This is the 22nd in a 27-part series on the Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi, and the 2nd in a series of 7 articles on the Aiki Ken Suburi. All articles in the series are paired with YouTube video demonstrations of each of the Suburi (click here to subscribe to the channel). 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.
Ni No Suburi
In this article on the Aiki Ken, we examine Ni No Suburi, which is the second of the Aiki Ken Suburi. In summary, Ni No Suburi adds a defensive movement off the line to the shomen strike, yielding a basic exercise that introduces blending as part of basic technique. Click here to view a video demonstration of the components of this Suburi. The exercise requires a fluid combination of movements that can be divided into 3 major sections:
- Drop back
The movement begins while standing in right hanmi with the bokken 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. Both knees are flexed, and your right foot is forward, pointing directly in front of you. Your left hand is at the edge of the hilt, positioned about 2 inches below your navel. Your right hand is positioned further up the bokken with at least one hand width of space beyond your left hand. The knuckles of both index fingers are positioned on top of the bokken to facilitate kokyu. Your left shoulder is back and relaxed. Drop your center by bending your knees while staying in an aligned posture. Breathing in, begin to kokyu your left hand (extending in an upward arc) so the tip of the bokken begins to lift. Shift your weight back onto the ball of your left foot while coiling your left hip. Push off your left foot and open your left hip so you travel backward and slightly to the left of the line of attack, transferring your right foot behind you, allowing your right hip to absorb your backward momentum and finishing with the majority of your weight over your right foot. By the time your right foot is in its new position, the tip of the bokken should be up and behind you, ready to strike, with your elbows slightly open. This completes the drop back movement.
Now that you have absorbed the energy along the line of attack, you can enter. Do so by pushing forward with the ball of your right foot, shifting your weight forward. As you move forward, allows the bokken 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. Continue keeping your elbows in. Lift your right foot as your weight shifts to the ball your left foot, and as your right foot begins to settle in front of you, allow the forward momentum of your body to begin arcing the tip of the bokken into its strike. You have begun the transition from entering into striking.
The final part of this suburi is the completion of the overhead strike that you began as you transferred your momentum forward. The bokken already has momentum from your forward movement, so the primary activity at this point is to control its arcing motion to complete the strike. As you complete the movement forward and settle onto your right foot, the tip of the bokken that was behind you strikes at the head level. To slow down the strike, begin a wringing motion with your hands, maintaining kokyu with the knuckle of the index finger on top. Settle into a horizontal position parallel to the ground. Your right hip tucks to absorb the forward momentum. You have now completed the strike.
At this point there is opportunity to discuss the dynamics of this suburi: the initial movement enables you to absorb energy from your uke, moving off the line and preparing for a counteroffensive. There are many possibilities as you consider taijutsu applications. For example, the initial movement of morote dori shihonage relies on the same initial drop back. You have added a new and important dynamic: allowing your drop back and the subsequent motion forward to be coupled with counterbalancing effects on your bokken. Also, note the gathering and releasing of energy: gathering during the initial drop back, and releasing during the entering movement and final strike. As you practice this suburi you will notice that the entering and striking movements are all part of a single energetic combination, providing a profound lesson on the origin of a true strike. The dynamics of the combination of movements involved in this suburi will give you important perspectives for the entire family of Aiki Ken suburi. Dynamic body alignment, storing ki, breath, tension, release, coordinated use of both hips, defensive movements, counterattacks, and timing become opportunities for discussion for practitioners at all levels.
At various points in this exercise, it can also be useful to put the bokken down and practice taijutsu applications, such as the initial drop back inherent to gyakute tori grabs. Students can also work on this with each other together.