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This FAQ answers the most common questions relating to Iwama Ryu Aikido and our online training system.
It is the original Aikido created by O-Sensei during the years 1945 to 1960, when he was living and teaching in Iwama, Japan. In 1947, 17 year old Morihiro Saito became his apprentice and over the next 23 years his closest disciple.
Saito Sensei was O-Sensei's technical heir as he had been the only disciple present throughout O-Sensei's Iwama period. Before 1945 O-Sensei called what he was doing Aikijutsu or Aiki-no-Michi, there were no weapons in his martial art. During the period 1945-1960 O-Sensei integrated weapons, sword and staff, into his martial art and used the name Aikido (Way of Harmony). Those who learnt from him before 1945 did not learn his Aikido and those who learnt from him after 1945 who did not practice his Riai, combined open handed and weapons, were not doing his Aikido.
Morihiro Saito Sensei used the name Iwama Ryu Aikido to differentiate O-Sensei's completed Aikido from others advantaged by his prestige and fame. The Iwama Ryu Aikido you will learn by using this Online Dojo is that learnt by Field
Sensei from Morihiro Saito Soke from 1979 to 2002. Saito Soke devoted his life to preserving O-Sensei's completed Aikido, that is, Iwama Ryu Aikido.
Stanley Pranin Aikido's learned historian and longtime editor of Aiki Journal wrote "The aikido seen commonly today differs considerably to that developed by the founder during the Iwama years in the following respects. Atemi (strikes) to vital points have been de-emphasized or eliminated. The number of techniques commonly practiced has been reduced. The focus on irimi (entering) and initiation of techniques by tori (person executing the technique) has been lost, and the distinction between omote and ura blurred. Practice of Aiki sword, staff, is infrequent or non-existent. Aikido, though still considered a budo by some, retains little of its historical martial effectiveness due to the soft, casual nature of practice and as such has been transformed into what could be better called a health or exercise system."
Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) the founder of Aikido, also known as O-Sensei, devoted his life to discovering and preserving the core of the martial arts that had been brought to his time by the Samurai; the elite warrior class who ruled Japan for nearly 700 years (1185 to 1867). Because of his birth date and place, for much of his life he had direct access to the trainings and information necessary for him to take the essential principles of the Samurai, and shape them into one art, which he would call Aikido. He foresaw that most martial schools would die out because of the arrival of the new paradigm, and planned that those who trained and studied his Aikido would have the benefits of the preceding Samurai era. He envisaged that his Aikido would preserve the core of the Samurai tradition; it's essential Bujutsu (martial techniques, sword, other weapons and open handed), Bushin, martial spirit, and Budo, the martial way of living.
Some believe he personally achieved all this. He is the bridge over which all that should not be lost from the Samurai era passes through to us. Today that bridge is very narrow, more difficult to cross than a tight rope.
Kyu ranks are pre black belt ranks. The Iwama Ryu Aikido Online Dojo has eight kyu grades. Ungraded beginners wear a white belt then work there way in descending order through - 8th Kyu (yellow belt) - 7th Kyu (orange belt) -6th Kyu (blue & white belt), -5th kyu (blue belt), - 4th kyu (green belt), - 3rd kyu (red belt), - 2nd kyu (purple belt), - 1st kyu (brown belt).
Dan ranks are black belt levels. The initial black belt that is earnt is called Shodan (1st Dan) then the Dan ranks ascend to 2nd Dan (Nidan), to 3rd dan (Sandan) and then 4th Dan (Yondan). Morihiro Saito Sensei used to say that a Shodan must know the basics of Aikido (especially shomen uchi ikkyos) and have kokyu (breath power), a Nidan is strong, a Sandan is flexible in executing Aikido defences and taking ukemi and a Yondan should be able to do well the entire Iwama Ryu Aikido syllabus after which all ranks are for service or are political in nature.
As Saito Sensei has passed away Field Sensei will be refusing any further ranks for himself but he will be giving both Iwama Ryu Aikido Taijutsu (open handed) and Ken.Jo (sword.staff) dan ranks to his students both on and offline as Saito Sensei gave him the responsibility to do so.
You will need training partners (a minimum of one person). Theoretically you can have any number of people train with you but practically they will most likely want to do gradings and advance to Shodan and beyond so they will all need to become members before too long. For example one organizational model is: You become a member and train with some family member(s) & friend(s). You stream classes using your internet connected computer or device, you train those the required number of times with your group. You can pay all costs (or collect contributions from your group).
As an Iwama Ryu intenet Dojo Member you do the gradings when eligible; Individuals from your group (who are not full members) can grade too by becoming your Associate Member. Your Associate members do kyu gradings and Dan Gradings in the same way that you will.
We will notify members, members notify their associates. We record how often members have logged in letting us know that they have completed classes. Members have to keep track of their Associate Members.
There are no gradings until you reach Shodan (first degree black belt). However you will be periodically offered the opportunity to get an assessment from your Instructors, which can be done by creating a video of yourself performing the required techniques and then uploading it to Vimeo. These videos can then be kept on file to allow both yourself and us to view your progress. This is not compulsory however it is recommended. You may continue without assessment until you reach Shodan level. However, you will need to be assessed at 1st Kyu if you wish to progress to Shodan.