A Wet Towel In Space Is Not Like A Wet Towel On Earth

Both in static posture or dynamic posture we use the feet to take power from Earth and transfer it to the arms and hands.

Gravity

Gravity is the force through which a planet or other body attracts objects toward its centre.

What else does gravity do?

Why are you landing on the ground when you’re jumping rather than floating in space? Why does everything fall when you throw it away or let it fall? The answer is gravity: an invisible force that attracts objects together. Earth’s gravity is what keeps you on the ground and what makes things come down.

Anything that has mass also has gravity. Objects with more mass have more gravity.

The gravity of the Earth comes from its entire mass. Its entire mass creates a combined gravity attraction over the entire mass of your body. That’s what gives you weight.

Gravity and martial art

Gravity is necessary to create the equilibrium of your posture. If you fail to act on the concept of balance, gravity becomes your worst enemy and you will fall.

What is balance?

Balance is a situation in which your body has stability. It does not take much effort to keep your position. All forces that apply to your body are canceled out. When you are in balance, it is very hard to throw you or move you. This is true standing.

Gravity applies to everything in the body. If you combine the effect of all gravity forces, you can summarize it as a force applied at a single point, the centre of gravity. Put another way, “Hara” is the centre of your physical being. If you can put your mind in “Hara”, you are a balanced person, physical and mental.

Exercises used in training should consider the concept of gravity. Without a good body structure, you will not be able to use the power of the earth and you rely only on the local muscle power. And even if you use local muscle power, earth mass and gravity are needed. Sadly, it is not the most effective way to move the body and use power.

Practical exercises

There are many practical exercises to train in martial arts. Some have a direct advantage in martial art applications, others have an impact on body structure and power generation. Some exercises are directed towards improving health.

Since you don’t always have a partner to practice, solo training may be an option. Most practitioners are familiar with the basic solo exercises of their Aikido method. Tomiki Aikido isn’t the exception.

The objective of this article is to explain certain exercises with a “creative touch”.

All the exercises has 1 important concept: we have to use the power of the earth.

Gravity is the greatest source of power by touching the opponent. During solo training, the adversary may be in your mind, but maybe you can use a boxing bag. It is also possible to use various weapons as a tool to enhance your body movements including the use of gravity.

The moving body

A moving body has 3 main methods to generate force:

  • Taïjū no idō – using footwork
  • Taïjū no dendō – using body weight
  • Tenshikei – diagonal tension

Local muscle power is not used during the 3 metods. The use of gravity is an important source as well as the solidity of the Earth. Without control of the body centers, local muscle power will replace the flexible and elastic power organised by koshi and kyokotsu.

Moving koshi forward and back

Push with the hand (backside) on the sacrum forward. Let the body return and start over the pushing.

After some practise, you will notice the movement of “koshi”. This is an important step forward in the concept of using “koshi” or hip-power.

Oshi taoshi exercise

Move the arms up with the dynamics of lifting kyokotsu. Dropping kyokotsu into koshi and feet.

While we say “use kyokotsu”, this is not the power source. Kyokotsu is the controller which sends the power to the arms. When kyokotsu returns to the original position, it controls the downward power to the legs via Koshi.

Rowing exercise

Body moves forward before the arms. This is controlled by kyokotsu.

Tenshikei, diagonal/coiling power

Sometimes a comparison is made between tenshikei and wringing a towel. Of course, if you don’t know about “tenshikei”, this conversation is ridiculous.

Tenshikei is the rotational power generated with a body skill using gravity. If there is no gravity, you will have probably a difficulty to generate tenshikei or diagonal power.

Role of the knees during tenshikei exercises

Think about a ball between the knees. There is a certain tension (opposing forces) between the 2 knees.

The example shows a ball when adopting “shizentai – mugamae”. The same feeling must be experienced during a forward posture or a 2x shoulderwide posture (kiba-dachi or jigotai)

A simple example of Tenshikei movement

Between the knees, an image of a ball can be used when performing uchi-mawashi and uchi-gaeshi/soto-gaeshi.

