- Metsuke (eye contact) – choose a place on uke’s body and point your eyes at it. Some people prefer watching uke’s center of mass. Some people prefer watching the neck. We tend to tell people to look at the bridge of their nose between their eyes. This lets you get most of their body within your peripheral vision while maintaining an absolute connection with their centerline. Don’t shift your eyes back and forth among several foci. This changes your sense of center and distance and timing. Stay on the bridge of the nose.
- Synchronization – start moving your center of mass up and down, left and right in synch with uke. This might be very slight, but it should begin as soon as you are aware of uke – before he crosses ma-ai. If you are surprised and uke jumps through ma-ai then one of the best ways to get synched is to pay attention to the footfall of uke’s front foot. Try to make your footfall during your evasion happen at the same time. The better you are at synching up-downs and left-rights, the better your timing will be.
- tight little finger
- slot grip
An interesting thing happens with oshitaoshi. When tori gets into position and bumps uke he puts some energy into uke and uke begins vibrating. Literally vibrating – like bumping a stick that is planted in the ground. Try this experiment – bump uke with oshitaoshi then let go and see doesn’t that arm flail about in space.
What tori does with this vibration is important. If tori has in his mind that oshitaoshi is supposed to look like pushing uke’s elbow through his head and into the ground then tori will actually damp uke’s vibe out, leaving him relatively motionless. Then tori’s only choices are to run uke down, crank him down, or drag him down. On the other hand, if tori follows the vibration of the arm – just moves wherever uke puts the arm in response to the bump – more often than not, uke drops like he was shot – right into position for the armbar.
So, oshitaoshi is more of a bump-and-follow thing than a shock-absorbing run-uke-down thing.
“The motions of ypur students are too soft.”
Anyway, my initial reaction was, “Wow, thanks for the nice compliment.” In many ways, soft is the goal. Soft is more sensitive. “Hard” implies doing something to uke. People are pretty much wired to use their muscles to either ‘feel’ or to ‘do’ but not both simultaneously. As an example, can you imagine trying to feel the texture or temperature of direction of motion of a body by punching it? Incidently, there is a gender difference here – men tend to naturally ‘do’ while women tend to more naturally use their muscles to ‘feel’.
During aikido practice we are trying to feel and follow uke’s motion and our own, so sensitivity is more important to us than ‘doing.’ Because soft is more sensitive, we learn faster because we sense more when we are not trying to ‘do’ uke.
On the other hand, we don’t want to be soft in the sense of wimpy, flaccid, impotent, or ineffective. Our aikido has never been described any of those ways. If you are basing your comments on effectiveness, you have to consider the goal that you are trying to accomplish with aikido. Even though our aikido is definitely ‘soft’ aikido, it has been demonstrated many times in ‘real’ situations to be effective self-defense. My students and friends in particular have used this soft aikido as real defense.
So, I personally think that you should have ended your thought like this...
But I do appreciate your comment. Though terse, it was thought provoking and I did take it to heart."The motions of your students are too soft…" for my taste.
The concept of zanshin has been explained to me as the state of mind that you are in after a technique finishes. Good zanshin is a state of alert readiness for unexpected things to pop out of the relationship. As such, zanshin is to some degree the opposite of kime (explosively focused concentration or decisiveness) or of mushin (a mind that does not linger). In the context of martial arts, one wants to maintain an appropriate balance between these opposites – zanshin, mushin, and kime.
Usher-san has a great analogical explanation for zanshin. It’s like when you have a visitor at your house and they depart, you can either say goodbye and go about your business or you can walk them to their car, wave goodbye, and stand there watching them drive away until you cant see their car anymore. These two responses to their departure communicate two fundamentally different things. This last state of mind is zanshin, in which you maintain a connection with them even after the relationship is ended.
So, how do you develop or improve zanshin? Here are a few suggestions…
- Have the entire class synchronize to each other during warmup and ukemi practice. This forces each person to maintain a connection to everyone around them.
- Make it a class policy that tori stays ‘in the technique’ and does not disconnect from uke until uke taps.
- Uke, don’t get up from the ground until tori is a safe distance away from you. Until then, keep your feet between you and tori.
- Define some place in the dojo as joseki (the high seat) or shomen (the front) and make sure that as tori you never throw uke toward shomen/joseki and that tori is always between uke and joseki. Of course, tori should also refrain from throwing uke off the mats, into walls and obstacles, and onto other people. To make this exercise even more interesting, make sure that tori and uke never have their backs fully toward joseki/shomen.
