Nov
05

Torn by the positive and negative ramifications of competition: “Competition and Budo… Oil and Vinegar?” by Ken Teshima

[T]here were no tournaments in Aikido then, every practice was a challenge to get through, as there was a healthy “competitive” air in the dojo where no one got off easy. Attacks were sincere and without cooperation (but measured). And techniques had to work under these adverse conditions. This sort of training made us tough, both physically and mentally, and prepared us for life’s challenges outside of the dojo…

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Nov
05

Responding to aggression — Part 4: “Conversations with The Undertaker” by Tom Collings

“He saw O-Sensei through the eyes of a
professional athlete and masterful performer.”

tom-collings-150pxSitting alone in my dojo late one night, I received a call from a fellow named Mark. He said he was a professional wrestler looking for a new trainer. As a kid, I used to watch pro wrestlers all the time on TV, and even got my dad to take me to some arenas. Those guys seemed like big mindless hulks, but they sure put on a good show. When I got older, and learned it was “fake”, I lost interest and stopped watching it. The guy on the phone could not be one of those guys; he was bright, articulate, humble, and a real gentleman.

We talked for a long time about martial arts training. He was particularly interested in the skills of falling, avoiding injuries, and how to keep an aging body together. He asked a lot of questions about O-Sensei and martial arts masters I had trained with in Japan. Mark was fascinated by how good aikido black belts executed powerful joint techniques and dangerous throws without injuring their training partner. He clearly had great respect for that.

I still lived a little like a monk back then, and did not watch much TV. When he mentioned his stage name was “The Undertaker”, it meant nothing to me. I laughed and said, “that’s good, I like that.” I figured he was a martial artist contemplating a wrestling career, since his humility gave no clue who he was. I was completely ignorant of the fact he was already a legend, at the top of his game, and that he had turned “The Undertaker” into a multi-million dollar enterprise. Perhaps it was refreshing for him to speak with someone not star struck. Someone who did not want anything from him.

The next day I asked the first student who walked in, “Have you ever heard of a wrestler called The Undertaker?” I quickly learned just who this guy was. What was most fascinating to me was his martial arts knowledge, and his depth of understanding. He had a unique point of view on so many things. When he watched the old films of O-Sensei, Mark Calaway did not see an old man with magical power tossing around helpless attackers, as most aikido students do. Neither did he not see a phony, choreographed performance with make believe attacks and guys just falling down – as some do.

What he saw was an amazing interaction between people. He said he saw the tremendous concentration and energy, and how precisely attuned one was to the other’s every movement and nuance. Where others saw magic or collusion, Mark saw high level teamwork, and masterful coordination. He was thrilled to watch such excitement, energy, and drama – without injuries. He saw O’Sensei through the eyes of a professional athlete and masterful performer.
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Nov
05

Consistent drilling works best… The Martial Artist’s Dilemma: “Traditionalism vs. Innovation,” by Charles Humphrey

How many of you have consistently explored kotegaeshi in combination with GPP training for four to six weeks straight? Maybe some have. Most, I bet, have never spent more than one or two classes drilling one particular movement. Even when teachers try to impart the importance of consistent drilling, they undermine this by constantly shifting the focus of the class to new things. The best teacher I ever had in this sense at least tried to encourage us to stick to basics, but he couldn’t control himself, and would often then suddenly switch emphasis to something completely different, or use completely new training modalities or concepts that would just overwhelm us…

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Nov
05

Building basics… “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. Uke: Daniel Toutain…

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Nov
04

Necessary for safe practice… Etiquette and the Preservation of Well-being by Stanley Pranin

What about etiquette inside the dojo? Many teachers I have seen over the years attach great importance to this subject. In dojos which observe strict etiquette, the teacher and students bow to each other to begin and end each class. Students also bow to each other when pairing off to train and after training together. I interpret the act of bowing in the dojo not only as a custom of respect, but also as an implied promise on the part of both sides to practice within safe bounds. Thus, in the dojo as well, etiquette serves to create a training environment where inherently dangerous techniques can be practiced with a predictible outcome…

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Nov
04

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

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. If you face the same direction with the feeling of enveloping him, you will stay close to him and he will be unable to escape…

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Nov
04

Powerful, yet soft and relaxed… Seigo Yamaguchi, 9th dan, at Special Aikido Seminar (1990)

This video consists of excerpts from a special aikido seminar taught by 9th dan Master Seigo Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi Sensei was known for his flowing, yet powerful free-form techniques. He emphasizes softness and relaxation, while at times demonstrating explosive finishes to techniques. There is much to study from the unique approach of this incomparable aikido master. Full English subtitles are included…

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Nov
03

Aikido greats in action! “Yoshimitsu Yamada and Nobuyoshi Tamura Free Style 1999!”

