Commit Forward (Then Pivot)

If we do not first commit to a relationship, we cannot pivot within that relationship and be taken seriously.

In aikido, there are two fundamental concepts of movement. In the most general terms, the first is entering (irimi) and the second is pivoting or flanking (tenkan). Irimi is the act of moving in, on and through the line of resistance. Tenkan, often misunderstood as turning or moving around resistance, is actually the act of pivoting on the line of resistance, once it is established that the way forward is blocked.

Irimi is the act of committing ourselves to a path. It is the principle of entering into a relationship with confidence, certainty, and integrity. It is a straight line in, eschewing our fears, being present, aware, and powerful. Irimi is belief in ourselves, our purpose, and our ability to carry out our mission.

Sometimes, however, we meet an insurmountable resistance when we move in and we must take a different angle. When we have fully committed ourselves into something worth doing, with all of our essence and all of our being, but it is simply not working because there is too much resistance on the other end, or perhaps because we took the wrong approach from the start, we must pivot. This is tenkan, but, more accurately, this is irimi-tenkan.

There is no pivoting without commitment. There is no new angle for us to take without first moving forward. There is no adjustment of our position if we do not have one in the first place. We cannot simply move around the periphery of our relationships and expect them to have depth and meaning. In fact, we cannot even be in a relationship, in the truest sense of the word, without first putting ourselves on the line.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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