First warm up with a new pattern – shomen practice with a step-cut, slide-cut, step-cut to get out of fixed patterns; disrupt habits and the facile assumptions. Then yokomen with the same step-cut, slide-cut, step-cut. The tempo is quick beat cut, cut – you are advancing through space – your first cut misses and your second is a follow up attack. (If you want to add further complexity later, then add a double cut – so step-forehand/backhand, slide-forehand/backhand – aka yokomen, gyaku yokomen.)
A reminder shomen exercise – a cut, counter cut is a typical sequence. In weapon work it is kiri-otoshi. Empty handed we can replicate the exercise but this evening we did a cut, counter tsuki (palm strike to the chin, which is a safer form to practice than the logical eye-spear).
The next development pattern added a more traditional ikkyo style arrest, but with the top hand free to cut uke and the bottom hand doing the ‘work.’ But much time was spent training how to ensure the lower hand was used effectively – and the primary method was to use the lower hand only to first arrest uke’s striking arm, then drive it up and over – staying close to vertical – while playing uke’s center via the deltoid and latissimus. As a test, if uke can counter cut with the original striking hand, then tori provided too much horizontal energy (i.e. pushed uke away) or not enough lift (i.e. didn’t come from low to high). Done properly, you should be able to exert enough control to provide for the next step – which would be to add the top hand. Tori uses the palm of the free hand against uke’s little finger in a sankyo-like cork-screw. Small circle jujutsu done with palm pressure and the counter lock on the elbow. From here much productive learning can be found in playing that line to feel uke’s center: can you control someone with those two points alone? Experiment, you can. However, that control is elusive, so we need to know the next step, which is to ensure uke’s arm is as vertical as possible and then to ‘snap’ uke’s hand over your elbow. The result should be similar to rokyo in its position (or a basic snake) and this allows tori to use his entire body weight to control uke’s shoulder. Tori can ‘fall into’ uke with devastating physiological effects.
Getting used to training at close range attacks and a quick riposte, we add a complicating two beat counter. Shomen countered with a cross-hand intercept then the eye-rake and leg trap (aka koyku-ho on the inside line). From there we move to yokomen. But how do we know when yokomen is delivered? An exercise – tori strikes shomen, uke responds with yokomen to avoid the initial strike and win the contest. It is the absence of contact that lets tori know that yokomen is coming. So the response: tori is already in a downward strike, thus turning the blade isn’t the solution, it is turning the hips 90 degrees to meet the yokomen directly. Note that this is a right- to-right or left-to-left counter cut. As a pattern the basic exercise is simple. You have seen and practiced this as a set piece in more “advanced” classes. Uke delivers a yokomen and nage responds counter yokomen to the offending arm (strike whatever moves first). It is a good form to practice, but as I said – it is a set piece and delivered on a basic one-step kill principle. We are playing a more subtle encounter – attack, counter-attack, and riposte. We are trying to build beyond the visual stimulus because done quickly and correctly, the uke’s counter yokomen should be largely unseen – thus, we are responding to the absence of information and perform the only logical move in the sequence of action. A logic-chain dictated by the initial action. I am playing with ranges – within the shikko of each participant – rather than the longer range actions typically presented. And I am ‘messing’ with tempos and beats, but you have seen this all before. The encounter I merely adapted from a ‘standard’ yokomen, ushiro-tenkan to low-line shikaku (Okamoto sensei does this often and you can see it in her Offenbach seminar 2014 found here if you follow the principles).
Once uke’s arm is intercepted and the balance taken, tori’s free hand can now take the neck and because we are at close range, tori also uses a leg trap (which could be at the level of the thigh, knee, or a foot trap and done with either leg). Playing at closer ranges increases the threats and opportunities. Remember as a generalization, the longer the range the fewer the ‘natural’ weapons that can be deployed. I am decreasing distance, thereby increasing threats and opportunities, and forcing faster reactions in time because the space is limited. This is not a beginner’s range.