Dojo: ACE Aikido
Location: Los Angeles
Join Date: Jun 2000
Re: VOE: Active Resistance
Chiming in here on a subject near and dear to me. It's a bit long....
For me there are so many levels and aspects to this subject that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about it and working with it on the mat. It's integral to all of our training.
I think of Aikido as "the path of No resistance" -- on the part of "nage" - but even resistance can be used in some instances in a "harmonious" or appropriate way, so I think it's difficult to sort out in any simple manner.
My thoughts tend to start with the notion that there is a difference between:
Teaching Aikido, and
Specifically defining the training/practice agreements in each scenario define the context of "supportive and mutual learning." But, I think part of understanding one's practice experience is understanding that people may resist because of several possible reasons (an incomplete list and in no particular order....) :
-- Uke is a naturally tense person
-- Uke feels the need for continual proof that Aikido "works"
-- Nage is doing the technique wrong, or poorly, which gives Uke the opportunity to counter, change, or stop the process
-- Nage is using physical force, which gives a reference for Uke to react against
-- Nage is trying to "do something" to Uke, trying to change or alter their natural flow rather than properly "be with them" or as I might say, "connect with their Ki"
-- Nage is going slowly which gives Uke time to do anything they want to
-- Uke knows what Nage is going to do, which gives them to opportunity to alter the process
-- Uke has the opportunity to completely step out of the interaction, give no attack, or go limp, because for whatever reason, they can
- Uke approaches the interaction as an opportunity to mess up Nage from the beginning, thus not "really" attacking
For me, if one is responding to Uke with "Aiki", the following principles are present and the above, i.e., resistance, is less likely, or in a theoretical sense, impossible, to occur or to get anywhere:
When this particular process is more difficult to enact, as the skill of the attacker increases, we move more into a process of:
In my style this is generally all in the service of Kinesthetic Invisibility (a term coined by my late instructor Don O'Bell), or giving no physical reference through connection, flow, moving from center rather than hands, and Ki rather than muscle. Done correctly, there is nothing to resist. If we meet resistance, chances are we just need to clue into one of these elements that we are probably neglecting, and pick up the process again from there and follow it through to its natural conclusion.
All this depends, though, on how the participants.... participate - especially in the dojo - in terms of what I think of as Levels of Practice:
- Uke going along
- Uke tracking for reference or quality of technique
- Uke giving some resistance
- Uke giving real resistance if possible
- Uke trying to counter if possible
Coupled with the intention of practice in terms of what one is dealing with - what I think of as Levels of Attack:
With the Intent To:
- fight (untrained)
- fight (trained fighter - fakes, non-committal, set-ups etc.)
- create Chaos
Basic practice is often grounded in the agreement that Uke will flow with Nage if Nage is performing properly. That way, Nage will be getting coherent feedback for doing things "right." As one's level of experience and ability grows, the "what-ifs" and higher skill levels of attack become more part of the process, and we then give feedback of various sorts regarding things like openings in defense, how to deal when someone gives you a difficult time, or higher levels of Kinesthetic Invisibility. But it all depends on experience, and the practice context and agreement. At some point, we use a training exercise I call Chaos Aikido -- where Nage is put in a position of not having good maai, they're being dominated in some way, they're in a bad position etc.... then -- how to recover and do Aikido anyway. I think these are differences in practice and application that need to be addressed in any full training program.
Therefore, for me, resistance is an important mechanism for feedback in training. Appropriate resistance is one way of letting Nage know that they are applying force and not going with your flow, or that they are trying to "do something to you." At a higher level, resistance is important because ultimately it is one of the most significant tools of understanding whether or not one's Aikido is actually effective, that is to say, if Uke - can - resist - effectively, then something "could be done better" meaning "more in harmony." Also, at a certain level, one needs to know what to do when one meets all kinds of reactions to the process. In real life, as they say, chaos reigns. Throughout this whole training process, there are many ways to use what happens when resistance is successful, or not, to learn a number of very important things.
Anyway, these are some of my thoughts/meanderings about training.