Martial moves – Peter Kelly Sensei returns

While in town for the upcoming Brisbane Aikido Yuishinkai seminar this weekend, our Chief Instructor Peter Kelly Sensei dropped in to the dojo to take our Thursday night class.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo say his teachings were most insightful would be an understatement. I’ve heard the statement sometimes said that Aikido techniques can be divided into 2 categories – “those for go and those for show”. Peter’s motto is more like there are 2 types of techniques – “those for go and those you haven’t figured out yet”.

Anyone with any doubts that Aikido is a powerful and most effective martial art would certainly have had them wiped away on Thursday night.  Strong centred attacks were the name of the game. Full kuzushi on contact using traditional sword based movements, a heaven-man-earth body structure and applied yin-yang principles was how it was played. Loved every minute of it!

Big thanks to Peter Sensei for taking the time out of his busy schedule to visit us.  As is typically the case, we had a camera and took some photos.

Looking forward to attending this weekend’s seminar.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo


Aikido – A forgiving approach to self-defence

Zenponage - Ian Grant and Brendan Carter A couple of weeks back, I was talking after class with a relative newcomer to our Art who had been pondering on a number of philosophical issues relevant to the martial practise of Aikido. The discussion went along the lines that if Aikido is not about teaching people how to fight, then what is it really about.

There is probably no right or wrong answer to this question.  Speaking from a strictly martial context, my own view is that Aikido is about giving the practitioner skills to allow them the choice between a forgiving response and a destructive response to an attack.

I think it would be fair to say that in most violent altercations the respondent to an attack ordinarily only has the option of a destructive response.  This response involves either applying a destructive force to repel the attacker or accepting self destruction through submission.  What Aikido facilitates is giving the recipient of an attack another option.

In Aikido we learn to merge an attacker’s energy (or ki) with our own energy such that the attacker’s centre of balance is taken while our centre remains strong. The result is that for a moment of time the attacker is completely vulnerable.  It is at this point that the Aikido practitioner is in a position to make a choice between one of 2 options.

The first option is a forgiving response where damage to the attacker is minimalized to that necessary to end the attack (i.e. through the application of an Aikido technique). The second option is to take advantage of the attacker’s weakened structural position and execute maximum damage to the attacker, such as a strike to a vital organ.  In Aikido we obviously advocate the first choice.

Taken from this perspective, Aikido is not about learning skills to destroy an attacker, but rather learning skills to have the option of a more forgiving response.

All the best

Ian Grant

Other references which may be of interest

(a) Some thoughts on self-defence by Dan James Sensei at http://www.aikidorepublic.com/articles/brisbane-self-defence

(b) Toppling (kuzushi) by Dan James Sensei at http://www.aikidorepublic.com/internal-strength/03topplingkuzushi

(c) Aikido: Christan TISSIER in Budapest 2013 (teaching) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=9PQv5aR_hsg (particularly at about 11.07 mark) – Christian Tissier Sensei comments on the destruction/forgiveness choice in Aikido applications.

Aikido without kuzushi – It’s like pizza without cheese

For Aikido to be practised with any element of martial integrity, the ability to employ kuzushi when applying a technique is a critical skill.

I would go as far as to say that in the absence of employing kuzushi it would be almost impossible to successfully apply any Aikido technique against a structurally centred and non-compliant aggressor of equal size and strength.

For those not familiar with the term kuzushi, it is most commonly used in a martial context as a reference to unbalancing the person who is initiating the attack (uke).  In other words, it involves bringing the uke’s center of gravity beyond their base of support and hence removing their ability to regain uncompromised balance.  While in this unbalanced position, it becomes very difficult for the uke to resist or counter the application of an appropriate Aikido technique.

While it all sounds so simple, learning to employ kuzushi is far from easy in practice. Amongst other things, it requires relaxed sensitivity, timing, and the ability to redirect an attacker’s energy.  If that isn’t challenging enough, kuzushi also needs to be employed at the time of first contact with the uke and then maintained throughout the application of the technique.

Unfortunately, I note there are a number of Aikido commentators around the web that appear to be concerned there is a trend in modern Aikido to de-emphasise and in some cases disregard the important role of kuzushi. I certainly hope these concerns are unfounded.

