Uke arts

Training notes – Shomenuchi koshi nage (shiho nage form)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of our favourite throws to practice at the dojo is koshi nage (hip throw).  Koshi nage can be applied in response to a wide variety of attacks, incuding where the uke attacks the nage by executing a downward strike to to the temple (shomenuchi).

In the below video Morihiro Saito Sensei (1928-2002) provides instruction on one of the traditional forms of shomenuchi koshi nage as practised by O’Sensei (the Founder of Aikido) in the immediate post-war period of his life. In this particular form the entry is the same as if executing a shomenuchi shiho nage (4 directions throw). For further information on the life of Saito Sensei and his unique access to the Founder of Aikido see the Additional Notes section below.

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

  • Learning how safely receive a hip throw

In the below video seniors at our dojo explore the learning progression to safely receive a koshi nage technique.

 

  • Brief Biography – Morihiro Saito Sensei (1928-2002)

morihiro-saito-koshinageMorihiro Saito Sensei’s  practice of Aikido spanned 56 years and he is one of the most important teachers in Aikido history.  Saito Sensei was a live-in student of O’sensei for more than 20 years at his home dojo in Iwama, Japan.

Saito Sensei spent his teaching life dedicated to preserving the technical style of Aikido as practised and shown to him by O’sensei in the post-war period.  Without his commitment to preserving the Aikido of the Founder and extensive efforts to record and document his teachings, much of the Aikido of O’sensei would have no doubt been lost.  The Aikido world owes him a great debt.

Have a great week

Ian Grant
Head Dojo Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

 

 

 

 

Moments in breakfall

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUkemi (the art of receiving technique) is something we take very seriously at the dojo.  It is not only a critical skill to ensure our safety, but also plays an important role in developing  fundamental skills associated with balance, using relaxed power, correct body movement and flexibility.  Further, it is impossible to learn how to execute a technique unless you have someone willing to receive it.

In every class, there is always a segment dedicated to learning and improving our abilities to receive technique.

In the below video, which was taken at various classes during the year, dojo seniors can be seen using Aikido breakfalls to safely receive technique.  Breakfalls are one of a number of ukemi options that are available to Aikido practitioners when receiving a throw. Another commonly used option, depending on the circumstances, is rolling away.

Have a great week

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior

 

 

 

Breakfalls and Aikido – Are they really necessary?

Ueshiba 5The question of whether breakfalls are really necessary in Aikido is one that seems to attract very different opinions even amongst those who practice in the same school.

I have heard senior practitioners on many occasions argue that breakfalling is pointless, dangerous and really only has a place in demonstrations where the nage needs the uke to make them look good or “wow” the crowd.  I have also heard the converse argument to the effect that breakfalling is necessary to learn Aikido at advanced levels and is a critical skill to minimise the possibility of injury at the dojo.

bokken koshi nageThe reality probably lies somewhere in the middle of these arguments. It is also in part influenced by the holder’s perspective as to whether Aikido is primarily a system of self-defence, a health art, a physical manifestation to study philosophical expression, or all of these things and more.

At our dojo, self-projected high falls from techniques are banned. “One flung dung” throws are also not permitted (i.e. techniques where the nage takes no responsibility for being the uke‘s safety anchor). We also have the philosophy of “severe technique – soft throw”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANotwithstanding, breakfalls are part of our regular practice and dojo culture.  Aspects of these falls are practised and studied at every class.  There are 2 fundamental reasons for this and both are game changers when it comes to the decision to include breakfalls in Aikido training.

Peter KellyThe first is that breakfalling allows us to study the full spectrum of Aikido techniques, including, for example, traditional techniques such as hip, shoulder and drop throws.  Without breakfalling skills, many of these traditional techniques developed by O’sensei (the Founder of Aikido) would in effect be denied us.  This is because a breakfall is the only option to receive them.  While there is no doubt one can study Aikido by excluding traditional applications (and many do) – its just not what we are about.

Secondly, we also hold the view that for Aikido to have self-defence relevance, study of  “kuzushi” is fundamental (i.e. the need to completely break the balance of a uke to a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAexecute technique). Once a uke‘s balance is broken, it is critical that they have the full range of ukemi options at their disposal to allow them to land safely, including breakfalls. Admittedly, some Aikidoka regard kuzushi as being unimportant to their study of Aikido and even go as far as to suggest that it is contrary to their philosophical beliefs as to what Aikido is about.  However, as that is not the position we hold at the dojo – breakfalling skills again come into play.

