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.

Polarity – Interaction between JU and GO

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

JU/GO, a question of polarity

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

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

Nagashi or absorbing power

What is the idea behind the word? Nagasu verb, meaning “to spread”or “to flow”…… Basically the concept of nagashi in martial arts is absorbing the incoming attack and give back. This in fact is another definition for “Ju no ri” or the principle of gentleness formulated by Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo. Kenji Tomiki used this concept to describe the idea of using the power of the opponent. The aim is to absorb the energy of the attack and not to damage ourselves. There are several basic ways to make this move, but everything lies in the union of two actions, the first action is to synchronize our movement with the opponent attack, the second action is to move your body weight in the proper angle to absorb opponent’s power. Nagashi is a type of protection that allows a movement of continuity, deflecting or accompanying the attack of the opponent. After absorbing the energy flow of opponent, changing polarity is the next step. This is called the interaction between the 2 kinds of energy: absorbing and extending back. In other words the interaction between JU and GO.

The interaction between 2 forces

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

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

Fundamental movements

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

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

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


4 fundamental movements

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

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

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

Applications of 4 fundamental movements

Integrate opponent’s power in your system

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

Sweeping and turning

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

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

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

Rendo, linking movements

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

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

The “Tori” approach and effect on “Uke”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The role of Ukemi

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

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

Fundamental movements, fundaments and applications

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

Shizentai, static training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Randori is not the end

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

Goshin, the self-defense side of Aikido

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

Health aspect of Aikido

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

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

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

Fusion of mind and body

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

Tomiki’s Principles for Budo

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 word “principle”

The word “principle” has many explanations and this can create some confusion. Also in martial arts.
Some explanations found in Merriam Webster.

  • a moral rule or belief that helps you know what is right and wrong and that influences your actions
  • a basic truth or theory : an idea that forms the basis of something
  • a law or fact of nature that explains how something works or why something happens

Not all martial arts principles are in accord with physical and/or mechanical principles.
The real meaning behind martial arts is less about fighting and more about developing oneself at its ultimate potential, physically and mentally is achieved. The principles are the same for young people as for the old one. The difference is about balancing the physical and the mental.

Eddy Wolput

陰陽の理 – Onmyō no ri – Yin-Yang principle – Ju and Go

The interaction of both gentle and firm forces

Our existence is regulated by the interaction between Yin and Yang (Yn and Yo). Some refer to this as a dualistic concept. But I think this is not true, it is a concept of monism with 2 fundamental energies acting as a whole. Balance is a lifelong challenge.
Refusing gentleness or firmness will lead to separation and separation goes to the extreme. Remember, gentleness versus firmness is not the situation, but gentleness/firmness as a oneness is the Michi or Dō.
You may be wondering how the main principle of Ju-Go relates to martial arts, especially Aikido.
It is a good opportunity to review a few ideas put forward by Kenji Tomiki.

Tomiki’s Theory

Kenji Tomiki has written a lot of books about martial arts. Perhaps most famous for Westerners is “Judo and Aikido”. But I think “Budo Ron” is the best book he’s ever written. Unfortunately, this book is not translated completely. However, part of it is used and translated, for example by Fumiaki Shishida, retired professor at the University of Waseda.

Kenji Tomiki has always insisted on the use of “principles” in its training programmes for Judo and Aikido. These principles are based mainly upon the work of Jigoro Kano. See more in “On jujutsu and its modernization”.

What is a principle in Martial Arts?

A martial art principle is a law of physics or a property of physiology that makes your techniques work. As such, they are universal and apply to all styles and systems. Find here some examples

  1. Leverage: the longer the lever arm, the more power you can apply.
  2. Structure: Using bone instead of muscle to keep a strong structure. Bone doesn’t get tired.
  3. Balance: Understand the elements of balance (Base and Center of Gravity).
  4. Gravity: Gravity is always there. Whenever possible, use gravity and let your weight goes down.
  5. More…..

Most of these principles are very fundamental and may be found in the applications of our daily life. For example, lifting a heavy box according to principles is safe for the body. Using bad posture can damage your body.

But not all martial arts principles are in accord with physical and/or mechanical principles.
The real meaning behind martial arts is less about fighting and more about developing oneself at its ultimate potential, physically and mentally is achieved. The principles are the same for young people as for the old one. The difference is about balancing the physical and the mental.

理 (Ri) – Principle – reason – logic

Kenji Tomiki took inspiration from Jigoro Kano’s Kodokan Judo principles to formulate his Aiki method. The principles according to Kenji Tomiki are fundamental elements and are the essential characteristics of the system. But are these “principles” the same as the word “principle” that was referenced earlier?
The Japanese word “RI” in the case of Tomiki Aikido may be very confusing, particularly if we translate into a non-English language. Translation in French gives us: “logique” or “sens” or logic and reason. In Spanish we have: “lógica” and “principio”, and if translated into English: logic and start or principle. And in Dutch: rede; redelijkheid; (gezond) verstand. In English provides the Dutch translation: reason; reasonableness; (good sense).

Yōso-fundamental elements – 要素‎

Aikido follows the laws of nature, and without the link with these universal laws a system becomes a delusion.
There are laws specific to the human body, rules specific to the relations between human bodies, as well as rules proper to the relations between the human beings within the framework of martial arts. All these laws are real and concrete realities useful for Eastern and Western people..

I learned from Akira Hino the importance of Yōso* or fundamental elements in our life and the applications in martial arts. His seminars are not focused solely upon martial arts, but cover also other facets of our human society.

Those elements are described in his book: Don’t Think, Listen to the Body! Introduction to the Hino Method and Theory of human body and movement control.

On this blog you will find many “fundamental elements” based upon his ideas how the body and mind function in modern society.

*Yōso – 要素‎: literally translated as “element or principle.

Principles according Kenji Tomiki

  1. The principle of natural body (shizentai no ri – 自然体 の 理), which concerns posture. This is a natural, unrestricted posture from which it is possible to attack and defend, adapting to any kind of assault.
  2. The principle of gentleness (ju no ri), which concerns the position of defense. It says, do not oppose the offensive power of any kind of antagonist with force. Rather, render that force ineffective by moving your body out of the way (taisabaki).
  3. The principle of breaking balance (kuzushi no ri), which concerns the position of attack. This says to go and build a chance of winning by taking advantage of the breaking of your opponent’s balance or by adhering to his body.

Shizentai no ri

Shizentai is mostly translated as “natural body”. But in the context of Tomiki Aikido, shizentai is holding the body posture according the laws of nature. We must consider our skeletal structure as something to give shape to our body and give support to our movement system. The muscles and tendons are needed to do our movements. Gravity, balance….are elements to keep our structure according natural laws, or in Tomiki Aikido language: shizentai

Ju no ri

Ju no ri is not a principle in the sense of a natural law, but it is a kind of tactical concept. By using the concept of a natural body, we can understand and apply how to use power generated according natural laws. These powers act according 陰陽の理 – Onmyō no ri – Yin-Yang – Ju and Go.

Why it is not a principle? “Ju” is part of the Ju-Go principle, the interaction of the two forces of gentleness and firmness. We cannot separate Ju-Go because it is fundamental to our existence.
The Ju and Go energies are conceived as essentially one, or as two co-existing forces of an indivisible whole.

I think, if there is too much focus on Ju or the concept of gentleness, the concept of Go becomes an almost forbidden idea although we can see often the concept of Go as a skill during randori and shiai.

Kuzushi no ri

Kuzushi or disturbing the equilibrium is an important element in the training. It is an application that teaches you to destroy shizentai. Kuzushi is created using the strength derived from our body and/or the power of the adversary. Remember what Tomiki said:


This says to go and build a chance of winning by taking advantage of the breaking of your opponent’s balance or by adhering to his body.

Kenji Tomiki


There are many methods how to generate power for balance breaking. Basically we can divide them in 2 categories:

Both powers can be seen in the exercises of 7-hon no kuzushi

Rendo – Whole body movement

Whole body movement is made of linked movement segments and it is called “rendo”. Although it is not only a physical action, the brain (and its functions) plays also an important role.

Rendo is more than a link between the movements of the body. Rendo may also be considered as connecting the “principles” to create whole body movements. Particularly the 3 major principles mentioned by Kenji Tomiki cannot be considered as separate elements. They must be merged before a “waza” may be used on the opponent. To do so, the logical sequence of the training method should be followed. Randori or sparring can be fun, but making it effective is only possible if we see the mind and the body as a whole.

A final word

There are many things to say about “Budō Principles” and other important elements. But I think everyone should follow their own path, and martial arts can help you find the essentials of life.
Kenji Tomiki created a training system based on an martial arts which has an origin in Japanese society.
Kano was a person who organised some traditional martial arts in a training system for ordinary people. Using Kano’s thinking, Tomiki followed in Kano’s footsteps to use older systems, methods which are not completely included in Kodokan Judo.
Aikido was a method developed by Morihei Ueshiba and his students, of which Tomiki one of the earliest.
With a lot of respect for Kano and Ueshiba, Tomiki gave a new dimension to some aspects of martial arts.
It is a challenge for all involved in Tomiki Aikido to walk in the footsteps of these teachers and find a suitable way to live in our multicultural society.

The art of “Kuzushi” in Kyogi-Aikido

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.

Kyogi-Aikido

Kyogi-Aikido is a limited version of the art of Aikido created by Morihei Ueshiba. The goal of Kyogi-Aikido is to introduce some free-play or randori with a limitation in the use of harmful techniques.

In order not to forget the original teachings, some kata or formal demonstrations are created for the presentation to public demonstrations and for grading purposes. This is referred to as “Embu” or a formal demonstration of Aikido techniques that are not permitted during randori. In addition to the Koryu no kata or the original techniques, Embu also includes the formal demonstration of the techniques allowed during randori or freeplay.

Randori kyogi:A competition that enables you to practice Aikido techniques more practically. In tanto randori, one uses a dagger and the other apply techniques freely. The one who have the dagger is changed in the latter part of the game. In toshu randori, players don’t use a dagger and apply techniques each other.
Embu kyogi:Competition of pre-arranged forms. Players show techniques and compete its performance level.

Basic Techniques of Sport Aikido (Tomiki Aikido)
Instructor: INOUE Yoshiomi (7th Dan in Aikido)
Author: KOMATSU Toshiya (5th Dan in Aikido)
Available at Amazon as a paper version or a kindle e-book

Martial art or martial sport?

Most people think that judo, karate and other combat sports are just a game because they are included in the Olympic competition. The implication is that a sport is just for the “game” and cannot be effective for self-defense or fighting. The belief is that the distinction between Sport and Martial Art is that martial artists train for the real world. By real world the assumption is that in addition to street self-defense, other hostile situations are included, such as intimidation and so on.
In the real world, before a new product is used by the general public, it must be tested in different circumstances before it can be used. Fundamentally, a product must be safe and must bring some kind of progress to our lives. A product is not necessarily a physical thing, but it can also be a mental notion.

If a martial art is founded on an almost religious belief and which is not tested in the context of realistic and scientific procedures, this martial art is an illusion and a danger for someone who is a so-called true believer. On the other hand, we must open our minds to ideas and concepts that we regard as controversial. Do not become a true believer who rejects anything that does not belong in the dogma of a so-called true budoka.

Aikido Sport or Kyogi Aikido by removing some of the potential dangers may reach a prominent place as a sports activity, but also as a kind of self-protection. Training in Kyogi Aikido differs in many aspects from the more traditional way of training in Aikido. It produces natural, fast, reflexive movement with the full power safe application, achieving a result against a struggling opponent who is also utilizing the full power while engaging in strategic and tactical resistance using all of his or her resources and training.

Of course, this can go wrong. Winning and losing can become too large and begin to divert the training process. The final goal should not be medal victory. The use of sports competition as a metaphor for a true fight can be very different from a game. Matches, as well as free practice and sparring, are simply different methods to shape the mind and body to deal with the adversity of combat situations.

Just as non-competitive martial arts training may not provide the benefits of competition, training for a sports competition may not provide the full scope of self defense training. Martial sports often include non-competitive components. For example, competition is only a part of the Tomiki Aikido curriculum, and Kenji Tomiki, was very concerned about preserving those self defense techniques that could not be used with full force in free play or randori.

Though martial arts and sports both have higher objectives, it is still a fact that many people train in martial arts primarily for self-defense. For those who have never used sports training methods, or those who have never explored the traditional training of Bujutsu, it is easy to reduce the efficiency of the other. As martial artists we should continually seek opportunities to challenge ourselves by examining the weaknesses of our training and keeping our minds open to other methods.

Kyogi Aikido Limitations

Safety in the first place is possible if we include certain limitations in the practice of randori or freeplay.

Using “Atemi” on a physical weakness of the body can be very dangerous if applied correctly. If not, you can injure yourself with your hand, fist or other part of the body used as a weapon.

As in other martial arts or fighting sport, the use of highly dynamic push is introduced in order to throw the opponent. The target becomes a dynamical weak point of the body. Destabilisation becomes an art in itself. Kuzushi or the art of unbalance becomes an important training element in the curriculum of Kyogi Aikido.

Though not directly harmful, gi-grabbing is not used during shiai and in extension not during randori dojo training. The idea was that gi-grabbing was a part of judo randori. Tomiki’s original idea was to embed atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza into judo training using as a separate randori (kyogi aikido)

Kuzushi – Breaking balance

From the book witten by Komatsu Toshiya:
Breaking Balance and Techniques
When beginners learn techniques by watching advanced players, they tend to look the moment his opponent is thrown. However, it is important to understand “breaking balance” in order to learn the technique quickly. Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, said that after he studied breaking balance of his opponents, his skills became much better. The result of his research on judo is that “the body balance of people is always broken by pushing or pulling him.” This means that by breaking balance of an opponent, it is possible to apply techniques even if the opponent is powerful. This principle of Judo is the same in Aikido.

Unbalancing the opponent before applying a throw

We have to take in account different aspect about how to unbalance an opponent. Two important aspect have to be considered:

  • Physical unbalancing – break his stable posture and keep your posture
  • Mental unbalancing – finding the unguarded moment by using mushin mugamae

Physical unbalancing

A human body adopts basically always a stable posture because we are under pressure of gravity. Our posture is not always very effective in the maintenance of a balanced posture. Practicing a stable structure is one of the first stages of martial art training. Shizentai and jigotai are both types of posture to introduce stable structure to beginners. Even more experienced practitioners may benefit from practicing shizentai and jigotai.
Physical unbalancing a stable structure is a skill which uses pulling, pushing or rotational movements. These actions can be considered tools for the use of internal and external power.

