Jan
09

If he looked at you suddenly, you were frozen! Interview with Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei, Aikido 10th Dan

“In those days, O-Sensei had an amazing body. He looked like an old style Japanese partition screen, wider than it is tall. He was 53 years old, weighed about 200 pounds, about five feet tall, and very broadly built. His body had strong joints and bones, and he was full of vigor. His gaze was very kind, but his eyes also had a fierce light in them, as though they were glowing. It could be intimidating! If he looked at you suddenly, you were frozen — unable to move…”

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Jan
09

Take a good look at Morihei’s technique! “Understanding our ‘obsession’ with O-Sensei,” by Stanley Pranin

In recent years, we often present aikido techniques the way they were taught by Founder Morihei Ueshiba and contrast them with later practices that have become the norm in modern schools of the art. Some readers have drawn the conclusion that our intent is to fix Morihei’s method of doing this or that technique as an absolute standard, and that any deviation from this form is incorrect and therefore to be summarily rejected…

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Jan
09

Don’t allow the slightest opening! Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei, 10th dan

One of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s most brilliant students, describes the essential principles of Aikido that should be part of your current training.

Here is a glimpse of some of the key concepts explained by Hikitsuchi Sensei in these videos. Do you understand these principles and are you applying them in your aikido practice?

1. Sincerity of attack. In your role as uke, do you attack with full intention and sincerity? Aikido relies on both parties bringing a pure energy to practice.

2. Inryoku. Attractive power is what checks uke’s will to attack. It is what instantaneously stops the ki of uke when he thinks to attack.

3. Seizing the initiative. One must control uke from the very outset of the encounter. To wait for a person to attack is to become conscious of him as an adversary. We lead to transcend being the attacker or the defender.

4. Katsuhayabi. Speed independent of space and time. In Aikido, the issue is decided at the instant of the encounter. It is decided at the instant uke and nage come together. Uke thinks to attack, but he himself is struck.

5. Shinken shobu. Action in dead ernest. You must put everything you have into your aikido as if it your life were at stake. Otherwise your true heart will never manifest itself.

6. Masakatsu – Agatsu. True Victory, Victory over Self. The true aim of aikido is not victory over an opponent, but purifying and attaining victory over oneself.

7. Shugyo. Ascetic discipline. The practice of aikido is a discipline for polishing one’s character and living life in harmony with divine nature.

8. Takemusu Aiki. Aiki giving birth to martial techniques. An expression of his ideal of the highest level of aikido where techniques perfectly suited to the immediate circumstances surge forth spontaneously…

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Jan
08

Watch for shomenuchi iriminage! Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba demonstrates at the 30th anniversary of the Aikikai of Italy (1994)

In this video, Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba gives a demonstration on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Aikikai of Italy held in 1994. He executes shomenuchi iriminage in a couple of instances for those wishing to understand the basic Aikikai version of this important technique. This event took place toward the end of his life, but Kisshomaru Sensei’s techniques are well represented here…

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Jan
08

Founder’s Wisdom… Michio Hikitsuchi: “I Always Initiate!”

True Aikido happens in an instant! The minute he thinks to strike me, he is led to a place where he himself is struck…

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Jan
08

Envelop uke to prevent his escape! “Morihiro Saito’s Morotedori Kokyuho”

Learn how to neutralize uke’s power with this blending move taught by O-Sensei during every class. “When your partner stands in right hanmi and grabs your left hand, move your left foot to your partner’s right foot and turn your hips to change from left to right hanmi. Do this movement with the feeling of dropping your shoulder, elbows, and hips slightly. Turn to a position beside your partner, looking in the same direction. This is basic for all kokyuho exercises. The spacing, or maai, between you and your partner will be wrong if you look at him…

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Jan
07

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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Jan
07

Direct 10th dan from Founder! Michio Hikitsuchi’s “Essential Teachings of Aikido”

Michio Hikitsuchi (1923 – 2004) was one of the closest disciples of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Hikitsuchi Sensei hailed from Shingu in Wakayama Prefecture near the birthplace of the Founder in Tanabe. He started his training under Ueshiba before the war as a teenager, and later built the Shingu Kumano Juku Dojo at the Founder’s behest in 1953. Hikitsuchi Sensei continued as the chief instructor of the Shingu Dojo for 50 years until his passing in 2004..

Hikitsuchi Sensei is a very important historical figure because of his extensive contact and training with Morihei Ueshiba during the latter’s frequent visits to Shingu. He was also an ordained Shinto priest and had the ability to comprehend Ueshiba’s often arcane manner of speaking. A devoted follower of the Founder, Hikitsuchi was capable of faithfully reproducing the speeches and technical explanations of Ueshiba with uncanny accuracy during his long teaching career in Shingu…

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Jan
06

“Kiai” by Sakura Mai

Morihei Ueshiba and Morihiro Saito practicing the Aiki Ken in the fields of Iwama c. 1957


Morihei Ueshiba and Morihiro Saito practicing the Aiki Ken in the fields of Iwama c. 1957

“In order to practice Kiai correctly, we must keep in mind two concepts: our energetic center and abdominal breathing”

sakura-maiIts characters are the same as those of Aiki (Ki = Energy, mind, will / Ai = Union). From a purely physical viewpoint, Kiai is the art of knowing how to breathe deeply and slowly. The power of Aiki is silent, while that of the Kiai is a power vector that greatly develops the physical aspect. The Kiai is one of those elements inherent in Bujutsu that produces a notable increase of efficiency in combat movements.

Traditionally, Kiaijutsu is the result of the working of internal energy, and is called “Nei Kung” in Chinese and “Haragei” (stomach art), in Japanese. It is through the concentration of energy in the abdominal region (hara) that Bushi (warriors) were said to be capable of paralyzing, killing, or curing at will using the most universal form of Kiai, the “Kensei”, or abdominal shout. It is often considered erroneously that the Kiai is merely a shout.

The shout is a vibratory expression of the Kiai, a vocal Haragei, that is, a concentration of internal energy in the abdominal region through a contraction of the diaphragm and the production of a mudra (symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism) using the vocal cords. It is a sound emanating from the stomach, that is, it does not proceed from the throat, which would convert it into something completely negative, but rather from the tanden (Hara) which transforms it into something totally positive. At very high levels, the Kiai may be inaudible to the human ear.

kiai-kanji
The Kiai is also used by different religious movements in Japan such as the Shingon sect, which is based on the teaching of Kiai in the Taki Shugyo rite, a type of meditation under the icy waters of a waterfall.
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Jan
06

Body flexibility a must! “Progressive approach to aikido ukemi”

A progressive demonstration of aikido ukemi by Maung Thant of Myanmar Aikido performed inside the Iwama Dojo. Several of the ukemi shown are done in unusual ways not common in aikido dojos. Some of the ukemi would not be practical from aikido techniques but the flexibility and agility acquired from such falling exercises would certainly be beneficial to training…

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Jan
06

Centered on Kisshomaru and Tohei… “The spread of aikido abroad in a nutshell,” by Stanley Pranin

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…

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Jan
06

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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