Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Get some jo in your aikido

I read it somewhere - not sure where - that the old jodo guys said that it was relatively unimportant to correct students on the things that go on in the middle of the kata.  He was saying that the really important thing to get right was the beginning and end of the kata.
This jives to a large degree with what little teaching I've had from SMR jojutsu guys - they were very peculiar about the beginnings and the ends, and they seemed perhaps slightly less interested in the in-between actions than I was.
They were emphasizing principle over tactics - the intangibles - ma-ai, kamae, metsuke, zanshin.  By paying close attention to the beginning and to the end of the encounter you get reinforcement in these intangibles.
You see this same sort of attention to beginnings and ends in some of the pre-war aikido folks (like Tomiki and Shioda), and perhaps a little less in some of the post-war guys, though I have heard Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba speak on his videos about the importance of precision in setting up the conditions before each technique.
In experienced jo guys there is a psychological (or dare I say, "psychic") pressure between them, as if there were terabytes of interaction being beamed back and forth between their eyes.  Because of the extreme consequences (jo or sword embedded in skull), neither partner dares break that line-of-sight communication until they see how it all works out.  I have found as an observer, it is easy to get drawn into and lost in that psychic communication between two good partners.  Often I have to make a concerted effort to watch their feet instead of their faces, or I won't know what happened after they are through with a kata.  
There is value in carrying this type of practice with you when doing aikido taijutsu - (improvement of ma-ai, kamae, metsuke, and zanshin) but there is also potentially stupid tangents (e.g. the zombie attack, the no-touch ki masters), so beware the stupidity, but be aware of the potential value to your practice.

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Patrick Parker
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