Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tegatana Dosa - The Walk

In this article I will be taking a detailed look at the history and evolution of aikido taiso in the Tomiki lineage. This has been a difficult project, piecing together the history for video records and information collected in interviews and internet documents. I highly encourage people to participate and add any information they may have about this topic. Simply comment on the blog or email me at

Kenji Tomiki demonstrating tegatana in Judo Taiso

Aikido Taiso in the Tomiki Lineage

Most schools in lineages stemming from Kenji Tomiki 富木 謙治 practice a form of solo aiki based movments. These movements are variously called kihon tandoku taiso, judo taiso,budo taiso, tegatana dosa, tegatana no kata, unsoku, or tandoku undo, aiki taiso no tandoku undo, the walk, the walking, the walking ways, the handblade forms. Whatever the modern organizations call the collection of movements, it seems clear that the exercises were from a group of exercises originally called ‘Judo Taiso’, which translates to ‘judo calisthenics’. Judo taiso is a series of drills developed by Kenji Tomiki as part of his style that incorporates Judo teaching methodology into Aikido practice –and vice versa. Although time has formed many variations of the practice, it is composed of Unsoku or taisabaki (body movement) and the tegatana dosa (hand blade exercises).

Thus far here is the earliest written artifact I have found concerning the listing and the names. This was written before the 17 was created. My current wild guess is that this is from around 1960.


In 1944 Kenji Tomiki 富木 謙治 was living and teaching in imperial Japan’s occupied Manchuria. With the surrender of Japan, the occupying army fell and the Russian army rolled in to take control of Manchuria. Kenji Tomiki was captured as a consequence of his involvement. Tomiki sensei developed a series of exercises during his three year imprisonment 1945-1948, and based them on the basic movements that compose efficient budo movement. They are different from the general warm-up exercises in that they offer a variety of deeper meanings and insights into the execution of basic movements. According to the verbal lore, he continued to practice and during his three years of captivity developed what he called the Judo Taiso. In 1953, he was appointed to full professorship at Waseda University – the place where Judo Taiso became widely distributed. The blanket term Judo Taiso includes both the solo exercises and paired work called Judo Taiso Sotai Dosa. During this time he toured extensively and wrote several publications on the topics of Japanese martial arts. He published a book in 1956 with the name Judo Taiso.

A picture from Judo Taiso. Kenji Tomiki showing his preference for large circular movement.

jūdō 【柔道】taisō 【体操】- judo calisthenics

Kenji Tomiki’s practice

In the first minute and twenty seconds of the classic film of Tomiki’s practice we find him demonstrating the exercise that would come to be performed around the world by the students from his lineage.
The first film of the frame reads “Judo Taiso”
The second frame says…



“When the basic movements of “Aiki no waza” are brought together through formal exercises, practice becomes easy”

I have not been able to accurately date this film, but I surmise he probably filmed it around the time the book was being published in the mid 1950’s. Tomiki shows, at least in this stage of his training, a strong preference for large sweeping tegatana motions. He performs the exercises quite briskly, especially the unsoku stepping motions.

Next we see some clips of Kenji Tomiki Sensei practicing his tegatana dosa around 1975. I think this film is intensely interesting - especially since I have not seen anyone from any of his various student lineages perform it in this way.

Nick Ushin Lowry of the Kaze Uta Budo Kai did a detailed study of the evolution of Tomiki's own practice of the exercise. I applaud his work. It is of great value in looking at the subtle changes that happened through time in Kenji Tomiki's work. (edit) I just attended a workshop with Lowry Sensei on the evolution of the tegatana dosa. He has uncovered some fabulous insights.

Full Lesson of Lowry Sensei's Analysis

The Senta Yamada Film

Senta Yamada studied under Kenji Tomiki. In 1959 he went to England and brought Judo and Aikido with him. He did a taping at the BBC studios and one of the things they filmed was his solo Judo Taiso, although I do not know what he called the exercises at the time. The Yamada film and the Tomiki film are the two true treasures in the historical study of the exercises. I feel that Yamada’s demonstration is probably the clearest remaining representation of the work that was coming out of Waseda University in the late 1950’s.

