Jul
17

Las Vegas Seminar Update: Second weekend dates added due to larger-than-expected demand

“Second weekend added to handle overflow of applicants…”

Stanley Pranin’s weekend seminar announced last week to be held in Las Vegas from October 5-7 is nearly full. We have decided to add a second weekend — November 2-4 — to handle the larger-than-expected number of applications. When signing up, you will receive a welcome email. Please respond with your choice of dates to participate, indicating either the October 5-7 or November 2-4 weekend. At the time of this writing, there are only 3 spots left for the October weekend.

This is Stanley Pranin! I would like to cordially invite you to join me October 5-7 or November 2-4 — your choice — in Las Vegas, Nevada. I will be conducting a weekend seminar–the first of its 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 limited to 15 attendees. I would like to explore with you what I consider to be the salient 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 hope to spend 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 this seminar fills 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 / 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

Participation limited to 15 persons 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
  • Pot-luck 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 (Event limited to 15 attendees)

Jul
11

October 5-7: Weekend Seminar with Stanley Pranin in Las Vegas!

“Practice Aikido in Fabulous Las Vegas with the Founder of Aikido Journal”

This is Stanley Pranin! I would like to cordially invite you to join me October 5-7, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I will be conducting a weekend seminar–the first of its 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 limited to 15 attendees. I would like to explore with you what I consider to be the salient 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 hope to spend many hours training and chatting 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. If this seminar fills 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
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Enrollment: $135.00

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

Participation limited to 15 persons 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
  • Pot-luck 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 (Event limited to 15 attendees)

Jul
09

“Trolls not allowed here!,” by Stanley Pranin

Once upon a time many years ago, Aikido Journal had a bulletin board or forum that attracted a great deal of participation and discussion. Together with the forum of aikiweb.com, which still exists, I believe we were at the forefront of happenings in the aikido world.

As the forum grew, it became more and more demanding to manage, and I had too little time to moderate it properly. I then made a poor judgement in allowing discussions to take place in other languages to enlarge the scope of our efforts. Little by little, I let people carry on their own discussions in different languages without hardly any policing! BIG, DUMB MISTAKE!

Flame-wars began erupting with some people criticizing participants  and making degrading personal attacks. One jolly fellow began to post pornographic images inside the forum every few seconds to thumb his nose at both his opponent and the operator of the website–that would be me!– in one fell swoop! I was in sheer panic!
[Read more...]

Jun
30

“Whose Aikido Are You Practicing?” by Stanley Pranin

Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba at Iwama Taisai c. 1992

Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba at Iwama Taisai c. 1992

Kisshomaru Ueshiba: “Architect of Today’s Aikido”

Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba (1921-1999)

Today’s world of aikido bears the stamp of Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba more than any other person. There is no other figure who is more influential, not even the Founder Morihei Ueshiba himself. I realize that, for many of the aikido faithful, this will be a shocking statement. Allow me to elaborate.

First of all, aikido is a post-World War II phenomenon. Morihei Ueshiba and his fledgling martial art were known primarily in martial arts circles, not by the general public, prior to the war. What has become aikido today has been shaped primarily by the Ueshiba family through the auspices of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo system after 1955.

The arbiter of this process of dissemination and the content of Aikikai aikido is none other than Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the Founder’s son. In 1942, Kisshomaru assumed operational control of what would become the Aikikai at the tender age of 21. Morihei had retired to Iwama, World War II raged, and Tokyo would soon be bombed. Kisshomaru was thrust into a leadership position for which he was ill-equipped while a university student. He would continue uninterrupted as head of the Aikikai, the world’s largest aikido organization, until his passing in 1999.

The Aikikai was barely functioning as an entity after the war until around 1955. During that period, Kisshomaru was simply attempting to hold the remnants of the aikido structure together until better times, without much thought to the future direction of the art. In fact, he was obliged to hold down a full-time job in a securities company to support himself and the rundown Aikikai dojo.

