View Full Version : Foot Work in Aikido

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05-16-2001, 02:52 PM
When performing suriyashi, why do we first step on the toe. And in general, why there is so much attention paid to toe in Aikido footwork?


05-20-2001, 05:14 AM
While doing aikido techniques, you'll move
from here to there many times. If you don't
keep your weight on foot, you'll lose your

06-13-2001, 04:45 AM
There have been several threads related to foot movement on Aikiweb. I think generally using the ball of the feet is quicker for stepping and turns. HOWEVER it can mean strain on the knee joint due to the knee joint twisting (even when leg is bent) rather than the hip joint. Recommendations have been to instead turn on the heel OR to put your foot down in the direction it will face when you have turned (quite difficult). Many people in aikido do long term damage to their knees, and it is my belief that this a major cause of it.


06-13-2001, 12:46 PM
I would avoid turning on the heel, IME the movement is fundamentally unstable, and you are more likely to collapse under pressure.

06-13-2001, 07:04 PM
since I'm a bit confused on what is meant by paying attention to the toe in footwork I'm going to pass on that for now, but want to throw in my 2 cents on knee injuries. I think it is not from turning on the toe that does this, but rather the tendency of folks to either let their weight drag behind (along with the back leg/foot) or lean too far forward, and with that they PLANT the foot, rather than turn it on either the heel or toe (i would agree that turning on the heel feels less stable to me). Classic knee injuries (torn meniscus, torn/strained ligaments) occur when you plant the foot but turn the leg/body, as in a football player who turns/cuts while his cleated foot stays put. turning the leg but not the hip, or turning the hip but not the leg, results in a groin pull.

06-14-2001, 06:15 AM
Hi Colleen,

I would definately agree that turning on the heel is less stable - and I'm sure turning on the toe is better 'technically' but this doesn't preclude it from doing long term damage. You can't tell me that all these experienced aikidoka suffer knee damage because they've been doing poor technique. (though it may be from suwari waza - though I have no problem with that).

As far as I am aware (in my aikido at least) the body weight should be forward and not backward. Therefore if you do a tae-sebaki movement the weight will be on the front foot on which you are turning.

An alternative to using the heel is positioning the foot correctly, so as you turn your foot is straight. However, this means that you have to know where you are going to turn to before you place your foot - meaning your reaction to uke cannot be instantaneous but is instead pre-empted.

Try this at home: do a tae-sebaki and stop at the end. Now look at the alignment of your foot, knee and body. If your foot is not pointing straight forward and your knee is not in a vertical line with your foot, you are putting strain on your knee.


P.S. to avoid confusion - I'm not talking of the instantaneous damage caused by hyperextension of ligaments due to turning when the leg is straight or the groin is over-extended. I'm referring to long term damage done through repeated and long term torque on the knee joint.

07-03-2001, 11:34 PM
Almost all Japanese martial arts use suriashi. It is really difficult when you have sweaty feet on a wooden floor, and most people probably wonder at least once. Why am I walking this way when I am going to fall down?
I think of it like a cat's whiskers. Your toes know when you run into something instead of clodding down on top of it. Also to do suriashi effectively you have to have your weight on your back foot, and lowered hips, which is the secret to a powerful movement in Budo.
Good luck, and have fun with wooden floors and sweaty feet, if you ever run into them.

05-09-2002, 10:54 PM
Here is a nifty toe related tidbit.
stand with your feet parallel.
Okay, everybody standing?
describe your feet.
How are they parallel. Is the inside of the feet or the outside of the feet parallel.
Here is the story. When the inside of your feet are held parallel, which is a common thing in weapon budos, the strength to grip goes into your smaller toes. Even thought it feels a smidgen unnatural, if you make the OUTSIDE Of your feet parralel, power will be generated from the big toe. More power more speed.
the reason that aikido feet are rarely aligned this way is probably because aikido more commonly turns while moving instead of say jumping the length of an arm and a sword to fell opponents, but an interesting tidbit nonetheless.
sorry about the length

05-09-2002, 11:12 PM
Boy, haven't seen this one in a while...

Ian, I'd say all those long time Aikidoka probably have knee problems either because they came with them from other arts/sports/etc, or had a predisposition to knee problems related to bending knees (chondromalacia patella), or because until they became famous Aikidoka, they were also once beginners who turned incorrectly. In several dojos I've trained in, students are allowed to just move around, often at too great a speed for their skill level, trying to imitate what they see in seniors by must being faster and more jerky in their movements. Often they hop from place to place. These kinds of movements increase the odds that they will try to turn on a planted foot, or will extend their weight forward of their toes. I liked that my first place stressed keeping your feet on the mat (the only sound sensei expected to hear during training was shuffling feet and bodies falling) and to turn your foot as you turned, I think two good habits that will save my knees in the long run.

