Jul
18

O-Sensei taught how to relax: “Interview with Koichi Tohei (2)” by Stanley Pranin

Sensei was as solid as a rock but also very relaxed, and that combination made him extremely strong. He had mastered relaxation by completely integrating it into his body. If I had not been fortunate enough to meet Ueshiba Sensei, I probably would have lived my whole life without ever knowing about this type and degree of relaxation. I’m very grateful to him for showing me that…

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Jul
18

Aikido’s Versatile Weapon… Morihiro Saito: “Highlights of the Aiki Jo”

The exact origins of the Aiki Jo remain somewhat of a mystery. Some have found traces of Morihei Ueshiba’s jo movements in the “juken” or rifle with bayonet he practiced as a young soldier. Others point to the influence in the Aiki Jo of the “yari” or spear that he studied with intensity during the Ayabe period. It might also be noted that the Founder was exposed to many classical systems due to his wide network of associations in martial arts circles…

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Jul
18

First suburi: “Learning how to execute a decisive sword cut”

“The first suburi represents an important exercise for learning the decisive movement in sword practices.” — Morihiro Saito, 9th dan

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Jul
17

Using natural, relaxed movements! Seishiro Endo, 8th dan, demonstrates how to disrupt uke’s balance from shomenuchi

A stunning video with excellent production values in which Seishiro Endo Sensei, 8th dan, explains and demonstrates various ways to disrupt uke’s balance using natural, relaxed movements. His commentary that appears in English in the subtitles is particularly illuminating. If studied carefully, this video will suggest new avenues to explore in your personal training…

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Jul
17

Essentials skills for sword mastery: “Ken suburi and kumitachi”

The basics of the Aiki Ken are centered on the suburi and kumitachi. Familiarity with these fundamentals leads to an ability to acquire more advanced sword skills such as tachidori or “sword taking” techniques as shown above…

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Jul
17

Uke attacks first: Thoughts on “Go no Sen” and “Urawaza”

Tai no henko with two partners. The goal is to remove oneself from the line of attack and, in the process,  unbalance the ukes

Tai no henko with two partners. The goal is to remove oneself from the line of attack and, in the process, unbalance the ukes. Notice cupping and lowering of the wrist which aids in balance-breaking. See O-Sensei’s wrist in photo below

An ura movement takes nage to uke’s outside flank
to an area we might describe as uke’s “dead zone.”

Many Japanese martial arts use specialized terminology to describe the dynamics of a martial encounter. A common set of terms used are “Go no Sen” (late initiative), “Sen no Sen” (simultaneous initiative or blending) and “Sen Sen no Sen” (initiative before the attack is launched).

In this context, “Go no Sen” is the lowest level scenario where the attacker (I will use “uke” here) initiates the attack, and the defender (here “nage”) responds to this offensive act.

Several things become evident if we analyze the “Go no Sen” scenario. Since uke has launched the attack, his move precedes nage’s defensive response. Thus, uke has a timing and distance advantage. Conversely, nage has a minimized time frame to respond before uke makes contact. Generally speaking, because of these negatives, it is preferable to avoid “Go no Sen” situations as a martial strategy where possible.

Basic to responding in a “Go no Sen” scenario is removing oneself from the line of attack. This might involve escaping from the scene, entering to either flank of uke, or most often in an aikido context, executing an ura or turning movement to evade the attack.

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating tai no henko with uke Mitsugi Saotome

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating tai no henko with uke Mitsugi Saotome


One of the favorite drills in aikido for learning how to turn away from the attack to safety is tai no henko. This is a blending exercise that aikido’s founder Morihei Ueshiba devised and would demonstrate in every class.

You may have never thought of it in these terms, but an ura movement in most instances takes nage to uke’s outside flank to an area we might describe as uke’s “dead zone.” Here uke’s movement and vision are restricted, and he becomes vulnerable to nage’s counter maneuver.

The simultaneous execution of atemi and kiai to disrupt uke's attack

The simultaneous execution of atemi and kiai to disrupt uke’s attack


Other tools that can aid in responding to a go no sen attack are atemi (striking) and kiai (combative shout). When used properly these actions can partially or completely neutralize uke’s attack and allow nage to regain the advantage.

An area of concern in aikido as practiced widely is that many aikidoka, beginning and advanced alike, remain on the level of go no sen responses to all attacks. In other words, they develop the habit of responding to uke’s initiative which, from a common sense martial viewpoint, is a poor strategy. The Founder most often demonstrated the higher level martial strategies, especially the “Sen sen no Sen” strategy where nage perceives and preempts uke’s attacking intent. These are learnable skills and serious students should understand and aspire to these higher levels in their training.

Jul
17

Avoiding “Aiuchi,” the mutual kill situation

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Jul
17

Wild tales of men of strength! On Writing Zen Combat by Jay Gluck

In Tokyo, at the Ueshiba dojo kangeiko in 1954, it snowed heavily. The outer walls of the low Japanese “barn” were taken off so that at the dawn class a whisker of snow lay on the edge of the outer tatami. I had been reading a lot on Tibetan practices, and the generating of “inner heat” fascinated me. I told some of the Tibetan tales to my instructor, Tohei’s then-main deshi, Tamura (since then in France). He understood the Tibetan descriptions immediately, hopped out onto the snow to plop down in lotus position, hands clasped before his chest, forefingers pointing up. Mist rose around him as the snow beneath his seat vaporized…

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Jul
17

Uke attacks first: Thoughts on “Go no Sen” and “Urawaza” by Stanley Pranin

You may have never thought of it in these terms, but an ura movement in most instances takes nage to uke’s outside flank to an area we might describe as uke’s “dead zone.” Here uke’s movement and vision are restricted, and he becomes vulnerable to nage’s counter maneuver…

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Jul
16

Aikido master of Osaka! Rare video of Hirokazu Kobayashi Sensei, 8th dan

This is a rare video of Hirokazu Kobayashi (1929-1998), 8th dan, taken in the 1980s in Europe. You will witness a very high level of aikido here in this clip. Kobayashi Sensei was personally very devoted to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and would often serve as the Founder’s uke when the later came to Osaka…

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Jul
16

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
16

De-emphasis of aikido’s martial pedigree: “Towards A Reform of Aikido Technique (1): Background,” by Stanley Pranin

What was done instead within the Aikikai system was to de-emphasize the martial pedigree of aikido’s techniques, and eschew practice conditions that led to the cultivation of a strong martial spirit. Some 60 years later, a large number of practitioners within the Aikikai system are still being formed using this teaching approach, which is not martial in nature and does not reflect the vision of aikido conceived by the art’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei…

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