Rolling Sequence Video

By Suzane Van Amburgh, Multnomah Aikikai

This is a rolling sequence video for aikido practice and teaching.

Beginning Aikido students are often introduced to rolling practice in their first week on the mat. The experience of getting down on the ground and coming up again is fundamental and yet also instinctive. New students have so much going on mentally, emotionally and physically as they begin a new movement practice.

Small rolls, sometimes called “Bucky Ball” rolls or “baby rolls” offer teachers a rich opportunity to orient the new student, practice learning skills, foster attention skills and give them something they can do successfully and improve upon quickly.

For more senior students, the practice serves as a mental and physical warm up, calming the nervous system and relaxing the body.

Bringing attention to what you do and how you do it, matching your breathing to your movement and varying your intention in movement are all excellent ways to prepare yourself for aikido practice.

In this quiet (no-talking) video, Suzane Van Amburgh Sensei demonstrates a rolling practice sequence useful for all levels, from beginner to senior student.  It begins with orientation to the relative position of body parts, rocking left and right. It progresses through use of weight shifts, finding the natural levers and counterbalances of the body, smooth transitions from sitting to side lying and up to sitting again. By the end of the video, the roll has evolved to advanced sequences requiring clear intention, core conditioning, good body control and awareness of the space around you.

Let this post serve as a reference tool and “cliff notes” for aikidoists in your regular rolling practice.

If rolling is new to you, don’t try this alone. Come to the dojo or schedule a private lesson with a certified aikido teacher.


Suzane Van Amburgh, shidoin, Multnomah Aikikai

Rolling sequence 5:37 recorded 2015

Trouble viewing the video? Here’s the link to the video shared on google:

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.)

A New Path in the Wood


  • You are not alone.
  • With hard work and study, you can practice Chiba Sensei’s Aikido at the highest level.
  • As part of a strong and supportive community, you can pass on the essence of Chiba Sensei’s Aikido to the next generation.

That was part of the powerful message of this past weekend’s Birankai Instructors’ Intensive in Wisconsin. It was an incredible experience, full of collaboration, intense study and real progress in our collective goal of keeping Birankai Aikido vital and true to the essence of Chiba Sensei’s project.IMG_5901

(More reports will be posted soon on the event in this blog and in the print issue of Biran, along with a quick-cut video I’m putting together set to “Eye of the Tiger”…)

Personally, I didn’t have a clear idea of what to expect going into the Instructor’s Intensive and I harbored plenty of skepticism, if not dread. Much more of my mindspace as the weekend approached was occupied by concerns about wolverines, a dry campus and three days of healthy food than martial spirit, curriculum or pedagogy.

Cheese foodLuckily, Wisconsin “cheese food” was soon on hand to supplement my diet and I turned my focus to the radical paradigm shift occurring in front of me on the mats and lawns at the House in the Wood.

With full acknowledgment of and respect for teachers who chose to focus on their own dojos and methods, the Intensive offered a new model in which a coalition of the willing apply their energy and humility to the needs of the larger body of Birankai instructors.

We took on the most basic of the basics – suburi, strikes, fundamental movements in weapons training – and worked together as senior and junior teachers to first clarify the martial objectives of each movement, then explore the many approaches used by Chiba Sensei over the years to embody these martial intentions. Finally, we put our heads together to form strategies to bring everyone’s level up and practiced, practiced, practiced.

Roo Heins, Rodger Park, Neilu Naini, Deena Drake, Alex Peterson and I acted as group IMG_5909facilitators more than ultimate authorities passing judgment from on high, keeping the focus on improving our training as an inclusive group and keeping the energy up. Shihans Lizzy Lynn and Maureen Brown kept us honest and on task.

Chiba Sensei was there in our hearts at every moment.

Seeing the passion, perseverance IMG_5891and grit of our fellow instructors – most of whom I hadn’t gotten to know much at all before this weekend – I fully expect the next exemplar of Chiba Sensei’s Aikido to come from Muskogee, Lansing or Providence.

As I yearned for cheese food overnight in the deserted Philly airport on the way home, thoughts of the Intensive kept running through my mind:

  • As part of a strong and supportive community, you can pass on Chiba Sensei’s Aikido to the next generation.
  • With hard work and study, you can practice Chiba Sensei’s Aikido at the highest level.
  • You are not alone.

L. Klein

Editor’s note: Thanks to R.C. Miles for the great panorama photo at the top of the page. If anyone has more good photos or video, let me know!