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Simplification or sportification

Old Waseda dojo

Complementary and alternative

Complementary and alternative are terms used to describe many kinds of practices or methods that are not part of mainstream system. You may hear them used to describe methods to improve the method. This is called “complementary” because they are used along with your current method. You may sometimes hear about methods that are supposed to be better than the original method. We call these “alternative” because they are used instead of proven methods. Mostly the value of these alternative methods is doubtful because they are not complementary with the current method. Maybe there is some value if used as a standalone method with a different goal to achieve.

There are numerous exercises and techniques to support every aspect of Aikido. But often You-can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees. So making choices will become a real challenge! Even the simple basic exercises take place in an infinite number of ways. Some of the elementary exercises are created by Kenji Tomiki and each deviation of the basic pattern is sometimes seen as a capital sin. However, did Kenji Tomiki commit a capital sin when he tried to create a competitive aspect in aikido training. After all, his teacher, Morihei Ueshiba always stressed the “impossibility” of having competitions in aikido.
This brings forward a question about “complementary or alternative” in Tomiki’s method.

Tomiki’s Aikido “complementary or alternative”?

To find an answer we have to delve into history of aikido or also called “aikibudo”. It was Morihei Ueshiba who popularized aikido or aikidbudo to a broader public, although it was mostly for influential persons in prewar period. The role of Kenji Tomiki is described in many biographys by different authors and like everything in the world, the different versions are not exactly the same. But in general, Kenji Tomiki was a major student of Morihei Ueshiba and had his own vision on Ueshiba’s art.
In an article written by prof. Shishida of Waseday University we find some information on the history of competitive aikido and a solution for the “impossibility of competitive aikido”.

A Historical Study of Competitive Aikido : the Developmental Process of Randori Method, The Annual Report of Physical Education 33 : 17-27, 2001

To overcome the problem, his talent (Tomiki) in judo, and a quietly humble personality, and widely cultured background were useful in saving aikibudo from misunderstanding. A former student of Kenkoku University, Mr. Seiichi Saito remembered and said, “It was possible because it was Mr. Tomiki. He used to often compare aikido to sumo, kendo, and judo in class.” (1/26/2000 Telephone conversation) This is an indication that Tomiki was trusted by many students. This probably was the only way he could take away prejudice and give proper understanding of aikibudo to those bright students at Kenkoku University.
At this period, Tomiki was concerned with the problem of how to classify and organize Ueshiba’s various excellent methods of skills to establish an instructional system. Tomiki was incapable of destroying traditional relationship between master and pupil by selfishly manipulating to disturb his teacher’s most important principles of aikibudo, or give presumptuous advice. Therefore, he kept the problem of forming a plan of instructional system to himself deep in his mind. When did Tomiki start moving toward developing aikido into a form of competition?
Sometime in post war period, Tomiki wrote, “I started to research modernization of aikido after I received aikido 8th dan in February of 1940.” It was probably after the official registration of Tomiki’s 8th dan. Tomiki must have been thinking about competitive aikido in his mind by then at the latest. But, considering Tomiki’s cautious personality and difficulties of the method, it might have been only a faint thought. It must have been a dilemma to decide on a fight form.

During a fight with bare hands like judo, if one comes close enough for the opponent to get hold of the neck band or sleeve, he would be thrown by judo technique. If they keep their distance, there will be no fight. There was another problem: interests in sitting technique or techniques against weapons will be lost by developing aikido into a competitive sport.

He must have doubted if aikido could be popularized by developing it into a competition. The process of developing aikido into a competitive sport was not easy.
It seems that around the early part of 1958, Tomiki started his actual research activity to develop aikido into a competitive sport with conscious decision to exclude randori technique. This was directly prompted by a severe criticism given that there was no competition of aikido in existence by the council of physical education department of Waseda University when Tomiki decided to set up an aikido club, at the University where he was teaching, and requested to the department of physical education council. At this stage, Tomiki, of course, was practicing only exercises of kata just like the way his teacher Mr. Morihei Ueshiba’s school was coaching aikido, and he did not have any definite plan to develop aikido into a competitive sport. At the council meeting, however, he explained the history, significance, and future of aikido, and by promising competitive aikido, be was allowed to start aikido club. This marked the beginning of ‘experimental stage’, and he recorded in 1969, “With devoted cooperation of the club members, through 10 years’ trials and errors, we have almost succeeded.”

