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

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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.

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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.

Subconscious and conscious movements

Mushin and Shi Ki Chikara

無心, mushin (no intention, no thinking) is one of the many concepts we encounter when training martial arts.
Having no intention is a paradox because it is said “Shi Ki Chikara”. The intention moves the ki and creates chikara or body power needed for body movements. But when you are caught on your intention during actual fighting it becomes logical not to use intention. The time to think is not available. Your subconscious reactions or patterns are only what remains and are created from training your basics for many years. Patterns in the subconscious are the cornerstone (the intention) of real Budo. You can know many techniques intellectually. But nothing prepares you better than studying your basics thoroughly until they are patterns in your subconscious. No thinking is the secret of intention and cannot be intercepted by the opponent.

The mind by Takuan Sōhō

The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō (1573-1645) said: “The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he cannot think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetting all techniques, and is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.

Movement of Budo (martial arts) by : Yosuke YANASE ( a simplified version)

Budo movement can be understood as communication between two persons mediated by the body. That is usually considered two separate and independent bodies but rather should be considered integrated as one body communication system.

autopietic system


The point where two bodies (in Budo) become one body communication system depends upon the condition of the interface between the two bodies or persons. As long as the interface is free of surface resistance, two bodies or persons that are usually regarded 
as separate and independent become one communication system, which cannot be fully accountable by the sum of the two entities.

There is a common interface.

Budo movements are felt differently in quality and are not depending on muscle power but are an autopoietic movement* of the whole body, with or without your reflective awareness. Although a Budo movement is achieved, at least partially, by your body that is integrated as one body communication system with the body of the antagonist through the interface, a Budo movement is not your action in the usual sense that you have used your free will to consciously move the parts of your body. A Budo movement is not produced by your planned action, but by the internal logic of the whole integrated body. The body (of two persons) moves in integration on its own with or without your clear awareness (the antagonist can only have confused awareness of being moved against his will).

*The term autopoiesis (from Greek αὐτo- (auto-), meaning ‘self’, and ποίησις (poiesis), meaning ‘creation, production’) refers to a system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself. The term was introduced in 1972 by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela to define the self-maintaining chemistry of living cells. Since then, the concept has been also applied to the fields of cognition, systems theory and sociology. 

Budo movement is never achieved if you use consciousness in a conventionally way, keeping the interface is a very important indicator of a Budo movement. You may use your (core) consciousness** to feel, but never use it to think or plan.

**Core consciousness (or primary consciousness) is conscious awareness of the change of the body state. Extended consciousness (or higher-order consciousness) is extended from core consciousness in that it goes beyond ‘here and now’ of core consciousness and recalls backwards or plan heads, and it is higher than primary consciousness of simple awareness in that it describes its status by symbols (usually language).

In ordinary expressions, ‘feeling the sensation of the body’ is probably for core consciousness (primary consciousness) and ‘thinking with words on the basis of the sensation of the body’ is for extended consciousness (or higher-order consciousness). Thinking about what to do with words is too slow and limited in information (words can only capture an extremely tiny part of the phenomenon). If you feel and are true to the changes of the body, your movement is immediate and you respond to all sorts of changes your body (not your extended/higher-order consciousness) detects.

 No intentional power

Do not try to use your intentional power. “Keep the interface as it is” is important for as soon as you try to use your intentional power, the state of the interface changes and the antagonist will notice it immediately.

As you learn to do a Budo movement yourself, you may wonder: Who’s the agent of this Budo movement? In a Budo movement, you don’t use your consciousness or free will to move your body. Rather, your body moves. But it’s not that your body moves alone; your body moves only in relation to the body of the antagonist, and you have to keep (not disconnect) the relation by observing the interface. So, it’s not that your body moves against the body of the antagonist, either. Rather your body moves with the body of the antagonist.