Tandoku Dosa: An Introduction (Part 1)

What are Tandokudosa? What is the purpose of Tandokudosa?

Tandokudosa translates as “solo body movement exercise.” By definition Tandokudosa (TDD from now on) are any exercise done without a partner. So, these movements can be both empty-handed or full, but they must be practiced solo.

Shirata Rinjiro created many series of TDD. There are more TDD with weapons than empty-handed TDD. But, we will begin here with his empty-handed TDD.

Shirata Rinjiro’s TDD differ from average calisthenics and/or stretching, in both purpose and execution. TDD develop:

  • Specific Physical Strength
  • Specific Neurological Capacity
  • Specific Range of Motion and Stability of the Joints
  • Bone Density
  • Tendon Density and elasticity
  • Muscle cellular structure amenable to “spring like” strength
  • Neurons and Motor Units formed to create the most efficient and greatest power
  • Neurons and Motor Units formed to habituate Aiki movement patterns
  • Neurons, Motor Units, and strength that accords with Aiki-movement and Martial Technical movement.

I have listed the benefits of TDD in order of the most probable sequence of development. Progression is often cyclical. As one gains physical development, one increases the likelihood of proper motor development. As this progresses one can refine the motor movement, which, in-turn, leads to further physical development.

TDD have an outward physical form. Everyone starts by copying the outward physical form. In doing so, they (gently) stress their body and, as a consequence, their body begins the process of adaptation. Students must be instructed on what to do with their body/mind (internally.) This instruction, if followed accurately, results in the outward physical form (of little importance) and the physical traits associated with an Aiki body (the goal.)

These traits are:

  • Unity (as opposed to coordination) of movement and unified force production, absorption and/or transference
  • Unusual stability
  • Unusual strength
  • Non-Resistance

Let us remember that Aiki is the state of forces being in Yin/Yang relationships. Developing the Aiki body/mind is developing a body/mind that facilitates bringing forces into Yin/Yang relationships. The Aiki body/mind is NOT Aiki itself. Nor are the movements of the body/mind Aiki itself. Aiki is the state of forces being in Yin/Yang relationships.

For better, or for worse, copying of the outer (visible) form is where development begins, or does not. Not having done the inner physical movements before, and not possessing sufficient development to do so yet, beginners use their imagination and previous experiences attempting to discern what those movements are, and what it is like to do them. Many students will replicate the outer movements of their teacher and assume that they have accomplished the assigned task. A few students will struggle to replicate the inner movements taught. Not knowing what they are trying to do, or to carry out, many of these students might struggle for years trying to do what they presume to be correct. Some will echo the vocabulary and models taught to them, without ever achieving the results showed by their teachers. Some will become discouraged and quit. A few discover in their body/mind what their teacher was pointing to. A handful will replicate part of what their teacher did. Some may equal their teacher’s abilities. And, every once in a while one or two students may even surpass their teacher in both accomplishment and understanding. As stated above, being a student of one of the “best of the best” is no guarantee of accomplishment or knowledge. Only demonstration of accomplishment and/or knowledge is sufficient evidence of having accomplishment and/or knowledge.

With the above in mind, let us explore TDD further!

Tandoku Dosa #0

Like a circle, TDD begin at the end and end at the same place.  To differentiate the two, TDD begins sitting (in seiza) and ends standing (in Hanmi).  They are the same in purpose and execution.

For TDD we begin at the beginning-less beginning which is, un-named.  We call it TDD#0.  As indicated this begins in seiza.

Morihei during Ueshiba Juku era c

Seiza:  Sit on the shins.  The distance between the knees is the same as the length of the ankle to the knee.  This forms an equilateral triangle.  Placing the weight in the center of the equilateral triangle forms a tetrahedron.

Begin by extending the knees, feet and head out in opposite directions from the center of the tetrahedron.  This should be done gently. Knowing one cannot stretch the bones, one is pulling the tissues (or more accurately, allowing the tissues to be pulled.)  More than likely one will begin by feeling the pulling of the larger muscles since these are most accessible to beginners.  In time, one will access the tissues closest to the bones and tissues furthest to the outside.  Try to contract less and less and expand more and more.

