The prior classes were all explorations of the lines of entry – the kihon (flanking), ushiro (absorbing), and irimi (closing) entries. Mastering the entries and the timing differences are critical to being able to execute techniques. First master the maai (distance) and time (kimusubi). Then we added atemi – as a facilitating device. Proper atemi of course could be devastating but that isn’t its use in learning Aikido – atemi as facilitating the encounter – keeping uke off balance and on the proper approach.
How did we explore that concept? First use the atemi to devastate. As tori approaches with a right hand grab to nage’s forward left shoulder kata-dori, nage hits tori’s right hand into nage’s left with a right hand strike. With rebounding energy, nage’s right hand can flow to hit the right side of tori’s head – ultimately all in one beat, a three for one exchange. (For fun, I also introduced a reaping action with the leg, but that is superfluous to the ultimate lesson.) This action shows the ‘punitive’ atemi and teaches proper targeting on the inside line. The atemi sequence is much like the first step in the Kali five-step kata.
But the goal isn’t to destroy the approaching limb (albeit a critical skill to master!) but rather to effectively and practically teach where nage’s hands should be. To ‘capture’ uke in one beat, nage’s inside (‘checking’) hand is already in the ‘terminal’ positon as if it had hit uke’s hand. Simultaneously, nage has advanced so the shoulder is farther forward than uke anticipated, therefore uke’s elbow is already compressing, which allows nage to control uke’s arm ‘effortlessly.’ This lesson is dramatic when done with the irimi entry and in one beat, so as to allow nage the freedom to move in flow to any ikkyo-line technique (i.e., ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, ….).
We also examined the ushiro-line by executing sankyo. As tori advances, nage does a direct chin/eye strike at the moment tori grasps the shoulder. This creates a proper tension and allows nage to take all the slack from tori’s attacking arm. As the atemi hits, nage also uses the opposite hand to firmly grasp the tegatana of tori’s grasping hand. Now the difficult aspect: nage now moves around tori’s hand while leaving it as the center of the ‘axis of action.’ Done properly this will destroy tori’s hand. In class I was able to demonstrate the rolling action (of the hand on hand torque) that creates the power. I used the analogy of the hand being a crescent wrench – firmly fixed while nage’s hips apply the power. Then we played the line as if it were a horizontal slash to uke’s throat – again, proper targeting to teach the graceful flow. And finally to link the movements back to an application, we executed a knife take away (Mulligan sensei special [at about 1:00 min]) of chudan-tsuki, uchi-kaiten sankyo where the tanto is stripped mid-turn and ‘returned to sender.’
And another Mulligan-sensei favorite. From the kata-dori contact we did some tanren development by executing kokyu-nage. As tori grasps the shoulder, nage executes a palm-strike atemi while drawing the grasped shoulder back. From there, the atemi hand hits the brachial plexus to further break uke’s balance, then the elbow drops while the forearm retains low forward pressure to flow (and lift) uke’s armpit. Now nage steps deeply forward past uke’s hips and using the forearm and shoulder in conjunction, nage turns the hips to throw uke forcefully with kokyu-power (i.e., the abdominal muscles must be engaged). Once the tanren form is mastered, the timing of the flow becomes the critical skill to develop so again the sequence of action looks effortless.