Moving the Body or not?

Martial arts use body motions that are not always comparable to normal life movements. Aikido is no exception.
Human movements naturally depend on the physical laws of our environment, for example gravity.
Of course, human movements are actually quite a complex system. Martial arts moves should follow nature’s rules and something more. I’ll try to explain that a bit further.

The motion of a solid object

The motion of an object is described in two modes: the trajectory of its centre of mass and the rotation around an axis in its center of mass.

The motion of the human body

When Jigoro Kano formulated his Kodokan Judo, he tried to explain the stability of the human body as something solid. Unfortunately the human body is not a solid object, only when it stiffens up as a solid object.


The human body is a very complex system, it is a framework of segments linked to each other by flexible bands (muscles, tendons…).

To control the body, many skills are necessary to carry out effective movements.

The human body distinguishes two kinds of motion, comparable to the trajectory and rotation mode of an object.
Both modes operate side by side and due to the frame construction a rotary mode is always present during body movements.

  • Trajectory motion: use a fulcrum to move the body or part of the body (arm, leg…)
  • self-rotation: using the lenght axis of the body or part of the body

Moving without displacement

Looking at the Aikido demonstrations, you will notice many unnecessary displacements. A troubled mind is the cause of such errors and resulting in inefficient body movements or techniques. Of course, if you practise with a too cooperative partner, a beautiful show can be given with a lot of jumping.
Making your Aikido more efficient by using effective movements should be your objective.

An important characteristic of Aikido’s movements is its spiral trajectory. But this is not unique to Aikido, other martial arts make the same human movements less or more because of the structure of human body. An efficient system of connected segments is required and this is needed to control the actions of an opponent, especially if the opponent is very heavy or strong.
The use and control of power is a vital condition for surviving a confrontation.

3 important components with each an independent role has to act as a set to create the full body movement.

  • Using the legs
  • Using the torso
  • Using the arms

The example above deals with the action of the legs. The force generated by the legs, supported by the floor, passes through the torso to the arms and further into the target.
The legs do not only flex and stretch, but use a spiral movement. The koshi (bottom of the back) controls the legs. The torso spins lightly using the waist. The arm movement is based upon the basic arm movements of Tomiki Aikido.

Testing without falling down.

Testing our movements and techniques occurs primarily during randori. But not everybody likes to fight freely. Alternatives may be used to test your movements and techniques without falling, particularly for older practitioners.

No-movement : Mushin Mugamae

Even when you are not moving, you should maintain a strong posture. You are ready to act in a split-second. You can only do that if you have a calm mind.

By adopting the mugamae, it is not your intention to fight. You don’t offer, for instance, your wrist. Your eyes look at someone in front of you, but you don’t see an attacker. You notice his intention and when the intention becomes physical, you move.

Body Skills

Physical skills are required for effective movements or techniques. Of the many areas of body expertise, there are certainly two that are important.
Of course, other skills are also important, but those two skills are fundamental to the moving and non-moving martial arts body.

Dropping the bodyweight

Dropping the bodyweight is performed by bending or folding the “koshi”.
Bending the knees is the result of the koshi folding.

Dropping the bodyweight is needed for using the koshi.

Open and close the koshi area

Open and close of the koshi is a very difficult action. The whole body is following the opening and closing of the koshi.
Don’t activily turn the knees.

Open and close the koshi area is important when you push or pull. The koshi is the key to efficient movements with the “hara”.

The Butterfly Experiment

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.

Chiko-go-itsu – Knowledge and action are one

Yoshida Shōin

The Rorschach Test

The Rorschach test is a projective psychological test in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning.

Rorschach’s test is/has been used as a tool to analyze “perceptions” of a patient.
“Butterfly Experience” is a tool to study your ability of a connected body. The perception you have about a connected body is not always truthful. But by using a partner, you may know whether you are connected is real or just an illusion.

The Butterfly Experiment

How can I experience the outcome of a “connected body?
The “Butterfly Experiment” is an exercise that is not directly related to any martial art situation. This exercise can make your body connected while working with a training partner.
The partner maintains an upright posture. The body is neither stiff nor too relaxed. The arms are in front of the body, the fists are lightly squeezed. The resistance to butterfly motion is structural.

When the body is connected, it generates a tremendous amount of power without relying too much on muscle strength. Rendo allows the flow of force to increase and transfer to the target efficiently.

Akira Hino on the concept of Rendo

The butterfly experiment is not part of a normal training routine. The experiment can be done from time to time experiencing your progress in the creation of a connected body and the associated power.

Kinetic Chain a Western approach to Rendo

A “Kinetic Chain” is a term used to describe how force is transferred through different parts of the body to produce movement.
The concept was introduced by Franz Reuleaux, a mechanical engineer, in 1875 and adapted by Dr Arthur Steindler in 1995.

Using power means moving your body. If the body does not have a synchronized posture, the power will be scattered and finally we may lose our stability and fall.
Moving the body can happen in a stationary or dynamic situation. Neither situation can be experienced properly if there is no balance or stability.

Our movement system

Our motion system’s got multiple subsystems. In general, we can talk about three fundamental things.

  • Stabilizer system
  • Mobiliser system
  • Our brain

The movement of our body is the result of the use of muscles and tendons and ligaments attached.
There’s a thousand ligaments and tendons all over the body. Ligaments and tendons are made of connective tissue.
Ligaments connect one bone to another. Tendons connect a muscle to a bone. Both, however, are vital for good body mechanics.
Another part of our system is fascia.
A fascia is a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves binding some structures together, while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other.
And we cannot forget our brains, or else we cannot function properly.

Stabilizer system

During any movement, the stabilizing muscles act to stabilize the body or part of the body. It is also important to note that there are no specific stabilizing muscles in the body. The name just outlines exactly what these muscles do.

Mobiliser system

These muscles are found close to the body` surface and tend to cross two joints. They are usually composed of fast fibres which produces power but lack endurance. Mobilizers help with rapid or ballistic motion.
Biceps and triceps are examples of this.

Stationary training

Basically, this kind of training focuses on the stabilizing system of the body. The mobilizing muscles of the upper body and arms perform large movements without excessive tension in these muscles. The goal of these exercises is not to create big muscles, but to create a synchronous movement between the stabilizer and mobilizing muscles.

Footwork

Footwork is closely related to balance and stability. Footwork exercises are basically working on the stabiliser muscles.
Practitioners of an older age can have a lot of benefit of footwork to keep their balance and stability during dynamic training.

The mobilisers of the upper body are in general not used during our footwork exercises and are kept in a relative fixed position.

Why holding the arms in this position?
This exercise is a good workout to strengthen the stabilisers of the upper body.

Koshi mawari

Koshi-mawari is in general translated as turning the hips. Koshi-mawari is a very complex way of moving with the lower torso. Koshi-mawari can be considered as the movement of a ball (kyūten*). Korindo-ryu aikido is largery based upon this concept.

*Kyūten – 球転 Ball rolling, ball rotation

Koshi-mawari can be performed at any time without a break, when your koshi is lowered sufficiently, with slightly springy knees. This makes it easier to react spontaneously to changes in any situation.

Stationary Tegatana Dosa

The posture is slightly deeper than the normal posture. This deeper position provides the opportunity to practice easier “Koshi mawari” or the so-called lower back rotating or hip rotating.

  1. Shomen uchi
  2. Shomen tsuki
  3. Uchi mawashi
  4. Soto mawashi
  5. Uchi gaeshi
  6. Soto gaeshi
  7. O mawashi

Numbers 3 to 7 are based upon the 5 original basic arm movements developped by Kenji Tomiki.

Power is generated by koshi mawari and directed into the arms and hands.

Footwork without Tegatana Dosa

Dynamic Tegatana Dosa

Mawari or turning/pivoting exercises

Applications of solo training

Without a suitable test, our solo practice may become an illusion. There are different ways to challenge your skills with a Training Partner. Some of these methods can be seen as an application of martial art solo exercises. Other testing methods can be considered as a learning tool to find out if our movement is effective in our daily life.

The first steps in Aikido as a martial art

Can one deal with an offensive action of the partner acting as an opponent?
First, we must find something from how far an offensive action can be effectively executed. Offensive action may consist of a strike, a push or a seizure.

How to deal with a simple offensive action is not at first glance a real street combat situation. This is a learning tool for finding the right timing, distance followed by a neutralising action with a “kuzushi” result. This may be followed with a “waza”.

Weapon training

Weapon training can be a great help in creating a connected body. Let me give you an example with a “Jo”.

Strategy, a secret

Without a strategy, victory in combat will be based on muscle power alone. Using “Chiko-go-itsu – Knowledge and action are one” is necessary to develop effective use of strategy.

Looking for the thruth

I’m not looking for the right answers in doing so,” . “I am just focusing on being able to do a certain task or technique. That is different from trying to be right.

Akira Hino

Hachi Danken (Kiko/Qigong)

Qigong, known as Chinese Breathing Exercise, is a holistic system of coordinated body postures and movements, breathing and meditation used for health, spirituality and martial arts training.
Kiko is the Japanese word for Qigong. Hachi Danken is Badua Jin’s expression from Japan.
The Baduanjin qigong (八段錦) is one of the most common forms of Chinese qigong used as exercise. It was primarily designed to be a form of medical Qigong, to repair injuries and enhance global health. It is also used as part of the training regimen in certain martial arts.

Hachi Danken

The Japanese version of BaduaJin, exercises aimed at enhancing the flow of energy in the body.
Like with Aikido and other martial arts, there are many versions of these millennial exercises. Although most versions taught today are from recent times.
The Chinese government has made great efforts to streamline the old ways of moving the body for martial or health purposes.

Standing

Every session start with a moment of standing.
In martial arts terminology we speak about “shizentai” or natural posture.

Diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles

When learning the exercises, you must be conscious of your diaphragm. When you can localize your diaphragm you can push down it after breathing in, you can relax and breath out. Don’t force the breathing. It must be smooth and no sounds. Try to avoid breathing in with the mouth.
A very difficult part of the exercises is the control of the pelvic floor muscles.
The pelvic floor is a muscular sheet that closes the pelvic cavity and the pelvic organs from below and is curved upward at the edges.
The muscles of the pelvic floor relax during bowel movements and while urinating. This also happens in women during sexual intercourse and when giving birth. The perineum is part of the pelvic floor too. It is located between the scrotum and the anus in men, and between the vagina and the anus in women.

Pelvic muscle control is important for keeping hara-tanden-koshi at the centre of your movements during martial arts training.

Breathing method

The synchronisation of the breathing and the movements will increase the effectiveness of the exercises. Nevertheless the breathing cannot be forced because this is unnatural. Breathing is a basically an unconscious process.

There are 2 fundamental methods of breathing.

  • Abdominal breathing: It involves taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose. The goal is to breathe deep enough to fill your belly with air. This increases how much oxygen you take in, and may help slow down your breathing and heart rate.
  • Reverse breathing: If you take a breath in and your stomach draws in, you’re reverse breathing. Usually, this goes along with a lifted chest and/or shoulders on the inhale. With the exhale, you’ll notice get the opposite: the chest/shoulders sink down and the stomach expands out. This breathing technique relaxes you. It also enables you to become aware of your emotions and increase your meditative focus which is necessary during martial arts training.

Reverse breathing is used for exercises 1 to 6.
Exercise 7 and 8 natural breathing.

Exercise 1 – Shin-kokyu

Taking a low posture

Exercise 2 -Shooting an arrow

Exercise 3 – Heaven and Earth

Exercise 4 – Gazing Backward

Exercise 5 – Bending to the side

Exercise 6 – Touching the Toes – Butterfly

Punching

Body shaking

Uki Waza – The Way to Otoshi

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.

Standard Method

Standard methods are methodological approaches to create a baseline for a given category of project activities in order to simplify the development of individual projects.

3 Standard Tomiki Aikido Uki Waza

For randori purposes, Kenji Tomiki selected 3 “otoshi” throws also known as floating throws.
These throws are executed in three zones seen from Tori’s perspective. The throwing power, generated by Koshi mawari (lower back and hip power) and unsoku (footwork) is executed in 1 of the 3 zones.

Uki waza are also included in Koryu no kata, traditional kata techniques in the Tomiki system.
Most Koryu no kata techniques have their roots in the pre-war martial arts studies of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba. If we compare Koryu no kata with the pre-war techniques of Morihei Ueshiba, there are many similarities.

A Basic Footwork, one of the many

Proper footwork is a key factor for effective floating kuzushi and subsequent throwing. The pictures below give you an indication how doing basic footwork. When basic footwork is well understood, creativity is needed to develop a more convenient footwork.
Always remember the relationship to the training partner or opponent. Some opponents have longer arms than average, or some have short arms……………….

Kodokan Judo Connection

In Kodokan Judo we find similar techniques with a floating (uki) and dropping (otoshi) characteristics.

Uki otoshi (Kodokan Judo) performed by Senta Yamada

Judo throws are executed by using a standard grip on the dogi.
Of course, during Judo randori, many variations will be applied. This is called “grip fighting” or Kumi Kata.

During Tomiki Aikido Randori, Kumi Kata (Judo) must be avoided. For this reason wrist and elbow grabbing is the standardized procedure.

Standarized methods

If you follow only 1 teacher, you will usually find 1 core method. When the teacher is the head of a larger organization, the teacher’s method is the norm. An international organisation obviously needs representatives and this is where the differentiation of methods lies. They have their own interpretation.

Standardised methods cannot be regarded as a fixed method, there will always be interpretations and modifications.
When we understand “form, function and meaning”, the differences in the method of grasping, throwing or other things can be considered a personal approach.
While the basic shape is present, minor differences are the result of mechanical and/or mental images and will have a positive impact on performance.

Uki Waza Grabbing Method

A Living Martial Art is always the subject of change and Aikido is not an exception.
As with most standard methods, there are always some modifications for example in the method to grab uke’s arm.

The demonstration of Kenji Tomiki (1975) and the explanation of Tadayuki Satoh (around 2014) is slightly different.
The concept of “kuzushi” is of course the same and you will find this also in Kodokan Judo.

Kenji Tomiki’s method

Sumi otoshi and hiki otoshi have a 2hands grip on Uke’s wrist. Mae otoshi has a hold of one hand on the wrist while the other arm pushes the elbow.

Tadayuki Satoh’s method

Mae otoshi is similar to Kenji Tomiki’s approach.
Sumi otoshi and Hiki otoshi have one hand on the wrist, the other hand is at the elbow.

