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In this issue:
* · Interview with Sensei John Araujo, President of the Bushido TenShin Aikido Federation
* · Dojo Spotlight—Aikido Of Bristol County, Hombu Dojo
* · Current State of Aikido
* · What is TenShin Aikido
Welcome To the Premier Issue of the BTAF Newsletter
Welcome to the premier issue of the Bushido Tenshin Aikido Federation newsletter. THE official source of news and information relating to the Bushido Tenshin Aikido Federation and the Aikido that is taught at federation schools. We will highlight the dojos within the BTAF and also the Senseis in charge of the various dojo.
Interview with Sensei John Araujo:
Sensei John Araujo, who is a RokuDan (6th degree blackbelt), is the president and founder of the Bushido TenShin Aikido Federation. While he started out training in traditional Aikido he soon found a method of Aikido which was more martial and more effective than what he had previously experienced. What we have today is a way of training and applying Aikido in an effective and martial way. What follows is my interview with Araujo Sensei, touching on his experience and thoughts on Aikido and the BTF.
What is Aikido?
Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba often referred to by his title O Sensei or as Great Teacher. On a physical level it is a budo martial art involving throws and joint locks that are derived from Jujitsu, Judo & some throws and other techniques derived from Kenjutsu the Sword and the Jo the short staff. Aikido focuses on using their own energy to gain control of them or to throw them away from you. It is not a static art, but places great emphasis on motion and the powerful strong dynamics of movement. Aikidoka's or Aikido practitioners will find from Aikido what they are looking for, whether it is applicable self-defense technique, spiritual enlightenment, physical health or peace of mind. O Sensei emphasized the moral and spiritual aspects of this art, placing great weight on the development of harmony and peace. The Way of Harmony of the Spirit is one way that Aikido may be translated into English. This is still true of Aikido today, although different styles emphasize the more spiritual aspects to greater or lesser degrees.
What made you decide to study Aikido over the other arts that are available to train in?
Well when I started back in 1979 I was a young kid about 7 years old and I think at that time there was only a few different styles of Karate. I don't remember but anyway my mother worked full time and my father worked two jobs to support the family's needs and he decided it would be a good idea to utilize my free time and not drive my mother nuts(laughs) since I was the only child and put me into a Karate Dojo. So that started my martial arts career. So I really had no choice to decide on a martial art at that time. The Karate Dojo that I attended was a strict Japanese traditional martial art called Shotokan Karate which is still run by Hanshi John Almeida and today we are still in contact and great friends. At the time when my father decided to have me join the Karate Dojo I think it was because it was convenient enough for both my parents to drive me there and close enough for me to walk if needed. Throughout my 10 years of practicing Shotokan Karate, I remember Thursday evenings being my favorite day's to practice because it was self-defense night. Every Thursday the self-defense that we were learning and practicing was Judo my instructor John Almeida Sensei was and had been studying Judo in the Boston area and would incorporate it in our classes. So I decided that since I loved the self-defense classes that when I had a job and was able to drive I'd visit a Judo Dojo and take up Judo. At 16 years old after practicing Shotokan Karate for approx. 10 years I decided to leave and start searching for Judo. I looked everywhere in my area and I was not able to find a Judo Dojo, what I did stumble upon was a martial art called Aikido. I had
no idea what Aikido was I had only heard and seen it once which was in the movie theater, the movie was call above the law with actor and martial artist Steven Seagal. The Aikido Dojo was called New Bedford Aikikai and was headed by instructor Jack Leonardo Sensei, I was 17 at the time and I walked in, watched a class and I was hooked.
How long have you been studying Aikido?
I've been studying martial arts for over 35 years and Aikido over 24 years.
What Aikido instructors have you studied under?
Jack Leonardo Sensei, Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei, Kazuo Chiba Sensei, Mitsunari Kanai Sensei, Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei, Saotome Sensei, Sugano Seiichi Sensei, Donovan Waite Sensei, Takahashi Sensei, David Farrell Sensei, Elliot Freeman Sensei, Luis Santos Sensei, Craig Dunn Sensei, Haruo Matsuoka Sensei, as well as many others.
Was there ever a critical point in your training career where you made a dramatic change in how you trained and applied Aikido or even thought about Aikido in general?
Yes throughout my Aikido life I was pretty much doing federation Aikido and in the early 2000 I had heard there was going to be a Tenshin Aikido seminar in the Orlando Florida area, When I heard that I had done some research about "Tenshin Aikido" prior and knew that it was the Aikido that Steven Seagal Sensei also known as Take Sensei had taught in Osaka Japan and brought it here to the USA, so packed up and headed to Florida to participate in the Tenshin Aikido seminar. I was immediately fascinated by the practicality of this Aikido. The circles were a lot smaller, the movements were a lot sharper, it was a more direct application, the techniques were a lot tighter, smoother and very fast, there was deflections that I had never learned or saw in federation Aikido, foot work was stronger and faster. Every applications of technique was different from federation Aikido or any Aikido that I was taught. I also noticed right away that this Aikido was made to be used in everyday situations, it was more aggressive and a harder style of Aikido. I left all my bad habits, preconceived notions & egoness behind and joined this Tenshin Aikido group. And my Tenshin Aikido began. I was training in Aikido about 4 hours a day 7 days a week until I opened my own dojo in 2007 and then I training and was teaching classes and also doing private classes.
In terms of Aikido technique what would you say is the most important?
I think your attitude, you should a have good attitude on and off the mat if your attitude is bad your bad and your technique is bad. Aikido technique I like irimi which is a direct entry or where I can to get into my opponent. I do like other but if I had to pick it would be irimi.
In your opinion can Aikido be aggressive?
Aikido is not easy. Aikido can be very aggressive and it can even kill someone. Aikido was made for the battle fields. I do and teach Aikido but at a harder more practical application of it.. My high rank students don't find it a walk in the park when they're attacking me.
Did you encounter any hard times while you were establishing your dojo?
I opened my first dojo and it was in a dumpy part of town and it was cheap rent which I was paying out of pocket until I had some students. It was cold in the winter because there was no heat. I had a small propane heater that didn't work for crap and hot and muggy and the summer with no ventilation. With-in a year I had about 6 students and it was all word of mouth and I think I didn't have more students at my first location because people were just afraid of the building. At the time I did very little advertising and I had no help I did it all on my own. I had no one to fall back on for help and I wasn't umbrellaed under anyone. At that time I had resigned from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo Japan and I was totally independent.
Can you tell me how you approach training and teaching Aikido to your students?
The first thing I teach is to train with your body, with proper ukemi. It's good to take a lot of ukemi to get yourself used to what training is and to help not get any injures and to conditioning your body. I emphasize learning and understanding aikido with your body. Usually we begin practice with warm-up such as stretchers, foot work, body movement and ukemi front roll & backward rolls. Instead of going right into throwing techniques, I believe it's better to ease the body into the training naturally and then we get into training.
Can you explain the difference between the mainstream methodology and doing Aikido versus what your dojo offers?
Traditional Aikido gets its foundation from Budo, which also acts as the foundation for several other martial arts such as Judo and some forms of Jujitsu. However, traditional Aikido is taught as a form of meditation; the Ketsu-In (or action) portion of the Sanmitsu from Buddism and Zen. The traditional Aikido techniques are often large circles, creating flowing almost dancey types of movements. It is a wonderful and fun way to practice moving meditation. However, trying to perform these meditative movements in a combat situation is where it gets problematic. Even though Aikido's base is in Budo, O’Sensei’s Aikido in later years was much softer than his practices earlier in his life, when his techniques were tighter and were known to be quite martial.
Current traditional Aikido taught via the Aikikai, produces O’Sensei’s later, softer 'meditative' form of the art. Both Tenshin and Bushido styles of Aikido focus on O’Sensei’s earlier, more martial forms of Aikido.
While I spent many years studying traditional Aikido, I was also constantly in search of a form of the art that could be used effectively. I searched for a decade until I experienced and trained in Tenshin Aikido under Steven Seagal's Shihan direct students and disciples/deshi's. After training under such a unique and functional application of the art, I embraced the teachings of Tenshin style Aikido which serves as the foundation of Bushido Tenshin Aikido.
