Why do we do the tenkan exercise every class? At its highest level, tenkan is an old technique that was designed to bring about or teach us how to use our ki (氣) or energy. On another level, tenkan is a diagnostic tool which can demonstrate exactly where we are in our technique and where we are as human beings. Tenkan brings about so many questions and answers on so many different levels that it is almost unfathomable that a human being created it. Here are but a small number of questions one can ask their tenkan:
Where are my feet? What are my feet supposed to be doing? What are my hands and arms supposed to be doing? Did I fight with the person on the way in? Did I give in to the person on the way in? Did I place too much emphasis on turning? Did I use my hips? Where did my mind go during the movement?Did I hold my breathe? Do I lean in when I irimi? Did I fall asleep for just a moment? Am I getting bored? What emotions am I experiencing? Were my steps too short or too shallow? Where are my hips and what are they aligned with? Can I get longer? Can I stretch more What am I supposed to be thinking about during the technique? What did the teacher just say? What did the teacher just correct?
The list could go on and on...
In this post we are just taking about tenkan from the standpoint of the nage. We didn't even get into it in terms of being the uke, but the questions are pretty much the same. The next time you are in class, please pay closer attention to tenkan or all the other techniques for that matter. They really do say a lot about you and where you are in your technique.