In Memorium: Genki Roshi

Genki Takabayashi Roshi, who played a major role in Birankai’s Zen training, died on Feb. 24, 2013. Our sincere condolences to Genki Roshi’s family and friends and the members of the Chobo-ji Zen Temple in Seattle.

The following is a remembrance by Genjo Osho from the Chobo-Ji website:

Genki Takabayashi Roshi, Chobo-Ji’s founding abbot, dropped his body five hours after returning home late last night to be with his wife and cat in the town of Victor, Montana.

I was with him the weekend before last when he was in a rehab hospital in Missoula. At that time Continue reading “In Memorium: Genki Roshi”

Welcoming adversity

By Jon-Paul Oliva, Multnomah Aikikai

On Friday afternoon, May 25, 2012, we discovered a water leak in the women’s bathroom at Multnomah Aikikai that had gone undetected for over 12 hours. Despite member’s best efforts to shut off the water and clean up the affected area, the leak had overrun the bathroom, spilling out into the women’s dressing room and a portion of the dojo foyer.

To make matters worse, the water had permeated behind the bathroom vanity and much of the drywall was a total loss. In the days that followed, members helped to triage the affected areas, removing carpet Continue reading “Welcoming adversity”

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 “In Print: An uchideshi’s tale”

New Year’s Promotions

Chiba Sensei and the members of the Birankai North America Senior Council offer their congratulations to the following members on their promotions.

Maureen Browne, Fox Valley Aikikai
Jobe  Groot, Mountain Coast Aikikai

Liese Klein, Fire Horse Aikido
Kathy Stier, Green River Aikido
Toma Rosenzweig, Aikido Daiwa
Tom Grimaldi, Copper Mountain Aikikai

Rich Ciriello, Boca Aikikai
Eric Karalius, Connecticut Aikikai
Daniel Pantaleo, Connecticut  Aikikai
Lynne Ballew, North County Aikikai
Neal Dunnigan, Wheatbelt Aikido
Joseph Canon, Corvallis Aikikai
Robert Petterson, Westside Aikido
Erik Fredricksen, Huron Valley Aikikai

Edward Hernandez, New Tampa Aikido

Susanna Estrada, Alameda Aikikai
John Gange, Central Coast Aikikai

Congratulations to all!

Summer Camp DVDs on sale

DVDs with complete footage of Birankai summer camps – including the 2008 anniversary event with Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba – are on sale at a special holiday price.DVDs are now $15 per disc or $60 for a set of five. Buy online here. All DVDs features classes with Chiba Sensei, Miyamoto Sensei and other Hombu dojo guests and Birankai shihan.

Purchases can be shipped within the US or to Birankai Canada dojos for a minimum order of 5 DVDs.

All proceeds benefit Birankai North America, future Summer Camp scholarships and seminar grants. Orders received after Dec. 15 will be shipped in the New Year.

From the Archives: ‘Art of Recovery’ by Chiba Sensei

The Art of Recovery

By T.K. Chiba

The important question of injury prevention must be addressed within the precise study of ukemi in everyday training. The art of ukemi is in a broad sense the art of recovery from crisis, or, more specifically, the development of power and skill to recover from situations of disequilibrium by mastering right action in conflict.

To respond correctly in situations of conflict, a practitioner must embody the basic Aikido principles of sensitivity, openness, centeredness, liveliness, connectedness and wholeness. More succinctly, one must learn how to meet oncoming force slowly, gathering all of the aforementioned elements in a progressive fashion to ultimately blend with the force. It is a mistake for the practitioner to perceive the elements to be independent of each other, as they are all interrelated and inseparable. In the end, no matter which element one chooses to begin focused individualized study, all of the other elements will interact simultaneously.

Mastery of the art of ukemi requires slow, gradual, consistent and progressive training. One must learn how to respond correctly with the energy of an oncoming force – harmonizing with the energy as if it was heavy, fast, strong or executed at maximum velocity even if it is in reality light, slow and gentle. Consistent practice of this right action will gradually enable one to face increasingly greater force without being victimized.

Proper awareness of right action is very much lacking amongst the general membership, who tend to literally interpret “lightness” as “light,” “slowness” as “slow” and “gentleness” as “gentle.” I believe this misperception is largely due to an overall lack of sensitivity and imagination combined with a deeply rooted, unconscious laziness – all of which constitute what is called in the martial sense, “blindness.”

Physical danger is omnipresent in martial training – this is a negative aspect of the practice, however, it is also its greatest strength, for it is that very danger which keeps the art alive and forces us to remain awake. We cannot ever forget that danger is always present, and blindness will lead to victimization.

Throughout my half-century-long career as a professional martial artist, I have suffered nearly every conceivable physical injury, yet I have survived, and those injuries have given me great insights into the art of ukemi. The knowledge I have gained from my experiences has been crystallized in my teachings for the benefit of my students. The wisdom found in the art of ukemi is not limited to physical practice in the dojo – it expands beyond the mat into everyday life as the art of recovery.

San Diego

Oct. 18, 2005

New Camp videos posted

Chiba Sensei, Yamada Sensei Miyamoto Sensei and Birankai senior instructors are featured in new videos posted today from Birankai Summer Camp 2012.

Visit the BiranOnline channel on Youtube to view the entire set, plus new video of recent East Coast seminars like Juba Nour at Fire Horse Aikido and this month’s United States Aikido Federation Winter Seminar in Fort Lauderdale.

If your dojo has some exciting video to share of Birankai or related instructors from any time period, let us know! Email

Load and Unload

Mike Flynn Shihan at Bucks County Aikido, September 2012.

By John McDevitt, Bucks County Aikido

“Nice tooch with the thistle.” – Flynn Shihan

The art of drawing the sword and striking a killing blow is offered, by Flynn Shihan, at Thistle Aikikai in Chryston, Scotland. For a few days in September, it was offered in Bucks County, Penn. In Iaido, students learn to use the sword not merely as a tool for cutting down one’s enemy, but as a method of allowing the mind and body to become more harmonious with nature. When instructed by Flynn Shihan, you also learn a bit about cutting down the Anglish!

While it was evident that Flynn Shihan was a master with the sword, I felt that he did not Continue reading “Load and Unload”

Welcome to our new Biran Online blog format!

Greetings to all Birankai North America members and visitors and welcome to our new Biran Online blog site.This site is designed to reflect the dynamic and diverse activities of Birankai North America dojos and Aikido practitioners with continuously updated essays, videos and links to other Birankai NA sites. Continue reading “Welcome to our new Biran Online blog format!”

The Long Goodbye

By James Sawers, Oak Park Aikikai

After over 20-plus years of running and operating Oak Park Aikikai and about 39 years (and counting) of practicing Aikido, our sensei, Rich Roberts, is leaving. Rich retired last year from diligent and hard-working service with the Chicago Public School system. Rich’s specialty was working with children with special needs; Continue reading “The Long Goodbye”

Overcoming Defeat with 28 Days of Zazen

By Cassandra Tribe, Rhode Island Aikikai – Eastside

When we begin to incorporate the practice of Zazen in our lives, we train to become warriors able to overcome defeat using the weapon of body, mind and soul. The power that we draw on is found not just within ourselves, but also comes from our connection to our community and the world at large. Continue reading “Overcoming Defeat with 28 Days of Zazen”

New space, new energy in Ventura

By Pat Belt, Ventura Aikikai

After 20 years in the same location, Ventura Aikikai has moved to a new location.

In August, Ventura Aikikai’s small but dedicated core of students began the hard work of disassembling one dojo and getting a new space ready.   Multiple trips to the dump, gallons of new paint and many shared lunches later, we were back to training as soon as the used tatami mats were down.  We still have odds and ends to complete, but thanks to dojo members, the hard work is done. Continue reading “New space, new energy in Ventura”