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The previous column described one understanding of the nawa kuden, (‘rope teaching'), explaining a method of connecting one's center to partner's center by subtlety locking the joints of partner's arm through the introduction of torsion in the limb. The method sequentially locks the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints, resulting in linking to partner's spine. As previously explained, once one connects to the spine of their partner, a connection is established with partner's cent er. The connection also allows control of partner's center.
In the column, we will explore a second method to connect one's center with partner's center, which results from the extension of the limb.
To facilitate the current discussion rather than vie wing the arm as simply rope or chain, let us also use a different analogy, one, however, still based on rope.
My tai chi teacher, Khun Sangwan, in explaining sung, the state of a totally relaxed body, stated one's arm should be as loose and flexible as a doll's arm. In Thailand, where I studied with Khun Sangwan,most of the dolls have arms formed from ceramic hands, forearms, and upper arms attached together by cord. The doll's arms are also attached to the torso with cord. For our purpose, envision the b ones forming the hand, forearm, and upper arm as the hand, forearm and upper arm of the doll, and the tendons, ligaments, etc., forming the joints of the arm as the cord connecting the segments of the doll's arm.
Using the analogy of the doll's arm, if one subtlety increases tension in partner's arm by drawing the arm straight and then maintaining the tension (extension), one can significantly reduce the flexibility of the limb. The extension of the limb, allows one to gain control of partner's arm, shoulder and spine creating a connection from one's center to partner's center — this allows one to control partner's center. The overall effect on the limb and center affords a similar level of control as found in sequentially locking the arm joints using torsion, as described in the previous column.
Another way of viewing the creation of the connection between one's center and partner's center is the game "tug of war," where the effect of the extension created by the two teams, pulling on their respective ends of the rope forms a connection between the teams and creates a relative reduction in the flexibility of the rope.
One needs to be familiar with the use of the hips to generate a drawing force in one's body to effectively extend partner's arm and maintain the extension. If one is not familiar with the use of the hips to pull, I would suggest one try the following exercise.
Hold one end of an obi with partner holding the other end of the obi at waist height, in front of each person's seika tanden -center.
Leave a substantial slack in the obi.
Jerk the obiusing one's arm and shoulder to create the drawing energy. One will note there was little or no effect on partner's posture or balance. In fact it is quite possible the rope was jerked out of partner's grip.
Now repeat the exercise as follows:
With both holding the obias before, slide step, tsugiashi, away from partner until the obi is under tension and parallel to the ground.
Now as one maintains the tension, pull partner by drawing one's hips to the rear and, if necessary, make another step to the rear employing tsugiashi, sliding step . One should mentally feel the obii s tied around one's waist and therefore all work is done by the hips.
If the movement was performed correctly, partner's posture was broken and partner was moved forward solely by the action of the hips.
It is worth repeating Chuck Clark's mantra: "Arms are connectors, not effectors!"
Another effective method to develop the ability to connect one's center with that of partner using arm extension follows:
Stand in a hidari kamae, left stance, have partner stand in a migi kamae,right stance.
Partner attacks with ryotedori, both hands grab.
After partner establishes a solid connection, step back with the left foot moving into a migi kamae. One needs to ensure the rear foot is off the line of engagement on a slight angle to one's right rear.
Now perform funekogi undo, the rowing exercise, with the energy used to draw partner forward emanating from the movement of the hips with the arms functioning only as connectors.
The action will cause partner to lose his/her balance and fall along the line engagement.
I was first taught this "funekoginage" by Tony Tartaglia Sensei when I was his student at the Mushin Ronin Dojo in Bangkok, Thailand. A detailed, illustrated explanation of the technique can be found in Westbrook and Ratti's Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere, identified as "Projection No. 23" on page 310.
The "arm drag" form of kotegaeshi is also an excellent technique to develop skill with the arm extension method to connect to partner's center. I first encountered the "arm drag" kotegaeshi during a seminar being taught by Ellis Amdur, a technique he acquired from Terry Dobson.
The following provides an explanation of the mechanics of the "arm drag" kotegaeshi.
