Tenshikei 纏絲勁 is a Japanese term for a Chinese martial arts term Chán sī jìn. “Tenshi” commonly refers to Silk-reeling in traditional styles such as Taijiquan (太極拳).
Coiling power is the result of specialized training method to improve “Elastic Potential Energy”.
Tenshikei is the basic idea of a training method to store energy in the body.
We consider 2 basic forms of energy:
- Energy generated by muscle action and converts in muscle power useful for creating momentum and leverage
- Energy stored into the ligaments, tendons and fascia usefull for converting into kinetic potential energy
Elastic potential energy is stored in ligaments, tendons and fascia and is the result of 2 possible actions of the body
- the action of compressing and releasing of a springlike movement
- the action of drawing a bow and shooting an arrow movement
How to use elastic potential energy
We will use drawing a bow and shooting an arrow as an example to explain the converting from eleastic potential energy to the power at the target.
The power must first be stored up by by pulling the bowstring. The energy stored in the archer’s bow represents elastic potential energy. When the bowstring is released, this stored elastic potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, which is then transferred into the arrow, propelling it into flight.
The human body and the archer’sbow
The human body can function like a bow. If there is no string, the body has no inherent power. By dropping for example the body weight into the hara, we create the same as adding a string to the bow.
A body rotation acts as pulling the string of a bow. Rotation is a movement without displacement of space. It signifies a movement without displacement.
Rather than treating the body as one large bow, you must realize that we could compartmentalize the body into multiple smaller bows. A leg can be considered as a bow, the same applies for the arms. And we cannot forget our spine which can act as a large bow.
The characteritics of an archer’s bow
The “back” of a bow, the part that faces a target, is stretched or pulled away from itself. The “belly” of a bow, facing the person shooting it, is pushed together. Not to forget the ever important neutral axis, this runs longways through the bow from tip to tip, it has the job of keeping tension and compression separated. When a bow is unstrung, it is basically like a stick, it has yin and yang in it, but they are not seperated until it is strung. When you put it under tension, by restricting the two ends, it is in a dynamic separated state. If it is well made, the forces of tension and compression will be balanced, and therefore power is maximised.
When pulling the string extra energy is added to the bow. When releasing the string, the stored energy is transferred into the arrow.
Ko-mawari, using compressive force
The exercise emphasizes the rotation of the body and the use of the legs as a compression force. The compressive force is generated by pushing down the koshi in the direction of the foot. The knee has no active role to play, however it is not held in a fixed or rigid position.
Research and Kenji Tomiki
Sometimes, people blame me not to follow the traditional methods of my teachers. In fact, they are shortsighted and they cannot see through the movements and see the basics supplemented by methods to improve efficiency.
Kenji Tomiki created some basic methods derived from Morihei Ueshiba’s art and asked his students and followers to do more research to develop an effective Aiki-randori method.
This research is definitely a key activity for Tomiki Aikido instructors. Of course we have to cherish the work of Kenji Tomiki, but we have to keep in mind that the method was and is still not complete.
The moment you put your foot in the tatami, your training begins. Generally, training begins to warm-up. The concepts of Aikido are integrated in the warming-up exercises explained in this blog.
Body-turning warming up can be used to integrate the “tenshikei-concept”. The upperbody is turning on the bottom of the pelvis. The turning has a diagonal direction. The legs are neither static of dynamic, the movement os the legs is the result of the body turning.
Unsoku-ho – footwork
The are various methods of footwork and the most basic are:
- Ayumi ashi – alternate stepping
- Tsuri ashi – sliding feet
- Tsugi ashi – shuffle
- De-mawari – forward stepping and turning
- Hiki-mawari – backward stepping and turning
Step forward and backward with weight displacement and body rotation.
De-mawari and hiki-mawari
Tsugi ashi and basics
Posture and footwork
Essentially, “Mushin Mugamae”* is adopted at the outset of a confrontation. During the confrontation, different situations may arise and require different postures and different footwork.
We may go forward and back in a straight line or we may use a zigzag pattern.
The straight line will be used especially in the absence of physical contact. The zigzag line method will be used mainly during physical contact.
Shizentai is an essential posture to begin with.
Body weight can be moved left or right. Keep the centre line to the opponent’s centre.
At times we may put the two feet parallel when adopting a posture in randori.
When moving the body weight, hold the center line towards the opponent.
To move the body weight, we need to lower our body weight center by releasing the tension in the groin area. The area of the groin in the body is where the upper thighs meet the lower abdominal area. By releasing tension, we create a rounded crotch that is necessary to shift body weight without losing balance.
Body turning and Tenshikei
During Aikido training, body turn is frequently used to avoid an incoming attack. But body turn is more than avoiding an attack, it can be used to improve your power used during a confrontation.
Important is the correct timing when using body turn.
Another important item in body turn is the use of the “koshi”.
All good martial techniques arise from the Koshi 腰.
The ideograph is read in Chinese like Yao and into Japanese like Yo or Koshi. In martial arts literature, Koshi/Yo* is typically translated as “hips” and Yao as “waist.” Those translations are incomplete and deceiving.
*koshi / yo 腰=waist, hips – 腰部-Yōbu= pelvis, pelvic region, hips, loins, waist
A good place to start is not trying to translate these words in your native language. Any translation will inevitably lead to a restriction of our comprehension.
Turning body does not always create “tenshikei” or “coiling power”. To coil is to circle around a point, area or axis using a spiraling motion.
Tenshikai is explained by Akira Hino, a Japanese Budo researcher as follows:
To explain Tenshikei, I’ll give a metaphor of a rifle. Think of it as having the same mechanism as a rifle. Your body is the rifle barrel, and Tenshikei is the spiral grooves cut in the inner surface of the gun barrel. The spiral grooves create a longer distance for a bullet to travel, and by gaining frictional resistance during the travel, the bullet increases its force and precision.
Hino , Akira . Don’t Think, Listen to the Body!: Introduction to the Hino Method and Theory of human body and movement control (p. 97).
Coiling power is not easy to generate. A great deal of training is needed on how to use the flexibility qualities of the body. The arms and shoulders are just used to transport the power to the target. Fundamentally, they are not used to generate power.
Kyokotsu – Using the sternum
The use of kyokotsu has no energy output. The lower part of the body (koshi-tanden) is the source of the power coming from the legs. Koshi is the one who started it.
The role of kyokotsu is to prepare the upper body to transmit power from the legs to the arms.
By moving kyokotsu, the power can be guided toward the arms through the front or the back of the body.
See also the picture about vertical cutting with a sword.
Step, shift and turn
Fundamentally, when practising techniques, we will perform a step, followed by body weight shifting and finishing with body turning.
In Tomiki’s Basic 17 Kata, “step,shift and turn” is often used to perform waza from the tegatana awase distance.
Of course, it is possible to practise bodyweight shift and bodyturn with a partner without stepping. But in most of the cases, we need some stepping to finish with a technique.
You can find a few examples from Hideo Ohba and Itsuo Haba in the next video clip – Yawara Dojo 1978.
Koshi mawari and basics
Integration of koshi mawari is necessary to generate coiling power. There are several ways to enhance koshi mawari and tenshikei.
Solo exercises as mentioned above in this article are the first steps when you like to enhance the effectiveness of your basic techniques.
Aikido waza within the framework of Randori
Before you can get into randori, you need to learn how to apply techniques when the situation occurs.
It’s a pretty unique concept in Tomiki Aikido to do randori where we put Aikido waza against Aikido waza. The goal is to use Aikido concepts in a randori setting.
Of course, you must have a basic skill set.