05 Aug 2004

Have you ever observed your teacher (先生) showing you how a given technique is executed, telling you about some minute detail that makes a difference and then been asked “do you understand”, to which feel like replying yes, I understand what you mean, but really don’t know how to do it myself. Sigh. Anyhow, that’s beside the point.

I’ve been studing kotegaeshi (小手返し) during the last few days, and noticed that I constantly keep forgetting the basics. I can’t try and put the blame on the fast pace of the technique, as kotegaeshi really isn’t that fast—I could almost say the opposite. In kotegaeshi, say from your most basic attack of gyaku-hanmi katate-dori (逆半身 片手取), both the uke (受け) and the nage (投げ) have plenty of time and this makes it ideal to study hard ukemi (受身). Still, I seem to forget the basics all to easily. I was training with a small yudansha, and when ever I throw her she bounced right up from the ukemi. I suppose when you’re light enough, there’s a moment right after making contact with the tatami that you can use the momentum you still have to get up, bounce basically. She instructed me that I need to “cut” downwards with my free hand, with the one that turns the kotegaeshi, to block the upwards momentum and begin the osae waza part immediately after the throw, not to wait until the uke has landed and made themselves comfortable. Makes the landing a tad less comfortable for the uke, but sometimes you just have to forget politeness when it hampers with the effectiveness.

Also, I made the capital mistake of kotegaeshi, i.e. trying to execute it as a chudan (中段) techique, as opposed to gedan (下段). It’s so easy for the uke to just let their hand drop, thereby ravelling the lock, and step behind the nage to perform an irimi-nage (入身投げ) as a kaeshi-waza (返し技). It’s a gedan technique, damn it, why is it so difficult to remember. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that we try to throw the uke hard, teach them to fly and smack down, try to make the throw look impressive even though it creates openings to our defence. One should be mindful of the effectiveness, not care about how the throw looks. O-sensei’s (大先生) aikido might have looked like something stright out from The Matrix, so let’s leave astral aikido to him and demonstration aikido to Christian Tissier at Festival des Arts Martiaux Paris Bercy.

In a way related to the above, I was also reminded a few days ago about the importance of the “turn” bit in kotegaeshi. A kohai (後輩) had trouble guiding me down, her turning of my wrist just didn’t work “enough”. I asked her if she also turned my fingers inward, not just my wrist: simple anatomy, turn the uke’s fingers inward, into a fist, that way the tendons are streached even more and quiding uke becomes easier. Works like a dream when you’re executing static techniques, but makes all the difference in flowing and moving forms, too. Years ago, soon after having started the study of aikido, I was told by a yudansha to stroke the fingers inwards, just like water—I immediately classified it as being astral aikido, but soon noticed that it was not.

While writing this entry, I noticed that I used the word “force” when describing what happens in a kotegaeshi, when I should have used the word “guide”. You don’t turn the uke’s wrist with force—that only stiffens the both of you—instead you simply guide the uke. Who wanted to learn something easy anyway :)