The question arise, did Tomiki changed Ueshiba’s aikido by introducing a competitive element?
All depend on how we like to practise our aikido. If our purpose is focusing on “competition”, it is certainly an “alternative method” and it becomes an athletic event without one of the most important element in Ueshiba’s metod: AIKI.
Those practitioners who studied the non-competitive method of Tomiki’s Aikido, will remember Senta Yamada, Tsuneo Miyake or Takeshi Inoue. They taught us the original Tomiki Aikido, a method to improve aikido by adding some judo elements.

If you compare old style Tomiki Aikido with some original Ueshiba's students like Tadashi Abe, we can see a lot of similarities. Tomiki's Aikido can be seen as a "complementary" system to Ueshiba's method. 

The “complementary” elements

What elements are extra in Tomiki's Aikido?
"Simplified movements and exercises".
The contribution of Kenji Tomiki plays an important role in the sense of simplifying the many techniques and movements in the Aikido repertory. A small part of the original Ueshiba techniques can be discovered in Koryu no Kata. Those kata are covering different aspects of Aikido. Simplified techniques can be found in the so called "randori no kata" or "kihon waza". As usual there is more than 1 version of these simplified techniques.
By simplifying the movements and techniques, a student will acquire in an early stage a global view of the possibilities with Aikido. This also took place in other martial arts, Japanese and Chinese. In Iaido and Jodo, the Kendo Federation responsible for those martial arts created a simplified format as an introduction. Modern Kendo itself a simplifies version of older systems with a sword. Simplified versions of Iaido and Jodo can create an interest in the more complicated methods. Even Kodokan Judo can be viewed as a simplified version of older Jujutsu methods.
In Chinese martial arts, Taijichuan has a short version of the longer original versions.
The art of Yiquan has no formal sequences (taolu - kata) to study. Most notable is the basic training of the fundamental elements. After a while, training is progressing at a freestyle of training similar to a randori style of judo and……aikido.
Yiquan posture

Is simplified really simplified?

Although it is said Kenji Tomiki simplified Ueshiba’s Aikido along the lines of the Kodokan Judo doctrine, maybe simplified is a too simplified definition.
Kenji Tomiki saw the fundamental movements in Ueshiba’s Aikido and created exercises for practising the fundamental movements. Unfortunately most of those exercises are nowadays practised in a rigid format and lost the fundamental idea of Japanese martial arts: Jukozo.
In the article – the science of training – you will find some explanation about jukozo principle.
Simplifying has not always been a shortcut to understanding. We cannot deny the fundamental elements or movements, otherwise our martial art becomes a shallow image of the original.

Uchi gaeshi & soto gaeshi
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Ridatsu-ho and seigo-ho (2)

Break away & control

There are different kinds of attacking movements when confronting an opponent.

  • Punching, striking, pushing…..
  • Kicking
  • Grasping
  • Other attacks

Ridatsu-ho & seigo-ho are skills to deal with grasping attacks. The most basic grasping attack is certainly “grasping the wrist” and is the subject of many sequences in Tomiki Aikido kata. Koryu no kata dai yon has many examples of ridatsu-ho & seigo-ho.

The elbow in Ridatsu-ho and Seigo-ho

When the wrist is grasped, the common reaction is to resist the area of contact. Creating a skill of emptying the wrist will give you the opportunity to use the elbow and create “kuzushi”. The 7-hon-no-kuzushi omote and ura are movements where you use elbow power without touching the opponent with the elbow. In other cases we can use the elbow for pushing or hitting the opponent.

This is an example of an elbow skill in Sumo, Japanese traditional wrestling. It is said Sokaku Takeda, the founder of (Meiji era) Daito Ryu Aikijutsu, was a skillful practitioner in Sumo (Ozeki rank).

We also can see the use of the elbow in traditional Japanese jujutsu. In this example the corresponding hand is put at the waist level to create one body-block, the elbow is used with fullbody circular power against the arm of the opponent.

Tomiki Aikido & Tegatana

Tegatana is a special feature of Tomiki’s Aikido. The origin of the tegatana skill can be found in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu and it is known that Kenji Tomiki asked advice at Maeda sensei, the headmaster of Renshinkan at that time. Maeda was a student of Matsuda sensei who was in turn a student of Sokaku Takeda, the founder of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.

The impact of the tegatana on Tomiki Aikido can be clearly seen in many applications of ridatsu-ho & seigo-ho. As an example, the elbow has a “power” role to play to free the wrist from th grip, followed by an atemi or controlling grip.

Ridatsu-ho & atemi
Seigo-ho
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Martial Arts Exercises

When talking about martial arts exercises, most of you will think about “warming up or cooling down”. In fact in traditional martial arts, those exercises don’t exist. Warming up and cooling down are the result of Western influence in martial arts as a sport activity. This impact started when Japan became more open to Western way of life. In 1913, the Ministry of Education issued the Syllabus of School Gymnastics (Gakkō taisō kyōju yōmoku), inspired by the Swedish gymnastics of Ling and supplemented by military drills inspired by Prussian or English examples.

Rajio Taishou

A very popular method of exercises, based upon Western ideas is: “Rajio Taisou” (ラジオ体操). It was introduced to Japan in 1928 and used to improve the health of Japanese soldiers from 1930 to 1940. Even now, some Japanese people still do this exercise in the morning to maintain their health.

Rajio Taishou

Tanren

Hirokazu Kobayashi 1976

Of course there is the concept of “Tanren”, forging body and mind as a preparation for combat. The purpose of this forging is to create a martial arts body. You may notice or not the differences between the actual fighting methods and the “martial arts exercises”, in reality those exercises will give support to the combat applications. Outsiders will not recognize those exercises as a “real and effective” martial art skill.

Modern Eastern Martial Arts are using Western ideas about physical education. This is of course not bad if you consider those martial arts as a sport activity. On the other hand some teachers are using more traditional ways of forging the mind and body. Their view of a martial art is moving beyond a sport activity. The concept of combat is more than fighting against a tangible enemy.

Taming the “Monkey Brain”

We all experienced the noise in our head when the monkey brain is talking during our exercises. Stopping thie noise is not a solution, because the monkey brain is not listening. Better is to ignore the noise, and after a while you will notice “the noice is gone”. You really start to feel the exercise and the dynamics of the body. This is forging the body and mind. It is not about bigger muscles, or more muscular strength. I can feel my body and its movements…..the rest is a side issue

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Resilience, a balance…

Budo Aikido: the Art of Aikido

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
Gustav Mahler–

Can we improve our Budo Aikido with exercises? Yes, but unfortunately there are too many for practising during 1 training session.
As we all know, prof. Tomiki is famous for rationalizing aikido and created logical structures for practising. Some of the movements can be catalogued as exercises, other are catalogued as martial techniques.

Well known are:

  • Unsoku ho: foot movements
  • Tandoku undo (Nagashi kata): hand and foot movements
  • Tegatana awase: moving with a partner when “tegatana” are joined
  • Shotei awase: using hand palm as a flexible power exercise
  • ……..

Some problems with the standard exercises

If we follow Tomiki’s scripts do you think there will be some improvement? Kenji Tomiki studied for many years with Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo and with Morihei Ueshiba the founder of Aikido. The question arises: Did he incorporate all the skills he learned in his concept of Aikido?

Maybe the way of training he compiled is an ideal method for Sports Aikido, but certainly not for Budo Aikido. Some elements are missing in the training model.

  • How to attack a “physiological” weak point.
  • How to use tanden/koshi/yōbu (hara)
  • How to connect arms and legs to the central body
  • more……

atemi 005

There are some pictures of goshin-jutsu atemi, but there is not any explanation about how to use a body-part as a weapon (fist, handblade,….). There is also a belief Koryu no kata will give you a better understanding of self-defense (goshin). Without proper instruction, the positive effect of koryu no kata will be minimal on your training.

How to solve these problems?

Because the old masters are gone, we cannot ask them for advice. Some of the present day “shihan” are trying to incorporate their “cross training” ideas into Tomiki Aikido, either Sports Aikido or Budo Aikido.

Cross training for Budo Aikido

Not every martial art is compatible with Budo Aikido and not all the components of a martial art are usefull for Budo Aikido.

