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What's With All the Pushing?
What's With All the Pushing?
by Stefan Stenudd
10-13-2010
What's With All the Pushing?

Honestly, there's a lot of pushing going on in aikido. Tori enters into a superior position, where uke has very little balance left, and then makes a push to complete the pinning or throwing technique. Sometimes it's even quite a rude push, as if getting rid of unwanted visitors and making sure they get the message.

I like to believe that most aikido techniques should be possible to perform without that pushing, the sudden use of force at the end. Otherwise, isn't there a flaw in the principle that the attacker should be dealt with in such a way that he or she doesn't need to feel defeated?

Maybe we put too much emphasis on not only succeeding with the technique, but also to do it in such a way that it's really evident to anyone, including uke. If so, that's really the principle of victory versus defeat, the polarity that aikido is supposed to do away with.

Are we worried about the impression we make on other martial artists, so that we want to prove to them that we can throw people around -- in ways that they understand and respect? Then we might be transforming aikido into another martial art completely in the process.

In the joining of aiki, it shouldn't be necessary to use force. Learning the aikido techniques properly means being able to do them without all that pushing and pulling. I don't say it's easy, but that's what makes it fascinating enough to spend a lifetime searching for the solutions.

I remember my surprise when I started to practice for Nishio sensei, back in the early 1980's. His aikido, with all its atemi, seemed to be very forceful indeed -- but when he threw me or pinned me to the floor, I was amazed to discover that there was almost no muscular force used. No pushing, no pulling, just a series of precise steps, strange arm and hand movements, and suddenly I was sent flying.

He was one of the very few aikido teachers I have ever practiced for, who didn't need all that pushing and pulling. In spite of his substantial background in several martial arts regarded as tough and strong, his solutions were so clever that his treatment of uke was soft and gentle. Like a diplomat instead of a conqueror.

Today, there are a lot of spectacular martial arts that seem to be extremely forceful, not to say brutal. We should take care not to develop some kind of inferiority complex towards them. Aikido has different premises and different aspirations. We don't need to prove ourselves to champions of competition sports that actually consist of two attackers.

Also, we should not jump to conclusions about these sports, just from watching them on TV and YouTube extracts. Certainly, they include some severe punching and kicking, but as for the grappling, they, too, are searching for the soft solutions where muscular force is secondary. And they get quite good at it.

I've seen skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes in regular training, and the supple softness by which they move and handle their opponent is a delight. It's no surprise, really. Why would anyone spend years training something that only hurts, and where the biggest muscle wins? There is sophistication and gentleness in the competition martial arts as well.

In these aspects, aikido has something to teach them -- if we don't give it up by settling for a lot of pushing and pulling.

Stefan Stenudd
Stefan Stenudd is a 6 dan Aikikai aikido instructor, member of the International Aikido Federation Directing Committee, the Swedish Aikikai Grading Committee, and the Swedish Budo Federation Board. He has practiced aikido since 1972. Presently he teaches aikido and iaido at his dojo Enighet in Malmo, Sweden, and at seminars in Sweden and abroad. He is also an author, artist, and historian of ideas. He has published a number of books in Swedish and English, both fiction and non-fiction. Among the latter are books about aikido and aikibatto, also a guide to the lifeforce qi, and a Life Energy Encyclopedia. He has written a Swedish interpretation of the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching, and of the Japanese samurai classic Book of Five Rings. In the history of ideas he studies the thought patterns of creation myths, as well as Aristotle's Poetics. He has his own extensive aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido
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Old 10-13-2010, 03:20 PM   #2
HL1978
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Shouldn't there be pushing and pulling, but not overt pushing and pulling with the arms?. More along the lines of pushing and pulling with the lower body on contact.
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Old 10-14-2010, 07:50 AM   #3
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

I've noticed what pushing in videos of Endo & Yasuno. It seemed like something new.

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Old 10-14-2010, 08:07 AM   #4
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Here's an example of Yasuno "pushing." I'm pretty sure he's got KUZUSHI on UKE, but he and Endo are the only players I've seen "push" like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wYsi1dtbVE

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Old 10-14-2010, 10:56 AM   #5
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

I think that the big question is: What´s with aikido and horrible intro music to videoclips?
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Old 10-14-2010, 02:14 PM   #6
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Quote:
Hunter Lonsberry wrote: View Post
Shouldn't there be pushing and pulling, but not overt pushing and pulling with the arms?. More along the lines of pushing and pulling with the lower body on contact.
Actually, I prefer trying to avoid also moderate pushing and pulling, whether it's from the center or not. I don't know if it's possible, but it's definitely worth striving for.
When tori is really accepting the attacking force and direction, the techniques can be done with almost no pulling or pushing.

The pushing and pulling that I object to the most is the one happening at the moment when uke's balance is already gone. Excessive force at that moment is "overkill", really turning the defense into an attack.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 10-16-2010, 05:29 AM   #7
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Yes agreed.
I see a lot of wrestling, pushing and pulling
I feel little connection and application of principles.
So I know what I need to train on.
Thanks for the reminder.

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 10-31-2010, 02:03 PM   #8
graham christian
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Smile Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Hi Stefan, I fully agree with what you are saying.

The answer is to do with not understanding the principles of Aikido and unknowingly mistranslating things all ending up as usual with the application and reliance on force.

There is giving, there is reaching through and there is receiving all with non-resistance but until this is understood and practiced and demonstrated all a person can see is or even believe is pushing and pulling.

Thus there is the art of moving a person without force and the way of drawing a person which on the outside looks like pulling but is actually the result of reaching through and drawing out and is the basis of gokyo. Once again this takes a reality of Ki and Koshi in order to do it effectively with calm application and effortlessly.

Keep up the good work, G.
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Old 10-31-2010, 06:32 PM   #9
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

The flip side, however, is when folks search after these "things" that are supposedly not in other martial arts, or these "these" things by which Aikido can supposedly distinguish itself from other arts, they often rely on training contexts that more akin to "green houses" than they are to any kind of martial understanding. For example, they search for and cultivate "connection" but only within settings wherein the nage/uke dynamic ignores and/or violates tactical validity and/or even the original idealized physical setting.

Personally, I'd rather have folks pushing and pulling than doing the latter - if I had to choose the lesser of two evils.

David M. Valadez
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Old 11-03-2010, 10:05 AM   #10
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Quote:
Stefan Stenudd wrote: View Post
Actually, I prefer trying to avoid also moderate pushing and pulling, whether it's from the center or not. I don't know if it's possible, but it's definitely worth striving for.
When tori is really accepting the attacking force and direction, the techniques can be done with almost no pulling or pushing.

The pushing and pulling that I object to the most is the one happening at the moment when uke's balance is already gone. Excessive force at that moment is "overkill", really turning the defense into an attack.
There's two things going on in what you are saying Stefan... At least that's how I am seeing it.

First, strictly from the technical standpoint, I think this issue is often one of terminology. Some folks use "push" any time they are talking about energy going out to the partner and "pull" any time they are referring to bringing the partner to them. Personally, I don't use those terms with my students because they have an existing association with what those terms mean in their bodies that isn't correct. When you tell the average person to "push" he will fire all the extensors in his arms, and if he is trying for more power will "thrust" with the legs. If you tell them to "pull", they will fire all the contractors in their arms. In decent Aikido, neither of these things ever happens. So, I tell my students that there is no pulling or pushing in Aikido. Then I teach them the proper way to put energy out or take it in.

But the second issue, which is getting mixed in here, is more of a value judgment concerning what one is trying to express in ones technique from a spiritual / philosophical standpoint. You equate what is being called "pushing" with an attack at the partner. I see it simply as a value neutral expression of energy / movement. If done correctly, certainly without the intentional components of an attack, it is merely allowing the technique to express itself via, a perhaps "explosive" yang energy.

If it involved "pushing" as I described it, as a muscling, fire of the extensors, thrusting with the legs, etc I would say it's bad, not because of the "attack" but because doing so doesn't actually work and puts one off balance and open for counter.

But if this can be accomplished by staying relaxed, centered, and doesn't have the emotional content and tension of aggression, then I have no problem at all with it. Certainly much of what the internal power guys are referring to is massively and explosively yang and will blow you across the room with seemingly no effort from the nage.

Also, from the larger martial standpoint, this so-called pushing, when it is being done properly is basically providing the same platform as you would use in atemi. It just depends on when you accelerate the energy. If you accelerate the force before you make physical contact with the partner it's a strike. If you accelerate the force after you make contact, it will move the partner without having the "impact" component. As far as I can see, one needs to understand and be able to do both depending on the circumstance.

Of course, I was trained by a teacher who believes that steeping in and cutting the partner down is a perfectly legitimate expression of "aiki". He would look at this an attack on the partner but rather it would be taking the space away from the attacker that he needs occupy in order to complete his attack.

