Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Walk - 2 - wakiashi

I'm doing a series on  the taiso, or activity-specific warm-ups that we do in aikido class (and occasionally in judo too.)  Above is another film of a nicely-done variant of this exercise.  None of these videos will look exactly like I do them or teach them - and that's because The Walk is a very auto-didactic thing - it is a thing that you experiment with over time to teach yourself about movement.   Not only does everyone do The walk differently from me,  but everyone draws different lessons from it.

Regarding the second set of movements - Wakiashi...
  • Here, as in the entire taiso (and all of aikido), we are practicing drop step again.  This time the drop-step is directly to the side.
  • In any of these drop-step exercises, it may be helpful to get the feel of the drop by taking larger-than-usual steps so that you get a larger-than-usual drop.  But after you get a handle on the concept of drop step, you will probably want to dial your steps back down to small, conservative steps - and you may even want to experiment with smaller-than-usual drop steps.
  • Wakiashi illustrates a thing that also occurs throughout these taiso.  That is, working most, if not all possible combinations.  For instance, by doing the sidesteps in the pattern given to us - left-right-right-left-right-left-left-right, we get too practice single sidesteps in either direction, double sidesteps in either direction, and switching directions left-to-right and right-to-left.  This sort of repetition covering most conceivable combinations is found throughout The Walk.
  • We usually think of this as an evasion, but wakiashi is useful for other purposes - namely power transfer. Try thinking about it as dropping your weight into uke, driving with the side seam (the waki) of your jacket as in gedanate or perhaps iriminage.  One of my instructors even showed me a strange and wonderful sumiotoshi using wakiashi as the power mechanism.
  • This sidestep is also useful in spending momentum when switching from moving from one direction to the opposite direction.  For instance, if you are moving forward and you stop to move backward, you will have to take some time to control your momentum and get back to neutral before you can move backward.  On the other hand, you can move forward, then make a sidestep and move backward immediately - the sidestep spends some of your momentum while keeping you in motion so you're not a sitting duck.

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Patrick Parker

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