No touch techniques

Aikido – I do all my own stunts!

I recently watched an interview with wrestler Hulk Hogan where he said that in professional wrestling the ending is predetermined but the “bumps are real”.

Ian Grant (a)It crossed my mind that this is the same situation in Aikido.  When we practise kata or tanininzugake the agreement is usually that at the end the nage will still be standing and the uke will one way or another be knocked to the ground.   As in professional wrestling, the pre-arranged understanding between the nage and uke does not change the fact that for the uke the final meeting with the mat is going to be very real.

The message we should probably all keep in mind is that at the end of the day we owe it to ourselves to stay safe.  Below are some personal views on ways to keep in one-piece.

Tanking

Some people will be immediately appalled that I would suggest that tanking (i.e. just falling down) is ever an acceptable strategy.  However, in a modern Aikido world where newcomers can be on the receiving end of techniques within 20 minutes of starting their first lesson, tanking is probably the only safe option available for them.

Predictive ukemi

Predictive ukemi occurs where the uke essentially predicts to varying degrees what the nage is about to do and moves themselves into a position to best take ukemi from it with minimum possibility of injury.

I find this type of ukemi particularly useful where:

  • There is uncertainty as to the ability of the nage to execute their techniques without unnecessarily compromising their own safety or that of the uke’s (This may be linked to the type of technique or practise being explored, the experience levels of the nage or uke, or for other reasons);
  • atemi (strike) based or no touch techniques are being practised or employed (see video below);
  • the “shape of a technique” is being demonstrated to a person who has not previously seen or experienced it; or
  • the uke is seeking to experiment or simply develop their ukemi skills when receiving specific techniques.

The below short video is an example where predictive ukemi is used to protect the uke from getting a good belt to the face (and potential trip to the dentist) from an atemi based technique.

Non-predictive ukemi

I use the term non-predictive ukemi to refer to those situations where the uke strikes or attacks with no regard to the likely technique or action to be taken by the nage.  The form of ukemi ultimately employed by the uke at the conclusion of the technique is accordingly unknown until the last moment.   

While this is a highly worthwhile and quite exhilarating form of training, it requires a strong trust between the nage and uke, including an understanding that the nage will at all times have the highest regard for the uke’s safety when executing their techniques.  Particularly important is that the nage appreciates and adapts the intensity of their techniques to correlate with the uke’s experience level and falling skills.

Reactive ukemi     

This is my favourite form of ukemi.  While still non-resistant in nature, the essence of this ukemi is that when the uke feels their centre is being taken, the uke reacts by blending with nage’s actions and attempts to regain their balance.  A sensitive nage will immediately adjust the application of the technique to compensate.  The typical end result is Aikido being dynamically practised with power and grace.

Many of the Aikido demonstrations by Christian Tissier Sensei (7th Dan) are examples of this type of practice at its highest level – see for example Tissier Bercy 2005 HD (at o:59 to 1:39).

However, I would only recommend engaging in this method of uke arts (particularly in taninzugake) if your ukemi skills are well-developed and have become second nature.  My own experience is that the speed in which you come out of the technique seems to significantly increase with this type of training.  In addition, I sometimes find the gracefulness can be dangerously deceptive and the final powerful meeting with the mat can be quite a mental shock.

Aikido – I do my own stunts

At the end of the day, we in Aikido do our own stunts and no one stands in for us when we fall from an applied technique.  To stay safe, the most important thing for us is to use common sense and practise at a level commensurate with our ability to walk away safely in the most likely event that we meet the mat.

All the best

Ian Grant

No-touch Aikido techniques: Separating fact and fantasy

There are plenty of examples on You Tube where a “martial arts master” appears to take an Obi-Wan Kanobi moment and use an invisible blast to project one or more students across the room.  Let me blunt from the outset, I’m a non-believer.

I must confess, I did visit an unaffiliated Aikido dojo some years ago where the possibility of shooting long distance “ki blasts” seemed to be seriously discussed.  I should add no one in the room could actually demonstrate such blasts, but the very fact some of them hoped to one day was enough for me never to return.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in the efficacy of so called no-touch Aikido techniques.  In fact, the truth is quite the contrary.  It’s just that these techniques have nothing to do with Star Wars let the force be with you” like blasts.

I should also add that I have on many occasions been the recipient of Aikido no-touch techniques. Based on this experience, I can assure the reader they are quite effective and have nothing to do with science fiction or mystic rays.

Essentially what happens is that the nage (i.e. the person doing the technique) neutralises the uke’s attack by executing a strike in such a way that the uke has the option of taking a fall instead of being hit. This takes considerable skill on the part of the nage, both in terms of timing and delivery. Specifically, the strike has to be fast enough such that it cannot be deflected, but slow enough so that the uke has the option of taking the fall to get out of the way of the incoming blow.

In real life, an untrained attacker will most likely be hit rather than choose to fall to avoid the strike. The nage must therefore also be trained in delivering the strike (which in fact is typically more a cut) so as to not suffer injury to their hand or arm when delivering it.

In a dojo setting, a uke well versed in ukemi (falling) is also critical. In essence the uke must respond to the strike as if it were a throw – something requiring some practice to do well.

See below a photograph sequence taken at the former Mizu Aikido Dojo.  The demonstrated no-touch technique is being used to neutralise an attacking force in the form of a two armed grab (ryotemochi).

Aran Seq

So there you go – no touch techniques really exist.

Ian Grant