View Full Version : Ellis Amdur in Maryland Jan. 28 - 29

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Jim Sorrentino
11-26-2005, 10:00 PM
Greetings All,

Aikido of Northern Virginia will host a seminar with Ellis Amdur at Tôman, a private dojo in Olney, MD. The seminar will be two days only:

Saturday, January 28 -- atemi in aikido;

Sunday, January 29 -- kenjutsu

The hours on both days will be 9:30 am - 5:00 pm, with a lunch break from 12:30 - 2:00 pm. Participants must bring their own lunches on both days.

The cost will be $80 for both days, or $45 per day.

All registration will be in advance, and attendance will be limited to 40 people, with preference for those who register for both days. There will be no registration at the door and spectators will not be admitted. Participants must bring bokken. All aikidoka, regardless of rank or affiliation, are welcome!

For more information, please see http://www.aikido-nova.org/seminars.html.

Jim Sorrentino

Jim Sorrentino
01-19-2006, 09:18 AM
Greetings All,

There are a few spots still available for our seminar with Ellis Amdur, but the registration deadline is this Saturday, January 21. If you are interested in attending, please send me a PM as soon as possible.

Jim Sorrentino

Ron Tisdale
02-01-2006, 02:28 PM
I had the pleasure this past weekend of training with Ellis Amdur at the hombu dojo of the Itto Tenshin-ryu / Yamate-ryu in Maryland, hosted by Aikido of Northern Virginia and Jim Sorrentino. We trained for six hours each day Saturday (open hand) and Sunday (buki waza). Both days were absolutely fantastic, and definitely eye-opening. The purpose for this review, however, is not to give a blow-by-blow account of the techniques taught. Something much more important is going on here. Ellis is now working with the Itten dojo on their aikido curriculum, and is shaping their program in a very positive way, which I believe can have a huge impact on the way aikido is practiced and viewed as a martial art.

Revived Sword Kata of Toda-Ha Buko-Ryu

While the empty hand training is definitely my main motivation for writing this piece, I do want to spend some time speaking about the weapon training on Sunday, simply because it was so unusual. Ellis has full transmission in the classical martial art of Toda-Ha Buko-Ryu Naginatajutsu. He has revived some of their sword forms that have been lost to the membership of the ryu, and it was one of these forms that he taught on Sunday. He and Fred Little went through the forms as they exist now (tachi vs naginata, tachi vs bo), and then the sword form. But before we started working the kata, Ellis took us through a detailed set of suburi to establish the form for proper cutting (in terms of the Toda-Ha Buko-ryu). This set the platform for the rest of the day.

Step by step demonstration, keiko, correction, demonstration, keiko was the order of the day. What I liked most is that we had six hours to constantly refine and rework the one kata. Because of the high level of many of the participants in various martial arts, I was never even close to being bored. When people attack correctly and with true intent, you must be mentally present to move correctly and not get wacked. Some of us had that down better than others, but the best raised everyone's level, so things worked out fine. One important point that Ellis constantly stressed was to **slow down**. I believe in almost every answer to a question I had, Ellis reiterated that phrase. By slowing down, we were able to work the basics that he taught in the beginning back into the kata, and constantly improve while adding new sections.

To have access to such classical training is a rarity. To have access to such a competent and methodical teacher is even more so. Ellis not only imparted some of the physical movements of the ryu, but some of the mindset as well. Even the lessons on kiai were worth the price of the seminar.

Open Hand Aikido Keiko

The focus on Saturday was basic aikido movement and atemi, but in a free flowing randori setting that went way beyond the standard forms practice I have seen almost everywhere I have ever trained. I haven't had exposure to Shodokan aikido yet except through books and the Internet, so I can't compare what we did at the seminar to that. But the ability to enter into the waza from katate mochi / dori iriminage, and to have uke respond with counters, and then shite respond to any openings presented, and back and forth…it was a treat. Ellis kept reminding us to be careful, and to be aware of who we were working with, and I am sure his close supervision had a lot to do with the lack of injuries. But what really made the difference was the willingness of the participants to simply tap, smile, and say "that was yours"; to acknowledge superior position, posture, and technique in a given situation, and start again.

