Shomenuchi Nage waza in Refinement
Shomenuchi is the most fundamental Aiki and Aiki Staff technique without exception. Its practical and theoretical refinement continue today quite distinct from Morihei's teachings. The difficulty describing the form is well understood as inherent in any complex action. Looking at current and historical film, Aikido's classical version of Shomen often ‘begins' in jodan kamae similar to some kenjutsu forms. The strike's energy is traditionally unidirectional applied noticeably angled off the vertical line of intent. This is self-evident in Morihei's own training and popular lineages including Iwama and Shingu. I'm confident the need to accommodate the staff's grounding at strike termination explains Shomen's history. The form changed immensely under my former teacher, and in turn I've significantly altered it since becoming independent. I'll describe my innovations here and leave it to the reader's responsibility to discover how I depart or retain from my previous teacher by the pertinent pages in his book.
Morihei would strike taking one step, usually from hidari hanmi to migi hanmi. Combined with the non-vertical angle, his torso equally rotated off the straight line of intent. I make no value judgements of his form, intent being primary, though I seek greatest union of form and intent. Entering through the center harmonically is the essence of Aikido and the most difficult to do, the tolerances for resistance in applying power don't exist. I start Shomen in migi hanmi, take two steps to end in migi zenkutsu dachi. This doubling of distance relative to Morihei's version allows distribution for bidirectional energy. The strike begins in chudan kamae and the reception towards jodan kamae, the first direction, occupies the overwhelming majority of the form's time and distance. Born from need to maintain perfect symmetry with the vertical line of intent, I realized a modified Transitional Inori Kamae was required. In chudan kamae both wrists are turned in positioned over the staff, during the lift the wrists turn out as the staff rotates within the hands, more in the right than the left. Transient leverage is abandoned and replaced with total acceptance of uke for security and ‘leverage' relying on non-dualism. I can easily say this is the most important advance I've made in Aikido in the past eight months.
By bringing uke totally within where no resistive safety nets exist, the energy of the reception also transformed. Intentional torsion, however non-resistive, in the first direction previously used to increase power for the strike's throw, the second direction, becomes impossible as the staff, now inside any points of superficial leverage, would require resistance in the forearms and hands. Respecting uke's inertial reactance, nage has to rely almost entirely on capacitance for the reception, reserving any overt inductance for the second direction the downward strike. The ‘traditional' resonator's rhythm of a syncopated one, an "and one" where the and is the lift and one the throw, has ‘simply' become "one" as qualities of bidirectional and unidirectional strike combine. Where inductive convexity was used in the past for reception, nearly all convexity and staff flexion are saved for downward strike as the wrists rotate back into full inversion at strike terminal. The indefinability of the strike apex, the transition between directions, will likely be the most foreign experience in the beginning. These Shomen implications for taijitsu and psychological equivalencies may already be intuitive for many experienced Aikidoists. But the staff provides refinement and accuracy of these principles well beyond taijitsu's maximum potential. Obviously the literal empty hand Shomen in paired practice is mostly uke's role, unrelated to nage waza.
I highlight importance of maintaining perfect symmetry along vertical plane of axis through the form until the very end where Morihei's ‘Shomenuchi Kamae' provides grounding. Half way through the downward direction, the staff leaves the vertical axis and lands approximately five degrees to the right, the left hand grounds the end of the staff at the precise edge of transient leverage near the front of the lower left hip flexor. Never leaving the vertical line of intent, the far end point of the staff will still finish at zero degrees on the embusen. Shomenuchi Kamae's asymptotic range is within parallel to ground and five degrees up. The concentration of energy, the activation, to the untrained eye appears to have the same support all yokomen use with planes. But Shomen finishes closer to a point, where grounding forces are balanced on opposite sides of a ‘uni-pivot ball bearing' located on the staff between the hands. Nage's extended structure and Shomenuchi Kamae's ‘reach' for parallel to ground are uniquely responsible in bending the asymptotic plane into a ground-facing asymptotic elliptical paraboloid. The slightest error from achieving perpendicular symmetry with this shape's uni-point peak can cause Shomen's concentration of energy fail to materialize. There's no other Aiki training approximating Shomen's demands. Without irony this base form is the most important and challenging singular Aikido technique.
Due to long established unbecoming and immature nature of threads and posts on Aikiweb, I won't waste time replying to such ‘feedback' or off-topic posts which should be self-evident to the reader. There' many posters who engage civilly, whom I openly share the opportunity to learn within the abilities of a public forum. I'm aware the difficult nature in conveying and understanding complex actions through the written word. I'll do my best to answer questions that arise, if one prefers seeking help through private message feel free. What I won't do is spoon feed answers I've already given in previous posts or in literature I've referenced before. I'll be able to provide more personal video in the future, of Shomen and other kata.
Although I said I should focus on the youth, I don't discriminate on age. My senior student is 65 years old, practicing Aikido over 20 years, Vietnam veteran and a very large powerful Aikidoist. With information and references I've given, anyone can begin a practice of the Shomen. I suggest using a mirror or reflective window at times to gauge vertical symmetry while mindful of not ‘interfering' with the reception nor overpowering the throw. For Aikido beginners reading this, I inform this Shomen isn't practiced by any other Aikido or martial arts school in the world.