Ma-ai, a question of space

Budo movement can be understood as communication between two persons mediated by the body, that is usually considered two separate and independent bodies but rather should be considered integrated as one body communication system.
The point where two bodies (in Budo) becomes one body communication system depends upon the condition of the interface between the two bodies or persons. (from: Movement of Budo by : Yosuke YANASE )

A communication system is a moving construction and when communication stops there will be no movement anymore.
During a moving process, the feeling of safety is very important and is expressed by the skill of “rikakutaisei, fighting from a distance”.
Distancing or using the appropriate distance during a confrontation is a skill often used in martial arts but also in other fields of human behaviour.

Ma-ai, a dynamic concept

In Japanese terminology, distancing is ma-ai (ma, spatiotemporal interval 􏰀 ai, harmony). Ma-ai integrates space, time, and rhythm and is the ideal situation to control a confrontation.
Controlling the situation or in other words “controlling the actions of the opponent” is depending on Hyoshi.
Ma-ai is not a fixed distance, it is dynamic. Depending on the situation, distance will change.

Safe and unsafe distance

In another post, ring of power, the concept of a close distance was used to practise posture and power through a grip on opponent. Before we have a proper grip on opponent, we need some skills to gap the distance between you and opponent.
These skills incorporate the concept of safety by using “rikakutaisei” or fighting from a distance.

Basically we can distinguish 3 kinds of distance during a confrontation.

  • When there is no physical contact it is called To-ma.
  • Making physical contact but still safe in your own environment it is called Uchi-ma.
  • Chika-ma is the distance for using power. Without controlling opponent actions it is very unsafe.

Don’t confuse distancing or ma-ai with the 3 kind of distance. In each distance, the skill of ma-ai can be used.

Rikakutaisei, fighting from a distance

Rikakutaisei is a word to describe the expression “fighting from a distance”. In general this is explained as a distance when using “tegatana awase” distance. Of course to attack we have to come closer. The attacking distance is depending on the use of ma-ai or distancing.

We know space is expressed by the word “Ma” and it is not fixed distance. Controlling the actions of opponent can give an opportunity to attack. The example here is from “uchi-ma” entering into “chika-ma” to apply power or in other words “a technique or waza”.

Closing the gap between you and opponent

As with everything in martial art, there are many solutions for 1 problem. It depends on the level of the practitioner which skill is used.
To create such skills, basic training is used to ingrain basic movements into the subconscious mind.

Stepping skills
During unsoku-ho, basic patterns are used to practised stepping skills. In this exercise the skill of tsugi-ashi is practised.
Bridging a long distance uses mainly a ayumi-ashi stepping method and will be practised separately.

Controlling skills
If we only use stepping skills it is possible we can control an opponent without touching. But at a certain point in a confrontation we have to take a decision and use our hand(s) and arm(s) to create a definite solution.
There are many armskills to control an opponent. In the various kata, examples are used to have training in the control of aggression.
To understand the principles of aikido, we use our body as a communication tool.
The example below shows a kind of body turning, an important bodyskill. Uke is grasping the arm, Tori is not changing the interface of the grip. Tori uses the turning of the body and at the end of the turning the power of the turning is entering into the body of Uke. The distancing performed by Tori is necessary to perform the bodyturn and to use “tenshikei”.

Internal and external distancing

Distancing or ma-ai is not only depending on stepping methods, but can also performed when we cannot do stepping skills.
As in the previous example, the body can turn without changing the interface of the grip by Uke.
How is this possible?

If some is twisting your arm, your muscles are wrapping around your skeleton. The power of the twist is stored in your muscles but also in your tendons. Tendons have a great capacity to store energy. This energy can be released. This action is a clever way to use distancing internally.

Some clarification

Most of the material discussed in the blog articles is my interpretation of the various teachings learned and practised during seminars, workshops and long-term training periods with interesting people.
Sometimes I am using material to explain some topics with images found in articles and books. Mostly I provide the source of the images, but sometimes I fail to mention the source. I apologise…..

2-weeks seminar with Andre Nocquet – La Baule/France 1972

Tenshi-Meguri & 7-hon no kuzushi

KobayashiTilburgIn the 70-ties I had the opportunity to study aikido with Hirokazu Kobayashi. In that time I didn’t understand the concept of meguri* and tenshi (body rotation). Kobayashi stressed on many occasions the spiral movement of the wrist and the dropping of the elbow. Using the koshi was also one of his favorite remarks.
It was Akira Hino’s explanation about “tenshi-kei”, the power of internal rotation, that gave me a better understanding of meguri* and the use of koshi (lower back).

Kobayashi en Eddy*A defensive movement when grasped at the wrist, is the skill of “meguri”, meaning flexibility, rotation of the forearms. The use of the koshi as engine for power release increases the efficiency of defense action.

Meguri and tenshi are the main components in 7-hon no kuzuzhi, the balance disturbing exercises of Tomiki’s Aikido. Without spiral rotations, the balance disturbing will only rely on muscular power of the arm. Only by using “rendo” or synchronizing body movements, the power of meguri and tenshi will create the necessary balance disturbing followed by a throw or control action.

7-hon no kuzushi

kuzushi007The concept of balance disturbing in Tomiki’s Aikido is partly the result of the influence of Kodokan Judo, but also Morhei Ueshiba’s Aikido is prominent present.

Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido is build around the use of rotational and spiral power.

In the picture, there is the downward rotational movement of the body. By using a meguri pulling action on the sleeve or arm, the rotational movement changes into a downward spiral movement.

Some teachers use an almost linear approach, others use a more circular approach. This of course will affect the perception and will have a negative influence on the performance of lesser skillful practitioners. The external movements has to combined with internal movements, this is only possible through the skill of “rendo”.

