Old matadors, almost by definition, don't really fight with bulls. They do, however, find masterful ways of just barely getting out of the way.
Goto Sensei illustrated the point he was making by producing a small model of a matador and a bull. the bull's horns were just millimeters from the belly of the matador, whose body was positioned just so that the bull would charge harmlessly past him.
We had been practicing a form of the fundamental technique, Ikkyo, a way of neutralizing an attacker by controlling his body through his arm and elbow. The attack was a common one-handed grab of the lapels called muna-dori. The trouble was that we were trying to force the grabbing hand into turning over to release the grip, but as we stood there facing the attacker trying to muscle the hand into the required 180 degree rotation he was always too strong.
Sensei returned to last week's lesson of going to the edge of uke's power, where he is a little off-balance. Then he suggested that after stepping off to capture uke's balance at this edge we rotate the hips to align our bodies like the matador, so that the grabbing hand and arm could just pass through like the horns of the bull. To do this we had to really open up our hips, but once the hips had turned, then uke's arm came through harmlessly and the grabbing hand was easy to manipulate and dislodge from the lapels.
Paul and I tried this on each other, alternately grabbing as hard as we could. But as nage's hips turned and opened up uke's wrist could be drawn into the vacated space and rotated. For uke it was as though what we had grabbed had suddenly disappeared. Sensei showed how we could angle our toes out so that the hips could open even a little more, and this took stress off the knee. That's Sensei on the left demonstrating it with Paul.
He said, "with a punch you all know to get out of the way, but with a grab like this sometimes people forget the principle and don't turn so that uke's force can go harmlessly by. The application may be different but the principle is always the same."
I looked again at the little model of the matador and bull. A student of Goto Sensei's had sent it to him from Mexico, and I had always wondered why such an apparently alien theme as bullfighting would have a place in an Aikido dojo. Now that I realize that the brightly colored figurines signify the art of getting out of the way, I finally understand why they are displayed so prominently.
technorati tag aikido