Opening/closing the armpit

The “opening and closing” of the armpit is managed by using kyokotsu or sternum in the correct way. This is necessary to perform an efficient movement when aiming for a target.

Using kyokotsu and “koshi” in a correct way (koshi-mawari) is the key to send the power of the base (earth) through the arms into the opponent. About koshi mawari, you can consult: The influence of Chidori ashi.

Controlling “kyokotsu” or “sternum”

Controlling kyokotsu or sternum is explained by Akira Hino in his book: Don’t Think, Listen to the Body.

The picture on the left is a sort of simplification of the mechanism. It has also an influence on the utilization of the koshi.

When the sternum is moving, the spine is also moving. This creates a pelvic tilt.

The pelvic tilt has to be the result of a full body movement. Just doing a pelvic tilt has no influence on the movement of the upper body when there is no connection between upper and lower body. Also just doing a sternum movement has no effect on the lower body if there is tension around the spine.


Straight line and koshi mawari

Directing for the target is a simple action with a lot of difficulties. The skill of opening and closing the armpit has to be entirely understood, mentally and physically.

When there is no control of the armpit, there is a probability of missing the target.

To resume, we can point out:

  • Rotation of the torso
  • Extending the arm in a straight line aiming at the target.
  • Opening and closing of the armpit.

Using a jo to perform taijū no dendō and koshi-mawari

During “corona” time it is necessary in a partner exercise to maintain distance, especially when you are practicing with someone not belonging to your nearest social contacts. The “jo” or medium range stick is the ideal tool to make contact and still maintaining a distance.

This video clip demonstrates taijū no dendō and koshi-mawari with the help of a jo or a medium range stick. It gives the opportunity to feel how partner is using power to push you back. There are some points to take into account on both sides of the stick.

How to push the stick forward?

Starting from a “chidori ashi” posture with the hand holding the stick near the body. Move the center line forward until you feel pressure in the ball of the front foot. Start turning the body while extending the arm forward.

How to receive the incoming stick?

Chidori ashi posture. Move the center line back until you feel pressure on the heel of the back foot. Start turning the body to absorb the power into the floor.

Relationship with compatible martial arts

A clear relationship with Jodo Kata “Suigetsu”. The straight line and koshi-mawari is only successful if there is a control of the armpit and the extended arm holding the stick.

Remark also the straight center line and the advice not to bend the body and arm.

There are of course more examples about opening and closing armpit in relationship with koshi mawari. Simply for the purpose to keep this post compact, my advice to find out by yourself and find similarities in other martial arts.

The influence of Chidori ashi

During “corona” time, we manage to do a lot of solo training. Solo training for a prolonged period can change our movements. It is necessary to understand the mechanism behind the changes. This post is an attempt to explain some points I am working on during this “corona” time. I have the opportunity to practice in my Dojo without the danger to get infected by the virus. Most of you will notice the modifications in my ideas for training, after all, life is always changing according to our experiences.

Chidori ashi

The influence of Chidori ashi is a rather complicated and includes more than the placement of the feet. Of course, there is a pattern for foot placement. But we cannot forget the role of the center line, gravity, pelvic tilt and some other elements.

A basic “chidori-ashi” pattern

Hanmi gamae or half posture is a basic stance in many martial arts and it is used in a lot of circumstances.

Chidori ashi is mostly used to have a bigger range of hip/lower back turning: koshi-mawari.

After some training, you will find out your own direction to use hanmi gamae and certainly the benefits of Chidori ashi posture.

The centre line

The centre line is an imaginary vertical line. In general, this line is perpendicular to the floor. The picture of Teruo Fujiwara shows a perfect centre line.

During taijū no dendō (transferring body weight), the center line can tilt a few degrees depending on the conditions.

Offensive Centre line

The first set of the JAA-Tandoku undo – shomen uchi/shomen tsuki – is using the center line in an offensive way. This originates from swordsmanship. When the sword breaks away from the center line, we are vulnerable to an attack from opponent.

Some points to take into account:

The centre line is a straight line in front of the spinal column. Everybody’s spine has a different shape. Some of us bear a natural hollow lower back, others have almost a hunchback.

Center line is not a fixed line in a perpendicular format to the floor. It is possible there is some inclination of the center line. If the inclination is going out of range, we need to do some adjustment to avoid too much tension. See below for this kind of adjustment.

When we learn to move “koshi” or lower back, we will take into account the structure of our spinal column. It is not wise to force our structure into a stance which can result in chronic pain.

Before we perform the movements of tandoku undo tegatana dosa, we must first master the skill of koshi mawari.

Protecting the center line

Both hands are protecting the centre line after adopting a chidori ashi posture.

In his book on Aikido, Senta Yamada made a notice about the importance of the centre line. Yamada sensei is using a hanmi gamae.

Stepping into “kamae” – hanmi kamae or chidori-ashi – has to take into account the important concept of the centre line.

The hands are protecting the own centre line and are pointing towards the opponent’s centre line.

A weapon is protecting your own center line, and on the other hand it is also threathening the center line of opponent.

Angle of inclination

The centre line has on top a direction range of 360°. The angle of the inclination is rather small when standing in shizentai.

The angle will increase when adopting hanmi gamae or Chidori ashi posture in the direction of the posture. The range of movement (forward, backward and turning) is influenced by the placement of the feet. (See below)

During inclination, the role of koshi comes into play for adjustment by using a pelvic tilt.

Pelvic tilt

Koshi mawari is a very complex movement and “pelvic tilt” is a part of a complete koshi mawari.

There are 3 positions of the pelvic:

  • Neutral
  • Posterior pelvic tilt
  • Anterior pelvic tilt

Neutral stance is used in the situation when no action is needed. A posterior pelvic tilt is in general used when the inclination of the body is going forward and we need to make adjustments for applying taijū no dendō. A anterior pelvic tilt is used when we retreat for an incoming power. The anterior pelvic tilt is needed to execute the rotational movement of the body – koshi mawari –

Range of turning movement

By using “chidori ashi” posture, our range for koshi mawari is much larger than for hanmi kamae. Chidori ashi posture opens the front of the koshi more than a basic hanmi gamae. While a basic hanmi gamae has a range of about 135°, chidori ashi posture has a range of about 180°

Range of bodyweight movement

When adopting hanmi gamae or chidori ashi posture, the body weight can move in an efficient way forward, backward and turning. A combination of these 3 actions is possible. There are 3 basic body weight postures, and in each posture we can turn the body. By adding “tsughi ashi” or sliding feet, we create almost unlimited possibilities of movements for offensive or defensive tactics.

  • 2 forward – offensive movement
  • 3 neutral
  • 4 backward – defensive movement

Taijū no dendō and gravity

Basically the center line and gravity are in the same area, but it is possible to have a small inclination depending on the situation. For example, just before a strike or a push is applied, the body moves a little forward to put body weight on the ball of the front foot. Releasing this tension will rebound the power stored in the tension. A pelvic tilt is needed to transmit the power of gravity (stored in the tension of the front foot) into the opponent. The line of gravity is moving forward to keep the body up.

Forward movement

The body in the previous picture has an egg shape. If you generate a mental image of an egg shaped central body, you will feel and understand the interaction of the pelvic tilt, the center line and gravity. The influence of Chidori ashi and the associated elements becomes apparent if you practice this on a regular footing.

Partner practise

It its necessary to use partner practise to experience the influence of your solo training. In “corona time”, weapon training can be a solution. This will be a theme for another “post”.

Integrating Koshi Mawari

This is a sequel on “Aikidō: A Matrix Budō“. We will go deeper into the movements of the koshi, namely koshi mawari. The skill of koshi-mawari is practised at the first place with solo-exercises: tandoku undo.

During a seminar (March 2007), Fumiaki Shishida – JAA-Shihan re-introduced the concept of chidori-ashi.

  1. Unsoku (Shumoku-ashi 3 basics, Chidori-ashi, Denden-daiko)
  2. Quick posture change from natural posture
  3. Tegatana-awase (including the principle of Japanese swordsmanship)
  4. Shotei-awase (Skill to stop the partner.)
  5. Applications (Balance breaking with chidori-ashi, Relaxation from a hand sword)

Shisei or Postures

There are many kind of postures. Each Budō form has his own postures. But there are elements which can be found in each Budō form. A good posture allows maximum efficiency in terms of time and space. Posture is not static, there are always movements in the body to adjust balance and preparation to generate power.

Posture based upon “chidori ashi” will give you a better efficiency in generating coiling or wrapping power (tenshikei). The engine for such kind of power is “koshi mawari” which can be translated as: turning koshi.