In the below video, various techniques are shown where breakfalling skills have been called upon by dojo members over the year to safely receive a technique.

Have a great week

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane

Ukemi options – Shiho nage

ShihonageUkemi (falling arts) is something that we give a lot of emphasis at our dojo.  Apart from the training insights it gives us into our Art, learning to safely receive technique is critical.

As we progress in our studies and begin to receive techniques in a more fluid training environment, the need to learn more options to receive techniques becomes paramount.  In short, we need to be able to safely fall regardless of the technique variation that is applied or the fact that it may not be strictly text book in execution.

By way of example, the below informal video shows seniors at our dojo receiving various forms of ukemi from yokomenuchi shiho nage (4 corners throw), including rolling and breakfalls.

Have a great day.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

 

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 training – Drawing the line between cooperative and pointless practice

The need for a cooperative dynamic in Aikido practice is widely acknowledged by most of us who practice the Art.  Aside from the non-competitive philosophy that underpins Aikido, there is the practical reality that many techniques would be unsafe to practise without at least some element of compliance from our training partner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA question worthy of consideration, however, is where to draw the line between cooperative practice and pointless practice (i.e. practice that removes or substantially diminishes the opportunity for both parties to learn).

For example, having our training partner just “tank” at the first opportunity removes the learning opportunity for both the nage and the uke. The same could be said where an often well-meaning training partner just rolls out of a technique regardless of whether the person supposedly executing it has functionally done anything to cause such a reaction.

For training to have learning validity, I think a good starting point is an acknowledgement that Aikido practice is between two equals.  That is, it’s not between a human and a rag doll, or a human and some form of “uke-bag”.

Quite the contrary, Aikido practice involves an ongoing  2 way interaction between the attacking  and responding partners (i.e. the uke and nage) who are acting as equals with a view to enhancing their mutual knowledge and skills. This is so, whether it be in the form of kata or free-form practice (taninzugake).

That being said, where one draws the line between 2 equals engaging in productive cooperative practice, as opposed to pointless practice, is something that might cause reasonable minds to differ. Certainly, even the very notion of such a concept as “pointless  practice” imports an element of subjectivity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever, as a working model for uke’s trying to keep on on the right side of the cooperative line, I think a practice methodology whereby the uke acts as follows is not a bad start:

  • The uke does not give up their centre (this is something the nage learns to take, which is not possible if it is sacrificed by the uke);
  • The uke gives the nage their weight to work with (without this, the nage has no sense of the reality of what they are doing).
  • The uke gives an honest attack (e.g. if the attack is a strike to the head, they don’t aim to miss or predict the nage’s response).
  • The uke gives a committed attack  (i.e. the uke follows the attack through to the end and doesn’t stop half way);
  • The uke stays mentally connected with the nage from the beginning through to the completion of the attack (aside from importing an element of realism, this also enhances the safety of the practice);
  • The uke ensures that the intensity of the attack is commensurate with the abilities of the nage, the skills of the uke to safely respond and the purpose of the practice.

How far the uke can go beyond this line before degenerating into competitive and potentially dangerous practice is worthy of an article on its own.  Certainly, enthusiastic free form practice can inadvertently and quite quickly slip over into competitiveness and potential danger.  Fortunately, one of the roles of the class sensei is to intervene at this point and save us from ourselves!

Ian Grant

Class Training Notes: 5/1/13

First training Saturday of the year and an unexpectedly big turnout. It was also a nice surprise to have seniors from Nathan Dojo and Aikido Republic visit and train with us.  Being the first class of the year, the emphasis was on revisiting Aikido fundamentals.

Okay so what did we cover.

The four principles of being an effective and safe uke

The four principles underpinning effective uke arts were examined from an applied Aikido perspective.  These principles can be conveniently summarised as follows:

  •  maintain contact throughout the entire interaction;
  • offer a committed attack;
  • remain relaxed;
  • be sincere.

Reference: Aikido Ukemi (Volume 2) Instructional DVD by Donovan Waite Sensei (7th Dan – Aikikai)

Ian 10Improving your front roll  

The front roll was explored in detail.  For further information and instruction (including video) on how to safely and effectively execute a forward roll from beginner to advanced levels see – How to do a forward roll.

Kaeshi waza (Reversal techniques)

Kaeshi waza shihonage  was explored with a view to improving both our forward ukemi and improving our uke connection throughout the execution of an Aikido technique.  For an excellent You Tube video explaining this Kaeshi waza application see  Kikentai-Berlin: Kaeshi-waza Aikido shiho-nage by Sutemi-nage. 

Characters of Aikido – what do they mean?

The word “Aikido” is made up of three Japanese characters: AI, KI and Do. In basic terms:

  • “Ai” means literally “to fit” (not “harmony” as is sometimes stated);
  • “Ki” means “energy”;
  • “Do” means “way”.

It seems reasonable to suggest therefore that a simple working definition of Aikido is “the way of fitting (or merging) energy”. This definition also aids in understanding as to how Aikido is intended to work in an applied context.

How does Aikido work?

At its essence, applied Aikido operates as follows:

  • the uke executes an attacking energy (eg strike or grab);
  • the nage steps off the line of attack;
  • The nage merges with and leads the uke’s attacking energy in such a way as to neutralise its effect (note this merging ideally begins to occur prior to physical connection between the nage and uke and requires timing, a calm state of mind, relaxed execution and sometimes atemi);
  • the attacking energy will in most instances be effectively neutralised if the uke is placed in kuzushi (i.e off balanced) and the nage is stable and centred. Ideally entry into kuzushi should  occur at the point of physical contact;
  • The nage merges and redirects the energy of the off-balanced uke in the direction which causes them most likely to fall.

To make their Aikido work, a student Aikido must engage in repetitive and considered practice with a variety of effective uke.

I recall being told when I first started Aikido that it takes 3000 proper practice executions of a technique for a uke to get even a basic idea of how the technique should feel and work with a cooperating uke in a basic kata.

Techniques covered in class

Katatekosadori  (one hand hold – opposite side) techniques were explored with an emphasis on understanding the importance of kuzushi (i.e. breaking balance) in an applied Aikido context.

Katatekosadore Shihonage and Ikkyo techniques were examined with particular reference to using the elbow to neutralise the uke’s attack and maintain kuzushi.  For an excellent You Tube video on applying Katatekosadore Shihonage from this perspective see – Donovan Waite Sensei 2008 YMCA Class (see at 1.20 min mark).

In addition, Kotegaeshi and Iriminage techniques were covered with an emphasis on achieving kuzushi at first contact.

Aiki self-defence application – Dealing with a strong katadori attack

Simple self-defence applications were explored in the context of using Aiki principles to respond to a strong katadori attack (one hand shoulder or front lapel grab) after contact has been made.  I got lucky with this one and found a most informative You Tube video dealing with the same applications (plus some additional ones) see –  Aikido Shihan Robert Nadeau:  Aikido vs King Kong.

An important message here is that it is okay and quite natural to be startled, panic, freeze etc when confronted by a real-life threatening and strong attack.  Training helps us to promptly regain a calmed mind and appropriately respond in this situation.

Another important message is that in a real life self-defence situation – keep your response simple and as direct as possible.

Kokyu Dosa

The “two fingers of doom” to the chest kokyu dosa technique was explored.  Okay that’s not its real name – I just made it up.

The purpose of  the exercise was to demonstrate the effect of applying ki extension from the outset before the koky dosa exercise has begun and before physical contact.  If this approach is taken the uke can be effortlessly off-balanced by lightly applying just 2 fingers to the chest or shoulder.

A sampler of full-contact koky dosa with a standing nage was also briefly looked at. This is new for all of us and something I would like to ask Craig Sensei to demonstrate further in future classes.

Taninzugake

Two ukes-one nage taninzugake (free form multiple attacks) was practised.  Ukes were given a choice of  Katatekosadori or katatedori attacks.  The two attacker dynamic turns up the pressure a bit on the nage and is certainly a worthwhile practice, particularly as we had so many seniors.

All the best. Look forward to seeing you next week for those who can make it.

Ian Grant