What is suburi?
Aiki ken is the name given to the set of Japanese sword techniques as taught first by Morihei Ueshiba (Founder of Aikido) then further developed by one of his most prominent students – Morihiro Saito Sensei. Suburi refers to the basic 7 solo movements of Aiki ken. These solo movements represent the basic cutting movements necessary for partnered sword practice.
In the below Saito Sensei demonstrates and provides instruction for the fifth suburi (Go No Suburi).
Summary of basic movements
- Start by stepping forward with the back foot and lifting the sword above the head, turn it a little, correct hanmi and cut the opponent’s right temple with a gyaku-yokomen cut (70 degree angle).
- For the next cut basically repeat on the opposite side but this time cut the opponent’s left temple with a yokomen cut.
- When changing direction, lift the sword above the head and turn the hips. Then strike the opposite temple of the (imaginary) uke to that struck in the previous cut. Always perform a small kaiten movement to stay out of the central line.
- When executing yokomen and gyaku-yokomen do not cut by turning the blade slantwise. Always lift the sword above the head, then cut diagonally (70 degrees) following a shallow curve.
- Don’t prepare the cut by lowering the blade. Instead lift lift the tip of sword when behind the back before your hands.
- Keep the blade above the level of the ear and never lower.
- Always step immediately forward and out of the centre line with the back foot without moving the front foot. Do not ever move the front forward foot first.
Brief Biography – Morihiro Saito Sensei (1928-2002)
Morihiro Saito Sensei’s practice of Aikido spanned 56 years and he is one of the most important teachers in Aikido history. Saito Sensei was a live-in student of O’sensei for more than 20 years at his home dojo in Iwama, Japan.
Saito Sensei spent his teaching life dedicated to preserving the technical style of Aikido as practised and shown to him by O’sensei in the post-war period. Without his commitment to preserving the Aikido of the Founder and extensive efforts to record and document his teachings, much of the Aikido of O’sensei would have no doubt been lost. The Aikido world owes him a great debt.