Safe aikido practice

Learning to breakfall – its a lot easier than it looks

Yokomenuchi kokyu nageAt our dojo learning to breakfall is an accepted part of our training culture.  The ability to breakfall is something we learn and develop to make sure we stay safe in our practice and to enable us to practice Aikido at its more advanced levels.

Most classes include a breakfalling skills development component. The focus of the training tends to be on traditional breakfalling, as this form of ukemi can be  universally applied to receive any technique.  In addition, some seniors also venture down the supplemental path of what is sometimes referred to as “feather rolling”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA key aspect of our training is to not only focus on the uke, but also the nage. Given that the decision as to whether the uke is to breakfall generally lies with the nage, it is important that the nage has the skills to not only remain stable and anchored (if for no other reason so as not to fall on their uke), but also support and turn the uke to assist them in landing safely and correctly.

The below video shows a selection of some of the breakfalling exercises that we commonly do at the dojo. While some may appear daunting at first look, they are surprisingly easy to pick up with the appropriate instruction. They are also a lot of fun.  You will note from the video that they are being practised by persons of varied ages, sizes and experience levels.

Have a great weekend

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane

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Round up – Peter Kelly Sensei class – 12 August 2015

Following on from the Winter Aikido Yuishinkai Seminar this weekend, our Chief Instructor,  Peter Kelly Sensei, visited our dojo on Wednesday as guest instructor.

Peter Kelly seminar 1Given our dojo’s particular interest in studying applied kokyu ho applications, Peter Sensei took us through a wide variety of kokyu nage techniques.  Peter Sensei also examined kokyu nage in the context of a direct strike to the face (ganmen-tsuki), which is an attack we have just started exploring at the dojo in recent months.

For those not familiar with kokyu ho applications, they constitute what is often referred to as the 4th pillar of Aikido. Kokyu ho techniques in the early years of our budo were considered secret techniques not to be shared publicly outside the dojo.  The reason for this is that kokyu ho is the method of generating power in our Aikido throws and applications.  Further, while there is a whole of branch techniques in Aikido called kokyu nage, in reality all techniques at their essence require kokyu ho to translate them from cooperative to applied practice.

In addition to paired practice, Peter Sensei also provided instruction on solo heavy bokken exercises to help develop kokyu ho through vertical-horizontal plane movement. While too difficult to explain in a blog, the exercises will be added to the dojo’s regular bokken (wooden sword) exercises.

A huge thank you to Peter Sensei for taking the class.  It’s a major commitment from Peter  to visit Brisbane from Tasmania, not the least of which is time spent away from his family. I think I speak for everyone when I say how much we really appreciate everything Peter is doing to lead our school in its new direction.

Also thanks to Griffith Aikido Institute for arranging Peter’s seminar in Brisbane in the first place. Last but not least, thank you to everyone who attended.

Plenty of instructional videos to come in the next few weeks to make sure we don’t forget what we were shown.

All the best

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane

Working with resistance – Static hand grabs

A standard feature of our practice at the dojo is to train with static hand grabs where strong physical resistance is applied by the uke (the attacking partner). There are many benefits to this type of training, not the least of which is that we have found it to be an effective method of gaining a practical appreciation of the fundamental principles that underlie Aikido based movements and body structure.

morihei-ueshiba-noma-throwPlease be assured that I am not in any way derogating kotai (static) practice where the uke offers full cooperation or at most a dead weight. Far from it and in fact we also include this practice at the dojo. However, if one only practices in this way the risk is the development of an unstated understanding that Aikido can only operate in a static situation with a cooperative uke.

The below video is an informal demonstration of a number of Aikido options for dealing with static hand grab attacks where the attacker is using high levels of physical strength. The demonstrated techniques are performed slowly and with every effort made not to respond with physical strength solutions, but rather responses based on Aikido principles, including those associated with kokyu. The possibility of using atemi (striking) was intentionally excluded to make the exercises more difficult.

Please note the techniques and attack options are not intended to be exhaustive, merely illustrative. The attacks were selected randomly based on what popped into our heads at the time. The Aikido responses were similarly not pre-planned and were selected at random based on what “felt right” to each of us in each circumstance.

Finally, a huge thanks to Eden for dropping down to the dojo and recording the video. Also to my training partner, Jeremy, who graciously agreed to appear in the recording and basically “wing it”.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane

Training notes: Hanmi handachi shomenuchi kotegaeshi

morihei-ueshiba-kobukan-c1935Hanmi handachi waza is a common form of Aikido practice whereby the nage is in a kneeling position and the uke  attacks while standing.   In this type of training the uke has the obvious advantage of both mobility and height. However, a skilled nage can still take the balance of the uke by taking advantage of their lower centre of gravity.

