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Progressive Aikido: The Essential Elements

Book Summary:

New book: "Progressive Aikido: The Essential Elements" by Moriteru Ueshiba

After many years of dedicated training in the classical fighting arts, Morihei Ueshiba developed Aikido, drawing on the rich history of the martial traditions of Japan, and refining them into a wholly new system. In its relatively short history, Aikido has become one of the most renowned martial arts in the world, teaching its devotees the way of harmony as a spiritual path.

With his new book Progressive Aikido: The Essential Elements (Kodansha International; $35.00; January 2, 2006) Moriteru Ueshiba, the grandson of Morihei Ueshiba, presents a systematic approach to mastering the basics of Aikido. He begins by outlining its most basic element, proper movement, and explains that with this as your base you will be able to approach the techniques in the correct order. He then goes on to emphasize a logical, step-by-step approach to mastering the techniques, so the student can progress toward aikido’s ultimate goals----forging of the individual spirit, and fostering harmony between oneself and nature, and the body and mind.

Ueshiba offers a highly accessible, informative guide to the principles of Aikido, through meticulously detailed explanations and illustrative photos. Progressive Aikido will be a valuable resource for the novice and advanced student alike. Through the book is aimed primarily at beginners, it is the author’s wish that while it should help motivate beginners to absorb as much as possible from their masters, it will also inspire more advanced practitioners to maintain the desire to improve, as espoused in the words of founder Morihei himself: “Never cease forging your mind and body to refine your character through training--this is the first principle.”

About the Author:

MORITERU UESHIBA was born in 1951 in Tokyo, the grandson of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, and son of the late Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the second Doshu. He graduated from Meiji Gakuin University in 1976, became master of the Aikido World Headquarters in 1986, and in 1996 was named chairman of the Aikikai Foundation. In 1999 he became Aikido Doshu after his father’s death and the permanent chairman of the International Aikido Federation in the same year. He holds several important posts related to the martial arts and is a trustee of the Nippon Budokan, the “hall of martial arts” located in central Tokyo. He is the co-author of Best Aikido: The Fundamentals, and the author of The Aikido Master Course: Best Aikido 2.

www.kodansha-intl.com

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Review by: Clark Bateman

This book is a new John Stevens translation of the earlier Japanese-language book “Aikido Jotatsu”. It follows two other Kodansha publications by the same author, "Best Aikido” and “The Aikido Master Course”. The new book is well formatted, and profusely illustrated with black/white photos.

This book hearkens back to the fundamentals, with clear descriptions of breakfalls, stances, shikko (knee-walking), body movement and breath power. Of particular note here is that Doshu’s categorization of movements includes a description of “tenshin” (sweeping turn) right up there alongside “irimi” and “tenkan”.

The book is basically technical in nature, but throughout there are explanations of principles, and many emphasized, or amplified, thoughts (identified as “points” in the text) which represent keys to the proper execution of the techniques being discussed. These points are highlighted by bold text and printed in text boxes, making them easy to get to in a glance. It’s a very nice format, and brings the text closer to providing the pointers one might actually receive in the dojo from the instructor.

The book includes a discussion of “ki” and unification of mind and body. Although brief, it will seem remarkably “Tohei-esque” to the reader. There is coverage of the author’s views on absorbing training on the basic level, variations of techniques, and the process of progressing into more advanced training. There are tanto-dori techniques, but no other mention of weapons work, so buki-waza people will have to get their fix elsewhere. Techniques are named only in the Japanese vernacular, without English translation, but you should not have a problem if you are an anglophile with even basic experience in Aikido.

In summary, although there is no new, groundbreaking information here, the book is an easy read, and there is a lot of beneficial material, presented in an excellent format. This book would make a good addition to any Aikido library, regardless of your particular style. The “traditionalists” will also say there is always a little extra weight given to those teachings which come “direct from the source” (sort of). Recommended. (Availability is good, even a little ahead of the official Jan.’06 release date.)

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