Apr
30

Popular! Hitohiro Saito performs tantodori, tachidori, and jodori at his Iwama Dojo

“Splendid Weapons Disarming Techniques!” This is an excellent video of Hitohiro Saito Sensei performing tantodori, tachidori, and jodori at his Iwama Dojo. Note his stability of posture and the precision of his technique. Hitohiro Saito is the son and successor of Morihiro Saito, 9th dan. Hitohiro Sensei teaches independently and frequently travels abroad spreading the technically-rich Iwama Aikido…

Click here to watch video

Apr
30

Listen to the opinions of Aikido Journal readers on Aikido and weapons

Morihei Ueshiba and Morihiro Saito practicing the Aiki Ken in the fields of Iwama c. 1957

Morihei Ueshiba and Morihiro Saito practicing the Aiki Ken in the fields of Iwama c. 1957

“Use of the ken, jo, and tanto is only occasional, for example, for testing and demonstrations. No structured weapons curriculum exists within the Aikikai system.”

No matter how many times we revisit this subject, we find that readers have strong views on whether aikido training should include weapons practice, especially the Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo. The world’s largest aikido body, the Aikikai Hombu Dojo organization based in Tokyo, holds steadfastly to the position that the art consists only of empty-handed (taijutsu) techniques. Use of the ken, jo, and tanto is only occasional, for example, for testing and demonstrations. No structured weapons curriculum exists within the Aikikai system.

The inclusion of weapons training in aikido outside of Japan is much more common, perhaps due to the freer mixing of styles and the widespread success of Iwama Aikido as taught by Morihiro Saito Sensei. Here below is a sampling of comments by our readers from a thread harvested from the Aikido Journal Facebook page:

George Ledyard:

It is simply not the case that the Aikido Founder forbade the practice of weapons. The post war uchi deshi were encouraged to do weapons traiing. My teacher, Saotome Sensei, was given extensive exposure to weapons work as was Chiba Sensei, Tamura Sensei, Nichio Sensei, and other uchideshi. Instructors were brought in for the uchi deshi who got exposure to Kashima, Yagyu and Itto Ryu sword. The persons who provided this instruction have not publicly been named but it was clearly at the behest of the Founder himself. While the organization and subsequent Doshus may have not been encourgaing when it cames to weapons work, the top post war students all had quite a bit of weapons work and incorporated that work into their Aikido. Weapons work is inseparable from empty hand in the Aikido of Saotome Sensei and Nishio Sensei. Chiba Sensei created an extensive weapons system of instruction. I think the stories of the Founder discouraging weapons traiing came from folks who saw him yell at people for “bad” weapons work.

Although I agree with the latter statement, I would have to hear about specifics of the Hombu Dojo giving uchideshi  “extensive exposure to weapons work.” My research has led to believe that this was not the case and that those uchideshi who did choose to study weapons outside the headquarters did so “secretly” to quote Nobuyoshi Tamura. — Editor

Tony Pelato:

We use ken and jo in all our practice (Nishio style). I don’t see how any Aikidoka could not benefit from weapons training.

Anthony Holbrook:

The movement is exactly the same, Aikidoists who limit themselves to only karate ( empty hand ) are only limiting themselves.

Alejandro Villanueva:

Do you mean Doshu actually said YES to weapons?

George Ledyard:

Alejandro, I don’t see anywhere here where someone has said the Doshu said yes to weapons… Now, the Nidai Doshu had extensive training in weapons as did the uchideshi from that era. I do not believe this is true of the current Doshu, and I do believe that the current Doshu is actively against weapons training in Aikido, possibly because he doesn’t have much of a background…. but that’s just a guess.

Mike De Lucia:

I’ve only ever trained within the Aikikai system, and I trained weapons both under my own sensei as well as at seminars with leaders in the US Aikikai community (I don’t remember specifically who did and did not teach weapons at their seminars, but quite a few did).

David DeLong:

The Form and spirit of Aikido is informed by the weapons practice as taught by Saito Sensei, even that of those who never received weapons training. So one could deny the relevance of ken and jo until the universe collapses and still perform Aikido that has its roots in the body knowledge, the stance, the footwork, the full empowerment of the hips, the kokyu extending from the center, etc.

