If I have
seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of
It could be argued that
a straight punch is an advanced technique in Judo, ikkyo is an advanced
technique in Karate, and a front kick is an advanced technique in Aikido. What
commonly might be advanced in one art is basic in another. Rather than any
technique being advanced, it is usually the case that less emphasis is placed on
it. Simply, if you do it a lot, it will be easy. Accordingly, there are no
advanced techniques, only one's own narrow experience.
define advanced as being able to learn something new either quickly, or
preferably, instantly. It is quite true that, "the chains of habit are too
weak to be felt but too strong to be broken." Anon. We have to be able to
break free of habit in order to progress. Habit is the biggest obstacle, be it a
good or bad habit.
No matter how much the
teacher tries to reveal, if the student is not ready to receive, the 'secret'
remains invisible. An open but often unmentioned secret is the addition of atemi
to Aikido techniques. For example, in the midst of shomen-uchi and
yokomen-uchi ikkyo it is possible to add two powerful atemi without
interfering with the flow of movement. A low kick or trip could also be
incorporated. Perhaps most revealing, is that all the so called secrets are not
secret at all. Rather, they just remain hidden in plain sight.
(b) The twenty-year
People jokingly refer
to ikkyo as being the twenty-year technique. In some senses it is true
since, over time, the way one approaches it changes; it becomes more
personalised with experience yet never solidifies in form. Rather, the secret of
ikkyo is in escaping the form, therefore those that stick to the absolute
form will never learn it even after fifty years. The perfection of the form
blinds them. This is not only true of ikkyo, but of Aikido in general. If
one fails to graduate from the shu of shu-ha-ri, one will never
escape the basic form. This contrasts starkly with O Sensei since his post war
Aikido life was spent enjoying the ri of shu-ha-ri.
To escape one needs to
think for oneself. Of course, the main reason it takes so long is because there
is no one there to guide. O Senseiís path was personal and is impossible to
follow. The modern kata based syllabi of various schools appear to lack
logical progression to freedom - so it is left for the self to discover. Some
do, many do not. But there is no need to wait twenty years to try.
The basic techniques
that O Sensei has left for us are quite interesting. Unlike other arts there are
not nearly so many techniques, but there do seem to be enough to twist an arm or
throw a body in a multitude of ways. In Aikido, in general a great deal of
emphasis is made on getting the technique right. Not much thought is given to
combinations, or mixing different techniques together. At least that is,
according to the syllabus. What happens is that once one has enough experience
it starts to happen naturally. For example, if one throws uke down with
kote-gaeshi, without turning them over, one can let them get up a little,
move around to their rear, and begin irimi-nage. It just fits perfectly.
Once the basics are mastered, combinations pour out, yet are rarely taught.
Clearly, O Sensei's choice of basic techniques is remarkable in the sense that
with a little thought, they all link together naturally.
What is interesting is
that the same principles used to make technique can also be used to counter, to
make kaeshi-waza, reversing the technique upon uke. Not quite as
easy as combinations, and rarely practised, they first appear as new techniques
to be learned. However, since they work according to the same aiki
principles it does not take long for the initiated to realise that a little
'unbendable arm' when receiving technique goes along way towards making an
effective counter. One should not overly resist or struggle when performing
counters. Uke should give tori something to work with, and tori
should find a way to use it without resorting to strained effort. One example I
particularly like is to let uke do nikyo. What I am after is
uke's downward motion at the point of application, just at the point of
pain. I give my (right) wrist almost completely to uke. As uke
applies the pain I lower my body and arm together matching uke's movement
exactly, but leading uke's energy with my wrist I overtake uke's
movement, and then as I stand back up, I instantly have a kote-gaeshi
grip on uke using my left hand, working through their thumb using my
right forearm. The trick is not to resist at all, but blend with, add to, and
overtake uke's movement. Of course, if uke knows what tori
is going to do in advance, the nikyo might be applied much more sharply.
In that case, I may not give my wrist quite so completely. Once an interest in
kaeshi-waza is aroused, one should begin to collect enough to deal with
the various Aikido techniques. Personally, I like to have three or four counters
for each technique - more for curiosity than reality: For example -what if I
move left, or right; or what if I start early, mid-time, or late?
Later on, once you have mastered
ukemi, you will be able to recognise tori's movement (waza)
and flow with it to such a degree that you can subtlety overtake them and take
control. Later, I believe, as long as you have it in your mind to train this
way, you will be able to do this earlier and earlier so that tori barely
has the chance to create is technique and then you have it = aiki.
(f) Pressure points
Every beginner expects
at some point they are going to learn the secret pressure points of Aikido. Well
the problem here is that, truth be told, they remain secret because no one knows
them. They do not exist in any regular Aikido syllabus, but exist they do. So if
shown one, make sure to remember it - begin your collection. The easiest way to
learn them is to train at a school that uses them regularly, such as Jujutsu.
With a little ingenuity one will be able to apply them in one's Aikido
techniques, the key being to make them fit into the technique - not trying to
make the technique fit the pressure point. An added benefit is that one will
know where one's own weak points are and be on better guard.
Thumb in eye
Fingers around trachea
Punch to solar plexus
(g) Strangles and
Strangling stops the
flow of blood to the brain, choking refers to closing the windpipe thus
preventing breathing. Both can be done with the bare hands, arms, or by grabbing
the collar(s) of the keikogi. Variations can be done from the front,
side, or rear. Although not normally done in Aikido, some teachers do show them
from time to time so one ought to keep a note and record the various methods;
one cannot be a passive learner for material that is not on the syllabus.
Otherwise, the only option is to go to Judo or Jujutsu classes to learn their
shime-waza. Practising Aikido techniques against simple strangles and chokes
offers a more sensible self-defence perspective.
Personally, I believe
that many of the techniques in other arts can be done according to aiki
principles and therefore, there may be few, non-Aikido techniques. Such
techniques might appear advanced to the uninitiated, but are often quickly
picked-up by the co-ordinated Aikidoka. Indeed, if aiki can be
added to a technique, then it can be called Aikido. A trip or sweep practised
with solid aiki contact and harmony can be called good aiki even
though the form might look like Judo. Aiki is sometimes apparent in other
arts even though it is not taught as a principle. I have seen a few Karate and
Judo teachers whom I would say had great aiki within. Their aiki
developed naturally through hard training - but they can not pass it on to their
students since they do not know they have it - they cannot even give it a name.
Anyway, the crux is that any technique can be an aiki technique if it
follows aiki principles; it is not limited to Aikido form.
(i) All practice is kaeshi-waza (counters) if the attack is dynamic
(j) As for how much is enough energy in your arms - make every technique in a
way that allows for change.
In Shodokan Aikido
(Tomiki) there is competition that by necessity has rules. For example, one of the rules
stipulates no tripping. It makes sense to be interested in what one is not
allowed to do. For example, there are many occasions where a trip is an
excellent choice of technique. Such 'shapes' appear constantly in the bustle of
randori. A little advice: Keep the rules for competition, not for
training. Whatever the style of Aikido, if it claims to be a martial art then
there is no way it can justify not being able to use the occasional Judo throw
or Karate strike, especially if applied using aiki principles.