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S Ellis
01-24-2010, 02:30 PM
Good day to you, folks. As a lurker, I have enjoyed many of the posts on this forum. It thrills me to no end to know that so many share the same enthusiasm for Aikido and training that I do. I have been training for about three years, and I am still suffering with since I began studying the art. To add a little background to myself, I am a large fella. Mid 30's about 6'3" and about 300lb. I played alot of sports when I was younger, and fortunately for me I never grew up and am now just a monsterous kid. At any rate, I am agile for a big guy, and I would be lying if I didn't say I was strong too. I have found both treasure and roadblocks because of my size. Having never studied any martial arts previous studying Aikido, I was awash in questions. The biggest one was always giving an honest attack.

In my own head, which has all kinds of nonsense spinning (I fear I often have no idea what I am talking about, when speaking to people who have worlds more experience) , I have concluded that an honest attack is just that....An honest attack. If the attack is a punch to the face, I am going to punch to the face. If the attack is a cross handed grab, I am going to grab cross handed. This moment is fine, it is after where it all goes downhill for me. After I have attacked and Nage has sucessfully dealt with the attack either by use of atemi or initially breaking my balance and beginning to direct my momentum (I guess sometimes they just get out of the way too, but that isn't so much a problem for me), I end up in this weird kind of limbo, and am never quite sure what to do next.

There are many different people who train in what seem at times to be very different styles of the same art. When I attend seminars, I run into three general types of people. People that are very soft and flowy. People that are as stiff and harsh. And people that seem to have you before you even attacked, and with these people I spend no time in limbo, because size has ceased to be a factor in their training. They never afford you slack to escape thier techniques, and when you take ukemi for them it is perfectly obvious where they are compelling you to go.

I am a big softy, myself. Not that banging around isn't fun, because it is. When I first started all I did was muscle, because that is what you did in every sport I ever played. You used your muscles. Sometime after that, I quit doing that. As uke it was easier to fall being loose. And every teacher I endeavor to copy is loose and relaxed. So, eventually I relaxed. Not that I have any idea what I am doing, but being relaxed certainly makes many of the techniques I attempt easier in my mind. Less friction and much more detail.

But here is the issue, many people do not train in a flowing relaxed style, and I have trained with several people who this works out very well for. I lack the vocabulary to put it into terms that mean what the should for martial arts, but when I say abrupt, terse, hard, and unyielding, I mean them in the best possible sense. The way that you would want them to work if you were nage.

When I train with smooth and flowy people, I can feel where they are directing me, and I try to feel out thier technique, probably being a little more compliant then I should be. When I train with people who are of a "harder" style, most of the time I am just figuring out how to protect myself. This in itself is obviously not a bad thing. The problem comes from the people who know their technique didn't work the way it was supposed to. More often then not, I still will take the fall because that is the way I was being directed. But on more than one occasion, I have been scolded for "just giving it" to a someone. I understand their frustrations, because I want my technique to work too, and if someone was just making it easy for me instead of challenging me I would be irritated as well. But I am a very big, very strong guy and in general I can give most people a hard time.

Which brings up the next issue. Atemi is very, very effective and is often Plan B when Technique A doesn't quite work out. I found this out very quickly. It is great for my training, but it is also a hinderance. When I do give somebody the "strong" attack that they are looking for, and I do actually managed to grab with enough force to interupt their technique, I spend the next moment trying to dodge what is invariably coming next. By this point the original technique is moot, and thank my lucky stars that I am not seeing any stars. In other words, I didn't learn anything about how to do the technique, I just learned how to dodge what may happen as a result of the technique not working.

I assume that this is just part of training, but I can't help but feel like I am missing something along the way. A friend of mine pointed out to me as a result of being so loose, I leave myself vulnerable to those who would crank down, and there is no doubt about the fact that he is right. On the other hand, I do not what to become so rigid I can't move and flow.

Is there a balance for all of this? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

JW
01-24-2010, 03:59 PM
Hi Scott, great post. It sounds really hard.

actually managed to grab with enough force to interupt their technique, I spend the next moment trying to dodge what is invariably coming next.

I think that's key-- if you are both being honest, then it sometimes would come down to that situation. I am not a big guy, but I remember feeling like certain levels/kinds of resistance were just tempting my nage to give me something I can't handle. So it is a good point that your ability to put a wrench in someone's works does not indicate your ability to receive... something similarly difficult. Your ukemi must have really improved as a result of being able to mess up people's throws!

Anyway I think you know how things should end up but are having trouble trying to get there:
And people that seem to have you before you even attacked, and with these people I spend no time in limbo, because size has ceased to be a factor in their training.

So you have already felt the ideal where your size or strength aren't such an issue. I think that's aikido, so if your nage is not doing it like this, then are you really the one causing the problem?

