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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Onisaburo Deguchi and Morihei Ueshiba

Morihei Ueshiba and his art, Aikido, was said to be a product of his martial and his religious tradition.  Even students who are ignorant of the Daito Ryu tradition but know Aikido will watch a Daito Ryu demo and see something they recognize.  They might see a new (to them) variation, or might decide they want no part of the ukemi, but it will be familiar.  Morihei Ueshiba was officially teaching Daito-ryu until the late 1930s. 

Aikido is often called a synthesis of Ueshiba's martial training and his religious beliefs.  The Oomoto Kyo faith is acknowledged as his chosen religion.  Onisaburo Deguchi is the man who Morihei Ueshiba met when he was returning home to see his sick father.  Ueshiba arrived to ask for prayers for his father's good health, and instead remained with Deguchi for several days before resuming his trip home - arriving too late to say goodbye. Ueshiba then left Hokkaido, leaving both the settlement he had helped found and his Daito Ryu teacher, to move to Ayabe in 1919 to join the Shinto sect.  He opened his first dojo on Oomoto Kyo grounds.  

The First Oomoto Incident would happen in 1921 when the government intervened and denounced the Oomoto Kyo faith.  The promotion of the Imperial Way and the divinity of the Emperor as the descendant of Amaterasu was being challenged by Oomoto Kyo's support of other deities.  In supporting Onisaburo and Oomoto Kyo at this time, Ueshiba risked being arrested along with Onisaburo as several other Oomoto Kyo leaders were.  Released on bail, Onisaburo began dictating   Reikai Monogatari, The Tale of the Spirit World.  Ueshiba would have been present for the writing. 

Ueshiba had two sons die of illness on the Oomoto Kyo property, and he left his third, the eventual Second Doshu Kisshomaru, behind when Deguchi chose to violate the terms of his probation following the First Oomoto Kyo incident.  Risking arrest, imprisionment, and death, Morihei travelled with Deguchi to Mongolia in 1924, apparently in an attempt to set up Onisaburo Deguchi as the next Dalai Lama or reincarnation of Genghis Khan (sources seem to differ, but this was to be a religious utopia, with Deguchi as the leader.)  The attempt failed.  The Chinese men who allied themselves with Deguchi and Ueshiba were killed by firing squad and the Japanese Consul took Onisaburo Deguchi and Morihei Ueshiba into custody.  Ueshiba would avoid arrest during the Second Oomoto Incident in 1935 that left Deguchi imprisoned for several years.

I have some recognition of the Daito Ryu roots in my Aikido.  When I read up on the substance and source of Ueshiba's spiritual beliefs; when I read up on Deguchi and Oomoto Kyo beliefs - I recognize far less of the Oomoto Kyo roots in my Aikido.

Esperanto is a constructed language created by a Danish Opthamologist that was an attempt at an international language; the language is endorsed by the Oomoto Kyo religion and the language's creator is now deified.  Per Wikipedia, the religion has published books and magazines in Esperanto since 1924 until the present day.  Almost all active members of Oomoto Kyo have apparently studied some Esperanto.

A central belief of Oomoto used to be spirit possession - the whole sect was started by a peasant woman, Deguchi Nao, who became the vessel for a spirit that left many automatic writings.  Onisaburo, who had a variety of spiritual techniques already, married her one daughter and became a leader in the sect.  Onisaburo Deguchi banned induced spirit possession, Chikon Kishin, in 1923.  Ueshiba would have been living with Deguchi for approximately four years during the time this practice was apparently most widely practiced.  Onisaburo apparently made the induced spirit possession illegal just before he and Ueshiba would leave for Mongolia.

The whole theory of technical evolution, Aikido evolving away from Daito Ryu, is based on Oomoto Kyo and Onisaburo Deguchi's spiritual influence in the stories.  Not only is there little supporting the O Sensei evolution, but what is Deguchi's influence on Aikido?  This spiritual mentor who guided Ueshiba towards enlightenment- what part of my Aikido can I point to as Deguchi's influence?

