Aikido is not technique

One of the instructors commented the other day that the comments I have posted online were different to the common rhetoric that occupies the Internet forums. I agreed. There are many reasons for this, firstly Aikido is not technique. See first quotes.

Secondly, ukemi as practiced in modern Aikido dojo isn’t done correctly, and so 70% of learning is lost. See middle quotes

Thirdly, Aikido as he perceived it had nothing at all to do with technique, or internal matrix power or anything other than training to perceive the intent of the attacker and win the fight before it had even begun. That’s why Ki Gata, that’s why Ai-Nuke, that’s why Inryoku………see last quotes from him and those he ranked highest in his art.

Of course, modern experts and historians know better than those that lived with and trained with the man, those he promoted above everyone else………


Kanshū Sunadomari Shihan

Q: I would like to ask about this again, but what exactly is this “Kokyu-ryoku” that you speak about?

A: Stated simply, it is to entrust the point at which you are engaged to your opponent and become one with them.

A: …. Technique emerges from many places in the flow of technique. Many, many different techniques emerge from the flow of a single technique. As Ueshiba Sensei said “There are no techniques in Aikido, Aikido is Spirit”.

Rinjiro Shirata 9th Dan

“Since aikido is formless, we move according to how we feel. However, we must do this without forgetting the spirit of budo in ourselves.

We must practice, but not let our techniques turn into an aiki dance.”


Yoshio Kuroiwa Shihan

Uke Central To Practice

Yin practice is the expression of “shackled” form. Thus, it is first necessary to be shackled. It is important in training to correctly understand the roles of “uke” and “tori”. Uke’s role is to adjust himself/herself to the movement of tori and tori learns his/her movement with the cooperation of uke. Failure to understand this will lead to the misunderstanding that uke was thrown or pinned because tori’s technique was excellent. Uke absorbs the movement of tori with his body by taking a pure fall. In other words, uke is not thrown but rather is practicing a form in which his role is to be thrown. Thus, the central character in practice is uke.

Usually, in the case of a fighting match, the first requirement is not to succumb to your opponent’s attempt to break your balance. To have lost one’s balance means to have been defeated. In the practice of Aiki, as uke we unconsciously assume that having our balance taken is a good thing. Here exists an important principle and a danger of yin practice. Unless one understands this (i.e. uke and tori are aware of this), practice is meaningless. Practice is possible only due to the existence of a tacit agreement and failure to understand this is a tragic mistake. A certain degree of Intellectualization is possible after recognition of this agreement. Otherwise, this merely leads to conceptual games and self-satisfaction.


Q: Is it different nowadays?

A: It’s different. When I was there it was just at the time when the number of students from the general public were beginning to increase, and the atmosphere gradually changed. Originally Aikido was something practiced by people who had already trained in another Budo and were seeking to improve their skills. When the focus became people without any athletic experience things changed. So now when you say “grab my wrist” there are people who ask “Why should I grab it?”. (laughing) For that reason, in times past ukemi was not taught, everybody just took it naturally.

Q: Who among your Sempai influenced you the most?

A: Of course, Osawa sensei.

Q: Osawa sensei’s name has come up quite a few times in this series of articles, what kind of a teacher was he?

A: He was like a Zen Buddhist monk. (laughing) Maybe you could call him the head clerk – at the time he was the Dojo organizer. His Aikido was soft, but severe. He taught the Kenpei Tai (“Military Police Corps”) during the war, so there was severity in the midst of his kindness. I took ukemi during a demonstration at the Hibiya Kokkaido, but after the demonstration was over he took me to Hombu Dojo and made me take ukemi for one straight hour. “What you’re doing isn’t ukemi. Ukemi isn’t being thrown.” he said.

Q: What did he mean?

A: He meant that just because one is thrown doesn’t mean that it is ukemi. Just flying away isn’t ukemi. “Ukemi is to feel the technique of your partner and detect where they are trying to drop you” he said.

Q: Does that mean that ukemi is training in grasping a sense of your partner?

A: If you think about it, that’s it. Being thrown is that kind of training, that’s why Aikido training is made that way. It’s no good if you are just throwing or being thrown like an object, and being proactive and throwing yourself doesn’t work either. It is training in feeling and detecting a sense of your partner at the time. Now we have training in throwing and training in being thrown. Both sides ought to be working on their sensitivity, but they just cut it off and throw. I didn’t understand that at the time. That’s why I got thrown for an hour straight back then while being scolded “No good! No good!” – but at the end I was told “OK!”. I’ve never been scolded for that again since that time. It was a valuable experience.

Henry Kono

What about teachers?

I don’t think they know enough about uke. They don’t know enough to teach it. They don’t teach uke at all. When I was in Japan it was uke, uke, uke!

What was your personal relationship with O-Sensei like?

