May
11

Newly discovered film! Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba at Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1968

This is a film of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba shot at the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo in 1968. Notice that O-Sensei is leading his uke throughout the demonstration. In other words, he is proactive when executing his techniques…

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May
11

Stratospheric growth of Ten Shin Dojo… “Haruo Matsuoka Sensei’s Aikido Journey: Part 6”

One of the things about movies with Seagal Sensei is that he brought realism into the aikido world. The films are controversial in a number of ways, but one point is the realism. Because it’s a movie, you can’t just show movements like in traditional practice. For a long time people thought aikido would be difficult to choreograph and make into a movie. That’s why for a long time you didn’t see aikido in films. So I think Above The Law was very revolutionary in this way. The fighting scenes are aikido, and this was never seen before, so there’s a good point. But another point is that people could misunderstand the art. Aikido is not a brutal art, but because of the films some people misunderstand the style of aikido…

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May
11

Weapon defenses! “Hitohiro Saito performs tantodori, tachidori, and jodori at his Iwama Dojo”

This is an excellent video of Hitohiro Saito Sensei performing tantodori, tachidori, and jodori at his Iwama Dojo. Note his stability of posture and the precision of his technique. Hitohiro Saito is the son and successor of Morihiro Saito, 9th dan. His father was one of Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s closest students and was Dojo-cho of the Iwama Dojo and guardian of the Aiki Shrine for several decades until his passing in 2002. Hitohiro Sensei teaches independently and frequently travels abroad spreading the technically-rich Iwama Aikido…

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May
11

Haruo Matsuoka Sensei’s Aikido Journey: Part 6

 Photo credit: Irimi-tenkan-blogspot.com


Haruo Matsuoka – photo credit: Irimi-tenkan-blogspot.com

“Matsuoka Sensei becomes Chief Instructor of Ten Shin Dojo
and the challenges of managing a dojo with stratospheric growth”

This is part six of a multi-part interview. You can find part 5 here.

Haruo Matsoka at Ten Shin Dojo


Haruo Matsoka at Ten Shin Dojo

Josh Gold: Sensei, you said that about a year before Above The Law came out, Seagal Sensei made you chief instructor, right?

Haruo Matsuoka: Yes, that’s right..

And that’s when he promoted you to 3rd dan?

Yes.

How did you feel about taking on the responsibility of chief instructor?

I was young and had no problem.

Before the movie came out, how many students were at the dojo?

I don’t know exactly, but the classes were small, very small.

Then Above The Law came out in 1988, I remember. April 8th. And then, within just a few months, 80 people joined. So everybody was a beginner. Two lines of students and there were no seniors, no assistants.

Wow. It was just you and 80 beginners.

That was my first introduction to being a chief instructor, I guess.

That’s pretty amazing.

It was a real challenge, but I was young so I didn’t find it difficult at the time. The memories of facing that kind of challenge back then inspire me to keep a youthful spirit.

So everybody, basically they saw the film, or they did research, and then showed up at the dojo that way?

That’s right.

I remember when I saw the movie I was blown away. I had never seen aikido before. I remember thinking, “What is that?” I’d never seen a martial art like that. It was unique and powerful. I didn’t make the connection at the time to go to the dojo or anything.

One of the things about movies with Seagal Sensei is that he brought realism into the aikido world. The films are controversial in a number of ways, but one point is the realism. Because it’s a movie, you can’t just show movements like in traditional practice. For a long time people thought aikido would be difficult to choreograph and make into a movie. That’s why for a long time you didn’t see aikido in films. So I think Above The Law was very revolutionary in this way. The fighting scenes are aikido, and this was never seen before, so there’s a good point. But another point is that people could misunderstand the art. Aikido is not a brutal art, but because of the films some people misunderstand the style of aikido.

Yes, I definitely see the benefits and drawbacks of those points. However, these films did bring great visibility to the art and introduced aikido to millions of Americans.

And Europeans too. When I was in Italy or Spain, almost everybody had seen Above the Law. Those who were inspired by that film have become chief instructors now. It’s very interesting. Very powerful.

