Category Archives: Dojocho Talks

Kimbal Anderson-Sensei: Audio, video and essay

-~-~-~-~-~-~HOW TO BE A GOOD UKE~-~-~-~-~-~-

– – – by Kimbal Anderson Sensei

  • You have to be trying to get nage‘s center.  And then you have to let nage  get YOUR center. Depending on who you’re training with, you may have back off just enough so that they can get your center.


So.  The reason that we train the way we train is to help each other learn. So training has to be absolutely honest.  Honest is not being brutal, and over-coming the other person so that they can never do anything. Honest is not exerting an inappropriate amount of force for the level the other person’s at.

Being honest, you need to always take their center, or at least make a good attempt – and NOT with any stiffness – and we always want to get that little shift in balance – if not kuzushi, then the beginning of kuzushi – no matter what role we’re in. Because aiki doesn’t function,  in fact: no martial art functions,  unless you can do that.

So: if you’re uke and you’re working with someone who’s not as  experienced,  we use the correct grip,  so that it’s easy to take their center… so that it takes very little physical force to unbalance nage –  and then you hold that so that nage gets the feeling of “how do I work with that?…” “How do I restore, or avoid…?” or “How do I completely absorb this attack?” And then, hopefully,  their reflection back takes uke‘s center.

And that’s like the essence of benevolent but true training. And then you can increase the intensity as time goes on.


So, for instance, today we were working on the idea of what ura and omote are, and how omote might suddenly become very present with a certain kind of attack…

So: setting up to do suwari-waza-kokyu-ho, if we both do ura, then we have this balanced thing.  If uke and nage are both doing the same thing, then it’s all very balanced, the system harmonizes, and no-one gets thrown. Then it’s only when uke is tempted to extend –  only when uke pushes and tries harder to play their designated role in kokyu-dosa – only when uke puts their omote into it – and nage maintains their sense of ura, that the system absorbs it all and throws uke. Because that’s the nature of what we’re doing.

That’s the fun experiment we do a million, million, million times…

In-yo-ho and Makoto…

– – – by Kimbal Anderson Sensei

So this movement of energy we’re showing, this thing, is creating a circulation within  y o u r   body.   Now some forms of aikido never go beyond this:  “I have my center…I take your center… I throw you…”  This is very much  “I’m okay, you’re uke“…  (in other words: “I maintain my integrity and you don’t need to….”)   Well, what I prefer is that you both have structural integrity and you both keep it as you feed in.  Which means that uke doesn’t bail out,  but is able to experience the influences of being drawn into a greater circulation of energy.

read more:

…become an extraordinarily useful mirror!!!…

– – – by Kimbal Anderson Sensei

“Taking ukemi means learning to read your opponent and his intentions instantaneously,  just as if he and you are of one mind…” – – – O’Sensei

Learning to take ukemi is not just a physical discipline but a mental discipline with a profoundly spiritual dimension: it demands…greater awareness and the expansion of  consciousness” – – – Mitsugi Saotome  Shihan

The only way to really understand the gift of aikido is to become an extraordinarily useful mirror. And that is the nature of ukemi: to become a perfect mirror to help the other person polish their technique.

Many people just take the fall which doesn’t help;  other people resist when, in real budo, their arm would be snapped off.

Learning how to roll and tumble and all that is amusing, invigorating and good for you: it’s a kind of massage.

I intend to approach ukemi in terms of what it is: the ‘presence’ of uke. There is a condition of mind that you want to be in: at any moment you could become nage – if you’re like the perfect mirror. When the person moving with the technique backs up, does some sort of movement error, concentration error, you should be able to fill in the void, causing them to increase their adaptability and adjust to that… or causing them simply to discover that they are backing up. So you become the perfect vehicle.

Almost all the aikido stories I’ve heard center on ukemi: including the people I’ve trained as soldiers: stories like: driving down the road, the road blows up, they’re airborne in the vehicle… and they take a roll and walk away. While the vehicle’s tumbling after them they walk away…

Because they’re aware, and they move to the side.

It is the marvelous jewel.

In olden days often you trained three, four, five years, only doing ukemi with the teacher, and you learned the techniques inside and out.

Done really well, you should be able to do all aikido techniques without a nage: you should be able to do all the movements. They should be so embedded in your body…

It is the marvelous jewel of aikido.

