written and/or compiled by 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.
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.
The art of the sword in Tomiki Aikido is mainly practised as a form of kata. Koryu no kata dai san (tachi tai tachi) is a primary source for Tomiki Aikido practitioners. Unfortunately, most practitioners are very weak in their ability to use the sword. The lack of knowledge in most instructors is the main reason. To solve this problem, an instructor may seek guidance from an authentic swordinstructor. Tachi tai tachi is an introduction to the use of the sword. This kata includes techniques and strategies.
The 1st “waza”
Strategy is a major component of this technique. Direct penetration of the enemy is a skill that can also be used in a toshu (unarmed) situation.
The 1st technique or Shomen Ate of the Tomiki Aikido Basic Kata is an example. Some information about Shomen Ate can be found in “The Sensei Enigma” article on this blog.
Kata 2 & 3
Avoid cutting must be done when the opponent cannot change direction. Avoidance is different from moving away. During avoidance, the distance is kept to counterattack. Retreating means increasing the distance and making the counter-attack more difficult.
Tsuki enters at the right moment. Too early and too late will destroy the possibility of “Tsuki”.
Do barai is a sweeping action aimed at stopping the impetus of the attacker. Fundamentally, it does not cut the opponent.
Kote Uchi is a controlling action of the opponent’s wrist after sweeping away the sword.
Nagashi is a skill at using the power of the attack and getting back at the opponent.
The last Kata
Semete or keeping pressure is the basic action in this kata.
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”.
Toyota Kata defines management as, “the systematic pursuit of desired conditions by utilizing human capabilities in a concerted way.” Rother proposes that it is not solutions themselves that provide sustained competitive advantage and long-term survival, but the degree to which an organization has mastered an effective routine for developing fitting solutions again and again, along unpredictable paths. This requires teaching the skills behind the solution.
Teaching the skills behind the use of the jo
When reading the biography of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba, there are references to sword and other weapons schools. Some of those references are from the time when Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba were in Manchuria. Both were exposed to military martial arts especially sword, spear, bayonet and short sword. In Koryu no kata the yari or juken is replaced by the jo, but of course the length of the jo is not fixed like the jo of the Shindo Muso Ryu jojutsu or Kendo Renmei Jodo.
There are 8 jo no tsukai kata in Koryu no kata dai san and 4 kata in Koryu no kata dai roku. The 4 dai roku kata are an extension of dai san jo no tsukai kata.
All kata start with tori thrusting to the suigetsu (solar plexus) of the opponent (uke). Note the use of rolling feet.
Uke is avoiding and grasping the jo either with 2 hands or 1 hand.
All actions of tori after the grasping are following the same logic.
The study of kata is very complex and depends on harmonizing the action between tori and uke. By trying to describe all the actions in the kata, there is a danger someone will depend totally on the description and will deny the creativity of a human being. Remember the words of Gustave Mahler
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” ― Gustav Mahler–
Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr1
Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr2
Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr3
Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr4
Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr5
Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr6
Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr7
Koryu no kata dai san – Jo no tsukai nr8
Koryu no kata dai roku – Jo no tsukai nr1
Koryu no kata dai roku – Jo no tsukai nr2
Koryu no kata dai roku – Jo no tsukai nr3
Koryu no kata dai roku – Jo no tsukai nr4
Why practising with jo?
To understand the purpose of weaponwork in Aikido we must accept that development does not rely upon techniques or weapons, but on independence of it. If a sword is used, do not realize it as a sword. If using a Jo, do not depend on it, but feel the common harmony in body movement.
By using a weapon there is a real threat towards the opponent or training partner. Unfortunately by doing too much shiai, the feeling of a threat not mentioned in the rulesbook will be ignored and some parts of the training can be spoiled by such an attitude. For this reason a balance has to be created between randori and kata, even if someone doesn’t see or ignores the purpose of kata training. Understanding the logic in the kata is necessary.
In the 70-ties I had the opportunity to study aikido with Hirokazu Kobayashi. In that time I didn’t understand the concept of meguri* and tenshi (body rotation). Kobayashi stressed on many occasions the spiral movement of the wrist and the dropping of the elbow. Using the koshi was also one of his favorite remarks.
It was Akira Hino’s explanation about “tenshi-kei”, the power of internal rotation, that gave me a better understanding of meguri* and the use of koshi (lower back).
*A defensive movement when grasped at the wrist, is the skill of “meguri”, meaning flexibility, rotation of the forearms. The use of the koshi as engine for power release increases the efficiency of defense action.
Meguri and tenshi are the main components in 7-hon no kuzuzhi, the balance disturbing exercises of Tomiki’s Aikido. Without spiral rotations, the balance disturbing will only rely on muscular power of the arm. Only by using “rendo” or synchronizing body movements, the power of meguri and tenshi will create the necessary balance disturbing followed by a throw or control action.
7-hon no kuzushi
The concept of balance disturbing in Tomiki’s Aikido is partly the result of the influence of Kodokan Judo, but also Morhei Ueshiba’s Aikido is prominent present.
Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido is build around the use of rotational and spiral power.
In the picture, there is the downward rotational movement of the body. By using a meguri pulling action on the sleeve or arm, the rotational movement changes into a downward spiral movement.
Some teachers use an almost linear approach, others use a more circular approach. This of course will affect the perception and will have a negative influence on the performance of lesser skillful practitioners. The external movements has to combined with internal movements, this is only possible through the skill of “rendo”.
The 7-hon no kuzushi is build around :
central axis rotation
The basic positions are “aigamae” & “gyakugamae” for the vertical and horizontal movements. You will notice, Uke is grasping the wrist with the right hand and keeps the left hand ready for the follow-up action. This can be a strike with the fist or another grasping action.