Daniel Larsson:

I don’t know if Doshu has said yes to weapons or not. In Hombu dojo’s main dojo there is a weapon rack though. When I first went there, there was an uchi deshi practicing the sword there (it was a bokken not a katana). So I don’t know…

Ken J. Good:

It must be the Fluoride in the water…

Warwick Kent:

How can they ignore the Founders basic fundamental teachings? Aikido is like triangle…. Taijutsu, Aiki ken and Aki jo make the 3 sides of triangle. If you remove jo and ken you do not have Aikido!

Tino Gonzalez:

I think it’s something of a can vs. should scenario. Can one learn jujutsu without also learning bukiwaza? sure. Should one make these curricula mutually exclusive? I think not. Removing weapons removes the historical context for many of the techniques which in turn removes some of the meaning of the technique.

Ken J. Good:

Stan, over a decade ago when I participated in the Aiki Expo I had a young woman walk up to me about 30 seconds before taking the mat. She looked me up and down, scrunched her face up and disdainfully told me: “I don’t like that…!” She was referring to my Body Armor, Flight Suit used in CQB at the time, pistol, and the Bonelli M1 Super 90 shotgun. My response was two-fold:

1. It’s people like me that create the necessary conditions in this country to allow events like these to occur in an atmosphere of freedom and safety.

2. I see you are perfectly comfortable watching people simulate decapitations with swords…

I then walked onto the mat with my soft-soled shoes, and as you remember, caused quite a stir in-and-of itself. Weapons are part of reality. Wish they were not, but wishing them away will not change the ever presence of them.

Luciano Estivill:

It is said that Aikido is a Martial Art, and the word “martial” has to do with weapons. There are no wars in which the soldiers are battling with empty hands (that’s boxing or wrestling). Is it “martial”?. So there are weapons. Pure and simple. It sounds logical, doesn’t it?. By the way: MOST of those who say weapons are a must in Aikido, do not really study them. I see a contradiction there…

Ernst Greiner:

Adding Bukiwaza to your training is like watching the same thing from another perspective. The more different perspectives your have, the clearer the one thing becomes.

Brian Kinghorn:

Well you have to admit it’s somewhat impractical since no one walks around with swords anymore. Still, all the movements/techniques are rooted in weapons forms. Weapons practice can still be very valuable for exercising movement, posture, balance, timing. Tenkan makes a lot more sense when you do it as a sword slash.

Michael Crow:

I don’t see why not. In fact, if weapons were more prominent, many of the techniques make perfect sense to the beginner from the outset, especially the ones carried over from the Daito-ryu.

Brett Simpson:

I’m not an Aikidoka, but I do study taijutsu along with many forms of buki. I couldn’t imagine my training any other way. There is a depth and richness to the study of traditional Japanese weaponry; a genuine beauty that only serves to enhance my study of taijutsu. I feel very grateful for that.

David DeLong:

One value of weapons training is that it’s good therapy when one is injured, and is also therapeutic for the aging. If one is unable to go to a dojo on a regular basis, it’s a good way to maintain one’s form and fitness. Finally, it’s a good way to find one’s center . It can be done as a form of meditation. It’s relaxing.

Ron Tisdale:

The Doshinkan jo kata I could remember featured prominently in my recovery from a stroke…

Sean Bledsoe:

I can’t imagine anyone suggesting that weapons training does not contribute to Aikido. Apparently, the etymological debate resides in whether weapons training can be called ‘Aikido,’ as opposed to ‘Kenjutsu,’ etc. The more interesting question, for me, is “how does Aikido training contribute to weapons training?” I knew a fencer on the U.S. National team who assured me that Aikido revolutionized his approach to fencing.

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aiki-ken-jo-course-promo-720

Apr
30

Morihiro Saito Video: “Role of the 7 Ken Suburi in Safe Practice of Kumitachi”

“Among the basic ken practices left by the founder are the ki musubi no tachi and the five kumitachi. You must learn the basic seven suburi in order to avoid becoming confused and to be able to safely practice the kumitachi…”

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Apr
30

Video: “Weapons… a Key Component of Morihei’s ‘Takemusu Aiki’”

Morihei Ueshiba considered knowledge of the Ken and Jo as a key component of “Takemusu Aiki,” the highest level of attainment in the art where one is capable of spontaneously executing techniques ideally suited to the circumstances…