Full coverage of Basic 17 by Tadayuki Satoh

Mae Otoshi Method

A couple more interpretations of “Mae otoshi”by Shogo Yamaguchi, Ryuchi Omori, T.Kobayashi and Konoka.

Sumi Otoshi Method

Sumi otoshi methods by Konoka, Shogo Yamaguchi, Ryuchi Omori and T.Kobayashi

Hiki Otoshi Method

Hiki otoshi methods by Konoka and Shogo Yamaguchi

Uki waza and weapons

Weapon handling uses the same body movements as for unarmed combat. In the Tomiki system the Koryu no kata (classic aikido techniques) introduces basic weapon handling. Bokuto, jo (yari) and tanto are used to teach the basics of these weapons.

The use the Jo is used to explain kuzushi. The example here is the use of the jo (yari) during sumi otoshi kuzushi.

Basic arm movements (tegatana dosa tandoku undo) can be used to introduce basic weapon handling. Using a weapon during tegatana dosa can be very challenging to do the correct body movements.
Tomiki aikido training includes unarmed combat as well as armed combat (softanto). Basic kata, is performed unarmed or with tanto (softanto).
Of course, if you like to go deeper into the science of swordfighting or other weapon system, you need a qualified instructor.

The floating feature – Uki

The feeling of “floating” situation can be felt as standing on an “unstable” surface.

Uke’s arm is lifted up high and is rotated (torsion) inward or outward (hineri/gaeshi). This creates a disconnection between the upperbody and the lower body.
Floating can be created as a defensive action when opponent is grabbing you at the wrist. Some formal “kuzushi” exercises developped in the Tomiki system make often use of this situation (for example 7-hon no kuzushi).
When using an offensive method, the grasping method on Uke’s arm has an important role to fullfill.
In general, basic arm movement will be used to create kuzushi (floating action) and followed by a throw (otoshi)

The features of a fall – Otoshi

Otoshi techniques can be found in different martial arts. The idea brought forward is the image of a waterfall.

Iaido has a Taki Otoshi kata. If you use your imagination, you’ll see the waterfall.

Jodo Maki Otoshi is a fundamental technique for quickly dropping the opponent’s sword with a Jo.

In general, all aikido techniques can be performed as a throw. Even kansetsu waza (hiji waza and tekubi waza) can be a throwing technique.
Uki waza uses the skill of “otoshi”, the quickly dropping down of uke’s body. Tori’s power is generated with correct body movement synchronised with gravity.
If only arm power is used, our technique will fail and the opponent will take over the initiative.
Remember, the origin of our power comes from koshi mawari (lower back and hip movement) and unsoku (footwork).

Stationary and dynamic training of Uki Waza

Before we can use “uki waza” as an application in randori or sparring, we must learn:

Form, function an understanding

First we learn the form in a basic format starting from tegatana awase postures. It is about how to use our body without moving around. Some footwork is included in the performance of Tori.
Uke does’t move or doesn’t resist. Uke is just lending his body and do the appropriate “ukemi”.
Afer some training, the function of the different elements (footwork, grasping skills…) will be understood and the separate body movements are transformed into a basic technique.

The introduction of footwork into the tegatana awase, a dynamic basic format of training creates the next step. The dynamic format gives a extra dimension to the training.
Of course this is not yet “randori”, all the elements of the training are programmed. Uke is using footwork, but still lend his body and uses no resistance.
The form is further investigated, the function of the form gives a broader scope of applications and the understanding will open the door to creativity in the training of randori.

Junanahon no kata, the starting point

There are many version of basic 17, all of them have the same techniques using the same concepts. These concepts are discussed in many articles and posts on this blog.
In the unarmed versions, the physical meeting (tegatana awase) is the starting point of the stationary training method mentioned earlier.

Find here an older version of basic 17 (1989).

Tomiki Aikido Syllabus – Basic Framework Training Tool.

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.

Study Group Tomiki Aikido – Shobukai Dojo Syllabus
This article outlines the “basic framework” employed in the Shobukai Dojo. The emphasis is mainly on “how to move the body” and “how to control the opponent”.
Members of the Shobukai Dojo study how to move the body and the methods of control of the opponent before being able to proceed with Tomiki Aikido Kata.

What Is a Martial Art Syllabus?

A syllabus is a document that presents all the necessary information on a martial art course. It lists the topics you will study while you practice martial art.
The course programme is a working document and a personal document. The syllabus can be used as a guide for the instructor as well as for the dojo.

Living Syllabus 

A syllabus is not fixed and basically a “living syllabus” can be updated as often as the teacher considers it necessary. This creates a vibrant, living document that students can interact with. Of course, the interaction between the instructor and the students is a major factor in updating the program.
Unfortunately, the emphasis is sometimes too much on a programme given by an international institute which does not allow much interaction between the institute, the instructor and the students. In this case, we cannot refer to a “living syllabus”.

An international institute program can be basically a policy guide to be used to generate a “living syllabus” for the local group.
So you can find a different program among the local groups while teaching the same concepts and principles.

Shobukai Dojo Syllabus

A Tomiki Aikido Syllabus can focus on various options for study and training, depending on the kind of dojo students.

  • Grading tool
  • Competition as the main goal
  • Sparring (randori)
  • Bodywork, efficient body movement
  • Self-protection and self-defense
  • Movement therapy
  • Other goals

The Shobukai Syllabus is based on the ideas and concepts of Kenji Tomiki and his nearest followers. There is an influence of other Aikido methods and Bodywork of independent instructors.

The program is built around various types of core concepts.

Basic arm movements

Our hands are one of the most important tools of our body. Tegatana translates into “sword hand”, but also includes the arm.

Basic arm movements can be performed either stationary or dynamically.
The stationary method emphasises the use of the “Koshi” synchronized with arm movements (tegatana). A dynamic version is integrating footwork.

Basic arm movements are based upon the basic arm movements developped by Kenji Tomiki.

The Stationary Method

The 1st part of the videoclip gives a overal impression, the 2nd half focussing on the use of the koshi.

The Dynamic Method

The integration of footwork into the tegatana exercises is the first step for practising “hakkei” or sudden power.

Hakkei Tegatana Dosa

When practising tegatana dosa in a stationary or dynamic way, movements are relatively big. The performance is quite slow and with no explosive power.
After several years of training, sudden power or Hakkei may be introduced.

Footwork – Unsoku-ho

In the Tomiki Aikido method a formalized exercise is wellknown by most of the practitioners. Because the focus is more on the pattern or in which direction to move, the most basic ways of footwork is in the backround. In the syllabus, the basic ways of footwork (ayumi ashi, tsuri ashi and tsugi ashi) is mentioned as a basic exercise. The different methods are integrated in the dynamic tegatana exercises.
When practising footwork, the arms are hold high and the intention is to hold a big ball between the arms. The arms are not used to push or pull, the power comes from the footwork initiated by the koshi.

Ayumi Ashi forward

Ayumi Ashi backward

Tsugi Ashi

Testing the solo exercises

Sometimes during training, the instructor can test the posture and movement of the student or to give feedback (interaction). All the movements of the solo-exercises can be tested.


Some testing examples

Testing posture and tsugi ashi

Ko-mawari testing

Kumi Kata (Judo)

The definition of Kumi Kata is grip fighting. The word “grip fighting” means to take a grip that will give you an advantage over your opponent. But also not to allow your opponent to take a comfortable grip to be able to counter.

The mastery of Judo Kumi Kata is a critical component for any judoka to succeed in modern judo. Without this skill being very well developed it is difficult to see how any judoka can experience the ability to throw ones opponent cleanly, effortlessly and with grace and beauty.

Ridatsu ho & Seigyo ho

Grasping the wrist in Aikido is a kind of strategy skill similar to the strategy skill of Judo Kumi Kata. Without this skill, we are not able to perform kuzushi and waza.
Tegatana kihon dosa (basic hand and arm movements) can be used as a setting up for gripping skills and controlling the opponent: Seigyo ho
On the other hand, kihon dosa can be used as a defensive action when the opponent is grasping you: Ridatsu ho

Both methods will depend on a correct and powerfull gripping skill.

The are different ways to grasp the wrist of opponent.
The purpose of grasping the wrist is to control the opponent action.

The comments of holding the sword, the golf ball and the soft tanto apply also for grasping a wrist.

Some examples of grasping the wrist

The example shows an offensive way to capture the wrist of the opponent. When the opponent performs an offensive movement, you can apply a basic arm movement and then grab the wrist.

How to seize

A strong grip can be catogorised in 3 major metods. See picture.

In essence, grasping the wrist in Aikido is similar to grasping the hilt of a sword. 
The basic rule is to grip firmly with the middle finger and thumb, keeping contact with the base of the little finger.

A study performed by The University of Western Ontario on the Individual finger strength and published in Journal of Hand Therapy gives the following results:
The percentage contributions of the index, middle, ring, and small fingers to grip were approximately 25%, 35%, 25%, and 14%, respectively.

While the ulnar side of the hand (ring and little finger) is taught as the dominant side when holding the “tsuka” of a sword, there is a lack of control if you don’t use the middle finger and thumb. When you start grabbing with the middle finger and thumb and index finger, the ring and the little finger, you will have a strong grip with many possibilities of precision.

3 important points

  • Base of little finger
  • Middle finger
  • Thumb

Exercises to develop correct wrist grabbing

Using Thera Band Flexbar

Soto gaeshi & uchi gaeshi
As mentioned earlier, both movements can be used both offensively and defensively. When you grip a wrist to apply a technique, Soto gaeshi or Uchi gaeshi may be applied. An exercise with the Flexbar almost gives you the feeling of gripping a wrist with a certain resistance.

Holding a golf ball.
Holding a golf ball is a good exercise to power up the middle finger and thumb.
Index, ring and little finger just close, but do not put pressure. Do not tighten the ball or you will lose control of the ability to manipulate your hand and arm movements.

Other examples of grasping

  • Holding tsuka
  • Grasping softanto (soft training dagger)

Holding tsuka
Hold the tsuka with the middle finger, the thumb and the base of the little finger. Index finger and ring finger close without any pressure.

Holding softanto (soft training dagger)

Soft tanto is a safe training tool used during sparring (randori). Frequently used in a Tomiki Aikido training program.

More pictures
European Championship Antwerp 2014 – Zuiderpershuis

The same comments apply as for holding the ball or holding the tsuka of a sword.

Kihon no katachi – Basic Aikido Techniques

Kihon no katachi is not the ju-nana-hon no kata or ju-go-hon no kata (an early version of kihon no kata), but it is a collection of basic aikido techniques usefull during friendly sparring (randori). It is a basic techniques syllabus.
There are 4 different kinds of techniques in Tomiki Aikido. All techniques start from a “tegatana awase” situation.

  • Atemi Waza
  • Hiji Waza
  • Tekubi Waza
  • Uki Waza

Atemi Waza

Kihon dosa or basic movements is the source for succesfull applying atemi waza. The philisophy behind atemi waza is explained in differents posts on this blog.

  • Shomen ate
  • Ai gamae ate
  • Gyaku gamae ate
  • Gedan ate
  • Ushiro ate

Hiji Waza

The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills are necessary to apply a skillfull hiji waza.

  • Oshi taoshi – straight arm push down
  • Hiki taoshi – straight arm pull down
  • Ude gaeshi – entangled arm
  • Ude hineri- entangled arm
  • Waki gatame omote – elbow lock
  • Waki gatame ura – elbow lock

Tekubi Waza

The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills for control are necessary to apply a skillfull tekubi waza.

  • Kote Hineri (uchi gaeshi)
  • Tenkai Kote Hineri
  • Kote Gaeshi (soto gaeshi)
  • Tenkai Kote Gaeshi

Uki Waza

Generally, this type of waza is translated as “floating techniques”. Basically, kuzushi or balance disturbing is performed as a throwing technique. All examples of wrist grabbing can be used to throw the opponent.
We distinguish 3 area

Kihon no katachi describe 3 major throws using Uki-waza skill.

  • Mae otoshi
  • Sumi otoshi
  • Hiki otoshi

Sparring or Randori Ho

  • Kakari geiko – continious predescribed attacks, no resistance
  • Hikitate geiko – continious predescribed attacks, escape possible for uke
  • Randori geiko – both can attack and defend
    • Dojo sparring
    • Shiai format

Example kakari geiko

Tanto randori – competition format

Randori no kata, a basic structure

Kata and katachi

The Japanese word ‘kata’ refers to the shape of an object, or the outline of a form. It is used in architecture as well as in pottery, painting and other visual expressive media. Kata is also a method to transfer the mechanics of physical arts like martial arts from teacher to student. It’s not just a physical transfer, but the mind is just as important. Kata is the result of a deep understanding of katachi and includes the so called secrets of the art.

Inside kata, there is a sequence of numbered or named steps, called a set of patterns. Within the named kata set, there are different templates for achieving different goals. A kata is considered complete when it has all its actions named for execution.

Each distinct step has its own name, such as the step to strike, the step to escape the enemy’s hold, or the step to counter-attack. Each kata has its own tempo and flow.
You will not understand Tomiki Aikido Kata unless you understand Kenji Tomiki’s rational thinking and philosophy.

Katachi is a sequence of steps needed to understand how body movements work. Each movement is divided into several stages and follows the logic of “form, function and meaning”.

The basic idea of kata or katachi is to introduce understanding of the relationship between form, function and meaning.


“the Society for Science on Form”

The art of Kata which includes katachi can be found in all levels of Japanese society and are in many cases an “alien” concept for Westerens. Lets have a look and drink a cup of tea.

The Tea Ceremony

The tea ceremony was developed in Japan in the late sixteenth century, and has a simple format — a host serves tea with some sweets, the guests drink it and then express thanks; that’s all.
Foreigners are often mystified as to why such a minimalist event can require years of training.
However, the motivation of this art is shared by all cultures. Imagine a talented host from any country whose way is so easy that guests are enveloped in an ambience of tranquil happiness.
Sen-no Rikyu, who founded the practice of the tea ceremony made an interesting comment: “Keep in mind that the tea ceremony is no more than making tea and drinking it.”
It takes great effort to realize such a “natural” thing. The same can be said about Randori no kata.

Randori no kata

The (judo) randori-no-kata were developed by Jigoro Kano as a teaching aid when it became apparent that he had too many students to effectively demonstrate throws and grappling techniques in his classes. The kata were developed in five years that followed the establishment of the Kodokan, between 1882 and 1887. They originally consisted of ten techniques each and were expanded to fifteen techniques around 1906.

