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u/aikidont · 3 pointsr/aikido

This is gonna be long, but I really wanted to attempt to answer your question honestly and without bias. I'd imagine some aikidoka might see some of what I say as anti-aikido or something, but it's really not. I'm very much a dedicated student of aikido and absolutely love the martial art. I just feel non-biased and critical examinations of history is necessary to understanding. Some of my specific dates might be wrong, but the general timeframe is sufficient for a general, basic understanding. Many raw nerves still exist and are passed down to the various students of the various organizations, and just speaking of these issues will be certain to incense someone. Too much misinformation is perpetuated by the need to "be loyal" and maintain the political status quo.

I don't have all my sources organized any more, but most all of it comes from Pranin's interviews and work, anyway. Anyone who doubts what is written can access the information freely at Aikido Journal. If you have trouble finding something I'll be happy to help track down a source. I'll assume you're familiar with Japanese martial arts history in general, too. :)

Well, aikido is best classified as "gendai budo" as opposed to a "koryu." That is, it's entirely a modern invention as opposed to the numerous koryu (old style) that we have data on, some of which can legitimately claim a tradition back as far as the 16th century, or maybe even further. If you're not versed on Japanese budo/bujutsu, the best books and the ones that really got me into it are Donn Draeger's Classical Bujutsu and Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. As you probably know, Draeger is pretty much responsible for the modern initiative in serious scholarship about haplology in general, not just Japanese or Asian arts.

Historically speaking, I feel it's important to understand aikido's history within this context if we want to understand how the "history" of Ueshiba and aikido as per the Aikikai differs from what is known. By the 1960s there were really only two biographies of Ueshiba available. The first was written by Fukiko Sunadomari, I believe, and is written under the auspices of the Omotyo-kyo religion, the Shinto-based religion that Ueshiba believed and was associated with from 1915 until his death. It's not very useful historically and is mostly interested with the religion of Omoto. The second was written by Ueshiba's son, Kisshomaru. This was written later, in the 1960s, I think.

To reign in my rambling before I go off the deep end, there's basically two historical problems encountered here. All in all, it seems to be a good book, but I've only seen English translations. My Japanese is faaaar too wretched to read kanji with any amount of speed, heh. Anyhow, Kisshomaru did two things in this book: 1.) He separated his father from the Omoto religion in an effort to disassociate aikido with Omoto-kyo. 2.) He completely removes Daito Ryu from the history of his father's martial arts altogether. There are other small discrepancies, but these two things, Daito Ryu and Omoto-kyo, are absolutely essential to understanding the history and to pretend they have no influence on Ueshiba or aikido is revisionist history.

Well, as a historian, this is a huge problem. But we need to also understand what Kisshomaru's motivations were. To do that we need to understand that Ueshiba retired from the day to day affairs of the dojo in 1942 and moved to the secluded country town of Iwama, Ibaragi prefecture, and turned over all affairs to Kisshomaru and Koichi Tohei (Kisshomaru will later attempt to remove Tohei's importance, as well, but that's another issue).

So this means that by 1942, Kisshomaru and Tohei are running aikido. Indeed, in the 1960s, aikido = Koichi Tohei, nothing short of it. Ask anybody who practiced aikido in America or Japan in the 1960s. He was absolutely the face of aikido. It's only later, after Tohei's departure from the Aikikai, that people really push to have Ueshiba as sort of the "God" of aikido. But the modern day aikido syllabus of Aikikai and basically any aikido that is not Yoshinkan or Iwama ultimately comes from the technical curriculum espoused by Tohei and Kisshomaru. Many things were removed or de-emphasized (such as weapons practice).

The 1960s saw a huge amount of growth for aikido, including the beginnings of its adventures overseas in America and Europe (namely, France and England, though we do know that people were teaching aikido there in the 1950s). This meant "preparing" aikido for the masses. Also, all this is going on in post-war Japan, where it is now "evil" to be part of the military or to be "martial" at all, and this is where the emphasis of the "non-violence" approach becomes strong. Ueshiba was a teacher at many military academies, including the Toyama school, up into the 1930s. Whatever Ueshiba's own personal views on violence and religion were, we know he taught military people throughout his career, up until the war.

Anyhow, this creates a question if we follow Kisshomaru's "history," such as "where did Ueshiba learn his budo?" If we believe him, Ueshiba dabbled in a few arts, with a passing nod to Daito, but pretty much made it all up himself. We know this is not true. We know, through Pranin's research of Daito Ryu made available in the 1980s, that Ueshiba appears in the logbooks of Daito more than any other single man. We also learn from Pranin that Ueshiba was granted certifications from Takeda (his teacher, and the founder of Daito Ryu) and accompanied Takeda as an assistant teacher. At some point (this is where the religious aspect comes in) Ueshiba distances himself from Takeda and Daito Ryu and we know they did not have a good relationship in Ueshiba's later life. However, this is enough to understand that Ueshiba studied Daito Ryu from around 1915 to somewhere in the 1920s or 1930s. Even Gozo Shioda's scroll from Ueshiba reads "Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu," not "aikido." The word didn't exist yet. Throughout this time, various names were used such as "Ueshiba ryu," "Ueshiba ryu jujutsu," "aikijujutsu" and various names. It's not until around 1942 that it gets a name, without any input or influence from Ueshiba at all.

