Jun
12

Rediscovering prewar techniques! Christopher Hein reconstructs techniques from Morihei Ueshiba’s 1934 manual titled “Budo Renshu”

I have been working with the techniques from Budo Renshuu, the 1933 Kobukan Aiki Budo training manual. These are the techniques that eventually became what we know today as modern Aikido. There are 166 techniques in this manual, here are techniques 50-60…

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Jun
12

Hint… It’s not gentle! Katsuyuki Kondo, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Menkyo Kaiden, demonstrates Shihonage

In this video, Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei, Menkyo Kaiden in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, demonstrates the art’s shihonage technique both with and without the sword. In Daito-ryu, the concept of “Aiki” is very important and Kondo Sensei gives some examples in his demonstration…

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Jun
11

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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Jun
11

O-Sensei ensconced in Iwama… Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?, by Stanley Pranin

What does all of this mean? It means that the common view of the spread of aikido following the war taking place under the direct tutelage of the Founder is fundamentally in error. Tohei and the present Doshu deserve the lion’s share of the credit, not the Founder. It means further that O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was not seriously involved in the instruction or administration of aikido in the postwar years…

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Jun
11

Stable base, powerful extension, total focus! Historical photo from 1974: Morihiro Saito brings Iwama Aikido to America!

There was a particular episode from this trip that I will never forget. Sensei was teaching a class at Aikido of San Francisco and was demonstrating a kokyunage technique, if I remember correctly. His uke was David Alexander. Sensei threw David horizontally but misjudged the amount of space he had free. Right in the middle of the throw when it had become apparent that David would crash into the people who had crowded in close to better observe, Sensei stuck out his left arm and caught David in mid-air thus preventing a collision…

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Jun
10

Flashback to 1927! “Morihei Ueshiba captivates budo aficionados among Tokyo’s elite” by Stanley Pranin”

The photo below is one of only a few that survive from Morihei Ueshiba’s early years in Tokyo. Here in a single image that tells a story with many threads, we see a 43-year-old martial arts phenomenon at the outset of his illustrious career. Some names you will recognize, others are essentially lost to history, but several of the individuals appearing here played important roles in Morihei’s early success in Tokyo…

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Jun
10

RIP (1940-2015)… “Kazuo Chiba — Ruthless Awareness” by Tom Collings

The grand finale of each week for me in Tokyo was Chiba Sensei’s Friday afternoon class. The term “battleground” comes to mind, a battleground of emotion. The emotional intensity, and range of emotions in that class was amazing — terror, fearlessness, vulnerability, and invincibility. He was known for his ferocity, and the extraordinary intensity of those classes; an atmosphere of life and death. In contrast to attendance at most classes at the Hombu, attendance at his was sparse. I felt this group of students to be very special, a small elite group in the sea of martial artists in Tokyo. To most students at Hombu Dojo we were just crazy…

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Jun
10

Surviving training with seniors! “Morihiro Saito reels off one technique after another in a mind- boggling display of technical virtuosity!”

Among the handful of uchideshi during those poverty-stricken years were Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei, and Tadashi Abe. The young Saito was given little encouragement initially and had to endure the intensive, often painful training silently. Saito Sensei recalls the early days when suwariwaza practice on the dojo’s hardwood floor would continue endlessly and leave his knees bloodied and festering. To make matters worse, as a junior member of the dojo he was on the receiving end of countless vigorous techniques from seniors such as Tohei and Abe…

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Jun
10

“Kazuo Chiba — Ruthless Awareness” by Tom Collings

 T.K. Chiba Sensei c. 1995


T.K. Chiba Sensei c. 1995

“The emotional intensity, and range of emotions in that class was amazing — terror, fearlessness, vulnerability, and invincibility.”