Deguchi apparently had a huge influence on Ueshiba himself.  When the story of Ueshiba breaking ties with Takeda is told, it is usually Ueshiba's enlightenments and his spiritual practices that are the motivation.  I have been lead to believe Aikido is physically and technically different from Daito Ryu because of Ueshiba's spiritual practice.  I have not been able to clearly say what this spiritual belief or practice was, so I've been looking into it lately.  I have no concrete conclusions; I'm just enjoying the ride. 

Christopher Li offered these two sources as translated examples of Deguchi's writings.  The Sangenkai website is an amazing, serious resource that I recommend to anyone.  There are materials available there that do not exist anywhere else.

Divine Signposts

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Kano's Olympic Dream

As the Olympics in Rio come to a close, I have been reading up on the founder of Judo.  Morihei Ueshiba's senior, this man dedicated his life to many things and one of them was the modernization of Budo.  He wanted a safe, effective training method that would benefit all parties.  He held regular competitions with local police forces that also amounted to regular training for law enforcement.  He played very important and public roles in promoting Shotokan Karate and Aikido.  He was a passionate, driven, highly intelligent and generous man.  As Japan readied for war, Kano was openly a globalist - a student and a citizen of the world. 

Often in Aikikai, we hear that Morihei Ueshiba was against competition and was prepared to break ties with long time students over this practice.  Competition was a divisive force that would break people apart, not bring them together.  Jigoro Kano's vision of competition is actually the same regarding Judo, but he saw the Olympics as an avenue to peace and a way to avoid World War 2.  Kano's stance against the war is more consistent than O Sensei's.  There are those who say he was assassinated for his anti-imperialism, but this is not the official story.

The following is an exert from The Way Of Judo:  A portrait of Jigoro Kano and his students.  It is great reading - the story behind his bid for the 1940 Olympic Games is profound, and yet this is a small part of his remarkable life.  Highly recommended reading, and thank you to Peter Boylan for recommending it to me.

Kano's Olympic Dream

In 1909, Japan was invited to the 1912 Olympics. At a loss for how to respond to the invitation, not surprisingly, the Japanese government turned to Kano, who was an expert in physical education and experienced in international affairs. After some study of the matter, Kano agreed to represent Japan. 

The Japanese government submitted Kano’s name to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and he was duly elected its first Asian member.  He was the official representative of Japan in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. The Japanese contingent consisted of only two track-and-field runners, but at least the nation established a presence. 

On his way back from the Stockholm Olympics, Kano visited the United States for the first time, stopping briefly in New York, where he delivered a lecture and demonstration. Kano also stopped in the Territory of Hawaii and visited the Honolulu dojo that had been opened in 1909. Kano was to visit the United States two more times, in 1920 and 1938. Each time he was there, Kano exhorted nikei-jin (those of Japanese ancestry) to become “patriotic American citizens.” 

Kano led the Japanese delegation to the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. This time Japan was able to field a team of over a hundred, consisting of athletes, coaches, and officials. Japan had two bronze medal winners—in tennis, of all things. Kano skipped the 1924 Olympics in Paris and attended the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, but as a private citizen. During those years, there was a lot of political turmoil in Japan regarding how to participate in the games and at what cost; Kano was evidently on the outs with the various organizations involved. 

However, in 1931, the Tokyo City Council decided to make a serious pitch for the 1940 Olympics. As is the case for every Olympics, there are questions of a sponsoring city having adequate athletic facilities, public transportation, sufficient lodging for visitors, and, most important, enough of a budget. Tokyo seemed to be seriously deficient in all these requirements, not to mention that it was located in the Far East, so its bid seemed like a long shot. Due to his international reputation and experience, Kano was really the only hope as Tokyo’s spokesman. 

Fortunately, Kano relished the challenge of presenting Tokyo’s case, and he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the cause, especially since the odds were so much against him. Kano grew up in the Meiji period, during which the motto of the time was, “Unified in body and mind, there is nothing a human being cannot accomplish!” 

After the new four-story Kodokan opened in Suidobashi in 1934, Kano spent nearly all his time, at home and abroad, promoting Tokyo’s bid for the 1940 Olympics. There were many obstacles: possible bids by other cities (Rome, Helsinki, and London); international politics; economic considerations resulting in commercialization of the games; backroom machinations by politicians, businessmen, and the military; Tokyo’s distant location; bribery of officials; racism; and, not least of all, opposition to the bid in Japan itself. (Of course, such shenanigans plague every Olympic bid, past, present, or future.) 

