Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Thanks for posting.
I can understand your point about changing technique should uke do one thing and not another. My experience totally agrees with that as well. But that experience, or the experience of what it is you are sharing, is, in my opinion, the problematic at hand -- isn't it?
My reasoning goes like this:
If I understand atemi as distraction, as in this case we might, but then I go on to objectively determine what that distraction has to be, am I not going to in the end ultimately contradict my own reasoning? I would say "yes," and here's why.
Distraction, as far as it can be manifested, we can say, is at the minimum a mental preoccupation and at most an actual physical reaction. But how distraction actually manifests itself, both along that spectrum and in its actual individuality, cannot be predetermined. It is this lack of predetermination that actually makes something an element of a distraction. Isn't it?
If I know what manifestation a distraction is going to take, and/or if I require it to be something in specific, one is not, in my opinion, throwing atemi as distraction. Rather, I am simply multiplying the various requirements of a given two man form. I think that what you are describing in your post is not so much the throwing of an atemi as an attempt to distract, but rather throwing a fist (or putting your hand up) that is then parried to the outside. It's kind of like dealing with a combination move and/or a two man form that is more akin to a two-man set than it is to a one-step sparring situation (for those that have crossed train or do weapons training): e.g. You do this AND that, and uke does this AND THEN that, etc.
For me, the positing of jiyu waza does not solve the issue that holds that distractions cannot and should not be predetermined. Nor does jiyu waza solve the issue that incorrectly claims a priori that atemi as distraction allows atemi to be utilized without interrupting the flow of a given technique. Too much is being assumed here, in my opinion.
Of course, I would agree with the position that holds that striking is a part of Aikido. I also agree with the position that strikes can precede throws, locks, pins, etc. And I agree with the position that strikes can indeed be thrown in full compliance with the tactic of aiki. It's just that I don't believe that anyone thus far has been able to address these things via the usual positions of seeing strikes as distractions, and/or understanding atemi as part of technique that is asking the overly simplistic question of "Where can I hit the guy now...?"
Admitting that I sense we are talking about similar things but with different words, in order to bring us all on the same page, please allow me to suggest the following practical experiment. It is an easily reproducible experiment that clearly points to a vital tactical truth: Strikes and Throws (sticking with that example) do not tactically overlap in a perfect and complete way. That is to say that there are more situations where one can throw but not strike, or strike but not throw, than there are situations where one can throw and strike within the same energy field being delineated by a given combative environment.
Arts come to train themselves through basics. But another way of saying this is that arts come to train themselves by not training in or for every possible situation. As such, arts make use of an ideal, and therefore realistically distant (in that not every situation is addressed), training environment. This all made sense and was perfectly fine when the Shu-Ha-Ri models were not only well in place but were being passed on by folks that actually achieved such a path of training. What happens in this absence, speaking generally, is that ideal phases come to be reified by practitioners that have not yet transcended or reconciled form. That is to say, people come to mistake ideal phases for all the possible situations reality may have to offer. Practitioners come to no longer see such phases as the blinders they in fact are, if and when one's practice remains at the level of Shu.
Related to this, there is the socialization process by which every art comes to both know and rely upon in order to determine both practice and practitioner. Thus Aikido folks attack like Aikido folks. Karate folks like Karate folks, etc. Every ideal assumption, now no longer totally conscious at this socialization processing level, both marks and limits the practitioner within a system of truth games that provides them with the delusion of versatility but is in reality just another example of a frog at the bottom of the well looking up and believing himself to see the whole of the sky.
Of course personalities must be accounted for, in particular as those personalities fluctuate through the common ego elements of fear, pride, and ignorance. That is to say that, for most of us, these three elements also come to define our practice along with previously mentioned institutional sets of assumptions. Combined, it is my opinion, it is these things more than anything else that is governing this thread and even our experiences we are sharing via this thread.
Having trained in both a striking art and a throwing art, I can share with you that fear plays a great role in free-style training or jiyu waza in both arts. On the one hand you have the person (nage) trying to stay within the supposed universality of his/her system, but on the other hand you have the other folks (uke) facing those same artistic assumptions plus the fear of the unknown -- one of the greatest fears Man will ever face. -- or the fear of getting hurt, or the fear of "losing", etc. As a result, motivated by fear, but unknowingly governed by his/her art's assumptions one thing almost always take place: Attackers come to subvert their art's own training assumptions for the achievement or maintenance of something that is egocentrically motivated.
Here is how I came to experience this via my own training environments:
In the striking arts, folks, not wanting to get hit, or folks wanting to "win", or folks not understanding the specific restrictions of one's own art, stopped attacking with a range and energy that had up until then been pre-suited to the responses being practiced. That is to say, for example, rather than stopping themselves in their penetration of target at a range more suited to being struck, they always rushed through the defender in attempt to close the gap quickly, jam any and all defenses, and nullify any chance of being hurt and/or defeated. In short, they were able to take advantage of the one thing the art had been assuming all along within its ideal phases: People, as targets, will accommodate a degree of penetration and a velocity of closure that suits to striking them defensively.
Without an arsenal equipped with throwing and/or ground fighting, such a subversive attack in free-style not only seemed self-serving, it was accepted as a type of "wisdom" that was actually passed along from practitioner to practitioner -- thereby generating a whole new set of reified assumptions and ideal phases. This of course completely ignored the fact that such "wisdom" was only produced via an initial ignorance that reified an initial artistic assumption and definition. (Note: The Gracie's have proven this hands down.)
In the throwing arts you see the exact reverse response -- though it is there for all the same reason: The combination of Fear, Pride, and Ignorance in the face of Jiyu waza plus the reified assumptions of an art's ideal phases. In the throwing arts, come Jiyu waza, attackers facing the unknown, not wishing to be hurt, preoccupied with "not losing", etc., come in with an energy more partial to being struck than to being thrown. Again, "victory" is achieved on their part due to a lack of knowledge concerning striking on the part of the person defending. It is not a real victory -- its merely a matter of taking advantage of an art's ideal phases, and/or its training assumptions. It's not wisdom, it's only a training subversion.
Of course, one can in the happening of such training get an attacker to change his/her energy field. For example, there's no better way of getting an uke to commit to a given vector of attack fully than by peppering him with strikes (taking advantage of the striking energy field he/she is presenting -- the suki that are present). Strike him/her enough times and believe me, forcing them to address their fear, their ignorance, and/or their pride in that way and believe me they will start closing that gap in a hurry just like the striking art folks did when they believed that no throw or grappling situation is lying on the other side of that "all or nothing" charge. I believe that Mr. Ledyard described something similar to this in a post listed above. However, I see this only as a re-subversion of a subversion of a training situation that is plagued by reified ideal phases. This does not in and of itself tell me something about the relationship between strikes and throws. This only tells me something about the state of self in my uke and the training assumptions of my own art.
So I would say to try this experiment. Have your students and/or peers rush you as hard and as fast as they can while you try and strike them. Kicks, knees, elbows, punches, handswords, etc. -- anything. However, make sure their assumptions about ukemi do not get in the way of having them commit fully and to do so for the duration of their onrush. Try and strike, them and you may find, like countless of striking artists all over the world have found, that the best way to counter strikes is by rushing them, jamming them, getting on the inside of them -- that the worse thing you can do is stay in striking range and exchange blows. You will find that such an energy field does not at all lend itself to striking. One's base is easily compromised; one's follow-up strikes are easily nullified, one's penetration of target is easily miscalculated; one's accuracy is greatly reduced; etc. And that's what happens if you happen to be the same size as your attacker or bigger. If you happen to be smaller, forget about it. You're toast. If a person cannot run this experiment himself or herself, one only as to look at how past professional ground-fighters capitalized upon this training loophole time and time again until strikes learned to deviate and/or first counter the onrush before striking. One can, of course, also look kinesiologically at Aikido tactics and strategies and through a process of reverse engineering come to the same conclusion.
Now, take this same attacking energy field and try and throw your uke. Be sure that do not again return to a "gun-shy" state but that they commit with the same veracity that they were using to counter your strikes. Wow! You will find, I suggest, just how easy it is to throw someone. And now, do this experiment in reverse. Have your uke come in very calculating, and/or hesitant, and try and throw them then. It will be nearly impossible but for the element of size (yours being much greater than theirs), and/or the element of social pressure that cause folks to fly when they have not been thrown. Now, try and strike them. It will be like shooting fish in a barrel.
Again, I am not suggesting that this is telling us much more than this: Striking and Throwing do not tactically overlap in a perfect way. I'm not saying that someone can't be hit in one drill but not in the other, or that one can't be thrown in one drill but not the other, etc. However, by understanding this phenomenon, which I imagine takes places all over the world but not at a conscious level, we can come to see that there is indeed a type of gap that exists between the tactical parameters of striking and of throwing: If a combative situation has primed me for a throw, chances are that opting to strike in such a case, or the vice versa, will more often than not lead to my own strategic demise.
Specifically, I am suggesting, that the commonly applied atemi of katate-dori uchi kaiten-nage has to be considered, at least, suspect. If one has experienced this lack of tactical overlap, I believe that they will not so easily be satisfied with the questions and answers that surround the positions of "atemi as distraction" and/or "atemi hidden within the movements of throw."
Other than that, I'm not sure I can disagree with you still. I imagine we are just talking about different things but using the same words -- particularly concerning the handsword to the back of the neck and the knee to the face of uke. Perhaps you are using them in a way that they are thrown earlier than I am imagining, or perhaps you are not penetrating the target as fully as I am imagining for strategic reasons. This I am suggesting because I am of the position that it does not take much to force a person who is already bent over and knock them out, or at least knock them to the ground, with a handsword to the back of the neck or a knee strike to the temple area. In my scenario, as I am imagining it, both strikes would render an opponent flat down, or flat "out" in the prone position.
Again -- thank your post. I most enjoyed it.