“Modern Aikido: Moves and Meaning,” by Tom Koch

One of our readers was kind enough to forward the following link that many will find of interest:

“Forget the politics that have divided the founder Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido into a half-dozen communities, all calling themselves aikido. There are, in truth, only two aikido camps today: one mostly hidden, some say forgotten, and the other ascendant.

The first is a fearsome martial art cobbled together from older Japanese styles, resulting in a pattern of off-balancing entries, devastating throws and effective joint locks. That was the system Morihei Ueshiba, also known as O-Sensei, used in 70 matches when adepts from other styles came by to ask for a “lesson.”

The second is a noncombat-related practice in which aikido moves are taught to advance Morihei Ueshiba’s social philosophy, one in which effectiveness is at best secondary to goals of personal balance and communal harmony. That is hombu aikido today, the discipline that’s advanced by the founder’s grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba, the current head, or doshu, of the style. That doesn’t mean the aikido moves he teaches are ineffective, only that martial excellence is, for him, a secondary concern….”

Click here to read the entire article on the Black Belt magazine website

Hi-res videos of Morihei Ueshiba unavailable elsewhere


“Masters of the Universe, the Aikikai and the Shihan Certification,” by Christopher Li

“Who gets it, who doesn’t and would you want it anyway?”

One of our readers kindly sent a link to a very interesting article written by Christoper Li of the Aikido Sangenkai. It has to do with the title of “Shihan” and the differing standards for referring to oneself as Shihan within the Aikikai system. I highly recommend that you read this piece.

“Shihan” – most often translated as “Master Instructor”. Sound pretty important?

The term wasn’t used much when I first started Aikido, but it seems to be the title to have nowadays.

In Japanese, the Kanji for Shihan (師範) break down to “instruct” and “model” – or “model instructor”. This makes sense, especially considering normal Japanese methods of instruction – this would be the guy that everybody else copies, or hopes to copy.

The regulations appear to be fairly straightforward, as is Tani’s clarifying statement – until we get to this section:

Click here to read the entire article


“The Legendary ‘Judo’ Gene LeBell,” by Patrick Parker

Patrick Parker: Your bio on your webpage says that at age 20 you had 14 years of hardcore training behind you, including some grappling with Ed “Strangler” Lewis, who is credited with inventing the sleeper hold. Is that where you got your fabulous rear choke?

Gene Lebell: The 1st time I learned it, yes it was from Ed Lewis. Since then there have been many variations in the world, from which I have learned to do it from the sides, the front, etc. They are in my Encyclopedia of Grappling, Finishing Holds for those who want to learn them…

Patrick Parker: You mentioned your Godfather of Grappling and Encyclopedia of Grappling books… What do you think is the role of books in training? Since you’ve got to lay hands on a real guy to learn to grapple, how much of what kinds of things do you think folks can learn from a book or a website? What is the best way to learn something when you don’t have face-to-face access to an expert?

Gene Lebell: Of course it is always better to work with an expert, but how often can you do that or afford it. As an alternative you use students of the experts, then videos or books. And there is no substitute for getting on the mat and experimenting and trying things to see what works for you and what doesn’t.

Please click here to read entire article.


Biography of Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei

Yoshimitsu Yamada instructing

The trainings were demanding and at life the dojo almost ascetic in nature. This was related with the difficult economic situation in the country after II World War. Hombu Dojo did not especially stand out from the general life level in Japan. The building was not heated, so in winter the temperature dropped below zero degrees, in summer the heat used to strike. Deshi did not have their own quarters or too many personal items, their life was subject to the rhythm of dojo’s life, and any private moments were very rare. Each of the uchi-deshi had to perform certain tasks and take active part in private lessons. Yoshimitsu Yamada remembers the schedule from that time even today. The first training, conducted by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, started at 6:30, another one, at 8:00, was run by Koichi Tohei or Kisaburo Osawa, whom once in a week were replaced by Kenji Tomiki. Hiroshi Tada or Seigo Yamaguchi conducted classes at 15:00, and trainings at 16:00 and 18:30 were run by various teachers. Koichi Tohei was an idol to many trainees – that impressed with his character and technical skills. Many uchi-deshi regreted that more and more he involve himself in running a school in Hawaii and that he visited Tokyo rarely. With time, the group of students grew – Yasuo Kabayashi, Kazuo Chiba, Mitsunari Kanai and Seichi Sugano joined, and along with Yoshimitsu became a tight group of friends.

Click here to read entire article


Rare old film of UK’s Kenshiro Abbe Sensei from 1960

I have received a previously unseen video of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei from Mrs Teresa Reeve the widow of Bill Reeve Sensei who was the first ‘personal aide’ to Abbe Sensei in the 1950s and early 1960s . The video was taken in 1960 at the ” Mount Fuji Judo Club ” in Halifax, Yorkshire.
Mrs Reeve has kindly given me permission to add the video to YouTube.

Click here to watch Kenshiro Abbe video on

Henry Ellis


“Lessons from a torn rotator cuff,” by Brandon Clapp

The time it takes to heal from an injury can be difficult and trying, especially if it affects your normal training routine.

This isn’t to say that change can’t be a good thing; in fact, it’s a time for research and reflection. After I realized I was injured, my attendance at my dojoI became quite erratic. At first, I would argue that this has taken a toll on me. I’ve always been one of the first to class, always ready to help, or have a thought provoking conversation with Sensei.

