Mind - Body - Spirit

Author: Kenryu

Seigo Okamoto

The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 2

This the second part of an English translation of an interview with Seigo Okamoto that appeared in Hiden Koryu Bujutsu vol 4, 1990, published by Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan.

Kodo Horikawa (front left) with Kazuto Ishida (right)  Ishida was the 5th Chief Justice of Japan,
the second chairman of the All Japan Kendo Federation and 5th Soke of Yamaoka Tesshu’s Itto Shoden Muto-ryu  Ishida’s wife (front center) and daughter (back right) Seigo Okamoto, back left

Born in 1894 in Kitami, Hokkaido, Kodo Horikawa began Daito Ryu Jujutsu training with Sokaku Takeda at around the same time as Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Sokaku focused on instructing Kodo in “Aiki” because of his size, and Kodo came to be known for techniques that were extremely subtle and soft. In 1930 Kodo received the certificate of “Acting Instructor” or Kyoju Dairi from Takeda (the same certification that Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba received from Takeda in 1922), and was later awarded a certificate of complete transmission in the art, the Menkyo Kaiden. In 1950 he established the Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu Kodo Kai in Hokkaido.

It seems that there are many differences among Daito-ryu techniques.

I have not often viewed the techniques of other schools. I have seen them only at the demonstration held by the Headmaster [Tokimune Takeda]. When I entered Horikawa Sensei’s dojo, there were some people from other schools who criticized his techniques when they saw them saying that he could not really execute a technique with such a small movement and that his students were very meek. However, I believe that there were no such stupid, critical men among the students, seniors and juniors alike of Kodo Sensei. We followed him because his techniques were real. However, there were many who could not continue their practice for long because they found the techniques too difficult.

I have learned a lot since I came to Tokyo. In the Roppokai there are some students who have practiced another school’s art for more than 20 years or who are instructors of another art, but they all recognize my art and are gradually making progress mastering techniques which I think is great. I really feel that I must continue to practice all my life.

Interview with Seigo Okamoto Shihan (2) – Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin

Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Roppokai Founder Seigo Okamoto entered the dojo of Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa at the age of 38. In 1974 he received his 7th dan from Kodo Horikawa, and his Shihan license from Kodo Horikawa four years later in 1978.

Seigo Okamoto’s Shihan certification (top) and the Hiden Ogi no Koto, the third scroll in the Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai  awarded by Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa

Are there are some Aikidoka who try to learn Daito-ryu techniques in order to improve their own Aikido?

Yes, that’s right. I do not refuse anyone who comes to me. We have an Aikido instructor at our Osaka branch dojo. I think that he is probably utilizing the techniques he learns from us in his Aikido techniques. As I mentioned, I refuse no one who comes to me, but I don’t stop anyone who leaves me either. This is my principle. However, those who come to me must conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. There are some people who come to me with an arrogant attitude as if to say I should be pleased because people like them have come to train while others come with an open attitude toward being taught. People come with many different attitudes. I accept anyone who comes in the latter manner.

Interview with Seigo Okamoto Shihan (2) – Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin

This the second part of an English translation of an interview with Seigo Okamoto that appeared in Hiden Koryu Bujutsu vol 4, 1990, published by Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan. You may wish to read Part 1 before continuing with this section.

The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 2

4 – The Roppokai Technical Method – Difficult to See

Q: Is it difficult to apply technique after one has been grasped strongly?

Okamoto: No, if one becomes skilled then it’s possible. But it’s difficult for people in their first three or four years after starting. There are also times when they are grasped strongly by multiple opponents. That’s not strength, it’s technique. With strength they won’t move.

“However many opponents there are
we do it with the intention of applying it to a single person.”

Q: When being grasped by multiple opponents how does it become possible to apply Aiki to the entire group at the same time?

Okamoto: It’s the same. Even if there are five opponents one doesn’t think of them as five people, one does it as if intending to apply it to a single person. If Aiki enters momentarily at the moment at which one is grasped by all of them then they stiffen through their reflex action. When that happens one person is the same as five people – they come along here easily.

