Kuzushi – A figure 8 question

Bertrand Russell once said, “Mathematics is the subject in which we never know what we are talking about nor whether what we say is true.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mathematical problems were discussed in societies and solutions were almost formulated according to religious beliefs and axioms. Mathematicians from this period assumed that axioms are true without being able to prove them. In certain societies, mathematics were an intellectual game to show superiority to ordinary people.

Some martial arts are also based upon religious or mystical beliefs. Some are invented as an intellectual tangle that needed a certain belief of unproven facts about our origin of life.
Basically, there’s nothing wrong with those axioms as long as they don’t stop you from being creative.

Follow the rules, but don’t let the rules controlling you

Breaking the balance, upsetting the balance or kuzushi is a concept that should follow certain rules. If the concept turns into an intellectual game, the application is not always useful in training or randori. Sometimes people adapt to the circumstances of randori in favor of the intellectual ideas. Basically, it is cheating by creating an illusion of effectiveness based on an intellectual tangle that is useless in a confrontation with someone who does not follow the rules.


The noun comes from the transitive verb kuzusu (崩す), meaning to level, pull down, destroy or demolish. As such, it refers to not just an unbalancing, but the process of putting an opponent to a position, where stability, and hence the ability to regain uncompromised balance for attacking, is destroyed.


There are many examples to explain the skill of balance breaking – kuzushi. A famous picture used by Kodokan Judo explaining “minimum effort, maximum efficiency”.
A body out of balance can be easily manipulated.

Cardinal and inter-cardinal directions

Cardinal directions are an interesting concept because practically every culture on Earth has independently used them or something analogous to them, from Chinese ancient cultures to European and Arabic cultures, to Aboriginal Australia….

Cardinal directions are a concept that can be used strategically in martial arts to define the direction we move during footwork or when we use power.
The four cardinal directions are merely labels used to describe the specific directions of force and movement. The 4 directions are complemented by intersectional directions.
Tomiki Aikido or Shodokan Aïkido, both as a symbol using cardinal directions.

Origin of the Nihon Aikido Association symbol

“Ten no Maki” (Book of the Heaven) of the Kitoryu jujitsu says: “Being upright is the yang form, being prone is the yin form. Win by the yang, win by the yin. The feeble seizes the strong, the flexibility seizes the stiffness.”

Being upright stands for power of fire, being prone stands for power of water. The sun is the source of the energies, while water has no form or intent, and obliges the environment. At the same time its might excels that of anything. It enhances growth of all entities, and does not try to gain position higher than its place.
Such are the might as the ultimate morality. Thus the saying goes “superior virtue is like the water”.
The symbol is composed of the function of water and fire, and the whitenis signifies the infinite space.

The Cardinal Directions concept is often compared to an eight point compass with the cardinal directions and the inter-cardinal directions called “corners”.

To make it simple, when we mention Cardinal Directions, the corners are included.

Kuzushi and the Cardinal Directions

Kuzushi is part of the training and the structured process is required to explain the technical details and applications. But sometimes people are too focused on the structured method and forget what kuzushi is all about: preparing for other applications.
Kodokan Judo uses a cardinal direction structure to explain Kuzushi.

Probably one of the most famous pictures on kuzushi. It is used to give a visual idea about kuzushi in Kodokan Judo.

A website for traditonal aikido transformed the Kodokan Judo Kuzushi in an Aikido related kind of kuzushi.

The 8 positions of the elbow

The structure of the cardinal directions of Tomiki Aikido related to the position of the elbow.

Tegatana, a tool for kuzushi

Some historical facts on kuzushi in Tomiki’s Aikido
In about 1958, students practiced mainly the unsoku, tandoku undo, yonhon no kuzushi (chudan and gedan). In around 1960, the roppon no kuzushi/6-hon no kuzushi were created (jodan, chudan and gedan). In the mid-sixties, Koryu no kata was created. There are 6 koryu no kata and especially number 4 is focused on the use of tegatana as a tool for kuzushi.

The JAA (Japan Aikido Association) published in 2009 “Competitive Aikido” an introduction to practices leading from kata to randori.
Kuzushi is explained with the principles of the sword (tegatana dosa).

Main idea of kuzushi is focusing on position of opponent’s elbow – up or down.

On mobility and stability

Mobility -Mobility allows a person to move with no restrictions. It can often be confused with flexibility, but flexibility does not always mean good mobility. Although the person has good flexibility, they may not have the force, coordination or balance to perform the required movement.

Stability – Mobility is linked to motion, while stability is linked to control. Stability may be defined as the ability to remain in control.

We need these two skills to carry out our movements effectively. And as with most skills, we need continuous training to keep our mind and body in the optimal state of mobility with high stability.
Using the mind in your workout, the body will benefit much more than just training on autopilot. Of course, there must be harmony between mind and body and the ability of “stillness” is necessary.

What is “Stillness”?

An absence of motion or sound. That’s what you’ll find if you do a quick search on the Internet. Of course, it goes much further, but in case of martial art practice the concept of “mushin mugamae” comes forward.

“Stillness in Motion” & “Motion in Stillness”

There are 2 kinds of motion:

  • Internal movement – movement centralized around the center of the body
  • External movement – movement expressed by arms or legs

Both movement work together to create whole body movement.

Seichusen or the central human pilar
The concept of “Stillness in Motion” and “Motion in Stillness” means that while the mind is calm, necessary actions are already in motion. This can be demonstrated as an expanding circle, the center of the circle does not move, it only turns. The training partner will move around. The radius of the circle can expand if necessary.

The mind is a crucial factor in the training. If you are angry, your body will show your mind. If your mind cannot let go your anger or frustration, your body will tense up. By releasing all those mental movements, your mind comes into a state of “stillness” or “mushin”.

Mushin Mugamae – your posture reflects your mind
Mushin mugamae is already often discussed in this blog, but without this concept “Stillness in Motion” and “Motion in Stilness” is not possible.

How to gain the skill of Mushin?

I only can speak for myself, ritsuzen is a very effective exercise to create the idea of “stillness” in your mind. During ritsuzen I notice a lot of movements in the body as long I am an observer. The moment that my ego takes over, the feeling of the internal movements will disappear.
Ritsuzen is not a simple exercise and the result comes only after several months of regular exercise.

If you enter the “mushin mugamae” state, your response time becomes much shorter and this is of course beneficial to create “kuzushi.

Kuzushi, the time factor

Kenji Tomiki wrote….

When the equilibrium of the body is lost, the time when the center of gravity is lost is shorter than the time required for the peripheral sensory organ to communicate the loss of the body equilibrium to the nerve center and the latter to order the foot muscles through the foot nerve to put the foot forward; for instance, when the body inclines forward and falls forward because a sudden force is applied from the back, giving the person no time to put the foot forward.

Kuzushi is closely linked with the concept of “Sen” or the timing to move when the opponent decides to make an offensive move. Sen is an extremely complex concept and skill and is built on “Hyoshi”.
Musashi Miyamota wrote about the concept of “hyoshi”. This concept is also discussed many times, but I highly recommend to read “Ma, movement without moving“.

Kenji Tomiki’s time lapse

Benjamin Libet states in his book, “Mind Time: The Temporal Factor in Consciousness (Perspectives in Cognitive Neuroscience),” that it takes 0.5 seconds for the mind to recognise what has occurred.

To create this time lapse, you have fundamentally some options:

  • You wait for the opponent’s attack, use a go-no-sen action and your opponent will be turned back on himself and his attack will suddenly stop.
  • You attack the opponent with a sen-no-sen action, opponent’s reaction depends on his status of allertness. If opponent lost his allertnes you can proceed.

If you create a situation where you can enter into the unconscious mind, your opponent will be turned back on himself and gives you the possibility to control the furhter actions of opponent. Once your pre-0.5 seconds unconscious mind is controlled, you cannot break free from that condition. Usually, after 0.5 seconds, both you and your opponent are in the conscious world, and because such pre-conscious control will not work, it will become a simple exchange of power and technique.

Kuzushi – using mind and body

Using the mind is easy, because we have learned how to use the mind. Unfortunately, our ego is in most cases the driving force behind our movements. When the mind acts as an observer, our subconscious with our stored motion capabilities will take over as a leader.

As Kenji Tomiki has already said, there is a certain lapse of time in the mind and the body of the opponent when you control the body of the opponent through a kuzushi skill. This period of time is very small and you should apply waza coming from the subconscious mind. Don’t let the ego interfere with your actions, you’re always going to be late.

If you focus too much on the 8 methods, you are not allowing the subconscious mind take the right action. If the conscious mind act as an encyclopedia, most of your actions will be readed by the opponent.

Beyond fundamental movements

The wrist grip by the training partner is a “starter” to study the possibilities of kuzushi. Most of these basic forms follow a pre-defined scheme.

As said before, follow the rules, but don’t let the rules controlling you.

When your training partner hold the arms in the chudan position, it is easy to grasp according the “kata method”

When your training partner hold the arm higher, you have to adapt the method of grasping. This is different from the kata method.

Follow the rules, but don’t let the rules controlling you

This simple example can be considered an understanding of the rules and how they should be used.

Basically, kuzushi is a skill at controlling the power of an adversary using certain rules. These rules are explained in a situation that is easily understood in a lot of kata. It is the practitioner’s responsibility to know how these rules or katas can be used in a combat or randori environment.

Some training advice

“One of the most important aspects in the practice of any Budo art is the repetition of techniques or combinations. But, these should not be done just anyhow. Thus, when someone often repeats a certain technique or movement, for example, 500, 1000, or 10,000 repetitions of Tsuki (direct blow of the fist), he must look inward and perceive his sensations, because there is no surely had only two or three of the Tsuki which were correct (speed, power, location), in other words effective. And only those two or three repetitions are important, those are the only ones that we have to remember. To do this, you have to be very receptive and feel the moment when the movement has been done well, look within and register this feeling with the mind and body. Then you have to ask yourself: why at this time did I do it better than the other times? It is the leap from quantitative (quantity) to qualitative (quality). This is what is really important in the learning process: how to move from one level to another. The next time you practice this technique or another, you must try to remember these sensations so that these techniques can be performed successively with this sensation. In this way, in perhaps only one hundred repetitions, you will manage to achieve two or three. Thus, you move faster and faster and you can extend the correct and good feelings to a greater number of techniques. This is one of the keys to moving forward. It is not enough to carry out for 30, 40, or 50 years always the same movement, thousands of repetitions without perceiving or without realizing what is happening in our body, without improving the quality of our techniques, and without trusting exclusively in the repetitions. That’s not enough, you have to find out what was the correct technique, what you feel, and work with that feeling.”

– Taiji Kase – Shotokan Karate

Moving the Body or not?

Martial arts use body motions that are not always comparable to normal life movements. Aikido is no exception.
Human movements naturally depend on the physical laws of our environment, for example gravity.
Of course, human movements are actually quite a complex system. Martial arts moves should follow nature’s rules and something more. I’ll try to explain that a bit further.

The motion of a solid object

The motion of an object is described in two modes: the trajectory of its centre of mass and the rotation around an axis in its center of mass.

The motion of the human body

When Jigoro Kano formulated his Kodokan Judo, he tried to explain the stability of the human body as something solid. Unfortunately the human body is not a solid object, only when it stiffens up as a solid object.

The human body is a very complex system, it is a framework of segments linked to each other by flexible bands (muscles, tendons…).

To control the body, many skills are necessary to carry out effective movements.

The human body distinguishes two kinds of motion, comparable to the trajectory and rotation mode of an object.
Both modes operate side by side and due to the frame construction a rotary mode is always present during body movements.

  • Trajectory motion: use a fulcrum to move the body or part of the body (arm, leg…)
  • self-rotation: using the lenght axis of the body or part of the body

Moving without displacement

Looking at the Aikido demonstrations, you will notice many unnecessary displacements. A troubled mind is the cause of such errors and resulting in inefficient body movements or techniques. Of course, if you practise with a too cooperative partner, a beautiful show can be given with a lot of jumping.
Making your Aikido more efficient by using effective movements should be your objective.

An important characteristic of Aikido’s movements is its spiral trajectory. But this is not unique to Aikido, other martial arts make the same human movements less or more because of the structure of human body. An efficient system of connected segments is required and this is needed to control the actions of an opponent, especially if the opponent is very heavy or strong.
The use and control of power is a vital condition for surviving a confrontation.

3 important components with each an independent role has to act as a set to create the full body movement.

  • Using the legs
  • Using the torso
  • Using the arms

The example above deals with the action of the legs. The force generated by the legs, supported by the floor, passes through the torso to the arms and further into the target.
The legs do not only flex and stretch, but use a spiral movement. The koshi (bottom of the back) controls the legs. The torso spins lightly using the waist. The arm movement is based upon the basic arm movements of Tomiki Aikido.

Testing without falling down.

Testing our movements and techniques occurs primarily during randori. But not everybody likes to fight freely. Alternatives may be used to test your movements and techniques without falling, particularly for older practitioners.

No-movement : Mushin Mugamae

Even when you are not moving, you should maintain a strong posture. You are ready to act in a split-second. You can only do that if you have a calm mind.

By adopting the mugamae, it is not your intention to fight. You don’t offer, for instance, your wrist. Your eyes look at someone in front of you, but you don’t see an attacker. You notice his intention and when the intention becomes physical, you move.

Body Skills

Physical skills are required for effective movements or techniques. Of the many areas of body expertise, there are certainly two that are important.
Of course, other skills are also important, but those two skills are fundamental to the moving and non-moving martial arts body.

Dropping the bodyweight

Dropping the bodyweight is performed by bending or folding the “koshi”.
Bending the knees is the result of the koshi folding.

Dropping the bodyweight is needed for using the koshi.

Open and close the koshi area

Open and close of the koshi is a very difficult action. The whole body is following the opening and closing of the koshi.
Don’t activily turn the knees.

Open and close the koshi area is important when you push or pull. The koshi is the key to efficient movements with the “hara”.

Feel the intent

Kenji Tomiki, Goshinjutsu-nyumon

“Is the lack of attack a specific feature of Aikido?”
When explaining the term “Sen”, it often happens that confusion arises in the use of words. This is the case with, among others, “Taking the initiative in Japanese Budo” or “The lack of attack in Japanese Budo.” Confusion often arises between the term SEN and the moral aspect when one applies a technique in Japanese Budo.
Normally, when using a budo technique, there may be a fear of killing or seriously injuring the opponent. Therefore, in a modern rule of law, one should not use this martial art power, except in case of legal self-defense or in a situation that is difficult to avoid. From this sense it is said that SEN (initiative) is the first movement in Budo. However, in case one cannot help but defend oneself, it is allowed to use SEN (sen no sen & sensen no sen) techniques instead of go no sen techniques. Especially when one is attacked by a large number of opponents, it is traditionally said that one may use a self-preservation offensive (SEN) to narrowly escape fatal consequences.
In other words when using Budo techniques one cannot ethically apply SEN, but in principle one cannot stop considering SEN either.

Saya no Uchi

“Saya no Uchi” means to keep Katane inside of sheath, which means dominate the opponent without pulling out Katana from sheath.

Akira Hino

To perform an action you must have the intention to do so. Intent is a concept that sometimes causes confusion in the mind of a beginning practitioner.
Most of the time, a beginner carries out moves with the intention of having victory in a fight. The intention must be to make an efficient movement (technical, waza) and not to lose the struggle.

When you look at how to introduce “intent” into the training, you will find many explanations about the meaning of the “words” defining this concept.
The following are most frequent examples.

