Update

Just to keep everybody in the loop, attendance at the dojo is picking up again. We now have about 700 sq ft of mat, and on Saturday we had 6 people practicing. IIRC, everybody has been vaccinated, so there should be minimal risk. Besides myself, we had Bill, Randy, Sid, Doug, and Dan deFluiter. There is still room for more, and there were only three of us yesterday. If we need to, I have another 5 ft of mat we can put down.

Lately, I have been working a lot on the initial contact between uke and nage. I remember Ron Russell (my 2nd aikido instructor) saying it was important, but we didn’t work at it in any particular way. Now, I have been. The key is how uke attacks. You really can’t practice that point of contact if the two of you stand at ma ai and uke attacks from there. You have to start a little further apart, so that uke has to move in to attack. To make it realistic, uke has to minimise telegraphing, which means he has to be relaxed. Nage also has to be relaxed. Both of them have to extend – uke so that they can attack, nage so that they can defend. This relaxed extension is what the unbendable arm is supposed to teach.

You can practice the extension starting from ma ai, and that is useful too. Then it is about figuring out how to get the resultant of the two forces (uke’s attack and nage’s defense) to go to uke’s front triangle point. From there, you can go into any technique. Both uke and nage need to maintain the extension and contact until uke is into the ukemi. If nage breaks the connection, the technique falls apart. If uke breaks the connection early they are vulnerable to being hit.

Making the connection with a grab is pretty easy, because uke is grabbing you. All you have to do to take kuzushi is to maintain the connection (threat) and direct it where you want it. You do, however, have to be in the right place, and with your feet and uke’s feet aligned suitably so that you are not overpowered by a strong uke, nor lose contact with a weaker one. Ideally, you want to do this between uke grasping your arm and clamping down.

Making the connection with a strike is harder, because you don’t want uke to actually hit you and the window of opportunity is smaller. The principle is, however, the same. Extend, make contact, redirect. You can do this with irimi, tenkan, or ten shin movements

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