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I teach Aikido at a small dojo in Winnipeg, Canada. Been doing so for many years now. This blog is just a collection of ruminations on teaching, descriptions of the events of daily practice, and the occasional funny story.
So I had my students work on balance last night. We did a few rooting exercises and then spent the remainder of the night studying how a person can be made to lose their balance. I just had one of a pair stand, feet square, knees slightly bent and working in place to keep balanced. The other of the pair could do anything they liked to make their partner lose balance - but only with a single point of contact and with no abrupt force. We moved on to balance-taking with two points of contact and then three. Finally, I allowed the one being unbalanced to step about to maintain balance. We worked slowly, studying how to find that off-balancing angle or action that prevented any corrective steps or body shifts or that used these corrective steps or shifts to further bind the person and take their balance.
This practice was totally principle-oriented. I showed my students no particular technique whereby they could take their partner's balance and urged them to resist using actual aikido technique to do so. I asked them to be very creative about how they applied the principles of balance-taking. I think my students were both fascinated and frustrated by this challenge. Often, they would be moving along the right line, but at not quite the right angle. If their initial effort didn't induce their partner to lose balance, though, they would simply stop the action entirely and start again. I had to encourage them to feel out their action thoroughly and see if small shifts in its direction could change the outcome. To their surprise, they found that fundamentally their choice of tactic was usually sound -- it just needed a little fine-tuning.
I think some of my students would prefer to have the answers handed to them, neatly packaged in a technique. But a technique can be practiced and appear to be "working" even if the underlying principles aren't understood. This kind of technical training creates illusions about martial effectiveness, however, which I am eager to prevent in my students.