Archives for October 2012


Video: Focus on History — “Morihei and the Young Bucks of the Aikikai,” by Stanley Pranin”

Many of the best young instructors were sent abroad during this period as the Aikikai wished to stimulate the development of the art in foreign lands. In addition to the four instructors in the photo who departed, people such as Nobuyoshi Tamura, Seiichi Sugano, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Kazuo Chiba, Katsuaki Asai, and others left the Aikikai Hombu Dojo for foreign countries to spread the art. This resulted in a major depletion of the teaching staff and the continual need for new personnel to replace them..

Click here to view the video about Morihei Ueshiba and the young bucks of the Aikikai


“Who is Koichi Tohei?”, by Stanley Pranin

“Tohei became the best-known figure in aikido due to his extensive travels
and publications, even eclipsing the Founder and his son Kisshomaru.”

Koichi Tohei (1920-2011)

In May, 1974, an event occurred that shook the roots of the aikido world to its very foundations. It was then that Koichi Tohei, the chief instructor of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, resigned from his post and left the headquarters organization to form his own school.

Many aikido associations, dojos, instructors, and students, particularly in Japan and the U.S.A., were compelled to make a choice of whether to stay within the Aikikai system or join Tohei’s newly-created Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido organization.

The impact on those who remained within the Aikikai system was nonetheless traumatic because they saw the illusion of harmony at the highest level of leadership in the aikido world shattered. Regardless of where one stood on the issue, aikido at large had suffered a huge black eye.

From the viewpoint of the Aikikai, Tohei’s actions and attempts to dictate the technical curriculum and teaching methodology were unacceptable.

In Tohei’s eyes, the aikido headquarters had snubbed his leadership and failed to sufficiently acknowledge his many accomplishments and contributions to the postwar spread of aikido, both in Japan and abroad. The contentious issue was further complicated by a web of long-standing personal relationships that had gone sour.

The upshot of this tragic situation was that, in the aftermath of Tohei’s departure, neither he nor the Aikikai has wished to revisit this unfortunate episode and the issue has been effectively swept under the rug for more than 35 years.
[Read more…]


Video: Pat Hendricks, 7th dan, in action… One of the highest ranking female aikido instructors in the world!

Pat Hendricks Sensei of Aikido of San Leandro, one of the world’s top- ranking female aikido instructors, will be conducting a joint aikido seminar with Aikido Journal founder Stanley Pranin in Las Vegas, March 9-10, 2013. This video presents highlights from a seminar Pat gave in New Zealand and will give viewers a feel for her clear and precise teaching style. This is Iwama Aikido at its best. Join Pat Hendricks & Stanley Pranin in Las Vegas!…

Click here to watch Pat Hendrick’s expert teaching approach


“Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi: Part 19 – Hidari Nagare Gaeshi Uchi” by James Neiman


This is the 19th 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.

Hidari Nagare Gaeshi Uchi

In this article we examine Hidari Nagare Gaeshi Uchi, which is the 19th of the Aiki Jo Suburi, and 1st in the series known as the Nagare No Bu. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. In summary, Hidari Nagare Gaeshi Uchi is a combination techniques: it begins with Shomen Uchi Komi, followed by a left-oriented pivot into an overhead block and strike combination derived from Tsuki Jodan Gaeshi Uchi. Its purpose is to highlight for the student the possibility of combining multiple suburi into meaningful combinations of offensive and defensive movements with multiple ukes, in this case simply by virtue of introducing a basic grip change to transition between the basic techniques. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:

  1. Shomen Uchi Komi
  2. Pivot and Block
  3. Strike

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Book review: “A Life in Aikido — The Biography of Founder Morihei Ueshiba,” by Hugh Purser

One would be forgiven for thinking that this book was designed for the connoisseur (of aikido, if not Japanese history and culture as well) rather than the casual reader. Maybe this is the intention: the official biography of Aikido’s Founder, known to all as O Sensei (great teacher), written by his son for the community of aikidoka.

But that would be a pity. There is much more here to satisfy broader interests, especially in the detailed accounts of life in Japan in the early part of the 20th century, the birth of the Omoto religion and Japanese involvement in Mongolia and Manchuria. One is well into the second half of the book before the author writes “from this day in 1925, our Aikido took its first step forward”.

