Reflecting on Walther von Krenner’s Atemi

von Krenner, Walther G., and Ken Jeremiah. Atemi: The Thunder and Lightning of Aikido. Spring House, PA: Tambuli Media, 2016.

 

Beginning his aikido training in the early 1960s in Germany, Walther von Krenner soon moved to Japan to train under the founder himself, Morihei Ueshiba, his son, Kisshomaru, and then-chief instructor Koichi Tohei. In his most recent book, Krenner discusses the use of atemi, or strikes, in aikido techniques and training. He divides his work into three main parts: Shodan (Beginner), Chudan (Intermediate), and Jodan (Advanced), to which he interjects the importance of and where to pinpoint each strike while training and performing technique. After reading, it is great to see such works highlight the martial aspect of aikido, as some of my aikido training as done in the past.

After a brief introduction of aikido’s history, Walther von Krenner begins discussing the three main strikes in aikido and provides a checklist for the attacks so one may be balanced and generate power for striking as both uke (receiving partner) and nage (throwing partner). For the first five techniques of aikido (ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, yonkyo, and gokyo), he refers to the ancestor art of aikido, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, for guidance and influence. Within the chapter, by yonkyo, Krenner gives another five-point checklist on where to implement a strike in the technique from the beginning of the technique (to force uke to move) to the end, as to finish off uke. Krenner soon moves to the throwing techniques of aikido, adding a front kick into the vocabulary of strikes before nage throws uke. Essentially, he builds upon the five-point checklist mentioned above, demonstrating that there are openings in almost all techniques to place a strike to cause an off-balancing in uke.

Chudan begins with the concept of irimi (entering) from the sword arts, to which is the foundation of Daito-ryu. From there, Krenner dives into irimi nage (entering throw) and explains a more martial variation (for a quicker neck break), using what Ueshiba wrote and said in his later years. After which, Krenner discusses “using the eyes” to “capture [uke’s] mind,” proceeding to strike an adversary with one’s mind, which, to Krenner, stems from the use of aiki (balancing energy) and kiai (spirit jointing). The details here are a bit vague, leading the reader to conclude that this aspect is something that needs to be felt by the practitioner during training – that such a skill only manifests after years of intensive training.

Krenner finishes his recent book with an analysis of both Ueshiba’s and Tohei’s principles and feats of aikido. Krenner’s focus on Tohei is refreshing, as he parallels Tohei’s and Ueshiba’s experience with internal energy and power, to which both claimed, according to Krenner, that one should execute aikido techniques from a relaxed state rather than with pure muscle.

Overall, Krenner’s book brings forth the importance of atemi, using such strikes to create diversions or openings in uke, which is lacking, according to Krenner, in many aikido schools. I am sure that those who read his book will slowly begin to implement atemi into their own techniques and teachings.

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