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akiy 06-12-2001 06:41 PM

Irimi and Tenkan
Hi folks,

Outside of the general form of the two movements, what kind differences do you see between irimi and tenkan?

-- Jun

Chuck Clark 06-13-2001 01:06 AM

Irimi movements may be straight or turning. I think all movements in aikido should have the element of irimi or entering into uke's space so they can not achieve a strong posture.

ian 06-13-2001 02:45 AM

I think many beginners in aikido (and jujitsu) often see the techniques as a 'retreating' movement, which can be very dangerous as it allows the opponent to over power them - for this reason I think irimi style movements should be emphasised early on.

However I don't think unbalancing is always achieved through an entering component (whether irimi or tenkan). Over extending your opponent is also valid - though much harder to achieve and something that cannot be done unless the situation presents itself.

To me the irimi and tenkan movements have the yin/yang element in them. We usually practise with uke producing strong (+ve) attacks, and from this we can easily do tenkan (-ve) movements whereas with an uke who is very defensive (-ve) it may be necessary to have a strong entering component (+ve). I think Ueshiba probably had this in mind, especially in the case where he lept across the dojo (initiating the attack) to do ikkyo on someone that had defended by backing away and putting their arms up in front of their face.


thomasgroendal 07-03-2001 10:39 PM

irimi is usually a vertical circle, and tenkan is a horizontal circle. That is a mighty simplified version of it, but perhaps valid.

wildaikido 07-04-2001 02:45 AM

Ian I don't think it could be said much better, well done, do you mind if I quote you ☺.
Thomas can you explain the verticle circle, I need more info.

ian 07-04-2001 05:21 AM

Well thanks Graham, quote away - though everything I know has been through guidance of a variety of instructors and experience.

I would also be interested in the description of a vertical circle and how it is performed. I have heard of it, and done it with some techniques but I think it is different from the way many people do irimi i.e. irimi can be done by trying to get a reaction from uke's head (unbalancing them backward) and also by being off centre line and going through the top half of uke's body at an angle (again unbalancing rather than clashing). Also it can be done through a reaction e.g. you cut uke's strike down (unbalancing), and when he straightens up you continue his straightening up motion (therefore going through them). I suppose they are all circular to some degree, but they also involve other aspects. Any thoughts?


davoravo 07-04-2001 07:04 AM

I love it, a great concept. I'm imagining the vertical circle as a shomen sword cut, however in practice I use more of a yokomen cut - diagonal but predominantly vertical. Likewise I'm imagining all my Tenkan movements as horizontal (mostly - 3 dimensions very important) cuts.
If you consider a straight line as the circumference of a circle with an infinite diameter the allegory can be applied further.

I read once that irimi techniques should be used in actual combat and tenkan were for training. Aikido Journal I think, might have been Saito sensei.

thomasgroendal 05-06-2002 04:23 AM

Imagine a crowd of bulls, charging towards town. You ride to the front bull, grab him by the nose and lead the whole crowd back where they came from. That is the horizontal circle. Irimi is the same thing vertical. (flying cows, whoah!)
Imagine getting pulled of your feet by a wave when you are over hip deep in the ocean. Should be the same thing.

IrimiTom 05-06-2002 07:51 AM

I once read somewhere that omote versions of techniques are based on Irimi while ura movements are derived from tenkan, maybe that is sort of what Ian meant by -ve (ura) and +ve (omote), I mean in yin-yang, one is active and the other is passive.

Edward 05-06-2002 09:06 AM

I guess that omote and ura mean front and rear techniques. Any omote or ura techniques can be irimi or tenkan.

Example shomen uchi irimi nage. You can have the possible variations:

omote irimi-omote tenkan-ura irimi-ura tenkan

depending on whether you enter to the inside or outside of uke, straight or turning.

I'm not sure if all techniques can be done in all variations or not.

Jorx 05-06-2002 11:53 AM

I've heard that in some styles they don't use terms as "omote" or "ura" instead of it "irimi" and "tenkan" - so it is quite the same. And one thing on what I don't agree is irimi being active and tenkan passive. They are both quite passive in that sense - you don't counter force in none of them, yet you take the initiative in both - so this is active principle again. And quite many techniques can use both movements - irimi AND tenkan (first a little irimi and then tenkan or vice versa). And in quite many techniques where you do tenkan with your feet you still do the vertical circle with your hands so it is quite a mixture. I like to think of tenkan as just a basic movement nothing less nothing more... Yet irimi is not only a entering STEP but entering as such. So you even do irimi when you do tenkan - you still enter the sphere of your opponent. So for me: tenkan = a basic movement; irimi = a basic principle of aikido. Both = passive and active at the same time. As the yin-yang sign.

Estonian Aikikai
Riveta Sportsclub

Brian Vickery 05-06-2002 11:57 AM

Re: Irimi and Tenkan

Originally posted by akiy
Hi folks,

Outside of the general form of the two movements, what kind differences do you see between irimi and tenkan?

-- Jun

Wow! ...this topic could get pretty deep! The 'pat' answer I give new students who ask which technique is appropriate for which situation, I give this simple answer: "Generally speaking, use 'tenkan' when the attack is bigger than you, use 'irimi' when the attacker is smaller than you".

(...*LOL*...I know, I know, if it were only that easy! ...but it gets them thinking!)

Lyle Bogin 05-06-2002 01:43 PM

Tenkan seems to be more like inhaling, and irimi like exhaling.

What do you think of that aikiwebbers?

Jorx 05-06-2002 03:26 PM


Tenkan seems to be more like inhaling, and irimi like exhaling.

Nope... do not agree with that:) It depends on the kind of irimi and/or tenkan whether you inhale or exhale... or at least so I've been taught.

thomasgroendal 05-06-2002 06:40 PM

Okay, let's see if I can add a few more ingredients to this soup.
First, when the attack pulls, you enter, when it pushes you turn. Hence irimi and tenkan. Try a one hand grab, and push into the nages belly button. If you enter/irimi that then you will have a hard time. Do the same thing with a short grab and pull sort of grab, and entering should feel natural
Do the same thing again, by pushing and turning and that should feel natural. I don't think size is so much of an issue.
Also, about the terminology. Irimi is literally entering body. It is characterized by a triangular foot movement such as in Iriminage. My teacher compared it to walking though a forest and trying to avoid the trees without losing the direction you wish to walk. Omote literally is translated as the front, or the face of something. As in the face of a building, or of your opponent. A technique that generally happens in front of your opponents field of vison. It is similar, but nominally different.
Tenkan is literally a conversion. It refers to a conversion of the direction of things/policy (houshin), or their tendencies/trends (keikou). So for instance a conversion of the economy, or a conversion of the course of one's life, etc. etc. The image of the bulls comes out here. One might note the direct speediness of osensei's douka about irimi, enter and cut! as opposed to the very indirect soft sound of irimi.
Those that might think tenkan is more aikido sounding might remember what raising kids is like. Sometimes they need to be led directly sometimes not. To finish the definitions, ura means the reverse side, or the unseen side of things. You can use this word to describe the secret nature of a problem or a person as well. In a shihonage ura, you throw the person where they cannot see you. In an omote you cut across their center...
All in all, I would say that irimi is a cattle prod, useful for one ornery cow. tenkan is for when your prod is looking a little small vs. the herd.
that's my eight cents.

Lyle Bogin 05-07-2002 07:12 AM

If it is true that irimi is used when uke pulls, why is it so effective againt strikes, which are clearly not pulling?

Jim ashby 05-07-2002 08:39 AM

To strike, the hand/foot has to go back before it goes forward, that's where the timing starts. My Sensei "smothers" attacks by entering as the Uke prepares the blow. Sorry, I can't explain better than this!
Have fun.

Lyle Bogin 05-07-2002 09:11 AM

"To strike, the hand/foot has to go back before it goes forward, that's where the timing starts."

That is an indication of a poorly executed strike. Strikers spend much of their training eliminating the pullback. Can we only use irimi with strikes that are openly telegraphed, or can irimi movements be used against clean strikes that come directly from a neutral position?

Jim ashby 05-07-2002 10:12 AM

"Poorly executed" Hmmm. I'd be interested to see a Shomenuchi strike done where the blow comes down without it going up first.
Have fun.

Lyle Bogin 05-07-2002 11:53 AM

Shomen uchi an idealized strike used as a training tool, that also happens to be very practical for defense against the use of blunt weapons (since not too many folks carry long blades anymore).

I mean a punch. As in you are stanind in front of me, and i strike your nose in the most direct way possible.

Brian Vickery 05-07-2002 12:03 PM


Originally posted by Lyle Bogin

Can we only use irimi with strikes that are openly telegraphed,or can irimi movements be used against clean strikes that come directly from a neutral position?

I mean a punch. As in you are stanind in front of me, and i strike your nose in the most direct way possible.

...a 'sucker punch'!

...better keep some ice on hand to treat the most popular outcome of this strike ...a bloody nose! ;^)

Lyle Bogin 05-07-2002 12:42 PM


OK, so lets say i don't know when it's coming, I do know that it is coming, and you still don't telegraph. Can I use the concept of irimi against this type of attack?

The main difference is in that is case A,I can see your windup, which is an open door for a counter. In case B I cannot see any windup, however, I can see it coming once it is already on it's way. Is it too late to use irimi? When is it too late to use irimi?

Doug Mathieu 05-07-2002 01:04 PM

Irimi and tenkan
Hi All

Very Interesting. I like Thomas Groendal
response. Its very similar to what I have heard and seen over time. Ie: push vs. pull, Omote - front, Tenkan - reverse side.

On the topic of Shomen Uchi strikes I have been told our usual style of raising our arm and making a big strike downward is a training form and when in an applied situation it will change to an almost straight out knife ridge type strike towards ukes forehead with little discernable upwardness to the strike. In addition it has been suggested there may be two parts to the strike. A hit to the head/nose on an upward motion as the hand may move at an upward angle towards the forehead/nose then a secound downward directed strike on the same targets with a more obvious downward motion as a follow up.

I am not trained in striking and am only passing on what others have told us.

Jim ashby 05-07-2002 01:48 PM

Ahhh... striking the nose in the most direct way possible. Obviously a Glasgow handshake!
Have fun.

IrimiTom 05-07-2002 04:41 PM

I think the rising part of a Shomen Uchi can sort of be disguised or at least made less obvious if the attacker is standing half-facing, perpendicular to nage, and holding the sword/beer bottle down (I believe this is called waki gamae), then as he turns to face uke the attack is quickly set up

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