Self defense Aikido - Les techniques des Samourais (sic)
par Toshishiro Obata
Production: Europeene de Magazines (Paris)
I recently had a chance to view a video by Obata s. titled "self defense Aikido", a french production in the "karate" series of videos.
Anyway, I liked watching the tape. The length generously exceeds the announced 50 minutes, which is a pleasant surprise when dealing with such tapes (unfortunately). The tape starts with a warm-up session (with the obligatory guy showing he can do the split. I thought bouncing stretches were supposed to be bad for you?) This doesn't take long, and then Obata s. appears, to show basic body movement, some of which are a bit unusual for Aikido, like jumping backward and forward. A minor quibble; when demonstrating evasions of swordcuts, it would look better if the cut started at least a little before the evasion was finished (suigetsu and aiki and all that). Also somewhat unusual for Aikido are the specific blocking exercises, and that tori often starts in a wide shizentai, sometimes with the hands in what looks like a "hands up" position. According to Nathan Scott, this is one of the blocking principles, especially useful in knife defense. Interestingly, I have seen similar hand use in Escrima demonstrations.
There is little to no explanation besides naming the attacks and techniques. The tape seems to be more a demonstration of what might be a typical class in Obata's dojo than an instructional video, though there are demonstrations of ukemi and the like. All techniques are repeated in slow motion (one of the kids present at the viewing was convinced the music played during the slomo comes from a computer game ^_^).
I must say that the connection with 'self defense' escapes me somehow. Most likely this name was a brilliant idea from the producers. The tape does give an idea of what Obata's style must be like. I can't really comment on the techniques except to say that I think I would enjoy the practice. Obata trained under Shioda Gozo, and (as could be expected) there are similarities with the techniques in Shioda's books. There are some interesting kaeshi waza (reversals). There is also a multiple opponent technique somewhere though (only one, thankfully). I've never really seen something like the shizentai, hands up kamae in Aikido before. Other "unusual" features are the plentiful use of atemi and kiai, taking uke's head after each immobilisation (as in Yoshinkan), and that tori is rather often initiating the encounter with an attack. Fun!
Obata's style seems to incorporate some techniques that are not generally found in most Aikido styles. His organization is called the "Aikido & Aikibujutsu Tanren Kenkyukai" (or, Aikido Buken for short), and they study everything from the older battlefield techniques of Aikijutsu - including some weapons - to the modern forms of Aikido.
Interestingly, among the tanto dori stuff there was demo of some knife vs knife 'katas' with Obata as uchidachi, something I feel is a good thing to plan before a tanto dori session, to get in the right mood. These look a bit like the Yoshinkan tanto kata. I'm not a lot into reverse grip backhand slashes myself, but then many people seem to favor them. There were also some (pretty standard) jo projections demonstrated.
Near the end of the tape there are some bo vs bo exchanges, some short and some so incredibly long that I'm still unsure if it was a kata or some free exchange. They look convincing though (somewhat uncommon in Aikido stick demonstrations). And then there's the cutting practice. Aikido? Self defence? Probably this part wasn't included in the stated 50 min duration, so I can't really criticise its inclusion. Until I get some mats and bamboo to try it myself I can only say that it looks like it's more difficult than it looks...
All in all a well-filled and interesting tape. A little more explanation and a more enthusiastic commentator would have been nice. As an aside, it seems this tape was filmed in France, and that Obata sensei never even saw the footage. The tape is in the process of becoming available in the US. Contact the (Aikijutsu Buken, Honbu).
I got helpful comments from Nathan Scott.