The Iwama aikido curriculum as disseminated by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, has its roots in the techniques taught by Founder Morihei Ueshiba in the postwar era in Iwama, a small town in the countryside of Ibaragi Prefecture.
Morihei Ueshiba lived, farmed, and practiced his aikido with great intensity in Iwama after the war left Japan in a poverty-stricken state. For the first time in years, he was able to concentrate his efforts on the perfecting of his martial techniques and spiritual development. This period is generally regarded as the birth of aikido as recorded by Morihei’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
Through a quirk of fate, Morihiro Saito, one of Ueshiba’s closed disciples, found himself in a unique position to be the beneficiary of Morihei’s vast knowledge. The flexibility of his job allowed him to spend large amount of time with the aikido founder on alternate days, this in contrast to the few others students who had to struggle to eke out a living in these years of great struggles. For more on this subject, readers may wish to read Stanley Pranin’s article titled “The Iwama Aikido Conundrum.”
The chart below presents the classification of a large portion of the empty-handed techniques taught by Morihei Ueshiba during the Iwama years to the small number of students from the countryside and occasional visitors. It represents a technically rich curriculum with hundreds of variations. This stands in contrast to mainstream aikido which was disseminated from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, and which concentrated on a much smaller body of techniques. In numerical terms, the Tokyo system was the predominant approach to aikido that spread throughout Japan and abroad during the later part of the 1950s and 1960s under the direction of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei, 10th dan.
Aikido Journal has published a series of ebooks authored by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, in high-resolution PDF format. The collection currently consists of 8 volumes in which Saito Sensei covers more than 430 empty-handed aikido techniques. We believe this series of technical manuals to be the most complete treatise on aikido technique available at the present time. With such a detailed technical reference at hand, you will be able to steadily improve your understanding and execution of aikido techniques.
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