This is the 13th 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 Hachi Noji Gaeshi
In this article we examine Katate Hachi Noji Gaeshi, which is the 3rd 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 Hachi Noji Gaeshi is a wrist-centered, figure-8 combination of a strike and block. The exercise is designed to help students learn to transfer energy from the legs through the hips, and through proper use of the core muscles, extend that energy through their wrists and hands. It builds on Katate Gedan Gaeshi and Katate Toma Uchi, and provides students a glimpse of the upcoming Hasso No Bu series. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:
- Turn and Extend (Strike)
- Turn and Extend (Block)
- Drop Back
The movement begins with the jo being held vertically on the right side of the body while standing in hanmi with the left foot forward. Your right shoulder is back and relaxed. From this position, drop your weight onto the ball of your right foot, coiling your right hip and remaining balanced on both feet. Push off your right foot and begin to turn to the left while maintaining kokyu in your right hand, extending the jo as you prepare for a similar strike to the one used in Katate Gedan Gaeshi. As your weight begins to shift forward, bring your right foot forward so it is next to your left foot, and complete the wrist-centered strike. This completes the turn and extend striking movement.
Absorb the energy of the term on the ball of your left foot, coiling your left hip and catching the jo with your left hand, which should be in kokyu. Begin pushing off the ball of your left foot, initiating a turn toward the right, extending both hands in front of you. Through this extension, the tip of the jo travels to the right and sweeps aside any incoming forces to the right side of your body. This completes the turn and extend blocking movement.
As your weight shifts away from your left foot, step back with right foot, settling your weight into your right hip and allowing your left hand to move underneath your right elbow. The jo should be vertical at this point. This completes the drop back movement.
Notice that the combination of the two turning movements, with proper extension, allows the tip of the jo to complete a figure-8 motion in front of you. If you are using proper extension, the jo should not traverse a significant amount in the vertical direction during the figure-8 motion: the figure-8 should be mainly sideways. The dynamics of this combined set of movements opens a pathway through your body, beginning with the power from your legs and coiled hips, extending through your hands and wrists, controlled by your core muscles. The strike and retreating block into a grounded position helps you anticipate the necessity to move into a defensive posture after making an offensive movement that results in an opening on the right side of your body. You will find that this suburi helps you prepare for the next series, the Hasso No Bu, which is built upon the turn and extend blocking movement. The ending of this suburi also provides you with possibilities for taijutsu practice in which you drop back and absorb your uke’s energy in anticipation of a counterattack, such as iriminage.
There are many potential enriching teaching and practice opportunities here: experiment with multiple uke’s, finding the timing to transition between offensive and defensive movements, using extension and grounded positions within the framework of that timing.