Little House In Ise

Teaching Your Habits
November 21, 2008, 18:28
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , ,

For the last few days I have been training with people who have, in one way or another, indicated they wanted me to teach them. I mentioned that to a part-time Honbu student who I was chatting with after class and that reminded him of something his teacher has been emphasizing lately. His teacher has been saying that when teaching people above shodan (初段), you need to make certain that you are teaching basics rather than teaching your own habits.

Due to individual body differences, every Aikidoka will, to some extent, need to slightly adjust their technique to accommodate their own body but at that stage their goal should be to try to faithfully replicate their teachers’ art as closely as possible. The theory is that at shodan one’s focus should be on polishing the basics.

Thinking back over the last couple of days it was clear to me that, when asked, the areas I have emphasized were my own habits. Here are some of the things that came up.

Kotegaeshi: When coming out of the tenkan, I tend to throw an atemi at uke’s face. If they had any balance coming around, the punch takes that away (and leaves your hand in a good location to finish the throw). If they are already off balance, the strike makes them want to stay bent over backwards for a few moments longer than they might otherwise.

Shihonage: I like to keep uke’s arm very extended and round (levered upward by my own elbow and forearm) from initiation to the end when they are heading for the floor. When done this way, uke is less likely to either disengage or regain their balance as nage passes under their arm. The extension should be out not up otherwise taller uke can use their height advantage to escape. This is as I was taught but I have met a lot of people who seem to think it is a bit extreme.

Nikyo Omote: With a strong, heavy or resistant uke, I will connect uke’s wrist to my shoulder (no bowing wrist lock as with ura) and direct my body weight through uke’s arm to vigorously take their balance. This works pretty well for me.

Nikyo Ura and Sankyo Pins: I squeeze uke’s shoulder firmly between my knees. During weapons work I pin with my knee across uke’s neck.

Some elements are not strictly doctrinaire Aikido but, at this stage of my progress, they seem to work. What do you do that is not strictly as your instructors showed you? Should our goal be to NOT do these things?


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I’ve gotten flack from students of a neighboring dojo about doing shihonage essentially the way you describe–the complaint was that it could dislocate the elbow or shoulder. But it’s the way we are taught, and I don’t think anyone’s ever been hurt by it. It’s very difficult to resist, which is the point.

Perhaps it makes sense to consider what the opposite or ‘bizarro’ versions of your habitual techniques are? Can you do them in a very different way, on the spur of the moment, and as you intend? If so, then your habits are not prisons, they are choices.

Comment by userhacker

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