It’s Simple, but it’s not Easy
Reflections on Summer School 2011
Day 2 is over, what to start with and where from? There is a quality of Aikido that I have not seen before. Perhaps I have, but it is only now that I am good enough to appreciate it. I believe the better one becomes the more the finesse one can appreciate.
It is simple yet it is not easy!
Mustard sensei even said “every time I try to cream Uke with my sokumen It doesn’t happen, and when I let the technique come out I throw them really hard”
That statement for me is all I need to know.. that statement should be the working motto of Yohsinkan aikidoka, “let the technique come out”.
Not only that but it is the recipe for and the secret ingredient of a powerful technique.
Although the technique is what we practice all the time we often do not trust it enough to work for us. Not trusting techniques we practice and base our whole martial art around is really a waste of time; we might as well go play tennis.
Sensei will often advise us on the matt and say: let it go! He really means let it go. Let go of the tension, of the muscular rigidity. Yes, I like that word, rigidity, because that is exactly what it is. Rigidity describes exactly what you will get when you use muscle power to implement a technique. Rigidity, is the lack or loss of that smooth flowing motion, that soft, gentle movement that allows the Shuchu ryoku –focussed power- to come out.
When engaging Uke in a shomen-uchi strike, remember it is not the arms that will be moving uke –assuming he is of equal strength, but your whole body movement. That body movement will not come together as a unified action or as a smooth motion unless you ‘let it go’; just move with your lower body, the arms are merely a connection to your body not a separate aikido entity.
The arms will provide you with your best connection to uke and will have the greatest impact on him if they are relaxed -which is not the same as floppy- to help with that relaxed feeling think of extending and sending your energy out.
The concept of ‘Jushin mae’ –Energy forward, is not only applicable to your knees, but to all your extremities, it is a state of being, regardless of what you do in aikido.
Back to the showmen uchi example, from the point of engagement if you were to ignore the arms and just shift your weight forward pushing from the back leg, uke will certainly be moved into the correct position for your next step.
Back to trusting the technique! Sensei demonstrated to me, in a showmen uchi ikkajo ni, after the block and the initial pivot –over 180- when uke is in that seemingly strong position all you need to do is to perform a hiriki shift… that is all. Make the connection with your hands but move from your hips, one committed purposeful movement. This brings me nicely to another point; commitment or decisiveness. This is perhaps my biggest personal eureka moment from this seminar. Commit yourself.
Engage uke in the proper manner, then just move, no fiddling about, no fidgeting, not half moves, no start stop, no tap dancing, none of that. Just simply move to your next step.
This weekend, when I learned to commit and after putting it into practice, I managed a couple of really nice and strong throws. The throw sounded different and felt like nothing. It was a rare moment for me, when ‘commitment’ met with ‘trusting the technique’ in one smooth motion, the final result was exhilarating.
When all of those different component are put together the Uke will not be able to move or to resist, you’ll be in better position and probably control.
I described a few throws I experienced from sensei this seminar to a friend as being hit by a train.. absolutely unstoppable. The body moved as a whole, as one, in a smooth motion. Now I know I’m not the strongest around, but even the strongest on the day were unable to resist the technique. It was beautiful to watch.
So how do you manage to do all that, well simple really, we were given the answer to that …
1- Practice kihon and all basic techniques in wide, low and in big movements
2- Leave your ego at the door.
3- Trust the technique, you can’t trust your technique if your ego comes to training with you, it just doesn’t work. It is far better to stop and say this technique is not working for me today, rather than force the technique with muscle power. Correcting bad habits takes long, so best not to make new ones.
4- Keep practicing correctly, there is a reason some people dedicate a life time to learn yoshinkan aikido, because it takes at least a life time to master it.
Monday, 10 October 2011