Aikidō: A Matrix Budō

In 1976, I stayed for several weeks in Shizuoka Japan and practised mostly Korindo Ryu Aikido with Hakamatsu sensei, a Shihan of Minoru Hirai Korindo Ryu. I didn’t really understood very well the principles and concepts of this martial art. But I made a lot of notes in my martial art diary. From time to time I am re-reading my notes and I discovered some secrets which I didn’t understood very well in that time.

The ideas and concepts taught to me in 1976 by Hakamatsu sensei are not opposing the ideas and concepts of Kenji Tomiki sensei and Hideo Ohba sensei. I was thaught by Hideo Ohba in Okubo Tokyo a few years later and I didn’t realize the similarities at that time.

It was a shocking idea to discover the concept of “Matrix* Budō “. One of the most important principles is to apply a single set of basic forms of exercise, which contains all vital movement elements, to all types of combat. These forms are contained in the developed taisabaki (tandoku undo). This taisabaki is the basis of all forms of movement, from which all techniques arise. A botai-budō or matrix-budō.

This concept was in the mind of Kenji Tomiki, when he was rationalizing Ueshiba’s Aikido. He formulated unsoku-ho and tandoku undo, containing the basic information for further development of the practitioner. Together with some other fundamental principles, a unique system is created which included kata and randori.

*Matrix = Botai (母体) = whomb, uterus

Don’t become fixed on techniques. Create your own waza.

Matrix

Matrix: an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure.

Matrix Budō

Minoru Hirai was the founder of Kōrindō Aikidō, a martial art based upon older forms of Jujutsu, Kenjutsu and other Japanese martial arts. He was also during World War II a director of Kobukan, Morihei Ueshiba organisation. Minoru Hirai introduced the word aikido as a generic term for Japanese martial arts not associated with Judo or Kendo. Basically it can be said, aikido is a term to define martial arts auround the “aiki” principle. (see also Minoru Hirai Korindo Aikido). As usual, the information on Wikipedia is based sometimes upon the view of one person or group and can be controversial for other persons.

Hirai’s martial art developed over time into what he calls Matrix Budō “, which is not based on a multitude of different techniques, but is based on a single principle practised during taisabaki movements:

The harmoniously round circle (enten) and ball rotation (kyūten) expressed by koshi-mawari in a number of forms of movement called taisabaki.

Koshi-mawari taisabaki serve as the basis in order to acquire efficient natural movement.

From koshi-mawari taisabaki, you develop a natural, rotating-flowing movement mode. Out of this, techniques are created unintentionally and adapted to the constantly changing situation, with which the attacker can be controlled and thrown because one does not oppose the attacking force. In order to acquire the movement of koshi-mawari taisabaki the following forms of exercise are practiced in training:

  • 7 or 8 forms of movement (taisabaki), which are initially trained individually, then in combination, and finally with a partner;
  • Partner forms to deepen the correct posture and the approach of every movement;
  • Randori means free attack and free movements in order to spontaneously realize the principle of koshi-mawari.

Enten

円転 Smooth circular motion; spherical; rolling smoothly; (with) smooth circular motion

The principle of giving movements a circular, flowing, non-okori course. The circular movements can be thought of as horizontal and vertical rotations.

Okori: The approach or initial impetus that usually initiates a movement. As a result, an attack usually reveals itself at the moment it arises. This happens often when attacker lauch a strike by stamping his back leg into the ground to create momentum or using a stamping front leg to give more power in the (tanto)strike. This can be avoided by using ashi no korobi or rolling feet or using a short tsugi-ashi after adjusting ma-ai.

Kyūten

球転 Ball rolling, ball rotation

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

from: Narita Shinjūrō – Kōrindō Aikidō

The ball rotation is perfectly round at all times. It has no corners or edges. Thanks to the rotations of the ball with this form of movement, continuous changes in direction are always possible. One could also describe the rotations as the sum of all angles of a circle. In Budo, the angles at which the two opponents meet play a critical role for victory or defeat, since each of the opponents tries to avoid the attack of his opponent in some way in order to get to the target with his blow. How to design the relationship of the angles to an attack line for your own advantage is therefore one of the decisive questions in every style.

Hirai came to the conclusion that it was not necessary to deliberately choose an angle of attack or defense against an opponent, but it was enough if one acted on his rotational movements from the angular fullness of the rotations of a 360 degree circle. Because when you implement the circular principle in your actions, you move completely freely and unhindered, because every movement always includes all contact points as they lie on a 360-degree circle. The sum of the angles of a circle remains the same, regardless of its size, although the smaller the circular movements, the more favorable it is for our purposes. In the thousands of possibilities, any one of the opponents will always be captured.

Since a circle encompasses a total of 360 degrees, any other shape, no matter how polygonal, would be less favorable in any case, since it must inevitably always have blind spots. As a result, gaps arise in defense, where one is inevitably defeated. Without this principle as a matrix, there can hardly be any effective taijutsu, kenjutsu or jojutsu. If it is possible to acquire koshi-mawashi, everything else will follow naturally.

To illustrate the effect of the koshi-mawashi principle, one can imagine the following: hold a sword horizontally sideways and turn from the center, i.e. koshi. Each angular point of the circle will be full of energy.

This effect can also be shown by a partner exercise from 7hon no kuzushi

This is something that every human being is able to accomplish. Every student has the opportunity to learn aikido with sufficient effort, since everyone is naturally capable of these circular or spherical movements with their 360 degrees.

With this form of movement, you have an unlimited number of hit points on the 360 degree circle, at least one of which inevitably contains the opponent’s hit point location. With the circular or spherical movements (Kyūten), you reliably reach the crucial point. Everything depends on the skill of moving the body with a circular or spherical pattern and able to to generate power to the opponent from each point of circle created by koshi-mawari taisabaki.

An opponent who fixes his attack on only one point only has this one chance. On the other hand, if you trust in the infinite number of angular possibilities, you are definitely in an advantage, because you can generate power from any point of your circle to an opponent’s vulnerable point.

Beyond that, no further considerations or techniques are required. Because of the fact that, in contrast to the opponent attacking with only one possibility, you have this unlimited number of angles, and you are able to master it completely, you can overcome it. Since this can hardly be achieved with rehearsed, fixed and therefore rigid techniques (katachi), it is better to work with the kyūten principle. This in turn is inextricably linked to the term yawara (suppleness).

Kyūten can be considered as a yōso or fundamental principle and is used under different names.

Basic Tomiki Aikido Kata (Basic15 or 17…) can only be considered as an effecient method, when taking in consideration fundamental principles (yōso) and the evolution from katachi to kata. The different waza cannot be considered as techniques, but as an expression of fundamental principles of Budō. By using randori, waza becomes alive. As Tomiki sensei mentioned: we need randori to paint in the eye of the dragon.

Achieving smooth movements must be regarded as one of the most important prerequisites for successful Budō. Jerky, forcefully applied techniques have the disadvantage that each new movement starts from a standstill. The absence of circular or spherical movements needs a forcefully start of a linear movement, which is easily detected by an opponent. Remember, kyūten is a skill for instant power generation and movement. This type of movement cannot be learned solely through the appropriately determined handles and tricks

These rotational and smooth movements are inseparable linked to the concept of yawara (suppleness). Rather, this idea of yawara* (JU in JU-do or JU-jutsu) is the physical expression of an inner attitude, which is often expressed in terms of harmony. Internal tension and aggressiveness would prevent the development of suppleness. As it is free from tension, it represents the most natural of all forms of movement and finds its equivalent in the concept of enten-mukyu**, the endlessly flowing and spherical twists.

*The kanji for yawara and ju in jujutsu is the same (柔). For Tomiki sensei “ju or yawara” is the principle of gentleness and it is similar to “aiki”, which is an explanation of the principle from within. Remember it was Minoru Hirai who introduced the word “Aikido” to make a separate division in Dai Nippon Butokukai. The word “aiki” was used by different Ryuha and it was difficult to bring them under the banner of Kodokan Judo.

**Endless circular movements. Can be considered as a Buddhist concept of Karma. After Buddhism was introduced to Japan, people easily accepted the notion of karmic retribution but not the literal belief of rebirth as animals or lower life forms. Transmigration of the soul focused more on the practical path to liberation.

Koshi-mawari

Koshi

Physiologically the pelvic area of the human body. It is also related to the lower back and sometimes it is referring to the waist. It is often translated by “hips” and referring to the hip joints although this is not completely correct. See “Koshi or other blog post and do a search with “koshi”.

Koshi-mawari or koshi-mawashi

The difference between the two terms koshi-mawari and koshi-mawashi is a grammatical one and consists in the fact that this is a question of a transitive and an intransitive verb form.

In practical use, the transitive form “koshi mawashi” means that the rotations are deliberately started, while koshi-mawari points to automatic, naturally occurring rotations by koshi.

Taisabaki

Some practitioners believe taisabaki is just avoiding an attack. This is only a small part of taisabaki. Basically it means a moving body.

Taisabaki has 3 elements;

  • Ashi-sabaki – concerning the feet and legs
  • Te-sabaki – concerning the hands and arms
  • Koshi-sabaki – concerning the central body, especially the lower part

How to……?

In fact, your training is not about winning or losing a match or a combat. It is about your attitude towards an unknown territory named Budō. In Budō-land are no rules or descriptions how to do a technique. There are only Yōso or fundamental principles. If you cannot see them and understand, you will not be a real Budō-ka (a martial art practitioner). You will rely on brute force and driven by primitive desire to win.

In these blog-posts, there are many indications how to master fundamental principles. If you can integrate them into your martial art practise, I believe you are on the right path of Budō.

Anyway you can have more ideas here

Tandoku Undo – Solo training

Workshop 14-16 February 2020

This workshop was build around basic aikido movements and the overlapping elements of different methods of aikido.

  • Solo training: warming up, unsoku ho and tandoku undo
  • Partner training: 7-hon no kuzushi – using the central line or seichusen
  • Partner training: 2 aspects of tekubi waza – hineri & gaeshi
  • Taijū no ido & Taijū no dendō or “using body weight”
Partner training is discussed in another blog-post.

Your personal solo-training

Solo-training is an integral part of martial art training. The difficulty is the absence of the instructor or coach to encourage you. Most people have always an excuse for not doing solo-training during their spare time.

Personal solo-training can be practised any free-time and can give you a lot of benefits.

Benefits of solo-training

Solo-training is your personal tool to create skills usefull during dojo-training. You can use exercises dvelopped by yourself or you can use syllabus items supplemented with your ideas. Of course beginners start better with the syllabus basic solo-exercises. During dojo-training, your coach or instructor will help you with problems and difficulties.

An important benefit of solo-training, you can choose yourself which movement you like to improve. Solo-training during your spare time is not dependent on the opening hours of the dojo. You only need some space were you can practise your solo-exercises. Only you are responsable for your practise time.

Warming-up

There are numerous versions of warming-up. If you just want to do some exercises to change from a sedentary moment to a more dynamic moment, warming-up will focus on moving major body joints. Some teachers even say there is no warming-up needed, because Budo movements can be used for warming-up.

A simple method for a short warming-up

  1. Knees/Ankle rotation
  2. Hip rotation
  3. Waist rotation
  4. Body rotation
  5. Shoulder/Elbow rotation
  6. The Wave

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Knees/Ankle rotation

Turning of the knees and ankles. For example 10x left and right.

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Hip rotation

Turning the hips horizontally. For example 10x left and right.

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Waist rotation

Bend knees and keep together.Turning the waist left & right 20X

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Body rotation

Body rotation along the body axis. 20X

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Shoulder/Elbow rotation

This is a “kyokotsu” exercise

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The Wave

A 3D exercise with “undulation” patern.

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Unsoku-ho or foot movements patterns

Unsoku-ho in Tomiki Aikido is based upon Judo foot movements. When you only practise these patterns, you will find out the restrictive character of these judo foot movements pattern.

Organising another unsoku-ho for a more traditional aikido practise includes turning actions generated by turning “hara” movements.

Extended unsoku-ho can be included into basic tandoku undo.

  • Ashi no korobi (rolling feet)
  • Tsugi Ashi (short distance)
  • Ayumi ashi (stepping)
  • De-mawari (forward turning step)
  • Hiki-mawari (backward turning step)
  • Tentai (180° turning without stepping)

Tandoku Undo

Almost every Aikido group has some kind of solo-training and Tomiki Aikido is no exception. Tomiki Aikido tandoku undo will vary according the organisations syllabus. As beginner you just stick to the syllabus.

Tomiki Aikido Tandoku undo is created around 3 kind of basic movements already discussed earlier.

  • Uchi & tsuki waza: striking movements
  • Tegatana Go-dosa: 5 handblade movements
  • Unsoku-ho: foot patterns

Athough there is a certain sequence in the solo-training, you don’t have to practise the exercises as prediscribed by the syllabus. If you find out you need some time fo improve a certain skill, you can practise only those exercises which include the pattern of the skill.

  1. Unsoku-ho
  2. Shomen uchi/tsuki
  3. Uchi/soto mawashi
  4. Uchi/soto gaeshi
  5. Uchi mawashi – de-mawari
  6. Soto mawashi – hiki-mawari
  7. Ko-mawashi – tentai
  8. O-mawashi – de-mawari/hiki-mawari

Yōso-fundamental elements

In his book “Don’t think, listen to the body”, Akira Hino discussed the skill of Hakkei (instant or explosive power). To perform such a skill, the sensation line of Rendo is needed. In fact to actualize a technique, a precise line of sensation is needed. To create such a line, a precise understanding of fundamentals is needed. This is not about techniques or so called basic principles as for example “kuzushi”.

Kuzushi is called balance breaking or balance disturbing and is the result of fundamental actions of moving the body. So, kuzushi is not a fundamental element but rather a basic manipulation action to create a successful technique (kihon waza).

Taijū no ido & Taijū no dendō

It is possible by using martial techniques to identify certain yōso (fundamental elements), such as the displacement of the body weight or transmission of the body weight. (体重 の 移動, taïjū no idō, body weight shift and 体重の伝導, taïjū no dendō, body weight transmission).

The displacement of the body weight (body weight shift) is when we move in such a way that we shift its center of gravity and the transmission of the body weight is an advanced use of the displacement of the body weight which allows to use the weight of the body to the other without giving access to the opponent. Strictly speaking, the displacement of the body weight consists of moving by making of its body a single block. For example, moving forwards, or backwards, by being a solid block. The use of gravity is a fundamental element for a succesful waza.

Using gravity

Gravity has a direct relationship with body weight. When we walk, basically we use gravity to move forward or another direction. The movement of the foot has an image of a rolling ball: 足 の 転 び, ashi no korobi, rolling or rocking the foot.
Be light like a rolling ball …and let gravity do the job.

The knee of ashi no korobi is used to create “kuzushi” or using gravity. The body will fall forward in this example. By using the skill of moving the foot forward, the balance of the body will be kept. Unsoku-ho of the exercise of foot movements is using in many cases the skill of ashi no korobi.

Waza, a personal skill

Waza or martial art technique is a personal skill and will be very difficult to teach another person without bodily understanding of fundamental elements. A technique has several fundamental actions and those movements are called gi-jutsu and should be acquired by training and not the waza itself. Waza belongs to the individual, and only yōso * can be taught by the sensei.

Yōso* : literally translated as “principle”, but in the context of our study we use “essential element” or “reality based upon laws and rules”.

Yōso (fundamental elements)

Another important yōso (fundamental elements) is the internal line of motion or undō-sen. Power is needed in order to move the body. Because power has to travel through the body to reach the target and we just have to become aware of the line of motion. Some lines of motion are very obvious. Other are hidden inside the body.

Take for example swinging the arms. The outward movement can be understood by everybody. But if your teacher tells you to swing your arm with the help of the hara, the center of your being. Can you feel the line of motion?

Feeling the line of motion is one of the core fundamentals in martial arts.

Internal line of motion (運動線, undō-sen).

Rendo is the skill of linking body movements with the result of a waza. This linking of body movements is only possible when we “feel” the body and in other words feeling the line of motion, especially the internal one.

Try to view the body in a 3D format. The internal line of motion is a diagonal line from corner to corner. See picture cube.

Linking the movements of the arm or leg to the internal line of motion is a big challenge for all serious martial art practitioner. Can you detect the line of motion? And can you feel the line of motion when you perform such a movement?

Tenshikei

Tenshikei or using the internal spiral line for power is already a few times discussed in this blog. In the 3D picture above, there is the perception of a straight line. Of course, in reality the line of motion is following a spiral line. By feeling this line we can transfer power to the tarvet via the arm and hand.

The role of kyokotsu

Hino’s book, previously mentioned, has some explanatory “kyokotsu” pictures. Please visit Amazon to buy the book

Kyokotsu is the lower part of the breastbone. By moving kyokotsu forward or backward, a movement is created in the back muscles (open and close).

Kyokotsu has also a moving effect on the spine, especially the lower part (koshi region: psoas and iliac muscles).

By connecting kyokotsu to arms and legs, a full body movement can be performed. It takes at least a few years of practise to create such a skill. The associated waza becomes more efficient and with the correct strategy gives you a chance to control opponent.

Using fingers and elbows

Connecting elbows to the kyokotsu can be very helpfull when you are grasped by opponent on the wrist of forarm. As explained previously, there is a connection between a moving kyokotsu and the back muscles. When kyokotsu is moving inward, the back muscles will push the elbows forward. When the elbows are pulling in, kyokotsu will move forward.

Do we have to focus on kyokotsu when moving the elbows? No, if we can observe the line of motion, the body will do the job. The difficulty is in the conscious mind which likes to take over the process of moving the body. Just become an observer, don’t interfere in the movements.

When pushing with the elbows, there is of course a limit in the distance. Here start the movement of the hand with the fingers. By stretching the finger into the direction of the target, a pulling action is activated in the forearm. This is already discussed in an earlier post about push/pull action. The mind has an important function. When we can feel the line of motion in the arm (the example of elbow and finger), we can use an image of reaching a far mountain at the horizon: anzen no metsuke.

The relationship with opponent

During our training of martial art, especially aikido, the word harmony is often used to express the relationship with the opponent. Of course harmony has many definitions and harmony in aikido is not an exception.

Awaseru

Generally, awaséru is translated to harmonize with, to match … Harmony is primarly a mental state and the body will follow accordingly.
Therefore you should not go together with the gestures of the partner but with the conscience of the partner.

Chōkei

Listen to the opponent. The extreme development of bodily sensibility, does not only concern the capacity to feel the force and the direction of a physical attack, it is also a question of feeling the intention of the other and changing the intention via a point of contact, physically or mentally.
If one is not capable of chōkei, one can consider that all that one does is only gymnastics. ” Chōkei has a direct relationship with harmony, because if there is no chōkei we cannot create harmony.

Wagō

Wagō, means harmony, concordance, agreement, union, unity …
We often talk about “harmony” in Aikido. The Japanese word for harmony used in aikido is wagō. This word is made up of the kanji 和, which can be read wa and which notably means harmony, peace; and kanji 合, which can be read aï or gō and which could be translated by matching, agreeing, going together …

Conclusion

Aikido can be explained from different point of views. By using the conscious mind we can find a rational definition for this martial art. By using the unconscious mind, the concept of feeling is more important and the conscious mind act as an observer. Trying to express in a rational way, maybe we will miss the real purpose of aikido. Therefore describing aikido via a poem can express the feeling of the movement……maybe……


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

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.

Fibonacci, tenshikei, meguri

Practising for health purposes is an assumption often made by marketeers for a martial art like aikido, based upon a balance between soft and hard. Movements are created following a spiral pattern. It gives a perception of harmony which is another assumption.
When aikido is promoted as a competitive sport, other factors become also important. Fitness, stamina and muscle power come to the foreground.
Although it is said “sport is healthy”, we cannot deny the many injuries of competitors. These injuries come mostly from abusing the body with the purpose to win a game.
On the other side, self-defense is also built upon using our body as a weapon against an opponent. It takes time to internalize aikido patterns in the brain. Fitness, stamina and muscle power are a solution to work around the long term vision of aikido training. Of course fitness and stamina are necessary in order to carry on the training of aikido.
Harmony during movements is a sign of aikido skills and it takes time to become skillful.

If we look around in nature, harmony can be seen in everything where human kind is not involved. Even the eruption of a volcano has harmony in the movements of the lava.
Is there a secret formula in nature for harmony?

Fibonacci sequence or spiral

The Fibonacci spiral based upon the sequence is already mentioned in another blog post, namely The Switch.
But as your read more about these magic numbers more confusion will come into your mind.

The Fibonacci sequence is one of the most famous formulas in mathematics.
Each number in the sequence is the sum of the two numbers that precede it. So, the sequence goes: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on.
It’s true that the Fibonacci sequence is tightly connected to what’s now known as the golden ratio. Simply put, the ratio of the numbers in the sequence, as the sequence goes to infinity, approaches the golden ratio, which is 1.6180339887498948482… From there, mathematicians can calculate what’s called the golden spiral, or a logarithmic spiral whose growth factor equals the golden ratio.
more Fibonacci

1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21-…..

The Fibonacci sequence and human movement

Can we use mathematics to create a better movement? Some consider that there is a relation between our movements and the Fibonacci sequence.
Unfortunately there has not been much research on this matter.
In the field of dance and performance art Fibonacci sequence is utilized to make an image of harmony for the spectator.

Some research is done in the field of athletic sprint.

And Martial Arts?

In karate tsuki ( straight punch), some practitioners are alluding to the Fibonacci ratio. The fist is turning at the end of the trajectory following the Fibonacci ratio.
And what about Aikido, especially Tomiki’s method.
There is no real research in Tomiki Aikido to explain some movements according to the Fibonacci sequence.
Why should we use of Fibonacci formula?

How to transport “force”

The source of power under the best conditions is the ground, the body with all the elements – skeleton,muscles,tendons,fascia,….) are the tools to transport the force to the target.
Internal constructions are spiral force pathways and can be used to change the direction of the force. As we see above in the runner picture, there is a possibility to add a Fibonacci spiral. The picture at left is from the article “athletic sprint” mentioned earlier.
Eventually we can use kyokotsu to trigger a kind of internal Fibonacci spiral like the runners spiral.

The power at the target

The power at the target can be optimized with the Fibonacci formula. Think about “meguri” or spiral action when applying a technique. Or what about tenshikei or rotational power. Spiral power will be generated most efficiently when our structure is optimized. The Fibonacci spiral is not powered by itself, but is a tool to increase the acceleration during the transport of the force from the ground.

The power at the target can be compared to the power of the waves at the sea

An example how to adjust with a Fibonacce spiral

The picture above at the left gives shows a Fibonacci spiral in “uchi mawashi” movement. The picture at the right is from an old Tomiki book “Goshin Jutsu” and the Fibonacci sequence cannot be seen in this drawing.

Tenshikei and Fibonacci

Using the concept of tenshikei and the Fibonacci sequence will increase the power of acceleration due the longer distance. See further about Tenshikei.
Uchi mawashi will become more efficient together with the appropriate displacement of the feet. See “Tsugi Ashi“.

Tenshikei or the rotational power is generated by rotation of the body internally and is expressed by the movement of the arms or legs.
Using the spiral construction of the body, the length of the transport from the floor to the hand can be compared with the bullet in the barrel of a rifle. The construction of the riffle’s barrel creates a spiral action on the bullet and increases the acceleration of the bullet.

Leg spirals can also make the force at the target more powerful.

Final solution?

There is no final answer for the problems we encounter during martial arts training. Our body is a very complicated construction and many movements facets will influence our way of moving around. Also the mind has an influence on the body movements.

The Fibonacci sequence can be used as a proportion rule in our movements. Sometimes we start with a small circular movement which grows to a big one. In another situation we go from big to small. A perfect movement can happen but we cannot copy because the circumstances are always different.
By keeping to the principles, our body will react with the best solution at the right moment if we don’t interfere with the conscious mind, let the unconscious mind do the job. Nature will do it’s job.

