Koichi Tohei and his 3 Teachers

September 4th, 2012 by twistingwrists Categories: Words 2 Responses
Koichi Tohei and his 3 Teachers

Koichi Tohei was a 10th degree black belt under the founder of Aikido who went on to start his own organization called the Ki no Kenkyukai, or Ki Society outside Japan. Many people don’t know that Morihei Ueshiba (founder of Aikido) was only 1 of the 3 main teachers in Tohei’s life. He also had a zen teacher named Tetsuju Ogura and a Japanese yoga teacher named Tempu Nakamura. He had other teachers including judo teachers, under whom Tohei earned a 2nd degree black belt, but this article will focus only on his 3 main teachers.

After sustaining an injury from judo practice that resulted in a subsequent illness, Tohei decided to focus on strengthening his mind. This led him to his zen teacher, Tetsuju Ogura who happened to be a student of the famous swordsman and calligrapher Yamaoka Tesshu.  Tohei started studying zazen (seated meditation) with Ogura until he was given permission to join the misogi (chanting with meditation) training 6 months later. In his book “Way to Union with Ki”, Tohei speaks highly of the intense training and credits it for completely curing him of his illness. Tohei also comments that Ogura spoke often about Yamaoka Tesshu and Tohei learned the importance of loyalty and dedication to one’s teacher from these stories.

After strengthening himself through zen and misogi, Tohei then met his 2nd main teacher, Morihei Ueshiba. Upon meeting Ueshiba for the first time and getting thrown effortlessly, Tohei knew he would devote his life to learn what Tohei referred to as the “mysterious” art of Aikido. While Tohei always praised the skill of Ueshiba, what he did not praise was Ueshiba’s teaching ability. In Aikido Journal #107 he says “much of what Ueshiba sensei talked about sound[ed] like the occult.” Tohei claims the main thing he wanted to learn from Ueshiba was how to relax and that he didn’t really listen to most things Ueshiba said.
The 3rd main teacher in Tohei’s  life was Tempu Nakamura, founder of the Tempukai, a system of Yoga that Nakamura developed through his ardent studies in India. Nakamura, like Tohei, committed himself to his training in order to overcome serious illness. As previously mentioned, Tohei was in awe of Ueshiba’s technique but frustrated with what Tohei perceived as Ueshiba’s inability to explain what he was doing with his body. Again in “Way to Union with Ki” Tohei writes “Ueshiba believed he was gifted with this ability from the universe. For this reason he prayed day and night.” While the typical Japanese student might be quiet and follow blindly, the average American would not. As Tohei was one of the first instructors to travel overseas to teach, he had to figure out how to explain what he was teaching. This is where Tempu Nakamura comes in. Much of the supplemental exercises that Tohei taught back then, and still exist in his organization today, came from Nakamura. Things like Ki testing and Tohei’s principles to unify mind and body come in large part from the Tempukai. Tohei was in fact so influenced by Nakamura that he named his style of Aikido (shin shin toitsu aikido) after Nakamura’s teaching method (shin shin toitsu do). Note: “shin shin toitsu” translates to “mind body unified” in English. While Tohei praised Nakamura’s breakthroughs in the art of self development, in later years Tohei criticized Nakamura for not being able to develop a way to truly unify mind and body. Just like Ueshiba, Tohei writes in “Way to Union with Ki” that he felt that some of Nakamura’s methods were too esoteric. Tohei always preferred simple and more direct methods.

If you look further into the lives and arts of Tohei’s 3 teachers (zen/misogi, aikido, Japanese yoga) you can see that Tohei really did combine all 3 teachings. Tohei overcame the challenge of teaching Aikido to non-Japanese by thinking deeply and analyzing what Ueshiba was doing. Due to Tohei’s superb verbal explanations and his well-written books, Tohei had much success in teaching Aikido throughout his life.

It may be of interest to the reader that the zen/misogi school that Tohei trained, the Ichikukai, is still in existence as well as Nakamura’s Tempukai organization.



Motivation for the New Year

December 31st, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Words One Response
Motivation for the New Year

We martial arts addicts are a strange bunch, I’ll be the first to admit that.
From an outsiders perspective, we train over and over how to beat someone up or respond to a violent situation. Of course to us “insiders”, our training is much more than that. We are training our bodies and forging our spirits. We are concerned not so much with winning or losing but about learning and deepening our understanding of the arts that have been passed down for decades and in some cases centuries.

It was thinking along these lines that got me wondering. What motivates some of the long term practitioners and instructors to keep training day after day, year after year?
I put this question out there to 4 people that I admire and respect: Ellis Amdur, George Ledyard, Joe Thambu and Seishiro Endo. Here are their replies:

1) Ellis Amdur (instructor of Araki Ryu & Toda-ha Buko-ryu)

I practice because its what I do.  I like it.
And – I’m still on an upward curve.  Why would I not do something that I continue to improve at, after 40 years?

Since I’ve started doing some BJJ, I’m learning the rudiments of grappling.  I’ve been training in core body mechanics with some good teachers (Internal strength training) and it’s had a radical effect on my power and speed in Araki-ryu.

On the downside, my joints hurt (knees in particular) and some things I could do before, I can no longer do any more.

See more on Amdur sensei @ ellisamdur.com

2) Joe Thambu (7th dan Yoshinkan Aikido)

I will try to answer your question as best I can. If I sound a bit vague it is because I believe one’s motivation and purpose changes with time.

I first put on a dogi 38 years ago at the age of 11. As a kid I didn’t know any better than to give my 100% in everything I did, unfortunately this only ever applied on the mat and never in school. Motivation was an non-existent concept, I trained aikido because I did it was simple as that, every chance I got I was in the dojo(much to my mother’s disappointment). It was the sheer pleasure of training that inspired/drove me.

As a youth training in my uncle’s dojo in Malaysia I came into contact with many a great teacher. Learning from them and being in close contact (the dojo and my family home are on the same block of land) with likes of Donn Draeger Sensei, my first teacher Thamby Rajah Sensei, visiting teachers from the Yoshinkan and many other teachers of various martial atrs were pivotal in shaping my understanding of Budo.

At the age of 19, I moved to Australia and this is where my true challenges in Budo started. What kept me going during this time was my experiences as a teen and I was often guided, inspired and motivated by thoughts, words and most importantly images of my teachers performing a technique or teaching. Going to Japan and staying at the Yoshinkan hombu dojo for a few months in the early 80s was also inspirational. Meeting and training under the legendary Shioda Gozo Kancho and other teachers at the Yoshinkan was invaluable. From time to time motivation also came in the form of positive remarks (almost never outright compliments) from respected teachers here and abroad.

More recently, my motivation has come from a belief that I have been given a remarkable gift (of Budo) by some very special teachers and that I do not own this gift but am merely the custodian and it is my job to pass this on as best I can.

Admittedly, I have also been motivated by negative comments. When I first started a fulltime dojo in Melbourne, I was told it would not succeed and was also referred to as an upstart who wouldn’t last. This kind of motivation (although handy) never lasts and can often lead to blind stubbornness rather than correctness.

Motivation can come in many ways and is an integral part of our being. However, if we wait on motivation then alas we will stagnate. Motivation and effort go hand in hand. Personally speaking I am the laziest person I know, if I didn’t enjoy Aikido now as much as I did when I first began I wouldn’t be doing it. I guess my prime motivation in continuing Aikido is the same as at the beginning……….. the enjoyment and sheer pleasure of Aikido.

See more on Thambu sensei @ Aikido Shudokan

3) George Ledyard (6th dan Aikido under Mitsugi Saotome)

Very little in our modern world is conducive to one having a personal practice. We’ve allowed ourselves to define ourselves by our jobs. As Americans we get less vacation time than any other industrialized nation and we don’t use up the time we are given. We have been defined as consumers of goods, we work ever harder to keep consuming. Our entire economy is based on this model.

Aikido for me is about stepping out of that assigned role. It is a practice which focuses on what I call “old knowledge”. This kind of practice runs entirely counter to the general flow of our modern society. We do it because it’s difficult rather than looking for the easiest, quickest way of going forward. There is no quick solution to the practice. It takes years to acheive even an average level of mastery. It is the process of the doing that is really important, not the arriving at some goal. There is no point at which one arrives, when one says to himself “I know Aikido.” Rather, the more one trains, the more one realizes that there is even greater territory ahead to be explored. There is virtually no financial gain to be had through the practice, it is strictly about trying to reach for the unreachable.

Every aspect of Aikido training is about learning to relax, being able to stand in the midst of chaos and know precisely that regardless of where you are, you are at the center. Aikido practice is about freedom… the freedom to act as needed, when needed, to understand that no one can stop that movement unless you let them. As one relaxes on a deep level. one realizes that the perceived separation between individuals is really an illusion. Aikido is an art that is all about connection and for that reason, it has spiritual implications and the power to fundamentally improve ones life in some very profound ways. Every principle operating on the mat technically has an analogue in ones daily life. That is what makes the practice worth spending ones whole adult life pursuing.

I have trained for 35 years and I have never once been bored. Every day I get a bit better and understand something I didn’t understand before. I personally believe that this is why we are here. Man is the only animal that we know of that has the capacity for personal practice, we shouldn’t waste this tremendous gift we have been given. That’s what motivates my training.

See more on Ledyard sensei @ AikiEast

4) Seishiro Endo (8th Dan Aikikai Aikido)

[I train] because there are many things I don’t know.

See more on Endo sensei @ Saku Dojo.

So there you have it. Now the question goes to you. What motivates you to continue your training? As we enter 2011, now is the time to reinvigorate yourself. Set your goals and work hard to achieve them!

Dan Kawakami on Past, Future, and the Present Mindset

November 13th, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Kawakami sensei, Words One Response
Dan Kawakami on Past, Future, and the Present Mindset

Kawakami sensei teaches Aikido and Zazen and if you’re around him for any length of time you’ll hear him talk about “being in the present” and he’ll tell you that your throw didn’t work because “your mind is in the future”.

After 18 years of Aikido I’m still deepening my practice of staying in the moment and I feel that Sensei’s thoughts on the matter can help encourage your practice.

In the video, Sensei explains how staying in the moment can make you more natural, live with less anxiety and fear, and be centered to live life fully.

George Ledyard on Aiki, Kaeshiwaza, and more

October 18th, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Media reviews, Words 2 Responses
George Ledyard on Aiki, Kaeshiwaza, and more

George Ledyard, long time student of Mitsugi Saotome and head instructor of Aikido Eastside in Washington state, was kind enough to take some time out of his day for an interview. I asked him about some of his views on Aikido, his training in Systema and Daito Ryu, and also his 2 new DVDs: Aiki & Connection and Principles of Kaeshiwaza.

TW: You spent a long time training under Saotome Sensei and are a well known instructor in your own right. How has your understanding of aikido changed or developed from what you learned from your teacher?

GL: I have been with Saotome Sensei since 1976. It would be hard to say that my understanding of Aikido changed or developed from what I have learned from Sensei, more that he formed my understanding of Aikido from the start. What really distinguishes Saotome Sensei’s Aikido is the balance between the art as a martial art and as a spiritual practice. Many folks these days do not seem to be able to hold those two aspects together. The art seems to have split into a group of folks who think it has something to do with “fighting” and spend their time preparing for some imagined and anticipated “street” encounter. I think these folks tend to be running a sort of modern day “samurai wanna be” story in their heads. On the other hand, many folks who are quite serious about Aikido as a means of personal transformation, or as a way towards conflict resolution, whatever are simply incapable of executing their techniques in a situation of real conflict.

Saotome Sensei taught us that one informs the other. If one stops fighting, stops “contending”, ones martial effectiveness is actually enhanced. Sensei has stated over and over, as the Founder himself did, that the art of Aikido is not about fighting. It is about “not fighting”. But, as a practice designed to be trans-formative, it operates with a martial paradigm. In other words, every aspect of ones spiritual understanding should be demonstrable in the physical realm on the mat. Spiritual ideas without the ability to actualize those ideas in our physical reality are just “wishful thinking”. Too many folks focus on the nice ideas and can’t back it up in their technique.

So what I received from Saotome Sensei, and he believes he received from O-Sensei, is the idea that there really is no separation between the martial and the spiritual in Aikido. If one really understands one side, he understands both. I am part of a direct transmission from the Founder to Saotome Sensei to my generation of students. Each generation takes what is given, to the best of its ability, and hopefully adds something from its own experience and then, in turn, passes to the next generation. Through Sensei I feel this connection to the Founder very strongly. I don’t think that everyone who does Aikido necessarily has this feeling.

TW: You have 2 new DVDs out. One is called Aiki Connection. Most of us think about connecting with our partners by blending and moving in the direction of the attack before redirecting. Is that what this DVD is about?

GL: I think this idea of “blending” is hugely misunderstood. We were all told, way back when we started, that Aikido meant the way of “harmony”. While the term “aiki” can have that flavor in Japanese, it is not how the term is used when talking about martial arts. A far better translation of the term for understanding technical issues is “joining”.

This isn’t just semantics… because we were told that Aikido was the art in which we “got off the line” of an attack, then redirected the energy of that attack into a sort of resolution, Aikido, which is fundamentally a study of connection, has tended to attract people who didn’t actually want to connect. The “martial” folks are busy trying to defeat the attack and the spiritual folks are trying to avoid it. Neither results in anything that can be considered “aiki”.
“Aiki” requires that one “join” with the energy of an attack. It requires first, a connection to the attacker’s center (this is physical at the beginning and later has more to do with connecting to their perception). One has to “touch” the attacker’s center and simultaneously balance that outflow by receiving the energy of the attack into ones own center (the spine). This balance between out and back sets of a neutral balance at the point of contact, whether it’s a grab or strike. It’s like the “scales of justice”… you could have twenty tons on either side of the scales and if they are in balance it takes only finger tip pressure to move it. If I can establish that balance with my partner / attacker, throwing is effortless. It is difficult to counter technique done in this manner because there is little or no feedback available to the partner about what’s happening because there is so little force applied at the point where they could feel it. There’s actually quite a bit of scientific information about how and why this works having to do with the myofascial structure of the body and how the gamma nervous system functions. Suffice it to say that in Aikido we strive to move the attacker’s mind so that his mind moves his body. A teacher, whose name I don’t recall summed this up by saying that “if the attacker understands what was just done to him, it wasn’t “aiki”. That’s basically the subject of this DVD set on Aiki and Connection… how does this work and how does on e actually do it. It’s not rocket science; it’s a totally teachable set of principles and skills. What is hard is doing them under pressure and that takes a lifetime of practice. But anyone can do Aikido with some “aiki”.

TW: The other DVD is something that hasn’t been covered much in book or video form and that is Kaeshiwaza (reversals). Do you feel this is an important part of training? At what level do you start teaching reversals?

GL: One of the biggest problems Aikido has is that somehow it has evolved into an art in which the practitioner strives to understand some very sophisticated techniques and principles while working with a partner who acts handicapped. Ukemi, as it is generally taught, has evolved into something that makes the teacher look good. This is terrible martial arts and really doesn’t require any degree of skill on the part of the practitioner to do technique. If you partner breaks his own balance,  disolves his own structure just because his attack missed it’s target, throws himself simply because he perceived incoming in tent from his partner, no one really has any idea what is going on. The practitioner can’t know whether he actually did the technique or his partner “tanked” for him.

Ukemi needs to be re-tooled entirely in Aikido. The ukes role is to enhance the learning of the partner; not to “collude” and not to resist. Being a good uke is far more difficult than most folks realize. They think it means taking the fall. But for a true “aiki” interaction, both partners must actually be doing the same thing. Kaeshiwaza is the functioning of the principles of connection as shown in my earlier videos as it functions in the role of the uke. If an uke can deliver an attack and then properly stay connected with no break throughout the movement of the technique, then the least opening or break in the nage’s connection to uke’s center, the smallest tension or push-pull, an the technique can be reversed instantly with no “contention”, no warning to the nage that it is about to happen. This is why so-called “resistant” practice is bad martial arts. Resisting simply gives away that the technqiue is going to fail or will be difficult. It tells the nage in advance that he needs to make an adjustment. But correct kaeshiwaza is relaxed and doesn’t “telegraph” what is coming. The nage feels like O-Sensei right up until the technique disappears and his balance breaks.

