No matter how strong or how evil the persons we come across, we must not draw our sword, nor let him draw his. We must not cut him, nor allow him to cut us. We must not kill him nor do we let him kill us. By reason kindly persuade him to change his ways to become a better person. If, at the very last, after all your efforts, he won’t listen to you, then send him to his maker and destroy him completely.Muso Shinden Jushin Ryu Iaido no Seishin (精神)
The purpose of training a martial art is to become a person strong in mind and body. Strengthening your mind and body need a lot of training and many pitfalls will be encountered during your travels of Budo.
Resisting without resistance
By absorbing the opponent’s power, we are able to withstand the attack without interrupting the opponent’s movement.
There are several methods of absorbing adversary’s power. Every method must be carried out carefully and without excessive use of local power.
At the end of this article, there are some examples of how I strengthen my mind and body.
The resisting concept
The resistance concept is with many practitioners not well understood. More often than not, they have the image of fighting the opponent’s movement. It is important to understand that blocking is not the best way to defeat power.
Nagashi or absorbing is a solution and is a method to control the power of the opponent.
Controlling the power of the enemy and yours is an important concept introduced into the curriculum by Kenji Tomiki and other prominent martial arts teachers. Tomiki focused on the concepts of aite-no-tsukuri (controlling the power and movement of the opponent) and jibun-no-tsukuri (controlling its own movements and power. Ju-no-ri or the principle of flexibility is based upon the skill of yielding.
The opposite of ju-no-ri is a go-no-ri or the principle of power. Every action is based on the balance between flexibility and power. Yielding is based on ju-no-ri but cannot exist without power.
Nagashi or yielding is not like moving away from the opponent’s action. The problem with stepping away is the gap you create between you and the opponent. When yielding, there will be no gap and you have access directly to the opponent’s center.
Strengthening Mind and Body
Strengthening is a process to make your mind and body strong but flexible, ready to enter the unknown. There are several methods to forge mind and body and Budo can be one of the methods. Budo doctrine is based upon much older systems promoting survival methods in a cruel world.
Budo training is a matter of daily training and surely not a sort of recreation time practised once or twice a week in a training hall.
In fact, each activity to live in our society as an effective yet compassionate person can be considered a form of Budo.
Randori, jumping into the Unknown
Randori is a term used in Japanese martial arts to describe free-style practice. The term literally means “chaos taking” or “grasping freedom,” implying a freedom from the structured practice of kata. Randori may be contrasted with kata, as two potentially complementary types of training.
Randori is certainly not street fighting or cage fighting. During randori there are some rules. We cannot intentionally hurt someone or using techniques with the purpose to damage the opponent.
Are you ready for randori?
Basically, it is your sensei who knows if you are ready for randori. Sensei will guide you through the different levels of randori (kakari-geiko, hikitate-geiko and randori-geiko).
Of course there are some guidelines to follow, but overal speaking it is your sensei who decides.
Find here Japan Aikido Association guidelines (1990). These requirements are based upon upon University membership. Students are practising 5 or 6 times a week.
In 2013 new requirements were published for International Grading within the JAA. The outlook of these requirements are more oriented for a non-student membership.
Becoming a shodan takes “minimal 2 years” if you practise on a regular trainingscheme without interupting your training.
Kakari geiko is the goal for these persons.
To become a sandan, it takes minimal 5 years after you entered the dojo as a beginner. The goal is “hiki-tate-geiko”.
Randori, 3 types and shu-ha-ri
The relationship between the 3 kinds of randori and Shu Ha Ri may not be obvious. Mostly it is referred as “keep, break and leave”. Of course this is an incomplete definition. There is also a component of respect towards your teacher. Your Sensei will be always your teacher. This concept of respect has to be included in the different kinds of randori.
- Kakari geiko – Shu
- Hikitate geiko – Ha
- Randori geiko – Ri
In kakari geiko, the roles of attacking and defending are determined. We can talk about teachers/attackers and students/defendants. Sure, there is some freedom in timing and distance.
During hikitate geiko, the attacker has the freedom to interact during the actions of the defendant. There is still the role of teachers/attackers and students/defendants.
Randori geiko is a process for the physical discussion of the art of fighting. Both practitioners recognize the equality of the two, but still there can be a relationship of teacher and student.
Entering Shiai (competition)
Randori Shiai based upon Ju/Go principles need a physical and mental level of understanding. According the latest JAA grading requirements, a sandan has to demonstrate the skills of hiki-tate-geiko. In principal, a sandan cannot enter randori shiai.
Of course most practitioners are entering “shiai” after they got the skill of ukemi and can perform basic techniques.
The question is: Are they ready to perform well during shiai?
Is it necessary to enter Shiai?
Randori geiko is not shiai, nor to win medals. As mentioned before, it is a physical discussion to find a solution according the principles of the practised system.
By violating the principles, you don’t understand the purpose of your study and training of Budo.
Luckily, some practitioners understands the necessity of training according the principles. They will also spend time on personal training without having a training partner or sensei.
How to strenghten your mind and body?
Mind and body cannot be separated, we need the body to strengthen the mind and vice versa.
Ritsuzen – standing exercise
Ritsuzen is a very dynamic exercise, although from the outside there is almost no movement. Different postures can be adopted.
Keeping a posture while the mind is performing a focused movement. The body is reacting with very tiny movements depending on the adopted posture.
A daily sesssion of 20 to 30 minutes is necessary to have a result in about 3 to 6 months.
Ritsuzen is developping a very strong centerline from perineum to the top of the head (seichusen). This line is necessary to keep your body strong but flexible. Without this line the body is collapsing when an external force is acting on you. After some training, expanding force into 6 directions is a next step during standing training.
Ashi sabaki & Ritsuzen
Ashi sabaki is a footwork method, in other words, how to move around in accordance with an opponent. In the Tomiki Aikido system, footwork is called “unsoku-ho”.
Basically, there are only 2 ashi sabaki used during training.
- Ayumi ashi – stepping
- Tsuri ashi – sliding feet
When performing ashi sabaki, the body keeps the posture of ritsuzen. Footwork should be done primarily in a forward direction, but can also be done by moving backwards, to the side and rotating the body 180° or more.
Tegatana dosa & Ashi sabaki
Tegatana is a somewhat misleading word if it is designated as a sword hand. In fact tegatana refers to the arm and tegatana dosa should be considered as arm movements.
Tegatana dosa includes the skills of expanding force practised during ritsuzen training.
6 directions of expanding force.
- Up and down
- Left and right
- Forward and backward
Expanding force is a skill which is practised in a basic format during ritsuzen training. When practising footwork with ritsuzen postures, expanding force is fundamental during training.
The expansion of power is above all a question of mind. If you can visualize a force which is expanding from the center of your body into your arms and legs, you have set the first step into expanding force. I recall the phrase: the body follows the mind.
A basic posture of Ritsuzen