For example, five people form a line and the person in front grabs me while each of the people behind pushes on the shoulders of the person in front of them. There is a way to throw these five people. This also is not something for which strength is relied upon. When it is applied to the first person it passes through that person and the same movement is transmitted to the next person and is applied to the next person in the same way and then progressively to each of the people in turn. It’s like toppling dominoes.

Seigo Okamoto demonstrates on multiple opponents

Q: So by doing this you can apply it to any number of people?

Okamoto: In order to do that all of them must have their strength turned towards me. For that reason, before one applies it they push or pull a little bit. So I aim for the time at which all of the people have their strength turned towards me and then apply it with a bang! It’s for that same reason that Sokaku would make the opponent angry.

Q: So you build a pile of people in that instant?

Okamoto: Since Aiki has been applied to those that were thrown, while it is still being applied to the person on the bottom I drop the next person on top of them. If there were nothing being done to the person on the bottom then they would just run away before that. However, although they are frozen and in discomfort, it’s not a great amount of pain to be in that position. Once they are released they just laugh it off.

Q: It appears that the Roppokai doesn’t have the same kind of pinning techniques that other branches of Daito-ryu have, is that right?

Okamoto: That’s a common misunderstanding. Taking their arm and holding them down, pushing the opponent down and stepping on them, this is what most people think of as pinning, but here although we don’t hold them down very strongly the opponent is unable to move. Those are the kind of pinning techniques that we have.

Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa
pinning Seigo Okamoto

We throw the opponent when we want to throw them, when we think to pin them then without throwing them we instantly drop them at our feet. Since Aiki has been applied to the opponent, even after they fall they remain stiff. Then if one just presses on them slightly with their foot they will already be unable to move. The technique is so small that you can’t understand it, can you?

Seigo Okamoto demonstrates a pinning technique

Of course, there is jujutsu without Aiki for those people who are just beginning, pinning techniques where one takes the hand of the opponent as they come to strike and hold them down, but we don’t do that very often. That’s because if it’s too much like jujutsu then it becomes different from Aiki.

Q: Also, there are some who are of the opinion that there is no tai-sabaki in the Roppokai?

Okamoto: That’s also incorrect. It would be impossible to throw an opponent by just standing there without doing tai-sabaki. Even when one moves their hand, it’s not that their hand alone is moving. It is because the hand and the body are moving as one that the opponent is thrown. It’s just because the movement is small that it can’t be seen like normal tai-sabaki. Here everything is irimi (“entering”)! In any case, it’s that we move into the bosom of the opponent without stepping back.

Q: It must take quite a bit of training to master these techniques, doesn’t it?

Okamoto: That’s right. It takes a number of years, they can’t be learned that easily. I think that you can understand this by watching the training, but although they can appear the same there is a difference whether the opponent is thrown through the application of Aiki or through the use of strength. Because if the technique is immature it cannot be applied against resistance. For that reason, the truth is that one doesn’t just fall when they are thrown, one helps the other person to develop their technique while they are being thrown.

The more experienced the person is the more skillfully the technique can be applied. That is because they know the kokyu and the timing, and their responses to the techniques are more sensitive. And again, being sensitive to technique itself is a path to skill.

Q: So, as one becomes accustomed to it does it become possible to steal the opponent’s Kokyu and timing and reverse the technique?

Okamoto: Even in Sumo they say “shiju-hatte-ura-omote” (Note: 四十八手の裏表 – “the forty-eight techniques have a back and a front”, meaning that each of them can be countered), in the end techniques have an ura and an omote. During normal training we don’t do the ura. If we teach the ura from the beginning than everybody would just escape and there wouldn’t be any training. For that reason we only teach the omote in the beginning. There many ways to escape a grip, you see, so the number of techniques grows accordingly.

“Strength is not put into unnecessary places.
Putting strength only into the fingertips, one always keeps their wrist soft.”

Q: What is the most difficult point in the mastery of Aiki?