20190501_161157Study Group Tomiki Aikido instructors have a broad experience in different martial arts. A very compatible method is Hino Budo, a composite martial art created by Akira Hino.

Martial arts like Iaido, Jodo, Karate (Wado Ryu), Hakko Ryu, Renshinkan Daito Ryu…. have also an impact on the training syllabus.

Renshinkan Daito Ryu is briefly mentioned in the blog article of Koryu no Kata Dai Yon (3)

The challenge is of course “How to integrate?”. The answer is not that simple because we need to understand physically and mentally the compatible components. These problems are not only for martial arts, but also for other fields of society. To solve the problem we have to look at the Toyota Kata , and in particular the Improvement Kata.

The Improvement Kata according Mike Rother.

The improvement kata is a routine for moving from the current situation to a new situation in a creative, directed, meaningful way. It is based on a four-part model:

  1. In consideration of a vision or direction…
  2. Grasp the current condition.
  3. Define the next target condition.
  4. Move toward that target condition iteratively, which uncovers obstacles that need to be worked on.

In contrast to approaches that attempt to predict the path and focus on implementation, the improvement kata builds on discovery that occurs along the way.

Improving martial movements

As mentioned in another blog post, the body can be divided into 3 part.

3 system body

The axial skeleton is the central part of the body and “kyokotsu” is the control panel. When we control the kyokotsu , we can control the spine. Besides controlling the spine, kyokotsu is also the entry to the abdomen – koshi, tanden & yōbu.

Connecting “kyokotsu” with elbow

Connecting the kyokotsu with the elbow is a matter of using your mind. Focus on the kyokotsu and on a specific point of the elbow. Once you notice the connection, you have access to the power of the central body.

Connecting “kyokotsu” with knee
††

As with the elbow/kyokotsu connection, it is the mind that makes the connection. When you feel the connection you have access to the central body which included “Tanden- Koshi-Yōbu”, the power center of the human body.
The power from earth can be directed to the arms into the opponent via the controlpanel: kyokotsu

Tanden- Koshi-Yōbu

The power center of the human body is mentioned many times in martial arts. But can you feel this center?
To make it simple or more complicatied, the center of gravity in the human body is located in this area. If this is disturbed, we have difficulties to keep our balance. A solution is to tense all the surrounding muscles of the center. This is of course not the best solution because our movements will be limited. Using the kyokotsu as a tool to move the spine is restricted. Tenshi movements of the central body becomes limited and in some cases can damage the body.
Learning to relax the body is a skill to be learned for all facet of human being. A skill to find balance between relax and tension.

Resilience, a balance between relax and tension

Making the connection is not always easy. Mind and body need to be in a state of resilience. When someone is relaxed, there is no power. When someone is strained, there is too much power. To make the connection between kyokotsu, elbow and knee, resilience is the first condition.
But what is exactly resilience?
Resilience is the ability to cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. It is a skill useful during martial arts training and its application when you have to deal with an aggresive movement, physically and/or mentally.

How to obtain the state of “Resilience”?

Among the many exercises, Ritsuzen occupies a place of first choice and is a prime for finding the center of the human body. It requires no special equipment, it requires very little space and especially because it can be practiced alone. Then, it is one of the very few exercises that, from a medical point of view, has no harmful side effects for the body.

There are some scientific studies on the effects of ritsuzen on the body. What is interesting is that, in general, we do not speak in too abstract terms when we try to explain this extraordinary exercise. Expressions such as “ki” are not used. It is all about good oxygenation and increased circulation of blood, nervous relaxation, strengthening of the immune system and heart muscle, increased sensory perception.
The body becomes in a state of resilience after practising ritsuzen on a regular base.

Zhan zhuang is the Chinese word for Ritsuzen. More info on Wikipedia.

Other exercises to obtain “Resilience”

The Study Group Tomiki Aikido exercises are not fixed and will change slightly or dramatically according the experiences we encounter during our training sessions. To follow in the footsteps of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba just by copying the methods is not creative and our aikido will become meaningless. And as Gustave Mahler said one time: “we must maintain the fire alive“.

