The layers in Aikido
Tomiki Aikido has several basic exercises and kata. It is very common after warming-up to practise unsoku-ho or footwork, a basic exercise for practising moving around. Even after 20 years of training people will do the same exercises and kata. Why we have to practise “kihon” after many years of training? Maybe it is like a Russian doll, you open it, and you see a new one.
There are several basic kata, each with a different purpose. There are kata with waza especially for toshu randori (unarmed free play), tanto randori (armed free play) and classical basic kata.
Sakai sensei of the Japan Aikido Association performing classical basic kata – koryu no kata dai ichi. Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba learned the waza from Morihei Ueshiba in the prewar period.
Let’s focus on basic kata, for example randori-no-kata. The techniques of this kata are selected as a “safe” method for randori geiko. It takes about 3 or 4 years to understand and becoming skillful. For more information on the differences between waza – katachi – kata read the chapter about it.
I am indebted to a former iaido and jodo colleague (Andy Watson – BKA), who gave me some visual inspiration to explain the progress a practitioner can make during his years of training. One of his teachers is Ishido Shizufumi sensei, who was one of my iaido and jodo teachers before I made the choice to explore more deeply into the inner knowledge of Budo Aikido.
The Standardisation or Definitions
Stylization and standardisation go hand in hand when an “Institution” creates a syllabus with techniques for grading or competition purposes. There is obviously a potential danger around the corner. The creativity of the practitioner will be killed when the Institution is taking too much the lead in the training process.
Of course, we need some definitions and parameters depending on the characteristics of the basic kata.
The purpose of the definitions is setting (visual) parameters to create basic movements patterns.
Kihon in kata
A basic choreography of the kata. Only a global overview of the structure and content of the kata. Basic movements are not linked to each other. A beginning practitioner will copy what he sees. There is no understanding of the deeper structure. The exact parameters are not applied by the practitioner.
Visual parameters in kata
The definitions and the parameters are set and a basic structure is created to form a basic pattern. A visual structure of the kata performed by the instructor and incorporating the definitions and parameters can lead to some basic understanding.
Understanding and incorporating the parameters need a lot of training, and will create a basic pattern in the brain. The correct basic pattern is depending on the correct parameters. Shisei, metsuke, seichusen…. are postural parameters. Correct footwork for optimal angle towards the opponent. The more parameters are described, the more training-time you need.
Rendo in kata
When the basic movements transforms into rendo (linked movements), the applications (oyo in Japanese) comes to the surface of understanding. Those applications can be used during kakari geiko, a kind of freeplay. The basic form is still apparent in the performance, but there is some kind of roundness in the linked movements.
Transforming the parameters kata
Parameters can be transformed by using hyoshi (cadence, rhythm, tempo). For example the angles in the kata will be adapted depending on the use of hyoshi in the action by the opponent. The basic form is still present. By using the deeper understanding of the movements in the kata, the robotic perfomance will disappear. The transformation from katachi to kata is started.
This is my kata
The structure or choreography of kata is still there, but it is the representation of your skills performed in the kata. Those skills are not depending on the techniques of the kata, they are the patterns of the kihon in your brain. The use of these skills are commanded by your subconscious.
The layers in kihon
Kihon is always a part of your training, even unsoku-ho after 20 years of practise, can be used as a training-tool.
By using “hyoshi” with the variables of cadence-rhythm-tempo, we can create different approaches with the same exercise.
Unsoku-ho and tegatana dosa in a sotai-renshu format together with different applications of Sen will spicy up your training.
An example of sotai renshu based upon tegatana dosa 1.