The reach of a feature film like that can be huge.

Bruce Lee did it a long time ago. His films were incredibly revolutionary.

Indeed. Sensei, I found this picture of you with Daryl Hannah in classic 80’s wear. I just had to share this one.

Haruo Matsoka and Darryl Hannah


Haruo Matsoka and Darryl Hannah

Her boyfriend was Jackson Browne, the musician. I used to go to his house. He was my private student.

Didn’t you say you bicycled to his house on Mulholland Drive?

He bought me a bicycle.

Jackson Browne bought you a bicycle?

I didn’t have a car so I rode a bicycle on Mulholland.

Wow. That’s a really windy, and very steep road…

Three times a week with him. He liked aikido very much.

Amazing.

Yes, amazing. You won’t believe the people I met, like Mike Ovitz, Jackson Browne, James Coburn, and…

Jerry Seinfeld as well, right?

Jerry Seinfeld. Yes, later I met Jerry Seinfeld and he loved aikido very much. He told me understanding aikido principles like irimi and tenkan helped him with his comedy.

I remember he came to see Seiseki Abe Sensei when you brought him out from Japan for a seminar.

Yes. Very sincere man. He was a real funny guy, but a very sincere man. He told me “You teach me aikido and I’ll teach you comedy.” But it never happened, never happened. Ha ha… I wish I could have spent more time with him.

It’s interesting to reflect on all of these entertainment industry connections. I remember David Goyer used to train with us. At that point in his career, he had written the screenplay for an early Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

Kickboxer, I think.

He later became very successful. He did the Blade series, and eventually wrote the scripts for the Christopher Nolan Batman films, and then Man of Steel. He’s arguably one of the very top screenwriters in Hollywood now.

He was so sincere. He did aikido three times a week, he constantly trained. That’s something I remember about David Goyer, he was very focused and consistent.

I suppose when Above the Law came out, things changed a lot for you.

It changed my life. It was a real turning point.

After the success of the films – Above The Law, Hard to Kill, and the others… It must have created a unique set of circumstances at the dojo.

Yeah, it was interesting. One time, after Hard to Kill came out, there was some controversy in the press about something Seagal Sensei said that might have been considered unfavorable towards Chuck Norris. What happened is that Chuck Norris’ friends in martial arts all lined up and came to Black Belt Magazine, and they all said if Steven Seagal wants to challenge them, they’re ready. And then you know what Seagal Sensei said to them? “I don’t want to argue with you guys, come to my dojo!”

© Black Belt 1992 – image via Google Books


© Black Belt 1992 – image via Google Books

Ha. Ha. Ha.

But he was almost never at the dojo at that time! Whoa. He said, “Come to the dojo.” Guess who is there? Only me. That was the most stressful time for me. And then a few weeks later, almost one month anyway, Seagal Sensei asked me if anyone had shown up. They hadn’t.

The interesting thing is that later that year, somehow I met Chuck Norris. I met him. You know Peter Lindsay?

Yes. He trained with us and was a champion bodybuilder. He held the Mr. Australia title, I believe.

He took me to Gold’s gym and Chuck Norris was there. And I met him. I shook his hand and introduced myself as Steven Seagal’s disciple. And he was so very nice. And then next to him were two of the guys on the cover of the magazine. They also smiled and we shook hands. This is why I love America.

That’s hilarious.

Very nice guy actually. Chuck Norris really is. My cousin was a big fan of his at that time. I told him, “My cousin is a very big fan of you.” And he signed an autograph and gave it to me. I thanked him very much.

I joined the dojo in 1991, and that was also about the time when you had a group of people that were just coming up for black belt. About 5 people I think…

That’s right.

At that time, I remember you would teach classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and this group of brown belts would teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The brown belt level people teaching class were all very good, and high-quality instructors. And there was a pipeline of people coming up in rank. So by that time, it wasn’t like when Above the Law came out when there were just 80 brand new people. I guess it took a few years to start to build a base of senior students.

