Jun
10

Surviving training with seniors! “Morihiro Saito reels off one technique after another in a mind- boggling display of technical virtuosity!”

Among the handful of uchideshi during those poverty-stricken years were Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei, and Tadashi Abe. The young Saito was given little encouragement initially and had to endure the intensive, often painful training silently. Saito Sensei recalls the early days when suwariwaza practice on the dojo’s hardwood floor would continue endlessly and leave his knees bloodied and festering. To make matters worse, as a junior member of the dojo he was on the receiving end of countless vigorous techniques from seniors such as Tohei and Abe…

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Jun
10

“Kazuo Chiba — Ruthless Awareness” by Tom Collings

 T.K. Chiba Sensei c. 1995


T.K. Chiba Sensei c. 1995

“The emotional intensity, and range of emotions in that class was amazing — terror, fearlessness, vulnerability, and invincibility.”

The following text recalling special training with Kazuo Chiba Sensei at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo is excerpted from Tom Collings forthcoming book “Searching For O’Sensei”. – Editor

The grand finale of each week for me in Tokyo was Chiba Sensei’s Friday afternoon class. The term “battleground” comes to mind, a battleground of emotion. The emotional intensity, and range of emotions in that class was amazing — terror, fearlessness, vulnerability, and invincibility. He was known for his ferocity, and the extraordinary intensity of those classes; an atmosphere of life and death. In contrast to attendance at most classes at the Hombu, attendance at his was sparse. I felt this group of students to be very special, a small elite group in the sea of martial artists in Tokyo. To most students at Hombu Dojo we were just crazy.

Chiba would approach the training hall slowly and deliberately. He paused at the teacher’s entrance to carefully peruse the battlefield before entering. He sometimes arrived with a bloody rag wrapped around his hand. Not a bandage, just a blood stained rag. I assumed it was from his live blade sword work. That bloody rag set the tone for his class. I think that was intentional. It symbolized the atmosphere of danger, and the acute awareness required. Seeing it was like a molotov cocktail thrown on dry timbers, it ignited something very hot in us. It attracted only those with some deep need to burn hot. Were we moths drawn to a flame?

Sitting seiza in the nervous silence before class, in a huge training hall filled with only a few students. I watched to see if anyone else would show up. No one else ever did. There were about a dozen of us, in a school with an average class of fifty or sixty. But when I looked at who was there I was never disappointed. Chiba’s private students, a few other foreigners and Japanese black belts, Shibata Sensei and Moriteru Ueshiba. Shibata had been the senior uchi deshi of the school, and Moriteru, or “Waka Sensei,” was the grandson of O’Sensei, the next headmaster of the art. I felt so honored to be there.

Real and immediate danger was felt by everyone in that room. We trained together in a state of hyper-alertness. It was frightening and exciting at the same time. I have felt it when searching dark apartments for fugitives, and backpacking in southern Alaska’s grizzly country. The slightest sound is magnified. The slightest movement nearby is detected. The most subtle smell perceived and instantly identified. Clarity, instant response.

Danger is very uncomfortable, but it heightens our senses. If we channel fear into acute awareness the present moment expands. “Now” becomes immense. Fully alive. I have learned that powerful energy usually feels uncomfortable. A small price to pay.

This feeling of danger created a strange kind of purity, an equality — regardless of size, rank, or level of skill. Everyone felt fear, no one tried to hide it. That shared experience created an amazing level of cohesion. A communion of fear. A level of intimacy difficult to describe.

The group adrenaline burned away pain, weakness, timidity, and all self-consciousness. All that remained was bold action. The battlefield is too hot for ego. There were bumps, bruises, scrapes, and sprains — but no complaining, explaining, or apologizing. None of that was necessary. Incredibly, there were no serious injuries. The intensity of awareness prevented that.

Impressive looking technique held no value here. Success and failure had no meaning. Decisive action was all that mattered. Results were irrelevant. It was pure Zen. Overpowering group energy. Self was swallowed up and lost. At that place — during that hour there was no other way to be. It was wonderful, and exhausting. Once a week was all I could handle. All my other martial arts classes were like a vacation.

I am deeply grateful for being part of something so special. It was not only Chiba Sensei, it was the particular mix of individuals who came together each Friday afternoon. An extraordinary group chemistry was generated. Any intermediate or advanced student was free to attend; you just had to show up. Amazingly, in a student body of perhaps five hundred, only twelve ever came.

