object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die
Attacks must be
committed since tori needs realistic energy to train against. One school
of thought insists that attacks be so committed that uke over-extends,
almost falling over of their own accord. Others say that uke should
resist to their utmost and not over-extend at all. Not surprisingly, it is best
for tori to practise at both extremes to get a feeling for the range of
possibilities available. It is also good for uke to attack in varying
degrees so as to learn how it feels to be off-balanced, or not. Certainly, to
stick to just one method is not useful. A natural aim is to be realistic.
remains aware and responsive throughout the technique.
is alive and remains conscious throughout the technique so needs to act alive
and be responsive. Uke should not play dead but provide tori with
ceaseless responsive pressure. One method to develop this responsiveness is for
uke to constantly try to stand up with gentle pressure. Accordingly,
whenever a gap allowing them to do so appears, they stand up, and if tori
spots it in time, they deal with it as necessary. This should not be a struggle,
rather it is more a case of uke just letting tori know that a
large gap exists. Contrasting this, it is not sensible for uke to fight
against an arm-lock; someone who resists an arm-lock is
transmitting the unspoken message, “Please break my arm!” Developing a
responsive body is in agreement with developing good aiki.
(b) Grabbing attacks
The main striking
attacks in Aikido are shomen-uchi, yokomen-uchi, and tsuki.
Some schools also add gyaku yokomen-uchi, and uraken.
Occasionally, there is an uppercut. In more modern terms, shomen-uchi
reflects a simple down-blow, yokomen-uchi a roundhouse blow. One method
to practice developing heavy striking power is to hit the mat hard when
break-falling. Interestingly, in dealing with these striking attacks tori
often responds in like manner, meeting shomen-uchi with shomen-uchi,
and so on.
should make a solid, calculated dynamic attack. When raising the arm for a
one-step shomen-uchi the body should move forward slightly as the arm
raises but the rear foot must not yet pass the front. The rear foot only passes
once the strike is on its way down, otherwise, the closing distance will leave a
large inviting gap for tori to take advantage of with an easy
jodan-tsuki or shomen-ate. It is also good practice for uke to
hesitate, trying to confuse tori. Or, uke can walk around a little
exhibiting different footwork before initiating the attack. For yokomen-uchi
it is best to raise the striking arm up as in shomen-uchi, in front of
the head - swinging it rearwards often results in too much telegraphing, and
worse, one's own body might even follow it by winding back with the movement.
For tsuki attacks, avoid the Karate style retracting fist; in Aikido it
is best to keep both hands forwards to maintain balance, even when punching.
Further, the Aikido punch is performed more like a thrust, often done vertically
with the thumb uppermost, almost as if punching with a knife, using the upper
two knuckles of the fist, and with the body weight behind it, rather than a
boxing jab or karate twisting punch. Although slower, it will have a very
forceful effect if striking home. Rare in the traditional styles is
shomen-ate, an open palm strike upwards to the chin. Rather than being a
hand strike, with the body behind it, it necessarily becomes a powerful push,
and emerging from below it is difficult to see coming. Of course, it is up to
each to vary their training according to taste. And though rare in Aikido, it
certainly makes sense to develop a few strong, low kicks, albeit by oneself.
Teachers should encourage this.
(d) Dealing with
Typically, against a
shomen-uchi attack tori will make a shomen-uchi movement;
against a yomkomen-uchi attack tori makes a yokomen-uchi movement.
Making the same type of movement makes it easier for tori to learn to
harmonise with uke. Once harmony is present after sustained practice,
tori can, if desired, deal with a yokomen-uchi by using
shomen-uchi movements, and vice-versa. After further practice, tori
can begin to change the time, starting either earlier, or later, than the
incoming attack. For example, if one imagines uke's raising and
descending blow to comprise 360 degrees of movement, starting 180 degrees late
tori can cut up strongly as uke cuts down, hitting their arm and
deflecting it. Against a right handed yokomen-uchi attack, a left handed
gyaku-yokomen-uchi movement helps deflect, and a right handed
shomen-uchi to uke's arm ought knock it down, disable it, and allow
one to get through to uke's rear. There are innumerable combinations that
can be mixed together to make interesting practice.
