Category Archives: Keiko

…on sword movement and tai-jutsu…

The term riai means, literally,   a blending of [ movements of the mind].  By understanding Aikido through riai, one sees that the taijutsu techniques were developed from movements using the sword. Therefore training with the sword will develop taijutsu techniques.

The Founder said that a weapon should be used as an extension of your body [ – and of your ki-body, thus defining your ki-envel0pe]. However he stressed that one should not develop a dependence upon [actually having] a particular weapon. To build [this way of using your ki (kimochi)] one should practice the basic exercises of ken and jo suburi, tai no henko, and kokyu dosa consistently. A good understanding of these basic exercises will enable the practitioner to move smoothly and surely with or without weapons.

– – – Morihiro Saito Shihan (presumably),  inside front flap of Traditional Aikido vol. 1

Shinken Shobu…

…once you have gotten to a certain degree of relaxation and ki-flow, then you become aware that, when you pick up a live blade, the attention that you give that blade is a very particular  ki-flow, and imagining that live blade as your spine or central channel creates that same ki-flow and is actually an aid to relaxing the other two center channels.  Te-gatana is this same ki. And always practising as if you had a live blade is about this same ki-energy in this same place.  Aiki-myo-kenAme-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi…the sword that


found in the tail of the eight-headed dragon…the purifying jo of the esoteric Kuki priests of the Kumano shrines… Samadhi… the Dragon King….

A beautiful piece of calligraphy…

……brushed some thirty years ago by the Reverend Koichi Barrish Sensei of Tsubaki America Grand Shrine…AIKIGOSHINDENCROP

…”Aiki go-Shinden” (Sacred main hall of Aiki)…we have recently mounted on a hanging scroll, and it hangs high and center and very visible as you enter the Komyozan Dojo…


Thank you, Reverend  Barrish !!!aikigoshinden1CROP

Gozo Shioda Shihan on Kokyu… combining a certain state of mind and rhythm with focused power, what you get is kokyu power.

What I mean precisely by “state of mind” is that you have to achieve a state of emptiness, or nothingness….then you will start to have complete faith in yourself and you will achieve a state of serenity.

Once this happens, you will be able to read the movements of your opponent’s mind. You  won’t perceive how he is going to advance in your head, you’ll sense it in your skin. It will be as if the so-called “mind’s eye” or sixth sense is at work.

– – – Gozo Shioda Shihan,  Aiki Shugyo  p. 92

…dojo porch and notice-board…


Tamura Nobuyoshi Shihan on the varieties of keiko…

It is possible to train alone, with a single partner, or with several….


When you are alone, all you need is a little time and a little space. One way of practising is discussed above 1).   It is also possible to practise breathing exercises linked to aikido movements,  or suburi,  or  tanren-uchi.  In a forest, you can use the trees as partners. Experiment….


This is the standard training in a dojo. The teacher offers a model [waza], and the practitioners repeat it as many times as they wish. Here we will attempt a more precise analysis of this kind of training:


Practitioners of all skill-levels alternate in repeating the technique offered by the teacher.


This is a way to practise with a more advanced partner, or with the teacher. Let us take as examples ryote-dori-tenchi-nage or the way of positioning yourself for a koshi-nage. The student will start the technique, stopping it just before the throw, and will repeat it right
and left without interruption until she/he runs out of breath. The role of the teacher in this case is to allow the student to become more supple, and to develop precision and speed in their movements.

The a-fore-going method offers the following advantages:

  • it helps the student make technical progress
  • it improves the student’s breathing
  • it improves the student’s bodily movements
  • it improves the student’s balance
  • it settles ki into the seika-tanden
  • it develops kokyu-ryoku


Another form of training by which the more advanced student helps the less advanced student make progress. When the less advanced student uses ineffective or disorganized force, the more advanced student, without blocking, nullifies the effects of that force and simply doesn’t fall. This method aims to correct mistakes and weak-points in a  benevolent fashion. When the technique is performed satisfactorily, then all you have to do is fall naturally, in a way that allows a good extension and a relaxed manner, and the possibility of enjoying the experience. If you fall well, you create the conditions for better
understanding and in this way contribute to your partner’s  development. And in no case should you practise with a less advanced practitioner in a way that overwhelms them with your strength or knowledge – otherwise you risk stifling in them the germs of progress.
Students and kohai are a mirror to us. All our faults and weak-points are to be found in their movements, too.  So it is of the greatest importance to pay the greatest attention and correct yourself.

The less advanced students should accept the advice of the more advanced, in order to correct their technique and improve themselves. The teacher’s and the sempai‘s responsibility is to awaken in beginners a spirit of open-mindedness that is not an a priori critical attitude.


This form is practised amongst people of an equivalent physical and technical capacity. You have to be careful to avoid reciprocal over-compliance, frivolity, and constant obstructionism. In this  company it’s best that you study techniques that are taught less often, or are difficult, or, of course, those that pose problems in execution.


Practitioners at the same level take turns to attack without interruption a single practitioner who repeats over and over the technique that is being studied. As there are several uke, they will [maintain their precision and strength], which gives this way of training three additional advantages over those that are listed under uchikomi-geiko:

  • development of kiryoku (will-power),
  • good exercise for your visual perception,
  • refinement of all the senses.


As its name indicates (jyuu = freedom), jyuu-geiko means to train freely: choose the area of study, work at it, and investigate.  Jyuu-waza means free technique:  in other words you look for the technical form which best responds to a given attack, or even makes that attack impossible. This kind of training places a focus on freedom of movement. There is a
common confusion between jyuu-geiko and jyuu-waza, but it is a good idea to distinguish between the two.


Sometimes it happens that you are physically unable to train – which doesn’t mean to say that it’s impossible to do any work. You can study and make use of these times by watching class: paying attention to both the physical and mental aspect of techniques. You should make use of the distance that comes from being an observer to grasp things that are
difficult to perceive when you are physically involved.


You train in the dojo while imagining a real-life situation – but the dojo has its limitations. So it is useful to get out of the dojo to practise outdoors and to habituate the eyes, feet, hands and body to a different space. Of course, it’s probably unnecessary to point out that nature, as opposed to tatami, has some unevenness! There are hollows, and
protuberances, some kinds of ground are more slippery than others, such as mud or ice, and still others, such as wet sand or clay, stick to your feet. Thick vegetation can hide obstacles. And you must be careful of hard ground – such as rock, concrete or sharp, broken rubble – on which it is easy to injure yourself.

And so you must work at adapting your way of walking, taking small steps and sliding your feet lightly across the ground. The direction of the slope, where the sun is in the sky, which way the wind is blowing,  shadow and light, darkness, the surrounding vegetation, trees,  branches, thickets are all so many elements to take into account when determining the advantageous position in relation to an adversary. To only take the example of your ukemi, you must think deeply and experiment in order to adapt them to working outdoors.

The choice of weapon should be appropriate to the environment and you must get used to thinking about the criteria that guide this choice. This is why, if you have the time or the space necessary, it is desirable to train outside, in nature, where, unlike in the dojo, you can breath, in the middle of open space, fresh, pure air and in sunlight. This is an exercise that is pleasant, and good for the body. You become impregnated with the ki of earth and sky, which enables a full and relaxed way of practising.

We should go train in beautiful woodlands, next to beautiful, tall trees, and we will all be filled with a vigorous ki!!!  Nature affords many possibilities for working alone: ken suburi or jo suburi, tanren uchi… You can also practise kumitachi more freely than inside a dojo. There is also night training, outside in nature, by the light of the full moon – or by the light of the new moon!  Let us remember that the Bugei-ju-happan (the 18 branches of the art of war) also included swimming, which allows us to think about training variations that involve an aquatic milieu.

And in conclusion, let’s add that practice varies according to the season. You strengthen the body and the spirit at the hottest time of summer (shochu-geiko) or at the coldest time of winter (kan-geiko).

Etsunen-geiko is the method that is practised at the change of the year. Taking advantage of the holiday season, we all live together [for a week or so] during the time that we do gasshuku-geiko.

1)  …the practice of aikido is a shugyo of every moment, which is as much as to say that you should perceive your everyday activities as the study and application of the principles of aikido. There is no point in trying to be complicated about this: it is enough to relax your shoulders, keep your ki in your seika tanden, and have a correct attitude….You can
practise at meal-times, walking, working, in the shower…Even sleeping. If your position and breathing are correct, you can’t NOT sleep well.

– – – Tamura Nobuyoshi Shihan, Aikido, étiquette et transmission  pp. 54, 58-63

Aikido in the park (3)…

Andre Nocquet Shihan’s first student: the Seven Levels…

…of Shobu Aiki:

Let us recall that the Aiki-Budo created by Morihei Ueshiba can offer several different levels of approach, which depend on the level of consciousness and education of the practitioner.

  • The first approach, the simplest, is associated with the notion of self-defence. This approach, taken as a touchstone, keeps the practitioner who devotes themself to it on a narrow path where all that counts is the number of techniques and their application through muscular strength. This way of thinking corresponds to ‘Aiki-jujutsu‘ .
  • The second presents the moral and psychological aspect. It is linked to the idea of fairness, justice, and to the practice of a ‘sport’
  • The third way of approaching this centers on the  therapeutic aspect, and pays attention to the physical maintenance of the body, and to the well-being which arises from the absence of stress.  The emphasis can sometimes be on a playful practice.
  •  The fourth, which is hermetic, is based on a philosophical way of thinking about the art,  which requires a study of all the symbolism which comes with it.
  • The fifth way of thinking about the art, which is cosmological, opens the practitioner up to mythical dimensions of space-time.
  • The sixth, which we will call transmutatory, aims to purify one’s being through various procedures. This is the approach that embodies the concept of “Sumikiri“,  the true Budo of metamorphosis. By the mental visualization of the psychic elements imprisoned in the substance of the physical body, it spiritualizes the acts and gestures of the practitioner. This way of approaching the art, which is the authentic way, is that of ‘Ars Laboriosa Convertens Humiditate Ignea Metalla In Aurum: the laborious art which converts – through fiery humidity – metals into gold.’ This aspect corresponds to the stage associated with this art that consists of lifting up the four corners of a square.
  • The seventh state – of a spiritual nature, linked to Perseverance, allows the practitioner to become fully realized, and in particular allows ‘the Gift’.  Fruit of the final exhaustion of logical contradictions, associated with the state of awakenedness and with a long and complicated – and heroic – journey through life, in the course of which all the energies have been mobilized through endless, innumerable wanderings, it allows – and renders the practitioner capable of – Benevolence, true Play, Abiding at the Center and in ‘Not-Doing’. It is the reason why Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei affirmed that: “The goal of Budo is Friendship. Practise in such a way that your spirit harmonizes with everything that lives on this Earth.”

As we become aware of the many different levels of consciousness by means of which we can approach our Art, we understand better why ALL GRADING IS ILLUSORY.  In order to be a good thing, a grade has to be not an evaluation of knowledge or of competence, but purely the gift and acceptance of responsibility. If one is endlessly evolving and seeking awareness, then it would be an objectification of oneself  TO STOP ONE’S MIND AT A PARTICULAR GRADE, AND TO RULE OUT ONE’S FURTHER DEVELOPMENT in order to conform to something one believes is the way of being at this particular grade.

– – – Shobu Aïki:  la victoire selon l’art chevaleresque de Morihei Ueshiba   J.-D Cauhépé and A. Kuang, pp. 37-8

…in the dojo(137)….MUSUBI!!!…


Morihiro Saito Shihan’s Four Levels – and O’Sensei’s…

The schema of seven levels of aikido outlined by André Nocquet Shihan’s first student,  in a book published soon after Nocquet’s death, and with full access to Nocquet’s archives and papers, almost certainly goes back to conversations in Iwama and Tokyo, 1955-58, during the time that Nocquet was one of a very small group of  uchideshi – the lone uchideshi, in fact, when he first arrived.

Aside from level 2, which clearly reflects discussion about Tomiki’s university-based approach, starting in Manchuria, the schema matches up well with Morihiro Saito Shihan’s schema of four levels of waza – as taught by O’Sensei – which are outlined in some detail in Traditional Aikido vol. 5.   Furthermore:  the nomenclature implies that these four levels are actually the training of four different  a s p e c t s  of the body, something that O’Sensei discusses in Takemusu Aiki.

As Morihiro Saito Shihan reported, in an early Aikido Journal interview: at Iwama in the late forties and early fifties, “O’Sensei taught us two, three or four levels of techniques. He would begin with kata, then one level after another, and finally it became just so…”

Nocquet’s level 1 is Saito Shihan’s kotai-geiko (the foundational training to the marrow of the hard body – one might even say:  ‘stiff-bodied training’)

Nocquet’s Level 3,  with its ‘absence of stress’,  corresponds to Saito Shihan’s jutai-geiko (training of the soft, gentle, even “willow-like” body – this is the same kanji used in the compound: “judo” – and, old school, it is read as yawara).  In practice, emphasis is laid on relaxing the upper body, on moving before contact is made and changing the angle of the hand, unbalancing uke, finding the correct angle and ma, and twisting the koshi.  Over time, of course, a greater degree of relaxation unblocks the ki-meridians, which is both mentally and physically therapeutic.

Level 5 corresponds to Saito Shihan’s ryutai-geiko (training of the flowing body – this is both blood-flow and ki-flow).   The emphasis is on leading uke‘s ki, which involves facility in achieving mushin – which allows one to perceive and function in the real moment,  to be in katsuhayabi,  and eventually to sense uke‘s  initial impulse in their mind.

Level 6  corresponds to Saito Shihan’s kitai-geiko (literally: training  of the ki-body,  the aura) – with a deepening understanding of in-yo-ho and of the multiple meanings of shikaku (also referred to as  sumikiri).

It’s worth saying that in the Vajrayana (and thus Shingon and Omoto-Kyo) view of things, one has further bodies, each one progressively larger in size, and more delicate of perception: next after the aura, would be the causal body, and after that, the etheric body (shin-tai) which O’Sensei does from time to time refer to, and which would be the body at play in…

…Level 7, which presents aikido as a way of attaining the tao, as described by Miyamoto Musashi in ‘The Scroll of Emptiness’.