Aug
27

An alternative approach… Ichiro Shishiya Sensei, 7th dan, explains katatedori kotegaeshi from gyakuhanmi as executed in Nishio Aikido

This is a detailed presentation by Ichiro Shishiya Sensei, 7th dan, of the Nishio Aikido approach to executing a katatedori kotegaeshi technique from a gyakuhanmi stance…

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Aug
26

Counter techniques! “Mitsugi Saotome demostrates nagare kaeshi with Raso Hultgren Sensei”

This video is a spirited demonstration of flowing counter techniques from shomenuchi attacks. Saotome Sensei both demonstrates and performs the role of uke in this clip. Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, 8th dan, was a member of the last generation of uchideshi at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. He relocated to the USA in 1975, and is the founder of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba organization, one of the largest groups in America…

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Aug
26

Morihiro Saito: “Tai no henko is for the purpose of developing properly positioned, strong hips!”

Daily practice begins with tai no henko. First open your fingers. The basis of ura movements is footwork. Bring the toes of your left foot to meet the toes of your partner’s right foot. Turn in a circular movement into a position along your partner’s side. When pivoting, open your fingers fully and extend your ki. Learn to keep your hips stable regardless of whether your partner pushes or pulls. At one time the founder executed tai no henko with a single hand, but in his later years he used both hands. Pivot around and bring the fingers of both hands to the same level…

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Aug
26

Don’t become a physical wreck! “When will you no longer be able to touch your toes?” by Stanley Pranin

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with Frank Doran Sensei, one of the pioneers of aikido in northern California and one of my favorite people. Frank said to me, “Stan, I will always remember you saying that if you did stretching every day of your life and could touch your toes, on what day would you no longer be able to do so?” Truth be told, I had only the faintest memory of making that statement, but it sounded like something I might say and I was quite willing to take credit for it!…

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Aug
26

Spotlight on Tai no henko… “Foundation of stable hips and the execution of ura techniques”

Daily practice begins with tai no henko. First open your fingers. The basis of ura movements is footwork. Bring the toes of your left foot to meet the toes of your partner’s right foot. Turn in a circular movement into a position along your partner’s side. When pivoting, open your fingers fully and extend your ki. Learn to keep your hips stable regardless of whether your partner pushes or pulls. At one time the founder executed tai no henko with a single hand, but in his later years he used both hands. Pivot around and bring the fingers of both hands to the same level…

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Aug
26

“When will you no longer be able to touch your toes?” by Stanley Pranin

touch-toes

“We, as long-standing aikidoka, are in much better condition compared to the physical wrecks in society at large…”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley PraninA few years ago, I was having a conversation with Frank Doran Sensei, one of the pioneers of aikido in northern California and one of my favorite people. Frank said to me, “Stan, I will always remember you saying that if you did stretching every day of your life and could touch your toes, on what day would you no longer be able to do so?” Truth be told, I had only the faintest memory of making that statement, but it sounded like something I might say and I was quite willing to take credit for it!

This brings me to the subject of aikido and aging and how we should modulate our aikido training and activity levels as time passes. Think about it for a moment. Aikido is many things, but it is at the very least a physical activity that offers wonderful exercise opportunities and the ability to extend one’s active years by many years. All of the warm-up and stretching exercises we do serve to keep the body toned and enhance one’s flexibility. The rolls and falling that are part of our practice keep our bodies agile, and improve balance and response time.

Gradually over time practitioners tend to curtail their activity on the mat to accommodate the aging process. Bodies stiffen, and taking ukemi becomes difficult if not downright painful. Seasoned teachers and senior students begin to focus their energies on correcting junior students and meting out advice rather than maintaining themselves active and fit. Here, I am not talking about dealing with injuries as that is an entirely separate subject.

The acceptance of this sort of physical decline seems perfectly natural and socially acceptable. After all, this is what happens with the general populace. The reasoning goes that we, as long-standing aikidoka, are in much better condition compared to the physical wrecks in society at large, so we are entitled to congratulate ourselves while at the same time becoming less and less active.

Many years ago, I wrote a scathing editorial criticizing this trend using rather harsh terms. You can read it here. I received an avalanche of comments, many of them less than flattering from readers who followed my example by not mincing words. Although nowadays I choose to express myself on this subject in less provocative language, my opinions have not changed at all. Neither has my dojo training changed. I see no reason to use age as an excuse to stop what I have always been doing.

Your thoughts, please!

