View Full Version : To block or not to block
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07-14-2004, 11:03 PM
This is a question on Shomenuchi Iriminage.
If one looks at Total Aikido (Shioda Sensei) for Shomenuchi Iriminage II, nage blocks the strike before entering. Also, in Doshu’s book on Basic Techniques, Doshu Sensei does what appears to be a side block to uke’s elbow as he enters… However, in my dojo, many senseis enter without blocking uke’s striking arm.
I tried the ‘non-blocking’ (direct entry) approach, but it seems to fail when uke is moving fast towards nage and raising his arm to strike. What I enter and try to cut uke’s arm, uke’s forward momentum is so strong that we both stumble forward together.
However, when I try to block uke, it automatically forces uke to stop moving forward. This makes the movement much easier. However, the overall movement is not as smooth as the non-blocking approach.
I would be grateful for other people’s thoughts on the matter :)
07-14-2004, 11:16 PM
I think it your response (or initiation as some might say) movement should be done with intent on reaching uke's face. Its not entirely a block. You let his strike slide under yours a little, as your hand goes toward his face.
It's not about STOPPING him (and not about hitting him in the face) but breaking the intent of attack (feel as if youre the one attacking, not him! he should feel your intent, not vice versa !) and give you time to step in.
However your "block" should also introduce some pressure on his arm.
You "ride around his resistance" as you move to his side and let him through... the passive/active nuances vary depending on the size of the opponent and the strength of attack.
...or, I could be entirely wrong.
07-14-2004, 11:24 PM
Depends; if you are a beginner and just learning, block with a solid stance (steady stance is important at this stage of learning), then proceed to do the technique as shown in the training manual. If you are already an advance student, block or not is irrelevant, irimi, raise arm to uke's face, cut down arm, move 45 degrees like in your shumasu dosa ichi movement (yoshinkan terminology). The important thing is feeling, and mentality, it should feel like a smooth follow through. The feeling of the nage is like floating your uke, while throwing.
If your uke who is much bigger and giving you hard time, what i have done sucessfully was to jump up and using my bodyweight, slam the uke straight down without any backward projection. he he he, but you will get an unhappy uke in return.
07-14-2004, 11:53 PM
Aleksey, your response about reaching uke's face is very interesting. I never thought about it that way. I completely agree that one should try to break the intent of attack and ride around his resistance. However, I think I read somewhere else that the initial movement in irimi nage was based on striking your opponent's neck with a side chop as he moves to attack you. I have noticed that some people tend to bend the arm that's closest to uke as they move forward, as if they also intend to do a side chop on uke's neck. I could be wrong on this of course :)
Boon, I might try your technique of jumping and slamming uke down... we have some big-sized people here too :D
07-15-2004, 12:09 AM
Then you will get an unhappy uke in return. he he he
07-15-2004, 02:17 AM
My arm goes up at the same time as uke to protect me, not to block uke's strike, I am entering at the same time that my arm goes up. Depending on the attack depends on whether I make any contact with uke's arm as it comes down, if there is contact, it's not a block, I deflect uke's strike so that it changes his direction slightly, but I don't block. Either way my arm comes down with uke's to the point where I start turning and take uke's arm with me, if I'm turning, I'm not falling.
It's all a matter of timing really.
07-15-2004, 02:29 AM
Personally, I'm for blocking.
As you progress, the block gets less intrusive in jiyu waza to the point where it doesn't really interrupt the flow.
But if you take it away completely & start trying for magic catches etc, you can find yourself with the odd painful reminder of why you need some sort of block in the first place...
07-15-2004, 04:39 AM
My Sensei says it's not a block; you raise you arm and seek the minimum contact and position ideally necessary to have uke's "chop" slide along the external side of your raised arm harmlessy instead of cutting through and hitting your face.
This becomes crystal clear IMHO if you do/think the thing with bokken, both uke and tori, or (harder) only uke....
You won't block a cutting bokken (or worst, a sword) with your arm, do you ;) ? And you won't block it with a bokken either, better have the attacker "sliding away" along your diagonally raised bokken and simply counterattack with a direct clean strike after uke's attack fails and breaks his posture due to the sliding.... a block permits him to mantain control.
Barehanded vs. bokken, you will enter directly, the "contact" is only of mental nature to find the correct timing.
I think with or without bokken is only a matter of forms, the principle is the same and perfectly logical.... a block violates the logic of aikido and kenjustsu IMHO, and is practiced only for didactical reasons for beginners.
Not even considering the fact that you may not want to block the strike of a 2 meters, 115 kg of muscles drunken brute... your arm will suffer severe damage, if even able to block altogheter.
The more i think about it, the more the block seems illogical to me from an aikido view :D
07-15-2004, 06:06 AM
Stuart, you are right about the 'magic catch'. For me personally, it's all right to just enter when uke is moving quite slowly. But if he is rushing towards you... things become tricky... one ends up going behind uke and then struggling with his forward momentum. I guess I'm not skilled enough to control a fast-moving uke without slowing him down... perhaps a forward kokyu nage type throw would be easier :rolleyes:
Dario, you are right that blocking doesn't seem to capture the spirit of blending with uke... However, if one looks at Terada Sensei's book (Terada Sensei is supposed to be the highest ranking shihan in the Yoshinkai), tori first stops the shomenuchi... this is not a typical wrist-to-wrist block as in shomeunchi ikkyo omote, but a subtle block (almost only using the fingers) on uke's wrist and elbow. Appreciate your comments though. :)
07-15-2004, 07:52 AM
I think there's been some good answers already, but here's a few addtions,
1) the word for 'block' used in the yoshinkan is yoke...from yokeru, to evade or avoid.
2) basic technique is indeed more of a block. One way of performing 'blocks' on ni techniques is to take uke's balance with the upward movement...
3) as you progress, better to think **parry**, rather than block
4) Since you are talking about a block and not a strike, can I assume you mean shomenuchi, iriminage ni? I believe on the ichi version, shite is often striking first...I'll have to check the book to see what version Shioda Sensei is doing, since I can't remember off hand. Perhaps Steven Miranda can clarify...
One last note, the yoshinkan does have a different methodology for teaching basics, so folks from other schools may have very valid suggestions, though the details might vary quite a bit. Some styles shy away from the word block completely...others think it is something that should be in the basic curriculum. Both are good, as far as I'm concerned...
07-15-2004, 07:58 AM
Some styles shy away from the word block completely... you're dead right - we just have various forms of dynamic blending :D (block, that's a karate word isn't it?...)
07-15-2004, 08:00 AM
you're dead right - we just have various forms of dynamic blending (block, that's a karate word isn't it?...)
Yeah, just like 'osu'...
07-15-2004, 09:19 AM
Main problem is not block/not block issue, but how to avoid beeing hitting on the face with attacker's elbow.
All techniques must be approached as attacker is bigger and stronger then tori. In the beginning your timing is bad, so you are always late in timing.
As you progress, attacker will deliver more difficult attack, you will start to pactice multiple attaks, so anyway you will be very often in late timing. That's why basic thing is to control attacking elbow. It can't be done, as "parry" sorry Ron. It is far not enough.
In my opinion, in the moment of the contact, you must physically change direction of attack, using strong leverage on elbow. This way you can control his center via shoulders. You must be able to do it in very late timing. So you can feel all mechanics and learn how to do it for real.
Don't forget, your entering irimi must turn his hips, otherwise he will be free to do a counter at his will. It is not easy done with someone who is strong, heavy and has some experience in MA.
So first contact must turn his hips, change direction of his attack, put him out of balance, avoid a counter and set him up to iriminage. I have hard time to imagine how to do it without strong control of attacking elbow.
Just forget all this non blocking fantasy.
07-15-2004, 09:37 AM
You are right, I am referring to shomenuchi shomen iriminage ni. Shioda Sensei's book (in English) says : "... as uke makes a front strike raise your right arm and BLOCK".
Terada Sensei's book says (in Japanese): "receive partner's tegatana with both hands".
Thanks for your comments :p
'Blocking' someone with any idea about martial arts is pretty stupid. The hand can direct, guide or contact the incoming arm, but a forceful block is just asking for a follow through with the elbow or shoulder or a counter technique.
Generally you move in vigorously with a feeling of over-coming the uke and making contact as soon as possible (preferably before the down swing). If uke is intimidated by this you can follow his retreating movement and do something like irimi ikkyo. However often the strike is too fast or strong so you open the gap as they strike down. They should feel like they are going to hit you and make contact with a big block, but the block isn't there; as they cut down you allow them to, whilst moving to the side. Aikido is blending! It's all about getting that connection with uke, allowing uke to do what he wants, but keeping you posture correct and protecting yourself.
Cutting down hard may be unbalancing for you because really it should just tip uke (and you shoudl remain straight). Don't substitute force for timing!
07-15-2004, 10:19 AM
IMHO, the words we use to think of a movement has a direct effect how how we do them. Blocking implies force and stopping of momentum. Think of the same movement as connecting, blending, and redirecting. See if that helps you perfrom it better.
07-15-2004, 12:29 PM
Actually, I strongly agree with Szsepan's post. right on the money from that perspective.
In terms of strong *basic* technique, parry doesn't apply so much. In more advanced technique however, it comes more and more into play.
07-15-2004, 12:33 PM
'Blocking' someone with any idea about martial arts is pretty stupid.
We're talking about basic yoshinkan training technique here, not what is best to use in some imaginary encounter...please reread the posts carefully, perhaps take a look at the book in question...you may actually learn something.
07-15-2004, 02:37 PM
Aside from prescribed Yoshinkan versions of Shomenuchi Irimi Nage (kihon), there is still the issue of how this all relates to the concepts of blocking, entering, and addressing one’s balance therein. After all, the Aikikai Doshu, and one of his latest publications, was brought up at the commencement of this discussion. Speaking more generally here then, perhaps one might find it useful to go back to basic yin/yang philosophy in order to determine what may or may not be awry. Yin/Yang science runs throughout the bedrock of Aikido theory and practice.
No doubt, there are martially successful ways of parrying, of blocking, and/or of manipulating a given Angle of Attack with a given Angle of Deflection, but the tactic of “aiki” warrants that certain features be present while other features are absent. Again – this is not to say that the employment of aiki is the only way to address these issues raised by Soon-Kian Phang. It is not. So other options already posted, different from the one I am suggesting here, are of course martially viable.
But if one is indeed wishing to employ the tactic of aiki within this technique then it is important, I believe, to note that we should not match yang moves with yang moves. This is a loss of harmony and thus of connection and blending. Physiologically speaking, this is manifested in the clashing of one’s arm with nage’s strike, and/or the losing of one’s balance at the moment maai is closed to a range of close-quarter engagement, etc. Irimi is a yang move. In order to enter there must be an opening. This opening occurs when nage’s hand is going up (to the top of his/her head). (Note: The near side of the body is not an opening when the arm is coming down.) The opening (trans. suki) brought about by uke’s hand going up to the top of their head is the yin move. We should seek to match yang to yin. We should enter when uke’s arm is going up – NOT DOWN. If we make contact with the arm going up there is nothing to block, parry, dodge, etc.
We apply this same exact tactic in Shomenuchi Ikkyo (omote) – for example. However, as in Shomenuchi Ikkyo more and more folks are catching/blocking uke’s strike on the way down, more and more folks are doing the same thing in Shomenuchi Irimi Nage. Therefore I do not think we should be surprised to see this as a widespread tactical application – regardless if it is a violation of aiki or not, and regardless of the rank of the practitioner applying such a violation. In “Best Aikido,” it is not clear when the author is making contact with the strike. This is due to the still nature of the photographs. However, if you watch the videos Hombu (Aikikai) made a while back you will clearly see that he is matching yang to yang – entering when the strike is on the way down and not the way up. (See Tape 4)
It is when we catch/parry/block/etc. the strike on the way down that the issues that Soon-Kian Phang raised are relevant. If you enter when the strike is going up, the raising of one’s own hand/arms with the raising of uke’s strike is a blending of motion. As uke’s strike starts to descend, with nage already having blended with it, and with nage already being behind it, nage adds his/her own downward motion – only it takes place within the spiral of the prescribed kuzushi. In this way, one harmonizes the downward motion of uke’s strike with the downward motion of own spiraling Angle of Disturbance (trans. kuzushi). In this way, since one is at the center of the spiral, nage becomes the core energy. In this way, one will blend and harmonize but remain 100% dominant. In this way uke’s intent as well as his/her energy, not just his/her arm, lends itself to the kuzushi and thus to the throw. One will not be thrown off balance and/or clash or risk the downside of entering to the near side of uke when his/her strike is coming down.
As for the other issue of having uke go flying by nage, etc., this too is addressed by entering during the yin phase of uke’s movement. Nage’s kuzushi should commence no later than the first moment that uke has engaged his/her weight on his/her own front foot. The best timing has nage doing commencing shikaku right at that moment. This allows uke’s front foot to act as a “post,” around which nage can generate various Angles of Cancellations on uke’s other weapons. If one waits for the yang phase of uke’s strike to enter, the only way that nage will reach the back of uke is if uke is waiting for such a feat. This is hardly realistic training – kihon or not. My experience with spontaneous training, when uke is not required to wait there for nage to enter after they have completed their Shomenuchi, usually posits two outcomes – both disagreeable.
1. If I attempt to enter during the yang phase of Shomenuchi, uke will be long gone (moving on to their next strike, grab, and/or counter, etc.) by the time I get to his/her “back” (trans. shikaku). This is very easy to experience. Best to try it as uke. Restrict your nage to addressing the Shomenuchi during its yang phase – waiting to enter until then. Then strike at your partner as hard as you can but have not even the slightest intention of waiting for the “rest of the throw” – simply keep moving straight ahead, with a second hard and fast Shomenuchi, if you would like. Any contact that nage will make with your descending arm will only delay or slow nage that much more down in their entering, and thus will only add to your ability to be long gone before nage reaches shikaku. The harder and faster you strike and move, the more amplified nage’s tactical mistake becomes, the more obvious your own counters become – simply by fulfilling the prescribed attacking element of this waza.
2. Due to some of the physiological imbalances present in spontaneous training, a strong and/or tall nage may indeed be able to get to the back of a shorter and weaker uke. However, should such a nage continue onward with the given kuzushi, they would be clashing against uke’s energy and not blending with it. Due to the yang/yang timing, the amount of initial energy that uke put into his/her Angle of Attack will be too great and/or too far away from nage’s center to be turned or spiraled in a positive manner. In order to execute the spiral nage will have to initiate a negative energy to bring uke back to a tactical proximity. As a result, one will be pulling uke into the kuzushi rather than pushing/guiding him/her into the kuzushi and thus into the rest of the throw. Aiki will be lost and violated. This pulling energy represents a clash since it consists of two forces heading in the opposite direction. Again, performing the above-mentioned experiment easily allows one to experience this.
07-15-2004, 03:11 PM
But if one is indeed wishing to employ the tactic of aiki within this technique then it is important, I believe, to note that we should not match yang moves with yang moves. This is a loss of harmony and thus of connection and blending. Physiologically speaking, this is manifested in the clashing of one's arm with nage's strike, and/or the losing of one's balance at the moment maai is closed to a range of close-quarter engagement, etc.
Nice post but a couple of small points:
When my instructor performs this technique there is no clashing...indeed, whether he uses an early timing (as you suggest), or when he uses a late timing...there is no feeling of clashing. There are times when I can also achieve this to an extent (and some uke are sooo much easier than others), so I know that its not just my instructor that can do this.
I have also often been told to work the pushing feeling rather than the pulling feeling...and to eventually get to where you are really doing neither.
Aiki has many different deffinitions depending on who you talk to...in terms of this discussion I am reminded of the described use of aiki in ippondori ura from the ikkajo syllibus of Daito ryu...a pretty sophisticated use of timing, that.
07-15-2004, 05:12 PM
Yes, I would agree with what you are saying Ron.
