Nov
26

Video: Mitsunari Kanai, 8th dan, at San Francisco Aikikai in 2003

Here is a beautiful portrait of the late Mitsunari Kanai, 8th dan, taken around 1979. Today we have posted an interesting video of highlights of a seminar Kanai Sensei gave at the San Francisco Aikikai the year before his passing. It amply demonstrates his powerful, precise style of aikido.

Mitsunari Kanai (1938-2004) was one of the last generation of uchideshi to be trained at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. He trained at the Aikikai headquarters from 1958-1966 before being dispatched to the United States. He settled in Boston and established the New England Aikikai where he was active together with Yoshimitsu Yamada of the New York Aikikai in spreading aikido in the eastern United States.

Click here to watch the video of Mitsunari Kanai at the San Francisco Aikikai in 2003

Nov
26

Morihei: “I am what I am because I trained hard style for 60 years. What can you do?”

There are many people who don’t understand the meaning of “hard” and “soft.” “Hard” means to do the technique firmly with a soft movement. But people tend to train in a jerky way. And when people do soft training they do it in a lifeless way. Soft movements should be filled with the strongest “ki.”…

Click here to download Aiki News #34 free through December 6

Nov
26

“Is Aikido efficient? What for?” by Pasquale Robustini

“The hero of American western movies, so popular in the same period,
was the fastest gunslinger, the one who killed them all, the avenger…”

We live times of great uncertainty, tension, worry. Fear of being attacked, robbed or physically abused is widespread. Many feel the urge of learning how to defend themselves, and this request may often be addressed to Aikido teachers.

As I like to put it, Aikido offers very good self-defense basics to practitioners, but this is not its primary goal. Honestly, almost invariably, Aikido training involves predetermined attacks to be countered by predetermined defense techniques. More simply, the attacker is ordered to attack in a certain way, and the defender is ordered to respond with a certain technique that the attacker also knows in advance. The attacker knows exactly what is going to happen and prepares to experience that reaction. Everything is established in advance. This is the typical Aikido training scenario. More than 90% of the time it works that way. But since everyone is free to experiment, there also is “surprise” training, with free attacks and free counterattacks. But why, in normal conditions, is everything predetermined? Why do all attacks appear so false and strange to the unfamiliar observer?  What’s the use of learning how to defend oneself against someone who attacks with his/her “little hand” striking feebly from above, something that will never happen in real life? What kind of training is this if I know in advance that the attacker will come forward with that “little hand,” and I also know what technique I’m going to use to immobilize or throw him/her?

This is what the vast majority of people who do not train in Aikido or train in other martial arts (the latter also laugh about it) wonder about our discipline, maybe some Aikido teachers, too. Comments to videos posted on Youtube often span from very ironic to aggressive and derogatory, even towards highly regarded masters. Many do not understand what the two guys are doing, and what’s the big deal with Aikido since everything is known in advance?

Why is this all happening? I have some ideas about the subject and I’d like to share them here, stating in advance that I totally respect those who have different ideas, and I expect the same towards me. I intend to write about it here especially for those readers who are training with me or who, approaching this discipline for the first time, are asking themselves these kind of questions.

One other thing I often refer to when discussing this subject is the profound difference between the two Japanese disciplines of bujutsu and budo. The latter derive from the former. The former involves combat techniques used by the military (samurai, in Japan’s past), techniques useful to destroy the enemy in war, or to defend oneself in battle in order to save one’s own life. Today it could involve the use of guns, rifles, bazookas, etc. An expert of what the Japanese call (or called?) bujutsu would today be a soldier of the special forces, like a Navy SEAL, a SWAT policeman, and so on. The word bujutsu literally means combat arts or techniques (in Japanese, they are the same). “Bu” is for war and warrior is “bushi”. In English and other languages, the word bujutsu has been translated as “martial arts.” We translate the word “budo” also as martial arts, although “do” means way or path of life. In fact, the Japanese masters who created budo used the same combat techniques (bujutsu) they were so familiar with to transform them into an exercise that will improve the practitioner. The hard work (note that it translates into Kung Fu in Chinese), the infinite repetitions of the same movements, the respect of the martial essence of the gestures and of the correct attitude, ensure that the exercise will go deeper than the physical level, down to our inner being, spurring self-improvement on both psycological and spiritual levels. All this is achieved through the same gestures once used to knock an opponent down. But in Budo, we must completely put aside the original goal, lest the training become useless from the self-improvement point of view, and the risk of hurting someone will grow. The problem here is just the words budo or bujutsu becoming simply “martial arts,” We are usually led to think of the martial arts expert as the “tough guy”, someone you’d better not mess with, or worse, the deadly killer with knowledge of deadly oriental secrets. Given that the aikidoka could also be someone you don’t mess with, maybe it could be worth translating the word “budo” as “martial way” rather than “martial art,” in order to minimize the chance of misunderstanding. Aikido would become the Japanese way of Aiki. Or, on the contrary, we could stop calling combat techniques “martial arts” in favour of “martial techniques.”
[Read more...]

Nov
25

Morihiro Saito’s 8 Aikido Textbooks as downloadable PDFs

Aikido Journal has published a series of ebooks authored by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, in high-resolution PDF format. The collection currently consists of 8 volumes in which Saito Sensei covers more than 430 empty-handed aikido techniques.

Click here to view a list of Morihiro Saito’s Aikido Textbooks

Nov
25

Morihiro Saito: “Only young Saito was left to serve the founder on a regular basis”

Eventually, all of the students stopped coming to the dojo in order to maintain their own families. I could continue because I was free during the day though I went to work every other evening. I was lucky enough to have a job, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to continue…

Click here to read the entire article on Morihiro Saito’s training under Morihei Ueshiba and his impact on aikido

Nov
25

Morihiro Saito: “Imparting Morihei’s techniques to the next generation”


These morning practices consisted of about forty minutes of prayer while seated upright in front of the altar of the Aiki Shrine, followed by weapons training as the weather permitted. At this stage of his life, the founder was engrossed in the study of the aiki ken and jo and their relationship to empty-handed techniques. He was experimenting with the basic weapons forms which Saito would later formalize into a comprehensive system to complement the empty-handed techniques of aikido…

Click here to read part 2 of Morihiro Saito’s contributions to aikido

Nov
25

“Abuse Survivors in Aikido Class,” by Paul Linden

“It will help survivors if instructors encourage them to focus on small steps and small successes so they can begin to see themselves as making positive progress.”

Introduction

Many people who were physically and sexually abused as children come to study aikido as adults in order to gain a sense of safety and a feeling that they are in control of what happens to their bodies and their lives. Aikido can be extraordinarily beneficial for abuse survivors, but they need special conditions to benefit from aikido practice. There are special problems that abuse survivors bring to their practice, and there is special knowledge needed by instructors to enable survivors to practice safely and comfortably. (Though this article focuses on adults abused as children, many of the same issues arise with students who were battered or raped as adults.)

I first learned about the nature of child abuse and the requirements for teaching abuse survivors while doing bodywork with adults who had been abused as children. As I became sensitive to the special needs of survivors in the very intimate situation of bodywork sessions, I realized that the same needs were important in aikido classes. Some aikido students will identify themselves to the instructors as survivors and some will not. It is important to keep in mind that boys as well as girls are physically and sexually abused, and any student may be an abuse survivor. Aikido instructors could be much more effective in their teaching by keeping a few ideas in mind as they observe and work with all their students.

As a side note, the following discussion of abuse comes from the body-oriented viewpoint that I take in my work, but this approach meshes well with the usual psychotherapeutic viewpoint. (For more information on the somatic education work I have developed and its applications in a variety of areas, see my website. There are a number of downloadable articles as well as a downloadable e-book titled “Winning is Healing: Body Awareness and Empowerment for Abuse Survivors”.)

The nature of abuse

The special issues that survivors face in aikido practice stem from the fact that the habitual responses developed by children in the abuse situation persist in later life and show up in aikido practice when they are adults. If these responses are not identified and worked with, aikido can be unhelpful at best and possibly unbearably painful or unsafe. This section will describe a number of issues that may affect survivors’ behavior on the mat. If you keep these issues in mind, many odd behaviors will become understandable and you will find ways of helping students through significant difficulties.

[Read more...]

Nov
24

Morihiro Saito: “Learning to fight for the benefit of society”

Morihiro Saito was a skinny lad of eighteen when he summoned up the courage to seek out the founder in the summer of 1946. He was born on March 31, 1928 in a small village a few miles from the Ueshiba dojo. A typical Japanese youngster, young Morihiro admired the great swordsmen of feudal Japan such as Matabe Goto and Jubei Yagyu. Boys in Japan prior to and during World War II were embarassed not to have some understanding of judo or kendo, and these arts were taught as a part of the required school curriculum…

Click here to read article on how Morihiro Saito began his study of aikido

Nov
23

Straight from the Founder’s Mouth: “Morihei’s Revolutionary Training Manual” by Stanley Pranin

When I discovered Morihei’s little 1938 training manual during an interview in 1981, little did I realize how important a find it was. I immediately showed it to my teacher Morihiro Saito who had no idea that such a document existed. Saito Sensei was delighted at the discovery because “Budo” contained irrefutable evidence that his way of teaching in Iwama was faithful to the Founder’s curriculum as he had learned it after the war directly from Morihei.

Click here to read about Morihei Ueshiba’s rare technical manual and its technical hints

Nov
22

Video: Highlights of a Seminar with Hiroshi Ikeda, 7th dan, at Aiki Expo 2002


Hiroshi Ikeda, 7th dan, is the chief instructor of Boulder Aikikai in Boulder, Colorado. He is one of the top aikido instructors in the USA due to his incredible skill level and extensive travel schedule which has carried him all over the USA and many foreign nations. This video clip taken at Aiki Expo 2002 which took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, captures highlights from classes he conducted at that event.

Click here to view the video of Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei at Aiki Expo 2002

Nov
22

Morihiro Saito’s Morotedori Kokyuho

When your partner stands in right hanmi and grabs your left hand, move your left foot to your partner’s right foot and turn your hips to change from left to right hanmi. Do this movement with the feeling of dropping your shoulder, elbows, and hips slightly. Turn to a position beside your partner, looking in the same direction. This is basic for all kokyuho exercises. The spacing, or maai, between you and your partner will be wrong if you look at him. If you face the same direction with the feeling of enveloping him, you will stay close to him and he will be unable to escape…

Click here to read Morihiro Saito’s explanation of Morotedori Kokyuho

Nov
21

Video: The Way of the Warrior — Katori Shinto Ryu with Risuke Otake

The Way of the Warrior” was a documentary shot by the BBC which aired in the 80s. The last part of the series was called: “The Samurai Way.” It was never to be released on DVD and has become rare collectors footage for martial artists all over the world. A young(er) Risuke Otake explains and demonstrates the finer techniques and philosophies of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu. A must-see documentary with English subtitles for everyone who is interested in the way of the samurai.

Click here to watch the BBC video featuring Risuke Otake of Katori Shinto Ryu