As a chiropractor, I am continually delighted by the physiologically sound and efficient movements of aikido.
In my study of a fascinating book on functional movement lines of our bodies, I came across a section describing the forward roll used in aikido (and judo). The book, “Anatomy Trains,” by Thomas W. Myers, is all about how we use linkages of muscles and connective tissue (fascia, tendons, ligaments, bones) to do every twist, stride and reach.
He describes in detail how these linkages are used in the forward roll. My conclusion is that we use these same functional lines in a great majority of all of our aikido movements. As this efficient way of moving becomes second nature, we can focus more on engaging the attacker, and working on our distance, timing and breathing.
I will first quote Myers’s description of a forward roll, then amplify that description a little.
“Looking at one of these forward rolls in terms of the Anatomy Trains, we can see that in a forward roll the little finger is the first edge of the body to make contact with the floor or mat, bringing our attention to the Deep Back Arm Line. The body supports or guides itself on this line (although in an actual roll, little weight is placed on the arm), moving up the surface of the ulna and onto the triceps.
“As the roll reaches the back of the shoulder, the baton is passed from the triceps to the latissimus, or in Anatomy Trains terms, from the DBAL to the Back Functional Line. The body rolls on the diagonal of the BFL, by now supporting the weight of the entire body, crossing the midline of the back and onto the opposite hip. From here the body supports itself, if headed back for standing again, on the Lateral Line of the leg, passing down the iliotibial tract and peroneals as the opposite foot hits the floor and begins the process of standing up again.
“Staying strong, open, and aware of these three lines as you pass through the roll will make it smoother and safer. Conversely, shortening, tightening, or retracting these lines when attempting a roll will result in a bumpy ride.”
The initial line mentioned, the Deep Back Arm Line, is the same line used in our ready stance (kamae), entering and blocking motions, and pivots (palm down). This strong line can be found everywhere! Sensei Takashi Kushida used to say to “go little finger’s way” and he was talking about this line.
Recently, we’ve been working on becoming more aware of how the entire functional line crosses the back on a diagonal, to link the latissimus on one side with a strong gluteus and leg on the other.
This is all part of the process, that is the “do” or “path” in aikido. First we learn to control ourselves, then we link with the attacker, and, as a unit, we move in such a way as to take the attacker’s balance. Many levels of study and practice!