Breaking the Tower
I have a story that's funny. It is about when I was first starting out in aikido. My sensei (Mark, a student of Saotome sensei) was asking the class if they had any questions one night after practice. I had been training for only 4 months or so at that time. I was the first to raise my hand for I had been eagerly waiting for a moment such as this.
I asked, "Sensei, I'm beginning to understand the philosophy of aikido, its turning and blending. Still, I had not heard of aikido until I started here and I was wondering, judo is known for its throws, tae-kwan-do for its kicks, karate its punches and jujitsu for its painful holds. What is one move that would be the signature of aikido?"
Mark replied, "Good question." and played with his beard for a few moments while considering. Then he said, "Jim please" indicating that he wanted me to come up and help him demonstrate for the class what in my mind was going to be "the signature move of aikido". Realize that I had only ever seen the shodans and 1st kyus help him demonstrate anything, so this was the ultimate compliment to me. I got up in front of class with him and I waited for him to call out an attack as is the typical uki-nage relationship, but instead he said, "Attack me."
Imagine my surprise, I was to be shown the "signature move of aikido" and it didn't even require a staged setup to perform. I made as if grabbing a bottle and rushed at him attacking shomenuchi. What happened next is hard to describe in words and is the funniest part. The next second and its aftermath were stretched out in my mind with crystal clearity that I remember to this day though it was almost a decade ago.
He stood in good kamae, a right hanmi, and as I rushed forward he regarded me with his usual patient, innersmile. The moment that my right leg started to step down as it passed my body on the way forward, my arm was with it bringing the imaginary bottle with clear intension toward his left brow. In that instant, I saw him moving toward me, then lowering his body and extending his arms as if setting a set of spears for a charge. I realized that I was about to run full force upon both of his fists and was reminded that aikido is also about turn the aggression back on the attacker.
My brain called out to my body to find a way to stop as his right fist rushed toward my face just inside my forearm and his left straight to my groin, but it yelled back "I can't!" for my right foot did not yet have contact with the ground and putting weight on it would imbed his hams 5cm into my personal spaces. I wanted to take some ukemi, but I couldn't bend forward or back with the contact for what what would save one area would destroy the other.
His knuckles made contact with me then just as I started to feel the hint of floor under my right toes. The pointer and index knuckles came to rest in my right and left naris with their fingers flush to my lips and the flat of the index finger of the lower hand bisected my testis. There was no pain; for at that time, I felt him catch my forward momentum a bit at these two points as his arms trasformed from telephone poles to shock absorbers.
Before my elation at the prospect that I might someday father children and have women look upon my vistage without screaming had fled, he was continuing irimi under my right armpit. I did not see this at the time, rather it appeared as the classic, "he attacks, but already I am behind him".
The reason I knew he was behind me was because at that time I felt a tug at the collar at the base of my neck. My feet both left the ground and I soon was parallel to the floor. My momentum was not sufficient to get my legs to shoulder level, that was why he was plunging my back to the mat. I admired that the initail tug would have dropped me on my butt; still, this way I got a better view of the ceiling
Just before contact with the ground he jerked back up and I landed perfectly flat. I lay there for not quite a second amazed and bewildered that I was unharmed. I quickly rolled to my left and bowed to Mark with a unique thanks and respect.
When I had returned to the line of those sitting seiza, Mark said, "That was bas-sai-dai, which means 'to penetrate the tower'."
It seems that it is actually a shoto-kan move (name) in the beginning. Although this moment displayed many of the ideals of aikido, it is gone. Aikido teaches that every moment is different. I don't think he planned that move. I asked him about it a couple years back, but he doesn't even remember doing it. That sums up the lesson, the "signature move" of aikido isn't worth remembering, because they're all siganture moves.
[Edited by Yo-Jimbo on March 15, 2001 at 12:13pm]