Feel the intent

Kenji Tomiki, Goshinjutsu-nyumon

“Is the lack of attack a specific feature of Aikido?”
When explaining the term “Sen”, it often happens that confusion arises in the use of words. This is the case with, among others, “Taking the initiative in Japanese Budo” or “The lack of attack in Japanese Budo.” Confusion often arises between the term SEN and the moral aspect when one applies a technique in Japanese Budo.
Normally, when using a budo technique, there may be a fear of killing or seriously injuring the opponent. Therefore, in a modern rule of law, one should not use this martial art power, except in case of legal self-defense or in a situation that is difficult to avoid. From this sense it is said that SEN (initiative) is the first movement in Budo. However, in case one cannot help but defend oneself, it is allowed to use SEN (sen no sen & sensen no sen) techniques instead of go no sen techniques. Especially when one is attacked by a large number of opponents, it is traditionally said that one may use a self-preservation offensive (SEN) to narrowly escape fatal consequences.
In other words when using Budo techniques one cannot ethically apply SEN, but in principle one cannot stop considering SEN either.

Saya no Uchi

“Saya no Uchi” means to keep Katane inside of sheath, which means dominate the opponent without pulling out Katana from sheath.

Akira Hino

To perform an action you must have the intention to do so. Intent is a concept that sometimes causes confusion in the mind of a beginning practitioner.
Most of the time, a beginner carries out moves with the intention of having victory in a fight. The intention must be to make an efficient movement (technical, waza) and not to lose the struggle.

When you look at how to introduce “intent” into the training, you will find many explanations about the meaning of the “words” defining this concept.
The following are most frequent examples.

  • 意 (I) feelings, thoughts, meaning – mostly used in combination with another kanji (意図 – ito or 意向 – iko
  • 先 (Sen) line, initiative

Unfortunately, the correct methods to practise the concept of intent are seldom explained.
To establish a practical methodology, we need a few tools:

  • Creating an image in the brain
  • A body ready for immediate action through the creation of “Mushin mugamae”
  • Understanding Sen as a strategy

Sen’s main cases

The opponent has the intention to attack you as a basic idea.
Sen is a strategic technique for taking the initiative when you feel the mental image of opponents and see the impact on the opponent’s physical movement. We can discern three significant situations. In the first 2 situations, the opponent can still change their mind and physical action if you don’t have perfect control of the situation.
When an opponent passes a certain line or the case of situation 3, there is no more chance of drastically changing the trajectory of the attack. If you’re not in control, you’ll lose.

Having a “sen” situation does not imply that you will win. A perfect “waza” is the proper addition to any of the sen situations.

先々の先 Sen sen no sen : Controlling the opponents chance. Image in the brain and start of attack.
先 の 先 sen no sen対の先 tai no sen : Image in the brain and physical attack.
Make a decisive attack, which impacts faster than their waza.
後 の 先 go no sen or ato no sen : is a ‘strategy/technique, it is best described as ‘the post initiative attack’.

Edo, a time of peace

In Edo epoch when people enjoyed peace it had a serious meaning and consequence to pull out Katana. Because it was strictly prohibited to pull out Katana to use it, and once one did it, it might cause even a death penalty with being taken away all the property.
Accordingly it required a serious preparedness in the mind to pull out Katana.
Understanding what might occur as a consequence in his and also his family’s life, one should have a serious preparedness in his mind to pull out Katana.

Akira Hino

While samurai had privileges in Japanese society, removing the sword without threat was a grave crime. The art of Iaido (Iaijutsu) still has the concept of Saya no Uchi, retaining the sword in the sheath.

No matter how strong or how evil the persons we come across, we must not draw our sword, nor let him draw his. We must not cut him, nor allow him to cut us. We must not kill him nor do we let him kill us. By reason kindly persuade him to change his ways to become a better person. If, at the very last, after all your efforts, he won’t listen to you, then send him to his maker and destroy him completely.

Muso Shinden Jushin Ryu Iaido no Seishin (精神)

A practical way to learn to use intent.

The use of intention has two aspects to take into consideration.

  • The intention of the opponent
  • Your intention

While many important “sensei” speaks of “Mushin mugamae”, a phrase often translated as empty mind and empty posture. Unfortunately, by using the word “empty” the concept becomes more cryptic.
Mushin mugamae is all about how to handle your emotions. The physical aspect is merely the result of mental thoughts.
If you can control your emotions, you can use your energy to build an image of what you will do next. This image with control of your emotions and energy can be referred to as intention.
In some cases, you can even conceal your intention from your opponent and it is called “Mushin mugamae”.

Now the question is how to control your emotions and energy. There are several practical exercises and methods for obtaining “Mushin mugamae”.
My favorite one is “ritsuzen” or standing as a tree. While we are standing, we can visualize moving images, relax our thoughts, relax the physical body…
Another major method is slow motion training. It makes us conscious of the energy and strength needed for our movements.
And lastly, I want to add a breathing system to slow down all the functions of your being. Hachi danken is a system like this.

The basic idea is to silence the conscious mind (ego) and let the unconscious mind overtake your thoughts and body. See “The Science of Training”
The unconscious requires, of course, input and this is the goal of basic training. The basic training must be done properly, otherwise the input will not be effective enough and the use of the unconscious mind will not produce the correct output.

Sense the intent of the opponent.

To understand the concept of “sen” one must sense the intention of an opponent. This is only possible when you have the ability to “Mushin mugamae”. When nothing troubles you, your mind is open to the slightest signs of your opponent’s attack.
Of course, like most skills, you need a lot of training to become effective in feeling the enemy’s intention.

Sen – Bujutsu no gokui
The ultimate in martial art

A victory comes down to carrying out a successful attack without giving the opponent a chance to launch an efficient attack. In kenjutsu one has to fell the opponent without being felled, in judo one has to throw without being thrown. But since both think to be first (SEN), the victory is not an easy thing and hence “the elderly” (our predecessors) studied this aspect very thoroughly.

Because Aikido kata (formal exercises) largely consists of go-no-sen techniques, one might say that Aikido is only a form of self-defence (goshinjutsu), where the concept of go no sen is at the center.
Kenji Tomiki formulated “Kyogi Aikido”, a sparring method with Aikido techniques to easily introduce a practical approach to the concept of sen no sen and sen no sen.

The “randori no kata” is a collection of techniques that can be used in a safe way in free sparring. Here is a sample of the atemi-waza section. Atemi in the Tomiki Aikido syllabus is centered around attacking the weak dynamic parts of the opponent’s body.

Ki Ken Tai Ichi – A gate to Sen no sen

Ki ken tai ichi is an expression often used in Japanese swordsmanship and it means “to synchronize the movements of ki, ken, and tai”.

  • Ki: The energy you need to engage in action. Basically, we can tell that by creating an image in the brain, we are mobilizing energy to perform an action.
  • Ken: The weapon we will use following the creation of an image. It can be a sword, a stick or whatever body part appropriate as a weapon.
  • Tai: The technique expressed through physical action.

