Another penny drops in IS training

figure_11I admit it. I have been mystified by the IS practice methodologies for quite a while now. However, much as I did with my Ki training in Shin Shin Toitsu in the ’90s, I’ve put that aside to follow the pedagogy in the hope of finding out more through doing. It proved helpful in the Ki Society, where eventually I found enough physical basis for some of the exercises (such as unbendable arm and unraisable body) that I could resolve the internal dialogue and also practice with a purpose that resonated more strongly with me.

Following the emerging literature on the fascia and the labelled ‘anatomy trains’, it was kind of making sense, but the purpose of the winding, pulling silk etc… was a big part of the mystery (and frankly still is). It took some prodding from Aran Bright on the subject of developing tension for another little penny to drop and Steve Seymour’s insights and use of other paradigms to explore IS

As near as I can understand, we have a skeletal structure (which is just a kind of fascia with minerals attached), some muscles to move it around, and then a kind of exoskeleton made up of the fascia surrounding it.

The Penny dropped on the ‘exo-skeleton’ (which is not a great choice of a word) is maybe a balloon man/ suit (as coined used by researchers such as Sigman and others) created by the fascia.


Anyways I saw this image in  “Low back disorders” by McGill as a model of the back

photo 1


which looked a lot like, and the next step, but much better than my toppling work’s own


and then seeing this image in this article  and structural mechanics analogies that Michael Nash found


A chat with Sunter san, suggests exo-skeleton is not a great word as this implies ‘strength and rigidity’ maybe there is a better word that describes it as a flexible thing.

Conditioning the fascia by straining it appears to be the purpose of ‘pulling silk’ giving rise to mental models like the ‘balloon man’ and ‘the suit’.

Some scientific researchers talk about a sweet spot of strain (5-10% depending who you ask) being optimal, and from what I know of tendon research (with some involvement in this professionally), I can see that some strain is important for growth and healing, but too much causes damage and too little is just a waste of time.


Therefore, doing reps of straining the fascia through ballooning,skin breathing, pulling silk and so on, appear to be methods of developing just this conditioning. Once the exoskeletal structure is built and in place, you still need to be able to move, so winding and bows and similar exercises allow the muscles to move freely beneath the exoskeleton, so we can have our structure and use it too (Marie Antoinette would be proud).


Next up, the IS exercises of bowing and using the qua and Tanden (Dan Tien) teach us how to move properly while maintaining the structure, thus providing a way to apply it in a martial context.

Looking back on the exercise set given to our school by Okajima sensei, I see now the role of breathing (as a means to co-ordinate the strain of the fascia), the movements of the body (as bowing and Kua coordination), together with the Tanden ball exercises, the ground connection exercises (source of infinite power) and balance sensitivity exercises. What a terrific set of exercises, given context by IS training methodologies and meaning from the sciences.


Is it a complete picture? No way. But it’s an incremental step forward in intentionality in incorporating the exercises in our practise and validates our trust that the solo training, as a means of body conditioning and coordination development, can and will yield results in good time.


Of course understanding ain’t doing…but its a start for this keyboard aspirant 😉


Domo arigato teachers, friends and colleagues on the path. Dare to dream, dare to question, but above all, give voice and dare to collaborate and rediscover the source !



Target Focused Training in Sydney – The pointy end of the Stick

live-training-visual-headline-1I just heard from budo buddy  Mike Allen that there will be a TFT seminar in Sydney. TFT is making the news internationally at the moment. See

You can find out more about the seminar here at the end of March. Don’t be put off by the US style marketing and $$$ (if you read to the end its quite reasonable)


Below is a review of when we had the boys up from Sydney a few years back.

“In 2008 I had the privilege of attending one of Mike’s seminars at Andrew Sunters Sydney dojo and to host him in Brisbane for a weekend seminar later. Mike has been training martial arts for not-quite 30 years and is a recognized instructor in Kempo, Aikido and Yang Mian. In real life he is also a practicing physiotherapist. Recently he has been studying a system called target focus training, which he regards as ‘the pointy end of the stick’ for personal protection. I believe it embodies many aikido principles, but with the gloves off. Mike sensei is an approachable and articulate instructor with a genuine interest in sharing this method in a safe environment.

For me the introduction to the reality of ‘Asocial violence’ was quite confronting. It was good to learn more about how our bodies and minds can and do respond as a way of being prepared for such a situation. When coupled together with some of the tools Mike presents I think this rounds out our understanding of Aikido in the realm of Personal Protection. It nicely complements the methods that Catherine Sensei will present later in February and will help prepare us even better as we continue to develop our Personal Protection workshops for the community.”

See Also Mike’s article on our self defence page on  Asocial violence


A Union of Opposites with Seymour Sensei

union-of-oppositesA big thankyou to Steve Seymour Sensei from Aikido Kenkyukai and Balmain dojo for his visit on the weekend. We were treated to a tour de force of Internal Strength as sensei shared from his current practice and further research into Internal Strength.

Its almost a year since we visited Seymour Sensei in Sydney to find out a bit more and embarked on the journey with our own study group.  Internal strength allows us to see what is hidden in plain sight in our schools kata and exercises given to us by Okajima and Maruyama Sensei’s.

Unfamiliar and  familiar teachings (like  keeping elbows in and closing and seperating the shoulders and hips)  were given context,  purpose and a framework.

Sensei shared and reviewed the practices of the body work seminar fundamentals and extended on our knowledge to a deeper level with insights from other arts and utilised exercises from physical therapists to increase strength and flexability in our Kua and Body

It was great to see Dave Kolb Sensei from Bayside Budokai and Kim from Brisbane Aikikai too.

We appreciated much also his insights in how to continue this practice in an integrated way with the aikido arts and to know we are (more or less) on the path.

I  think we got a B+ on the report card 😉   Many thanks Sensei for visiting, sharing you time and experiences

Aikitaikai class with Sunter Sensei Sat 22nd Feb 3pm

Andrew Sunter Sensei and friends, image C. Withers

Andrew Sunter Sensei and friends, image C. Withers

Continuing the Aikitaikai dialogue of late with Sunter Sensei, Schnell Sensei and other colleagues on the path, we are delighted to have Andrew Sunter as a guest for a special session on Saturday 22nd Feb from 3pm,  ahead of the Sunday dan grading.
Ever since visiting Okajima Sensei in 2005 (See Budo bums in japan) , we have pursued an interest in the practices Aikido Yuishinkai from the Daito Ryu through the window of biomechanics and more recently internal strength (see
Since last we met Andrew Sensei has made some progress in developing Kokyu which I am looking forward to finding out more about. If you would like to join us please bring your Dogi and an open mind. A casual class fee for visitors or a little something in the tin at the dojo door for regulars is appreciated.

The art of teaching

In the martial arts the direct transmission from teacher to student is high valued, so too in the west we find this as well. The video below shows the transmission of a western ‘battle field’ practice to a direct student. Note the challenges of cross cultural communication are at work here.

Some other opinions on teaching, learning etc… here

Aikido Techniques for teaching

Williams Sensei at Large

just_press_herejpgIf you’ve been paying attention to various Facebook pages you’ll no doubt have seen that Williams Sensei is getting back to his spritely self and visiting dojo here and there. If your in SE Qld and the Byron district you can catch him at the upcoming events below. If your not a facebook user you can still live a virtual life vicariously through the following links.  For those involved in these events feel free to comment with further details and webpage links.

Monthly Seniors classes in Byron

Teaching and combined dan grading in Brisbane Nov 2nd


Maruyama Sensei Recommends “Soul of the Samurai”

1005474_10152444792525353_2121492927_nRecently Will Reed Sensei recommended the following on his facebook page

Recommended by Maruyama Sensei to understand the core of Aikido Yuishinkai as Budo.

“Soul of the Samurai”
Modern Translations of Three Classic Works of Zen and Bushido written by Yagyu Munenori and Zen Master Takuan.

Translated by Thomas Cleary

Kindle Edition also available.

I also found it on FishPond, which is as cheap as Amazon for us Aussies, and without the postage bill (have ordered a copy for the dojo too).


I asked Reed Sensei a little more about the post, this is what he said

“Maruyama Sensei did say that everything is contained in the first paragraph of Takuan’s TAI-A KI: notes on the Peerless Sword.

It says that the art of war is not a matter of relative strength, but of penetrating the place where there is no division of yin and yang.

His lecture was pretty profound, on how Aikido is the the sound of one hand clapping. No action or reaction, just perfect synchronicity.

Or you can spend a hundred years holding hard and missing the point.”

Whilst also noting the of course Maruyama sensei works with the original Japanese text


Winter and Spring Seminars coming up…

imagesWith the REED13 seminar on the horizon (and only a few places left), there are some nice seminars happening in an around this time to get you all tuned up. Don’t forget if you still want to register for REED13 you need to hurry, at this stage we are unlikely to have any spaces available at the door. See

July, Saotoshi Takeda Sensei, Byron Bay

Firstly in mid July Saotoshi Sensei, Aikido Kenjkyukai is being hosted by friend of the dojo Chicko down at Byron, we managed to get along last time he was in the neighbourhood (See seminar report ).

Seminar details here

Augest, William Reed Sensei, Brisbane

William Reed Sensei travels to Brisbane as Maruyama Sensei’s official representative for 2013. to teach on the theme ‘The Evolution of Aikido Yuishinkai’.

Limited places

Augest, Shinkage Ryu Seminar, Capalaba hosted by Onami Aikido dojo

Yamamoto Sensei  (6th Dan Iaido, 5th Dan Kendo)
Head instructor of the Ichimon Shinkage Ryu Dojo in Sano Japan

Yamamoto sensei has kindly consented to provide a seminar on the principles and features of Ichimon Shinkage Ryu Iaido, Discussion of the Sword and Insights on training.  Location and cost to be advised. details

October, Japanese weapons, Komei Juku

Lastly Craig, “Big Rock”, is helping with a Komei Juku weapons seminar later on in October.  Brisbane Komei Juku Dojo hosting Japanese Swordsmanship and Naginatajutsu Full details are yet to emerge but stay tuned to

Aikido Seminars: Want to go to an aikido or budo seminar, here are some tips in mind

Solo training in Aikido

Solo training in AikidoSolo training is not a new idea in aikido, when you think of all the taiso at the start of class and the weapons kata there is plenty of it. But what is relatively new (well what’s old is new anyway) is the idea of purpose behind solo training.

“Your aikido will only improve when your concept of aikido improves”
Kenjiro Yoshigasaki
Founder Ki Society Internationale

Any new idea is helpful and the idea of a purpose for solo training as new concept is something that can enrich our aikido practice. Aikido is often included in the list of internal martial arts, particularly those from China. These arts are by and large solo arts and at the interface between these arts the advantages and disadvantages of paired practice of aikido is laid bare somewhat. Local aikidoka doing these solo arts have had some terrific development in their aikido as a result, though it takes some time to integrate and in the short term has led to awkward aiki at times and some disruption to the dojo pedagogy.
So along comes the internal strength movement in the aikido circles, clearly its a new concept , or at least new packaging on elements that are already in our art. The premesis is that we need to understand our own bodys, how they move and generate and recieve power before we can hope to apply that in two person practice. And indeed it would seem to be the case, though only through paired practice can this be learnt and expressed. In this then we see that aikido kata are examples of aiki rather than the definitive set of ‘aiki’

” they see the kata as the art itself instead of a sophisticated teaching tool that is only a surface reflection of an arts core concepts” Yukiyoshi Takumura, Soke Takumara-ha Shindo Yoshin Kai

Books like Ellis Amdurs “Hidden in Plain Sight” and “Transparent Power” on the life of a Ueshiba contempory, namely Yukiyoshi Sagawa point the way to solo training as being valuable and an integral part of the founders aiki abilities.

So where does that leave AIkido Yuishinkai?  Through the window of a recent  internal strength seminar and interaction with others in this movement in and outside our school does it become clear that we have this method built into our art.
Maruyama Sensei has been teaching for years through his 10 basic forms and his tanden ball exercises much that we see in the internal strength movement, its just that we didn’t recognise it. Here are Okajima sensei’s (Maruyama Sensei’s successor) exercises we saw in Japan almost a decade ago and more recently in Australia at his first international seminar. Catherine Schnell sensei captured these then and the review of them continues to shed light..

Here we see exercises reminiscent of the wave in Systema, the centring exercises that are a precursor for reeling and winding in many of the chinese martial arts and strongly reminiscence of the exercises in the Dan Harden bodywork seminars (from what we can gather), the universal exercises of Mike Sigman’s method. Through the various testing methedologies for movement and partner feedback we see the Ki Society methods now as a tool, rather than egoic practice to reinforce the status quo or worse a tangent to the etherial adn intangaable (at least in this moment of time anyway). We see shades of theopening and closing of the creases that Bill Gleeson Shihan often  talks about

Further sharing this through the Yuishinkai community Mike Haft Sensei from the UK shares with stunning clarity here are the ‘rites of spring exercises he has been doing for 10years, through the Hikitsuki Sensei that O’Sensei reportly practiced for more than an hour every day.