Tsugi Ashi

Basic foot movements are a part of basic displacements. We distinguish displacement with and without foot movement. Tsugi ashi is a basic skill and is used in many martial arts in different formats. Mostly it is performed on a flat floor, for example in a dojo with a wooden floor or covered with tatami.

There are different types of tsugi ashi displacement. The most basic one is moving the front foot forward followed by a sliding back foot. When moving backward, the back foot starts first followed by the front foot.
Moving into other directions follows the same method. The foot closest to the target starts first, followed by the other foot.
In any case, the leg (foot, knee and groin) which is moving first must be flexible and no-weight bearing anymore. Gravity induces the displacement. In the article – Meditative Movements – this movement process is discussed.

We distinguish 2 tsugi ashi methods:

  • Small step tsugi ashi – short distance for explosive power
  • Long step tsugi ashi – big distance for long power

The small step tsugi ashi, the front foot heel is lifted and does not bearing any weight, the weight is about 30% on the ball, 70 % is on the back foot (in the middle of the foot). Using small step tsugi ashi is mainly for delivering power.

The long step tsugi ashi is a rolling foot action to cover a relative long distance.

3 kinds of distance 
Chika-Ma= small step tsugi ashi
Uchi-Ma=long step tsugi ashi - musoko-ho
To-Ma=ayumi ashi or longstep tsugi ashi

Making a choice will depend on the action you are performing.
It is of course always an action of the unconscious mind and not a conscious decission. A conscious mind action is always too late when you like to outwit an opponent.

Small step tsugi ashi

A small step tsugi ashi is a displacement to adjust the distance for an explosive movement. To create “hakkei”, distance need sometimes adjusmentn, but not always.
This kind of “hakkei” or “explosive movement” can be used to create balace disturbance (kuzushi) followed by a long step tsugi ashi and/or an ayumi ashi (stepping action).

The action of the front foot has to create an opposing isometric force when the back foot is coming closer to the front foot.

Long step tsugi ashi

Long step tsugi ashi use the rolling foot skill. Mostly this skill is used after an action of “hakkei” or explosive power and continuing with a throw of controlling technique.
Rolling foot is using gravity as a source of power.

Shock absorbers and brakes

On many vehicules we have shock absorbers and brakes.
Take for example a bicycle.

The shock absorbers damp out the motions of a vehicle up and down on its springs.
A bicycle brake reduces the speed of a bicycle or prevents it from moving.

Our body has also some mechanism to absorb and to stop or slow down body movements. It also has a mechanism to prevent (unnecessary) movements.

Shock absorber & brakes forward movement

The back leg functions as an absorber of energy and can rebound to the target.
The front leg functions as a brake to stop a forward movement, for example during a small forward step tsugi ashi. The braking system of the front leg can rebound the energy to the target.
Both stored energy can only rebound if the body is available for energy transport. Any contraction will stop the transport.
The weight on the front foot is on the ball with a slight lifting of the heel, just to put a paper under the heel.
The weight on the rear foot is more closer to the heel, but not on the heel.
The key to this kind of power manipulation is posture training. Solo or partner training.
Unsoku and tandoku undo (tegatana dosa) are good examples for this kind of solo-training
Tegatana-awase and shotei awase are examples for partner training.

A ring of power

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Tolkien – 1954 – The Lord of the Rings

It is silly to think we can control our movements by just using one virtual ring in the body. Our physical behaviour is more complex than 1 body ring.
Nevertheles we can use the image of 1 ring in the upperbody to understand the mechanism of power generation in the arms. Of course this is just one part of the body.

Manipulating kyokotsu, pushing out and pulling in, generates power in the arms produced by stretching and contracting back muscles steered by the inconscious mind.
By moving Kyokotsu, koshi will also move. Drilling the legs and feet will rebound the power from earth in the arms.
Drilling will be discussed in another post.

Inner and outer circle form a ring of power

In a previous post, we spoke about “opposing isometric forces“.

This concept can be introduced in a form of “Toshu Randori”. In this case we grasp each other elbows and creates a ring of power . Each one has his own ring of power, the skill is to merge with opponent’s ring of power and keeping the initiative.
As a first step we can start to move around, using different Unsoku-ho.
Of course we will detect very soon a major problem: How to create a ring of power?

Yiquan

How to create a ring of power?

To answer this question we must understand the different modes of tension.

  • Contraction of muscles.
  • Dropping the bodyweight to create a line of tension
  • Direct your mind into a body part
  • Other modes…..

The first mode will be used in most of the cases during our daily life.
To create a ring of power by contraction is not a solution during training because the muscles of our arms have limitations if used to stabilze our posture or to cope with an attack from opponent.
But we are looking for a more efficient multifuncional application in our activities especially during training martial arts.

Postural & phasic muscles

Postural muscles act predominantly to keep your posture in the gravity field. These muscles contain mostly slow-twitch muscle fibres and have a greater capacity for longterm activity.
Phasic muscles contain mostly fast-twitch muscle fibres, and are therefore more suited to movement. They are more easily fatigable.

The muscles we use to move around are “fast twitch” or phasic muscles. The other type of muscles (slow twitch) is what are called “stabilizing” or postural muscles, are involuntary and react against force, primaly gravity without intervention of our conscious mind.
Unfortunately we are reinforcing our structure with contraction or pulling phasic muscles.
We need those fast twitch muscles for our movements during training and randori. By contracting or pulling the benefit of fast twitch will be gone. Our movements become rigid and predictable.

Why are we using fast twitch muscles as postural muscles?
When our balace is not correct, postural muscles have to do a lot of work and sometimes they need support, mostly from fast twitch muscles. By doing this on a regular base, a wrong pattern is created into the brain. We have to overwrite this pattern.

Postural training, a key to efficient movement

When you make any movement, before the movement begins there is a short delay during which your lumbar spine using deep abdominal postural muscles. The delay produced by stabilization of your lumbar spine makes you slower. This does not matter very much for slow movements. There is a way to eliminate or at least minimize this delay by holding your body in a posture where your postural muscles are already engaged.
Every martial arts require a certain efficiency of movement that can be increased through the strengthening of postural muscle, and freeing phasic muscle from performing a postural role.
Postural training can be a solution for efficient use of postural muscles by keeping the whole body in the gravity field.
Although a lot of people are refering to “shizentai” or natural boy as an important principle in our training, often we see a fight of muscle power in randori. There is no shizentai in their performance.

Ritsuzen or standing meditation is a perfect exercise to understand “Shizentai

Dropping the bodyweight to create a line of tension

Creating a line of tension by dropping the bodyweight is a matter of dropping the groins or mata down and keeping the bodystructure.

Dropping the bodyweight has nothing to do with bending the knees. Of course, the perception gives an image of bending the knees.

When our posture is correct, the line of gravity falls into the gravitational field marked by the 2 feet.
Top of the head, shoulder-line, tanden and back of the knees are on this vertical line. All the bodyweight rest in the feet.

Bodyweight in the feet has a direct relationship with the knees. The vertical line from the knee to the foot cannot pass the line of the toes. Although there is also a possibility to bring the knee more forward and will pass the toes.
When we can feel the bodyweigth in the feet by pushing down on the knees, keep the back also straight.
Testing the bodystructure when dropping the bodyweight into the groins or mata will reinforce the structure.

This skill can be used when performing sumi otoshi and putting knees on the floor. By directing the power from koshi & mata into the back of the front foot, there will be lesser stress on the knee.

Direct the mind into a body part – projection Ki

Ki is a multi-purpose term for many bodily processes, functions, and energy that may not have been scientifically researched at the time various martial arts were developed.
Nowadays we understand much better the function of “Ki” but we have no word for this multi-purpose process.

Because we seek to create a ring of power, our mind can use an image of a ring which can be inflated or deflated. Tension can be going outward and inward. We can define this tension as “pressure” or directing Ki (on of the processes for this multi-purpose term).
There is no contraction of muscles. There is pressure in the muscles and tendons. There is a feeling of lenght and stretching in the muscles and tendons.

By imaging we can control body processes. NLP or neuro-linguistic programming is a popular Western imaging method .
Of course we don’t need to become an expert in NLP.
During postural training, the skill of imaging can be learned and used in an efficient way to start feeling the flow of Ki (bodily processes) in our body and eventually steering in the right direction.

Meditative Movements: Fusion between Mind & Body

We learn not to move, but to be moved
Sometimes people ask me about my passion for martial arts. The answer is straightforward: to become better than yesterday.
Of course ageing is a factor to take into account and which is “a game breaker”. What you can do when you are 20 will be not the same when you are 50.
The search for a method to become better than yesterday is a path full of obstacles and the end is for everybody the same.
Becoming better than yesterday?
Maybe the answer is at the end of this blog post…….Maybe other questions will be asked…….Who cares…..

I “feel better” than yesterday.

Eddy Wolput

Meditative Martial* movements and Mushin Mugamae
When we speak about Meditative Martial Movements, we are talking about body and mind movements. In general the body is for movement and the mind is for thinking. But what about a “thinking body” or a “non-thinking mind”?
Our Aikido as a kind of meditative movement is a method where mind and body make a fusion. Both becomes one unit and both are equal with a different function.
We have to look at the body and mind in a different way.
The body operates according natural laws, the mind guides according natural laws. There is no interference from the ego.
This is called “Mushin mugamae”: No mind, no posture.
Which means, the body is not rigid, the mind is not fixed.

The mind as an observer
Commonly spoken, body movements are mostly based upon using power generated by muscles. But as said previously, ageing is a game breaker.
The answer to this problem is the use of natural forces of our environment.
Mostly our movements are inspired by reflexes or inborn actions and also by learned movement patterns stored in the brain.
To learn a new pattern or overwrite a wrong pattern, we have to practise the “new” pattern according natural laws. To become succesful we cannot allow the conscious brain and ego to interfere. Mind in this context means “awareness”. The mind is neither engaged in conceptual activity nor focused on a future goal, but instead is focused on bodily experience.

“Don’t think, listen to the body”

Akira Hino – Budo Researcher

Relaxing & acceptance, a skill called zanshin
Zanshin is in general defined as a state of alertness or awareness. When you are alert, it means you can start a movement immediately. This only can happen when you are in a state of relaxation.
To define relaxation in the context of our training in Western language is very difficult. Some therapeutic systems use the word “eutony” to define this state of being.

The term eutony comes from Greek Eu: good, – and of Latin Tonus: tension, the grade of tension or elasticity of muscle fibers. It was coined to express the idea of a harmoniously balanced “tonicity in constant adaptation to the state or activity of the moment”. 

Essentially, accepting “the truth” causes less suffering than struggling vainly against it. In many cases, we have a choice. We can either accept or reject, and much of the time rejecting doesn’t change our reality, it just causes mental pain.

Acceptance is an active process. It must be practiced.
It can require effort most of the time, at least initially. It can be frustrating at times. By acceptance you create and strengthen the neural pathways in your brain, facilitating ease in the future. It is no defeat, it is a gate to victory. Because there is no frustation, no pain, you can use your energy to keep your awareness and start an action without delay.
Relaxing and acceptance go hand in hand and cannot be separated. Excessive tension physically and mentally is a barrier between your body and mind.

Relaxing is no collapse

a balance between tension & un-tension

Acceptance is no defeat

finding a way out of the impasse of losing

How to practice relaxing and acceptance?

Using natural laws is a principle wellknown in internal martial arts and can be very practical explained.
Take for example gravity. On Earth, gravity gives weight to physical objects, and everybody is influenced by the forces of gravity. Old bodies undergo the same influences as young bodies. Of course, strong muscle can give you some advantage as more body weight.
The point here is, gravity is not influenced by age. By using gravity as a source of power, even old bodies can put forward a powerful presentation.
Relax your body, especially your shoulders is a common problem. We know the expression: drop your shoulders. In fact you have to accept gravity on your body. Shoulders go down as the rest of the body, but you are not collapsing. The fear of collapsing doesn’t exist, it is a delusion. But your mind need acceptance.

Musoku no hô*** , a principle packed in a practical example.
Musoku no hô,a method or principle in which one does not use the force of the feet, aiming to make fast and powerful movements, without being predictable.
To demonstrate this principle we will look into 2 ways of moving around.

Displacement by propulsion
The first is the principle of displacement by propulsion we use spontaneously in all kinds of sports activities. With each stride, a sprinter gives a powerful blow to the ground to obtain a force of propulsion. With differences in degree of performance and intensity, this type of displacement is present in all sports activities. The characteristic is that you exert a force that goes against that of gravitation to produce a movement.
Don’t confuse this with the rebound of power during accepting an attack from opponent.

Displacement by immersion**
One of the keys to understanding longevity in budo is what called the immersion principle.
Although little known, this principle is in Japan transmitted in some kenjutsu and jûjutsu schools as a secret teaching. It makes it possible to increase the speed of displacements and the strength of the technical execution. The perception of this principle is masked by speed, and the difference is difficult to perceive. To move, instead of giving an impulse against the ground, you “remove” the force of the legs to let act the gravity of which you will transform the force in a horizontal movement by a control of the center of gravity. You have the impression of immersing yourself in gravity, which is about “displacement by immersion” as opposed to “displacement by propulsion”. It is in fact to find the sensation of gravitation as an existing force that can be used and no longer, as usual, as a force against which we must fight.

With the principle of displacement by immersion, you can engage the total weight of the body in the technical execution, which considerably increases the efficiency. Because you can use the energy of the descent of the body due to gravitation. This descent movement is absorbed by the flexible muscular contraction of the legs. This process is the opposite of the ordinary movement where you first propel yourself by muscle contraction and then absorb the fall.

How to do?
The first step in teaching is to properly place your weight in the lower body and use the force of the fall in a shift. In the second step, you learn to transfer this fall force to your hand, your fist, or your sword.

In kenjutsu this is associated with a rotation around the central axis of the body. Monjuro Morita described this action in one of his books:
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: the rotation of koshi, diagonal tension produced by this rotation and displacement of the body.

Only displacement?
In martial arts methods, the application of the immersion principle is not limited to displacement but can be extended to other physical movements.
The realization of the principle of immersion first requires a physical relaxation.
To apply the principle of immersion in the hand movements, it is essential to locate the center of gravity, which brings out the sensation of the center of the body, in other words “hara” and “tanden” and also the central line (seichusen) of the body.

Non-predictable start
The merit of this type of displacement consists firstly not to express the start of the gesture, which is essential in combat technique. Even if you can move with a great speed, if you express beforehand a start-up gesture, so small, your movement loses its technical efficiency. On the other hand, even if your movement is not very fast in appearance, if there is no prior expression of the start, it can be fast from a moving point of view. To act after making a setup for a technique, is missing the chance to become successful. This is why in all schools of Japanese sword, one seeks the “strike of non-thought”. This is the goal of the musoku technique.

Speed and gravity
An important aspect of the immersion principle is the ability to maintain the speed in the movement as you get older. Since the principle is not to use the force of the legs to propel the body, this type of movement keeps the speed of technical execution and serves as a basis for the practice of a long-term martial art.
Speed ​​is maintained by immersion in gravity and respiration. In the martial arts, this aspect is related to the channeling of the physical force, since it is to use the gravitation to move and to execute a technique. By using the weight of your body in the most rational way to be effective, it is concentrated in every attacking movement.

Sources
*Meditative movement: is a “Western” term used in medical articles about qi-gong and other Eastern Movement methods.

**Displacement by immersion: is a term used by Kenji Tokitsu. He published many sociological articles on Eastern Martial Arts.

***Gravity and displacement: Akira Hino, a Budo researcher, quoted the term Musoku no hô in his writings and seminars to explain the concepts of Taiju no dendo and taiju no ido.

The Switch

Changing the direction of power in a movement is not an easy task. We cannot interrupt the movement because is will also interrupt power generation. With every stop we have to start over again in generating power.
While your upper body muscles are directly involved with the action of the hand/arm, the force is generated throughout your body. Initial force is initiated by your lower body muscles and transferred through your core through to your upper body muscles. Any weakness or excessive tension in the transferring muscles will diminish the force and reduce performance.

6 major directions

We can move in many directions. Basically we consider 6 major directions. Other directions can be seen as a combination between 2 or 3 major directions and can become a spiral movement.
Movement can happen with the arms, the central body an/or the legs.

