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Takemusu Aikido - Volume 1, Background & Basics

Book Summary:

This book is the second edition of Volume 1 of Morihiro Saito’s final series of Aikido technical manuals. Produced in bilingual format (Japanese-English), it presents more than sixty variations of ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, and yonkyo techniques, the most essential of aikido's basic forms. It is illustrated with over 600 photographs and accompanied by detailed step-by-step explanations with many close-up photos

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Review by: Robert Noha

The newly revised and reissued Takemusu Aikido, Volume 1: Background & Basics by the late Morihiro Saito and Stanley Pranin is a significant addition to anyone’s Aikido technical library.

This review will provide an overview of the book and compare the first printing in 1994 with the just released 2007 printing.

Introductory section

One of the many enhancements in the new printing are the numerous photos that highlight Aikido history and the roles of O-Sensei and Saito Sensei in creating and spreading the art. The clarity of all the photos is much improved over the 1994 printing.

The introductory section provides useful background material on the principles and history of Aikido that gives context to the technical chapters.

In the “What is Aikido?” chapter there is an overview of the aspects of Aikido that make it distinct from other martial arts. This includes its ethical, spiritual and defensive nature. The text is virtually identical with the 1994 printing, as it is throughout, with the addition of five more excellent photgraphs of the Iwama Dojo, the Aiki Shrine and O-Sensei and Saito Sensei.

The 17 additional photos of the people and places that influenced Aikido’s creation and growth brighten the aikido history chapter. These include: Onisaburo Deguchi, Sokaku Takeda and many of O-Sensei’s early supporters. There are several pictures of the fascinating Admiral Isamu Takeshita who was instrumental in O-Sensei’s move to Tokyo. Admiral Takeshita is a figure in some ways comparable to Gen. Colin Powell in contemporary America, as he was both a military hero and a diplomat. Takeshita was a participant in the negotiations with President Theodore Roosevelt to end the Russo-Japanese War, for which President Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize. The added pictures help to bring Aikido history to life.

Anyone who has ever dreamed of training with O-Sensei will enjoy the chapter on “Training Under O-Sensei.” The text gives a fascinating picture of the training right after WW II into the fifties. Like the history chapter, the text is brought to life with ten additional photos not in the 1994 printing. The early pictures of Saito Sensei are interesting and make those of us not as slim now as we were in our twenties feel a little better, or at least that we are in good company.

The final chapter in the introductory section is on “Spreading Iwama Aikido World Wide.” This is only lightly touched on the in 1994 printing. This chapter outlines Saito Sensei’s success in teaching Iwama Aikido throughout the world. It provides updated information on his activities since the 1994 printing. Prior to his death in 2002, he named his son Hitohiro as his successor.

Technical section

This section contains chapters on basics and Ikkyo, Nikyo, Sankyo and Yonkyo. It concludes with a helpful glossary of terms and some quotes from O-Sensei not in the 1994 printing.

The “Basic Techniques” chapter, in both printings, lays a solid foundation for the specific techniques that follow. It focuses on the importance of stability, atemi and entering and turning movements.

The “Exercises” chapter provides photos and text illustrating three foundational practices: Tai no henko; Morotedori kokyuho and Suwariwaza kokyuho. The new printing has eight additional photos of O-Sensei and Saito Sensei including some close-ups to help illustrate important points in each technique. These close-ups continue throughout the new printing and really help to illustrate key points.

The chapters on Ikkyo, Nikyo, Sankyo and Yonkyo contain the kind of detailed instruction and numerous variations you would expect from a book by Saito Sensei. An example is the section on the technique that is the bane of every student’s life when they are training for their fourth kyu test, Shomenuchi Nikyo. This section contains five additional photos, mostly close-ups, that help to illustrate key parts of the technique. In addition to the step-by-step text explanation there is also a commentary. It provides insights into how and why the technique is performed as it is. The 2007 printing has the commentary by O-Sensei in bold type making it easier to identify.


The production quality of Aikido books has gradually improved since they first came out in the 1960s. This book, which is bilingual (English/Japanese) is another step in that direction. It is an improvement over the 1994 printing as well as Saito Sensei’s earlier books. For that reason, it is recommended even if you have the 1994 printing and Saito Sensei’s Traditional Aikido books. I purchased two additional copies for senior students after getting the first one. I believe that the revisions of the future volumes will be just as valuable.

Stan Pranin deserves our gratitude for his forty plus years and continuing dedication to making information on O-Sensei and his Aikido available.

Thank you Stan.

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