Okamoto: To release one’s strength, that is, to eliminate one’s own “tension” (力み) is difficult. Even those like me occasionally have tension! For that reason I always say that it’s okay to have any amount of strength, but it’s no good to be tense. That’s an enormously difficult task. When one feels some kind of momentary strain most people will become tense. Strength enters their shoulders… I think that it’s really a big deal if that can be eliminated. That really comes down to experience. When I say experience, that is to say, shugyo (Note: 修行 / “intensive training”, often with spiritual overtones).

For example, when one spreads their fingers they put strength only in the area around the fingernails, and they always keep their wrist soft. At first I couldn’t understand that, and when Shisho (Note: 師匠 / “Teacher” – Kodo Horikawa) told me to put strength in my fingertips strength would always enter to my wrist even when I tried to put strength only in my fingertips. At some point during my Shugyo I understood that, that is, I became able to do that. Even when I grasp something hard strongly my wrist can move freely. That’s what it is to avoid putting strength where it is unnecessary. It can be said that is one kind of skill.

Scrolls received from
Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa

Q: Do you have a step by step teaching structure?

Okamoto: Daito-ryu techniques are written on the scrolls, and it is said that there are more than 2,880 of them. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve learned all of them. The three scrolls that I received from Shisho in addition to the Shihan Menkyo were Sho-den 118 techniques, Chu-den 30 techniques, and the Oku-den 36 techniques.

Q: What teaching doctrine do you follow during training at the Roppokai?

Okamoto: In one training session here we teach a mix of techniques from Sho-den to Oku-den. Experienced people and inexperienced people all train together, we don’t divide them. Someone who has just started won’t understand if something is a Sho-den technique or an Oku-den technique, and conversely, I think that it is better not to separate them out when considering them. While not knowing one practices from Sho-den to Oku-den, and that way seems to develop the body more quickly. Just doing the basics is boring, and people tend to tense up.

At the time that I started we would only train in the basics at first. But now people come from many different kinds of Budo. When this happens, even when the technique names or other small details are different and many of them have already mastered basic body movement. Making someone like that do only basics is just pathetic. Someone who has some high rank in another school. For that reason we normally do only one or two of the basics. When we do the basic techniques all together it takes two or three hours.

Q: What are the basic techniques of Daito–ryu?

Okamoto: These are basics that were created by Shisho in Hokkaido. In our case we have changed them a little, but basically speaking they are the same. If one looks at these basic techniques from the viewpoint of other Budo they appear to be high level techniques. That is to say, in the former Aizu Domain Daito-ryu was only taught to warriors of five hundred koku and up (Note: the stipend for a samurai, one koku was supposedly enough rice to feed one man for one year), and the people at that level were already training in other types of bujutsu. So they were a compilation of those things. For that reason, the basic techniques themselves are like hiden (“secret”) techniques, and by just practicing these enough one can become quite strong.

These techniques can be taken as an introduction to Daito-ryu Jujutsu when practiced without Aiki in the beginning, but when one practices them faithfully they all become Aiki techniques. Originally, they had to contain Aiki. Because Jujutsu that does not employ Aiki becomes techniques powered by strength, and when that happens it can become difficult if one is physically inferior the opponent.

Q: What happens when one moves beyond basic techniques?

Okamoto: Applied techniques (応用技). They could be called variations of the techniques that were learned at the beginning. The basic techniques that I was speaking of before, from there they grow and branch. Daito-ryu techniques contain innumerable variations. In total there are two thousand and some hundreds of techniques, but all of those can’t be recorded on three or four scrolls. Further, it’s impossible to practice while consulting the scrolls. The scrolls are something that are given to show that one has learned techniques to a certain degree through actual training, something like a certificate of completion. It’s not that one has completely mastered a technique on the scroll, or that we always practice techniques just as they appear on the scrolls. There is a “feeling” each time – when we go to practice a technique it come to us in a flash.

