Tenshikei is the Japanese term for chan shi jin or silk reeling, a skill in Internal Chinese martial arts. The name derives from the twisting and spiralling movements of the silkworm as it wraps itself in its cocoon and the pulling off the silk from the coccoon. The body is imitating this by winding and unwinding movements.
Tenshikei uses the diagonal tension and releasing of the muscles and tendons in the central body. Tension and releasing are controlled by the kyokotsu.
Kyokotsu as a control centre of the movement, uses the tanden,koshi and yōbu as the stability platform.
Hara – Tanden, Koshi & Yōbu
Basically Hara is the lower part of the central body. Mostly it is translated as “belly” or “abdomen”.
- Koshi means the area of the hips. It also includes the lower back.
Tanden is a point below the navel, loosely translated as the energy centre (Chinese medicine and martial arts). It is the focus point for internal techniques and exercises.
Yōbu is the waist area. The Chinese word is Yao. The waist is the part of the abdomen between the rib cage and hips.
In our study, Hara will be used in many exercises, especially during Tenshikei.
When the body moves, the Tanden is the centre and is the place of a relative no-movement.
The muscles associated with koshi and yōbu will be used to start movements. There are other methods to start movement like using gravity, but this is discussed elsewhere in this study.
Morita Monjuro (1889-1978)
Famous Japanese swordman wrote some interesting notes on the relationship between tanden and koshi in hitting with a sword.
The striking at a single pace: the tanden and koshi by which all kind of strikes are possible
Tanden and the musculature of the koshi form a unity, but their roles are not the same. The tanden controls the koshi. The training of koshi is synonymous with the training of the tanden, center of the body, and thus it becomes a training of body and mind … We can say the training of each technique strengthen the muscles of the koshi and the tanden. Which has almost the same effect as to strengthen the tanden practicing zazen. If the practice remains at a mere technical manipulation, the effect can not be the same. By producing the art of the koshi and tanden, we can strengthen our mind and body.
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:
1. the rotation of koshi
2. diagonal tension produced by this rotation
3. displacement of the body
Twisting and untwisting
In a basic format the twisting of the upper body will follow a certain sequence.
1. Turn the shoulder line. Keep gankyo bappai **
2. Turn the body along the diagonal line.
3. Turn the pelvis line.***
Feel the spiral movement in the body. Avoid muscular tension by pulling the muscles, the tension you feel is the result of the twisting
Untwisting follows the reverse sequence.
** Gankyōbappai (含胸抜背).
This is a phrase used to describe the postural adjustment at the chest level (Empty the chest & Pull out the back ). Keep the concave shape of the chest and stretch the spine to widen the back. Important is not to tense the muscles.
***Turning the pelvis line is only possible when the “mata” or “kwa” is flexible and not tensed up. If you cannot make the groin soft, you will not make the full twisting movement.
Tenshikei solo exercise – twisting and untwisting
Using a modified kyokotsu exercise – see earlier.
The arrows show the direction of the movements.
Don’t tense the muscles, just release the tension when turning to the other side.
The exercise is “one” continuous movement.
Tenshikei and force
Twisting and untwisting creates force, this force can be transmitted into the opponent.
Partner exercises are an example for applying twisting and untwisting.
In the example the force of twisting and untwisting will be transmitted by extending the arm and creates the opportunity to apply “oshi taoshi” or pushing down.
Extending the arm and putting the weight into the opponent will create “hakkei” or sudden power.
Tenshikei from the lower body
The body is a system which includes also legs, feet…. To create a full-body tenshikei, we must take out the tension of the knee.
The lower part of the central body will become involved in a full-body tenshikei.
See example : Bring the bodyweight on the the right foot, take out the tension of the right knee. Make a full tenshikei by moving the shoulder line, the diagonal lines and the pelvis line.
Both shoulders should be moved as 1 unit.
Ido-ryoku – Momentum
Ido-ryoku can be translated as ‘locomotive power”. When we grasp the arm of the opponent we can move our body a certain distance, this creates some power called momentum.
In Newtonian mechanics, linear momentum, translational momentum, or simply momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object. It is a three-dimensional vector quantity, possessing a magnitude and a direction. (Wikipedia)
Ido-ryoku is the effectiveness of “physical movement” that works even without a locomotive power in a mutual relation between two practitioners. (Prof. Shishida – Aikido Lecture & Seminar at the 11th TAIN International Festival / 2015 Aikido World Championships On Thursday October 22, 2015.)