Oct
30

Historical photo: “Noriaki Inoue, Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer,” by Stanley Pranin

“I rang the doorbell, and a diminutive woman, perhaps in her 70s, opened the door. She look up and saw this six-foot gaijin staring her in the face, and I thought she would faint on the spot!”

Of the the areas I have explored in my long study of the life of Morihei Ueshiba and the creation of aikido, I think two in particular stand out for having caused a fundamental rethinking among the aikido community of how our art evolved. The first involves the role of Sokaku Takeda and his art, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, in providing the technical basis for what would later emerge as aikido. The second is the part played by the Inoue family of Tanabe, especially Morihei’s nephew Yoichiro, in the progression of early events that allowed the Founder to pursue his martial arts career, and eventually develop the art we practice today.

Interestingly enough, my exploration of both of these aspects of aikido’s early history resulted in many problems for me personally and professionally due to the controversies they provoked. Sokaku’s role had been greatly minimized and distorted, while Yoichiro–later known as Noriaki–had been relegated to a “bit player” in accounts of aikido history. When I wrote an article titled “Yoichiro Inoue, Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer,” about ten years ago that was also published in Japanese, it caused an uproar behind the scenes, and an incident highly embarrassing to the Aiki News staff in Japan and myself.

Noriaki Inoue was the son of Morihei Ueshiba’s eldest sister Tame, and her husband Zenzo Inoue (Yoichiro’s father), one of Tanabe’s richest citizens. Inoue and his family were involved in virtually every important step taken by Morihei, at least through 1931 when he 47 years old. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Ueshibas and Inoues acted as a joint-family unit in many areas that set the stage for Morihei having the opportunity to launch his martial arts career. I would refer readers to the above article for a detailed study of this relationship.

By the early 1980s, fairly early into my research, I began to notice that each of the prewar students of Morihei I met would frequently mention “Yoichiro” in their recounting of the events of aikido’s early days. Their portrayals of his character and deeds were not always flattering, but it became apparent that Yoichio–at least as a senior instructor–served as Morihei’s “right arm” over a 15-year period. The fact that this “Yoichiro,” then going by the name of “Noriaki” was still active teaching in Tokyo began to really pique my curiosity. I set out to meet, and hopefully interview him, to hear his side of the story.

To say that this would prove a challenge would be somewhat of an understatement. My efforts to meet Inoue Sensei were either ignored or rebuffed over and over. I can’t remember the exact sequence of events, but probably due to my persistence, he finally agreed to meet me with the proviso that I bring along a couple of “old-timers” with me. This was not exactly what I had hoped for, but at least it gave me a chance to get “a foot in the door,” so to speak. Fortunately, I was able to arrange for Shigemi Yonekawa and Zenzaburo Akazawa, both of whom I had already interviewed, to accompany me. The three of us finally met Inoue Sensei in Tokyo on December 9, 1981. I was almost totally excluded from the discussion, but did manage to tape-record everything. The transcription of that meeting exists, but still remains unpublished.

Getting my “foot in the door” turned out to be getting “the door slammed on my foot.” My efforts to meet with Inoue Sensei and do a proper interview were blocked by his front office, and I finally gave up… at least for the time being.

Finally, by 1986 I could no longer stand knowing that perhaps the most important person after the Founder himself was still alive and living only a few miles away from me. I decided to act. My solution would be a diabolical scheme that only a “henna gaijin” could concoct. I took the transcription of the conversation recorded five years earlier supplemented by a polite letter and headed out to Kunitachi, a few miles west, where he lived. I rang the doorbell, and a diminutive woman, perhaps in her 70s, opened the door. She look up and saw this six-foot gaijin staring her in the face, and I thought she would faint on the spot. I gave her the envelope with my letter and the transcript, excused myself and left. The letter said that Aiki News would publish the interview in the next issue of the magazine as is, since we had been unsuccessful in getting assistance in doing a proper editing job. We regarded the role of Inoue Sensei to be too important to be ignored, and would do the best we could, etc….

Photo taken at Inoue Sensei's birthday party in 1988

Photo taken at Inoue Sensei’s birthday party in 1988

I undoubtedly caused a furor with my unorthodox action, and I’m sure someone got scolded. Still the front office refused to allow me to meet him. At my wit’s end, one day I called the office head in my serviceable Japanese such as it is, and proceeded to get mad, really mad! I told him that I was sure he was doing his job as best he saw it, but that he was preventing me from doing my job, which was to tell the truthful story of aikido’s creation. Wasn’t he aware that his teacher Inoue Sensei was being maligned and excised from aikido history? How could this unfair state of affairs be corrected without cooperation from the Inoue side? Did he think that I was being insincere in my desire to accord Inoue Sensei his rightful and prominent place in aikido history?

