Ian Dodkins wrote:
Are you saying that there is some unstopable cascade of thought/movement from uke which we are able to react to because we are relaxed, and thus by 'not-controlling' we can actually control the movement?
Erik is on to something here, although I'd need a bit more science up my sleeve to quite be able to get it all. Anyway, I was trying to understand why Saotome Sensei could move almost languidly around the mat while I tried to strike him and I would be ABSOLUTELY sure that I had him this time and then miss. He had never moved rapidly he simply moved and I missed.
I finally understood that, he never thinks about where he is moving to. His attention stays directly on your center and "inside" the attack. He is always going forward to the center in his mind. I tried this out on my own and it was dramatic. I had a couple of my San Dan students go after me with shomen-uchi. First, I tried to do irimi, tenkan, dodge, feint, etc. Every time their strikes stopped dead center on my forehead. Then I tried to do what I believed I had noted Saotome Sensei doing and the result was dramatic. They couldn't hit me any more, even though I was now moving at a fraction of the speed I had been. They had the same looks on their faces that I have had a million times with Sensei when I simply couldn't understand how I had missed him.
This made me understand that there is something going on beyond just the visual input. If visual information is the only input you are getting from the partner, your movements are too slow. So when you stand across from an attacker and execute an irimi, there should be no shift in your attention, no feeling of trying to escape from the attack. That is a yin energy and it will pull the attack right to you. Irimi is like the spokes of a wheel with the attacker at the center hub. I might change my angle from the one directly in front of the attacker but I am always facing the center of the hub. If I place my attention on the center and don't change it at all when I move to a new angle, the attacker simply doesn't register what I am doing soon enough to track me.
This brings me to one of my own pet peeves, so to speak. Aikido is commonly described as the art in which the defender gets off the line, leads the energy of the attack past him and then puts it back in to the attacker. I think this very concept is wrong. The picture in Saotome Sensei's book is an excellent one in this regard. He shows two opponents on a log bridge over a chasm. Anyone who tries to get "off the line" is going to fall into the gorge. Aikido is ALL about irimi. Inside every tenkan movement must first be an irimi. I don't "get off the line" I go to the center and rotate. That's very different and the attacker perceives what you are doing quite differently.
In Aikido we "own" our space. As a visualization to counter the misconception that we are in some way "escaping" from the attack, I have students say to themselves "this is my house and I am not leaving just because you are coming in". Aikido entry is quite simply about creating rotation at or just before the moment of physical contact. This rotation is created by the relative movement of the hips. But the mind, how you place your attention, does not change at all when you enter. The mind is simply "inside" the attack at all times, even before there is an attack. A step coupled with hip rotation will change the angle relative to the attacker but there is no perceivable shift of attention to the place to which one is moving.