Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei, studied multiple arts to develop his beloved art of Aikido, not a multi-century old art but a new art, his art: The art of Aikido. He selected techniques from the various arts he studied and improved them to make what is now known as Aikido. Hiriki Aikido is being introduced to the public because of the efforts of myself, Alex Rusinko Sensei. I am sure he felt like myself at times. Because I do not fit the “traditional lines of martial arts” some people have not taken me seriously. That is until I demonstrated my art to other martial artist and then all they say is, “how did you do that?” This is what I have been hearing since I decided to open my art to the public. I studied different martial arts as well as different types of Aikido for over thirty-eight years for one reason only: so I could improve my love, Aikido. At every dojo I visit they have said the same thing, “This is really smooth and effective. Why don’t we do our technique that way?”
I’m willing to predict in the coming years that you will see the techniques of other styles of Aikido change to what I have developed. I may or may not get credit. That does not matter as long as the art improves and matures. Hiriki is the guardian of the Classical Martial Art of Aikido, “The Forgotten Art”. Is it really forgotten or was it buried? This we will never know. But I know it will not be forgotten any longer. My students will carry it on and make it become a remembered art form for everyone to study and grow with while traveling on the Do. O Sensei always said Aikido is ever changing and that what was taught today might change tomorrow. If so, should the art not improve itself? O Sensei also said “I’ve given my life to opening the path of Aikido, but when I look back no one is following me.” I say “Please look Sensei. I and my students are following you.”
The Younger Years
While in my younger years, I endeavored to learn more and more about different styles of Aikido. I studied with many of the major Shihan in the world. I was first-generation American Black Belt; the founder himself signed my certificate. I served as Aikido Uchi Deshi (live in apprentice) and I would like to tell a little about my Uchi Deshi period.
I was asked to be deshi to Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan then a sixth dan in New York during my summer high school vacation. I had no idea what it meant; I was just told I could practice a lot of Aikido. I was the first aikido deshi in the United States and feel that my performance as Uchi Deshi helped paved the way for other great Uchi Deshi of Yamada Sensei. From Yamada Sensei I found the dynamics of hip movement and powerful throwing techniques. Thank you Sensei. Yamada Shihan’s first book Aikido Complete is filled with faces of old friends who were the true pioneers of American Aikido. I am pictured with some on this web page. Koichi Tohei Shihan, at the time a tenth dan, came on a tour of the United States. Yamada Shihan went with Tohei Shihan and I went along serving as their Uchi Deshi (I carried a lot of luggage in those days). To my knowledge I was also the first American to serve Tohei Shihan as his personal Uchi Deshi in the USA.
There were times when I would travel with Tohei Shihan alone and we would talk and he would teach me breathing. I could never keep up with him and I would run out of air while he was still exhaling. He taught me counter techniques (Kaeshi Waza) and he told me one day I would be an instructor and I should know how to protect myself from students. He taught me ki exercises though I did not understand what they were at the time. He also taught me the art of Japanese Massage Therapy. He told me many things that I did not understand at the time, much of which I only grasped twenty years later. I learned a lot from Tohei Shihan, the power of ki, and how to move gracefully and quietly amongst other things. Thank you Sensei.
Walking The Path
So now I had dynamic, graceful movements: a joining of teachings from two great Shihan. But there had to be more. Something was lacking. I trained myself to look for deficiencies in the techniques. I accepted challenges from many styles of martial arts and received my lumps but never did my Aikido let me down. Then I started to look for places where an attacker could strike or reverse the movement executed by the aikidoka. I began to patch the holes in the traditional aikido I studied and started to develop Hiriki without being aware of it. I did not realize the ki power that was mine at that time. My Aiki was truly different. Becoming disenchanted with the politics of the Aikido world and the lackluster techniques being taught after the founder O Sensei’s death, I removed myself from much of the aikido world to be independent, just teaching and practicing what I felt Aikido should be. Powerful techniques were where my mind was at that time. Then one day I was given a copy of Budo by John Stevens. The book showed O Sensei doing the techniques that I had been doing without my ever having seen this book. As I read more, I found that my techniques and those of O Sensei were very similar in content. My technique became powerful to the point that when I would practice with other aikidoka they would think I was deliberately causing extreme pain in the execution of the technique. Because of my ki grounding me, many would be disturbed with me because they could not lead my ki. I wondered why, if the nage could not lead me, should I pretend to be lead?
