I am a tall man. I favor all techniques that allow me to use my height in what I like to call "death from above
". My Sensei, who is not so vertically challenged by being top heavy like me, "empties from below
". I always figure if I could do 5' tall Aikido at 6'2", then maybe I had learned something. I am still waiting for that day, but let me share with you what I have learned to far; it is always "empty from below
In my last column
, I offered the concept of "capturing the spine
". This can be a rather large capture by getting the uke to lean way over. Or, it can also be a subtle connection that just slightly affects the spine and center. Capturing can be thought of in terms of connecting. Connecting through the structural alignment and linkage so that any movement you make affects the spine and balance of your partner. So once you capture it, what do you do with it?
You load it. What do I mean by load it?
Let's say I have captured the spine and uke/nage is leaning slightly backwards. A straight alignment will place my hip directly into their line of force. My hip is supporting them. Think of it as their direction of power goes from their center through their elbow, then hand, into your hand, then elbow, into your center through the rear hip, and into the ground through the rear leg. In many ways, we are supporting each other. It is as if my hip is interrupting/obstructing their line of balance (or falling/unbalance) towards a kazushi point. Now, I angle them slightly across my body, by turning my hips/center just off the center line. Moving my hip out of the way there is nothing to support them anymore. I let them fall. I don't throw them. I let them fall. Irimi-nage is a great waza to demonstrate this.
Let us say I have captured the spine and have uke/nage leaning slightly forward. Their center, elbow, and hand extends/connects into my hand, elbow and into my center (rear hip). It will feel as if my hip is supporting them. My hip is the only thing between them and their kuzushi point on the ground. I angle them slightly across my body by turning my hips/center just off the center line. Again, I am a nice guy (I didn't used to be though). Now, simply removing the support, moving my rear hip out of the way, they fall. Kote-gaeshi is a great waza to demonstrate this.
A slight downward pressure from the arms and upper body captures the spine into their center and suggests and directs the flow. It is still "death from above
". By loading and removing the hip as a support, it "empties from below
". It is a Tenshin thing, heaven and earth.
It is like when you are standing up straight and someone pops your knee out from under you. You didn't know the knee was supporting your structure and alignment, but without it you fall. It is sort of like that.
These things are so hard to put into words. Try it on the mat. If it still doesn't make sense, grab me at the next seminar and make me show you. It would be an honor.
Connect, Load, and Move the Hips.
Empty from Below.
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.