The Fundamentals Connection

The other day I read a post on the fundamental concepts of projection, rotation, and isolation found in Aikido that my brother had shared in his Shunpookan Aikido group on Facebook. Dan is an excellent aikido instructor, taking a very practical and serious approach to both his training and his teaching.

As I read his post, I was struck by the fact that we have essentially the same ideas in Isshin-ryu Karate (or, at least how some of us practice it). These same concepts very often apply to how we, as Isshin-ryu practitioners, “greet” our attacker’s technique.

Here is the original post about these three Aikido fundamentals …

Three Aikido Fundamental Principles

Sensei Dan Gilbert

Last night in class we talked about structure, and the three fundamental concepts you can use in your Aikido. In every technique you will see power projection, rotation, and isolation. Different approaches to techniques results in different emphasis on these three concepts.

Suppose you learned a technique – for example, ikkyo, using the idea of rotating (blending) away from the attack. In that case, it is worth studying how you can get the same result by projecting through the attack or isolating it. It is all ikkyo. The rotational approach takes the attacker in a different direction; the power projection approach interrupts the attack and sends him back along the line. Isolation can involve letting the power of the attack “die” and then reversing the technique.

In ikkyo, this coincides with the common description of the attack having a birth, a life and a death. Taking at birth requires projection, rotation works during the life and isolation works at the death.

Okay, So What About Isshin-ryu?

In Aikido, ikkyo, essentially means “first lesson,” and is often taught initially as a “projection,” utilizing leverage on a joint, causing the attacker’s body to be “projected” in a particular direction, often, I would guess, resulting in a throw.

A person’s unbalance is the same as weight …

In Isshin-ryu Karate, we often seek to control an attacker’s joint – say, the elbow, or a shoulder, the hip, or maybe a knee, in order to “project” our attacker’s body in a particular direction, placing him in a position of unbalance or weakness. I often refer to this as “breaking their Sanchin.” The goal is to place the attacker in a position from which they cannot defend themselves, and a position which is, quite often, a target rich environment.

The body should be able to change direction at any time …

Aikido teaches its practitioners to lead their attacker instead of directly opposing force with force. The objective is to move so that the attacker’s energy becomes tangential to a circle revolving around the center of balance of the Aikido practitioner. The aikidoist rotates the attacker but is unaffected by the motion because he or she is at the circle’s center.

Many of my favorite techniques involve rotating on my center of gravity while my attacker’s technique takes off on a line that is tangential to my rotation. This rotation typically leaves my attacker and his weapons facing in a harmless direction, while I and my weapons are focused directly on him.

There is no first strike in karate …

Joint isolation combines two principles, pain compliance and structural manipulation, to imobilize a joint and/or throw an attacker. Many throwing or grappling arts including Aikido and Jujitsu use them. These are often the last techniques to be learned and to use effectively because they require fine motor skills and take a lot of practice to master. Karate uses these techniques as well.

Sensei Harrill was very adept at isolating a joint and then attacking it. One technique I will always remember (probably because he demonstrated its effectiveness on me several times during one seminar), comes from the kata, Wansu.

I threw a right-hand punch, which Sensei deflected with his left forearm while rotating and shifting into Shiko Dachi. Sensei’s arm continued, rotating inward and up, effectively locking my arm with his palm locking and isolating my right shoulder. This had the effect of shifting the point of my shoulder down and forward, where it was met by the knuckles of his right hand. When his fist struck the point of my shoulder, the lesson was instant, painful, and easily understood. That was not a good position to be in …

My shoulder had been projected, rotated, isolated … and then struck. As for my punch – it had a birth, a life, and a death.