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:

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!

Demo Debate

“Would your dojo like to do a demonstration at our event?”

My usual answer is an immediate “No,” but this time was different.

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, located a mile or so from our dojo in New Haven, Conn., was opening a new exhibit called Samurai and the Culture of Japan’s Great Peace. The museum wanted martial arts demonstrations related the exhibit and asked Fire Horse Aikido to take part.

The Peabody is close and familiar to our members, plus the exhibit seemed relevant to our practice. I thought it over for a bit and say yes to a demo for the first time in my dojo’s seven-year history.

Demos bring up mixed feelings for me – mostly stressful ones. Chiba Sensei used to volunteer members of San Diego Aikikai to take part in demos at Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden and my memories of the events are of sheer terror. Would I screw up? Would someone get hurt? Would Sensei be pleased with our ukemi? (No, he wouldn’t.)

That stress was even more magnified at the public demos we used to do as part of Summer Camp. The demos seemed to go on for hours and the stakes seemed immeasurable, though usually only a few dozen “civilians” would attend to watch. Blood always seemed to flow. After years of these demos, Sensei decided that they weren’t the most effective way to attract members and we let them go.

In my years in Japan, I enjoyed watching the shihan demos that were the focus of the annual Embukai Aikido event in Tokyo. Birankai teachers including John Brinsley, Roo Heins and Manolo San Miguel have taken ukemi at these demos over the years and they’re always exciting to watch. (Here’s a good clip of Miyamoto Sensei at the 2013 Embukai, with John Brinsley Sensei of Aikido Daiwa on the far right.)

But even in Japan the demos seemed to attract mainly the Aikido faithful, who enjoy most of all critiquing other teachers and their students from the bleachers. And of course there’s the infamous demo by Steven Seagal at the 1993 Embu

Keeping my doubts about demos at bay, I marshaled the Fire Horse crew for the event at the Peabody Museum on March 28, 2015. Everything went off without a hitch in front of a hundred or so spectators. The kids loved being part of it and we got lots of interest from observers and saw increased traffic on our dojo website and social media.

Putting together the “highlight reel” of the demo above was also lots of fun and appreciated by friends and family.

I might be saying yes to more demos in the future, but I wonder if other Birankai teachers have ideas about how to make them better.

Do you demonstrate Aikido in your community?

What works and what doesn’t work?

Is it something we should be seeking out to promote our art?

Add to the conversation in the comments below. (Comments may take a day or two to show up due to moderation process.)

– Liese Klein, Fire Horse Aikido

More Miyamoto Sensei

Editor’s Note: Thanks to John Brinsley of Aikido Daiwa for this writeup from Miyamoto Sensei’s visit earlier this month to North America. I’ve just posted some new video of Miyamoto Sensei from the event and 2013 Camp on the BiranOnline YouTube channel. Don’t forget that the deadline for early registration for 2015 Summer Camp is approaching!

Power Aikido in the Great White North

Miyamoto Sensei provided a rigorous and thoughtful weekend of instruction in Vancouver March 6-8 that left the practitioners tired and yet somehow energized.

East Van Aikikai and Tony Hind Sensei, a long-time Hombu dojo student who lived at Hombu in the early 1990s, did a masterful job in hosting the event. The seminar brought together people from as far away as Hawaii and proved once again that having different organizations are no barrier to a committed group who wish to experience first-rate keiko. I would like to thank Hind Sensei again for putting on such a successful seminar.

Regardless of the technique, Miyamoto Sensei returned again and again to the importance of timing, connection and proper spacing. Even for those of us familiar with his ability to create dynamic technique while adapting to the uke’s movement, there was always a need to pay close attention to how he managed to unbalance his partner while retaining complete control. For me, anyway, it also served as a reminder of how vital the concept of “stealing” the teacher’s technique is, rather than having it spoon-fed.

For Birankai members and attendees, along with valued USAF friends Malory Graham Sensei and Seattle Aikikai students, it provided an excellent chance to spend time with Miyamoto Sensei ahead of Birankai Summer Camp. Which, if the weekend is any indication, should be epic.

– John Brinsley, Aikido Daiwa

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!



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.