This is the 12th 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 Toma Uchi
In this article we examine Katate Toma Uchi, which is the 2nd 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 Toma Uchi is a wrist-centered countertechnique that moves from a high to low position. It builds on Katate Gedan Gaeshi, transferring the energy in the turning dynamics to the point of contact with uke through the wrist. Katate Toma Uchi forms an essential basis in ki no nagare applications in which one drops into an uke’s center with a kinetic chain transferring energy from a hip rotation into a wrist-centered strike. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:
The movement begins with the jo being held vertically on the left side of the body while standing in hanmi with the left foot forward and angled slightly. Your right shoulder is back and relaxed. Begin the same movement you used for Kaeshi Tsuki, dropping into a reverse grip with your right hand on the top of the jo while coiling your right hip and remaining balanced on both feet. Push off your left foot and slide diagonally back and to the left, loading the jo onto your shoulders, and keeping your center dropped. As you complete this initial motion, your weight should be loaded onto the ball of your right foot with your right hip coiled. 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 your hips and trunk to rotate counterclockwise while leading with your right elbow, which will move into position directly in front of you. 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. Release the jo with your left hand while extending your right arm forward, allowing the tip of the jo to complete a downward arc toward the head of your uke. 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 downward-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 past your left hip. 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 high to low movement that adds perspective about extension and kokyu. The movement that begins in your feet and hips and ends at the wrist provides you with another experience in moving from a grounded position. You will find that this suburi forms an essential part of many turning techniques. The ending of this suburi provides you with the extension and movement that allow you to take advantage of dropping into uke’s center while taking their balance through circular movement and extension.
There are many potential enriching teaching and practice opportunities here: experiment with riai, exploring techniques such as high to low iriminage techniques. 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.