The 1932 Olympics were held in Los Angeles. Kano spent the days before and after ceaselessly politicking for Tokyo’s bid all over the United States. He did the same in Europe later, between 1934 and the 1936 Berlin Olympics, meeting with top officials in nearly every European country. 

The major stumbling block to a successful bid by Tokyo was the war Japan instigated in China in 1937. The issue was immediately raised: “How can a nation at war hold an Olympics, an event that is intended to promote peace?” Rather than risk losing everything, Kano lamely made excuses for his country: “War in China has nothing to do with sports.” “Japan’s real intentions in China are to make it a better country by ridding it of factionalism.” “As long as Chinese warplanes do not bomb Tokyo, there is nothing to worry about.” 

Kano deftly addressed all the arguments—political, economic, and organizational—against Japan, and after much behind-thescenes drama and horse trading, Kano’s efforts were rewarded at the 1938 IOC meeting in Cairo. Kano said of the meeting, “My opponents attempted to swamp me and drown me out, but I would not be deterred.” The committee confirmed Tokyo as the site of the 1940 Olympics. Kano vowed that Japan would not turn the Olympics into a nationalist spectacle like the 1936 Berlin games. It would be a true Olympics, bringing nations together in a spirit of peace and friendship. 

Interestingly, Kano did not lobby for judo to be included in the 1940 Tokyo games. On the contrary, he was reluctant to have judo put on the program because “judo is not a sport. It is an art. It is a science. It is a way of life.” Kano believed that inclusion of judo in the Olympics would alter its character as a vehicle to bring people together. National judo organizations would fiercely compete among themselves to win a medal “at any cost and by any means.” That is not the purpose of judo. Kano was open to the idea of judo’s inclusion in the games if other countries were in favor, but he did not push it. 

For Kano, the Olympics were all about fair play. When European delegates proposed to hold the games in August, Kano suggested September instead: “The weather in Japan in August is very hot and humid. Japanese competitors, who are accustomed to such muggy conditions, would have a decided advantage over athletes from other countries.” 

Even though Tokyo’s bid seemed secure, Kano sensed that Japan’s increasing militarization and warmongering would destroy all his efforts. On his trip back home from Cairo via Vancouver on the ship Hikawa-maru, it was clear that Kano was exhausted, physically and mentally. While he should have been elated by his success in Cairo, he looked disappointed, almost distraught. Kano was obsessed with getting the 1940 Olympics held in Tokyo—at any cost. Against his doctor’s orders, Kano insisted on making the arduous trip to Cairo in 1938. He refused to take anyone to accompany him; “they would just get in the way.” 

The last thing Kano wrote before his departure was a farewell letter to wife. In my opinion, getting the Olympic Games for Tokyo was Kano’s way of waging peace. If the Olympics were to come to Tokyo, the Japanese military would have to behave itself. If other countries had to field an Olympic team, there would be less time and money to field an army. For the games to be held in 1940, there needed to be an informal truce among nations until then and with hope for its continuation thereafter.

The Hikawa-maru set sail for Japan on April 22, 1938. At the beginning of May, Kano become quite ill; I feel it was a case of “I am sick because the world is sick.” He continued to try to eat food and drink sake each day but gradually became weaker and weaker. Kano died early on the morning of May 4, 1938, at age seventy-seven. The cause of death is recorded as pneumonia. There was not a single Kodokan member on the ship. 

Upon the Hikawa-maru’s return to Japan, Kano’s coffin was draped with the Olympic flag and lowered from the ship. On May 9, Kano was given a Shinto funeral at the Kodokan, with thousands of mourners in attendance. Sadly, within two months of Kano’s death, the 1940 Tokyo Olympics were canceled as “being a distraction to the national interests of Japan.” War had started in Asia and was about to break out in Europe and the Pacific. After Kano’s death, judo was presented at the Kodokan as a “manifestation of the unique Japanese spirit.” Judo became another weapon in the nation’s arsenal. A bronze image of Kano that had been erected in front of the Tokyo Teacher Training College was melted down in 1939 to help with the war effort. 

