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Home > Columns > "The Grindstone" > July, 2006 - Training to be Vulnerable

Training to be Vulnerable by "The Grindstone"


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This column was written by Tarik Ghbeish.


After class one night, I trained with an enthusiastic old judoka who now trains in our dojo. We practiced a form of randori, wherein we each tried to reverse one another's techniques (kaeshi-waza) without sabotaging them with muscular strength or by changing speed.

I could not seem to convey clearly to him the value of not relying on strength, pain, or speed to make his techniques work or to stop resisting my techniques with the same methods.

So I made what might perhaps be a foolish decision and allowed my ukemi to become passive instead of dangerous. I let him trash my wrists... simply to make my point. After nearly breaking one wrist with sankyo without being able to move my feet more than a few inches, I gave him my other wrist to practice yonkyo on.

I have come to believe that resistance in training is futile and cultivates something that I believe is contrary to good aikido, so I did not resist. It hurt, but I didn't respond to the pain, nor did I try to throw him. But I was NOT resisting his technique at all, no pushing back, nor even refusing to move when he tried to move me.

Instead I was so relaxed that he could move me around any way he wanted, but he wasn't connected to my center at all and seldom moved more than one of my feet.

Several times while he was trying to make the technique work I would casually reach out and touch his nose or tap his chin to point out how vulnerable he was. Had he connected to my center, I would have crumbled easily to the ground.

Finally after being convinced that he wasn't going to throw me with pain, power, or simply 'technique', he was finally open to finding out what I was actually trying to work on (I let him know to let me know when he was ready).

We worked on being relaxed as uke so that any energy input from an attack would simply move you or knock you over if you didn't step to recover. No pushing back, no added tension.

Then I showed him how to attack me gently with that same feeling... and when he did I would move my feet perhaps an inch or so... just enough to cause him to rise or drop depending on the direction I chose to move in. Not throwing, just breaking balance (kuzushi).

Later he said to me (and I paraphrase): "that was scary, because I felt really vulnerable being that connected to you... like you could read everything in my body, my intent, my ego, everything".

Yeah, my friend, that's the point. When I am that relaxed, I CAN read you and your intent, whether you are that relaxed or not, and THAT is what I am working on, not who succeeded in the technique.

Exciting stuff (to me).


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