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

8 sotai dosa

There are of course more than 8 sotai dosa exercises. These are the most basic and can be studied by beginners after some bodywork skills (kyokotsu, tenshikei,….)

Ai gamae ude hineri

Ai gamae ude hineri with bodywork application. See also tenshikei.

Tenshikei lines

There is a similar body movement in relationship with tenshikei, when doing iaido nukitsuke/kirioroshi, a horizontal and vertical cut with the sword. By doing sayabiki a tenshikei action (twisting) is produced, the potential energy of the twist can be used to proceed with furikaburi (lifting the sword) by untwisting. In sotai dosa ai gamae ude hineri, the same actions will direct the tegatana.

nukitsuke kirioroshi

The nukitsuke movement in iaido is a rotation movement of the arm and the sword. As such, it follows the laws of conservation of angular momentum. From that perspective, sayabiki has the following positive effects:

  1. By providing rotation in the opposite direction, it allows for greater speed of the sword arm and the sword tip.
  2. At the end of the movement, the slowing down of the tip (and control to avoid over-extension of the movement) is helped by the associated movement of slowing down at the end of sayabiki.

Gyaku gamae ude hineri

Gyaku gamae ude hineri with bodywork application. See also tenshikei.
The untwisting of the tenshikei starts with turning the feet. Body turns with the feet have many applications in koryu no kata.

starting sotai dosa 2

sotai dosa 2 feet

In iaido we have a similar body movement, the feet is stepping forward to release the twisting of tenshikei. The untwisting will be facilitated the lifting of the sword.

iai & sotai2

Ai gamae ude gaeshi

Sotai 03a

sotai dosa 03

Gyaku gamae ude gaeshi

Sotai 04a

sotai dosa 04

Ai gamae tenkai ude hineri

Gyaku gamae tenkai ude hineri

Ai gamae tenkai ude gaeshi

Gyaku gamae tenkai ude gaeshi

Hara : Koshi, Tanden & Yōbu

Hara – Tanden, Koshi & Yōbu

Basically Hara is the lower part of the central body. Mostly it is translated as “belly” or “abdomen”. Hara has 3 major parts.

  • Koshi means the area of the hips. It also includes the lower back.
  • Tanden is a point below the navel, loosely translated as the energy centre (Chinese medicine and martial arts). It is the focal point for internal techniques and exercises.
  • Yōbu is the waist area. The Chinese word is Yao. The waist is the part of the abdomen between the rib cage and hips.

In our study, Hara will be used in many exercises, especially during Tenshikei.
When the body moves, Tanden is the centre and is the place of a relative no-movement.
The muscles associated with hara will be used to start movements.
Other methods to start a movement are taijū no idō or body weight shift and taijū no dendō or body weight transmission.

Kihon kō (基本功) 

Kihon ko is the Japanese word for Jiben Gong (Chinese) : Fundamental exercises.

In Budo Aikido, kihon training is mostly based upon elements from kata. The isolated movements are practised until a pattern is formed in the brain. Unsoku-ho, tegatana dosa,….are parts of kata. The belief is when you practise kata you will have the skills to defend yourself in a confrontation.
Unfortunately by practising kata alone, by experience we know this doesn’t work.
In Tomiki Aikido we have randori with 3 levels of difficulties. This of course will give you the necessary experience to have a better chance in a confrontation. But still there is something missing.
If you don’t know the internal mechanisms of the kata ,you are wasting your time with kata and randori.

Kihon training is the training of the isolated kata elements with integrated internal mechanisms.

What are the internal mechanisms of the kata?

The human spine is a very important part of our body. It gives support to our posture. Many muscles are attached to the spine, and gives us the ability to generate power. Especially the lower part of the spine plays a role in the use of the “hara”. We can say the koshi act as a kind of ‘interconnectedness’ between the skeletal and muscular structures in the lower section of the torso. Many teachers have often stressed the importance of having strong koshi, which supports basic kamae stance. Maintaining a strong kamae throughout movement appears crucial to providing a slightly lower centre of gravity that also pushes the weight towards the front. By establishing this firmness, the body pushes into the floor, creating a resistance that supports and facilitates the different methods of footwork.

During internal mechanisms, the abdominal, waist and back muscles are used to create a state of twisting, called “tame”. The meaning of tame is building up pressure in the abdomen.
(Tame 溜め, from the verb Tameru 溜める, to accumulate).

The misunderstanding of “tension”

1015_Types_of_Contraction_newIf we talk about tension, most of the people have an image of pulling in muscles (muscle contraction). This is not the tension we are looking for. In most cases this kind of power is a 2D movement. It is difficult to generate “spiral” power with this method.

Also actively over-stretching the muscle will not give the desired result, although when the stretch is released, power is generated but the risk of injuries are looking around the corner.




Tenshikei, twisting and untwisting, creates a form of tension in koshi, tanden and yōbu area. As previous explained, the word tension can be a source of misunderstanding.  Tenshikei twisting creates “pressure” in the abdomen. Besides twisting, breathing control can also creating pressure in the abdomen.
Tenshikei twisting can be seen as creating potential energy. Untwisting is releasing and converting of the potential energy into power. Many techniques of the kata can be improved by using the skill of tenshikei twisting and untwisting.

pressure01 4

In the picture above by squeezing the flexbar there is pressure towards the centre. It is potential energy which can be used by untwisting and directing the power.

