“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: