Discovering Aikido: Principles for Practical Learning  ©




Contact your partner with 13.7 grams. T. Ezra


As tori avoids, he typically makes contact with uke. As tori retreats uke can be lured or pulled, as tori turns uke can be pushed. Sometimes there is no direct physical contact; tori avoids while carefully maintaining a certain physical distance, anything from a few millimetres to a few centimetres. Here, tori moves in decisive harmony with uke just as sure as if they were actually in direct contact. When tori retreats it can be somewhat like the feeling of the reverse poles of two magnets pressing each other without touching, after which time tori then reverses polarity, following and adding to ukeís energy to effect technique. A sensible place to start in the search for correct contact is with grips.

By contact is meant that feeling of meeting uke, gently, yet firm. The feeling should also be the same when uke meets tori. Different schools grip with different strengths but within each school it tends to be uniform. Some schools grip very lightly, others grip firmly, and yet others grip like a vice. The first thing that is apparent to the observer is that those schools that grip lightly rarely grip strongly and criticise those that do, and that those that grip strongly seldom grip lightly and likewise, criticise those that do. Clearly, something is amiss.

Common sense would advise that all methods be used with a compromise settling on what I will call, the firm. Being firm refers to 'taking up the slack.í When uke grabs tori's wrist, uke pushes forward slightly from the centre, taking up the slack in the skin that exists between the two hands. Once the slack is taken up the grip is said to be firm. Likewise, tori can also take up the slack by pushing forward slightly from the centre, but should not need to since it is uke's job to attack.

Some explain firm as meaning 'no gap'. This means that uke should try to hold on and not let any gap appear between ukeís hand and tori's wrist - uke should maintain contact throughout toriís technique, which is in essence, interpreted as maintaining the attack. But this does not mean that they contort themselves to toriís bad technique. There are two aspects here that need consideration. First, tori should be aware that the more comfortable uke feels, the better they are at controlling and dealing with them. This does not mean no-pain, rather, it means that tori should give uke comfortable space to occupy and an easy means to fall, or receive technique. Second, if tori does make uke feel uncomfortable, then it is done by rational choice, not badly controlled technique.

Both of these concepts, 'taking up the slack', and 'no gap', are easy to come to terms with. At the moment of touching, both tori and uke should rotate their hips forwards and up. This ensures connection and stability from the floor and up, then between the upper and lower halves of the body and through to the hands, and this helps each 'feel' the other's centre. If ukeís hips are not extended forwards and up then it feels, and to an observer looks, like a lacklustre attack. When making technique (a good example is nikkyo) tori can roll his hips forward slightly and the wave of energy flows up through the torso and down to the hands to make technique.

Once this idea of establishing correct contact is understood tori and uke can practice very lightly, or very strongly, yet still perform responsive Aikido that is conductive to developing aiki. Therefore, it is not a question of whether one trains hard or soft, the key to the problem is maintaining correct contact.


At the moment of contact the centre of one's weight should be mostly, or all, over the front leg / foot to facilitate turning (tenkan). The closer one's centre is to the point of contact the more efficient the turn. Indeed, the best position for tori's centre is right over or under the targeted point of contact on uke.

Contact can also be considered as a form of strike and goes some way into explaining how Aikido is sometimes interpreted as being ninety percent atemi.


Keeping the foot, knee, and shoulder in line is important in positioning the hips to develop contact.  


This idea of contact is allied with the notion of centre. While we have 'one' centre, it is also possible to think of three centres. Namely, left, centre, and right. What this means is that we need to manipulate our centre to operate powerfully when it is over our left leg, over our right leg, and in-between our legs. So, when moving about and stepping left and right, we maintain centred and make it feel as though our centre is constantly providing pressure towards uke, and by towards uke I mean towards uke's centre.

Think! Avoidance and contact are closely related. Typically, we avoid first, and only then make contact (which leads to technique). There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that idea but in terms of searching for that ever elusive aiki we need to consider meeting an attack head-on, either physically or mentally, or both, and harmonising our movement and thought with that attack. In this sense, to avoid could be thought of as running away from the attack whereas meeting it head-on provides us with the opportunity to go straight through it with good timing, or to merge with and redirect it.

At the moment of contact you should aim to touch/feel/take/control uke's centre/balance. At first it will make no sense; all in good time. Keep your mind on it as you train and you will succeed. Without your mind, you will have nothing and progress will take forever, if at all. It is through this that one first gets an inkling into aiki.



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