Friday, September 24, 2010

Caught in the undercurrent

I've thought about the concept of a wave in relation to aikido or judo before, but in the past I only ever considered the crest of it. The crest of a wave is the top part, the part that comes crashing down on you (or in this case, uke).

But that "crashing down" is only the end of the whole cycle. I'd been missing the other aspects of what makes a wave happen. Now, I'm no physicist, so my science is going to be pretty sketchy here. Spend a minute watching this nifty animated GIF I swiped from Wikipedia. Watch the red dots and watch their path.



Notice how, after riding one wave, they actually start drifting backwards for a bit. If you've ever spent any time on a beach, you might notice that the water retreats back into the ocean before the next wave comes crashing down on the beach. You've probably also felt how surprisingly strong that undertow can be.

It's the undertow that I think I've been neglecting. Just walking up to uke and trying to "crash down" on him isn't nearly as successful or potent as creating the whole cycle, starting with the undertow that "pulls" or "lures" uke forward and toward you a little, even down somewhat. Then we get a rise, and then the wave crashes over him.

It feels more natural and more pronounced in aikido, where uke is presumably trying to come and get us the entire time. But still, there's the temptation to jump to the technique or the throw, rather than wait, and create a flow of movement for uke that will topple him all on his own: draw in, rise up, and crash down.

In fact, in sounds an awful lot like kuzushi, sukuri and gake. But here's the thing: the people who have thrown me the best, the absolute smoothest, even with judo, didn't come to me. They suckered me in to them.

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