Kyokotsu training is the first step to create potential energy. This kind of training is build upon 6 directions movements:

    • forward & back
    • up & down
    • turning left and right

Kyokotsu training for control of the spine

This kind of training is focussing on the lower part of the sternum. Manipulation of the kyokotsu has an effect on the lower spine, in other word “koshi”. Koshi can generate a lot of power in case we understand the function of mata, knees and ankles.

Another facet of this training is the use of yōbu or waist muscles to create tension  and release. It can generate power in up and down direction. For example “oshi taoshi” can be improved by well-functioning yōbu.

Footwork and tenshikei

Footwork is depending on taijū no idō or body weight shift and taijū no dendō or body weight transmission. In combination with tenshikei we can overcome the problem of distance when opponent is holding you.

Some basic exercises derived from kata and integrated internal mechanisms will certainly improve the efficiency of your kata.

Ayumi ashi and yōbu turning
Stepping forward and turning the waist (yōbu). This creates tension, by releasing the tension the knee comes forward and a step can be done in subconscious way. If we step in a conscious way, the opponent can sense our intention and eventually blocking it.

yobu walking

These Gifs give you a movement idea. The yōbu is the main component of the movement.

Hip-turning is not koshi turning


We often hear in the dojo, turn the hips and sometimes reference is made to the golfer hip-turn. When talking about turning koshi, this is sligthly different. When a golfer hit the ball with a correct technique, the ball will fly away. The golfer doesn’t control anymore the ball. In martial arts, when you throw someone, you have to control the opponent even after the throw. Controlling the opponent is depending on the control of our body and espescially control of mata.

Koshi turning &  taijū no idō or body weight shift

The turning of the koshi is depending on the flexibility of mata and knees. The knees are not wobbling to the side. The ball in socket structure of the hip-joint (mata), knee and ankle are forming a strong line, with the knee as a transport junction for the downward power.

Shoulder line, trunk and pelvis line are turning about 45° together with a weigth-shift. The trunk is turning more and the shoulder line is about 90°.


sotai dosa 04

Rendo, the skill of linking movements

Linking isolated exercises is necessary to create full body movement


Taijū no idō & Taijū no dendō

Among the fundamental elements for generating power are taijū no idō or body weight shift and taijū no dendō or body weight transmission.
The displacement of the body weight is when one moves his center of gravity.
The transmission of the body weight is the action of putting the weight  into the opponent. For example when one is grasped at the forearm, to use this point of contact to transfer his weight to another. It is not pushing or pulling!
By performing tenshikei an internal distance is created, this internal distance is needed to be able to do body weight transmission. The power of this transmission is called “Ido-ryoku”.


How to create distance and space when grasped by the opponent?

If someone is grasping you on your wrist and twist you forward. You will feel it first in your wrist and elbow (1), the shoulder (2), it affects the other shoulder (movement will be felt front of the body (3), the twist will be go down at the back to the opposite hip (4), the movement will pass via the front of abdomen to the other hip (5), the knee (6) and the ankle (7). The feeling is important (taikan).

The untwisting is following the reverse order.

The opponent will not feel the untwisting until the power enters in his body with taijū no idō or body weight shift and taijū no dendō or body weight transmission.

from the book written by Akira Hino (2017) Listen to the Body.

Shotei Awase

Shotei awase is traditionally taught as an isometric exercise. Isometric exercise or isometrics are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. Isometrics are done in static positions, rather than being dynamic through a range of motion.

shotei awase gendai aiki

From a magazine named “Gendai Aiki”

Gendai budō (現代武道), literally meaning “modern budo”, or Shinbudō (新武道), literally meaning “new budo” are both terms referring to modern Japanese martial arts, which were established after the Meiji Restoration (1866–1869). Koryū are the opposite of these terms referring to ancient martial arts established before the Meiji Restoration.

shotei awase gendai aiki applicationsGendai Aiki is a subcategory of Gendai budō. It is during a short period used to define Tomiki Aikido. Shin-Aikido was also in use during this time.

The pictures are showing the traditional exercise and some applications.








A wall can be used as a replacement for a training partnerShotei awase wall








Shotei awase – a pushing exercise without pushing

shotei awase01Shotei awase can be used to study “body block”.
When applying power for example forward, there is always a backward component when partner is resisting.
By using “yukozo” you can keep a strong posture. Tensing up by pulling the muscles will have a negative impact on the posture.
Notice the hand on the back. The backward movement creates a slightly roundness in the lower back.
When you push the lower back forward, the knees becomes stiff.
Bracing the back leg (knee) has a negative influence on the concept of yukozo.

Putting the weight on

Taïjū no dendō or transmission of body weight. Shotei awase is “not” about pushing, but about putting the body weight into the training partner.The muscles becomes of course under tension, don’t tense activily the muscles.
It is possible to lift either the left or right foot and still have a body block.
Body block is not only used during shotei awase, but has many applications.
Putting the weight on is a clever application of gravity while keeping control.

Tegatana no godosa – 5 handblade

There are 5 basic movements.
Those movements can be combined with unsoku ho and tenshikei skills.

Formal Tandoku Undo Tegatana dosa

Tandoku undo – unsoku ho/tegatana dosa are traditional Tomiki Aikido solo-exercises. In the history of Tomiki Aikido different versions were used. When Senta Yamada came to England, he taught  3 unsoku-ho and 8 tandoku undo  as described in Tomiki’s book “Judo Taiso” published around 1954.

Teruo Fujiwara
The time when I studied under Tomiki-shihan in 1956-1958 is called ‘the age of Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso). The main ways of moving the body and hands were picked from Aiki skills, then simplified and abstracted and organized as the exercise forms. These forms are ‘Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso). The plan of making ‘Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso) is that by doing them repeatedly, we can learn Aiki as if we learned hundreds of thousands of skills which can benefit our bodies in a positive fashion. . ‘Judo Exercise’ (Yawara Taiso) is the valuable legacy of Tomiki-sensei.

Around 1975, Tomiki introduced a 5 method  tandoku undo containing 5 basic movements to the university students.

By combining unsoku ho and tegatana dosa, a dynamic training tool is created. The basic movements of kyokotsu (forward/backward, up/down and turning), taijū no idō or body weight shift and taijū no dendō or body weight transmission give an extra dimension to the execution of tandoku undo. Tandoku undo is the entry level for sotai renshu (paired training) .

Swift Publisher 5SchermSnapz006

* In 1975 tandoku undo n° 7 & 8 was removed from the Japan Aikido Association syllabus. From Bodywork point of view, these exercises are still incorporated in our training.

** Gassho uke is a rather recent add in tandoku undo-tegatana dosa.

Tegatana no godosa – 5 basic handblade movements

The arm is not moving by itself, but the movement starts in the central body. No unnecessary arm muscle power is used. In other words, the arm is moving without conscious thoughts.
The muscles of the body must kept flexible but not limp.
The stretching part of the exercises cannot result in a tensed posture.

1-Uchi Mawashi 

uchi mawashi basic

When lifting up the handblade, keep the palm inwards. When the handblade goes forward, the palm is downward. Stretch the body up, use the “tenshikei” lines. Release the stretch, the handblade will move forward. Just use the release to move the arm. Don’t bend the elbow intentionally. This is not a strike with the hand, but can be used as a strike without conscious thougth.

2-Soto mawashi

soto mawashi basic
When lifting up the handblade, keep the palm outwards. When the handblade goes forward, the palm is upward. Stretch the body up, use the “tenshikei” lines. Release the stretch, the handblade will move forward. Just use the release to move the arm. Don’t bend the elbow intentionally. This is not a strike with the hand, but can be used as a strike without conscious thougth.

3-Uchi gaeshi

uchi gaeshi basic

The arm turning is an inward movement. Keep gan kyo bappai. This is a phrase used to describe the postural adjustment at the chest level (Empty the chest & Pull out the back ). Keep the concave shape of the chest and stretch the spine to widen the back. Important is not to tense the muscles.

4-Soto gaeshi

soto gaeshi basic

The turning is an outward movement.
The elbow is going to the inside.

5-O mawashi

Kyokotsu is the center of the big arm movement. Keep central axis. Keep the bodyblock.

o mawashi basic

These 5 basic arm movements can be employed in different kinds of body-movements. Tandoku-undo (Tomiki style) is such an example. When integrating unsoku and koshi-mawari taisabaki, an almost complete bodywork system is created. See “Integrating Koshi Mawari

Koryu no Kata

The purpose of Koryu no kata

First I have to mention, koryu no kata are practice kata rather than actual fighting kata.

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

1.Dai Ichi no kata – basic waza based mainly upon prewar teachings of Morihei Ueshiba

2.Dai Ni no kata – an extension of Dai Ichi, more close quarters combat waza

3.Dai San no kata – partly based upon prewar teachings of Morihei Ueshiba & weapon skills. See also jo-no-tsukai

4.Dai Yon no kata – in general explained as applications of “kuzushi”. But explained in an alternative way as a skill to control the power of Uke.

5.Dai Go no kata – a study of “sen” and “hyoshi” based upon Dai Ichi and Dai Ni

6.Dai Roku no kata – influence of Kito Ryu originated from Ryōi Shintō-ryū. See also jo-no-tsukai.

Some observations

In an old manuscript Budo Renshu,(1933), published with the help of Kenji Tomiki,  many techniques are similar to Koryu no kata. 

Suwari waza or sitting techniques give the opportunity to practise without the help of the legs. Kyokotsu, koshi and tanden will do their job to create efficient technique.

Section A starts with oshi taoshi. It is also called ik-kyo or ik-kajo, first principle or first technique.

Budo Renshu (1933)

Technique 1 (Koryu no kata dai ichi – suwari waza no.1)

Shi (Tori) : Using the right hand, strikes for the face of his opponent and with his left thrusts to the armpit at the same time raising his body (Koshi) (to the Kiza position).

Uke : With his own right hand blocks Shi’s right handed attack.

Shi : At the same time as grasping his enemy’s right hand moves slightly forward on his left knee and pulling down with his own right hand uses hist left to suppress use’s elbow.


Katachi or Kata

Waza – Katachi – Kata
(The Japanese way)

Adapted from an article by Kumiko Ikuta (1990) AI & Soc 4: 127-146

Japanes fan dance

Waza is a skill within the Japanese traditional performance arts or martial arts such as Noh, Kabuki, Aikido, Judo and others. Waza will be shown by a sensei and a learner can master it only through the activity of imitating and repeating what his sensei does. “Katachi” is an apparent physical form of waza (1 or more) performed by the learner, which may be decomposed into parts and described as a sequence of procedures. On the contrary, “Kata”, which has been regarded as the ultimate goal of the learner to attain in learning “Waza”, is not a simple collection of parts of action like “Katachi”, but his understanding and personal expression of “Katachi”. The most important matter for the learner in learning “Waza”, is not the perfect reproduction of “Katachi” as a physical form of action, but grasping the meaning of it with a sense of reality.
Speaking from the point of view of the sensei, how can the sensei transmit his “Kata”, not “Katachi”, to the learner effectively? To make the learner master the waza, the sensei says while showing him this waza, “Hold your right hand up just as if you were trying to catch snow falling down from the sky”, instead of saying “Keep your right hand up exactly at an angle of 45 degrees”. The sensei intentionally used metaphorical expressions in the process of teaching even in cases where he could express what he wished to say to his learner in a descriptive language. And it is after the same sensation is provoked in the body of the learner that he can grasp the meaning of “Kata”, in other words, master “Kata” beyond the activity of imitation of “Katachi”. Receiving a metaphorical suggestion like “Act as if you are catching snowflakes falling down from the sky”, may confuse the learner at first, but he may begin to imagine the scene of snow falling on a cold day, and to compare the image of catching snow with his hand with the knowledge he has stored so far through committing himself to the world of Japanese martial art. As soon as he can understand what the metaphorical expression practically implies, he also can get the same physical sensation as his sensei has, in his own body, and can simultaneously grasp the meaning of “Katachi” with a sense of reality, that is to say, he can master “Kata”. By intermediation metaphorical expression which has the effect of encouraging the learner to activate his creative imagination, the sensei can effectively transmit “Kata” to him. In this sense, the activity of imagination on the part of the learner, which encouraged effectively by metaphorical expression, is an indispensable factor for mastering “Kata”, not “Katachi”. Concerning the aim of teaching and learning “Waza”, the process of teaching and learning a skill of Japanese martial art has been considered so mysterious and closed that the people outside the world of “Waza” hardly understand what happens there. Nonetheless,, in fact, what both the sensei and the learner aim for at the end of the teaching and learning is the mastery of “Kata”, not “Katachi”. “Kata”, as distinct from “Katachi”, can well be explained by introducing a sociological concept “habitus” which is a cultural or situational “Katachi”. It is “Kata”, “habituated katachi”, that the learner should make efforts to master through the activity of imitating and repeating the form his sensei shows. That is exactly what the learner should “steal in secret” from his sensei. The perfect reproduction of “Katachi” (the state of “Mushin mugamae”) can easily be learned through following a sequence of procedures of “Katachi” shown by the sensei, but in order for the learner to get to the state of mastering of “Kata”, he has to activate his creative imagination while he is following a sequence of procedures of “Katachi”, and to grasp the meaning of it by himself. Metaphorical expression effectively encourages the learner to activate his imagination. Thereby enabling him to grasp the meaning of”Katachi” which is the mastery of “Kata”.


Tomiki Aikido Techniques

Basic 15 – Basic 17, embu or kata?

Around 1956 Tomiki sensei selected 15 techniques for use in “randori”. Later he added more techniques. Basically when those techniques are demonstrated in sequence, it is called “katachi” or “kata”, depending on the understanding of the practitioner. When entering competition the word “embu” is used.

Prof. F. Shishida (Waseda University) wrote on this matter the following :

The difference between kata (katachi) and embu or embu-kyogi

Tomiki had never referred to embu in his life. Judging from my long experience in aikido and study, the word embu (to practice martial arts) was used as a demonstration at a place called embu-jo in early modern times. Around 1973, embu-kyogi started to take place at a public event at the student championship of Tomiki Aikido. Master Oba seems to have added embu-kyogi (embu) to the randori event in the All Japan Student Championship in 1971. He seems to have wanted to encourage students in the Kansai area who only practice kata. According to Mr. T. Sato, Tomiki mentioned only the fact to him with a dissatisfied look when he visited Tomiki to report that he joined the embu-kyogi with Koryu-Daigo-no-kata. Judging from the common sense of Japanese martial arts, embu-kyogi is out of the question to him, because it is impossible to avoid that practitioners want to exaggerate their performance to make a false show of power. Exaggeration is at the opposite end of the practicality of aikido that Tomiki pursued. On the other hand, kata is a tool to improve practical skill, the power of scientific investigation, and character building, compared with embu that is just a display of power. We have to understand that Tomiki’s goal are those above mentioned through kata and randori, and that he has no concept of embu for realizing his goal.

Senta Yamada wrote in 1962
Basic 15 or Basic techniques for Randori

They can be divided into 4 sections.
Three techniques apply to attacks, four elbow techniques, four are concerned with wrist twists, and four with wrist turns.
These form the framework for the system and should be considered as the first essential to progress. Time should be allowed, periodically, for the practise of these “katachi” moves, because they serve to remind you to keep posture and movement fresh and sound. The importance of this cannot be emphasized too strongly.

