“Going to the source to find Aikido’s essence,” by Luke

“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.”

aikido-obi-generic-150The text below was submitted as a comment in reply to a video blog title “Iriminage — O-Sensei Style”. The author brings up a number of salient point that I think will be of interest to many of our readers. – Editor

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.


  1. jack livingston says:

    Speaking of the foundation, study the postural pictographs, the full finishing postures of Katsuyuki Kondo. They’re very much like the stances of Yang Cheng Fu the tai chi master. Most of modern tai chi and aikido have strayed away from the postural foundations. Maybe because Ueshiba and Cheng Man Ching could whip you without the hieroglyphs.

  2. Think about it….if you take away the 3 R’s in MMA you have a street fight…..Rules…Ring …Ref….and becomes Reality….not dancing in a dojo…sorry but what is….IS

  3. So true about foundation! I began my Aikido training years ago at the ASU Shobukan dojo where they slowly, carefully emphasized techniques, ukemi and sword cutting. I had no idea at the time why this was important but I figured that everyone learned the same way. Eventually, I went back to college and trained under a different set of instructors more loosely affiliated with the Hombu masters and their students. At this Aikido club there was a lot of emphasis on “one point” and “flow” but less emphasis about hanmi and posture. Still, the main instructor was very skilled and taught Waite-sensei’s ukemi and tobu-ukemi techniques which have been an immeasurable benefit to me over the years.

    Nevertheless, when I came home for visits to the ASU Northern Virginia dojo I could tell the difference. When I didn’t step off the line, I got bopped in the nose (but good!). If I didn’t turn my hips, the sempai would sometimes just stand there and smile or (if Jim gave them the nod) gently reverse me! Needless to say I learned very quickly what I hadn’t learned. That first summer was enlightening.

    Imagine what it was like to go back to my college Aikido club after that! It was particularly interesting when a visitor who had spent several months training at Nipponkan with Homma-shihan stopped by for a class. “Do you only train here?” he whispered to me.

    It is critical to learn to practice technique slowly and effectively with honest attacks. Before moving into speed, get a sense of balance, of distance, and perhaps a dose of violent-like intensity now and again. Along with weapons training, this helps to build a foundation for Aikido that will eventually, actually work in an attack scenario. Without this foundation, if one moves into even intermediate speed, the technique may not work or will be too clunky because of muscling out. Worse still, a poor foundation with a lack of “static” training hurts one’s martial understanding and makes it difficult to grow. For example, with poor hanmi, randori is impossible and incorporating atemi-waza or kyusho-jitsu is very difficult. Beginners MUST forget about the pretty nagare-waza stuff that brought them into the dojo in the first place (and teachers must stop being so lazy as to de-emphasize what got them that black belt!).

    What made Saito, Tohei, and Yamaguchi so great is the same thing that made Michael Jordan so great–they all had mastered the FUNDAMENTALS!

  4. I’ve been thinking about Daito-ryu as compared to Iwama style for a while. I could be wrong but I think I detect some consistent principles. 1 – nage rarely spends so much time or gives uke so much attention as to deliver a finishing blow, standard in Daito-ryu. This changes the emphasis from one-on-one to multiple person engagement. That could be a topic of its own, but extends to 2 – There are few or no Iwama techniques which necessarily entail injury to uke. There is a very slick old go-kyo pin which facilitates cuffing up the offside hand. The downside is its execution necessarily involves holding down the hand which was just disarmed with a substantial proportion of nage’s body weight exerted through the far-side knee. I don’t see how that can be done without hurting uke to a greater or lesser extent.

    Dance – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ovVjj_zpQs

Speak Your Mind