To sum up, when you see Yasuno or Endo, or old films of Yamaguchi seemingly "pushing" their partners away as the throw, I believe you are seeing striking that they are being kind enough not to do. In the martial context, you would not typically throw an attacker away from you. You drop him straight down where you can deliver the finishing impact or breaking technique, or perhaps apply a lock or pin for control. So when you see Aikido folks doing these throws in which it appears they are pushing the partner outwards into his roll, I look at this as practicing all the components of striking without actually manifesting the energy as a strike. Much more fun for the partner...

Anyway, that's my take on it. I definitely see it as value neutral. Just another way the energy can be run.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 11-03-2010, 10:16 AM   #11
Janet Rosen
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
In the martial context, you would not typically throw an attacker away from you. You drop him straight down where you can deliver the finishing impact or breaking technique, or perhaps apply a lock or pin for control. So when you see Aikido folks doing these throws in which it appears they are pushing the partner outwards into his roll, I look at this as practicing all the components of striking without actually manifesting the energy as a strike. Much more fun for the partner...
Now you've gone and given me something to occupy my brain all day instead of the work I'm supposed to be doing...

Janet Rosen
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Old 11-03-2010, 11:05 AM   #12
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

I think I heard the pushing/pulling thing best described as the expansion and contraction of energy, not necessarily as a physical force. No two objects can occupy the same space..., right? The thought is that I do not "push" someone out of space I want to occupy, I either expand into the space or contract and draw my partner [out of the space]; in this sense, pressure is always "pushing" on my partner's center. We call it "pressure, release." Apply pressure, then release energy (think of the dynamics of air pressure in weather fronts...)

In a nutshell, I simply occupy space that is required by uke to continue attacking (forestalling the attack). The trickery is how to occupy the space without contest (either expanding into the space, or drawing uke out of the space). Dang shihans.
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Old 11-03-2010, 01:06 PM   #13
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wYsi1dtbVE
I really like the way he pushes:-)
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Old 11-03-2010, 02:10 PM   #14
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Not me. I'm not a fan of that kind of pushing: Over-extension and the resulting need for leaning, feet all over the place, over reliance on uke's acrobatics and their unwillingness to expose your poor technique, etc. This, for me, makes it both of the two evils: pushing, and an overly relied upon "green house" training environment.

At the same time, if I were to try to understand this pushing as "striking," or as strike that was not thrown out of niceness, I'd be bothered the same way, if not more perhaps.

dmv

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Old 11-03-2010, 02:51 PM   #15
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

that's interesting David. I actually don't feel he is overextending at all. He actually looks very 'free of form', quite relaxed, and centered to me. He appears to already 'have' uke in position to do 'whatever'.
Regards,
AH
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Old 11-03-2010, 03:13 PM   #16
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote: View Post
Not me. I'm not a fan of that kind of pushing: Over-extension and the resulting need for leaning, feet all over the place, over reliance on uke's acrobatics and their unwillingness to expose your poor technique, etc. This, for me, makes it both of the two evils: pushing, and an overly relied upon "green house" training environment.

At the same time, if I were to try to understand this pushing as "striking," or as strike that was not thrown out of niceness, I'd be bothered the same way, if not more perhaps.

dmv
Hi David,
I wanted to keep the discussion of "pushing" limited to the principle at work behind it and not the specifics of the execution in this instance. In this instance I would say you are right about the leaning and extending outside ones zone of power and balance. But that is this execution not necessarily everyone's. I've seen Gleason Sensei and Endo Sensei do it without overextending.
- George

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Old 11-03-2010, 05:00 PM   #17
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Yes, I was only commenting on the video and only in those moments where I saw what I didn't like. For me, pushing and pushing energies are a part of the universe. If Aikido is a manifestation of that universe, it cannot do without pushing and pulling. My original reading of the article, however, had "pushing" being understood in the way I was critical of those moments in the video posted above my last post:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wYsi1dtbVE

For me, when I'm working on striking components, in referencing to what George as written, I feel it more beneficial to work with uke running into that set of components. This is in opposition to having uke be at the end of my range of motion and me just pushing at him (as I saw in the video posted above).