  • 意 (I) feelings, thoughts, meaning – mostly used in combination with another kanji (意図 – ito or 意向 – iko
  • 先 (Sen) line, initiative

Unfortunately, the correct methods to practise the concept of intent are seldom explained.
To establish a practical methodology, we need a few tools:

  • Creating an image in the brain
  • A body ready for immediate action through the creation of “Mushin mugamae”
  • Understanding Sen as a strategy

Sen’s main cases

The opponent has the intention to attack you as a basic idea.
Sen is a strategic technique for taking the initiative when you feel the mental image of opponents and see the impact on the opponent’s physical movement. We can discern three significant situations. In the first 2 situations, the opponent can still change their mind and physical action if you don’t have perfect control of the situation.
When an opponent passes a certain line or the case of situation 3, there is no more chance of drastically changing the trajectory of the attack. If you’re not in control, you’ll lose.

Having a “sen” situation does not imply that you will win. A perfect “waza” is the proper addition to any of the sen situations.

先々の先 Sen sen no sen : Controlling the opponents chance. Image in the brain and start of attack.
先 の 先 sen no sen対の先 tai no sen : Image in the brain and physical attack.
Make a decisive attack, which impacts faster than their waza.
後 の 先 go no sen or ato no sen : is a ‘strategy/technique, it is best described as ‘the post initiative attack’.

Edo, a time of peace

In Edo epoch when people enjoyed peace it had a serious meaning and consequence to pull out Katana. Because it was strictly prohibited to pull out Katana to use it, and once one did it, it might cause even a death penalty with being taken away all the property.
Accordingly it required a serious preparedness in the mind to pull out Katana.
Understanding what might occur as a consequence in his and also his family’s life, one should have a serious preparedness in his mind to pull out Katana.

Akira Hino

While samurai had privileges in Japanese society, removing the sword without threat was a grave crime. The art of Iaido (Iaijutsu) still has the concept of Saya no Uchi, retaining the sword in the sheath.

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)

A practical way to learn to use intent.

The use of intention has two aspects to take into consideration.

  • The intention of the opponent
  • Your intention

While many important “sensei” speaks of “Mushin mugamae”, a phrase often translated as empty mind and empty posture. Unfortunately, by using the word “empty” the concept becomes more cryptic.
Mushin mugamae is all about how to handle your emotions. The physical aspect is merely the result of mental thoughts.
If you can control your emotions, you can use your energy to build an image of what you will do next. This image with control of your emotions and energy can be referred to as intention.
In some cases, you can even conceal your intention from your opponent and it is called “Mushin mugamae”.

Now the question is how to control your emotions and energy. There are several practical exercises and methods for obtaining “Mushin mugamae”.
My favorite one is “ritsuzen” or standing as a tree. While we are standing, we can visualize moving images, relax our thoughts, relax the physical body…
Another major method is slow motion training. It makes us conscious of the energy and strength needed for our movements.
And lastly, I want to add a breathing system to slow down all the functions of your being. Hachi danken is a system like this.

The basic idea is to silence the conscious mind (ego) and let the unconscious mind overtake your thoughts and body. See “The Science of Training”
The unconscious requires, of course, input and this is the goal of basic training. The basic training must be done properly, otherwise the input will not be effective enough and the use of the unconscious mind will not produce the correct output.

Sense the intent of the opponent.

To understand the concept of “sen” one must sense the intention of an opponent. This is only possible when you have the ability to “Mushin mugamae”. When nothing troubles you, your mind is open to the slightest signs of your opponent’s attack.
Of course, like most skills, you need a lot of training to become effective in feeling the enemy’s intention.

Sen – Bujutsu no gokui
The ultimate in martial art

A victory comes down to carrying out a successful attack without giving the opponent a chance to launch an efficient attack. In kenjutsu one has to fell the opponent without being felled, in judo one has to throw without being thrown. But since both think to be first (SEN), the victory is not an easy thing and hence “the elderly” (our predecessors) studied this aspect very thoroughly.

Because Aikido kata (formal exercises) largely consists of go-no-sen techniques, one might say that Aikido is only a form of self-defence (goshinjutsu), where the concept of go no sen is at the center.
Kenji Tomiki formulated “Kyogi Aikido”, a sparring method with Aikido techniques to easily introduce a practical approach to the concept of sen no sen and sen no sen.

The “randori no kata” is a collection of techniques that can be used in a safe way in free sparring. Here is a sample of the atemi-waza section. Atemi in the Tomiki Aikido syllabus is centered around attacking the weak dynamic parts of the opponent’s body.

Ki Ken Tai Ichi – A gate to Sen no sen

Ki ken tai ichi is an expression often used in Japanese swordsmanship and it means “to synchronize the movements of ki, ken, and tai”.

  • Ki: The energy you need to engage in action. Basically, we can tell that by creating an image in the brain, we are mobilizing energy to perform an action.
  • Ken: The weapon we will use following the creation of an image. It can be a sword, a stick or whatever body part appropriate as a weapon.
  • Tai: The technique expressed through physical action.

In the example below, a soft tanto is used as an offensive tool. Ki ken tai ichi is performed by a strike to the chest. The front foot and soft tanto must be synchronized when hitting the chest. When there is no picture of the strike in the brain, Ki ken tai ichi is not carried out and the strike will be considered inefficient.

Toshu or unarmed defender need to feel the intention (image) of the opponent to perform an effective neutralisation and counter-attack. The synchronization takes the same steps as Ki ken tai ichi.


This strategy is often used in Aikido training. This looks very simple when you understand the concept of sen. The challenge of go no sen is the ability to be patient and wait for the opponent to cross the line of no return. If you are unaware of the intent, you will always lose.
Don’t forget, it is a state of mind and it controls the attacker even before he begins to move.

A quest for life

Sometimes people ask me what I like about martial arts. The answer is straightforward: to become better than yesterday.
Of course, aging is a factor to bear in mind and that is “a game breaker”. What you can do when you are under 20 will no longer be the same when you are 50.
Finding a way to become better than yesterday is a path filled with obstacles and the end is for everyone the same.
Becoming better than yesterday?
Maybe the answer is somewhere in the world……. Other questions may come up… Who cares…..
I “feel better” than yesterday.

Eddy Wolput

Seichusen & a column full of power

It is the Earth which allows to generate force with the legs.

Internal Martial Art


In “Aikido-Tradition and the Competitve Edge” written by Fumiaki Shishida and Tetsuro Nariyama the definition of “Seichusen” is as follows:
The human body displays bilateral symmetry. Seichusen is a vertical line through both the nose and the navel down the center of the body that cuts into two exact halves.

Of course, this definition gives us just a 2D image, whereas our body is a 3D object. The idea of bilateral symmetry is right if you see the body of the front face. On the other hand, another point of view does not follow the bilateral symmetry.
A view from any angle at the seichusen can be seen as the center line which divides the body into 2 halves. These 2 halves are not symmetrical, except for the front or back view.

A column full of power

Seichusen or the centerline always stretches in the direction from top to bottom. This creates a line of strength needed for good posture.

A strong position is not only with the vertical line, but in a horizontal plane as well.

The centerline should be viewed as the midline of a column. This column can be very thin, but can also be very broad and full of power generated using the legs.
The column strength lines are oriented in six directions.

  • Up and down
  • Forward and backward
  • Left and right

A column full of power is embedded in the various postures and positions we can adopt during training.

An example of how Seichusen works.

Testing posture with footwork

Footwork is a basic skill to perform effectively while exercising. Maintaining a strong yet flexible stance is a condition for moving when an adversary is involved.

Mu-gamae & Hanmi

Mu-gamae is mostly translated as empty posture or no-posture. In fact, when you just are in a standing position with parallel feet and your arms at the side of the body, we can consider this as “mu-gamae”. There is no intention in this posture.

There are 2 important control centers

  • Kyokotsu – upper center
  • Hara tanden – lower center

By moving a foot forward and turning the body, we create a stance mostly named as “hanmi” (half body turn).
If one thinks about Aikido as Budo, then it is necessary that one considers mugamae, right position (hanmi) and left position (hanmi) as 3 in 1. The 3 basic modes have of course an integrated seichusen and the column of power.

“Hanmi is efficient when you step in from mugamae to the opponent or when you want to apply a technique. But as a starting position, hanmi is not very useful.”

Kenji Tomiki

3 types of hanmi

Using hanmi has 3 modes. Each mode is associated with a type of movement expressed by the bodyweight transfer.

  • Neutral position, bodyweigth in the middle
  • Forward position, bodyweight forward
  • Backward position, bodyweight backward

Generating strength with the legs

Essentially, all of our strength comes from our legs. It is initiated from the lower body and then moved by the hara tanden to kyokotsu and distributed to the hands.

When you push with your legs down, there is a rebound, which is guided with your knees in your hips. They must be flexible and do not brake.
The role of the knees is important, these joints move toward each other during a forward motion. With a motion to the back, they separate. Knee motions are measured in millimetres.
Moving forward, the front leg and knee move downward. As you move backwards, your back leg and knee move downwards.
Don’t forget to fold your hips as if sitting on a high stool.

Hara Tanden and kyokotsu

Tanden and kyokotsu are two centres used as a distribution tool for the force generated in the body through the use of the legs. Find more information in a different article about kyokotsu and hara tanden.

Moving with tegatana.

All power generated by the legs has to be transferred to the hand and/or arm. The tool we use to transmit our power to the target is tegatana.

What is Tegatana?
When the 5 fingers are stretched enough, the base of the hand is stretched overflowing into the little finger. In the small sense this is called tegatana, but in a broader context this becomes the forearm (from wrist to elbow). Tegatana exercises include both hand length and arm length exercises

Tegatana no kamae

This is an extension of mugamae and hanmi (hidari/migi no kamae)

3 types of tegatana no kamae

These are chudan (middle level), jodan (upper level) and gedan (lower level), where chudan is used as a basis where the tegatana is kept in the seichusen (centerline) of the body

3 conditions for movement with tegatana

  1. The use of posture with correct stability.
  2. Positioning the tegatana in relationship with seichusen or correctly on the center line of the body.
  3. To ensure that the use of the tegatana corresponds to the foot movement carried out at the same time.

The “Sensei” Enigma

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo.
In collaboration with Tim Wolput……as the illustrator and provider of ideas .
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.

Enigma comes via Latin aenigma from ancient Greek ainigma. Hidden in this is the word ainos “narrative, fairy tale”.
Enigma mainly translates as “riddle” but it is also referred to a coding device.

The Enigma machine is a cipher device developed and used in the early- to mid-20th century to protect commercial, diplomatic, and military communication. It was employed extensively by Nazi Germany during World War II, in all branches of the German military. The Enigma machine was considered so secure that it was used to encipher the most top-secret messages.


The purpose of being a Sensei

Sometimes you will read that a Sensei is a rolemodel. But what rolemodel?
Defining rolemodel is as muddy as the relationship of Sensei-Tori/Uke.

In the past when Japanese martial arts were introduced into Western society, a Sensei was a superhuman. Sensei could beat everyone and had an answer to all the questions.
When Chinese martial arts were imported, the same happened with the equivalent of a Sensei. The Chinese use the word Sifu.

Nowadays, Sensei became more human and is not any more superhuman. Although some groups still rever their Sensei almost in a divine manner.

So, what is a Sensei?

A Sensei is an educator and a motivational role model. This is the starting point.
To become an educator and a motivator, you need to have knowledge and skills of the subjects you like to teach. This is the first item to take into account.

Do you know your subject and do have have skills?

Although in the beginning of this post the definition of Sensei:
“person born before another” or “one who comes before”
As a Sensei you must believe in yourself and you need the knowledge and practical skills of the subject you like to teach.

Teaching Japanese martial arts is mostly done by the “Kata” method.
Knowing and practising the Kata is a lifetime work. The study of a Kata is never finished, you will always find something new .

But what is a “Kata”?
Kata an be seen as “the method” to teach people how to perform a certain task or job. We can distinguis 2 kinds of kata.

  • Kata in a narrow sense
  • Kata in a more broader sense

In Kodokan Judo, 2 kinds of Judo were mentioned by Jigoro Kano.
The cultivation of a strong physical body (through rentai-ho) and the development of contest skills (through shobu-ho) together resulted in kyogi judo, or judo in the narrow sense. Kano intended that judo practitioners were also to go on to achieve a higher level of self-actualization through shushin-ho and thus achieve kogi judo, or judo in the wide sense.

Kano’s ideas are not unique because on other fields we can see the same concepts, the method in a narrow sense and the method in a wider sense.

It is believed that Budo can cultivate both the mind and body. However, if the meaning of Budo is unclear, then it is impossible to know what to train and indeed what method to utilize. In identifying Budo, it is important to understand why Judo (“the way of Yawara/Jujutsu”), Kendo (“the way of the sword”), Kyudo (“the way of the bow”), Aikido (“the way of Aiki”) and the like, are considered to be Budo (“martial ways”). To aid this clarification, the difference between “Michi (way)” and “Jutsu (technique)” should be known. Good guidelines and tuition have become indispensable for this aim, but if each person does not grasp what Budo is individually during practical training, then focus, concentration and discipline in Budo is not achieved.

Meiji Jingu – Tokyo

Relationship Sensei and Tori/Uke

Sensei is literally translated as “person born before another” or “one who comes before”. In general usage, it is used, with proper form, after a person’s name and means “teacher”; the word is also used as a title to refer to or address other professionals or persons of authority.
Tori is the one who performs the technique –
Uke is the one who receives the technique.

Sensei and martial arts

In modern Japanese martial arts, specifically Kodokan Judo or similar systems, tori is the one who performs a technique against the training partner, or uke. Sometimes tori is associated with winning, while uke is associated with losing.
The difference between the two people is very obvious during “Kata” or so-called formal exercises. During “Randori” or sparring, the difference becomes misty because each person may be Tori/Uke as an individual.

When one of the practitioners is also the teacher or the Sensei, the situation becomes more muddled. How the teacher gets to be the loser if the sensei act as Uke?
Such a situation is the perception of someone who don’t understand the classical methods of Japanese martial arts. It is very difficult to compare martial arts seen as a sportive activity (for example aikido-kyogi or sports-aikido) and martial art (Budo/Bujutsu) as a development of your body and mind.
Some martial arts of course, can be practised as a sport activity and as a method for selfdevelopment.

Martial arts with a strong Budo/Bujutsu connection have a different name for Tori and Uke, but from an educational point of view the words have the same meaning when a teacher is involved.

  • Shidachi – someone who performs the technique
  • Uchidachi – someone who receives the technique

Uchidachi is leading shidachi with sincere attack. This allows to learn proper body movement, battle distance, appropriate mindset, and perception of possibilities. In the past, the role of Uchidachi was reserved exclusively to expert practitioners who were able to carry out meticulous techniques and possessed the right spirit and an understanding of their role.
The roles of uchidachi as senior and shidachi as junior are always maintained, though the role of uchidachi is played by someone at a lower level. The mindset of uchidachi is always sincere but humble. Kata is practised so that they can learn to give and receive together. This is what makes possible the improvement of technique and the development of the mind.

Shu-Ha-Ri & Jo-Ha-Kyū

Shu-Ha-Ri roughly translates to “to keep, to fall, to break away”. (From Wikipedia)

Shu (守) “protect”, “obey”—traditional wisdom—learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs
Ha (破) “detach”, “digress”—breaking with tradition—detachment from the illusions of self
Ri (離) “leave”, “separate”—transcendence—there are no techniques or proverbs, all moves are natural, becoming one with spirit alone without clinging to forms; transcending the physical

Shu-Ha-Ri is related to another Japanese phrase -Jo-ha-kyū (序破急)- to define the strategy someone uses during practising his art in his life. This concept has to be seen as a macrocosmic and microcosmic event.

Jo-ha-kyū (序破急) is a concept of modulation and movement applied in a wide variety of traditional Japanese arts. It essentially means that all actions or efforts should begin slowly, speed up, and then end swiftly. This concept is applied to elements of the Japanese tea ceremony, to the samurai sword art of Kenjutsu, to the bamboo sword training art of kendō, and to other martial arts, to dramatic structure in the traditional theatre. (From Wikipedia)

Shomen-ate Kata

When performing kata, there is a structure that we cannot ignore. This structure contains all the basic concepts for performing an effective movement related to an opponent.

