Aikido weapons

Seoi otoshi and seoi nage – What’s the difference?

seio otoshiWhile by no means the most commonly practised “drop” technique, seoi otoshi has nonetheless been part of Aikido since its early days.  A question often asked whenever seio otoshi is practised in the dojo is what is the difference between a seoi otoshi (shoulder drop) and a seoi nage (shoulder throw)?

Given the fact that both techniques involve the loading of the uke onto the back of the nagi (which is what “seoi”means), the confusion between the techniques is understandable. Its is also a technically trite (albeit correct) response to merely state that seoi nage is something more associated with Judo than Aikido.

From a technical perspective, the distinguishing feature of a seio otoshi is that the nage drops to one or both knees and stays there until the completion of the technique.  By Seio nagecomparison, in seoi nage the nage completes the technique from a standing position. Further, a technique is still a seoi nage notwithstanding that the nage may have dropped to one or both knees and then returned to a standing position to complete it.

The below video includes demonstrations of both seio otoshi and seio nage by seniors at our dojo.  The video is a compilation from various sources, including gradings and taninzugake (free form) practice.

Have a great week.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane

Rolling with a bokken on your tail – An exercise in spatial awareness

Bokken ukemiMaintaining spatial awareness of your nage and  general surrounds when rolling away to escape an attack is a critical skill in Aikido.  Like any skill it requires practice and commitment.

Part of the culture of our dojo is to look at new ideas and methods to improve our practice, including ukemi (receiving technique).  To help practise spatial awareness when forward rolling, one of our seniors (Jeremy) recently suggested an exercise where a bokken (wooden sword) is used as a training aid to sharpen the uke’s focus.

An informal recording of the exercise can be viewed below.  Just to clarify, the sword being used in the exercise is not a real blade!

All the best

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Pass me a bokken….better make it a big one

The challenge of modern aikido is that it exists in a world where most of us typically don’t operate under regular physical load in our daily lives. This impacts on the way we move and the body quality that we adopt in making those movements. By way of comparison, the Founder of Aikido was a farmer and was use to working in a very physical environment for most of his life. The result is that what was natural movement and posture for him, and many of the masters of past, is well … not that natural for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecently, a number of us at the dojo have resolved to include heavy bokken training, through the use of a suburito, as part of our regular weapons practice. For those not familiar with the suburito, it’s a heavy bokken that is thicker at the blade than the handle. It is also longer in length than the standard bokken. The benefit of using a suburito for bokken work is that it is a simple and effective method of bringing load into our Aikido practice.

To move the suburito for any length of time (and we are talking minutes) relies on the practitioner abandoning strength based methods and instead using the “natural” principles of posture and movement that form the basis of our Art. The principles to which I refer include being centered, “heaven man earth”, centerline movements, sinking, using major muscle groups to ignite smaller ones, weight transference, “feet move hips”, “silk-reeling”, “yin-yang”’, keeping knees off lock, etc. When these principles are applied, the suburito can be moved with minimum effort.

The effect on bokken kata practice when using a suburito is also quite interesting. I think it would be fair to say that there is an injection of martial integrity introduced into the kata movements. This does not occur because of the weight per se, but rather the disciplined way that you have to move and hold your posture throughout to allow the additional weight of the bokken to be moved with minimum effort. For an example as to how the Aikido Yuishinkai kata “free wielding sword” looks with a heavy bokken see the below demonstration by our Chief Instructor Peter Kelly Sensei.

We have also found that the internal aspects developed using the suburito flow directly on to our unarmed practice. Particularly noticeable benefits include a reduced urge to “muscle techniques” when encountering resistance. The natural reaction is to instead relax and sink. A greater sense of centered movement, both as uke and nage, is also very evident.

Please be assured that I’m not suggesting that the suburito is the be-all and end-all of effective Aikido practice. There are lots of incredibly proficient Aikido practitioners out there who have never even picked up suburito. All I’m saying is that if you are seeking to widen your current training methods for developing the internal principles underpinning our art – its worth a try.

In the meantime, if you’re going to pass me a bokken….better make it a big one.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Class Training Notes: 12/1/ 2013

Well Saturday was a scorcher in terms of the weather and I must say I was surprised how many of us decided to hit the mat.  I can’t recall the last time I trained in such heat.  The fact that we all stuck in there until the end (including a rather energetic round of taninzugake) is either a testament to our dedication or madness.   Anyhow – on with the notes.

Ukemi

This week we looked in more detail at the backward roll (ushiro ukemi).

As most people will attest, backward rolling when you first start out can be something of a challenge.

Roll 1In essence a backward roll is nothing more than a forward roll executed in reverse. The problem is if you have poor form in your forward roll (e.g. you circus tumble) and then attempt to execute that poor form in reverse, the chances of successfully executing the roll are close to nil.  There is also the possibility of injuring your neck in the failed attempt.

Below is a link to a You Tube video demonstrating step-by-step how to forward and backward roll by Donovan Waite Sensei (7th Dan).  I would highly recommend anyone who is learning to backward roll or just seeking some pointers on how to improve their backward (or forward) rolling to closely study this video clip.  Further, it’s an excellent resource that caters for those interested in beginner or advanced ukemi.

Link: Aikido Ukemi – Meeting the mat

kaeshi waza

This week we practised kaeshi waza in the context of reversing the execution of katatedori shihonage tenkan (i.e. same side one hand hold – four direction throw).  The significance of this practice was to demonstrate how relatively easy it is to reverse a katatedori technique if the ukes balance is not taken at the moment of first physical contact with the nage (the person executing the technique).

For those interested in looking at this kaeshi waza technique again, you may wish to check out the first part of the following You Tube clip: Kaeshi waza 1 (at o:40 mark).

Katatedori

Katatedori techniques were the theme this week with a particular emphasis on unbalancing the uke (the attacker) at first contact.  This takes considerable practice.

In class we looked at how to unbalance a uke by making contact with the uke’s grab prior to that expected by the uke and, in addition, unexpectedly offering no clash at the time of the early contact.  A You Tube  video that neatly demonstrates and explains this concept is Aikido  Kuzushi Katsu Hayabi  Effortless Activation.

For those who keep a record of such things, the techniques practised this week were Katatedori ikkyo ura and Katatedori irimi kokynage.

Kokydosa

Craig Boyd Sensei kindly agreed to provide us with an instructional session on full contact kokydosa with a standing nage.  I find this type of training quite interesting as it really steps up your sensitivity and hones your awareness of your center.  One thing that I did notice was that when we eventually went back to practising standard kokydosa, the practise from the nage’s perspective felt absolutely effortless.

I would like to particularly thank Craig Sensei for sharing his knowledge of this rather novel form of practice with us.  It’s really interesting stuff and also a reminder of the rich Samurai heritage that predated the formation of Aikido.

Weapons kata

With gradings set for 26 January 2013, Gary and Zac gave excellent demonstrations of the “sword of nine ways” and “Shooting star” weapons katas.

Skills acquired through committed weapon practice translate directly and positively to improving our unarmed techniques. Benefits of weapons practice include the development of ki extension, correct posture, calmness of mind, foot work, atemi (striking), moving from one’s centre, coordination, focus and calmness of mind.

Big thanks to Craig Sensei, Gary and Zac for their contributions in this part of the class, which also served as a tool for looking at some of the ceremonial aspects of our martial art, particularly in a grading context.

Look forward to seeing you all next week.

Ian