Extension and flow

We worked today on getting and maintaining uke’s extension, while maintaining good flow during the technique.

Getting uke to extend seems pretty easy and simple, especially from a grab.  However, angles are important.  Generally, you want to extend uke towards his triangle point, typically the front triangle point.  To do that, position of your feet is important.  Generally, you want to extend uke by extending your own arm, and to do that, you need your feet aligned roughly along the line of force.  Getting uke to move from there, however, is less obvious.  Generally, you want to press down on the end of uke’s arm.  Pulling on his arm just makes uke want to pull back and resist, but pressing down moves uke’s balance forwards, and he naturally feels a need to step to recover his balance, thereby moving in the direction you want him to go.  You do want to move your arm as uke moves, but to keep him off balance rather than to physically move him by muscular efffort.

Once you get uke moving like this, you can keep him moving with little effort as long as you don’t lose connection or let uke catch up.  Typically, this happens with, for example katate tori kote gaeshi when you change direction, and that is where flow comes in.

Our brains seem to work in chunks.  The first chunk may be to get uke moving, but once we go to throw uke, another set of instructions seem to kick in.  Both chunks might work well on their own, but the transition between the two is often where there is a problem.  We often simplify techniques by saying there are three parts to a technique (or five if we are a bit more advanced), but in fact, a technique has to flow nicely from one part to another.

The first thing to do is to make sure that you make all changes in direction smooth and gradual.  In the case of kote gaeshi, you will want an arc of one to two feet in radius rather than a sharp change in direction.

You also need to maintain your extension on uke’s arm.  Your first extension should get uke’s shoulder away from being right over his hip.  As you progress through the technique you need to keep it away from his hip all the way into the ukemi.

Don’t hurry.  Uke needs time to respond to changes in direction or velocity.  If you go too slowly, you will lose contact.  If you go too fast the flow will be lost and, often, your grip will slip and you’ll complain about sweaty arms.

Finally, the tempo of the technique needs to be even, and accelerating slightly as the technique progresses.

If you can do all this, the technique will need a lot less effort and work a lot better, whether you are uke or nage.

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