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Thread: Interview: Saito Morihiro (hanmi, hiotemi, exotic pins, & weapons)

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    Default Interview: Saito Morihiro (hanmi, hiotemi, exotic pins, & weapons)

    As some may know, Stanley Pranin, over at Aikido Journal is doing an enormous data dump. Hitherto unseen films of Daito-ryu and early aikido practitioners, such as Tomiki, Shirata, and Hirai are now online. I strongly urge any and everyone to buy a subscription (quite cheap) for the members-only content and also to support Stan's invaluable work.

    He's also been uploading pdf's of his old magazine. I recently read an interview with Saito Morihito, and he said the following:
    After the war when he resumed practicing at Iwama, his aikido had changed dramatically, although it had been influenced by Daito-ryu. I think the most distinctive differences between aikido and Daito-ryu are as follows:
    Aikido can be taught from hanmi, but Daito-ryu cannot because hanmi is not considered to be the basis of Daito-ryu. In Daito-ryu kokyuho is not clearly taught. Although Daito-ryu has many tewaza (hand techniques) in it, many of the body movements are in opposition to the opponent's movments. Daito-ryu does not include the theory of the unity of the sword, jo and taijutsu.. . . In addition, there were a number of techniques in Daito-ryu which were not particularly effective against an opponent who had been even slightly trained in martial arts. So although there may have been a large number of techniques, many of them were not particularly effective.
    I posted this here, because I think that, as opposed to Aikiweb (which is down anyway), there are more readers who are actually actively engaged in orthodox Daito-ryu practice, in one or the other faction. I have no idea, either, if Saito ever saw Daito-ryu, which faction he might have seen, or if this is merely him passing on what Ueshiba himself said.Now, a caveat: it would be silly to waste time about being insulted here, or coming back with the flaws in aikido. That's not my point in posting. Rather, I'm curious about:
    1. The question of hanmi - I've been told that the Kodokai does not use hanmi as their baseline stance and that Horikawa stated it is because Daito-ryu has it's roots in gagaku (archaic dance). Is this even true of the Kodokai? Much less other Daito-ryu groups? I'm curious, because I do not particularly like hanmi because it twists the hip too far behind - as opposed to hitoemi where the twist is not so radical.
    2. I'm aware that DR practitioners would assert that aikidoka's kokyuho is lacking a clear differentiation of aikisage and aikiage. It's unclear what Saito meant here - perhaps an Iwama old-timer has an idea?
    3. The unity of weaponry - hmmm. Depends on the faction, doesn't it?
    4. I am curious about what DR practitioners think of the more "archane" elaborate waza - what IS their purpose?

    In hopes of a professional discussion.

    Best
    Ellis Amdur

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    Ellis can you define your hanmi and hitoemi stances a bit further please, to me hitoemi is absolutely side on, with the hips in line with the attack... for instance the right hip facing the opponent and the left hip directly behind the right on the line to the opponent. Hanmi on the other hand is usually defined as somewhere between hitoemi and the hips on a 90 degree angle to the opponent... ie both equidistant from him. I'm having a hard time picturing the hips turning further than hitoemi unless we are aiming our butts at the opponent.

    Kim.

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    Kim - Actually, I've thought of it in "reverse." To me, hanmi has the front heel and back heel lined up. An "L" stance. The way I've understood Hitoemi is that there is a fist's width between the line of the two heels. "| _"

    So it is not as radical a twist of the body. If I am mistaken in terminology - I stand corrected (with my heels one fist's width apart).

    Ellis

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    No mistake should be assumed Ellis, definitions aren't "written in the stars" which is why we should always ask. My usage of the terms is indeed the reverse of yours but our jodo instructors talk about "hanmi" (hitoemi) and "ya ya hanmi" which causes some folks in another line to giggle as they talk about "hitoemi" and "hanmi".

    The Aikido L-stance and often T-stance can be fetishized like any stance. The correct stance is always going to be the one that works (for us), and we're going to twitch our hips into that one as soon as contact with the opponent is made, regardless of how we're standing just before that. Watching my teacher's teacher carefully many years ago I noticed that he started in the nice aiki stance, but finished his throws with a good square kendo stance as he cut across the line of movement of his opponent and threw them body-lengths away from himself. His hips were alive, his back foot was not the "boat-anchor" I see on so many beginners who are fascinated with the idea that a stance is somehow all-important.

    I like the Gorin no Sho take on stances. "THERE ARE NO STANCES... here are the five stances of my school".

