Sep
24

Start from a munadori grab! Morihiro Saito: “Getting down to the nitty gritty of Kotegaeshi”

In this video taken from “Morihiro Saito: Lost Seminars, Volume 7,” Saito Sensei explains in detail the fine points of Aikido’s kotegaeshi or “wrist twist” techniques. It’s easy to see why he is regarded as such a gifted teacher because of his ability to focus on essential concepts and explain them in an easily intelligible manner…

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Sep
24

Hand placement is important! Stanley Pranin’s Video Blog — “Fine points of Shihonage”

In this video Stanley Pranin offers his views on some particulars of aikido’s Shihonage (four-corner throw). He discusses the generation of mechanical energy to disrupt uke’s balance through positioning, and arm and body movement, atemi, kiai, etc. Next, is a discussion of the positioning of the hands on uke’s arm to execute Shihonage. He proposes that a common hand placement used is ineffective and suggests using the teachings of Morihei Ueshiba and Morihiro Saito as models. Finally, a comparison of some differences in the execution of Shihonage omote and ura are presented…

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Sep
24

“A Modest Proposal,” by Charles Warren

“Some stylistic things don’t contribute much to efficacy.
They’re distinctive, but not obviously functional.”

charles-warrenThis revolves around three headings:

1 – no “dojo system” completely captures O Sensei’s art
2 – mistakes are easier to see and emulate than “real aikido”
3 – as we expand beyond whatever “dojo system” we started in, how do we evaluate the new material?

I come up through Iwama teachers. Morihiro Saito Sensei specifically said that his system was a means to an end. The end is Takemusu, or spontaneous and inspired, aikido. The three main systems with which I have any familiarity are Iwama, Hombu and Shingu. They have commonality but also distinctive differences. Then, in the last few years Noriaki Inoue Sensei’s work was publicized through Stanley Pranin Sensei’s video and yet another perspective came out. Daito Ryu is a related form with less commonality, but a great variety of techniques, many of which are unknown outside that school. Among all of these none seems, or pretends, to completely capture O Sensei’s genius.

My experience (since 1974) is that it is pretty easy to emulate mistakes, or to make mistakes in emulating real and valid techniques.

Among the things which are easy to emulate is “style”. Thus looking at young Koichi Tohei (thanks again Pranin Sensei) I see him emulating the style of O Sensei, a much older man. This is not a put-down. Tohei was awesome, and without his efforts, aikido might not have been available to me when I started. It is just that all of us find superficial things which bear some resemblance to our everyday physical frame of reference easier to see and emulate. The really effective things do not bear obvious relation to how we are accustomed from birth to move and act. We could get mystical and digress on ki, or we could refer to structure. Whichever, when we attempt to “do it,” it seems mysterious. After a while it becomes more familiar, but still not especially obvious.

So, after a decade or three, if you are like me, you start to branch out. Some branches are obvious. If you come from Iwama, how’s your “Hombu impression?” Can’t go wrong there. I find Inoue’s style challenging, but again, that’s pretty close to the source and there is authority for “doing it his way”. Daito Ryu poses a question. Why did O Sensei and his successors edit and abbreviate the techniques? I have some thoughts, but won’t go into that at the moment.

There are some moves and ways of moving which are not found in any style. Some just don’t work. For that matter, some stylistic things don’t contribute much to efficacy. They’re distinctive, but not obviously functional. Because aikido isn’t obvious, I hope they are retained simply for further study.

Now, as to the unexplored but apparently effective, I would like to propose two additional tests.

Is there a history in any martial tradition you know? Does or can the variation come back to a known aikido technique?

I propose this as a self-evaluation system. I find it tedious and unproductive hearing people commenting negatively from the sidelines, “Oh. THAT isn’t aikido.”

http://www.charlesbwarren.com/

Sep
24

Teaching at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo: “Morihiro Saito Sensei’s classes were very popular and many Tokyo students would gather on Sunday mornings to practice taijutsu and the aiki ken and jo “

By the late 1950s, Saito Sensei had become a powerhouse and one of the top shihan in the Aikikai system, teaching regularly at the Iwama Dojo in Ueshiba’s absence. He also began instructing on a weekly basis at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo starting in 1961 and was the only teacher besides the founder himself to be permitted to teach aiki weapons there. His classes were very popular and many Tokyo students would gather on Sunday mornings to practice taijutsu and the aiki ken and jo with him…

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Sep
24

Feather touch! Hiroshi Ikeda’s “Crazy Good” Aikido!

This is a promotional video clip with scenes taken from Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei’s Summer Camp in the Rockies in 2007. He demonstrates a very high level of aikido that practitioners would find extremely beneficial to study carefully. Notice Ikeda Sensei’s rock solid posture, the immediate unbalancing of uke, and the “feather touch” he uses through his techniques…

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Sep
23

Keep yourself in tip top shape! Morito Suganuma — “O-Sensei’s Warmups Alive and Well”

This is an outstanding video featuring Morito Suganuma Sensei, 8th dan, of Fukuoka, Japan. In it, he expertly performs the jumbi taiso or warmup exercises taught by O-Sensei in his later years. These exercises were taught in various forms and combinations at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in the 1950s and 60s. These are an important legacy and a reminder of the importance of throughly warming up the body prior to practice. Notice the outstanding physical condition of Suganuma Sensei, a man now 70 years old…

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Sep
23

Morihei Ueshiba with Gozo Shioda! “Atemi and pressure point attacks that make your technique work!” by Stanley Pranin

