Author Archives: FastSlow



…Ki-kata and Tanren-ho…

In aiki keiko,  the most important things are practising ki-gata, and doing tanren-ho.   And Ki-gata absolutely have to be practised  [in a spirit of] shinken-shobu

- – - O’Sensei,  probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan,  published in Aiki-Shinzui, p.161

…”the basic exercises of ken and jo suburi”…

The Founder said that a weapon should be used as an extension of the body… To build this feeling, one should practice the basic exercises of ken and jo suburi, tai no henko, and kokyu dosa consistently.  A good understanding of these exercises will enable the practitioner to move smoothly and surely with or without a weapon.

- – - Morihiro Saito Shihan <in all likelihood>,  Traditional Aikido,  vol.2,  front inside flap.

Tanren-ho is part of a Way (3)…

 - – - by Shmuel Kahlke

Cutting practice,  suburi  (empty swing),  is central to the sword school of Mu-To Ryuu  (No-Sword School).  Tesshu-Sensei, who founded Mu-To Ryuu,  established the centrality of suburi with his students. This led to the school being nick-named the wood-cutting style 1). Tesshu-sensei was a master of several arts, most prominently the sword, spear, and calligraphy.  He was also a zen practitioner who is notable for being one of only a few documented persons to have passed away in meditation posture. The life, work, and accomplishments of such a person provide credence that there is something inherently beneficial to the practice of suburi,  if for no other reason than someone who is understoodto have become enlightened focused the attention of his students to the form. However, as the sword is practised in action and not through abstract conjecture the question is: after many years of performing suburi practice, what is gained?

Suburi is almost invariably the first practice a new student is presented with when they are first introduced to the sword.  The first, and most obvious, reason for this practice is that the sword does one thing – cut – and the student must be able to cut straight. Cutting straight is a skill and it comes with practice. And a correct grip. And correct timing. And correct posture. And correct coordination.

Only with practice composed of correct and mindful repetition does the capacity to cut straight become a possibility. At first the student’s mind focuses on one or another aspect of the components of cutting. The student’s mind is occupied with a focus on this or that aspect of the sword. They are trying to learn and understand the mechanics of holding and moving with the sword in a coordinated way. With time the student is able to move more comfortably and transitions from focusing on the gross motor movements and begins paying attention to more subtle aspects. At this point, the physical toll also begins to ease as the student becomes accustomed to stepping back and forth and cutting. Once the student has reached this stage there is a fork in the road with two paths that can be taken.

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…in the dojo(98)…


O’Sensei no kuden: haragei

If it is not centered in your hara, your energy evaporates with [the flow of] time,  into “duration”.

- – – translated (and possibly paraphrased in translation) by Itsuo Tsuda, recorded by André Nocquet Shihan in his Hombu training diary, 1955-57. Published in Maître Morihei Ueshiba: présence et message  p.109

First Poem of 2015…

…from Jolene Starr

The word: Fuselage

We walked around the fuselage
This inspection, the second time in one day mandated
by the unusual circumstances

I with my handsome, lean, sandy-haired instructor
He about 25, me just 19
Flying low over California rice fields
laughing and joking, my first tail-dragger lesson

A loud CRAAACK, like a gunshot
(or at least that’s what I imagined)
Then sparks and smoke pouring from the engine
streaming past the cockpit window

Emergency landing, I said firmly,
with just a hint of question in my voice
Yep, he replied, exuding calm confidence,
like any pilot worth his wings

I glanced around, I’ll set her down there,
I said gesturing toward a dirt path
that ran between two rice fields
looks good to me, he said.

I lined her up perfectly, but a little too high
Here, he said, I’ll just take the controls for a minute
We need to slip down a little

Applying left rudder and right aileron expertly
we dropped rapidly,
like a goose coming in for a landing on a placid lake

She’s all yours, he said.

I landed hard, bumped and came down
a little more gently for the “second landing”
Off-center on the rough dirt path,
rutted and over gown with weeds

We veered sharply to the left off my impromptu runway
Made a tight circle,
the cockpit window on my side,
nearly brushing the left-over rice stubble,
bumping over rutted earth

I gulped a big breath,
waiting for the plane to turn over
roll-over into an early grave,
sure that the wings would be snapped off.

Then we were upright, intact,
nothing damaged at all
(other than whatever was making
the immense amount of smoke that had forced the landing)

He clambered out, I followed immediately
Then we stood together,
a respectful distance from our ailing craft,
waiting for an explosion that never came

Good landing, he said,
ever the supportive, upbeat instructor
Yep, I said. Any landing
we can walk away from is a good landing

The smoke died down, she stood there calmly, waiting
We approached cautiously,
examining, what was wrong,
why had we been forced into this desolate rice field?

A simple matter of integrity, a broken bolt, snapped off
The engine cowling loose, temporarily flapping in the wind
Metal on metal creating sparks and smoke
not a true emergency, but then, who knew?

We walked around the fuselage, inspecting
Had anything been damaged in the rough landing?
No, everything else was fine

We got back in the plane
I started the engine, applied a good amount of throttle
(she needed energy to climb over that rutted ground)

I guided her back onto our dirt path
We took off, flying into the still, hot California air
Shaken. But what an adventure. Something to tell

The folks back home,
and decades later, my grandchildren.

- See more at:

Rebeca’s latest CD, Mostecelo, is…

mostecelo2 here …and a preview of the upcoming here!

A change of optic:

Aikido is a gem of many facets – sometimes it seems that every one of O’Sensei’s students remembered a different teacher, and of course, many, many different styles have been preserved and developed – but here is one facet that clicked into focus for me recently:

what if O’Sensei spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo coherently pursuing what he felt to be his “mission in life”?…

what if he spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo creating and nurturing a network of dojos run by Omoto-Kyo, ex-Omoto-Kyo and Ko-Shinto believers ( hand-picked deshi,  some of them raised, almost, as members of his family) – - – and ex-Kamikaze pilots, too (!) – often with his own name on the sign -  in places – and close to shrines…

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…peace pole!!!…