In the example below, a soft tanto is used as an offensive tool. Ki ken tai ichi is performed by a strike to the chest. The front foot and soft tanto must be synchronized when hitting the chest. When there is no picture of the strike in the brain, Ki ken tai ichi is not carried out and the strike will be considered inefficient.

Toshu or unarmed defender need to feel the intention (image) of the opponent to perform an effective neutralisation and counter-attack. The synchronization takes the same steps as Ki ken tai ichi.


This strategy is often used in Aikido training. This looks very simple when you understand the concept of sen. The challenge of go no sen is the ability to be patient and wait for the opponent to cross the line of no return. If you are unaware of the intent, you will always lose.
Don’t forget, it is a state of mind and it controls the attacker even before he begins to move.

A quest for life

Sometimes people ask me what I like about martial arts. The answer is straightforward: to become better than yesterday.
Of course, aging is a factor to bear in mind and that is “a game breaker”. What you can do when you are under 20 will no longer be the same when you are 50.
Finding a way to become better than yesterday is a path filled with obstacles and the end is for everyone the same.
Becoming better than yesterday?
Maybe the answer is somewhere in the world……. Other questions may come up… Who cares…..
I “feel better” than yesterday.

Eddy Wolput

Seichusen & a column full of power

It is the Earth which allows to generate force with the legs.

Internal Martial Art


In “Aikido-Tradition and the Competitve Edge” written by Fumiaki Shishida and Tetsuro Nariyama the definition of “Seichusen” is as follows:
The human body displays bilateral symmetry. Seichusen is a vertical line through both the nose and the navel down the center of the body that cuts into two exact halves.

Of course, this definition gives us just a 2D image, whereas our body is a 3D object. The idea of bilateral symmetry is right if you see the body of the front face. On the other hand, another point of view does not follow the bilateral symmetry.
A view from any angle at the seichusen can be seen as the center line which divides the body into 2 halves. These 2 halves are not symmetrical, except for the front or back view.

A column full of power

Seichusen or the centerline always stretches in the direction from top to bottom. This creates a line of strength needed for good posture.

A strong position is not only with the vertical line, but in a horizontal plane as well.

The centerline should be viewed as the midline of a column. This column can be very thin, but can also be very broad and full of power generated using the legs.
The column strength lines are oriented in six directions.

  • Up and down
  • Forward and backward
  • Left and right

A column full of power is embedded in the various postures and positions we can adopt during training.

An example of how Seichusen works.

Testing posture with footwork

Footwork is a basic skill to perform effectively while exercising. Maintaining a strong yet flexible stance is a condition for moving when an adversary is involved.

Mu-gamae & Hanmi

Mu-gamae is mostly translated as empty posture or no-posture. In fact, when you just are in a standing position with parallel feet and your arms at the side of the body, we can consider this as “mu-gamae”. There is no intention in this posture.

There are 2 important control centers

  • Kyokotsu – upper center
  • Hara tanden – lower center

By moving a foot forward and turning the body, we create a stance mostly named as “hanmi” (half body turn).
If one thinks about Aikido as Budo, then it is necessary that one considers mugamae, right position (hanmi) and left position (hanmi) as 3 in 1. The 3 basic modes have of course an integrated seichusen and the column of power.

“Hanmi is efficient when you step in from mugamae to the opponent or when you want to apply a technique. But as a starting position, hanmi is not very useful.”

Kenji Tomiki

3 types of hanmi

Using hanmi has 3 modes. Each mode is associated with a type of movement expressed by the bodyweight transfer.

  • Neutral position, bodyweigth in the middle
  • Forward position, bodyweight forward
  • Backward position, bodyweight backward

Generating strength with the legs

Essentially, all of our strength comes from our legs. It is initiated from the lower body and then moved by the hara tanden to kyokotsu and distributed to the hands.

When you push with your legs down, there is a rebound, which is guided with your knees in your hips. They must be flexible and do not brake.
The role of the knees is important, these joints move toward each other during a forward motion. With a motion to the back, they separate. Knee motions are measured in millimetres.
Moving forward, the front leg and knee move downward. As you move backwards, your back leg and knee move downwards.
Don’t forget to fold your hips as if sitting on a high stool.

Hara Tanden and kyokotsu

Tanden and kyokotsu are two centres used as a distribution tool for the force generated in the body through the use of the legs. Find more information in a different article about kyokotsu and hara tanden.

Moving with tegatana.

All power generated by the legs has to be transferred to the hand and/or arm. The tool we use to transmit our power to the target is tegatana.

What is Tegatana?
When the 5 fingers are stretched enough, the base of the hand is stretched overflowing into the little finger. In the small sense this is called tegatana, but in a broader context this becomes the forearm (from wrist to elbow). Tegatana exercises include both hand length and arm length exercises

Tegatana no kamae

This is an extension of mugamae and hanmi (hidari/migi no kamae)

3 types of tegatana no kamae

These are chudan (middle level), jodan (upper level) and gedan (lower level), where chudan is used as a basis where the tegatana is kept in the seichusen (centerline) of the body

3 conditions for movement with tegatana

  1. The use of posture with correct stability.
  2. Positioning the tegatana in relationship with seichusen or correctly on the center line of the body.
  3. To ensure that the use of the tegatana corresponds to the foot movement carried out at the same time.

Chokei, the skill of listening

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.

Tegatana Awase: Training routine with a partner/opponent to study basic “aiki” skills.
Tuishou: a two-person training routine practiced in Chinese martial arts

Kihon – Basic Training

When studying martial arts, basic skills are required to apply effective skills in both combat and martial arts. Asian countries have many methods of self-protection based on martial traditions. Nonetheless, there are significant differences in the training methods used by the traditional Japanese and Chinese exhibitors.

In traditional Japanese arts, one develops from learning kata. These kata are categorized into various categories. The basic movement patterns that form the basis of art, the so-called omote-waza and deeper knowledge via ura-waza. Of course, it’s a simplified explanation of Japan’s traditional martial arts.

Contemporary Japanese martial arts borrowed elements from Chinese martial arts. Western ideas regarding training concepts have also influenced Japanese budo.
The idea behind the basic techniques was explicitly conceptualized by the Chinese martial arts. Basic training consists of exercises designed to develop specific skills, fitness and endurance. Concentrating on the Yao or lower abdomen is in fact an art in itself and must be mastered above all sparring is involved. These important foundation skills are sometimes exported as watered down martial arts to non-Asian countries (America, Europe,…). For example the very popular slowmotion version of Yang-taichichuan versus the dynamic powerfull Chen-taichichuan.

Omote & Ura in Martial Arts

When studying kata, you will certainly notice the words “omote” and “ura”. Sometimes the expression omote-waza is used to name the kata explained to beginners or novices in the art.

Omote techniques are taught to beginner and are techniques considered less effective in combat. The view to the outside world is important, but speaking from a strategy point of view, the efficiency is not so high. Students are learning the basic movements of the art.

Ura techniques are more effective in the sense that they are build on a strong “omote” foundation. Basically ura waza are considered as secret techniques. But in fact, the secret is in the total control of the body movements. Without this control, you will not perform efficiently during randori.

Difference between Japanese & Chinese arts

The fundamental difference lies in the pedagogical approach. Chinese arts promote a strong mind and body before any attempt to enter sparring. Chinese arts include some exercises with a sparring flavor, like tuishou or pushing hands.

Chinese martial arts are much longer in history than Japanese martial arts. Like most martial arts, the origin lies in the techniques and strategy of the military forces. Warrior monks, of course, affect the development of martial methods.
In the late 19th century, martial arts also became popular among civilians and created numerous methods as a sort of self-protection.

The same evolution can be seen from the development of Bujutsu and Japanese Budo. The ancient martial arts, also known as Koryu Bujutsu, were mostly practiced by samurai. When the Samurai class was abolished, certain methods became popular as civilian methods mostly called Jujutsu and Kodokan Judo. A few sword methods have become popular as Kendo. The military government was surely a major sponsor of the Kendo method.

Kenji Tomiki wrote some papers on the evolution of Bujutsu to Budo.

The method of practise traditionally used to ensure the safety of dangerous techniques was the kata system of practise. In ancient bujutsu, 99% of a practise was completed by kata alone. That is to say, in order to cope with an opponent’s unlimited attacks, each response was practised by means of kata. That is the reason for the extreme number of kata in ancient jujutsu. For example in Tenjin Shinyo Ryu jujutsu there were 124 kata techniques, and there were over 10 ranho (literally unstructured captures). To become masterful in the practical applications of the techniques required innumerable months. Then someone would be challenged to go from kata to a violent shiai (literally street fight ) called tsujinage or tsujigiri. This gave life to kata and was the place to try to fit together objectively one’s own real ability.

On jujutsu and his modernisation -Kenji Tomiki

We can see both systems, Japanese and Chinese, promoted methods to build up a strong foundation, but both included some exercises as an introduction to different kinds of sparring.
Some jujutsu methods used “midare geiko” or unstructured training. This training is an introduction to sparring or randori.
Chinese arts promote “tuisho” or pushing hands as an introduction to sparring.

Tuishou or pushing hands

Tuishou (Chinese: 推手), often translated as pushing hands, is a popular two-person exercise among Chinese internal martial art practitioners. It is the essential complement to learning bare-handed sequences and also prepares you for combat without rules.

Although we are talking about pushing hands, tuishou is considered a basic training tool to improve partner/opponent’s body listening. Besides listening to the body (energy), other basic skills like accepting power, using power and correct footwork are studied during tuishou.

Chokei, the skill of listening

If you listen to a piece of music and that music touches you, the world around you is no more, there is only music. The art of listening is a part of you and you must enable this ability to accomplish its task. Your mind is there, but your mind’s not interfering with the music.
You realise that music is a sort of energy, traveling like a sound wave. If you can feel the different vibrations of the music, it must be possible to feel or to listen to the vibrations of opponents energy. You must come into contact with it without interfering with your ego.

When you practice with a partner, the “Chokei” skill is always the first task to complete. Unfortunately, our ego, especially blocks this skill. We believe that we can manage the opponent’s action with actions developed in our mind. 
Chokei gives you the information you need to answer the actions of the partner: the opponent. The art of listening without the interference of the ego is a principal part of the training in addition to the skills of the movements of the martial body.

Tegatana Awase, a tool to improve Chokei

A basic practice method to understand ma-ai “distance” from the opponent. The tegatana of two practitioners are matched in contact and they move freely while maintaining the correct distance.

Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, Basic techniques of Sport Aikido (Tomiki Aikido)

Tegatana awase is considered a basic exercise in Tomiki Aikido and promotes basic requirement for efficient aikido practic.
But tegatana awase can be seen in a much broader sense than the classical exercise promoted by the Tomiki Aikido system.
Chokei or the skill of listening to the partner/opponent’ energy is in fact an integral component of tegatana awase.
This is what can be considered as a bridge between aikido and tuishu. Both methods depend on your sensitivity.

How can one develop sensitivity?
During tegatana awase, the two practitioners have another role to play. One is active and the other is passive.
Active role: Move forward, backward or sideways without intent to push or pull. It’s only the energy that comes from the footwork.
Passive role: Move in line with the partner’s energy. No resistance or active role is to be performed. It’s all about feeling the energy.

Sotai Renshu – Paired exercises

Tegatana awase exercises are actually an almost non-aggressive method for studying the concepts and techniques of martial art.
Because the non-aggressive nature of the exercise, the perception of a non-aggressive martial art gives plenty of discussion on the effectiveness of the method.

Moving freely around during tegatana awase can be seen as the start of “randori” or “sparring”. Subsequently wrist grabbing can be introduced while keeping correct distance and efficient power use when grasping.
Next, the introduction of “kuzushi” or balance disturning will add the opportunity to apply techniques or waza.

Study examples

Of course we can start from other situations to perform sotai renshu and study chokei, ma-ai, kuzushi and other important concept of Tomiki Aikido

Uchi/Soto Mawashi

Uchi/Soto Gaeshi

Polarity – Interaction between JU and GO

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.

JU/GO, a question of polarity

In a previous article, the polarity was mentioned as a significant factor in your training. The power at the target is the result of the flow of energy from a point A to a point B or vice versa. In the absence of this flow, no movement will be possible.
An example, may point to the importance of energy flow. When we use two hands to move the opponent, one hand can be thought of as the GO hand and the other as the JU hand. There is a flow from the GO-hand to the JU-hand. That is, the GO hand is active and the JU hand is passive. Of course, that is too simplistic, because the importance of feet has not been taken into account. There is a flow between the feet and the hands as well.

Consider also the role of Tori and Uke from the power interaction point of view during attack and defense. An attack can be regarded as a GO-action. The challenge will be how to integrate the attack into your movement system.

Nagashi or absorbing power

What is the idea behind the word? Nagasu verb, meaning “to spread”or “to flow”…… Basically the concept of nagashi in martial arts is absorbing the incoming attack and give back. This in fact is another definition for “Ju no ri” or the principle of gentleness formulated by Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo. Kenji Tomiki used this concept to describe the idea of using the power of the opponent. The aim is to absorb the energy of the attack and not to damage ourselves. There are several basic ways to make this move, but everything lies in the union of two actions, the first action is to synchronize our movement with the opponent attack, the second action is to move your body weight in the proper angle to absorb opponent’s power. Nagashi is a type of protection that allows a movement of continuity, deflecting or accompanying the attack of the opponent. After absorbing the energy flow of opponent, changing polarity is the next step. This is called the interaction between the 2 kinds of energy: absorbing and extending back. In other words the interaction between JU and GO.

The interaction between 2 forces

Our existence is regulated by the interaction between Yin and Yang (Yn/Yo, Ju/Go). Some refer to this as a dualistic concept. But I think this is not true, it is a concept of monism with 2 fundamental energies acting as a whole. During the performance of all waza, there is an interaction between the 2 forces (JU and GO).
The simplified example of the active and passive hand clarifies the process of JU and GO.
“Active and passive hand” is not the same as an active hand and a dead hand. A passive hand is a part of of the JU/GO interaction between 2 hands. Without a passive hand there will be no balance of JU and GO.
A “dead” hand can be seen as non-existant, there is only the GO-hand in an extreme format.

