Jul
29

Life-and-death encounters… “The love-hate relationship between Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda”

Let me begin by stating categorically that the major technical influence on the development of aikido is Daito-ryu jujutsu. This art, which is said to be the continuation of a martial tradition of the Aizu Clan dating back several hundred years, was propagated in many areas of Japan during the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa periods by the famous martial artist, Sokaku Takeda. Known equally for his martial prowess and severity of character, Takeda had used his skills in life-and-death encounters on more than one occasion…

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Jul
28

“The Way of Judo: A Portrait of Jigoro Kano & His Students” by John Stevens

jigoro-kano-way-of-judoReview by Robert Noha

Introduction

This is an important biography of a major figure in both martial arts and cultural history. It is a detailed study of the founder of Judo and his students. The students include male and female, Japanese and non-Japanese. This includes a very interesting section on his Chinese students and their influence on political developments in China.

The author, John Stevens, is well known in Aikido circles. He is the author of two biographies of Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido (both published by Shambhala in 1987 and 1997) and over 30 other books on Aikido, Buddhism and other related topics. A partial list of his books and translations is available at Amazon and Wikipedia.

John Stevens says in his preface: “Jigoro Kano was a seminal figure in the modernization of Japan who also played an important role on the world stage. He was the founder of Kodokan judo, the most important educator in the country, a member of the Diet, the father of physical education in Japan and an international spokesman for both the Japanese Olympic Committee and the nation itself.” (Page vii)

Contents

The book is divided into five chapters with a resource section at the end. Each chapter is subdivided into sections. Here is a brief summary of each chapter.

1. The Public Career of Jigoro Kano

The opening chapter focuses on Kano Sensei’s ancestors and his early life and education. It also highlights the tremendous social transformation of Japanese society as the country raced to modernize itself during the Meiji restoration.
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Jul
27

Avoiding “Aiuchi,” the mutual kill situation

“It is important that we do not end up in a mutual kill situation. This is an important sword principle.”

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Jul
26

The dawn of competitive aikido: Kenji Tomiki Sensei demonstrates exercises and techniques of early Tomiki Aikido (c. 1958)

This is an undated historical film in which Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Oba appear. Many of the earlier preparatory exercises and basic techniques of the Tomiki Aikido (Shodokan Aikido) curriculum are shown. Aikido practitioners who favor the inclusion of competition in aikido look to Tomiki Sensei as the founder of the art, more so than Morihei Ueshiba…

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Jul
26

Building from the basics: “Ki musubi no tachi and the five 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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Jul
26

Stay out of the danger zone! “Hitohiro Saito Sensei sets the record straight on kotegaeshi”

There is at present on Aikido Journal a lively discussion about various “safe” ways of executing the kotegaeshit wrist-turn technique. Many have contributed their thoughts to the discussion. I just received a link to yet another kotegaeshi video, this one by Hitohiro Saito Sensei that shows in succinct form one very effective way of performing this technique. He also points out the error I allude to in my video.

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Jul
26

Personal recollections of Aikido’s first 10th dan: “Autobiographical article (2): Koichi Tohei–Training in Japan by Stanley Pranin”

When Tohei Sensei actually walked into the dojo that warm summer day in 1965 I indeed felt a powerful presence. Since his English, though quite serviceable, was difficult to understand, one had to pay close attention to his words. When he stepped on to the tatami to teach, he would often smile and relate amusing anecdotes to convey key points regarding techniques. Tohei Sensei’s movements were very graceful and he would often jump or hop while executing them. Although he was heavily muscled, even a bit stout, I found his motions more dance-like than martial. At the same time, there was certainly no doubt that he had plenty of power in reserve if he ever cared to call upon it…

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Jul
26

“Elements of Aiki Weapons Partner Practices Part 4: Hasso Gaeshi with the Jo” by James Neiman

Introduction

O’Sensei’s development of practices involving the Aiki Ken and Jo were passed on to successive generations in the Iwama tradition, and have, to this day, continued to be developed as partner practices often referred to as the Ken Tai Jo, Kumi Jo, and Kumi Tachi. Based on the skills and movements inherent to the Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi, Morihiro Saito Shihan and Hitohiro Saito Shihan have continued to build and refine the weapons partner practices so that it is possible to practice fluid dynamics using both offensive and defensive tactics. From these practices Aikidoka can extend the ideas to develop precise technique in relationship to one or more attackers with both empty-handed taijutsu and more general weapons partner practices. The basis for the utility of the practices is the usage of large external objects that increase visibility and awareness of all aspects of Aikido technique, as well as distancing, movement, energy extension and absorption, and timing.

