View Full Version : Topic for Discussion: Initiating Attacks

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12-12-2004, 09:58 PM
Often people speak of the importance of initiating the attack in waza training. The most common example of this is feigning an atemi to uke’s face, which thus “causes” him/her to guard the face with the cross-lateral arm, to which nage then applies Ikkyo. In such a case, the rationale of choreographing uke’s defense is subsumed under the obvious tactical advantage of holding initiative from the commencement of the given form in question. I think this scenario is pretty well understood since it is quite common.

However, I was wondering about this a bit and I am thinking that this might be a good topic for discussion. Perhaps discussion could start from here:

1. Training in and/or toward maintaining tactical initiative is a good skill to have acquired. However, does such a skill equate with and/or negate the importance of being able to blend with an attack when we do not have said initiative. In other words, I would suggest for your consideration that blending while holding the initiating (which means in a way that uke is blending with us) is not always the same thing as blending when not holding said initiative. Both skills have to be acquired – I would think. Depending upon how one carries out this type of practice (of “attacking” first), one can come to learn how to do Ikkyo only against a block and not a strike if one does not remain mindful of how one strategy is being upheld at the cost of others. Or, is tactical initiative enough? Or, if not, why not?

2. Excusing for the moment how truly arbitrary the selection of the cross-lateral block is over the homo-lateral block (and/or the choosing of the block over a striking back tactic), we can almost accept such a reaction as being based in nature – in that many of us will put our hands up to defend our face when something is coming at it with the intent of causing injury. However, how are we to understand this type of reasoning when we are working with katate-dori (for example)? Do we take on tactical initiative by jutting our wrist out and then assume that uke’s natural reaction is to grab it? Why doesn’t uke’s “natural reaction” remain to block at our arm? How does the reasoning of “natural reactions” apply to waza from kata-dori, or ushiro ryote-dori, or even tsuki. Or are these other techniques dealt with in a different way when it comes to gaining tactical initiative? For example, is the offering of the wrist, and/or the shoulder, or the rib cage, etc., the way tactical advantage is gained when training with katate-dori, kata-dori, and tsuki? If that is the case, then isn’t the offering of the head in Shomenuchi Ikkyo equally taking the tactical initiative? And, if that is the case, then is it not the case that we are neither gaining nor losing anything when we strike first or when we offer the head in Shomenuchi Ikkyo in regards to tactical initiative?

Thought it might be interesting to hear many different thoughts from many different folks on this stuff since it’s coming up in a few threads right now.

Rocky Izumi
12-12-2004, 10:26 PM
In a katate tori attack, I am grabbing uke's wrist and doing the technique rather than "jutting the hand out." In tsuki attacks, the nage is doing the tsuki and then taking uke's block or other reaction to create the technique, or uke is responding with a tsuki to my yokomenuchi or shomenuchi or some sort of grab.

When training with nage initiating the attack, you have to train to respond as well to the striking responses of uke so there would be no situation where you would only know how to do a technique when uke is only blocking and not responding in some other way.

And I don't think attacking is always a tactical advantage since you are giving away the attack to which you are committed. So, uke has the tactical advantage in some ways. It all depends on the spirit with which the attack is done and whether the attack is done with the right timing depending on uke's composure, timing, and spirit. If you break uke's spirit and position before attacking with a mind attack, then you do have the tactical advantage since uke moves to counter and you can blend with the movement. If uke is ready and does an aiuchi of some kind, then there is no tactical advantage. If the timing and mind attack are wrong, then uke has the tactical advantage since they are ready for your attack and can do a kaeshiwaza/counter.

For a laugh, one of my cross-training students from Karate just attacked with a jodan tsuki when the uke responded with an outside block and counter punch.. Without thinking, he did an Ikkyo ura on the counter punch, tossed the guy out the ring and got disqualified. Fortunately, the student wasn't too upset with the disqualification since he was so happy to have gotten to the point where ikkyo was becoming an instinctive reaction to crossed wrists.

I see the offering a target part of the step up to initiating the attack and use it as a training tool for students in the sankyu to shodan levels. I don't see it as initiating the attack. only leaving a really obvious opening to be used by uke if the uke is not very astute. If two people are evenly matched, why would you take something that is offered so blatantly to you? It is obviously a trap and unless you are really good or really stupid, you won't take it. With evenly matched people, a trap doesn't work unless it is very subtle. Those openings that uke will take exist plenty enough in just attacking since by the very act of attacking, you have left some opening.


