Saturday, 20 April 2013

Where is the Aiki in Dentokan Aiki-Jujutsu?

Much is made of “ki” and Aiki in Aikido. Aikido is the way of Aiki. As I continue to explore and develop Aiki as a martial artist, I want to know where these principles can be seen in Aiki-Jujutsu, Aikido’s sister art if you will. Here are a couple of examples of where I believe the principles of Aiki can be demonstrably seen in the Dentokan Aiki-Jujutsu waza:

1.    Gyaku Kote Gaeshi & Tachi Gyaku Kote Gaeshi Shodan Gi

In the suware waza version of the technique, uke grabs both wrists and applies pressure. Tori responds by pushing down on their own knees with their fingers, and raising their wrists applies a slight amount of forward pressure using their own body weight. In this first part of the movement we find two very important principles – kuzushi and ma’ai. The forward pressure is to take uke’s balance (Kuzushi) and to create a gap (ma’ai) between uke’s hand and tori’s wrist. Here ma’ai and kuzushi work together, If too much forward momentum is applied, uke will be pushed backwards and release their grip in order to balance themselves thus breaking contact and losing the optimum ma’ai. The gap created by raising your wrists is essential in order to take the grip to apply the wrist lock. 

The wrist lock involves turning your hand 180 degrees so that your palm is facing you, then using your last three fingers you grip deep into the palm of uke’s hand. Once You have taken hold of the grip you extend your arm driving uke’s arm into their centre and rest their hand on your knee. Then taking the hand uke is holding, cut across uke’s knuckles and push their hand using the hand you gripped with, in order to make them roll out of the wrist lock. In this part of the movement the principle of marui (Ju) is applied. The turning of your own hand so that your palm is facing you is circular; the extension of your arm and cutting of uke’s knuckles in order to affect the wrist lock and roll uke is also circular. 

In the tachi waza version, uke grabs both wrists again but also draws their leg back to kick. As uke’s leg begins to swing, tori swings both hands out in order to break uke’s balance and steps back with the opposite leg. Uke is forced to stumble forward and is unable to execute the kick. Tori then applies the exact same movement as the suware waza version, bring their hands up so that their palms are facing them and taking the grip deep into uke’s own palm. Tori then slides the foot parallel to uke’s kicking leg about 45 degrees and simultaneously extends their arm into uke’s centre breaking their posture. Tori then cuts the knuckles as before, forcing uke to roll or flip out of the wrist lock. 

Here the same principles of ma’ai, kuzushi and marui are seen only in different ways. This time rather than kuzushi being taken by pushing, it is taken by pulling. If tori steps back too far, there will be too great a distance between them and uke and thus tori will not be on posture to affect the wrist lock properly as uke’s full body weight will be clinging onto them. By swinging the hands out uke’s balance is broken, negating their strength. Marui is applied in the same way, through the wrist lock. Ma’ai is also evident in where uke lands. If Tori is off balance during the technique or lets go of uke’s hand, uke could land too far in order to execute atemi at the end of the technique. Therefore the optimal ma’ai is for uke to fall next to tori in striking distance.

2.    Ude Osae Dori (suware & tachi waza) Shodan Gi

In the suware waza version, uke grabs tori’s arm by the sleeve of the gi near the bicep. With the free hand uke goes to throw a punch. Tori counter strikes using a metsubushi (a strike designed as a distraction usually aimed at the eyes) and then places their hand over uke’s grip in order to prevent them from removing their grip. As tori counter strikes with the metsubushi, they simultaneously apply forward pressure, gently locking up uke’s shoulder with the other arm. Once uke’s grip has been secured, tori then twists from the waist, thus applying the wrist lock and points in the direction they want uke to go, forcing uke to collapse and put their hand out to brace themselves. Once uke’s balance has been taken, tori takes their free hand and using the edge of their hand between their thumb and index finger push against uke’s tricep just above the elbow; while at the same time rolling their own shoulder in order to turn uke over onto their stomach. Maintaining the wrist lock tori knee walks to stretch uke’s arm out away from their body. Tori places one knee in uke’s ribs in order to prevent them from rolling out and applies the wrist lock.

Once more kuzushi, ma’ai and marui are at the heart of this technique. The metsubushi strike combined with the forward pressure driven through tori’s arm and up into uke’s shoulder and the turning at the waist, are examples of taking kuzushi. The turning over of uke’s wrist and arm after turning from the waist is an example of marui. In this incidence the marui is small not large. By keeping the circular movement small uke has less chance of regaining posture. If the circular movement is too big and tori takes uke’s arm over their head, then balance could be restored. Finally by placing uke face down onto the mat and maintaining one knee in their ribs this creates the optimal ma’ai as if tori is too far away from uke, uke could potentially roll out of the wrist lock when it is applied - good ma’ai needs to be maintained in order for the wrist lock to be applied successfully. 

In the tachi waza version the same principles and movement are applied again. The movements are almost identical while standing until the end of the technique. Uke grabs and strikes as in suware waza, and tori counter strikes with the metsubushi and takes kuzushi as before too. Once tori has taken uke’s arm and turned it over so that uke is bent over facing the floor, tori uses their own hip as an obstruction, knocking uke onto the ground while stepping out to stretch their arm away from the body. After stretching uke out, tori tenkans and then turning uke’s wrist, stands on it while straightening up poised to strike if necessary. Just as in the suware waza the marui movement here is small. If the movement is too large as tori takes uke’s arm over, uke could resist and regain posture. Here ma’ai is incredibly important; if tori steps out too far and tenkans too widely then their own balance is affected and control is lost over the technique.

When these Aiki principles are used together and correctly the technique will be applied successfully and full control over uke will be maintained throughout each movement. Aiki is paramount to the martial effectiveness of all Aiki-Jujutsu and Aikido techniques.


  1. Interesting post. You do describe what you mean very well for it is hard to describe such things and get across your concept.

  2. Thank you, it was difficult. I tried finding the relevant dentokan kata videos from youtube but I couldn't find them through blogger; I know they're on youtube and dentokanhombu's website.

    I've been doing some more research and the aiki of hakko ryu based jujutsu forms differs from that of aikido. I'm trying to learn how the principles are applied to aiki-jujutsu. There is less blending with uke's energy and more pain compliance through small joint locks and pressure points. Nevertheless, the aim is still to be able to achieve the technique without strength and involves being centred from the hara.

  3. Yes, it's good to look via principles and then be able to see the differences as well as the similarities both.

    The suwari waza I do involves movement no different really to that from standing so you have to learn to tenkan and taisabaki from knees. The suwariwaza you describe I can see clearly by your description is a version but for me more a version of what I call kokyu dosa. Although mine is more to do with energy harmonization and leading. All fascinating stuff.

    It's all good. G.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. yes suware waza in aikijujutsu is different to aikido. It comes down to kihon waza. Kihon waza in aikijujutsu is more static than Aikido, which places more emphasis on harmonization of energy or ki. This is something I like about Aikido, in manys the counter striking of Aikido is more pre-emptive than aikijujutsu. Aikijujutsu kihon waza is about how to neutralize your opponent's attack not harmonize. This is where there is a slight divergence between Aikido's blending and aikijujutsu's yielding. Yielding is at the heart of Jujutsu's philosophy but it doesn't necessarily mean to blend but to attack where your opponent is weakest i.e small joint locks and pressure points. Kamae and Kuzushi however, are essential to both arts.

  6. Aha, hence the 'ju'. I see. Thanks for that.


  7. I saved the videos from the dentokanhombu website and uploaded them into the blog, so hopefully my analysis of the movements and the explanation of the principles will make more sense now.