“An Aikido Life, Part 9,” by Gozo Shioda

“To resume the thread of my story, Ueshiba Sensei and the three of us finally arrived at the house of Razan Hayashi which was our destination as I mentioned before. When we settled down after cleaning the house, Ueshiba Sensei admonished us with the following words: “We are going to lead an ascetic life for 20 days starting today. During this period we will eat meals consisting of one kind of soup and a serving of fish or vegetables and rice. We are also going to train at night. So get yourselves in the right frame of mind.””

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Recommended reading: “Interview with Noriaki Inoue (1)” by Stanley Pranin

The interview below with the nephew of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, Noriaki Inoue, has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

My uncle’s father (Yoroku Ueshiba) was my grandfather. My mother married into our house (Inoue) from the Ueshiba family. She was the eldest Ueshiba daughter. Morihei was the fourth child. There were five brothers and sisters and Morihei was the only son. So, there was not much difference in our ages (eighteen years) even though we speak in terms of uncle and nephew. (Laughter) We all studied in the same way. Ueshiba quit his middle school when he was in the first or second year and came to work in our store in Tokyo. I think he continued his schooling there. I believe that since he had time at night he went to a Judo dojo for practice as a dojo was nearby. I had an older brother and, while we were living in Tanabe, my uncle, my brother and I studied old-style Judo. I was only about ten years old then.

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Recommended reading: “Koichi Tohei: Ongaeshi – Repayment of Kindness” by Stanley Pranin

The article below has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Indulge me for a short while as we board together a time-machine to the golden years of aikido’s infancy in the USA in the mid-1960s. We see a totally different landscape when compared to the art of today. The name of Koichi Tohei is on everyone’s lips. He is now in his vigorous 40s, handsome, charming, and physically gifted. He is a fluent speaker of English, the author of best-selling books on the art. He is supremely confident, a wonderful teacher. He is the chief instructor of the World Headquarters Dojo, the Mecca of aikido, and he is the “ambassador of ki.” Yes, Koichi Tohei is the man every devotee wants to see in the flesh, the one whose techniques are to be emulated, the one who inspires. His interpretation of techniques represents “the” standard. His views on the principles of aikido and the “mysterious” concept of ki are unending topics of conversation. He is the motive power driving the spread of the art. Koichi Tohei IS aikido!

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“Of Kid and Child,” by Drew Gardner

There are four mind sets that an Aikidoka can possess. They are the kid, the child, the adult-child, and the adult. Only two of these roles lead to success in learning or teaching Aikido. These two are the child and the adult-child. There is no place for the kid mentality or the all-knowing adult mentality in either the novice ranks or advanced echelons of Aikido.

The kid simply plays around in the dojo, as if it were recess from elementary school, even if he has learned how to keep the appearance that he is in-line. Usually, he knows he has a poor mentality, yet he often thinks he is tricking senpai or sensei. Others on the mat know his fool-around-mentality from day one, and the odds suggest he will never alter his foolishness. The kid may in fact learn and advance in the Aikido ranks, all the while relishing in his condescending air. This mentality is one of immaturity, and I have trained with single-digit-year-olds who surpass adult kids in the field of maturity. If kids make it to black belt, there have surely been mistakes in either Aikido, the representative school, or in dojo sensei themselves. These kids belong in a sandbox in which they never share their shovels with others, not in the yudansha ranks of respected Aikido schools. Even if the kid strives to become something more while teaching, he was a kid during every technique he learned. Therefore, the kid inevitably becomes a poor teacher and poor role model. Flashing his dark belt will work only in the short run, if that.
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“Yoshida Kenji Photograph Verified?” from Aikido Journal forum

“The original photo in question was unevenly faded and fogged when I first saw it around 1988. I had it examined along with several others owned by Don Angier at The Brooks Institute of Photography. Verne Miller, Chairman of the Industrial/Scientific Dept said this particular photo suffered from what appeared to be improper fixing and washing which left trace amounts of silver halide and sodium thiosulfate in the emulsion. Crystals from these chemicals were responsible for the image degradation. Several years later I tried to produce a superior copy by re-shooting the image on a 4 X 5 copy camera and extending the tonal range thru sensitometric manipulation. This produced only marginal improvement. In the early to mid 1990’s Don Angier allowed me to scan the original photo on a drum scanner. I opened it up in an early version of Adobe’s Photoshop. By manipulating the histogram I was able to even out the gradation, create a more pleasing tonal scale and improve the shadow/highlight detail signifcantly. One thing immediately stuck out that was not obvious when viewing the original. The person in the photo, presumably Yoshida Kenji, had a nasty black eye and broken nose….LOL Afterward, I had a digital negative made at a BWC Photo Labs in Dallas. From this negative I produced several prints. As far as I know, one of those is the source of the image that appears in the article in question.”

