Foot movement: Circular versus Linear?

Discussion in 'Aikido' started by Greetings!, Nov 30, 2015.

  1. Greetings!

    Greetings! Valued Member

    Greetings everyone!

    Still considering myself a beginner, I am greatly enjoying Aikido class. My Aikido instructor said that we are practicing the Nishio style of Aikido. I was just recently promoted from 6th Kyu to 5th Kyu.

    I have a question in regard to the following topic, please. :)

    Foot movement: Circular versus Linear? That is, having your feet tracing an arc along the floor, as compared to the foot tracing as being more linear along the floor.

    To give you some background in regard to the above, ...

    My instructor, whom I greatly respect, he always seems to be approachable, congenial, and informative. However, I would still prefer to not ask him the following question so as not to be misinterpreted in the slightest that I am disrespecting his teaching style, where I would then subsequently be faced with the awkward circumstance of an instructor having to defend himself against an inquiring student such as me.

    As you all are aware, any particular Aikido throw or technique requires Nage (Tori) to take more than one step. That is, as Nage, I am required to take several steps in order to position myself in order to do a particular throw or technique against Uke.

    Almost all of the steps, as taught by our instructor, of any particular technique involve the foot to trace an arc along the floor.

    However, I have observed in other aikido videos for other Aikido schools on YouTube that the students seem to be taught that the foot is not always tracing an arc, but rather, it seems most of the time, moving mostly in a straight line along the floor.

    For example, a good demonstration of this is the following video provided by, apparently, a company called Howcast, the video being titled “How to Do Tai Sabaki | Aikido Lessons” (3 minutes 27 seconds in length).

    [ame=""]How to Do Tai Sabaki | Aikido Lessons - YouTube[/ame]

    Apparently, the footwork in the above video is referred to as ”Tai Sabaki“, which apparently consists of “Irimi” (spelling?), “Kaiten”, and “Tenkan”. Our class was never taught any of these words.

    Please allow me to mention that I have absolutely no affiliation whatsoever with the above company. I am just using them as an example to display what I am referring to as more “linear movement” with the feet (as in the video), as opposed to otherwise moving the feet in an arc fashion, that is, tracing a part of a circle (the way that I am being taught in my class.).

    Incidentally, I observe that “Howcast” has apparently many excellent Aikido videos on YouTube, with, what appear to me as, excellent Aikido instructors from, apparently, “New York Aikikai”.

    I can think of an advantage of moving linear (as opposed to circular) as it is displayed within the video, as it requires your foot to cover less distance, since a line is the shortest distance between two points. That is, the straight line is a shorter distance, than the arc or circle would be. However, by the same token, perhaps moving in an arc provides for greater momentum (?) as well as maybe better balance (?). Since, I guess, an arc is building up centrifugal force, it is, maybe, ultimately quicker as well as more powerful than would otherwise be if one was moving in a straight line fashion. (?)

    With the immediately above paragraph, I am now beginning to make statements within, what is actually for me, uncharted territory. Therefore, I will refrain from saying anything further. :)

    In regard to foot movement, Circular versus Linear, what do you think is better?

    If my above question is difficult to answer here on this wonderful forum, MartialArtsPlanet, through the use of words or language, I can understand, since it was somewhat difficult for me to articulate the background for this question.

    Any comments or feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

    The best to all,

  2. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    Just FYI my background is Yoshinkan.

    For the Yoshinkan footwork there is essentially moving:
    Straight forward with front leg
    Stepping through straight with the back leg
    Off angle forward
    Around someone (using the mechanics of tai no henko) -> this is a combination of an arc and two linear movements

    If you end up sweeping your feet in arcs when you could just go straight you end up unnecessarily wasting movement and you won't apply maximal power to one direction when you step with someone attached to you. There are times for linear stepping and times for straight stepping. Straight stepping is useful more often but the other has it's place as well.

    If you want to look at the Yoshikan footwork look on YouTube at the training drills:
    Hiriki no yosei ichi
    Hiriki no yosei ni
    Tai no henko ichi
    Tai no henko ni
    Kihon dosa ichi
    Kihon dosa ni
  3. Greetings!

    Greetings! Valued Member

    Dear Sifu Ben,

    I greatly appreciate your reply. Thank you for sharing the descriptors of your various Yoshinkan footwork. I also liked going to YouTube and, after doing a search on the 6 different Japanese terms that you provided, observing their respective footwork in the videos.

    You made the following statement.:

    “… If you end up sweeping your feet in arcs when you could just go straight you end up unnecessarily wasting movement and you won't apply maximal power to one direction when you step with someone attached to you. …”

    Therefore, if I understand you correctly per the above, you seem to be mostly favoring Linear or straight line (I am considering these two different terms to mean the same thing.) over circular (arc) movements. Is this correct?

