Archives for September 2012


Welcome Penn State University Aikido Students!

“This is a fantastic resource for you to gain knowledge
and appreciation for Aikido beyond the classroom…”

Dr. Jim Sullivan, Ph.D., an instructor of kinesiology, at Penn State University has organized a program to supplement the aikido course he teaches at the university. Aikido Journal is providing access to the students of Jim’s aikido class to the Aikido Journal Members Site and its vast amount of documents on all aspects of aikido. In this way, students will be able to inform themselves of the history of the art, its major figures, technique and all manner of related aikido subjects. Here is an excerpt from the email sent to Penn State students announcing the arrangement:

“As mentioned earlier this semester we at Penn State are partnering with the on-line resource Mr. Stan Pranin is the editor-in-chief and founder of Aikido Journal and he has dedicated most of his life to researching and documenting the history, development and training of Aikido. During the course of this semester you will be getting regular emails with articles and videos for you to view. This is a fantastic resource for you to gain knowledge and appreciation for Aikido beyond the classroom…”

Welcome Penn State students!


“The Many Faces of Self-Victory,” by Nev Sagiba

“Victory has nothing to do with fighting per se and everything to do with understanding what we were previously blind to.”

Sometimes the adage, “Learn to fight in order not to fight,” is not well understood.

Or why it is that training MUST be honest and why it is vital to practice as if preparing for a real life-threatening situation. Various complacencies of mind-rot can too easily set in, which can corrupt the budo arts effect on the trainee. Excuses, spin, compromise, cultishness, avoidance-mechanisms, politics, self-deception and other sidetracks from the Path of clear mind.

The Founder of Aikido propounded living life as if taking charge of your self at every moment, no matter what.

The journey is the Way and it never ends. Without precision and authentic personal discipline, a life is only a part existence half lived. Regular training is simply a way to keep reminding us about life itself with all its vagaries, challenges, tests, trials and tribulations and to enable us to handle them better. Sometimes this involves fighting and sometimes not. Mostly not. There are so many other challenges to be understood by mastering ourselves.

Victory has nothing to do with fighting per se and everything to do with understanding what we were previously blind to. Whereas the spiritually blind will comply readily to any “authority,” buy and consume what they are told to without stopping to question, or follow any enticing carrot held before them to make them pull someone else’s cart, the person without blind spots cannot be dominated. They become empowered to master themselves and give to the world to make human existence a better proposition, if even slightly, than it otherwise could be and has been in darker times..
[Read more…]


Video: Morihiro Saito teaches Ushiro Eridori Techniques

“Aikido teachers can build an entire lesson plan on the contents of this video!”

An excellent compilation of seminar techniques including advanced katatedori techniques, and a lengthy series of ushiro eridori techniques. Videos such as these highlight Saito Sensei’s skilled pedagogy and encyclopedic knowledge of aikido technique. Morihiro Saito was one of the closest and talented of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s students in the postwar period. Over his nearly 60 year aikido career, Saito Sensei taught widely both in Japan and abroad and left an important body of book and video materials that are considered among the best sources on aikido technique.

Click here to view the video of Morihiro Saito teaching ushiro eridori techniques


“A Unique Twist on Back Exercises for the Aikidoka,” by Stanley Pranin


“Help for your aching back!”

I recently posted a video where I demonstrate a series of yoga postures that I have incorporated into our aikido warmups. Quite a few readers have shown interest in this subject and shared their experiences with the benefits of yoga, especially related to dealing with back pain.

Among those submitting comments was Dr. Lisa Allaire of San Mateo, California, also a practitioner of Yoshinkan Aikido. I found this video by Lisa on youtube that I thought you would find of interest, particularly if you’ve been dealing with back pain.


“Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi: Part 15 – Hasso Gaeshi Tsuki” by James Neiman


This is the 15th 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.

Hasso Gaeshi Tsuki

In this article we examine Hasso Gaeshi Tsuki, which is the 2nd of the Aiki Jo Suburi in the series known as the Hasso No Bu. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. In summary, Hasso Gaeshi Tsuki contains part of a figure-8 movement, resulting in a block followed by a forward thrust. The exercise is designed to help students learn to generate rotational dynamics through the hips, extending that energy through the hands, and following up with a forward moving counter thrust. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:

  1. Initiate Rotation and Block
  2. Tsuki
  3. Drop Back

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“The Science of Budo – Bridge of Forgotten Consciousness,” by Nev Sagiba

“When the pain becomes too much, we let go of our illusions,
the lies of self-defeating habituated patterns.”

