This is the 15th 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 Tsuki
In this article we examine Hasso Gaeshi Tsuki, which is the 2nd 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 Tsuki contains part of a figure-8 movement, resulting in a block followed by a forward thrust. 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 thrust. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:
- Initiate Rotation and Block
- Drop Back
The movement begins with the jo being held in right side shomen kamai, as you learned in Hasso Gaeshi Uchi. 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. 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. 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 Initiate Rotation and Block movement.
The next part of the movement takes advantage of the stored energy: drop onto the ball of your right foot, coiling your right hip, and begin pushing off the ball of your right foot. Open your right hip, lifting your left foot off the ground, and allowing both hands to kokyu, breathing out slightly. Allow the jo to begin rotating clockwise into a horizontal orientation, moving from your center and keeping your left hand at the same position in front of your center, allowing the wrist and fingers to remain flexible enough to permit the jo to travel toward the front 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 complete the 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 forward 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 Tsuki movement.
As you did with Hasso Gaeshi Uchi, initiate a short motion to the rear by pushing off the ball of your left foot while opening your left hip. As your weight settles onto your right foot, allow the jo to flip back up into the same vertical position you had as you completed the Inititate Rotation and Block movement, with the change that in this case, your right hand slide away from the tip of the jo, maintaining its grip. 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.
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 counter thrust. This exercise provides you with an additional application to rotation dynamics through the hips, which forms the basis of countless defensive blocks and parries. The thrust illustrates how you may be able to move an uke in a linear manner after having completed the initial defensive movement. The turning and thrust movements have great potential in randori practice, and the counter thrust helps illuminate the transition of rotational absorption of energy into linear offensive movement. In fact, the counter thrust has a riai to blocks as well, such as you might execute to stop a yokomen strike. There are many potential enriching teaching and practice opportunities here: experiment with multiple uke’s positioned in 8 directions, finding the timing to transition between offensive and defensive movements, using extension and grounded positions within the framework of that timing.