The great masters: Hitohiro Saito (Part 6)

Part 5.

It is very important to train hard in tai no henko and morotedori kokyuho. Otherwise, one can’t even start explaining ikkyo. When you pivot on your front foot and open to the rear, as in urawaza, you should be able to execute the proper movement of tai no henko, which is to bring the toes of your foot to meet the toes of your partner’s foot.

Your body pivots around the big toe of your front foot. Be sure to pivot properly, not just any old way. You need to harmonize with your opponent precisely, not in a general, vague way. You must start from this solid beginning.

AJ: The precision needed for blending is a valuable point.

Anyone can blend in a general sense, but one should begin with more specific forms which will ultimately expand to the universal harmony the founder spoke of. First you learn how to blend with your partner “toe to toe,” then how to pivot on your front foot. When you know how to pivot properly you will be able to execute an urawaza technique. One cannot express these things verbally; they can only be mastered by training.

The founder said, “Practice comes first.” It is not that your partner blends with you, but that you should blend with him in everything: “Move, open, then take the lead.” This is what O-Sensei taught Saito Sensei. A mistake of one centimeter could make it impossible to execute a technique successfully. You can’t change the techniques willy-nilly to suit yourself. There is a definite way to do each technique.

Anyone, not just the physically strong, should be able to apply the techniques. Unfortunately, people neglect tai no henko. I can tell by watching people practice tai no henko and morotedori kokyuho what kind of practice they have been doing at their dojos. I do not need to see more. I think all the basics of the founder’s taijutsu are contained in these two techniques and ikkyo. It is hard to find anyone who is able to execute a perfect ikkyo technique.

I know this may sound insolent, but I think you cannot understand aikido without starting properly from these techniques. If you have not mastered tai no henko, you will always end up clashing with your opponent in the other movements. The basic training it to enable you to solve the problems caused by wrong body movement. This is impossible to explain in words, as it has a deeper meaning, but I feel the only way to learn is to allow your partner to hold you firmly.

To be continued…

Source: Facebook/Aikido

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