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Frequency and rhythm in Gokata


A lot of aikido (and judo too for that matter) involves vibration.  In a lot of ways, our motion can be likened to a pendulum or a slinky or a yo-yo.  One interesting thing with models like this is, you cannot make a pendulum or slinky or yo-yo oscillate at an arbitrary frequency no matter how much power you apply to it.  Because of its unique mass and inertia and structure, it works at its own innate frequency or it does not work at all.  In aikido, tori wants to get into synch with uke's vibration and not go faster or slower based on some fantasy aesthetic that exists only in the mind.
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So... the idea that Koryu Dai Go is just a repetition of old techniques but done fast is B.S.
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Additionally, one of the main advantages of kuzushi (unbalancing the attacker) is it nullifies uke's speed advantage.  If uke is moving fast, and tori correctly applies an offbalance, uke will slow down and start vibrating at his natural (slow, human-speed) frequency.  So, why would we want to do a kata real fast?  If you succeeded in making it fast, then you just demonstrated that you were not achieving kuzushi.
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If Gokata is supposed to be a "fast thing," but it makes no sense to try to do the execution of the actual techniques at some arbitrarily fast speed, then it must be a matter of changing the tempo of the stuff that is happening between the techniques.  Consider that there is a difference between speed and tempo or speed and rhythm.
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In our normal kata demonstration mode, we often have a rhythm sort of like...

  • do a technique...
  • uke falls...
  • uke takes a breath or two and collects himself as tori walks off...
  • uke gets up and moves back to his starting position...
  • uke and tori set up and prepare for the next thing...
  • uke attacks...
  • do another technique...

This is a lot like the rhythm of many of our kata demonstrations, but the tempo between techniques in Gokata can be different without being faster.  Sort of like...

  • do a technique...
  • tori takes 1-2 steps away and turns to face uke.
  • uke stands up as efficiently as he can, and immediately attacks from where he is...
  • do another technique...

This is different from the prior kata mode because all the slack has been taken out of the interstices between the techniques.  Tori and uke are forced to be "always on," always engaged during the course of this kata.
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That is how we're supposed to do all kata anyway, but there is so much slack between techniques in our normal kata demonstration mode that it is easy for our zanshin to wander.  Not so with Gokata.
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Gokata is not the "crazy-fast cardio kata." Gokata is about the stuff in the middle - about taking all the slack out.  Gokata is about zanshin - about never having a chance to rest and let your mind wander.

photo courtesy of PhineasX


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

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