement that teaches you an important lesson about extension and kokyu. The movement that begins in your feet and hips and ends at the wrist provides you with a potent experience of moving from a grounded position. You will find that this suburi forms the beginning of many circular countertechniques. The ending of this suburi provides you with the extension and movement that allow you to take advantage of the relative position of your dropped center under uke’s unbalanced and raised center.

There are many potential enriching teaching and practice opportunities here: experiment with riai, exploring techniques such as tsuki ikkyo ura waza and low to high iriminage countertechniques. Allow yourself to move slowly with your partners, feeling how you use your partner’s attack  to become fully grounded, and transfer that energy into an extension that unbalances your partner and leads you into various techniques.


The Inimitable Seigo Yamaguchi instructing at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo c. 1975

“Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei was one of the most important of the
first generation of aikido instructors of the postwar era.”

This is a color 8mm film of Seigo Yamaguchi, 8th dan, shot by Alain Guerrier during a class at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo c. 1975. The quality is quite good considering the early date of this video.

Yamaguchi Sensei was one of the most important of the first generation of aikido instructors of the postwar era. He taught at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo for several decades until his passing in 1996. Having now become nearly a legend, Yamaguchi Sensei influenced several generations of practitioners within the Aikikai system during his career including many of today’s senior instructors of the Headquarters school.

Yamaguchi Sensei’s aikido had a unique flavor that was appealing to thousands of aikidoka who came into contact with him during his long teaching career. His style was characterized by a powerful, spontaneous technique adapted freely to rapidly changing circumstances

Click here to watch this excellent video of Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei

Free video: Yoshimitsu Yamada demonstrates advanced aikido techniques

“Watch one of Aikido’s finest technicians in action!”

This is an excellent video clip showing advanced aikido techniques by the chief instructor of the New York Aikikai. Yoshimitsu Yamada, a direct student of O Sensei for more than ten years, is an 8th dan and the chief instructor at the New York Aikikai. Currently, he is Chairman of the Board of the United States Aikido Federation and the Latin America Aikido Federation. He is the author of “Aikido Complete” and has made multiple aikido training tapes. Yamada Sensei is well known for his clear and strong basic technique. He teaches seminars all over the world where thousands of students attend his classes.



My Response to Stanley Pranin’s – “Constant Alertness Needed to Avoid Dojo Injuries” by Nev Sagiba

“When you bow onto the mats you are entering an ersatz war zone. Behave accordingly. Trust no one. Especially beginners who are the most dangerous.”

Dojo myopia is unacceptable. When you step into the street, a room or any dojo if you are not capable or willing to at all times extend your awareness consciously to every person, dog, fly, spider and ant within the range of vision or hearing, you are not practicing Budo but merely self obsession. In training practice you must be aware of every person in the room/dojo and where they are or are moving towards, their active trajectory at any given moment. At all moments. THIS IS YOUR BUDO PRACTICE! Budo without awareness is nothing! An instructor worth his salt will train myopic attitudes out of you very quickly. With a shinai across the back of the legs if necessary. If he cares. Otherwise he’s just frightened of losing you ‘cos he wants your dollars.

I can’t speak for others but I make it my moral responsibility to ensure to the best of my ability that my students will be strategically capable and defence enabled if ever they get attacked. Those who don’t want this standard because, “it’s difficult” are welcome to leave. And they do. Budo is not a toy and there is no such thing as a, “martial art” you practice in order to be unable to protect yourself. Listening to some, “aikidoka,” that appears to be the spin. I’ve been often surprised by people who practice what they call this “martial-art of Aikido” who simultaneously also claim that they “don’t expect it to work,” (whatever that means) and that they are “not practicing for self-defence.”

In the world such as it is today, I find such statements extraordinary to say the least and striving to live in a complacent glass bubble of denial, dangerous.

Aikido is Budo and as such IS dangerous. Even in training. The Founder had a list of precepts with regard safe training posted on the wall of his dojo(s) titled “Rules During Practice.”*

Take it upon yourself to make it a main point of your own practice to extend awareness at all times. For your safety and everyone else’s. It is this very awareness which saves you in “the street,” or any field of activity. And in your sleep, not only when travelling or moving in far away places away from home, but all the time. If someone passes your front gate you should know. Make it a practice. Make it your responsibility. Otherwise we live as zombies. Such would be unacceptable for purporting budoka. Everyone in that room is a potential “enemy.” The dojo is full of snakes. Warm family atmosphere? Stop kidding yourselves people, either practice BUDO or go home!

“Techniques” are a part of the story of the Budo of Aiki, but without awareness you have only crude, clumsy force at your disposal, and that is not Aikido.
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Free video: Gozo Shioda spotlighted in Japan tv documentary

“Gozo Shioda dazzles with his spectacular aikido!”

Gozo Shioda, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido enrolled in Morihei Ueshiba’s Kobukan Dojo in 1932. After World War II, Shioda was the first to teach aikido on a large scale in a difficult era when the Aikikai Hombu Dojo was barely operating.

This Japanese tv documentary presents a brief overview of Shioda Sensei’s career, an interview, and a series of demonstrations and highlights from his remarkable career.

Watch the Gozo Shioda tv documentary here

“The Nature of Modern Martial Arts,” by Kenji Tomiki

Statue on Ganryu Island representing the famous duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro

“When peace came the samurai no longer wore protective equipment. Ryoma Sakamoto was killed at an inn while drinking tea, by an assassin charging at full speed down the corridor.”

