Aikido in Hangzhou: technical part!

16 04 2011

Sunday April 10th I was in Hangzhou for practice and had a great time also when not practicing. For the fun off mats go to this link, for the fun on the mats, keep reading!

This is a more technical post only for the people interested in what I have been practicing and some of my comments. Probably boring for a few not-Aikido related people, and a few Aikido related as well!!

Especially since I am a bad low dan graded person that does not get enough practice anymore from his teachers…. so I might have got all wrong, again!! 😛

So Sunday I proposed a very full day in Hangzhou: got a train from Hefei just before 2 am, Sunday morning. Got in Hangzhou around 8:30 am and started Aikido at 11:30 am after some good breakfast first at a little Chinese bakery then at Starbucks for real coffee: my mistake had been not knowing Starbucks opens at 7 am! No more this mistake!!

special Sunday in Hangzhou

Aikido and spring flowers

Starting that early, with my good intentions and motivations for practicing a lot, and my well known adversity at watching the time, we did practice for more than 5 hours, split in 3 sessions. The plan was 3 times 1.5 hours per session.. but it went a bit longer, every session!! 🙂

And it was well worth, at least for me: it was really a long time I was not equally tired at the end of classes where I was the instructor! I pushed myself to show and then experience almost every technique with all the people on the mats.. and for the second time in my life there were plenty of people on the mats!!

In the first session, I started with ukemi basics: building up ushiro ukemi from the beginning and then warming up mae ukemi, that is usually the one easier. Then I moved to basic techniques with kokyu ho and taisabaki (irimi and tenkan). Often when doing irimi kokyu ho the people is very much focused either in cutting the neck with the arm in front of uke or letting the arm swing over uke‘s head. For the former I showed what actually is the best way to receive it as uke, ie. turning the head toward the space between tori & uke, to not expose the front of the throat to tori‘s arm! For the latter, when tori swings the arm too much over uke‘s head, I proposed a counter technique: keeping contact with tori‘s arm, it is easy to turn the hips as soon as the arm swings over uke‘s head and finding yourself in a perfect position for shihonage. Funny application, especially good when tori applied the technique in too a mechanical way, forgetting to focus on the contact with the partner and partner’s position!

For the tenkan version I instroduced one of the typical movement that Tissier sensei: tenkan first but then restepping in front of uke and cut more in an omote version, using an effective hip turn. I think personally it is a very nice movement for learning how to keep the center after taking uke‘s center and moving without releasing it, giving back the balance to uke.. something you do not want to do. A movement with lots of good points for an effective technique, starting from lowering the body position, using the hips and upper body in a relaxed way and keeping always uke out of balance.

Then after a short lunch break (for me a wonderful cake and great iced coffee, just energy for a long afternoon!) we continued with slightly more advanced movements, starting though from some suwariwaza shomenuchi ikkyo omote but with uke not moving from the sitting position. The goal was getting the feeling of the contact with uke arm and the effect of the slight change of directions in uke‘s attack: how to take uke down to the mats without pulling or pushing. Then make uke fall with a lateral cut, sort of entrance for shomenuchi shihonage, working mostly again on the direction change of the contact, without emphasizing too much the “real” use of atemi. And for more work on the contact, having uke intention making him/her to come up after the side falling, keeping contact on tori and trying to direct the attack again, therefore giving tori a nice chance to perform ikkyo again with a change of the hand in contact on uke‘s attacking arm. Still with tori moving the least possible from the sitting position.

The reason to introduce this movement was to lead way to the next technique: standing yokomenuchi attack and ikkyo omote application, in the most hombu dojo version. Nowadays many learn almost only the irimi tenkan entrance from yokomenuchi attack, forgetting early side entrance. For ikkyo, the main technical point is how to move the contact in front of the body. Actually moving the body so that the contact was in front! I remember a wonderful session in Trondheim with Jan Nevelius sensei about this topic. I think the way of moving for this basic technique is extremely important for so many other applications. And very much requiring a good contact and intention from uke as well.

After working quite some time on this technique, I moved to more advanced application, given that we were also getting closer to the end of the practice. So I introduced a very early direct way of doing yokomenuchi kkyo omote using the same early entrance concept together with the same hand-sweep used from the suwariwaza shomenuchi exercise, when uke rises from a lateral fall and tori change contact hand for leading uke to ikkyo. This hand work (tesabaki) together with a good body-foot work (taisabakiashisabaki) allows to perform an extremely direct ikkyo from yokomenuchi attack. Just to understand each other, something you have probably seen very often in Tissier sensei videos! But at a speed I never wanted or could show!! We worked slower, trying to anticipate step by step the attack, giving a fluidity to the technique.

Trying to keep the interest up toward Tissier sensei applications, I introduced 2 other quite typical ways to meet yokomenuchi from Tissier’s Aikido: avoiding the attack with a slight movement backward of the body, “breaking” the timing of uke long enough to take his/her center and the sliding step inside the attack (sukiashi) followed by a fast kaiten and shihonage on the attacking hand. Both funny, new and interesting ways to close a very good Sunday.. at least for me!!!

By the way, searching Tissier sensei videos I found this one from Tanabe IAF seminar in 2008 in Japan, where I was together with several Norwegians and if I am not wrong, I can actually see myself in the first seconds on the right side of the people sitting, second line.. short hairs and beard.. 🙂

Superfluous to say I ended up the practice dead!!! And happy 😉




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