Janet Rosen wrote:
So I think PART of why my attacks go a bit slack is that I'm focusing (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 occurred to me though the problem is not a new one for me.
Janet, (obviously this is in my opinion) the issue is how comfortable you are with your ukemi skills. As uke, you're job is to attack. That's it. Whether it's a strike or a grab or whatever, you just attack.
Now, allegedly, Nage will disrupt your balance. That's not your problem. Your problem is attacking. If you lose your balance, you get it back, then you attack again. If your attack is successful then nage will be unable to initiate an immediate attack on you. If your attack is not successful, you should recover your ability to be dangerous and attack again until it is inappropriate for you to do so (say, the end of the waza that you are doing).
If nage causes your structure to be so unstable that you have to fall down, you keep attacking with your intent. You never just "fall", you follow nage's directing of your movement to get yourself to a more tactically advantageous position (in other words, instead of splatting yourself on the floor, you take effective ukemi to save your butt, and possibly position yourself for another attack by rolling out or laying on your back with feet and hands as ready weapons to defend yourself).
Too many people equate ukemi with "falling" and "losing". It is tactically advantageous to not die, so even if you get pinned, it's still an advantageous place over having your neck broke. Ukemi is a tactical tool, not a survival mechanism. As you progress you begin to learn to counter Nage while you are being thrown. You can't do that if you're "falling", you can only do that if you're still attacking. Likewise, you can't attack while falling if you aren't comfortable falling.
Which brings me back to where my point, you've got to be comfortable enough with taking ukemi that you don't stop and think "okay, time to fall". You need to think, "attack, recover, attack, recover,attack." If you end up flying straight over your wrist, you still are thinking attack. And if you end up on the ground think, get up and attack (even if you can't get
up, you still try by testing nage's pin and you keep your intent going until the waza is finished). There's just no way to do that if you're thinking "how am I supposed to fall, oh my gosh I'm falling, I've got to breath out and relax, keep my wheel round, tuck and roll, etc." At that point you are no longer connected with nage, you can't effect their center, you can't counter their waza, and you certainly can't make a viable attack. By then, you've got to wait until you're on the ground safe, find your bearings (and nage), switch your mind to attack mode, and then start all over again. If nage happens to be a 185 lb prize fighter with a some skill under his belt, a knife in his off-hand, and no problem with opening your veins, then you're in a very bad way. (to put all that into a short sentence, you need to keep the zanshin between you and nage from the time you bow till you bow again. nage's a training partner, but in the learning paradigm, they are not
Now, having said that, don't go all rabid monkey
on poor nage. One can (and should) attack slow, precise, focused, with specific intent, in an appropriate manner for the waza, the partner, the exercises, the class, the dojo, the style, etc. The important part is that you don't give up, or stop, or speed up, or freeze up, or cheat by "knowing" what is going to happen and anticipating and/or stopping nage from doing it. Just go get 'em, and if you're in the air, stay connected and don't give up, you may turn the waza on 'em