I was always told Aikido employs natural movements of the body (in contrast, perhaps, to the unnatural stances and movements of many striking arts). I came upon the concept of focusing on my elbows as one of the major sources of power. I taught it but had no idea what to call it. I latter came across an article where Shihan Shiota and O Sensei were practicing Hiriki techniques. The article did not go into detail other than to say that they were techniques using the power of the elbows to do proper Aikido. I then knew I had a name for what I was teaching and practicing.
Hiriki ki development procedures originally came from the Ki Society. But as the years moved on I found that it was not enough of a challenge to me so I began to develop more of them and incorporate them into the techniques that I instructed. As I developed the exercises, I began to experiment with ki energy to the point that I was developing stronger ki tests and a better knowledge of how to explain ki so that Americans would find it easier to learn than when I was taught. I shared these teaching techniques with Ki Society and other Sensei freely to help in introducing Ki to the aikidoka. I have found that most Aikido Sensei are content to remain in what I call the comfort zone. This is a place where they don’t have to think about growth, just keeping the status quo. They often do not ask, and may discourage their students from asking, “Why?”; they just do what they’ve been shown. I have always been a seeker of the truth. I try to search out the limitation of the art, expand on these limitations to overcome them. As an interesting aside, I only recently learned that “Rusinko” in Japanese can be translated to mean “The keeper of the truth” or “Lord of the truth”.
I believe that the first thing any martial art should give the student are good, basic self-defense skills. Many things work in the dojo with a willing partner but will they work on the street? After achieving a level of genuine self-defense skill the student seeks more challenges of the mind and body and this is why Hiriki Aikido is gaining popularity. It has something for everyone from realistic defense in a modern, violent world to the beauty and grace of Kashewaza Kata to the Hiriki Healing and Ki Arts.
Some people in the martial arts have tried to disparage me and my art. One thing is very clear to me, however: The way is the way. There is the reality of truth or illusion of truth. The reality will save your life in a deadly situation; the illusion will cost you it. If I bring a cup of coffee to you in a drinking glass or coffee mug the coffee is still the same coffee. The same is true of the Do of the martial arts. If a person is dealing with truth and his information is based on hard work, experimentation and dedication, then the truth will persevere beyond any ridicule and negative words. I have heard of the experiences my students have had when visiting other dojos, how the Sensei have tried to apply techniques to them and failed. This is the Sensei’s ego and it is sad that it happens, but superior training always shines in a confrontation, they failed because Hiriki Students are taught to apply ki to neutralize other styles’ techniques. I tell my students if you see a Buddha in the road, kill it. By this saying I mean the Buddha as the ego of the self and preciously held beliefs. If you study a martial art, your ego is the worst enemy you have. I know because I had a very big one for years. It has taken much searching and putting away my ego and fears to finally bring this art of mine to the public. I have seen my students attend seminars and the other attendees request instruction on how my students did what they did. The reason for this was that the technique was applied quickly and smoothly without the other person sensing the technique until it was completed and their attack neutralized.
The Lightning Without The Thunder
In the past I was known for the power of my Waza and a lot of people followed me just because of the hardness of my Aikido style. As I began to mature I realized that, perhaps, there existed a soft AND powerful side to my art; I began to change the focus of the techniques to smooth AND powerful. Hiriki is now primarily known for this: lightning without the thunder. When a lightening storm is off in the distance you can hear it coming slowly towards you as the thunder grows more loud. However, when the storm is right on top of you the sound is not noticed because you are blinded by the intense flash and can feel the heat of the striking lightning. This is the essence of Hiriki! This is so because Hiriki aikidoka practice to move at the moment of the perception of intent when the attackers ki reaches them. This is opposed to reacting to the attacker’s movement after the intent has become a physical action. Hiriki aikidoka begin their technique before the attacker’s malicious intent manifests into physical action. Hiriki technique is applied with proper timing and without any unnecessary movement. It strikes like the lightening, which is overhead before the thunder can reach the ears. I had an experience of this while sparring with a friend of mine who instructs karate. I felt where and what he had planned to do and was already applying aikido techniques before he realized it himself. Hiriki aikidoka practice the sensing of intent (Hiriki’s seventh pillar, Ushiro) as essential practice for even novices in their first week of training.