March 13, 2020
Ann Arbor, Michigan. our small group of Ohio aikido students and teachers drove out to Japanese Martial Arts Center (JMAC) in Ann Arbor Michigan to attend and participate in Satoh Tadayuki Sensei’s seminar. The hosts of the event at JMAC, John Gage (director) and Nick Suino (senior instructor) graciously opened the doors to bring Satoh Takayuki Sensei in from Japan. Participants at the seminar included a mixture of practitioners of judo, jujutsu, iado, and aikido. The seminar gave insights into some not-well-known martial history, techniques, and a movement termed Renaissance Judo, for evolving martial arts as a whole.
Before the traditional warm-ups, all participants were encouraged to arrive and be on the mat fifteen minutes early. John Gage set the standard “On-time is late, early is on-time” – an admirable habit for any martial student. After rei (bow in) and warm-ups, Satoh Sensei explained: we would be exploring how many different styles converge, based on principles of motion. A brief bit of history hinted at deeper reasons why Kano Jigoro founded Judo. Satoh sensei repeated this concept throughout the three-day seminar: Judo -beyond the modern sport that has evolved from it- is the concept of a principled framework of motions which encompasses all martial arts in their many styles (Ryu) and distances (ma’ai). According to Satoh Sensei, presenting this framework of principles to better unify martial arts was one of the goals of Kano Jigoro.
This a key point, as Nariyama says, so how do we further emphasize it…maybe reverse the sentence structure, according to Satoh, one of Kano’s goals in life was to unify all martial arts under a unifying set off….put the emphasis on Kano, play with it.
The first example was the simple motion of movement from standing to seiza (both legs kneeling). It is a traditional form of sitting that is a mixture of etiquette and function. The kneeling position is a more-active posture than cross-legged sitting. Lowering one’s self from standing to seiza was explained in the following way by Satoh Sensei: shifting weight to right leg. Maintaining vertical posture, hip cam back (rotating the hips slightly as if barely jutting the buttocks back). While lowering the body in a diagonally-backward direction, drop the left leg so that the knee gently rests on the ground. Next the right leg moves from knee-upright to knee on ground. Finally, the hips lower until resting over the feet. This motion of hip-drop is similar when using unsuko in aikido. But the principle of generating kuzushi (destabilization of an opponent) through motion, applies to the arts judo, iado, and aikido as Kano discovered, as Satoh Sensei stated this seminar. This exercise was repeated and expanded with uke holding on to tori’s front aikidogi lapel. Further, the motion was demonstrated with uke holding the side shoulder sleeve of tori’s aikidogi, with the finish as a throw.
Next, was an explanation of how lines of destabilization occur. Uke stands in seichusen (a neutral standing position where neither foot is forward). Without uke taking a step, their center of balance easily is extended directly forward or back, once moved far enough kuzushi (destabilization) occurs. This angle of kuzushi changes it’s line when uke’s foot shifts forward. One can think of this kuzushi line by first: imagining a line going from uke’s right and left toes. Next around the middle of that first line, a final, imaginary perpendicular line extends out. This change in the kuzushi line is demonstrated in the next drill, as uke pushes forward on the shoulders of tori. Tori takes a back corner step and moves into seiza. Progressing further, uke moves to aikido ma’ai (two arms length distance), with uke gripping both hands of tori and tori holding their wrists at collarbone-breast level. Tori repeats the corner turn and seiza drop. As seen in this technique, the important point is to realize that the principles of motion are the same here as they are with judo, aikido being a “separate judo.”
Some side points for practicing technique. Satoh Sensei noted that a good uke will allow himself to reach the edge of kuzushi (destabilization) without stepping. That is, uke will avoid punking (or subverting) the technique by not stepping out of it. This is because a step would readjust uke’s center of balance which would readjust the lines of kuzushi. This applies to any waza (technique) being done. The last technique of the day involved a kotegaeshi (wrist, outward twist) by uke grabbing the back of tori (with their close hand) and uke using their right hand to grab tori’s right shoulder.
On the second day’s lessons, one of the key points was a demonstration of ido ryoku (locomotive power). The first technique shown, starts at a judo distance. Uke uses their right hand to grab tori’s right lapel.Tori would start their technique similarly (it’s an adverb) to the standing portion of Dai-san but must demonstrate locomotive power by moving to the side (instead of to the back corner). This shuffle-step is one action with two steps. At the same time, tori must give an uppercut punch to maintain ma’ai. Next, tori rotates counter-clockwise into a kotegaeshi (wrist, outward twist). An important point is to check for proper ma’ai by having uke see if they are within striking distance. Next, kotegaeshi was shown at a two-arms length aikido distance using a cross hand grab. The point being that the principles of motion are similar at both judo and aikido range. Later in the afternoon session, Satoh sensei explained how the arm is similar to a blade. In that (imecessary) The edge of an arm is the attacking part (portion, section…) and the side of the arm is defensive. The hand-blade can be used to generate power along the person’s center of mass like a sword, this is similar to Toitsu Ryoku’s single point of power. The “sword takeaways” of Dai-san were shown as example techniques. Mirrored motion with the opponent is essential for good timing. The example shown was tori raising their hand blade and moving off the line of attack as uki raises their bokken (wooden sword).
The third day’s lessons consisted of showing the principles of motion with jujutsu ground work. Uke would lay on the ground and attempt to roll away or toward tori. Tori would lay perpendicular to uke. If uke rolls toward tori, tori would hip cam and shift their hips forward similar to shotei awase resistance drills. If uke moved away tori, tori would shift their weight in their hips down and away, to counter this motion. Many other groundwork techniques were shown as well, emphasizing that posture on the ground uses the same principles of posture as arts that are standing up.
Questions and Answers
A few personal individual questions were asked by one of the Ohio students. Satoh Sensei explained in a prior seminar, that the Junanahon can be done with forward/offensive motion or backward/defensive motion. This was introduced to his students because tanto and toshu would immediately clash during tanto randori shiai (knife, two person full resistance, competition). Although it’s possible to add compression or extension-based kuzushi to either offensive or defensive technique (it’s more practical to use extension with defensive motion, and compression with offensive motion). It is also possible to explore tandoku undo while moving with the legs in a backward direction instead of forward. In another conversation, Satoh sensei explained that the Junanahon can be thrown by tori with their feet.
During the Q&A session at the end of the third day, a notable question was asked about the future of budo in the martial arts world. Satoh sensei’s answer was that it was Kano’s original principles (of motion) to unify martial arts, so that many martial disciplines can join hands in the same goals. He went on to say that philosophy is a central aspect for training. Looking at these things meaningfully, we can make a framework that goes beyond sports -although they are still important- to a study that joins hands at a moral level, in addition to physical, interpersonal, and analytical levels. A question asked in relation to Tomiki Aikido was the evolution of Tomiki sensei’s techniques. Before the “Fifteens” were the “Thirteen” techniques, that lacked shomen and gyakyu, and ushiro was simply a double strike from behind. Between the evolution of the “Fifteens” and “Seventeens,” are the “Nineteens” which are application (oyo) techniques. Another great question asked during the Q&A, was how to find body and mind balance in martial arts. Satoh Sensei answered that the seminar today is just over the topic of posture, the next step is building up muscle memory and then later, it can be analyzed.