Jibun no tsukuri and aite no tsukuri are the building blocks proposed by Kenji Tomiki. Each method of “tsukuri” can also be divided into more distinct parts necessary for an effective technique. These elements have to be integrated in your actions.
The danger exists of giving too much attention to an item with the result of less efficiency due to a lack of fluidity and integration in the overall action.

For instance, the first technique of “Basic 17” in the Aïkido Tomiki system.
When Tomiki wrote “Judo and Aikido”, the first movement with the front hand is just a sweeping action.

A Sensei’s duty, explaining the alternative

Alternative in this case is another view about executing a certain technique. This is a different use of the term ‘alternative’. In another article, the term “alternative” is used in a different sense: The simplification of Ueshiba Aikido.

After striking Uke’s arm, the opponent is destabilized as in the picture. The danger exists of having a too mechanical technique as a result of a tunnel vision.

“Tunnel Vision”, a  metaphorically way of expressing the reluctance to consider alternatives to one’s preferred line of thought.

Original or alternative?

Look at the picture of Tomiki and Ohba when executing sweeping the front arm as explained on the page of Tomiki’s new method of randori (Judo and Aikido). Uke’s balance is directed more forward.
The posture of Uke is different as in the picture with Shishida. Uke’s balance is directed to the side and slightly back.

Hitting the wrist or sweeping the wrist are 2 alternatives of many solutions. A good sensei will insist on one method for beginners. Later on, multiple possibilities can be used for advanced persons.

Senta Yamada is clearly demonstrating a sweeping action.

Practising – The Sensei Way

As said before, a Sensei acts mostly as Uke in the traditional way of martial art training. Unfortunately, many sensei only perform “mouth” waza or embu with a willing partner. In order to be a Sensei, you have responsibilities to your students. You should communicate with them through your mind and body. Teaching your student is a bodily experience and speaking is just an add-on to give some additional guidance.
Many Sensei are older than their students and as a result, the “personal” training program is slightly different from that of the student.

From a western point of view, we have to take into consideration that an older body needs a different physical training program.
From a more holistic perspective, the concept of “Ki” has to be taken into account. We cannot deny the existence of bioelectricity (Ki) and the ability to manipulate Ki in some exercise programs.
Hachi Danken or eight brocade exercises is but one example. Another important training tool for senior and experienced practitioners is the Ritsuzen method, the way to stand like a tree.

And keep in mind, Tomiki’s Tandoku Renshu*. Of course, a deeper understanding is needed to understand and acquire the skills of this unique training method.
Tomiki’s Tandoku Renshu is not performed as college students do. It is practiced according the older methods, for example, taught by Senta Yamada.
And of course, you must take into account your own experience.

*Original Tandoku Renshu

Hiki Tate Geiko – Resistance Training

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.

Minimal Timescale

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.

Minimal Timescale

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

The simplification of Ueshiba’s Aikido

As a practitioner of Aikido Tomiki, I am certainly very proud of the efforts of our Sensei. He examined Morihei Ueshiba’s archaic system and made it accessible to the rational man. His simplification of the many techniques in the so-called “Aiki-randori-no-kata” can be considered a work of art.
Is this simplification one of a kind in the world of Aikido? No!

In 1969, Aikido by Kisshomaru Ueshiba was published and can be seen as a simplification of Aikido as practised by the Ueshiba family and in a broader sense the Aiki-Kai community. The book was based on two previous Japanese books written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
Aikido (1958) and Aikido Giho (1962)

Complementary and alternative

Old Waseda dojo

Complementary and alternative are terms used to describe many kinds of practices or methods that are not part of the mainstream system. You may hear them outline methods for improving the method. This is called “complementary” because they are used along with your current method. You can sometimes hear about methods that should be better than the original method. We call these “alternatives” because they are used in place of tried and tested methods. Most of the time, the value of these alternative methods is doubtful because they do not complement the current method. Perhaps there is some value if it is used as a stand-alone method with a different objective to achieve.

There are numerous exercises and techniques to support every aspect of Aikido. But often the forest cannot be seen for the trees. Making choices will thus be a real challenge! Even simple basic exercises are conducted in an infinite number of ways. Some of the elementary exercises are created by Kenji Tomiki and every deviation from the basic model is sometimes regarded as a capital sin. However, Kenji Tomiki committed a capital sin when he tried to create a competitive element in the formation of Aikido. After all, its teacher, Morihei Ueshiba has always emphasized the “impossibility” of having contests in Aikido.
This brings forward a question about “complementary or alternative” in Tomiki’s method.

The impossibility of competitive aikido?

To find an answer, we need to dive into the history of Aikido or also known as “aikibudo”. It was Morihei Ueshiba who popularized Aikido or aikidbudo to a wider public, though he was mostly for influential people in the pre-war period. Kenji Tomiki’s role is described in many biographies by different writers and like everything in the world, the different versions are not exactly the same. But in general, Kenji Tomiki was a major student of Morihei Ueshiba and had his own vision of Ueshiba’s art.
In an article written by prof. Shishida of Waseday University we find some information on the history of competitive aikido and a solution for the “impossibility of competitive aikido”.

A Historical Study of Competitive Aikido : the Developmental Process of Randori Method, The Annual Report of Physical Education 33 : 17-27, 2001

To overcome the problem, his talent (Tomiki) in judo, and a quietly humble personality, and widely cultured background were useful in saving aikibudo from misunderstanding. A former student of Kenkoku University, Mr. Seiichi Saito remembered and said, “It was possible because it was Mr. Tomiki. He used to often compare aikido to sumo, kendo, and judo in class.” (1/26/2000 Telephone conversation) This is an indication that Tomiki was trusted by many students. This probably was the only way he could take away prejudice and give proper understanding of aikibudo to those bright students at Kenkoku University.
At this period, Tomiki was concerned with the problem of how to classify and organize Ueshiba’s various excellent methods of skills to establish an instructional system. Tomiki was incapable of destroying traditional relationship between master and pupil by selfishly manipulating to disturb his teacher’s most important principles of aikibudo, or give presumptuous advice. Therefore, he kept the problem of forming a plan of instructional system to himself deep in his mind. When did Tomiki start moving toward developing aikido into a form of competition?
Sometime in post war period, Tomiki wrote, “I started to research modernization of aikido after I received aikido 8th dan in February of 1940.” It was probably after the official registration of Tomiki’s 8th dan. Tomiki must have been thinking about competitive aikido in his mind by then at the latest. But, considering Tomiki’s cautious personality and difficulties of the method, it might have been only a faint thought. It must have been a dilemma to decide on a fight form.

During a fight with bare hands like judo, if one comes close enough for the opponent to get hold of the neck band or sleeve, he would be thrown by judo technique. If they keep their distance, there will be no fight. There was another problem: interests in sitting technique or techniques against weapons will be lost by developing aikido into a competitive sport.

He must have doubted if aikido could be popularized by developing it into a competition. The process of developing aikido into a competitive sport was not easy.
It seems that around the early part of 1958, Tomiki started his actual research activity to develop aikido into a competitive sport with conscious decision to exclude randori technique. This was directly prompted by a severe criticism given that there was no competition of aikido in existence by the council of physical education department of Waseda University when Tomiki decided to set up an aikido club, at the University where he was teaching, and requested to the department of physical education council. At this stage, Tomiki, of course, was practicing only exercises of kata just like the way his teacher Mr. Morihei Ueshiba’s school was coaching aikido, and he did not have any definite plan to develop aikido into a competitive sport. At the council meeting, however, he explained the history, significance, and future of aikido, and by promising competitive aikido, be was allowed to start aikido club. This marked the beginning of ‘experimental stage’, and he recorded in 1969, “With devoted cooperation of the club members, through 10 years’ trials and errors, we have almost succeeded.”

The question arises, did Tomiki change Ueshiba’s Aikido by introducing a competitive element?
Everything depends on the way we like to practice our Aikido. If our aim is to emphasize “competition”, it is certainly an “alternative method” and it becomes an athletic event without the mystical elements of Morihei Ueshiba.
Practitioners who studied the uncompetitive method of Tomiki’s Aikido, will remember Senta Yamada, Tsunako Miyake or Takeshi Inoue. They taught us the original Tomiki Aikido, a method to improve Aikido by adding some judo elements and can be seen as a “complementary method”.

【Kakunodate Times】 Article of August 12, 1957.

Kenji Tomiki, then president of the All Japan Aikido Association, Hideo Ohba, Keiko Fukuda, and Ayako Miyake gave Aikido lessons to volunteers at Tsuneko-in in Kakudate-cho.

At the left Keiko Fukuda, 9th dan Kodokan Judo awarded in 2006
At the right a young Tsunako Miyake. Pioneer of Tomiki Aikido.

Simplified movements and exercises

What are the additional features of Tomiki’s Aikido? “Simplified movements and exercises”. Kenji Tomiki’s contribution plays an important part in simplifying the numerous techniques and movements in the Aikido repertoire. A small part of the original Ueshiba technique can be discovered in Koryu no Kata. These kata are covering different aspects of Aikido. Simplified techniques can be found under “randori no kata” or “Kihon waza”. As usual, there are several versions of these simplified techniques. By simplifying the movements and techniques, a student will acquire in an early stage a global view of the possibilities with Aikido. It has also occurred in other martial arts, Japanese and Chinese. In Iaido and Jodo, the Kendo Federation responsible for these martial arts created a simple format as an introduction. Modern Kendo itself a simplified version of old systems with a sword. Simplified versions of Iaido and Jodo can create a focus on more complex methods. Even Kodokan Judo can be viewed as a simplified version of old Jujutsu methods. In Chinese martial arts, Taijichuan has a short version of the original lengthier versions. The art of Yiquan has no formal sequences (taolu – kata) to study. The most noteworthy is the basic training of the basic elements. After a while, training is progressing at a freestyle of training similar to a randori style of judo and…… Aikido.

Yiquan posture

Is simplified really simplified?

Although it is said Kenji Tomiki simplified Ueshiba’s Aikido along the lines of the Kodokan Judo doctrine, maybe simplified is a too simplified definition.
Kenji Tomiki saw the fundamental movements in Ueshiba’s Aikido and created exercises for practising the fundamental movements. Unfortunately most of those exercises are nowadays practised in a rigid format and lost the fundamental idea of Japanese martial arts: Jukozo.
In the article – the science of training – you will find some explanation about jukozo principle.
Simplifying has not always been a shortcut to understanding. We cannot deny the fundamental elements or movements, otherwise our martial art becomes a shallow image of the original.

Uchi gaeshi & soto gaeshi

The art of the sword as practiced in Aïkido.

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.

The art of the sword in Tomiki Aikido is mainly practised as a form of kata. Koryu no kata dai san (tachi tai tachi) is a primary source for Tomiki Aikido practitioners.
Unfortunately, most practitioners are very weak in their ability to use the sword. The lack of knowledge in most instructors is the main reason. To solve this problem, an instructor may seek guidance from an authentic swordinstructor.
Tachi tai tachi is an introduction to the use of the sword. This kata includes techniques and strategies.

The 1st “waza”

Strategy is a major component of this technique. Direct penetration of the enemy is a skill that can also be used in a toshu (unarmed) situation.

The 1st technique or Shomen Ate of the Tomiki Aikido Basic Kata is an example. Some information about Shomen Ate can be found in “The Sensei Enigma” article on this blog.

Kata 2 & 3

Avoid cutting must be done when the opponent cannot change direction.
Avoidance is different from moving away. During avoidance, the distance is kept to counterattack. Retreating means increasing the distance and making the counter-attack more difficult.


Tsuki enters at the right moment. Too early and too late will destroy the possibility of “Tsuki”.

Do barai

Do barai is a sweeping action aimed at stopping the impetus of the attacker. Fundamentally, it does not cut the opponent.

Kote uchi

Kote Uchi is a controlling action of the opponent’s wrist after sweeping away the sword.


Nagashi is a skill at using the power of the attack and getting back at the opponent.

The last Kata

Semete or keeping pressure is the basic action in this kata.

The Butterfly Experiment

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.

Chiko-go-itsu – Knowledge and action are one

Yoshida Shōin

The Rorschach Test

The Rorschach test is a projective psychological test in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning.

Rorschach’s test is/has been used as a tool to analyze “perceptions” of a patient.
“Butterfly Experience” is a tool to study your ability of a connected body. The perception you have about a connected body is not always truthful. But by using a partner, you may know whether you are connected is real or just an illusion.

The Butterfly Experiment

How can I experience the outcome of a “connected body?
The “Butterfly Experiment” is an exercise that is not directly related to any martial art situation. This exercise can make your body connected while working with a training partner.
The partner maintains an upright posture. The body is neither stiff nor too relaxed. The arms are in front of the body, the fists are lightly squeezed. The resistance to butterfly motion is structural.

When the body is connected, it generates a tremendous amount of power without relying too much on muscle strength. Rendo allows the flow of force to increase and transfer to the target efficiently.

Akira Hino on the concept of Rendo

The butterfly experiment is not part of a normal training routine. The experiment can be done from time to time experiencing your progress in the creation of a connected body and the associated power.

Kinetic Chain a Western approach to Rendo

A “Kinetic Chain” is a term used to describe how force is transferred through different parts of the body to produce movement.
The concept was introduced by Franz Reuleaux, a mechanical engineer, in 1875 and adapted by Dr Arthur Steindler in 1995.

Using power means moving your body. If the body does not have a synchronized posture, the power will be scattered and finally we may lose our stability and fall.
Moving the body can happen in a stationary or dynamic situation. Neither situation can be experienced properly if there is no balance or stability.

Our movement system

Our motion system’s got multiple subsystems. In general, we can talk about three fundamental things.

  • Stabilizer system
  • Mobiliser system
  • Our brain

The movement of our body is the result of the use of muscles and tendons and ligaments attached.
There’s a thousand ligaments and tendons all over the body. Ligaments and tendons are made of connective tissue.
Ligaments connect one bone to another. Tendons connect a muscle to a bone. Both, however, are vital for good body mechanics.
Another part of our system is fascia.
A fascia is a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves binding some structures together, while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other.
And we cannot forget our brains, or else we cannot function properly.

Stabilizer system

During any movement, the stabilizing muscles act to stabilize the body or part of the body. It is also important to note that there are no specific stabilizing muscles in the body. The name just outlines exactly what these muscles do.

Mobiliser system

These muscles are found close to the body` surface and tend to cross two joints. They are usually composed of fast fibres which produces power but lack endurance. Mobilizers help with rapid or ballistic motion.
Biceps and triceps are examples of this.

Stationary training

Basically, this kind of training focuses on the stabilizing system of the body. The mobilizing muscles of the upper body and arms perform large movements without excessive tension in these muscles. The goal of these exercises is not to create big muscles, but to create a synchronous movement between the stabilizer and mobilizing muscles.


Footwork is closely related to balance and stability. Footwork exercises are basically working on the stabiliser muscles.
Practitioners of an older age can have a lot of benefit of footwork to keep their balance and stability during dynamic training.

The mobilisers of the upper body are in general not used during our footwork exercises and are kept in a relative fixed position.

Why holding the arms in this position?
This exercise is a good workout to strengthen the stabilisers of the upper body.

Koshi mawari

Koshi-mawari is in general translated as turning the hips. Koshi-mawari is a very complex way of moving with the lower torso. Koshi-mawari can be considered as the movement of a ball (kyūten*). Korindo-ryu aikido is largery based upon this concept.

*Kyūten – 球転 Ball rolling, ball rotation

Koshi-mawari can be performed at any time without a break, when your koshi is lowered sufficiently, with slightly springy knees. This makes it easier to react spontaneously to changes in any situation.

Stationary Tegatana Dosa

The posture is slightly deeper than the normal posture. This deeper position provides the opportunity to practice easier “Koshi mawari” or the so-called lower back rotating or hip rotating.

