Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo.
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.
Study Group Tomiki Aikido – Shobukai Dojo Syllabus
This article outlines the “basic framework” employed in the Shobukai Dojo. The emphasis is mainly on “how to move the body” and “how to control the opponent”.
Members of the Shobukai Dojo study how to move the body and the methods of control of the opponent before being able to proceed with Tomiki Aikido Kata.
What Is a Martial Art Syllabus?
A syllabus is a document that presents all the necessary information on a martial art course. It lists the topics you will study while you practice martial art.
The course programme is a working document and a personal document. The syllabus can be used as a guide for the instructor as well as for the dojo.
A syllabus is not fixed and basically a “living syllabus” can be updated as often as the teacher considers it necessary. This creates a vibrant, living document that students can interact with. Of course, the interaction between the instructor and the students is a major factor in updating the program.
Unfortunately, the emphasis is sometimes too much on a programme given by an international institute which does not allow much interaction between the institute, the instructor and the students. In this case, we cannot refer to a “living syllabus”.
An international institute program can be basically a policy guide to be used to generate a “living syllabus” for the local group.
So you can find a different program among the local groups while teaching the same concepts and principles.
Shobukai Dojo Syllabus
A Tomiki Aikido Syllabus can focus on various options for study and training, depending on the kind of dojo students.
- Grading tool
- Competition as the main goal
- Sparring (randori)
- Bodywork, efficient body movement
- Self-protection and self-defense
- Movement therapy
- Other goals
The Shobukai Syllabus is based on the ideas and concepts of Kenji Tomiki and his nearest followers. There is an influence of other Aikido methods and Bodywork of independent instructors.
The program is built around various types of core concepts.
Basic arm movements
Our hands are one of the most important tools of our body. Tegatana translates into “sword hand”, but also includes the arm.
Basic arm movements can be performed either stationary or dynamically.
The stationary method emphasises the use of the “Koshi” synchronized with arm movements (tegatana). A dynamic version is integrating footwork.
Basic arm movements are based upon the basic arm movements developped by Kenji Tomiki.
The Stationary Method
The 1st part of the videoclip gives a overal impression, the 2nd half focussing on the use of the koshi.
The Dynamic Method
The integration of footwork into the tegatana exercises is the first step for practising “hakkei” or sudden power.
Hakkei Tegatana Dosa
When practising tegatana dosa in a stationary or dynamic way, movements are relatively big. The performance is quite slow and with no explosive power.
After several years of training, sudden power or Hakkei may be introduced.
Footwork – Unsoku-ho
In the Tomiki Aikido method a formalized exercise is wellknown by most of the practitioners. Because the focus is more on the pattern or in which direction to move, the most basic ways of footwork is in the backround. In the syllabus, the basic ways of footwork (ayumi ashi, tsuri ashi and tsugi ashi) is mentioned as a basic exercise. The different methods are integrated in the dynamic tegatana exercises.
When practising footwork, the arms are hold high and the intention is to hold a big ball between the arms. The arms are not used to push or pull, the power comes from the footwork initiated by the koshi.
Ayumi Ashi forward
Ayumi Ashi backward
Testing the solo exercises
Sometimes during training, the instructor can test the posture and movement of the student or to give feedback (interaction). All the movements of the solo-exercises can be tested.
Some testing examples
Testing posture and tsugi ashi
Kumi Kata (Judo)
The definition of Kumi Kata is grip fighting. The word “grip fighting” means to take a grip that will give you an advantage over your opponent. But also not to allow your opponent to take a comfortable grip to be able to counter.
The mastery of Judo Kumi Kata is a critical component for any judoka to succeed in modern judo. Without this skill being very well developed it is difficult to see how any judoka can experience the ability to throw ones opponent cleanly, effortlessly and with grace and beauty.
Ridatsu ho & Seigyo ho
Grasping the wrist in Aikido is a kind of strategy skill similar to the strategy skill of Judo Kumi Kata. Without this skill, we are not able to perform kuzushi and waza.
Tegatana kihon dosa (basic hand and arm movements) can be used as a setting up for gripping skills and controlling the opponent: Seigyo ho
On the other hand, kihon dosa can be used as a defensive action when the opponent is grasping you: Ridatsu ho
Both methods will depend on a correct and powerfull gripping skill.
The are different ways to grasp the wrist of opponent.
The purpose of grasping the wrist is to control the opponent action.
The comments of holding the sword, the golf ball and the soft tanto apply also for grasping a wrist.
Some examples of grasping the wrist
The example shows an offensive way to capture the wrist of the opponent. When the opponent performs an offensive movement, you can apply a basic arm movement and then grab the wrist.
How to seize
A strong grip can be catogorised in 3 major metods. See picture.
In essence, grasping the wrist in Aikido is similar to grasping the hilt of a sword.
The basic rule is to grip firmly with the middle finger and thumb, keeping contact with the base of the little finger.
A study performed by The University of Western Ontario on the Individual finger strength and published in Journal of Hand Therapy gives the following results:
The percentage contributions of the index, middle, ring, and small fingers to grip were approximately 25%, 35%, 25%, and 14%, respectively.
While the ulnar side of the hand (ring and little finger) is taught as the dominant side when holding the “tsuka” of a sword, there is a lack of control if you don’t use the middle finger and thumb. When you start grabbing with the middle finger and thumb and index finger, the ring and the little finger, you will have a strong grip with many possibilities of precision.
3 important points
- Base of little finger
- Middle finger
Exercises to develop correct wrist grabbing
Using Thera Band Flexbar
Soto gaeshi & uchi gaeshi
As mentioned earlier, both movements can be used both offensively and defensively. When you grip a wrist to apply a technique, Soto gaeshi or Uchi gaeshi may be applied. An exercise with the Flexbar almost gives you the feeling of gripping a wrist with a certain resistance.
Holding a golf ball.
Holding a golf ball is a good exercise to power up the middle finger and thumb.
Index, ring and little finger just close, but do not put pressure. Do not tighten the ball or you will lose control of the ability to manipulate your hand and arm movements.
Other examples of grasping
- Holding tsuka
- Grasping softanto (soft training dagger)
Hold the tsuka with the middle finger, the thumb and the base of the little finger. Index finger and ring finger close without any pressure.
Holding softanto (soft training dagger)
Soft tanto is a safe training tool used during sparring (randori). Frequently used in a Tomiki Aikido training program.
European Championship Antwerp 2014 – Zuiderpershuis
The same comments apply as for holding the ball or holding the tsuka of a sword.
Kihon no katachi – Basic Aikido Techniques
Kihon no katachi is not the ju-nana-hon no kata or ju-go-hon no kata (an early version of kihon no kata), but it is a collection of basic aikido techniques usefull during friendly sparring (randori). It is a basic techniques syllabus.
There are 4 different kinds of techniques in Tomiki Aikido. All techniques start from a “tegatana awase” situation.
- Atemi Waza
- Hiji Waza
- Tekubi Waza
- Uki Waza
Kihon dosa or basic movements is the source for succesfull applying atemi waza. The philisophy behind atemi waza is explained in differents posts on this blog.
- Shomen ate
- Ai gamae ate
- Gyaku gamae ate
- Gedan ate
- Ushiro ate
The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills are necessary to apply a skillfull hiji waza.
- Oshi taoshi – straight arm push down
- Hiki taoshi – straight arm pull down
- Ude gaeshi – entangled arm
- Ude hineri- entangled arm
- Waki gatame omote – elbow lock
- Waki gatame ura – elbow lock
The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills for control are necessary to apply a skillfull tekubi waza.
- Kote Hineri (uchi gaeshi)
- Tenkai Kote Hineri
- Kote Gaeshi (soto gaeshi)
- Tenkai Kote Gaeshi
Generally, this type of waza is translated as “floating techniques”. Basically, kuzushi or balance disturbing is performed as a throwing technique. All examples of wrist grabbing can be used to throw the opponent.
We distinguish 3 area
Kihon no katachi describe 3 major throws using Uki-waza skill.
- Mae otoshi
- Sumi otoshi
- Hiki otoshi
Sparring or Randori Ho
- Kakari geiko – continious predescribed attacks, no resistance
- Hikitate geiko – continious predescribed attacks, escape possible for uke
- Randori geiko – both can attack and defend
- Dojo sparring
- Shiai format
Example kakari geiko
Tanto randori – competition format