Monthly Archives: April 2010

Thoughts on Kote-gaeshi

Some of you during my classes would have noticed that I have been figuring out ways in improving my kote-gaeshi as often people with sturdy wrists can resist the technique unless it’s applied while the person is off-balance. I have often wondered whether it was a deficiency in technique on my part and have asked many people as to the proper way of applying kote-gaeshi or was it solely a matter of timing and generating the necessary off-balance position.

I decided to do a bit of research on my own which gels with my findings in the dojo that you cannot hope to rely on kote-gaeshi alone but more on body movement and keeping the opponent unbalanced at the point of the throw.

From Wikipedia:

Supinating wristlock

The supinating wristlock (in budō referred to as kote gaeshi, 小手返, “forearm return”) is a rotational wristlock, and arguably the most common wristlock. It involves rotating the hand so that it becomes maximally supinated, often referred to as ‘externally rotating’ the wrist, and hence putting a joint lock on the wrist and radioulnar joint. This can be done by grabbing the opponent’s hand with one or both hands, and twisting the hand so that the opponent’s thumb points away from the opponent. A supinating wristlock performed from a stand-up position can be used to force the opponent to the ground on his or her back. Straightening the arm does not alleviate the pressure, since the shoulder joint does not allow further supination of the hand.

It should be noted that a properly executed lock of this type does not apply torque to the wrist, itself. In practice, the bones of the forearm and, eventually, the shoulder are the focus of the lock. If performed correctly this technique will break the opponents wrist, elbow and dislocate the shoulder. In practice uke will turn over his own arm, in order to prevent his wrist from breaking. The goal of almost all throws executed via joint/bone manipulation, at least from the perspective of some classical (koryu) martial arts, is to break or dislocate a limb(s).

And Stefan Stenudd 6th Dan Aikikai’s write-up on this:

Kotegaeshi, “reversed wrist”, is a very popular throwing technique in aikido. It seems rather easy to learn, and applicable against a number of attacks. But I remember my first Japanese teacher, Toshikazu Ichimura, warning us that it is not at all as easy as it may seem.
Usually, the thing that aikido students focus on is the actual twisting of the attacker’s wrist. That seems to be what kotegaeshi is about. But some people have sturdy wrists, indeed, and can resist the techniqe – at least enough for it to become awkward. Also, people react differently to the wrist twist, few falling elegantly and in exactly the direction tori, the one doing the technique, intended.
Aikido is all about finding pleasant solutions, where neither tori nor uke is hurt. Finding a pleasant way of doing kotegaeshi is not easy, but to settle with anything less is rude, not to say brutal. There are many examples of it in the aikido community, even among high grade practicioners. Uke is forced to the fall, through the pain and the risk of hurting the wrist. It might work – though not as surely as it seems – but the result hardly leads to an aikido that inspires and stimulates peacefulness.
Actually, I think that no aikido technique should involve pain or the threat of harm, when it is developed to its proper form.
With kotegaeshi, I think that the trick is not in the wrist twist, but in the rhythm. The movement leading up to the actual wrist twist should be a wave, which sort of automatically leads to uke’s fall. Uke is kind of sucked into the technique. In that respect, kotegaeshi is similar to some forms of kokyunage.

I think that last paragraph answered my queries. Like most Aikido techniques, it shouldn’t be the pain of the technique that should projects your opponent but rather the movement and the creation of imbalance. I think one of the techniques that best illustrates this is the proper execution of Shiho-nage which upon a proper turn would automatically setup the throw without the need for a very deep/forceful cut to throw. Something to work towards to (including myself).

Sensei Desmond has also located this video on Youtube giving an excellent explanation:

Aikido and Weapons

Here are two interesting articles on Aikido and weapons practice that for me answered many questions as to the role of weapons practice in Aikido.

These articles explain why techniques against weapons can seem contrived and unrealistic (for e.g. why there is only straight cuts in tachi-dori practice) and the benefits of weapons practice.

Source: Eric Sotnak on AikiWeb

Some dojo hold classes which are devoted almost exclusively to training with to jo (staff), tanto (knife), and bokken (sword); the three principal weapons used in aikido. However, since the goal of aikido is not primarily to learn how to use weapons, trainees are advised to attend a minimum of two non-weapons classes per week if they plan to attend weapons classes.

There are several reasons for weapons training in aikido. First, many aikido movements are derived from classical weapons arts. There is thus a historical rationale for learning weapons movements. For example, all striking attacks in aikido are derived from sword strikes. Because of this, empty-handed striking techniques in aikido appear very inefficient and lacking in speed and power, especially if one has trained in a striking art such as karate or boxing.

Second, weapons training is helpful for learning proper ma ai, or distancing. Repeatedly moving in and out of the striking range of a weapon fosters an intuitive sense of distance and timing – something which is crucial to empty-hand training as well.

Third, many advanced aikido techniques involve defenses against weapons. In order to ensure that such techniques can be practiced safely, it is important for students to know how to attack properly with weapons, and to defend against such attacks.

