Weapon: Jo Saburi, focusing on Hasso Gaishi

Technique: Morote Kokyu Ho

One of my big hang ups is when people take the steps of a technique as the whole of it. Instructors have to break things down for the students to understand. The best instructors of the Iwama tradition break things down into digestible steps. The danger is in not seeing the entire movement but only a sequence of steps. I believe over time the steps get oversimplified as they are transmitted or, worse, the steps are taken as pure dogma, immutable and unquestionable. Take Hasso Gaishi Awase techniques as an example. If you watch Morihito Saito Sensei execute the Hasso Gaishi movement as in the 5th Ken Tai Jo, you can see how the jo deflects the sword strike down and out. That’s the ideal. Saito Sensei’s movements are so amazingly subtle that he looks blasé as he moves. But his timing is such that his body is in position before the sword falls, and the deflection is effortless. If you only execute the steps of Hasso Gaishi without treating it as a continuous technique, the deflection will rarely if ever go down and out.


Weapon: Sword Techniques, focusing on Ichi No Ken Saburi

Technique: Katate Dori Technique

Hanmi, Every instructor I’ve ever known teaches Hanmi on the first day of class. Most students, however, stop their exploration of Hanmi after learning to stand with their feet in a “T”. Hanmi is a very big concept. It takes in feet, shoulders, posture and most importantly hips. If you take a serious look at just hip placement and rotation, then you can see the power plant behind every Aikido technique. For example, the 90 degree rotation of the hips when stepping from one Hanmi to another has tremendous power, as seen in the opening to the Katate Dori Ikkyo.

Understanding Hanmi is to understand what your body (feet, shoulders, posture and hips) is doing throughout the technique. That is particularly important for shodan and above.

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