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Beginning and ending kihon

There is this practice seen mostly in pre-war aikido guys, like Tomiki and Shioda, and their students - the practice of measuring ma-ai by crossing handblades prior to practicing a technique.  This practice is not seen as much (at least in this form) in post-war aikido folks, and I have not seen video of Osensei doing this, but Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba talks some in his videos about the idea of precisely setting up each practice condition.
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I suspect that the practice of measuring ma-ai is currently in disfavor because of some misuses or misunderstandings related to it, like the zombie attack.  But it is a valuable training tool, when used properly.  This sort of practice is valuable for improving kamae, ma-ai, metsuke, and zanshin
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How we were taught to begin techniques - prior to practicing a kihon (basic form) technique,

  • Uke and tori stand in front of each other in a proper stance (kamae) - whatever that is according to their teacher Tomiki-students and Shioda-students prefer different basic kamae. 
  • Uke and tori extend their lead arms, nearly straight, with fingers touching or hands slightly crossed. This defines the basic operational distance for kihon (ma-ai).
  • Then both partners lower their arms and look at each other for a moment.  This allows both partners to get used to judging ma-ai distance visually instead of by measuring.
  • When tori is ready for the attack, he establishes the visual connection (metsuke).  Different folks will tell you to do this eye-control differently, but we were told for tori to watch uke's center while measuring and when ready for the attack, make eye contact and maintain it.
  • Then uke attacks.

How we were taught to end kihon - 

  • Uke falls.
  • Tori follows uke into a lock or pin (unless the throw is a projection)
  • Whenever possible, tori lands uke either face-down or side-lying facing away from tori
  • Tori places a knee and two hands on uke, chocking him and keeping him under control.
  • Tori maintains as straight a posture as possible and looks around for more attackers.
  • Uke submits
  • Tori backs out of ma-ai moving toward uke's head instead of his feet.
  • Uke turns to face tori, gets his feet between him and tori, and gets up moving away from tori.
Again, this applies primarily to kihon (basic forms) of techniques.  You will want to get some variation on these beginnings and endings, and perhaps even drop it from most of your practice once you've done it for a while.  But I think if you implement these scripts for beginning and ending kihon, you will get  some additional practice at kamae, ma-ai, metsuke, and zanshin.


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com