Later on, as aikido began to gather some attention among the general public, it was Kisshomaru, in consultation with a group of elders and peers, who gradually began shaping the policies that would lead to a steady, if not spectacular, growth of aikido.
[Read more...]

Jun
15

“Autobiographical article (2): Koichi Tohei–Training in Japan,” by Stanley Pranin

“I felt poorly prepared for the fast pace of training and the variety of styles
where the same techniques were executed in fundamentally different ways.”

This article is the second in a series of four autobiographical articles by Aiki News Editor-in-chief Stanley Pranin and was first published in 1990 in Wushu, a Japanese-language magazine dealing with Chinese martial arts.

In my last article I covered the circumstances under which I began my practice of aikido in 1962 and some of my strongest memories from those first few years. I would like to pick up the thread of my narration where I left off last time. The year is 1965 and I am a student at the University of California at Los Angeles. In the intervening two years I had been promoted to ikkyu by Takahashi Sensei. Although the demands on my time for studies were heavy I managed to continue training on Fridays and weekends. Also, my interest in aikido had grown to the point that I began to take Japanese language classes as an elective at the university.

At that point in time I did most of my training at the Los Angeles Aikikai. It was one of the first dojos established in the mainland U.S. and continues to operate today. Besides the chief instructor Isao Takahashi Sensei, most of the senior students were nisei or sansei and several of them had moved to California from Hawaii where they had earlier begun their aikido training. As I recall, more than half of the dojo members were of Japanese descent. Some of those early aikidoka did much to spread aikido in California during the early years and such names as Clem Yoshida, Rod Kobayashi, Dan Mizukami, Francis Takahashi, and Daniel (Kensho) Furuya stand out most in my mind.

That summer at the dojo was a very exciting time for everyone as we were anticipating a visit from the Head of the Instructors’ Staff (Shihan Bucho) of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, the famous Koichi Tohei Sensei. Tohei Sensei was at that time perhaps the most well-known aikido teacher in the west due to his frequent travels to America and the publication of his early books in English. He had introduced aikido to Hawaii in 1953 and remained there teaching for about two years. At that point in time, the image of aikido in the minds of most foreigners was primarily shaped by his concept of the art which emphasized kiand, in this sense, Tohei was more influential outside of Japan than even the Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Tohei was known for his unrivaled technique, and easy-to-understand, entertaining teaching approach. For those of us who had never met him, we were anticipating a man almost bigger than life.

Koichi Tohei in New York, c. 1967

When Tohei Sensei actually walked into the dojo that warm summer day in 1965 I indeed felt a powerful presence. Since his English, though quite serviceable, was difficult to understand, one had to pay close attention to his words. When he stepped on to the tatami to teach, he would often smile and relate amusing anecdotes to convey key points regarding techniques. Tohei Sensei’s movements were very graceful and he would often jump or hop while executing them. Although he was heavily muscled, even a bit stout, I found his motions more dance-like than martial. At the same time, there was certainly no doubt that he had plenty of power in reserve if he ever cared to call upon it.

Being raised in health-conscious California I was somewhat disappointed to find that he smoke and drank, although in retrospect having lived in this country (Japan) for many years, I now understand that there is nothing surprising about any man having such habits from the Japanese cultural standpoint. I also had occasion to seen him in social contexts and he was very charming and entertaining and quite adept at social dancing.

Tohei Sensei’s approach to teaching was simplicity itself. He started presenting a series of preparatory exercises done alone or with a partner designed to teach one to move in a relaxed, circular fashion. He had also developed a series of “ki testing” drills where one would check to ensure that his partner was “extending ki” properly. These exercises were a lot of fun and were something you could show to impress and mystify your friends. I remember in particular the “unbendable arm” and “unliftable posture.” Tohei Sensei taught a core of some 50 aikido techniques and each was executed in a highly individualistic way and clearly bore his stamp. He would demonstrate techniques in a casual, playful manner, as if to suggest that if one mastered the movements of aikido executing them was mere child’s play. We were taught that it was wrong to attempt to develop or resort to physical strength as this would impede our ability to learn to apply ki when executing techniques. What we were doing was in one very real sense an “unlearning” process in that we were reprogramming our bodies and minds to deal with physical reality in a new, more efficient manner.
[Read more...]

Jun
06

“O-Sensei’s Spiritual Writings: Where did they really come from?” by Stanley Pranin

“The published books containing quotations attributed to Morihei Ueshiba available in various Western languages are based on “sanitized” Japanese versions of Morihei’s words.”

Recently, due to the publication of a series of books whose authorship has been attributed to Morihei Ueshiba, founder of aikido, I have felt compelled to weigh in on the subject of what O-Sensei actually did write during his career as a martial artist. The answer is in brief, “almost nothing.”

Works attributed to him–both before and after the war–were based on his spoken words and lectures rather than on texts that he had composed himself. They were transcribed and edited primarily by his son, Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and by several trusted students having varying degrees of literary skills. This is especially the case after World War II. Much of what we think of as the spiritual writings of Morihei is based on material published in the “Aikido Shimbun” of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo starting in 1959 and continuing following his passing in 1969. What was published in the “Aikido Shimbun” as “Doka” (Songs of the Way) were actually culled from heavily edited transcriptions of tape-recorded talks and lectures given by O-Sensei inside the dojo and elsewhere.

To understand the rationale for the editing of Morihei’s remarks, one must take into consideration the times and psychology of the Japanese during this period. World War II had recently ended, and much of the population were either direct participants, or deeply affected by the war and its outcome. Japan had acquired the stigma of a defeated nation, and many Japanese wished to distance themselves from all things associated with the conflict and those that had led the country into it.

During the early postwar period, subjects related to Japan’s military and political institutions, State Shinto, and the heavy destruction wrought upon the country were topics many Japanese chose to avoid due to the painful associations they held. Moreover, Morihei’s active role in teaching at numerous military installations during the 1930s and early 40s was a subject that the Aikikai chose to mention only in passing for understandable reasons.

Given Morihei’s tendency to speak using religious terminology and concepts, and the difficulty modern Japanese had in interpreting his meaning, the decision-makers at the Hombu Dojo chose to edit O-Sensei’s words in an attempt to make them more palatable to the postwar generation. Another important consideration in this decision was the fact that the effort to disseminate aikido on foreign soil was in full swing. It was thought that foreign enthusiasts of the art would be incapable of understanding such religious imagery anyway, and that some might take offense considering that many early practitioners abroad were themselves war veterans, or adversely affected by the war.
[Read more...]

May
20

Stanley Pranin’s Video Blog: “Should Weapons be a Part of Aikido Training?”

“Where did the Founder Morihei Ueshiba stand on this issue?”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin offers a video blog in which he discusses the issue of whether or not Aikido training should involve the practice of weapons. He provides some historical background and explains the reasoning for the two major viewpoints on this subject.

Finally, he discusses two DVDs by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, that present the Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo curriculum.

Click here for information on Morihiro Saito’s Aiki Ken video now in hi-res format
May
10

“How to find an Aikido dojo by following these 8 steps,” by Stanley Pranin

“You may find that Aikido offers a new tool for cultivating your body and spirit, and continuing opportunities for forging new friendships.”

Aikido has been practiced in the west for more than 50 years. It is not the best known of the many oriental martial arts on the scene, but it does offer several unique advantages for learning self-defense, and can end up completely altering your world view on human interaction. In the paragraphs that follow, I offer a few suggestions about things to consider before enrolling in an aikido school.

Examine your motives for wanting to learn aikido

Before you start your search for a suitable aikido school, called a “dojo,” it’s worthwhile to carefully consider your motives for learning the art. In most cases, those who have seen a Steven Seagal movie and believe the action scenes reflect training in aikido dojos are likely to be disappointed.

Let me explain why this is so. The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), was a martial arts master and also a devoutly religious person. He lived through the prelude and horrors of World War II and this cataclysmic event strongly influenced the modern form of the art that was popularized in the postwar era. Morihei was strongly against introducing a competitive element into aikido, or converting it into a sport as had been the case with the old jujutsu schools that were the forerunners of judo.

The founder regarded his martial art as a tool for bettering oneself through the culitvation of one’s body and mind, ultimately achieving a higher spiritual plane by going beyond fighting and conflict. He regarded the world as a single family and aikido as a unifying force.

Although there are many training methods and schools of thought about what aikido is, most dojos and aikido instructors are at least aware of the founder’s vision and sympathetic to his way of thinking.

Read up on the subject

Since the philosophical underpinnings of aikido are rather different from most other martial arts accessible to the public, it would be time well spent to explore the life of Morihei Ueshiba and the history of the art to get a feel for its principles and goals. The Aikido Journal Members Site has vast resources that will help you in your search for accurate information on the subject. There are countless other websites with information on the art–many of those associated with aikido schools–that offer all sorts of introductory articles that may prove useful.

After educating yourself on the subject, you may conclude that aikido is not really suited to your purposes, and seek elsewhere for training options. On the other hand, you may find that Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido will offer a wonderful means for transforming your life, offer a new tool for cultivating your body and spirit, and continuing opportunities for forging new friendships.
[Read more...]

May
09

“My Pick of the Top 20 Core Techniques of Aikido,” by Stanley Pranin

One of my students asked me to create a list of core aikido techniques that would serve as a guide for a well-rounded curriculum. In response, I have come up with a list of the techniques below which I believe embody the essential principles and techniques of aikido. This selection is, of course, a subjective one, and subject to change.

Here are the 20 techniques I have chosen:

  • Tai no henko — One of the three exercises always performed first during practice by Founder Morihei Ueshiba. This exercise teaches the basics of the ura, or “turning” movement of aikido. You step toe-to-toe with uke and pivot to the outside while curling your hand in front of your center.
  • Morotedori kokyuho — The second of the exercises always practiced by the Founder which involves a kokyunage-like response to a strong two-handed grab. This technique helps develop the ability to blend against a superior physical force, your partner’s two-hand grab against one arm.
  • Shomenuchi ikkyo omote — Ikkyo is the first of the basic ikkyo-yonkyo arm manipulation series in aikido. The ikkyo movement is performed with you moving in front of uke to apply a horizontal arm pressure, and ends with an ikkyo arm pin. The Founder would initiate this movement against shomenuchi as documented in his 1938 training manual titled “Budo.” Most modern schools practice this technique in response to uke’s striking in contrast to the Founder’s approach.
  • Shomenuchi ikkyo ura — The ura version of ikkyo teaches how to blend with uke by turning to the outside, followed by an ikkyo pin.
  • Katadori ikkyo omote — Ikkyo omote performed from the the shoulder grab is different in that you must use your shoulder to establish a blend and gain control of uke’s arm. As you enter, you crouch forward immobilizing uke’s arm against your shoulder to come to the ikkyo position. This technique is very important to learning how to use your shoulders and hips in tandem.
  • Katadori nikyo omote — Nikyo is the second of the ikkyo-yonkyo series in aikido. A potentially dangerous technique, it must be performed cautiously. I favor locking the wrist in position and inclining the torso forward to apply pressure. This method is very effective, but does not result in injury to uke’s wrist since it is immobilized. A seated pin follows.
  • Katadori nikyo ura — The ura version of nikyo involves a turning movement, followed by the nikyo seated pin.
  • Katatedori sankyo omote — Sankyo is the third of the ikkyo-yonkyo series. Performed against a single-hand grab, uke is first unbalanced and secured through a ikkyo movement which is followed by the sankyo pressure, leading to a seated sankyo pin.
  • Katatedori sankyo ura — The same sankyo with the pin being accomplished through an outward turning movement leading to the seated sankyo pin.
  • Kosadori yonkyo omote — Yonkyo is the fourth of the ikkyo-yonkyo exercises. Here it is performed from a cross-hand grab and involves a strong pressure against the nerve on the inside of the lower forearm. The yonkyo pin is performed while standing using the entire weight of the body.
  • Kosadori yonkyo ura — The ura version of yonkyo executed in the same manner with an outward turn into the standing yonkyo pin.
  • Shomenuchi iriminage — One of the crowing jewels of the aikido curriculum, the Founder initiated the movement against shomenuchi before executing the iriminage throw. This technique teaches very important lessons of footwork and pivoting. The final part of iriminage is performed with a rotational movement of the arm referred to as a “kokyu” movement. A common mistake is not to face in the same direction as uke which leads to an ineffective blend and a clash with uke.
  • Tsuki iriminage — This technique, although not often practiced, is excellent for developing a response to a rapid thrust or punch followed by iriminage. It can be used in a multiple-attack scenario. One should avoid becoming entangled with uke’s movement and be able to rapidly disengage to deal with other opponents.
  • Yokomenuchi shihonage omote — Another of the important basics of aikido, the shihonage, or “four-sided” throw, teaches how to vary the direction of the throw depending on the particular set of circumstances. The first part of shihonage should lock uke’s elbow and upper arm. This is often overlooked allowing uke to resist your movement. One then passes through raising uke’s arm as if wielding a sword. The final movement resembles a sword strike and can be secured with a standing or kneeling pin. From yokomenuchi, this technique can be performed by first entering, or alternatively, by stepping to uke’s front to blend and then applying shihonage.
  • Katatedori kokyunage — Several techniques can be referred to by this name. The variation I am thinking of involves entering to uke’s side and extending your arm across the upper body past the eyes to produce a “flinch response” which uke’s head is jerked backwards. Your forward leg enters diagonally behind your partner for the throw. This is a very important awase, or blending movement.
  • Katatedori shihonage omote — Another possible application of shihonage from a single-hand grab. The whole body should work as a unit to first unbalance uke by establishing an armbar, followed by the shihonage throw. A good exercise is to throw uke in different directions to practice turning while controling uke’s body.
  • Ryotedori tenchinage — The so-called “heaven-and-earth” throw of aikido, this is a rather complex movement requiring a great deal of coordination. It is a study in contrast as you must blend with uke using both arms simultaneously. One hand enters downward while the other hand, executing a kokyu movement, spirals upward. Step through to uke’s side to complete the throw.
  • Munadori kotegaeshi — The munadori, or chest grab, is a simple way of teaching someone the all-important kotegaeshi wrist turn technique which is ubiquitous in aikido. One avoids the grab turning outward with the feeling of cutting to the outside and rear. Having established a blend with uke, kotegaeshi can then be applied. It should not be necessary to force uke down using pain compliance. Your blending movement must unbalance uke to the point that he falls easily when his wrist is held.
  • Ushiro ryotedori ikkyo omote — This technique is performed when both your hands are grabbed from behind. Raising and extending your hands forward and up, you unbalance uke. The same basic ikkyo omote movement can be applied from there. See the Shomenuchi ikkyo technique above.
  • Suwariwaza kokyuho — The third of the three exercises performed by the Founder at the end of each class. This exercise teaches how to blend when both hands are held. You must make your body into a single unit, leading with your hips and guiding the movement through the subtle use of your hands. It is important not to tense up or resort to physical force in an attempt to push uke over.

I might suggest a very good technical book titled “Takemusu Aikido: Background & Basics” by Morihiro Saito for those who would like more information on this subject.

