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October 2009

66. The Back Side

As Tomiki developed his system of Aikido (or put more accurately, his method of categorizing and teaching) he put in what I personally refer to as couplets and triplets.  IMHO this was deliberate and quite possibly came from his study of Koshiki no Kata in which one throw is done and the one following is the result of a failure of the first.  In effect, uke sets up one throw for tori by resisting the first since uke cannot resist more than one set of forces directed against him.  In Koshiki this is clearly illustrated in the omote set or the first 14 throws of the kata, all of which are set as pairs.

In the kata system that Tomiki left us, this pairing can be considered to exist both within a kata (The 17 Attack Movements for example) and within the context of two kata that have a relationship with each other (The 17 Attack Movements and Owaza Ju Pon/The Big 10).

As an example; in the 17 the first two waza of the second set (oshi taoshi and udegaeshi) pair off with resistance to one setting uke up for the other (#6 leading to #7 OR #7 leading into #6).  This would be a basic couplet.

An example within the 17 of a triplet would be wakigatamae, kotehineri and kotegaeshi (#5 of the elbow set and #'s 1 and 2 of the wrist set).  The axiom is "if you want an elbow then threaten the wrist, if you want a wrist then threaten the elbow".  In other words, an attempt at wakigatamae can cause uke to resist and pull back against the kuzushi.  If the pull results in uke's elbow rising then kotehineri can result.  If the pull results in uke's elbow dropping then kotegaeshi can result.  Conversely, threatening either kotehineri or kotegaeshi may cause uke to resist by pushing back and straightening the arm and offering wakigatamae to tori.

In the Big 10, the first two waza show this concept.  The first waza is a guruma in which circular forces are exerted upon uke.  Should uke resist these, then an opening for a more "straight-line" kuzushi occurs which is shown in the second waza of the Big 10 which is an otoshi.  Or put another way; the guruma draws uke "into" a circle and if that fails then we throw him "out" of the circle and with a straight line/centrifugal vs. centripital force and direction.

When this concept was first shown to me, we practiced first the guruma.  We then had uke attack, tori started the circular guruma movement and then when uke resisted we changed the kuzushi to a more forward-directed otoshi style off balance.  Then, in order to more deeply understand the concept, we would attempt to throw the otoshi, have uke resist the forward off-balance and immediately shift to the more circular guruma off-balance.

The term for this is "criss-crossing lines of off balance" and it teaches that by using one direction of off balance that uke resists, then by switching to an off-balance that is 90 degrees to the initial line (or exactly the opposite in the case of the 17 and Koshiki), uke cannot long resist the multiple and changing directions of kuzushi.

So now, the interpretation of the intra-kata relationship thus far expressed should be up'd to an inter-kata relationship between the 17 and the big 10; the 17 being the expression of "closing centers" and the Big 10 being the expression of "separating centers".  The two seemingly unrelated kata have a relationship, without an understanding of which one cannot quickly nor completely comprehend the larger whole; i.e., it becomes difficult to understand the 17 and centers merging, without having studied the Big 10 and centers separating (and vice versa).

Once I understood this, I became greatly impressed with the organization of Tomiki's methodology(ies) and the genius of his assistants and understudies, and with the idea/concept that a thorough kata study is essential for enlarging the scope of understanding.  In randori, we always fall back into the utilization of tokui-waza (favorite technique determined by our depth of knowledge and our physical prowess) and this limits what we actually use in a randori situation, meaning that if a guruma situation only comes up once in every 100 randori sessions then how can we see it a sufficient number of times to understand and interalize it?  This then is the function of kata; kata being a means by which we can repeat exactly the same attack/response scenario a sufficient number (1,000's) of times to see all the subtle nuances that exist within that one moment.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

October 26, 2009

65. Transcension (Moving Beyond Kihon)

........... presented for your consideration .............

