Ikkyo - to Initiate or not to Initiate: That is the question



I agree and acknowledge that there is a literary reference and an oral tradition connected to the Founder in initiating Ikkyo by not having Uke throw Shomenuchi but by rather reacting, albeit ignorantly, to a strike or a threat to his face/head delivered by Nage.

However, literary references and oral traditions taken as authoritative ends establish only dogma and they do not necessarily establish practicality, nor do they set the limitations of consistent reasoning.


If one puts the authority of dogma aside, said literary reference and oral tradition basically posits that “Shomenuchi Ikkyo” is done or can only be done when there is in fact no Shomenuchi thrown by Uke. This should seem odd to anyone that understands Yin/Yang Theory, as such a theory is a theory in relativity, and relativity would always suggest that there is indeed a way in which it can be done even if it is yet undiscovered. Meaning: While Nage initiating a strike that is then checked or blocked cross-laterally by Uke does indeed solve for the problem of clashing with the downward energy of a Shomenuchi delivered by Uke, three things should stand out to anyone not restricted by dogmatic thinking: First, in the literary reference, Shomenuchi was never thrown by Uke; Second, therefore no solution for Uke throwing Shomenuchi was actually posited in the literary tradition; and, Third, there is a Yin/Yang solution for Uke throwing Shomenuchi yet to be discovered.

In discovering an actual Yin/Yang solution to Uke throwing Shomenuchi, one can and should take the lessons used in the literary and oral traditions. These are, namely, you do not address Shomenuchi for Ikkyo after the strike has already entered its Yang phase - when the strike is on the way down. To be sure, those Nage that initiate Shomenuchi Ikkyo as the literary tradition posits almost never do this, while those Nage that allow Uke to throw Shomenuchi in Shomenuchi Ikkyo almost always do. Yet this division and its statistical breakdown does not mean that a true Yin/Yang solution cannot be discovered for when Uke throws Shomenuchi. It only means that the former group avoids the problem and the latter group solves the problem poorly.


In an application of Yin/Yang Theory, addressing Uke’s strike on the way down is always going to be wrong for Ikkyo, but that leaves addressing Uke's Shomenuchi on its way up - while the strike is in its Yin phase. That is what is being demonstrated in all of our latest videos on Shomenuchi (Shomenuchi Ikkyo, Shomenuchi Irimi Nage, and Shomenuchi Kote-Gaeshi). While addressing Uke’s Shomenuchi on its way up may be a version of Shomenuchi Ikkyo different from the one posited in the Founder’s literary and oral tradition, it is nonetheless a version perfectly consistent with the theories and principles upon which those traditions are based. Meaning, addressing Uke's Shomenuchi on the way up for Ikkyo is of sound principle and is consistent with the art's underlying tenets. It is different, yes, but it is right. It is not wrong.


There is more to consider, however, and this is mainly why I do not advocate for following the Founder’s literary and oral tradition as a restrictive dogma. Allow me to explain: I see any application the prescribes Uke’s reaction not as a Kihon Waza but rather as an application in dilemma training – a kind of “what if” training that moves away from basic training and closer to application training. Kihon Waza, different from dilemma training, should be an idealizing of physics and mechanics and not an idealizing or a prescribing of an opponent’s mind. When we train with reactions, we are no longer idealizing physical constants that are more or less universal but are instead on the shaky ground of predicting what an adversary will or won’t do, think or won't think, feel or won't feel.

As we cannot predict an opponent’s reactions with any certainty, such training becomes impractical unless it is treated not as a basic technique but rather as a variant of that technique. In the oral tradition associated with Shomenuchi Ikkyo where Nage initiates the technique, it is often said that Uke HAS to block and that he has to do so cross-laterally, “or he will get hit.” But, this is simply not true.


An opponent never HAS to do anything. And, yet, an opponent may actually do ANYTHING. Meaning, some opponents may actually do nothing and get hit – then no Ikkyo. Some opponents may weave or bob and strike back without addressing Nage’s striking arm at all – then no Ikkyo. Some opponent’s may hit Nage as Nage hits them – then no Ikkyo. Some opponent’s may address Nage’s striking arm with their homo-lateral arm and not with their cross-lateral arm – then no Ikkyo. Some opponents may step back to Nage’s striking arm, keeping distance and not engaging – then no Ikkyo. Because an opponent can do ANYTHING, there is no end to the variation and therefore the cross-lateral block by Uke as a reaction to Nage’s Shomenuchi and Nage’s response with Ikkyo is but one variant amongst many. It is not Kihon Waza and should not be thought of as such.

There is another thing to consider when taking a dogmatic approach to this particular “Shomenuchi Ikkyo.” Since Shomeuchi is never thrown by Uke in the literary and oral tradition, and therefore since Nage never learns to address the actual strike while it is in its Yin phase, the question is begged: What do we see such Nage doing when facing Yokomenuchi? The literary tradition offers no suggestion for the taking of the initiative by Nage for Yokomenuchi as it does with Shomenuchi. The literary tradition makes no prescription for Uke's reaction to Nage's movement in Yokomenuchi. What do we see in such Nage then when they are facing Yokomenuchi? Do we see them harmonize Yin and Yang, or do we see something else?


I would propose that we see such Nage committing the same Yang/Yang clashes and/or Uke delivering the same weak strikes for Yokomenuchi as we see in Nage that address Uke’s Shomenuchi on its way down. We do not see Nage making connection with Uke’s Yokomenuchi during its Yin phase, on its way out, but rather we see them making contact with Uke’s Yokomenuchi on the way in, during its Yang phase. We see Nage blocking and stopping Uke’s strike. We attempts to over-power Uke. We do not see the poper application of Yin/Yang Theory nor its tactical preference for Non-Contestation.


This overpowering of Uke is perhaps doable when Uke is weaker than Nage. However, regardless, it is inconsistent with the basic tenets of the art. Therefore, unlike addressing Uke's Shomenuchi on the way as something different but correct, this addressing of Uke's Yokomenuchi on the way in is different but incorrect. It is a variant inconsistent with the principles supporting the Founder’s literary and oral traditions. It is not right. It is wrong.