View Full Version : Saito Sensei 1964 22 kata?

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Ethan Weisgard
07-01-2007, 02:54 AM

I was given this link by a friend of mine to a clip on Youtube. There is beautiful footage of Saito Sensei doing taijutsu very slowly and carefully - outdoors in Iwama. The footage is recorded by Robert Nadeau Shihan. The people I have asked do not know who the uke is. Any ideas?
At the end there is an interesting version of the 31 kata with a hassogaeshi finish to it! And at the very end of the clip Sensei does a kata I never saw him perform during the 18 years I trained under him. To me it looks like a form of 22 kata (I don't know this kata myself - Sensei didn't teach it). What are people's takes on this kata that is shown here?

In Aiki,

Ethan Weisgard

Jason Woolley
07-01-2007, 04:44 AM
I can't offer any advice on what Saito Sensei was practicing but I think the commonly referred to 22 count jo kata was created by Tohei.


Nafis Zahir
07-01-2007, 10:29 AM
What I found amazing, was that Saito Sensei was doing the Tachi Waza techniques exaclty the way we do them at my dojo, and we don't train in the Iwama style! This of course, is a good thing. It shows that even though all they styles are different, they are in many ways, the same.

07-02-2007, 02:30 AM
Hi Ethan
I have been looking at this footage a while now and I'm also impressed with the quality of the film.
Regarding the jo movements. I see a kata that later turned into 31 kata. I see another kata that has the 13 kata in it but also more. All the extra stuff in these two kata that today is not included are still in the single (suburi) movents of jo that all in all counts to 20 right?

We have some of the hasso movements that we don't see in todays kata.
We have the yokomen ushiro tsuki.
We have the elusive hidare and migi nagare gaeshi
Etc etc.

It seems like Saito sensei kept (all or most of?) the individual movements of O-senseis teachings as suburi but over time took some of them out from the kata. My impression is that the founder did so many individual movements and sequences that it was basically impossible to make one kata containing all of them in a transmittable and coherent way. Saitos genious was that he put them all into suburi, kata, kumijo and henka. What I have a hard time to believe to this day is the old saying that the 31 kata always looked the way that it is practiced today (and this footage is some evidence to that). I feel that the 31 kata most closly resembles the kata the founder did and contains most of the individual sequences that was repeted by the founder... and was relatively easy for Saito to transmit to his deshi.
These kind of footage is gold to me in understanding where Saito came from and his process in evolving his pedagogics into what we do today.


07-02-2007, 04:13 PM
The people I have asked do not know who the uke is. Any ideas?Don't think it's Tohei Akira, but there's a resemblance...

Ethan Weisgard
07-03-2007, 02:38 AM

After studying the footage some more, I have come to the same conclusion. The first kata is clearly the 31 kata, but with hasso gaeshi in the final movement. Saito Sensei said that he managed to glean the 31 kata from O-Sensei in its entirety, so it is possible that O-Sensei at times finished the kata with the hasso gaeshi movement and sometimes the gyaku yokomen. Interesting to see this old version. As to the second kata: It is definitely not the 22 kata. I see parts of the 13 kata and as you say, the suburi as well (you mention that the hasso movements aren't to be found in the kata - there is one in the 13 kata). Saito Sensei said on occasion that the 13 kata was a part of a longer sequence, but he never could get the rest of this sequence when O-Sensei was doing it. Sensei chose therefore to take the movements he was sure of and put them into what we now know as the 13 kata. There are lots of other interesting details in this wonderful footage - both in the weapons work as well as the taijutsu- this is really a treasure! Especially the wonderful, caring way that Sensei is performing the techniques - we know that this was when Sensei was in his absolute prime - Stanley refers to him as a "locomotive" during this period! It is great to see Sensei doing the techniques in such a fluid and controlled form. Another great point is the shomen uchi form - leading uke's hand out (Sensei always called this "aite no ki wo yobidasu" to call out your partner's ki). This is a part of training that seems to have fallen out of use in many places - there is a thread about this elsewhere on Aikiweb.
All in all a great treasure to have available to us all. Thanks to Robert Nadeau Shihan and Aikido Journal for making it available.

In Aiki,


07-03-2007, 03:29 AM
A treasure indeed!
Regarding the 31 kata - It seems like O-sensei didn't do many things exacly the same twice. Specially when it came to doing long jo kata. It seems, however, like there was one that he did farely often and farely similar. This is what is today known as the 31 kata. Saito sensei saw it so many times that the overall kata became apparent to him. O-sensei, however, probably changed some sequences at will including and excluding some parts. He might have started with choku tsuki instead of kaeshi tsuki (like in this version!). Hi might have added a hasso movement in the end etc. Over all it looked like the one we see today.
Then O-sensei seemed to have done another long and more free sequence of fluid movements including alot of the nagare gaeshi, hasso (btw I meant that today there are two of the five hasso suburi - hasso gaeshi ushiro uchi and barai - left in 31 and 13 kata), ushiro tsuki, sometime from one knee on the mat, the large katate sweeps etc and in all directions. Simply just combining the single sequences in all possible way in some form of imaginary purifying fight. Therefore it never looked exactly the same from time to time.
Sometimes I play with this myself, just playing freely with the jo in an endless flow of sequences possible. A good way of breaking the box around your mind.
I believe that's similar to what Saito sensei did in the second form. Just a lengthy flow of alot of the single sequences he remembered O-sensei used to do.
It's interesting to view Tohei sensei do something similar as well.
Tohei sensei formulated, in a similar way like Saito sensei did, a kata not very unlike the 31 kata, but with a slightly different count and with some other sequences in and some not. This was called 22 kata. (Can be viewed here (http://aitekai.dnsdojo.org/jak/film/jo22.htm) performed very nicely by Peter Spangfort, Järfälla aikido. Just click the link "jo kata 22 at the top.)
But Tohei sensei also often seemed to have done these longer and more free sequences as can be seen here (http://www.aikidojournal.com/media?media=video&page=17) in aikidojournals video archive where Tohei sensei was demonstrating aikido in Florida 1967.


