The dojo theme for the month of March is...
I'll snatch a couple of quick definitions of ma-ai from Pat's blog:
"Ma-ai is the time-space relationship between attacker and defender"
"Ma-ai represents the distance at which uke first becomes an immediate danger to tori - but also a great enough distance that tori can still manage an evasion if uke attacks with maximum efficiency."
We started today's Aikido session with tegatana no kata. We focused on the idea that Pat talked about a few weeks ago - using the arms in conjunction with the feet, particularly with the body rises and body drops, while remembering to relax. We explored this more, and Pat showed how our arms (particularly in the more circular arm motions) describe a "track" or "rail" (let's call it a "trail") in space. During some of our transitions, if we get our bodies out of the way, our arms can continue along those trails from one movement to the next. It's really difficult to explain here, and if I tried to describe it, I'd be writing all night. I still need to remember not to try to lift my arm when my center is moving down. This time I found that the first arm motion in tegatana felt a lot like men-uchi with a bokken. I guess it's supposed to.
Next we worked on Releases 1-8. One through four felt okay to me, but confound it, five through eight feel like I'm trying to learn them for the first time! I used to feel like I did okay with them (in the old system), but Pat's approach is revolutionary to me, in a good way. I'm glad for the new (to me) way of doing them, as they make more sense, and I think they'll translate to more effective self defense.
Things I need to remember about releases:
1) Pat made a great point: if I'm synching up with uke well enough, I don't have to try that hard for an off-balance. Uke is off balance all the time anyway, and if I can get in synch, opportunities to exploit or enhance that off-balance will present themselves.
2) Keep my belly button lined up with (facing) my hand. In other words, keep my center facing the right way. I was having lots of trouble with this today, I think because I was trying to focus on synching up my steps with uke.
3) Those "trails" I was talking about earlier? They're present in the releases too. In fact, release 1 and release 2 inhabit the same trail. So do 3 and 4, 5 and 6, and 7 and 8. I'll try to describe: If the center point of the trail that 1 and 2 live on is uke's grab, if you go one direction, you're doing a number 1. If you go the other, you're doing release 2. Another way of putting it: If you start at the very end of a release 1 motion (the end of the technique), and travel backwards, and keep going, you move into a release 2. I hope that's clear. Maybe this way oversimplified diagram will help:
NOTE: Pat told me that Feldenkrais says "Good motion is motion that can be reversed. Spastic motion is bad and cannot be reversed". Example, the inadequate diagram I made above displays how you could start at the end of either release and find your way back to the starting point IF "good motion" was used. Things like coughing, or falling into a chair are examples of what Feldenkrais would call "bad motion".
4) Tori's hands follow the trail, they don't determine it! The trail is determined by uke!
5) In release #3, there's a tendency to want to use your free hand as "insurance"...to block uke from doing something mean while you're spending all that time on the "inside" of his reach. Use caution with this, because if a #3 really turns out to be a #7 (because you're following, not determining), your own hand will get in your way. Don't use that insurance hand until you're sure it's really going to be a #3.
Next we worked on Nijusan / Ju Nana Hon Kata #1-5.
- Shomenate went about as usual - no observations there.
- Aigamaeate and Gyakugamaeate (#2 and 3) are similar, and we discussed what determines when a #2 is called for, and when to do a #3. Basically, you want to use whichever hand is free (not blocking uke's arm) to do the strike/push. So if your hand nearest uke's wrist is free, you're going to do #2. If your hand that is closer to his elbow is free, you have a #3.
- Gedanate used to be a tough one for me, but it feels a little better now. Pat showed me a terrible (cool) variation of it. Instead of holding uke's arm above your head with our hand, throw his hand away behind you, over your shoulder and continue with the technique. As we played with that variation, I noticed it tends to happen more in front of uke than to his side, and the push tends to happen with your forearm against uke's chest or throat. At least that's how it seemed during practice today.
- Ushiroate is always a fun one. I need to remember to "walk" my hands up uke's arm, not slide them. I also need to grab over his shoulders in front of him, instead of just the tops of his shoulders. Pat showed how to do it in such a way that if the technique is not working out, it's easy to turn it into a separation rather than a throw. Then he demonstrated a couple of super cool variations. In one version, the way some karate guys do it, you reach around and cinch into a pressure point in the chest, forcing uke to sit down, which turns into a takedown/restraining technique similar to what law enforcement may use. The other variation just involved pulling the back of your thumbs into uke's windpipe as you pull him back. Pat did this to me and I was both shocked and awed. Very effective!
What a GREAT class today!