From techniques to katachi to kata

There is a process in the understanding of aikido.
People are learning basic movements, by linking them together “waza” will be created. The demonstration of techniques in a prearranged  sequence is called “katachi”. When katachi is fully integrated into body & mind, it is called “kata”.

Demonstration of prearranged set of techniques during grading or public demonstration = katachi or kata

Demonstration = embu

Public demonstration place = embu-jo
Competition = embu-kyogi

Tomiki Aikido Katachi or Kata

As explained earlier, we can consider every sequence of waza as a form of “katachi” which can be transformed into “kata”.

The purpose of each katachi or kata must be understood by the practitioner, without this basic knowledge the transformation from katachi to kata is almost impossible.

The word kata will be used in the name of the different sequences of waza. It is the ultimate goal of every practitioner to transform katachi into kata. Without this transformation, Tomiki Aikido always stays at the level of embu-kyogi,  were practitioners want to exaggerate their performance to make a false show of power. Exaggeration is at the opposite end of the practicality of aikido that Tomiki pursued.

Kata for Randori purposes

The waza of these kata are designed to apply safely into randori.

Randori no kata (basic 15) Atemi waza – Hiji waza – Tekubi waza
Randori no kata (basic 17) Atemi waza – Hiji waza – Tekubi waza  – Uki waza
Randori no kata (10 ura waza or 10 counter techniques)

Koryu no kata

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

Tegatana Awase

Tegatana awase

Tegatana awase is a basic exercise in Tomiki Aikido. Mostly it is used to study good posture and distance.

tegatana awase shiseiDon’t bend the posture in the lower back. Of course the study of tegatana awase goes beyond posture and distance. When Uke (senior) moves around, Tori (student) must follow smoothly Uke’s movement while keeping posture and a proper ma-ai.

tegatana awase02

Using the concept of “jukozo” creates a new dimension in this exercise. Every joint of our body must be flexible to store or to pass incoming movement or power. Jukozo gives you the possibility to acquire the skill of immediate response to the movements of Uke.

Body block or keeping the body 

3gankyo bappaiDuring tegatana awase the position of the arm and chest has a concave shape, called Gankyōbappai (含胸抜背). This is a phrase used to describe the postural adjustment at the chest level (Empty the chest & Pull out the back ). Keep the concave shape of the chest and stretch the spine to widen the back. Important is not to tense the muscles. There is a resemblance with the posture of ritsuzen (standing meditation), holding a ball between the arms.

During your training there will be many situations to apply “body block”.


Atemi and tegatana

Tegatana – handblade

In various schools of martial arts, there are different ways of delivering a blow. One can strike with the fist, handblade, elbow, knee or foot or even a combination.

The handblade or tegatana (lit. handsword) is the part of the body most often used in aikido to strike in attack or parry in defence. By concentrating the energy of your body into the cutting edge of your hand, blows of considerable power can be achieved. These blows are called atemi-waza, (lit. ate= to strike, mi=body).

Learning to give a powerfull strike with the tegatana is depending on the skill of taijū no idō or body weight shift and taijū no dendō or body weight transmission. See unsoku ho for further information. When your skill can be performed with rendo or continuous full body movement, you wil create “hakkei” or sudden power in your atemi. 

5 handblade methods – Tegatana no go dosa

The origin of tegatana dosa exercises can be found in the 5 handblade movements developed by Kenji Tomiki. These handblade movements will be used in attack and defence.

5 tegatana

Point instabilityMetsuke and Shisei

Looking straight forward (metsuke) and a proper posture (shisei) are the basic requirements for using atemi waza. By applying metsuke and shisei and adding the use of gravity we create a starting point of a movement.

“The starting point of a movement”

When you have the sensation of gravity, you will also experience the point where stability is changing into instability. We also know we put a foot in the direction of the instability without a conscious thought. The body reacts naturally. The starting point of a movement with the feet forward, backward, to the side or diagonal will happen without any extra movement. This gives a great advantage when attacking of defending, because the opponent will not receive any indication when the attack or defence starts. If you attack with atemi, the starting point of a movement (in this case an atemi) cannot be intercepted by the opponent.

The movement starts from emptiness, the mushin mugamae concept.

Weapon work and atemi

A weapon is an extension of the body and must be handled with the patterns of the bodily movements. “Don’t use partial muscular movement between the joints”. Use a full body movement (rendo).

Although nowadays most practitioners make reference to swordhandling when doing tegatana dosa, but at the origin of tegatana dosa the link with the sword is not so obvious.The emphasis is more on atemi or methods to destroy the body postures of the opponent by using tegatana movements. In any case, it is ambiguous to make reference to swordhandling without a thorough study of a sword school.

tachi shomen uchi



Tenshikei – rotational body movement


spiral line012Tenshikei is the Japanese term for chan shi jin or silk reeling, a skill in Internal Chinese martial arts. The name derives from the twisting and spiralling movements of the silkworm as it wraps itself in its cocoon and the pulling off the silk from the coccoon. The body is imitating this by winding and unwinding movements.

Tenshikei uses the diagonal tension and releasing of the muscles and tendons in the central body. Tension and releasing are controlled by the kyokotsu.
Kyokotsu as a control centre of the movement, uses the tanden,koshi and yōbu as the stability platform.