Power usage needs a stable structure, otherwise the opponent will use your unstable posture to create kuzushi. Maybe that’s new to a number of you. Most explanations of kuzushi only describe how to unbalance someone without explaining how to keep a strong but flexible structure (jukozo).

Most training packages to study kuzushi are rather unrealistic or abstract in character. These exercises are not directly applicable to randori training. Practitioners must adapt these unbalancing movements for practical use in randori.
Nonetheless, formal kuzushi training sets give you the feeling of how an unbalanced movement influences the opponent. Practitioners will also be aware that a stable posture is required.

Mental unbalancing

Mental unbalancing could be described as upsetting or disturbing the equilibrium of a person’s state of mind.
Finding the unguarded moment by using mushin mugamae is the first step to set to disturb opponent’s state of mind.

“Find the vulnerable moment in the opponent at the moment when he launches his attack. This kind of counterattack that is executed in the void instant when your opponent is just beginning to launch his attack is called “deai”.”

Kenji Tokitsu – 1979 – Le voie du karaté – pour une théorie des arts martiaux japonais

Mushin mugamae
To get into an opponent’s state of mind, you have to free yourself from all the thoughts that may disturb you how to see the opponent. In this situation, you may manipulate your opponent by showing an opening for him to attack. But you are ready to counter, or you can attack the moment he is preparing to attack you.

Both are waiting for the signal “Hajime” of the referee. The person who has the tanto is known to the defender as a right-handed striker. However, the tanto is now in the left hand. This disturbed the defender and he shouted: “He is a lefty!” It was time to attack for tanto. Sadly, there was no “Hajime”. The limitations are not always as convenient.

De-ai, timing factor

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.

Timing

Timing, a crucial factor in martial arts. It is clearly expressed in the skill of “De-Ai”.

“Find the vulnerable moment in the opponent at the moment when he launches his attack. This kind of counterattack that is executed in the void instant when your opponent is just beginning to launch his attack is called “deai”.”

Kenji Tokitsu – 1979 – Le voie du karaté – pour une théorie des arts martiaux japonais

But what distinguishes de-ai from concepts like go no sen, sen no sen, and sen sen no sen? De-ai skill counters in the moment an attack takes place. When it comes to “sen sen no sen” it can be clearly distinguished from de-ai. Because one executes this tactic before the opponent physically attacks. The attacker may have been intent on attacking. But he still hasn’t moved. This means that the defender must anticipate a potential attack and strike first. Go no sen tactic involves neutralising and counterattacking. There are a number of ways to neutralise an attack. The rule for aikido “use nagashi“.

De-ai can be seen in classic “western movies. The first one who draw the pistol is always losing.

Fibonacci

The Fibonacci spiral is a logarithmic spiral with a growth factor based upon the Fibonacci sequence.

In our practice of Aikido movements, the Fibonacci spiral is everywhere. The question arises whether the sequence has some value in our formation or whether it is a gadget invented by someone ages ago. This question is not fully answered, although a number of explanations are used to underline the value of this logarithmic sequence.

Our movements contain always some spiral action, even when we try to do a straigth movement. Cutting with a sword is certainly a spiral action, and if we look closer, the Fibonacci sequence is there. Using the skill of modelling, we can create a spiralling image in our mind which can be helpfull to improve our cutting. The image can also point out the moment when we start “tsugi ashi” during the cut. Of course, we can have a debate about the starting point. Finding out the exact point depends on your skill of “hyoshi”.

When the swordblade is about the level of the blue cross, tsugi-ashi start forward.

The power is going down in the rear foot, when the hand is about the highest point, tsugi ashi start forward.

Uchi-mawashi is another example with a spiraling action.

We can use a big movement or a small movement. The ratio is the same.

The power is going down in the rear foot. When the hand is about the lowest point, tsugi ashi start forward.

The timing

I mentioned “hyoshi” before and you will notice, this is a high level skill. You cannot learn or improve your “timing” if you don’t have control on your body movements by using the subconscious mind. If you use the conscious mind, your timing will always fail.

The conscious mind is used to create a pattern in its subconscious… Then you forget about it. In my opinion, you can’t learn the timing without utilizing the subconscious mind. Some “timing” exercises can give you a clue whether you are successful or not. And the best way of learning timing is “randori”. Of course, this not only applies to the timing concept. Other concepts should also be tested in a freeplay environment.

De-ai and suwari-waza

Suwari-waza or kneeling techniques are very common in the traditional training of Aïkido. In Tomiki Aikido Koryu-no-Kata, are based on the early training of Morihei Ueshiba in mostly Daito-Ryu Aikijutsu.

Koryu-no-kata is divided in sections numbered from 1 to 6. Each section is subdivided in smaller sections. Each section has a special item for study. Suwari waza is one of those.

As an example for de-ai in suwari waza, we will look at Koryu-no-kata suwari waza, an application of oshi-taoshi. When opponent’s arm is at the highest position, tsugi-ashi start and the arm is pushed down at the same time. The back knee is used to add power.

Hideo Ohba was the lifelong disciple of Kenji Tomiki and was also a prewar student of Morihei Ueshiba. Hideo Ohba is also famous as Ueshiba’s resisting uke during a demonstration in Manchuria. A biography of Hideo Ohba below

Hideo Ohba & Takeshi Inoue – Sakai & Yamaguchi

Is there any value in Suwari-waza?

The question is one-sided. It is also necessary to take into consideration some negative aspects of Suwari Waza. But let me introduce you to someone who can tell you some things with an experience in the dojo of Morihei Ueshiba.

“As a martial artist who still practices actively, I would like to speak in to the issue of “knees.” Especially for Aikidoka, knees have been a part of the body that have suffered maybe the most damage and are a cause of problems for many. During my travels to countries around the world, I constantly meet people who can no longer sit in seiza, or who wear braces and supporters because of knee injuries suffered while practicing Aikido. I have met students whose knees are so damaged they can’t really bend them any longer, much less sit in seiza. Knee problems are not the sole property of students outside of Japan. There have been famous high-ranking Japanese Aikido Instructors both living in Japan and abroad who have suffered knee injuries during their Aikido careers. It is one thing to develop knee problems due to aging, but there are many Aikido instructors who have developed knee problems through the over-practice of suwari waza… and they had the advantage of a cultural heritage that prepared them for the practice. “

Gaku Homma, Morihei Ueshiba uchideshi

In another paragraph Gaku Homma made a provocative remark:

“Remember that many of the new students you will be encountering will be bigger in stature than you. Suwariwaza techniques will be difficult for them, so practicing suwari waza will put you at an advantage despite your size difference. To gain control over your students, practice suwari waza. And during examinations, if there is some individual testing that you are not fond of, have them test last, and make them wait in seiza until it is their turn.” 

Koryu-no-kata suwari waza added value

Koryu-no-kata’s total package includes 177 techniques, 25 techniques can be considered as suwari-waza. Most sitting techniques do not have “large” shikko (knee walking) moves, but use small displacement movements. There are a few basic methods for body displacement.

  • Tsugi ashi method using knees
  • Ayumi ashi method using alternate small steps
  • Tentai or 180° turning

The negative impact on the knees is not that high, nevertheless sitting on the knees is not a common habit of Western people.. One advice can be: avoid kneeling practice too much.

The added value of some suwari-waza needs to be mentioned. For Tori, working on your knees means you don’t have to worry about connecting your upper and lower body. The legs are now limited in the role and the hips naturally become in the right place. This makes it easier to focus only on the movements of the upper body and hands. Likewise, the partner’s possible answers are limited, which further simplifies the technique. At the same time, it is also a useful simplification to take the role of Uke as a beginner and which ends up falling from a much lower position and therefore less frightening.

The Mind, driving force behind Aikido

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.

I mentioned on several occasions the importance of the mind during Aikido training. Training or exercising is not always done during the training hours provided in the dojo. Exercise is also possible in the park, at the seaside or in a place where you can do your workout. This may include solo training or practicing with a partner. Whenever and wherever that is possible.

I like to start the day with about 30/40 minutes exercises.

  • Warming up – 7 minutes
  • Kiko/qigong – 15 minutes
  • Ritsuzen/zhanzuang – 10/15 minutes

The morning workout is before breakfast, but after a few major things… Obviously, you can’t practise with a full bladder…

It’s important to practice before reading your social media messages or email messages in your mailbox. The mind is free from good sleep and ready to practice.

Exercise in the morning prior to breakfast became a routine. However, do not be frustrated if you can not do your morning routine. You may have time by day or evening.

Focus on what your are doing

You should feel how your body moves during warm-up. Never do it with power, just let the body do the movements and act as an observer.

Start to breath

Kiko or qigong are practised by breathing much. You need to sense how the diaphragm works. You may feel the fresh air in the morning. All the good things of fresh morning air are absorbed through the body. During your sleep, all the waste is stored somewhere and ready to be expelled when you breathe out.

Move your body without moving

Now it is time to move your body with moving. If someone else watching you, that persons doesn’t see any movement. But within your body, there is a lot going on. Ritsuzen (Japanese) or Zhanzuang (Chinese) is practiced with the mind. You create “dynamic” pictures in your mind and your inner body will react to these pictures. My favourite pictures while “standing” are:

  • You are somerwhere peaceful. Perhaps by the sea. Standing with a natural posture (shizentai). Allow gravity to help you with relaxing mind and body.
  • Standing in the seawater with a big balloon in your arms. The water is at “kyokotsu” height.
  • The water pushes you at the back forward and when the rebound arrives, the water pushes to the rear
  • The water is pushing you alternately onto the right side of the body and the left side.
  • Push the balloon down and let the balloon go back up. Keep the balloon in your arms.
  • The balloon transforms into a big heavy ball. Lift the ball up and let the ball fall down. Keep the balloon in your arms.
  • Finish with “shizentai” posture, image you have a heavy kettlebell in your hands.

The mind game and the influence on your body

Does your mind has an influence on your body?

Where the mind goes the body will follow.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Heart rate control is used to see how it affects your body during practice. Ritsuzen/zhanzuang has certainly an impact on heart rate. If you use a dynamic image in your mind with a heavy charge, the heart rate is raised. The example below, shows during ritsuzen/zhanzuang a change in the heart rate when the load of the image is changing. A low impact gives a heart rate of about 89 bpm, a medium impact gives a heart rate of about 100 bpm.

Heart rate will vary according age, gender and condition. The example above:

  • Age: 73 yrs
  • Gender: male
  • Resting heart beat: 56 bpm
  • Condition between 46-50: We use cardio fitness score in combination with gender and age to calculate cardio fitness level. 15 – 30 signifies a low cardio fitness level, A score between 30 – 38 is considered average cardio fitness. Anything above 40 qualifies as a high cardio fitness level.

In “The search of Wu” a book written by Dr. Yu Yong Nian, some clinical experiments are described.

Before training and in resting conditions your heart rate is 74 bpm and respiration rate is 19 pm, now assume ZZ and bend your knees so that your total height is 3cm less that in ordinary standing (straight knees) after 40 minutes you will reach 106 bpm heart rate and 30 bpm respiration rate. So by just tuning your bending knee angle and the time of standing position, it results clear responses from your heart and respiration: external conditioning has been changed into internal conditioning which I call qualitative changes. 

Dr. Yu Yong Nian

The description by Dr. Yu gives an indication about the influence of a standing exercise on your body. Many more experiments are described and are documented with a lot of data.

There is another interesting item in this book.

Physiologic changes appearing during non-moving exercises are differing completely with moving ones.
During the non-moving exercise, although heart rate is growing up, the increase is steady and can be maintained even during a certain time, but also very important fact is that the respiration rate is never irregular so that suffocation/oxygen debt is avoid, no surplus of carbon dioxide, in a word all internal metabolism is running harmoniously well and adapting hand in hand with the physical effort. How come the body can reach this high level of compensation in front of growing physical demands? We explain it as the harmony in the mental and the Qi.

Dr. Yu Yong Nian

Here is talking about oxygen debt during physical exertion.

In post standing you can control precisely the amount of physical effort, set it up according to each physical condition and maintain during a long period a steady increase of Heart rate during exercise. But according to our experimentation in most of the case you cannot exceed the double of resting HR. Because when the amount of physical effort is exceed this value, muscles and tendons will feel like a painful electric shock contraction and cannot but stop any physical exertion.We can finally say that in ZZ you will progressively reach the maximum amount of physical effort you can bear: regular increase of HR, but without any oxygen debt or out of breath situation common to conventional sports as described previously.

Dr. Yu Yong Nian

As a last item about visualization (imaging).

Using visualization during ZZ exercise refers here to Imagination activity or Recall activity, it is involving high brain functions from the Cerebral Cortex such as memory, attention… so that the practitioner can benefit a faster internal control/monitoring.

Dr. Yu Yong Nian

The result of modeling in your training.

While most studies are focusing on the benefits of physical training on the mind, using the mind to improve physical performance is a field of study mostly for top athletes.

A study quoted in Verkhoshansky and Siff’s book Supertraining , showed a group of athletes who were instructed to lift an empty barbell while visualizing or imagining they were lifting the maximal weight they could lift for that movement. When retested they showed an increase in strength for that lift despite doing no other training for that lift.

Skill training can be more efficient with “modeling”. Some studies have been carried out with a positive result. For example, a study in 1985 took thirty college students of equal (perceived) skill and gave them a putting challenge, telling one group to imagine the ball going in the hole, another group to imagine the ball missing the hole, and giving a third group (the control group) no mental task (Woolfolk et. Al., 1985). As you would expect the group imagining a successful shot saw skill improvement overtime with the control also showing improvement, though not as large as the visualization group.

But even beginners can have the benefits of imaging during the physical training.

Using the mind in your Aikido training

Modeling

Modeling is the application of nonhuman phenomena as a template for improving your performance. Examples of nonhuman phenomena include earth, wind, fire, water… It is up to your creativity to use images to create a model within your brain.

As a matter of fact, a person can also be a role model for improving your performance. “Sensei” may be regarded as a model.

The model that we create in our mind has a tremendous impact on the functioning of our body. In the beginning, when you start using images, your conscious mind is the manager of your behavior.