Using waist and hips during tenshikei skill

This topic is a difficult one. In martial art the waist is a part of the koshi. Koshi is mostly translated as hips, but this is partly wrong. The hips are a part of koshi.

Our waist usually turns only from five degrees to thirty degrees. Occasionally, it turns forty- five or ninety degrees. Many practitioners use their hips instead of their waist without realizing it. This is because it is much easier to use our hips than our waist. The waist gives power for the push and also functions as a rotational tool. This action is basically “tenshikei” skill.

The hip joint is used to push down into the leg.

When moving forward or back, the ball of the front foot is used as the rebound tool or as a shock absorber. The heel of the front foot is slightly lifted. Using power for moving forward comes from the back foot. When moving back, the front foot is the driving foot.

Taïjū no idō – Taïjū no dendō

Taijū no dendō or body weight transmission (body weight conduction) is a skill to transfer power into the opponent by using body weight and gravity.

Taijū no idō or body weight shift creates “power transfer” in the body of opponent by displacement of the body.

Both methods are basically dependent on the use of gravity with or without footwork.

There are many kinds of footwork. Most of them are based upon using losing balance and regaining balance. Using gravity is the main source for this kind of footwork. An example is “rolling foot movement during pushing”.

Not all the foot movements have “losing balance – gravity” as the main source of movement power. The driving power of the leg can be used to move forward or back.

Driving leg – receiving leg

Moving around is a matter of using koshi, knees and ankles. The pressure between the feet and the earth has also to be taken into account.

There is always a leg which is doing the action – the driving leg. There is also the receiving leg with an absorbing function, but also a rebound action.


Where is the pressure in the foot?

Both in static posture or dynamic posture we use the feet to take power from Earth and transfer it to the arms and hands.

Mostly, the pressure will be on the ball of the foot. Triangle formed by 1-2-3

But it can also move more in the direction of the heel without losing the pressure on the ball. Triangle 1-2-4.

Point 1 will act as a kind of pump to transfer Earth’s power up. During breathing exercises, the mind can use the “pump” image to bring Earth”s power to the koshi and further to the arms when inhaling. When breathing out, point 4 will receive the down power.

The mechanism of pump and switching from point 1 to point 4 is very useful during Taijū no dendō or bodyweight shift.

Although we speak about points, we have to consider the image of the triangles. Using triangles makes a better use of the feet soles surface without forgetting the different points marked in the picture.

An important point of attention is the stability of the knee. Keep an imaginary ball between the knees.

A simple exercise to introduce the foot pressure skill. When moving up, use the ball (point 1 – pump) to take the Earth’s power up by breathing in. At the end of inhaling, push the breath down end let it sink into the heel (point 4). After a while you will feel the action of the pump.

Grabbing the floor with the toes

Sometimes you can read this advice. And this advice is not only for martial arts, but also other sport are involved like weightliftting and sports with a squating action. Grabbing with the toes has to be viewed as grabbing with the plantar fascia. Find here a nice animation:

When you start using the triangles in the foot, the plantar fascia is the driving element in the use of the Earth’s power along the body structures. If the plantar fascia is not correct working, the rest of the body will act accordingly mostly with a faulty structure. The result is a damaged knee or hip joint. Even the neck will have a negative impact.

The importance of the plantar fascia

Plantar fascia – the longest ligament of the foot. The ligament, which runs along the sole of the foot, from the heel to the toes, forms the arch. By stretching and contracting, the plantar fascia helps us balance and gives the foot strength for walking.

Regularly shift weight from one foot and leg to the other stretches the tight muscles of the feet. Thight muscles often contribute to plantar fasciitis pain, also called heel spurs.
One basic move simply puts your body weight from heel to toe with a rocking motion. This promotes balance along with foot strength. (pendulum exercise)(rolling feet movement)
This will also actually massage the foot by applying different pressure in a graduated fashion along the foot.
Another move allows for a rocking motion from the outside of the foot to the inside of the foot.
This will strengthen the lateral muscles and medial muscles of the leg. Your weight will shift from the arch to the outside of the foot.

