There was a time when students paid their teachers for each technique. At first glance that may seem expensive – especially if you believe the hyperbole that Aikido’s techniques are infinite – but that would be to confuse naming conventions for patterns of movement.
Ikkyo. The first technique. The first teachings form the pedagogical foundation but to draw the connections and show the range of expression of the technique is to begin to understand.
There are no kata in Aiki budo. All phenomena of this world vary constantly according to the particular circumstances and no two situations are exactly alike. It is illogical to train using only a single kata, thereby limiting oneself.
Earlier I suggested heretically that the lack of kata in Aikido is a limitation. Properly used kata allows a student to learn a pattern of movement that can manifest as a technique in any number of expressions. But the critical element in learning is the pattern of movement – the kata.
Aikido dojos usually use a brute-force (rote repetition) method to instill competency and while it can be highly effective, more often than not, it seems to lead to years of fumbling precisely because “all phenomena of this world vary constantly” and the teachers either don’t show or (more likely) don’t know how to show the universals: to draw the connections.
So ikkyo as a kata: (1) assume right hanmi – hands in neutral position at your sides (2) right foot moves laterally as the hands are raised directly up the center line (3) left foot moves 45-degrees forward with a slide-step and the hands are brought down – timed so that the hand come to waist level as the left foot stops. Repeat on the left side. That is it.
Learn that kata and really understand it as a pattern of movement that can express itself as necessary to contend with the constancy of flux (Heraclitus). We are pattern-recognizing animals par excellence – so avoid the limitations of the specifics and learn to see the universals.
Tonight with ikkyo we explored the range of expression it contains. From suwari-waza shomen-uchi ikkyo we develop hip stability and see that first we must not be hit – the intercepting arm must learn to take a hit because moving off the line laterally from suwari-waza is slower than the opponent’s strike. Then moving to standing – moving off line (zoning out) to avoid the strike is possible, but one must still control uke’s striking arm, so back to the R-R or L-L intercept. Once contact is made, the one-hand control is achieved because the counter strike to uke’s head inspires uke to receive strongly without collapsing. This then locks uke’s elbow allowing nage to flow to that joint. Now with two joints locked, uke’s center is compromised. If uke blocks remember this is a fiction of the dojo – the breeding ground of blind confidence and insipid ego. Bypass the second hand control on the elbow and flow immediately to a palm-strike/eye rake through the low gate. The entire reason uke doesn’t stop nage’s lock flow is because uke is avoiding the more devastating hit. Now that uke understands why they should move, the ukeme becomes responsive, because uke now understands the logic-chain (and that by responding in flow uke can counter).
From this ki-hon presentation of the unarmed expression we explored the paired bokken. Nage gives ge-dan kamai which invited uke to strike shomen. Moving exactly like the kata, nage takes uke’s kote with a secondary strike. The subtle refinements that follow do not materially change the ‘technique.’ The basic form is still ikkyo: await a committed attack, then zone to the inside line and counter-strike. The refinement of performing a rising strike to the underside of uke’s descending kote, then at the apex of the rising cut, to snap turn the sword and return on the same line just delves the depth of the technique. The cognate in empty-hand is to see the difference between intercepting with the ulna and shyuto edge alone (one bone block) and using a rising back-hand and the flat of the forearm (two bone block). In tonight’s class I only showed the one timing – where uke’s strike is committed and descending as opposed to nage catching it on the rise (as in the terminal move in roku-no-tachi) – but the principle would not change, just the timing and target (the tricept instead of the wrist).
Then the presentation with jo. Uke deliver’s shomen – and using the same body movement, nage zones off-line, allows the blow to slide down the receiving/protecting jo, glides to the end of uke’s jo and performs a snap strike back to uke’s head. Ikkyo. Of course there are refinements – the rising action of nage’s jo, the pressure necessary to keep the strike connected, any number of details that correct repetition will expose. Keep training! But most importantly, see the connections.
Then the sword vs jo expression. Uke strikes shomen with a jo, Nage with sword in sheath zones out and draws straight up and out to ward the blow with the flat, only to perform a snap cut. Repeat the action with uke striking with a sword and nage with a shielding jo. Same pattern of movement. It’s all ikkyo.
In an earlier post I assert that there is no ura. The difference between the inside line (omote) and the outside line (ura) is a positional relationship – not a difference in technique. In the second class I illustrated that concept.
Remember the matrix – if ikkyo is a R-R/L-L encounter on the inside line is ‘omote’, then that same encounter on the outside line is ‘ura.’ As a weaponized presentation of ikkyo-ura: uke cuts shomen – nage innocently had his sword in the sheath. As uke makes a committed cut, nage zones outside line, extends his sword (still in the sheath) to use the pommel to trap uke’s sword with a strike at uke’s hands. Ikkyo in one of its numerous manifestations.
The essential lesson I tried to impart and impress is that the pattern of movement – the kata – is the antidote to the infinite details. With poetic inspiration, O’Sensei may have known the exact response for each and every unique experience, but that is a failed pedagogy. One cannot teach the infinite. But one can discern the universals – the antidote for the infinite!