After sufficient training, your conscious mind will act as an observer and your subconscious mind will take control of the operation of your behavior. Of course, it only works positively if the entry was right. When the entry is wrong your programming may crash your behavior.

Martial Arts examples

Te-kagami – hand mirror technique

Tenchi-nage – Heaven and earth throw

Toraissoku – Tiger’s footwork

Oroshi – Wind blowing down a mountain

Uroko-gaeshi – Turning fish

Nami-gaeshi – Returning wave

Taki-otoshi – Waterfall

The final Image

After all, Aikido is the way to harmonize the “ki” or life energy among people and the environment.

Polarity, a question of flow in Aikido

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 martial arts concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Yin – Yang theory

Yin – Yang (Chinese: 陰陽; pinyin: yīn yáng). The basic idea of the ‘yin- yang theory’ consists of two natural, complementary and contradictory forces in our universe, the principle of opposite polarity and duality. Both of the forces are different, but in the best way, they mutually complement each other.

Yin & yang have its origin in ancient China and can be traced back over 2000 years. When we talk about this duality in Japanese martial arts, we must understand that Japanese masters have imported these ideas from Chinese thought. A great deal of philosophy and history is written into documents and books. I suggest you do an internet search if you are interested.

Flow of energy, harmony between active and passive

Energy is a living thing, with no energy our life is nonexistent. By the time you realize this energy, you will probably feel the flow. When somebody attacks you, you can sense the flow of energy before there is physical contact. Keep in mind the concept of “SEN” or preventive action. Preventative action is the decisive factor of victory, it is the most crucial in the martial arts. Feeling the flow of energy is necessary to comprehend the concept of Sen.

But even when you succeed in neutralizing an attack, your control action may disrupt your own energy flow. We always use two hands in the application of a “waza” to control the opponent. One can touch the opponent with two hands, or one can hit the opponent with one hand. A hand may be active (yang) and one may be less active or passive (yin). Sometimes we see an action with 1 hand and the other seems to have died, not active either, not passive. The energy balance is not there.

Also important, the yin-yang aspects are in dynamic equilibrium. As one aspect decreases, the other increases to the same degree.

  1. Kamae with 2 hands in front of body – both hands are active – front 60% rear 40%
  2. Kamae with 1 hand at belt – both hands are active – front 70% rear 30%
  3. Kamae with 1 hand active and 1 hand dead
  4. Daed hand during application

When 2 hands are active/passive, they create a “ring of power”. An example is irimi-nage.

During irimi-nage a push/pull action is performed by the 2 hands. If there is no harmony between the 2 hands or when 1 hand is dead, opponent can easily escape.

Polarity in Aikido

What is polarity?

Polarity is a term used in electricity, magnetism, and electronic signaling.  In short, it is the directional flow of electrons from one pole to the other. Alternating current (AC) is an electric current which periodically reverses direction and changes its magnitude continuously with time in contrast to direct current (DC) which flows only in one direction.

Polarity, a game of 2 hands

Two magnets of different polarity attract each other, but those of the same polarity cause rejection, or confrontation.

Aikido philosophy teaches the principle of non-resistance. This process is necessary in all aspects of confrontation during your training.

Sometimes its seems there is a confrontation with clashing forces. But the principle of non-resistance can be applied with expansive force used as a coiling skill.

The description given above is simplified. There is an external force that attacks and by using winding skill, the attack force is returned to the sender. Finally, an extra can be added to control the adversary after neutralisation.

Remember that with each push there is a pull, and with each pull there is a push.

Coiling skill

Coiling doesn’t belong only to martial arts. It is also present in a number of other human activities. For instance, pottery and ceramics use this skill to make beautiful artwork.

In the Aikido curriculum we can find numerous coiling skills. One is called “meguri”. Hirokazu Kobayashi had a special meguri skill, he used the suppleness and rotation of the wrist to produce maximum result with minimal levels of effort. Because this is a skill, you need a lot of training to internalize this sort of bodily movement.

Polarity during coiling skills

The polarity of coiling skills relates to how energy moves during body movements. Polarity greatly affects a technique’s effectiveness. The maximum effect of one quality will be followed by the transition toward the opposite quality. It’s not a waste of energy.

Oshi taoshi polarity

If you direct your power away from your power ring, you need to regain your balance and you need to start over. Sure, your opponent will use your error to apply a counteraction.

A simple example to show the loss of power is the grip of the sword.

The first image shows the proper method. There’s a powerful ring, holding the sword handle.

The second one doesn’t have a power ring, there’s a power failure.

Some people think holding the sword with a stretched index finger will relax the hand, arm and shoulder. As a matter of fact, when you hold the handle, there’s no tension, so you don’t have to relax. You hold the sword by closing your hand and using the power of expansion. There is obviously a very short time with a certain tension when you make an impact. You relax the tension immediately without losing the power ring.

Tension at impact

That’s a very difficult concept to grasp. Tension may not produce rigidity. The aim of the tension at the time of impact is to create 1 solid body, but still able to absorb the incoming power and direct it to the earth. If our body is not a whole, we will struggle to maintain our balance, which is necessary to apply power. The voltage at impact is indeed similar to the expansive power.

Please refer for expansive force/power to another article: Shotei-awase, improving expansive force

Shotei-awase, improving expansive force

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 martial arts concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Expansive force

Expansive force is not to be mistaken for contractive force. Expansive force is the result of the utilization of mental power (intention) and muscle tone.

Muscle tone is defined as the tension in a muscle at rest. It is the muscle’s response to an outside force. For example, gravity can be regarded as an external force and affect the balance of our body. The muscle tone in the correct position keeps us in a vertical position without losing balance.

Gravity is a vertical force that affects our body. During our daily behaviour, it is not only gravity that acts on our body, but other force actors applies forces against our body. Travelling on public transport gives you the chance to feel external forces in every direction. Everyone has a skill to survive a trip with the train or metro, and this skill is based on expansive force.

During martial art training, external forces act on you in a different way than travelling by train or metro. Building expansive strength skills in martial art require additional training.

Intent and muscle tone

In general, “using intent” is subconsciously thinking, or more like something between thinking and doing. It’s like a pulse, a “thinking energy” that moves your arm forward if you want to grasp anything.

Do not confuse “using intent” with a sort of “magical thought”. You cannot control your enemy simply by using mental power. Intention is to use your mental potency to regulate muscle tone in the most effective way. When using a flexible, non-contractive, powerful image, your mind will adjust the correct muscle tone.

Zanshin

“Looking” referred to the ordinary way in which we are accustomed to perceive the world, while “seeing” entailed a very complex process by virtue of which a man of knowledge allegedly perceives the “essence” of the things of the world.

A Separate Reality  by Carlos Castaneda 

Zanshin, the ability to see the adversary.

Mental control can be practiced while “ritsuzen” or standing exercise. Focusing your mind is not the same as attaching your mind to something, dynamic spot or static spot. A good way to practice focusing the mind is using your metsuke or the way of seeing the (imaginary) opponent. As you observe your opponent, you will see everything within your field of vision. It’s called “having zanshin”. Zanshin is a physiological sense directed by the mind, without focusing on anything.

Kenji Tomiki mentioned in “Goshin Jutsu” the concept of peripheral vision. Look at the face of the opponent and see his totality.

When practising tanto-randori (Tomiki style), you don’t look at the tanto, but look at his face. You will “feel” the start of his movement.

Something technical

When we speak of shotei-awase, we usually have the basic form in our mind. But actually, shotei-awase is to make a connection with your shotei or palm base to an opponent’s body part. It may be concluded that tegatana-awase is a form of shotei-awase.

Using shotei as a part of tegatana-awase

Basic form, as an isometric exercise

The basic form is performed mainly like an isometric exercise.

Isometric exercises are contractions of a particular muscle or group of muscles. During isometric exercises, the muscle doesn’t noticeably change length and the affected joint doesn’t move. Isometric exercises help maintain strength. They can also build strength, but not effectively.

We aim to improve the expansive force. This is only possible if we stretch our muscles, tendons and fascia. By practicing all forms of shotei-awase, it is necessary to begin with a body image in expansion. A body in expansion is a kind of stretching with proper muscle tone. In fact, it can be referred to as a pull/push action.

Eccentric force

“An eccentric (lengthening) muscle contraction occurs when a force applied to the muscle exceeds the momentary force produced by the muscle itself, resulting in the forced lengthening of the muscle-tendon system while contracting.” and  “Eccentric contractions require less motor unit activation and consume less oxygen and energy for a given muscle force than concentric contractions.”

“Greater forces are generated during eccentric contraction compared to other contraction types for a given angular velocity.”

While eccentric exercises may be compared to expanding strength exercises, they are not the same thing. A major factor in force expansion is creating an image. In a more holistic manner, the expansion of force is only possible if you can extend your “ki”.

Although Koichi Tohei is treated by many Aikido practitioners as someone who does “a different brand” (or some other minmization), Tohei had some innovative ideas that I think the other styles would do well to borrow, particularly in light of the recent (and very late) realization that many of the “ki” things Tohei speaks of are substantive and they are essential components of Aikido techniques.

by Mike Sigman, internal force researcher

Examples Shotei-awase

The basic form of shotei-awase can be used to enhance the use of expanding power. When using shotei-awase as an isometric exercise, the forces applied by both practitioners are used as opposing forces. In order to enhance the expansive power, we must maintain our structure in an optimal posture. Using good muscle tone and an image of the body as a transport vehicle, the way of power will be from hand to rear foot.

There is a major danger, the rear leg acts sometimes as a brake, which destroys the use of expansive power. It is advisable to let the force flow through the body. An equilibrium of forces is created without excessive contractive force.

The skill of expansive force can be practiced in a variety of situations. Sometimes the same foot is ahead, in other cases an inverse position will be used. But the principle behind the expansive force still stands.will be used. But the principle behind expansive force remains.

You do not require anyone to practice shotei awase. Pushing against the wall replaces one partner/opponent. Of course, a partner/opponent may vary the manner of pushing or resisting. The variation will be beneficial. Nonetheless, a wall or a tree may help you when you are alone.

Cooperative exercise

Both practitioners are using expansive force. They don’t dominate the partner, it’s not a question of who’s stronger.

The goal of this exercise is to enhance your force of expansion and give a certain resistance. As a matter of fact, expansive force can be used as resistance.

Expansive force. How to…?

Expansive force can be felt relatively quickly with a two-armed drill. As you pull your kyokotsu slightly, your back muscles will slide towards the shoulder joints and arms.

Pull in “kyokotsu” slightly. Your back should open. Keep your elbows down, don’t extend to the side. Don’t contract the muscles of the shoulders and arms, but keep them up and stretched with muscle tone.

After some practice, you can replicate the feeling of expansive force with one-handed exercises. By adding a mental image during practice your expansive force can increase. Avoid using contractive force.

Expansive force and tegatana-awase

The Tegatana-awase exercise can serve as a tool to enhance expansive force. After having taken the position there is an agreement that is the leader and that is the follower. The leader moves forward with an expansive force. The follower accepts the incoming force and uses it to retreat. As the follower, do not lose your expansive strength.

A Study on Tegatana no godosa

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo

Some of the material in this study is not directly related to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or the Shodokan approach. Additional martial arts are incorporated into this study. This interpretation of the 5 basic movements as taught by Kenji Tomiki just after Worldwar2 is mine. If you have an alternative interpretation, do not hesitate to publish it.

The Principles and Practice of Aikido – Senta Yamada

“There are five basic handblade moves which should be practiced with either hand.”

5 Tegatana Movements

The 5 basic “tegatana” movements are used in tandoku-undo (solo exercises also called tegatana-dosa.

Many versions of tandoku undo tegatana-dosa are created in the history of Tomiki Aikido. Some of the versions are very circular, other are more straight.

Tegatana no godosa

Kenji Tomiki incorporated the 5 tegatana-dosa as the basic movements of the hands and/or arms in solo exercises as well as in pairs. It is said that 5 tegatana-dosa are a natural movement and easy to learn. Unfortunately, the body does not always move the most effectively. We must reprogram our subconscious, the place in our brain where our motions are stored.

The arm and hand movements are always directed by the hara (koshi, tanden, yobu and mata). Without the hara, the movements will depend on the local muscle power or will be perceived as an empty act.

The 5 tegatana no godosa are not privileged to Tomiki Aikido. Other martial arts, with or without a weapon have similar concepts and most of them rely on the strength of Hara.

The mechanism of 5-tegatana-dosa

The perception of tegatana-dosa may be regarded as an action of the arm and hand. The mechanism may be described without giving details about the other body part. The driving force obviously comes from other areas of the body. The strength at the end of the target, in many cases called “tegatana” is not produced by the contraction of the muscles of the shoulder and arms. The muscles, in particular around the root, remain flexible but firm without contraction.

Root-transfer-end

When we consider mainly the physical actions of the arm and hand, we can divide the movement segment action in 3 parts:

  • shoulder or root: source of force for movements
  • elbow: transfer of force
  • target connection or the hand: end of the line of force or the point of transfer into the opponent

This segmentation can also applied to the hand’s action

  • Wrist: the root or source
  • Palm: the transfer
  • Fingers or edge of hand: the target connection

A movement can be practised as an isolated action, but in general a combination is used. The whole body is used to perform an efficient transfer of force into the target.

Rotation

Rotational motions of the body are important in Aikido. Rotation uses an axis, but body flexion uses an axis as well. Bending the body is to be avoided during training. However, certain movements require a certain amount of flexion.

The angle of bending is limited. When bending forward, other bodyparts can make the bending deeper.

There are 3 kinds of rotation in the case of tegatana no godosa:

  • Rotation around the central body axis
  • Rotation around the longitudal axis of the arm
  • Diagonal rotation by using the skill of kyokotsu or the upper body centre

Rotation around central body axis

Rotation around the central body axis.

Rotation happens only at shoulder and waist level.

Hips, legs, knees and feet are not an active part of the rotation.

Body rotation creates forces

Rotation around the central axis creates arm sweeping action.

Rotation around the longituadal axis of the arm

Rotation around the axis of the arm – creates an arm turn

The tandoku-undo Uchi/Soto gaeshi is an application of arm rotation that is the predominant factor. You will also notice an arm sweep action coming from a body rotation around the central axis.

Diagonal rotation

Moving kyokotsu to the side while turning the upperbody. Don’t lift the shoulder. Moving kyokotsu produces a diagonal stretch from the hip to the opposite armpit.

