“Tenchi-Nage, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust My Sensei” by Jerry Akel

Those who know me understand that in general, I’m a pretty level headed fellow. Sure, I have strong opinions, and sometimes I can ruffle feathers, but in the main, I consider myself a steady hand at the dojo.

In other words, there’s not a lot that confounds me.

Which makes my reaction to a certain technique (fifth kyu, no less!) all the more bewildering. It’s as if I become Merkwürdigliebe, a stranger trapped in my own body, either attempting the technique or, more likely, strangling the host. Sure, I can make it work, but believe me, there is a world of difference between what I do, and what I see the shihans do.

I am, of course, referring to tenchi-nage.

What looks like a seemingly innocuous throw becomes, with the right nage, a fairly devastating cut. Uke is transported over nage’s center, and is forced to breakfall or lose her shoulder. I’ve seen it performed with skill hundreds of times over the years, and it still manages to impress me. Literally, the gulf between the beginner and the adept is that wide.

But I’ve had a breakthrough, thanks to Dee. Last week in class, I saw Sensei demonstrate the technique with Fabian. Determined to lead Fabian into the proper ukemi, she cut strongly with her lead hand, and placed her hip directly behind his, trapping his legs with her own. She then brought him over her center, and cut forward, perpendicular to his stance. Fabian went flying. It was beautiful.

Oscar, who also saw the throw, looked at me, stunned.

It’s funny how you can observe a technique for years, and practice its outward form, and not really understand it, at least not until you’re ready. It’s as if your mind says, “You know what? You’ve suffered long enough. Let me help you. This time, don’t look there. Look here.”

Strangelove, you’ve got nothin’ on me.

Dojo: Aikido Center of Jacksonville
Weblog: Learning To Be Silent

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