(e) Faster than a
Despite being a common
sight in Aikido, catching a flying fist is almost impossible in reality. Aikido
movement originates from the centre and as such, a moving body can not easily
match the speed of the fist of a hand-art, from someone whose training initiates
movement in the hand. In Judo one controls the body and moves out towards the
arm - it is a body-art. In Aikido, one should control the mind of one's opponent
first, and then their body - distracting their attention takes the mind,
providing the opportunity to control the head, body, arm, hand, or whatever
becomes available in the moment.
In dealing with a
tsuki attack it is not really practical to just catch it and move into say,
ikkyo. Many of the standard tsuki kihon-waza need
considerable modification to be of any real practical use. If the intention is
to take hold of the arm, and that it must be if many Aikido techniques are to be
performed, first try to distract by flicking fingers at eyes, or feigning a kick
to the groin. In feigning an attack, tori is searching for a response
from uke. If uke raises their arms up in protection, one might be
able to take hold and perform ikkyo. If uke does not raise their
arms up in self-protection, hit them again! Second, rather than grabbing the
arm, it helps to hook it first with the lower fingers since grabbing it reduces
one's owns options. With a loose grip, one is still somewhat free to change.
Third, change your focus from uke's hand and place it on uke's
elbow. The elbow moves lot slower than the hand and is easier to 'find' in
the moment. It is also more useful to control the elbow than the hand. Fourth, keep in mind possible combinations - a switch to waki-gatame, or
ude-garami may be possible. If it is ikkyo that is to be the
result, then momentarily applying a waki-gatame style movement may
disorient them enough to safely return to ikkyo. Another method is to
temporarily forget ikkyo, move in for irimi-nage, and when
throwing them down at the floor take the nearest arm for ikkyo, if it is
ikkyo that must be done. The root of the problem of techniques like
tsuki ikkyo is that people think the tsuki to be a jab, rather than a
thrust with the body weight behind it. The jab is from a hand-first type art,
the strong thrust more from a body-first type. The jab is faster and standard Aikido often
cannot cope with it; to do so one needs to accept that fact and concentrate more
on avoidance. To deal with a hand-art player, one needs to have enough skill to
temporarily survive playing them at their game, then drawing them into one's own
body-art environment where, hopefully, they lack skill.
(f) Initiating the
Facing uke in
posture is confrontational and could be said to be provoking attack. Offering
the wrist is a lure, and it could be said that tori is inviting the
attack. Feigning attack to create a response to use in one's technique is
initiating an attack. Tori can also initiate the attack by just hitting
uke, then deal with uke’s response. In fact, in certain schools
tori initiates grabbing techniques with a shomen-uchi, which uke
deflects down then moving to the side to take hold as in kata-dori or
morote-dori. In initiating the attack, one has anticipated trouble and is
acting accordingly. If one hits uke, then uke is hit; if uke
responds, then aiki can develop.
In a sense, initiating
an attack is a kind of lure in Aikido that allows tori to take control of
the time. If the object is to grasp uke's arm, then one could feign to
uke in order to make them raise their arm to a position where it could be
grabbed. A steal from Jujutsu is to create a hip throw in the moment.
Rather than spotting a shape and taking advantage, tori lures or leads
uke, creates the desired shape and takes advantage as it is being created.
For example, if uke is in right posture, tori feigns a kick at
uke's front knee with the instep of their right foot. As uke retreats
their leg in avoidance, tori advances and moves forward in harmony
stepping in with their right foot and entering for say, koshi-nage. If
tori can move in at exactly the same time that uke retreats their leg
then tori will be in position for the throw at the moment the shape for
it is created. This is not about timing or fast reflexes, this is about control
meets the attack.
delivers first atemi to eyes with the left hand.
delivers second atemi to eyes with the right hand.