When there is only the extreme format, either GO or JU, we cannot speak about the martial arts like Judo or Aikido. Although Judo has only “JU” in the name, Kodokan Judo is not denying the GO aspect. In the Kodokan Kata syllabus there is a Ju no kata and a Go no kata. See PDF-file

Fundamental movements

The interaction of JU and GO is also important when using fundamental Aikido movements. Kenji Tomiki selected several body movements as important movements for the application of martial techniques during kata and randori.
Fundamental movements can be practised eiter as solo-exercises or as paired exercises. Each of these methods have their own advantages.
Solo-exercises are a tool to practise body movements where gravity and your own body are the only elements you have to control. When practising paired exercises, the training-partner is a supplemental element to control without losing gravity and your own body movements.
Many people don’t like the “boring” solo-exercises. It is no surprise to find out that even instructors have no clue about the importance of solo-exercises.

Aikido: An introduction to Tomiki style by M.J. Clapton – page 6

As far as this style I have omitted the Basic Movements which are common in most dojos. As a student I always had to try hard to keep a straight face when I was forced to indulge in these movements and they never fail to raise a giggle or two when they are practised in front of spectators. The waving of arms like a policeman trying to direct large volumes of traffic is not necessary to any practise of Aikido and this style is no exception. Their meaning is a frequent unexplained quantity and many instructors try explaining their practise as being necessary before anyone can learn techniques -rubbish. To the Dan Grade learning the Koryu Kata these movements are of interest but to the average student they are an unknown quantity, and an unnecessary quantity.

4 fundamental movements

The fundamental movements of Aikido also called tegatana no godosa are part of the original tandoku undo created by Kenji Tomiki. When Senta Yamada came to the United Kingdom, he always emphasized the importance of basic movements.

  • Uchi mawashi – inside arm sweep
  • Soto mawashi – outside arm sweep
  • Uchi gaeshi – inside arm turn
  • Soto gaeshi – outside arm turn
  • O mawashi – big arm sweep

The original Tandoku undo is built around 5 fundamental movements (tegatana no godosa). Senta Yamada has well documented these movements. He always spoke of the 5 basic movements.
Later, he talked about 4 basic movements. The “O-mawashi” or big sweep was omitted.

Applications of 4 fundamental movements

Integrate opponent’s power in your system

When Uke is applying power with atemi waza (strike, punch or kick) or with a grasping movement, it is not wise to oppose his power with the same polarity. Rather, it is more efficient to integrate his power into your movement/power system. By doing this, you can change polarity and attack.

Sweeping and turning

Arm sweep
The arm sweep is essentially an action of the arm using the shoulder joint as a support point and using the centre line of the body as a vertical axis.

Arm sweep is a swinging or curving movement or stroke of the arm. The swinging arm during running is an example of arm sweep.

Arm turn
Arm turn is a rotational action of the arm using the arm’s length axis. Turning the arm has many applications in daily life. For example twisting a wet cloth to get the water out uses the rotatation of the arms.
Turning the arm is posssible into 2 directions: supination and pronation – gaeshi and hineri.

Rendo, linking movements

Arm turns rotate along the arm’s length axis. Arm sweeps uses the shoulder joint as a fulcrum. Both actions cannot be separated to produce an efficient movement. During every sweep there is also a turn, and during every turn there is a sweep.
When practising “tegatana dosa”, focus is on arm sweep or arm turn. But we cannot forget either arm sweep or arm turn. Above all, we must not forget the importance of turning around the body axis.

The linking of movements cannot be considered as one movement after another. Linking means the integration of all movements into a single body movement.
Linking is the performance of separate movements with the right timing in a whole body movement. It is definitely not a performance of all the movements involved at once.

The “Tori” approach and effect on “Uke”

Practising martial arts with a partner is based upon action and reaction, the role of Tori and Uke is clearly defined during basic training. The roles during randori geiko is of an alternate performance and can only described as action followed by reaction.
Reaction can be described as twofold:

  • an effcient action, throwing or control is applied followed by ukemi
  • an non-efficient action is taken over and countered with throwing or controlling

Performing the fundamental movements (tegatana dosa), the arm sweep and turn are used to bring power to the target. Body rotation increases exponentially the power on the target if the center body is synchronized with the arms and legs.

Arm sweeps may be used as an attack (atemi waza) or as a deflecting action.
When you use the arm sweep as a deflection against uke’s Atemi waza, balance disturbances or kuzushi will result. This can be followed by atemi waza or kansetsu waza by Tori.
When choosing for kansetsu waza, arm turning (twist) will be used to control Uke’s body. Using the limitations of the joints, the rotation (twisting) of the arms and/or legs of Uke will be used as a form of control of Uke’s body.
As an example, kote hineri (wrist turn or twist) will lock up the wrist, elbow, shoulder and central body. Notice Tori’s gaeshi movement and the hineri movement created in Uke’s body.

There are 2 types of arm turns possible when done by Tori and each has a special characteristic.

  • Gaeshi -> elbow moves to center line
  • Hineri -> elbow moves away from center line

When Tori usus a gaeshi or hineri movement, the effect of Uke will be either a hineri or gaeshi reaction. The previous example shows a Tori gaeshi movement with a Uke’s hineri lock.

Gaeshi and hineri are also performed via the legs. However, because of the limitations of the knee joint, leg movements are more oriented towards the stability of the body. The action of the legs is more involved in a stable posture and good footwork. The leg effect of hineri and gaeshi is most noticeable in the movements of Uke’s body. An efficient performed kote hineri will lock up completely Uke’s body included the legs. The result can be a controlling action or a throw as in the next example.

The role of Ukemi

The role of ukemi cannot be underestimated in the training of martial arts. It is a mistake to define ukemi as solely taking a breakfall.
Ukemi is translated as “receiving body” with a quality of being passive. You might also translate it as “receptive” body, as in a body prepared to receive a blow, strike or onslaught.
Fundamentaly, ukemi can be understood as the principle “ju no ri”. Maybe you see also the relationship with polarity?

Kodokan Judo Definition
uke (“receiver”; the thrown; uke) The person who receives a technique during repetition or controlled practice.
ukemi (breakfall) General term for breakfalls designed to protect the body when thrown.
ukeru (to receive) To receive a technique or attack from your opponent, or to have a technique applied to you.

Fundamental movements, fundaments and applications

Basically, Aikido techniques are applications of fundamental movements. But it is a mistake to consider the 5 fundamental movements (Tomiki’s Tegatana no Godosa) as the “fundament” of Tomiki Aikido. In fact, these are just a few of the fundamental movements.. Other fundamental movements like footwork or shizentai (natural body) has to be practised regulary.
These fundaments can be explored in different formats, for example during Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa. Fundamental movements can be practised in a static or dynamic format. Static training is without footwork, while dynamic training has footwork integrated.