Finally, I would invite you to contribute your list of the core techniques of aikido. As I wrote above, this is a highly subjective thing, and will also vary from style to style. I look forward to reading your comments!

Apr
01

“Risking your life to help someone,” by Stanley Pranin

“I kept imagining what had transpired and tried to conceive of some alternative courses of action that would have spared him this beating.”

I attended an aikido seminar recently. I had a very interesting conversation with an attendee that I would like to relate to you.

This young man, an aikido black belt, was involved in an altercation in which he was badly beaten. He fortunately emerged without any permanent damage other than a black eye and several noticeable facial lacerations. Here is what happened as far as I can recall.

The man exited a building at night to find six attackers beating up a lone man who was on the ground and bloodied. The aikidoka immediately entered the fray to help the victim and successfully dealt with a couple of the attackers. However, the entire group stopped their attack and turned their fury toward him. The victim ran away leaving our aikidoka alone to fend for himself.

The group of six proceeded to pummel and kick the aikidoka until several people saw what was going on and intervened. Obviously injured, he was taken to the emergency room of a nearby hospital where he was treated.

Forgive me if I don’t have all of the details exactly right, but that is the gist of the story. As I lay in bed that night, it took me a while before I fell asleep. I kept imagining what had transpired and tried to conceive of some alternative courses of action that would have spared him this beating. I came up with a couple of scenarios that are, of course, pure speculation. Nonetheless, it occurs to me that it might be an excellent mental exercise to go through in case one should find himself in a similar situation that required immediate action.

Ironically, I was speaking with two other long-time friends at the same event who told me about a somewhat similar incident in which a couple of aikidoka confronted a gang to “test their skills,” and one ended up seriously injured and in the hospital.

So using this channel of the Internet where we can reach a worldwide audience, I would like to open the discussion to all of you to gather your feedback, which I highly value. Here are some relevant questions:

What are some possible alternatives that the young man had in the situation in which he found himself?

Was he right to act immediately by himself without first calling for help?

Have you ever found yourself in such a situation? What did you do and what was the result of your actions?

How can we use aikido in such situations where we feel compelled to physically intervene?

Please post your comments below.

——————————————

Mar
09

Sokaku Takeda: “Is This Photo Faked?”, by Stanley Pranin


“A doctored photo? What do you think?”

Take a look at this highly unusual photo of Sokaku Takeda, disseminator of Daito-ryu jujutsu and teacher of Morihei Ueshiba. First, allow me to provide some background information. This photo was taken about 1939 in Osaka, probably at the Asahi News dojo, during the period when Sokaku was teaching Daito-ryu to employees of the newspaper.

The Asahi dojo had an interesting background. Its first instructor was none other than Morihei Ueshiba from 1933-1936, and then Sokaku Takeda from 1936-1939. Sokaku took over instruction duties at the Asahi dojo under rather strange circumstances which you can read more about here. Several of the few surviving photos of Sokaku were taken in Osaka because the trainees had access to the facilities and equipment of the newspaper, one of Japan’s largest.

Now let’s examine the photo itself. Sokaku has raised a student onto his shoulders prior to executing a twisting throw characteristic to Daito-ryu. The photo appears posed as Sokaku is stiff-legged and standing still. Also, notice that the body of the student appears to be supported by Sokaku’s outstretched arms. Sokaku’s extended right arm is clearly visible while his left hand seems to be supporting the student’s right leg. But perhaps the most condemning detail is the fact that the student is gazing leisurely into the camera and seems quite undistressed in this position. Believe me, if Sokaku were actually applying the technique, uke would be in extreme pain!

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Feb
17

“I propose a compact for our mutual benefit… Onegaishimasu!

In the last six months since we opened the Aikido Journal Members Site, we have been testing different approaches to make this important part of Aikido Journal an indispensable tool for aikidoka. You may have noticed a flurry of activity, and an unending stream of new materials including videos, screencasts, historical photos, articles, PDFs, charts, and even Morihei Ueshiba’s name card!

