Re: It Had To Be Felt #9: Watanabe Nobuyuki: How the Mighty Have Fallen
In 1986 I had my first visit to Japan and of course I visited also the Hombu Dojo. I didn't care who was the instructor and so I had my first lecture of Watanabe Nobuyuki on a Friday evening. In the beginning it seemed quite normal to what I regarded as Aikido. But then he demonstrated techniques in a way I couldn't believe that they may work. At this time I took not ukemi for him. Only eight years later I visited a seminar in Germany where he used to go to twice a year and I attended nearly all of them since then. Now I had the opportunity to take ukemi and it was a strange experience. I needed years to do the ukemi in an appropriate for him and let him demonstrate what he wanted to.
And this is my interpretation: You have to attack forcefully and with the will to attack. But at the same time you should care about yourself. In reality you don't know what the other one is doing. If you could focus on "Aikido techniques" it is easier to read tori and the intentions of his technique. But if you do not know, its a different game.
With regard what I understand up to now why Watanabe sensei approach "works" let me state the following. If as uke you approach him you may experience that you brings you out of sync. You try to put forward the right foot but somehow you can't. You retreat and try the left foot. Same. And in a moment you start to dance, changing your weight from one foot to the other. For an outside observer it looks ridiculous. But in the perception of uke it is real.
What I also experienced was that Watanabe sensei is playing with maai, the good or correct distance. I can't remember the Japanese term he used for it, but it was translated like: Cut up the maai. In practice he is either reducing or extending the distance while coming back to maai immediately. This expels or let you fall into him and it is absolutely effortless for him to apply an Aikido technique now.
All in all I would say that Watanabe sensei tries to clarify things so that the Aikido technique proper is kind of Yoga exercise. This is NOT what does the unbalancing, it is NOT what does the blending between uke and tori. This is all done long before.
I myself try to "apply" these and many more principles, Watanabe sensei was teaching since many years in my own teaching. I give a lot of classes, eight in every week, and give seminars in other dojos. And from these experiences in teaching this myself I know that these are down to earth real and realistic principles.
Last point, I would like to make is, that Watanabe sensei refuses to apply direct physical power. He explains it indirectly by saying: If you are in a real fight, everything will be different. Being myself somebody who practiced kind of "strong" Aikido (Asai sensei used to be my teacher before and Watanabe sensei called me more then once "Rambo" which he didn't used as a compliment) I am changing this attitude step by step to something else.