Bushido Tenshin Aikido has evolved into a very unique form of Aikido focused on the martial side of the art. Because of this, it only stands to reason that Bushido Tenshin Aikido blaze its own path as an independent form of Aikido. Currently organized under an independent martial arts federation, Bushido Tenshin Aikido can focus on a functional and practical form of Aikido instead of the meditative. Both forms offer tremendous value and both are valid approaches differing only in what a new student is looking for; art or function.
I embraced the Tenshin Aikido methodology. Just as Tenshin Aikido is Take Sensei's interpretation of Aikikai Aikido, My Aikido is my own interpretation of Tenshin Aikido. My Aikido is built upon the foundation of Tenshin Aikido. This, combined with the addition of my own methodologies and teachings. Bushido Tenshin Aikido is an intense Martial Art for intense situations. Training can appear intimidating at its higher levels. Attacks are fast and powerful, technique is quick and fierce. But fear not, students are not required to do anything beyond their current skill. Proper instruction and guidance will guide each student to the higher levels
There is such a disparity in the way techniques are trained and the attitude of many Aikido Sensei from many different affiliations. What is your view on the state of Aikido today and do you think there is any way to bridge the gap between these differences?
I agree Aikido has been washed down a bit. I think there's a lot of immature people teaching Aikido and these people need not to worry about everyone else or what everyone else is doing or are more concerned with who's better than who and who has more students. This has nothing to do with Aikido. It doesn't matter who has how many students or who’s better. These other Aikido instructors just need to set themselves free and I think this will be the only way to bridge that gap.
What can we as Aikido students and Aikido Sensei's do, if anything, to improve the political situation of Aikido?
I don't get much into the political issues or situation of Aikido. If we could get O'Sensei back then it would be fixed. I think as Aikido students they or we should just train and just worry about your training and don't get involved with the politics of Aikido. As Instructors we should just keep moving forward and just do as we are doing and teach and guide your students in being better people and not get involved in the non-sense stuff. Aikido politics bend their own rules and like myself I like to bend and break the rules sometimes, like I said set yourself free from your surroundings.
I understand you were part of the Aikikai and the DNBK at one point, but now you are not. Can you explain your reasoning as to why you left them?
Well as you all know the Aikikai is the biggest federation in Aikido and the DNBK falls behind them. Like I said me and politics don't mix very well and these federations are looking for money, donations and requesting you to have seminars with their instructors several times a year, something I didn't want to be bothered with at the time. Then if you don't you become the bad guy. You don't need to be under the Aikikai or the DNBK to be good. The federations don't make you good your blood and sweat on the mat makes you good. The Aikikai and the DNBK never did anything for me, at one time I had some concerns about a few things in Aikido and at one time had requested for assistance dealing with something and they did nothing and never got back to me, so I had made up my mind about being with these organizations. I just wanted to train and teach and not be bothered without all the other non-sense.
You have created your own organization, the Bushido Tenshin Aikido Federation. Can you tell me about the federation, why you decided to create this organization and what things it offers to Aikido students, Aikido Sensei and Aikido Dojo's?
The BTF offers anything any other federation and organization offers to their students, instructors and dojo's without the non-sense. The Bushido Tenshin Aikido Federation is dedicated to the support and development of Aikido dojos all over the world. Providing a unique and practical approach to the art of Aikido, we support all schools and clubs interested in learning the skills of this unique form. The Bushido Tenshin Aikido Federation is dedicated to practicing and sharing our Aikido. We are free from politics, egos and distractions. We provide positive, supportive guidance on and off the mat to help everyone succeed and achieve their Aikido goals. Those seeking to convert from other forms will find we honor all ranks and certifications. We seek to provide more skills, not replace the ones you have earned already. Whether looking to start a club, or have an existing school, we welcome you in and will help you grow. Several strategies are available for beginners and those accomplished Aikidoka looking to study the Tenshin ways. Seminars, private sessions and DVD learning systems are all available to help in the transition to this powerful martial art. Aikido can be effective without having to invest years in practice. Starting at day one, students are trained in foot work and how to manage a fall or takedown without injury. This is immediately followed by in-depth striking and deflection training. This system allows students with only a short period of training to be able to deflect an attack while taking an advantageous position and execute counter strikes. As understanding in techniques increase, so does the student's available martial tools. Before long, students can not only defend themselves through striking, but are capable of complete
control over an attacker. Bushido Tenshin Aikido provides a martial approach to the art of Aikido. While honoring traditional Aikido, Bushido Tenshin Aikido takes a different approach by using both traditional and non-traditional attacks and techniques. Built on the foundation of Tenshin deflections, footwork and ukemi, Bushido Tenshin Aikido forges a different path from the standard traditional Aikido.
