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Old 06-07-2005, 12:53 PM   #1
jss
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aikido and sword principles

Just a strange question that popped up in my head yesterday during practice:

Aikido is based on sword movements.
This makes sense if one is a samurai: you only have to learn one set of movement principles.
But aikido was not intended for the samurai, so why base aikido on sword movements?
It leads (or can lead, or whatever ) to an effective martial art, that I don't wish to question. But doesn't it make aikido too difficult? One example would be that aikido often requires a distance in which you would be able to cut with a real sword, if you had one?
So my question eventually is: isn't basing aikido on sword movements in a way overkill? (As in effective, but more difficult than absolutely necessary.)

(I know what I have written above is not completely correct, but it is the closest I can get at this moment to that vague idea I had yesterday. Perhaps I'll do better after some replies. )
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Old 06-07-2005, 01:37 PM   #2
rob_liberti
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Re: aikido and sword principles

My take on this is that people actually learn on every level, but they tend to focus on learning from a methodology they alrady trust. So, for instance, I perfer a more scientific approach to developing my aikido in term of physical practice. My friend, prefers a more phylosophical apprach to developing their aikido. We both need both ways, but we tend to focus on what we trust more.

If O-sensei got some understanding of how to hold his body in the most effective way from sword movements, then he would trust that, and probably prefer to teach in that way as well. I don't actaully think you need an excellent sword teacher to learn aikido - which is probably considered blasphemy by some. But, I do think you would then need some other extra-exercises to develop what is needed. Luckily, some people have developed to a decent understanding with and without auxillary sword practice, so there is a choice for students to focus on what they think might help them most.

Also, please remember that what is typically seen in aikido as far as sword training goes is not generally considered real sword work. Even Saotome sensei who IS probably a sword master, wouldn't say that someone who learned the sword kata in his system knows very much about real swordwork.

The good news, is that if you just don't have enough sempai around, you can get a lot out of swinging your sword in every direction - especially if you do it so much that you can no longer use "normal" strength to continue to make powerful cuts.

Rob
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Old 06-07-2005, 01:54 PM   #3
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
It leads (or can lead, or whatever ) to an effective martial art,
What is effective from your perspective?
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Old 06-07-2005, 02:24 PM   #4
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Re: aikido and sword principles

There is no such thing as a 'proper distance'. The distance that will work in a given situation depends on many factors - the mere physique of the involved persons being one. Practicing the japanese sword can teach you a lot about how to judge and adjust distance. It can also teach you a lot about irimi - the very first step in which the whole thing is decided.

I think the japanese sword can teach you a lot about the principles of Aikido - and that these principles are relevant and unavoidable if one wants to do any martial art. After all there is never a reason to be in a bad position opposing the opponent. Some issues simply have to be fundamental and mandatory.

Of course this could just be me

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Old 06-07-2005, 04:51 PM   #5
Ketsan
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
Just a strange question that popped up in my head yesterday during practice:

Aikido is based on sword movements.
This makes sense if one is a samurai: you only have to learn one set of movement principles.
But aikido was not intended for the samurai, so why base aikido on sword movements?
It leads (or can lead, or whatever ) to an effective martial art, that I don't wish to question. But doesn't it make aikido too difficult? One example would be that aikido often requires a distance in which you would be able to cut with a real sword, if you had one?
So my question eventually is: isn't basing aikido on sword movements in a way overkill? (As in effective, but more difficult than absolutely necessary.)

(I know what I have written above is not completely correct, but it is the closest I can get at this moment to that vague idea I had yesterday. Perhaps I'll do better after some replies. )
A lot, if not all, Ju-jitsu techniques are based on weapon techniques so really it was impossible to avoid the weapon. All O-Sensei did was revive and popularise the idea that armed and unarmed were the same. Perhaps his thinking in using this idea was that by going back to the weapon he could really get to the core of the techniques a sort of "back to basics" approach.
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Old 06-07-2005, 05:00 PM   #6
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote:
What is effective from your perspective?
Effective as in 'if applied properly, it works on an uncooperative person'. Which simply moves the problem to the proper application of aikido, of course.
For aikido to be something, it needs to have limits (there have to be things that are not aikido), so the proper application of aikido is only possible if you are able to keep the situation within those limits, i.e. in the realm of aikido. Or as my teacher would say: "You need the correct parameters."
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Old 06-07-2005, 05:02 PM   #7
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Re: aikido and sword principles

