Archives for October 2012


Ebook: Morihiro Saito: Takemusu Aikido, Volume One — Background & Basics

This work, “Takemusu Aikido: Background & Basics,” is the first of Morihiro Saito’s final series of Aikido technical manuals. In this 270-page volume, Saito Sensei, 9th dan and one of Aikido’s leading experts, presents more than sixty variations of ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, and yonkyo techniques, the most essential of the art’s basic forms. Illustrated with over 600 photographs and accompanied by detailed step-by-step explanations, “Background & Basics” provides an indispensable guide for both beginning and advanced practitioners.

Click here for more information on Morihiro Saito’s “Takemusu Aikido, Volume 1 — Background & Basics


Try NIEP: “OODA is for Fighter Planes,” by Nev Sagiba

“Atemi and kuzushi MUST be part of the flow and not separate or gratuitous. There is no time. Your “decisionary preparation,” must occur in the dojo by drilling the basics with, as O’Sensei would put it, “Honest attack and honest defence,” until the core basics become preconditioned responses that function naturally, not contrived..”

In the time it takes to say, “observe,” “orient,” “decide” and “act,” a real fight will be over and you could well be under.

Jet fighters have different distances and manoeuvres than human bodies engaged in mano a mano survival combat. Try this instead:

Notice, (all the time zanshin)

Intercept, (shortest path)

Enter, (closing the gap and also atemi)

Pivot, (captures flow to kusushi)

N.I.E.P. …and the obvious followup kihon waza, basic technique will reveal itself by itself because of the attack.

Start slowly in training and keep it safe, but in times of true need any speed is possible.

“What’s the difference?,” you may ask.

Decision is the difference. Decisions take calculation and time to process that on the ground you do not have.

Also atemi and kuzushi MUST be part of the flow and not separate or gratuitous. There is no time.

Your “decisionary preparation,” must occur in the dojo by drilling the basics with, as O’Sensei would put it, “Honest attack and honest defence,” until these core basics become preconditioned responses that function naturally, not contrived. All bujutsu, to function, must adhere to this.
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Shoji Nishio: “I consider aikido a morally principled ‘Yurusu Budo,’ a ‘Budo of forgiveness.’”

“I have always considered myself simply another follower on the path, in a position neither to serve as a model for others nor to assert my views on budo technique.”

Aikido is a “budo, a “martial way,and therefore inextricably rooted in “jujutsu” or “martial technique.” Yet when I look at the aikido world today, I see very little “budo-ness” being expressed in technique, and I wonder if people haven’t begun to forget these important roots. While people often say things like, “Aikido is sword technique…,” and “throws and pins are actually strikes…,” there is rarely any explanation of such ideas. There are even some who claim that aikido has no need for things like striking and weapons techniques. In many settings these days, aikido is becoming little more than a kind of health exercise pursued by the elderly, and women and children.

Click here to read the preface to Shoji Nishio’s “Yurusu Budo” book


The Forgiving Martial Art: Shoji Nishio’s “Aikido — Yurusu Budo”

“O-Sensei’s thinking was great. He made a tremendous change from
the former unforgiving, lethal martial arts to a ‘forgiving martial art.’”

This 208-page technical volume is the only book written by one of the greatest teachers of the postwar era, Shoji Nishio Sensei, 8th dan. This book and is presented in bilingual, Japanese-English format for an international readership. “Yurusu Budo” contains hundreds of technical photos illustrating Nishio Sensei’s empty-handed techniques along with detailed explanations and commentary on their interrelationships with the ken and jo, and the deeper principles of aikido.

Click here for more information on Shoji Nishio’s “Yurusu Budo.”


Video: Stephanie Yap and Kaspar Jensen perform 31 Kumi Jo in Iwama

In this video, Stephanie Yap of Aikido of South Florida and Kaspar Jensen perform the 31 Kumi Jo in Iwama. This kata was devised by Morihiro Saito Sensei to allow paired practice of the movements of the 31-jo kata. Stephanie Yap Sensei earned a 6th degree black belt and the Menkyo Kaiden in Aiki-Ken and Aiki-Jo which were awarded to her by the late Morihiro Saito Sensei, 9th dan. Stephanie is a member of Iwama Shin Shin Aiki Shurenkai headed by Hitohiro Saito Sensei, son of Morihiro Saito, and is the highest ranking female in the organization.

Click here to view the video of Stephanie Yap and Kaspar Jensen performing 31 Kumi Jo in Iwama


“Hanging Out With Back Pain-Old School Style,” by Mark Hauer

“The problem with that remedy was that after an afternoon of
hard deadlifts and assistance work my gripping muscles were shot!”

I feel a little intimidated adding my 2 cents worth when it comes to the subject of pain abatement for aching backs. Especially given Stan Pranin’s contributions on the subject. Most of the back pain I’ve suffered over the years was due to compression. And while Yoga’s downward facing dog pose gives some relief (either that, or the sensation of relief was confused with the euphoria from nearly blacking out from the “head rush” of standing up too quickly), the discomfort was always there in the background: muted, but still present. And that’s been true with every twist, turn, and inverted pose I’ve tried-be it Yoga, Pilates, or what have you.

One of the old remedies I was shown thirty years ago when I was a middlin’ powerlifter was to hang from a chinning bar. The problem with that remedy was that after an afternoon of hard deadlifts and assistance work my gripping muscles were shot. If anyone is familiar with the “old school” culture of powerlifting gyms in the late 1970’s and 1980’s you reserved your lifting straps (canvas straps looped around the hands and onto the lifting bar to prevent grip failure) for serious training: i.e. deadlifts, not for quasi bodybuilding exercises like chin-ups. And woe betide the fellow who used lifting straps for anything frivolous.
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Saved at the last moment! “Yasuo Kobayashi: A man of his word,” by Stanley Pranin

“Rather confused and embarrassed by the whole affair, he
explained the awkward situation he had been maneuvered into…”

Heartened by Kobayashi Sensei’s principled stance, we contacted each of the other invitees who were considering pulling out. Using Kobayashi Sensei’s unwavering support as an example, we succeeded in persuading each of them in turn to honor their commitment to participate in the Friendship Demonstration. As they say, the rest is history. On April 7, 1985, the 1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration took place in Tokyo and was a resounding success attracting more than 900 people…

Click here to read “Yasuo Kobayashi: A man of his word,” by Stanley Pranin


Video: The tormented relationship between Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda

Sokaku Takeda posing for Asahi News photographer in Osaka, c. 1939

“Why would Sokaku Takeda relocate with his entire family to the underdeveloped village of Shirataki and live there the rest of his life?”

Stanley Pranin presents a 28-minute lecture titled “Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda.” He explores the complex relationship between these two martial arts geniuses, and explains how Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu techniques came to form the basis for most of the techniques of modern aikido.

Among the topics covered are the following:

  • Background on Sokaku Takeda
  • Meeting of Morihei and Sokaku in Hokkaido
  • Morihei’s study of Daito-ryu under Sokaku
  • Sokaku’s 1922 visit to Ayabe to teach in Morihei’s dojo
  • Morihei’s licensing as an certified instructor of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu
  • Morihei’s connection with Sokaku after becoming a professional martial arts instructor
  • Strain in relationship between Morihei and Sokaku over money issues
  • Morihei distances himself from contact with Sokaku and Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, and founds his own art called “Aikido”
  • Technical influence of Daito-ryu on modern Aikido
  • Resources for study and training in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu

Click here to view Stanley Pranin’s lecture on Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda


“Kanshu Sunadomari’s mind-blowing performance at the 1st Friendship Demonstration,” by Stanley Pranin

“He had a peculiar way of using his wrist and
forearm to break uke’s balance with impeccable timing.”

It turns out we needn’t have worried because Sunadomari Sensei gave one of the most unusual and polished performances I had ever seen. His aikido was totally different from any other. Kanshu Sensei’s technique was dynamic and flowing with a great emphasis on the principle of kokyu. He had a peculiar way of using his wrist and forearm to break uke’s balance with impeccable timing. Kanshu was a small man, but it was obvious he had discovered some subtle ways of generating power that no one had seen before. He also showed bokken and jo kata that were completely original. Kanshu capped off his demonstration with several spectacular multiple-attack defenses that were superbly executed…

Click here to read “Kanshu Sunadomari’s mind-blowing performance at the 1st Friendship Demonstration,” by Stanley Pranin


Ebook: The “Bible” of Koshinage Techniques by Morihiro Saito

This ebook is a technical manual originally published in 1981 containing a detailed treatise on the koshinage techniques of aikido. A total of 26 koshinage-hip-throw techniques-are presented with sequential photos accompanied by both English and Japanese explanations. This manual is based on photos taken in the late 1970s inside the Iwama Dojo that record many aikido techniques, both basic and advanced.

Click here to read more about Morihiro Saito’s koshinage manual


Photo: “Steven Seagal can’t lift Koichi Tohei!”

A young Steven Seagal attempts to lift Koichi Tohei, c. 1972

“Using Koichi Tohei’s Model as a Baseline,” by Mike Sigman

One of the big problems with many of the Aikido articles printed by westerners is that they are opinion articles, often with fuzzy interpretations of numerous Aikido or Aikido-related ideas. Sometimes the idea of “Aikido-related” is a far stretch indeed, getting into self-help, psychology, and other areas that Ueshiba never directily mentioned or advised on in his life.

Although Koichi Tohei is treated by many Aikido practitioners as someone who does “a different brand” (or some other minmization), Tohei had some innovative ideas that I think the other styles would do well to borrow, particularly in light of the recent (and very late) realization that many of the “ki” things Tohei speaks of are substantive and they are essential components of Aikido techniques.

If much of the confusing and poorly-translated comments about ki are muted and the function of Tohei’s Aikido are examined, his ideas are not fuzzy at all. Tohei has shown substantive use of physically-verifiable aspects of ki in his techniques since well before he left Hombu Dojo as the Chief Instructor. When formulating the approach for the Ki Society, Tohei used the ki skills as a baseline for usage in all techniques and also as a separate study line for practitioners to base their overall development upon. Frankly, it would appear that he had a good idea. The question is why, other than as some aspect of internecine rivalry, so many other Aikidoists ignore and don’t understand the reason and utility of the basics of ki studies in their own Aikido..

Click here to read the entire article by Mike Sigman


1st Aikido Friendship Demo: “A bright idea turns into a nightmare followed by a narrow escape!”

The person who stepped in to save the day was Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei. He adamantly refused to yield to the pressure, and insisted on honoring his promise. Kobayashi Sensei’s act of courage while under a lot of peer pressure earned my eternal gratitude. One by one, I and my staff made phone calls to the teachers who were thinking of bowing out. Our means of persuasion was to point to Kobayashi Sensei’s courage as a budoka, and the importance of being able to rise above political considerations to display a public spirit of friendship and cooperation…

Click here to read Stanley Pranin’s behind the scenes story of this famous demonstration