Archives for July 2015

Jul
31

“Shihonage: Show vs. Realism” by Stanley Pranin

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating shihonage from his 1938 training manual Budo


Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating a perfectly executed shihonage from his 1938 training manual Budo

Shihonage is known as aikido’s “four-corner throw”. It involves twisting a partner’s wrist, a rapid pivot resulting in a powerful control of his wrist, followed by a throw.

 Shihonage performed in practice with a single hand controlling the opponent


Shihonage performed in practice with a single hand controlling the opponent

 Present Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba performing a one handed shihonage during demo


Present Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba performing a one handed shihonage during demo

But like anything else in aikido, there are a variety of different styles of performing the technique. Although the basic technique calls for holding your partner’s hand firmly with two hands, it is customary in many dojos to finish the technique holding your partner’s wrist with only one hand.

This can often be seen in aikido demonstrations where an attacker is quickly dispatched with a shihonage controled through a single hand. Often this will be accompanied with the opponent performing a spectacular high fall which never fails to impress an audience.

I think that we often forget the mechanics of basic techniques like shihonage and gravitate toward executing throws in a more spectacular fashion which leaves a strong impression in the eyes of the beholder. It is important to keep in mind that there is a strong element of collusion at play in a demonstration context.

What happens in the dojo when strong basics are emphasized may be less impressive but is far more effective and martial.

 Morihiro Saito executing a shihonage with full control over the opponent seen from a different angle


Morihiro Saito executing a shihonage with full control over the opponent seen from a different angle

What if we consider shihonage as a powerful tool to allow us to subdue and control an opponent? What would the technique look like then? Here are some examples where shihonage is applied with both hands controlling the opponent. Uke is locked in a backward falling position with no change to escape or execute a counterattack.

 The author executing shihonage where its off-balancing effect on the opponent is clearly visible


The author executing shihonage where the technique’s off-balancing effect on the opponent is clearly visible

—————————————————–

 

Now Mobile Friendly! Watch these videos for insights into
solving the technical problems that hold back your progress!

Click here for information on Stanley Pranin's “Zone Theory of Aikido” Course

Jul
30

Closing up the loose ends: “More on Aikido’s Shomenuchi Dilemma” by Stanley Pranin

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba has overcome an overhand knife attack by initiating and delivering an atemi


Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba has overcome an overhand attack by initiating and delivering an atemi

“To overcome the thesis presented here, you must explain how a motionless person can recognize an attack, devise a plan, spring into action, and overcome a high-speed attack in less than a second.”

Yesterday’s blog on the “Shomenuchi Dilemma” generated a good deal of commentary among Aikido Journal readers, especially on Facebook. There were those who agreed with my thesis — actually points stressed by Morihei Ueshiba, Morihiro Saito, and Shoji Nishio in their aikido instruction.

Still there were those who sidestepped the main point. A powerful shomen attack by an uke does not allow nage who is standing still to respond in time. The window of opportunity to analyze, initiate a move, and execute a counter-movement is too limited. This argument was ignored altogether by many of those offering comments.

Some opined that the purpose of this exercise is to blend with the overhead attack. Yes ideally that would allow nage the possibility to gain control over the encounter. This ignores the fact that nage who is responding only after uke’s attack doesn’t have enough time to blend. Look again at the two photos: nage is motionless and uke is at the halfway point of delivering his shomenuchi attack.

Another viewpoint expressed was that nage is not clashing against uke’s shomenuchi but rather that his left hand is moving up to blend with uke and then control the movement. I would agree that in a slow motion scenario this might be possible. But we’re not talking about a slow motion scenario but rather a high-speed overhand attack.

Still another comment was that the arms of nage and uke were not on a collision course and that the photos, being static, gave a misleading impression. I granted that the photos were “posed” and therefore lacked the dynamism of a practice session, but read again Tohei Sensei’s explanation:

… it is easy for you to collide with his strength and difficult for you to force him down backward. The irimi here, therefore, consists of turning your partner’s strength against him…

Maintain a mighty outpouring of ki from your hands and swing your arms up…

This is of course the objective and theoretically possible, but only against an uke delivering a slow-speed attack. If uke attacks powerlully, with full intent, and nage stands waiting for uke to initiate, nage will be overcome by the overhand blow because he has too little time to respond. He has an impossible disadvantage to overcome.

This is why Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba — echoed by Morihiro Saito — stressed the importance of nage initiating against a shomenuchi attack rather than responding.

If you think you can overcome and reverse a powerful overhand attack starting from a motionless posture, please watch this video by UFC Champion Chuck Liddell:

And for a humorous look at the result of a powerfully delivered shomenuchi, check this out:

shomenuchi-devastating-blow

—————————————————–

Now Mobile Friendly! Watch these videos for insights into
solving the technical problems that hold back your progress!

Click here for information on Stanley Pranin's “Zone Theory of Aikido” Course

Jul
29

“The Origins of Modern Aikido: The Shomenuchi Dilemma” by Stanley Pranin

shomenuchi-by-koichi-tohei

“If you want to know how aikido techniques changed
after the war, here is a good place to start!”

stanley-pranin-thumbnailLast year I published an article that dealt in some detail with the Shomenuchi Ikkyo technique of the prewar era. It discussed an earlier approach to doing techniques from the the shomenuchi (overhand strike attack). Several examples consisting of photos of Morihei Ueshiba and Gozo Shioda were presented. The thrust of the article was that it was important that nage (the person applying the technique) initiate the encounter in order to preempt a high-speed attack by uke and avoid a collision, something decidedly against the principles of aikido, the “art of harmony”.

Now, please have a look at the two photos above that depict Koichi Tohei, 10th dan. These photos are the start of the Shomenuchi ikkyo technique described in Tohei Sensei’s technical volume “This is Aikido” published in 1968.

Let us make some observations about these two photos. First, in photo #1, Tohei Sensei (nage) is standing in hanmi awaiting the shomen attack. His uke — Seishiro Endo — has launched a shomenuchi attack. Allowing for the fact that the photos may be artificial in that they are posed, we must still deal with the reality that nage has only a minute time frame to respond to uke’s attack that is already in progress.

Next, look at photo #2. What is described as a blend could equally be construed as a collision between nage and uke as their arms traveling in direct opposition make contact. In fairness, let us quote part of the description of the beginning of this technique from the book which describes the thinking behind this approach:

Although you throw your partner with an ikkyo much as you do in the kata-tori ikkyo…., since, in this technique, his attempted strike moves downward, it is easy for you to collide with his strength and difficult for you to force him down backward. The irimi here, therefore, consists of turning your partner’s strength against him…

Maintain a mighty outpouring of ki from your hands and swing your arms up…

If you’ll take the trouble to read the earlier article I mention, you will realize that a totally different approach is used. Nage is proactive and initiates the movement thus effectively neutralizing uke’s shomenuchi attack altogether and eliminating the risk of collision alluded to above.
[Read more…]

Jul
03

Where do you stand? “The Kotegaeshi Challenge” by Stanley Pranin

“Can you prevent your attacker from striking you?”

Kotegaeshi, aikido’s wrist twist technique, is a special case among the art’s basic techniques. It can be seen performed in practically everything aikido demonstration, usually with the attacker taking a high fall when thrown. The technique is a crowd favorite as it appears spectacular, but at the same time it has a potential vulnerability.

Take a look at the above photo of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba performing kotegaeshi in a photo appearing in the Founder’s technical manual “Budo” from 1938. You will seldom see kotegaeshi executed this way today. What it unusual about this photo is that Morihei is positioned to uke’s blind spot; uke is off balanced to the rear, and his fist is balled up as kotegaeshi is applied.

An instructive exercise would be to do a Google search for “kotegaeshi” and observe the final stage of the technique. In virtually every case, you will see the attacker in the process of taking a high fall. However in the above photo of the Founder, uke cannot take such a high fall since he has lost his balance to the rear.

What is this potential vulnerability with kotegaeshi I mention above? Once again, I would refer you to the many images you will see resulting from your search for “kotegaeshi”. I would like you to focus on uke’s free hand just at the moment he is leaping into his high fall. This line drawing from “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere” illustrates the problem.

kotegaeshi-line-drawing

Do you see where uke has an opportunity to strike nage with his free hand as he turns into the fall? This is often the case if you carefully study these photos. What happens typically is that the action is so fast that the average person cannot see what is occurring.
[Read more…]