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

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

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.

Shotei-awase, improving expansive force

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 martial arts concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Expansive force

Expansive force is not to be mistaken for contractive force. Expansive force is the result of the utilization of mental power (intention) and muscle tone.

Muscle tone is defined as the tension in a muscle at rest. It is the muscle’s response to an outside force. For example, gravity can be regarded as an external force and affect the balance of our body. The muscle tone in the correct position keeps us in a vertical position without losing balance.

Gravity is a vertical force that affects our body. During our daily behaviour, it is not only gravity that acts on our body, but other force actors applies forces against our body. Travelling on public transport gives you the chance to feel external forces in every direction. Everyone has a skill to survive a trip with the train or metro, and this skill is based on expansive force.

During martial art training, external forces act on you in a different way than travelling by train or metro. Building expansive strength skills in martial art require additional training.

Intent and muscle tone

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.

Do not confuse “using intent” with a sort of “magical thought”. You cannot control your enemy simply by using mental power. Intention is to use your mental potency to regulate muscle tone in the most effective way. When using a flexible, non-contractive, powerful image, your mind will adjust the correct muscle tone.

Zanshin

“Looking” referred to the ordinary way in which we are accustomed to perceive the world, while “seeing” entailed a very complex process by virtue of which a man of knowledge allegedly perceives the “essence” of the things of the world.

A Separate Reality  by Carlos Castaneda 

Zanshin, the ability to see the adversary.

Mental control can be practiced while “ritsuzen” or standing exercise. Focusing your mind is not the same as attaching your mind to something, dynamic spot or static spot. A good way to practice focusing the mind is using your metsuke or the way of seeing the (imaginary) opponent. As you observe your opponent, you will see everything within your field of vision. It’s called “having zanshin”. Zanshin is a physiological sense directed by the mind, without focusing on anything.

Kenji Tomiki mentioned in “Goshin Jutsu” the concept of peripheral vision. Look at the face of the opponent and see his totality.

When practising tanto-randori (Tomiki style), you don’t look at the tanto, but look at his face. You will “feel” the start of his movement.

Something technical

When we speak of shotei-awase, we usually have the basic form in our mind. But actually, shotei-awase is to make a connection with your shotei or palm base to an opponent’s body part. It may be concluded that tegatana-awase is a form of shotei-awase.

Using shotei as a part of tegatana-awase

Basic form, as an isometric exercise

The basic form is performed mainly like an isometric exercise.

Isometric exercises are contractions of a particular muscle or group of muscles. During isometric exercises, the muscle doesn’t noticeably change length and the affected joint doesn’t move. Isometric exercises help maintain strength. They can also build strength, but not effectively.

We aim to improve the expansive force. This is only possible if we stretch our muscles, tendons and fascia. By practicing all forms of shotei-awase, it is necessary to begin with a body image in expansion. A body in expansion is a kind of stretching with proper muscle tone. In fact, it can be referred to as a pull/push action.

Eccentric force

“An eccentric (lengthening) muscle contraction occurs when a force applied to the muscle exceeds the momentary force produced by the muscle itself, resulting in the forced lengthening of the muscle-tendon system while contracting.” and  “Eccentric contractions require less motor unit activation and consume less oxygen and energy for a given muscle force than concentric contractions.”

“Greater forces are generated during eccentric contraction compared to other contraction types for a given angular velocity.”

While eccentric exercises may be compared to expanding strength exercises, they are not the same thing. A major factor in force expansion is creating an image. In a more holistic manner, the expansion of force is only possible if you can extend your “ki”.

Although Koichi Tohei is treated by many Aikido practitioners as someone who does “a different brand” (or some other minmization), Tohei had some innovative ideas that I think the other styles would do well to borrow, particularly in light of the recent (and very late) realization that many of the “ki” things Tohei speaks of are substantive and they are essential components of Aikido techniques.

by Mike Sigman, internal force researcher

Examples Shotei-awase

The basic form of shotei-awase can be used to enhance the use of expanding power. When using shotei-awase as an isometric exercise, the forces applied by both practitioners are used as opposing forces. In order to enhance the expansive power, we must maintain our structure in an optimal posture. Using good muscle tone and an image of the body as a transport vehicle, the way of power will be from hand to rear foot.

There is a major danger, the rear leg acts sometimes as a brake, which destroys the use of expansive power. It is advisable to let the force flow through the body. An equilibrium of forces is created without excessive contractive force.

The skill of expansive force can be practiced in a variety of situations. Sometimes the same foot is ahead, in other cases an inverse position will be used. But the principle behind the expansive force still stands.will be used. But the principle behind expansive force remains.

You do not require anyone to practice shotei awase. Pushing against the wall replaces one partner/opponent. Of course, a partner/opponent may vary the manner of pushing or resisting. The variation will be beneficial. Nonetheless, a wall or a tree may help you when you are alone.

Cooperative exercise

Both practitioners are using expansive force. They don’t dominate the partner, it’s not a question of who’s stronger.

The goal of this exercise is to enhance your force of expansion and give a certain resistance. As a matter of fact, expansive force can be used as resistance.

Expansive force. How to…?

Expansive force can be felt relatively quickly with a two-armed drill. As you pull your kyokotsu slightly, your back muscles will slide towards the shoulder joints and arms.

Pull in “kyokotsu” slightly. Your back should open. Keep your elbows down, don’t extend to the side. Don’t contract the muscles of the shoulders and arms, but keep them up and stretched with muscle tone.

After some practice, you can replicate the feeling of expansive force with one-handed exercises. By adding a mental image during practice your expansive force can increase. Avoid using contractive force.

Expansive force and tegatana-awase

The Tegatana-awase exercise can serve as a tool to enhance expansive force. After having taken the position there is an agreement that is the leader and that is the follower. The leader moves forward with an expansive force. The follower accepts the incoming force and uses it to retreat. As the follower, do not lose your expansive strength.

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

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.

Kyokotsu Control

The concept of “Kyokotsu” is already mentioned in numerous posts on this blog. The Kyokotsu movement is part of the entire body movement and cannot be separated from it. There are several basic kyokotsu movements, and these movements are embedded in different exercises already covered in this blog.

The Kyokotsu control consists of several basic movements:

  1. In and out (horizontally)
  2. Up and down (vertically)
  3. left and right (horizontally)
  4. Figure eight (combination of 1-3 with turning torso
  5. ……

Those movements connect Kyokotsu with the abdominal area, the spine and the back muscles, which leads to a whole-body movement.

By controlling the kyokotsu, we control the spinal column and surrounding muscles. Kyokotsu is essentially a part that is hard work to move consciously. If you succeed in doing so, other parts of the skeleton have no alternative but to move with it. An interconnection with the spinal column at the center is created when you succeed after much training. If you try to control your spine directly, you find yourself in tension. We need to use an image of the kyokotsu in motion, and thus the spinal column will have the freedom to move by the surrounding muscles.

Major muscles groups affected by kyokotsu control

Kyokotsu control strengthens the iliac muscle and the major psoas muscle which are attached to the spine. Strengthening these muscles helps the movement of the body to bring power to the hands and legs. Moreover, the intentional movement of Kyokotsu causes the opening of the shoulder blades. This in turn enables the freedom of the upper body, including the ribs, and the suppleness of the arms. In addition, Kyokotsu control affect the movement of the pelvis, which increases the strength and freedom of the lower body.

The latissimus dorsi, which is also connected to the spinal column, is also affected by kyokotsu motion. Especially when the kyokotsu rises with an upward move of the arm.

Of course, the above mentioned muscles are just a part of the necessary muscles needed for the whole body movement.

Kyokotsu Control

Pulling in horizontally

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Aikira Hino Budo Theory

The concept of Kyokotsu control is one of the basic elements taught at many seminars of the Study Group Tomiki Aikido in Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria and the UK.

The concept of Kyokotsu Control is an element of Hino’s Budo Theory. Before the Corona crisis, Akira Hino gave several seminars in the countries of Europe. His method is not limited to practicing martial arts. In 2012, he taught a seminar at a cultural center in Antwerp (De Singel). The majority of the participants were performers and dancers. A report is available at Singel website.

Don’t Think, Listen to the Body! Introduction to the Hino Method and Theory of human body and movement control by Akira Hino Translation by Yuko Takeda

This book is available at Amazon Kindle Store

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.

The Art of Cutting

Integrating the use of kyokotsu and tanden has an enormous impact on cutting efficiency. This effect is due to a wave of power generated by the kyokotsu skill. You will find some info on a “wave of power” blog post.

Kiri oroshi
  1. Lifting the sword in jodan position with Chidori ashi foot posture, keep the centre line straight and spine in a natural position.
  2. When the sword moves forward, start pulling in kyokotsu
  3. By pulling in kyokotsu, the pelvis will tilt
  4. Almost at the end of the cut, push kyokotsu forward to neutral position. Pelvis returns to neutral position.

Pulling in kyokotsu and releasing it affect the use of the back muscles and the pelvis.

When kyokotsu is pulled in, the sword or in case of an unarmed action, the tegatana will move forward and makes contact with the target. When kyokotsu returns, the sword or tegatana will generate a cutting action.

In case of an unarmed action, the returning kyokotsu is generating a pulling action without excessive local muscle power.

Grasping the handle or wrist

A ring of power is discussed earlier. This also applies how to hold an object with the fingers. The object can be a handle of a sword or the wrist of an opponent. Grasping is not a question of muscle power, but it is making an unbreakable ring with thumb and middle finger. This is basically a very simple skill and makes the grasping of a wrist or sword handle very solid. The idea is to close the energy circuit between thumb and middle finger. When understanding this simple action, you can use it in different situations.

During “kiri-oroshi” or cutting exercise, the correct grip on the tsuka of handle is important. Also it is not a good idea to drop the sword behind the back. This is a signal about too much relaxation in holding the sword. Sometimes you can see warming up with the sword with this method, but as a method of cutting it has to be avoided.

Te-no-uchi

Previous paragraph gave you some information about the grasping skill. Of course, when using a sword for cutting or grasping a wrist to apply a “waza” on the opponent, just holding is not enough. Power transfer is necessary to become efficient in applying a waza.

Te-no-uchi is a phrase mostly associated with Japanese weapon arts. A popular description is about “wringing out a towel”. If too much power is used, the towel will be damaged, if the wringing is weak, most of the water will stay in the towel. An interesting observation is made in the Journal-of-Physical-Therapy-Science.

The skills of various kinds of motion must be maintained so that activities of daily living (ADL) can be performed fluently. An important objective of Occupational Therapy is to improve a patient’s ability to perform ADL. However, there are very few studies that have tried to scientifically analyze skill contributing to the quality of ADL. Therefore, we focused on the motion in wringing out of Towel, which is done frequently in ADL, and analyzed the factors that contribute to this motion. We hypothesized that the factors that contribute to this motion include the subject’s age, gender, grip strength and motion pattern. These factors were analyzed. The results show that the female elderly group, although weak in hand grip strength, was able to squeeze the maximum amount of water from the towel. We speculate that this group of elderly females were most efficient at wringing the towel because this was a common household chore for them and because of this, their level of skill was the highest among all the groups.

Uchi gaeshi, soto gaeshi, tenshikei and meguri

During te-no-uchi action or wringing out the towel, an uchi gaeshi or inward twist can be seen. This inward twist is basically a wrist and forearm movement.

When lifting the sword into jodan or hasso position, a soto gaeshi or outward twist is performed. As with the inward twisting action, local excessive muscle power has to be avoided. The twisting is not only affecting the wrist or forearm, but is a part of generating ‘tenshikei” or spiral power.

Te-no-Uchi, wringing out the towel

Te-no-uchi is more than wringing out the towel. It is a technique in which the fingers, palm, wrist and forearm play a major role. The twisting effect is to compress the soft tissues and, by loosening the tension, the tissues return to a neutral situation. When reaching the target, ten-no-uchi is applied to create one block between sword and body.

The relationship with “meguri”, referring primarily as an action of the wrist, but it is actually a motion of the whole body. It’s some type of te-no-uchi. Tenshikei or spiral power is also an expression of the power generated by te-no-uchi.

Tandoku undo tegatana dosa

Te-no-uchi is an integral part of tandoku undo tegatana dosa. In a previous paragraph I mentioned this in relationship with uchi gaeshi and soto gaeshi. During the execution of aiki-age and aiki-sage an internal movement is made, a rotations of the fore arm around the transverse axes. See a previous post “Wave of Power“. Although the turn of the hand is made around a point in the palm with an upward direction, the power target is in the wrist joint, the part when you push for example someone.

When performing aiki-sage or bringing the power down, the point of power is at the thumb side of the wrist.

