Feb
17

Reaching out to your community… Tenzan Aikido’s Childrens program with Bruce Bookman Sensei

Bruce Bookman Sensei was kind enough to send us this video depicting the children’s aikido program at his Tenzan Aikido Dojo in Seattle, Washington. This video gives the viewer a real feel for all of the care and creativity that went into structuring the children’s classes at his dojo. The reality of operating a successful dojo in most circumstances requires a healthy children’s program. This is a beautiful example of what can be achieved…

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Feb
17

Koichi Tohei was an idol! “An Insider’s look at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in the late 1950s” by Yoshimitsu Yamada

The Ueshiba family house was attached to the dojo, and Morihei himself quite often, although irregularly, appeared on the mat. O’Sensei represented the ultimate authority for all of the uchi-deshi. Through his demeanor, he personified all of the qualities a young Japanese used to strive for at the time…

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Feb
17

Misinformation becomes cited fact! “Common Misconceptions about Aikido History,” by Stanley Pranin

Many of the common mistakes made by historians have been perpetuated in print for decades. Unfortunately, they are here to stay. This is especially true for works written in Western languages which, in almost all cases, draw on secondary sources. Although Aikido Journal has a broad readership built up over 37 years of publication, we do not represent the mainstream of thought in the aikido world on historical matters…

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Feb
16

Early Morihei in action… Wow! “Channeling the Power of the Gods,” by Stanley Pranin

I began collecting films of the Founder Morihei Ueshiba at a young age, probably about 18 or 19, when my first teacher Isao Takahashi lent me a copy of the 1953 film taken in Wakayama Preference. It was very enjoyable watching this powerful, old man throw around much younger students with ease.

More than anything else, it was a curiosity, an item of interest to be shown on special occasions. Our model at that time was Koichi Tohei Sensei, and our teachers modeled themselves after him

Over the years, I collected a few more films, and began translating articles about the Founder’s life from the Japanese. Then later, I moved to Japan and started interviewing O-Sensei’s students one by one. Little by little, I got a clearer picture of how the Founder’s aikido was, and what made it so special.

Many of the old-timers spoke of some kind of extraordinary power that O-Sensei possessed beyond the dimension of physical strength. Some said that it seemed as though the Founder were enveloped by some kind of impenetrable energy barrier. They said his body was as hard as steel, and that they were defeated before they could physically attack…

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Feb
16

Pat Hendricks, 7th dan: “A close-up look at the rigorously precise Iwama Aikido curriculum”

This video presents highlights from a seminar Pat Hendricks conducted in New Zealand and will give viewers a feel for her clear and precise teaching style. This clip shows an interesting teaching progression that many instructors will find useful in planning their classes. She was one of the most skilled students of Morihiro Saito Sensei, 9th dan. This is Iwama Aikido at its best!…

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Feb
15

Stanley Pranin demonstrates yoga and stretching exercises for Aikido

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“How I saved my back for Aikido!”

I’m Stanley Pranin and today I’d like to show you some of the yoga and stretching exercises that I’ve incorporated into my aikido warmup routine.

About 25 years ago while living in Japan, I developed chronic back pain. I think it was mostly due to poor posture from working long hours at the computer. Although I remained active and regularly did stretching exercises, back pain was my constant companion.

Then about five years ago, I started taking yoga classes, something I should have done years earlier. The yoga postures I learned, together with my years of stretching in aikido practice, gave me the tools I needed to address my back pain. My back steadily improved to the point that I seldom feel pain anymore. If something is not right, I know exactly what stretching exercises to do to make the necessary adjustments and eliminate any pain.

Now, I would like to demonstrate some of the exercises that I use to warmup for aikido practice. The routine gradually changes over time, and I am always looking for new exercises that my body responds to well.

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Feb
13

Dojo enforcers: “The Pitbulls of Aikido,” by Autrelle Holland

When pit bulls are given status as an instructor, or even a high dan ranking, they often serve the role of the enforcer. These enforcers pit bulls do just that – enforce. Often, these pit bulls are used as a rook, in some sort of a chess game. The rook is a powerful piece, but it is not the most important piece. I have seen pit bulls in schools that have weak aikido. The school, overall, lacks martial effectiveness, but somehow, one of the members is a pit bull, a capable martial artist…

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Feb
13

High-energy action! Christian Tissier’s Dynamic Iriminage!