From Aiki News #95 (Spring/Summer 1993)

This essay has been edited with the help of Fumiaki Shishida of the Japan Aikido Association from tapes made during Aiki News interviews with Kenji Tomiki Shihan in 1979. Tomiki describes the evolution of the martial arts and stresses the historical inevitability of competition to keep these arts alive. He also emphasizes the need to look at budo from a broad educational perspective so that its essential value will be preserved and can be spread throughout the world.

From live blade to kata

The Japanese fought with real swords up until the beginning of the Edo era. Those who are known as the founders of various schools of swordsmanship, such as Musashi Miyamoto, Sekishusai Yagyu, and Tajimamori Yagyu, grew strong and cultivated their abilities by using their skills to kill.

The famous duel on Ganryu island between Musashi and Kojiro Sasaki is one example. Kojiro was, despite his youth, one of the best swordsmen of the western region of Japan, while Musashi, though a middle-aged man, was known to be the best in the eastern region. People were curious about which of the two was strongest, and so the duel on the island was set up.

This contest was similar to a modern sports match. Two excellent men challenged each other for the right to be known as champion. However, they used real swords and unfortunately young Kojiro was killed. Musashi, on the other hand, survived and became famous. Survivors such as Musashi became the masters of various schools of swordsmanship. It is not possible to know one’s true martial ability without fighting. During the peaceful days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the government issued an official notice prohibiting such violent killings. Thus, swordsmen began to practice kata [forms] exclusively.

When you train in kata you must release your strength at the very last moment. It is permissible for the swords of the opponents to knock against each other, but one must stop just short of killing his adversary. Thus, it is necessary to practice the basic movements for a long time before beginning to train in the actual kata. One must be able to stop the sword no matter where it is. It is dangerous to attempt to practice the kata before having learned the basic movements. Once the basics are learned, the teacher will then instruct the student to strike at him.

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“Descending from Mt. Olympus (or Mt. Kumano),” by Nev Sagiba

The Detailed Universe

The Detailed Universe

This old man must still practice.

“When Susanou died, his body buried atop Mt.Kumano, his spirit became Kami and he sometimes appeared as a big bear..”

“..The Founder would often remark: “This old man must still practice.” He never skipped early morning, afternoon or evening practice with his uchideshi, such sessions lasting two hours each.

In 1953, when he had already reached 70 years of age, his training was so severe as to put the young men to shame. According to those who were with the Founder a great deal in those days, he would be absorbed in reading during every free moment. I think that he mainly read the “Kojiki” (Chronicle of Ancient Events) as well as books concerning Shinto, the Kotodama (study of the spirit of language) and the study of the Divine Spirit..”

When you embrace the non-competitive dojo life and practice budo daily as a way of life, you partake of a higher dimension than is available to the non-trainee. More so if Aikido is your main art.

However there will be periods in life where you will be forced by necessity, injury, circumstance and responsibility to descend this holy mount and “mingle with mortals again.” Too much immersion with the mundane, the trivial and the necessary may sometime cause your skill and fitness to decline somewhat.

Make this your training too.

Well may you somewhat lose, “the edge.” Well may you somewhat appear to lose that finely honed warrior’s intuitive awareness to some degree.

Make this your training too.

If dire necessity should demand, you’ll find that you have in fact lost nothing and that the accrued credit of your input of years of training will emerge as if by magic to save you. But for purposes of training, when you do return or make a comeback or find opportunity to occasionally resume training, you’ll feel, “all thumbs and left feet.”
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Reminiscences of Minoru Mochizuki

“If Ueshiba Sensei were a weak-looking man who appeared as if he would fall if I swept his leg from underneath him I wouldn’t have followed him.”

Minoru Mochizuki (1907-2003)

From Aiki News #71 (June 1986)

Kisshomaru Sensei’s words

It is natural for a man to thrist after strength. The other day I had some business at the Hombu Dojo and went there taking several of my students. There we listened to a talk given by Koetsu (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) Sensei. He made the following remark during his speech: “Nowadays, the streets are well protected by the police and I have almost never seen any violence. Therefore, we should disregard such notions as who is stronger or who are losers.” I thought that what he said was quite reasonable. However, on the way home my students asked me: “Sensei, did he really mean that? He may not be reading the news.” Actually, many incidents appear on the third page of the newspaper. In the old days there was a saying that, “Three years spent developing an army is all for the purpose of using it for a single day.” Although there are many soldiers, they are to be used only for emergency situations and are not usually needed. In other ways, this saying signifies that “bu” or martial arts serve as a precaution. We must of course go beyond fighting. But if young people overemphasize this idea and believe that armed forces are no longer needed because there is no need to attack anyone, this attitude presents a problem. Most of the time youngsters come to the dojo wanting to become strong.

Minoru Mochizuki conversing with Kisshomaru Ueshiba in Shizuoka on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Yoseikan Dojo in 1991

I came to study under Ueshiba Sensei for the same reason. If Ueshiba Sensei were a weak-looking man who appeared as if he would fall if I swept his leg from underneath him I wouldn’t have followed him. I was very vigorous then because at the time I used to appear in championship judo tournaments. But he grabbed hold of me and flung me around as if I were insignificant. Ueshiba Sensei was great and I was surprised. After all, I thirsted after strength in those days. So I don’t think we should deny the existence of this type of desire. We should take a hard look at reality. Budo are not sports. They are traditional martial arts and an instrument of war. We must be prepared for emergencies, in a spiritual sense, I mean. Budo cultivates this spirit…

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