Switching between major directions

Switching is only possible when there is control of all the muscles involved.
An example how a switch can work can be more informative than words.

Kakae dori is an attack where an external pressure is applied to the body. Defending against such an attack needs a skill of expanding without using brute force.

If we allow the squeezing action of Uke, we will be thrown easily. If we can create a whole-body force against the squeezing, we will have the opportunity to free ourself. It is a question of using tension and relaxing at the same time. But how to do it?
It is based upon “opposing isometric force pairs”. There are of course other switching methods. If we suddenly, without any interuption, switch from outside tension to inside tension, uke may lose his grip and balance.

The exercise is to switch between internal and external pressure. The body needs to adapt to those 2 kinds of pressure images.

Push & pull vs. push-pull

Push&pull are two actions in a sequential order. Push-pull is one action. In the push-pull movement the balance between agonist and antagonist muscles creates a moving non-moving action. Push&pull or push-pull can be a straight line movement, a circular or a spiral movement.
When practising aikido or another martial art both action will be utilized to create attacking or defensive movements.
Again an example can be highly informative.

Push & pull

The first picture above is a push action into the ground, the second is the rebound of the power, the third picture is a pull action of the back foot bringing again close to the front foot to stabilize the equilibrium.

Push-pull

The first picture above is a push-pull action associated with holding a ball in the arm. Opposing isometric forces will move Uke around you.
The second picture is nearly a straight line push-pull. Although we said a straight line, the internal action relates to meguri. The meguri action is an internal spiral movement transmitted from the center of Tori to Uke through rotational movements of the hand/wrist/arm.The result will be a balance between a push-pull action. In other words an opposing isometric force.

Overlapping sequences

When we link all the singular movements of the body the result will be “rendo-movement”. During the performance of rendo movements, there are overlapping moments in the sequence of the actions. In the next example push & pull and push-pull are following a definite sequence.
But there is an overlapping between the different action in the sequence.

  • Picture1: grasping the arm
  • Picture2: pulling the arm
  • Picture3: body turn while keeping pulling
  • Picture4: keeping pulling and starting pushing
  • Picture5: keeping pulling and pushing while putting body into position to throw
  • Picture6: throwing and relaxing
Mae otoshi to gyaku gamae

Power needs some time to travel through the body, although this happens very fast. If we start too early our overlapping action, the force of the previous action will not be used to the full potential. If we start too late, the power of Rendo will be lost.

Tegatana dosa (tandoku undo) a switch exercise

Senta Yamada Tandoku Undo

These “tegatana dosa” are good examples to discuss switching the direction of force. As previously mentioned the mechanism of power generation:

While your upper body muscles are directly involved with the action of the hand/arm, the force is generated throughout your body. Initial force is initiated by your lower body muscles and transferred through your core through to your upper body muscles. Any weakness in the transferring muscles will diminish the force and reduce performance.

  • Uchi mawashi – Inside sweep

There are 4 arm actions in this exercise:

  • Turn the arm, palm hand up
  • Turn core of the body – tenshi
  • Switch the arm, palm hand down
  • Sweep the arm with body turn

If the exercise is done as 4 separate actions, there will be a reduced amount of power at the end of the movement. If the link between the 4 actions is established, there will be more power at the end of the movement. By using overlapping, performance will be more powerfull.

Using uchi mawashi in a paired exercise, proper unsoku (footwork) has to be added. Drilling the feet will increase efficiency.

Sotai dosa 3

In this example there is another concept which requires considiration.

We find Fibonacci Sequence at work in the principles, shapes, movements and strategies in nature but also within martial arts, by holding your arm with the correct angle at the elbow while extending your mind through the arm. The correct angle of human joints for movements has to be between 90* and 180°.

A push-pull and opposing isometric forces example
In the 7-hon-no-kuzushi gedan, spirals and opposing isometric forces are used to create balance disturbing. There are many variations, but basically all are build around spirals and opposing isometric forces.

we can see the Fibonacci spiral in combination with opposing isometric force pair. Uke will be fixed on the spot in an akward position.

  • Soto mawashi – Outside sweep

When using soto mawashi in partner training, some adaptations has to be done. The basic actions of uchi mawashi can be applied here too.

  • Turn the arm, palm hand up
  • Turn core of the body – tenshi
  • Switch the arm, palm hand up
  • Sweep the arm with body turn

Soto mawashi with partner after some adaptations.

  • Uchi gaeshi – soto gaeshi

In this sequence by Senta Yamada, the meguri concept is not visible. We only can guess if there is some internal movement invoking meguri.
In our research, the implementation of meguri and opposing isometric forces can increase the efficiency of these movement exponential. Switching the direction of forces is an aplication of meguri and opposing isometric forces and is needed to perform “waza” or techniques.

Opposing isometric forces

The human body as a movement construction is used by most of the people in a very inefficient way.
The body and mind are full of tension and this creates during a movement action sometimes a non-movement situation: a frozen action.
People think this can be resolved by relaxing the body and mind. Unfortunately relaxation is understood as a lack of tension resulting in collapsing body.
During a fight or in our case randori, we cannot have tension or relax. We need to find another solution based upon the concept “tone of the muscles”.

Balancing between tension and relaxing: Opposing Isometric Tension

Yi-quan* is a Chinese martial art famous for Zhang-zuang (Ritsuzen in Japanese) and the use of opposing isometric forces (zheng-li). Other Chinese martial arts are also using these concepts in a more or less manner during their training. The Japanese version of Yi-quan is called Taikiken and is utilizing many concepts borrowed from Yi-quan.
In Japanese Budo we certainly can find countless examples of “opposing isometric forces”.
Nobuyoshi Tamura**, an Aikido teacher used Baduajin or 8 brocade exercises as a tool to improve inner power. One of the concept in Baduajin is “opposing isometric forces”.

**I studied aikido during my early period (1970-1978) with Tamura sensei, Kanetsuka sensei, Kobayashi sensei – see also Intro
* I was introduced to Yiquan by Ilias Calimintzos (France)

Budo and opposing isometric forces

In Kodokan Judo there are many kata to explain the concepts of Kodokan Judo. One of the lesser known kata is “Go no kata”.
This kata has many “opposing isometric forces” to keep a power balance between Tori and Uke. It expresses very well the concept of “Go” as a counter concept of “Ju” found in “Ju no kata” and other Judo training tools.

Tomiki Aikido has many exercises to develop this kind of power. Even in other styles of aikido, this kind of exercises is frequenly used as mentioned in a previous paragraph.

Tomiki style opposing isometroc forces

From “Gendai Aiki”

Koichi Tohei famous unbendable arm can be classified in this category.

What are the thoughts of Kenji Tomiki on this matter?

この問題は、現代体育学の、筋肉のトレーニングの事で、アイソメトリックスと言うんです。
Kono mondai wa, gendai taikugaku no, kinniku toreiningu no koto de, isometorikkusu to iun desu.
This is a matter of muscular training which is part of modern physical education. It’s called isometrics.

それは、押したり引いたりすることによって、屈筋や心筋が働くわけですが、上手になると、筋肉が働くのが見えないんです。
Sore wa, oshitari hiitari suru koto ni yotte, kukkin ya shinkin ga hataraku wake desu ga, jouzu ni naru to, kinniku ga hataraku no wa mienain desu.
That is to say, we can train inner or outer groups of muscles by pushing or pulling. A person who is highly skilled at this form of training hardly exhibits any muscle movement at all during the exercise.

見えないところで筋肉をうまく使えるんです。しかし、それ(このような理論を隠しておいて、大道の安芸人のようなことをすることをさす)を教育の場にもってきたら、非常に おかしい事になってしまうんです。
Mienai tokoro de kinniku wo umaku tsukaerun desu. Shikashi, sore (kono youna riron wo kakushite oite, oomichi no akibito no youna koto wo suru koto wo sasu) wo kouiku no ba ni motte kitara, hijouni okashii koto ni natte shimaun desu.
When you can’t see any movement the person is using his muscles very skillfully. But you are making a big mistake in the educational field if you demand a similar level of expertise from everyone.