Given his peripatetic lifestyle, it is not surprising that Kano died on a journey. He was always on the move, seeking better, more efficient, and beneficial means of presenting his message. And Kano’s life was not in vain. In 1958, the statue of Kano was recast. One image was replaced in front of the college (now the University of Tsukuba) and one was placed in the entrance of the Kodokan. His life and message continues to inspire people all over the world. As he believed, “The teaching of one virtuous person can influence many; that which has been learned well in one generation can be passed on to a hundred.”

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Is Atemi-waza or Kokyunage the most common Aikido technique?

"Atemi accounts for 99% of aikido." was a remark once uttered by the Founder."  This is from Saito Sensei's Traditional Aikido, Vol 4.  The quote is given without much context, and there is no indication of the timeline.  

There is much confusion about this, as most of our training does not explicitly involve striking.  Aikido is not a mostly striking art as defined by the Western mind.  I have known students who talk about taking karate or krav maga classes to make their aikido better; to recover this "99% atemi aikido."

There is only one aikido student of Morihei Ueshiba who clearly set up a definition and teaching method of aikido atemi waza that I am aware of (lots of teachers who move with strikes in their techniques, not quite the same thing as what I am talking about).

This is Shomenate, the first movement of Tomiki Aikido's Junana Hon kata, first appearing in the early 1960s.  Shomenate is also first movement in the the earlier kata version, the 15 basic techniques developed in the early 1950s - years before any obvious friction between Mr Tomiki and the Aikikai.  

The first five movements of Junana Hon kata are named "atemi waza."  (And the first three in the 15). When O Sensei said 99% of aikido is atemi, there was a well categorized and developed set of movements called atemi waza codified by one of his students.  The simple atemiwaza sets are ubiquitous, indeed appearing often explicitly or implicitly in the movements and techniques of other schools of aikido.  They just aren't called atemi by everyone.

Many basic techniques I learned certainly contain this Shomenate posture, if only for a split second.  Uchi Kaitenage depends on this for a split second in time, so do most koshinage I was taught.  Yokomenuchi Shihonage and Yokomenuchi Iriminage start with this movement.  How did I learn Tenchinage and Kokyu-Doza?  "Hold on to my wrist, or you're getting my palm in your face."  Palm In Face is what I called Shomenate for years.

I was told many times, "If you step into your uke's center and open them up, put a hand in their face."  This could be a strike, or a distraction, or just obscuring uke's vision while something else happened.  I wasn't given a name for it, nor did I practice it much in isolation.  The movement itself is called atemi waza by Tomiki aikido, not the actual contact only.  The omnipresent threat of Shomenate in Tenchinage and the actual technique Shomenate are still about Shomenate in my opinion.

Tomiki did not stop with defining atemi as a posture.  He was also clear about atemi's purpose:  "Although the atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza can be viewed as techniques that can inflict a severe injury on an opponent, if we study the principles of the martial arts well, we realize that they are exquisite techniques for toppling (taosu) or controlling (osaeru) an opponent without necessarily harming him."  On Modern Jujutsu by Kenji Tomiki is fully available online at

Combine this statement with Gozo Shioda's explanation of atemi in Aikido Shugyo, "In Aikido, atemi is not limited to punching or kicking. Any part of the body can become a weapon for executing atemi. Some of you may have seen me in demonstrations use my back to repel an opponent rushing at me, or my shoulder to send my opponent flying as we pass each other. The reason these techniques work is that the contact point in itself becomes the atemi."  

Neither Shioda nor Tomiki defined aikido atemi as boxing style striking.  Atemi was the throw itself.  As any body surface making contact can be an atemi, and atemi is used to topple an opponent or control an opponent - then indeed atemi defined this way is the vast majority of aikido.  This is absolutely not the same as saying jabs, hooks, and upper cuts are 99% of aikido!

Aikido is said to have changed post war.  From two of the prewar greats to a giant of the post-war era, Morihiro Saito's book, Takemuso Aiki: Kokyunage Vol 4 contains this in the foreword: "Kokyunage are the most numerous and important techniques in aikido, hence my decision to devote an entire volume to this subject.  If Kokyunage techniques were to be removed from the art, it would no longer be worthy of being called aikido."  

The text alone makes it sound like Saito Sensei has disagreed with O Sensei, or said something different, or offered a counterpoint to atemi being the most prevalent techniques.  However, demonstrated here by Hitohiro Saito in Takemuso Aiki: Kokyunage, this is a Kokyunage (pg 141):
Saito's book on kokyunage shows many variations that are explicitly this movement, or derived from this initial movement.  The most often demonstrated Kokyunage demonstrated in the book is arguably the same movement as Shomenate.  
Different Percentages     
Gozo Shioda's Aikido Shugyo on atemi:  " teacher Morihei Ueshiba sensei always had stated that in real fighting occasions 70% of aikido is atemi, and 30% is throwing..."  

Why was Shioda's estimate of the prevalence of atemi 29% less than other estimates?  Was he saying something different?  Maybe not.  For one thing, this movement wasn't called atemiwaza but instead was called Sokumen Iriminage.  Morihei Ueshiba is on the left, Shioda on the right.

This movement is the third atemiwaza technique in Tomiki's Junana Hon kata, called Gyaku Gamae Ate:
The woman demonstrating is one of Mr Tomiki's students, Dr Lee ah Loi.  The palm down is distinctively Tomiki lineage, but the palm up Aikikai style is regarded as a variation.  Certainly I was told by Aikikai teachers that the applied movement was an elbow in the throat.

Morihiro Saito in Takemusi Aiki: Kokyunage, pg 153.  Hitohiro Saito is demonstrating a kokyunage again.  Kokyunage is indeed super prevalent in aikido as Saito defined it - it's just not clearly different from Atemi waza to me, except in name.

As always check out Mokuren Dojo's website and Kaze Uta Budokai's YouTube channel for all things Tomiki, and Stanley Pranin is a never ending resource on Iwama Aikido (but really all Aikido).


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Was there a technical evolution in O Sensei's Aikido.

One of the truths of Aikido is that O Sensei changed things.  He was constantly revising and updating Aikido.  He changed the Daito Ryu practices, and continued to revise Aikido further all his life.  It was how I justified seeing the Asahi News video for the first time and wondering why I didn't recognize so much of it.  It was how I justified my consternation when I read Budo for the first time.  I didn't recognize everything because things had changed.

John Stevens translated my copy.  To quote Stevens, "For the sake of comparison, several sequences of photographs are taken in Wakayama in 1951, when Morihei was sixty-eight years old, are included throughout this section.  The differences between Morihei's execution of the techniques in the pre- and post-war periods is often contrasted, but as we can see by comparing the Noma Dojo techniques (1936) and Wakayama (1951), the essence of Morihei's art remained the same."

As an example, I was told early on by intermediate students that as soon as Morihei went grey and bald and grew out the famous facial hair, he:

                                                      Got rid of Atemi 

                           And decided hitting people in the face wasn't Aiki.

(Pictures from Budo.  And the stories never came from Sensei.).

This bit about Atemi being discarded and unnecessary post war (the pics above are post war) doesn't look to be completely true.  The actual Tomiki derived Junana Atemi waza set is not explicitly defined as part of Aikikai, but all five individual techniques or some of their variations appear in non-Shodokan schools of Aikido.  They may be defined as kokyunage instead of Atemi and given different names and slightly modified, and maybe even become less refined, but they are there.

When I travel to seminars or other dojo, when a conversation comes up about O Sensei's technical evolution, the theory of growth and evolution is used to justify a disavowal of history and other lineages.  We don't need to know where we came from, because now we are better.  Don't look back; you'll only be looking at second rate stuff and you'll be the worse for it.  Or, Ueshiba evolved and became less martial and more spiritual - as evidenced by "O Sensei stopped using Atemi."  So later generations have less reason to even think they are a martial art.

I have no problem focusing on a basic core technique, learning it properly, and then focusing on the timing and Atemi.  I do think I can focus too much on hitting someone in the face and as a result not enough on necessary precision and principles.  The Atemi should fit seamlessly in a movement in my opinion.

That's very different from trying to say O Sensei stopped using atemi, and modern aikido has no atemi.