This movement enforces the power of tenshikei when you release the stretch.

Move kyokotsu to the side and up direction armpit

From the use of the rotate the body enters a state of tension. The tendons and the fascia are charged across the tension. By loosening the tension, the force can be directed at the arm. The shoulder becomes the root, the elbow the transfer and the hand is the target connector.

  1. Jodan no gamae:
    • the diagonal tension line passes from the rear foot through the knee to the hip (groin).
    • from the hip (groin), the tension passes the tanden to the opposite shoulder.
    • from the shoulder, the tension passes the elbow to the hand (tegatana)
  2. Gedan no gamae: the tension passes the same hotspots as with the jodan no gamae.
  3. When adopting jigotai, the same principles to create tension can be applied.

Tension lines and rotation

With these movements, there is no contractive force involved. There is a diagonal stretching. Releasing the tension and body rotation creates power in the tegatana.

This mechanism can be applied where diagonal power is needed.

Jigotai

From Judo and Aikido by Kenji Tomiki

Jigotai (self-defensive posture) is the attiude with the feet opened widely apart, the knees bent and the upper part of the body lowered. When the right foot is put forward, the posture is called migig jigotai (right self-defensive posture); when the left foot is put forward, the hidari jigotai (left self-defensive posture).

Fumiaki Shishida JAA-Shihan adopting Jigotai during throwing technique.

Mabu (Chinese) or Maho (Japanese) are similar names for Jigotai. Mabu is used in many Chinese martial arts as a tool to improve the skill of rooting. The effect of rooting is mentioned in the “Jigotai” remark of Kenji Tomiki: the upper part of the body lowered. Lowering the upper part is possible when the hara can sink into the legs. If you have the skill of rooting, you can perform this while you are standing in shizentai or natural posture.

Practising 5 Basic Tegatana-dosa

  • Uchi mawashi – Inside arm sweep – The cutting edge of the hand is leading the movement in the direction of the target.
  • Soto mawashi – Outside arm sweep – The cutting edge of the hand is leading the movement in the direction of the target.
  • Uchi gaeshi – Inside arm turn – palm outside and leaded by the tumb
  • Soto gaesi – Outside arm turn- palm inside up and leaded by the pink or little finger.
  • O mawashi – Big sweep- A combination of sweeping arm movement with a rotation of the arm and hand.

Don’t confuse the following exercises with the wellknown tandoku-undo tegatana dosa. In the tandoku-undo exercises, you will find the 5 basic tegatana-dosa performed in different stepping patterns.

We can practise 5 basic tegatana-dosa as isolated exercises to create the combined skill of using arm movement with waist movement. By using jigotai posture, we build up leg power usefull as power source during stepping exercises (tandoku undo – tegatana dosa)

Kenji Tomiki performing a Tandoku Undo movement.

Using a hidari-jigotai posture.

  • First we start from jigotai posture and perform uchi-mawashi, soto-mawashi, uchi-gaeshi and soto gaeshi.
  • Thereafter, hidari-jigotai and migi-jigotai is used to perform 5-tegatana no godosa.
  • Thereafter perform 5-tegatana no godosa form hidari- and migi-shizentai.
  • Finally, you can perform a stepping version from hidari- and migi-shizentai

Kenji Tomiki attached great importance to the study of basic postures – jodan no gamae, chudan no gamae and gedan no gamae. These are incorporated into an exercise – shomen uchi and shomen tsuki.

Jigotai posture – Uchi mawashi

Main movement is “uchi mawashi” using the turning of the waist.

Jigotai posture – Soto mawashi

Main movement is “soto mawashi” using the turning of the waist.

This exercise can be explained as a “kesa giri” exercise.

Jigotai posture – Uchi/Soto Gaeshi Katate

Main movements are Uchi Gaeshi and Soto Gaeshi

Jigotai posture – Uchi/Soto Gaeshi Ryote

Using both hands

Main source of the movements is the hara (koshi, tanden)

Forward Jigotai posture – Uchi mawashi – Soto mawashi

The distance between the 2 feet is about 2x the width of the shoulders.

Forward Jigotai posture – Uchi gaeshi – Soto gaeshi – Katate

The rotation of the body pushes the arm formard. Returning to neutrtal is used for the pulling back of the arm. The elbow is not activily used.

Forward Jigotai posture – Uchi gaeshi – Soto gaeshi – Ryote

The 2-hand method is a big movement exercise and includes a dropping power movement.

Forward Jigotai posture – O mawashi

During this exercise, the turning of the hand arond the longitudal axis, is an extra challenge in the coordination between body rotation and hand/arm rotation.

Forward Jigotai posture – Shomen uchi – Shomen tsuki

The 3 basic postures are used in this exercise. The shomen-uchi attack is almost a trademark of aikido.

Shomen uchi & tsuki & 5 tegatana godosa

Body weight shift

A moving body has 3 main methods to generate force:

  • Taïjū no idō – using footwork
  • Taïjū no dendō – using body weight
  • Tenshikei – diagonal tension

Some explanation was given in the previous paragraphs. But we didn’t gave attention to body weight shift. This can be explained in 2 basic methods.

  • First, there is the stepping method: ayumi-ashi and tsugi-ashi are the most basic.
  • Body weight shift is basically shifting the weight from one foot to another.

The 3 methods can of course be used in a combination format.

The body weight shift will be a study on his own.

Upgrade your Aikido through Tegatana-awase

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo

A principal obstacle to improvement in practice is the body’s usual mode of generating movements. One cannot improve, for example Uchi-mawashi or Soto-mawashi much unless one breaks the habit of the arm and shoulder muscles to dominate the actions, and learn how to use the waist to coordinate the muscles between left and right and upper and lower body. Between what the body is told to do -the control- and what the body does -the product of motion- is an enormous gap of neural mechanisms that is opaque. The practice is at the mercy of that black box of mechanisms, which include wrong habits.

The mind as an observer

The mind is a factor that cannot be denied, and first the mind will observe our actions to discover the possible mistakes made during our movements. These mistakes can be corrected using the mind, but the mind will once again act like an observer to find other mistakes in our movements.

Central axis and shoulderline

We need to realize that there is a difference between the physical aspect and the mental image of our centre. The central axis seen by the mind always creates a connection with the partner’s centre. This is the actual meaning of “Awase”. Mostly the physical and mental central axis overlap. However, there are instances where the physical central axis creates an opening, a feint. The central mental axis maintain control on the central axis of the partner. A less skilled partner/opponent will attack you, but you have not lost control over a partner/opponent’s actions.

During tegatana-awase the center line links the front hand to the center axis.

Central Axis

****

The triangle

The line between the points of the shoulder joint remains the same relative length. The shoulder joint points are mentally connected to the hand and form a triangle. The lines between the shoulder articulation points and the hand are not fixed and will change synchronously when the shoulder line rotates around the central axis.

Turning the shoulderline is a matter of using the waist and not by using the hips. The upperbody can turn in-and outwards using the waist muscles.

During tegatana-awase, when partner/opponent moves forward with tsugi-ashi stepping, we can moves backward with tsugi-ashi stepping or turning the shoulderline.

Expanding powerline

Expansive force should not be confused with contractive force. Expansive force is the result of a mental image and muscle tone.

Muscle tone is defined as the tension in a muscle at rest. Appropriate muscle tone enables our bodies to quickly respond to a stretch.

Expansive force has to be trained to with special exercises. For example standing exercises like ritsuzen or zhan-zuang are very helpfull in the development of expansive force. Also, shotei-awase exercise is such an exercise to develop expansive force. Of course, the skill of remaining in muscle tone mode is necessary.

If this kind of training is not included in your training program, you have to rely on contractive muscle power on many occasions in your training when strong posture (static or dynamic)is needed.

The mental line from the central axis to the tegatana is not fixed. But the power in this line is always expanding. There is no pulling in.

Expanding is created by the powerline at the outside of the arm. Expanding power comes from the koshi/tanden and travels through the back to the shoulder and arm.

Range of movement

When adopting a “kamae” posture, mostly one foot is in the front.

Bodyweight can move forward and back. Moving to the side can compromise the stabilty. But the upperbody can turn without moving the feet.

Depending on the circumstances, turning the shoulderline can be performed with bringing the bodyweight forward or backward.

The upper and lower parts of the body are independent

I mentioned before, upper body is moved by using the waist. These movements are supported by the lower back (koshi) and the crotch/groin (mata). Turning movements by using the waist is fundamentally necessary during tenshikei exercises.

Many “kuzushi” drills use tenshikei. The use of the waist and back are the principal components.

Stepping during tegatana-awase

Footsteps begin with the use of Koshi and mata. Basically, the upper body is not involved in step motions (tsugi-ashi).

At times, the upper part of the body is used to invoke gravity in step movements (Ayumi-ashi/korobi-no-ashi).

Using the upper body (kyokotsu).

Tsugi-ashi or korobi no ashi need a flexible lower body. Especially the knees and Achilles tendons used the power of the falling body to move forward.

***

Using gravity during tegatana-awase is a method to study “yukozo” or using the flexible body while keeping the expansive power.

Tegatana-awase and intention

The intent relates to the mind, but certainly affects the mental and physical body.

In practice, we coordinate our mind and body with breathing and relaxation exercises to improve our various types of forces. We cultivate physical and mental control over our breathing, movement and energy flow. The exercises are designed to relax muscle tension and promote a natural energy balance.
In this growing process, there needs to be intent.

In general, “using intent” is subconsciously thinking, or more like something between thinking and doing. It’s like a pulse, a “thinking energy” that moves your arm forward if you want to grasp anything.

Training your intention means training your mind and developing a strong form of intention that allows you to be physically, mentally and neurologically prepared for action.

But the intention can be read by your partner/opponent and in that case you will have trouble. The skill is to use “Mushin”, the art of not thinking with the conscious mind.
Thinking energy is produced by the subconscious mind and this is only possible if your training program includes using the intention of the subconscious mind.
There is no delay when you use thinking energy in a situation where you must respond immediately to the right action.

Awase. How to connect.

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo

When I started Tomiki Aikido, I learned 2 exercises that I did not understand at the time, more than 40 years ago. Previously I practiced other methods of Aikido, but the exercises of tegatana-awase and shotei-awase were not practised in the way it was done in Tomiki Aikido training.

  • Tegatana awase
  • Shotei awase

The practice was very simple and the underlying actions of the body were not well explained. But back then, it wasn’t necessary. But I was very curious about what was happening beyond the horizon.

Tegatana and Shotei

Tegatana – Handblade

The handblade means the hand with the 5 fingers fully outstretched together. When the fingers are stretched out thus, the part that forms the base of the little finger is strained. With this part you can strike at the opponent and parry or check his blow upon you.

Shotei -Palm of the hand

Basically this is the palm of the hand, in particular the base of the palm.

Awase (合わせ)

If you are searching for a definition of this term, you will get various explanations. Then there is the general message: Gathering two opposites together.

In the case of tegatana-awase, the idea is to bring together “tegatana of two people”. And in the case of shotei-awase, it means gathering “shotei of two people”.

Aiki

Since we are talking about an exercise involving 2 people, and this in the context of aikido, we may conclude that these exercises should reflect the idea of “aiki”.

Here we are of course treading a slippery path, because opinions about aiki can differ quite thoroughly. If we stick to the definition that Kenji Tomiki gave it, we can get a better idea of what we should strive for.

The meaning of “aikido.” the old saying goes, “It is the spirit that carries the mind and controls the body.” The people of acient times believed that man’s mind and body and cosquently his strength were under the control of his spritit. Aiki means making your spirit “fit in” with your opponent’s. In other words it means bringing your movements into accord with your opponent’s. After all it means the same thing as the “principle of gentleness,” for it is an explanation of the principle from within.

Judo and Akido – Kenji Tomiki

Principle of gentleness

This principle, most often known by the Japanese word “Ju” cannot be explained without another word “Go”.

  • Ju: the body is flexible, movement is smooth without blockage, force can be transmitted in the body without difficulty
  • Go: a physical state, mostly associated with martial art practice in which the body or movement is strong but not rigid.

In explaining the exercises mentioned at the beginning of this article, we need to take into account both sides of the principle of gentleness or in other words “Aiki”.

Tegatana Awase

In Dr Lee ah Loi’s book, Book One Randori, there is a short description of this exercise.

Face one another and let your handblades meet in chudan posture, cross handblades at base of hand and look at your partner’s eyes through the gap made by your hands. Keep good posture and move forward with tsugi-ashi. When you are pushed, do not resist too much but step back with tsugi-ashi, then try pushing your partner. You can move backwards, forwards and sideways, but do not break your right chudan posture. Remember to keep your body square and to face your opponent all the time. In performing this exercise, you can practise basic posture, tsugi-ashi, fast movement and reacting to your opponent’s intention and power.

In a book written by Tetsuro Nariyama and Fumiaki Shishida, Tradition and the Competitive Edge, important key points are mentioned related to tegatana awase.

The practice of tegatana awase is made up of many important basic principles, such as shisei, unsoku, metsuke, toitsuryoku and ma-ai.

Nariyama and Shishida’s comment is very much in line with Dr. Lee’s description. Obviously, the Japanese book uses Japanese words, whereas Dr. Lee uses the English equivalent. What stands out clearly from the text of the Japanese authors, tegatana awase consists of many important basic principles. Without knowing those fundamental principles, the exercise becomes pointless.

The same book by Nariyama and Shishida contains an explanation of “toitsu-ryoku or focused power”. They described toitsu-ryoku as a combination of good breathing (kokyu) and proper use of the body. Unfortunately, there is no description of the correct breathing procedure. How to use the body primarily refers to general remarks on how to keep the body straight and the different methods of foot movements.

In a more recent book (05/06/2020) written by Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, Basic techniques of Sport Aikido (Tomiki Aikido) a brief description is mentioned on tegatana-awase.

A basic practice method to understand ma-ai “distance” from the opponent. The tegatana of two practitioners are matched in contact and they move freely while maintaining the correct distance.

Breathing and correct body use

If you ask a teacher about breathing, the answer will often be “don’t think about your breathing, it’s a natural process”. Of course, breathing is a natural process, but most people breathe quite superficially.

Breathing and the correct use of the body are a major health issue for a large part of the population. You will find a lot of breathing and movement programs to enhance your health.

When your breathing is poor and your body movements are not effective, the practice of tegatana awase will not result in better performance. Your training program should include exercises to turn your breathing and body movements into better performance.

