Most people outside of the Aikido world learned of Aikido through the exploits of Steven Seagal. Give credit where its due. Even so, a lot of people in the Aikido world like to talk behind the man, primarily because he comes off on the side of arrogant. Be it from the characters he plays in the movies or some of the interviews he's done. They play up his stories about being in the CIA, learning from Osensei himself and things like being choked out in a movie set by another renown American and a fight that never happened with the French guy who splits. (yes I know his name but I don't want the search engines to pick this up).
[Image source: Kingsugar photobucket]
Anyway, enough about Steven Seagal's juicy bits. The fact remains he gave Aikido exposure to the world that the best teachers couldn't in their many decades promoting the art. Sure each great teacher has had great impact especially to students who were in direct contact with them, but Steven Seagal made everybody else who didn't have that contact or chance to know about Aikido.
Because of that, in a lot of people's mind, when they start to learn Aikido they see it through his eyes. Or what they perceive to be his eyes. Surely we've seen his spectacular techniques, kotegaishe through the window and shihonage through a billiard table. But the most spectacular of all is his Iriminage. Probably many of his students would attest to the power in his Iriminage.
And that is why it doesn't come to a surprise when Aikidoka's have a misconception about power. When they believe that Irimi because of its linear function, is powerful and Tenkan because of its 'avoidance', graceful or soft. To me, the opposite is true with Tenkan the more powerful of the two movements. Irimi is a shadow, a subtle movement. Design to allow nage to obtain a superior place to uke but without having to enter uke's sphere of power. A subtle step that gives nage the advantage over uke. Whereas with Tenkan, one could capture uke's movement into one's own, using centrifugal force to multiply that power and return it to him many times more.
One should see the power of rotation. Gears are a fact of daily life. The speed of the earth's rotation is amazing, about 1100 miles/hour. We don't feel a thing but should that spinning stop right now this instant, everything on earth's surface will be destroyed. That's the power of tenkan.
But given that Tenkan and Irimi are primarily body movements, does the understanding stop there? We know that Osensei has talked to us about the 8 forces:
- Movement and Stillness
- Solidification and Fluidity
- Extension and Contraction
- Unification and Division
Within the movement of Irimi, there is stillness because though we have moved, the opponent doesn't perceive us to have moved. Our feet is solid and forms the base and connection to earth, but our body is fluid not hard like a rock when we touch our opponent. Without extending we could not have irimi'd properly, and when we absorb him into us, we contract (or receive). Once we are in place, we unite our center and from the fusion we translate to fission.
It is the same with Tenkan and we should think it through. We should also think why vibration, rotation, spiraling is so important and how our 4 principles allow us to achieve this understanding.