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TaiSabaki also known as Body Shifting/ Body Management

 Taisabaki is more then moving your body out of the way.  The root word sabaki is a verb, basically means the proper execution of a complicated task.  Tai means body.  Put together Tai Sabaki is to move your body to gain an advantageous position.  It also implies that you are putting your opponent at a disadvantage.  It means so much more then moving away from or into your opponent.

When learning body management, you intentionally manage your body position and movement to control your opponent’s movement.  It takes a lot of skill and practice to influence and cause your opponent to move into a position that is advantageous for you.  That is probably why Taisabaki is also a term used in the playing of chess.

In practicing TaiSabaki it is very important to be aware of and practice timing, distance, speed, balance and stance.  It is important to know that Shotokan Karate uses more then just long, low and rigid stances.  You must also become fluid.  To emphasize the importance of not allowing yourself to be controlled by your opponent, author Steve Hyland, from “Our Shotokan Studies” states, “Taisabaki usage equals a pre-intended rather than coincidental or lucky outcome that is positive for me and negative for my opponent!” 

Of course, we should have this mind set with all our techniques. 

In Basic Taisabaki there is the San-mi-Ittai, which describes three directions of body movement.

Ten I – moving away from the attack, while moving into an advantageous position.  In Tan I you want to keep close to your opponent as possible so that it is easier to counter attack.


Ten tai – is actually the next movement/technique to use after Ten I.  By twisting, avoiding and by realigning the body to change the relationship between it and the attack.

Ten gi – allowing the attack to pass, then countering.  In other words, it is implementing techniques while letting the attack pass through.

A more difficult technique using Taisabaki there is Inasu and Mai Ai.  Inasu is, “the skill of shifting the body to move under, inside or around an attacker’s technique.”  Steve Hyland. 

The art of Mai Ai includes unarmed combative skill where precise distancing is a central aspect.  You must “gauge your critical distance in an encounter and naturally influences your deployment of Taisabaki,” Steve Hyland, from “Our Shotokan Studies.  Remember in Taisabaki it is all about your controlled and purposeful movement, with the goal in mind.  The Goal to move your body to gain an advantageous position, while putting your opponent at a disadvantage.  You need to feel the opponent and interrupt their attack.

Now we will discuss the technique of Nagasu.  According to Mick Gould, (Who is highly qualified in armed and unarmed close quarter conflict.) “Observation is the key to application and speed, the space between adversaries defines the fight, control the space and you will most likely control the fight.”  Nagasu literally means to let the attack pass you by using your body.   To accomplish this, you slightly move your body off the line of attack, an emphasis on slightly. To parry, which is “to prevent an opponent's attack from landing. “Wikipedia.  A parry is usually followed with an immediate attack to your opponent.

Next is Irimi which is the, “act of entering straight into a technique, a way of getting inside an opponent’s technique to create an opening.  It is NOT charging in.  Once again it is a manner to disrupt your opponent’s course of action that creates an advantageous situation for you.  Delivery and timing and placement are all important in this technique. 

Then we have the technique Noru, “Refining and perfecting a certain technique through repetitious practice until that technique can be used under any circumstances.” Japanese to English dictionary.  It also translates into moving in contact with the opponent at a very close range to ride their technique as a way of controlling their body movement.  “To see with your body is an essential skill when deploying Noru strategically.” Steve Hyland, from “Our Shotokan Studies.

There is also Ki Ken Tai no Ichi means the unity of mind and body, which is vital in all techniques.  Your body, engrained skills and your mind work in unison.  It transforms what your doing past a physical level but to a conscious level also.  It takes a great deal of time and practice to reach this level of karate do.  This is one of the reasons Shotokan Karate focuses of drills and kata, to improve your techniques.  If your technique is poor the symbiotic union of mind and body are useless.

Another important aspect of Taisabaki is Hei Jo Shin.  Hei means calm, peaceful and steady. Jo means continually, where shin means heart.  When you put it together it means that your whole inner and outer being is continually at peace.  Easier said then done when you are working against a formidable opponent. To achieve this concept, it is a lifestyle and a higher level of character development.  Hei Jo Shin is "essential to allow the relaxed but powerful and fast movements that will be required when deploying Taisabaki.”  You need to be able to focus and not become distracted.

In practicing these techniques, you will be able to use the power of the attacker to increase your force in the counter attack.

Taisabaki needs to become ingrained in your practice and become spontaneous.  One only has a split second, not enough time for contemplation of your opponent.  With Taisabaki you can disarm your opponent briefly with body movement.  Your movements/techniques can not be blind, in the hope of achieving success.  Taisabaki can determine a success or a loss for a person who is shorter and or weaker than their opponent.

Let us look at Taisabaki’s intentional use of your own body to manage the movement of your opponent.  The interaction of techniques that when combined produce an effect greater then the sum of its parts. To gain this synergistic process, each technique/movement must be studied, understood and become a trained reflex.

One of Sensei’s favorite scenes from the TV show Blue Bloods, the commissioner is being challenged and questioned by many hotheaded news reporters.  At one point he stated, “Let me answer that question with a question to you.  What would you have done?”  The news reporter begins to stammer and the commissioner states, “Too late.  You’re dead.”  This describes that you do not have time to contemplate all the outcomes of all the choices that lay before you.   Your eyes must take in everything at once to give you clues to what your opponent’s next movement/strategy is going to be.

We need to study Taisabaki so that it no longer just means moving your body out of the way, but a goal-oriented method, an acquired skill.  It needs to be practiced so it becomes an efficient reflex.  To control your opponent, you must be in control of yourself. 

The founding father, Gichin Funakoshi has 20 guiding principles of karate.   Several of those principles relate well to Taisabaki

Number 4 being, “First know yourself and then know others.” Meaning, “To know the ways of conflict, you must understand yourself. This refers both to your physical abilities, but also to your mind. There is no point understanding the way the world works if you do not understand how you interact with it.”

Number 12 being, “Do not think about winning; think rather of not losing.”  Meaning, “If you are obsessed with victory, you may adopt aggressive tactics that expose vulnerabilities that can be exploited, and you will become predictable. If your goal is simply not to be defeated, you may attack or defend, counter or evade. Your only goal is not to be defeated.”

Number 8 being, “Karate goes beyond the dojo.” Meaning, “Karate is not just something that is switched on and off as you enter and leave the dojo. Matters such as posture, movement and strength should be attended to all the time as you go through your daily life. The do in karate do, means that you should hold yourself to a high physical and moral standard at all times.”

Number 9 being, “Karate is a life-long pursuit.”  “Once you have embarked upon the way, it becomes a never-ending quest for refinement in the pursuit of unattainable perfection. As with healthy eating, or being courteous, there is no point at which karate do ceases to be valuable and beneficial.”

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