Exercise for aiki age and aiki sage

The pendulum exercise is already mentioned on numerous occasions in this blog. The pendulum is a comprehensive exercise and can be “settled” for different purposes. When Tegatana moves upwards, the emphasis is on the aiki-age point. When Tegatana descends, we concentrate on the Aiki-sage point.

The question about the relationship between the art of cutting and aiki age & aiki sage is self explaining. The photos come from a book on Aikido. The word Aikido is a general term for defining the art of Aiki.

“Wave of Power”

Much has been said in the debate on internal and external power. Most martial methods are built around a variety of concepts, including interior and/or exterior components. When a debate is held, we must look at the context of the debate. Basically, we should be aware of the definition of internal or external power given in the martial art we are discussing. We cannot accept a debate on good or bad unless we know the inner and outer aspects of martial art or combat sport.

Martial art built around flexible circular movements is considered as an internal method. While a martial art with a lot of muscular tension is considered an external one. Muscular tension is considered a linear action. The question about internal or external still exist and the linear/rotational answer is not sufficient. There are other aspects to take into account. Having a debate about internal and external will take up a lot of time and space. So we will consider a few creative thoughts.

Taking up space or not

External and internal movement

Very simply, external motion is a movement that takes space to perform. Running is one example of external movement, just like waving your arms or jumping up and down. A body or limb spinning around its center line without going anywhere is an expression of pure internal movement.

In the case of the internal movement of the human body, it can be clearly defined. It refers to rotations of the torso or limbs around their transverse axes, something that can take place with almost no external movement through space.

Linear and rotational movement

Linear: to move the body in space – external movement

Rotational: to turn the body around and axis – internal movement

A paradox?

If the torso turns around its axis, it is called internally, but our arms if outstretched move in space (external?). Our arms itself can turn around its axis, in this case we have an internal movement. All the movements we do with our body have an internal and external aspect. Talking about internal and external has to include both aspects and cannot be separated.

Another thought about the paradox of internal and external

Movement of the arm may be considered as internal and/or external action. If this movement is merely a local action, the effectiveness will be rather low, even if an internal aspect is included. Some people think that internal movements should always be stronger or better than external movements. Unfortunately, this is not true, both concepts need to be balanced to become effective for the task we use it. If the external aspect is performed with too much muscle contraction, the internal aspect will find it difficult to integrate. If the internal aspect depends too much on the relaxed or relaxed posture, the body will have problems to move correctly or perhaps completely frozen or collapse.

Another Creative Thought: Root and target

Everybody is familiar with Darwin’s famous book: The Origin of Species. The title suggests that there is an origin or a source for everything. This is a very simple thought and when one looks at the use of power in our martial art one can discover the same thought behind our source of actions. Of course, we can have a debate about where that source came from. Again, it has to be looked at in the context of this discussion. Where is “the root” as a physical part of our body?

  • root: source of force for movements
  • joint segments: transfer of force by using the joints of the body
  • tip: end of the line of force or the point of transfer into the opponent

Take for example an action with “tegatana”, the so called sword-hand. In a very simplistic way of thinking, the shoulder is the root and tegatana is the tip. Mostly tegatana will be used as a striking weapon in case the arm is not immobilized by opponent. Tegatana is moving in space and this movement can be considered as an external movement. On the other hand, there is an internal movement included if the arm is rotated around the transverse axe.

A wave of power

When power travels from the root to the tip, it takes time to reach the target. Power goes a certain way, and at first sight it moves linearly. But actually, most of these moves are characterized by a wavy motion. Basically, there are 3 types of waveforms in the human body in the context of our martial applications, but also in the context of all human movements, a wave pattern can be discovered. The idea of bodily wave pattern can be found in a book written by Jacques Lecoq: The moving Body.

Undulation and inverse undulation (1&2)

In undulation the wave of movement starts from the feet, goes through the hips, chest, neck and at last, comes to the head. We can see a small undulation for example when a person starts to walk. The power of movement starts from the ground and is dragged through the whole body. Inverse undulation is the same “wave of movement” as undulation but it starts from the head and goes through the body to the feet. The concept of rebound can be found in the inverse undulation.

Walking or running is a good example to illustrate the harmony between undulation and inverse undulation. The integration of external powers like gravity, inertia or others is necessary to use the human body as a whole system.

Eclosion (3)

Eclosion is a movement of opening and closing. It starts from the ground in a closed position and gradually expands towards the open. The movement starts from the center of the body and moves towards the head, hands and feet. The rhythm is important, and hands and legs should arrive in the open position at the same time. The closing movement is the reverse of the opening movement.

The role of kyokotsu

The “kyokotsu” exercise is one of the exercises for generating a waveform pattern. Of course, it takes several months of regular training to feel the wave of power. Most people have no flexible torso, especially at the level of the sternum. The kyokotsu exercise is not only a movement of the lower part of the breastbone, it forces the torso to open en close in different directions. The concept of “eclosion” discussed earlier can be found in this exercise.

When we move our kyokotsu forward or backward, it affects the pelvis by tilting it in both directions. Moving kyokotsu creates an undulatory movement in the body along the spine.

Kyokotsu is not the power generator, but the kyokotsu movement invokes the body to move according a wave pattern. Movement generates power with the help of the floor and gravity.

The better we can connect the different body parts, the more efficient use of power is possible.

A first goal to achieve is the connection between the elbows and the kyokotsu. The muscles in the back can be felt when a connection is made between kyokotsu and elbows. If we move the elbows without the use of the back muscles, there is no connection.

The next goal is connecting kyokotsu and pelvis. Don’t move pelvis without connecting with kyokotsu.

Tenshikei or winding power

The idea of winding power can be illustrated by the squeezing of multiple fibres. It stores power and by unwinding its release the power. By using the correct skill or technique, the power can be used to neutralize the actions of an opponent.

Tenshikei can be seen as a form of using an internal movement to generate power. The key to a successful procedure is the ability to keep the muscles and tendons flexible. When muscles and tendons become stiff and lack mobility, power generation will lack efficiency.

Elbow exercise

This is an exercise to develop a basic idea of tenshikei with a partner. It is an exercise and cannot be seen as a technique for self-defence. Tenshikei skill can be used in different situations if the training allows the study of this kind of power generation.

The elbow exercise can be performed with various concepts and some concepts do not use tenshikei or winding power effectively. If the focus is on the use of leverage, the winding energy will be virtually absent because the production of energy comes from the use of leverage. Below is a sample of an internal movement generating tenshikei taken from a DVD by Hino sensei.

Another view at the 2 types of power

Previous was mentioned external and internal power and its relationship with the surrounding space. But of course, there are different ways of looking at the use of power by the human body. To apply power, a movement is needed to give transport to the strength generated by the body with the help of our main source of power “gravity”.

Open and closed chain movement

In open-chain and closed-chain exercises, the chain referred to is a series of body parts, such as a hip, knee, ankle, and foot. In an open-chain exercise, the body is stationary while the limb moves. In the closed – chain exercise, the limb is stationary while the body moves. For example, a squat is a closed-chain exercise because your feet stay stationary while your quadriceps do the work.

In martial arts open and closed chain movements can be seen during basic training and randori. The open chain movement uses the momentum from the limb accelerated by the body. Closed chain techniques are those that use the ground and the stabilization of the body to produce the power. Open chain techniques depend on motion and speed to build their inertia while closed chain techniques use the ground to brace the body and transmit the force to the target.

In randori, the use of local power is often seen to force a movement on the opponent, or to block a lock on the arm or wrist.. Those manoeuvres belong mostly to the category of a closed chain movement. If the practitioner is more skilled in the use of full body power, the combination of linked chains can give more power. By using an appropriate technique or movement, the game of strategy becomes important.

Rendo, the art of mixing

In the music industry, the art of mixing based upon existing songs is very popular. Mostly it is used during festivals for dance. It is a kind of becoming into trance. Body and mind are becoming one, and the movements of the body can be seen as whole body movements.

The art of Rendo is a similar process where different movements are mixed into one whole body movement. We are not using the word “mixing”, but we use “linking”. Rendo has also a time component, because it takes time power travelling from the source or root to the target. The previous elbow exercise is an example of linking different movements by using winding and unwinding power.

Strategy and power

If the focus is on power, internal or external, it is not “the solution” to win a fight. It is important to have a method “how to use power” in a fight. This method is based on a mix of skills in the range from pure physical to pure spirit. Of course, as usual, the extreme ends have to be avoided, it is better to use a well-balanced method.

One of the most difficult skills in martial art is the use of a wave power pattern. Most practitioners will rely on the power of a closed chain movement, mostly locally executed. For example, only arm power generated by the muscle of the arm and shoulder.

As I mentioned in other blog posts, the concept of a creative mind is one of the cornerstones to become a skilful practitioner.

Ankles, knees, pelvis and kyokotsu

The motions of the body are magical, we can move many parts of our body in order to accomplish many physical tasks. But we can more with our body, there are certain parts that we have to pay attention to and we will discover many other physical features of our body.

Kyokotsu movement

Kyokotsu in general can be translated as “sternum”. In our case it is a special point on the sternum. By focusing on this point, we can move the sternum.

The Kyokotsu movement involves flexibility in the sternum and, by extension, the ribs and shoulder blade. The objective is to enhance the flexibility and mobility of the sternum and scapula. When moving the sternum there will be no compressing of the lungs and heart, and through the practice one’s whole rib cage will actually be expanded, or larger than it was previously. Moving the sternum is also affecting the movements of the spine and in extension the pelvis.

Turning the pelvis line

Pelvic manipulation consists of using kyokotsu. When kyokotsu is slightly pulled in the spine is straightened. When kyokotsu training is done enough, it will also affect pelvic tilt or rotation automatically.

To give you an inclined sensation of the pelvis using kyokotsu, you can try the following 4 steps. If the remark is made about an upright spine, it is not completely upright, there are always curves but less than in a normal posture.

4 steps to tilt pelvis

  1. Normal posture with curved spine
  2. Straighten legs, straighten the spine by pulling in slightly kyokotsu, called Gankyōbappai*
  3. Bend over, keep legs and torso straight
  4. Push pelvis in the direction of the ankles, keep torso as 1 block

*Gankyōbappai (含胸抜背).
This is an expression 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.

After learning the rotation of the pelvis, different posture heights can be performed with an inclined pelvis. Fundamentally, it’s an ankle movement and not knee-shifting. Even though the knees are bent, the work is done by moving the pelvis towards the ankles. You will notice that the gravity point located in the hara descends almost straight down.

Often you will hear about Achilles tendon problems with older, experienced practitioners. This is due to the abusive use of the knees and pelvis. To prevent such problems, adequate training for ankle flexibility should be introduced. A simple exercise involves moving the pelvis down and up with the ankles.

Tilting the pelvis simply using the pelvic muscles, creates tension in the pelvic region, especially when the footwork is used to move. A frozen pelvis cannot be used with skills such as tenshikei or meguri. Using only the pelvic muscles has no impact on the rest of the body structure.

Turning the pelvis line is only possible when the “mata” or “kwa” is flexible and not tensed up. Should you fail to soften your groin, a frozen pelvis will result. Some tension should be felt in the calves, especially when a deeper posture is adopted. Don’t lift the heels of the floor.

Proper kyokotsu training will affect the entire body, and after adequate training, flexibility and mobility is possible in the torso area. A frozen torso will be avoided. The use of kyokotsu during posture practice will benefit the ability to maintain a strong right posture. Legs and arms are attached to the torso and need flexibility and mobility during body movements. In martial arts, frozen limbs are a major disease when someone is attacking you. This will happen if you didn’t follow proper training, focused on movement. Remember a book written by John Wilkinson, a Tomiki Aikido Pioneer:

An exercise for pelvis, ankles and kyokotsu

During this exercise, the use of kyokotsu can be practiced. Pull the sternum in when going down and straighten breastbone when arms are raised. The ankles are bent and straightened throughout the movement.

Although it seems that the point of gravity is receding, in reality, it is descending directly.

Tension and relaxation

Excessive tension in the muscles can produce “frozen” joints, but complete relaxation will do exactly the same thing at the other end of the movement spectrum. Total relaxation is a kind of stagnancy or a state of inactivity. Both situations have to be avoided.

The problem of over-tension is often noticed by the practitioner if someone makes a remark on too much tension. The slackening of the muscles is a more serious problem because if someone makes the remark “relax”,. The practitioner has mostly a misunderstanding about “relax” and is not thinking about reducing the tension, but the practitioner focuses more about total slackening the muscles. It is maybe better if we talk about “high or low muscle tone”.

“Muscle tone” is often confused for “muscle strength” and although related, they are not interchangeable terms. Tone refers to the amount of tension in a muscle when at rest state (not actively contracted). Muscle tone helps our bodies maintain posture.
The Low muscle tone is characterised by the muscles having less tension at resting state and feeling “floppy”. High muscle tone is created by excessive contraction of the muscle. High  and low muscle will interfere with the power management of the body.

Taikan

Taikan (体感) or bodily feeling or sensation has to be improved before we can start with releasing the tension. If you experience tension you have to know from where it is coming. The same with relaxed, if you don’t feel your body, it is very difficult to solve this slackening of the muscles.

In Taikan’s case, this is a “somatic” concept, we use our sensory system to feel our movements. Although it is a natural process to feel something, if our mind is not focused on the feeling process, we will miss a lot of information how to handle different situations.

Some of you will notice the word “taikan”, as another trendy word to describe a natural process. The Japanese Wikipedia and Dictionaries provides an explanation of Taikan (体 感), mostly describing the concept of feeling. The English version provides a few insights from a medical perspective.

The somatosensory system is a part of the sensory nervous system. The somatosensory system is a complex system of sensory neurons and neural pathways that responds to changes at the surface or inside the body. The axons (as afferent nerve fibres) of sensory neurons connect with, or respond to, various receptor cells. Sensory receptors are found all over the body including the skin, epithelial tissues, muscles, bones and joints, internal organs, and the cardiovascular system.

How to use “Taikan” in our practice?

Most practitioners enjoy practicing with sweat. There are some health benefits from such training. Cardio and fat burning are boosted during such training. Unfortunately, this is not the correct method to use the concept of Taikan when you like to discover the different body feelings when practising. In particular, the concept of “muscle tone and reduction of muscle tension” requires a workout at a slower pace. Everyone is aware of the slow movements of taichichuan. There is some logic behind the slow movements, feeling the bodily movements is the first step towards a more efficient martial art.

So the first stage consists of starting “kihon” at a slower pace. Feel the movements and after a while you will become the movement. From now on, you can increase the pace of motion and concentrate on what you actually do. Of course, to maintain the concept of fat burning and cardio, remember to spend time on this important element of your training. A healthy and strong body is necessary for exploring the feelings of body movements.

One important tip is to avoid vigorous “randori” in the first year when the emphasis is on Taikan. The first step of randori, kakari geiko is possible at a slow pace. Ask your partner to co-operate.

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.

Opening/closing the armpit

The “opening and closing” of the armpit is managed by using kyokotsu or sternum in the correct way. This is necessary to perform an efficient movement when aiming for a target.

Using kyokotsu and “koshi” in a correct way (koshi-mawari) is the key to send the power of the base (earth) through the arms into the opponent. About koshi mawari, you can consult: The influence of Chidori ashi.

Controlling “kyokotsu” or “sternum”

Controlling kyokotsu or sternum is explained by Akira Hino in his book: Don’t Think, Listen to the Body.

The picture on the left is a sort of simplification of the mechanism. It has also an influence on the utilization of the koshi.

When the sternum is moving, the spine is also moving. This creates a pelvic tilt.

The pelvic tilt has to be the result of a full body movement. Just doing a pelvic tilt has no influence on the movement of the upper body when there is no connection between upper and lower body. Also just doing a sternum movement has no effect on the lower body if there is tension around the spine.


Straight line and koshi mawari

Directing for the target is a simple action with a lot of difficulties. The skill of opening and closing the armpit has to be entirely understood, mentally and physically.

When there is no control of the armpit, there is a probability of missing the target.

To resume, we can point out:

  • Rotation of the torso
  • Extending the arm in a straight line aiming at the target.
  • Opening and closing of the armpit.

Using a jo to perform taijū no dendō and koshi-mawari

During “corona” time it is necessary in a partner exercise to maintain distance, especially when you are practicing with someone not belonging to your nearest social contacts. The “jo” or medium range stick is the ideal tool to make contact and still maintaining a distance.

This video clip demonstrates taijū no dendō and koshi-mawari with the help of a jo or a medium range stick. It gives the opportunity to feel how partner is using power to push you back. There are some points to take into account on both sides of the stick.

How to push the stick forward?

Starting from a “chidori ashi” posture with the hand holding the stick near the body. Move the center line forward until you feel pressure in the ball of the front foot. Start turning the body while extending the arm forward.

