In aikido I hear many times “we do it this way”, “different style” or on the negative tone “that’s wrong”, “incorrect” etc..
Once you reach quite a way along a lifetimes journey in one skill set (not only aikido) you can see more along the lines of “this is what this person has learned so far”, “ah they worked on that problem this way”.
Teaching kids and adults over many years trying to get specific skills trained and learned I’ve seen why some skills are set in our technical syllabus. However that doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in other methods of training (again not specifically aikido).
What I do think is negative about holding on to ones own method/ style of learning is the tendency to discount other style and learning methods. The mind that is fixated with both eyes cannot see the opportunity right beside them.
…I recognise a voice, and the techniques.
The second in a mini-series documenting physical activities as an escapism on life and the stress and issues it can bring. Poetic documentary featuring an the art of Aikido. via Black Curtain Media on Vimeo
Rob is a copper up North and that’s all I’m telling.
What happens on public transport now goes on the Internet….
The first book I read about aikido was an Aikikai book. If my memory is correct it had in it the story of a visiting aikidoka traveling on a train in Japan when a drunken lout starts a public ruckus. The lesson learned was taught by an old man stepping in with a soft hand to enquire what the problem was, instead of a beating from a large westerner eager to test his skills out.
It’s the first really hot day for the season and the bus is cramped with women and school kids, and one make aikido instructor. How do I get myself into these things!
Cramped and hot tempers flair, one mother accusing a lady with loads of bags of impeding her child. It then gets physical, why I don’t know, but from zero to 100 in less than 6 seconds.
With my inherited teachers voice (thanks mom)! I interject “Ladies, ladies, let’s set a better example for the kids!” Offer to hold the offensive item and diffused the situation. No blood, no scratches and no police. Only this kind gesture required.
Mind you I was prepared to dodge the scratches and biting…..aikido Taisabaki.
“One situation where atemi waza are extremely effective is when your opponent is immobile. His greatly restricted movement makes your movement very effective. Situations in which these timing points occur correspond to good opportunities to cut or stab in kendo known as okori o utsu, tsukitaru o utsu and uketaru o utsu. These can also be used in aikido randori when empty handed against an opponent holding a knife.
Another situation, — is when you are holding uke and he reacts against your balance breaking movement”
okori o utsu: when you see your opponent’s initial movement to attack.
tsukitaru o utsu: when your opponent’s attack finishes and his weight is on his front foot and his arm is extended.
uketaru o utsu: when your opponent steps back in response to your movement. (transcriber notes; uketaru can be broken down into two forms a general retreat in the same stance and another switching stance)
An introduction to practices leading from kata to randori…. 20/09/09 NPO Japan Aikido Association. – Mr, Junji Morikawa, Tetsuro Nariyama (Supervisor)
hiki okori o utsu: uke pulls/ moves back, same stance
ojitaru o utsu : tanto responds/ evades, change stance
(published for educational purposes as an excerpt from Aikido Randori by Tetsuro Nariyama)
This is a translation of Tomiki’s last published paper to the Japanese Academy of Budo concerning the importance of tsukuri in aikido. It is written from the viewpoint of judo although not included in judo randori. These techniques comprise aikido so the points are relevant.
The importance of tsukuri in atemi waza and kansetsu waza
Practise of atemi waza and kansetsu waza is vital to fully understand the basis structure of judo and to experience the practical use of shizentai. However these techniques are often neglected because the majority of them are part of kata practice. There are two reasons for this:
- 1. The exclusion of kata techniques from competitive practice methods.
- 2. A perception that an improvement in skill cannot be realised by practising kata alone and it is not possible to make practical use of these techniques.
This paper clarifies that with knowledge of the meaning and method of tsukuri in atemi waza and kansetsu waza, as with nage waza and katame waza, you can develop real ability and an understanding of practical application.
1. The essential points of old jujutsu are mentioned in the quote, “A natural posture (mugamae) is an expression of a pure and clear mind (mushin). The principle of jujutsu lies in softness prevailing over strength”.
Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), who modernised jujutsu and established Kodokan judo, explained this in simple terms as three general principles:
- 1. Shizentai no ri (principle of natural posture) concerning posture that allows unrestricted attack and defence.
- 2. Ju no ri (principle of non-resistance) concerning quick tai sabaki and te sabaki to nullify an opponent’s ability to attack.
- 3. Kuzushi no ri (principle of balance breaking) concerning the breaking of an opponent’s balance and creating the opportunity to win.
These principles were deduced from the techniques and fighting styles of old jujutsu without favouring any particular school. Kano stated that they are the foundation for techniques and also a means of cultivating one’s mind. This ‘mind’ is the pure and clear mind (mushin) mentioned above but imperturbability, equanimity, flexible mind and presence of mind all have the same meaning. He taught the importance of tsukuri, which is the suppression of an opponent’s offensive ability and the creation of a chance to apply a technique, as the key point in extending from principles into techniques. The basic structure of tsukuri is learned first and then put to effective use in all nage waza, atemi waza and kansetsu waza. The essence of ‘softness prevailing over strength is also found in tsukuri.