Two Zen debaters, reputedly the best in all of Japan, were to meet in verbal combat in Edo at the great celebrations honoring the birth of Buddha.  For this event scholars flocked from as far away as Hokkaido to marvel at the brilliance of these teachers.

During the competition, first one master would prevail on one day and on the next day the other master would counter until by the end of the fourth day they were even.

Each of these masters traveled with retinues of supporters, who cheered their champions and pampered them like minor princes.

During the night of the fifth and final debate the two great adversaries parried and thrust at each other, to the delight and cheers of their separate retinues.  As each master would score a telling point, he would puff himself up and walk in a circle to the applause of his supporters.

All of which was fine until a great explosion ripped through the hall; an explosion so great that all the lanterns and candles were blown out.  When order and light were restored, it was discovered that both of the masters had exploded making a huge mess over the altar and ceiling and even those sitting in the front rows.

64. Aging, Evolution and Moving On

Muddy Road (or meditations on lives past)

........ presented for your consideration .......

Tanzan and Ekio were once traveling together down a muddy road.  A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl," said Tanzan at once.  Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.  Ekio did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple.  Then he no longer could restrain himself.

"We monks don't go near females", he told 'Tanzan, " Expecially not young and lovely ones.  It is dangerous.  Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there", said Tanzan.  "Are you still carrying her?"

63. Offsets

Last post I talked about kihon, kihon waza/kata and ended the post with  the concept of needing a little zen in order to mature within the art form.

Aikido is a pretty funny creature since it tends to "become" the person.  Old style (really old style koryu) systems tended to mold the student into the ryu due to the very rigid method of knowledge transmission.  This is not the pattern today (for the most part) as there are time (a century or two) and cultural (Old Japan become secular Western Society) considerations that come into play and a lot of that no longer fits the need nor the moment. Something that does fit however is the rigid (at least initial) teaching patterns so lets very quickly look at a small part of that and then end with a "statement of policy" that might clarify some of this blog series.

Metaphor .............. Michelangelo took basic lessons in art including perspective, balance, color, hue, etc. etc.  After learning the basics he did the Sistine Chapel.  The basics gave him a foundation to build upon until he finally discarded the basics because he "became" his work.

Metaphor .............. Ueshiba learned Aiki Jujutsu which, according to many researchers is numbered and ordered and only after learning those basics, formulated modern day Aikido post WW II in which very little is formally listed, not categorized very well and not well ordered.  After learning the ryu, he threw it away and made it shapeless; but he had to know it to begin with.

The point here is that after having learned the basics according to whatever system exists in your field of study, you "make the art your own".  This is done by understanding the foundational principles, kihon and waza and then intuitively branching out your study.

In effect. and here is the important point that I am trying to briefly make today, you begin with a rationalist point of view in order to logically teach/learn/understand the material (which in some cases can be substantial, complex and far-reaching).  After learning everything, you are then able to move into an "intuitive" view in which your "creativity" manifests itself and now you (or the Sensei) might begin class with a "1,2 buckle your shoe" type of teaching but after watching you train on your own for a while, Sensei will "whip out" things that you may have never seen and that he has never taught.  He sees that you are ready for the next leap and he begins to expand your horizon beyond the rigid kihon/kihon waza concepts.

He is no longer teaching a rigid kata system per se but instead is instructing you in how to "transcend" the kata; a process that is only possible after having learned it (and it's limitations) to begin with.  After all, how can you transcend something when you do not know its' full scope much less its' limitations?

Over the door to our dojo we have a sign that says Zendo.  The english for the name is "Wave on Rock" place of zen and one of our senior players holds inka shomei in zen.  At one time we held zen sessions every Sunday night as a highly recommended adjunctinve study to the Aikido.

We continue to make use of his opinions and ideas since I for one have always understood Aikido to be much broader than the limitations of the pedantic views of a kata-only based system (like old forms of koryu) or the dogmatic views of a randori-only based system (like Judo has become).

