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How to Turn
How to Turn
by Niall Matthews
08-21-2012
How to Turn


Dancing in the Streets by John Henderson

The emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown.
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
T S Eliot, Ash Wednesday

Much of our early work was getting me to pose simply with the one point in mind. I would get up on my one foot and cock my bat, all the while remaining conscious of this energy center in my lower abdomen.
Sadaharu Oh


What is the best way to turn? On the ball of your foot? Or on your heel?

It is a simple question. But it's a very good question. It can get some heated replies. In fact the answer is complex and subtle.

Kobudo - old martial arts - often use the heels to turn. Turning on your heels keeps your centre fixed and stable. It is easy to change direction without altering the position of your centre and thus your balance. Any movement using the balls of the feet automatically makes an adjustment to your centre line. And in traditional kenjutsu any movement that disturbed the centre was unacceptable. One side benefit of turning with the heels is that it is easier to open your front foot. You can see this in the stances of some traditional styles of aikido.

Gendai budo - modern martial arts - usually use the balls of the feet to turn. Speed, momentum and power are important. And a motionless centre is irrelevant when the centre line is in motion. A judoka turning in fast for a forward throw like seoi nage or uchimata uses the balls of the feet. In karate the toes are very important. Karateka can use the side of the foot or even the whole foot but pivoting movements are mainly done using the balls of the feet.

Turning in aikido depends on the style and on the movement. Irimi entering movements usually use the balls of the feet. The danger is that the front foot can remain closed. And that interferes with turning freely.

In applied aikido techniques the most efficient turn is often made on one leg. The flamingo stance used by Sadaharu Oh, one of the great batters in Japanese baseball history, came from Morihei Ueshiba the founder of aikido.

So the right answer to the original questions about how to turn is, Both. Turn on your heel. Or on the ball of your foot. Whatever is right for that moment.

Niall

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/829
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels e-book on project gutenberg

http://bibliotecaignoria.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/t-s-eliot-en-su-voz-ash-wednesday.html
T S Eliot, Ash Wednesday online

http://www.mokurendojo.com/2008/10/w...all-learn.html
Cool Mokuren Dojo blog post about Sadaharu Oh and aikido
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilliput_and_Blefuscu

photo: Dancing in the Streets by John Henderson
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7053/6858612077_1429297229.jpg
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbhthescots/6858612077/

my blog on aikiweb | my blog on wordpress


niall matthews 2012
Niall Matthews lives with his family in Japan. He teaches aikibudo and community self-defence courses and has taught budo for twenty-five years. He was the senior deshi of Kinjo Asoh Sensei, 7 dan Aikikai. He was the exclusive uke of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei, 9 dan Aikikai, at the hombu dojo in Tokyo for thirteen years until Arikawa Sensei's death in 2003. He has trained in several other martial arts to complement his aikido training, including judo (he has 4 dan from the Kodokan in Tokyo), kenjutsu (for about ten years) and karate (for about three years). He originally went to Japan as a staff member of the EU almost thirty years ago. He received 5 dan from Arikawa Sensei in 1995. This 5 dan is the last aikido dan he will receive in his life. His dojo is called Aikibudo Kokkijuku 合気武道克輝塾. Arikawa Sensei personally gave him the character for ki in kokki. It is the same character as teru in Sadateru - not the normal spelling of kokki 克己. It means you make your life shining and clear yourself.
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Old 08-21-2012, 11:30 PM   #2
robin_jet_alt
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Re: How to Turn

Thanks Niall,

I have recently been working on turning on my heels for some techniques. It makes a big difference for shiho-nage. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has been looking at it.