In my opinion kaeshiwaza is at the heart of Aikido as a martial practice. It doesn’t make sense to try to teach it until the student has enough technique in his or her repertoire that they can be free about allowing the reversal to be what it needs to be and not something they are forcing. I think any time after thrid kyu, which for us is Brown Belt, you can start to teach it. What I like about that is it REQUIRES good ukemi skills to do. The uke simply must stay connected at all times with nage’s center in order to take advantage of an opening which is there. Without that connection, the nage can make a mistake and the uke isn’t in a position to do anything about it. So, even if one isn’t that entranced with the idea of reversing ones partner’s, it is simply the best practice I have found to develop a sense of continuous connection on the part of the uke.

TW: Other than Aikido I understand you have an interest in other arts such as Systema and Daito Ryu. What do these arts do for you that Aikido didn’t?

GL: I get to dabble with Systema when I have the chance. We have a very good Systema program under Kaizen Taki who teaches twice a week out of the dojo. Not only is he incredible but he has many of the very best Systema instructors in North America come for seminars. So, I have had some wonderful exposure to their training and principles. Additionally, we have a Daito Ryu Study Group going at my dojo once a week. Both of these art do a better job than what you see in most Aikido on teaching the principle of relaxation. Systema is easily the most sophisticated art I have ever encountered in terms of their understanding of how the nervous system works and how the breath effects the whole structure of the mind and body. The Daito Ryu has far better, principle based instruction on how to use ones body correctly, how to execute technique with connection and power while being totally relaxed, than any Aikido training I have seen. It is quite easy to take what one learns from the Daito Ryu exercises and translate it back in to ones Aikido because the outer forms are so similar. It takes a bit more doing with the Systema principles simply because they have no set form in their practice, so you have to do the work yourself in figuring out how to apply what you learn  from their practice into your own.

TW: Do you have anything else you are working on?

GL: My Aikido has been changing at an almost exponential rate since the first Aik Expo in which I encountered some other arts and teachers who could explain to me what my teacher, Saotome Sensei had been doing all along but which I simply wasn’t getting without some additional assistance. Now it is just a matter of practice to get these principles into my body and mind so that they are the “Default” setting. I am starting to play with some “internal power” work, largely with some teachers who have been training with Dan Harden who is a fabulously talented teacher of these skills on the East Coast. While I have been able to train with him once in person, I am largely experiencing what he is teaching through other senior Aikido practitioners who are working with more frequently. I have found that, while it would take years of practice to really be accomplished at these skills, even a rudimentary exposure such as I have had, completely changes your Aikido and how you think about what you do wit your body. So between all of these things, I have a full plate in terms of what I need to be working on. I am never bored, that’s for sure.

The most important part of Aikido

August 3rd, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Words 4 Responses
The most important part of Aikido

A command I heard CONSTANTLY when I started Aikido training back in 1993 was one simple word – relax. I would try to do a technique and a senior student would stop me and say – “just relax”. Then I would exhale, try to release the tension in my shoulders and try again. Again I would be stopped and there’s that word again – “relax!”.

I didn’t have a lot of life skills at that time but one thing I thought I knew how to do well was to relax! Why was this so difficult?

Fast forward 17 years later to the present. I rarely tell people to relax. Well, I do but I don’t just use the word by itself. I’ve come to learn that that word “relax” – similar to the word “love” is a word that everyone thinks they understand but usually they don’t. There is so much meaning behind “relaxing” and it takes a long time to learn how to do it - and here’s the key point - in movement.

Koichi Tohei said “The only thing of true value [O-Sensei] taught was how to relax.”
(From Koichi Tohei interview in Aikido Journal)

At first glance this sounds like a put down but upon further reflection, what a powerful ability this is.To teach people how to relax…

So what does relaxing mean? A quick look at the dictionary reveals:

to make less tense, rigid, or firm; make lax: to relax the muscles.

