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Atemiwaza facilitates ukiwaza

A lot of things come together to make a throw in aikido or judo, including timing, mechanical advantage, and strength.  Most of the time, we use some combination of sufficiently good timing, mechanical advantage, and moderate strength, but it's possible to do a throw with one quality being so dominant as to be nearly the sole factor.  For instance, Morihei Ueshiba was reputedly very strong as a young adult, but he was most certainly not strong as an elder - but his throws were even more exquisite as he aged because of perfection of timing and mechanical advantage.  The same observations apply to Kyuzo Mifune.
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I remember hearing a story about one of my teachers sitting with his friends watching the action in the Kodokan.  One of his friends told my instructor, "Watch this guy," and pointed out a sensei throwing his partner all over the mat.  They watched for a while and my instructor remarked, "That guy looks like he's doing everything completely wrong!"  His friend responded, "Yeah, but his timing is perfect."
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In our aikido sylabus, the class of throws that most exemplify perfect timing throws is the ukiwaza, or floating techniques.  This set of ukiwaza consists of maeotoshi, sumiotoshi, and hikiotoshi.  I've written before about how this classification doesn't make much sense to me because most everything we do is based on that floating feeling developed in the ukiwaza.  The best answer I've gotten about this was from a sensei who pointed out that the ukiwaza was a relatively late development in the evolution of the Tomiki system.  Prior to this set being incorporated into the syllabus, the techniques were more highly dependent on mechanical advantage and strength.  Timing was present, but in an imperfect form.  Then this class of floating throws was developed to demonstrate the ability to throw with perfect timing, minimizing strength and mechanical advantage.
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Even though we now pay more attention to timing from the beginning, as students come up through our current syllabus they still go through this evolution of developing mechanical advantage before timing.  Then as they get to the point that they can reliably do the floating (timing) throws, they are expected to go back and make a study of timing in the rest of the syllabus.  So, everything to some degree eventually becomes a floating throw.
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It occurs to me that if you are working on perfect-timing throws, like the ukiwaza, you need a fall-back technique that still works when you are unable to perfectly time a floating throw.  In the old-line Tomiki system I suppose everything that is not floating throw (techniques #1-14) serve as the fall-back while students learn the ukiwaza and then re-tool their skills to incorporate the ukiwaza principles. 
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In the way that I currently teach, the fall-back techniques are the atemiwaza (striking techniques - #1-5 in junana) - and especially shomenate (#1 - the chin jab).  These five techniques are good, reliable expressions of exquisite mechanical advantage and they are so easy to learn that they serve as a great back-up plan as the student develops both timing and mechanical advantage in the rest of the syllabus.  A good foundation in atemiwaza allows the student to safely work on timing throws much earlier.
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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