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Old 10-03-2005, 10:25 PM   #28
Larry John
Dojo: Aikido of Northern Virginia
Location: Arlington VA
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 74
Re: committed attack/sensitive ukemi paradox


I think your analysis of the first example is spot on. As Kevin has alluded to, at our dojo we're fortunate in that Sorrentino-sensei and Lasky-sensei encourage us all to not accept or engage in this kind of "negative training." It builds a false sense of confidence, incorrect use of timing and spacing, and overall poor martial judgment

It seems to me that your second situation presumes that uke is one of those folks who feels they must always be in control, or at least know what's supposed to happen so they can be sure to make it happen (hence the deeper psychological problem?).

Where that's the case, again, you're spot on, and I think this may be the situation in which Janet finds herself (please, Janet, chime in if I've misrepresented something). It sounds as though she wants to have enough control of things that she can deliver both the prescribed problem and the expected resolution, both for her sake and for her partner's feelings(?).

Saotome-sensei stresses that aikido is not about controlling the other guy, whether it's uke or nage; it's about controlling yourself. I think that the seeds of the solution may reside therein.

If uke controls his martially valid attack such that he ensures that he has martially valid options for continuation or escape (that is, the attack is not over-committed), he has done as much as he can to control how the attack will be resolved. He must then be sensitive enough to read the somatic cues nage gives him so that he can decide which option (for simplicity's sake, let's say continue to attack or take a roll or fall), is the best choice. Along this line, Sorrentino-sensei frequently reminds us that ukemi is not something that happens to you, it's something you choose to do. Even a very strong uke cannot seek to control nage's reaction without risking injury to one or the other party.

As others have indicated, the task is needlessly complicated when folks view attack and defense as separate pieces of the puzzle. I think that thinking of it as "attack while protecting ourselves" and "follow-up while protecting ourselves" helps eliminate the changeover point that's causing us so much trouble?

In other words, Janet and I will both simplify our problem if we stop trying to control more of the interaction than is within our reach.

As you've observed, training works best when partners can trust each other not to inflict injury. I think that this trust is what provides uke the freedom to focus on controlling himself and responding to nage's cues. It must be built over time. This also ties in with your discussion of the psychological problem. Both partners must work to eliminate the fear that inspires the lack of trust that leads to over-control that leads to invalid and potentially dangerous training.

I think this is why many dojos (ours included) use the principle that one should "attack no harder than he wants to fall." As Ledyard-sensei has frequently pointed out, slow training does NOT equal invalid training. When used properly, as I've seen in many of the videos from your dojo, it's a step along the way to whatever level of safe, reliable performance one seeks to attain in the long run. As nage's experience increases, he can get even a hard-charging uke to effectively slow down (hesitate or "hitch") by using pre-emptive kuzushi (kiai and/or atemi) to assume control of the resolution early in the engagement. A uke who fails to react to a martially valid atemi is doing something that's martially risky--it fails the "protecting ourselves" part of the task.

This post has gotten too long, so I'll listen now.

Anyone else have comments?

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