Creative copying


copy copying

Japan is well-known for the skill of copying. In the West, copying has a bad flavor, but what about creative copying.

“The original doesn’t exist!”

When a performance is done, the kata or randori doesn’t exist anymore. Even if it is on videotape, the original doesn”t exist…….the videotape is a copy.

Next time we try to perform again the same kata or randori, it will be a copy …… or a new original if we don’t try to copy. But once the kata or randori is finished, the original doesn’t exist anymore.
When a student performs a kata or randori based upon your previous performance, it is a copy. Sometimes it is a copy of a copy if the student uses a videotape.
Copying is a skill and as learning all skills it takes time and perseverance.

Using videotape

Can we learn from a videotape? The answer is “yes”. But you have to understand the limitations of a videotape.

  • A videotape offers a fixed form, it is only 1 performance. A teacher has no “fixed form” or “standard form”. The dynamics of adaptation to the changing situations can only be seen when we have several videotapes performed during different demonstrations or other performances.
  • It is difficult to understand which gesture is important or not important. Sometimes people are using a kind of mannerism or non-essential gesture which is done over-exaggerated. The reason for this a non-understanding what happens.
  • A videotape contains mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, also the teacher.

Creative copying

Creative copying is based upon basic patterns learned through basic training. Learning basic patterns is not the act of memorizing the visual recognition, but by repeating the patterns until the body has learned them, so that the practitioner or performer can use them without thinking. Using your creativity is the same for kata and randori, although this is only possible when your level is sufficient to do basic patterns without conscious thoughts.

The essence of kata and randori

Randori and kata has to be performed with the essence and not with the mind. But the attention to detail and accuracy cannot be omitted.
When using creative copying, there is a danger to perform a parody or travesty of the reworked material, with or without the intention to use an ironic process.

Putting the essence of kata and randori in words is an impossible task, because adaptation to the many situations is only possible by practising a multitude of variations with a skillfull practitioner or teacher. This is another explanation of ” it has to be felt”. The task of the teacher is to transmit the “essence” of kata and randori, not to show the spectators how good he is.

The 1st lesson

When someone start with a martial art having roots in a traditional school, the way of teaching can be frustating.

There is no verbal explanation, no movement instruction. The expectation is to follow or copy the teacher.

“Stepping into the footsteps of the teacher.”

Learning an art or a skill is done by body to body transmission, not through the mind.

Grasping the wrist

VoorvertoningSchermSnapz491Early Tomiki Aikido (around 1950-1960) was a training method not focused on competition but on randori and kata. Solo exercises with basic foot movements (unsoku) and basic foot/hand movements (tandoku undo) formed the fundamentals for many partner exercises and free play.
There are training sets covering strikes to the head or grabbing attacks to the wrist or other parts of the body. Tomiki’s judo background can be clearly seen in some of the attacks he used to explain basic movement and techniques.

Shomen ate or tsuki sotai dosa

The opponent is attacking with shomen ate or shomen tsuki, the defender is using uchi mawashi or soto mawashi. After the yielding, grasping the wrist is a possibility to control the opponent.


Tegatana dosa “yielding” actions can be used in “hyoshi” exercises as advanced training. Hyoshi exercises are tools to practise the skill of “cadence, rhythm and tempo”.

Grasping the wrist

grasping the wrist001In aikido grasping the wrist is often used to introduce basic techniques. Reference is made in many cases to stop the swordman grasping and pulling out the sword.

Of course there are other explanations. Opponent is trying to grasp your dogi in judo fashion. By grasping the wrist and keeping distance (rikakutaisei), you have the aikido distance in your favor.



Katate dori sotai dosa

There are 2 ways of grasping the wrist. The ai gamae position or gyaku gamae position. Each position has 2 methods : omote and ura. In sotai dosa grasping can be done with ura dori or omote dori. Ura is the front of the body. The inside of the arm or wrist is ura.

Ai gamae katate dori (omote dori) & Gyaku gamae katate dori (omote dori)

The 4 first movements(yonhon no kuzushi) of the 8 sotai dosa are the predecessor of nanahon no kuzushi (7 balance disturbing movements). The last 4 movements of the sotai dosa are about tenkai movements (180° turning).
Sotai dosa is a tool to understand many techniques of Koryu no kata, especially the tenkai techniques.

From a technical point of view, these exercises create a pattern how to manipulate the arm of the opponent. Basically the arm of the opponent will be turned in a “hineri” fashion or a “gaeshi” fashion.


Basically, when opponent is attacking you by grasping with 2 hands, your reaction will be almost the same as in the 8 sotai dosa. You can use sotai dosa 1 or 2. It is even possible to use sotai dosa 3 and 4.

Opponent can also grasp both your wrists or both wrists from behind (ryote-dori – ushiro ryote dori). Using the basics from tegatana dosa and sotai dosa will give you the solution. Your action has to start from the subconscious mind, otherwise the opponent will sense your reaction.

How to grasp a wrist?

Grasping a wrist is almost identical as grasping the hilt of a sword. Most of the power is in the thumb and the middle finger. This is in contrast with the belief of grasping with the little finger.

holding wrist

Rolling feet

In the article about footwork, the role of heel-ball-toes was briefly discussed. The focus was more on the use of gravity.

Here we will briefly point out the concept of “rolling feet”.

heel – ball – toes – lift heel/knee forward

rolling feet

During stepping the knee is flexible and can be seen as the leading factor in the movement.
By keeping the knees flexible you can keep the body on the same level.
You will avoid the up/down movement and the left/right swaying of the body.

way of stepping03

An example of rolling feet during pushing exercise

  • Putting hand on chest of uke
  • Make your vertical line (seichusen)
  • Tilt forward keeping line, don’t bend ankle while lifting heel, knee comes forward

The action of making line and touching with palm on the chest of uke, creates kei-ryoku (Jin in Chinese). It is a line connecting root (earth) and target (opponent). This is an imaginery line between the back foot of tori and the hand on the chest. With this method it is not necessary to push down with the back leg. See also “using gravity“.

setting up



pushing with rolling feet

Atemi waza 

By using the skill of “rolling feet”, the power of atemi waza is greatly increased.

Hiji waza & tekubi waza

Again the ability to generate power into these techniques will benefit a lot of this kind of stepping.

Using Kyokotsu

Controlling “your movements and techniques” are based upon 3 important elements :

1- Kyokotsu control (Kyokotsu is a point on the sternum, about 2 cm above the solar plexus): Kyokotsu is at the core of whole body movement. It initiates the stretch of inner core muscles. You can connect limbs such as arms and legs to the kyokotsu.
2- Rendo (connected movement, interlinking):
Rendo is needed to control movement, from dynamic one to precisely one.
3- To feel the body or Taikan:
To feel is to recognize stimuli happening in your body. And by tracing the sensation of the stimuli, you can create a real control of your movements and techniques. This process is extremely important to liberate the body from preconceptions and conscious thoughts.

These 3 requirements need to be made as 1 package. Even the 3 basic kyokotsu exercises have an element of rendo and taikan.

Connecting elbow(s) to the kyokotsu

As in another article about “Guide, movement and power“, the elbows are movement factors and are a part of the appendicular body system. This system is connected to the axial body system with the kyokotsu as the control center.


Kyokotsu is controlling, via the spine, the upper part of the appendicular system, but also the lower part.

By connecting kyokotsu to the upper and lower part, a complete whole body system will provide the necessary power for movements and techniques.

Exercises to develop the connection between kyokotsu and elbows

Exercises to develop connection are mostly partner exercises. The role of the partner, sometimes called uke, has an important function as a training-partner, not an opponent who is fighting you. We must consider the 3 basic requirements: kyokotsu, rendo and taikan. Without them, the exercises will become a matter of local muscle power or a contest “who is the strongest?”. The role of “uke” is about appropriate resistance and not blocking the action of “tori”.

Basically sotai dosa are exercises to develop connection between elbow and kyokotsu. When the 3 basic requirements are included into sotai dosa, the connection can be made in an early stage of the training. If there are difficulties, isolation of a movement can be used as an exercise to improve the connection. We can consider some elementary movements with the elbows.

  • Moving elbows to the outside
  • Moving elbows to the inside
  • Moving elbows up
  • Moving elbows down
  • Moving elbows circular (or spiral)

Applications in Koryu no kata

In many techniques of koryu no kata, kyokotsu plays an important role to create space or to generate power for locking or throwing. Movements of the kyokotsu need a lot of training. Making the connection between elbow and kyokotsu is the method to create efficient techniques.

Tachi waza (dai san)

  Mune dori – kote mawashi

Mune dori kote mawashiFigure-8 kyokotsu exercise is at the core of this technique. The line between the 2 elbows will move synchronic.  Connection between kyokotsu and the front elbow will give the necessary power to lock the wrist of uke without damage.

Kakae dori


By pulling in kyokotsu, shoulder blades will slide to the outside. When connection is made between kyokotsu and elbows, via shoulderblades, space will be available to move the body and grasping the hand of uke is possible for executing tenkai kote hineri. Don’t push tanden forward without using kyokotsu. The movement of kyokotsu will also have an effect on the koshi.

