Aiki Ken and Jo: “To do or not to do… What do you think?”
“The heated discussion persists about the inclusion of
O-Sensei’s weapons techniques in aikido training”
Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin offers a video blog in which he discusses the issue of whether or not Aikido training should involve the practice of weapons. He provides some historical background on Morihei Ueshiba’s study of weapons, and explains the reasoning for the two major viewpoints on this subject.
One school of thought is that because the Founder Morihei Ueshiba was keenly interested in practicing weapons from at least the 1930s forward, and taught his Aiki Ken and Jo forms to his students — notably Morihiro Saito — after the war in Iwama, weapons training should be considered an integral part of aikido.
The other way of thinking about the issue is promoted by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo including the Doshu and other shihan is that weapons are peripheral to aikido training because Morihei Ueshiba did not formally teach them at the headquarters school and, in fact, forbade their practice.
Finally, Stanley talks about two instructional DVDs by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, that cover the Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo curriculum.
These differences of opinion have long been debated. Which viewpoint is the most persuasive? Do you include weapons practice in your own training?
Quotes from Morihiro Saito, 9th dan
Before the war, the founder usually studied weapons by himself and did not teach these techniques to his students. It was during the Iwama period, mainly when only O-Sensei and I were left, that he began to teach weapons…
By the time I learned it, the 31-jo kata was already complete, but when Koichi Tohei Sensei [presently head of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido] came to practice in Iwama it had not yet been perfected. What he learned was different from what I learned, probably because O-Sensei’s way of instructing was not yet fully developed. When I learned under O-Sensei his teachings included all of the weapons techniques including the kumitachi. At one stage, there was no one left in Iwama except me, so I trained with O-Sensei by myself. His teaching gradually became more elaborate…
The aikido that I learned consisted of both taijutsu and weapons techniques. We can use any type of weapon, but we mainly use the ken and jo. This is the only explanation I can give you. The founder explained aikido from many different viewpoints depending on the period and his state of mind. He said aikido was taijutsu that incorporated sword principles. So I believe aiki-ken and aiki-jo correspond to hanmi-ken and hanmi-jo. In other words, weapons techniques are expressed in the form of taijutsu, enabling you to enter into your opponent’s space and throw him.
The weapons-based techniques in taijutsu enable us to attack an opponent and throw him. I think taijutsu and weapons techniques should have a relationship, which is neither too close nor too remote. At the Iwama dojo I hold a weapons practice only once a week, so I am certainly putting the emphasis on taijutsu. But I think it is my duty, as one who was taught directly by the founder, to teach ken and jo to my students and to maintain the traditional teaching the founder left in Iwama.
Excerpted from interviews with Morihiro Saito conducted by Stanley Pranin
Morihiro Saito Sensei teaching an outdoor weapons class in Denver, Colorado, c. 1999
Saito Sensei executing ushiro tsuki, the rear thrust, at Denver seminar