The following text recalling special training with Kazuo Chiba Sensei at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo is excerpted from Tom Collings forthcoming book “Searching For O’Sensei”. – Editor

The grand finale of each week for me in Tokyo was Chiba Sensei’s Friday afternoon class. The term “battleground” comes to mind, a battleground of emotion. The emotional intensity, and range of emotions in that class was amazing — terror, fearlessness, vulnerability, and invincibility. He was known for his ferocity, and the extraordinary intensity of those classes; an atmosphere of life and death. In contrast to attendance at most classes at the Hombu, attendance at his was sparse. I felt this group of students to be very special, a small elite group in the sea of martial artists in Tokyo. To most students at Hombu Dojo we were just crazy.

Chiba would approach the training hall slowly and deliberately. He paused at the teacher’s entrance to carefully peruse the battlefield before entering. He sometimes arrived with a bloody rag wrapped around his hand. Not a bandage, just a blood stained rag. I assumed it was from his live blade sword work. That bloody rag set the tone for his class. I think that was intentional. It symbolized the atmosphere of danger, and the acute awareness required. Seeing it was like a molotov cocktail thrown on dry timbers, it ignited something very hot in us. It attracted only those with some deep need to burn hot. Were we moths drawn to a flame?

Sitting seiza in the nervous silence before class, in a huge training hall filled with only a few students. I watched to see if anyone else would show up. No one else ever did. There were about a dozen of us, in a school with an average class of fifty or sixty. But when I looked at who was there I was never disappointed. Chiba’s private students, a few other foreigners and Japanese black belts, Shibata Sensei and Moriteru Ueshiba. Shibata had been the senior uchi deshi of the school, and Moriteru, or “Waka Sensei,” was the grandson of O’Sensei, the next headmaster of the art. I felt so honored to be there.

Real and immediate danger was felt by everyone in that room. We trained together in a state of hyper-alertness. It was frightening and exciting at the same time. I have felt it when searching dark apartments for fugitives, and backpacking in southern Alaska’s grizzly country. The slightest sound is magnified. The slightest movement nearby is detected. The most subtle smell perceived and instantly identified. Clarity, instant response.

Danger is very uncomfortable, but it heightens our senses. If we channel fear into acute awareness the present moment expands. “Now” becomes immense. Fully alive. I have learned that powerful energy usually feels uncomfortable. A small price to pay.

This feeling of danger created a strange kind of purity, an equality — regardless of size, rank, or level of skill. Everyone felt fear, no one tried to hide it. That shared experience created an amazing level of cohesion. A communion of fear. A level of intimacy difficult to describe.

The group adrenaline burned away pain, weakness, timidity, and all self-consciousness. All that remained was bold action. The battlefield is too hot for ego. There were bumps, bruises, scrapes, and sprains — but no complaining, explaining, or apologizing. None of that was necessary. Incredibly, there were no serious injuries. The intensity of awareness prevented that.

Impressive looking technique held no value here. Success and failure had no meaning. Decisive action was all that mattered. Results were irrelevant. It was pure Zen. Overpowering group energy. Self was swallowed up and lost. At that place — during that hour there was no other way to be. It was wonderful, and exhausting. Once a week was all I could handle. All my other martial arts classes were like a vacation.

I am deeply grateful for being part of something so special. It was not only Chiba Sensei, it was the particular mix of individuals who came together each Friday afternoon. An extraordinary group chemistry was generated. Any intermediate or advanced student was free to attend; you just had to show up. Amazingly, in a student body of perhaps five hundred, only twelve ever came.

_______________________________

Chiba Sensei (1940-2015) RIP – In His Own Words, Message to Teachers and Students

Jun
09

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

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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Jun
09

“Never tired, throwing morning to night”… Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, on Koshinage and Kotegaeshi from the “Guide!

Here is a great video clip of Morihiro Saito from his “Complete Guide to Aikido” footage. You’ll see Saito Sensei in his best form, and full of humor, and he explains the fundamentals of koshinage and kotegaeshi. Through the simple interface of the “Complete Guide to Aikido”, you’ll have the ability to rapidly 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…

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Jun
09

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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