Tai Sabaki is a Japanese term used in martial arts commonly translated as “body movement.” If we look at the Kanji, the first one, TAI 体 means “body,” and the second SABA(KI) 捌き means “to handle, to deal with.” Therefore, Tai Sabaki can also mean “body management, or body control.”
During training, we learn techniques by breaking them down into steps. Step one: step forward, step two: grab the hand, step three: pivot, etc. We then learn how to perform this body movement with a partner. Hopefully, both practitioners will be able to train together and perform the technique efficiently.
That is really hard to do.
I say it is hard because we are not only learning a technique, we are learning how to work with someone else. Possibly someone with a different body type, opposite sex, or different age. We are entirely different from our partner, and therefore we separate ourselves from each other. These movements can’t happen eloquently unless both parties are on the same page. The student who is doing the technique needs to know his/her role, the student who is attacking has a role as well. They both need to do their part, together, in harmony.
Most students may not understand that Tai Sabaki, one of the most fundamental teachings in Aikido, is probably the most valuable when it comes to putting into practice what we learn on the mat into our daily lives.
I don’t need to pin people down, throw them across the room, or disarm them every day. Luckily. Thank God.
But, boy, I do need to work with people. Every. Day.
Every day I need to react to other people’s body movement. I need to connect with them, lead them, sometimes re-direct their direction, and blend with them in order to not collapse and cause chaos. The principles of connection, harmony, and synchronization learned through “simple” body exercises on the mat are put into practice in my daily life.
Studying Shodo is a great way to raise awareness of our body movement as well, since every single move, whether big or small, can have a significant impact in the way we express our calligraphy. This self-awareness can help us be aware of other people’s movements as well. Thus providing the skills to connect.
The ability to manifest in our daily lives the principles learned on the mat is the way to give training a meaningful purpose, which does not only benefit us individually but those around us as well.