Practicing with a non-Aikidoka

mber

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Because I live on a college campus, one which has within walking distance only one very bad martial arts school and absolutely no good ones, I find myself training with whichever friends on campus have experience in martial arts and are willing to put in some time to practice. This leads to some interesting training environments, the mandatory mental flexibility of which I have found to be quite enjoyable and instructional. However, it does sometimes cause issues in technique which would not be found when training with students of the same styles.
My main case here is Aikido. Aikido is not actually my primary art, Tang Soo Do is, and I've always found classical Aikido techniques to have an odd interaction with the hard and directed atemi of striking-oriented arts.

Aikido techniques are designed (generally speaking) to work off of the direction and flow of an opponent's energy, correct? That's why Aikido practicioners tend to work more fluidly, using strikes that keep moving or arc a lot. But what happens when you encounter a strike from someone who is firmly grounding their footwork, aiming their punch to an exact spot rather than letting it continue forward with their energy? What I found as I've been training with my friends is that even an Aikido technique which I know very well will prove difficult or impossible to perform successfully. The force of, for example, my opponent's punch, is expended when that punch reaches its intended spot in the air, whether I am occupying that particular spot or not. This forces me to contort my body to match their movements. Even if I try to coordinate carefully with their footwork, to keep near my opponent's body and work with the energy of their technique while they are still executing it, I nevertheless lack the ability to manipulate the flow and direction of the technique and the limb associated with it.

Sorry if this was verbose, I'm finding it difficult to concretely express what I mean. Has anyone had similar experiences, or know of a solution to this? Thanks!
 

K-man

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I understand exactly what you are experiencing as I teach karate and try to incorporate aikido techniques into the training. Most karate punches that are thrown in training are 'pulled'. For that reason we do very little stationary striking. In most kumite the punches are 'pulled' as well, especially to the head. To illustrate that to your friends, just move back slightly as they punch and they mostly won't even touch you.

Once they understand what is happening you could ask them to try to punch through with commitment, even to the face. That's when you will find the aikido techniques start to work. If you like, ask them to start slow, without full force, but they must be trying to hit through the target (which in this case is you). Once you have them hitting right, make sure you use you aikido skills to move them off the line. Don't evade the way they would almost certainly do, which is to step off the line. :asian:
 

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Because I live on a college campus, one which has within walking distance only one very bad martial arts school and absolutely no good ones, I find myself training with whichever friends on campus have experience in martial arts and are willing to put in some time to practice. This leads to some interesting training environments, the mandatory mental flexibility of which I have found to be quite enjoyable and instructional. However, it does sometimes cause issues in technique which would not be found when training with students of the same styles.
My main case here is Aikido. Aikido is not actually my primary art, Tang Soo Do is, and I've always found classical Aikido techniques to have an odd interaction with the hard and directed atemi of striking-oriented arts.

Aikido techniques are designed (generally speaking) to work off of the direction and flow of an opponent's energy, correct? That's why Aikido practicioners tend to work more fluidly, using strikes that keep moving or arc a lot. But what happens when you encounter a strike from someone who is firmly grounding their footwork, aiming their punch to an exact spot rather than letting it continue forward with their energy? What I found as I've been training with my friends is that even an Aikido technique which I know very well will prove difficult or impossible to perform successfully. The force of, for example, my opponent's punch, is expended when that punch reaches its intended spot in the air, whether I am occupying that particular spot or not. This forces me to contort my body to match their movements. Even if I try to coordinate carefully with their footwork, to keep near my opponent's body and work with the energy of their technique while they are still executing it, I nevertheless lack the ability to manipulate the flow and direction of the technique and the limb associated with it.

Sorry if this was verbose, I'm finding it difficult to concretely express what I mean. Has anyone had similar experiences, or know of a solution to this? Thanks!
Yes, I think you are pretty much there in understanding the dynamics of your sparring.. I would maybe suggest a thing or two if that is ok and you can take it as you wish :)

I think you are focussed upon moving yourself to match your opponent strikes.. I understand this.. I think it is a normal way to be and no thing wrong with it.. I would suggest that (perhaps it is experience I could not say) in your Aiki you can always BE in the correct place if you have an understanding of where on his axes of balance is your uke..