Changing direction of power

When uke is resisting your movement, it is not a good idea to use local power from your arm or shoulder to finish a technique.
With kyokotsu control, rendo and taikan, the power of the movement can be changed in any direction easily. The connection between your own elbow(s) and kyokotsu is a necessity.

Hineri and gaeshi

“Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Naming a movement or technique can be very confusing. We all know oshi taoshi, a basic arm technique. Different names are used by other styles of aikido for the same technique (almost the same). Ik-kyo, ik-kajo, ude-osae, robuse…to name a few. Some names are just referring to “1st technique” or “manipulating the arm”.
But even in the same style of aikido, there is some confusing when using a name for a movement or technique.

Hineri & Gaeshi

We are all familiar with hineri and gaeshi movement when doing techniques.

The picture above is the most famous from Tomiki’s books to illustrate hineri and gaeshi action for creating kuzushi or balance disturbing action.

“Hineri” in a basic format is the creation of an inward turn of the opponent’s arm.


When using opponent’s hand, it creates a twisting action, it is locking the wrist. There are 2 ways to grasp the hand : junte (regular grip right or left) and gyakute (reverse grip right or left). There are 4 basic hineri wrist locks.

hineri tekubi waza

Gaeshi in a basic format is the creation of an outward turn of opponent’s arm.

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When using opponent’s hand it creates a twisting action, it is locking the wrist. There are 2 ways to grasp the hand : junte (regular grip right and left) and gyakute (reverse grip right and left). There are 4 basic gaeshi wrist locks.

gaeshi tekubi waza (pictures from The Principles and Practice of Aikido by Senta Yamada)

Uchi gaeshi & soto gaeshi (tandoku undo)

Uchi gaeshi and soto gaeshi are solo exercises where you turn inward and turn outward the arm. In fact these names are not completely correct because “kaesu” (gaeshi) is an action requiring another person, and doing a solo movement is called “modosu”. The names for the solo exercises are uchi modoshi and soto modoshi. During paired exercises hineri and gaeshi are used.
Uchi modoshi and soto modoshi are not used frequently. Uchi gaeshi and soto gaeshi are more common names.

One direction or two?

In the style of the late 50-ties, the 1st movement is forward, the 2nd movement is to the side. Early 70-ties, there was a change to forward for the 2 movements. Simplification is one of the reasons for these changes. The integration of bodywork, especially “tenshikei”, can reinforce the use of spiral power when doing movements to the side or to the back.

uchi gaeshi soto gaeshiA

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Below an example of soto modoshi & uchi modoshi. This is from a movie early 50-ties.

Maki zuki

Some Tomiki Aikido groups use another name for this kind of movement. This is inspired by the use of a tanto strike to the side of opponent.

maki zuki004

Guide, movement and power

GMP – Guide, Movement and Power

GMPThis is a concept to improve the efficiency of our movements and to deal with the natural reactive response to being grasped. It is very difficult not to react impulsively from being wrist grasped, for example. Your mind immediately focuses on the point of contact and your body tries to instinctively deal with this by generating an equal and opposite reaction. It is a natural law of human behaviour. Usually the applied force from Uke comes through the shoulder and down to the hand. Tori must never the push back to the shoulder of Uke but go around it. Easier said than done! The concept of GMP offers a formal and sequential method of controlling the instinctive reaction.

the thumb as guideThis is the proposed “direction” of movement which is dictated by the hand, which function as a guide for the movement. When using rotational or spiral hand/arm movement the thumb or the little finger will act as the guide.

This is which way to move the elbow as dictated by the hand. Movement is created by using a specific point on the elbow.

point elbow

Power is generated by using the hara (koshi, tanden and yōbu).


straight line elbowPractical exercise for GMP
By sitting or kneeling it is not possible to move the hips. So it becomes easier to isolate the muscles of the lower abdomen, central torso and shoulder line. However, when standing and making a torso rotation, the tendency is to buckle at the knees and “twitch” the hips.
The rotation of koshi, tanden and yōbu create a downward pressure, the rebound from the ground will enforce the power in the arms. The elbows will move forward and back in a straight line. The focus is on the special point of the elbow.

In the exercise and also the practical applications, do not freeze the hips, let them do the work as a kind of gearbox or transmission.

TenshikeiRotation of arm
The picture is taken from Akira Hino’s book – Listen to the body.
The twisting of the arm by an action of an opponent gives an indication about the transmission of power into the body and how to use the rebound of the power.
The opponent is twisting the arm in a hineri fashion. Let the twisting happen by using yukozo.
The untwisting is the reverse of the twisting. Remark the use of the hara (koshi, tanden and yōbu) in transmitting the rebound via the back into the shoulder and elbow. The hand is turned by whole body power. There are no conscious thoughts during this action.
sotai dosa 01In case the opponent is grasping without a hineri (or gaeshi) action, you stillcan create spiral body power by using the movement of the hara.
The hand is not giving any signal to the opponent, the elbow is the movement factor and the body is generating the power to move the opponent.

Warming-up exercises

Solo exercises from Eddy Wolput on Vimeo.

Exercises in the video clip

These are some examples. Most of the exercises are centered around waking up the upper center (kyokotsu) and the lower center (koshi/tanden/yōbu). For detailed explanation of kyokotsu, koshi, tanden and yōbu.

Function of warming-up

Mobilizing blood flow, lubricating joints, waking-up nervous system…
When doing exercises, you will feel heartbeat is going up. But how high your heartbeat can go without entering a dangerous zone?
First lets talk about heartbeat.

Heartbeat (from Wikipedia)

Heart rate is the speed of the heartbeat measured by the number of contractions of the heart per minute (bpm). The heart rate can vary according to the body’s physical needs, including the need to absorb oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide. It is usually equal or close to the pulse measured at any peripheral point. Activities that can provoke change include physical exercise, sleep, anxiety, stress, illness, and ingestion of drugs.
Several studies, as well as expert consensus, indicate that the normal resting adult human heart rate is probably a range between 50 and 90 bpm.

The maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate an individual can achieve without severe problems through exercise stress, and generally decreases with age.
For general purposes, a formula – “220 minus your age” – is often employed to estimate a person’s maximum heart rate. However, this formula has been criticized as inaccurate because they generalized population-averages and usually focus on a person’s age

Training zones

By using training zones, we can estimate the maximum of the heartbeat when doing warming-up. Why estimating? Because our formula 220 minus age is not completely correct. It is useful to check without complicated formulas or heartbeat monitors.

Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) — 50 – 60% of maximum heart rate: The easiest zone and probably the best zone for the average group of practitioners. It a decreases the risk of degenerative diseases and has a low risk of injury.
Example : age 20yrs – max 100-120bpm

Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) — 60 – 70% of maximum heart rate: This zone provides the same benefits as the healthy heart zone, but is more intense and burns more total calories. The percent of fat calories is remains up to 85% in this zone.
Example : age 50yrs – max 102-119bpm

There are more training zones, but this can be a discussion elsewhere.

How Long?
At bare minimum, your warm-up period should be five minutes long. If you are practicing randori geiko, you need much longer than five minutes to properly warm up. . In general, aim for a five to 10 minute warm-up period before any workout. Flex this time frame up as needed, but never skip it. Also, do not abbreviate your warm-up to less than five minutes.

What kind of exercises?

In a previous article about warming-up  the differences between practitioners were discussed. Not wasting time was the message and  by using methods directly or indirectly related to Budo Aikido we can use the limited time for the hobbyist or social practitioner.

Cardiovascular Exercise
Every warm-up should start with a brief period of cardiovascular exercise to get blood pumping to your muscles and ready them to workout.  Spend three to five minutes performing light aerobic activity.

Hipturns and armturns are good starters, followed by kyokotsu exercise. Figure-8 kyokotsu exercise is an ideal cardiovascular exercise.

Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching uses motion to prepare your muscles for action. Complete 20 repetitions of each motion in a flowing manner.  “Wave” exercises are good exercises for dynamic stretching.

Tandoku undo 1 & 2 as a partner exercise combines cardiovascular and dynamic stretching.

Some anatomical info

The human musculoskeletal system (also known as the locomotor system) is a system that gives humans the ability to move using their muscular and skeletal systems. The musculoskeletal system provides structure, support, stability, and movement to the body.

250px-Appendicular_skeleton_diagram.svgThe skeleton

The bones system consists of two parts: the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton. The axial skeleton include the skull, the spine, the ribs and the sternum. The shoulder and pelvic girdle and the bones of the limbs fall under the appendicular skeleton.

What is the difference between Axial and Appendicular?

Both have functions of weight bearing at differing levels, as well as those of stability, balance, and protection of organs. But the main concern of axial skeleton is that of posture, stability and balance, whereas the appendicular skeleton is that of locomotion. The axial skeleton is fused, whereas the appendicular skeleton is not fused.

Skeletal muscles are part of the musculoskeletal system and only the skeletal muscles can move the body. For other kind of muscles, refer to Wikipedia.

Joints, ligaments and bursae
Joints are structures that connect individual bones and may allow bones to move against each other to cause movement.
A ligament is a small band of dense, white, fibrous elastic tissue. Ligaments connect the ends of bones together in order to form a joint. Most ligaments limit dislocation, or prevent certain movements that may cause fractures.
A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac made of white fibrous tissue and lined with synovial membrane. It provides a cushion between bones and tendons and/or muscles around a joint; bursa are filled with synovial fluid and are found around almost every major joint of the body.

Nervous system

The nervous system is the part of the human’s body that coordinates its behavior and transmits signals between different body areas.
It consists of two main parts, called the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS contains the brain and spinal cord. The PNS consists mainly of nerves, which are long fibers that connect the CNS to every other part of the body.

Tai-sabaki, body-management

dry bones“Dry Bones” – Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians
Verse 1
Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the heel bone
Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Ankle bone connected to the shin bone
Shin bone connected to the knee bone
Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
Hip bone connected to the back bone
Back bone connected to the shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone
Neck bone connected to the head bone
Now hear the word of the Lord.

What is the connection between this song and aikido?
If you read the text, connecting all the body parts will bring you spiritual enlightenment. In the context of Aikido, when you are able to do a whole body movement there will be some understanding. This understanding is called Satori or understanding with the subconscious mind.

Tai-sabaki, a matter of satori

We best describe tai-sabaki as body-management. Tai-sabaki is a whole body movement, and dealing only with avoiding is neglecting the many useful applications of tai-sabaki. 

As long tai-sabaki is executed with your conscious mind, the body movement will be always too late. It is after focused training, tai-sabaki will be a pattern in the brain.

In his book (1958), Tadashi Abe emphasizes the importance of Tai-sabaki in Aikido training. He describes tai-sabaki as 3 kinds of movements, mostly executed as 1 whole body movement.

Tai-sabaki : Te-sabaki – Koshi-sabaki – Ashi-sabaki

Te-sabaki or using the hands, koshi-sabaki or using the lower part of the central body (axial body) and ashi-sabaki or footwork.
The elements of tai-sabaki, described by Tadashi Abe are practised in Tomiki’s original method. Ashi-sabaki and te-sabaki can be found in the original unsoku-ho and tegatana no godosa. Although many instructors emphasise the use of koshi, mostly it is not understood by the practitioners. Koshi-sabaki is a hidden skill in Tomiki Aikido.


Movement of the koshi and in extension yōbu and mata are hidden in the practise of Tomiki’s method and become practical when someone is explaining how to use koshi. Koshi-sabaki is the motor of the arm and leg movements. Without koshi-sabaki most of the techniques will depend on muscle power from arms and legs.
Find here a visual example to explain the function of koshi-sabaki.

A throw in which one’s opponent is wound around one’s body before being thrown to the ground. The use of koshi is necessary to create a rotational or spiral movement. If you try to use arm power, the technique will fail.

maki sushi

In the word makikomi we find maki. This is from the verb Maku. The meaning of Maku is to wind, to coil, to roll. Everybody knows “maki sushi”, and the rolling can be seen clearly.

Rotating, circling, spiraling….

Tai-sabaki as body-management method is based upon rotational movements of the axial** body system and the rotational movements of the upper and lower limbs.
During yōbu walking exercise and figure-8 kyokotsu exercise, we are practising mainly the rotational movement of the central body. The twisting and untwisting of the central body create rotational movements in the arms and legs.
In tegatana no godosa, rotational movement of the central body, but also the arms and the legs are involved with rotational movement. Rotational movement is always around an axis. In case of an arm, the longitudinal axis is used.

**axial : around the central axis, central body

Rotational movement central body

rotation central bodyTenshikei, winding and unwinding of the central body, is a basic movement to generate power for use by arm and legs. Rotation is around central axis, in most cases there is a shift of body-weight (taiju no ido)

Rotational movement legs

rotation legs

When the upper body is turning, the legs are also turning. The turning direction of the lower body is opposite to the upper body turning. This creates a torque action.
The difficult part  is to get the body to synchronize the lineup of the upper and lower body parts and muscles. If the synchronisation is not optimal, the center of the 2 body parts will be not in the tanden area, but maybe higher or lower. If lower, the knee-joint will be affected and exposed to injuries.

Rotational movement arms

rotation arms

The arms are twisting in the shoulder joint with a hineri and gaeshi method. Inward and outward turning. The kyokotsu, as a control center, synchronise with the tanden.

Twisting & untwisting – store & release

When considering rotational movements, there is twisting and untwisting. Twisting is related to store energy, and untwisting is related to release energy. In many cases, untwisting will create twisting due to the symmetry of the body.

store and release

grasping wristTai-sabaki is more than avoiding

When opponent is grasping your wrist, first you have to feel the power of the opponent. Do not allow the power enter the center of your body. Because power is movement, we can redirect the movement into another direction without modifying the interface. Do not use muscular arm power or intentional movements to redirect, opponent will detect your intention and power. Rotational movements of the central body, arm and legs will give you the necessary control to neutralize the opponent. This is achieved with a relaxed but firm body. This skill is depending on taikan or bodily communication.

Sotai dosa, are basic exercises and can be called tai-sabaki. Koryu-no-kata have many applications on different attacking methods based upon sotai dosa or tai-sabaki. By using the proper tai-sabaki and an appropriate technique, the opponent can be thrown or controlled.

Randori and kata, 2 sides of a coin


2 sides of the coin

There are 3 important parts in a coin. The front, the back and the edge. Each part represent a major element of Budo Aikido training.

  • Kata ( katachi, basic forms,…sotai renshu)
  • Randori (free style, sparring…)
  • Bodywork (how to move, generating power……ishiki, hyoshi)

Bodywork will make Budo Aikido stable and strong. Without bodywork Budo Aikido has no power. If a coin is very thin, it will easily tear in a coin machine and probably not work.

Randori in Aikido

Adapted from an article by Fumiaki Shishida, JAA Shihan

Many aikido techniques are similar to some of the early jujitsu techniques, evidence that aikido was originally a type of jujitsu. Jigoro Kano, who reformulated various jujitsu techniques and integrated them into the modern judo, proposed two practice systems: randori and kata. He guided his followers to practice using some of the techniques in randori and polish the other techniques through repetitive kata practice. (In the following discussion, the randori style that Kano proposed will be referred to as kumi-randori or randori in the contact (or closed) position). Kano’s proposal is contrasted with the fact that the mainstream aikido schools, following Morihei Ueshiba’s ideology, have been practicing techniques only in the form of kata. Tomiki, who meticulously analyzed all jujitsu techniques, further proposed rikaku-taisei-no-randori, i.e., randori in the non-contact (or open) position, in addition to kumi-randori. As a judo practitioner, Tomiki referred to this new style of randori as the “second randori style”; as an aikido practitioner, he referred to it as “aikido randori.” Tomiki demonstrated how to use atemi techniques (thrusting at the opponent’s chin or crashing against his torso) and kansetsu techniques (locking the opponent’s wrist or elbow) in the non-contact position. In order to standardize the practice procedure, he designed a task cycle that included: unsoku (foot movement), tegatana-undo (foot and hand movement), tegatana-awase (person-to-person foot movement exercise with the hand blade pressed against each other’s), tegatana-no-kuzushi (balance-breaking techniques using one’s hand blade), kakari keiko (randori with no resistance), hikitate keiko (randori with partial resistance), and randori (wrestling with full resistance). In order to show the major techniques that can be used in randori, he compiled the 17 Basic Techniques and 10 Counter (or Reverse) Techniques. The original Tomiki aikido was tailored for toshu randori. The manners and courtesies for aikido practice were modeled on those for Kodo-kan judo.

Techniques learned through kata can be revitalised by randori

From an article written by Kenji Tomiki

The method of practise traditionally used to ensure the safety of dangerous techniques was the kata system of practise. In ancient bujutsu, 99% of a practise was completed by kata alone. That is to say, in order to cope with an opponent’s unlimited attacks, each response was practised by means of kata. That is the reason for the extreme number of kata in ancient jujutsu. For example in Tenjin Shinyo Ryu jujutsu there were 124 kata techniques, and there were over 10 ranho (literally unstructured captures). To become masterful in the practical applications of the techniques required innumerable months. Then someone would be challenged to go from kata to a violent shiai (literally street fight) called tsujinage or tsujigiri. This gave life to kata and was the place to try to fit together objectively one’s own real ability.

A martial art that has no ethics is nothing but violence. Along with the perception of being prepared for death, one must participate in shiai. In the traditional writings there is a prohibition against shiai. Novices entering into shiai unpreparedly were admonished about losing their lives.

Times changed after the middle of the Edo period and shiai that caused injuries costing a life were rigidly proscribed. It was then decided that bujutsu training would be done from first to last only by kata. The bujutsu that lost the opportunity for shiai training showed signs of degeneration because it was impossible to experience personally the true power of the martial arts and the core of the principles of the arts. As a means of correcting this decline the bamboo sword practise in kenjutsu and free sparring practise (randori geiko) in jujutsu were invented.

For example, within kenjutsu in the middle of the Edo era, schools such as kempo-kaho were ridiculed. The ridicule was because these schools were revealed to have kata only practises that made it easy to develop weak points. It is said that the rigor of bujutsu training was forgotten, that the training sank into easy-going ways, that real power was not sought, and that pretentious bombastic activity increased. In short, history reports that the sword kata of budo degenerated into the sword kata of the stage.

