Moving off the line (Sometimes the bear needs poking…)

Posted on Oct 23, 2018 in Aiki Stories | No Comments

Sensei Saw It…
Sempai Heard It…
Uke Wore It!

Most times I fail to move off the line completely and then wonder why I have trouble completing the technique. The prerequisite of being off the line isn’t there so the correct levers and pivots are not easily accessible.

Pre-grading preparation has been mostly choosing the variations and memorising the required entries. The wonderful and very patient Sempai’s have also been ‘Poking the Bear’ in order to get me to move correctly and to apply the technique and atemi at the correct points. I was instructed to just deliver the atemi and the rest would follow.

In the grading, facing a tsuki attack at full speed, years of previous karate training kicked in, and I delivered the atemi whilst moving off the line. Poor unsuspecting Dick Sempai as uke wore the atemi, as I continued the kote gaeshi technique without hesitation.

Sensei said the look of shock on Dick Sempai’s face was priceless. Fortunately the atemi was a relatively light tap, although a light bruise on the cheek was visible the next day. (Apologies to Dick Sempai)

The Setting: Audrey, 1st Kyu Grading
The Technique: Kote Gaeshi from Tsuki Attack at full speed

Raising the Arm in Ikkyo

Posted on Aug 27, 2014 in Aiki Stories, Takemusu Techniques | No Comments

Ikkyo means first technique. So what is the meaning of performing Ikkyo?

There are many answers to this. But the one that has become most significant to me lately is learning how to raise the arm.*




















Or more correctly, teaching your partner (on whom you are performing the technique) to raise their arm by constant repetition and stretching.

Most beginners when asked to raise their arms up (over their heads) bend the elbows. This problem is quickly cured if practising to raise up the arms when holding a katana (sword) as they will strike themselves in the head with the tsuba (guard) if the arms are too bent.

I have my students perform this motion over and over again, whenever and wherever they can, as part of their small stick practice.

Black belt Rosemary raising stick

If you tense the arm to put power into it, you quickly find that the stick is on a collision course with your head. A good reason to relax the shoulders and let the hand raise up.  Because this relaxed extension of the arm is not an instinctive movement, I believe that one of the reasons then to practice ikkyo is to form your partners arm into the “right” shape so that they will eventually develop the kinaesthetic appreciation of the form.

My teacher, Takayasu Sensei shihan, advises that ikkyo, nikyo and sankyo are fundamental development forms and that O’Sensei had famously said that: “if you are able to perform ikkyo, nikkyo and sankyo perfectly, then I will grant you the 3rd degree black belt“.

Aikido practice (as taught by O’Sensei) and carried on by Saito Sensei in the Ibaraki Dojo was not just a compendium of techniques assmbled according to some overall scheme, but an integrated and organic whole that as well as teaching form changed, adapted and ameliorated first the body and subsequently the mind of the trainee. As Saito Sensei has written (Aikido vol. 3 Applied Techniques:

“AIKIDO was so perfectly structured by Founder Morihei Uyeshiba that the trainee, as long as they carry on their training in the correct form, can assimilate, as a matter of course, what the art has to offer.”

This motion of simply raising up the arm, when understood at the subconscious level, allows the practitioner to enter a realm of unified form. At this point the opponent’s resistance is passed. Of course this is the motion of kokyu (breath/extension power) without which Aikido would be a mere dance.  Saito Sensei demonstrated this movement in his own form:
1. Applying ikkyo to a partners arm
2. Raising the arm (in shihonage)

Saito Sensei applying Ikkyo

Swing both your arms up to the apex of their height



*This beautiful woodblock print “One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: Gojo Bridge Moon” was a personal gift from Sensei Ann Reekie of the Canberra Dojo.

It shows the fateful meeting of the warrior-monk Musashibo Benkei and Minamoto no Yoshitsune on Gojo Bridge in Kyoto and is by the famous woodblock artist, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. The picture shows the moment when Yoshitsune leaps through the air to to avoid the blow from Benkei’s staff and who then distracts his opponent by throwing his iron fan (tessan) at Benkei’s head.


Using Hip and Hand

Posted on Apr 2, 2014 in Aiki Stories | No Comments

Use the hand to move the hip

Use the hip to move the hand

But don’t stand.

Tai no Henko: ki-no-nagare variations#4

Posted on Dec 7, 2013 in Takemusu Techniques | No Comments

Turning to punch in ki-no-nagare

Tai no Henko: ki-no-nagare variations#3

Posted on Dec 7, 2013 in Takemusu Techniques | No Comments

The right way to do ki-no-nagare

Tai no Henko: ki-no-nagare variations#2

Posted on Dec 7, 2013 in Takemusu Techniques | No Comments

There are two variations of ki-no-nagare.

Tai no Henko: ki-no-nagare variations

Posted on Dec 7, 2013 in Takemusu Techniques | No Comments

Do not let attacker turn in ii-no-nagare.

Tai no Henko: Key points

Posted on Dec 7, 2013 in Takemusu Techniques | No Comments

Step toe to toe – this footwork is the basis of all urawaza.

Three Kinds of Disciples

Posted on Jul 6, 2013 in Aiki Stories | No Comments

A story from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (compiled by Paul Reps):

 When Zen master, Gasan was studying under Tekisui, his teacher was very severe.  Sometimes he even beat Gasan.

Other pupils would not stand this type of teaching and quit.

Gasan remained, saying:

A poor disciple utilises a teacher’s influence.
A fair disciple admires a teacher’s kindness.
A good disciple grows strong under a teacher’s discipline.

Ouch, Sensei that hurts!

Posted on Jul 6, 2013 in Aiki Stories | No Comments

Many people when starting Aikido, find the techniques extremely painful. Techniques like Nikkyo, Sankyo and Yonkyo apply pressure directly into the nervous system. They cause submission through pain compliance.

But what if it is the teacher who is applying these painful techniques to the student?

The sensei’s role is to ensure that every student is able to learn in a safe environment, with due consideration for each individual’s age, infirmity, injury and ability.  When the teacher applies a painful technique to a student he does it understanding the level of application of a technique that creates pain as opposed to damage.  But the student can feel betrayed, that someone who is there to help them, is instead hurting them.

The teacher has to strike a balance between protecting the student from harm and hurt, and encouraging the student’s development by moving them along the path beyond where they would choose to remain.

Painful or not, no techniques should ever be performed with malice. And that is the key.

Training in martial arts is severe, it has to be to strengthen the spirit. But it should always be done with loving kindness not to cause injury.

Ultimately, O’Sensei’s Aikido is a martial art (budo) and people who enter the dojo to join in its practice must confront their fears in a real and painful way and gain strength through overcoming their own limitations (real or imagined). Little by little they will find that they can grow stronger as the technique is applied. It still hurts, but they are able to feel calm not frightened, knowing that the technique is applied to benefit them not to damage them.

This is the unique relationship between a student and the sensei.

The student has to find the teacher that is right for them and trust them with their lives. Only the teacher knows where they are leading the student and the student has to give up something of themselves to follow. Or put another way – give something of themselves to the teacher in trust.

It is with that respect and understanding that we bow to each other.