I have always to one degree or another considered groups in the kata category to be "koryu snobs" since they rigidly stick to what they have always done and as a result become rigid in thought. I view groups in the randori category to be "combat snobs" and they equally become mentally rigid.

Both have standing in the MA universe (Budo-Verse) but that place (to stand) is best found as a combined system of both kata and randori as I personally find neither to be exclusive to the other nor one superior to the other; each instead being two sides of the self-same coin (yen).

On the other side however are those who disdain kata and rigid systems that are used to teach a foundation of knowledge and who use "fluidity" or "spiritual all-knowingness" or "exploration" to lay claim (much as the koryu snobs and combat snobs do) to an exclusive understanding and interpretaion of what Aikido is.  You can refer to them as Budo-snobs or Zen-snobs or perhaps more appropriately you can refer to them as the "Holier Than Thou Budo Sect".

All of these are unfortunately out there in the Budo-Verse and it is important IMHO to recognize that each has a place to stand but no one or two combined gets to occupy that space on top of the rock exclusively.  It takes all three and if you like Aikido imagery then I'll leave it to you to decide which each is.  Is kata the circle, the square or the triangle?  What is the randor and whatever is left is assigned to the coin edge of fluidity, openness and "just-being".

As the waves break on the rock, the person standing on top holds a coin.  That coin has two sides but ............. it also has an edge.  One side of the coin is the rigid kihon/kata system designed to teach with as little pain as possible the fundamentals that make the system work and without which the student is doomed to mediocrity.  The other side of the coin has the randori/free style idea without which the student will never be able to "paint in the eyes of the dragon and give life to kata".

On the edge, the part of the coin that is never noticed is the understanding of "no-kata" and "no-randori", of open exploration, of open knowledge and of transcending all the snobbery, and all the technique. 

The difficult part is understanding that one must know the kihon/kata and the randori before garnering a full comprehension of when to stick to rigid basics and when to transcend them.  If you do not learn the limitations then you do not know when you have exceeded them.

Many of today's Aikido players look at O-Sensei and see only the old man post-WW II who spoke of love and transcending and peace.  Many times they neglect the spiritual forging, pain and agony he had to endure to get there; the full experience of which made him the role model that everyone quotes.  He evolved into something that he had not been but in order to do so he had to have a beginning.

They forget that he truly was the "man with no name" in the spagetti westerns seeking a reputation as a violent and knowledgeable expert in his craft, a journey that he had to take before he found grace as the man in "The Unforgiven" seeking redemption.

Aikido is an evolutionary procress with many, many parts.  Failing to recognize all the parts hinders your growth and in this case I refer not to growth in kata/kihon or in randori/combat.  I refer to your growth as a person.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

Octiober 2009

62. Key Hone

I'm in a mood this morning.  It's Friday.  It's raining.  It's been a long week with various issues dealt with; none bad mind ya' but after a while all you want to do is sit at the house, light the fire, watch the rain, pretend it's freezing-a__ cold outside, heat some sake and watch the world go by without you.

Instead, I'm at the office surfing AGAIN!  Gawd the web is a time killer so where are my Birdwell Beach Britches and my Dr. Zog's Sex Wax?

Key Hone ................. I had to throw that in since I found a blog the other day that actually spoke about me, my Sensei and other Sensei from Texas slaughtering the Japanese pronunciation of the language.  Like Key Hone (kihon) and Haw Jaw May (hajime) or better yet, Goo Roo Mah (guruma)!  Makes me feel a little John-Waynish; "Get along' little bushi".

Let's take a look at seitei from another angle before moving forward on my latest teaching obsession with which I'm driving my senior grades bananas by reteaching (again) the basics.  Did you know that the most recent diet fad for losing weight in Japan was cutting back on everything except room temperature water and all the bananas you could eat?  Sometimes things give one reason to pause and wonder.  But I digress...

Kihon ........... One you begin to look at the logical structure of Aikido then you have to consider that there is a difference between kihon and kihon wazaKihon is the most basic material; stand with a straight spine, look the uke in the eye, unbendable arm, hand in correct position, weight on the ball of the foot, knees flexible, correct breathing patterns, etc., etc.