Kata practise is performed to avoid the ultimate power of the techniques. When we study by means of a sword or wooden sword, it is necessary to try to meet the moment of the ultimate clash through use of the bamboo sword practise, even though in nine cases out of ten we will be able to absorb the principles of the art, such as the principle of simultaneous strikes (ai-uchi), i.e. cutting the skin to cut the meat, through kata.

From early on jujutsu also devised midare geiko (unstructured practise) training for the nage-waza and the katame-waza techniques that occur in the final moments of close-in hand to hand fighting. On the basis of this kind of practise, Kano completed his randori system of training during and after the Meiji period.

Randori practise is something that is done to give life to the real power of those techniques that were learned through kata. That is to say, randori provides the power to complete a painted dragon by filling in the eyes. The synthesised martial arts techniques of the old jujutsu schools, however, were quite varied and had numerous styles of hand to hand combat. Thus, it is impossible to incorporate all of these techniques into a system of randori training.

Toshu randori

Based upon ideas taught by Itsuo Haba

Toshu Randori is an aikido training method which includes the principles of kendo and judo. In the principle of kendo, techniques are performed by striking or thrusting at the opponent up to the moment of the contact from the starting position. In the principle of judo, however, they are performed after touching or grabbing the opponent (kumi randori). Toshu Randori has elements of both kendo and judo and shows how we perform techniques in ‘rikaku’, or “at a distance” situation.

In organising toshu-randori, two points particularly warrant attention. First is the safety of the atemi-waza and the kansetsu-waza. Second is the relationship between kata and randori. When we consider the atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza on a fundamental level, we find two characteristics:

  1. The atemi-waza control an opponent by hitting, thrusting into or kicking the physiological weak points of the body (the vital areas), and the kansetsu-waza control an opponent by inflicting a sprain or dislocation on a joint. That is to say, these techniques were divised with the purpose of maiming or killing.
  2. The atemi-waza topple an opponent by manipulating the mechanical weak points of his body and pushing (or pulling him in some occasions) in one direction, while the kansetsu-waza restrain an opponent with a minimum of force by utilizing the limits of joint movement.

To organize “toshu-randori” in a safe way, the second method is the only way in accordance with ethics and safety for the practitioners.

The methods of offensive actions and defensive actions

Offensive actions can be performed by using atemi waza or kansetsu waza (by grasping the wrist or arm). Eventually by using Uki-waza after grasping the wrist.
So ideally techniques should be performed the moment one touches the opponent after yielding and redirecting the power of his kamae.

Defensive actions follow the same concept, yielding and redirecting the power of the offensive actions

By using kendo tactics of distance and hyoshi, physical strength are not required as much. In the field of toshu-waza principles, however, tactics of yielding and redirecting power are emphasised, so physical ability (powered by bodywork) becomes more important. But if one depends on physical strength alone, while grappling with the other carelessly, by neglecting to control opponent’s power and balance properly, one will be countered and defeated. Offense and defence  work integrally as two sides of the same coin.

The role of kata in Budo Aikido randori training

The 17 Basic Techniques (Randori no kata) and classical kata forms (Koryu-no-kata) that Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Oba compiled were based on the philosophical and technical principles for Kodokan kata forms set by Jigoro Kano. The original kata are build with an inherent simplicity to demonstrate a basic template of the action.

The over-standardized movements in the kata can destroy the practical information of the performed techniques. The urge to make the randori-no-kata “efficient” makes the kata “unefficient”.
Besides the technical evolution in kata, reiho (etiquette) is another aspect in performing kata. There is a tendency to emphasize too much the way of reiho or “etiquette methods”. Its use is so common that you can see many people simply perform the actions with no or little understanding behind the purpose of the movements. This non-understanding creates an almost clownish behaviour. This is especially the case in koryu no kata when people have to go into seiza for bowing.

But what is the role of randori-no-kata for randori? All the 17 randori techniques are intended to keep the opponent under control and restrain him from getting up and striking back. No technique is designed to hurt the fallen opponent anatomically. An act of exaggeration to make kata performance more spectacular has always been disapproved in the history of Japanese martial arts.
By practising the kata, we keep an original template of the waza. By using training methods like sotai renshu we can adapt the original template for use in randori-geiko and goshin-ho (self-defense exercises). Sotai renshu is a kind of repetitive training with ishiki and taikan as important items.
Some of you maybe bring forward that there is only interest in free-style sparring and they denie the role of creating patterns by repetitive training, in fact sotai renshu  is a kind of “katachi”.  Creating a pattern is the result of repetitive training. By repeating the basic movement(s) of a waza without stopping, the brain is storing this information for use when necessary. Regular training and focusing on the correct movements are the key for success.
Randori is of course the other side of the coin, and cannot be neglected. Randori is a test to control the correctness of the pattern in your brain.

Untitled 2

Breaking through “kamae”

Budo Aikido practice provides a safe space where violent actions can be experienced.

In fact the title is misleading, it is not about “breaking”, but is about using opponent’s kamae to start the necessary actions for controlling or throwing. As always when you start a new skill or reviewing an existing skill, the movements are big and in a moderate tempo. After a while, the form and hyoshi will come closer to “a reality”.

What is reality in Budo Aikido?

Any training in the martial arts, if entered into seriously with a sincere mind will make your free play (randori geiko) a reality. Some aggression in you will come forward, and it is your responsibility to control it. Where is this aggression coming from? Maybe you are unhappy with the situation. You like to throw the opponent, but his kamae is too strong, so your solution : break through.
You can choose to fight the person, or you can choose to fight your own negativity and frustration that lead to unhappiness. To revert this unhappiness, we can use the concept of “yielding”. It is not about running away or avoiding, it is about changing the situation into your favor. However, first you have to feel (taikan).

Ishiki 意識

Ishiki has 2 kanji, 意 = I, and 識 = shiki.
“Shiki” means identification, it is the act of recognizing someone or something.
“I” means intent, it is the determination to do something.

In Eastern Martial Arts, the concept of “I” (Yi in Chinese) or intent is the birth of power through the use of “Ki” (Qi or Chi un Chinese). For many Western people, this concept is too metaphysical. However by using this concept and using non-metaphysical words, we can understand the function of it.

Budo Aikido is built on using “Ishiki” or “Consciousness” and utilizing “learned body reflexes”, which are movements created as patterns in the brain through training.
Ishiki is awareness on the conscious level, you are just a conscious observer. The body will react on the input by the feeling and observing action with an appropriate pattern
Breaking through kamae is a matter of ishiki, feel the line of power and act accordingly in a subconscious way by using patterns stored in the brain.

The line of power

Power is traveling along lines using the body. As Budo Aikido movement involves no conscious, intentional use of the muscles, you must not use your consciousness to plan or intend anything. Use your consciousness only to feel. The moment when you touch someone, you can feel his power. Maybe only the power for keeping the posture. Power has a direction, feeling the direction is important. Let your subconscious taking over the action, don’t interfere with local muscle power.



Randori-no-kata is an example where chudan-no-kamae is often used. In fact this basic kata is far away from randori geiko. The performance of this kata is a demonstration of concepts useful as training ideas.
The chudan-no-kamae is adopted by uke after a few steps forward. Sometimes in toshu-randori (unarmed freeplay), the opponent is using this kame to close the door, you cannot easily reach the opponent.
By using soto mawashi or uchi mawashi whe can neutralize opponent’s kamae. This is also helpfull when opponent is attacking to your face with shomen ate or frontal attack. After contact with your tegatana on uke’s arm, you can grab the wrist and apply “kuzushi”.
In a more dynamic format, tandoku undo tegatana dosa 1 can be used to practise neutralizing opponent’s forward movement.

gyaku gamae ate01

The example is one of the many choises you have during the sotai renshu tegatana dosa.

Tegatana dosa 1 & tegatana dosa 2


4 Basic neutralizing approaches

There are 4 basic exercises, 2 ai gamae (regular facing body posture) and 2 gyaku gamae (reverse facing body posture). Soto mawashi and uchi mawashi are used to sweep away uke’s arm. Integrating internal mechanisms will greatly improve the potential of power.

  • ai gamae soto mawashi
  • ai gamae uchi mawashi
  • gyaku gamae soto mawashi
  • gyaku gamae uchi mawashi

VoorvertoningSchermSnapz489Aigamae soto mawashi


VoorvertoningSchermSnapz487Ai gamae uchi mawashi


VoorvertoningSchermSnapz488Gyaku gamae soto mawashi


VoorvertoningSchermSnapz490Gyaku gamae uchi mawashi


Basics and kata

russian-dollsThe layers in Aikido

Tomiki Aikido has several basic exercises and kata. It is very common after warming-up to practise unsoku-ho or footwork, a basic exercise for practising moving around. Even after 20 years of training people will do the same exercises and kata. Why we have to practise “kihon” after many years of training? Maybe it is like a Russian doll, you open it, and you see a new one.

Basic kata

Sakai senseiThere are several basic kata, each with a different purpose. There are kata with waza especially for toshu randori (unarmed free play), tanto randori (armed free play) and classical basic kata.

Sakai sensei of the Japan Aikido Association performing classical basic kata – koryu no kata dai ichi. Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba learned the waza from Morihei Ueshiba in the prewar period.

Let’s focus on basic kata, for example randori-no-kata. The techniques of this kata are selected as a “safe” method for randori geiko. It takes about 3 or 4 years to understand and becoming skillful. For more information on the differences between waza – katachi – kata read the chapter about it.

