The meaning of the phrase tai-sabaki is “body movement”. This phrase is used in every form of martial art in Japan. Usually, in most martial arts and Aikido Schools, tai-sabaki appears as a limited number of movements that constitute part of the technique. It is sometimes used as a form of warming-up exercises prior to practicing fighting techniques in couples.
Tai-sabaki stands at the heart of Korindo Aikido. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it is the secret of this method.
The doctrine of tai-sabaki in Korindo Aikido was developed by the founder Minoru Hirai during the years 1925-1936 as a result of endless hours of training, many of them outdoors. (Sensei Hirai loved to train outdoors in nature and would often walk over the Akechitawa Mountains on the border of Okayama.) Upon researching many varied martial arts, he was convinced of the universality of body movement as an integral part of circular movement and never-ending flow of the universe and nature.
The heart of tai-sabaki as a physical expression is koshi-mawashi (turning of the hips); it is the main principal and common denominator of all martial arts. Every martial art recognized the importance of the use of koshi-mawashi as the main factor behind the efficacy of all fighting techniques. However, the theory of Korindo Aikido is perhaps the first that was consciously built around the central theory of training the body to highest levels of physical ability by way of koshi-mawashi. Nevertheless, it must not be thought that koshi-mawashi is the only goal of Korindo Aikido.
Tai-sabaki techniques in Korindo Aikido look like dancing but they retain all the movements necessary in martial art. In Korindo Aikido, each action in a fight both begins and ends with tai-sabaki. Every technique is born of tai-sabaki.
All movements, both large and small, are circular and carried out with softness and continual fluidity.
Tai-sabaki practice is not a form of warming-up exercises before the training session, rather, it is an important form of training in its own right, essential to attain the highest standard of effortless, unconscious movement. This training technique enables the body to move in harmony within itself and with the mind, affecting the self and the surroundings. It may be said that tai-sabaki is the highest technique of Aikido.
In Korindo Aikido there are eight different forms of tai-sabaki techniques that make up the basic training practices of the beginner;(In some of korinkai dojos still practicing seven forms of tai-sabaki ).At a higher level, there are countless combinations and possibilities of movement, all eventually blending into one whole rhythmic motion. This is known as the enten-mukyu movement: the endless circle of force in nature, or a chain of movements repeating themselves over and over again.
Tai-sabaki is performed from a natural basic stance (Kamae): the feet should be placed at a relatively narrow position (approximately shoulder width) with a floating feeling (Ukimi), hands should be relaxed, fingers open. The eyes should be open but not fixed on one specific point.
The order in which tai-sabaki is practiced is of no particular importance; each person may choose to practice techniques and combinations in whatever order he or she so feels is right for the moment. The person should keep his movements steady in an unchanging rhythm of stability and physical harmony while ensuring that the hips continue to move, at first in wider arcs and then as time goes by in ever decreasing movements, introverting the strength of the movement within.
The tai-sabaki techniques comprise partly long and partly short movements. All the movements of a single tai-sabaki technique should be completed in one breath. Breaking off one’s breath in the middle of a technique stops the flow of the movement. Even a momentary break in breathing can be critical in a fight.
One’s eyes should be kept open but not fixed on a single point or else one’s thought would be rigid and the body's flow will stop.
The tai-sabaki in Korindo Aikido exists in all martial arts practice, as in Tai-jutsu (body art), ken-jutsu (sword art), jo-jutsu (stick fighting art), batto-jutsu (drawing and cutting art) etc.
It is impossible to overstress the importance of tai-sabaki. Continual day-by-day practice will result in softness, harmony, koshi-mawashi, and a continued flow so that in an actual fight all these elements flow naturally and instinctively.
The eight basic forms of the Korindo Aikido tai-sabaki techniques are as follows: