Matching your opponent (Forward Movement)
During the last few weeks our dojo has been practicing the forward blending movements on shomen uchi. This is as the partner starts to raise their hands the nage (thrower) slides forward and places their hands on their partners wrist and elbow. This is to prepare for basic otoshi waza like Ikkyo, Nikkyo, etc…
You can really see that it is peoples nature to not be ahead or with their partner, but to wait until the strike has happened and respond there. Yes we need to be able to act after an attack or stimulus happens, but we will always be behind the power and speed. If we only think in these terms we will be behind the ball and as we are responding to one attack they can employ another, and we start over again.
As one gets more experience with Aikido we try to work on either blend with the attack as the partner starts the movement or more advanced to initiate our partner into attacking the way we set them up to attack. This is hard to explain, but basic shomen uchi ikkyo techniques give us a glimpse into those ideas.
This leads us into the three basic levels of combat initiative. The first is “Go no Sen” which is response to an attack after the attack has started. This is the more defensive based movements in response to our partners. The second is “Sen” which is basically the defensive movements at the same time as the attack is occurring. The last and highest level in a combat scenario is called “Sensen no Sen”. This is us performing an action in anticipation of an attack. This I believe is where we want to take the level of our Aikido to.
In my training I believe it is not necessarily a technique but a feeling of controlling our opponent through their thoughts and actions. In practice this idea is can be built in training. For example, when practicing basic Shomen Uchi Ikkyo instead of the opponent attacking with shomen uchi the nage initiates by extending thier hands in front of the uke’s face and the uke then block with a shomen type strike. Thus the nage initiated the uke to “attack” and the follows through with the technique. Many traditional based schools start with this as a basic technique. This is verses others which start with the more defensive model of responding to an attack.
I personally like to do both with the students to give them experience with both pre “Sensen no Sen” and post “Go no Sen” ideas and concepts for their training. To someone who has not trained Aikido it can look like scripted events, but when you see an Aikidoist who understands these concepts they can control some of the events that are happening. This is the fun part of Aikido. It is limitless in where you can bring your training.
For newer students getting ready for testing really try to do the “Sen” movements where you blend with the attack as it is coming down. Enter, enter, enter. Here is a great short saying from O-Sensei on this idea:
“When an opponent comes forward, move in and greet him; if he wants to pull back, send him on his way.” – OSensei (M. Ueshiba)
Great explanation by OSensei right!