View Full Version : Foot turned out, or foot straight

17th October 2001, 12:45
Although I do Aikikai, I like to turn my front foot out making my hips square, Yoshinkan style if you like (although sometimes I also like to do things from shizen hontai - neutral posture). Some Aikikai teachers do it, some don't. In wing Chun I like to turn my feet in, and in Judo I like to be neutral so it is not something that is fixed for me. Anyway, what gives with the Aikido feet position? What do you prefer, front foot straight or front foot turned out, and why? Does your teacher tell youthat only one way is correct? If so, which way?

Rupert Atkinson

17th October 2001, 14:31
I have heard several reasons for this anatomical awkward positioning of the front foot. Some of these are:
1. extra stability
1. to be better able to turn
1. to keep the hips well directed to the front
1. it's the classical foot-position

In my humble opinion:
1. stability in this case hinders the abillity to move in all directions
1. turning 'outward' is hindered exactly because of the foot-position
1. the classical hanmi-no-kamae has the hips slightly turned, but still directed to the front, without the need to twist the foot in this position
4. 'invented tradition' appears: Although in some pre-war pictures of O'sensei his front foot appears to be turned, there is a lot of material in which the position of the foot is more 'natural'. Take a look for instance at http://www.aikidojournal.com/cgi-bin/ubb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=38&t=000008. And furthermore, one thing that strikes me, is that when for example Yoshinkan-aikidoka start to move, for instance when doing jyuwaza, the awkward position of the foot is gone.

I have always learned (and felt) that you should position your body and its constituent parts in such a way that you can move freely, without blocking any part. When turning the front foot outward, you lock your ankle, knee and hip. As long as you stay in that position, no problem. As soon as you start moving, you feel the strain. I think that, energetically speaking, twisting or locking joints means you block the flow of energy. Maybe some specialist on shiatsu or qi gong can comment on this.

Kind greetings!


17th October 2001, 18:06
When i started aikido, i was previously in Tae Kwon Do/Karate, or as the teacher called it Tae Kwon Karate (hybrid of both). We were taught to keep the feet perpendicular to each other(one foot forward, the other sidways on the open side). My teacher slowly tried to change that stance so that both feet were facing forward, or at least to keep the back foot at a 45 degree angle so at least your feet were facing somewhat forward. I began to notice the difference in my movement and psychological changes. I noticed that when my foot was side ways i felt more grounded and didnt want to move, so when someone kicked or punched i would block then try to attack(karate). Eventually in karate i changed my stance to the Jeet Kune Do basic stance(not sure if you all are familiar with it, but it allowed much more mobility b/c both feet were pointed in the same direction, angled to the open side). Once i went into aikido and started to keep both feet pointed towards the front i noticed i was much more "aggressive" with my movement, and it was much more dynamic. i no longer sat there and waited for the impact, with both feet facing forward the body WANTS to move, it's leaning towards the opponent so you feel like moving whether or not you opponent has attacked you or not. This works great with bokken or jo b/c it gives the apperance that you are DYING to attack.
So once my body felt like moving on its own, it made an impact on my mind. I started moving faster and in greater distances b/c my body was going ONE direction as opposed to the other stance where part of your body goes one way, and the other goes a different way. i think when the feet are positioned in one direction it gives you a sense of pois, or readiness. Not just ready to be attacked, but to move in a manner that will not put you on a defensive side. This is why i think aikido is not defensive, nor do i think aikido is offensive. Most of the time, when in motion, our position of offense and defense are constantly changing so aikido cant be considered one nature, it fluxuates. but again, it all depends on how you feel. one day i feel like kicking and punching so i take the JKD stance, other days i feel more "aikido" like (haha), so i take both feet forward stance. i guess it's what you really feel comfortable with that's going to be the one that's good. :) take care.


18th October 2001, 01:00
I find that turning my feet outwards allows me to move left or right easilier. It gives me more freedom of movement, and I can also squat down into a seiza (some people call it seizure in the U.K. :) position quickly, and precisely. If my front L foor is straight for example, I feel somewhat closed or blind to my left front area. It is just a feeling. Although I may have picked it up from Yoshinkan, the thing that settled it for me was my limited experience with Kashima shinryu sword work. It just seemed to make sense in an Aiki context (although Kashima shinryu stylists dislike its possible match with Aikido - another story).

A previous post mentioned how Yoshinkan stylists lost their out turned foot in jyu-waza (free technique)- well, what about other styles - Shotokan Karate kata vs competition differences and such like? - same story. Anyway, Yoshinkan Jyu-waza is nothing of the sort, and I know from direct experience in Yoshinkan. They do the same techniques over and over - its a kata, not Jyu-waza, although that is what they call it, Jyu-waza. If you go and watch another demo, you'll just as likely see exactly the same thing. Now how on earth can they call that Jyu-waza? And since it is a kata, you'd think they would get the turned out feet right.

Rupert Atkinson

19th October 2001, 00:31
In Nishio Sensei's Aikido, we keep our foot turned toward the uke. The advantage of this is it usually allows us to reach the uke to do atemi, but denies him this advantage. Also, it makes for a stronger stance upon which to control the uke. Generally, we do not assume a kamai, but stand even footed facing the uke. To begin with, this is not an agressive stance as kamai, which implies a readiness to engage. This also allows us to move either direction, left or right and forward or back. Often, our first move is to step in and sideways (off line) with our heel up and the toes of our entering foot turned toward the uke, much like entering to cut with a sword.
I hope that I provided an adequate description for this style, as I have been training in this style for only a short time.


Jeff Hamacher
19th October 2001, 01:54
i've trained entirely under Aikikai, and in general i've been taught to keep my front foot straight forward. i recall a student with some Yoshinkan experience getting corrected again and again over his "foot-turned-out" habit by my first teacher. i've even received similar instruction from Seki-sensei of the Hombu when i was his uke. i feel that using the "foot-turned-out" form as a basic position may be less appropriate than "foot-straight-forward". on the other hand, facing the foot in various directions according to specific situations may prove to be an advantage.

here's another question to add to the list: i seem to recall hearing Kondo-sensei say that, in Daito-ryu, students were taught to turn the front foot in the direction of the movement of their body, "aligning the foot with the flow of ki". if afraid i can't explain the thing in more precise or elegant terms, but do you understand what i'm trying to say? i don't know how many Daito-ryu people follow this forum (perhaps some of the Baltimore Study Group?), but if any knowledgeable folk could confirm or deny this comment it may be instructive for aikido people.

22nd October 2001, 13:07
I'd turn my foot outward only when doing exercises (kesagiri?) in a static position. Noone walks with the foot turned outward.
I think this helps to open the ankles.

When done properly it prevents you from drawing your botton backward (one of the more frequent mistakes, in my opinion).

Turning outward the feet (the right, for instance) let's you to move a step to the right more easily.

It prevents you, also, from turning your feet inwards, which i think it's a major mistake.

Anyway keeping the front foot straight it's good, maybe best. But if you have to keep a very large (i.e. foot distance) kamae keeping the front foot turned out gives you better equilibrium.

Hope it can help.


22nd October 2001, 15:29
As I said, I like to turn my feet outwards. As the body weight is always changing from Left to Right etc., I think it helps since, if the front foot is turned out, it is in a position whereby if you step forward (as in ayumi-ashi) that it immediately becomes the back foot without too much adjustment. I also like to practice walking, perhaps half like Charlie Chaplin (but nowhere near as excessive) and find that it makes me more stable. Sometimes, horror of horrors, I even like to turn on my heel as opposed to the ball of my foot - ! sacrilege ! - now what do you think about that? Why are we not allowed to turn on our heels I wonder? Some sword schools do, on occasion, for example (Musoshinden-ryu). Have you seen any seniors doing it?

Rupert Atkinson

Jeff Hamacher
23rd October 2001, 03:08
Originally posted by rupert
Sometimes, horror of horrors, I even like to turn on my heel as opposed to the ball of my foot - ! sacrilege ! - now what do you think about that? Why are we not allowed to turn on our heels I wonder?
i think that if you get into the habit of turning on your heels then you also develop the habit of "lifting" your toes and perhaps even the ball of the foot, thereby losing good contact with the ground. i was taught to focus the turn neither at the heel nor at the ball but rather "close to the middle" of the foot. whether or not you can actually pull that off is another matter entirely, but i think that my teacher was trying to emphasize avoiding any tendencies towards extremes and, as i said, keeping the sole of the foot in close but not rigid contact with the mat.

Jack B
23rd October 2001, 17:18
O'sensei seemed to prefer a sideways hanmi with the heel of the turned foot actually past/behind the forward pointing foot. The other hanmi I have seen are never that torqued. The heel of the turned foot is just outside the centerline of the body.

In the Tomiki style I have studied, we were taught to keep our hips turned straight forward, but the feet should be at the natural turnout for your body. This gives maximum power and mobility. I noticed when I am doing randori with weapons, I tend to turn my body slightly (migi/hidari hontai), with center still forward.

In Yoshinkan, is it "Jyu-waza" (gentle) or "Jiyu-waza" (free)?

Jack Bieler

Gil Gillespie
23rd October 2001, 17:31
Any kind of either/or exclusivistic thinking ultimately limits options and closes doors, not a good thing for a budoka relying on fluidity of movement and aspiring toward takemus'. Often when turning tenkan or spiralling my body I find my lead foot naturally turns out, opening my hips and leading into the circularity. Yet when throwing or striking/cutting, I need to be rooted like a tree and that lead foot straightens in the direction of the throw/cut. Hence, body position (including feet) is determined by movement relative to uke's attacking energy.