The 7-hon no kuzushi is build around :

  • vertical movement
  • horizontal movement
  • central axis rotation

The basic positions are “aigamae” & “gyakugamae” for the vertical and horizontal movements. You will notice, Uke is grasping the wrist with the right hand and keeps the left hand ready for the follow-up action. This can be a strike with the fist or another grasping action.
The central axis rotation start from a rear attack position. Of course the central axis rotation is also present in the vertical and horizontal movements.

When studying 7-hon no kuzushi, we have to understand these movements are simplified and will not work in a randori environment without adaptation to the circumstances.
The movement pattern of these exercises has to be written in the subconscious part of the mind for immediate access when necessary

Vertical movement

jodan kuzushi
Combination Jodan & Gedan Kuzushi

There are 2 vertical modes in 7-hon no kuzushi:

  • upward – jodan-kuzushi is mostly characterized by a hineri movement
    • aigamae
    • gyakugamae
  • downward – gedan kuzushi – mostly characterized by a “gaeshi” movement
    • aigamae
    • gyakugamae

gaeshi

Horizontal movement

hineri

Horizontal kuzushi movements are mostly characterized by a hineri movement
When performing from the right posture, opponent can attack from 2 positions:

  • aigamae
  • gyakugamae

Central axis rotation

The idea here is an application of spinning top power.**

**A spinning top is a toy designed to spin rapidly on the ground, the motion of which causes it to remain precisely balanced on its tip due to its rotational inertia.

Meguri and tenshi in 7-hon no kuzushi

A “kuzushi” movement is succesful when we consider the following:

  • target: the wrist attacked by the opponent
  • the hand of the grasped wrist to indicate the direction
  • the elbow: the transfer joint for the full-body power by using meguri and tenshi

The target

Opponent can grasp the wrist according 2 modes:

  • omote dori – outside wrist
    • go-no-sen
    • sen-no-sen
  • ura dori – inside wrist
    • go-no-sen
    • sen-no-sen

Each mode has an influence on the hand movement of the grasped wrist. In the go-no-sen mode, opponent has the initiative of the grasping. Defender has the initiative in the sen-no-sen mode.

There are 2 grasping methods:

  • junte dori – regular grip
  • gyakute dori – reverse grip

In 7-hon no kuzushi only the junte dori is covered. Gyakute dori or reverse grip is used in kote gaeshi, kote mawashi ……..

How to grasp a wrist?

Grasping a wrist is “almost identical” as grasping the hilt of a sword.
Most of the holding power is in the thumb and middle finger. Little finger, ringfinger and index finger are envelopping the wrist. Grasping is not a static action. The dynamics of grasping is the result of “meguri” and “tenshi”.

holding the swordholding wrist

The hand of the grasped wrist

As already mentioned, Tori can act in a go-no-sen or sen-no-sen mode.

The hand in most of the cases can move freely. There are 2 basic modes:

  • upward
  • downward

By using the turning point in the hand, the tendon of in the forearm will stretch. If the point of turning is close to the wrist, the stretching will not happen. By stretching the tendon(s) it is easier to use the elbow in the desired direction.

aiki age sage009

Meguri and the use of elbow

Meguri is based upon the flexibility and rotation of the forearm.
The flexibility and rotation of the forearm and elbow is depending on the connection with the kyokotsu, a point at the breastbone. When pulling in the arm by using the biceps muscle, the shoulder will be locked and the power from the central body cannot travel through the elbow to the hand.
In his book “Goshi Jutsu Nyumon”, Kenji Tomiki used a picture to explain hand and elbow movement around a fulcrum, the grasping point by opponent. The picture is only showing the principle of leverage and does not include meguri action.
It is not always possible to move efficiently just by using simple leverage as seen in Tomiki’s fulcrum picture. The elbow movement is only possible if the shoulder is free of tension.

point of rotation

Tenshi around skeletonRotation of the forearm when grasped at the wrist is possible by using the skill of “tenshi” or internal rotation. Tenshi-kei is the power of tenshi and can be used to make waza efficiency higher.

We can use body rotation and internal rotation at the same time to increase waza efficiency. An example can be the rear wrists grasping where we use an external body rotation and tenshi or internal rotation.

Basic 7-hon no kuzushi

7-hon no kuzushi is an exercise to study body movements which can be used in all forms of balance disturbing. The belief that 7-hon no kuzushi is the method for balance disturbance is a delusion. It is an exercise to learn how to use the body with external and internal movements.

There are many versions of 7-hon no kuzushi. The early versions are created when Kenji Tomiki was still teaching. During the creation of Koryu no kata, the study of 7-hon no kuzushi became a part of the training and was incorporated into Koryu no kata daiyon.

History of Koryu no kata

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

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

Some examples from an old Waseda movie 1975

7-hon no kuzushi by Takaeshi Inoue 

The illustrations: Tomiki Aikido-Book 1-1978 by dr Lee ah Loi
Tori: Takeshi Inoue

Jodan – aigamae

jodan aigamae

Jodan – gyakugamae

judan gyakugamae

Chudan aigamae

chudan aigamae

Chudan gyakugamae

chudan gyakugamae

Gedan aigamae

gedan aigamae

Gedan gyakugamae

gedan gyakugamae

Ushiro

ushiro kuzushi

7-hon no kuzushi application examples

Some applications we can find in “Koryu no kata dai yon”.
Examples are:
Jodan kuzushi aigamae nage waza

jodan omote 1b

 

Jodan kuzushi gyakugamae nage waza

jodan omote 2b.jpg

 

 

From “Koryu no kata dai roku”
Jodan & gedan kuzushi

Schermafbeelding 2019-04-12 om 17.06.09

More randori oriented example:
Hiki otoshi

hiki otoshi 001 kopie