Osensei supervising an Aikido class at his Iwama Dojo
A rare glimpse on how was training during the early days of Aikido at Osensei’s Iwama Dojo
Iwama Dojo 1960s: In this Aikido video Saito Sensei teaches a class in the Iwama dojo under the supervision of Morihei Ueshiba Osensei the founder of modern Aikido.
In this keiko (class) you can see many Aikido Deshi (students) practice suwari waza (kneeling techniques) Irimi Nage. Saito Morihiro Sensei teaches the class with Osensei.
The Irimi Nage practiced in this video is direct and with a strong ‘core’ hip movement. Suwariwaza trains your core and hip to be strong. You are on your knees, you have limited leg movements and all you’ve got really is your core.
The Osae Waza Ikkyo was smooth and direct as well. I am glad the suwari waza we practice today was practice then.
Also, notice that even though they were doing suwari waza, there were a lot of good kiai (war cry) present.
I believe that the voice over we heard saying “The Aikido where mind and body are combined is created in this silent atmosphere…” is Osensei’s voice. I’ve seen a lot of Osensei’s videos and photos. It is good to also hear his voice.
After the WWII Osensei retired in Iwama, a farming town about 100 kms north of Tokyo in the Ibaraki Prefecture. Since Tokyo got battered badly during the war, a lot of Aikido’s first teachers took refuge in Iwama.
Since Iwama is a farming town, the students there were a bit more rough in comparison to the white collared students from Tokyo. The students and uchideshi (live-in students) train in the morning and evening, in between those times they farm.
The Aikido developed in Iwama has a powerful vice grip that comes from the ring and small fingers. The Iwama Aikido uke resists more heavily (ideally not maliciously) than other Aikido styles. Iwama Aikido is a powerful form of Aikido.
During the Iwama years, Osensei fused all the martial arts that he mastered. It was in Iwama away from the buzz of post WWII Tokyo, Osensei really differentiate Aikido from the old Jujutsu. Aikido is no longer ‘Aiki-Jujutsu’, ‘Aikibudo’, ‘Daito Ryu’ or ‘Ueshiba Ryu’. In Iwama Aikido fused with the use of the sword, staff and knife as part of its curriculum. If Aikido is 99% Atemi, it is now 50% Bukiwaza, 50% Taijutsu and 100% Riai.
Iwama Uchideshi Life
It was a privilege and a BIG challenge to be an Uchideshi. I stayed in Iwama as an Uchideshi for three months. It was tough. Training was hardcore. It reminds me of a boot camp for the modern samurai. You eat, sleep and breathe Aikido.
There is a lot cleaning and chores to do, yet you constantly think of Aikido. Your focus is Aikido. The purpose of your existence in Iwama is Aikido. If you saw the video in this post, it is exactly like that. Morning and evening is keiko for 6 days a week and jiu keiko (free training) in between your regular classes.
One thing is for sure. Your Aikido will dramatically and even exponentially improve. I would highly recommend that you go to Iwama at least once in your life to experience what Osensei and Saito Sensei went through in the video.
By the way I lost 16 kgs (worth of fat) being an uchideshi. Your stamina and fitness will go through the roof if you become an uchideshi.
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