30 Jul 2004

Correct me if I’m wrong, but to my best knowledge it should be “a silent tap”. If so, I’ve a long way to get there. Thus, lately I’ve been thinking about changing my goal in studying aikido—instead of trying to learn the things needed for the next kyu, I should now concentrate on my ukemi and on how to be a good uke in general. This year I will be studying ukemi and next year I think I’ll have a go at tenkan. Silly, I know.

One of the reasons I started to study aikido in the first place was the lack of competing, the lack of banging your head against the wall in trying to be better than your opponent. This, of course, can also be seen in the way aikidokas usually think about grades and tests. Still, I think I personally should stop worrying about knowing the techniques needed to pass the next kyu test and and simply study the things I think I want to be better at. Who needs a black belt anyway, you can’t see it from under the hakama.

(Well, ok, there are some benefits to going to the tests. When you’ve managed to get 3rd kyu, you can wear a skirt. After 2nd kyu you can attend advanced classes during seminars, and with a 1st kyu you can attend the monthly dan classes.)

So, the sound of one hand clapping the tatami should be a silent tap. I really admire some of the yudansha in my dojo for their “break fall”, hard ukemi, which is basically silent. Kotegaeshi, koshinage, tenchinage, you name it—they fall “hard” and don’t make a sound. I, on the other hand, will shake the earth accompanied by a loud smack, just like in Smackdown or Raw. In theory I know what to do: be lazy and relaxed, bend from your hip, touch the tatami instead of hitting it. In practice small women just tell me I really like to throw you because you land so hard. Yeah, cheers for that.

Maybe the next step I should take is to attack a tad less forcefully, give 10% less energy to nage. That way, maybe, I’d be more in control and I wouldn’t have to be an “automatic uke”, that is give in immediately. In some cases, like in hijikime osae, you don’t really want to wait for the elbow lock to kick in, but normally you’re totally safe in letting the nage to guide you down—or up and then down. And, when you think about it, hijikime osae too is absolutely safe when nage guides your momentum down, instead of giving your energy back into the elbow lock. Is it, then, that my ukemis leave something to be desired because I’m afraid of the techniques, or because I have this image of what aikido should be like and how the uke should react and I desperately try conform to that image? Probably both, and lack of experience and body control etc.

Yeah… at this point I think it’s worth studying the ukemi—and motion and reaction in general—for a while, and get back to details in few years.