At Shugyo Aikido Dojo we teach the Suburi, Ken Tai Jo, Kumi Jo, and Kumi Tachi to all students as part of a standardized curriculum in the traditions passed to us through our lineage with Morihiro Saito Shihan, Hitohiro Saito Shihan, and Pat Hendricks Shihan, and we encourage advanced students to continue exploring variations on the standard repertoire and identify connections with empty-handed partner practices.

Because of the continuous evolution of the partner practices, and out of respect for the leaders of our style, this series focuses on generally applicable elements of the partner practices, rather than laying out entire sequences that are subject to change. This approach will help ensure that the skills discussed will never become obsolete, as opposed to the practice sequences, which can and do change often. For example, at this moment in time, the 1st Ken Tai Jo involves parries as part of a lengthy series of interactions between two partners. Instead of attempting to describe the entire 1st Ken Tai Jo, the more limited and productive goal in a given paired article and video would be to describe only a parry, which is involved in several other partner practices as well. It is much more empowering to practice and master one individual movement at a time, because this allows the Aikidoka to use those movements in any way desired, and easily mimic any contemporary sequences.

This is the 4th in a multi-part series on the elements of the Ken Tai Jo, Kumi Jo, and Kumi Tachi. All articles in the series are paired with YouTube video demonstrations of each of the partner practice elements (click here to subscribe to the channel). These paired demonstrations and articles are offered to Aikidoka who would like to more fully understand the precise mechanics within each of the weapons partner practices, how they can be practiced in both solo and partner settings, and how one can align the practices with taijutsu to develop increasing competence and precision with both basic and advanced technique.

Note: all the practices described in these articles assume a ki no nagare relationship, meaning that the attacks and defenses occur simultaneously.

Hasso Gaeshi with the Jo

In this article on the Aiki weapons partner practices, we examine the skill of using a hasso gaeshi parry with your jo against an attack. The scenario to be considered is that the jo is on the left side of your body but the attack is coming toward your right side. The attack may come in the form of a thrust or strike with a jo or bokken, and the goal is to absorb and deflect the attack while stepping back, using a parrying motion with the tip of the jo that is initially pointing toward the rear, and continuing into a hasso gaeshi motion to prepare a counterattack or additional parry. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this partner practice. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:

  1. Drop and connect
  2. Transfer momentum backward
  3. Anchor and parry

 
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Jul
26

Morihiro Saito: Action-packed Aiki Ken Demonstration at the Budokan!

Highlights from the memorable Aiki Ken demonstration given by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, at the 1989 All-Japan Demonstration in Tokyo seen by more than 5,000 people. Saito Sensei at his finest!

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Jul
25

Bone-crushing Aikido! Hiroshi Isoyama, 8th dan, demostrates at the 44th All Japan Aikido Demonstration (2006)

A strong physical demonstration of power aikido which some feel should be the direction of the art in order to deflect criticism of the lack of effectiveness of aikido technique. In any event, during his active years, Isoyama Sensei’s demonstrations were among those that elicited the most enthusiastic response from audiences. Please post your comments…

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Jul
25

Spectacular Aiki Ken Demo! “Screenshots from Morihiro Saito’s performance at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo”

Highlights from the memorable Aiki Ken demonstration given by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, at the 1989 All-Japan Demonstration in Tokyo seen by more than 5,000 people. Saito Sensei at his finest!

Click here to view highlights

Jul
25

Aikido’s Kotegaeshi wrist-turn technique under the microscope!

Stanley Pranin recently uploaded a video detailing a common problem seen in the execution of kotegaeshi techniques.

This video engendered many comments on Facebook and the Aikido Journal blog site. Here are three videos linked by participants in the discussion that illustrate solutions to the kotegaeshi problem, the first by Hitohiro Saito Sensei, the second by Christian Tissier Sensei, and the third by Tsutomu Chida Sensei.

Hitohiro Saito Sensei demonstrates kotegaeshi:

Christian Tissier Sensei demonstrates kotegaeshi:

Tsutomu Chida Sensei of Yoshinkan Aikido demonstrates kotegaeshi:

A selection of the comments we have received follows below:

Patrick Augé: In jiyû randori (freestyle) where kaeshi waza and resistance are expected from a commited Uke, two common situations may occur: 1- Uke follows Tori and lands in front of him following up with a footsweep, a strike or a sutemi waza. When Tori feels this happening, he will place an atemi in Uke’s face with his two hands in kotegaeshi position and continue with the technique; 2- Uke hardly moves, his weight is on his heels, his arm aligned with his shoulders, Tori is placed in his blindspot and applies kotegashi. There is no perfect way as one discovers through the practice of jiyû randori. Every partner is different and we have to constantly review and polish our techniques. Please continue to question the value of what we tend to take for granted.