By then, Ueshiba was already 42 years old, and he had just experienced enlightenment or what he called “a divine transformation”. In fact the first chapter in given to describing his art as “kami‐waza – an ability that seems heavenly rather than merely human.” For some, this could be a pretty intimidating concept.

Morihei Ueshiba’s martial arts abilities and exploits are legendary. But how did a ‘new’ martial art come about? And what were the influences on, and the characteristics of, the man who was responsible for it?

The picture that emerges is complex: a man of immense physical strength, dedicated to a severe discipline of physical and mental training in several martial arts; an entrepreneur, farmer, community leader and activist; at once both selfish in terms of seeking his own path, yet with the greater good in mind, with little interest in personal financial gain. One commentator wrote: “He was simply a person with a very high sense of responsibility and mission”. A man, too, influenced deeply by life changing events, such as the time in 1924 in Mongolia, when he was minutes away from a premature end at the hands of a firing squad; and his profound experiences in his companionship with Master Onisaburo, the founder of the Omoto religion.
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“The bomb that Stanley Pranin dropped on established aikido history… Where do you stand on this controversial issue?”

“What does all of this mean? It means that the common view of the spread of aikido following the war taking place under the direct tutelage of the Founder is fundamentally in error. Tohei and the present Doshu deserve the lion’s share of the credit, not the Founder. It means further that O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was not seriously involved in the instruction or administration of aikido in the postwar years. He was already long retired and very focused on his personal training, spiritual development, travel and social activities…”

Click here to read Stanley Pranin’s article titled “Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?”


“Paradigm Lost, Paradigm Regained,” by Nev Sagiba

“Aikido is a method of healing the tendencies of contention and augmenting those of harmonious interaction without losing the practicality of survivability.” – “In practical terms, applied Aikido accelerates the rendering of aggression to impotence sooner than it would do so by itself if left unaddressed.”

When you want to fight an opponent who wants to fight you, you have both already lost. No matter the outcome, all contenders will sustain some measure of injury. Some more than others.

This is the “fighting” paradigm, also that of “sporty-fighting.” Contention feeding false ego.

A battlefield warrior, unlike the movies, whilst trained to do business, unless psychologically unwell, tends to prefer no battle will arise. He knows he is a sacrificial drone for other interests and his chances of survival are about even, if that.

Whilst some of the very best strategic lessons are learnt in the battlefield, only a few make it to debrief. Dead men impart nothing. Valuable wisdom is thus lost. If observed by an experienced warrior, mistakes may be able to be harvested to augment strategic capabilities by learning from them.

Some individuals never make mistakes. They “don’t need to train because they already know it all.” These are the living dead but they don’t realize it yet.

The best way to learn is from your own mistakes. The second best from the errors of others.

To learn from your mistakes, you must first place yourself in a position where you can make them, and survive, in order to correct them and move on to clarity of practical understanding. Skill in action. Training is an ongoing pursuit without any end, only incremental progressions.
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O-Sensei’s Magic — “The Relaxed Hand”

The Founder’s art was truly magical. Even by watching the old films that preserve his movements one is captivated by his commanding presence, joyful ebullience, and complete mastery of energy and space. Such a level of expertise could only be attained by one who has reached a state that many would hasten to call “enlightenment.” In any event, he without doubt transcended normal human consciousness and entered into a state of elevated alertness and sensitivity. This state of oneness is a goal that should stand as a shining example for aikidoka everywhere who are touched by his timeless message…

Click here to read Stanley Pranin’s article titled “Exploring the Founder’s Aikido


Robert Bryner Sensei of Los Angeles passes

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Sensei Robert Bryner. Sensei passed on October 20th at 12:50pm surrounded by his family and friends. He will be greatly missed!

The viewing will be held on 10/27 Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m. at Fukui Mortuary, 707 East Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

The funeral will be held on 10/28 Sunday at 6 p.m. at Zenshuji, 123 South Hewitt Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

The cremation will be held on 10/29 Monday at 11 a.m. at Evergreen Cemetery & Crematory

Please visit Fukui Mortuary’s website at: for more information.
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“Sleuthing in Search of O-Sensei!” by Stanley Pranin

“Somehow the actual techniques, the charismatic personality, and noble message of O-Sensei have taken a back seat to Morihei’s successors and a few of the leading postwar teachers.”

