Leading An Overhead Strike Into A Head Control Technique
(Shomen-uchi Kokyu-Nage Hansha Tenkan)
By Roy Y. Suenaka Sensei and Christopher Watson
Editor’s Note: FightingArts.com is pleased to offer
the second in a series of articles titled “Effective Aikido,” by
Master Roy Suenaka and Christopher Watson. Suenaka Sensei, founder of
Suenaka-ha Tetsugaku-ho Wadokai Aikido, is one of contemporary aikido’s
premier practitioners. A student of aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba
O’Sensei, as well as Koichi Tohei, Suenaka Sensei is a master technician
whose techniques are known for their practical effectiveness. For those
acquainted with aikido and its terminology, the technique demonstrated
below is: shomen-uchi kokyu-nage hansha tenkan.
In this article and in others in the series, Roy Suenaka Sensei demonstrates
an undiluted aikido. It is Suenaka Sensei's earnest desire to show that
aikido is more than and the esthetically pleasing, but martially ineffective,
art that so many schools practice -- that aikido is, by design and when
properly practiced, a dynamic and effective method of self-defense.
During this series, the reader will note that counter-strikes (atemi)
are often used. Morihei Ueshiba (affectionately referred to as O’Sensei
by his students), the founder of aikido, often stressed the importance
of distraction and counterstrikes to disorient and distract the attacker's
focus (leading his mind away from his attack).(1)
No other technique in aikido demonstrates so well the inherent philosophy
of spiritual and physical harmony than the technique that aikido practitioners
call a breath throw (kokyu-nage). If executed well, this technique can
serve as effective self-defense. But this is not easy. That is why this
type of kokyu-nage is often called “the 20 year technique,” because
many say that it takes 20 years to perfect it.
Shomen-Uchi Kokyu-Nagi Hansha Tenkan
The attacker (photo 1) delivers an overhead strike to the head. In the
street this could also be a club attack or downward strike with a bottle.
Suenaka slides to the side and redirects the strike with his right forearm
while delivering atemi to the attacker's ribs with his left hand.
Suenaka then (photo 2) leads the attacker outside, capturing the momentum
generated by the attacker’s strike by sweeping his arm while turning.
This circular lead, and the centrifugal force it generates, off-balances
the attacker. At the same time, Suenaka captures the attacker’s
head with his left hand as momentum naturally leads it there, guiding
it into his shoulder, while continuing the lead with his right hand,
arm out and palm upwards. Properly led, the attacker is thus unable to
deliver a counter-strike.
With the attacker successfully led (photo 3), Suenaka reverses direction,
maintaining control of the attacker’s head while rotating his right
arm and shoulder forward, thus turning the attacker's head and propelling
Suenaka continues rotating his right arm and shoulder while dropping
his hips, and so his weight (photo 4). It is the attacker’s head,
rather than his body, that is being thrown.
With the attacker successfully led off-balance and propelled downward,
Suenaka releases the head and easily completes the throw (photo 5).
Suenaka blocks (photo 1) rather than redirects the attacker’s
strike and fails to counter-strike or move to the attacker’s blind
side. The attacker maintains his balance and can easily counter strike.
Suenaka moves outside and grasps the attacker’s collar (photo
2), rather than controlling his head, at the same time cutting the attacker’s
arm downward. Again, the attacker maintains his balance.
The force generated by the downward cut (photo 3) forces the attacker
to bend at the waist, aided by Suenaka pushing on the back of the attacker’s
neck with his left hand. The right hand at this point is essentially
useless. Note the open, improper distancing.
Suenaka pulls the attacker upright (photo 4) with his left hand, restoring
the attacker’s balance and leaving himself open to neutralization
or a counter strike.
The attacker is pulled (photo 5), rather than thrown, backwards.
(Softcover, 289 pages with 427 photos and illustrations)
Aikido Kyohan: The Definitive Guide to the Way of Harmony
By Roy Suenaka and Christopher Watson
This book illustrates aikido at its best-- a powerful self-defense
art. It is also a historical gold mine. The technical part of the
book details effective technique through photos and descriptions.
And Suenaka has proven his art. He introduced aikido to Okinawa,
the island birthplace of karate where challenges were plentiful.
Suenaka is also an early pioneer of American aikido who studied
under aikido's founder Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei, as well as Koichi
Karate-ka will also find the book interesting since it details
the author's studies in other arts including boxing, judo, jujutsu
and several forms of karate, most notably under the Okinawan karate
legend Hohan Soken. Also detailed are Suenaka's early years of
aikido in Hawaii, and his perspective on the rift that developed
between Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Tohei, Tohei's separation from the
Aikikai (Ueshiba's Association), and the early development of Tohei's
About the Authors:
Roy Yukio Suenaka, founder of Wadokai Aikido, is one of contemporary
budo’s most experienced practitioners and best-kept secrets. Born
in Honolulu, Hawaii, Suenaka Sensei’s martial instruction began
under his father, Warren Kenji Suenaka, who taught his son budo basics
and carefully selected his primary martial tutors. These included such
legends as Okazaki-ryu Kodenkan Jiu-jitsu founder Henry Seishiro Okazaki,
Kosho-ryu Kempo’s legendary James Masayoshi Mitose, judoka (and
later, aikidoka) Yukiso Yamamoto, and celebrated kendoka Shuji Mikami,
from whom Suenaka Sensei received a nidan (2nd degree black belt).
Suenaka Sensei began his aikido study with Koichi Tohei when in 1953
Tohei visited Hawaii to teach, and continued his study directly under
Founder Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei at the Aikikai Hombu for eight
years beginning in 1961. Suenaka Sensei received a rare aikido menkyo
kaiden (master-level proficiency) teaching certificate from O’Sensei,
and became the first person to open a successful aikido dojo in Okinawa.
He also commenced eight years of private study with renowned Matsumura
Seito and Hakutsuru Shorin-ryu Karate-do Grandmaster Hohan Soken, receiving
from him the rank of rokudan (6th degree black belt). In addition, Suenaka
Sensei continued his judo and jiu-jitsu education at the Kodokan under
famed Meijin Kazuo Ito, who personally sponsored Suenaka Sensei’s
promotion to sandan (3rd degree black belt) in judo and jiu-jitsu.
In 1972, Roy Suenaka relocated to Charleston, S.C., where he served
as Southeastern U.S. director for Koichi Tohei’s International
Ki Society until 1975, when Suenaka resigned to form the American International
Ki Development and Philosophical Society (AIKDPS). He currently teaches
Suenaka-ha Tetsugaku-ho Wadokai Aikido and Matsumura Seito and Hakutsuru
Shorin-ryu Karate-do. He is author of the best-selling Complete Aikido,
and in 2003 celebrated his 50th year of aikido study. Suenaka is an advisor
to FightingArts.com. For more information: Suenaka School of Martial
Arts, 813-A Highway 17 South (Savannah Highway), Charleston, South Carolina
29407, 843-324-5260 or www.Suenaka.com
Christopher Watson is a writer, audio performer and producer. A student
of Suenaka Sensei’s since 1988, he is co-author of Suenaka Sensei’s
book, Complete Aikido.