Training in hanmi handachi waza is particularly beneficial as it develops skills in taking a ukes balance with only minimal lower body movement.  The training also assists in understanding the importance of centre and use of the centre line in Aikido practice.

The below video extract of Master Koretoshi Maruyama demonstrates the application of kotegaeshi  (outward wrist turn) in hanmi handachi waza to address a straight blow to the centre of the head (i.e. shomenuchi).

Points of note in the demonstration include:

  • The nage is at an approximate 45 degree angle to the uke and not facing head on;
  • The nage’s initial movement is itself a shomenuchi cutting movement through the uke’s centreline;
  • The nage does not attempt to directly clash or in anyway block the uke’s downward strike;
  • The nage draws the attack into their centre and then uses their centre and centre line as the mechanism and line of movement, respectively, to execute the finish of the technique;
  • The balance of the uke is completely taken (i.e kuzushi) from the moment of first contact.
  • The technique is executed to take advantage of the “missing third leg” position to the rear of the uke.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo


Training notes – Bokken happo giri (8 direction cut)

10247471_570367973099377_397839042609517328_nBokken arts are not formally examined as part of the grading syllabus in Aikido Yuishinkai until shodan (black belt).  However, due to the many transferable skills that Bokken arts offer in aiding our tai jutsu (unarmed) training it is quite common for students to be introduced to these wooden sword based arts almost from the outset.

Bokken happo giri is an 8  direction shomen cut that makes for an ideal introduction to solo bokken practice.   This multi-direction kata is an excellent aid to learning and developing spatial awareness, proper posture, heaven-man-earth body quality,  balance and footwork while continually moving and cutting in different directions.

Bokken happo giri  is also helpful in developing the ability to maintain focus in all directions while continually turning.  This ability is particularly useful when dealing with multiple attacker situations in unarmed practice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt our dojo we regularly practice 3 different forms of bokken happo giri.  These are omote, ura and irimi.  All 3 forms involve an 8 way cut, however, the footwork differs in each. Each form directly translates into our tai jutsu practice by automating correct footwork and centred relaxed movement in our Aikido techniques.

The video demonstration below by our Chief Instructor Peter Kelly Sensei is of bokken happo giri omote.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

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Training Notes – Ukemi (Fundamental principles)

This video training note refers to the first in a new series of training videos prepared by Peter Kelly Sensei (7th Dan Aikido Yuishinkai) dealing with the topic of ukemi and uke arts in Aikido Yuishinkai practice.

Peter KellyThe Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai, Master Koretoshi Maruyama, has asked that the development and advancement of high level ukemi skills be given a priority  focus in our Aikido training in Australia this year. To this end Peter Kelly Sensei, Technical Director for Aikido Yuishinkai in Australia, has been travelling the country to give ukemi (and other Aikido) training to Aikido Yuishinkai members.

In support of this training, Peter Sensei has prepared a series of training videos to assist instructors and students in developing the requisite skills. The below video is Part 1 in the series.  Topics covered include:

  • What is ukemi?;
  • Responsibility of the uke to give a tangible attack so that the nage has something to work with;
  • The folly and danger of acrobatic/circus rolling in Aikido practice;
  • The importance of rolling “like a cat”
  • Exercises to develop good ukemi skills;
  • Responsibility of the uke to not anticipate attacks, stay connected and remain centred for as long as possible;
  • Remaining relaxed when taking ukemi, including when breakfalling.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Aikido and the big picture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is an often cited quote from the Founder of Aikido, Master Morihei Ueshiba (O’Sensei), that goes along the following lines:

Aikido is not a technique to fight and defeat the enemy. It is a way to reconcile the World and make human beings one family.

I have often pondered on this statement and wondered how it is possible that a martial art or any form of budo for that matter could hope to achieve such a lofty goal.

In the context of Aikido, its probably not that surprising that I can never recall anyone ever talking about World peace or anything like it. Our efforts on the mat are exclusively focussed on developing our skills, working on ways to improve our body structure and basically enjoying our practice. After class many of us then head out for a coffee, have a few laughs and then return to our regular lives. World reconciliation just never comes up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt then struck me the other day as I was leading a class that I had missed something obvious. Looking around the dojo there were people of different ages, background, gender, physical ability, work life, etc. Everyone was working together to help each other improve their skills and understanding, be safe and just have fun. In short, they were just enjoying each other’s company and learning from their differences.

I then realised that this is what O’Sensei was probably talking about.

Until next time