1/19/10 NOTE: When I studied with Kanai Sensei in Cambridge, Mass, someone in the dojo told me “All aikido techniques are forward. There is no backing up.” This sounded right, and seemed to work most of the time in my own technique. But over the years I have noticed many advanced Aikidoka clearly moving backwards, taking a step back, sometimes several. They obviously had excellent technique and maintained full control of uke, but moved backwards. When I moved backwards, I often lost contact with uke. I was missing something, and it never seemed to be covered in class or at seminars.
The other day, I was doing the wood floors at the back of the dojo with one of those thirty inch janitors dust mops with a pivot where the handle held the mop head, and it hit me: The mop never went backwards. If it did, it dropped the dirt. I [nage to the mops uke] could walk backwards, turn in any direction, go in circles, but, by pivoting the mop head, I could keep the mop moving forward. All dust mop techniques were forward. There was no backing up.
Try it, even if you have to borrow a mop or offer to do someone’s floors. Feel how you have to keep the mop flowing forward, the rhythm of flexing and turning, always pushing, never pulling. Then take that same rhythm and flow on to the mat and picture uke as the dust mop. Keep uke moving forward, left, right, up, down, around and around, through two, three, even four dimensions, in whatever technique or combination of techniques you choose, but always forward. Try to do it as long as possible before either loosing contact, or finishing with a throw. It is like dancing with a partner. Have fun with it. It really helped me relax, loosened my technique up and enabled me to maintain contact and control [see the previous comments on 10/13 & 18].