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Home > Columns > "The Mirror" > January, 2006 - Standing Up for Kokyu Dosa

Standing Up for Kokyu Dosa by "The Mirror"

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Happy new year to all our readers, and many thanks for your feedback and support for almost two years!

Al, Janet, Katherine and Susan would like to introduce our new collaborator, Pauliina Lievonen. Pauliina has been an active part of the Aikido-L community for many years. She teaches the Alexander Technique, and recorder and traverso playing, in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She started aikido in 1999 and trains at the Jiki Shin Kan dojo under Piet Lagerwaard sensei, 5th dan. We look forward to her voice adding to this mix as 2006 proceeds.

This column was written by Janet Rosen.

I've had to do standing version of kokyu dosa for some years now. A key challenge posed by the standard version is how to move from the seated center. Standing, it seems like the challenge is how not to simply revert to "doing technique." In one dojo where I used to train, folks with knee injuries tended to do the moving version of ryokatetori kokyunage you see in multiple attacker randori. In other dojo, partners who have not worked with a standing version often just try to do tenchinage.

Now, kokyunage and tenchinage are certainly worthwhile practice! But I like to retain kokyu dosa as an exercise in centering and connection and breathing, and over the years have found three different ways to play with it from standing.

Number one is basic, the form I'll always start with. It starts static and mimics the kneeling form. I aim to be centered and low enough to displace uke up and then back as I exhale and extend from the core. I'm pleased if I we stay connected, breathing together, and uke's elbows come up while he rises from his center. I don't care if it results in a fall or not.

Number two is a dynamic version. I stand in hamni and invite uke to grab my extended wrists. As the grab comes in, I absorb it and then take it back out into uke. It took quite a long while of experimenting to figure out how to approach this. My initial model was the rowing exercise. At first I would simply go back and then forward. Not surprisingly, this course of action resulted in a direct clash with uke. Somehow I needed to "get off the line" without footwork. I began to play with the idea of a circle.

From a visualization/energy perspective, incoming energy flows onto my back hip. It continues in two paths, one across my sacrum and one down via my back foot into and across the ground. Thence it flows out from both the front hip and the front foot, connecting back to uke via my continually extended hands. From a physical perspective, the process is a circular rocking motion of the body that can be quite large or quite small.

Written out this way, it reads like a "how-to" procedure, but in practice of course there is no one-size-fits all solution to the puzzles posed by various partners and variables of time and space! So I offer it as a conceptual approach that has proved useful in starting to investigate the question of how one gets off the line and enters without footwork. As I find physical limitations accruing with time, this becomes an increasingly valuable line of experimentation.

The third way in which I do standing kokyu dosa can start from either a static or a dynamic situation, and involves two partners willing to surrender the idea of "nage/uke." We feel for openings and energy in a slow "push hands" version. To me this is true aiki, and I love the practice, but it takes the rare partner comfortable with just being there with a very intimate and patient connection. The greatest internal barrier I've been up against is learning to find and stay with my partner with my eyes open. For reasons unclear, if I'm receiving visual stimulus, it is difficult and sometimes impossible for my body to feel with the sensitivity needed to keep this going.

It's nice to know that whoever my partner is, there is a way for me to participate in this "simple" exercise, and no matter which form it takes, there is some puzzle to solve, something to learn, and greater depths of understanding to plumb about myself and this wonderful art.

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