View Full Version : Magic, Bullfighting, Front-loaders, and Aikido

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Linda Eskin
10-18-2012, 01:17 PM
I find I use a lot of images to help me visualize the form and energy of techniques.

I think of some techniques as being like bullfighting (which I despise, but that's another conversation). You give Uke the impression they are targeting you, until the very last moment, and then you aren't there. For example, fading straight into a strike and then rotating off the line of attack.

Other aspects of techniques are more like slight-of-hand magic tricks. You draw Uke's attention with an atemi to the face (for instance), while quietly taking their balance before they've really noticed what you are up to. Like handing someone their watch after chatting with them for minute. I think it was Ledyard Sensei (?) who mentioned (at a seminar) a dojo that brought in a professional, performing pickpocket to demonstrate that kind of distraction in action.

Another image that's helped me a lot is to think of my own movement/posture as being kind of like a front-loader on a tractor. I happen to have a tractor with a loader, so I'm pretty familiar with this. My tractor doesn't use its "arms" to move things, it uses its "body", through the extension of the arms. The "arms" always stay in front of center - they don't swing around, they just go up and down in front of center. If you want to move something, you don't shove with just the front-loader attachment, you connect to it with the loader, and move through that connection with the entire machine. I've mentioned this idea to a few training partners who were letting their extension collapse, and then trying to push with their hands, or letting things get off to the side, and it seemed to help them use their whole body through their extended arms, and keep everything in front of them.

Here's one that only works on people who've mucked out horse stalls: Jo parries are very much like the motion used in flinging manure into That Pile Over There. Most people have no idea what that's like, but I had one beginner totally get it on the first try after I suggested that image. Something related, that does work for many people is to suggest holding the jo like you'd hold a shovel when moving gravel - a good grip with your hands far apart, not both grasping near one end, which is where a lot of people seem to start out.

And finally, one I was just playing with in my own mind last night - how aircraft wings lift planes. It's not by air pushing up from underneath, it's from the lower pressure on top drawing the plane into that space. I like the idea of creating a low-pressure area for Uke to get sucked into. Dunno if I could communicate that adequately to most people, but a pilot would get it right away.

Anywho... I'd love to hear of any similar ways of visualizing or explaining aspects of Aikido. Anything that works for you, or you've used to explain or demonstrate concepts to students, or help them get the right feel for something.

Dave de Vos
10-18-2012, 02:39 PM
Sometimes I try to help myself by movement analogies like that. These are some that I currently find useful (4th kyu, so perhaps they are very common and trivial for others):

In kokyu dosa I might "pick up a bucket filled with beer, put it to my mouth and empy it". In kosa dori iriminage I might try to use my hand as a "lure" (like in greyhound racing). In ryotedori tenchinage I might try to "skate" behind uke.

I like your images. Thanks!

Diana Frese
10-18-2012, 05:46 PM
Thanks Linda and Dave, yes I have used a lot of similar images, since that is how I got a lot of concepts across teaching at our local Y. If I ever teach again, the airplane one is a new one, so thanks for that, too! The magic aspect was one of the things I loved about teaching.

Here's Daian, with another of her old memories .Decades ago, when we were trying to build up membership in our dojo New York Aikikai, we decided we should see if anyone who dropped in wanted to ask questions so we should say hello, etc. We also kidded that if someone came in the door, any of us could leave the mat without asking, in order to greet prospective members immediately!

Once I was waiting for second class, since I had arrived too late for the first, and I noticed a new person sitting next to me on the bench. Whatever got into my head to say the following, but now I know after reading Linda's explanation! I said to the spectator,"Don't worry, it's all done with mirrors"

Yes, when I watched it it did look like magic and I thought, gee, I'm learning to do all that too!

Your posts really made me smile. Thanks!

Linda Eskin
10-19-2012, 02:33 AM
Thanks, Diana and Dave, for jumping in with ideas and stories. Also, you two brought some more to mind:
- For kokyu-dosa, I've heard "open the book, show them the book." Also the image or a pie in the face, or holding an arrow that's going through Uke's head, and moving them with it.
- I love the greyhound lure idea! During one of Patrick Cassidy Sensei's visits to our dojo he was making a point about Uke's intent in grabbing, and held a $5 bill in his hand to make them think of really being determined to get Nage's hand, not just make a vague gesture of it.
- One of the morote-dori blends feels to me like the aerobatic manuver called an Emmelman (sp?), which is a climbing half-loop with a roll out on the top.
- Speaking of flying, for those folks who try to pull Uke by waving their arm sideways, instead of extending through the fingers and leading Uke, making airplane noises helps! "Fly" your hand around like a 5 year-old would, imitating an airplane. Nobody would do that by moving their hand side to side. :-)
- And yes, skating in tenshi-nage! I use that one.

I think I need to learn a simple magic trick - the slight-of-hand sort, to illustrate the principle. Something easy like pulling a quarter out of somebody's ear. :-)

Looking forward, hopefully, to more images, ideas, and anecdotes!

Diana Frese
10-22-2012, 08:13 PM
Well, we never got the TV box after they switched, or a new TV because we would never get anything done around here! And computer is dial up, so no video of debate, so now back to a thread I just love.

I'm sure more people have used imagery to show Aikido techniques, but in the meantime I will inflict some more of mine here. By the way, yes Linda, in spite of many beautiful things connected with bullfighting, like the music, the costumes, the movements, doing stuff like that to animals isn't anything I want to think about having worried about my own animals' injuries and illnesses over many years. I'm not even a vegetarian but there are things I draw the line at.

But yes, the concept of the focus of the bull, the matador's cape, the turns is one of the first things that Aikido reminded me of. And without trying to start another "no touch throws" debate (one of my favorite teachers was Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei) I called one of the techniques we learned in New York, possibly when Koichi Tohei Sensei was visiting there -- the technique where a hand appears before uke's face , the face stops and the feet run out from under him or her -- Instant Banana Peel.
New York Aikikai was a serious dojo with a large sense of humor being possessed by many of its members. Okay Daian blame it on everybody else!

Yes, I did see currency waved around. Terry Dobson Sensei of Bond Street Dojo used that method of getting uke to "really WANT to grab nage's hand." Saotome Sensei had a baby doll which he held while turning this way and that teaching people how to protect their center. In my own classes, I realized none of us at our little YMCA class at the time had ever had a kid, so I renamed it "groceries" My assistants, two young men in their twenties, really identified with that concept! One of them was not exactly my assistant, he was my assistant's assistant, he was a rugby player and presumably needed those groceries to fuel his favorite sport!

Well, as Fire Marshall Bob said on Saturday Night Live in a skit I only saw a second or two of ....."Somebody Stop Me"..... Hopefully others will add their examples before I tell the rest of mine. I can't believe there are only three of us on Aiki Web who teach this way!

10-23-2012, 12:50 PM
I use the example of the trick of rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. Most people learn this trick when they're kids (some don't; that's useful too), and most remember how they failed at it initially, and watched other kids fail, unable to do two different things in two different planes with two different body parts. I tell people that aikido is full of techniques where different body parts are doing different things like this, and that it initially feels just as impossible as rubbing your stomach and patting your head, but you keep trying, and then something falls into place.

Rupert Atkinson
10-24-2012, 03:49 PM
I have no problem with bullfighting. We kill thousands of thousands of cows everyday for food and you give one the chance to get back at man, and sometimes it succeeds, and gores or kills that man. To me, I'm betting the herd would enjoy that spectacle ...

lars beyer
10-26-2012, 01:03 PM
Context is king, .. or is it "content is king" like they say in the media industry ?

A bull killed on tv in front of billions is different than a bull killed in front of a crowd absorbed in their own
cultural tradition and living it, isnīt it ?
(Nomatter how many chickens, cows, pigs, pigeons and tomatoes they eat the end result is exactly the same- a dead beast ! (or in some peoples view a dead co- inhabitor of this planet, but thats another story.. )

Mediocrecy and poor understanding of habits and cultural display is at risk of being absorbed
by non- specific cultural ignorance.
Stupidity is more and more ruling this planet- even in the front line news.


Linda Eskin
10-26-2012, 01:24 PM
Thank you to everyone who has contibuted ideas and inspriration for training. :-)

I was (and still am) hoping we would not go into the merits of bullfighting. It wasn't intended to be a subject of discussion in this thread, and isn't relevant to Aikido. Thank you for not continuing to post along those lines.

Back to the topic... I found another post, started my Janet Rosen, related to the subject of this thread : http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19444 More good ideas there.

lars beyer
10-26-2012, 01:34 PM
Bullfighting is bullfighting.

Diana Frese
10-26-2012, 02:23 PM
Oh no, I was so trying not to use animal images that are painful to think about. So please don't think.about the following literally:

I was trying to remember the ways to teach moving uke or anything else without using strength. Pin the Tail on the Donkey, the children's game. Just the concept of the game, not taking it literally. After all, it's only a painted or silk screened picture on a sheet that in the old days (my childhood, cough, cough) was tacked on the wall at birthday parties. The kids were blindfolded and couldn't see the donkey while they were trying to aim. Reminds me of Terry Dobson's classes where once in a while he would turn off the lights to see if we could avoid strikes.

I think the point I used to try to make was to not think of uke as something heavy we have to drag around, but that all we have to do is point ("Ki students can think, "just extend ki") and have the pointing hand feel connected to the rest of the body as in the excellent front loader example.

Oh, yes, in the children's game some adult took the child by the shoulders and turned him or her around a bit, so many times they didn't know where the wall with the picture was. Fortunately the others were not blindfolded so they could get out of the way of the kid with the pointy thing attached to the fake donkey tail.

All this because Linda started me thinking about the front loaders and their engines and that it isn't "arm strength"

Great example, Linda, if my hubbie brings his construction friends over and they want to try Aikido...

Next example, "sheetrock" but first I will try to give someone else a chance.

Tom Verhoeven
10-28-2012, 03:44 PM
This is a nice thread (except for the pointless bullfight drift), with really good examples!
The front-loader is a great image. I used the image of a wheelbarrow. When that did not seem to work I changed it into the image of what is here in France called a "chariot"; the cart that is used for shopping in a supermarket. That worked so well that I would suggest people to go to the supermarket and practice with a "chariot", either alone or with a partner.

Thank you for starting this thread - hope we will see lots of other examples.


12-13-2012, 01:07 PM
I've done coin magic semi pro and am fortunate to know one of the finest coin magicians in the world, Ponta the Smith. Not known outside the magic community, he is a new 'Underground' magician, appearing out of nowhere from his DVD "SICK" released in 2008. I am his student and he taught he much about magic in 2 years and I've known him 3. He tours the world and gets invited all over the world to lecture about coin magic and gets free flights/meals, etc. A real pro. I worked for his company, French drop, in Osaka Japan on a DVD on one of his friends/partners in his magic shop (He is the manager of the shop) named Mott-sun, doing the voice dubbing and english naturalness/correction/ from Japanese. I also taught myself 1 to 2 years of japanese, reading, writing, speaking, before I started this project that took 8 months out of interest of Japanese culture.

If you watch old videos by O-Sensei, you will see how smooth and flowing he is. He uses something quite amazing, and even though I've only been doing Aikido now for 8 months, and am almost to test for yellow (I'm white) I think he was using his hips in like a funekogi movement to throw the opponet. It looked unreal, like magic. His movements looked unreal, but they were very real obviously.
So real , and it looked so unreal to people unfamiliar with Aikido, so flawless was his master, most of the comments people said who were unfamiliar with aikido said it was all fake, he was fake, the techniques were not real, it was edited, etc.

If you look at any videos by Ponta the Smith, there are countless comments saying his videos are edited. They are not. They are pure sleight of hand. The fact of his flawless timing, perfection of the basics and advanced, and flowing movements make his magic look like REAL magic. Like a river, smooth and flowing. He also loves Aikido and told me about Shino Godo (sp?) one of the founders of Yoshikan I think Aikido.

Check it out:

And one many said it was edited:

Osensei old footage, compare!:

12-13-2012, 04:33 PM
And one many said it was edited:
At :12 I thought I saw a glimmer between the middle and ring fingers before he makes the drop into the left hand. Do I win a prize!?:D I may have been seeing what I wanted to, though. Good stuff!

Krystal Locke
12-14-2012, 08:58 AM
Funny, my sensei is a close-up magician. Pretty good at it. Maybe a link between aikido and stage magic?

Walter Martindale
12-15-2012, 05:58 AM
Once I was waiting for second class, since I had arrived too late for the first, and I noticed a new person sitting next to me on the bench. Whatever got into my head to say the following, but now I know after reading Linda's explanation! I said to the spectator,"Don't worry, it's all done with mirrors"

I used to work in the same building as my first dojo. Finished work, went to watch the last half of a class on the way out the door. Elderly gentleman sitting on the bench, watching. I asked a few questions, including if he'd seen Aikido before (I wasn't gokyu yet.)...

He said he'd seen a little.
Next day's class, I turn up and there he is at the head of the dojo in a hakama et al., Guest Instructor...
He'd seen a little - only about 32 years worth...

Krystal Locke
12-15-2012, 09:34 AM
Is that situation just part of aikido? Seems like everyone has a story like that from one side or the other. Someone very graciously taught my sensei how to tie his new white belt right before my sensei went to bow the seminar he was teaching in. He had left his belt in his office before leaving town and just grabbed the first one he found at the host dojo.

I told a new stagehand "righty tighty, lefty loosey" because he was struggling with a bolt. He told me he had just come from the Air Force, where he was a fighter jet mechanic.

Never assume.

Walter Martindale
12-15-2012, 11:39 AM
fortunately I don't recall trying to teach or demo anything for him........