Kihon ALSO is knowledge of and controlled use of; (1) ma-ai (combative distance), (2) happo-no-kuzushi (angles of off balance and ALSO how to position yourself to make us of them aka angles of control aka strategic positioning relative to uke) and, (3) sen (timing as per sen-no-sen, go or ato-no-sen and sen-sen-no-sen).

With that understood then kihon waza are the basic movements, techniques and terminal relationships (kuzushi, tsukuri, kake) as applied to uke and as making full use of the kihon.  They are intended as a basic set of waza that fulfills three criteria; first, they internalize and make reflexive the consistent use of kihon in randomized, spontaneous and dynamic situations without conscious thought, second, they met the criteria of tokui-waza and the rule of internalized natural reflexive movements that have the least chance of failure in a fully dynamic and aggressive environment and third, they teach a basic pattern of each major group of waza (striking, elbow locks, wrist locks, throws) that will enable one to more easily move into a more intermediate, then advanced, then randori level player.

If you have a solid understanding of kihon then your kihon waza will be solid.  If you do not have solid kihon then your kihon waza will be, shall we say, less than desirable.  Too many Aikido players rush right past a thorough study of the kihon, instead wanting to get into the kihon waza as fast as possible which always results in bad habits, ineffective technique and a loss of efficacy of the system which is then passed down to their students.

Now, take this concept of needing to move from kihon to kihon waza and apply it to the idea of moving from kihon waza to koryu waza.

Now, that THAT concept and expand it to the idea of moving from koryu waza/kata to major and minor variations ............. then from major and minor to randori ............... then onto extrapolations ............. then onto a study of other ryu that may have competing and differing ideas from your "mother ryu" and now you (should) see the critical issue.

How fast and how soon should a student be allowed to go study elsewhere, to delve into large numbers of variations and experimentation, co-study two styles of Aikido simultaneously, etc., etc.???

For this reason here in Houston we structure the study as kihon, kihon waza, beginning kihon of randori, lower level koryu, upper level koryu, etc.

We certainly look at all ideas and are certainly willing to entertain other views but in the end the needs of the student are best met by ensuring their grounding and internalization of kihon and applied kihon waza BEFORE allowing any experimentation process.

Aikido too many time digresses itself into a little too much "Little Fuzzy Bunny Hugger Ryu" and overly concerns itself with being everything to everyone and learning everything and doing everything and becoming everything (sorry, to many "everythings") and gives short thrift to the concept of the hard work involved with building a good understanding of Shomanate or how to walk correctly or how to be a good uke before expanding their study.

Hugging the bunny and stroking its' ears can definitely be fun but sometimes giving the bunny a good atemi followed by shime waza until its' eyes bulge out is what's actually needed.  Part of maturing in the martial arts is the ability to understand when each is, or is not, appropriate and more importantly, knowing how to communicate to junior students the place for each and when each is appropriate.  This was one of the driving ideas behind the inclusion of Zen and like-concepts of understanding and self-knowledge into a martial arts study, which in many minds is the hallmark of true Aikido (as opposed to more sports or combative MA).  There had to be an offset to the purely technical side and a means by which maturity could be developed.  Conversely and equally important, the technicial side also has to be there elsewise all you end up with is a lot of self-reproducing aiki-bunny rabbits jumping around wearing hakama.

Consider it while you sit at home this weekend sipping sake to the sound of raindrops.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

October 2009

61. Seitei (Say Whaaat?)

Standard forms or basic forms and sets of movements designed to teach and impart understanding of fundamental principles.

Iaido's got it.  Jodo's got it.  Kodokan Judo's got.  Aikido's got it?  Right?  Right??  It does .... doesn't it???

Yes, no, maybe, definitely and I'm not really sure what the question is.

You can't go to very far into a discussion of the structure of Tomiki Aikido without touching (doing some atemi) to the concept of seitei.  It would seem to me IMHO that the weapons forms and even Kano have been much more definitive than Aikido in setting a standard learning set to use for benchmarking purposes for players to begin their MA career with.  Aikido for the most part has fallen down on the job in two ways.

First, most Aikido ryu/styles have sets of waza (ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, etc.) that on the surface could be considered a form of seitei but the designation of "ikkyo" for the most part only means a large group of waza that have a similarity in how the joint lock is eventually applied.

Second, there are not that many forms of Iaido (SMR, MJER, ZNKR) so adopting an agreed upon set was not that problematic and in the case of Jodo, prior to Shimizu's death there was only one Shindo Muso Ryu.  Shimizu pulled the Seitei no Waza for Jodo together so that took care of itself.  Kodokan Judo of course has Nage no Kata and Katame no Kata so Kano handled it for us.  But what about Aikido?

Tomiki Ryu didn't start that way but as a natural course of its' development came to have a seitei no waza; two or three actually.  Regardless of who developed what, I was taught that you learn a standard set of forms for; walking and motor-vating around (The Walking, today in essentially the same form as web video dating back to the 1950's); learning off balances, postures and positioning (The 8 Releases, done in basically the same form as in the 1960'-70's); basic forms of striking, joint locking and throwing (The 17 Attack Movements/Ju Nana Hon Kata, devised in the late 1950's/early 1960's by Tomiki to replace his original set of 15) and a set of more irimi/tenkan defensive movements (The Big 10 aka O-Waza Ju Pon, formulated in the late '60's/early 70's as a complement to the 17).

When I was a young player (very young and with hair to boot) it was hammered into me incesssantly that these sets were the foundation of Tomiki Ryu and that learning them would set the stage for moving into advanced kata, randori and extrapolations.  I was also taught that Sensei' could look at the difficulties players might have with randori or more advanced waza and trace those issues back to a lack of understanding of the basic sets (walking, 8 releases, 17, big 10).  "Work and understand the basics and the advanced material will come naturally and without confusion or effort" to paraphrase Sensei.

These base sets make Tomiki Ryu different form other Aikido ryu as they teach the absolute fundamentals first and the more advanced and spontaneous work comes later.  Other Aikido ryu many times teach the more advanced and complicated waza first (and with great confusion many times) and the understanding of fundamentals comes only much later and almost on a spontaneous level and only after having spent potentially years parroting through the variations of ikkyo, nikyo, etc.

This is why I was told by my Sensei and why today I teach and believe that although not specifically named as such, Tomiki Ryu indeed does have a seitei that should be observed for both understanding fundamentals and for benchmarking purposes once you reach high rank and begin to move more and more into koryu kata, randori and extrapolations.

Walking - how to coordinate movement of hand and feet, posture, breathing

8 Releases - kuzushi, posture, strategic positioning, entries, breathing

17 - basic strikes, throws, locks, use of one or both hands to parry & grip, reactive pairs and triplets, control of uke's posture and following his reactions, use of "closing centers" to effect the termination, use of sen-no-sen

Big 10 - entering and turning movements, kuzushi, blending, use of separating centers to effect the termination, combination of sen-no-sen and go-no-sen/ato-no-sen

IMHO failure to observe the concept of seitei in Tomiki Ryu (or any ryu of Aikido for that matter) will naturally lead to failure of full development of potential.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

October 2009

60. Let's Look at Some History

TGIF - My's only noon! Some days can't pass fast enough and this is one of those so I find myself sitting here considering Aikido and how all this "key" came to "bee".

Having had the great fortune to have fallen into a bed of roses in my martial arts career (or vat of sake, just depends on your viewpoint) I was able to be in the room so-to-speak when information was shared.  In those early years there were several of us who spent as much time on the mat as we could and like many valuable things in life, the process of osmosis came into play and just by sitting around we were able to absorb a lot of information that just floated by.

