O’Sensei developed the Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi, which thankfully have been faithfully preserved and transmitted as excellent forms from which Aikidoka can develop precise technique in both empty-handed taijutsu and weapons partner practices. The basis for the utility of Suburi is the introduction of large external objects that increase visibility and awareness of all aspects of Aikido technique.
At Shugyo Aikido Dojo we teach the Suburi to beginners as part of a standardized curriculum in the traditions passed to us through our lineage with Morihiro Saito Shihan, Hitohiro Saito Shihan, and Pat Hendricks Shihan, and we encourage advanced students to continue exploring the Suburi as a means to deepen competence in all aspects of Aikido.
The Suburi are helpful exercises that enable students to put into meaningful practice their understanding of lines and positioning, develop hanmi, kokyu, and dynamic balance, establish effective movement from center and hips, and work on timing of movement and breath. They are the subatomic particles that comprise our more complex movements, and provide an invaluable opportunity to refine and perfect the innumerable details that go into each technique. The more deeply we explore and live with the Suburi, the greater the connection we find with all forms of Aikido technique. The Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi truly are a magnificent creation by O’Sensei, and his beautiful gift to all of us contains the key and gateway to mastery of the art. The more advanced we become, the more deeply we are invited to explore the Suburi, and the greater the reward of discovery this path offers.
This is the 25th in a 27-part series on the Aiki Ken and Jo Suburi, and the 5th 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.
Go No Suburi
In this article on the Aiki Ken, we examine Go No Suburi, which is the fifth of the Aiki Ken Suburi. In summary, Go No Suburi is an application of the quintessential yokomen strike, including the symmetry of both left and right orientation. 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 4 major sections:
- Right and left side yokomen strikes
- Pivot and shomen strike
- Right and left side yokomen strikes
- Pivot and final shomen strike
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.
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, with the tip of the bokken dropping to the right. 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 bokken 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 bokken ends at a position parallel to the ground. Be sure your right shoulder is back in this left side position. This completes a right side yokomen strike.
You will next complete a left side yokomen strike: using the same application of kokyu, acknowledging that your weight is already shifted forward onto your left foot from the previous strike, again allow your hands to rise in front of you. In this case your forearms cross in front of you with the tip of the bokken dropping to the left. You should be able to look through the area between your forearms. As your hips turn and weight continues to shift forward onto your left foot, allow the tip of the bokken to drop to your spine. As you shift your weight completely onto your left foot and your right foot comes forward, allow the forward momentum of your body to execute the strike. As you settle onto your right foot and your right hip tucks, the bokken ends at a position parallel to the ground, with your left shoulder back in this right side position. This completes a left side yokomen strike.
Typically there are 4 alternating strikes while moving forward: right, left, right, left.
At this point you will execute a pivot while simultaneously executing a shomen strike. You can do this by turning the ball of your right foot counterclockwise while bringing the bokken to your spine, Lift your left foot and replace it so your stance allows you to face in the opposite direction while completing the strike.
The strike at the end of the pivot began your second series of alternating strikes, so add a left, right, and left yokomen strike to complete the series.
Finally, execute the final pivot and shomen strike. You should be facing in the initial direction for the exercise.
This suburi is an extension of yon no suburi, in this case using yokomen strikes to move about a center line, adding an important dimension to the practice of moving through basic strikes.