Last year, when I was blogging about my kenshusei course at Mugenjuku, I posted on my AikiWeb blog about shako ho, an exercise we do at Mugenjuku to improve balance and practice proper movement within the context of Yoshinkan kihon waza (basic techniques). At the time, I didn’t know what the kanji was or the meaning of the term, and I couldn’t find any photographs or video of it on the Internet.
Now I have gotten what we do at Mugenjuku on film, and I have asked fellow kenshusei graduate Takenaga Naomi about the terminology. So, here is, I think, the first place in billions of web pages to explain shako ho…
The term is composed of three kanji. The Jim Breen entries are
- 斜 【しゃ】 (adj-no,n) (1) diagonal
- 行 【こう】 (n,n-suf) (1) going; traveling
- 法 【ほう】 (n,n-suf) (1) principle; (2) method
from which we get 斜行法, which I like to translate as “diagonal movement method,” and I think the nuance is “diagonal movement-method” rather than “diagonal-movement method,” if you take my meaning. I note that the hiragana for these kanji are しゃこうほう, which could be clumsily transliterated in non-standard romaji as shyakouhou. However, I find this non-standard method of romanizing kana–while it makes it very easy for westerners to reverse engineer the correct kana–is very difficult to read and makes figuring out pronunciation cumbersome. The Hepburn system would of course be best and give us shakōhō. However, the Hepburn system’s macronized ou ( ō ) is difficult to use when typing. Also, stringing all the letters together isn’t the easiest way to make it quickly readable. I prefer to leave off the macrons and separate the kanji hō since it is found in other aikido terms like shikkōhō 膝行法 : thus, shako ho–easy to write and easy to read while giving a fair enough approximation of pronunciation.
What is shako ho?
It is an exercise. It is an exercise for practicing balanced movement. In normal human stepping, the weight is transferred from foot to foot and this leaves openings during which a person can easily be unbalanced. Shako ho uses suri ashi footwork–sliding the feet and keeping them attached to the ground–to maintain both feet’s connection to the ground and prevent leaving openings for unbalancing. In addition to keeping the weight distributed across both feet, shako ho allows us to practice stepping from a low position without allowing the hips to come up as they move forward and to stretch the hip, knee, and ankle joints and warm up the muscles of the upper legs and glutes. It is all around a good exercise. In fact, despite how simple it looks, when done correctly it is taxing, warms up the body, and is a great way of focusing on the most basic aspects of kihon dosa and kihon waza.
How do you do it?
Here I will quote from myself from last year’s blog post…
Shakko ho is performed by starting in the Yoshinkan kamae stance and stepping forward with the front foot. As the foot goes forward, the hips make an S shape. The movement ends with the back leg straight and the front leg bent, and with the hips low to the ground and facing slightly off the center line. Then, without raising the hips, step forward with the back leg, hips make an S shape, and hips end facing slightly off center toward the opposite side.
You can walk like this across the floor, and we do. The S shape of the hips is the main thing, but other points to keep in mind are maintaining a straight and strong back leg and adequately bent front leg. When the movement finishes, the hips should be straight, not bladed. That is, they should be facing toward a line that goes perpendicular to the direction the body is facing. That body direction is slightly off the center of the line the body is moving along as you walk forward.
And now, without further ado, the video…