Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Great Aikido Sources

I've spent a bit of time searching for quality Aikido videos online and have found just a few good ones amid throngs of junk, but the other night I was given a DVD from one of my fellow Aikidoka that was quite impressive. It is comprised of clips of five different teachers' seminars, and below I will list a description of each, as well as links to websites for those that are available.

First was a seminar by a Russian man named Vladimir Vasiliev. This was an especially interesting beginning to the video, because the majority of the techniques and principles he was focusing on were certainly ones shared with Aikido, however, he certainly didn't limit his demonstration to only Aikido techniques. Almost all of those attending the seminar wore gis and hakama, but he wore camoflauge pants and a t-shirt. In the beginning he lead excercises in breathing, and then moved on to body movement without any martial techniques. Actually, for a part of the time he had the participants walk around each other within a small space to simulate walking through a crowd, which is often a topic visited Aikido and promoted by the founder Morihei Ueshiba. Next, with an attacker, he demonstrated how to evade an attack by simply doing the least amount of work to accomplish this. For example, when someone moves toward you with a strike, you do not first load up on one leg in your fighting stance and dash out of the way, but in a relaxed state step out of the way. He then showed this with multiple attackers to effectively demonstrate how rigid and jerky evasions will slow you down and probably get you entagled with your opponent, which in some circles is not so desirable. After this he began introducing techniques, both open-handed and with knives, but this is where it looks like it diverges from Aikido. Certainly the evasive movement was Aikido, but you could see him setting up for a lot of strikes, and performing what I thought to be a lot really great subtle leg trips. One complaint of mine though is that his attackers move only half speed, and for the effect he was going for, I would like to have seen a few a bit faster.

I was very intrigued by this man and his teachings, but after more investigation on his website about "Systema" (the System), which he seems to have built, seems a bit fishy. He claims from a system of Russian martial arts that has been developed for centuries on the principles of spiritual growth and maximum efficiency, but the introductory video on it made me question it a bit. Below is listed the website for Systema, and I encourage you to investigate further, as I certainly will. Also, he apparently has trained many people throughout the world as authorized teachers of Systema; maybe you should enquire about one near you, I would love to.


Ok, the rest of these will be less wordy, and all of them are Japanese.

Next is Tetsuzan Kuroda, who may have been the most impressive to me of the group. He didn't speak English, but had a great interpreter to help out. He was of a slighter build than average, but seemed to execute extremely sharp techniques that stemmed from an equally so spirit. In the martial arts realm, I think he would side on the scientific side, and broke down each movement to the smallest degree where you could explore what maybe you could call a "balance breaking point." In every technique, the opponent should be brought to a point where the execution is effortless; it seemed very similar to what I know about the instructor Tim Cartmell. He repeadetly mentions, "These are not magic tricks," and that there is a science behind every successful technique; all successful techniques are a utilization of body mechanics. There was no website advertised, but I wonder if you can find him on youtube.

Third, was the livliest of the bunch named, Gaku Homma. He spoke fluent English, and I'm 99% is Japanese, but he really had the weirdest accent that made him sound like he was from somewhere in Southeast Asia. Anyway, he had an extreme amount of energy, and a lot of jokes, and would probably be the most fun to train with. However, he executed his techniques as serious as death, and always accounted for the techniques application in the street. Open handed techniques most often accounted for knives the opponent may have, and all of his ken techniques were explained in the context of their samurai origin with details about how the cuts would work around armor. His techniques were perfomed with great speed and intensity, and a great contrast to the slower more minute teachings of other teachers. He also has no website, but maybe you can find him online elsewhere.

Next was a man named Hiroshi Ikeda. He spoke fluent English, and reminded me of the second guy in this series, as he broke things down to the smallest detail, and had a more serious demeanor about himself. His trademark may be his emphasis on the waist and hips. Every movement is based upon the use of whole-body movement, where the waist and hips are the generators of maximum power. The website was listed, bujindesign.com, however, there doesn't seem to be any information about Hiroshi, is a site where you can buy martial art equipment, but also has a section for training tips that could be interesting.

Lastly was Kyoichi Inoue. He spoke little English, and had a translator, but he seemed to be a young American with a level of Japanese that was a little more advanced than mine, so I wasn't impressed much with that. Then again that's my own bias popping in. Anyway, he was a smaller older Japanese man that executed his techniques in a way that seemed more appropriate to kata and waza from Karate, but also had their own legitimacy. Perhaps that's just style of training, and doesn't necessarily limit his style of Aikido. In ten minutes of video, I think there were only two techniques, but it emphasizes the importance of basics, especially those found in shiho-nage for this source. I was less impressed by this section, but perhaps I need to see more of his teaching to understand. A website was listed for him under yoshinkan.net, but there is no appearance of him, and seems to be the website for his style highlighting it's head honcho.

In summation, I was greatly impressed and relieved by this gift of quality Aikido, and saw teachers who approached their art with the greatest sincerity and severity, but ended it all with a smile. I see a group of highly refined practicioners, that care not for "master's secrets", but rather the spreading of knowledge for the sake of human benefit.


  1. Hey Zack,

    Also try Nishio Shoji, who has a great DVD series out. My own teacher in Tottori came from a strong aikido lineage, but told me (in a drunken conversation, of course) that much of what he'd been teaching us was from these DVDs.

  2. Good review.
    I have Homma's book, he bases his principles on the circle, square and triangle.
    His book shows the technique for empty hand, then the same technique when both opponents have swords.
    Pretty cool.
    Don't know what to say about Systema. I think it comes out of Russian special forces training.