“Junbi Taiso,” by Nev Sagiba

Junbi Taiso, Junbi Undo or simply, Undo or Taiso or Junbi Undo Taiso are defined as “warming up exercises,” or “preparation exercises” or “warm-ups.”

Nowadays everyone is hung up on “throwing” people before they have any inkling of the principles of kusushi. And so they struggle for years. It’s much like a beginner selecting the sheer face of a mountain on their first climb.

Why do things the hardest possible, long way around when you can get better, faster, results by taking a slower path training with consistency?

Practicing basics techniques as warm-ups without forcing any kuzushi has immense value. Let me offer an analogy from a similar field of discipline.

In the equestrian world, non-riders, in a similar way like to think that horses are for sitting on and they can’t wait to hop on. They get dumped. If you don’t understand a horse from the ground up, you will never be a true rider, merely a bully with no understanding.

In the few instances I’ve taught people to ride they do not get to sit on a horse until they are ready. If that takes six months then that’s what it takes. They first have to develop a relationship with the horse on the ground and get to understand and be understood by the horse. Just as with horse sense, Aiki sense begins from the ground up. Positioning is paramount in both instances. If you can’t catch a horse on open ground by drawing the horse to you, you are no horseman. Until then you do not really deserve to ride or be considered a rider. The true equestrian catches untamed horses like this as well. It’s nothing mystical, but a skill. There’s no need for hard chases, yards, ropes, pulleys and buck jumping. That’s for the unskilled.

Before effortless kuzushi can take place without struggle, positioning must be clearly understood. This comes from training daily. When position is in place, the details make sense naturally.

Then, and when ready and the beginner has learned to notice, feel, breathe, relax, balance and to position correctly, they find it easy to ride, or to move bodies, because they become one with the horse, or the opponent, as the case may be. Ki no musubi.

Breath, relaxing and balance are the keys to all high standard Budo.

Since the first horse was tamed, Yabusame in some form, East or West, has been a Budo art. When training horses, a skilled horseman only needs to spend a few days, 30 to 40 minutes each day, talking to the new/green horse on the ground, before saddling up and mounting. They never buck. Why is this?

(Not “broken,” rather untrained! “Breaking–in” denotes the stunted mentality of who use the term. You do not “break” a horse, you develop a working relationship based on mutual understanding.)

Why don’t they buck or carry on too much, but simply understand and work from get-go?

Because of preparation.

Preparatory exercises unlock a myriad of essential teachings. If you do them.

Preparation and practice, in any field, must be a meticulous and patient process. For mastery, no less than a lifestyle or Way of life. Then the end result appears as magic. And indeed it is. It’s the magic of understanding gleaned through proper preparation.

Sadly, in today’s world, most people want to be on stage and look good. But they are lazy regarding the real and often painful work that goes into achieving true mastery of a subject.

Many do get on stage only to make fools of themselves. Or when observed by fools who don’t know the difference, then everybody is happy and deceived, true art and skill forgotten in a revelry of make believe. Short cuts are a maze of dead ends.

If you bypass the time and work involved in learning true skill, you set yourself up for a long, hard climb with little or no guarantees of success.

There’s the various sports coaching warm-ups and stretches, but a largely neglected method preferred by the aikijutsu ancients was running through the actual techniques without obsessing with kuzushi. (mistakenly called “throws” by some.) This warm-up and method of training without ukemi, is also good for older people starting for the first time, the unfit, and in regions where temperatures get below zero in winter making hard training unsafe, to minimise injuries, yet be able to continue to train. It can be a great method of recovery from either illness or overtraining and can also be a valid training method that can enable the aged, the arthritic, or those with back, or other injuries, to continue training indefinitely.

But it is also advanced training, preparatory to hard training that should be used from the start to refine skill. Not only does it warm up the body, establish the body-mind connection (ki), but it also clears the amygdala and related parts of the brain, to notice the aiki pathways.

Mitori Geiko and Junbi Taiso

Often it is assumed that the all of mitori geiko is watching while sitting on a fence or squinting when sensei demonstrates. The bulk of Mitori geiko is DURING TRAINING. Noticing what the opponent offers you. The openings and the flows.

When you practice and refine NOTICING there’s no need to shove or force a technique. 99% of ki is NOTICING! Radar.

The rest happens by itself provided the ki is ai.

Techniques then appear as if “accidental.” They just happen by themselves before you can start stopping the flow of aiki by thinking and holding your breath. In real situations, its usually over before it has begun and long before you can start thinking in slow motion again.

Flow, Static and Dynamic

Flowing, static and dynamic training are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL attributes of serious practice

SLOW training is even more important. If you can’t make a technique work slowly, you do not know the technique and have no chance fudging it fast. When you can make a technique work well s-l-o-w-l-y, then it will work well at any speed.

In effect, speed is largely irrelevant. Whilst a good start is to match the speed of an opponent, that too can be transcended with ki no musubi.


Receiving technique and receiving ki are two entirely different matters. Receiving technique is part of learning and also protecting yourself. Not, as some seem to think, jumping to “sell” a fake or poorly conducted technique.

Receiving ki is the business of nage, everyone in fact, but mainly nage. If you fail to receive ki (radar) you will receive the attack. Only by receiving the ki can you aiki the attack with musubi. There will be a continuous flow of attacks in a real situation. Nobody simply grabs you or punches you and then just stands there.

Follow through regardless

What you repeatedly do in training, you will do when it is needed for survival. Habits become preconditioned response/second nature. Training is not an exam but an exploration and NOTICING of multiple possibilities towards an ideal technique. Trainees who get obsessively hung up on just “throwing” the opponent miss the multitude of teachings the technique offers. In the battlefield there are no guaranteed “throws” as there are in a cooperative embukai.

“Throwing” is the least part of Aikido. Indeed there are no throws as such in Aikido. Not really. In training it is VITAL to ALWAYS follow through without forcing and find out what else the kihon is teaching you about POSITION and KUZUSHI; as well as other possibilities. Whether it leads to ukemi or not, is mostly irrelevant. It will lead to an array which includes the possibility of kuzushi as one possibility out of many.

That we express training as apparent “throws” is simply a training method, not the final word, rather a beginning.

When you master the technique, kuzushi will tend to happen anyway. It will be inevitable. Until that time it is fake, albeit training progression.

When real kuzushi happens it seems to do so all by itself, not because of ego and shoving because you think someone’s watching and you have to look good or something or please anyone. But because correct juxtaposition, correct breathing, correct balance is in place.

Stopping short instead of following through is dangerous. If you train like this you are placing yourself at great risk by developing a very dangerous habit.

Training is exploration of possibilities. The all or nothing, “must throw” obsession produces a very dangerous habit in a beginner who feels he is expected to produce a “throw” at all costs.

If your technique fails, BE HONEST ABOUT IT. Simply try again but ALWAYS FOLLOW THROUGH and notice what is available (or how you’ve made yourself vulnerable,) “throw” or no “throw.” Correct it and move on.

In the battlefield, in real combat, placement and position is more important than a mere “throw.” In any event, “thrown” opponents usually get up and an unfinalized tactic becomes subject to time loss and thus the increased openings where reprisal tactics can then be effected against you.

A real technique is final.

Whilst we can not train to finalize a killing art, we have to bear in mind that this is what safe training represents. Or would represent as bujutsu.

Negative self-talk is an extremely bad habit. Simply train. As also is either pulling out mid-technique (because you “think” it’s not perfect); or also forcing a technique using mere strength in training. Simply train and notice.

In a real situation, the attacker will be a “live wire” and you will need those other teachings that come from noticing the possibilities of technique as backup, because most of the time there will be no successful kuzushi. What do you do then? To discover what these possibilities are, you MUST follow through always, not ever stopping short.

In training, follow through safely; in a real situation follow through with intense ferocity.

In training, keep repeating until you get it right; and then realise that’s just the start.

Nev Sagiba


  1. Brett Jackson says:

    Fascinating reading as always. Thanks for the equestrian part. I didn’t know that about working with horses though now that you say it I have to kick myself. I was born in the year of the horse too! I like that: both nage and uke are receiving, receiving nage’s technique or receiving uke’s ki. I like that too: we aiki the attack with harmony. Keep’em coming.

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