The Randori-no-kata (乱取りの形, Free practice forms) of Kodokan Judo consist of two kata that illustrate the principles behind techniques used in Randori (乱取り, free-practice), allowing them to be practiced with maximum efficiency. The randori-no-kata includes nage-no-kata (投の形, forms of throwing), which teach and demonstrate concepts of nage-waza (投げ技, throwing techniques) and katame-no-kata (固の形, forms of grappling), which are intended to teach concepts of katame-waza (固技, grappling techniques).

Wikipedia

Aiki-Randori no kata

The concept of randori no kata for aikido techniques is borrowed from Kodokan Judo.
Kenji Tomiki introduced aiki-techniques to Judo students by using Judo Taiso, a scientific approach for studying Aikido techniques and body movements.

The purpose of Aiki-Randori no kata is to introduce atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza as a teaching aid to apply during randori.
Originally, Kenji Tomiki selected 15 techniques which became the basic kata for randori practise. Some years later, Basic 15 kata was transformed into Basic Kata of 17 techniques.

Form – Function – Meaning (Aiki-Randori-no-Kata)

Basic 15, 17 or…. are techniques allowed for practising aiki-randori. These techniques are reconstructed to apply safely without a chance to have severe injuries. It is always possible to have injuries when you are not focused.


The “basic” form can be called katachi or kata, depending on the level of the performers. As said, those techniques has the function to operate safely during training. The meaning “concept” is to integrate the basic principles of the art into the form.


When the principles are not included, the performance will lack depth and there will be no harmony between “form – function – meaning”.
Remember the concept of simplicity in the art of drinking tea, a presentation of basic techniques kata follows the same concept. By showing form – function – meaning, simplicity will come forward without adding unnecessary elements.

Correct or efficient? A question of real power.

The phrase “right or effective?” refers to the balance between “randori no kata” and “randori”. What we see during randori no kata presentation is not necessarily the same as during randori.
The reason for these differences may be found in the ways how to perform kata and randori. When kata was introduced into Shiai, some elements were added to give a more dramatic spectacle to the observers (audience and judges).
Randori’s performance is an entirely different story. Randori uses adaptive skills based on experiences gained through randori sessions with different people. Techniques will be dependent upon changing circumstances.
The real competence in randori is the capacity to adapt a technique for the moment. It is possible, the randori version may differ with the kata version or supposedly correct form at first glance. When you look closer, there are no differences if “form-function-meaning” are included in the kata.
The power derived from the simplicity of kata is often underestimated by Aikido practitioners. True power is only possible when the mind and body move in harmony without fanciful things. Too much detail in kata can destroy overall performance and practitioners can be lost as a result of unnecessary items.

It is said there is an impact on randori from kata training. Randori no kata is about a basic structure and the goal is to create a stable picture of a movement in your subconscious. Your adaptability can transform the kata version into an effective randori version.
If the kata becomes a presentation without the appropriate content, it can no longer be referred to as “randori no kata”. We can call it “presentation kata”.
Randori is a tool to provide efficiency to your techniques and body movements. But randori is by no means the only tool. Just focusing on randori will distort your Aikido experience as a method to improve you as a human being.

The influence of “ukemi”

Ukemi, the art of taking a throw or a pinning technique.
Ukemi is a necessary evil to survive a training session, randori or competition. Without a certain ukemi skill, you are exposed to injuries during training.
But there is a difference between kata ukemi and randori ukemi. During kata, you know what kind of throw or pinning technique is coming. During randori you don’t know, you have to act in the moment.
People can do a beautiful ukemi during kata for a certain technique. The same technique during randori can produce an ukemi as a real surviving one .

Hiki-otoshi according the kata method. Ukemi looks nice.

Randori approach of hiki-otoshi. Ukemi is not in an acrobatic fashion.

Acrobatic ukemi versus surviving ukemi

During kata performances, shinsa or shiai, ukemi becomes sometimes very acrobatic. Especially executed by younger people. This kind of ukemi can mask the performance of a sloppy technique.
In randori, the situation is different. You are thrown or not thrown, you survive with your ukemi skill or you don’t need to do ukemi.

Ukemi seen as an escape technique

Ukemi may be taken from two perspectives.
The first meaning of ukemi is the survival action to prevent injury when you are thrown or pinned down, mostly during training.
The second sense of ukemi is to anticipate unsafe action by taking care of your body.
Thus, jumping can be thought of as taking care of your body before the power enters your body. On the other hand, this may become an illusion for Tori, he or she may think of, using an effective technique, but in reality it is false.
To cure this delusional illness, randori can be the remedy if it is correctly applied effectively.

Kata – Shinsa – Shiai

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)

There is a tendency to emphasize what I call a misunderstanding about the goal of Koryu no kata as a source of knowledge to bring efficiency into your Aikido. As mentioned in the quote above, the purpose of Koryu no kata is to give you a structured syllabus which can be used for non-randori purposes
Remember, Kenji Tomiki was not happy about bringing kata to the competition.
The difficulty with the kata has to do with the different versions of the kata. Everyone claims to know Hideo Ohba’s original version. Even among the closest students of Hideo Ohba, there is neither concord nor unity. Once I showed a photographic example, how a technique was done by one Ohba student to another Ohba student. She replied, that was not how she was taught by Ohba.

My view on Koryu no kata

Koryu no kata consist of basic structures for practising “goshin” or self-protection, introduction to weapon handling.
Some parts of koryu no kata can be used as a trainingtool for better and more efficient body use.
The progression of koryu no kata can be seen as a sequence of techniques which transforms into “katachi” and later into “kata.
Without proper “basic “training, koryu no kata stays an empty shell and your aikido will not improve.

Koryu no kata – basic structures for non-randori training
Aiki-Randori no kata – basic structures for randori training

Skill or Waza?

Martial Arts are mainly based upon the use of “waza”, mostly translated as “techniques”.
This is in fact only a distant approximation of reality. A technique is the visible part of a waza. I believe that if we use the word “skill”, we are getting closer to the true understanding of “waza”.
Of course “skill” also has several levels, and each level has specific attributes.

Skill and Sub-skills

To give more information on “skill and its sub-skills” we can use an example taken from Tomiki’s Basic Kata (Randori no kata).
Gyaku gamae ate (performed by Senta Yamada)

Same “waza performed by Yoshiomi Inoue

The pictures by Senta Yamada gives you an overal view of Gyaku gamae ate. We can see the basic outline of the technique.

  • Opponent or Uke comes forward with arm to symbolize an attack
  • Defender or Tori sweeps away the incoming arm
  • Tori steps in to close the gap
  • Makes contact of Uke’s head
  • Moves forward and pushes Uke down

We can neither see nor feel what is actually going on. It’s just a “technicality”.
There are several components of this technique that require training to transition from the technical component to the sub-skill. After enough training of the components, putting together the components to form gyaku gamae ate (waza) is the next challenge.
In Inoue’s video, we can see certain components that are important for him to create a successful gyaku gamae ate.

Another example of gyaku gamae ate by Tetsuro Nariyama brings different components to the foreground.

Nariyama’s power management differs from Inoue’s power usage. However, certain components are similar. Differences are likely influenced by the different body structure.
We cannot merely copy the movements of an instructor with a different body structure, we need to look at the underlying components of the waza.

Randori gyaku gamae ate
During randori other factors need to be in considiration. Opponent is resisting and is also trying to apply a succesfull attack or waza. Practitioners have to rely completely upon their skills fostered during the many hours of training in the dojo.

Underlying components

Some of the components are hidden and are regarded as internal components, something we cannot see from the outside. If you are an expierenced practitioner and a good observer, you can see the result of the internal skill.

Internal skill is the ultimate goal for some practitioners and sometimes have a mysterious component to cover up the practitioner’s ignorance. But actually, most of these mysterious elements can be explained by comprehensible explanations.

Power Management

When you use power, for the most part follows a linear vector. Yet power does not follow a strict straight line. There’s a spiral pattern based on our corporeal structures. In many scientific literature we can find: Principle of spiral arrangement of skeletal muscles of humans and animals.
This principle has an enormous effect on our movements and the management of power.

Rotational movement

To turn an object, the force must be applied at a distance from its axis, and the greater the distance, the greater the effect of rotation or rotation.

Invoke a rotational movement into the opponent’s body is one of methods to create “kuzushi”.
Unfortunately, our movements are based on a rather complex spiral pattern of our structures for body movements and this can become a difficult task for the inexperienced practitioner. The opponent is not always willing to allow a skill that can destroy the balance. The opponent can use several moves to neutralise our attempts to “kuzushi” and perhaps take the initiative.
If our attempts fail to disrupt the balance of the opponent, there is a tendency to use muscle power to force the opponent to destabilize.

Rotational movements are experienced by the 2 persons involved:

  • The one who uses spiral force to create kuzushi and performs a “waza”
  • The one who receives the rotational power and loses the equilibrium

Between the 2 persons, there is a need to create “a bridge” for transfer the spiral power. Mostly during aikido practise, the arms (and hands) are used for this purpose. Sometimes, the legs can be used, eventually with the support of the arms.

The bridge between Tori and Uke

In most cases, the arms will be used to transfer spiral power into opponent’s body. Tegatana and shotei are frequently used to touch opponent’s body. Both weapons are driven by the elbow, functioned as a transfer tool for the power generated by the lower body.
The function of the elbow as a transfer tool is performed in several exercises, specially designed for that purpose. A well-known exercise is Hiriki no yosei and instructs you to move from your center and transfer power to the elbow(s).

The grabbed arm is used as a bridge for transferring power in the opponent’s body and creates “kuzushi”.

The 8 sotai dosa based upon the 5 basic arm movements, are another type of exercises to study the transfer of power throught the elbow. These exercises are a so-called “foot into the door” for kuzushi practice. Nevertheless, without an appropriate use of power, we can practice for many years without a good outcome on the resisting opponents.

How to make a bridge

Extending power through your arm without tensing up the muscles involved.
One of the difficulties during making a bridge to transfer the power from the lower body is the tension in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. It is very difficult to change the habit of shoulder tension. One of the exercises to get rid of this tension is to practise “ritsuzen” with the arm at the height of approximal the “kyokotsu” or the lower part of the sternum. Basically it is a practise for the mind, because our focused thoughts can make the shoulders more flexible.

Starter and distribution engines: Koshi and Kyokotsu

Our body has to move in such a way that the part of the body that is in motion is being driven by the body part which moved just before it. That way we create a wave of energy up our body. The lower half of our body should therefore always move a fraction of second before our upper half.

We have two engines that can operate in an independent fashion. The former is the main engine of our body which is our “Koshi Engine” powered by the use of the “tanden”. The second, our “Kyokotsu engine” acts as the distribution center for the lower body power.
The knees act as a transfer system for absorption and power transmission, from feet to Koshi or from Koshi to feet.
In the case of our Kyokotsu motor, the elbows serve as a transfer system, from kyokotsu to hands or hands to kyokotsu.
Even though we may be generating a high level of tension across our muscles, tendons and fascia, our body and joints must still be relaxed enough so that they are free to rotate.
To recall, the central axis of the body serves as the main vertical axis of the rotation of the main body. The length axis of the arms (and in lesser mode the legs) acts as the rotating axis to transport the power.

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.

***

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.

Awase. How to connect.

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo

When I started Tomiki Aikido, I learned 2 exercises that I did not understand at the time, more than 40 years ago. Previously I practiced other methods of Aikido, but the exercises of tegatana-awase and shotei-awase were not practised in the way it was done in Tomiki Aikido training.

  • Tegatana awase
  • Shotei awase

The practice was very simple and the underlying actions of the body were not well explained. But back then, it wasn’t necessary. But I was very curious about what was happening beyond the horizon.

Tegatana and Shotei

Tegatana – Handblade

The handblade means the hand with the 5 fingers fully outstretched together. When the fingers are stretched out thus, the part that forms the base of the little finger is strained. With this part you can strike at the opponent and parry or check his blow upon you.

Shotei -Palm of the hand

Basically this is the palm of the hand, in particular the base of the palm.

Awase (合わせ)

If you are searching for a definition of this term, you will get various explanations. Then there is the general message: Gathering two opposites together.

In the case of tegatana-awase, the idea is to bring together “tegatana of two people”. And in the case of shotei-awase, it means gathering “shotei of two people”.

Aiki

Since we are talking about an exercise involving 2 people, and this in the context of aikido, we may conclude that these exercises should reflect the idea of “aiki”.

Here we are of course treading a slippery path, because opinions about aiki can differ quite thoroughly. If we stick to the definition that Kenji Tomiki gave it, we can get a better idea of what we should strive for.

The meaning of “aikido.” the old saying goes, “It is the spirit that carries the mind and controls the body.” The people of acient times believed that man’s mind and body and cosquently his strength were under the control of his spritit. Aiki means making your spirit “fit in” with your opponent’s. In other words it means bringing your movements into accord with your opponent’s. After all it means the same thing as the “principle of gentleness,” for it is an explanation of the principle from within.

Judo and Akido – Kenji Tomiki

Principle of gentleness

This principle, most often known by the Japanese word “Ju” cannot be explained without another word “Go”.

  • Ju: the body is flexible, movement is smooth without blockage, force can be transmitted in the body without difficulty
  • Go: a physical state, mostly associated with martial art practice in which the body or movement is strong but not rigid.

In explaining the exercises mentioned at the beginning of this article, we need to take into account both sides of the principle of gentleness or in other words “Aiki”.

Tegatana Awase

In Dr Lee ah Loi’s book, Book One Randori, there is a short description of this exercise.

Face one another and let your handblades meet in chudan posture, cross handblades at base of hand and look at your partner’s eyes through the gap made by your hands. Keep good posture and move forward with tsugi-ashi. When you are pushed, do not resist too much but step back with tsugi-ashi, then try pushing your partner. You can move backwards, forwards and sideways, but do not break your right chudan posture. Remember to keep your body square and to face your opponent all the time. In performing this exercise, you can practise basic posture, tsugi-ashi, fast movement and reacting to your opponent’s intention and power.

In a book written by Tetsuro Nariyama and Fumiaki Shishida, Tradition and the Competitive Edge, important key points are mentioned related to tegatana awase.

The practice of tegatana awase is made up of many important basic principles, such as shisei, unsoku, metsuke, toitsuryoku and ma-ai.

Nariyama and Shishida’s comment is very much in line with Dr. Lee’s description. Obviously, the Japanese book uses Japanese words, whereas Dr. Lee uses the English equivalent. What stands out clearly from the text of the Japanese authors, tegatana awase consists of many important basic principles. Without knowing those fundamental principles, the exercise becomes pointless.

The same book by Nariyama and Shishida contains an explanation of “toitsu-ryoku or focused power”. They described toitsu-ryoku as a combination of good breathing (kokyu) and proper use of the body. Unfortunately, there is no description of the correct breathing procedure. How to use the body primarily refers to general remarks on how to keep the body straight and the different methods of foot movements.

In a more recent book (05/06/2020) written by Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, Basic techniques of Sport Aikido (Tomiki Aikido) a brief description is mentioned on tegatana-awase.

A basic practice method to understand ma-ai “distance” from the opponent. The tegatana of two practitioners are matched in contact and they move freely while maintaining the correct distance.

Breathing and correct body use

If you ask a teacher about breathing, the answer will often be “don’t think about your breathing, it’s a natural process”. Of course, breathing is a natural process, but most people breathe quite superficially.

Breathing and the correct use of the body are a major health issue for a large part of the population. You will find a lot of breathing and movement programs to enhance your health.

When your breathing is poor and your body movements are not effective, the practice of tegatana awase will not result in better performance. Your training program should include exercises to turn your breathing and body movements into better performance.

One of the greatest martial art practitioner, Rickson Gracie Brazilian Jiujitsu, used a breathing method to improve his performance. What Rickson Gracie is doing is called a ‘Kriya or internal’ cleaning exercise. It’s a self massage of the organs which improves blood flow.

There are other methods to improve your breathing. These methods are mostly based upon the use of the diaphragm in relation with the abdomen. Kokyu-ho or breathing exercises are used to develop a stronger “hara”.

Shotei Awase

From Dr. Lee’ s book:

Face one another and step forward on left foot, keeping a slightly wider stance, with your right arm straight and in the center. Put the heel of your right hand against that of your partner. Push each other, but try not to bend your arm, the power should be horizontal. The main difference between Shotei and Tegatana is that in Shotei the position is stationary and the power comes from the hips. This training is for power and posture, if you keep practising this, you wil develop a very strong Aikido posture.

In the book by Toshiya Komatsu and Yoshiomi Inoue, a brief description of shotei-awase..

A basic practice method. Application of hand blade matching. Place each other’s tegatana (hand blades) on the centre line and put the lower part of the palm of your hand (shotei) on that of your opponent. Practice using the whole body efficiencly to push the opponent. Lower your hips to push him instead of using only your arms.

In Nariyama and Shishida’s book, shotei-awase is not explained, but there is an extensive explanation about the benefits of toitsu-ryoku and kokyu-ryoku. Both concepts are necessary to perform an efficiently shotei-awase.

Some Chinese martial arts use a similar basic practise. There seems also a relationship with traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

Using Ming-men

Kokyu-ryoku

During tegatana-awase and shotei-awase, we need power to keep our posture and to move our body. Even when we don’t move our feet in shotei-awase, there is a lot of movement in our body. This kind of power is commonly named as “kokyu-ryoku”.

Kokyu (呼吸) is translated as “breath” and kokyuryoku is translated as the power of breathing. You wil also find the expression “shinkokyu”. This is translated as “deep breathing”. The word “ryoku” is translated as “power”.

Kokyu-ryoku is mostly translated as “breath power”. In fact this is misleading, because breathing is a process to bring oxygen into the body. The art of breathing of course, is using the diaphragm and other muscles. Training of these muscles can give you a better way of breathing, but also, a more robust “hara”. Hara is the source of generating power, mostly derived from gravity and solidity of the earth. The better the hara is functioning, the more power can be generated.

The power originated by the hara is not a contractive kind of power. When the breath after inhaling is pushed down into the hara, it becomes more solid and expansive. The surrounding muscles, especially the “koshi” will act more efficiently to make the rebound of power of the gravity from the earth in the direction of the arms. This is only possible if the body adopt the state of “jukozo”.

Tegatana-awase and shotei-awase are build upon jukozo. If we use contractive power during these exercises, the concept of “ju/go” or “Principle of gentleness” will not be there.

Unsoku – Suri-ashi and tsugi-ashi

Practising tegatana-awase and shotei-awase can be done either without stepping movements or with stepping movements. We must consider different kinds of stepping methods.

Unsoku – Moving around with sliding feet (suri-ashi) and following feet (tsugi-ashi) . When responding to your opponent’s attack, you need to maintain a good posture while moving. A formal method is created by Kenji Tomiki and consist of moving in eight directions from the posture of shizentai.

This is the original judo-unsoku

Suri-ashi – When moving in unsoku, do not raise the base of the big toe from the tatami mat, and slides your feet on the surface of the tatami mat. This is called sliding feet.

Tsugi-ashi – A sliding foot movement either to move the back foot closer to the front foot or to move the front foot closer to the back foot with the pusrpose to keep good posture. Remark that during tsugi-ashi the “suri-ashi” method is used. There is no lifting of the base of the big toe.

The formal method of course requires some adaptations to fulfill the requirements for practical applications during Aikido training. Especially moving forward and backward need some modifications. The formal way of practising is maintained.

Forward and backward stepping method – tsugi ashi. Adapted from the formal judo-unsoku

Alternative stepping movements

These movements are not included in the formal “Unsoku”, but are frequently used in the practise of Aikido.

Ayumi-ashi – To move the left and right feet alternately.

De-mawari – forward stepping and turning – Mawashi-ashi:Turning foot or feet .

Hiki-mawari – backward stepping and turning.

Postures

Basic postures are used when practising tegatana-awase and shotei-awase.

In tegatana-awase, mostly a ai-gamae or mutual posture is used. When right foot is forward, right tegatana are crossed at chudan level.

In shotei-awase, ai-gamae or mutual posture is used with a different approach in using the tegatana. When right foot is forward, left shotei is used to make contact.

Of course, this is the guidance when using the most “basic” method. Your creativity may be used to modify the posture in gyaku-gamae or reverse posture. Tegatana and shotei may also differ in a variety of ways.

Alternative Exercises

Joining tegatana or shotei is the main concept of awase exercises during Tomiki Aikido’s basic practice. Of course, there are other drills to practice “awase”.

There are 2 categories of practising “awase”:

  • Static exercises – without stepping
  • Stepping exercises

These exercises will be the subject of a separate blog post.

More information about Tegatana-awase and Shotei-awase will be discussed in another post in the near future.

Sotai renshu – Embrace the inevitable.

One of the very purposes of studying Martial Arts is to learn to utilize and cultivate unconventional movement options.

Sotai Renshu – Partner Training

In pairs, the primary concept is the relationship with the partner/opponent and how to control the power and the mind of the partner/opponent. It is the body which expresses the power originating in the mind.

From a purely technical point of view, we will examine our body in relationship with the body of our partner/opponent. Later, we can go further into the mechanics of the mind and the generation of power.

Relationship with partner/opponent.

We distinguish 2 major technical characteristics.

Our position in relation to partner/opponent

  • Aigamae or regular facing posture
  • Gyaku gamae or reverse facing posture

The result of our action on partner/opponent

  • Hineri or inward turning of partner/opponent body (or body part)
  • Gaeshi or outward turning of partner/opponent body (or body part)

Contractive power versus “jukozo”

Most of our movements in our lives arise from muscle contractions. The muscles always work in pairs, one muscle is the active actor (agonist) whereas the other (antagonist) is the passive actor. This is the conventional way of thinking about how the body moves.

An example to specify the activities of the agonist and the antagonist:

The agonist and antagonist work together in any type of movement. Once a muscle is tensed, it can no longer relax on its own. This requires the contraction of the opposite muscle. So as your biceps contract to bend your arm, your triceps stretch. Now your triceps becomes the active part. As an agonist, the muscle contracts, allowing your biceps to relax as an antagonist.

Furthermore, in martial arts, the use of the power of the partner/opponent is part of the strategy. Unfortunately, contractive power is not always a good partner when we need to use the competence of “jukozo”, the competence to absorb and store incoming power. Especially the contractive power of the arms and shoulder can negatively affect the release of the power of the legs and torso.

But there is an additional way in which the muscles lengthen (other than only through the contraction of the opposite muscles). This functionality lies at the heart of the “Jukozo” concept. It is actually a push/pull concept without local muscle contraction. The push/pull motion is the result of the use of the kyokotsu, your breathing (diaphragm muscle) and the rotation motion of the abdomen, in other words hara, Koshi and tanden.

Basically, jukozo uses the capacity to store power in the muscles, tendons and fascia while stretching or compressing and not by contracting the muscles. Most of the power will be stored in the tendons and fascia, the muscles themselves have a much lower capacity and are mostly actively used for their contractive features. The push/pull action depends completely on the push or pull quality of the tendons and the fascia

The picture shows a push/pull action. The partner/opponent is pushed while he is turned. There is also a pull to with the result he is bending backward. The pull is created by koshi turning and a backward tsugi ashi, the push is the result of a stretching movement while pulling in kyokotsu. There is no muscle contraction or bending the arm. It is a simultanious action.

Tenshikei (Japanese) – Chansigong (Chinese)

Jukozo is based on a skill which favors spiral power. Our body always generates energy by following a spiral path consisting of muscles, tendons and fascias. We may use a special training method to develop tenshikei ability. During the training, we use rotational movements mostly coming from the lower part of the torso. Koshi is one of the most significant components of the lower torso.

Basically, it means that power is not transmitted linearly, but that it coils and spirals along the limbs. This means that there are two directions (clockwise and counterclockwise). When examining Tomiki Aikido Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa, we can clearly see the 2 directions of coiling movements in Uchi-mawashi/Soto-mawashi and Uchi-gaeshi/Soto-gaeshi.

Uchi Gaeshi

The rotational motions are created by using the “koshi” muscles and those, of course, follow the rule of contraction and relaxation. But we use an unconventional method, the muscles associated with the arms and shoulders are not contracted. The “hara” muscles (Koshi and tanden) are responsible for the rotation movements. A push/pull action is achieved if the muscles in the arms and legs are relatively relaxed.

The result of tenshikei training takes longer than the well-known methods for improving the core muscles in the gym. To control the movements of these muscles, the average practitioner requires many years of regular training. The control of rotation movements can be seen in the performance of top level sports people.

Controlling incoming power

When the incoming power penetrates the body, most people will respond by contracting the muscles along the power path. It will obviously interfere with the storage of incoming power. A better way is to use the “Jukozo” skill, a skill to absorb and store incoming power in the tendons and fascia.

The incoming power, for instance, when someone grabs your wrist and does a twisting movement, follows a spiral path through the body. This energy can be stored within the tendons and fascia. Ready to operate with flexibility.

The better we can store the power, the better we can use the stored power to counter the partner/opponent attack. Countering the attack means avoiding conflict with the strength of the partner/opponent.

An example – the wrist grip.

It’s a practice, not a martial application. Nonetheless, the integrated body movement may be used in martial applications..

The partner/opponent has a strong grip on our wrist. There is no pulling or pushing by partner/opponent, but an inward twisting action of the wrist. Start a release action at the foot, thereafter the leg, the hip joint, the torso, shoulder, arm and wrist. Avoid contractions of the muscles, power transfer will stop at the muscle contraction.

By the way, muscle contraction is also a method to generate strength. There are times when such a method can be used. But especially as a beginner, it is preferable to use the jukozo method rather than the contracting method.

Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba during WW2 in Manchuria

Control your own power!

Basically, we don’t want to give the partner/opponent the opportunity to use our own power against us. A highly skilled partner/opponent may simply use a clever action to cause some sort of blocking action in your body.

Incoming power does not necessarily travel within our body. The incoming power could also be very local. For instance, when someone grabs with one or two hands without pushing, pulling or twisting. All power is centered on our wrist.

In such a case, stretch the tendons and fascia the gripped wrist without pulling, pushing or twisting on the arm of partner/opponent . By releasing the power generated by the stretching movement, an undulating movement will distort the body of the partner/opponent.

Senta Yamada is stressing the softness of the body to transfer spiral power into the body of uke.

Active and static power

The body under mind control, may produce various types of useful power during martial art training and its application as self-defense.

Usually two types will be used.

  • Active Power – Power by hitting, kicking, pushing, pulling or twisting and entering the body for the purpose of hurting or throwing.
  • Static Power – The power to immobilize the body of the partner/opponent or part of the body. Many examples in koryu no kata where partner/opponent has a grip on you to immobilize.

The use of different types of power will depend on the circumstances and will become part of the strategy. Every martial art can have a different type of strategy, but the efficient use of power depends on the same principles.

Uke/Tori and switching roles

Perhaps you noticed that I did not use the words Uke and Tori in previous paragraphs. In many martial arts explanations, the words Uke and Tori are used to define the role of the attacking and defending or winner and loser. That kind of thinking is actually a “one way of thinking”. Uke is thus the receiver of a successful movement. Uke act as a loser and this of course has an impact on our way of thinking. During basic training, Uke carries out ukemi or breakfall. Uke has a losing concept. Whereas during the randori, the concept of loser is not allowed. To avoid losing during randori, most of the practitioners will block the movement of partner/opponent. What we have pointed out in the previous paragraphs is completely forgotten. Jukozo or flexibility is replaced by muscle contraction resistance.

Actually, during basic training, randori or martial applications, there are 2 people (or more) performing Uke/Tori movements. Each person acts at the same time as Uke and Tori. In fact, we may be talking about a Uke/Tori person, an expression of duality as described in an earlier post about Ju and Go. The duality in the Uke/Tori person is also related to the concept of Onmyō – Yin/Yang – Our movements are acting by using opposing forces – tension(*) and release. The concept of opposing forces is in Oriental philosophy explained by the well-known words: Yin and Yang, in Japanese: Onmyō.

(*) Tension shouldn’t be confused with muscle contraction. In our case, tension is stretching tendons and fascia to increase power. It is also possible to build power through compression, a skill to allow input power and transfer in the ground. Rebound is the outcome and is only possible with the competence of Jukozo. For this case, an exercise as shotei-awase can be mentioned.

Conscious and sub-conscious mind

When people start with martial art training in an unconventional manner, many new things need to be learned. This process is principally realized by the conscious mind. The motions of the body begin at a slow speed because our conscious mind is actually a slow process. But we got a faster processor, our subconscious mind. The moment we do not have to think about how to operate, the subconscious mind may take control of the process of our body moving.

Even if you are a practitioner with many years of experience, the moment you start the non-standard path, you are again a newbie. Thus, your conscious mind takes control of the process and your movements are still slow until the unconventional method of movement can be performed by the subconscious mind. This process may take several years, depending on the depth to which the conventional method is grounded in your mind.

