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Old 05-04-2005, 10:05 PM   #1
Takuan
Dojo: Circulo de Aikido
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Blocking your partner

In my Dojo occasionally an advanced student will block his less experienced partner. I refrain from doing this sort of thing even with a beginner because it seems to me that cooperating is fundamental to improving in this art. Recently I saw a video of a seminar Saito Sensei did in California, in it he stated that when O Sensei was alive (in Iwama) they were taught not to block an opponent until they reached at least the 3rd Dan level. This statement further endorsed my attitude on the mat.

When I asked my Sensei about it he said that blocking a partner all the time would lead nowhere since brutal force is not what Aikido is based on, yet he said that sometimes by blocking, you are showing your partner that he is only using force and that there is another way. A typical paradox right? Just like a proper Sensei should teach of course. I was wondering if any of you have any thought on this.
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Old 05-04-2005, 10:32 PM   #2
kironin
 
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Re: Blocking your partner

There is a wide gap between blocking your partner all the time and waiting till 3rd dan to ever experience a resistant partner.

Personally, I think somewhere in the middle of that gap is best.

Of course a sandan in Japan may be the same number of years as a shodan in the West. The context is something to consider.

Last edited by kironin : 05-04-2005 at 10:34 PM.

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Old 05-04-2005, 10:40 PM   #3
takusan
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Re: Blocking your partner

Dilemma?
Not at all.
Balance in this should be achieved by common sense.

If I were to ask you to do ai gamae katate tori dai ikkyo, and proceeded to stop you every time you tried it, how much would you learn. Not alot, thats for sure.
BUT
If I moved in a way that didn't impair your learning of the movement, how much would you learn. More I would say.

But to only do the above doesn't give you important resistance.
So what is the balance.
Common sense.
Give a little more resistance every now and then.
Then more.
Then more again until there is almost full strength resistance.
If the technique can still be done, add two hands.
Then add thwarting type resistance.
Then get another uke to take a grip as well.
This may be spread over many weeks or years, and will vary for different partners. But not to resist at all, makes no sense, i
and is harmful to your progress.

Its just a logical progression, directed, hopefully by your sensei.

What really ****** me off, is when people resist in an inappropriate manner, on someone that is still trying to come to grips with the movement. They are simply plonkers that need to be 'corrected'.
Therefore some sensei get you to do it with very little resistance. Maybe for too long, or they just have a way of being more gentle.

If you are allowed, ask your partner to add a little bit more (or less) resistance. BUT only if your sensei has that allowance within their teaching regime.
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Old 05-04-2005, 11:09 PM   #4
Anat Amitay
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Re: Blocking your partner

Hi there,
I agree with what's been written above.
Resistance should not be given to a beginner who is just learning the basics of the movement, but when one grasps the idea of movement, they need to learn to make it effective. If no resistance will ever be given, you might know how to move, as if in a dance, but in the street, you'll make fun out of yourself.
Not everyone learns Aikido for selfdefence, that's fine, but it still means Aikido needs to work to be correct and true.
When you learn to move when your partner "is a rock" you move the best, since you found the path that cant allow him/her to resist and they have to join your movement.
When I get to that stage, if ever, I'll know I made a great progress in my training.
anat
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Old 05-04-2005, 11:40 PM   #5
Aran Bright
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Re: Blocking your partner

Generally i think resistance is a bad idea.

For uke it could result in injury if nage really piles it on.

For nage it generally means they use force and that leads them away from aikido.

However, at higher levels it does allow techniques to be refined and tested. 3rd dan does sound a little too high for modern days.

I do think though that most resistance is just someone saying. "See your techniques don't work" what would be better is. "This will help your techniques" In other words resist to help not to hinder.
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Old 05-04-2005, 11:53 PM   #6
maikerus
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Re: Blocking your partner

I also think that various levels of resistance should be included at various times within training. I don't think it only applies to beginners, but to all people practicing. You can learn many different things from many different people who have many different levels of resistance and cooperation.