  • Routines to locate “kyokotsu”
  • Routines to connect “kyokotsu” with elbow and/or knee
  • Ido ryoku, creating power from stepping movements
  • Tenshikei, creating power from rotational and spiral movements
  • ……

Kata, the ultimate exercise

The practise of kata is always controversial. It is the representation of an ideal aikido image and for this reason it can become a delusion.

Kata can be viewed as a group of exercises. But the exercises are not fixed, their nature is very dynamic and during your training in the long term it will change. Kata in the beginning is very simple if we look at the outside. During training we will discover more and more the many possibilities of our mind and body, our kata changes from a 2D image into a 3D image. Because there is also the dynamic nature, this will also affect the final form. Of course we can ask ourselves “is there a final form?”.

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Koryu no kata – Dai Yon (3)

Oyo waza

Section 3 of koryu no kata dai yon is called Oyo Waza

Oyo Waza literally means “application techniques”, which means you are using basic techniques in different attacking situations. You are required to “adapt” the basic technique without changing the concept and principles.

Section 3 – Techniques 1-4

These waza don’t use a lock. The first 2 waza are using an atemi waza, an application of gyakugamae ate. The next 2 waza are using a wrist-grip.

Section 3 – Techniques 5-8

A lock is applied to perform a throw.

Section 3 – Techniques 9-11

Using “tenshikei” makes these throws an efficient aikido waza.

Koryu dai yon a basic training tool

From a technical point of view, koryu dai yon has a different view on aikido waza as promoted in 17-hon no kata or 17-hon no kata in Tomiki’s aikido method. Mostly it is associated with the Kodokan kuzushi concept. But looking at the content of this kata, the relationship with Daito Ryu is more evident. The use of the hand (tegatana) is the most important aspect in the kata. Examination of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu waza, the use of Aiki-age and aiki-sage are important and basic skills. Without these skills, other waza are not efficient.

When Kenji Tomiki was involved in the creation of Kodokan Goshin Jutsu kata, he visited Renshinkan Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu dojo headed by Maeda Takeshi, student of Matsuda Toshimi. Matsuda sensei was a student of Takeda Sokaku. As a sidenote, founder of Hakko Ryu Aikijujutsu was a member of the Matsuda Daito Ryu lineage.

Tomiki Kenji sensei, a student of Ueshiba Morihei and Jigoro Kano, asked Maeda to see the real Daito Ryu.

By examining the Renshinkan syllabus, the resemblance with Koryu dai yon is remarkable. The use of “tegatana” is from the beginning a basic skill.

From a BAB movie: Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Renshinkan Part.1 Zadori 〜Aiki in sitting position
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Koryu no kata – jo no tsukai

The logic of the kata

Mike Rother wrote an interesting book on kata: Toyota Kata.

Toyota Kata defines management as, “the systematic pursuit of desired conditions by utilizing human capabilities in a concerted way.” Rother proposes that it is not solutions themselves that provide sustained competitive advantage and long-term survival, but the degree to which an organization has mastered an effective routine for developing fitting solutions again and again, along unpredictable paths. This requires teaching the skills behind the solution.

Teaching the skills behind the use of the jo

When reading the biography of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba, there are references to sword and other weapons schools. Some of those references are from the time when Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba were in Manchuria. Both were exposed to military martial arts especially sword, spear, bayonet and short sword. In Koryu no kata the yari or juken is replaced by the jo, but of course the length of the jo is not fixed like the jo of the Shindo Muso Ryu jojutsu or Kendo Renmei Jodo.

Military Juken training

There are 8 jo no tsukai kata in Koryu no kata dai san and 4 kata in Koryu no kata dai roku. The 4 dai roku kata are an extension of dai san jo no tsukai kata.

All kata start with tori thrusting to the suigetsu (solar plexus) of the opponent (uke). Note the use of rolling feet.

Uke is avoiding and grasping the jo either with 2 hands or 1 hand.

All actions of tori after the grasping are following the same logic.

The study of kata is very complex and depends on harmonizing the action between tori and uke. By trying to describe all the actions in the kata, there is a danger someone will depend totally on the description and will deny the creativity of a human being. Remember the words of Gustave Mahler

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
― Gustav Mahler–

Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr1

Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr2

Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr3

Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr4

Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr5

Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr6

Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr7

Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr8

Koryu no kata dai roku – Jo no tsukai nr1

Koryu no kata dai roku – Jo no tsukai nr2

Koryu no kata dai roku – Jo no tsukai nr3

Koryu no kata dai roku – Jo no tsukai nr4

Why practising with jo?

