We’ve noticed great interest in the aikido based strike deflections and hand movements developed at Tenshin Dojo in Osaka Japan and later popularized in a series of major motion pictures.
With Haruo Matsuoka Sensei as our Chief Instructor, we have unique insight into these movements and thought we’d share some of our thoughts on the technical details of these deflections and covers.
In the 1970’s Seagal Sensei transitioned from Ki Society style movements to a radically different style of aikido. Matsuoka Sensei was an integral part of this technical transformation in the early days of his aikido training. To the best of our knowledge, these signature hand movements were developed at this time and inspired by sword-based deflections.
Over the last 40 years, these hand movements have been subtlety but importantly refined to increase their effectiveness and efficiency through use of proper body structure.
At Ikazuchi Dojo, we view these deflections as a practical and reliable way to clear strikes or grabs launched from a well-balanced attacker. They provide an alternative and complementary response to traditional aikido strike defenses.
Here, we’ll take a look at one of the most common hand movements used in this system of deflections. This movement is generally used to protect against a strike or grab targeting the upper part of the body (mid-chest to top of head).
This hand movement provides a distinct set of advantages when faced with a direct, dynamic attack:
No movement is without flaws, or ideally suited for every situation. This deflection is no exception. While it’s a reliable and useful technique, it has weaknesses. Here are some of the ones we’ve become aware of:
This cover can be used to launch a devastating atemi to the attacker’s face in the form of an open hand strike with the blade of the hand, a hammer fist, or a strike to the eyes with the fingers. The deflection can also be used to transition into a range of traditional aikido throws and controls including iriminage, kotegaeshi, kaitennage, and kubishime.
Ikazuchi Dojo uses many drills and practice methods to develop competency with this deflection. Following are a few ways we cultivate skill with the movement:
Many aikido practitioners have been inspired by this deflection and have now added it to their training curriculum. Copying forms seen in films or video by sweeping the arm through space will provide a functional cover. However, seeking the subtle details of the deflection will result in a dramatically improved movement. Areas we’ve been paying attention to in this regard include:
Here’s a short video of Josh Gold sharing some of the technical details of the deflection and associated atemi with Mark Cheng (off-screen). This was filmed during part of Mark and Josh’s ongoing knowledge exchange program. You can read more about Mark and Josh’s cross training here.
We are delighted to see the aikido community actively experimenting with these movements and evaluating their suitability for a range of applications. We’d love to hear any feedback or insights others have gained through the practice of this cover. We hope these details may spark new thinking, research, and applications.