You are the president of the BTF and you have several dojos in the organization. How many dojos’ do you have and how many students are part of it?
There's about 6 dojos and growing and several hundred students.
What does the future have in store for the BTF and the dojo's in the organization?
Right now the big thing for the BTF is looking to be an international federation very soon! We are also going to have our first instructor’s re-certification seminar this year. We are also getting our whole testing curriculum on dvd and we are in the process of making our own handmade fukuro shinai's and we also have our own line of clothing products on our website www.aikidoofbristolcounty.com- Thank you for the interview Sensei, we all appreciate it!
AIKIDO OF BRISTOL COUNTY – HOMBU DOJO OF BUSHIDO TENSHIN FEDERATION
Aikido of Bristol County is located at 1 Chace Rd E .Freetown, Ma . And provides students with unparalleled instruction in the Japanese Martial Art of self-defense called Aikido by providing positive stress and challenge for students and teachers to reach their full potential, physical and mental, also to provide powerful methods for protecting ourselves from the disadvantages both inherited and adopted by our society. Observing and promoting the ideals and traditions of Aikido under the direction of John Araujo
Sensei, Providing a safe and relaxed atmosphere for new and experienced students to learn and grow.
Teaching a solid foundation of Basic Movements and Basic Techniques which serve as the foundation for the students' continued growth and learning at much higher levels, To develop discipline, self-confidence, self-control, self-reliance to protect their selves and love ones. Providing an inner strength to develop a healthy body, mind and natural reflexes. Fostering an open-minded environment and offering a variety of programs to broaden the understanding of Martial Arts in general.
Classes at Aikido Of Bristol County are conducted in a friendly yet traditional atmosphere. Students learn correct etiquette in conjunction with their physical training. Through earnest, realistic and sincere training, the students of Aikido Of Bristol County will learn the true meaning of Aikido.
Aikido Of Bristol County is also the Hombu Dojo (headquarters) for the Bushido Tenshin Aikido Federation and affiliated dojos under the organization.
THE CURRENT STATE OF AIKIDO:
Aikido has evolved a lot since it’s inception in the early part of the 20th century. Ueshiba Morihei trained extensively in the art of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu under Takeda Sokaku. Ueshiba was a fully certified instructor under Takeda and began teaching the art. Gradually Ueshiba drifted away from Takeda and thus started changing some of the techniques to fit into his philosophies.
In 1942 Aikido was the official term used and registered with Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society (first incarnation of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai). Depending on what time frame a particular instructor trained with the founder of Aikido, is how hard or soft the style and emphasis of the teachings and practice are.
Today there are many different interpretations of Aikido, each differing but each still Aikido. The only problem is almost all schools (exceptions being Yoshinkan, Iwama and of course TenShin schools) tend to be a dance or almost spiritual and mystical approach to teaching and conducting training. Many stress using “ki” and letting the “ki” defeat the opponent. Most instructors are also passing off what they teach as “true” aikido and downplaying the martial aspect of the art while focusing and promoting the magical.
Many sensei will show techniques and the student will, without being touched, fall or flip around. Not only does this lead to a false sense of security but it can be dangerous in a self defense situation. Fortunately there are options to getting true martial oriented Aikido, and if your reading this newsletter, then your apart of an amazing organization that promotes the martial aspect of Aikido.
Unfortunately a harder and more martial approach to Aikido is very intimidating to some Aikido sensei and students. Many times the students of the harder styles will have to work with Aikidoka of their own style while attending seminars or practices from other affiliations.
Sadly there seems to be no real solution to bridging the gap of politics and views many Sensei and those who head large organizations have on the harder styles. I do however fully encourage people to go out and attend any and all seminars that they can which are given by other sensei from different styles and affiliations. You may just learn to appreciate what it is we do even more. Domo Arigato!
TENSHIN AIKIDO – JUST WHAT IS IT?
The original Tenshin Aikido Dojo was ran by Sensei Steven Segal in the mid 1970’s. Seagal Sensei’s approach to Aikido was different than those of mainstream Aikido and thus more practical. At a very young age, Seagal lied about how old he was and got a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant named The Wagon Wheel. One of the cooks at the restaurant was a Japanese shotokan karate expert and noticed Seagal moved very quickly around the kitchen. He taught Seagal the basics of karate. Seagal began training in aikido under master Harry Kiyoshi Ishisaka, founder of the Orange County Aikido School (Orange County Aiki Kai) (OCAK) in 1964 after he saw an Aikido demonstration. Seagal Sensei considers Ishisaka Sensei to have been the most important martial arts teacher in his life. Seagal Sensei then moved to Japan at some point between the ages of 19 and 21 with his father who was visiting for military purposes, and met Aikido masters and decided to remain in Japan. He received his Aikido 1st dan (Shodan) under the direction of Koichi Tohei. He then continued to train in aikido as a student of Seiseki Abe, Tohei (whose aikido organization, Ki Society, Seagal refused to join in favor of staying with the Aikikai), Kisaburo Osawa, Hiroshi Isoyama and the second doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. He eventually attained a 7th degree black belt and Shihan in aikido and became the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan.
After returning to California in 1974, Seagal met Miyako Fujitani, an aikido instructor teaching in Los Angeles. He returned with her to her native Japan in 1975 where they married. When Seagal's father-in-law, also an aikido instructor, retired, Seagal became the new head of the dojo known as Aikido Tenshin Dojo in Juso, Osaka City (affiliated with the Aikikai). Seagal is known by his students as Take Sensei. When Seagal left his dojo in Osaka, his then-wife Miyako became the caretaker of the dojo which has continued to the present day. Seagal initially returned to Taos, New Mexico, with his student (and later film stuntman) Craig Dunn Sensei, where they opened an Aikido Tenshin Dojo, although Seagal spent much of his time pursuing other ventures. After another period in Japan, Seagal returned to the U.S. in 1983 with senior student Haruo Matsuoka Sensei. They opened an Aikido Tenshin Dojo, initially in North Hollywood, California, but later moved it to the city of West Hollywood. Seagal left Matsuoka in charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted ways in 1997.
Technically, there is no such Aikido style as Tenshin Aikido. Tenshin Aikido is just the methodology that Seagal Sensei taught from within his dojos bearing the 'Tenshin' name. It is not officially a separate style of Aikido. It is just his unique approach to Aikikai Aikido. In fact, Seagal Sensei is organized under the Aikikai Aikido World Headquarters meaning his particular Aikido can not be identified as anything but Aikikai.
However, anyone with any experience in a traditional Aikikai dojo will tell you, after visiting a dojo under the Tenshin discipline, that it is quite different. And we are not just referencing the fact that the stance is different, strikes are more realistic and the techniques are tighter. It is the deflections and precision footwork that really earn
Tenshin its unique branding. This is what gives the technique distinctive effectiveness that clearly separates it from the rest.
But is it really all that different? Many who have previously studied Aikido but are new to the Tenshin method will begin to notice the adjustment more to the mentality, application and intent than the techniques. The techniques are still Aikido techniques, they are just applied a little differently - smaller, tighter, and more direct. Practice focuses on martial functionality more than meditation.
This is what has spawned the reputation of 'Tenshin Aikido' as a separate style. Seasoned Aikido practitioners know exactly what is being referenced when the term 'Tenshin Aikido' is mentioned. While it may have been mis-identified as a separate style among the Aikido world, the truth is, it is simply a different interpretation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION RELATING TO THE BUSHIDO TENSHIN AIKIDO FEDERATION OR INQUIRIES INTO TRAINING PLEASE CONTACT SENSEI JOHN ARAUJO AT email@example.com OR GO TO THE DOJO WEBSITE AT www.aikidoofbristolcounty.com
Shihan John Araujo seen here in this photo throws his uke & son Cameron Araujo using Irimi Nage