On Friday we trained a few move sets to begin to understand the concept of acceptance. We started with a bokken. Holding the bokken with our fingers, we accept its weight. We don't only accept the weight on our hands but we accept it willingly with our center. We have now made the bokken 'ours'.
By loosely shaking our center we begin to move the bokken. We don't shake the bokken with our hands per se although it would look like it. Think about it for a moment. We've made the bokken 'ours'. Its part of the body now. So move our center to move the bokken. We start with shaking it up and down because this movement is very subtle and 'unforced'. Then we try to translate that feeling still further by doing shomen cuts. Then so that we don't get tie the feeling too much to just shomen movement, we do some diagonal cuts upwards with movement. Then we do a full barai and cut. All the while, we are trying to move with center and make it a very natural.
Next we practiced tenchi nage. Now instead of doing what we do typically i.e. Doing tenchi nage on someone, we instead try to learn to receive the tenchi nage instead. Doing tenchi nage the 'normal' way we will be using principles of motion and leverage to achieve kuzushi. So uke's leading leg will be where we will bring his weight down. This acts to make his leading leg heavy and move his balance to where there's a missing brace i.e. the space behind his leg. The other hand we bring upwards thus now with two different directions, uke's balance and power is splayed apart. But even though we can do this efficiently or quickly or powerfully, it doesn't detract from the fact that we are forcing this tenchi nage on uke.
For it to be natural for uke, we want to receive his power and connect with it making it ours. We now raise a hand and rotate it with our center, it can be either hand irrespective of uke's hanmi. Our hands and uke's hands are aligned so that it is very comfortable for him to hold on to you. The other hand mirrors our top hand but is centered below our navel. again it is alligned with uke's but instead of tip to tip like our top hand, it is joined in one direction (like a tenkan hand).
Now through the top hand we 'enter' uke's center, and the bottom hand cut's uke's center. Both power spirals in the same direction. Not linearly but in a circular fashion. In each case we are reminded not to collapse the hand or move uke's hands away from us. All we're doing is to keep extension and connection with uke. The movement is powered by our center and not our limbs. In this manner, uke drops gracefully to the ground making it seem to be effortless.
On Friday we stopped at that level and began to explore irimi nage the three different methods practiced by sensei. In each case irimi becomes much more than an entry movement that is purely physical.
In the first method, we are joining uke's shomen upwards. As we enter into uke, the force of his hands is joined by ours going up. But the power doesn't end there instead it has the feel of an arc that will come back down upon Uke. Only thing is, nage shouldn't force this into uke, intead allow gravity to make its point. The first method is useful to train this mentality of accepting a strike instead of stopping it or just redirecting it. If we try to push uke's force upwards, this force will come down on us heavily. Just as true, if uke were to punch instead of giving us a shomen to work with. If we try to push the punch upwards, we are likely to get hit instead. The idea of accepting the force and going up together requires us to scrape our reflex to move people and instead learn to move with them.
In the 2nd method, we now rotate our center much like we did with tenchi nage. Now instead of going into uke. We stay our ground. But we rotate our center and our hand together. Meeting uke's strike as it comes to hit us and letting it pass us. We do not pull, push or collapse our hands. Just extend, connect and rotate. Uke will lose his balance past us.
In the 3rd method which I describe as the hardest we actually have to do a side irimi movement. Irimi does not necessarily mean movement forward. Sometimes, a side movement allows us to enter better thant a forward movement. Thus we do a side movement (the same side that is attacking us.) we enter and cut. So it will look like a typical ashi sabaki movement, nage facing uke in a diagonal position, uke is looking past nage in a straight line. But again, the entry is through a non physical connection and must occur before the strike is concluded. Only then are we able to be 'one' with uke but fully in control. If we advance to the side and cut uke's shomen, the position is a stalemate. Even though we are facing him and he is not, and even though our hands are above his, uke can keep attacking because we are still two seperate units. All he needs to do is adjust his positioning. This is why the third method is the hardest. Because it is very easy to do it only physically and its also hardest to get a connection because unlike the first two methods where we can adjust the connection as we physically meet each other, the 3rd one requires us to connect with uke beforce contact is made.
On Saturday we explored further the idea of acceptance. By receiving an attack like it is a gift for us. Instead of stopping it forcefully or avoiding it, we learn that when we receive a gift from uke, it is ours to do with as we wish. Thus we see how different it is to move uke when we take his hand as a gift instead of pulling or pushing it as we will. This concept is easiest to grasp when we keep calm and not think about reacting. Instead to be have as if it is a normal occurance for people to punch you when they see you. Its perfectly a fine way to greet somone and we have to honestly believe that. Then we must welcome him with a hug or a handshake and with that feeling we will be able to understand acceptance.