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Old 03-28-2005, 12:15 PM   #1
rogueenergy
Dojo: Aikido of Lincoln
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Hand Work

I've spent a lot of time over the last several weeks reading the content on this site and following links and reading even more. Probably even when I shouldn't have been. So, first of all I'd like to thank everyone for their wonderful posts and the vast amount of information available on this site. For those like myself, who are just breaking into the wonderful world of Aikido (I started in August of 2004), it is a very valuable resource. Thank you!

Now onto the topic of discussion I'd like to begin. I recently received a message from Aikido-L. In it there was some discussion about finally learning the proper hand work. Perhaps I am off on this, but isn't everything from the center? Is there really hand or foot work? If you muscle the techniques then hand work and foot work seem to exist, but when the technique flows and the blend is right there seem to be two centers that become one then split and the split is what brings about the ukemi. It seems to me that there is no hand or foot work, that you are just positioning your arms and legs in a manner that augments your centers' ability to blend.

What does everyone else think?

-Nick
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Old 03-28-2005, 12:49 PM   #2
rob_liberti
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Re: Hand Work

I think you need to manage the "center" and the periphery (which can be where your hands are) at the same time.
-Rob
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Old 03-28-2005, 01:40 PM   #3
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Hand Work

I am familiar with two different "schools" of thought:

1) learn the form so that you can break the form

You learn preset forms (yes, even in aikido) so that you can eventually step beyond the forms. Yoshinkan, Iwama, schools that follow Shirata Sensei's and others lineage tend to stress technique that follows certain forms.

2) There is in reality no form...aikido is about body to body connection, not about doing the same technique the same way each time, but rather, what is appropriate to the situation.

One of the groups I train with occationally seems to follow more of this idea (I don't know for sure that they would agree with my assessment); they are the Aikido Kenkyukai. I seem to see various individuals with their own particular form...but unlike the yoshinkan, where you see a lot of the same type of movement, you see a lot of variation in the physical movement styles of practitioners.

I do not personally think that these two view points can't be reconciled. I guess its all in how you look at things. I enjoy doing both...but spend most of my time in the yoshinkan, so I do as they do most of the time. I found it hard as a beginner to learn the way you describe...but that was just me, and I'm a klutz...

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
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Old 03-28-2005, 01:57 PM   #4
jsm
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Re: Hand Work

Footwork is the base from which balance and centering is achieved. Bad footwork leads to bad balance and therefore an out of control center.

Now for handwork it kind of depends on what you mean by "handwork." I'd say that most techniques require your hands to move properly within your "center" in order to achieve the desired technique. Certainly hand work is vital for proper pins. If your "handwork" is not controlled and your hands wind up out of your center, then you'll end of using more "muscling" in a technique than is really needed.

Proper hand positioning and movement is very important in Tenchinage for instance.
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Old 03-28-2005, 02:27 PM   #5
akiy
 
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Re: Hand Work

As Chuck Clark sometimes says, "Your arms are connectors, not affectors." I interpret that to mean that my "center" is the affector and that my arms (or wherever the contact point with uke happens to be) connects what happens with my "center" to my partner.

These days, I'm doing my best in learning to transmit power from my legs and hips through my body and into my hands/arms. Doing this, of course, necessitates that I also use my hands and arms efficiently and effectively. Neglecting to use my hands/arms properly would, in my mind, get rid of some of the tools my body possesses; however, I sure don't think there's much I can do if I just relied upon my hands/arms and didn't use my "center."

Just my thoughts.

-- Jun

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Old 03-28-2005, 08:55 PM   #6
rogueenergy
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Re: Hand Work

All very good points. Thank you for helping me wrap my brain around the painfully obvious! Just one more reason to enjoy this site. When I read your responses I felt myself doing what seems to happen at least once per class, exclaiming "Oh! That makes sense".

