The Osaka Era

Osaka vs. Irvine

As a dojo, our history begins in Osaka, Japan 1976. This is the time our Chief Instructor, Haruo Matsuoka Sensei, began his aikido journey. Forty years later, we decided to take a brief look back at the practice from the Osaka era and reflect on how it has influenced our training at Ikazuchi Dojo today. We’ve made a clear evolutionary departure from those times, but a number of elements are still in our DNA.

A Technical Transformation

Seagal Sensei and Tohei Sensei

A young Steven Seagal trying to lift Tohei Sensei.

In the 1970’s Seagal Sensei transitioned from Ki Society style movements to a radically different style of aikido. Matsuoka Sensei was an integral part of this technical transformation in the early days of his aikido training.

You can learn more about this in Matsuoka Sensei’s Aikido Journey if you’ve not read the interview yet.

What’s the same: 

Today at Ikazuchi Dojo, we still use many of the foundational elements of techniques practiced in the Osaka era.

  • Hand movements: A mature and flexible system of deflections.
  • Powerful, direct, techniques: We practice ki-no-nagare (flow) movements as a training tool, but weight our technique practice to focus on more simple, direct forms.
  • Tools to deal with punches and kicks: We spend much of our time focused on grab techniques to emphasize balance breaking through a single point of contact. However, we actively practice techniques that can answer punch and kick attacks.

What’s changed:

  • Subtle but important technical changes that increase power and effectiveness through use of body structure.
  • Greater ability to manage hard grabs and active resistance. Less reliance on speed for success.
  • More adaptive techniques: Seagal Sensei is 6’4″. Many of the movements utilized in the Osaka era were designed for a nage with a reach advantage. We’ve found some of these techniques start to break down when the attacker has equal or greater reach. We’ve made progress in developing technical modifications and alternatives for dealing with height and size differentials.
  • Less focus on highly complex combinations, more focus on movement quality and flexible technique application.

Looks like a combination kotegaeshi and nodotsuki. A powerful technique if you have reach.

This technique defends against a side kick. We don't practice this often today, but it's in our movement library and most of our senior students can execute it.

This technique defends against a side kick. We don’t practice it as often today, but it’s in our movement library and most of our senior students can execute it.

The iriminage variant made famous in "Above The Law". We still practice this today, although it's been subtly rebuilt from the inside out.

The iriminage variant made famous in “Above The Law”. We still practice this today, although it’s been subtly rebuilt from the inside out.


Randori Culture

The style of randori we practice today at Ikazuchi Dojo has its foundations in the Osaka era randori culture. We think this style of randori is an excellent training method for developing subconscious opportunity recognition (openings to throw or evade) and technique execution. Being able to move, position, and respond flexibly in a high pressure, complex environment really shows how much you’ve internalized your aikido.

What’s the same:

  • Fast, dynamic, attacks. Uke’s don’t wait for nage to be ready for an attack. If the nage leaves their back exposed, uke takes the opening. Practice is constrained to grab attacks. 
  • Requires high level ukemi skill to protect ukes and nage in this type of practice.
  • Intense and demanding of a calm, focused presence.

What’s different:

  • Better instructional system with more consistent student development.
  • Focus on use of body structure to create movement advantage.
  • More progressive and safer training methods.
Matsuoka Sensei in mid-roll.

Matsuoka Sensei in mid-roll.

Matsuoka Randori 2

Ukes: Haruo Matsuoka, Hisanori-san and Peter Littlewood

Matsuoka Randori 4

Peter getting thrown as Hisanori-san and Matsuoka Sensei move to attack.

Seagal Sensei using a hand movement to clear two attackers. Matsuoka Sensei turning to attack again.

Matsuoka Sensei at Ikazuchi Dojo, showing hand movement evasions vs. two attackers. The basic movement forms are influenced by the Osaka era but have become increasingly efficient, powerful, and refined over the years.

As always, thank you for reading and supporting our efforts.

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Categories: Dojo History

There are 17 comments

  1. Greg Brown Birmingham Ala

    Great breakdown of past and present. Hope Ikazuchi Dojos focus on punch defense will influence all Aikido training everywhere. One of the most important aspects to an effective martial system but sadly neglected by most. Keep up the good work!!!

    1. Josh Gold


      Thanks for the feedback. Glad you are finding the blog valuable. It encourages us to continue the effort!

  2. Carlos Gonzalez

    Hi Josh,
    Very much enjoyed the post. Wonderful that you are discussing topics that are so difficult to quantify. I have always found it interesting that we grow our evolve in our practice to be ultimately be ourselves. So as to minimize the interference of our mind in our physical expression of our true selves. A self that we are constantly purify through training. Like in the practice of Shodo (Japanese calligraphy), the brush disappears and all that we see is ink on paper. Thank you for documenting these photos and videos. Hope we can train one day soon. All the best, Carlos

    1. Josh Gold


      Great to hear from you! Thank you for the kind words and valuable insights. I also hope we can train again soon. Take care and I look forward to seeing you on the mat in the near future.


    1. Josh Gold


      I’ll ask Matsuoka Sensei and will reply back if he has an idea how to locate Peter. I believe Sensei mentioned that he though Peter was still living in Japan but I’ll inquire to see if he more detail.

      Thank you for reaching out to us!

    2. Josh Gold


      Matsuoka Sensei says he believe that Peter is currently training at Shosenji Dojo, in Toyonaka City, Osaka.

      Please write back and let us know if you find him.

  3. Nino Faraci

    This is a great forum and answers some questions that I had about the dojo. I’m extremely pleased that a lot of the same technique that was passed down from Seagal sensei to Matsuoka sensei is still being tought in aikido . This was the most interesting posting that was published thus far. Great work.

  4. Ted Goodman

    I trained in Juso during the Osaka IRA (1975-1982, in my case) and am very happy to know of Matsuoka Sensei’s continued success. His development and additions, or variations, to “Steve Sensei’s” style are admirably helpful. I’m happy to see Ten Shin’s focus on truely street effective techniques (so often missing in other dojos) is still well in tact. Best wishes in your continued success.

    1. Josh Gold


      Pleasure to meet you and thank you for reaching out to us. We appreciate the kind words and support. Please stay connected with us. I’d love to hear more about your experience in the Osaka Era!

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