Little House In Ise

Yet More Shihonage Technotes
December 10, 2010, 17:46
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

Here are a list of shihonage (四方投げ) concepts that have helped me a lot. Please note that I am not claiming that any are the One True Way. Rather, this is my understanding at this moment. My understanding is subject to regular, painful (to me), evolution. As such, when next I write about Shihonage I may hold the belief that it can only be performed under the influence of grass hula-skirts and coconut shells.

I remember being taught shihonage by a sempai who insisted that nage has to be shoulder-to-shoulder with uke when executing the technique. That’s fine and dandy but it is possible to gain significant mechanical advantage for nage if they enter deeply enough to place their shoulder slightly behind that of uke. This will allow nage to use their own shoulder as a fulcrum. Really, this is cool, try it.

There is a saying among jujutsuka: “Attack pain”. Cranking on uke’s elbow can work but it may also telegraph an intention thus providing uke with a focal point to resist and attack their pain. I believe that the goal of this technique should be for uke to not feel as though anything is wrong until it is catastrophically too late.

With that in mind, extending Uke’s arm is what I see as key to the core of shihonage. Cranking up uke’s elbow can work and there is some serious martial validity in doing something that makes uke feel as though their arm is about to break but they will know that something is going on that is bad for them. If nage forms their arms into a broad circle with uke’s arm resting on top nage’s they can then lower their center and smoothly rotate from their hips. At all times through this rotation, nage’s hands should be directly in front of their own body with feeling of forward extension.

At the ultimate point of rotation and extension, nage should end up facing uke’s back or at worst their ear. If you nage does not rotate that far and winds up trying to throw against the direction uke is facing then uke is in a much stronger position to escape or counter.

One ugly counter from this position is for uke to simply reach around with their free hand and grab the back of nage’s gi. If uke can maintain their grip, nage’s throw will take both down with momentum in uke’s favor.

Finally, to cut down or cut out? Both work and I think both should be practiced. Lately, I have preferred to cut down to my foot as that keeps me in position to hold uke by putting my weight on their elbow while holding it across their face.

When executed properly, even shihonage can leave uke with that irritating “Why am I on the ground?” feeling.


Shihonage Osae Technote
June 26, 2009, 18:37
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

The Destroyer picked me as a partner yesterday. I have a “no rejection” policy so if anyone asks me to train I say “Yes” but, in this case, I wasn’t really happy. Since our first encounter last year, I have improved to the point that I am no longer particularly stressed about working with him. However, My left elbow is still aching from being torqued a couple of weeks ago and the Destroyer is one of those fellows who will ignore an injury and keep cranking. All that said, practice with him went better than I expected.

The next day I found out that three of the old guys (all around 6th dan) had been keeping an eye on me the day before and offered their sympathy with regard to my partner and heaped scorn on him. I actually felt bad for the guy. It turns out that his bad attitude has really cut a swath of negativity through the dojo and he doesn’t seem to have many friends. Sad. At any rate, a very good humored member of the trio invited me to train and I had an another fascinating adventure in Aikido.

While most of the details he pointed out were things that I know, at least in theory (need to concentrate to get right or have yet to incorporate in my normal movements), there were a couple of new gems that he threw my way. The gems were vicious “twists” on the shihonage osae (四方投げ押さえ: four direction throw pin).

There are two basic ways, that I know of, to finish shihonage. In one case nage releases their partner, actually throwing them away. Nage can also maintain their grip on uke’s wrist and take (smash) them all the way to the ground. In the latter case, if the grip is maintained, uke can be pinned on their back with their elbow above their head and the back of their hand pressed to the ground. The argument against this pin is that though uke is on their back and held down at the shoulder, their legs are both free and the back and side of nage’s head is exposed to a kick. Not only that, the arm that nage would naturally use to ward off such a kick is the one that performed the throw and is being used in the pin — it is unavailable for defense. To get around this, I have seen some nage use their knee to hold uke’s elbow down freeing up nage’s hands for defense (or pounding as the “grounding” is complete). The argument against that is as follows: as vicious as the knee pin is, to perform it nage needs to release uke’s wrist potentially leaving nage’s groin exposed.

Enter nasty variation one: After the throw, uke is on their back and their wrist trapped near their ear — as in the basic form of the pin. The variation is simply to lever uke’s hand “outward” (away from their ear) using their fingers as the lever and their wrist as the fulcrum. This means that uke’s wrist must remain fixed in place as their hand is manipulated. It does not take much levering to make uke tap.

Nasty variation two starts in the same way. Nage throws uke to the ground maintaining the shihonage grip. With uke on the ground held in the standard pin, nage pushes the elbow into uke’s face holding their head and arm down. Nage then releases ukes wrist and steps on their fingers with the opposite side foot. With uke’s fingers trapped beneath nage’s foot, nage’s knee then holds uke’s elbow down. Nage now has both hands free to repel kicks (or to pound), their position now faces down uke’s body so the side of their head is not exposed and uke’s hand is no longer available for a strike to the groin.

Trip Report: All Japan Enbu & Honbu Practice w/Doshu …



I was in Tokyo over the weekend to see the 45th All Japan Aikido Enbu. I hopped on a train with Ueda Shihan and three other students Saturday morning and we made it to the Budokan by early afternoon. As usual for outings in Japan, I felt underdressed since about half the crowded stadium were wearing gi and hakama.


The floor of the Budukan had five square mats, each more than twice the size of that at PSA (my home dojo in Seattle), laid out like a tic-tac-toe game. Five schools at a time would come out and demonstrate their particular take on Aikido or Aikido training. It was amazing to seeing the stylistic, habitual, attitudinal and philosophical variations that exist all within the Aikikai and all on one floor. The demos lasted a minute and a half, barely enough for a taste, then five more schools would trot out for their turn. The dojo demonstrations were interspersed between Shihan from various schools around Japan who would come out with their favorite uke and do their thing. To be very honest, I was more impressed with the ukemi than anything else. An uke as sensitive and skilled as these could make a rank beginner look like a movie ninja. 🙂

There were crowd favorites. Endo Shihan and Tada Shihan drew the biggest rounds of spontaneous applause. They were both tremendous and quite different! There was another Shihan, whose name I missed, whose very martial presentation, vigor and energy were EXCITING. Almost all of his irimi-nage were finished with the palm of his hand wrapped about his poor uke’s face. Ouch!

After spending the whole time smiling like a fool, thinking to myself, “Wow! You can do X-nage that way!!” I was simply blown away and really didn’t learn a damn thing. The only thing concrete that I came away with was a very nice jo. The vendor said it had only been swung by a little-old-lady during morning practice…

The next morning we went Honbu Dojo to attend practice with Doshu. It seemed as though everyone else in Tokyo had the same idea.


Since this was my first visit to Honbu, I was prepared to be disappointed (live in Japan long enough and you get into that habit). The architecture didn’t let me down. Honbu is a plain, four-story concrete block that is indistinguishable from other offices/apartments. It is in no way the ancient wooden structure with hidden passages that somehow was still my mental image of the place (must stop watching those damn ninja movies!). The first floor is offices and the next three each have mats (again, each about twice as large as that at PSA). Though the men’s locker room did have lockers, they were all full and even the tops were piled high with back-packs. There were luggage piles everywhere.

Dozens of us stood outside the door trying to watch one of the Honbu shihan run his class. It was so crowded that for most techniques he had half the crowd sit out while the other half trained. Hot, humid air poured out of the room blown, perhaps, by the wind from flying bodies. When that class ended and streams of students mostly _didn’t_ file out it became very clear that today’s practice with Doshu would be crowded. Once we finally got onto the mat and lined up there were ranks and ranks of students. I was in the fifth row and was close to the front of the pack.

Just before Doshu came in, a student went around turning off all of the ventilation fans (there were about six). Apparently, students are intended to experience the seasons during class. I thought it was a bit early to be experiencing July in Hell. To say we were cozy doesn’t quite cover the sensation of being in a pre-heated, extra-moist crowd. Doshu did not split the class in half and it is not an exaggeration to say that there were at least two people per tatami (tatami sized cloth quilt pads). Every technique was spent looking for a safe spot to drop your uke or covering your head in fear of falling neighbors. It was thrilling.

We ran through almost the entire basic set of Aikido techniques. We did all of the following in about this order:

suwari waza aihanmi katatetori ikyo
suwari waza shomen uchi nikyo
shomen uchi sankyo <—<<< He set the sankyo while standing w/ no shoulder into the armpit
shomen uchi yonkyo <—<<< The yonkyo was set with the uke down rather than on the fly
aihanmi katatetori kotegaeshi <—<<< The big “slap uke’s ass” variation
yokomen uchi shihonage <—<<< Big round absorption, followed by classic rounded arm extension using both hands
shomen uchi iriminage <—<<< Damned if I know, kotegaeshi clobbered me.
tenchi nage <—<<< Dynamic, I missed his footwork on the entry GRR!!!
kokyu dosa

At which point he ended the class and took off to where famous sensei often go — lunch, I think.

After all was said and done, I enjoyed the Budokan demos a lot but that hour on the mat at Honbu was wonderful. It wasn’t that Doshu was at the front or the crunchy historical location but rather all the amazing talent on the mat. Almost everyone there was shihan of some sort or a senior student hauled along as an uke. There were other just-plain-lucky folks like me in the crowd but I didn’t practice with any. Absolutely everyone that I trained with was a genuine Aikido bad-ass of one sort or another. There were the Ki-oozing-from-their-pores-old-farts; wicked fast, flexible-as-rope college dudes and tough-as-nails soldier/cop types. Whew! Next year I’ll know to bring more Pokari Sweat.

Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu!

PS The current style in Harajuku is to wear clashing haori hakama and/or fake looking traditional clothing.
Jaa naa!


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