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Old 08-01-2007, 07:22 PM   #1
Nick Pagnucco
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heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Just was curious about how people tenkan. I understand there are many ways to do things, and its whatever feels good... but I'm looking for opinions, people!

To state the obvious, there is a front foot and a back foot, each with heel and a ball of the foot.

When you tenkan, are you using the balls or heel of your front or back foot? Balls of the feet for both? Heels for both? Balls for one, heels for the other?
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Old 08-01-2007, 07:37 PM   #2
Tim Griffiths
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Balls all the way.

In the 'normal' aikido stance, I want to have the feeling of slightly focusing forward, which translates to a little more pressure on the balls of the feet rather than the heels. Off-hand, I can't think of any classic aikido movement or posture where you want to have a lot of weight on your heels - it doesn't lend itself to stepping offline fast - which we want to do a lot.

A lot of Chinese MAs use a 90 degree pivot on the heel of the foot - its a classic move in Tai Chi and Wing Chun. It works very well there, because it allows a very fast turn, and there's little movement around the opponent (one Wing Chun friend I used to play around with would complain that I kept trying to move around him, rather than stand toe-to-toe. Well duh).

Train well,

Tim

If one makes a distinction between the dojo and the battlefield, or being in your bedroom or in public, then when the time comes there will be no opportunity to make amends. (Hagakure)
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Old 08-01-2007, 08:05 PM   #3
Upyu
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Tim Griffiths wrote: View Post
Balls all the way.

In the 'normal' aikido stance, I want to have the feeling of slightly focusing forward, which translates to a little more pressure on the balls of the feet rather than the heels. Off-hand, I can't think of any classic aikido movement or posture where you want to have a lot of weight on your heels - it doesn't lend itself to stepping offline fast - which we want to do a lot.

A lot of Chinese MAs use a 90 degree pivot on the heel of the foot - its a classic move in Tai Chi and Wing Chun. It works very well there, because it allows a very fast turn, and there's little movement around the opponent (one Wing Chun friend I used to play around with would complain that I kept trying to move around him, rather than stand toe-to-toe. Well duh).

Train well,

Tim
I'd disagree with that notion.
You can have the weight fall to the heels and still step very nimbly, actually "more" nimbly than if you have the weight fall to the balls of the feet (this would include rotating moves like tenkan). The main reason is body connection. Heels are directly connected to the pelvic region which transfers to the koshi/tanden, up to the spine and head etc, 6 direction contradictory powers etc etc.

Basically it translates into more efficient motion since you're connected and moving as a whole.

I'd bet the reason that tai chi steps are formulated the way you described is to work on the connection in that manner. It's not so much a "technique".
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Old 08-01-2007, 09:16 PM   #4
eyrie
 
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

If you transfer weight to the ball of your forward foot, at some point during the pivot, you will have to place weight on your heel in order to stabilize yourself.

Try it...

First step forward on the ball of your foot, then see how your upper stability is temporarily compromised as you pivot on it and bring your rear leg around you. You have to put your heel down.

Now try stepping forward heel first, then in one motion, pivot on the heel by turning your foot inward before bringing your rear foot around you.

Stepping heel first and pivoting on the heel means you don't have to waste that split second where you have to transfer weight to your heel to stabilize yourself during the pivot.

Which do you feel is more stable? My inclination is that one has to be stable through the entire movement.

YMMV....

Ignatius
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Old 08-01-2007, 09:49 PM   #5
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
If you transfer weight to the ball of your forward foot, at some point during the pivot, you will have to place weight on your heel in order to stabilize yourself.

Try it...

First step forward on the ball of your foot, then see how your upper stability is temporarily compromised as you pivot on it and bring your rear leg around you. You have to put your heel down.

Now try stepping forward heel first, then in one motion, pivot on the heel by turning your foot inward before bringing your rear foot around you.
Hmmm...I think its a YMMV moment.
I don't feel the need to put my heel down as you describe. And I feel that if I step forward onto my heel, I don't have the flexibility in the knee I want (clearly the knee must be bend less to step onto the heel than the ball).

Quote:
Upyu wrote:
I'd disagree with that notion.
You can have the weight fall to the heels and still step very nimbly, actually "more" nimbly than if you have the weight fall to the balls of the feet (this would include rotating moves like tenkan). The main reason is body connection. Heels are directly connected to the pelvic region which transfers to the koshi/tanden, up to the spine and head etc, 6 direction contradictory powers etc etc
I disagree that you can step more nimbly on your heels of your feet rather than the balls. In my defense I say look at the footwork from both boxers and western fencers - they require very nimble movements, are famous for staying on the balls of their feet and only 'plant' the foot when they need to generate a lot of force.
I DO agree that being on your heel gives you a fast pivot (as I said in my first post) - but a tenkan isn't just a pivot, and stepping offline onto the heel feels strange to me, at least right now in my office .
I'd also say more 'body connection' doesn't make you more nimble - why not then lock your knees straight to improve it?

One thing an early sensei of mine emphasized, is to be quite light on the feet during movement and much more connected to the ground when you need to be. This is to help students to avoid 'stomping' from posture to posture but still have a good connection to the ground when they need to apply leverage.
Certainly this isn't the same in all aikido - maybe that's why we're not agreeing (although the differences are smaller than I'm making them sound here, I think).

(EDIT: Also, Tsugi-Ashi seems to designed to keep weight more onto the balls of your feet...or is that to stop your shoes falling off or tripping over your hakama? )
Tim

Last edited by Tim Griffiths : 08-01-2007 at 09:57 PM.

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Old 08-01-2007, 10:06 PM   #6
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Well I'm pretty sure you're both wrong.

First of all you should pivot. Pivoting like ballet dancers do is a horrible idea for two reasons.

First off, it's hard on the knees. unless you're on ice, or ballet marley, twisting the foot into the ground with force is very hard on the ligaments of the knee. One of the main reasons so many AIkidoka have knee problems.

Secondly you can't pivot on grass like you can pivot on mud. You can't pivot on gravel like you can pivot on cement. You don’t pivot in dress shoes like you do in tennis shoes. See where I'm going here, you can't plan your terrain or foot wear in an actual fight. So this means you will have verying results with your pivots depending on what surface you're on. This can be a bad thing when you're in a panicked situation wearing dress shoes on linoleum. Particularly when you train barefoot on a rubberized surface.

So how do I believe you should tenkan? From the hip. You should pick the foot up, and place it down at the angle of the direction you wish to move. Turning the leg from the hip joint (not the knee please). This will give you a sharp turn, with out stress on the knee, that will allow you to have the same action on any reasonable surface, with any footwear.

I would also strongly recommend against training yourself "flat footed". Human beings move better from the ball of their foot then any other way. The reason for this is multi fold. You have a natural shock absorber on the ball of the foot. You can explode forward or backward much faster (ever watch sprinters or boxers). Among other things. You simply move better from the ball then with the heel down. Don't let em' catch you flat footed.

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Old 08-01-2007, 10:46 PM   #7
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

That should say

"First off you SHOULDN'T pivot"

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Old 08-01-2007, 11:28 PM   #8
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
First of all you should pivot. Pivoting like ballet dancers do is a horrible idea for two reasons.
Shouldn't? Maybe you're thinking fouetté en tournant or piroutte or en dehors, which I think is different to pivoting within a martial context.

Quote:
...twisting the foot into the ground with force is very hard on the ligaments of the knee.
Er.. say what? I don't think anyone said that or inferred any such thing. How did you arrive at that assumption? I didn't think we were talking about Netball...

Quote:
...you can't plan your terrain or foot wear in an actual fight. So this means you will have verying results with your pivots depending on what surface you're on.
True, but I'm always in my steel caps... and thank God I don't have to wear those infernal dress shoes anymore...

Quote:
So how do I believe you should tenkan? From the hip. You should pick the foot up, and place it down at the angle of the direction you wish to move. Turning the leg from the hip joint (not the knee please).
Obviously.... you can't move your foot without first initiating it from the pelvic girdle. But if you're already moving forward and then have to change direction after you have placed your foot, how would you change the angle and direction in which your toes are pointed? Ball or heel? I think that's what Nick's asking....

Quote:
Don't let em' catch you flat footed.
What are you saying Chris? Too bad if one IS flat-footed? Can't do MA if you're flat footed?

Ignatius
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Old 08-01-2007, 11:50 PM   #9
Upyu
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Tim Griffiths wrote: View Post
Hmmm...I think its a YMMV moment.
I don't feel the need to put my heel down as you describe. And I feel that if I step forward onto my heel, I don't have the flexibility in the knee I want (clearly the knee must be bend less to step onto the heel than the ball).

I disagree that you can step more nimbly on your heels of your feet rather than the balls. In my defense I say look at the footwork from both boxers and western fencers - they require very nimble movements, are famous for staying on the balls of their feet and only 'plant' the foot when they need to generate a lot of force.
I DO agree that being on your heel gives you a fast pivot (as I said in my first post) - but a tenkan isn't just a pivot, and stepping offline onto the heel feels strange to me, at least right now in my office .
I'd also say more 'body connection' doesn't make you more nimble - why not then lock your knees straight to improve it?

One thing an early sensei of mine emphasized, is to be quite light on the feet during movement and much more connected to the ground when you need to be. This is to help students to avoid 'stomping' from posture to posture but still have a good connection to the ground when they need to apply leverage.
Certainly this isn't the same in all aikido - maybe that's why we're not agreeing (although the differences are smaller than I'm making them sound here, I think).

(EDIT: Also, Tsugi-Ashi seems to designed to keep weight more onto the balls of your feet...or is that to stop your shoes falling off or tripping over your hakama? )
Tim
The difference between heel and toe is basically this, are you moving from the inside of the pelvic region (or koshi), or are you moving using the legs. There's a big difference

Boxers and fencers aren' t the best examples since they're using an entirely different mode of movement. Within their particluar context moving from the balls of the feet give them more agility than the heels. If they were moving in a "different"/connected mode of movement things would probably be different.

And Chris, if you move from inside the pelvic region, there's no stress placed on the knees even when you move flat footed.

Just a note though, unless you specifically have someone point this principle out to you, or unless you're doing some kind of solo training designed to develop awareness of these aspects chances are good you'll never realize what's being talked about on this forum...sounds harsh, but its the way it is.
Its not something you can just read, go try in your living room and then say "naaah it doesnt work"
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Old 08-01-2007, 11:53 PM   #10
Upyu
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
Obviously.... you can't move your foot without first initiating it from the pelvic girdle.
Yea but I don't think most people initiate it from the pelvic girdle in a connected manner.
If you're already moving forward and then suddenly have to change direction, it shouldn't be a problem since technically you haven't committed your mass if you have 6 opposing forces in place in the body

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
What are you saying Chris? Too bad if one IS flat-footed? Can't do MA if you're flat footed?
Ark's flat footed and moves flat footed, but is one of the most agile "$"ers I know. If you're flat footed and your weight is commited, then its a nono, but if you're flat footed, but you haven't commited the weight, then it doesn't make a difference.
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Old 08-02-2007, 01:09 AM   #11
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Ignatius Teo
How to answer your questions...

I think people are talking about pivoting, if they are not, then I was mistaken.

Pivoting is the act of grinding your foot into the ground, which hurts your ligaments.

I don't know what "steel caps" are, I'm not English.

I'm not talking about moving from the hip forward, I'm talking about turning from the hip in it’s socket.

"Flat footed" is an American expression which is often expressed in boxing, meaning that if you're not on the balls of your feet you are not moving correctly and will end up in a bad way if you get hit.

Yes Rob, that is what I'm saying, move from the hip not the knee.

Rob, it's so strange to me that all explosive athletics I can think of (Football, Tennis, Boxing, Sprinting, Jumping, Fencing etc.) people move from the ball of the foot. Ark should go get himself some gold metals and a football players salary...

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Old 08-02-2007, 01:59 AM   #12
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Robert John wrote: View Post
If you're already moving forward and then suddenly have to change direction, it shouldn't be a problem since technically you haven't committed your mass if you have 6 opposing forces in place in the body
Yes, but I think Nick is asking whether the weight should be on the ball or heel.

Quote:
Ark's flat footed and moves flat footed, but is one of the most agile "$"ers I know. If you're flat footed and your weight is commited, then its a nono, but if you're flat footed, but you haven't commited the weight, then it doesn't make a difference.
I read somewhere that being flat footed was actually GOOD for doing MA... but yeah, I agree, it's WHERE weight is committed that's the key...

Ignatius
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Old 08-02-2007, 02:29 AM   #13
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
I think people are talking about pivoting, if they are not, then I was mistaken. Pivoting is the act of grinding your foot into the ground, which hurts your ligaments.
My English must be different to your English then... Pivot, I take to mean as "to turn around the vertical axis on a point - as in the action in basketball of stepping with one foot while keeping the other foot at its point of contact with the floor". It doesn't necessarily mean "grind the foot into the ground", it depends on how much weight you put on the pivoting foot

Quote:
I don't know what "steel caps" are, I'm not English.
Boots with steel plate toe caps inside - in case something heavy drops on your foot and you lose a coupla toes?

Quote:
I'm not talking about moving from the hip forward, I'm talking about turning from the hip in it's socket.
Neither was I...

Ignatius
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Old 08-02-2007, 08:06 AM   #14
Nick Pagnucco
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
Yes, but I think Nick is asking whether the weight should be on the ball or heel.

I read somewhere that being flat footed was actually GOOD for doing MA... but yeah, I agree, it's WHERE weight is committed that's the key...
Yes, I was. While I know enough to know I don't know much about the connected structure stuff Rob talks about, I know a) a strong connected structure will certainly influence how one moves, b) I don't have it, and c) I'm not gonna be able to pursue it until I move elsewhere. From what I hear and have seen, this puts me in the company of the vast majority of American aikidoka.

I've started doing 50 tenkans a day on each side minimum, very slowly, trying to figure out how to be more stable. Where one places one's weight on the front/back foot, of the heel or balls of the feet seemed like a good place to start in my circumstances. Other practical advice beyond the heel/ball thing would of course be welcomed

Of course, informing me there is a big principle I'm missing, while it IS practical, is old news at this point.
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Old 08-02-2007, 08:47 AM   #15
Ron Tisdale
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Good thread, there will be many different answers.

Standard yoshinkan answer is "balls of feet" as in hiriki no yosei ni (elbow power number 2). As people advance though, I think I see them using much more of the whole foot. Not going up on the toes, but really using the whole foot, with *some* amount of extra focus on the ball.

What Rob John is saying is interesting, and does make sense in the context he is speaking of. Not sure how that integrates in with standard yoshinkan beginning training though.

Best,
Ron

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Old 08-02-2007, 09:14 AM   #16
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

I'm beginning to think that the idea isn't about the physical focus point -- in other words, it isn't about heel versus ball of foot. Instead, it might be about each individual's structure, their level of ability/skill in keeping structure, and slack.

If you have horrible structure (internal and physcal), no matter what physical point you use, you're going to have bad movement. To make matters worse, you might even be causing slight damage to joints if you have bad physical structure.

If you have "slack" (disconnectedness in the body), then even with structure, you're going to have bad movement. But, merge them together and it doesn't seem to matter where you pivot/tenkan/etc from.

IMO,
Mark
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Old 08-02-2007, 09:16 AM   #17
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
Rob, it's so strange to me that all explosive athletics I can think of (Football, Tennis, Boxing, Sprinting, Jumping, Fencing etc.) people move from the ball of the foot. Ark should go get himself some gold metals and a football players salary...
Um... problem is Chris, all those examples you mentioned use fundamentally different body mechanics from what's being talked about. You can combine them at points, but the "explosiveness" comes mainly from "exploding" off the ground, or kicking the ground. (Correct me if I'm wrong)
We had a top golden gloves amateur boxer from Australia come by our class (boxing for about 30 years, rugby for 15) and he even admitted that the body mechanics were completely different in both execution and feel

As far as your description of "pivoting" goes, there's no "grinding" that goes on, simply change in direction which can be as much as a 180 to 360 degrees turn.
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Old 08-02-2007, 09:22 AM   #18
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
Yes, but I think Nick is asking whether the weight should be on the ball or heel.
.
The real question is...for what purpose though, developmental or use?
If you're trying to train usage without a developmental training program then its kinda moot to train usage, at least from the context of developing a martially viable body.

If you have a solo training regimen I'd recommend you focus on the heels. Raising the big toe and putting intent into it will help activate the inside of the pelvic region as well, when you do this the weight will naturally fall straight down the spine to the heel.
Once you train this and have it hammered into you I think moving the weight back to the ball of the foot is fair game, its a situational context of course.
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Old 08-02-2007, 09:42 AM   #19
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

[quote=Robert John;185315
We had a top golden gloves amateur boxer from Australia come by our class (boxing for about 30 years, rugby for 15) and he even admitted that the body mechanics were completely different in both execution and feel

[/QUOTE]

Of this I have no doubt.

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Old 08-02-2007, 10:06 AM   #20
Basia Halliop
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
It doesn't necessarily mean "grind the foot into the ground", it depends on how much weight you put on the pivoting foot
Not trying to be silly here, but if your other foot is off ground, which it must be at some point in the pivoting process, then what choice do you have as to how much weight you put on the pivot foot? Your body weight is 100% on that foot, and how can you change your body weight?

The only way I can theoretically think of not to be rubbing/grinding some part of your foot on the ground (whether heel or toe or whatever) would be to take the step with the other foot while leaving your pivot foot facing the wrong way for a moment, then once your other foot is back down, lift your pivot foot and face it in the new direction...
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Old 08-02-2007, 05:09 PM   #21
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote: View Post
Not trying to be silly here, but if your other foot is off ground, which it must be at some point in the pivoting process, then what choice do you have as to how much weight you put on the pivot foot? Your body weight is 100% on that foot, and how can you change your body weight?
I think it's more like 90/10. Anyhow... a subtle shift of the pelvic region is sufficient to change the weight distribution ratio?... as well as the angle and direction in which your feet should naturally rotate? BTW, my trailing foot is never completely off the ground - some part of it will almost always be in contact with the ground - terrain permitting obviously.

Quote:
The only way I can theoretically think of not to be rubbing/grinding some part of your foot on the ground (whether heel or toe or whatever) would be to take the step with the other foot while leaving your pivot foot facing the wrong way for a moment, then once your other foot is back down, lift your pivot foot and face it in the new direction...
I'm not sure what you mean by "lifting the pivoting foot and facing in the new direction"... If by "facing the wrong way for a moment", you mean that you end up in a hourglass (Sanchin) stance before you bring your trailing foot back, then yes.

Look, there is no right or wrong answer... however, Mark Murray's post about having correct structure is relevant. Rob's post regarding usage and development is also relevant. Chris's post regarding situational factors and terrain adaptation is also relevant.

I think it would be sensible to discuss this from a technical development perspective rather than one of usage. How you tenkan under stress may vary greatly. But as Rob says, if you have the training "hammered into you", how you move situationally is fair game, and dependent upon the contextual factors raised by Chris.

In any case, stepping/turning movement should be lightfooted - like walking on eggshells. Common sense ought to dictate that any pivoting/twisting movement that puts undue stress on joints and ligaments should generally be avoided. How you adapt your movements such that you can pivot without grinding your foot into the ground is the key. (See Rob's post about activating the inside of the pelvic region and allowing the weight to fall naturally from the spine to the heel).

I think I mentioned this previously in a different thread - the pelvic "basin" provides structural support for the upper body thru the spine and provides a point of articulation for the legs. Since bone exhibits both tensile and compression properties, letting the long bones of the legs (the femur and tibia) and take the weight down, along the approximate line of gravity, to the heel and tarsus seems like the sensible thing to do.

So, the question is, what supporting musculature does one need to train? How would you stand, step, turn and pivot without putting undue stress on the knees?

Ignatius
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Old 08-02-2007, 07:22 PM   #22
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote: View Post
Not trying to be silly here, but if your other foot is off ground, which it must be at some point in the pivoting process, then what choice do you have as to how much weight you put on the pivot foot? Your body weight is 100% on that foot, and how can you change your body weight?
Well, for starters, your body weight creates a force on your joints which varies in percentages.

To understand that, get on your bathroom scales. Both feet on the scale. Just as in aikido, practice sinking and rising. Does the scale stay exactly at your body weight? No, it doesn't.

Now, get two bathroom scales. Place them shoulder width apart. Now, step onto the scales, left foot on the left scale and right foot on the right scale. Lift your right foot while watching the left scale. It doesn't remain at your body weight either.

Your body weight isn't really what matters here. You always carry 100% of your body weight in one leg, then the other while walking. It's the force that's created which acts upon the joints as your body moves that matters. And you can change that percentage of force, the angle, the structure, the load handling, etc.

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote: View Post
The only way I can theoretically think of not to be rubbing/grinding some part of your foot on the ground (whether heel or toe or whatever) would be to take the step with the other foot while leaving your pivot foot facing the wrong way for a moment, then once your other foot is back down, lift your pivot foot and face it in the new direction...
Check out good ole Fred Astaire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j02k9t4rP50

I'd have to say that he never rubs/grinds any part of his foot into the ground while turning and moving. Nor does he do anything resembling your theoretical example. But, man can he move.

Anyway, there's a million ways to move, all depending on what you intend to do and how you want it done. Some better than others, some not.

IMO,
Mark
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Old 08-02-2007, 08:21 PM   #23
eyrie
 
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

Nice example Mark... the last time I weighed myself on one scale, let alone 2, was 20 years ago...

BTW, the force you're talking about has a direct correlation to weight i.e. F=ma where M is weight/body mass in kg, and a = acceleration due to gravity = 9.8m/s2. Well, actually, in direct proportion since gravity is constant.

The skeletal system is an amazing support structure designed to bear tremendous loads - the vertebral column itself is built to withstand compression forces several times your own body weight. The trick is how the forces are distributed and spread across the entire frame.

Also, let's not forget the equal and opposite reaction force of the ground....

Ignatius
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Old 08-03-2007, 07:41 AM   #24
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

I'm not sure why, but I think this discussion is missing what I think is the crucial point...

We rotate or pivot in aikido to a) get us out of the way of an attack or b) to change the relationship with the partner / attacker.

Since, as Rob pointed out, the heels are directly in line with the vertical axis of the shoulder, hip, knee, heel, pivoting on that axis doesn't move you off the line. Pivot on the heels and the strike just hits you on a different part of the body. But the ball of the foot is a good ten inches out from the vertical axis I mentioned. If you rotate on the balls of your foot, you are actually repositioning the body, not just twisting in place.

That said there are rotating movements within the Aikido practice in which one does rotate on the ball of the foot. For example, a large turning movement with the partner moving around you... at that point you don't necessarily want a center of rotation that is moving through space.

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Old 08-03-2007, 09:13 AM   #25
Upyu
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Re: heel vs. ball of foot during tenkan

I was just mucking around with the mechanics in my living room, George made a good point.
If you simply pivot on the heels, then you cant move off the line of attack. But you can keep the connection to the heels/weight falling to the heels while you pivot on the balls of the feet. As far as I can tell, the pivot simply happens as a result of you trying to keep connection. But at the same time my entire foot is engaged in making the turn, not simply one part or another...
m2c
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