2. Judo randori (using nage waza and katame waza) begins with the practice of kata to learn the techniques and correct the use of power. Progress is made to randori and then competition. If we think of kata as the grammar of a sentence, randori practice is an application of that grammar with the strength of that usage expressed objectively in a match.
Kata is a one-sided practice with a compliant partner whereas techniques in randori are against an opponent offering some resistance. The intensity of this resistance increases as you move away from soft randori and closer to competition. Accordingly most of the effort of judo practitioners is put into how to overcome the resistance and apply a technique. Kano eventually realised that breaking balance an instant before applying a technique is the way to apply it. He called this chance of winning ‘tsukuri’. He analysed it scientifically regarding the postures of both participants and organised a system of practice.
Judo depends on the skill of tsukuri through tai sabaki and te sabaki. In other words, judo practice should be focused on tsukuri rather on the application of technique. We can go so far as to say that shiai (a match) is a competition of tsukuri rather than the application of techniques. Skilled players concentrate on this point.
3. Kata were devised as a way to practice old jujutsu safely. This was the only way of practising bujutsu in olden days which were focused entirely on actual combat and valued only victory. So, in the past, people would move from directly from practising kata to life or death situations in real combat. They learned techniques and diverse fighting styles through kata practice to deal with all kinds of attacks. Consequently, this took many years. Moreover, much emphasis was placed on aiuchi (simultaneous strike), the secret to success in combat; students were encouraged to wait right up to the moment of their opponent’s strike. Even in kata they made great efforts to maintain their strength of spirit and orientation towards actual combat.
However in modern budo, great value is found in the physical exercise itself and the fostering of social skills through personal relationships rather than focusing on fighting. This is a natural consequence of the development in educational principles as times change. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the strength of spirit found in the training of old budo is only realised through the experience of matches. Budo spirit comes from calming your mind and dealing with the mental conflict experienced when standing at the crossroads between life and death. Turning bujutsu into a sport by establishing a place for competition is the only way to test real ability within modern budo. This can only be achieved by limiting the number of techniques and standardising the format. These changes are inevitable if education in budo is to be coordinated, particularly when the period available for education is limited. As a result, Kano stressed the importance of atemi waza and kansetsu waza, which were not included in competitive judo, and taught that they should be learnt through kata practice. This approach was central to the formation of modern judo.
4. When an investigative attitude regarding competitive principles is absent in kata such practice degrades into a stage performance with exaggerated movements, cut off from reality and reduced to a mere shell. This is the pitfall of kata. The way to avoid this is to compete in a form of match. You must take use of this experience and have the same attitude and scientific approach when practising atemi waza and kansetsu waza in kata.
For this reason it is necessary to study in depth the basic framework derived from atemi waza and katame waza but with te sabaki and sword principles absorbed into it. The characteristics of these techniques are the use of throws and pins while defending against an opponent’s punch, strike or kick, and also against a cut or thrust with a weapon. If you pay attention to the practice of focusing your power through your tegatana and maintaining a flexible body then you will be able to keep your ability in these techniques throughout your life. Continue this as a lifelong practice and the depth and breadth of those techniques will be revealed. This is also Kano’s intention.
The points discussed above are shown in the diagram overleaf (following on this website) which acts as the summary for this short paper.
Embu-Open Kata Demonstration at recent Junior Tournament
Sakai Sensei and Joe Adams demonstrating at last weeks Junior Tournament.
“We’re not trying to be exclusive or elite. The techniques we use are no secret. It’s just about making an effort and repeating the same thing every day. There are some who are born with natural skill. A sensitive palate and good sense of smell. That is what you call natural talent …. If you take it seriously you’ll become skilled. But if you want to make a mark on the world, you have to have talent. The rest depends how hard you work.”
– Yoshikazu (sushi chef)
Will it work in a fight? How long does it take to get good at it? How long will it take to get my black belt?, etc., etc., etc.
The mind that is fleeting from one point to the other cannot see the journey ahead or even the road to travel on. The UFC-fication of martial arts has clouded the way to training.
There soon will be 9 billion people on the planet, only a miniscule percentage of them practice budo/ martial arts. Amongst those you have beginners, casual attendees, men, women, professionals, amateurs, kids , adults, seniors, disabled, the list can go on.
The reality is that we all bring to and get from any group we train/ spend time with, what we put in. Our own outlook may not be the same as any of the others “on the planet” doing martial arts, in fact I know kids who train because they have their friends who train. Absolutely nothing to do with the style of martial art or the tutor.
The critical mass to make a champion/ expert/ black belt / dojo to train, isn’t specific to any individual’s personal goal. You have to be flexible, as the UK Lawn Tennis Association is about elitism, basically; get rid of it. Also as the FA (Football Association) is about grassroot development. All the sporting organisations that have realised over many many years, its the people that make their sport, not the elites, the regular punters who attend because their friends turn up every week and they hang out, go for a drink, shoot the breeze, have fun and learn something.
If you want to know if it works in a fight, try turning up, training yourself, enjoying the learning experience first. That way just maybe you won’t need to find out. Maybe you’ll find a happy group of people who add to your quality of life and you won’t be in a position to “fight”.
University Aikido Kata from Seijo University Aikido (Japan)