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Old 10-17-2009, 07:35 PM   #1
brian p
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Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Hi to all the Aiki-folk,

As an FYI My background (with the exception of some odd Ukemi) is completely non-JMA. I do baguazhang and some FMA/silat.

I have a couple of students who have an aikido background though and I was very pleased with the ukemi and resilience they had when they came to me. I have alot of friends who swap and trade various MA dvds and instructionals and one of them tossed me "this DVD on falling.. some black guy who moves really f***ing well" as he put it.

It turns out this DVD is by a gentleman named Donavan Waite Shihan (hope I got the title right) who is a 6th dan in Aikikai (again.. I may be mangling this). I was really impressed by his shape while moving and falling. While his martial arts (throwing wise) were quite unlike my bagua I would be thrilled to have a student who had the shape in motion he does. His arm wedge is very nice, elbow angles very nice etc. I couldn't see his knee angle flexion cause of the hakama but his toes looked right on.

My question is this... is Waite Shihan a standard sort of Aikido player (albeit of a high caliber) or is there something different in his mix that is at variance from "standard Aikido"?

Why is it that the typical Aiki player in clips doesn't have this same shape? Is this something that "shows up" when focusing on Ukemi? Or likely more just his personal flavor?

I would ask that y'all be understanding if I've inadvertently said something offensive.. I'm just attempting to understand what I'm watching.. give it some context.

Thanks for any input from the knowledgeable Aiki-folk who've seen this DVD/instructional.
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Old 10-17-2009, 07:45 PM   #2
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Well, I'm not knowlegeable about much of anything (alas), but maybe I can add a bit of background info to the conversation.

I just saw an announcement here on AikiWeb that Donovan Waite Shihan is now the head instructor at Aikido of Upland.

If anyone hasn't seen his ukemi yet here is an excerpt on YouTube from his DVD "Meeting The Mat": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OaicleoK4M I love the very calm, deliberate way he teaches rolls. Even the words he chooses are gentle "tipping," not "falling," etc..

Incidentally, Waite Shihan was the model for Nage in the Aikido 3D software, too.

Last edited by Linda Eskin : 10-17-2009 at 07:47 PM. Reason: Additional info.

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Old 10-17-2009, 08:25 PM   #3
tim evans
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Quote:
Linda Eskin wrote: View Post
Well, I'm not knowlegeable about much of anything (alas), but maybe I can add a bit of background info to the conversation.

I just saw an announcement here on AikiWeb that Donovan Waite Shihan is now the head instructor at Aikido of Upland.

If anyone hasn't seen his ukemi yet here is an excerpt on YouTube from his DVD "Meeting The Mat": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OaicleoK4M I love the very calm, deliberate way he teaches rolls. Even the words he chooses are gentle "tipping," not "falling," etc..

Incidentally, Waite Shihan was the model for Nage in the Aikido 3D software, too.
He,s been doing aikido for awhile he,s in the USAF if you watch Yamada sensei,s test technique videos he,s taking the ukemi I learned a lot of from his videos BTW the gentle tipping part works falling makes you jam your shoulder in the mat.
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Old 10-17-2009, 09:16 PM   #4
dps
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Here is his bio,

http://www.aikidocentercity.com/27.html

Donovan Waite Sensei started practicing Aikido in 1969, at a very young age. As a 14 year old, he received his 1st Degree Black Belt from Ralph Reynolds Sensei who was under the direction of T.K. Chiba Sensei in Birmingham, England. Since then Waite Sensei has spent the last 37 years persuing a deeper understanding of Aikido. Along that path, Waite Sensei has had the opportunity to train under many of Aikido's foremost instructors. In 1984 he apprenticed himself to Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei, chairman of the United States Aikido Federation and chief instructor of the New York Aikikai. For over ten years he was Uchi Deshi, or live-in student, under Yamada Sensei and he still holds a weekly teaching position at the New York Aikikai. Since 1997 Donovan Waite Sensei has been the chief instructor of Aikido of Center City.

He currently holds the rank of 7th Dan and is a certified Shihan, or Master Instructor, with both the United States Aikido Federation and the Aikido World Headquearters in Tokyo, Japan. Waite Sensei is one of the few, and one of the youngest, Westerners to reach this milestone. He also serves on the USAF Technical Committee. In addition to his duties with the USAF and Aikido of Center City, Waite Sensei extensively travels the world teaching Aikido. He has conducted Aikido seminars in various cities of North, Central, & South America, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, & South East Asia. Waite Sensei is a full-time, professional martial artist who has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of Aikido.

I would say he is not your typical Aikidoka.

David

Last edited by dps : 10-17-2009 at 09:18 PM.
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Old 10-17-2009, 10:28 PM   #5
brian p
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

David,
Thanks. I had read his bio (google is my friend) and I didn't figure he was a "typical" Aikidoka... it's just that I don't know enough about Aikido groups/politics/style variations to know what is "typical" (in the sense of typical=standard) Akido when I see it.
As I said I don't wish to offend anyone, my post was about someone I saw with skills I admired and I was attempting to get some context from Aiki-folk who are more educated than I.

regards,
Brian
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Old 10-17-2009, 11:14 PM   #6
Nafis Zahir
 
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Quote:
Brian Phillips wrote: View Post
David,
Thanks. I had read his bio (google is my friend) and I didn't figure he was a "typical" Aikidoka... it's just that I don't know enough about Aikido groups/politics/style variations to know what is "typical" (in the sense of typical=standard) Akido when I see it.
As I said I don't wish to offend anyone, my post was about someone I saw with skills I admired and I was attempting to get some context from Aiki-folk who are more educated than I.

regards,
Brian
I trained with Waite Shihan for several years and learned his ukemi. He developed that style of ukemi after getting hurt and also realizing that as you get old, your body can't take the pounding of the ukemi you once did. His ukemi is very soft and is very easy on the body. People tend to do ukemi the way it is taught in their dojo, but for anyone who has had a chance to learn Waite Shihan's ukemi, it can be a nice addition to the ukemi they already know. I still do his ukemi, as it is easier on the body and makes getting up off the mat much easier as well.

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Old 10-18-2009, 11:20 AM   #7
Rob Watson
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
I would say he is not your typical Aikidoka.

David
I would say he is as ordinary as any other 7 dan out there.

Thanks

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

Ultracrepidarianism ... don't.
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Old 10-18-2009, 07:21 PM   #8
Nick P.
 
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Maybe these two comments will help clarify it a little for you...

1) Pretty safe to say that most aikido players are striving for his smoothness and softness in his ukemi, even if they would not necessarily execute it in the same manner. I for one have never had the opportunity to take ukemi for Waite Sensei, and cannot speak of his techniques first hand as others here, but I have owned the VHS tape set (yes, that long ago - and will crack them out again tonight), and have tried to incorporate many, if not all, the concepts into mine.

2) Not many of his caliber, I think, actually publish ukemi tapes; we are frequently too busy being dazzled by shihans/high-ranking sensei's techniques to notice their ukemi, and in some cases we enver get to see their ukemi skills. I suspect if we got the opportunity to see more highn-ranking players perform their ukemi we might be equally impressed.

My 0.02.

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Old 10-18-2009, 11:54 PM   #9
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

I have seen some of his ukemi at a couple of seminars, and he is impressive. Very soft, smooth and practically silent... It is obvious that he takes this part of his training seriously, and there was definitely a need for ukemi videos, so it was a good choice for him. That said, I'm not sure he's teaching a different way to do ukemi, but only that fundamentals are important, and practice makes perfect.
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Old 10-19-2009, 11:29 AM   #10
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

My understanding also is that Waite Sensei altered traditional ukemi to expand its functionality to a greater number of students who train with injuries or are incapable to taking the harder falls. His instructional video is pretty good at illustrating the techniques. I prefer not to use his style, but know many who use it and like it.

I have heard students in other styles comment the falls are difficult to employ outside of aikido...specifically I remember a seminar during which a judo player said the rolls would be difficult to translate to judo because of the the speed and length judo throws are made (i.e. hard, quick and short distance to ground).

For what its worth...
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Old 10-19-2009, 12:32 PM   #11
brian p
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post

I have heard students in other styles comment the falls are difficult to employ outside of aikido...specifically I remember a seminar during which a judo player said the rolls would be difficult to translate to judo because of the the speed and length judo throws are made (i.e. hard, quick and short distance to ground).

For what its worth...
Jon,
I think this criticism can be used for many styles besides judo. Bagua throws tend to be very curving and happen using multiple control points (I knock the knee out of alignment, I bump/shear with the hip, turn the upper body off center, and use the throat and the tricep to pull them backwards.. that kind of thing). But the "round body" and "no corners, relaxed" helps people avoid some of the shock and injury.. and helps with that "peng jin" I want my students to have. I have friends in Chen Taijiquan who poo-hoo falling practice ("you can't fall out of our throws Brian!") but I feel the "body rounding while non-vertical" quality is very valuable!
Every style that throws has a different attitude. Judo wants as "complete" a throw as possible. But while I have done judo I wouldn't want to focus too much on it because it doesn't have the rapid-fire striking laced inside the curves of the throw (is this "atemi" to you folks? not sure). All that grip fighting tends to make people forget throwing is hitting and hitting is throwing.
I guess since there isn't much falling practice in bagua if I want it I have to adapt from other styles. There is sure to be some "tweaking" or "lack of applicability".. how could it not? Shihan Waite doesn't do my art! How could he have something that's a perfect fit! It's his "gongfu" not mine!

