De-ai, timing factor

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.

Timing

Timing, a crucial factor in martial arts. It is clearly expressed in the skill of “De-Ai”.

“Find the vulnerable moment in the opponent at the moment when he launches his attack. This kind of counterattack that is executed in the void instant when your opponent is just beginning to launch his attack is called “deai”.”

Kenji Tokitsu – 1979 – Le voie du karaté – pour une théorie des arts martiaux japonais

But what distinguishes de-ai from concepts like go no sen, sen no sen, and sen sen no sen? De-ai skill counters in the moment an attack takes place. When it comes to “sen sen no sen” it can be clearly distinguished from de-ai. Because one executes this tactic before the opponent physically attacks. The attacker may have been intent on attacking. But he still hasn’t moved. This means that the defender must anticipate a potential attack and strike first. Go no sen tactic involves neutralising and counterattacking. There are a number of ways to neutralise an attack. The rule for aikido “use nagashi“.

De-ai can be seen in classic “western movies. The first one who draw the pistol is always losing.

Fibonacci

The Fibonacci spiral is a logarithmic spiral with a growth factor based upon the Fibonacci sequence.

In our practice of Aikido movements, the Fibonacci spiral is everywhere. The question arises whether the sequence has some value in our formation or whether it is a gadget invented by someone ages ago. This question is not fully answered, although a number of explanations are used to underline the value of this logarithmic sequence.

Our movements contain always some spiral action, even when we try to do a straigth movement. Cutting with a sword is certainly a spiral action, and if we look closer, the Fibonacci sequence is there. Using the skill of modelling, we can create a spiralling image in our mind which can be helpfull to improve our cutting. The image can also point out the moment when we start “tsugi ashi” during the cut. Of course, we can have a debate about the starting point. Finding out the exact point depends on your skill of “hyoshi”.

When the swordblade is about the level of the blue cross, tsugi-ashi start forward.

The power is going down in the rear foot, when the hand is about the highest point, tsugi ashi start forward.

Uchi-mawashi is another example with a spiraling action.

We can use a big movement or a small movement. The ratio is the same.

The power is going down in the rear foot. When the hand is about the lowest point, tsugi ashi start forward.

The timing

I mentioned “hyoshi” before and you will notice, this is a high level skill. You cannot learn or improve your “timing” if you don’t have control on your body movements by using the subconscious mind. If you use the conscious mind, your timing will always fail.

The conscious mind is used to create a pattern in its subconscious… Then you forget about it. In my opinion, you can’t learn the timing without utilizing the subconscious mind. Some “timing” exercises can give you a clue whether you are successful or not. And the best way of learning timing is “randori”. Of course, this not only applies to the timing concept. Other concepts should also be tested in a freeplay environment.

De-ai and suwari-waza

Suwari-waza or kneeling techniques are very common in the traditional training of Aïkido. In Tomiki Aikido Koryu-no-Kata, are based on the early training of Morihei Ueshiba in mostly Daito-Ryu Aikijutsu.

Koryu-no-kata is divided in sections numbered from 1 to 6. Each section is subdivided in smaller sections. Each section has a special item for study. Suwari waza is one of those.

As an example for de-ai in suwari waza, we will look at Koryu-no-kata suwari waza, an application of oshi-taoshi. When opponent’s arm is at the highest position, tsugi-ashi start and the arm is pushed down at the same time. The back knee is used to add power.

Hideo Ohba was the lifelong disciple of Kenji Tomiki and was also a prewar student of Morihei Ueshiba. Hideo Ohba is also famous as Ueshiba’s resisting uke during a demonstration in Manchuria. A biography of Hideo Ohba below

Hideo Ohba & Takeshi Inoue – Sakai & Yamaguchi

Is there any value in Suwari-waza?

The question is one-sided. It is also necessary to take into consideration some negative aspects of Suwari Waza. But let me introduce you to someone who can tell you some things with an experience in the dojo of Morihei Ueshiba.

“As a martial artist who still practices actively, I would like to speak in to the issue of “knees.” Especially for Aikidoka, knees have been a part of the body that have suffered maybe the most damage and are a cause of problems for many. During my travels to countries around the world, I constantly meet people who can no longer sit in seiza, or who wear braces and supporters because of knee injuries suffered while practicing Aikido. I have met students whose knees are so damaged they can’t really bend them any longer, much less sit in seiza. Knee problems are not the sole property of students outside of Japan. There have been famous high-ranking Japanese Aikido Instructors both living in Japan and abroad who have suffered knee injuries during their Aikido careers. It is one thing to develop knee problems due to aging, but there are many Aikido instructors who have developed knee problems through the over-practice of suwari waza… and they had the advantage of a cultural heritage that prepared them for the practice. “

Gaku Homma, Morihei Ueshiba uchideshi

In another paragraph Gaku Homma made a provocative remark:

“Remember that many of the new students you will be encountering will be bigger in stature than you. Suwariwaza techniques will be difficult for them, so practicing suwari waza will put you at an advantage despite your size difference. To gain control over your students, practice suwari waza. And during examinations, if there is some individual testing that you are not fond of, have them test last, and make them wait in seiza until it is their turn.” 

Koryu-no-kata suwari waza added value

Koryu-no-kata’s total package includes 177 techniques, 25 techniques can be considered as suwari-waza. Most sitting techniques do not have “large” shikko (knee walking) moves, but use small displacement movements. There are a few basic methods for body displacement.

  • Tsugi ashi method using knees
  • Ayumi ashi method using alternate small steps
  • Tentai or 180° turning

The negative impact on the knees is not that high, nevertheless sitting on the knees is not a common habit of Western people.. One advice can be: avoid kneeling practice too much.

The added value of some suwari-waza needs to be mentioned. For Tori, working on your knees means you don’t have to worry about connecting your upper and lower body. The legs are now limited in the role and the hips naturally become in the right place. This makes it easier to focus only on the movements of the upper body and hands. Likewise, the partner’s possible answers are limited, which further simplifies the technique. At the same time, it is also a useful simplification to take the role of Uke as a beginner and which ends up falling from a much lower position and therefore less frightening.