Saturday, December 26, 2009

I Scratched my Knee...

Just now after practice I found to my surprise both my knees has lost a bit of skin. Admittedly we were doing sorewaza techniques mostly, but it really did surprise me that it happened. Why it was so was simply because:

a. I wasn't dragging myself around since I wasn't tired. Doing proper shikko, one seldom loses skin.
b. I've been doing this for a long time. One would think the callouses would have saved me some skin by now.

Thinking about it made me realise something. Just because we've been doing something for a long time, doesn't mean we will be good at it or impervious to the hurts that come as part and parcel of it. It gives you greater tolerance and a better chance of doing it right, but until you've truly mastered something, you really can't take anything for granted really.

Also I was thinking about how mudanshas were struggling with the katadori sorewaza techniques. In particular the first movement i.e. the kuzushi. Doing it step by step, we see the form emerging. Where they should move and how to move. From that point what else do they have to do. And so on and on. The placements and maai are done in a very systematic method that gives you the base form. The form can translate to either good or bad Aikido depending on whether you apply the Aiki principles. But without the form, we tend to lose sight of the reasoning. Sure, in kino nagare especially, we apply Aiki principles to take Uke's center and throw him around. This allows us to short cut certain steps, steps that would otherwise stop the energy flow from Uke, or give him back his center. But when we concentrate to much on kino nagare, sometimes we overlook our form totally. Perhaps once mastery is achieved, true formlessness will emerge, but I believe at this point in time, we still should show good form even with kino nagare.

Having said that, application of chushin and awase together would most certainly ensure proper form is maintain. Add to it, a rigorous application of atemi waza during movement, also ensures that our movement follows proper form. If we understand that most of the waza requires us to blend with the energy, we would realise that the natural response to an attack is to move. Now with training, our ability to move is enhanced. The typical way to move would be irimi or tenkan, sometimes kaiten and sometimes a combination of each.
After the movement, we also understand that chushin is important, both for us and uke. Thus immediately after the movement, we seek to control chushin. We also understand that awase exists to ensure we have contact with uke and thus a bridge to his center without which we have absolutely no way of controlling him or his energy. Atemi waza gives us the will to attack or capture his center, it enforces our intention.

Aside from waza, ukemi also requires proper form. The last few classes, I've devoted a lot of time on improving ukemi. Ukemi requires an intelligent and resourceful uke. Uke is not a sacrificial lamb to be thrown at whim. Uke's job is to attack nage and be successful at it. If Nage employs good aiki principles and waza, Uke will be thrown. But if Nage is lax, then it is Nage that is thrown or subdued.

Uke first and foremost allows Nage to ready himself. Once Nage has offered an opening, Uke must attack that opening in the safest way possible to ensure victory. Thus this is where Uke decides to come gyaku hanmi or aihanmi, when he decides to do katate dori, or katadori, or ushiro ryotedori or hijidori or any other attack for that matter. Uke knows how to attack because Uke is not blind. Uke won't want to walk into a punch thus he attacks in a position that would allow him some safety. Also, when grabbing Nage, Uke grabs to control. If Nage were holding a knife say, the grab should allow Uke to control nage's knife hand at will allowing neither an attack to come nor an escape. Grabbing with tensed muscles only allows Nage to dominate over Uke. Thus grabbing attacks require extension, relaxation, centering and everything else we learned under Aiki principles.
Similarly when Nage performs tenkan or irimi, Uke maintains the grab and move to position of centeredness. Improper technique by Nage allows Uke to counter. Movement allows Uke to maintain the connection to Nage without losing posture and balance. This goes all the way to taking the fall. Even taking the fall does not mean submission. Rolling out leaves Uke the ability to kick with the legs or take Nage down. Coming up centered and with Zanshin means Uke is ready to deal with further attacks from Nage.

So, in doing our Keiko. We must understand that once we start we don't stop until the end of class. Uke and Nage are continuously applying Aiki principles in attacks and defence. And hopefully our continued practice will ensure that even after class, we do not stop our 'practice' of the Aiki principles. After all, we did not come to the dojo just to get scratches and bruises.

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