I especially agree with the learning form to break form. It seems that when a technique is done, at least moderatly, right, arms, legs, hands and feet all just become extensions of the center (It's only happened a couple times, but the energy is so alive when it does!!!). But you are right the hands and feet have to be in the right position, at the very least, at the beginning of the technique.

Thanks again!
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Old 03-28-2005, 09:39 PM   #7
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Re: Hand Work

Nick wrote:

"...positioning your arms and legs in a manner that augments your centers' ability to blend."

Here is what I think: I think this is a great definition for what hand and footwork is in Aikido.

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 03-29-2005, 03:51 AM   #8
villrg0a
 
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Re: Hand Work

If I may...... there's a good book out there at a reasonable price that explains most if not all of your queries. The triangle principle (feet, hips, CG, hands) moves as ONE unit and many many more....

http://www.aikitools.com/books.html
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Old 03-29-2005, 07:27 AM   #9
rob_liberti
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Re: Hand Work

I don't move my hands with my center at all times. I use my arms to set up the connection for my center. In some cases, I unify and separate and unify again, etc. to set things up such that the ukes apply themselves more - so that when I move my center, I can move with their center(s). Ikeda sensei used to keep saying "catch it" at seminars and I took this to be want he was talking about. When I looked around (and took ukemi for people) at those seminars, I noticed many people moving their arms/hands exactly with their center- and I just don't think you can "catch it" that way. I think they are tying to do some kind of sticky hands drill where they move their hips to recieve all of it. I have found that it is better to extend a bit more than normal, let the attack move your arm back to normal extension, and then move your arm/center as a unit while uke is pushing just a little more then they would have otherwise. Well, that's my blending experience as of late.

Rob
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Old 03-29-2005, 08:06 AM   #10
Mike Sigman
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Re: Hand Work

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote:
As Chuck Clark sometimes says, "Your arms are connectors, not affectors." I interpret that to mean that my "center" is the affector and that my arms (or wherever the contact point with uke happens to be) connects what happens with my "center" to my partner.

These days, I'm doing my best in learning to transmit power from my legs and hips through my body and into my hands/arms. Doing this, of course, necessitates that I also use my hands and arms efficiently and effectively. Neglecting to use my hands/arms properly would, in my mind, get rid of some of the tools my body possesses; however, I sure don't think there's much I can do if I just relied upon my hands/arms and didn't use my "center."
Hi Jun:

Can you expand a bit on *how* you connect your center to your hands/arms? Do you do it all the time or is it sporadic, etc.?

Regards,

Mike
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Old 03-29-2005, 08:27 AM   #11
akiy
 
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Re: Hand Work

Hi Mike,
Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote:
Can you expand a bit on *how* you connect your center to your hands/arms? Do you do it all the time or is it sporadic, etc.?
The "how" part is hard for me to describe. I've been primarily working on feeling the grab (either as nage or uke) in my legs. In essence, I'm trying to keep just enough muscle activation through my body so that rather than absorbing or extending just with my arms, I'm using my hips and legs instead to do some or most of the work. Sorry for the vagueness...

As far as how often I'm able to do it, it's still very much a "work in progress."

-- Jun

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Old 03-29-2005, 08:35 AM   #12
Mike Sigman
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Re: Hand Work

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote:
The "how" part is hard for me to describe. I've been primarily working on feeling the grab (either as nage or uke) in my legs. In essence, I'm trying to keep just enough muscle activation through my body so that rather than absorbing or extending just with my arms, I'm using my hips and legs instead to do some or most of the work. Sorry for the vagueness...
I have had a lot of thoughts about this particular part for a number of years and have decided that it's one area people should focus on attentively and think about pretty hard (in my opinion, please note). If you think about *controlling* uke, you must keep either a slight tension to him or be "pushing" his movements to some degree. I.e., you cannot control uke if there is not some element of control from you to him. You cannot control your hands/arms from the middle if there is no element of control between them, either, so I always found that thinking about those controls was helpful to me.

Regards,

Mike
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Old 03-29-2005, 09:15 AM   #13
akiy
 
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Re: Hand Work

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote:
If you think about *controlling* uke, you must keep either a slight tension to him or be "pushing" his movements to some degree. I.e., you cannot control uke if there is not some element of control from you to him. You cannot control your hands/arms from the middle if there is no element of control between them, either, so I always found that thinking about those controls was helpful to me.
Yes, I agree. As my teacher sometimes says, it's like taking the slack out of a piece of string in order to affect what's connected on the other end. I've heard of a lot of people talk about having connection between yourself and uke (or nage if you're in the uke role), but they often do not talk about having a sense of internal connection within your own body before one can establish an effective connection with your partner.

Back to "hand work," I think that you can use your hands and arms separately but not independently of your "center" (if that makes sense). In other words, they might not move exactly in one mannequin-like motion in relation to one's center, but they still have to be connected. I've felt wave-like motions (hi Ellis!) and cyclic motions through the hands and arms that were propagated through the body. Although the hands/arms did not move in "one piece" with the "center," I'd say they were certainly connected to them...

-- Jun

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Old 03-29-2005, 09:38 AM   #14
RonRagusa
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Re: Hand Work

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote:
Back to "hand work," I think that you can use your hands and arms separately but not independently of your "center" (if that makes sense). In other words, they might not move exactly in one mannequin-like motion in relation to one's center, but they still have to be connected. I've felt wave-like motions (hi Ellis!) and cyclic motions through the hands and arms that were propagated through the body. Although the hands/arms did not move in "one piece" with the "center," I'd say they were certainly connected to them...

-- Jun
I have been exploring this concept using both bokken and jo staff. Briefly, my aim is to be able to block and strike with the weapon using my center (hit with the body) and have the arms and hands act as the vehicles by which the force of the blow is transmitted. After much practice I am now able to execute strikes and blocks of surprising power without much in the way of arm movement.

The same idea applied to technique results in the "hands/center" connection you are referring to.
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Old 03-29-2005, 09:54 AM   #15
Mike Sigman
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Re: Hand Work

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote:
Back to "hand work," I think that you can use your hands and arms separately but not independently of your "center" (if that makes sense). In other words, they might not move exactly in one mannequin-like motion in relation to one's center, but they still have to be connected. I've felt wave-like motions (hi Ellis!) and cyclic motions through the hands and arms that were propagated through the body. Although the hands/arms did not move in "one piece" with the "center," I'd say they were certainly connected to them...
Well, it gets down to a matter of degree again. We could imagine a spectrum that goes from "Pure Internal Art" to "Pure External Art" and decide where we want to be and where we should be. As you can see from my feeling around on AikiWeb over the past month, I'm trying to satisfy myself where in that spectrum Aikido was meant to be, first of all. I think I have a *general* feel for it now.

The next point of debate is "how much of this center-control stuff do I have to do to be doing good Aikido?" (recognizing that the "center-control", Ki, and Kokyu Power issues are really all part of one big issue). That's hard to say and may vary from perspective to perspective. I once studied Uechi Ryu Karate on Okinawa and I saw some things that I didn't understand until many years later. I now realize that there are aspects of Kokyu power and breath training in Karate that I (and every westerner I've ever seen or heard of) missed. My karate skills could only be judged on external criteria, therefore, and I missed the "internal" parts. Personally, I feel like I went down the wrong fork in the road and I would need to start from the beginning if I ever wanted to correct my karate. I don't feel a need to defend how far I got, etc., etc., because I realize that I missed a key element (one that actually makes the art more interesting, IMO). But others may see it differently. Or they may have too much time invested or too much investment in pecking-order to be able to simply look at the art clinically as a job that needs to be done right.