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Featured forum thread: “Kenjutsu Kyohan” by Chris Covington

“For those that don’t know, between the 1870’s and 1934 the Japanese military, in an effort to modernize, adopted western style practice (see the movie “The Last Samurai”). They adopted a western style saber called a kyugunto in place of traditional Japanese swords until 1934 when they created the shingunto, a tachi style military sword. The Kenjutsu Kyohan was a manual on how to fence with these western style sabers as well as bayonet fencing and mounted fencing. ”

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“Aikido Books: Try to know what you’re buying…,” by Clark Bateman

There are a couple of disturbing developments in the book world today. Despite all the upside that the burgeoning print-on-demand publishing business has brought to those who enjoy books, and to those who otherwise would not be able to write them, there comes along with it a bit of a seedy element that can cost you money if you fall prey.

The first is the “information harvester” publication, which is often no more than an electronically-produced compilation of info taken from public domain sources (most notably, Wikipedia). Wikipedia has no real rights of control over the information it distributes, so it is not illegal for the data to be reproduced, even for profit, by anyone who wishes to do so, as long as the source (Wikipedia) is credited somewhere in the publication. The resulting “book” is usually nothing more than what shows up in an automated “mining” operation performed on the pages of Wikipedia, wherein every reference mentioning the word “aikido”, for example, is pulled out and compiled in book form, usually unedited, and certainly produced by people who don’t know diddly about aikido. Not only that, but the source of any quotation is usually listed by name as an author, even if they’ve never written anything in their life! Not only that, but Wikipedia is user edited, so the information there may not even be correct. The result is often a book which you will usually pay too much for, that is a mass of disjointed, irrelevant, redundant, misquoted and basically useless information, sitting on your bookshelf gathering dust.
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Featured forum thread: “Impressions of Kagami Biraki by Edgar Bull (from Brazil) “

“With so many prestigious Aikido masters, there surrounding Doshu, some which I knew by photos and films, I could understand clearly that the Aikikai is not just an organization created to teach a martial arts of way of life, but it is also the center of a big international family where one can find friendship, union, commitment and harmony between the members and I felt very proud and happy to be part of it.”

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From AJ forum: Iaido in Iwama

“I was uchideshi this year again for one month (tooooo short) and had the opportunity to learn Battojutsu directly from [Hitohiro Saito] Sensei. First, Sensei handed us the Iaito (the Tanrenkan has several) and told me, as the highest grade present, to practice suburi, and kumitachi. Since I did not know anything about it, I had to depend on Kasper (an excellent long time sotodeshi), and another day on Yasuhiro Saito, to teach me the Sekiguchi Ryu. About a week later, Sensei taught us directly with many details. It was a wonderful class. Sekiguchi Ryu is a ryu originally from Wakayama (O’Sensei’s country). It is a vigorous style with lots of kiai. We also practiced with live blades using some excellent swords that Sensei has.

One site where you can have a look at this Battojutsu style is located here.

It seems that Sensei has had a long connection with this style.”

Tristão da Cunha from Portugal

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Featured forum thread: “How to become a part of an aikido federation”

“Usually things work the other way around. First there is a relationship to a teacher, maybe to the teacher’s teacher and then naturally one joins the group of those people. If for whatever reason that relationship, that lineage, is broken, the dojo responsibles will first have to look for a sponsor, a sensei, a shihan who they can respect, who’s training they like and benefit from. Then they can join that person’s group and find a home for their rankings.”

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AJ Forum: “Proper Attack, ukemi and blocking questions”

“I cross train in karate and have a background in escrima. As a result, I frequently get chastised by the upper kyu and Dan Nages because:

1. they get offended because I block the strike, (block my face) while taking ukemi
2. throw a real punch (not hard, but a proper fist in the actual direction of the nage, without relenting. In other words, although I move slowly, if you don’t move, you will get hit). How can a person work on a technique when the attack is poor?

Can someone tell me why this is? I truly don’t get it.”

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Review of Ellis Amdur’s “Hidden in Plain Sight” by Clark Bateman

Ellis Amdur’s latest book, Hidden in Plain Sight: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei’s Power is an insightful look at the culture and history, not only of Aikido, but of Japanese budo and aiki arts in a more general sense. If you know Ellis Amdur or have read much of his previous work, such as Old School or Dueling with O’Sensei, then you know that he is a diligent student and scholar of the ways of classical budo, and that he is also not given to the “mystical” nature often attributed to martial arts, but instead is driven to explore the tangible scientific and technical basis for its development and application. I have found his analytical approach to be very useful and revealing, as I myself struggle to reconcile in my own mind the substantial from the mythical.

This new book is a revised and re-edited compilation of an essay series that Amdur Sensei published online in the pages of Aikido Journal. He put in the research, formulated his story, and then put it out there in comfortably-sized chunks for people to read and comment on. His circle of input includes a wide assortment of other longtime budo practitioners and scholars who have no doubt given his thoughts a good dose of his own critical medicine. The resulting feedback and additional reflection brought the completion of the book.
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