Anyway I haven't said anything really useful for you yet. 1: I think this has come up before, so better aikidoka than me have probably already weighed in (might take some playing with search strings), and 2: my personal advice, the "honesty" in the attack (and on the nage's part) are what you are going for, not the absolute magnitude of the forces involved, or the absolute speed, etc. So, if you pretend your maximum power output is say 50% of what it is and stick to that, you can simulate an uke that is not too much for a particular nage to handle-- the key is that your intent in your body is acting like you are going all out. Do you know what I mean? Like if you pretend you are pushing with all your might, but relax you muscles a bit on top of that, your body is still acting like a person shoving with all he's got, but the force is lower.

I think aikido operates with respect to that intent in your body, so the art should be able to be practiced well for both uke and nage in that situation. Thus you create a stepping stone on the way to the greatness that you described experiencing in seminars. What do you think?
--JW

donplummer
01-24-2010, 04:20 PM
As a fellow "Big Guy", at 6foot5 and 400lbs plus, I have a good idea what you are talking about. My best advice would be to concentrate on your Ukemi. Both in general and as it applies to specific techniques. This should help you get back that "flowy" feeling on a much more regular basis. I must admit I used to "stop" some peoples' techniques using my brute strength. That was until I realized one day that they were doing the "stopping" and were in essence being very kind to me by not finishing the technique and leaving me me with an injury. Ukemi, for me is the most enjoyable part of most techniques. It's not very often that someone our size gets to "fly" with a safe landing anticipated. Perhaps the highest compliment I have been payed in my 11 years of Aikido practice was when I overheard someone saying, "he falls very softly for a Big Guy".
Happy Training.

Carrie Campbell
01-24-2010, 04:21 PM
Michael Friedl sensei once told me that providing a lot of energy makes nage's job too easy. There's a balance. Try only to match nage's energy.

FWIW, I agree speed/timing may be a solution. For a strike, starting slow allows nage to slow down and learn correctly, and can speed up from there. It's also how many instructors like to illustrate techniques; if it's too fast, it's harder for people to see what's going on. For grabs, the more starting energy given, the more energetic the fall. So uke has to decide how fast they want to (or are able to) fall or have to react, safely.

Pauliina Lievonen
01-24-2010, 05:32 PM
Funny thing is, I'm not by a big guy, but I remember wondering about essentially the same thing, and I think around the same time in training too (about three years in).

Thing is there isn't a final answer to this question. As you already know, for an experienced nage your size shouldn't be a problem. If your size is a problem, then nage has work to do, and you shouldn't expect things to go in an ideal way. So yes sometimes nage might resort to atemi, and then your practice as uke might be to practice dodging atemi. Or you might decide that attacking any stronger is too risky and then nage just has to accept that he or she isn't getting a stronger attack for now.

There's always some kind of compromise involved in practice unless both of you are very experienced....no actually there's still some compromise even then, just maybe the edges get a bit sharper and the lines thinner. :D Keep looking for the edges.

kvaak
Pauliina

Abasan
01-24-2010, 07:22 PM
That's a good post Scott. It basically lists down all the frustrations of a good uke and an understanding of what nage goes through.

As nage I've probably had my fair share doing all the 3 things you describe, more so for the first 2 though. All in all, the fervent wish for nage is to practice at his own pace, until he can reach level 3.

The pace is decided by uke with the intensity (strength) and speed of the attack. Generally a fast and heavy strike might be harder to deal with initially. After nage has sorted out the form, timing, movement, positioning, awase of the technique at the very least, that's when he can work to get to level 3.

A good way to do it will be to do both the flowy and the hard way. In this fashion you can see the difference. If you're going against a strong guy, doing it the hard way may not be as effective as you wish. Neither is avoidance (aka soft and flowy for some).

Atemi is interesting though. Atemi is used not as a back up plan really. Atemi should be already part of the technique even though it is not applied physically. Using it physically is a question of choice in context of the contact made with uke. The rule is, if nage chooses to strike (as in back up atemi), uke can too. Think about it... uke strikes, nage tries something and err 'tries' to strike back, uke sees the strike and strikes again.

All in all, I believe you're already training well. You're being uke whilst thinking like a nage. That's where most of us learn aikido anyway, whilst being uke (for the right nage).

By the by, I thinking you're also hinting the frustration at this elusive definition of an honest attack. In aikido 'training', an 'honest' attack is for a start just a predetermined method of attack that is given at a predetermined line of striking. It does not require for uke to track nage down. The speed and strength is variable depending on need. The target to be hit is the place where nage stood initially (that means if he does nothing he gets hit).

Following the initial attack, uke is not required to attack again or change his attack or struggle with nage. Nage's training is to use the initial force and movement of your first strike. His job is to make good connection with you and achieve kuzushi before doing his technique. Either of those is missing, and that technique is bust. Later some variations will occur including having uke attack a second time or so. Even later, nage is expected to deal with undetermined attacks, but the same rules apply.

S Ellis
01-24-2010, 07:22 PM
Thank you all for the advice. I greatly appreciate you having taking the time to post.

JW, I have always had this issue with half speed my whole life. I can go slow and I can go fast, but I have no middle gear. Certainly a huge problem for me and one I have tried to work on. And no doubt that dodging atemi is good training, but I don't have a clue what I am doing most of the time, and am in no way prepared to recieve what many people have to give. I am simply out of my league.