    Kim.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    As some may know, Stanley Pranin, over at Aikido Journal is doing an enormous data dump. Hitherto unseen films of Daito-ryu and early aikido practitioners, such as Tomiki, Shirata, and Hirai are now online. I strongly urge any and everyone to buy a subscription (quite cheap) for the members-only content and also to support Stan's invaluable work.

    He's also been uploading pdf's of his old magazine. I recently read an interview with Saito Morihito, and he said the following:


    I posted this here, because I think that, as opposed to Aikiweb (which is down anyway), there are more readers who are actually actively engaged in orthodox Daito-ryu practice, in one or the other faction. I have no idea, either, if Saito ever saw Daito-ryu, which faction he might have seen, or if this is merely him passing on what Ueshiba himself said.Now, a caveat: it would be silly to waste time about being insulted here, or coming back with the flaws in aikido. That's not my point in posting. Rather, I'm curious about:
    1. The question of hanmi - I've been told that the Kodokai does not use hanmi as their baseline stance and that Horikawa stated it is because Daito-ryu has it's roots in gagaku (archaic dance). Is this even true of the Kodokai? Much less other Daito-ryu groups? I'm curious, because I do not particularly like hanmi because it twists the hip too far behind - as opposed to hitoemi where the twist is not so radical.
    2. I'm aware that DR practitioners would assert that aikidoka's kokyuho is lacking a clear differentiation of aikisage and aikiage. It's unclear what Saito meant here - perhaps an Iwama old-timer has an idea?
    3. The unity of weaponry - hmmm. Depends on the faction, doesn't it?
    4. I am curious about what DR practitioners think of the more "archane" elaborate waza - what IS their purpose?

    In hopes of a professional discussion.

    Best
    Ellis Amdur
    Hello and happy new year to everybody.


    1. In Daitô-Ryû, people tend to use the ShinzenTai stance, no Kamae is used even though I do not think that assuming one is forbiden, but as far as I know no Hanmi in Daitô-Ryû.

    2. Kokyuho is what is called in DR Aikiage and Aikinage, there are both sitting and standing positions and the exercices seem to be quite similar. I once trained with Quentin Ball Sensei of the Hakohukai and they pratice a very deep and fascinating sound exercice from a sitting position called Kokyuho if memory serves. This is a very relaxing exercice, you basically expell deep and powerful sounds from your "belly" like a long roar (AAAAHHHHHHHHH). I know that I'm not very clear in my explanation, if someone from the Gloucester Dôjô can help me, that would be highly appreciated.

    3. It is said that DR derives from the sword and that practising DR and Kenjutsu is more than recommended. It seems like the Tai no Henko and the Sankaku Tobi also derive from Kenjutsu. Yes, it might depend on the faction and I guess this is also the same in Aikido. In any case learning some Kenjutsu can not damage your skills and might even improve them.

    4. Not really sure about the meaning of archane, my dictionnary shows something very funny without any possible relationship with the subject. Do you mean more "complicated" techniques? I think that in DR every technique, from the most basic one to the most extravagant one, must be understood and then unpacked. The philosophy is to be in a technical position to use a given technique against different kind of attacks. For instance, applying Ippon Dori against a straight punch or a grab attempt instead of a Shomen Uchi strike. Jûjutsu, once the basics are mastered, allows a great freedom of mind and technical applications. After all, we are all human beings not robots.
    Deception is one of Kenpo´s best technique.

    Väck ej björnen som sover


    Raphael Deutsch

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    Raff - Thanks for your reply. Everything you've written is very clear.

    By "archane," I meant the more unusual, elaborate techniques - what I sometimes call "human origami." There will be a number of steps, and uke, sooner - often later - ends up tied around themselves. In others, two or three people are tangled around each other.

    Best
    Ellis Amdur

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    Ellis,

    I guess you are talking about the Tasudori techniques included in the Gokajo set of techniques. Those techniques are indeed very wird and, I believe, something specific to Sokaku. I do not think that someone else, set aside Sagawa Sensei, was ever able to perform these techniques against non cooperatives Ukes. Of course, I might be wrong. In Transparent power, Sagawa Sensei states that Sokaku used to show some "flashy", impressive but still effective techniques to get people interested in studying the art.

    As for tying one's Uke, it seems to be a speciality of the Takumakai.

