2/23/10 NOTE: LOSING IT! In class at the dojo today, Todd Sensei spoke on the difference between “maintaining contact” and “grabbing”. We did several techniques working on just maintaining contact with the side of the hand, the palm or even the fingers, but not “grabbing hold”. He said some techniques may require grasping firmly toward the end, but only rarely is it effective to grab vigorously.
While this sounded right, and seemed to work when I tried it, the why of it didn’t click until I remembered Heine Sensei talking about the “line” of attack, and that you could visualize that line extending from the ground, through the attackers body and to and extending THROUGH the point of attack, i.e. the attackers hand. She said that if you controlled that line, “encouraged” the attacker to continue into their extension, you could lead the attacker to that “safe and secure” place which I see as the ultimate objective of Aikido.
This probably pertains to the question Edward asked back on January 16th about what to do when the person doing the technique [nage] loses contact during a technique. This usually comes from losing the sense of where the attacker is, where their line of energy/center is. The key is sensitivity. If you are “grabbing”, you are focused on that grab, are less sensitive to what is going on with uke outside of the area you are grabbing, are less sensitive to the attackers “line”, are more apt to try to force the attacker to do what you want, rather than guiding them to want to do the “right thing”. In other words, grabbing interupts the line, squeezes off communications.
What seems to allow me to retain control, to remain in communication with my partner, is a light, but firm touch. For this to happen properly, I needs be very flexible and not totally committed to one course of action. If I am focused on my own center, on moving properly from the ground through the hips, I am moving my partner with my entire body, my entire being. Thus, if he “lets go”, I am not depending on his “hanging on”, I retain guiding control on other levels, and I can modify my movement to meet the changing situation. This is more than abstract theory. I have actually felt it happen once or twice when working with a new aikidoka who has not yet learned to do “cooperative” ukemi, or with a more advanced partner who is trying to discombobulate me. I believe it is also what allows the “no touch” techniques I have seen done by Heine Sensei and Saotome Sensei.
I realize I have just used a lot of quotation marks. It comes from trying to express something which my language, possibly no language, does not exactly convey. Like most of the true, deep learning of Aikido, it can probably be best learned kinesthetically. This week I am going to try to get this idea of no-grab, gentle, firm controlling contact across to the guys, kinesthetically. I’m not sure how just yet. .
2/23/10 Edward Commented
This mostly makes sense, but in some places it's not clear if you are talking about contact from uke or nage's perspective. On one level, it doesn't matter, as the same principles should apply, but you might want to at least mention something about that. You might want to extend the "line" metaphor a little more, as it doesn't clearly tie in to the rest of what you are saying. Are you talking about "grabbing" as something that pinches/kinks the line? Another way to look at it might be that "grabbing" is a contracting motion, not an extending one, because most Aikidoka understand the problems with contracting while doing technique. How do you hold someone using only extension?
The other thing I found was that as I read it, it made me think about what the difference between uke and nage really is. I know this is unrelated to what you were discussing, but at some point shouldn't the quality and intent of contact be the same regardless of which position you are in? If, as nage, you can abandon a preconceived notion of doing a specific technique, and as uke you can be fully connected, where is the line that divides them? I know this doesn't apply much to the basic level training you've been doing with the vets, but it is really interesting for thinking about advanced level technique and randori/free training. It could also provide a different perspective on reversals.
I wish I had people for longer than 12 classes, because I think the concept of maintaining good contact does contribute to a more controled, safer ukeme, but I only have a wee minimum of time to work on how to best take, and survive a technique