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Tenshi-Meguri & 7-hon no kuzushi

KobayashiTilburgIn the 70-ties I had the opportunity to study aikido with Hirokazu Kobayashi. In that time I didn’t understand the concept of meguri* and tenshi (body rotation). Kobayashi stressed on many occasions the spiral movement of the wrist and the dropping of the elbow. Using the koshi was also one of his favorite remarks.
It was Akira Hino’s explanation about “tenshi-kei”, the power of internal rotation, that gave me a better understanding of meguri* and the use of koshi (lower back).

Kobayashi en Eddy*A defensive movement when grasped at the wrist, is the skill of “meguri”, meaning flexibility, rotation of the forearms. The use of the koshi as engine for power release increases the efficiency of defense action.

Meguri and tenshi are the main components in 7-hon no kuzuzhi, the balance disturbing exercises of Tomiki’s Aikido. Without spiral rotations, the balance disturbing will only rely on muscular power of the arm. Only by using “rendo” or synchronizing body movements, the power of meguri and tenshi will create the necessary balance disturbing followed by a throw or control action.

7-hon no kuzushi

kuzushi007The concept of balance disturbing in Tomiki’s Aikido is partly the result of the influence of Kodokan Judo, but also Morhei Ueshiba’s Aikido is prominent present.

Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido is build around the use of rotational and spiral power.

In the picture, there is the downward rotational movement of the body. By using a meguri pulling action on the sleeve or arm, the rotational movement changes into a downward spiral movement.

Some teachers use an almost linear approach, others use a more circular approach. This of course will affect the perception and will have a negative influence on the performance of lesser skillful practitioners. The external movements has to combined with internal movements, this is only possible through the skill of “rendo”.

The 7-hon no kuzushi is build around :

  • vertical movement
  • horizontal movement
  • central axis rotation

The basic positions are “aigamae” & “gyakugamae” for the vertical and horizontal movements. You will notice, Uke is grasping the wrist with the right hand and keeps the left hand ready for the follow-up action. This can be a strike with the fist or another grasping action.
The central axis rotation start from a rear attack position. Of course the central axis rotation is also present in the vertical and horizontal movements.

When studying 7-hon no kuzushi, we have to understand these movements are simplified and will not work in a randori environment without adaptation to the circumstances.
The movement pattern of these exercises has to be written in the subconscious part of the mind for immediate access when necessary

Vertical movement

jodan kuzushi

Combination Jodan & Gedan Kuzushi

There are 2 vertical modes in 7-hon no kuzushi:

  • upward – jodan-kuzushi is mostly characterized by a hineri movement
    • aigamae
    • gyakugamae
  • downward – gedan kuzushi – mostly characterized by a “gaeshi” movement
    • aigamae
    • gyakugamae

gaeshi

Horizontal movement

hineri

Horizontal kuzushi movements are mostly characterized by a hineri movement
When performing from the right posture, opponent can attack from 2 positions:

  • aigamae
  • gyakugamae

Central axis rotation

The idea here is an application of spinning top power.**

**A spinning top is a toy designed to spin rapidly on the ground, the motion of which causes it to remain precisely balanced on its tip due to its rotational inertia.

Meguri and tenshi in 7-hon no kuzushi

A “kuzushi” movement is succesful when we consider the following:

  • target: the wrist attacked by the opponent
  • the hand of the grasped wrist to indicate the direction
  • the elbow: the transfer joint for the full-body power by using meguri and tenshi

The target

Opponent can grasp the wrist according 2 modes:

  • omote dori – outside wrist
    • go-no-sen
    • sen-no-sen
  • ura dori – inside wrist
    • go-no-sen
    • sen-no-sen

Each mode has an influence on the hand movement of the grasped wrist. In the go-no-sen mode, opponent has the initiative of the grasping. Defender has the initiative in the sen-no-sen mode.

There are 2 grasping methods:

  • junte dori – regular grip
  • gyakute dori – reverse grip

In 7-hon no kuzushi only the junte dori is covered. Gyakute dori or reverse grip is used in kote gaeshi, kote mawashi ……..

How to grasp a wrist?

Grasping a wrist is “almost identical” as grasping the hilt of a sword.
Most of the holding power is in the thumb and middle finger. Little finger, ringfinger and index finger are envelopping the wrist. Grasping is not a static action. The dynamics of grasping is the result of “meguri” and “tenshi”.

holding the swordholding wrist

The hand of the grasped wrist

As already mentioned, Tori can act in a go-no-sen or sen-no-sen mode.

The hand in most of the cases can move freely. There are 2 basic modes:

  • upward
  • downward

By using the turning point in the hand, the tendon of in the forearm will stretch. If the point of turning is close to the wrist, the stretching will not happen. By stretching the tendon(s) it is easier to use the elbow in the desired direction.

aiki age sage009

Meguri and the use of elbow

Meguri is based upon the flexibility and rotation of the forearm.
The flexibility and rotation of the forearm and elbow is depending on the connection with the kyokotsu, a point at the breastbone. When pulling in the arm by using the biceps muscle, the shoulder will be locked and the power from the central body cannot travel through the elbow to the hand.
In his book “Goshi Jutsu Nyumon”, Kenji Tomiki used a picture to explain hand and elbow movement around a fulcrum, the grasping point by opponent. The picture is only showing the principle of leverage and does not include meguri action.
It is not always possible to move efficiently just by using simple leverage as seen in Tomiki’s fulcrum picture. The elbow movement is only possible if the shoulder is free of tension.

point of rotation

Tenshi around skeletonRotation of the forearm when grasped at the wrist is possible by using the skill of “tenshi” or internal rotation. Tenshi-kei is the power of tenshi and can be used to make waza efficiency higher.

We can use body rotation and internal rotation at the same time to increase waza efficiency. An example can be the rear wrists grasping where we use an external body rotation and tenshi or internal rotation.

Basic 7-hon no kuzushi

7-hon no kuzushi is an exercise to study body movements which can be used in all forms of balance disturbing. The belief that 7-hon no kuzushi is the method for balance disturbance is a delusion. It is an exercise to learn how to use the body with external and internal movements.

There are many versions of 7-hon no kuzushi. The early versions are created when Kenji Tomiki was still teaching. During the creation of Koryu no kata, the study of 7-hon no kuzushi became a part of the training and was incorporated into Koryu no kata daiyon.

