With a nod back to the thrusting triangle, it is important to remember that tsuki – the thrust – can be delivered on any line. The doce pares count is a mnemonic for you to learn that every line (slash) can be a point (thrust). We continue to play the highline. Why? Because it is arguably the most persuasive attack – a thrust or slash to the head is a fierce move and inevitably elicits a flinch response from an untrained opponent.*
First the delivery of the strike. Because Aikido presumes a weapon, the atemi is a thrust from low to high – with the fingernails perpendicular to the ground, as below:
This type of thrusting punch replicates a dagger thrust and the shape the hand takes is important and varied depending on the target area. It is important to know both how and where (and in some arts, at what time of day) to strike. Furthermore, please recall that the spirit of the attack is a committed delivery, not a feint or jab, tori should be delivering a killing blow. Start with the hand and the body power follows – weapon, body, feet in sequence. If you go out of sequence you will be open and subject to a stop-hit – pay attention to the true times!
From the atemi practice, we moved to a confidence exercise. Standing in simple measure (i.e., you can simply extend your arm to punch, no need for footwork), tori delivers a thrust to the face. Nage’s job is to deflect the thrust with minimal body and head movement. Nage intercepts the attack with the hand and doesn’t try to slip the punch. This is a confidence game to teach the requisite sangfroid and visual acuity to recognize tori’s timing and understand composure is the perfect defense. We practiced only the outside line this morning, using both the front and the back hand. As a reminder: assume tori gives a right thrust and nage has assumed a migi-hanmi stance. Nage’s front hand (R) parry will be a back fist (elbow shield 2) whereas the back hand (L) parry will be delivered with the palm. Repeat this exercise and it will soon become obvious that the hanmi each player adopts is really inconsequential, the point it to recognize the R-L vs R-R and L-R vs L-L pattern as played on the outside line.
A standard technique from the L-R / R–L outside line is jodan-tsuki, sode-dori, kokyu-nage. In short, tori strikes with the right hand, nage palm parries the strike, and while moving irimi-tenkan grasps tori’s sleeve to amplify tori’s continuity of motion and throw vigorously. Many subtle details to work out in practice (non-interruption of tori’s commitment, well-timed blend on the irimi line, etc.) but in essence, a quick projecting throw. The variations should present themselves to the attentive practitioner. If nage misses the sleeve, simply snake over to the top of tori’s wrist on the inside gate. Snap down and execute a throw (this projects tori more on the vertical rather than horizontal plane). Totally miss tori’s arm? A well timed irimi-tenkan has put you in the shikaku and your free hand has control of tori’s low line (e.g., belly, groin, and knee). Note that this technique is a one-beat response. For comparison the 2-beat cognate is R-R / L-L which is to say, tori strikes right, nage parries right (back-hand) then captures the striking hand while performing irimi-tenkan and simultaneously striking tori in the ribs with the left and culminating in ude-kimi-nage. But notice that the primacy now should be on relationships, not techniques.
Based on the relationship you could build a Matrix of responses – and then you can develop mental maps, or “plays” that move beyond the if-this, then-that realm of technique. You can complete the your matrices in an ever-expanding or always refining manner – and you will thereby discover new connections and patterns, and universals. You may find plays that are simple (passata-sotto ) yet have a broad application.
For the outside line we also played the direct kote-gaeshi. Tori thrusts, depending on nage’s confidence and timing, nage picks up the thrust either with the palm or back-hand to grab the thrusting hand with the opposite hand (i.e. gyaku-hanmi) and applies the technique with the rolling elbow (shield 1) in order to have ‘gross motor’ response. The high-dexterity (i.e. normal) application should still be a ‘direct’ return (that is almost on the same line as the thrust was delivered). Empty-hand it appears that one could do a cross-body throw, but weaponized the thrust and the direct return makes more sense. We explored the ‘gross motor’ return whereby the elbow drives the blade back to tori (and tori’s inertia causes a self-impaling), or the master-play (high dexterity) wherein nage captures tori’s thumb and grasps the dagger to return it directly to stab tori’s throat.
Breaking pedagogy but keeping with the knife play, I moved to the inside line to show the point encircling move which simultaneously traps tori’s blade and does a hip strip [review at about 1:30] and impaling move in one beat.
If you review the flow of the themes in these posted class notes, you may begin to find that they link. Review the Matrix again – how you would construct it?
*Flinch response. Attacks to the head against an untrained opponent almost always result with them trying to avoid the strike by turning their head, which then leads their body to turn: they give flank. Count on this!