Sep
06

Las Vegas Seminar: An event to reinvigorate your passion for Aikido!

“Your potential for personal growth through Aikido is far greater than you think!”

Sometimes we need a reminder about why we began aikido and where we are headed at this stage of our practice. We may have begun our journey to learn self-defense, improve health, find a good support group, or a variety of other reasons. Probably, our reasons have evolved over time and become more focused.

I would like to share with you the important parts of my personal odyssey in Aikido that began 50 years ago. The techniques and philosophy of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba have always been the guiding light of my own training, and I continue, still now, to draw inspiration from the Founder’s enlightened example.

Permit me to cordially invite you to join me on November 2-4 in Las Vegas, Nevada for a very special weekend. I will be conducting weekend seminars–the first of a kind–whose theme will be “Exploring Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Aikido.” During the weekend, we will spend quality time together in a private dojo setting with a limited number of attendees. I would like to explore with you what I consider to be the central points of Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido that have been largely lost in today’s practice. If you wish to have a preview of what the seminar content will cover, I refer you to my article “Exploring the Founder’s Aikido” where I discuss my views and offer supporting documentation.

The Las Vegas seminar will be a special event with an intimate format. I look forward to spending many hours training and conversing with the participants and am sure that this experience will be life-changing for all of us. We are in a position to offer very affordable accommodations for most of the seminar participants to keep costs to a minimum. Since the dojo is limited in size, I would encourage you to reserve a place early if you are certain you would like to attend. When the seminars fill up, we will make an announcement to this effect on the website. The link to make your reservation is below.


Dates: October 5-7, 2012 (indicate your choice when registering)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Enrollment: $135.00 (Event Full)

Dates: November 2-4, 2012 (indicate your choice when registering)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Enrollment: $135.00

Theme: “Exploring Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Aikido”
Instructor: Stanley Pranin

Limited participation on a first-come, first-served basis

Event Schedule (subject to change)

Friday:

  • Check-in – 6:00 pm
  • 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
  • Informal group chat

Saturday:

  • Morning Session: 9:30 am – 11:30 am
  • (Lunch break)
  • Afternoon Session: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Q & A period: 4:00 pm – 4:45 pm
  • Dinner party: 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm

Sunday:

  • 9:30 am – 10:30am
  • 10:45 am – 11:45 am
  • Informal group chat
  • Pick-up gift pack / Departure

Stanley Pranin Bio

Stanley Pranin began aikido in 1962 in a Yoshinkan Aikido dojo. After a few months, he joined an Aikikai group learning from instructors trained by Koichi Tohei, from whom he received his shodan and nidan rankings. Pranin relocated to Japan in 1977 where he lived for 20 years. He studied in Iwama under Morihiro Saito for several years, and accompanied Saito Sensei during the 1980s as his interpreter to the USA, Canada, and numerous European countries.

In 1974, Pranin began a newsletter called “Aiki News,” which later was renamed as “Aikido Journal.” The successor of this publication continues today on the Internet as the “Aikido Journal” suite of websites. Pranin has published hundreds of articles, interviews, books, and videos during his career as an aikido journalist/historian. He is the organizer of the trail-blazing Aiki Expo events held in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Pranin brings with him 50 years of aikido training and teaching experience, and a vast knowledge of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and the history of the art.

Suggested reading: “Exploring the Founder’s Aikido” by Stanley Pranin.

Those making reservations will be sent detailed information concerning the location of the event, optional accommodations for attendees, and notification of the deadline for payment of the balance of the seminar tuition.

Click here to make a non-refundable $25 deposit to
reserve a place at the seminar (Limited attendance)

Aug
31

“A bit of Aikido…” by Nev Sagiba

“Even though we should be training as if preparing to go to war tomorrow, the reality is that Aikido is not for war but for finding peace within oneself.”

I recall in the mid 80′s, a woman joined the dojo, trained one session and then became briefly famous in that small country town for daily boasting, “I’ve done a bit of Aikido…” If it was a bit she was referring to, then it was a very, very little bit indeed.

I recall the class content of that fateful day: We talked, I conducted a brief orientation on the history of Aikido, we warmed up, did jumbi-taiso, bowed out, enjoyed cups of tea and went home. It was a light and preparatory introduction.

Another, a few months later, haughtily demanded a refund for a seminar I had inaugurated to introduce the art and to subsidize the cost of mats. Asked, “May I have your reason?”, the reply was, “I’m high up in the aikido world. I have a shodan. I don’t need to practice ukemi.”

I happily gave her her money. If that was the price to find out her characteristic attitude and let her exclude herself from future classes, it was well worth it.

Indeed that particular introduction was all ukemi because most attendees were raw beginners and my dojo policy is safety first.

“A bit of aikido.” “High up.” What do these sorry statements mean?

As for the “bit,” that’s not what Aikido is for. Even though we should be training as if preparing to go to war tomorrow, the reality is that Aikido is not for war but for finding peace within oneself. It is a Do, Path or Way of self transformation. It is not the only one. But as a Do there is no arrival. It is a journey that makes you a better, truer human being as it gradually enlightens you over time.

As O’Sensei states in his 6th Rule of Training: “The purpose of Aikido is to train mind and body and make an individual sincere.” In this case, the word “sincere” is loaded with many connotations.

Whilst there are many Ways and Paths that enable a person to face up to themselves and to bring forth their immense potentials, none are overnight affairs, but can only be embraced as a Way of Life. Aikido has the added benefit of harmonizing, uniting body, mind, spirit and other attributes in that it teaches to do so under duress, under attack.
[Read more...]

Aug
06

My Response to Stanley Pranin’s – “Constant Alertness Needed to Avoid Dojo Injuries” by Nev Sagiba

“When you bow onto the mats you are entering an ersatz war zone. Behave accordingly. Trust no one. Especially beginners who are the most dangerous.”

Dojo myopia is unacceptable. When you step into the street, a room or any dojo if you are not capable or willing to at all times extend your awareness consciously to every person, dog, fly, spider and ant within the range of vision or hearing, you are not practicing Budo but merely self obsession. In training practice you must be aware of every person in the room/dojo and where they are or are moving towards, their active trajectory at any given moment. At all moments. THIS IS YOUR BUDO PRACTICE! Budo without awareness is nothing! An instructor worth his salt will train myopic attitudes out of you very quickly. With a shinai across the back of the legs if necessary. If he cares. Otherwise he’s just frightened of losing you ‘cos he wants your dollars.

I can’t speak for others but I make it my moral responsibility to ensure to the best of my ability that my students will be strategically capable and defence enabled if ever they get attacked. Those who don’t want this standard because, “it’s difficult” are welcome to leave. And they do. Budo is not a toy and there is no such thing as a, “martial art” you practice in order to be unable to protect yourself. Listening to some, “aikidoka,” that appears to be the spin. I’ve been often surprised by people who practice what they call this “martial-art of Aikido” who simultaneously also claim that they “don’t expect it to work,” (whatever that means) and that they are “not practicing for self-defence.”

In the world such as it is today, I find such statements extraordinary to say the least and striving to live in a complacent glass bubble of denial, dangerous.

Aikido is Budo and as such IS dangerous. Even in training. The Founder had a list of precepts with regard safe training posted on the wall of his dojo(s) titled “Rules During Practice.”*

Take it upon yourself to make it a main point of your own practice to extend awareness at all times. For your safety and everyone else’s. It is this very awareness which saves you in “the street,” or any field of activity. And in your sleep, not only when travelling or moving in far away places away from home, but all the time. If someone passes your front gate you should know. Make it a practice. Make it your responsibility. Otherwise we live as zombies. Such would be unacceptable for purporting budoka. Everyone in that room is a potential “enemy.” The dojo is full of snakes. Warm family atmosphere? Stop kidding yourselves people, either practice BUDO or go home!

“Techniques” are a part of the story of the Budo of Aiki, but without awareness you have only crude, clumsy force at your disposal, and that is not Aikido.
[Read more...]

Aug
03

“The Nature of Modern Martial Arts,” by Kenji Tomiki

Statue on Ganryu Island representing the famous duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro

“When peace came the samurai no longer wore protective equipment. Ryoma Sakamoto was killed at an inn while drinking tea, by an assassin charging at full speed down the corridor.”

From Aiki News #95 (Spring/Summer 1993)

This essay has been edited with the help of Fumiaki Shishida of the Japan Aikido Association from tapes made during Aiki News interviews with Kenji Tomiki Shihan in 1979. Tomiki describes the evolution of the martial arts and stresses the historical inevitability of competition to keep these arts alive. He also emphasizes the need to look at budo from a broad educational perspective so that its essential value will be preserved and can be spread throughout the world.

From live blade to kata

The Japanese fought with real swords up until the beginning of the Edo era. Those who are known as the founders of various schools of swordsmanship, such as Musashi Miyamoto, Sekishusai Yagyu, and Tajimamori Yagyu, grew strong and cultivated their abilities by using their skills to kill.

The famous duel on Ganryu island between Musashi and Kojiro Sasaki is one example. Kojiro was, despite his youth, one of the best swordsmen of the western region of Japan, while Musashi, though a middle-aged man, was known to be the best in the eastern region. People were curious about which of the two was strongest, and so the duel on the island was set up.

This contest was similar to a modern sports match. Two excellent men challenged each other for the right to be known as champion. However, they used real swords and unfortunately young Kojiro was killed. Musashi, on the other hand, survived and became famous. Survivors such as Musashi became the masters of various schools of swordsmanship. It is not possible to know one’s true martial ability without fighting. During the peaceful days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the government issued an official notice prohibiting such violent killings. Thus, swordsmen began to practice kata [forms] exclusively.

When you train in kata you must release your strength at the very last moment. It is permissible for the swords of the opponents to knock against each other, but one must stop just short of killing his adversary. Thus, it is necessary to practice the basic movements for a long time before beginning to train in the actual kata. One must be able to stop the sword no matter where it is. It is dangerous to attempt to practice the kata before having learned the basic movements. Once the basics are learned, the teacher will then instruct the student to strike at him.

Click here to read the entire article

Aug
03

“Descending from Mt. Olympus (or Mt. Kumano),” by Nev Sagiba

The Detailed Universe

The Detailed Universe

This old man must still practice.

“When Susanou died, his body buried atop Mt.Kumano, his spirit became Kami and he sometimes appeared as a big bear..”

“..The Founder would often remark: “This old man must still practice.” He never skipped early morning, afternoon or evening practice with his uchideshi, such sessions lasting two hours each.

In 1953, when he had already reached 70 years of age, his training was so severe as to put the young men to shame. According to those who were with the Founder a great deal in those days, he would be absorbed in reading during every free moment. I think that he mainly read the “Kojiki” (Chronicle of Ancient Events) as well as books concerning Shinto, the Kotodama (study of the spirit of language) and the study of the Divine Spirit..”
http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=354

When you embrace the non-competitive dojo life and practice budo daily as a way of life, you partake of a higher dimension than is available to the non-trainee. More so if Aikido is your main art.

However there will be periods in life where you will be forced by necessity, injury, circumstance and responsibility to descend this holy mount and “mingle with mortals again.” Too much immersion with the mundane, the trivial and the necessary may sometime cause your skill and fitness to decline somewhat.

Make this your training too.

Well may you somewhat lose, “the edge.” Well may you somewhat appear to lose that finely honed warrior’s intuitive awareness to some degree.

Make this your training too.

If dire necessity should demand, you’ll find that you have in fact lost nothing and that the accrued credit of your input of years of training will emerge as if by magic to save you. But for purposes of training, when you do return or make a comeback or find opportunity to occasionally resume training, you’ll feel, “all thumbs and left feet.”
[Read more...]

Aug
01

Reminiscences of Minoru Mochizuki

“If Ueshiba Sensei were a weak-looking man who appeared as if he would fall if I swept his leg from underneath him I wouldn’t have followed him.”

