We are indeed fortunate that such a figure as Amdur is willing to dissect both himself and the arts he studies for public delectation.
—Review in Kendo World
Here I discuss what for many might seem to a trivial thing–whether a photograph of several prominent martial artists together really proves that one was the student of the other. Not trivial to the legacy of both men–particularly Shioda Gozo, who was claimed to be the student of Horikawa Kodo, something that would contradict his own biography.
In this essay, I question (through first hand interviews of witnesses) several apocryphal tales of superhuman power that have been taken as gospel within the modern aikido world.
There is perhaps no popular martial art more susceptible to the “wise master” and abusive teacher complex than Aikido, an elegant throwing art whose founder, Ueshibal Morihei, was ascribed nearly supernatural ability, was a practitioner of an obscure, highly mystical religion, and whose students seemed to be particularly adept at factional in-fighting while practicing the Art of Harmony. Therefore, there is no one better to talk about the beauty and beasts of the Aikido world than Ellis Amdur. Iconoclastic, rebellious, yet fiercely holding to some of the most traditional values of Japanese martial culture, Ellis Amdur brings something new to martial arts writing – a startling honesty about the flaws, not only within martial arts culture, but also within its practitioners, often using himself as an exemplar of the latter.
We sat down with Amdur-sensei to talk to him about Aikido, his complex relationship towards it and his new, dramatically expanded Dueling with O-sensei: Grappling with the Myth of the Warrior-Sage
At The Freelancer blog: Ellis Amdur, author of Old School, discusses common misunderstandings about koryū, challenges in maintaining and transmitting archaic martial traditions in the modern world, and even a few thoughts about the growing movement in redeveloping Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) from the perspective of an inheritor of two living martial traditions.
From the interview: “I believe that aikido offers a lot of people the chance at experiencing something clean and pure — a practice of relationship that holds all the opposites — insecurity/confidence, aggression/peace, taking/giving, and metaphorically, at least, cuts a line right through the oppositions. I’m not saying that people always, or even most of the time, can do this. But I think of Yasunori Kuwamori or Shirata Rinjiro, and see that aikido can be a vehicle to this end. Not enlightenment. Simply a clean line through life.”
A wide-ranging interview on the writing and practice of martial arts, with discussions on the nature of aggression and what value, if any, martial arts training can provide beyond skill in fighting or life-and-death combat.
A continuation of my interview with Guilluame Erard, focusing here on the role of martial arts practice in training to actually de-escalate or stop violence in the real world.
This interview introduces my book, Dueling with OSensei, to my Dutch readership. The book was wonderfully translated by Merlijn Torensma and Ernesto Lemke
The interview, well over an hour in length, starts about 20 minutes into this podcast. Talk about koryu, aikido, internal training, and some great stories.
This 36 minute audio recording is the answers to a number of questions put to me about the late Terry Dobson, my first aikido teacher, and my friend.
This interview by Peter Hobart was for the Journal of Asian Martial Arts (JAMA). It discusses essential qualities of true martial ryu, as well as some specifics about Araki-ryu and Toda-ha Buko-ryu. (Please note that this is a fee-based article, owned by the JAMA)
Articles on Martial Arts Either About My Work or Using My Work as a Primary Reference
by Guillaume Erard
Much of this article involves a dialogue between Erard and myself concerning “Hidden in Plain Sight” training within both koryu and aikido
From the Review: “That said, though, this book, Old School, is one of the best books on the traditions of martial arts — and how time changes, erodes, and enhances them — ever written. In fact, you might even say it stands alone as an attempt to bring modern scholarship and even philosophy (like Huserl’s notions of the study of history) to bear on the heavily mythologized, incredibly nuanced, hothouse world of Japanese combat arts and their evolution—or devolution—into stylized sport fencing and manicured kata—and even that statement is a distortion of the complex arguments in the book.”
Interviews on Martial Arts with Associates
Aaron is a jujutsu/sambo practitioner who is also a long time associate of mine in Araki-ryu. The interview starts about 35 minutes into this podcast.