Safe aikido practice

Training notes: Hanmi handachi shomenuchi kotegaeshi

morihei-ueshiba-kobukan-c1935Hanmi handachi waza is a common form of Aikido practice whereby the nage is in a kneeling position and the uke  attacks while standing.   In this type of training the uke has the obvious advantage of both mobility and height. However, a skilled nage can still take the balance of the uke by taking advantage of their lower centre of gravity.

Training in hanmi handachi waza is particularly beneficial as it develops skills in taking a ukes balance with only minimal lower body movement.  The training also assists in understanding the importance of centre and use of the centre line in Aikido practice.

The below video extract of Master Koretoshi Maruyama demonstrates the application of kotegaeshi  (outward wrist turn) in hanmi handachi waza to address a straight blow to the centre of the head (i.e. shomenuchi).

Points of note in the demonstration include:

  • The nage is at an approximate 45 degree angle to the uke and not facing head on;
  • The nage’s initial movement is itself a shomenuchi cutting movement through the uke’s centreline;
  • The nage does not attempt to directly clash or in anyway block the uke’s downward strike;
  • The nage draws the attack into their centre and then uses their centre and centre line as the mechanism and line of movement, respectively, to execute the finish of the technique;
  • The balance of the uke is completely taken (i.e kuzushi) from the moment of first contact.
  • The technique is executed to take advantage of the “missing third leg” position to the rear of the uke.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo


Training notes – Bokken happo giri (8 direction cut)

10247471_570367973099377_397839042609517328_nBokken arts are not formally examined as part of the grading syllabus in Aikido Yuishinkai until shodan (black belt).  However, due to the many transferable skills that Bokken arts offer in aiding our tai jutsu (unarmed) training it is quite common for students to be introduced to these wooden sword based arts almost from the outset.

Bokken happo giri is an 8  direction shomen cut that makes for an ideal introduction to solo bokken practice.   This multi-direction kata is an excellent aid to learning and developing spatial awareness, proper posture, heaven-man-earth body quality,  balance and footwork while continually moving and cutting in different directions.

Bokken happo giri  is also helpful in developing the ability to maintain focus in all directions while continually turning.  This ability is particularly useful when dealing with multiple attacker situations in unarmed practice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt our dojo we regularly practice 3 different forms of bokken happo giri.  These are omote, ura and irimi.  All 3 forms involve an 8 way cut, however, the footwork differs in each. Each form directly translates into our tai jutsu practice by automating correct footwork and centred relaxed movement in our Aikido techniques.

The video demonstration below by our Chief Instructor Peter Kelly Sensei is of bokken happo giri omote.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Related Articles

  1. Pass me a bokken ..better make it a big one (2015)
  2. Training tips – Bokken arts (kata and exercises) (2015)


Training Notes – Ukemi (Fundamental principles)

This video training note refers to the first in a new series of training videos prepared by Peter Kelly Sensei (7th Dan Aikido Yuishinkai) dealing with the topic of ukemi and uke arts in Aikido Yuishinkai practice.

Peter KellyThe Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai, Master Koretoshi Maruyama, has asked that the development and advancement of high level ukemi skills be given a priority  focus in our Aikido training in Australia this year. To this end Peter Kelly Sensei, Technical Director for Aikido Yuishinkai in Australia, has been travelling the country to give ukemi (and other Aikido) training to Aikido Yuishinkai members.

In support of this training, Peter Sensei has prepared a series of training videos to assist instructors and students in developing the requisite skills. The below video is Part 1 in the series.  Topics covered include:

  • What is ukemi?;
  • Responsibility of the uke to give a tangible attack so that the nage has something to work with;
  • The folly and danger of acrobatic/circus rolling in Aikido practice;
  • The importance of rolling “like a cat”
  • Exercises to develop good ukemi skills;
  • Responsibility of the uke to not anticipate attacks, stay connected and remain centred for as long as possible;
  • Remaining relaxed when taking ukemi, including when breakfalling.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Aikido and the big picture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is an often cited quote from the Founder of Aikido, Master Morihei Ueshiba (O’Sensei), that goes along the following lines:

Aikido is not a technique to fight and defeat the enemy. It is a way to reconcile the World and make human beings one family.

I have often pondered on this statement and wondered how it is possible that a martial art or any form of budo for that matter could hope to achieve such a lofty goal.

In the context of Aikido, its probably not that surprising that I can never recall anyone ever talking about World peace or anything like it. Our efforts on the mat are exclusively focussed on developing our skills, working on ways to improve our body structure and basically enjoying our practice. After class many of us then head out for a coffee, have a few laughs and then return to our regular lives. World reconciliation just never comes up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt then struck me the other day as I was leading a class that I had missed something obvious. Looking around the dojo there were people of different ages, background, gender, physical ability, work life, etc. Everyone was working together to help each other improve their skills and understanding, be safe and just have fun. In short, they were just enjoying each other’s company and learning from their differences.

I then realised that this is what O’Sensei was probably talking about.

Until next time


So why open a dojo?

The decision to open up a new Aikido dojo is certainly not for the faint of heart.  In the modern world, its establishment alone is filled with many challenges and responsibilities, including arranging insurance, dojo space, affiliations, mats, licences, management and financial systems, compliance with legislative obligations, policies and procedures, advertising, …. and the list goes on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith all these issues, and the fact that it’s much easier to be a student or guest teacher at someone else’s dojo, the most common question I get asked is why did you open up a dojo?

For me the answer to this question is simple – it’s something I’ve dreamed of doing since the first day I stepped on a martial arts mat some 40 or so years ago. Back then it was a Judo mat, but as time went on I transitioned into Judo’s sister art, Aikido.  While the martial art changed, the dream to start my own dojo never waned.

So what is it about a dojo (or “place of the way”) that makes it so special?  The obvious answer is that it’s a place where you get to learn, explore, share, and practice your Japanese martial art of choice with those who have a similar passion and interest.

For me, however, a dojo is more than this. It’s a place where we can leave our problems at the front door and for the relatively short time that we are there, live in a world which is positive, encouraging, free of politics, welcoming, non-discriminatory and fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe way I see it, the world is full of institutions, systems and individuals apparently hell-bent on putting people down and stripping them of their confidence. A dojo is an escape from this. My suggestion to anyone who has walked into an Aikido dojo and experienced feeling worse about themselves than when they went in – find another dojo.

And so when I opened the doors of Aikido Warrior Dojo for the first time on Saturday morning 8 March 2014, I had no doubts about what I was doing – this is where I was supposed to be. The fact that we were immediately greeted by 2 “welcome swallows” who decided to join us while we set up seemed only appropriate.

Finally a big thank you to everyone who helped set up Aikido Warrior Dojo in the last couple of weeks.  I couldn’t have done it without you.

Ian Grant Sensei
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo