Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Attack the attacker from behind

...there are things that are obvious, so obvious that you feel stupid mentioning them. For instance, it is easier to beat people up from behind. Obvious, right? Then we look and see that the students generally don't have tools for getting behind, so we give them the tools, right? And then, despite the fact that it makes common sense, they have the tools and it is the freshest thing on their minds, the minute the tension levels go up the slightest bit... boom. Fighting face to face again. I'm hoping "fight like a criminal" might be the magic words that give people the permission to step up to the predator's level.

My initial thought was, "What sort of students would have trouble getting behind the opponent?"  I mean, from day #1 in aikido, we teach folks to get behind the attacker as part of nearly every technique.  It's part of the mental process that we go through constantly. We try to get students, when attacked, to:
  1. get out of the way
  2. get your hands up between your face and theirs
  3. take a step away from uke (while figuring out whether to engage or run away)
  4. get behind them
  5. move with them to stay behind him while you figure out what to do...

That is pretty much the beginning of every technique that we teach in aikido.
But then I got to thinking about it some more.  It is pretty common to see people forsake this strategy when we start doing randori.  It's pretty common to get stuck in front, inside ma-ai, trying to figure out what to do.  I bet if we watch for it now that Rory mentioned it, we'll see a lot more of this toe-to-toe nonsense in our randori.
So, what do you do to fix this in-front problem?  There are several pretty good options...
  • hit him in the face and drive him backward off of you (shomenate)
  • push yourself backward 1-2 steps out of his reach (aiki brushoff - also step 3 above)
  • grab an arm on the far side of his body and turn him away as you pull yourself behind uke (release #2 or 4)
And I agree, thinking, "Fight like a criminal" might get you into more of that predatory mindset, giving you permission to attack the attacker from behind.

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