Shizentai, static training

When we practice shizentai as a static exercise, the perception is that of an immovable posture. As a matter of fact, posture training has a non-visible dynamic nature. The conscious mind is responsible for moving the body without visible motion.
The muscles to maintain the position are the working muscles. The muscles that are not involved in the posture are the resting muscles. The mind may order these muscles to relax and tighten. This is a way to better control the movements of our body.
Another invisibly dynamic exercise is the interaction of feet and hands. You may use images of incoming or outgoing strength. You will understand that there is a flow of energy between the floor and the body. The ability to accept (JU) and extend (GO) is once more an expression of “polarity”.

Shizentai, dynamic training
Posture training can be invigorated by integrating footwork and/or hand and arm movements (unsoku-ho and/or tegatana dosa).
During footwork exercises, focus can be pointed to the active foot (GO) or the passive foot (JU). The active foot is producing the power to move while the passive foot is the receiving one. The interaction between the 2 feet is called tsugi-ashi or ayumi-ashi.

Take migi- or hidari-no-gamae (right or left posture).
When moving forward, back foot is the active one while front foot is the passive one. The back foot is in fact pushing the front foot forward. Don’t put front foot forward and pull the back foot.
When moving back, front foot is the active one and back foot is the passive one.

Ayumi-ashi is translated as “walking foot/feet.
ayumi (1) the walking; going; (2) pace; step; pace; rhythm; (3) course of development; walk;
ashi = foot/feet, leg
We also can consider here an active foot and a passive one. There are several ways to perform ayumi-ashi, but the basic idea is to alternate between active and passive foot.

Shomen-uchi and tsugi-ashi
The method described here is also similar in most basic tegatana-dosa.

Take jodan-no gamae. The back foot is the working foot and pushes the front foot forward. As the front foot moves forward, tegatana will start in the target direction. When Tegatana reaches near the target, the back foot swiftly glides forward to establish a stable position when Tegatana hits the target.

Sotai renshu – Paired exercises
The next step is to integrate the fundamental movements into partner training.
The purpose of paired exercises is to test fundamental movements with resitance of a partner. Resistance can be low, high or in between. The role of Uke is of prime importance to perform the movements successfully. Think about training in weightlifting, you cannot start with too heavy weights because this is blocking your training. The same is in sotai renshu. Don’t block the movements of tori, just add sufficient resistance to create improvement. By stopping the flow, training cannot be seen as a possitive tool. The same can be said about too cooperative movement by Uke.
Don’t confuse fundamental movement partner training with performing “waza” or fighting techniques. Without a thoroughly physical and mental understanding of the fundamental movements, waza will alway fail during randori (sparring).

Katachi and Kata – Formal training for the “waza” of the art
Each martial art has specific techniques, a kind of trademark of the system. These techiques can be considered as the “omote” side. Omote, in this cas is the visible part of the system. During solo- and paired training, the necessary bodyskills are developped and integrated into katachi and kata. Without these bodyskills, the performance of katachi and kata is meaningless.
Katachi and kata training is not the end of the training. Another factor has to be introduced: Randori or sparring.

Randori – Sparring
A training method so that most of the learned techniques could be done with full force to create a decisive victory without injury.
Testing the accumulation of the skills developped during training of tandoku renshu, sotai renshu and katachi/kata.

Randori is not the end

Mastering aikido has to be considered as something which is gained when your mind and body can be used as tools for a better life situation. Even after a few training sessions, some people can find out the benefits of the training. And this is not about winning a friendly confrontation, or finding out who is the most skillfull.
Your training goal is not becomming a champion or a famous teacher. Mastering aikido is about yourself. Is my life improving?
The answer to this question can only be given by yourself. Controlling and accepting your life situation is of course one of the important items. Aikido will not give you the solution, but aikido training creates a micro-environment where you can practise physical and mental methods to gain control over yourself.

Goshin, the self-defense side of Aikido

Self-defense is an aspect which is in fact a trap for those who come to learn aikido. In my view, aikido is initially not a self-defense method. Aikido training is a method to gain control of your mind and body. If you can succeed in this, maybe you can start a training method for self-defense. Without fostering mind and body, all the so-called self-defense techniques are useless.
If anyone wants to study self-defence, the method of training must be adapted to the present situation in our society. The behavior of an attacker would now differ from the outdated behavior of the past as presented in the Katachi and Kata we are practising.

Health aspect of Aikido

When you become older, the concept of health comes more to the foreground. This is the same when you have a serious injury or health risk like high blood pressure. Randori can become a problem, but this is not necessary a reason to stop training. Martial arts training can give you some interesting benefits beside the combat aspects.

Physical Fitness
Physical fitness refers to the ability of your body systems to work together efficiently to allow you to be healthy and perform activities such as sport and daily activities. Physical fitness has many parts to consider and most of them can be the result of martial arts training.
These parts of fitness are body composition (fat, bones, muscles…), cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, muscular endurance, power or the ability to use quickly.
Older people can have the same benefits and some extra items. For example, among older adults, balance, agility, and coordination are very important for preventing falls (a major health concern), and reaction time relates to risk for traffic accidents.

Mental health
Mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness, and shouldn’t be neglected.
Physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to your brain. It also increases the amount of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals, in your brain. For this reason, it’s not surprising that people who are in good physical shape also tend to enjoy a higher level of mental agility.
Most of the people will report a state of feeling good after training. Their mind is refreshed .

Fusion of mind and body

When we we talk about ourself, we mostly talk about our body or our mind. In fact we have to talk about “I”, because we cant separate mind and body. During aikido training, the fusion between mind and body is one of the more important facets during the practise. If we can succeed in this, bringing over to our normal life in society is our next job.
The harmony between JU and GO is difficult to accomplish without proper training.

Upgrade your Aikido through Tegatana-awase

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo

A principal obstacle to improvement in practice is the body’s usual mode of generating movements. One cannot improve, for example Uchi-mawashi or Soto-mawashi much unless one breaks the habit of the arm and shoulder muscles to dominate the actions, and learn how to use the waist to coordinate the muscles between left and right and upper and lower body. Between what the body is told to do -the control- and what the body does -the product of motion- is an enormous gap of neural mechanisms that is opaque. The practice is at the mercy of that black box of mechanisms, which include wrong habits.

The mind as an observer

The mind is a factor that cannot be denied, and first the mind will observe our actions to discover the possible mistakes made during our movements. These mistakes can be corrected using the mind, but the mind will once again act like an observer to find other mistakes in our movements.

Central axis and shoulderline

We need to realize that there is a difference between the physical aspect and the mental image of our centre. The central axis seen by the mind always creates a connection with the partner’s centre. This is the actual meaning of “Awase”. Mostly the physical and mental central axis overlap. However, there are instances where the physical central axis creates an opening, a feint. The central mental axis maintain control on the central axis of the partner. A less skilled partner/opponent will attack you, but you have not lost control over a partner/opponent’s actions.

During tegatana-awase the center line links the front hand to the center axis.

Central Axis


The triangle

The line between the points of the shoulder joint remains the same relative length. The shoulder joint points are mentally connected to the hand and form a triangle. The lines between the shoulder articulation points and the hand are not fixed and will change synchronously when the shoulder line rotates around the central axis.

Turning the shoulderline is a matter of using the waist and not by using the hips. The upperbody can turn in-and outwards using the waist muscles.

During tegatana-awase, when partner/opponent moves forward with tsugi-ashi stepping, we can moves backward with tsugi-ashi stepping or turning the shoulderline.

Expanding powerline

Expansive force should not be confused with contractive force. Expansive force is the result of a mental image and muscle tone.

Muscle tone is defined as the tension in a muscle at rest. Appropriate muscle tone enables our bodies to quickly respond to a stretch.

Expansive force has to be trained to with special exercises. For example standing exercises like ritsuzen or zhan-zuang are very helpfull in the development of expansive force. Also, shotei-awase exercise is such an exercise to develop expansive force. Of course, the skill of remaining in muscle tone mode is necessary.

If this kind of training is not included in your training program, you have to rely on contractive muscle power on many occasions in your training when strong posture (static or dynamic)is needed.

The mental line from the central axis to the tegatana is not fixed. But the power in this line is always expanding. There is no pulling in.

Expanding is created by the powerline at the outside of the arm. Expanding power comes from the koshi/tanden and travels through the back to the shoulder and arm.

Range of movement

When adopting a “kamae” posture, mostly one foot is in the front.

Bodyweight can move forward and back. Moving to the side can compromise the stabilty. But the upperbody can turn without moving the feet.

Depending on the circumstances, turning the shoulderline can be performed with bringing the bodyweight forward or backward.

The upper and lower parts of the body are independent

I mentioned before, upper body is moved by using the waist. These movements are supported by the lower back (koshi) and the crotch/groin (mata). Turning movements by using the waist is fundamentally necessary during tenshikei exercises.

Many “kuzushi” drills use tenshikei. The use of the waist and back are the principal components.

Stepping during tegatana-awase

Footsteps begin with the use of Koshi and mata. Basically, the upper body is not involved in step motions (tsugi-ashi).

At times, the upper part of the body is used to invoke gravity in step movements (Ayumi-ashi/korobi-no-ashi).

Using the upper body (kyokotsu).

Tsugi-ashi or korobi no ashi need a flexible lower body. Especially the knees and Achilles tendons used the power of the falling body to move forward.


Using gravity during tegatana-awase is a method to study “yukozo” or using the flexible body while keeping the expansive power.

Tegatana-awase and intention

The intent relates to the mind, but certainly affects the mental and physical body.

In practice, we coordinate our mind and body with breathing and relaxation exercises to improve our various types of forces. We cultivate physical and mental control over our breathing, movement and energy flow. The exercises are designed to relax muscle tension and promote a natural energy balance.
In this growing process, there needs to be intent.

In general, “using intent” is subconsciously thinking, or more like something between thinking and doing. It’s like a pulse, a “thinking energy” that moves your arm forward if you want to grasp anything.

Training your intention means training your mind and developing a strong form of intention that allows you to be physically, mentally and neurologically prepared for action.

But the intention can be read by your partner/opponent and in that case you will have trouble. The skill is to use “Mushin”, the art of not thinking with the conscious mind.
Thinking energy is produced by the subconscious mind and this is only possible if your training program includes using the intention of the subconscious mind.
There is no delay when you use thinking energy in a situation where you must respond immediately to the right action.

Awase. How to connect.

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo

When I started Tomiki Aikido, I learned 2 exercises that I did not understand at the time, more than 40 years ago. Previously I practiced other methods of Aikido, but the exercises of tegatana-awase and shotei-awase were not practised in the way it was done in Tomiki Aikido training.

  • Tegatana awase
  • Shotei awase

The practice was very simple and the underlying actions of the body were not well explained. But back then, it wasn’t necessary. But I was very curious about what was happening beyond the horizon.

Tegatana and Shotei

Tegatana – Handblade

The handblade means the hand with the 5 fingers fully outstretched together. When the fingers are stretched out thus, the part that forms the base of the little finger is strained. With this part you can strike at the opponent and parry or check his blow upon you.

Shotei -Palm of the hand

Basically this is the palm of the hand, in particular the base of the palm.

Awase (合わせ)

If you are searching for a definition of this term, you will get various explanations. Then there is the general message: Gathering two opposites together.

In the case of tegatana-awase, the idea is to bring together “tegatana of two people”. And in the case of shotei-awase, it means gathering “shotei of two people”.


Since we are talking about an exercise involving 2 people, and this in the context of aikido, we may conclude that these exercises should reflect the idea of “aiki”.

Here we are of course treading a slippery path, because opinions about aiki can differ quite thoroughly. If we stick to the definition that Kenji Tomiki gave it, we can get a better idea of what we should strive for.

The meaning of “aikido.” the old saying goes, “It is the spirit that carries the mind and controls the body.” The people of acient times believed that man’s mind and body and cosquently his strength were under the control of his spritit. Aiki means making your spirit “fit in” with your opponent’s. In other words it means bringing your movements into accord with your opponent’s. After all it means the same thing as the “principle of gentleness,” for it is an explanation of the principle from within.

Judo and Akido – Kenji Tomiki

Principle of gentleness

This principle, most often known by the Japanese word “Ju” cannot be explained without another word “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 explaining the exercises mentioned at the beginning of this article, we need to take into account both sides of the principle of gentleness or in other words “Aiki”.

Tegatana Awase

In Dr Lee ah Loi’s book, Book One Randori, there is a short description of this exercise.

Face one another and let your handblades meet in chudan posture, cross handblades at base of hand and look at your partner’s eyes through the gap made by your hands. Keep good posture and move forward with tsugi-ashi. When you are pushed, do not resist too much but step back with tsugi-ashi, then try pushing your partner. You can move backwards, forwards and sideways, but do not break your right chudan posture. Remember to keep your body square and to face your opponent all the time. In performing this exercise, you can practise basic posture, tsugi-ashi, fast movement and reacting to your opponent’s intention and power.

In a book written by Tetsuro Nariyama and Fumiaki Shishida, Tradition and the Competitive Edge, important key points are mentioned related to tegatana awase.

The practice of tegatana awase is made up of many important basic principles, such as shisei, unsoku, metsuke, toitsuryoku and ma-ai.

Nariyama and Shishida’s comment is very much in line with Dr. Lee’s description. Obviously, the Japanese book uses Japanese words, whereas Dr. Lee uses the English equivalent. What stands out clearly from the text of the Japanese authors, tegatana awase consists of many important basic principles. Without knowing those fundamental principles, the exercise becomes pointless.

The same book by Nariyama and Shishida contains an explanation of “toitsu-ryoku or focused power”. They described toitsu-ryoku as a combination of good breathing (kokyu) and proper use of the body. Unfortunately, there is no description of the correct breathing procedure. How to use the body primarily refers to general remarks on how to keep the body straight and the different methods of foot movements.

In a more recent book (05/06/2020) written by Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, Basic techniques of Sport Aikido (Tomiki Aikido) a brief description is mentioned on tegatana-awase.

A basic practice method to understand ma-ai “distance” from the opponent. The tegatana of two practitioners are matched in contact and they move freely while maintaining the correct distance.

Breathing and correct body use

If you ask a teacher about breathing, the answer will often be “don’t think about your breathing, it’s a natural process”. Of course, breathing is a natural process, but most people breathe quite superficially.