Nagashi and Hakkei

In this blog post I will try to explain different types or methods to practice Tandoku Undo or the main ways of moving the body and hands picked from Aiki skills, then simplified and abstracted and organized as an exercise course.

The result of this training can be seen in the skills of Nagashi and Hakkei.

Nagashi and Hakkei

These two concepts have already been covered in a separate blog post. Certain explanations are needed to light up a concept of “moving body”.

Nagashi: Within the context of Tomiki Aikido, nagashi is the skill of a flowing movement and its derivative power “hakkei”.

Hakkei: Is a sudden power, generated by using nagashi or flowing movements. Tenshikei and koshi-mawari are integrated components for producing hakkei.

Some advice by Shigeru Uemura, former Shito-Ryu karateka
When we release the muscles, an energy linked to gravitation is released. With the muscular relaxation, the movement is immediate, in a single time.

The moving body

A moving body has 3 main methods to generate force:

  • Taïjū no idō – using footwork
  • Taïjū no dendō – using body weight
  • Tenshikei – diagonal tension

These are fundamental components of budo. By using the concept of “rendo” or “linking movements” flowing movements are created: nagashi

Body weight and using gravity play a substantial role in generating force when using Taïjū no idō and/or Taïjū no dendō.

Hino Sensei (Hino Budo method) states: “Strictly speaking, the movement of the body’s weight is to move by making one’s body a single block. For example, moving forward, or backward, being a solid block.

Posture training and static tandoku undo-tegatana dosa are the main methods to create one solid but flexible body. Next step is to use the flexible but solid block together with a proper footwork by using the skill of Rendo.

Taïjū no idō

stepping with gravity
Taïjū no idō by using gravity

Controlling own body during displacement is controlling the force of gravity.
Taïjū no idō is a skill for example to avoid an attack from the opponent. By applying the proper footwork, the distance between tori and uke can be managed in favor of tori. Sometimes the skill of avoiding an incoming attack can be done without displacement of the feet.
Gravity gives weight to the physical body and can be utilized to start displacement during footwork.
The force generated during this displacement is called “Ido ryoku”.
Another skill to generate ido ryoku is tenshikei or diagonal tension.

Taïjū no dendō

Taïjū no dendō or transmission of body weight.
This is a skill to transfer body weight into the opponent without pushing or tensing muscles.

Inoue- sensei from Japan Aikido Association is an expert on this matter.

Putting weight into a movement
If we attack with shomen uchi or shomen tsuki (straight forward attack) we need to put the weight into the attack.
When performing tegatana awase, we also can put weight in the tegatana.
Don’t confuse putting weight into the opponent by a pushing action. Pushing in many cases is performed by using local muscle work. Although this is not a mistake, it is more efficient to use the skill of Taïjū no dendō and/or Taïjū no idō with a flexible body and generating force by performing “nagashi”.

How to put weight into a movement?

To answer this question we can use an exercise from tandoku undo as an example: soto-gaeshi in a slow motion version

Body weight is dropping after the arms start to move down. There is a connection between the arms and the body weight. Gravity is used to drop and not local muscle power. Important is to keep the body vertical, in line with gravity.

If we only bend our knees or only using arm strength, there will be no Taïjū no dendō involved.

Tenshikei

Using diagonal tension as a source of force is already mentioned many times in this blog. Please refer to the different articles of Tenshikei.

A famous Budoka, Morita Monjuro wrote an interesting essay about diagonal tension.

The perfect handling of the sword is produced by the integration of three elements:

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

Morita Monjuro

Even for Morita Monjuro, a body in motion is needed to produce strength and its application.

An application of rotational force by Senta Yamada

The rotation force is transferred to the uke body using diagonal channels.  To get an idea of the paths of power, one may consult the concept of tensegrity. This is called Budo’s case, Jukozo.

