The adoption of solo training in modern Budo is in large part due to the influence of Western learning methods in the early years of modern Japan. In particular the Swedish gymnastic method or the German and British military drill are very influential. Modern Budo introduces mass education and it is more convenient to treat a large number of practitioners in a small space. In Koryu or traditional Japanese martial art, solo training was minimal, if at all.
Very popular in Japan have been a radio broadcast to promote health exercises to the population as a mass education.
Rajio Taiso, literally “radio calisthenics,” is a radio program that broadcasts a set of warm-up exercise guidelines along with music, and while “rajio taiso” is the Japanese name, similar programs are popular in China and Taiwan, too. The first broadcast took place in 1928, and the aim was to improve the health of the general public in Japan.
Also the influence of Chinese martial arts on some modern Japanese Budo cannot be overlooked.
Modern Budo as Kodokan Judo has adopted some methods of striking training of Tenshin shinyo-Ryu, who, through Yoshin-Ryu, has distant links with the Chinese arts. Karate-do is a further example of the influence of Chinese solo training.
Even Tomiki Aikido may have some Chinese influence due to the fact that Kenji Tomiki lived a few years in Manchuria and was imprisoned for a few years in Siberia.
From 1936 till the end of the second world war he lived in Manchukuo (Manchuria) where he taught aikibudo (an early name for aikido) to the Kwantung Army and the Imperial Household Agency. In 1938 he became an assistant professor at Kenkoku University in Manchukuo. In 1941, became a professor at Kenkoku University in Manchuria.
During the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, some Japanese soldiers were exposed to Chinese martial arts.One of them is Kenichi Saiwa. He was a Japanese martial artist and a colonel in the Japanese army. Having obtained Dan’s fourth grade in judo under Sanpo Toku and the fifth Dan in Kendo, Kenichi traveled to Beijing in 1939, to challenge Wang Xiangzhai, founder of Yiquan. After the war, Sawai founded Tai-Ki-Ken based upon the art of Yiquan.
Why is solo-training so boring?
Most of the practitioners stop training rather than to really get to the bottom of such less rewarding things at first sight, the regular or daily solo training also called tanren (strengthening and conditioning the body). The cause for this is mainly a lack of guidance or the boredom of kata and solo training. Many practitioners want to become involved from the first day into randori or combat without even training for building up a martial art body. In fact, Tanren has nothing to do with learning Aikido techniques or applications for randori or free combat, though a conditioned body is necessary to perform effective techniques.
Basically, solo training is a high standard training method. The encounter with yourself is one of the difficulties, someone must conquer.
Aikido is basically solitary, because even though it is mostly practised in pairs. Your training partner is actually a tool that we use to improve our understanding of the art Aikido.
A martial art can become an ideal solitary practice definitely on an advanced level, there are no more distractions. Self-glorification through competition victory or the self-satisfaction of rising in the ranks, should have disappeared.
Training must be done for its own good, it must benefit mainly to itself, and is in some ways very selfish. The higher the level of training, particularly solo training, the less likely people are to appreciate it. So those who are engaged in that kind of training are very lonely.
Tomiki Aikido Individual training method.
At a basic level, an individual training method is available. But from the birth of Tomiki Aikido to today, the method has changed greatly depending on the context of the training goal.
The emphasis on solo training in Tomiki Aikido can be very diverse depending on the purpose of the course.
- Learn basic body movements useful in Tomiki Aikido, and mostly used as instruction for beginners.
- Concentrate on body conditioning instead of technique.
- Testing the generated power
Testing the generated power
Martial arts that practice solo training need “feedback” practices such as t’ai chi “push hands” or the “pushing stability tests” as performed in “shotei awase”, a Tomiki Aikido pushing exercise. These kind of exercises are not randori or competition, the purpose of these exercises is to improve the stability and power with a resisting training partner.
Tomiki style of Shotei Awase
Most Aikido styles have some type of test methods. In Yoseikan Aikido (Mochizuki) tests have various methods. One of them is known as “tsuppari”.
A trial method like Shotei Awase and Yoseikan Tsuppari is equivalent in traditional Japanese wrestling. Sumo Tsuppari (突っ張り): To rapidly deliver harite (張り手) or open hand strikes to the opponent. This technique is often used by oshi-zumō fighters.
Impact of Corona-Covid-19 on testing
During the corona-COVID-19 period, a distance must be adopted. Using a Jo or Bo may be used to keep distance and yet be a test exercise.
Koryu no kata, the formal way of testing
Kata can become a successful method of testing your generated energy combined with the concepts of “hyoshi” and “ma-ai”.
Hyōshi is most often found in traditional martial arts, referring to cadence, rhythm and tempo. In the famous “Book of the Five Rings”, Miyamoto Musashi describes it as three stages: before, during and after an activity related to the attack of the enemy.
In Japanese terminology, distancing is ma-ai (ma, spatiotemporal interval / ai, harmony). Ma-ai integrates space, time, and rhythm and is the ideal situation to control a confrontation.
Controlling the situation or in other words “controlling the actions of the opponent” is depending on Hyoshi.
Ma-ai is not a fixed distance, it is dynamic. Depending on the situation, distance will change.
Practising “Kata” or “Katachi” is not a demonstration or competition, although it is possible to use a kata in a Embu (demonstration) or during a competitive event.
Embu and acrobatic performance
Kata or Embu is a controversial item at a competitive event, there are pro and contra.
Even Kenji Tomiki had an opinion on “Embu-kyogi”.
Prof. F. Shishida (Waseda University) wrote on this matter the following :
The difference between kata (katachi) and embu or embu-kyogi
Tomiki had never referred to embu in his life. Judging from my long experience in aikido and study, the word embu (to practice martial arts) was used as a demonstration at a place called embu-jo in early modern times. Around 1973, embu-kyogi started to take place at a public event at the student championship of Tomiki Aikido. Master Oba seems to have added embu-kyogi (embu) to the randori event in the All Japan Student Championship in 1971. He seems to have wanted to encourage students in the Kansai area who only practice kata. According to Mr. T. Sato, Tomiki mentioned only the fact to him with a dissatisfied look when he visited Tomiki to report that he joined the embu-kyogi with Koryu-Daigo-no-kata. Judging from the common sense of Japanese martial arts, embu-kyogi is out of the question to him, because it is impossible to avoid that practitioners want to exaggerate their performance to make a false show of power.
There are people from Aikido or other martial arts, who try to bring a dramatic performance with “ukemi” and great offensive moves. In their minds, they believe it to be the real thing.
But when you understand the objective of Kata and Katachi, the idea of creating a kata/Karachi competition becomes ridiculous. Kata is not a stunt show or a “Chinese opera”. Ironically, there’s nothing bad about acrobatics and Chinese opera. This type of performance requires a great deal of practice. However, it is not “martial art”.