    Here is a short video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuYnTdqOkZA

    I really like those techniques, no handcuffs are needed!!!! I wonder what Nathan think about them. When Sokaku taught at the Asahi news Dôjô, the students were actually ensuring security of the Company against possible attacks from the outside. Once arrested, people must be handed over to the Police, I guess those techniques were designed for that matter: to control without injuries and, of course preventing them from escaping. Do not know if they were ever used though. Do you think this is a plausible explanation?
    Deception is one of Kenpo´s best technique.

    Väck ej björnen som sover


    Raphael Deutsch

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    Raff - Re the idea of restraint techniques specifically taught/created for the security service. That's a good idea.

    The only problem I have - technically - is that uke will not get into a lot of those positions without a relaxed, non-resisting style of response. What I mean is that once uke grabs and is "jammed," he is passive throughout the rest of the techniques - which are quite long.

    Honestly, (and I've written about this in HIPS), I sometimes have wondered if Takeda simply created (and was "recorded" - imitated, by assiduous students) these techniques while playing around, in a sense. That's why I use the term, "human origami." As in, "let's see what will happen if I fold this here, and twist this here."

    Perhaps some may recall a method of wrapping a prisoner's legs around a pole - Note #26B - the Grapevine - in Fairbairn and Sykes. That works (we've experimented with it) - but the person will only get in that position if forced at weapon-point.

    Best
    Ellis Amdur

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    Raff - Re the idea of restraint techniques specifically taught/created for the security service. That's a good idea.

    The only problem I have - technically - is that uke will not get into a lot of those positions without a relaxed, non-resisting style of response. What I mean is that once uke grabs and is "jammed," he is passive throughout the rest of the techniques - which are quite long.

    Honestly, (and I've written about this in HIPS), I sometimes have wondered if Takeda simply created (and was "recorded" - imitated, by assiduous students) these techniques while playing around, in a sense. That's why I use the term, "human origami." As in, "let's see what will happen if I fold this here, and twist this here."

    Perhaps some may recall a method of wrapping a prisoner's legs around a pole - Note #26B - the Grapevine - in Fairbairn and Sykes. That works (we've experimented with it) - but the person will only get in that position if forced at weapon-point.

    Best
    Ellis Amdur
    In terms of a study of how things turn and twist, I think it's not too bad. Other than that, it's a great show, and Takeda would have known about that kind of thing from his days with the acrobatic troupe, or so it seems to me...

    I don't know about the rest, except to say that the importance of the sword in Aikido is probably just as controversial as it is in Daito-ryu.

    Best,

    CHris

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    Raff - Re the idea of restraint techniques specifically taught/created for the security service. That's a good idea.

    The only problem I have - technically - is that uke will not get into a lot of those positions without a relaxed, non-resisting style of response. What I mean is that once uke grabs and is "jammed," he is passive throughout the rest of the techniques - which are quite long.

    Honestly, (and I've written about this in HIPS), I sometimes have wondered if Takeda simply created (and was "recorded" - imitated, by assiduous students) these techniques while playing around, in a sense. That's why I use the term, "human origami." As in, "let's see what will happen if I fold this here, and twist this here."

    Perhaps some may recall a method of wrapping a prisoner's legs around a pole - Note #26B - the Grapevine - in Fairbairn and Sykes. That works (we've experimented with it) - but the person will only get in that position if forced at weapon-point.

    Best
    Ellis Amdur
    Ellis,

    You are right, the techniques last far too long and would be extremely hard to apply on someone unwilling to get caught. May be those techniques can be used or were supposed to be used in teamwork (in a SWAT-like fashion), with 2, 3 or even more people involved? That would make more sense. On duty and whatever the situation, we are never less than 2 officers when it comes to restrain somebody. Anyway, this must be funny to practice (at least for Tori).

    I agree with your theory about Sokaku being "creative" and somehow having fun with people while teaching. He probably did this more than often in his career. It is obvious that Tasudori techniques are more imitations of Sokaku's skills than techniques which can be mastered through assiduous training.

    My 2 cents
    Deception is one of Kenpo´s best technique.

    Väck ej björnen som sover


    Raphael Deutsch

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    [Post deleted by user]
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 14th June 2014 at 05:05.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Nathan - thanks for your answer - complete as it is (and mostly one that I'm in agreement with). If nothing else, the clarification of the definition of hitoemi is helpful to me, small a point as it is. I've been using the term incorrectly.

    Having primarily trained in koryu, there is a legitimate debate on how many kata are necessary. The arts that I've trained in are rather parsimonious - and variant techniques are inclosed in counters and variations within the kata. Thinking of Kiraku-ryu, an art that is closely related to Isezaki Araki-ryu, the latter has five kusarigama kata - and in my opinion, that is fully sufficient. Kiraku-ryu has, if I recall correctly, either 35 or 50. (The other number, whichever, is the number of bojutsu kata). From my experience as both a practitioner and teacher, one can get lost in too many details and sequences.

    One thing, however:
    Over the years I've come to believe that Aikido and Daito-ryu are not so different, as much as that Aikido emphasizes certain teachings over others, for any number or possible reasons. I think comparing the differences between Aikido and Daito-ryu is basically a waste of time.
    I posted the Saito comment to engender discussion - not that I agree with it. And NOT to cause problems, either. If one, like Saito, claims - even implicitly - that one art is superior to the other, that's not an interesting discussion (though it can be an interesting discussion in situ). But a comparison of what people DO and what effect such training may have - is very interesting.

    I've always thought the Yoshinkan hanmi, for example, locks people in too rigidly, although it certainly is stable in some positions. And I've always been intrigued/amused that Shioda, as soon as he starts moving, looks a lot like fierce Kodokai - and he's not in hanmi whatsoever. (I recently read an interview with a high-ranking Takumakai guy who stated that Takumakai, in essence and Yoshinkan were doing the "same thing." and he wasn't making the 'liberal' - "we're all one" kind of statement - he was emphasizing that Shioda, having trained at much the same period of Hisa, from the same teacher, was essentially doing the same art).

    So, comparison as politics - agreed - useless.
    Technical comparison, with an aim towards effectiveness (and defining effectiveness - I think that can be very productive indeed.

    Best
    Ellis

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    Hello Ellis, Nathan et al,

    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    Technical comparison, with an aim towards effectiveness (and defining effectiveness - I think that can be very productive indeed.
    I think effectiveness is almost as subjective as any other topic here. If you asked me about effectiveness two years ago I would have had one answer, 6 months ago another and today a very different answer from either. This is all based on what I have done or do for a living and as I change careers my budo requirements change too. I've come to the conclusion that everyone studies their budo for their own reasons. Someone like Nathan might have a very specific purpose and his measure of effectiveness will likely be very different from mine (at least some of the time, depending on what I am doing). I've recently been using what some people might consider "techniques, many of them were not particularly effective" with very good results. I guess you could say they aren't "human origami" but many one handed pins using aiki against people that were far stronger than they should have been. A few years ago effective was making the kata work in the dojo against both experienced guys and new guys coming in the door to train with us. Then it was being able to roll with BJJ and judo guys and hold my own while playing their game (not totally unbiased since I studied a lot of judo in my youth). For me I guess effective now is restraining and controlling a person without injuring them while they try to harm me, someone else or even self harm (the whole time being mindful what the state says I can and cannot do). It is in this new light that Daito-ryu makes so much sense to me and I have found it very effective. What I have found even more effective than any one waza is the kata method of training. The kata are like learning the basic scales and chord progressions on a guitar (or a ukulele in my case ) and when I have to use them it is like an improv. jazz piece, they just come together in sometimes unexpected ways. They have given me a certain amount of freedom I never really even realized I was lacking while doing a more "free" art like judo.

    As for the original 4 questions I think Nathan hit the nail on the head pretty good. 1. I don't know the difference between hanmi and hitoemi since my Japanese is poor and I've never really heard either term while training with Kondo sensei... although he mostly speaks English to us. 2. Not an Iwama guy so couldn't even guess. 3. If he means producing a lot of skilled kenjutsuka and jojutsuka right out of Daito-ryu then I'd agree. All of the skilled weapons guys I've met in Daito-ryu learned from outside the ryu (Itto-ryu, Jikishinkage-ryu, Muto-ryu and Shindo Muso-ryu seem to be the top ones) at the same time I've yet to see any aikidoka that were great swordsmen right out of aikido either. I don't think it is fair to expect Daito-ryu or aikido to produce such skilled swordsmen and jo-men. But I agree with Nathan, "Daito-ryu is hugely influenced by the techniques and principles of the sword." I think it is influenced by sumo too but that doesn't mean you'll make yokozuna by studying Daito-ryu. 4. "what IS their purpose?" the same as the basic less elaborate waza to pin, throw or control someone

    Best regards,
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

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    [Post deleted by user]
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 14th June 2014 at 05:05.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raff View Post
    As for tying one's Uke, it seems to be a speciality of the Takumakai.

    Here is a short video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuYnTdqOkZA
    Is this clip on Stan Pranin's DVD of the 50th anniversary embu and my DVD player keeps skipping past it?

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