Aikido Yoshinkan International
Vol. 5 No. 4
by Robert Mustard
The foundation of Yoshinkan Aikido lies in the understanding of kamae(basic stance) and
kihondosa (basic movements). The basic movements are designed to facilitate the proper implementation of the
basic techniques, which, in turn leads to intermediate level techniques, advanced techniques and finally waza.
The different stages are interesting as they evolve from and maintain the proper, basic form.
But are these stages different? I think not, and this article - based on my experience in the honbu dojo- I will endeavor to show that although kata, different levels of technique, and jiyuwaza (free style techniques) are different, they are essentially the same.
The techniques of Yoshinkan Aikido are practiced in kata or prearranged forms, with both partners understanding their respective roles and cooperating to perform the techniques. The basic techniques are performed repeatedly until they become natural and can be done instantly when required in class.
The basic techniques are practiced to understand how to control ourselves, which in turn allows us to control uke's (person who receives the technique) body through correct movement, distancing, and timing, applying the power along lines where uke is weak and shite (person who does the technique) is strong. Waza are the subtle changes made to the basic techniques to make them more effective on uke.
To understand this difference takes alot of practice and effort and also a certain amount of frustration. It is also beneficial if you have a teacher who is able to do the technique powerfully and effectively - on anybody.
At this point, I would like to pose a question. If you are six feet tall, and have two ukes, one who is also six feet tall and the other who is five feet tall, would you perform the technique with the same movement? It has been my experience that most people perform exactly the same movement, regardless of the different sizes of uke. This shouldn't be the case. Shite must alter the technique according to uke's size, and ability while maintaining the proper form and distance.
If you continually research and practice the techniques, you will be able to perform them powerfully on any uke, and you will learn to control and throw uke without hurting them. It seems like a paradox, but it is amazing when you actually do it, or have it done to you. When you throw uke powerfully to the tatami and you don't feel any thing in your technique and uke is able to continue to train, it is a wonderful feeling. How do we develop this skill? The answer is in constant practice and research.
In the honbu dojo, I am always amazed at how effortless Chida Sensei looks when he does his techniques. It's almost as if he's asleep, but he has thrown me harder while explaining and demonstration a technique than when other people try to rip my head off!!
I now understand that he is able to do this because his lower body is rock solid and balanced, while his upper body is straight, strong and relaxed. This allows him to use his whole body power in the movement and enables him to focus all his mental and physical power on one point, usually on uke's weak point, creating an amazingly beautiful and frighteningly powerful technique
The top aikido teachers are always emphasizing the difference between strength and power. Strength is the muscle power in a technique that is considered quite weak. Power, on the other hand, is the use of the entire body to execute a movement in conjunction with precise technique. The differences between theses two concepts are profound and must be felt to be believed and understood.
To acquire an understanding of these differences requires trust between shite and uke. In practice it is a good idea to sometimes resist each other when performing techniques. This requires that shite control his ego and not be concerned if the techniques don't work. If you practice diligently and don't give up, results will come, and your level will improve. You should try to do the techniques in many ways, with for example, no power whatsoever, full power, or a mixture of both. Sometimes, you will undoubtedly bang each other around, but if practice is undertaken with improvement and mutual growth in mind, shite and uke won't wind up trying to kill each other. Please keep in mind that the techniques have potential for great damage; appropriate care must always be exercised.
Another way to practice is by only using one hand to perform techniques, or even no hands! When you can do a technique with one hand as strongly and with as much power as with both, you will notice a remarkable change in your confidence and ability. I have an interesting video where I'm attacking Takeno Sensei with a tanto. He defends, using one hand to throw me, while speaking into a microphone that he is holding in his other hand. He makes it look very, very easy, but ability on this level requires lots of practice, and repeated failures.
When you are practicing, it's important to be honest with yourself. Try to understand the weak points in your basic movements and techniques. Only through such reflection will you be able to improve. For teachers and people of advanced rank, this is very hard to do. It requires admitting to yourself that although you are a teacher, more practice and training is needed. It is the only way to improve your level and understanding.
The ultimate goal of Yoshinkan Aikido is to perform techniques the way Kancho Sensei performed them. This requires the lifelong commitment that he showed. Let's hope that one day we can all achieve the understanding and love of Aikido that he had.
I have put down some of my thoughts based on my experiences in the honbu dojo. I fully realize how much further I have yet to go. I hope that all Yoshinkan practitioners will continue to grow individually while promoting the growth of Yoshinkan Aikido.