Like every year, I am meeting my colleagues and friends from the Hombu Dojo at Ueno station on a warm morning of April in order to take the train that will lead us to the town of Iwama in the Ibaraki prefecture. It is there that the annual celebration of the Aiki Jinja Tai Sai is taking place, which is the ceremony in memory of the founder of Aikido Morihei Ueshiba and his son, the second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
This is the second part of the interview I conducted with Ellis Amdur, instructor in traditional Japanese martial arts and crisis intervention specialist. In this section, Ellis and I discuss about his work as a de-escalation professional, his strategies, the effect of his martial arts training on his interactions, and the role, if any, of martial arts in terms of dealing with violence and morality. This was a very challenging interview that hit close to home on several crucial scientific subjects. I hope that it can serve both as an in-depth introduction to Mr Amdur's views, as well as a starting point for those interested to know more about the brain's response to fear, anger, and violence. For that purpose, I tried to reference all the work that we are citing throughout this discussion. To ensure that you are familiar with Amdur's background, make sure that you read the part 1 before starting on part 2.
Ellis Amdur is one of the most prominent and prolific writers in the martial arts world. He has spent many years living in Japan and learning traditional japanese fighting systems, and he is one of the few westerners who hold teaching certificates, in not one but two koryu (traditional schools), namely, Araki-ryu and Toda-ha Buko-ryu. Ellis has also studied Aikido with pioneers such as Yamada Yoshimitsu and Terry Dobson. Ellis Amdur received his B.A. and M.A. in psychology from Yale University and Seattle University, respectively. In this series of interviews, I will try to introduce this complex character, starting from his martial journey in Japan, then tackling on his views of the martial arts world, and finally, in part 2, covering his activity as a crisis resolution professional.
Miyamoto Tsuruzo shihan is a 7th Dan senior instructor at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. He has been traveling every year to France since 2006 to teach in its main Southern cities. Every year, more and more students attend the class in order to grasp Sensei's virtuoso technique and benefit from his highly refined pedagogic approach. We took the opportunity of a class he gave in Montpellier to have a chat with this kind and thoughtful gentleman and ask him about his technique and his views on teaching Aikido.
This article is my examination paper submitted for the promotion to Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Shodan at the Takumakai. It addresses the origin of the hakama in martial arts and tries to distinguish facts from fiction as far as its use and meaning are concerned. More importantly, it also tries to establish some threads of reflection for the yudansha who wear it every day and hopefully, bring meaning to why we wear this ancestral cultural symbol.
André Nocquet was a man of both sword and pen. A former resistance fighter and a pioneer of martial arts, he was one of the first foreign students of Morihei Ueshiba and the very first to have lived under the roof of the founder of Aikido. With this unequaled experience, he has greatly contributed to the development of Aikido, both in Japan and Europe. I translated some previously unpublished articles of Master Nocquet, edited some videos from his personal archives filmed during his stay in Japan, and recovered works for the promotion of Aikido and Budo in France. All of it is published on this website and therefore, it seemed necessary to supplement these documents with a full biography of the man, especially given the fact that his life before Japan is at least as extraordinary as his pioneering journey in the world of Aikido. Unfortunately, the sources documenting his early life are scarce and sometimes contradictory. This article introduces the elements that I thought were the most accurate. I would like to sincerely thank Mr. Michel Nocquet, the son of André Nocquet Sensei, who kindly accepted to review this article in order to prevent inconsistencies and inaccuracies.
I have expressed several times the fact that I believe that Budo have less to do with warmongering and personal defense than with physical and mental education, and that those who mainly seek martial efficacy in training are in my eyes wasting their time developing useless kills, and probably living in irrational fear. Today I would like to substantiate these claims with hard facts and ask the question: "What is the point of training to achieve martial efficacy in a peaceful world?". Violence in human societies is on decline and it has been so for hundreds of years. As a consequence, we are currently living in the most peaceful and harmonious time that our specie has ever known. This phenomenon has been put forward in its most elegant and persuasive form by Harvard Professor Steven Pinker in his book "The Better Angels of our Nature". I propose to share some of his ideas and evidence, and to discuss how this affects martial arts practice. In a nutshell, I could sum it up as : "No, the world is not becoming a dangerous place, so chill out and enjoy martial art training for what it is: a healthy habit, albeit a slightly silly, and mostly obsolete one".