View Full Version : Drills

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L. Camejo
01-03-2003, 07:40 AM
Hi all,

Wanted to get some feedback on a question that has come into my head since interacting with the folks on Aikiweb.

How many dojos engage in specific drills/exercises to inculcate different basics/principles of training to the varying grades in the dojo, and exactly what exercises are these?

For example, in Shodokan, we do specific drills and exercises that are designed to improve maai (tegatana awase), metsuke and reaction speed (sei chu sen, gassho uke etc.), kuzushi (nanahon/hachihon kuzushi etc.), timing and entry speed (hontai no tsukuri, uchikomi) and pushing power (shotei awase) among others like hiriki no yosei, ukemi practice etc.

Most of these are done at the beginning of every class, and have nothing to do with any particular technique or application. They are very important however, for training the basics of body/mind coordination as applied to dynamic aikido against a person who has free will to resist your techniques when necessary, and who may attack with anything at any distance. The exercises are also progressive, so higher grades should improve in all the above aspects as they increase in level.

I guess I start to wonder when I hear some Yudansha speaking about difficulties with certain applications of techniques and training scenarios, when a solid grounding in basics would address most of the problems.

In our dojo, drills are a major part of the class to not only teach the basics to beginners, but to make sure that the higher one increases in rank, the more proficient in the basics one becomes.

I know that many dojos include some of the categories I've covered above (Yoshinkan has a very similar system), but there are also in my humble opinion, a lot missing too.

Or course, I could be totally wrong as well. What drils do you do to enhance/improve your general Aikido practice?

Arigato Gozaimashita

01-03-2003, 09:59 AM
Seidokan uses an Aikitaiso which is a series of warm-up drills at the beginning of every class that are meant to teach basic body movement and are also used to highlight different aspects of the mental and spiritual sides of aikido. It is derived from the AiKiKai aiki taiso (funakogi, eight direction drill, ushiro exercises) but the exercises are changed so they reflect the style of movement which is characteristic of Seidokan rather than a more classic movement style.

In ASU we do a short aiki taiso occasionally, and there are some teachers who start every class with a bunch of irimi and tenkan movement.

I learned a lot from doing the aikitaiso every class for a few years, but I can't say that I really miss it too much. There's no question that a lot of people who have trained with extensive drilling wonder how it's possible to learn movement without that. There's also no question that a lot of people learn to move just fine without the drills. I guess for me the interesting thing is to notice how each style of training limits the students. Sometimes that seems even more interesting than noticing the advantages.

Stephen Quick
01-03-2003, 10:08 AM

I also prescribe to the philosophy that drills provide a strong foundation for beginners and serve to reinforce basic principles for experienced Aikidoka. The dojo that I teach at does not adhere to any specific style and therefore each of the instructors (3 currently) are free to offer up their own curriculum and styles.

While I use the drills that my first Sensei taught I enjoy making up my own. Not only do the students enjoy the variety but I have fun as well. Some examples of drills that I have experiemented with at Odyssey Fitness and Martial Sciences are:

Tennis balls - students form into teams for a relay race style drill. While holding the tennis ball, different types of ukemi are performed. The "hand off" is usually throwing the ball to the next in line. I vary the ukemi, the way the ball is held (i.e. under the chin to promote tucking the head during rolls), and when/how the return throw is performed (i.e. after a roll, before a roll, during a roll). Sometimes I have the ball passed back and forth between two lines while performing ukemi.

Nage Obstacle course - set up stations with designated attacks. A line of nage go through the stations repeatedly. The focus can be on any number of things depending on what is happening at each station (i.e. same attack, same ukemi, same body movement, etc.).

Ukemi Obstacle course - use props as barriers and obstacles around the mat requiring different types of ukemi.

Ukemi relay races - same as tennis ball drill but without the balls. Make it interesting by mixing up the ukemi (i.e. two forward standng rolls, one backward small roll, shiko for five steps, and another backward roll).

Striking drills - like Simon Says but with different strikes and or body movements. This is a good one for driving home the basic vocobulary as it relates to movement (i.e. shomenuchi, yokomenuchi, tenkan, tsuki, etc.).

I know this sounds like it should be the kid's class but it is the adults. They seem to love it and it is fun for the instructor as well.

Have fun, experiment, make it interesting.

01-03-2003, 11:35 AM
Hi Larry,

For us folks in the Yoshinkan, we have our basic kamae and kihon dosa which consist of 6 basic movements. The last two being a combination of the first four. They are Tai No Henko, Hiriki no Yosei and Shumatsu dosa. Each have an Irimi and a Kaiten. (Omote and Ura).

In addition, we have 150 basic techniques. All which incorporate the basic movements and as many have discussed, we do things repetitively. In the early stages of our training, techniques are broken down into steps so the student can see and develop the basic movements. As you go higher in rank, the steps go away and the technique becomes a very fluid motion.

From the 150 basic, there are a bazillion variations.

... Cheers ...

L. Camejo
01-04-2003, 09:07 AM
Good replies so far.

I love the ideas with the tennis balls and the obstacle course Stepehen. Sounds great for building coordination and SA during ukemi. Dying to try them when we start training next week :)

So far we have a lot of Irimi, Ushiro and Tenkan (kaiten) practice and eight direction drills, which are mainly solo drills.

Then we have the Yoshinkan drills which can be performed both solo and with a partner. All very effective in teaching the basics of technique and body movement to both beginner and advanced student alike. But without any sort of pressure testing so to speak?

I agree Opher, limits are interesting.

I have yet to see drills that aim to improve:

1. Keeping maai with a partner who is moving quickly, sharply and in any direction they wish.

2. Sensitivity (reaction time) to changes in posture and body movement (think of doing bokken kumitachi, ever wondered what would happen if uke decided to suddenly change distance on you by leaping forward, would you be able to react in time and keep effective bokken ma ai?)

3. Speed of reaction and effective basic response to basic attacks, including yokomen, gyakumen, tsuki and kicks. (I think the Yoshinkan has a basic exercise for this).

4. Metsuke - ability to respond with effective tai sabaki (avoidance) to attacks originating from any area of the body while keeping soft eye focus.

5. Kuzushi and timing - ways of breaking posture and/or balance of different quick and sharp attacks that are aimed to hit (not necessarily hard)in the event that you do not respond.

There are more, but I'll stop here.

I don't believe that drills are necessary to teach all of these things, some can be learnt in general practice. But I also believe that when practicing kata, we are focused on getting the technique right and not paying much attenion to what happens just before the techniques manifests, or what would happen if it were to change suddenly.

How do you respond if a newbie or a "difficult" uke were to attack in a non-prearranged fashion or decided to get creative and change attacks in mid flight.

What sort of auto response systems are drilled into you by your training for these events? Do we get caught flat footed or do we respond with body avoidance of some sort?

Arigato Gozaimashita


01-04-2003, 12:38 PM
But without any sort of pressure testing so to speak?

Please explain what you meant by this. Our shinsa is very extensive as well as we do plenty of jiyu-waza to put the kihon into practice.

... Peace ...

Paula Lydon
01-04-2003, 03:54 PM

~~I train in two dojos, one with pretty much no drills and the other with 20-30 minutes at the beginning of each 1 and 1/2 class. I tend to like drills of basic movements, principles and such so that I'm totally focused on that element and not having to deal just then with any presented techniques.

~~For me the basics are the core, the techniques secondary so I like regular practice on such things even if (at the non-drill dojo) I do them on my own or after class with a friend.

L. Camejo
01-04-2003, 07:17 PM

Please explain what you meant by this. Our shinsa is very extensive as well as we do plenty of jiyu-waza to put the kihon into practice.

... Peace ...
After rereading, that may not have come out right. I was in no way insinuating that Yoshinkan training lacks pressure testing or realism. In fact I respect it very much.

The phrase was meant to address the movements done in some of the other exercises where things are sometimes so geared toward grace and fluidity that any attacks or participation by uke (in 2 person exercises) tend to be very slow and telegraphed, tending not to really test those who may be able to handle quicker, sharper attacks or be able to do the same exercise with a resisting uke. For example, shumatsu dosa with an uke who resists all the way through, but with tori still able to demonstrate similar grace and fluidity, even under resistance.

But tell me, in jiyu waza, does uke attack constantly, one after the other (and i mean really attack, following you and everything) and resist techniques that does not work on him?

I've never heard of that dimension of training in many styles. In other words, does uke attack continuously and is tori forced to constantly adjust ma ai to deal with a constantly closing uke who will resist his technique if it does not work effectively?

Just wondering is all.

Thank you for your patience.


01-04-2003, 09:36 PM
Hi Larry,

No harm, no foul. I suspected that you had another idea - and a valid one at that.

In our training system, each #1 technique is a pull and #2 technique is a push. When doing kihon waza, there is some resistence but ultimately ukei will blend with the movement. For us, learning to blend with the movement is just as important as doing the movement itself. I was also taught the better you get at feeling and blending with the movement, the better sh'te technique will become. And I'm a big fan of that.

Now at my home dojo, there was no push or pull and sh'te pretty much had to create the movement. In most cases with atemi. We practiced a lot with resistence and worked counter techniques if the one we were doing didn't work. However, we were ultimately trying to do either the basic technique or a variation of it as smooth as we could.

The tough thing about ukei resisting in a pre-defined technique is he/she knows what you are doing and should be able to block it. So we would work variations as indicated above. As for jiyu-waza, the answer is yes, in most cases. When I take ukemi for Parker Shihan, my sole job is to hit him. I strike, I hit the mat, get up and go again. So yes, we typically strike, strike again, and keep striking until we are told to stop, with the intent to hitting sh'te. However like most things in life, each dojo has the ability to make variations to this. I fondly remember at my home dojo working with a rubber knife with colored chaulk on the end. Ukei(s) would keep stiking until contact was made. We'd know because the dogi would be marked. We would use various kokyu techniques. But this was my home dojo and not typical of other Yoshinkan schools.

Hope that helps answering my post. If not, you are more than welcome in dropping me a private note or post here.

... Peace ...

L. Camejo
01-05-2003, 12:39 PM
I am very impressed by your training methodology Steven.

Was always intrigued with Yoshinkan, one of the 3 great Aikido styles in my view :)

But does your training do a lot of kuzushi (balance break) training? I know there is a lot of atemi utilised and that has an unbalancing effect, but what about unbalancing using things like the arms, head and other parts of the body, in order to setup for technique?


01-05-2003, 02:08 PM
But does your training do a lot of kuzushi (balance break) training? I

There are many methods. Most common of course is ryote mochi, tenchi-nage. In 2000 and 2002, I attended seminars with our current dojocho, Chida Sensei, where we did various drills without atemi, that were balance breaking.

... Peace ...

01-06-2003, 12:13 AM
my sensei once drilled in a bar to do chinups from.........

Kevin Beyer
01-06-2003, 12:42 AM

At our little dojo we do many of the drills already mentioned but one of them stands out when you mentioned sensitivity.

Our sensei calls it sticky wrist. One partner is designated as leader and another as follower. With as soft as touch as possible but while keeping connection the leader moves their wrist around in many different ways siumulating techniques but never breaks connection and the follower does their best to stay as connected as possible. The trick is to never break connection even when the leader challenges where he leads you. It is very good for sensitivity to anothers body movement.

It gets even more fun when the follower closes their eyes.

-Kevin Beyer

L. Camejo
01-06-2003, 07:18 AM
Like that answer Damien :)

Kevin: That's an interesting exercise. Similar to something we do called Toshu Hikitategeiko, which is basically about relaxing and feeling the other person's technique and using body positioning (not muscle power) to negate their technique and do a counter.

The practice flows from technique to technique without ever breaking contact. Does wonders for mental tension. If you don't relax it doesn't go too well for you :)

Its designed to train one to react to body movement while creating counters and stringing combinations together, i.e. using one technique to flow into another or to set up for another etc.

Another sensitivity and maai exercise we do is tegatana awase which helps us to keep maai between two ppl with tegatana touching (light wrist contact). Similar to bokken awase.

It is sometimes done with one person's eyes closed to focus on feeling the connection and using that as your only point of reference. The idea is to maintain maai as you move back and forth together in any direction on the mat. However, maai must be maintained at the level of the body, as you cannot allow the arms to bend to compensate (this will also destroy the maai in any case), you must react by keeping weight low, body relaxed and receptive to the slightest change in your partner's movement (and I mean slightest).

In both practices there is no leader, so anyone can move however they want at any time and change direction at any time. This does wonders for fostering sensitivity and being receptive to body changes and how to adapt positioning and technique on the move, without predetermined roles as far as movement goes.

Anyone else with exercises like these?