Camp Highlights

Most of us are back home – the bruises are fading and the gis have been washed. Time to reflect on Birankai Aikido 2016 Summer Camp, which ended with a lively session of tai no henko led by Dave Stier Shihan of Green River Aikido on Tuesday morning.

Stier Sensei was the topic of some truly moving testimonies at the farewell party the night before, when his students told of his dedication to helping those of all abilities and body types master Aikido.

“I just wanted to be a student,” Stier Sensei said, describing the trajectory of his training after the sudden death of his teacher, Paul Sylvain Shihan. Stier Sensei went on to lead an impressive closing class to 2016 Birankai Summer Camp.

Another longtime student, Frank Apodaca Sensei of Deep River Aikikai in North Carolina, was recognized earlier during camp: Birankai has recommended that he be promoted to shihan rank.

Apodaca Sensei was a long-suffering kenshusei when I arrived in San Diego, a veteran of the legendary “Pressure Cooker” and “Suffering Bastards” eras.  His ukemi was death-defying to this newbie, especially when he would get up seemingly in one piece after Chiba Sensei demonstrated ushiro ryotedori sutemi waza, also known as “the roadkill technique.” (Chiba Sensei would rear back and flatten him like a bug.)

By the time I got there in the mid-1990s, Apodaca Sensei was a stern taskmaster in morning class and an even more stern leader of sesshin and other events at San Diego Aikikai, a link to a harsher past. Time spent as dojo-cho in Portland, Oregon, and Lansing, Michigan, seemed to mellow him out, and by the time Apodaca Sensei established Deep River Aikikai he was a supportive and open-hearted teacher.

For me, the best thing about 2016 Birankai Summer Camp was gaining new appreciation for these two men, working often without recognition in recent years to transmit Chiba Sensei’s (and Sylvain Sensei’s) Aikido.

With teachers like these in our ranks, Birankai is in safe hands.

Liese Klein

(More new video of 2016 Birankai Aikido Summer Camp at the BiranOnline channel on YouTube.)

Being a Birankai Teacher

alex peterson 2By A.G. Peterson, Summit Aikikai

When I committed to Chiba Sensei to become a teacher and he allowed me to join the kenshusei program, I had a distinct perspective on how, where, and what my dojo would be. Since that time (20-plus years ago), my perspective has evolved. Perhaps I matured, perhaps I drifted, or perhaps evolution is natural.

As I consider two challenges facing our community, No. 1, attracting younger people to Aikido; and No. 2, the public’s interest level in Aikido as a non-competitive martial art, I see a shift in both my perspective and the way I feel I can most effectively address these challenges while remaining true to my understanding of Sensei’s transmission to me.

First, my original perspective was that it was increasingly difficult to attract younger people and that perhaps this reflected a cultural shift Continue reading

Weapons in the Park

Archie Champion Shihan of Central Coast Aikikai and Dennis Belt Shihan of Ventura Aikikai got together this weekend once again to teach what has become a semi-annual “Weapons in the Park” class in Ventura, Calif.
Much emphasis was placed by both instructors on NOT being mechanical in our weapons work. Students were reminded  to “know what you are doing and why you are doing it” and to “be able to respond to whatever comes.”
Much thanks to both shihan for donating their time.  And speaking of being able to respond to whatever comes, we actually got a little bit of rain (hallelujah!) while in the park.  It wasn’t nearly enough to end our drought here in California, but it felt good all the same.
(More videos at the BiranOnline channel on Youtube.)
– Pat Belt, Ventura Aikikai
Editor’s note: Also check out the video below of Pat Belt Sensei of Ventura Aikikai, the latest in our “Women of Birankai” video series. Keep those videos coming!

Boyet in Brooklyn

Didier Boyet Sensei of Tokyo gave a great seminar this weekend at Brooklyn Aikikai focusing on kihon waza (basics) and the interplay between sword arts like Iaido and Aikido. Boyet Sensei will be a featured instructor at 2015 Birankai North America Summer Camp — register now at the Summer Camp Registration site.

Check out more videos from Boyet Sensei’s seminar at the BiranOnline channel on Youtube.

BTW, we’re getting near 1 million views for our videos — pass the link around and let’s hit seven figures! Better yet, send me more clips of events at Birankai dojos so we make sure to keep the site fresh and interesting. Share via Dropbox or another site — we can also highlight videos posted on your own channel on BiranOnline playlists like “Women of Birankai” and “Summer Camp 2014.”

See you on the mat and bring your video camera!



Chiba Sensei on weapons

One of Chiba Sensei’s many gifts to the Aikido community has been his weapons system, and we teachers vowed to further polish and emphasize our bokken and jo work at this year’s Birankai Summer Camp.

Below is the full text of an essay by Chiba Sensei first published in a 1999 issue of our Birankai newsletter. Also posted here for the first time are videos from Chiba Sensei’s advanced weapons class at the 2011 Birankai Regional Seminar at Long Mountain Aikido in Granby, Mass. (The second video is at the bottom of the text.)

Also be sure to check out the great videos from a personal collection being posted in recent weeks on the Facebook page of Sonoran Aikikai.

Then get out there and pick up your weapons!

L. Klein

The Position of Weapons Training In Aikido

A Consideration of the Unity of Body and Sword

By T.K. Chiba

Many people have asked me about the relationship between body arts and weapons training in Aikido. Most of those questions were influenced by the opinion (either positive or negative) towards weapons training by professional Aikido teachers, both those who positively incorporate weapons training in their Aikido practice and those who do not. These opposing practices inevitably create confusion among Aikido practitioners Continue reading

East Coast Regional rocks

100_0602Birankai members gathered at Bucks County Aikido this weekend for a regional seminar that brought together teachers and students from across the Northeast and as far away as Michigan, Illinois, Florida and Washington. More than 76 people practiced and took part in testing and a truly epic potluck party.

Darrell Bluhm Shihan of Siskiyou Aikikai explored the concept of positive movement by nage in techniques to take the center.

George Lyons Shihan of Bucks County Aikido urged us to “trust the principles” of Aikido and put ourselves at risk as nage to draw a committed attack.

Visit BiranOnline on YouTube to see more videos by Bluhm Sensei, George Lyons Sensei, Patti Lyons Sensei and Robert Savoca Sensei of Brooklyn Aikikai.

Often invoked were memories of Mark Murashige Sensei and Jack Arnold Sensei, treasured Birankai teachers who both passed away in recent weeks. Their legacy of selfless teaching and joy in practice was alive on the mat in Bucks County this weekend.

In Print: An uchideshi’s tale

Edward Burke

The following first appeared in the Summer 2012 print edition of Biran, the Aikido Journal of Birankai North America.

Most uchideshi, or live-in Aikido students, leave San Diego Aikikai with only lots of memories, sore joints and worn-out hakamas. But Edward Burke of South Africa left with notes for a memoir, The Sword Master’s Apprentice: Or How a Broken Nose, a Shaman, and a Little Light Dusting May Point the Way to Enlightenment.

Burke’s book was published in 2012 and stirred lots of interest in the Birankai community. Burke lived at San Diego Aikikai for three months as a direct student of T.K. Chiba Shihan.

Starting with a vivid description of getting your butt kicked in class, the book relates Continue reading