He fell silent, and my Japanese editor who had overheard the conversation, looked at me in disbelief! But it worked. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to Inoue Sensei’s home. Laden with old photos and historical documents, my Japanese editor and I made our way out to his home. We were greeted by Inoue Sensei, the office head, and a room full of his students. I suppose they thought that I was a “loose cannon,” and wanted to make sure that I properly behaved! Fortunately, once I got him talking about the old days and “what really happened,” he started to take a genuine liking to me, and I to him. This occurred in 1986.

Thereafter for a period of two years, I was given almost unfettered access to Inoue Sensei, and would always take a tape-recorder with me since I never knew when he would begin to talk about the old days. I never could do a proper interview with him, so I must give great credit to my staff who were able to cobble together edited manuscripts from the miscellaneous tape-recordings I presented them. I think we published four or five interviews of Inoue Sensei during this period.

Stanley Pranin with Noriaki Inoue, Kameoka, 1987

Stanley Pranin with Noriaki Inoue, Kameoka, 1987

There were several highlights of the precious times I was able to spend with Inoue Sensei. The first took place in the summer of 1987 when I was invited to attend the annual gasshuku he gave in Kameoka at the Omoto administrative headquarters. I was allowed to freely videotape his classes and take photos of the various activities surrounding the event. I have probably 5-6 hours of videotape that have never been shown stored away. Their place is in our archives on the Aikido Journal Members Site. I will eventually get to it with your support and encouragement.

The second was a large public demonstration we arranged in Yotsuya in April 1988. It was attended by a sold-out crowd of about 550 people who grabbed at the chance to see this living legend in action, perhaps for the first and only time. Everything was filmed and photographed. Inoue Sensei was 85 years old at the time and not very mobile, but he still had a strong presence and was very well received. Those who attended were quite aware of the historical significance of the event. Many martial artists showed up too, and some were able to meet and chat with Inoue Sensei at the party following the event.

I had very little interaction with Inoue Sensei and his group after the big demonstration. I had met him perhaps 15-20 times and was fortunate enough to get a lot of information, but it was difficult to get opportunities to talk with him as I always met him in a group setting. Also, I was very busy with Aiki News-related work and traveling with Morihiro Saito Sensei as his interpreter at this point in time.

Much later, in April 1994, I received news that Inoue Sensei had passed away at the ripe old age of 92, having continued teaching until very near the end of his life. I attended his funeral ceremony along with a hundred or so other mourners including his first cousin, Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. There I met one of Inoues’ nephews. This happening was to lead to a whole new phase in my research of Ueshiba-Inoue family history and provided me much needed information and perspective to better establish the importance of this family relationship in Morihei’s early life.

Oct
28

Historical photo: “Takuma Hisa, the bridge between Daito-ryu and Aiki Budo,” by Stanley Pranin

“I saw a small, yet sturdily built middle-aged man walk on to the screen. He had a big mustache and a strong physical presence about him. It was Morihei Ueshiba at age 51!”

Back in April 1979, I met a slight old man who had suffered a stroke and spoke in a halting, somewhat slurred voice. I am embarrassed to say that I can’t remember the circumstances of my introduction to old gentleman. I think I was told that he was an important person in the early history of aikido. I didn’t know anything about him really when I went to visit him at his home in Nakano Ward in Tokyo. The man’s name was Hisa Takuma.

I must say he was a charming person, and he kept attempting to speak to me in English. I appreciated this because my Japanese was not very strong at that time, but it made the conversation tediously slow. Little by little, I was able to piece together that he had been a student of Morihei Ueshiba first, and then Sokaku Takeda, at the Asahi News dojo in Osaka. Having learned this, I began to sense that perhaps this man might have played some important role in the early evolution of aikido. Toward the end of our conversation, he began to sing me a song. I remember the introductory words very well: “You came, you came, you really came…” He really like me, but I don’t exactly know why because I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to ask very many intelligent questions at this early stage of my research. Perhaps it was simply the fact that I was a foreigner, a journalist of sorts, and had shown interest in an aspect of his younger years that was very important to him at this last stage of his life.