One of the greatest martial art practitioner, Rickson Gracie Brazilian Jiujitsu, used a breathing method to improve his performance. What Rickson Gracie is doing is called a ‘Kriya or internal’ cleaning exercise. It’s a self massage of the organs which improves blood flow.

There are other methods to improve your breathing. These methods are mostly based upon the use of the diaphragm in relation with the abdomen. Kokyu-ho or breathing exercises are used to develop a stronger “hara”.

Shotei Awase

From Dr. Lee’ s book:

Face one another and step forward on left foot, keeping a slightly wider stance, with your right arm straight and in the center. Put the heel of your right hand against that of your partner. Push each other, but try not to bend your arm, the power should be horizontal. The main difference between Shotei and Tegatana is that in Shotei the position is stationary and the power comes from the hips. This training is for power and posture, if you keep practising this, you wil develop a very strong Aikido posture.

In the book by Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, a brief description of shotei-awase..

A basic practice method. Application of hand blade matching. Place each other’s tegatana (hand blades) on the centre line and put the lower part of the palm of your hand (shotei) on that of your opponent. Practice using the whole body efficiencly to push the opponent. Lower your hips to push him instead of using only your arms.

In Nariyama and Shishida’s book, shotei-awase is not explained, but there is an extensive explanation about the benefits of toitsu-ryoku and kokyu-ryoku. Both concepts are necessary to perform an efficiently shotei-awase.

Some Chinese martial arts use a similar basic practise. There seems also a relationship with traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

Using Ming-men

Kokyu-ryoku

During tegatana-awase and shotei-awase, we need power to keep our posture and to move our body. Even when we don’t move our feet in shotei-awase, there is a lot of movement in our body. This kind of power is commonly named as “kokyu-ryoku”.

Kokyu (呼吸) is translated as “breath” and kokyuryoku is translated as the power of breathing. You wil also find the expression “shinkokyu”. This is translated as “deep breathing”. The word “ryoku” is translated as “power”.

Kokyu-ryoku is mostly translated as “breath power”. In fact this is misleading, because breathing is a process to bring oxygen into the body. The art of breathing of course, is using the diaphragm and other muscles. Training of these muscles can give you a better way of breathing, but also, a more robust “hara”. Hara is the source of generating power, mostly derived from gravity and solidity of the earth. The better the hara is functioning, the more power can be generated.

The power originated by the hara is not a contractive kind of power. When the breath after inhaling is pushed down into the hara, it becomes more solid and expansive. The surrounding muscles, especially the “koshi” will act more efficiently to make the rebound of power of the gravity from the earth in the direction of the arms. This is only possible if the body adopt the state of “jukozo”.

Tegatana-awase and shotei-awase are build upon jukozo. If we use contractive power during these exercises, the concept of “ju/go” or “Principle of gentleness” will not be there.

Unsoku – Suri-ashi and tsugi-ashi

Practising tegatana-awase and shotei-awase can be done either without stepping movements or with stepping movements. We must consider different kinds of stepping methods.

Unsoku – Moving around with sliding feet (suri-ashi) and following feet (tsugi-ashi) . When responding to your opponent’s attack, you need to maintain a good posture while moving. A formal method is created by Kenji Tomiki and consist of moving in eight directions from the posture of shizentai.

This is the original judo-unsoku

Suri-ashi – When moving in unsoku, do not raise the base of the big toe from the tatami mat, and slides your feet on the surface of the tatami mat. This is called sliding feet.

Tsugi-ashi – A sliding foot movement either to move the back foot closer to the front foot or to move the front foot closer to the back foot with the pusrpose to keep good posture. Remark that during tsugi-ashi the “suri-ashi” method is used. There is no lifting of the base of the big toe.

The formal method of course requires some adaptations to fulfill the requirements for practical applications during Aikido training. Especially moving forward and backward need some modifications. The formal way of practising is maintained.

Forward and backward stepping method – tsugi ashi. Adapted from the formal judo-unsoku

Alternative stepping movements

These movements are not included in the formal “Unsoku”, but are frequently used in the practise of Aikido.

Ayumi-ashi – To move the left and right feet alternately.

De-mawari – forward stepping and turning – Mawashi-ashi:Turning foot or feet .

Hiki-mawari – backward stepping and turning.

Postures

Basic postures are used when practising tegatana-awase and shotei-awase.

In tegatana-awase, mostly a ai-gamae or mutual posture is used. When right foot is forward, right tegatana are crossed at chudan level.

In shotei-awase, ai-gamae or mutual posture is used with a different approach in using the tegatana. When right foot is forward, left shotei is used to make contact.

Of course, this is the guidance when using the most “basic” method. Your creativity may be used to modify the posture in gyaku-gamae or reverse posture. Tegatana and shotei may also differ in a variety of ways.

Alternative Exercises

Joining tegatana or shotei is the main concept of awase exercises during Tomiki Aikido’s basic practice. Of course, there are other drills to practice “awase”.

There are 2 categories of practising “awase”:

  • Static exercises – without stepping
  • Stepping exercises

These exercises will be the subject of a separate blog post.

More information about Tegatana-awase and Shotei-awase will be discussed in another post in the near future.

Sotai renshu – Embrace the inevitable.

One of the very purposes of studying Martial Arts is to learn to utilize and cultivate unconventional movement options.

Sotai Renshu – Partner Training

In pairs, the primary concept is the relationship with the partner/opponent and how to control the power and the mind of the partner/opponent. It is the body which expresses the power originating in the mind.

From a purely technical point of view, we will examine our body in relationship with the body of our partner/opponent. Later, we can go further into the mechanics of the mind and the generation of power.

Relationship with partner/opponent.

We distinguish 2 major technical characteristics.

Our position in relation to partner/opponent

  • Aigamae or regular facing posture
  • Gyaku gamae or reverse facing posture

The result of our action on partner/opponent

  • Hineri or inward turning of partner/opponent body (or body part)
  • Gaeshi or outward turning of partner/opponent body (or body part)

Contractive power versus “jukozo”

Most of our movements in our lives arise from muscle contractions. The muscles always work in pairs, one muscle is the active actor (agonist) whereas the other (antagonist) is the passive actor. This is the conventional way of thinking about how the body moves.

An example to specify the activities of the agonist and the antagonist:

The agonist and antagonist work together in any type of movement. Once a muscle is tensed, it can no longer relax on its own. This requires the contraction of the opposite muscle. So as your biceps contract to bend your arm, your triceps stretch. Now your triceps becomes the active part. As an agonist, the muscle contracts, allowing your biceps to relax as an antagonist.

Furthermore, in martial arts, the use of the power of the partner/opponent is part of the strategy. Unfortunately, contractive power is not always a good partner when we need to use the competence of “jukozo”, the competence to absorb and store incoming power. Especially the contractive power of the arms and shoulder can negatively affect the release of the power of the legs and torso.

But there is an additional way in which the muscles lengthen (other than only through the contraction of the opposite muscles). This functionality lies at the heart of the “Jukozo” concept. It is actually a push/pull concept without local muscle contraction. The push/pull motion is the result of the use of the kyokotsu, your breathing (diaphragm muscle) and the rotation motion of the abdomen, in other words hara, Koshi and tanden.

Basically, jukozo uses the capacity to store power in the muscles, tendons and fascia while stretching or compressing and not by contracting the muscles. Most of the power will be stored in the tendons and fascia, the muscles themselves have a much lower capacity and are mostly actively used for their contractive features. The push/pull action depends completely on the push or pull quality of the tendons and the fascia

The picture shows a push/pull action. The partner/opponent is pushed while he is turned. There is also a pull to with the result he is bending backward. The pull is created by koshi turning and a backward tsugi ashi, the push is the result of a stretching movement while pulling in kyokotsu. There is no muscle contraction or bending the arm. It is a simultanious action.

Tenshikei (Japanese) – Chansigong (Chinese)

Jukozo is based on a skill which favors spiral power. Our body always generates energy by following a spiral path consisting of muscles, tendons and fascias. We may use a special training method to develop tenshikei ability. During the training, we use rotational movements mostly coming from the lower part of the torso. Koshi is one of the most significant components of the lower torso.

Basically, it means that power is not transmitted linearly, but that it coils and spirals along the limbs. This means that there are two directions (clockwise and counterclockwise). When examining Tomiki Aikido Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa, we can clearly see the 2 directions of coiling movements in Uchi-mawashi/Soto-mawashi and Uchi-gaeshi/Soto-gaeshi.

Uchi Gaeshi

The rotational motions are created by using the “koshi” muscles and those, of course, follow the rule of contraction and relaxation. But we use an unconventional method, the muscles associated with the arms and shoulders are not contracted. The “hara” muscles (Koshi and tanden) are responsible for the rotation movements. A push/pull action is achieved if the muscles in the arms and legs are relatively relaxed.

The result of tenshikei training takes longer than the well-known methods for improving the core muscles in the gym. To control the movements of these muscles, the average practitioner requires many years of regular training. The control of rotation movements can be seen in the performance of top level sports people.

Controlling incoming power

When the incoming power penetrates the body, most people will respond by contracting the muscles along the power path. It will obviously interfere with the storage of incoming power. A better way is to use the “Jukozo” skill, a skill to absorb and store incoming power in the tendons and fascia.

The incoming power, for instance, when someone grabs your wrist and does a twisting movement, follows a spiral path through the body. This energy can be stored within the tendons and fascia. Ready to operate with flexibility.

The better we can store the power, the better we can use the stored power to counter the partner/opponent attack. Countering the attack means avoiding conflict with the strength of the partner/opponent.

An example – the wrist grip.

It’s a practice, not a martial application. Nonetheless, the integrated body movement may be used in martial applications..

The partner/opponent has a strong grip on our wrist. There is no pulling or pushing by partner/opponent, but an inward twisting action of the wrist. Start a release action at the foot, thereafter the leg, the hip joint, the torso, shoulder, arm and wrist. Avoid contractions of the muscles, power transfer will stop at the muscle contraction.

By the way, muscle contraction is also a method to generate strength. There are times when such a method can be used. But especially as a beginner, it is preferable to use the jukozo method rather than the contracting method.

Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba during WW2 in Manchuria

Control your own power!

Basically, we don’t want to give the partner/opponent the opportunity to use our own power against us. A highly skilled partner/opponent may simply use a clever action to cause some sort of blocking action in your body.

Incoming power does not necessarily travel within our body. The incoming power could also be very local. For instance, when someone grabs with one or two hands without pushing, pulling or twisting. All power is centered on our wrist.

In such a case, stretch the tendons and fascia the gripped wrist without pulling, pushing or twisting on the arm of partner/opponent . By releasing the power generated by the stretching movement, an undulating movement will distort the body of the partner/opponent.

Senta Yamada is stressing the softness of the body to transfer spiral power into the body of uke.

Active and static power

The body under mind control, may produce various types of useful power during martial art training and its application as self-defense.

Usually two types will be used.

  • Active Power – Power by hitting, kicking, pushing, pulling or twisting and entering the body for the purpose of hurting or throwing.
  • Static Power – The power to immobilize the body of the partner/opponent or part of the body. Many examples in koryu no kata where partner/opponent has a grip on you to immobilize.

The use of different types of power will depend on the circumstances and will become part of the strategy. Every martial art can have a different type of strategy, but the efficient use of power depends on the same principles.

Uke/Tori and switching roles

Perhaps you noticed that I did not use the words Uke and Tori in previous paragraphs. In many martial arts explanations, the words Uke and Tori are used to define the role of the attacking and defending or winner and loser. That kind of thinking is actually a “one way of thinking”. Uke is thus the receiver of a successful movement. Uke act as a loser and this of course has an impact on our way of thinking. During basic training, Uke carries out ukemi or breakfall. Uke has a losing concept. Whereas during the randori, the concept of loser is not allowed. To avoid losing during randori, most of the practitioners will block the movement of partner/opponent. What we have pointed out in the previous paragraphs is completely forgotten. Jukozo or flexibility is replaced by muscle contraction resistance.

Actually, during basic training, randori or martial applications, there are 2 people (or more) performing Uke/Tori movements. Each person acts at the same time as Uke and Tori. In fact, we may be talking about a Uke/Tori person, an expression of duality as described in an earlier post about Ju and Go. The duality in the Uke/Tori person is also related to the concept of Onmyō – Yin/Yang – Our movements are acting by using opposing forces – tension(*) and release. The concept of opposing forces is in Oriental philosophy explained by the well-known words: Yin and Yang, in Japanese: Onmyō.

(*) Tension shouldn’t be confused with muscle contraction. In our case, tension is stretching tendons and fascia to increase power. It is also possible to build power through compression, a skill to allow input power and transfer in the ground. Rebound is the outcome and is only possible with the competence of Jukozo. For this case, an exercise as shotei-awase can be mentioned.

Conscious and sub-conscious mind

When people start with martial art training in an unconventional manner, many new things need to be learned. This process is principally realized by the conscious mind. The motions of the body begin at a slow speed because our conscious mind is actually a slow process. But we got a faster processor, our subconscious mind. The moment we do not have to think about how to operate, the subconscious mind may take control of the process of our body moving.

Even if you are a practitioner with many years of experience, the moment you start the non-standard path, you are again a newbie. Thus, your conscious mind takes control of the process and your movements are still slow until the unconventional method of movement can be performed by the subconscious mind. This process may take several years, depending on the depth to which the conventional method is grounded in your mind.

Moving from solo to partner training is actually a test of whether the unconventional method has replaced the conventional method and how anchored it is.

We need to embrace the inevitable. Can we do it or not?

Mushin Mugamae

This expression is quoted many times by Kenji Tomiki and his followers. Mostly it is translated as “Empty mind, empty posture”.

Basically, it’s a good idea to use this translation as a beginning to try to understand Mushin Mugamae. There is more to this expression than just “Empty Mind, Empty posture”. However, putting the phrase “Mushin Mugamae” in your mind makes a mind filled with thoughts. This is also true when we adopt a combat posture. As a beginner, the conscious mind will create the thinking combat pose. Unfortunately, using the conscious mind is too slow to respond to the actions of the partner/opponent.

Unconventional movement and training

One of the very purposes of the study of martial arts is to learn how to use and cultivate unconventional movement options. This process may be regarded as “the path of a martial art practitioner”. Becoming a skilled practitioner is not an easy way, but for those who are on the way, it is an experience that can also be monitored for the purposes of everyday life.

