Monday, August 18, 2008


Ok, I lied...Ramlan-sensei mentioned a third very important point yesterday - Atemi (striking).

This opens almost all of the Yoshinkan arsenal and is an essential part of the technique.
Atemi, the opening strike, is designed to stop uke's forward motion and set their weight back on their heels (off of the balls of the feet). That means it must be done hard and fast, with full intent and full forward projection. Weak atemi is pointless.

A strong atemi should lock uke's blocking arm into place and drive through the arm into uke's hips and feet. Uke should be unable to withdraw the blocking arm. Shite's atemi should be right in uke's face leaving uke no time to do anything except block.

This cannot be done if shite has any backward motion at all from the beginning of the technique. The initial motion of shite should be explosively forward, along the line of power, and applying atemi with projection through uke's head. It is worth noting that for advanced students, this initial explosive motion is also DOWN, lowering the hips and drawing the connection to uke's center of balance onto them.

Sensei says O-Sensei maintained that aikido was 70% atemi. I believe this, given its purpose to disrupt uke's balance. Atemi is worthy of careful consideration and diligent practice.


Get Connected!

The second point that Ramlan-sensei mentioned yesterday was about getting (and staying) connected to uke at all times. This contact is critical to control uke. Sensei mentioned about the basic meaning of the aikido techniques:

  • Ikkajo - control of uke's body through the elbow and shoulder
  • Nikajo - control of uke's body through the wrist, elbow and shoulder
  • Sankajo - control of uke's body through the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder
  • Yonkajo - control of uke's body through a small point on the lower arm (not using the joint)

Note the common element: Control of uke's body. Sensei explains that this control is only possible when we are in contact with uke's body. Thus, every motion of shite, through the line of power, should keep contact with uke and result in control of their body ultimately through the shoulder by means of one of the four principles above.

When training, be mindful of the control of uke's shoulder through the lines, and be certain to take uke's balance as early as possible within the technique. Failure to do so means failed technique. It simply cannot be correct without contact and control.


Walk the Line

Yesterday Ramlan-sensei came to Singapore to teach. He had two main points on our technique.
One was to always remember your line of power. The line of power is that line which starts at the tip of your finger in proper kamae and ends at the outside edge of your back foot. This line includes your wrist and elbow (both straight and flexed but relaxed) as well as your hips (weight slightly forward 60/40 distributed onto your front foot). This line of power should at all times project through uke and determine the direction of your movement. In essence, it can be thought of like the barrel of a gun.

When techniques are weak, it is often due to the fact that shite's (rather than uke's) line of power has been broken/disconnected. Many times this happens at the point of our elbows (when not tucked into our armpits) or at our hips (which come off the line). It is easy to see when Uke lags behind shite (they should always be in front - on the line). It is essential for strong technique to keep everything in line - the line of power.

Ultimately, this line of power is aimed at the uke's weak line. That is, our line aims at a point not of uke's strength (which would clash force on force), but at a point of uke's weakness. This makes strength less necessary for completion of a successful technique.

The automatic line of power can only be achieved through training in kihon dosa, the basic movements of Yoshinkan aikido. These must be done mindfully with intention to be centered on the line of power. Over time, this will become instinctive. Keep training.