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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.

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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.