Further, when we say applied, there are those who assimilate the techniques they have learned well and those who assimilate them poorly. Because of that depending upon the person there are those for whom the techniques can grow and branch later than others. For those reasons, even if one talks about a secret transmission, from the very beginning we are teaching the secrets. Whether one can absorb those as Hiden (“secret transmission”) or they can absorb them as part of the Honden (“main transmission”), whether or not a person will grow will depend upon that.

These days, and this was even so to some degree in the past, all schools practice group instruction. But if you said that because of that everybody progresses at the same pace, that wouldn’t be the case. Out of fifty people perhaps one or two will remain to the end of the transmission. These kind of things happen, don’t they?

There isn’t anybody who teaches carelessly, you know! Everybody wants to transmit their techniques faithfully and repeats themselves until they sweat when they teach. For that reason, all schools teach secrets, but I think that it may be that the difference between Hiden and just ending up as recreation will depend upon how they are taken in by the student.

Q: So how should one train in order to progress?

Okamoto: Practicing humbly and seriously is the best. Going forward humbly as normal without resistance and learn from the feeling at the moment of being touched. In Sumo there is also the moment of the tachiai (Note: 立ち会い – the initial charge at the start of a bout). The opponent springs forward into the engagement. In technique one must also grasp the feeling at the moment that they engage.

Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa

Talking about Horikawa Sensei

Q: Next, I’d like to ask if you have any recollections of Kodo Horikawa Sensei?

Okamoto: Horikawa Sensei was an educator, so there aren’t any things like tales of fighting. He was a gentle person, and for his efforts in service towards education in remote areas he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure 5th Class, Gold and Silver Rays (勲五瑞宝章) in Showa year 46 (1971).

Order of the Sacred Treasure 5th Class, Gold and Silver Rays (勲五瑞宝章)

Q: How were Horikawa Sensei’s techniques, did they feel sharp?

Okamoto: In Shisho’s case, I don’t know about sharpness. It’s really that a level where one can can feel something such as sharpness is no good. It’s not like when one is thrown with strength, it’s like you touch something and then you’re thrown with a soft feeling. That’s what’s called “Yawara” (Note: 柔 – “ju”, one of the classical terms for jujutsu arts, meaning soft or flexible). It’s a feeling like one is being wrapped in silk wadding and one is carried away. His forearms were really thick! Down to his wrists they were the same thickness, but when we grabbed them they were very soft. They were like a woman’s forearms, they didn’t feel defined. And that’s what it was like when he did things to us. It almost felt as if we were being deceived.

Q: If you were to sort the techniques that you learned from Horikawa Sensei simply, about how many would there be?

Okamoto: About thirty or forty techniques. That’s because if one can can absorb and apply them then they multiply without limit. Well, Aiki itself is only one thing, so one changes that one thing in order to adapt to the requirements of the moment.

Even if one says that there are some 2,880 techniques in Daito-ryu, one can’t really use all of them in reality. Because one must topple them with a single technique. It’s just that if one masters some number of techniques then however one is attacked they will be capable of responding – it must be that this grew to be those some thousands of techniques. It’s not that it’s a good thing the more techniques one has.

It was just before I came to Tokyo, around Showa year 49 (1974), that Soshi told me this – “When one gets to your level, your training up until now gives birth to various techniques. So try and do your best!”. At that time it was already more than ten years after I started.

“each of these pictures is the seed for a hundred techniques; study them well”
Scroll entitled “Bojutsu Masakatsu Agatsu” given to Michio Hikitsuchi
by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

Q: So does that mean that understanding Aiki itself and becoming able to apply technique strongly takes ten years?

Okamoto: That’s right. That’s not limited to Aiki, doesn’t understanding anything take ten years? But just because I have been doing this for twenty some years, don’t think that I can do things one-hundred percent! I still have to train hard (Shugyo) from now. There are many different kinds of people in the world, and there are always those that are better. It is when one is at the seventh or eighth station (Note: as in climbing Mt. Fuji) that the road above is most difficult, I think. Soshi said this also – “Training is for life. I may seem to be absent minded during the day, but I’m always thinking about techniques!” (Note: 一生修行, “isshou shugyo” “training is for life”).

Seigo Okamoto Soshi Pt 1

The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 1

Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Roppokai (大東流合気柔術六方会)
Founder Seigo Okamoto Soshi (岡本正剛宗師)

Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Roppokai Founder Seigo Okamoto was born in 1925 in Yubari City, Hokkaido. In 1963, at the age of 38, he entered the dojo of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa, one of Sokaku Takeda’s closest students. In 1974 he received his 7th dan from Kodo Horikawa, and his Shihan license from Kodo Horikawa four years later in 1978.

Seigo Okamoto taking ukemi for Kodo Horikawa

After Horikawa Sensei passed away, he established his own organization, the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Roppokai, where he became known for teaching advanced techniques to beginning students and for making public many aspects of Aiki that had previously been considered secret. Seigo Okamoto passed away on January 17, 2015, just a few weeks before his 90th birthday.

In response to a question from Aikido Journal editor Stanley Pranin as to the origin of the name “Roppokai” he explained:

Roppo can be understood in a variety of ways, such as the roppo of roppogumi [six groups of chivalrous young men who used to wander the city streets in the Edo period]. Or it can be equated with the roppo from the kabuki term roppo o fumu of Benkei [a priest of the early Kamakura period and a famous retainer of Yoshitsune Minamoto. Roppo o fumu means to make one’s exit with bold gestures along the runway]. However, I usually compare roppo to gaming dice to describe techniques which can deal with any situation from any direction, top or bottom, front or back, right or left, like the faces of dice. But these techniques do not have square angles like dice but are round, forming six (roku) infinite circles. I am eager to get as many meanings as I can out of the term.

Seigo Okamoto also had an interesting story to relate concerning Morihei Ueshiba’s teacher Sokaku Takeda and “roppo” (for more about Morihei Ueshiba and roppo see “Morihei Ueshiba, Budo and Kamae“):

Once, at the beginning of the Taisho era, Takeda Sokaku, while staying for a short while in Tokyo, had an opportunity to go out to the theatre. Sokaku, having set up camp near the hanamichi was observing Kikugoro’s movements. He was [playing] Benkei, at the Ataka Barrier. Making to chase after Yoshitsune’s party after they exited, Kikugoro was stepping along the hanamichi near where Sokaku had set himself.

At that moment, Sokaku commented: “the performance is good, but the footwork is bad: the roppo is really bad,” in a voice loud enough that the actor could hear. Kikugoro, not having been able to see from the stage, afterwards sent an attendant out. “Just now, in this vicinity, someone was kind enough to comment?” he enquired. Sokaku having immediately informed him that he was the relevant gentleman, the attendant requested that he go with him, just as he was, to the dressing room. After which Sokaku, having met Kikugoro himself, precisely and infallibly indicated the shape and motivation of the movements. That is: in response to Kikugoro’s questioning, he immediately gave him guidance in the movements of the arms and hands, the movements of the feet.

At that time, it is said, Kikugoro hadn’t before played Benkei. Nevertheless he was one of the leading actors of the time. After Sokaku’s guidance, overnight, [everyone] could see that his arm gestures and leg movements were being played in a manner that was completely unrecognizable. It is reported that – starting that very next day – Kikugoro used to receive lavish praise, from his patrons and customers, for the outstanding footwork of his wonderful roppo….

This the first part of an English translation of an interview with Seigo Okamoto that appeared in Hiden Koryu Bujutsu vol 4, 1990, published by Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan.

“When the opponent stiffens one can connect to the point at which they are touching them and they become one part of my body. Perhaps it could be called a synchronization. This is Aiki.”

The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 1

1 – Training at the Roppokai

Seigo Okamoto Sensei’s instruction currently takes place in Tokyo at the Bunkyo Sports Center. It was here that we first experienced his unique method of instruction. In Okamoto Sensei’s instruction, he uses a method in which when a technique is taught he always applies that technique to each of the students, so that they will be sure to naturally comprehend it through their bodies. Then through kakari-geiko (a line drill with continuous attacks) with each other the students gradually make it their own.

The students are divided into three groups, in each group one person acts as the tori, and the rest become uke and take turns attacking the tori. After throwing four or five times the next person takes a turn as tori and the training continues. Okamoto Sensei occasionally gives general advice. That is, giving demonstrations of good and bad examples, showing the technique in slow motion while explaining the principles, things that are extremely concrete and easily understood. However, just because one understands how it is done does not mean that they are able to do it that way right away. Of course, one can see varying levels of ability among the students. Here beginners and those with experience are not divided, everybody learns the same techniques together.

We can certainly say that the technical method of Aiki that is unfolding before our eyes is mysterious. As the students grasp Okamoto Sensei with all of their strength they are blown away with a shake of his body. Even if they grasp Okamoto Sensei’s finger it is the same. Okamoto Sensei doesn’t grab the student’s bodies, he throws them with the touch of a single finger.

Other high level technical methods are also revealed and climax with multiple attackers. Grabbed by five students, they are toppled in an instant. Although they don’t appear to be held down in any significant way the five people are unable to move their bodies. This can be thought of as the application of Aiki, but even so it is an incredible spectacle. Immediately following the training we asked about this mysterious Aiki that has been transmitted from the master Kodo Horikawa Sensei.

2 – How is “Aiki” applied?

Q: We’ll jump right in – Okamoto Sensei, just what kind of a thing is your Aiki?

Okamoto: The word Aiki itself is difficult, isn’t it? In Aikido or Daito-ryu it varies according to the expressions of the individual instructors, and each of them presents a different image. To me Aiki is conditioned reflex, circular movement and kokyu-ho (“breathing method”) – I express it as these three elements made as small as possible within the space of a moment.

These three elements, applied as subtly and as small as possible in technique are Aiki. As to the techniques themselves, as I have shown you today they take many different forms, but one cannot understand them through the form alone! For example, if one grabs my chest or if one grabs my shoulder, I execute the same movement using those three elements. For that reason, however I am grabbed I throw them down with the same movement.

Q: We observed techniques in which their hand was unable to let go as they were pulled along, is it because of Aiki that their hand became stuck to you?

Okamoto: That was due to a reflex action by the opponent’s fingers, they become stuck to my hand and are unable to release. If I simply stroke the top of the opponent’s hand it won’t curl, but if I do this with my fingers on the opponent’s hand then the opponent’s fingers curl through a reflex action. If this is done quickly then without a doubt they will curl. For that reason, they become stuck. If one pulls them along this way then they will not separate, but if one becomes slack then they will quickly become separated. That state in which they are pulled along is the state in which one is applying Aiki.

Q: What does it mean to apply Aiki?

Okamoto: In a normal state, if one uses strength then the opponent will not move, but if one applies Aiki then they will move. That is a technique of the fingers and such. However, one does not pull them. When they use the thumb and the littlefinger to grasp a wrist the opponent stiffens for a moment, and we continue to hold onto and continue that stiffened condition.

Q: Is it through that tiny movement that the opponent moves?

Okamoto: Yes, that’s right. One doesn’t need strength. But just doing that won’t work well. In the end technique become necessary. Particularly circular movement, in that one doesn’t move the point that has been grasped and enters while naturally rotating that as the center point.

In addition, there is a conditioned reflex when one is touched. When they are touched the opponent always exhibits a reflex. When the opponent stiffens one can connect to the point at which they are touching them and they become one part of my body. It is for that reason that I am able to move them as if I am moving my own body. It’s somewhat clumsy, but one doesn’t need any significant amount of strength. Perhaps it could be called a synchronization – this is what is called Aiki.

Q: when Aiki is applied it feels as if electricity passes through your body, would you say that your neck receives a shock?

Okamoto: That does happen. Depending upon the person there are those that feel it and those that don’t – if one has ten people then each of those ten people will feel it in a different way. The more sensitive that a person’s reflexes are the easier it is to apply techniques.

Q: So there are people on whom it is easier to apply Aiki to, are there also people on whom it is more difficult?