But in the end analysis.. if it's an injury-lessening or injury-free practice, builds softness, helps people learn to be round and resilient.. then it's valuable to me.
I've never thrown a student and hurt them, I am pretty careful. But the students are getting to the point where they will be throwing each other.. and so we need some extra work on "safety"!

Shihan Waite seems like a fellow who is all about safety, injury-prevention, and "the confounding round"! The thread comments graciously given reinforce this impression I had.. and I'm grateful to those who took the time to help me out.
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Old 10-19-2009, 03:39 PM   #12
Rob Watson
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Quote:
Nick Pittson wrote: View Post
Maybe these two comments will help clarify it a little for you...

1) Pretty safe to say that most aikido players are striving for his smoothness and softness in his ukemi, even if they would not necessarily execute it in the same manner. I for one have never had the opportunity to take ukemi for Waite Sensei, and cannot speak of his techniques first hand as others here, but I have owned the VHS tape set (yes, that long ago - and will crack them out again tonight), and have tried to incorporate many, if not all, the concepts into mine.

2) Not many of his caliber, I think, actually publish ukemi tapes; we are frequently too busy being dazzled by shihans/high-ranking sensei's techniques to notice their ukemi, and in some cases we enver get to see their ukemi skills. I suspect if we got the opportunity to see more highn-ranking players perform their ukemi we might be equally impressed.

My 0.02.
One can see many senior practitioners (including Donovan Waite) and their ukemi on the 30 and 40 year anniversary videos put out by the NY aikikai.

Also Bruce Bookman (also a Yamada student - http://www.seattleholisticcenter.com...do_video.shtml) and Ellis Amdur (http://www.ellisamdur.com/buy.html) have excellent ukemi videos avaialble that show great stuff.

Thanks

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

Ultracrepidarianism ... don't.
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Old 10-21-2009, 02:01 PM   #13
Scott Stahurski
 
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Just curious about Waite Sensei...is he exclusively now in at Upland aikido in CA or does he split his duties between Center City and Upland?
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Old 10-21-2009, 03:25 PM   #14
fisher6000
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

I train at NY Aikikai where Waite Shihan teaches regularly, and it's true that his focus on good ukemi is consistently helpful. Most of the deshi and a number of yudansha here practice the soft rolls that Waite teaches in that video.

I am barely qualified to talk about this because I came from another dojo and have only been training at NYA for a few months. I am definitely still trying to figure this out. But in my limited experience, this soft ukemi style requires a surprising amount of core strength and control. And I find when I watch other people using it that some people balance that sense of strength and control with being a present and honest uke better than others. It could just be a necessary phase that everyone goes through when they are learning how to fall really, really well, but it feels to me as if some folks are focusing so hard on their ukemi that they wind up throwing themselves here.
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Old 10-22-2009, 02:11 PM   #15
Janet Rosen
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Quote:
Deborah Fisher wrote: View Post
It could just be a necessary phase that everyone goes through when they are learning how to fall really, really well, but it feels to me as if some folks are focusing so hard on their ukemi that they wind up throwing themselves here.
I used to train in USAF-ER dojos and believe that in at least some of them, there is a disengagement in order to turn and take a particular fall or roll. I remember being specifically taught to turn in order to take a forward breakfall rather than the simple backfall that would keep my center more connected and my options more open.
To give the benefit of the doubt, it is likely that this is part of the training: to get the moves "in the body," so that if/when technique is executed quickly and the turning is a matter of *having* to turn rather than choosing to disengage and turn, one can do it without thinking.

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Old 10-22-2009, 05:33 PM   #16
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

I am a student of Waite Sensei's at the Upland Dojo.

He is not, at this time, permanently in California. He still instructs in Philadelphia and at NY Aikikai, as well as at his numerous seminars around the world.

His ukemi is the best I've ever seen. It is a very logical and natural way to fall. It is a style that he slowly developed over the years in response to, as someone previously mentioned, injury, and addressing the issue of longevity in the art. Given that, it also works exceptionally well for hard falls; and thankfully, too, for anyone who has felt one of his throws! I see no reason why Sensei's ukemi would not work well in Judo. Being that Waite Sensei also holds yudansha rank in judo, I am fairly sure that this has influenced his ukemi style. Training at Aikido of Upland, we are constantly dealing with falls that are "hard, quick and short distance to ground." Waite Sensei's ukemi has the ability to adapt to all situations.

Sensei puts great emphasis on good ukemi skills. We work on it a lot at Aikido of Upland. I guess you could say that it is believed that one should work on developing good uke skills before concentrating on having good nage skills.

There is absolutely NO disengagement when taking ukemi! Connection is vital. Without connection, you are unsafe and can get hit. Sensei will get all over you for "bailing out."

As for Waite Sensei being, or not being, your "usual" Aikidoka, that is hard to qualify. His training has been extensive, he has trained with/under and taken ukemi for some of the biggest names in Aikido and he has been training for over 40 years now. He holds yudansha rank in judo and iaido, as well. No small feat. His technical knowledge is formidable.

One thing that always surprises me when I get a chance to talk with him or hear him answer questions is his depth of budo knowledge and training. He doesn't let on to everything he knows, you have to listen close, try to ask the right questions, and keep your eye on him (when on the mat). He does many things that are very subtle and make big changes in the outcome of the technique.

For anyone in the SoCal area (or anyone anywhere, for that matter), please come by to train! I believe we have a good group and practice strong technique.

www.aikidoupland.com

Last edited by Kevin Karr : 10-22-2009 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 10-22-2009, 09:23 PM   #17
fisher6000
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Thanks for putting more words on it, Janet. Wasn't bagging on dojo mates, just feeling my way through something that's different than where I came from.
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Old 10-23-2009, 03:18 PM   #18
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

Thanks for your response Kevin, I appreciate it. I've been frequently traveling to CA these last couple of years...I'll try to stop buy next time!!!
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Old 10-23-2009, 04:15 PM   #19
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

That would be good, Scott. We would be happy to have you. Sensei is supposed to be in CA during the first week or so of December and much of January, I believe, if you happen to be in CA in the next few months, anyway... Keep your eye on the website for more accurate updates on his schedule.
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Old 10-25-2009, 08:35 PM   #20
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

I've only had the opportunity to train a Center City 2 or 3 times. Their warmups are close to half an hour, and 20 minutes of that is a progression of ukemi. Really good stuff.

I was once complimented on my ukemi while training there, but I quickly told them my dojo's sempai is a devotee of Waite Shihan's ukemi technique.

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Old 10-26-2009, 12:36 PM   #21
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

I wouldn't call it a warm up if 20 min of it is ukemi

Anyway, isnt half of all aikido practice ukemi most of the time!!!!
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Old 10-26-2009, 09:17 PM   #22
Chris Farnham
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

I have only trained with Waite Shihan at seminars but he comes to my home dojo at least once a year because he and my sensei are good friends. I think he was there this past weekend( incidentally I now live in Japan and couldn't attend for obvious reasons but I did attend an amazing seminar with Isoyama Shihan). I have not seen Waite Sensei do much Ukemi practice in seminars but I have definitely noticed that he likes to spend a long time stretching; easily 20-30minutes. I have always been amazed by the whip like tensile strength of Waite Shihan's nage waza and the hardest I have ever been thrown was probably by Waite Shihan. So even though I don't know much about his ukemi, I can see why he would want his students to learn and take such soft ukemi.
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Old 10-27-2009, 02:40 AM   #23
furtom
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

I also practice at the NY Aikikai. I'd agree with the previous poster that Waite Sensei's ukemi is the ideal at the dojo. However, ukemi isn't overtly taught so much. People are generally free to work out their own style of ukemi (and aikido, for that matter).

Donovan's ukemi requires not only strength, but a good degree of flexibility. I've been working very hard on it for the past three-plus years. I'd say my ukemi is becoming passable, even round and semi-soft, but I'll probably never get anywhere close to that level. At some point soon, I'm gonna reach the limit of my physical abilities!

I'd say my general understanding of ukemi consists of three main points. 1. Keep up the attack. 2. Stay connected 3. Don't get hurt. (staying relaxed and centered should probably be in there, too) I think, in the end, any "style" of ukemi that accomplishes these things is good ukemi.

Donovan has to be seen up close to be believed, BTW. He's almost too good. Sometimes I really can't comprehend what he's doing. He often goes beyond "traditional" aikido and modifies or makes variations in techniques. Nothing wrong with that, but I admit I often am at a loss to duplicate it. Like another previous poster said, he's got a lot of experience and subtly.
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Old 10-27-2009, 04:22 AM   #24
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Re: Shihan Waite "Shape" Question

I trained with Donovan Waite Shihan early this year in Jakarta, Indonesia. He did not teach us any ukemi during the seminar. He did however showed us some ukemi moves after class.

I really enjoyed the 20-30 minutes of stretching.

Can't wait to train with him again.


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Last edited by rulemaker : 10-27-2009 at 04:31 AM.
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