From kata dori the logical progression is tsuki – specifically jodan tsuki.

jodan tsuki

If kata dori is done energetically and nage starts to play the “advanced” timing (i.e, tori is never allowed to effectively employ kata dori), the flow pattern starts to replicate a head level direct strike (a punch or lunge).

To warm up and start the pedagogical chain, we started gyaku hanmi katatedori tenkan, but with a very specific angle of approach.  The grabbed arm must first lead uke in (invite to close distance) while simultaneously turning the wrist so as to lock uke’s elbow back toward their center.  (Nage rotates the palm up as if to cover his own heart.)  Remember to shift the weight down – not back into uke.  We want to lead them to a trap – not push uke away which would allow them to “reset.”  Once uke’s center is “captured” only then do we move tenkan – gliding in past the scapula, to then execute a quick 180 blend (careful, this is a linear pivot – do not describe a semi-circle on your entry!).  Basic geometry please – shortest distance and all that…

From this exercise we move to an irmi-nage exercise.  From katatedori’s hand position, stay in front.  There is a “V” on the top inside gate – this leads to uke’s face.  Follow that line to direct irmi-nage.  Then the second exercise – “what if” nage fails to capture uke’s center (compress the elbow) off the initial grab?  In this instance, the striking arm must perform a compression trap and strike simultaneously, but the line nage must follow is the same as the first exercise.  (You have done this before – it is a compressed, tightened, version of ashi-sabaki’s arm movement.)

Both in presenting this exercise and in writing these notes, the “play” may sound unfamiliar.  The kihon presentation to make it more familiar is to recall how you do gyaku hanmi irimi nage direct, gedan level.  Tori grabs, nage cuts over with the free hand to release the grab, and in a continuing circular path flows to the jaw-line throw while advancing bodily and the newly freed hand captures tori’s neck.  Pedantically, this is a 3-beat movement (a) cut hand (b) grab neck (c) throw.

The presentation tonight shortens the time to 2-beats.  The grab is lead to high chudan while the free hand “shoots” to the irimi throw (strike) – which when done in flow readily becomes a single beat.  As we shorten the reactionary time, each movement needs complete more actions in flow – smooth is fast.

Now move to its “application” from jodan tsuki.  First the 2-beat – tori attacks with a committed tsuki.  Nage responds with a small lead hand deflection and immediately shoots the back hand in for the strike/throw.  Bunkai targeting – eye-spear, suprasternal notch are primary.  Training note – remember the application shows why the upper gate is the most expedient approach.  Taking the lower gate will lead to capturing tori’s striking arm, which will require a change from irimi-nage to a front choke (we did not cover that tonight).  Moving to a one-beat response, the strike is met with a counter strike the both deflects, compresses and strikes in one motion.  Yes, you can do it.

As a reminder – I demonstrated that these direct forms of irmi-nage are the obverse side of kokyu-ho: Meaning, that if the grabbed hand once released is the striking hand then you are doing kokyu-ho, but if the free hand strike you are doing irimi-nage.  Irimi-nage is palm down.  Kokyu-ho is palm up.  Both techniques are on the outside line.

Understanding the outside line, we moved to the inside.  Start jodan tsuki and rather than “zoning out” shift inside to tori’s center while doing an “X” block.  Basic is the lead hand “wipes” the punch freeing the other hand to strike tori (temple, mandible, clavicle).  This is a 2-beat response.  Of course there is a one-beat where the lead hand can flow from the “X” block straight in to hook tori’s eye with the thumb.  We tied this all back to a more “traditional” Aikido attack-flow-throw sequence – think shomen, intercept cross hand, then transition block, thow kokyu-nage.  Your arms are opening from center – out.  Same pattern.

We added the use of the hip, showed a reaping leg addition, but these are minor flourishes to compound the effectiveness of the throw but are neither primary nor necessary to make it effective.  It will augment the technique (making it a 3-hit strike) but like foot-traps, make training more dangerous.

Second class I added the snake to figure-four (i.e., arm bar and front choke simultaneously executed).  Tori strikes, nage covers on the inside line, wraps the striking arm while grasping the trachea with the free inside hand.  Easy to show – difficult to describe.  The beauty of the response is that it can easily be done off a “startle” response – meaning if tori throws a hard surprise punch, nage’s (trained) startle should be to cover elbows out (elbow shield 2) and from that position, one can overlay and snake the attacking arm while counter striking before tori pulls the strike or uses the secondary hand.

From the ‘basic’ figure-four, we then moved to the tenkan-blend.  Again, you have seen this before.  Okamoto-sensei will typically present this flow sequence from kata-dori when she encircles (snakes) the grabbing hand while performing tenkan.


snake q
Okamoto sensei wouldn’t call it Snake 1


Nage’s entrapping arm then lifts tori’s elbow while the hand is caught creating tension (soft tissue damage) and thereby motivating a throw.  From a front punch we captured tori in the same way but I showed the front compression – using the flat of the hand against tori’s chest to create additional torque on the captured hand and elbow.

From there we moved to some knife play – the Bowie.  Single knife vs double knife was the flow exercise.  As a flow – tori has 2 blades to be delivered yokomen then yokomen on a one-two strike.  Nage intercepts strike one blade to blade tip up.  The incoming yokomen (angle 1) impels nage’s blade in a wrist roll, snap cut around tori’s blade to strike the neck on the outside line.  Nage then drops point down to pick up tori’s wrist and rolls the blade like nikkyo to extract tori’s knife.  Disarmed of the first blade, tori strikes with the second (angle 2) and nage must pick up that attack from a low line (having just finished one disarm).  That means nage’s point is down and therefore meets the incoming blade in that manner, rolls (elbow high) on the outside line to come to the inside while snapping tori’s second blade hand back which inevitably either strips the blade or forces tori onto nage’s knife with the point under tori’s armpit.  Remember these are class notes – not a “how to” manual.

What does this have to do with Aikido?  The knife play makes the empty hand more visible – but I demonstrated this sequence without the knives: yokomen is countered with gyakyu-yokomen and quickly followed by nikkyo, the second yokomen is then picked up by the same hand in a “chicken wing” block, the elbow rolls over (much like Yasuno-style shomen) so that nage’s elbow can then strike tori’s hand from the inside line and use the rebounding energy to perform a one-knuckle strike to the lymph-node / top of lung under the armpit.


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