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Old 05-24-2014, 10:46 AM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 11
Oldschool aikido footwork? What was it like?

Hi all,
recently I was studying the development of aikido footwork. In my experience, footwork is not something they talk a lot about in aikido classes beside the basic irimi/tenkan/kaiten moves, so I decided it would worth some investigation.
I compared the 1935 Ueshiba demonstration with a few demonstrations of Moriteru Doshu.
The first thing I noticed was how very different aikido footwork was in the time of Osensei. What I noticed first was how often Osensei executed irimi/tenkan steps with hopping/jumping motions, which is quite contrary to how we learned and how Moriteru uses irimi/tenkan which is almost always being executed with sinking rather than jumping. In fact, i have rarely seen hopping movements in aikido outside of ki aikido cyrcles, but then even there jumping seems different from Osensei's moves.
But jumping is just the surface of things, somehow Osensei's movements are more fluid and often used small rapid steps for distancing...
Then I saw a rare old footage of Kishomaru Sensei at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9J9HoSZDkw where he seems to utilize the same style of footwork that Osensei does in the 1935 demonstration, which I find strange, as in later demonstrations he moves the way taught in "modern" aikido.
I also noticed many other studenst of Osensei moving that way in old videos.

Could someone please offer me some insight on why footwork changed so much in aikido since Osensei? Or do you have any clue about where Osensei's style of footwork comes from?
I have seen on some website that it comes from shinkage ryu and is called "shadow moon" - but I somehow doubt this information to be correct.

Thank you for your answers in advance
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Old 09-08-2014, 01:35 PM   #2
Dan Richards
Dojo: Latham Eclectic
Location: NY
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 431
Re: Oldschool aikido footwork? What was it like?

Philippe Voarino has made some interesting investigations into Aikido footwork.

Start with Kajo #1 and work your way up. Especially noting Kajo #3 and Kajo #10.

Dan Richards
Latham Eclectic
My ongoing reviews of Shinbudo weapons.
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Old 09-09-2014, 09:00 AM   #3
Cliff Judge
Dojo: Aikido Shobukan Dojo
Location: Columbia, MD
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,115
Re: Oldschool aikido footwork? What was it like?

Essentially, what you think of as "the footwork of Aikido" had not been worked out yet at the time they filmed Osensei at the Asahi dojo in the 1930s.

What Osensei was demonstrating in that film was new stuff - he was making big movements and big throws. He may actually have been doing this for the sake of the film.

When I have spoken to Takumakai folks, I have been given to understand that in their lineage, the material they received from Ueshiba was considered harder / more application oriented / more jujutsu. The soft techniques were from Takeda. So this tells me Osensei was down there teaching them practical applications, but at the same time he was working on this new stuff.

Later generations of students had to figure out how to break Aikido down and make it teachable, so they came up with "the footwork".
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Old 09-09-2014, 12:47 PM   #4
NagaBaba's Avatar
Location: Wild, deep, deadly North
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,173
Re: Oldschool aikido footwork? What was it like?

When you are very short (he was 145 cm I believe) and have to cover long distances fast, the most efficient way would be to jump. Additionally, if you are heavy (and he had 100 kg) when landing you can use your weight to unbalance and create a powerful momentum to throw your attacker at the same time. So here you have your mystery resolved.

His students had longer legs so it was not necessary for them to jump anymore. Additionally, their center of gravity was higher so it was difficult for them to maintain proper posture and balance while jumping.

Also it would serve no purpose to copy external appearance of the master when your basics and internal development are not yet there. As the old saying from Himalaya goes: “His fart and your fart do not have the same meaning”


ask for divine protection Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara no Ryuo
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Old 09-11-2014, 03:07 PM   #5
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 11
Re: Oldschool aikido footwork? What was it like?

Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Philippe Voarino has made some interesting investigations into Aikido footwork.

Start with Kajo #1 and work your way up. Especially noting Kajo #3 and Kajo #10.
Thank you, your post was most helpful! I wonder why such a detailed analysis can not be found in any of the popular aikido books today.
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