Robin
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Old 08-22-2012, 06:37 AM   #3
Tom Verhoeven
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Re: How to Turn

Flamingo stance? Beautiful image, but this is the first time I have seen it mentioned. Crane stance is what I am familiar with. Are there any flamingo in Japan?
I have found that turning on a wooden floor or on traditional tatami is different from turning on modern tatami. Modern tatami are rather soft. When turning on the ball of the foot this may lead to knee-injuries.
Nice article and I love the photo's and literary quotes that you manage to find!
Tom
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Old 08-22-2012, 08:19 AM   #4
HL1978
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Re: How to Turn

Using the hips instead of the knees or waist? Doesn't matter if you try to learn IS or not, i think most martial artists agree using the hips is key.
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Old 08-22-2012, 09:10 AM   #5
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Re: How to Turn

For Soldiers, or really anyone on the street dealing with shoes and high friction surfaces, I emphasize actually moving, shifting center and pointing in the direction you need to go and lifting the foot placing it back down. I've seen too many injuries resulting from torsional loads on knees from pivoting on heels or balls of feet. Primarily moving your hips and shifting body weight correctly in the direction you want to go and leading from that area, then moving the foot not under load makes for safe movement and a stable platform.

Not that I have any issue with your article in the context that you have framed it for training.

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Old 08-23-2012, 07:20 AM   #6
Makochan
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Re: How to Turn

Thanks for this Niall. I am pleased as you know how I turn (with a load bearing crane these days) and my student's often ask why. I will make sure that they all read the above as it is very valuable information. We have grading next week so, I should be doing some shouting on Saturday and maybe upset one or two students. Kindest, your friend, Billy
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Old 08-23-2012, 12:42 PM   #7
Gerardo Torres
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
For Soldiers, or really anyone on the street dealing with shoes and high friction surfaces, I emphasize actually moving, shifting center and pointing in the direction you need to go and lifting the foot placing it back down. I've seen too many injuries resulting from torsional loads on knees from pivoting on heels or balls of feet. Primarily moving your hips and shifting body weight correctly in the direction you want to go and leading from that area, then moving the foot not under load makes for safe movement and a stable platform.
^ This.

I keep telling people who train with me that the only place where they could glide their feet and perform big smooth taisabaki, moving and turning the way you see in aikido is, well, only while barefooted doing said aikido indoors in a nice smooth tatami. Outside, with shoes or in different terrain, it doesn't work as well. Certainly old battlefield-oriented kobudo, would have used more "stepping" and non-committed load while turning and moving. At least in the koryu I know of I have not seen mentioned turning from the balls of the feet or from the heel.

When I turn, say to deal with things happening at 90 or 180 degrees, I'm currently training to move from the center and move everything together while lifting the legs to place them where they should be to deal with incoming/outgoing force. I don't really think about turning on balls of feet or heel anymore, but if I were to guess I'd say the turning is happening more at the center of the foot as a natural extension of the whole leg, or, more likely the whole foot turns (the load is spread on the whole foot). It's less "elegant" when I do aikido as I don't slide my feet that much anymore (there's more lifting or "stepping"), but I also train a lot on wooden floors, concrete floors, smooth surfaces, sticky surfaces, outside on lawn and dirt, and with shoes, so I had to find a way to move that would work in all scenarios.
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Old 08-23-2012, 04:15 PM   #8
graham christian
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Re: How to Turn

Thanks Niall.

Turning with feet 'gliding' like an ice skater who can stop and start at any moment, from stillness to grace.

Times when turning 'from' heel and hips, times when turning from ball of foot and centre, as put.....all ways fit various situations.

I say with regards to 'gliding' that it has nothing to do with the terrain but more to do with learning how to on any terrain.

If I was to look at turning and basics then I would look at all kinds of turning and this includes ukemi for that too is turning and turning through the air as well as on the ground. Thus I see the most important factors, the ones which apply to all types of turning, the ones which are always there.

Centre is always involved but of equal importance on this subject is centre line. For what is a centre line but an axis be it vertical or horizontal etc. Everything turns around an axis.

Peace.G.
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Old 08-23-2012, 11:07 PM   #9
robin_jet_alt
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Gerardo Torres wrote: View Post
^ This.
I don't really think about turning on balls of feet or heel anymore, but if I were to guess I'd say the turning is happening more at the center of the foot as a natural extension of the whole leg, or, more likely the whole foot turns (the load is spread on the whole foot).
How is this possible? Broadly speaking, your foot has 2 points of contact with the ground, your ball and your heel. It is easy to pivot around a point that is in contact with the ground. The middle of your foot, however, is not in contact with the ground, and turning around this point necessitates sliding the front and back of your foot simultaneously in opposite directions. I just tried it, and it's not completely impossible, but it's very difficult and puts a lot of strain on your knees while being slow and inefficient.

I understand the stepping thing when you are talking about actually moving your feet, but what about when you are turning 180 degrees without moving your feet as you would do for a happo-giri? it seems very unwieldy to pick up each foot and put it back down again for this movement, unless you are jumping, which has its own problems.

Please don't tell me I will never get it because I don't understand aiki.
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Old 08-24-2012, 05:55 AM   #10
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: How to Turn

With "no weight on your feet" the turn happens naturally. Thank you for a thought provoking column.

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Old 08-24-2012, 06:45 AM   #11
phitruong
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
I understand the stepping thing when you are talking about actually moving your feet, but what about when you are turning 180 degrees without moving your feet as you would do for a happo-giri? it seems very unwieldy to pick up each foot and put it back down again for this movement, unless you are jumping, which has its own problems.
you need to pickup your feet. we practice weapon works outdoor wearing shoes. we practice on uneven grass surface (slippery as hell in the morning dews) and on asphalt. you learn very quickly that the footwork on smooth tatami surface doesn't work well here. the trick is to soften your hips or the kua (in chinese term) along with the knees and ankles. stiffen those and you are in for a very painful practice.

if you know a taekwondo person, ask him/her to do a spin back kick, then watch their feet.

and yes, you need to understand aiki.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 08-24-2012, 04:53 PM   #12
robin_jet_alt
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
you need to pickup your feet. we practice weapon works outdoor wearing shoes. we practice on uneven grass surface (slippery as hell in the morning dews) and on asphalt. you learn very quickly that the footwork on smooth tatami surface doesn't work well here. the trick is to soften your hips or the kua (in chinese term) along with the knees and ankles. stiffen those and you are in for a very painful practice.

if you know a taekwondo person, ask him/her to do a spin back kick, then watch their feet.

and yes, you need to understand aiki.
I will have a play with it at training this morning.
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Old 08-24-2012, 05:16 PM   #13
graham christian
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Re: How to Turn

Slide and glide and turn and spin,
Up and down???? No, for that's walking,
Walking is stepping and you will find,
There is no flow just an up and down mind.

Peace.G.
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Old 08-24-2012, 11:01 PM   #14
Anthony Loeppert
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Slide and glide and turn and spin,
Up and down???? No, for that's walking,
Walking is stepping and you will find,
There is no flow just an up and down mind.

Peace.G.
Graham, do we agree, up is irrelevant in this context? Forward as I understand things is more important, though I didn't compose prose to support myself.
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Old 08-25-2012, 02:28 AM   #15
robin_jet_alt
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
you need to pickup your feet. we practice weapon works outdoor wearing shoes. we practice on uneven grass surface (slippery as hell in the morning dews) and on asphalt. you learn very quickly that the footwork on smooth tatami surface doesn't work well here. the trick is to soften your hips or the kua (in chinese term) along with the knees and ankles. stiffen those and you are in for a very painful practice.

if you know a taekwondo person, ask him/her to do a spin back kick, then watch their feet.

and yes, you need to understand aiki.
I think I get where you are coming from with the picking up the feet thing now. Endo-sensei talks about it when stepping, but I had never thought about it when doing a pivot (not a tenkan). I'll experiment a bit more.
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Old 08-25-2012, 04:16 AM   #16
danielajames
 
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Re: How to Turn

I like the idea of turns as best suits, turning on heels or toes changes the ma-ai and suits entering/drawing movements in each situation.
Re: lifting feet/ unweighting I remember Yoshigasaki sensei teaching for something like the tenkan movement one foot moves (so you end uo in a kind of horse stance) then the other foot moves - to regain Hanmi. Its a great may to avoid knee twisting forces

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Old 08-25-2012, 12:11 PM   #17
graham christian
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Anthony Loeppert wrote: View Post
Graham, do we agree, up is irrelevant in this context? Forward as I understand things is more important, though I didn't compose prose to support myself.
Seems like we agree, yes. No up so it's like moving on one plane. The up and thus up and down movement I always say is a reflection of unsettled mind.

