Polarity – Interaction between JU and GO

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo.
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

JU/GO, a question of polarity

In a previous article, the polarity was mentioned as a significant factor in your training. The power at the target is the result of the flow of energy from a point A to a point B or vice versa. In the absence of this flow, no movement will be possible.
An example, may point to the importance of energy flow. When we use two hands to move the opponent, one hand can be thought of as the GO hand and the other as the JU hand. There is a flow from the GO-hand to the JU-hand. That is, the GO hand is active and the JU hand is passive. Of course, that is too simplistic, because the importance of feet has not been taken into account. There is a flow between the feet and the hands as well.

Consider also the role of Tori and Uke from the power interaction point of view during attack and defense. An attack can be regarded as a GO-action. The challenge will be how to integrate the attack into your movement system.

Nagashi or absorbing power

What is 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, the second action is to move your body weight in the proper angle to absorb opponent’s power. Nagashi is a type of protection that allows a movement of continuity, deflecting or accompanying the attack of the opponent. After absorbing the energy flow of opponent, changing polarity is the next step. This is called the interaction between the 2 kinds of energy: absorbing and extending back. In other words the interaction between JU and GO.

The interaction between 2 forces

Our existence is regulated by the interaction between Yin and Yang (Yn/Yo, Ju/Go). Some refer to this as a dualistic concept. But I think this is not true, it is a concept of monism with 2 fundamental energies acting as a whole. During the performance of all waza, there is an interaction between the 2 forces (JU and GO).
The simplified example of the active and passive hand clarifies the process of JU and GO.
“Active and passive hand” is not the same as an active hand and a dead hand. A passive hand is a part of of the JU/GO interaction between 2 hands. Without a passive hand there will be no balance of JU and GO.
A “dead” hand can be seen as non-existant, there is only the GO-hand in an extreme format.

When there is only the extreme format, either GO or JU, we cannot speak about the martial arts like Judo or Aikido. Although Judo has only “JU” in the name, Kodokan Judo is not denying the GO aspect. In the Kodokan Kata syllabus there is a Ju no kata and a Go no kata. See PDF-file

Fundamental movements

The interaction of JU and GO is also important when using fundamental Aikido movements. Kenji Tomiki selected several body movements as important movements for the application of martial techniques during kata and randori.
Fundamental movements can be practised eiter as solo-exercises or as paired exercises. Each of these methods have their own advantages.
Solo-exercises are a tool to practise body movements where gravity and your own body are the only elements you have to control. When practising paired exercises, the training-partner is a supplemental element to control without losing gravity and your own body movements.
Many people don’t like the “boring” solo-exercises. It is no surprise to find out that even instructors have no clue about the importance of solo-exercises.

Aikido: An introduction to Tomiki style by M.J. Clapton – page 6

As far as this style I have omitted the Basic Movements which are common in most dojos. As a student I always had to try hard to keep a straight face when I was forced to indulge in these movements and they never fail to raise a giggle or two when they are practised in front of spectators. The waving of arms like a policeman trying to direct large volumes of traffic is not necessary to any practise of Aikido and this style is no exception. Their meaning is a frequent unexplained quantity and many instructors try explaining their practise as being necessary before anyone can learn techniques -rubbish. To the Dan Grade learning the Koryu Kata these movements are of interest but to the average student they are an unknown quantity, and an unnecessary quantity.


4 fundamental movements

The fundamental movements of Aikido also called tegatana no godosa are part of the original tandoku undo created by Kenji Tomiki. When Senta Yamada came to the United Kingdom, he always emphasized the importance of basic movements.

  • Uchi mawashi – inside arm sweep
  • Soto mawashi – outside arm sweep
  • Uchi gaeshi – inside arm turn
  • Soto gaeshi – outside arm turn
  • O mawashi – big arm sweep

The original Tandoku undo is built around 5 fundamental movements (tegatana no godosa). Senta Yamada has well documented these movements. He always spoke of the 5 basic movements.
Later, he talked about 4 basic movements. The “O-mawashi” or big sweep was omitted.

Applications of 4 fundamental movements

Integrate opponent’s power in your system

When Uke is applying power with atemi waza (strike, punch or kick) or with a grasping movement, it is not wise to oppose his power with the same polarity. Rather, it is more efficient to integrate his power into your movement/power system. By doing this, you can change polarity and attack.

Sweeping and turning

Arm sweep
The arm sweep is essentially an action of the arm using the shoulder joint as a support point and using the centre line of the body as a vertical axis.

Arm sweep is a swinging or curving movement or stroke of the arm. The swinging arm during running is an example of arm sweep.

Arm turn
Arm turn is a rotational action of the arm using the arm’s length axis. Turning the arm has many applications in daily life. For example twisting a wet cloth to get the water out uses the rotatation of the arms.
Turning the arm is posssible into 2 directions: supination and pronation – gaeshi and hineri.

