Thursday, November 07, 2019

Thoughts on the ordering of Tomiki's techniques

Somewhat stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the order that we teach things in...
Tomiki sensei gave us a set of a couple dozen techniques (sometimes 15, sometimes 17.  Some students added 5-10 more) that were representative of a large chunk of the aikido universe, but which were few enough that you could get good at them and get started with randori asap.
Tomiki's randori-no-kata eventually got canonized (fossilized?) into Junana Hon Kata, a set of 17 fundamental techniques divided into sections of 5 atemiwaza, 5 hijiwaza, 4 tekubiwaza, and 3 ukiwaza.
But who ever said we had to teach the 17 techniques in order? 1 then 2 then 3 then 4...
Who declared it and made it so that...
"...thou shalt first teach Shomenate and then having taught Shomenate thou shall proceed to Aigamaeate.  Thou shalt not proceed to Gyakugamae except having first taught Shomenate and then Aigamaeate..."
Of course, shomenate is a good place to start. We've spent a lot of time defending the primacy of shomenate.  It is, in some ways, the basis of everything else in Junana, and it is a very good answer whenever anything goes wrong with most any other technique.  Some old dead wise guy even allegedly said that nothing else in aikido will work unless preceded by atemi (like shomenate).
But why does it have to be first?  Other teachers started things out different ways, and our insistence on #1 then #2 then #3 and so on puts us at odds with them and makes interchange of ideas clumsy.

  • Aikikai schools often begin with iriminage (aigamaeate) and then ikkyo (oshitaoshi).
  • What little I know of Merritt Stevens, he taught oshitaoshi first, followed by iriminage.
  • What I've seen of J.W. Bode, he likes to begin with gyakugamae, ushiroate, and hadakajime.

What if Junana, instead of being taught in technique-order were taught in set-order.  That is, introduce any atemiwaza first followed by any hijiwaza then any tekubiwaza and so on.
That would largely encompass the self-defense ideas of
  • Feldenkrais
  • Gracie Jiujitsu
  • J.W. Bode
  • Merritt Stevens
  • Aikikai
...and it would free us to teach things in a potentially more practical order, all without diminishing Tomiki-sensei's life of work and contribution to the aiki-space.

P.S. While we're killing out sacred cows, who decided that release#1 was first?  I've often thought that the set of releases feels like it should go #3, #1, #4, #2...

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Patrick Parker
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