Friday, June 10, 2011

Daito Ryu's dangerous irimi

I have been turning my eye back to my Daito Ryu training to closely examine what I like and what I don't think is efficient enough for me to keep in my arsenal. Today I would like to take a critical look at the direct entering motion of one of Daito Ryu's signature movements, ippon dori. (effectively this is also called ikkyo or oshi taioshi in other systems) Here we see the attacker coming in and is received by the Daito Ryu irimi (entry). The Daito Ryu tori in one lunging linear step captures the elbow from a downward chop. He extends outward and causes the attacker's spine to bend and all the weight of the attacker is loaded onto his back foot.

Honestly I think this is a dangerous gambit. Let's take a look at the base or foundation that has been created here. The feet are way extended out from underneath the hips. While this gives a powerful drive at one singular point, he now finds himself at the edge of his power. His next step has to be an adjusting recovery step. Indeed what he does next while performing the technique is to withdraw the left foot 6 inches, so he can even move his right foot. He simply has put himself in a position where he cannot move without getting his posture and stance back first. It's all or nothing here.

Next we see the line where he has grounded himself. Rather than generating power through weight, or body drop, he is using a long muscular push. His back leg is grounded and he is strongly pushing down the line. His posture breaks due to over extension and muscular stretch. And despite this deep entry he only has connection at the very edge (possible past) his effective range. Only his palms connect here. Reach far out across a table for a quarter that is just at the edge of where you can reach. How effective are you at this range? The more I stand in this position testing out the stance the more I am convinced that he is setting himself up for a projection throw if uke counters.

What I see is dangerous over extension. All bipeds have a weak line running perpendicular between their legs. Feet that remain under the hips typically recover from any distortion in posture with ease. Feet out this wide make any balance break down the weak line virtually unrecoverable and catastrophic for stability.

So when I look at this entering strategy I see a system of martial arts that lacks a randori (free play)system to act as a check to a dangerous entering motion. You see, since the weight of the attacker has been pressed on his back foot, he should have the freedom to move his front foot. If the uke would step back he would move far past the Tori's effective range. If the uke were to move his foot to the right down the weak line he would cause a back step balance break in the man performing the technique, and maybe a corner drop technique. If uke would move his foot in front of tori he would likely throw him as well.

I would like some participation here. Get in this deep stance and tell me what you feel? I vote it is too deep a stance. I think he would get countered by anyone sensitive enough to move almost in any direction.

Oh by the way, the model in the photo here is a true master of budo. I met him twice in Japan, and he is a lovely fellow. While I am critical of this entry, by no means am I attacking him, the art form or anything really. This stuff is a science, and we all benefit from critical yet friendly discourse.

Interestingly in the description of the video he writes

"When you see them you will understand. Take, for example, the combative stance (kamae). In Daito-ryu there is in fact no kamae: it is rather a “kamae without kamae.” To be truly effective one must maintain a natural posture (shizentai) rather than assuming special right or left combative stances.

A natural posture is a form of kamae, but once you extend one arm in front of you, you become unable to use techniques. The techniques can be freely performed from the natural, most unfettered posture. In a real martial situation it would be foolish to offer your arm for someone to grab."

As a contrast here is a photo of Kono Sensei, who practices aikido, at about the same point in his version of the technique.


  1. I've struggled with the technique also, Kondo Sensei tends to attack the chin as well which makes it a bit like aigame ate and shomen ate. I find that uke's arm is pushed back so far, its almost out of reach and their front leg makes it incredibly awkward to get round. It seems easier just to lift ukes front leg and throw them backwards as there is so much weight placed on their back foot. Whats interesting is that the Takumakai's version takes Uke's attack with the right hand and deflects it across Ukes body, creating more sideways kuzhushi. This is Uyeshibas influence he might of felt entering so deeply had the problems mentioned.

  2. What I have seen of Kondo sensei has always seemed very big and dramatic and power-oriented. He is shihan of Daito-ryu "hombu", presumably carrying on Tokimune's technique, but it would be interesting to see how Sagawa's or Horikawa's students do this same technique.

  3. There are many ways to do ikkajo. This form of ippon dori isn't only one.

  4. I have attended multiple seminars of Kono Sensei's- nothing against the man personally but his Aikido is very soft and heavily depends on uke cooperation. Would not trust it on the street.

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  6. Personally I think Kondo Sensei's ippon-dori is excellent.