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


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

If you wish to see the Truth…

“If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.
Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way, nothing in the world can offend, and when a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way.”

~Seng Tsan, Third Patriarch of Zen
Hsin Hsin Ming 信心銘 – Verses of Faith in Mind

There is certainly something positive about lockdown during the Corona-COVID-19 pandemic. Our life has changed completely, especially our time schedule is different. If you are a martial art instructor, during lock down the dojo is closed and the contact with the students or practitioners is reduced to online meetings or occasional meetup outside the dojo. As an instructor, you get more time for yourself and study concepts beyond basic and advanced training.

There are several stories of people who have been isolated for quite a while. They developed a method to practice their martial art. For instance, Kenji Tomiki was imprisoned after the war for a few years and created solo exercises from his experiences with several martial arts experts. These solo exercises formed the nucleus of an Aikido method focused on basic movements and techniques applicable in randori.

The result of investing time in personal training

If you do “personal training” as an instructor without students due Corona problems, the result of investing time can be very different from the thoughts you had when you embarked on your martial art journey. Your mind and body are not the same as a few years ago when you were a beginner.

One must accept that “change” is an all-pervasive concept in one’s life. Cultivating “curiosity” cannot be neglected in your training. Looking beyond all you have learned is a skill that should be cherished to the fullest.

Beyond existing methods

From a scientific standpoint, the research process basically follows a certain pattern.

The research process consists of eight steps: choosing a topic, studying the literature, developing theoretical and conceptual frameworks, formulating the research question, research design, data collection, data analysis and drawing conclusions.

In martial art, the process of research as part of our training follows also a certain pattern. But we are in a situation (pandemic) comparable to that of Tomiki during his time of imprisonment. Of course, we have more options because we can search the digital world for information, but the situation of not having training opportunities is the same. Some of us don’t even have a training partner.

Topic of research

Two topics may serve as an example to other research.

  • Physical and fitness training
  • Martial art movements

The question is whether to choose scientifically proven methods or methods based on mystic beliefs without any scientific proof. In this blog about martial arts training, some methods are discussed with respect to physical training, but also to a more metaphysical type of exercises primarily based on Japanese and Chinese methods with backgrounds in Taoism, Zen-Buddhism and similar philosophical ways of thinking.

The following methods are up-to-date, scientifically studied and the effects of these exercises may be repeated in a scientifically approved situation. The research process serves to formulate a conclusion, with physical and mental exercises resulting from the research.

Especially competitive martial sport is extensively researched for better performance. Scientifically tools are used to increase efficiency power and or speed. The Kodokan Judo Institute has published since 1958 a scientific report on Kodokan Judo on a regular base. The 1969 report has an item written by Kenji Tomiki.

An extract of 1969 report

Zhangzuang or Ritsuzen ( standing exercises) are a kind of exercises researched in hospitals with qualified personnel.

Some of the health-exercises like Qigong or Kiko can be executed on different levels from a pure physical point of view to a more metaphysical or a combination of physical and metaphysical. You can find many scientific studies on the internet. These studies are executed under scientifically rules and the results are published in academic magazines for professional metal health and physical body workers.

There is also a crossover concept using martial art movements useful as physical and fitness training. Plenty of examples can be found in modern fitness methods linked with popular music.

The “traditional” dilemma

When you enter the world of martial arts, you will see mane different views on how martial art has to be practised. As martial arts have always a flavour of conservatism and some of the practitioners are trapped into a “traditional” dilemma.

The question is about understanding the traditional elements in a martial art. Most martial arts have some traditional culture as a part of their training. Some “traditional” elements have no meaning in our Western way of thinking and are practised just as a kind of mannerism, doing something without knowing the origin and meaning of the action or movement. Trying to understand the traditional elements with an open mind is not easy, and sometimes there is a tendency to dogmatism in your martial art.

Removing traditional elements of a martial art need a deep understanding of the traditional culture. On the other hand, some instructors are adding cultural elements with or without understanding the content. Removing and adding elements with understanding sometimes creates a “new” martial art or sport with of without cultural value. The choice is up to you.

Understanding the technical syllabus

As a high level instructor we can choose to research the existing methods of our founders with the tools based upon scientifically proven methods. Of course, there are metaphysical or psychological elements which are difficult to measure with our tools. Take for example the concept of “sen” or “hyoshi“, as explained by Miyamoto Musashi.

The barrier between science and pseudoscience is not clearly defined and can create problems when we seek for the Truth.

The “Truth” dilemma

This post started with a quote by Seng Tsan, Third Patriarch of Zen (Hsin Hsin Ming 信心銘 – Verses of Faith in Mind).

I believe most practitioners are not looking for the “Truth”, but they found a method for practising a martial art. If they never have a confrontation, mentally or physically, there is no need to find the “Truth”, because they found the truth in their method. Unfortunately, some of the practitioners became “True Believers” and are not open for the “Truth”. During a confrontation, maybe they will win, maybe they will lose.

“The True Believers” – The critically acclaimed true story about the human cost of hero worship in martial arts. The term “True Believers” is inspired by a book by Eric Hoffer.

Eric Hoffer (July 15, 1902 – May 21, 1983) was an American moral and social philosopher. He was the author of ten books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983. His first book, The True Believer (1951), was widely recognized as a classic, receiving critical acclaim from both scholars and laymen. (Wikipedia)

Finding your Way

Again, finding the “Truth” is letting go all pro- and contra- opinions. Martial Art is not a cult, but it is a tool to become aware of the world around you and inside you. Dogmatism will disturb your progression, on the other side, if you are happy………