Saturday, March 19, 2016

Aikido and Hard Falls: The Earth is Your Partner

What few people understand about aikido, and I am afraid too many aikidoka, is that it is not about how hard you can hit or how cleverly you can pin for submission, but how hard you are attacked.  Your defense is to simply send the attacker on his way, usually the way he was going.  The end is the ground.  The energy of the attacker misses you and becomes one with planet earth, and as much energy as your attacker has for you, it is passed on to the planet.  Those two become one, advantage planet earth.

This is not only aikido, but also judo, although judo much includes submission.  I was offered this revelation by a judoka half my size who drilled me into the mats and literally took my breath away.  (Since the top aikido teachers came out of judo, I consider judo remedial aikido especially for koshinage). Later a fellow half again my size did it as well.  I watched a young man go into convulsions who was slammed into the mats in a practice.  I much prefer submission to ippon, a clean smack to the mats.

With the ground as the end, your attacker is given condign response.  At the same time, this unique aspect makes sparring a challenge since few people in other styles have the aikidoka skill in falling.  Judo people do of course, but not the striking arts or other submission arts.

Something I see atrophying as I travel and practice is this very aspect of aikido.  Clubs more and more are very careful about anyone rolling into another or a wall.  This is the same impulse that declaws a pet cat so no one gets scratched.  Cats come with claws, so we need to learn not to piss off a cat.  One scratch ought to do it.

Aikidoka need to learn that the hard fall is a safety technique, when nage slams uke down rather than let uke hit another falling uke, or a wall.  At the same time uke needs to learn to see what is happening around him as he attacks, and take steps to preserve himself, such as grab nage's gi on the way down and take a hard fall.

Indeed, ran dori is effective only if nage is throwing people into each other and walls, otherwise the swarm will get you.  All practice should be dynamic in which all students are constantly adjusting to the chaotic conditions of combat.  The paradox is the less rules the more safe practice and the better the aikidoka.

At least one third of all aikido falls ought to be hard on any given practice.

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