- Effective action improves the ability of the body to act.
- Reversibility is the mark of [good] movement.
- Light and easy movements are good.
- There is no limit to improvement.
- Use large muscles for heavy work.
- Forces acting at an angle to the main path cause damage.
- Superfluous efforts shorten the body.
- Concentration on the aim may cause excessive tension.
- Performance is improved by the separation of the aim from the means.
- Lack of choice makes strain habitual.
- This is a private residence – not a business. Treat my home with respect and help take care of the dojo.
- Because this is not a business you will pay no fees or dues to us. If you want to help offset the cost of utilities and maintenance, put a tip in the tip jar. ($30 per student per month would help a lot.)
- Do not park on the street and do not block the ramp at the front of the house.
- There are no dressing areas, so come dressed and ready.
- Shoes, sandals, or flipflops are part of your uniform. They help keep dirt outside the dojo.
- The toilet is in the house up the stairs to the left.
- Every student and instructor will help clean up after each class before he or she goes home.
While we are completing construction and clean-up the following rules are in effect:
- If you see a nail or tack or piece of wood on the floor, pick it up and throw it away.
- Classes are likely to be shoe-wearing, no-groundwork, no-falling classes for the first week or two.
- Take more dirt home with you than you bring into the dojo.
This is an interesting exercise because it allows us to explore a lot of different recurring cycles in our motion, including left-right, up-down, bent-straight, hineri-gaeshi, and near-far. It also introduces much of junanahon kata.
Patrick M. was getting a superb owaza kote gaeshi on me nearly every time. After we'd beat those release techniques to death we worked on the atemiwaza. The two cool techniques of the day were the ushiroate from koryu daisan (brush off and run) and the kataotoshi from owaza jupon.
[Update 6/9/2010 - using the releases to set up various techniques and exploring the transitions between these techniques is a great exercise. It makes the releases much more general-purpose and it improves the flow of your aikido.]
The idea is that between any technique and its associated backup technique there is a place from which it is equally easy to get to either technique. We want to find these nodes and move through them because they represent a place of relative safety where we have at least two options. If we favor some particular technique instead of moving into a node, then we are reducing our own options.
- evade off the line of attack
- move away from the attacker
- put a hand in uke's face (shomenate) when surprised
- move behind the attacker (ushiroate or tenkan) whenever possible
In the later class we began warming up with light and easy deashiharai and it turned into an entire hour on deashi. We worked on the basic deashi as uke steps back and tori bumps him and sweeps. Then we worked on the roundabout, very late timing of deashi as part of the continuum of the step cycle. As uke steps fwd on the right, extend him down the line, as in osoto then step to parallel his recovery step. then sweep. This second variation of deashi was feeling especially... interesting... tonight.
The pin at the end of the technique is known as udeosae gatame, and it introduces the idea of pinning in aikido. Aiki pins are not “hold ‘em no matter what” things, but are intended to make continuation of an attack inconvenient, potentially exhausting, and maybe painful for uke, while tori remains able to give up the pin easily and disengage safely. The pins from seiza seen in aikikai aikido do not appear in our style until much later.
Think about oshitaoshi as similar to shomenate – pushing forward through uke’s center – it just so happens that you have his elbow. If you take his balance effectively and move with him then you shouldn’t have to wrestle him to the ground by pushing hard on his arm. If you have to wrestle or push then it's not the right time for oshitaoshi.
- diagonal steps forward and backward
- sidesteps left and right
- turning steps
...a couple of hints to help you keep the right sized steps in tegatana. First, notice that with very large steps forward it is difficult to land on the ball of your front foot instead of the heel. Conversely, if you take a very large step backward you cannot keep your rear heel near the floor - it pops up. so, watch how your feet are working and if it is awkward to do a proper falling tsugiashi try shorter steps. A good trick for learning to make standard sided turning steps (move # 3) is to measure the width of your basic stance in tegatana then draw a box on the floor (or cut out a paper square) with sides the width of your stance. Then start with your toes on two adjacent corners and step around the box to the left and to the right so that after each step your toes are on adjacent corners.
[June 4, 2007 edit] Well, the video I originally had here is broken. For some reason the Google embedded video player does not jive well with my blog. They tend to work well for a while then puke and die. It took me a while, but I basically came to the conclusion Andy was pointing out in the comment to this post - YouTube is more reliable and has a lot of cool videos to draw from.
My original post was sarcastic. The video was of the fat systema guy dancing around waving his arms with his 'attackers' jumping on the ground. Systema is one of those funny things that seems to teeter on the brink of sanity, only to fall over the edge in videos like the lost one above or the ludicrous ones below.
The Body Strike means to approach the enemy through a gap in his guard. The spirit is to strike him with your body. Turn your face a little aside and strike the enemy's breast with your left shoulder thrust out. Approach with the spirit of bouncing the enemy away, striking as strongly as possible in time with your breathing. If you achieve this method of closing with the enemy, you will be able to knock him ten or twenty feet away. It is possible to strike the enemy until he is dead. Train well.
I’ve never thrown someone ten or twenty feet with it, like Musashi suggests, but I have gotten uke a good 6 feet from me in the air.
the attack line
the parallel offbalance line
the perpendicular offbalance line
the line formed between our centers
[Updated February 2010 - Sounds like I must have been working with green belts in the adult class, because that's about where folks start to encounter these particular challenges - grips, foot placement, hip placement, etc... for hip throws. If you don't get this stuff straightened out before brown belt then they will begin to have more problems trying to progress to the one-legged hipthrows (haraigoshi, hanegoshi, etc...). This class has actually become one of my standard (almost "canned") lessons over the years. I ought to write out lesson plans for all of these standard classes so that I can pass that on to my students when they get to the point of starting to teach.]
Shomenate is a crucial part of the aikido system and deserves daily practice in both of these forms. Seeing a lot of ukes respond to shomenate goes a long way toward improving one's aikido.
force meets force (like karate)
force joins force (like judo)
force avoids force (like aikido)
Another phenomenon that is important for uke to understand in order to create an honest attack is that attackers in the "real world" often try to disguise their intent until too late for the victim to react . However, it is not possible to move casually and "normally"while attacking with intent (see this excellent discussion on this). What this means is that aikido attacks tend to have two phases, a casual moving together (ayumiashi) to near ma-ai, at which point uke's motion changes (tsugiashi) such that he has the potential to put energy into tori. This change is typical, natural, and something that tori needs to learn to see in uke.
Another very interesting phenomenon is that kuzushi tends to reset uke momentarily. So, during a committed attack with intent, if tori gets kuzushi then uke is forced to stop the attack, gather his balance (and wits) and begin to attack again. Almost universally, kuzushi causes uke to shift from tsugiashi back to ayumiashi (natural movement) in order to try to regain balance. Thus it is much easier for tori to "do" aikido to an uke that is doing ayumiashi. Ukes that are unaware of this take the opportunity during slow, controlled practice to ignore kuzushi and try to continue with short, quick tsugiashi even though this is an unnatural motion. So, as an example, in hanasu#1, uke takes one casual step in, switches to tsugiashi for the attack, is offbalanced and returns to ayumiashi while tori finishes the release.
Today during Aikido practice we played with uke's attack during hanasu until uke was giving honest attacks with intent and tori was able to evade offline and release. Then we practiced building the atemiwaza from junana off these same principles. The cool technique of the day was the ushiroate from sankata tantodori (brush off and run).
"Aikido is not about 'winning' or finishing your opponent off, but rather about being able to disengage from a chaotic and violent situation as quickly and safely as possible."
The goal of self-defense is not to win; winning is the realm of fighting and is concerned with ego, pride, gain, coercion and the countless other motivations for fighting. Nor is it to kick the @%!! out anybody who dares to attack you. It is not an excuse to "unload" on someone and physically harm them for dissin' your precious self. And it especially is NOT a chance to vent a lifetime spleen of anger, frustration and bile on someone who you think has given you a perfect excuse to engage in violence. The goal of self-defense is [to not] be physically injured by an unprovoked or unwarranted attack by using a reasonable amount of force. If you are engaged in physical conflict for any other reason or using excessive force, it is not self-defense. It is something else.
[Update - February 2010 - Other than rewording a place or two in this article, I don't particularly have any new ideas on it. It's really a pretty good expression of why uke doesn't resist and what to do if he does. Do you have any ideas to add to this discussion?]
In shikaku it is important for tori to control the near arm (usually at the elbow) because the elbow is a particularly effective weapon for uke and because the posture of the shoulder and elbow controls the posture of the rest of the body to a large degree.
The chain of the night was to work on the gaeshi-hineri and tenkai kote gaeshi relationships surrounding release #4 because these provide a lot of interesting exercise in getting into and maintaining the shikaku relationship while affecting uke's balance and damping his potential for harm. The cool technique of the night was aikinage because this is THE cool shikaku technique.
[Update February 2010 - The only thing that I'd think to add to this lesson is, when practicing the gaeshi-hineri loops associated with release #2 and release #4, it is important (vital?) to move to the end of the line (as far down uke's arm as possible) any time you are switching from omote to ura or vice versa. So, these loops tend to go osmething like, "behind - move away - in front - move away - behind - move away - in front ..." In some sense, you can treat the down-the-line condition as shikaku because you've moved to a dead zone of sorts - a place where uke can't effectively exert against you without moving.]
- kotegaeshi = same in Tomiki
- shihonage = same in Tomiki
- ikkyo = oshi taoshi
- sankyo = kote hineri
- nikyo = kote mawashi
- yonkyo = tekubi osae
- gokyo = waki gatame
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what
that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
Some of the principles, or low-level strategies, underlying Aikido:
- you must respect the potential of anyone to hurt you badly
- refuse to engage
- get out of the way
- put hands up
- get behind the attacker
- move with the attacker so that you stay safe
Notice that nowhere in those principles appears "poke him in the eye" or "break his arm" or even "throw him down." While these might be consequences of an attacker leaping forward at a person who is getting out of the way and putting hands up, it is not the aim of aikido to cause those injuries to the attacker. In fact, aikido is designed so that it doesn't even work very well when used in a forceful, aggressive manner.
For more thought provoking reading, check out some of the following:
Effective, Efficient, and Elegant. These are three goals of a martial art in order of importance.
Effectiveness is basically an external consideration. When determining effectiveness one must compare the results of the system to some objective external criteria. This external, objective focus makes effectiveness a very pragmatic consideration. In the days of the samurai, the arts were field-tested by killers killing other killers. Thus, the samurai had external, objective, easily measurable criteria (death) for determining effectiveness. As society has changed we have mostly gotten away from fighting duels, so martial arts have developed sparring and randori systems to allow some simulation of the duel. The problem is that the rules for these kumite and randori systems were developed based on theory - a construct internal to the art itself. For instance, in theory if a practitioner can throw a fast punch with proper form and stop it before it hits then in theory he could have used that punch for its intended effect. That is a supposition based on technical and theoretical aspects of the art itself.
[Update February 2010 - This sounds like it was a cat's breakfast of a class - disorganized and messy, but still fun. I think these days I am better at identifying a common theme running through a givien class and selecting the Cool Ninja Technique of the Day to summarize that theme as we cool down. At least, that's how I like to structure classes these days. We have been working more on rank requirements (kata) and less on chaining for the past year or so. I think this likely goes in waves, back and forth between chaining and variations as opposed to kata and rank requirements.]