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-   -   committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8995)

Janet Rosen 09-30-2005 03:16 PM

committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
I said over in Paula's thread: "I agree that this type of attack is not consistently taught well in all dojos, and I for one know that I have problems consistently delivering them...maybe I should spin off another thread hmmm......"
So here is one puzzle I'm finding coming up a lot. I will give a focussed, intent attack once or twice then start getting a little sloppy...ok, so that is a matter of discipline and focus...But another side of the coin I've been playing with is being a connected "sticky" uke, trying not to bail but to be relaxed enough to be really responsive.
And I find that the two modes are somatically very different for me and I cannot "switch" well. If I give the kind of very focussed intent attack empty hand that I'd be giving in partnered weapons work, I'm bringing a certain solidity to it, a feeling that I will reach my goal with my center/posture intact. If nage moves and I'm somewhat imbalanced (which would be considered a good next step in the interaction...) my tendency is to stay in "solid" mode -- thinking about it now as I write, I'm probably momentarily freezing? tensing? as a reaction to the imbalance? -- and I have to consciously switch gears as nage continues to connect/engage "oh right, there's nage feel the connection, ok, here we go...".
So I think PART of why my attacks go a bit slack is that I'm focussing (too much) on anticipating the connection/response aspect of ukemi and not on the initial attack that is actually what gives nage what he needs...
So...my question is: is there a degree of relaxation one learns over time within the committed, intense attack, that permits the seamless transition to connected ukemi?
I hope this question makes sense...it is something that just occured to me though the problem is not a new one for me.

Kevin Leavitt 09-30-2005 03:27 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
I am not qualified enough to answer your question, but I really appreciate the concept you present, it gives me much to think about.

I think when you attack you should be thinking through to your next response and then rolling with it. If you give a strong well intentioned attack and nage responds correctly, then I would think that you would be slightly off balance or in a bad position which would require you to regain or reposition, which gives nage something to consider for the next move.

I think this is really the key to the relationship that is established in the dance we call irimi nage.

My experience parallel yours for sure!

I would say I never try and take ukemi, but I am always trying to recover from my first failed attack, it is nage's responsibility to respond appropriately and control to the point of ukemi. so, i think, if you are being honest in your ukemi, that is is seamless from attack to the next attack attempt until you are negated down to the ground and nage controls. So it would be seamless in that regard.

Probably didn't even come close to where you were going with this!

Charles Hill 09-30-2005 06:31 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Hi Paula,

My current thinking is that my answer to your question is no. I am working with the idea that it is the opposite, one begins with connected ukemi that is soft, responsive, and continually going after nage`s center. This approach allows me to work with opening my joints which leads gradually to a kind of intensity that is "heavy" rather than "solid." I do think one could go the other way, but I think that there are many more traps this way. This other way, starting with muscle based power attacks, is the traditional Aikikai Honbu dojo style. It was also apparently a point of contention between Tohei Sensei and O`Sensei. O`Sensei apparently told his students told hold hard and attack strong with the idea that over time they would eventually get soft. Tohei Sensei thought one should start soft. I have heard that Tohei Sensei would make excuses when told to attack strongly and with muscle by saying things like, I drank too much last night so this is about all I can do.

Anyway, this is my current thinking...
Charles

senshincenter 09-30-2005 07:07 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
In our dojo, this is settled by -- or at least we attempt to settle this by -- a few things we make central to training.

First, we make a distinction between a choreographed "committed" attack and an actual committed attack. The former attack occupies much of the training that attempts to deal with the learning curves of beginners and intermediate practitioners. In this type of attack, the uke, "commits" by consciously moving his/her body in a way that it would thus be affected by those physical forces that become relevant at levels of where actual commitment is practiced. At this level of training, an uke may or may not move in slow motion but he or she will always move more in conjunction with nage -- giving the impression that "uke is blending with nage." However, this is only an impression. What uke is actually doing is allowing nage the chance of blending with uke's choreographed movement. In this way, nage's body/mind comes to feel the technique at a level that will more closely resemble what will or can happen at higher levels of intensity and/or commitment (i.e. where the physical forces involved are naturally present and not consciously reproduced or choreographed by uke). Additionally, this also allows an uke to gain the needed insight that will allow their body/mind to move from various forms of choreographed ukemi to an ukemi that is the mere sum of uke's committed attack and nage's committed response.

As an uke moves from one type of ukemi to the other type of ukemi, several things happen. In addition to all of the things that come up with simply learning how to execute a committed attack and learning how to take a fall safely, etc., one of the most prevalent body/mind issues that come up is a high degree of attachment. This attachment can take on many forms (e.g. attached to doing a forward role) and it can have many causes (e.g. fear of falling or the fear of injury). However, it manifests itself, it is most always about an ill-placed degree of self-concern (i.e. a type of egocentricity). As a result, an uke will find it hard to "do two things a once," or at least this is flower that springs up from the root of a false paradox (that only exists because of the habitual egocentricity that may maintain itself through this level of training). That is to say, an uke will feel a paradox to be present between committing to an attack and committing to their ukemi. Several conventional notions that run throughout the Aikido world also come to make such a paradox appear to be inevitable and thus reasonable. These conventions also go on to provide, what have to be considered, non-solutions to the paradox.

For example, we have the notion of "staying connected" in the Aikido world. Many uke take this convention to mean that they have a responsibility to stay "blended" with nage. Under such reasoning, when we attack with commitment however, we find that we have to quickly turn that action off so that we can turn on the action of staying connected. As a result, the obvious, and most proposed solution is that one simply needs to learn how to turn one off and the other on more quickly or more efficiently. It is then assumed that we simply require the passage of time for this to happen (i.e. we need more practice). At this point, the paradox, and/or its solution, is pushed off (away from us) into the future -- where we do not really have to or get a chance to deal with it. The end result is that we never really learn how to do this.

As a proposed alternative: one can see that uke's job is to simply provide a committed attack (outside of beginner and/or intermediate training) and to not die or be crippled from the tactical response they will endure as a result of nage's own commitment. If in doing so uke "loses connection" to nage, this is understood as nage's failing -- not uke's. Thus, uke does not need to learn how to shut off attacking and how to turn on blending. Alternately, if in attempting to perform a committed attack, uke should be unable to commit fully, uke disengages from his/her commitment, uke crashes unsafely, etc., because, for example they have found it difficult to "go from attacking to falling in an instant," this would reveal a failing in their attacking capabilities, their falling skills, etc. However, each of these things would point to the needed level of body/mind cultivation that would allow such uke to cultivate the necessary level of non-attachment to practice fully (with commitment) and safely. In our dojo, we have sourced attachment, or the fettering of the body/mind, to three things: pride, ignorance, and/or fear. The solution then, according to our model of practice, would mean that one cannot attack fully/committed and be able to take ukemi fully/safely within advanced levels of intensity until one's pride, ignorance, and/or fear has been reconciled to an equal degree. Under this model, commitment does not become the result of a long road that finally ends; it is rather a mirror, one through which we can see ourselves more clearly. In other words, commitment is a practice, or a process, wherein the body/mind is held up for the practitioner to give witness to what they have and have not reconciled. This would mean then that training can follow the normal and/or proven paths toward a reconciliation of our own egocentricity (or our attachment to the small self) in or when we seek to cultivate commitment and thus more intense training environments.

Just my perspective,
dmv

Larry John 09-30-2005 09:27 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Being what my instructor calls "a really goal-oriented person" I have been struggling with the same problem as Janet. Hey, I'm retired military--someone gives you a mission, you complete it. If they say, "hit the back side of my head by going through the front" you're not satisfied until you can do it every time.

This leads to what I think of as a "single-minded attack"--the striking or grabbing implement and most, if not all supporting structures are tense and over-committed. This causes three main problems:

1. You're rooted and not ready to respond to nage's response to your attack, therefore
2. Your counter or next attack is later than it should be and
3. When nage gets your balance you tend to take BIG ukemi all of a sudden.

We're trying to address the problem by executing our attacks in such a way that the supporting structures are not rooted. Instead of stopping one or both of our feet, we keep them moving throughout the attack and our grabbing and striking implements are relaxed throughout the attack except for the moment of contact. We don't close the hand until the instant of contact, and we relax it a bit immediately thereafter. I think this comes from some of the Chinese empty hand systems.

This creates a fully committed, full-power attack that doesn't root us to the ground so we can move through the attack and deal with or ride nage's response with control while continually scanning for openings and setting up the next attack.

Your thoughts?

