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Today at Aikido Shobukan in Washington D.C., Eugene Lee Sensei was talking about distance-- from a yokomen attack, the different techniques you might use at different distances. I appreciated this because it forced us to analyze the situation and adapt to it. I think that quality is really important to cultivate, and you don't get it in 4 x 4 rote training. Lately, I've been thinking that every class should incorporate more jiu waza, so that we can learn to feel out the situation and develop natural responses to attacks-- each particular attack, i.e. this punch is slightly different from the last, so I'll respond this way.
Should beginners start with 4 x 4 rote training to catch the basic form, and then "move up" to open-technique practice? I'm beginning to think not. Earlier this week was the Mark & Ron show at Boulder Aikikai, and we were talking about how aikido starts in the center / so why don't we start teaching with the center, and move outwards-- instead, we start with the arms, which can allow the student to miss the point that this tiny kokyu-motion, this energy-spiral, begins in the center. Obviously, this is because the arm motions or the footwork are easy to see-- and we assume that as the student continues, they will figure out that the technique begins in the center. But I think that students are capable of grasping that the technique begins with this center-stirring at the commencement of their training-- that it would be helpful to kick off with