Don, there is nothing more inspiring to me than a big man falling silently. My ukemi is slap heavy right now, but it saves my bum, which is about all I can ask for. And I agree "stopping" somebody doesn't teach me anything. Which is part of the problem I have. If me giving somebody a "strong attack" just results in a clash of energies, where is the harmony? I haven't learned anything, and more than likely am just frustrating somebody who probably has a lot to teach me.

Carrie, thank you for the advice. I try to match nage's speed. Sometimes those devils are to fast for me though:) I am beginning to understand that if you cannot do the technique slow, you are really just kind of lucky if it works fast, and training fast all of the time leaves no time to learn nuance.

Pauliina, I am a fool. The simplest solutions always elude me. When I am on the mat I don't do much thinking, and I generally will do what people tell me to do. Senior Student says, "get off the line," so I get off the line. Sensei says, "mind your posture", so I mind my posture. Training partner says, ""grab strong!", so I grab strong. It hadn't really occured to me to say "OK" and then grab without full force. Kind of comes back to that having no half speed. I only know one kind of strong, and that is summation of all the force I can muster.

Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my post. I greatly appreciate you wisdom and experience.

S Ellis
01-24-2010, 07:43 PM
Ahmad, thank you for taking the time to post

A good way to do it will be to do both the flowy and the hard way. In this fashion you can see the difference. If you're going against a strong guy, doing it the hard way may not be as effective as you wish. Neither is avoidance (aka soft and flowy for some).

My technique feels wretched when I try to force it. I am strong enough to break balance, but after that I am not sure I am doing Aikido any more. I become a human bumper car.

Atemi is interesting though. Atemi is used not as a back up plan really. Atemi should be already part of the technique even though it is not applied physically. Using it physically is a question of choice in context of the contact made with uke. The rule is, if nage chooses to strike (as in back up atemi), uke can too. Think about it... uke strikes, nage tries something and err 'tries' to strike back, uke sees the strike and strikes again.

Someday, I hope to be there, but I do not see the openings for atemi as other more experience practitioners of the art do yet. I am still in the stage of trying to figure out how they manipulated me to the place I am. I love when I am working with people who will show me reversals, but very few have sunk into my thick skull yet. Oh well, someday.

JW
01-24-2010, 07:52 PM
I forgot something. An honest attack means attacking as smart as you know how to. For me (and my sensei's story of O-sensei punching a stiff attacker that gave a nage some trouble backs this up) that means being loose and relaxed. Martially the relaxedness helps you. (Don't take it so far that it is dangerous for you of course-- be smart.)
So for that reason I lean away from the stiff end of the spectrum. No reason to be over on that end, since you can be very strong when you are relaxed and being smart.

So for me, the balance between strong and soft is more about how to be strong and effective WHILE being soft. In other words, as an attacker, it is not about how rigid you can make yourself, but how dangerous can you make your self by having a good relaxed connection to your target.
It's what I'm working on anyway. Happy training!
--JW

mclimbin
01-25-2010, 04:51 PM
As a fellow "big guy," I know how you feel. I'm 6'4" and 250 lbs., though I'm doing my best to reduce the weight some. A couple of points that might be relevant:

A former sensei reminded me that 50% of the time that we are doing aikido, we are doing ukemi. For me, that means that the "aikido part" does not only apply when I'm throwing someone. It should also be present when I'm uke. I see my goals as uke as (1) to create a situation where the nage can practice and learn the technique; and (2) an opportunity to do my own practice.

I try to be open and sensitive to nage, to let them have the full experience of executing the technique. They take my balance, they do the throw. I try not to just collapse to the mat without provocation, and I try to not resist too much so that nage is stymied. I try to go where they lead me, by being sensitive to their movement. I don't always succeed, but it's my goal. I think being flexible is more martially sound than being stiff or strong, or locking down someone.

Now, there is absolutely an exception to this: sometimes nage wants more resistance. In that case I give more, or even a lot, but only when requested.

By saying "more martially sound," I mean this: I think locking down a nage with strength is in general a little risky. As you have noticed, it doesn't affect someone who is experienced. Besides that, it is often the case that if you are strong in one direction, you will often be weak in another. Or, worse, the nage might actually be stronger than you, in which case you might get injured. If the nage is not so experienced, it can be frustrating and in some cases counter to learning.

So, as uke, what does locking someone down get you? Best case scenario, by using more strength you get tired--more tired than you need to be. Middle case, your nage gets frustrated. Worst case, you get injured. Of course, these are not the only possible outcomes, but I think using a lot of strength as uke is sub-optimal.

I think I disagree with your friend who said that by being loose, you open yourself up to being cranked on harder. If you combine flexibility with sensitivity, awareness and a healthy sense of self protection, I think you are in a more martially sound position than if you are bearing down on someone with all your strength.

This is how I understand it, of course, and I don't always succeed at all this, but it's one of the ways I practice aikido as uke.

Amir Krause
01-26-2010, 07:41 AM
It is very difficult to be a "good Uke", when you are tori, you can think only on the technique, when you are Uke, you have to think on your own reactions, your safety and the feedback you give to Tori. There is a reason in many Koryu Kata, the Ue part is done by the teacher.

Some pointers that may help you as a big person:
1. Our best learninig is done when we succeed ~75% of the time. Unless especially requested, try to aim to this target, give more resistence (many ways of doing that - faster, stronger, agile, stable, smart) if the successes indicate the exercise is too easy or less on the other case.
The same aplies to your own requests as Tori.

2. When practicing try not to use all your force, especiallly not gainst lighter/smaller people. You may fail more this way, but your aim is to learn technique against people that are larger then you.

Still, you should find someone you can use all your force against yet he will be able to at least take Ukemi, even if not fully resist you.

I may continue later.

Amir

brian p
01-26-2010, 07:53 AM
But on more than one occasion, I have been scolded for "just giving it" to a someone. I understand their frustrations, because I want my technique to work too, and if someone was just making it easy for me instead of challenging me I would be irritated as well. But I am a very big, very strong guy and in general I can give most people a hard time.

Speaking as a big guy myself..

If someone scolds you for "giving it to them" then you should make a personal assessment on whether your use of your own force was appropriate to the physical level and/or skill of your partner.
If you are not comfortable with giving them more then that is your right, and indeed, as the stronger person.. it is your responsibility to insure (with your own prudence) their safety. Your judgement is more important than their preference, provided you err on the side of caution and genuine care.

I don't do Aikido so I may not understand the finer points of Aikidoka dojo etiquette, but my position has always been that my wish to insure my training partner's safety always trumps their ego or motivation to escalate.

It is your right and responsibility to "preserve the hobbits" :D

That's what the good giants do on Middle-Earth.

S Ellis
01-26-2010, 10:06 AM
When practicing try not to use all your force, especiallly not gainst lighter/smaller people. You may fail more this way, but your aim is to learn technique against people that are larger then you. Amir

Thank you for the post, Amir. I never use all of my force on lighter or smaller people, unless they are experienced practitioners of the art and they specifically requested me to give a strong attack. As I was saying earlier, the kind that size has ceased to be a factor in thier training.

Many people have pointed out that just because someone asks for a "strong attack" it doesn't mean I have to oblige with everything I have. Makes perfect sense to me, but it is also a place where I struggle, because at that point it raises the question of honest attack. I figure, everyone wants to know if thier aikido works. I also figure, that whomever asked me to give a strong attack, wants to know if thier aikido works on the very large man who is standing across from them. At that point in my humble opinion, giving less than 100% isn't being honest to them. They wanted to know, and I want to oblige. I am not doing it to be malicious. Far from it. I wouldn't even have attacked strong unless they had asked me, or were obviously perfectly capable of handling it.

If the technique works for them, it is wonderful for both of us. I can feel where they are directing me, and there is no question about where they are compelling me to go. This is where I feel at home and I can learn. If it doesn't work, well they do something else, sometimes this is atemi which is very effective for them most of the time, and other times they just roll into another technique. And I guess in theory that is what I would do if I had the presence of mind to do so.

Actually, the more I read and think about this I can't help but think everything is probably fine. I just need to train harder, and think smarter, and anticipate the unanticipated. Initially, I was kind of bummed that I was missing out on learning how techniques work, but I guess I should instead be taking solace in learning how to protect myself should things go unexpectedly. Looking back at it now, I kind of feel silly writing this post to begin with. All training is good, and focusing simply on what I think I am trying to learn at a given time misses the big picture.

S Ellis
01-26-2010, 10:10 AM
my position has always been that my wish to insure my training partner's safety always trumps their ego.

It is your right and responsibility to "preserve the hobbits" :D

That's what the good giants do on Middle-Earth.

Thank you for the advice and the chuckle. I owe you a beer someday.

maynard
01-26-2010, 10:52 AM
Scott,

This has been a great thread. This question comes up again and again, and there are as many varied opinions as to what a good uke is as there are people in the world. I don't really have much to add to the already excellent posts, except that if someone asks you to crank down on them, then do your best to give them what they asked for. These days, I'd rather learn where the flaws in my technique are than have an uke fall down for me, playing on that edge and pushing it a little bit is the key to my personal growth.

In my opinion, one of the reasons this topic comes up from time to time is the fact that we tend to train almost exclusively in paired kata and if you know what the person is going to do next it's easy to get ahead of your partner (both as uke and nage). I tend to look at our paired kata training as the homework that helps us reshape our body and synapses to move in an aikido way, all the while, learning what happens to us and our partners as forces and energy are applied in different directions throughout the techniques. The challenge many of us face is that brain learning is so signicantly different from whole body learning that we struggle to describe our whole body learning process with words. <----See what I mean?

Keep training. If we knew it all already, aikido would be boring. See you on the mat soon, it's always fun to train with you.

John

S Ellis
01-26-2010, 02:54 PM
John,
Thank you for your reply.


If someone asks you to crank down on them, then do your best to give them what they asked for. These days, I'd rather learn where the flaws in my technique are than have an uke fall down for me, playing on that edge and pushing it a little bit is the key to my personal growth.

That is what I hoped I was supposed to be doing. Thank you for the vote of confidence.

I tend to look at our paired kata training as the homework that helps us reshape our body and synapses to move in an aikido way, all the while, learning what happens to us and our partners as forces and energy are applied in different directions throughout the techniques.

I think this is part of my principle problem as well. I am not yet skilled enough at this point to apply, or even see, the reversals for the techniques people are applying to me. Instead, because I know the basic kata, I can only throw a wrench into their technique because I am trying to beat them through center and strength to the place that I know that they are trying to take me. This isn't being a good uke (at least I don't think.) But I haven't figured out how to give a strong and honest attack, at least after the technique has commenced, without essentially doing what I described above. The moment of the attack is fine. It is my role as uke afterward that is the problem. I should add that I don't mean just trying to stop people from the start and playing immovable vice grips, but also when I feel gaps when they gave me my balance back, or, having been stretched, the moments when there is slack to turn it around. Should I be simply compliant (easy flowing uke) after the initial attack has been dealt with and the technique is in progress, or does giving a "strong attack" imply that you are going to resist during the times you feel there is an opening in the technique? I can't see the openings yet, but I know they are there. The only problem is my aikido is not yet strong enough to exploit them. I could maybe wrestle with them after I have stopped the person's technique that I not only initiated but also have advance knowledge of how the person does that technique. Not only is this unfair to Nage, but it isn't very harmonious on my part either. But I also don't want to be dishonest in the sense that I am simply riding along keeping a connection and offering just enough resistance to feel out where they are directing me, and falling into the space I think they are trying to place my body. This is generally the uke I aspire to be, but if a person were to specifically ask for a strong attack, to me this wouldn't be very honest on my part.

Thanks again for your post, John. I look forward to training with you again soon.

Amir Krause
01-27-2010, 04:09 AM
how to give a strong and honest attack, at least after the technique has commenced, .. . The moment of the attack is fine. It is my role as uke afterward that is the problem.


So far so good.


hen I feel gaps when they gave me my balance back, or, having been stretched, the moments when there is slack to turn it around.



These are examples of the "openings" people talk about - you are already becoming skilled enough to sense them ;) Unlike what you wrote.


* simply riding along keeping a connection and offering just enough resistance to feel out where they are directing me, and falling into the space I think they are trying to place my body.

* throw a wrench into their technique because I am trying to beat them through center and strength to the place that I know that they are trying to take me

* resist during the times you feel there is an opening in the technique

* wrestle with them after I have stopped the person's technique

* apply,..., the reversals for the techniques people are applying to me.


Sorry for taking some sentences out of context, but you are presenting multitude of options for Uke behavior, and the truth is that you are correct in all of them. That is the place of the education Uke does, you should adjust your behavior to Tori abilities, so he may learn, and do it within your abilities.

You could and in my opinion should try to "throw a wrench" into someones technique, if he succeeds too often (which means he has no challenge and will not get better). If Tori tries to continue on even though there was a large opening, you may wrestle with him for a moment, to let him feel there was an opening (no need to win the wrestle, he should realize that your ability to wrestle with him, means an opening, regardless of who wins after the wrestling).

Same with all other interruptions, so long as you are fair as you wrote:
...advance knowledge of how the person does that technique. Not only is this unfair to Nage, but it isn't very harmonious on my part either.

I would suggest, that prior to doing you should ask your Sensei for guidance on this. Different teachers have different views and educational approaches, your Sensei may disagree with me. If he agrees, he will have to put an eye on you to help you act honestly, in a fair manner.

Amir

Pauliina Lievonen
01-27-2010, 05:36 AM
But I also don't want to be dishonest in the sense that I am simply riding along keeping a connection and offering just enough resistance to feel out where they are directing me, and falling into the space I think they are trying to place my body. This is generally the uke I aspire to be, but if a person were to specifically ask for a strong attack, to me this wouldn't be very honest on my part.
In our dojo, if tori/nage is a kyu grade, this is what uke is supposed to do (give a clear initial attack and after that just keep the connection but not resist). Of course sometimes people may agree between themselves to try something different but this is the basic set up. The idea is that uke develops flexibility and sensitivity and tori has a chance to practice tha form while staying relaxed. Staring to resist technique at that level often results in tension on both parts.

What uke hopefully will develop over time is the ability to feel openings even though they aren't expected to take advantage of then yet at that point. Sometimes what we do is if uke feels their balance is given back, uke can just stand up straight and say so "hey, I'm back on my two feet here". The thing to be careful of is that it shouldn't take any extra effort to stand up again, otherwise you're struggling against tori's technique. Also I think taking compliant ukemi while mentally listing all the places where you are given your balance and control back is quite valuable practice.

After shodan things change... I'm a nidan now and basically people in the dojo have permission to give as strong and wily an attack as they like. I'm expected to be sensible enough to say so if things get too rough for me to handle. :)

kvaak
Pauliina

Shadowfax
01-27-2010, 07:42 AM
Some day soon, if not yet your strength will become a useful thing for your teachers and fellow student to train against. LOL You'll likely find yourself chosen for senseis uke when he wants to show the class how to move unmovable people. I kinda enjoy getting to play that role myself.

The thing is to learn how to adjust for the needs of the individual you are working with. For instance I had to lighten up and be very compliant for our brand new student last night because he just needs to feel the form right now. But I also worked with Sensei last night and with him, if I can stop his technique I am expected to do so. So for him I get to play heavy Uke and be as resistant as I am naturally inclined to be.

What you see as a problem now will soon be an advantage. You just have to lean how to make it useful. ;)

Don Williams
01-27-2010, 12:18 PM
Scott,

As long as your attack is appropriate to the situation and the amount of force used is a mutual, agreement, then the response will be as honest as the attack. When you attack, do you lose your balance with little help from Nage? Do you continue your motion as if to prepare for another attack or get into a safe position? This movement is part of your training as Uke also. An honest attack is one that has a goal and if you can not achieve that goal with that attack, you should be preparing for safety or the next attack. Only by doing this will you complete the circle of an honest attack. When some people attack, they try and lock you down, but there is no follow up attack, so that is just locking someone down but it has no meaning. Some people attack with no energy “wet noodle”, this too is meaning less. A true attack will track a person as it tries to accomplish its goal. For the purpose of training, there should be good constant energy that Nage can use to practice.

Think of your training and your relationship as Uke to varying types of Nage as a relationship between a Father and Son. If you were going to teach your son about martial arts, you would give him Honest attacks, but they would be more than he could handle because you wouldn’t want to hurt him (until he gets to be 17 years old and wants to try and beat you, then you need to nock him upside the head – but I digress). Likewise, if you were the son, you would try to give your father everything you got, just to see if he could deal with what you gave him. It’s all honest attacks, but it depends on the Nage’s (experience, height, weight etc….). The hardest type of training is when you have two people of equal ability and you as Uke have to be a very quick and receptive Uke. This is your balance.

Don

aikishihan
01-27-2010, 12:42 PM
Hitori geiko means training with oneself.

Try executing your movements, both as nage and uke, with yourself as the partner, and all other notions lose their hold on you.

Try this, with and without other partners, keeping your vision unclouded.

Looking forward to your results.

In Oneness

S Ellis
01-27-2010, 03:19 PM
Thank you all for your insight, and your advice. I greatly appreciate you having taken the time to post. I haven't succeded in solving this dillema myself yet, and I appreciate your wisdom on the subject.



Try executing your movements, both as nage and uke, with yourself as the partner, and all other notions lose their hold on you.

Try this, with and without other partners, keeping your vision unclouded.



A thousand thanks! I have much to think about. Again, thank you.

ruthmc
01-28-2010, 08:58 AM
Hi Scott,

I think you're absolutely right to work on your timing some more :) That's the one thing that most Aikido students really struggle with, and yes you do need a middle gear, and a slow-middle, and a fast-middle, and the ability to change speed (particularly as uke) mid-technique!

As for true and honest attacks, are you attacking from your centre? If you are then no problem, you are being honest :cool: It's just a case of sorting out your speed to be appropriate for the level of the tori you are working with...

You are on the right track, keep it up!

Ruth

Robert Cowham
02-09-2010, 05:02 AM
Seems like you understand the issues and are thinking about them in the right sort of way Scott.

All that remains is for you to keep working on them and to have patience - it will come (but only if you keep at it with intent).

The more experience we gain, the more we are able to adjust to the demands of the moment.

Equally we all continue to make mistakes, misjudgements etc. We hopefully learn from mistakes though we most of us have blind spots - they are just different ones ;)

Gambatte!

Michael Douglas
02-09-2010, 09:41 AM
Hi Scott, you've been given lots of advice which I'm sure is reasonable for everybody in their own way of practicing in their own dojos but I'm still unclear about how exactly you are expected to practice in YOUR dojo. This is surely crucial to the usefulness of any advice! Aikido is practiced with huge variance of intention, violence, sadism, acquiscence, performance and realism. It might help to tell us WHY you like to practice aikido.

You also mentioned Atemi and how you found it to be effective : I'm presuming you mean effective against you when you attack. Do they smack you in the mouth? How do you find it effective? You see stars : do they punch you in the head?

Lastly you keep mentioning (in between claiming to be inept) your inability to take a middle ground between floppy fish and all-out 100% attack/GRIP machine.
At risk of being booed may I suggest you're lazy? : do the work to find a middle way, apply enough to balance what they think they want from you.

edshockley
02-09-2010, 11:53 AM
Sorry to weigh in so late but at 6'8" tall and 235lbs I obviously have spent my aikido career grapping with the same issues. Lots of great advice. I would just add that my practice has been to first simply follow the lead to be sure that my partner understands the technique. This translates into placing my arm and body in a position of kuzushi for the first few throws even if the uke doesn't create it. I was taught that, especially working with yukusha, this posturing allows them to experience the technique and adjust their body and position. I attack strong but slow, maintaining pressure throughoyut the ukemi and increase the speed as my partner appears to gain facility. After a series of successful throws then I feel for a place to either reverse or escape but rather than doing so I borrow a tactic from Osawa Shihan and indicate that spot with increased pressure. (He paused at that moment then allowed me to continue. When he threw he emphasised the same moment. When I got the message then the moment of pause appeared later in the technique.) Finally, when/irf uke is comfortable then I simly attack and respond, confident that my partenr will not be overwhelmed. My goals always are to allow nage to practice in whatever way he chooses and to attack until escape becomes prudent then rise to attack again. I look forward to all of us big guys training together at a seminar or summer camp. There's a seven footer over at Yousef Meter Sensei's Syracuse dojo. It would be quite a site and great fun to perform shihonage without crazy sinking tactics.

S Ellis
02-10-2010, 10:30 AM
I'm still unclear about how exactly you are expected to practice in YOUR dojo. This is surely crucial to the usefulness of any advice! Aikido is practiced with huge variance of intention, violence, sadism, acquiscence, performance and realism.

With my instructors, ukemi is easier because they are very controlled and direct and I can feel where they are compelling me to go. There is no question about timing, space, or speed because they are excellent and are beyond what I can currently perceive. However, all other students in my dojo at present are kyu ranked from first to six. I am third kyu. Students who have not been training as long as I have (which is not very long in the grand scheme of things) are generally just trying to figure out the techniques, so I generally flow and go where they want trying to get the feel for where they are taking me. With those students who are preparing for shodan, I generally begin slowly and speed up after it is obvious they have the technique. As we speed up, sometimes it gets a little crazier. Sometimes the technique works and sometimes it doesn't. There is no doubt that my intention is to strike and if they do not move or deal with the attack, they will be struck. No malice, no violence, and no sadism. As far as performance and realism. This is the problem. I have a good friend who refers to my practice as ballet. Primarily because I think he likes to see the expression on peoples faces when he asks me, "Are you going to ballet practice tonight?" At any rate, I do feel like I am doing ballet some days. I am working very hard not so much that the dance looks right, but that it feels right. I have found that my exprerience being uke helps me feel out how I should be moving as nage. As nage I want to be as smooth as possible, so I spend as much time as possible being as smooth an uke as I can be. This isn't at all realistic, and most definitely borders on performance as I am not only giving an attack and my weight for nage to deal with, but actively moving to go where I think they are taking me instead of resisting like a normal person would if they did not know or understand the kata or the concept of ukemi. I protect myself because I know if I do not move, one of us is going to get hurt. I don't think the average person who knows nothing about aikido and would resist would understand that they are about to be in some pain until the technique is applied and it is too late for them to do anything about it. If they start flailing around like a fish they open themselves up to even more pain. As uke, I know where to go and how to position myself to avoid said pain. Is that realistic? Unless you have practiced the art or other arts, you have no idea what is coming or how to protect yourself from what is coming. I don't understand how to give that experience to people without leaving myself in a more vulnerable position then I already do. Not sure if anything I just wrote makes any sense, but I tried.

It might help to tell us WHY you like to practice aikido.

Because I am a fool that can't stand the gym, and likes to drink beer with people that I just got done striking, throwing, and pinning. I won't lie. I started because of the philosophy (or what I thought was the philosophy) and stayed for the art. Like everyone else here, it consumes me. The kind of fire your parents always wished you would have for something in your life. I can't imagine my life without it anymore.

You also mentioned Atemi and how you found it to be effective : I'm presuming you mean effective against you when you attack. Do they smack you in the mouth? How do you find it effective? You see stars : do they punch you in the head?

I have been hit in the mouth. Yes, it is effective. My blocking reaction is that much stronger as a result. I have been punched in the head. Every time it has happened it has been as a result of me moving the wrong way. Nobody is coming to knock my head off maliciously, but if I walk into their attack, I deserve to see the stars. This has happened more often then I would like to admit.

At risk of being booed may I suggest you're lazy? : do the work to find a middle way, apply enough to balance what they think they want from you.

Booooo! No just kidding. I am lazy. However, when you are moving a lot of weight, momentum does what momentum does. After reading all of the posts on this thread, I keep thinking that if there were a middle way, I would have found it at this point. I have been training lately with all of the advice of this thread in mind, and as others suggested I tried to find different speeds to work at. What I discovered is that I can initiate at any speed I choose, but how nage deals with the attack determines the speed at which I will be falling. It can start slow, but as my balance breaks I can only hold both my and nage's weight so long. When it does unravel, it happens pretty quickly. They adjust and so do I. When I am nage, the uke will determine the speed which I apply the technique. I have found that I have all kinds of gears. I was just looking at it the wrong way

At any rate, thank you for your post. Have a good day!

S Ellis
02-10-2010, 10:37 AM
I attack strong but slow, maintaining pressure throughoyut the ukemi and increase the speed as my partner appears to gain facility. After a series of successful throws then I feel for a place to either reverse or escape but rather than doing so I borrow a tactic from Osawa Shihan and indicate that spot with increased pressure. (He paused at that moment then allowed me to continue. When he threw he emphasised the same moment. When I got the message then the moment of pause appeared later in the technique.) Finally, when/irf uke is comfortable then I simly attack and respond, confident that my partenr will not be overwhelmed. My goals always are to allow nage to practice in whatever way he chooses and to attack until escape becomes prudent then rise to attack again.

Fantastic advice. Thank you, Ed. I hope to run into you at camp sometime.

Budd
02-10-2010, 11:29 AM
Hi Scott, just chiming in. I don't consider myself a big guy, but at 5'9" and 215, I'm pretty solid, with low center of gravity and along with the frame I have some grappler tendencies from my childhood through my early 20s. Two things I like about your line of inquiry is the way you're asking the question to get insight and then responding to each person. There's plenty of folks that already "know" the answer to the question they're asking and are really just looking for agreement. In addition, I get the feeling you are on a continuous process of "working it out" and I think that's a fantastic attitude to hold onto, no matter what avocation or art you're into.

Anyways, soapboxiness aside - my response would be to keep along with genuinely trying to "connect" to the other person, as it sounds like you're trying to do. An additional component is to train yourself to be responsive, not because you're forced to go somewhere, not because you're helpless (though you may feel like it), but that ukemi is your way of receiving the technique to facilitate their training and keep yourself safe, composed and ready/able to counter/respond instantly.

This is a tricky balance because it is absolutely tailored to who you're working with. Someone that's just figuring it out, you can help them by giving up your center more - forcing them to feel it through the connection you're imposing on them (think of it, uke is the receiver, one who "fits in", but they typically establish the connection through which nage "enters"), while still being composed and able to respond . . there's a lot of room for study, there. Someone that's more aggressive, you still enable their training, but you keep yourself safe and if they have a clue, they'll understand that you aren't a helpless dummy that they can have their way with.

But I think it comes from giving a clean "attack" by which you create the connection (starting from a dumb force that someone can work with - hence the somewhat rudimentary nature of basic aikido attacks), nage trains to enter it appropriately (ideally off-balancing you before contact is even made), you enable the training by continuing to "fit in appropriately" with the connection and nage finishes the engagement.

There's a lot of room for interesting study in this space . . but it's admittedly leaving aside some of the less "structured" components involving randori, testing in a more free form environment, working things out against other martial arts/practitioners (all additionally important areas of training in the combative developmental sense, but YMMV) . . and to be honest, within the aikido space and partner practice, I think the above considerations are among the most important, especially as related to how you're training your body to relax, generate soft power, etc.

Anyways, thanks for getting me thinking and spewing forth - good luck in your journey!

Michael Douglas
02-11-2010, 08:42 AM
Hi Scott, that was a long reply!
I did read it, thanks.

Maybe some things are worked out now ... it only remains to go train.

Don_Modesto
02-11-2010, 03:41 PM
Fantastic advice. Thank you, Ed. I hope to run into you at camp sometime.
Yes. Excellent post. Excellent UKEMI.

(Hi, Scott!)

DH
02-11-2010, 09:19 PM
At only 6' and 220 I'm not exactly large-but I have other things going for me that make me feel large. I think all aspects of large (frame and weight or both) are a great opportunity to help people.

1. Having a large frame (say 6' 3" or so) can pose a challenge for those doing rote waza. As the big guy, YOU are in a more experienced position-almost by default. After all, you have felt many people try things on you your whole career. It is more than likely that most others have not had the same percentage of experience with such a size difference or power differential as you. That presents an opportunity to help.
Leveraged based jujutsu is not the same on large levers V small. Aiki waza is not the same on large frame V small. Then you have other things many times outside aikido waza; kicks, punches and certain throws where entries have to be different on larger men.

2. Large in size but not frame presents a whole different set of problems, but with the same opportunities to share and help.

I think it its sad to see some guys "just" exploit their size over and over. Of course you need to be mindful of your own training, but at a certain point its worth spending at least some of the time helping others grow.

Hello Don and Bud (respectively, fine examples of frame vs size and the dilemmas they can present)
Cheers
Dan

S Ellis
02-12-2010, 02:49 PM
(Hi, Scott!)

Good day to you, sir. I look forward to seeing you on the mat soon. Hopefully, one of these Sunday's coming up in the near future. Thank you again for coming to our dojo and teaching recently. I have much to learn. Thanks again.

S Ellis
02-12-2010, 02:50 PM
I think it its sad to see some guys "just" exploit their size over and over. Of course you need to be mindful of your own training, but at a certain point its worth spending at least some of the time helping others grow.



Right on! Thank you, Dan.

felipe_3
02-15-2010, 02:27 PM
hola no entiendo muy bien lo que quieres decir pero yo tambičn soy grande bueno yo peso 200lb y mido 1,90 meters