“Aiki Juji — Keys to Unlocking Paramount Skill,” by Nev Sagiba

It may be serendipitous that the empty space between the four diamonds of the Furin Kazan form the identical X, which Morihei Ueshiba describes as, “The Cross of Aiki.” Either way, to understand the principles of nature that express as Aiki through the human frame, one must have a clear and actionable comprehension of how the cross of aiki expresses.

The least of the aiki-juji is to be found in juji-garame a mere arm breaker most difficult to deploy during frenzied action. But throw it in we must as it forms one of the viable kihon nonetheless.

The primary Aiki Juji is to be found in proper stance. Not the mimicking of a stance with tension and stiffness in all the wrong places denoting false ego and fear, but the fully spirited stance of the warrior. This originated in the equestrian arts of war, now mostly lost. A stable vertical centerline denoting maximal heaven and earth connectivity.

People of today mostly mimic Aikido because not ever having had to really balance in dynamic motion, such as with equus; the full range of potentials in human balance has atrophied. The excess of sitting in soft society does not help. Without a living understanding of such skills as horse, sea-legs, hard manual labour and a few other attributes of natural living, you can access only part of what is possible for a full understanding of the Way of Ai Ki. In other words Aikido is “Mind fully in the body, touching Heaven and fully rooted in Earth, as one..” not merely conceptual but alive.

Accentuated equestrian aiki unlocks from Yabusame which is far older than Japan, not at all understood by more than but a handful of individuals globally today. In ancient times it was common to all armies that fought on horseback and who placed little or no reliance on bits and reins unlike the less skilled of today. The ancients understood true dressage which was for was for sheer survival in the duress of war and not ribbons or the lesser accolades of sport. They required no armchair strapped to the horses back disguised as a “saddle” nor the reins and bit which have no purpose except for the unskilled. You cannot combat effectively on horseback whilst fumbling reliantly with reins. Reins are unnecessary.

Academic archaeologists misunderstood. Their theories suggest that the reins were an “advancement” and the use of the bit as “progress.” In fact it was because of regression of human skill.

Why do we lead dogs on the left, horses on the right? Why do we wear the sword on the left? Why are arrows variously quivered? Why do Western equestrians mount from the left (near side) and yet Japanese riders mount from the right of the horse? These now unconsciously habituated traditions originated in the high arts of ancient warfare as it was refined over time to optimal efficacy. The bumbling hordes we see in movies are a fiction. Human beings have always been resourceful technologists and careful strategists.

If you have no comprehension of these you will not know how to walk and move as a warrior. You are merely faking it. Your aikido will be a semblance.

When battle required dismounting, then the sword was used differently than on the mount. This too requires proper stance, hanmi gamae. This is the origin of hanmi gamae, to direct, turn and halt the horse using seat (hara) as centre of balance and legs as posts. True equestrian skill.

Idem to sword work which, no matter the style, eastern or western, hanmi-gamai is a survival requirement resulting from the natural biomechanics of the human form.

When various weapons of varying lengths became blunt as a result of body fats, then thrusting with shorter blades becomes the requirement of the melee, assuming you are sufficiently skilled to still be alive. After that jujutsu, real standing up jujutsu would take place. Ferociously so. (Not laying down and wrestling.) Buki-tori being the paramount skill; in the presence of multiple opponents with blades the only way is to enter standing strongly and fight.

Real jujutsu (both ju-jitsu and juji-tsu) is the progenitor of Aikido which gives it functional application in dealing with weapons. Atemiwaza and anything that does the job is inclusive.

If these fundamental combat principles are lost, Aikido dies the death and become a pretence where pushing someone over is the deluded goal.

The deluded forget, never having had to survive real violence, that opponents simply get up again, even more pissed off than before and with a firmer resolve to kill you.

The tenkan, atemi and kansetsu components are designed to break bodies. The tenkan and kusushi to use initial opponents as both shields and weapons and to disable using judicious atemiwaza among other combat tools. The objective to stun, maim and kill. Sheer survival, not dance! Thoughtful research and development may appear to an uninitiated observer as a dance, but it is not. What it is, is strategic preparation. Drilling for efficacy.

Nothing has changed. In the street, prissy prancing will not cut it. You will get smashed notwithstanding any fancy title you may adore having bestowed upon yourself. Street thugs care aught for titles, belts and certificates. These impress them not. Some are more experienced and dangerous than others and they rely on primal instinct which most too cosy city/office dwellers have never met or come to terms with.

