Historical photo with Morihei Ueshiba and Gozo Shioda: “Atemi and pressure point attacks that make your technique work!” by Stanley Pranin

“Modern aikido has tended to neglect such
techniques which have true martial application”

morihei-ueshiba-gozo-shiodac1940The other day on Facebook, some kind soul posted a very rare photo of Morihei Ueshiba taken c. 1940. If you happen to have information about the origin of this image, please contact me.

In this photo, you see Morihei Ueshiba inside his Kobukan Dojo executing a technique with Gozo Shioda as his uke. In this obviously posed photo against a fan attack from shomenuchi, Morihei has entered to Shioda’s flank, executing atemi to the latter’s ribs, and attacked a pressure point under uke’s elbow. This movement is a classic defense against a knife attack.

This was the way this technique was executed in the prewar era continuing through the Founder’s Iwama years in the late 1940s and 50s.

Taking a close look at this photo, I thought I saw something familiar. I went through my collection of photos from Morihei’s 1938 “Budo” book and found a virtually identical photo — also with Gozo Shioda as uke! That is the photo inset here. In this earlier photo, Shioda is attacking with a knife. Other than that detail, the two images are almost the same.

Modern aikido has tended to neglect such techniques which have true martial application in favor of the lighter, more flowing movements that were emphasized during the period of aikido’s popularization in the 1950s and 60s, especially within the Aikikai system. Nonetheless, with a little digging through the materials on Aikido Journal, you will find articles, photos, and videos that revive these wonderful techniques of an earlier era. They are certainly worthy of serious study.


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The Morihei Ueshiba Founder’s Course is O-Sensei’s video legacy starting in 1935 and covering a span of 34 years until just before his passing in 1969. Besides the more than 30 films of the Founder, the course includes three rare audio interviews of O-Sensei with complete subtitles. These are wonderfully intimate conversations with the Founder that convey his bright personality, playfulness and sincerity. In addition, the course includes a series of video documentaries by Stanley Pranin on the life of the Founder and the spread of his art worldwide.

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