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Apr
30

Video: Morihiro Saito, 9th dan: “Exploring the Basics of the Aiki Ken”

Morihiro Saito, one of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s closest students from the postwar era, is the acknowledged master of the Aiki Ken and Jo. He learned at the side of Ueshiba O-Sensei for over 20 years and codified the Founder’s teachings on the sword and staff of aikido into an elaborate weapons curriculum. The above video clip contains highlights of Saito Sensei’s instructional video on the Aiki Ken…

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Apr
30

“The Concept of Excellence in Aikido,” by Daniel Lance

This notion of excellence has been nagging me for a long time. Indeed, looking on my computer at a demonstration of Christian Tissier at a Martial Art Gala, at Bercy, France, I say to myself: “Well here, this is excellence, it must be something like that. “Then another demonstration that the Doshu did—and the same conclusion! Still others’ demonstrations feel the same. I also remember the extraordinary Phong Sensei, imprisoned in communist camps in Vietnam from 1975 to 1986, eighteen times trying to escape and finally setting foot on American soil in 1986…

Click here to watch video

Apr
29

Download Aikido Journal #102: “Even if you cut off my head, it has no more effect than stroking the spring breeze that whispers now across these fields.”

Contents of Aikido Journal Number 102, 1995

● Editorial – Can competition enhance O-Sensei’s Aikido?, by Stanley Pranin
● Letters to the Editor
● Interview with Kazuo Chiba, by Stanley Pranin
● Improvisations, by Ellis Amdur
● The Omoto Religion and Aikido – Part 5, by Yasuaki Deguchi
● Coping in a Violent World, by Dennis Fink
● Famous Swordsmen of Japan: Kanenori Dengoro Kurokochi, by Yoshinori Kono
● Takemusu Aikido — Shomenuchi yonkyo omote, by Morihiro Saito
● Sokaku Takeda & Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, by Stanley Pranin
● Interview with Rick Stickles(1), by Derek Steel
● Classical Martial Arts & Ways, by Meik Skoss
● Photo Gallery: Three Generations of the Ueshiba Family
● Thoughts & Opinions, by James Williams
● The Book Page, by Diane Skoss
● Heard in the Dojo
● Events & Announcements
● The Last Word, by Diane Skoss

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Apr
29

Video: Aiki Ken and Jo — “The Aikikai says NO to weapons training in Aikido”

The other way of thinking about the issue is promoted by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo including the Doshu and other shihan is that weapons are peripheral to aikido training because Morihei Ueshiba did not formally teach them at the headquarters school and, in fact, forbade their practice.

Click here to watch video

Apr
29

Video: Aiki Ken and Jo — “The prickly issue of whether you should practice weapons on not”

One school of thought is that because the Founder Morihei Ueshiba was keenly interested in practicing weapons from at least the 1930s forward, and taught his Aiki Ken and Jo forms to his students — notably Morihiro Saito — after the war in Iwama, weapons training should be considered an integral part of aikido….

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Apr
29

Video: Aiki Ken and Jo — “The unending debate on Aikido and Weapons… Where do you stand?”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin offers a video blog in which he discusses the issue of whether or not Aikido training should involve the practice of weapons. He provides some historical background on Morihei Ueshiba’s study of weapons, and explains the reasoning for the two major stands on this subject. One school of thought is that because the Founder Morihei Ueshiba was keenly interested in practicing weapons from at least the 1930s forward, and taught his Aiki Ken and Jo forms to his students — notably Morihiro Saito — after the war in Iwama, weapons training should be considered an integral part of aikido…

Click here to watch video

Apr
29

“The Concept of Excellence in Aikido,” by Daniel Lance

Aikido is a way to understand how to successfully
deal with the questions of “violence.”

Many thanks to Greg O’Connor for his careful proofreading of my English version of this paper.

The notion of excellence: this is a beautiful subject! And applied to our art, that of Aikido—the “Way of Harmony”! Yet when we think about the concept, it poses real problems. We will try, the philosopher path of Aikido, but perhaps not for excellence, but spinning issues with rigor.