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Chiba Sensei (1940-2015) RIP – In His Own Words, Message to Teachers and Students

Jun
09

The World of Apollo Robbins… “Merging magic and self-defense,” by Stanley Pranin

Since most of our readers are martial artists, I’m sure they will immediately see parallels in their training with much of what Apollo is explaining during his show. After we learn basic aikido techniques and they become second nature, we see that there are additional, more advanced tools available to apply in a self-defense scenario to improve the odds of a favorable outcome…

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Jun
09

“Never tired, throwing morning to night”… Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, on Koshinage and Kotegaeshi from the “Guide!

Here is a great video clip of Morihiro Saito from his “Complete Guide to Aikido” footage. You’ll see Saito Sensei in his best form, and full of humor, and he explains the fundamentals of koshinage and kotegaeshi. Through the simple interface of the “Complete Guide to Aikido”, you’ll have the ability to rapidly access over 500 empty-handed and weapons techniques via 1,100 links to videos and technical explanations in book format. This is the most extensive technical reference on aikido ever compiled…

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Jun
09

Morihei Ueshiba with Gozo Shioda! “Atemi and pressure point attacks that make your technique work!” by Stanley Pranin

In this obviously posed photo against a fan attack from shomenuchi, Morihei has entered to Shioda’s flank, executing atemi to the latter’s ribs, and attacked a pressure point under uke’s elbow. This movement is a classic defense against a knife attack…

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Jun
08

Do you know the story? “O-Sensei’s Adopted Son and Heir Apparent”

“I was really impressed when I saw O-Sensei in the film. He had young students attack him for that long a time and he threw them all. He would never lose his balance even if he practiced for one hour. It is really amazing. I doubt that you can do the same in Kendo. I think that his techniques are those of a kami…

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Jun
08

The diminutive magician! “Kanshu Sunadomari’s mind-blowing performance at the 1st Friendship Demonstration”

Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei seemed like an excellent candidate for the 1st Friendship Demonstration and Fukiko was keen on the idea that we invite him. There were a couple of problems, one being that he had separated himself from the Aikikai shortly after Morihei’s passing in 1969. There was consequently a tension between him and his organization and the Aikikai. This made some of the other teachers somewhat nervous about Kanshu Sensei and how the Aikikai might react to his participation…

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Jun
08

Stop that stupid training! “Sunao — Being honest in training,” by Stanley Pranin

Let’s assume that we are practicing tai no henko. I know that uke will be pivoting to the outside while extending his arms in front of his center. Instead of merely grabbing his hand firmly, I lift it up forcibly to prevent him from turning and executing the technique. What I have done is simply to take advantage of the prearranged nature of practice to thwart uke’s attempt to perform the technique. I am not being “sunao” or honest in my training…

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Jun
05

How competition in aikido started: “The Dawn of Tomiki Aikido,” by Seiji Tanaka

I would like to explain how, where and why Tomiki Aikido started. It goes back to the month of April, 1958 when Waseda University approved our Aikido Club as an officially sanctioned sport club (called “Undo Bu” in Japanese), while no other universities recognized any Aikido clubs as such. Instead, all other Aikido clubs were called “Doko-Kai”, meaning a loosely organized club made up with people of the same interest. These unsanctioned sport clubs had neither the prestige nor the status of other sanctioned clubs such as Judo, Kendo, Karate, baseball, soccer, and other major sport clubs…

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Jun
05

Six masters on one stage! “A Gaijin in Japan Ruffles a Few Feathers!”

The first step was to draw up a list of invitees, and assess the likelihood that each person might accept our proposal. Another consideration was how comfortable a given individual might feel in the presence of certain others. It was like a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t remember everyone’s name, but I can assure you the list read like a “Who’s Who” of top teachers in the aikido world. Naturally, at the head of the list was Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. If he would agree to participate, then others might be more inclined to do so…

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Jun
05

A bewildering variety of precise techniques! “Morihiro Saito executes multiple ushirowaza”

Morihiro Saito Sensei performs numerous ushirowaza (rear techniques) in this amazing video. He provides the name and then proceeds to demonstrate each technique in term in an incredible display of technical mastery. This video will give you an understanding of what is meant when it is said that Morihiro Saito Sensei had an encyclopedic memory!…

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Jun
04

The origins of Hombu Dojo techniques… “Kisshomaru Ueshiba: Early Aikikai techniques (1957)”

This is an extremely important video. It features Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei performing techniques from the core aikido curriculum in 1957. If people are interested in understanding how aikido evolved in the postwar period, this is an excellent resource. It was Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei and Koichi Tohei Sensei who were the most influential instructors in the development of aikido in the Aikikai system…

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