Excluding kuzushi from our practice would effectively render Aikido useless from a martial perspective.  For me, Aikido without kuzushi is like pizza without cheese. It’s not something I’m interested in trying.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo


Class Training Notes: 12/1/ 2013

Well Saturday was a scorcher in terms of the weather and I must say I was surprised how many of us decided to hit the mat.  I can’t recall the last time I trained in such heat.  The fact that we all stuck in there until the end (including a rather energetic round of taninzugake) is either a testament to our dedication or madness.   Anyhow – on with the notes.


This week we looked in more detail at the backward roll (ushiro ukemi).

As most people will attest, backward rolling when you first start out can be something of a challenge.

Roll 1In essence a backward roll is nothing more than a forward roll executed in reverse. The problem is if you have poor form in your forward roll (e.g. you circus tumble) and then attempt to execute that poor form in reverse, the chances of successfully executing the roll are close to nil.  There is also the possibility of injuring your neck in the failed attempt.

Below is a link to a You Tube video demonstrating step-by-step how to forward and backward roll by Donovan Waite Sensei (7th Dan).  I would highly recommend anyone who is learning to backward roll or just seeking some pointers on how to improve their backward (or forward) rolling to closely study this video clip.  Further, it’s an excellent resource that caters for those interested in beginner or advanced ukemi.

Link: Aikido Ukemi – Meeting the mat

kaeshi waza

This week we practised kaeshi waza in the context of reversing the execution of katatedori shihonage tenkan (i.e. same side one hand hold – four direction throw).  The significance of this practice was to demonstrate how relatively easy it is to reverse a katatedori technique if the ukes balance is not taken at the moment of first physical contact with the nage (the person executing the technique).

For those interested in looking at this kaeshi waza technique again, you may wish to check out the first part of the following You Tube clip: Kaeshi waza 1 (at o:40 mark).


Katatedori techniques were the theme this week with a particular emphasis on unbalancing the uke (the attacker) at first contact.  This takes considerable practice.

In class we looked at how to unbalance a uke by making contact with the uke’s grab prior to that expected by the uke and, in addition, unexpectedly offering no clash at the time of the early contact.  A You Tube  video that neatly demonstrates and explains this concept is Aikido  Kuzushi Katsu Hayabi  Effortless Activation.

For those who keep a record of such things, the techniques practised this week were Katatedori ikkyo ura and Katatedori irimi kokynage.


Craig Boyd Sensei kindly agreed to provide us with an instructional session on full contact kokydosa with a standing nage.  I find this type of training quite interesting as it really steps up your sensitivity and hones your awareness of your center.  One thing that I did notice was that when we eventually went back to practising standard kokydosa, the practise from the nage’s perspective felt absolutely effortless.

I would like to particularly thank Craig Sensei for sharing his knowledge of this rather novel form of practice with us.  It’s really interesting stuff and also a reminder of the rich Samurai heritage that predated the formation of Aikido.

Weapons kata

With gradings set for 26 January 2013, Gary and Zac gave excellent demonstrations of the “sword of nine ways” and “Shooting star” weapons katas.

Skills acquired through committed weapon practice translate directly and positively to improving our unarmed techniques. Benefits of weapons practice include the development of ki extension, correct posture, calmness of mind, foot work, atemi (striking), moving from one’s centre, coordination, focus and calmness of mind.

Big thanks to Craig Sensei, Gary and Zac for their contributions in this part of the class, which also served as a tool for looking at some of the ceremonial aspects of our martial art, particularly in a grading context.

Look forward to seeing you all next week.


Class Training Notes: 5/1/13

First training Saturday of the year and an unexpectedly big turnout. It was also a nice surprise to have seniors from Nathan Dojo and Aikido Republic visit and train with us.  Being the first class of the year, the emphasis was on revisiting Aikido fundamentals.

Okay so what did we cover.

The four principles of being an effective and safe uke

The four principles underpinning effective uke arts were examined from an applied Aikido perspective.  These principles can be conveniently summarised as follows:

  •  maintain contact throughout the entire interaction;
  • offer a committed attack;
  • remain relaxed;
  • be sincere.

Reference: Aikido Ukemi (Volume 2) Instructional DVD by Donovan Waite Sensei (7th Dan – Aikikai)

Ian 10Improving your front roll  

The front roll was explored in detail.  For further information and instruction (including video) on how to safely and effectively execute a forward roll from beginner to advanced levels see – How to do a forward roll.

Kaeshi waza (Reversal techniques)

Kaeshi waza shihonage  was explored with a view to improving both our forward ukemi and improving our uke connection throughout the execution of an Aikido technique.  For an excellent You Tube video explaining this Kaeshi waza application see  Kikentai-Berlin: Kaeshi-waza Aikido shiho-nage by Sutemi-nage. 

Characters of Aikido – what do they mean?

The word “Aikido” is made up of three Japanese characters: AI, KI and Do. In basic terms:

  • “Ai” means literally “to fit” (not “harmony” as is sometimes stated);
  • “Ki” means “energy”;
  • “Do” means “way”.

It seems reasonable to suggest therefore that a simple working definition of Aikido is “the way of fitting (or merging) energy”. This definition also aids in understanding as to how Aikido is intended to work in an applied context.

How does Aikido work?

At its essence, applied Aikido operates as follows:

  • the uke executes an attacking energy (eg strike or grab);
  • the nage steps off the line of attack;
  • The nage merges with and leads the uke’s attacking energy in such a way as to neutralise its effect (note this merging ideally begins to occur prior to physical connection between the nage and uke and requires timing, a calm state of mind, relaxed execution and sometimes atemi);
  • the attacking energy will in most instances be effectively neutralised if the uke is placed in kuzushi (i.e off balanced) and the nage is stable and centred. Ideally entry into kuzushi should  occur at the point of physical contact;
  • The nage merges and redirects the energy of the off-balanced uke in the direction which causes them most likely to fall.

To make their Aikido work, a student Aikido must engage in repetitive and considered practice with a variety of effective uke.

I recall being told when I first started Aikido that it takes 3000 proper practice executions of a technique for a uke to get even a basic idea of how the technique should feel and work with a cooperating uke in a basic kata.

Techniques covered in class

Katatekosadori  (one hand hold – opposite side) techniques were explored with an emphasis on understanding the importance of kuzushi (i.e. breaking balance) in an applied Aikido context.

Katatekosadore Shihonage and Ikkyo techniques were examined with particular reference to using the elbow to neutralise the uke’s attack and maintain kuzushi.  For an excellent You Tube video on applying Katatekosadore Shihonage from this perspective see – Donovan Waite Sensei 2008 YMCA Class (see at 1.20 min mark).

In addition, Kotegaeshi and Iriminage techniques were covered with an emphasis on achieving kuzushi at first contact.

Aiki self-defence application – Dealing with a strong katadori attack

Simple self-defence applications were explored in the context of using Aiki principles to respond to a strong katadori attack (one hand shoulder or front lapel grab) after contact has been made.  I got lucky with this one and found a most informative You Tube video dealing with the same applications (plus some additional ones) see –  Aikido Shihan Robert Nadeau:  Aikido vs King Kong.

An important message here is that it is okay and quite natural to be startled, panic, freeze etc when confronted by a real-life threatening and strong attack.  Training helps us to promptly regain a calmed mind and appropriately respond in this situation.

Another important message is that in a real life self-defence situation – keep your response simple and as direct as possible.

Kokyu Dosa

The “two fingers of doom” to the chest kokyu dosa technique was explored.  Okay that’s not its real name – I just made it up.

The purpose of  the exercise was to demonstrate the effect of applying ki extension from the outset before the koky dosa exercise has begun and before physical contact.  If this approach is taken the uke can be effortlessly off-balanced by lightly applying just 2 fingers to the chest or shoulder.

A sampler of full-contact koky dosa with a standing nage was also briefly looked at. This is new for all of us and something I would like to ask Craig Sensei to demonstrate further in future classes.


Two ukes-one nage taninzugake (free form multiple attacks) was practised.  Ukes were given a choice of  Katatekosadori or katatedori attacks.  The two attacker dynamic turns up the pressure a bit on the nage and is certainly a worthwhile practice, particularly as we had so many seniors.

All the best. Look forward to seeing you next week for those who can make it.

Ian Grant