"Sword Hand" or Tegatana study. Dunken Francis sensei, Institute of Aikido Auckland summer camp 2014

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Institute of Aikido Auckland Summer Camp 2014

Some fantastic photo’s from this years excellent summer camp which included some very interesting and generous sessions from Loren Clement (Systema) Craig Barker (Goju Ryu Karate) Jules Robson (Jitsu) as well as Aikido sessions from Tony Shafelberger, Dianne Haynes, Rupert Atkinson and Dan Curran.

Any of you interested in participating in next year’s camp or in any of the many seminars we hold in Auckland please don’t hesitate to contact me via our website www.AikidoAuckland.co.nz.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and I hope it makes you want to find out more about Aikido

Aiki Peace Week – Conflict Resolution Seminar, Dunken Francis Sensei, Institute of Aikido Dojo Silverdale Auckland Sept 2013

Footage from the Conflict resolution seminar held in Auckland last month.

The aim was to explore the notion of Aikido as a martial art for peace, and we looked at many aspect of this from how we present ourselves to the world, how we collect and process information and how we choose to react to this information.

This clip is free to share as long as you credit me – a link back would be even better!

The audio is a bit dodgy for the first few minutes but overall it’s very good quality and throughout the day we managed to cover off some very interesting material. Sensei Shaufelberger who took the seminar with me also has footage that hopefully will be available shortly.

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The Dojo – The layout and structure of a place of training.

A great little piece I found on http://www.dillonlin.net.

Our dojo here in Silverdale, Auckland was built with these factor specifically in mind.

The thought came to mind to post about a basic or classic dojo layout and the reasons for the layout being at such. Until now, I have been hesitant to present this partly out of a feeling I have not yet understood this subject conclusively. However, this subject recently became the topic of two blog entries by Geoff Salmon, a kendo kyoshi 7-dan sensei, on his blogkendoinfo.net, thus pre-empting my intentions (7-dan always do this too me). The discussion on that blog confirmed some of the things I observed or seen explanations for elsewhere. So I’ve gone ahead and incorporated everything I’ve understood so far into the featured drawing of this post (which is quite simple) and the explanation below.

First, it should be explained that a dojo is not merely a place for training. The word dojo is composed of two kanji:
dō (道) – which means “way” or “path”
jō (場) – which means “place”
The term originates from Buddhism and refers to the place where Siddartha Gautama attained enlightenment. As Buddhism, in particular Zen Buddhism, became popular among the bushi class of Japan, Buddhist terminology and metaphors entered into budo terminology. Thus, the dojo is seen as a place for traveling the “path” towards some ideal.
The elements and orientation of the dojo have some particulars. Geomancy ideas such as In-Yo/陰陽 (aka Ying-Yang) and Fu-Sui/風水 (aka Feng-Sui) have traditionally had a role in the overall orientation. However, I am not too versed in this so this is not something I will go into for now (some links at the end of this post go into this a bit more). Generally however, the main entrance should be on the south side of the building so that warm healthy air can enter the building. The idea comes from Fu-Sui which can be seen as pre-scientific environmental rules of thumb.
Once in the hall a dojo will have the following (orientation based on classic south entrance and my understanding):
Entrance (入口) – with the exception of the room from Huis-clos, a room needs an entrance. As mentioned above this should be on the south side. According to Dave Lowry (references at the end of this post) this should be towards the left/west side of the dojo.
Kamiza (上座) – consisting of the kanji for “top” and “sit” (as in an action), this is the senior side of the dojo opposite the main entrance. Along this side is where the sensei (one or several) will sit. It is almost always the long side, e.g. if the main entrance is on the alternative location (west wall) the kamiza is still along the north wall. I have seen two cases (Shinjuku Sports Center’s dojo and Shinjuku Cosmic Center’s dojo) where the kamiza is on the same side as the entrance as the opposite side has extensive floor to ceiling glass walls (thus more appealing for the sensei to look out).
Shimoza (下座) – consisting of the kanji for “bottom” and “sit”, this is the junior side of the dojo opposite the kamiza.
Joseki (上席) – consisting of the kanji for “top” and “seat” (as in a place for sitting), this is the “most comfortable seat in the house” and is a term used in general Japanese etiquette. For example, the dinner table, train and taxi will have joseki. In a taxi it is the seat right behind the driver (first to get in and last to get out) and in a train it is the window seat facing the direction of travel (second place goes to the other window seat if there are facing seats). Other sources, including the discussion on Salmon-sensei’s blog, states this is the lateral wall adjacent to the kamiza and furthest away from the door. I somewhat disagree that this is the exact definition of the joseki though for convenience’s sake I will also refer to this wall as the “joseki” wall. However, in my view, rather than it being a wall, it is an orientation vaguely towards that corner but in front of the sensei, since joseki is one extreme of a continuum to the shimoseki (more on this below). If the entrance were on the right/east side of the dojo, then the joseki would be towards the left/west side. The joseki is where a VIP will sit, such as a visiting high grade sensei, dignitary or someone more senior in the organization who does not necessarily take part in the training (e.g. school principal, company president, police superintendant, etc.). Sometimes a resident sensei may sit here but from what I can tell, this is usually only the case if the resident sensei is a higher grade than the dojo leader sensei.
Shimoseki (下関) – consisting of the kanji for “bottom” and “seat”, this is the “least comfortable seat in the house”. In a taxi this is the seat next to the driver (one has to remember that despite perhaps being more comfortable, this seat would pay the driver so in Japanese corporate culture this is more junior than the middle back seat). In a train this is the aisle seat facing away from the direction of travel. In other sources the shimoseki is stated as the lateral wall closest to the door and opposite the joseki, however I must once again disagree that this is a precise definition as it is more like the southwest corner.
Shomen (正面) – This is the “front” of the dojo and usually coincides with the kamiza. From what I can tell, this may be the “joseki” wall if the entrance is along the “shimoseki” wall.
Keikojo/Embujo (稽古場/演武場) – this is where training/demonstration takes place.
Perimeter (周囲) – actually I never came across a proper name for this so this is my own term. This is an area, not always or even usually clearly defined in a dojo, that is off the keikojo. In the case of Yushinkan this was the area where the floor is not sprung and is for observers to sit, bags to be placed, equipment to be held, etc. In some dojo this separation is defined by columns, which means the perimeter could be called an aisle (roka/廊下). I have shown the perimeter in this case along the two junior walls. However, from what I can tell from photographs of the Kyoto Budokan and the old Noma Dojo (which have column separated aisles) the perimeter could be on all four sides (Kyoto Budokan) or along the kamiza and shimoza sides (Noma Dojo).
Entry Foyer (genkan/玄関) – This is an area that is lower than the dojo floor (often by just one step) where shoes are removed. A shoe shelf will usually be present here.
Kamidana (神棚) – is a small shrine placed high up on the wall (usually only very slightly below the ceiling). Classically this is along the kamiza but alternatively may be on the “joseki” wall or even on the shimoza wall. The kamidana is within the same “room” as the keikojo so if the perimeter is separated from the keikojo by columns, then the kamidana is placed within the keikojo side of the columns. The orientation towards the kamidana is called shinzen (神前) or “front of gods” so the command to bow to the kamidana is “shinzen-ni rei.” Kamidana being a shinto element are usually not present in dojo outside of Japan so a bow to shomen replaces a bow to the kamidana.
Tokonoma (床の間) – this is a wall inset that may or may not be present. It is an element from traditional Japanese rooms (washitsu/和室) for the display of scrolls, flowers, etc. From what I have seen at various ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), tokonoma are preferably along the kamiza (in a ryokan the wall furthest from the door and adjacent to the window) but could be anywhere except the window wall. In dojo layouts, I have seen it along the kamiza or the “joseki” walls but not along the other two.
Regarding my view on joseki-shimoseki, I believe these are orientations that are on extreme ends of a continuum rather than the two walls that are adjacent to the kamiza and shimoza. For the sake of convenience one could refer to these walls in this way. However, in my view since there are two senior-junior orientations (north-south, east-west), joseki and shimoseki are terms of seating arrangement etiquette. If this were expressed spatially, the dichotomy is perhaps more of an angle that governs a somewhat complicated seating pattern, which may in fact vary from dojo to dojo. The highest seat is along the “joseki” wall facing towards the “shimoseki” wall. This seat may in fact be empty most of the time. If occupied it is slightly in front of the sensei sitting along kamiza (from the point of view of that sensei). Joseki may also refer to a row of tables in the case of shinsa (grading) or embu (demonstration) which is not always at the “joseki” wall.
After this comes the line of seats for the sensei side, with the dojo leader sensei (not always the highest grade) sitting either in the middle of the kamiza side facing towards the shimoza or slightly closer to the joseki side. Any lower ranking sensei will sit on the kamiza side in descending order towards the “shimoseki” wall. Sometimes assistant instructors/high ranking sempai will sit on the kamiza side flanking the sensei.
Pupils will sit on the shimoza side, again in descending order of rank or age (in past there was more of a clean coincidence between the two) from joseki towards shimoseki. If two lines are required, then the more senior line is in front of the more junior line (from the point of view of the pupils). Within a kendojo, things like whether one is wearing armor or not may trump seniority. Also, if the practice is for children, then any adult pupils who happen to be also practicing will be considered junior to the children. The arrangements can become quite complicated and it is not always so clear cut (leading to jostling for humility).
Consider this post a work in progress. I hope to have a more conclusive understanding of what is contained here as well as find more information about hidden meanings of dojo layout and traditional architectural orientation.
For further reading here are some of the online sources I drew from:
First blog post by Salmon-sensei on this topic:
Second blog post by Salmon-sensei on this topic:
Part 1 of Davy Lowry’s article about the layout of a dojo and possible relationship to Taoism:
Part of an old series about budo, Otake-sensei of Tenshinshoden-Katori-Shinto-Ryu explains how In-Yo affects the choice of building site in this video (starting at about 1:15). The art of fortification building is actually within this ryuha’s curriculum:
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and I hope it makes you want to find out more about Aikido

