Thread: Value of atemi
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Old 05-30-2007, 09:10 AM   #52
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
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Re: Value of atemi

Edward Karaa wrote: View Post
George Ledyard wrote:
I don't believe that one can say that an attacker is "off balance" by virtue of his attack. A competent attacker can be quite balanced, in fact a good attack requires being balanced and centered.
It is, however, impossible to attack another without creating a suki or "opening". Using the principle of "irimi" we use that opening to occupy the space which the attacker wishes occupy in order to complete his attack.The action of the irimi will serve to cause the attacker to disrupt his balance.
In other words, you must take the attacker's balance. If he is competent he will not just give it to you. There is nothing inherently "off-balance" about an attack, no matter how erroneous the thinking may be behind the violent action
IMHO, an attacker is not off balance by virtue of his attack, but he is off balance because he expected to hit a certain target, and the target vanished at the moment of impact.
I would put it this way. I have come to this understanding of the relationship between the attack process and the action of aikido. It helps me, so it may help others -- or -- if it is thoroughly and soundly trashed -- it will certainly help me to be corrected in any error of understanding.

So -- here you go.

An attacker with an apparent opening is looking for a certain sequence of physical cues/events.

1) Grounding 2) Launch 3) Connection 4) Resistance/impact

In a well-trained person these blend almost seamlessly (as do the kuzushi-tsukuri-kake progression). Any interruption in the sequence reverts back to the beginning, and commences a secondary attack.

A trained person does not lose balance when they attack, but they do lose their grounding. They are using that stability platform to create their energy, and cannot (without reversing their energy) pull back into ground and increase stability while siumultaneously expending it. Their balance is not actually sacrificed -- but a degree of stability is converted into the strike -- in rough proportion to the amount of power committed to the strike. I would characterize this condition as prior to kuzushi (balance breaking) in the kuzushi-tsukuri-kake progession.

If Grounding is interrupted no effective attack will be launched, -- it will have little power behind it.

If Launch of the attack is interrupted then it will not make connection to the opponents structure.

If Connection is interrupted it will have little or no impact or create much resistance in the opponents structure.

If Resistance/impact is interrupted damage to the target is reduced or eliminated.

Most arts rely on the interruption of these process of at one or stage of the progression. Aikido, it seems to me, does not interrupt any given stage in its functions ( as other arts often do) but can act in ways that defeat the progression as a whole --- by essentially continuing or extending any given stage -- rather than stopping or interrupting it. Stopping an attack at any stage merely resets for a secondary attack. Aikido's goal is to defeat the possibility of attack, and the progression is not stopped -- the attack simply evolves into something impossible and the progression ceases of its own accord.

A most singular way to accomplish this is by defeating the opponent's Grounding. This requires a very coherent structure in order to consistently enter and completely occupy the space in connection to the attacker that he needs to Ground in order to launch an effective attack. It seems to me that most of the erstwhile "internal power" debate is directed to this element (or to the last one -- at the point of impact). My first teacher calls this using "KI on the downside. As I view it, it is more critical to the first and fourth stages, while what he calls "Ki on the up side" is more critical to the middle two.

At the first stage, Grounding, if a person is already grounded, one can remove their groundedness, without necessarily taking their balance, as such. The state of balance is converted from a subcritical stable form to a supercritically stable form, like balancing the ball in the bottom of a bowl versus on the top of another ball. At that point kuzushi can easily be accomplished by moving them just slightly off the top of the ball. Judo tends to elide these two functions into one action of kuzushi, whereas, in my view of aikido they seem more distinct, in part because we are trying to draw out the process, making the distinction more observable.

But Aikido functions at every other stage as well. The critical element is achieving connection at some stage of the attack progression and then maintaining that connection to continue, extend and convert it without actually interrupting the action at the stage at which it occurs. The next step in the progression is at least delayed and may or may not occur, but since the progression is not actually stopped, it does not instinctively reset to another attack.

Unlike the attacker who needs to Ground in order to Launch, the Aikidoka only needs critically coherent structure, (strong internal structure or internal power, in the language of some) to occupy that ground WHILE in connection to an attacker who is seeking to ground at the same time in that place. If he is connecting at the periphery of the attacker's expression of power, (in the middle two stages of Launch and Connection), then mobility and thus supercritical stability (highly responsive) is more important than the grounded coherence of structure, and subcritical stability (innately restoring tendency).

At the stage of Launch, the aikidoka needs to be in the line of the launch to invite it (solving a part of the Grounding stability problem), but not in line at the point of connection. Many describe this as "getting off the line." But the element often missed is the connection that must occur to make this aikido instead of mere evasion. Evasion just interrupts the launch -- and thereby merely resets the attack machine to the secondary attack. Achieving connection WHILE removing oneself from the line of Launch moves the line as much as it moves you, all without stopping its intended progression.

At the stage of Connection, the aikidoka and the attacker can agree on the goal but not on the trajectory in arriving at or departing from that point. Connection can be achieved without resulting impact or resistance to the attack, and without defeating the launch, and as long as the Connection is maintained with perceived possibility of an incipient impact, the sequence of attack is not interrupted and the attack machine does not reset. Most kokyu nage operates well in this area. Because connection is the indispensable part of dealing with attack at every stage -- this stage is fundamental to understanding the root function of the art, and its emphasis on mobility tends to color the perception of the uses of "KI on the downside."

Lastly, there is the Resistance/impact stage, this is where the connection and the body structure skills are simultaneously most critical. The difference of position between effective impact and no effective impact is literally a matter of a finger's breadth or less. Any error of form in receiving the energy in that connection will result in impact felt.

If you allow the Grounding, Launch and Connection to occur without significant disruption one can convert the energy of the attack connecting in irimi-tenkan to his structure, just as he is trying to convert it into the impact resistance in the target's structure. Like the first stage, this requires the most coherent body structure as well high sensitivity to perform, and the results are among the most dramatic displays in this art.


Erick Mead
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