Patterns of footwork

Dynamic tandoku undo is based upon different pattern of footwork. These include:

  • tsugi ashi
  • tsuri ashi
  • ayumi ashi
  • de mawari
  • hiki mawari
  • tentai

Some examples of footwork training methods

Unsoku-ho

In Tomiki Aikido, the exercise unsoku-ho is a very basic footwork pattern and can be adjusted depending on the circumstances. The origin of this exercise can be found in Kodokan Judo.

Basic footwork

By integrating Taïjū no idō and Taïjū no dendō into Unsoku-ho, a new way of practising footwork is created. If you like to experiment with unsoku-ho, don’t be afraid to change the fixed pattern. Aikido is a skill to react in different situations and fixed formats has to be avoided when you reach a more advanced level.

Types of tandoku undo

  • Static tandoku undo – basic – about postures, body movement and tenshikei. No footwork is involved.
  • Dynamic tandoku undo – integration of footwork into postures and creating a moving body.

A number of versions of tandoku undo exist. Mostly we use an adapted version taught by Senta Yamada. The history of Tomiki’s Tandoku Undo is briefly described in my book  The secret weapon of Aikido   Written 2008/2009 and published 2010, free to download. In this blog, many elements of my book are being discussed in light of my growing experience and research on these subjects.

How to practise Tandoku Undo?

There are a number of ways in which the tandoku undo can be practiced. Mostly Unsoku ho or footwork is practised first, followed by Tegatana dosa. Counting every posture in performance is a perfect format for beginners who are not familiar with the sequence of movements. Advanced practitioners are benefiting more from other types of practice. We talked about it in a previous blog post.

As we began our article with some explanations about the “moving body” and its fundamental elements, we must concentrate on these fundamental elements and integrate them into our practice.

Tegatana dosa without footwork allows you to concentrate more on integrating tenshikei (rotational force). Integration of footwork adds an extra item in the training and the synchronisation of the footwork with the movements of the torso and upper limbs is an extra difficulty to overcome.

Each Tandoku undo exercise may be done as often as desired. The concept of “nagashi” or flowing movements can be incorporated without counting the positions. 

Static tandoku undo

In this type of training, there is no footwork. Although a very small turning movement of a foot is used sometimes to create “Chidori ashi and koshi mawari“. Only basic arm movements are used.

  1. Shomen uchi & shomen tsuki
  2. Uchi mawashi & soto mawashi
  3. Uchi gaeshi & soto gaeshi

The names of tegatana movements can be different depending on the use of the tegatana. A more recent version is focused on the use of tegatana as a sword. See also Nagashi kata.

  1. Shomen no uchikomi/tsukikomi
  2. Kiri kaeshi
  3. Maki zuki
  4. Kesa uchi (not discussed in static tandoku undo)
  5. Tenkai/tentai no uchikomi (not discussed in static tandoku undo)

Dynamic tandoku undo

  1. Tegatana – Shomen uchi & shomen tsuki
  2. Uchi mawashi  & Soto mawashi   
  3. Uchi gaeshi & soto gaeshi   
  4. De-mawari Uchi mawashi
  5. Hiki-mawari Soto mawashi
  6. Ko mawashi   
  7. O mawashi

The integration of footwork makes this type of solo workout very dynamic, and depending on the speed usage, it becomes a sort of cardio workout.

By using the concept of “ju & go” power, another dimension can be added. Go-power typically uses a penetrating, linear force, whereas ju-power usually uses a circular, flowing force. The original Nagashi kata, an older version of tandoku undo is characterized by flowing movement and generates ju-power. The first exercise shomen uchi & shomen tsuki is an example of go-power, although there are elements of ju power movements included.

In previous articles on tandoku undo tegatana dosa, using chidori ashi is exaggerated for introducing basic mawari koshi. By adding more velocity** to the exercises, the use of chidori ashi becomes only important at certain points of the exercise. Especially when the direction of the movement must be adapted in accordance with the circumstances. Over-focusing on a concept can destroy the effectiveness of a body movement application.

