Ashi-sabaki generically means foot work but for us it denotes a very specific relationship. The solo form of practice will be similar to ikkyo. Standing shizentai as a universal posture, lower the center and zone out with the fingers in the up position, elbow pointed toward your own hip. Drive the fingers forward with the hip and up as you shift your weight toward the front leg. Then as you turn your hip into the thrust the back leg slides forward 45 degrees to cover your groin and simultaneously strike uke.
As a basic foot work pattern, ashi-sabaki and ikkyo’s foot work will look very similar. The handwork (tae-sabaki) is opposite. Ikkyo starts R-R / L-L and fingers down (ai hanmi). Ashi-sabaki starts R-L / L-R and fingers up (gyaku hanmi).
The tanren / kihon exercise is designed to give both uke and nage the chance to develop a very solid core: as much as it appears that the arms are primary in this energy transfer, the focus should be on the abdominals and hip. Properly loaded with uke’s weight, nage’s drive through uke will require a good hip engagement. And because uke’s arm will be above nage’s, nage must connect the arm to the hip bone to have a chance to prevail.
To visualize the encounter weaponized it. Nage thrusts with a dagger – uke intercepts with the lead hand. Nage turns edge out to cut uke’s flexor tendons. Uke raises to evade. Nage continues a contoured line to the heart through the arm-pit (top of ribs). Uke’s correct response is predicated entirely on a weaponized encounter. Otherwise the exercise becomes empty choreography: do this because my teacher told me to do so. Wake up!
From the ashi-sabaki entry the flow sequence in its ki-hon presentation leads to an ikkyo (arm bar) but with uke’s hand already in a bent grab so the flow to a nikkyo pin is an easy continuation as well. Depending on uke’s inclination to escape/reverse – the next step would be an elbow bar (rokyu/hijikime) or kaiten nage.
The presentation of the ashi-sabaki relationship is next presented from yokomen – an oblique high-line attack (angles 1, 2). Nage intercepts and immediately drops the vertical plane only to then rise and strike to uke’s face. This is a kimusubi exercise primarily: nage has to capture uke in one beat and then drop while maintaining connectivity. By rising immediately nage captures uke’s inclination to counter the pressure and uses it as a rebounding energy to move the line to a different vector.
Where ikkyo emphasizes the edge, ashi-sabaki emphasizes the point.
From the capturing exercise we can use the same lead arm intercept to flow under the yokomen – a slip to the outside line, but the same tai sabaki. This position favors irimi nage. But the hand sequence is now four-beats. (1) intercept uke’s strike to re-direct and slip under (2) second hand captures uke’s strike hand once nage is on the outside line (3) nage’s intercepting hand now takes uke’s neck (4) close the connection to throw irimi-nage. This is hubud-lubud.