I’ve been attending, by invitation, the Thursday night class for advanced belts, at our Aikido dojo. I’m sometimes the lowest ranked person there and so I’ve been playing a lot with the brown belts. My current belt colour is green. I hold the rank of 4th kyu in Yoshikan Aikido.
There’s nothing like spending time with people who are much better than you at something to see just how much you have to learn. I feel like a complete beginner all over again.
Aikido is a defensive martial art but part of what I have to work is attacking. Let me explain. I need to be a better uke.
What’s the role of the uke?
The uke’s attack should be clean and with full intent, although slow and deliberate at first. You should not be stiff; a stiff uke is a brittle uke. Nor should you be a wet noodle; a noodle is an uncommitted uke. You need to find a balance point between being stiff and being a noodle. This balance is best described as being a physical state of “living relaxation”, i.e., relaxed but extending Ki strongly.
As mentioned, it is important to have clear intent and focus in your attack. After all we are trying to simulate, in a controlled way, a real attack. A real attacker predetermines the point at which his attack is going to land and does not know what you are going to do. Hence, as uke, you need to try and simulate a real attack, although slowly, by being focused on your target and having full intent of hitting your target.
In order to train to defend yourself, one person has to play the part of the attacker and I’m not very good at that. It would be easy to defend yourself against my gentle feeble not particularly heart felt punches. I find myself thinking, “He’s 6 ft and weighs about 250 lbs. Why on earth would I punch him?” But then my light hearted punches don’t give the person enough energy to make the response work. In Aikido, the idea is that you use your attacker’s energy against them so that really they’re doing all the harm. You’re just redirecting the force.
Osensei says, “To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace”.
But if there’s no energy to redirect, Aikido won’t work.
So I’m learning to throw myself into the role of the attacker. Outside my comfort zone but here we go.
The flipside of that though is that I also need to more resilient in terms of receiving my partner’s response. Lots of Aikido techniques involve throws and I can usually roll pretty well but when things speed up, I need to speed up my responses too. I want to be a good training partner so that the people who work with me really get a chance to practice their technique.
Learning lots these days!