Happo Undo

8 directions exercise

After the Second World War, Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba made a famous film about “aiki” for judo students. In this film, Kenji Tomiki shows his version of “Happo-Undo” or the exercise of the 8 directions.

If you look closely, Tomiki actually moves in four directions, but each direction is executed on the left and right side.

In many Japanese martial arts you will find multi-directional exercises. At first sight, the exercise is focused on the performance in different directions. Some teachers are referring this to attacking different opponents. But there is also an important mental aspect on the performance of a multi-directional exercise.

The mental aspect

Changing the starting point of a multidirectional iaido kata in the dojo was a teaching tool by Ishido Sensei* to raise your awareness of the content in the kata and not becoming distracted by the environment.

When performing happo undo, don’t start always facing the same side of the dojo. Also go outside, for example the park, and do your happo undo. After some training, your happo undo becomes a happy undo.

*Ishido Sensei was my teacher Iaido for about 25 years and while the content of his teachings was for the most part highly technical, sometimes his explanations went beyond the technical aspect.

Basic movements and happo undo

Tegatana go-dosa or 5 hand blade movements are at the heart of Tomiki Aikido. It is found in atemi waza, kansetsu waza and uki waza.

When Santa Yamada, a Tomiki Aikido pioneer, was around, he was always referring to the basic hand and arm movements. Generally, he taught only 4 movements and didn’t use the 5th movement (o-mawashi).

These 4 basic movements can be used in the happo undo the pattern besides the frontal linear movement, demonstrated by Kenji Tomiki.

Gassho uke and happo undo

Gassho uke is used to deflect the attacking arm of an opponent. Mostly when the attack is aimed at the head.

An interesting anecdote on “gassho” may be found in Geof Gleeson’s book: Judo Inside Out.

When training in aiki jitsu under Professor Tomiki he often used the symbol of prayer, the placing of two hands together as signifying the purpose of prayer and religion – the duality of God and man, the yin and yang becoming one.

Geof Gleeson

The exercise gassho uke happo undo becomes more than a physical exercise. As Ishido Sensei mentioned on many occasions, the mind is also important during training. When the 2 hands were put together, the power of the 2 arms comes together and creates a ring of power. We need the mind to keep this ring of power intact.

Koichi Tohei, a famous student of Morihei Ueshiba, was well-known for his research in the field of Ki. He developed many exercises with the Ki concept as the most important item.

You must be able to conform to all circumstances and to change the direction of your spiritual flow instantaneously and completely while maintaining a posture of strength

Koichi Tohei