View Full Version : Poll: Do you think "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere" (by Ratti and Westbrooke) is a good tec

Please visit our sponsor:

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!

AikiWeb System
09-21-2003, 12:01 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of September 21, 2003:

Do you think "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere" (by Ratti and Westbrooke) is a good technical reference for aikido?

I don't do aikido
I don't know the book
I know the book but haven't read it
Yes, it's a good reference
No, it's a bad reference

Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=184).

Chuck Clark
09-21-2003, 01:01 AM
I'll be first... really great illustrations. Oscar Ratti is gifted to say the least. Other than that, I don't find the book to be very valuable.

09-21-2003, 04:48 AM

I found the book recommendable for its explainations of principles and philosophies rather than for the technical-part of the book. Though there are some interesting points made in that part of the book.


Steffen, shugyoing Aikdio for 2 1/2 years.

09-21-2003, 05:39 AM
There's a chance that you may actually enjoy this book, if you're the kind of person who considers quantum physics to be a casual reading.

Tim Griffiths
09-21-2003, 06:33 AM
Its a good book. A little dated now, and they really missed out by using the form numbering system rather than the names, but that's all.

I would say its a good intermediate book that we can all look at sometimes. If you really want a technical aikido book (rather than, say, turning up at a dojo) this is as good or better than most.


Greg Jennings
09-21-2003, 06:42 AM
Nice illustrations. The numbering system drove me nuts. I didn't find it very valuable from a technical standpoint. I still think it's a "must have" from a historical standpoint.

As an aside, I think books are in the process of being overcome by DVD.


09-21-2003, 06:50 AM
I'd say it's an excellent textbook; a reference work for folks just above beginner level and up.

As opposed to Tim; I like the numbering system for this reason: It is useful for most if not all styles of Aikido. Since the various styles use slightly different Japanese terms; using a base system won't alienate or confuse anyone.

09-21-2003, 09:29 AM
I have always found the Ratti and Westbrooke book to be of great value in my training. Likewise I suppose there are many who will not find it helpful. It all depends on your perspective I suppose. In my estimation it is a great book with very valuable information.




09-21-2003, 09:57 AM
Well, some folks can't get past the "oooh...aaah...look at dem purdy pictures" stage before the turgid prose sends them into a coma. But then some folks watch Spongebob Squarepants...

09-21-2003, 11:30 AM
The Dynamic Sphere (DS) is a fantastic catalog of techniques. Having personally acquired almost every Aikido book on the market, no other book to date contains that variety of techniques (except maybe Saito’s Takemusu series). When I first started Aikido I bought DS. Each time I bought another book after that, I was disappointed at the tiny subset of techniques that were demonstrated (almost always ikkyo-gokyo, and irmi-nage, kokyu-nage, kaiten-nage, tenchi-nage and koshi-nage) because I knew there were more!

That being said, there virtually no technical tips accompanying the techniques. Other books explain the finer points and nuances of the techniques, while DS just shows you how the technique is done.

It is a fantastic resource for beginners through to intermediate because they can see the variety of techniques offered in Aikido – something they are not likely to see in a year’s worth of training in our standard dojos (at the rate of 2-3 classes a week).

But you will need to get more technical manuals, videos and simply question your sensei in order to understand what makes each of those techniques work (especially against varying conditions such as uke resisting, or uke is much taller than you, etc.).

The text does sort of read a bit like stereo instructions, but being a technical-minded person I enjoyed that approach. It tries to address all the factors of Aikido in a very scientific manner – not cluttered by esoteric double-talk. And while this is good for the beginner to intermediate, the advanced student will often wish to understand things like Ki, zanshin, etc. which require more philosophical approaches.

So all in all, DS is the perfect intermediate book. Some beginners might like those little 30 page primers available, and advanced students would prefer texts that address technical issues (for example “Total Aikido” from Gozo Shioda).

And the problem with DVDs is the medium doesn’t suite portability. You can take a book anywhere, and flip to page 100 in a second and be practicing – try that with DVD.

When those mediums have been made more user-friendly then they will start to replace the paper-mediums – but that’s a long way a away.


Victor Ditoro
09-21-2003, 09:10 PM
Hi all!

Lurker here for a few years but I have some thoughts on this topic ...

Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere, in the context of when it published (1970) and where (U.S.) is an interesting book in at least a couple ways:

1) It was one of the only Aikido books around in 1970 that was written by westerners who were also Aikidoka. As such, it offers a perspective on some things without being filtered through a translation.

2) It is one of only a handful of books that offers substantial amounts of prose on the subject, as opposed to only offering technique. (Other ones are around now, such as Ueshiba Kisshomaru's "Spirit of Aikido", Shioda's "Aikido Shugyo", Saotome's book (sorry, not in front of me so no title), and various works by John Stevens--but in 1970 this book would have been a stand out for that reason alone).

3) It is a remarkable work of illustration. In field guides and keys for the natural sciences, careful illustrations are always more useful for visual description than photographs. A well drawn illustration empahsizes the right things and can omit or elide irrelevant things. In a photo, there is often too much information, not all of which is relevant.

Having said all of that, it is not a book I personally rely on for much technically, since there are better books around now that reflect the increased diversification of styles, but its a classic work for the reasons above and probably deserves a place in any Aikidoka's library. Of course, not to suggest that collecting books has anything to do with Aikido. :)

09-22-2003, 03:58 AM

I'd agree with Victor. There are millions of aikido books around now, but at the time this was a very special book. I travelled 200 miles to central London to a special Japanese/English book store near St. Pauls to purchase my copy and felt it was well worth it. The diagrams were ground breaking (and this format is still used regualrly). The descriptions of the techniques are also short but very informative and readable by people with little understanding of aikido. The history is brief, but there were no books on aikido history around at the time. It was also the closest thing to a 'comprehensive text' at the time. Even now I would say it is a useful contribution to an aikido book collection, although not necessarily my first choice anymore. Despite this it is better than the majority of aikido books which I consider to be on the whole quite poor (Gozo Shioda's books excepted).


09-22-2003, 07:50 AM
I first read it over 30 years ago and it is still in print. That says a lot. I've recomended it for about 30 years as well.

But I have a question.

Who are Westbrook and Ratti? If they are still training they must be shihans by now, but I've never heard of them. If they quit, well, what a shame that is.

Does anyone know?

Eric Joyce
09-22-2003, 08:56 AM
I have to agree with some of the posters here that for its time, it was a good read. I would like to see a revised edition come out with information on other aikido instructors and styles, as well as the Daito Ryu influence.

09-22-2003, 09:27 AM
My first read, I didn't get much from it. With more training, I keep getting more and more.

IMHO, its more of a reference book than a casual once read through. Excellent.

No book will have everything and please everybody.

Lyle Bogin
09-22-2003, 02:19 PM
I am particularly fond of this book since it mentions Tohei Sensei frequently.

It continues to stimulate my imagination.

09-22-2003, 02:52 PM
For Daniel Linden:

Adele Westbrook and Oscar Ratti studied Aikido together in New York under Yasuo Ohara, and later taught, from what I understand, mostly kids at the YMCA. Whether they are still practicing, or their rank, I do not know.

09-22-2003, 07:57 PM
a veryvery good book and illustration as well, but as i see it that can only be understand by the intermediate to advance level of students. I think newbie will be lost when reading it (personal experience).

If technical reference here means that technique shown in step by step, i would suggest "Best Aikido" and "Total Aikido", these two books are simple and easy for beginners to understand.

09-22-2003, 09:02 PM
There are also some reviews on the books section.

Basically though (and yes I dislike the book) is you had two Shodans spend about six months in Japan after which they wrote a book. Twigger of Angry White Pyjamas fame has more experience although he probably can't draw that well.

The kindest I heard about the philosophy section is that it is Toheiesque - I've heard worse.

Intermediate to advanced - I don't think so.

Best thing I can say it it is a beautiful coffee table book to keep Grandma happy when she asks what all those bruises on your forearm are all about.

09-22-2003, 09:09 PM
The book is a good reference material and is a must for all aikido practitioners. I enjoyed reading it, but was also lost in the numbering system for a while.


09-22-2003, 09:39 PM
Twigger of Angry White Pyjamas fame has more experience although he probably can't draw that well.
I say Twigger should rewrite the Dynamic Sphere; would make for a hell of a better read. Keep the pics, though.