As mentioned above, the use of the conscious mind is too slow to react to a sudden move of the partner/opponent or even sudden events in everyday life. The unconscious mind can handle such events if you have the ability to “mushin mugamae”.

Study or technical training takes place at a slow rate. After acquiring the bodily sensation, stored in the subconscious mind, the reaction may be very quick or even slow. That will depend on the circumstances. An image is slow, while a pattern is slow/fast.

From image to pattern, from slow to slow-fast

There are many ways to bring content to the movements of our body. For instance, how to use weight transfer during walking. Within the brain, there are images of the various aspects of walking. The first image is created when we have learned to stand vertically. Later, we start walking, foot by foot. How to use this image depends on our experiences throughout our lives, and based on these experiences, we have created patterns. Learning new patterns of movement takes time and needs to be done properly from the start.

Beginners are not only associated with “novices”, but also with experienced people who are learning new skills. Starting with a new “model”, we start slowly and sometimes we exaggerate the motion by making it bigger. That allows us to create a bodily sensation. This is a condition of subconscious usage. Without a bodily sensation, every action will depend on the conscious mind or the inborn fight or flight reaction**. The physiological changes that occur during the fight or flight response are activated in order to give the body increased strength and speed in anticipation of fighting or running.

A highly skilled practitioner can use the fight or flight reaction in combination with the patterns stored in the brain. If it is still at the stage of using the conscious mind, the fight or flight reaction will have an uncontrollable effect on performance.

It takes time to build experiences to create a model or pattern after creating an image. Sometimes a pattern is corrupted or may not be used in martial arts situations. We need to reprogram something. Reprogramming is a challenging process because bad habits must be removed and new moves must be created. It takes more time to start again, then start anew as a beginner.

**The fight-or-flight or the fight-flight-or-freeze response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival

The “Dogma” of Tandoku-Undo

Stepping out of the box

Years ago, my children made the remark: “What is the purpose of doing tandoku undo (unsoku and tegatana dosa) always in the same way for years and years like a robot?”

Gitte and Tim were both World-Champion Tanto Randori in 2005. At the center is prof. Fumiaki Shishida.

This question caused me to reflect on the advantages of practicing the “tandoku undo”. It was always said, by doing tandoku undo my Aikido will improve. So, I did some research in the field of martial arts solo-training. I got some experiences of my time doing karate. Several years later, I was exposed to Korindo-Ryu’s solo exercises. Tandoku-renshu or solo practice is also part of Jodo and certainly a main part of Iaido. I learned from one of my Jodo and Iaido’s teachers about the importance of “understanding”.

To return to the initial question about Tandoku-undo from my children, the answer came as a shock.

If we do the exercises with belief by doing it often and many rehearsals, it is an illusion that we will progress.

By practicing the exercises with an understanding of the mental and physical level, progress will come stage by stage. Sometimes the progress will be large as an explosion, but most of the time it will be minor and will occur only after practicing regularly with understanding.

Human behavior (mental and physical) can only progress in a positive direction when we get out of the box full of dogmas. Dogmas are created to keep people foolish and ignorant about evolution.

The concept: Tandoku Undo

Teruo Fujiwara on Tandoku Undo or Yawara Taiso (Judo exercises).
The time when I studied under Tomiki-shihan in 1956-1958 is called ‘the age of Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso). The main ways of moving the body and hands were picked from Aiki skills, then simplified and abstracted and organized as exercise forms, called ‘Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso). The plan of making ‘Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso) was 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 Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso) is the valuable legacy of Tomiki-sensei.

Simplified and abstracted

The significance of “simplified and abstract” can be described as a method of exercises which can be used in different situations. We should be able to detach a fixed application derived from performing a tandoku undo exercise. The implementation of tandoku undo in our training must create the gate of “creativity”. By using “creativity” we are able to deal with a different situation.

Movement memory – 2 phases

According to Science, learning a body skill is a two-step process. Mostly, the term Muscle Memory is used, we cannot assume that this search is only built around “Muscles”. The whole movement system is integrated into the research. We can talk about muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, neurons………. and our brain.

  • Muscle memory encoding
  • Muscle memory consolidation

The coding of information in the brain in Phase 1 is well documented by Science. The coded information has to be transferred to another part of the brain during Phase 2. The transfer of coded information has also been investigated by Science, but Science still does not know where the information is stored. How the transfer occurs is also a source of speculation among the various interpretations.

Bridge between Science and practical use of Martial Art Exercises

Movement Memory is a real thing and is not a fantasy used by people to earn some money by promising unrealistic skills. The bridge between science and the practical use of martial arts exercises (randori & Goshin-ho) resides in how we organize our training. The purpose of the training is to activate the movement memory in an efficient way.

Tandoku-renshu (solo-training) and sotai-renshu (paired training) include both the same body movement skills. Those skills are centered around:

  • Body structure (shizentai)
  • Methods of using gravity as the power source
    • Body weight shift (taiju no dendo)
    • Body weight displacement (taiju no ido)
    • Coiling movement (tenshikei)

Tandoku renshu and Koryu no Kata

The main ways of moving the body and hands were picked from Aiki skills, then simplified and abstracted and organized as exercise forms, called ‘Judo Exercise’ (1954 – Yawara Taiso).

This is a remark on Judo Taiso (Tandoku Undo and Sotai Renshu) by Teruo Fujiwara, an early Tomiki student. In those days, Koryu no kata did not exist as a formal exercise. Students practised most basic waza and exercises. Some classical waza have been used to demonstrate the capabilities of Aikido as an art of self-defense (martial art). It was also during this period that Kododokan Goshin Jitsu was introduced. Kenji Tomiki was the first public demonstrator of this kata. You will find his demo on YouTube.

Creation of 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)

A tangle of movements

The source of Koryu no kata is mainly on the art of Morihei Ueshiba, especially the pre-war training methods. In the original Tandoku Undo, there are more body moves to explore than in the modern version of the Japan Aikido Association and the Nariyama Shodokan Method (Osaka). Unfortunately, when researching older versions of Tandoku Undo, the first challenge is the myriad of different movements. The use of all these Aiki-skills in a logical order without loss of effectiveness is the next difficulty. There are a number of successful and unsuccessful attempts in the history of Tomiki Aikido.

According to Teruo Fujiwara the original Tandoku Undo can be described as follows:

Tegatana soho in Yawara Taiso
Tegatana sosaho or handcontrol exercises

Tegatana soho 1 : Kihon no kamae – Fundamental posture, power is concentrated in tegatana
Tegatana soho 2 : Uchi mawashi – Inside sweep
Tegatana soho 3 : Soto mawashi – outside sweep
Tegatana soho 4 : Uchi gaeshi – soto gaeshi – Inside turn and outside turn
Tegatana soho 5 : Uchi mawashi tentai – Inside sweep with forward turning (demawari)
Tegatana soho 6 : Soto mawashi tentai – Outside sweep with backward turning (hikimawari)
Tegatana soho 7 : Ko mawashi – Compact method of tegatana soho 2 and 3
Tegatana soho 8 : O mawashi – Big turning forward and backward

A young Senta Yamada demo of Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa

Kihon no kamae
Uchi mawashi
Soto mawashi
Uchi gaeshi/soto gaeshi
Uchi mawashi tentai
Soto mawashi tentai
Ko mawashi
O mawashi

In the next videoclip, Kenji Tomiki is performing an early version of “Tandoku Undo Uchi gaeshi/Soto gaeshi”. It is not very clear if Tomiki is performing an arm twist (inside and outside), or is he just swinging his arm forward and sideways. In the Yamada clip, there is an impression of a more clearer arm twist.

From the Early Tomiki Movie around 1950

Uchi gaeshi & Soto gaeshi

Back to the future

Can we recognize “the main ways of moving the body and hands” in koryu no kata, as the simplified and abstracted movements found in Tandoku Undo?

There are some videoclips of Kenji Tomiki performing old style aikido (koryu). Unfortunately, his movements are not very clear and give no clues how to move the body in a more efficient way. The performance of Senta Yamada demonstrating old style aikido gives a better impression. His movements are much closer to the movements of Hideo Ohba.

Ohba’s movements gives the impression of a loss of body structure. Tomiki and Yamada are showing a much better control of the body structure. But, on the other hand , Ohba’s seems to use more taiju-no-ido skill, using momentum to control uke’s body. Circular movements are frequently used in koryu-no-kata.

An example by Kenji Tomiki – Kote Mawashi

It seems Tomiki uses taiju-no-dendo of bodyweight transfer to control Uke. Koshi movement is a part of this body control.

An example by Senta Yamada – Kote Mawashi

Senta Yamada use his structure to control Uke. There is no unneccesary movement.

An example by Hideo Ohba – Kote mawashi

Hideo Ohba gives the impression to use shoulder power to control his Uke.

Another example by Hideo Ohba

Taiju-no-dendo or bodyweight shift is a part of controlling Uke

The key to success lies in your creativity.

I learned about Tomiki Aikido at the end of the seventies of the last century. I was taught unsoku and tandoku undo by Dr Lee ah Loi. Most of the time, this was the modern version of JAA, but there was an influence of Senta Yamada. Whereas the JAA version is a fairly straight version, the influence of Senta Yamada is circular.

Another important person for my footsteps on the way to Tomiki Aikido is Itsuo Haba. He taught me some basics for randori, but also something about the effectiveness of gentleness in body movements.

After more than 40 years of Tomiki Aikido, it is a natural evolution, my Tandoku Undo, Kihon Waza and Koryu no kata are “not” the same as of Tomiki or Ohba. Of course you will find influences of many instructors, wellknown or not, but at the end it is my Tandoku undo. Maybe it looks like Tomiki Aikido…..maybe……

A Wet Towel In Space Is Not Like A Wet Towel On Earth

Both in static posture or dynamic posture we use the feet to take power from Earth and transfer it to the arms and hands.

Gravity

Gravity is the force through which a planet or other body attracts objects toward its centre.

What else does gravity do?

Why are you landing on the ground when you’re jumping rather than floating in space? Why does everything fall when you throw it away or let it fall? The answer is gravity: an invisible force that attracts objects together. Earth’s gravity is what keeps you on the ground and what makes things come down.

Anything that has mass also has gravity. Objects with more mass have more gravity.

The gravity of the Earth comes from its entire mass. Its entire mass creates a combined gravity attraction over the entire mass of your body. That’s what gives you weight.

Gravity and martial art

Gravity is necessary to create the equilibrium of your posture. If you fail to act on the concept of balance, gravity becomes your worst enemy and you will fall.

What is balance?

Balance is a situation in which your body has stability. It does not take much effort to keep your position. All forces that apply to your body are canceled out. When you are in balance, it is very hard to throw you or move you. This is true standing.

Gravity applies to everything in the body. If you combine the effect of all gravity forces, you can summarize it as a force applied at a single point, the centre of gravity. Put another way, “Hara” is the centre of your physical being. If you can put your mind in “Hara”, you are a balanced person, physical and mental.

Exercises used in training should consider the concept of gravity. Without a good body structure, you will not be able to use the power of the earth and you rely only on the local muscle power. And even if you use local muscle power, earth mass and gravity are needed. Sadly, it is not the most effective way to move the body and use power.

Practical exercises

There are many practical exercises to train in martial arts. Some have a direct advantage in martial art applications, others have an impact on body structure and power generation. Some exercises are directed towards improving health.

Since you don’t always have a partner to practice, solo training may be an option. Most practitioners are familiar with the basic solo exercises of their Aikido method. Tomiki Aikido isn’t the exception.

The objective of this article is to explain certain exercises with a “creative touch”.

All the exercises has 1 important concept: we have to use the power of the earth.

Gravity is the greatest source of power by touching the opponent. During solo training, the adversary may be in your mind, but maybe you can use a boxing bag. It is also possible to use various weapons as a tool to enhance your body movements including the use of gravity.

The moving body

A moving body has 3 main methods to generate force:

  • Taïjū no idō – using footwork
  • Taïjū no dendō – using body weight
  • Tenshikei – diagonal tension

Local muscle power is not used during the 3 metods. The use of gravity is an important source as well as the solidity of the Earth. Without control of the body centers, local muscle power will replace the flexible and elastic power organised by koshi and kyokotsu.

Moving koshi forward and back

Push with the hand (backside) on the sacrum forward. Let the body return and start over the pushing.

After some practise, you will notice the movement of “koshi”. This is an important step forward in the concept of using “koshi” or hip-power.

Oshi taoshi exercise

Move the arms up with the dynamics of lifting kyokotsu. Dropping kyokotsu into koshi and feet.

While we say “use kyokotsu”, this is not the power source. Kyokotsu is the controller which sends the power to the arms. When kyokotsu returns to the original position, it controls the downward power to the legs via Koshi.

Rowing exercise

Body moves forward before the arms. This is controlled by kyokotsu.

Tenshikei, diagonal/coiling power

Sometimes a comparison is made between tenshikei and wringing a towel. Of course, if you don’t know about “tenshikei”, this conversation is ridiculous.

Tenshikei is the rotational power generated with a body skill using gravity. If there is no gravity, you will have probably a difficulty to generate tenshikei or diagonal power.

Role of the knees during tenshikei exercises

Think about a ball between the knees. There is a certain tension (opposing forces) between the 2 knees.

The example shows a ball when adopting “shizentai – mugamae”. The same feeling must be experienced during a forward posture or a 2x shoulderwide posture (kiba-dachi or jigotai)

A simple example of Tenshikei movement

Between the knees, an image of a ball can be used when performing uchi-mawashi and uchi-gaeshi/soto-gaeshi.

Using waist and hips during tenshikei skill

This topic is a difficult one. In martial art the waist is a part of the koshi. Koshi is mostly translated as hips, but this is partly wrong. The hips are a part of koshi.

Our waist usually turns only from five degrees to thirty degrees. Occasionally, it turns forty- five or ninety degrees. Many practitioners use their hips instead of their waist without realizing it. This is because it is much easier to use our hips than our waist. The waist gives power for the push and also functions as a rotational tool. This action is basically “tenshikei” skill.

The hip joint is used to push down into the leg.

When moving forward or back, the ball of the front foot is used as the rebound tool or as a shock absorber. The heel of the front foot is slightly lifted. Using power for moving forward comes from the back foot. When moving back, the front foot is the driving foot.

Taïjū no idō – Taïjū no dendō

Taijū no dendō or body weight transmission (body weight conduction) is a skill to transfer power into the opponent by using body weight and gravity.

Taijū no idō or body weight shift creates “power transfer” in the body of opponent by displacement of the body.

Both methods are basically dependent on the use of gravity with or without footwork.

There are many kinds of footwork. Most of them are based upon using losing balance and regaining balance. Using gravity is the main source for this kind of footwork. An example is “rolling foot movement during pushing”.

Not all the foot movements have “losing balance – gravity” as the main source of movement power. The driving power of the leg can be used to move forward or back.

Driving leg – receiving leg

Moving around is a matter of using koshi, knees and ankles. The pressure between the feet and the earth has also to be taken into account.

There is always a leg which is doing the action – the driving leg. There is also the receiving leg with an absorbing function, but also a rebound action.


Where is the pressure in the foot?

Both in static posture or dynamic posture we use the feet to take power from Earth and transfer it to the arms and hands.

Mostly, the pressure will be on the ball of the foot. Triangle formed by 1-2-3

But it can also move more in the direction of the heel without losing the pressure on the ball. Triangle 1-2-4.

Point 1 will act as a kind of pump to transfer Earth’s power up. During breathing exercises, the mind can use the “pump” image to bring Earth”s power to the koshi and further to the arms when inhaling. When breathing out, point 4 will receive the down power.

The mechanism of pump and switching from point 1 to point 4 is very useful during Taijū no dendō or bodyweight shift.

Although we speak about points, we have to consider the image of the triangles. Using triangles makes a better use of the feet soles surface without forgetting the different points marked in the picture.

An important point of attention is the stability of the knee. Keep an imaginary ball between the knees.

A simple exercise to introduce the foot pressure skill. When moving up, use the ball (point 1 – pump) to take the Earth’s power up by breathing in. At the end of inhaling, push the breath down end let it sink into the heel (point 4). After a while you will feel the action of the pump.

Grabbing the floor with the toes

Sometimes you can read this advice. And this advice is not only for martial arts, but also other sport are involved like weightliftting and sports with a squating action. Grabbing with the toes has to be viewed as grabbing with the plantar fascia. Find here a nice animation:

When you start using the triangles in the foot, the plantar fascia is the driving element in the use of the Earth’s power along the body structures. If the plantar fascia is not correct working, the rest of the body will act accordingly mostly with a faulty structure. The result is a damaged knee or hip joint. Even the neck will have a negative impact.

The importance of the plantar fascia

Plantar fascia – the longest ligament of the foot. The ligament, which runs along the sole of the foot, from the heel to the toes, forms the arch. By stretching and contracting, the plantar fascia helps us balance and gives the foot strength for walking.

Regularly shift weight from one foot and leg to the other stretches the tight muscles of the feet. Thight muscles often contribute to plantar fasciitis pain, also called heel spurs.
One basic move simply puts your body weight from heel to toe with a rocking motion. This promotes balance along with foot strength. (pendulum exercise)(rolling feet movement)
This will also actually massage the foot by applying different pressure in a graduated fashion along the foot.
Another move allows for a rocking motion from the outside of the foot to the inside of the foot.
This will strengthen the lateral muscles and medial muscles of the leg. Your weight will shift from the arch to the outside of the foot.

In search of “Koshi”

Koshi is most often translated as “hips” and bring much confusion in the minds of martial arts practitioners. If we include Kyokotsu in the use of “Koshi”, a new world opens up, a world of energy and power.

Koshi can variously refer to the pelvis(to include the hips, pelvic carriage, lower spine, sacrum and coccyx), the lower abdomen, the upper thighs, the centre of gravity in the lower abdomen, and all the muscle and other bodily material situated around these areas.

George Donahue, ‘Koshi / Yao: An Introduction’ http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article. php?id=663

In the same way, one of the bases in Chinese Taijiquan or Yiquan, “using Yao” is often translated as “using hips”. Basically, it also comprises the upper torso above the hips, and even the rib cage.

During many seminars, the importance of “Koshi” came up, but unfortunately in most cases the explanation where koshi is located was confusing.

Thus, when you are looking for a complete explanation for “Koshi”, most of the information will be confusing. To experiment with Koshi, I can only recommend a form of abdominal breathing known as “reverse breathing”. During such breathing of Taoist origin, several elements must be taken into account.

  • Breathing in – pulling slightly in the upper abdomen, imagine breathing through the belly button.
  • Exhale while pushing the diaphragm, the picture is to bring the air into the hara.
  • Pull on the perineum to create a certain compression in the hara, the source of your physical and mental stability.

After some training, weeks or months, depending on the schedule you use, you will feel how the lower body muscles and the rib cage move. The next step is integrating kyokotsu into your training process. This is the controller for power transfer, originating from the legs and feet through the Koshi in the arms.

Koshi is not the origin of power. Koshi is the tool to deliver the power of the legs and feet in sync with gravity, to the rest of the body. But the Koshi muscles are really strong. These muscles can generate a lot of useful power as an “injector” to begin our movement with or without displacement. The role of the hara and in particular of the “tanden” is to create physical and mental stability.

The importance of posture

To begin to sense Koshi, we need to adopt a proper posture. It may be “shizentai” or natural posture, but also “Kamae” or posture ready for action.

There are some important considerations.

  • Posture in line of the pull of gravity
  • The head is at the top of the posture – the ears are drawn far from the shoulders, do not pull the shoulders down.
  • Kyokotsu is very lightly pulled in, the breast has a concave form, not a military posture or a collapse.
  • You have the image to sit with Koshi
  • Body weight can be experienced in the feet touching the ground.
  • …..

Suri-ashi, sliding feet

The idea behind Suri ashi is to slide your foot parallel to the ground. At Noh, they learn a posture, leaning slightly forward. What’s going on here is that your ankles will be bent so that you can move your foot without or with a little lifting from your heel. You can’t make one big step.

Raising the heel too high should be avoided since it creates an unstable body.

This can only be done when the appropriate posture is taken. Koshi must connect with the legs and feet to sense the power coming from the earth. There is a certain pressure on the feet, in particular the ball of the feet. It comes from the acceptance of gravity. Body weight falls by placing the Koshi in the proper place.

Pressing too much into the ground using muscle power, creates excessive resistance that hinders the flow of motion. Similarly, too little pressure creates a collapsing body, the horizontal parallel lines between the koshi and the ground are disturbed, and the body begins to ‘waver’ when it is moving.

Suri-ashi has some benefits when you need to reduce the distance between you and your training partner to perform an offensive move from a proper distance. Essentially, you move with a Kamae posture.

Those benefits are:

1) no rocking of the hips,
2) no unnecessary twisting of the upper body
3) no ups and downs of the body.

When I practiced Suri ashi, one leg is pressed downward and the other leg is near empty. The empty leg can move on with help from Koshi. It is called “the use of substantial and non-substantial behaviours”. The exercise is done very slowly, with full focus on weight distribution.

Ki-ai, the sound of energy

With proper posture and breathing, the hara is strengthened and ready to invoke a burst of energy. If it is accompanied by the power of the earth, channeled by Koshi to the arms and hands, effective movements or waza are created. Sometimes the waza is accompanied by a sound or a scream from the bottom of the hara. It is the sound of energy also expressed by famous singers and players of Noh (Noh – the classical Japanese dance theatre).

Ki-aI, the sound of energy is linked to the use of “hakkei”, the skill of instantaneous power. Sometimes “hakkei” may be thought of as an explosive power. Be that as it may, a strong hara is a necessity for the use of Koshi handled by kyokotsu.

Onmyō – Yin/Yang

Our movements are acting by using opposing forces – tension and release. The concept of opposing forces is in Oriental philosophy explained by the well-known words: Yin and Yang, in Japanese: Onmyō.

Pressure (tension) by stepping (unsoku – Suri-ashi and tsugi-ashi) represents the building up of energy, and the distribution and control (release) with the koshi creates efficient movements. The arms and in particular the elbows are controlled with kyokotsu.

When building up pressure or storing power, there is always a flexibility component that represents movement. Let’s take the example of our breath. Inhalation creates pressure or tension and breathing out is the release of pressure or tension. Our respiratory muscles should have high quality flexibility. Tightening these muscles will hinder the efficiency of respiration.

Breathing is a valuable element in the way power is used, distributed by koshi and controlled by kyokotsu. The inhalation pressure and the associated breath, energy, must be distributed in the hara to create a solid foundation. Koshi requires a solid foundation to distribute the power of the earth. If there is no solidity in the koshi, there will be a possibility to hurt the muscles of the Koshi or damage the lower vertebral column..

Tension and release are an expression of the dual forces in the universe. Both elements are constantly in motion and by tension, the movement will stop.

Adding Kyokotsu into the training

Before you can use kyokotsu control, you need to experience kyokotsu. The outcome of the kyokotsu manipulations can be seen in the Koshi movement.

Do not move Koshi deliberately, allow Kyokotsu to do his work, Koshi will move without thinking. Of course, this can only happen when you relax your body and adopt a good posture.

Some examples of kyokotsu movements can be seen in next videoclip.

Tenshikei, diagonal power

Tenshikei, in Chinese called Chansigong or silk reeling, is a topic for another blog post. The correct manipulation of kyokotsu and Koshi is the source of tenshikei or diagonal power. There are drills for developing this kind of power. Here is one simple example. The motion starts with pushing Koshi in the direction of the foot. The heel pushes outward without actually moving. There’s a rebound that goes through the body to the head. In the end, the eyes follow the diagonal path. The body goes back the same way.

Balance of “JU” and “GO” or the alternative way in Tomiki Aikido

Tomiki Aikido is most commonly associated with a “competitive” version of the Aikido. In a way, this is correct because this kind of Aikido is created at Waseda University for the purpose of holding competitions among the different universities in Japan. As with other martial arts, Tomiki Aikido is also known as Shodokan Aikido has become a sporting activity throughout the world.

Every martial art also has a component of maintaining health, the same goes for Tomiki Aikido.

Maintaining a strong and supple body is an important condition in order to live a happy life. Our minds and thoughts have an important role to play here and this cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, our sedentary life is a great danger to our movements, physical as well as mental. Such a life does not give us much chance of moving our body or using our creative mind. We can forget how to move our body in a rational way and our mind becomes in a state of unmindfulness.

Some people begin with a movement program to solve the problem of inactivity. Martial Art can be such a program for better movement.

The image of a martial art with the people in general, is an image of violence and aggressive behavior. Of course, people are aware of the Japanese art of Aikido or the Chinese art of Tai-chi-chuan. Most of the time, they consider these arts to be a watered-down combat system, without any connection to the real world.

The purpose of martial arts can be described as 2-fold

  1. Civilian purposes
    • Maintenance of health for everyday life and well-being.
    • Self-cultivation of the mind/spirit
  2. Martial purposes
    • Self-protection/self-defense
    • Simulated combat (sport/randori/shiai)

Basically, the main concept in the so-called soft martial arts is to find and improve the balance between relaxation and tension. This is not only a physical matter. The balance in the mind has also to be accomplished.

When the balance is created, the movements of mind and body can be describes as: “The rational way of using the mind and body.”

To understand this, two concepts come forward: Ju and Go.

  • Ju: the body is flexible, movement is smooth without blockage, force can be transmitted in the body without difficulty
  • Go: a physical state, mostly associated with martial art practice in which the body or movement is strong but not rigid.

In other words, a balance between flexibility and power is needed to produce an efficient action in your life.

For example the action os simple standing and trying to relax. Relaxing is associated with some kind of softness and flexibility. We also need some power to overcome gravity and keeping the body up. Too much power creates a stiffness in the body and mind, too much relaxing creates a kind of collapsed body (mind & body).

Balance between “Ju” and “Go”

The balance between the Ju and Go, the 2 physical qualities of the body create a detached mental state, in other words a state of emptiness, also called “mushin mugamae”, a famous quote frequently used by Kenji Tomiki/

You become an observer of the movements produced by yourself without any urge to bring your “ego” into play. Your mind and body comes into a state of balance between flexibility and power.

How to?

So, when you start to practice, you should first focus on relaxation in order to remove any stiffness in your mind and body. Stiffness is the condition of muscular movements in which your mind cannot lead your body movement.

Or the muscular force is blocked at a certain point even though the mind wants to reach a certain objective. In other words, there’s a lack of coordination and alignment between the body and the mind. The disharmonious state between the physical movement and the mind is the root of stiffness.

To practice “relaxation”, the best way is to put yourself in an upright posture, also called “shizentai”, and start to get rid of all unnecessary tension by scanning the body. You can find more on this matter if you do a search on ritsuzen.

The next step is making the body strong by using the optimal muscle tone to generate power for you movement action. Be aware, movement is always guided by the mind, but never forced by the mind.

Tandoku renshu

Solo training consists of several components that cannot be omitted.

  • Warming up – loosening up mind and body with soft stretching and flexible movements
  • Energetic exercises – Kiko or Qigong – Shin-kokyu exercises (reverse breathing exercises)
  • Winding/unwinding exercises – Tenshikei exercises (Chansi-gong)
  • Sword-hand exercises with displacement – tegatana-dosa and unsoku-ho

Sotai renshu

The purpose of partner exercises is to test the efficiency of the skills developped during solo training.

Katachi and Kata training

Martial art techniques using the skills developped during solo training and partner training

Randori

Testing the accumulation of the skills developped during training of tandoku renshu, sotai renshu and katachi/kata.

Kyokotsu Control

The concept of “Kyokotsu” is already mentioned in numerous posts on this blog. The Kyokotsu movement is part of the entire body movement and cannot be separated from it. There are several basic kyokotsu movements, and these movements are embedded in different exercises already covered in this blog.

The Kyokotsu control consists of several basic movements:

  1. In and out (horizontally)
  2. Up and down (vertically)
  3. left and right (horizontally)
  4. Figure eight (combination of 1-3 with turning torso
  5. ……

Those movements connect Kyokotsu with the abdominal area, the spine and the back muscles, which leads to a whole-body movement.

By controlling the kyokotsu, we control the spinal column and surrounding muscles. Kyokotsu is essentially a part that is hard work to move consciously. If you succeed in doing so, other parts of the skeleton have no alternative but to move with it. An interconnection with the spinal column at the center is created when you succeed after much training. If you try to control your spine directly, you find yourself in tension. We need to use an image of the kyokotsu in motion, and thus the spinal column will have the freedom to move by the surrounding muscles.

Major muscles groups affected by kyokotsu control

Kyokotsu control strengthens the iliac muscle and the major psoas muscle which are attached to the spine. Strengthening these muscles helps the movement of the body to bring power to the hands and legs. Moreover, the intentional movement of Kyokotsu causes the opening of the shoulder blades. This in turn enables the freedom of the upper body, including the ribs, and the suppleness of the arms. In addition, Kyokotsu control affect the movement of the pelvis, which increases the strength and freedom of the lower body.

The latissimus dorsi, which is also connected to the spinal column, is also affected by kyokotsu motion. Especially when the kyokotsu rises with an upward move of the arm.

Of course, the above mentioned muscles are just a part of the necessary muscles needed for the whole body movement.

Kyokotsu Control

Pulling in horizontally

x

Aikira Hino Budo Theory

The concept of Kyokotsu control is one of the basic elements taught at many seminars of the Study Group Tomiki Aikido in Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria and the UK.

The concept of Kyokotsu Control is an element of Hino’s Budo Theory. Before the Corona crisis, Akira Hino gave several seminars in the countries of Europe. His method is not limited to practicing martial arts. In 2012, he taught a seminar at a cultural center in Antwerp (De Singel). The majority of the participants were performers and dancers. A report is available at Singel website.

Don’t Think, Listen to the Body! Introduction to the Hino Method and Theory of human body and movement control by Akira Hino Translation by Yuko Takeda

This book is available at Amazon Kindle Store

Solo-training and feedback

The adoption of solo training in modern Budo is in large part due to the influence of Western learning methods in the early years of modern Japan. In particular the Swedish gymnastic method or the German and British military drill are very influential. Modern Budo introduces mass education and it is more convenient to treat a large number of practitioners in a small space. In Koryu or traditional Japanese martial art, solo training was minimal, if at all.

Very popular in Japan have been a radio broadcast to promote health exercises to the population as a mass education.

Rajio Taiso, literally “radio calisthenics,” is a radio program that broadcasts a set of warm-up exercise guidelines along with music, and while “rajio taiso” is the Japanese name, similar programs are popular in China and Taiwan, too. The first broadcast took place in 1928, and the aim was to improve the health of the general public in Japan.

Also the influence of Chinese martial arts on some modern Japanese Budo cannot be overlooked.

Modern Budo as Kodokan Judo has adopted some methods of striking training of Tenshin shinyo-Ryu, who, through Yoshin-Ryu, has distant links with the Chinese arts. Karate-do is a further example of the influence of Chinese solo training.

Even Tomiki Aikido may have some Chinese influence due to the fact that Kenji Tomiki lived a few years in Manchuria and was imprisoned for a few years in Siberia.

From 1936 till the end of the second world war he lived in Manchukuo (Manchuria) where he taught aikibudo (an early name for aikido) to the Kwantung Army and the Imperial Household Agency. In 1938 he became an assistant professor at Kenkoku University in Manchukuo. In 1941, became a professor at Kenkoku University in Manchuria.

During the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, some Japanese soldiers were exposed to Chinese martial arts.One of them is Kenichi Saiwa. He was a Japanese martial artist and a colonel in the Japanese army. Having obtained Dan’s fourth grade in judo under Sanpo Toku and the fifth Dan in Kendo, Kenichi traveled to Beijing in 1939, to challenge Wang Xiangzhai, founder of Yiquan. After the war, Sawai founded Tai-Ki-Ken based upon the art of Yiquan.

Why is solo-training so boring?

Most of the practitioners stop training rather than to really get to the bottom of such less rewarding things at first sight, the regular or daily solo training also called tanren (strengthening and conditioning the body). The cause for this is mainly a lack of guidance or the boredom of kata and solo training. Many practitioners want to become involved from the first day into randori or combat without even training for building up a martial art body. In fact, Tanren has nothing to do with learning Aikido techniques or applications for randori or free combat, though a conditioned body is necessary to perform effective techniques.

Basically, solo training is a high standard training method. The encounter with yourself is one of the difficulties, someone must conquer.

Aikido is basically solitary, because even though it is mostly practised in pairs. Your training partner is actually a tool that we use to improve our understanding of the art Aikido.

A martial art can become an ideal solitary practice definitely on an advanced level, there are no more distractions. Self-glorification through competition victory or the self-satisfaction of rising in the ranks, should have disappeared.

Training must be done for its own good, it must benefit mainly to itself, and is in some ways very selfish. The higher the level of training, particularly solo training, the less likely people are to appreciate it. So those who are engaged in that kind of training are very lonely.

Tomiki Aikido Individual training method.

At a basic level, an individual training method is available. But from the birth of Tomiki Aikido to today, the method has changed greatly depending on the context of the training goal.

The emphasis on solo training in Tomiki Aikido can be very diverse depending on the purpose of the course.

  • Learn basic body movements useful in Tomiki Aikido, and mostly used as instruction for beginners.
  • Concentrate on body conditioning instead of technique.
  • Testing the generated power
  • …..

Testing the generated power

Martial arts that practice solo training need “feedback” practices such as t’ai chi “push hands” or the “pushing stability tests” as performed in “shotei awase”, a Tomiki Aikido pushing exercise. These kind of exercises are not randori or competition, the purpose of these exercises is to improve the stability and power with a resisting training partner.

Tomiki style of Shotei Awase

Most Aikido styles have some type of test methods. In Yoseikan Aikido (Mochizuki) tests have various methods. One of them is known as “tsuppari”.

A trial method like Shotei Awase and Yoseikan Tsuppari is equivalent in traditional Japanese wrestling. Sumo Tsuppari (突っ張り): To rapidly deliver harite (張り手) or open hand strikes to the opponent. This technique is often used by oshi-zumō fighters.

Impact of Corona-Covid-19 on testing

During the corona-COVID-19 period, a distance must be adopted. Using a Jo or Bo may be used to keep distance and yet be a test exercise.

Koryu no kata, the formal way of testing

Kata can become a successful method of testing your generated energy combined with the concepts of “hyoshi” and “ma-ai”.

Hyōshi is most often found in traditional martial arts, referring to cadence, rhythm and tempo. In the famous “Book of the Five Rings”, Miyamoto Musashi describes it as three stages: before, during and after an activity related to the attack of the enemy.

In Japanese terminology, distancing is ma-ai (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 a fixed distance, it is dynamic. Depending on the situation, distance will change.

Practising “Kata” or “Katachi” is not a demonstration or competition, although it is possible to use a kata in a Embu (demonstration) or during a competitive event.

Embu and acrobatic performance

Kata or Embu is a controversial item at a competitive event, there are pro and contra.
Even Kenji Tomiki had an opinion on “Embu-kyogi”.

Prof. F. Shishida (Waseda University) wrote on this matter the following :
The difference between kata (katachi) and embu or embu-kyogi

Tomiki had never referred to embu in his life. Judging from my long experience in aikido and study, the word embu (to practice martial arts) was used as a demonstration at a place called embu-jo in early modern times. Around 1973, embu-kyogi started to take place at a public event at the student championship of Tomiki Aikido. Master Oba seems to have added embu-kyogi (embu) to the randori event in the All Japan Student Championship in 1971. He seems to have wanted to encourage students in the Kansai area who only practice kata. According to Mr. T. Sato, Tomiki mentioned only the fact to him with a dissatisfied look when he visited Tomiki to report that he joined the embu-kyogi with Koryu-Daigo-no-kata. Judging from the common sense of Japanese martial arts, embu-kyogi is out of the question to him, because it is impossible to avoid that practitioners want to exaggerate their performance to make a false show of power.

There are people from Aikido or other martial arts, who try to bring a dramatic performance with “ukemi” and great offensive moves. In their minds, they believe it to be the real thing.

But when you understand the objective of Kata and Katachi, the idea of creating a kata/Karachi competition becomes ridiculous. Kata is not a stunt show or a “Chinese opera”. Ironically, there’s nothing bad about acrobatics and Chinese opera. This type of performance requires a great deal of practice. However, it is not “martial art”.

Essence of Kokyu-hō

The general meaning of kokyu-hō is “a method using breathing”. It is also known as kokyu-ryoku or “a method for training breath power”. It is a method of practice that is necessary for mastering power in martial technique. In addition to the martial benefit, there is also an improvement in general health because of more functional breathing.

Abdominal breathing is an essential part of the martial art practice. The usefulness of a correct breathing is built upon the practice of three breathing modes, diaphragm breathing, flank breathing and open throat breathing.

The abdominal breathing or diaphragm breathing is the first step to successfully complete breathing.

Abdominal pressure

Some martial arts methods utilise respiratory pressures during force production. The concept of “Tanden” or “Hara” is needed to understand the “Why and How” of abdominal pressure. Tanden has to be seen as a three dimensional area of varying size in the abdomen, not as a point on the abdomen.

The abdominal pressure causes the “Tanden” to be more compact. This resulted in better handling by the muscles of the abdomen to produce what is called internal strength. In fact, there is no mystery about this skill, it must be trained to become useful as a tool to express “hakkei” or explosive power.

The skill of abdominal pressure

Bring your consciousness to Tanden (lower abdomen), the centre of gravity of your body, and use the diaphragm and the perineum to control the abdominal pressure.

Acquiring a skill of abdominal pressure by using the diaphragm and perineum shall be performed by a progressive use of our breathing system.

We can distinguish 2 methods of breathing useful in our training.

  1. Complete abdominal breathing (normal and deep breathing) – improves general health and martial arts general performances.
  2. Reverse complete abdominal breathing (reversing the breathing cycle) – improves explosive martial arts performances (hakkei).

Complete abdominal Breathing

Complete breathing is a breathing technique that unites diaphragm-breathing, flank-breathing and open-throat-breathing into a single natural rhythmic movement.

Complete breathing is seen as a healthy breathing technique. In the exercises, the intention is not to inflate itself like a ball, but rather to breathe unforced. Full breathing is most natural when the execution has a smooth and continuous coherence and the three phases follow each other, without breaking the continuity.

The three breaths blend progressively. If the breathing is audible, it means that it is too hasty. Also, when practising complete breathing, people sometimes collapse their abdomen by switching to flank breathing. However, the air pressure in the lower abdomen must stay at the same level during the transition to the next step. Pulling the perennials should support the abdominal pressure.

When people experience a sense of dizziness during the complete breathing exercise. It’s sometimes unpleasant and it’s scary. That would happen, especially for people with slightly lower blood pressure. Dizziness is caused by reduced blood pressure and therefore blood pressure in the brain and is therefore beneficial in itself.

When breathing in, the diaphragm flattens and pushed down on the abdomen. The muscles between the ribs open the breast more to enable more air in the lungs. The throat must open more by relaxing the muscles in this area, resulting in more air going into the lungs.

Complete Abdominal Breathing (Reverse)

Complete reverse abdominal breathing is a breathing method in which one expands the abdomen when breathing out and contracts the abdomen when breathing in. Complete reverse abdominal breathing increases the abdominal pressure, which in turn increases power.

Note that complete reverse abdominal breathing is part of our normal breathing habits. For example, when you are happy and you laugh, you exhale and your abdominal area push out.

This mode of respiration is the opposite of full abdominal respiration. Gently pull into the area of your stomach while breathing, holding the perineum upwards. The pressure is higher than regular breathing. Total reverse breathing should be used to enhance martial applications (hakkei). Refrain from reverse breathing when you have high blood pressure problems.

Expand the lower abdomen (the area from the navel down) while breathing out.

Control over abdominal muscles.Control over abdominal muscles.Controlling the abdomen muscles

Correct breathing in the martial arts requires practice. Complete abdominal breathing and the reverse alternative are exercises to develop the abdomen muscles and having full control of these muscles.

Though often overlooked, breathing has a vitally important role in our lives. Correct breathing can lead to increased calmness and relaxation, which facilitates greater focus and endurance. For martial artists, success in combat depends largely on high levels of energy and concentration, so proper breathing is absolutely essential.

Most instructors insist on not thinking about what is referred to as correct breathing during training. The point is, if you don’t need oxygen, you won’t breathe until you need it. There’s no need to take deep breaths all the time. Breathing is a natural process and we should not think about it.

Of course, if your muscles are weak, you will not be able to perform a strong “hakkei” or explosive power if required. It all comes down to controlling your tanden. Therefore, respiratory training is needed to expand your breathing possibilities.

While it is relatively easy to practice complete abdominal breathing when sitting or standing quietly, it is much more difficult to perform when engaged in activities requiring physical effort and movement. Yet, the timing and rhythm of physical movement are linked to breathing and neuromuscular control. Breathing and neuromuscular control depend on each other and interact.

Some practical information

How to become “Jūkozo” – flexible body

“Jūkozo” – flexible body is already described in another post on this blog

In every exercise, the body needs a quality that is not tense. The word “flexible” is accurate. The word relax is sometimes used, but that is not the right word in this context. Relax makes you feel almost limp. The body needs some muscle tone to move immediately.

Strength is generated through the loosening of the shoulders and the use of a flexible koshi.

I have already mentioned several times the efficiency of “ritsuzen” as the main exercise in developing a flexible body with the quality of “Jūkozo”. It is not a question of “standing”, but of an exercise with many internal movements. Full breathing may be added after the body is free of excessive strain.

Breathing during an exercise

If you are tense, your breathing will be not optimal. First, create Jūkozo before proceeding with the integration of complete abdominal breathing.

If you want to include complete abdominal breathing in your exercises, you must consider the rate of breathing. Breathing and body movements have to be synchronized, especially when you begin such an integration of breathing. We need to slow down the pace of performance. Breathing may not cause excessive muscle strain. Breathing is a natural process and breathing exercises are tools to improve respiration efficiency.

Complete abdominal breathing is the normal breathing during exercises. Reverse abdominal breathing is used when explosive power is needed.

Oshi-taoshi type of exercise

Expiration occurs primarily when power is needed, inspiration occurs when you absorb the opponent’s motion and power.

When you absorb the power, the reverse breath can be used to produce “hakkei” upon exhalation. In some cases, you will be able to use “Kiai”.

The exercise must be done at slow speed and in sync.

More info about these exercises

While breathing is a natural process, but at the beginning of respiratory training, you need to be very careful when you have medical problems. Breathing workouts may further aggravate your problems. Please check with your doctor for guidance.