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If it feels good: we fall;
If it does not feel good: we find a way to fall anyway

Jorma Lyly

I love tai no tenkan! Everything I love about aikido is contained within this simple, and at the same time impossible, exercise. We are searching for a way to be able to move when somebody is holding us; raising the arm; lowering the arm.

Tai no tenkan is a very interesting way of using the grab of the partner as a restriction to gain freedom within those limitations which the restriction gives. When we feel that the partner is holding us there is something inside us that needs to loosen up to be able to move. If we try to move before we have solved the problem we can feel it in the grab, usually by the way that some fingers get more pressure than others. The pressure should ideally be as equal as possible for all parts of the grab. The partner’s stiffness helps us find our own stiffness and we can work on it together.

Sometimes we are practising with a partner which does not seem to have any stiffness at all. In that case we should try to receive that feeling from them, getting it for ourselves when we practise with other partners.

Pocket tenkan, Germany in April 2013. Photo by Katarina Gullberg.

Pocket tenkan with Jorma in Germany, April 2013. Photo by Katarina Gullberg.

My latest fascination with tai no tenkan is to play with my fingers to connect to the partner. If a big and strong partner grabs me firmly my fingers will become bent because my partner is squeezing the muscles in my underarm which are controlling the fingers.

If I forcefully open my fingers, I will get a “wrong” sensation in the grab and I will be totally unable to move. However, if I start my search inside myself, searching for a way to extend my bent fingers respecting the feeling from the grab, somehow, by the time my fingers are extended I can move. I do not know how this works. It also works with partners of smaller size and with less strenght, only the bending of the fingers during the grab become more subtle.

I am forever fascinated in solving different blocks in my body. I had a very severe block in my left shoulder, which I am certain was connected with my life situation. It finally loosened up, just as my life situation changed. However, the actual feeling I have now that it is gone is a new block in the left part of my neck muscles, and a different one behind the right shoulder blade. Exciting!

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido make people happy!