Below are the basic patterns and routines for practicing unsoku. I’m willing to bet that you haven’t mastered them all…
The most basic unsoku practice is unsoku happo, which contains the eight unsoku movements.
The order is: so – in, ka – gen, ko – ten, tsui – tai.
Notice that they are grouped in pairs of obverse movements. Unsoku happo is a very important practice in Taido. It is simple, yet contains all of the eight steps. It doesn’t require a lot of space to practice, and the pairing of like movements helps to remind us which unsoku work together.
The other simple unsoku practice is ido tanren, which combines techniques with the unsoku steps. This routine only uses ka-soku and gen-soku and is found in two halves in sentai and untai hokei. The purpose of this exercise is to use the unsoku step with whichever technique you are practicing.
The order is: ka + waza, gen + waza, ka + waza, gen + waza.
By using ido tanren, you can practice both sides of any technique with unsoku. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of this practice for developing strong attack and defense habits.
Unsoku no Jigata
The most complicated unsoku routine is unsoku jigata, which means footwork in the shapes of letters. Actually, the footwork doesn’t follow the letter shapes, but the shapes provide a kind of map for the movement.
The thing that makes this routine so complicated is that its really 24 separate routines that are simply determined by the same process. Most people don’t like unsoku jigata very much because learning it is a pain, but it can be a good way to stretch your imagination with respect to unsoku and break out of habits. Besides that, you can bust it out during class and sound really smart by saying “OK, lets do combinations with random unsoku series. How about C3 and sentaigeri?” Then when everyone looks at you funny, “What you guys didn’t learn unsoku jigata yet? That’s all right, I’ll just tell you. C3 is ka – ko – ten – gen.”
It’s a great way to make all the black belts in the class feel like a bunch of morons (though you’ll probably pay for it later).
Of course if you’re planning on doing this, you have to learn it first. The way it works is that you imagine a square wherein each corner represents an unsoku movement. Southwest is gen, northwest is ka, northeast is ko, and southeast is ten. For the m and x routines, the center is so-in or tsui-tai, respectively. Confused yet? Good. Now you superimpose the upper-case letters C, U, N, Z, M, and X on the square. You do the unsoku in the order suggested by the shape of the letter. You get more combinations by flipping the letters around backwards and upside-down.
Does this seem convoluted and silly? Yeah, it’s just as fun and useful as memorizing all the state birds back in junior high. Memorizing the routines is not the point – practicing them is. I’ll spare you all the brainwork and just give you the patterns. Here they are:
- N1: gen – ka – ten – ko
- N2: ko – ten – ka – gen
- N3: ka – gen – ko – ten
- N4: ten – ko – gen – ka
- Z1: ka – ko – gen – ten
- Z2: ten – gen – ko – ka
- Z3: ko – ka – ten – gen
- Z4: gen – ten – ka – ko
- U1: ka – gen – ten – ko
- U2: ko – ten – gen – ka
- U3: gen – ka – ko – ten
- U4: ten – ko – ka – gen
- C1: ko – ka – gen – ten
- C2: ten – gen – ka – ko
- C3: ka – ko – ten – gen
- C4: gen – ten – ko – ka
- M1: gen – ka – so – in – ko – ten
- M2: ten – ko – so – in – ka – gen
- M3: ka – gen – so – in – ten – ko
- M4: ko – ten – so – in – gen – ka
- X1: ka – so – in – ten – ko – tsui – tai – gen
- X2: ko – so – in – gen – ka – tsui – tai – ten
- X3: gen – so – in – ko – ten – tsui – tai – ka
- X4: ten – so – in – ka – gen – tsui – tai – ko
So, there you are. All 24 of them. And if you think trying to practice all these is going to be tough, try typing them sometime…
A far less mentally-taxing pattern exercise for unsoku. “Gorendo” means five continuous patterns. That’s a lot less to memorize and also easier to use because they all move in the same direction. If you paid much attention to the jigata, you’ll see that it includes the patterns for unsoku gorendo. Take a look at N1, Z3, C4, U2, and M1. At any rate, I’ll repeat the five patterns in one place here for clarity:
- gen – ka – ten – ko + ten
- ko – ka – ten – gen + ten
- gen – ten – ko – ka + ten
- ko – ten – gen – ka + ten
- gen – ka – so – in – ko – ten – ko
I let you off the hook on unsoku jigata, so there’s no excuse for not memorizing unsoku gorendo as soon as possible. It will help you.
To truly develop facility with unsoku, all of these practice routines are essential. Most students only practice two: happo and gorendo. The result is that most people use just two types of unsoku in jissen. Happo is great for developing the single steps, and gorendo works well for circular patterns that cover a lot of ground or skirt obstacles in a hurry. Most jissen consists of only these sorts of unsoku.
Many students have difficulty moving directly from unsoku to attack or defense. Ido tanren is sometimes practiced in the US, but only occasionally and with limited techniques. Ido tanren is not designed to train speed or endurance – proper practice teaches how to eliminate the gap between unsoku and technique. By practicing this routine thoroughly, one will find it easier to attack without hesitation and defend confidently.
And almost nobody practices the jigata patterns. They’re a pain in the ass, but they are the only systematic method in Taido for teaching your body to move well in any direction at any time. The patterns don’t always flow smoothly in one direction, and this forces you to learn to change directions quickly. So when the unexpected happens in jissen, you can adjust and adapt without breaking your unsoku and creating openings for your opponent to attack.
The point here is that all of these patterns have value for the student who wishes to attain a complete education in Taido. Of course, most people will take the easiest path and practice only the bare minimum. It’s possible to do quite well in tournaments by only practicing basic unsoku, hienzuki, sentaizuki, shajogeri, and senjogeri or suiheigeri. In fact, that’s just about all one sees used in most matches, but it’s not true to the ideal of a creative and dynamic martial art.
Unsoku is the door to greater mastery of Taido, and these routines are the methods for attaining that mastery. You can choose a superficial practice of Taido and attain a superficial understanding and ability. But if you hope to grok this Taido thing deeply, my suggestion is to start with the practices on this page.