Friday, November 6, 2009

Attacking around the clock

You probably thought I was talking about time, I suppose. No, attacking someone 24/7 is just far too tiring. I've got laundry to do, bills to pay....

Actually, what I'm thinking of is a way of thinking about the first five techniques of randori no kata, or the 17, which are grouped together as "atemi waza" or striking techniques. Now, in aikido we don't really "strike" in the same sense as, say, karate, but this is as close as we get. The best way I know (so far) to describe it is as three things:

1) A focused, efficient delivery of power. As in, same hand, same foot, bridging from the back leg, etc.; you can push a stalled car like this, which means that's a heckuva lot of power.

2) Usually at a specific moment during uke's movement, or during kazushi. Although, really, it can be delivered quite effectively even if uke is just standing there minding his own business, but this increases the chances he has to counter.

3) The energy or the power is directed at uke's center line.

What was interesting to me, is when I realized that the "attacks" of the first five techniques of the 17 were all doing the same basic job, just from different angles. I like to think about those different angles in terms of the face of a clock.

Shomne ate typically comes from around 5 o'clock, give or take (these are all loose approximations, of course), somewhere on a line perpendicular to uke's.

Aigamae ate tends to come from 6 o'clock, straight on.

Gyakugamae ate, however, Boldcan vary a little. In san kata we see some fairly direct 6 o'clock versions (inside uke's attacking arm), but once you get on the far side of uke's arm, it starts to look more like 7 or 8 o'clock.

Gedan ate come in at 9 o'clock, with my body now starting to turn and face more the same direction as uke's.

Ushiro ate is, naturally, not really a push like the other, but you're still directly connected to uke's center line and deliver power. At first, and for a long time, I thought of it as being done at strickly 12 o'clock, directly behind uke. But then I started to see slight variations where a more angular version was done, more around 11 or 1 o'clock, catching uke more on one heel or the other.

So what about 2, 3, 4 o'clock and all that area? Looks pretty empty, doesn't it? I imagine that's in part because we're in danger of running into uke's other arm over there, so we tend to stay away from that. But in a way, I think of mae otoshi as being a kind of attack from around 2 o'clock (and thankfully, we're behind his arm and away from his free arm.

At any right, none of this is gospel, mind you. I could be way off base, or missing something crucial. It was just an interesting way of looking at the atemi waza as essentially one technique, one fundamental principle, rather than 5 individual and distinct techniques. It seems like the longer I study, the simpler it all becomes, and the more a whole litany of techniques seems to boil down to a handful of principles.


  1. no, youre not off base. I think you're maybe only talking about the basic or central (hon) form of each of these things. For instance, shomenate can happen anywhere from about 6:00 counterclockwise around to 11:00. Aigamae, gyaku, and gedan can all be done anywhere from about 5:00 clockwise around to about 12:00. ushiroate can be done anywhere from about 10:00 to about 4:00.

    so these five, as you say, really do cover the whole clock face.


  2. Yep, just using the "hon" as a starting/reference point.