Stand in hidari kamae, left stance, and have partner attack from a hidari kamae by stepping forward with the right foot, delivering a migi oizuki, right lunge punch, directed at one's midsection.
Pivot 90 degrees off the line of attack to one's left, while sweeping one's left hand down partner's attacking, right arm gaining control of partner's right wrist. The movement should straighten and extend partner's right arm, creating sufficient tension in the limb.
Once one's left hand has control of Partner's right hand and right arm, maintain the extension while stepping across one's back with the left leg. Partner's hand should be held in front of one's center.
Lay the palm of one's right hand on the back of partner's right hand, with fingers covering those of partner's right hand.
Begin to roll partner's right fist back towards partner's forearm.
Continue drawing partner forward and pressing his/her right fist back towards the forearm using one's hips until partner falls.
Practice slowly and communicate with your partner. Have partner acknowledge the connection to their center as soon as they feel their balance being taken. Also, have partner advise should he/she experience a break of the tension in their arm or regain their balance.
Once one is comfortable inducing extension in the arm of partner while performing the "arm drag" kotegaeshi, one can begin working with other techniques such as katatedori shihonage, katatedori kaitennage, katatedori sumiotoshi, etc.
A video demonstrating the extension method to connect to partner's center can be viewed here:
Martial Arts Biography - John E. Driscoll
I began training in Kodokan Judo in 1962 and trained continuously until mid-1991 serving as an instructor and dojo cho of several Judo clubs. While I had some limited exposure to Aikido, it was not until 1987 that I had an opportunity to train consistently in Aikido. My journey in Aikido began at the Royal Thai Aikido Association in Bangkok, Thailand in 1987 and during the first half of 1991 trained with Tony Tartaglia sensei. Upon returning to the United States in 1991 due to my transfer from Bangkok to Baton Rouge, Louisiana I trained for approximately six months in Tomiki-ryu Aikido. A Saotome sensei's Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU) dojo opened in Baton Rouge, so I spent the next three and one-half years training at the ASU dojo. In 1996, I was transferred to Washington, D.C., while there I trained at as work allowed at an ASU dojo and a United States Aikido Association Affiliated dojo. In 1999, I was reassigned back to Bangkok and returned to training with Tartaglia sensei, eventually being promoted to shodan by Nishio Shoji sensei. In 2002, I returned to Washington, D.C., training in Iwama style Aikido under Yvonne Thelwell sensei at Aikido of Arlington, receiving my nidan in 2006. After my retirement from the Drug Enforcement Administration, I relocated to Covington, Louisiana, in 2005 and established Aikido Nord du Lac. Aikido Nord du Lac is an Iwama style Aikido dojo affiliated with the Takemusu Aikido Association and is located in Mandeville, Louisiana, which is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain across from New Orleans. I am now under the supervision of Aviv Goldsmith sensei, and have been promoted to sandan in 2010 and yondan in 2015.
My Aikido has been greatly influenced by Tony Tartaglia, Yvonne Thelwell, and Aviv Goldsmith, as well as Aviv sensei's teacher Wolfgang Baumgartner. The writings and personal contacts with Ellis Amdur and Stan Pranin, as well as the writings of British judoka Geof Gleason, have influenced my understanding of the principles of Aikido and my analysis of Aikido techniques. Because of my career in law enforcement my Aikido focus has been on applied techniques, oyowaza, which of necessity must work in real combat. In addition to my ranks in Aikido and Judo, I hold a shodan in Isshin-ryu Karate, and have trained in Toyama-ryu Battodo, the Taichi of Cheng Man Ching, and Hsing-Yi as taught by members of the Kuo Ming Tang who evacuated to Thailand from China.
Nicely said, compliments and appreciation.
I always find it interesting that the way we conceptualize our connection is how we execute/apply it.
Perhaps this demonstrates the true mind/body connection and the need for investigation/explanation in our teaching.
So many idea/conceptualizations/metaphors I would not have come up with myself (not that bright) and have appreciated the verbal assistance.
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!