Here is a video example of what I'm referring to - having uke run into the set of striking components:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-p4h_LiOX0

d

David M. Valadez
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Old 11-03-2010, 06:25 PM   #18
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

hmmm...
David I appreciate you posting your vid. Thanks. I can definitey understand your and GL post but I see something else happening in the clip I posted.
In this clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ol_PYz6tfg I take to SS original post. Clearly pushing, although I have a great deal of respect for Waite Sensei's aikido & contributions.
In the Yasuno clip to me the 'push' is really an afterthought. He has already taken uke's center way into the technique.

Last edited by AsimHanif : 11-03-2010 at 06:26 PM. Reason: sentence correction
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Old 11-03-2010, 09:23 PM   #19
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Then I would say this: I am not a fan of over extension, feet all over the place, leaning, and over-reliance on uke's acrobatic willingness as an after-thought once you have uke's center. :-)

D

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Old 11-03-2010, 11:44 PM   #20
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote: View Post
For me, when I'm working on striking components, in referencing to what George as written, I feel it more beneficial to work with uke running into that set of components. This is in opposition to having uke be at the end of my range of motion and me just pushing at him (as I saw in the video posted above).
This makes total sense to me and fits completely with what I try to do and what I teach.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 11-03-2010, 11:52 PM   #21
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

There is no need to push if you are entering gathering cutting and releasing. Pushing to me implies Nage being "stuck" or resisting Uke's attack...at least (as Stenudd Sensei mentioned) that is the way we are taught in Shoji Nishio's Aikido.

An easy dynamic to see and "feel"... very very hard not to do...Thanks for the blog post.

When I find myself getting stuck... I personally switch back to a bokken to "remind" myself that I am an extension of the sword and to bring that "cutting flow" back into my technique.

William Hazen

Last edited by Aikibu : 11-03-2010 at 11:55 PM.
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Old 11-04-2010, 06:09 AM   #22
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Great discussion. Dare I say that we all agree, although expressing it differently?

As has been stated above, I don't refer to the outward and inward flows that constitute the basic directions of aikido, and any budo, but when muscular pulling and pushing is applied as the main means to throw uke. To me, that expresses shortcomings.

The video of Yasuno shihan was actually one of the videos I saw, "inspiring" me to write the column. That, and some experiences on the tatami. They are not that hard to find.

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Old 11-04-2010, 07:46 AM   #23
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

More than anything, in my opinion, the pushing stuff one is seeing in the latest "big" shihan out of Japan seems to be related to the fact that it is more often than not staying clear of training environments that include 250 lbs aikidoka/uke.

In other words, as I have often seen in law enforcement circles, folks are doing what I call "big man" stuff - techniques and strategies that are more suited to those occasions when you are NOT smaller than your adversary. The interesting part is this: In U.S. law enforcement circles that have "big man" orientations, the instructor is often a huge specimen. Here, on the other hand, we are dealing with a thinner and lighter attacker.

Not a popular view, I'm sure, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why you would bounce off a larger mass when, for example, you are leaning and have your feet all over the place. A few times of being the one to bounce off, and you stop such pushing - rejecting it as ineffective, or as only effective against thinner lighter attackers.

I'm with Stefan on this one - though please don't tie him to my above stated opinion. I mean, I'm with him when I too ask: What's with all the pushing? I'm also at a loss for an answer with all the folks on youtube that are thinking such pushing is the next greatest thing the world has ever seen - What?! Really?! Weird.

d

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Old 11-04-2010, 08:19 AM   #24
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

There's some truth to that David but again as Stefan pointed out Shoji Nishio and his senior Yudansha were not big....He was rather modest in stature even for a Japanese person. He handled me and everything I could throw at him with ease and I am 6'2" 250. So I had to be at least 70 or 80 pounds heavier.

When I share the mat with anyone big or small I show them how to "cut" and "lead" Uke never "push" just the way my Sensei does it.

I do agree that pushing in most cases is the lazy Nage's way to make a technique look "good/real".

William Hazen
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Old 11-04-2010, 08:23 AM   #25
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Re: What's With All the Pushing?

Quote:
Don J. Modesto wrote: View Post
Here's an example of Yasuno "pushing." I'm pretty sure he's got KUZUSHI on UKE, but he and Endo are the only players I've seen "push" like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wYsi1dtbVE
Hi Folks,
Watched the youtube video of Yasuno Sensei.As far as I could se his waza seemed ok.No qite sure what the issue is>As far as Yasuno pushing ?the hips of his Uke this is just a variation of the waza.I quite liked Yasuno Senseis stuff.You see the similarities between him and Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei.
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