Monthly Archives: January 2016

Pay attention and respond to the actual attack

Another good class, with six of us there despite the cold weather.  For the first time, I turned on the heat in the dojo.  Guess my blood is getting thin.  A far cry from when Les White used to come into the Hut on a Sunday morning, laugh at us shivering with hoar frost on the mat, and open all the windows.

We started off with some kicking and punching, as we often do these days.  I do want our students to be able to do this well, if only so that our techniques are practiced against realistic attacks.  We also did some blocks and going from a block to a front kick to a spinning back kick.

When we started throwing, I noticed most of us were responding to what attack we expected, rather than what was there.  This is very common due to how we commonly practice in aikido, and is not a good thing.  Aikido began as a martial art, a self defense art, and if it is to be practical, rather than aiki dance, we must learn to read our attacker.

A good uke does not telegraph how he is going to attack.  If an attacker on the street telegraphs, great, but we need to be ready for the one who does not.

Nage should offer a suki (opening) that encourages the attack he wants, and engineer his response to use that attack, but be ready if uke does something different.

An attack is not merely a named attack like kosa dori.  It is a particular kind of kosa dori.  It may involve uke moving forwards or backwards as he grasps the arm, but it should involve uke taking, or attempting to take, nage’s center.  Very probably, uke would grasp nage’s arm in order to control nage so that uke can punch him with his other arm.

Nage can take uke’s center by entering, as for ikkyo irimi.  Or he can let uke take control of his arm and redirect uke’s energy to give an opening for, e.g., kote gaeshi.  What nage should not do is fight a stronger uke.  Even with an uke that is not stronger, struggling to muscle uke is not aikido, which is what we come to the dojo to study.

As an exercise for taking uke’s center, we started with arms in contact as for a shomen strike but static.  Nage practiced feeling and then controlling uke’s center.  Then nage practiced doing a technique from that point.  This initial movement is like kosa dori, so we then reversed roles, with uke taking nage’s center and holding in kosa dori, with nage doing a technique against this energy.  Very different from uke just grabbing nage’s arm as we often practice.

Finally, we had the two partners each attempting to do a technique on the other.  This quickly showed the futility of trying to muscle the other person.  The key is to flow with his energy and using this flow to do the technique – the way of harmony and spirit!


Ukemi is important!

Another good showing on Saturday, with another beginner and another prospective one.  With so many beginners, we worked mostly on beginner stuff.  Interestingly, the more advanced people could improve their basic skills also.

In some ways, ukemi is more important than anything else we do.  It is important so that we don’t get hurt, of course.  As uke, we need to flow with the technique, never allowing separation between us and nage.  Yes, we can be stiff, but that almost guarantees injury the first time we work with a nage that is both capable and doesn’t care about hurting us.

Ukemi is also the key to learning aikido.  It is easy for uke to mess up beginners.  Just attack differently each time, and arbitrarily fall or not fall, and the beginner will soon quit in frustration.  Another way to mess up a beginner is to point out every little detail he does wrong, especially if what he is doing isn’t really wrong.  Nage will learn most rapidly if uke gives a consistent attack every time.  Giving corrections and advice is the responsibility of the teacher.  Uke is not the teacher, and should just take ukemi.

I have noticed one or two ukes being lazy.  Especially working with beginners, they will go part of the way into the ukemi, then break off and tell nage they did well.  This weakens the practice for both parties.  It is not uke telling me I have the technique that really matters.  What really matters is that nage learns to feel it when they take control of uke and throw or immobilize him.  They need to feel the technique to completion.

Ukemi is also the key to learning how to do a technique.  By studying how nage moves, how he does the technique, uke can learn how nage makes the technique work, and how to improve when it is his turn to be nage.  It is quite difficult to tell what somebody is doing while watching from the sidelines.  It is almost as difficult to tell what is happening as nage.  It is when you are uke that you can really tell if a technique is working, and why.  This is particularly illuminating when a really great aikidoka throws you, and why people vie for being chosen as uke at seminars.

One problem I noticed is that if nage is too concerned about injuring uke, nage will hold back, and will not feel the effect of his movement on uke.  Of course, nobody wants to injure uke.  (At least nobody I want in my dojo.)  However, uke must get better and better at taking ukemi, so that nage can put more into their technique without injuring uke, and thus both parties learn more.


We had a great practice today, with 12 of us on the mat.  Then we went to the ranch and had an equally great party.

We had two totally new beginners today (welcome Joe and Hannah), so we did a lot of basic stuff, like basic punches and kicks, basic defenses, back rolls, ikkyo, irimi nage, and kokyu nage.  We worked on some not so basic stuff, also, like ma ai and timing.

For the second class, we did basic bokken and jo movements.  Shomen uchi is a very important movement for aikido, and most techniques have some aspect of that movement in it.  We practiced moving off the line of attack and counter attacking, again working on ma ai and timing.

With the jo, we practiced choku tsuki, kaishi tsuki, ushiro tsuki, and tsuki gedan gaeshi.  We practiced attacking choku tsuki high, middle, and low, and defending against those attacks.  We practiced correct distance by moving as little as possible to just avoid being hit by chudan choku tsuki.  We took away the jo from both ai and gyaku hanmi positions.

Finally, we did randori.  There are many aspects to randori that are important, but one thing that several people messed up on was losing track of where everybody was, so that they were vulnerable to an attack from behind.  We need to work on that.

After class, we went to the ranch for the party.  The dojo provided beer, wine, soft drinks, and hot dogs.  Jerry brought shrimp dip and some really good burgers.  Other folks brought dishes, including Jennifer bringing my favorite cookies.  We had about 30 people at the party.  I think the kids all enjoyed the horses, including some getting a ride, thanks to Ramona.

downtown Titusville

We had a rather damp start.  It was cloudy and drizzling a bit, but over the evening it dried out.  Doug, Jeremy, Bill, and Dan came and helped out.  There were not as many people as previous nights, but we did talk to a few people.  It was fun watching videos on Doug’s laptop, and talking about aikido, and people, and things in general.

Starting the new year

Happy New Year, everybody.  Remember, classes are free in January for new students.  Tell your friends and bring them along.

Had a great class to start 2016.  There were eight of us, with a mix of advanced and new students.  Bill Little has joined the dojo after John Thompson’s old dojo closed down.

We did a mix of basic and advanced techniques, to match the mix of experience.  Probably the main problem is extension.  Extension makes most techniques a lot easier, and even makes it harder for uke to hit us with his other hand.

We looked at the five parts of a technique (three for beginners), and broke them down for tsuki kote gaeshi.  We looked at the connection between uke and nage, and how critical small movements can be in managing this connection.  Working on the connection depends a lot on uke giving a consistent attack, which is quite difficult, especially if people get too competitive.

We worked on movement with multiple attackers.  Perhaps the worst case is if they attack simultaneously.  Then you need to move to change the timing.  If you move to the outside you get to put one uke in the way of another at least once, maybe twice.  We went on to practice movement with many attackers.  Timing is critical there, and if you want uke to follow you, you can move early.  If you don’t want uke to follow you, move as late as you can (without forgetting somebody may be coming up from behind).  We finished with randori.

After class, for the first time in a while, we went to Dogs for wings and beer.  Again, a good turnout, with five of us going.  This is a better time to talk about aikido (and other stuff) than on the mat.