WELCOME TO VENTURA AIKIKAI
In 1991, Nobuo Iseri (1936-2001) moved his dojo (then called, the Moving Centre) from Ojai to Ventura. That same year, Dennis and Pat Belt closed their dojo in Ventura and joined Iseri Sensei. It was Iseri Sensei’s strong association with aikido master teacher T.K. Chiba that formed the character and technical development of our dojo and students.
Chiba Sensei was a direct student of the founder of aikido. He was been based in San Diego for over 40 years, until his death in June 2015. Chiba Sensei is the founder of Birankai International and Birankai North America, non-profit aikido organizations with dojos and students all over the world.
Birankai North America
Ventura Aikikai is a member dojo of Birankai North America (www.birankai.org). BNA is directly affiliated with the Aikido world headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.
BNA dojos are held to strict ethical and technical standards. BNA instructors are certified through rigorous examination and training requirements administered by a Teachers’ Council.
Aikido is the life’s work of Morihei Ueshiba. O Sensei (literally, ‘Great Teacher’ as Master Ueshiba is known to Aikidoists) spent his life mastering many different forms of traditional martial arts. He was also devoted to spiritual studies, seeking to transcend all limitations in his quest for enlightenment.
Aikido was developed in the early part of the 20th century as a logical culmination of O Sensei’s studies. Development continued after World War II, leading to the art as we know it today. O Sensei continued his training and study until his death in 1968 at age 86.
The Nature of Aikido Training
Aikido follows a training method that involves the repetition of throws, holds and pins until natural, powerful, unforced movement is embodied. Aikido techniques are defensive in nature, but in aikido training at its most advanced stage the role of attacker and defender are blurred as the defender resolves conflict instantaneously.
Aikido seeks to neutralize an aggressor’s force or attack.
How is Aikido Practiced
Especially in beginning training, many simple grabs, such wrist grabs, are used as attacks so students gain understanding of lines of attack, distancing, connection, and the need for an alert, yet relaxed mind and body. Students take turns being the attacker (uke) and the defender (nage). Both parts are equally important in training.
The curriculum includes ‘empty hand’ techniques, bokken (practice sword) jyo (staff) and tanto (knife) defenses. Consistent training will encompass physical, mental, spiritual and ethical self-development.
The fact that there is no competition in Aikido is the logical conclusion of its philosophy. Freed from the concerns of winning and losing, practitioners can concentrate on mutually beneficial goals.. Each person progresses at his/her own pace.
The Japanese word for training, Keiko, (literally “tracing the old”) offers insight into the Aikido training method. Keiko is more than just physical repetition of movements. It is physical action coupled with proper spirit and attitude. Students use their teacher as a model, and they themselves become role models for more junior students.
ELEMENTS OF AIKIDO TRAINING
In todays society, it is easy to become lazy and self-indulgent. The body may become soft and weak from prolonged inactivity. The distractions of modern life can cause a person to become separated from the true nature of one’s own life. Disciplined training creates a path to overcome these distractions. Aikido training provides a solid foundation-uniting mind, body and spirit-to help us in the pursuit of meaningful lives.
Tanren (disciplined training) requires that : Real progress takes time; consistent practice is cumulative; and overcoming difficulties is necessary and achievable.
The elements of training are contained in the Japanese concept of Shu Ha Ri.
Shu: The first stage of training wherein one experiences and absorbs the essence of the art by accepting the teacher’s transmission of the art.
Ha: The second stage of training wherein one internalizes and begins to comprehend the true nature of the art.
Ri: The last stage is where the art is manifested in one’s daily life.
Each stage of development contains elements of the other stages.
THE PRINCIPALS OF AIKIDO TRAINING*
TAIIKU (Physical Development)
The harmonious development of the body reveals us to be a microcosm of the universe while it continues to purify the body through training. Through physical mastery, we gain power of kokyuroku (the power of the breath of heaven and earth). This power comes with the realization that we are all one with the universe.
KIIKYU (Spiritual Development)
The concepts of ‘enemy’ and ‘fear’ are perceptions of cosmic consciousness, or illusion, in which the world appears as separate from the self. Aikido is not an art for defeating an enemy. A state of ‘no fear’ comes from increasing self-confidence and awareness of being at one with the universe. Our true spiritual strength can only be revealed when the barrier to self-isolation is broken down.
TOKUIKU (Moral and Ethical Development)
This is the development of the moral and ethical aspect of the self, placing the principal of oneness with the universe into daily life. The path of truthfulness is realized through commitment and practice.
CHIIKYU (Intellectual Achievement)
The attainment of wisdom comes from an increasing awareness of the reality of oneness with the universe.
JYOSHIKI NO KANYO (Cultivation of Common Sense)
Common sense in its most profound interpretation is the recognition of and respect for all living things. The definition of the true martial way is therefore to be the guardian of all beings embodying the principle of reverence toward all life.
The five principles of Aikido are found in every technique. Simultaneous development of these elements lead to personal development. The diversity of beings and the realization of oneness are not contradictory concepts. The apparent contradiction is perfectly reconciled within the eternal and supreme code of the laws of nature.
*REPRINTED WITH THE PERMISSION OF T.K. CHIBA SHIHAN
When Master Ueshiba was alive, he was known as one of the foremost swordsmen in Japan. Much of what we practice today in Aikido comes from his studies of traditional swordsmanship. Aikido uses Bokken (wooden sword), Jyo (short spear) and Tanto (wooden knife) to sharpen our martial awareness, focus and forge the body and to develop our understanding of martial strategy, distance and timing.
Weapons practice consists of three types: solo work, for strengthening and unifying the body; Partner practice for timing, connection and precision; and disarming techniques. Learning to handle weapons in all three situations is an important element in understanding and progressing in Aikido.
As with all Aikido practice, weapons work builds on a solid foundation of basics. Correct understanding of basic principles allow for confidant progress.
RANKING AND PROGRESS
Birankai North America follows the traditional Kyu (white belt) and Dan (black belt ranks) system. After passing your first test, you will be ranked Gokyu (5th kyu). You will progress through the Kyu ranks to Ikkyu (1st Kyu). The next test will be Sho-Dan (1st degree black belt). Dan grades then continue upwards.
Traditionally, the rank of Sho-Dan was regarded at the beginning of serious training; not as it has become in the western world, a sign of mastery or accomplishment. It is important to keep in perspective our accomplishments and view our progress as milestones on the journey to self-discovery and awareness.
SEMINARS AND CAMPS
Birankai NA is fortunate to have many highly accomplished Shihan and Shidoin who are available to give seminars. It is an important part of our development to support and attend regional seminars to deepen our understanding of aikido and build connections within our organization.
In addition to regional seminars, BNA hosts a week long Aikido ‘Summer Camp’.
For those interested in deepening their practice, this is a unique and rewarding opportunity to immerse yourself in the study of Aikido and deepen Aikido friendships.