Rendo, linking movements

Arm turns rotate along the arm’s length axis. Arm sweeps uses the shoulder joint as a fulcrum. Both actions cannot be separated to produce an efficient movement. During every sweep there is also a turn, and during every turn there is a sweep.
When practising “tegatana dosa”, focus is on arm sweep or arm turn. But we cannot forget either arm sweep or arm turn. Above all, we must not forget the importance of turning around the body axis.

The linking of movements cannot be considered as one movement after another. Linking means the integration of all movements into a single body movement.
Linking is the performance of separate movements with the right timing in a whole body movement. It is definitely not a performance of all the movements involved at once.

The “Tori” approach and effect on “Uke”

Practising martial arts with a partner is based upon action and reaction, the role of Tori and Uke is clearly defined during basic training. The roles during randori geiko is of an alternate performance and can only described as action followed by reaction.
Reaction can be described as twofold:

  • an effcient action, throwing or control is applied followed by ukemi
  • an non-efficient action is taken over and countered with throwing or controlling

Performing the fundamental movements (tegatana dosa), the arm sweep and turn are used to bring power to the target. Body rotation increases exponentially the power on the target if the center body is synchronized with the arms and legs.

Arm sweeps may be used as an attack (atemi waza) or as a deflecting action.
When you use the arm sweep as a deflection against uke’s Atemi waza, balance disturbances or kuzushi will result. This can be followed by atemi waza or kansetsu waza by Tori.
When choosing for kansetsu waza, arm turning (twist) will be used to control Uke’s body. Using the limitations of the joints, the rotation (twisting) of the arms and/or legs of Uke will be used as a form of control of Uke’s body.
As an example, kote hineri (wrist turn or twist) will lock up the wrist, elbow, shoulder and central body. Notice Tori’s gaeshi movement and the hineri movement created in Uke’s body.

There are 2 types of arm turns possible when done by Tori and each has a special characteristic.

  • Gaeshi -> elbow moves to center line
  • Hineri -> elbow moves away from center line

When Tori usus a gaeshi or hineri movement, the effect of Uke will be either a hineri or gaeshi reaction. The previous example shows a Tori gaeshi movement with a Uke’s hineri lock.

Gaeshi and hineri are also performed via the legs. However, because of the limitations of the knee joint, leg movements are more oriented towards the stability of the body. The action of the legs is more involved in a stable posture and good footwork. The leg effect of hineri and gaeshi is most noticeable in the movements of Uke’s body. An efficient performed kote hineri will lock up completely Uke’s body included the legs. The result can be a controlling action or a throw as in the next example.

The role of Ukemi

The role of ukemi cannot be underestimated in the training of martial arts. It is a mistake to define ukemi as solely taking a breakfall.
Ukemi is translated as “receiving body” with a quality of being passive. You might also translate it as “receptive” body, as in a body prepared to receive a blow, strike or onslaught.
Fundamentaly, ukemi can be understood as the principle “ju no ri”. Maybe you see also the relationship with polarity?

Kodokan Judo Definition
uke (“receiver”; the thrown; uke) The person who receives a technique during repetition or controlled practice.
ukemi (breakfall) General term for breakfalls designed to protect the body when thrown.
ukeru (to receive) To receive a technique or attack from your opponent, or to have a technique applied to you.

Fundamental movements, fundaments and applications

Basically, Aikido techniques are applications of fundamental movements. But it is a mistake to consider the 5 fundamental movements (Tomiki’s Tegatana no Godosa) as the “fundament” of Tomiki Aikido. In fact, these are just a few of the fundamental movements.. Other fundamental movements like footwork or shizentai (natural body) has to be practised regulary.
These fundaments can be explored in different formats, for example during Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa. Fundamental movements can be practised in a static or dynamic format. Static training is without footwork, while dynamic training has footwork integrated.

Shizentai, static training

When we practice shizentai as a static exercise, the perception is that of an immovable posture. As a matter of fact, posture training has a non-visible dynamic nature. The conscious mind is responsible for moving the body without visible motion.
The muscles to maintain the position are the working muscles. The muscles that are not involved in the posture are the resting muscles. The mind may order these muscles to relax and tighten. This is a way to better control the movements of our body.
Another invisibly dynamic exercise is the interaction of feet and hands. You may use images of incoming or outgoing strength. You will understand that there is a flow of energy between the floor and the body. The ability to accept (JU) and extend (GO) is once more an expression of “polarity”.

Shizentai, dynamic training
Posture training can be invigorated by integrating footwork and/or hand and arm movements (unsoku-ho and/or tegatana dosa).
During footwork exercises, focus can be pointed to the active foot (GO) or the passive foot (JU). The active foot is producing the power to move while the passive foot is the receiving one. The interaction between the 2 feet is called tsugi-ashi or ayumi-ashi.