    However, I am somewhat confused because your next statement then was:

    “There are times for linear stepping and times for straight stepping. …”

    I always thought of the words “linear” and “straight” to be conveying the same thing. Rather, “straight” and “linear” to have the same meaning. (?)

    Are you considering these two words as being terms that each conveys a different meaning?

    Again, thank you very much for everything!

    All the best to you,
  4. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    I would challenge even the most basic assumptions such as above. Why is more than one step necessary always? What about if you off-balance uke to spiral around you rather than you move around them? Even one step could be enough to finish strongly.

    I could even debate that steps are only when moving slowly. When moving quickly, both feet move together, not one at a time stepping.

    Now the world come crumbling down :evil:

    All footwork comes from the hip. Move at the hip and let the feet fall where they naturally go. Move hips forward to move forward, move hips back to move back, move hips to the back to the side to move to the back side, etc.

    Most likely your instructor was taught to move the feet the same way that you are being taught. No big mystery around it.

    Rather than concentrate on the visible foot movement as an arc, you can look at it as bringing the feet closer together before stepping. When you bring the feet closer together this allows for a few things. Most important is that you can more easily change directions without telegraphing your movements with your upper body. For example, you can bring your feet closer together and then step out in almost any direction, and THEN turn. So your upper body doesn't need to turn until the last moment to apply a technique. You can also bring your feet closer together and then kick out with a foot sweep.

    Remember that a properly fitted hakama will hide the foot movement and so you don't want to give away this with your upper body turning.

    So it really is more, to me, a matter of if you have time and purpose to bring the feet closer together or not. In many cases, like when sprinting, you don't have time to bring the feet together because you are running. Running is very important too.
  5. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    It's not one over the other but what movement and technique demand.
    For example:
    Trying to move from point A to point B for stepping through, stepping forward, or angling off, linear footwork is best. Anything else is wasted motion. You wouldn't get up and walk toward the door by sweeping your feet in circles right?
    Moving from from point A to point B when something is in your way you usually use an arc to get around it. Sokumen iriminage is a good example of this because you have to step around uke's leg.
    When finishing techniques you're either going to be stepping straight (front or back leg depends on position) or pivoting but that depends on your position, the technique, and which direction you want to go in. For example kote-gaeshi can usually be finished by either. You would never finish it by stepping in a curve though. You either want your body pivoting to generate rotational force or stepping straight to translate your mass on a straight line.

    That was my mistake. It should be linear and arced.
  6. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Valued Member

    I have nothing to add except that I like your writing style Greetings. Refreshing to see consistency (and paragraphs).
  7. aikiMac

    aikiMac boxing is fun Moderator Supporter


    The feet should generally move on lines, not arcs. When you "tenkan" of course there's an arc, a curve, but unless you're trying to do a demonstration with biiiiig movements so that the audience can see what you're doing -- the arc of your feet should be incidental. The curve is in the rotation of the hips, not in the path of your feet.

    Hips turn, feet walk forward.
  8. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    One of my instructors had researched that the arcing footwork dated back to infantry moving in formation in battle through high grass in Japan and/or Okinawa. I never asked for his sources though.

    One thing I do know is that in karate we had many long/wide stances and this required that we bring the feet closer together between steps to free up the hips. There are advantages (mainly defensive) to having a wide base, but when you need to maintain maximum mobility, the hips need to be freed up.

    Go into a wide horse stance and try to move quickly. There is basically only moving side to side. Bring the feet closer together and you can move in almost any direction quickly. So if you have wide/long stances (e.g. wide base), then moving feet together and then separating is a way to free the hips up for mobility in all directions, IMHO.
  9. Greetings!

    Greetings! Valued Member

    Rebel Wado,

    I appreciate your insights. You have thus expanded my idea base!

    Aiki Mac,

    As always, I admire your valuable input.


    I thank you for your compliment. That was very thoughtful of you.

    Sifu Ben,

    Thank you very much for your even further clarification.

    The best to all,

  10. Greetings!

    Greetings! Valued Member

    Greetings again everyone,

    I greatly appreciate all of the help everyone has provided for me here on our awesome MAP website over the last year since the beginning of my study of aikido. I will imagine that eventually in the not too distant future, I will have gotten my major growing pains out of the way in regard to my study of Aikido and will eventually not have to continually ask you all for help in answering my aikido questions.

    You all had already so nicely given me the information that I had originally requested on this particular thread back on November 30 and December 1, 2015.

    Thus, I had already considered this thread already closed out.

    However, I have the following new question which I guess might still be considered along the same topic of this thread. Subsequently, I was debating about beginning a new thread in regard to the following. But, I decided not to, and I instead, incorporated my question below into this thread. Thus, ...

    As I previously mentioned within this thread, I have come across references made to ”Tai Sabaki“, which I guess is a term some Aikido schools use to refer to their footwork. This apparently consists of “Irimi” , “Kaiten”, and “Tenkan”. As I mentioned previously, our particular aikido class that I go to was never taught any of these words nor steps.

    That being said, from what I can ascertain by watching the video pertaining to Tai Sabaki, that I previously made reference to, I come up with the following definitions of the three different terms, below.

    1. Irimi (“to enter”) – You are simply stepping forward.

    2. Tenkan – You are pivoting your hips (in order to face 180 degrees in the opposite direction). Then, you step straight back.

    3. Kaiten – you are simply pivoting (in order to face 180 degrees in the opposite direction).

    Thus, if I understand all three terms correctly, Kaiten is the exact same thing as Tenkan, with the exception that after you pivot in Kaiten, you do not step back. That is, with Kaiten, you pivot (so that you are now facing 180 degrees in the opposite direction), and that is it period.

    Whereas with Tenkan, you pivot, AND then you also step back.

    Is what I have written above true?

    Thank you very much.

    The best to all,
  11. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    If you want to move

    - forward, you use linear footwork.
    - yourself to be outside of your opponent's attacking path, you use circular footwork.

    1 is better than 1,2. 1.2 is better than 1,2,3. If you can complete your task by moving just 1 step, you don't want to move in 2 steps. If you can complete your task by moving just 2 step, you don't want to move in 3 steps. In order to do so, you can "hide" your 1st step ahead of the time. That is to land your leading foot at the proper spot without letting your opponent to know your intention (don't wait until your opponent attacks you).

    In this clip at 2.37, when you

    - spin your body in one direction, that footwork in Chinese MA is called "stealing step" (this can be done in 1 move).
    - spin your body in one direction and then spin your body in the opposite direction, that footwork in Chinese MA is called "butterfly step" (this can be done in 2 moves).

    [ame=""]How to Do Tai Sabaki | Aikido Lessons - YouTube[/ame]
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2016
  12. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    YouKnowWho posted a good video that I think answers all your questions.

    A couple corrections, IME:

    1) Irmi (entering) can happen in any direction. You can irimi stepping forwards or backwards for example. A 180 degree tenkan is basically turning and entering backwards so the step in tenkan is really the same as irimi.

    2) A tenkan doesn't have to be a 180 degree turn. It can be less or even more. I stated that a 180 degree turn tenkan is basically a backwards irimi. The key is to be able to keep your hands in front of you while there is relative movement between you and uke. For example, the tenkan in the following video at 45 seconds. Look at the relative positions, it is closer to 90 degrees, but the footwork could be irimi+tenkan ending up 270 degrees of turning:

    [ame=""]Technical Wizard Morihiro Saito presents Aikido's Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi - YouTube[/ame]

    3) Kaiten often isn't 180 degrees. I think more commonly it is 90 degrees.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2016
  13. Cen Garsden

    Cen Garsden Flamin' Wobbygong


    This kind of thing can depend on style, but if you want Aikido go to the source. There's no set form.

    Open your tenkan 45, 90 or 180 degrees. Hell, double that if you like. If it's irimi just walk through them like Steven.
  14. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    As its taught at my club

    1 irimi is just "to enter" and can refer to any movement that finds you on the inside

    2 tenkan is a full 180 turn , if you imagine yourself in kamae , allow your front arm to drop so it's level with the floor and pivot around your front foot in the direction that your index finger would point.

    3 kaiten is just a circular or wheel like motion , like kaiten nage.

    Tai sabaki is taught as step forward with a tenkan at the end , a turn on the spot is referred to as tenkai ashi.
    Hope that helps.
  15. Cen Garsden

    Cen Garsden Flamin' Wobbygong

    ^ I think the OP is focusing on ashisabaki (1), not so much taisabaki (2). We can jap the crap out of it, but irimi-tenkan (3) IS a little bit confusing.

    OP, if you like your school ask your teacher. In reality, ALL of us (regardless of our degrees) can't really help you online. When in doubt, refer to the Founder's work was my point.

    For OP:

    (1) ashisabaki (foot movement) depends on school. Compare Shioda to the Doshu.
    (2) taisabaki (body movement) is the WHOLE concise movement of the body as "one sword". Obviously, it doesn't work well without the former. Kamae/hanmi (stance/half body posture) is entirely important.
    (3) O'sensei's various students described irimi-tenkan (entering-turning) differently. While IMO it's more a reference to the Founder's profound spiritual work, I'd suggest the definition of this is up to who you train under.

    I hope I'm not obfuscating anything and being at least a little informative.
  16. Greetings!

    Greetings! Valued Member

    Dear YouknowWho, RebelWado, Cen Garsden, and Bassai,

    Thank you very much for your input.

    Take good care,

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