Breathing and the correct use of the body are a major health issue for a large part of the population. You will find a lot of breathing and movement programs to enhance your health.

When your breathing is poor and your body movements are not effective, the practice of tegatana awase will not result in better performance. Your training program should include exercises to turn your breathing and body movements into better performance.

One of the greatest martial art practitioner, Rickson Gracie Brazilian Jiujitsu, used a breathing method to improve his performance. What Rickson Gracie is doing is called a ‘Kriya or internal’ cleaning exercise. It’s a self massage of the organs which improves blood flow.

There are other methods to improve your breathing. These methods are mostly based upon the use of the diaphragm in relation with the abdomen. Kokyu-ho or breathing exercises are used to develop a stronger “hara”.

Shotei Awase

From Dr. Lee’ s book:

Face one another and step forward on left foot, keeping a slightly wider stance, with your right arm straight and in the center. Put the heel of your right hand against that of your partner. Push each other, but try not to bend your arm, the power should be horizontal. The main difference between Shotei and Tegatana is that in Shotei the position is stationary and the power comes from the hips. This training is for power and posture, if you keep practising this, you wil develop a very strong Aikido posture.

In the book by Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, a brief description of shotei-awase..

A basic practice method. Application of hand blade matching. Place each other’s tegatana (hand blades) on the centre line and put the lower part of the palm of your hand (shotei) on that of your opponent. Practice using the whole body efficiencly to push the opponent. Lower your hips to push him instead of using only your arms.

In Nariyama and Shishida’s book, shotei-awase is not explained, but there is an extensive explanation about the benefits of toitsu-ryoku and kokyu-ryoku. Both concepts are necessary to perform an efficiently shotei-awase.

Some Chinese martial arts use a similar basic practise. There seems also a relationship with traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

Using Ming-men


During tegatana-awase and shotei-awase, we need power to keep our posture and to move our body. Even when we don’t move our feet in shotei-awase, there is a lot of movement in our body. This kind of power is commonly named as “kokyu-ryoku”.

Kokyu (呼吸) is translated as “breath” and kokyuryoku is translated as the power of breathing. You wil also find the expression “shinkokyu”. This is translated as “deep breathing”. The word “ryoku” is translated as “power”.

Kokyu-ryoku is mostly translated as “breath power”. In fact this is misleading, because breathing is a process to bring oxygen into the body. The art of breathing of course, is using the diaphragm and other muscles. Training of these muscles can give you a better way of breathing, but also, a more robust “hara”. Hara is the source of generating power, mostly derived from gravity and solidity of the earth. The better the hara is functioning, the more power can be generated.

The power originated by the hara is not a contractive kind of power. When the breath after inhaling is pushed down into the hara, it becomes more solid and expansive. The surrounding muscles, especially the “koshi” will act more efficiently to make the rebound of power of the gravity from the earth in the direction of the arms. This is only possible if the body adopt the state of “jukozo”.

Tegatana-awase and shotei-awase are build upon jukozo. If we use contractive power during these exercises, the concept of “ju/go” or “Principle of gentleness” will not be there.

Unsoku – Suri-ashi and tsugi-ashi

Practising tegatana-awase and shotei-awase can be done either without stepping movements or with stepping movements. We must consider different kinds of stepping methods.

Unsoku – Moving around with sliding feet (suri-ashi) and following feet (tsugi-ashi) . When responding to your opponent’s attack, you need to maintain a good posture while moving. A formal method is created by Kenji Tomiki and consist of moving in eight directions from the posture of shizentai.

This is the original judo-unsoku

Suri-ashi – When moving in unsoku, do not raise the base of the big toe from the tatami mat, and slides your feet on the surface of the tatami mat. This is called sliding feet.

Tsugi-ashi – A sliding foot movement either to move the back foot closer to the front foot or to move the front foot closer to the back foot with the pusrpose to keep good posture. Remark that during tsugi-ashi the “suri-ashi” method is used. There is no lifting of the base of the big toe.

The formal method of course requires some adaptations to fulfill the requirements for practical applications during Aikido training. Especially moving forward and backward need some modifications. The formal way of practising is maintained.

Forward and backward stepping method – tsugi ashi. Adapted from the formal judo-unsoku

Alternative stepping movements

These movements are not included in the formal “Unsoku”, but are frequently used in the practise of Aikido.

Ayumi-ashi – To move the left and right feet alternately.

De-mawari – forward stepping and turning – Mawashi-ashi:Turning foot or feet .

Hiki-mawari – backward stepping and turning.


Basic postures are used when practising tegatana-awase and shotei-awase.

In tegatana-awase, mostly a ai-gamae or mutual posture is used. When right foot is forward, right tegatana are crossed at chudan level.

In shotei-awase, ai-gamae or mutual posture is used with a different approach in using the tegatana. When right foot is forward, left shotei is used to make contact.

Of course, this is the guidance when using the most “basic” method. Your creativity may be used to modify the posture in gyaku-gamae or reverse posture. Tegatana and shotei may also differ in a variety of ways.

Alternative Exercises

Joining tegatana or shotei is the main concept of awase exercises during Tomiki Aikido’s basic practice. Of course, there are other drills to practice “awase”.

There are 2 categories of practising “awase”:

  • Static exercises – without stepping
  • Stepping exercises

These exercises will be the subject of a separate blog post.

More information about Tegatana-awase and Shotei-awase will be discussed in another post in the near future.

Happo Undo

8 directions exercise

After the Second World War, Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba made a famous film about “aiki” for judo students. In this film, Kenji Tomiki shows his version of “Happo-Undo” or the exercise of the 8 directions.

If you look closely, Tomiki actually moves in four directions, but each direction is executed on the left and right side.

In many Japanese martial arts you will find multi-directional exercises. At first sight, the exercise is focused on the performance in different directions. Some teachers are referring this to attacking different opponents. But there is also an important mental aspect on the performance of a multi-directional exercise.

The mental aspect

Changing the starting point of a multidirectional iaido kata in the dojo was a teaching tool by Ishido Sensei* to raise your awareness of the content in the kata and not becoming distracted by the environment.

When performing happo undo, don’t start always facing the same side of the dojo. Also go outside, for example the park, and do your happo undo. After some training, your happo undo becomes a happy undo.

*Ishido Sensei was my teacher Iaido for about 25 years and while the content of his teachings was for the most part highly technical, sometimes his explanations went beyond the technical aspect.

Basic movements and happo undo

Tegatana go-dosa or 5 hand blade movements are at the heart of Tomiki Aikido. It is found in atemi waza, kansetsu waza and uki waza.

When Santa Yamada, a Tomiki Aikido pioneer, was around, he was always referring to the basic hand and arm movements. Generally, he taught only 4 movements and didn’t use the 5th movement (o-mawashi).

These 4 basic movements can be used in the happo undo the pattern besides the frontal linear movement, demonstrated by Kenji Tomiki.

Gassho uke and happo undo

Gassho uke is used to deflect the attacking arm of an opponent. Mostly when the attack is aimed at the head.

An interesting anecdote on “gassho” may be found in Geof Gleeson’s book: Judo Inside Out.

When training in aiki jitsu under Professor Tomiki he often used the symbol of prayer, the placing of two hands together as signifying the purpose of prayer and religion – the duality of God and man, the yin and yang becoming one.

Geof Gleeson

The exercise gassho uke happo undo becomes more than a physical exercise. As Ishido Sensei mentioned on many occasions, the mind is also important during training. When the 2 hands were put together, the power of the 2 arms comes together and creates a ring of power. We need the mind to keep this ring of power intact.

Koichi Tohei, a famous student of Morihei Ueshiba, was well-known for his research in the field of Ki. He developed many exercises with the Ki concept as the most important item.

You must be able to conform to all circumstances and to change the direction of your spiritual flow instantaneously and completely while maintaining a posture of strength

Koichi Tohei

Yōso-fundamental elements

In his book “Don’t think, listen to the body”, Akira Hino discussed the skill of Hakkei (instant or explosive power). To perform such a skill, the sensation line of Rendo is needed. In fact to actualize a technique, a precise line of sensation is needed. To create such a line, a precise understanding of fundamentals is needed. This is not about techniques or so called basic principles as for example “kuzushi”.

Kuzushi is called balance breaking or balance disturbing and is the result of fundamental actions of moving the body. So, kuzushi is not a fundamental element but rather a basic manipulation action to create a successful technique (kihon waza).

Taijū no ido & Taijū no dendō

It is possible by using martial techniques to identify certain yōso (fundamental elements), such as the displacement of the body weight or transmission of the body weight. (体重 の 移動, taïjū no idō, body weight shift and 体重の伝導, taïjū no dendō, body weight transmission).

The displacement of the body weight (body weight shift) is when we move in such a way that we shift its center of gravity and the transmission of the body weight is an advanced use of the displacement of the body weight which allows to use the weight of the body to the other without giving access to the opponent. Strictly speaking, the displacement of the body weight consists of moving by making of its body a single block. For example, moving forwards, or backwards, by being a solid block. The use of gravity is a fundamental element for a succesful waza.

Using gravity

Gravity has a direct relationship with body weight. When we walk, basically we use gravity to move forward or another direction. The movement of the foot has an image of a rolling ball: 足 の 転 び, ashi no korobi, rolling or rocking the foot.
Be light like a rolling ball …and let gravity do the job.

The knee of ashi no korobi is used to create “kuzushi” or using gravity. The body will fall forward in this example. By using the skill of moving the foot forward, the balance of the body will be kept. Unsoku-ho of the exercise of foot movements is using in many cases the skill of ashi no korobi.

Waza, a personal skill

Waza or martial art technique is a personal skill and will be very difficult to teach another person without bodily understanding of fundamental elements. A technique has several fundamental actions and those movements are called gi-jutsu and should be acquired by training and not the waza itself. Waza belongs to the individual, and only yōso * can be taught by the sensei.

Yōso* : literally translated as “principle”, but in the context of our study we use “essential element” or “reality based upon laws and rules”.

Yōso (fundamental elements)

Another important yōso (fundamental elements) is the internal line of motion or undō-sen. Power is needed in order to move the body. Because power has to travel through the body to reach the target and we just have to become aware of the line of motion. Some lines of motion are very obvious. Other are hidden inside the body.

Take for example swinging the arms. The outward movement can be understood by everybody. But if your teacher tells you to swing your arm with the help of the hara, the center of your being. Can you feel the line of motion?

Feeling the line of motion is one of the core fundamentals in martial arts.

Internal line of motion (運動線, undō-sen).

Rendo is the skill of linking body movements with the result of a waza. This linking of body movements is only possible when we “feel” the body and in other words feeling the line of motion, especially the internal one.

Try to view the body in a 3D format. The internal line of motion is a diagonal line from corner to corner. See picture cube.

Linking the movements of the arm or leg to the internal line of motion is a big challenge for all serious martial art practitioner. Can you detect the line of motion? And can you feel the line of motion when you perform such a movement?


Tenshikei or using the internal spiral line for power is already a few times discussed in this blog. In the 3D picture above, there is the perception of a straight line. Of course, in reality the line of motion is following a spiral line. By feeling this line we can transfer power to the tarvet via the arm and hand.

The role of kyokotsu

Hino’s book, previously mentioned, has some explanatory “kyokotsu” pictures. Please visit Amazon to buy the book

Kyokotsu is the lower part of the breastbone. By moving kyokotsu forward or backward, a movement is created in the back muscles (open and close).

Kyokotsu has also a moving effect on the spine, especially the lower part (koshi region: psoas and iliac muscles).

By connecting kyokotsu to arms and legs, a full body movement can be performed. It takes at least a few years of practise to create such a skill. The associated waza becomes more efficient and with the correct strategy gives you a chance to control opponent.

Using fingers and elbows

Connecting elbows to the kyokotsu can be very helpfull when you are grasped by opponent on the wrist of forarm. As explained previously, there is a connection between a moving kyokotsu and the back muscles. When kyokotsu is moving inward, the back muscles will push the elbows forward. When the elbows are pulling in, kyokotsu will move forward.

Do we have to focus on kyokotsu when moving the elbows? No, if we can observe the line of motion, the body will do the job. The difficulty is in the conscious mind which likes to take over the process of moving the body. Just become an observer, don’t interfere in the movements.

When pushing with the elbows, there is of course a limit in the distance. Here start the movement of the hand with the fingers. By stretching the finger into the direction of the target, a pulling action is activated in the forearm. This is already discussed in an earlier post about push/pull action. The mind has an important function. When we can feel the line of motion in the arm (the example of elbow and finger), we can use an image of reaching a far mountain at the horizon: anzen no metsuke.

The relationship with opponent

During our training of martial art, especially aikido, the word harmony is often used to express the relationship with the opponent. Of course harmony has many definitions and harmony in aikido is not an exception.


Generally, awaséru is translated to harmonize with, to match … Harmony is primarly a mental state and the body will follow accordingly.
Therefore you should not go together with the gestures of the partner but with the conscience of the partner.


Listen to the opponent. The extreme development of bodily sensibility, does not only concern the capacity to feel the force and the direction of a physical attack, it is also a question of feeling the intention of the other and changing the intention via a point of contact, physically or mentally.
If one is not capable of chōkei, one can consider that all that one does is only gymnastics. ” Chōkei has a direct relationship with harmony, because if there is no chōkei we cannot create harmony.


Wagō, means harmony, concordance, agreement, union, unity …
We often talk about “harmony” in Aikido. The Japanese word for harmony used in aikido is wagō. This word is made up of the kanji 和, which can be read wa and which notably means harmony, peace; and kanji 合, which can be read aï or gō and which could be translated by matching, agreeing, going together …


Aikido can be explained from different point of views. By using the conscious mind we can find a rational definition for this martial art. By using the unconscious mind, the concept of feeling is more important and the conscious mind act as an observer. Trying to express in a rational way, maybe we will miss the real purpose of aikido. Therefore describing aikido via a poem can express the feeling of the movement……maybe……