Minoru Mochizuki (1907-2003)

From Aiki News #71 (June 1986)

Kisshomaru Sensei’s words

It is natural for a man to thrist after strength. The other day I had some business at the Hombu Dojo and went there taking several of my students. There we listened to a talk given by Koetsu (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) Sensei. He made the following remark during his speech: “Nowadays, the streets are well protected by the police and I have almost never seen any violence. Therefore, we should disregard such notions as who is stronger or who are losers.” I thought that what he said was quite reasonable. However, on the way home my students asked me: “Sensei, did he really mean that? He may not be reading the news.” Actually, many incidents appear on the third page of the newspaper. In the old days there was a saying that, “Three years spent developing an army is all for the purpose of using it for a single day.” Although there are many soldiers, they are to be used only for emergency situations and are not usually needed. In other ways, this saying signifies that “bu” or martial arts serve as a precaution. We must of course go beyond fighting. But if young people overemphasize this idea and believe that armed forces are no longer needed because there is no need to attack anyone, this attitude presents a problem. Most of the time youngsters come to the dojo wanting to become strong.

Minoru Mochizuki conversing with Kisshomaru Ueshiba in Shizuoka on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Yoseikan Dojo in 1991

I came to study under Ueshiba Sensei for the same reason. If Ueshiba Sensei were a weak-looking man who appeared as if he would fall if I swept his leg from underneath him I wouldn’t have followed him. I was very vigorous then because at the time I used to appear in championship judo tournaments. But he grabbed hold of me and flung me around as if I were insignificant. Ueshiba Sensei was great and I was surprised. After all, I thirsted after strength in those days. So I don’t think we should deny the existence of this type of desire. We should take a hard look at reality. Budo are not sports. They are traditional martial arts and an instrument of war. We must be prepared for emergencies, in a spiritual sense, I mean. Budo cultivates this spirit…

Click here to read the entire article

Jul
31

Stanley Pranin’s Las Vegas seminar status: Oct. 5-7, 2 spots open; Nov. 2-4, 6 spots open

“ATTENTION: ONLY 2 SPOTS OPEN FOR THE OCTOBER SEMINAR.
6 spots open for the November seminar.”

This is Stanley Pranin! I would like to cordially invite you to join me October 5-7 or November 2-4 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I will be conducting weekend seminars–the first of a kind–whose theme will be “Exploring Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Aikido.” During the weekend, we will spend quality time together in a private dojo setting with a limited number of attendees. I would like to explore with you what I consider to be the central points of Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido that have been largely lost in today’s practice. If you wish to have a preview of what the seminar content will cover, I refer you to my article “Exploring the Founder’s Aikido” where I discuss my views and offer supporting documentation.

The Las Vegas seminar will be a special event with an intimate format. I look forward to spending many hours training and conversing with the participants and am sure that this experience will be life-changing for all of us. We are in a position to offer very affordable accommodations for most of the seminar participants to keep costs to a minimum. Since the dojo is limited in size, I would encourage you to reserve a place early if you are certain you would like to attend. When the seminars fill up, we will make an announcement to this effect on the website. The link to make your reservation is below.


Dates: October 5-7, 2012 (indicate your choice when registering)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Enrollment: $135.00

Dates: November 2-4, 2012 (indicate your choice when registering)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Enrollment: $135.00

Theme: “Exploring Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Aikido”
Instructor: Stanley Pranin

Limited participation on a first-come, first-served basis

Event Schedule (subject to change)

Friday:

  • Check-in – 6:00 pm
  • 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
  • Informal group chat

Saturday:

  • Morning Session: 9:30 am – 11:30 am
  • (Lunch break)
  • Afternoon Session: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Q & A period: 4:00 pm – 4:45 pm
  • Dinner party: 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm

Sunday:

  • 9:30 am – 10:30am
  • 10:45 am – 11:45 am
  • Informal group chat
  • Pick-up gift pack / Departure

Stanley Pranin Bio

Stanley Pranin began aikido in 1962 in a Yoshinkan Aikido dojo. After a few months, he joined an Aikikai group learning from instructors trained by Koichi Tohei, from whom he received his shodan and nidan rankings. Pranin relocated to Japan in 1977 where he lived for 20 years. He studied in Iwama under Morihiro Saito for several years, and accompanied Saito Sensei during the 1980s as his interpreter to the USA, Canada, and numerous European countries.

In 1974, Pranin began a newsletter called “Aiki News,” which later was renamed as “Aikido Journal.” The successor of this publication continues today on the Internet as the “Aikido Journal” suite of websites. Pranin has published hundreds of articles, interviews, books, and videos during his career as an aikido journalist/historian. He is the organizer of the trail-blazing Aiki Expo events held in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Pranin brings with him 50 years of aikido training and teaching experience, and a vast knowledge of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and the history of the art.

Suggested reading: “Exploring the Founder’s Aikido,” by Stanley Pranin

Those making reservations will be sent detailed information concerning the location of the event, optional accommodations for attendees, and notification of the deadline for payment of the balance of the seminar tuition.

Click here to make a non-refundable $25 deposit to
reserve a place at the seminar (Limited attendance)

Jul
23

“Constant Alertness Needed to Avoid Dojo Injuries,” by Stanley Pranin

“It is amazing to me that otherwise intelligent and prudent people will abandon their normal attitude of alertness when immersed in the warmth of the “family atmosphere” of an aikido dojo.”

From Aikido Journal #101 (1994)

Recently I received some shocking news from the United States. A female aikidoka suffered a crippling neck injury during a training accident in a Northern California dojo. I have very little specific information on the circumstances of the actual injury, but it seems that the young woman collided with a large man who landed on her neck, causing a severe spinal injury that has left her paralyzed. I don’t know what the prognosis is for a full or partial recovery–hopefully there is a chance for significant healing–but this tragic incident should be a sobering reminder for aikido practitioners everywhere.

Whatever the cause of the injury, the fact that it even occurred is proof that the practice methods employed in the dojo were unsafe. I don’t mean to single out this particular dojo for criticism. I’m sure that everyone involved is painfully aware in retrospect of the inadequacy of their approach. I am equally certain that the teacher in charge was simply conducting classes the way he had been taught by his seniors without giving much extra thought to the issue of safety.

It’s been my experience that this type of injury could have occurred almost anywhere in the aikido world. It is amazing to me that otherwise intelligent and prudent people will abandon their normal attitude of alertness when immersed in the warmth of the “family atmosphere” of an aikido dojo. I have practiced and observed aikido in numerous countries and it is not uncommon to see classes conducted under crowded conditions where injuries can easily happen. The danger is especially great during ki no nagare practice where big, flowing movements are used. Apart from a few words of admonition from the teacher in charge to be careful, I have seldom seen a systematic approach to insure a safe training environment. Students tend to throw freely into any open space.

An extreme example of what I am referring to can be seen at large seminars–usually attended by hundreds of participants–where it is virtually impossible to train with peace of mind because far too many people are crammed into a limited mat space. The only “self-defense” that one can learn under such circumstances is the fine art of how to avoid colliding with one’s fellow trainees! For this reason, what could be a valuable learning experience often ends up being little more than a stressful exercise in surviving with one’s body intact.

I think that one of the main factors at the root of these unsafe situations is that aikidoka are frequently lulled into complacency by their perception of aikido as a harmonious, peaceful art. Indeed, if the aim of aikido is to learn how to get along with others and practice is conducted in an atmosphere of harmony, shouldn’t aikido training be inherently safe?

[Read more...]

Jul
11

“Metsuke,” by Rick Berry

I’ve been teaching Aikido for over twenty-six years but before that I spent eighteen years teaching Ji Do Kwan/Tae Kwon Do in a system I call The Quiet Storm.

Regarding the excellent blog by Nev concerning “Metsuke,” here is a method I’ve employed for my Aikido students as well as Tae Kwon Do over the years:

I use 5 students. I have 3 of them standing about 4 to 6 feet apart while standing in one line. with the 2 outside students facing toward the one in the center. I then have the 4th student facing the center student.

That 4th student executes a strong lunge punch at the face of the center student with the intent of making contact. The intent on contact is essential. The center student is (A). The lunging student is (B). The 5th student (C) is standing about 8 feet behind (B) with his hands spread outward. I have (A) focus his eyes on (C) while deflecting the face-punch coming from (B).

At the same moment (B) is punching, the 2 students standing to the side facing (A) move either their left or right hands, or their left or right feet. (A) is required to call out which item moves. I then have (A) move slightly forward of the other 2 on the line to increase the difficulty of his peripheral vision.

The beauty of this exercise is most people can do it with a little practice. It just scares the hell out of them the first few times they attempt it.

