I got the opportunity this past weekend to do a lot of toshu randori with some amazing players - some of whom I don't get to lay hands on very often and some of whom I'd never met. A couple of observations about our randori in general...
The modality of randori was really noticeable this weekend. By that, I mean, we seem to have aikido mode (longer ranges, less power, more flowing, more atemi) and judo mode (closer, tighter, stronger, more mechanical offbalances). Most everyone at this randori was comfortable in both modes and we were switching pretty freely between modes - going from far to close to kneeling to newaza and back as the situations developed.
But the fact that the two modes exist sorta bothers me. Frequently when I found myself getting stuck making mistakes and taking falls it was because I got in my mind that we were playing within one mode and my partner would switch modes on me. It didn't really frustrate me because it was all good experiential, experimental randori whether I was throwing or falling, but it did make me curious. We would like to be non-modal (aikido=judo=same thing) but we are not.
A second thing I noticed was, I suppose, an artifact of new randori partners that had never met or played with each other. In my club, when we are practicing aikido randori and an atemi to the face comes up, we frequently are not trying to use that atemi to throw the other guy down. We have an understanding between partners that if I can touch your face and keep my hand there for a second or two, then I could have gouged an eye. So, if I make face contact for a couple of seconds, the other guy takes a fall.
Some of my randori partners were used to playing in a different mode (there's those modes again). I suppose they were used to our face-touches being either percussive atemi or throws - like mechanical knock-downs. So, they would often let me lay a hand on their face for a couple of seconds and they would look at me like I was an idiot as they proceeded to pluck my hand off their face and throw me down with a hineri.
Again, I'm not complaining about being thrown or not "winning" - I just thought this was an interesting thing. Depending on how you look at the atemi (eye attack vs. throw) we were both "winning." But we were also both discounting something important. I should definitely watch out for some sharp opponent grabbing my atemi, and my partners probably ought to watch out for the potential for a fight-ending eye gouge.
Photo (which doesn't really have anything to do with this article - I just think it's a beautiful pic) courtesy of Stefan Schmitz.
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