Fourth, there are often important principles of aikido movement and technique that may be profitably demonstrated by the use of weapons.

Fifth, training in weapons kata is a way of facilitating understanding of general principles of aikido movement.

Sixth, weapons training can add an element of intensity to aikido practice, especially in practicing defenses against weapons attacks.

Seventh, training with weapons provides aikidoka with an opportunity to develop a kind of responsiveness and sensitivity to the movements and actions of others within a format that is usually highly structured. In addition, it is often easier to discard competitive mindsets when engaged in weapons training, making it easier to focus on cognitive development.

Finally, weapons training is an excellent way to learn principles governing lines of attack and defense. All aikido techniques begin with the defender moving off the line of attack and then creating a new line (often a non-straight line) for application of an aikido technique.

Weapons in Aikido (Source: ANU Aikido Club)

People often wonder about the use of weapons without any protective armour in Aikido. Why train with archaic Samurai fighting tools such as two-handed swords and jo which nobody uses for real anymore, especially when they cannot compare in effectiveness with even the simplest gun, let alone the explosive weapons and nerve gases etc. which mark modern warfare?

Well, there are many reasons. Firstly there are certain ways of moving and using one’s body (tai-sabaki) which can only be properly learnt through practising with the Samurai sword and staff. These movements not only develop grace, fitness and power, but translate directly into movements which are of great value in unarmed self-defence.

One reason for this is that being struck even lightly by a bokken (oak training sword) or jo (oak staff) is so painful that it makes us learn to be very careful, and this translates directly into pure survival skill in an actual confrontation. Techniques which can be done sloppily when training with an unarmed partner suddenly take on a whole new meaning when that partner is wielding a lethal weapon.

And weapons are great equalisers. A big, strong man who enjoys “throwing his weight about” suddenly finds himself at a disadvantage when facing a slimmer, smaller person who is quick and sharp. It quickly becomes obvious that developing mere muscular strength has disadvantages!! Suddenly it is driven home that the habit of aggressive, bullying behaviour is a terrible disadvantage in real combat. Because the slightest carelessness, the slightest failure to credit one’s training partner with the ability to strike painfully, will result in being struck.

On this subject Mitsugi Saotome, a uchi-deshi (inner student) of O’Sensei Ueshiba the Founder of Aikido, says: “To avoid injury in weapons work you must learn concentration, alertness, precision, and decisiveness. All of these qualities are useful to develop, both for your Aikido training and for your performance as a human being. Your sense of timing, balance, intuition and of judgement all become more crucial in weapons work. You can’t get away with the degree of sloppiness and inattention that you can sometimes overlook or be unaware of in hand-to-hand technique. You also develop more respect for your partners. If you are not respectful and attentive to them, they have the potential to do you a good deal of harm even if it is unintentional.”

Saotome Sensei also points out that it is precisely because the weapons used in Aikido are archaic that they are so effective for self-development. For unlike modern weapons, they are intensely personal. An intercontinental ballistic missile is totally impersonal. The user merely presses a button, and thousands of kilometres away a million unknown and faceless men, women and children are destroyed. But to strike your training partner either accidentally or intentionally with a bokken or jo, you must first face him or her at close range, and then witness in detail the reality of pain and injury on a fellow human being. This ever-present reality helps curb aggression and develop a more controlled and peaceful consciousness.

At the psychological-philosophical-spiritual level, where all true development occurs, weapons training under a skilled teacher brings an end to conceit and self-delusion. It brings us face to face with the reality of our own vulnerability and mortality, thus breaking down egotism, that greatest of all barriers to success in Aikido and in life. In Aikido it is truly said that the only real victory is self-victory. Beating another person is only a partial victory – one person loses so that another can “win”. From the point of view of the Universe, no real progress has occurred.

But overcoming the problems within one’s own ego not only means discovering reality and true strength, it means truly attuning to the creative energy of the Universe. That is an all-win situation. There are no losers then, and the world has been made a better place.

Some Photos from the Joint Training with Sekishin

We totally forgot to take photos but luckily the people at Sekishin took a few before I left (the rest of you all went home already!).

Thanks to Sekishin for inviting us over and those who came to show their support!

Joint Training with Sekishin Aikido Dojo and Possible Demo

Our dojo has been invited to have a joint training session at Sekishin Aikido Dojo this Sunday 18 April 2010 at 3.15 PM.

Their dojo is located at:
3rd FLR, S/L 11, Lot 44 & 45, Jalan Kulas Kuching Sarawak

For those of you do not know the way, Sensei Desmond will wait at our own dojo at 2:45 PM to guide you there.

Please confirm your attendance with us and hope to see you there. It is a great opportunity to train with new people and experience a different training environment!

On a separate note, we are tentatively organizing another demo with Kyanime Society at the Spring. Details will be forthcoming later but do let us know should you be interested to participate!

PS Haven’t had the time to edit the video for the Swinburne Aikido Demo for the installation night. Will be up when I have the time. Sorry peeps!