Apr
27

Real and compassionate regard! “Ethics, an Aiki perspective,” by Francis Takahashi

Although the Founder of Aikido was wont to expound on Aiki theory in mostly esoteric language and terms, using metaphors and almost mythical allusions to established Shinto doctrine in his teachings, it may be safe to extract certain references to the presence of and connections to the need for ethical considerations and activities in our practice. Chief amongst the many to be cited, would be the Founder’s admonition that Aikido is True Budo, with the obligation to protect all of life, and to be in harmonious co-existence with our environment and all its elements…

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Apr
27

Forcible application of strength… “My List of Problem Areas in Today’s Aikido” by Stanley Pranin

In the last several years, I have becomed focused on a number of areas that I have identified as commonly lacking in training and deserving of the attention of aikido instructors. I regard these problem areas as widespread across styles and detrimental to the development of the art. Among my observations — voiced here and elsewhere — are the following…

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Apr
24

Power and precision combined! Hayato Osawa demonstrates suwariwaza, hanmi handachi, and standing techniques

This video showcases the incomparable aikido of Hayato Osawa Sensei in a demonstration of suwariwaza (seated techniques), hanmi handachi (seated vs standing), and standing techniques. Osawa Sensei’s aikido is power-based and very precise. His movements are very quick and explosive. This is a go no sen aikido…

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Apr
24

Tons of comments “The problem with Nikyo and Kote Gaeshi” by Phil Davison

When I first started doing martial arts I trained in a Hapkido dojo (dojang) where the sparring was reasonably intense. We had a lot of injuries. I don’t agree with this sort of training and nowadays my students very rarely injure themselves. But in training like that I learned a few valuable lessons, and these have got me thinking about Kote Gaeshi and Nikyo…

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Apr
24

Sokaku polishes his art! “Traveling the length and breadth of Japan to test his mettle”

Sokaku Sensei traveled all over, from Hokkaido in the north all the way to Okinawa in the south. It is also remarkable that he taught not only in police departments of one particular region, but throughout the entire country. I believe that if his technique was fake or ineffective, he would have been considered useless because police departments could easily exchange such information. The case would have been the same with the military. He also taught at many military establishments. It is sometimes said that Sokaku Sensei’s relationship with the military was limited and only through the Omoto religion and the connection with Morihei Ueshiba Sensei. In fact, however, Sokaku Takeda Sensei had direct connections to the military. This is clear from the enrollment books he kept…

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Apr
23

Early aikido on display! “Hiroshi Tada demonstration from 1957″

This is a fascinating clip consisting of a short demonstration given by Hiroshi Tada, 9th dan, in 1957. This video and several others were shot by André Nocquet, an early French practitioner, at the Ichigaya rooftop dojo of the Self-Defense Agency in Tokyo. Notable points are: Tada Sensei is 27 years old in this film; all of the techniques are executed in response to the attack (go no sen); the ukemi performed from the kotegaeshi throw are back falls, unlike the high falls that one would see in demonstrations today; Tada Sensei is partnered by the late Nobuyoshi Tamura…

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Apr
23

Colorizing history! Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

One of the interesting aspects of my work is the abundance of technology I must use to produce the materials we publish. Since we deal with a lot of historical material, most of the images and videos we have preserved are black and white. To give an example, look at the inset photo from this image of Morihei Ueshiba. The portrait was taken around 1957, naturally in black and white. I have always been fascinated by the process of colorization and recently for the first time asked a professional graphic artist to work on this photo to see what could be achieved…

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Apr
23

Steven Seagal’s uke… The founding of Ten Shin Dojo in Los Angeles and Matsuoka Sensei’s first experiences in America

Seagal Sensei found a good location, but there were several walls in the space we had to break and destroy. When we were done, there was this big area but with two poles in the middle. Ha ha ha! Too late! We had to stay for four months. And then of course we didn’t have many students. He was expecting 100 students immediately, and there were no students, so we ran out of money. But James Coburn and others really helped support the dojo at that time…

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Apr
23

Haruo Matsuoka Sensei’s Aikido Journey: Part 5

haruo-matsuoka-kokyunage

“The founding of Ten Shin Dojo in Los Angeles and
Matsuoka Sensei’s first experiences in America…”

This is part five of a multi-part interview. You can find part 4 here.

Josh Gold: Sensei, so after moving to Los Angeles, you found a space for a dojo in Sherman Oaks?

Matsuoka Sensei: Yes.

That was only for a few months right?

Yes, only for four months or something like that.

What happened? Was there a problem with the lease?

Seagal Sensei found a good location, but there were several walls in the space we had to break and destroy. When we were done, there was this big area but with two poles in the middle. Ha ha ha! Too late! We had to stay for four months. And then of course we didn’t have many students. He was expecting 100 students immediately, and there were no students, so we ran out of money. But James Coburn and others really helped support the dojo at that time. But anyway, still four months passed and it didn’t work, so we moved to North Hollywood. Seagal Sensei rented a warehouse, which was much cheaper, and not in a very good neighborhood.

I see. And how long were you in that location?

 Haruo Matsuoka at Tenshin Dojo, Los Angeles


Haruo Matsuoka at Tenshin Dojo, Los Angeles

I believe three years.

And there are still people practicing with you today that started in that dojo, right?

Yes. Patrick Gorman, and Mano-san.

They started in 1984 or something like that. And they’re still training with you 30 years later. And Patrick is how old now?

80. This year he turned 80. He started aikido when he was about 50.

He’s amazing. So were there many students at the dojo at that time, or was it still small?

It was still small. There were no senior students so it was very difficult. And Tenshin Bugei Gakuen, the original idea, didn’t look like it would work. We couldn’t continue with the same vision, so his focus became the movies.

He would spend a lot of time going out and meeting with people in the entertainment industry?

Yes, many times. We went and they came. At that time executives from some studios came, as well as a number of famous directors. There were many people who came to watch. I learned that aikido is very unique, and people really liked aikido at that time. And then meeting after meeting, after meeting, but nothing happened.

That was three years, you know, three years. We suffered. We had no students, and it was really a test of perseverance for us. Seagal Sensei had to work some kinds of security jobs. He made some money, and then brought that to the dojo, and it allowed us to maintain things for those three years.

So this period of time was a big struggle?

Michael Ovitz


Michael Ovitz

Yes. And then luckily, as you know, in 1986 we met Mike Ovitz. He’s the one. He did it.

For many years Forbes or Fortune Magazine put out a list of the 100 most powerful people in Hollywood. I remember he was at the top of that list for many years.

So smart. Fortunately he liked aikido. He actually loved it. And he asked me to go to his house to teach him aikido. So I went to his house to teach aikido to Mr. Ovitz three times a week, sometimes four times a week. A businessman in America doing aikido four times a week, in the early morning? It’s hard to believe. I would show up at 6:45am, and he was already riding his bicycle, reading his newspaper, and watching ABC News.

Hahaha! And the big thing is that in less than 20, 30 minutes he observed everything, watching, and reading, and then exercising. And then we would do aikido. We’d finish at 8am, then he would go to the office. I did that four times a week for ten years.

What was he like as an aikido student?

He had tremendous focus. He was amazing, just amazing.

He really was the one that got “Above The Law” off the ground, right?

It couldn’t have happened without him.

He arranged for you and Seagal Sensei to do a demo for some Warner Bros. executives?

Warner Bros, yes. And in front of them Seagal Sensei and I did a demonstration. Everyone was clapping. Everyone.

Really? So they really liked…

He threw me right in front of the executives. They were all, “Wow!”. We made it. They decided they will do the film. Six months later we were on the set. So quick. Another thing I learned is how they make movies so quickly. Once they decide, they don’t want to wait.

How long did it take you guys to film?

Craig Dunn on the set of "Above The Law"


Craig Dunn on the set of “Above The Law”

Four months.

Fast.

Very fast. The budget was tight and they didn’t waste any time.

And you took a lot of ukemi in this movie right?

Yes.

I saw you in a few different scenes like the dojo scene in the beginning of the film, and then in another scene costumed as a gangster. In these scenes, did the ukemi feel like when you were at the dojo?

The same. It was just like aikido training, the same.

Haruo Matsuoka on the set of “Above The Law”


Haruo Matsuoka on the set
of “Above The Law”

Did you have tatami, or did you have to take falls on a hard surface?

They put mats down, but they were not too soft. But because I was young, it was nothing. Anyway, it was a great memory, the time I spent with him. And yes, it was a very unusual experience.

So what did you think? Were you surprised that the movie did so well?

Well, I wasn’t surprised. I became busy and…

You didn’t have time to be surprised.

Yes, because Seagal Sensei didn’t have time to teach dojo classes anymore. And then wow. I had to teach them all…

To be continued: In the next interview segment, Matsuoka Sensei talks about becoming Chief Instructor of Ten Shin Dojo and the challenges of managing a dojo with stratospheric growth.

This interview originally appeared on the Ikazucho Dojo website and is reproduced here with the kind permission of Josh Gold.

Apr
22

Catalog of aikido techniques… Shigeho Tanaka Shihan, 9th Dan, in superb tv documentary

Shigeho Tanaka Sensei was one of the early postwar students of Yoshinkan Aikido, and also practiced at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in the 1950s. In this fascinating documentary, Tanaka Sensei demonstrates scores of aikido techniques logically grouped according to sections. His technique is very precise and each movement is shown at normal and slow-motion speeds…

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Apr
22

Postwar Aikido Giant! “Who is Koichi Tohei?” by Stanley Pranin

In February 1953, at the invitation of the Hawaii branch of the Nishikai health system, Tohei visited the islands for an extended stay to introduce the then unknown art of aikido. Despite many challenges and hardships, Tohei established himself as top-tier martial artist and built up a network of Aikikai-affiliated dojos all over Hawaii. During this time, he provided financial support to the struggling Aikikai from donations he collected from his students and patrons in Hawaii…

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Apr
22

I am always going first. I must not wait! “Go no Sen” — The Path to Defeat by Stanley Pranin

O-Sensei would execute feints, give verbal commands, offer a hand or shoulder, shift his weight to and fro, execute atemi and kiai, etc. He introduced confusion and sensory overload in the mind of his attacker, thus completely dominating the exchange…

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