DustinAcuff 10-01-2005 02:26 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Everyone has some sound advice. Here's what I have done in the past. When we are learning new techniques I will throw the attack rather than committing it, there is still energy and force, but the focus is diffrent and I fully expect to have my center taken and be led. This always me to react better if nage is going to slip and I have to bail to prevent personal injury and also be more concerned with the feel of the technique so I can help nage fix any flaws. For example, I dont actively fight to keep my center but I dont' just give it away, nage either takes it or the technique will not happen. As I understand my role as an uke, my job is to give the most realistic attack and response possible. This also means that when I am asked to come with a full attack, I come with a full attack and give very little regard to taking the ukemi, if there is any, or if I hit nage or not. Nage either reacts appropriately or does not. You are responsible for the full committment of the attack, not letting nage bring you around smoothly. It is nage's responsiblity to learn to direct and control the energy given because if they cannot, then how can they expect to ever really know what they are doin?

senshincenter 10-01-2005 03:35 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Shouldn't we be rooted when we attack? Shouldn't a nage that wants to train at such a level understand how to "uproot" uke - rather than having uke be "unrooted" from the get-go? Being led too is something that I think is a bit different from how I try to understand the words "committed attack". Perhaps then we are thinking about the word differently and/or at least in terms of different degrees.

For me, being led as uke by nage, and committing in an "unrooted" fashion, is all part of the first type of training I mentioned above - where uke is more consciously making present certain forces that would be present naturally under the full-commitment (assuming correct form is present) of both nage and uke. Under this type of training, I think one can, at least in time, just get used to finding that happy middle ground between attacking and taking ukemi - but I would say that that happy middle ground has little to do with actual committed attacks and/or what I felt Janet was right in problematizing.

I am thinking this is probably a topic that is too ambiguous to tackle over the Internet - I imagine we all have different understandings of what "commitment" means and where that falls in non-choreographed training, etc.

Larry John 10-01-2005 07:19 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
David,

You have much more experience at this than I, but I'll try to explain what I mean.

To me, "committed attack" means uke WILL strike or land the grab at full force if nage doesn't get out of the way or otherwise disrupt the attack on the way in. Uke executes the attack from a structurally sound, balanced position, but that position is not fixed in space (i.e., "rooted"). Good examples are the attacks you get from Ledyard-sensei or Lasky-sensei. You have no doubt that they'll land it if you don't move, but they're never standing still while they do it.

Knowing that no matter how well he executes it, uke's attack may not succeed, uke is prepared to conduct a fluid, continuing engagement. In kihon waza, this means reacting to nage's well-applied kuzushi, and "riding the surface" of nage's technique while simultaneously attempting to recover their balance and looking for openings to launch the next attack. If the situation becomes untenable for uke, (no viable openings present themselves and uke cannot regain his balance), he smoothly transitions his movement into ukemi, which takes advantage of the available "escape ramps." inherent in nage's response pattern.

Does this make sense?

senshincenter 10-01-2005 12:33 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Hi Larry,

Yes, that makes sense. Thanks so much for taking the time and effort.

Please allow me to think out loud -- using your post as a kind of springboard…

For me, this goes to show how we all have different concepts of "commitment" in our training. This is perhaps very important to note. I think much of Aikido is like this -- it is not just like this with the concept of "commitment." For example, I imagine all of the "big words" (e.g. center, harmony, non-resistance, blending, etc.) in Aikido are prone to this kind of subjectivity. On the one hand, this subjectivity allows us all to agree with each other, but, on the other hand, it allows us all to agree only by ignoring what differences do exist (and thus ignoring what those differences might say about our own individual practice).

For example, we can all say, "Yes, we should attack with commitment and attempt to bring training to higher levels of intensity." In saying this, we get an agreeing consensus going. It is like saying, "I'm just trying to stay true to myself -- trying to keep myself real," on some sort of talk show (e.g. Jerry Springer, Sally Jesse, etc.). Utter a phrase like this in that kind of setting and you are sure to elicit a round of applause from the crowd -- a show of support and of agreement. There are these things that in our popular culture become so much of conventional wisdom that they in essence become something more -- something like a slogan, something just one step away from being a bumper sticker.

