Elbow Power, an “aiki” paradox

When we do some research on what is called “elbow power”, we can find different interpretations of this skill.
Tomiki Aikido has a practice of “hiriki no yosei”.

非力の養成 Hiriki no yōsei

Training of powerlessness
This is a term of Aikijujutsu left by Sokaku Takeda.

The correct reading of powerlessness 非力 is both “Hiriki” and “Hiryoku” . The “strength” of powerlessness can be read as “chikara”, “ryoku” and “riki”. However, in general, powerlessness is most often read as “Hiriki” .
Sometimes, even the Japanese can misread kanji, see below a website about misreading kanji.

Misreading kanji website

臂力の養成 Hiryoku no yōsei

According to Tsuruyama Sensei**, a controversial Daito Ryu practitioner, when Kenji Tomiki heard about “”Hiryoku no yosei” from Morihei, he assigned the character “arm” (literally, the elbow, the part from the shoulder to the wrist). He taught Aiki Martial Arts at the Kanto Kempeitai and Kenkoku University, which was founded in Manchukuo. In the “Aiki Martial Art course” a textbook created by Tomiki (Manchukuo Kenkoku University in 1938) it was printed as “臂力の養成 – arm strength training”.
Tomiki saw the movement of “Hiriki no Yosei” and interpreted it as “training of physical strength” and called it “training of arm strength”. Since Morihei saw this and did not modify it, it became known as it was, and a part of it has been handed down to different styles of Aikido.

**Tsuruyama Sensei was born in Tokyo in 1928. After graduating from Senshu University’s Faculty of Commerce and Meiji University’s Faculty of Law at the same time, he joined Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation. He studied Jodō under Ryuji Shimizu of Shinto Muso-ryu, Ueshiba Aikido at the Sankei Dojo in Yurakucho, and Chinese martial arts under Kinbei Sato and Ischu Cho.
And in 1962 he founded the Denden Kosha Tokyo Aikijo Dobu. He also invited Tokimune Takeda from Hokkaido and Takuma Hisa from Osaka to study Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. Later in life, he learned Yagyu Shinkage-ryu martial arts from Otsubo Sashikata sensei.

The paradox of strength

The paradox of strength in Martial Arts is expressed in several ways by different teachers. The remark of Tsuruyama can also be found in the Takumai, an organisation founded by Takuma Hisa (c.1895 – October 31, 1980) an prominent Japanese martial artist, early student in Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu of both Sokaku Takeda and aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. Born in Kōchi Prefecture, Japan; in his youth, he was a sumo wrestler.

In Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, the use of force in the technique is an exception. The technique is applied by stimulation to the tip of the five fingers, but since the way of giving the stimulation is a simple and subtle movement, it is not easy to see where and how it is done.

Mori Susumu of the Takumakai

From a lecture given by Mori Susumu, March 9, 2009 at the Nippon Budokan Training Center in Katsuura City, Chiba Prefecture.

Datsuryoku (optimal muscle tone strength)

非力の養成 Hiriki no yōsei, Takeda’s expression about the power in techniques gives confusion to many people, even Japanese.
On a Japanes Aikido Forum, there was a rather shocking item:
A woman who was experiencing the movement of hiriki no yosei asked, “What kind of characters do you write for Hiriki in Hiriki no Yosei?” The answer of the instructor: Well, I can’t explain what kind of character it is.

In general, during Aikido training the expression “臂力の養成 Hiryoku no yōsei/Hiriki no yōsei” is used. By adding Datsuryoku (optimal muscle tone) 脱力, Hiriki no yōsei can be better understood. Partial relaxation of the muscles (and tendons) create the optimal muscle tone
If the tension is too low, the muscles will not respond and you will not be able to maintain your posture, and if the tension is too high, you will experience tension and tightness.
In the case of Aikido, it is not just about making the core firm and relaxing the extremities. There is always the optimal muscle tone. The power received from the soles of the feet and the ground is transmitted to the opponent through the legs, waist, back, shoulders and arms.

If we look deeper into the hiriki no yōsei movement, we can clearly see a pendulum movement. A good example is the performance by Koichi Tohei.

In some exercises of “hiriki no yosei”, we will also see a spiral action.

The “spiral” skill

In Aikido, the hands used by unskilled people are used in a straight line, such as pulling and pushing. For this reason, the opponent does not collapse, and in extreme cases, the opponent will let go of the hand they are holding. Aikido movements, especially hand movements, should move in a spiral. When trying to move a hand that is being held down or held by another person, the force to rotate the hand in a spiral should be stronger than the force to push back or pull the hand. Spirals have both centrifugal force, which emits force, and centripetal force, which absorbs force.

A spiral has a fulcrum. If the fulcrum changes, the spiral will change whether it is large or small. The spiral changes depending on the location of the fulcrum, such as the wrist, elbow, or scapula. When looking at the the swing of the sword, when you move it from the tip of the sword, only a weak force is applied. Even if you make a spiral movement with your hands, it is not just your hands that are moving, but it must be linked with the movements of all parts of your body.