Variety may be “the spice of life” but for some it seems not as nutrition for the soul, but uncomfortable and inconvenient. Attachment to inertia is the biggest curse lodged in the mind of man.

The beauty of Budo training is that it forces you to adapt and reconcile variables to learn to survive best.

Calcified preconceptions are the beginning of a slow seppuku leading to soul death. You have to let go and lose everything before you can realise that you are and contain everything and that there are no beginnings or endings, only continuity without end. Even the term Kannagara no Michi has by some been contained in a box that kills its real meaning. Kannagara no Michi has to be discovered for oneself because it is not a conceptual dogma but a real condition of existence, whatever the label you may assign it.

Knowing existence, as it is, devoid of coloured glasses is the first awakening which then refines without end. The true warrior is a spiritual as well as physical athlete whose primary weapon is discernment. Discernment cuts through the nonsense, wishful thinking and self deception to which the false ego clings.

To know, not merely to presume or to imagine requires factuality. Opinion is merely an insubstantial shadow which is skewed.

Reality is as it is and can be no other way. At any given moment the factual reality of that moment suspended in time carries with it those predominant propensities that it does. The next moment will be unique and the next and so on. Variables are the only true constant.
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International Aikido Federation Announcement: Anti-Doping Standards for Aikido?

Retrieved from Facebook page of the International Aikido Federation:

“We have received notification from WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) that the IAF’s anti-doping program development is compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

While some IAF fans may wonder why the IAF is concerned about anti-doping, we have to remind ourselves that this is a requirement of being part of the SportAccord framework and the principles upheld by the world sports community. The inter
face with WADA was undertaken by our Vice Chairman Stefan Stenudd and has been a rather difficult road, partly in explaining to WADA people the peculiarities of Aikido as a non-competitive martial art, and partly due to the complexity of the anti-doping effort. We shall continue to meet the WADA requirements and at the same time demonstrate to the world that Aikido has a very unique value proposition as an active human developmental sport/martial art. (K. Izawa)”

Please feel free to comment below.


Free Wallpaper: Beautiful & Inspiring Wallpaper of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

“Find Wisdom & Inspiration in the Words of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei.”

It is our pleasure to offer you a a beautiful and inspiring wallpaper of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. This image is from one of the most famous photo portraits of Morihei Ueshiba. It was shot c. 1957 when the Founder was approximately 73 years of age. Morihei is seated facing forward, his gaze directly into the camera. His countenance reveals a man of great spiritual depth and worldly experience tinged with kindness.

Included on the wallpaper is an inspirational saying of O-Sensei which reads as follows:

“Aiki is not a technique to fight with or defeat the enemy. It is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family.”

Resolution: 1600×1200 dpi

Please enter your name and email in the form below to access your download. We will send you an email containing a confirmation link. Please click on the link to access the download page.

We also offer a beautiful high-resolution version of this portrait of Morihei Ueshiba suitable for printing a large, framed photo or poster for display in your dojo. Check it out here!

“Wheat, Tares and Chaff,” by Nev Sagiba

“One a day a tough biker from one of the mean clubs with a reputation, very humbly approached me thinking I was going to ban him on sight.”

I don’t set out to laboriously screen candidate students who apply to train. The Universe does it for me.

If they find the dojo, (” ..the first test Grasshopper,”) it shows they mean to train. Many never show up and most I never know about.

After that, the training sorts them out. For obdurate bad attitudes I have a few “old sensei tricks,” to help discourage and test along the way. My dojo is not a financial venture so there are no qualms.

One a day a tough biker from one of the mean clubs with a reputation, very humbly approached me thinking I was going to ban him on sight as happened at another dojo. To all means and purposes he showed a respectful attitude. Particularly when he, during the interview confessed that he belonged to the biker club and had in fact been sent by his sergeant at arms, because,“Aikido is the best because Steven Seagal does it..”

In class we danced. Mainly randori for about three weeks. And I rambled about O’Sensei’s philosophy whilst catching our breath in between bouts. It was soft cardio with lots of flowing. Day in, day out. Non stop. That was the programme for that season of training.

Then the dear fellow approached me again and said,”I don’t mean any disrespect sir, but I’m sore all over.”

I told him that was normal and would go away after a few weeks. He bravely persisted and whilst with us a model student with impeccable manners towards everyone.

A week later he meekly and respectfully approached me again, “Sir.. ahh, sensei, I can’t keep this up. This business of multiple attack, I don’t get it. When we (bikers) fight, we gang up and outnumber them with chains and knives and guns and f@*& the other gang up. This business is weird to me. And my body can’t take it any more. I hope you won’t hold it against me sir, but I’ve decided to leave.”
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Frozen in Motion: Rinjiro Shirata, 9th dan, at the All-Japan Demonstration

“The result is as an eerie strobe effect that
highlights the dazzling motion of the technique.”

This photo of 9th dan Rinjiro Shirata was taken at the All-Japan demonstration in Tokyo c. 1988. I was among the photographers allowed on the floor of the Budokan and snapped this photo during Shirata Sensei’s performance. The interesting thing about this photo is that, apart from the fortunate timing capturing this dynamic moment of the technique, a second flash went off at precisely the same instant. The result is as, you can see, an eerie strobe effect that highlights the dazzling motion of the technique. It’s one of the best shots I’ve ever taken and much of it was purely due to chance!

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.
[Read more…]


California Aikido Association Instructor Pat Hendricks’ promotion to 7th dan

Pat Hendricks Sensei of Aikido of San Leandro was promoted to 7th dan at the annual Kagami Biraki celebration of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo held on January 9, 2012. Following her promotion, Pat journeyed to Japan to pick up her diploma in person where she was met by Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. Here is a lovely photo of the two together shared on Facebook.

From the Aikido of San Leandro website:

“Pat Hendricks started studying Aikido in 1974 with Stan Pranin and Mary Heiny. In 1976 she moved to Iwama, Japan, to study with Saito Sensei Shihan. For the next 30 years, she returned to Japan over 25 times, during 6 years of which she trained as an uchi-deshi. She holds a menkyo kaiden in weapons certification and was certified to test for the U.S. She served as Saito Sensei’s representative for the U.S. and runs the Iwama division in the California Aikido Association (CAA). Her own dojo, Aikido of San Leandro, attracts students from all over the world, including Japan.”


“My List of Problem Areas in Today’s Aikido,” by Stanley Pranin

“It is very common to find students and teachers alike resort to
the forcible application of strength in order to make a technique work.”

In the last several years, I have becomed focused on a number of areas that I have identified as commonly lacking in training and deserving of the attention of aikido instructors. I regard these problem areas as widespread across styles and detrimental to the development of the art. Among my observations — voiced here and elsewhere — are the following:

  • In training, it is very common to find students and teachers alike resort to the forcible application of strength in order to make a technique work. This increases the risk of dojo injuries.
  • Most dojo training is reactive in nature. By that I mean, the common dojo training paradigm involves uke initiating the attack and nage responding. This practice is suitable for the beginning student as a way to learn the mechanics of a technique, but breeds bad habits in more advanced practitioners who attempt to execute flowing techniques. Nage’s response time is too limited due to a lack of initiative and sloppy execution of technique can result.
  • Training unfolds with little attention given to breaking uke’s balance. As a result, as the technique is executed, uke may have opportunities to hinder, stop, or counter nage’s technique. One solution to this problem is to stress the importance of nage operating from uke’s blind spot — diagonally to the rear — in order to safely execute techniques.
  • Many practitioners are not in sufficiently good physical condition to execute some of aikido’s more advanced techniques that require above-average body flexibility and agility.
  • Few students understand the concept and methods of locking uke’s body structure to break his balance, and apply techniques and pins. This allows aikido’s devastating techniques to be practiced safely as undue force becomes unnecessary. For example, assume you’re applying a nikyo. Instead of applying force to the wrist joint, causing pain and risking injury, you immobilize the entire arm to shoulder structure which in turn “locks” the body. From there, a simple hip lowering will cause uke to fall, but without injury.
  • There is a lack of awareness of the specifics of Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido technique. A careful study of Morihei’s art as seen in his films and photos will impart a deeper understanding of his techniques and intentions for aikido, and raise the bar to a much higher level for aikidoka today.

I would invite you to comment on the points I have raised, and offer your observations about training problems as you perceive them, and ways of improving the technical level of contemporary aikido.


Watch these videos for insights into solving the
technical problems that hold back your progress!

Click here for information on Stanley Pranin's “Zone Theory of Aikido” Course