Interview with Kenji Tomiki – Aiki News

Opposing isometric force pairs

The steering of a movement is the result of a neuro-muscular action. This action has 2 main components:

  • The use of internal and external factors: body and gravity
  • Using the mind as the manager of the internal and external factors

Movement of the body need always a support point and in most cases earth is the major support point. The mind is observing the body which is build according a vertical line in relationship with gravity. The mind is not interfering with this body action. Keep in your mind, standing is a movement.
Feeling with the feet the solidity of the earth, feeling the returning (rebound) power of gravity towards the head. Keep this stretch because this is the opposing isometric force by using gravity and correct body posture. Tanden (hara) plays an important role by becoming the center of the body. Gravity is always present even in non-vertical force lines.

Major opposing isometric force pairs are:

  • vertical line
  • left/right line
  • forward/backward line
  • diagonal line
  • combination of major lines

After developing major opposing isometric forces lines, the next step is to be applied them during movements. Keeping the isometric forces lines is a real challenge and we cannot expect an immediate result during training. Mind and body must become one and “ego” or “the monkey brain” ** cannot interfere with our movements, mentally or physically. Reaction to an attacking movement by an opponent must be handled by a spontaneous reflexive action.

**Taming the “Monkey Brain”
We all experienced the noise in our head when the monkey brain is talking during our exercises. Stopping thie noise is not a solution, because the monkey brain is not listening. Better is to ignore the noise, and after a while you will notice “the noice is gone”. You really start to feel the exercise and the dynamics of the body. This is forging the body and mind. It is not about bigger muscles, or more muscular strength. I can feel my body and its movements…..the rest is a side issue

How to develop opposing isometric force pairs

Opposing isometric force pair is a state of equilibrium between two tensions. If the two forces are equal, a balance is established between them.
This implies this form of tension inside the body which solicits two distinct zones. If we consider our body as a dynamic system, all types of force will involve the opposition of two forces regardless of direction.
For example, when you jump up, you use a force to hoist yourself up. You can also say that you exert a force down (ground).
To achieve upward movement, use the downward force. Similarly, to achieve a forward movement, it is necessary to exert the force towards the back.
We can interpret the function of the legs as that of spring which makes you bounce in height when you make a push towards the ground. This image speaks easily of the movement of legs that function as a pair of springs.
Let’s now look for the mobility of the trunk whose examination is fundamental to understand what an opposing isometric force pair is. The mobility of the trunk is not very visible, which makes it difficult to place the image of spring in relation to the movement of the legs. But the function of the trunk is crucial to organize the application system of the overall force of the body.
Like the springs of the legs, imagine that at the level of the sternum – kyokotsu – existed a spring that goes inwards to its antipode back. Following this example, let us situate imaginary springs inside the trunk to zones corresponding approximately to those of the chakras in yoga. These are in addition to the sternum, under the throat, plexus, navel and lower abdomen. All these springs are placed inside the trunk and their other end rests on the dorsal projection of these five points.
By putting the mind on the kyokotsu or other points of the body, we can move the kyokotsu in this example forward and back and use the image of the spring to create resistance.
The spring image can be internal, but can also have an external quality. If we use a spring connected between our elbows, we can open or close our arms and feel the resistance between the elbows.
A step further is to use the spring image between you and your training partner.

Developing spontaneous reflexive action

Reflexive action conditioning is primarily neuromuscular coordination training. You must have a firm foundation in multi-directional awareness before you can start this training. The goal is to achieve mind-intent and body action arriving simultaneously.
Internal movements during solo training can give an impression of “no movement” when there is no external movement visible. It is called “pause”. Posture training – ritsuzen – is mostly internal movement training wihout visible external big movements.
When doing moving exercises start always slow and use rather big movements.
Tegatana dosa, also called tandoku undo, are exercises to build this skill using the change between the different body (arm, hands,….) movements.
After many repetitions and using correct body movements with mind-intent leading the action, it will become a spontaneous reflexive action under control of the mind while maintaining the isometric tension.
Next step is to use these movements in paired exercises and all kinds of randori.

Examples

Defending the centre line

Seichusen, the centre line.

The centre line is the vertical line which marks the centre of the body. We use our centre line as a guide in our practice. Basically, our hand should not move over the centre line to the other side of our body.

The centre line is important in order to keep our central equilibrium.
Central equilibrium can only be achieved through correct and diligent training by always lifting up our head top, and pressing our feet into the ground. This skill can be improved by practising “posture”, also called “ritsuzen”.
With strong central equilibrium, we can absorb or redirect the incoming force, and countering very quickly. In short, our defence or attack will be much more efficient if we have strong central equilibrium.

The more we deviate from the centre line, the more our central equilibrium will be subject to muscular tension to keep our balance. Our body will respond automatically to such situations. There are 3 options:

Ankle action
Hip action
Stepping action
  • Ankle action will happen when practitioner keeps his body under tension.
  • Hip action is basically trying to drop the bodyweight, but by keeping the knees stiff the hips will bend.
  • Stepping action will occur with unexperienced practitioners, but is also a strategy of an experienced practitioner. (see Unsoku-ho and tai-sabaki)

Experienced practitioners keep their body in the vertical line (centre) and will use tenshikei, Keeping the joints flexible and strong is an important body condition.
Tenshi is a rotational skill to absorb incoming power and redirect it to the opponent.

The previous example shows you the stiffen up of the body trying to defend against the action of Tori. To avoid further “kuzushi”, Uke steps but the upper body is halted by the arm action of Tori.

Defending the centre line

Basic posture to defend “seichusen”

Defending the centre line is an important concept and can be applied in different situations. We can distinguish 2 major kinds of defending the centre line.

  • Passive method – using tegatana as a shield
  • Active method – using tegatana as a weapon

Passive method

By keeping “tegatana” in front of the centre line, opponent have difficulties to attack your centre.

The sword is an extension of the tegatana and is protecting the centre.

In tegatana-awase, a multipurpose exercise, tegatana is used as a shield and prevent a straight movement to the centre by opponent.

Active method

In this method, we use “tegatana” as an active tool. Ridatsu-ho and seigo-ho are methods to defend yourself against grasping attacks. Free hand tegatana can be used to apply an atemi on the centre line of other vital point of the opponent.
What kind of atemi will depend on the goal you are looking for. Be the fact that we are going to throw the opponent or that we want to apply a shock to the body.

Vital point – Judo & Aikido/Kenji Tomiki

You will notice, the centre line has many vital points and can be used in self-defense situations.

Body movement exercises & centre line

We mentioned tegatana-awase in a previous paragraph and how to protect centre line with tegatana.
Of course there are numerous body movement exercises and basically protecting the centre line or attacking the centre line is included. Also remember the importance of the centre line in keeping the central equilibrium. When we lose our balance, in most cases we also will lose the protection of the centre line.

Tenshi exercises
Solo and paired tenshi(kei) exercises are an integral part of the regular training.

Unsoku-ho – defending by stepping

Avoiding an attack by stepping is a strategy to bring the mind and body into a position where the attacking power cannot get hurt.
On the other hand, stepping is not running away from an opponent.
It is important in order to control the situation, physically and mentally.
The concept of ridatsu-ho and seigo-ho is in fact an extension of stepping. It is avoiding and/or controlling the power of the opponent.
The exercises of unsoku-ho has to be considered as tools to study breaking away and/or controlling an attack of the opponent.
This can be punching, striking, kicking, grasping or any action from opponent to hurt you or control you.

Avoiding an attack

Avoiding an attack needs to take in account the concept of “Sen”. Running away is not always the correct method because there is always a chance opponent is much faster. There is also the mental side of running away or not running away. This can be of course the subject of another blog-post. We do not wish to become frustrated because we are afraid of a confrontation.
During avoiding an attack our body and mind must be in a state of defending/attacking mode. To create such a state of being, the study of “opposing isometric forces” can be very helpful. Subject of another blog-post.

Ridatsu-ho and seigo-ho (2)

Break away & control

There are different kinds of attacking movements when confronting an opponent.

  • Punching, striking, pushing…..
  • Kicking
  • Grasping
  • Other attacks

Ridatsu-ho & seigo-ho are skills to deal with grasping attacks. The most basic grasping attack is certainly “grasping the wrist” and is the subject of many sequences in Tomiki Aikido kata. Koryu no kata dai yon has many examples of ridatsu-ho & seigo-ho.

