Monthly Archives: October 2014

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I think you’re wrong about your Aikido

Despite your best attempts to sabotage your Aikido, you are getting better.

The opportunity to teach brings with it some valuable insights and observations.  Watching someone go through the transformation of relative beginner to valuable student is a blessing.  I have been that student and I’m sure my teacher have had that warm fuzzy feeling when they see someone do a flawless movement.

I think most people (me included) do not seem to naturally pick things up and need to go through the process of trial and error in order to get better.  People always quote the story of Edison creating the light bulb and process by which they achieved this result was an arduous process of getting things wrong.  And so it is with great misfortune that I explain that we also must go through this process.

“A black belt is a white belt is someone who doesn’t know when to quit!”

However, there are moments when I see people make some great radical changes in a technique with relative ease.  With a massive accumulation of data, they can now draw on a range of experience and make a distinctive change to their technique.  This is such a glorious moment in training.  I have experienced this a number of times, but I learn to appreciate it more seeing others do it.

Many students who join the ranks of martial arts have a quite self-deprecating personality and will regularly express themselves in quite negative fashion when it comes to their own performance.  If they could only see with the teacher’s eye how much improvement there is.  The self-development potential is infinite.  And despite the mental (self) sabotage they are unavoidably getting better and more confident.

Ah, I so enjoy when we begin to see that cheeky nature take over.  A pot shot here and there and desire to reverse a technique means that a student is gaining confidence and not being disrespectful.  The concept of the father son relationship comes to mind and at some point the need for nurture must be replaced with the need for one’s own identity.  But that is a whole other topic.

I believe there comes a point in every Aikidoka’s time when training just becomes enjoyable.  For me, that took about 10 years of solid training.  I don’t think this had much to do with ability rather than emotional intelligence.  If one can gain the knowledge of pure enjoyment, then performance becomes irrelevant and inevitably better.

 “5th Dan is someone who has no social life”

And so,…if you’re going to your next practice session, go with the goal of getting everything wrong, it is the natural process, so the more you can get it wrong, the more you have a point of reference to see what is right.  And more importantly achieve your goals (laughs).

A side note (and another discussion):  A student must be allowed to some degree self-expression and self-learning.  Teachers need to understand when to offer advice and when to just allow things to naturally unfold and NEVER us the word “NO” or “WRONG”.  We are after all just children seeking the attention of our parents.

What are your thoughts??? Scroll down to leave a comment…OR share below!

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A very technical demonstration of a number of techniques performed from Kata dori men uchi including correct application of atemi.  Excellent posture, movement and striking and very strong technique application with kime waza.

  • Kokyu-Nage
  • Ikkyo
  • Nikkyo
  • Shiho-Nage
  • Kote-gaeshi


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The fundamentals of Aikido are of great importance. In every style of Aikido I have ever practiced, there always a set of basic movements you perform, usually at the start of class. It allows you to focus on your movements without the pressure of having a partner and can provide some keen insights on why your techiques may be lacking. I think the importance of which is not highlighted until you have been studying for a while.

I remember as a keen fresh Aikidoka, wanting to get into the techniques and not do what I considered at the time all the boring stuff. The benefit of time has taught me that despite an urgency to get on with techniques, this is one of the single most important things to practice. Even cooking dinner has now become a kaiten frenzy.

In this video, the teacher and students demonstrate the basic taisabaki form Aikikai style:

  • Okuri Ashi
  • Tsugi Ashi
  • Ayumi Ashi
  • Tenkan
  • Tentai (aka kaiten)

You can see the benefit of performing the movement in regard to balance taking.  The beauty is that you can become one with your partner whilst being selfish regarding your own posture.  Enjoy!

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A must watch video for Aikidoka.  Sensei Hikitsuchi Michio shows all aspects of Aikido from ukemi through taisabaki and beyond.  He really has a great understanding of the basics and has a great method of explaining things.  At around the 9.45 mark, he has some great detail on how to do tenkan.   In particular, I notice that many Aikidoka do tenkan poorly resting their weight on the back foot rather than projecting through the front foot.  Enjoy!


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Great video production fun about a guy who uses his Aikido on some street thugs harassing a girl.  It is quite inventive utilizing some self defense and aiki techniques.  Below are the video outtakes showing them practicing the routine.  Some ideas for your next randori…

Aikido Street Story was shot by VideoJinak.


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by Christopher Hein

After attaining my black belt in Aikido I started to wonder if I could physically use my Aikido training in a real confrontation. I knew I could do the forms pretty well, and I could do what Aikido people call Jiyu waza (spontaneous technique) nicely. But could I “use” Aikido training in a “real fight”. Through a series of events I got a chance to do just that, and was displeased with what I found. I felt that I needed a kind of training that Aikido lacked. I left Aikido for a few years in order to find the key that was missing. I wanted to find a way to practice “using” my Aikido and not simply practicing forms. I looked to sport martial arts to help me with this. When I ventured into the area of sport martial arts I discovered “live” training, and I was quickly convinced of it’s power. Soon after I gained this understanding, I set forth to develop a useful live practice for Aikido. This series of articles is about that attempt.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term “live” (also called “Alive”) in relation to martial arts training. It is used to mean a situation where you are actually trying to use the skills developed in your martial arts training full speed against someone who is trying their best to stop you. This is the kind of practice found in sport martial arts. For example, a boxing match is live practice where two competitors face each other, striking each other as hard as they can in order to incapacitate the other competitor or make them quit. A wrestling match is live practice where the two wrestlers try to control or “pin” the other competitor in a way they can’t escape. MMA is live practice that allows for a larger rule set, allowing both striking and grappling. In sport martial arts the students are constantly “trying” the techniques they learn through this “live” training. Most importantly they are “trying” these techniques against other practitioners who are trying to keep them from being successful. This resistance breeds growth, understanding and improved technique. Live training is a powerful tool. This is what I learned from sport martial arts, and have made my goal to bring to Aikido.

This might seem like an easy task at first. Just get some sparring partners and keep trying to do Aikido. Easy right? Problem was I already knew this wouldn’t work. I knew because that’s exactly what I first tried the first year I went into sport martial arts. When I sparred (live practice) with people, I would try to use Aikido technique, and fail, and fail, and fail some more. Eventually I gave up all together, just deciding that the techniques found in MMA were better than those found in Aikido. I had kind of resigned to the fact that Aikido was a great way to learn to use your body, become more physically sensitive ( a very useful skill in BJJ as well) and overall have a great time with other people, but it wasn’t a good way to learn how to fight. I knew I couldn’t “just spar” with Aikido and start being able to magically do Aikido technique on an MMA fighter.

You might be wondering at this point-” if you knew Aikido didn’t work when you would try to spar with it, why would you think that Aikido works at all?” At first I didn’t think it did, but through another set of interesting circumstances I ending up at a Dog Brothers meeting of the pack. The Dog Brothers fight full contact with rattan sticks (or whatever else someone will agree to fight you with) and very little protective gear. “Higher consciousness through harder contact” is the slogan of the Dog Brothers. I was very apprehensive about this fight, I didn’t think I knew anything about stick fighting, and if it weren’t for my very good friend Maynard Ancheta pushing me into the fight, I probably never would have done it. Maynard had fought at many events and was sure that something good would come out of my attempt (even if it was him getting a laugh). I was pretty sure that Aikido didn’t work in “fights” and it seemed I would be easy pray for my competitor. Much to my surprise, a fair amount of my Aikido jo training worked. I ended up facing a very skilled, full fledged Dog brother, and did pretty well. This was not the outcome I expected. I expected to get slaughtered. I had tried Aikido many times in live training while doing MMA, it never worked, but in this fight it did…Why?

Could Aikido really have some applicability in live situations? Was there more to Aikido than a lofty ideal and some fancy moves? I tried to shrug it off and get back to MMA training, but to no avail. I couldn’t let go of the fact that some Aikido seemed to work, at least in this one situation. I needed to work on this problem more. I ended up leaving MMA in order to further explore Aikido, an exploration that has gone on for about ten years now, and has had some interesting turns. Stay tuned for part 2- “Weapons hold a key.” Where I will go on to explain the problem that all Aikido practitioners have had when they try to make live practices for Aikido.

Pop your thoughts in the comment section below…

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Great video of Moriteru Ueshiba sensei demonstrating all of the basic techniques.  He performs then from the ura and omote perspective.  Its 50 odd mins, so if you’ve got some spare time, he goes through all of the Aikikai aikido basic curriculum.

I think Moriteru is very solid in following the traditions o the Aikiki curriculum, nothing flashy, just whats necessary to complete the techniques.  A must watch for any serious Aikikai follower.

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Recent post on Shinburenseijyuku channel.  It’s great to see teachers who use local students as Ukes.  You can see this uke is not his regular uke but nevertheless his techniques are still smooth and flowing.  Like one of my sensei said “Use whatever our given”.  Meaning you should be able to perform techniques no matter what Uke throws at you…

Great short vid!

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A recently posted article by Henry Ellis published at Mooshin has reopened the old debate about how the martial arts world views Aikido as a martial art.  I have been a long time fan of Rik Ellis (see his blog here) who is a trained and successful MMA fighter who has trained Aikido extensively (sorry folks, but I am a fan of the UFC).  His father, Henry Ellis a famous early pioneer of Aikido in Britain has always been quite critical of the modern version of Aikido and prefers to continue the practice of his version of Aikido with extreme directness.

As a Aikido practitioner myself, I have enjoyed the benefits of commencing by learning within the Yoseikan Aikido system (Mochizuki Sensei).  The beauty of the Yoseikan system is that it incorporates elements of Karate, Judo, aikijujutsu and Aikido.  Significantly we train with the use of many strikes, particularly punches and kicks and also practice break-falling to an extensive degree.

I have also studied Aikiki at various times throughout my career (I go to Bali every year and train Aikiki there) and while you always have an affinity for the style you learned first, I have learned a significant amount from this change in style.  Firstly, It has allowed me to begin experimenting with a softening of my hands, which provokes better posture and some of the taisabaki practice significantly helped me understand how to move better.  I am not saying I wouldn’t have achieved this through normal practice but it certainly helped me focus on it.

Back to the argument.  In the article Henry mentions how he sees Aikido as being significantly watered down with soft attacks and compliant ukes.  And I have to agree with him. Much of what I see practiced in a dojo is going to get you in serious trouble in a real scenario.  However, whilst the Aikijujutsu side of the equation provides a great framework for learning a good martial art, the strong level of training might not be for everyone.

I think the softer styles of Aikido allow more (shall we say, less agile, less aggressive) people the opportunity to practice a martial art form.  And with significant training, they begin to metamorphosize into better martial artists.  And lets be honest, I cant see many Aikidoka getting into any type of trouble given the art attracts a person with a certain type of disposition.

Aikido as Exercise

What I believe is the true strength of Aikido is the type of training that it provides.  Non many martial arts require falling (ukemi) to quite the degree that Aikido does.  And learning to fall correctly requires a high degree of agility and balance.  It is certainly not the workout that boxing or grappling would give but the benefit of spatial awareness of large areas is significant.

I guess the true strength of Aikido comes into play with weapons.  Aikidoists are train to move (enter) when being attacked.  It really is the only option when faced with a weapon.  For most other martial arts, covering up just isn’t going to cut it when a weapon is involved (krav marga has some really cool weapons defense).

So I feel that if people want to get involved in Aikido with any style they should, it’s great for the spirit, you meet like minded people and it is something you can practice well into later life.  But if your looking for an effective martial system, I would look to some form of cross training in other martial art.  Most of the founding fathers of Aikido had many belts in many arts (Judo, Karate, Kendo, iaido etc.)

Speaking of cross training, when I was training boxing, some time ago, I found that that my timing in Aikido really improved.  So the benefits of cross training in other arts will transition into your Aikido.

Don’t just take your Aikido for granted, train many things and have many teachers but please just never tell me you can do a technique without touching someone as we all no the outcome of that when tested.

What are your thougths? Comment below…

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