A great example is beginners resist without meaning too...think of how much we learn from that :-) The challenge to put them where we want them.

The important points to watch out for (IMHO) are:

1. Your instructor guides you in this training
2. Your partner agrees that they want to train the same way you do.

There's lots more abouit intensity and what you learn from the various degrees of resistance and non-resistance, but that has been covered elsewhere.

My few yen,

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 05-05-2005, 01:52 AM   #7
Bronson
 
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Re: Blocking your partner

Of course uke can't resist if nage is going with what uke gives instead of trying to make a technique happen...it'd be like uke was resisting their own motion

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 05-05-2005, 02:23 AM   #8
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Re: Blocking your partner

Quote:
Bronson Diffin wrote:
Of course uke can't resist if nage is going with what uke gives instead of trying to make a technique happen...it'd be like uke was resisting their own motion

Bronson

What he said .

Quote:
Kironin wrote:
There is a wide gap between blocking your partner all the time and waiting till 3rd dan to ever experience a resistant partner.

Personally, I think somewhere in the middle of that gap is best.

Of course a sandan in Japan may be the same number of years as a shodan in the West. The context is something to consider.
What he said .

Quote:
Maikerus wrote:
I also think that various levels of resistance should be included at various times within training. I don't think it only applies to beginners, but to all people practicing. You can learn many different things from many different people who have many different levels of resistance and cooperation.

A great example is beginners resist without meaning too...think of how much we learn from that :-) The challenge to put them where we want them.
What he said .

Quote:
Takusan wrote:
If I were to ask you to do ai gamae katate tori dai ikkyo, and proceeded to stop you every time you tried it, how much would you learn. Not alot, thats for sure.
BUT
If I moved in a way that didn't impair your learning of the movement, how much would you learn. More I would say.
What he said

Blimey, if you come on here late enough, everyone else answers for you, and in a better way than you can .


regards

Bryan

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 05-05-2005, 05:06 AM   #9
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: Blocking your partner

Quote:
Bronson Diffin wrote:
...it'd be like uke was resisting their own motion
That's what quite a lot of people feel like to me when they try to "resist" a technique.

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 05-05-2005, 06:54 AM   #10
Misogi-no-Gyo
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Re: Blocking your partner

While I agree with both everything and nothing that I have read here, I would like to add my personal anecdote to the thread.

I met Abe Sensei in Los Angeles in 1991. I have been training with him both in the states (LA and NY) and in Japan since that time. I have spent hours, and hours and hours and hours on the mat learning from him directly. In all that time, and in the thousands of physical interactions that we have had, I was never able to do one single technique on him. Think about it - in fourteen plus years, not one successful expression of aiki, jujitsu or even overtly physical muscling. Not that I didn't try my best, because I really tried to take him down, take him off his feet, and on even one occasion, even completely out, but he just wouldn't let me. I never saw him do this with anyone else, only me. I guess he was confident that I would continue to bang my head up against the wall until I got it. Of course, it is important to add that years in, he did promote me to Shodan so it wasn't that he didn't feel I was progressing and it wasn't that he wanted to keep me back, either.

Update
On my last trip, this past December, I finally figured out why I was not able to throw him. I won't go into it in detail here, but it has to do with transmission of a very subtle point that he wanted me to discover before he would let me move on to the next level. All I can think to say about the whole ordeal is that while it was emotionally confronting for many years, he encouraged me to scour my entire being in order to find the needle in the haystack that he considered so important. Of course, I realize this many years later that he had planted it their some fifteen years earlier. It has been truly an honor for me to be raised up under his tutelage.



.

Last edited by Misogi-no-Gyo : 05-05-2005 at 06:58 AM.

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Old 05-05-2005, 07:26 AM   #11
Dazzler
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Re: Blocking your partner

I think agreeing with nothing and all is a very good policy on a forum such as this.

15 years to explain a subtlety seems a long time...although I have heard tales of longer waits for pennies to drop....and then for the instructor to say 'well you found it'.