Okamoto: Among those coming to train with us are many people with experiences in various Budo such as Judo, Karate, boxing, Ninjutsu, Chinese boxing, Aikido and so forth. I couldn’t say unconditionally, but it’s easy to apply technique to third or fourth dans in Karate. It’s just that their reflexes are conditioned more than a normal person’s and their reactions are quick. That makes it easier for them to react to our techniques.

Q: What kind of action is it that causes a shock to be received?

Okamoto: This is the so called whiplash. When a car crashes there is a snapping force, that’s what it is. We’re not just pushing on the opponent when they come to attack, we draw them towards ourselves while pushing. While the opponents legs move towards us their body goes towards the back. We initiate that kind of action with our hands.

Just pushing on the opponent won’t make them fall down, will it? They’ll just bounce back away from us. But if you step on your opponent’s feet at that time the opponent will fall down without being able to move backwards. It’s the same as that. To do that we apply technique to the opponent in order to stop their feet without stepping on them.

If you just push on the opponent then they will escape, but if you pull them for a moment at that time then their legs will come towards you. We halt their step there so that they will not come toward us. There we apply force in the opposite direction. For that reason, through the application of leverage we can move the opponent with a small movement.

Seigo Okamoto demonstrates Aiki-age and Aiki-sage

3 – Daito-ryu is “Iai”?

Q: During that time you are applying a normal physical force?

Okamoto: That’s so, of course. However, if we consider each other’s power as 100, then we’re only using about a power of 20. In most Budo, one powers up to a power of 120 or 130 in response to a power of 100. That is not the case here. There are times when we may momentarily go to a 120 or 130, but that feeling is not transmitted to the opponent.

Additionally, the three elements that I discussed earlier quickly and momentarily ramp up the voltage. If one does it slowly then the opponent will escape.

For that reason, if the person coming to attack wanders in slowly then technique is more difficult to apply. For people who float in to grab I tell them to come get me as if I am going to harm their parents! Then, when they come to grab vigorously, I apply it in that moment.

For example, when Sokaku Takeda showed technique it seems that he purposely enraged the opponent. Since if people had heard of Sokaku’s strength they would likely be timid and wouldn’t really come to attack. If that happened it would be difficult to apply technique to them, so I have heard that he would say something strange to them then. When he did that the opponent would become agitated and attack with vigor, so that things would be really effective. That is because the stronger the opponent and the harder they come the more one can use their strength and the easier it is to apply technique.

For that reason, our motto is “Don’t repel those who come, don’t follow those who retreat”. When the opponent comes to attack then you do it. Technique can’t be applied to someone trying to run away, and it’s not necessary to apply technique in that situation. Especially because in our case our practice is completely for self-defense. One only uses it for the first time when living a normal life and some trouble occurs. It is with this intent that we are practicing.

Q: So there is no first attack from this side?

Okamoto: Almost none. We don’t take stances because someone is going to come and attack. If one takes a stance from the beginning then the opponent will be cautious and will not come to attack. So in our case we all take a natural stance and apply technique at the moment that the opponent comes. We don’t stretch out our hands and go to meet the opponent. In kenjutsu, such as Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, there is something called mugamae (“no stance” / 無構え), that just puts one in a neutral position. That is the feeling. Entering from there is a secret teaching (“gokui” / 極意).

It is the same as Iai. In Iai when the opponent cuts one draws their sword instantly and cuts. If that isn’t so then it isn’t Iai. It is for that reason that there are things held in common with the principles of Iai. Also in Iai one is not touching the sword, but at the instant that the opponent thinks that they can cut one draws so that there is no way to move the body out of the way.

Q: However, if one just thinks about it simply it seems that the one who draws first will be the fastest?

Okamoto: That is really a matter of distancing (“maai” / 間合い). If one is daydreaming then of course they will be struck first. One applies technique just before they are struck. That is why it is extremely fast. I said this during training as well, if your opponent comes to attack at a speed of 50 km then in the space of that short distance we must oppose them with a speed of 80 km. If we both move at 50 km then since the other person also has inertia we will be pushed back.

