Here is [Webmaster: an extract from] an article by Okumura Shigenobu sensei for the magazine Aikido Tankyu #5.
The original title is: Aikido no shugyo o hajimeru hito no tame ni (for people who are beginning their shugyo in aikido). Aikido no jumbi undo ni tsuite (on preparatory exercises for the practice of aikido).
“Ei-Ho, Ei-Ho, Ei-Ho”… The traveler on the early morning bus can, from as far away as the main street, hear and be astonished by this strange chant. The neighbours of Hombu Dojo, on the other hand, are used to this unusual wake up call, around 6:30, the tradition of which goes back more than half a century: these are the preparatory exercises, a kind of gymnastics which combine preparation of the spirit with that of the body.
The practice of the martial arts, of course, requires a physical preparation to ward off accidents and injuries.
In aikido, the preparation is composed of:
1. “purification” exercises (misogi-taiso) – kawa mo shiki [correct movement and utterance for in the river already] – ishi no ue shiki [correct movement and utterance for on the stones beside the river]
2. health system methods (kenkyo ho) – makko ho – Nishi shiki [Nishi system]
3. various breathing exercises (shinkokyu)
There are thus a variety of preparatory exercises and health systems in the aikido practised today. Ueshiba Morihei, the founder, used to say: “This is good, but that is good too”. Consequently, the number of exercises was always growing.
In this exercise, spirit and body help each other mutually. This practise is very important for the study of aikido. Mitama Shizume: “the back is responsible for the eternal past, the belly is responsible for the future. Thus, in standing upright, I develop my own awareness, and the confirmation of my identity in order to accomplish my destiny.”
MOVEMENT – Spread the legs apart by about a half-step to left and to right, stand up straight in a natural manner.
DETAILS – During this exercise, keep the pelvic bowl level, draw the chin back, and close the jaws, with the feeling of touching the ceiling. Put strength into the tanden (about 9 cm [SIC] below the navel), contract the perineum.
With the eyes half-open, breath in, put the left hand over the right hand and place them in front of the tanden. Do not activate any muscular force. Do not think of anything, calm the spirit, breath in calmly and at length. After breathing out, breath in again. Do this for approximately three minutes. [Then] relax, and open the eyes wide. On the mental plane: tend towards thinking about equilibrium, harmony, feeling well (“unify Heaven and Earth”)
When disconnected thoughts come into your mind, and you cannot concentrate, breath a few times, or intone/utter I, Ku, Mu, Su, Bi, while breathing deeply. The disturbance will vanish and the spirit will become calm.
I while breathing out, Ku while breathing in, Mu while breathing out, Su while breathing in, Bi while breathing out. And finally, breath deeply. Repeat the exercise till you achieve complete calm.
- Legs straight
- Pelvic bowl kept level
- Vertebral column straight
- Chin drawn back
- Jaws closed
- Shoulders level
- Nose-belly line very perpendicular
- Big toes: put strength
- Achilles tendon stretched [or “tensed”]
- Hips and belly have a balanced strength
- Epigastrium (pit of the stomach) relaxed
- Perineum stretched [or “tensed”].
This is the movement of a rower, in particalar as it concerns the koshi.
MOVEMENT -Turn [a little] towards the right, while placing your left foot one step ahead.
Turn your head also towards the right, and extend both arms forwards, land your upper body forwards slightly, as you take up the position of a rower.
Next, while uttering the kiai “Ei”, move your upper body towards the rear, and your hands horizontally towards your chest.
Uttering the kiai “Ho”, return to your original position.
When you are done with the left foot forward, put your right foot forward and repeat the same movements.
With the right foot forward, the shout is changed to “Essa, Essa.”
DETAILS -In this movement, you put all your strength into your tanden, and you circulate ki energy throughout your body.
The movement is performed with a calm spirit, without leaning your upper body too far forward.
Concentrate your thoughts on a feeling of harmony.
By performing this movement, you train your spirit.
MOVEMENT – Place your feet a single footstep apart, stand up straight, and breathe deeply. As you breathe in, bring your hands together in front of your chest. Raise your hands together above your head. Then, with the left hand on top, the right hand below, turn your hands till they intersect at right-angles, [enclosing a space the size of a hen’s egg]. Shake them quickly over a short distance up and down, with energy in your tanden.
It is good to perform this exercise as energetically as possible, so that the shaking will dissipate troubles of the mind.
Practitioners in days gone by used to perform these same exercises under waterfalls.
[These days, on the other hand,] while you are shaking, all that you need do is focus your mind and exhale.
DETAILS – Relax your shoulders, put strength into your tanden, and put tension into your perineum. Keep your armpits closed. Focus more and more on the middle of your forehead (the point between your eyebrows). You should quickly obtain clarity of mind.
MOVEMENT – After the furitama exercise, one does otakebi.
Interlace your fingers on the inside, raise your hands above your head, and while quickly bringing your hands towards your tanden, exhale while uttering the kiai “Ei”.
Next, hold your breathing, focus on your posture. While doing this, pronounce your name clearly, with determination, and, in the same manner, repeat three times “Tate [tah-tay], Tate, Tate”. (“Stand up straight!”)
DETAILS – This [exercise] allows you to confirm your identity and it favors a dynamic way of behavior.
With repetition, furitama and otakebi improve your spirit, and heart and body come to work together in harmony. This develops character.
In our time, in the education system, we neglect such training of the spirit.
I think that these two exercises serve to develop the spirit along with the body. In this they are very important.
In the gymnastics practised in schools, the physical and physiological aspects are studied very seriously, but the spiritual aspect is neglected.
Because a human being is the soul of every living thing, everyone should, every day, adopt a progressive attitude.
The exercises named above:
1 – Mitama shizume,
2 – Funakogi undo,
3 – Furitama,
4 – Otakebi
are effective simultaneously for both body and spirit.
Before his death, Ueshiba O’Sensei, during these preparatory exercises, used to utter the kiai “Ei” so loud that it would startle us. Standing close to our teacher, the vibrations used to shake our body.
Affirming one’s identity is the most important thing for an individual just as it is for society.
Why do we not pay more attention to this in our schools?
Is it not this aspect that is the most missing?
Confucius, too, in his writings, insisted on this point…
MOVEMENT – Lie down on your back, cross your hands “above” your head [i.e. on the ground with your arms extending beyond your head], pull in your chin. Make small, horizontally undulating movements along the length of your entire body.
DETAILS – This “fish movement” has the goal of adjusting the spinal column. It is necessary to do it with all your strength and in a lively manner in order to get results.
MOVEMENT – Lying on the ground, extend your arms and legs vertically, with the soles of your feet parallel to the ground and with your fingers spread. In this position, shake your arms and legs (small vibrations) for two minutes.
DETAILS – Ueshiba Sensei used to use kingyo undo and mokan undo as preparatory exercises. He took these movements from the Nishi health method….
– – from Le corps aiki – La pratique interne de l’aikido, Philippe Grangé, pp. 93-101