**Velocity is equivalent to a specification of an object’s speed and direction of motion.

Tegatana – Shomen uchi & shomen tsuki

Static method

This exercise includes some technical applications besides the fundamental elements like chidori-ashi, koshi-mawari and nagashi.

  • A study of postures: jodan, chudan and gedan no kamae
Basic postures
  • A study of basic atemi-waza – striking or pushing techniques

Koshi-mawari and tenshikei is also the key to successful application of “hakkei” or explosive immediate power.

Dynamic method

The integration of footwork makes this exercise highly dynamic. Footwork is based upon ayumi ashi and tsugi ashi. These kinds of footwork are extensively practised during unsoku-ho. In the beginning, it is preferable to use a slow speed method.

The application of atemi-waza becomes more obvious in the dynamic method. During the static method, the integration of chidori-ashi, koshi-mawari and nagashi is fully developed and the benefit of it will come to the surface.

The skill of “hakkei” or “sudden power” during dynamic performance must be considered as a tool for further development of randori and self-defence applications. Timing in this case is a crucial element and cannot be overlooked.

Uchi mawashi  & Soto mawashi 

Static method

Like the preceding tegatana dosa, several interpretations may be used for practical purposes. By utilizing a more linear approach, Atemi waza or striking techniques are more visible. When using “nagashi”, a flowing flavor is noticeable.

Dynamic method

When using footwork, the concept of “hakkei” can be practised and still having flowing movements or nagashi.

Uchi gaeshi & soto gaeshi

Static method

Nagashi is the main feature of this tegatana dosa, though certain hakkei elements may be detected.

Dynamic method

As for the previous tegatana dosa (nrs1 and 2), a dynamic approach makes the concept “hakkei” more obvious.

De-mawari Uchi mawashi

The main feature in this tegatana dosa is a circular footwork pattern. This is an application of “irimi” using circular footwork.

Hiki-mawari Soto mawashi

The main feature in this tegatana dosa is a circular footwork pattern. This is an application of “ura” using circular footwork and soto mawashi.

Ko mawashi   

Sometimes reference is made to “tentai” or 180° bodyturn. Note that footwork is done after you have sufficiently turned the body.

O mawashi

Big movements are characteristics of this tegatana dosa. It can be performed in a more “atemi waza” format or a “nagashi” format.

Influence of velocity

Speed is not just the execution of the exercise with more speed, but the direction of motion has an important part to play. The 3 basic tegatana dosa, the focal point is straightforward. In older versions of tegatana dosa, the performance includes a moving on the side with a rotating body. This can be seen at the beginning of this post. Senta Yamada performing Uchi mawashi.

A rotating body will increase the power of a body motion if it is made correctly.

Body turns may be made at 90°, 180°, 270° or other angles. 

Speed also influences the various levels of impact of the workout on the heart rate zones. This was discussed in Aikido, a Holistic Approach.

Tandoku Undo – Solo training

Workshop 14-16 February 2020

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

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

Your personal solo-training

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

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

Benefits of solo-training

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

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

Warming-up

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

A simple method for a short warming-up

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

***

Knees/Ankle rotation

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

***

Hip rotation

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

***

Waist rotation

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

***

Body rotation

Body rotation along the body axis. 20X

***

Shoulder/Elbow rotation

This is a “kyokotsu” exercise

***

The Wave

A 3D exercise with “undulation” patern.

***

Unsoku-ho or foot movements patterns

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

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

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

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

Tandoku Undo

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

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

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

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

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

Tsugi Ashi

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

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

We distinguish 2 tsugi ashi methods:

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

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

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

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

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

Small step tsugi ashi

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

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

Long step tsugi ashi

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

Shock absorbers and brakes

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

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

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

Shock absorber & brakes forward movement

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

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.
(https://www.worldstandards.eu/cars/driving-on-the-left/)

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

Hanmi-2

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.

iaido017

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

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.