Monday, July 14, 2008

You can under-power those you can't over-power

Power corrupts; Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Baron Acton
This is usually thought of in a political sense, but can also apply in a physical sense.
Take for instance, shomenate, it can be done with a power stroke or without. When it is done with a power stroke, driving uke’s chin strongly up and back, it looks a lot like the traditional Junana version. Done without a strong power stroke it looks like a brushoff or like a kokyunage breath throw (i.e. gokata). Most any aikido technique can be done either way.
How can power stroke get us in trouble?
  • Power depends upon a base of power. To exert you have to plant your feet. If it doesn’t work it sticks you in place. This gives uke a specific, directed force to adapt and respond to. Uke can actually use your strength and power as a crutch if your angle and timing is not quite right. Applying power can make it easier for uke to pull you down with him.
  • Power is addictive. If a little power isn’t enough, you naturally think of adding more strength first. This leads to escalation of the conflict.
  • You never know if you are powerful enough to overcome your enemy. This leads to a struggle to gain more and more personal power and there is no upper limit in this kind of power struggle. Weakness as a virtue, however, does have a limit – zero power. You never know if you can over-power an enemy but you can know for absolute certain that you are able to under-power any opponent.
UPDATE: Here is another facet of the power vs. weakness thing. Interesting...


  1. Oh, I think I've meet Tai Chi folks that cannot be under-powered. ;)

  2. Yeeah. I'v met a few aiki guys who I couldn't under-power either.

    But that makes it hard for them to attack you. You just walk away and atch them not exert against you. ;-)

  3. "Power is addictive. If a little power isn’t enough, you naturally think of adding more strength first. This leads to escalation of the conflict."

    I was working with a beginner today, repeating a lesson (Re: Basic Punch) I started over the weekend. Feeling of power for a punch like this typically comes from raising the elbow and using shoulder rotation and maybe a little hip rotation. For our first basic punch, we keep the elbow tight to the centreline so the punch is driven by the body rather than the arm or shoulder. This helps keep the extremity relaxed (but tight on the body with the lat muscles) and drives force using the entire body structure. It also sends the weapon closer to the centreline - great for beginners and self defence techniques.

    Beginning Taekwondo


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