Jul
07

Review: Alister Gillies’ “Tenchi: Building a Bridge between Heaven and Earth” by Ken Jeremiah

“Tenchi: Building a Bridge between Heaven and Earth” is written by a longtime practitioner of Aikido, Alister Gillies. In this text, he relates some of the things he has learned throughout the years. These include some insights regarding the connection between the mind and body, and the training undertaken in order enhance this relationship. The book also includes information about the development of internal power, and the existence of specific (aiki) movements in Aikido that can be traced to its parent art, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.

The book is a collection of essays in which the author reflects upon his personal experiences while training in martial arts, and on the practices used in order to increase the connection between the mind and the body. Due to the nature of the book, there is a variety of topics covered. These topics include the “therapeutic value and function” of Aikido, and the diversity of different styles of Aikido. For example, some styles emphasize spiritual development and allow martial efficacy to take a back seat, while others value martial effectiveness and train in a manner that aims to increase such skills.

“Tenchi: Building a Bridge between Heaven and Earth” also points out the popularity of Aikido (and Zen) in Italy and France. Comparing the ideas of French philosophers with the viewpoints found in Japanese martial and spiritual practices, the author explains how such seemingly diverse traditions actually blended together logically for Europeans. It is primarily for this reason that “there are more people practicing Aikido in France today than in any other country, including Japan.” Italy also retains a strong connection to Japan, and it too has a flourishing Aikido community.

In my opinion, the most interesting aspects of the book were the chapters in which Mr. Gillies delved into the history of the art. He explained that O-Sensei taught different things to different students, and that this must be kept in mind in order to understand the complete whole. He also explored the connection between Daito-ryu and Aikido with an emphasis on the changes that O-Sensei made in order to formulate Aikido. In addition, he discussed the connection of Aikido to Zen. Although O-Sensei was not a member of this sect, or any Buddhist sect, there are some practitioners today who like to make this connection. As such, this book may help to clarify such connections for students who choose to combine these traditions, modifying Aikido in order to suit their own purposes. Mr. Gillies also compares the teachings of Aikido, specifically the notion of Tenchi, to various other religious and cultural traditions on the planet, including shamanism.

“Tenchi: Building a Bridge between Heaven and Earth” does not lead readers along a linear, step-by-step voyage. Rather, it is a free-flowing, drifting text, in which the readers might not know where they will end up. However, at the end of the trip, they will be richer due to the experience. This text is worthwhile for practitioners of Aikido, and it may lead to future research regarding the connections between Chinese and Japanese practices and similar exercises found in cultures throughout the world, both new and old. I recommend it.

Tenchi: Building a Bridge between Heaven and Earth
by Alister Gillies
2012, CreateSpace, 134 pp.
paperback-$14.00
e-book-$3.99

Review by Ken Jeremiah, Ed.D.

Jun
18

JMAS President: “Interview with Phil Relnick,” by Stanley Pranin and Ikuko Kimura

AIKI FORUM features discussions with individuals involved in the martial arts in various capacities, such as writers, editors, video producers, etc. In this way we hope to offer alternative viewpoints in order to gain new perspectives on how others view aikido, Daito-ryu and the martial arts in general. On this occasion our guest is Phil Relnick, President of the Japan Martial Arts Society, one of the true “old hands” among foreign practitioners of Japanese martial arts and ways.

Tell us a little bit about your personal history.

I was born in New York 52 years ago. I joined the Air Force after high school and was stationed in Misawa, Japan from 1956 to 1958, a total of two and a half years. During that time I started doing judo. I not only got hooked on judo, but also on Japan. Then I spent a year in Germany and was active there in judo, which was at that time a little known art. I guess I was really captivated by judo and Japan, because by mid-1959 I was already making plans to go back to practice judo. I got in touch with Donn Draeger [1922-1982, author of the three volume series, The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, and co-author of Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts; held dan ranks and teaching licenses in judo, Shindo Muso-ryu jojutsu, and Katori Shinto-ryu, among others] who was already living there and with his help I was back in Japan in late 1961. During the next seven years I did mainly judo and jodo, and a number of other martial arts such as aikido, iaido, karate, and t’ai chi ch’uan. For the last four years, in addition to my martial arts practice, I was a full-time student at Waseda University. I had thought I would only be able to afford to stay for one year, but as it turned out, I became a conversational English teacher and was able to support myself completely on that.