To understand the purpose of weaponwork in Aikido we must accept that development does not rely upon techniques or weapons, but on independence of it. If a sword is used, do not realize it as a sword. If using a Jo, do not depend on it, but feel the common harmony in body movement. 

By using a weapon there is a real threat towards the opponent or training partner. Unfortunately by doing too much shiai, the feeling of a threat not mentioned in the rulesbook will be ignored and some parts of the training can be spoiled by such an attitude. For this reason a balance has to be created between randori and kata, even if someone doesn’t see or ignores the purpose of kata training. Understanding the logic in the kata is necessary.

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Koryu no kata – Dai Yon (2)

There are different opinions on the meaning of ura-waza.

  • reverse or counter technique, also called kaeshi-waza.
  • alternative performance of kuzushi with application
  • ……….

7-hon no kuzushi ura-waza

In Koryu no kata Dai Yon, the 2nd section is called Ura-waza. This section is build upon the omote-waza discussed in a previous article.
The start of the 7 waza are the 7-hon no kuzushi without the throw of the omote-waza, followed by an alternative action. Some of these actions are applications for randori (restricted free fight) or goshinho waza (aiki self-defence). The “kuzushi” element is a prime factor for a non-muscular approach.

Non- muscular actions

Movement is based upon muscular actions. When we say “non-muscular action”, we are talking about extending muscular actions, and not flexing muscular actions.
For a technical explanation see Encyclopedia Britannica.

Pulling and pushing are 2 different movements, but from a non-muscular point of view both are using an extensor action. Basically all “kuzushi” movements are based upon the non-muscular concept. The moment when we use a flexor action, opponent will intercept and can do a counter movement.

All non-muscular actions in koryu no kata dai yon are movements away from the centre to the outside.

Jodan aigamae & gyakugamae

 

Chudan aigamae & gyakugamae

 

Gedan aigamae & gyakugamae

 

Ushiro

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Koryu no kata – Dai Yon (1)

A main component of Dai Yon is the (un)famous 7-hon no kuzushi. The 1st part of the Dai-Yon is about throwing an opponent after acquiring a perfect “kuzushi”. This possibility in a fighting situation will be very rare….although it can happen if…..

Koryu no kata Dai  Yon

  • Nage no kata – omote waza – 7 waza
  • Nage no kata – ura waza – 7 waza
  • Oyo waza* – applications – 11 waza

*Oyo waza designates applications build upon 7-hon no kuzushi basics. 

Nage no kata – omote waza

The 1st part of the kata is build upon the 7-hon no kuzushi. A throwing action is added after the kuzushi.
The focus is on the action of the hand and arm doing the kuzushi. The efficiency of the throw is depending on the elasticity of Tori’s body. When the body is stretched power is stored and can be released into uke’s body.
The dynamics of the kuzushi (loss of balance) will undergo the influence of gravity.
There is a mechanism we have to take in account when we use stretching and release.
With the muscular relaxation, the movement is immediate, in a single time, this movement is much faster than with the muscular system of contraction. If we try to throw with muscular contraction, opponent will sense your intention and will block your movement.
Using meguri and tenshi-kei is necessary to create efficient kuzushi.

aiki age sage009Jodan aigamae & Jodan gyakugamae

Kuzushi is created by using a rotational movement of the hand, followed by a body movement with the elbow as a transfer joint.
When you try to lift the hand and arm, Uke will feel and block your movement.
Jodan aigamae & gyakugamae are actions on the inside of Uke’s arm.

 

 

 

 

Chudan aigamae & Chudan gyakugamae

Kuzushi is created by using a rotational movement of the hand, followed by a body movement with the elbow as a transfer joint.
The skill is to turn opponent’s arm in hineri fashion without stretching opponent’s arm. Rotating the arm is the message.
Chudan aigamae & gyakugamae are actions on the outside of Uke’s arm.

 

 

 

Gedan aigamae & Gedan gyakugamae

Using downward power. No pulling action.

 

 

 

Ushiro

Keep centerline when rotating.

 

 

Ura-waza see in another article soon

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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.