Institute of Aikido Auckland – Youth Academy

We are very proud of our thriving Youth Academy here at and we have worked very hard over the past 5 years to develop a safe but challenging environment where students can use the framework of Aikido to find out more about themselves and how they interact with others and the world around them.

 We believe that our syllabus and carefully developed games and training drills allow the kids to develop their self confidence, their self discipline and also learn valuable life skills like safe falling, rolling and self defence.


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AIKIDO GAMES FOR KIDS – The tai sabaki game

At our dojos in Auckland we have a thriving Youth Academy with kids between the ages of 8 and 15 all training together on the same mat.  Over the years we have developed and refined a number of “Aikido games” to help them develop their skills quicker and more enjoyably, especially the fundamentals of posture, balance, ukemi and body movement.

Here is a clip of a game I developed about 5 years ago that we call the tai sabaki (body movement) game.  We play this during the warm up of every class and it not only promoted honesty and self respect bgut also sharpens up their body movement and reaction times.  It’s a great way to start a kids class and the best part is they really enjoy it!

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and I hope it makes you want to find out more about Aikido

HONEST Aikido training

Training At Iwama

‘When I trained in Iwama under Morihiro Saito Sensei many years ago, every so often he would say something like, “Sunao ni keiko shite kudasai” (Practice with an honest mind) to admonish students to practice sincerely and in a spirit of cooperation. An example would be when he saw a student resisting another’s attempt to perform a technique using his foreknowledge of the technique being practiced. Let’s assume that we are practicing tai no henko. I know that uke will be pivoting to the outside while extending his arms in front of his center.

Instead of merely grabbing his hand firmly, I lift it up forcibly to prevent him from turning and executing the technique. What I have done is simply to take advantage of the prearranged nature of practice to thwart uke’s attempt to perform the technique. I am not being “sunao” or honest in my training. Such an action on my part would be entirely self-defeating and a show of disrespect to the teacher. If I were to lift uke’s arm upward in tai no henko, he could simply continue the upward movement and swing his arm towards my face to throw me down.

 The following was a true story that occurred at the Iwama Dojo many years ago. I was practicing with a strong partner. Every time, he would use his knowledge of the technique we were practicing to block my movement. This of course was a cause of frustration to me. To make a statement, I proceded to block his technique in the same manner, but only once to prove a point. He continued every time to stop me, and from then on, I just resigned myself to continue until the end of class vowing to never train with him again. I knew that Saito Sensei was watching us as we continued in this manner, and I saw him becoming upset out of the corner of my eye.

Finally, Sensei shouted, “Dame! So iu kudaranai keiko yamero!” (Stop that stupid training!). We all sat down while Sensei exploded at my partner. He explained that anyone can block a person’s technique if they know in advance what they intend to do. That this kind of training totally defeats the purpose of practice and that one cannot progress by training this way. Sensei then proceded to ban my partner from practice at the dojo. The man was totally humiliated and immediately left the dojo with his head hanging down. Sensei eventually let the man back after about a month. From that point on, he trained in a respectful way and became an exemplary student. I trained with him several times after that and it was an enjoyable experience. He later established his own dojo and is still active.’

With thanks to Kokoro Kai Iwama Ryu – taken from their facebook page. 

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Saito Sensei, 1964, Iwama, original footage

A nice clip from 1964, showing Saito sensei demonstrating many movements and techniques that were to become the basis for the “Iwama” style of Aikido.

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Rare footage of O Sensei – superb quality

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Aikido & Recovery from addiction

In the past year I have come into contact with several people who are successfully using Aikido as a framework for self motivation, self improvement and self discipline as part of their journey recovering from addictive behaviour.    It never fails to amaze me how fundamental the changes can be, and always re-kindles my belief in the art.

Learning Martial Arts in Recovery
When people give up an addiction, they usually have plenty of time on their hands. It is advisable that they make good use of these empty hours, or they may begin to experience boredom. This is dangerous because it can lead people towards relapse. 

One productive way of using this time is to learn martial arts. This activity can strengthen people’s mind as well as their body. Many people associate martial arts with fighting, but these activities are more about teaching people self-discipline and encouraging mental cultivation. These combat systems can be of great benefit to people in recovery.

General Benefits of Martial Arts
Those who practice martial arts get to enjoy a number of benefits:
  • These ancient combat systems can be a great way to stay physically in shape. They can benefit almost every part of the body. There can be impressive cardiovascular benefits with some of the more intense martial arts.
  • Practising a martial art teaches people discipline. In order for people to become good at these fighting systems, the practitioner must be willing to sacrifice many hours, and put in a great deal of effort. They can use this discipline in almost every area of their life.
  • These arts equip people to defend themselves in an emergency situation.
  • Arts like Tai Chi and Aikido act as a type of moving meditation. This is great for relaxation and mental development. Even the hard martial arts can be a form of meditation.
  • All of these disciplines improve coordination and balance to at least some extent.
  • Martial arts training increases people’s confidence. Not only do they feel better able to defend themselves in a threatening situation, but they are also likely to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
  • Those who master these arts tend to be humble. This is because they no longer feel they need to prove anything to anybody. They are more aware of their strengths and limitations.
  • These disciplines can be a type of spiritual path. The individual practising them can develop both inwardly and outwardly.

The Benefits of Martial Arts in Recovery
Practising martial arts in recovery can be highly beneficial for several reasons:

  • It allows them to regain their physical health. Abusing alcohol or drugs causes great harm to the body, and practising martial arts can help restore health.
  • Self-discipline is essential to a successful recovery. Many good things in life require persistent effort and a bit of sacrifice. By learning martial arts, the individual will be able to extend this discipline to other areas of their life.
  • People who become addicted to substances tend to suffer from low self-esteem. Those who devote themselves to these arts will gain mastery over their body and minds. This will greatly increase their confidence and self-esteem.
  • If people are bored in recovery it will leave them feeling unsatisfied. This means that they will be more likely to relapse. By taking up a martial art, the individual will have something constructive to do with their time.
  • Early recovery can be a stressful time. It is often described as an emotional roller-coaster. This type of physical activity gives people the opportunity to release some of their pent up tensions. The meditation aspects of these martial arts can also be wonderful for helping people to be better able to handle stress.
  • You will become part of a mutually supportive group, all striving for the same goals.

How to Begin a Martial Arts Practice in Recovery
Beginning a martial arts practice is not something that people usually regret. There are some steps that the individual can take to increase their likelihood of benefiting from martial arts:

  • Even a small town will usually have several different schools teaching martial arts. It is recommended that people do a bit of investigation into the different styles before making any decision.
  • It is a good idea if people consider what they want from this activity. For example, it is important to consider whether they want something that is more spiritual or physical in nature.
  • All the different styles of martial art will have people of all ages practicing them. Some of them are more physically demanding than others. Those who plan on learning one of the more intensive arts will need to be willing to increase their fitness to a high level.
  • It is a good idea if people speak to their doctor before beginning any new fitness regime. This is particularly important if they have not exercised in a long time or if they have any pre-existing medical conditions.
  • In order to progress in a martial art, people need to be willing to commit to regular practice. They will be able to develop much faster if they can go to at least two classes a week and if they also practice at home.
  • Most martial arts classes will allow people to come for a free introduction lesson. This can be a good way to assess what is on offer.
with thanks to the www.alcoholrehab.com website.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and I hope it makes you want to find out more about Aikido

CONGRATULATIONS To Mark Rodgers, 1st Kyu, Craig barker, 3rd Kyu and Paul King 5th Kyu

Summer Camp

Summer Camp this year is 24-27th january. See facebook for full details and the list of instructors.. Be sure to check out out Timetable to see when classes are on.

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