Tori Fune

Sometimes we do “Tori Fune” exercise in the begining of every class. Some people call it the rowing exercise or Funakogi Undo. It’s quite simple (on a physical level):

Stand with your left foot in front, hips and shoulders square to the front. Curl your wrist and hold them at hip level.
Move your hips forward slightly. Smoothly extend your wrists out.
Leaving your arms extended, start to move your hips back.
Keeping your wrists curled, bring your arms back to your sides. Repeat steps 2-4 several times, then switch sides.

While doing it you have to:

  • Keep your chest out, your eyes (and mind) forward,
  • Leave your hands open as you extend your arms forward. Close them into a light fist as you bring them back to your sides. ..

Some people get confused with its use, the exercise seems to be dull and boring, but in a thread in aikiweb forum I found this quote by Tamura Shihan (originally from this link)

“Furitama is important because every class I followed with O Sensei he did it. Consequently, his pupils, including myself and you, must do it to find our its meaning for ourselves. What O Sensei said, for instance, was `You are standing with one foot put on the rock of the sky, the other foot on the rock of the earth’. This means you are standing in the center of the universe, You receive the ki from the sky and the ki from the earth at the point of unification (where the hands come together, left on top) and you move your hands because it is the mixing point. And that is where the energy takes life.”

I also found another good explanation on another thread, (quoted from Seiseki Abe Sensei, the teacher of Uno sensei who currently teaches in Maadi) Torifune no gyo is one of the eight “gyo” (literally – austere training methods) or practices of Misogi-no-Gyo (austere training methods/practices of Misogi), as taught by O-Sensei. Many people use misogi as a spiritual practice. Although there is this aspect, it is only part of the picture. The actual reason is not a mystical practice by any means. There is a real basis for this practice, one rooted in a physical science and training directly related to our aikido training. Simply it is used to develop “Kokyu” or breath power. Kokyu is made up of two Kanji, “Ko” – meaning to breath out, and Kyu” – to breath in. There is also an advanced “bugei” aspect having to do with “hiding” ones breath from one’s opponent. However, this is an advanced level of this training accomplished after years of companion breathing exercises.

The eight Misogi are: (in our class we do #2 and #3)

  1. Misogi-no-gyo (purification and breath training with cold water)
  2. Torifune-no-gyo (rowing exercise to “actively” train the breath during movement)
  3. furitama-no-gyo (shaking hands in front of hara to passively train the breath while in standing meditation)
  4. Norito-no-gyo (chanting of long prayers to further train the breath)
  5. Otakebi-no-gyo (Lifting the hands over the head, and body up on the toes, bringing hands back down to below the tanden while shouting “eee-aaaay” and forcing all the breath from the body, again, breath training.
  6. Okorobi-no-gyo (two different practices using tegatana “two-fingered sword” cutting, shouting “eee-aaaay” and forcing all the breath from the body, for breath training. 
  7. Chinkon Kishin-no-gyo (seated meditation, with specific hand postures, hand gestures, and specific meditative visualizations) 
  8. Shokuji-no-gyo (specific dietary measures designed to distinguish the body’s physical power and change the blood from acidic (typical) to alkaline [to promote proper breathing, and correct mind/attitude/heart – kokoro-e])
With specific regards to Torifune, there are three different components or movements. Each are to be followed by furitama, thus creating a pattern of “active/passive” breath training.

In the first movement, While moving the hips forward, the emphasis is on moving the hands forward very quickly (fingers active with “ki” and pointed down to the ground, wrists are bent – note the rotation of the forearm from the ready position to the forward position) while exhaling (kiai) with the compound vowel sound “Eeee-Aaaay”. As the hips move back, the wrists follow (soft movement) with the vowel sound “ho”. This 2-part sequence of forwards and backwards should be repeated upwards of twenty times. This is the male aspect, or giving “ki” exercise or “Irimi/Kokyu-ho” (triangle/square) based techniques.
You should notice that you are breathing hard as you change to furitama-no-gyo exercise.The second Torifune exercise reverses the emphasis, starting with a forward hip movement, a soft hand movement and kiai with “ho” followed by the return of the hips, quick hand movement, while exhaling (kiai) with the compound vowel sound “Eeee-Aaaay”. Then furitama-no-gyo. This is female, or accepting ki exercise or “tenkan/Kokyu-ho” or (circle/square) based techniques.The third exercise changes the hand movements from ones that are hip level to ones that are chest level. Starting with palms up (at your sides and chest level) begin with the forward hip movement, moving the hands forward very quickly, turning the palms down to the ground, and exhaling (kiai) using the pronouncing “saaaaaah” this is followed by returning the hands to their original position, again moving the hands backward very quickly, this time exhaling (kiai) using the pronouncing “Eeee-Aaaay.” Again, the emphasis is on both, moving the hands forward very quickly and back just as quickly. However, it is important to note that you should try this exercise in one breath, pushing all of your breath out as you move forward and back until you can not kiai any longer. This is the male/female or female/male aspect, for giving/receiving or receiving/giving “ki” exercise or “Irimi/Kokyu-ho” (triangle/square) or “tenkan/Kokyu-ho” (circle/square) based techniques. This is followed again by furitama-no-gyo.

Generally, furitama-no-gyo is practiced to warm the body up before Misogi-no-gyo. Then after misogi, the above routine is followed. This is a daily practice, and should be done four times a day (early morning, late morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon – not at night).

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