What’s going on? Basically, I want to create a storehouse for my research legacy and an additional income stream based on digital delivery of our content. Fewer and fewer customers are opting for delivery of physical products. This is the trend all over the world. I, for one, would not shed a tear if we could minimize our trips to the post office, in favor of immediate, on-demand delivery of content over the Internet. This will allow us to reduce prices on our products, and allow you to receive your product within a few short minutes.

These days, the economy being what it is, many people are budgeting themselves very carefully, and have less discretionary income than in previous times. Even the cost of paying tuition at an aikido dojo comes under scrutiny. We know aikido training is a life-enriching activity and that we derive great benefit from it; nonetheless, it is yet another item in the budget subject to scrutiny.

So here is a short list of things I would like to propose you do that will benefit you personally and Aikido Journal as a servant of the aikido community… and doesn’t cost anything:

  • Click on the Facebook “Share” button on the upper right of this blog and any content you think worthy of being shared with your circle of friends. A trivial amount of time is required for this simple action, yet it allows us to reach many more folks with our message.
  • If you are receiving our emails, forward any interesting item to your aikido friends in case they’re unaware of our activities. Just hit the “forward” button in your email program and enter your friend’s address.
  • It is our wish to allow free subscribers to access most of our content when published. After testing out different methods, we have settled on a “free for a few days” approach to allow you to access new content. After that, the document goes into the “paid subscriber” archive for future access. So please act quickly to access new content, keeping in mind this approach and the rationale behind it.

I work seven days a week, have for years, and expect to do so for many more years, God willing. This is my life’s work, and you can expect this steady stream of content to continue until I finish the job… which will be NEVER!

In short, we’ll provide great content that is mostly free that you can’t get anywhere else. You invest a few seconds of your time to spread the word about our work. We can thus progress along the path together to our mutual benefit.

Just to give you an idea of the content we’ve been offering, have a look at the last 20 items uploaded to the Aikido Journal Members Site:

  • Video: Morihei Ueshiba, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Christian Tissier — French TV documentary, c.1983
  • Screencast: Focus on History — “Morihei and the Young Bucks of the Aikikai,” by Stanley Pranin”
  • A Biography of Rinjiro Shirata – Part 2, by Kozo Kaku
  • Do we know what Aikido truly is?, by Francis Takahashi
  • Magazine: Aiki News Number 49, 1982
  • Memoir of the Master, by Morihei Ueshiba with commentary by Stanley Pranin
  • Screencast: Focus on History — “Ueshiba Family Tree: The Line of Succession”
  • A Biography of Rinjiro Shirata – Part 1, by Kozo Kaku
  • Magazine: Aiki News Number 79, 1988
  • Video: Rinjiro Shirata — “1978 Yamagata TV Documentary — Part 1″ (member video)
  • Video: Koichi Tohei teaches Ki Society Seminar in Osaka, 1983 — Part 3 (member-video)
  • Screencast: Focus on History — “The Old Aikikai Hombu Dojo: Inside and Out,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Screencast: Focus on History — “Morihei demonstrates jodori with his son, Kisshomaru”
  • Video: Koichi Tohei teaches Ki Society Seminar in Osaka, 1983 — Part 2
  • Screencast: Focus on History — “Morihei Ueshiba’s Ill-starred Mongolian Expedition,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Video: Koichi Tohei teaches Ki Society Seminar in Osaka, 1983 — Part 1
  • Screencast: Focus on History — “Morihei Ueshiba’s Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Teaching Certification,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Historical photos: “The first person to introduce Aikido to the US revisited,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Magazine: Aikido Journal Number 108, 1996
  • Video: Tetsuzan Kuroda, Headmaster of Kuroda Family Bujutsu, at Aiki Expo 2003

I’ll be watching the counter on the Facebook “Share” button! :)

Thanks Folks… Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

Stan

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