Aikido in Hangzhou: technical part!

2 05 2011

No need to give the post a different name, since it is basically the same topic, and probably (hopefully) not the last time I write about this!

23-24th April – Busy week, and bad notes (ok, I admit, no notes except mental post-it that sticked nowhere).. so I do not recall all the stuff we did last Aikido weekend. I do recall the food and good time though!

That does not mean I forgot all!! With again a good combination on the mats of advanced people and extremely beginners, I tried to work on two of the most important Aikido concept (at least for me): ukemi and kokyu ho.


Ulrich hold a first part of the practice focusing on katatedori gyaku hanmi techniques, especially different versions of kokyu ho and kokyuonage. Actually, we did not talk about the practice topics, but it fit perfectly with something I had planned to work on during the weekend. So for the last part of Saturday and then Sunday I worked mainly on contactand way to relax as tori when receiving grip attack, like katatedori gyaku hanmi and ushiro ryote dori.

On Sunday especially I showed a very relevant exercise from Endo sensei, something he typically does when introducing ushiro ryote dori: first grip both hands of tori from behind and lift his/her arms on the side, up to shoulder level (sort of crucifix stance) and then let the arm fall. If tori is enough relaxed, the arm must naturally fall on the side, due to normal gravity. Common to see arms stopping half way or just staying horizontally: first symptom of stiffness, or not being relaxed at all! Then one can help his/her partner by shaking the arms, and then asking the partner to focus the arm weight, when lifted, on the contact to the hand that holds them there. When you feel the weight, you can release the arm, that most probably will then fall in a natural way.

Then, from the arm along the body position, push straight the arm upwards. Tori must only focus on extending the arm toward the ground, keeping them relaxed, shoulder down, not bending the elbows, not strongly pushing or “fighting” against the upward force. A test is by sudden releasing tori when pushing upwards: if tori is relaxed nothing will happen, but if on the other hand tori was actively struggling against the upward force, when sudden released, the arm or the body will sort of “fall” even more toward the mats, losing the balance. This should not happen,as long as tori keeps a quite mind, or chinkon, 鎮魂, ちんこん, “spirit pacification” (very interesting link!), that extends to a quiet center and therefore good balance, without fighting.

Keeping this feeling in mind is easy, keeping it in your body is more a challenge. But then, we tried to apply it to easy movements when uke grips one or both hands of tori. Then with the same extension feeling in the arm, we worked no the way to relax the body. From again either katatedori gyaku hanmi or ushiro ryotedori, another typical Endo sensei movement: keeping the arm (or arms) relaxed and in quiet, tori turns the body (starting from the hips) like a yo-yo wrapping up the wire (the arm). It will reach a point when the rotation of the body sets the arm in rotation as well, and being uke “linked” to the arm(s) he/she will also start movement, without any force starting directly from the muscles of the arm..

The only way to manage the exercise is letting the arm relaxing close to the body and then around the back, and letting hips-body movement unbalancing uke, not trying to do jerking movements with the arm. From ushiro ryotedori, it is so easy to just think to turn and say hi to uke, and then keep on turning 🙂

Of course when uke is in motion, we did some basic kokyu nage, to practice also some ukemi.

The last part of Sunday session was used for re-propose some of the other typical Endo sensei contact exercises (one shoulder, 2 hands, hip, fist with bent arm) involving lots of movement for uke (and so I had a chance to let everyone moving me around!). From the contact and the movement we tried some easy kokyu nage again, trying to not think too much about Aikido, about techniques, but giving only the feeling of moving uke.

It is actually an advantage to work with beginner for this: they do not know many techniques and it is more funny for them to try to explore some different ways to unbalance his/her partner. Advanced students usually try to move uke for performing the technique they have in mind.. that is actually the opposite of the real goal of the exercise.. the opposite of the real jiyu waza or randori exercises: the mind should be empty and in peace, the way uke reacts to the control will lead to a technique.. the best for the situation. So the technique is a result of the way uke moves, not the opposite.

Of course, being able to write this does not mean being able to perform it properly. But it is always funny to work on this concept, and in less than a week I will be back in Hangzhou for another weekend of practice, and I know already what I will do.. or try to do.. or start doing.. for changing according to the people coming, the people response and.. the feelings of the moment! 🙂

Adapting to the wind………………



One response

3 05 2011

I like this post 😉


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