  1. Shomen uchi
  2. Shomen tsuki
  3. Uchi mawashi
  4. Soto mawashi
  5. Uchi gaeshi
  6. Soto gaeshi
  7. O mawashi

Numbers 3 to 7 are based upon the 5 original basic arm movements developped by Kenji Tomiki.

Power is generated by koshi mawari and directed into the arms and hands.

Footwork without Tegatana Dosa

Dynamic Tegatana Dosa

Mawari or turning/pivoting exercises

Applications of solo training

Without a suitable test, our solo practice may become an illusion. There are different ways to challenge your skills with a Training Partner. Some of these methods can be seen as an application of martial art solo exercises. Other testing methods can be considered as a learning tool to find out if our movement is effective in our daily life.

The first steps in Aikido as a martial art

Can one deal with an offensive action of the partner acting as an opponent?
First, we must find something from how far an offensive action can be effectively executed. Offensive action may consist of a strike, a push or a seizure.

How to deal with a simple offensive action is not at first glance a real street combat situation. This is a learning tool for finding the right timing, distance followed by a neutralising action with a “kuzushi” result. This may be followed with a “waza”.

Weapon training

Weapon training can be a great help in creating a connected body. Let me give you an example with a “Jo”.

Strategy, a secret

Without a strategy, victory in combat will be based on muscle power alone. Using “Chiko-go-itsu – Knowledge and action are one” is necessary to develop effective use of strategy.

Looking for the thruth

I’m not looking for the right answers in doing so,” . “I am just focusing on being able to do a certain task or technique. That is different from trying to be right.

Akira Hino

Hachi Danken (Kiko/Qigong)

Qigong, known as Chinese Breathing Exercise, is a holistic system of coordinated body postures and movements, breathing and meditation used for health, spirituality and martial arts training.
Kiko is the Japanese word for Qigong. Hachi Danken is Badua Jin’s expression from Japan.
The Baduanjin qigong (八段錦) is one of the most common forms of Chinese qigong used as exercise. It was primarily designed to be a form of medical Qigong, to repair injuries and enhance global health. It is also used as part of the training regimen in certain martial arts.

Hachi Danken

The Japanese version of BaduaJin, exercises aimed at enhancing the flow of energy in the body.
Like with Aikido and other martial arts, there are many versions of these millennial exercises. Although most versions taught today are from recent times.
The Chinese government has made great efforts to streamline the old ways of moving the body for martial or health purposes.


Every session start with a moment of standing.
In martial arts terminology we speak about “shizentai” or natural posture.

Diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles

When learning the exercises, you must be conscious of your diaphragm. When you can localize your diaphragm you can push down it after breathing in, you can relax and breath out. Don’t force the breathing. It must be smooth and no sounds. Try to avoid breathing in with the mouth.
A very difficult part of the exercises is the control of the pelvic floor muscles.
The pelvic floor is a muscular sheet that closes the pelvic cavity and the pelvic organs from below and is curved upward at the edges.
The muscles of the pelvic floor relax during bowel movements and while urinating. This also happens in women during sexual intercourse and when giving birth. The perineum is part of the pelvic floor too. It is located between the scrotum and the anus in men, and between the vagina and the anus in women.

Pelvic muscle control is important for keeping hara-tanden-koshi at the centre of your movements during martial arts training.

Breathing method

The synchronisation of the breathing and the movements will increase the effectiveness of the exercises. Nevertheless the breathing cannot be forced because this is unnatural. Breathing is a basically an unconscious process.

There are 2 fundamental methods of breathing.

  • Abdominal breathing: It involves taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose. The goal is to breathe deep enough to fill your belly with air. This increases how much oxygen you take in, and may help slow down your breathing and heart rate.
  • Reverse breathing: If you take a breath in and your stomach draws in, you’re reverse breathing. Usually, this goes along with a lifted chest and/or shoulders on the inhale. With the exhale, you’ll notice get the opposite: the chest/shoulders sink down and the stomach expands out. This breathing technique relaxes you. It also enables you to become aware of your emotions and increase your meditative focus which is necessary during martial arts training.

Reverse breathing is used for exercises 1 to 6.
Exercise 7 and 8 natural breathing.

Exercise 1 – Shin-kokyu

Taking a low posture

Exercise 2 -Shooting an arrow

Exercise 3 – Heaven and Earth

Exercise 4 – Gazing Backward

Exercise 5 – Bending to the side

Exercise 6 – Touching the Toes – Butterfly


Body shaking

There is “Kata” and “Kata”

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.


In Western languages we can write “kata” as one word, but the word does not actually mean anything to the average person in our society. Persons with an interest in Japanese arts have an idea of “kata”.

There are several explanations for the word “kata” depending on the context. If we can read the “kanji”, the meaning becomes more clear, but still the real meaning need some context. Unfortunately, most of us cannot read kanji.

  • 型(かたkata) type, style,model, pattern – set or sequence of positions and movements in martial arts, style in kabuki, noh, etc.
  • 形(かたkata) form, shape, figure
  • 方(かたkata) method of, manner of, way of
  • 肩(かたkata) shoulder
  • and many more….

Kata no subete by Takeshi Inoue

The word kata in the context of martial arts and describing a set of movements, can be written by two different kanji (型 and 形).
And to make it a little more complicated, we cannot ignore the word “katachi” (かたち) which is often used to give a name to a logical sequence of basic movements.
かたち (katachi) and かた (kata) are different, though related, words.
かた (kata) is a somewhat more complicated term to describe a structure of physical and mental actions. On most of its uses, it’s more commonly written with the kanji 型 than 形, though they can be interchangeable.
In the book of Takeshi Inoue (Tomiki Aikido) Kata no Subete, both kanji are used.

Kata or a virtual Obeya

Obeya: Big Room or Creating a place where people come together to develop a clear understanding about the who, why, what, how and when.

Tim Wolput – Lean Japan Study Tours

Kata serves as a source of information to transfer knowledge through concrete actions. This is a virtual place in which knowledge is stored by teachers and experts. Knowledge is directly bound up with action.
Action without knowledge is a waste of effort, whereas knowledge without action is unnecessary.

Chiko-go-itsu – Knowledge and action are one

Yoshida Shōin

It’s the Sensei’s role.

To learn the kata you need someone with expertise and who is eager to transfer the knowledge by using the action of doing. Most of the Sensei will teach you in a special place called Dojo. Of course, this may occur in the house of the Sensei or in a place specially built as a dojo.

Studying kata is an incredible way of feeling mind and body. A qualified teacher will feel your problems and can provide solutions to resolve them. Of course, the solution (knowledge) is pointless unless practiced.
Real development can only be reached through knowledge and action.

The “purpose” of practising kata

Sen-no Rikyu, who founded the practice of the tea ceremony made an interesting commentary: “Keep in mind that the tea ceremony is no more than making tea and drinking it.”
It takes a lot of effort to make this “natural” thing happens.

The basic idea of kata or katachi is to introduce understanding of the relationship between form, function and meaning.

“the Society for Science on Form”

Making natural movements is no simple task. We all know the Sensei’s remark: lower your shoulders, release the tension….. relax…..
Practicing kata is a great tool to experience all your unnecessary tension during your movements.
When Hideo Ohba created the kata forms of the dai-Ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), we were taught to practise these forms for purposes other than randori or demonstrations (grading, Embu…). Doing a grading is not to show how many kata you know, but to demonstrate your sensei the result and fusion of knowledge and action. In fact, you do not demonstrate the kata, you should become the kata.

What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally.

The real “kata” test: Randori

The tea ceremony is based on kata, but the goal is to drink tea in a joyful atmosphere without unnecessary tension and stress. You must become a “Uke” for the person preparing the tea. Become “one” with master of tea.

When referring to uke within a martial art context, the perception is mainly of someone who attacks and then becomes totally passive. Another perception can be of someone taking big breakfall or jumping to show big dramatic ukemi (breakfall).
Uke must become an active part of the kata and mind and body move in coordination with tori.
The interesting point is the use of power during the movements. You always need power to develop a technique that works.
In this blog you will find articles related to power and its efficient use. The problem is “how to use power”.

Martial art kata is a tool for learning natural movements in a situation without unnecessary tension. There’s no stress in losing a battle. The mind is free to do any action learned during your stay in the virtual Obeya studying how to move in a natural way.

The practice of «randori» is accessible to all ages, males and females, adults and children…

And what about “shiai”?

There are many forms of competition. But the purpose of competition is not to become champion, but to perform in the most efficient way.

What is the purpose of kata competition?
What is the value of becoming a kata champion?

Just drink your tea and relax 😉

Uki Waza – The Way to Otoshi

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.

Standard Method

Standard methods are methodological approaches to create a baseline for a given category of project activities in order to simplify the development of individual projects.

3 Standard Tomiki Aikido Uki Waza

For randori purposes, Kenji Tomiki selected 3 “otoshi” throws also known as floating throws.
These throws are executed in three zones seen from Tori’s perspective. The throwing power, generated by Koshi mawari (lower back and hip power) and unsoku (footwork) is executed in 1 of the 3 zones.

Uki waza are also included in Koryu no kata, traditional kata techniques in the Tomiki system.
Most Koryu no kata techniques have their roots in the pre-war martial arts studies of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba. If we compare Koryu no kata with the pre-war techniques of Morihei Ueshiba, there are many similarities.

A Basic Footwork, one of the many

Proper footwork is a key factor for effective floating kuzushi and subsequent throwing. The pictures below give you an indication how doing basic footwork. When basic footwork is well understood, creativity is needed to develop a more convenient footwork.
Always remember the relationship to the training partner or opponent. Some opponents have longer arms than average, or some have short arms……………….

Kodokan Judo Connection

In Kodokan Judo we find similar techniques with a floating (uki) and dropping (otoshi) characteristics.

Uki otoshi (Kodokan Judo) performed by Senta Yamada

Judo throws are executed by using a standard grip on the dogi.
Of course, during Judo randori, many variations will be applied. This is called “grip fighting” or Kumi Kata.

During Tomiki Aikido Randori, Kumi Kata (Judo) must be avoided. For this reason wrist and elbow grabbing is the standardized procedure.

Standarized methods

If you follow only 1 teacher, you will usually find 1 core method. When the teacher is the head of a larger organization, the teacher’s method is the norm. An international organisation obviously needs representatives and this is where the differentiation of methods lies. They have their own interpretation.

Standardised methods cannot be regarded as a fixed method, there will always be interpretations and modifications.
When we understand “form, function and meaning”, the differences in the method of grasping, throwing or other things can be considered a personal approach.
While the basic shape is present, minor differences are the result of mechanical and/or mental images and will have a positive impact on performance.

Uki Waza Grabbing Method

A Living Martial Art is always the subject of change and Aikido is not an exception.
As with most standard methods, there are always some modifications for example in the method to grab uke’s arm.

The demonstration of Kenji Tomiki (1975) and the explanation of Tadayuki Satoh (around 2014) is slightly different.
The concept of “kuzushi” is of course the same and you will find this also in Kodokan Judo.

Kenji Tomiki’s method

Sumi otoshi and hiki otoshi have a 2hands grip on Uke’s wrist. Mae otoshi has a hold of one hand on the wrist while the other arm pushes the elbow.

Tadayuki Satoh’s method

Mae otoshi is similar to Kenji Tomiki’s approach.
Sumi otoshi and Hiki otoshi have one hand on the wrist, the other hand is at the elbow.

Full coverage of Basic 17 by Tadayuki Satoh

Mae Otoshi Method

A couple more interpretations of “Mae otoshi”by Shogo Yamaguchi, Ryuchi Omori, T.Kobayashi and Konoka.

Sumi Otoshi Method

Sumi otoshi methods by Konoka, Shogo Yamaguchi, Ryuchi Omori and T.Kobayashi

Hiki Otoshi Method

Hiki otoshi methods by Konoka and Shogo Yamaguchi

Uki waza and weapons

Weapon handling uses the same body movements as for unarmed combat. In the Tomiki system the Koryu no kata (classic aikido techniques) introduces basic weapon handling. Bokuto, jo (yari) and tanto are used to teach the basics of these weapons.

The use the Jo is used to explain kuzushi. The example here is the use of the jo (yari) during sumi otoshi kuzushi.

Basic arm movements (tegatana dosa tandoku undo) can be used to introduce basic weapon handling. Using a weapon during tegatana dosa can be very challenging to do the correct body movements.
Tomiki aikido training includes unarmed combat as well as armed combat (softanto). Basic kata, is performed unarmed or with tanto (softanto).
Of course, if you like to go deeper into the science of swordfighting or other weapon system, you need a qualified instructor.

The floating feature – Uki

The feeling of “floating” situation can be felt as standing on an “unstable” surface.

Uke’s arm is lifted up high and is rotated (torsion) inward or outward (hineri/gaeshi). This creates a disconnection between the upperbody and the lower body.
Floating can be created as a defensive action when opponent is grabbing you at the wrist. Some formal “kuzushi” exercises developped in the Tomiki system make often use of this situation (for example 7-hon no kuzushi).
When using an offensive method, the grasping method on Uke’s arm has an important role to fullfill.
In general, basic arm movement will be used to create kuzushi (floating action) and followed by a throw (otoshi)

The features of a fall – Otoshi

Otoshi techniques can be found in different martial arts. The idea brought forward is the image of a waterfall.

Iaido has a Taki Otoshi kata. If you use your imagination, you’ll see the waterfall.

Jodo Maki Otoshi is a fundamental technique for quickly dropping the opponent’s sword with a Jo.

In general, all aikido techniques can be performed as a throw. Even kansetsu waza (hiji waza and tekubi waza) can be a throwing technique.
Uki waza uses the skill of “otoshi”, the quickly dropping down of uke’s body. Tori’s power is generated with correct body movement synchronised with gravity.
If only arm power is used, our technique will fail and the opponent will take over the initiative.
Remember, the origin of our power comes from koshi mawari (lower back and hip movement) and unsoku (footwork).

Stationary and dynamic training of Uki Waza

Before we can use “uki waza” as an application in randori or sparring, we must learn:

Form, function an understanding

First we learn the form in a basic format starting from tegatana awase postures. It is about how to use our body without moving around. Some footwork is included in the performance of Tori.
Uke does’t move or doesn’t resist. Uke is just lending his body and do the appropriate “ukemi”.
Afer some training, the function of the different elements (footwork, grasping skills…) will be understood and the separate body movements are transformed into a basic technique.

The introduction of footwork into the tegatana awase, a dynamic basic format of training creates the next step. The dynamic format gives a extra dimension to the training.
Of course this is not yet “randori”, all the elements of the training are programmed. Uke is using footwork, but still lend his body and uses no resistance.
The form is further investigated, the function of the form gives a broader scope of applications and the understanding will open the door to creativity in the training of randori.

Junanahon no kata, the starting point

There are many version of basic 17, all of them have the same techniques using the same concepts. These concepts are discussed in many articles and posts on this blog.
In the unarmed versions, the physical meeting (tegatana awase) is the starting point of the stationary training method mentioned earlier.

Find here an older version of basic 17 (1989).

Tomiki Aikido Syllabus – Basic Framework Training Tool.

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.

Study Group Tomiki Aikido – Shobukai Dojo Syllabus
This article outlines the “basic framework” employed in the Shobukai Dojo. The emphasis is mainly on “how to move the body” and “how to control the opponent”.
Members of the Shobukai Dojo study how to move the body and the methods of control of the opponent before being able to proceed with Tomiki Aikido Kata.

What Is a Martial Art Syllabus?

A syllabus is a document that presents all the necessary information on a martial art course. It lists the topics you will study while you practice martial art.
The course programme is a working document and a personal document. The syllabus can be used as a guide for the instructor as well as for the dojo.