For example, you had said of a straight punch, he is well centred and you have described that he is at the limit of his projection (that you may or may not be in the path of) yes? I would suggest that you do not always need to intercept this energy in order to use it.. Why? Well there are two aspects to his strike.. First, in many arts, the strike once it is expended will be withdrawn.. you can follow him backwards.. this is one way if you have missed an intercept (or been unfortunate to have been in the path of that strike!) you can take him backwards as he naturally withdraws.. Secondly - and this is what perhaps you are almost on the verge of discovering for yourself (and it will make more sense then).. If your own reaction is good enough then you will see that his energy does not stop abruptly and but is projected outward (usually the better the Karateka the better is his projection etc).. and but it is possible to take him even in the direction he is impelled even at the limit of his strike.. Me personally I like both.. I will take him one way then go with him as he retracts.. It is usually difficult for most practitioners of any art to maintain an absolute centre when striking.. this can be capitalised upon by Aikidoka.. I do not know if this makes sense.. I think it is much easier to show this than describe it.. and but I wish you every success in your own training discoveries :) Jenna x
 

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Lemme dig you up a video...


There we go. You just have to alter Your arsenal a little bit.
 
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Xue Sheng

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I am not an Aikido person I am a Taijiquan/Xingyiquan guy but I have spared a few Aikidoka and although I do believe Jenna covered it rather well I just want to add that sometimes all you need is a block. And I see similarities to Taiji in Aikido (some not so good, some incredibly good) so I will also add do not try and manufacture the application. wait for it. If the opponents energy is not correct for the specific application you are trying to use then you need to be able to use another application. Do not plan to use it because you need to use the proper application for the energy comes at you and sometimes that is just a block or to simply get out of the way.
 

K-man

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Lemme dig you up a video...


There we go. You just have to alter Your arsenal a little bit.
What a great example of sport based vs reality based martial arts. So many people bag aikido but especially when you watch the guy with the red pads it becomes a bit of a joke. Yet he has probably won his fair share of tournament rounds.

If I could make just one point though. In this video all bouts ended with grappling and I take the point that the karate guys were wearing gloves so it would be difficult to use wrist techniques, but it would have been nice to see some free flowing aikido.
 
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mber

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I understand exactly what you are experiencing as I teach karate and try to incorporate aikido techniques into the training. Most karate punches that are thrown in training are 'pulled'. For that reason we do very little stationary striking. In most kumite the punches are 'pulled' as well, especially to the head. To illustrate that to your friends, just move back slightly as they punch and they mostly won't even touch you.

Once they understand what is happening you could ask them to try to punch through with commitment, even to the face. That's when you will find the aikido techniques start to work. If you like, ask them to start slow, without full force, but they must be trying to hit through the target (which in this case is you). Once you have them hitting right, make sure you use you aikido skills to move them off the line. Don't evade the way they would almost certainly do, which is to step off the line. :asian:

That's an interesting point. If anything I would have said that too much energy was the problem and not too little, but what you say makes sense. I'll have to try that and see where it leads.

Yes, I think you are pretty much there in understanding the dynamics of your sparring.. I would maybe suggest a thing or two if that is ok and you can take it as you wish :)

I think you are focussed upon moving yourself to match your opponent strikes.. I understand this.. I think it is a normal way to be and no thing wrong with it.. I would suggest that (perhaps it is experience I could not say) in your Aiki you can always BE in the correct place if you have an understanding of where on his axes of balance is your uke..

For example, you had said of a straight punch, he is well centred and you have described that he is at the limit of his projection (that you may or may not be in the path of) yes? I would suggest that you do not always need to intercept this energy in order to use it.. Why? Well there are two aspects to his strike.. First, in many arts, the strike once it is expended will be withdrawn.. you can follow him backwards.. this is one way if you have missed an intercept (or been unfortunate to have been in the path of that strike!) you can take him backwards as he naturally withdraws.. Secondly - and this is what perhaps you are almost on the verge of discovering for yourself (and it will make more sense then).. If your own reaction is good enough then you will see that his energy does not stop abruptly and but is projected outward (usually the better the Karateka the better is his projection etc).. and but it is possible to take him even in the direction he is impelled even at the limit of his strike.. Me personally I like both.. I will take him one way then go with him as he retracts.. It is usually difficult for most practitioners of any art to maintain an absolute centre when striking.. this can be capitalised upon by Aikidoka.. I do not know if this makes sense.. I think it is much easier to show this than describe it.. and but I wish you every success in your own training discoveries :) Jenna x

First of all, you appear to be a very polite person and I thank you for it. I'm having some difficulty understanding what you mean, but it's true like you say that these things are much easier to demonstrate than to describe. I like your point about not having to react as the strike comes out, that a retraction is just as viable of an option, as long as the hit has been dodged. My only concern is that that would require some very intricate and fast-paced thinking in the middle of a fight.

Lemme dig you up a video...


There we go. You just have to alter Your arsenal a little bit.

