Kajo #16

I explained in kajo #14, how Morihiro Saito had hidden some precious knowledge keys in his teaching methodology. And I gave the example of the grab of the wrist from below which allowed me, years after I had learnt that form, understanding the link between irimi nage and gokyo.

I'd like to give another example in this Kajo #16. These technical points are most of the time considered as "details" or "styles" but they are actually fundamental points with unexpected consequences when it comes to what is really at stake with Aikido practice.

Here is how Saito sensei used to apply tenchi nage:





Let's focus on photos 3 and 4 which clearly show a point Saito sensei used to strongly underline in Iwama each time he would teach that technique.

The hand which points towards Earth does not go towards the Earth as most believe - on the contrary, it curves in uke's back, going upward (photo 3), and this movement has two major consequences: uke's arm is in extension and the shoulder is lifted up.

Let's focus now on Tenchi nage as demonstrated by O sensei in Budo:

It seems clear that O sensei also lifts up uke with his earth hand but the photo isn't good enough to make it certain and unfortunately there is no commentary... None? well, not quite...

For there is a commentary and it talks volumes but it is not written, O sensei used a photo:

This photo is the head of the chapter entitled Aiki, exclusively devoted to tenchi nage and just before the photos depicting the movement. What would it be useful for - at that precise location - if there wasn't a direct link with tenchi nage ?

The meaning, barely hidden, is as such: In order to execute tenchi nage, your earth hand must lift up uke's shoulder and thus lift up his whole body via his extended arm. Uke's arm mustn't bend as it is clearly explained on the photo.

It is not told with words but it is told nonetheless. The book Budo was thought and conceived by the Founder so that the careful reader can find the missing pieces of the puzzle. O sensei didn't throw a few techniques on these pages as a first or superficial reading could lead to think. He wrote the book for a scrupulous reader.

We can check on the photo below that the Earth hand indeed pushes forward in a circular arc: the effect and the evidence are given by the obvious movement of uke's shoulder upward.

From this analysis, we must now draw a major conclusion on a technical level which will have in return a major consequence on a spiritual level for as we will see, the body level is linked to the spiritual level: with tenchi nage, the Earth hand (the hand pointing towards the earth) does not go towards the Earth, it goes towards the Sky.

That truth is obvious on Saito sensei's photo below where we can see that the Earth hand, grabbed at gedan level, is clearly ascending in the first part of the movement and that it even goes up to uke's shoulder:

In other words, at the beginning of Tenchi nage, the hand Earth goes towards the sky in the same way that the Sky hand goes towards the sky: both hands rise up toward the Sky. It is only at the end of the movement that both hands go back down together towards Earth.

Tenchi nage is not a movement where one hand goes up and one hand goes down as it is taught in modern Aikido, on the contrary: it is a movement where both hands go up towards the Sky together before going down to Earth together

I have been Saito sensei's uke, in Iwama and elsewhere, and I am lucky to have that following photo, taken in my dojo in Antibes in 1989:

I can testify one does not feel split, torn with a hand down and a hand up, on the contrary one feels like lifted from the ground, snagged as one block towards the sky. It is only after that one goes back to the ground.

Therefore, the name Tenchi nage, does not come from the fact that one hand is oriented towards the sky and the other one towards Earth, the name comes from the fact the throw superbly materializes the Earth-Heaven axis.

We can now draw that fact on our diagram:

Here is how the knowledge key which consists in pushing the Earth hand in uke's back, meticuloulsy presented by Morihiro Saito as a technical fact, without further precision, allowed me, many years later, finding tenchi nage's true meaning. It has nothing in common with what is commonly taught in modern Aikido.

We can now complete our reference figure, keeping for the next kajo the comparison between yonkyo and tenchi nage, for that kajo #16 has brought us far enough as it is:

Philippe Voarino, June 2012.

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.

Copyright TAI (Takemusu Aikido Intercontinental)