“Tsukuri, an aiki perspective,” by Francis Takahashi

“The master martial artist would perform “tsukuri” to convincingly communicate to the opponent the futility of continuing with his attack”

The Japanese verb “tsukuru” may mean to make, create, or to invent. It can also mean to manufacture, design, organize or to establish. In a martial arts context, the noun “tsukuri” may refer to the principle of “setting up” your opponent, maneuvering or forcing him into a position vulnerable to your next set of moves and techniques.

Each system of martial arts approaches the concept and utility of “tsukuri” a bit differently, and much depends on what the next series of moves and manipulations are intended to achieve. If the purpose is to strike and finish the opponent, then all that is needed is a viable opening. If the purpose is then to perform kuzushi preparatory to a throw or a take down, then the successful creation of such an opportunity is paramount. Perhaps at a somewhat higher level, the master martial artist would perform “tsukuri” to convincingly communicate to the opponent the futility of continuing with his attack. This can be, and is often accomplished without physical contact, and without injury or worse to either party.

Which one of the above best describes an “aiki” solution to the problem of being under attack? I venture to say, all of them, as each martial artist would feel justified in being guided by his own unique sense of “aiki”, and of remaining genuine to his training, and to the effective and appropriate use of his acquired skills. Only wisdom acquired from real life experiences, and the inner discipline forged by intense and purposeful training can begin to predict which one of the above best represents that person’s value system. We must be slow to judge the intent, behavior and rationale used by the martial artist, simply by the apparent results, and especially if we were not present.

In Aikido training, we need to place a nonnegotiable priority on studying the principle of, and the various options of applying “tsukuri” to our practice. By improving our conditioning, sense of ma ai, positioning for the “blind angle” , and the more skillful manipulation of our hands prior to, and at initial contact, we would greatly increase our success in managing to achieve “tsukuri” on a more consistent basis.

The concept of “sen”, to be adequately considered and treated at another time, needs to be mentioned in passing. Taking the “initiative” mentally, allows us to “see with our minds”, prior to tsukuri, kuzushi, sabaki and kake.

The rest, as they say, is practice, practice, practice.

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  1. Thank you for another thoughts provoking post Takahashi Sensei.

    It takes indeed a life long training to get that sense of awareness and to feel the intention of an attack for then to see with our mind the movements to apply, to succesfully avoid or control it without injury.

    Normally the attack will come unexpected, so the much we have trained the better we will react to control the situation. So we should keep practice, practice, practice.

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