Back to Basics


Back Bow

Okay, think about this . . .

You know how opening and closing two appendages equally creates a central axis point in each appendage? Remember how, when combined with Aiki 1, rotation around this central axis point creates Aiki 2?

All sides of the rhombus are rotating around their own central axis as they open and close.  Ignore the cursor, it is just activating the change.
Four appendages four rhombuses opening and closing in concert.

Imagine multiplying that 24 times!

That’s a lot of Aiki 2 baby! Well, if, like the appendages, one opens and closes  the spine appropriately one can do just that!

Obviously there are healthy limits to the range of motion of the spine. Our spinal cord lives in there after all! But most of us do not come anywhere near working to our healthy range of motion, nor do most folks develop the ability to specifically manipulate their spine, vertebra by vertebra.

So what?

Well, here is a BIG so what for starters. If we use the spine as the loci for rotation around the center point of a circle, both the speed of that initial action multiplies relative to the length of the radius of that circle. That means one can generate a significant amount of speed at the surface of the torso surrounding the spine.

But wait! There’s more!!

What if that circle centered on our spine was connected to our longer extremities thereby creating an even longer radius? And what if those extremities were to rotate and torsion as well? Imagine the amount of angular momentum that could be generated just within one’s body!

Hmmmm . . .

Actually, you don’t need to imagine: At Stanford University a study indicated that a Taichi practitioner was able to deliver a floor reaction torque of more than 14 times his body weight while accelerating his striking arm from 0 to 60 mph in less than three seconds!

One strike can kill in Aikido indeed!

This is kind of the meat and potatoes of Aiki. Incredible stability, incredible power, AND the ability to form force vectors thereby limiting the possibility of external forces impeding one’s ability to express force via resistance.

Last week we looked at torsion in the torso, and a few ways to train it. Which, when coupled Aiki 1, Aiki 2 and torsion in the appendages creating Aiki 3, is a main contributor to the impressive angular momentum referred to above.

This week, let’s look at learning and developing the ability to articulate the spine’s ability to open and close like the appendages.


Look at the illustration above.  The uppermost part of the blue line should be trying to move up, while the lowermost part of the line is trying to move down.  This will create Aiki 1 (in a super over simplified sense.)  Now you are going to move the point of your back indicated by the red arrow.  You are going to move it forwards and backwards.  But for this blog, I am only going to talk about moving it back since that is more challenging for most people.

The main thing to keep in mind is to not move the two blue end points off of the vertical line.  Everybody wants to move one or the other, or both, forward and backward and call that moving the point of the spine indicated.  It isn’t.  One must keep the ends of the spine in place in vertical alignment and then move the “red” point either forward or back.

If you succeed in doing this, and you can, the blue ends will naturally come a bit closer together if you have maintained their position on the vertical line.

One good way of doing this is sitting in seiza.  The benefit here, once again, is that that will  naturally hold your pelvic region in place on the vertical line.



Another way of doing this exercise is to stand with your spine against the corner of a wall.  Due to the natural curvature of the spine, the point indicated by the red arrow will be separated from the corner.

d457b337808b7553932e0263f70286f4-2.jpg If you keep the upper spine and pelvic region pushed up against the corner you will know if you are keeping the vertical line.

Now you can concentrate on trying to move the part of the spine indicated by the red arrow backwards such that it can touch the corner.

In time you will be able to move that part of your spine back far enough that it will actually push the upper and lower parts off of the wall.

Take your time and do not cheat.  It may take a while to find the neural pathways needed for the move.  Then it will likely take time to build the neural pathways (via myelination) such that they can be accessed consistently and reliably.

With time and practice you can develop the ability to move each individual vertebra at will.

Also, one can develop the ability to do so explosively and without damage or injury.

I have included the picture that follows to show how much Tom can move his spine (without moving the upper and/or lower parts.)



Okay, that’s it for this week folks!  Way past my bedtime.


Stay tuned, there is SO much more to go over and so far we have just begun to outline the basic basics.

Thank you all so much for  your support of the blog.  Our readership is truly global and growing!  I will continue to do my best.  There is much more to share.

That being said, please let me point out that this stuff can only really be learned one to one with someone with some ability.  That is the way that it has always been in will likely always be.  One doesn’t necessarily have to find someone with superhuman ability.  In fact, if the teacher is too far advanced that can sometimes be a liability to learning.  They are so good at what they do that much is invisible and unconscious.  On the other hand, if one’s teacher has too limited ability (especially coupled with a fragile ego that they want to protect) one is highly likely to be find limited progress at best and progress in the wrong direction at worst.

I’m not plugging my own seminars.  So far there are a limited number of those and they tend to be centered around Western Europe.  There aren’t all that many teachers focused on this topic in the world.  Fewer still that “can do.”  (Most teachers are primarily technically focused, tasked with maintaining or growing an organization, or focused on having their students perform well in competition.)  Nevertheless, there are the few, and if one is seriously committed to making progress in this area, finding one that “works” for  you is vital.

See you next time!!!

Volviendo a lo básico
Ok, pensemos sobre esto . . .
¿Sabes que abrir y cerrar dos extremidades equitativamente crea un punto de eje central en cada extremidad? ¿Recuerdas que, al combinarse con Aiki 1, la rotación alrededor de ese punto de eje central creaba Aiki 2?

Todos los lados del rombo están rotando alrededor de su propio eje central al abrir y cerrar. Ignora el cursor, sólo está activando el cambio.
4 extremidades, 4 rombos abriendo y cerrando en sintonía.
¡Imagina esto multiplicado 24 veces!
¡Oh nena, eso es un montón de Aiki 2! Si, como las extremidades, abrimos y cerramos la columna apropiadamente, ¡ podemos hacer justo eso!
Obviamente hay límites de salud al rango de movimiento de la columna. ¡Nuestra médula espinal vive ahí después de todo! Pero la mayoría de nosotros no estamos trabajando ni de cerca en nuestro rango saludable de movimiento, ni la mayoría de gente desarrolla la habilidad de manipular específicamente su columna, vértebra a vértebra.
Bueno, para empezar importa MUCHO . Si usamos la columna como lugar para que se produzca la rotación alrededor del punto central de un círculo, la velocidad de la acción inicial se multiplica en relación a la longitud del radio de ese círculo. Esto significa que podemos generar un montón de velocidad en la superficie del torso que rodea la columna.
¡Pero espera que hay más!
¿Y si ese círculo centrado en nuestra columna estuviese conectado a las extremidades, creando por tanto un radio aún más largo? ¿Y si esas extremidades también estuviesen rotando y en torsión? ¡ Imagina la cantidad de momento angular que podría generarse dentro de nuestro cuerpo!
Hmmmm . . .
En realidad, no hace falta que te lo imaginas. Un estudio de la universidad de Stanford indicó que un practicante de Taichi podía crear un momento de fuerzas respecto al suelo que superaba más de 14 veces su peso corporal mientras aceleraba su brazo de 0 a 100 km/h en menos de 3 segundos ¡
¡Ciertmente un golpe de Aikido puede matar!
Esto es lo más importante del Aiki. Increíble estabilidad, increíble potencia Y la capacidad para crear vectores de fuerza, limitando por tanto la posibilidad de que fuerzas externas te impidan expresar tu fuerza a través de resistencia.
La semana pasada vimos la torsión del torso y algunas maneras de entrenarla. Ahora, veremos cómo la unión de Aiki 1, Aiki 2 y torsión en las extremidades creando Aiki 3, es un importante contribuidor al impresionante momento angular mencionado arriba.
Esta semana, veremos cómo aprender y desarrollar la habilidad para articular nuestra columna, abriéndola y cerrándola como las extremidades.

Miremos la ilustración de arriba. La parte superior de la línea azul debería estar intentando moverse hacia arriba, mientras que la parte inferior de la línea está intentando moverse hacia abajo. Esto creará Aiki 1 (de una manera supersimplificada) Ajora vas a mover el punto de tu espalda indicado por la flecha roja. Vas a moverlo adelante y atrás, pero en este mensaje sólo voy a hablar de moverlo atrás porque es lo más difícil para la mayoría de gente.
Lo principal que hay que tener en cuenta es no mover los dos extremos azules fuera de la línea vertical. Todo el mundo quiere mover uno o mover los dos adelante y atrás y decir que está moviendo el punto que indico en la columna. No es eso. Debemos mantener los extremos de la columna en su sitio en alineación vertical y entonces mover el “punto rojo” adelante o atrás.
Si tienes éxito al hacer esto, los extremos azules se acercarán un poco si has mantenido su posición en la línea vertical.
Una buena manera de hacerlo es sentarte en seiza. El beneficio aquí, una vez más, es que sostendrá naturalmente tu zona pélvica en su sitio en la línea vertical.

Otra forma de hacer este ejercicio es ponerte de pie con tu columna contra una pared. Debido a la curva natural de la columna, el punto indicado por la flecha roja estará separado de la pared.

Si mantienes la columna alta y la región pélvica empujando contra la pared sabes que estás manteniendo la línea vertical.
Ahora puedes concentrarte en intentar mover la parte de la columna indicada por la flecha roja hacia atrás de modo que toque la pared.
Con el tiempo podrás mover tanto esa parte de tu columna hacia atrás que empujará a los extremos superior e inferior fuera de la pared.
Tómate tu tiempo y no hagas trampas. Puede que tardes un poco en encontrar los caminos neuronales necesarios para este movimiento. Seguramente tome su tiempo construir los caminos neuronales (a través de la mielinización) para poder acceder consistente y fiablemente a este movimiento.
Con tiempo y práctica desarrollarás la capacidad de mover cada vértebra por separado a voluntad. También desarrollarás la habilidad para hacerlo explosivamente sin hacerte daño ni lesionarte. He incluido esta foto para mostrar cuánto puede mover su columna Tom sin mover los extremos. (unos 3’2 cm)

Eso es todo por esta semana, ¡ya me toca irme a la cama!
Estad atentos, hay MUCHO más que tenemos que discutir y por ahora sólo hemos empezado a describir la base de la base.
Gracias a todos por apoyar el blog. ¡Nuestros lectores alcanzan todo el mundo y siguen creciendo! Seguiré haciéndolo lo mejor que pueda. Hay mucho más para compartir.
Dicho esto, por favor dejadme señalar que estas cosas sólo pueden aprenderse de verdad en persona con alguien que las conozca. Es así, así ha sido siempre y seguramente siempre será así. No necesitáis forzosamente encontrar a alguien con habilidades sobrehumanas. De hecho si el profesor está demasiado avanzado a veces puede ser un problema para aprender. Son tan buenos que mucho de lo que hacen es invisible e inconsciente. Por otro lado, si nuestro profesor sabe muy poco (y especialmente si tiene un ego frágil que quiere proteger) es muy probablemente que nuestro progreso se limite en el mejor de los casos o vayamos en dirección contraria en el peor.
No estoy promocionando mis seminarios. En realidad son muy pocos y tienden a centrarse en Europa. No hay muchos profesores enfocados en esto en el mundo. Menos aún “saben hacerlo” (la mayoría de profesores se enfocan primariamente en la técnica, ocupados en mantener o hacer crecer una organización o en que sus estudiantes sean buenos competidores). Sin embargo, hay unos pocos, y si de verdad estamos comprometidos a progresar en esta área, encontrar uno que te “sirva” para aprender es vital.

¡Nos vemos!


22 thoughts on “Back to Basics

  1. Hi Allen,

    Thanks for putting words and understanding structure to our Aiki practice. Without going overboard I would venture to say that this exercise resembles how we train Suwari-waza kokyu-ho (dosa). Would you agree? It seems to work really well with reverse breathing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mr Doom and Gloom here, asking problem area questions for those who can’t! Any suggestions for people whose chests collapse (the front hollows, the shoulders come forward, up, or in) when attempting to back-bow?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, train someplace else! Bwa ha ha hah!

      First off, don’t do everything you described. It is like making faces trying to move your ears. Have one of the great, charming, intelligent and good looking guys you work with put their finger on the spot to be moved.

      Try moving the spot locally. Your awesome training partner can let you know when hey feel something. Then you try to do it again, and again until the feeling is definite and your access to it substantial.

      At that point you can begin the work on it all the time to build it up.

      Don’t forget to give your training partner a BIG tip!



  3. It’s related to aiki age and aiki sage? Those are daito ryu terms. Can you link to an aikido exemplar demonstrating a similar thing? I ask this because kokyu ho seems to cover a wide range of body usage

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Oisin,

      “. . . kokyu ho ho seems to cover a wide range of body usage”

      Yes it does! Although to be fair to Bjorn he did narrow it down a little by writing,
      “Suwari-waza kokyu-ho (dosa).”

      Nevertheless, rather than to assume I knew what he was referring to, I gave my answer in terms of which I knew what I was referring to rather than to imply that I knew what he was referring to with his. And, as I’m certain you are aware, Daito ryu can use the term kokyu in different contexts as well.

      For the very reasons given, I choose to refrain from linking an aikido exemplar demonstrating a similar thing. That would be too easily misconstrued. At least Aiki age and Aiki sage, while general principles in my mind (as opposed to two specific techniques) are a bit narrower in scope than Kokyu ho, which is an even broader referent, or Kokyu dosa which, to me, refers to a large array of exercises rather than simply one.

      Oh words! “Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em!”

      Good to hear from you Oisin!,


      1. Thanks for the reply. I actually was referring to suwari kokyu ho. It’s a common technique in aikido, but it doesn’t follow that someone doing this are using the body congruent to the principles of what is referred to in daito ryu as aiki age and aiki sage. That’s why i asked for a video for clarity. Fwiw, i haven’t come across the term kokyu in daito ryu referring to the application of technique. I have heard the term kuki as in kuki nage, but i think these terms refer to fairly different things in terms of dealing with uke. Thanks for the conversation!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I think we agree that:

      Kokyu Ho seems to cover a wide range of body usage.
      Aiki Age and Aiki Sage are very likely different than much of this usage.
      Daito Ryu uses the term Kokyu but in a different context.

      While I agree that most Aikidoshi probably think of Kokyu Ho as a “common technique in Aikido,” I would argue that the diversity of execution of that technique almost renders the term meaningless.

      On the other hand, I have witnessed fairly broad continuum of the execution and teaching of Aiki Age and Aiki Sage between teachers and schools of Daito Ryu. I guess that that is unavoidable and only natural.

      While there are those that would like to be, or claim to be, the final arbiter of “What is Aikido” and “What is Daito Ryu,” no such universally accepted arbiter exists to my knowledge. Consequently, we are all our own “final arbiter” of what we think and/or believe.

      My understanding of the term “Kokyu Ho” emphasizes the fact that it is a 法 “Ho” (law or principle), rather than a technique. Somewhat similar to Aiki InYo Ho.

      I was taught plethora of Kokyu Dosa and/or Undo (both standing and sitting.) These are similar to, but not the same as, another extensive list of Suwari waza, many of which are illustrated in Ueshiba’s Aikijujutsu Densho, but for which there are several variations relating to each technique illustrated therein. Many of these appear to have been preserved in the Takuma Kai’s Soden. This isn’t terribly surprising since Shirata sensei was present, in both an assistive, and teaching roll, from the very beginning of instruction at the Asahi News dojo.

      Oisin, please let me know when you would like to contribute some of your insights and experience regarding Daito Ryu. I happen to have blog. Guest posts are welcome! 🙂


  4. Hi Allen, I really appreciate the work you’re putting into this blog. I have been reading it voraciously and sharing it widely.

    For this exercise, what’s the pelvis doing? I find it much easier to make the bow one vertebra at a time if I “lead” by rotating the pelvis forward (aka rotate my tailbone under me). I suspect that that’s cheating, but I’m not sure. I find it much more difficult to manipulate my vertebrae without rotating the pelvic area around the horizontal (left-right) axis, unless I counter-rotate my hips along the same axis–e.g., from a sitting position, lifting my knees while I bow my back to create a counterweight that keeps my pelvis from rotating forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Zach,

    Thank you for your kind words and support!

    Your suspicion is correct. I suggest not rotating the pelvis forward. For the most part, we want to keep our pelvis neutral. There are exceptions to every rule, but I think that this is a very good general rule. You can experiment with this yourself. Try a chest push with a neutral pelvis and then try it with a tucked in pelvis. As you progress in your ability to open and close your spine, it is good practice to try doing it why receiving a chest push. If your hips are neutral, your opening and closing should have no effect upon your stability. (If you are able to maintain your neutrality and therefore stability, you will likely notice the results of the presence of Aiki 2 upon the pusher.

    This is important, though, your focus should be on creating Aiki 1 and 2 in you. You do NOT “Aiki” anybody even though they may react to the presence of Aiki in you.


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