Aug
25

“The spread of aikido abroad in a nutshell,” by Stanley Pranin

Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Morihei Ueshiba, and Koichi Tohei at Aikikai c. 1962. Photo courtesy of Leo Tamaki

Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Morihei Ueshiba, and Koichi Tohei at Aikikai c. 1962. Photo courtesy of Leo Tamaki

“What is perhaps less understood is the importance of Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei in the early growth of aikido beyond the shores of Japan.”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin Over the years, I have explained my reasons for crediting Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei, 10th dan, with the lion’s share of responsibility for shaping aikido in postwar Japan. Of course, there were others outside the Aikikai that played important roles in developing the art in the early years such as Gozo Shioda, Kenji Tomiki, and Minoru Mochizuki, to name a few. However, the reality is that with the passage of time, the Aikikai Hombu Dojo organization headed by Kisshomaru and Tohei came to dwarf the other aikido groups in size and influence.

I have specifically identified Kisshomaru and Tohei as the two individuals who spearheaded the development of the curriculum within the Aikikai system following World War II. Both had tremendous influence on technical matters during the 1950s and 60s. Tohei resigned from the Aikikai in 1974, and from that point forward, Kisshomaru’s leadership prevailed both technically and administratively.

What is perhaps less understood is the importance of these influential figures in the early growth of aikido beyond the shores of Japan. With the exception of Minoru Mochizuki who was the first to teach aikido in France starting in 1951, the dispatch of Aikikai instructors to foreign lands was also overseen by Kisshomaru — first and foremost — and Tohei whose focus was Hawaii and the continental USA.

Beginning in the 1950s, the pioneers of aikido in Europe namely Tadashi Abe and Kenshiro Abbe, both maintained an affiliation with the Aikikai. Tohei himself went to Hawaii first in 1953, and subsequently on many occasions, progressively setting up a large network of dojos on the islands.

In the 1960s, the second wave of instructors from the Aikikai to relocate to Europe included Mutsuro Nakazono, Masamichi Noro, Aritoshi Murashige, Nobuyoshi Tamura, Hiroshi Tada, Katsuaki Asai, and Kazuo Chiba. These were the individuals who solidified aikido’s base on the European continent including the UK.

In the USA, Tohei’s pioneering efforts in Hawaii spread to the mainland where he began conducting seminars in 1965. The first Japanese instructors to set up schools in the USA tended to be influenced technically by Tohei during their formation at the Aikikai. The best known teachers from this era are Yoshimitsu Yamada, Mitsunari Kanai, and Shuji Maruyama. They were based on the east coast and traveled extensively in the region overseeing instruction and establishing new schools. During that period, Tohei’s curriculum and teaching methodologies were widely used in the United States until his departure from the Aikikai.

Other notable pioneers who taught in far flung locations in the early years included Aritoshi Murashige, Mutsuro Nakazono, and Seigo Yamaguchi who taught in southeast Asia, and Seiichi Sugano who established aikido in Australia in 1965.

Perhaps this brief overview of how aikido came to gain a foothold outside of Japan under the guidance of Kisshomaru and Tohei will further contribute to readers’ understanding the dominant influence of these two giant figures on modern aikido.

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Aug
24

Shoji Nishio: “We always train to be able immediately use the ken or jo from any technique according to the individual situation”

O-Sensei often said: “Aikido includes not only empty-handed techniques but also the sword and stick, that is, the ken and jo. There are techniques for every possible situation.” It is important to keep this in mind. We have always stressed this principle in our training. Thus, in our aikido practice we always train to be able immediately use the ken or jo from any technique according to the individual situation.

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Aug
23

High-level aikido: Bruno Gonzalez and Pascal Guillemin, instructors at Cercle Tissier

An excellent video featuring teaching snippets of Bruno Gonzalez and Pascal Guillemin, instructors at the Cercle Tissier Summer Course 2012…

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Aug
23

Weapon defenses! “Hitohiro Saito performs tantodori, tachidori, and jodori at his Iwama Dojo”

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…

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Aug
23

On the martial nature of aikido… Shoji Nishio: “The highly complex and sophisticated techniques of Aikido”

Aikido represents a major departure from its predecessor arts that focused exclusively on winning or defeating an opponent. It was created as an art to foster moral character. It is natural that the way to present aikido techniques differs greatly from that of other martial arts. It goes without saying that aikido techniques are highly complex and sophisticated…

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Aug
23

No Omoto connection? “Add Morihei Ueshiba’s Name Card to Your Collection of Aikido Memorabilia!” by Stanley Pranin

For those who have come to believe that Morihei’s association with the Omoto religion became distant after the devastating consequences of the Second Omoto Incident of December 1935, this simple name card speaks volumes. This meishi was used by Morihei toward the end of his life and he is listed as the “President” of one of the Omoto religion’s most active arms…

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