This is the 11th 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.
Katate Gedan Gaeshi
In this article we examine Katate Gedan Gaeshi, which is the 1st of the Aiki Jo Suburi in the series known as the Katate No Bu. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. In summary, Katate Gedan Gaeshi is a wrist-centered countertechnique that moves from a low to high position. It builds on Tsuki Gedan Gaeshi, transferring the energy in the turning dynamics to the point of contact with uke through the wrist. Katate Gedan Gaeshi forms an essential basis in ki no nagare applications in which one lifts uke’s center with a kinetic chain moving from the feet all the way to the wrists. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 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. Sliding both your body and the jo diagonally back and to the right, drop your center by bending your knees while staying in an aligned posture, loading onto the ball of your right foot, coiling your right hip. As you complete this initial blend, both hands should be at the front tip of the jo, with the back tip of the jo extending back and to the right along the same diagonal of your initial movement. This completes the drop movement.
Begin pushing off the ball of your right foot, opening your right hip and slightly raising your dropped center of gravity. As your weight transfers forward, allow the hands to move upward in front of your center, until the jo is extended in front of you and is parallel to the ground. Keep your right elbow dropped, release your left hand from the jo, extending your energy through your right wrist in order to maintain the stability of the jo in this position. You must use this extension so your wrist can maintain its position while holding the weight of the jo. The jo has momentum at this point, and has partially completed an upward moving counterclockwise arc, representing the upward moving spiral in your hip turn. This completes the turn movement.
The final part of this suburi completes the motion you began with extension at the apex of the movement. Your weight is now mostly on your left foot. Continue the motion by pushing off the ball of your left foot, extending through your left leg and allowing your right foot to step in front of you. As you do this, allow the jo to continue its counterclockwise upward-moving arc. Catch the jo with your left hand as it arrives at a point diagonally to the left and behind you. Your left leg should be fully extended, and your right hand should be just to the left of your face. You have now completed the extension.
At this point there is opportunity to discuss the dynamics of this suburi: the drop leads you into a low to high movement that teaches you an important lesson about extension and kokyu. The movement that begins in your feet and hips and ends at the wrist provides you with a potent experience of moving from a grounded position. You will find that this suburi forms the beginning of many circular countertechniques. The ending of this suburi provides you with the extension and movement that allow you to take advantage of the relative position of your dropped center under uke’s unbalanced and raised center.
There are many potential enriching teaching and practice opportunities here: experiment with riai, exploring techniques such as tsuki ikkyo ura waza and low to high iriminage countertechniques. Allow yourself to move slowly with your partners, feeling how you use your partner’s attack to become fully grounded, and transfer that energy into an extension that unbalances your partner and leads you into various techniques.