Moving from solo to partner training is actually a test of whether the unconventional method has replaced the conventional method and how anchored it is.

We need to embrace the inevitable. Can we do it or not?

Mushin Mugamae

This expression is quoted many times by Kenji Tomiki and his followers. Mostly it is translated as “Empty mind, empty posture”.

Basically, it’s a good idea to use this translation as a beginning to try to understand Mushin Mugamae. There is more to this expression than just “Empty Mind, Empty posture”. However, putting the phrase “Mushin Mugamae” in your mind makes a mind filled with thoughts. This is also true when we adopt a combat posture. As a beginner, the conscious mind will create the thinking combat pose. Unfortunately, using the conscious mind is too slow to respond to the actions of the partner/opponent.

Unconventional movement and training

One of the very purposes of the study of martial arts is to learn how to use and cultivate unconventional movement options. This process may be regarded as “the path of a martial art practitioner”. Becoming a skilled practitioner is not an easy way, but for those who are on the way, it is an experience that can also be monitored for the purposes of everyday life.

As mentioned above, the use of the conscious mind is too slow to react to a sudden move of the partner/opponent or even sudden events in everyday life. The unconscious mind can handle such events if you have the ability to “mushin mugamae”.

Study or technical training takes place at a slow rate. After acquiring the bodily sensation, stored in the subconscious mind, the reaction may be very quick or even slow. That will depend on the circumstances. An image is slow, while a pattern is slow/fast.

From image to pattern, from slow to slow-fast

There are many ways to bring content to the movements of our body. For instance, how to use weight transfer during walking. Within the brain, there are images of the various aspects of walking. The first image is created when we have learned to stand vertically. Later, we start walking, foot by foot. How to use this image depends on our experiences throughout our lives, and based on these experiences, we have created patterns. Learning new patterns of movement takes time and needs to be done properly from the start.

Beginners are not only associated with “novices”, but also with experienced people who are learning new skills. Starting with a new “model”, we start slowly and sometimes we exaggerate the motion by making it bigger. That allows us to create a bodily sensation. This is a condition of subconscious usage. Without a bodily sensation, every action will depend on the conscious mind or the inborn fight or flight reaction**. The physiological changes that occur during the fight or flight response are activated in order to give the body increased strength and speed in anticipation of fighting or running.

A highly skilled practitioner can use the fight or flight reaction in combination with the patterns stored in the brain. If it is still at the stage of using the conscious mind, the fight or flight reaction will have an uncontrollable effect on performance.

It takes time to build experiences to create a model or pattern after creating an image. Sometimes a pattern is corrupted or may not be used in martial arts situations. We need to reprogram something. Reprogramming is a challenging process because bad habits must be removed and new moves must be created. It takes more time to start again, then start anew as a beginner.

**The fight-or-flight or the fight-flight-or-freeze response (also called hyperarousal or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival

A Wet Towel In Space Is Not Like A Wet Towel On Earth

Both in static posture or dynamic posture we use the feet to take power from Earth and transfer it to the arms and hands.

Gravity

Gravity is the force through which a planet or other body attracts objects toward its centre.

What else does gravity do?

Why are you landing on the ground when you’re jumping rather than floating in space? Why does everything fall when you throw it away or let it fall? The answer is gravity: an invisible force that attracts objects together. Earth’s gravity is what keeps you on the ground and what makes things come down.

Anything that has mass also has gravity. Objects with more mass have more gravity.

The gravity of the Earth comes from its entire mass. Its entire mass creates a combined gravity attraction over the entire mass of your body. That’s what gives you weight.

Gravity and martial art

Gravity is necessary to create the equilibrium of your posture. If you fail to act on the concept of balance, gravity becomes your worst enemy and you will fall.

What is balance?

Balance is a situation in which your body has stability. It does not take much effort to keep your position. All forces that apply to your body are canceled out. When you are in balance, it is very hard to throw you or move you. This is true standing.

Gravity applies to everything in the body. If you combine the effect of all gravity forces, you can summarize it as a force applied at a single point, the centre of gravity. Put another way, “Hara” is the centre of your physical being. If you can put your mind in “Hara”, you are a balanced person, physical and mental.

Exercises used in training should consider the concept of gravity. Without a good body structure, you will not be able to use the power of the earth and you rely only on the local muscle power. And even if you use local muscle power, earth mass and gravity are needed. Sadly, it is not the most effective way to move the body and use power.

Practical exercises

There are many practical exercises to train in martial arts. Some have a direct advantage in martial art applications, others have an impact on body structure and power generation. Some exercises are directed towards improving health.

Since you don’t always have a partner to practice, solo training may be an option. Most practitioners are familiar with the basic solo exercises of their Aikido method. Tomiki Aikido isn’t the exception.

The objective of this article is to explain certain exercises with a “creative touch”.

All the exercises has 1 important concept: we have to use the power of the earth.

Gravity is the greatest source of power by touching the opponent. During solo training, the adversary may be in your mind, but maybe you can use a boxing bag. It is also possible to use various weapons as a tool to enhance your body movements including the use of gravity.

The moving body

A moving body has 3 main methods to generate force:

  • Taïjū no idō – using footwork
  • Taïjū no dendō – using body weight
  • Tenshikei – diagonal tension

Local muscle power is not used during the 3 metods. The use of gravity is an important source as well as the solidity of the Earth. Without control of the body centers, local muscle power will replace the flexible and elastic power organised by koshi and kyokotsu.

Moving koshi forward and back

Push with the hand (backside) on the sacrum forward. Let the body return and start over the pushing.

After some practise, you will notice the movement of “koshi”. This is an important step forward in the concept of using “koshi” or hip-power.

Oshi taoshi exercise

Move the arms up with the dynamics of lifting kyokotsu. Dropping kyokotsu into koshi and feet.

While we say “use kyokotsu”, this is not the power source. Kyokotsu is the controller which sends the power to the arms. When kyokotsu returns to the original position, it controls the downward power to the legs via Koshi.

Rowing exercise

Body moves forward before the arms. This is controlled by kyokotsu.

Tenshikei, diagonal/coiling power

Sometimes a comparison is made between tenshikei and wringing a towel. Of course, if you don’t know about “tenshikei”, this conversation is ridiculous.

Tenshikei is the rotational power generated with a body skill using gravity. If there is no gravity, you will have probably a difficulty to generate tenshikei or diagonal power.

Role of the knees during tenshikei exercises

Think about a ball between the knees. There is a certain tension (opposing forces) between the 2 knees.

The example shows a ball when adopting “shizentai – mugamae”. The same feeling must be experienced during a forward posture or a 2x shoulderwide posture (kiba-dachi or jigotai)

A simple example of Tenshikei movement

Between the knees, an image of a ball can be used when performing uchi-mawashi and uchi-gaeshi/soto-gaeshi.

Using waist and hips during tenshikei skill

This topic is a difficult one. In martial art the waist is a part of the koshi. Koshi is mostly translated as hips, but this is partly wrong. The hips are a part of koshi.

Our waist usually turns only from five degrees to thirty degrees. Occasionally, it turns forty- five or ninety degrees. Many practitioners use their hips instead of their waist without realizing it. This is because it is much easier to use our hips than our waist. The waist gives power for the push and also functions as a rotational tool. This action is basically “tenshikei” skill.

The hip joint is used to push down into the leg.

When moving forward or back, the ball of the front foot is used as the rebound tool or as a shock absorber. The heel of the front foot is slightly lifted. Using power for moving forward comes from the back foot. When moving back, the front foot is the driving foot.

Taïjū no idō – Taïjū no dendō

Taijū no dendō or body weight transmission (body weight conduction) is a skill to transfer power into the opponent by using body weight and gravity.

Taijū no idō or body weight shift creates “power transfer” in the body of opponent by displacement of the body.

Both methods are basically dependent on the use of gravity with or without footwork.

There are many kinds of footwork. Most of them are based upon using losing balance and regaining balance. Using gravity is the main source for this kind of footwork. An example is “rolling foot movement during pushing”.

Not all the foot movements have “losing balance – gravity” as the main source of movement power. The driving power of the leg can be used to move forward or back.

Driving leg – receiving leg

Moving around is a matter of using koshi, knees and ankles. The pressure between the feet and the earth has also to be taken into account.

There is always a leg which is doing the action – the driving leg. There is also the receiving leg with an absorbing function, but also a rebound action.


Where is the pressure in the foot?

Both in static posture or dynamic posture we use the feet to take power from Earth and transfer it to the arms and hands.

Mostly, the pressure will be on the ball of the foot. Triangle formed by 1-2-3

But it can also move more in the direction of the heel without losing the pressure on the ball. Triangle 1-2-4.

Point 1 will act as a kind of pump to transfer Earth’s power up. During breathing exercises, the mind can use the “pump” image to bring Earth”s power to the koshi and further to the arms when inhaling. When breathing out, point 4 will receive the down power.

The mechanism of pump and switching from point 1 to point 4 is very useful during Taijū no dendō or bodyweight shift.

Although we speak about points, we have to consider the image of the triangles. Using triangles makes a better use of the feet soles surface without forgetting the different points marked in the picture.

An important point of attention is the stability of the knee. Keep an imaginary ball between the knees.

A simple exercise to introduce the foot pressure skill. When moving up, use the ball (point 1 – pump) to take the Earth’s power up by breathing in. At the end of inhaling, push the breath down end let it sink into the heel (point 4). After a while you will feel the action of the pump.

Grabbing the floor with the toes

Sometimes you can read this advice. And this advice is not only for martial arts, but also other sport are involved like weightliftting and sports with a squating action. Grabbing with the toes has to be viewed as grabbing with the plantar fascia. Find here a nice animation:

When you start using the triangles in the foot, the plantar fascia is the driving element in the use of the Earth’s power along the body structures. If the plantar fascia is not correct working, the rest of the body will act accordingly mostly with a faulty structure. The result is a damaged knee or hip joint. Even the neck will have a negative impact.

The importance of the plantar fascia

Plantar fascia – the longest ligament of the foot. The ligament, which runs along the sole of the foot, from the heel to the toes, forms the arch. By stretching and contracting, the plantar fascia helps us balance and gives the foot strength for walking.

Regularly shift weight from one foot and leg to the other stretches the tight muscles of the feet. Thight muscles often contribute to plantar fasciitis pain, also called heel spurs.
One basic move simply puts your body weight from heel to toe with a rocking motion. This promotes balance along with foot strength. (pendulum exercise)(rolling feet movement)
This will also actually massage the foot by applying different pressure in a graduated fashion along the foot.
Another move allows for a rocking motion from the outside of the foot to the inside of the foot.
This will strengthen the lateral muscles and medial muscles of the leg. Your weight will shift from the arch to the outside of the foot.

In search of “Koshi”

Koshi is most often translated as “hips” and bring much confusion in the minds of martial arts practitioners. If we include Kyokotsu in the use of “Koshi”, a new world opens up, a world of energy and power.

Koshi can variously refer to the pelvis(to include the hips, pelvic carriage, lower spine, sacrum and coccyx), the lower abdomen, the upper thighs, the centre of gravity in the lower abdomen, and all the muscle and other bodily material situated around these areas.

George Donahue, ‘Koshi / Yao: An Introduction’ http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article. php?id=663

In the same way, one of the bases in Chinese Taijiquan or Yiquan, “using Yao” is often translated as “using hips”. Basically, it also comprises the upper torso above the hips, and even the rib cage.

During many seminars, the importance of “Koshi” came up, but unfortunately in most cases the explanation where koshi is located was confusing.

Thus, when you are looking for a complete explanation for “Koshi”, most of the information will be confusing. To experiment with Koshi, I can only recommend a form of abdominal breathing known as “reverse breathing”. During such breathing of Taoist origin, several elements must be taken into account.

  • Breathing in – pulling slightly in the upper abdomen, imagine breathing through the belly button.
  • Exhale while pushing the diaphragm, the picture is to bring the air into the hara.
  • Pull on the perineum to create a certain compression in the hara, the source of your physical and mental stability.

After some training, weeks or months, depending on the schedule you use, you will feel how the lower body muscles and the rib cage move. The next step is integrating kyokotsu into your training process. This is the controller for power transfer, originating from the legs and feet through the Koshi in the arms.

Koshi is not the origin of power. Koshi is the tool to deliver the power of the legs and feet in sync with gravity, to the rest of the body. But the Koshi muscles are really strong. These muscles can generate a lot of useful power as an “injector” to begin our movement with or without displacement. The role of the hara and in particular of the “tanden” is to create physical and mental stability.

The importance of posture

To begin to sense Koshi, we need to adopt a proper posture. It may be “shizentai” or natural posture, but also “Kamae” or posture ready for action.

There are some important considerations.

  • Posture in line of the pull of gravity
  • The head is at the top of the posture – the ears are drawn far from the shoulders, do not pull the shoulders down.
  • Kyokotsu is very lightly pulled in, the breast has a concave form, not a military posture or a collapse.
  • You have the image to sit with Koshi
  • Body weight can be experienced in the feet touching the ground.
  • …..

Suri-ashi, sliding feet

The idea behind Suri ashi is to slide your foot parallel to the ground. At Noh, they learn a posture, leaning slightly forward. What’s going on here is that your ankles will be bent so that you can move your foot without or with a little lifting from your heel. You can’t make one big step.

Raising the heel too high should be avoided since it creates an unstable body.

This can only be done when the appropriate posture is taken. Koshi must connect with the legs and feet to sense the power coming from the earth. There is a certain pressure on the feet, in particular the ball of the feet. It comes from the acceptance of gravity. Body weight falls by placing the Koshi in the proper place.

Pressing too much into the ground using muscle power, creates excessive resistance that hinders the flow of motion. Similarly, too little pressure creates a collapsing body, the horizontal parallel lines between the koshi and the ground are disturbed, and the body begins to ‘waver’ when it is moving.

Suri-ashi has some benefits when you need to reduce the distance between you and your training partner to perform an offensive move from a proper distance. Essentially, you move with a Kamae posture.

Those benefits are:

1) no rocking of the hips,
2) no unnecessary twisting of the upper body
3) no ups and downs of the body.

When I practiced Suri ashi, one leg is pressed downward and the other leg is near empty. The empty leg can move on with help from Koshi. It is called “the use of substantial and non-substantial behaviours”. The exercise is done very slowly, with full focus on weight distribution.

Ki-ai, the sound of energy

With proper posture and breathing, the hara is strengthened and ready to invoke a burst of energy. If it is accompanied by the power of the earth, channeled by Koshi to the arms and hands, effective movements or waza are created. Sometimes the waza is accompanied by a sound or a scream from the bottom of the hara. It is the sound of energy also expressed by famous singers and players of Noh (Noh – the classical Japanese dance theatre).

Ki-aI, the sound of energy is linked to the use of “hakkei”, the skill of instantaneous power. Sometimes “hakkei” may be thought of as an explosive power. Be that as it may, a strong hara is a necessity for the use of Koshi handled by kyokotsu.

Onmyō – Yin/Yang

Our movements are acting by using opposing forces – tension and release. The concept of opposing forces is in Oriental philosophy explained by the well-known words: Yin and Yang, in Japanese: Onmyō.

Pressure (tension) by stepping (unsoku – Suri-ashi and tsugi-ashi) represents the building up of energy, and the distribution and control (release) with the koshi creates efficient movements. The arms and in particular the elbows are controlled with kyokotsu.

When building up pressure or storing power, there is always a flexibility component that represents movement. Let’s take the example of our breath. Inhalation creates pressure or tension and breathing out is the release of pressure or tension. Our respiratory muscles should have high quality flexibility. Tightening these muscles will hinder the efficiency of respiration.

Breathing is a valuable element in the way power is used, distributed by koshi and controlled by kyokotsu. The inhalation pressure and the associated breath, energy, must be distributed in the hara to create a solid foundation. Koshi requires a solid foundation to distribute the power of the earth. If there is no solidity in the koshi, there will be a possibility to hurt the muscles of the Koshi or damage the lower vertebral column..

Tension and release are an expression of the dual forces in the universe. Both elements are constantly in motion and by tension, the movement will stop.

Adding Kyokotsu into the training

Before you can use kyokotsu control, you need to experience kyokotsu. The outcome of the kyokotsu manipulations can be seen in the Koshi movement.

Do not move Koshi deliberately, allow Kyokotsu to do his work, Koshi will move without thinking. Of course, this can only happen when you relax your body and adopt a good posture.

Some examples of kyokotsu movements can be seen in next videoclip.

Tenshikei, diagonal power

Tenshikei, in Chinese called Chansigong or silk reeling, is a topic for another blog post. The correct manipulation of kyokotsu and Koshi is the source of tenshikei or diagonal power. There are drills for developing this kind of power. Here is one simple example. The motion starts with pushing Koshi in the direction of the foot. The heel pushes outward without actually moving. There’s a rebound that goes through the body to the head. In the end, the eyes follow the diagonal path. The body goes back the same way.

Impact Kyokotsu on Koshi

“Never tense koshi.” To do that, you should not become conscious of koshi. Your thinking about koshi will make it tense, and thus, a disconnect between the upper and the lower parts of the body occurs. That is not “using the whole body.”

Hino , Akira . Don’t Think, Listen to the Body!

There are of course several issues when concentrating too much on kyokotsu. When your kyokotsu movement is exaggerated, your shoulders tend to move forward. The result will be a lesser movement within the koshi and/or your neck will be placed unnaturally.

You need to understand that kyokotsu is the center of body motion control. By moving kyokotsu there will be mainly moving in 2 areas of the vertebral column possible.

  • neck region
  • lower back region

Impact of kyokotsu movement on koshi

As the headline of this article suggests, it is the impact of kyokotsu on koshi.

If the kyokotsu is slightly drawn, the lower part of the spine is pushed outwards and downward. The result is the rotation of the pelvis, although the focus is on pulling in the kyokotsu.

Imagine a cord tied to kyokotsu and koshi (lower back). If you move the chord to the kyokotsu, it will affect the pelvis.

Pushing or attacking

When there is the intention to attack or pushing forward, kyokotsu will be pulled in at the beginning of the action. There is the reversal of the basin. But there is also the effect of the opposite isometric tension in the leg. It creates a powerful bounce and is added to the basin ready to be used for attack or push.

Kyokotsu, koshi and rolling feet

Starting from the situation of lifting the arm and preparing for the attack, the use of rolling feet is the method to close the distance to the attack as well as using kyokotsu and koshi.

Haragei, the physical side

Haragei, the art of hara is a concept with a lot of interpretations and is essentially a concept referring mainly in a metaphysical context. There is also a physical aspect when we look at “haragei”. The hara in single words is the part under the diaphragm and consist of “koshi”, “tanden” and “yobu”. In some historical documents written by famous swordmen, the skill of the hara is referred to and even explained how to do it.

The perfect handling of the sword is produced by the integration of three elements: the rotation of the koshi, the diagonal tensions produced by this rotation and the displacement of the body.

Morita Monjuro

Rotation of the koshi, mostly translated as rotation of the hips, is in many cases explained too simple. Rotation is not only in the horizontal plane, but also in a vertical plane. By adding diagonal tension or movement, the rotation of the koshi becomes multidirectional.

Multidirectional movement creates a kind of sphere and can be seen as a balloon in the lower part of the trunk, in other words Hara.

Hara Power is frequently mentioned in publications on Bodywork and Martial Arts. Some of the publications give you a good insight in the development of the Hara. I already wrote some ideas and info on the concept of Hara. But new developments are coming to the surface after daily training and need some explanation.

Where is “hara” localised?

Hara is a 3-part structure in the lower part of the trunk.

  • Koshi
  • Tanden
  • Yobu

The term “koshi” is usually translated either as “kidneys”, or as “hips” or as “pelvis”, but these translations are approximate. Koshi is an area located on the lower back, the opposite of the tanden located in the lower abdomen.
The tanden and the koshi, located on either side of the body, in practice form a whole. Each use of the koshi muscles is transmitted to the tanden by stimulating it by pressure, which positively activates different parts of the nervous system. Yobu is referring to the waist and these muscles will be used for turning action of the trunk.

The muscles of the koshi and the tanden form a unit, but their roles are not the same. The tanden is the centre of the hara and is the place of a relative no-movement. The training of the koshi is synonymous with the training of the tanden.

In our study, Hara will be used in many exercises, especially during Tenshikei movements.
However, a practitioner cannot develop Hara without breathing and the movement and stretching of the respiration-related tissues. Full development of the Hara will include the winding motion of tenshi, rotational internal movement or silk reeling movements. The power generated by tenshi is called tenshikei and is expressed by the movement of the arms or legs.

Mata-股 = 胯 – kua & 裆 – dang

Japanese terminology and Chinese terminology can create some confusion and need some explanation.

The translation of “mata” can be “inner thigh” or “groin”, “crotch”, “femur”……
In our study, reference has to be made in the area around the hip-joint.

In Chinese martial arts and movement methods, 2 words are used to describe the “mata” region.

  • 胯 – kua or kwa
  • 裆 – dang

“Kua” in Chinese has a reference to “hips”. Our waist and hips have to be relaxed and loosened. . Only then can power flow down from the body to the legs and your feet. It helps to give your feet the foundation of your strength. Then your power can build up throughout your entire body.

How to relax or loosen up our hips? During practice, we have to bend our knees, flex (means bend or fold, not tense up) our hip joints, and sit on our legs.

“Dang” means “crotch”, the place where our legs meet the body. Our crotch has to be round like an arch. When our crotch is round and open, we can shift weight more freely. If we make our knee move very slightly closer to each other, our crotch can be made round. You will feel also the heels will go slightly outside. Keep weight on the ball of the feet.

Yobu – Yao

The waist is a part of the Hara and is used during many body movements. For example the turning of the trunk happens more efficiently when the muscles of the waist are used.

The efficient body movement is achieved by integrating the diagonal tensions of the body which cross it from the legs to the arms. By applying this skill, the force spontaneously filled the tanden. The use of the waist is an integral part of a full body movement. This skill can be seen in tenshikei or winding power, a kind of rotational strength.

An example with wooden sword training

To strike correctly from the tanden and the koshi, it is necessary to obtain a perfect handling of the body or a perfect handling of the sword. It is a skill that is produced by the two diagonal forces which go from the right leg to the left arm, and from the left leg to the right arm.
The cutting power of the sword is produced by the integration of the three elements: the rotation of the hara, the diagonal tensions produced by this rotation and the displacement of the body.

The mechanism of sword cutting can be used when you apply atemi to the opponent by using tegatana or other parts of the body to produce a shock into the opponent. It is of course also very effective with some throwing technique like “shomen ate” or “gyaku gamae ate”.

Serape effect and diagonal tension

“Muscles must be placed on their longest length in order to exert their greatest force”

The serape effect is a rotational trunk movement that It stretches the muscles to their greatest length; when this tension is released from these muscles they shorten for the completion of the movement, a greater velocity is applied than had the muscles performed from a normal resting length.

Hara is a key factor in the use of the of diagonal tension, in other words: Tenshikei

The rotation of the pelvic girdle is a part of the tenshi movement and is important for creating a more efficient use of power in the direction of the target. The rotational movement of this large body segment, the trunk, enables a summation of internal forces that is able to be transferred from this large area to a smaller area as such as the arm and the hand for applying force to the opponent.

Conditions for developing “hara” strength

There are some conditions to achieve an efficient exercise

  • Correct breathing (kokyu)
  • Winding movements (tenshi)
  • Relax or loosen up koshi and mata
  • Using intent (I in Japanese – Yi in Chinese)

Correct breathing

Basically, during practise our intent is not on the breathing process. Breathing is an involuntary process. Nevertheless, during exercises, focus can be put on certain aspects of breathing to strengthen the breathing muscles.

During breathing, pulling the perineum is a skill to put pressure on the hara and forces to provide movement to the muscles used for deep breathing. By exerting these muscles become stronger and will support the “tenshi” movements. As a result, tenshikei power becomes more effective and stronger.

Winding movements

Winding movements create a kind of corkscrew strength. This strength does not initiate from the foot. It initiates from the trunk of the body. It transfers down toward the foot when standing, and then it rebounds from the foot back up and on through the body. When sitting in seiza, the same can be performed. The movement start at shoulder level, next a diagonal movement and finished by a movement of the pelvis. Releasing the tension happens in the opposite order.

Relax and loosen up hip joint

It is often said in many dojos: “drop your shoulders”. But if your “koshi” or pelvis is frozen or too weak, you will have difficulties dropping your shoulders. If pelvis are frozen, you cannot bring down your hara, if your pelvis is too weak, you will hold up your hara too high.

Strengthening the koshi and loosen up the hip joints will give support to the hara. Even in a standing or sitting posture, you need the feeling of sitting upon the sit bones.

Using intent

I in Japanese – Yi in Chinese – Yi is mostly translated as “intention” or also as “wisdom mind”. It refers to one’s experience or knowledge base. A practitioner might have a strong spirit, but without good tactics, combat knowledge and martial skills, the practitioner would not be able to fight very effectively.

So, intent is the skill to access your knowledge base which is acquired after successful training. The beginners knowledge base is very limited and using “intent” is very difficult and mentally tiring. After sufficient training, the knowledge base becomes a source derived from all your training experiences.

Practical exercises with diagonal tension

There are many exercises with diagonal tension. Mostly it will depend on the practical use of the exercise in the syllabus of the chosen martial art. In case of Tomiki’s Aikido, Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa is an excellent choice to incorporate diagonal tension.

Keypoints Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa 1

  • Take chidori ashi posture
  • Lift hand above head (jodan)
  • Feel the line between the foot and the hand
  • Lower hand into chudan posture
  • Perform koshi mawari
  • Do not turn the feet and knees
  • Keep your “koshi” flexible but firm

During the 2nd half of the exercise, keep diagonal tension line.

Keypoints Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa 2

  • Start with chidori ashi posture
  • In chudan posture, turn palm upwards
  • Turn waist, keep arm in front of chest
  • Turn palm downwards
  • Turn waist to the front
  • Keep the movement of knees minimal
  • Keep “koshi” flexible but firm

During this exercise, keep diagonal tension line

During the 2nd half of the exercise, keep diagonal tension line. Turning of the waist and diagonal tension generate power into the hand.

Keypoints Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa 3 -part 1

  • Chidori ashi posture
  • Keep the movement of knees minimal
  • Use diagonal tension

Keypoints Tandoku Undo Tegatana Dosa 3 -part 1

  • Chidori ashi posture
  • Using waist without moving feet and knees
  • Use diagonal tension

The impact of the back

When using kyokotsu properly, it will affect koshi and oscillate between 2 positions according to kyokotsu movement.

Normal posture and slightly pulling in arms, kyokotsu is in forward position.

Pushing out arms, kyokotsu is in backward position and tilt the pelvis forward.

Rendo -The art of linking

A “martial art body” is determined by the word “Jukozo” or flexible structure.
When we see how someone is catching a ball, we can get an idea how the body works during a whole body movement.

The synchronisation of the body with the ball is the main concept. Catching with a stiff body will not be very successful in catching the ball.

Developing a flexible structure – Jukozo

This has nothing to do with stretching exercises per se; rather, it has to do with learning to maintain a certain suppleness and adjustability in the body.
By controlling different parts of the body, we can create linked movement segments. The power of Rendo is going further than the power of an isolated movement of the arm.

We can move the arm or we can move the arm as a whole body movement.

Isolated movement = Movement segment

From a scientific point of view, a movement segment is “a functional unit made up of two adjacent articulating surfaces and the connecting tissues binding them together. “

This is for most of us too difficult to understand, we need a more simple and practiacal explanation.

The green dots are 3 centres to create a stable posture.

The yellow dots show the movement segment of the arm.

The red dots show the movement segment of the leg.

Of course, this is very simplified, but it has some practical use for our training.

Whole body movement

Whole body movement is made by linking movement and postural segments and it is called “rendo”. It is not only a physical action, the brain (and its functions) plays also an important role.

Postural Segment

Once again, simplicity is key to success in an entire body movement. Too many details create a malfunction in our brain. Also, understand that there are more than 3 points required to move an arm (or other segment) efficiently. Maybe one time you will feel so many dots that it becomes a flow. Each point during the movement can be handled by your mind… the game of “ki” begins.

Of course, it is not easy to control the linking process. Controlling the mind using “zanshin” or focusing the mind may be the first step of the control process. Zanshin is a skill how to use the mind to control our body and movements. Many martial traditions mention this skill and use the art of standing – Ritsuzen – (ZhanZuang in Chinese arts) to perfect the focusing skill. Ritsuzen is a simplistic method to create Jukozo. Ritsuzen uses three main areas of his body:

  • The Mind residing in the head
  • Sternum
  • Pelvic region

In our research on martial arts training, most methods mention vertical posture as the most favourable to apply a punch or strike to the opponent. Even when working at the office, the upright posture is the healthiest.

