Ellis Amdur: “More on Irimi”

Thank you for the wonderful comments. This essay became part of Dueling with Osensei, my first book. The only thing I would add, now, is a paragraph on the idea that aikido is a manifestation of the sword.

People usually think of this as “aikido is kenjutsu without a sword in your hands.” No. What I mean is that you become like a sword. Think of a swordfighter doing a perfect irirmi in the method I described regarding Itto-ryu “One place we see this is in kenjutsu, and an exemplar of it is in Itto-ryu (remember the deep ties that Itto-ryu has with Daito-ryu). As the enemy cuts, so, too, do I cut. Not “along” the same path. ON THE SAME PATH. Two objects cannot occupy the same space, and I, with greater power/speed/timing/postural stability, etc, take that space.”

If the sword is made of inferior material, it will bend and break, and even though your technique is perfect, you will die. Similarly, perfect irimi requires a “forged” body. Osensei practiced – and taught – specific methods of breathing and exercise to “temper” the body like iron becomes steel.

In short, to create irimi requires a body like a sword – forged and strong, in a particular way. How, otherwise, could Shioda Gozo, perhaps 130 pounds dominate much bigger men as he did – and clearly he did this beyond people merely taking “good ukemi.”


  1. Charles Humphrey says:

    Amen brother, glad to hear someone picking up this topic here. I’m glad to see someone touch upon the point that’s been nagging me for some time about “aikido”, that there’s a lot of talk of technique but nobody seems to bring up the issue of 功. This 合氣 everyone’s always going on about is what produces 功. No 功,no 合氣, and vice versa, no matter how much of a pushover you train yourself to be. I’ve read some of your other stuff and I know the same thing occurred to you at some point in the past. From a technical standpoint I’m just a wee tyke but I’ve always been able to handle myself pretty well because I’ve put in miles doing exactly what you’re talking about. It takes a bit of faith at first and its frustrating to get going and get into working through it systematically but it works. The technical stuff can come later. No sense building a nice well-designed house on a swampy marsh, and much better to quickly pitch a tent on a nice dry concrete foundation when the storm rolls in. Look what the Systema guys are doing, they spend most of their time doing slow pushups, punching each other in the belly and breathing exercises, and nobody’s going to question if Vlad and those guys know what it takes under real conditions. I’m just a lad but I’ve been lucky enough to just meet the right guys and have the right experiences and if I was gonna train anybody one day I wouldn’t even let them practice a single technique for the first five years or so. Well…maybe teach them to jab, right cross and kick knees but all the complicated stuff I see going on in aikido classes just gives me a headache. Not to knock the skill set by any means, I’m no expert but I can see the point of training that way and I’d like to do it when I’ve got my foundation properly set, but seems like most folks wanna run before they can crawl and that’s just going looking for a skinned knee.

  2. Erwan Kergall says:

    Great article, and great follow-up. I would be extremely interested in knowing what were the “specific methods of breathing and exercise to “temper” the body like iron becomes steel” which O-Sensei used and taught. Has anything been published on this subject ?

    • Well yes,.. my book, Hidden in Plain Sight (known in many circles as HIPS: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei’s Power which can be acquired at: This explains the background arts that are the foundation in Japan, of such information. And discusses Ueshiba’s foundation art, Daito-ryu, some factions (not all) which still have such tempering (tanren) exercises, and then gives as much information as is available on what Ueshiba himself did.
      And concludes with this – that although there may be specific nuances unique to Ueshiba’s approach, in general, these training methods were once widespread in East Asian martial arts – and still exist today.
      Perhaps this may appear a little vain, but HIPS is the best information in English on this subject, and will equip those interested with the information to make informed judgments on teachers who claim to be offering such training.

  3. Thank you for putting irimi into words…

    With chess, players start with a full board and they would kill each other off piece by piece going for checkmate

    With “go”, players start with an empty board and they will keep occupying spaces until the other can no longer move

    Irimi is like the game of “go”…

    • chuck clark says:

      It’s about sente. Who has it, knows how to take it, knows how to keep it… often when the aite thinks they’re in the lead.

  4. A little more from Ellis here…..

Speak Your Mind