12-13-2004, 04:33 AM
I think you have to rush forward into a contact situation, and then feel their response from there. Looking at Ueshiba (esp. later yrs) it would seem he always goes for ikkyo or irimi-nage, but if there is any change or resistance he will blend with that change. I think there must be a feeling of dominance over uke, but not force. There has to be that meeting of 'ki' (however you want to describe it) - if uke is not attacking forcefully nage has to fill that gap. Ueshiba said: 1+9=10, 5+5=10

Yann Golanski
12-13-2004, 05:19 AM

That was something Tomiki-sensei said as well. Sometimes, Tori has to provide some of the energy to thrown uke. Hence the kuzushi training...

Attacks (or ripostes which maybe a better way of describing Aikido) can be broken down into timing elements. The first one of them is to riposte as soon as uke show that he intends to attack. It's hard to do and may look like tori attacking uke. If you have an opportunity to see the goshin no kata the first four techniques illustrate the different timing opportunities -- yes, there are four of those!

L. Camejo
12-13-2004, 01:44 PM
Hi folks,

To add to Yann's fine post regarding the use of the basic variations of Sen to control initiative in Aikido I just want to make one other point that also comes from Tomiki's method of thinking on the matter.

Although atemi is often used as a means of setting up a blocking or movement response from Uke, resulting in a follow up technique, it can also be used as a strike/throw where the initiative is taken successfully by Tori from the outset and there is no need for a follow up technique as the atemi itself causes kuzushi and is the throw in itself.

On the flip side, if Uke reacts to the strike by blocking, counter striking or moving, then Tori simultaneously adapts to suit, utilizing the movement of uke to regain or continue the intiative by correct tai sabaki and tsukuri and then executing the most appropriate follow up technique.

Atemi waza applied as throws can be seen here - http://www.ttac.0catch.com/atemi.htm .

Just my 2cents.

Greg Jennings
12-13-2004, 01:57 PM
I see no reason to, in any way, limit my options to restore harmony with the least harm to all involved.

Best regards,

12-13-2004, 02:34 PM
Dear Mr. Jennings,

Could you elaborate a bit more. Please/thanks.


12-13-2004, 03:00 PM
Dear Mr. Izumi,

You wrote: "In a katate tori attack, I am grabbing uke's wrist and doing the technique rather than jutting the hand out."

Could you please explain this a bit more? Are you saying that what you call Katate-dori is any set up that initiates with you grabbing uke's wrist? Such that, for Katate-dori Ikkyo, you first perform a given set of initial movements wherein you as nage end up grabbing uke's wrist, from which the rest of Ikkyo follows? If so, could you give an example of how what initial movements you might use before you grab uke's wrist? Or, do you just go up to an uke that is standing in a natural stance, grab his wrist, and proceed to take him down with Ikkyo?


Greg Jennings
12-13-2004, 03:16 PM
There really isn't much to say. It's a philosophical stance. To me aikido is about learning to resolve conflict with the least harm (physical, emotional, working relationship, etc.) to all involved through keiko.

All forms of conflict happen in our lives and need resolution. If we don't feel something akin to a specific form of conflict in our keiko, our reaction to it when it occurs in life is more likely to be a less-than-productive one.

Someone has the tag line "We don't rise to our expectations, we descend to the level of our training". I think that's pretty much it.

Best regards,

Rocky Izumi
12-13-2004, 04:24 PM
Dear Mr. Izumi,

You wrote: "In a katate tori attack, I am grabbing uke's wrist and doing the technique rather than jutting the hand out."

Could you please explain this a bit more? Are you saying that what you call Katate-dori is any set up that initiates with you grabbing uke's wrist? Such that, for Katate-dori Ikkyo, you first perform a given set of initial movements wherein you as nage end up grabbing uke's wrist, from which the rest of Ikkyo follows? If so, could you give an example of how what initial movements you might use before you grab uke's wrist? Or, do you just go up to an uke that is standing in a natural stance, grab his wrist, and proceed to take him down with Ikkyo?


Actually, yes. Most of my instruction is to policing, security, or military personnel in my professional aikido side. In arresting a suspect, you go up to the person, grab, and if they resist, do a something resembling a technique. I prefer the kosa-dori or ai-hanmi katatetori since it leads better in most situations but you have to take what is given to you. Sometimes it is just katatetori.

On the other hand, you also have to work people grabbing your wrist as in firearm retention drills. There, the subject is grabbing your wrist, often in katatetori gyakuhanmi.

My view, gotta learn both attacking and defending. My present Shihan likes my seniior students to be attacking or going into ai-uchi with striking attacks but defensive on grabbing techniques My previous Shihan advocated fully defensive. The previous Shihan mixed. Lookiing back on it, the tendency of the Shihan for offense or defense depended a lot on whether they were training people who had to use the Aikido on a daily basis or not, and how old they were. The older Shihans seemed to be a little more offensive than the younger ones. You didn't get that offensive part unless you showed interest in it and you had advanced enough to have a good handle on the defensive side. It was a lot of ura-waza (behind the shed waza) that came out in private during drinking sessions (if you want to learn that side of it, learn to drink copious amounts of beer and learn to practice drunk and take falls on concrete or at least sod or dirt). My view is a function of who I teach and my other martial arts, especially Kendo. I have no trouble with either approach or anything in-between. My belief is that each person's budo is individual after a while. People who are strong enough spiritually and technically can be fully defensive. Others do work that dictates they be offensive to act for people who are not that stong. Others just like to be offensive. It is not my place to pass judgment on people's choices unless it is against the law (just remember "the law is an ass") or in a situation where I must intervene due to my values and beliefs.


Goetz Taubert
12-14-2004, 05:09 PM
Senshincenter had two question which I think have shortcoming assumptions I would like to outline.

One central demand of the late version of aikido by O’Sensei is to initiate the movement of uke willingly. This means, to be in dominance of uke right from the start. (Mr. Rocky Izumi had a wonderfull example for these processes describing a kendo match between equal opponents striving to dominate each other in the "no touch throw"-thread). So practitioners should strive to develope a sort of attracking force to go for this aim. In some technical variations the attracking done is accompanied or followed by an atemi to destabilize uke, prevent a possible fullcontact clash or to make contact with the potentially endangering arm/hand of uke (for example in shomen-uchi, grips to the shoulder from forwards or sidewards.).
So from my perspective there is a shortcoming in the initial question, because the action of attracking uke should be regarded as main aspect, not an associated atemi. Especially the initial question falls short, when it relies only on the conspicious atemi-action, that is not the most central thing in it, and starting discussion from this restricted perspective.

Ad 1)
The difference between atemi and awaiting uke’s attack reduces itself to the difference between reaction-based versus attraction-based aikido styles. Reaction-based styles may have the disadvantage, that with a skilled attacker reaction is to slow and nage stays mentally occupied with uke ("strategy"), what may make it more difficult to develope a true aiki state-of-consciousness.

Ad 2)
Here again the question for attacking quality of i.e. katate-techniques under a "tactical" perspective is insufficient, because again the principle at work is not so obvious and surely is not about calculating the probability of "natural reaction". I take up the example of Rock a katate attack from sidewards position with nage sitting uke standing.
Nage gives his hand to invite and direct uke but at the same time uses attracking force to make uke bow in the direction to the floor against him. Because uke is destabilized and in a lower position, uke‘s wrist now can be grabbed by nage (smooth and relaxed like ab baby‘s grabbing) at the same time accompied by an atemi from nage’s free hand directed from bottom to face (not necessariliy landed there). So the first (attracted) downward movement of uke is redirected by nage in a more guiding upward movement to prevent attack from uke by the free hand/foot or uke crashing willingly against nage. (But a skilled attacker will feel any sort of inharmony/unnecessaryforce/wrong direction that is applied on him and will be able to stabilize or attack nage. The upward movement with uke destabilized is turned down again with minimal movement of shoulder an breast of nage still holding uke’s wrist. Uke comes to lie flat on the floor, face down, head towards nage (could be easily attacked) and to end technique nage holds down uke with the same energy he used to attrack in the beginning.
So the exercise is, to get nearer to the consciousness/state of mind/state of body/state of whatever, which allows to develope the ability to attrack uke, to deepen it's executability and to execute movements effortless but effective, what gives the most benefit to both nage and uke.

In his late years O‘sensei is already there, always in the correct position, because he „determines“ what will and can happen on the side of uke. Without this in mind, it's easy to miss the central interest of aikido and to loose oneself playing rational ping-pong with the putative pros and cons of minor matters.

No offense intended.

G. Taubert