As far as turning on the heels, it has its moments. In certain standing iai forms, pivoting on the balls of the feet moves the body on those two arched levers and often leaves it out of position, whereas pivoting on the heels enables one to turn in place. In all pivots either the heel or toes must float, so the key then is leaving the floor as slightly as possible and reconnecting smoothly and strongly.

I almost never pivot on my heels. "Almost" being the word. Every time you use the words "always" or "never" doors slam shut.

Always ;o)

Mike Collins
24th October 2001, 01:12
I'm not sure if it particularly matters or if it is even germaine to the conversation, but one of my major teachers teaches that the feet just kind of are there. They actually follow the hips in a natural way.

As to pivoting, stand on a beach, with one foot a bit in front of the other, and turn your hips as you extend a hand straight in front of yourself, now see if you can turn all the way to the right, and mark that spot in your mind. See if you can now turn from there all the way to the left to the point where you're facing all the way in the same direction you started while in a right hanmi, but you're now in a left hanmi ( this hanmi being much more compact than usually trained and taught) .

If you've done this, you'll probably have to have moved your feet in pretty much of a circle in the sand, and will probably have pivoted almost from the center of your foot. This is much harder to do on stable ground, but in a funny way, it opens up the hips so much that turning gets quite easy. And the feet are much closer together than you're probably used to. This provides more mobility than stability, but as you start to bend the knees, the stability returns. It is particularly strange at first, but when you've been doing it for a while, it feels way natural.

And much of the time, the forward foot is at least slightly turned out.

This is one way of training. I like it, but most likely many will not. It's a good idea to try a few ways of moving till you find what is most comfortable.

Mobility is very important, stability is possible from even a very narrow hanmi, if you'll bend the knees.

Ron Tisdale
24th October 2001, 14:57
In Yoshinkan, it is Jiyu-waza (at least that is the romanization I have always seen...I don't know squat about kanji).

I've been told that one reason to have the front foot turned out is because it sets up the proper angle for you when doing basic movements and entering, as well as providing stability. There should be some information on this in one of Gozo Shioda's books; I'll try to remember to look for it tonight.

Funny thing, I've often seen people maintain that turned out foot during free style...but not so much with weapons. Then I often see the front foot pointed straight. I think the differences might have something to do with speed.

I should have the chance to see some high level practisioners this weekend. I'll try to pay more attention...I may even ask the question directly (my big mouth always gets me in trouble [read uke] anyway).

Ron Tisdale

25th October 2001, 01:32
in any case, foot straight or out is important only in the begining of learning processus to take conscious of direction for unified body.... After few years, when you take a look at footwork of Founder, Shioda sensei or other student of Founder, particularly agains multiple attack, there is no fixed stance.

Steven Miranda
25th October 2001, 16:13
I would like to just make an observation or four. For those who study Yoshinkan, you understand the purpose of our kamae as a training tool, so I won't get into the details. For the non-Yoshinkan group who have a desire to learn this and the reasons, simply find a Yoshinkan dojo and train. Or, get a copy of Total Aikido which explains it well.

For those that do have a copy, you will notice that Shioda Sensei almost always starts his technique with the foot forward. You see this throughout his videos as well. However, when he reaches the point of zanshin, the foot is outward. I myself after 19 years of Yoshinkan study find myself starting with the front foot almost straight forward when teaching or when doing free-style techniques. However, throughout the course of the technique, our basic kamae begins to manifest itself. Simply, because this basic stance of ours is how we develp kokyu power.

Read the book or visit a dojo for a better explaination.

The following quote comes from Total Aikido, page 30:

Origianlly, there was no position in Aikido that might have been called a "basic stance". The founder, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, while saying that the basic stance was "to open your feet to the six directions [north, south, east, west, up, down]," also wrote, "The complete kamae is what arises from where the gods lead you, depending on time, situation, the lie of the land, the spirit of the moment - kamae is what is in your heart." [from Budo], so that the explanation for the real battle is to adapt to the circumstances that you are in.

Based on this, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. To me, Yoshinkan is not a style of Aikido, rather a method/system in which we teach Aikido. And the first thing every student learns is this kamae. Through training in kamae, we learn to 1) maintain a straight balance, 2) keep our hands, feet and hips on a center line of the body, 3) maintain correct posture without having to make an effort and 4) extend our spirit forward. [Total Aikido, page 30] We also know these four principles as Chushin-ryoku, Shuchu-ryoku, Kokyu-ryoku and dare I say it .... Ki.

Other schools develop this with weapons training, and others by other means. Ultimately, we are all doing Aikido and learning these principles.

In closing, I hope this helps a bit in explaining the purpose of why we Yoshinkan Aikido-ka use this kamae. If not, I'll recommend again visiting a Yoshinkan school and asking the sensei to explain and teach this to you. It's certainly not something you can learn to do from a bulletin board or a book. PRACTICE with someone who understands. It is the only real way to learn.

Peace ...