My fascination with the life and martial art of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei has been the motivation for the existence of Aikido Journal and its predecessor, Aiki News. I have always enjoyed telling the epic story of the events of O-Sensei’s life to aikidoka all over the world.

One of the most powerful means of disseminating the Founder’s marvelous technique and timeless message is through the medium of film. From an old 3-minute reel that I received way back in 1965, to the several hours of footage professionally offered as DVDs, I have watched O-Sensei move on the screen thousands of times. Sometimes in slow motion, sometimes even frame-by-frame. For me, these films hold the secrets to O-Sensei’s genius and provide constant inspiration. I can play one of Morihei’s movies after a long hiatus, and make new discoveries of clues that have always been there, but have eluded me until that moment.

Locating these films over a period of nearly five decades has involved a series of meandering treasure hunts. This span has been marked by countless moments of frustration, punctuated by a few experiences of pure elation. The majority of these old films had been long gathering dust in private hands, their very existence hanging by a tenuous thread. Some of the most exciting moments of my life have involved the discovery of these elusive old O-Sensei movies. Let me tell you about a couple of those occasions.

Click here to read “Sleuthing in Search of O-Sensei!” by Stanley Pranin


Smart advice from the streets of San Francisco: “Reading a situation,” by Charles Warren

“Wreak havoc. This is not the dojo. My targets of preference
for rear attacks, in order are knees, kidneys, neck and head.”

My comment on reading a situation before intervening is to click on your awareness to get a “read” on the situation. Some situations are obviously those to get involved in, some not. Then there is a situation set up in an armed self-defense class where the trainee comes upon a man holding a screaming struggling woman on the ground. Seems obvious. Surprise. When Galahad rides to the rescue and frees the girl, the reason she was being held down becomes apparent. She shoots him.

Dialing 911 on your cell phone might not be stupid. Hopefully it is the cavalry that comes so you don’t find yourself enduring calvary.

If you decide to wade in, how well equipped are you? I usually carry pepper in any somewhat risky environment and would probably lead with that. Any weapons of opportunity that the attackers haven’t already seized upon?

Remember you are barging in, probably from behind. It is unclear that any of the participants, including the victim, consider you welcome. Wreak havoc. This is not the dojo. My targets of preference for rear attacks, in order are knees, kidneys, neck and head. Practice your kicks recently? How about your strikes? You weren’t thinking of using your fists against anything hard, like a head, were you? And don’t try to reason with folks. Kiai might be more appreciated. If your initial attack is effective enough to leave a screaming “victim” writhing in pain, better. It is FAR preferable to have your initial onset sow panic in those who re-orient to your threat*.

A consideration for any aspiring Samaritan is that the observed attackers may have left a lookout/rear guard. Engaging an aware lookout is altogether different than attacking from the rear. The alarm raised, expect a more or less disciplined response from the main group.

If you are lucky and they just run away, you might consider doing the same thing in the opposite direction. Some jurisdictions might not view your intervention as humanitarian.

* The Siege of Vienna (1683) was lifted by attacking the Turkish rear. A surprise attack and disciplined advance routed the more massive Turkish army. Note – the Europeans had learned something in the wars of the Reformation which the Turks had missed. Anyone laying siege may be attacked from the rear, possibly besieged themselves.


Video: Impromptu Aikido Demonstration by Stanley Pranin

This is a short impromptu demonstration I gave at a private aikido seminar in Las Vegas on October 6, 2012. The occasion was a private workshop I gave titled “Exploring Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Aikido.” Over the weekend, I presented some historical background information that attempted to explain how it is that we came to practice the aikido we do today, who was responsible, and what is the nature of the curriculum and pedagogy. For an explanation in article form, please see “Towards A Reform of Aikido Technique (1): Background.”

I will be conducting an aikido seminar jointly with Pat Hendricks Sensei, 7th dan, in Las Vegas on March 9-10, 2013 for those of persons interested in these ideas and how they translate to training and technique.