Friday, March 6, 2009

Hanmi Vs. Shinzentai

Let's talk stances for a minute.

Much of the Aikido world practices with the hanmi stance. The feet kind of look like this.

On the other hand, the Tomiki system promotes shizentai, a natural body posture.

From my personal point of view, it doesn't really matter a hill o' beans as to which stance you choose. It is more than obvious that there are many splendid artists on both sides of the stance issue. As long as an artist trains in a logical and disciplined fashion, good results are going to be reaped.

Why do I bring this topic up then? Last year a particularly passionate Aikidoka and I had a discussion on an Aikido YouTube video.

Someone insulted a technique saying it had no Hanmi

I responded with - "Hanmi is not important. Most higher level Aikidoka that I like use shizen hontai - a natural body posture."

genkitengu responded with - "I'm not sure what gave you that impression. Hanmi is not negated through experience but improved upon. Aikido is nothing without hanmi. Without hanmi you cannot use your hips to execute powerful nage for example. The Founder constantly stressed the importance of basic form. Aikido without hanmi is like aikido without kiai or kokkyu: Not Aikido."

So no Hanmi = no Aikido

I would like to shatter this illusion. Here are 5 clips by Ueshiba Sensei and some of his top students.

O'Sensei - at no point do I see Hanmi

Tohei - no Hanmi

Gozo Shioda with no Hanmi

Hirokazu Kobayashi - yup, no Hanmi

André Nocquet - no Hanmi

So today's moral is - Maybe Hanmi is not so critical after all. Some artists use it. Others don't. Some use it sometimes. Maybe the lesson needs to be pointed at me too, don't be a geek about stance work.


  1. Just couldn’t resist—I’m supposed to be packing, but ya hooked me.

    I think the hanmi question is a little bit of the finger pointing at the moon—some systems use hanmi to get folks conditioned to homolateral (same hand and foot) application and to reinforce stepping with initial body drop—ultimately you wind up with the resultant efficiency of the naragre no ri (principle of flowing) variety that your excellent videos demonstrate. You are right that none of them use classical hanmi – all of them use homolateral/body drop application— You wind up getting there if you don’t get stuck posing in stances—absorb what hanmi teaches and go on into fluidity—as my Judo buddy/sensei Moose once said “Get your feet under your ass Nick!--All that stance of yours is good for is posing for the cover of the martial arts magazine!”

    PS. Ya gotta love the showmanship in some of these videos— some crazy – some of it beautiful-- I’ve always liked the Shioda’s compression throws that look like a force field has knocked uke back. A bunch of nice examples of nagashi-no-ri.

  2. Great clips. In Yoshinkan, the basic front stance has the feet at 90 degrees to each other, but with the front foot pointing 45 degrees in one direction and the rear foot pointing 45 degrees in the other.

  3. All body types vary, be it Uke or Tori. I think it is important to study what worked for other martial artists, but in the end it is each artist's responsibility to decide what works for him/her. What works for/against a 150lb. woman may have to be modified for/against a 250lb. man. You are always aloud to change your mind as you gain more insight through practice.

  4. Completely agree. Those who want to say Aikido and Baguazhang are the same, it is because Ueshiba O Sensei often was just walking. Your opponent would say many people aren't doing Aikido! When I go to a karate manual, there can be reasons stated for each stance. We don't do this for Hamni.

    Our knees are only meant to hinge. The four insertion points of the quadriceps on each knee can only engage in a restricted ROM. Have someone push on a wall in Hamni and feel their knee on the flared out leg. If they are pushing hard, only half of the knee muscles will feel tensed. Have them turn until their foot faces the wall, and you'll feel all the muscles around the knee engage. Same with the butt muscles, but don't get arrested. Have your partner now pull hard on something immovable with the foot to either direction, and feel what the leg does.

    When I do Tenkan, if I go into Hamni the largest base length of my foot and the largest muscle groups help to break my momentum, and my knee receives the motion in a healthy direction instead of lateral. We like to get off the line in Aikikai, so I figure Hamni is so that I can turn or change the direction of my movement/force with the full structure of my knee. But going straight forward? People who advocate that are talking out of dogma or a lack of understanding of anatomy.

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