Solo Training (defending hand / attacking hand)
This is a training method in which defense and attack can be practiced simultaneously. One hand forms a fist lightly. The other hand moves to grab the wrist of the closed hand, but at the moment that it is touched the closed fist stretches open quickly and fills the grabbing hand. Further, the index finger of the grabbing hand remains straight and one grabs with the other four fingers. This is done quickly enough to make a sound when the hands touch each other (see figures 1-5).

Q: What do you mean by momentarily moving with a speed of 80 km?

Okamoto: That’s training, training. Conditioning for explosive power. If that is not so then one will be defeated. Sokaku Takeda was said to be a master with the short sword, and that was because of his speed. He’d strike quickly at the forearm, and though your eyes only saw a single strike, when one examined the forearm there would be two black marks there.

But even in that kind of contest although Sokaku Takeda would not wear armor, he would have his opponent put on protection. The one not wearing armor would have that much more freedom of movement, and the psychological state when facing a person not wearing armor is different. If you struck them perhaps you could give them a head injury, it tends to cause a kind of hesitation.

Q: Even so, developing a speed of 80 km to resist an opponent moving at 50 km must be really difficult, isn’t it?

Okamoto: And so, I always say this. Everyone should train on their own and practice grabbing their wrists (in solo training). The accumulation of that training is important, but also important is the timing of entering at the moment one is touched by the opponent.


Rope Torite

Shibata-ryu Aikite Rope Torite:
Is a very effective flexible weapon. This can be used to strike, choke, trap and throw the enemy. Since it is small it can be easily concealed. It is a (USA) legal version the Kusari-fundo (鎖分銅). Which is a handheld weapon that was used in feudal Japan. It consists of a length of chain (kusari) with a weight (fundo) attached to each end of the chain. Various sizes and shapes of chain and weight were used as there was no set rule on the construction of these weapons. Other popular names are manrikigusari (萬力鏈) (“ten thousand power chain”) or just manriki. The use of the kusari-fundo was taught in several different schools, or ryū (流), as a hidden or concealed weapon and also as a self-defense weapon. The kusari-fundo was useful when carrying a sword was not allowed or impractical, and samurai police of the Edo period would often use a kusari-fundo as one of their non lethal arresting weapons. There are several chain and weight weapons. One type known as a konpi is mentioned in manuscripts as far back as the Nanbokucho period (1336-1392).
Masaki Tarodayu Dannoshin Toshiyoshi (1689-1776), founder of the Masaki ryū, is said to have developed a version of the kusari-fundo[1] while serving Lord Toda, as a bloodless weapon that could be used to defend the grounds of Edo castle. He developed techniques on how to use this weapon. He even founded a school that teaches how to use this weapon. Students were taught to use this weapon to entangle the opponent’s weapon or limb. After this, a lock or choke is applied using the other end of the chain. In the right hands with the right amount of training can transform this weapon into a devastating tool. Later on, constables used this tool to capture criminals.

Martial Arts Trainer

Plans available on ESTY:

Martial Arts Trainer is a flexible  training device that can be modified for your practice. This is easy to travel with and use any where there is a strong door or tree. The arms / Tonbo can be removed use 1 or 2 or all 3 at one time. The arms can also be used as a self-defense stick – This is very heavy duty design and almost indestructible.

Martial Arts Trainer: — Plans $2.95
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Information at https://aikite.com




Aikite is a free flowing martial art that promotes lifelong health and a sense of well being. Aikite is based on koryu bujutsu or old school martial arts. It is a internal martial art with physical and mental training that can be a lifelong benefit.

For hundreds of years,  martial arts were used to protect and defend while also creating a healthly mind and body. At first, the focus of training was on the external body with exercises to increase strength and stamina,  in time it was discovered that strained training was not as beneficial as a free flowing and relaxed movement along with a sudden burst of speed and power.  The explosive nature of this type of training created a fighting method that was very hard to defend against.  The relaxed nature of the training allowed for better integration of defensive movements that caused the attacker to be redirected and off-balanced.







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