We had a good turnout for class today (Saturday), but I could not work out as I tweaked my back (not in class). So Rhiannon did the warm up, Anita taught first class, and Sid taught second.
I hated it. It is so much more fun to do aikido than to watch it. However, watching did give me time to think. It is very important in practicing to know what you are supposed to be doing. I don’t just mean which attack and technique – though obviously it is important to know that also. Rather, I mean that for beginners to resist each other is counter productive.
Beginners are just learning the moves. Which foot to move and where, which hand to move and where. Until you know the technique to that level, resistance is merely frustrating. In this sense, when an advanced student is learning a new technique, he is back to being a beginner. Once you know the basic movements, you refine them, and resistance is still counter productive.
The next stage is to make the technique work. Here, some resistance is useful. A little in the beginning. More later. However, ultimately, somebody at least as strong (physically and in technique) as you can block your technique if they know what technique you are going to do.
When you meet resistance, most people want to bull through, increasing their effort to drive through the resistance. This is understandable, but not what you should do. Instead, tweak your technique, change the angles, the timing, whatever, so that it works without relying on strength.
The final stage is where it does not matter how somebody attacks, you are ahead of them, and can choose from a variety of techniques to deal with their attack.
People often practice as if they are in the final stage, when they are not supposed to be doing this. I must admit I don’t discourage this as much as I should: it is fun to have somebody attempt to block your technique and have it work anyway. However, it is somewhat dangerous for uke, particularly if they block your technique the wrong way. Merely using strength to block leaves you open for a variety of options. Nage can, by doing technique correctly, seriously injure somebody merely blocking. Nage can also use atemi to deal with this. Not good in the dojo, but then blocking technique is not good in the dojo either.
Sometimes people will do this in the spirit of “helping” nage. If such ukes really examine their own thoughts, are they really trying to help nage? I don’t think so. I think it is about ego – see, I can stop you if I want to! If the result is to prevent nage from doing the technique, it is almost certainly counter productive.
In actually practicing aikido, things are rarely this clear cut. Often we are forced to skip ahead to one of the higher levels of practice because uke is not working with us, but rather is trying to prove a point. Whenever nage fails to complete a technique, we need to examine why. Did we make them fail, and if so, how, and why. Usually, we need to improve our ukemi, working with nage to help him or her succeed!