Aikido culture seems to be no different. We seem to be prone to this same process, where something goes from being true, to being conventional wisdom, to being a slogan, to becoming a bumper sticker (which can never be true -- unfortunately -- because of its over-simplification). Along the way, sure, we get people that want to offer caveats. In regards to commitment, these might look like this: "Well, one cannot and should not train this way with a beginner," or, "If one does only that kind of training, or if one does that kind of training before correct form has actually been acquired, it could actually be more detrimental to one's progress than beneficial." We also get those folks that wish to offer conditions, where they feel inclined to point out, "Not everyone wants to train in Aikido at that level," or "Aikido does not need to reach that level of training in order to be ‘real' and/or beneficial for someone." Etc. However, you get very few of us that hear such slogans and say, "I wonder if what you mean is what I mean -- for though I would say the same phrase, I wonder if we are actually talking about the same thing."

I am of the opinion that this will to sameness is part of our attempts to preserve certain aspects of our small self -- in their essence and in their functioning. Of course, so too would be the act of denouncing everything as different and/or thus as lesser. However, somewhere between these two actions is the practice of contemplation or self-reflection. It is a place where we can look at another and see ourselves. It is a place where we see our togetherness -- our real togetherness -- that exists in, through, and because of our differences. We often do not like to tread in this place because of the fear that we have of both being the same (i.e. common) and of being different (i.e. alone). For when we undergo such self-reflection, we must risk both of these things as we risk our own position (adapting it, modifying it, or rejecting it) in the risk of trying to understand that of another person. For many of us, this is just too risky.

I can see and understand what are you saying. I can say that we too train in this way. I can see how it does in some way relate to the initial problem brought up by Janet. I can also see how in many ways this type of "commitment" is far above choreographed ukemi and/or of taking falls for nage, etc. -- things most of us would complain about if it is not relegated to the addressing of learning curves (for beginners). In our own training, while this is in part related to what I read Janet to be saying, more of what is going on here is really a kind of self-willed pedagogical problem. This is why, for me, it is not wholly dealing with what I thought Janet to be discussing. This is why I attempted to answer this question differently and why I opted to talk about a different kind of commitment in one's training.

I thought Janet was referring to an internal resistance that has one fluctuating between two kinds of attachment (one to attacking with commitment and/or one to taking ukemi safely/properly). As I said, this is sort of in the type of commitment you are describing. However, I believe that the kind of paradox that shows up in what you are discussing only slightly touches upon the kind of internal resistance I was discussing. More of what is causing things like a lack of fluidity, etc., in what you are discussing is related to the structures of one's training -- more than to one's relationship with one's training (in my opinion).

Please allow me to share with you how we explain it in our dojo -- which we must do when we ask folks to go from this type of training to another level of commitment or offensive engagement: There are too many what-ifs in this type of training -- too many, "if this, then that." Moreover, too many alternatives are too much of the opposite direction to each other. This is mostly what causes the lack of presence, fluidity, etc., as one is being told to be Up and Down, Right and Left, Hot and Cold, Black and White, etc., while one is never afforded the traditional solutions for transcending such dialectical thought or action. For example: you have to have commitment, but you cannot seek to be rooted; you have to be able to hit nage if he/she does the technique but not if he/she does not; you must seek to succeed in striking uke but you must also seek to be ready for when you do not succeed; you must be engaged in your attack but you must look for escapes; etc.

If we look at this, one is being asked the impossible. One is being asked to be both up AND down, both right AND left, both hot AND cold, both black AND white. One is not being asked, though we often presume otherwise in our attempt to settle this structural paradox, to be in the middle, to be warm, or to be grey. Neither side of the dichotomy is to become ambiguous, more open, or more adaptable, while we are at the same time supposed to find meaning and sense via the very mechanisms that would under normal conditions cancel each other out in meaninglessness.

In other words, for example, we are supposed to have commitment but not be or seek to be rooted. This is oxymoronic. It is like being both hot and cold -- it is like jumbo shrimp. Eventually, we should realize that there would never be anything jumbo about shrimp. Eventually, we should realize there could never be any commitment in an attack that does not attempt to utilize the ground and thus gain a sense of rooting. Eventually, especially when we are not allowed the more traditional means of transcending dualistic thinking, we are supposed to realize that this is just another variation of the first kind of training I mentioned above. It is just another variation on the theme of cooperative/choreographed training -- by which I mean that uke stills consciously provides many of the physical forces that are by nature provided by the commitment of uke's and nage's mind, energy, body, etc.

This means that such training is really about uke and nage's attempts to "blend" with each other according to the ideals being prescribed. How do you get good at that? Simply by doing it repeatedly -- cultivating oneself to become sensitive to the fluctuations of one's partner according to the ideals prescribed by the choreography (kihon waza). By exposing oneself to a choreography repeatedly, one soon discovers even the subtlest of cues -- not only at an external level but also internally. It is like a dance step that one can time according to the music one is hearing and to the feeling one has inside. For my money, no one does this better than the Aikikai Doshu's uke. Man, these people put Olympic dressage horses to shame! However, we have to ask, "Are these committed attacks we are seeing, or are we merely seeing a commitment to the choreography?" I would say it is the latter. Additionally, I would say that eventually we have to draw a distinction between our commitments to the choreography (where we "commit" without being rooted, where we strike while ready not to strike, where we engage in our attack but look for escapes, etc.) and our committed attacks.

When we do, new solutions will arise. For example, we may come to see that it is nage's job to uproot uke or to not let uke be rooted. We may see that it is not uke's job to remain "unrooted," but that nage must respond, for example, to uke's attack sooner (at its origin or in the midst of it) -- before uke can root him/herself and when the attempt to root him/herself can be used tactically against him/her. Yet, as new solutions arise, new problems also arise. This is where I read Janet to be coming from. One of the major problems that comes up here is "How do we go from a type of training where I could remain committed and thus sensitive to a choreography that allowed to me to fluctuate between dialectics so that I could look for things like escapes (e.g. forward rolls, back breakfalls, etc.) to a type of training where it is now impossible to see (let alone look for) such escapes?"

How do we learn to attack when only attacking is being prescribed of us? We ask this here because up to now in our training this has not been asked of ourselves. Up to now, we have always had those various oppositions to fluctuate back and forth between in attempts to stay proximal to the prescribed choreography. How do we learn to land safely when nothing else is being asked of us? We ask this here because up to now in our training this has not been asked of ourselves. Up to now, we have always had those various oppositions to fluctuate back and forth between in attempts to stay proximal to the prescribed choreography. Subjectively, in committed attack training, the kind that is happening with Nature providing the relevant forces (not the conscious efforts of uke), etc., it feels like one can either attack fully OR take ukemi safely/properly -- not both.

In my opinion, things feel like this because of all the baggage we bring to such training from the earlier levels of our practice. When we were allowed to see our escapes, when we were allowed thus to look for them, when rooting became a thing to avoid because nage was not mandated to uproot us or to prevent us from rooting, when we should not allow ourselves to be rooted since nage was not mandated to address our efforts to root ourselves, etc., we prevented ourselves from addressing this new and real paradox -- one that is happening internally: If I attack fully, I crash fully. If I seek to not crash, I hesitate and de-commit in my attack. How do I do both, how do I stop one from preventing the other? Etc. This is how I understood Janet's issue -- perhaps wrongly. Either way, for this issue, in my opinion, no amount of growing accustomed can be the solution (as in the latter structural paradox). The problem is internal; the solution then must be equally internal. The solution is a reconciliation with our pride, our fear, and/or our ignorance.

Again -- just thinking out loud.

And again -- thanks Larry for the reply.

dmv

SeiserL 10-01-2005 01:40 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Quote:

Janet Rosen wrote:
is there a degree of relaxation one learns over time within the committed, intense attack, that permits the seamless transition to connected ukemi?

I sincerely hope so and look forward to that day.

Ron Tisdale 10-01-2005 02:41 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Great topic! I'm going to reread the responses and post my thoughts later. One quickie...

Today I was working with various people whose attacks were pretty rooted (one might even say their ukemi was a little resistant).

I then switched to work with a sempai whose ukemi is very 'pursuing'...he is relaxed, attacking and following contantly to keep connection. Since I started training with the former, when I switched to the latter, I found my extension was pulling him way too much, messing up the maai. So it seems like the two different approaches require different types of waza on my part at this point.

Its an interesting problem. I'd like to see my waza able to handle either without a major change in method on my part.

Best,
Ron

Larry John 10-01-2005 09:23 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
David,

Exchanging ideas with you is always such a pleasure!

First, please let me recap my understanding of your post to make sure I've received the message you intended to send, then I'll try to squeeze out some useful thoughts of my own.

1. Human communication, at least the verbal kind, relies upon implicit assumptions concerning the specific meaning of the terms used. When the communicating parties have different meanings for the same term, but have not resolved the differences in advance, they can generate profound misunderstanding.

So when we're talking about "commitment" we should at least know what the other means so we can find the common basis for discussion. We must also understand the significance of the differences, so we can put the results of our discussion into the proper context and arrive at a meaningful result. This applies directly to the execution of aikido training--if I don't understand what you mean when you ask for a committed attack, I will only be able to deliver it by dumb luck.

2. Some, perhaps many, people are too embarrassed or egotistical to ask the question "what do you mean by X?" Extreme cases are too self-absorbed to believe that the question has merit. Others only take the first step--they see the commonality, but miss or refuse to look for the critical differences in meaning that can cause problems. This creates a barrier to effective communication that is very likely to frustrate our efforts to train meaningfully.

3. You are convinced that much of how Aikido is taught and learned (both "corporately" and "personally") aids and abets this failure to communicate and train effectively, by placing self-contradictory demands upon the student and by imposing a near-Pavlovian response. To wit, we do what we're expected to do to make our partner look good, whether or not it makes any martial sense. You believe that Janet's question revolves around the mental conditioning (i.e., desire to please) which has been foisted upon her by both the corporate and personal training she has absorbed.

4. You believe that both the problem and the solution reside in the student's ability to eliminate his own pride, fear and ignorance.

My thoughts follow:

1. Yep, I agree. If you've ever negotiated and tried to execute any type of personal or business contract (e.g., entered into and lived within a relationship with another human) you know that failure to agree on what things mean will doom the contract.

2. Yep, I agree here, too. Just look at why so many people get divorced.

3. I think it's really easy to end up conditioning oneself to "making the partner look good," and that it's reasonable to believe that some, perhaps many, dojos reinforce this by the way they train. I think that Ledyard-sensei has addressed this idea many times in his articles on aikido training--in fact, his current column does so again, far better than I ever could.

For me, this gets to the heart of Janet's question, 'cause I think I'm struggling with the same issue. Here's an example form my own training--hopefully, Janet will do me the favor of chiming in if I incorrectly replace her problem with my own.

We were doing katadori nikyo within the context of dynamic kihon waza--a single shoulder grab where nage's response is to step off the line and in, then, if nage succeeded in landing the grab, extending the trailing hip to create an opening for nikyo. As uke, once I landed the grab, I maintained it even when nage extended me to the floor and cranked in a decisive nikyo. From a martial standpoint, my position was martially untenable, and it ended up being nearly meaningless training for my 3rd dan partner. He looked great, but I cheated him him of the full measure of training he could have received.

Why did I hold on? Certainly not because I wanted to make him look good. I did it because I lost the martial meaning. I stupidly forgot that the grab is only the first phase of the real attack. That it's intended to unbalance and "fix" the target to create a high probability that he will be vulnerable to the second phase--a strike, either by me or my buds.

I also failed to realize that any attack-response chain can result in the attacker finding himself in a martially untenable position (no plan survives first contact with the enemy). I failed to exercise the proper martial judgment--to realize that my attack had been disrupted and that I needed to change my plan NOW. Letting go, relaxing my grip, riding his response while looking for another opening, these would have been much more martially appropriate things to do--and they would have made it much easier for me to take the kind of ukemi that would enable me to re-engage at a time and place of my choosing.

But, as I pointed out in my first post, I'm pretty single-minded and success-oriented (read persistent beyond the point of stupidity). That's been both good and bad for me over the years, and I'm working to bring it under even better control. Aikido is actually helping a lot by offering me both many more opportunities to learn this lesson and a more expansive (and useful) definition of success.

So while your conjecture about Janet's problem might be completely correct, and the internal solution you propose may be just what the doctor ordered, I'd like to pose the idea that perhaps she's a bit like me--a bulldog. And that this stems not from an overweening sense of pride, but a bit of dogged determination that's served her pretty well over the years.

It seems to me that the answer to her question "is there a degree of relaxation one learns over time within the committed, intense attack, that permits the seamless transition to connected ukemi?" is a resounding "yes!" Hopefully, our sempai will agree and will be patient enough with us that we can find our path to that answer. I think that all we have to do is train with that in mind.

I also think that the generalization you've posed about aikido pedagogy may be true to an extent, but that it need not pose any seminal internal challenge to overcome. My Dad often tells me that I think too much. In keeping with his message, perhaps it just comes down to people realizing why they train, and keeping that realization in the forefront of their minds. For me, that's training honestly within the context of budo very like what Ledyard-sensei's column puts forth.

Over to you and anyone else who wants to contribute.

Jeff Sodeman 10-02-2005 04:37 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Quote:

is there a degree of relaxation one learns over time within the committed, intense attack, that permits the seamless transition to connected ukemi?
Relaxation may be the result of it, but I believe it starts in trust. You can't give a committed attack to someone without 1) the trust that they'll do their best to take care of you, and 2) the trust that you've developed sufficent ukemi skill to handle what comes out.

In the first case I don't mean they won't try to throw you hard, but more that they won't intentionally put some extra twist into things that makes uke's safety impossible - certain ways of doing some throws just can't be survived without injury.

Trusting yourself I think comes out of surviving situations that really pushed you. Always training at a comfortable level will never lead to that level of ukemi skill.

So, depending on what you do with your time it's possible that someone would never get there or get their quickly. Once you develop that trust though, your mind can clear of fear and your body can do what it's supposed to without interference.

Tim Griffiths 10-02-2005 05:06 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
After reading the (very interesting) discussion, I had another look at Janet's question to see what else I could pick out.
Quote:

Janet Rosen wrote:
If I give the kind of very focussed intent attack empty hand that I'd be giving in partnered weapons work, I'm bringing a certain solidity to it, a feeling that I will reach my goal with my center/posture intact. If nage moves and I'm somewhat imbalanced (which would be considered a good next step in the interaction...) my tendency is to stay in "solid" mode -- thinking about it now as I write, I'm probably momentarily freezing? tensing?

(My emphasis).

From your description, I see the problem there - that you're 'reaching a goal' and so stopping momentarily before starting something else - following/blending with uke. Very possibly its not a matter of physical tension, just a pause where you have to switch to a new task.
I'd suggest to think about the concept of Continuous Attack, that's been mentioned above. This can mean pushing on towards nage, or beginning a second strike, or moving to recover your center in order to strike again. Personally I try to keep the feeling of wanting a second strike, so that my attacks can be committed AND continuous - without the feeling that something is 'over' when the first strike fails to connect (usually :D ).

Train well,

Tim

Larry John 10-02-2005 06:54 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
I think that Jeff and Tim both have it right from a practical perspective. And in far fewer words than I used, too!

Janet, what do you think?

Larry John 10-02-2005 06:55 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
David,

Would you like to spin off a new thread addressing the question of "rooting" during martial engagements?

Pauliina Lievonen 10-02-2005 12:21 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Quote:

Janet Rosen wrote:
If I give the kind of very focused intent attack empty hand that I'd be giving in partnered weapons work, I'm bringing a certain solidity to it, a feeling that I will reach my goal with my center/posture intact. If nage moves and I'm somewhat imbalanced (which would be considered a good next step in the interaction...) my tendency is to stay in "solid" mode --

I think Janet might be away for the weekend...

Another thought that occurred to me is how to understand center, and posture, and solidity.

It's possible to be solid, and stuck to one place, or solid, but movable. This is something I get to explore with people when they first come to have Alexander technique lessons. If we take moving from standing to sitting in a chair... there's often a pause, a moment where the person needs to decide "now I want to move" and unstick themselves from the standing posture, in order to start moving. Someone who is able to stand more ...fluidly can go from standing to moving into the chair without the pause, even though they were standing in balance and apparently quite well in balance (we're never in balance, but we can appear to be :)).

What I'm saying is, I've never met Janet in person so I don't know if this applies to her, but sometimes people get fixed when they want to be solid/centered /(rooted? :)), and wanting to deliver an intense attack might be associated with the idea that in order to do that one needs to be solid/centered in a particular way. And maybe there's a different way of being solid/centered and attacking intensely, that isn't fixed, and that allows one to move easily if it's required.

How's that for indirect? :)

About words... solid makes me think very heavy, downward, not mobile. Lot's of "centered" people I've met like to push their pelvis into their legs, making movement in the hip joint difficult. Not a fault of the words themselves, but words can be tricky things.

As uke, I prefer "strategic" to "committed".

kvaak
Pauliina

Janet Rosen 10-02-2005 02:42 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Quote:

David Valadez wrote:
When we do, new solutions will arise. For example, we may come to see that it is nage's job to uproot uke or to not let uke be rooted. We may see that it is not uke's job to remain "unrooted," but that nage must respond, for example, to uke's attack sooner (at its origin or in the midst of it) -- before uke can root him/herself and when the attempt to root him/herself can be used tactically against him/her. Yet, as new solutions arise, new problems also arise. This is where I read Janet to be coming from. (SNIP) How do we learn to attack when only attacking is being prescribed of us? We ask this here because up to now in our training this has not been asked of ourselves...... How do we learn to land safely when nothing else is being asked of us? We ask this here because up to now in our training this has not been asked of ourselves...

WOW I've opened an interesting conversation!! I'm enjoying reading through it today and have just gotten through David's long one. Many thanks to all and esp for this one. I would use different language to express what you are saying but I think in essence we are discussing the same phenomenon. yes....gonna keep reading the thread....

Janet Rosen 10-02-2005 02:51 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Quote:

Larry John wrote:
So while your conjecture about Janet's problem might be completely correct, and the internal solution you propose may be just what the doctor ordered, I'd like to pose the idea that perhaps she's a bit like me--a bulldog.

Nope, I'm a badger :-)
Seriously, no, I don't hang on that way. Though in a kihon situation, I WOULD hold on to the shoulder grab because that is the "problem" I as uke have been asked to pose of nage. In a more open and flowing situation, I'd want to stay loose and looking for reversals, so not commit to just one attack.
Larry, I don't at all mind other questions and situations coming into the thread though, so don't fret for a moment!
The piece of the puzzle for me is that moment of transition and yes to some degree it IS a question of "what is being asked of me?" My nature is to be behind the beat, watching, THEN acting.

Janet Rosen 10-02-2005 02:54 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Quote:

Larry John wrote:
I think that Jeff and Tim both have it right from a practical perspective. And in far fewer words than I used, too!
Janet, what do you think?

(grin) I think Tim and Pauliina have a good sense of some of the somatic and conceptual issues.
I know I'm enjoying and learning.

Larry John 10-02-2005 08:46 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
A badger? As in, "When you say WIS-consin ...?" (I lived in the UP for a few years, eh?)

Sorry for any misunderstanding; our kihon waza is a flowing situation, even for newbies. That's why I called it "dynamic."

And given that you see Tim and Pauliina as having the right of the problem, I'm even more confident that "yes" is the right answer to your question. Now, as to how to get there ...

... I'm trying (though clearly not always successfully) to concentrate on the attributes I want my engagements to have--smoothness, martial honesty and tactical flexibility. I'm also trying to visualize moving as if I'm in a viscous liquid like oil (olive , of course, it's better for my old heart!).

Will let you know how it turns out .. in a decade or so, probably, knowing my rate of progress.

senshincenter 10-02-2005 11:54 PM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Great posts everyone - I really enjoyed them. I'll try and contribute something tomorrow. I think a lot of great points have been raised.

thanks so much,
d

Kevin Leavitt 10-03-2005 12:48 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Hi Larry,

Just had a thought. When I was "home" a month ago, working with Mike Lasky Sensei was a real experience.

I forgot how strong he can be and responsive to subtle shifts in balance, intent, direction.

He feels very rooted, and strong, even on his attacks, but he is also flowing and dynamic...all at the same time! I know you know what I am talking about!

I think it is a matter of experience of finding that "sweet spot" between strength and flow. Or something like that!

Pauliina Lievonen 10-03-2005 07:22 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Quote:

Kevin Leavitt wrote:
I think it is a matter of experience of finding that "sweet spot" between strength and flow. Or something like that!

I'm going to jump on a word again.

I don't think it's "between"... it's somewhere else entirely. :)

I think that if you keep thinking of strength and flow as two opposites, or two ends of a continuum, you'll always have this apparent dilemma. Strong and flowing can both exist at the exact same moment together.

Is that what you were saying David?

kvaak
Pauliina
off the mat because of a cold :(

senshincenter 10-03-2005 10:47 AM

Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox
 
Hi Pauliina,

Yes, I would not want to make an opposition between being strong and being flowing.

d


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