Little House In Ise

What makes a basic technique, basic?
December 7, 2008, 20:55
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , ,

When I first started Aikido, I understood kihonwaza (基本技), to mean “basic technique(s)”, in the sense of basics-for-beginners. That was a major failure of understanding. In fact, most advancement in Aikido comes through deeper understanding of basics. That then leaves the question of “what is basic” open for interpretation.

I have seen sensei within and from outside of my ryuha perform their own variations of kihon waza and it has always troubled me that there could be so many interpretations of the basics. It is from the basics that all else grows, right? So, does that not imply that there should be, “One true way”, that there is a best or at least correct way to do things? I have been down this path before on this blog and don’t care to repeat my thoughts in that regard, however, what might help is a better of understanding of what “basics” means.

Returning to the most simple movements taught at the start of Aikido training.

Irimi (入り身) Entering / Tenkan (転換) Turning

These two concepts are basic as basics get. However they are not complete techniques in themselves. They are building blocks onto which other actions and principles (lowering, extension, distance and timing) are added to create technique.

When starting Aikido it is also common to learn techniques from the hand-grabs rather than strikes or other attacks. However, a grab does not necessarily mean the response will be a kihon. Also, from the start onward teachers emphasize going slowly but it is possible to do very elaborate technique slowly or, conversely, kihon waza at high speed so that doesn’t seem to be the ingredient of a basic either.

Recently, during a vigorous round of jodori (杖取) practice, it hit me (an answer not the jo) — kihon waza can be thought of as something like the eigenstates that Physicists use to describe some systems. A pair of weakly linked pendulums (of the same length), as in two old fashioned clocks hanging near each other on a wall provide a simple example as it has two, non-trivial, eigenstates. The two eigenstates of the system are, pendulums in sync and in phase (swings in the same directions) and in sync but out of phase (swings toward and away from each other). Any other motion of the pendulums is a combination (super-position) of the two eigenstates. This is where I made my connection to Aikido kihon waza. Kihon waza are (in this way of thinking) the most simple variations of a technique that moves uke in a particular direction based on the starting position. Anything else, is a combination of the basic movements and is, therefore, not kihon waza.

For example, moretetori kokyuho (諸手取り呼吸方) and kokyunage(呼吸投げ) can be done the following ways:

tenkan throw uke forward
tenkan arm high throw uke to rear
tenkan arm low throw uke to rear

irimi tenkan throw uke forward
irimi tenkan arm high throw uke to rear
irimi tenkan arm low throw uke to rear

Please pardon my shorthand here, these simplistic descriptions fit variations in morotetori koyunage and kokyuho that I do regularly. All others that I can think of (admittedly, this last is a huge caveat) are combinations of these. So, by this definition, a basic technique is one that contains the essence of motions possible for each particular entry. This allows multiple definitions of what the details of those motions are. Put this way, differences in execution of various kihon waza as seen between different teachers can be seen more as differences in emphasis rather than in differences in the techniques themselves.

With this in mind, I think it should now be easier to take a single technique apart and experiment with its basics.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Elegant and precise explanation of kihon. when I was still training and teaching (a little) a younger student asked me what my favorite technique was, and I answered “irimi”. She was disappointed.

Comment by ben

Thank you ben! I probably would have said “irimi tenkan.” It makes more sense to me that that tenkan alone and is less scary — to me — than irimi alone.

Comment by Eric Holcomb

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