Archives for August 2015


Harold T. — “That’s Just How It Bends” by Tom Collings


“How these guys can run like the world’s fastest human, while handcuffed behind their backs and shoeless is beyond me”

tom-collings-150pxHAROLD was recently out of recruit class, so the boss told me to take him on his first hits. “Collings, do not let him get hurt or screw up,” ordered the chief. “Yes, sir, no problem,” I said. Hits are parole officer talk for grabbing a bunch of fugitive arrest warrants, getting a few POs together, then meeting at 5 am to track down some parole violators.

Convicts often jump parole when they are afraid we will do a drug test, or because they assume we know they are out there committing new crimes. Most of the time, we don’t know, but they assume we do. So, they stop showing up to their scheduled reports to us, and often move to another town or another state. When they cheat on their girlfriend, rip off a drug customer, or piss off their mama — I often get tipped off where they are hiding out.

The first hit of the day was at a Brownsville Housing Project, the rough Brooklyn neighborhood that produced brawlers like Mike Tyson. As we get to a fourth floor apartment, I could see Harold was nervous, partly because of the danger, but also because this was his chance to show the chief he could handle the job. He was impressed with how I sweet-talked my way right into the apartment, and how quickly we located our fugitive and cuffed him up — before he could hide, start fighting, or grab a weapon. It was all going smooth as silk as I grabbed some shoes for the guy, when the family suddenly went ballistic.

Now brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, were coming at us from all sides. To them, we were not duly sworn officers of the law executing a legal arrest warrant, we were intruders who invaded their home, and were messing with their boy! When things are going smoothly, four officers seems like overkill. But, when the shit hits the fan, you wished you had ten more with you! I pushed Harold and our handcuffed prisoner down the hallway, and out the front door of the apartment. Then I ran back in to help the other guys fight their way out of there. When we got out, I looked around but there was no Harold, and no prisoner?

I ran down the hall to a window, just in time to see the backside of our prisoner running across the courtyard four floors below — no shirt, no shoes, and handcuffed behind his back. Zooming at full speed, with a fifty-yard lead on Harold! How these guys can run like the world’s fastest human, while handcuffed behind their backs and shoeless is beyond me.

When we got down to the street, Harold was a block away, and our ex-prisoner was just a speck in the distance, two blocks away. “Keep after him Harold!” I yelled, as I ran and got NYPD Central Dispatch on my radio:

“Parole 0714 requesting 10-85, assistance forthwith!.”
“What is your condition 0714?”
“In pursuit of male black wearing blue jeans,
  and running east on Linden Blvd.,
73 Precinct” … (I now prepared for the humiliation)…
  “no shirt — no shoes and cuffed behind his back.”
  …She tried to muffle it, but I heard somebody
  cracking up in the background.
“0714, you had one under and lost him?” (Great lady, rub
  it in — she was loving it)
“Affirmative Central.”…….. “OK, units on route 0714.”

As I ran, I yelled to Harold “I’m going to kill you, Harold,” but unfortunately he was too far away to hear me. Closing the distance, I fantasized about doing terrible things to Harold.

Eventually, all the broken glass and pot holes on Brownsville streets took their toll on our fugitive’s feet, slowing him down a bit. As we tackled him in a big garbage-filled vacant lot, three squad cars roared up, sirens and lights blazing. I hoped they assumed we had just made the arrest, but the big grins on their faces told me they heard the radio call. “Any more that got away, guys?” This crack was followed by several more jokes, before a merciful sergeant yelled over the laughter; “Forget about it, we all got two or three stories like this.” The sergeant’s comment didn’t help, I glared at Harold with great violence in my eyes. “You are doing all the paperwork on this! I will never let you forget this one, Harold!”

I never did let him forget it, cruel bastard that I am. Not 5 years later when he became my supervisor, and not 10 years later when he became a bureau chief. It became a kind of joke with us, I would bring it up whenever he reminded me of paperwork that was overdue. Unfortunately, the distraction rarely worked, and he always stayed on point. But, it is great fun to have something like that over a boss.

Harold was born and raised in a tough minority neighborhood of New York City, so it is not surprising that bad guys have attempted to rob him. Just like certain styles of dress and music, neighborhoods also have their own manner of speech. In Harold’s neighborhood the style of speaking was very slow, like old style jazz talk. Harold does not take drugs, but you would swear he was stoned if you were not used to his distinctive sloooowwww…Brooklyn-ese. But the day a bad guy pulled a gun on him, his slow talking proved very valuable.

