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November, 2005 Mailbag
Note: In the course of a month I get literally thousands of e-mail. I don't normally place correspondence in the "Mailbag" that are either labeled "personal" or contain information of a personal nature. As I read and answer mail, if I find a letter that I find interesting, amusing, topical or educational, it gets filed in my "mailbag" for future use in this feature. I try to edit out any personal information like addresses or telephone numbers, unless the writer specifically requests that I publish it.
I welcome all e-mail and will answer everyone in as timely a manner as possible. Don't be surprised if you find (or don't find) your message in this section. However, if you are concerned about your letter finding its way into the "Mailbag", simply include in the header or at the beginning of message "personal" and I will honor your request. GEM
I was very disappointed to have missed your Saturday class this week. I misread the directions on the website and took exit 30 and drove around for 45 minutes getting no closer to Newton. Can you believe that I spoke with three people, none of whom knew the location of Newton center? I have been there before but it's been awhile and I'm not known for my navigational ability. Are you still in the area? Is there any way I can arrange to have you comment on my kata? Saturday was 42 years and one month exactly since I first walked into your dojo and it would have been great to see you. Hope you're well. Thanks again for being a significant and positive person in my life.
Dear Mr. Mattson,
In my haste to place my order for a copy of "The Black Belt Test Guide", I misspelled your name in my request for an autograph. My sincerest apology for this oversight.
I hold the utmost respect and appreciation for you for bringing Uechi-ryu to the US and for keeping Master Uechi's tradition alive.
I have studied other systems of martial arts and have always found them lacking.
Thank you again,
Hello, my name is James D. McReynolds. I studied Uechi Ryu under my master Gary Jones out of Cash TX. I trained just around a year, maybe a little shy. In that time i managed to work to my green belt. In july 05 I rejoined the military and have since been depolyed to Iraq. My question to you is what would you do to continue your training if you were cut off from any instructors? There is only one other person that I know from my unit that studies martial arts and he studies Praying Mantis Kung Fu (which I intend to learn a bit of). Thank you for your time and I would appreciate any advice you would have for me.
Your Student in the Art
James D. McReynlds
Good luck with your tour of duty in Iraq. As a green belt, you should be able to practice your kata and I bet you could find someone who you could teach kyu kumite to and therefore have someone to practice with.
If you send me your address, I’ll send you a couple of dvd (or video tape—please specify) of Uechi-ryu techniques to help you with your practice.
Stay well and stay in touch.
Wow, I didn't expect you to get back to me so fast. Any instructional dvd will suffice, I have my laptop here. Before I left I was working on Seichin (?)...the 4th kata. I've been so busy these last couple of months, I'm excited to get started again. I guess if I'm going to instruct someone then I better know my stuff. If i could purchase from you Kyu Kumite, Kumite1, Go Kue (spelling?), and Dan Kumite. My address here is as follows :
McReynolds James D
APO AE 09391
Just let me know what I owe you for them, and thank you again.
James D. McReynolds
“Lifetime member of the VFW”
Hello sensai Mattson,
I remember.... You were a "Tiger"!!!! :) GEM
Thanks George and thanks for the inspiration as always.
I am looking forward to trying the FireDragon Test. BTW I thought all those who tested deserved acclolades for trying the test. Whether they passed or not. Their putting themselves in the spotlight, encourages others to try it, and that in turn strengthens Uechi-Ryu as a whole.
Thats for sure Ethan. Second challenge will be held at WinterFest. After that, Bill Glasheen will be focusing on the Challenge for dojo. I now have beautiful shoulder crests and lapel pin that will be awarded to all who qualify. I hope this challenge will become the physical fitness component for Uechi and other MA styles. Anyone interested in having their dojo using the FireDragon Challenge, please contact me. GEM
Searching for a Dojo or Instructor
Hello Mr. Mattson,
The dojo directory can be accessed from the Uechi home page. The Maryland database:
Sheldon Dunn: Baltimore Md. 21222: Phone # (410) 288-9028Fax# (410) 288-5255
I'll be teaching at the Hut this Saturday. If you can make it down for the class, I'd be happy to see you.
Good morning Mr. Mattson,
I'm sorry for any inconvenience this email may cause you but I hope you may be able to help me. Back in 1977 I began my study of Uechi-ryu with Sensei Bob Bethany at the Mattson academy in Brockton. I was in the Navy at the time and was able to progress to my brown belt before reassigned. I went on to study Kojosho here in New Mexico under Sensei Jack Diehl to eventually reach Nidan in his school. I have continued to practice Sanchin and Seisan. I have wanted to thank Sensei Bethany for many years but procrastination has got in my way till now. Would you have a mailing address or phone number that I may contact him at?
I apologize for any inconvenience.
I don’t have an email address, (Not sure if he is on the internet all that much) but his home phone number is:
Stay in touch and good luck with your training.
George, I am an old student of Brooks Bowen. (from 1995 to 2000). I moved away
in 2001 to southern New Hampshire from upstate New York (Petersburg, NY) and
I have been trying to find anyone in the area to practice with. I have had no
luck to date. Brooks told me to look up a teacher from Salem, NH and I apologize
I cannot remember his name. I could not find him. Please help me find someone
close to Manchester, New Hampshire. I need to practice again and I would really
appreciate your help. When I became Shodan my last name was Hohn. Thanking you
in advance for your assistance.
My name is Kaz, I met you in Ed Oakley class.
I also met you by Jim Loyd.
I am reading some times history of Uechi Ryu on web page.
I am lot of confuse.
I am sending to you two web pages where people are tolking about two different things, I beleve.
Kenpo style is from Japan.
Kempo style is from China.
Who is wrong?
If Sushiva teach Kempo, why Kenpo is involving in Uechi Ryu style.
Good to hear from you. The two words are the same. Japanese and Chinese words are based on how they sound. So you will often see the same names/words with different spellings.
We Uechi Ryu people are one family.
Yesterday I met colleague, who is doing Uechi Ryu.
He is taking private classis.
He spends lot of money.
Each time when he want take his rank he mast go to Australia for a test.
He is spending only for trip there $2500.
It is very sad.
People who take care of him, they want only his money.
Now he is in good hands.
I had very little conversation with him.
On Monday I will know more, is he registers in Okinawa.
I gave to him Ed Oakley business card.
Ed class is near to his house.
He is living in Exeter, Ed class is in Coventry.
I know Uechi style do not practice weaponry.
I saw Jim Loid in dojo Dr. Freeman class, he practiced a Bo.
In nova days something was change and Uechi style have some Kata with weaponry?
New colleague mentions me about that, he wants also study some weaponry.
Can you give me more information about weaponry?
NOVA SCOTIA TO THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
In an excellent example of the international spirit of the IUKF, the Highland dojo recently welcomed the visit of Gary Geddes from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to our group based in Dingwall, Scotland. Having originally met up with Gary at Summer camp some 11 years ago, I was pleased to be able to offer him the opportunity to see his ancestral home after visiting and working out with him previously in Nova Scotia.
In search of an external assessor of the quality of my two candidates for Shodan, I approached Gary after discussing the matter with George Mattson at last year’s WinterFest. The Dan test went well on September 1ST, (with me probably more relived than those being tested) and the two successful candidates were very pleased to have measured up to an international standard. Our group felt lucky to have the chance to train with someone who, bringing with him a different thread of influences relating to kata interpretation, acted as a wonderful ambassador for the IUKF by making the trip without payment while enacting the attitude of co-operation. For me, it was good for Gary and I to be able to have the opportunity to demonstrate our ideas on body mechanics which otherwise can only be shared through our regular telephone conversations.
Those who know Gary (he tells me he hasn’t missed a Summer camp) won’t be too surprised to hear that, after some confusion over flight times, I eventually located him in a pub. Unfortunately for him, we don’t have Moosehead Beer over here. Strangely for a displaced Scotsman, Gary was unable to find comfort in all of the wonderful malt whisky available to him; however, we did manage to take him to a range of beautiful places. Although we failed to spot the Loch Ness Monster on this occasion, we did manage to locate the village of Geddes. I don’t think that Gary has gotten over the shock of finding a location so small which has a place name. The after test celebratory barbeque included a piper (the son of one of my students) who started off the party which ended at breakfast.
It was good to be able to share what we have with someone who was willing to travel so far to give us the benefit of his experience and understanding. I think that his readiness to support our group, is an exemplar of how the work of the IUKF might support the activities of all members, and how they in turn, can support the aims of the IUKF.
Terry Donoghue. (Highland Dojo) IUKF Representative Scotland
I am pleased to announce that effective October 4, 2005; Sensei John Page has accepted the position of the New England IUKF Assistant Rules Arbitrator for all New England IUKF sanctioned tournaments and the New England Kids tournament series.
John has already been working with us as our legal advisor and counsel for the tournament series. John is by trade a seasoned lawyer, and an experienced sensei, who owns and operates his own Uechi dojo. John has been an active and supporting member of the IUKF and all its tournaments and events for a number of years.
I am very pleased that John has accepted this position, and I look forward to working with him in his new position.
Serious or a Joke?
Subject: I need a karate teacher for my son
My first impulse is to interpret this letter as a joke or spam.
In the small chance that the letter is serious, I’ll offer my advice:
If you son wanted to spend full time playing video games while under the
care of an adult you didn’t know, would you be writing this same type
of letter, looking for a “master of the games”?
My final word on the subject. . . Beware of cults! The martial art community has many that use the mystique of the art as a way to mask the true intent of their leaders. One of these organizations would jump at the chance to “take over” the education of your son.
George E. Mattson
ATTENTION ALL FIGHTERS ---
Waiting for your fifteen minutes of fame?
A new MTV show called 'Final Fu' is looking for fighters with personality to send in tape submissions. 'Final Fu' is, according to the show's Web site (www.finalfu.com), "an electrifying, competitive new series" that "will pit the best practitioners of their respective styles against one another in an arduous competition of challenges and ... point fighting."
The coordinators of the US Open, in partnership with the XMA, are encouraging all of its loyal supporters to try out for the show.
If you've ever wanted the opportunity to be on a nationally-broadcast television series, the opportunity is knocking!
You can fill out a form at www.finalfu.com, or you can follow these instructions to submit a VHS or Mini-DV audition:
- A headshot (if you have it)
**ALL TAPES MUST BE IN VHS (or Mini-DV) FORMAT ONLY!**
**Remember, we want to see your PERSONALITY!**
Address tapes to:
Final Fu Casting
This sounds like a great opportunity for all "word warriors"
to show us how it REALLY is done! GEM
I was shocked to hear from Mike McGee, of your sudden and terrible loss. Although I didn’t know Marilyn very well, even after spending only a few days with the two of you, I came to appreciate what a wonderful and sharing life the two of you had.
Words can’t describe how sorry I am over hearing about her passing.
Thank you very, very, very much for comforting words. I and looking for to seeing you for better day! I am O.K. I have to live the way my ex-wife wants to be as a martial artist---mental toughness before physical strengt. I will write a long letter as soon as everything settled. Scott
My name is Freddie Klies. I have been friends with Clarence a long time. Although we have not seen each other in many years, I thought he should know that we recently lost a dear friend. Please tell Clarence that Tony Molina passed away from a heart attack at his home this past Monday morning. He died in the hospital here in Waterbury, Connecticut. The wake is Wednesday evening November 9th from 4 to 7PM. The funeral is Thursday Vovenber 10th in Waterbury as well. Please give my e-mail address and/or e-mail me so I have his.
I wish this e-mail was under different circumstances.
All me best regards,
I’m just wondering when or if you are going to put Carmen DiRamio’s obituary on the memorial site. Carmen was a good teacher, a golden box champion, and he was loud when he taught. One of his nephews once mentioned that Carmen would go into bars and start a fight and beat people up, that is before starting his Uechi Ryu training. Forest once mentioned that they both went to Texas for a tournament. A 6’6” Texas giant was knocking out the competition by screaming at the top of his lungs and charging into the scared the fighter. It was Carmen’s turn up to spar this giant. Forest looked on with trepidation as the Texas giant screamed and charged Carmen. Carmen didn’t lose his cool, as the giant charged Carmen quickly threw a right reverse punch into the man’s jaw, and knocked him out. All the years that Carmen taught, he never offered any one a compliment, and he was hard on Italians until I came into the picture in 1970. One night, during the advance class, he tried to insult my nationality but it came out as a compliment, and he even stop and scratched his head. “What did I say?” he wondered aloud to himself as the class stopped, and broke down laughing because they realized the slight was a compliment. Carmen was a hard teacher but he had a heart of gold.
I posted the obit, but I still need a good picture. I have some in storage,
but it may take me a year to find it. GEM
My girl and I are interested in attending winter camp. Are there any applications to fill out? Can we stay off site? I train with Ken Schiff, and had the pleasure to meet and work at your summer camp.
Very easy to register Fred. Just click here... /WinterFest 2006
Subject: winterfest dates?
Hi Sensei Mattson,
Jason's Mom here.... trying to pin down February dates.... I don't see the dates of WInter Fest in this newsletter....did I miss them somewhere?? I'm not sure what the dates of WInter break are here...but Florida in February is MIGHT attractive to a family from Michigan! Can you please let us know what the dates are?
Thanks so much,
Just want to mention a couples of items:
1. I read on your mail bag that you are taking action to have Sensei Gushi to attend the next Summer Camp. If it hasn't been arranged yet, may be the best person to arrange/coordinate this is Joe Graciano. He is a good friend of mine and I can call him if you wish. By the way, if I didn't mention this already, I saw Mr Gushi about 2 years ago and he asked me to give you his regards.
2. I will be selling one of my domain names ( www.karate-lessons.com ) on e-bay. It is now linked to my www.selfdefense-lessons.com site. I just wonder if you would like to list it in your cyber-store to see if there are any interested buyers. It was appraised by www.allfordomains.com for $14,500 but I think it is way too high. I am thinking more or less around $2,000. If you are interested, you of course can take whatever your typical cut after it is sold. No problem at all if you prefer not to do it.
Yes Henry. Gushi sensei has agreed to be a presenter at the 2006 WinterFest. He is a wonderful person and a fantastic martial artist. I'm looking forward to working with him. GEM
Hello Sensei Mattson,
Lots has been written about this subject. I suggest you do a "search" for the term in our forums to read the many views. Generally, it is believed to NOT be the name of our style. GEM
Dear Mr. Mattson,
I sent the below e-mail to David Kahn at the Chicago Uechi Ryu Karate Club. Mr. Kahn suggested that I e-mail you as to suggestions on learning the Sanchin Kata from a DVD or video tape. Thank you for your time. I was really impressed by your book "The Way of Karate!" It made a lasting impression on me.! Thank you again!
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am looking for some information and I wonder if you can help me? Let me give you some background information first. I am 57, soon to be 58 years old. I have studied a few different martial arts over the last 40 years, Karate(Shotokan and Tae Kwon Do), and Aikido. I don't mean to infer that I am an expert at these arts. Total study time has probably been about 5 years out of the 40, so that's not what anyone would call diligent training. I have nevertheless had a lifelong fasination with the eastern martial arts.
The first Karate book I ever purchased was George Mattson's "The Way of Karate." I believe I purchased the book in 1971. I thought it was an excellent book and I tried to find somewhere close where I could take instruction. That was not to be, I just couldn't find anywhere close by. This leads me to my question.
I would like to learn the Sanchin Kata of Uechi Ryu Karate Do. Looking at the pictures in the book just doesn't help me. Can you provide me with some suggestions? I don't feel that I can go back to training on a general level due to some physical limitations. I have a bad ankle, and a bad foot on the other side. Kicking with any contact is out of the question. Therefore I thought that I would try to learn the Sanchin Kata but I don't want to learn it wrong. I considered a DVD that I saw on Amazon.com. It was "Uechi Ryu Karate's Kani Uechi." In it the Sanchin form is demonstrated. Would this be a good way to learn the Kata?
Any suggestions you could give me would be appreciated. Thank you.
Nothing replaces a good teacher Ognjan, but a good DVD or CD will provide
lots of insight into Uechi-ryu and hopefully motivate you to find a dojo in
your area. Check our store for lots of material covering the basics of Uechi.
Yes, on Okinawa. Tomoyose sensei and Toyoma sensei are the most prominent. GEM
I understand that there is a style called Ryuei Ryu being taught in Hollywood,Florida
under the leadership of Shihan Grant Campbell who is the only licensed American
to teach this rare art straight from Okinawa under the direct study of Nakaima
Sensei. It would mean alot to shed some information on this style and anything
else that your expertise can share with me on this.
You ask a difficult question. I don’t like to say anything that might be construed to be negative.
I’ve heard of Mr. Campbell and Mr. Nakaima, but know nothing of their style. When I studied on Okinawa during the 50s, there were only two schools of Shorin (one system), one school/system of Goju and one system of Uechi-ryu. Isshin-ryu was created by combining Goju-Shorin-Uechi-boxing by one of the Shimabuku brothers during my stay on Okinawa and became popular among the American servicemen stationed on Okinawa. Isshin also opened the door to “break-away” groups, as the All Okinawan Karate Federation eventually accepted Isshin-ryu as a legitimate “system” of Okinawan karate.
I was part of a number of meetings held on Okinawa, where this topic was discussed. Once the precident was established, a long list of “new” styles emerged, combining, modifying and all offering what the founders considered to be innovative and progressive.
I first heard the term “Ryuei-ryu” during the 90s, although from what I’ve read in Mr. Campbell’s website, the style was created earlier.
I’ve seen literally hundreds of “new” styles evolve over the past 50 years. Obviously you have probably witnessed the same kind of “development” of fighting methods happen since the advent of the UFC.
Styles and methods are just tools. How a teacher presents this information to a student and how a student uses these tools determine the value of these styles. What is good for you may not work for another.
Hope this helps…
Dear Sensei Mattson,
I am a student of Gary Khoury's and I have been trying to purchase a copy of Allen Moulton's excellent book and cannot find one available since it is out of print and Mr. Moulton passed on. Gary suggested that I drop you an email to see if you could locate one for me. Any possibility of finding one?
I have a couple of his first printings of that book. But I plan on hanging on to them. Like my books, his will eventually be fetching $500 - $1000. Perhaps someone will read this and will opt to sell theirs now. If so, grab it fast! GEM
Monthly Newsletter Feedback!
Please have Roger contact me. I'm sure he will enjoy the camp. GEM
Quotes or Poetry?
Subject: Re: Inquiry
October 31, 2005
To Whom It May Concern:
I have been a practitioner of budo spirit for a small number of years and during
my experience I have felt very blessed. On occcasion I have been inspired to
express my feelings in words. I have a small collection of self-written quotes
that I would like to share with others.
Thank you for time and consideration,
Blessings are peaceful,
Here are few of my quotes :
"The amount of eyes cast upon you are truly none but one."
"We can spend our whole life chasing a dream and catch a nightmare."
"Information is not bound by words or voice, but bound to the boundless."
"Accept the undesirable trait for it may be you. Reject the undesirable action for it may harm you."
Peace and Blessings,
Just contacting you to inform you of a change of club details and of a New Club Web Page for your directory.
Tel number is now 07914 581071 and the clubs Website is www.dojolist.com/benfleetkarate/
This is the first site the club as had and its still being worked on, i.e.
Done Dana. GEM
Whatever Happened To. . .
I am sure that you do not remember me, but I attended your academy on Hancock street in Boston in the late 70's and received my Shodan rank through Ed Huff in 1983. The reason for my note to you is that my nephew has been studying Tae-kwon-do for several years (he is 9) and recently got his "junior" black belt. I have always kept my personal opinion of this high-kicking art to myself as I was pleased that he had access to something rather than nothing. But now my Sister has concerns that her son (Jamie) is involved with a less than legitimate situation as well as a style that is not the greatest. She lives in Wellesley and would like Jamie to get Uechi-Ryu instruction, which of course I can heartily endorse. I live in Colorado Springs so researching this personally is a problem. I would appreciate a recommendation with regard to where Jamie can receive instruction somewhere in the vicinity of Wellesley, MA. My Sister has said that this is important enough to her for her to take Jamie as far as downtown Boston.
Best and Kindest regards,
Amazingly I do remember you! Good to hear from you and happy to help out your nephew.
I can highly recommend our IUKF dojo in Stow, MA. It is within driving distance of Wellesley and Sensei Pat Saunders is one of our best.
I'm copying her with this message so she can contact you with details.
Please stay in touch and don't forget to check out our forums on the Uechi-ryu.com website. (http://uechi-ryu.com)
Thanks so much for the reply. I will get this to my Sister right away. On another note, I remember my days at Mattson's as some of the best in my life. You have my eternal gratitude (attached find the original coupon that gained me admittance to your Dojo).
PS Where did Bob Campbell end up?
Bob has been living, working and teaching in Hong Kong. Info enclosed.
Articles of Interest
Henry Ellis Co-author of Positive Aikido book www.EllisAikido.org www.geocities.com/BritishAikido
Is Aikido a Martial Art?
Sensei Henry Ellis - 2005
Co-author of Positive Aikido.
Henry Ellis a direct student of the legendary Budo master Kenshiro Abbe Sensei from 1957.
At first sight of the above title I am sure that a lot of Aikidoist's will be angry, they will assume that this is yet another attack on the credibility of Aikido by other martial artist's. On this occasion they are totally wrong, I have been a student of Aikido since 1957, In those early days I first started Judo in 1956 at the Kenshiro Abbe School of Budo, I studied Karate with Harada Sensei and Kendo with Tomio O'Tani Sensei, so with my background I feel that I have something to offer to this debate.
The Aikido that I first saw being demonstrated by Abbe Sensei in 1956 was without doubt a positive martial art. I was immediately impressed by its positive techniques and power, and in those days my fellow martial artists and I were in no doubt that we were witnessing a devastating new form of self-defence as demonstrated by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei. Abbe Sensei had begun his martial arts career at the age of five and became a legend in his own lifetime. At eighteen he was the youngest ever all Japan Judo champion and also the youngest ever 5th Dan at the world renowned Kodokan. He later became the oldest ever all Japan Judo champion at the age of thirty three.
When Abbe Sensei arrived in the UK in 1955 he was 8th Dan Judo, 6th Dan Karate, 6th Dan Kendo, 6th Dan Kyudo, 6th Dan Aikido, the question must be asked; would this Budo master have studied Aikido if he did not believe it to be a martial art?
It is my opinion that Abbe Sensei would not have studied Aikido as it is today.
Please break my finger
As a direct student of Abbe Sensei I asked one day whilst we were traveling to a seminar "Sensei, how did you first become a student of O'Sensei and Aikido"? He smiled as he reminisced for a few moments; then told me the following story:
He said that he was a young man at the time and the Judo champion of all Japan and traveling on a crowded train across Japan to yet another Judo competion. Sitting opposite him in the same carriage was an old man who was trying to make some conversation with him, Abbe had his eyes closed as he tried to sleep. The old man said to him " I know who you are" Abbe Sensei replied rather modestly " everyone knows who I am, I am Kenshiro Abbe champion of all Japan" he politely asked the old man who he was, the old man replied "I am Morihei Ueshiba founder of Aikido" Abbe Sensei nodded politely and suggested that they now try to get some sleep, the old man suddenly stuck his hand forward and offered the smallest digit to this powerfully built young man, Abbe was stunned as the old man said " please break my finger" Abbe thought I will break his neck if he doesn't go to sleep, he was now becoming irritated by this old man, he immediately grasped the old mans finger in an attempt to shut him up, he freely admitted that in his frustration it was his intention to break the offending digit. To his total amazement he was suddenly slammed onto the carriage floor. As he lay prostrate and unable to move he knew he had to study with this master. He asked O'Sensei if he could study with him, O'Sensei agreed and Abbe stayed with O'Sensei for ten years.
O'Sensei had spent many years studying various martial arts, I believe that the art of Daito-ryu and Ju-jitsu had more influence on the development of Aikido than anything else he had studied, and we know he went to Mongolia to fight and this would be the perfect opportunity to test his many skills in a real situation, so we can be in no doubt that this incredible man was a true warrior and modern Samurai.
A knife for my enemy
It was this early positive style of Aikido that Abbe Sensei brought to the UK in 1955, at this time there was also the first Japanese master to Europe, this was Tadashi Abe Sensei 6th Dan who was based in France, he was a small man even by Japanese standards, but to my mind he was the hardest man I have ever met.
I think we can safely assume that as these teachers were so hard and positive then this must have been the style of Aikido that was being taught at the Hombu dojo in Japan, this was the Aikido of O'Sensei as a young man, the Aikido being taught today is that of O'Sensei as an old man, there is no doubt that as people get older they lose the spirit of their youth and become more philosophical in their approach to life.
My father who was once regarded as the toughest man in town later in life found his peace taking his dog for long walks. I believe that we now have two aikido's, traditional aikido which if truly traditional (this word is much abused) is the martial side of Aikido, the soft fantasy and dancing style of Aikido should simply be categorized as an "Art".
Those who are true traditional Aikidoists will take no offence at this article, yet the dancers will probably be offended and I care little for their feelings as I honestly believe that this soft Aikido has no more right to call itself a martial art than has synchronized swimming has a right to be in the Olympics.
