Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo
When I started Tomiki Aikido, I learned 2 exercises that I did not understand at the time, more than 40 years ago. Previously I practiced other methods of Aikido, but the exercises of tegatana-awase and shotei-awase were not practised in the way it was done in Tomiki Aikido training.
- Tegatana awase
- Shotei awase
The practice was very simple and the underlying actions of the body were not well explained. But back then, it wasn’t necessary. But I was very curious about what was happening beyond the horizon.
Tegatana and Shotei
Tegatana – Handblade
The handblade means the hand with the 5 fingers fully outstretched together. When the fingers are stretched out thus, the part that forms the base of the little finger is strained. With this part you can strike at the opponent and parry or check his blow upon you.
Shotei -Palm of the hand
Basically this is the palm of the hand, in particular the base of the palm.
If you are searching for a definition of this term, you will get various explanations. Then there is the general message: Gathering two opposites together.
In the case of tegatana-awase, the idea is to bring together “tegatana of two people”. And in the case of shotei-awase, it means gathering “shotei of two people”.
Since we are talking about an exercise involving 2 people, and this in the context of aikido, we may conclude that these exercises should reflect the idea of “aiki”.
Here we are of course treading a slippery path, because opinions about aiki can differ quite thoroughly. If we stick to the definition that Kenji Tomiki gave it, we can get a better idea of what we should strive for.
The meaning of “aikido.” the old saying goes, “It is the spirit that carries the mind and controls the body.” The people of acient times believed that man’s mind and body and cosquently his strength were under the control of his spritit. 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.Judo and Akido – Kenji Tomiki
Principle of gentleness
This principle, most often known by the Japanese word “Ju” cannot be explained without another word “Go”.
- Ju: the body is flexible, movement is smooth without blockage, force can be transmitted in the body without difficulty
- Go: a physical state, mostly associated with martial art practice in which the body or movement is strong but not rigid.
In explaining the exercises mentioned at the beginning of this article, we need to take into account both sides of the principle of gentleness or in other words “Aiki”.
In Dr Lee ah Loi’s book, Book One Randori, there is a short description of this exercise.
Face one another and let your handblades meet in chudan posture, cross handblades at base of hand and look at your partner’s eyes through the gap made by your hands. Keep good posture and move forward with tsugi-ashi. When you are pushed, do not resist too much but step back with tsugi-ashi, then try pushing your partner. You can move backwards, forwards and sideways, but do not break your right chudan posture. Remember to keep your body square and to face your opponent all the time. In performing this exercise, you can practise basic posture, tsugi-ashi, fast movement and reacting to your opponent’s intention and power.
In a book written by Tetsuro Nariyama and Fumiaki Shishida, Tradition and the Competitive Edge, important key points are mentioned related to tegatana awase.
The practice of tegatana awase is made up of many important basic principles, such as shisei, unsoku, metsuke, toitsuryoku and ma-ai.
Nariyama and Shishida’s comment is very much in line with Dr. Lee’s description. Obviously, the Japanese book uses Japanese words, whereas Dr. Lee uses the English equivalent. What stands out clearly from the text of the Japanese authors, tegatana awase consists of many important basic principles. Without knowing those fundamental principles, the exercise becomes pointless.
The same book by Nariyama and Shishida contains an explanation of “toitsu-ryoku or focused power”. They described toitsu-ryoku as a combination of good breathing (kokyu) and proper use of the body. Unfortunately, there is no description of the correct breathing procedure. How to use the body primarily refers to general remarks on how to keep the body straight and the different methods of foot movements.
In a more recent book (05/06/2020) written by Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, Basic techniques of Sport Aikido (Tomiki Aikido) a brief description is mentioned on tegatana-awase.
A basic practice method to understand ma-ai “distance” from the opponent. The tegatana of two practitioners are matched in contact and they move freely while maintaining the correct distance.
Breathing and correct body use
If you ask a teacher about breathing, the answer will often be “don’t think about your breathing, it’s a natural process”. Of course, breathing is a natural process, but most people breathe quite superficially.
Breathing and the correct use of the body are a major health issue for a large part of the population. You will find a lot of breathing and movement programs to enhance your health.
When your breathing is poor and your body movements are not effective, the practice of tegatana awase will not result in better performance. Your training program should include exercises to turn your breathing and body movements into better performance.
One of the greatest martial art practitioner, Rickson Gracie Brazilian Jiujitsu, used a breathing method to improve his performance. What Rickson Gracie is doing is called a ‘Kriya or internal’ cleaning exercise. It’s a self massage of the organs which improves blood flow.
There are other methods to improve your breathing. These methods are mostly based upon the use of the diaphragm in relation with the abdomen. Kokyu-ho or breathing exercises are used to develop a stronger “hara”.