After our first meaning, he began to write me regularly in broken English. He sent me the newsletters that he was publishing, and one of them mentioned my name and the fact that I had visited him at his home. Soon after this, something dramatic happened.

In our conversation, Hisa Sensei mentioned an old film of Morihei Ueshiba that was shot before the war. I knew of the existence of this film and desperately wanted to see it. A friend of mine did some research and located a film from the prewar period that might possibly be the footage I was looking for. I went to a film archive facility in Tokyo where a special viewing had been arranged for me. As the projectionist prepared the film, I became very nervous in anticipation. Then the first image flashed on the screen with the title “Budo.” I felt my heart sink because there was no mention of anything related to “Aiki.” Resigned, I thought that, still it would be interesting to see this prewar “talkie” film because it might contain footage of some important martial artist. Then it happened.

I saw a small, yet sturdily built middle-aged man walk on to the screen. He had a big mustache and a strong physical presence about him. It was Morihei Ueshiba at age 51! I immediately felt tears well up in my eyes, which was very embarrassing. Fortunately, the room was dark and the fellow showing the film did not notice anything.

Takuma Hisa at age 44

Then another man, much larger and very powerful looking appeared on the screen. He was obviously the leader of the group. He sat down in seiza and opened a scroll and began reading in a loud voice. This was Takuma Hisa, the little old disabled man I had met only a few weeks before!

I was an emotional wreck but so very happy at that moment. And then the action started! My God, Morihei put on a fantastic display. Strong, but elegant technique, applied with a palpable, dynamic energy. And the finale was breath-taking! You can see the film here.

In any event, I called Hisa Sensei and told him about my discovery. He was overjoyed because he had never seen this film made way back in 1935. 44 years had elapsed. I really felt that I had to arrange a showing for him. So I contacted Shigemi Yonekawa–the man who is Morihei Ueshiba’s uke in the Noma Dojo photos–whom I had recently interviewed and who appears prominently in the 1935 film. We set up a date to travel to Hisa Sensei’s home for the private showing. Yonekawa Sensei, a very reserved man by nature, was obviously most pleased.

Fortunately, I had lugged over to Japan a heavy old 16mm movie projector when I moved there in 1977. Armed with my projector, I met Yonekawa Sensei at Tsuchiura Station on the Joban Line and we rode the train down to Tokyo, and then out to Nakano to Hisa Sensei’s house. Neither Hisa nor Yonekawa had seen each other since before the war. I was so happy to see the two of them united after so many years. I could kick myself now for not taking photos and recording the conversation, but I was young and green as a researcher, and had my hands full as the projectionist.

I finally got everything to work including the sound, and the film started. Hisa Sensei immediately started to cry tears of joy! I became emotional too, but once again, the darkened room came to my rescue. Sensei started giving a commentary on the film in a slow, but animated voice. It was altogether an unforgettable moment, and one of the highlights of my research career in Japan.

After the film showing, the steady stream of letters and documents from Hisa Sensei continued. Then one day a package showed up at my door. It contained four boxes of microfilm. I opened the boxes and–not having access to a microfilm viewer–pulled out a strip and held it up to the light. The package was from Hisa Sensei and the microfilm contained image after image of jujutsu techniques. I could tell that neither Morihei nor Hisa were in the photos, and I really had no basis to evaluate what these photos were or their importance. Much later, I Iearned that Hisa Sensei had sent me the entire Soden collection of the Takumakai, the Daito-ryu organization set up around him after the war. There are over a thousand images documenting the techniques taught by both Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda at the Asahi News dojo over a period of six years from 1933-1939. A true treasure whose significance I was only able to appreciate many years later.

Those images are still in microfilm form and need to be scanned and uploaded. They belong on the Aikido Journal Members Site and to be made available for universal access.

I saw Hisa Sensei only one time after that at the 1980 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration. He passed away in October of the same year. Only later, after researching Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and Sokaku Takeda was I able to appreciate Takuma Hisa Sensei’s important place in aikido history. There is much more to say about the subject, but you can start here for further reading.

Forgive the rather lengthy introduction to today’s historical photo. Here you see the dynamic Takuma Hisa executing a Daito-ryu projection technique sometime in the late 1930s in Osaka. The imprint of Morihei’s instruction is readily apparent in this beautiful photo.


Scans of postcards received from Takuma Hisa Sensei


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Oct
27

“Historical photo: Hiroshi Tada, 9th dan, Aikido’s Mr. Dynamic!,” by Stanley Pranin

Observers of the annual All-Japan Aikido Demonstration have for decades been impressed with the performances of a tall, slim man with amazing technique. It is as though his body is filled with a pulsating electric current. His movements flow in a rippling cascade and the man seems deep in a trance. This would be Hiroshi Tada, 9th dan.

Today, Tada Sensei is a noble looking Japanese gentleman 82 years of age. The execution of his techniques appears to be that of an athlete in his prime. I have always admired his healthful lifestyle and regal bearing. He has outlived all of the senior level instructors of his generation. He is a sterling example of what is possible through a lifetime of training.

Take a look at this photo taken early in his stay in Italy about 1966. Even in this still shot, the strong connection and projection of energy in Tada Sensei’s execution of the technique is obvious.

Tada Sensei is the Aikikai’s senior representative for Italy and makes regular visits there to conduct seminars. From this base, he has taught all over Europe for many years.

In addition, Tada Sensei developed a system of breathing and meditative exercises to supplement aikido training called “Ki no Renma” (Cultivation of Ki). No doubt this regime has also contributed to his dynamic health and youthfulness.

Although this is a wonderful photo, Tada Sensei’s aikido must be seen to be appreciated. It goes without saying that we have an excellent example of this. We have archived the demonstration of Tada Sensei from the 2004 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration on the Aikido Journal Members Site. Paid subscribers may click on the link below to log in and view this mesmerizing video clip:

Video: Hiroshi Tada, 9th dan, at the 2004 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration (member video)

Oct
25

Historical photo from 1974: Morihiro Saito brings Iwama Aikido to America!

“Sensei had the presence of mind, lightning-fast reflexes and physical strength necessary to pull off such a feat. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since!”

This is an important photo that was taken in early October 1974 by Charlie Watkins at Aikido of San Francisco. Saito Sensei was visiting the USA for the first time and this trip was the first time he had traveled outside of Japan.

He was accompanied by Shigemi Inagaki, then a 5th dan, and gave seminars at the San Francisco Dojo and at Stanford University on back-to-back weekends. Here is an excerpt of my impressions of Saito Sensei from that trip from the October 1974 issue of Aiki News:

Saito Sensei’s effectiveness as a teacher was indeed remarkable. And this was achieved without knowledge of the language of his students. His method of presentation consisted primarily of slow-motion pantomimes of the individual techniques with a minimum of verbalization. This coupled with careful groupings of related movements provided a well-focused perspective of many aspects of the Aikido system.

Those present could not help but remark the excellent poise displayed by Saito Sensei during the course of the two gasshuku both on and off the mat. He remained centered and calm despite the fact he found himself immersed in a foreign culture for the first time. Noteworthy also was Saito Sensei’s outstanding stamina. He participated fully in all sessions instructing students individually and taking falls…. The impact of his presence and teaching manner was very powerful and will continue to resonate in this region for a long time to come.

I also recall a remarkable feat by Saito Sensei at this time in a commemorative article I authored following his passing in 2002 titled Remembering Morihiro Saito Sensei

There was a particular episode from this trip that I will never forget. Sensei was teaching a class at Aikido of San Francisco and was demonstrating a kokyunage technique, if I remember correctly. His uke was David Alexander. Sensei threw David horizontally but misjudged the amount of space he had free. Right in the middle of the throw when it had become apparent that David would crash into the people who had crowded in close to better observe, Sensei stuck out his left arm and caught David in mid-air thus preventing a collision. No one could believe what they had seen. Sensei had the presence of mind, lightning-fast reflexes and physical strength necessary to pull off such a feat. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

This visit by Saito Sensei to America was historic in many ways. It marked the first time that most people had ever experienced Iwama Aikido with its vast technical repertoire that included a myriad of empty-handed techniques combined with the Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo. Soon, many schools in the Northern California began to incorporate weapons training in their curriculum, using the Traditional Aikido books that Saito Sensei had begun publishing as their reference.

Saito Sensei visited the USA again several times in the 1970s, and also expanded his student base in Europe, especially Sweden, where he had many followers. These instructional tours and the publication of more books stimulated an uninterrupted stream of visits to Iwama by foreign students desiring to learn directly from Saito Sensei. Many of these hardy aikidoka would return to their respective countries and teach the Iwama style of aikido. Over time, this produced an international network of hundreds of schools practicing the Iwama methods. Today, many of the Iwama schools follow Saito Sensei’s talented son, Hitohiro Saito, while others practice Iwama Aikido under the umbrella of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo system.

Take a close look at today’s photo which captures the instant of the completion of a sword kata. Notice Saito Sensei’s stable base, powerful extension, and total focus. Saito Sensei’s weapons system gained traction in America from this moment forward.

Morihiro Saito was certainly a giant in postwar aikido, and one of the art’s most notable teachers whose influence continues today unabated.

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Oct
24

“Historical photo: Sadateru Arikawa, 8th dan, in action… mind blowing!”, by Stanley Pranin

“I really don’t know what to do about all of these tapes. Historically, they are very important and contain a lot of ‘bombshells!’”

Let me start out by saying that technical photographs of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei are very rare. It’s ironic because he filmed and videotaped virtually every important aikido figure repeatedly during his long career. His collection of aikido and martial arts documents is legendary.

I had the “fearful” pleasure of meeting him in 1969 when I first went to Japan to train at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. But our real interaction began in the late 1970s when I moved to Japan, and lasted until shortly before his death in October 2003.

Arikawa Sensei was very interested in what I was doing research-wise. Who did I meet? What did they say about this or that? Did I get any interesting documents? He visited me many times in Iwama and Tokyo, always privately for lengthy talks. He loved doing this, and so did I. He would walk into my apartment where I had many books and videotapes on shelves. He would scan my collection, and say, “That’s new. Show it to me. Koopi chodai! (make me a copy).” He was a real character!

Arikawa Sensei was also THE world authority on all things aikido-related. He knew a great deal about Daito-ryu as well, and would chum around with Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei just like he did with me. He was a walking encyclopedia about every aspect of budo and its history.

He was difficult to understand when he spoke because he had a whispery, hoarse voice due to an injury he suffered as a boy. Many people avoided him because of this since it was so hard to understand what he was saying, and he loved to talk and talk!

Almost every time I met him, I would tape-record the conversation. Sometimes he would make me turn off the recorder when the conversation jumped to a sensitive topic. I was always trying to turn it back on! Eventually, he would get so involved in what he was saying that he would forget about it. I really don’t know what to do about all of these tapes. Historically, they are very important and contain a lot of “bombshells!” Yet another project awaiting.

I could go on and on about him because he was such a man of contradictions. He once injured me quite severely so that I couldn’t train for several months. Still he came to see me, but I never let him touch me on the mat after that.

Arikawa Sensei was a very suspicious person. He once told me that he was a “spy” for the Hombu Dojo to keep tabs on what I was doing. He attended all of the Aiki News-sponsored Friendship Demonstrations of the 1980s, but would sit in the back of the auditorium. But I really didn’t care. In his own way, he showed a lot of affection toward me, and I genuinely loved the man.

I believe that Peter Goldsbury and I were the last ones to visit him in the hospital when he lay near death. He was by himself when he expired. Someday, I will write what I know about him after I have had an opportunity to review the tape-recordings.

In any event, take a look at this photo. Have you ever seen anything like it in aikido? Look at how he is using his leg as part of a Daito-ryu pin! He was always secretly studying Sokaku Takeda’s art. We have a wonderful heritage to protect. Join me in bringing as many of these treasures as possible to light. Believe me, your role is very important!

Oct
19

Historical photo: “The amazing chameleon photo of O-Sensei from 1922,” by Stanley Pranin

As a researcher of aikido history, this photo is one of the most fascinating documents I have ever come across. First of all, a little background. This photo was shot about 1922 inside Morihei’s home situated near the Omoto precincts in Ayabe. Morihei is seated in seiza inside the “Ueshiba Juku,” his home dojo that marked the beginning of his career as a martial arts teacher.

Immediately obvious is Morihei’s powerful physique and stern expression that convey a strong impression even 90 years after the fact. You will notice to Morihei’s left a sword stand holding three blades, certainly an appropriate accessory for a martial arts dojo. Then behind the displayed swords are a placard with kanji characters. This is where the intrigue begins…

What is written? The characters read: “Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.” This, as you will recall is the precursor art to aikido that Morihei studied under Sokaku Takeda Sensei in Hokkaido beginning in 1915. If this is the dojo where Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido, taught, why is this “Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu” placard on display there?