I personally feel any student of Tomiki aikido taking a deep look at these exercises should take a long look at the oldest examples we have, Tomiki and Yamada's. My analysis of other examples of the exercise are to be compared with these oldest two. The purpose is to highlight the evolution that has naturally happened over time.

A cross style comparison of solo exercises

Tegatana 手刀 Dōsa  動作 (Handblade Movements)

At some point the solo exercises began to be known as the tegatana dosa. In the formal syllabus of Shodokan, and the Tomiki Aikido of the Americas they list Unsoku, Tegatana dosa along with basic breakfalls as the first requirements for grading and advancement.

tegatana ・ shutō 【手刀】-hand used like a sword in striking

te  【手】-hand; arm
katana・ tō 【刀】-(single-edged) sword; katana

The Nariyama Line

It seems the J.A.A. under Nariyama Sensei has moved the exercises in a different direction. One of the readers of the blog recommended this as a good example of what they are doing at the Shodokan in Japan.

British Aikido Association - B.A.A.

In the B.A.A. or the British Aikido Association knowledge of unsoku is required for for 6th kyu and complete knowledge of tandoku undo for 4th kyu. In this film we see a group from London Aikido Dojo, I believe a dojo in Yamada's line, practicing the exercises. They do a few repetitions of sections demonstrating more of a exercise over kata feel to the motions.

In the next nice example we see Adrian Tyndale's group performing at an exhibition the exercises. I believe this would be another B.A.A. example. Although much slower and timed to music, it looks they have remained true to the example that Yamada handed down.

Tomiki Aikido of Americas, formally J.A.A.

Next let's hop over the pond and take a look at an American version from the J.A.A. - Tomiki Aikido of the Americas. This presentation of the tegatana dosa is by Ash Morgan. The first major change we see from Tomiki and Yamada's work is that he drops the turning motions. Everything is performed moving straight ahead.

Michael Gelum from the TAA wrote a criticism of this film.

"Flow and movement are correct, but the tying to the center/hip movement is out of synch. The movements are sword cuts and we all know that the sword is fueled by body movement not arm. If your knot of your obi is leading your exercise, then you are executing good technique. As a suggestion to great technique, practice should be slow...speed will come with proficiency, not the antithesis."

手刀の型– Tegatana No Kata

During the 1970s Tomiki aikido began to take root in the United States. Two major branches formed. One remained close ties to Japan (J.A.A. then later Tomiki Aikido of the Americas). These groups continue to call the exercises Tegatana Dosa. Another branch of the lineage centered in Houston began under the teaching of Kogure, Miyake, Inoue and Geis. This lineage has gone on to spawn organizations that include the Fugakukai, Jiyushinkai, the International Aikido Alliance, the American Tomiki Aikido Association, the Zan-Totsu Kai, and the Kaze Uta Budokai. In this lineage the Tegatana Dosa usually became known as Tegatana no Kata – hand blade kata. Thus far I have not seen any groups outside this lineage calling the exercises by this name. Despite the name ‘tegatana no kata’ the actual use of the hand blade became less emphasized as compared to Tomiki Sensei. Likely instructor preferences started moving towards a palm connection as opposed to the hand blade that Tomiki Sensei seemed to prefer in publications. Many people in this lineage casually refer to the exercise as the “walk”, or “walking”.

kata・ gata 【型】model; type (e.g. of machine, goods, etc.), - type; style; pattern; mold; template; model - kata (standard form of a movement, posture, etc. in martial arts, sport, etc.)

Tegatana no Kata

1) Shomen Ashi - forward step
2) Waki Ashi - side to side step
3) Tenkan Ashi - step feet
4) Shomen Te Gatane - straight hand blade
5) Uchi Mawashi - inside sweep hand blade
6) Soto Mawashi - outside sweep hand blade
7) Uchi Soto Gaeshi - forward block & side push
8) Uchi Mawashi Gaeshi - inside sweep & turn
9) Soto Mawashi Gaeshi - outside sweep & turn opposite
10) Ude Goshi Gaeshi - arm & hip turn opposite
11) O Mawashi - major circle opposite
12) Yoko O Mawashi - side major circle both hands


An example of the exercise done from a young member of Fugakukai practicing. We are beginning to see a bit of drift from Tomiki's example. The contact point has moved away from the original hand blade. There are a few palm up lifting motions that I have not seen in other examples. Also in this lineage we see the final motions of the exercises, Yoko O Mawashi, shift far away from the ideas presented in the Tomiki/Yamada model.

I found another example of a Fugakukai / Kihara student demonstrating the walking kata.

American Tomiki Aikido Association

Here we see Jeff and Gail Duncan at Full Circle Aikido in Killeen, Texas

Kaze Uta Budo Kai

Nick Ushin Lowry the head of the Kaze Uta Budo Kai demonstrates his version of the Tegatana No Kata. Interestingly enough, he emphasizes a return to the actual use of the tegatana in his version.

Windsong Online Lesson

The Tsunako Miyake Connection

Over my years of training I have heard many high level teachers attribute the ‘walk’ to the influential teacher Tsunako Miyake Sensei. Unless there is any evidence of her practicing it before the 1950s Tomiki film, I feel that it might be a false rumor. I am sure she was pivotal in distributing the exercise to a great number of influential teachers and she might have aided in refining the movements. At this time it seems clear that the movements came from Tomiki’s direct work with the Judo Taiso.

One interesting story recently came to light on the thoughtful Sensei blog. L.F. Wilkinson recently wrote on his blog -

“When one of my Sensei's Sensei came over to the US on tour, my wife and I were tasked with escorting her from seminar to seminar while my wife acted as uke for her teachings; a great honor I might add. It gave us some behind the scenes on how high level Japanese Sensei view some things. We walked into a dojo while on the tour and on the wall the dojo proprietor, concerned about the proper Japanese names, had cobbled together Japanese names and had done poster boards with the names of The Walking (and every movement in it) and the 8 Releases (and every movement in that also). Sensei read the boards, turned away towards Lynn and I so no one could see and used her hand to hide her laughter before she said, "Walking and releases have no name. Not kata. Just walking and just exercise." She appreciated the sincere efforts but she said that Tomiki had never thought the exercises important enough for formal names; there are not being formal kata per se.”

合氣体操の単独運動 – Aiki Taiso No Tandoku Undo

In the 1980s some ex members of the Fugakukai lineage formed their own Tomiki based organization called the Jiyushinkai. This organization continued the practice of the solo exercises that originated from Kenji Tomiki. Like the previous teachers in this line, the emphasis moved away from hand blade work. Instead it took on an emphasis of steady center motion, weight dropping, palm connection and biomechanically efficient pushes. Perhaps for the reason of the de-emphasis on the hand blade the organization changed the name of the exercise to Aiki Taiso No Tandoku Undo (aiki calisthenics – solo exercise). This change must have occurred sometime before 1995, as this is when I first heard the name and began exploring this exercise.

Here is a film from what appears to be a mid 1990's version of the Aiki Taiso No Tandoku Undo. It was practiced by Aaron Clark at the Jiyushinkan in Tempe, Arizona.

A YouTube poster who is apparently part of their system writes, "This looks like the *old* kata video, because Aaron is still going up on his toes without flexing his knees and dropping down, i.e. the way we used to do it, in that one swing-around movement in the latter half of the kata. Sheesh, this takes me back..."

I would love to see a new version, but members of this lineage seem to not like putting practice to film at this time.

aiki【合気・ 合氣outdated kanji】
ai 【合い】joint; associate; to come together; to merge; to unite; to meet
ki 【気】spirit; mind heart, nature; disposition, mood, feelings,atmosphere;essence

taisō  【体操】gymnastics; physical exercises; calisthenics
tai  【体】 body; physique; posture
ayatsuru 【操る】 to manipulate; to operate; to pull strings

tandoku 【単独】sole; independence; single; solo (flight)
hitoe 【一重 ・ 単】one layer; single; onefold
doku 【独】By itself - In combination - walking alone; walking unaided; going alone; standing on one's own

undō 【運動】motion; exercise
un 【運】fortune; luck
dō 【動】motion; change; confusion


  1. wow-- that was fast! -- you are a wonder sensei strange!

  2. Hehe. Wow, an old video of me doing teganta dousa. I should really put something up that's better. It is very interesting how different groups "interpret" the tegatana dousa.

  3. Eric Pearson, your strange take on the teaching of Hanshi Geis and Tomiki bares the mark of a dead-minded Neo, drunk on the red pill's bliss....

    Brother, you stink of booze and burnt dog propaganda.

    Like the campaigns waged by Mr. Moneybags - Thomas Edison and Co. against the more efficient and beneficial alternating current proponents, you are already forgiven because you know not what you did, do and will do....

    The truth is that Mr. Geis is as much or more the titmouse, pulling the thorn from the lion's paw than he is the lion, roaring....

    Eric your ability to teach is hindered when you humiliate or otherwise publicly criticize any member of a bu, regardless of whether the person appearing in the (old) video seems younger than you....

    Such age and rank discrimination aside, it's snobbery, plain and simple, for you to pretend to offer such a holier than thou critique of the KiHara approach to walking when you've never had the sack or spirit to walk even one cycle with any of the manifold groups that walk in that community's sacred space on any given week.

    Until you've walked a mile with a bu, it's safer not to rag on the glide of their gate, especially in public. True fellows don't do that... Who would keep training with such a snake?...

    A question on your research method: Did you at least attempt to contact those practitioners for comment, as you ingratiated yourself among your "teachers?" Maybe they were working on something more subtle than the untrained eye could perceive.

    Regardless, now that you've publicly spoken down to them, why should they listen to you or invite you into their dojo? How can you walk in peace with yourself (much less anyone else, much less a master) with such an obese ego?

    Remember brother(s and sisters), the best student is the best teacher, and the best student is most humble.

    KEG said supremely:
    In reality you, as teachers, are the servants of the student. Work hard for them, teach them and require from them the disciplines that will help them to grow into confident excellence. However, never lapse (for long) into the illusion that your knowledge makes you special. If you didn't have the students to teach, your knowledge would be a useless thing in your brain, stagnating and looking for an outlet.

    All of you know how it feels on a bad and stormy night. Everyone is late and you begin to wonder if you are going to have a class to teach and then the relief you feel when a bunch of people walk in at the last moment and their desire to be in your presence confirms you as a teacher of rare knowledge and value to them. Well, when they confirm you, you in turn, confirm them equally by the relief that you feel and the knowledge that you are really needed. Lets face it, you need them and they need you. It's a two way street.

    Karl E. Geis
    Student Handbook

    Sincerely, Anonymous

  4. Nick's is the closest to what I learned at Karl's school. All the other Fugakukai versions look foreign to me.

  5. Good work. I like the comparisons across the different approaches.

    A couple things though -
    1) Even though the London Aikido Dojo clip looks good, from what I have seen being executed from the Nariyama line, this video should be considered - . Sorry, I could not find any being done by Japanese, but the linear approach of this version, combined with the clear use of tegatana is interesting if we are talking about evolution.

    2) From my recent communications and training with Shishida and Sato Shihans of the JAA, there is a new evolution (not shown in any of the above videos) that appears on Sato's DVD here -

    The reason why I bring these up is because near the beginning of your blog you quote the following: “When the basic movements of “Aiki no waza” are brought together through formal exercises, practice becomes easy”. The latest evolution found on Sato's DVD goes into a deeper analysis of what is Aiki and how these "basic exercises" actually build the foundation for using "Aiki" in "Aiki no Waza".

    Great research.

  6. To my anonymous friend who posted a scorching comment on Feb 18 2011, my apologies. Blogspot automatically put your comment in my spam box which until this very minute I was unaware that I had.

    A quick comment on your comment is that I am writing this as a sub culture reference for those of that are interested in the evolution of Tomiki aikido. I did not really criticize anyone here. I merely pointed out differences. I have indeed worked out or been in email/telephone contact with all but one of the people that demonstrated in these films (excluding the deceased senseis) I apologize that you take offense. I am merely trying to collect useful information.

    walk in peace

  7. I did not see anything that struck me as particularly critical of anybody's approach, and I thought this presentation of what different branches of the art are doing, and how they differ from early versions of these movements is interesting, at least from a historical perspective. Anybody who has worked with a gifted sensei over an extended period of time knows that what is taught changes over time. Even eminent senseis find that their understanding evolves over time. There are many things that can be learned from these movements, and it is understandable that different groups have chose no emphasize different aspects.