I am indebted to a former iaido and jodo colleague (Andy Watson – BKA), who gave me some visual inspiration to explain the progress a practitioner can make during his years of training. One of his teachers is Ishido Shizufumi sensei, who was one of my iaido and jodo teachers before I made the choice to explore more deeply into the inner knowledge of Budo Aikido.

The Standardisation or Definitions

Stylization and standardisation go hand in hand when an “Institution” creates a syllabus with techniques for grading or competition purposes. There is obviously a potential danger around the corner. The creativity of the practitioner will be killed when the Institution is taking too much the lead in the training process.
Of course, we need some definitions and parameters depending on the characteristics of the basic kata.
The purpose of the definitions is setting (visual) parameters to create basic movements patterns.

kihon basic structureKihon in kata
A basic choreography of the kata. Only a global overview of the structure and content of the kata. Basic movements are not linked to each other. A beginning practitioner will copy what he sees. There is no understanding of the deeper structure. The exact parameters are not applied by the practitioner.

guidelines in kataVisual parameters in kata

The definitions and the parameters are set and a basic structure is created to form a basic pattern. A visual structure of the kata performed by the instructor and incorporating the definitions and parameters can lead to some basic understanding.

Understanding and incorporating the parameters need a lot of training, and will create a basic pattern in the brain. The correct basic pattern is depending on the correct parameters. Shisei, metsuke, seichusen…. are postural parameters. Correct footwork for optimal angle towards the opponent. The more parameters are described, the more training-time you need.

guidelines in kata oyoRendo in kata

When the basic movements transforms into rendo (linked movements), the applications (oyo in Japanese) comes to the surface of understanding. Those applications can be used during kakari geiko, a kind of freeplay. The basic form is still apparent in the performance, but there is some kind of roundness in the linked movements.

guidelines in kata 2Transforming the parameters kata

Parameters can be transformed by using hyoshi (cadence, rhythm, tempo). For example the angles in the kata will be adapted depending on the use of hyoshi in the action by the opponent. The basic form is still present. By using the deeper understanding of the movements in the kata, the robotic perfomance will disappear. The transformation from katachi to kata is started.

this is my kataThis is my kata

The structure or choreography of kata is still there, but it is the representation of your skills performed in the kata. Those skills are not depending on the techniques of the kata, they are the patterns of the kihon in your brain. The use of these skills  are commanded by your subconscious.

The layers in kihon

Kihon is always a part of your training, even unsoku-ho after 20 years of practise, can be used as a training-tool.
By using “hyoshi” with the variables of cadence-rhythm-tempo, we can create different approaches with the same exercise.
Unsoku-ho and tegatana dosa in a sotai-renshu format together with different applications of Sen will spicy up your training.

An example of sotai renshu based upon tegatana dosa 1.

tegatana sotai renshu


Warming up, training & black belt

Exercises & practical information follow this link.

In Aikido it is a common activity doing warming-up to start a class. Some groups are using a short warming-up session, others are using a very long and tough warming-up session.
A possible disadvantage of a (tough) warm-up is that your energy supplies will be exhausted for a prolonged  training. Make sure you do not waste energy unnecessarily during the warm-up, which means you perform less during training.

If you are a professional  or nonprofessional martial arts competitor you have to do workouts for improvements on stamina, endurance….on a regular base. Those workouts are not included in the normal dojo training. Warming-up cannot replace the extra workouts.

2 Categories of warming-up

We divide warming-up in 2 big categories, eventually with subcategories. Mobilizing blood flow, lubricating joints, waking-up nervous system..

  • Using non-specific warming-up exercises.
  • or using methods directly or indirectly related to Budo Aikido.

The question for a non-competitor or Budo Aikido practitioner: Is it really necessary to do a non-specific warming-up?
A non-competitor, of course can participate in a group with a competitive character, where stamina, endurance…are important elements. Some people likes to enjoy the game of Tomiki Aikido also called Sports Aikido. The warming-up as a workout with non-specific exercises will be certainly one of the training items.

If you like to enter the training for Budo Aikido, you have take in account the factor how much time you like to spend on your training.

The 1-training a week

Within the time of 1-training a week, it is better to focus on Budo Aikido related body movements (bodywork exercises or tuning exercises). Focus has to be on soft and non-loaded exercises. Of course by a 1-time a week training, the result cannot be that high. Softness within the context of the concept of “ju” or “yawara” (柔) is the primary goal in the training. Warming-up  and general training presents three basic goals: warming up the body, training basic postures and basic movements, studying the interconnection between movements .The exercises of “judo taiso” or “yawara taiso” * created by Kenji Tomiki are a good choice for warming-up and general training. Studying basic techniques (basic 15 or basic17) will be used to spicy up the training, eventually some kakari geiko. Of course to become a “black belt”, the candidate has to do extra efforts (extra training).

* Judo Taiso or Yawara Taiso was basically “a method to introduce aiki” to University Judo students. Ju and Yawara are similar words and outside the context of Judo can be used interchangeable.

The 2- or 3-training a week

This kind of person has a motivation beyond the 1-training a week person. The result of bodywork exercises will have an impact on the performance of Budo Aikido. Bodywork and Judo Taiso are a good replacement for non-specific warming-up and tuning exercises. Basic techniques will benefit of the acquired skills of bodywork training.
A balance between ju (柔) and gō (硬) is one of the main targets of the training. Rendo will be the result of the balance and using non-conscious intention. This can be demonstrated during kakari-geiko and hikitate-geiko.

The daily-training a week

Not so many people will follow this kind of Budo Aikido path. Training depends on the availability of dojo or training-hall. Solo-training is needed at home to reach the necessary bodyskills. Warming-up and training will consist kyokotsu and tenshikei exercises, judo taiso unsoku-ho and judo taiso tegatana dosa. Balance between ju (柔) and gō (硬) is needed to reach the goal of “hakkei“.

Cooling down

Bringing mind and body back to the normal world. Mostly done by some breathing exercises to regulate the breathing and the blood circulation if necessary.

The dilemma of the instructor

Your regular class will exist of a mixed group of students. A warming-up will focus on some bodywork exercises and judo taiso. After 30 minutes doing exercises the body  and mind is ready to do more complicated situations of Budo Aikido. Short-term and long-term planning is a useful tool to set goals for the students. Take in account the previous comments on the “how many times” a week.

The other dilemma : black belt and their degrees

The problem is quite diverse. Are we going to compare the person with other martial arts, or within the competition arena in the same martial art or another one? What happens on the street?

If we compare with iaido or jodo, a 1st degree in those disciplines can handle their weapon in a basic manner. They are not ready to have a fight with real blades. What is very important with iaido and jodo, is the attitude towards their martial arts. Most of them have a kind of confidence called “kigurai”. The strength derived from confidence acquired through repeated practice. There is still a lot to learn, but they understand the concept of a promising beginner and still have confidence in their skills even if they don’t have “battle” experience.

1st degree black belt or a promising beginner

When someone becomes a black belt, in general people believe he or she is an expert. This is far away from the truth. A black belt 1st degree is someone who knows the basic movements and techniques and it is possible to use the movements and techniques in a low level free situation (kakari geiko). Some of the 1st degree black belt can have some profit of their skills in self-defense and competition area. Other are still not ready for this. A black belt 1st degree is not an expert or a fighting machine. A 1st degree black belt is a “promising beginner”.

2nd and 3rd degree black belt

This person is capable to perform in the category of middle level free situation (hikitate geiko). There is a skill of adaptation to changing situations. The technical level is still focused on basic movements and techniques applied in a changing situation. Hikitate geiko is an excellent exercise to demonstrate this skill.
If you have enough confidence and the skill of “hyoshi” is present, with some extra training in self-defense there is a chance to control the situation. Competing in a shiai environment also need extra training and workout to perform and understand the rules of the game.

4th degree and higher

When you reach this level, it is supposed you understand what you are doing. Basic skills are a part of your body and mind, and can be executed with a non-conscious mind. Fighting or competing becomes non significant, you discovered the way of practising and are open for new elements in your Budo Aikido.

You are still no expert, but you are a very keen practitioner. Katachi is becoming kata.

Beyond degrees

Is it necessary to follow the path of becoming a black belt with many degrees? In fact there are 3 kind of practitioners :

  • mudansha – people without a dangrade
  • yudansha – people with a dangrade
  • sensei – teacher

Becoming a black belt has a symbolic message. You receive a “black” belt and it is your duty to show you are still a beginner on the road of training. How to do this?

When you are really practising, you will find out that below your “black” belt there is a white belt, the sign of a beginner. The longer you practise, the better you can see the white belt.


Picture by Deviant Art

Overview training methods

The emphasis is on Budo Aikido which includes randori geiko (not shiai)

Warming-up and cooling down

Bodywork exercises


  • Koho ukemi – backward
  • Yoko ukemi – sideways
  • Zenpo ukemi – forward
  • Zenpo kaiten ukemi – forward rolling


  • Unsoku-ho
    • zen-go
    • sa-yu
    • naname
    • ayumi ashi
    • mawari ashi

Hand and arm movements

Partner training

Power management

Relax, relax more…..drop shoulders…..

