Exams and failures

Pasquale_RobustiniIn the summer of 2012, during the usual Philippe Gouttard seminar in Follonica (Tuscany), I failed my 3rd dan Aikikai exam with the great French master. Some would argue that my image as a teacher, although since a short while, could suffer a serious damage. Furthermore, the feelings after a failure are diverse. The will of practicing decreases a bit. You feel a somehow mentally tired knowing that all you’ve done was not enough, while you were convinced it was much. Like after a bicycle or horse accident, it is important to start over again soon! Thank God I was at a seminar, so, immediately after my failed test, I was back on the mat!
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Understanding the Great Masters

gouttardFor the past three decades, I have been returning to Tokyo every year in order to train with the masters of the Hombu Dojo, and every time I feel the same joy, even though my expectations are not always fulfilled once I actually step on the tatami. But it is just fine like that. Given this situation, there are questions that I am being asked rather often, particularly during the social moments such as those spent at the cafe nearby the Hombu Dojo, the one where foreign practitioners often meet between classes. These questions are mostly “Why are you coming back to Tokyo every year? What are you coming for? Why do you always go to Saku to train with Endo Sensei even though your practice does not at all correspond to the principles that he is demonstrating?” Continue reading  

Books and movies for budokas

AbovethelawOur martial art is not certainly the most famous one. This is also because it is not widely represented in literature and cinema. Maybe the reason is that it is not honed to overwhelming the others, which is something more spectacular than pacific resolution of conflicts. As a matter of fact, this article will not merely be about Aikido. It will focus on the cultural foundations it stems from, by means of two art forms such as literature and cinema.
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The Samurai Woman

donnasamurai1Women have always had a fundamental role in Japan, beginning from its legendary founder, the goddes Amaterasu. Many were the empresses, among which some notable she-warriors such as empress Jingu (3rd century a.d.) who invaded Korea. Historical reports also refer of powerful pristesses. Only after China’s cultural inflluence upon Japan, women started losing their importance and by the 13th century they had become a social entity under the rule of fathers, brothers, husbands, sons. Nonetheless, Japanese women have been able to preserve through the centuries something of their original independence, to the extent of writing the first novel of world literature’s history, the Genji Monogatari, or fighting side by side with their samurai.
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The Ancient Origins of Aikido

origini_aikidoThe oldest literary document of ancient Japan, the Kojiki (“chronicle of ancient events”), is a shinto text about the history of the imperial family from 554 to 628. The book contains references to an autochthonous style of fight called Tegoi: “…When Takeminakata no kami grabbed the hand of Takemikazuchi no kami, the hand became a column of ice, then again changed into the blade of a sword, and he lost any hope completely. Then in turn Takemikazuchi no kami grabbed the hand of Takeminakata no kami. He held it as if it was a young reed and threw it away.”
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