Shihōnage

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Shihōnage (四方投げ, "four-directional throw") is one of the major throws in aikidō. To execute the technique, tori passes underneath uke's arm and manipulates uke's arm to unbalance him. Shihōnage is so named because it allows tori to throw uke in any of the four directions (front, back, right or left), and thus in any direction. Morihei Ueshiba believed shihōnage to be fundamental to aikidō, having been quoted as saying, "Shihōnage is the foundation of aikidō. All you ever need to master is shihōnage." The mechanics of shihōnage are very similar to kotegaeshi.

General notes

  • When performing the technique, your hand should become connected to your centre. Because uke's hand is connected to your hand, your centre is thus connected to his centre. This principle is known as musubi and applies to all aikidō techniques.
  • You should avoid employing the use of your arm muscles any more than is strictly necessary; your arms should feel completely relaxed. If you have any tension at all in your arms, you are doing so to compensate for failing technique.
  • Don't let uke's hand come away from your centre. Once you've established musubi, you must maintain it for the entire technique. Do not let the hand move to either side as this does not allow effective control and uke will be able to overpower you. Avoid moving the hand too high above your head as this also is a weak position. If you raise uke's hand above your head, uke needs only to sink his body weight or pull down and your technique will be countered.
  • Be leading uke's hand forwards at all times so that uke remains constantly off-posture, always trying to regain his balance. Keep a light tension on it so that with every step uke makes, his hand moves ever farther away from him.
  • From my understanding, the four directions can be achieved thusly: Directly forwards by either irimi or tenkan variations, uke's live-side with irimi, uke's blind-side with tenkan, and backwards by either irimi or tenkan.
  • There are two main methods for holding uke's arm when performing shihōnage. The first is to place your gripping hand over his hand - by doing so you gain a great amount of leverage through your free manipulation of his wrist joint. The second is to place your hand on his forearm near the wrist - this sacrifices mobility in preference of gentler and more refined technique that does not rely on joint locks. When gripping, I find it helpful for the second hand (the supporting hand) to be placed such that the thumbs of both hands form a cross (with each hand on its own side of the wrist or forearm). The overall shape of the hands is reminiscent of a butterfly (forming what could be termed chōte or 'butterfly-hands'). The crossing of the thumbs could be called jūji ('figure ten', 'ten' being written in Japanese as '十').

Major variations

The following are the major shihōnage variations I'm aware of.

  1. Uke's hand is placed behind his shoulder and then brought directly downwards whilst he is off-posture.
  2. Tori uses his arm as a lever against uke's elbow, so that when tori lowers uke's wrist, uke must do an over-the-top ukemi to prevent the elbow from breaking.
  3. Uke's arm is outstretched so that there is no joint-lock at work; uke must do a forwards flip to avoid landing face-first. This variation is often practised in yōshinkan aikidō.

Notes

  • I'd like to try a hybrid-version between versions 1 and 3 where uke's arm is not quite out-stretched, but bent at the elbow, and uke is thrown directly backwards using the mechanics of 1, just not directly downwards. This would allow for avoiding having to turn all the way around as is done in variation 1 (to get access to the back of uke's shoulder). I'm not sure how safely uke could breakfall though, since they would not be able to flip straight backwards, and they would falling diagonally backwards at speed.

Execution

Katatedori hantai

The technique that you execute is determined by your position in relation to uke; you should therefore be unconcerned with what technique you will execute until the time comes when you must execute it. Having said that, if you are practising katatedori hantai shihōnage, you will make your life immeasurably easier by offering with your palm face-up.

When uke grabs, turn your palm face-down; your thumb should be on one side of his wrist and your fingers on the other. When turning your palm down, sink uke's wrist by channelling your bodyweight into it (your wrist should be connected to your centre; if your body sinks, so should uke's wrist). This movement is very slight and its purpose is to bend uke's wrist, causing his shoulder to lean imperceptibly forwards, drawing his bodyweight almost entirely onto his front foot. Only after this has been accomplished (kuzushi), can the rest of the technique flow without resistance.

Note

  • I would like to try this movement with an additional hip twist. If uke grabs my right hand, whilst turning my hand down I would like to try to twist slightly left. The effect of this, I think, would be to lead uke's shoulder not only forwards, but to the side of his front foot (away from his back foot). Following kuzushi, an immediate twist in the other direction would demolish uke's posture. The whole movement would have a 'snapping' character to it, employing the principle of a wave.

Irimi

The irimi variations involve stepping towards uke.

Omote

Step diagonally forwards across uke in the direction of the hand that was grabbed. Your hand should be powered forwards by your hips (and your arm completely relaxed). This will turn uke. Step forwards with your back foot, turning uke further, then zengoundo keeping uke's hand in front of you.

Ura

Step forwards with your back foot to uke's blind-side (shikaku), so that your now-front foot is alongside uke's front foot. Zengoundo keeping uke's hand in front of you, forcing uke to run around the back of you to regain his posture. Throw uke forwards (the direction he was originally facing, but the opposite direction that he is now facing).

Tenkan

The tenkan variations involve a tenkan movement as opposed to an irimi.

Omote

Step forwards with your back foot to uke's blind-side (shikaku), so that your now-front foot is alongside uke's front foot. Tenkan then zengoundo keeping uke's hand in front of you and throw as in variation 1.

Pins

I'm aware of four distinct pins for shihōnage.

  • The back of uke's hand is placed against the floor behind his shoulder. Tori crouches facing uke, positioned in the direction of uke's shoulder, so that tori is out of reach of uke. Tori places his free hand on uke's elbow and twists uke's pinned hand outwards.
  • Similar to the previous pin, but instead of twisting the hand outwards, tori lowers uke's elbow to the ground so that uke's arm is folded up underneath his upper arm. Tori positions his bodyweight on the elbow so that uke cannot lift it up, and if uke is of normal flexibility, his hips will be raised up to reduce the stretch on his arm. Note: this pin can be escaped from if uke pushes with his legs and is able to enter into a backwards roll.
  • Tori crouches at uke's armpit with uke's hand in tori's centre and uke's head at tori's knee. Tori lifts up on uke's hand, slightly to the side of the shoulder, so that uke's weight becomes suspended on his shoulder joint. Uke should tap out (if continued, the upward motion would dislocate the shoulder).
  • Similar to the previous pin, but instead of lifting the arm up in a way that will break it, the hand is lifted directly below uke's elbow (rather than to the side) such that the his weight rests on the bend of the wrist. Uke must tap to relieve the stress on the wrist.

Kaeshiwaza

The following kaeshiwaza or counters are available.

  • Whilst tori is passing underneath the arm, attempt to raise his arm upwards so that it is above his head. When it is, sink with your body weight to bring his hand straight downwards, throwing him.
  • As tori attempts to lead you, if he has not achieved strong musubi, you can connect your wrist (and thus his wrist) back to your own centre. If you recover possession of your wrist, you may take it where you please, including positions which compromise tori's balance.

See also