After reading your posts (and thanks for those), I think my question boils down to this: what are the advantages of aikido being based on sword principles, if you're not a sword fighter?
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Old 06-07-2005, 05:04 PM   #8
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Alex Lawrence wrote:
All O-Sensei did was revive and popularise the idea that armed and unarmed were the same.
But are they really?
Of course some elements will not change, but aren't there differences as well?
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Old 06-07-2005, 05:49 PM   #9
Ketsan
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
But are they really?
Of course some elements will not change, but aren't there differences as well?
To be honest my knowlege in this area isn't great but as far as I understand it the differences between unarmed and armed weren't great. Essentially weapons and grappling were interlinked so throwing someone, or putting an armlock on was just positioning the opponent to allow you to use the sword or a tanto. It was very much a combined arms thing.
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Old 06-07-2005, 06:11 PM   #10
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Distance, direction and tegatana

I agree with JJF that the sword teaches applied distance. Unarmed one distance, knife another, sword a third. You learn to adapt to the situation.
Also it teaches directions - primarily the need to stay completely clear of uke's attacking direction

I do some iaido, parallel to aikido, and find it rewarding in many more ways than I know to explain in words.

And in aikido there is tegatana, the hand as a sword, which might seem odd but actually helps a great deal in learning how to improve the techniques.

And so on, and so forth...

Yes, the sword art relation is quite rewarding in aikido.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 06-07-2005, 07:53 PM   #11
maikerus
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Re: aikido and sword principles

I have alot of difficulty with people saying "Aikido principles are based on the principles of the sword". One cannot argue that Ueshiba M. trained with the sword and it influenced his understanding and creation of Aikido, however I would argue that both the sword and Aikido are based upon the same principles...not that one came before the other...just that they both use similar understanding of body dynamics and movements.

One of my students trained with the sword in a couple of styles for many years and I mentioned this to him. He looked at me in shock and said something like "Aikido is nothing at all like the sword and anyone who thinks so should go talk to a real sword teacher". He then thought for a moment and said the principles were the same, but the muscle memory (that we speak of so much in these forums) is completely different.

Just my take...and I have only done weapons within an Aikido framework...which does make them Aikido and not a true "sword style"...IMHO.

FWIW,

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 06-07-2005, 10:32 PM   #12
eyrie
 
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Michael Stuempel wrote:
One of my students trained with the sword in a couple of styles for many years....
It'd be interesting to find out what Dave Lowry's take on this is.

Ignatius
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Old 06-08-2005, 05:34 AM   #13
Amir Krause
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Aikido is based on sword movements
It's not just Aikido, it's almost all the Japanese Ju-Jutsu that is based on sword work. Japanese Ju-Jutsu started evolving in a period of internal warfare. Weapons were the main subjects of teaching,rather then empty hand. Even the sword was not the first weapon of choice.

As the internal war subsided, people started having more need for un-armed combat, and they developed it from the basis they had - weapons work. The great emphasis on sword work comes from the place the sword had taken in Japanese culture.

Looking at the technical content Ueshiba Aikido is very similar to Daito-Ryu Ju-Jutsu (As experts who learned both M.A. state, I have not practiced either for long period of time). As such it uses the same basis - sword work.

Quote:
have alot of difficulty with people saying "Aikido principles are based on the principles of the sword". One cannot argue that Ueshiba M. trained with the sword and it influenced his understanding and creation of Aikido, however I would argue that both the sword and Aikido are based upon the same principles...not that one came before the other...just that they both use similar understanding of body dynamics and movements.
I have to both agree and disagree: learning Korindo Aikido which combines a lot of weapons work and empty hand, the saying goes "When empty handed think of using a weapon, when holding a weapon, think of being empty handed". Almost all the principles of empty hand and weapons work are the same, many techniques borrow from one side to the other, and I have improved more then one empty hand technique after learning a similar move with some weapon and visualizing it when practicing empty hand.
On the other hand, weapons often use different mae (distance). In some ways, learning each weapon gives more emphasis for different principles. A short and very incomplete list of ideas that are more emphasized with some weapons would be:
Boken - one body, taking the center, very exact feeling of mae.
Wakizashi (against Ken)- closing distance, avoiding the center.
Jo - Taking the center, flexibility in changing sides.
Ni-to (2 swords) - Using the body for two semi separate movements.
(It is possible to extend this list, but those are the first things that came to my mind today)


Amir
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Old 06-08-2005, 07:52 AM   #14
rob_liberti
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Michael Stuempel wrote:
I have alot of difficulty with people saying "Aikido principles are based on the principles of the sword". One cannot argue that Ueshiba M. trained with the sword and it influenced his understanding and creation of Aikido, however I would argue that both the sword and Aikido are based upon the same principles...not that one came before the other...just that they both use similar understanding of body dynamics and movements.
I'm pretty much on the same page with you on this one. Historically, it makes sense to say one came from another. But, logically, the entire point of a principle is that it works in all sorts of different situations - sword or empty hand regardless of which one people discovered/developed first. I love history, but it's just one of many valid perspectives, which in and of itself has many valid perspectives. Consider Howard Zimm's books with the perspective of the populous as opposed to that of the tradional "great man" perspective. Studying both probably would give you much better insight into what the principles of the politics were at those times. Similarily, studing sword and empty hand will bring you better insight into the principles.

Quote:
Michael Stuempel wrote:
One of my students trained with the sword in a couple of styles for many years and I mentioned this to him. He looked at me in shock and said something like "Aikido is nothing at all like the sword and anyone who thinks so should go talk to a real sword teacher". He then thought for a moment and said the principles were the same, but the muscle memory (that we speak of so much in these forums) is completely different.
I study classical sword under Gleason sensei (which he learned from his Kashima teacher in Japan - but he's not officially allowed to call it such because of strict rules about who has teaching certificates). What is amazing is that most of the time when the muscle memory differs - that's where I need to be looking for principles - to discover more depth about them by using other principles to guide me. I think a majority of aikido is by necessity an apparent surface level contradiction, which can only be resolved by constantly researching and getting more depth. I understand that people what to "know what they know" - but that's not really a "path", and it is not really "shoshin".

Rob
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Old 06-08-2005, 08:31 AM   #15
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Re: aikido and sword principles

IMHO, FWIW, yes O'sensei based Aikido off sword movement, he didn't asked me if I thought it was a good idea or not. Since he created it, or actually synthesized it, I guess its his right to do it off the arts he knew and respected.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 06-08-2005, 09:07 AM   #16
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Some Aikidoka use the sword more than others - some a lot more. The more you work with the sword the more you see linkage and the more one helps the other. But one has to be careful as Aiki-ken is not Kenjutsu. For most Aikido mortals, their Aikido is 'ahead' of their swordwork so it is obvious that the sword is not 'leading/directing' their training. If it is, they are likely misleading themselves as they are not expert swordsmen etc. Of course, if they are trained swordsmen ... well, who says they are?

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Old 06-08-2005, 11:22 AM   #17
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Re: aikido and sword principles

These are some excerpts from an interview with 7th Dan, Steven Seagal Shihan:
Q: I read in an article that kenjutsu is a part of your life?
Sensei: Well, to me Aikido and kenjutsu are the same thing. If you've seen my technique, I'm always cutting. Today we just did a couple of stabs at this and that, but when you watch me a lot you'll see I'm always cutting with the feet and the hand; tesabaki, ashisabaki. The hand and feet angles are all kenjutsu.

Q: What part of Aikido came from swordsmanship?

Sensei: All parts, when I do nikyo, I cut. When I do irimi, I cut, shihonage, it's all kenjutsu.
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Old 06-08-2005, 07:26 PM   #18
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Matthew Materazzi wrote:
Q: What part of Aikido came from swordsmanship?

Sensei: All parts, when I do nikyo, I cut. When I do irimi, I cut, shihonage, it's all kenjutsu.
Yes, because he studied Kenjutsu, so he can relate it to that directly. Many, most Aikidoka do not, they only approximate it. I suspect there is a lot of pretense ...

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Old 06-08-2005, 07:39 PM   #19
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
Yes, because he studied Kenjutsu, so he can relate it to that directly. Many, most Aikidoka do not, they only approximate it. I suspect there is a lot of pretense ...
This is one of the main parts that bothered me when I first starting studying Aikido.

Someone would say to me "oh...this is like cutting with a sword" and I would look at them and say "that doesn't really help me because I have never cut with a sword" and then I would find out that they actually hadn't cut with a sword either, but had picked up a bokken and had learned to make the same hand movements as they do empty handed...

Of course...this got confusing when you tried to do it with the hands in the opposite grip because you wanted to do left side...and you get yelled at that your hands are wrong. What's up with that?

--Michael

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Old 06-08-2005, 07:46 PM   #20
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Maybe we should label it reverse engineering ...

I might be wrong, but I think I once read that O Sensei forbade his students to study sword arts, or even to practice certtain things when he as not present. It was in some article when one of his uchi-deshi was saying if they wanted to learn Kendo or something they had to do it secretly. Can anyone verify that I wonder?

Last edited by Rupert Atkinson : 06-08-2005 at 07:48 PM.

