Video: Morihiro Saito demonstrates outdoors in Iwama in 1964

This rare film captures Morihiro Saito Sensei performing taijutsu, and basic Aiki Ken and Jo movements outdoors in the fields of Iwama. Saito Sensei is a young 36 years old, and this film represents some of the earliest surviving footage of this master.

The scenes shown here, entirely in slow motion, reveal an early stage in the development of Iwama Aikido. Aikikai Hombu Dojo instructor Yutaka Kurita, for many years a teacher in Mexico, serves as Saito Sensei’s partner. The original film was shot in 16 mm resulting in a much higher quality image than other films of this era.

Saito Sensei’s performance of various basic techniques is somewhat different from that of his later years. The same can be said of his Aiki Ken and Jo suburi and kata, which predate the sharpness and sophistication of his later technique. Interestingly, you will notice that the 31-jo kata has a different ending in this film!

This video clip offers an excellent glimpse into the tentative early phase that would later blossom into the vast, tightly structured curriculum of Iwama Aikido that took root all over the world beginning in the mid-1970s. In the same way a careful study of Morihei Ueshiba’s 1935 film reveals much about aikido’s roots, through this video we can much better appreciate Saito Sensei’s formative phase and the evolution of his technique.

Duration: 7:46
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  1. Patrick Augé says:


  2. Juan Bianchi says:


  3. tom collings says:

    Stan – This wonderful film has always been a facinating enigma to me. My impression of it is a bit different from yours. Expecting to see a harder and rougher technician in earlier years – Saito Sensei here is so fluid – almost a soft version of Iwama aikido. Yet still distinctively traditional Iwama technique. I find this amazing – I never would have imagined Sensei or Iwama aikido to be this soft.

    I do not see less sophistication in Saito Sensei’s technique, just a softer feel and more relaxed attitude than I ever experienced with him in the late 1970’s. Bob Nadeau made this film available many years ago – do you know if he filmed it ? If so, would he have asked Sensei to demonstrate
    this approach ?

    • I think the fact that the film is in slow motion and that Saito Sensei was posing for the camera accounts for the apparent softness of the movements. I’ve seen other film from this period where he is demonstrating and he is very powerful indeed.

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