The movement of waves

I've been thinking a lot about the overall movement of tori in aikido. For as long as I can remember, I was always taught to keep my movement and actions (as they apply to uke) horizontal, parallel to the mat. The reason being, as I understand it (which may be wrong) had to do with kuzushi and off balance.

Let me back up. I suspect that when people observed other people "throwing someone down" on the ground, they perceived a downward force. Makes sense in a rudimentary sort of way: if we want uke to go down, we force or push him down, right? Well, the obvious flaw in that line of thinking is that uke has two legs underneath him, which supports him against any downward motion.

The thinking, then, is to extend uke with horizontal, lateral movements, parallel to the ground. This gets his shoulders and hips out of alignment with his feet, so his center of balance is now hanging out in space somewhere (in front of him, behind him, to the side, etc.). Keep moving, and eventually, he'll fall down.

Which is great when it works. Problem is, I've noticed that it doesn't always work. Or rather, it does work (quite well)—but only up to a point. What I mean is, I've watched time and time again as tori begins his horizontal movement, successfully gets uke extended and his center of gravity out past his feet, only to end up walking around the mat with uke stumbling right along with him. Sure, he's in a terrible position, but he isn't falling, either. Of course, he may try to get out of that conundrum and we can send him flying the other way by using his recovery motion against him, and that's solid; I've seen and felt that millions of times.

But why can't the first technique work? Why did we have to rely on #2 or #3 to get the job done?

So lately, I've been thinking about moving more like a wave. I'll start everything with a horizontal motion, but once his alignment is disturbed and his center of gravity is hanging out in space, I noticed something. He is now depending upon me to keep his balance. Our centers are no longer two independent things moving around in space; rather, now he's relying on that point of connection between the two of us to hold himself up!

Which means, I don't have to push down to get him to fall; all I have to do is lower my hand (or lower my center, if necessary, bending at the knees, of course). You just gently set him down.

That natural sinking and rising and sinking again starts to look and feel like a wave.

This whole phenomenon is most pronounced in techniques like ude gaeshi, aiki nage/irimi nage, shiho nage, gyakugamae ate, even waki gatame and kote gaeshi. There's a natural "downward" arc at the end that tends to sit uke down every time. Again, I'm not pushing him down. Never, never, never. In fact, nothing changes at all, and I keep moving. Uke doesn't really know what's happening, only that he's sinking. Uke never perceives a change: I never speed up, crank harder, add more force or anything.

It only works, remember, if I A) break down his posture first, get his center out from over his feet, and B) keep my butt moving.

I'm just letting my hands drift down at the end, after the crest, as we move, gently escorting him to the ground. The feeling is very much like being sucked in by the undercurrent until a literal wave comes crashing down on you.

Maybe this isn't new, maybe I should have figured this out a long time ago, but it sure is fascinating...


  1. yes!!! that´s the power of aikido!

  2. Re: The wave - Having practised for 25 years, I have found it helpful not to think in terms of any one plane, but more in terms of spiralling movement. The all-horizontal concept was drummed out of me quite early; though I like your thinking about extension. But extension can go in any many effective directons. As a woman, albeit a strong one, I have never been able to rely on upper body strength, luckily for me!

    Re: Cocked wrist. Keeping wrists straight a) helps keep ki movement open and b) Takes uke's balance.

    With wrists cocked in either direction you are very weak.

    Wrists straight, elbows in, hands in view directly in front of you - if we're talking about the same shi ho nage: The pictures bore no resemblance to any shi ho nage I've done. But I'm quite capable of misunderstanding you!

    I'm not trying to be smart - just interested.
    May be significant differences in Scottish practice and Oklahoma because of different histories.

    Incidently only anonymous' cos have no idea of what the other categories mean or the personal vulnerability implied by their adoption: This is my first ever foray into world of blogging.

  3. Thank you, "Anonymous" for your thoughts. I think I understand what you mean, it makes sense, certainly. I like the "spiral" concept, and the many lines of extension, good stuff.

    Of course, I wish I could see and feel all of what you're describing (I'm a visual learner, so discussing this sort of thing in words is a bit tricky for me). ;-)

    As for the shiho nage picture reference, I'm wondering if you're referring to the little picture on the bottom right of the post where I have a little blue line drawn at an angle? That actually links to a different post specifically about shiho nage and that particular image is actually meant to illustrate what NOT to do. I don't know if that clears even a little confusion?

    Still, I'm sure there might be differences in the way I was taught and the rest of the world, but I definitely want to hear other perspectives! I've learned and grown so much from all the wonderful insight I've been coming in contact with. My mind is wiiiide open!

  4. Whether anybody has figured this out before or not, I liked how you described your new findings. Thank you! Shihan Shimamoto here in Osaka also often talks about moving like waves. He even said nage should create a nice wave for uke to surf on!


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