The elbow in Ridatsu-ho and Seigo-ho

When the wrist is grasped, the common reaction is to resist the area of contact. Creating a skill of emptying the wrist will give you the opportunity to use the elbow and create “kuzushi”. The 7-hon-no-kuzushi omote and ura are movements where you use elbow power without touching the opponent with the elbow. In other cases we can use the elbow for pushing or hitting the opponent.

This is an example of an elbow skill in Sumo, Japanese traditional wrestling. It is said Sokaku Takeda, the founder of (Meiji era) Daito Ryu Aikijutsu, was a skillful practitioner in Sumo (Ozeki rank).

We also can see the use of the elbow in traditional Japanese jujutsu. In this example the corresponding hand is put at the waist level to create one body-block, the elbow is used with fullbody circular power against the arm of the opponent.

Tomiki Aikido & Tegatana

Tegatana is a special feature of Tomiki’s Aikido. The origin of the tegatana skill can be found in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu and it is known that Kenji Tomiki asked advice at Maeda sensei, the headmaster of Renshinkan at that time. Maeda was a student of Matsuda sensei who was in turn a student of Sokaku Takeda, the founder of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.

The impact of the tegatana on Tomiki Aikido can be clearly seen in many applications of ridatsu-ho & seigo-ho. As an example, the elbow has a “power” role to play to free the wrist from th grip, followed by an atemi or controlling grip.

Ridatsu-ho & atemi
Seigo-ho

Resilience, a balance…

Budo Aikido: the Art of Aikido

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
Gustav Mahler–

Can we improve our Budo Aikido with exercises? Yes, but unfortunately there are too many for practising during 1 training session.
As we all know, prof. Tomiki is famous for rationalizing aikido and created logical structures for practising. Some of the movements can be catalogued as exercises, other are catalogued as martial techniques.

Well known are:

  • Unsoku ho: foot movements
  • Tandoku undo (Nagashi kata): hand and foot movements
  • Tegatana awase: moving with a partner when “tegatana” are joined
  • Shotei awase: using hand palm as a flexible power exercise
  • ……..

Some problems with the standard exercises

If we follow Tomiki’s scripts do you think there will be some improvement? Kenji Tomiki studied for many years with Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo and with Morihei Ueshiba the founder of Aikido. The question arises: Did he incorporate all the skills he learned in his concept of Aikido?

Maybe the way of training he compiled is an ideal method for Sports Aikido, but certainly not for Budo Aikido. Some elements are missing in the training model.

  • How to attack a “physiological” weak point.
  • How to use tanden/koshi/yōbu (hara)
  • How to connect arms and legs to the central body
  • more……

atemi 005

There are some pictures of goshin-jutsu atemi, but there is not any explanation about how to use a body-part as a weapon (fist, handblade,….). There is also a belief Koryu no kata will give you a better understanding of self-defense (goshin). Without proper instruction, the positive effect of koryu no kata will be minimal on your training.

How to solve these problems?

Because the old masters are gone, we cannot ask them for advice. Some of the present day “shihan” are trying to incorporate their “cross training” ideas into Tomiki Aikido, either Sports Aikido or Budo Aikido.

Cross training for Budo Aikido

Not every martial art is compatible with Budo Aikido and not all the components of a martial art are usefull for Budo Aikido.

20190501_161157Study Group Tomiki Aikido instructors have a broad experience in different martial arts. A very compatible method is Hino Budo, a composite martial art created by Akira Hino.

Martial arts like Iaido, Jodo, Karate (Wado Ryu), Hakko Ryu, Renshinkan Daito Ryu…. have also an impact on the training syllabus.

Renshinkan Daito Ryu is briefly mentioned in the blog article of Koryu no Kata Dai Yon (3)

The challenge is of course “How to integrate?”. The answer is not that simple because we need to understand physically and mentally the compatible components. These problems are not only for martial arts, but also for other fields of society. To solve the problem we have to look at the Toyota Kata , and in particular the Improvement Kata.

The Improvement Kata according Mike Rother.

The improvement kata is a routine for moving from the current situation to a new situation in a creative, directed, meaningful way. It is based on a four-part model:

  1. In consideration of a vision or direction…
  2. Grasp the current condition.
  3. Define the next target condition.
  4. Move toward that target condition iteratively, which uncovers obstacles that need to be worked on.

In contrast to approaches that attempt to predict the path and focus on implementation, the improvement kata builds on discovery that occurs along the way.

Improving martial movements

As mentioned in another blog post, the body can be divided into 3 part.

3 system body

The axial skeleton is the central part of the body and “kyokotsu” is the control panel. When we control the kyokotsu , we can control the spine. Besides controlling the spine, kyokotsu is also the entry to the abdomen – koshi, tanden & yōbu.

Connecting “kyokotsu” with elbow

Connecting the kyokotsu with the elbow is a matter of using your mind. Focus on the kyokotsu and on a specific point of the elbow. Once you notice the connection, you have access to the power of the central body.

Connecting “kyokotsu” with knee
††

As with the elbow/kyokotsu connection, it is the mind that makes the connection. When you feel the connection you have access to the central body which included “Tanden- Koshi-Yōbu”, the power center of the human body.
The power from earth can be directed to the arms into the opponent via the controlpanel: kyokotsu

Tanden- Koshi-Yōbu

The power center of the human body is mentioned many times in martial arts. But can you feel this center?
To make it simple or more complicatied, the center of gravity in the human body is located in this area. If this is disturbed, we have difficulties to keep our balance. A solution is to tense all the surrounding muscles of the center. This is of course not the best solution because our movements will be limited. Using the kyokotsu as a tool to move the spine is restricted. Tenshi movements of the central body becomes limited and in some cases can damage the body.
Learning to relax the body is a skill to be learned for all facet of human being. A skill to find balance between relax and tension.

Resilience, a balance between relax and tension

Making the connection is not always easy. Mind and body need to be in a state of resilience. When someone is relaxed, there is no power. When someone is strained, there is too much power. To make the connection between kyokotsu, elbow and knee, resilience is the first condition.
But what is exactly resilience?
Resilience is the ability to cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. It is a skill useful during martial arts training and its application when you have to deal with an aggresive movement, physically and/or mentally.

How to obtain the state of “Resilience”?

Among the many exercises, Ritsuzen occupies a place of first choice and is a prime for finding the center of the human body. It requires no special equipment, it requires very little space and especially because it can be practiced alone. Then, it is one of the very few exercises that, from a medical point of view, has no harmful side effects for the body.

There are some scientific studies on the effects of ritsuzen on the body. What is interesting is that, in general, we do not speak in too abstract terms when we try to explain this extraordinary exercise. Expressions such as “ki” are not used. It is all about good oxygenation and increased circulation of blood, nervous relaxation, strengthening of the immune system and heart muscle, increased sensory perception.
The body becomes in a state of resilience after practising ritsuzen on a regular base.

Zhan zhuang is the Chinese word for Ritsuzen. More info on Wikipedia.

Other exercises to obtain “Resilience”

The Study Group Tomiki Aikido exercises are not fixed and will change slightly or dramatically according the experiences we encounter during our training sessions. To follow in the footsteps of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba just by copying the methods is not creative and our aikido will become meaningless. And as Gustave Mahler said one time: “we must maintain the fire alive“.

  • Routines to locate “kyokotsu”
  • Routines to connect “kyokotsu” with elbow and/or knee
  • Ido ryoku, creating power from stepping movements
  • Tenshikei, creating power from rotational and spiral movements
  • ……

Kata, the ultimate exercise

The practise of kata is always controversial. It is the representation of an ideal aikido image and for this reason it can become a delusion.

Kata can be viewed as a group of exercises. But the exercises are not fixed, their nature is very dynamic and during your training in the long term it will change. Kata in the beginning is very simple if we look at the outside. During training we will discover more and more the many possibilities of our mind and body, our kata changes from a 2D image into a 3D image. Because there is also the dynamic nature, this will also affect the final form. Of course we can ask ourselves “is there a final form?”.