Living Syllabus 

A syllabus is not fixed and basically a “living syllabus” can be updated as often as the teacher considers it necessary. This creates a vibrant, living document that students can interact with. Of course, the interaction between the instructor and the students is a major factor in updating the program.
Unfortunately, the emphasis is sometimes too much on a programme given by an international institute which does not allow much interaction between the institute, the instructor and the students. In this case, we cannot refer to a “living syllabus”.

An international institute program can be basically a policy guide to be used to generate a “living syllabus” for the local group.
So you can find a different program among the local groups while teaching the same concepts and principles.

Shobukai Dojo Syllabus

A Tomiki Aikido Syllabus can focus on various options for study and training, depending on the kind of dojo students.

  • Grading tool
  • Competition as the main goal
  • Sparring (randori)
  • Bodywork, efficient body movement
  • Self-protection and self-defense
  • Movement therapy
  • Other goals

The Shobukai Syllabus is based on the ideas and concepts of Kenji Tomiki and his nearest followers. There is an influence of other Aikido methods and Bodywork of independent instructors.

The program is built around various types of core concepts.

Basic arm movements

Our hands are one of the most important tools of our body. Tegatana translates into “sword hand”, but also includes the arm.

Basic arm movements can be performed either stationary or dynamically.
The stationary method emphasises the use of the “Koshi” synchronized with arm movements (tegatana). A dynamic version is integrating footwork.

Basic arm movements are based upon the basic arm movements developped by Kenji Tomiki.

The Stationary Method

The 1st part of the videoclip gives a overal impression, the 2nd half focussing on the use of the koshi.

The Dynamic Method

The integration of footwork into the tegatana exercises is the first step for practising “hakkei” or sudden power.

Hakkei Tegatana Dosa

When practising tegatana dosa in a stationary or dynamic way, movements are relatively big. The performance is quite slow and with no explosive power.
After several years of training, sudden power or Hakkei may be introduced.

Footwork – Unsoku-ho

In the Tomiki Aikido method a formalized exercise is wellknown by most of the practitioners. Because the focus is more on the pattern or in which direction to move, the most basic ways of footwork is in the backround. In the syllabus, the basic ways of footwork (ayumi ashi, tsuri ashi and tsugi ashi) is mentioned as a basic exercise. The different methods are integrated in the dynamic tegatana exercises.
When practising footwork, the arms are hold high and the intention is to hold a big ball between the arms. The arms are not used to push or pull, the power comes from the footwork initiated by the koshi.

Ayumi Ashi forward

Ayumi Ashi backward

Tsugi Ashi

Testing the solo exercises

Sometimes during training, the instructor can test the posture and movement of the student or to give feedback (interaction). All the movements of the solo-exercises can be tested.

Some testing examples

Testing posture and tsugi ashi

Ko-mawari testing

Kumi Kata (Judo)

The definition of Kumi Kata is grip fighting. The word “grip fighting” means to take a grip that will give you an advantage over your opponent. But also not to allow your opponent to take a comfortable grip to be able to counter.

The mastery of Judo Kumi Kata is a critical component for any judoka to succeed in modern judo. Without this skill being very well developed it is difficult to see how any judoka can experience the ability to throw ones opponent cleanly, effortlessly and with grace and beauty.

Ridatsu ho & Seigyo ho

Grasping the wrist in Aikido is a kind of strategy skill similar to the strategy skill of Judo Kumi Kata. Without this skill, we are not able to perform kuzushi and waza.
Tegatana kihon dosa (basic hand and arm movements) can be used as a setting up for gripping skills and controlling the opponent: Seigyo ho
On the other hand, kihon dosa can be used as a defensive action when the opponent is grasping you: Ridatsu ho

Both methods will depend on a correct and powerfull gripping skill.

The are different ways to grasp the wrist of opponent.
The purpose of grasping the wrist is to control the opponent action.

The comments of holding the sword, the golf ball and the soft tanto apply also for grasping a wrist.

Some examples of grasping the wrist

The example shows an offensive way to capture the wrist of the opponent. When the opponent performs an offensive movement, you can apply a basic arm movement and then grab the wrist.

How to seize

A strong grip can be catogorised in 3 major metods. See picture.

In essence, grasping the wrist in Aikido is similar to grasping the hilt of a sword. 
The basic rule is to grip firmly with the middle finger and thumb, keeping contact with the base of the little finger.

A study performed by The University of Western Ontario on the Individual finger strength and published in Journal of Hand Therapy gives the following results:
The percentage contributions of the index, middle, ring, and small fingers to grip were approximately 25%, 35%, 25%, and 14%, respectively.

While the ulnar side of the hand (ring and little finger) is taught as the dominant side when holding the “tsuka” of a sword, there is a lack of control if you don’t use the middle finger and thumb. When you start grabbing with the middle finger and thumb and index finger, the ring and the little finger, you will have a strong grip with many possibilities of precision.

3 important points

  • Base of little finger
  • Middle finger
  • Thumb

Exercises to develop correct wrist grabbing

Using Thera Band Flexbar

Soto gaeshi & uchi gaeshi
As mentioned earlier, both movements can be used both offensively and defensively. When you grip a wrist to apply a technique, Soto gaeshi or Uchi gaeshi may be applied. An exercise with the Flexbar almost gives you the feeling of gripping a wrist with a certain resistance.

Holding a golf ball.
Holding a golf ball is a good exercise to power up the middle finger and thumb.
Index, ring and little finger just close, but do not put pressure. Do not tighten the ball or you will lose control of the ability to manipulate your hand and arm movements.

Other examples of grasping

  • Holding tsuka
  • Grasping softanto (soft training dagger)

Holding tsuka
Hold the tsuka with the middle finger, the thumb and the base of the little finger. Index finger and ring finger close without any pressure.

Holding softanto (soft training dagger)

Soft tanto is a safe training tool used during sparring (randori). Frequently used in a Tomiki Aikido training program.

More pictures
European Championship Antwerp 2014 – Zuiderpershuis

The same comments apply as for holding the ball or holding the tsuka of a sword.

Kihon no katachi – Basic Aikido Techniques

Kihon no katachi is not the ju-nana-hon no kata or ju-go-hon no kata (an early version of kihon no kata), but it is a collection of basic aikido techniques usefull during friendly sparring (randori). It is a basic techniques syllabus.
There are 4 different kinds of techniques in Tomiki Aikido. All techniques start from a “tegatana awase” situation.

  • Atemi Waza
  • Hiji Waza
  • Tekubi Waza
  • Uki Waza

Atemi Waza

Kihon dosa or basic movements is the source for succesfull applying atemi waza. The philisophy behind atemi waza is explained in differents posts on this blog.

  • Shomen ate
  • Ai gamae ate
  • Gyaku gamae ate
  • Gedan ate
  • Ushiro ate

Hiji Waza

The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills are necessary to apply a skillfull hiji waza.

  • Oshi taoshi – straight arm push down
  • Hiki taoshi – straight arm pull down
  • Ude gaeshi – entangled arm
  • Ude hineri- entangled arm
  • Waki gatame omote – elbow lock
  • Waki gatame ura – elbow lock

Tekubi Waza

The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills for control are necessary to apply a skillfull tekubi waza.

  • Kote Hineri (uchi gaeshi)
  • Tenkai Kote Hineri
  • Kote Gaeshi (soto gaeshi)
  • Tenkai Kote Gaeshi

Uki Waza

Generally, this type of waza is translated as “floating techniques”. Basically, kuzushi or balance disturbing is performed as a throwing technique. All examples of wrist grabbing can be used to throw the opponent.
We distinguish 3 area

Kihon no katachi describe 3 major throws using Uki-waza skill.

  • Mae otoshi
  • Sumi otoshi
  • Hiki otoshi

Sparring or Randori Ho

  • Kakari geiko – continious predescribed attacks, no resistance
  • Hikitate geiko – continious predescribed attacks, escape possible for uke
  • Randori geiko – both can attack and defend
    • Dojo sparring
    • Shiai format

Example kakari geiko

Tanto randori – competition format

Ma, Movement without moving

In another post we discussed MA-AI. When practising martial arts, we encounter sometimes problems with timing and distance. Musashi Miyamoto wrote extensivily about these problems and solutions: Hyoshi.

Hyoshi: cadence, rhythm and tempo

In many other forms of art such as theatre, music and body arts, hyoshi is also applied to solve the issues of cadence, rhythm and tempo.

Akira Hino

Hyoshi is the synchronisation of cadence, rhythm and tempo.

Cadence refers to the speed and time taken to complete a series of a single movement.

Just as musical rhythms are defined by a pattern of strong and weak beats, so repetitive body movements often depends on alternating “strong” and “weak” muscular movements.

Tempo is the speed of synchronised movements

To understand “hyoshi”, we need the skill of “chokei” or listening to the body of the partner. This skill is related to another skill “mushin” or a state of mindlessness.
The concept of partner has to be seen in a much broader sense than an attacker in a martial art environment. This is a short minded interpretations of partner.
To illustrate with another example. Your are standing at the seaside with a very strong breeze. You need to adapt to this kind of power provided by your partner, the strong wind. When you can adapt, you also can perform your movements, included the movement without moving.

Waza => Katachi => Kata

It is of course no wonder, performing “katachi and kata” takes in account the concept of “hyoshi”.

Kata represents a meaningful form, or a form with purpose, as opposed of the alternative, Katachi, an empty form which has to be filled in.

When studying Japanese martial arts, the concept of “Kata” comes forward. How to master “Kata” is not an easy task and need physical and mental involvement from the practitioner.
When kata is performed, several elements has to be harmonized. First of all, the sequence of the different movements have to be memorized. When this problem is solved, the content of the movements has to be filled in. When you realize you can perform the form or katachi full of content, you have to transform the form into “Kata” by knowing what you are doing.
The meaning of knowing is having the feeling the movements are your own and you can manipulate them without hesitation. One of the more difficulties in the understanding is the movement without moving.

Ma, bridge between two movements

The idea of nothingness, or void (Mushin) has promoted such approaches as ink drawing with blank space, calligraphy with a dry brush, and music with resonant silence.

Spiritual Arts and Education of “Less is More” MATSUNOBU

In the practice of Katachi, you will experience moments without movement. It has an essential function in creating “Kata”. Without this function, the Katachi cannot transform into a Kata. When performing “Kata” , 2 important items will give “spirit” to your performance:

Ma describes the tension between 2 actions. It is neither space nor time. If a stoppage of movement functions simply as a rest in the execution of a complete technique, the “waza” would lose its force in the functionalism of the waza structure.

Spiritual Arts and Education of “Less is More” MATSUNOBU

Ma-Ai, the art of harmonising Time and Space

Ma, spatiotemporal interval – Ai, harmony
Ma-ai integrates space, time, and rhythm and is the ideal situation to control a confrontation.
Controlling the situation or in other words “controlling the actions of the opponent” is depending on Hyoshi.
Ma-ai is not only about distance, it is dynamic process. Depending on the situation, distance will vary and is adjusted with the proper timing.
Don’t confuse ma-ai with the 3 kind of distance. In each distance, the skill of ma-ai can be used.

When there is no physical contact it is called To-ma.

Making physical contact but still safe in your own environment it is called Uchi-ma.

Chika-ma is the distance for using power. Without controlling opponent actions it is very unsafe.

Form, function and meaning

The threee stages to mastery of Kata by integrating form, function and meaning

  • Learn the sequence – Form
  • Filling in content – Function
  • Understand – Meaning

Waza – Katachi – Kata

Remember Senta Yamada wrote in 1962:
Basic 15 (Katachi no jugo) or Basic techniques (waza) for Randori

They can be split into 4 sections. Three apply to attacks, four use elbow techniques, four are concerned with wrist twists, and four with wrist turns.
These form the framework for the system and should be considered as the first essential to progress. Time should be allowed, periodically, for the practise of these “katachi” moves, because they serve to remind you to keep posture and movement fresh and sound. The importance of this cannot be stressed too strongly.

Initially Katachi is an empty form, a template which need training to become alive.

(The Japanese way)
Adapted from an article by Kumiko Ikuta (1990) AI & Soc 4: 127-146

Waza is a skill within the Japanese traditional performance arts or martial arts such as Noh, Kabuki, Aikido, Judo and others.
Waza will be shown by a sensei and a learner can master it only through the activity of imitating and repeating what his sensei does.

“Katachi” is an apparent physical form of waza (1 or more) performed by the learner, which may be decomposed into parts and described as a sequence of procedures.
On the contrary, “Kata”, which has been regarded as the ultimate goal of the learner to attain in learning “Waza”, is not a simple collection of parts of action like “Katachi”, but his understanding and personal expression of “Katachi”


For many practitioners a non-religious holistic spirituality remains the fundamental purpose of continued practice in budo.

No-mind, or a state of mindlessness.

We mentioned before, moving without movement. We also can say ” a mind without mind”. A “no-mind” mind is not affected by the ego and has the ability to manage the problems of spaciotemporal interval in martial art situation.
When training becomes a transcedental tool, budo training can be seen as a form of physical and spiritual training. Any human art can reform into a spiritual path and can create a “no-mind” mind.

The state of mind between 2 movements need a “mushin” mind without interference of daily concerns.
This is also applicable when you start learning an art involving the body and mind.

Personal spiritual development has to be disconnected with the belief that spiritual development is associated with religion.
There is no “god” in personal spiritual development.

Learning by doing

Western student wants to know “what, why, how” before attempting an exercise. Otherwise they’re not motivated to practice. We often want the answer before we even know the question!
In Japan, it’s the total opposite…The Japanese student is encouraged to find the answers by practicing. This is the difference between ”learning by asking” vs. ”learning by doing”.
The role of a Sensei is actually not to answer your questions, but to aid self-discovery.

Tomiki Aikido, a game to find spirituality

It was only after several years of training that I realized that the most profound purpose of martial arts is to act as a vehicle for personal spiritual development. This development is completely different than beating an opponent or winning a medal.

Tomiki Aikido is occasionally associated to “competition”. For the outside world, competition makes winning medals seem important.
Earning a medal is fun and gives a good feeling so… You get to win with a perfect “waza”. To reach the level of the perfect “waza” you need a lot of training and sometimes people lose the path and only see the medal.
Remember, learning by doing…. and have fun once in awhile.

Randori no kata, a basic structure

Kata and katachi

The Japanese word ‘kata’ refers to the shape of an object, or the outline of a form. It is used in architecture as well as in pottery, painting and other visual expressive media. Kata is also a method to transfer the mechanics of physical arts like martial arts from teacher to student. It’s not just a physical transfer, but the mind is just as important. Kata is the result of a deep understanding of katachi and includes the so called secrets of the art.

Inside kata, there is a sequence of numbered or named steps, called a set of patterns. Within the named kata set, there are different templates for achieving different goals. A kata is considered complete when it has all its actions named for execution.

Each distinct step has its own name, such as the step to strike, the step to escape the enemy’s hold, or the step to counter-attack. Each kata has its own tempo and flow.
You will not understand Tomiki Aikido Kata unless you understand Kenji Tomiki’s rational thinking and philosophy.

Katachi is a sequence of steps needed to understand how body movements work. Each movement is divided into several stages and follows the logic of “form, function and meaning”.

The basic idea of kata or katachi is to introduce understanding of the relationship between form, function and meaning.

“the Society for Science on Form”

The art of Kata which includes katachi can be found in all levels of Japanese society and are in many cases an “alien” concept for Westerens. Lets have a look and drink a cup of tea.

The Tea Ceremony

The tea ceremony was developed in Japan in the late sixteenth century, and has a simple format — a host serves tea with some sweets, the guests drink it and then express thanks; that’s all.
Foreigners are often mystified as to why such a minimalist event can require years of training.
However, the motivation of this art is shared by all cultures. Imagine a talented host from any country whose way is so easy that guests are enveloped in an ambience of tranquil happiness.
Sen-no Rikyu, who founded the practice of the tea ceremony made an interesting comment: “Keep in mind that the tea ceremony is no more than making tea and drinking it.”
It takes great effort to realize such a “natural” thing. The same can be said about Randori no kata.

