“If you want to know how aikido techniques changed
after the war, here is a good place to start!”
Last year I published an article that dealt in some detail with the Shomenuchi Ikkyo technique of the prewar era. It discussed an earlier approach to doing techniques from the the shomenuchi (overhand strike attack). Several examples consisting of photos of Morihei Ueshiba and Gozo Shioda were presented. The thrust of the article was that it was important that nage (the person applying the technique) initiate the encounter in order to preempt a high-speed attack by uke and avoid a collision, something decidedly against the principles of aikido, the “art of harmony”.
Now, please have a look at the two photos above that depict Koichi Tohei, 10th dan. These photos are the start of the Shomenuchi ikkyo technique described in Tohei Sensei’s technical volume “This is Aikido” published in 1968.
Let us make some observations about these two photos. First, in photo #1, Tohei Sensei (nage) is standing in hanmi awaiting the shomen attack. His uke — Seishiro Endo — has launched a shomenuchi attack. Allowing for the fact that the photos may be artificiial in that they are posed, we must stilldeal with the reality that nage has only a minute time frame to respond to uke’s attack that is already in progress.
Next, look at photo #2. What is described as a blend could equally be construed as a collision between nage and uke as their arms traveling in direct opposition make contact. In fairness, let us quote part of the description of the beginning of this technique from the book which describes the thinking behind this approach:
Although you throw your partner with an ikkyo much as you do in the kata-tori ikkyo…., since, in this technique, his attempted strike moves downward, it is easy for you to collide with his strength and difficult for you to force him down backward. The irimi here, therefore, consists of turning your partner’s strength against him…
Maintain a mighty outpouring of ki from your hands and swing your arms up…
If you’ll take the trouble to read the earlier article I mention, you will realize that a totally different approach is used. Nage is proactive and initiates the movement thus effectively neutralizing uke’s shomenuchi attack altogether and eliminating the risk of collision alluded to above.