I was training with Radek and we were practicing Shihonage-ura waza and I was encouraging a more fast pace rhythm. While I was the uke, I will always make a point to take a fall, unless my nage has made a critical mistake which allows me to get up.
After a few fall, Radek was saying, that I am falling by myself and makes it looks ‘easy’. This kind of falling is often known as a ‘Charity fall’ which means the nage don’t have to do much and you will fall. Charity fall also adds to that bad reputation Aikido and other martial arts gets, branded as ‘Bullshit-do’, and moniker of Bushido.
A very fine line
As I explained to Radek, that he is already a brown gold, and he would have gotten the basics right, he can move, gauge the distance and also execute most of the Aikido waza competently. However, he is still stuck in a static movement mindset, and puts in 100% (sometimes too much!) in everything that he does, which is fine, but as we progress, we need to better embrace rhythm, velocity and the economies of our partner’s intent and energy. After all this is what Aikido is all about!
While there is nothing wrong being static and doing the basics, it is very laborious and physical, Every time you throw or pin your uke, you will use equal or more strength, on top of a better angle of attack, geometry, positioning and all that. You don’t add value to the relationship, and when things moves fast, we get stuck. On top of getting stuck, we are unable to learn how to deal with speed and velocity.
Don’t think, move fast
Further delving into my ‘charity fall’, I explained that in the speed we are moving, there will be energy bleed, which means things will travel a bit more before it slows down to a halt. Very much like a car applying it’s brakes, it does not stop at that instant the brakes is being applied, there is a braking distance where the excessive energy is bled off and eventually comes to a halt. And you do not jam the brakes, but apply even constant pressure, watching how the car reacts to you so that the car will reach 0 km/h.
It is the same with Aikido, as we advance into our practice, we must understand economies of our partner’s energy. While Shihonage ends the moves with our partner’s hands bent backwards, there is already an inherent instability build in that will carry on as our uke falls, we don’t really have to do much and just ride that downwards wave. Hence it looks like I fall on my own without much of his involvement, fact is I am already on the way down, and if the technique starts off well at the get-go, the ending is a very natural fall, unless the start is a struggle, then it will be a struggle all the way to the end.
I also explained to him that he has a tendency to pause, which is a normal for all of us as we sometimes put a halt and check our technique. It happens with most novices and this can disrupt the flow of the technique. As we advance in our practice, we need to be vary conscious about our stoppage as it will allow our partner to regain their balance and turn the tide against us.
Coming in as a more advanced uke, I have to show him what a thorough follow through looks like, even if he halts out of habit, it’s my role as an uke to help him follow through. Then he can have a glimpse of what the technique looks and feels like with a flow.
Unless of course the nage does a complete erroneous moves and this is where the uke has to preserve the presence of mind to stop and correct the nage. This takes trust and camaraderie to build and it helps to motivate our more junior practitioner to understand how things look like from a more senior level.
This way everyone can learn and experience Aikido in a faster, more intense pace and at the same time not getting anyone injured.