Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
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,