Monthly Archives: November 2017


Social media are all about connecting, to friends, relatives, and strangers.  Aikido is also about connection, and that is what we worked on last night.  When you turn in tao no henko (e.g. going back to back when attacked gyaku hanmi katate tori), do you want to break loose (e.g. to strike uke), or do you want to stay connected (e.g. to throw uke).

These are options.  Depending on the situation, you might want to do either.  To break loose, you want to lever your arm out of the gap between uke’s fingers and thumb.  To do this, you pronate your arm (rotate it to palm down) and lift up.  To stay connected you want to press your arm into uke’s grip, you supinate your arm (rotate it palm up) and press down.

These movements will work on uke’s grip.  However, there is more to it.  You don’t want to just connect to uke’s hand.  You want to connect to their center.  You want your center to connect to their’s, so that when you move your center, uke feels the effect immediately.  So how do you take up the slack in that connection?  Sometimes, uke does it for you.  If uke is determined to keep hold of your arm, their muscle tension will make the connection for you.  But sometimes uke will not hold tightly, and will keep their center rather than keep their grip.  This is a perfectly sensible martial response.  You just prevent nage from doing anything useful with that arm, and don’t commit.  It isn’t helpful to beginning aikido students, but that does not make it a stupid response (except when the goal is to teach a beginner something).

So what will make uke hold on, to grip your arm and accept having their posture compromised rather than letting go?  A threat.  Particularly a subtle threat.  So if you move your arm towards their groin,  they will most likely hold on.  The initial tendency for nage is to do this too overtly.  Then the response is often too uncontrolled to be useful.  But a small move in the right direction will often result in uke holding on nicely.

A common failure with katate tori kokyu ho is that nage’s arm gets sweaty and uke has difficulty holding on.  This shows that nage is applying too much force in the wrong direction.  If instead of sliding nage’s arm out of uke’s grip, try working more by pressing your arm into uke’s grip.  Set up uke’s arm so that it is extended over their front triangle point and press down, and uke will lose balance.

Connection is easier to work on and study with a grip, but it is just as important with a strike.  With mune tsuki, for example, you want to turn in a similar fashion to katate tori, blending with the strike.  You want to extend the arm just like with katate tori, and you want to press at about 90 degrees to the extended arm.  Then you can throw uke down with kokyu ho just like with katate tori.

The timing is a bit more critical, because the natural thing to do if the first punch misses (or even if it hits) is to throw the second one.  For a punch to be effective, it must stay on target for a moment.  Yanking it back before it has had time to transfer its energy into the target is not effective.  But it only takes a moment for this to happen – maybe quarter of a second.  At that time, for an effective punch (and who cares about getting hit by an ineffective one) uke’s arm is rigid and extended.  If nage has contact at that time, center to center, they can disrupt uke’s posture just as effectively as with a grab.

Often people grab the gi to make that connection.  I am sometimes guilty myself.  However, this generally messes up other parts of the technique.  Instead, just move your own center  in the right direction (i.e. use your legs, the arms merely being connectors).  For some reason, this moved uke more effectively.

You generally do not want to stop uke from extending their punch.  In fact, if you can make them extend it too far, that’s even better.  If you touch their arm and rotate your own, this will tend to do what you want.  It is a subtle movement, and it maybe extends their arm only an inch or so, but done just as the punch is focused for impact it also moves uke’s body.  From being centered and grounded, their weight is moved just a bit, their weight goes onto the balls of the feet or even the toes, and they are easy to move.

Timing is even more critical with a knife attack.  There is less need to time to allow the energy to transfer.  You still need to connect to uke’s center, but there is less likely to be much resistance as knife attacks are more likely to be fluid rather than strong.

These things all need to be studied.  They need to be practiced.  We tend to put too much emphasis on throwing uke down, on pinning uke.  In the street, success is very important.  In the dojo, we are practicing, trying to learn.  We also want our dojo partners to learn.  It is important to focus on our immediate goals if we are to succeed.  As we learn, it will translate into more probability of success if we are unfortunate enough to need to use our art in the street.


Well we had a pretty good party/cross training.  Lots of folks tried yoga, karate, aikido and kali.  The kali was a bit different from what I’m familiar with, but that is all good.  When setting up I looked at some aikido videos I’d forgotten I had and which I’d never looked at, and we did some of the exercises from Ikeda’s videos.  Some of his stuff is pretty interesting, and if you think a bit it does transfer to strikes.  The sun did get a bit hot in the front pasture where I had planned to work out, but we moved under the trees where it was a bit better.  I had planned to have us beat up on a bunch of cardboard boxes, but we didn’t get to them.

I didn’t count how many folks came, but we did have quite a few.  Not quite as many as had said were coming, but still a good number.

It is always hard to participate as well as orchestrate an event, but I think everybody had a good time, and thanks to George for doing all the cooking.  I way overestimated the numbers of hot dogs we would need, but they will freeze for the next time.

I think in view of the typical attendance I am going to move the advanced class from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11 am.  Nobody is prohibited from attending this class, but the focus will be on the highest ranked student, instead of the lowest.  We have some higher ranked folks that I need to stretch a bit.  In a lot of ways, advanced is basic.  Often we need to focus more on the basics, but with a different intent.  But advanced students need to learn to read the attackers and not think too much.

When done properly, aikido does not require a lot of effort.  When you have to work hard, you are doing it wrong.  Sure, we all mess up now and again and use strength to make up for our deficiencies, but in the dojo you should practice using as little strength as possible.  It is a good practice in the dojo to try to use only a quarter of our strength.  Then if you have to defend yourself IRL you have a good margin for error.

When getting ready for the party I looked at some aikido videos I have.  One was by a high ranked individual who is the head of his style.  However, his angles were wrong.  He was doing kote gaeshi in a way that would get him hit in the head.  Angles are really really important.  I wonder if he really would do kote gaeshi that way in the street.  A lot of people teach one thing and do something different when pushed.  Teaching is hard.  You need to have good technique, but you also need to be able to teach it.  That involves seeing what you actually do, being able to express what you do, and being able to communicate that to the student.  In addition, you have to be able to motivate the student to expand his or her limits.  A lot of good technicians can not teach.  A lot of good teachers are terrible technicians.  It is important to find a good technician who is a good teacher to get started right.  Once you are on the right path, all you need is a good technician to learn from, though it does help if you can get more than that.