Warmup, aiki taiso, and tae sabaki

This page describes and has videos for aikido techniques we do by ourselves

Warm up

We do a warm up at the beginning of almost every class. The main idea of a warm up is to that it notifies our bodies that we are about to do Aikido. It brings us and our bodies into the right frame of mind.

Kotogaeshi undo

Nikyo undo

Sankyo undo

Tai Sabaki

Tai sabaki (体捌き) is japanese for body movement. It is a general word for the aikido steps that we use, although it is also the name of one them.

There are a number of basic steps that we use. I’m including some pictures that demonstrate what the feet are supposed to do and then a couple of videos. One of the steps, what we call tai sabaki or a leg switch is missing

Irimi movements

Irimi movements are direct entering movements, steps which allow us to close the gap between us and our partner while staying in contact. We work on two of them in our dojo: okuri ashi (the suffle step) and ayumi ashi (the full step). They are explained next.

Okuri ashi (Shuffle step)

Video of okuri ashi:

Ayumi ashi (Full step)

The ayumi ashi is a full step. It is the middle of the steps shown in this graphic.

Video of ayumi ashi:

Tenkan ashi (turning movements)

Tenkan movements are turning movement. In our dojo we work on two of them: tenkan and kaiten. The tenkan movement is a backwards rotation around the front foot. The kaiten movement is a simple turn in place.


In tenkan, we pivot on the front foot and then step backwards. This produces a turning movement that gets us out of harms way, keeps us close to uke, and also allows us to join the direction uke is going.

Note that the video shows Ze’ev Erlich sensei and his student Bella Magold, from Masatake dojo, Rehovot.


The kaiten movement is a turn to the inside (in contast with tenkan which turns to the outside). This allows us to keep a very close contact with uke.

Here’s a nice video of a child doing kaiten:

Movement combinations

Most techniques involve a combination of the basic movements, and some combinations are more fundamental than others. In fact, the most fundamental movement idea in aikido is to enter and turn. By entering, we connect to our partner and place ourselves safely close to them. By turning, we deflect the attack and join the direction the partner is heading in. Entering and turning produces the idea of the spiral, and spiraling is a movement direction which can powerfully affect our partner.

The two most basic enter-turn combinations are irimi tenkan and irimi kaiten. Irimi tenkan is an ayumi ashi followed by a tenkan. Irimi kaiten is an okuri ashi followed by a kaiten.

Irimi Tenkan

Irimi tenkan is a step in (ayumi ashi) followed by a pivot on the front foot and a step back (tenkan). This is possibly the most basic and canonical aikido step. It is practiced in many dojos as a basic movement at the beginning of every class.

Irimi kaiten

Irimi kaiten is a basic entering movement: a slide forward followed by an inside pivot. That is: okuri ashi followed by kaiten. In truth, this is what is shown in the kaiten video above.

Aiki taiso

Aiki taiso is the term used to describe warm up exercises that allow the practice of aikido movements, without actually using a partner. This allows us to learn the movements in a simple context and practice them on our own. Perfecting the movements in this way can be an enormous help in couples practice. Some dojos have a full series of aiki taiso exercises that you do before every class.

Below is a video of Koichi Tohei, founder of Ki Society Aikido, showing the most classic Aiki Taiso sequence practiced at the beginning of Ki Society training (the ones in italics are the ones taught by Fukakusa Shihan at seminars):

After the last exercise, Tohei Sensei shows a series of ki building exercises that are commonly practiced in Ki Society Aikido and then some partner practice exercises.

Funa kogi (rowing exercise)

Ze’ev Erlich sensei of Masatake dojo doing the exercise with a beautiful song

Here he is leading his kids class in the song and we also have the words

Finally, a group of 2,500 children doing funa kogi together

Ikkyo undo

This exercise drills the basic response to a shomen uchi strike, possibly the most fundamental of the aikido techniques. The practice here is to work on relaxed arms and shoulders, direct movement, balance and energy.

Zengo undo (two directions)

This exercise extends the ikkyo undo exercise to two directions. Note that the turn is supposed to be done on the balls of the feet. Also, you must turn fully before initiating the movement.

Shiho undo (four directions)

This exercise extends the zengo undo exercise from two to four directions. Note that you must go around the four directions twice to get back where you started.

Happo undo (eight directions)

This exercise extends the shiho undo exercise to eight directions. After the first cycle of the four principle directions (which is the same as the shiho undo), you go to the four corners. After the first, 45 degree, turn, the four corners are done the same as the four principle directions.

Sayu undo (side throw)

This exercise is designed to practice projecting energy sideways without losing balance. It can be combined with a side step to make the sayu choyaku undo exercise

Ude fori choyaku undo

This exercise practices calmness in motion. The arms spin and the body spin, but the mind must stay calm.

Ushiro dori undo

This is the defense for an attack from behind. It is important to open up a path for uke to roll forward and allow the body rotation to be powerful without being forced or unbalanced.


Irimi tenkan partner exercise

Irimi tenkan can also be practiced in an partner exercise. I’ve seen this done in many dojos, but it doesn’t usually have a name. Seidokan aikido, a small branch of aikido founded by Rod Kobayashi sensei, does give it a name. It is called udefori chayao undo and we can see it in the video below at the 4:00 minute mark.