Ken Awase

Paolo Corallini and Francesco Corallini - Ken Awase

The beginnings of partner practice, the ken awase (ken: sword; awase: to harmonize), or sword blending exercises, are more complex in that they involve combinations of basic movements and they complete the concepts of ma-ai and awase. Understanding the meaning of varied distancing between opponents is vitally important for recognising openings, dangers and positions of safety, while understanding and being able to move with awase is vitally important in developing timing, reading the attackers intention, and being able to relax in the face of attack, as well as being able to move quickly and strongly. The sword blending exercises introduce martial elements to the movements, but emphasis is placed upon understanding, distance, angles, and timing and should be practiced in a strongly controlled manner.

Starting in shizen-tai and moving together with your partner, perform a standing rei (bow) towards your partner, saying “onegae-shimasu”. The movement to draw the ken is called nuki-tsuke in Japanese. Moving together with your partner, grab the handle below the tsuba with the right hand and at the same time advance with the right foot, moving into ken-no-kamae-migi, in which the left hand grabs the ken at the end of the handle (tsuka), while the right hand grabs above, just below the tsuba; the feet are in migi-hanmi (right foot forward). The end of the sword handle, or hilt (called the tsuka-kashira) is in front of your hara, while the tip (kissaki) is pointed at your partner’s throat in front of you.

Then, say the name of the ken-awase being practiced.

Once you have completed the series, the movement to sheath the sword is called noto-tsuke in Japanese. Moving together with your partner, while stepping back with the right foot and aligning it with the left, release the ken with the left hand and with the right bring the ken to your left side with the blade turned up; then, grab the ken in the middle with the left hand and return your right hand to your right side, thereby returning to shizen-tai.

From the shizen-tai position and moving together with your partner, perform a standing rei (bow) towards your partner, saying “domo-arigato-gozaimasu”, to complete the exercise.

Migi No Ken Awase
The first ken awase, blending to the right.

Uchi Tachi Uke Tachi
Migi-ken-no-kamae Migi-ken-no-kamae
Shomen-uchi directly on the line of attack. Llift your ken by the tip, sliding with the right foot out of the line of attack to the right, correcting hanmi with the left foot, finishing the shomen-uchi cut at the same time as uchi-tachi.
As uke-tachi begins to return to ken-no-kamae-migi, slide back with ushiro-tsugi-ashi. Wait 2 seconds; then return to ken-no-kamae-migi, keeping your sword pointed at uchi-tachi’s chest.

Hidari No Ken Awase
The second ken awase, blending to the left.

Uchi Tachi Uke Tachi
Migi-ken-no-kamae Migi-ken-no-kamae
Shomen-uchi directly on the line of attack. At the same time as uchi-tachi, lift your ken by the tip (kissaki), performing an ayai-gaeshi step out of the line of attack to the left, correcting hanmi with the right foot, and finishing the shomen-uchi cut at the same time as uchi-tachi.
As uke-tachi begins to return to ken-no-kamae-migi, slide back with ushiro-tsugi-ashi. Wait 2 seconds; then return to ken-no-kamae-migi, keeping your sword pointed at uchi-tachi’s chest.

Go No Ken Awase
The fifth ken awase, based on the fifth ken suburi.

Count Uchi Tachi Uke Tachi
  Migi-ken-no-kamae Migi-ken-no-kamae
Count 1 (ichi) Gyaku-yokomen-uchi to uke-tachi’s right temple[1], stepping forward with the left foot. Step back with the right foot, parrying uchi-tachi’s sword to the right, sliding back on the front foot as you parry.
Count 2 (ni) Yokomen-uchi to uke-tachi’s left temple, stepping forward with the right foot. Step back with the left foot, parrying uchi-tachi’s sword to the left, sliding back on the front foot as you parry.
Count 3 (san) Gyaku-yokomen-uchi to uke-tachi’s right temple, stepping forward with the left foot. Step back with the right foot, parrying uchi-tachi’s sword to the right, sliding back on the front foot as you parry.
Count 4 (shi) Yokomen-uchi to uke-tachi’s left temple, stepping forward with the right foot. Step back with the left foot, executing a decisive maki-otoshi cut, without sliding the front foot back.

Notes

1. In the dan-kai form, uchi-tachi strikes uke-tachi’s shoulder; in the awase and kiai forms uchi-tachi attacks uke-tachi’s temple.

Shichi No Ken Awase
The seventh ken awase, based on the seventh ken suburi.

Count Uchi Tachi Uke Tachi
  Migi-ken-no-kamae Migi-ken-no-kamae
  At the same time as uke-tachi, change hanmi by bringing your left foot forward and your right foot back (changing from migi to hidari-ken-no-kamae). Your ken does not move, only your hanmi changes. At the same time as uchi-tachi, change hanmi by bringing your left foot forward and your right foot back (changing from migi to hidari-ken-no-kamae). Your ken makes a “u” shape under uchi-tachi’s ken, which does not move, to move into hidari-ken-no-kamae.
Count 1 (ichi) Yokomen-uchi to uke-tachi’s left temple[1], stepping forward with the right foot. Step back with the left foot, parrying uchi-tachi’s sword to the left, sliding back on the front foot as you parry. Then, push uchi-tachi’s sword down by lowering and rotating your hips from right to left.[2]
Count 2 (ni) Without resisting uke-tachi pushing your sword down, create a clockwise circular movement to free your ken and, using the thrusting movement from the seventh suburi, tsuki to the chest stepping forward with your left foot. Step back with the right foot, parrying uchi-tachi’s sword to the right with an anti-clockwise circular movement, always keeping the kissaki (tip of the sword) pointed at uchi-tachi’s chest.
Count 3 (san) Yokomen-uchi to uke-tachi’s left temple, stepping forward with the right foot. Step back with the left foot, parrying uchi-tachi’s sword to the left, sliding back on the front foot as you parry.
Count 4 (shi)   Push uchi-tachi’s sword down by lowering and rotating your hips from right to left.
Count 5 (go) Without resisting uke-tachi pushing your sword down, create a clockwise circular movement to free your ken and, using the thrusting movement from the seventh suburi, tsuki to the chest stepping forward with your left foot. Step back with the right foot, parrying uchi-tachi’s sword to the right with an anti-clockwise circular movement, always keeping the kissaki (tip of the sword) pointed at uchi-tachi’s chest.
Count 6 (rokku) Yokomen-uchi to uke-tachi’s left temple, stepping forward with the right foot. Step back with the left foot, executing a decisive maki-otoshi cut, without sliding the front foot back.

Notes

1. In the dan-kai form, uchi-tachi strikes uke-tachi’s shoulder; in the awase and kiai forms uchi-tachi attacks uke-tachi’s temple.
2. In the dan-kai form, there are three counts for “ichi”. In the awase and kiai forms, they are all combined into one “ichi” count.

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The Takemusu Aikido Association South Africa (TAASA), formally Iwama Ryu™ South Africa, is a free group of black-belted practitioners of Aikido based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our aim is to promote and spread the traditional teaching method of Morihiro Saito Sensei, direct student of the Founder of Aikido, to all communities in South Africa.