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Aikido in tight spaces - Koryu Dai Ni

A frequent complaint about aikido is that it requires vast amounts of clear, smooth mat space for the aikidoka to move around and fly and roll across.  I suppose this is a remnant of the personal styles and preferences of some of the masters of prior generations in how they preferred to do demos.  But it is just not true.  Any of the techniques in aikido can be done large and flowing into projection, or small and abruptly throwing straight downward into control.
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The aikido we do (coming from Tomiki Sensei) was much influenced by Kano's ideas and interactions with Tomiki.  I've heard it said that one of Jigoro Kano's pet theories about physical education is that large motions are more appropriate for beginners and small motions are more appropriate for experts.  (Incidentally, Funakoshi said the same thing about karate-do.)  So, it would make sense that our preference for large flowing motion and projection was intended by the old masters to be appropriate for beginners.  But at some point you have to move beyond the beginner exercises (I think we generally have a problem with this in a lot of ways in our aikido, but that's a post for another day).
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Again, any of the material in aikido can be done short and fast and throwing into control instead of projection, but in Tomiki's and Ohba's curriculum (unsoku, then junana, then koryu-no-kata), one of the first places one sees much of this idea is Koryu Dai Ni - the second advanced kata.  The first three techniques sort of state the theme of the exercise...
  • #1 - katatedori katagatame - is an interesting shoulder rotation trick in order to get sufficient motion without moving the feet much.  It is also a controlling action rather than a projection idea.
  • #2 - ryotedori gyakugamaeate - is an interesting hip shift offbalance to induce uke to move his feet so that tori can step into uke's space.
  • #3 - ryotedori iriminage - is an interesting direction change to solve the problem of when tori is unable to make uke's feet move on #2 .
Things you see here include innovative ways to induce kuzushi when tori cannot move his feet much.  I like to play these three techniques with uke and tori working in a taped-off section of the mat that is about 2 feet by 6 feet.  I like to designate the rest of the mat outside the working area as "poisonous acidic lava boiling over razor-sharp stalagmites" so obviously tori's goal is not to step in the lava.  ;-)   Adds some psychological incentive to try to figure out how to control uke's balance immediately upon contact without moving around too much!
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And once you get the feel of working these first three techniques with that confined-space, small footwork, powerful hip-switch feel, it is fun to begin to spread that feel out into the ushirowaza and yokomenuchi attacks in the rest of Koryu Dai Ni and from there into the rest of your aikido.

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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com