I think people can be forgiven for suggesting that some instructors hold back ...and for questioning their motives.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - if such long term training methods are what you want then so be it.

Just thinking out loud.

Respectfully

D
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Old 05-05-2005, 07:31 AM   #12
rob_liberti
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Re: Blocking your partner

Great story!
I think the whole concept can be put under the umbrella of being level-appropriate.
If you are not yet skilled enough to give people resistance in an overall helpful and meaningful way (meaning good judgment of what is important for their physical understanding, for their emotional frustration levels, their need for encourgament or need for more challenge, the feeling between the two people, the feeling of the room) then that might be why you should be a bit conservative in your resistance.

I have had similar experiences that Shaun has described. Some from good friends in Japan, some from Gleason sensei "taking my ukemi" slowly or just crushing me with the weight of a building while I try to move us and keep a positive attitude. He would comment things like "good, you will develop good kokyu someday" and I would just smile. I don't think I have developed good kokyu yet, but I can move him a bit (and I mean just a bit) less slowly now.

I change things up a bit in my dojo because I'm just not a master teacher.
So some times, I ask all of my students, when taking ukemi to consider their job to be more like the nage's trainer, or bow-flex machine, or nage is Rocky, and uke is Mic. In that case, I have the rule of thumb in my dojo that you should slow down your partner as much as possible without ever completely shutting them down.
Other times, I ask that nage focus more on taking on that trainer role, and we let the uke practice being highly responsive while maintaining safety, martial honesty (again level appropriate), and hanging onto balance until there is no way to keep it without losing safety and martial honesty.

Then I try to do some basic waza and variations to let people work on putting it all together.

I am the first to admit that we have not really progressed to the incredibly difficult levels of maritial honesty like dealing safely with a kamikazi - but well I'm a student teacher, and I make people aware of my strengths and weaknesses when then join (I charge considerably less than a master teacher, so I guess you get what you pay for!). My feeling is that I'm not quite ready for that training yet (I keep trying, and keep finding out that I'm not quite ready!!!) so my students are probably not too limited by my approach yet.

Rob
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Old 05-05-2005, 07:46 AM   #13
Takuan
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Re: Blocking your partner

I would like to add that resistance is an entirely different aproach in my view. I will offer many different forms of resistance according to the level of the practicioner I'm training with, but I never block. IMHO to block is to disrupt the harmony of the technique. I really enjoyed Shaun's story because it symbolizes what I think Saito Sensei was trying to state. You have to be very advanced, truly experienced to block someone. My Sensei blocks me all the time and I accept the lesson gladly, I can tell I'm only using force and that there has to be a better way, but as David stated above, this situation with colleagues many times leads to improper blocking. For example, someone blocking you when you are actually doing a technique correctly but not the way they see it.

Whenever I block I regret it ten seconds later, because it humiliates my partner, it disrupts the flow of the technique (even if I thinks my partner is using force or is wrong, who cares? we are all learning) and it just stiffens everything up. Many times when partners below my rank block me I will use an atemi to shift their focus and enter, just a nice little slap in the face or a soft punch in the ribs, they obviously don't appreciate it. I have apologized to my Sensei when he sees me doing this, and he always says it's ok, that people when they block should be able to face the consequences.
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Old 05-05-2005, 07:58 AM   #14
rob_liberti
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Re: Blocking your partner

Quote:
I have apologized to my Sensei when he sees me doing this, and he always says it's ok, that people when they block should be able to face the consequences.
Unfortunately, I have found that this can be taken to an unproductive place too. Some people learn their technique to one level, and have the idea that there is no where else to go (at least for them). They over push or pull, and if anyone should dare slow them down they will atemi to teach that uppidy senior student a lesson. I normally call this level "shodan". I got to the point with a bunch of shodans from one school where I started intentionally slowly them down, bating them for their atemi, and then used their attack to throw them. This was causing them all kinds of ego issues. But hey, the idea about " face the consequences" is a two-way street right. I only try to do such a thing with people I have built up a good solid relationship with first - but I admit that this does come out "naturally" (organic-ly?) once and a while and well I'm doing my best to be friendly and helpful, and that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Rob
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Old 05-05-2005, 08:45 AM   #15
Joost Korpel
 
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Re: Blocking your partner

I too do not like to block techniques. That said, I will not throw myself intentionally. I expect Nages to lead my center throughout the technique. If you are muscling or pulling through the technique, I will follow but not necessarily the way Nage expects. If an iriminage technique tells my body to flyout away from nages center, then that's what I will do. I will not make an attempt to pull myself back into nages center, because its not what nage is telling my body to do.

I do not try to stop the technique and I do not stop to lecture my partner. I leave the actual teaching to sensei. The exception to this is beginners who need a little verbal guidance and no resistance, just to learn the fundamentals.

Some may consider this resistance, but I believe I'm being an honest uke. I will attack with intent and will ukemi in the direction nage throws me. I have also found this a benefit when I have to Uke for the higher dan ranks or Shihan, trying to anticipate the technique is a good way to get hurt.
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Old 05-05-2005, 09:11 AM   #16
rob_liberti
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Re: Blocking your partner

Awesome post. That should make the wiki on how to take ukemi.

Rob
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Old 05-05-2005, 09:19 AM   #17
RebeccaM
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Re: Blocking your partner

Training with someone who gives a lot of resistance can be very worthwhile once you know what you're doing (especially since there's nothing to stop you from giving it back ). I frankly think that people who blocks beginning students who are trying to get their feet sorted out need to get their egos examined. You're doing no one any good that way.

There's a guy I sometimes train with who's short and squat. Trying to throw him when he decides to resist is kind of like throwing a fire hydrant. He's got the kind of personality that keeps things from getting frustrating, so I've both had a lot of fun and learned a lot working with him. I've also given Sensei a good laugh.

I also don't like it in weapons classes when someone comes at me with all their power and speed. I am not very good with weapons and that's obvious (or, at least, I think it is). I lack both confidence and skill. Some patience would be nice.
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Old 05-05-2005, 12:19 PM   #18
Bronson
 
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Re: Blocking your partner

I liked your story Shaun. Reminded me of something that my Sensei does to me all the time

The next is not directed at anyone, just typing out loud.

To clarify something; I said "IF nage is going with what uke gives..." Good luck with that

As uke I feel it is neccessary for me to give the appropriate attack for whatever technique we're doing. If nage moves with the attack and places themselves where Sensei told them to and does the other stuff that Sensei told them to, the technique creates itself. If as uke I give the wrong attack for that technique, or as nage change the technique (do it wrong) so it no longer moves with ukes intent then I get resistance. This happens quite often. Uke will give a specific direction of attack, nage moves in a way that opposes this direction and nage gets shut down. When nage moves with the attack and continues to lead it there is smooth(er) technique.

Hmmm, that didn't really clarify anything

Oh, well. It's my day off and I don't care

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 05-05-2005, 02:19 PM   #19
Janet Rosen
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Re: Blocking your partner

I don't like the idea of offering resistance to folks on my level or above. To me that is not practicing aikido. What I do try to do is stay connected and go where it is they actually are leading me. Now sometimes it is not where they "wanted" or "planned" and that's where they learn. But for me to just offer resistance, as in strength...well besides the fact that I don't have that kind of strength...doesn't seem to lead to useful learning for either of us. Sort of the difference between hollering "NO!" and saying "what if...?" as tools for learning.

Janet Rosen
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Old 05-05-2005, 02:21 PM   #20
Janet Rosen
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Re: Blocking your partner

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote:
I don't like the idea of offering resistance to folks on my level or above. To me that is not practicing aikido. .
well, I didn't mean to imply that I DO offer resistance to newbies! Nope, with them I try (don't succeed, but try) to model ideal ukemi as a way to demo what their nagewaza might want to do...

