Book review: “Four Diamonds 1024 – Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido” by Chris Huxley

Let me start this review with a disclaimer. I’m a student of the author Nev Sagiba and have had the good fortune to work through the subject matter of the book during training. So, I approach the book with a positive attitude toward it and the approach of the author. This is not a book that shows techniques in a step by step way. Rather, it is a manual, or aide memoire, for students who have had at least two to three years experience in practicing Aikido.

The book outlines a framework for studying transitions and counters using sixteen widely practiced and basic techniques. As the author says, the material here is neither entirely new nor unknown. However, the framework is a valuable way of developing skills. Let me explain with a simple example.

The transition from ikkyo to sankyo is something which is practiced in many dojos and often at an early stage of training. It’s proper execution feels seamless and teaches important lessons about movement and engagement to both uke and nage. Now consider how you would perform the transition from sankyo to tenchinage. This is perhaps more challenging but, again, in solving how to achieve the transition both nage and uke learn important lessons about movement, engaging the centre of their partner and staying connected.

Nev Sagiba’s book provides a systematic approach to exploring such transitions and also provides a framework for learning basic kaeshi waza. Leading ki, timing, staying balanced and engaged with your partner, and understanding the place of atemi in practice are all valuable lessons that this approach provides.

In exploring the transitions and counters you will find some that flow and elicit moments of aiki magic. These techniques are rapidly absorbed into your practice. Practicing other transitions or counter sequences, however, are like grappling with Zen koans – a lot of practice and meditation occurs before enlightenment.

Perhaps the best way to think of this book is as a map. It provides information about a path to something valuable but you need some basic skills to make sense of the map. It is for teachers or people who learn by exploration. If you are looking to be “told stuff” look elsewhere. If you learn by doing and would like to do so with a plan then you might find this book useful.

Link to Four Diamonds 1024


  1. Clark Bateman says:

    OK… I’m embarrassed. Somebody had a book I didn’t know about. This one looks interesting. About time Nev put out a book. Is there someplace on my side of the pond that I can get a copy?

  2. Thanks Clark,
    At the moment only at: http://www.budo-gear.com > BOOKS
    Best regards,

  3. Clark Bateman says:

    Alrighty then… Tell the Post to get a plane warmed up… 😉

  4. Happening.. as we speak:)

  5. D. Millar says:

    I rarely post anything online, but in this case I feel I have to make an exception. I have read Sagiba Sensei’s many contributions to the Journal over the years and thought, as Mr. Bateman did, “About time…this should be interesting.” And Mr. Huxley’s review, while heavily caveated, suggested I was in the intended audience. Perhaps, I should have paid more attention to Mr. Huxley’s comment that this is more of an “aide memoire”…

    The book is roughly 89 pages long. Of this, seven pages are introduction, two pages a discussion of atemi-waza and buki-waza, and seven pages a discussion of the “Master Seminar” Sagiba Sensei will be teaching. One page is a list of sixteen basic aikido techniques, and sixty-four pages are lists of the same techniques in pairs. (Sixty-four as A->B is listed on pages labelled Henka-waza from A, Henka-waza to B, Kaeshi-waza from A, and Kaeshi-waza to B.) These pages contain no other commentary — they are simple a catalog.

    The gist of the introduction is that one can learn a lot from practicing all of these combinations. There is little or no analysis (in this volume at least) of the nature of the combinations, e.g. why some are taught regularly, why some are difficult, their basis in weapons forms, etc. The cost of the book is $40 AU plus significant shipping. Most, I believe, would be better served reading his columns.

  6. Hi D. Millar and thanks for your response which is pretty much right on cue and as I estimated. It was foreseeable that there would be initial difficulties, at least for some readers. I knew what I was letting myself in for. I advisedly took the plunge anyhow. The reason is this: lots of words do not improve doing. Testing the potentials actively is guaranteed to bear fruit.

    Whilst some are firing on its content and quite excited, others understandably have found what at first seems to be a wall instead of a steppingstone. The context of this publication is akin to clicking on a software package, which looks like nothing but unlocks a world of powerful potentials. Unless you download it, unarchive or decompress it and install it, it will appear to be worth nothing. And that’s only the start. Learning to use it can initially appear daunting. Using it then begins and unlocks entire worlds. But it requires initiative and persistence.

    If I wanted to produce an easy read or a shallow best seller, I would have taken another approach, along the lines of a novel which would be more entertaining than useful. But there are plenty of those around already. And lengthy verbose explanations activate an entirely different part of the brain, than doing the work. In Budo understanding mainly comes from doing.

    Whilst there is a place for intellectual stimulus and exercising the imagination, only active doing will enable.

    It is not easy outside a deshi context to push people through barriers, let alone long distance. It is hoped that the planned DVDs, when they come to fruition, will assist to better elucidate the material in the book. But do not be deceived by the apparent smallness of the book. As one person put it, “…it is big on the inside.” It contains years of dojo work. Take one combination at a time and work it. Then move to the next, and so on.

    The seed of a great tree appears insignificant also and may be mistaken for a bit of dust. Unless you add water, bury it in fertile soil and let the sun and nature wrought their magic. In other words please activate it, before drawing any conclusions.

    I understand your apparent frustration but, if you would, I would like to hear your response after you have actively practiced each and every potential in the book after a year or two. Please work the material in it.

    There is a purpose to every attribute of its presentation. As I made clear in the book, it is a work book, not a novel. Whilst some will find the content obvious, others may initially struggle. But that’s the nature of unlocking potential. The risk in making too early assumptions is that they can become major stumbling blocks with no real existence other than the imagination and fed by inertia.

    To help bridge the gap for those who need it, I will try to get a related DVD happening sooner than later.

    Please persist.

    Good wishes,

    Nev Sagiba

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