It is often heard said
that Aikido is ninety percent atemi. While something of an enigma, if
atemi is co-ordinated and well focused within aiki movement, then it
certainly helps make the technique work. Note that atemi here usually
refers to strikes performed by tori in the midst of technique. The key in
delivering atemi is in not interrupting the flow of the technique thereby
disturbing the aiki. Rather, it ought to contribute to the aiki
flow. This is a very important point that is often completely ignored. While the
most obvious form of atemi is a direct punch or kick to a vulnerable
point, more dangerous forms of atemi are; jabbing at the eyes with one's
fingers; stroking the back of one's hand across the eyes using the finger nails;
hitting the side of the neck or throat with the inner or outer forearms; hitting
uke's arms with the forearms; clapping a hand over the ear; using a
back-fist to the lower ribs or hammer-fist to the kidneys; delivering an upper
back-fist or kick to the groin; or head-butting uke when taking control
as in sankyo or moving in close for koshi-nage. When close in, a
knee to the groin or inner / outer thigh area will temporarily incapacitate
uke. It is man's natural instinct to protect the groin, consider hitting or
kicking the bladder instead; it is very effective and totally unexpected. An
open hand is far more powerful than a fist for the average person, especially
for those who do not train to punch. Indeed, boxers are commonly known to break
their own fists in barroom brawls; their egos get the better of them. Or, use a
fist for striking soft areas, an open palm-heel for the hard. Remember, it is
important to aim every strike.
In order to solve the
enigma, to acquire the idea of what I believe to be real atemi in Aikido,
one needs to practice constantly with the bokken. The shomen and
yokomen striking movements can become principles in themselves that can
be incorporated into one's techniques whether one uses them as strikes or not.
In empty hand techniques, the up and down movements of shomen-uchi can be
performed as parry, deflection, hit, or cut. Such can be delivered gently, or
painfully. And even when moving into the midst of technique, those same
principles used within the up and down movements can be applied again in
redirecting uke to the mat. Finally, the idea of contact can also be
thought of as atemi in the sense that, if uke makes contact with
tori's centre, then that in itself constitutes an attack, which implies
that if tori makes contact with uke's centre, tori is
indeed, hitting uke. Thus, contact is subsequently maintained for the
remaining ninety percent of the technique. Interestingly, if uke has good
centre/contact, then even if tori parries his attack, the good uke
should be able to instantly redirect it at tori's centre to 'win'.
(h) Half a hand
It is traditionally
implied that half-a-hand hits heavily enough to knock out; the full-hand kills.
For more realistic training in Aikido it is useful to take this principle and
tame it. For Aikido, I take half a hand to be a strike within the movement that
may clonk the head, slap the face, touch the eyeball, or penetrate the body
enough that it actually jolts uke, for real, not play, and that an
onlooker would 'feel' it. From uke's point of view there is no lasting
effect other than a slight toughening up over time. Contrasting this, the
full-hand is hitting much harder, a real blow, enough to really incapacitate
uke, making them almost fall into the technique. I should point out that
this kind of full-hand does not mean hitting full force, as hard as one can hit.
There is still control. From time to time, one needs to negotiate with uke
and incorporate such half-hand strikes into the techniques to really appreciate
the power of Aikido. Obviously, the full-hand is only for self-defence.
To develop the
half-hand, practise hitting uke in various places using different strikes
such as a gentle punch, palm heel, back-fist, finger jab, shin kick etc. Such
strikes should give uke a slight jolt, being either slow and heavy, or
light and fast, but not too uncomfortable. To develop the full-hand, first hit
the mat hard and heavy during ukemi, or just whack the forearm into the
mat, then, direct it at uke and aim to hit with full force but, at the
last moment, stop short.
third up from the wrist.
third down from the elbow.
third down from the shoulder.
contacts uke's arm it should be in the form of an Aikido based movement
such as yokomen-uchi or shomen-uchi. This movement can be light or
heavy in feeling, and a parry, hit, or cut in form; when striking one must aim.
For many Aikido techniques it is useful to aim to hit uke's arm heavily,
approximately one third of the way down from the elbow, or sometimes, one third
of the way down from the shoulder. Here, momentum is transferred to uke's
arm with the prerequisite amount of pain. Any lower and the arm is likely dashed
away. Another point to aim for is approximately one third the way up from
uke's wrist. This lighter target needs a more jabby, lighter hit. When
hitting heavily tori uses a point about one third of the way along their
own forearm from the wrist, for lighter hits, closer to, or using, the
tegatana is fine. Both of these types of hit can be done from inside or
outside of uke's arms and this same feeling of striking can be used on
other more vulnerable areas of uke's anatomy to great effect.
practical ideas - 1 Wrist
Grabbing (Think - Process)
Wrist grabbing gives tori the chance to learn bodily marital movement.
How the wrist grab is dealt with also provides the key to movement in dealing
with other attacks, such as being pushed or punched. The idea is to unify
movement across a range of attacks and defences to simplify the process - to
make it logical and therefore easy to learn. Tori likes his wrist to be
grabbed because uke only has one more hand with which to attack; even if
a wrist is grabbed, the smart tori still has two hands.
- No touch: Avoid the grab; tori moves his hand away just
enough to avoid contact. Uke almost catches, and feels that he can
almost catch, and so has reason to continue to try. If tori only
avoids, uke is in control; if tori avoids and remains aware or
leads uke, tori is in control. Tori strives to maintain a
mental connection with uke, whether uke is aware of it or not.
The mental connection learned here should be applied in every other aspect
- From touch to light grasp: Tori avoids, but allows uke
to catch with his fingers, yet his grasp is incomplete. Tori is
controlling the extent of uke's grip and making it easier for himself
to escape or to begin technique.
- Complete grip, but no strength: Tori allows uke to catch
but tori off-balances uke such that the grip contains no
threat. The attack is dissipated. However, to uke, his grip feels
comfortable thus he maintains his hold longer than he should.
- Complete grip, with a little strength: Uke's grip is
stronger and uke will feel he is gaining control of tori.
Tori leads uke's attack in such a way that the slightly-firm grip
is maintained. Tori wants/allows uke to keep hold and uses uke's
grip to add momentum to uke's attack.
- Complete grip - firm: As uke's grip becomes stronger, the
technical skill of tori becomes more important. Tori may wish
to add more momentum to uke's attack but will not be able to unless
his technique is sound. Tori must first learn to control his own body
before he can begin to control uke's.
Tori must allow uke a comfortable grip lest he let go.
Sometimes, tori may choose to make it uncomfortable for uke so
that he does let go.
- Solid grip: Static solid single- or two-handed grips. Uke
has the time to take complete control of tori's arm. Here, tori
has the chance to develop his body skills. He has to learn to melt into
uke's grip before leading uke off balance. Here, technical skill
is vital. Here, is precisely where the 'technical' skill used in the above
five phases is developed. This method is useful for developing understanding
Once you have good solid technique, start back at #1 above and you will find
that even if uke does not touch you, your arms will be in a position
whereby it would not matter whether he grabbed you or not.
- Grip and strike: More dynamic and realistic. Makes no sense to
give uke too much advantage before starting technique.
It is important to develop a tori-leading-uke feeling. When training,
it is important to practice at either end of the above continuum ranging from
light to solid, technical to realistic. With technical skill, tori can
allow uke to maintain a comfortable grip (more harmony), or, can chose to make
uke's grip feel uncomfortable (less harmony). It is unlikely that a
teacher will ask you to train systematically like this. Usually, the keen uke
attacks as strong he can; in his daily practise the keen tori varies his
own response according to the above methods - if he is aware of them.
practical ideas -
2 Pushing (Think - Process)
Pushing, here, can be done slowly or quickly and is along the way of logical
progression to defence against striking. With a little thought, the skills
learned here can be applied to striking. Also, what is learned here will improve
body movement and general attack and defence skills. Below, 'touch' can
represent a push or a strike.
- No touch: Uke tries to touch tori but tori avoids.
Avoidance can be done in terms of a straight line or a circle. Start by
avoiding with a 5" gap and over time, reduce it to 1" or less. Tori feels as
though he is a magnet that is being repelled by an approaching magnet of
- Light touch: Tori allows a light touch against his arms or
body (a certain school of thought considers it wrong to allow the body to be
touched). Uke feels as though he can push, and so commits, but does
not fall over when he fails. It is tori's avoidance that makes the
touch feel light, not uke's intention.
- Firm touch/push: Tori allows a firm touch or push and his
avoidance causes disturbance in uke's balance. With time, uke learns
to push stronger while maintaining his balance.
- Solid push: Tori really allows uke to push him
halfway across the room. Only after uke has developed a strong attack
can tori learn to deal with it. Next, tori's avoidance does
not avoid the attack but meets it firmly, yet momentarily redirects uke's
energy this way or that to off-balance before entering with technique.
Solid grips allow tori to refine his bodily movement such that it
harmonises with what uke is doing. Such practice is the absolute basic
requirement for kokyu-ho and kokyu-nage, which contain the basic
movements found in Aikido, which in turn must be applied in all the techniques.
practical ideas -
3 Striking (Think - Process)
If you examine the methods of different arts it is not hard to come up with a
few interesting ways to strike. Interestingly, there is more to a hit than just
a hit. What you are thinking at the moment of impact can transform your strike
to have varied effects. Some different types of strike follow:
- If you punch a wall you can't have much penetration lest
you break your knuckles. What you get is more focus on that last
millimetre or so. I liken it to a piston reaching top-dead-centre:
incredibly powerful over a tiny distance. With a makiwara you
can hit a lot harder because it moves a little. This is also like the
piston, but with more penetration, perhaps giving one or two
centimeters. After the punch the arm retreats naturally much like the
piston. The mind makes it so.
- The Aikido tsuki is much like a knife thrust. Rather than
being a standard strike that has a bouncy-off feel, the Aikido
tsuki penetrates deep with follow through and all the energy
dissipates inside uke, probably sending him flying backwards if
strong enough. Again, the mind makes it so.
- Slapping can be very effective. The simple slap is exactly
that and stings the surface and also the pride. A heavy slap
sees the hand stop where it hits with the weight of the arm behind it.
Again, the mind makes it so.
- A floating punch is what I call a fist (or elbow, or foot)
freely flying through the air with nothing behind it (no muscle, no
body weight) but when it lands all of its momentum transfers into the
body. The fist solidifies only at the moment of impact, after which
time it instantly becomes totally soft again. Again, the mind makes it
punch works the same way as #4 but at the moment of impact you put the
weight of your arm behind it and sometimes some (and more, if from the
ground) of the weight of your
body. Again, the mind makes it so. This kind of punching can be
devastating so great care has to be taken. Remember, uke will
have their turn next!
practical ideas -
Dealing with attacks (Think - Process)
After training against grabbing and pushing attacks, much of what has to be
learned to deal with striking attacks is already known. Tori understands
basic movement, avoidance, and has experience in dealing with uke's
power. Striking attacks bring speed, power, and intention together to create
- Eight directions: Tori practices avoidance against
tsuki, shomen-uchi, and yokomen-uchi. Avoidance to the
rear, rear corners, and sides is relatively easy; avoidance to the front
corners allows for better technique but requires a more concentrated mind.
Moving ever more directly forwards to meet the attack head-on requires
courage and speed to enter before the attack fully develops.