So the point I'm making is that some determination of how much "center control" is needed in good Aikido and how much of that you want to seek has to be made. It's takes many years to shift movement over to center-control. Analyzing what you're doing now may be misleading, in my opinion. It's something that takes constant work. I'd offer the suggestion that you don't need to exactly move the hands with the dantien to control the hands. The mind can adjust the controls so that the hands' power is always controlled from the center, but it takes a lot of practice and there needs to be always some control from the center to the hands, etc. Generally, power away from the body is considered to go through the bones (although you can control the direction with your mind), and power toward the body is controlled by the outer muscles, skin, fascia. Maybe it helps to know that.

Regards,

Mike
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Old 03-29-2005, 10:55 AM   #16
rogueenergy
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Re: Hand Work

David - Thank you for the compliment.

Jun - These are the kinds of things I think should be discussed regulary in classes everywhere. Imagine where you'd be if you started shooting for this at the beginning? I realize that if it's too tough only a rare few would stick with it. That's why I've turned to resources like this web site, as well as, talking to the yudansha after class to try to get some feeling for the more intricate workings of Aikido. The technique will come with practice, but will only be perfected with, as Mike said, the internal aspects of the art. When the connection is right and you feel the "wave-like motions (hi Ellis!) and cyclic motions through the hands and arms that were propagated through the body" does it seem to orginate from your center and just flow and continue to flow even after the connection with uke/nage is gone? I've had a few instances like this and I've been focusing on being able to produce that flow outside of the uke/nage relationship. Being able to "connect" as it were to eveyrthing. A few weeks after I started doing that a lot of things just started clicking in class.

Romuel - that link took me to "Aiki Toolbox - Exploring the Magic of Aikido". Is that the book you had in mind?

Rob - Trying to clarify, you use your arms/legs to postion yourself so you are on line with their center to make a good connection between your center and their center?

Ron - I've read a few things and been involved in some discussions with a few people at my dojo that do kobudo, they all describe to me an almost mystic condition that they sometimes reach that results in powerful strikes/blocks with very minimal movement. I think I'm going to have to add this to my list of things to focus on when practicing.

Those of you that have been or have been trying to include your hips and legs in the techniques, have you noticed an increase in the flow of energy?
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:33 AM   #17
Ki No Nagare
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Re: Hand Work

Without hands or feet....you couldn't do much with your centre....but do not focus on it to much like: where should my left toe be right now in the middle of a technique.....(that is a bit over the top but you get the point I hope)

One of the principals of aikido is shisei, so that means that your hands must always be in front of your centre, and your feet should provide you balance througout the techniques...

first get your techniques good in a global way.....and than focus on details....

greetings and good luck
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:45 AM   #18
Mike Sigman
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Re: Hand Work

Quote:
Stijn Donders wrote:
One of the principals of aikido is shisei, so that means that your hands must always be in front of your centre, and your feet should provide you balance througout the techniques...
Does this mean that I should refuse to be nage in Ushiro Tekubi-tori throws from now on?

Since someone who really moves from his center also moves his legs that way, where should they be kept? Of course, I'm kidding, but the point is that the simple admonition of "move from your center" is a far more complicated discussion than most people realize. Most people don't know HOW to move from their center, although at times they engage their hands/arms with the movement of their hips, so they think the admonition has been met and they can move on to more important things.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
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Old 03-29-2005, 11:57 AM   #19
Ki No Nagare
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Re: Hand Work

I hope I understood your post, my English is pretty good....but I'm not a prodigy

you are right that maybe I've understated the question...

the question about hand and foot work, if it really was so important, because he thought you only do things with your centre...

I tried to say that as how I have learned that your shisei/kamae must be good in order to successfully perform techniques....so yes...hand and foot work is necessary, but as a beginner (like I am) do not focus to much on it....

and I have also learned that my hands must always be in front of me....in every situation, because if you don't you lose control....

am I wrong about that?? Once again, I came here to learn

Last edited by Ki No Nagare : 03-29-2005 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 03-29-2005, 12:48 PM   #20
rob_liberti
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Re: Hand Work

Nick,

I certainly use my hips and legs to position myself properly in both space and time. Timing is obviously a big deal if you want to avoid having to do a bunch of work against the attacker's power. I spend a lot of time working on trying to play with the uke's "targeting system" and then moving to a new line/angle when it seem like the uke is pretty commited to a direction (there is a point in walking/running/etc when you just cannot unstep).

I also tend to recieve the attack with my arms maybe just an inch or two before they "lock" (I need a better word for that!) into a more more obviously connected place with my center, and then almost attack the uke a bit (to an extrememly small degree) with center moving my arms - like in rowing - to get the uke to really apply themselves to the direction I'm about to blend with AS I continue the same overall movement (macro movement) a bit moving almost exclusively from my hips/legs.

Setting up a good blend, where both uke and nage are both feeding energy into the overall movement is critical to my way of thinking. I claim that if you are in the right place, doing the right thing (like setting up the optimal connection/blend) you just don't need to worry so much about being able to do things like resist 3 people pushing on the tip of an extended jo-staff. Of course that much power is cool at parties and would certainly help in a "plan b" situation, but I'd rather concentrate on blending and setting things up well for "plan a". I do accept that this kind of movement to set up the blend might be a similar kokyu type power to resisting the push or many in an almost superhuman way, but I see no point in dwelling on that kind of resistance power. (-- unless you've invested so much time or have established too much ego attactment to one perspective that you can't look at the art clinically as a job that needs to be done right as another has commented.)

I think the "ura" version (I guess) of tenchi nage (where you bring uke around you as opposed to going past them at an angle) demonstrates this point well. In that case, you need to set things up such that the uke doesn't feel they can let go and punch you in the head.

Rob

Last edited by rob_liberti : 03-29-2005 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 03-29-2005, 12:53 PM   #21
Mike Sigman
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Re: Hand Work

Quote:
Stijn Donders wrote:
the question about hand and foot work, if it really was so important, because he thought you only do things with your centre...
Your English is excellent, Stijn. I was only pointing out that there are exceptions to every rule, including this rule. It is possible to have very good kamae and to do a throw very skillfully and yet have no kokyu power, so I'm generally commenting that placement of the hands and feet are still not everything.
Quote:
I tried to say that as how I have learned that your shisei/kamae must be good in order to successfully perform techniques....so yes...hand and foot work is necessary, but as a beginner (like I am) do not focus to much on it....

and I have also learned that my hands must always be in front of me....in every situation, because if you don't you lose control....
It sounds like you are off to a good start!

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:34 PM   #22
Brion Toss
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Re: Hand Work

The first thing that comes to mind for me is a breaking wave; everyone notices the curl and collapse, the foam, the roar, but of course the wave is just the inevitable consequence of a series of profound, essentially invisible factors (fetch, wind velocity, bottom depth and topography, etc.). When those factors are in alignment, the wave must happen. In the same way, those times when a technique has "just happened", it was likely because everything leading up to it was in alignment. In fact one can surprise oneself, not only at the specific technique that happened, but that a technique happened at all. The hands, in particular, can seem to be acting independently of any intent on one's part, even while performing fairly intricate manipulations. Part of this is no doubt due to hard-wired motions from sufficient practice, but in practice, those same techniques are something you "do"; they don't just happen.
In the context of hand movements, then, I believe that the ones we are taught are, or should be, what someone observed in the course of a perfect throw. The movements did not assure the perfection; they were the result of it. So if you are learning hand movements, perhaps they are a place to work backwards from, i.e., how do I comport myself to end up with my hands natrurally moving in this way?
This would, if anything, justify at least some degree of the "put your left foot here and raise your right hand to chest level" style of teaching, as learning the steps will give you a greater context to approach the fundamentals.
Yours,
Brion Toss
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:42 PM   #23
Ki No Nagare
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Re: Hand Work

Thank you Mike!
for both compliments and explanation
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