This video contains highlights of the instruction of aikido greats Yoshimitsu Yamada and Nobuyoshi Tamura during a seminar held in Venezuela in 1999. Uke: Gustavo Tolone…

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Nov
03

Profuse apologies in order! “Arriving at Saito Sensei door with exciting news!”

I’ll always remember the scene as I called at Sensei’s door to share with him my new discovery. To my surprise, he had never seen or heard mention of the book before. He put on his reading glasses and leafed through the manual, his eyes scanning the technical sequences intently. I felt compelled then and there to apologize to him for having ever doubted his assertion that he was making every effort to faithfully preserve the founder’s techniques. Saito Sensei laughed and, obviously with great pleasure, bellowed, “See, Pranin, I told you so!…

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Nov
03

Making it work! Morihiro Saito demonstrates Morotedori Kokyuho contrasted to the Aikikai Hombu Dojo approach

This is an unusual video where Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, explains morotedori kokyuho in depth as taught by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. He then contrasts this way of executing the technique with the current Aikikai Hombu Dojo approach. Saito Sensei offers an alternative to this technique when nage employs ura footwork…

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Oct
31

Get Un-Stuck! David Shaner presents principles of Ki Aikido at TED x Greenville

One of the finest presentations of the philosophy and art of Ki Aikido applied to challenging our thinking patterns by one of the leading students of Koichi Tohei, 10th dan. Dr. David Shaner is a 7th Degree Black Belt in the Japanese art of Ki-Aikido. He is the Chief Instructor of the Eastern (USA) Ki Federation and Japan Headquarters Advisor to the Eastern Europe/Russia Ki-Aikido Federation where he teaches each year…

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Oct
31

“Competition and Budo… Oil and Vinegar?” by Ken Teshima

judo-competition

“I believe the antidote to the “virus” of competition is to make sure one has a strong foundation in the philosophy of the true path of Budo. “

ken-teshimaAs I sit here writing my paper, I am contemplating the Judo tournament I competed in recently. I was eliminated early in a pool of talented Judoka, and what is the usual post-tournament ritual, I ponder all the things that worked, and things that didn’t. There is, of course, disappointment in losing, but there is also much positive energy to get back into the dojo and continue the ongoing process of polishing these things that need improvement, and adding to my base of knowledge and experience. There is no doubt that participation in tournaments has been a key ingredient in the advancement of my skills in Judo. All body parts are intact and functional, and I will be able to continue practice without missing a beat. The advice given me by my Aikido Sensei (himself an accomplished Judoka) was “don’t get hurt”. He is a man of few words, but when he speaks you best listen. Since then, I have developed a philosophy of competition (and training) of “live today to fight again tomorrow”. Through this paper, I hope to lend food for thought to my fellow Budoka who study all forms of martial arts, but especially to my comrades in the Aikido world.

At a very young age, I was dragged into the dojo by my father in order to teach me discipline and keep me on the straight path. He was an Aikido teacher who had many mishaps as a youth which ended taking his life in a negative direction; one that he did not want me to follow, and felt that the teachings of Aikido would help me to build the internal fortitude and character necessary to live a more positive life than he.

Aikido came to the US through Hawaii, and it was during my youth of the 60’s and 70’s that Aikido in Hawaii was at its peak. Senseis then were recruited from other disciplines like Kendo, Karate and Judo. We trained so hard in those days, and I was many times in tears from being thrown, punched, kicked, or just being exhausted. Sensei would have no pity for anyone, and would get mad if you gave up. In spite of what many people today would judge to be abusive, this was how Budo was taught back then. I knew that he had a genuine concern for my wellbeing, however, and that he was being tough because it was going to make me stronger and a better person.
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