Let us examine these centres and begin with the centre of the basin, the pelvic area or hara.

Hara, the pelvic region

The word “hara” is often used to describe the use of power in martial arts training.

Hara can be described either as the physical centre of a human being or as the metaphysical centre.

As part of our training, the hara may be considered the physical centre and it contains the centre of gravity. This is true in most cases, because it is possible that the centre of gravity is somewhere outside our body. The centre of gravity is not fixed in any particular place.

If you’re doing an Internet search, there’s a lot of information out there. And some of this info can be helpful during our training.

  • The balancing, equilibrium, or pivoting point of the body. 
  • It is the point where the sum of all the forces and force  movements acting on the body is zero. 
  • It is the point at which all the weight of the body may be  considered to be concentrated and about which all the  parts exactly balance.

A physical view

When standing, the centre of gravity in the human body is located in the front of the sacrum at the height of the sacral vertebras.

A metaphysical view on hara

In our western culture, the pelvic region has still a kind of taboo. The association with our sex organs makes it difficult to talk about this region. From a metaphysical point of view, the pelvic region is a source of energy. When you have an interest in this matter, I suggest you to look into the many articles on the internet on Traditional Eastern Medicine and Healthy Living.

So, please put aside your taboo thinking and see our pelvic region as an important part of whole body movement.

Kyokotsu, the sternum centre

Like the hara, kyokotsu is a small part of the body which cannot be regarded as a hinge. Basically, it cannot move by itself. Nevertheless, with the help of the surrounding muscles, it is mobile and will affect the spinal column and the attached muscles. Since the spinal cord is involved, it will also influence the use of the hara or pelvic region.

Movements of the arm is not only by using local arm muscles, but it is a process of a whole body movement. By controlling kyokotsu, we can use the muscles of the pelvic region and the attached legs.

Connection between hand and kyokotsu is by determining the “dots” between root, segment and tip.

The Mind

The function of ‘The Mind” is briefly described in another post: “The science of training”.

Previously I mentioned Zanshin or controlling the mind to perfect the skill of focusing the mind. It takes a lot of training time to become skilful and maybe this goes beyond too much the motivation to do a martial art. If you go this path, you cannot ignore the metaphysical part of training.

Many martial sport champions acknowledge the importance of this part of the training. Controlling the mind is a basic skill to create high competence in your art. And this applies also for all sports or professional activities.

On the other hand, if your martial art activity is some kind of social gathering with friends, this is not a mistake but don’t expect a high level performance. Martial arts have different faces, and you can make a choice.

The influence of Chidori ashi

During “corona” time, we manage to do a lot of solo training. Solo training for a prolonged period can change our movements. It is necessary to understand the mechanism behind the changes. This post is an attempt to explain some points I am working on during this “corona” time. I have the opportunity to practice in my Dojo without the danger to get infected by the virus. Most of you will notice the modifications in my ideas for training, after all, life is always changing according to our experiences.

Chidori ashi

The influence of Chidori ashi is a rather complicated and includes more than the placement of the feet. Of course, there is a pattern for foot placement. But we cannot forget the role of the center line, gravity, pelvic tilt and some other elements.

A basic “chidori-ashi” pattern

Hanmi gamae or half posture is a basic stance in many martial arts and it is used in a lot of circumstances.

Chidori ashi is mostly used to have a bigger range of hip/lower back turning: koshi-mawari.

After some training, you will find out your own direction to use hanmi gamae and certainly the benefits of Chidori ashi posture.

The centre line

The centre line is an imaginary vertical line. In general, this line is perpendicular to the floor. The picture of Teruo Fujiwara shows a perfect centre line.

During taijū no dendō (transferring body weight), the center line can tilt a few degrees depending on the conditions.

Offensive Centre line

The first set of the JAA-Tandoku undo – shomen uchi/shomen tsuki – is using the center line in an offensive way. This originates from swordsmanship. When the sword breaks away from the center line, we are vulnerable to an attack from opponent.

Some points to take into account:

The centre line is a straight line in front of the spinal column. Everybody’s spine has a different shape. Some of us bear a natural hollow lower back, others have almost a hunchback.

Center line is not a fixed line in a perpendicular format to the floor. It is possible there is some inclination of the center line. If the inclination is going out of range, we need to do some adjustment to avoid too much tension. See below for this kind of adjustment.

When we learn to move “koshi” or lower back, we will take into account the structure of our spinal column. It is not wise to force our structure into a stance which can result in chronic pain.

Before we perform the movements of tandoku undo tegatana dosa, we must first master the skill of koshi mawari.

Protecting the center line

Both hands are protecting the centre line after adopting a chidori ashi posture.

In his book on Aikido, Senta Yamada made a notice about the importance of the centre line. Yamada sensei is using a hanmi gamae.

Stepping into “kamae” – hanmi kamae or chidori-ashi – has to take into account the important concept of the centre line.

The hands are protecting the own centre line and are pointing towards the opponent’s centre line.

A weapon is protecting your own center line, and on the other hand it is also threathening the center line of opponent.

Angle of inclination

The centre line has on top a direction range of 360°. The angle of the inclination is rather small when standing in shizentai.

The angle will increase when adopting hanmi gamae or Chidori ashi posture in the direction of the posture. The range of movement (forward, backward and turning) is influenced by the placement of the feet. (See below)

During inclination, the role of koshi comes into play for adjustment by using a pelvic tilt.

Pelvic tilt

Koshi mawari is a very complex movement and “pelvic tilt” is a part of a complete koshi mawari.

There are 3 positions of the pelvic:

  • Neutral
  • Posterior pelvic tilt
  • Anterior pelvic tilt

Neutral stance is used in the situation when no action is needed. A posterior pelvic tilt is in general used when the inclination of the body is going forward and we need to make adjustments for applying taijū no dendō. A anterior pelvic tilt is used when we retreat for an incoming power. The anterior pelvic tilt is needed to execute the rotational movement of the body – koshi mawari –

Range of turning movement

By using “chidori ashi” posture, our range for koshi mawari is much larger than for hanmi kamae. Chidori ashi posture opens the front of the koshi more than a basic hanmi gamae. While a basic hanmi gamae has a range of about 135°, chidori ashi posture has a range of about 180°

Range of bodyweight movement

When adopting hanmi gamae or chidori ashi posture, the body weight can move in an efficient way forward, backward and turning. A combination of these 3 actions is possible. There are 3 basic body weight postures, and in each posture we can turn the body. By adding “tsughi ashi” or sliding feet, we create almost unlimited possibilities of movements for offensive or defensive tactics.

  • 2 forward – offensive movement
  • 3 neutral
  • 4 backward – defensive movement

Taijū no dendō and gravity

Basically the center line and gravity are in the same area, but it is possible to have a small inclination depending on the situation. For example, just before a strike or a push is applied, the body moves a little forward to put body weight on the ball of the front foot. Releasing this tension will rebound the power stored in the tension. A pelvic tilt is needed to transmit the power of gravity (stored in the tension of the front foot) into the opponent. The line of gravity is moving forward to keep the body up.

Forward movement

The body in the previous picture has an egg shape. If you generate a mental image of an egg shaped central body, you will feel and understand the interaction of the pelvic tilt, the center line and gravity. The influence of Chidori ashi and the associated elements becomes apparent if you practice this on a regular footing.

Partner practise

It its necessary to use partner practise to experience the influence of your solo training. In “corona time”, weapon training can be a solution. This will be a theme for another “post”.

The effect of koshi-mawari

There is an interesting aspect on the integration of koshi -mawari in our martial art movements. The range of our movements becomes greater when integrating koshi-mawari.

The skill of koshi-mawari is defined by 3 major aspect:

  • use of chidori-ashi
  • vertical turning of koshi
  • horizontal turning of koshi

There are more aspect in koshi-mawari, but lets keep it simple, if this is possible, and only discuss the 3 major aspects to make the range of the movement greater. Making the range greater is not performed by overstretching the arm, or leaning into the direction of the target. The vertical and horizontal turning of the koshi has a dramatically increase of the range.

By using a sword the range of a cut can be visually presented.

Kiri-oroshi – a vertical cut with the sword

This is “kiri-oroshi” or vertical cut. Of course each “style” has a special flavour, but in general most of the cutting is according this method. Mostly, the head of opponent is the target. If the cut is lower, there is the possibility to cut the wrist or other target.

Chudan no kamae with vertical koshi-mawari

When talking about koshi-mawari, mostly a horizontal turn is considered. Vertical turn of the koshi is more difficult to perform and need a lot of training. The example here is of course a little exaggerated, but it expressed visually the vertical turn of the koshi.

Remark also, there is no change in the position of the sword when performing the vertical turn.

From chidori-ashi to shumoku-ashi

Adopting chidori-ashi no kamae with vertical koshi turning, and again some exaggeration to illustrate the vertical turn.

From chidori-ashi to shumoku-ashi, the range becomes greater. The supplemental range is about the size of the sword part for kiri-oroshi to the target (head).

Koshi-mawari is using a horizontal & verical turn of the koshi.

Integration koshi-mawari in kiri-oroshi

Performing kiri-oroshi while using koshi-mawari (horizontal & vertical turn of koshi) will greatly improve the range, but also an improvement in power generation by using a full body concept.

Tai-jutsu and koshi mawari

Using koshi-mawari (horizontal & vertical turn of koshi) when performing tai-jutsu (unarmed techniques) will have the same effect as the use of koshi-mawari during armed techniques (sword, spear or stick).

Koshi-mawari & sotai-dosa

The main ways of moving the body and hands were picked from Aiki skills, then simplified and abstracted and  organized as the exercise forms.

Teruo Fujiwara

In the Tomiki system, the use of solo-exercises and paired exercises are incorporated into the training method. Originally it was called Judo Taiso or Yawara Taiso and the purpose was to introduce judo students to Aiki-arts.

It was Senta Yamada who brought Judo Taiso/Yawara Taiso to the UK in the late 50-ties/early 60-ties. Most of his teaching are forgotten due to the focus too much on the sporting side of Tomiki Aikidō. Nevertheless, Judo Taiso is very valuable to understand Koryu no kata.

The creation of “Judo Taiso” (Judo Gymnastics)

The time when I studied under Tomiki-shihan in 1956-1958 is called ‘the age of Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso). The main ways of moving the body and hands were picked from Aiki skills, then simplified and abstracted and  organized as the exercise forms.  These forms are ‘Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso). The plan of making ‘Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso) is that by doing them repeatedly, we can learn Aiki as if we learned hundreds of thousands of skills which can benefit our bodies in a positive fashion. . ‘Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso) is the valuable legacy of Tomiki-sensei.

Around 1950-1952, Kenji Tomiki developed  a training-system for the many aiki-jutsu techniques. It was called judo taiso or judo gymnastics. This training-system was created according to the judo principles, (Judo Taiso 1954 by Kenji Tomiki) and includes 11 solo exercises (Tandoku Undo) and 8 partner exercises (Sotai Undo)

What is Judo Taiso? 

Judo taiso is a modern gymnastic training-system to learn atemi waza (striking techniques) and kansetsu waza (joint techniques). These fundamental  movements  are the expression of the power and rhythm in atemi waza and kansetsu waza.

Tandoku Undo are exercises to develop good posture and balance. Judo principle shizentai-no–ri (principle of natural posture) is clearly expressed in these exercises. The use of the handblade is a reflection of the many aiki-jutsu atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza learned from Morihei Ueshiba. 

  • Tegatana soho 1 : Kihon no kamae – Fundamental posture, power is concentrated in tegatana (1)
  • Tegatana soho 2 : Uchi mawashi – Inside sweep (2-3)
  • Tegatana soho 3 : Soto mawashi – outside sweep (4-5)
  • Tegatana soho 4 : Uchi gaeshi – soto gaeshi – Inside turn and outside turn(6-9)
  • Tegatana soho 5 : Uchi mawashi tentai – Inside sweep with forward turning (demawari) (10-11)
  • Tegatana soho 6 : Soto mawashi tentai – Outside sweep with backward turning (hikimawari) (12-15)
  • Tegatana soho 7 : Ko mawashi – Compact method of tegatana soho 2 and 3 (16)
  • Tegatana soho 8 : O mawashi – Big turning forward and backward (17-22)

List provided by Senta Yamada

Sotai undo – 8 partner exercises

In paired exercises the primary concept is the relationship with the partner/opponent and the way of controlling the partner/opponent by using the different tegatana-soho.

  • Aigamae or regular facing posture
  • Gyaku gamae or reverse facing posture
  • Hineri or inward turning of partner/opponent body (or body part)
  • Gaeshi or outward turning of partner/opponent body (or body part)

NrName techniqueGrip to wrist (*)Movement of tegatana
1Ai gamae ude hineriUra doriSoto gaeshi
2Gyaku gamae ude hineriOmote doriUchi gaeshi
3Ai gamae ude gaeshiOmote doriUchi mawashi
4Gyaku gamae ude gaeshiUra doriSoto mawashi
5Ai gamae tenkai ude hineriOmote doriSoto mawashi tenkai
6Gyaku gamae tenkai ude hineriUra doriUchi mawashi tenkai
7Ai gamae tenkai ude gaeshiOmote doriUchi mawashi tenkai
8Gyaku gamae tenkai ude gaeshiUra doriSoto mawashi tenkai

* Omote dori : grip to wrist on inside – Ura dori : grip to wrist on outside

Koshi-mawari and sotai dosa

Koshi-mawari is in general translated as turning the hips. From previous posts we know this is not correct. Koshi-mawari is a very complex way of moving with the lower torso. Koshi-mawari can be considered as the movement of a ball (kyūten*)

Kyūten – 球転 Ball rolling, ball rotation

In Chinese martial arts, the concept of Dantian and Chan Si Gong (silk reeling exercises) is related to kyūten and tenshi & tenshikei.

1- Ai-gamae ude hineri

From “Judo Taiso” book

Below: from 1950 movie

*

Tomiki’s Movie around 1950

Senta Yamada performing sotai dosa “Ai gamae ude hineri”

The originals by Kenji Tomiki for this sotai dosa (1), give no indication of a focus on Koshi-mawari. When watching the performance of Senta Yamada, an early disciple of Kenji Tomiki and Morihei Ueshiba, we can see some indications of using koshi. There are many examples of Yamada sensei, where he is using koshi-mawari. Unfortunately he did fail to explain how to perform “koshi-mawari”.

2- Gyaku-gamae ude hineri

From “Judo Taiso” book

*

Tomiki’s Movie around 1950

In Tomiki’s original from the movie, we can see how he is using chidori-ash and the associated koshi-mawari.

3- Ai-gamae ude gaeshi

From “Judo Taiso” book

*

Tomiki’s Movie around 1950

4- Gyaku-gamae ude gaeshi

From “Judo Taiso” book

*

Tomiki’s Movie around 1950

5- Ai gamae tenkai ude hineri

From “Judo Taiso” book

*

Tomiki’s Movie around 1950

6- Gyaku gamae tenkai ude hineri

From “Judo Taiso” book

*

Tomiki’s Movie around 1950

7- Ai gamae tenkai ude gaeshi

From “Judo Taiso” book

*

Tomiki’s Movie around 1950

8- Gyaku gamae tenkai ude gaeshi

From “Judo Taiso” book

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Tomiki’s Movie around 1950

Extra Kihon developped by Kenji Tomiki

In Tomiki’s early movie, under the chapter “kihon-waza” he demonstrated 4 extra kihon-waza.

Ude gaeshi rotation

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Ude gaeshi rotation

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Ten-Chi

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Haishin Undo

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Integrating Koshi Mawari

This is a sequel on “Aikidō: A Matrix Budō“. We will go deeper into the movements of the koshi, namely koshi mawari. The skill of koshi-mawari is practised at the first place with solo-exercises: tandoku undo.

During a seminar (March 2007), Fumiaki Shishida – JAA-Shihan re-introduced the concept of chidori-ashi.

  1. Unsoku (Shumoku-ashi 3 basics, Chidori-ashi, Denden-daiko)
  2. Quick posture change from natural posture
  3. Tegatana-awase (including the principle of Japanese swordsmanship)
  4. Shotei-awase (Skill to stop the partner.)
  5. Applications (Balance breaking with chidori-ashi, Relaxation from a hand sword)

Shisei or Postures

There are many kind of postures. Each Budō form has his own postures. But there are elements which can be found in each Budō form. A good posture allows maximum efficiency in terms of time and space. Posture is not static, there are always movements in the body to adjust balance and preparation to generate power.

Posture based upon “chidori ashi” will give you a better efficiency in generating coiling or wrapping power (tenshikei). The engine for such kind of power is “koshi mawari” which can be translated as: turning koshi.

When koshi rotates, the opponent is dominated by this rhythm. He has to follow against his will. He experiences the defeat as a non-violent, pleasant experience. That is precisely why it means losing with a smile on your lip.

It must be borne in mind that the arms and legs together with koshi always form a unity of movements. This is called “rendo“.

Feet positions in postures

Shizentai – Neutral Posture

Shizentai or neutral posture can be used as a meditative posture. It is also a posture to have the idea of “ready to start training”.

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Shumoku (shimoku) Ashi Posture

Shumoku or shimoku are 2 words for the same concept of foot position in an on-guard posture.

Shumoku originally the wooden bell hammer, a beam that is attached to Japanese bells at right angles. This way of stepping is frequently used with tsugi ashi or shuffle. Remark the 2 pattern: L-position and T-position. Both position will be used when hamni-gamae or sideway posture is adopted. The T-position is more convenient for hito-e-i posture, L-posture will give you a more slightly frontal posture. Sometimes, the front foot is slightly open? Although we speak about posture, we must understand the dynamics of this posture and the methods of changing positions in relation with oppponent.

Kenji Tomiki: It is good to wait in mugamae (shizentai) and to assume hanmi (shumoku ashi posture) as the opponent enters.

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Chidori Ashi Posture

Feet position or stepping named after a bird of the same name (chidori=plover), the traces of which resemble those of the feet-position turned outwards.

The chidori foot position differs from the Shumoku position, the front foot is open. Shumoku is not very suitable for our koshi-mawari purposes. Chidori ashi is the perfect method to excellent in koshi-mawari

The front foot turns slightly outward in relation to the direction of the target, the back foot follows at a 90 degree angle to the front foot position. The resulting angle of the front foot of 15 to 45 degrees in relation to the centerline causes the koshi to turn and to lower.

This posture gives an excellent opportunity to perform: “koshi-mawari”. Changing from shumoku ashi into chidori ashi is simple:

  • Turn front foot open
  • Drop bodyweight more into back foot.
  • Turn body almost complete frontal.

Shumoku ashi and chidori ashi can be used to perform unsoku-ho (foot movements).

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Shumoku Ashi Gamae

Such a posture will be mostly used during “katachi” or “kata” performances. Bodyweight is more to the back foot. Under the heel of the front foot is an opening of about 1or 2 mm.

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Chidori Ashi Gamae

By assuming this posture, the performance of koshi-mawari will be much better.

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Chidori ashi and koshi-mawari

Koshi-mawari can be performed at any time without a break, when your koshi is lowered sufficiently, with slightly springy knees. This makes it easier to react spontaneously to changes in any situation. If koshi does not lower in itself, so that one is only stiff and rock-solid, the chidori position cannot be performed. One speaks of a “lifeless”, that is to say an non-energetic position or a stiff kamae. Koshi-mawari and chidori are mutually dependent. If you fail to combine the koshi rotation with the chidor foot position, you run the risk of defeat.

So, we first adopt the chidori postion, let the koshi sink and perform koshi-mawari. Easy, isn’t it.

Hiraki

The term basically describes a lateral “opening” of the body, which, however, should not be confused with simply evading. The starting position is the left or right basic position. Koshi is now turning (without the upper body) in the opposite direction, which means that as soon as you release the resulting tension in the body and combine it with a small step, you come to a slightly laterally offset position next to the baseline without the movement jerky approach. A maximum 15 ° angling is enough to distance yourself from the opponent’s line of attack. It shouldn’t be any more so that the opponent cannot recognize it.
Hiraki uses the ball principle. A ball can rotate freely in a direction from a push or push, depending on the angle of impact, be it horizontally or vertically or in a combination of both directions also in a spiral shape.

Tandoku undo – Taisabaki

Tandoku-undo is just a name for solo-exercises and can have different names depending on the puspose of the exercises. Also, the content of tandoku-undo can also be very different, depending on the school you are practising martial art. As a beginner this is very confusing, the skill is to find out the principles and apply them in the exercises.

Another name for tandoku undo is Taisabaki: the moving body.

All actions have to be seen as an implementation of the free moving body concept. Therefore, tandoku undo or taisabaki regarded as a free moving body movements, should never be neglected as it is a practice for acquiring the principle of yawara, jū or aiki.

Although tandoku undo or taisabaki do not yet result in any techniques, if you train the body in the way the koshi-mawari moves, this has a decisive advantage when it comes to performing specific waza (techniques).

It is a great challenge to integrate “koshi mawari” into Tandoku undo or Taisabaki. Basically the first step to do is integrating chidori ashi posture. Next step is to become familiar with koshi and tanden, the lower part of the central body. This is not easy and will take a few years to become aware.

Koshi mawari is not about turning the hips, there is much more going on. As a reminder, it should be repeated again: in Budō it is very important that the movements are smooth and flexible (yawara). It is best achieved on the basis of the koshi-mawari, i.e. freely rotatable koshi. There is no other way to succeed than to acquire these flowing, spherical, horizontal and vertical rotations. The way there just leads over taisabaki.

Tandoku undo/Taisabaki Points

  • dropping the bodyweight
  • smooth movements
  • stretching the body
  • rotation start with waist movement
  • using diagonal tension (Monjuro Morita concept*)
  • …..

*Monjuro Morita (1889-1978)

Koshi-rotation

Adapted from Kenji Tokitsu book : Miyamoto Mushashi, Myth & Reality

The perfect handling of the sword is produced by the integration of three elements: the rotation of koshi (koshi-mawari), diagonal tension produced by this rotation and displacement of the body.

Traditionally, displacement in tandoku undo is done in a straight line forward. In relation with an opponent, this is of course a mistake. There are basically 3 mistakes (no koshi-turn, left and right koshi-turn without displacement) when considering the integration of koshi into tandoku undo.

To avoid such mistakes, moving slightly of the central line is a solution.

Integration of such an evasion makes the exercise much more difficult. Students have to think in the beginners-phase on many things.

The moving off the central line when introducing foot displacements can be done later when student understand tegatana and koshi movements (see again Morita Monjuro advice about using koshi and diagonal tension).

Tandoku undo – taisabaki

When integrating koshi-mawari into tandoku undo – tegatana no godosa, some adjustements has to be done. Koshi-mawari is often mentioned in explanations, but it is not often seen in demonstrations of katachi, kata or randori.

How to perform a “simple” koshi-mawari

Tegatana no godosa

Originally, Tomiki sensei introduced 5 methods to use tegatana. Those movements are integrated into tandoku undo taisabaki. When introducing the student into the 5 methods with the help of tandoku undo taisabaki, we can start without the foot displacement for tandoku 1 to 3. The integration of koshi maware together with the tegatana movements will be in such a case much more easier.

Starting position for tandoku undo tai sabaki.

Tandoku undo 1

Practising tandoku undo 1 can be done in 2 ways

  • With displacement
  • Without displacement

An example without displacement and turning footwork:

An example with displacement:

Tandoku undo 1

Shōmen-uchi, striking with tegatana from above or from below to the center line of the opponent.

There are different methods to practise.

  • Staying on the central line
  • Moving away from the central line
  • Moving forward
  • Moving backward
  • other…..

Use koshi-mawari when preparing for a strike. This is creating a kind of tension in the body (tenshikei) and can be used as spiral power.

This tandoku undo has many purposes and can be called a multi-purpose skill. Basically there are 3 kinds of skill:

  • Study of “kamae”
  • From jodan gamae attack or defence using shomen-uchi (striking)
  • From gedan gamae attack or defence using shomen-utsu (punching)

Tandoku undo 2

Yokomen-uchi, striking with tegatana to the side of opponent (head, arm,…). This yokomen-uchi has 2 modes: uchi-mawashi and soto-mawashi.

Tandoku undo 3

Tandoku undo 4

Tandoku undo 5

Tandoku undo 6

Tandoku undo 7

Ukimi – The floating body

A lightness of the body, a feeling of complete weightlessness, hovering sensation of the body that is established by koshi-mawari.

When we practise with our without a partners, we must always be ready to use both legs or feet to move. The skill of taijū no dendō is putting the weight in the koshi, not in the legs or feet. If the weight is in the koshi and we move with koshi-mawari and/or unsoku, a feeling of weightlessness will fill the body. An eventually partner will feel almost nothing and his bodyweight will dropp into the floor. Of course if he has the same skill, a different game has to be played. This game is called: hyoshi.

An example of using chidori ashi & koshi-mawari

Tenshikei or coiling power

Coiling movements

In Aikido, many movements have a “coiling”** effect. Mostly we speak about tenshikei, but of course not all body rotation will create tenshikei or coiling power. Some of the body rotations will create angular momentum.

Tenshi is an internal method to create coiling power. Angular momentum is more an external method to create power. Sometimes both systems are overlapping and create a hybrid power – external and internal. To create tenshikei or coiling power, we need space for our winding and unwinding. For angular momentum we use mostly a method of footwork called demawari and hikimawari.

**coiling : arrange or wind (something long and flexible) in a joined sequence of concentric circles or rings.

If you understand “tenshi” or internal body rotation you will understand the concept of coiling power. In fact, this is a basic skill and everybody can learn how to use tenshikei (coiling power). There is of course, as usual, a problem.
We rely on training to improve on our actions, but we have to leave entirely to faith that our system will make the right connections to recruit and align the body internally. Even with hard practice, we can sometimes hit a wall, unable to progress. Some talented people have no problems with controlling the body. Other have to rely on training and creating patterns in the brain. The difficulty is in the stubbornness of the muscles set by bad habits.

Slow movement

By doing a correct movement in a slow manner, we can overcome bad habits with a lot of training and focus.
Is this true?
Slow movement is mostly done with the conscious mind. We know our goal is to move with the subconscious mind. Why then we have to move slowly with our conscious mind?
The objective is not to master how slowly we can execute a movement, but to create body-skills and storing them in the subconscious mind.
The body tends to recruit muscles immediately to the action, namely, the muscles of the arm and shoulders to do the work, not incorporating those of the other parts of the body and not coordinating between the left and the right. This is for non-trained people mostly the work of the subconscious mind. The conscious mind has to make a pattern which can be stored in the subconscious mind, ready for immediate action with full body movement.

Slow movement creates body-skills and by storing them in the subconscious mind, they are available for immediate action when necessary

Coiling movement exercises

There are numerous exercises for creating the skill of tenshi.
7-hon no kuzush (omote & ura) can be used to create “tenshikei or coiling power”. This power can be used after the creation of balance disturbing. Throwing or controlling an opponent is the skill of tenshikei.

The kyokotsu exercises are a start to create the skill for using coiling power. It takes at least 2-3 years on a daily basis to feel the existence of coiling power into your body. After this feeling experience, it takes countless training hours to use it for throwing or controlling an opponent in a structured training environment.

Tenshi around skeletonTenshi is winding the tissue (muscles, tendons, fascia…) around the skeletal bones. Tenshikei is unwinding or releasing the power stored in the tissue.

The fascia is a kind of connective tissue where a lot of power can be stored and released. The fascia network is enveloping the entire body and is an important body network for developing “rendo”.

Info on fascia consult Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascia

The picture is from Akira Hino’s book “Don’t think, listen to the body!”

7-hon no kuzushi as a coiling movement exercise

To understand fully this exercise, you need an understanding of tandoku undo (tegatana dosa). Tegatana dosa solo-exercises give you  the necessary body skills to perform the balance disturbing.
Tandoku undo can be practised by 2 ways

  • using kyokotsu for controlling the spine
  • or without using kyokotsu

With kyokotsu as the control centre, the coiling power can be stored into the connective tissue around the spine, the torso, arms and legs. The control of the kyokotsu is needed to create an internal movement.

Without the kyokotsu control, the body movement is depending on local muscle power or locomotive power generated by foot movement. Locomotive power is not always possible by the lack of space. Using local muscle power is easily detected by an opponent.

The complete 7-hon no kuzushi (omote & ura) will be covered in a separate article. Here an example to introduce the coiling movement mechanism.

chudankuzushi coiling

Using “uchi gaeshi” movement (tandoku undo movement), turn upper body slightly in the direction of uchi gaeshi. Put power in the tanden by pushing koshi down and forward. The curve of the lower back becomes more straight. This is necessary for pushing power. Use the waist (yōbu) for more turning. At the end of the turning, you have a lot of “tenshikei” to release.

The “basics” for using yōbu is studied in yōbu-walking. The “basics” for tenshikei is studied in kyokotsu exercises.