History of Koryu no kata

Takeshi Inoue the autor of a book on Koryu no kata, who knows in detail the background of the creation of the Koryu no kata wrote:

In about 1958, we practiced mainly the unsoku, tandoku undo, yonhon no kuzushi (a former version of the nanahon no kuzushi/7-hon no kuzushi) as well as the jugohon no kata (basic15 kata). In around 1960, the junanahon no kata ( basic17 kata) and the roppon no kuzushi/6-hon no kuzushi were created and then the dai-san no kata was devised as a kata of classical techniques. During the mid-60 Ohba Sensei and others worked on the creation of the kata forms of the dai-ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), which we practice as the koryu no kata, in order to work on techniques for demonstrations and for purposes other than randori. What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally. After he had organized the techniques to some extent, Ohba Sensei reported to Tomiki Sensei and demonstrated what he had done for him. He received some advice from Tomiki Sensei and then added corrections to the kata. (“Bujin Hideo Ohba,” Kyogi Aikido Soseiki no Ayumi; Ohba Hideo Sensei o Shinobu, p. 67)

Some examples from an old Waseda movie 1975

7-hon no kuzushi by Takaeshi Inoue 

The illustrations: Tomiki Aikido-Book 1-1978 by dr Lee ah Loi
Tori: Takeshi Inoue

Jodan – aigamae

jodan aigamae

Jodan – gyakugamae

judan gyakugamae

Chudan aigamae

chudan aigamae

Chudan gyakugamae

chudan gyakugamae

Gedan aigamae

gedan aigamae

Gedan gyakugamae

gedan gyakugamae

Ushiro

ushiro kuzushi

7-hon no kuzushi application examples

Some applications we can find in “Koryu no kata dai yon”.
Examples are:
Jodan kuzushi aigamae nage waza

jodan omote 1b

 

Jodan kuzushi gyakugamae nage waza

jodan omote 2b.jpg

 

 

From “Koryu no kata dai roku”
Jodan & gedan kuzushi

Schermafbeelding 2019-04-12 om 17.06.09

More randori oriented example:
Hiki otoshi

hiki otoshi 001 kopie

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Aiki-Do, the way to Aiki?

Aikido or Aiki-Do?

There are many explanations for Aiki-Do and from a historical point of view we have to look a the lineage of the many educational lines of Aiki-Do.
Morihei Ueshiba can be credited to be the founder of Aikido and was a student of Sokaku Takeda, the founder of modern Daito Ryu Aikijutsu (or Aiki-Jujutsu). Morihei Ueshiba modernized Daito Ryu and therefore changed the mechanical but also the philosophical concepts.

Is there a difference between Aikido and Aiki-Do?
The distinction between the two can be summarized as follows:

  • Aikido: the martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba, based upon a concept of natural rhythm, a free flow of personal expression that offers no conflict with nature.
  • Aiki-Do: a method to learn the skill of aiki which is to provide a method of hand-to-hand combat.

According to Japanese Martial Arts scholar Don Draeger, the personal view of Sokaku Takeda on aiki is:

The secret of aiki is to overpower the opponent mentally at a glance and to win without fighting.

Morihei Ueshiba modernized Aiki-Do, sometimes called Aiki-Budo or other names, in such a way that the concept of Aiki is different from the Daito Ryu Aiki concept. The concept of Aiki by Morihei Ueshiba is explained in “Aikido” by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the son of Morihei Ueshiba. This book is written under supervision of Morihei Ueshiba.

Aiki is the expression of Truth itself. It is the way of calling people together and reconciling them with love whenever they may attack us.

Our interest of course is in the lineage of Kenji Tomiki. He was a student of Morihei Ueshiba for his Aikido (previously AikiBudo or other names) and this is the reason why there is a link with the Daito Ryu lineage. But can we conclude Tomiki Aikido is Daito Ryu? In my opinion, Tomiki Aikido has some Daito-Ryu influence via Morihei Ueshiba, but is not following the Daito-Ryu syllabus and therefore the movement patterns will be very different.

Another person who has an influence on Tomiki’s Aikido is Hirokazu Kobayashi from Osaka. Some of his student are claiming Kobayashi was a Daito Ryu shihan. But this seems a controversial assertion. To learn more about the link between Kobayashi and Daito Ryu, you can read an article by Guillaume Erard.
Tetsuro Nariyama, shihan of the Shodokan Dojo in Osaka has a great influence on the modern version of Tomiki’s Aikido and he was for many years a student to Hirokazu Kobayashi. During the time he learned from Kobayashi, he introduced Tomiki’s randori method to university aikido clubs under Kobayashi’s control.

Explanation by Kenji Tomiki

Kenji Tomiki gave an explanation for 2 important words, Aikido & Aiki.

  • Aikido: the old saying goes, “It is the spirit that carries the mind and controls the body.” The people of ancient times believed that man’s mind and body and consequently his strength were under the control of the spirit.

  • Aiki means making your spirit “fit in” with your opponent’s. In other words it means bringing your movements into accord with your opponent’s. After all it means the same thing as the “principle of gentleness,” for it is an explanation of the principle from within.

The perception of Kenji Tomiki is a “pragmatic” one, and most people approach his method very technically. In my opinion, Tomiki explained Ueshiba’s Aikido according the ideas of Kodokan founder Jigoro Kano, but tried to keep the spiritual message of Morihei Ueshiba. Tomiki seems to use almost non-religious words to explain a spiritual message. By using a non-religious language, some Western people are very highly attracted by the logic he used to explain his Aikido understanding. Other people regret the absence of a kind of aiki-mystery in the method.

But is this just a perception or maybe we don’t understand Tomiki’s message?

gleeson judoThere is an interesting quote of Tomiki in Geof  Gleeson’s book: Judo Inside Out:

  • When training in aiki jitsu under Professor Tomiki he often used the symbol of prayer, the placing of two hands together as signifying the purpose of prayer and religion – the duality of God and man, the yin and yang, becoming one.

 

Human Lifelong Activity

If we try to understand Aikido in a pragmatic way but as a lifelong activity, we cannot just build our understanding on techniques, exercises or technical kata. We have to find out the elements which can be used as criteria for Aikido as a human lifelong activity. I am not referring to the 3 principles of Judo used by Tomiki (Natural posture, Breaking the posture & Principle of Gentleness) because they are included in the Fundamental Elements.

Yōso – Fundamental elements

Yōso literally translated as “principle”, but in the context of our study we use “essential element”. Of course this is already discussed in other articles on this blog. But I would like to stress the importance of this way of thinking: A human lifelong activity.

This is only possible if we change our way of thinking from raw muscular power into a method based upon physical & mental skills, creating an Aikido method for everybody. This method is using technical skills to control attacking power of an opponent by using fundamental elements without raw muscular power.

What are the fundamental elements in the method which can be practised by everyone?

  • Ma
  • Hyoshi
  • Aiki

Ma : distance & time interval

Distance :

  • distance between 2 opponents or more
  • the distance to step to the opponent to control him, for example grasping the wrist

Time Interval :

  • the relation between distance and time
  • big and small movements and time relationship

Controlling the distance and the time to bridge the distance doesn’t need excessive muscular power, only our natural way of moving is needed. The relationship with the principle of natural posture is evident.

The exercises unsoku-ho & tandoku undo are a very basic training tool to practise how to move in a natural way. When a training partner is involved, we are confronted with the distance and the relationship with time when moving into a safe zone after a movement of the opponent. The concept of “rikakutaisei” is her involved.

Hyoshi : cadence, rhythm, tempo

  • cadence : Cadence is the total number of repeated movements (cycles) taken within a given period of time.
  • rhythm : creating movements within a pattern (waza). You create rhythm by repetition of similar movements with a variations pattern
  • tempo : the speed of a movement cycle

Learning the skill to change hyoshi with the purpose to control the opponent. There are 2 opportunities:

  • Changing the own hyoshi to create an opportunity to control the opponent.
  • Changing opponent’s hyoshi to create an opportunity to control the opponent.

Repetitive training is a basic method to learn the concept of hyoshi an includes the following parameters:

  • cadence : the total number of repetitions in a certain time
  • rhythm : repetitions of a movement pattern without changing the choreography
  • tempo : the time to perform 1 movement pattern, which is repeated several times at the same speed

Combinations of cadence, rhythm and tempo can be used.

Aiki

Aiki (in aikido) is the skill to read correctly the Ma & Hyoshi of the opponent and controlling his actions. Reading the opponent is called “yomi”* and comes from “yomu” which is “to read”. We can read before or during the actions of the opponent. When this reading is correctly done, the use of power will follow the laws of natural movements with the body. No tension is required to apply power. Therefore it becomes a lifelong activity.

The concept of reading goes far beyond the use of the eyes. The total body can be seen as a sense organ and will be used to “yomi” correctly the Ma & Hyoshi of the opponent. It is most important to “un-tension” the body if we use it as a “yomi” sense organ.

Shigeru UemuraSome advice by Shigeru Uemura, former ShitoRyu karateka
In internal martial arts we advance by releasing the muscles, in other words by falling. When we release the muscles, an energy linked to gravitation is released. With the muscular relaxation, the movement is immediate, in a single time, this movement is much faster than with the muscular system which is done in two stages.
It is by releasing the weight of the body that we move. By synchronizing the muscular system, the tendinous system, the nervous system and the bone system, which makes it possible to move with high efficiency.

By following this advice the skill how to move is improving which has a great influence on reading and anticipation of opponent’s movements.

* Sometimes Yomi is referring to a kind of fortune-telling.

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Tomiki’s Nagashi-kata

iai & sotai2The word nagashi is used in martial arts when a strategy of deflection is needed. Iaido kata “Uke-nagashi” is an example where deflection and power of the opponent’s cut is used to counterattack. Other Japanese martial arts are using the same strategy with different names. In Wado-ryu Karate, nagashi is frequently used to explain the art of deflecting and redirecting the power while keeping contact with the opponent. We find the word “nagashi” also in the names of some traditional Japanese Festivals.

Hina Nagashi 雛流し March 3

The Hina Festival is a traditional Japanese event for girls in which people imbue dolls called “hina” with their wishes for the healthy growth of their children. Each year, a stately ceremony called “Hina Nagashi” is held on March 3. People write their wishes on the hina dolls, place the dolls on boats, and allow them to drift out into the spring ocean. The dolls, which are dressed in scarlet and yellow kimono, sway beautifully on the open sea that glitters in the sunlight.

Nagashi

Actually our interest goes to the idea behind the word. Nagasu verb, meaning “to spread”or “to flow”…… Basically the concept of nagashi in martial arts is absorbing the incoming attack and give back. This in fact is another definition for “Ju no ri” or the principle of gentleness formulated by Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo. Kenji Tomiki used this concept to describe the idea of using the power of the opponent. The aim is to absorb the energy of the attack and not to damage ourselves. There are several basic ways to make this move, but everything lies in the union of two actions, the first action is to synchronize our movement with the opponent attack  keeping the rikakutaisei distance, the second action is to move your body weight in the proper angle to absorb opponent’s power. Nagashi s a type of protection that allows a movement of continuity, deflecting or accompanying the attack of the opponent.

Kenji Tomiki

In an article  “On jujutsu and its modernisation” Kenji Tomiki used “nagashi” in the chapter “Training course for aiki-randori”:

Method of flowing (nagashi-kata): the five hand sword movements

  1. Uchi-mawashi
  2. Soto-mawashi
  3. Uchi-gaeshi
  4. Soto-gaeshi
  5. O-mawashi
 

5 handblade Nagashi-kata movements are the basics  for tegatana-dosa, also called tandoku undo. The 5 handblade movements are combined with unsoku or foot-movements. There are many versions of tegatana-dosa since the birth of Tomiki’s Aikido, and each has a different purpose. The names of handblade movements can be different depending on the use of the handblade. Find here 2 important versions of tegatana-dosa tandoku-undo.

Around 1958
  • Tegatana 
  • Uchi mawashi   
  • Soto mawashi   
  • Uchi gaeshi & soto gaeshi   
  • Uchi mawashi tentai   
  • Soto mawashi tentai   
  • Ko mawashi   
  • O mawashi
Around 1975
  • Shomen no uchikomi/tsukikomi
  • Kiri kaeshi
  • Maki zuki
  • Kesa uchi
  • Tenkai/tentai no uchikomi
 

The version developed in the 50-ties of the 20th century, are expressing the concept of nagashi more clearly than the 70-ties version. The movements of the 1958 version have a flowing character, while the 1975 movements have borrowed concepts from Kendo (modern swordsmanship).

Nagashi-kata applications

sotai reshu tegatana dosa 2The 5 handblade movements can be used as an offensive movement. Yokomen-uchi and gyaku-yokomen-uchi are atemi waza to the side of opponent’s head. Uchi -mawashi and soto-mawashi are used in this case as atemi-waza in combination with the proper “ma and hyoshi“.

Exercises can have a rather simple choreography, but the content can be very complex.

 

There is omote and there is ura. We can consider nagashi-kata atemi-waza as an omote version. The ura version is a defensive application of nagashi-kata. See picture.

Nagashi01

Meguri

the thumb as guideAn interesting concept in the defensive movements when grasped at the wrist, is the concept of “meguri”. Literally meaning flexibility and rotation of the forearms. This concept was intensively taught by the late Hirokazu Kobayashi from Osaka.

The rotation of Tori’s wrist can be seen in this movement-clip.

Kobayashi had a cordial relationship with Kenji Tomiki. On 10 October 1969, Kobayashi invited Tomiki to Osaka, where the latter gave a short course to introduce competitive aikido to students from six local universities.

Kobayashi002 2

 
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A dilemma, Ai-gamae or Gyaku-gamae

Kamae, the fighting position

There is an interesting aspect connected to the fighting position of Tomiki Aikido method. In randori no kata, Tori always stands with his right foot in front: migi-gamae. The same applies for Uke. Of course this situation applies for right-handed persons.

But where does the systematic use of the right-sided position, migi-gamae, come from?
First of all we have to understand that randori no kata do not represent a boxing attitude to the fighting situation. We are dealing with classical bujutsu, especially Japanese fencing, kenjutsu. The swordsman always puts his right leg in front. In western boxing or Japanese karate a right-handed person in general takes the left stance. Some Tomiki Aikido competitors use this kamae also during their randori.
The basic kamae in randori no kata mimics that Tori and Uke have a sword in their hands. Randori no kata promotes the basic concepts of kenjutsu. These concepts are how to shift the body away from the line of attack (tai-sabaki) and keep a safe distance (rikakutaisei). There are 2 basic methods to step out of the attacking line.

  • you can avoid the line of attack to the inner side or
  • to the outer side of the line of attack

aigamae gyaku gamaeAi-gamae and gyaku-gamae

The basic method to practise randori no kata is by using ai-gamae. Both perform a kamae with the right foot in front or with the left foot if the practise is focussing on left handed performance.

The exercise of tegatana awase (see on the left) can be practised with ai-gamae or gyaku-gamae. In gyaku-gamae, tori can put tegatana on the inside of uke’s arm or on the outside.

Touching the tegatana of the opponent is the starting of a waza while practising randori no kata.

awase basic 17

 

basis15 nr1-2Using gyaku-hanmi in randori no kata

In basic 15 (randori no kata), the position of gyaku-gamae is used in to some “waza”. Gyaku-gamae-ate is such an example.

In the beginning of this article we stated: Tori always stands with his right foot in front: migi-gamae. Why is Tomiki sensei changing his posture to hidari-gamae? It is more logical if Uke is changing his posture, because this creates a training opportunity for Tori to practise against a left-handed attack. Of course we can practise randori-no-kata from a left-handed situation. But we cannot forget the origin of the right-handed posture: Japanese swordmanship.

The role of Uke

In randori-no kata, the role of Uke is an offensive one. Mind and body must reflect the intention to attack. When Uke lift his “tegatana” up and towards Tori, there must be an intention to attack. For training purposes, Uke can physically attack with shomen-uchi without lifting the hand to jodan posture.

The role of Tori

The role of Tori will depend on the action of Uke and can be performed according 3 specific situations:

  • go-no-sen (reactive initiative)
  • sen-no-sen (simultaneous initiative)
  • sensen-no-sen (pre-emptive initiative)

As previously mentioned, tegatana-awase is the start of the physical performance of a waza. But it is also possible by “not touching” tegatana, Uke’s mind is of course offensive, there is no physical attack. The previous example of gyaku-gamae-ate is such a situation.

Timing or Sen

Mostly in tanto-randori no kata (basic 17) a specific kind of timing is used: go-no-sen. This means reactive timing. The opponent performs an attack and the defender reacts to this and deals with it with the help of a body shift with simultaneous a nagashi movement (sliding parry) followed by a counterattack. There are two rhythms connected to this timing. The rhythm can be one-two, for example in a case of aigamae-ate, or it can be one, which means that parry and counter attack are performed at the same time. Hiki-otoshi is such an example.

Can we use other timing situation in basic kata for randori (randori no kata)?

Sen-no-sen: This means simultaneous timing. This needs a different state of mind. Tori tries to sense the intention of the attacker and starts to move simultaneously with him. In Tanto-randori-no-kata, a sen-no-sen action can be used when a tanto-strike is at the beginning of the action.

Sensen-no-sen: This means pre-emptive timing and it is the most demanding to perform. To perform it correctly would mean that Tori should be able to feel the movement of Uke before it takes any physical movement. In Japanese budo there is lots of material to be found about this timing: to pre-emptive strike at the point when Uke is still planning his own attack. In this level you take the initiative when you sense the intention of the attack in the opponent’s mind or in his ki, as the Japanese say.

The game in Randori-no-kata

By changing posture and situation, we stimulate the creativity of the practitioners. And to make it more interesting, playing with 3 kinds of timing is multiplying your numbers of possible waza.

Next step is to use all your waza in randori (kakari geiko, hikitate geiko and randori geiko)

 

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Beyond basic training

Tomiki100yrs 021Tomiki Aikido has a very simple basic training system: On jujutsu and his modernisation.
This text is written by Kenji Tomiki to modernise old jujutsu into a new training system, suitable for our modern society
Basically most of the practitioners have a 1 or 2 times a week training schedules. If this is done on a regular base, progress will be consistent but slow. Burning calories or becoming fit again can be a goal.
Sometimes, you just have to put more effort in your training when you are preparing for grading or competition. Unfortunately the depth of knowledge will not go deep. It will stick to the “sporting side ” of a martial art.

Nevertheless Japanese Budo can fulfill your search for spirituality. In Japanese martial arts literature, there are numerous testimonies about the deeper meaning of Japanese Budo. Mostly the authors are describing an almost mystical experience during their training somewhere in the mountains. Our modern society is of course not suitable for such a training program. We have responsibilities towards our family and friends.

A different approach to Japanese Budo

What is the attraction to Japanese Budo beyond the sporting side?

To answer this question I suggest you read 2 books:

  • Musashi: An Epic Novel Of The Samurai Era by Eiji Yoshikawa
  • Gorin no sho by Musashi Miyamoto

The former book is a romanticized story of Musashi Miyamoto’s life, he is a hero and also a loner. In Western society, we also have stories of heroes and their magic. Many comic books are based upon the stories of a hero who has incredible powers.
The latter is “A book of strategy” written by the master. It describes the process for searching the deeper meaning of Japanese Budo.
The attraction to the magic of Japanese Samurai was and is a driving force to start seriously with martial arts. Many aikido practitioners are revering Morihei Ueshiba for his technical but mostly for his spiritual approach to martial arts.
This driving force we can see as a kind of “elevation” of the mind. With this “elevation” we feel ourselves more positive.

The same feeling we can see in the behaviour of Kenji Tomiki & Hideo Ohba followers. Although it is lesser spiritual, if we go deeper into the philosophy of those Aikido masters, we will discover a very fundamental moral code. Some elements of this code are commented in another article : Cutting and striking.

The “Tomiki Aikido” syllabus

Most of the Tomiki Aikido groups are using a similar syllabus to teach aikido.

Behind the syllabus there is a logic with an origin in Koryu Bujutsu, old style Japanese martial arts. 3 levels of physical and mental are the training objectives.

  • Lower level – focus on technique and “ma” (distance and interval emphasis)
  • Middle level – focus primarily on “hyoshi” (cadence, rhythm, tempo, speed)
  • Upper level – focus on taikan, mushin, kokoro…..

In other words the SHU-HA-RI mantra.

The “Ma” dimension

Mostly, ma is translated as distance. This is of course correct but also limited in understanding. In a most basic understanding, ma is distance but also interval. Interval can is a time based concept and is related to “timing”.
Techniques can only be succesful if distance and interval are correctly applied. The concept of rikakutaisei is basically an application of “Ma” as distance and interval. Of course on a deeper level, rikakutaisei has more to offer than distance and interval.
Ma is the distance and interval for using “Ki”, the vehicle for using power in your movements. This happens always in relation with your opponent’s mental and physical movements.

The “Hyoshi” dimension

If we cannot understand life is following a certain rhythm, we cannot understand the actions of the opponent, because it is closely related to the rhythm of life.
Movements are following a certain pattern, which is not linear. Movements are expressions of spiral actions in space and time dimensions. More info: Spacetime.

Hyoshi is the skill to change the rhythm of the opponent and to create an opening in the movement cycle for further actions: killing or controlling. The concept of “Sen” is an application of Hyoshi.

The “Yomi” dimension

Yomi comes from the Japanese verb Yomu, and is translated as “to read”. Yomi is closely related to something which is not following scientific proofs.

