Sunday, August 27, 2006

Kotegaeshi

This is the Holy Grail of aikido. Perhaps the one technique that people think of when they think of aikido (aiki is also known for iriminage and ikkyo too). Kotegaeshi is most aikidoka's favorite technique, at least for a while. I'm not sure why this is - perhaps because as Henry Copeland sensei once told me, "People only like the techniques they're afraid of." As if kotegaeshi has more magical qualities than some other technique in aikido.
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Anyway, kotegaeshi is the dynamic opposite of kotehineri (sankyo) in that resistance on the part of uke tends to lead back and forth in a cycle from kotehineri to kotegaeshi. In nijusan, kotegaeshi is taught as a direct followup to uke pushing out of kotehineri.
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Kotegaeshi presents tori with the choice (and the temptation) to end the technique by cranking the wrist, but the actual technique comes when we resist this temptation to actually turn the wrist and we arrive at a beautiful otoshi-motion floating throw with the wrist held at it's end of range but not twisted. If kotegaeshi has a weakness it is that the classically known version places tori inside uke's arms with both hands occupied, so if anything goes wrong with the technique then uke is in a position to apply atemi or a reversal. This often exacerbates tori's feeling that he must end the technique quickly by cranking the wrist. We frequently practice two variants of kotegaeshi that solve this problem - one is to execute kotegaeshi one-handed with the free hand used to simultaneously apply shomenate as a separator. The other variation is executed as tori retreats backward taking uke's wrist along for the ride.
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So, while kotegaeshi is not the Sun and the Moon of aikido, it is a beautiful technique executed properly and it is a practical, indespensible, representative piece of aikido.

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