In aikido randori, we sort of have a gentleman's agreement about atemi. If you can get your hand(s) onto the other guy's face and your body structure is right for an atemi, then in friendly randori you can pretty much consider that a "win" even if the timing or spacing isn't perfect. In this situation, you could have gouged eyes, pushed him down, or landed an impact atemi. So, if you can touch his face, he pretty much falls down and you win by default.
This unwritten rule works pretty good for aikido training, but it can lead to some problems - some laxity in your attitude about your strikes. If you are going to play "friendly rules randori" like this, then you owe it to yourself to be absolutely ruthless with yourself when you are practicing your kata, in hopes that you can avoid some of that mental laxity.
Following are five points to follow religiously to get the most effect out of your atemiwaza...
- timing - only strike on a footfall. If you strike as he is picking up a foot or as he is standing on one leg hovering the other foot, then he can step with your strike, reducing the effect. Land your strike the instant his foot hits the ground.
- kuzushi - only strike after a previous initial offbalance. Don't strike out of the blue. Get an offbalance and then strike on his recovery.
- direction - only strike on an offbalance line. As he puts a foot down, either strike in the direction of the line of his feet, or strike perpendicular to that line.
- gravity - add a whole-body drop to each strike. Take at least one short step with both feet at the moment of the strike.
- leave uke hanging - don't hold onto uke during the strike. This can give him support.
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