When he used to say, “I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing!” I used to whisper under my breath, “Before I go home I’m going to pick your brain.” He and I had a game going.

Getting back to uke…

At Hombu dojo, the teacher teaching the class never talked about uke. It was always the person you’re practicing with who taught you. In Japan, it’s not like here where 80 per cent are white belt, there, 90 per cent are black belt. If you’re training with the right person, they’ll tell you. Falls are self preservation, because if you can’t take them you’re going to get injured.

It was important because it was half of any aikido move. Their thinking was if you get the uke half, the other half is easy to comprehend. Now I feel we concentrate on the throws and the ignore the uke aspect totally.

How do you teach good uke?

You have to do it easily. Students have to accept that they have to learn uke. If they have their mind made up that they are there to throw, they all turn a deaf ear when talk of uke comes up. It’s one half of the whole. Throwing is the easy part. It’s uke that’s hard. You need lots of conversation to get the understanding from someone who knows about it.

How does this change our understanding of aikido?

Because you can feel the move. You’re receptive. When you try to do the move, you can’t see it. When you’re just taking uke, you can see the flow. This is the way you learn. Everybody has the idea that you don’t learn anything from uke. This is why they don’t practice this. We were never taught this way.

So for your first three years in aikido you were only uke?

That was the concept. I used to ask, “I have been doing this for a year and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” They said, “Don’t worry Kono-san. Just take uke! It will come clear to you.” It was important to develop this body sensitivity and mobility.

Sensitivity is important…

Because I’m learning exactly what you are doing. You are really becoming yin. You have to be soft. Then the center starts to develop. That’s the only way to develop it.


“I think young people had better train hard while they are young, especially those who

intend to become instructors. Then they can become soft gradually. Being soft from the beginning is also worthwhile because, if you cause young people to train hard, some may give up aikido. In this respect, soft training has some merit.

However, those who want to become instructors cannot reach that level unless they train hard.

This type of training should include the mind. Unless the training is severe, you can’t reach that level. The reason Ueshiba Sensei reached that level was due not only to his natural talent, but also to the fact that he engaged in severe training.”

Rinjiro Shirata


Koichi Tohei 10th Dan Former Aikikai chief Instructor under O’Sensei

“The only reason it is possible for me to throw a very large individual who is moving in with a strike or other attack is that I am able to grasp his mind, his intention, the instant it manifests itself.

This is one of the things that Ueshiba Sensei truly wanted to teach. Much of the

aikido we see today has degenerated into mere fighting.”

Michio Hikitsuchi, 10th Dan

“After the war, O-Sensei’s thinking about waza also changed enormously. Before the war, the purpose of waza had been to kill the attacker. And we had practiced like that. After the war, he urged us not to attack opponents or to think of beating them up. “If you do that,” he said, “it will be the same as before. I have changed how we do everything.”

O-Sensei told us that we must give our opponents joy. To do this, he said, we must become capable of immediately sensing their ki. And, to do this, we must unify ourselves, we must unify our words, our body, and our mind. We must become one with the workings of all things in the universe — with Kami and the forces of Nature. We must bring all three things — words, body, and mind — into harmony with the workings of the universe. “If you do that,” O-Sensei said, “true Budo will be born. The Budo of destroying others will become transformed into the Budo of offering joy and compassion to others.”

After the war the method of practice was the opposite of what it had been. We no longer attacked. We looked at our partners’ ki in order to see the whole of them. From the top of their head to the tips of their toes. Not just external appearances. We needed to become able to absorb our partners’ minds.

Training this way was more difficult. We couldn’t wait for a partner to attack. We had to have the ability to instantly perceive the partner’s suki (openings) and intent to attack.Where will they strike? How will they move? We had to train to cultivate these sensing abilities in ourselves.”


O’Sensei founder of Aikido

“Shin no Bu towa Aite no zenbou wo Kyushu shiteshimau – inryoku no renma de aru”

“true budo is to absorb the totality of the Partner – it is the training of inryoku.”

“In Aikido, before one’s opponent comes, one absorbs the intentions of his spirit/mind into oneself to control it freely. That is to say, the workings of a spiritual gravity(inryoku no tanren) makes progress. One sees the world all at once. Today, as yet, almost nobody is able to do this. I haven’t reached it, either.”

“What do you think aikido is? Do you think it involves only the twisting of hands? It is a means of war… an act of war! aikido is a fight with real swords. (Shinken shobu)We use the word ‘aiki’ because through it we can feel the mind of the enemy who comes to attack and are thus able to respond immediately. Look at Sumo. After the command is given (“Miatte! Miatte!), they stand up and go at each other in a flash. That’s the same as aiki. When a person suddenly faces his enemy in an mental state free from all ideas and thoughts and is instantly able to deal with him, we call that aiki. In the old days it was called ‘aiki no jutsu’.”

Peter Kelly

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