Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Goshin Jitsu in aikido and judo

Someone asked me a while back to discuss the differences between how we practice the Kodokan Goshin Jitsu kata in our aikido classes as opposed to in our judo classes. Some of this we've already discussed in a previous post about the pros and cons of aikido and judo. My official position, from what I understand about the arts, is that judo and aikido are two lenses on the same art. Somewhat similar to the idea of climbing a mountain by different paths but ending up close to the same point. Sometimes folks like to call aikido “separated judo,” suggesting that they work at different ranges, but this is only true to a degree. Some folks also like to separate them based on their aggressiveness, calling aikido reactive or defensive and judo an art of aggressive attack. Again, I think this is only true to a point. So, back to the question – how do the two arts differ in their understanding of Goshin Jitsu. Short answer – they don’t.
But there are minor differences in how the exercise is typically practiced in the two arts. For instance, take the first technique. Uke steps in, grasps both of tori’s wrists and tries to either pull him into or hold him still for a frontal knee strike to the groin. Tori responds by slipping back and to the side, breaking the grasp on the far arm and using it to deliver a strike to uke’s face, then grasping uke’s near wrist with both hands and applying wakigatame. In judo we typically see a direct pulling against the fingers grip release followed by a closed-fisted back-knuckle strike. In aikido we tend to avoid having tori do closed fisted striking atemi because it disrupts his ability to move properly. So the grip break is a winding thing and the atemi is an open-handed palm to the face – really more of a separator and distractor than a strike. This type of slight modification is typical throughout the kata.
If you watch two well-trained aikidoka do Goshin Jitsu and watch another pair of well-trained judoka do the kata, it will be easily recognizable as the same thing. They will be more similar than different. It is not like we want to train the student to do it one way in one class and another way in another class.

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