This is the 4th in a 27-part series on the Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi presented by James Neiman, Dojo Cho of Shugyo Aikido Dojo, where martial arts instruction in Union City, California is offered. All the articles are paired with YouTube video demonstrations of each of the Suburi (click here to subscribe to the channel, and click here to view all the articles in this series). These paired demonstrations and articles are offered to Aikidoka who would like to more fully understand the precise mechanics within each of the Suburi, how they can be practiced in both solo and partner settings, and how one can align the Suburi with taijutsu to develop increasing competence and precision with both basic and advanced technique.
Tsuki Gedan Gaeshi
In this article we examine Tsuki Gedan Gaeshi, which is the 4th of the Aiki Jo Suburi in the series known as the Tsuki No Bu.
In summary, Tsuki Gedan Gaeshi is a forward thrust combined with a downward turn. It builds on Choku Tsuki and Ushiro Tsuki, and for the first time the practitioner encounters a suburi with turning dynamics. Tsuki Gedan Gaeshi is a complex movement that provides important perspectives on the role of atemi, the dynamic and fluid movement involving both uke and nage, and the kinetic chain involved in turning movements. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 4 major sections:
- Gather energy
The movement begins with the jo being held horizontally on the right side of the body while standing in hanmi with the left foot forward and angled slightly. Your right shoulder is back and relaxed. Drop your center by bending your knees while staying in an aligned posture, loading onto the ball of your right foot and coiling your right hip. This completes the drop movement.
Just as you learned with Choku Tsuki, begin pushing off the ball of your right foot, opening your right hip, lifting your left foot off the ground, and allowing both hands to kokyu, breathing out slightly. In order to maintain the jo’s parallel orientation to the ground, move from your center and keep your left hand at the same position in front of your body, allowing the wrist and fingers to remain flexible enough to permit the jo to travel forward through space in its parallel orientation and constant height above the ground. You have now begun to transfer the energy of the drop into momentum in the forward direction. Your left foot transfers forward as your right hip continues to open and you push off the ball of your right foot. Pay close attention to the stillness of your left hand, as it represents the one point in space and enables the efficient, parallel motion of the jo with respect to the ground. Your right hand, already in kokyu, permits the thrust motion to occur. Your left foot stops its movement and settles into place, and your left hip tucks to absorb and stop your body’s momentum. This completes the thrust movement.
The next part of this suburi, in which you will gather energy for the turn, begins with a transfer of weight toward your rear, similar to what you learned with Ushiro Tsuki. You will transfer your weight back onto your right foot, tucking your right hip, and wrapping the jo around your right hip. As you wrap the jo around your right hip, the left hand moves toward the closest end to it, and the right hand slides to a position on the jo that is very close to the right hip. The bottom tip of the jo should be hidden behind you. This position, as discussed in the video, is one of stored energy, with the majority of your weight on your right foot with your right hip coiled. This completes the gather energy movement.
The final part of this suburi is a forward movement into a downward turn. To execute this movement, push off your right foot, opening your right hip. While doing so, allow the left arm to extend forward. As your weight transfers onto the ball of your left foot and your right foot begins to lift and step forward, allow your right arm to extend as well. Observe the position of your right hand on the jo in front of your center: this is a classic kokyu position. As you complete the movement forward and settle onto your right foot, the tip of the jo that was in back of you is now in front of you, striking at knee level. Your right hip tucks to absorb the forward momentum. You have now completed the turn.
At this point there is opportunity to discuss the dynamics of this suburi: the drop leads you into a forward thrust, and as you recover from the thrust you transfer your weight back to gather energy for the next forward turning movement. There is a coordination between the hips in all 3 movements (forward, backward, then forward again). Also, note the gathering and releasing of energy: gathering during the initial drop, releasing during the thrust, gathering again with the backward weight transfer, and releasing during the final turn. In addition, there are deeply valuable lessons about kokyu in the hands. Finally, the turning movement has numerous important connections to basic technique and movement. The dynamics of the combination of movements involved in this suburi are important areas for exploration. Dynamic body alignment, storing ki, breath, tension, release, coordinated use of both hips, and timing become opportunities for discussion for practitioners at all levels.
There are many potential enriching teaching and practice opportunities here: the dynamic extension and absorption of energy, as well as the turning movement in this suburi. have direct riai to numerous techniques, and contain enriching lessons easily applied to countless partner practices. For example, students can readily see the connection with tsuki kokyunage. There are also opportunities to add atemi to basic technique prior to absorbing an uke’s attack.