Yes. It took a few years. I learned, you have to be patient.

Seiseki Abe Sensei


Seiseki Abe Sensei

1991 was a year that was really a turning point in my aikido movement, and the dojo. This was the first time I brought Abe Sensei to our dojo for a seminar. I actually took care of him for two weeks. And at the same time, you and some other key students that would make big future contributions joined the dojo. Somehow that year ’91 was very interesting. Very interesting.

In the next interview segment, Matsuoka Sensei talks about Abe Sensei, and the period of time leading up to his parting of ways with Seagal Sensei and his move back to Japan.

To get notified when we release the next part of the interview and receive other news from Ikazuchi Dojo, please join our mailing list or follow us on Facebook.

May
08

Spirit of honest attack! “Aikido Ukemi: Its Pathology & Treatment,” by Chetan Prakash

In budo practice there is a transformation of ukemi, based on skill at the kihon level, into a much more sophisticated function. Yet this transformation comes from a very simple idea: uke attacks in all sincerity and with deadly intent, but upon having the attack rendered ineffective, enters survival and/or reversal mode, while maintaining connection with nage, with the greatest alacrity…

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May
08

Founder an anachronism? “Why has Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei had so little impact on the development of Aikido?” by Stanley Pranin

By the time aikido began to spread in the postwar era in Japan and abroad, the Founder was already an anachronism. He was elderly, selfish, cantankerous, spoke at times incomprehensibly, and moved in ways that only the most astute observer could follow. He was too much trouble to deal with, and he was consequently marginalized in the dojo he had built…

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May
08

Power and Precision! “Morihiro Saito at Melbourne Takemusu Aikido Seminar (1985)”

In 1985 Morihiro Saito Sensei accompanied by Hiroki Nemoto conducted Takemusu Aikido seminars in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia at the invitation of instructors Michael Field, Barry Knight and Saburo Takayasu. This video contains highlights from that event…

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May
07

Don’t oppose your opponent! Shoji Nishio: “An Innovative Aikido Based On Martial Integrity”

Particular points to watch for are Nishio Sensei’s initial set up movements, often accompanied by atemi strikes, rapidity and precision during application of techniques, and final controling movements and pins. In this system, for the most part, empty-handed techniques (taijutsu) have corresponding movements using the ken and jo…

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May
07

Raise your arm like a sword… Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei demonstrates Katatedori Kokyunage and Morotedori Kokyunage

In this video, Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei, recipient of a 10th dan from Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, demonstrates Katatedori Kokyunage and Morotedori Kokyunage. Michio Hikitsuchi (1923-2004) operated the Kumano Juku dojo in Shingu, Wakayama-ken, for over 50 years. Beginning in the 1970s, he made frequent trips abroad to the USA and Europe conducting seminars…

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May
06

Creative use of atemi! Systema with Martin Wheeler: “Structure breaking using strikes”

This is a video shot in Dublin, Ireland, in February 2013, in which Systema instructor Martin Wheeler demonstrates how to break his opponent’s body structure through targeted strikes to key muscle groups of the body. These sorts of approaches may easily be incorporated into aikido techniques. Notice the varied effects and targets of the applied strikes to aid in balance breaking…

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May
06

Staying glued to uke… “Seigo Yamaguchi instructing in Osaka (1986)”

This is a rare video of the late Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei, 8th dan, instructing a class in Osaka in 1986. Yamaguchi Sensei displays an incredible ability to stay “glued” to his uke and continuously adjust his posture and contact to keep his partner unbalanced. Very sophisticated aikido by one of the art’s greats!…

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May
06

Why is uke still balanced? “One change you can make to dramatically improve your aikido!” by Stanley Pranin

When watching videos across the spectrum, I am constantly amazed at how many practitioners and teachers alike attempt to apply techniques on a “balanced” uke. Another way of expressing this is that nage has failed to disrupt uke’s posture before attempting a throw. This is especially obvious when uke takes a spectacular fall. An uke whose body structure has been broken will not have the chance to perform an acrobatic fall. Add your comments to the discussion!…

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