Another good class, with six of us there despite the cold weather. For the first time, I turned on the heat in the dojo. Guess my blood is getting thin. A far cry from when Les White used to come into the Hut on a Sunday morning, laugh at us shivering with hoar frost on the mat, and open all the windows.
We started off with some kicking and punching, as we often do these days. I do want our students to be able to do this well, if only so that our techniques are practiced against realistic attacks. We also did some blocks and going from a block to a front kick to a spinning back kick.
When we started throwing, I noticed most of us were responding to what attack we expected, rather than what was there. This is very common due to how we commonly practice in aikido, and is not a good thing. Aikido began as a martial art, a self defense art, and if it is to be practical, rather than aiki dance, we must learn to read our attacker.
A good uke does not telegraph how he is going to attack. If an attacker on the street telegraphs, great, but we need to be ready for the one who does not.
Nage should offer a suki (opening) that encourages the attack he wants, and engineer his response to use that attack, but be ready if uke does something different.
An attack is not merely a named attack like kosa dori. It is a particular kind of kosa dori. It may involve uke moving forwards or backwards as he grasps the arm, but it should involve uke taking, or attempting to take, nage’s center. Very probably, uke would grasp nage’s arm in order to control nage so that uke can punch him with his other arm.
Nage can take uke’s center by entering, as for ikkyo irimi. Or he can let uke take control of his arm and redirect uke’s energy to give an opening for, e.g., kote gaeshi. What nage should not do is fight a stronger uke. Even with an uke that is not stronger, struggling to muscle uke is not aikido, which is what we come to the dojo to study.
As an exercise for taking uke’s center, we started with arms in contact as for a shomen strike but static. Nage practiced feeling and then controlling uke’s center. Then nage practiced doing a technique from that point. This initial movement is like kosa dori, so we then reversed roles, with uke taking nage’s center and holding in kosa dori, with nage doing a technique against this energy. Very different from uke just grabbing nage’s arm as we often practice.
Finally, we had the two partners each attempting to do a technique on the other. This quickly showed the futility of trying to muscle the other person. The key is to flow with his energy and using this flow to do the technique – the way of harmony and spirit!