SAITO sensei's method #4


The learning methodology created by Saito sensei displays an extraordinary cleverness regarding the mechanisms of corporal techniques acquisition. It is remarkably efficient to learn quickly and precisely the fundamental elements which constitute Aikido movements. It is of the outmost importance that this method is used, transmitted and preserved.

The study that will follow may lead to think that I have a critical attitude on that method and that I take a distance from it: such a thought would be far from reality, I will never stop repeating that it is the best tool we have at our disposal to lead a beginner on the path of Aikido. This is said loud and clear, must be heard and never forgotten. If not, one should avoid reading the articles that will follow.

We can see that the direction in which yonkyo omote is applied is identical to ikkyo omote, nikyo omote, sankyo omote as analysed in MS #2 and MS #3 :tori's front right.

Let's compare now with the picture #3 shown as a mistake by Saito sensei on ikkyo with the corresponding pictures of nikyo and sankyo:

Here again, just as nikyo and sankyo, we can see uke is too far, stable on his left leg and that his arm is sent forward instead of being controlled in front of tori's abdomen.

Let's keep this in mind and let's make a pause, having reached that point, to provide with some information needed to go further.

A human wrist has four sides:

Ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo et yonkyo are four immobilizations corresponding to the four sides of the wrist:

These four immobilizations correspond to the four stages of a concentric spiral realized with uke's arm by using the three joints (elbow, wrist, shoulder) of the arm. That spiral begins with ikkyo which is the first step of the rotation of uke's arm, develops with nikyo and sankyo which are, as we saw in MS #2 and MS #3, the two successive steps of the spin and ends up with yonkyo, the ultimate ending of the spire in its central point.

Let's pay attention to what happens between ikkyo and sankyo: tori's right hand holds successively the inner side (ikkyo), the the outward side (nikyo), then the downward side (sankyo), revolving around uke's wrist with three different grabs, progressively going further from the wrist to the fingers, i.e., from the minimal lever of the joint up to the maximum possible lever.

But this right hand has reached with sankyo, the maximum physiological point it can reach with this revolving effect on uke's wrist. It has reached at the same time - an important point - the maximum lever that can be applied on that joint. In other words, after sankyo, there is no possibility to apply any additional pressure on uke's wrist, neither with the right hand or any other way.

However, there is an ultimate possible control for there is a last side of uke's wrist which has not yet been used - the upper side -and a fourth and last step of the immobilisation spiral which must be applied: it is yonkyo. Yonkyo must be seen as sankyo's following step in the logical and and continuous spin of uke's arm. ** That's what O sensei explained in the kuden: "Apply yonkyo after having rotated the arm like in sankyo".** The best confirmation of that relation is that with yonkyo, tori's right hand keeps sankyo's grab on the downward side just as with sankyo. This point can be checked on the following pictures of O sensei, Tadashi Abe and Saito sensei:

The right hand can't go any further that sankyo's grip and uke's wrist joint can't be pushed any further, so tori's left hand comes to add its action, grabbing with the base of the index the last side of uke's wrist in order to allow accomplishing the last stage of the spin, provoking an added action not on the wrist, since that joint has reached its limits, but on the elbow and the shoulder:

There is more than a mere chronology between sankyo and yonkyo. The relation is more complex: sankyo is integrated, "incorporated" to yonkyo, it must be found in it, it is part of it, just like nikyo is part of sankyo. Let's make it very clear: yonkyo is a sankyo pushed further with the help of the second hand.

This brings to to discover a remarkable point: the immobilizations are not unrelated techniques, classified with numbers for some pedagogical reason, they are engendered one by each other, they are born like a fruit from a flower… by a transformation.

This wonderful respect for the laws of the human body from the technique is only made possible by increasing the rotation of the body axis by some 30 added degrees on the right (and 30° only) from sankyo (Cf. Kajo #17). This eventual rotation creates an added twist from sankyo, increasing the pressure on the elbow joint, eventually pinning that elbow on the ground as we would stab with a sword**, with an absolute respect of uke's forward lateral unbalance used since ikkyo.

The pain on the famous "point ulna" of the wrist is not essential at all to apply the technique effectively (some people just don't feel it), the pressure applied on the upper side of the wrist is not designed to hurt but to bring uke in the direction of his unbalance by aggravating the lock on the elbow and the shoulder which is added to sankyo. that eventual result depends on the maximum rotation of 180° on the right, from uke's initial attack axis.

Summary of the successive angles of the feet (hito e mi) from ikkyo :

If we apply yonkyo omote in the same direction as ikkyo omote, bending uke's arm down is not possible for this would sent the arm even further away from tori than with nikyo and sankyo. We can clearly see how Saito sensei does: he brings uke's arm in extension in this incorrect form he explained as a mistake at the beginning and he then "compensate" that excessive distance with a step of the left leg to "fill" the void between his body and uke's, in the exact same way as sankyo. With that step he can bend uke's arm (although this would more difficult with a strong uke) and eventually finds an efficient control of that arm in front of his abdomen (picture 3):

Even more than nikyo and sankyo, yonkyo is conditioned by tori's rotation on his body axis. We now can understand why the necessary conditions and criteria of that movement can't be fulfilled if it is applied in the same direction as ikkyo. Applying yonkio omote in the same direction as ikkyo omote leads Saito sensei to the technical compromises we have just studied. They are perfectly inevitable and logical in such a context.

Saito sensei was fully aware of what we have tried to explain with yonkyo omote. However teaching this technique in the same direction as ikkyo omote against its true nature seemed to him like a lesser evil, despite some technical issues. Before understanding his reasons for this choice, we still need to study the immobilization called gokyo in modern Aikido.

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)