This video is an excellent compilation of iriminage techniques performance by Christian Tissier Sensei, 7th dan, culled from many different demonstrations. Tissier Sensei’s exuberance and precision are apparent throughout…

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Feb
13

“O-Sensei… Why did you conceal your true techniques from us?” by Stanley Pranin

A Daito-ryu jujigarami lock demonstrated by Morihei Ueshiba in 1936 from the Noma Dojo photo collection.


A technique with atemi strike demonstrated by Morihei Ueshiba in 1936 from the Noma Dojo photo collection.

“In reference to O Sensei’s videos, Morihiro Saito used to say that O-Sensei ‘hid’ his techniques with extra fancy movements so nobody could ‘steal’ them from him. What we see is, I believe, just a glance into his actual techniques.”

stanley-pranin-thumbnailYesterday, a reader submitted the above comment on Facebook — which I have edited slightly — in response to a video I posted of Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei of the New York Aikikai. Many times I heard similar sentiments expressed during my period of research in Japan. But this time seeing this idea resurrected yet again caused me to rethink the subject. Let me share with you some of my musings.

First of all, this idea is commonly voiced in reference to old martial arts masters who were making a living from teaching their techniques and wanted to stave off any competition. For example, Sokaku Takeda, Morihei Ueshiba’s jujutsu teacher, was reputed to have done the same to his students. Thus, it is not at all surprising that one would think that Morihei, a man formed in Meiji Japan, would adopt a similar attitude. One could even point to the fact that O-Sensei’s techniques of his final years became little more than abstract gestures making it virtually impossible to “steal” them.

O-Sensei's 1938 "Budo" manual

O-Sensei’s 1938 “Budo” manual

This opinion is further buoyed by the fact that O-Sensei did not give hardly any verbal explanations when he taught. He would simply show a technique and say, “This is the way it is done!”, “Do it like that!”, or words to that effect. Morihei’s students all said similar things when I asked about the Founder’s teaching methods.

As a historian, how should I think about this idea that Morihei would hide the essence of his techniques from students? Why would someone who thought of things on a grand scale and considered aikido as a tool for bringing about world peace deliberately hide the true nature of his art? To do so would only insure that the essence of his art and philosophy would not be transmitted to future generations, the exact opposite of his stated goal. Basically, this makes no sense at all.

Consider these historical facts.

  • Morihei Ueshiba published a technical manual with line drawings titled “Budo Renshu” in 1934
  • In 1936, the Founder was photographed demonstrating hundreds of intricate Daito-ryu techniques that survive in the Noma Dojo photo collection.
  • He then published a second technical book called “Budo” in 1938 for Prince Kaya, a member of the Japanese royal family.
  • Morihei reluctantly gave a demonstration before members of the Imperial family in 1941 having first declined the invitation because he did not want to show “lies”!
  • Morihiro Saito, an early postwar student of O-Sensei in Iwama, learned literally hundreds of empty-handed and weapon techniques from the Founder over the course of more than 20 years.

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Feb
12

Over 5 million views! Real Samurai Sword – Cutting BB Gun pellet by Isao Machii

Japanese sword expert Isao Machii cuts a white BB shot at him with a slice of his katana. Is this a trick or an amazing demonstration of skill? You be the judge…

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Feb
12

Adding a dash of muscle power: “Why Brute Force is Self-Defeating,” by Stanley Pranin

For you to apply a technique on someone, you must have a physical connection. If follows that there are a number of points where your body touches your opponent’s. At each of these points of contact, there are body sensors that receive impulses from the brain that control our nerves and muscle structures. But the interesting thing is that your opponent, who is also in contact with your body, can pick up on these same brain signals that precede your action. In other words, your opponent is “intercepting” information about your plan of action before the fact.

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Feb
11

Stanley Pranin demonstrates Morotedori kokyuho in Mexico — Concealing your intention!

“A strong partner can block your movement if you use strength!”

Stanley Pranin talks about fine points of aikido’s morotedori kokyuho technique. He explains why we must avoid the use of physical power and conceal our intention so as to prevent our partner from sensing and blocking our movements. This clip is excerpted from a seminar given in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in June 2014. (In Spanish)

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