There is a martial arts wrist-twisting technique called kotegaeshi. I have been studying it, and trying to perfect it for about four decades. It takes most students a few years before they can execute the technique well. So, Harold is confronted at gunpoint, and the guy is demanding money, screaming “What you got? Give it up! Now! Now!” But, Harold responds sooo slooowwllyyyy — wellll….I….doonnn’t….reeeaally…haavve…thaaat… The guy is in a big hurry to get something and run! He cannot handle how slow this thing is going! Out of desperation he makes a major error — he moves closer and sticks the gun right in Harold’s face. Harold then just reaches up and twists it out of the guy’s hand. Stunned, in shock, and humiliated; the bad guy runs off, possibly considering another line of work.

“Show me what move you did, Harold,” I ask.
“That is kotegaeshi, where did you learn that?”
“Which art do you study?”
“That is no art. I don’t know any martial artsy stuff,”
  he responds.
“So, where did you learn kotegaeshi?”
“Coat-a-guy what? I just turned his wrist like this.
  That’s just how it bends.”

A perfectly executed kotegaeshi technique, with no martial arts classes. Harold was obviously ignorant of the fact that it takes years to learn this technique. But, he did not perform a “technique.” He just turned the guy’s wrist “how it bends.” You can’t make this stuff up.


Through a simple interface, you’ll have the ability to quickly access over 500 empty-handed and weapons techniques via 1,100 links to videos and technical explanations in book format. This is the most extensive technical reference on aikido ever compiled!

Click here for information on Morihiro Saito's &ldquoComplete Guide to Aikido”


“Aikido’s lost book treasures and what to do about them” by Stanley Pranin


“How do we keep our precious heritage of books from being lost?”

In the past few months, I have been pondering a phenomenon that I don’t think most people in the aikido world are aware of.

If you have been around in the art as long as I have, you will remember numerous technical books on aikido from the 1960s and 70s. With the exception of “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere”, perhaps one or two volumes of Morihiro Saito’s “Takemusu Aiki” series from the early 70s, and a couple of early volumes of Gozo Shioda on Yoshinkan Aikido, I can’t think of any aikido technical manuals from that era that remain in print. You are lucky if you can pick up copies from rare book dealers and hundreds of dollars each.

Coincidentally in recent years, we have witnessed the death of large book chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble in the USA reflecting the fact the people are reading less and less. We have seen the same trend in book publication here at Aikido Journal. We no longer offer any more print versions of our titles. They remain, however, available as digital books in pdf form.

Nonetheless, many books have survived in digital formats that are read on hand-held devices like Kindles and tablets. These are not like traditional printed books because you can adjust font sizes, add notes, etc. In fact, the number of pages of books in such formats are variable depending on how they are set up by reader. But with the transition to these digital formats, there are some special problems, especially for technical manual and books with a lot of photos that are specifically laid out. The use of photos in digital books is normally limited because their presence can play havoc with the page format.

So getting back to aikido technical manuals, I can think of no way to adapt them to modern digital formats other than to scan each page as an image and stitch together everything as a pdf book. This is precisely what we have done to keep these books in print. Our current library of ebooks can be found here. Also, go over and take a look at Clark Bateman’s wonderful bibliography resource and you’ll see the vast numbers of books on aikido that have been published, few of which remain in print.

Here is the problem I have been getting at in a nutshell:

  • People read less and less and printed books as a medium are slowly dying
  • Books consisting primarily of text and not dependent on specific layouts can be converted to digital formats
  • Books with many illustrations — like aikido technical manuals — do not lend themselves to being republished in digital formats
  • Although technical manuals can be scanned as images and “bound” together as pdf files, the small form factor of hand-held devices like cellular phones and even tablets make it cumbersome, if not impossible, to view the text and illustrations.
  • The end result is that few of the finest publications on aikido remain in print and the present generation has lost access to numerous excellent publications by many of aikido’s greatest figures.

Books are not like films and videos that can readily be adapted to digital formats. As such old moving pictures and films have flourished in the digital age.

Here is my challenge to you…  Please give me suggestions as to ways that these books filled with images can be preserved and made available one again in a format that will find a large enough market to warrant their republication.

Comments welcomed!


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“How Koichi Tohei intercepted Shomenuchi attacks” by David Misumi


“If nage can intercept the strike just at the moment prior to the body consolidating its forward momentum… the strike can be effectively negated.”

This blog was edited from the contents of a well-thought-out reply of David Masumi to the following two recent articles that we felt would be of interest to many of our readers:
“The Origins of Modern Aikido: The Shomenuchi Dilemma” by Stanley Pranin
Closing up the loose ends: “More on Aikido’s Shihonage Dilemma” by Stanley Pranin

I began my training with Tohei’s system in 1974 and I would occasionally attack my teacher full speed. The dynamics are such that if nage can intercept the strike just at the moment prior to the body consolidating its forward momentum with the downward trajectory of the arm, the strike can be effectively negated with not much “collision.” However, the uke’s body will continue forward and fly past his now secured striking arm, causing his body to rotate 180 degrees and for the most part be airborne

If nage tries to force the technique, uke will feel that and start to re-posture his body from an attacking attitude to a more self-protective one. In the strike uke is relaxed and elongated, but if he starts to experience or perceive an impending “collision,” he naturally tries to secure his joints and shortens his length, effectively killing any forward momentum.

You will not see this dynamic with anything less than a full-speed attack because there will not be enough momentum generated to result in what I just described. I attest to this occurring consistently and routinely. It is a startling fall to experience the first time because you are up-ended and you have to trust that your partner will not slam you to the mat while you are in the descent phase of your fall. (I never saw Tohei slam anyone to the floor though a few got slammed due relative to the intensity of their attack.)

Stan, you posted a video with Chuck Liddell’s ( overhand fist as being something you wouldn’t want to be passively standing in front of. That is true, but – Liddell’s power comes from the torque he develops by the thrust he initiates from his rear right leg with his left leg firmly planted. The speed of rotation of the hips and upper torso is what culminates in the power seen at the point of impact. It is similar to the mechanics of a baseball pitcher or a boxer’s right-cross. Although the strike comes from overhead, the body mechanics is more closely related to yokomenuchi

The impressiveness of Liddell’s strike is the impact point which pre-supposes his target being within the arc of the strike. What you don’t see is how he closed the distance to his target sufficiently such that he can strike with his rear hand. Though shomenuchi can be executed this way, it is more commonly performed with right hand/right foot forward, or vice versa, as in your photos above.

When the striking hand and foot are of the same side, it is like a boxer’s jab. It breeches distance with speed not power. Power is reserved for the rear hand, and that is the procuct of torque. There is minimal torque with a front foot/front hand strike.

(Regarding the above photos, #1 suggests that ukemi’s arm is in its up-swing phase as opposed to the downward as Tohei’s head is outside the arc of the strike. #2 shows ukemi has advanced one foot-stride closer with Tohei now within the arc of the strike.)

[Read more…]


“Kotegaeshi Challenge” answered by Christopher Hein!

Back on July 3, I published a blog titled “The Kotegaeshi Challenge”. In a nut shell, my article challenged readers to give their opinions on a potential vulnerability in the execution of kotegaeshi.

What is this potential vulnerability with kotegaeshi I mention above? Once again, I would refer you to the many images you will see resulting from your search for “kotegaeshi”. I would like you to focus on uke’s free hand just at the moment he is leaping into his high fall.

Following the publication of the blog, there were numerous opinions submitted on this site and on Facebook that commented on this issue.

Now Christopher Hein Sensei of Aikido of Fresno- Chushin Tani Aikidojo has come forward with a very well-thought-out video that addresses the issue I bring up and also show a number of alternatives to the execute of the traditional kotegaeshi.

 Christopher Hein Sensei executing kotegaeshi

Christopher Hein Sensei executing kotegaeshi

We welcome readers to continue providing their input on this important technical issue.

By the way, in his “Complete Guide to Aikido“, Morihiro Saito shows nearly 20 different kotegaeshi variations.


Morihiro Saito Sensei demonstrates Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote from the “Complete Guide to Aikido”

“A true master introduces one of Aikido’s core techniques”

In the technical manual Budo, published by the founder in 1938, it is written that in shomenuchi ikkyo omote, the person throwing initiates the technique. “Advance one step with your right foot while striking your opponent’s face with your right tegatana…” (p. 11).

As you grab your partner’s wrist, move your hands and feet in unison. Your technique will not be powerful if you move them separately. Invite your partner to block by attacking with your right hand. Move your left hand at the same time as your right hand and simultaneously advance with your right foot to break your partner’s balance. Your hands and feet must act together in order to be effective against a partner who resists.

(1) Initiate the movement by advancing with your right foot while vigorously extending your right tegatana into your partner’s face.

(2) Your partner blocks with his right hand to protect his face. Grab his right elbow firmly with your left hand and push his wrist down with your tegatana.

(3)(4) Having unbalanced your partner by bringing his arm in front of your abdomen, take a large step diagonally forward with your left foot, moving his arm forward and down.

(5) Pin his arm at a right angle to his body.


The above video clip is a perfect example of the clarity and precision of Saito Sensei’s explanations of aikido techniques. If you wish to have access to hundreds more clips and technical explanations to improve your aikido level, please look at the extensive presentation of Saito Sensei’s curriculum described below.



Through a simple interface, you’ll have the ability to quickly access over 500 empty-handed and weapons techniques via 1,100 links to videos and technical explanations in book format. This is the most extensive technical reference on aikido ever compiled!

Click here for information on Morihiro Saito's “Complete Guide to Aikido”