It’s easy to imagine someone sitting on a couch with the back rounded, chin in his chest, eating some junk food. That is one example of being relaxed. But that’s not what we’re trying to develop through Aikido training. It’s easy to relax when everything is well in your world. Can you relax when someone is swinging a wooden sword at your head? How about when someone is trying to throw you? How about when someone is holding you and you want to move? Can you relax while moving?

To me, a more accurate way to describe the feeling of relaxation is using the minimum amount of strength necessary to accomplish a goal. I often hear people say “Aikido doesn’t use strength”. I disagree with this. Of course you use strength. How else can you move your body if you don’t use strength? The point is, you aren’t overdoing it. You’re not putting more muscle into than you need to.

I’ve been thrown by 10th dan Aikido masters and I’ve grappled with black belt Jiu-jitsu world champions. The feeling is THE SAME. They both don’t put any extra effort than what is needed. In Aikido we use a systematic approach to develop this relaxation. Jiu-jitsu does not systematically develop this, however the end result is the same (if you train correctly).

So thinking back on my first years of Aikido, I think it is not helpful to simply say “relax” to a new student. He has to constantly train, learn the movements and then refine his technique. Constantly accomplishing more by applying less strength.

Once you are past forty, you have the face you deserve

July 15th, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Words No Responses
Once you are past forty, you have the face you deserve

Thoughts and knowledge will go beyond the stage of only logical arguments, and gradually grow to intuitive ones, which enable them to be in realities. What we have thought and how we have learnt are all written in our faces, not in literature. It is to be desired that thoughts and knowledge will appear in every move we make.

Click HERE to read the rest of Seishiro Endo’s article.

The only one smiling.

July 9th, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Words No Responses
The only one smiling.

I forget where I read it but I came across an old martial arts magazine that included an article about a martial arts demonstration. Apparently a few different arts were shown all by different sensei including Judo, Aikido, Karate, and others. The writer stated – “Harry Ishisaka was the only one smiling.”

Harry was the founder of the OC Aikikai – the oldest Aikido school on the mainland – and was also Dan Kawakami’s main teacher. I think it’s an important part of the Aikido mindset that Ishisaka was showing as he smiled while performing the demo. I don’t say that to take anything away from the other arts. I have much respect for all martial arts. Simply stated, the attitude is what makes Aikido very different from other martial arts. Let’s face it, there are only so many ways to apply a wristlock or to throw someone. The mindset makes a big difference. One of O-Sensei’s famous sayings is:

Always practice Aikido in a vibrant and joyful manner.

Should this positive attitude only be taken up while doing Aikido? Clearly not. The real value of Aikido is taking the lessons learned in the dojo and applying them to our daily lives. Go forward and be vibrant and joyful!

Kawakami Sensei Seminar in South Carolina 2010

March 30th, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Kawakami sensei, Video No Responses
Kawakami Sensei Seminar in South Carolina 2010

Koretoshi Maruyama – Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai

March 23rd, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Words One Response
Koretoshi Maruyama – Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai

Maruyama Sensei was a direct student of O-sensei and also the highest ranking student under Koichi Tohei for many years. Seen as Tohei sensei’s right hand man, it was not surprising when Maruyama became president of the Ki Society upon Tohei’s retirement in 1990. Shortly thereafter, in 1991, Maruyama left the Ki Society and was out of the public light for 10 years. Where was he for those 10 years and what was he doing? These were just some of the questions I had for him. This interview was done about 5 years ago but sensei said some interesting things so I’m posting it again here.

Sensei, you have been involved in Aikido training for your whole life. How do you feel when you look back at your long years of training?

I think that the relationship between our mind and our words is very important.
If you say insulting things to someone, at the same time, you insult yourself.
Your emotions and thoughts are the same.
If you love somebody, they will respond in kind.
So I have no fighting mind to anyone.
I love all creation.
“Love all creation” This is the essence of my long years of Aikido training.

What is the most important lesson you learned from Tohei sensei?

Tohei Sensei taught me to “Relax completely at any moment in time.”

Teaching in Australia 2004

How did you continue your training after you left the Ki no Kenkyukai and before you started the Yuishinkai?

I confined myself to a Zen temple for religious training and I understood that the mind is all.
I am mind itself.
If I hold positive thoughts in my mind, Good things are likely to happen.
Holding negative thoughts in my mind, works against my best interest.

