Synchronising – A physical, mental and social action.

This article is not an academic document, it is a secular interpretation, not an academic one. It is based on my personal experiences during my 60 years of practice in various martial arts and sports. Judo/Jujutsu, Shaolin Kempo, Karate, Aikido, Hakko-Ryu Jujutsu, Iaido, Jodo, Yiquan, Qigong,….. and guidance from many martial arts teachers. And most important, the ability to self-cultivation.

A scientific statement.

Synchronization is, in a broad sense, coordination of rhythmic oscillators due to their interaction.

Buzzwords or ability to use tough words.

It is almost standard to use scientific terms in articles to give it an academic flavour. Without the necessary knowledge, these words are transformed into “Buzzwords”. A word or sentence, often an element of jargon, which is fashionable at a particular moment or context.

Translating scientific jargon into a plain language for martial arts, can give you a better insight into the many exercises and techniques during your training. The most important thing to improve your martial art as a human being is the competency of self-cultivation.

Definition of self-cultivation: the development of one’s mind or capacities through one’s own efforts.

From the Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia

Synchronisation – Neural-Mental-Social

In Martial Art, footwork, stretching and releasing, winding and unwinding…. All these “actions of body and mind” need to be combined into a single and smooth movement. A whole-body motion creates a more efficient technique for overcoming the confrontation with an opponent. This process is known in the language of martial art: Rendo.

But rendo is more than personal synchronization. It is also in sync with the training partner and/or adversary.

Let us look at a very simple action of the daily life:

A person’s steps unconsciously synchronize with those of a partner when two people walk together, although their foot lengths and therefore their intrinsic cycles are different.

Obviously, it’s not just a physical synchronization. Synchronization has a number of levels. There are synchronized neural processes, mental activities, and social interactions. Neural processes are critical to physical or bodily synchronization. Mental activities are required to form a picture of something we like to accomplish. Social interactions are playing an important role in our society. Social media as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…. part of our daily life.

Synchronisation on a physical level

Sports and martial arts are activities that are seen frequently on television or in other forms of media distribution. Unfortunately, the mere fact of watching competitions or sports activities on the screen or in a sport-stadium does not have a direct impact on the search for a healthy body (Mental and Bodily). We have to do physical activities like cardio workouts, flexibility programs and other forms of physical training to build or maintain a healthy body and of course a mind free from frustrations and depressions.

At a beginners level, martial art training is more focused on the physical side of training. But we cannot ignore the game of the mind and the interaction between the mind of the attacker and defender.

Synchronisation and differentiation

Differentiation is the process of dividing a homogeneous whole into parts with different properties. Characteristic of differentiation is that a whole remains and that the division into parts with different properties occurs within that whole.

In Martial Arts, whole-body movement is used to indicate the necessity of using all your physical and mental resources you have. Practising with the focus on all different resources is difficult, almost impossible, especially for beginners. Even advanced practitioners need a method to avoid an overload on details to look after. One of the chief instructors of the Japan Aikido Association made a remark during one of his semnars.

Perfection is a matter of 1000 details

Fumiaki Shishida, JAA Shihan

In a sense, he is telling us to practise with all the details. But I believe we have “to differentiate” and of course not to forget, the details are a part of the whole. The difficulty is to distinguish the various details for focused training without losing the whole.

An example can bring some clarity in this matter.

Tomiki Aikido put much emphasis on the use of “tegatana” during training. The hand can take different positions, and those positions are useful for different purposes in our hands. Using an exercise to indicate the hand position as a basic exercise for daily practice is, in my opinion, a waste of time. Tegatana positions are integral to a whole body movement and should be considered in the context of a whole body movement when using tegatana. Nevertheless, it is possible to do such an exercise when introducing the different positions of tegatana. As soon as possible, the tegatana positions must be included in the whole body movements of Tomiki Aikido.

