Hombu Dojo 1968

Hombu Dojo 1968

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Irie Sensei: Kaiten Nage

Irie Yoshinobu Shihan demonstrates here Katate Dori Kaiten nage.
The full demonstration can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsnJdef5xtg

Dr. Guillaume Erard Sensei took this video, edited it and made it available together with countless number of great videos and several inspiring and beautiful documentaries.

Please enjoy these screen-shots and video taken from the full video.

Monday, November 30, 2015

審査と信用 Grading in Aikido - can you trust?

Shinsa 審査 means grading examination.

What is the purpose of shinsa?
For the student and for the sake of aikido itself, shinsa is actually not just one exam, but a process which consists of nine examinations from 5th kyu to 4th dan. This process usually takes 15 to 20 years. During this long period of time, you return again and again to aikido's most important basics. Therefore, it helps improving and transmitting aikido's physical and spiritual principles to the next generation. From 5th dan to 8th dan, there is no shinsa. Only Shihan's recommendation.

What does Sensei learn from your shinsa?
Shinsa helps sensei seeing clearly the subjects that are more emphasized and less emphasized. There are also perhaps aspects that are almost missing at the dojo. After every shinsa, I find myself teaching and practicing the things that were missing in it. And not only technical aspects.

Look at yourself, look for help
Preparations for shinsa take you back to the basics. Getting ready for shinsa, teaches you to ask for your friend's help. You find yourself practicing more and more before or after class and in your free time, and you learn to look at yourself, and to find out what is missing and what is correct (more or less).

The taboo of shinsa

At our dojo and in many traditional dojo, the sensei may talk to the student about the next shinsa, but the student should never initiate a conversation or a question about his/her next shinsa. When sensei says you are ready, try to get yourself prepared for the upcoming shinsa. If for some reason you can't attend, you should inform sensei and apologize. If you think that you are not ready, and that your teacher is wrong about you, you should overcome such feelings, and try to respect and trust your teacher's request and just do your best. It is the same with students who feel ready, but the sensei does not allow them yet to participate in a shinsa. Failing is actually not a shame and not a disaster. Many people fail in their aikido shinsa and later on they learn so much from it.

Of course, if you are sick or injured or just have to be absent, it is absolutely acceptable to apologize and to explain the situation to your teacher who will surely suggest another date.

Can you trust?
Please don't occupy yourself too much with thoughts about grading and belts color. Please just practice as well as you can and trust your sensei. If you can't trust your sensei, perhaps it is time to move on - move on in your heart away from negative thoughts, or move on by means of finding a place which is more suitable for you. Trust between sensei and deshi is crucial. Also crucial is the ability not to be too judgemental. There are things that we don't understand yet and we mistakenly translate them as wrong actions by our sensei. It happened to me with my teacher several times, and after a few years I understood his approach and his attitude.

Hand in hand along the path
Balance between trust and doubt is essential. Trust but don't be blind. Go hand in hand with your teacher, like a child with a parent.
If you can. Can you?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The correct speed and the correct pace in Aikido

The correct speed and the correct pace:
Some students at our dojo, begin to understand that in some situations, it is very important to be as fast as possible:
  • On your way to the dressing room and while changing your clothes and wearing your keikogi.
  • While cleaning - be fast and thorough.
  • When being invited by sensei take ukemi.
  • When taking ukemi for sensei.
  • After sensei throws you or pins you, get back to kamae as quickly as possible.
  • After class: when cleaning the tatami or arranging them.
  • While folding the hakama - as quickly and neatly as possible.
  • When getting a message from sensei - reply as soon as possible. If you have no time, you can send a short message saying that you will reply later in length.
Doshu's uke: attentive and fast.

At the dojo, some things are done slowly and in a relaxed manner. But while doing the above tasks, we should act as fast as possible quietly and neatly.

In this video, you can see clearly how nicely and quickly, doshu's uke gets back on his feet after being thrown or pinned. Also, please pay attention how uke hurries when being invited to demonstrate.
Learning the correct speed is a very important subject in our training. We should be fast, but not too fast. There is "the correct speed" and "the correct pace" in our training. Please try learning it and to pay attention to it.

Have a nice day,


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Koshi Nage - The safe and joyful method

Learning to love height:
Koshi nage can be safe and fun to practice, but with wrong and premature ukemi, it can cause injury. One of our dojo members once hurt his shoulder quite badly and I saw several times people who almost got injured by this technique. In Aikido, there are several techniques that require extra caution and methodical teaching. Especially juji garami nage, hiji kime nage, ganseki otoshi and of course, koshi nage.

If you follow your sensei's correct teaching method and instruction, koshi nage training should be as safe and fun as any other aikido technique.

Step by step:
This blog post alone should never make you feel that you can bow to your parter and begin throwing each other around. Please follow carefully your sensei's and those who are experienced. Please practice step by step while making sure that you and your partner never rush into training too fast and powerfully.

Tengu and Karasu Tengu practicing koshi nage variation - Ganseki Otoshi

Here are several video clips that may assist you in your training. I hope you enjoy watching them.

The easiest ukemi:
First, Furuya Sensei shows how easy and safe it is to fall from koshi nage. Furuya Sensei says that it is the easiest ukemi, and I think that the method here is actually safe and helps people overcome quickly the fear of koshi nage ukemi.

Basic method and smooth ukemi:
Next, Mike shows wish his smooth uke two simple ways to practice koshi nage

A great master and a talented and trained uke:
Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei shows koshi nage from various attacks together with his wonderful student - Donovan Wait Sensei to the sounds of the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute).

"Old school" beautiful koshi nage:
Saito Sensei's koshi nage are clear and he even names them according to the attack.

Are you on your way to the dojo?
Have a nice koshi nage practice, but again, please remember: do not learn it from these clips. Koshi nage, like actually any other aikido technique, should be practiced and learned under the instruction of a qualified and experienced sensei.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Don't say "my deshi"

In Japanese culture and of course in Japanese martial arts, you may sometimes come across the term "deshi". Some people mistakenly think that deshi means simply pupil or disciple and use it inappropriately. A teacher should never say "my deshi" or refer to his own student using the term deshi

Saying "this is my deshi" is just like saying "I am a sensei".

Another common term is uchideshi which means a disciple who lives at his sensei's house or at the dojo. The life of an uchideshi is completely devoted to the art, the dojo and the teacher.

A matter of attitude
Deshi means a very serious and dedicated disciple: one with significant sense of responsibility to the dojo, with a commitment to the learning process and with sincere relationship with the teacher. Not every dojo member is a deshi. Whether you are a deshi or being "just" a member at the dojo, depends on your attitude.

Humbleness 謙虚

Humbleness is one of the most important characteristics of Japanese culture. It is common to praise others, but not yourself. A Japanese sensei could refer to himself or herself as an instructor (kyoshi or shidosa in example) or as someone who teaches, but never as a Sensei. We, the students are the ones who refer to him or her as Sensei or Shihan

"Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth"
When we talk about someone else's students, we can call them deshi, or even better: odeshi san which is more respectful. When we talk about our own students, we should humbly call them kaiin (members) or seito (students).

Our teacher - Shimamoto Katsuyuki Shihan talked recently about this subject, and he told us that he never heard any of his great teachers use the term deshi when referring to their own students.

Sensei and deshi - A teacher and disciples

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Initial Steps in Aikido - Our second aikido class: aite 相手

Our second aikido class acquaints us with the concept of aite. in Aikido. Aite means training partner. Aikido teaches us mutual defence. By following the Aikido's ideas and techniques, I protect myself and also protect the attacker. Ideally, we try to resolve the conflict in safe and peaceful ways.

ai - aite - partner

During the first part of our class, we went through the things that we learned during our first class: Standing up and and sitting down correctly, seiza, bowing and kamae (basic stance).

Sumi Otoshi
We practiced and improved our koho ukemi (falling to the rear) and we proceeded to learning a basic principle called sumi otoshi (diagonal/corner drop).

While practicing tenkan which we learned last time, we began to understand how it takes us out of the line of attack, and enables us to merge our partner's attack with our movement.

If tenkan is done correctly, we end up facing the same direction the attacker faces. It creates a common point of view and a feeling of safety and unification.

Haishin Undo
Next time, we will learn a nice exercise that we practice at the end of every aikido class. It helps us to relax our spine and back and actually the whole body.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Initial Steps in Aikido - Our first aikido class

Our first aikido class was probably an unusual experience for you. New movements and customs, Japanese words and phrases, and some really strange exercises. It usually takes a couple of weeks before gaining understanding and feeling more comfortable with the new language - body language and spoken language.

After doing some preparatory exercises, we did some self introduction and we received some basic introduction to Aikido: The meaning of the name "Aikido" and also overview of our two months aikido basics workshop.

The first thing that we learn is rei. Rei means respect, and we show it by bowing to each other before and after mutual practice, and also after receiving instruction or explanation.

rei - bowing

During an aikido class, rei helps us to show mutual gratitude and to create respectful atmosphere. In life, aikido teaches us that in order to resolve a conflict with another person, it important to try overcoming negative feelings by showing respect amidst the differences between our views and ideas. Contradiction with someone's ideas, does not necessarily makes that person an enemy. This attitude has been taught and practiced for hundreds of years. Great zen masters taught it to some of the greatest samurai warriors of Japan. In crucial moments, negative feelings in your mind are like a grain of sand in the eye.

After we learned how to bow, we moved on to practicing correct standing up and sitting down which was followed by learning aikido's kamae (basic stance) which is called hanmi (half body).

correct standing and sitting

kamae / hamni - aikido's basic stance

The third part of our class was dedicated to learning how to fall safely to the rear. In aikido class and also in daily life, falling safely is an essential ability. The song says "everybody falls sometimes" and it is actually true. Aikido teaches our body how to fall and get up unharmed and safe from injury.

Koho Ukemi

The last part of the class acquainted us with aikido's first taisabaki (body movement) called tenkan. Tenkan enables us to turn and make a step to the rear, so we avoid getting hit by blending with the attack and relocating to a safer location. This exercise is usually done in pairs, and after learning to do it "solo" for a lesson or two, we will move on to paired practice.


Here are some Japanese terms that you will probably be hearing every class:

onegai shimasu
to wish for something

domo arigato gozaimasu
thank you very much

合氣道 - aikido

ai - harmony

ki - energy, will, feeling

do - way, path, method, way of life

構え kamae - readiness, basic stance

半身 hanmi - oblique stance

受け身 ukemi - receiving [with/through] the body

正座 seiza - formal sitting

体捌き tai sabaki - body movement

転換 tenkan - changing direction by turning our body by 180 degrees and stepping to the rear

座り技 suwari waza - seated techniques

呼吸 kokyu - breathing

I wish you a pleasant and fruitful aikido workshop. Please feel free to contact me with any question or thought.

Ze'ev Erlich
Israel Aikikai