This is the 5th 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 Jodan Gaeshi Uchi
In this article we examine Tsuki Jodan Gaeshi Uchi, which is the 5th of the Aiki Jo Suburi in the series known as the Tsuki No Bu. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. Tsuki Jodan Gaeshi Uchi is a forward thrust combined with a overhead block and strike. It builds on many of the same body dynamics as Choku Tsuki and Ushiro Tsuki, with an overhead deflecting block combined with a shomen strike. Tsuki Jodan Gaeshi Uchi is a complex movement that provides important perspectives on the most important core principles of Aikido: namely, getting off the line of attack, deflecting an attack, and counterattacking. The basic body movements from the Tsuki No Bu series are brought to maturity in this practice, combining atemi, the dynamic and fluid movement involving both uke and nage, and the kinetic chain involved in forward, backward, lateral, and turning movements. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 4 major sections:
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 get off the line of attack and execute a deflecting block, begins with a transfer of weight toward your rear, similar to what you learned with Ushiro Tsuki. As you transfer your weight back, adjust your right foot so it moves backward and to the right. As you place your right foot and tuck your right hip, allow the drop from your center to be counterbalanced with your arms raising the jo overhead. The overhead block requires that your right hand be held at a higher position than your left hand, creating an angled surface that will deflect an oncoming strike away from you and to the left. 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 block movement.
The final part of this suburi is an overhead strike. To execute this movement, push off your right foot, opening your right hip. While doing so, allow the jo to begin sliding through your right hand, your left hand serves as the one point that enables you to transfer the jo’s orientation from a defensive block into an offensive striking position. As the jo slides through the left hand, you will notice that the right hand slides away from the tip of the jo. As this occurs, release your left hand and allow it to grasp the jo at the tip below your right hand, with the back tip of the jo pointing upward behind you. Keep your elbows in to store energy and protect yourself. You are now positioned to execute the strike. As your weight transfers onto the ball of your left foot and your right foot begins to lift and step forward, execute a shomen strike. As you complete the movement forward and settle onto your right foot, the tip of the jo that was behind you strikes at the head level, settling into a horizontal position parallel to the ground afterward. Your right hip tucks to absorb the forward momentum. You have now completed the strike.
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). You have added a new and important dynamic: allowing your drop to enable an overhead block through a counterbalancing effect. 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 strike. As you practice this suburi you will notice that the block and strike movements are all part of a single energetic combination. Finally, notice the turning movement in your hips that allowed you to execute the strike was similar to the one you used in Tsuki Gedan Gaeshi. The dynamics of the combination of movements involved in this suburi will give you important perspectives for the entire family of Tsuki No Bu. Dynamic body alignment, storing ki, breath, tension, release, coordinated use of both hips, defensive movements, counterattacks, 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 overhead block followed by striking 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 shomen uchi iriminage. There are also opportunities to add atemi to basic technique prior to absorbing an uke’s attack.