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This is on the second of O Sensei's guidelines for practice. It is the most concrete, and one of the only defining traits that answers what "is/is not Aikido." I did publish a piece in my personal blog with a number of pictures comparing jujigatame and Ikkyo pins, but I can't figure out how to attach the pics here. The original is at http://john-hillson.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-one-that-extends-to-infinite.html
I'm just putting this here as I would like a conversation about these items. I trained for years before learning about these Rules for Practice. I don't see them discussed much. Like many of O Sensei's writings, they may in fact not be his. I still try to learn from them.
"Aikido is based on the Way of One which extends to the Infinite - practice should always be performed not only concentrating on one's front, but while keeping aware of all sides at all times." From the 1997 issue of "The Aikido" by Aikido world headquarters in Tokyo. Volume 34, #4. (Really, from the walls of the men's change room at our dojo.)
"Aikido is an art where one person learns to face many opponents simultaneously. It therefore requires that you polish and perfect your execution of each movement so that you can take on not only the one directly before you but also those approaching from every direction." Aikido
"Bujutsu is an art in which the one is used to strike the many. Therefore, train yourself to always be mindful of, and alert to, opponents in the four and the eight directions." Budo
While these rules are attributed to O Sensei, the English translation is not. Kisshomaru Ueshiba is the author of the first two sources above. In Aikido, the Doshu does offer some further interpretation. "Budo is for countering any attack from any direction at any time. When you are merely ready for only one opponent, without being prepared for others, it will only be a common fight. A tight, on-guard posture with an immovable spirit is the basis of every exercise in Budo. People generally say, "that man behaves irreproachably," or "An excellent artist is completely on guard." Those who study Aikido should thus spend their daily life thoroughly on guard, even if they are not consciously watching every direction around them."
The three different sources may appear very different because of the translator and the times. The One that extends to the Infinite sounds maybe like a basic idea with infinite applicability. The Doshu referring to being "irreproachable" sounds like etiquette, social mores, and a desire to never give offense. Irreproachable is a word usually reserved for people of high morale character.
The three translations do agree on one point. We keep awareness of our surroundings. We are always aware of another attacker. Out of the six rules for practice, this one is definitely the most concrete.
Omote and Ura are about a relationship in the environment. I stand in left hamni and Uke attacks Shomenuchi. I respond with Ikkyo Omote. Uke now shields me to the right side, and I can move to my left. If I respond with Ikkyo Ura, Uke now shields my left side and I can move to the right.
I stand in left hamni and Uke attacks with katatedori. I respond with Shihonage Omote. Uke is turned, but falls in the direction he was originally traveling. Uke shields my left side and I can run to my right. If I respond with Shihonage Ura, Uke falls back the direction that he came from. Uke shields my right and I can run to my left.
It's a nice little mental exercise and a bit of variety, but the point really hits home when I think about where the exit is to the room, where is the weapons rack, where is the second attacker. If I have a wall to my right side, I cannot move to the right and I cannot move my Uke to the right for any significant distance but I can make Uke have a forceful impact to my right. The whole environment, including Uke, is my shield and my weapon.
I see this needing a different level of awareness, both of the environment and of the practice. What we really don't need are different techniques. The same basic movements let me travel in the environment, turn to face or move in other directions, throw Uke in whatever direction is useful.
When a student talking about practicing some more combat effective stuff, invariably I see them take an MMA or boxers pose and develop tunnel vision on one partner. Nothing wrong with these other arts, but if you've only trained in aikido your boxing will probably suck. From there, take a Kotegaeshi and finish with jujigatame. Drop to the ground from standing, losing many striking options and mobility, lay on your back and tie up both arms and both legs to pin uke's one arm.
Our usual pins leave us safer and more able to respond to someone else - they're just not as forgiving to apply. Pinning with one hand is not for style points so much as for making use of a tool or for manipulating an incoming attack. I'm not saying Judo's (and many other arts) Ne waza isn't great stuff, fun to practice, and high level. Martial arts like Baguazhang say they are for multiple attacker situations, and that defining feature changes how the art looks in practice - rarely going to the ground, always able to change position in the room, using one's relationship to uke and the environment tactically.
I love practicing all of this stuff, and it is important to know. But, as dojos are coming into competition with MMA and BJJ, we're letting other businesses define what combat even looks like. Then, we get asked to apologize, or we say we are less combat oriented than the local strip mall. Which trains for the Octagon - one on one, with a referee, no weapons, controlled environment and surface. The two skill sets are so different that they need not be mutually exclusive.
When I talked with a friend recently who has an Aikido dojo close to a large military base, he was clear about what the soldiers he taught told him: going to the ground in a war zone with sharp shrapnel, explosive devices, unpredictable terrain, knives, and guns is unthinkable to a soldier in Afganistan. I've heard the same thing from a contractor in Iraq. They want to be mobile, free to use weapons, free to disengage, free to take and provide cover, free to work as a unit. They don't approach one attacker as a one on one confrontation, even when they don't see a second attacker. Everyone is also a potential suicide bomber. I'm not military, but I spent time working in corrections. I wouldn't lay on my face to pin one person in that environment either.
I find it interesting that apparently modern soldiers don't argue much with tactical recommendations from military trainers like O Sensei and Tomiki sensei. (Aside from the part where "fighting" means helicopters and firearms). Saito Sensei had exercises for fighting a larger group, and Shirata Sensei had a series of exercises based on Shihonage against two swordsmen.
The questions now come from ourselves. I think I see many dojo break this guideline a little too much. We don't train a committed two on one attack. The best randori I ever saw was done by a basketball coach who played a great 2 on 1 game. It was rare to see.
On my Sandan test, the examiners ordered my attackers to come one at a time and avoid any collisions in a huge open mat with all yudansha attackers with great ukemi. Five attackers coming in quick succession is not as hard as two coming at the same time, particularly if the two are trained to work as a team. It's hollow to claim we're more useful in this regard than other martial arts when we've never actually trained this ability. This awareness of the environment and the ability to manipulate it to advantage is maybe the most self defense oriented skill of all.