Kokyu ryoku as a result of Taijū no dendō

taïjū = body weight – dendō = transmission, conduction

Kokyū-Ryoku (呼吸力, Breath Power) Is the concept of relaxed power generated from the tanden. There is an implication in the word kokyū that this type of power does not clash with uke. (From Wikipedia)

Kokyu is mostly translated as “breath”, but can be understood as the concept of “prana” in yoga. Although it must be mentioned that breathing is only a small part of the prana concept also called “life force”. Breathing is a dynamic process and is an integral part of our being as a living person.

Another definition can be found in a a popular Japanese book:

Aikido: Tradition and Competitive Edge

In a book written by Tetsuro Nariyama and Fumiaki Shishida – Aikido: Tradition and Competitive Edge – Kokyu-ryoku and toitsuryoku is briefly mentioned. Correct use of the body and breathing can develop focused power: toitsuryoku. Some basic movements are explained to develop this kind of power. These exercises are very basic and you will find them also in other aiki-arts.

Don’t Think, Listen to the Body

Written by Akira Hino is an attempt to create a method to develop a martial body, useful in the many martial arts lacking an understandable method for developing soft power. This method is used as a supporting aid in our research.

An introduction into the practical use of opposing isometric tension

Taijū no ido & Taijū no dendō“, the relationship between the two concepts was discussed by using some Tomiki Aikidō techniques and/or exercises. The article is based upon a workshop we did some time ago. More explanations are needed to deepen the knowledge of these important concepts

In 2017 we made a short videoclip about “manipulation of structure”. At that time we were not aware about the importance of Taijū no ido & Taijū no dendō, and in particularity the use of Taijū no dendō concept. It was briefly mentioned, but the understanding was not so deep.

During Corona-Covid19 time , more people perform solo-training. Unfortunately the focus is mostly oriented upon the sequence and the outer appearance. Of course there are some on-line video clips with more information about the inner development during solo-training. There is perhaps one disadvantage with on-line teaching: no hands-on experience.

The example of bringing Taijū no dendō concept into the training has the same disadvantage: no hands-on experience. If you need this hands-on experience, find someone in the near future to solve your problem and give answers to your questions.

This post is an attempt to describe a solo-training pattern with words and some pictures. It is not the ideal format, but hopefully the near future will bring enlightenment.

There are “5 Steps” to consider in this kind of training

  • Step One: Awareness and moving bodyweight
  • Step Two: Stepping by using bodyweight
  • Step Three: Basic Tegatana movements without stepping
  • Step Four: Basic Tegatana movements with stepping
  • Step Five: Sotai dosa with integrated Taijū no dendō concept

First step in studying Taijū no dendō

Moving body weight

Body weight can move in 3 ways

  • Vertical plane
  • Horizontal plane
  • Combination of vertical and horizontal plane

Becoming aware of the bodyweight is the first step to explore the basic idea in Taijū no dendō. Body weight can move up and down. Imagine a structure as in the picture. Sometimes reference is made to tensegrity also called Jukozo, a term used in Japanese architecture for flexible structures.

Sometimes reference is made to tensegrity also called Jukozo, a term used in Japanese architecture for flexible structures.

Bodyweight can be put on different parts of the feet. During ritsuzen or standing exercises, bodyweight can change in all directions.

Bodyweight can move forward, backward or to the sides. Basically it can move following a 360° pattern. Keep the vertical line straight. Don’t disturb this line by bending the body forward for example. After some time practising, you will experience the vertical line in the body.

Second step

Ayumi ashi

Using the knees to transmit the bodyweight into the opponent is not by bending the knees, but by lowering the bodyweight which creates kneebending. Chidori-ashi walking is an exercise without a partner to learn how to move the body weight.

Another concept in the the training is the concept of “opposing isometric tension”. When the body weight is moving forward, the direction is going down into the front foot, in particular the ball of the foot. This creates opposing isometric tension. When lowering the body weight and the heel is touching the floor, the power of the opposing isometric tension is moving into the floor and makes your posture more stable.

  1. Start with a chidori ashi posture. Hand to the side. Bodyweight backwards.
  2. After turning the body, bring bodyweight forward and create opposing isometric tension.
  3. Put bodyweight more to the heel and release opposing isometric tension in the foot and leg. Koshi is lowering.
  4. Lift back foot and move it forward
  5. Assume chidori ashi posture.

Repeat this walking several times.

Third step

Tandoku undo (static exercise)

In the 3rd step we will introduce basic hand/arm movement based upon the “godosa tegatana” or 5 basic tegatana movements. Integrating koshi-mawari is necessary to create full body movement. Of course Taijū no dendō concept is a part of the movement. There is no stepping involved yet.

Although the exercises are primarly influenced by godosa tegatana, the first exercise is “shomen uchi” and is a basic movement with an origin in swordmanship. Basic tegatana movement, also called Tandoku Undo is a set developped by Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba.

The use of opposing isometric tension is also a start for “hakkei” or explosive power. When the opposing isometric tension is guided into the floor, there will be a rebound and this can be directed into the hands. As a simple example “shomen uchi’ with isometric tension. Five basic tegatana movements use the same isometric tension method to produce “kokyu ryoku”, power generated by Taijū no dendō.

Fourth step

Tandoku undo (dynamic exercises)

Combining stepping and basic tegatana movements.

There are basically 2 methods of stepping:

  • Ayumi ashi: discussed earlier in this post – see Second Step
  • Tsugi ashi: using opposing isometric tension can create a sudden step forward full of power.

Shomen uchi with tsugi ashi

In Tomiki’s Aikido, Tandoku undo has a lot of versions. Most recent version use “shomen uchi” as the starting movement. Shomen uchi is a vertical downward strike to the head of an opponent. There is a relationship with a vertical strike with a sword (kiri oroshi). In koryu no kata daisan, tachi tai tachi, the first kata is ai-uchi or simultaneous strike. In many Japanese martial arts, a vertical strike belongs to the omote-waza or the first set of techniques/movements.

Fifth step

Sotai dosa

Using Taijū no dendō concept during paired exercises. An example can be seen at the beginning of this post.

How to use Taijū no dendō?

Using Taijū no dendō is already discussed in the 5 steps mentioned earlier. Sometimes it is necessary to step out of the box and introduce Taijū no dendō in another situation. Because we don’t have always a partner to experience bodily contact in real-time, we can mimic situations during solo-training.

For example, imagine someone is grasping your wrist and you like to apply balance disturbing with the gedan concept from 7-hon-no-kuzushi.

Taijū no dendō gedan

The turning of the hand can be used in aiki-age (upward movement or jodan) or aiki-sage (downward movement or gedan).

The turning point is in the palm of the hand. When using the wrist as a turning point, the line of power will be broken. An example with “gedan”.

Evolution and Innovation

If we look at humanity’s slow rise from prehistory, there have been three waves ofevolutionary acceleration. The first was the transition from hunting-gathering to the development of the agricultural age. This happened roughly a few thousand years ago. The second was the industrial revolution, propelled by the invention of automation and standardization. This happened a few hundred years ago. And the third is the “digital” revolution and this started a few decades ago.

One of the dificulties in the process of Evolution is the concept of Conservatisme. This is not always to be bad, but to keep going on and to improve your way of life we need the concept of Evolutionary Innovation.

Evolutionary innovation focuses on orientation TOWARDS today’s way of life and improving it.. To use this concept we have to accept the idea that we sometimes have to leave the “fixed” path of our predecessors.

“Revolutionary ideas rely on evolution to survive”

It is a fact, most people cannot surpass the concept of a fixed or so -called standard form. Although we need a fixed form to pass on the concepts and techniques of a martial art, it is important at a certain moment in our training to forget the fixed form and start your own method based upon movements stored in your subconscious mind. This is already discussed in blog posts concerning “katachi” and “kata”. Also the post about “Matrix Aikido” can give you some insight.

Using equipment from other disciplines

When we don’t have a partner to practise our waza, we can use a tool to mimic a body-part of the opponent. The tool in my mind has to mimic the fore-arm of an opponent and the idea is to practise arm and wrist techniques. This is not a new idea because other Aikidō sensei are also using such a tool. For example a “Neribō”.

Neribō (neri:to knead & bō:wooden stick)

The Neribō stick was introduced in Aikidō by Hiroshi Tada (Aiki-Kai)

The neribô is a tool that can be used in the practice of aikido solo; it is a wooden cylinder with a variable diameter and a length of around half a meter, with rounded edges to avoid hassle in operating it. Simulates the uke’s forearm , so you can train with neribô to perfect mainly the basic or gokyo techniques ( ikkyo , nikyo , sankyo , yonkyo , gokyo), to keep the level of execution unchanged, or simply when you have the pleasure. Its use is useful especially when you consider training time on the tatami insufficient to achieve your goals , but also when you want to intensify the study of a technique, nikyo for example, which is unthinkable to replicate for dozens or even hundreds of times on an unfortunate human uke .

Because the arm of an opponent is not so stiff as the wooden Neribō, an alternative can be found in the use of a TheraBand FlexBar Resistance Bar.

TheraBand FlexBar® to improves grip strength in the arm, hand and shoulder. The resistance level are: yellow (6lbs. of force), red (10 lbs. of force), green (15 lbs. of force), or blue (25 lbs. of force).

As you can see, the FlexBar is a flexible tool with a resistance degree depending on the kind of FlexBar. You can bend the FlexBar, but you also can twist the tool. The moment when you loose the bending or twisting power, the FlexBar returns to the original shape.

Of course it has not the same feeling as the arm of the opponent, but playing with the bending or twisting power will improve your grip on the arm of an eventually opponent. The control of you power is increasing when practising often with the FlexBar.

Tomiki-Aikidō waza with FlexBar

These are some examples how to use FlexBar with Tomiki Aikido waza. Use your imagination to develop other methods to use FlexBar. Have fun…

Oshi-taoshi

Gyakute Kote Hineri

Junte Kote Hineri

Tenkai Kote Hineri

Meditative Movements: Fusion between Mind & Body

We learn not to move, but to be moved
Sometimes people ask me about my passion for martial arts. The answer is straightforward: to become better than yesterday.
Of course ageing is a factor to take into account and which is “a game breaker”. What you can do when you are 20 will be not the same when you are 50.
The search for a method to become better than yesterday is a path full of obstacles and the end is for everybody the same.
Becoming better than yesterday?
Maybe the answer is at the end of this blog post…….Maybe other questions will be asked…….Who cares…..

I “feel better” than yesterday.

Eddy Wolput

Meditative Martial* movements and Mushin Mugamae
When we speak about Meditative Martial Movements, we are talking about body and mind movements. In general the body is for movement and the mind is for thinking. But what about a “thinking body” or a “non-thinking mind”?
Our Aikido as a kind of meditative movement is a method where mind and body make a fusion. Both becomes one unit and both are equal with a different function.
We have to look at the body and mind in a different way.
The body operates according natural laws, the mind guides according natural laws. There is no interference from the ego.
This is called “Mushin mugamae”: No mind, no posture.
Which means, the body is not rigid, the mind is not fixed.

The mind as an observer
Commonly spoken, body movements are mostly based upon using power generated by muscles. But as said previously, ageing is a game breaker.
The answer to this problem is the use of natural forces of our environment.
Mostly our movements are inspired by reflexes or inborn actions and also by learned movement patterns stored in the brain.
To learn a new pattern or overwrite a wrong pattern, we have to practise the “new” pattern according natural laws. To become succesful we cannot allow the conscious brain and ego to interfere. Mind in this context means “awareness”. The mind is neither engaged in conceptual activity nor focused on a future goal, but instead is focused on bodily experience.

“Don’t think, listen to the body”

Akira Hino – Budo Researcher

Relaxing & acceptance, a skill called zanshin
Zanshin is in general defined as a state of alertness or awareness. When you are alert, it means you can start a movement immediately. This only can happen when you are in a state of relaxation.
To define relaxation in the context of our training in Western language is very difficult. Some therapeutic systems use the word “eutony” to define this state of being.

The term eutony comes from Greek Eu: good, – and of Latin Tonus: tension, the grade of tension or elasticity of muscle fibers. It was coined to express the idea of a harmoniously balanced “tonicity in constant adaptation to the state or activity of the moment”. 

Essentially, accepting “the truth” causes less suffering than struggling vainly against it. In many cases, we have a choice. We can either accept or reject, and much of the time rejecting doesn’t change our reality, it just causes mental pain.

Acceptance is an active process. It must be practiced.
It can require effort most of the time, at least initially. It can be frustrating at times. By acceptance you create and strengthen the neural pathways in your brain, facilitating ease in the future. It is no defeat, it is a gate to victory. Because there is no frustation, no pain, you can use your energy to keep your awareness and start an action without delay.
Relaxing and acceptance go hand in hand and cannot be separated. Excessive tension physically and mentally is a barrier between your body and mind.

Relaxing is no collapse

a balance between tension & un-tension

Acceptance is no defeat

finding a way out of the impasse of losing

How to practice relaxing and acceptance?

Using natural laws is a principle wellknown in internal martial arts and can be very practical explained.
Take for example gravity. On Earth, gravity gives weight to physical objects, and everybody is influenced by the forces of gravity. Old bodies undergo the same influences as young bodies. Of course, strong muscle can give you some advantage as more body weight.
The point here is, gravity is not influenced by age. By using gravity as a source of power, even old bodies can put forward a powerful presentation.
Relax your body, especially your shoulders is a common problem. We know the expression: drop your shoulders. In fact you have to accept gravity on your body. Shoulders go down as the rest of the body, but you are not collapsing. The fear of collapsing doesn’t exist, it is a delusion. But your mind need acceptance.

Musoku no hô*** , a principle packed in a practical example.
Musoku no hô,a method or principle in which one does not use the force of the feet, aiming to make fast and powerful movements, without being predictable.
To demonstrate this principle we will look into 2 ways of moving around.

Displacement by propulsion
The first is the principle of displacement by propulsion we use spontaneously in all kinds of sports activities. With each stride, a sprinter gives a powerful blow to the ground to obtain a force of propulsion. With differences in degree of performance and intensity, this type of displacement is present in all sports activities. The characteristic is that you exert a force that goes against that of gravitation to produce a movement.
Don’t confuse this with the rebound of power during accepting an attack from opponent.

Displacement by immersion**
One of the keys to understanding longevity in budo is what called the immersion principle.
Although little known, this principle is in Japan transmitted in some kenjutsu and jûjutsu schools as a secret teaching. It makes it possible to increase the speed of displacements and the strength of the technical execution. The perception of this principle is masked by speed, and the difference is difficult to perceive. To move, instead of giving an impulse against the ground, you “remove” the force of the legs to let act the gravity of which you will transform the force in a horizontal movement by a control of the center of gravity. You have the impression of immersing yourself in gravity, which is about “displacement by immersion” as opposed to “displacement by propulsion”. It is in fact to find the sensation of gravitation as an existing force that can be used and no longer, as usual, as a force against which we must fight.

With the principle of displacement by immersion, you can engage the total weight of the body in the technical execution, which considerably increases the efficiency. Because you can use the energy of the descent of the body due to gravitation. This descent movement is absorbed by the flexible muscular contraction of the legs. This process is the opposite of the ordinary movement where you first propel yourself by muscle contraction and then absorb the fall.

How to do?
The first step in teaching is to properly place your weight in the lower body and use the force of the fall in a shift. In the second step, you learn to transfer this fall force to your hand, your fist, or your sword.

In kenjutsu this is associated with a rotation around the central axis of the body. Monjuro Morita described this action in one of his books:
To hit properly from the tanden and koshi, we must use a perfect structured body and a perfect handling of the sword. This is a gesture that is produced in accordance with the two forces that go diagonally right leg left arm, left leg and right arm.
The perfect handling of the sword is produced by the integration of three elements: the rotation of koshi, diagonal tension produced by this rotation and displacement of the body.

Only displacement?
In martial arts methods, the application of the immersion principle is not limited to displacement but can be extended to other physical movements.
The realization of the principle of immersion first requires a physical relaxation.
To apply the principle of immersion in the hand movements, it is essential to locate the center of gravity, which brings out the sensation of the center of the body, in other words “hara” and “tanden” and also the central line (seichusen) of the body.

Non-predictable start
The merit of this type of displacement consists firstly not to express the start of the gesture, which is essential in combat technique. Even if you can move with a great speed, if you express beforehand a start-up gesture, so small, your movement loses its technical efficiency. On the other hand, even if your movement is not very fast in appearance, if there is no prior expression of the start, it can be fast from a moving point of view. To act after making a setup for a technique, is missing the chance to become successful. This is why in all schools of Japanese sword, one seeks the “strike of non-thought”. This is the goal of the musoku technique.

Speed and gravity
An important aspect of the immersion principle is the ability to maintain the speed in the movement as you get older. Since the principle is not to use the force of the legs to propel the body, this type of movement keeps the speed of technical execution and serves as a basis for the practice of a long-term martial art.
Speed ​​is maintained by immersion in gravity and respiration. In the martial arts, this aspect is related to the channeling of the physical force, since it is to use the gravitation to move and to execute a technique. By using the weight of your body in the most rational way to be effective, it is concentrated in every attacking movement.

Sources
*Meditative movement: is a “Western” term used in medical articles about qi-gong and other Eastern Movement methods.

**Displacement by immersion: is a term used by Kenji Tokitsu. He published many sociological articles on Eastern Martial Arts.

***Gravity and displacement: Akira Hino, a Budo researcher, quoted the term Musoku no hô in his writings and seminars to explain the concepts of Taiju no dendo and taiju no ido.

Redesign training program

If you are a real puritan practitioner this post is not really for you. It contains crosstraining ideas from other martial arts and movement methods. But if you are open to new ideas, please read further.

Cross-training refers to training in any martial art or activity that isn’t in your usual practice, with the goal of improving your performance.

An important question arises about crosstraining: At what level can we start crosstraining to have benefit in our principal martial art?

Kenji Tomiki
Around 1956, Kenji Tomiki wrote a book about Kodokan Judo and Ueshiba Aikido. At that time he was a 7th dan Judo and 8th dan Aikido. Grades in martial arts can give you an indication of the level of the person in question. Of course the person(s) who is given the grade can also give you some indication.
In case of Kenji Tomiki we know he was very skillful in both arts. Originally he started with Kodokan Judo and during his life Judo was always the principal martial art. He always explained Aikido in terms of Judo concepts.

Kodokan Judo randori doesn’t have atemi waza (striking methods) and doesn’t have alot of kansetsu waza (joint techniques). To overcome this lack of techniques, Kenji Tomiki went to Morihei Ueshiba to study Aiki-jutsu. Morihei Ueshiba was a wellknown martial art teacher and his background was very varied.

Hideo Ohba
Of course we cannot forget Hideo Ohba, Tomiki’s lifelong assistent, who studied several weapon systems besides his basic training into Judo and Aikido.The influence of his teacher can be seen in the Koryu no kata.

Itsuo Haba
Itsuo Haba has some new ideas about aikido randori and formulated these ideas into “Sugamo Toshu Randori” method.
He created this method by stepping into the footsteps of Kenji Tomiki. As an experienced aikido practitioner he started to do crosstraining in Kendo and associated martial arts. He also did crosstraining in Judo.

More designers?
Of course there are more important persons in the Tomiki Aikido and some of them gave a special kind of flavour to Tomiki Aikido.
Tomiki’s successor Hideo Ohba mentioned earlier made many additions from his crosstraining history.
Tetsuro Nariyama made some additions due his crosstraining with Hirokazu Kobayashi, AikiKai Shihan and friend of Kenji Tomiki.
Other major instructors like Senta Yamada, Miyake, Satoh….. used or using Judo to explain the benefits of Aikido as a martial art.

Start you own design program

Using elements from another martial art into your main systemis not an easy task. I you don't have the basic skills of your principal method, introducing elements of other methods will fail. 
Using elements from other methods is only possible after sufficient training in the other method. Those methods can be a martial art or another system of physical or mental training.

Sugamo Toshu Randori

Although Tetsuro Nariyama made some additions to Tomiki Aikido which has an influence on Randori, it is Itsuo Haba who redesigned Aikido Randori completely in a new form of Toshu Randori.

Text by Itsu Haba

Sugamo Toshu Randori is an aikido training method which includes the principles of kendo and judo. Kendo principles show how to hit an opponent by avoiding the attack at a certain distance, whereas judo principles show how to throw an opponent by breaking his balance in a grappling situation. In the principle of kendo, techniques are performed by striking or thrusting at the opponent up to the moment of the contact from the starting position. In the principle of judo, however, they are performed after touching or grabbing the opponent. Sugamo Toshu Randori has elements of both kendo and judo and shows how we perform techniques in ‘rikaku’, or “at a distance” situation.
In kendo one strikes the other by the technique of a sword. On the other hand, in aikido, we take the initiative with dasshuwaza by the technique of tegatana or the hand blade. What is common in both kendo and aikido is that one tries to strike or touch the opponent without letting the opponent touch oneself.

In judo we grapple the opponent by catching the lapel and sleeve, while trying to throw the opponent down by breaking his balance. We can only use throwing techniques, as dangerous techniques such as striking or kicking are prohibited. In aikido we hold the hand, wrist, arm, limbs or body directly instead of the clothing and throw him down. On the assumption that “dangerous” attacks are delivered, body avoidance becomes necessary, so ideally techniques should be performed the moment one touches the opponent. What is suitable against dangerous attacks are the instant techniques of “atemiwaza’ and “kansetsuwaza”. Judo is mainly composed of “nagewaza” or throwing techniques, and “katamewaza’ or locking techniques. In contrast, aikido is mainly composed of “atemiwaza” or attacking techniques and “kansetsuwaza’ or joint techniques. What is common in both judo and aikido is that one tries to break the opponent’s balance thereby throwing or controlling him. 

Dashuwaza and toshuwaza

In Sugamo Toshu Randori, both competitors wear caps, and we try to take off each other’s caps. One wants to take the cap off of the opponent’s head, but does not want to have his own cap taken off. In short, he tries to take the cap off while defending his cap with body avoidance. The principle of kendo works in this process.Using tegatana, like the sword in kendo, the competitor “hits” the opponent without the performer being hit. In the process of this ‘offence’ and ‘defence’ a certain distance is born and ‘rikaku’ is established. 

From the viewpoint of martial arts, having the cap taken off means being “fatally wounded”. That is, the face is attacked, the eyes are hit, the hair is pulled, or the ear is taken off. These dangerous attacks are replaced with the safe attacks of dasshuwaza or ‘take away the cap’ techniques, this being from the standpoint of safe modern physical education. 

In kendo one strikes the other by the technique of a sword. On the other hand, in aikido, we take the initiative with dasshuwaza by the technique of tegatana or the hand blade. What is common in both kendo and aikido is that one tries to strike or touch the opponent without letting the opponent touch oneself. 

Dasshuwaza belongs to kendo principles, while toshuwaza belongs to judo principles. Toshuwaza in randori no kata starts from the natural posture which is suitable for both offence and defence (shizentai no ri), which makes the opponent’s attack useless by fending it (ju no ri), so thereby making it possible to throw the opponent down by breaking his balance (kuzushi no ri).

Sugamo Toshu Randori is a randori training method with toshuwaza, or barehanded techniques which establishes “rikaku” through the medium of dasshuwaza borrowed from kendo principles.

Is there a difference?
Of course, the cap gives an impression of a game. The image of a serious martial art is dissapeared at first sight.
By looking more closely, we can discover many martial art concepts in this game. The idea of using a cap and trying to take away the cap is replacing an attack to the face using tegatana. By using a rules book, the game can be transformed into a competition with referees.
After all, toshu randori and tanto randori (Tomiki style) is in fact a game, bounded by the rulebook.
If we consider some “tuishou” formats used by Taichichuan and other Chinese methods, it is also “a game” to destroy the balance of the opponent.

Redesign for health purposes

Martial arts are mainly practiced for self‐defense, as a sport or a way to keep your mind and body healthy.
When practised as a method for self-improvement (physical and mental health), most of these self-improvement methods are low-impact, soft body and mindfulness exercises. It can be practised even by eldery people as long there is no danger for injuries or falling accidents.
While competitive systems mainly focusing on improvements to athletes’ competitive abilities, self-improvement systems focus on cognitive abilities of the practitioner. Awareness, focus, conscious and subconscious actions are the main goal.
Martial arts can partially stop the deterioration of the musculoskeletal system that occurs with aging and reduce the risk of falls and hip fractures.

By using low-impact and slow-motion exercises, the fear of injuries will largely decrease.
The implementation of these 2 concepts creates a form of exercises focused on self-improvement for physical and mental health.
In most martial arts there is a form of sparring (randori, kumite, rolling,….). One of the aims of this is that the partners will be attempting to remain focused and avoid their partner making hard or too powerfull contact.
Low-impact of sparring can be introduced after the practitioner has learned the basic skills of the martial art in question. There are numerous examples of low-impact sparring methods. For example oriental internal martial arts use a form of sparring called “pushing or rolling hands” mostly called “tuishou”.
Introducing such “a low-impact game” in aikido will give the non-athletic or the elderly practitioner a method to test the efficiency of the acquired skills.
The fear of injury is almost absent if the rules of the game are applied.

Low-impact sparring

We can consider 2 main methods in low-impact sparring:

  • With fixed posture – without displacement
  • With dynamic posture – with displacement

Tegatana awase position
In case of a fixed posture, starting from tegatana awase position and without grasping or striking, breaking the balance of opponent can be the goal of this kind of sparring.
When practitioners have developped a certain skill, foot movement (unsoku) can be introduced. The rule of low-impact has te be maintained.

Katate dori position
With a fixed posture, both practitioners grasp the wrist in ai-gamae method. Both trying to create kuzushi based upon the ai-gamae methods of 7-hon no kuzushi.
When practitioners have developped a certain skill, foot movement (unsoku) can be introduced. The rule of low-impact has te be maintained.

Wrestling position
Starting from a judo position without grasping the dogi, Techniques of koryu no kata can be used to control opponent.
The rule of low-impact has te be maintained.

Limitations of low-impact sparring
Of course there is not any limit on creating low-impact sparring methods. The rule of low-impact has te be maintained. Although winning can be very pleasant but it is not the main purpose of low-impact sparring. Breaking balance or controlling opponent is the first goal to obtain without using excessive muscle strength.

On the other hand, we must understand the limitations of low-impact in the efficienty during “real” self-defense situations or athletic sparring. How to handle very powerful opponents need different type of training. This is going beyond the main purpose of a self-improvement method with low-impact sparring.

Hida method (Tanden training )

“This way is not mine, it is not my new method, the masters of the past have already largely said everything on the subject. But what I have done is simply to detail more, and at the same time to popularize this teaching, this knowledge. In addition, I experimented directly with myself on each exercise, and for that, looking back, I can not help but feel a little pride “(H.Hida)

The Hida method is in a strict sense not a martial art method, but it contains a lot of concepts useable for martial art.
It is often used in martial arts for the research of self-improvement or wellbeing, but nobody, apart from its founder itself, has been able to acquire so many capacities. It is an original creation of Haramitsu Hida.
Most of the concepts are focused around the Hara – Tanden – Koshi.

Central power 中心  

Note : Shodai Soke Okuyama used to term of  Kongouriki (金剛力) as power than focuses and come from the Tanden/hara (Hakko Ryu Shodan Higishi Japanese edition).

Kongōriki)’s Japanese Kanji is the compound of Kongou (金剛(こんごう) Kongō), meaning “indestructible”, which comes from the Japanese word, Kongousho (金剛杵 Kongōsho), meaning “something extremely hard” or “of extreme strength”, which is the equivalent of the Sanskrit word, vajra (वज्र), meaning “diamond” and “thunderbolt”, which is a double-headed scepter weapon used as a ritual object to symbolise the properties of diamond; indestructibility and of having the ability to destroy, and thunderbolt; irresistible force, in Hinduism, and Riki (力(りき) Riki), meaning “strength”.

Conclusion

I am certain you will find yourself if you are ready to start cross-training and have the benefit of these workouts.
Cross-training can give you more understanding of your principal art if you can find a complimentary method. If there is no overlapping, I am afraid you are losing your time.

The Switch

Changing the direction of power in a movement is not an easy task. We cannot interrupt the movement because is will also interrupt power generation. With every stop we have to start over again in generating power.
While your upper body muscles are directly involved with the action of the hand/arm, the force is generated throughout your body. Initial force is initiated by your lower body muscles and transferred through your core through to your upper body muscles. Any weakness or excessive tension in the transferring muscles will diminish the force and reduce performance.

6 major directions

We can move in many directions. Basically we consider 6 major directions. Other directions can be seen as a combination between 2 or 3 major directions and can become a spiral movement.
Movement can happen with the arms, the central body an/or the legs.

Switching between major directions

Switching is only possible when there is control of all the muscles involved.
An example how a switch can work can be more informative than words.

Kakae dori is an attack where an external pressure is applied to the body. Defending against such an attack needs a skill of expanding without using brute force.

If we allow the squeezing action of Uke, we will be thrown easily. If we can create a whole-body force against the squeezing, we will have the opportunity to free ourself. It is a question of using tension and relaxing at the same time. But how to do it?
It is based upon “opposing isometric force pairs”. There are of course other switching methods. If we suddenly, without any interuption, switch from outside tension to inside tension, uke may lose his grip and balance.