Janet Rosen
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Old 05-05-2005, 05:14 PM   #21
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: Blocking your partner

Quote:
Bronson Diffin wrote:
If as uke I give the wrong attack for that technique, or as nage change the technique (do it wrong) so it no longer moves with ukes intent then I get resistance. This happens quite often. Uke will give a specific direction of attack, nage moves in a way that opposes this direction and nage gets shut down. When nage moves with the attack and continues to lead it there is smooth(er) technique.
This is the way I like to train, too. In a way, if I screw up a technique, I'm slowing my uke down, they don't have to do it...

The remark I made was referring to people who try to stop me and in the process stop themselves from moving. Holding themselves more than me. Just like Janet, I don't find it a useful way of training.

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 05-06-2005, 12:33 AM   #22
Misogi-no-Gyo
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Re: Blocking your partner

Quote:
Daren Sims wrote:
I think agreeing with nothing and all is a very good policy on a forum such as this.
Yeah, I made it up as I wrote it, but it seemed to make sense to me at the time. Thanks for letting me know that I am not too, crazy. Or is it that you are, too.


Quote:
Daren Sims wrote:
15 years to explain a subtlety seems a long time...although I have heard tales of longer waits for pennies to drop....and then for the instructor to say 'well you found it'.
Well, he explained it right up front. I just couldn't get it. Once I figured out why I realized that he couldn't possibly have known why I wasn't getting it, It certainly wasn't his fault that I couldn't feel the subtle transmission due to my lack of sensitivity of what he had been doing all along. But to tell the truth, even though it was a long time coming, I had saved up the lessons and was able to put the whole thing together once the basic element at the center of it all fell into place.


.

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Old 05-06-2005, 02:21 AM   #23
Michael Varin
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Re: Blocking your partner

Shaun,

I don't know much about Abe sensei, but from what I've read he seems to be a pretty interesting fellow.

Back to the thread.

About ukemi, I think executing (or in some cases not executing) techniques against resistence can add depth to your technique, but both partners have to understand what they are doing and why. Feeling the intent and the movement that would lead to a particular technique is very important, and these things aren't as clear when there is resistence. So, you must always keep in mind the context of dynamic movement in which the technique would be appropriate.

Probably just a re-wording of what has already been said, but anyway...

Michael
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Old 05-06-2005, 03:01 AM   #24
Dazzler
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Re: Blocking your partner

Quote:
Shaun Ravens wrote:
Yeah, I made it up as I wrote it, but it seemed to make sense to me at the time. Thanks for letting me know that I am not too, crazy. Or is it that you are, too.



Well, he explained it right up front. I just couldn't get it. Once I figured out why I realized that he couldn't possibly have known why I wasn't getting it, It certainly wasn't his fault that I couldn't feel the subtle transmission due to my lack of sensitivity of what he had been doing all along. But to tell the truth, even though it was a long time coming, I had saved up the lessons and was able to put the whole thing together once the basic element at the center of it all fell into place.


.
Crazy? moi? nah.... I think its just blending..without being overly stereotypical I think a number of ideas get posted on this forum...and how they go down depends very much on the readers background.

We all see Aikido our way...and few really want to change too much ...if they were unhappy with their style they wouldn't be doing it in the first place.

Hope that makes sense.

With respect to pennies dropping...I've had a few of those moments of clarity to break up the long plateaus on seemingly no progress...

As you say ..looking back you realise its something thats always been there.

When they happen they seem to change everything in my practice and I can never go back.

I'm sure I'm due another one soon!

Cheers

D
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Old 05-06-2005, 04:59 AM   #25
Charles Hill
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Re: Blocking your partner

The point about not resisting until 3rd dan makes some sense to me as it is quite difficult to resist while still continuing the attack and at the same time not creating openings. The vast majority of people I have seen or felt resist either stop the attack to resist and/or create openings I could drive a truck through. I believe that if my partner is not compeling me to move, I should not move.

Charles
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