In the context of martial arts, the yomi concept is about reading the opponent actions or his movements in space and time. This skill is only possible when you understand

  • taikan
  • kokoro
  • mushin

The yomi dimension is going beyond the physical expression of our being, but is closely related to our mental and physical movements, in other words an application of our body.

20077120More information about the non-physical aspects of martial arts.
In his book Kokoro no katachi, Akira Hino is describing many concepts of martial arts beyond the idea of sports martial arts or in our case “sports aikido”.
If you like to know about the practical skills of changing your (martial arts) life, I suggest you to read some articles or books about “Kaizen”, the skill of change in a positive way. Although kaizen is related to changing the workflow in a company, it can be used also in your personal life. Remember the book of strategy “Gorin no sho” by Musashi Miyamoto. He describes a the strategy to use for a fight with 1 opponent or with 10,000 opponents.

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Kiai

Gorin no sho

In this inspiring book written by Musashi Miyamote (17th century) there is section about the shouts during a battle. The phrase ‘sen go no koe’ (before and after voice) 前後の声 is used to describe how to use shouts in a fight. He also said not to use a shout during cutting. This strategy is different from contemporary use of kiai in most of the Japanese martial arts.

The contemporary use of ki-ai

Our interest is only focusing on ki-ai during the decisive moment of “randori & kata”. This contradicts the advice of Musashi Miyamoto. We are looking for an efficient use of our combined mental and physical powers, while for Musashi Miyamoto shouting was a part of his strategy.

Kiai (Japanese: 気合, /ˈkiːaɪ/) is a Japanese term used in martial arts for the short shout uttered when performing an attacking move.

The term is a compound of ki (Japanese: 気) meaning energy or mood, a(u) (Japanese: 合).
In the board game Go the term describes fighting spirit and is representing an attitude of aggressively parrying your opponent’s plans and pushing ahead with your own. This is much closer to the Gorin no sho concept.

In kendo, for example, a point is only given by the Shinpan (referees) if the hit is accompanied by a strong, convincing kiai (shout).

Animal trainers use the power of the voice to manipulate the actions of animals.  A powerful assertive voice can be used to reprimand an animal or as a defensive weapon if the animal should attack the trainer or another animal.

Breathing with the hara

A kiai is more than just a shout, it is the manifestation of physical power, mental commitment and psychological will. Everything is coming together in that specific moment when there is no past, no future but only “now”.

Basically, kiai is produced by using the hara.  When using the throat, the sound of kiai is different and is lacking power. Using the throat is also bad for activities like singing and other voice applications.
You have muscles between your ribs and your entire abdominal muscle group for breathing. Without the skill of tension & releasing, breathing process will be limited and functional kiai will be without power.

There are many methods in the art of breathing, but it is in our research not a good idea to focus “too much” on the breathing techniques. Breathing is a natural process and by focusing too much on this action, spontaneity will be disappear and breathing becomes a forced action. Also some breathing methods has to be avoided because the potential danger for your health and body. If you are still curious about it : see Hakkei.

Breath with your belly

Breathe with your belly.  The correct thing to say is: breathe using your diaphragm. But what exactly is the diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a flat muscle that sits underneath our lungs and aids with respiration. It attaches to the base of the thorax (ribs) and basically separates the lungs from the stomach and intestines. At the bottom is the pelvis. With the proper use of the diaphragm, pelvis and the surrounding muscles (hara: koshi, tanden & yōbu), kiai will become a vibrant shout, full of energy. This is only possible when we learn to relax.

Focus on “releasing the tension”

ritsu-zenWhen people have a serious “tension” problem, Ritsuzen or standing stillness exercise can be very helpful to reduce tension. You can start with a few minutes each day. After a few weeks standing, 20 minutes or more will be no problem. In the beginning, you will notice a lot of tension in various places of your body and mind. By letting go of the idea of tension, some of the tension problems will disappear. If you still can’t decrease tension, you are advised to seek professional help.
If you notice, your breathing is becoming deeper, you have probably won your first breathing victory. This will have a possitive effect on ki-ai.

The sound of kiai

You cannot use random vowels and consonants. The art of making sounds is universal, and every society has its own version. In Japan there is “Kotodama” and is strongly related to religious practices. Remember also our Gregorian Chant, a religious way of singing in the Catholic church.

In the past, some Tomiki Aikido groups used “Eeh & Toh” as a standard kiai sound. A similar approach you can find in Jodo or jojutsu (Shindo Muso Ryu).

The sound “Eeh” was used as an open sound and used with sharp movements. “Toh” was used as a stopping sound with a decisive movement, for example a tanto strike. during tanto randori, which basically stops the game if there was a correct focus on the target.

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Cutting & striking

Cutting = damaging the body or killing the opponent
Striking =  controlling opponent with intent as the major component.
Atemi waza Tomiki style : attacking the dynamical weak point with the purpose to control or throwing the opponent

When Kenji Tomiki formulated his concept on the use of atemi waza in randori, he was very clear about the non-damaging aspect of the use of atemi waza. There are 2 ways to do atemi waza:

  • attacking dynamical weak point with the purpuse to control or to throw
  • attacking physiological weak point with the purpose to kill or damage

Many psysiological weak points are also dynamical weak points. For example “kasumi” (see chart) and “uto” (see chart) can be used as a target during gyaku-gamae-ate, a technique from basic kata.

Tomiki described the anatomical weak points in his book Judo & Aikido. The chart with the vital point is the same as the vital points often used in Kodokan Judo Kata with a shinken-gata concept. Kodokan Kime no kata is such an example.

Vital points

Tomiki Aikido Koryu no kata dai san is an aikido example how to use “atemi” according the shinken-gata method as seen from the attackers (uke) point of view. The role of tori is different and based upon the the non-damaging concept of Kenji Tomiki when he formulated his theory on how to use atemi waza in randori. Tori has no intention to kill or damage opponent.  Controlling and/or throwing safely is a sign of human behaviour based upon non-aggressive actions. This concept can be clearly seen in tachi tai tachi (Koryu no kata dai san)

Cutting & striking in Koryu no kata dai san – tachi tai tachi

Daisan tachi tai tachi : uchidachi (uke) is cutting to damage or kill, shidachi (tori) is striking with the purpose to control uchidachi.

The performance of this part of the Dai-san-kata is based upon the non-damaging concept of Kenji Tomiki when he formulated his theory on how to use atemi waza in randori. Shidachi (tori) has no intention to kill or damage opponent.

