Friday, December 4, 2009
Imagination or 'men' exercises
We use imagination a lot in Aikido, at least in the beginning and sometimes even later on when we get stuck. Its a tool, a training tool. Like a child using a tracing paper to copy pictures from books. It limits your ability but for a start it gets your hand and ideas to match. Later as you get better and better, you find that your skills to draw things without external help increase and now you draw from your heart.
So we use men in the beginning.
The simple exercises we used last night was to help in other aspects of our waza.
Exercise 1: Uke stands ready to block. Punch uke with increasing speed. Uke pushes the hand away each time. Note the fastest speed that uke can still block the straight jab. Now using the same speed, shomen towards his center hara. Just brush the tips of your fingers on his gi. If you imagine the cut happening beyond your fingers/hand, that it actually starts with a blade you will see that the shomen will go through. If you physically chop your hand, that will likely result in a block. Chopping is what most beginners do because you tend to limit yourself to your hand thus you move your hand and inevitably your shoulder comes into play. But when you shomen as if you're holding a sword and cut from your center, your shomen would look the part and actually cut.
Application of this skill comes in various forms. One when in katatedori, as you extend into uke, your sword penetrates him and then cut his center down. If we try doing this by pushing and then chopping down, uke will resist. But if you cut his inner being instead of moving his hands, then you will find it easy to do.
Exercise 2: This exercise has uke cupping his hands together to form a target. Nage shomens while thinking about striking the hand. You can see that the shomen will smack the hand soundly and stop there. Next Nage forgets the hand and shomens through the body. He must use consistent speed and not suddenly increase his strength and speed. Uke too do not unconsciously try to catch nage, just maintain a relaxed cup. If done right, nage's shomen will cut cleanly through without conscious effort.
Application of this skill, this just reinforces the 1st exercise but getting this right means that later down power or weight underside will become easier to perform.
Exercise 3:Nage must walk with intention. Uke holds out his hand in a relaxed and unbendable state. Nage walks to the hand thinking of the hand. Nage will find that the hand stops him like a rubber band. Next nage looks past the hand and walks in that direction. Imagine that you're meeting your date, or going for some favourite food. Not hurrying and bulldozing through, but walking relaxedly at the same speed as before you will find that walking through uke's hand as very easy.
Exercise 3b:Now nage using this walking method becomes uke. Use 2 or more ukes. Each uke now uses nage as a starting point for his path. Uke walks naturally through nage. Uke doesn't think about nage so much as just using him to start his direction to go to. As uke gets near, nage moves off quietly and naturally. Not avoiding or dodging so much as actually taking a natural step forwards, backwards, sideways or pivoting. After doing this, periodically test by avoiding uke or dodging. Uke will feel the movement and be slightly disturb as if he wants to track nage.
Exercies 3c:Next using our method of maai training. Now uke stands ready. 2 ukes will be better. 1 standing a bit away behind the other. Ukes are now ready to deliver shomen strike to nage as he comes directly to them. Nage walks naturally like before (like when he was uke). Uke is a road that he starts in the direction of, but as he gets to the danger maai, nage now moves naturally off the path. If done naturally out of the way, uke will not track nage when he veers off the path. But if the feeling is avoidance and dodging, uke will follow nage's movement and hit him. The movement off the path is done at the tip of maai. Too early or too late will result in a hit.
There are many more men exercises that we can do to train our body and mind coordination. This becomes the foundation to awase before we add the spirit aspect. With the spirit aspect we will begin to touch on musubi training.
A short note on the waza we practised last night. Gyakuhanmi katatedori kotegaishe. Similar to the iriminage, nage needs to move enter behind uke. In static variation, nage needs to enter uke's center before cutting down to bring uke's hand down. Otherwise it'll be like a pulling struggle. Enter into without moving your body into uke's space, cut down and slide in to his side, your other hand crosses over and cuts beside uke's elbow. Tenkan and now place your closest hand on uke's wrist, extend and lead forwards not pull towards you. As he moves, return his fingers or wrist back to him, not twist the wrist over. The leading forward of uke's hand begins with atari so do it lightly and do not grab his wrist. Gradually this will become an awase movement.