Not sure what you mean by forward.

Peace.G.
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Old 08-25-2012, 06:18 PM   #18
MM
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Re: How to Turn

I tend to agree with Kevin, Gerardo, and Phi concerning movement. In fact, Ueshiba stated that to place the feet in six directional posture. Up/down is included in that. Speaking of ... watch video of Ueshiba. Slow it down. Notice how he moves. Not a lot of sliding going on. Lot of stepping, though.
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Old 08-25-2012, 06:45 PM   #19
Chris Li
 
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
I tend to agree with Kevin, Gerardo, and Phi concerning movement. In fact, Ueshiba stated that to place the feet in six directional posture. Up/down is included in that. Speaking of ... watch video of Ueshiba. Slow it down. Notice how he moves. Not a lot of sliding going on. Lot of stepping, though.
If you don't have any up at all then it's going to be very difficult to move on any normal surface, that's just the physics of friction. OTOH, there are ways of moving with an up component that don't have the the body actually moving upward and bobbing up and down.

This should be a no-brainer for anyone who trains outside on a regular basis.

More to the topic - heel or toe or bubbling well - what mostly matters is the weighting, IMO. Also, I'd say that turning badly accounts for most (all?) of the knee problems that are so common among Aikido folks.

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-25-2012, 10:13 PM   #20
Anthony Loeppert
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
If you don't have any up at all then it's going to be very difficult to move on any normal surface, that's just the physics of friction. OTOH, there are ways of moving with an up component that don't have the the body actually moving upward and bobbing up and down.

This should be a no-brainer for anyone who trains outside on a regular basis.

More to the topic - heel or toe or bubbling well - what mostly matters is the weighting, IMO. Also, I'd say that turning badly accounts for most (all?) of the knee problems that are so common among Aikido folks.
It took my internalizing and consulting with my instructors to understand the knee pain I had was the result of leaving my foot in place while the knee started the turn. The knee can't be ahead of the foot (torquing the knee), the knee and the foot turn as one. This is my current understanding... and my knees don't hurt anymore!

As far as up and down, I've been taught to turn without raising the hips (still working on it - 1st kyu here). You give something back to uke you (should) have taken earlier. I suppose that doesn't preclude the foot itself moving up and down with the knee absorbing the up and down to keep the hips from bobbing.

To Graham, as to my other comment on "forward" I meant the intent of the turn shouldn't ever be backwards. Same with pivots.

Working through this myself... not preaching
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Old 08-25-2012, 11:39 PM   #21
graham christian
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Anthony Loeppert wrote: View Post
It took my internalizing and consulting with my instructors to understand the knee pain I had was the result of leaving my foot in place while the knee started the turn. The knee can't be ahead of the foot (torquing the knee), the knee and the foot turn as one. This is my current understanding... and my knees don't hurt anymore!

As far as up and down, I've been taught to turn without raising the hips (still working on it - 1st kyu here). You give something back to uke you (should) have taken earlier. I suppose that doesn't preclude the foot itself moving up and down with the knee absorbing the up and down to keep the hips from bobbing.

To Graham, as to my other comment on "forward" I meant the intent of the turn shouldn't ever be backwards. Same with pivots.

Working through this myself... not preaching
Thanks. Of course you're not preaching, we are merely communicating.

Yes, attention on going forward and never backwards I understand and is indeed to be understood and practiced and as usual lead you to various realizations and accomplishments and improvements. That's all good.

As a circle or turn or energy can go clockwise or anti clockwise or along any number of paths and directions then eventually we would then learn to turn backwards just as comfortably as forwards talking physically but if you then look again and notice that we are aware of and moving with and even leading then the physical direction whether physically forwards or backwards to us is always forwards.