The exercise is to switch between internal and external pressure. The body needs to adapt to those 2 kinds of pressure images.

Push & pull vs. push-pull

Push&pull are two actions in a sequential order. Push-pull is one action. In the push-pull movement the balance between agonist and antagonist muscles creates a moving non-moving action. Push&pull or push-pull can be a straight line movement, a circular or a spiral movement.
When practising aikido or another martial art both action will be utilized to create attacking or defensive movements.
Again an example can be highly informative.

Push & pull

The first picture above is a push action into the ground, the second is the rebound of the power, the third picture is a pull action of the back foot bringing again close to the front foot to stabilize the equilibrium.

Push-pull

The first picture above is a push-pull action associated with holding a ball in the arm. Opposing isometric forces will move Uke around you.
The second picture is nearly a straight line push-pull. Although we said a straight line, the internal action relates to meguri. The meguri action is an internal spiral movement transmitted from the center of Tori to Uke through rotational movements of the hand/wrist/arm.The result will be a balance between a push-pull action. In other words an opposing isometric force.

Overlapping sequences

When we link all the singular movements of the body the result will be “rendo-movement”. During the performance of rendo movements, there are overlapping moments in the sequence of the actions. In the next example push & pull and push-pull are following a definite sequence.
But there is an overlapping between the different action in the sequence.

  • Picture1: grasping the arm
  • Picture2: pulling the arm
  • Picture3: body turn while keeping pulling
  • Picture4: keeping pulling and starting pushing
  • Picture5: keeping pulling and pushing while putting body into position to throw
  • Picture6: throwing and relaxing
Mae otoshi to gyaku gamae

Power needs some time to travel through the body, although this happens very fast. If we start too early our overlapping action, the force of the previous action will not be used to the full potential. If we start too late, the power of Rendo will be lost.

Tegatana dosa (tandoku undo) a switch exercise

Senta Yamada Tandoku Undo

These “tegatana dosa” are good examples to discuss switching the direction of force. As previously mentioned the mechanism of power generation:

While your upper body muscles are directly involved with the action of the hand/arm, the force is generated throughout your body. Initial force is initiated by your lower body muscles and transferred through your core through to your upper body muscles. Any weakness in the transferring muscles will diminish the force and reduce performance.

  • Uchi mawashi – Inside sweep

There are 4 arm actions in this exercise:

  • Turn the arm, palm hand up
  • Turn core of the body – tenshi
  • Switch the arm, palm hand down
  • Sweep the arm with body turn

If the exercise is done as 4 separate actions, there will be a reduced amount of power at the end of the movement. If the link between the 4 actions is established, there will be more power at the end of the movement. By using overlapping, performance will be more powerfull.

Using uchi mawashi in a paired exercise, proper unsoku (footwork) has to be added. Drilling the feet will increase efficiency.

Sotai dosa 3

In this example there is another concept which requires considiration.

We find Fibonacci Sequence at work in the principles, shapes, movements and strategies in nature but also within martial arts, by holding your arm with the correct angle at the elbow while extending your mind through the arm. The correct angle of human joints for movements has to be between 90* and 180°.

A push-pull and opposing isometric forces example
In the 7-hon-no-kuzushi gedan, spirals and opposing isometric forces are used to create balance disturbing. There are many variations, but basically all are build around spirals and opposing isometric forces.

we can see the Fibonacci spiral in combination with opposing isometric force pair. Uke will be fixed on the spot in an akward position.

  • Soto mawashi – Outside sweep

When using soto mawashi in partner training, some adaptations has to be done. The basic actions of uchi mawashi can be applied here too.

  • Turn the arm, palm hand up
  • Turn core of the body – tenshi
  • Switch the arm, palm hand up
  • Sweep the arm with body turn

Soto mawashi with partner after some adaptations.

  • Uchi gaeshi – soto gaeshi

In this sequence by Senta Yamada, the meguri concept is not visible. We only can guess if there is some internal movement invoking meguri.
In our research, the implementation of meguri and opposing isometric forces can increase the efficiency of these movement exponential. Switching the direction of forces is an aplication of meguri and opposing isometric forces and is needed to perform “waza” or techniques.

Defending the centre line

Seichusen, the centre line.

The centre line is the vertical line which marks the centre of the body. We use our centre line as a guide in our practice. Basically, our hand should not move over the centre line to the other side of our body.

The centre line is important in order to keep our central equilibrium.
Central equilibrium can only be achieved through correct and diligent training by always lifting up our head top, and pressing our feet into the ground. This skill can be improved by practising “posture”, also called “ritsuzen”.
With strong central equilibrium, we can absorb or redirect the incoming force, and countering very quickly. In short, our defence or attack will be much more efficient if we have strong central equilibrium.

The more we deviate from the centre line, the more our central equilibrium will be subject to muscular tension to keep our balance. Our body will respond automatically to such situations. There are 3 options:

Ankle action
Hip action
Stepping action
  • Ankle action will happen when practitioner keeps his body under tension.
  • Hip action is basically trying to drop the bodyweight, but by keeping the knees stiff the hips will bend.
  • Stepping action will occur with unexperienced practitioners, but is also a strategy of an experienced practitioner. (see Unsoku-ho and tai-sabaki)

Experienced practitioners keep their body in the vertical line (centre) and will use tenshikei, Keeping the joints flexible and strong is an important body condition.
Tenshi is a rotational skill to absorb incoming power and redirect it to the opponent.

The previous example shows you the stiffen up of the body trying to defend against the action of Tori. To avoid further “kuzushi”, Uke steps but the upper body is halted by the arm action of Tori.

Defending the centre line

Basic posture to defend “seichusen”

Defending the centre line is an important concept and can be applied in different situations. We can distinguish 2 major kinds of defending the centre line.

  • Passive method – using tegatana as a shield
  • Active method – using tegatana as a weapon

Passive method

By keeping “tegatana” in front of the centre line, opponent have difficulties to attack your centre.

The sword is an extension of the tegatana and is protecting the centre.

In tegatana-awase, a multipurpose exercise, tegatana is used as a shield and prevent a straight movement to the centre by opponent.

Active method

In this method, we use “tegatana” as an active tool. Ridatsu-ho and seigo-ho are methods to defend yourself against grasping attacks. Free hand tegatana can be used to apply an atemi on the centre line of other vital point of the opponent.
What kind of atemi will depend on the goal you are looking for. Be the fact that we are going to throw the opponent or that we want to apply a shock to the body.

Vital point – Judo & Aikido/Kenji Tomiki

You will notice, the centre line has many vital points and can be used in self-defense situations.

Body movement exercises & centre line

We mentioned tegatana-awase in a previous paragraph and how to protect centre line with tegatana.
Of course there are numerous body movement exercises and basically protecting the centre line or attacking the centre line is included. Also remember the importance of the centre line in keeping the central equilibrium. When we lose our balance, in most cases we also will lose the protection of the centre line.

Tenshi exercises
Solo and paired tenshi(kei) exercises are an integral part of the regular training.

Unsoku-ho – defending by stepping

Avoiding an attack by stepping is a strategy to bring the mind and body into a position where the attacking power cannot get hurt.
On the other hand, stepping is not running away from an opponent.
It is important in order to control the situation, physically and mentally.
The concept of ridatsu-ho and seigo-ho is in fact an extension of stepping. It is avoiding and/or controlling the power of the opponent.
The exercises of unsoku-ho has to be considered as tools to study breaking away and/or controlling an attack of the opponent.
This can be punching, striking, kicking, grasping or any action from opponent to hurt you or control you.

Avoiding an attack

Avoiding an attack needs to take in account the concept of “Sen”. Running away is not always the correct method because there is always a chance opponent is much faster. There is also the mental side of running away or not running away. This can be of course the subject of another blog-post. We do not wish to become frustrated because we are afraid of a confrontation.
During avoiding an attack our body and mind must be in a state of defending/attacking mode. To create such a state of being, the study of “opposing isometric forces” can be very helpful. Subject of another blog-post.

Martial Arts Exercises

When talking about martial arts exercises, most of you will think about “warming up or cooling down”. In fact in traditional martial arts, those exercises don’t exist. Warming up and cooling down are the result of Western influence in martial arts as a sport activity. This impact started when Japan became more open to Western way of life. In 1913, the Ministry of Education issued the Syllabus of School Gymnastics (Gakkō taisō kyōju yōmoku), inspired by the Swedish gymnastics of Ling and supplemented by military drills inspired by Prussian or English examples.

Rajio Taishou

A very popular method of exercises, based upon Western ideas is: “Rajio Taisou” (ラジオ体操). It was introduced to Japan in 1928 and used to improve the health of Japanese soldiers from 1930 to 1940. Even now, some Japanese people still do this exercise in the morning to maintain their health.

Rajio Taishou

Tanren

Hirokazu Kobayashi 1976

Of course there is the concept of “Tanren”, forging body and mind as a preparation for combat. The purpose of this forging is to create a martial arts body. You may notice or not the differences between the actual fighting methods and the “martial arts exercises”, in reality those exercises will give support to the combat applications. Outsiders will not recognize those exercises as a “real and effective” martial art skill.

Modern Eastern Martial Arts are using Western ideas about physical education. This is of course not bad if you consider those martial arts as a sport activity. On the other hand some teachers are using more traditional ways of forging the mind and body. Their view of a martial art is moving beyond a sport activity. The concept of combat is more than fighting against a tangible enemy.

Taming the “Monkey Brain”

We all experienced the noise in our head when the monkey brain is talking during our exercises. Stopping thie noise is not a solution, because the monkey brain is not listening. Better is to ignore the noise, and after a while you will notice “the noice is gone”. You really start to feel the exercise and the dynamics of the body. This is forging the body and mind. It is not about bigger muscles, or more muscular strength. I can feel my body and its movements…..the rest is a side issue

Kiai

Gorin no sho

In this inspiring book written by Musashi Miyamote (17th century) there is section about the shouts during a battle. The phrase ‘sen go no koe’ (before and after voice) 前後の声 is used to describe how to use shouts in a fight. He also said not to use a shout during cutting. This strategy is different from contemporary use of kiai in most of the Japanese martial arts.

The contemporary use of ki-ai

Our interest is only focusing on ki-ai during the decisive moment of “randori & kata”. This contradicts the advice of Musashi Miyamoto. We are looking for an efficient use of our combined mental and physical powers, while for Musashi Miyamoto shouting was a part of his strategy.

Kiai (Japanese: 気合, /ˈkiːaɪ/) is a Japanese term used in martial arts for the short shout uttered when performing an attacking move.

The term is a compound of ki (Japanese: 気) meaning energy or mood, a(u) (Japanese: 合).
In the board game Go the term describes fighting spirit and is representing an attitude of aggressively parrying your opponent’s plans and pushing ahead with your own. This is much closer to the Gorin no sho concept.

In kendo, for example, a point is only given by the Shinpan (referees) if the hit is accompanied by a strong, convincing kiai (shout).

Animal trainers use the power of the voice to manipulate the actions of animals.  A powerful assertive voice can be used to reprimand an animal or as a defensive weapon if the animal should attack the trainer or another animal.

Breathing with the hara

A kiai is more than just a shout, it is the manifestation of physical power, mental commitment and psychological will. Everything is coming together in that specific moment when there is no past, no future but only “now”.

Basically, kiai is produced by using the hara.  When using the throat, the sound of kiai is different and is lacking power. Using the throat is also bad for activities like singing and other voice applications.
You have muscles between your ribs and your entire abdominal muscle group for breathing. Without the skill of tension & releasing, breathing process will be limited and functional kiai will be without power.

There are many methods in the art of breathing, but it is in our research not a good idea to focus “too much” on the breathing techniques. Breathing is a natural process and by focusing too much on this action, spontaneity will be disappear and breathing becomes a forced action. Also some breathing methods has to be avoided because the potential danger for your health and body. If you are still curious about it : see Hakkei.

Breath with your belly

Breathe with your belly.  The correct thing to say is: breathe using your diaphragm. But what exactly is the diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a flat muscle that sits underneath our lungs and aids with respiration. It attaches to the base of the thorax (ribs) and basically separates the lungs from the stomach and intestines. At the bottom is the pelvis. With the proper use of the diaphragm, pelvis and the surrounding muscles (hara: koshi, tanden & yōbu), kiai will become a vibrant shout, full of energy. This is only possible when we learn to relax.

Focus on “releasing the tension”

ritsu-zenWhen people have a serious “tension” problem, Ritsuzen or standing stillness exercise can be very helpful to reduce tension. You can start with a few minutes each day. After a few weeks standing, 20 minutes or more will be no problem. In the beginning, you will notice a lot of tension in various places of your body and mind. By letting go of the idea of tension, some of the tension problems will disappear. If you still can’t decrease tension, you are advised to seek professional help.
If you notice, your breathing is becoming deeper, you have probably won your first breathing victory. This will have a possitive effect on ki-ai.

The sound of kiai

You cannot use random vowels and consonants. The art of making sounds is universal, and every society has its own version. In Japan there is “Kotodama” and is strongly related to religious practices. Remember also our Gregorian Chant, a religious way of singing in the Catholic church.

In the past, some Tomiki Aikido groups used “Eeh & Toh” as a standard kiai sound. A similar approach you can find in Jodo or jojutsu (Shindo Muso Ryu).

The sound “Eeh” was used as an open sound and used with sharp movements. “Toh” was used as a stopping sound with a decisive movement, for example a tanto strike. during tanto randori, which basically stops the game if there was a correct focus on the target.

17-hon no kata – Hiji-waza

Skin-effect

skin-effect

When grasping the wrist of Uke it is only grasping the skin and underlying tissue. It is not grasping the bones. Grasping the skin has an effect on the fascia system.

Oshi-taoshi

  • Tori use skin effect on Uke’s wrist.
  • Tori using a diagonal spiral in the torso move from the elbow to drive Uke’s elbow up to above their shoulder level.
  • Tori push their thumb into Uke’s inner elbow joint; very slightly release the grip on the wrist to allow Tori to rotate their hand from palm in to palm out.  Re-grip Uke’s wrist.
  • Tori control Uke before bring them down.  Don’t be tempted to push Uke laterally away or use them as a prop.
  • Control Uke on the ground, chest down, Their palm up, wrist below the knee cap, Tori’s palm down, stretching the arm.

Ude-gaeshi

  • Start as per Oshi-taoshi.
  • Tori make contact with Uke’s elbow; use Inside Turn action, Mune then Tegatana.
  • Tori Tsugi Ashi forwards so that the hips are alongside Uke’s.
  • Tori stretch and release to throw with rolling foot

Hiki-taoshi

  • Tori avoid to the side whilst rotating the upper body in order place the free hand palm up under Uke’s wrist. (Here again the upper and lower body are doing different things)
  • Use Outside Sweep action to start moving Uke’s hand down and across to Tori’s other hand which continues the movement with Inside Sweep action.
  • Tori grip Uke’s elbow and bring Uke down whilst using Hikimawari Ashi footwork, which sweep Uke off their feet. (This is stepping back with a circular foot movement is initiated by turning of the Koshi and Tanden)

Ude-hineri (Ude-garami)

  • Use the same start as in Hikitaoshi.
  • Tori make contact with Uke’s elbow use Outside Turn action, Mune then Tegatana.
  • Tori, with their other hand on the wrist of Uke, use Inside Turn action driven from the turning of the Torso, above the hips.
  • Tori focus the direction of Uke’s hand to the region above their spine.
  • Tori complete the throw which will induce a spiral effect into Uke’s Ukemi.

Waki-gatame

  • Tori avoid by turning the Torso and grip Uke’s wrist from the underside (Ulna side of the arm).
  • Tori keep the interface of the three arms and Tsugi Ashi to the side and keep Chudan level.
  • Tori then Torso rotate towards Uke and stretch the arm towards Uke, connect with Uke’s arm and release the stretch to apply the lock.
  • Tori turn towards Uke to secure the lock.

Full potential power through Tanren

Tanren

‘Tanren’, or “repetitive slow drilling” is highly regarded as a method of power building. But power building is not the equivalent of power training in the gym. It is about moving the body or bodyparts by using all the parts of the body. Please refer to rendo and the rule of 3.
Slow movement improve the learning of new movement skills by reducing the activation of ingrained motor programs.
Directing a performer’s attention away from the minute details of a movement helps with the learning of a new motor skill.
Power generation is always developed from the legs and feet and transferred and augmented up the pelvis and back to be discharged through the striking surfaces like the fist, palm, forearm, elbow and even the shoulder and head.

Repetition or Drilling…The Master of Budo Aikido!

Is repetition or drilling the same? This question is important to progress in Budo Aikido or other Martial Arts.
Drilling is a technique that consists of repetition of  patterns and structures. Its means there exist already a pattern or structure in your brain. This pattern or structure is created by conscious repeated movements. Drilling is the skill to bring the pattern of structure to a part of the brain for instant use when necessary. This action will be performed by the subconscious mind.

The art of repetition

quote by Akira Hino

You cannot really learn and understand the meaning by copying something over and over just because someone told you that there is a significance in doing so.
There is a fine line there… between a genuine motivation to learn and just an intellectual amusement.
If you think the meaning of repetition is just a piece of knowledge given by somebody else. You will not able to learn anything worthwhile on your own.

How many reps does it take to break a bad habit vs learning the correct way first?

How important is it to learn the CORRECT Budo Aikido movement?
Answer: It takes 3,000-5,000 repetitions to change a bad habit into a correct Budo Aikido movement. Although, if you learn the correct movement right from the start, it only takes 300-500 repetitions to make a fresh habit.
Changing the pattern once ingrained requires more work (it’s estimated that 10 times the initial number of repetitions must be performed in the new way to over-write the existing pattern) than establishing the pattern in the first place. The implications of this are that spending time getting a pattern correct early on saves extra work later if you make changes to a problematic pattern.

Releasing power – Hakkei

Releasing the power (developped by tanren) can be done in an explosive way, but can also be used as a tempered use of power for example during locking or controlling an opponent. In all these cases, the power has an elastic quality and is not produced mainly by contracting the muscles alone. The power is stored and transferred by the fascia and connective tissue which has an elastic quality.

store and release

Fascia  and connective tissue system

The discovery that muscles transfer most of their contractile forces onto fascial sheets rather than the tendon attachments to the skeleton is a first step in understanding the concept of “internal” martial art.
Movements like running, jumping and throwing a stone depend largely on the elastic recoil of the fasciae supporting such ballistic movements. Many martial arts are depending on those movements to become succesfull in a confrontation.

What is fascia?

Simply put, fascia is the body’s connective tissue. It is a head to toe, inside to out, all-encompassing and interwoven system of fibrous connective tissue found throughout the body. Fascia is defined as a sheet or band of fibrous connective tissue enveloping, separating, or binding together muscles, organs, and other tissues of the body.

Fascia doesn’t really respond to traditional stretching, as the tissue usually becomes irritated when it is stretched too much. What fascia does need is maintenance. Daily regular movement through a wide range without extensive stretching is likely to maintain the health and flexibility of fascia well into old age. The enemy of fascia is extended bouts of stillness.

 

Tegatana (手刀)

Tegatana (Japanese for hand sword) is a term that refers to the idea the hand and the arm are in the shape of a Japanese sword.
During training, uke and tori often face each other with their respective tegatana that touch each other. From this position, considered the ideal distance for two unarmed opponents, many balance breaking, striking and throwing techniques can be applied.
The inside of the tegatana is called “tegatana no mune”, and can be used in techniques like irimi nage.

tegatana no mune

The hand itself has many functions depending on the circumstances. The little finger side of the hand is commonly referred as tegatana, the base of the palm is shotei.

tegatana03 open hand lines

Most of the times the hand is outstretched with the fingers apart. The cross marked in the open hand is the center for rotation purposes.

Tegatana in randori and kata

We can consider 2 criteria for using tegatana in kata.

  • Tegatana in randori (no kata), techniques for use in randori.
  • Tegatana in koryu no kata (classical aikido techniques)

By using the word “kata”, we assume the practitioner has an advanced level and is not bound by the idea of “standard”. Kata is not a fixed form anymore, although the choreography is still there, the use of tegatana will be used depending the circumstances. “Kata and me” are “one”. Mudansha (those without  a dangrade) will use the word “katachi” instead of kata. They will focus on the correct form of tegatana during the training of forms (katachi).
For randori, mudansha will use kakari geiko and yudansha (those with a dangrade) will use hikitate geiko.

The use of tegatana during randori is focused on attacking dynamical weak points, and tegatana is basically used as Taijū no idō & Taijū no dendō skills.

During koryu no kata, tegatana is basically used as a tool to attack physiological weak points. Mostly after applying Ridatsu-hō (escape techniques), but also for Seigo-hō (a method of control).

Ridatsu-hō (escape techniques)
The method of breaking away (ridatsu ho) and practically applying the atemi-waza when grasped by an opponent
Seigo-hō (method of control)
The method of controlling (seigo ho) an opponent and practically applying the kansetsu-waza when grasped.

Tegatana no mune

Sword muneBesides the little finger side of the hand and arm, the thumbside of the hand and arm can be used.

It is called “mune”, referring to a part of the sword. The use of “mune” is used for example in uchi gaeshi or soto gaeshi.

 

Creative copying

 

copy copying

Japan is well-known for the skill of copying. In the West, copying has a bad flavor, but what about creative copying.

“The original doesn’t exist!”

When a performance is done, the kata or randori doesn’t exist anymore. Even if it is on videotape, the original doesn”t exist…….the videotape is a copy.

Next time we try to perform again the same kata or randori, it will be a copy …… or a new original if we don’t try to copy. But once the kata or randori is finished, the original doesn’t exist anymore.
When a student performs a kata or randori based upon your previous performance, it is a copy. Sometimes it is a copy of a copy if the student uses a videotape.
Copying is a skill and as learning all skills it takes time and perseverance.

Using videotape

Can we learn from a videotape? The answer is “yes”. But you have to understand the limitations of a videotape.

  • A videotape offers a fixed form, it is only 1 performance. A teacher has no “fixed form” or “standard form”. The dynamics of adaptation to the changing situations can only be seen when we have several videotapes performed during different demonstrations or other performances.
  • It is difficult to understand which gesture is important or not important. Sometimes people are using a kind of mannerism or non-essential gesture which is done over-exaggerated. The reason for this a non-understanding what happens.
  • A videotape contains mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, also the teacher.

Creative copying

Creative copying is based upon basic patterns learned through basic training. Learning basic patterns is not the act of memorizing the visual recognition, but by repeating the patterns until the body has learned them, so that the practitioner or performer can use them without thinking. Using your creativity is the same for kata and randori, although this is only possible when your level is sufficient to do basic patterns without conscious thoughts.

The essence of kata and randori

Randori and kata has to be performed with the essence and not with the mind. But the attention to detail and accuracy cannot be omitted.
When using creative copying, there is a danger to perform a parody or travesty of the reworked material, with or without the intention to use an ironic process.

Putting the essence of kata and randori in words is an impossible task, because adaptation to the many situations is only possible by practising a multitude of variations with a skillfull practitioner or teacher. This is another explanation of ” it has to be felt”. The task of the teacher is to transmit the “essence” of kata and randori, not to show the spectators how good he is.

The 1st lesson

When someone start with a martial art having roots in a traditional school, the way of teaching can be frustating.

There is no verbal explanation, no movement instruction. The expectation is to follow or copy the teacher.

“Stepping into the footsteps of the teacher.”

Learning an art or a skill is done by body to body transmission, not through the mind.

Hakkei – From potential energy to kinetic power

cropped-untitled.jpg

Movement produces kinetic energy, which can be converted into power. Delivering power into the body of an opponent is not an easy task, it needs a special skill called “hakkei”.
Hakkei (発勁), which literally means ‘release of power’, can generate power with minimal external body motion.
Before  we can use hakkei we need to accumulate pressure in the hara, this is created by using the muscles of the koshi, tanden and yōbu. Those muscles are full of potential elastic energy. See tenshikei and rendo.

Elastic potential energy is the energy stored in elastic materials as the result of their stretching or compressing. Elastic potential energy can be stored in rubber bands, bungee chords, trampolines, springs, an arrow drawn into a bow, etc. But also muscles, tendons and fascia.  The amount of elastic potential energy stored is related to the amount of stretching and releasing quality of the muscles, tendons and fascia.

Converting elastic potential energy

By releasing the pressure or tension, movement is created and “momentum” is born. Using momentum is a skill called ido-ryoku.
It is not always necessary to have physical distance between you and the opponent. It is possible to emit power into the opponent when you already are touching the body. momentum can travel in a straight line , but can also follow a circular line, called angular momentum.

Momentum

Momentum is fairly easy to grasp, as we all have an intuitive sense of it. Momentum brings mass and speed together as a single meaningful quantity. If I say something is flying very fast toward you, you would want to also know whether it’s heavy or not! A light object with great velocity can have a similar momentum as a heavy object with a low speed. When you catch a ball, you absorb that ball’s momentum and transfer it to you, making you move backward. If you have a good posture and firm footing, you’ll be able to transfer your own momentum to the earth.

Angular Momentum

Momentum can also be considered in rotation, along an axis, which we call angular momentum. It gets a bit more complicated here because, as a body turns, its parts that are further away have more speed (if you have your arms extended while you rotate, the tip of your fingers goes at a much greater speed than your shoulders). This is also tied to inertia in rotation. So angular momentum is about mass and rotation, but also about how far the mass is from the axis of rotation.

Conservation of Angular Momentum

But here comes the fun part: Angular momentum is a quantity that is kept constant, conserved.

Let’s say you are sitting on an “office chair” that can rotate freely .

  1. Start by swinging your arms left and right, first extended, then close to your body. What happens? Your knees rotate as well, but the opposite way, and they rotate more when your arms are extended.
    You started with no angular momentum. As you created some angular momentum one way in your upper body, your lower body swiveled in the opposite direction, keeping the total angular momentum at zero.
  2. Now ask someone to give you a rotation speed, while sitting on the chair, with your arms extended, and bring your arms together.  Your rotation speed increases noticeably.
    This time, you started with a fixed angular momentum, but as you moved your arms inwards, you reduced the speed of your arms by bringing them in, and your overall speed increased as a result, keeping your angular momentum constant.

  A martial arts example: sayabiki

nukitsuke

Sayabiki is the pulling of the scabbard (saya) when performing nukitsuke, a cutting motion as you swiftly draws the sword.
Doing sayabiki at the end of drawing the sword allows for greater cutting speed. Furthermore, as you reach the end of sayabiki and the scabbard slows and stops, you also help slowing the tip of the sword and allow for better control of the tip.

The cutting with the sword (nukitsuke) and the pulling of the scabbard is produced by using the muscles of koshi, tanden and yōbu as described earlier.

Budo Aikido example of angular momentum

We start with a big circle to a smaller circle. The initial circular action is building up pressure and tension in the hara, by releasing with the proper footwork, a sudden power or hakkei is produced. See 8 sotai dosa.

The example is a part of the 8 sotai dosa, but also a technique found in koryu no kata dai yon.

soatai dosa 2 A

Hakkei or fajin in Western literature

In martial arts literature (translated from Japanese), we cannot find a lot about hakkei. It has a rather obscure image, although in some books about Aiki-Jutsu and Okinawa Kenpo or Karate we can find “how to do” information. The reason for lack of practical information can be found in the difficulties in the explanation of expressing in words, it is tacit knowledge.
Tacit knowledge (as opposed to formal, codified or explicit knowledge) is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it.
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Hakkei fajin

In Chinese literature on martial arts, fajin is a more common item in training.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fa_jin

Hakkei is “sudden” power

Before you can use hakkei, you have to store potential elastic energy in the body, mostly in koshi, tanden and yōbu. You have to convert the potential energy into kinetic power by suddenly release the pressure or tension. Many so-called kokyu nage are a form of hakkei by using the transformed potential energy and breathing. This process of breathing is called “reverse breathing”.

Natural and Reverse Breathing

Not all the teachers of Japanese martial arts are promoting a special method of breathing. Building up pressure in the body can harm your health, especially people with high blood pressure, or people suffering from cardiac diseases. Before you start with a breathing program, pleasmusclese consult your medical doctor.

(from Mike Sigman Blog)

There are two main types of breathing: natural-breathing and “reverse”-breathing. Natural breathing is the type of breathing where the inhale expands the abdomen, hopefully somewhat not only in the front, but in the kidney areas, also. “Reverse”-breathing refers to the idea that on the inhale the lower abdomen comes somewhat in and then goes somewhat out on the exhale. Because the lower-abdomen isn’t allowed to expand on a reverse breath, there is a slight pressure build-up in the abdominal area.

Reverse Breathing is the type of breathing practiced in the internal-arts proper, after real development and training begins. Reverse breathing does a number of things, but it does two things that are particularly important for someone who is learning to move the whole body as a connected unit :

  • reverse breathing controls the body-wide tensions it initiates and
  • reverse breathing helps control the pressures which are an intrinsic part of internal-arts that are controlled by the dantian.

Pressure basics

Within the body cavities, breath initiated tensions are used in conjunction with the increase in pressure to train and develop the connective tissues.

As a person inhales while either slightly pulling in the abdomen or at least holding it in stasis so that it isn’t allowed to bulge outward, the diaphragm comes down. It must come downward or air can’t be pulled into the lungs. As the diaphragm comes downward and the front of the abdomen is kept from expanding outward, pressure increases in the abdominal cavity and kidney areas.