A tenkan is a "turning," a simple maneuver that is, in fact, one of the most powerful and devastating moves in Aikido. It is the Aikido version of "turning the other cheek." Balance and direction are extremely important and a common subject of ki testing.
In left harimi (left foot and left hand forward)
1. Uke seizes nage's left wrist with the right hand.
(Grasp gently to provide a pivot point and a point of reference rather than an exercise in breaking a death grip.)
2. Nage curls lingers and wrist back towards palm, then steps or slides forward with the left foot, pivoting 180 degrees to end up approximately shoulder to shoulder with uke or slightly behind. Draw the left foot back as necessary.
Left foot is still forward and right foot back (still in left hanmi).
Turning the other cheek is a form of moral ju-jitsu.
— Rev. Gerald Stanley Lee 1862 -1944
In 1982, I gleefully demonstrated a karate technique for breaking a hold to and on my "Old Swordmaster" Ben Swett. He demonstrated tenkan. I couldn't see it, didn't understand what he had just done or what he was talking about. All he had done was turn around. So? "I think," he said, "that you would enjoy Aikido." He was right.
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