  1. The intention of Uchidachi is to make the cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the wrist joint. Shidachi simultaneously raises their sword and strikes centrally to the face of Uchidachi; this stops their cut.
  2. The intention of Uchidachi is to make the cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the wrist joint. Shidachi strikes at the face of Uchidachi whilst avoiding to Shidachi’s left. The strike ends at Shidachi’s left temple.
  3. The intention of Uchidachi is to make the cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the wrist joint. Shidachi strikes at the face of Uchidachi whilst avoiding to Shidachi’s right. The strike ends at Shidachi’s right temple and with Uchidachi in an upright left posture.
  4. The intention of Uchidachi is to raise the sword and make the cut to the wrist of Shidachi whilst they are defending. Shidachi Tsuki’s to the throat of Uchidachi before the downward cut begins. Shidachi exerts control by driving Uchidachi backwards. The intent of Shidachi is to control the movement of Uchidachi and not to cut them.
  5. The intention of Uchidachi is to make the cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the wrist joint of Shidachi. As the cut begins Shidachi strikes the exposed right armpit of Uchidachi. The sword is not dragged across Uchidachi’s torso but is used to control Uchidachi.
  6. The intention of Uchidachi is to make a cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the right wrist joint of Shidachi. Uchidachi responds using a Nagashi action to Uchidachi’s sword ending with a wrist strike and threat to Uchidachi’s torso.
  7. The intention of Uchidachi is to make a cut by raising the sword and cut through the target, which is the right wrist joint of Shidachi. Shidachi responds by rotating the sword blade so that the Ha is up. The right hand uses an outside turn action; the left hand allows the Tsuka to slip through the grip remaining thumb edge up. Uchidachi’s cut strikes Shidachi’s sword and by using Nagashi action, Uchidachi’s power is used to propel the sword around whereby Shidachi can make a controlling strike to Uchidachi’s right temple.
  8. Shidachi drives Uchidachi backwards using two swift steps and a third more controlled and deliberate whilst both swords are carefully raised to the Hasso position or stance. Uchidachi lowers their sword to behind their left leg and then raises their sword to make a downward cut to Shidachi’s leading leg. As the cut almost completes Shidachi steps back whilst bringing their sword down towards Uchidachi’s sword using Nagashi movement. Shidachi attempts to control Uchidachi by raising their sword. Uchidachi sees the opening on the right side of Shidachi’s Torso and attempts to Tsuki (Left foot leading, blade out). Using Nagashi movement Shidachi draws Uchidachi into making a Tsuki to the left side of Shidachi’s Torso (Right foot leading, blade out). Using Nagashi movement Shidachi draws Uchidachi on and into making a Yokomen cut to Shidachi’s head. Using Nagashi movement Shidachi draws Uchidachi’s sword upwards which exposes Shidachi’s left, inviting Uchidachi to make a downward cut. Shidachi avoids the cut using Hikimawari footwork and delivers a final controlling strike to Uchidachi’s left temple.

UCHIDACHI
(打太刀) means “striking/attacking sword” and is one of the two roles in kata of Budō and Bujutsu and is deemed as the teacher.

SHIDACHI
(受太刀) means “doing/receiving sword” and is the second of the two roles in kata of Budō and Bujutsu and is the student.

SUIGETSU (Solar Plexus)
The Solar Plexus is a complex of ganglia and radiating nerves of the sympathetic system at the pit of the stomach.

NAGASHI
Floating, slicing or sliding action may partly describe this. Nagashi is a skill of meeting the attacking power and deviate in a desired direction.

Footwork during cutting or striking

Footwork during cutting or striking is built upon “rolling foot” action. When the front foot is rolling, the back foot is sliding (tsugi ashi) forward. There is no “one-two” action in the footwork. Both feet are moving in one continuous pace.

Another feature is turning the feet during cutting or striking. This can be practised during “gassho exercise”, an exercise for striking but also neutralizing a strike  to the head by using a “nagashi” movement. Nagashi is a skill of meeting the attacking power and deviate in a desired direction.

Koryu no kata dai san has may sequences where a nagashi movement is used. Some examples during suwari waza.

 

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Tanren, forging the body/spirit

The techniques themselves do not matter, which is important are the universal principles applicable to all techniques, regardless of the art practiced

Sometimes you will find the word “tanren” in an article about martial arts. Mostly it is translated as “forging the body and/or the spirit”.
To give it a more practical idea:

Tanren kihon are exercises for “forging and polishing” motor skills and physics in order to use the bio-mechanics of the martial art.

We commented already on the practise of tanren in another blog article

Tanren in Budo Aikido and Kyogi Aikido

We have to consider the differences between

  • Budo Aikido (Aikido as a martial art)
  • Kyogi Aikido (Aikido as a martial sport)

In the context of “Study Group Tomiki Aikido” the emphasis will be on Budo Aikido. However, we can consider Tomiki Aikido as a hybrid method. Young people start with the emphasis on the sporting side, older people are more attracted by the Budo aspect.

Is there a difference in approach between Budo Aikido and Kyogi Aikido?
Basically there is not any difference in the case of body movements. The difference is in the strategy how to utilize the body movements.

Tanren-gata and shinken-gata

In some martial arts, the terms tanren-gata and shinken-gata are used to indicate the difference between a kata to improve body movements and a combat oriented kata.

In judo, for example, kime-no-kata is a combat oriented kata. In the past, another name was used for this kata : “shinken shobu no kata”.
Tomiki Aikido kata/katachi can also be classified as tanren-gata or shinken-kata.

Most of the basic kata (basic15, basic17, tanto basic17, ura-waza……..) can be classified as a tanren-gata. A formalised series of movements or techniques using basic criterion:

  • Jibun no tsukuri – preparing yourself to attack
  • Aite no tsukuri – preparing the opponent to receive the attack
  • Kake – the attacking or decisive (kime) movement & technique

The purpose is to study and implement the movements of the elementary techniques into the brain. The efficiency of these technical movements will be further refined and become useful with adequate randori training.

Of course, other criterion can be used. Kuzushi (balance disturbing) for example is one of the criteria which are often used to create an efficient attack. In this case we can mention 7-hon no kuzushi omote & ura. As usual there many interpretations of these exercises. Use the skill of creativity to create your own 7-hon no kuzushi. Maybe there are more kinds of kuzushi. Aikido is a living art.

Another criterion is about how to use power in our movements. In Kyogi Aikido &Budo Aikido the correct use of power (taiju no ido-momentum & tenshikei-rotational power) is necessary when doing randori (training or shiai) and kata/katachi training. There are many exercises to develop these kind of power, and in combination with “correct” randori training, techniques will become more alive. Of course you only can start with randori geiko when you have a certain level in subconscious understanding of basic movements and techniques.

senta yamada's syllabus.pdfBasic kata

There are many versions of basic kata – see katachi or kata

Basic 15 was one of the first attempts to codify techniques for randori by grouping them into sections.   In a grading syllabus compiled by Senta Yamada, he speaks about basic technique performed in kata style. In another document, he mentioned “kihon no katachi”, 20 basic techniques.
In the early days of Tomiki Aikido, basic technique was performed from a posture with a small separation between Tori and Uke. Breaking the posture of Uke was the first action of Tori – see breaking through kamae -.

tomiki100yrs 018A question here is “do we use chudan no kamae” in a fight? It is an almost a utopian vision of the art of fighting if we stick to the image of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba. It is a good “starting point” to study elementary techniques.
We can conclude, basic kata is not really shinken-gata but a form of  tanren-gata. We learn body movements by using tegatana, tai-sabaka (without a real attack) and a basic technique. If chudan no kamae is so important, why is it not frequently included into Koryu no kata?