Tsugi-ashi
Take migi- or hidari-no-gamae (right or left posture).
When moving forward, back foot is the active one while front foot is the passive one. The back foot is in fact pushing the front foot forward. Don’t put front foot forward and pull the back foot.
When moving back, front foot is the active one and back foot is the passive one.

Ayumi-ashi
Ayumi-ashi is translated as “walking foot/feet.
ayumi (1) the walking; going; (2) pace; step; pace; rhythm; (3) course of development; walk;
ashi = foot/feet, leg
We also can consider here an active foot and a passive one. There are several ways to perform ayumi-ashi, but the basic idea is to alternate between active and passive foot.

Shomen-uchi and tsugi-ashi
The method described here is also similar in most basic tegatana-dosa.

Take jodan-no gamae. The back foot is the working foot and pushes the front foot forward. As the front foot moves forward, tegatana will start in the target direction. When Tegatana reaches near the target, the back foot swiftly glides forward to establish a stable position when Tegatana hits the target.

Sotai renshu – Paired exercises
The next step is to integrate the fundamental movements into partner training.
The purpose of paired exercises is to test fundamental movements with resitance of a partner. Resistance can be low, high or in between. The role of Uke is of prime importance to perform the movements successfully. Think about training in weightlifting, you cannot start with too heavy weights because this is blocking your training. The same is in sotai renshu. Don’t block the movements of tori, just add sufficient resistance to create improvement. By stopping the flow, training cannot be seen as a possitive tool. The same can be said about too cooperative movement by Uke.
Don’t confuse fundamental movement partner training with performing “waza” or fighting techniques. Without a thoroughly physical and mental understanding of the fundamental movements, waza will alway fail during randori (sparring).

Katachi and Kata – Formal training for the “waza” of the art
Each martial art has specific techniques, a kind of trademark of the system. These techiques can be considered as the “omote” side. Omote, in this cas is the visible part of the system. During solo- and paired training, the necessary bodyskills are developped and integrated into katachi and kata. Without these bodyskills, the performance of katachi and kata is meaningless.
Katachi and kata training is not the end of the training. Another factor has to be introduced: Randori or sparring.

Randori – Sparring
A training method so that most of the learned techniques could be done with full force to create a decisive victory without injury.
Testing the accumulation of the skills developped during training of tandoku renshu, sotai renshu and katachi/kata.

Randori is not the end

Mastering aikido has to be considered as something which is gained when your mind and body can be used as tools for a better life situation. Even after a few training sessions, some people can find out the benefits of the training. And this is not about winning a friendly confrontation, or finding out who is the most skillfull.
Your training goal is not becomming a champion or a famous teacher. Mastering aikido is about yourself. Is my life improving?
The answer to this question can only be given by yourself. Controlling and accepting your life situation is of course one of the important items. Aikido will not give you the solution, but aikido training creates a micro-environment where you can practise physical and mental methods to gain control over yourself.

Goshin, the self-defense side of Aikido

Self-defense is an aspect which is in fact a trap for those who come to learn aikido. In my view, aikido is initially not a self-defense method. Aikido training is a method to gain control of your mind and body. If you can succeed in this, maybe you can start a training method for self-defense. Without fostering mind and body, all the so-called self-defense techniques are useless.
If anyone wants to study self-defence, the method of training must be adapted to the present situation in our society. The behavior of an attacker would now differ from the outdated behavior of the past as presented in the Katachi and Kata we are practising.

Health aspect of Aikido

When you become older, the concept of health comes more to the foreground. This is the same when you have a serious injury or health risk like high blood pressure. Randori can become a problem, but this is not necessary a reason to stop training. Martial arts training can give you some interesting benefits beside the combat aspects.

Physical Fitness
Physical fitness refers to the ability of your body systems to work together efficiently to allow you to be healthy and perform activities such as sport and daily activities. Physical fitness has many parts to consider and most of them can be the result of martial arts training.
These parts of fitness are body composition (fat, bones, muscles…), cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, muscular endurance, power or the ability to use quickly.
Older people can have the same benefits and some extra items. For example, among older adults, balance, agility, and coordination are very important for preventing falls (a major health concern), and reaction time relates to risk for traffic accidents.

Mental health
Mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness, and shouldn’t be neglected.
Physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to your brain. It also increases the amount of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals, in your brain. For this reason, it’s not surprising that people who are in good physical shape also tend to enjoy a higher level of mental agility.
Most of the people will report a state of feeling good after training. Their mind is refreshed .

Fusion of mind and body

When we we talk about ourself, we mostly talk about our body or our mind. In fact we have to talk about “I”, because we cant separate mind and body. During aikido training, the fusion between mind and body is one of the more important facets during the practise. If we can succeed in this, bringing over to our normal life in society is our next job.
The harmony between JU and GO is difficult to accomplish without proper training.

Published by

Eddy Wolput

A passion for Martial Arts since 1964

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