know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they terrify
balance is easier said than done, but if done well, the throw becomes a forgone
conclusion. Uke can be tricked, lured, tripped, distracted, struck,
pushed, or pulled off balance.
eight to two directions
Teachers often speak of
happo, or eight directions. What it means is that tori can evade
in eight directions, off-balance uke in eight directions, and counter
attack in eight directions. A useful schemata for solo exercises, but it is not
easy to think of eight directions while training with a rapidly moving partner;
far easier is to limit it to two. The body bends forwards and backwards.
Sometimes it is forwards and a little to the left, or backwards and a little to
the right. Tori just concentrates on the forwards / backwards
distinction, any variation being the result of where uke pulls, pushes,
or just plain falls.
directions, to the front and to the rear.
line of balance in hanmi posture.
line of balance in shizen-hontai posture.
By forwards is meant
that place right between the feet, the natural bowing position. By backwards is
meant the opposite. So, if aiming for an ikkyo shape, aim to lead, or
have uke fall forwards in their natural bowing position, if the result is
a little left or right of that, so be it. Another very important point related
to the twisting of the arm is that if one twists uke's arm inwards, they
topple to the front; if it is turned outwards, they fall to the rear. This
simple combination of twisting the arm and rear / forward movement covers almost
every 'shape' in Aikido. A simple concept to grasp, and one that expands one's
knowledge rather than having hundreds of seemingly spurious techniques that
(b) Some balance
1 Have uke stand
upright and tell them not to move. Tori grabs their lapel and draws them
forward slowly. If uke truly does not want to move they will come up onto
their toes until they just have to take a step forwards. If tori pulls
their left lapel, it will usually be with their left foot that they step, but
not always. This is a useful beginning for learning Judo throws, but offers the
Aikidoka an insight into balance. So, as uke begins to topple,
tori moves in, drawing them on for a hip throw. Or, tori could trip
uke up when off-balance they try to step forward. Or, tori could
grab one lapel and one arm and perform a floating throw. Or, if uke leans
back too far tori could take advantage and throw to the rear. This kind
of training is rarely, if ever, done in Aikido but is very useful.
raising up on toes when pulled.
2 Have uke stand
upright and tell them not to move. Tori walks behind uke and
pushes uke's head, slightly upwards. As above, uke has no choice
but to raise up on the toes and eventually take a step. This provides useful
insight into irimi-nage.
cannot resist being pushed.
3 Make a circle with
some belts and play Sumo. Whoever pushes uke out of the ring wins. But do
they? Uke learns from this experience. As uke is pushed out,
uke gets the experience of what it is like to be on the edge. Quite often,
in their desperation to remain in the ring, rather than simply be pushed out
they raise up a little becoming completely off-balance and open for a throw,
perhaps not unlike that heart-stopping feeling when one almost falls over a
height. This explains why, in Sumo, some of the throws can be quite spectacular.
By having had this experience of being on the edge, uke now gains an idea
of what to aim to create when taking on the role of tori.
4 The art of the
magician or pick pocket is to take the mind. The key to their art is
distraction. This has to be the most underdeveloped skill in Aikido. Have the
students punch each other in the stomach. Anyone who has trained reasonably hard
can take a half-decent blow to the stomach if prepared. Next, choose a student
and ask them to relax their stomach completely. Feign a slow punch to their
relaxed stomach - but do not hit! Ask them how they feel. Even though the blow
did not strike, they feel a little queasy; the thought of it is awful. Now
imagine, if confronted by a mugger, one could distract their mind for a moment
by say, holding some money out in one hand and leading them slightly forward
with it. Their stomach muscles would not be tense, not prepared; one could take
sudden advantage of this and knock the wind out of them with even a gentle blow.
Of course, there may be many other openings for attack. What is important then,
is that if tori can unbalance uke either physically or mentally,
uke becomes momentarily so concerned with regaining their balance,
perhaps even breathing in with shock, that they are momentarily wide open for
attack. A problem in Aikido is that at the point of breaking balance the aim is
usually an immobilisation or throw that often takes too much time - the moment
is over. A blow, at this moment, would have far more debilitating effect, and
perhaps at the same time enable the throw, or make it redundant.
5 Tori feigns an
attack towards uke's face. Uke flinches, moving their head
rearwards. Tori follows up with shomen-ate.
6 Tori feigns an
attack but uke blocks it by raising an arm. Tori makes contact,
takes the arm and redirects according to uke's response.
7 Uke grabs
tori's palm-up wrist strongly in ai-hanmi. Tori pushes towards
uke's centre gently until tori feels uke countering the
action with force of their own. Tori turns slightly and rotates the hand
palm-down, adds a little to that force, following it in its natural direction,
and leads uke into a technique. From an ai-hanmi grasp,
kote-gaeshi is probably the easiest to do in this situation.
8 When uke grabs
in katate-dori, tori makes a shomen strike to the head to
distract uke, thereby causing uke to momentarily loosen their grip
due the change in focus of concentration. If uke continues to grab
tightly, consider hitting them for real!
9 A powerful short,
sharp jerking force on one of uke's arms can momentarily disorient them.
Not exactly traditional Aikido but very useful in self-defence.
10 Hit uke.
Being struck is quite disorienting for most people. Aikido has lots of feigning
attacks, the real hit is rarely carried home. One need not hit with a full hand,
half should suffice for training.
11 Shout at uke.
A loud kiai can be very effective at disorienting uke momentarily.
12 Have uke
grasp tori's hand violently, with speed and power. Tori receives
it tensed up. After a few repetitions, tori suddenly relaxes their arm
and the next time uke catches it, they lose their balance and almost fall
over. Yet tori did nothing!
13 Tori and
uke both stand in shizen-hontai. Uke takes a right step
forward and uses their right hand to push tori's right shoulder (or take
the right hand). Tori retreats slightly and lures uke on. It looks
like ai-hanmi for a moment, except tori steps back on the right
side, effectively ending up in gyaku-hanmi. From here, the initial
movement is like meshing gear cogs and a tenkan technique (irimi-nage)
is natural. Next, using their same right hand, uke goes for tori's
left side. This time, tori naturally steps back on their left side and
what looked like a gyaku-hanmi beginning ends up as ai-hanmi
footwork. From here, the initial movement is like two chain wheels and usually,
an irimi technique (shiho-nage) is more natural than a tenkan
one. Starting from shizen-hontai lures uke deeper into the
attack and creates technique specific irimi or tenkan shapes. This
kind of stepping movement can be also practised to develop co-ordination and
harmony. It is also very useful for studying trips and reaps.
Uke pushes toriís left shoulder Ė gear cog movement.
Uke pushes toriís right shoulder Ė chain wheel movement.
14 In Yoshinkan basics,
irimi techniques are practised from ai-hanmi, tenkan from
gyakyu-hanmi. While different to the mainstream Aikikai style, try it.
For some techniques, it definitely makes more sense in the way certain 'shapes'
unfold in terms of balance.
15 Now, if you have read
this far, I shall talk about another practical concept that aims to take
balance. Aiki sensitivity.
Try shomen-ate on uke.
Move in and place your hand on their chin as usual but do not push. Some
uke's will start moving either backwards in anticipation, or forwards in
anticipated resistance. This is a mental control aspect (as is #4 above) and can
be a training method unto itself. However, now, let uke regain balance.
Push uke back slowly and gently, a millimetre or two, with almost no
power - like TaiChi in 'slower' motion; your gentleness will infect uke
and take out their stiffness. This in itself is good training. Push a few mm
more and feel for uke beginning to lose balance ever so ever so slightly
(push by moving your body not just your arm). If you push too mush they either
stiffen up and fight back, or take a step and retreat. When off-balance, at that
very moment, they are wide open for attack (for shomen-ate this
would be a firm push). Next, try with irimi-nage, and so on. With
irimi-nage, after pushing them back off-balance- try to drop them straight
down. This is really good training for sensitivity but it is not the end result
for aiki as it takes too long to get uke off-balance. It is a
training exercise but to get it right it has to be done many many many times.
Fit it into your normal training. The waza of Aikido are designed for
this kind of training. Aiki training. They are not just Jujutsu waza.
expansion is also good for developing your aiki. As uke grabs,
tori typically extends their arms a little, often without even realising it,
as in suwari-waza kokyu-ho for example. Now, use this expansion the
instant tori makes any attack. Also, expand your chest if htey take hold
and watch what happens to uke. Put all this into everything you do and think
about it while doing it. Aim to take their balance just a miniscule amount - not
enough to cause them to take a step. At first, your movements will be obvious to
uke. In time, however, if you work on it, your movements will get smaller
and smaller, be less obvious, yet remain effective. Indeed, as a result, they
will be more effective.
17 Read 15 and 16 again. We
already have these methods in Aikido hidden in plain sight. You need to focus on
it mentally and practically to realise it. Most Aikidoka who get anywhere do so
accidentally, without knowing the why of it, and so don't know why they can do
what they can do. Thus, of course, can never pass it on