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11-19-2005, 08:04 AM
Hi Everyone,
I've spent the last three odd months considering an interesting observation whilst practicing and wondered if anyone else has seen similar things or has any thoughts on the concept.

This started whilst filming a short documentary type piece at our local dojo. I was editing the footage and came to the jiyu waza footage.

At present I am the only person in our dojo with martial arts experience across a range of styles (karate, boxing, etc.); also having practiced a variant of Kyokushin Karate for about nine years. The other two participants in the jiyu waza (excluding nage (our sensei)) have not practiced anything but Aikido.

The other two participants were thrown from shomen and tsuki strikes with very similar results, and were most times able to high-breakfall out of techniques such as kote-gaeshi and shiho nage. On watching my own receiving, I found that most times I was not in the same position and was not off-balance in the same way, even though the technique had the same overall effect (me being thrown).

As the footage was shot in DV (Digital Video) I was able to slow it down significantly and found that the differing body positions had more to do with the extension of the tsuki or shomen strike by uke; where they threw their shoulders into the technique they were thrown more easily.

Since that time, I have found myself "feeling" receiving differently, and am more aware of the differences in distance and timing that my technique creates. This has been more than once frustrating as I find myself often a significant distance from nage and unable to perform a high breakfall, rather I have to backwards breakfall straight to the mat. As a practical example, I would often need to take at least one to two steps to high breakfall over my arm from kote-gaeshi.

My question is has anyone else observed a similar effect? Do you find that your body position and timing is quite different when you are uke than when you are nage? Does this have anything to do with the style of shomen or tsuki? Does experience in another martial art temper the way you practice Aikido? (okay more than one question, but I think you get the idea)

I find the differences intriguing and am always looking at little details like this to try and improve my developing understanding of Aikido. I am very interested to hear what other people think.

Ed Shockley
11-19-2005, 08:35 AM
I have a boxing background and was taught to always maintain balance on probing punches and only commit weight aggressively it the adversary is staggered. (And even then with caution since they may be playing possum.) We did silly exercises like tying our feet so that we couldn't over-extend. This added to the fact that I am extremely tall has caused me to struggle with the idea of "committed attack" that places one in the best position for Aikido breakfall. I have witnessed similar struggles in accomplished karate practitioners who train with us. (The attack and sit back over their hips .) Often I "flop" so that nage can practice the form of the technique. More studied yudansha, however, have learned to extend my strike just a few inches past my chosen impact point (and also down) and then as I adjust to regain my balance I am in the prefect position for them to capture my rising and inspire a breakfall throw. There is still a quick series of steps on my part as uke but this seems to be the natural adjusting inspired by the martial desire to escape a disadvantageous position. My understanding of uke, from Nizam Taleb Sensei (5th dan) is that it is the "art of escape." An attack goes sour and now my "captured" mind focuses on how to keep myself safe to continue the fight.

11-19-2005, 03:14 PM
IMHO, I would have to agree, my background in other arts makes my approach and attack different and so my receiveing and ukemi different, as you said, due to balance and positioning.

11-19-2005, 06:38 PM
More studied yudansha, however, have learned to extend my strike just a few inches past my chosen impact point (and also down)

Hi Ed,
Very interesting point. I've always trained to punch through the point that I want to hit and well past, with the expectation that the actual strike will occur several inches before the chosen impact point.

It is interesting that you note that experienced yudansha lead you further on; I find that the body position doesn't change the fact that an experienced Aikidoka can still move you ;)

The question begs to be asked does the ability to still move someone in this context connote a better understanding of Aikido?

11-19-2005, 10:15 PM
Speaking about ukemi.... nice pretty breakfalls are over-rated, over emphasized and over the top unrealistic except to show ones' aerial acrobat abilities.

When I was in a aikikai dojo once upon a time, I and many of my sempai(s) love doing pretty breakfalls. We would throw uke in a projecting manner and the uke would execute a pretty aerial acrobatic breakfall. Impress the ladies, you know.

Fast forward to my current dojo... sensei's technique just doesn't allow us to do pretty breakfalls. He keeps it tight and close and there is a feeling that there is just not space to flip over. Hence we just fall, like a sack of potatoes... with a dull thud! Not impressive, not pretty but still able to get up to continue our attack.

When dealing with uke who doesn't want to over commit their attack, some of the methods include
1) atemi to create an opening.
2) Entering deep (deep irimi) to upset uke's tempo and balance (kuzushi)
3) Use deception, for example pretending to attack his upper body, but in actuality, going for a reap at his knee/ankle to gain a tactical advantage.

I am sure you realised that the above are nothing magical nor extra ordinary, just basic logic.

To achieve those pretty breakfalls takes cooperation between uke and shite. I view them as just exercise to learn the technique. In reality, it is impossible to do a pretty breakfall, if neither shite or uke refuse uke to do it. Hence my view is that It has less to do with body positioning, more with mindset, depending whether you wish to be aiki (harmony) or jutsu (martial)