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.

The relationship with “Noh”

Japanese martial arts like Budo Aikido have a lot of common with Japanese and Chinese performing arts like Noh, Kabuki or Chinese Opera. Those cultural arts have a history which spans more than 700 years. The ideas of training in Noh or Chinese Opera can be usefull for modern martial arts. In our bodywork, kyokotsu, koshi, yōbu and tanden have the most important role in training.

250px-Noh-Hayashi

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

From an article by Ashley Thorpe

Observations on the importance of the yao/koshi to the actor in Japanese no ̄ and Chinese jingju (‘Beijing opera’)

Ki or chi/qi

Energy may be considered as a culturally specific phenomenon, but there is correspondence between no ̄ and jingju. In Chinese, qi can mean breath, air or spirit, but it is also a technical term used in traditional Chinese medicine to refer to a vital life energy. The conception of qi as referring to the energy of the actor is in evidence in jingju, as Jo Riley explains:
Qi means more than mere breath control. A performer who has qi is considered to be ‘in-spired’, moved by a special kind of energy or filled with presence. During training, the master will often point to the student’s abdomen and demand that the student draw up his qi. This is the heart or residence of qi, the undefined and indefinable centre of the human body from which presence( force) flows.
Shelley Fenno Quinn has suggested that qi [in Japanese, ki, 気] was used by Zeami Motokiyo (c.1363-c.1443) to describe the technique of the no ̄ actor in producing his voice.

Basic training

The focus on basic training automatically raises significant differences between the two forms. In no ̄, an actor develops through the learning of kata [型], movement patterns that form the basis of plays. Techniques that might be regarded as basic, such as kamae [構え] and suriashi [摺り足], underpin all kata, are used on stage in performance, and thus cannot easily be demarcated as a distinct set of basic training exercises (even though these techniques might still be described as the ‘basics [’基本]). Incontrast, jingju has training explicitly conceptualised as jiben gong [基本功], ‘basic techniques’that are only practised off-stage, but nevertheless are central to underpinning the quality of movement on-stage. Jiben gong includes exercises designed to cultivate specific skills, fitness and endurance in the actor, including in the yao [腰] ‘lower abdomen and thighs’, tui [腿] ‘legs’, taibu [台 化] ‘stage walking’, yuanchang [垈 魁] lit.‘circular course’, a training exercise in which the actor practices fast stage walking by repeatedly circling around the room, shanbang [山膀] ‘mountain arms’, yunshou [云 手] ‘cloud hands’, tanzigong [毯子功] lit.‘carpet training ’but meaning the conditioning of the body for acrobatics, and bazigong [把子功] ‘weapons training’. Thus, jingju performers do not begin by studying particular plays or characters, but by focussing on how these foundational skills and movements should be mastered. Once central aesthetic ideas are understood and the body has become accustomed to the demands placed upon it, jiben gong is extended according to the conventional requirements of one of four role types in which the actor may specialise: male [生], female [旦], painted face [昌], and clown [丑]. A professional actor must have technique “inside the heart” (xinli you, 心里有), a state fully achieved only by solid training in jiben gong as a child, and further consolidated throughout adulthood. Thus, the conceptualisation of the ‘basics’ and its relationship to the actual material performed on stage is different in each form.

Building presence (kigurai) – harnessing tension: the significance of yao/koshi 

In no ̄ and jingju, I have experienced energy emanating from the lower section of the trunk of the torso (yo or koshi in Japanese, yao in Chinese). The term yao/koshi is difficult to neatly translate into English. 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.
In my own experiences of training, although I can locate the central locus of energy reasonably precisely to a specific area of the body, I would never describe it as only element of the lower trunk working to produce, support and distribute energy. I find the yao/koshi to exist as a kind of ‘interconnectedness’ between the skeletal and muscular structures in the lower section of the torso. For instance, in no ̄, I find that the locus of energy emanates from the base of the spine. Yet, tension is also achieved by pushing the base of the spine inwards and extending the hips backwards, creating a solid central focus of compressed energy around the lower back more generally, which is then forced further downwards. Indeed, teachers have often stressed to me the importance of having good koshi, which supports the basic kamae stance. In jingju, energy is considered to emanate from an area described as the dantian [丹田], an ‘energy centre’ situated towards the front of the waist just below the navel which is also cited in relation to Chinese martial arts, Qigong, and Taiji. Basic exercises aim to strengthen the yao as a means to cultivate stamina and suppleness in the dantian, which, in turn, supports all movement, from walking, to gesturing, to acrobatics.

Tenshikei – rotational body movement

Tenshikei

spiral line012Tenshikei is the Japanese term for chan shi jin or silk reeling, a skill in Internal Chinese martial arts. The name derives from the twisting and spiralling movements of the silkworm as it wraps itself in its cocoon and the pulling off the silk from the coccoon. The body is imitating this by winding and unwinding movements.

Tenshikei uses the diagonal tension and releasing of the muscles and tendons in the central body. Tension and releasing are controlled by the kyokotsu.
Kyokotsu as a control centre of the movement, uses the tanden,koshi and yōbu as the stability platform.

Hara – Tanden, Koshi & Yōbu

Basically Hara is the lower part of the central body. Mostly it is translated as “belly” or “abdomen”.

  • Koshi means the area of the hips. It also includes the lower back.
  • Tanden is a point below the navel, loosely translated as the energy centre (Chinese medicine and martial arts). It is the focus point for internal techniques and exercises.
  • Yōbu is the waist area. The Chinese word is Yao. The waist is the part of the abdomen between the rib cage and hips.

In our study, Hara will be used in many exercises, especially during Tenshikei.
When the body moves, the Tanden is the centre and is the place of a relative no-movement.
The muscles associated with koshi and yōbu will be used to start movements. There are other methods to start movement like using gravity, but this is discussed elsewhere in this study.

Morita Monjuro (1889-1978)
Famous Japanese swordman wrote some interesting notes on the relationship between tanden and koshi in hitting with a sword.

The striking at a single pace: the tanden and koshi by which all kind of strikes are possible

Tanden and the musculature of the koshi form a unity, but their roles are not the same. The tanden controls the koshi. The training of koshi is synonymous with the training of the tanden, center of the body, and thus it becomes a training of body and mind … We can say the training of each technique strengthen the muscles of the koshi and the tanden. Which has almost the same effect as to strengthen the tanden practicing zazen. If the practice remains at a mere technical manipulation, the effect can not be the same. By producing the art of the koshi and tanden, we can strengthen our mind and body.
To hit properly from the tanden and koshi, we must use a perfect structured body and a perfect handling of the sword. This is a gesture that is produced in accordance with the two forces that go diagonally right leg left arm, left leg and right arm.
The perfect handling of the sword is produced by the integration of three elements:

1. the rotation of koshi
2. diagonal tension produced by this rotation
3. displacement of the body

Twisting and untwisting

In a basic format the twisting of the upper body will follow a certain sequence.

  1. Turn the shoulder line. Keep gankyo bappai **
  2. Turn the body along the diagonal line.
  3. Turn the pelvis line.***

Feel the spiral movement in the body. Avoid muscular tension by pulling the muscles, the tension you feel is the result of the twisting

Untwisting follows the reverse sequence.

** Gankyōbappai (含胸抜背).
This is a phrase used to describe the postural adjustment at the chest level (Empty the chest & Pull out the back ). Keep the concave shape of the chest and stretch the spine to widen the back. Important is not to tense the muscles.

***Turning the pelvis line is only possible when the “mata” or “kwa” is flexible and not tensed up. If you cannot make the groin soft, you will not make the full twisting movement.

Tenshikei solo exercise – twisting and untwisting

rolling tanden01

Using a modified kyokotsu exercise – see earlier.
The arrows show the direction of the movements.
Don’t tense the muscles, just release the tension when turning to the other side.
The exercise is “one” continuous movement.

Tenshikei and force

Twisting and untwisting creates force, this force can be transmitted into the opponent.

Tenshikei lines

Partner exercises are an example for applying twisting and untwisting.
In the example the force of twisting and untwisting will be transmitted by extending the arm and creates the opportunity to apply “oshi taoshi” or pushing down.
Extending the arm and putting the weight into the opponent will create “hakkei” or sudden power.

Tenshikei from the lower body

tenshikei lower body

The body is a system which includes also legs, feet…. To create a full-body tenshikei, we must take out the tension of the knee.

The lower part of the central body will become involved in a full-body tenshikei.

See example : Bring the bodyweight on the the right foot, take out the tension of the right knee. Make a full tenshikei by moving the shoulder line, the diagonal lines and the pelvis line.

Both shoulders should be moved as 1 unit.

Ido-ryoku

Ido-ryoku can be  translated as ‘locomotive power”. When we grasp the arm of the opponent we can move our body a certain distance, this creates some power called momentum.

In Newtonian mechanics, linear momentum, translational momentum, or simply momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object. It is a three-dimensional vector quantity, possessing a magnitude and a direction. (Wikipedia)

Another meaning, although related to the previous one, ido has the idea of “shift”. It is not always necessary to move the feet. Body weight shifting (taijū no idō) is a method to produce power without the use of the feet.

 

Ido-ryoku is the effectiveness of “physical movement” that works even without a locomotive power in a mutual relation between two practitioners. (Prof. Shishida – Aikido Lecture & Seminar at the 11th TAIN International Festival / 2015 Aikido World Championships On Thursday October 22, 2015.)