Koryu no kata

There are 6 koryu no kata with each a different purpose. The origin of some koryu no kata can be found in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu or other Japanese martial arts like Kito Ryu or Ryōi Shintō-ryū. Besides many tai-jutsu waza (unarmed skills) some weapon skills are incorporated into koryu no kata. The weapon skills can vary depending on the weapon school of the principal instructor (shihan).

Some part of the koryu no kata can be seen as shinken-gata. There is a dangerous attack with an appropriate defensive action.
Other parts of the koryu no kata cannot be catalogued as a shinken-gata. Take for example koryu no kata dai yon, section 1 & 2. The approach is not very combat oriented. It is about an almost abstract view on kuzushi.

Koryu no kata dai yon

jodanaigamae 6Kuzushi has a lot of interpretations. It can be a something where the body is collapsing, or it is a method to fix or freeze the opponent.
Koryu no kata dai yon section 1 has 7 methods to freeze an opponent during a split of a second. It is called 7-hon no kuzushi. In the kata is a omote version and a ura version. The 3rd section is more combat oriented with a strong emphasis on kuzushi. This creates an almost artificial view on combat techniques.
Besides the different aspect of kuzushi in an omote or ura fashion, there is also an interesting part in the role of uke : ukemi-gata.
Ukemi is strongly related to the action of tori. Without a proper action of tori, ukemi becomes a kind of show action: a delusion. During embu competitions, this delusion is often demonstrated. Uke is jumping in a “big ukemi” before the power of Tori is reaching the target, and sometimes you will notice a lack of power with Tori and still Uke is doing this big and silly ukemi. It is not the action which is a delusion, but it is the thinking you can do it perfectly and having the power to throw everybody.

Another aspect in 7-hon no kuzushi is the possibility to use chudan no kamae or other forms of kamae when performing different kinds of kuzushi. Maybe we can see these movements as a kind of exercise when the opponent is using a grasping attack to the wrist when we are adopting chudan no kamae. In basic kata, grasping is used as an aite no tsukuri.

Of course, there is the question: Is koryu no kata dai yon a tanren-gata or shinken-gata?

History of Koryu no kata

Takeshi Inoue the autor of a book on Koryu no kata, who knows in detail the background of the creation of the Koryu no kata wrote:

In about 1958, we practiced mainly the unsoku, tandoku undo, yonhon no kuzushi (a former version of the nanahon no kuzushi/7-hon no kuzushi) as well as the jugohon no kata (basic15 kata). In around 1960, the junanahon no kata ( basic17 kata) and the roppon no kuzushi/6-hon no kuzushi were created and then the dai-san no kata was devised as a kata of classical techniques. During the mid-60 Ohba Sensei and others worked on the creation of the kata forms of the dai-ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), which we practice as the koryu no kata, in order to work on techniques for demonstrations and for purposes other than randori. What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally. After he had organized the techniques to some extent, Ohba Sensei reported to Tomiki Sensei and demonstrated what he had done for him. He received some advice from Tomiki Sensei and then added corrections to the kata. (“Bujin Hideo Ohba,” Kyogi Aikido Soseiki no Ayumi; Ohba Hideo Sensei o Shinobu, p. 67)

Koryu no kata is not for shiai

Some of koryu no kata can be catalogued as a shinken-gata or combat kata. Mostly there is a dangerous attack and an efficient defensive technique.
To create an efficient defensive technique, the attack must be dangerous. Is the attack really dangerous or is it fake? Is the attack a sole attempt without a further follow-up by another dangerous attack?

In Kodokan Judo, there was an attempt to introduce efficient “atemi”. This was called “Seiryoku zen’yo kokumin taiku, a kata for studying proper atemi. In aikido, there are several attempts to introduce proper atemi into the art. Mochizuki sensei used some karate to refine the art of atemi in his Yoseikan Aikido or Budo.

Tomiki Aikido is using atemi waza as an attack to throw the opponent without clashing with the power and body structure. But from the point of view of combat, the target of the atemi has to be a physiological weak spot of the body, while the atemi waza of Kenji Tomiki is used as an attack to a weak dynamical point of the body. Tomiki’s atemi waza are very safe in randori and shiai, but koryu no kata is not randori.

Since years we can see the influence of shiai oriented randori in the use of atemi waza in Koryu no kata. While originally a Shinken-gata, Koryu no kata became a Kyogi Aikido kata. The decline of efficiency in koryu no kata is inevitable when this process is not stopped. A study is necessary to create a training method to bring back the efficiency of atemi on physiological weak spots. In this case we must consider:

  • the target
  • the weapon (fist, edge of the hand, foot,……)
  • how to use and control power – hakkei

tad abe book

Atemi waza is covered in Tadashi Abe’s book. He considers atemi waza an extremely important technique in aikido.

In many koryu jujutsu schools of Japan, the skill of atemi is an important item in their syllabus. For example, Tenjin Shin’yo-ryu one of the origins of Kodokan Judo was well-known for atemi waza.

By using the basic criterion, explained earlier, and the correct method for atemi (target, weapon & power) we can revive koryu no kata back as a shinken-gata. But as we don’t want to hurt people controlling the use of power is a feature to include in our training. Therefore the methods of randori can be included to learn control without losing efficiency in our body movements.

Randori

“Randori practise is something that is done to give life to the real power of those techniques that were learned through kata. That is to say, randori provides the power to complete a painted dragon by filling in the eyes.”

This phrase comes from an article written by Kenji Tomiki. In the same article he wrote about the need of doing kata training to avoid the deterioration of Aikido. Unfortunately the influence of randori and especially randori shiai has a big impact on the efficiency of koryu no kata as a shinken-gata.

Although it seems Kenji Tomiki favoured atemi waza as a kind of throwing technique, he still insisted on the use of atemi waza as a combat method (shinken-gata), but he stressed to regulate the use of such severe methods of atemi waza. To regulate such methods and avoiding accidents during training, he recommended kata training method.

Randori training has 3 levels:

  • Kakari geiko
  • Hikitate geiko
  • Randori geiko

These methods will be discussed in a separate blog article published later.

 

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Omote waza & Ura-waza….?

Many people are using the words “omote-waza & ura-waza”. Especially in Aikido this is frequently used without an explanation about the real meaning of these concepts. It is maybe wise to introduce you to the meaning of omote & ura in Japan’s social life. The Nakasendo Way website is an ideal resource about culture in Japan.

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Old Tokaido Highway

Nakasendo Way (website)

The Nakasendo Way: A Journey to the Heart of Japan is a comprehensive resource on the historic highways of Japan with particular emphasis on the Nakasendo Way. Another important highway is the Tokaido Highway. Belgian Television (Canvas) broadcast a documentary about the famous Tokaido Highway, one of the five historical highways (Tokaido Highway, Nakasendo Way,….) in Japan.  Director of the documentary: Luc Cuyvers – Staff Members: Tim Wolput & Kaori Sanada….

Omote-ura – Public and Private Faces

Omote (the public face) and ura (the private face) are twin concepts that are applied to almost any aspect of Japan or life in Japan.