Leo Payne: The speed at which you apply the kote gaeshi. A fast, powerful technique would render uke’s ability to strike you useless even if you were standing in front of them and not doing atemi. Secondly, in Yoshinkan a strike to uke’s face is when turning back towards them is in all basic Kote Gaeshi techniques. The striking is nothing new. In fact it is essential for keeping uke’s balance broken before the throw

Check out Takeno Sensei going through the basic technique from a shomen uchi. Look at the emphasis on the atemi

John: I like the methods you’ve shown. Kawahara Sensei had two types of practices for kotegaeshi that helped me: There would be a Suwari Waza practice with no leg work, with the goal of controlling Uke without body movement using their wrists to control their spine, hip and shoulders. This practice was done very slowly, to look for holes. The second practice I think he considered more advanced. Nage grabbed Uke by the sleeve, where there was no hope of controlling Uke by a lock. Whether or not Uke could strike or fell at all was completely dependent on body movement, flow and timing.

Paul Araki-Metcalfe: Hi Stanley, I have seen this all over the world, from beginners to Shihan.
Do you know the fable ‘The king with no clothes”? I believe it has a lot to do with your next grade. Co-operative uke are quickly promoted. Unco-operative uke, or ones who show the faults of nage, do not get promoted fast. Therefore everyone in the Dojo or organisation picks up on that rather quickly. Suddenly, everyone is doing it incorrect martially, but correct if you want to rise through the ranks. I doubt that it will change, as the people in charge would have to admit that they were wrong. Sadly, whenever anyone points out the glaring truth, they are chastised and usually thrown out. I just work at improving myself, my techniques, and showing my students the pitfalls of blindly following what other do.

James Dempster: Totally agree Stanley. I try to get my students to take ukes balance towards the outside of ukes leading foot before attempting this technique. This surprises a lot of people. But makes the ‘street’ application so much easier and effective I feel.

Milos Jovanovic: Very nice observation. There is another way of breaking Uke balance before making the kotegaeshi throw. Before making kotegaeshi, in position where your left hand is around the UKE`s wrist and right on his hand, make seesaw (your left hand down-right up). This will also unbalance Uke.

Mark DeFillo: This is excellent. I just watched the kote gaeshi section of a DVD of Ueshiba Moriteru Doshu; to my inexpert eye, he appears to avoid creating the opening by unbalancing and downing uke before the latter swings back around into the vulnerable zone. Paying particular attention to the footwork, I see that in each example presented, uke’s feet are still in a position keeping him unable to reach nage, when he is downed. In Pranin Sensei’s video here, the same footwork situation is in place in the first example (nage keeping his center low to prevent uke from turning); in the two atemi examples, it looks like the atemis arrest a potential turn as it starts. I’m not experienced enough to be able to tell whether Doshu’s technique hinges on timing or if something else in his technique keeps uke from turning back into a threatening position. It’s important in budo to be able to analyze both the actions of others and ourselves; thank you to Pranin Sensei for bringing out this major point to look out for. I’m reminded of Saito Sensei explaining (in seminar footage) the importance of avoiding a similar opening when doing tai-no-henko.

James Dempster: I tend to agree Stanley, a powerful atemi will assist but ask yourself. How does this look to a jury when replayed on CCTV / mobile footage etc etc….I tend to agree with your view, certainly for modern street Aiki, which is different to traditional budo, in many ways.

Joe Mchugh: In the moment that uke turns he reaffirms his attack intention, perhaps at the moment of his turning you immediately apply kotegaeshi, taking the energy of his continued attack. if you wait until he has established his center again after turning. Then I agree Tori is in difficulty.

Russell Jacobson: Thank you, Stanley Pranin Sensei. This has long been a pet peeve of mine and you addressed it very nicely. I also step out of the “zone”, as in a ura technique of kotegaeshi. For an omote version I like to drop them on their front corner (no opportunity for them to turn into a counter attack). Sort of difficult to describe but I think you get my meaning. Happy training!

Perry Ivy: The other method is to keep unbending arm on the tenkan, if you do so you will keep their arm, shoulder and back bent.

Sean Bledsoe: One approach to this problem is an emphasis on coordinating the throw with a step with the inside leg, blocking out uke, as demonstrated in the second part of Christian Tissier’s video…

Jason Ramsay: I find success in keeping it low and not giving it back to uke, also cut like a sword and uke has no chance, I mean really cut like it’s a sword.

Steven Wasserman: Thank you Stanley for posting that. Last night I taught in my class exactly what you did watching out for that Atemi from the uke when you bring them around. I keep an extended and keep the circle flowing and therefore uke is unable to reach …thank you

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October 5-6, 2013: Weekend Seminar with Stanley Pranin in Las Vegas!