A simple example of “synchronisation”

  1. Start posture – both “kwa or mata” are neutral – tegatana uchi-mawashi position
  2. Turning body by opening “kwa or mata” – tegatana is following body movement and synchronised with opening “kwa or mata”
  3. Body returns to start posture – tegatana drops to middle lower position synchronised with “kwa or mata”
  4. Body turn by opening “kwa or mata” – synchronising with lifting tegatana
  5. Body returns to start posture – tegatana synchronised with “kwa or mata”
  6. Movement is repeated…..

This simplified movement is an application of uchi-mawashi, soto-mawashi, uchi-gaeshi and soto-gaeshi. Synchronised with opening and closing “kwa or mata”.

Synchronisation and 6 Harmonies

Some of you recognize the word “Harmony” in a non martial art context. Take for example the harmony concept in music. Music can bring movement forward in the actions of humans, going from emotions to dancing. The main part of music is sound with the correct use of harmonies.

What is so enigmatic about sounds that provoke emotions in us? Is it just a physical phenomenon of vibrations or something more dynamic? This question can also be asked in martial arts. Our being starts in the mind, creates a kind of vibration of energy, and the result is a movement useful to apply as a waza. Everything has to be synchronised and in harmony. Without this, chaos is looking around the corner. In your search for effective movements or techniques, you will discover that martial art teachers use the word Qi or Ki.

The discussion of the word Qi or Ki in a Western “consumption” society becomes ridiculous if the focus is mainly on materialism. Fortunately, martial artists are often open-minded.

Chinese martial arts recognise 6 kind of synchronisation or in their words 6 harmonies.

Internal Harmonies

Internal Harmonies is about the way you are using your energy needed for physical movements, internal and external.

  1. Xin (fighting-emotional-survival spirit or also called “heart”) and Yi (intention or wisdom mind)
  2. Yi and Qi (physical energy)
  3. Qi and Li (strength – the physical manifestation of Qi seen as a movement – internal and external)

External Harmonies

External Harmonies is about the syncronisation of major body joints

  1. Hips and shoulders – Connection of the 4 main body joints
  2. Knees and elbows – Knees are driven by hips, elbows are driven by shoulders
  3. Feet (ankles) and hands (wrists) – Strength is controlled by the center through shoulders, hips, knees and elbows

The center is the core of the body and has 3 main parts

  1. The central part of the head
  2. The lower part of breastbone
  3. The gravity center of the body

Synchronisation of all thes elements is a main part of the training. If this is not included, your martial art will not function as a whole body system with different part working toghether in harmonie.

Many Japanese Martial Arts have borrowed some of these concepts in their training program. Of course, they added a Japanese flavor, expressed in the different forms of Budo and Bujutsu.

The equivalent of the Chinese words (or concepts) in Japanese can create some confusion.

Xin or spirit: Shin, kokoro…
Yi or intention: I, Zanshin,…..
Qi or energy: Ki,….. the physical manifestation of power is called Chikara

Tanren, forging the mind and body

Tanren-gata and shinken-gata

In martial arts, the terms tanren-gata and shinken-gata are used to indicate the difference between a kata to enhance body movements and a combat-oriented kata.

Tomiki Aikido kata/katachi may also be categorized as tanren-gata or shinken-kata.

Most basic kata (basic15, basic17, tanto basic17, ura-waza….) can be categorized as tanren-gata. A series of movements or techniques for practicing the body movements necessary for the creation of an effective technique.

Koryu no kata are essentially a sort of shinken-gata, a series of formal techniques focused on combat. There is one exception in the Koryu no kata, the dai-yon kata omote and ura are tanren-gata to improve the body movements needed during the “randori” training.

Renshu and Tanren

Renshu 練習
This training is intended to study the waza found in kata/katachi which are already understood at a base level. The goal is to improve the movements of the entire body in a given context. It may be a combat setting or a randori setting.

Tanren 作務 (building physical and mental strength)
It focuses on improving physical and mental resilience through physical and mental training. For a true practical application of an effective technique, physical fitness and mental resiliency to pain and discomfort are necessary. Tanren actually precedes the other one, renshu. Without tanren, the numerous kata/katach waza become a hollow shell. If there is a demonstration (embu) or a grading (shinsa), the evaluation must take into account the outcome of the tanren and certainly not a show of acrobatic performances. It is not an object of entertainment.

Beyond 10,000 Hours: The Constant Pursuit of Mastery

Robert Greene (born May 14, 1959) is an American author known for his books on strategy, power, and seduction. Although he has a controversial reputation, his idea on “Mastery” is worth a study.

His book on “Mastery” makes a compelling case that mastery is earned, not granted. He describes three distinct phases of the journey, I) Apprenticeship, II) Creative-Active and III) Mastery. His advice is to keep in mind that the goal is not to become a Master, but to continuously pursue mastery with a purpose.

He also mentioned, you need at least 10,000 hrs of practise to forge the mind and body.


The concept of “Shu-Ha-Ri” is certainly a similar concept and Renshu/Tanren is a part of it. We have to use “Tanren” or the forging of the mind and body for the next step: Renshu.

If you have time and energy, you can walk the path of mastery with regular training. But this training has to be of high quality in other words: Renshu

Kenji Tomiki began training under Morihei Ueshiba in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu in 1926. He was largely responsible for the compilation and editing of the text in Morihei Ueshiba’s 1933 training manual “Budo Renshu” (published in English under the name “Budo Training in Aikido“).

In this book, the assumption is that you have already done your Tanren, creating the foundation for Renshu.

Pause as a moving factor

Conscious and unconscious movement

Moving around is part of the most enjoyable activities in humans life and when our movements stop, our life is also stopping. But sometimes we need a rest, sleeping, relaxing, ….. Taking a rest or relaxing is part of our movement and at first sight there is no outward movement. It is no wonder to find out there is a lot of movement inside. These movements are unconscious movements. Our consciousness has no control.
Conscious internal movements concern mostly musculoskeletal alignment and connectedness. They are in many cases not visible externally.
During human moving activities, a pause is often used to give a dramatic performance. Pause is a part of a movement or performance.
The conscious brain is reacting to action or pause with a delayed time. This can be utilized to change strategy or movement (switch) during martial arts performance.

0.5 seconds for the mind to recognise what has occurred

Benjamin Libet states in his book, “Mind Time: The Temporal Factor in Consciousness (Perspectives in Cognitive Neuroscience),” that it takes 0.5 seconds for the mind to recognise what has occurred.

Benjamin Libet is known worldwide for the experiments he has conducted over a long career (his first experiences date back to 1957-1958) on how the human brain produces conscious awareness.
The brain will have a recognisable sensation coming from the skin or some other body structure only if the stimulus continues for at least 500 msec: shorter durations do not elicit any awareness of the sensation.
There is an actual delay of 500 msec for sensory awareness even when the sensation is generated by a single pulse applied to normal sources at the skin.

Pause, a part of our movements

During switching of movements, we need a pause to reset our muscles. Resetting the muscles is changing the tone, or in other words “more or lesser tension” to create a better efficiency movement.
Switching without detection by the opponent is only possible if we can perform this during the 0,5sec mentioned earlier.
We can make the delay longer by using “kuzushi”. This situation sets up a pause in the defense against an attack. Regaining stability is triggered by some survival instinct and will take over the actions learned during martial arts training.
Basically, kuzushi is a kind of switch with hakkei or sudden power. When practising kuzushi slowly and with bigger movements, we cannot consider this as a part of the strategy to make opponents “brain delay” longer.

Pause, an educational tool

This kind of pause is longer than the pause during movements. Practitioners without experience need some time to make decisions how to do a movement. By integrating “pause” into movement sequences, the brain will detect the changes in the sequences and make the appropriate adjustments.
Most of the “kuzushi” demonstrations use such a method to make clear the mechanism of kuzushi. This is an artificial situation, and will always fail in “randori” because it is going beyond the delayed time.

Different types of training


Solo-training is an integral part of a martial art training program. Solo-training is a simple method to introduce martial art movements. There is a perception of “no-resistance”, but this is a delusion. Beginners are not aware of gravity or excessive tension. When we discover gravity and relaxation, partner training is the next step. Nevertheless, keep in your mind: There is relaxation in tension – there is tension in relaxation.
Solo-training start with big movements and done slowly. Remember, we need time to recognize what is happening.
After some time, we can start to make the movements smaller and eventually faster, but not fast.
When you can observe your movements without making any comments in your head, it is time to start to partner exercises.
From a practical view on how to keep students or trainees enthusiastic, sotai dosa or partner exercises are introduced before proper body movements are ingrained. But avoid “tanren” training.

Practical training concepts
Practical concepts depends largerly on ingrained basics in the subconscious mind. Mostly these ingrained concepts will be tested during all kinds of randori, ranging from kakari geiko through hikitate geiko to randori geiko.
During basic training, the concept of pause is mostly considered as an educational tool.
Pause as a practical tool during randori is build upon the skill of relaxation/tension and diverse strategy concepts.

Sensitivity training

Training with a partner, trainer or teacher should led trainee to follow by “sticking” at the contact points and learns to listen (chokei in Hino Budo terms).

Resistance training

Sensitivity training with light resistance. Testing the body/mind integrity of the trainees. Cultivating internal muscoskeletal alignment and connectedness. Using sufficient force (tension) to overcome resistance.

There must be relaxation within tension and tension within relaxation/tension exchange. Avoid rigidity and stiffness.

Technical training

Solo-training of basic movements is an entry to ingrain whole-body neuromuscular movements. Mind-body control is necessary to obtain coordinated whole-body neuromuscular movement.
Partner training has to be seen as an extension of solo-training

Randori training

Randori training is an exercise with a build-in unknown factor. Timing, distance or interval, speed….are unknown factors. Starting with low-intensity resistance and adding proportionally unknown factors cannot emphasized enough. When we start too soon with “hakkei” or sudden power, succes in randori will be far away.

Tanren – The art of repetition

Do not cultivate sequential patterns of response as a solution to the problems of fighting. If you use conscious procedural thinking (sequential processing) to observe, analyze, and then react, you will lose most of your hand-to-hand encounters or confrontations. You cannot predict/anticipate when and from where an attack is coming, and then take appropriate action.
Therefore, instead of wasting time and energy memorizing sequential patterns of movements also called “kata choreography”, let your sub-conscious reflexes automatically execute the proper actions at the proper time without conscious mind- intent.

Kata performed as ‘Tanren’, or repetitive slow drilling is highly regarded as a method of power building

The art of repetition

quote by Akira Hino

You cannot really learn and understand the meaning by copying something over and over just because someone told you that there is a significance in doing so.
There is a fine line there… between a genuine motivation to learn and just an intellectual amusement.
If you think the meaning of repetition is just a piece of knowledge given by somebody else. You will not able to learn anything worthwhile on your own.

Kata must be simple if we like to use it as Tanren. If kata is too complicated it will be a waste of time. It is better to practise 1 or 2 linked movements with low resitance at slow speed. The mind need time to listen to the body and absorb the principle or concept behind the movement(s).
For example during static postures in standing meditation (ritsuzen) isometric activity of the major leg muscles is a motionless movement to practise drilling the feet to generate power with the support of the floor.
Dynamic examples can be found in koryu no kata. Some kata are complicated sequences and are build upon linking simple basic movements.
Of course, kata training offers more than power building exercises.

Something to take into consideration

The Relative Tempo of Techniques: some techniques are performed quickly, while others are done more slowly. Tempo can be so slow that there is no visible external movement, it is a pause in the external movement.

The Relative Force of Power: The power of a technique derives from the proper balance between strength and relaxation. Power is a balance between ju (soft/strong) and go (hard/strong). Power can be dynamic (ido ryoku) but also static (isometric tension). Isometric tension has no visible external movement, it is a pause in the external movement.

The Control of Breathing: The correct timing during breathing (inhaling and exhaling). After inhaling we need sometimes a pause, to have a better absorbtion of the oxygen. This is a pause in the breathing.

