Lazy teacher – Kim Taylor Jan 20, 2017

Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023

First aikido class last evening and I realize that I am a lazy teacher. I teach the same thing wherever I am it seems. Here, for the class, are the class notes for the class…. umm.

Since it was the first class we started with the four foot movements of the art. Those are: forward, back, turn and turn with sweep.

Ignoring the hands, we used the tape between the wrestling mats as a line. So assuming a big scary, but one-track attack comes down that line, we move forward by shifting the front (right) foot a bit to the side and bringing up the back (left) foot so that it is off the line and we are in the original stance. That’s the easy part, now to go across the room we have to step forward with that back (left) foot so that it moves across the line and the other (right, now rear) foot moves off the line too. It’s sort of like walking but not. This is called Irimi. Now here’s the hard bit, instead of using your foot and leg to move your hip, move your hip first, switch the hip and the legs just fall into place. Isn’t that cool?

Next, moving back. We take the front foot, let’s call it the right, and we move it back but also off the line so that we end up with the left foot forward. Now the tricky stuff, shift that right foot to the other side of the line and then move the left foot back onto that same side of the line. Because “step back and off the line” is a bit clunky, we call this one Tenshin. The hard part, use the hip turn to move the back leg across the line before stepping back. This means that you aren’t getting all twisted up and tripping yourself. Set the hip angle first and move back in a straight line.

Straight line! In aikido! What did he just say? Relax, it’s just kata.

So if we’re chasing someone who is moving back or we want to spin them around, we go forward. If we are being run over we may step back.

If we’re being run over and we don’t want to step back, we can get off the line and turn. That’s the third way of moving, so the right leg is forward, we simply shift the back leg off the line and turn to face the other way. Tricky part, we now put the back leg (it’s the right one now) across the line again so we know where it is (and so we don’t wiggle across the room) and now we turn in the other direction to face the other way as we take that foot we just moved across the line, off the line again. We call this one Kaiten. The hip movement is easy to see here, instead of crossing your legs and then turning, turn your hips and let that movement drag your back foot off the line.

Finally we come to the first movement we did in the class (the notes are always in a better order than the class) which is to add a step back to that turn. So begin with Kaiten, and as the back foot comes off the line, let it continue to move as you face completely 180 degrees to the rear and pull the back foot behind the front. You go from right foot forward to right foot forward but facing the other direction and to one side of the line. The hip is used like it is in Kaiten and we call this one Tenkan. To cointinue the exercise, step past the right foot with the left in a forward direction but step across the line so that it’s not like doing Irimi, which would step further away from the line, but the other angle (toward and across), and then continue to do Tenkan to face the original direction.

Yay. Four basic ways to move the body, pretty much everything else can be built with these. Well OK, let’s face it, everything else can be built from turning your hip but that would mean you could learn all there is in about ten minutes rather than ten years so we complicate it up with lots of fancy terms.

Since we have done all this with our backs straight, heads up, maybe we can add in some arm movements with partners. Irimi we tried from a slow punch to the face and it was a mess wasn’t it? Why was that? It was because you got all fixated on that punch, you couldn’t think about anything else except that expanding mass headed for your nose. We call that fushin, go look it up.

So we crossed our right wrists when our right feet were forward. Now drive off the rear foot to move yourself (wrist too) to the right of the line, the right of your partner. You will notice that as you moved forward and to the right, his elbow came into view, so use your left hand to push his elbow upward to roll his arm over. Hey he spins right around. We did it on both sides.

So we can use irimi when someone is just standing in front of us, maybe punching to our face. We enter into his space to move his body around using his arm and shoulder. By moving this way we move his balance rather than try to muscle him around. We take his arm away from his hip if you will, and force his hip to follow (or he will fall over).

Next we did the freight train, our partner put their arms out like Frankenstein’s monster and tried to shove us across the mat. So we stepped back and off the line and let them move through. We soaked up the movement of the attack by moving back with it and then turned with the attacker so that now we’re beside them. A bit of a shove would have disrupted their move, like maybe tipping over a hoop that is rolling past you.

With Irimi we moved forward to get beside our partner. With Tenshin we stepped back to stay beside him.

Next was Kaiten, the turn. Our partners shoved us with one hand and we just let them miss by taking our chest off the line, moved the back foot off the line. We turned with our partner to be beside them once more.

Finally, Tankan. For this one we began with the classic aikido invitation to a bar fight. “Grab my wrist”. Our partners held on lightly, reacting to any attempt on our part to move our hand in any direction. Well if we can’t move the wrist why not move around that wrist. We did that by moving the front (right) foot a tiny bit away from the line and then pivoting our body around that line while pivoting our wrist in exactly the place it was. Now we are beside our partner, our right hand in front of us, his left. If we were to move our hand to the front of our body, in front of our belly button, we would be moving our partner slightly off balance. Can’t do it after you get to the final position? Not surprised, do it while you are moving, use your whole body to shift his arm.

Those are our tools. We started using them to practice our breakfalls a bit. You thought we were practicing our throws didn’t you? We extended one of our basic moves, Kaiten, by moving forward rather than just turning in place. Sort of wicked of me to change things right away but you got the basic movement so we added a little cross step instead of the shuffle of the back foot across the line.

Right hand being held by our partner’s left, just like for the Tenkan practice. Now we start as per Tenkan but do Kaiten instead… wait our partner won’t let us move his hand will he? So we move our body to where his hand is, the back (left) foot moves in front of our right foot so that the legs are crossed, (but only for an instant) and off the line. This brought our hip up to our hands and now we can step forward with the right foot to re-establish our original stance while, at the same time, putting our shoulder next to our partner’s face and then lifting our hand up and over.

Hey he fell down. He did if we put our hip beside his so that he couldn’t just step back and absorb our attack. He did if we didn’t just try to shove right through his shoulder but instead went up and over his power, taking his balance up and over with us.

And what was our catch-phrase for falling down? Butt-slap, right. Not in a Trumpian sort of way, but that’s what hits the mat in what order, butt first, then slap.

And the rant? There’s always a rant isn’t there? We are heading toward matching our balance to our opponent’s balance so that one of us (he) falls down. Hard to get that right away, so we start from kata, from what we were doing with the feet and very carefully, very precisely with the footprints painted on the floor and the arms moving just so. We move from clearly defined forms (kata) to looser forms to the underlying principles. I can tell you the principles (balance, for instance or unscripted, correct response to the situation at hand for another) but you won’t “know” them. So please don’t jump ahead and try out variations before we get there. Trust me, having a partner hanging off your wrist will create more than enough variation for you to experiment with while trying to do the kata in the exact way described each class.

Find a line in your house and practice your body movements until the next class.

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