One element of Saito Sensei's Aikido that perennially stands out is his emphasis on the technical parallel between empty-handed Aikido, or Tai Jutsu, and Aiki Weapons practice, or Buki Waza. Goto Sensei often says, "I used to think that maybe he meant this as a metaphorical parallel, but later I saw that it is a literal parallel: they are the same."
Saito Sensei would say, "Your Tai Jutsu should look like your weapons practice, and your weapons practice should look like your Tai Jutsu." This parallel, embodied not only in Saito Sensei's Aikido, but that also of Shirata Sensei and his students, is called "Riai."
As we practiced Irimi Nage today from a rear attack, "Ushiro Eritori," Goto Sensei stopped us to demonstrate the buki waza parallel of the movement we were trying to do. He told us to go get a Jo from the weapons rack, and when we'd returned to the mat instructed us to do the Jo Suburi "Hasso Gaishi Uchi." After a few reps of this he told us to execute move number 5 in the 13 Jo Kata. This is also a Hasso move but it turns all the way around to the rear. It's basically like doing a two-step while performing a deflection and chambering a strike with the Jo at the same time.
After a while Goto Sensei still wasn't satisfied with our weight placement, it was still to far back, making the entry for the Hasso deflection weak. He stood behind us one at a time and extended his Jo for us to deflect physically as our bodies turned to the rear. Sure enough we entered to do the deflection with our weight more forward and the Hasso was strong.
The deflection of the jo morphed into the part of Irimi Nage where you step behind Uke and capture the back of his gi, taking his head to your trailing shoulder. If you don't enter here but keep your weight back, Irimi Nage just falls apart and disappears.
I tried to focus on rotating my hips all the way around and striking through at the end after Uke's center passed beneath my own center. I found that I was impatient and seemed to be striking a little too early, before Uke was completely folded under me. Then Uke was a little heavy and I had to use some force to throw him down, but if I waited a little longer Uke became light and folded naturally into the fall. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that, when the throw was heavy I hadn't rotated my hips all the way back and my feet were not in hanmi. Kagami Sensei, the mirror, never lies.
After class Goto Sensei passed on something else that Saito Sensei had told him. "I will give you the pieces, but it is your job to put them together." Goto Sensei had given us some pieces today, just as his teacher had done for him a generation ago.
technorati tag aikido