This is often heard in the dojo, but in most cases the student doesn’t know how to release the excessive tension of the muscles. The word is there, but the body doesn’t understand the action.

Taikan or bodily feeling or sensation has to be improved before we can start with releasing the tension. If you experience tension you have to know from where it is coming.

Movement and relaxation

Movement is basically an action performed by the muscles. The muscles are steered by signals from the brain.

When you pick up a box from the floor, most people bent over from the back. Although we know this is not healthy, most people are doing it this way. The brain is not built to recognise bad movements or postures.
When you grasp the wrist of the opponent and he resist your movement by pulling for example, the natural reaction is to apply more power with the hand and arm. We all know this is not the proper action, but it seems the brain has his own way of managing movements and using power. The brain says, more power by contracting the muscle. By doing this way, the local muscles are becoming too tensed and will block the power generated by the koshi, tanden and yōbu.

When the muscles are too tensed for a long time, the brain will give a signal to release with the result of a low muscle tone, which is on the other side of the “muscle tone” spectrum.

posture trainingFor example keeping the arm in the position of chudan no kamae, after a while tension creeps up to the shoulders. The tension becomes painful and the brain will say “stop”, the arm will drop down.

Muscle Tone

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

Is it possible to instruct the brain to use a pattern with a more economical use of muscle tone and more healthy for the body?

Inner balance, the solution for better power management

Adapted from an article on “generating body strength” by CP Ong

We define inner balance as a state where the muscle actions underlying movements and support are neither excessive nor deficient. This balance incorporates the internal dynamics of the muscle actions at the joints and therefore the balance of axial and appendicular muscles in alignment. The comprehensiveness of the balance is underpinned by the ease and liveliness of change of motion at the joints within the structure. The approach presumes that our postural configuration is flawed with inner imbalance. The strategy of training is to reduce the errors of imbalance, moving through states of lesser stress towards inner balance.

The ideal motion gives rise to a comprehensive force that can be applied in timely response with precision and optimal strength. The strength is uncharacteristic of physical muscular force—there is hardly any indication of exertion in the execution; it appears hidden, and thus is dubbed “inner strength.”
Governed by the principle of inner balance, in the execution of any action, the axial and inner muscles are aligned with the prime-mover muscles in balance. Therefore, the output power of the waist-power action is optimal by virtue of inner balance. In other words, body motion inspired by inner balance is ideal; unimpeded by imbalance of muscle actions, the motion is fluid,

The skeleton

250px-Appendicular_skeleton_diagram.svgThe bones system consists of two parts: the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton. The axial skeleton include the skull, the spine, the ribs and the sternum; totally eighty bones. The shoulder and pelvic girdle and the bones of the limbs fall under the appendicular skeleton. This part of the bones system has 126 bones: 64 in the shoulders and upper limbs and 62 in the pelvis and the lower limbs.

What is axial skeleton?

(The white part of the skeleton on the picture)

The axial skeleton is supported by soft tissues like ligaments of the vertebral column, muscles of the face and the throat, cartilage of the ribs, and tendons of the muscles. These bones have functions of central weight bearing and protection and maintenance of posture. The skull and the ribcage protect the brain and the organs of the chest cavity respectively. The ossicles of the ear have the function of maintaining the balance of the human body. The hyoid bone is an anchor point for various muscles covering the throat as a protective function for the airways, gullet, major arteries and nerves. The vertebral column has functions in proper weight distribution, protection of the spinal cord and maintaining proper posture.

What is appendicular skeleton?

(The red part of the skeleton on the picture)

The appendicular skeleton consists of 126 bones in the body, which are arranged symmetrically on either side of the body, which include the bones of the upper and lower limbs, and their connections to the axial skeleton. They are mainly made up of long bones and other bones. The upper arm is connected to the axial skeleton by the shoulder girdle, and that is supported by a myriad of tendons, cartilages, muscles and ligaments. The thigh is connected to the axial skeleton by the pelvic girdle. The main bones of the upper limb include the humerus, radius, ulna, carpal, metacarpal, and phalanges. The main bones of the lower limb include the femur, tibia, fibula, tarsal, metatarsal, and phalanges. The functions of the appendicular bones include balance and stability, along with the main functions of locomotion and manipulation.

What is the difference between Axial and Appendicular?

Both have functions of weight bearing at differing levels, as well as those of stability, balance, and protection of organs. But the main concern of axial skeleton is that of posture, stability and balance, whereas the appendicular skeleton is that of locomotion. The axial skeleton is fused, whereas the appendicular skeleton is not fused.

Power management

Power management depends on the skill of resetting the muscles. Resetting skill stands generally for a release of tension or stimulation of the muscle tone, a return to equilibrium. The resetting skill depends on the input and output in the brain. Unfortunately the synchronisation between the axial and the appendicular systems is not optimal. Gripping the wrist, mentioned earlier, is an example of the malfunction in the synchronisation.
We have to rewire the pattern in the brain. Creating the pattern of resetting the muscles of the shoulder and pelvic girdle is the first part of the rewiring of the pattern.

By sinking the shoulders at the level of the armpit, we can reset the muscles to the correct muscle tone whenever there is tenseness.
The same can be done with the pelvic girdle, sinking of the groins will reset the muscles in the pelvic area.
The shoulder girdle is controlling the arms, the pelvic girdle is controlling the legs.

Resetting a deficiency of muscle tone can be obtained by stretching the muscles and tendons internally whenever there is a deficiency. Internal stretching is not what most people understand by the popular stretching exercises.
The expression “taking out of the slack” is referring to the internal stretching. When we use tenshikei skills, we are stretching internally the muscles and tendons of the central body. Also kyokotsu exercises will stretch internally without excessive tension.

Resetting exercises

ritsuzenKiko (気功) is the Japanese term for Qi-gong, Chinese exercises for health and energy.
One of the most famous exercises is “standing”.
Ritsuzen in Japanese or zhang zuang in Chinese.

The purpose of this exercise is to reset the muscles and tendons. The shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle are the main targets in this exercise.
Seichusen is needed to be succesful in resetting. Sinking the shoulders at the level of the armpits and sinking the groins creates the necessary relaxation.

There are many postures in ritsuzen training, even the posture of chudan no kamae can be used as a ritsuzen posture for a long time. The amount of time spent practicing ritsuzen varies between styles and schools; one may spend from two minutes to two hours standing in one posture.

Hyoshi – cadence, rhythm or tempo?

musashi tokitsuHyōshi is most commonly found in the classical martial arts, referring to cadence, rhythm and tempo. In the famous “Book of Five Rings”, Miyamoto Musashi describes it as three timings: before, during, and after an activity in relation to the enemy’s attack.
See : Sen or pre-emptive action

As described by researcher Kenji Tokitsu, hyōshi can refer to the rhythm, cadence, or momentum in things. Momentum is related to the speed of a body (mass).
The relation between two combatants brings into play the whole set of “hyoshi” manifested by each of them: movements, facial expressions, breathing, the ebb and flow of muscular tension, mental state.

Hyoshi is the synchronisation of cadence, rhythm and tempo.

Cadence refers to the speed and time taken to complete a series of a single movement.

Just as musical rhythms are defined by a pattern of strong and weak beats, so repetitive body movements often depends on alternating “strong” and “weak” muscular movements.

Tempo is the speed of synchronised movements

Kihon training

In kihon training there are many different “sen”. You need to understand the hyoshi and be able to use it properly in order for you to improve your randori.

  • 2.0 go-no sen (up to 2nd kyu or blue belt)

This is a beginners hyoshi. There is an attack, your brain is acting in a conscious way, you are performing the exercise or defense as told by the instructor.
It is the slowest one and not very useful in randori. It is mechanical training.

We can practice a kihon technique thousands of times and we can execute one very quickly. But it is not the mechanical speed which is important, but the tempo of the synchronised movements.

  • 1.5 go-no-sen (1st kyu or brown belt)

It is still a mechanical approach to attack and defense. The synchronisation is much better than the 2.0 approach. You have more control on your movements and some of the substructures of the techniques will be done from the subconscious.

  • 1.0 sen no sen (1st dan and higher)

An approach of 1.0 means when the opponent’s attack comes, the defense by tori simultaneously counters. In other words, these two techniques (attack and defense) are executed at the same time and the execution completes at the same time with the opponent’s attack.

I must emphasize that these numbers are used simply to describe the speed of the training approaches. So, a tempo of 1.5 is biomechanical structurally faster than 2.0, even though an actual 1.5 combination could be slower if it is purposely executed very slowly. I want to make sure that the readers to understand clearly that a “hyoshi” speed I am referring to is different from the popular mechanical speed.

  • 0.0 sen sen no sen

This is an approach which will raise the eyebrows, because the defender will act before a physical attack will happen. In our modern society we cannot act with a violent action against a person who maybe thinks about attacking you.
On the other hand it is possible to take precautions before a physical confrontation will happen. I am not referring to your precaution you take because you are afraid of the confrontation.

Is it possible to use this in kihon training? Yes, this is about taikan or bodily feeling without a physical contact.
Multiple people are sitting with their back to you. Point your finger to someone of the group and shout a kiai* to a person in particular. If that person feels your pointing he will stand up.