Hara – Tanden, Koshi & Yōbu

Basically Hara is the lower part of the central body. Mostly it is translated as “belly” or “abdomen”.

  • Koshi means the area of the hips. It also includes the lower back.
  • Tanden is a point below the navel, loosely translated as the energy centre (Chinese medicine and martial arts). It is the focus point for internal techniques and exercises.
  • Yōbu is the waist area. The Chinese word is Yao. The waist is the part of the abdomen between the rib cage and hips.

In our study, Hara will be used in many exercises, especially during Tenshikei.
When the body moves, the Tanden is the centre and is the place of a relative no-movement.
The muscles associated with koshi and yōbu will be used to start movements. There are other methods to start movement like using gravity, but this is discussed elsewhere in this study.

Morita Monjuro (1889-1978)
Famous Japanese swordman wrote some interesting notes on the relationship between tanden and koshi in hitting with a sword.

The striking at a single pace: the tanden and koshi by which all kind of strikes are possible

Tanden and the musculature of the koshi form a unity, but their roles are not the same. The tanden controls the koshi. The training of koshi is synonymous with the training of the tanden, center of the body, and thus it becomes a training of body and mind … We can say the training of each technique strengthen the muscles of the koshi and the tanden. Which has almost the same effect as to strengthen the tanden practicing zazen. If the practice remains at a mere technical manipulation, the effect can not be the same. By producing the art of the koshi and tanden, we can strengthen our mind and body.
To hit properly from the tanden and koshi, we must use a perfect structured body and a perfect handling of the sword. This is a gesture that is produced in accordance with the two forces that go diagonally right leg left arm, left leg and right arm.
The perfect handling of the sword is produced by the integration of three elements:

1. the rotation of koshi
2. diagonal tension produced by this rotation
3. displacement of the body

Twisting and untwisting

In a basic format the twisting of the upper body will follow a certain sequence.

  1. Turn the shoulder line. Keep gankyo bappai **
  2. Turn the body along the diagonal line.
  3. Turn the pelvis line.***

Feel the spiral movement in the body. Avoid muscular tension by pulling the muscles, the tension you feel is the result of the twisting

Untwisting follows the reverse sequence.

** Gankyōbappai (含胸抜背).
This is a phrase used to describe the postural adjustment at the chest level (Empty the chest & Pull out the back ). Keep the concave shape of the chest and stretch the spine to widen the back. Important is not to tense the muscles.

***Turning the pelvis line is only possible when the “mata” or “kwa” is flexible and not tensed up. If you cannot make the groin soft, you will not make the full twisting movement.

Tenshikei solo exercise – twisting and untwisting

rolling tanden01

Using a modified kyokotsu exercise – see earlier.
The arrows show the direction of the movements.
Don’t tense the muscles, just release the tension when turning to the other side.
The exercise is “one” continuous movement.

Tenshikei and force

Twisting and untwisting creates force, this force can be transmitted into the opponent.

Tenshikei lines

Partner exercises are an example for applying twisting and untwisting.
In the example the force of twisting and untwisting will be transmitted by extending the arm and creates the opportunity to apply “oshi taoshi” or pushing down.
Extending the arm and putting the weight into the opponent will create “hakkei” or sudden power.

Tenshikei from the lower body

tenshikei lower body

The body is a system which includes also legs, feet…. To create a full-body tenshikei, we must take out the tension of the knee.

The lower part of the central body will become involved in a full-body tenshikei.

See example : Bring the bodyweight on the the right foot, take out the tension of the right knee. Make a full tenshikei by moving the shoulder line, the diagonal lines and the pelvis line.

Both shoulders should be moved as 1 unit.


Ido-ryoku can be  translated as ‘locomotive power”. When we grasp the arm of the opponent we can move our body a certain distance, this creates some power called momentum.

In Newtonian mechanics, linear momentum, translational momentum, or simply momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object. It is a three-dimensional vector quantity, possessing a magnitude and a direction. (Wikipedia)

Another meaning, although related to the previous one, ido has the idea of “shift”. It is not always necessary to move the feet. Body weight shifting (taijū no idō) is a method to produce power without the use of the feet.


Ido-ryoku is the effectiveness of “physical movement” that works even without a locomotive power in a mutual relation between two practitioners. (Prof. Shishida – Aikido Lecture & Seminar at the 11th TAIN International Festival / 2015 Aikido World Championships On Thursday October 22, 2015.)

Unsoku ho – Footwork exercises

Forward and back unsoku

An exercise about “kuzushi” or feeling and using gravity
Using gravity is only possible if the knees and hip joints are flexible.
Again, the sensation of feeling and using gravity will avoid to give a signal to the opponent .

unsoku zengo

We start slowly and sometimes we exaggerate the movement by making it bigger. This gives us the opportunity to create a bodily sensation. Use the kyokotsu point to start the movements.

Sideways unsoku

The previous remarks have the same impact on the sideways unsoku.
By pushing into the ground, the body will raise. Of course we can direct the power sideways, but still we are giving a signal to the opponent.

unsoku sayu

wrong & correct

walking stick

Use the line from the foot to the shoulder line as a stick to keep balance.
The knee of the leading leg must be flexible.
The “walking stick” knee is not locked but not bend.