- Play a ‘gotcha’ game with other students in which they can ‘get you’ at any time that you are unaware during your daily life. Don’t be stupid - play safe with this or it becomes dangerous.
- Play a mind game with yourself in which you imagine people jumping out at you from hiding. Find places that people could ambush you as you walk by. Try to make sure you walk by hiding places with at least ma-ai separation.
The abstractions that change combat into martial art involve various sets of rules of conduct between participants who explore different models of combat-like situations. Because any model is necessarily incomplete, we work with multiple different models. These models include:
- Kihon – fundamentals
- Kata – patterns and principles
- Bunkai – break-down analysis of kata
- Henka/Renraku/Kaeshi – Variation/Combination/Reversal techniques
- Kumite – engagement matches
- Randori – exploring freedom
- Makiwara – test striking/cutting real objects
How did you come to find [your aikido organization] and what lead you to pick it (if others were available?)?
- I started TKD on a whim and it turned out to be a positive experience.
- I started Karate because there was no other choice at the time. And it turned out to be a positive experience.
- I started aikido because it seemed to fit my personality and manner better than karate...
- ...and I got into our particular aikido organization because that's all there was at the time.
- What if my first instructor had been a jerk to the point that I was injured or quit?
- What if I'd decided to tough it out in karate instead of moving to aiki and judo? Might not have been a bad life but I can't imagine getting the same mileage out of karate as aikido.
- What if I'd decided to wait for a different aikido teacher to show up (i.e. aikikai)? It just so happens that the first aikikai guy to show up at the university where I was was an absolute jerk. I would have never clicked with him as well as I jived with Usher-san.
- What if...
- What if...
- What if...
- ikkyo - oshitaoshi - pushing the opponent into an armlock on the ground while holding his wrist and elbow.
- nikkyo - kotemawashi - wristlock bending the little finger toward the ulna (armbone).
- sankyo - kotehineri - wristlock with the wrist extended and the forearm turned inward.
- yonkyo - tekubiosae - nerve attack on the forearm or using the forearm to push the opponent away similar to ikkyo/oshitaoshi.
- gokyo - wakigatame - locking the elbow and leading the opponent into unbalance along the length of the arm. Similar in form to ikkyo/oshitaoshi but with a different grip.
- shihonage - shihonage or tenkai kotegaeshi. wrist/arm lock done by holding a wrist with both hands and turning outward and under the arm to twist the arm behind uke's shoulder and head.
- iriminage - shomenate, aigamaeate, gyakugamaeate, or aikinage - any blending evasion followed by a whole-body strike that takes uke off his feet. Gyakugamaeate is also called sokumen iriminage.
- kotegaeshi - kotegaeshi. Wristlock done by flexing the wrist and turning the forearm outward.
- kaitennage - kaitennage or udehineri. Locking the shoulder by holding it behind uke's back and using the arm as a lever to push uke away. Sometimes similar to the hammerlock in common wrestling.
- tenchinage - tenchinage or sumiotoshi or osotogari. Leading the opponent into sideways offbalance with one of his arms held low and the other high. Sometimes it is a hand throw - Aikikai calls this kokyu (breath throw) and Tomiki calls this ukiwaza (floating technique). At other times it is done stepping in behind ukes leg to trip him.
"People have a greater tolerence for evil than for violence." Louis Lamour The Daybreakers
Mifune might have been missing the point of the gokyo along with the rest of us.
Mifune might have known something that the other brainiacs at the Kodokan didn't.
The order and groupings of the gokyo might actually be arbitrary and meaningless.
We repped hanasu a couple of times, including some practice on Patrick M’s off-side. He was doing great releases with that arm and it brought up the topic of the “really-lost” wrist release. Not the two that begin yonkata – those are just “lost.” This is the “really lost” release. There comes times when tori’s or uke’s grip begins to fail, giving us the choice of losing contact or holding harder and harder. The harder and harder option is a particularly bad one, so the solution (the release) is to switch hands as the grip fails. This is a form of release that does not appear in hanasu or junana – but it occurs in randori and in the chains. And it is an important release skill. Anyway, with Patrick M’s reduced range in his off-side, he gets into that “really lost” release situation earlier and more often than the rest of us. So he provides a great reminder of a skill that some of us can forget to practice sometimes!
We played with Chain #2, getting into the forearm pushdown. We played with some variants of this, including doing it with just the wrist and doing it with wrist and head like the entry into aikinage. Then for the “cool ninja technique of the night” we did the gyakugamae ate out of sankata where uke grasps tori’s upper sleeve in gyaku stance and tori binds the arm and rotates behind him, pulling him into gyakugamaeate. Worked great and was a lot of fun.
At the end of class we did Nijusan 1-10 and then emphasized techniques #1, 4, 8, and 13. #1 because it is the basis of everything and #4, 8, and 13 because they seem to be an example of a slightly different timing than the others. These seem to occur slightly earlier in the ura (outside) path.
That I, whose experience of teaching is extremely limited, should presume to discuss education is a matter, surely, that calls for no apology ... Bishops air their opinions about economics; biologists, about metaphysics; inorganic chemists, about theology; the most irrelevant people are appointed to highly technical ministries; and plain, blunt men write to the papers to say that Epstein and Picasso do not know how to draw. Up to a certain point, and provided the the criticisms are made with a reasonable modesty, these activities are commendable. Too much specialization is not a good thing. There is also one excellent reason why the veriest amateur may feel entitled to have an opinion about education. For if we are not all professional teachers, we have all, at some time or another, been taught. Even if we learnt nothing--perhaps in particular if we learnt nothing--our contribution to the discussion may have a potential value. (Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning, Oxford, 1947)
Anyway, I'm not an expert at Jodo, but I have practiced it for the most part continuously for the past 12-15 years, so I have thoughts that I'd like to express not so much to enlighten others, but so that perhaps someone who is more expert could educate me further.
If there are any serious problems with Seitei jodo as a system, they are two:
First there is no system of randori that allows experimentation against resistance while maintaining safety for the participants. I have some ideas on how to correct this, but perhaps I'll mull it over a few years before I try to get a partner and put that into effect at Mokuren.
The other potential flaw in the system is relatively minimal education for the sword-wielding partner. We are currently working on this at Mokuren. We basically have an informal study group playing with with various sword exercises in an attempt to get at least a little more comfortable with the sword half of the equation. The exercises we are playing with include the kendo kihon (basics) and kata set as well as the tachiwaza (sword-using) and tachidori (sword-taking) techniques from Aikido's Koryunokata. I figure we certainly won't become swordmasters working on this, but if the sword man becomes even a little more comfortable then his jo-wielding partner will have to become sharper too.
So, If there is anyone around Southwest Mississippi who would like to play (safely and reasonably) with sticks and (wooden) swords with me, drop me a line.
- When something has a widely-used English term that is both concise and evocative, I will use the English, maybe followed by the Japanese in parentheses. For instance - the guard (dojime gatame)
- When the concise, evocative English term does not exist, I'll use the Japanese terminology, often followed by a loose English translation in parentheses. For instance - yama arashi (one-armed shoulder throw combined with a leg sweep).
- When I'm specifically talking about Aikikai techniques or when I think the topic might be particularly interesting to my Aikikai buddies, I'll use both naming systems as I understand them. For instance - gyakugamaeate is roughly the same thing as sokumen irimi nage.
- When I can, I'll provide links to pictures or video to clarify especially problematic terms, like gyakugamaeate .
Thanks to my friends who have told me that my use of Japanese terms bugs them. Please keep reading and leaving comments and let me know if I get better or worse ;-)
For a while, we played with the second half of owaza jupon - mostly so that I could get some reps on my favorite kata but Andy was getting some good practice too. We worked mostly on the shihonage, ushiroate, and kotegaeshi from this kata and it went well. Andy was smearing me with shihonage and I was getting a good kotegaeshi. This led to Andy and I working on kotegaeshi a good bit and talking about using the wrist control to control uke's posture. We got to work on the owaza and nijusan versions of shihonage and kotegaeshi. These roughly translate to omote and ura versions of these two techniques.
We used this work on kotegaeshi as a lead-in to chain #1 and we reviewed all of the first half of the chain (1a) a couple of times and then jumped into the second part that contains the shortcut through chain #1a and then branches off into kotegaeshi, kotehineri, and tenkai kotehineri. Andy was flowing better than I was tonight.
By this point I was waning, so we cut class short and I made it up to Andy with spaghetti and a movie.