Slideshow: Great stills of Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, in class teaching

[portfolio_slideshow trans=scrollHorz]

“Master Aikido’s Fine Points with Morihiro Saito as Your Guide!”

Morihiro Saito Sensei, 9th dan, was one of aikido’s premier instructors. A close student of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba in Iwama, Saito Sensei learned his craft from O-Sensei, in many cases, on a one-to-one basis. A mastery of technical detail was the hallmark of his pedagogical method, and Saito Sensei had a reputation of producing strong, technically skilled students quickly.

Much has been written about his strong impact on the practice of aikido today. During his active years, Saito Sensei taught tens of thousands of students both in Japan and abroad. He also published a number of bilingual training manuals on aikido that sealed his reputation as one of aikido’s top authorities.

Saito Sensei passed away in 2002 at the age of 74. Those who never had a chance to study under Saito Sensei directly missed a rare opportunity. Fortunately, valuable film and video of this great teacher has survived. His wonderful legacy remains intact and easily accessible through the DVD seminars offered through Aikido Journal.

We would like to give away some DVDs…

Aikido Journal is very interested in promoting high-quality instruction and the development of first-rate aikidoka. Today’s aikido instructors are operating in a highly competitive market with many martial arts available to students. We want aikido to continue to grow and thrive! This will require legions of top-notch teachers.

We know that many of you out there knew and trained with Saito Sensei personally, or have direct experience with his teaching methodology. If you would like to win a free Lost Seminars DVD by Morihiro Saito Sensei, all you need do is leave a comment below this post telling us what you think about Saito Sensei’s instructional methods and how you would use this DVD in your own teaching.

Our 3 winners will not be drawn from a hat. We’ll choose them at our discretion based on the comments submitted because we want to know that these wonderful study materials will be used to their fullest potential. Well-thought out comments will get the most consideration, especially those submitted within the first 24 hours.

On Friday, September 7th, we will select 3 winners and announce them via email and here on the blog. You must submit your comment by Friday in order to be considered.

Also, remember that Aikido Journal offers the entire set of 7-DVDs of Saito Sensei’s authoritative “Lost Seminars” DVDs at a greatly reduced price. You will receive over 14 hours of expert instruction with complete English subtitles. Catch every word he is saying, and with a new, deeper understanding, be able to apply these lessons to your aikido!

Get Morihiro Saito’s “Lost Seminars” 7-DVD Set today. We await your comment!


  1. Just a brief comment from a non native speaker: Having purchased Aiki Jo 1 & 2, Aiki Ken, Jodori& Jonage as well as the “Budo” edition commented by Saito Sensei, I review the footage on a daily basis. It is without exaggeration I feel that no-one covers these subjects as authoritatively as Saito Sensei.

    A lot of the material on YouTube is merely pathetic. Not exactly a wealthy person myself, I chose the downloadable videos. Thank you for making these great videos available to enthusiasts around the world.

    I have recently declined a request to put those films (along with others purchased from you) on our dojo’s website unless there is a member’s section. While I don’t mind sharing those files with my mates, it seems somehow unfair to offer content to the whole world for free while those who created it are asking a modest contribution for their troubles…

    This leads me to my final question: Do you consent to customers sharing these films within a small circle of friends/ training partners?

    • To share these films with a small circle of friends, each of who shares with another small circle of friends, ends up discouraging the publishers who invest huge amounts of time and resources to produce these products. That is the reality.

  2. Lincoln Chew says:

    Re: “stealing techniques”. This is not just ‘some Asian thing’… Many advisors at the masters and PhD level in many disciplines operate this way in universities everywhere…it checks to see if the student has what it takes to go to the next level. With respect to Aikido, one Shihan said, “If no one gets it here, so be it. It will thrive SOMEWHWERE. And if it doesn’t perhaps humanity has grown past the need for it…or is not able to handle it.”

  3. Thant Coleman says:

    I learned very early not to ask questions after I was cursed and scolded! Experimenting on my own is how I actually learned quite a bit of technique. Differences in culture definitely come into play when studying in Japan or Okinawa. I do believe that we (westerners) have indeed made the arts better overall by asking questions and challenging (for lack of a better word) whether a technique works. By challenging I’m referring to the “show me/throw me” attitude that many of us have/had. I’ve heard a number of older instructors say they became better after moving to America and having to actually perform the technique after having NEVER been questioned on it. I even know of someone telling me they a couple techniques may not work!

    I don’t mean to offend anyone with my humble opinion, so please don’t take offense. I’m only sharing my thoughts however right or wrong they may be.



  4. This article hits the nail on the head, in my humble opinion.

    I would go so far as to say that encouraging a teaching precedent involving ‘stealing’ techniques is counter-productive to the growth of the Aikido community (in some cases inviting ego onto the mat), and reflects something distinctly different than what I believe the Founder intended for the art. I would further venture that the fact that O’Sensei chose to build such a close relationship with Saito Sensei (an underdog if I’ve ever heard of one) is indicative of the Founder’s desire to transcend an older (and perhaps less effective) way. We know this as “wakon yōsai” – Japanese Spirit, Western Learning”.

    I do not believe that this is really about critiquing different styles of teaching. In fact, I believe that there is a time and place for all different kinds of teaching (and therefore learning). I have probably learned just as much from hitting the mat a bit too hard as I have from a gentle encouragement by the same teacher. No, I don’t believe this is about stylistic differences in teaching… I think this is a broader conversation that has more to do with the precedent, the way of teaching (and therefore learning). And I think it’s why, even during the most vigorous and exhausting keiko, our dojos are packed with smiling students.

    Saito Sensei committed himself to creating a system of teaching the Founder’s art that I believe will endure. Thank you for your work, Stanley — in addition to a handful of others, your efforts have made his teachings more accessible than ever.

  5. Hello Stanley

    I am a newbie to Aikido having only studied for 2 years. My first 6 month introduction to this Martial art was to attend my local Aikido Dojo, consisting of one teacher, one sempai (Nidan) and 3 full time students, myself included. The style taught was Iwama. Being a first time Aikidoka enabled me to have no other influences affect my learning. No clouded thoughts from the vast range of Aikido teachings that is available throughout the world. Having come from a sporting back ground and possessing great strength was also a benefit to my fellow teachers and students. I would lock on Tai no henko and if the technique was not executed properly, my fellow students or sempai could not perform the technique properly. When I locked on Morote tori the same thing happened, fellow students or sempai could not perform the technique properly. This infuriated Sensei, as he was the only one who could combat my strength. To make matters worse, the Sempai and Sensei were great mates had huge ego’s, on and off the mat. After 6 months of Iwama training I became disillusioned, learning techniques far ahead of my training capabilities, only to realize I was becoming a throw bag for Sensei and Sempai. My Ukemi waza was nowhere up to standard for the abuse I was receiving.

    I decided to leave this club and join another Aikido club that is 40 minutes drive away from where I lived. The Style I now learn is called Riai Aikido, our chief instructor in New Zealand is Henry Lynch who is a current student of Rob Nedeau Sensei. It is a softer style of Aikido. Our Dojo Cho is a Sandan; a Sempai is a Sandan, 4 Nidan, 3 Shodan and 16 Kyu grades. They welcome my strong grips and strength with open arms, smiles from ear to ear. Furthermore they have open minds and no ego’s to satisfy. This pleases me. The basic Iwama Style I first learn’t has been of tremendous value to me and my fellow students of Riai Aikido. I have been able to show them the proper way to hold a Bokken and Jo. Correct 3 finger strong grips, but more importantly how to overcome strength, with good technique compliments to Saito Sensei.

    I train once a month with another Iwama club that is 90 minutes drive away from where I live so I can enhance my repertoire of Aikido. This Sensei (Mike Murray) trained directly under Saito Sensei in the 90’s and has also trained with you at the Iwama Dojo. I have joined Aikido Journal and purchased e-books, Bokken and Jo videos of Saito Sensei. My personal Aikido Journey is progressing well, having attained my 4 Kyu in just 18 months of training with my new found club. We have 6 Kyu grades. I am a great fan of Saito Sensei, watching just about every video that’s available on you tube.

    What saddens me is the first Iwama club I joined where none of the instructors trained directly under Saito Sensei and injuries I saw happen (from prospective new members) would have saddened O’sensei. Iwama Aikido taught was not in the true Budo way.

  6. It is different approach. I was from Vietnam and had been trained in Vietnamese style and Vietnamese version of the Tai Chi Praying Mantis. We were taught the form (bai quyen or kata) and were corrected until our teachers satisfied but no explanations were provided. We were expected to discover the meaning for ourselves with our teachers’ occasional guidances. You can only own something you have discovered.That is why the persons with Masters or PhD degrees can work on different areas outside their specialties. There are differences between technicians and theorists in terms of connecting known unrelated things to explain the unkowns. I have been practiced karate for some time and Aikido for two years. Sometimes i explained the mechanics behind the techniques to Aikido classmates or my Isshinryu karate Black Belt classmate and questions are frequently brought up are how I came up with those explanations. Also there are people to collect the information and people collect and process information.

    Nga Pham

  7. Robert Friedman says:

    Call me crazy, but I want as many people as possible to know about and practice Aikido. So if I’m showing something in front of a group or with an individual, I want to communicate the content of a technique or concept to them, not keep it from them. Outside of refraining from giving information to them that they are totally unable to receive, I use whatever style of learning they have to convey information. Something about love and peace and community and other stuff like that.


  8. Lincoln Chew says:

    Learning well involves a certain amount of stealing but there is nothing wrong with asking questions. There isn’t a Shihan I have met who doesn’t encourage questions. However, some may open up only after you demonstrate you are serious and not just a dabbler. Of course, a westerner may ask, “How do I know if this is for me unless I ask a lot of questions?”. Fair enough. I feel for those above who were subjected primarily to lunatic versions of the “be seen, not heard” style. They weren’t being taught, they were being abused. Aiki practise is not just physical technique…it occurs in personal interaction as well. Those “teachers” who harshly splash around beginners and those ill equipped to take hard ukemi clearly have a low understanding of what it means to walk a path of balance and culture, a path of Aiki.

  9. Excuse me for my rather unstructured post, but it is now 335am here and I am feeling rather tired after nearly 2 days with no sleep.

    Well how does one start? I guess for a start it is quite simply ridiculous to state that by watching and doing is ‘stealing’ techniques.

    I guess I should start from my perspective, as I am a person who does and will question.

    It is important to question your teachers and those of more experience as to why we should do this or why we should do that. After all, how does one learn? I’ve asked a somewhat prominent member and high ranking Aikidoka who has still yet to respond to my questions I posed.

    Regarding the article and the Japanese way of training via watch and do, I think some people who go to Japan and get disillusioned is NOT because they expect things to be handed on a silver platter, but because they are NOT Japanese. It’s a different culture. A different approach. However on the other hand, to go to Japan as a westerner and treated as a Japanese or frowned upon for wanting to ask is some what discourteous and detrimental to learning. They must also understand that we are different. We have different methods. How do we attain understanding and harmony with people? We need to talk.

    Saito Sensei was an amazing man who understood this dilemma and knew that in order to spread Aikido and more understanding among all Aikidoka and non Aikidoka, it was necessary to explain and go through all the technical aspects of Aikido.

    I think that one of the main reasons today for such separation in Aikido and diverging styles is due to poor communication.

    O’Sensei developed Aikido as a way to attain harmony and peace. But it seems that many do not hold true to this.

    I have become somewhat disillusioned on my Aikido path over the past year or so.

    I feel that much is lacking from it’s teachings. Many Sensei speak of it’s application to life and how it can help, yet no one seems to teach it. It’s all about technique.

    This is something I posed to said Sensei some time back that never had a response too. One of a few questions.

    I have experienced hell and gone through some serious transitions in my life and questioned many things. My spiritual/positive thinking and development is something that I have been studying and now I’d like to share an idea that could be used in Aikido or indeed any art and vice versa. We often desire or want something in our life, yet we try to force that into being, rather than allow the universal source of energy to bring it too us in it’s own time. There is nothing wrong with desiring something in our life, but we need to detach ourselves from the outcome that we desire and allow it to come on it’s own. When we don’t, we get frustrated that we aren’t getting what we desire.We are trying to affect the future which is not possible. We can only affect the present.

    I believe this aspect of life can be applied to Aikido or indeed any other art.

    So here is the situation. Our Uke is the universe so to speak. We need to allow Uke to come to us at their pace. We can’t force them into being where we desire at a time we want too. How often when we train, do we see Aikidoka of all levels trying to get to the final technique/pin but mess up the sections in between? I’m sure you can see what I am trying to indicate and the pattern here.
    So basically what I am saying is that we need to detach ourselves from the outcome. We cannot affect the future. We can only affect the now. The present moment. When the future arrives when does it happen? It happens now.

    So when we train, we need to keep this in mind and not rush through each step to the final outcome. When we do we get frustrated right? Just like in life when we expect things to happen when we want.
    So many aspects of life can be applied to Aikido and vice versa. I’m wondering if people knew more about how Aikido can be used in daily life and how this form of thinking can be used in Aikido, would many who start Aikido stick to it? Or find it easier to train as they can relate it to life?

    I’d be really interested to know what others think of this concept. Especially lower grades and beginers to the beautiful art of Aikido, and whether or not more theory could be studied than just the physical aspect of Aikido.

    So in essence I guess that a lot of people get hurt because of lack of communication and a strict conduct that forbids you from talking to learn what is happening. This kind of attitude to me is akin to a dictatorship of do this or else.

    I want to learn more Aikido. Regardless of your level you can ALWAYS learn. I would love to have learned from Saito sensei and I hope he would of encouraged my questioning rather than labelling me as someone who is disrespectful or taking my questioning as distrust.

    Anyway, I really need to sleep.

    Fantastic work on this website and blog. I wish everyone of you a fantastic and positive filled weekend.


Speak Your Mind