Sunday, May 9, 2010


Its interesting to see most people's interest in Aikido is in the waza. Generally, in martial arts... people really talk about techniques, striking, training, sparring that sort of thing. Gozo Shioda knew Osensei's movement was different than other teachers, so much so, he even studied how a gold fish moves and emulated it. That's how important he believed movement played a part in training.

Since Aikido generally do not have sparring, and is mainly driven by kata training, albeit with a partner, the effect seems compounded. Sometimes, you see nage's remain resolutely in his ground, stopping all of uke's power there. Now, what may appear to be similar to sensei's Aiki demonstration, is actually our way of getting pummelled by uke. In Aiki, you've harmonised and neutralised uke's power regardless if you've moved out of line or not. But in the beginning, movement first... even if its just a toe's width of change.

Movement is key I believe. With correct movement, techniques appear as if by magic. Overreaching, incorrect positioning, ineffective technique are some of the symptoms of bad movement.

Therefore, I've always favoured having movement exercises in my classes. Most times, I'll start nage at the middle facing oncoming uke's who walk to them with good speed. Nage's job is to move naturally and effortlessly. Maintaining zanshin and doing the least possible and as close as possible to uke. After that uke moves to a grabbing motion, and from there a striking mode.

It is interesting to see that whilst nage usually do quite well in the first 2 stages, they tend to get excited during the 3rd stage. Avoiding aggressively, waving their hands about, dodging. It seems they feel fearful of the attacks but not the movement and grabs of uke. What is obvious though is that whilst the 3rd action is more dynamic and more of a risk to nage, in terms of maai, nothing has changed from the 2nd action. Although we don't know which hand is striking, the strike zone remains the same space as in the 2nd action. By natural movement we should have avoided this zone effortlessly, opening up defence possibilities and allowing us to maintain good positioning against multiple opponents.

Too often you see nage thrown into randori get stuck on techniques and uke's piling on them from left, right and centre. The idea here is to learn to move and perform a technique as it comes naturally. Move first, and apply technique if its possible or don't, just ensure that your positioning makes you safe and leaves uke awkward.

From this basic movement exercise, we can go into more and more advance movement that in time will lead us to ashi awase.

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