Thus far, most of this blog has been concerned with more intellectual, emotional, managerial, personal development and moral and ethical aspects of running a dojo but now that I've become aware that a lot of folks follow this blog (amongst many others of course since I'm not the only "blogster" our there and I've found many to be really interesting and I follow them) I decided that I would branch out a little and share some of what I have found to be fascinating as to how Tomiki Ryu came to be in today's form; the form as I was taught and now teach.

Rather than discuss everything possible, most of which is already out there on the boards or in an Amazon.Com book order, I'll share some small tidbits that greatly assisted me in a growing appreciation of exactly what Mr. Tomiki did and how he did it.  I'll leave out some names (and be very circumspect) since most of the sources are still living and I owe them their privacy and some respect since I'm not getting their permission to share some of this.  (In other words, don't be look'n for 'secret stuff' to appear here 'cause I'm not one to "throw and tell".)

Mr. Tomiki was an 8th dan in Judo under Kano when he was sent to Ueshiba to study Aikido.  There is some dispute as to why but I was told that Mr. Tomiki was to learn the Aiki Budo material that Ueshiba was teaching for likely inclusion into the overall Kodokan curriculum.  I was also told that there was some kind of debt that Ueshiba owed Kano.  Who knows for sure.  Some reports have it that Kano, seeing a demonstration by Ueshiba stated something to the effect of "That's my perfect Judo"; Kano wanting to eventually develop a form of randori using "distant Judo" as opposed to "close-in Judo".

Tomiki was apparently, like many other highly ranked martial artists of the day, not "skeptical" per se but certainly respectfully curious as to how effective Ueshiba's Aikido really was, and could be, against a skilled Judo-man.  Tomiki was impressed.  He was unable to touch Ueshiba and couldn't break ma-ai to actually get in close enough to take the grip he needed to throw him.

Tomiki, being impressed more than a little, eventually documented 147 waza that Ueshiba could use that effectively neutralized most, if not all, of the standard Judo/grappling/close-in fighting techniques.  These waza were known as "Tai Judo" or "counter techniques against judo" and were documented both by Tomiki and by Takashita.

This information about tai judo, taken over a period of decades, was used by Tomiki as part of his rationale for developing what was originally 15 waza as given in his book Judo and Aikido, published in the 1950's which was later cleaned up and resulted in the Ju Nana Hon Kata.  In fact, as confirmed by Shishida in some web postings, the 15 (ne. 17) was designed as the foundation of hand randori specifically to negate any advantage that Judo players might have by controlling ma-ai and sen and by doing so, avoid classical Judo techniques (as Ueshiba did to Tomiki when they first met).

The 17 (as most now refer to it) was originally taught to me in the mid-1970's when I started dual training in Judo and Aikido as being the "17 Attack Movements".  As a very green player I thought that this was just some name used by Sensei as a personal choice until I found the exact same phrase in two books written by Japanese who were very early personal deshi of Mr. Tomiki.

Many players consider the 17 to be "defensive" in nature; that is, uke attacks and tori defends by following/redirecting/channeling uke's energies.  However, the 17 was originally taught as a tori-initiated method of breaking uke's balance/posture preparatory to taking the terminal waza.  During a training clinic many years ago, I and two other yudansha that I trained with on a consistent basis were chosen to demonstrate this kata to a room filled with younger players in order to demonstrate the power of tori driven kuzushi (which is highly used in Kodokan Judo by the way).  We faced each other about 20 feet apart and did the kata formally.  Tori (not uke) starts the attack steps  and uke is a fraction of a second behind.  This whole thing is tori initiated.  The moment ma-ai is reached tori was to drive into uke's sphere of defense with a entering-off line at an angle step, take the parry/grip, hit the off-balance as hard as possible with the full body weight behind it and then, with uke completely out of posture and out of control/off balanced, tori could slow down almost to a dead crawl and wait for that one moment when uke was completely "toast" and then tori could complete the termination.

Wow!  What an experience.  Sensei had us start slow and then move faster and faster and faster until we were closing almost at a sprint.  I'd never seen such a fast closing speed and as the three of us took turns as tori or uke, our comments to each other were centered around uke's hand speed and the fact that should tori fail to get off line and break uke's posture that the result would literally be a bloody noses, busted lips, teeth popping out and black eyes.  It really made us appreciate the concept of getting off the line of attack and was the closest to being attacked head-on by a fast boxer that I had ever experienced (up to that point).

As this thing progressed (and as the younger player's eyes got bigger and bigger since they thought they were next) we discovered two things.  First, getting off the line of attack by moving across the line (not retreating and not moving and blending) gave such powerful kuzushi that we couldn't complete the waza.  The off balance Became The Waza and uke's feet just came off the floor and he fell on his face.  One time I got so much off balance on uke that he literally was horizontal in the air in front of me and about head-high.  I was so shocked I couldn't figure out what to do so I let go and stepped back and he got to the floor in a (as Sensei put) "unceremonious deposit".

The second thing we learned was the power of tori initiated movement (properly directed, oriented and controlled of course).  The 17 was being taught as a sen-no-sen method of tori moving before the attack with tori entering uke's space before uke can viably begin, much less complete, the attack.

Recently someone commented to me that they considered the 17 to be "defensive" with the energy being uke-driven.  While that is certainly one version and is a viable method of furthering a study of the 17, it was not the original concept as taught 40 years ago when Mr. Tomiki was still alive and was sending Sensei to the US/Europe to teach at his Shokokan affiliated dojo.  This was further driven home to me by a serendipitous event.  about 5 years ago one of my Yudansha had a friend living in England and he attended a seminar at one of the Tomiki dojo in London.  The seminar was taught by a Japanese Sensei who was one of Mr. Tomiki's original students at Waseda and who became know as the best kata man that Mr. Tomiki had (next to Ohba).  I had met him at several Houston training clinics where I learned Ichi and Ni kata and we called him "Jack Flash" (to his face we of course said, "Hai Sensei") which was truly meant as a great complement because he moved with perfect posture and precision, took great kuzushi and was very quick on his feet.  What a role model for young players to follow.

At the London seminar he demonstrated the 17 and in the video tape I was given a copy of, he very clearly used tori-driven off balance and a sen-no-sen timing to move across the line of attack, decisively take uke's kuzushi and complete the waza.  After the seminar, the man in London stated that the English players commented that he was doing the 17 "the old way" implying that they had moved to something else; mainly down the line, retreating from uke's attack instead of closing and having the centers/hara move together instead of separating.

What this told me was that my Gaijin/Houston Sensei indeed was teaching what Mr. Tomiki taught and, that the original 17 that we learned was it and that the older players and Sensei, seeing the value of the original form continued to utilize it.

NOW...........BEFORE ANYONE OUT THERE POPS A BRA STRAP OR DROPS THEIR JOCK ON THE FLOOR....................I do agree that there is certainly more than one way in which to consider the 17 Attack Movements.  You can take kuzushi across the line of attack, or behind the line of attack, or down the line of attack, or in a circular fashion, or have the energies involved be tori-driven or uke-driven.

But now we're back to what my last several posts have touched upon....learn the original as first proposed and designed by the founder of the ryu..........and learn it well....learn it correctly.....learn it completely....and internalize it before spending a lot of time learning versions #2 through #85.

Done this way the original version as structured by the founder of the ryu becomes the benchmark so that everytime you explore a different idea you can always refer back to for reference so that you do not deviate too very far from the well-spring or source material.  It's when you spend too much time looking at all the variants and not enough time at the source that you eventually lose yourself and no longer know where you are "in time and space".

Next post we'll touch upon Owaza Ju Pon and how it was originally viewed and then we'll take brief looks at the origin of toshu/hand randori and the one kata from a now dead ryu (for the most part) that is the foundation of both Judo and Aikido.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

October 2009