I like this video. Most Aikido vs. Some Hard Striking Style videos that I've seen have been rigged towards one side or the other specifically to show the merits of that side's system. This is much more natural, and I think I see what you're getting at. However, in the video it looks like the aikidoka is taking a few hits from his sparring partners as he moves in to execute his techniques. Though some hits are of course unavoidable in a fight, and certainly his moves are successful and well-executed on the whole, I wonder if it might not be different were his opponents also bare-handed. Karateka fight with gloves for good reason, but many of the small strikes to the aikidoka's body, strikes which he shrugs off in these matches, might be more devastating and in fact interrupt his techniques if he were to be hit like that in real battle.

I am not an Aikido person I am a Taijiquan/Xingyiquan guy but I have spared a few Aikidoka and although I do believe Jenna covered it rather well I just want to add that sometimes all you need is a block. And I see similarities to Taiji in Aikido (some not so good, some incredibly good) so I will also add do not try and manufacture the application…. wait for it. If the opponent’s energy is not correct for the specific application you are trying to use then you need to be able to use another application. Do not plan to use it because you need to use the proper application for the energy comes at you and sometimes that is just a block or to simply get out of the way.

You bring forward an important point, there. I realize I very much was "manufacturing the application" in the interests of practice. But I guess that's not at all how aikido works.
 
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Jenna

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First of all, you appear to be a very polite person and I thank you for it. I'm having some difficulty understanding what you mean, but it's true like you say that these things are much easier to demonstrate than to describe. I like your point about not having to react as the strike comes out, that a retraction is just as viable of an option, as long as the hit has been dodged. My only concern is that that would require some very intricate and fast-paced thinking in the middle of a fight.
Yes I am very sorry for this.. Accept my apologies that I am not clear.. You understand the use of "kiai" in karate yes?? You understand that Kiai and the "aiki" of Aikido are very close in Japanese yes? I do not know if TSD operates a similar projection of ki / Qi / chi / internal energy etc.. ?? Still, you have knowledge of how the karate "kiai" is an outward projection of your internal energies yes?? A strike in karate is seldom aimed at the surface of the opponent and but it is aimed to strike THROUGH theopponent aiming for the *back* of his head, you follow this yes?? Well by this principle you catch your uke seemingly at the limit of extension (as you have described), yet even here he is still projecting his kiai / ki outwards.. In reality you have an advantage as very very few that I have encountered can keep 100% perfect centering while striking.. it is an advantage to any reasonably sensitive Aikidoka yes?? So even at that point where his limb will travel no further you can still capitalise on his de-centering and continue with him taking him in the direction of his strike.. honestly if it sounds like nonsense try it a few times I promise you will understand by doing .. Aikido dynamics I cannot explain too well myself.. you are right to call me on it.. Likewise yes you can go with his retraction. You have to be quick to do this?? Well, this is true yes, and but then in any fight you have to be quick anyways yes?? You are either quick or you are hit.. a good way to appreciate the need for speed :) Plus fight chemicals have a way to make you quicker than you imagine or credit yourself with :) I wish you well, kindest, Jenna.
 

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What a great example of sport based vs reality based martial arts. So many people bag aikido but especially when you watch the guy with the red pads it becomes a bit of a joke. Yet he has probably won his fair share of tournament rounds.

If I could make just one point though. In this video all bouts ended with grappling and I take the point that the karate guys were wearing gloves so it would be difficult to use wrist techniques, but it would have been nice to see some free flowing aikido.

Yeah - But at the same time, free flowing Aikido is most often practiced against Aikidoka. He was improvising, and do be fair, he did a pretty good job of it :)

I like this video. Most Aikido vs. Some Hard Striking Style videos that I've seen have been rigged towards one side or the other specifically to show the merits of that side's system. This is much more natural, and I think I see what you're getting at. However, in the video it looks like the aikidoka is taking a few hits from his sparring partners as he moves in to execute his techniques. Though some hits are of course unavoidable in a fight, and certainly his moves are successful and well-executed on the whole, I wonder if it might not be different were his opponents also bare-handed. Karateka fight with gloves for good reason, but many of the small strikes to the aikidoka's body, strikes which he shrugs off in these matches, might be more devastating and in fact interrupt his techniques if he were to be hit like that in real battle.
Something to remember: You can spend two years training Aikido. These guys can spend two years training Karate.
They have learnt to hit you. You have learnt to try and prevent that from happening.
However it plays out, they are trained to strike you, and preventing them from utilising their skill at striking you is very hard. He had alot of nerve to not be forced back, because hed have been unable to get out of a barrage. If he didnt have that nerve, it would have been a little less in his favor. But he had his Aikido, and He used it to the best of his ability under the circumstances. And given that he was using it on people trained to hit him, he did a good job of not being hit too terribly much.