From Dr. Lee’ s book:
Face one another and step forward on left foot, keeping a slightly wider stance, with your right arm straight and in the center. Put the heel of your right hand against that of your partner. Push each other, but try not to bend your arm, the power should be horizontal. The main difference between Shotei and Tegatana is that in Shotei the position is stationary and the power comes from the hips. This training is for power and posture, if you keep practising this, you wil develop a very strong Aikido posture.
In the book by Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, a brief description of shotei-awase..
A basic practice method. Application of hand blade matching. Place each other’s tegatana (hand blades) on the centre line and put the lower part of the palm of your hand (shotei) on that of your opponent. Practice using the whole body efficiencly to push the opponent. Lower your hips to push him instead of using only your arms.
In Nariyama and Shishida’s book, shotei-awase is not explained, but there is an extensive explanation about the benefits of toitsu-ryoku and kokyu-ryoku. Both concepts are necessary to perform an efficiently shotei-awase.
Some Chinese martial arts use a similar basic practise. There seems also a relationship with traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
During tegatana-awase and shotei-awase, we need power to keep our posture and to move our body. Even when we don’t move our feet in shotei-awase, there is a lot of movement in our body. This kind of power is commonly named as “kokyu-ryoku”.
Kokyu (呼吸) is translated as “breath” and kokyuryoku is translated as the power of breathing. You wil also find the expression “shinkokyu”. This is translated as “deep breathing”. The word “ryoku” is translated as “power”.
Kokyu-ryoku is mostly translated as “breath power”. In fact this is misleading, because breathing is a process to bring oxygen into the body. The art of breathing of course, is using the diaphragm and other muscles. Training of these muscles can give you a better way of breathing, but also, a more robust “hara”. Hara is the source of generating power, mostly derived from gravity and solidity of the earth. The better the hara is functioning, the more power can be generated.
The power originated by the hara is not a contractive kind of power. When the breath after inhaling is pushed down into the hara, it becomes more solid and expansive. The surrounding muscles, especially the “koshi” will act more efficiently to make the rebound of power of the gravity from the earth in the direction of the arms. This is only possible if the body adopt the state of “jukozo”.
Tegatana-awase and shotei-awase are build upon jukozo. If we use contractive power during these exercises, the concept of “ju/go” or “Principle of gentleness” will not be there.
Unsoku – Suri-ashi and tsugi-ashi
Practising tegatana-awase and shotei-awase can be done either without stepping movements or with stepping movements. We must consider different kinds of stepping methods.
Unsoku – Moving around with sliding feet (suri-ashi) and following feet (tsugi-ashi) . When responding to your opponent’s attack, you need to maintain a good posture while moving. A formal method is created by Kenji Tomiki and consist of moving in eight directions from the posture of shizentai.
This is the original judo-unsoku
Suri-ashi – When moving in unsoku, do not raise the base of the big toe from the tatami mat, and slides your feet on the surface of the tatami mat. This is called sliding feet.
Tsugi-ashi – A sliding foot movement either to move the back foot closer to the front foot or to move the front foot closer to the back foot with the pusrpose to keep good posture. Remark that during tsugi-ashi the “suri-ashi” method is used. There is no lifting of the base of the big toe.
The formal method of course requires some adaptations to fulfill the requirements for practical applications during Aikido training. Especially moving forward and backward need some modifications. The formal way of practising is maintained.
Forward and backward stepping method – tsugi ashi. Adapted from the formal judo-unsoku
Alternative stepping movements
These movements are not included in the formal “Unsoku”, but are frequently used in the practise of Aikido.
Ayumi-ashi – To move the left and right feet alternately.
De-mawari – forward stepping and turning – Mawashi-ashi：Turning foot or feet .
Hiki-mawari – backward stepping and turning.
Basic postures are used when practising tegatana-awase and shotei-awase.
In tegatana-awase, mostly a ai-gamae or mutual posture is used. When right foot is forward, right tegatana are crossed at chudan level.
In shotei-awase, ai-gamae or mutual posture is used with a different approach in using the tegatana. When right foot is forward, left shotei is used to make contact.
Of course, this is the guidance when using the most “basic” method. Your creativity may be used to modify the posture in gyaku-gamae or reverse posture. Tegatana and shotei may also differ in a variety of ways.
Joining tegatana or shotei is the main concept of awase exercises during Tomiki Aikido’s basic practice. Of course, there are other drills to practice “awase”.
There are 2 categories of practising “awase”:
- Static exercises – without stepping
- Stepping exercises
These exercises will be the subject of a separate blog post.
More information about Tegatana-awase and Shotei-awase will be discussed in another post in the near future.