Technical points: from goals to consequences

In a previous article the "Saito Method", we saw that in order to learn the principle, one needs to set the static study of its consequences.

Even if that sentence may seem simple, when we look a bit further, it reveals the way to approach the question of technical progression. Understanding that sentence allows us to see how we can understand and integrate the principle of irimi tenkan in our practice, making us go from goals to consequences, from study to application.

First of all, let's clarify what we mean by irimi tenkan principle.

In a nutshell, the human body is a vertical axis structured around the spine. When that spine rotates on its axis, it brings one side of the body forward or backward.

After that simplified illustration, let's see through the exercise called "ichi no suburi" or 'shomen uchi komi" how the technical points allow to understand the irimi tenkan principle.

Step 1 is the moment when tori has risen his ken. In that position, the important technical points are:
- the lines of both the hips and the shoulders are perfectly "straight" and square
- the left wrist is perfectly aligned with the axis
- the ken goes far in the back
- the front foot is positioned inside the back foot.

Step 2 is the final position of the suburi. The important points are:
- the ken must be aligned with the belt knot
- the body is in hanmi position
- the ken is parallel to the ground.

Step 1 1/2 shows an intermediate position where no specific points are defined. However, we can see that the hands are one above the other, aligned with the ken and that the shoulders line (even if the picture does not show this) still goes forward.

Taking all these technical points into account leads to see that the body axis must rotate in order to go from step 1 to step 2. Respecting all these technical points leads us to discover the irmi tenkan principle even without being aware of it...

That principle brings one side of the body forward (along with all the limbs) and the other side backward. In this suburi, the right hand is brought forward while the left hand is brought backward. In this suburi, the right hand is brought forward while the left hand is brought backward and since both hands grab the ken, the cut wil be executed by a lever created by irimi tenkan.

That can help us understand how the sword is an extension of the body and from a technical point of view we discover that:

The rotation of the axis generates levers

One can often read that weapons practice must serve tai jutsu and that they must mutually reinforce each other. Let's find out what that suburi can teach us for a tai jutsu technique called ikkyo.

As for specific technical points" students are asked to:
- bring the wrist above the elbow level
- put uke's arm in extension, elbow up
- make a 90º angle between the body and the arm
- open the front foot in order to be positioned in hitoemi
- keep uke's arm parallel to nage's body

When studying, all these points are goals to achieve so that the gesture, the movement is done the right way. But even more importantly, the practitioner will discover irimi tenkan through the respect of these technical points. Once this realized, having the wrist higher than the elbow won't be a goal to achieve but a natural consequence of the rotation which creates the lever and therefore allows to lower the elbow and rise the wrist at the same time - and the foot position, etc...

We have just seen how, through technical points, one can go back to the principle. For the practitioner, being aware of these technical points, learning them, trying to find them in any technique is important. For the teacher too, in order to transmit them precisely because losing the knowledge of the technical point means losing the possibility to access the principle. Then techniques become goals when they should remain tools.

Once we conceive a technique through irimi tenkan principle, it is even more interesting to observe that all the little details that bothers a practitioner when he applies a technique (safety, unbalancing...) ends up being natural consequences of the principle.

Thus, thanks to the picture, one can see that the principle of irimi tenkan animates both uke's and tori's bodies.

We can see that through the rotation of his axis, tori creates a rotation of uke's axis which brings a half of his body forward and the other half backward.

This has many consequences:
- Tori is safe from the free hand / fist
- Tori brings uke in his forward imbalance

Thus, being safe and unbalancing uke is not a goal but a consequence.

Without that rotation of his axis tori can't create the conditions of his own safety or benefit from uke's imbalance. He will need "tricks" to solve these issues.

On the same technical basis but without using the irimi tenkan principle, it becomes clear that:
- Tori is in danger to be hit by the free fist
- tori does not unbalance uke but pushes on his supporting leg.

Taking all these points into account, it becomes clear that specific technical points are just only consequences of the core principle.

It becomes interesting to think about the fact that if we apply irimi tenkan correctly, the technique will adapt to the context "here and now"and will never be wrong for it will manifest the technical specificity which constitutes a clean and proper technique.

One needs time to discover and integrate irimi tenkan through the technical points. The study of all these technical points at work in each phase of the technique is only possible if one has enough time to check and validate one's own movement.

At that point, one can only but repeat Morihiro Saito sensei's words and insist: "kotai until 3rd dan".

Matthieu Jeandel, 21 juin 2009

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)