Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)
Thanks for the reply. I'll try and answer these questions -- they are all good ones -- got me thinking.
This is a very good example of the problem. So the question becomes, how do I teach the new person their role in the technique? Do we teach them the ukemi, the same way we teach nage/shite the waza?
Answer: Yes. (In Kihon Waza training) Waza is basically a Kata -- it is not a match or a self-defense scenario, etc. It does not measure how close one is to being martially effective. It measures how close one is to embodying a tactical architecture that is theoretically seen as being martially effective. That is a big difference that is often overlooked -- especially by those of us that do not compete and/or that do not regularly participate in (true) spontaneous training environments, etc. So, yes, you teach Uke how to fall, stay connected, stay committed, etc. -- how to embody and/or generate the forces prescribed by the ideal architecture, and then how to land safely as a result of that.
Do styles where the ukemi is highly defined (go down on your back knee / block the nikkajo by bracing with your head / switch knees / sliding breakfall ) answer this quandry? Partially? Fully?
Answer: I do not feel that we can understand either Uke's role or Nage's role through Kihon Waza training alone. Spontaneous training environments are paramount when it comes to truly grasping what a given waza is saying about either of these things within/through its architecture. What I say above is only the beginning of training in ukemi, and it is a beginning that comes when one begins to understand that kata/kihon waza training does not measure martial effectiveness directly. When you realize and accept that you are not in a fight when you are doing kihon waza, your ego has a chance of settling down (either from pride or from fear), and you thus look for other things that can measure martial effectiveness more directly. If you do not, you are stuck doing ukemi at entry levels -- at levels meant to address beginner learning curves. This means you are stuck not learning huge parts of ukemi since the addressing of beginner learning curves always means that you are having some things left out. So you may start by saying "go down on your back knee/block the nikaajo by bracing with your head/switch knees/sliding breakfall," etc., but you cannot end there either in theory or in practice. You must venture into spontaneous training environments - where the unknown works to give a reason to the known. That is to say, you must practice under conditions that can bring to you the REAL reasons for why something is done one way and not another. All of kihon waza training, for me, is about working our way up to this type of training. Thus, at our dojo, when we venture into spontaneous training, the new person to the training never really says, "Man, I need more time doing this stuff." They always seem to say, "Crap, I got to get my basics down more." Or, "Crap, I need to practice my breakfalls more." This is how spontaneous training environments and kihon waza are supposed to function -- in combination.
A 300 pound newbie (male), was pushing around a 128 pound intermediate student (female), and not following the ukemi. With me, he followed the ukemi. But not with her. Finally, she just floored him. It ended the issue. From then on, he took the ukemi.
Now, I had no problems with her doing that. He had been taught the ukemi, and the reasons for it. He was, in fact, in the superior position physically. Yet he chose to step outside the model. Are you suggesting there should be no consequences for that?
Answer: For me, only a teacher should do this -- for safety, martial, and spiritual reasons.
Senpai Nage are to work on refining their technique by accepting the challenge of maintaining control of their kohai uke without injuring them and/or pushing them beyond their ukemi skill. This is the best way of getting something out of training with kohai -- in fact, this is the only way that you can get this level of technical refinement. Moreover, there is the larger spiritual issue here -- where if I understand you correctly (and I may not be) the senpai nage just practiced frustration and not acceptance -- which is a huge part of both the martial and spiritual sides of Aikido. Additionally, the kohai uke is demonstrating that they have not grasped the true nature of kihon waza training. In fact, if they are doing the correct ukemi only because they had been slammed -- and not because they are in an architectural agreement with their partner. Chances are they are on their way to being fully captured by the pitfalls of Rank Aikido. As a dojocho, I would want to stop that from spreading from person to person under my roof.
For me, I would have gone over there before the kohai got slammed and explained to them that they have a role to fulfill, and they should thus use each opportunity to practice that role. I'd explain that kihon waza training is about learning and about getting some basics under you so that you can move forward in the training -- so that you don't find yourself in spontaneous training environments saying, "Man, I got to work on my forward breakfalls," or "I got to get my basics down better."
Had I not seen it until after the slam -- I would have gone over and said the same thing as above to the kohai but I would have also reminded the senpai nage of the opportunity they lost to learn something more about the architecture and their distance from embodying it fully. Then I would have proceeded to do the technique in an even slower/lighter fashion to show them that there are other ways of reacting to resistance and that they should seek those out. I would have pointed out that refinement of technique will first require that we change ourselves before we can try something new (tactically speaking). Finally, I would have reminded them of our dojo's policy in regards to how senpai nage are to related to kohai uke in Kihon Waza training.
As for the "consequences" -- for both nage and uke who can't follow this direction -- they will come to experience them in spontaneous training environments -- fully and naturally, and in ways and in degrees that Kihon Waza can never generate. Before that, there is only the slight admonishment that comes with losing prime opportunities for training more efficiently and for not following dojo protocols more closely.
Much to think about here for me -- thanks Ron for prompting the reflection.