Aiki ken #3 – Suburi 1 – 2nd Part

Warning – A good understanding of the first suburi of AIki ken is crucial for Aikido practice as a whole (aiki ken, aiki jo and tai jutsu). The topic was too long and too dense for one single article and therefore has been divided in two parts. But one can’t go with the other one and I ask the reader to understand both before emitting a judgment on what follows.

(Follow up of the 1st part)

[Here is one example of the multiple confirmations that the cut is done with the back hip, which was shown in aiki ken # 2, 1st part.]

The 3rd moment of happo giri consists, from an hidari hanmi position, in cutting an opponent on the right with gyaku yokomen (1-2-3) and then in following this 90° cut with a shomen uchikomi at 180° (4-5) in order to cut an opponent on the rear:

What is immediately noticeable here is that the 180° shomen uchikomi (4-5) is nothing else but the first suburi of ken (Cf. 1st part).

Let’s try now to analyze the dynamics of forces in this drill:

One can clearly see that the shomen uchikomi cut (4-5) is in continuity with the previous gyaku yokomen phase (1-2-3). The hips rotate from the beginning to the end of that phase in the same direction without any break. Therefore, the global movement appears as one and unique cut developping in two successive angles and not two different cuts.

That’s the reason why this cut is extremely fast and powerful when it is done this way.

Let’s try now to imagine what would happen if we executed the 1st suburi (ie the phase 4-5) with the forward hip as the leading hip:

There is an obvious conflict between the first and the second part of the movement: the gyaku yokomen rotation (1-2-3) is then done clockwise while the rotation on the shomen uchikomi is done counter clockwise. That implies that we need to stop the first part of the movement in order to be able to resume in the opposite direction in the second part: the flow of that one movement as described above is now transformed in two separate and contradictory movements.

The speed can provide with the illusion that the movement is fast but it will never compensate the inevitable loss of time linked to that swing movement. Because a swing must deccelerate – and even more so that its initial speed is high- then accelerate again to start in the opposite direction.* Again, this is why there is no swinging movement in Aikido, there are only spirals. The spiral acts continuously and its end power, thanks to this mode of action, is far greater than a swing.

Let’s use a bit of self irony in the TAI website to show what must be avoided with the first suburi of Aiki ken.

That wink should warn the reader about some previous technical articles which should be now read for their historical interest more than their technical value.

In this cut, the energy is actually generated by the shoulders' muscles effort, instead of being generated by the hips rotation which comes here on the wrong foot with a very low depth of movement (except if we step back the right leg but then it becomes the second suburi, it is no longer the first one), and produces only endless biomechanical problems.

We are now able to tell which ken suburi O sensei shows on that very beautiful shiho nage picture we have been using since the beginning:

It is the first suburi of Aiki ken, executed as it should be, with the back hip as the leading hip, with the left hip :

  • shiho nage on uke’s right arm is the first suburi of Aiki ken,
  • shiho nage on uke’s right arm is the first suburi of Aiki ken.

I am fully aware that the content of this technical article is hard to admit. Would I have even admitted this a few years ago?

Because of course, for nearly thirty years, like my fellow teachers, I have taught the first suburi with the front hip. We taught it this way because Saito sensei taught everyone so – including his own son.

Today I think I know why.
Aikido is far more protected one can imagine and its secrets are well guarded. They are available though but some “mistakes” must be identified as methodological tools set up to prevent those who are not allowed to enter from accessing that knowledge .

The reverse cut of the first suburi is not at all a “technical detail” circumscribed to that specific suburi, it is a fundamental modification, it is a genius way to hide the global practice of aiki ken, aiki jo and tai jutsu.

Because that inversion has endless consequences for the practice of Aikido as a whole in which all techniques are designed to be applied from the back hip and not from the front hip.

That magistral inversion has gone completely unnnoticed. It has been accepted as a dogma on the whole aiki planet by Saito sensei’s direct students and all those influenced and attracted, now in increasing numbers, by his mastery of Aikido weapons.

So I bow with a great respect in front of Saito sensei’s genius who deliberately inverted that cut in order to preserve the initiatic dimension of Aikido.

That secretive man did what no other did: he who knew taught all his life long a foundation of the art in an inverted way so that the diamonds would not be given to those who don’t do what is required and he burried his secret in his own tomb. Morihiro was that kind of man, he was ready to lose a lot for what he believed right – and I’m well placed to talk about this as I saw him behave this way – he was more than we can imagine the guardian of Aikido.

His leading idea, the idea which lies beneath is as such: Aikido can not be received as manufactured goods, like a kwowledge pack that we can use as we see fit. The truth is not in such or such learning methodology which would offer it on a plate, the truth is like a woman, she hides, one needs to earn her, it is not given, one needs to search and find it where it lies in reality: deep inside and we need to do what is needed to lift the veil, whateve the cost, one needs deserving the teaching..

Saito sensei left all the necessary material to avoid losing O sensei’s aikido, he left a wonderful pedagogical methodology. But those who knew him know he never implied all this was enough. This material can’t be put to profit if – at some point – the Principle is not identified. That’s why we need to recognize the Principle and then solely focus on it. All idols have their own right due time but they must be overcome one day, et then we must let the Principle teach. In Aikido the Principle manifests itself in the movement.

But if there is a truth, only the Principle is the heart and the key of that truth. That’s what we need to listen to when O sensei explains that we must measure ourselves to men but « to Gods ».

What I have understood today, I don’t know why I understood it. The only answer I can find is « because I searched ». But I didn’t even know what I was looking for. Why do you practice Aikido? This question seems so futile really…

Why don’ I keep for myself what I have found? Because I could shut up and follow my master’s example. Why untie that secret Saito sensei tied with so much effort and patience? Ego maybe, a certain pride taken in saying: «I have found». This can’t be excluded of course. Maybe there is another reason. I don’t know, it’s beyond my understanding.

But I do have this feeling that transmitting this vision in my classes or on TAI’s website is a way to understand better, it’s a way to keep progressing, the only one I have now that my masters are dead and noone is left to show me the road, now that I am alone with the friends who honor me when they follow my steps.

It may not be a good justification but such is my situation, I didn’t choose it and I reached that point by my own means. I now live in my own house and all who search with sincerity are welcome in it.

Philippe Voarino, January 2014.

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)