The techniques demonstrated varied from iriminage, ikkyo, nikyo, shihonage, and others, but each pair explored many more options, always (in my experience) working on the basic ideas of positional and postural integrity, and the ability to place atemi from any position. Because of the free flowing nature of the keiko, sometimes techniques from other arts crept in to a certain extent. But that too flowed well into yet other aikido variations. The end result was that the aikido we brought to the seminar with us was sharpened and made alive again in ways that I rarely see in even the best of formalized aikido keiko.


Someone asked a person who was at the seminar this weekend "what rank is he?" Personally, I think this shows a fundamental flaw in how we often look at aikido and it's instructors. Ellis's seminar was simply beyond issues of rank. It was beyond issues of style. It was beyond the sort of formulaic training we see and participate in 90% of the time. He worked on showing us how to organize our bodies, how to flow from one technique to another, how to work with resistance, how to place atemi, how to power atemi, all while putting what we've learned from our own styles into practice in a free form environment. With people that in many cases, barely knew each other, if at all. With no injuries that I am aware of, and no bad feelings (even when I had a brown belt kicking my butt :) ).

I am beginning to think that people like David Valedez, Bob Wolfe, Ellis Amdur and other independents are often more on the forward edge of aikido than some of us stuck in the mud of organization, affiliation, and rank. It would be to the detriment of Aikido and each and every person who practices it, if these perspectives are not seen, trained and included in some fashion in the mainstreams of aikido. It's not that the forms taught in the mainstreams are not correct, or even that they are ‘dead'. It's more a case of a need to step outside the box, to look deeper, and to really find what works on more than just the kata level, more than just the form level, so that we can return to the kata with more than we had when we left it. I do know that there are probably others out there doing this type of training…I think we all need to look for ways like this to innovate and enliven our keiko. When I say this I mean no disrespect for my teachers; each of them keeps aikido alive every day on the mat. But we the students sometimes forget to really learn what they teach us, and to make it our own.

These seminars are important events, and I hope to see more of us there at some point. I give my thanks to Jim Sorrentino, Ellis Amdur, and our hosts for such a fine venue (the dojo was truly a work of art itself). And to my training partners as well. Any errors or things I mis-remember are totally my own fault.

Best Regards,
Ron Tisdale

02-01-2006, 03:57 PM
Nice review. Thanks, Ron.

-- Jun

02-01-2006, 07:18 PM
Ron, thanks for your very interesting review and I think it must be a rare experience about that I am literally a little bit envious.

For a long time I was thinking that loss of sword training in most Aikido school was the reason for the deterioration of todays Aikido.

My opinion is that intensive and correct "Suburi" was the most basic and important factor in Aikido and Daito-ryu. In other words, a method to create "Ki/Kokyu" if I link this to the ongoing discussion on E-budo forums and other places.

Again, thanks a lot.

Larry John
02-01-2006, 09:45 PM
Hey Ron!

A thoughtful and concise review of a very interesting seminar.

It was great to get to meet you finally, after having seen so many of your posts here on AikiWeb.

And thanks again for letting me borrow your BioFreeze to get my dang knee under control. I'll definitely have to come to Philly to visit your dojo and return the favor.

Thanks again!


Ron Tisdale
02-02-2006, 08:23 AM
Larry, you are most welcome! Please drop a line any time, the Doshinkan would love to have you visit. And after training....BEER! ;) Hope the knee continues to improve.

Thank you for the kind words Tom. The points and corrections Ellis gave made a huge difference in the feel of my cuts. I got to do 100 cuts at the Doshinkan last night along with many repetitions of shiho giri and happo giri. What a difference! Already paying dividends.


Robert Wolfe
02-02-2006, 08:33 AM
Here's a photo from the training last Saturday. From the left are Joe Montague, Fred Little, John Butz, don't know the name of the fellow working with Ron, Ron Tisdale, Mick Sternick (getting up from the mat), Ellis Amdur, and then I don't know the name of the participant on the right.

Ron Tisdale
02-02-2006, 08:44 AM
Nice shot! Too bad my posture isn't better... :)

I believe that is Stephen Kotev training with me.


Jim Sorrentino
02-02-2006, 09:55 AM
Greetings All,

Ron, thank you very much for your review, and also for your participation. One reason that this seminar succeeded was the willingness of people from very different martial arts backgrounds to work with each other with open hearts and minds.

There were three groups that put this seminar together. Itten Dojo (http://www.ittendojo.org/) in Harrisburg, PA, retains Ellis Amdur as its technical adviser on aikido. (Itten Dojo also has a serious study group for Shinto Muso-ryu jodo under the direction of Meik and Diane Skoss, and with the permission of Phil Relnick-sensei.) The Itten folks are quite familiar with Ellis' approach to aikido. Although Ellis is, in a way, their "sensei", the Itten people made a point of working with everyone, sharing their experience of Ellis' aikido with all seminar participants. Their participation was a credit to their instructor, Bob Wolfe-sensei.

The second group was my dojo, Aikido of Northern Virginia (http://www.aikido-nova.org/). We are an ASU dojo that has been operating in Arlington, VA, for the past six years. For me, Ellis has been a friend, an inspiration, and something between a gadfly and a mentor. His approach to aikido is insightful and provocative, and he is very generous with his knowledge and experience. I have attended and hosted several seminars and workshops with him, and I have always been pleased with the experience. The ANV students and I handled the organizational tasks of the seminar, such as hosting Ellis, designing and posting the flyer, registering the participants, and all of the other "little details" necessary for a seminar to run smoothly. The ANV students have also had some experience with Ellis' aikido, and I was extremely pleased with their performance during the weekend.

The third group was Toman Dojo. Toman is a private dojo in a rural area of Montgomery County, Maryland. Their chief instructor, Arvind Rajguru-sensei, is a senior student of Frederick Lovret-sensei. The dojo studies Lovret-sensei's kenjutsu and aikijutsu. Josh Freeman, a senior student at Toman, owns the farmland on which the dojo is located, and directed the construction of the dojo, which was a barn in its last life. Several of Toman's members, as well as Rajguru-sensei, participated enthusiastically in the seminar. (And Rajguru-sensei had just arrived home from a grueling 20-hour flight from India the day before!) I was deeply moved by the courtesy and generosity of the members of Toman Dojo in making themselves and their facility available to us. Mr. Freeman and the Toman students were excellent hosts, and went "above and beyond" in ensuring that all the participants were able to focus on their training.

It was a great seminar --- thank you again to all who participated!

Jim Sorrentino

Stephen Kotev
02-03-2006, 08:02 AM
Nice shot! Too bad my posture isn't better... :)

I believe that is Stephen Kotev training with me.


Guilty as charged.

I did have the *brief* pleasure of training with Ron as the photo illustrates. I did not feel like I had gotten the rhythm of the technique when I was training with Ron. If I had a little more time with Ron I think it would have been a better training partner. Ron, I must say you do get around. I think I might start calling you The Ubiquitous Mr. Tisdale.

This was my third time seeing Ellis in a seminar format. It was great to see familiar faces again. I hope Jun doesn't mind but I think I'll post my comments once. E-Budo also has a thread running about the same topic: http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=31838

All the Best,

Michael Neal
02-13-2006, 11:53 AM
Wow, sounds like fun. It's the kind of thing that gets me thinking about Aikido again. I may have a few more years of Judo in me before I am too banged up but I have my eye on Aikido in the years to come.

I have been impressed with Ellis Amdur's approach and especially some of his recent comments regarding the vital importance of live randori training.

Jim Sorrentino
02-17-2006, 10:32 AM
Greetings All,

Pictures from the seminar are at http://www.aikido-nova.org/gallery.html. Enjoy!


Stephen Kotev
02-17-2006, 10:57 AM
Greetings All,

Pictures from the seminar are at http://www.aikido-nova.org/gallery.html. Enjoy!




Thanks for posting.