The second question created by Kisshomaru's book but not answered is "where did Ueshiba get his religious views?" This wasn't that important to Kisshomaru and to this day, is not something most Japanese students care about. It's certainly true that Americans are far more interested in the "religious" or philosophical aspects of aikido much more than the Japanese. Personally, I've encountered much more resistance from non-Japanese than Japanese when discussing the history of aikido and the roots of where Ueshiba developed his physical and mental abilities.

Around 1915, I believe, Ueshiba's father became ill. Ueshiba was up in Hokkaido and his family was down south in Tanabe. So he began a long trip to see his sick father. Along the way he heard of a man named Onisaburo Deguchi, a religious man, and stopped at his compound to pray for his father. He becomes very interested in this religion and stays for a few days, in the end missing his father's death and arriving too late. To cut a very long and important story short, Ueshiba delves head first into Omoto-kyo and becomes a disciple of Deguchi, moving his entire family from Tanabe to the Omoto compound. This religion will be Ueshiba's religion throughout his life and many of his students from the 20s-30s have ties to it.

So to sum this up, the technical curriculum for the most part is from Daito Ryu. Indeed, I can only think of one set of techniques in aikido that is not from Daito, and that is aikido's method of doing hip throws, or koshi-waza. And all of the religious symbolism and what not comes down from the Omoto-kyo. We cannot leave these two things behind because of how utterly essential they are to understanding Ueshiba and how he created his martial art. However, if we believe this "official" history, neither of these were important at all. I feel this is a big mistake for someone interested in the actual history and not the history someone might wish it were.

This is a pretty long and convoluted post because I'm writing kind of quick. I don't want people to think I'm "anti-aikido" because I'm not. I love it. :) But we need to understand it in its own context and not the context we wish it were.

Some other articles on this subject worth reading are Challening the Status Quo, Is O-sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido? and Iwama: Birthplace of Aikido, among many others.

And a very important issue that ties into the question you asked is the issue of Koichi Tohei and his relationship with Kisshomaru Ueshiba and the Aikikai Foundation. The best place to start is with Koichi Tohei: Ongaeshi - Repayment of Kindness.

Sorry for the length but it's a pretty important question and a huge can of worms if I don't approach it from the correct way. If you made it this far, I really appreciate it because I put a lot of thought into giving a brief (!!) but sufficient and correct beginning to an answer for your question.

u/kuhn50 · 2 pointsr/aikido

Hey man. I'm new to Aikido as well, but have been strength training 3-5 times a week consistantly for over 5 years. What I can tell you is that it will come down to your willingness to just start lifting, or starting a program whether you're doing it 100% correct or not. Over time you will figure out what is correct by how your body responds. By all means be safe and smart by starting with very low weights, but just start.

After reading through your responses to peoples suggestions, u/rolandthedickslinger pretty much hit the nail on the head (even if a bit abrupt) but he's totally right. You're making excuses. Maybe re-read this thread and count how many times you shoot down helpful suggestions. Speaking of suggestions... I've read loads of books when I started trying to wade through the seas of useless fitness info, and the one book that helped me tremendously was Delaviers 'Strength Training Anatomy'. It teaches you all the muscles, groups, and how to safely train them. For more of a program oriented approach, get 'Strength Training Anatomy Workout II' also by Delavier. The illustrations are excellent, and everything is written so well its really easy to understand.

Good luck.

u/darmabum · 1 pointr/aikido

These were posted to a similar thread yesterday about learning aikido, and might fit into this discussion as well. The last few are not at all at the basic level, but I enjoy them so much I thought they should stay:

For an enjoyable exploration of the history and protocol of the dojo, try "In the Dojo" by Dave Lowry: In the Dojo: A Guide to the Rituals and Etiquette of the Japanese Martial Arts

For an entertaining, and actually true, bildungsmroman of a trio of Oxford students who find themselves in Tokyko and decide, out of boredom, to join the year-long intensive Tokyo police riot squad training program. This was Gozo Shioda's dojo, probably in the 1980's, and is an accurate glimpse of what training was like in the early days of the Yoshinkan style: Angry White Pyjamas: A Scrawny Oxford Poet Takes Lessons From The Tokyo Riot Police