If you cannot handle the primordial terror, then my friends of the dancey-ki-do, you are likely to come to harm.

These fellows who “can’t do aikido with shoes on,” also often have a belief that, “they will never be attacked.” But life is full of surprises. Chance does not favour the unprepared or the overconfident.

Of foundational importance to ALL kihon is the juji of Koshinage. This should be self evident as backing all techniques that are not collusional.

The juji of iriminage is an old armour clashing technique where it was eventually found that the guy with the armour carries the greater disadvantage. Several in fact. Extra weight, armour pinch and torque to name a few. And longer time on the ground, thereby giving the opponent vital seconds of advantage.

The juji of tai-no-henko is the backup for when iriminage “fails” or slips.

In ground wrestling it is well known that at least three body parts must be in contact for success in deployment of flow-on techniques. A proper understanding of the aiki juji gives you immediate access to all the kihon which are simultaneously loaded and ready to unleash depending on how the opponent attempts to counter. In stand up survival combat, all the kihon must be loaded at the same time and you must be aware of at least three if not more of the closest deployable.

The juji reliant upon strong irimi enable multiple core techniques to be polytopically loaded and ready, whereby immediately the opponent moves he will walk himself into any one or more techniques from combinations drawn from more than 3000 transition and counter variable possibilities. These are all based on little over a dozen core techniques. One third of these are destructive finalizing atemiwaza which can only be known when kusushi is fully understood .

To properly understand this you must practice diligently with a questioning mind of discovery, seeking to notice each juji as it arises. Then explore the means to unlock its potential. The primary Aiki juji is that of a proper stance, then interaction following irimi becoming tenkan as it deploys as Takemusu Aiki that reflects Kannagarra no Michi in and through the human frame.

Nev Sagiba

Now an e-book:
FOUR DIAMONDS 1024 – Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido

by Nev Sagiba

4 Diamonds 1024  - The Book

Get the e-book: “FOUR DIAMONDS 1024, Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido”

The ability to adjust seamlessly between techniques defines mastery. In most cases, this essential attribute of Aikido has been either ignored or guessed at. This book not only reveals the innate simplicity behind the apparent complexity of Aikido Transitions and Counters, but it provides a full spectrum of possibilities for practicing. Here it is, simplified in drills of two techniques. When you can do these drills easily, you will be able to effect spontaneous responses to any attack. If you know your basic techniques this book is recommended and will enrich your Aikido. FOUR DIAMONDS 1024, provides complete sets of exercise drill guidelines to enable exploration of the available range of basic transitions and counters and unlock their potentials.


  1. Charles Humphrey says:

    Cheers Nev for bringing up one of my favourite thoughts that never gets articulated- namely that the symbols associated with various religions and arts are not some kind of fancy cap badge to tell the different “teams” apart as most people seem to interpret them but are simple diagrams that we can learn a great deal from. I like what you said about the need for that kind of dynamic body awareness. I would like to add my little part by sharing ideas for those who don’t have the chance to ride horses or spend significant time on boats. I’ve found a few of my own methods for understanding the body better in daily life. One of my favourites has always been to climb trees – the best type being large maple trees where you have a high number of climbable branches spreading out almost spherically. This provides an environment where you can circumnavigate the tree, spinning around it, exploring different ways to use your body to remain in constant motion while maintaining the dynamic equilibrium of your centre. The “reach-pull” actions involved are really great for strengthening and opening the shoulder girdle. There is the added benefit that if you fall, you risk injury and so there is a naturally heightened focus. This will really get you out of the 2-D thinking that ruins most bodies and put you in a very dynamic situation where you will get a much better understanding of how your joints can and should work. It seems to connect with some primal genetic memory of tree-dwelling, I always feel that my body has this sense of “oh yes! I remember this! this is what I was meant for!” Something about the use of “one-dimensional” vectors (the branches) to navigate a three-dimensional space sits at the foundation of the human psyche – tapping into that is great.

    Besides that, there are always motorcycles and, in the last resort of the city dweller, bus/subway “surfing” (maintaining equilibrium without the use of handholds). I’ve also found that wearing soft-soled shoes helps because such shoes don’t let you get away with using your feet in a lazy way. You either learn to walk properly, making your feet the “tires” of your centre or else suffer a great deal of discomfort.

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