Sometimes I’m asked, “How can I expand the tissues while also letting the tissues hang?  How do I expand without contraction?”  Here’s how:  Imagine a balloon with a stick inside.  The tick is pointing up so, naturally the ballon is hanging around the stick.  The stick is our bones and the ballon is our tissues.  Now, our tissues are not empty.  They are full.  Imagine that the there is a sponge surrounding the stick, encased by the balloon.  The sponge is full of liquid.  What would happen if the fibers holding the sponge into shape were to “let go?”  The liquid and sponge would naturally flow down.  What would happen to the balloon?  It would maintain some position at the top where supported by the stick but it would expand below, and the the balloon would be stretched.

Fudo Myo O is said to reside at waterfalls.  This is one of the reasons why Shugenja meditate at the base of waterfalls.  Fudo Myo O symbolizes the immovability of the unity of Yin/Yang.  Fudo holds a vajra sword in one hand and a five colored lasso in the other.  The vajra sword itself can represent Fudo Myo O.  It is a double bladed sword (Yin/Yang) and at is base is the sanko vajra.  As one sits at the base of the waterfall, one can visualize this sword inside one’s self.  The blade of the sword runs up one’s spinal-column which runs up the center of the waterfall.  The center of the vajra hilt is located at the epicenter of one’s being.  (BTW, did you notice that the pool and the fall are orthogonal to each other?)

What if the same ballon covering the stick was to be filled with air?  What would happen?  It would expand!  Of course gravity is still affecting the balloon.  It is still “hanging,” just in a different form.

The stick is our bones, and our tissue is both the balloon and the sponge.

As you let tissue hang and expand, you can begin notice an interesting thing.  You can begin to feel the tissue being pulled over your skull!  Balance your skull and spine such that it is pulled equally in all directions.  Your tissues will act like the support cables of a radio tower, pulled into tension and stabilizing the tower.  When you do this, it will begin to feel as if your skull wants to poke right out of your “skin sack.”  Yet, there should be very little contractive tension.  You do not force your head up, just as you do not force your skin down or out.  Doing this will turn your body into a tansegrity tetrahedron.  You can begin to feel the tissues pull similarly around the your shoulders, rib cage, lower torso, and legs.  All of the ares that are pulled on the skeleton must be brought into balance just like the skull.  The more the that you allow the tissue to come into tension, the more expanded your body will become.

Outdoor-changing-clothes-baby-clothes-warm-bath-clothes-tents-outdoor-mobile-toilet-WCA useful analogy may be that of the instant Pop-up tents that have become popular.  The more the (fiberglass) rods are extended, the more the (fabric) tissue is pulled into tension.  Together, while the rods are brought into greater compression and the tissues into greater tension, the whole thing expands into a large structure.  It is all expanding, but it is grounded (equal to its mass) as well.

With increased observation, of balance, observe that one is never static, but always in motion.  There are outside influences, and inner influences.  The heart and circulatory system are  in motion.  Lungs and respiratory system are in motion.  And one’s mind is always in motion.  And since all of these movements influence one’s balance, the entirety of one’s self is always in motion.

The more one becomes aware, the calmer and less overt these movements will become to the outside observer.  The more one becomes aware, the more overt these movements will become to the self.  This awareness alone will not develop Aiki.  But this awareness will enable one to make one’s training much more efficient.

One can also notice how “outside forces” such as normal force and gravity are also inside forces, and are brought into balance via one’s body/mind.

One can also begin to observe that “body” and “mind” are a false dichotomy.

At the beginning, one sits without Aiki.  In time, one learns, progresses, and develops such that one sits with Aiki.  In the end, one sits as Aiki.

TDD begins with TDD#0, which is sitting.  But, one’s sitting will never be the same sitting if one continues to learn and evolve.

Alrighty then!  I may make a vid discussing TDD #0.  And then, It is on to TDD #1!  There is a ton of stuff going on in each of these.  I’ll do what I can to share.

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8 thoughts on “Tandoku Dosa: An Introduction (Part 1)

  1. Hi Allen,

    A great and insightfull post. Adresses some points which I have missed in 28 years of Aikido practice.

    Would it didactically not make sense to give an overview of the complete TDD series before going into depth into each one ?


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Bjorn,

    Yes. But just like Aikido, Daito Ryu, etc. whether or not it becomes a part of an individual’s Shingon practice depends a great deal on who one’s teacher is and the receptivity of the student.



  3. Allen
    I would offer that the overview be more of an outline with out to much detail…details tend to lend themselves to us projecting head with our own self verbalized transmission….sometimes leading us differing directions


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