Sunday, April 19, 2009

Don't step back

Photo courtesy of Tharso
This month, we've been focussing on the initial evasion in our aikido classes and on this blog. Today I wanted to follow up with a quick addition to the articles I've already written on the topic, and that is, avoid moving backward.
This is not revolutionary - lots of my instructors have told me that you don't ever step straight back in response to an attack - but it is important. There are several problems with this...
  • If you step straight back, you are not solving the problem. The attack is still coming at you, you are still directly on the line of attack, and now he has more momentum.
  • the attacker can always move faster forward than you can move backward.
  • Because of the shape of your feet and the position of your eyes, you are inherently less stable moving backward then forward.
  • You can't see what you are about to trip over when you walk backward.
But it seems from my previous post on pushing back from a fight, that I am contradicting myself. On the one hand, in that post I said that to get good effect in aikido you pretty much have to be trying to evade and step back outside of ma-ai (and I stand by that). Also, this advice to not move backward seems to be at odds with the tenkan motion (turning backward around the attack) that seems to make up about half of aikido. So, how does that work?
  • Always evade offline first, before stepping back.
  • I would recommend minimizing the number of backward steps that you take when brushing off of uke. 1-2 tends to be enough to get outside ma-ai. If you have to take a step backward to get out of ma-ai, that's okay, but watch out and don't build up a lot of momentum.
  • When doing tenkan, try doing repeated sidesteps directly toward uke's center instead of walking backward around uke. This gets you closer to the center of rotation, gets you into shikaku (uke's blind spot) quicker and more efficiently, and is much more stable than walking backward around uke.
Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282
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1 comment:

  1. The philosophy I try to follow is something I saw on the site a long time ago:

    "When your enemy comes, welcome him; when he leaves, send him on his way."

    It's not so much "don't move forward" or "don't step back" as it is "go with the flow" -- use uke's motion to your advantage.


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