You may also be interested in Aikido Shugyo, by Gozo Shioda, which describes his early days with O-Sensei, and his post-war experiences, along with some philosophical refections:

If you are looking for something meaty and practical, check out the excellent books by Marc Tedeschi, "The Art of Holding" and "The Art of Throwing" which are essentially jiu-jjtsu but form an extremy comprehensive catalog of practically every fundament technique in taijitsu regardless of the art or style: The Art of Holding: Principles & Techniques and The Art of Throwing: Principles & Techniques

Finally, I hesitate to suggest this one since it probably won't mean anything until you have much deeper immersion in practical aikido techniques (and it might be hard to find, being almost out of print), but it's a good compendium of aiki-jitsu style, the formative roots that predate aikido, and depending on your background and mindset might add some dimension:

Have fun!

u/Joe_MVP · 3 pointsr/aikido

Thanks for doing this, Roy! I've been a big fan of your work for a lot of years now and stick rock my RDA gi that I bought directly from you many years ago.

I'd be interested to know if you have any thoughts or comments on Louis Martin and his book, The True Believers. (Link:

Many thanks for the years of great content

u/me3peeoh · 6 pointsr/aikido

Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

Probably the best single book that explores both the history and philosophy as well as techniques. The authors did an excellent job couching the peculiarities of aikido within a martial context with elements of budo. The illustrations are unique with vectors tracing the subtle directions of force. If you have martial arts experience, you might be able to understand them better than someone with no experience, and help you understand what's going on in videos.

But really all of this is just supplement to real training. No one can truly start with books or videos.

u/Sangenkai · 2 pointsr/aikido

Some of my standard suggestions....

Try A Life in Aikido for a basic biography, Aikido: My Spritual Journey for a look from the point of view of one of the founder of Aikido's early students, Mitsugi Saotome's books for another view from one of Morihei Ueshiba's later students, or any of Bill Gleason's books for a deeper look into the esoterica of the art.

I can't recommend "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere", there are just too many errors and omissions. The illustrations are good, but the authors were just barely beginners when they wrote that book, and the information available in those days wasn't very good anyway.

Ellis Amdur's books are always worthwhile reading, even if they aren't "scholarly" (try Peter Goldsbury's Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation columns on Aikiweb for scholarly material - great stuff, but not for everybody).

Any of Stan Pranin's books (if you can find them in print) are well worth reading.

"Angry White Pyjamas" is fun, but take it with a grain of salt.

I would avoid most of the John Stevens translations, they're too unreliable and it's too hard to tell which parts are accurate which aren't.

u/RobLinxTribute · 1 pointr/aikido

This is definitely in the "featuring" category: my very first Sensei wrote a science fiction novel. Kind of a dystopian future thing, and aikido figures into it fairly prominently. I loved (and still love) the book, and yes I'm biased, but I think it stands on its own merits.

u/neodiogenes · 2 pointsr/aikido

At some point you have to decide whether you want to spend your entire life learning only what some teacher wants to teach you, or if you're going to explore past what you experience on the mat.

If nothing else, read the book "The Art of Peace" translated from the writings of Ueshiba himself. I also highly recommend "Aikido in Everyday Life" by Terry Dobson.

For good or bad, no sensei will be there to help you train in these ways. Again, sometimes the best training is what you end up teaching yourself.

u/inigo_montoya · 4 pointsr/aikido

Last time I checked his autobiographical ebook on his early training is still free on amazon.

u/FappleComputer · 2 pointsr/aikido

Me, too! If anyone is interested in more of that stuff, get a book called "Zen Bones, Zen Flesh."

u/morethan0 · 2 pointsr/aikido

Those are good suggestions.

Also, Nidai Doshu's book is under $3 used.

u/charlieb · 3 pointsr/aikido

I don't know about training like that but here's book about exactly what you're asking:

u/roydeanbjj · 1 pointr/aikido

My pleasure. The True Believers was a great read, and I've recommended it to several people who were also involved in Seibukan Jujutsu. I've known Louis for some time and was actually there at the 25th anniversary celebration he discusses in the book.

There's no doubt that Seibukan Jujutsu founder Julio Toribio is a charismatic individual, and a masterful martial artist. I studied under him shortly after his break from Hakko Ryu Jujutsu, and founded the uchideshi program at the Hombu dojo in Monterey, California. I discuss this time in my first book, The Martial Apprentice:

Louis studied the art at a later timeframe, probably 2 generations of students later, and the art had gone through several changes. It was softer, the philosophy had expanded, there was new terminology, new katas, etc. Seibukan Jujutsu may not have the training method of BJJ, but it was closer to being a combat effective art because they encouraged strikes, unpredictable attacks, and improvisation. However, it gave ranks that did not always correlate to actual fighting skills, and I found this to be problematic, though this is hardly unique in the martial arts world.