Nice class on Tuesday evening, with seven of us there.  My back is still a bit iffy, but I made it through the class without aggravating it.  However, I had to play it safe, which isn’t a lot of fun.

We did a little work on how the initial move opens uke up for a strike (atemi), particularly with a ten shin (quarter step back) escape from a punch.  If nage moves just out of range and off uke’s line of attack, he is relatively safe from uke, while uke is upen to a strike from nage.  However, if nage is where he can punch uke, he is still in range of uke’s foot.  If nage has moved off uke’s line, however, uke’s natural weapons are all pointed past him.  For nage to take advantage of this, whether using aikido or striking, nage must set himself up to where he is still pointing his weapons at uke.

We mostly worked on ikkyo and shihonage, from kosa dori and tsuki.  We worked a lot on position – where our feet should be, where uke’s feet should be, and how to move to a domimant position.  This is a lot like what we did working on escapes.  When nage is in a position where he can move uke with relatively little effort, he is in the right place.  Of course, uke should cooperate during nage’s learning phase and early practice phase.  As nage progresses, he should still be able to complete an effective technique even if uke is not cooperating, but to study his technique, he may still need to have uke cooperate.

Uke cooperating may sound a lot like uke falling for nage.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Uke just falling whether or not nage does the technique right is counter productive.  Nage will not learn then.  Instead, uke must attack correctly.  He can slow down a bit, particularly initially, but he must attack correctly, whether a punch or grab is needed.

Uke should then let nage do whatever nage wishes.  Uke should not resist any more than he should go ahead of nage.  So if nage pushes up uke’s arm, uke lets him.  Even this can be a pitfall.  If uke just lets nage push up his arm, but maintains his center, of course nage will not be able to do technique.  Instead, uke should move naturally.  If nage pushes up uke’s arm, uke’s body should also move, as it would at full speed.  Being uke is quite difficult to do correctly.

Uke should take the correct ukemi.  If this is a back roll, uke should let nage put him into a back roll.  If it is a front roll, he should let nage put him into a front roll.  Uke should not break off because he doesn’t feel like falling.  You are doing aikido!  When it is your turn to be nage do you want uke to bail on you too?  So complete the technique, even when uke.

Part of ukemi is staying connected to nage.  Once a separation happens, uke is vulnerable to being hurt, sometimes quite badly.  Stay connected and move correctly from the initial attack through completion of the ukemi.

As nage learns how to do the technique and practices it, uke should attack more firmly, and can begin to resist.  Note I said “begin to resist”, not go crazy and try to stop nage.  A bigger, stronger, higher ranked uke should always be able to mess up nage by holding back when attacking and then resisting the technique.  This is all too easy to do on the mat.  However, it is quite reckless on the street.  Do that on the street, and you will probably get hurt.  You can even get hurt resisting in the dojo.  If uke does stop nage, he should attack again and again until nage is successful.

However, people are all too eager to jump to resistance.  Better to concentrate on performing a good attack and good ukemi, better for both nage and uke.

As people started getting a bit tired, towards the end of class, we worked on blending.  We did this with bokken, with shomen and leg attacks (yoko ashi, perhaps).  We blocked the strikes, striving to move together with our partner, neither behind nor ahead, blending and connecting rather than hard blocks.  We did two head strikes then two leg strikes.

After that, we did similar movements with empty hands.  Blending with two face punches then two body punches.  Then we did technique on the last of the four attacks, trying to move smoothly from the blending block into the aikido technique.  We moved up to doing the technique after the third attack, then the second, then the first one, still endeavoring to blend with the attack.

We finished with randori.  Generally, the ukes attacked in sequence rather than more than one at a time.  This made the focus dealing with attacks from different directions, and picking an appropriate technique on the fly.  Secondary issues are tracking all of the ukes, continuing to move, keeping out of the corners, maintaining extension, and not backing up.

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