Diagonal unsoku

In this kind of unsoku we must consider the use of the central body axis or seichusen.
As with the other kind of unsoku, don’t push the leg in the ground to generate power, but use gravity.

unsoku naname zen

unsoku naname go 01

unsoku naname go 02

seiza exercise
The concept of the central axis can be used during suwari waza or sitting techniques.


The driving force of the movement of the body on the earth, the weight of the body is more fundamental and important than the muscle contraction force. The weight is conscious, but whether you desire or not is constantly working towards the center of the Earth. Movement is established only when there is weight.

The biggest mistake a human being with consciousness and muscle makes in the movement of the body is to think (consciousness) that the main power of movement is muscle tension contraction. The main role of muscle contraction force is not to create the main motive force of movement, but to create a trigger for movement (to break the equilibrium relationship), to accommodate movement (lead to a new equilibrium relationship), amplification / adjustment It is to do. What is more important is to receive the information (energy / weight) conveyed from other parts and to convey the muscle itself to the next part as a conduit / conductor. In the meantime, it’s the task of proper amplification and adjustment. It is a very serious problem that you are not aware of the seriousness of the ability to accept / conduct this information (weight / energy), and therefore you are not trained in that ability.

Gravity – reality & bodily sensation

Gravity, or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon and is related to our body weight. Using gravity in body weight displacement is an economical way of moving around. The moment when a baby start to stand up and walking, gravity will affect the movements. Unfortunately during our life we forget sometimes the feeling (taikan) of gravity.

An exercise to feel the effect of gravity on the body.
It is a natural reaction putting a foot in the direction of a balance disturbing situation.
The body reaction is immediate and there is no conscious thought about how to step.
The sensation of “gravity” can be very helpful to avoid the use of pushing power into the ground when trying to accelerate an attack. Pushing into the ground gives a signal to the opponent, so the opponent can respond easily.
It is also helpful to understand “pushing” power without using local muscles (arms).

feeling gravity

Budo or Sport?

The emphasis is on Budo Aikido which includes randori geiko (not shiai). There is no “rules book” in Budo Aikido.

Frequently I am asked about the difference between Aikido as a martial art (Budo) and Aikido as sport (Kyogi).
Budo has 2 parts : Bu and Do
The word do means path or way, but refers to a special way – a path which its goals leads to nowhere, and is followed for its own sake. It becomes The Way. The Way follows no particular route, it is self-traveled, naturally individualized path to spiritual enlightenment.
Bu means “war” but it also suggest the sheathing of the sword or the cessation of struggle.
During the “Flower Power” movement in the Western countries Budo became less orientated to the idea of fighting.
Another evolution created a kind of Martial Art more orientated to the competition arena. Before the war, of course there were also competitions in Martial Arts. Examples are Kendo and Judo. Prewar competitions rules book was slightly different and not so elaborated as nowadays. Modern competition has a lot of “olympic” influence. In the past Budo training and competition were very close to each other, while today the difference is more obvious for practitioners.
Sometimes the general public cannot see or understand the difference between Martial Sport and Budo.
While in Kyogy-Aikido there are you versus the opponent, in Budo-Aikido you try to become one with the opponent and this is a precondition for using the concept of “Sen”, control of the movements.
Budo-Aikido people are generally more sensitive to the movements of the training partner. Technically precise movements are the goal in your training. Many Kyogi-aikido practitioners are relying more on muscle power, body weight, speed, combination techniques. In Kyogi-Aikido you can win by making half points, while in Budo-Aikido there is only total control of the situation.
Speaking about ethics, it is your choice how to finish a fight in a Budo environment. In Kyogi-Aikido, there are no ethics, only rules how to make points and prohibited actions. Ethics will vary according to the society people belong. Western people have different ethics than Japanese or other Asians.
Both methods have their merits and can be useful in daily life and can have a positive effect on our behaviour. The application of Aikido as self-defense or goshin-jutsu need of course some adaptation to become practical in real-life situations.
There are more similarities than differences when we compare both methods. Many Aikido methods will have a hybrid format with either the emphasis on the sporting side (Kyogi) or the classical side (Budo).

Budo or sport

Non-conscious body driven & conscious mind driven

The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō (1573-1645) said: “The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he cannot think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetting all techniques, an is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.

The big difference between Sport and Budo is in the use of the conscious and non-conscious mind.
In Budo Aikido, the body is driven by the patterns stored in the mind. These patterns are not mind driven but act as the circumstances are asking for it. In Kyogi Aikido, the practitioner is planning everything and actions are always according the rulebook.
The concept of mushin is a basic element of Budo Aikido, the mind is neutral and not interfering consciously with the martial action. Kyogi Aikido is a limited version of Budo Aikido the mind is always busy interfering with the action.

Hajime and Mate

In Sports Aikido there is hajime and mate. In Budo Aikido this doesn’t exist. If you ask a western practitioner about “hajime”, his answer will be probably : starting training, starting a technique or starting a match.

Yōso* – Fundamental elements

Kenji Tomiki was inspired by the ideas of Jigoro Kano in formulating his Aiki method. Kodokan Judo is based upon “principles”. Principles are concepts and are the essential characteristics of the system.
Man has formulated many laws related to our environment. The laws of Newton are such an example.
There are laws specific to the human body, rules specific to the relations between human bodies, as well as rules proper to the relations between the human beings within the framework of martial arts. All these laws are real and concrete realities, and together with the principles creates a system useful in the Eastern and Western countries.

