“It is as if uke has sensors that can eavesdrop on nage’s planned movement and predict its timing, intensity, and direction.”
The italicized text below represents comments I received from one of the participants in the recent Las Vegas seminar I taught jointly with Pat Hendricks Sensei.
Regarding the tension/relaxation aspect of your instruction, as I relived tai no henko with various training partners, I found myself thinking of the similarities/differences in how I was grabbed. As the level of intensity varied, I responded differently. I assume this is as it should be. When I was held firmly, I felt engaged and simply performed the exercise/technique. When I was not held firmly, I engaged my partner by slightly extending my wrist into the grip. I did not view my action as a tensing of my arm, merely an attempt toward drawing a commitment to an action before completing the exercise or executing a technique.
For me, the key phrase in this paragraph is “extending my wrist into the grip.” The way I approach tai no henko is to attempt to unify my total body structure and then move that “structure” into uke’s grip. If a movement, especially of the arm, is not part of an integrated body, uke will feel the independent movement of that part. This is because it is in physical contact with uke’s grip. Nage “commands” his muscles to move in a specific way and his brain sends impulses to the arm. The interesting thing is that uke is also able to read these impulses that nage sends to his arm. It is as if uke has sensors that can eavesdrop on nage’s planned movement and predict its timing, intensity, and direction. This makes it relatively easy to block or hinder nage’s movement because uke is “in on the plan.”
I am thinking this is at least similar to drawing out of uke’s shomenuchi that we also practiced. Am I thinking correctly?
There is, of course, some similarity with the idea of drawing out uke’s shomenuchi, but there is also a fundamental difference. In the basic form of tai no henko, we have a “go no sen” scenario. In other words, uke takes the initiative as he is the one instigating the grab. Our task is to blend with uke’s grabbing energy with our integrated body.
For shomenuchi, we have a different situation. Shomenuchi represents a striking attack. A strike can be a high-velocity event if executed by a skilled person. If uke seizes the initiative when executing shomenuchi, nage would have only the smallest window of opportunity to respond. Therefore, Morihei in his 1938 training manul “Budo” clearly states that in the basic practice of shomenuchi techniques, nage should initiate. This stands in contrast to the practice of other basic techniques where uke initiates. When nage initiates, we might call this “sen sen no sen,” that is, nage seizes the initative in order to control the interaction right from the outset. It is necessary to train this way in order not to practice colliding with uke’s high-speed shomenuchi attack. This would be fundamentally opposed to aikido principles of blending.
I would also like to mention an issue I have with the execution of technique on different partners. In attempting to execute say shihonage or iriminage, it really could be any technique, the degree of difficulty varies. I believe this is due to the dynamics of height, weight, body structure, flexibility, speed of attack, angle of attack as well as the unpredictability of each interaction. I understand the need to practice technique with many partners, but the dynamics between individuals may require working on recognizing what would be effective in a given situation. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
This is a good observation. Throughout our aikido training, we execute and receive countless techniques in an effort to develop a mind/body that is capable of responding spontaneously and effectively in a violent scenario. As you point out, due to factors such as height, weight, body structure, etc., adjustments will have to be made depending on the characteristics of a particular training partner or situation.
For example, a short strong person will have a mechanical advantage when executing shihonage or koshinage throws. A tall person with long arms will have an advantage in executing atemi and techniques where an extended reach is important.
The differences in approach according to a given situation are things that we need to consider and work out in the safe environment of the dojo. If ever called upon to apply our skills, we may have only milliseconds to analyze and respond to the situation. For this reason, we need to imprint new patterns and responses that are expressed spontaneously. Morihei Ueshiba called this “Takemusu Aiki.”