- Time: Tori begins early, at the same time, or as late as
- he dare.
- Counter strike: Tori meets the strike, and counter strikes
in harmony with the general movement.
- Contact: Tori makes and maintains contact with uke's
centre through his arm or body while dealing with the attack.
- Off-balancing: Tori meets, makes contact with uke's
arm or body, and adds energy to slightly off-balance uke.
- Technique: Tori makes an appropriate technique, in
consideration of uke's momentary state of off-balance.
- Attack: Tori abandons his defensive psyche and creates in
himself an attacking spirit even while avoiding/retreating.
- Attack: Tori attacks, and when uke parries, tori
anticipates the parry and adjusts his attack slightly to go through (not
around) said parry, with the feeling of crushing/squashing it.
Uke's attack provides tori with the opportunity to hone his
skill. Tori can approach each technique in various ways that comprise
some mix of the above ideas. There is no one way to do anything; rather, we have
a bunch of variables that need to be trained.
practical training ideas -
5 Real Attack (not for beginners)
The first purpose of these attacks is for uke to defeat tori.
The second purpose is to pressure tori to make better technique, if he
can. If tori can't, don't let him. Just start again. These attacks are
dynamic, a stage beyond the static. First, practise the attacks many times so
that you get BETTER at them -- before trying the responses or escapes.
- Ai-hanmi katate-dori: catch and pull or catch and push HARD to
disorient the uninitiated (a strong shomen-ate can be included with
the spare hand).
- Gyaku-hanmi katate-dori: catch and pull or catch and push HARD to
disorient the uninitiated (a strong shomen-ate can be included with
the spare hand).
- Sode-dori: catch and pull or catch and push HARD to disorient the
uninitiated (a strong shomen-ate can be included with the spare hand.
Or, combine with a shomen-uchi to knock tori down. Practise
it: knock tori down - start slowly and firmly, with intent).
- Mune-dori: catch and pull or catch and push HARD to disorient the
uninitiated (a strong shomen-ate can be included with the spare
- Shomen-uchi: hit with shomen-uchi fast and heavy, being
crafty enough to knock tori down, through/using his weak defence.
- Yokomen-uchi: hit with yokomen-uchi fast and heavy, being
crafty enough to knock tori down, through/using his weak defence.
- Tsuki: turn it into a strong, fist-shaped push, more like a knife
thrust, to shove tori hard. Practice a firm push with an open hand
and send tori back a few feet.
- Ushiro ryote-dori: grab and pull tori back; lift one arm
up and trip tori over backwards; lift two arms up and push tori
forwards, don't stop, knock them down.
- There are many more attacks. For example - strangles (blood) and
chokes (air). Learn to strangle your partner efficiently. First you should learn to
escape from a weak strangle to get the idea of it. Most Aikido strangles are weak because people
simply do not train them properly. Then, uke should slowly try to strangle with more power. Judoka are excellent at
this and I can
state with total confidence that a decent 3rd Kyu Judoka could easily
strangle a 3rd Dan Aikidoka to submission. The purpose should be for tori to
learn to escape against stronger strangles. From my own experience, a good
strangler will usually win if they gain even the slightest advantage so
tori must really try to hone their technical skill. Strangely, the
better you are at strangling, the better you will become at escaping from
it. Also, it is very dangerous to train this way until you slowly build up
the skill - do not rush into it. It takes a lot of training under competent
supervision. In the beginning you can actually practise firmly without
strangling at all - just hold them firmly without stopping the blood (or air
for chokes) supply
- so they feel safe - and try to prevent them from moving. Often what
happens is that they strangle themselves for real as they try to escape -
which is why it can be so dangerous.
Tori will have to modify the way he begins ALL his techniques. The
smart tori will figure out how by himself. If he can't, perhaps he is not
yet ready to start with this method.
Disclaimer: You might get hurt practising like this - GET USED TO IT !