…there are some things I want to talk about (7)…

– – – – – – – – – – ukemi, receiving and blending – – – – – – – – – –

…there are some things I want to talk about (6)…

– – – – – – – – – – basics of go-no-sen irimi  – – – – – – – – – –

-~-~-~-~-~-~AME-NO-UKIHASHI is…~-~-~-~-~-~-

– – – by Takeharu Yoshi Renshi

  • …being in Wu-Ji 1) stance – in shizentai –  with completely relaxed upper body, such that you do indeed physically get that floaty feeling that the Tai-Ch’i Classics describe as being “centered on the ground “ 2) , and being like a fine-tuned, precision balance 3) .  This is the Floating Bridge of Heaven.  Maintaining visualizations of opening up to the universe, to everything around you… and a sense of being open to the universe, to everything around you… are helpful for achieving this complete relaxation…


As one discovers in training, all these metaphors of body, mind, physical sensation are absolutely a propos.  They are always the best possible description – the best possible way you could say it – so that when your koshi starts to loosen up, perhaps, and you move a little, spontaneously, you realize, “oh – that’s ‘water’: the feeling of being on a moored row-boat, on gently moving water…”  Or maybe you’re performing kawa-misogi, and you stay in the river for a while, and have the realization: “oh –  t h a t ‘ s  the feeling of being just part of everything around you – being part of the universe…”

Well, rocking back and forth to find the place in between back and forth, which is absolutely upright, is one thing. But to find that place and to be there with complete “tai ch’i” relaxation is another – right at that upright posture is effectively a zero-gravity point that feels like floating – not on water, but more gentle and with a little more up-and-down: like floating on air.  The Tai Ch’i Classics  talk of “floating, sinking, lightness, heaviness,” and more particularly, they say: you “stand like a balance scale so that the slightest change in lightness, heaviness, floating or sinking is instantly discernable.” 4)

And in ki-energy terms, ‘opening up to the universe’ means: make the inside like the outside. Make the outside like the inside.

Because when you set up your body correctly, it becomes an antenna. An antenna has all the properties of the things it picks up –  and yet it doesn’t…

A Yagi antenna  is a big long bar…  it looks like a fish-skeleton. It was invented and patented by two Japanese professors in 1926, and it takes energies that are invisible and ephemeral and it amplifies them through the resonances of the spines – the “ribs” if you like – into a signal that the attached equipment can sense and work with. When you set your spine up correctly, it looks just like a Yagi. It is a vertical antenna, sitting in space.

And you know that if you take a wire, and you put it on a balloon, and you put it way up high, and you have a metal wire coming down: the flow of energy coming off it produces a huge static electrical charge. You can actually generate usable power from it.

So the physical structure of Ame-no-Ukihashi creates an antenna for ki. The body becomes an antenna for ki. And if you direct your mind to that, you can access all kinds of functionality.

And remember: you don’t reside in the body. If you think of your ki-tai, and beyond, you are a signal, a much larger field, that extends into all of space/time, and that signal – you too – is moving through the structure of your body.

Now, if you bend or kink an antenna you get a different signal than if you get it to unfold correctly. A lot of the exercises we do, are to open that antenna up. taiji_zhou_dunyi-1We unblock the spinal cord… I always felt that there’s something in the spinal fluid that is electro-physical in nature – you might even consider it a liquid antenna – and these days, now, we have liquid batteries. With memory.

And to complete the picture: the amount of neurons in your heart are vast – they are like your brain. And your gut, too, is another huge center of neurons.  And this is the traditional Taoist picture of the three centers of the body. The brain, heart, gut – the three tan-t’ien – are communicating with each other through the spine, and the central channels… or not. If the flow of ki is broken in places – through tension, stiffness – then your body dysfunctions: and the ki cannot flow.

But with relaxation, and with practice, you can have this concept of Heaven and Earth – right here in the body. You have this  antenna, and it connects the rarified Heaven energy, and the dense, Earth energy.

And at the center-point of the wave-form, right at the center of the arc, is your diaphragm. When you have correct posture, when you are in Wu-Ji, your diaphragm moves evenly between heaven and Earth.  So your breath connects Heaven and Earth.

1)  Wu-Ji is the fundamental relaxed standing position of Tao-ist meditation, Tai-Ch’i and Ba-Gua-Zhang. In the Tai Ch’i Classics, the Taijiquan Lun begins: “Taiji is born from Wuji…” (tr. Barbara Davis, The Taijiquan Classics, p. 103).  It is named for the undivided mu that precedes, in the Tao-ist description of creation, the division into closely intertwined yin and yang that we see represented in the well known yin/yang symbol (tai-kyoku). In the Tokugawa-era overlay of this Tao-ist description of creation onto the Kojiki’s, which Omoto-Kyo inherited, Wu-Ji is
the yin and yang of the Tai-kyoku are
2)  Astonishingly, the seal script version of the kanji for “center” could be a schematic of a person standing in Wu-Ji, connected to the Ki of Heaven and the Ki of Earth: sealscrptcenter-2    .And “Earth”, according to the standard Tai Ch’i schematic of the human body (see above) is the center of the torso: precisely where one feels the physical sensation of “floating as if on a cloud, in the air.”
3) “The crown [of the head] is like the reference [mark] on a scale… The two hands are like the trays on the left and right of a scale. The [koshi] is like a balance beam contact point with its support…. [the koshi] is like a wheel that can turn in both directions around the mingmen point. It is also like a big infantry banner – [a big flag] – that can be waved and turned.”  Taiji Pingzhun Yao Ding Jie  in  the Taijiquan Classics  tr. Zhang Yun, with David Ho, Peter Capell, Susan Darley,  pp. 370-71
4)  Taiji Pingzhun Yao Ding Jie  in  the Taijiquan Classics  tr. Zhang Yun, with David Ho, Peter Capell, Susan Darley,  p. 371

Uke and Nage feel the same thing…

Floating on Ame-no-Uki-Hashi, if there is true relaxation, uke and nage feel the same thing.

And that’s how uke learns.

Because musubi is the essential truth of aikido practice and life itself. A person who can find musubi realizes the universe hears them and they hear the universe.

 – – – Takeharu Yoshi Renshi

…standing on Ame-no-Ukihashi and the body of existence…

– – – by Takeharu Yoshi Renshi

So, thinking about Ame-no-Ukihashi, or Wuji… we were talking about O’Sensei describing that feeling: that life force feeling… right?


In order to really enjoy something you have to allow yourself to reside in a sort of a stable place. You have to kind of let yourself into the place and be there. And because you’ve been programmed by this society to constantly move, move, move…   and pay, pay, pay. Every little thing, is like some middle-man has to extract from you. So you’ve been conditioned this way. So now you’re going to free yourself.

So… part of it is this kind of yi

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The ki which unifies your body and mind…

Peter-san:   Sensei, I’ve wondered for a long time about O’Sensei’s third principle: the third thing that we should “match up with the activity and living movement of the universe”.  “The movements of your body” are pretty obvious:  once you start letting gravity move your jo, then you’ve pretty much started in on that journey…  And “matching your ki to the…universe”… that’s a thing you find in meditation, and a place you settle into, and, frankly, it’s the same place as any group of musicians really  playing together, and really listening to each other… But “the ki which unifies your body and mind … ” … ?

Well,  you’ve always stressed the importance of unifying body and mind…

And we’ve worked on this a lot…

And I think, finally, I’m  beginning to get a sense of what O’Sensei might have meant…  So now, for example: if I’m lying in bed, and and I think: “I should get up and get a drink of water” BUT DON’T do it… well, now, these days, I simply do an immediate redo, and, BOOF, my body moves as my mind thinks… And so I know what the feel of that is. And I can open the way that feels up to the universe… to everything around me…

And that  does seem to be a very good place to do aikido from…  which is why I’m asking…

Kimbal Anderson Sensei: Well, one of the things that I’ve explored personally – because I think it’s the whole thing… the reason for living – is that there is indeed a kind of ki, which O’Sensei alluded to, and you can focus in on it: a  ki  that joins body and mind –  oneself – and the universe.  It has a particular vibration and feeling to it:  it’s the feeling that you’re alive.

I mean if you just stop  stop thinking and worrying and planning and all that other stuff, there is a brilliant form of presence in your body, and that ki is on  t h i s  side of Ame-no-Ukehashi.  It is on the materialized side in the sense that you can perceive it and you are material.

So it links the immaterial world to this world.

And myself, sometimes in the morning when I first wake up, before I can remember my name and all the things that go on every day, I try to suspend myself.  I suspend my beliefs and the need to have an identity and I just experience that pure energy. And always it’s the same:  it goes on for a while and then some thought’ll occur like “oh, it’s 9:30 and I have two acupuncture appointments…”   But in that merged, floating in a sea of ch’i, I think you’re experiencing that place, and you are accessing something that’s always there.

This is kind of the paradox: it’s always there.

It is your life itself.

I think people who are well experienced at this – for whatever circumstance – have a potent kokyu, too. And that people who have had a near-death experience often come back changed, because they have experienced this ch’i. And I suspect – at least, my meditation teachers and the Tibetans that I have worked with mentioned to me lots of times – that we are life itself.

And that empty state which is neither matter nor energy is our true nature, and we come and go from that.

…there are some things I want to talk about (5)…

– – – – – – – – – – proper stance and good grounding  – – – – – – – – – –