In my previous article, I attempted to establish the hard style of Aikido that was first introduced to the West in the 1950's. I would like to emphasize the fact that I get no satisfaction from publicly criticizing Aikido and I get a great deal less satisfaction when I see Aikido being brought into ridicule.
To continue from part one.....
The training in and exercises in those early days were very hard and physical, with karate style kicking and punching a very integral part of our warm up, followed by 200 press ups on the backs of the wrists, with fingers pointing both inwards and outwards, very often while you were in the raised position Abbe Sensei would instruct another student to sit on your back, as we were the only group of five Dan grades in the UK and all in the same dojo then this was the training in all the Aikido dojos in the UK and today we are the only organization in Aikido still doing these press ups.
The purists say "these press ups are bad for you" what they really mean is they can't do them, this is all part of the watering down of traditional Aikido.
Aikidoists are often accused of practicing " Choreographed Aikido" and to be honest I must admit that these claims are very often justified, with Uke (attacker) preparing to break fall long before he makes his attack, and most of them attack off balance , therefore making any multiples of techniques possible with the minimum of effort and of course this makes Tori (defender) look "fantastic".
What is really sad is that these people believe that this is good Aikido. Kenshiro Abbe Sensei would always say to us that "two" students are training at the same time, one is Uke who is learning and improving his attacking techniques and his opponent Tori is also learning and improving his defensive techniques, whilst we were training with Abbe Sensei if Uke's foot or heel came off the mat as he attacked Abbe Sensei would give the offending leg a good whack with a shinai (bamboo sword) he would then say " My English is very bad but my shinai speaks fluently!".
If Uke attacks on balance then it is obvious that Tori's technique must be good and strong to throw him, and as Abbe Sensei said so many times " two students are training" . Mark Eastman a strong young Dan grade with me went on a seminar recently where there was a 6th Dan. The 6th Dan refused to use him as Uke stating " I can not use you as you do not harmonize with me", he was not being awkward or difficult just attacking on balance.
Today all of these traditional exercises and training methods have now changed to a simple warm up routine with jumping up and down on the spot and lots of deep spiritual discussion. Hard exercise is now considered to be aggressive and not in harmony with the true spirit of Aikido.
Abbe Sensei said that hard training developed the spirit, he also referred to Ki during those early days as he demonstrated the power of his technique, when asked to explain the meaning of Ki, he said not to worry about Ki as that would be a part of our training and development.
He then said "Only when you reach first Dan will you be able to understand the true concept of Ki as a further extension of your Aikido." I still believe that line of thought, and the instructors in our dojo's very rarely speak of Ki although it is taught as a important and integral part of our training and study.
Although Ki is generally recognized as the spirit and breathing during the application of technique, every teacher and student will offer a very wide and varied and sometimes bizarre interpretation of the meaning of this much abused word. The main problems arise and are created by the teachers themselves, who very often mislead their students to the extent that they almost believe that Ki is a form of magic. The following is one prime example from a very prominent Aikido magazines letters section.
That poor child may well now be as disturbed as the writer.
Harry Potter Ryu
There are many such misguided examples which I will refer to in future articles, it is this kind of nonsense that brings Aikidos credibility into doubt I am fully aware that every martial art has its own version of " Harry Potter" in their ranks, what I fail to understand is that there are more of them in Aikido than all the other martial arts combined.
The reason that I am so critical and vociferous about Aikido is that every day I see these people watering down this great martial art that I have spent most of my life studying, teaching and promoting for the past 46 years. I am often asked "Sensei, which do you think is the best and worst martial art".
I always make the same reply " All the martial arts are good, if there is a problem with any martial art, then it can only be the people who represent that particular art who misrepresent their art
In articles parts one and two I have covered the introduction of Aikido to the West, and the impact on other Martial Artists, Aikido progressed and developed in the UK by visiting existing dojos of all the various Martial Arts and offering to demonstrate and teach for free in the hope of starting a small class in the more receptive dojos, as one can imagine this was no easy task as more often than not our efforts were not an open invitation to most dojos. In the end the positive style of the early Aikido won through, and this is a very important point to make in the early development of Western Aikido was that most of the new students of Aikido were from other Martial Arts. I do not believe that we could have converted other Martial Artists to Aikido had it not been so strong and effective.
