Jo suburi #1 - Choku tsuki

Wrong position

Correct position

The starting position is hanmi, which means that the feet are in hito e mi position.

Please watch these pictures carefully: in the correct position your tandem/stomach is oriented towards the action, the jo is centered on your axis, it becomes a part of you. In the pictures with the wrong position, your tandem is oriented in a different direction, your energy is dispersed before the movement has even begun. The jo stands on front of you like a piece of wood which remains alien to your body.

Don't bring the right hand to the jo to grab it. The rotation of the axis to the rear brings the jo to your hand.

Correct position

Wrong position

When you strike tsuki, you must align your stomach, your jo and the target. Your jo can't strike efficiently in a direction if your stomach goes in an other one. In the wrong position, the stomach is not aligned with the target, it is not aligned with the jo. The body is not unified and the strike is done with the shoulders. It would only take a rotation of the body to align the stomach correctly and for the feet to find the hito e mi position. Do not mistake the hanmi position with a profile position.


I'm a student of traditional Iwama ryu aikido, and I confess this information is at odds with my understanding. The choku tsuki starting position seems slow here and the finishing position looks unstable. That is, were I to lean on the "correct" finishing position, I reckon I would be able to to turn you or push you over. I may be wrong, but I've always thought the standard jo position was side-on, with feet almost parallel and at right angles to the direction of the thrust.

I may well be mistaken and would be keen to hear why.

This article is so exactly the opposite of Morihiro Saito Sensei's teachings that i fear that it is an editing or clericle error...

Hello Rafe.

Before answering that first question on the English version of the TAI website, I would like to apologize for the poor quality of my English. I might very well sometimes not be able to find the words to make my point clear enough. I will try to do my best.

Your question is hitting the heart of Aikido. What is hanmi ?

You see Rafe, for many years I have been training in Iwama under the direct supervision of Morihiro Saito sensei. I could see Saito sensei, I could hear his explanations, I could grab him when being his uke, and by that time I was thinking that was a guaranty to not step out of the way of a genuine practice. I was thinking knowledge was there in front of my feet and that it was only a matter of time to put things together. It was actually a mistake. You can have the right technique being done every morning in front of your eyes and not see it. That is what happened to me with hanmi. And if I understand from your question that you might be mistaken, I dare say that the mistake you make has been my own mistake for a long time.

For many years I have been thinking there were two positions in Aikido : one was hanmi ( I would describe it in a short manner as the front foot making a T with the back foot), the second one was hito e mi ( feet at a 60° angle as explained by O Sensei in his book Budo).

Saito sensei was emphasizing a lot hito e mi when practicing the tai jutsu. Hito e mi was everywhere: ikkyo, shiho nage, kaiten nage…, but my understanding of it was that it was a stance used in the only purpose of taking uke’s balance and entering. In my mind, and in fact, I was going from what I was calling hanmi to hito e mi, back to hanmi again. I thought that was the way.

It took me quite an amount of years to understand that simple thing : there are not two positions in Aikido, there is only one. There are not hanmi and hito e mi, the truth is hanmi is the position of your entire body when your feet are in hito e mi. In Aikido, as taught by O Sensei, the feet must be in hito e mi, and there are reasons for that.

1 – Feet at 60° permit to rotate on the spot in ten different directions. Hito e mi is the only stance allowing so many possibilities.

2 – That triangular stance is a way to face the danger with a part only of the body. Let’s say half of it, that is why it is called hanmi.

3 – Whatever move a human being is making, his only way to reach 100% of his power is to have his belly in line behind his movement. The hito e mi opening of the front foot enables the belly to aim in the direction of action while at the same time the body remains in a safe hanmi position.

Hito e mi is the only position you can find that will satisfy at the same time points 1, 2 and 3.

It looks very much like hito e mi (you can say hanmi if you keep in mind that hanmi is including hito e mi) is a fundamental principle in Aikido. That is why it has to be everywhere in the practice: in the tai jutsu of course, in the aiki ken practice and in the aiki jo practice.

You will find the best confirmation of hito e mi major importance in a small book the title of which is “Aikido, it’s heart and appearance”, published by Saito sensei in the early seventies. At each page of that book Saito sensei is explaining the importance of hito e mi. The appearance of Aikido is not Aikido as long as you do not reach the heart of the art, and hito e mi is the key to that heart.

Philippe Voarino

Hello aikidoka15yrs.

I would just like you to think over the little problem I give you now.

I have been taught by Saito sensei that all the movements in Aikido come from the rotation of the hips, that the body is working as a whole and that for that reason there is hardly any autonomy of the arms. If that is true, how is it possible to thrust with the jo in such a way that your right hip is going backward and your right arm is going forward? And that is what happens when your front foot is moving to the inside. If your right hip is going backward, your right arm has to go backward because that is a consequence of the rotation of the spine, unless of course your right arm comes into conflict with your right hip.

Logically and for the same reason, if you want to thrust forward, the right hip must rotate forward. The problem is you cannot rotate forward if you keep your feet at right angles to the direction of the thrust because they block the way to the rotation. The only way to rotate forward and to at the same time stay in a triangular stance is to open up the front foot in such a way that you assume the hito e mi stance.

If your keep your feet almost parallel, you do not have anymore a triangular stance do you? In such a case what about O Sensei’s teaching that Aikido starts with the triangle? Do you think aiki jo and aikido are two different things?

Philippe Voarino

A most interesting idea on how power can be transmitted and in which direction. I too am surprised by the interpretation of the starting and finishing posture of Choku Tsuki, which is not to say that it is incorrect. However the purpose of our training is to destroy yesterday's understanding, for there will always be something new to discover. My 'feeling' is that you can be relaxed, stable and powerful with feet in an almost parallel stance ... feet actually slightly away from each other. The hip use is through the hip crease . Not easy to explain but let's take choku tsuki and finish the tsuki as I propose. the left arm is driven forward by the opening of the right side hip crease ... it sort of creates a curve , from the left hand up through the body and continuing the curve through the hip and down to the ground. The other side also acts in the same way right arm in a curve that runs back into the body and is driven out by the opening of the left hip crease. This leads to a grounded, centred posture wher the body is balanced and can be relaxed, it also allows for the transmission of ki or spirit of consciousness to travel through the body. I'm sorry I cannot express this idea in another language. I would be happy to reply further if it helps. It is very gratifying that there are such keen students out there that pursue their truths. I am trying to run an Aiki Jo class myself as I think it has many rewards as an art in itself., best wishes.

Hi Bideford. You probably know the song « Man in black » by Johnny Cash and these words : “Well there’s a reason for the things that I have on". I would say in the same manner there’s a reason for hito e mi. That reason for sure is not obvious, and it can stay concealed for years and years to the most honest aikido student. We need time to understand. That is why trusting O Sensei is such an important frame of mind. You must put your trust in him. Our improvement in Aikido depends upon the faith we have in what O Sensei explained. I tell you, we will not discover Aikido again without his help.

Morihei Ueshiba has written one and only book : “Budo” in 1938. The very least we must do is to listen to the words he tried to pass on to us and to the people who will be after us. Page 39 of the english edition of that book is the very first page of the technical explanations O Sensei decided to give. The very first sentence of that page is :

“(… ) assume a hanmi stance with your feet apart, opened at a sixty degree angle. (…)Both the front foot and the back foot should be open at a sixty degree angle. The reason for this will become clear in practice. (…)When the movement ends, it is essential that your feet should always be open at a sixty degree angle.”

“It is essential”… We must pay attention to the words, and even more to the fact that O Sensei chose to explain those things at the very beginning of the technical part of his book. “The reason for this will become clear in practice”… I am sure, Bideford, that it is very possible to feel “relaxed, stable and powerful with feet in an almost parallel stance” as you write. But the point is : are you sure this is enough to say you practice Aikido? Are you sure there is not something involved in the hito e mi posture that would lead you to a place you would never ever have imagined?

I have that memory of Saito Sensei once riding his bike by the place we were free training the weapons in Iwama and crying out to us in a smile : “hanmi, hanmi, hanmi…!” You never forget these things and they help a lot.

Philippe Voarino

What is Traditional Aikido?

Aikido is not a sport, it is a martial art which laws (takemusu) are in harmony with the laws of the universe. Studying them allows the practitioner to understand his place in the universe. Aikido was born in Iwama, O sensei achieved in that village the synthesis of tai jutsu, aiki ken and aiki jo.

Where to practice Traditional Aikido?

The International Takemusu Aikido Federation (ITAF) brings to the practitioner the structure he needs in order to work as close as possible to the reality O sensei MU defined. The official national representations are the guarantee of a teaching faithful to the Founder's.

The weapons of Aikido, aiki ken and aiki jo

In modern Aikido, weapons are hardly taught, if taught at all. In O sensei's Aikido, on the contrary, aiki ken, aiki jo and tai jutsu are unified and form together a riai, a family of harmonious techniques stemming from one unique principle. Each techniques helps understand all the others.

Aikido, a martial art or an art of peace?

Peace is a balance between a human being and the world around him. The true martial art's goal is not to become stronger than one's opponent but to find in that opponent a way to realize harmony. There is no enemy anymore as such, but an opportunity offered to reach unified ki.
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