This is the 14th 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.
Hasso Gaeshi Uchi
In this article we examine Hasso Gaeshi Uchi, which is the 1st of the Aiki Jo Suburi in the series known as the Hasso No Bu. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. In summary, Hasso Gaeshi Uchi contains part of a figure-8 movement, resulting in a block followed by a strike. The exercise is designed to help students learn to generate rotational dynamics through the hips, extending that energy through the hands, and following up with a forward moving counter strike. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 4 major sections:
- Initiate Rotation
- Drop Back
- Enter and Strike
The movement begins with the jo being held in right side shomen kamai, as you learned in Shomen Uchi Komi. Drop your center by bending your knees while staying in an aligned posture. Shifting your weight slightly onto your right foot, move onto the ball of your left foot, and begin to rotate the foot clockwise while coiling your left hip. As you do this, allow your hands to kokyu in front of you and slide along the jo so it is divided in thirds. This completes the Initiate Rotation movement.
Begin pushing off the ball of your left foot, committing to the rotation of your hips toward the right, extending both hands in front of you, opening your left hip, and allowing your right foot to step diagonally to the right and back. While completing this hip rotation, and extend through your arms into kokyu. 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 Block movement.
As your weight shifts away from your left foot and on settles onto your right foot, continue extending through your left hand, which releases the jo to complete its sweep to the right. Allow the jo to flip up around your right wrist, finally ending in a vertical position to your right. Grab the bottom tip of the jo with your left hand to stabilize it vertically, while coiling your right hip. This completes the Drop Back movement.
Now that you have absorbed the energy along the line of attack, you can begin your counterattack, which will be a shomen strike very similar to the one you learned in Shomen Uchi Komi. Get onto the ball of your right foot, and begin rotating it counterclockwise to enable you to square your hips and begin shifting your weight forward. As you move forward, allows the jo to drop to your spine through a counterbalance of the momentum of your body and the stillness of the your hands in front of you. Keep your elbows in. Lift your right foot as your weight shifts to the ball your left foot. Open your left hip, and allow the forward momentum of your body to begin arcing the tip of the jo into its 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 Enter and Strike movement.
Notice that the movement from the ball of the foot helps you orient your feet in such a way that you can generate rotation through your hips. This is what allows you to generate a circular block, and moments after, transition into the counterstrike. This first suburi in the Hasso No Bu series provides you with an introduction to rotation dynamics through the hips, which forms the basis of countless defensive blocks and parries, and can easily be utilized in many iriminage and kokyunage techniques. The turning movement has rich potential in randori practice, and the counterstrike helps illuminate the transition of rotational absorption of energy into linear offensive movement. 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.
Finally, it is worth stressing to your students, especially those approaching their Shodan rank, the extraordinary value of this series of suburi in helping them truly learn to move from their hips and generate the powerful rotational dynamics required for much of their repertoire.