When koshi rotates, the opponent is dominated by this rhythm. He has to follow against his will. He experiences the defeat as a non-violent, pleasant experience. That is precisely why it means losing with a smile on your lip.

It must be borne in mind that the arms and legs together with koshi always form a unity of movements. This is called “rendo“.

Feet positions in postures

Shizentai – Neutral Posture

Shizentai or neutral posture can be used as a meditative posture. It is also a posture to have the idea of “ready to start training”.

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Shumoku (shimoku) Ashi Posture

Shumoku or shimoku are 2 words for the same concept of foot position in an on-guard posture.

Shumoku originally the wooden bell hammer, a beam that is attached to Japanese bells at right angles. This way of stepping is frequently used with tsugi ashi or shuffle. Remark the 2 pattern: L-position and T-position. Both position will be used when hamni-gamae or sideway posture is adopted. The T-position is more convenient for hito-e-i posture, L-posture will give you a more slightly frontal posture. Sometimes, the front foot is slightly open? Although we speak about posture, we must understand the dynamics of this posture and the methods of changing positions in relation with oppponent.

Kenji Tomiki: It is good to wait in mugamae (shizentai) and to assume hanmi (shumoku ashi posture) as the opponent enters.

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Chidori Ashi Posture

Feet position or stepping named after a bird of the same name (chidori=plover), the traces of which resemble those of the feet-position turned outwards.

The chidori foot position differs from the Shumoku position, the front foot is open. Shumoku is not very suitable for our koshi-mawari purposes. Chidori ashi is the perfect method to excellent in koshi-mawari

The front foot turns slightly outward in relation to the direction of the target, the back foot follows at a 90 degree angle to the front foot position. The resulting angle of the front foot of 15 to 45 degrees in relation to the centerline causes the koshi to turn and to lower.

This posture gives an excellent opportunity to perform: “koshi-mawari”. Changing from shumoku ashi into chidori ashi is simple:

  • Turn front foot open
  • Drop bodyweight more into back foot.
  • Turn body almost complete frontal.

Shumoku ashi and chidori ashi can be used to perform unsoku-ho (foot movements).

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Shumoku Ashi Gamae

Such a posture will be mostly used during “katachi” or “kata” performances. Bodyweight is more to the back foot. Under the heel of the front foot is an opening of about 1or 2 mm.

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Chidori Ashi Gamae

By assuming this posture, the performance of koshi-mawari will be much better.

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Chidori ashi and koshi-mawari

Koshi-mawari can be performed at any time without a break, when your koshi is lowered sufficiently, with slightly springy knees. This makes it easier to react spontaneously to changes in any situation. If koshi does not lower in itself, so that one is only stiff and rock-solid, the chidori position cannot be performed. One speaks of a “lifeless”, that is to say an non-energetic position or a stiff kamae. Koshi-mawari and chidori are mutually dependent. If you fail to combine the koshi rotation with the chidor foot position, you run the risk of defeat.

So, we first adopt the chidori postion, let the koshi sink and perform koshi-mawari. Easy, isn’t it.

Hiraki

The term basically describes a lateral “opening” of the body, which, however, should not be confused with simply evading. The starting position is the left or right basic position. Koshi is now turning (without the upper body) in the opposite direction, which means that as soon as you release the resulting tension in the body and combine it with a small step, you come to a slightly laterally offset position next to the baseline without the movement jerky approach. A maximum 15 ° angling is enough to distance yourself from the opponent’s line of attack. It shouldn’t be any more so that the opponent cannot recognize it.
Hiraki uses the ball principle. A ball can rotate freely in a direction from a push or push, depending on the angle of impact, be it horizontally or vertically or in a combination of both directions also in a spiral shape.

Tandoku undo – Taisabaki

Tandoku-undo is just a name for solo-exercises and can have different names depending on the puspose of the exercises. Also, the content of tandoku-undo can also be very different, depending on the school you are practising martial art. As a beginner this is very confusing, the skill is to find out the principles and apply them in the exercises.

Another name for tandoku undo is Taisabaki: the moving body.

All actions have to be seen as an implementation of the free moving body concept. Therefore, tandoku undo or taisabaki regarded as a free moving body movements, should never be neglected as it is a practice for acquiring the principle of yawara, jū or aiki.

Although tandoku undo or taisabaki do not yet result in any techniques, if you train the body in the way the koshi-mawari moves, this has a decisive advantage when it comes to performing specific waza (techniques).

It is a great challenge to integrate “koshi mawari” into Tandoku undo or Taisabaki. Basically the first step to do is integrating chidori ashi posture. Next step is to become familiar with koshi and tanden, the lower part of the central body. This is not easy and will take a few years to become aware.

Koshi mawari is not about turning the hips, there is much more going on. As a reminder, it should be repeated again: in Budō it is very important that the movements are smooth and flexible (yawara). It is best achieved on the basis of the koshi-mawari, i.e. freely rotatable koshi. There is no other way to succeed than to acquire these flowing, spherical, horizontal and vertical rotations. The way there just leads over taisabaki.

Tandoku undo/Taisabaki Points

  • dropping the bodyweight
  • smooth movements
  • stretching the body
  • rotation start with waist movement
  • using diagonal tension (Monjuro Morita concept*)
  • …..

*Monjuro Morita (1889-1978)

Koshi-rotation

Adapted from Kenji Tokitsu book : Miyamoto Mushashi, Myth & Reality

The perfect handling of the sword is produced by the integration of three elements: the rotation of koshi (koshi-mawari), diagonal tension produced by this rotation and displacement of the body.

Traditionally, displacement in tandoku undo is done in a straight line forward. In relation with an opponent, this is of course a mistake. There are basically 3 mistakes (no koshi-turn, left and right koshi-turn without displacement) when considering the integration of koshi into tandoku undo.

To avoid such mistakes, moving slightly of the central line is a solution.

Integration of such an evasion makes the exercise much more difficult. Students have to think in the beginners-phase on many things.

The moving off the central line when introducing foot displacements can be done later when student understand tegatana and koshi movements (see again Morita Monjuro advice about using koshi and diagonal tension).

Tandoku undo – taisabaki

When integrating koshi-mawari into tandoku undo – tegatana no godosa, some adjustements has to be done. Koshi-mawari is often mentioned in explanations, but it is not often seen in demonstrations of katachi, kata or randori.

How to perform a “simple” koshi-mawari

Tegatana no godosa

Originally, Tomiki sensei introduced 5 methods to use tegatana. Those movements are integrated into tandoku undo taisabaki. When introducing the student into the 5 methods with the help of tandoku undo taisabaki, we can start without the foot displacement for tandoku 1 to 3. The integration of koshi maware together with the tegatana movements will be in such a case much more easier.

Starting position for tandoku undo tai sabaki.

Tandoku undo 1

Practising tandoku undo 1 can be done in 2 ways

  • With displacement
  • Without displacement

An example without displacement and turning footwork:

An example with displacement:

Tandoku undo 1

Shōmen-uchi, striking with tegatana from above or from below to the center line of the opponent.

There are different methods to practise.

  • Staying on the central line
  • Moving away from the central line
  • Moving forward
  • Moving backward
  • other…..

Use koshi-mawari when preparing for a strike. This is creating a kind of tension in the body (tenshikei) and can be used as spiral power.

This tandoku undo has many purposes and can be called a multi-purpose skill. Basically there are 3 kinds of skill:

  • Study of “kamae”
  • From jodan gamae attack or defence using shomen-uchi (striking)
  • From gedan gamae attack or defence using shomen-utsu (punching)

Tandoku undo 2

Yokomen-uchi, striking with tegatana to the side of opponent (head, arm,…). This yokomen-uchi has 2 modes: uchi-mawashi and soto-mawashi.

Tandoku undo 3

Tandoku undo 4

Tandoku undo 5

Tandoku undo 6

Tandoku undo 7

Ukimi – The floating body

A lightness of the body, a feeling of complete weightlessness, hovering sensation of the body that is established by koshi-mawari.

When we practise with our without a partners, we must always be ready to use both legs or feet to move. The skill of taijū no dendō is putting the weight in the koshi, not in the legs or feet. If the weight is in the koshi and we move with koshi-mawari and/or unsoku, a feeling of weightlessness will fill the body. An eventually partner will feel almost nothing and his bodyweight will dropp into the floor. Of course if he has the same skill, a different game has to be played. This game is called: hyoshi.

An example of using chidori ashi & koshi-mawari