Most folks that adopt this yang/yang timing do not clash with the strike. As the first post stated, many folks just let the arm go by, etc. Most folks fall somewhere in between just letting the arm go by and/or having uke stop the downward motion of their strike at the point where it makes contact with nage's arm. Somewhere in the middle of that, we see the various parries and angles of deflection that many posters already mentioned. So, even in yang/yang applications, an "arm against arm" crash is noted to be "incorrect.” I agree. However, I was trying to talk more from the point of view of tactical viability – not so much ideals.
I think we can say that uke halting his/her strike is a violation of providing a realistic attack, so any kind of timing and/or angle of deflection that becomes dependent upon that halting cannot be considered tactically viable as an application of Aiki. Of course, letting the strike go by in a yang/yang application is not a crash of arms. Such a tactic can deal with realistic Shomenuchi - that is to say, uke can throw a realistic Shomenuchi and not have it injure nage's arm, or disturb his/her balance because of stressing nage's base of support, etc.
However, I was not only addressing this type of clash. I had mentioned two other elements that we should be aware of when employing yang/yang applications. One element addressed being too late to find shikaku (for this waza), and the other one addressed the clash that could come about in certain types of nage/uke pairings wherein nage employs a pulling energy to bring uke back into range for the prescribed kuzushi. These two elements are the more important characteristics of yang/yang applications that we should be aware of. This is true for me whether one is strong enough or not to crash with an uke's strike (as in blocking), etc. In addition, whether one lets the arm go by or not (or parries it or not), yang/yang timings force one have to confront these other two issues if one is still interested in the tactical application of Aiki. At least my experience has led me to this conclusion. A conclusion I have reached because of the experiments I had mentioned earlier.
If nage attempts to enter during the yang phase of the strike, he/she will only reach the back of an attacker that has stalled his/her attack for such purposes. Or maybe I should say, if nage attempts to enter during the yang phase of the strike, he/she will only reach the back of an attacker that does not intend to follow through and/or follow up in his/her initial Angle of Attack. As for an attacker that has full intention to follow through and/or follow up, said attacker will be too far away to be guided (and not pulled) into the spiraling kuzushi. This is a result of uke already having the capacity to place full weight upon his/her front leg before kuzushi takes place. Said leg can then be used to shift weight forward, to take another step forward, or to change direction. All of these things can be used by uke to move out of range - against the proper execution of the prescribed kuzushi (at the least). On the positive side, if one really wants to feel his/her own balance taken, have your nage try a yin/yang timing application and thus begin the kuzushi just as your weight is coming down on your front foot. Wow, what a ride!
07-15-2004, 08:19 PM
Your post was very interesting. And I have to agree with your explanation:
"As a result, one will be pulling uke into the kuzushi rather than pushing/guiding him/her into the kuzushi and thus into the rest of the throw. Aiki will be lost and violated."
I think the most important sentence is:
"Nage's kuzushi should commence no later than the first moment that uke has engaged his/her weight on his/her own front foot." Maybe it's similar to what I have been thinking... It's when uke*commits*to*the *strike that one should enter. In other words, even though uke is rushing full speed towards you with his hand raised, it is when he is just*about*to*stop*and*strike that one enters. If one enters much earlier than this, there is a clash of energies... or worse still, both people sail past each other ;) Of course, one could also move forward to close the distance (perhaps with a motion that resembles a parry), causing uke to strike much earlier :p
I have also been studying Doshu's demonstration of shomenuchi iriminage to better understand the timing of this waza. For those who are interested, an on-line version may be seen at:
Have a nice day :)
07-16-2004, 08:51 AM
Of course, letting the strike go by in a yang/yang application is not a crash of arms. Such a tactic can deal with realistic Shomenuchi - that is to say, uke can throw a realistic Shomenuchi and not have it injure nage's arm, or disturb his/her balance because of stressing nage's base of support, etc.
I don't really classify things yin/yang...so I won't engage them specifically, although I do have a general understanding of what you mean. I would like to stress though that what I'm attempting to describe is not just an 'ideal'...I have done it to some extent myself, and I see my instructors do it on a regular basis against the types of attacks you describe.
While the timing of the block/parry with the moment before the uke's front foot plants is the timing I prefer, we all know that seeking such timing is as much as an 'ideal' as anything else. The trained strikers I have dealt with specialize in not giving such an opening, always having a strong base to strike from. I believe that one of the reasons that the yoshinkan stresses the basic technique under discussion is that there is an 'aiki' way to turn this situation about, and as Mr. S. has stated, it has to do with controlling the uke's power. Or in better words:
Do not merely hit each other in a straight line, but at the moment that you make contact with your partner turn your hand over as in (2), so that you have the feeling of pushing forward with your wrist and elbow. By doing this you can neutralize the power of the strike without losing the flow of power. Open your fingers strongly.
The picture (2) refered to here shows shite's hand rotating upward in what I believe Daito ryu would refer to as a 'rising aiki' application. This movement is used extensively to take uke's balance upward, removing the ability for uke to use the front foot to continue the attack. This instruction is from page 51 of 'Total Aikido; the Master Course', in the section that specifically deals with SHOMEN-UCHI NO UKEKATA (blocking the front strike).
Page 126 deals with the technique in question, and pictures 3 and 4 show the control of the shomenuchi strike.
Koichi Inoue's 'Yoshinkan Aikido; Introduction to Basic Techniques, Vol. 2' also deals with this technique on pages 12 and 13:
When uke strikes shite's face from the front with his right tegatana, shite **parries** uke's tegatana by extending his right tegatana in a circular movement, and holds uke's right elbow lightly with his left hand...
Shite **leads** uke's tegatana downward in a sprial...
Here, we see the use of the word parry as opposed to block, and the mention of **leading** uke, not pulling or pushing uke. Now admitedly, the better the attack the more difficult to do this. But again, I don't believe it to be an impossible task, since I've had it done to me, I've done it to some others, and my instructors do it regularly.
I should at least speak to the fact that we are coming at this from two slightly different perspectives; you are speaking of your direct experiences, without making reference to any 'models' or teachers. I, on the other hand, am not only citing my personal experience, but am also using an 'appeal to authority' arguement. While I recognize a certain weakness in using Ueshiba, Shioda or my personal instructors or their words as examples of what I am describing, I do so for a specific reason...aikido uses models.
The role of the teacher is an important one. Again, the idea of **leading**. What I can discover on my own is important, and testing what I learn is important as well. I specifically remember 3 of Saotome Sensei's students that I could not make this 'rising aiki' work with for beans! :) But my teacher had no problem that I could see...and he was sick that day! So...what do I do with that information? I can discount what my 'model' was able to do, and say that I simply can't achieve that level, and must find a different way...or I can train and read, and explore and take the ukemi and figure out how the heck he does this so consistantly. I guess my choice is obvious...
This is not to say that either choice is better (but in a formal debate, an appeal to authority could certainly be considered questionable).
Wow, what a ride!
I agree...when everything clicks, its the best roller coaster in the world! And mostly free!
07-16-2004, 05:08 PM
Excellent reply. Thank you.
Please allow me to write the following more for myself than as a direct reply to your position – which I believe to be sound.
I believe we may be resting on two different ways of looking at things. Our usage of “aiki” here does not seem to be the same, and our architectural dynamics of shomenuchi irimi seem to be different as well. I think I can along the way define my “aiki” without any more reference to the specialized and highly subjective term – so maybe that might help this discussion progress. As far as shomeuchi irimi architecture, I can address that now. Doing so might put us more on common ground – or at least on a ground where we can better see each other. You wrote:
“While the timing of the block/parry with the moment before the uke's front foot plants is the timing I prefer, we all know that seeking such timing is as much as an 'ideal' as anything else. The trained strikers I have dealt with specialize in not giving such an opening, always having a strong base to strike from. “
The differences here are that I was saying that one should begin the kuzushi at this moment in time. By “kuzushi” I was referring not to the disturbance caused by the block/parry, but to the kuzushi caused by directly manipulating uke’s spinal posture. In other words, this moment in time is addressed by the tenkan kuzushi – having already entered during the upswing of uke’s striking arm, we tenkan right when uke’s front foot plants. This I was contrasting against: we irimi right when uke’s front foot plants. It is because good strikers always have a grounded base that I opt to tenkan at such a point and not irimi at that point. Perhaps this will become clearer later.
Yes, undoubtedly, there are many ways of doing this technique successfully. You are correct to note this. I was trying to give that impression even in my first post. This is also what I was suggesting when I used the word “ideal” in my second post. When I was contrasting the word “ideal” with “viability,” I was referring to things like the workload/mechanical advantage ratio and/or the resulting apex energy level – things like that. In that way, while we can say a lot of versions are successful, completely martial, and/or while we can attribute them to first or second hand experience, we can still talk about all of these versions according to the biomechanical issues relevant to the questions Soon-Kian Phang raised – which I’m sure that you and most others would agree with.
In other words, we can ask, “Out of all of these versions, which versions require more ‘X’?” Alternatively, we can ask, “Out of all these versions, which versions generate more ‘Y’?” Etc. Personally, I like to address my own training in this manner. This is not to say that I do not agree with the traditional role that teachers hold in Aikido training. Yes, models do have their place, and so then do arguments that appeal to authority. You are most correct in this regard. However, from the perspective of biomechanics, appeals to authority are often reduced to being argumentum ad verecundiam.
We should not be so surprised at this since there simply is no single authority in Aikido – as we all know. One can always find a teacher, of whatever prestige, to support almost any position by appeal. So one can see in “Budo Renshu,” that shomenuchi irimi-ashi to the homolateral side is done on the raising of shomenuchi and not on the descent. (Pp. 49) There is also Shoji Nishio’s book, “Aikido Yurusu Budo: The Irimi-Issoku Principle.” In this book this moment in the waza is addressed with the following, “Deal with uke’s shomenuchi by entering to his rear. As uke raises his hand to strike, move as if cutting upward through his underarm and shift around to the side and behind him. This is the method for entering to the rear for shomenuchi irimi.” (Pp. 135) In the same manner, Morihiro Saito’s book and videos lend themselves to the same appeal. In his work, “Traditional Aikido, Volume 3,” the relevant text reads, “This technique calls for you to initiate a strike before your partner’s and whipping down his hand trying to parry the blow.” The accompanying pictures clearly show one entering during the upswing of uke’s shomenuchi. All of this becomes compounded by the human element – by the fact that any prestigious teacher will always demonstrate an example contrary to his/her stated ideals. As a result, thought processes based upon such arguments quickly regress to “Yeah, but my teacher said,…” etc., and eventually end up in the annals of federation doctrines.
Hence, my appeal to experience. However, I do not wish to universalize such experience, which is why I suggested for folks to go through the above-mentioned drills. These experiments are themselves biomechanically determined and as such, I believe, they do address the issues that were raised in the first post. To be sure, as you noted, skill acquisition does play a role in the outcome of such experiments, which is another reason why I believe we have to always return to biomechanical inquiries and observations. As such, I accept all ideal phases or versions as workable. I accept them with all of their claims and proofs. That means that I accept that there are many ways of doing a particular waza. However, as was said above, I am still able to ask and answer, particularly in regards to skill acquisition, “What is this skill made up of? What has to be present for this skill to manifest itself? What is required for this skill to function to its fullest capacity?” Etc. From there, one can then go on to determine one’s practice, and to thereby understand it more deeply – more deeply than the usual, “my sensei said…” (Which I do not denote to your person.)
So, what can we say biomechanically concerning these two timings? Answer: A lot! Leaving some of that unsaid and some of it said only before, here are two elements that I think are more relative to our discussion here:
A. Biomechanically, we can say that it takes less energy on nage’s part to address shomenuchi (in this case) during it’s yin phase (going up) than it does during it’s yang phase (going down). This is because in the former case nage’s arms are moving in the same general direction as uke’s strike. (This is how I meant “aiki” to be understood: As, “forces that are not conflicting or canceling in nature – but that are blended, harmonious, and singular in nature.”) Both timing responses can function martially, both can be successful, both can even require relatively small degrees of energy in comparison to other types of responses, but it will never be the case that it takes less energy to address shomenuchi during the yang phase than during the yin phase. This is true, scientifically speaking, no matter who is doing the technique and no matter how many folks are doing one version or the other.
B. Since the energy being used to address uke’s shomenuchi is for the most part sourced in the base of nage, it then means that yin-timed responses stress one’s base less – since less energy is required. Yang-timed responses stress one’s base more. Bases of support that are less stressed are both more mobile and more stable than bases that are more stressed. Bases that are more mobile and more stable can address many more needs and concerns than bases that are less mobile and less stable. Again, the bases of both timings can continue to function martially, both bases can continue to not be architecturally compromised, and both bases may be relatively little stressed in comparison to bases from other responses, but it will never be the case that a yin-timed base is more stressed than a yang-timed base. This is true, scientifically speaking, no matter who is doing the technique and no matter how many folks are doing one version or the other.
These two biomechanical insights address many of the issues raised in the first post – all but the “going by uke,” which I addressed in earlier posts when I spoke about the second “clash” of pulling uke into the kuzushi, etc. So factual are these truths that the only conflicting evidence that Soon-Kian Phang is likely to experience is no evidence at all – it is only the conflicting energy of a senior practitioner student or teacher that requires nage to stick to a yang-timed entry without knowing why such an entry is being primed. Such an entry is not a conclusion, it is a mere given. Yet there are conclusions to be drawn here.
We can draw the conclusion that yin-timed responses require less energy to do the same or more work than yang-timed responses. In real life, this translates into spectrums of applicability. Such spectrums will hold that while yang-timed entries can be quite successful (martially speaking), yin-timed entries can be employed successfully by more different kinds of people against more different kinds of people. The spectrum of smaller to larger, lighter to heavier, and weaker to stronger, is greater in yin-timed irimi-ashi regarding shomenuchi.
People, in my opinion, then have to adjust things according to these spectrums. If people are honest enough with themselves, they will remain situational specific in their applications without universalizing any of them, while still being able to hold on to and understand the truths behind each one. If they cannot be honest with themselves, they will often manipulate their training environments in order to make the spectrum more irrelevant by having the situational pose as the universal. Such people come to mistake the waza for the biomechanical truths that are behind every waza. As a result, such folks often become exclusionary or exclusionistic in their training – as you know.
Understanding these biomechanical truths and comparisons are a way outside of all of this – in my opinion. We all have to address these things – if our training is sincere. In fact, we may be able to define sincerity in training by how strictly we relate our training to the science of biomechanics (and other related scientific fields) – a thing not often said. It is because of the sincerity that most seasoned aikidoka have that we witness the same reasoning at work in the opting to choose yin-timed entries over yang-timed entries and in the adjustments/corrections people make within yang-timed entries themselves.
For example, feeling the need for more energy and/or feeling the greater stress being applied to one’s base, yang-timed entries tend to require that one be more to the outside of the arm than to the underside the arm. As you know, spirals are best suited to this positioning. This modification, and/or architectural detail, is a result of the same biomechanical reasoning offered above. One opts more for the outside of the arm than the underside of the arm because one experiences the great amount of energy that is present during the downward portion of shomenuchi. It is because of that great deal of energy that is present during the downward portion of shomenuchi that one opts for a yin-timed entry. Thus, at their heart, both options share the same biomechanical observation. The moves are thus not contradictory to each other. They only offer differences in their application of scientific observation and thus in their spectrum of applicability.
Because we are training for the unknown, we are dealing mostly with increases or decrease in chances of success as far as our training is concerned. This is the only reason why the issue of “which one works in more places” (i.e. spectrum of applicability) becomes relative to issues of practicality. Chances of success, however, will never be able to imply that one particular way will not work and another will work. Therefore, as I said, there are many ways to do this technique, and thus many timings to this technique. Still, there is more to consider regarding spectrums of applicability. In particular, there is the common way in which we manipulate our training environments in order to make such spectrums seem irrelevant. The experiments I had mentioned earlier are attempts to subvert this manipulation (which often goes unrealized) and to expose it at the level of consciousness. Thereby, as at our dojo, people have a chance for a more sincere practice because they have a chance to confront the biomechanical truths of waza more directly.
Here are some of the more popular training environment manipulations:
Yin-timed entries: Yin-timed entries take advantage of what we can call Target Availability. Such an entry takes advantage of the suki or “opening” that is already present. As such, it takes advantage of the suki (i.e. the yin phase of the shomenuchi strike) that is first present. As was said earlier, this suki is addressed in all kinds of other techniques – such as Shomenuchi Ikkyo – omote. It also makes sense when one is attempting the same technique against a jo or a sword or a club or a bat, etc. Addressing this kind of suki in this way is considered one of the six principles within the Daito-ryu curriculum – if you go by what Katsuyuki Kondo is saying on his video tape, “Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, Ikkajo, Part 1.” So we all know about this suki and how to address it with yin-timed entries – whether we apply it in Irimi Nage or not. Yang-timed entries take advantage of what we can call Target Creation. Such an entry seeks to create an opening by manipulating uke’s elbow. As such, it allows the first opening to go uncapitalized upon. Outside of the biomechanical advantages mentioned above, and while it would seem less appealing to allow openings to go by, while it seems more “Aikido-like” to employ Target Availability over Target Creation, and/or while it would seem more consistent to attach irimi ashi to an immediacy of attacking the first opening, it is very difficult to actually put all of this into practice. This is all because of the high degree of body reading and short response time required by the tactic of entering while employing Target Availability. As a result, training environments are often manipulated in such a way that said timing is made easy – easy to the point of being unrealistic. That is to say, you often see a lack of spontaneous training involving such cases, you often see over-exaggerated strikes with lots of telegraphing, you often seen nage initiating the action, and/or you see strikes being thrown relatively slow. In the end, though the body mechanics may remain sound, because the training environment is manipulated thusly, the skills of body reading and short response times are not being cultivated – the application is no longer practical.
Yang-timed entries: The more under nage’s arm is to uke’s arm, the more energy needed to address shomenuchi. The more outside nage’s arm is to uke’s arm, the more speed needed to address shomeuchi (i.e. too slow and the arm just goes flying by you and on to its next strike, etc.). In other words: Under the arm, feel uke’s power; to the outside of the arm, feel uke’s speed. This is true whether one utilizes spirals, strikes, etc., to generate the Target Creation and thus the ensuing kuzushi. The ideal is to be right in the middle of both of these vectors, while making allowances for one’s own advantages and/or disadvantages (e.g. slower stronger folks do better to be more on the underside of the arm, faster weaker folks do better to be more on the outside of the arm). In yin-timed entries, one does not feel uke’s power or his speed because the arm is not being addressed for reasons of Target Creation at all. In order to address these issues of speed and power, training environments that make us of yang-timed entries are often manipulated in the following ways. Strikes are stopped and held at the top of the head for an unnecessary and unrealistic pause, strikes are relatively light in their back up mass and shallow in their target penetration, strikes are halted in their execution at the moment that they make contact with nage’s arm, uke waits still after his/her shomenuchi is halted for the purpose of allowing nage to complete his/her entering into shikaku, etc. In fact, we can see all of these manipulations in the clip of Moriteru Ueshiba – offered above. In this case, training environments are manipulated to make less demanding the need to address uke’s speed and power located within his/her shomenuchi.
So, what is my take? We should opt to understand as much as we can – personally understand. In addition, we should be as honest as we can with that understanding. Then we let the two – understanding and honesty – reflect back and forth against each other, with our practice in the middle. I was hoping my suggested experiments could be taken in that light. For me personally, which is not to answer Soon-Kian Phang’s question, if my attacker is smaller and/or if the environment should prove that I am the one in excess of energy, a yang-timed entry would do me fine, simply because of the difficulty of reading the body early enough for a yin-timed entry. Against a stronger, heavier attacker, for me, I would execute a yin-timed entry – for reasons stated above. Which one do I train in as kihon: the yin-timed entry. Why? Because from this one you can more easily go to yang-timed entries. It does not seem to work so easily the other way around.
Again, thank you for your reply and for sparking off this thought process in my person.
07-16-2004, 09:09 PM
David, very well put (if a bit tortuous in length). I agree that the yin-timed entry is clearly preferable -- but I find it is not easy to achieve, *especially* if uke is throwing either of two common shomen-uchi variations: overhead from behind the ear, or straight/rising as in men-tsuki. Not to mention hanmi-handachi. So I find that most of the time I am practicing ways to make the yang-timed entry work.
I also think, in regard to the original question and for the moment assuming a yang-timed entry, that Dario's point is rather important. You will need to be able to do a no-block irimi if you are ever going to use the technique against a weapon.
07-16-2004, 10:01 PM
Gareth, yeah I agree, sorry about the length. As I said, I was writing more for me - you know - trying to formulate thought long held, etc. Again - apologies.
07-16-2004, 10:53 PM
Thank you for taking your time and sharing your thoughts with us. Your analysis was very interesting. I also agree that Yin-timed entries are easier (which is what I said in my first post), especially with the reason you gave about the difficulty of Yang-timed entries:
“This is all because of the high degree of body reading and short response time required by the tactic of entering while employing Target Availability.”
(Interestingly, I believe I have seen some people perform Yang-timed entries for Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura/Shomenuchi Ikkajo Osae Ni as well… but that is another story)
With respects to manipulation of training environments, at times, yes, things can become unrealistic. However, with respect to people learning Kihonwaza, it might not hurt to have an easier learning environment. It is when people are more familiar with the movements that we can start to employ more realism in the training. Although I am not experienced enough to comment on the realism of Doshu’s clip, I must stress that such a clip is meant for people studying Kihonwaza. So, if things seem unrealistic, well… maybe it was meant for beginners to watch.
To sidetrack… although I am a shoshinsha, I think there are at least 2 sides to Aikido training… One side involves the cultivation of the individual… Even though the training environment may seem unrealistic, the fact that both partners try to harmonize (with uke yielding to nage) leads to positive effects on both nage and uke’s characters – hopefully, they become less aggressive and more willing to talk things out in real life. The other side of training involves the martial aspects of Aikido. Here, people focus on the realism of the attack and the defense. I think there should be a balance of both sides in training. I know some dojos tend to focus on one or the other… but that’s fine with me too.
I hope we get a chance to meet on the mats some day.
07-16-2004, 11:27 PM
Thank you for replying. I find myself agreeing with everything you said. To be sure, allowances must be made for learning curves - that is almost a tenet of real life training. There is no way around that. And, of course, as you say, there is more to all of this then just self-defense issues and/or mechanical advantages, etc. It is just my hope that we all do move beyond learning curve allowances - at least just enough to be honest always with our training environments (as best we can). And it is my hope that self-cultivation in Aikido always happens against a keen martial edge - at least for myself.
It would be my pleasure to meet you on the mat some day.
07-19-2004, 07:15 AM
Excellent post David, and thanks for taking the time. I believe though that one level of confusion is shown here:
In the same manner, Morihiro Saito's book and videos lend themselves to the same appeal. In his work, "Traditional Aikido, Volume 3," the relevant text reads, "This technique calls for you to initiate a strike before your partner's and whipping down his hand trying to parry the blow." The accompanying pictures clearly show one entering during the upswing of uke's shomenuchi.
This is clearly from the description shomenuchi ichi (omote), as are some of the other quotes I believe (I can confirm tonight possibly). The techinique under discussion from the original post was shomenuchi ni (ura) and I directed all of my comments (and quotes) to that. Other than that, I think we agree completely...when performing omote, enter as the strike goes up (pretty much always...I myself have great trouble doing it any other way), when performing ura, you don't always have the choice, so the methods I mention have their place.
As always, great discussion, and I enjoy the precision of your language, even with the length... :)
PS Gareth, Kondo Sensei says much the same as to not blocking a katana with your arm :)
07-19-2004, 12:01 PM
Thank you for replying,
As I had imagined, I thought we were working off different assumptions here. Thanks for clearing that up. The mix-up comes from my own lineage, which is not of Yoshinkan decent, where we do not break up these versions according to the terms of "omote" and "ura.” Therefore, I was going off the video clip that the original poster also provided for our general viewing - as far as addressing a single version. In that clip, we see the same version of the technique that M. Saito is doing in the source I cited. The same thing goes for the other sources I mentioned. All of these things are the same. Only the timing of the entry is different - as was noted.
The other two versions of Irimi Nage in M. Saito's book, which may or may not be close to either the "omote" or "ura" versions from the Yonshinkan curriculum, are quite different from what Moriteru Ueshiba is doing on the video clip provided above. Hence, I did not mention them. However, even in them, one can see the same science, the same biomechanics at work, as they too are both examples of one trying to reconcile the yang portion of the shomenuchi in an "aiki" manner (using my definition of the word, offered above) - which is one quite different from blocking (feeling uke's power) and/or parrying (feeling uke's speed).
Yes, I agree fully - all of the versions mentioned throughout this thread have a tactical place. In my opinion, none of them can or should be rejected. Even the full-on block version - directly under the attacking arm - has its place. Though clearly not employing "aiki" (as I have defined it), if a strike is inherently weak (i.e. thrown unarmed, without proper form, and containing no spirit or only a lesser spirit, etc.), opting to parry it and/or to blend with it, is to deny the "suki" (trans. opening) which is at the very heart of the shomenuchi in question. In a way then, in choosing not to block in such a case, one is opting to employ Target Creation over Target Availability - even if one is employing yin-timed entries. The opening has already presented itself. It was born in the training and the development of the attacker him/herself.
For me, the principle of irimi means (among other things) that we should try to capitalize upon the first presented opening as best we can, as soon as we can. That means, in the case of a weak strike, if I can, I am going around nothing at all. The straighter the better, the closer the better, the more uke is into his/her strike the better (keeps everything close). There is no need to go around the arm at all - one should opt to take it with him/her by going straight into it. There can be no "against" in what is sure to falter once it meets a greater force. As long as this hole is there in the strike, blocking and going straight in becomes the optimum choice, I feel, out of all of the versions we have discussed thus far. So yes, I fully agree with your position, all things have their place indeed. Aiki (as I defined it) is only one tactic out of many.
Thank you again,
07-19-2004, 01:38 PM
The other two versions of Irimi Nage in M. Saito's book, which may or may not be close to either the "omote" or "ura" versions from the Yonshinkan curriculum,
Oops, my bad, I've somehow given the wrong impression...
Ichi / Ni is from the Yoshinkan nomenclature
Omote/Ura is from the Aikikai nomenclature
Ron (thanks for the reply)
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