In this obviously posed photo against a fan attack from shomenuchi, Morihei has entered to Shioda’s flank, executing atemi to the latter’s ribs, and attacked a pressure point under uke’s elbow. This movement is a classic defense against a knife attack…

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Sep
23

Mecca for foreign aikidoka! Morihiro Saito: “Totally committed to preserving intact the legacy of techniques bequeathed by the Founder”

The popularity of his books and his extensive foreign travels have resulted in the Iwama Dojo becoming a Mecca for foreign aikido students wishing to train intensively and gain experience in the use of the aiki ken and jo. Over the years, literally hundreds of aikidoka have journeyed from abroad, and often the foreign practitioners outnumber their Japanese counterparts at the Iwama Dojo. Perhaps the secret of Morihiro Saito Sensei’s success among foreign enthusiasts is his unique approach to the art, a mixture of tradition and innovation…

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Sep
21

The World of Apollo Robbins: “Merging magic and self-defense,” by Stanley Pranin

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“Could one’s attention-diversion abilities coupled with a strong martial arts background allow him to “talk his way out” of a dangerous situation?”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley PraninA few days ago, I saw a link to a TED video that immediately caught my attention. The presentation was given by a man named Apollo Robbins, a magician who goes by the name of “The Gentleman Pickpocket.” The reason for my excitement is because I know Apollo. He came to my dojo for a brief period last year. After class, he regaled us with demonstrations of his amazing skills and created a truly “magical” atmosphere that captivated all of us present.

Apollo and I also had several talks about common aspects of magic and aikido, and how techniques from each discipline might enhance the practice of the other.

In watching this recent TED video, my impression was that Apollo’s “patter” — already highly developed — had become even more sophisticated. He combined rapid speech with clever humor, and an array of gestures and body language that served to catch and direct the audience’s attention.

Before I go further, please view this delightful video of a master magician at work…

The concept of magic of Apollo, and I’m sure that of most magicians, is centered on controlling the attention of their audience. There are a virtually unlimited number of ways of achieving this such as the skilled use of verbal cues, manual dexterity, body language, facial gestures, humor, confusion, redirection and misdirection of the audience’s attention, etc.

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Since most of our readers are martial artists, I’m sure they will immediately see parallels in their training with much of what Apollo is explaining during his show. After we learn basic aikido techniques and they become second nature, we see that there are additional, more advanced tools available to apply in a self-defense scenario to improve the odds of a favorable outcome.

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What if aikidoka, for example, could learn even a few of Apollo’s magic skills to supplement their knowledge of martial techniques? Imagine if they could draw upon this expanded skill set under duress in a situation where physical intervention might be necessary. Could one’s attention-diversion abilities coupled with a strong martial arts background allow him to “talk his way out” of a dangerous situation instead of fighting? What techniques do crisis intervention specialists, hostage negotiators and those in similar fields draw upon when dealing with mentally unstable and potentially violent individuals?

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To suggest another interesting line of thought… do we already use “magic” skills in our aikido training? To give a concrete example, watch any video of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei and you will see him using leading and redirection maneuvers extensively.

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba taking the initiative and directing the attention of uke prior to physical contact.

Magic at work! Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba taking the initiative and
directing the attention of uke prior to physical contact from 1961 film.

Here we see the founder of aikido setting up a technique in a manner analogous to the redirection of a magician. Morihei would rarely respond to attacks, but rather create favorable circumstances for the execution of the technique through such gestures and body language.

I am of the firm belief that it is possible to view aikido through alternate lens and expand the tools we have at our disposal. One fruitful avenue of research would be to examine the world of magic as exemplified by such experts as Apollo Robbins. Many of their sophisticated magic techniques rely on the same mental and physical principles we use in aikido.

To be successful, the magician must master the art of directing the attention of his audience. At the more advanced levels of our aikido, practitioners should strive to extend their capabilities to exert similar control techniques during their interaction with training partners. It may then become possible to neutralize the attacker’s intent and conclude the encounter with minimum force and without injury. That would really be “magic!”

This is a fascinating area of inquiry, and we invite readers to contribute their input to a discussion of this topic.

Contact Apollo Robbins

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Sep
21

Witness amazing talent! “Aikido legends of the past return to inspire us in the present!”

It may have been raining outside, but those inside had their minds on things other than the weather. They were witness to an extremely rare display of Aikido talent and what amounted to a profound statement about the possibilities of cooperation among Aikidoists of different persuasions. The six senseis who performed were, in order of their appearance: Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei, Yoshio Kuroiwa Sensei, Shoji Nishio Sensei, and Morihito Saito Sensei…

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Sep
21

Wrist twisting! Christian Tissier Sensei demonstrates kotegaeshi

The well-known French Aikido Master Christian Tissier demonstrates kotegaeshi, the aikido wrist twist, one of the art’s basic techniques. Uke: Bruno Gonzalez…

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Sep
20

Popular! “Yamaguchi Sensei had never had a foreign student and it seemed he didn’t particularly want one!” by William Gleason

One evening, I presented myself at the front door of the Ikenoue dojo with my letter of recommendation. Sensei was not at all pleased. He had never had a foreign student and it seemed he didn’t particularly want one. This dojo was for his chosen few. It had an atmosphere of secrecy, as though the essence of the art was to be found here alone. In addition, although Sensei could speak English, he refused to do so. He would talk to me using one of his students as an interpreter. To add to his chagrin, my own arrogance was completely obvious…

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