This notion of excellence has been nagging me for a long time. Indeed, looking on my computer at a demonstration of Christian Tissier at a Martial Art Gala, at Bercy, France, I say to myself: “Well here, this is excellence, it must be something like that. “Then another demonstration that the Doshu did—and the same conclusion! Still others’ demonstrations feel the same. I also remember the extraordinary Phong Sensei, imprisoned in communist camps in Vietnam from 1975 to 1986, eighteen times trying to escape and finally setting foot on American soil in 1986. Phong Sensei went to Aikido Institute, Oakland, California, where his former student and a former “boat people”, Hoa Newens (Nguyen) was now teaching. Phong Sensei asked practitioners to excuse the poverty of his Aikido due to his confinement and his lack of practice, and despite his recent internment goes on to demonstrate a remarkably dazzling class full of sensations.

Finally, I kept surfing on the web and came across a video of Molly Hale from her third dan test in California, and my eyes filled with tears of respect and admiration: “Here, too, is excellence in Aikido!” But the reader maybe does not know Molly Hale and certainly does not understand my tears.

Molly Hale with husband Jeramy as uke

Molly suffered from a terrible car accident. As she returned from an Aikido class, she fell asleep and ended up in the hospital paralyzed from her neck to the end of her feet. The doctor on duty told her husband Jeramy “prepare yourself, your life will never be the same!” But that doctor was not a good psychologist, and he did not know Molly. Molly is very well known in the Aikido group in California, and well known for her humanitarian commitments, too. Molly is also a student of Frank Doran Shihan, she is a instructor of Aikido herself, of yoga, she is full of life and joy, she’s an artist and a singer. On her hospital bed Molly said: “I feel the energy, the life in my body moving, and I will walk again.” It seemed impossible, her spine had been fractured. Then she started looking at her index finger and relentlessly trying to make it move, it moved… after much effort, and after a long time. Molly would go on to do horseback riding, swimming… and now dancing. Molly even passed her 3rd dan test, which she was supposed to take before her accident. Doran Shihan told me that everyone had tears in their eyes! The room was standing and applauding for Molly and her husband, Jeramy, who was her uke. The movie Moment by Moment traces their journey beautifully… and I love, as much as I admire this couple. For me the essence of Aikido is there too.
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Apr
28

“Value Yourself,” by Nev Sagiba

“You are relevant! Do not EVER let anyone suggest otherwise!”

“It’s only me!” How often do you hear this? Only! Only?

Conversely, that same deep insecurity gives rise to much posturing and aggression in males. Notwithstanding, it arises from the same fear of absolute annihilation that resides deep in the core of each human soul; right next to that Divine spark which is a particle of the Godhead Itself! The Eternal part.

You are not the dancing shadows of poverty, struggle, human suffering that take such great personal courage to endure. Nor are you the passing phases of illness, addiction, paranoia, foolish behaviour, money-fear of losing it, anger or aggression.. endless lists of the attitudes, afflictions and actions of futility.

Does life have purpose? Some say it does and others say it does not.

Regardless, we are here, now. We live. We can shine. We can reclaim ourselves. It does not matter what method, what arts, what sciences, what personal disciplines you use to reclaim integrity and personal responsibility for deliberately navigating life… It is possible!

You don’t have to measure up to anyone else. You don’t have to beat anyone else. And.. you don’t have to try to be anyone else! You are you and you are you perfectly. Don’t let this sleep. You are full of latent possibility, talent, ability and creative potential. No one exists who is not!

Why then? Why then are most of us drones? Why do we fear and kowtow to wrongful, misused authority? Why do we strangle ourselves with debt? Why do we allow ourselves to be duped into believing the lie, the greatest lie of all time.. that we have little or no worth?

No-one exists who has no worth. No one can. You, we each, contain the wisdom of infinity, the radiance of a million suns and the life force of eternity. Sure, much of it is locked, but if we exist for any reason at all, it is to find ways to unlock our true potential. Eating drinking, defecating, passing wind and water is merely incidental to maintaining the machine of consciousness, sentience and mobility, the Hito Jinja, the Temple of the Living God, if you will.

So the temple has to be maintained, swept, nourished.. but is that the all of it? The resigned to indignity make of it a hovel of insanity and sad habits. No-one is bound to ignominy. We each and all have the power of choice, even if by the smallest increment we choose to move towards our goals.

The River of Life, Kannagara no Michi sweeps us along faster than we can take control. Life is too much of a roller coaster from birth to death; BUT WE ARE HERE TODAY!
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