Training in martial arts will take in account the laws and rules of

• Psychology, the science of behavior and mind, including conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as thought.
• Physics, lit. knowledge of nature, the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion and behavior through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.

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

Yōso in Budo-Aikido and Kyogi-Aikido

There are many fundamental elements in Aikido and most of them can be applied in Budo-Aikido and Kyogi-Aikido. There are 2 Yōso in both methods which are the most basic.

• The relationship between your mind and body
• The relationship between you and the body – mind of the opponent

From image to pattern

In order to understand laws and rules in human movements, many specific movements must be analysed to understand before we can create a pattern. There are many ways to put content into each of these movements. One of the content is for example the displacement of body weight during walking. In the brain there exist an image about walking.
How to use this image depends on our experiences during our life, and according these experiences we have created patterns.
Sometimes a pattern is corrupted or not suitable for use in martial arts situations. We have to (re)program a pattern.
Especially at beginners level, the conscious mind is used to remember the script of the movement.
Beginners level is not simply associated with “novices”, but also with experienced people who are learning new skills.
When starting with a new “pattern”, we start slowly and sometimes we exaggerate the movement by making it bigger. This gives us the opportunity to create a bodily sensation. At this point of your training you are going to use the unconscious mind.

The Standardisation or Guidelines?

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 guidelines depending on the characteristics of the martial art.
In this document is explained how to move the body. Don’t confuse guidelines with ”how to do techniques”.
The purpose of the guidelines is the creation of basic body movements patterns.

Pattern inclusive taikan (bodily sensation/experience) is your personal standard based upon guidelines practised during training. You will use taikan to sort out useful information and not becoming confused by an overload of information swirling around on the internet.
On the other hand, pattern is useful to understand diverse information from skilled bodywork teachers or martial arts instructors.

The parameters for basic movement pattern

How do we know our guidelines are correct?
To answer this question is necessary to understand the purpose of our basic movement. We have to set up the goals of our basic movement.
The efficiency of martial art techniques can be measured by the result we are obtaining after setting the goal of our manoeuvre. Stylization and standardisation can become a trap for you. Winning a “kata” by using stylization is a delusion. Your movement is maybe acrobatic but not efficient. Doing a grading using stylization and standardisation is a delusion and gives a signal you don’t understand what you are doing.
It is important from the beginning to start a body movement correctly. Ishiki or consciousness and awareness are necessary to develop efficient patterns.
Changing the pattern once ingrained requires more work (it’s estimated that 10 times the initial number of repetitions must be performed in the new way to over-write the existing pattern) than establishing the pattern in the first place. The implications of this are that spending time getting a pattern correct early on saves extra work later if you make changes to a problematic pattern.

Not all the knowledge can be written in books or taped on video clips.

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. For example, that Tokyo is in Japan is a piece of explicit knowledge that can be written down, transmitted, and understood by everybody. However, the ability to speak Japanese need also interaction with a person. There is non-verbal communication and this will be learned during conversation lessons.
Martial arts belong to the category with non verbal knowledge. This knowledge will be transferred by the teacher during one to one training. Taikan or bodily sensation is one of the secrets.

Bodywork in Tomiki Aikido

Bodywork existed in the original Tomiki Aikido and included solo & partner exercises. The use of the body was extensively explored in these exercises. Of course studying these exercises is time-consuming and if the focus is solely (for university students) on competition much of the knowledge will not be taught.

Central Body Axis or Seichusen

Central body axis or seichusen

Aikido claims to be a circular method and even Kenji Tomiki made a point of it in his book “Goshin Jutsu”.







Central Line






turning axis

Circular movement such as twisting & untwisting is one of the motive forces for the whole body movement. To understand and feel correct circular movement you have to know and feel the central body axis or seichusen.

The advantages of circular movements

1.An easier transition from one technique to another as the completion of one technique would blend into the one that follows. In other words, a series of movements can be made without stopping between the movements.

2. A whip like motion like gyaku gamae ate could generate a lot of speed and a great impact as it hits a target.


A fundamental item in training martial arts is the control of seichusen, the axis of the body. As the definition of this term varies from school to school, let’s just consider here the vertical line from the top of the head which passes by the middle of your body, to the floor. (see pictures)

Seichusen is a virtual line and can only be understood by experience.
The classic interpretation would be that one considers that two standing people are equally centered. Yet even in neutral position, everyone has tensions that unbalance his body, even if it is stable and its column is vertical, the seichusen can be not correct. It is something that one learns to feel in oneself and to see in others.
When a person has a better seichusen than his opponent it becomes very easy for him to act. On the other hand, with a bad seichusen, even though the form will look the same to an untrained look, the technique will rely on muscular power, speed, etc …

Developing one’s seichusen is a fundamental practice.

Central body axis exercise

Keep the shoulder line, don’t use actively hip joints and don’t use the knees.
The turning of the central body (shoulder line and waist) creates tension in the abdomen. By releasing tension, the stored power can be used to generate spiral power. This will be discussed with “tenshikei”.
Keep your attention to the feeling of the central body axis, later you can use this feeling in other exercises and techniques.

central axis