A fair question. You see Morihei was openly teaching Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu in his “Ueshiba Juku” because aikido had not yet come into being. In fact, he was a certified Daito-ryu instructor. Morihei was just beginning his transitional phase, technically speaking, that would culminate many years later with the creation of aikido. Also, Sokaku Takeda had recently visited Morihei in Ayabe, and they agreed that Ueshiba would use the name “Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu” to refer to his art.


Ok, but what is this bit about a “chameleon photo”? Ah, this is the interesting part! To my knowledge, this photo has been published in books and newsletters at least five times. Here’s the kicker. The photo appears in four different versions!

Four versions? Yes, the Daito-ryu placard first disappears altogether in the first publication of the photo. Then it reappears with the “Daito-ryu” characters missing, leaving only the “Aikijujutsu” characters. What’s a poor aikido historian to do? Then, the original photo you see here appears for the first time. Next, some of the characters are again omitted, but not in the same way as the first altered photo. Finally and miraculously, the unretouched photo again resurfaces, hopefully to remain intact. Strange workings of the kamisama?

Not exactly. From a historian’s standpoint, all of these “miraculous events” can be explained. Briefly, Morihei had a falling out with his teacher Sokaku Takeda that would lead to his distancing himself from his teacher. As a result of this, there has always existed a certain tension between the aikido and Daito-ryu camps despite a surface cordiality.

This reticence to give due credit to the significant influence of Daito-ryu on modern aikido has existed for many years, and was not surprisingly inherited by the Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. These shenanigans with this famous photo took place in the period of the 1960s through the 1980s when Daito-ryu’s role in the evolution of aikido was little known. I believe this explains the psychology behind the photo tinkering. Now, I don’t believe it would be possible to do such a thing since the relationship between Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda has been well documented.

Early in my career, I published one of these altered versions of the photo perfectly innocently, and it got me into quite a pickle!

Anyway, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story!”

Oct
17

Your Top Ten: “Here’s What You Like,” by Stanley Pranin

A few months back we began using some new email software that provides us with statistics about what readers’ preferences are. I went back through some of the data for the last few weeks, and it yielded a lot of great insights about where your interests lie.

It occurred to me that you might find this information interesting as well, so here you have it, your top-ten emails from the last several months with links to these popular items in case you missed them.

Here is the countdown:

10. Free PDF: 90-page sample of Stanley Pranin’s “Aikido Pioneers – Prewar Era….

9. Yamaguchi Sensei had never had a foreign student and it seemed he didn’t particularly want one…

8. By viewing such high-level aikido, today’s practitioners can pick up important hints to speed their own progress!

7. Kisaburo Osawa was known for his light touch and smooth technical execution, punctuated by sudden bursts of speed.

6. Doshu’s presentation is highly polished and his ukes’ falls are often times acrobatic in nature.

5. New Video: “Yoga Warmups for Aikido Training,” by Stanley Pranin

4. O-Sensei, what is aikido? He responded by saying, ‘Well, let me write it down for you…’

3. When Koichi Tohei resigned from the Aikikai, the impact was traumatic…

2. The weak attacks used in aikido dojos simply are not realistic…

And the top-rated link is…

1. Early in Steven Seagal’s movie career, there was somewhat of an “aikido boom” due to the popularity of his movies

It seems you like videos a lot! Good, because we have several hundred waiting to be uploaded. You like the top aikido teachers. No surprise there. You like yoga? That is a surprise! And a significant percentage of you respond to the mention of the name “Steven Seagal,” whose video was the number one drawing email.

Tomorrow I’ll be telling you what I like!

Oct
14

“Ironing out the kinks,” by Stanley Pranin

I have spent the better part of today troubleshooting and dealing with certain idiosyncracies of the software we are using for the new Aikido Journal Member Site. While I was at it, I made substantial changes to the look and feel of the home page.

I believe I have completely solved the problem of “confused logins” that some readers reported, and that I myself have experienced on occasion. I got things to work perfectly every time and in a predictible manner. This is a big relief!

Check out the new look and functionality of the Aikido Journal Members Site

Here is a list of the enhancements and bug fixes:

  • Recent posts have been moved to the center section of the page and display the most recent six posts in reverse chronological order, the newest entry appearing on top.
  • A search widget has been added to the left sidebar
  • Login and logout functions now work as expected
  • A “Free Signup” button has been added to the sidebar
  • A paid membership button has been added to the top of the center section
  • A list of “sticky” Favorite posts has been placed below the recent posts

Please try out the website now and give us feedback about your user experience. I’m not a programmer, but given time, I can usually find a solution to technical problems.

