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Cross-step

Exercise - Aikido - Beginner - White Belt

"Basic Building Blocks" of Movement: Shuffle - Cross-step - Pivot - Shift

Description

The second of the basic building blocks of movement, it consists of moving kamae strongly forward by pushing off the front leg and stepping across into the opposite-sided stance (left to right or right to left). The movement is the second of two ways to move kamae forward (and less often backwards), the other being the Shuffle. As compared to the shuffle, it is more mobile but less powerful. The cross-step shares several features in common with another basic building block, the Shift: both require breaking the kamae connection to the ground, both pass through a moment of 50/50 weight distribution, and as you pass to the opposite side stance, both require taking care to re-form a strong kamae on the new side.

The movement is differentiated from a normal walking step in several ways. The weight stays low, with the soft, bent, front knee staying bent through the initial part of the motion. The hips glide along at the same height (if anything, they get a little lower, as each stance taken during a technique's sequence typically gets lower and lower throughout). Suri-ashi is also used, with the feet keeping in contact with the ground througout.

The movement is the central feature of the Tai No Henko Ichi (Cross-step body change) Basic Movement.

Beginners should practice it initially with their hands on their hips, the development of a strong lower body being the priority. When incorporating the upper body, as the stance switches to the opposite side, the hands do the least amount of movement possible, and switch which hand is the high hand in time with the movement (e.g. the hands cross at the moment the foot passes the other). As usual, when empty-handed (i.e. without sword), the high hand will correspond to whichever leg is forward.

Technique

  1. Start in left or right side kamae
  2. Begin by relaxing / softening the front knee, moving the center of gravity forward.
  3. Bend the back leg and bring that foot up next to the front foot using suri-ashi.
  4. Let the weight overbalance the (original) front knee and then push strongly from it as your weight passes over it.
  5. Slide the new front leg forward using suri-ashi, pushing strongly off the (new) back leg. 
    • If there is any extra energy to be absorbed (i.e. from a very strong cross-step or in sudden balance corrections), do an extra Shuffle on the end and/or bring the back leg in (to "kamae" distance), keeping the leg straight and the "blade" (outside back edge) of the foot strongly in contact with the ground. 
    • The end stance is the opposite side, and moved a long distance forward (initially practice taking shorter cross-steps, then make the move as long as possible while maintaining good kamae). 
  6. Once in the new position, take a moment to run through the "mental checklist" to ensure a strong stance.
  7. Repeat cross-stepping several times on each side.

To cross-step backwards:

  1. Start in left or right side kamae
  2. Begin by relaxing / softening the back knee, while keeping a strong back hip and the center of gravity forward.
  3. Slide the front foot backwards, bringing it next to the back foot, while keeping it in contact with the ground (suriashi).
  4. Keep sliding that foot backwards to a position that produces the kamae stance on the opposite side.
  5. Keep the weight low througout.
  6. Once in the new position, take a moment to run through the "mental checklist" to ensure a strong stance.
  7. Repeat cross-stepping backwards several times on each side.

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