Monday, May 12, 2008

The steps between the steps

Here is another Musashi quote for us to think about – again, from his Wind book. This one is on walking methods. In aikido we define two walking methods – ayumiashi (normal walking) and tsugiashi (a dropping/sliding motion without crossing the feet). There are benefits to both, and for the most part, we walk using ayumiashi whenever we are outside of ma-ai, instantly switching to safer, more conservative tsugiashi as we cross into ma-ai. Here’s what Mushshi had to say about walking methods…

Use of the Feet in Other Schools

There are various methods of using the feet: floating foot, jumping foot, springing foot, treading foot, crow's foot, and such nimble walking methods. From the point of view of my strategy, these are all unsatisfactory.

I dislike floating foot because the feet always tend to float during the fight. The Way must be trod firmly.

Neither do I like jumping foot, because it encourages the habit of jumping, and a jumpy spirit. However much you jump, there is no real justification for it; so jumping is bad.

Springing foot causes a springing spirit which is indecisive.

Treading foot is a "waiting" method, and I especially dislike it.

Apart from these, there are various fast walking methods, such as crow's foot, and so on. Sometimes, however, you may encounter the enemy on marshland, swampy ground, river valleys, stony ground, or narrow roads, in which situations you cannot jump or move the feet quickly.

In my strategy, the footwork does not change. I always walk as I usually do in the street. You must never lose control of your feet. According to the enemy's rhythm, move fast or slowly, adjusting you body not too much and not too little.

Carrying the feet is important also in large-scale strategy. This is because, if you attack quickly and thoughtlessly without knowing the enemy's spirit, your rhythm will become deranged and you will not be able to win. Or, if you advance too slowly, you will not be able to take advantage of the enemy's disorder, the opportunity to win will escape, and you will not be able to finish the fight quickly. You must win by seizing upon the enemy's disorder and derangement, and by not according him even a little hope of recovery. Practice this well.


I thought it was interesting that he essentially said, “Walk normally, but be careful that your walking doesn’t get you out of rhythm with the enemy.” Similar to his advice that I previously quoted.
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I have also found it interesting to note that even if we emphasize tsugiashi in kata, when we do randori, we revert back to the more natural ayumiashi and we often have the feeling that we are doing very badly because we can’t make randori work with the type of footwork found in the kata. Working chains more has corrected this for me by showing me that the kata-style tsugiashi is sort of a one-step instantaneous thing. For instance, you might walk around for a while in ayumiashi but then tsugiashi once to push uke. Then you might ayumiashi some more, then throw uke with one more tsugiashi. The ayumiashi has been taken out of the kata for the purpose of boiling each technique down to its essence, but to make it go in randori, there often have to be some “steps between the steps.”
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One more hint related to this - you can often tell if you have gotten a good offbalance on uke because it will reset him from the tsugiashi he's trying to do to the more natural ayumiashi. So, for instance, the pattern of uke's stepping during a release exercise will look like: ayumiashi up to ma-ai then attack through ma-ai with tsugiashi. Tori gets an offbalance and uke reverts back to the ayumiashi, at which point tori blends using ayumiashi (the steps between the steps) then tori switches to tsugiashi to apply a push...



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2 comments:

  1. Is it possible that when you said, "There are benefits to both, and for the most part, we walk using tsugiashi whenever we are outside of ma-ai, instantly switching to safer, more conservative tsugiashi as we cross into ma-ai." that instead you meant to say, "There are benefits to both, and for the most part, we walk using ayumiashi whenever we are outside of ma-ai, instantly switching to safer, more conservative tsugiashi as we cross into ma-ai." (emphasis mine).

    I also like your comment on spoting a good Kizumi when Uke switches to ayumiashi - I'll watch for that next time - although I have some doubts that I have sufficient presence of mind to be quite that observant during technique.

    And as an aside - I want to thank you for the recent article on the man who self taught jo - I've started doing that. I hadn't believed it would be possible. I have no doubt that my technique could be vastly improved by some educated commentary, but I'm enjoying the attempt, and it has begun to "feel" right. There is an intriguing variety of Jo styles on youtube though - I hope I'm following someone who knows what they're doing.

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  2. Good catch, Mark. I fixed that goof-up. Thanks.

    I'm glad you got something of use out of the jodo article.

    Keep on coming back and commenting and letting me know where I'm on track and where I'm skewed and what parts of things you got something out of...

    ReplyDelete

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