Go to Aikido Journal Members Site
Thanks to all who have assisted us during the rollout of the new website!

Oct
13

“More on the digitization and translation of audio recordings of famous aikido teachers,” by Stanley Pranin

I would like to thank all of you who have taken the time to reply and provide your input on the project I proposed yesterday: the digitization and translation of the hundreds of hours of audio recordings of important Japanese aikido teachers in the Aikido Journal archives. Rather than give individual answers to your feedback, I will group together my comments.

Concerning the translation of audio recordings, the first step, is of course, to make a transcription of the tape. This means many Japanese will need to get involved due to the large volume of recordings to be processed. It is of utmost importance that the text be digitized as it then becomes searchable and indexable.

Also, Japanese and Japanese-speaking volunteers will be essential to the translation effort. I’m not sure to what extent this could be aided by translation software. I would like to get some more input on the state of the art at this point in time.

As to fund-raising efforts, I have given this a great deal of thought. I would rather not seek out and become dependent on an outside entity for funding. If we can sufficiently grow the Aikido Journal Members Site subscriber base, I think it is entirely possible to self-fund the project. I have some ideas on this and would like your feedback as well.

We will do all of the digitizing in-house. I hope to post the first interview later today as a sample of what sort of material we are talking about.

If good audio-processing and automatic speech recognition algorithms exist as Mikel mentions, that would be a tremendous aid. We would have to test the feasibility of available software on the sample audio file. In almost all cases, the speakers voices are clearly audible. If further processing would result in enhanced audio, it would certainly be worthwhile to undertake the effort. This is definitely an area where outside volunteers could assist.

Storage right now is being handled using Amazon S3. The idea of mirroring the audio archives on one or more servers is a good one. It can be encrypted for security purposes.

I really like Jeff’s idea of getting Japanese university students involved in the transcription-translation phases of the project. If this could be coordinated, it would give an amazing boost to the effort. Anyone having connections along these lines is encouraged to come forward to discuss how to carry this idea out.

Another great idea from Jeff: “Another possibility is to approach shihan who studied under the person interviewed and see if they would ask one of their dedicated students to work on the translation.” That thought never occurred to me. Excellent!

Keith’s idea of getting university Japanese departments is a good one. Most universities of any size will have one.

I hope my comments here have furthered the discussion. I think the two critical areas are building up the Members Site subscriber base, and enlisting the participation of many Japanese with a good knowledge of English.

What I propose now is the following:

  • I will digitize and upload the first interview today, time permitting
  • Readers, please come up with suggestions about how to grow the number of subscribers to the Aikido Journal Members Site. Here is the link to subscribe: http://www.aikidojournal.com/shop/productdetails?code=sub-mem-1-yr
  • Also, please make suggestions about how to galvanize the effort to find Japanese volunteers. Maybe those having Japanese practitioners in their dojos can approach their Japanese dojo mates and discuss the project. Let them know that we would certainly be open to the idea of providing free subscriptions and products to volunteers by way of compensation.

As a result of this next stage, I would like to come up with an action plan with specific steps to take.

Thanks all!

Yours in Aiki,

Stan Pranin

Sep
21

“Aikido’s Library of Alexandria,” by Stanley Pranin

The Alexandria Library was celebrated as the most important treasury of information in the world at the time. Its disappearance is rightly seen as a catastrophe and symbolic of the loss of respect for knowledge that followed the collapse of Classical civilization.

That’s how I conceive of the new Aikido Journal Members Site… “Aikido’s Library of Alexandria,” a repository for thousands of articles, photos, videos, audio recordings, and every sort of documentation pertaining to aikido and related subjects.

You know, I began research into aikido back in the early 1970s by translating a series of newspaper articles about Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Since that time, I’ve conducted more than 200 interviews with many of aikido’s greatest figures. A large portion of these edited conversations are housed in our indexed archives on this site.

During this long period, I have experienced the joys of many wonderful moments and research breakthroughs… meeting with scores of extraordinary people from all walks of life, the discovery of old photos, films, documents, and much more. I have also been frustrated by the realization that many of the most important aikido documents kept in private hands will never see the light of day. Far be it for me to judge the reasoning of those who have chosen to keep important materials to themselves, but the fact of the matter is that these precious documents might just as well not exist. As the years pass, the disappointment I have felt due to this state of affairs has diminished, for there is much to do. In fact, recently, I have come to the realization that I might be guilty of this same sort of neglect unless I take action. What do I mean by that?

Well, even though we’ve been active for several decades and have published thousands of pages, photos, and all manner of documents about aikido, there is much more material that remains stored away… unedited and unpublished. You see, we’re in a race against time. How many years will it take to process and publish all of the important items in our care? A long, long time, that’s for sure. The sense of urgency I feel is palpable….

Read the rest of the article on the Aikido Journal Members Site:

  • Click here to access the article.
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Sep
19

Living History: Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s 1974 Demonstration in Los Angeles by Stanley Pranin


On April 15, 1974, a very important aikido event occurred in Los Angeles, California. Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba headlined a well-attended demonstration held in the Scottish Rite Auditorium.

The fact that Doshu had traveled from Japan to lead this demonstration was certainly special. However, a great deal was going on behind the scenes and, in many ways, this event was truly historic. This is exactly the point in time when the resignation of Koichi Tohei from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo had become imminent. In fact, Koichi Tohei was in Los Angeles at the very same time to give a demonstration and seminar! Aikido in the USA was in a state of upheaval.

This tour to the USA by Doshu was of great importance because an impending void—the absence of the 10th dan Chief Instructor—had to be immediately filled. It was Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s son, who would step in to fill that role. The demonstration was a huge success. Yoshimitsu Yamada, Mitsunari Kanai, and Akira Tohei (no relation to Koichi Tohei) all came to town to support Doshu. Members of several Los Angeles-area aikido schools, and Bill Witt from Northern California gave a demonstration. I took ukemi for Morito Suganuma who accompanied Doshu from Japan. The event was organized through the strenuous efforts of Francis and Mariye Takahashi. I don’t recall what the seating capacity of the auditorium was, but many hundreds attended, and I think it was a full house.

The reason I can recall all of this is because I recently ran across the program of the event. I have scanned it for you. By the way, the program is autographed by Doshu. It will now have a new home on the Aikido Journal Members Site… and on your computers at home!

Subscribers to the Aikido Journal Members Site should proceed as follows to download the demonstration program:

  • First, log in to the Members Site here
  • Click this link to download the pdf file of the demonstration program.

NOTE: This rare document is available to both free and paid subscribers.

Not yet a member? Click here to sign up for a free membership and enjoy access to all of the free materials available on the Aikido Journal Members Site with our compliments. All it takes is your name and an email address!

Sep
01

“Aikido and Injuries,” by Stanley Pranin

aikido-cruncher

“In a moral world, there would exist a level of implicit trust,
an unspoken contract, between practice partners”

There is a subject of considerable importance that we have dealt with on several occasions over the years. I would like, however, to broach it again in a more systematic manner. I refer to the topic of aikido training injuries. When aikido is talked about in print, the focus seems to be more on the aspects of harmony, blending and spiritual matters and some of the more mundane areas revolving around practice in the dojo are easily neglected. These include the inevitable muscle strains, body soreness, jammed toes and fingers and the various other “occupational” hazards inherent to our art. They are forgotten, that is, until that inevitable day when we ourselves become the victims of an injury and must live with the accompanying pain.

Common Training Injuries

What are the common aikido injuries? How are they likely to occur? I’ll list some of those that immediately spring to mind along with their usual causes and readers can compare notes.

  • Wrist injuries: ikkyo pins, nikyo, sankyo, kotegaeshi, shihonage.
  • Elbow injuries: ikkyo pins, shihonage, juji garami.
  • Shoulder injuries: shihonage, nikyo pins, sankyo pins, incorrect or obstructed falls.
  • Head and neck injuries: shihonage, incorrect or obstructed falls.
  • Back injuries: the so-called “high” falls from shihonage and from koshinage.
  • Knee injuries: (structural) improper loading of partner in koshinage, poor positioning of feet while executing techniques, failure to twist hips thereby releasing strain on knee joints, outside lateral impacts; (surface) excessive practice of seated techniques.
  • Toes and fingers: toes caught on hakamas, mats (the little toe on my right foot is about twice the size of the one on my left foot, but, then again, my shoe size is eleven!), etc., and numerous situations where fingers become jammed.

This list is by no means complete and doesn’t include miscellaneous scratches and black and blue marks which are usually not of much consequence although they can be annoying.

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