Ethan Weisgard
07-03-2007, 11:38 AM

I agree with you completely.

It is interesting to see how the forms evolved. I really believe that the older forms of the Aiki weapons - as seen here and also as seen in Sensei's old books - have very many important points.

Sensei's movements to me seemed to become more and more natural as he got older. It's interesting seeing the older deep stances for instance, and I believe that it is important to go through a phase where you train in these stances also ( we did this a lot under Tomita Sensei in the 70s and 80s). But when you see footage of O-Sensei, even the old Aiki Budo film, he was almost always in a natural, upright body position. To me, Sensei's form looked more like O-Sensei's form when Sensei became older - in the 1980s and on. But at the same time, when looking at the tai jutsu from 1964 - very much is just the way he taught us in his later years. Very consistent - nice! And as another person posted on this thread: even though he didn't do Iwama aikido, the techniques look very much like what they do in their dojo.

An interesting point is the clear initiation of uke (Sensei) when doing shomen uchi techniques. As you may recall he quoted O-Sensei " Aite no ki wo yobidasu" (calling out the ki of your partner). He also said in the old days that O-Sensei would say "Ware wa kogeki" (I attack) when teaching the shomen uchi forms in kihon. This seems to have become much less prevalent in many dojos today. I noticed when Doshu Sensei taught shomen uchi techniques in the morning class in Hombu, he would initiate once and then the second time he would let uke initiate, but coming in while uke still was doing furikaburi with the hand. He didn't say anything about this while teaching, but it seemed to me that he was fairly consistent with this. Interesting!

In Aiki,


07-03-2007, 06:20 PM
I agree.
It's worth pondering, however, that if it was so that both Saito sensei (according to an early interview from the 70's perhaps I believe found in aikidojournal), Tomita, Shioda (look att yoshinkan kamae!), you and I (just to name a few) believe it's good to at least go through a phase with deep and wide stance, is it then "good" to change, or evolve if you like, the "kihon" stance into a much smaller one like what happend in Iwama and what is seen as "basic" today in most Iwama dojos?

Another issue worth pondering (at least to me) is what you mentioned that other people that don't train "Iwama style" aikido would recognise and identify with the techniques from this old video from the 60's. Would they still do that if looking at the basic techniques and training in an Iwama style dojo today?

A third interesting point that you brought up is the inviting or drawing out ukes attack (or even attacking yourself to elicit a responce). In the old manual budo renshu edited by o-sensei he clearly wrote regarding suwari waza ikkyo omote that: shite (nage) attack aite (uke) with a (sho)menuchi - uke block. And ikkyo ura waza: Shite fills himself with ki and invite uke. Uke attacks with (sho)menuchi - Shite performs ikkyo ura.
Even later films of O-sensei one can see him do this. His hands are always up there drawing out uke.


07-19-2007, 04:50 AM
I believe that's similar to what Saito sensei did in the second form. Just a lengthy flow of alot of the single sequences he remembered O-sensei used to do.
It's interesting to view Tohei sensei do something similar as well.
Tohei sensei formulated, in a similar way like Saito sensei did, a kata not very unlike the 31 kata, but with a slightly different count and with some other sequences in and some not. This was called 22 kata.

Tohei Sensei attributes the first 22 count jo kata to O-sensei. This 22 count is a rhythm count whereas the Iwama 31 count jo kata is a movement count. In places the 22 count has one count for several movements that are each counted in the 31. There are differences (hand grip, particular kamae, or strike) probably reflecting that O-sensei use of this movements was more variable (highly likely given what's been written), but these kata are essentially the same kata from the same source so it's not surprising that they are similiar.

Tohei Sensei came up with the second 22 jo kata we do that starts out and ends in a similar fashion to the first that he attributes to O-sensei but is very different otherwise.

Alex Megann
07-19-2007, 07:34 AM
Very nice. I too was surprised by how "standard" the aikido looked (apart from the fact that where I was expecting ikkyo ura, I saw gokyo!).

The thing that struck me was Saito Sensei's posture, which looked more "natural" than I have seen in other (perhaps more recent) clips. He bends his front knee when he cuts with the sword, which is in contrast to what I have often seen in "Iwama style" where the hips are rotated forward while keeping the front knee almost straight. I wonder whether Saito Sensei changed his body movement as the long-term effects of the training in "Hell Dojo" set in later in life?

The question of timing in shomen-uchi ikkyo omote is indeed fascinating. To start with I didn't see Saito Sensei initiating the technique in this clip at all, as it looked as if uke was delivering the attack. Watching it again, though I noticed that Saito started moving first, even if his hand was only at chest height when his uke's shomen-uchi started, and uke seemed to make no attempt to deal with Saito's hand movement, instead delivering a normal shomen-uchi. This is quite different from what I have seen in the Yoshinkai (and also in Kanetsuka Sensei's teaching), where tori starts with a very definite strike directly to uke's face.