Omote refers to the image which an individual, a company, or any institution wishes to present to outsiders or the public in general. As with any image, omote is composed of a mixture of reality, myth, and lie. A building dating back 50 or 60 years which has been given a new facade is a good example: the facade is typically ultra-modern and designed with attention to creating a positive image in the eye of the beholder, but the building inside is quite the opposite. Similarly, the Liberal-Democratic Party frequently makes statements about party unity regarding an issue, but behind that is a high level of disagreement among the party’s various factions.

Ura is the opposite of omote. It is the reality behind the omote image with the myth and lies of the image stripped away. Ura is the old, dark, falling-down building behind the facade, the factional wrangling behind closed doors, the tensions between parents and children, or the mawkish and emotional outpourings of a drunk on a late night commuter train. Ura is usually covered up by omote; when it is suddenly exposed, there is great damage or embarrassment or both because the unreality of the omote is revealed for all to see.

In the feudal period, land granted to retainers was assessed as yielding a particular amount of wealth. This was sometimes called the omotedaka or public assessment, but increases in productivity and additional land brought under cultivation often pushed the real yield far higher, making the retainer wealthier and, potentially, more powerful than he nominally was. Villages in the feudal period were left to run their internal affairs themselves without interference by the government. The villagers would present a public face of unity and order to outsiders, perhaps masking severe internal tensions, even violence, but it was important to maintain the omote for the alternative was to have the government send a flock of officials and samurai to sort the situation out. That would only lead to more trouble.

Etiquette is an area where the concepts of omote and ura can be applied to advantage. Etiquette, or manners, are omote: the public face which the individual puts forth. It is extremely important for Japanese to be able to behave in conformity with society’s expectations. Thus, a young man or woman must use deferential patterns of speech and behavior toward older people or people in superior positions. With the democratization of the post-1945 period has come a softening in the distinctions which were once required. Many complaints are heard, therefore, that the younger generation does not know how to behave properly. The omote side of etiquette is slipping.

For the ura side of etiquette, the home might be the best example. Because the home is ura, individuals at home can relax and become much more informal. Clothing and speech both relax and food is usually ordinary fare rather than formal. However, the division of omote and ura is not absolute even here. A family at home may be more relaxed in behavior than when it is in public, but a young brother is still careful to call his elder sister by that name and everyone is polite to the father although in an informal manner.

Omote & ura in Martial Arts

Omote techniques are taught to beginner and are techniques considered less effective, if the movement is not perfectly executed. The view to the outside world is important, but speaking from a strategy point of view, the efficiency is not so high. Students are learning the basic movements of the art.

Ura techniques are more effective.  The techniques, in which one exposes oneself less vulnerable. These are techniques where we absorb the attack of the opponent. Strategy is an important element, besides the total control of the own body movements.

Randori no kata (Tomiki Aikido)

As we all know, randori no kata has 2 major components

  • Omote waza
  • Ura waza

Omote waza

The techniques which are allowed in a regulated randori.
There are some versions around, but most well-known are

Omote waza is also “the entry” to Tomiki Aikido waza.

Ura waza

Mostly people call this set counters to the basic techniques. This is in fact an “omote” approach and in many cases the techniques don’t work if the omote-waza is perfectly executed.

We have to start with a different mindset and this is described in the omote-ura in Japan’s social life. After all, fighting is a part of our social life and we cannot deny this.

More technical explanations on Ura-waza soon

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Inspiration and creativity

tegatana secret front

In 2010, I wrote a book “Tegatana, the secret weapon of Aikido”. It describes history and technical content of Tomiki Aikido. Since that time my life changed a great deal. I am not going to disturb you with my family life. I like to mention the changes in my “martial art” life.

Since I wrote my book some interesting people came on my road to perfection. They changed completely my understanding of Tomiki Aikido.

Is this understanding the correct way of Tomiki Aikido, I don’t know, but at this moment it feels the best way for me.

Nevertheless, who are those people?

  • Mike Sigman : Internal Strenght & Chinese Martial Arts theory
  • Ilias Calimintzos : Yi-Quan, Chinese boxing
  • Akira Hino : Hino Budo, Japanese Martial Arts theory and practise

They triggered something in me and forced me to walk on a path in an unknown territory. I cannot see the end of the road but I enjoy very much the travelling.

Inspiration and creativity

”To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination.”
Albert Einstein

interlinking-posts-630x401

Inspiration and creativity go hand in hand, but are 2 different things. There is also the “knowledge” component involved.

Inspiration comes at the right time and will be triggered in most cases by external stimulus. It creates new ideas how to solve old problems. The new ideas, of course, have to be concreted by action, in the case of martial arts: practise.

Existing knowledge is necessary, but it cannot interfere directly with new ideas, otherwise creativity will be blocked. Keep your mind open for evaluating the process of problem solving with existing knowledge. Unfortunately knowledge is sometimes hid by bad habits.

How to become creative in your training

First, forget you are a member of a big organisation. The rules of your organisation are blocking your creativity.
Next, study the basic principles of your martial art.
Ask yourself, what is the aim of your training? For yourself or eventually for your students? When you have your answer start with your training and keep in mind the basic principles of your art.

In my case, as I am not interested in competitive randori and certainly not in competitive kata or enbu, my interest goes in the direction “how to move efficiently the body in randori and kata”. I discovered that most of the basic principles in Tomiki Aikido are the same as in most of the other martial arts. My discovery is not based upon conscious thinking and using buzz words. No, my discovery is on the level of subconscious acting.

There are no words to describe how to imply the basic principles into my art. Maybe I can say the art are the basic principles itself.

Another discovery was the concept of “rendo”. The interlinking of all your body and mind movements in relationship with the opponent. Without this interlinking your martial art will be based upon raw muscle power and wrong use of bodyweight.

Once I had a bodily feeling (taikan) of rendo, I started to review basic kata and koryu no kata. Of course my rendo is not optimal and sometimes I am trapped in my old habits.
By reviewing kata, new problems came to the surface. By using the quote of Albert Einstein, some of the problems are solved by using creativity based upon the basic principles.
Besides using the basic principles of the art, you need training in the use of hara (koshi, tanden and yōbu). How to use the mind is another important element in the training. All of those elements are commented in the content of this blog.

Creative randori

creative randori

People asked on several occasions about the skills of my son. There is only 1 answer: practise.
Of course, there is external stimulus. In his case, he had very good training partners. Those men triggered him a lot to find new ways for improving his randori.
Once, a Japanese teacher said: Tim created a system which only suits him.
His ideas are written into a little booklet:

creative-randori

If you had a look at this booklet, you will notice this is not the basic stuff your organisation is providing. It is totally different, but on the other hand it is Tomiki Aikido Randori.

Don’t become trapped in your own structure

When creative movements become fixed movements you will be trapped in your own body and mind structure.
From a physical point of view, reference is made to doubleweight. Your body cannot move anymore. You are ready to be thrown by the opponent.

An example of this problem is called the stiff knee syndrome. Your knees are blocked because you are pushed in a defensive situation and don’t want to fall. The stiff knee syndrome is frequently seen by older people or overweight people.

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