Monday was a digression from continuing to explore irmi-nage / no ura concept I had been flirting with. Because I was not feeling well and didn’t want to sweat over everyone, I moved back to kimusubi / the 6th kumitachi.
I tried to show both roles independent of each other – as simple kata, then to pair them, then to segment each ‘phase.’ As a reminder – the opening ‘guard’ is both players in segan-no-kamai – and once the kissaki of each blade finds the other, neither player wants to ‘give’ too much information, so then adopts waki-gamai to ‘hide’ the length of blade, the blade’s orientation, and to open the distance between each player. A reminder is that both players are still spirit forward, so the opening that is presented to each other is the head. That is a purposeful gambit. To provide an enticing one-hit one-kill target to the other. When the first player is baited and moves to shomenuchi, the responding move is to counter stroke to the initial attacker’s kote. First sequence can end here. The attacker sensing the threat to the wrist – immediately raises to avoid the wrist cut and quickly orients on the opponent’s head again. But sensing that threat our responder thrusts to the trachea before the attacker can complete the second shomen cut. But our attacker senses that threat as well so in raising shomen, cuts more briskly to close the opportunity to the thrust, forcing the responder to cover, receive the stroke, then flow to control the attacker’s sword while simultaneously moving to the attacker’s flank: a three for one exchange (think on that). The resolve of the attacker is undiminished. With his blade trapped, the responder could ride it up and decapitate, so the attacker must extract the blade with a hip dissolve and another attempt at shomen. Our responder sensing the attacker’s intent to extract the blade, follows / rides it to the full jo-dan no kamai stance of the attacker and finds the terminal control at the attacker’s wrist.
All the key parts of the exercise involve ‘sensing’ the openings. Of course first they must be shown or taught explicitly (strike here at this time) and then the counter move – the poison/antidote, parry/riposte – type sequencing. The quality of the play on the blades must be light at first, but the goal is to have increasing pressure ‘sticky’ feeling so that the sword no longer is a tool but becomes a ‘natural’ extension. When both players are well connected then the actions flow without disjointed pauses, there is a harmony of motion. The flow can only take place when both players first present an opening, and then quickly follow a logic chain of – if this, then that, actions in equal measured beats (not actions, remember there can be multiple actions per beat).
Most of the night was a review of the steps. Setting up the logic chain. We didn’t get to play much with the connection but we need to have the sequence confidently mastered first.
The second class was a brief review of the 5 elbow shields and the opening 5 steps of a kali drill. Again, simple body actions that we can use as discrete units of movement when I have to make an analogy.
This Saturday opened with a quick review of shihogiri and happogiri in order to first establish the suriashi flow of the feet on the horizontal plane while simultaneously engaging the free use of the shoulders on the vertical plane. In other words, I isolated the cutting rose on the ground and left us all doing only one of the 8 cuts in the vertical plane. By isolating the complex movements to the feet I wanted to develop a smooth interaction of your body with the ground and build smooth rotational actions through the shoulders. I then tried to illustrate that the same slide-strike action (from right and left hanmi) could be executed much more briskly when initiating the movement from the hip rather than the foot. That exercise I need to think more upon to try to convey the action.
That was all to re-introduce ikkyo and the timing of omote from shomen. But we ran through that very quickly to play with connection through kaeshiwaza. Introducing a counter for counter concept: ikkyo for ikkyo. In this specific scenario I showed first ‘receiving’ ikkyo’s ukeme but right at the moment nage applies the wrist grab is the ‘go’ signal for the reversal. Yes, it requires athleticism. From the instant of wrist control you must allow your arm to remain in nage’s control and in the same place. Thus, without giving information of your intent – explosively advance forward with your body, and once you have moved beyond nage’s shikko, snappily from the hips rotate your own shyuto over to trap nage’s hand and you will have executed an ikkyo reversal at about 90-degrees to the original line of play. Hard to describe in narrative format.
Combining concepts and exercises. From the neutral starting point of seigan no kamai with the back of the hands touching, we convey no information. There is no ‘opening’ because there is nothing to sense. Only when one player provides forward energy (the indication of a thrust) does the other respond by ‘absorbing’ the energy by moving back. I demonstrated the seriousness of the exercise by putting a weapon in everyone’s hand. If you don’t ‘absorb’ by yielding horizontal space (i.e. step back), you die. This is a measure for measure exercise to maintain connection and mai-ai. It should be done with suriashi footwork. Once the basic exercise was established, we moved to take the advancing thrust and pass it for irimi-nage’s entry. We played that form of entry for a while.
The next stage was to play kaeshiwaza – iriminage for irminage. I emphasized here the ‘how’ to ‘take’ ukeme – or better phased the logic of receiving the force to preserve your life and simultaneously set yourself up in as advantageous a position as possible to get to your opponent’s shikkaku – i.e., how to reverse the action. And please remember that there is a very specific ‘go’ moment for the kaeshiwaza to work – meaning there is a singular moment in time to execute the action. If you miss the ‘go’ moment it is gone forever. From a position of proper ukeme it becomes a straight forward advance while doing elbow shield 2 (chuburi for you iaido players) – remember that the target is the opponent’s head – not some nebulous area in space. Weaponize the exercise and you should realize you are attempting to sever the spine near the base of the head. Yup – martial (war-like) art – not dancing so get your metaphors and similes correct!
The second class was a brief exploration of the direct irimi variant off a jo-dan tskui. One handed it most closely resembles ashi-sabaki from gyuaku hanmi – that is the basic motion. However it is executed from ai-hanmi – e.g., against a right cross, the right hand intercepts with a catching intent – and once the contact is established, the forearm rotates without breaking contact for a fulcrum effect to drive the opponent’ original thrust off line as you drive for a hand-spear to the eyes/trachea (again, proper targeting). Put a dagger in your hand and this becomes eminently obvious as to what you are doing. Ride this action past the target and you now have a ‘classic’ irimi-nage direct. However, there is a serious refinement is what I am trying to describe – a pak-sao action, the connective smother that must happen against the initial thrust. If the initial thrust is bypassed but not simultaneously controlled, a well-trained opponent will use the lack of control to retract and thrust again.
For you real geeks out there – an analogy to explore is Claude Shannon’s information theory. It is by no means a great analogy, but instructive for some as a question: how do we separate information from ‘noise’? When two people are physically connected like in Aikido we must learn to distinguish ‘information’ from ‘noise.’ When do we need to respond, when do we need to move – i.e., what is a threat and what is extraneous motion in our opponent? This is why I insist that our actions seek targets – that is the definition of a threat: a directed attack toward a viable target. Noise is anything other than a threat.