Re: Uncommitted Attacks & "Competition-style" Attacks
I had an opportunity to attend a class two weeks ago where something like this was addressed. The sensei who was guest instructing had us work on moving/blending with a jab. The overlying message I took away is that if you do not practice how to approach a fast attack (and a fast withdrawal) on a regular basis you aren't going to have the response trained into the muscle memory.
Sensei had us practice a couple of different exercises that can be used to develop that muscle memory. There was no technique involved with these exercises because it was about developing a smooth, relaxed approach to the jab. I think for most of us grabbing for a punch, or jab, has a very low percentage chance for an aikido technique being applied. She had us practice no grabbing.
The exercise that stuck in my head involved a jab at the face (yes, I see the irony). Keep in mind it is an exercise. Nage places a hand up in front of their face with the palm facing outward. Uke strikes the hand. Once Uke's hand connects with Nage's palm, Nage's goal is to keep their hand in physical contact with Uke's fist. As Uke draws their fist back, Nage moves their entire body forward to get into that "safe-zone" slightly behind Uke. The jab exercise starts out slowly, very slowly, and builds up speed as Nage gets comfortable and relaxed with the movement. At no point did Nage grab Uke.
First time out doing this meant I, as Nage, wasn't moving like lightening. First time out doing this meant that my Uke wasn't "floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee".
Where it gets wickedly interesting is we mixed it up a little bit with a standard jab, and a reverse punch/jab from Uke with Nage moving Irimi or Tenkan. Again, we started out slowly when doing these variations. We applied no technique. We simply practiced moving with the punch.
I'm waiting for a little free time between classes at my dojo to grab a couple of guys and work on this some more.