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” -Ellen Glasgow

I think this is an interesting quote from a personal standpoint. This was definitely my mindset once I finally admitted to myself that I was seriously injured. I found myself wondering how I would come back from such an injury. In these rough economic times, I–like many of my peers in the 20-29 age group–don’t have health insurance. So getting a professional’s opinion or some other sort of medical treatment would cost me more than I’m wiling to spend out of pocket right now. For this type of rotatory cuff injury, there is a surgery that can be performed, but I’ve heard conflicting results about the success and lasting effects of that procedure. This is especially true because my shoulder injury is an old one that I have been ignoring for three to four years now, hoping that it will heal on its own.

So, with these factors weighing on my mind, I realized that to get better, it would be up to me. I would need to pull myself from physical training for a bit and allow myself to heal. This decision was not made easily, in fact, I spent a long time continuing to train. I would train only on the left side of the body letting everyone know about my injury. It seemed like a good idea at first, but over time I wold start to feel better and allow myself to train a bit harder than I should. I also noticed that with ukemi, I would still feel the arm taking more stress than it should. Ultimately, after six months of training like this I noticed my arm becoming weaker, not stronger. After much consideration, I decided to pull myself from our weekly training I always look forward to.

Click here to read “Lessons from a torn rotator cuff”


“Detoxifying your body with stretching!,” by The Martial Arts Guru

“The blood has another function as well as feeding our cells with oxygen/nutrients. It also removes the byproducts of metabolism from our cells to prevent cellular damage, which over time can cause problems such as some forms of cancer. This is why I named this post “detoxifying your body with stretching.” We need to take our stretching routine and implement parts of it that can be done easily every single day to get the body moving and the blood flowing. Our bodies not only have the arteries and veins and most people think of when its traveling our bodies, but it also has smaller vessels called capillaries. These vessels have much less muscles tissue surrounding them and blood can pool in these areas and not circulate as well as it needs to. This diminishes its ability to effectively remove toxic byproducts from our body and this is the very thing we are trying to avoid.”

Click here to read entire blog


“Open Letter to My Students,” by George Ledyard

Aikido is a form of Budo. Budo is basically the use of the martial arts for personal transformation. Aikido as Budo is a “Michi” or Martial “WAY” (the “do” in Aiki-do). O-Sensei, the Founder, actually believed that through Aikido, the whole world could be brought into a state of harmony; he called our art “The Way of Peace”. For him, Budo was a life and death matter. Given the right level of commitment one could truly become a better person, less fearful, stronger, braver, more compassionate. One could, in his or her own Mind and Body understand that everything in the universe is essentially connected. His creation of Aikido represents a radical transformation of how Budo was viewed historically. It is a unique art. It is not a “hobby”, it is not a “sport”, it is not a “workout”, it is a Michi, a Way. The central maxim of Aikido is “masakatsu, agatsu” “True Victory is Self Victory”.

Click here to read the entire article on George’s “All Things Aikido” blog site.


“Working along the tether: a geometric approach,” by The Martial Arts Guru

“That range on the outside of your partners reach is where the technique needs to happen, otherwise you will be working within his strength zone. (This distance is also a critical distinction between Judo and Aikido) I just show this on the arm of the stick man, but you can apply this to any technique on any part of the body. Also, this same image can be merged with what O Sensei liked to draw…

…the main point here is to learn how to work these tether distances. Once you become comfortable using them you can start to place yourself in ideal positions to take full advantage of them. Think of this as a tool, that can be fully utilized to analyze your technique, distance between your partner (Mai), and the amount of strength needed to complete the technique.”

Click here to read the entire article.


Gallery of Screenshots from Morihiro Saito’s “Lost Seminars 1 & 2” DVDs

Morihiro Saito Sensei conducting seminar in Italy in 1986

We have just uploaded a series of 31 photos from the “Lost Seminars 1 & 2” DVDs which depict Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, instructing at seminars held in Italy in 1985-86. As you will see, these DVDs are filled with clear instruction of scores of techniques from Saito Sensei’s curriculum.

What and extraordinary learning opportunity!

The existence of these DVDs allows you to access top-level aikido instruction from one of aikido’s great masters at your leisure. “Lost Seminars 1 & 2” are being offered this week only at the special price of $24.95.

Click here for more information and to order these DVDs.

Click here to view the gallery of screenshots from Aikido Journal’s Facebook page.


“What Is Your Responsibility in Training?” by George Ledyard

“Ok, so I am attending a seminar with a teacher who decides to do a sword class. I am excited because this teacher’s sword work is extraordinary and I love sword. The teacher started out with a basic flow exercise, which as it happens, is in the first chapter of his sword video which has been around since VHS days. He demonstrated then set folks to work. Folks were pretty much mangling the exercise so he stopped them and showed it again, this time a bit slower. The same thing happened. In fact it happened four times. By the end Sensei was furious. And, I have to say, I was furious.”

Click here to read entire article


“Ukemi: The Basics and the Journey thus Far,” by Andrew

“Ukemi is one of the most important components of being an Aikido practitioner, it is also from my experiences with other teachers one of the most abstract – and consequently misunderstood – aspects of the martial art. I might expand on this in the future, but for now I’m going to share with you some of the insights that I have witnessed, experienced, failed at, and done in terms of Ukemi.

Ukemi is also the art of protecting oneself during the fall. You see all these spectacular turns, rolls, and falls by aikidoka and you may wonder: “It’s all flashy stuff, but it is real?” My friends, from the injuries that I’ve sustained from not doing ukemi, I will attest that it is quite real.”

Click here to read entire article