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Fences, hard challenges, and strategy confusion

The beginning of this interview is about how practicing two martial arts with different fundamental strategies can lead to confusion. In a situation where the defender has to choose between force-avoids-force and force-joins-force, the decision becomes a conscious mind thing which takes much longer than the subconscious application of either one of these strategies. For those of us who practice more than one art, we need some concrete rule of practice to tell us when we are doing one strategy and when we are doing the other. Various self-defense gurus call this concept fences or hard challenges.
With Judo and Aikido it is pretty straightforward. Aikido (force-avoiding) works best in the range of 1-2 arms-lengths and it works especially well when there is an early awareness or connection (metsuke) prior to the attacker crossing ma-ai. Judo (force-joining), on the other hand, works almost exclusively in ranges less than one arm length and Judo works great when tori is surprised, overwhelmed, and borne down to the ground. So there is our rule: avoid-force only outside of one arm's length and join-force only within one arm's length.
It is important that the vast majority of practice time in both arts abide explicitly by this rule of practice. If you spend part of your time in Judo trying to oppose-force or avoid-force or working outside one arm length then you undermine the rule that allows rapid reaction in self-defense. It is similarly counterproductive to spend much Aiki time trying to oppose-force or join-force or work closer than one arm length.
We are pretty good at following this rule in Aiki, where we try to stay near ma-ai and react at ma-ai, but the sportive aspect of Judo forbids force-avoiding while starting the opponents outside ma-ai. I think a more productive judo practice would be to either teach some basic Aiki ideas in Judo for use outside the Judo encounter distance or to start Judo practice inside Judo range.
For our students practicing Karate and Judo or Karate and Aikido, it is vital that you develop a fence between the two arts, and practice working with that fence in both arts.

1 comment:

  1. Of course, almost as soon as I posted this, i went home and watched an tape of an excellent lecture by Clif Norgard in which he demonstrates aikido and kihara principles from a series of bearhugs and close-contact attacks. It made me want to clarify my post.

    My rule that I posted was So "avoid-force only outside of one arm's length and join-force only within one arm's length."

    This seems to be how I have built my fence in my mind between my aikido and my judo. But this condition is obviously not the only way that a practitioner can separate their arts. Sensei Clif, in his advanced knowledge, has apparently either used some other condition.

    Anyway, so far as I can tell, my assertion still stands that the aiki man has to find some concrete condition to separate their aiki from their judo, otherwise strategy confusion will slow their decision making ability in an emergency.