As far as no up and down goes then I know we are on the same page. Once again the words may get in the way for some and thus the misunderstanding.

Funny you mention knees. Here's an interesting point and it's to do with knees and turning both.

In my experience I have found many, especially non Japanese have problems doing techniques from the knees ie: suwariwaza, kokyudosa etc. "Ah, my knees hurt or I've got bad knees through doing that or too much of that or........"

Anyway, I give them a cure for it and voila no problem with the knees. It all boils down to turning correctly. Turning incorrectly gives them bad knees. Notice in this example I give here there are no feet supporting you and the knees have now become the 'feet'. Thus there is also a major lesson to learn from doing all moves from the knees in good fluid flowing effective motion and that is that the turning has very little in essence to do with the feet.

Continuous taisabakis from kneeling is where this is learned but if not done properly merely leads to damaged knees and the thereafter focus and debates on knees this kness that and knees the other and all kinds of added on theories all because the essence and principle was missed in the first place.

A bit like feet debates really I would say.

Peace.G.
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Old 08-26-2012, 08:25 AM   #22
MM
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Re: How to Turn

Morihei Ueshiba talked a lot about opposites working simultaneously. He didn't speak of ka without mi. There was fire and water. Yin and Yang. In/Yo. Upwards with downwards. There can be no forward without backward - both together. In turning, in stepping, in everything one does in aikido, Sending out while receiving in. Without that basic understanding, then one cannot truly begin to understand Ueshiba's aikido, IMO.
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Old 08-26-2012, 11:31 AM   #23
graham christian
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
Morihei Ueshiba talked a lot about opposites working simultaneously. He didn't speak of ka without mi. There was fire and water. Yin and Yang. In/Yo. Upwards with downwards. There can be no forward without backward - both together. In turning, in stepping, in everything one does in aikido, Sending out while receiving in. Without that basic understanding, then one cannot truly begin to understand Ueshiba's aikido, IMO.
Yes. Nice theory and I agree with it. Every molecule and every universe and every motion has this intinsic to it. You still have to learn how to turn properly though.

What is a 'step' to you?

Peace.G.
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Old 08-28-2012, 09:33 AM   #24
niall
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Re: How to Turn

Thanks for everyone's comments.

Tom I believe Sadaharu Oh himself called it a flamingo stance in A Zen Way of Baseball but I no longer have a copy. It's a good read.

On the slightly different point of moving on a plane of course the plane does not have to be parallel to the ground although it often is. It can be slightly upward or slightly downward depending on the movement and the intention.

If you believe that going forwards means simultaneously going backwards I wish you luck. You obviously need it.

The idea that Morihei Ueshiba didn't speak of ka without mi is nonsense. Ka is a letter of the Japanese alphabet as well as a word in Japanese with several meanings. It is used in hundreds of compound words that do not contain mi.

Last edited by niall : 08-28-2012 at 09:46 AM. Reason: typo

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Old 08-28-2012, 10:33 AM   #25
Chris Li
 
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Re: How to Turn

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
Thanks for everyone's comments.

Tom I believe Sadaharu Oh himself called it a flamingo stance in A Zen Way of Baseball but I no longer have a copy. It's a good read.

On the slightly different point of moving on a plane of course the plane does not have to be parallel to the ground although it often is. It can be slightly upward or slightly downward depending on the movement and the intention.

If you believe that going forwards means simultaneously going backwards I wish you luck. You obviously need it.

The idea that Morihei Ueshiba didn't speak of ka without mi is nonsense. Ka is a letter of the Japanese alphabet as well as a word in Japanese with several meanings. It is used in hundreds of compound words that do not contain mi.
I think that Mark's referring to things like:

火と水の合気にくみし橋の上大海原にいける山彦

Of course, this is harder to portray in romaji - but there are hundreds of examples of this kind of usage in "Take Musu Aiki" and other places.

Forward without going backward is (I assume) in reference to the Chinese Mao Dun Zheng Li (矛盾争力, opposing force pairs) - which Ueshiba also referenced in "Take Musu Aiki" and other places.

Best,

Chris

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