Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Helpful handful: Mastering sumiotoshi

A fellow aikidoka asked me the other day for some advice regarding his desire to focus on sumiotoshi and improve that particular technique. I think sumiotoshi is a pretty good place to start with such a focus, because a) sumiotoshi is fun to play with, and b) sumiotoshi illustrates the floating throw principles well.
  • Don't base your idea of success on uke having to take a big, beautiful fall. Sumiotoshi means 'drop uke in the (back) corner" not "flip uke thru the air." You can get many, many more repetitions if you set uke down into a gentle backfall than if you make uke take the airfall and you can get a much cleaner understanding of the principles if uke goes along with the throw than if he fights with you for every inch of it. If you take a million compliant, easy falls from a gentle sumiotoshi it will be much easier to see when something is wrong with your sumiotoshi or someone elses. The million easy falls serve as a baseline for what sumiotoshi is supposed to feel like.
  • When you start doing the 1-handed versions instead of the classic 2-hands-on-the-wrist version, you open yourself up for a lot of variations and interesting effects. For instance, try throwing sumiotoshi with one hand pushing the arm and the other on uke's face. This sort of practice also leads to the otoshi-guruma connection and has made a lot of difference in my students aikido lately in this area.
  • Sumiotoshi starts from the inside, floating offbalance. Step offline inside and pull uke's arm into the hole. As he tries to stand up, help him up out of the hole. This unhooks him from the ground and floats him for a moment (similar feel as release#2).
  • Practice throwing sumiotoshi by relaxing out of this floating kuzushi instead of by trying to whip uke's arm around the corner at just the right time.
  • As you begin to get a good handle on the floating and relaxing ideas in the context of sumiotoshi, this will likely lead naturally to your wanting to beat the other floating throws (and shihonage) to death. All these same ideas apply there as well. As you get really good at these principles in the context of the floating throws (and shihonage), you'll see them pop up more and more in the other throws throughout aikido.
Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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