This is the 20th in a 27-part series on the Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi, and the final presentation within the Aiki 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.
Migi Nagare Gaeshi Tsuki
In this article we examine Migi Nagare Gaeshi Tsuki, which is the 20th and final exercise of the Aiki Jo Suburi, and 2nd in the series known as the Nagare No Bu. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. In summary, Migi Nagare Gaeshi Tsuki is a combination techniques: it begins with the first movement from Gyaku Yokomen Ushiro Tsuki, followed by a right-oriented turn into an overhead block (the counterpart to Hidari Nagare Gaeshi Uchi), and ends with a basic thrust (the principal movement of the Tsuki No Bu series). Its purpose is to highlight for the student the possibility of combining multiple suburi into meaningful combinations of offensive and defensive movements with multiple ukes, in this case simply by virtue of introducing a basic grip change to transition between the basic techniques. In the two Nagare No Bu suburi, the transition is effected through a pivot in the case of Hidari Nagare Gaeshi Uchi (Morote Dori footwork) and a turn in this case (Tae No Henko). The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:
- Gyaku Yokomen
- Turn and Block
The movement begins with the jo being held in shomen kamai, meaning that it is held in front of your body with the tip pointing toward an imaginary opponent’s throat. Your right foot is forward, and ideally pointing directly in front of you. Your left hand is at the tip closest to you, positioned about 2 inches below your navel. Your right hand is positioned further up the jo at a distance from the tip that is equivalent to the length between your wrist and your elbow. Your left shoulder is back and relaxed. Drop your center by bending your knees while staying in an aligned posture. Shift your weight forward, allowing your center to drop. As you drop your center, allow your hands to rise in front of you so your forearms are vertically oriented and parallel to one another. You should be able to look through the area between your forearms. As your hips turn and weight continues to shift forward onto your right foot, allow the tip of the jo to drop to your spine. As you shift your weight completely onto your right foot and your left foot comes forward, allow the forward momentum of your body to execute the strike. As you settle onto your left foot and your left hip tucks, the jo ends at a position parallel to the ground. Be sure your right shoulder is back in this left side striking position. You have now completed the yokomen strike.
Turn and Block
In the next part of this suburi you will deal with a shomen strike from an uke located to your rear. As you ended the Gyaku Yokomen movement, the jo was level in front of you. From the ball of your left foot, begin a clockwise turn so that your body is re-oriented to face an attacker to your rear. While turning, release your left hand from the inside tip of the jo and place it directly beyond where your right hand is located along the jo. Move the right hand to the inside tip of the jo. As you complete the pivot motion, tuck your right hip, allowing the drop from your center to be counterbalanced with your arms raising the jo overhead. The overhead block requires that your right hand be held at a higher position than your left hand, creating an angled surface that will deflect an oncoming strike away from you and to the left. This position, as discussed in the video, is one of stored energy, with the majority of your weight on your right foot with your right hip coiled. This completes the turn and block movement.
The final part of this suburi is a thrust. The movement begins with the jo dropping into a horizontal position on the right side of the body (tsuki kamai). Your right shoulder is back and relaxed. Drop your center by bending your knees while staying in an aligned posture, loading onto the ball of your right foot and coiling your right hip. This completes the drop movement.
Just as you learned in the Tsuki No Bu series, begin pushing off the ball of your right foot, opening your right hip, lifting your left foot off the ground, and allowing both hands to kokyu, breathing out slightly. In order to maintain the jo’s parallel orientation to the ground, move from your center and keep your left hand at the same position in front of your body, allowing the wrist and fingers to remain flexible enough to permit the jo to travel forward 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 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 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 thrust movement.
Thoughts for Practice and Application
The two major components to this suburi are earlier suburi: Gayku Yokomen Ushiro Tsuki and all of the suburi within the Tsuki No Bu series. They are connected with a turn and hand change leading to a turning overhead block, in this case with Tae No Henko footwork. Again, a major lesson here is transitioning into a turning overhead block (hence the term Nagare Gaeshi). The movement helps you connect an initial offensive with a subsequent defensive block of an attack from a rear uke. These connection via turning or pivoting movements of offensive and defensive movements help complete the basis for randori practice with multiple ukes, with and without weapons.