Mike writes

The first exercise of the Rites of Spring is Shinkokyu which is almost identical to Okajima Sensei’s first exerecise he demonstrates in the video, the difference being that there are four claps when hands are held aloft in the Rites of Spring. Also I don’t think there’s so much leaning forwards in the RoS as Okajima Sensei does.
The third exercise in the RoS is Furu Tama which is very similar to Okajima Sensei’s third exercise, but not quite the same.

O Sensei’s stuff is clearly shinto and shingon buddhism influenced, but I’d bet that if Okajima Sensei’s exercises are DR derived then they contain some overlap. Apparently O Sensei would do practise the RoS daily from anything like several minutes to several hours.

Recentky Stan Pranin shared O’Sensei’s warmup exercises…where you can see some of these in action

So what its taken to get to this point, here at the beginning of the importance of solo practice. This slow learner, by way of the scientific method, likes to know the what and how, rather than just do and copy. The former being the pedagogy of western science and the latter the observational basis that is eastern science. Everything has advantages and disadvantages. But whats most important is here is something new (thats not new) , something to chew on and reinvigirate/reinterpret everything that Maruyama Sensei has been teaching for years but with now an understanding of the purpose and a critical eye that can help cut to some core emelments of the practice.

The Aiki Smorgasboard

bentoToday we teeter on the edge of the 3rd generation Aikido, that is, there isn’t the access to direct students of O’Sense,  by and large. Also many of the boundaries to training widely, such as being locked within rigid hierarchal structures have started to soften or disappear, though there are bastions of expertise, ( and ignorance) running very well. Its, I suspect, a function of the desire to get access to as direct a transmission as possible as well as the influence of global culture pushing into dojo. In fact is possible in Australia to attend seminars, from all kinds of direct lineages to the founder, every month or more. There is at times abundant opportunity to get a wide adn at times diverse views of the founders aikido from many perspectives. Issues of quality aside, it can really enhance our understanding of the art, though important to do this mindfully.

All aikido schools, and indeed dojo within schools have considerable variation on the surface. I imagine its quiet possible to devote a lifetime to studying these differences without penetrating to the core of aikido nor the founders intent. That is, to be so busy with the variation/minutiae in aikido kata, how the kata is practiced in the major schools etc.. that deep learning is somehow ancillary.

Within our own dojo we encourage everyone, once a foundation of core skills and good ukemi has been established to train widely. We think it helps to help develop robust experiences and to see what is common between the various schools and dojos rather than the differences. Its also selfish in that it improves the quality of practice within the dojo. It helps avoids ‘tunnel vision’ , avoids belief in the infallibility of sensei (mostly this is obvious at our dojo) and starts to develop a feeling for the core principles of aikido and with it confidence in practice.

The challenge of running a dojo though is how to embrace the diversity, yet avoid becoming an Aikidoka or dojo that is just based on loosely focused experiences and training pedagogy. This is where the core practice, structure from sensei and teaching team and affiliation is so important. From this we have structure, principally through syllabus and instruction pedagogy. In our school,  after 2nd Kyu the art becomes freer and more accommodating of different ways to move, a ukemi method that is compatible with free flowing training, resistance training and a dojo of thoughtful people open to the expression of ‘aiki’. If someones been to a seminar we generally like to see some review of a seminar or experience undertaken in the dojo as a structured part of information being brought back, through seeing it and feeling it expressed in the uke-nage interactions is probably where the real transmission of it is. Superficial differences aside, considerable care in ensuring it doesn’t detract from the programmed life of the dojo, nor detract from the study of the art, through the vehicle of syllabus needs to be taken.

Were it possible to be a student in daily contact with a master teacher I think the importance of training widely would be less of a consideration. The reflections on this dilemma by Peter Goldsbury are a valuable read. We have seen over the years the negative influences in restricting students exposure to the wider aikido community unduly, ultimately leading to stagnation. But also the dangers in abandoning ones self with no connection/lineage to the source and leads to unfocused aikido. There is a kind of dynamic tension between the two and the importance in having a direct teacher to maintain a particular focus is very important at both dojo and organisational level.

Thus at the aiki smorgasboard we think its wise to not over fill the plate in excitement, but instead to allow time for digestion to take place but most importantly not to go hungry.