A fun video compilation recorded at a class at our dojo on 4 June 2016.
One 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.
- 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 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
Head Dojo Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo
Training in how to safely receive technique (ukemi) is something that is particularly emphasised at our dojo. In every class time is set aside to develop and refine our ukemi skills. Everyone participates, however, the level and intensity of the practice varies consistent with each student’s experience and skills.
One form of ukemi practice that we have a lot of fun doing is what we call “free form ukemi training”. Basically the uke repeatedly receives different variations of the same technique which, depending on the variation, result in unpredictable and different falling outcomes.
Ryotadori seoi otoshi is a favourite technique for this sort of training. Subtle changes in the application of the technique result in the uke having to unpredictably roll or breakfall from the left or right hand side while in an unbalance position. They also result in alterations in the space between the uke and nage, as well as the extent to which the some or all of the nage’s body operates to sever the uke’s connection to the ground.
The use of ryotadori seoi otoshi for this sort of training is demonstrated in the video below.
- Video Library: Falling and uke arts
For further videos and posts on ukemi training, including how to forward roll, see Video Library: Falling and uke arts.
- Ryotadori seoi otoshi – the basic elements
In the below video, Peter Kelly Sensei, International Instructor for Aikido Yuishinkai, demonstrates the shape and footwork for ryotadori seoi otoshi as practised in our school. As noted in the lead-in commentary for the featured video, in order to produce different ukemi outcomes for training purposes, participants made subtle (and maybe at times not so subtle) amendments to the execution of the technique.
- Training methods for learning to breakfall
For examples of training methods that we use to develop our breakfalling skills (one aspect of ukemi) see the below video. More detailed information on ukemi training can be found in the Video Library: Falling and uke arts.
Have a great week.
For many beginners to Aikido, learning to forward roll is one of the most challenging and frustrating parts of Aikido training. Further, once the mechanical skills of rolling are learnt, first from a kneeling position and then from a solo standing position, the next challenge is to learn to relax when rolling. The more one relaxes the easier rolling is to do. The lumps and bumps that also come with learning this skill also quickly disappear.
In the below video Master Koretoshi Maruyama, Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai, demonstrates a fun way to learn to relax when solo forward rolling. Essentially, it involves the practitioner pretending to stumble and walk around relaxed (as if drunk) prior to executing the roll.
As bizarre as it may seem, this exercise actually works. In fact, at our dojo the exercise is done as part of our regular solo ukemi practice at the beginning of each class and has proven beneficial to both seniors and newcomers in developing relaxation in not only forward rolling but also other forms of ukemi (e.g. backward rolling and opposite leg rolling).
Needless to say this exercise should never be practised by people actually under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Other ukemi articles and video
- Maruyama Sensei’s comments on receiving ukemi from O’sensei
“After I became a full-time instructor in 1967, Ueshiba Sensei used me as his uke. As a deshi (student), it was important to take ukemi. One deshi didn’t know how to take ukemi from O-Sensei and went down with a bang. I already knew that Ueshiba Sensei used ki. I wondered, “How to take ukemi from O-Sensei?” So I decided to extend ki to him. He said, “Come, Maruyama!”, and I attacked him.
After taking ukemi from him, Ueshiba Sensei looked at me, and said, “Good ukemi!” He then asked what rank I held and I told him I was a 5th dan. He gave me a 6th dan and told me to go to the office to get the certificate! I thanked him but I never picked up my certificate. However, I had learnt an important lesson, “Extend ki to your opponent!””
Have a great weekend
When it comes to milestones in an Aikido practitioner’s journey, testing for shodan is one of the biggest. With this in mind, I had the privilege today to convene a shodan testing panel for one of our dojo’s founding members – Neil Neilsen.
One of the great aspects of the culture at our dojo is that grading milestones are a community event. It’s important to all of us that those being tested not only pass but pass with “flying colours”. Neil’s grading was no different with everyone banding together to help him train for his test though the Christmas/New Year break.
As for the actual grading event, Neil readily exceeded the technical testing requirements and continually opted to do the “extra mile”. When it came to the 3 person attacker component (sanningake), for example, he resolved to take 4 attackers.
Similarly, after completing the formal requirements in the syllabus, and despite being understandably tired, he requested to have his ukemi tested (a dojo tradition). This essentially involved him being the uke in 6 consecutive taninzugake (free form practice), each with a different dojo senior. Neil effortlessly took endless breakfalls and other complex ukemi as part of this.
The video below gives some of the grading moments captured by our resident photographer Eden.
Congratulations to Neil on his grading and a huge thank you to all the ukes who participated. Big thank you also to Michael Sensei (Bald Hills Dojo) and Mike Nash Sensei (Aikido Republic) who joined us on the day to support Neil and participate in the grading.
Have a great weekend.
Aikido Warrior Dojo Brisbane
Ukemi (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
The 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.
The 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”.
Notwithstanding, 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.
The 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 execute 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
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane