112) Aikido and Locomotion: December 2013

We have been spending the last couple of weeks exploring the different types of footwork/movement involved in our techniques.  One of the fundamental aspects of high-level martial arts involves locomotion in a manner that humans typically do not move in.  This type of movement is the foundation upon which our footwork should be based upon.  In order to understand this topic, we need to look at how a human typically stands and moves.

Humans typically stand in a manner that has them leaning backwards.  This enables a person to swing either foot forward.  This type of locomotion involves a person shifting weight to the side of the  remaining leg, while the swinging leg propels the body forward.  The weight shifts to the landing leg, enabling the other leg to begin to swing.  This process results in the body weight being shifted from side to side.  Our bodies will rock forward and back, while our feet cause our bodies to rise and sink.  The human body has as it’s number one, preconscious imperative, the maintenance of dynamic equilibrium.  Our bodies will drain any strength/resources necessary in order to keep our frames in a state of dynamic equilibrium.  This typical style of walking results in our bodies wasting a lot of potential energy in maintaining dynamic equilibrium.  This style of walking is fine, as long as you do not need those resources to respond to an attack.

We spend a lot of time at our dojo simply working or resetting our proprioceptive sense of what is standing upright.  When we do so, we discover that our weight is equally distributed on the bottom of both feet and our bodies rest in the middle of our stance.  We can no longer swing our legs to walk.  In order to walk truly upright, we have to try and mimic a compass point.  You can never tell which arm of the compass point is the point, and which one is the pencil.  They are interchangeable without any shifting from side to side.  The center mass turns in a manner that can allow locomotion on a stable horizontal and vertical plane.  We do not become over-weighted to any one side, we do not wobble back and forth, and we can now allow our footwork to occur in a manner that looks the same, but feels very different to the person making contact with us.

I have been exhorting students to think of the body as a cylinder that is always turning.  Anything that touches us experiences the tangential displacement that is associated with the contact of an object in a state of cylindrical rotation.  It is actually much more complicated than that.  Dual, opposing spiral movement are occurring in our bodies at any time we are moving.  The end result is that it is visually harder to gauge our movements without the accompanying swaying and rocking that we look for when perceiving movement.  The end result is that contact with us results in the other person’s force being dispersed in ways that are hard to gauge and understand. The end result is the we are left free to deliver the maximum amount of energy that our body has when we want to impart something upon the other person.

I have been working diligently on teaching my own body to move in this novel manner for quite some time.  I am no where near satisfied with my own progress and I just keep on working harder and harder to get it right.  I think that this area is a great topic to end the year with.  We start with the basics of how do we stand and engage in locomotion.   We should end the year with this focus so that we never forget that the most basic of subject matter is so damn deep that we should never stop exploring our development in those areas.  Techniques are fine and dandy, pretty to watch, but useless when they are build upon an unstable foundation that is moving and always in a state of trying to right itself.  Imaizumi Sensei always implores us to focus on Kihon Waza.  I am imploring all of us to understand that what we believe is Kihon Waza is taking too much for granted in areas that we really need to work harder on.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Marc Abrams Sensei

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