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Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept
Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept
by Lynn Seiser
02-12-2008
Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Aikido may appear to be a physically defensive art, but to me it is also an assertive (often offensive, yet non-aggressive) attitude.

I am a big guy. Better yet. I am a tall guy. Why is that better? I often call Irimi-nage (the entering throw), "death from above". Being tall, I do not have to reach up the take the head, to take the center, to take the spine, to take the balance, to make the technique work. I can use correct timing to bridge the distance, and throw. In other words, I initiate and intercept their forward momentum with mine. I win.
Irimi is to enter: to go or come in, to gain admission, to make a beginning, to go upon land for the purpose of taking possession, to penetrate, to pierce, to probe, to participate or share

Irimi is to initiate: to cause or facilitate a beginning, to induct into membership, to instruct in the rudiment or fundamentals
Okay, I admit it, people say I tend to be aggressive and initiate before an attack begins. I think of it as proactive assertion, since action is faster than reaction. Actually, before their hand moves, their elbow moves. Before their elbow moves, their shoulder moves (people tend to chamber back before attacking forward). Before their shoulder move, they inhale (anticipating exhaling on the attack). Before they inhale, they see an opening and their eye pupils dilate. When the pupils dilate, I move in. See, I did not start it, they did.

Timing is important. Enter too late, and their forward momentum is stronger then mine and they catch me unprepared and off balance (unless I want to over-extend their follow-through into ura). Enter too soon, and my forward momentum is easily observed and countered (unless I keep my energy extended and move into omote).
Irimi is to intercept: to prevent or hinder, to stop, to interrupt, to gain possession, to cross
Bridge the distance. The distance is between my center and theirs. Since two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time, it is important to place my center in their space as soon as I can. I take their center.

As with all techniques, Irimi initiates and intercepts with intent and intensity.
Irimi is intent: with purpose, directed with attention, volition, meaning, concentrated mind, the determination to act in a certain way or direction, resolve, commitment

Irimi is intensity: to an extreme degree, great zeal, acute, sharp, strong, deeply felt, with a lot of energy

Remember that part about the other person initiating the attack? Well, I have been known to be pro-active and take the technique before they move. I believe that they intend to attack. So yes, I enter by initiating and intercepting their intent. Therefore, I guess they did start it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. At least for today.

Oh yes, these basic concepts work for almost all techniques. Try them. See what people end up saying about you.

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in Tenshinkai Aikido under Sensei Dang Thong Phong at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in Southern California. He is the co-author, with Phong Sensei, of Aikido Basics (2003), Advanced Aikido (2006), and Aikido Weapons Techniques (2006) for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains at Roswell Budokan.
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Old 02-13-2008, 05:05 AM   #2
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Last couple of advanced classes, my teacher has been focusing on very direct irimi. No getting off the line at all, no technique, but straight towards uke in different exercises. It's really really hard! Even when the difference is just a couple millimetres there's still this tendency to get a little bit off the line, to avoid uke even just a little bit.

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Old 02-13-2008, 07:32 AM   #3
creinig
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Bookmarked
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Old 02-13-2008, 08:11 AM   #4
Don
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Very well said. What appears to be reactive is in actuality proactive. What is defensive is offensive. A really hard concept to get over to students who think the attack begins when their wrist is grabbed or when shomenuchi is in it's downward arc.

He who hesitates is lost...

If you snooze you lose....

Irimi....
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Old 02-13-2008, 09:20 AM   #5
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Just one of the reasons why I enjoy Aikiweb. Thank you Lynn Seiser Sensei.

Plus Ki
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Old 02-13-2008, 11:43 AM   #6
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

I will think about this tonight in class,....

César Martínez
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Old 02-13-2008, 03:59 PM   #7
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

The eye is the safest part of the hurricane to be in. In my limited experience, it's been pretty obvious when someone wanted to start something. There's nothing wrong with being proactive when it's the only thing that's gonna get me home alive. Enter without fear! Thanks, Dr. Seiser.

"The only difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors spend their own money." -Tom Feeney, representative from Florida
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Old 02-14-2008, 02:36 PM   #8
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Sensei,
I've heard that before ... you can tell before someone attacks from dilation of the pupils. But it was from the perspective don't look the person in the eyes, because they can tell when you are going to do something. It wasn't from an agressive (or attacking) perspective either. I guess it cuts both ways.

I also believe its been stated that the person can steal your spirit when you look him in the eyes.

Thanks, Eric
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Old 02-14-2008, 05:51 PM   #9
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Quote:
Eric Saemann wrote: View Post
I also believe its been stated that the person can steal your spirit when you look him in the eyes.
Or I can steal theirs.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 02-14-2008, 07:19 PM   #10
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Hi Lynn,
Initiating is central to Aikido. I was taught that by Saotome Sensei and I heard the same thing from my Shingu trained friends who hard it from Hikitsuchi. I would like to comment on the statement about "timing".

O-Sensei was once asked about the issue of "timing" and replied that it wasn't about timing or speed for that matter. I've spent a lot of time pondering this issue and only recently come to have my own understanding of what he meant.

The term "timing" fundamentally implies some sort of relative matching of one to another. I think O-Sensei was trying to say that there is no relative matching because there is simply no separation between the two opponents, in fact, according to the way he saw things, there aren't two opponents at all.

For most of us, this type of perception, the product of mystical spiritual experience of union, is just a concept at best. But I have begun to experience some small aspect of what I think he meant by working on the principles which Ushiro Kenji Sensei has outlined. He talks about, not just physical technique, but what one is doing with ones mind.

The idea here is that the mind always proceeds the body. Your body does not move without an instruction from your mind. So Ushiro Sensei talks about placing ones attention "inside" the attack, never "on" the attack. I have been working on this concept and I have to say it changes everything...

If "irimi" is the principle of "entering" we must first look at what "enters" and where does it go? I have come to see that it is the Mind which "enters", before any physical movement can be seen. This can be done, with practice, at various distances making conventional notions of ma-ai secondary to the interaction. My Mind is already in before any movement takes place.

Once this is understood it makes the conventional ideas about initiative (sen no sen, go no sen, sen sen no sen, etc) irrelevant. It also changes the view that "irimi" is about moving forward to "enter" into the attacker's space. In a sense, since my mind is already inside the attacker's technique, I have already entered. This is true before I have even moved.

It is quite the experience to find that in this state of mind, one perceives that actions of the attacker as slow, no matter how fast they are. Since you are "already" where you need to be, there's no need for speed, no need to rush, you simply allow your physical body to express what your mind has already done.

Ushio Kenji is famous for "owning the space" and making it impossible for the attacker to initiate. He then moves forward and backs the opponent out of bounds repeatedly, never allowing him to get off an attack. I have experienced this myself but he actually won a full contact tournament in Europe against Kung Fu practitioner in this manner. He won without having to strike a blow.

Now there are lots of stories about O-Sensei doing this and certainly I experienced this when training with Saotome Sensei. The difference is that Ushiro Sensei can teach it. He has a very systematic explanation for what he is doing. So I have been working on it and have some success. I can't do it the way he can do it yet but I understand, I think, what he is doing.

The attacker is, by definition, coming to you (let's forget discussion of projectile weapons for the moment; it's still true but on another level). To achieve "irimi" it isn't necessary to move towards the attacker. "irimi" is inherent in proper rotation. If a proper neutral pivot point is set up, the act of rotation, even if stepping back, will still result in your body being inside the attack. The crucial element in this is that the mind was inside the attack, at the attacker's center, before the movement occurred.

Now I might choose to move quickly towards the attacker or I might choose to move away and draw him out. I might choose to simply stand there and let him attack. None of that matters as long as the attention is already inside his developing attack.

I use what I refer to as an "aiki koan" when I teach to get people thinking about this. It says, "What happens to the concept of reaction time (or any of the concepts we have relating to "timing") when you introduce the idea of "already". I think this is what O-Sensei meant by saying that it wasn't about timing. It also radically shifts the notion of what is it that enters? These are questions that need to be solved if one is to get to the really high levels of Aikido skill; they seem to be central to everything.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 02-14-2008, 07:37 PM   #11
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Or I can steal theirs.
Lynn is spot on with this answer. Who was O-Sensei telling this to? It was a bunch of young deshi, early in their training. What did O-Sensei do? He looked them in the eyes and stole their spirit...

A correct understanding of this idea, in my opinion, is that you make the decision of whether you look him in the eye or not based on your assessment of threat. If I encounter a huge guy with jail tattoos and multiple pierced body parts, someone who is able to create fear in me, I will disconnect from him by going soft focus and not let him use the projection of his intention via his eyes to catch my mind. But if I look at the attacker and feel that I am, in fact, the more skilled one, the one who has less to fear, then I will do the exact opposite. I will look him in the eye and project my spirit into his mind.

Being able to do this can be a from of conflict resolution in itself. I have had a couple of times when the look was enough to have a potential attacker back off and go away. But it is a technique that must be used properly. It is not an aggressive technique in that it mustn't have aggressive emotion in it or it can cause a potential alpha dog type to feel he has to attack in order to maintain position or honor. It should be devoid of aggression but absolutely without fear. If you do not think that in a given situation you can achieve that, then don't look at his eyes.

It is my opinion that Aikido practice is about communication. So i teach my students to look at the eyes. After all, how do you feel about communication with someone who won't make eye contact? We have all sorts of associations with "meeting the eyes" and most are positive. So I teach that since Aikido is about "connection", we might as well connect this way as well in our practice. I'd like my students to be able to "steal the other guys spirit" and the won't develop that by looking away. But I make clear that, in a real self defense confrontation, my use of this technique would be totally dependent on my confidence that I would be better at it than the other fellow. Otherwise I wouldn't.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 02-14-2008, 08:15 PM   #12
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Lynn and George,

Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge....it gives me much to think about!

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Old 02-15-2008, 03:50 PM   #13
crbateman
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Great stuff! Initiative is mental. When we miss the opportunity to think beyond the physical, beyond the reactive, beyond the defensive, we defeat ourselves. I like to think it's the other side of the masakatsu agatsu coin. True defeat is self-defeat.
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Old 02-16-2008, 06:15 AM   #14
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Thanks for the comments.
Yes, to me, irimi is an attitude.
The movement is secondary.
Remember, where ever the head goes the body follows.
So, if the head is "already" there, then the body will be too.
Body and mind unification. What a concept.
Thanks for the thoughts and conversation.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 02-21-2008, 07:29 AM   #15
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Or I can steal theirs.
HAHA! I knew that was coming.

I'll be sure not to look in your eyes.
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Old 02-27-2008, 02:25 AM   #16
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

If I wore shades, would you still be able to steal my spirit? Lol sorry, I couldn't resist making a lame joke.

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Old 02-27-2008, 06:13 AM   #17
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Quote:
Rafael Ayala wrote: View Post
If I wore shades, would you still be able to steal my spirit?
Yes, because you could still see mine.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-01-2008, 09:59 AM   #18
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

A vital fundamental move. Irimi from what I understand is a Japanese word meaning to enter the realm of an opponent, it's a universal language of all martial arts, a move in order to initiate an attack and/or counter attack technique, entering while exiting to the back of your opponent to safely move away and form a defensive stance or run away goodbye!... Remember the best way to self defense is to avoid conflict. when cornered is the best way to apply your skill in the art!

Last edited by jaybee : 05-01-2008 at 10:08 AM.

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Old 05-01-2008, 02:46 PM   #19
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Quote:
Jose Ponce wrote: View Post
Remember the best way to self defense is to avoid conflict.
IMHO, self-defense is first about defending against our own selves. There is where the conflict is. Conflict is not to be avoided, but to be seen through (Irimi) and resolved/transformed so it doesn't resurface.

Thanks for reading, considering, and responding. It is deeply appreciated.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:14 AM   #20
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Although I have only been training Aikido for about 3 years and I have become convinced that something is missing in my Aikido. It seems to me that I spend all my time and efforts focusing on the specific techniques being trained, trying to improve ever more and more details of these techniques. Of course it is important to improve technique but I keep saying to myself asking: "Aikido seems based on the fact that irimi should be done at the very same instance the attack starts. Even perfect technique will be useless if I cannot manage to initiate technique at the same moment the attack starts - right ?".

I really want to study the concept of Irimi, how do I know when to initiate Irimi and also how do I know what Irimi to perform.

The concept of Irimi as described by George S. Ledyard seems to be what I am looking for, but can anybody tell me where to find more information on this topic. I need to find some kind of concrete instructions or training methods to make me able to learn and study this concept. George mentiones Ushiro Sensei being able to teach this concept, but how do I access these teachings - are they to be found in any of his books or how am I to go about this ?
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:54 AM   #21
Janet Rosen
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

George Ledyard actually has a DVD specifically ON Irimi and it is WONDERFUL. http://www.aikidodvds.com/

Quote:
Heini Nolsře wrote: View Post
Although I have only been training Aikido for about 3 years and I have become convinced that something is missing in my Aikido. It seems to me that I spend all my time and efforts focusing on the specific techniques being trained, trying to improve ever more and more details of these techniques. Of course it is important to improve technique but I keep saying to myself asking: "Aikido seems based on the fact that irimi should be done at the very same instance the attack starts. Even perfect technique will be useless if I cannot manage to initiate technique at the same moment the attack starts - right ?".

I really want to study the concept of Irimi, how do I know when to initiate Irimi and also how do I know what Irimi to perform.

The concept of Irimi as described by George S. Ledyard seems to be what I am looking for, but can anybody tell me where to find more information on this topic. I need to find some kind of concrete instructions or training methods to make me able to learn and study this concept. George mentiones Ushiro Sensei being able to teach this concept, but how do I access these teachings - are they to be found in any of his books or how am I to go about this ?

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 08-29-2013, 06:53 AM   #22
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Seiser Sensei,

Spot on. At least for us, irimi is a cornerstone of our technique, and executed very similar to the way you have described. It is, in fact, key in *all* of our technique.

Our Shihan has often stressed the importance of proper irimi and has been quoted saying "Everything is irimi" and "Stop waiting to get hit..". I believe the importance of irimi gets lost too often.

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Very respectfully,
Greg

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Old 08-29-2013, 04:52 PM   #23
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Quote:
Heini Nolsře wrote: View Post
Although I have only been training Aikido for about 3 years and I have become convinced that something is missing in my Aikido. It seems to me that I spend all my time and efforts focusing on the specific techniques being trained, trying to improve ever more and more details of these techniques. Of course it is important to improve technique but I keep saying to myself asking: "Aikido seems based on the fact that irimi should be done at the very same instance the attack starts. Even perfect technique will be useless if I cannot manage to initiate technique at the same moment the attack starts - right ?".

I really want to study the concept of Irimi, how do I know when to initiate Irimi and also how do I know what Irimi to perform.

The concept of Irimi as described by George S. Ledyard seems to be what I am looking for, but can anybody tell me where to find more information on this topic. I need to find some kind of concrete instructions or training methods to make me able to learn and study this concept. George mentiones Ushiro Sensei being able to teach this concept, but how do I access these teachings - are they to be found in any of his books or how am I to go about this ?
Check out Biran Online.Study the vids on Youtube, You will see examples of irimi. Irimi is nothing complicated.Essentially get to a position [preferably the attackers dead side ]where you neutralise any attack fom uke and you can initiate an attack on him/her. Joe.
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Old 09-01-2013, 12:27 PM   #24
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Good stuff, put me in mind of two things, one was an interesting session at summer school a few days ago where we entered early vs yokomen attack with hand blade to the eyes followed through and up the face for iriminage taking uke back in the direction they'd come from.

Second thing it reminded me of was Roy Suenaka's (with Christopher Watson) "Complete Aikido" where it's very clear that irimi was his go-to principle in street fighting situations.
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Old 09-01-2013, 07:23 PM   #25
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Re: Irimi: Entering = Initiate and Intercept

Quote:
Paul Funnell wrote: View Post
Good stuff, put me in mind of two things, one was an interesting session at summer school a few days ago where we entered early vs yokomen attack with hand blade to the eyes followed through and up the face for iriminage taking uke back in the direction they'd come from.

Second thing it reminded me of was Roy Suenaka's (with Christopher Watson) "Complete Aikido" where it's very clear that irimi was his go-to principle in street fighting situations.
Thanks for pulling up an old article with new eyes.

IMHO, entering is an attitude and an intention.

Since two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time (actually, at the point of impact they do), I'll race you to the center.

Thanks for reading and responding.

Any thoughts anyone?

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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