Professor Kenji Tomiki, the founder of Tomiki Aikido, is among the most famous and highly respected martial artists in Japan and around the world. Having previously studied under the respective founders of both aikido and judo, Tomiki Sensei, then a renowned professor at the world-famous Waseda University in Tokyo, drew upon his previous studies to aid in the development of the martial art that bares his name.
As a Professor, Tomiki Sensei naturally developed a coherent and powerful method of analysis and research for aikido, which went on to become a signature pedagogy in the martial arts world. Professor Kenji Tomiki’s “Three Principles and Six Concepts” are intended to help organize one’s thinking and understanding of aikido, ultimately leading to their improvement.
The Three Principles
The Principle of Gentleness
(Ju no Ri)
An attack can be rendered ineffectual or minimally effective by quick, controlled footwork and body movement, yielding to force when it is advantageous. The physical manifestation of this principle is most easily seen in taisabaki, i.e. moving out of the way of an attack.
The Principle of Natural Posture
(Shizentai no Ri)
Shizentai is the physical embodiment of “mushin, mugamae” – neutral mind, neutral stance. Regardless of whether one is in neutral posture (mugamae), right posture (migigamae) or left posture (hidarigamae), the feet are shoulder width apart with your weight evenly balanced between both feet, the shoulders are relaxed, the back is straight and with hips rolled underneath, the head sits straight on the spine, and the arms hang, naturally bent.
The Principle of Breaking Balance
(Kuzushi no Ri)
The main component of this principle is seizing the split second when your opponent is immobile, either at the beginning or end of their movement, to break their balance. By effectively applying kuzushi, the actual application of the aikido technique can become far easier, if not nearly effortless.
The Six Concepts
When the three principles are put into practical use, these six concepts grow from their interchange. While none are originally from him, Tomiki Sensei used the much broader framework of martial arts, both old school (koryu) and modern, to create these concepts.
The six concepts differ from the three principles because they can be measured, gauged, and experienced. While they are presented here in related pairs, all six concepts are dynamically related to each other.
Simply put, this is the minimum distance at which your opponent cannot attack you without movement. If you and your opponent were facing each other, arms extended and finger tips touching, ma’ai would be the distance between the both of you. Ma’ai has three aspects: your position relative to your opponent, the speed required to cover the relative distance, and the rhythm of movement with your opponent. Ma’ai changes constantly because movement is a dynamic process. A related term is issoku itto no ma’ai–the distance you can cover in one step to reach your opponent.
Literally meaning “eye contact,” metsuke allows you to use your peripheral vision (that is a result from constant eye contact with your opponent) to better detect their movement, however slight. It is well known in the scientific community that peripheral vision is much better than direct focus at detecting motion. When interacting with your opponent, a combination of concentration and awareness is required, and your visual and mental perception must be broad even while focused. An example would be a person’s perception while driving a car. The focus is on the road, but the peripheral vision is constantly engaged as well.
If you were to draw an imaginary line vertically down the center of your body, that would be your centerline, and, when keeping your elbows close to your body, is where you are mechanically strongest. The easiest way to find your centerline is to be in shizentai (natural stance) and raise both hands as though in prayer – that is your centerline. When the center of your body is moved away from this imaginary line, stability is greatly reduced. We use our tegatana (hand sword) to defend this centerline and apply techniques.
Meaning “hand sword,” the tegatana is used most effectively when it is along your centerline with your power concentrating through it and is paired with quick footwork and a strong, mobile posture.
To implement your tegatana, have your fingers together (not splayed apart), the thumb extended, and your energy flowing and focusing from your center to the “blade” of your hand. Since aikido applies sword and weapon principles to empty hand fighting, the tegatana can be used as a shield, similarly to how a fencer would use the blade of a fencing sword. By focusing our energy on our tegatana (the blade of our hand) we are then able to generate a unified power (see next paragraph).
Toitsu ryoku is “the concentration of power through one point,” and in most cases, through the use of tegatana. Tegatana can be applied to multiple spots on the body, while still utilizing toitsu ryoku.
Ido ryoku is using body movement in a coordinated, controlled, and effective way; using the most direct way to connect whatever that is being moved to the power source. In essence, capitalizing on either yours or your opponent’s momentum.