The gloves wouldnt have changed too much, since it would allow the Karateka to counter-grapple. Shotokan has a fair few throws, takedowns, and grappling. it isnt the focus, but its there. Theyd have been perhaps more able to anti-technique his grappling if they could grab hold of him. At the same time, hed have been able to control the wrists a bit better. In short, it wouldnt have changed very much in the scheme of things. It just would have been a different path to the outcome.

As for being hit himself, excluding their training in striking, theres one other thing.
Watch the video again, and tell me how many times He could have punched the people He was sparring with. It wouldnt be as many times as They punched Him, but its more often than it first seems to be. Think mostly close range hook punches and the odd cross (Distinction: Not a rear straight, as in, punching across his body).

But thats straying from the use of Aikido a bit, and leaning more into Fisticuffs.
But then, in a real battle, as you put it, restricting yourself isnt the best idea.

QUICK Edit:
It wouldnt be nearly as many times as They punched Him because He mostly uses two hands to Grapple. If He released a hand to strike, Hed be opening Himself up to get struck as well, with very few exceptions.
 
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K-man

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Yeah - But at the same time, free flowing Aikido is most often practiced against Aikidoka. He was improvising, and do be fair, he did a pretty good job of it :)

Agreed, but all I meant was he was moving in and grabbing, a bit like you would expect in MMA. Once there his style could be anything if you didn't know it was aikido. He was using aikido principles in the throws but they are not exclusive to aikido. The other thing he had going for him was size. Could a smaller person do the same thing? Possibly not. One of the advantages of aikido is the ability of a smaller person moving around a stronger person's strength. This was not demonstrated in the video. That is not a criticism of the video or the way he chose to overcome his opponent.

What you are saying about 'free flowing' aikido is very true. It is what we call a 'gimme'. In my karate training I utilise a lot of 'aiki' principles. Against a committed attack, they work very well and it was that sort of thing I was looking for. The complicating factor was, especially the guy with the red gear, the attack wasn't committed. The Aikidoka had to actually close and catch him as he was jumping in and out like you do in a tournament situation.


Something to remember: You can spend two years training Aikido. These guys can spend two years training Karate.
They have learnt to hit you. You have learnt to try and prevent that from happening.
However it plays out, they are trained to strike you, and preventing them from utilising their skill at striking you is very hard. He had alot of nerve to not be forced back, because hed have been unable to get out of a barrage. If he didnt have that nerve, it would have been a little less in his favor. But he had his Aikido, and He used it to the best of his ability under the circumstances. And given that he was using it on people trained to hit him, he did a good job of not being hit too terribly much.

Very much so. And, two years of learning to hit in karate will put you a lot further ahead of the guy who has been learning aikido for two years. However, after that time the gap narrows. The guy in the video has been training for way longer than I care to think. Your comment on not being forced back is not only interesting, it is a vital part of aikido training. We talk of it as 'extending Ki'. I realise that is not a politically correct thing to say around here but in aikido it is vey important. When you pull back, even as a flinch, you 'withdraw Ki'. That gives your opponent the opportunity to attack you.

As for being hit himself, excluding their training in striking, theres one other thing.
Watch the video again, and tell me how many times He could have punched the people He was sparring with. It wouldnt be as many times as They punched Him, but its more often than it first seems to be. Think mostly close range hook punches and the odd cross (Distinction: Not a rear straight, as in, punching across his body).

But thats straying from the use of Aikido a bit, and leaning more into Fisticuffs.
But then, in a real battle, as you put it, restricting yourself isnt the best idea.

You're not really straying from aikido. In this video the aikidoka chose not to strike. Atemi is built into almost every aikido technique and we are taught and train that. The reason a lot of aikido is thought to be ineffectual it that the atemi is not always taught and it is certainly not understood by the majority of people who criticise aikido. Ueshiba taught striking in the early days of aikido but as his aikido developed he didn't have to rely on striking at all. Very few of us training aikido are at a level even approaching the ability of Ueshiba, therefore, in the real world, we may need to strike before or during a technique

QUICK Edit:
It wouldnt be nearly as many times as They punched Him because He mostly uses two hands to Grapple. If He released a hand to strike, Hed be opening Himself up to get struck as well, with very few exceptions.
. :asian:
 

Cyriacus

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Agreed, but all I meant was he was moving in and grabbing, a bit like you would expect in MMA. Once there his style could be anything if you didn't know it was aikido. He was using aikido principles in the throws but they are not exclusive to aikido. The other thing he had going for him was size. Could a smaller person do the same thing? Possibly not. One of the advantages of aikido is the ability of a smaller person moving around a stronger person's strength. This was not demonstrated in the video. That is not a criticism of the video or the way he chose to overcome his opponent.

What you are saying about 'free flowing' aikido is very true. It is what we call a 'gimme'. In my karate training I utilise a lot of 'aiki' principles. Against a committed attack, they work very well and it was that sort of thing I was looking for. The complicating factor was, especially the guy with the red gear, the attack wasn't committed. The Aikidoka had to actually close and catch him as he was jumping in and out like you do in a tournament situation.
Thatd be symptomatic of Shotokan, I think. Close in lightly, *then* commit.

Aye - Itd be harder for a smaller person. Or someone with shorter arms.

Very much so. And, two years of learning to hit in karate will put you a lot further ahead of the guy who has been learning aikido for two years. However, after that time the gap narrows. The guy in the video has been training for way longer than I care to think. Your comment on not being forced back is not only interesting, it is a vital part of aikido training. We talk of it as 'extending Ki'. I realise that is not a politically correct thing to say around here but in aikido it is vey important. When you pull back, even as a flinch, you 'withdraw Ki'. That gives your opponent the opportunity to attack you.
Oh, its fine. The only political thing is calling it Ki. I for one call it focus, ki, or whatever works at the time. The ability to tell yourself to not cover up and retreat under pressure, and continue applying *Your* stretegy.
Its interesting to know that thats a part of Aikido!

You're not really straying from aikido. In this video the aikidoka chose not to strike. Atemi is built into almost every aikido technique and we are taught and train that. The reason a lot of aikido is thought to be ineffectual it that the atemi is not always taught and it is certainly not understood by the majority of people who criticise aikido. Ueshiba taught striking in the early days of aikido but as his aikido developed he didn't have to rely on striking at all. Very few of us training aikido are at a level even approaching the ability of Ueshiba, therefore, in the real world, we may need to strike before or during a technique
That explains alot. In that case, these were the circumstances in which He should have done exactly that.

:drinkbeer
 

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Hello mber,

If I understand the sparring scenerio correctly, you are referring to an lineral advance made by the opponent where he fires his punches straight in without overextending his reach. I was thinking perhaps trying some evasive moves to force him to reach out to make contact. For example, leaning your upper body and head back from the incoming punches. The extra distance created as he tries to reach to make contact to the head, could buy you the reaction time to redirect and possibily grab the incoming arm. I got the idea from Rocky Marciano's awesome defensive stance (although this a common boxing technique). I got a chance to practice 'swatting away' incoming jabs in this manner at a Jeet Kune Do seminar I attended that Tim Tackett was teaching. Also, if you don't mind kicking, front and side kick stops to the knees or hip IMO would work nice to help keep him frustrated when he tries to advance until you find an opportunity to work a technique. I hope this helps :)


- If you can control the distance, you can control the fight. -
 

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Hello mber,

If I understand the sparring scenerio correctly, you are referring to an lineral advance made by the opponent where he fires his punches straight in without overextending his reach. I was thinking perhaps trying some evasive moves to force him to reach out to make contact. For example, leaning your upper body and head back from the incoming punches. The extra distance created as he tries to reach to make contact to the head, could buy you the reaction time to redirect and possibily grab the incoming arm. I got the idea from Rocky Marciano's awesome defensive stance (although this a common boxing technique). I got a chance to practice 'swatting away' incoming jabs in this manner at a Jeet Kune Do seminar I attended that Tim Tackett was teaching. Also, if you don't mind kicking, front and side kick stops to the knees or hip IMO would work nice to help keep him frustrated when he tries to advance until you find an opportunity to work a technique. I hope this helps :)


- If you can control the distance, you can control the fight. -
Mm. Speaking of Boxing, You can also lean in a bit, so that You appear closer than You actually are. Then You can lean right back when You see a proper punch coming, and often cause the second punch to overextend. At worst, Youll make Him shadow box a little.
 

K-man

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Mm. Speaking of Boxing, You can also lean in a bit, so that You appear closer than You actually are. Then You can lean right back when You see a proper punch coming, and often cause the second punch to overextend. At worst, Youll make Him shadow box a little.
Actually I have used it successfully years ago in competition. You drawn back into cat stance which makes it appear you have moved back. Once the opponent moves closer, you are right in his face. :asian:
 

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