Three techniques always taught in Iwama

Three techniques were always taught at the Iwama dojo. Tai no henko to start. Followed by morote dori kokyu nage. And keiko always ended with suwari waza kokyu dosa. Anyone who attended the Iwama dojo knows this was the way Saito Sensei taught. And those people have gone on to teach their own students the same way.

Three techniques always taught in Iwama 1Stanley Pranin, the publisher of Aikido Journal has written of his time studying in the Iwama dojo:

“Sensei’s classes would always begin with tai no henko and morotedori kokyuho and finish with suwariwaza kokyuho. He reminded us that O-Sensei always taught his classes in Iwama this way and he was following that tradition. He stated over and over again that his main purpose in teaching aikido was to preserve and spread the founder’s techniques in undiluted form.”

Bill Witt shihan, one of the first to attend the Iwama dojo in 1969, found the same pattern. When interviewed for an Aiki News article (No.6 – September 1974) he related the following:

“Q.What is the atmosphere like in the dojo when Saito Sensei teaches?

V-e-r-y traditional. The first time I saw Iwama, I felt that this must be a significant center… O-Sensei lived here, the aikido shrine is here. There is a top teacher who lives here… the dojo itself has a Shinto shrine rather than a simple Tokonoma like at Hombu Dojo. There are festivals every month on O-Sensei’s birthday anniversary, on the 14th… O-Sensei was born on December 14th. So when Doshu comes out, there is a little festival where the food is cooked up to offer to the Kamisama (deities) and then you eat it and drink Sake. So there are all these traditional aikido customs that have grown up over the years that O-Sensei started and which are still held.

And the training in the dojo itself?

Saito Sensei has three things that he always does during training. Tai No Henko, the basic blending exercise, then he does Kokyuho from the two-hand grab, and finally Kokyudosa. He considers those to be the three basic exercises that you should always do. He always finishes the practice with Kokyudosa and begins the practice with Tai No Henko and Kokyuho. He believes also in balancing Taijutsu training with training with the stick and sword, because, of course, a lot of aikido techniques were taken from the sword. Understanding how to swing the sword for instance should result in better technique.”