Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Budo in Zanzibar: 5th International Aikido Seminar 14-16th February 2020, Zanzibar.

“A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing.” Morihei Ueshiba

2020 is already off to a roaring start for Nairobi Aikikai and budo arts in East Africa with the commencement of the 5th International Aikido Seminar in Zanzibar 14th-16th February.

The warm tropical climate, hospitable people, good food and rigorous training made for a perfect weekend. This seminar brought together several practitioners of the art from Nairobi(Kenya) , Switzerland and Germany as well as Zanzibar and Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania.Those present were of all ages and varied backgrounds in other martial arts as well.

We couldn't have been luckier to have senseis Hansruedi Nef (6th Dan) Andreas Schriber (5th Dan), Marianne Ostermayer (5th dan) and Klaus Lehan (4th dan) in attendance sharing their practice and decades of wisdom with us.

Publicity poster for the 5th International Aikido Seminar, Zanzibar 2020.

Landed in Zanzibar (left to right) Sensei Hansruedi, Sensei Andi, Sensei Marianne, Sensei Klaus and Joshua Muthii.

Nairobi Aikikai was represented by two enthusiastic members: Joshua Muthii who is also the chairperson of our club and Imungu Kalevera who packs a big punch in a small frame. The three day seminar started on Friday the 14th with a sweaty Valentine's session led by Sensei Andi at the International School of Zanzibar and this served as a pre-cursor of things to come. 
End of Day 1 (14th February) evening session, a Valentine's day to remember.
Ramping up the momentum was the second day of the seminar on the 15th of February that saw Senseis Marianne, Hansruedi and Klaus all lead sessions that focused on diverse aspects of Aikido.

Sensei Marianne's technical prowess, Sensei Hansruedi's smooth and precise execution of technique as well as Sensei Klaus love for the pleasure (read as pain) of nikkyo and sankyo and the various ways to blend and combine these techniques with others made for a taxing but fulfilling second day. The different teaching techniques provided an all rounded approach to the art.

Of particular excitement was the introduction of beautiful combinations of techniques that showcase the true dance-like movement of Aikido. It was a joy to watch as the senseis demonstrated and we tried our best to execute the same, albeit not as gracefully. But with practice, maybe some day.

Day 2, (15th February) morning session at Zanzibar Budokan.
The final day of the seminar was a bitter sweet one with two sessions that explored further aspects of Aikido but also drew deeper into understanding basic movements and terminologies. The third and final day, (Sunday, 16th February) begun with a basic taisabaki session led by Sensei Andi, laying emphasis on the importance of mastering basic movements but also remaining stable through movement. Staying low, connecting to the centre, keeping the whole body alive and moving through the hip are the fundamental principles of Aikido movement that he emphasized through the various exercises. This session was followed by a session by Sensei Hansruedi that incorporated his signature smooth but effecftive style into staple movements such as the Iriminage, emphasizing the need for tori to conserve energy and use uke's energy to execute technique. The final session of the morning was handled by Sensei Marianne who delved into the technical aspects of several Aikido staple movements and having an awareness of the body of Uke and Tori.

The final session of the day took place at the International School and began with basic taisabaki, kokkyunage sessions and later, program specific movements where each sensei took groups of students through the 4th, 3rd, 5th and 6th Kyu programs. This was followed by a grading session and happily, all candidates passed into 5th and 6th kyu.

Imungu Kalevera (left) and Joshua Muthii (right) from Nairobi Aikikai with their Sensei, Andi Schriber (5th Dan) from Ikeda Dojo Zurich at the Zanzibar Budokan.
The seminar was another opportunity to show that despite different languages, ages and backgrounds, Aikido is able to connect people from all facets of life. Young and old, African and European, short and tall were all practicing with respect on the mat.

Nairobi Aikikai is grateful to our Zanzibar team for the invitation and hospitality as well as the teachers who travelled to train with us and look forward to the next seminar.

The next two months will be jam-packed full of interesting activities for Nairobi Aikikai including a local seminar in Nairobi 22nd-23rd February that includes a Jo session. this promises to be worthwhile as well as Sensei Toshi's welcome seminar in April.

Publicity poster for Nairobi Aikikai February seminar
If you would like to re-cap events from last year's Zanzibar seminar please click here and also see what else we have been up to here, here and here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Nairobi Aikikai End Year Karura Bike Challenge

Not new to adventure, the comrades of Nairobi Aikikai chose to close the year with yet another adventure challenge to Karura Forest on the 15th of december 2019. Karura Forest is an urban forest within Nairobi. The forest contains nearly all the 605 species of wildlife, wetlands as well as well as three types of antelope. It is managed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

The team took to a bike challenge across the forest starting at Limuru rd gate.

Nairobi Aikikai Members off on the bike challenge
 The bike trail is leisurely and the team had chances to stop and enjoy the scenery. Calories were burned and fun was had ahead of Christmas festivities.
Fun at the waterfall
 Decked out in nairobi Aikikai tshirts the brave warriors did not relent and made it to the end, closing the year for Nairobi Aikikai with a bang.

2020 hold even more promise for the club with Zanzibar international Aikido seminar set for Mid February 2020.

Happy Holidays to all. Read more of what we were up to this year here, here and HERE.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019


"In Aikido training, we learn from everyone. We learn from the most experienced people, but we also learn from new students. Everyone is connected through the heart and develops a mutual understanding. It is important to create a place where that can happen. "

- Linda Holiday

When they are not slamming the tatami, Nairobi Aikikai members enjoy sharing food and laughter. Remembering that Aikido is the way of harmony, peace and love, we are committed to not only practicing on the mat with technique and passion but also extending the philosophy of Aikido beyond the walls of the dojo.

As 2019 comes to a close, members of Nairobi Aikikai came together to eat,eat some more laugh and reflect on key moments throughout the year.  This MEAT & GREET was hosted by the lovely Louisa in Loresho and a good time was had (if my bulging stomach was anything to go by.)

The weather was kind and sunny Nairobi did not disappoint. The grill masters (Samori, Anthony and our co-host Justus) set up the grill and Kalevera supervised this project as shown below :D :D
Grill preparation underway
Soon after other comrades started trickling in and the party got started. The food spread was amazing and Louisa worked very hard to make sure there was more than enough to keep tummies full and her Ugali was up to Kenyan standards.
Nyama Nyama Nyama, Nairobi Aikikai Meat&Greet

The food spread; our hosts did a great job at making sure everyone was fed
The evening was filled with food,music and stories of how far we have come including great debates about life, the world, Aikido and what lies ahead. Thankfully, Josh and other Aikimaniacs ate too much to subject us to a bokken and breakfall session (phewks!)

Food first, the crew digging in. Meat&Greet 9th Nov 2019. Nairobi Aikikai.
In no time, evening fell in and after a cup of tea, we reluctantly had to leave and part ways till the next time. We missed some faces but there's always a next time. if you missed it though, you missed a lot. Looking forward there are a lot of great things in store for Nairobi Aikikai and coming together to celebrate and strategize was just what we needed. 
Group photos at the end of the amazing day
The year is not quite over yet and there are several training sessions ahead with the hope of seeing even more friendly faces on the tatami in the weeks ahead.

Click HERE and HERE to see more of what we have been up to this past year.

FEBRUARY 14th - 16th 2020, Zanzibar International Aikido Seminar. Budo!

Monday, November 4, 2019


"Fill yourself with Ki, invite the attack."

-Morihei Ueshiba, O'Sensei.  

Sensei Andi with members of Nairobi Aikikai and Judoka comrades in Rongai for the Nairobi Aikikai end year seminar 2nd Nov 2019 at St. Mary's Catholic Church Rongai.

The Nairobi Aikikai family came together once again on the tatami for the final seminar of the year, rounding out a year of great Aikido practice. The seminar, running through 2nd (Saturday) -3rd (Sunday) November at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Rongai and YMCA studio respectively brought together not only members of Nairobi Aikikai but members of the Judo community in Rongai who shared in our training and as always, our dedicated Sensei Andi was there to join and teach us. 

The first day of the seminar (2nd November) kicked off to a powerful start with good spirits. The morning session, led by Nairobi Aikikai chair, Joshua took us back to basics, first a killer warm up and then exploring and revisiting the five principles arms of Aikido;
  • Aikido Ikkyo – First Teaching (Elbow Control)
  • Aikido Nikyo – Second Teaching (Wrist Control)
  • Aikido Sankyo – Third Teaching (Wrist Control)
  • Aikido Yonkyo – Fourth Teaching (Wrist Control & Pressure Point)
  • Aikido Gokyo – Fifth Teaching (Elbow Control)

This first session provided an opportunity to the Judokas to familiarize themselves with the basics of Aikido and also for other Aikidokas to remember the foundations of our art. 

Andi Sensei, Joshua and Rongai Judokas posing for a photo after training. 2nd November at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Rongai.
The late morning session into afternoon was marked by Andi Sensei's punishing Sankyo's that spared very few. Sensei focused on the importance of maintaining contact in our practice and the power of Aikido to be practiced by the small, big, strong and not so strong through proper technique, built upon constant practice.
Sensei also took this time to draw parallels between basic Aikido techniques and the sword techniques from which they are derived. This marked the end of the first day and thereafter members of the club and Sensei had some social time to "apologize to our bodies"/"piga mwili pole."

Sensei Andi with members of Nairobi Aikikai and Judo comrades, including some who had successfully graded. 3rd November at YMCA.

Sunday, 3rd November marked the last day of the epic weekend seminar and the energy reserves were still high as Sensei Andi brought even more Budo teachings to the mat. The seesion, conducted at YMCA studio was the stuff of maniacs and if the stories of those who attended are anything to go by, every muscle in the body was awakened. 

The afternoon session provided another opportunity for a few Aikidokas to be ushered into the next level of their training through a grading exercise. This exercise showed not only the dedication of those who had practised but the growth of the art within Nairobi Aikikai. Congratulations are in order for:

  • David, Raphael and Leah (Attained 4th Kyu)
  • Daddy and Victor (attained 5th Kyu)

Victor and Joshua during the grading exercise as Sensei prapares to instruct the next technique. Victor successfully graded.
 The day came to an end with a group photo and Sensei's parting remarks and a snack session later courtesy of Louisa. Nairobi Aikikai celebrates all its members, the great contribution and leadership of Sensei Andi and looks forward to ushering in our first black belt when chairperson Joshua takes his exam late next year. Looking forward the challenge to continue growing our art remains and despite the few challenges encountered this year, our Budo spirit remains unbroken.

Nairobi Aikikai's MEAT and GREET this 9th November 2019. Be there or be squared!
Just before the year ends though, with a few more training sessions to go, the Nairobi Aikikai family will come together one last time for a MEAT&GREET this November 9th hosted by the wonderful Louisa. This will be a great chance to hang out without the fear of breakfalls and Nikkyo and Josh promises there will be NO BURPEES! Let's all come through for this last hoorah, be there or be squared!

For those who missed it, here are some highlights from Zurich in September that you will definitely enjoy. Photos, blog post and movie.

We look forward to making even more great memories on the mat in 2020 starting with the annual international seminar in Zanzibar 14th-16th February 2020. Plan to attend. Budo!
Sensei Andi, Nairobi Aikikai and Judokas from Rongai pose for a photo on the last day of the end year seminar (3rd Nov) at YMCA Nairobi.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Nairobi Aikikai in Switzerland: ACSA Golden Jubilee Seminar September 2019

At Aikido Zurich dojo 12th Sep 2019
After months of planning, training and dreaming, Nairobi Aikikai Club made it to Zurich, Switzerland in preparation for the 50th Anniversary ACSA seminar at St. Gallen. The club was represented by the four musketeers; Josh, Samori, Wangari and Kalevera and also from Africa was a five person strong team from Zanzibar.

Andi Sensei and team made sure to organize the week of a lifetime that involved lots of learning, training and fun. First off was a trip to the mountains that saw some brave Aikidokas swim in the freezing cold lake waters and survive (not me).
Mountain excursion Wed 11th Sep
The same evening allowed us to go train at our home Ikeda Dojo and meet Ikeda Sensei himself. It was a powerful start to a week of training and the next day was even more training at Aikido Zurich a beautiful Dojo with wonderful and warm team after a bit of sight seeing of course.
At Ikeda Dojo 11th Sep 2019
And just like that, the seminar weekend was here and it was off to St. Gallen with sessions taught by the best and biggest names in Aikido. Christian Tissier Sensei, Katsuaki Asai Sensei, Mikiko Sugawara Sensei and descendant of O'Sensei Mitsuteru Ueshiba Hombu Dojo- Cho pictured here below with Josh who clearly had his modelling game on point and took pictures with all the greats.

The seminar was extreme Aikido boot camp with up to  seven sessions on Saturday ranging from weapon work, basic movement sessions and hours dedicated to mastering technique.
Nairobi Aikikai's Josh with Mitsuteru Ueshiba Hombu Dojo-Cho and Marianne Sensei at St. Gallen.
For the Embukai, Kenya and Zanzibar were not left behind as all Nairobi Aikikai members showcased their skill on the tatami in front of the plenary and made sure not to embarrass Andi Sensei ( I hope we didn't?) Exact program for the seminar can be found here. Later on Saturday we had a get together party and there exists a video of Joshua dancing at that party which can be coerced from me personally.
Sight seeing in Zurich 12th Sep Nairobi and Zanzibar Team
All in all the week was undoubtedly a once in a lifetime experience where all in attendance explored different training techniques, diverse lessons from teachers who all emphasized unique aspects of the art of peace. Nairobi Aikikai is deeply grateful to Andi Sensei and all the members of Ikeda Dojo who gave their time and some even gave their homes and resources to make our time there comfortable. It was a true testament to the virtues of Bushido.
An offical film of the seminar and Embukai will be available soon but till then , we carry on and will share lessons from St. Gallen and now look forward to Zanzibar seminar in February 2020. Budo!
Aikido Zurich Dojo with Nairobi and Zanzibar team 12th Sep 2019

Monday, August 26, 2019

Structure in Aiki practice; The Why and How?

“When an opponent comes forward, move in and greet him; if he wants to pull back, send him on his way.” - Morihei Ueshiba
Imagine if you have a weight to bear. Say perhaps a sack of potatoes. If you hold the sack away from your body with extended arms, you will have to use your shoulder and arm muscles to resist the force of gravity and you will become tired quickly. 

Now imagine you had those same potatoes in a backpack, the weight is close to your spine, and the straps of your backpack hold it firmly to your body. The weight of the load goes through your bones and much less effort is required in order to carry this load. 

One of my earliest exposures to this wisdom was seeing pictures of women in Africa carrying heavy loads over long distances. I remember thinking initially how strong they must be. Over time I came to realize that they were using their natural body mechanics in a more efficient way than what I was used to seeing. 

But how does this relate to our training? One is in the amount of effort required to generate power, and what that means for how much power we’re able to generate, and how long we are able to sustain that level of output. But for now, we can say that it feels different from uke’s perspective, to have someone move through them, versus having them exert force onto them. If you have a training partner who is willing to slow down your training practice enough to allow you to explore various options, you can work with each other to explore this difference and feel it for yourself.
But for now, to further explore how structure relates to the principle of effortlessness, and our ability to generate force, and sustain the ability to train over longer periods of time before fatiguing. Force is calculated as the weight of an object, multiplied by its speed. So, for example, with a punch. If your fist weighs a pound, and you’re able to accelerate it to a certain speed, then your punch will have the force of 1*speed… Now imagine if at the moment of impact, your punch was at the forefront of your unbendable arm, and that simultaneously, your centre was falling forward with your punch. The structure of your spine, and of your unbendable arm, would allow the weight / force of your whole body to be transmitted through your bones and into your fist. The amount of force that you’d be able to generate would be equal to your whole body weight * your speed. And while the speed that you can move your body might be less than the speed that you can accelerate your fist, the much heavier body will contribute to more force overall than what your fist would be able to generate on it’s own, even accelerated with the power of your muscles. 

This ability to generate more overall force, even with less muscle, is one of the ways that aiki-technology can help a smaller person work successfully with larger attackers. If we add the fundamental truth that gravity is always pulling our body towards the earth at a particular rate(speed) and we always have a certain body mass(weight), you can see how a certain amount of force(the speed of our falling in gravity * our body weight) is always available to us, with little or no muscular effort. 

Structure is what provides us with the ability to express that potential energy into our techniques. A simple way to experience this is to extend your arm forward in the same way that we do with unbendable arm, then ask a training partner to take ahold of our forearm with morote-dori. If we extend through our unbendable arm as if reaching for a glass of water, bend our knees to drop our centre, and extend through our legs (I’ll leave the seeming paradox of simultaneously bending our knees, while also extending through our legs for you to explore with just this acknowledgement, and the guidance that extending 
through our legs (or other limbs) doesn’t necessarily have to mean that they are completely straight.) 

In this position, all the force our training partner puts into our arm, will be transmitted through the bones of our arms, through our spine, through our legs and into the earth. Here our training partner can personally experience Newton's third law, the more that they push on you, the more they will feel force in their own body, even though we’re not doing anything to them. 

If, in this exercise, you feel yourself tipping over backwards, drop your weight more. If instead you feel your arm being pushed down to your hips, or collapsing, then start again, and focus more on reaching out through extension. 

This exercise allows us an opportunity to directly experience the feeling of structure in our bodies. If we don’t yet trust extension, or if we’re not extended fully enough, we might still have tension in our muscles. This tension allows us to move some of the force through our soft tissues, but this can be dangerous as the forces that we can be dealing with during dynamic training can easily be enough to sprain or tear muscles and tendons, and this is one of the common ways that we can be injured in our training. If we feel tension in ourselves, it can be a reminder to relax and reach out through our structure. Over time, as we begin to trust our structure to transmit energy, we will become more and more relaxed. This relaxation allows us the freedom move freely with our training partner in order to ensure that their energy is always being lead through our structure and into the earth. 