Then you went back to the States. How long was it before you returned to Japan?

I got back to the States on December 23, 1968. I had to work a bit before I went to grad school at the University of Michigan, and I was there for two years. Then I took a job with a company, hoping to get back to Japan. But I ended up in Hong Kong. That was back in early 1973. I came back to Japan in November 1974, and I’ve been here ever since.

Donn Draeger

You mentioned Donn Draeger, known today as a very accomplished martial artist, who studied many different martial arts in addition to researching the East Asian martial arts. Is he the one who paved the way for you to begin your study of martial arts?

No, he wasn’t. I first started in a little machi (town) dojo in Misawa. It just clicked. I can’t say what made me do it. The dojo was dirty, a very old building with broken windows. Back in 1957 every street except for the main road in Misawa was dirt, so when it rained or snowed there was mud knee deep. So to go anywhere you had to wear boots.

After the service your reason for coming back to Japan was primarily to study judo?

Yes. I also wanted to go to university. I went straight from high school into the military. I wrote to Tenri, Sophia, and another university in Tokyo. I never got an answer from anyone, but I was determined to do it. As I said before Draeger helped me to get here.

So you continued with your judo, and I believe you also said you did some aikido shortly thereafter.

I was doing judo, and during my first year back I was going to Sophia University at night. I did judo for two or three months and hurt my back. I think it happened because I was just doing too much. I hurt it pretty badly, and I couldn’t do anything for about a month. When I could start moving again I couldn’t do judo, but I thought maybe I could do aikido, so I went and joined the Hombu in February of 1962.

Was Terry Dobson there at that time?

Yes. He was one of the first people I met there, and he showed me what was going on. Terry Dobson and Quintin Chambers. Through them I learned a lot about aikido.

Who were the teachers at the Hombu at that point?

O-Sensei, his son, Kisshomaru, Tohei, Yamaguchi. Tamura was there, he was still young, about a sandan or a yodan. Chiba was only about a shodan or a nidan, I think. Then Saotome was there. He was very friendly. I trained with him quite a bit. And I trained with Tamura quite a bit. And then there was Osawa Sensei, who was older, who I used to train with in the mornings. He was a very nice person, I got a lot of good training from him. I liked the way he taught. I liked his clean movements. Saito Sensei came [down from Iwama] a bit later on.

What was your reaction to aikido after having been a judoka?

It was easier on the body physically. I could see the relationship immediately. They’re like cousins. But I missed the randori (free training) that you’d get in judo.

When you’re doing judo you’re not working in any particular rhythm together purposely. You’ve got to draw the guy into you, you’ve got to work him into your rhythm, and he’s always trying to change the rhythm so as not to get caught. Judo seems more “real” to me. But it was good for me to learn aikido.

What about your impression of O-Sensei? What was a typical class like that he would teach?

He would philosophize quite a bit. I had introduced my wife, Nobuko, to aikido about a month or so after I started. She interpreted most of what he was saying to me. He used to talk about the earth and the stars and the solar system and the gods; everything all mixed up. She said she couldn’t figure it out. He was quite friendly. He did show techniques. In fact he threw me a couple of times, which I feel proud of. He’d walk around and he’d talk, and he’d come up to you, and throw you, and then he’d talk about that throw.

The entire interview is available free at the Aikido Journal Members Site

Jun
18

Katsuyuki Kondo lifts the veil of the secret world of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, the source of Aikido techniques

“An expertly taught basic course in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu techniques”

This video and book collection is the perfect introduction to Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu for anyone interested in the origin of modern aikido techniques. Expertly demonstrated by Soke Dairi Katsuyuki Kondo, two video cover in depth the tachiai ikkajo techniques of the hiden mokuroku transmission scrolls of the formerly secret Daito-ryu school.

Daito-ryu aikijujutsu has in recent years become the best known of Japan’s surviving jujutsu systems. Its newly-acquired recognition is due in large part to the phenomenal international success of the art of aikido. Sokaku Takeda—the man who developed and taught Daito-ryu aikijujutsu during the first four decades of twentieth century Japan— was the dominant technical influence on aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. The complex, symbiotic relationship between Daito-ryu aikijujutsu and aikido was shaped by historical events that have left the two arts irrevocably intertwined.
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