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How to practice ikkyo (and everything else)

In the past several posts, I've been working on oshitaoshi (or ikkyo - thing #1).  Here is a video of Waka Sensei demonstrating two of the primary forms of this thing that you might call omote and ura.  This seems to be a pretty common practice mode, in which tori gets to do four reps (one omote and one ura on each side) then the partners switch roles.


And interestingly enough, though the Tomiki/Ohba gang seems to have done a lot of things differently, here is that same practice mode cropping up as the first part of the first kata (hmmm... thing #1).  And you will see this pattern show up again as the first and second thing in the next section at about 1:00.


The first parts of Ichi kata appear to me to be a nod back to an old training mode in which ikkyo (for example) was repped over and over in rapid succession - right omote-left omote - right ura - left ura - switch roles and keep going - and this was done in an aerobic manner. Little formality except before and after, lots of moving and falling and lots of sweat and repetition.
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I like that mode of practice.  I don't so much like the do-two-reps-and-stop-and-talk-about-it-for-a-while mode. Nobody gets any exercise that way and nobody gets enough reps to make the technique their own - to transform thing one into just one thing.

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Patrick Parker
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The boat rudder analogy

In the previous post I suggested that ikkyo/oshitaoshi seemed to me to be something like using uke's shoulder girdle and spine as levers to steer his center, like using a boat rudder to steer a boat.
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Now, I realize that all analogies fall apart when taken too far, but I think this one may bear a little extension.  Imagine trying to steer a small boat down a swiftly moving stream by controlling the rudder.  Now imagine trying to do that while standing on a rock in the river.
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That second one is not going to be too successful, because in order to use a rudder to steer a boat, you have to be riding in the boat.  Likewise, to use uke's arm and shoulder as a lever to steer his center, you have to be riding uke - or at least connected to him and moving with him.  Standing your ground and trying to turn uke upside down with a lever will not work as well as moving with him and using the lever to steer him.
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We are not standing our ground and mashing uke's elbow backwards into the ground. We are riding him into the ground using his arm and shoulder to steer him.


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Patrick Parker
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Thing number one or "one thing"

They say ikkyo means something like "thing number one," but I often like looser, more colloquial translations, so I sometimes wonder if it might be better to think of "ikkyo" as "one thing," just like Curly the Cowboy in City Slickers.

There are many, many forms of ikkyo, or oshitaoshi that we practice.  I think the idea is to look at this principle from lots of different angles and under the light of many different conditions, until it becomes one thing - ikkyo - in our minds instead of many things.


For me, the one thing that all these different forms seems to be congealing into is the idea of controlling uke's center by manipulating the primary cross (the spine and shoulder girdle) sort of like a rudder on a boat - but maybe you should play with these things for 10 or 15 years yourself and see what conclusions you can draw from ikkyo.


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Patrick Parker
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Thing number one - shomenuchi ikkyo

It probably does not matter too much where you start in aikido or judo or any sort of jujutsu, because whatever technique or movement you decide to call thing number one, as you play with it some, you will eventually find the other things - the other techniques and ideas surrounding thing number one will eventually make themselves known and you can call them thing number two and so on.
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Tomiki began his students' training with some taiso (coordination exercises) and then worked on shomenate as thing number one.  Beginning with shomenate seems axiomatic to us - it is just obviously the right place to start our studies.  But some aikido folks don't even consider shomenate a thing - at least not a thing worthy of a name.  They just tell uke, "hit me in the face" and they proceed with their thing number one.
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And it turns out that their thing number one is a pretty darn good place to start studying aikido.  In fact, that's where most of the rest of the aikido world starts.  They call it ikkyo, and I like to poke a little fun at their inability to come up with a better name than "thing number one," but actually, Tomiki wasn't that much more creative, because he called it, oshitaoshi, or "push the guy down."
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The following is some film of me exploring a peculiar form of shomenuchi ikkyo at Nick's beautiful Windsong Dojo in OKC.  The action starts at the 2:00 minute mark.
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And here is another bit of exploration of the same technique from a wrist grab - katatetori ikkyo.  Again, the action starts at about 2:00.
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Not only is ikkyo the starting place for most of the aikido world's studies, my law enforcement buddies assure me that it is exquisitely effective and useful in controlling aggressors in real world situations.  In any case, ikkyo (oshitaoshi, thing number one) deserves a good bit of your attention.


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Patrick Parker
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Mutual Fault and Blame-sharing

I have said it many times, and my instructors before me, and theirs before them all the way back to Kano - Judo is about Mutual Welfare and Benefit.  I know that's sort of a loose translation of the principle of Jita Kyoei, but it's a common translation and as good as any.
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But Human Animal Males (HAMs) tend to fail to get the mutual benefit thing, or we get it in an incomplete sense.  It just does not make deep visceral sense to some of us that we are doing a deadly martial combat thing with a partner instead of an enemy - that our main goal is to improve both the self and the other.
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Sometimes we start class out with some vague admission or nod to Jita Kyoei, or at least with some pseudo-Japanese etiquette, but then we inevitably end up with an uke that doesn't work quite like we want and we get into this vicious cycle of pushing harder, causing uke to resist harder or do ukemi more un-naturally, which causes tori to struggle more, which makes uke more miserable...
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So, let me try to put it in different terms - one syllable each...
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If your arm gets hurt it is both folks' fault.
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If your elbow (or whatever else) gets bent, tori should not have pushed that hard, and uke should not have stood there and let tori push that hard.  It is almost always possible for uke to yield (and to yield productively) to force rather than to stand against it.  It is almost always possible for Tori to get the effect you're looking for with far less struggle.
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But since this issue  ALWAYS crops up, maybe we're all just knuckleheads who are addicted to power and bent on making our artistic pursuits so difficult that they are self-destructive.  I think that is likely the case.  We are all idiots.
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So, maybe it would do us some good to approach our practice from the angle that we really are ALL idiots, and search for ways to prevent the other guy from mashing our own personal triggers that throw our own personal form of stupid into high gear.  What are my triggers that make me stupid, and what are the ways that other people push those buttons during a conflict?  How can I respond productively to someone mashing my stupid button?
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Maybe we should approach aikido and judo from the idea of working on ourselves rather than from the perspective of applying the power of our will effectively to someone else.
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Have I heard that idea somewhere before?



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____________________
Patrick Parker
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Mode-switching and switch-flipping

Toshu randori in Tomiki aikido is a strange beast.  I do not think it teaches us what we think it teaches us.
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It seems at first glance, that toshu randori would be similar to sparring in karate.  But it is not.  Randori cannot be a contest of both folks attacking to see whose attacks succeed and whose fail because that tends to lead to clashes that are not what we're looking for in aikido.
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Likewise, you can't have both guys playing the gentle, receiving, flowing role to see who has better skills at the soft aspects of the art - if both guys play that strategy then nobody does anything and we might as well sit down and share a spot of tea.
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For us to practice aikido skills, we have to have an attacker - someone playing the role of uke so that the other guy can practice being tori.  The tricky part about toshu randori is that both guys would like to be tori, so they have to either trick the other guy into being uke or find a time when he is in that mode.
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To avoid the nobody-does-anything problem, Karl used to advise us "always attack."  When in doubt, attack.  But then to avoid the everybody-always-attacks sort of clash and to actually get some aikido done, one of the partners has to switch gears in mid-attack from attacking to flowing/blending/receiving mode.
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That sounds like I'm saying someone has to choose to be uke and take a dive.  I'm not.  Funny thing is, the guy that is more adept at flipping the switch and can more smoothly and more completely take the role of receiver usually ends up being tori.
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So, that is what I think toshu randori teaches us - it develops skill at identifying when your attack is going to be insufficient and switching to receiving mode so that you can ride the other guy's attack until it is your turn again for a more decisive attack.
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Toshu randori is a mode-switching, switch-flipping practice.


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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com