There are some great articles and a video out there recently that reiterate what John Stevens said decades ago - Morihei Ueshiba himself did not change much, nor did his personal art.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Two black men were shot by police this week.  A maelstrom of outrage, charges of racism, and deep frustration erupted nationwide, rapidly followed by more than twice as many police officers gunned down in vengeance during a peaceful protest.  A rapid spiral of rage against history, class, race, and law exploded into hate and blood. No one is winning.  We are all poorer for these events.  We're all losing.

Fallujah was liberated from ISIL this week.  I actually hadn't heard about it.  Are we still thinking of Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, San Bernardino, and Orlando?  Or are we saturated to boredom with religious violence?

In the backdrop, some estimates say a million refugees have escaped the hell on earth of war in Syria and Iraq to a Europe that is overwhelmed and frightened.  Resources strained, the recent history of attacks - political will and our better natures collapsing in distrust, racism, and despair.  Meanwhile the race for the next Commander-in-Chief of the world's largest military sinks to a new disgusting low with every passing day.

I see the news, and I don't want this.  I look around at the writing by my extended Budo family, and I see others who feel the same.  Something about taking responsibility for someone else's life every class?  Putting my life in the hands of others every time we train?  Immersed in a combat method regularly, am I more likely to regularly meditate on violence and it's consequences?  Once exposed and laid psychically bare on the mat am I less afraid of self reflection?  

Is the Art of Peace truly "medicine for a sick world?"  

I don't want to sit at home and watch TV for the next Oregon standoff, or the next flimsy excuse for a public murder.  I don't want the fear, the hate, the bloodshed.  I don't want to be reconciled to the fate of the world; I want the world reconciled.  I want our one family, I want peace, I want this to stop.  I want to do something.  I want to play a role.  I want to believe in Ueshiba's call for warriors for peace.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tohei's Leather Jacket

Aikido fosters a better world by creating and nurturing better people.

Unfortunately I've never been clear how.  One thousand Kotegaeshi is not a path to world peace or enlightenment though certainly the persistence and dedication to practice creates many physical and mental benefits.

Nishio Sensei told this story to Stanley Pranin about Koichi Tohei's leather jacket.  I tried to find the original Aikido Journal article but this Australian dojo has faithfully reproduced it.  I love this story because this is the most concrete advice on how to live your life from O Sensei that I know of.  Take responsibility for your openings.

I don't want to fall into victim blaming, and I don't want to advocate paranoia.  I do agree that strong fences make for good neighbours.

Taking responsibility for openings has so many implications for day to day life.  Online presence.  Financial decisions.  Relationship advice.  Career choices.  Home safety.  Driving.  Bad weather responses.  "Hold my beer and watch this." 

First be safe.  Consider the potential for danger or loss, and take responsibility.  Maybe make a plan, maybe develop a solution but try to see the issue before it becomes a problem.  I should know when I am taking a chance.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Random thoughts on O Sensei's Rules/Guidelines for practice, #1

had been training for several years before I bought my first copy of O Sensei's Budo.  There was a one page list of called Precautions for Training that I had not seen before.  Later on, I found the same list of six items in Kisshomaru Doshu's Aikido, this time called Rules for Practice.  It's the term I became most familiar with, so I'll be referring to the Rules from here on even though Precautions might be the better translation.  Eventually I started to think of Guidelines.

The dojo where I train now has a third version of the Rules from an Aikikai Hombu newsletter with similar items worded differently.  I don't see the Rules getting much attention, and every copy I find seems to have the second Doshu's name closely associated with it.  Budo itself was written very soon after the split between Morihei Ueshiba and his Daito Ryu teacher, but well before any of the fractures in Aikido itself developed, and before the name Aikido was even coined.

The Rules were of limited benefit for me to give to beginners for practice.  It's not a "no chewing gum in class" kind of list.  It didn't touch on any of the long list of things like who sat where, or how to wear a gi, or when to bow, or how to hold a weapon.  While Budo itself makes extensive mention of swords, spears, tanto, and firearms - weapons are not discussed in the Rules.

I am unilingual and therefore divorced from the Japanese source material.  I did what I do when I read the Five Rings or the Yi Jing - I put all the different translations together rather than just picking the one translation that I like the best.  I like to think it gives me a chance of catching nuances and deeper understanding.  For example, when comparing the translations below, some talk about killing with a "blow," something that English speakers associate with striking or atemi.  Two versions explicitly say we practice lethal techniques (much more general term).  With the one translation, the implication is that Aikido can be safely practiced just by omitting the strikes.  When I teach an Aikido version of O Goshi, I have to make the point to the class that this isn't true as some Nage get really low to the ground as they don't want to give Uke a hard fall.  This is how to break Uke's neck or skull by slamming it into the ground.

For all that I knew of the Rules for years, I had a little epiphany the other night.  These aren't so much rules as a description, a definition of Aikido.  I'm tentatively breaking up the six Rules into separate entries.  This one deals with the first item, which discusses Aikido's lethality.  As this is one of six, this is not the only reason to train nor the only defining feature of aikido.  I don't just train for combat myself.

"The original intent of bujutsu was to kill an enemy with one blow; since all techniques can be lethal, observe the instructor's directions and do not engage in contests of strength."  Budo

"One blow in Aikido is capable of killing an opponent.  In practice, obey your instructor, and do not make the practice period a time for needless testing of strength."  Aikido

"As Aikido is practice by using techniques which are capable of inflicting fatal injuries, practitioners should always heed what their instructor says, and should never participate in contests of strength."  From the 1997 issue of "The Aikido" by Aikido world headquarters in Tokyo.  Volume 34, #4.  Really, from the walls of the men's change room at our dojo.

While not in keeping with our warm fuzzies, it is a historically valid question to ask a senior student.  Do you know how to kill someone with Aikido?  Or at least hurt them?  Do we know at least enough about how to hurt each other, to keep each other safe in practice?  There is some online talk that Aikido is not capable of inflicting injury, or that there is something special about Aikido movements like Shihonage that make them harmless but this is not what is written here.  

The rule states to obey the teachers (In Aikido, Kisshomaru Doshu expounds on the first Rule with a brief dissertation on the importance of obedience and never goes further into discussing lethal options) and implies this is for safety, but do teachers automatically know how to injure or kill people with Aikido?  Many groups don't teach this.  I have known some teachers who are almost proudly uninformed.  If the teacher is uninformed, then the safety margin created by obedience is not a guarantee.  How is the Daito Ryu Shihonage different from the Aikido Shihonage and can I communicate this to a student in clear enough terms to keep the class safe?  Daito Ryu presumably has no problems communicating what makes the movement safer or more dangerous as there is no hangup, no emotional baggage associated with the potential for injury.

While Steven Seagal has earned some criticism in recent years, his Aikido choreography in Above the LawMarked for Death, and Out for Justice offer some valid insights regarding combat applications.  I don't object to his Aikido - there are so many other things to object to.

Shioda sensei's Dynamic Aikido also has some great insights for combat in the one chapter - a Sankyo throw projecting someone down a stair case, Nikyo with Uke getting kneed in the face, Kotegaeshi and Ikkyo both slamming Uke into the restroom wall.  Sound ideas, and a valid lesson that there is nothing different being done.

I've heard about simply avoiding violence.  I get irritated by people discussing "violence in the real world" who have sustained little more than paper cuts and eye strain.  Violence isn't real to such people, but it is still real.  Some students that I thought were divorced from violence turned out to be ex-military.  Even in health care I come across plenty of ex-military.  My wife and I had to face the reality of violence in our own home from an intruder.  One student works in a jail, another in law enforcement.  I've become less critical of people who ask questions about violence.  If I am going to be a teacher, maybe I should know some answers.

In any event, from the horse's mouth - Aikido is described as an art capable of being lethal, the implication being that martial ability is expected.  Maybe this feeds into the Looking Back to Look Forward theme I find myself thinking of lately.  Martial competence has become a common criticism of Aikido today, with every association lumped together erroneously.  I wonder how many people told Chiba Sensei, "Aikido doesn't work?"  Lenny Sly and others are doing some modern interpretations.  Kenji Tomiki was a military trainer.  Gozo Shioda and Robert Koga were law enforcement trainers.  Martial competence is part of our history.