05-09-2002, 11:43 PM
I believe that question was primarily about tsugi ashi, but could be applied to ayumi ashi as well, since in both, you are supposed to advance on the ball of the foot, while keeping the body balance on the rear foot, while feeling the terrain, so to speak, with the toes of the advancing foot.

This is a very stable way of walking, though not very practical;)

As for doing tenkan, turning on heels is technically unacceptable, and turning on the ball of the foot will probably cause damage in the long term no matter how good the technique is :( so this is a dilemna to be solved :freaky:

05-09-2002, 11:50 PM
Perhaps the long-term knee damage is caused by the percentages. You get up many thousands of times. Someone falls around them thousands of times. Sooner or later, you get up slightly sloppy or slip up and you get a big ouchie.

Come to think of it, doesn't Don Angier do some stuff from the heels? I may be wrong on that one but it seems like someone mentioned to me that he does that.

05-10-2002, 12:43 AM
Probably something to that idea, the more often you do something, especially to the point of exhaustion, the more likely you are to take a wrong turn or fall somewhere. I do notice just as many complaints/braces/knee supports on newbies as on yudansha, however. Especially on those coming to Aikido from a different art, usually accompained by the comment "I decided Aikido would be easier on my body"

I seem to recall a seminar with Hooker Sensei that had us turning from a shomenuchi attack on our heels... it felt weird to me, but it seemed to help get out of the way of his bokken.:eek:

06-06-2002, 09:12 PM
:p Hello Everyone ! Toes and balance ? actually for me moving and turning on toes gives more leverage and balance as you tend to turn in a single point unlike the heel/ball of the foot has round like features which has more points.

Also by using the toes you tend to focus more on the position like using an arrow, get the point ???:D

just kidding, happy training ?

06-07-2002, 08:43 AM
You should practice all variants rather than find the "perfect" way. You never know when you are going to get rocked back on your heels and have to move from there or get shoved from beind and end up on your toes.

06-19-2002, 08:28 AM
sorry to revive this thread.

I just wanted to talk about different styles of foot work in differnet schools.

In Yoshinkan I was taught to slide my foot forward in an entering arc. Very noisey with lots of swooshing noises all night long.

In Takemusu I was taught to step forward by kicking out with the heel. This apparently stemmed from outdoor weapons practice on a sandy area at the Iwama dojo. Saito hated his sand getting messed up so no sliding the feet. It's quite eerie to hear this story told and then suddenly have a whole dojo switch to silent foot work while doing shomen uchi cuts with the bokken.

In addition I think that Yoshinkan emphasised the outside of the foot (I could be wrong) but Saito emphasised pushing off the instep.

06-19-2002, 08:49 AM
forgot why I posted.

In iwama/takemusu it is quite common to turn on the heel. This engages the hip directly and is a much stronger movement than turning on the ball of the foot. Also it is always a forward movement which eliminates the tendency to move backward while turning seen in some juniors.

It is also the turn that is used in tai chi. There is no risk of injuring the knee as the foot is kept in line with the knee throughout the movement.

Bruce Baker
06-19-2002, 10:09 AM

That was the call when I was in boot camp to get up and going, why?

Could it be that thousands of years of warriors learning to fight, or get ready to fight, there was a simple truth to saying the obvious? It most certainly is.

I have been to two seminars with Sugano Sensei who teaches at NYC dojo with Yamada Sensei. We spent the entire seminar with bokken, movement, and paired drills to improve timing as well as open our eyes to other possibilities in our practice.

By the end of the day, more than half the men in the changing area were complaining about sore feet, blisters, or how tough it was to do those drills from the morning and afternoon session, when I, the old middle aged man, was quite ready to do another session with feet that were tired but never dragged upon the canvas mat.

Now, I am a bit heavier than most people, as I am built like a lineman in football or a stocky professional wrestler, which makes it even more important that I correctly balance myself with movements of younger, more agile counterparts ... especially in weapons practice.

As least two times during morning practice Sugano Sensei said, " Don't drag your feet." After that, he gritted his teeth and shook his head very slightly in disgust for those who complained but did not listen.

I know it is difficult to learn, and many will bitch and moan, but you must learn to walk on your toes, or at least the balls of your feet ... that is the way of mobility.

You can not be mobile with stability on your heels! Try it and see.

Now ... the other side of less mobility is to increase stability, which is to keep the foot very close to the ground when sliding your foot, but not dragging your foot while keeping it close to the ground.

Rooting, as in planting your entire weight downward with the entire foot grounded, is your anchor, while walking on the balls of your feet is mobility ... two different elements that make Aikido rock solid or fast and mobile.

So, in the beginning you will be clumsy, using the entire foot, but as you learn to balance, strengthen the muscles of you legs and body, you will use less and less of your heel to balance yourself when you are moving, you will be "ON YOUR TOES".

Of course boot camp is long gone, so as a private citizen, it is up to you practice on your own to acquire a feel for movement and balance. Take as much weight off your heel as you can, until there you can move on the balls of your feet ... without making dragging noise please.