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Old 06-09-2005, 06:21 AM   #21
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Re: aikido and sword principles

To get back to my original question:

can we conclude that the only reasons aikido is based on sword movements are historical in nature?
In other words, the use of sword principles in aikido has no advantages when compared to other martial arts that were not influenced by sword arts?
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Old 06-09-2005, 06:52 AM   #22
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Re: aikido and sword principles

I think this is why Aikido has such a bad reputation with a lot of ignorant observers. If you do not connect kenjutsu and aikido mentally, then you can never truly understand technique. Shiho nage came from sword movement, as did sankyo, nikkyo, ikkyo, and the angles of everything is directly from the movement of a swordsman...a samurai. What O-Sensei did was take the beligerency out of the techniques and found a harmonizing way of reconciliation by blending with and controlling the opponent, instead of destroying him. If you are not"cutting" with your technique, there will usually be a way for uke to escape...and by the way, it helps a great deal to practice with bokken...not doing kata, but practicing doing technique in a randori fashion with bokken..everyone using a bokken. This is how I came to understand the similarities so well.
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Old 06-09-2005, 07:17 AM   #23
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Matthew Materazzi wrote:
I think this is why Aikido has such a bad reputation with a lot of ignorant observers. If you do not connect kenjutsu and aikido mentally, then you can never truly understand technique. Shiho nage came from sword movement, as did sankyo, nikkyo, ikkyo, and the angles of everything is directly from the movement of a swordsman...a samurai.
Er, ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, kotegaeshi, tenchi-nage, irimi nage, etc., etc., are techniques that have been around for a long, long time in Asia. There were adapted for use against weapons... but because you see them in a weapons context doesn't mean that's where they originated.


FWIW

Mike
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Old 06-09-2005, 08:08 AM   #24
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
Aikido is based on sword movements.
This makes sense if one is a samurai: you only have to learn one set of movement principles.
But aikido was not intended for the samurai, so why base aikido on sword movements?
It leads (or can lead, or whatever ) to an effective martial art, that I don't wish to question. But doesn't it make aikido too difficult? One example would be that aikido often requires a distance in which you would be able to cut with a real sword, if you had one?
So my question eventually is: isn't basing aikido on sword movements in a way overkill? (As in effective, but more difficult than absolutely necessary.)

(I know what I have written above is not completely correct, but it is the closest I can get at this moment to that vague idea I had yesterday. Perhaps I'll do better after some replies. )
Does it make aikido too difficult? not for me.

My understanding is that the sword base is used to simplify learning.

very simplistically....You get to cut up and cut down...the location of the butt end of the ken should assist in developing an awareness of ones centre on completion of the cut and at the same time promote a hand position that is also central.

weapons and tai jutsu work are complementary, Aikido can be practiced without learning via both but the cross referencing should simplify things.

In terms of movement principles if you see them as two sets and not one then maybe you need to look at the commonalities rather than the differences.

Aikido is not about becoming a master swordsman.

Just my thoughts

D
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Old 06-09-2005, 08:13 AM   #25
rob_liberti
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Re: aikido and sword principles

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
To get back to my original question:

can we conclude that the only reasons aikido is based on sword movements are historical in nature?
The only reason any expression of principle can be said to be based on a different expression of the same principle is historical context, yes - you have my agreement there.

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
In other words, the use of sword principles in aikido has no advantages when compared to other martial arts that were not influenced by sword arts?
I, personally, do not agree with those other words. I think it is advantageous to study the principles from every angle (point of view).

I do agree with Michael, that is you haven't actually studied sword, relating sword practice to anything is kind of pointless. I have seen so many people try to do shihonage against minimal resistance by trying to directly lift my arms. When I ask them why they continue to try to do it that way, many of them inform me that it's just like sword. I ask them to show me, and they just lift their sword up from just about as out-stretched position as possible in an arc until it is over their head. Which is pretty much the same movement they are trying to do empty handed. The answer, to me, is normally do a drill where someone stands in front of you and tries to cut your exposed wrist while you lift the sword up (from a distance where you might stand in sword combat). If the person does it that silly arcing way, you can easily cut their wrist every time. If they bring it in a bit first and lift it up close to their body (like anyone would do lifting weights over their had) then they can start to avoid the cut, but I can still get them by advancing on them a bit. Lastly, when I ask them to thrust at me to back me off a bit, leave their sword tip where it is and advance their body forward so that they can lift their sword up close to their body, I can't get an obvious advantage. If you make shihonage work that way, especially getting a twist in there to continue to give direction to the leg power of the advancing and the thrust (assumes empty handed version is done with the mind still extending feeling to the tip of the imaginary sword) then it's pretty difficult to resist. Then they normally turn, and put all of their energy into their elbows and get stuck again, but I don't cut with all the energy in my elbows either.

Rob
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