Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Walk - 4 - shomen tegatana

The Walk (as we usually do it) may be divided into three sections - footwork, pushes, and turns.  In our dojo we commonly practice 3 footwork movements, 4 pushes, and 5 turns.  Previous articles on the three footwork movements can be found here - nanameashi, wakiashi, and tenkanashi.
The first of the four pushes, shomen tegatana, is a direct forward movement of the hand to face-level.  This movement illustrates several of our fundamental movement principles or preferences or heuristics...

  • Same-hand-same-foot - whenever the right foot moves, the entire right side of the body moves with it (arm, hip, leg) and vice versa.  This is not universally applied this way in aikido, but it is a pretty good rule of thumb for power transfer.
  • Another way of thinking about same-hand-same-foot is to conceptualize it as stuck-hand-stuck-foot.  Imagine, in this first exercise, that uke has grasped you by your left hand and has anchored it in place.  This heuristic says to anchor your left foot to the ground and throw your right arm-hip-foot at uke.  So, whichever side is stuck, that entire side is stuck, and whichever side is free, that entire side is free.
  • Unbendable arm - Notice this does not mean, "straightarm." The arm is gently curved, but during the power transfer the arm does not bend because this either cause you to use arm muscle to generate power or it acts as a shock absorber.  Whatever shape the arm is in at the moment of power generation, it locks in that shape and the weight of the body drops into it.
  • Ki hand - different practitioners form their hand to deliver power different ways.  We usually pull our fingers back to deliver with a palm heel.  Tomiki seems to have preferred to do this action through a kite, or spear-shaped hand.  Some folks (like the above film) choose a handblade sort of inbetween the spear and the palmheel.  Interestingly, Gichin Funakoshi, father of Shotokan karate-do, made this shomen tegatana the first four movements of his 10-movement Tennokata (Universal forms) - he just did it with a fist. In any case, the hand position is not arbitrary.
  • Arms and center move together - This is a heuristic that is probably somewhat peculiar to our dojo and those near us.  In theory, you want your arms to move in synch with your center.  This means that you don't want your arms rising when your center is dropping.  One practical reason is because, if you raise an arm as you drop your center, and that arm encounters resistance, it drives you into the ground and tends to stop you.  So, we are kind of particular about drop-stepping wherever we are going to move and then raising the arm with the recovery step.  Whether you take this idea to these extremes or not, you want your arms and your center moving in a coordinated fashion.

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Patrick Parker

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