Randori no kata

The (judo) randori-no-kata were developed by Jigoro Kano as a teaching aid when it became apparent that he had too many students to effectively demonstrate throws and grappling techniques in his classes. The kata were developed in five years that followed the establishment of the Kodokan, between 1882 and 1887. They originally consisted of ten techniques each and were expanded to fifteen techniques around 1906.

The Randori-no-kata (乱取りの形, Free practice forms) of Kodokan Judo consist of two kata that illustrate the principles behind techniques used in Randori (乱取り, free-practice), allowing them to be practiced with maximum efficiency. The randori-no-kata includes nage-no-kata (投の形, forms of throwing), which teach and demonstrate concepts of nage-waza (投げ技, throwing techniques) and katame-no-kata (固の形, forms of grappling), which are intended to teach concepts of katame-waza (固技, grappling techniques).


Aiki-Randori no kata

The concept of randori no kata for aikido techniques is borrowed from Kodokan Judo.
Kenji Tomiki introduced aiki-techniques to Judo students by using Judo Taiso, a scientific approach for studying Aikido techniques and body movements.

The purpose of Aiki-Randori no kata is to introduce atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza as a teaching aid to apply during randori.
Originally, Kenji Tomiki selected 15 techniques which became the basic kata for randori practise. Some years later, Basic 15 kata was transformed into Basic Kata of 17 techniques.

Form – Function – Meaning (Aiki-Randori-no-Kata)

Basic 15, 17 or…. are techniques allowed for practising aiki-randori. These techniques are reconstructed to apply safely without a chance to have severe injuries. It is always possible to have injuries when you are not focused.

The “basic” form can be called katachi or kata, depending on the level of the performers. As said, those techniques has the function to operate safely during training. The meaning “concept” is to integrate the basic principles of the art into the form.

When the principles are not included, the performance will lack depth and there will be no harmony between “form – function – meaning”.
Remember the concept of simplicity in the art of drinking tea, a presentation of basic techniques kata follows the same concept. By showing form – function – meaning, simplicity will come forward without adding unnecessary elements.

Correct or efficient? A question of real power.

The phrase “right or effective?” refers to the balance between “randori no kata” and “randori”. What we see during randori no kata presentation is not necessarily the same as during randori.
The reason for these differences may be found in the ways how to perform kata and randori. When kata was introduced into Shiai, some elements were added to give a more dramatic spectacle to the observers (audience and judges).
Randori’s performance is an entirely different story. Randori uses adaptive skills based on experiences gained through randori sessions with different people. Techniques will be dependent upon changing circumstances.
The real competence in randori is the capacity to adapt a technique for the moment. It is possible, the randori version may differ with the kata version or supposedly correct form at first glance. When you look closer, there are no differences if “form-function-meaning” are included in the kata.
The power derived from the simplicity of kata is often underestimated by Aikido practitioners. True power is only possible when the mind and body move in harmony without fanciful things. Too much detail in kata can destroy overall performance and practitioners can be lost as a result of unnecessary items.

It is said there is an impact on randori from kata training. Randori no kata is about a basic structure and the goal is to create a stable picture of a movement in your subconscious. Your adaptability can transform the kata version into an effective randori version.
If the kata becomes a presentation without the appropriate content, it can no longer be referred to as “randori no kata”. We can call it “presentation kata”.
Randori is a tool to provide efficiency to your techniques and body movements. But randori is by no means the only tool. Just focusing on randori will distort your Aikido experience as a method to improve you as a human being.

The influence of “ukemi”

Ukemi, the art of taking a throw or a pinning technique.
Ukemi is a necessary evil to survive a training session, randori or competition. Without a certain ukemi skill, you are exposed to injuries during training.
But there is a difference between kata ukemi and randori ukemi. During kata, you know what kind of throw or pinning technique is coming. During randori you don’t know, you have to act in the moment.
People can do a beautiful ukemi during kata for a certain technique. The same technique during randori can produce an ukemi as a real surviving one .

Hiki-otoshi according the kata method. Ukemi looks nice.

Randori approach of hiki-otoshi. Ukemi is not in an acrobatic fashion.

Acrobatic ukemi versus surviving ukemi

During kata performances, shinsa or shiai, ukemi becomes sometimes very acrobatic. Especially executed by younger people. This kind of ukemi can mask the performance of a sloppy technique.
In randori, the situation is different. You are thrown or not thrown, you survive with your ukemi skill or you don’t need to do ukemi.

Ukemi seen as an escape technique

Ukemi may be taken from two perspectives.
The first meaning of ukemi is the survival action to prevent injury when you are thrown or pinned down, mostly during training.
The second sense of ukemi is to anticipate unsafe action by taking care of your body.
Thus, jumping can be thought of as taking care of your body before the power enters your body. On the other hand, this may become an illusion for Tori, he or she may think of, using an effective technique, but in reality it is false.
To cure this delusional illness, randori can be the remedy if it is correctly applied effectively.

Kata – Shinsa – Shiai

Takeshi Inoue the autor of a book on Koryu no kata, who knows in detail the background of the creation of the Koryu no kata wrote:

In about 1958, we practiced mainly the unsoku, tandoku undo, yonhon no kuzushi (a former version of the nanahon no kuzushi/7-hon no kuzushi) as well as the jugohon no kata (basic15 kata). In around 1960, the junanahon no kata ( basic17 kata) and the roppon no kuzushi/6-hon no kuzushi were created and then the dai-san no kata was devised as a kata of classical techniques. During the mid-60 Ohba Sensei and others worked on the creation of the kata forms of the dai-ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), which we practice as the koryu no kata, in order to work on techniques for demonstrations and for purposes other than randori. What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally. After he had organized the techniques to some extent, Ohba Sensei reported to Tomiki Sensei and demonstrated what he had done for him. He received some advice from Tomiki Sensei and then added corrections to the kata. (“Bujin Hideo Ohba,” Kyogi Aikido Soseiki no Ayumi; Ohba Hideo Sensei o Shinobu, p. 67)

There is a tendency to emphasize what I call a misunderstanding about the goal of Koryu no kata as a source of knowledge to bring efficiency into your Aikido. As mentioned in the quote above, the purpose of Koryu no kata is to give you a structured syllabus which can be used for non-randori purposes
Remember, Kenji Tomiki was not happy about bringing kata to the competition.
The difficulty with the kata has to do with the different versions of the kata. Everyone claims to know Hideo Ohba’s original version. Even among the closest students of Hideo Ohba, there is neither concord nor unity. Once I showed a photographic example, how a technique was done by one Ohba student to another Ohba student. She replied, that was not how she was taught by Ohba.

My view on Koryu no kata

Koryu no kata consist of basic structures for practising “goshin” or self-protection, introduction to weapon handling.
Some parts of koryu no kata can be used as a trainingtool for better and more efficient body use.
The progression of koryu no kata can be seen as a sequence of techniques which transforms into “katachi” and later into “kata.
Without proper “basic “training, koryu no kata stays an empty shell and your aikido will not improve.

Koryu no kata – basic structures for non-randori training
Aiki-Randori no kata – basic structures for randori training

Chokei, the skill of listening

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.

Tegatana Awase: Training routine with a partner/opponent to study basic “aiki” skills.
Tuishou: a two-person training routine practiced in Chinese martial arts

Kihon – Basic Training

When studying martial arts, basic skills are required to apply effective skills in both combat and martial arts. Asian countries have many methods of self-protection based on martial traditions. Nonetheless, there are significant differences in the training methods used by the traditional Japanese and Chinese exhibitors.

In traditional Japanese arts, one develops from learning kata. These kata are categorized into various categories. The basic movement patterns that form the basis of art, the so-called omote-waza and deeper knowledge via ura-waza. Of course, it’s a simplified explanation of Japan’s traditional martial arts.

Contemporary Japanese martial arts borrowed elements from Chinese martial arts. Western ideas regarding training concepts have also influenced Japanese budo.
The idea behind the basic techniques was explicitly conceptualized by the Chinese martial arts. Basic training consists of exercises designed to develop specific skills, fitness and endurance. Concentrating on the Yao or lower abdomen is in fact an art in itself and must be mastered above all sparring is involved. These important foundation skills are sometimes exported as watered down martial arts to non-Asian countries (America, Europe,…). For example the very popular slowmotion version of Yang-taichichuan versus the dynamic powerfull Chen-taichichuan.

Omote & Ura in Martial Arts

When studying kata, you will certainly notice the words “omote” and “ura”. Sometimes the expression omote-waza is used to name the kata explained to beginners or novices in the art.

Omote techniques are taught to beginner and are techniques considered less effective in combat. The view to the outside world is important, but speaking from a strategy point of view, the efficiency is not so high. Students are learning the basic movements of the art.

Ura techniques are more effective in the sense that they are build on a strong “omote” foundation. Basically ura waza are considered as secret techniques. But in fact, the secret is in the total control of the body movements. Without this control, you will not perform efficiently during randori.

Difference between Japanese & Chinese arts

The fundamental difference lies in the pedagogical approach. Chinese arts promote a strong mind and body before any attempt to enter sparring. Chinese arts include some exercises with a sparring flavor, like tuishou or pushing hands.

Chinese martial arts are much longer in history than Japanese martial arts. Like most martial arts, the origin lies in the techniques and strategy of the military forces. Warrior monks, of course, affect the development of martial methods.
In the late 19th century, martial arts also became popular among civilians and created numerous methods as a sort of self-protection.

The same evolution can be seen from the development of Bujutsu and Japanese Budo. The ancient martial arts, also known as Koryu Bujutsu, were mostly practiced by samurai. When the Samurai class was abolished, certain methods became popular as civilian methods mostly called Jujutsu and Kodokan Judo. A few sword methods have become popular as Kendo. The military government was surely a major sponsor of the Kendo method.

Kenji Tomiki wrote some papers on the evolution of Bujutsu to Budo.

The method of practise traditionally used to ensure the safety of dangerous techniques was the kata system of practise. In ancient bujutsu, 99% of a practise was completed by kata alone. That is to say, in order to cope with an opponent’s unlimited attacks, each response was practised by means of kata. That is the reason for the extreme number of kata in ancient jujutsu. For example in Tenjin Shinyo Ryu jujutsu there were 124 kata techniques, and there were over 10 ranho (literally unstructured captures). To become masterful in the practical applications of the techniques required innumerable months. Then someone would be challenged to go from kata to a violent shiai (literally street fight ) called tsujinage or tsujigiri. This gave life to kata and was the place to try to fit together objectively one’s own real ability.

On jujutsu and his modernisation -Kenji Tomiki

We can see both systems, Japanese and Chinese, promoted methods to build up a strong foundation, but both included some exercises as an introduction to different kinds of sparring.
Some jujutsu methods used “midare geiko” or unstructured training. This training is an introduction to sparring or randori.
Chinese arts promote “tuisho” or pushing hands as an introduction to sparring.

Tuishou or pushing hands

Tuishou (Chinese: 推手), often translated as pushing hands, is a popular two-person exercise among Chinese internal martial art practitioners. It is the essential complement to learning bare-handed sequences and also prepares you for combat without rules.

Although we are talking about pushing hands, tuishou is considered a basic training tool to improve partner/opponent’s body listening. Besides listening to the body (energy), other basic skills like accepting power, using power and correct footwork are studied during tuishou.

Chokei, the skill of listening

If you listen to a piece of music and that music touches you, the world around you is no more, there is only music. The art of listening is a part of you and you must enable this ability to accomplish its task. Your mind is there, but your mind’s not interfering with the music.
You realise that music is a sort of energy, traveling like a sound wave. If you can feel the different vibrations of the music, it must be possible to feel or to listen to the vibrations of opponents energy. You must come into contact with it without interfering with your ego.

When you practice with a partner, the “Chokei” skill is always the first task to complete. Unfortunately, our ego, especially blocks this skill. We believe that we can manage the opponent’s action with actions developed in our mind. 
Chokei gives you the information you need to answer the actions of the partner: the opponent. The art of listening without the interference of the ego is a principal part of the training in addition to the skills of the movements of the martial body.

Tegatana Awase, a tool to improve Chokei

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.

Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, Basic techniques of Sport Aikido (Tomiki Aikido)

Tegatana awase is considered a basic exercise in Tomiki Aikido and promotes basic requirement for efficient aikido practic.
But tegatana awase can be seen in a much broader sense than the classical exercise promoted by the Tomiki Aikido system.
Chokei or the skill of listening to the partner/opponent’ energy is in fact an integral component of tegatana awase.
This is what can be considered as a bridge between aikido and tuishu. Both methods depend on your sensitivity.

How can one develop sensitivity?
During tegatana awase, the two practitioners have another role to play. One is active and the other is passive.
Active role: Move forward, backward or sideways without intent to push or pull. It’s only the energy that comes from the footwork.
Passive role: Move in line with the partner’s energy. No resistance or active role is to be performed. It’s all about feeling the energy.

Sotai Renshu – Paired exercises

Tegatana awase exercises are actually an almost non-aggressive method for studying the concepts and techniques of martial art.
Because the non-aggressive nature of the exercise, the perception of a non-aggressive martial art gives plenty of discussion on the effectiveness of the method.

Moving freely around during tegatana awase can be seen as the start of “randori” or “sparring”. Subsequently wrist grabbing can be introduced while keeping correct distance and efficient power use when grasping.
Next, the introduction of “kuzushi” or balance disturning will add the opportunity to apply techniques or waza.

Study examples

Of course we can start from other situations to perform sotai renshu and study chokei, ma-ai, kuzushi and other important concept of Tomiki Aikido

Uchi/Soto Mawashi

Uchi/Soto Gaeshi

Judo Taiso, a scientific vehicle for Aikido

Judo Taiso
The first character 柔 is headed in general as “Ju”, but an alternative reading is “Yawara”. You will occasionally find the term “Yawara Taiso”.

This article is in general based on different documents provided by Teruo Fujiwara and Fumiaki Shishida. Certain information is also gathered from discussions in the Tomiki Aikido Study Group.

Judo Taiso, the road to Kyogi Aikido

It is unclear about Keji Tomiki’s motives for creating an Aikido competitive format. From different sources, he struggled to create what he called later “the second randori method”.
Kenji Tomiki is famous or infamous as the creator of Competitive Aikido. But I believe that his greatest contribution to the world of Aikido is the creation of Judo Taiso (Yawara Taiso), a scientific approach to Aiki-techniques.
The scientific approach has to be seen as a structured training program that can be understandable and practiced around the world. This approach is an educational learning process where teacher and student working together to find solutions to every problem encountered during the structured training process.

On the other hand, he also thought to find a place for Aikido in the school’s physical education by adhering strictly to kata as separate from physical exercises.
Basically, this was not a real issue. Unfortunately for him, to become a regular and recognised group at Waseda University, there was the requirement of the competitive element to become acccepted as an official club.
This, of course, had become a very difficult problem for him to solve the problem of a competitive format. When faced by a member at the board meeting of the Department of Physical Education of the University of Waseda this issue became very urgent.
In 1960, at the conference of the Japanese Academy of Physical Education, he presented “The methods of systematic practice of Aikido according to the Waseda style”. Tomiki reported that “I have implemented a system of practice that allows participants to do “randori” even while maintaining the “rikaku” posture. This means participants are no allowed to get hold of each other. There is also a restriction from the many Aikido techniques to 15 basic techniques (striking techniques and joint techniques).”

Some thoughts from senior students.

Some senior first-generation students, who were not involved in Waseda University sports policy, had different opinions on the issue of competition.

Tsunako Miyake Born 1926 – …
6th dan Tomiki Aikido-JAA; also 6th dan judo and 6th dan jodo. Teaches judo at the Budokan School, Tokyo. Early student of Kenji TOMIKI and Hideo OHBA, responsible for the initial training of high-ranking instructors: Takeshi INOUE, Kinuyo SAKAI, and Mitsue YAMAGATA.

