Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Knife practice in aikido

A few days ago, Sensei Strange made a comment in a conversation that I thought was interesting.  He called aikido - at least as we are trying to express it - a "knife-aware art."  I thought that was a pretty good description.  See, it's not our primary purpose to learn knife fighting or knife defenses, but the addition of a knife does seem to make aikido closer to what it is supposed to be.
Lately (last couple of years) we've been progressively adding more and more knife into our practices and looking to see how it changes things.  A training knife or two can spice up any of our exercises or techniques that we practice.

  • Tegatana - the walking kata - hold a trainer in one hand and suddenly you get a lot more aware of different things each hand might be doing.  This is also a good basic exercise on how to move with a knife without cutting yourself.  Sometimes I like to wear bluejeans and put a pocket clip trainer in my pocket and practice deploying it during each step of the walk.  Try holding the knife in a standard grip (like a hammer) or a reverse grip (like an icepick) and you glean different ideas from the walking kata.
  • Releases - give uke a trainer in his free (non-grabbing hand) and all of a sudden tori is a lot more interested in getting off line when uke passes ma-ai and getting into shikaku and controlling uke's center.  Give tori a trainer and let uke grab tori's knife arm and tori gets a lesson in weapon retention - or let uke grab tori's non-knife hand and tori gets a lesson in continuing to do aikido despite having a free blade - not letting his own knife capture his attention.
  • Junana/Owaza - of course, the obvious practice mode here is to give uke a practice knife and tori tries to apply Junana or Owaza.  But what if you give tori the knife?  How can tori express the principles of the techniques of Junana or Owaza with/through/using a blade?  What if the knife is folded and in uke's pocket - can tori control uke enough that he can't deploy the knife?  What if the knife is folded and in tori's pocket?
  • Randori - try doing toshu-style randori (both players trying to do aikido) but give both players a blade and see where it goes.
  • Blade vs. blade flows - similar to Filipino practices - we've been working on inserting a kuzushi with every cut without disrupting the flow of the drill or getting too preoccupied with either the blades or the kuzushi.  Of course, this is difficult b/c a kuzushi should, by definition, break uke's rhythm and flow and make it hard for him to continue until he recovers.  So you have to  slow down the flows to give uke time to recover from each kuzushi so you can continue the drill.
  • Disarms randori - We've been working disarms in a give-and-take sort of flow, almost like randori.  the partner attacks and you take the blade and immediately attack.  He takes the blade and reattacks...back and forth.

photo courtesy of Seniju

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Patrick Parker
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