The central axis rotation start from a rear attack position. Of course the central axis rotation is also present in the vertical and horizontal movements.
When studying 7-hon no kuzushi, we have to understand these movements are simplified and will not work in a randori environment without adaptation to the circumstances.
The movement pattern of these exercises has to be written in the subconscious part of the mind for immediate access when necessary
There are 2 vertical modes in 7-hon no kuzushi:
upward – jodan-kuzushi is mostly characterized by a hineri movement
downward – gedan kuzushi – mostly characterized by a “gaeshi” movement
Horizontal kuzushi movements are mostly characterized by a hineri movement
When performing from the right posture, opponent can attack from 2 positions:
Central axis rotation
The idea here is an application of spinning top power.**
**A spinning top is a toy designed to spin rapidly on the ground, the motion of which causes it to remain precisely balanced on its tip due to its rotational inertia.
Meguri and tenshi in 7-hon no kuzushi
A “kuzushi” movement is succesful when we consider the following:
target: the wrist attacked by the opponent
the hand of the grasped wrist to indicate the direction
the elbow: the transfer joint for the full-body power by using meguri and tenshi
Opponent can grasp the wrist according 2 modes:
omote dori – outside wrist
ura dori – inside wrist
Each mode has an influence on the hand movement of the grasped wrist. In the go-no-sen mode, opponent has the initiative of the grasping. Defender has the initiative in the sen-no-sen mode.
There are 2 grasping methods:
junte dori – regular grip
gyakute dori – reverse grip
In 7-hon no kuzushi only the junte dori is covered. Gyakute dori or reverse grip is used in kote gaeshi, kote mawashi ……..
How to grasp a wrist?
Grasping a wrist is “almost identical” as grasping the hilt of a sword.
Most of the holding power is in the thumb and middle finger. Little finger, ringfinger and index finger are envelopping the wrist. Grasping is not a static action. The dynamics of grasping is the result of “meguri” and “tenshi”.
The hand of the grasped wrist
As already mentioned, Tori can act in a go-no-sen or sen-no-sen mode.
The hand in most of the cases can move freely. There are 2 basic modes:
By using the turning point in the hand, the tendon of in the forearm will stretch. If the point of turning is close to the wrist, the stretching will not happen. By stretching the tendon(s) it is easier to use the elbow in the desired direction.
Meguri and the use of elbow
Meguri is based upon the flexibility and rotation of the forearm.
The flexibility and rotation of the forearm and elbow is depending on the connection with the kyokotsu, a point at the breastbone. When pulling in the arm by using the biceps muscle, the shoulder will be locked and the power from the central body cannot travel through the elbow to the hand.
In his book “Goshi Jutsu Nyumon”, Kenji Tomiki used a picture to explain hand and elbow movement around a fulcrum, the grasping point by opponent. The picture is only showing the principle of leverage and does not include meguri action.
It is not always possible to move efficiently just by using simple leverage as seen in Tomiki’s fulcrum picture. The elbow movement is only possible if the shoulder is free of tension.
Rotation of the forearm when grasped at the wrist is possible by using the skill of “tenshi” or internal rotation. Tenshi-kei is the power of tenshi and can be used to make waza efficiency higher.
We can use body rotation and internal rotation at the same time to increase waza efficiency. An example can be the rear wrists grasping where we use an external body rotation and tenshi or internal rotation.
Basic 7-hon no kuzushi
7-hon no kuzushi is an exercise to study body movements which can be used in all forms of balance disturbing. The belief that 7-hon no kuzushi is the method for balance disturbance is a delusion. It is an exercise to learn how to use the body with external and internal movements.
There are many versions of 7-hon no kuzushi. The early versions are created when Kenji Tomiki was still teaching. During the creation of Koryu no kata, the study of 7-hon no kuzushi became a part of the training and was incorporated into Koryu no kata daiyon.
History of Koryu no kata
Takeshi Inoue the autor of a book on Koryu no kata, who knows in detail the background of the creation of the Koryu no kata wrote:
In about 1958, we practiced mainly the unsoku, tandoku undo, yonhon no kuzushi (a former version of the nanahon no kuzushi/7-hon no kuzushi) as well as the jugohon no kata (basic15 kata). In around 1960, the junanahon no kata ( basic17 kata) and the roppon no kuzushi/6-hon no kuzushi were created and then the dai-san no kata was devised as a kata of classical techniques. During the mid-60 Ohba Sensei and others worked on the creation of the kata forms of the dai-ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), which we practice as the koryu no kata, in order to work on techniques for demonstrations and for purposes other than randori. What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally. After he had organized the techniques to some extent, Ohba Sensei reported to Tomiki Sensei and demonstrated what he had done for him. He received some advice from Tomiki Sensei and then added corrections to the kata. (“Bujin Hideo Ohba,” Kyogi Aikido Soseiki no Ayumi; Ohba Hideo Sensei o Shinobu, p. 67)
Some examples from an old Waseda movie 1975
7-hon no kuzushi by Takaeshi Inoue
The illustrations: Tomiki Aikido-Book 1-1978 by dr Lee ah Loi
Tori: Takeshi Inoue
Jodan – aigamae
Jodan – gyakugamae
7-hon no kuzushi application examples
Some applications we can find in “Koryu no kata dai yon”.
Examples are: Jodan kuzushi aigamae nage waza
Jodan kuzushi gyakugamae nage waza
From “Koryu no kata dai roku” Jodan & gedan kuzushi