For all its elegance, Aikido is not a Ryū -流, – a complete art. Its formal curriculum lacks a full set of techniques at every range – Maai “interval.” This is a simple observation, a discussion of fact, not a normative evaluation of its merits.
As a generalization, Aikido at its most dynamic specializes in the kicking range. Ironically, Aikido has a paucity of organic tools at kicking range because of history. The metaphor in Aikido is that the techniques are ‘like’ or ‘based upon’ sword and spear, therefore the presumptive range of engagement is greater than that of a ‘naturally’ unarmed art. The beauty and flow of the Aikido is derivative from its origin from older arts that assume armored and weaponized engagements. Battlefield engagements assumed a spear, katana, or tanto. As such, the specific angles of attack, targets, and ranges are circumscribed by the history of the art. This is not an indictment, but rather an explanation of the techniques in the curriculum.
However, sticking to a sclerotic understanding of the art – an assumption that the art is the compendium of its techniques only results in a self-imposed (and pathetically limited) understanding of the principles of motion. For our purposes, at close-quarters-combat there are the general four ranges to consider with the tools at each range:
|Range||Tools – organic / [mechanical]|
|Kicking Range||Foot / [sword]|
|Boxing Range||Hands, fingers / [dagger]|
|Trapping Range||Head, teeth, shoulder, elbows, forearm, hand, knees, shins, feet / [folder]|
|Grappling Range||Teeth, arms, legs / [folder]|
Please remember these are concepts and therefore generalizations. As a general rule – the longer the range, the fewer organic tools available. As the range closes, more elements of the body can be deployed, until we get to grappling range, when the possibilities begin to diminish.
One can quibble over the specifics but in broad strokes there are arts that specialize at each range (e.g., Tae Kwon Do at ‘kicking’, Western boxing at ‘boxing,’ etc.). This is not to circumscribe an art but rather acknowledge a tendency to specificity. Hence the need to look to those arts that more readily express a systemization across all ranges – or more simply to look for universal lines of motion that work at any and all ranges and across multiple types of mechanical tools (aka weapons).
This morning we continued to explore kata dori. Starting with the kihon presentation of kata-dori ikkyo’s entry to practice the ‘box step’ pattern of in (atemi), flank (draw), enter. This is the beginner’s range – teaching precise movements and eliminating variables. Please note, however, that this presumes a static encounter – starting a grappling range where the expression of movement is at its greatest number of possibilities, but we select a very specific (delimited) response for ease of training.
We then moved to kicking range – the ‘advanced’ presentation where the grab is intercepted before contact is made. The elegance of Aikido is expressed here because the range allows us to focus on ki-musubi – the harmonizing of action between uke and nage. As uke enters for the shoulder/lapel grab, nage can perform a leading ushiro-tenkan movement while deploying a palm strike that flows naturally down to the grabbing hand’s elbow as a control point. Last class we worked the nuances of the shuyto and the camming action – and all those lessons still apply. From this basic line, we then started to explore a five-count response.
As tori approaches for the kata-dori (or jo-dan tsuki) attack, nage executes an ushiro-tenkan movement while (1) executing a palm strike to elbow control (2) then a back knuckle with the same hand, which will cause tori to react – as the head moves away, tori’s grabbing arm will naturally raise, allowing (3) nage’s free hand to move from low-line to control tori’s elbow and then a quick 2-beat where nage then (4) replaces his hand control on the elbow and (5) the newly freed hand then performs a femoral strike. (A great visual reminder of the principle as shown by Tissier sensei on a three-beat at about 2:35)
We then moved back to a trapping range presentation. This time, as tori approaches for the grab, nage enters irimi – a step with the back foot into the approaching arm. The challenge is to continue to face tori with your torso while the lower body (waist down) enters at an angle – this is a brisk move – a stop-hit. I also showed this irimi action as a kick with the advancing leg to tori’s lead leg. Done properly it is invisible to tori and highly effective: done forcefully, it will destroy tori’s knee while you simultaneously execute a cut to tori’s arm or neck (whichever is closest). This pattern is really no different from the five-count at kicking range. Merely an advance to close and ensure effective trapping vs the ushiro tenkan to absorb at kicking range.