What do you think is the most important aspect(s) of Aikido training?

You will become strong completely when you have no fighting mind and love all creation because water will change form when it is poured into different vessels.
Water is very soft, but can become very strong as in the case of a tsunami.
It is same in aikido, You must relax completely and have no fighting mind when you practice Aikido Arts.
You must just think “Please have a cup of coffee” to your partner. Be welcoming, kind and friendly.
Your arts will work completely when you think like that.

What aspect of your training has given you the most difficulty?

I have no difficulty about my training.
I always say to myself that “I can, I can, I can” and “I have great success, great success, great success” Everyday, I say these things about one thousand times and I always feel my Seika-Tanden (Hara).
My “Ki” extends and my mind relaxes when I think “Seika-Tanden” and
I say the words, ‘I must be thankful.

Have you been exposed much to Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu? If so, has it affected your Aikido at all?

Unfortunately I do not know Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.
I am sorry.

A nikyo from down under

What is your view of cross training?

I think that the mountain does not laugh scornfully that the river is low.
The River does not abuse the mountain that it cannot move.
Each martial teaches good things.
But my view of cross training is “Kung fu” Chinese Martial art, especially “Tai Chi” and “Pa kua” because they relax completely and use “ki”.
I know a very nice martial art teacher of these arts in Canada named Mr. Kelly Yuen.

I suggest that you contact him for an interview if you have a chance. He has very strong and clear ”ki”.

What do you see in the future of Aikido?

Every river has a name.
However, these names disappear when they flow into the great ocean.
Aikido has many styles many names, but Aikido is Aikido.
It is my vision and hope that, like the rivers, they flow together and unite as one.

Explaining Aikido philosophy

You recently finished a world tour teaching in many countries around the world. Do you plan to continue traveling and teaching regularly?

I want to teach my vision and philosophy all over the world.
I like traveling and meeting people.
My International Chief Instructor is Michael Williams Sensei from Australia.  He assists me in realizing this goal of spreading the positive message of Aikido Yuishinkai. He arranges my seminar tours. He is a gentleman of good character and I value him highly.

Thank you very much and good luck.
Koretoshi Maruyama

For more information on Aikido Yuishinkai check out their website or their book & DVDs.

Lessons from a Ramen Shop

March 14th, 2010 by twistingwrists Categories: Words No Responses
Lessons from a Ramen Shop

It was a cold winter evening in Fukuoka, Japan and we had just finished Aikido training. Trying to think of something warm to eat, I immediately suggested that we go out for ramen. There are many kinds of ramen in Japan – shoyu, miso, milk, and as unbelievable as this sounds, there’s even ice cream ramen.

This can't be good.

Fukuoka is famous for “Hakata ramen” which has white soup made from pork bones. Locals rarely eat any other kind of ramen. Yes, Fukuokans are proud of their cuisine. There are small ramen shops all over the place and word travels fast as to which places are good and which ones to stay away from. For a fast and tasty meal ramen is the choice of many people, not just in Fukuoka, but all over Japan and the rest of Asia.

My friend Kei and her husband run a ramen shop so some of my friends from the dojo and I take a short train ride over to the shop. Our stomachs grumbled as we made our way down the narrow city streets. Finally we turned the last corner to find… it was closed. None of us could understand it, it was only 8:30 in the evening – prime time for ramen shops. Was Kei sick? Family problem? Disheartened and still hungry, we found someplace else to eat.

The next day I called up Kei to find out if everything was ok. The reason for the closure it turned out was that their supply of pork bones (a critical ingredient to make the soup) was not of as high quality as they usually were. So rather than serving sub-excellent ramen, they chose to close up shop for a week.

It impressed me that they would forgo a weeks worth of sales to protect their hard-earned reputation. I wonder how many other businesses would do that? For most business owners, it’s all about the sales. But what is the value of your reputation?

The following week I made it back to the dojo despite the train delays caused by snow. We made it to the ramen shop after class and it was better than ever. Maybe it was because it was so cold outside. Or maybe it was because we missed our ramen fix the week before. Nah, it was delicious because of the pork bones.

Steaming bowl of Hakata ramen