In the interview with Miyake sensei, some of the comments can come across as provocative

Senta Yamada (1924-2010)
“The late Yamada of Hakata lived and trained with both Kenji Tomiki and Morihei Ueshiba.

Senta Yamada (1924-2010)“The late Yamada of Hakata lived and trained with both Kenji Tomiki and Morihei Ueshiba. Yamada did not approve of competition in Aikido, being of the opinion that it would make Aikido lose its roots in the same way that he felt competition Judo has little connection with its roots and good basic movements. Senta Yamada was a live-in student of Morihei Ueshiba in Wakayama after the war. Later he made the remark about some advantages of doing tanto aikido randori.

Study Group Tomiki Aikido discussion with Adrian Tyndale)

Teruo Fujiwara (graduated in 1958)

The time when I studied under Tomiki-shihan in 1956-1958 is called ‘the age of Judo Taiso’. The main ways of moving the body and hands were picked from Aiki skills, then simplified and abstracted and organized as the exercise forms. These forms are ‘Judo Taiso’. The plan of making ‘Judo Taiso’ is that by doing them repeatedly, we can learn Aiki as if we learned hundreds of thousands of skills which can benefit our bodies in a positive fashion. ‘Judo Taiso’ is the valuable legacy of Tomiki-sensei.

Tomiki-sensei wrote in the pamphlet Judo Taiso (published as the text of regular subject physical education in April 1957) that he made ‘Judo Taiso’ as the way to practice Aiki, which couldn’t be a sport, and that when practicing aikido, we must study for correctness and beauty, rather than strength. That is why our time is called ‘the age of Judo Taiso’.
I could study the beauty of Aiki following Tomiki-sensei without hesitating but there were many students interested in the strength of Aiki. It may be natural for young men who would like to study martial arts. Tomiki-sensei said that they must satisfy their desire for strength by practicing the other skills in ‘Judo Taiso’ but they didn’t always follow his suggestion.
In 1958, Aikido Club which was previously not an official club (in early times, Aikido Club was a part of Judo Club. Tomiki-sensei was also the shihan of Judo Club) was granted official status in the Department of Sport and Physical education at Waseda University. As a condition of becoming an official club, Aikido Club was required to practice as a competitive sport. There is no doubt Tomiki- sensei was considering how to develop aikido into a competitive sport as the ultimate goal, yet, he did not expect the situation to become an urgent matter. It was this requirement that forced Tomiki aikido to step into ‘the age of sport: Randori’.

Today Sport Aikido is moving toward completion step by step. However, the skill level of Sport Aikido is not the same as our ‘age of Judo Taiso’. While we must accept that wrong forms will happen in sport, Randori, ‘Judo Exercise’ is useful as the model for checking and correcting them. I think that such a correction will bring sport Randori higher, with beauty and grace. For the beginner, ‘Judo Taiso’ is the proper guidance of skills. I think it is necessary that beginners learn to perform the correct postures and beautiful movements by training in ‘Judo Taiso’. This method will help them avoid incorrect forms in future Randori practice.

Why Judo Taiso?

Judo Taiso, an Aikido approach seen from a Kodokan Judo perspective
Starting in 1952, at Waseda University, judo taiso was implemented as regular education course. In 1954 Tomiki put together the basics of Judo Taiso in a pamphlet, what he called “a practice handbook”. According to this book, judo taiso is defined as “Basic principles of a technical system of striking techniques and joint techniques, using judo principles.
The “striking techniques and joint techniques” mentioned here are found in the system of judo techniques established by Jigoro Kano, and the “striking techniques and joint techniques of aiki ju- jitsu” are nothing more than the techniques of aikido. In other words, Tomiki thought of judo and aikido as the same thing theoretically and technically; judo taiso was nothing more than the set of physical exercises derived from the synthesis of the two. 

Fumiaki Shishida

Kenji Tomiki attributed three features to Kodokan judo in the broader sense (around 1950).

  1. Judo as a sport in which one practices randori techniques in a competitive manner.
  2. Aikido as practiced through ‘kata’.
  3. Judo taiso as an instructional method to promote atemi waza and kansetsu waza not found in Judo as a sport.

He stated, “In the ancient style of jujitsu, movements of punching, striking kicking, throwing, pinning, choking, and locking joints were not differentiated but integrated in perfect harmony. “Competitive judo came to be by organizing some those skills to fit into physical education by developing them into physical exercises for randori. So, I thought of developing the “techniques of aiki” into physical exercises because we could not use this method to transform it into a competitive sport”

In 1957, Tomiki addressed the following two issues regarding the viability of aiki techniques in a school physical education program.
What reason can we find to place striking techniques and joint techniques that have been excluded from judo competitions as functioning components of a school physical education program? and how can we practice excellent striking techniques and joint techniques unless we apply them in competition?
Since, by their nature, striking techniques and joint techniques do not fit with the methods of «randori», we must get to the bottom of things (these techniques) by pursuing «kata». But it is difficult to improve the techniques of Aiki by practicing only kata, as would be done by practicing judo by randori. “Therefore, by extracting the essence of the structure and organising the techniques in the style required for physical education for an easier repetitive practice, judo taiso is born”.

From the Waseda Aikido-Bu website

In 1952, Judo Exercise was adopted into the regular physical education curriculum at Waseda University. In 1961, when Hideo Oba-shihan, an ardent Tomiki supporter, and one of Tomiki’s oldest and best students, became a part-time instructor, it seems that the title the program was renamed aikido.

Waseda University Aikido Club was founded in April 1958 and then aikido was practiced as one of regular subjects of physical education in our university. To decide the foundation and practicing aikido, the council of physical education (composed by each chief of faculty, each chief of sport club, and professors in the department of sport and physical education) set the condition of explaining or handing information of these things;

1. The historical and traditional meaning as Japanese martial arts
2. The meaning as modern physical education and the system of practice
3. The possibilities of spreading worldwide in the future

Especially, the strict opinion was “Is it possible that they have games as a sport in aikido?”
As lessons in the history of kendo and judo have shown, it is the duty of martial arts in modern times to have instances of wining or losing, which allow students to test their skills, reflect and improve their skills, all while practicing with each other under safe conditions. If actual combat was the only way to measure ability in aikido, then aikido could not be the martial art of peace. So, the council permitted the founding of the Aikido Club and agreed to adopt aikdo as part of the regular physical education curriculum on the condition that aikido be practiced as a sport. (Tomiki, The Past, Present and Future of Aikido—congratulating the 20th anniversary of founding Aikido Club, 1978)

Some historical facts about Aiki-Randori no kata

Takeshi Inoue on the creation of “Basic Kata” and “Koryu no Kata”

In about 1958, we practiced mainly the unsoku, tandoku undo, yonhon no kuzushi (the original version of the present nanahon no kuzushi) as well as the jugohon no kata (fifteen technique kata). In around 1960, the junanahon no kata (17 technique basic kata) and the roppon no kuzushi were created and then the dai-san no kata was devised as a kata of classical techniques. During the mid-60 Ohba Sensei and others worked on the creation of the kata forms of the dai-ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), which we presently practice as the koryu no kata, in order to work on techniques for demonstrations and for purposes other than randori. What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally. After he had organized the techniques to some extent, Ohba Sensei reported to Tomiki Sensei and demonstrated what he had done for him. He received some advice from Tomiki Sensei and then added corrections to the kata. (“Bujin Hideo Ohba,” Kyogi Aikido Soseiki no Ayumi; Ohba Hideo Sensei o Shinobu, p. 67)

Takeshi Inoue – Shomen Ate – Uke: Eddy Wolput

Basic 15 Kata

From Shishida’s Study

In December 1962, in the Waseda University Aikido Club publication Tomiki wrote, “During this year, my research advanced from ‘randori’ [practice] to ‘competition’ and I announced it at the Waseda Sai Festival.” On the other hand, he also stated, “The completion of ‘aikido randori methods’ is very difficult. I hope all you club members will forge ahead from here with greater effort, remembering that we have many unsolved problems, and the amount of our training has been small.” As shown in this remark, he understood that there were many unsolved matters, but as far as the training system, from randori to competitive matches, was concerned, there was considerable development during the Showa 40’s (1965-).

In his Guide to the Techniques of Aiki of 1950, Tomiki divided the instructional system for the techniques of aiki into smaller headings:

a. Basic Motion (posture, movements, breaking an opponent’s balance, dodging method, method to sweep off an op- ponent),
b. Basic Techniques (10 techniques),
c. Exercises of Natural Posture (stepping exercises, stretching exercises, turning exercises, exercises for joints),
d. Exercises to break an opponent’s balance.

Of these items, a, c, and d were reorganized in the Judo Taiso editions after 1954 as
Basic Motions (a), Individual Exercises (c), and Mutual Exercises (d). Item b was similarly placed in the 1954 edition of Judo Taiso and in Aikido Nyumon [Aikido Primer] (1957) as the 15 techniques of Basic Kata (Chart 1). The 15 Basic Techniques, as seen above in the Academic Conference report, were similarly established.

Basic 17 Kata

The current Aiki Randori no Kata has 17 techniques.
Hideo Oba, Tomiki’s best disciple, made the following statement in the July 1961 issue of the Aikido Club Magazine: “The 17 techniques of the randori no kata have been established by Tomiki Shihan”. Mr. Atsushi Fujihara, who entered the university in 1959 and was a junior in 1961, stated that he recalled practicing 15 techniques of kata but that these were later revised and additions were made to create the 17 techniques of kata, although he could not remember the exact date (2/16/01 fax and telephone conversation). Mr. Kenji Uno, who became a member of the Ai- kido Club around the spring of 1961, remarked that in May of that year, at the new members’ training camp, there were 17 tech- niques of Randori no Kata (2/17/01 telephone conversation). This all leads to the assumption that, at the latest, by May of 1961, the 17 techniques of Randori no Kata had been devised and were established and being instructed.

More on Basic Kata

According to Mr. Teruo Fujiwara, who entered the university in April of 1954 and graduated in the spring of 1958, during his student days the techniques were quite fluid. According to the notes taken when he was a student, out of the 8 tekubi-waza, only 6 of them, 4 techniques of kote-hineri and 2 techniques of kote-gaeshi, were actually practiced and learned as kata. A total of 13 techniques were practiced, including 3 atemi-waza and 4 hiji-waza.
Since throughout Tomiki’s writing from 1954 he consistently referred to 15 techniques, in Tomiki’s mind, the basic techniques consisted of 15 techniques. Mr. Tamiyuki Okahara, a 1961 graduate (2/14/01 telephone conversation), Mr. Takao Tsurumi, a 1962 graduate (2/17/01 telephone conversation), and the aforementioned Mr. Atsushi Fujihira, a 1963 graduate, and many other then-club members stated that they practiced ‘Basic Kata’ repeatedly, but their memories are not precise as to the number of techniques. Mr. Tamiyuki Okahara said that after Mr. Teruo Fujiwara graduated, he practiced chudan-ate and ushiro-ate with younger members (though they then called it ‘ushiro-otoshi’, he said), and he also practiced, among the hiji-waza, waki-gatame.
Waki-gatame was a technique not mentioned in Tomiki’s writings until 1960. It seems that there probably was no emphasis on the memorization of the number of techniques as 15 techniques, as Mr. Fujiwara stated that various techniques were studied and developed “fluidly”, with the 15 techniques as the core. Further, Hideo Oba’s statement in the second issue of the Aikido Club Magazine (December 1962), “Sensei worked without rest on his ideas to establish the 15 techniques of Basic Kata, the 17 techniques of Randori no Kata, and also the Kata of Ura-waza” demonstrates that the working foundation was undoubtedly the 15 techniques.
Tomiki was using “basic technique” and “basic kata” interchangeably. I suppose it was because he thought that basic technique was practiced as kata, and when the principle of the process was established, it became defined as kata. The reason he expressed the 15 basic kata, which must have been established by 1958, as basic technique in the records of the 1960 Academic Conference Presentation could be that he interpreted the content of basic kata as basic technique. Late in his life, in 1978, Tomiki published the booklet “About Aikido Competition”, in which he listed the basic 19 techniques as separate from the 17 Randori no Kata techniques. From 1967, tanto-randori was getting popular, replacing toshu-randori.

From Judo-Taiso to Kata and Randori

We may consider the Mutual Exercises of Judo Taiso, which Tomiki recommended, the same as the practice of “Basic Kata”. But club members did not seem to follow his recommendation, and they put rather more emphasis on training in kakari-geiko. This training method was continuous repetitions of uke attacking tori, with tori executing a technique. This kind of practice was intended for students to master the techniques by repetition and at the same time, by continuing it until they became utterly exhausted, to strengthen their mental power. But Tomiki did not like it when it was done by momentum. He believed in strictly adhering to kata.

Training consisting mainly of kakari-geiko started to change in 1958, when Mr. Fujiwara graduated and the Aikido Club was permitted to form. Mr. Fujio Morimoto, a former captain who graduated in 1960, wrote; “When we became seniors [1959], the methods of randori were adopted earnestly, which had been our long-cherished dream. It took 3 or 4 years before we saw those types of methods of randori being accepted. Now, even though the methods of randori are not perfect, it has become the characteristic of Waseda University Aikido.” This tells us that from 1959, the earnest competitive methods of randori (competition in which participants fight bare-hand to bare-hand atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza) were put into practice.

The origin of Basic Kata

The origin of the 17 techniques of the Randori no Kata relative to the 15 techniques of Basic Kata is very vague and there is no writing by Tomiki on this subject, and so far we have almost no reliable eyewitness accounts. In my view, given below, Tomiki devised ways to combine the techniques of aikido with Kodokan judo’s randori and kata techniques to compile its central core.
The 15 Basic Techniques, which were announced officially for the first time in the 1954 edition of Judo Taiso, became the fulcrum for study of various techniques in a fluid manner at the Waseda University Aikido Club. The character of the Basic Kata was maintained from the 1957 edition of this publication until the 1960 Physical Education Academic Conference report material. I surmise that by May of the next year, additions and corrections were made and the 17 techniques of the Randori no Kata were conceived and established. The 17 techniques of the Randori no Kata were formed by presuming randori matches, introducing 3 new techniques of uki-waza and 1 technique of hiji-waza, and re-organizing the 8 techniques of tekubi-waza into just 4 techniques. Tomiki researched and structured these techniques to conform with the techniques of aikido, but used the framework of the randori and kata techniques of Kodokan judo.

Basic Techniques or Basic Kata?

Some years ago, in a Study Group Tomiki Aikido discussion with Fumiaki Shishida, he mentioned the idea of “a stiff demonstration of Basic 17”.
If we look at the pamphlet of Senta Yamada about training program, we can read:
Judo Taiso – Kihon no Katachi.
Katachi means “shape” and is the outer form of the kihon (basic) demonstration. In fact, what Shishida tried to explain was a rather very basic, almost rigid demonstration of basic techniques.

The basic format of techniques (kihon no katachi) has to be practised in a fluid format as the step-up to the different methods of aiki-randori.
By using a fluid format, effective applications of basic kihon can be formed and eventually new techniques will be created.
Of course, there will be always the competition rules-book which can stop people from being creative.

An outlook for non-competitive practitioners.

Judo Taiso is greatly influenced by Ueshiba’s Aikido. The training structure of Kodokan Judo is integrated and makes Judo Taiso more accessible for beginners.

Judo Taiso method is basically a training method for learning the proper body movements when performing atemi waza and kansetsu waza.

Senior practitioners can integrate their personal ideas how to improve their body movements without losing the original concept of Judo Taiso

What is Judo Taiso? 
Judo taiso is a modern gymnastic training-system to learn atemi waza (striking techniques) and kansetsu waza (joint techniques). These fundamental  movements  are the expression of the power and rhythm in atemi waza and kansetsu waza.
The Tandoku Undo are exercises to develop good posture and balance. The judo principle shizentai-no–ri (principle of natural posture) is clearly expressed in these exercises. In these exercises the use of the handblade is a reflection of the many aiki-jutsu atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza learned from Morihei Ueshiba. 
The first 3 movements are foot movements using tsugi ashi (shuffle). The next 8 movements are foot movements (unsoku ho) combined with hand movements (tegatana soho). 
The Sotai Undo are exercises which uses the kuzushi-no-ri principle of judo (breaking balance principle). In these exercises the use of good posture, proper balance, correct movement and use of the handblade are further explored. Basically we can say the sotai undo are balance breaking exercises using the handblade.

(Judo reference material by Teruo Fujiwara – 2005 – former student of Kenji Tomiki)

Kodokan Judo is centered around the idea of “kumi judo” or the fundamental Kumi-kata grips, these are asymmetrical grips by 2 opponents.

Sotai undo (Judo Taiso) start from a situation where opponent is grasping the wrist either in an aigamae situation or a gyakugamae situation.

Why grasping the wrist is explained in another article on this blog.

Starting from the concept of grasping the wrist, the randori method can be introduced. This method has 3 modes:

  • Kakari geiko – cooperative free practise
  • Hikitate geiko – cooperative free practise with flexible resistance
  • Randori geiko – free practise with flexible resistance

Other methods can be introduced to make the Aiki-Randori less or more dynamic or powerfull depending on the level of practitioners.

Judo Taiso is not Kata

As mentioned in previous paragraphs, Kenji Tomiki used 15 basic techniques as the core of his Judo Taiso system.
What is called Aiki-Randori no Kata (Basic 15, Basic 17 or ….) can be seen as a formal presentation of techniques which can be used safely during randori.
Remember the 3 features which Kenji Tomiki attributed to Kodokan Judo (as a kind of complete Budo). He mentioned the training of Aikido through Kata.
Koryu no Kata is the ideal method for to fulfill this requirement. These kata include the use of knife, sword and stick.

It is advisable to see Judo Taiso as a training method and not as a kind of fixed Kata. Of course, for senior practitioners, kata is not really fixed as a rigide structure.
Judo Taiso has to be a very flexible training tool and has to be supplemented by Randori and Kata.
This is not the “ultimate truth”, because this doesn’t exist. Some people can be very happy with only practising Judo Taiso as a gymanstic method. Others can be attracted to Koryu no kata and of course, some can be full of Randori.

Practical Mushin Mugamae

Mushin Mugamae, a magical phrase used by Kenji Tomiki to highlight the essence of martial arts. He used martial arts as a vehicle to understand the man behind Kenji Tomiki and invited us to do the same, as a passionate person for martial arts.
However, Mushin mugamae means nothing if we forget our deepest feelings. Those deeper feelings are all about “sensitiveness”. Without “sensitivity” our life becomes boring and you will not get any “Kokoro”. The idea of “Kokoro” translates better like our “heart”, not the physical but the emotional heart. If the emotional heart becomes active, our sensitivity goes up and we are fully aware of the world in which we live.

Mushin mugamae and Kokoro are very practical skills and can only be used when implemented in our training.

Someone asked: “I have heard that Taiji Boxing comes from Daoism. The principles of Daoism emphasize non-competition. As Laozi said [Daodejing, chapter 8]: ‘If you do not compete, you will not lose.’ But boxing arts are all about fighting against people. If we say “don’t fight”, doesn’t that contradict what boxing arts are for?”
  I replied that this is indeed the unique characteristic of Taiji Boxing. It says in the Treatise: “The basic of basics is to forget about your plans and simply respond to the opponent. We often make the mistake of ignoring what is right in front of us in favor of something that has nothing to do with our immediate circumstances.” This is a fundamental Taiji Boxing principle, to let go of your own ego and pay full attention to what the opponent is doing. If you can let go of yourself and follow the opponent, does this does not conform to the concept of non-competing?

by Shi Diaomei
[published in Taiwan by the 華新印書館有限公司 Huaxin Publishing Company, June, 1959]

Mushin Mugamae

In the quote above, there is a remarkable sentence: “The basic of basics is to forget about your plans and simply respond to the opponent”.
In my opinion this reflects in simple words the idea of Mushin Mugamae. Theoretically spoken, this is a concept which can be understood easily on an intellectual level. But practically, this is a completely other story.

Action with a “Mushin Mugamae” attitude

Sometimes the perception of Mushin Mugamae is about “no action”, “motionless”. Actually, there can be much action by applying Mushin Mugamae. When our sensitivity is active, we can move without intent to control and/or harm the opponent. That doesn’t mean we don’t have control over the opponent’s actions. The no-intention, action is not recognised as aggressive by the opponent. The skill of “Sen” or ” taking the initiative” are the result of of no-intention in action.
There are plenty of ways to show “no intention”. The following is a non-exclusive list.

Touching the opponent

When you make physical contact with the opponent, you only have ” the intention” to touch. No other thoughts are in your mind. In this case, the opponent is not offended by your action.
Touching is like using a feather to touch the opponent without power. The structure of the feather is not disturbed.

Moving with the opponent

After touching the opponent, we can move with him without using power. Our mind has no intention to change something in our relationship with the opponent.

Borrowing the opponent’s power

This is only possible if you can touch and move along with the opponent.
Borrowing the power is storing the energy in your body. This energy can be used after you have neutralized the power of the opponent which exceeded your storage capacity.
Tenshikei or rotational strength storing and releasing, is such an example.

Neutralizing the opponent’s power

When you borrow the opponent’s power, there is a chance your opponent has much more than you can store. You have to neutralize this energy into the earth. Your body will act as an energy transmitter. You only can do this when your body has a good structure (shizentai). This structure can act in two ways, incoming power and outgoing power.

Pushing the opponent – issuing power

There are a number of ways to push. A basic idea is to use the rebound of the neutralized energy from the opponent and/or release the stored power.
Using pushing power can be done without the use of energy produced by yourself. It gives you an advantage that you don’t waste energy.
Of course, it is also possible to generate strength by using our body smartly and economically. We can find many examples of merging mind and body applications in the field of high-performance sports activities. After all, martial arts can be considered a high level of sport.
Our force can be channelled in different ways and will depend on the circumstances of our relationship with the opponent or training partner.

Attract the opponent’s power

Everyone knows the power of “seduction”. There is a constant attraction to sugar, alcohol, tobacco and sex.
How to drag in the power of the opponent before a physical manifestation of an attack is an act of seducing the opponent.
Essentially, the art of seduction rests on the creation of an image in the mind. This image will feed an intention, and this intention must be captured with touch skill, as explained above.
It is totally different to force a reaction by means of a physical attack.
Everybody knows the skill of “go-no-sen”. This is a defensive action after the physical appearance of an attack. We can find many examples in the basic kata.
Unfortunately, I think it’s a misunderstanding of the application in the kata. A skillfull attacker will not attack you if there is no gap in your posture. You’re supposed to invite the attack.

Koryu no kata

In Koryu no kata dai Ichi, several examples can be found of the previously mentioned applications of “Mushin Mugamae” performed by Takeshi Inoue and dr Lee ah Loi.

The art of grabbing the wrist

So someone strikes you with his fist: go with your right hand turned and catch the stroke from the inside in your hand, hold it firmly; grasp his elbow with your left hand, raising it up, as depicted here; and step with your left foot toward him so that you throw him over the foot and break his arm.

Codex Wallerstein
A Medieval Fighting Book from the 15th Century on the longsword, falchion, dagger and wrestling.

Originally German Language – Printed 1549

If you look at Aikido, you will see a lot of wrist grabbing in addition to the different ways of using tegatana to apply Atemi-waza and/or defensive tactics.
There are plenty of explanations for catching the wrist. The capture of the wrist in Japanese martial arts dates back to the samurai era to stop the removal of the sword from the scabbard. Of course, many other cases can be found even in everyday life.

A parent may take the child’s wrist to go elsewhere if the child does not listen.

The wrist grab in Korean Drama

On TV, Korean men are always shown grabbing women’s wrists and dragging them either away from something or toward themselves. This may sound like borderline gender violence.
Grabbing a wrist is considered much more appropriate even among friends or colleagues as opposed to holding someone’s hand which is reserved strictly for lovers. Also, they grab it firmly but they don’t try to pull your arm off.

Aikido wrist grabbing

You often hear people asking why in Aikido there is an obsession with wrist grabbing. It seems like every technique starts with “grab my wrist.”
As mentioned earlier, the origin of Aikido is in the martial arts of supposedly samurai training. Grabbing the wrist is to prevent the opponent from using his sword. Examples can be found within the Iai-jutsu advanced training.

Another example is how to prevent of drawing the sword

Wrist grabbing in non-aikido martial art context

The kimura lock, also called double wristlock (catch wrestling), chicken wing or gyaku ude-garami (judo) is a grappling submission hold of uncertain origin, being catch wrestling and judo. The submission bears the name of “Kimura” after the famous athlete Masahiko Kimura who defeated Helio Graciewith this joint-lock in a legendary match for combat sports, which took place on October 23, 1951.

Wrist grabbing can be seen in the combat sport “wrestling”.

“Junte” and “Gyakute”

Fundamentally, there are 2 kinds of grabbing the wrist.

  • Junte, wrist grabbing with thumb and indexfinger in the direction of opponents shoulder
  • Gyakute, wrist grabbing with little finger in the direction of opponents shoulder

These methods are used in various situations. And it is not always the purpose of blocking the wrist into a situation where the arm cannot be used to attack you.
Grabbing the wrist can also be a set-up for a waza to control or throwing the opponent after Uke grabbed you by the wrist.

Examples of gyakute

How to grasp

Basically, wrist grabbing is similar to grasping the handle of a sword.
The basic rule is to grasp strongly with the middle finger and keeping contact withe the base of the little finger.

In martial arts with a stick, for example Jodo, grasping have similar rules.

Grasping the collar or sleeve

This type of grasping is fundamental in Judo or similar fighting sports. It is typical for martial arts practitioners wearing a strong dogi.

Wrist grabbing on a moving arm

Wrist grabbing when someone is trying to hit you with tegatana or fist is not so easy and will be the result of a skill with tegatana.
In Tomiki’s Aikido there is a training situation where Uke is using a mock knife, called tanto. Uke is striking to Tori, which avoid the strike with the proper foot movements and tegatana movement. Of course, the example is simplified and needs randori training to become a real skill.

Skill or Waza?

Martial Arts are mainly based upon the use of “waza”, mostly translated as “techniques”.
This is in fact only a distant approximation of reality. A technique is the visible part of a waza. I believe that if we use the word “skill”, we are getting closer to the true understanding of “waza”.
Of course “skill” also has several levels, and each level has specific attributes.

Skill and Sub-skills

To give more information on “skill and its sub-skills” we can use an example taken from Tomiki’s Basic Kata (Randori no kata).
Gyaku gamae ate (performed by Senta Yamada)

Same “waza performed by Yoshiomi Inoue

The pictures by Senta Yamada gives you an overal view of Gyaku gamae ate. We can see the basic outline of the technique.

  • Opponent or Uke comes forward with arm to symbolize an attack
  • Defender or Tori sweeps away the incoming arm
  • Tori steps in to close the gap
  • Makes contact of Uke’s head
  • Moves forward and pushes Uke down

We can neither see nor feel what is actually going on. It’s just a “technicality”.
There are several components of this technique that require training to transition from the technical component to the sub-skill. After enough training of the components, putting together the components to form gyaku gamae ate (waza) is the next challenge.
In Inoue’s video, we can see certain components that are important for him to create a successful gyaku gamae ate.

Another example of gyaku gamae ate by Tetsuro Nariyama brings different components to the foreground.

Nariyama’s power management differs from Inoue’s power usage. However, certain components are similar. Differences are likely influenced by the different body structure.
We cannot merely copy the movements of an instructor with a different body structure, we need to look at the underlying components of the waza.

Randori gyaku gamae ate
During randori other factors need to be in considiration. Opponent is resisting and is also trying to apply a succesfull attack or waza. Practitioners have to rely completely upon their skills fostered during the many hours of training in the dojo.

Underlying components

Some of the components are hidden and are regarded as internal components, something we cannot see from the outside. If you are an expierenced practitioner and a good observer, you can see the result of the internal skill.

Internal skill is the ultimate goal for some practitioners and sometimes have a mysterious component to cover up the practitioner’s ignorance. But actually, most of these mysterious elements can be explained by comprehensible explanations.

Power Management

When you use power, for the most part follows a linear vector. Yet power does not follow a strict straight line. There’s a spiral pattern based on our corporeal structures. In many scientific literature we can find: Principle of spiral arrangement of skeletal muscles of humans and animals.
This principle has an enormous effect on our movements and the management of power.

Rotational movement

To turn an object, the force must be applied at a distance from its axis, and the greater the distance, the greater the effect of rotation or rotation.

Invoke a rotational movement into the opponent’s body is one of methods to create “kuzushi”.
Unfortunately, our movements are based on a rather complex spiral pattern of our structures for body movements and this can become a difficult task for the inexperienced practitioner. The opponent is not always willing to allow a skill that can destroy the balance. The opponent can use several moves to neutralise our attempts to “kuzushi” and perhaps take the initiative.
If our attempts fail to disrupt the balance of the opponent, there is a tendency to use muscle power to force the opponent to destabilize.

Rotational movements are experienced by the 2 persons involved:

  • The one who uses spiral force to create kuzushi and performs a “waza”
  • The one who receives the rotational power and loses the equilibrium

Between the 2 persons, there is a need to create “a bridge” for transfer the spiral power. Mostly during aikido practise, the arms (and hands) are used for this purpose. Sometimes, the legs can be used, eventually with the support of the arms.

The bridge between Tori and Uke

In most cases, the arms will be used to transfer spiral power into opponent’s body. Tegatana and shotei are frequently used to touch opponent’s body. Both weapons are driven by the elbow, functioned as a transfer tool for the power generated by the lower body.
The function of the elbow as a transfer tool is performed in several exercises, specially designed for that purpose. A well-known exercise is Hiriki no yosei and instructs you to move from your center and transfer power to the elbow(s).

The grabbed arm is used as a bridge for transferring power in the opponent’s body and creates “kuzushi”.

The 8 sotai dosa based upon the 5 basic arm movements, are another type of exercises to study the transfer of power throught the elbow. These exercises are a so-called “foot into the door” for kuzushi practice. Nevertheless, without an appropriate use of power, we can practice for many years without a good outcome on the resisting opponents.

How to make a bridge

Extending power through your arm without tensing up the muscles involved.
One of the difficulties during making a bridge to transfer the power from the lower body is the tension in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. It is very difficult to change the habit of shoulder tension. One of the exercises to get rid of this tension is to practise “ritsuzen” with the arm at the height of approximal the “kyokotsu” or the lower part of the sternum. Basically it is a practise for the mind, because our focused thoughts can make the shoulders more flexible.

Starter and distribution engines: Koshi and Kyokotsu

Our body has to move in such a way that the part of the body that is in motion is being driven by the body part which moved just before it. That way we create a wave of energy up our body. The lower half of our body should therefore always move a fraction of second before our upper half.

We have two engines that can operate in an independent fashion. The former is the main engine of our body which is our “Koshi Engine” powered by the use of the “tanden”. The second, our “Kyokotsu engine” acts as the distribution center for the lower body power.
The knees act as a transfer system for absorption and power transmission, from feet to Koshi or from Koshi to feet.
In the case of our Kyokotsu motor, the elbows serve as a transfer system, from kyokotsu to hands or hands to kyokotsu.
Even though we may be generating a high level of tension across our muscles, tendons and fascia, our body and joints must still be relaxed enough so that they are free to rotate.
To recall, the central axis of the body serves as the main vertical axis of the rotation of the main body. The length axis of the arms (and in lesser mode the legs) acts as the rotating axis to transport the power.