WHAT IS AIKIDO?
Aikido is a Japanese martial art. The name is made up of three Kanji Japanese terms: Ai, to unite; Ki, energy; Do, path or way. Aikido is often translated into English as "The way of unifying (with) life energy." The term, Do, is a notable adage to a martial art name because it implies a philosophy to the art that one applies to everyday life, differentiating itself from the Japanese term Jutsu, system of techniques.
It is under this philosophy that makes Aikido more than just a series of physical techniques. Aikido emphasizes proper etiquette, attitude, and behavior. The founder felt that the Aikidoist should be united in mind, body, and spirit so that they may overcome an attacker while avoiding force on force violence. The Aikidoist channels an aggressive line of force into circular energy that redirects the attack into a safe direction, rendering the attacker helpless and removing physical harm from the situation.
"IN THE ART OF PEACE we never attack. An attack is proof that one is out of control. Never run away from any challenge, but do not try to suppress or control an opponent unnaturally. Let attackers come any way they like, and then blend with them. Never chase after opponents. Redirect each attack and get firmly behind it. "
Morihei Ueshiba, John Stevens (2010). “The Art of Peace”, p.147, Shambhala Publications
Aikido was created during the early 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba. He is commonly referred to as, "O'Sensei" or "Great Teacher." In his earlier years, Ueshiba dedicated himself towards proficiency in various Japanese martial arts. These arts included: Tenjin Shin'yo-Ryu, the art that inspired Judo, Yagyu Shinkage-Ryu, the most famous school of Japanese swordsmanship, and Yagyū Shingan-ryū, a battlefield art with a comprehensive curriculum of weapons and grappling techniques to use for both armored and unarmored combat.
O'Sensei and his wife, Hatsu, relocated in 1912 to the city of Hokkaido where he trained under, Sokaku Takeda, to learn Aiki-Jujutsu. As O'Senei became inherently proficient in Aiki-Jujutsu, he noticed his spiritual unrest had increasingly worsened. He began to see the pointlessness of a life built around inflicting pain and forceful victory over others. Upon his spiritual enlightenment, he decided to blend his technical mastery of multiple martial arts into a new martial art integrated with a philosophy that is fundamentally different from all those before it.
FOUNDER OF AIKIDO
WHAT IS IWAMA AIKIDO?
O'Sensei trained many students. Some students went on to open up their own dojos. Each student interpreted Aikido differently, creating different styles of Aikido.
O'Sensei retired to a small village called Iwama Japan. He soon built a dojo and sanctuary where spent his latest years perfecting his art and deepening his study of the Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo (Sword and Staff). He believed that close study of the Ken and Jo in Aikido was needed to master the unarmed techniques. It was in Iwama where O'Sensei used the name "Aikido" for the first time.
Throughout this entire period, O'Sensei had a student named Morihiro Saito Shihan (1928-2002). Saito Shihan became his longest, closest disciple, and received his blessing to become his technical successor and guardian of his Aiki-Shrine. From 1969 -2002, Saito Shihan Sensei was the Chief Instructor of O'Senei's dojo in Iwama, and shared O'Sensei's truest form of Aikido internationally. Morihiro Saito Shihan Sensei was the highest ranking Aikidoist in the world, 9th Dan.
MARK LARSON SENSEI
TAKUTO, 6th DAN
Photo by Bill Aquino - billaquinophoto.com
In 1992, Mark Larson Sensei, founder, and chief-instructor of the Minnesota Aiki Shuren dojo began his Aikido journey in Northern Japan at the Akita Aiki Shuren dojo under Shigeru Kawabe Shihan. Not long into his training, Mark was introduced to Chief Instructor Morihiro Saito Sensei, 9th Dan Aikikai, at the birthplace and hometown of Aikido.
Over the period of his 10 years stay in Japan, Larson spent 5 of those years in Iwama as an uchideshi (live-in-dojo student) under Saito Sensei during '93-'97 and '01-'02. In that time, Larson achieved the status of last “American Uchideshi” of Morihiro Saito Shihan. Larson also served as Saito Sensei's personal uke (receiving training partner) in Japan's foremost Aikido demonstration (Zennippon Aikido Embutaikai) in '94 and '96-'98. Then again in 2000, and 2001.
In 2001, Larson Sensei moved his family back to Akita, Japan, at the approval of, Saito Sensei, to assume the duties as Instructor of Akita Aiki Shuren dojo in honorary place of Kawabe Shihan Sensei due to his declining health. Prior to his relocation, Morihiro Saito Sensei held a private ceremony at the Iwama dojo to bestow Larson Sensei with a 5th Dan Iwama Ryu certification and the mokuroku/makimono (weapons catalog/handwritten scrolls). Larson Sensei was also bestowed with the menkyokaiden, the highest level of license that exists in the Aiki-ken and Aiki-Jo and greatest honor presented by Saito Sensei to only a handful of students. In July of 2002, Larson Sensei moved back to the great state of Minnesota where he opened an Aiki Shuren Dojo.
Photo by Cory Vore - CoryVorePhotography.com
RICHARD GILBERT SENSEI
CHIEF INSTRUCTOR - 4th DAN
Richard is the Chief Instructor at the Texas Niwa Aiki Shuren dojo and holds a 4th-degree black belt in Aikido (Yondan) from the World Aikido Federation (Aikikai) Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. He has practiced Aikido for over 30 years. In 2012, Richard Sensei joined Mark Larson Sensei in sharing the teachings of Iwama Aikido passed down by, Morihiro Saito Shihan, the technical successor of Morihei Ueshiba.
ASSISTANT INSTRUCTOR - 3rd DAN
Janice is an assistant instructor at the dojo and has practiced Aikido for 30 years.
Photo by Cory Vore - CoryVorePhotography.com