TGIF - My Gawd...it'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
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX