Budo Aikido: the Art of Aikido
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
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
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.
Study 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:
- In consideration of a vision or direction…
- Grasp the current condition.
- Define the next target condition.
- 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.
- Appendicular skeleton – upper part
- Appendicular skeleton – lower part
- Axial skeleton – central body system
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
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?”.