Stanley Pranin’s Video Blog: “Iriminage — O-Sensei Style”

“Investigating the origins of Morihei Ueshiba’s iriminage”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin describes the origin and execution of Aikido’s iriminage technique as conceived by Founder Morihei Ueshiba. He explains how this essential technique has its origins in prewar Japan and was further refined in Iwama after World War II. Iriminage today is practiced in many different ways, but O-Sensei’s method, though well documented, is not widely known.


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  1. Thank you, Pranin Sensei, for so many educational articles and videos about Aikido. People like O’Sensei and Saito Sensei did most or all of their teaching and training long before I discovered Aikido, so otherwise it is difficult to learn anything about them. I enjoy reading and re-reading the fascinating interviews in your book, Aikido Pioneers.

    With Gratitude,
    Drew Gardner

  2. Thank you, as always, for the history lesson! The only footnote I would like to add is that these are kihon-waza. Things get more diverse in motion. In fact, the irimi spirit which pre-empts the attack is only, imo, demonstrable in motion.

    Irimi spirit is a huge challenge. It isn’t attacking. It certainly isn’t defending. Done properly it completely disorganizes the attack and the attacker. On the largest scale, think of the fall of France in 1940. Yes, the Germans attacked, but both sides were ready to rock and roll. The Brits were, as I recall, actually advancing to meet the Germans as they took Holland. This was not a trivial or foregone event. Neither is doing the same thing at the one-on-one level, but THAT is, again imo, what elevates aikido beyond a simple fighting style.

    My personal feeling, too, is that some of the things we see stylistically differentiating teachers were matters of instructional emphasis which became trapped like insects in amber.

  3. Keith E. McInnis says:

    Concise, elegant, effective–Thank you! How does iriminage compare to any techniques in other martial arts? Is it unique to AIkido? I’ve heard it called ‘the crown jewel of Aikido’ but don’t know its historical elements prior to OSensei.

    • I, too, would love to hear more on this topic from practitioners of other martial arts.

      • There is an irimi nage move in wrestling. The main difference is it’s done from a squared off and frontal orientation. Beginners try to do that in aikido classes, find it difficult and are corrected to whatever style is prevalent in their school.

  4. This certainly looks like the version performed in the Yoshinkan tradition of Shioda Gozo. My own experience over the years has been that iriminage can be anything from a WWE “clothes line” to a rather wonderful gentle control wherein a fast moving uke is “cradled like a baby” and set on the ground. There is also a backbreaking variation into which I will not go. As with shihonage there are many variations and subfamilies of variations, all of which are OK (if effective) and which say more about shite’s (or shite’s teacher’s) technical and ethical development than about anything else. O-Sensei’s is certainly effective and surely our baseline as Aikideshi.

  5. Erwan Kergall says:

    Wait! Aren’t photos 2 and 3 in reverse order ?
    On picture 2, O’Sensei’s left hand is already free, but on picture 3 it’s still inside uke’s grip…

  6. I’m glad to see continued attention paid to Morihei’s methods, and using the sources available, from Budo to Saito, to show the actual facts of the matter. It’s interesting what I’ve heard people say over the years, from intermediate students to shihans, about various techniques. It seems everyone claims to be doing the “best thing that Morihei perfected,” because they practiced with such-and-such teacher who was, of course, Morihei’s most trusted, experienced student. I never knew there were so many masters out there, so many super-long time, super-close students! He must’ve had uchideshi piled in his lap. It annoys me when people try to basically lie to their students about a given teacher’s time under Morihei. It’s not like time under Morihei equals a master; he trained tons of students who probably weren’t that great, and at the same time, plenty of people have come out of that era of the Aikikai with superb aikido and almost no time at all (some none at all) with teaching from Morihei. It’s just a status thing, and until you put forth the evidence for people to draw their own conclusions, it was easy to get away with saying that stuff. Thankfully, no more.

    Seriously, though, this video and the others like it are fantastic. I’m glad the more controversial aspects are being addressed head on. It’s about time to begin setting the record straight. A thesis supported by raw fact is what I see in your videos and articles like this. Of course, the reader can draw his or her own conclusion, but one cannot deny facts and photo/video evidence. The photos and video available to us has allowed us a very big and important glimpse into Morihei’s personal method of doing his techniques.

    This has proven invaluable to me in my own study, as I’d rather go to the source or something close to the source (such as Saito) than to people who changed things later on. I think those people are still wonderful and they inspire me every day; people like Nishio, Yamaguchi, Osawa, and on and on. However, I think that one should begin their method by looking at what Morihei did, or perhaps even what the extant Daito Ryu schools are doing, given our common heritage. From there, of course we evolve and create our own aikido. However, without that groundwork upon which to create one’s own aikido, that aikido is bound to be fraught with problems insofar as martial efficacy is concerned. And also potentially the safety of one’s uke if one attempts to go into all of this fast nagare waza without that solid foundation. Of course, Morihei and even Daito Ryu aren’t the only sources for developing a solid foundation, but what draws me in is that I’m doing aikido here, so why would I want to look elsewhere when we have so much material from Morihei and Saito to study?

    I hope you will continue to be more vocal and draw emphasis to these things. I’m entirely on board with a mission to bring aikido closer to the Founder and, perhaps more importantly for some people, show that aikido has a very powerful martial efficacy when trained properly. It’s simply been trained out by certain groups or teachers over the years as it was watered down, and much of it with good intentions in mind, I’m sure, but, well, results are results.. One could argue the reasons, but those are meaningless because results are what count. If your technique fails, it doesn’t matter what Kisshomaru or someone did to change aikido. It matters that you study up and figure out what’s wrong with yourself, you know? I think Morihei’s legacy is a damn fine place to look for those solutions, but that’s just me.

    • I try to credit every teacher I’ve had for techniques of theirs I attempt to pass on. Frager Sensei once said, “O Sensei was like the ocean. Everybody brought their cup. If you want to have an idea of the ocean you have to look in all the cups.”

  7. Tanyo Lubbock says:

    I think this would be better if you showed a quick video clip of the iwama version vs the hombu version. The pics are interesting but I think some people might not know exactly what the difference is.

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