Saturday, November 22, 2008

The down-side to the aiki brush-off

[Ok, I lied.  This is not a replay, but an original article.  I was just checking to see if you were paying attention while I'm off camping...]
For the past couple of years, I've been working on the aiki brush-off a lot at Mokuren Dojo.  This is the idea that you want to evade as the first and most fundamental part of every aikido technique.  Evade off the line of attack, put your hands between you and the attacker and then push to separate them from you.  They eat some of the energy and move away from you but you don't stand in place and push - you eat some of the energy of that push and use it to move away from them.  The goal is to get a lot more slippery and harder to hit. Our matra has been,
"avoid, evade, do not engage, roll the ball, brush-off and disengage"
Amazingly this type of practice, as I suggested in this previous post about  aikido evasion, has absolutely revolutionized our aikido, making it softer as well as more viable and robust againt faster, meaner, sneakier, and more variable attacks. The aiki brush-off has almost become panacea - good for whatever is wrong with your aiki!
Well, I'm as aware as the next guy that most any theory has potential negatives or counterexamples or conditions under which it is non-optimal. So, what are the down-sides to the brush-off? So far I've only found two - and these are pretty minor...
  • You can't expect the aiki brush-off to end the fight and you can't run away forever, so something has got to end the fight. This is where the technical part of aikido comes into play - wristlocks, armbars, projections, etc... I didn't say that the aiki-brushoff was everything you do in aikido - just that it is the first thing you do and that it facilitates all the cool techniques in aikido.
  • You want to minimize running backwards in a fight because you will tend to fall over stuff you can't see, so when we are working on brush-off, I tend to tell people to evade and push back 1-2 steps to get just back outside ma-ai (2 arms length). From this point you can decide whether to evade some more, engage and destroy, or flee.
 What do y'all think?  Having played with this idea of honestly making evasion the most foundational thing in your system, have you found any other down sides to it?  Leave me a comment cause I want to know!
 [For the rest of this week I will be camping with my family. In my absence I have scheduled several great re-plays from my archives. Check in each day to see what I've dug up in my trip back in time. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think and I'll see y'all again Monday!]



  1. This is more a question on your post about aikido being "evade force" and judo being "join force". Also because you mention you can't run away forever. Isn't the better general rule to be joining as you evade? I thought that's what aikido tries to do. If so, the distinction on evading vs. joining you made earlier is just relative to judo, right?

  2. either you are joining forces with the guy (by def'n engaging him) or you are avoiding engagement - you are disengaging. I don't think you can do both at once (or at least it's hard to do).

    You can avoid then engage, which is sort of what judo is about...

    Or the attacker might be trying to engage while the defender tries to disengage, which is sorta what aikido is all about.

    In aikido, there are certainly times that we engage and bust the guy but I think that is due to uke being insistent on engaging or tori not being sufficiently skilled in his disengagement.

    The aiki ideal would be to disengage just right every time uke tries to engage, but there are times when uke is successful in engaging tori and he breaks himself over tori.


  3. I must've misunderstood your use of "evade". I was thinking as in
    1) a boxer slipping a punch just barely - evade - but almost simultaneously "joining" (sorta - one center plows into the other). Or,
    2) in taijiquan, "roll back" should move a force just barely so tori's center is not found or affected ("evasion"), and nearly simultaneously "join" so that you find uke's center and immediately "issue".

    Like the aikitaiji video's movements, reduced to the smallest possible movement. Or, a 1-2, changed to a 1. So, I thought aikido "evade" + judo "join".


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