From this position, where we’re transmitting their energy into the earth, we can then let our center fall forward and down, towards the earth and we can see how, still without any additional muscular effort, we can fall through a training partner with less structure than ourselves. (Reaching forward and up through the little finger, so that we can cut behind and through them, helps with this, more than falling directly into them in a linear way) 

This approach to moving through our training partner can be used when we throw our pin them as well. Any time that we catch ourselves using muscular force, step back and ask yourself if there’s a way to fall through extension, so that we can generate more force with less effort, through our structure. 

By exerting less effort in each movement, we’ll be able to train longer before fatiguing. Which can contribute to our safety as well since, when we get tired, we often compromise our technique in ways that can result in injury. 
Proper structure aids transmission of energy and this seeps into every aiki technique making it fundamentally better.
PS: While you're here, have a look at the previous blog post on June's seminar. click on this link for that. Keep checking the blog for our next post on the seminar and adventures in Zurich :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Nairobi Aikikai June 2019 Seminar (22nd-23rd June) at Japanese Embassy Nairobi

The 22nd and 23rd of June 2019 presented yet another opportunity for Aikido learning and sharing under the guidance and teaching of Sensei Andi Schriber from our partner dojo, Ikeda Dojo, Switzerland.
Members of Nairobi Aikikai and other Aikidokas from across the country joined for this two day seminar in Nairobi and the Aiki spirit flowed freely and harmoniously amongst all who were there.
The start of day 1 (22nd June, 2019) began with an intense warm up session with an emphasis on breathing techniques and how martial warm ups are not only meant to prepare our bodies for physical movement but also to embed Aiki movements within our memory such that these movements become second nature. Special focus was placed on the mastery of taisabaki and maintaining good form and balance within all Aiki movements.
The rest of the day included a mix of advanced and basic techniques building on foundation movements in Aikido and the integral role Ikkyo plays in advancing to other techniques.  Some of the movements emphasized on were those seen in Genkei kokkyunage, Iriminage, and Shihonage  among others.
The afternoon session of day 1 also had candidates for various Kyu exams perform various techniques in preparation for day 2 grading exercise. 

Day 2 of the seminar began with a healthy warm up session that incorporated multidirectional ukemi warm ups from the standard 2 direction backroll and shihogiri to 4 and 8 directional movements as well as front rolls and back rolls. This session also focused on the importance of intent and keeping ki even in our warm up.

The session progressed into exploring the basic movements of Ikkyo and Ikkyo ura focusing on the importance of always keeping and maintaining contact between uke and tori.  Contact creates communication and communication creates harmony and flow; this seemed to be the focus of the day. Several exercises around this were performed emphasizing on soft and unified movement.

Mid-morning explored the similarities between sword movements and open hand movements in Aikido. The importance of learning open hand techniques to improve our understanding of sword movements and the role of always connecting to the centre; Yokomenuchi entry was of particular importance as part of this practice.  A brief and informative session on Tanto-dori techniques followed focusing on the role of Kotegaeshi and Ikkyo (uchisabaki) in knife defense.

Further 6th Kyu and 2nd Kyu techniques were explored with Sensei expressing the centrality of understanding basic movements, the curriculum of Aikido and how basic movements inform more advanced movements eg breakfalls and complex dynamic ukemi
The day came to a close with grading exercises and the promotion of several Nairobi Aikikai members to the next kyu grade. Congratulations are in order to:

Walter Njoroge – 2nd Kyu
Kalevera E Imungu- 4th Kyu
Raphael Mwaura- 5th Kyu
Millicent Mbugua- 5th Kyu
Fidelis Wanjiku- 6th Kyu
Clarine Cherono- 6th Kyu
Anthony Kaguimah- 6th kyu

This is not the end, there is so much more to learn.
In closing Sensei noted with joy that the practice at Nairobi Aikikai continues to grow at a steady and encouraging pace and the sky is no limit for us.

Nairobi Aikikai is deeply grateful to Andi Sensei for his continued time and dedication to teaching us and Ikeda Dojo. Not forgetting everyone who created time to make it to the mat from all over the country and everyone who made the seminar a success.

The tatami should always remain hot and the dojo is always open to all. The Zurich seminar is fast approaching and Nairobi Aikikai representation should be strong and memorable. Get your passports ready!


"It takes a hundred times to remember the moves, a thousand times to make them beautiful, and ten thousand times to grasp their essence." - Anonymous