By using these 3 concepts and through concentration, dedication and practice, a higher level of power skills may be achieved, where the movements are so ingrained in the subconscious mind that no conscious attention is needed.  This is what we call Mushin 無心, or “no mind.” The conscious, rational thought practice is not used at all – what was once memorized is now spontaneous.

Cutting & striking

Cutting = damaging the body or killing the opponent
Striking =  controlling opponent with intent as the major component.
Atemi waza Tomiki style : attacking the dynamical weak point with the purpose to control or throwing the opponent

When Kenji Tomiki formulated his concept on the use of atemi waza in randori, he was very clear about the non-damaging aspect of the use of atemi waza. There are 2 ways to do atemi waza:

  • attacking dynamical weak point with the purpuse to control or to throw
  • attacking physiological weak point with the purpose to kill or damage

Many psysiological weak points are also dynamical weak points. For example “kasumi” (see chart) and “uto” (see chart) can be used as a target during gyaku-gamae-ate, a technique from basic kata.

Tomiki described the anatomical weak points in his book Judo & Aikido. The chart with the vital point is the same as the vital points often used in Kodokan Judo Kata with a shinken-gata concept. Kodokan Kime no kata is such an example.

Vital points

Tomiki Aikido Koryu no kata dai san is an aikido example how to use “atemi” according the shinken-gata method as seen from the attackers (uke) point of view. The role of tori is different and based upon the the non-damaging concept of Kenji Tomiki when he formulated his theory on how to use atemi waza in randori. Tori has no intention to kill or damage opponent.  Controlling and/or throwing safely is a sign of human behaviour based upon non-aggressive actions. This concept can be clearly seen in tachi tai tachi (Koryu no kata dai san)

Cutting & striking in Koryu no kata dai san – tachi tai tachi

Daisan tachi tai tachi : uchidachi (uke) is cutting to damage or kill, shidachi (tori) is striking with the purpose to control uchidachi.

The performance of this part of the Dai-san-kata is based upon the non-damaging concept of Kenji Tomiki when he formulated his theory on how to use atemi waza in randori. Shidachi (tori) has no intention to kill or damage opponent.

  1. The intention of Uchidachi is to make the cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the wrist joint. Shidachi simultaneously raises their sword and strikes centrally to the face of Uchidachi; this stops their cut.
  2. The intention of Uchidachi is to make the cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the wrist joint. Shidachi strikes at the face of Uchidachi whilst avoiding to Shidachi’s left. The strike ends at Shidachi’s left temple.
  3. The intention of Uchidachi is to make the cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the wrist joint. Shidachi strikes at the face of Uchidachi whilst avoiding to Shidachi’s right. The strike ends at Shidachi’s right temple and with Uchidachi in an upright left posture.
  4. The intention of Uchidachi is to raise the sword and make the cut to the wrist of Shidachi whilst they are defending. Shidachi Tsuki’s to the throat of Uchidachi before the downward cut begins. Shidachi exerts control by driving Uchidachi backwards. The intent of Shidachi is to control the movement of Uchidachi and not to cut them.
  5. The intention of Uchidachi is to make the cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the wrist joint of Shidachi. As the cut begins Shidachi strikes the exposed right armpit of Uchidachi. The sword is not dragged across Uchidachi’s torso but is used to control Uchidachi.
  6. The intention of Uchidachi is to make a cut by raising the sword and cutting through the target, which is the right wrist joint of Shidachi. Uchidachi responds using a Nagashi action to Uchidachi’s sword ending with a wrist strike and threat to Uchidachi’s torso.
  7. The intention of Uchidachi is to make a cut by raising the sword and cut through the target, which is the right wrist joint of Shidachi. Shidachi responds by rotating the sword blade so that the Ha is up. The right hand uses an outside turn action; the left hand allows the Tsuka to slip through the grip remaining thumb edge up. Uchidachi’s cut strikes Shidachi’s sword and by using Nagashi action, Uchidachi’s power is used to propel the sword around whereby Shidachi can make a controlling strike to Uchidachi’s right temple.
  8. Shidachi drives Uchidachi backwards using two swift steps and a third more controlled and deliberate whilst both swords are carefully raised to the Hasso position or stance. Uchidachi lowers their sword to behind their left leg and then raises their sword to make a downward cut to Shidachi’s leading leg. As the cut almost completes Shidachi steps back whilst bringing their sword down towards Uchidachi’s sword using Nagashi movement. Shidachi attempts to control Uchidachi by raising their sword. Uchidachi sees the opening on the right side of Shidachi’s Torso and attempts to Tsuki (Left foot leading, blade out). Using Nagashi movement Shidachi draws Uchidachi into making a Tsuki to the left side of Shidachi’s Torso (Right foot leading, blade out). Using Nagashi movement Shidachi draws Uchidachi on and into making a Yokomen cut to Shidachi’s head. Using Nagashi movement Shidachi draws Uchidachi’s sword upwards which exposes Shidachi’s left, inviting Uchidachi to make a downward cut. Shidachi avoids the cut using Hikimawari footwork and delivers a final controlling strike to Uchidachi’s left temple.

(打太刀) means “striking/attacking sword” and is one of the two roles in kata of Budō and Bujutsu and is deemed as the teacher.

(受太刀) means “doing/receiving sword” and is the second of the two roles in kata of Budō and Bujutsu and is the student.

SUIGETSU (Solar Plexus)
The Solar Plexus is a complex of ganglia and radiating nerves of the sympathetic system at the pit of the stomach.

Floating, slicing or sliding action may partly describe this. Nagashi is a skill of meeting the attacking power and deviate in a desired direction.

Footwork during cutting or striking

Footwork during cutting or striking is built upon “rolling foot” action. When the front foot is rolling, the back foot is sliding (tsugi ashi) forward. There is no “one-two” action in the footwork. Both feet are moving in one continuous pace.

Another feature is turning the feet during cutting or striking. This can be practised during “gassho exercise”, an exercise for striking but also neutralizing a strike  to the head by using a “nagashi” movement. Nagashi is a skill of meeting the attacking power and deviate in a desired direction.

Koryu no kata dai san has may sequences where a nagashi movement is used. Some examples during suwari waza.


Tanren, forging the body/spirit

The techniques themselves do not matter, which is important are the universal principles applicable to all techniques, regardless of the art practiced

Sometimes you will find the word “tanren” in an article about martial arts. Mostly it is translated as “forging the body and/or the spirit”.
To give it a more practical idea:

Tanren kihon are exercises for “forging and polishing” motor skills and physics in order to use the bio-mechanics of the martial art.

We commented already on the practise of tanren in another blog article

Tanren in Budo Aikido and Kyogi Aikido

We have to consider the differences between

  • Budo Aikido (Aikido as a martial art)
  • Kyogi Aikido (Aikido as a martial sport)

In the context of “Study Group Tomiki Aikido” the emphasis will be on Budo Aikido. However, we can consider Tomiki Aikido as a hybrid method. Young people start with the emphasis on the sporting side, older people are more attracted by the Budo aspect.

Is there a difference in approach between Budo Aikido and Kyogi Aikido?
Basically there is not any difference in the case of body movements. The difference is in the strategy how to utilize the body movements.

Tanren-gata and shinken-gata

In some martial arts, the terms tanren-gata and shinken-gata are used to indicate the difference between a kata to improve body movements and a combat oriented kata.

In judo, for example, kime-no-kata is a combat oriented kata. In the past, another name was used for this kata : “shinken shobu no kata”.
Tomiki Aikido kata/katachi can also be classified as tanren-gata or shinken-kata.

Most of the basic kata (basic15, basic17, tanto basic17, ura-waza……..) can be classified as a tanren-gata. A formalised series of movements or techniques using basic criterion:

  • Jibun no tsukuri – preparing yourself to attack
  • Aite no tsukuri – preparing the opponent to receive the attack
  • Kake – the attacking or decisive (kime) movement & technique

The purpose is to study and implement the movements of the elementary techniques into the brain. The efficiency of these technical movements will be further refined and become useful with adequate randori training.

Of course, other criterion can be used. Kuzushi (balance disturbing) for example is one of the criteria which are often used to create an efficient attack. In this case we can mention 7-hon no kuzushi omote & ura. As usual there many interpretations of these exercises. Use the skill of creativity to create your own 7-hon no kuzushi. Maybe there are more kinds of kuzushi. Aikido is a living art.

Another criterion is about how to use power in our movements. In Kyogi Aikido &Budo Aikido the correct use of power (taiju no ido-momentum & tenshikei-rotational power) is necessary when doing randori (training or shiai) and kata/katachi training. There are many exercises to develop these kind of power, and in combination with “correct” randori training, techniques will become more alive. Of course you only can start with randori geiko when you have a certain level in subconscious understanding of basic movements and techniques.

senta yamada's syllabus.pdfBasic kata

There are many versions of basic kata – see katachi or kata

Basic 15 was one of the first attempts to codify techniques for randori by grouping them into sections.   In a grading syllabus compiled by Senta Yamada, he speaks about basic technique performed in kata style. In another document, he mentioned “kihon no katachi”, 20 basic techniques.
In the early days of Tomiki Aikido, basic technique was performed from a posture with a small separation between Tori and Uke. Breaking the posture of Uke was the first action of Tori – see breaking through kamae -.

tomiki100yrs 018A question here is “do we use chudan no kamae” in a fight? It is an almost a utopian vision of the art of fighting if we stick to the image of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba. It is a good “starting point” to study elementary techniques.
We can conclude, basic kata is not really shinken-gata but a form of  tanren-gata. We learn body movements by using tegatana, tai-sabaka (without a real attack) and a basic technique. If chudan no kamae is so important, why is it not frequently included into Koryu no kata?

Koryu no kata

There are 6 koryu no kata with each a different purpose. The origin of some koryu no kata can be found in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu or other Japanese martial arts like Kito Ryu or Ryōi Shintō-ryū. Besides many tai-jutsu waza (unarmed skills) some weapon skills are incorporated into koryu no kata. The weapon skills can vary depending on the weapon school of the principal instructor (shihan).

Some part of the koryu no kata can be seen as shinken-gata. There is a dangerous attack with an appropriate defensive action.
Other parts of the koryu no kata cannot be catalogued as a shinken-gata. Take for example koryu no kata dai yon, section 1 & 2. The approach is not very combat oriented. It is about an almost abstract view on kuzushi.

Koryu no kata dai yon

jodanaigamae 6Kuzushi has a lot of interpretations. It can be a something where the body is collapsing, or it is a method to fix or freeze the opponent.
Koryu no kata dai yon section 1 has 7 methods to freeze an opponent during a split of a second. It is called 7-hon no kuzushi. In the kata is a omote version and a ura version. The 3rd section is more combat oriented with a strong emphasis on kuzushi. This creates an almost artificial view on combat techniques.
Besides the different aspect of kuzushi in an omote or ura fashion, there is also an interesting part in the role of uke : ukemi-gata.
Ukemi is strongly related to the action of tori. Without a proper action of tori, ukemi becomes a kind of show action: a delusion. During embu competitions, this delusion is often demonstrated. Uke is jumping in a “big ukemi” before the power of Tori is reaching the target, and sometimes you will notice a lack of power with Tori and still Uke is doing this big and silly ukemi. It is not the action which is a delusion, but it is the thinking you can do it perfectly and having the power to throw everybody.

Another aspect in 7-hon no kuzushi is the possibility to use chudan no kamae or other forms of kamae when performing different kinds of kuzushi. Maybe we can see these movements as a kind of exercise when the opponent is using a grasping attack to the wrist when we are adopting chudan no kamae. In basic kata, grasping is used as an aite no tsukuri.

Of course, there is the question: Is koryu no kata dai yon a tanren-gata or shinken-gata?

History of Koryu no kata

Takeshi Inoue the autor of a book on Koryu no kata, who knows in detail the background of the creation of the Koryu no kata wrote:

In about 1958, we practiced mainly the unsoku, tandoku undo, yonhon no kuzushi (a former version of the nanahon no kuzushi/7-hon no kuzushi) as well as the jugohon no kata (basic15 kata). In around 1960, the junanahon no kata ( basic17 kata) and the roppon no kuzushi/6-hon no kuzushi were created and then the dai-san no kata was devised as a kata of classical techniques. During the mid-60 Ohba Sensei and others worked on the creation of the kata forms of the dai-ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), which we practice as the koryu no kata, in order to work on techniques for demonstrations and for purposes other than randori. What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally. After he had organized the techniques to some extent, Ohba Sensei reported to Tomiki Sensei and demonstrated what he had done for him. He received some advice from Tomiki Sensei and then added corrections to the kata. (“Bujin Hideo Ohba,” Kyogi Aikido Soseiki no Ayumi; Ohba Hideo Sensei o Shinobu, p. 67)

Koryu no kata is not for shiai

Some of koryu no kata can be catalogued as a shinken-gata or combat kata. Mostly there is a dangerous attack and an efficient defensive technique.
To create an efficient defensive technique, the attack must be dangerous. Is the attack really dangerous or is it fake? Is the attack a sole attempt without a further follow-up by another dangerous attack?

In Kodokan Judo, there was an attempt to introduce efficient “atemi”. This was called “Seiryoku zen’yo kokumin taiku, a kata for studying proper atemi. In aikido, there are several attempts to introduce proper atemi into the art. Mochizuki sensei used some karate to refine the art of atemi in his Yoseikan Aikido or Budo.

Tomiki Aikido is using atemi waza as an attack to throw the opponent without clashing with the power and body structure. But from the point of view of combat, the target of the atemi has to be a physiological weak spot of the body, while the atemi waza of Kenji Tomiki is used as an attack to a weak dynamical point of the body. Tomiki’s atemi waza are very safe in randori and shiai, but koryu no kata is not randori.

Since years we can see the influence of shiai oriented randori in the use of atemi waza in Koryu no kata. While originally a Shinken-gata, Koryu no kata became a Kyogi Aikido kata. The decline of efficiency in koryu no kata is inevitable when this process is not stopped. A study is necessary to create a training method to bring back the efficiency of atemi on physiological weak spots. In this case we must consider:

  • the target
  • the weapon (fist, edge of the hand, foot,……)
  • how to use and control power – hakkei

tad abe book

Atemi waza is covered in Tadashi Abe’s book. He considers atemi waza an extremely important technique in aikido.

In many koryu jujutsu schools of Japan, the skill of atemi is an important item in their syllabus. For example, Tenjin Shin’yo-ryu one of the origins of Kodokan Judo was well-known for atemi waza.

By using the basic criterion, explained earlier, and the correct method for atemi (target, weapon & power) we can revive koryu no kata back as a shinken-gata. But as we don’t want to hurt people controlling the use of power is a feature to include in our training. Therefore the methods of randori can be included to learn control without losing efficiency in our body movements.


“Randori practise is something that is done to give life to the real power of those techniques that were learned through kata. That is to say, randori provides the power to complete a painted dragon by filling in the eyes.”

This phrase comes from an article written by Kenji Tomiki. In the same article he wrote about the need of doing kata training to avoid the deterioration of Aikido. Unfortunately the influence of randori and especially randori shiai has a big impact on the efficiency of koryu no kata as a shinken-gata.

Although it seems Kenji Tomiki favoured atemi waza as a kind of throwing technique, he still insisted on the use of atemi waza as a combat method (shinken-gata), but he stressed to regulate the use of such severe methods of atemi waza. To regulate such methods and avoiding accidents during training, he recommended kata training method.

Randori training has 3 levels:

  • Kakari geiko
  • Hikitate geiko
  • Randori geiko

These methods will be discussed in a separate blog article published later.