Friday, August 16, 2013

The Walk - 3 - tenkanashi

This is the third in a series of articles on Tomiki Sensei's Judo Taiso, or as we call it, "The Walk."  A curious thing about this set of taiso is the names of the individual movements.  Our extended group has pretty much always had Japanese names for each of the movements, and even a Japanese name for the whole thing - Tegatana no kata.  But in the late 1990's we had a Japanese sensei visit and do a teaching tour of several of our dojos around the country and at one of them she saw a poster on the wall with the Japanese names of the various moves in "Tegatana no kata," and she laughed and said, "No, this is not a kata, it is a bunch of exercises - taiso - they don't have names."
So, nobody can figure out where we got those names from or who came up with the names.  But in any case, sometimes you have to have something to call a thing so you can talk about it, so in this series of articles, I am using the Japanese names that have come to be used for these movements in our extended aikido family.

The previous movement - Wakiashi

The third movement is a turning step - Tenkanashi

  • To me, this movement seems to be the most useful of the first three - at least as an evasion.  Think about it - if you are going to get out of the way of an attack by stepping off line, you are not going to continue facing straight forward as in the first two movements.  You are going to turn to face the attacker.  To me, that suggests that the first two are not primarily evasive, but they are weight-shifting drop steps that are useful in a lot of places.  This tenkanashi appears to me to be the first (only?) real evasion.
  • This movement is also the most universally useful displacement in aikido and judo technique.  You see this turning step in virtually all aikido techniques, and many judo techniques like the turn-in for seoinage or the turn-the-corner movement that sets up so many throws.
  • Notice that in all the movements so far, which ever leg is closest to the direction of travel moves first.  If you are moving to the right, the right leg moves first, and vice versa.  The two backward turning steps (the ones we usually practice) violate this rule - when turning into the back right corner, the left leg moves first.  It is possible to follow this same-foot rule, but because of hip flexibility on most folks it results in a very shallow turn - almost like the previous sidesteps (see the above video).
  • The goofy-footed backward turning steps are not drop-steps and take a bit longer than the other steps.  If you set up a monotonous 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 rhythm with the previous stepping movements, you will find that these backward turning steps operate on a different rhythm - this is another instance of something that you want to understand and learn to  live with.
  • It may just be me, but these goofy-foot backward turns tend to make me want to crouch into almost a wrestler's posture, whereas on all the other steps and turns I can easily retain a relaxed upright posture.  Watch your posture on these turning steps to see if it differs from the other steps.

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Patrick Parker

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