View Full Version : "Readability" in Aikido: Some lessons training with Kids

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11-11-2008, 11:58 AM
Reading another thread, I got to thinking about the ability to read a situation, whether it be the physical orientation of your partner/opponant, or the context it is in.
How do you best learn to read a situation, and by extention, the other people you have to deal with who are in them?
How do you train to read an attack by your partner (i.e. training for spontaneity)?
What are some of the physical signs you look for? Are there specific cues you key in on?
Can anyone briefly describe or point to any behavioral psych. info on the physiology behind aggression (i.e. that which is observable to the naked eye)?
Whatever your ability at reading people and situations, what do you attribute to that ability (training and/or otherwise)?

In Aikido I think perhaps the most pertinent concept here is zanshin. In a nutshell, I think the idea is to strive toward omniscience (while of course never even coming remotely close to it). You become aware of every movement around you, and if need be, act accordingly. "Softening" the gaze/awareness and seeing the whole body of aite or tori works along the same lines. You take in a greater scan of whatever it is people are moving in your direction and "tune in" accordingly. I've trained with folks who didn't always attack "on tempo," for example. Some folks will sneak up to the boundary of safe ma'ai and then spring into action, whether it's a suppression like katatetori, or a strike or whatever. This is even more true of kids...the ones I taught, at least. They loved to count coup (not a bad exercise to mix into things: it's just tag, really, but with taking ukemi). Unless it's been trained out of them, kids will often try the sneak attack. My training with the zanshin concept, as I understand it, instilled a continuous awareness of where every kid in the dojo was, and what they were doing at all times. Sometimes you could see it coming from across the mat, sometimes from a few feet away, but what was always particularly fun was moving just out of reach of one of those sneak attacks while pretending not to notice (evasion and leading skills?).
I've always been told in my Aikido training to be aware of as much as possible. Teaching kids provided at least one exercise in how to track multiple "targets" and respond to one, sometimes multiple sneak attackers. Now, kids aren't exactly the subtlest of creatures, I'll grant you, but they did at least give me a rudimentary sense of the randomness of chaos (I think the parents will generally agree with me here) and what it's like to work it into your timing.