Saturday, November 15, 2008

He who fights and runs away...

I think some of my readers are partly misunderstanding me on some of my recent posts - particularly The aiki gift that keeps on giving. The misunderstanding is probably my fault for not communicating my idea rightly. I agree that full retreat from an opponent may not always be best.
  • you cannot flee if you are leaving someone in danger.
  • you cannot retreat if the enemy is faster than you.
  • it's almost never smart to avoid a fight that is inevitable.
  • your most expedient defense may be to attack directly.
  • you may not be confident in your ability to evade and stay out of trouble.
  • it might not be good to flee from someone who is both careful and relentless.
But in general, on this blog, and in the posts in question in particular, I am not talking about retreat from conflict as a moral imperitive or some sort of hippie love ideal, but as a practical, pragmatic, strategic imperitive. Simply put, aiki techniques work better when you are trying to disengage than when you are trying to engage. In fact, you almost have to at least try to retreat first in order to get a good chance to do an aiki technique. Why?
  • it's harder to hit a retreating target
  • if uke has to put more energy into simply getting close enough to touch you, that's more energy you have for your technique and less energy he has in reserve to hurt you with.
  • if a technique goes wrong or fails, it's easier to disengage and flee or flow to another technique if you never engaged in a 'stand and deliver' type fight
  • it's nearly impossible to be sensitive enough to synchronize correctly when you are toe-to-toe scraping and scratching and clawing for your life, but it is much easier to get in synch when you begin retreating.
That's what I was referring to when I wrote, "Try it for a month and see what it does for your aikido." This method of practicing aikido will improve your aikido so much you won't believe it - or maybe I should say you'll have to see it to believe it!
Also, almost as an aside, these suggestions are (mostly) directed to aikido practitioners. I said, in effect, "aikido works better when disengaging than when engaging." Karate and judo guys can benefit from thinking about these things but your strategic mileage may vary.


  1. Wow, you've been in rare form these last few posts. Really great stuff and i've enjoyed them all. You should definately throw these together in the eventual book. Or atleast link them all together into a super post.

    If we practice every encounter with the intent of getting away from uke instead of engaging him, won't most of practice boil down into the aiki brush off?

    Unless tori enters into a hanasu type situation all direct attacks seem to be easily avoided with the brush off. That seemed to be the best defense during the ABG weekend.

    Tori's part in all the nijusan techniques begins with engaging doesn't it? Even if it's stepping of to the side it's still moving towards the attacker, towards inherent danger insted of away. I might not be looking at it at the right angle.

    One of your responses in the first aiki post made me think. It seems to me that what we've been doing boils down into evading OR avoiding. Evaiding being hanasu, brush-off being avoiding. Maybe evading THEN avoiding would be nijusan.

    Could aikido really be something where the defender is the one looking for the fight? I move away or around then bust you. I like that idea of contrasts.

    Either way it would be neat to see someone training from the standpoint of hanasu and the brush off as the main two ways to train. Looking forward to see how the next month or so of training at Mokuren goes.

  2. most striking practice could turn into brushoff until uke gets smarter and meaner and stickier.

    when uke is unable to do a simple strike and hit tori he is forced to do something sneakier, like a jab-cross or a grab-cross or a stab-twice attack. thus, the hanasu-type oractice that you're talking about.

    all of nijusan (or junana) begins with tori slipping out of the way of the oncoming force, moving to stay safe, then choosing the best time to close and engage and bust uke. So junana (or nijusan) begins with avoid/evade and ends with close-and-engage.

    later on we play owaza which is an avoid and evade and make uke spin away from you. uke is busted as you separate from him.

  3. Thanks to Pat, we have to practice all of this "evade and be safe and make your aikido better at the same time" crap at the Starkville Dojo now too.

    And I couldnt be happier for it :)

    We've been focusing on the idea of brushing off first, then if Uke sticks to you, Tori has the opportunity to resolve the situation with a technique of nijusan--and its been working really well. Thanks, Pat.



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