How to receive the incoming stick?

Chidori ashi posture. Move the center line back until you feel pressure on the heel of the back foot. Start turning the body to absorb the power into the floor.

Relationship with compatible martial arts

A clear relationship with Jodo Kata “Suigetsu”. The straight line and koshi-mawari is only successful if there is a control of the armpit and the extended arm holding the stick.

Remark also the straight center line and the advice not to bend the body and arm.

There are of course more examples about opening and closing armpit in relationship with koshi mawari. Simply for the purpose to keep this post compact, my advice to find out by yourself and find similarities in other martial arts.

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.)

Kyokotsu – sternum control

Kyokotsu – 胸骨 = sternum
胸 mune = chest
骨 hone = bone

Hino’s Budo Theory opened my eyes to improve my movements, especially the basics in Tomiki Aikido (unsoku-ho, tandoku undo tegatana dosa, sotai dosa……….)

It is a misunderstanding to label Tomiki Aikido as only competition. There is more…..

rolling tanden01

Kyokotsu – Control Centre of the human spine

tensegrity modelThe spine plays an extremely important role in our body as it supports the upper body’s weight, provides posture while allowing for movement and flexibility, and protects the spinal cord.
The muscles attached to the spine are very strong and are used to generate efficient body movement with the help of the arms and/or legs.
Controlling the muscles attached to the spine is not an easy task.

“Use the spine but don’t think about the spine.”

In our bodywork we are using “kyokotsu” as a control centre of the spine. If our attention is to the spine, the spine muscles becomes tensed and our body will act rigid.

Relationship between elbow and kyokotsu

The freedom of the arm is in direct proportion to the use of the elbow. The elbow is controlled by the kyokotsu.
When the kyokotsu moves backwards, the arms will move forward due the activation of the back and shoulder muscles.
The elbow will give direction to the hand when the back and shoulder muscles are activated. To create an efficient movement guided by the elbow a “pattern” must be created in the mind which can be used by the unconscious mind.
Putting the mind on the “specific point” of the elbow will greatly improve the efficiency of using the arm and hand.

Our skeleton is build in 3 sections, one of them is the upper axial skeleton. Some info you can find under “power management”.

Why is it important to put your mind on the elbow?
The movement of the kyokotsu is connected to the elbow due the movement of the back and shoulder muscles. When turning the shoulder line, in normal cases the elbow will follow the shoulder line rotation. By putting the mind on the specific point of the elbow we can direct the elbow in a straight line to the target.

In Atemi* Waza the elbow is often used to give direction to reach the target.
On the other hand the target is not always the face or the stomach, but it is also possible targeting by gripping the opponent’s wrist , shoulder or other joint.

* Atemi is a general term in martial arts or Budo/Bujutsu to describe the techniques for punching, thrusting, striking, kicking,…aimed at critical areas of the body.

Kyokotsu exercises

When working with kyokotsu and koshi, it is advised not to focus on koshi but focusing on kyokotsu.
Why? When you focus on koshi you will have tension on the muscles of the koshi area. This will disturb the concept of yukozo and the result is a lesser mobility and flexibility.

There are 3 kind of kyokotsu movements to practise

1. front and back
2. up and down
3. figure 8

kyokotsu in-out

Forward and back

Push the kyokotsu forward without changing the position of the shoulders. Thereafter move the kyokotsu backwards.
Be careful not to use the shoulders.
Pulling in the kyokotsu is not done by pulling in the stomach muscles!

Keep the abdomen in a relaxed way.
When doing the exercise correctly, the pelvis will start to move, but don’t put too much attention to it, the pelvis movement is the result of the kyokotsu movement.

Up and down
Push the line between the nipples up. This will stretch the sides of the body. You will feel this on waist level. Lower the sides of the torso.
During the up and down movement, the elbows are moving up and down by the movement of the central body. The pelvis is not moving up, it serves as an anchor from which the upward stretch is done. Visualize your are pulling up and pushing up the kyokotsu.

up & down kyokotsu 01

Figure 8

The movement of both elbows are simultaneous and rotate on the central body axis, like a figure 8 around the kyokotsu.

3d figure 8
When turning the shoulder-line, stretch the body up, turn back and pull in the kyokotsu, stretch the body up……….

tenshikei solo exercise