* Kiai (気合) is a Japanese term used in martial arts for the short shout uttered when performing an attacking move. Kiai or yelling (with or without a sound) can also be used to teach taikan It starts in the hara; from a physiological perspective, this means the yell should start in the diaphragm, not the throat.

Using hyoshi in your training

Sen or hyoshi can be used to explain the different levels in your kihon training. The application of kihon waza, the basic movements and techniques of Budo Aikido, will be further deepened in randori geiko. Here the use of hyoshi cannot be omitted from the different methods of randori.

So if the instructor is asking you to do a technique faster, don’t change the rhythm and cadense. The secret to do it faster is “relaxation”.

Mikiri – sharpness of perception

Martial art Mikiri

Mi-kiri can be divided in 2 parts. The literal translation of the 2 parts is: mi, “look” or “see”; and kiri, “cut”. The term mikiri  is associated with Musashi Miyamoto and his excellent sharpness of perception. For him, mikiri was the basis of his concept of strategy.

Mikiri is basically the ability to judge distance by eye and act accordingly. It is putting the body out of range of the attack by a fraction of a centimeter. In other words avoiding the attack and stay in the distance of rikakutaisei.

Mikiri rest on the accuracy of hyoshi (cadence, rhythm and tempo). Because mikiri is about perception, mikiri can have an impact on fight or not to fight. If your perception gives you the impression you will lose your life in a fight, it is better to walk away and keep your life. Although Musashi Miyamoto was a famous samurai, he also avoided some fights if the situation was not in his favor.

The other meanings of mikiri

DIY, carpentry, & life in Japan

Any decorative trimming for the purpose of creating an aesthetic boundary or joint between two different materials. The term “mikiri” is often preceded by a noun that specifies what kind is being discussed, such as yuka-mikiri or tenjou-mikiri, which means floor mikiri and ceiling mikiri respectively.

Japanese Tattoos
The word is used to define “borders” in Irezumi style of tattoos.
Irezumi is a traditional style of Japanese tattooing, as well as certain modern forms derived from it. Irezumi is done by hand, using wooden handles and metal needles attached via silk thread.


Kihon Atemi Waza

According to Kenji Tomiki we can use 2 methods of applying atemi technique.

  • attacking a physiological weak point
  • attacking a dynamical weak point

The former is attacking vital spots of the body like the temple or throat, it creates damage to the body. In the context of Budo Aikido as a non-aggressive, this kind of attacks are not desirable. But we can still do an attacking movement to a vital spot without dammage.

The most popular method  is metsubushi  (eye  blinding) which is a direct method to make the opponent close their eyes.
In one of the early books on Budo Aikido written by Tadashi Abe , a contemporary of Senta Yamada ( student of Kenji Tomiki and Morihei Ueshiba), metsubushi is the first fundamental attacking movement.

The latter is a method to make physical contact on the opponents body without damage. This will happen after a successful kuzushi or balance disturbing. In fact this is not a pushing action altough the perception says “pushing”. To understand this action please refer to hakkei.

The concept of “aite wo suemono ni suru”.

The first word “aite wo” means your opponent.
The second one is the key word, “suemono”. One of the most popular meaning of this word is used in Iaido. It is a roll of straw that is used for a cutting exercise with a sword to check its cutting ability.
The last word of the concept, “ni suru” means to make or set.
The meaning of this concept is to attack an opponent which cannot move.
Using an atemi technique on a moving body is very difficult, therefore we have to use a technique to fix the opponent. Metsubushi is one of the solutions to fix the opponent. With metsubushi you create an immobility in the opponent when he closes his eyes or turns the head. The meaning of immobility is a situation where the opponent only thinks of protecting his eyes.

creating kuzushi and fixUsing “kuzushi” to fix an opponent

Kuzushi has a lot of interpretations. It can be a situation where the body is collapsing, or it is a method to fix the opponent.
The opponent lost his balance and freezing the posture can be the result. You have the time to proceed with a technique.
It can be an atemi waza, but also another kind of manipulation like a throw or a joint lock.


From “Judo and Aikido” by Kenji Tomiki (1956 1st edition – text from 9th printing)

Following the late Professor Kano’s example in improving upon jujutsu, the present writer devised the methods of randori (free style exercise) in aikido. He selected 15 “basic techniques” which constitute the nucleus of the art of aikido, and under the rule of “taking postures apart” (taking postures at a certain interval so that the contestants may not fall into grappling with each other) enabled the contestants to practice by applying the proper techniques with regard to each other.

Atemi waza

In the original aikido method for randori, Kenji Tomiki selected 3 atemi waza
• Shomen ate – frontal attack – technique 1
• Gyaku gamae ate – reverse attack – technique 2
• Ai gamae ate – regular attack – technique 3

3 atemi waza

Shomen ate – frontal attack

Yamada shomen ate

Yamada shomen ate bis

Gyaku gamae ate

Yamada gyakugamae ate

Ai gamae ate

Yamada aigamae ate

Supplementary atemi waza

The original basic 15 techniques for randori was established in the 50-ties of the 20th century. In the 60-ties 17 techniques for randori became the syllabus for randori geiko. In the basic 15, only 3 atemi were selected. Basic 17 has 5 atemi waza, gedan ate and ushiro ate were added.

Gedan ate

Gedan ate can be seen as atemi waza, because opponents body is attacked below his arm. We can use the elbow on the suigetsu, a vital point on the middle of the upper body. In this case the upperarm is used to attack the upper body.

wu-jian-quan03This is similar with “fajin” in taiji. (see also hakkei)






Ushiro ate

Ushiro ate is a different story. As we know the translation for atemi in general is :

ate = strike
mi = body

In Budo Aikido as said previously, the intention is not to kill or harm the opponent.
Why is “ushiro ate” classified as atemi waza?
Striking someone in the face can be seen as an attack to the face. So ushiro ate can be seen as an attack to the back side of an opponent.

Besides Aikido, Kenji Tomiki was also a high level Judoka. He studied randori, but also different kata of Kodokan Judo.

koshiki no kataKoshiki no kata or Form of the antique things is a kata in Kodokan Judo. It is also known as Kito-ryu no Kata. It consists of 21 techniques originally belonging to the Takenaka-ha Kito School of jujutsu. Jigoro Kano revised the techniques and incorporated them into a kata in order to preserve the historical source of judo. The set of forms is antique and were intended for “Kumiuchi”, the grappling of armored warriors in the feudal ages. As such, the kata is to be performed with both partners imagining that they are clad in armor. It is taught and practiced in and outside Japan. it is the only judo kata that involves attacking the cervical spine.

When applying ushiro ate, keep in mind you are attacking the spine, by pulling the 2 shoulders, there is an action on the spine. When there is no harmony between the 2 pulling hands, opponent will turn and attacks you.


Don’t step back – a dilemma

Do you know that stepping straight back is the worst option one can have? If you do not believe this, imagine when you need to dodge a car. What would you do? Would you step back in line with the car’s direction of movement? I am sure you would not. You will want to move out-of-the-way or you will be run over. Well this concept applies in randori geiko where your opponent is charging at you. Now you can see that it is not such a good idea to step straight back and receive all the energy and power from the attacker. We must learn better options including how to step back in angles, to side step and even to step forward.

But very strange, unsoku ho starts with stepping forward and 2 steps back. While in koryu no kata, stepping back with multiple steps is absent. It seems there is a difference between old style and so-called modern style. Lets take for example 7-hon no kuzushi found in koryu no kata dai yon.

7-hon no kuzushi jodan kuzushi. In the old style the rotational style is promoted.

old style jodan kuzushi

Shodokan or new style is following an almost straight line back.

Shodokan style jodan kuzushi

From a pedagogical side of view, promoting stepping back with multiple steps, creates a pattern which cannot be used in randori geiko or koryu no kata.
Tai sabaki (side stepping) with or without tenshin (body rotation) has to become the first basic way of moving in martial arts training.

A 1-step back option
Stepping straight back can be an option, but only one step, and not multiple steps like in unsoku ho or jodan kuzushi. The “one ” step can be used to make or keep the distance, after keeping the correct ma-ai (distance and/or interval) side stepping or forward stepping is required. Using multiple steps are creating momentum, which can be used by the opponent.

Tandoku undo – Tegatana dosa

Tandoku undo is basically a solo exercise, but the movements of tegatana dosa can be used in a paired format.
As explained in another article, the basic movements of tandoku undo tegatana dosa have their origin in the tegatana no godosa or the 5 handblade movements.

When practising paired exercises, there is always a connection with the partner or opponent. Keep always this connection.

Tegatana dosa – shomen uchi & shomentsuki

Both are performing tegatana dosa 1.
When moving back, keep seichusen slightly forward. Always wait for the offensive movement of the partner. During the practise don’t include a stop, keep the flow going on. Of course keep your zanshin on the action of the partner. Zanshin is keeping the mind on alert.

Although the start of the article mentions “don’t step back”, in the exercise we move back without losing the connection with the partner. There is no excessive momentum created in the own body.

tegatana dosa 1 paired

Tegatana dosa – uchi mawashi & soto mawashi

Both are performing tegatana dosa 2
When moving back, keep seichusen slightly forward. Always wait for the offensive movement of the partner. Keep zanshin. Use tenshikei.
tegatana dosa 2 paired

Alternative method with side stepping. Grasping the wrist is without pulling by contraction of the arm muscles.

tegatana dosa 2 paired side

Hakkei – From potential energy to kinetic power


Movement produces kinetic energy, which can be converted into power. Delivering power into the body of an opponent is not an easy task, it needs a special skill called “hakkei”.
Hakkei (発勁), which literally means ‘release of power’, can generate power with minimal external body motion.
Before  we can use hakkei we need to accumulate pressure in the hara, this is created by using the muscles of the koshi, tanden and yōbu. Those muscles are full of potential elastic energy. See tenshikei and rendo.

Elastic potential energy is the energy stored in elastic materials as the result of their stretching or compressing. Elastic potential energy can be stored in rubber bands, bungee chords, trampolines, springs, an arrow drawn into a bow, etc. But also muscles, tendons and fascia.  The amount of elastic potential energy stored is related to the amount of stretching and releasing quality of the muscles, tendons and fascia.

Converting elastic potential energy

By releasing the pressure or tension, movement is created and “momentum” is born. Using momentum is a skill called ido-ryoku.
It is not always necessary to have physical distance between you and the opponent. It is possible to emit power into the opponent when you already are touching the body. momentum can travel in a straight line , but can also follow a circular line, called angular momentum.


Momentum is fairly easy to grasp, as we all have an intuitive sense of it. Momentum brings mass and speed together as a single meaningful quantity. If I say something is flying very fast toward you, you would want to also know whether it’s heavy or not! A light object with great velocity can have a similar momentum as a heavy object with a low speed. When you catch a ball, you absorb that ball’s momentum and transfer it to you, making you move backward. If you have a good posture and firm footing, you’ll be able to transfer your own momentum to the earth.

Angular Momentum

Momentum can also be considered in rotation, along an axis, which we call angular momentum. It gets a bit more complicated here because, as a body turns, its parts that are further away have more speed (if you have your arms extended while you rotate, the tip of your fingers goes at a much greater speed than your shoulders). This is also tied to inertia in rotation. So angular momentum is about mass and rotation, but also about how far the mass is from the axis of rotation.

Conservation of Angular Momentum

But here comes the fun part: Angular momentum is a quantity that is kept constant, conserved.

Let’s say you are sitting on an “office chair” that can rotate freely .

  1. Start by swinging your arms left and right, first extended, then close to your body. What happens? Your knees rotate as well, but the opposite way, and they rotate more when your arms are extended.
    You started with no angular momentum. As you created some angular momentum one way in your upper body, your lower body swiveled in the opposite direction, keeping the total angular momentum at zero.
  2. Now ask someone to give you a rotation speed, while sitting on the chair, with your arms extended, and bring your arms together.  Your rotation speed increases noticeably.
    This time, you started with a fixed angular momentum, but as you moved your arms inwards, you reduced the speed of your arms by bringing them in, and your overall speed increased as a result, keeping your angular momentum constant.

  A martial arts example: sayabiki


Sayabiki is the pulling of the scabbard (saya) when performing nukitsuke, a cutting motion as you swiftly draws the sword.
Doing sayabiki at the end of drawing the sword allows for greater cutting speed. Furthermore, as you reach the end of sayabiki and the scabbard slows and stops, you also help slowing the tip of the sword and allow for better control of the tip.

The cutting with the sword (nukitsuke) and the pulling of the scabbard is produced by using the muscles of koshi, tanden and yōbu as described earlier.

Budo Aikido example of angular momentum

We start with a big circle to a smaller circle. The initial circular action is building up pressure and tension in the hara, by releasing with the proper footwork, a sudden power or hakkei is produced. See 8 sotai dosa.

The example is a part of the 8 sotai dosa, but also a technique found in koryu no kata dai yon.

soatai dosa 2 A

Hakkei or fajin in Western literature

In martial arts literature (translated from Japanese), we cannot find a lot about hakkei. It has a rather obscure image, although in some books about Aiki-Jutsu and Okinawa Kenpo or Karate we can find “how to do” information. The reason for lack of practical information can be found in the difficulties in the explanation of expressing in words, it is tacit knowledge.
Tacit knowledge (as opposed to formal, codified or explicit knowledge) is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it.

Hakkei fajin

In Chinese literature on martial arts, fajin is a more common item in training.

Hakkei is “sudden” power

Before you can use hakkei, you have to store potential elastic energy in the body, mostly in koshi, tanden and yōbu. You have to convert the potential energy into kinetic power by suddenly release the pressure or tension. Many so-called kokyu nage are a form of hakkei by using the transformed potential energy and breathing. This process of breathing is called “reverse breathing”.

Natural and Reverse Breathing

Not all the teachers of Japanese martial arts are promoting a special method of breathing. Building up pressure in the body can harm your health, especially people with high blood pressure, or people suffering from cardiac diseases. Before you start with a breathing program, pleasmusclese consult your medical doctor.

(from Mike Sigman Blog)

There are two main types of breathing: natural-breathing and “reverse”-breathing. Natural breathing is the type of breathing where the inhale expands the abdomen, hopefully somewhat not only in the front, but in the kidney areas, also. “Reverse”-breathing refers to the idea that on the inhale the lower abdomen comes somewhat in and then goes somewhat out on the exhale. Because the lower-abdomen isn’t allowed to expand on a reverse breath, there is a slight pressure build-up in the abdominal area.

Reverse Breathing is the type of breathing practiced in the internal-arts proper, after real development and training begins. Reverse breathing does a number of things, but it does two things that are particularly important for someone who is learning to move the whole body as a connected unit :

  • reverse breathing controls the body-wide tensions it initiates and
  • reverse breathing helps control the pressures which are an intrinsic part of internal-arts that are controlled by the dantian.

Pressure basics

Within the body cavities, breath initiated tensions are used in conjunction with the increase in pressure to train and develop the connective tissues.

As a person inhales while either slightly pulling in the abdomen or at least holding it in stasis so that it isn’t allowed to bulge outward, the diaphragm comes down. It must come downward or air can’t be pulled into the lungs. As the diaphragm comes downward and the front of the abdomen is kept from expanding outward, pressure increases in the abdominal cavity and kidney areas.

Starting with the left foot

Why are we starting with the left foot in unsoku-ho and tandoku undo tegatana dosa? This article will cover some teaching aspects for beginners, although advanced practitioners can also benefit by understanding “the why”.

Natural left rotation including our solar system

rotation earth

Every planet in our solar system except for Venus and Uranus rotates counter-clockwise as seen from above the North Pole; that is to say, from west to east.
Also, we know track-and-field events including indoor bicycle racing, is set in the counter-clockwise direction.
In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people.
Furthermore, a right-handed person finds it easier to mount a horse from the left side of the horse, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left). It is safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road, rather than in the middle of traffic, so if one mounts on the left, then the horse should be ridden on the left side of the road.

Unsoku and tandoku undo

The first step of unsoku-ho is to move straight forward with the left foot, this is the direction which is often used in a confrontation. On the other hand being able to move forward quickly is not an easy movement thus it requires a lot of training even if we are used to step forward in daily life. The Achilles tendon plays an important role in stabilizing the posture during walking or running. And we all know “shisei” or correct posture is important.
Turning the body left as the first movement would be much easier and better for beginners with their introduction to footwork.  Try and feel the difference between stepping forward with the left foot or turning and stepping with the left foot. Most people will feel more comfortable when turning and stepping, because keeping the balance or seichusen is more easy. If you lean sideways you will feel there is little support or resistance by the leg muscles to slow your move. You can feel that the Achilles tendon does not stop the fall to the side. The use of yōbu will facilitate the sideways movement.

In the early era of Tomiki Aikido, turning and stepping to left (and right) was included in the basic training.

feet turning left

From Kenji Tomiki’s “Introduction to Goshinjutsu” (護身術入門), published in 1974.

Senta Yamada, student of Kenji Tomiki and Morihei Ueshiba performing soto mawashi to the left around 1958.

feet turning left

The foot: a shape for natural shifting

Our foot is designed to be longer than its width. You may feel it is so natural that you do not think about it twice. The shin bone is positioned not in the center but rather towards the back or the heel. This design makes the body better balanced with the body forward. In other words, you can keep your balance pretty well even if someone would push you from behind. However, if someone pushes you from the front, you tend to lose your balance much easier. The same thing can be said when the pressure comes from either the left or right side. Shifting to a side may not be a wise or a desirable move from a martial art perspective, it is, however, a useful training method for a beginner to learn how to shift smoothly and swiftly to the side without turning. Keeping the hip-joint and the knee flexible is required to do a step to the side without turningVoorvertoningSchermSnapz494

Easier to make a hanmi (半身) position


It is easy to step and turn to the left, as mentioned previously. It is a good method to introduce “hanmi” to a beginner while turning and stepping to the left, it will feel more natural. The angle of both feet is about 60°.



tanto tai sabakiLeft posture hanmi will be used as a strategy when your opponent is attacking with the right hand (armed or unarmed). You can easily entering the blind side.








Left turning and/or stepping in other martial arts

Iaido first level (shoden), turning to the left and cut is a basic movement.


Karate kata for beginners, heian shodan start to the left

karate heian left

And in Ballroom dancing : The Waltz

“Man in right posture, step to the left with left foot……” Man is Tori (taking the initiative) and Woman is Uke.

left foot dancing