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Old 10-02-2005, 11:04 AM   #24
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: atemi is 90% of Aikido

James Bostwick wrote:
I think I just did. Obnoxiousness maybe, but no offense intended.
I certainly understand that no offense is intended and since we have had some substantial back and forth over the years and I know you are both serious and knowledgeable, I don't take the "obnoxious" tone of your first statement personally. n fact i agree with you that many, if not most folks out there do not understand atemi, can't do atemi effectively, use atemi to make up for their lack of ability to achieve kuzushi properly. But I am not talking about those people. I am talking about people who do know what they are talking about and are highly skilled.

The whole logic of the paired interaction of Aikido requires atemi. Your narrow definition that there is no atemi until the atemi actually manifests is just wrong. Martial arts is about suki (openings). In Aikido we endeavor to close our suki and expose the partner's. This is the learning process.

If you take the simple training exercise of kokyu dosa as an example, it would be impossible without the possibility of atemi. The uke, sensing that his center is rising, would simply let go and break the connection and stay grounded. It is the knowledge that if he lets go, he is exposed to a double knife edge strike to the neck that causes him to choose to hold on, thereby producing a technique which, to outward appearances has no atemi. But the entire logic of the interaction was based on the possibility of the atemi. The uke CHOOSES to move in such a way as to acknowledge that possibility and the nage does not need to manifest it.

A flowing technique such as yokomen-uchi ikkyo is completely dependent on atemi. Uke attacks with yokomen-uchi... nage receives using the irimi-tenkan entry; one hand receives the strike and nage rests his weight upon the attacking arm (in the same manner one would rest ones sword blade on a kesa giri) while the other hand executes an atemi to the face of the uke.

If there is no atemi to the face of the uke, he can turn that hip inside the arc of the movement and deliver a strike with that hand; it is the atemi which forces him to protect himself by deflecting the blow before he attempts to strike with that hand.

Why doesn't the uke simply pull the arm back once the yokomen uchi has missed its target? In fact he will, unless one has entered properly and rested his weight on that arm as previously described. At that point he cannot take that arm away without exposing himself to the atemi line that exists up the inside of the arm to the face / neck. He must maintain contact as a defense against that line; if he tries to use his opposite hand to protect against that threat, he opens himself up to the original line of atemi to the face. He has no choice but to stay connected which allows the nage to effect his center through the connection created by that attack. If there were no atemi involved, the uke could and would simply disconnect the instant his yokomen did not hit the opponent or he would attack in combination by throwing the yokomen and then instantly delivering a tsuki with the other hand. the only thing that prevents either of these possibilities is the proper alignment and spacing of the nage which puts him in position to strike with either hand while nage can only effectively protect himself from one of the two lines of attack. Understanding this fact, the uke is forced to leave his arm out making it possible for the nage to execute the ikkyo. No atemi, no technique; period. That doesn't mean that every atemi is thrown; the partner is assumed to be smart enough not to open himself up to the atemi because he can feel the intention of the nage to strike if he leaves himself open.

The narrow definition of atemi as a physical strike to the body leaves out some of the most important usage of atemi which involves striking the space the uke needs to be in (in order to effectively complete his attack) before he actually gets there, thereby giving him the chance to break his posture and avoid being hit. In fact, if i can put my Mind into that space and the uke feels it, then he will experience it as being unable to attack himself because he knows he will be struck if he does. O-sensei could do this, I have felt Saotome Sensei do it to me and Ushiro Sensei at Rocky Mountain Summer Camp gave a lengthy description of what is going on when you do this.

Having had some small kensho this summer after that camp I can also do it somewhat (not as skillfully as these teachers though) so I am not talking second hand. I know this to be true from my own practice. But the ability to stop an opponent from even being able to launch an attack, thereby winning without having to fight, is entirely based on the possibility of atemi and an understanding on the part of both parties of timing, spacing, and suki.

Anyway, some of this stuff is so self-evident in Aikido waza that your refusal to acknowledge it seems to me to be based on trying to make some point rather than what you really believe. Your point about adjusting the range to make atemi unnecessary is a good one but it assumes an unlimited amount of room to move. Sure, if one has that, one can use proper movement and spacing alone to unbalance an opponent suing only the energy of the attacker's intention to accomplish the technique. But when there is not that kind of room available, then irimi is the only possibility and any techniques being done in that context will need to function as I have described.

I am open to being shown that this isn't true... but I've got thirty years in now, have trained widely, well outside of my own organization, so no one can say I haven't seen a very wide representation of Aikido approaches and I haven't seen any Aikido which is both effective and contradicts what I am saying here. Even my investigations beyond the boundaries of Aikido with Vladimir Vasiliyev in the Systema and Kenji Ushiro of Shindo Ryu Karate have confirmed this for me.

So until someone can provide me an experience which doesn't fit my model, I am sticking with it. I will continue to stay open to any new experiences... I have trained with many of the old giants of Aikido in Japan before they died, gone to every Expo, attended seminars with both Aikido and non-Aikido teachers alike... I don't think you'll find an Aikido person more open to new ideas. But if they contradict my previous experience, they have to show me they can do it and in this area I haven't experienced that yet.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 10-02-2005 at 11:10 AM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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