I have referred to the many changes in Aikido over the past 46 years from its history to training and choreography and Ki Aikido and also the many Harry Potters of the Aikido world, as a direct result of these articles I was contacted by a Aikido student in the UK to tell me that she had now stopped training in Aikido because her teacher stated that he was now going to teach the students "To breath through their toes".
The most important of all the changes that have taken place in the past 46 years have to be the changes in technique and its application, the early style of Aikido was very compact and powerful. From the day of its introduction to the UK, Aikido was always taught as a circular moving Martial Art with Tori at the centre of all movement. As Uke (the attacker) made his attack, Tori would turn within his own circle making it possible to carry out the technique in a very small area of maybe four square feet. Today the fantasy aikidoist need a football pitch. I have seen some so called "masters" twirling Uke around on the end of one finger and pirouetting several times before being thrown the full length of the mat.
Kenshiro Abbe Sensei always taught that Uke would only "go" if the technique was effective. I often hear and have seen some of these people who say they can throw an opponent without touching them, sometimes by breathing and projecting their "Ki". I have also had the misfortune to see very high grades with several "*attackers*" :-) making a breakfalling attack at them, amusing? not really, as most of them really believe that the projectile uki is a serious attack. You cannot do that if someone is attacking on balance, I have never seen anyone do that to a student of mine. Of course if you do attack on balance you will then be accused of "Not harmonizing".
Aikido for real
I have read various accounts of the first Americans to practice Aikido in the early 60's. There were Americans practicing Aikido in the UK in the late 1950's at "The Hut" The Abbe School of Budo. The Americans were members of the USAF stationed in the UK. they were always questioning " How would that work in the street?" and we would often finish up in the car park of The Hut after class and engage in some real Aikido. Afterwards everyone would be in good spirits and have a few beers.
The smallest of all the Dan grades was Eric Dollimore, he was only about 5ft-6in in height and around 130 lbs. I always felt that Eric was avoiding me on these Sunday morning sessions, as he was about to leave the mat I said to him "Eric, would you like to try against me" he just turned and said "Sorry Harry, I have to be at my girlfriends home for lunch". As he left the mat I smiled to myself and thought "That's what I expected" the smugness did not last long as I heard a voice behind me say "OK then Harry, can we make it quick as I must get away". It was Eric; for a moment I was surprised then I thought to myself if you want it quick I will accommodate you. I moved in to take him out with the one punch and the next thing I knew I had gone through the dojo office partition wall and I was still lying stunned the office floor when I heard Eric's voice call out "See you Monday Harry, gotta go". That was a very important lesson to me, I have never underestimated anyone since the little guy taught me a lesson.
The Grading Lottery
If in the 1950's and 60's you saw a 5th or 6th Dan you would be in awe of him. I now see so many multi grades and to be honest they would not be graded first Dan in the old days. They make these claims knowing that if they are ever challenged and prove their mettle they know they can claim that this is against the principals of Aikido. Another favourite of these people is to juggle around with their grades and come up with multiples of matching grades, for a prime example of this abuse check out the article British Aikido-The Controversy.
Mitsusuke Harada Sensei "5th Dan" Harada Sensei was my Karate teacher in the 1960's, he was then and still is a 5th Dan at the Shotokan dojo in Tokyo. he was graded by the founder of modern day Karate Gichin Funakoshi Sensei. He taught Karate to the USAF at the Kodokan dojo after the second world war. He was graded 5th Dan by Funakoshi Sensei in 1957 and is still 5th Dan after 45 years, stating that "Any grade above 5th Dan is totally pointless".
I will take a break now that these articles are complete and do some serious "Toe breathing".
I do not know what direction the Martial Arts will take when all the "Old Timers " are gone.
I have received several emails stating "We can still make a difference".
To the one who asked after my father, he was not a martial artist, just a hard man who started working at the age of 13 years two miles underground in the South Yorkshire coal mines.
Sensei Henry Ellis. 5th dan Traditional Aikido.
November Workout Tomorrow!
The November 2005 scheduled instructor will be Len Testa (5thdan).
The workout will be held at Lenny Testa’s dojo located on Oak St, Brockton, Ma. 508.583.2122
This instructor’s class workout series has turned into a huge success.
We work out in a totally none political environment.
We all respect each other. All-in-All, we have fun and a great time.
Note: This class is open to all adult Uechi Ryu and Shohei Ryu black belts.
Hope to see you at the next workout.
Take care – Jay Sal
Good Deeds by our Members!