Author: Bret Gordon
Nearly every martial arts system in the world teaches joint locks and manipulations. Yes, even Taekwondo. Don't believe me? Look at the application of the kata/hyung/poomse. It's hidden in there for the most dedicated of practitioners to find. Just because your instructor never revealed them to you doesn't mean they don't exist, because honestly they may not even know. It's not their fault, true bunkai oyo (kata application) is often reserved for a select few. Or did you really think your low block was to stop a full power round kick to the leg? However, bunkai is not the subject of this article. Instead I want to focus on the physical techniques themselves, why they're just the beginning and how to reach the final destination.
In Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu, there is a natural progression of learning physical techniques that seems to be lacking in most other arts. Everyone starts with jujutsu, the locks and throws that make up the bulk of the curriculum. From there, they learn to apply certain internal characteristics and principles to their jujutsu, in turn creating aiki jujutsu. It's this level of transmission I want to discuss to help you reach this next level of learning that most never attain. I'll probably have a hit out on me from the aiki mafia after this article, but it's worth it.
Now when I talk about internal principles, please don't think I'm talking about some mystical Star Wars force. Internal power is a real, measurable source of energy that uses various bio-mechanical process to generate power instead of muscular strength. Joint locks and manipulations are often circular in nature. Therefore, spirals alone are not internal yet they are one piece of the puzzle. But why are circular techniques preferred? The human body is built along linear planes, upon which we derive our strength. By circling around the body's structure, we're able to circumvent that strength rendering any resistance futile.
The next principle is that of a wave. In any internal technique, there must be a rising and a falling. By this, I don't just mean as two points in the circle. The entire body of the attacker must rise and fall. How is this achieved? Just using our friend, the wrist grab, as an example, a rise in the body is created when we send force upwards as if from underneath the attacker. This is done by simply flicking your wrist just like in the video! Ok, not quite. It's actually a complex technique that involves proper timing, rotation of the forearm, breath control and direction of force. Now, once this principle is mastered from a wrist grab it's time to move onto more realistic scenarios. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of aiki instructors stop which just gives everyone a bad name. Anyway, you learn to find waves in every technique you do, including when you strike. In aiki jujutsu, a strike is not done merely because it hurts. We strike to create a desired bodily effect, usually a rise or fall, that leads into whatever technique we were planning on. By "softening up the meat" in a direction that we're already moving, our techniques become that much more effortless.
One of the most important principles in aiki is to achieve instant kuzushi (off-balancing). By instant, I mean from the nanosecond the attacker's body comes into contact with your own, they need to be taken off their base and their mindset immediately shifted from aggression to "Oh crap, I'm falling." This is a key element in distinguishing aiki jujutsu from jujutsu. In everyday jujutsu, off-balacing is achieved either through pain compliance (joint locks) or big movements (throws). There's nothing wrong with that, but we want to reach that next level.
Pain compliance only goes so far. What if your attacker has a naturally high pain tolerance? What if their doped up and have reduced sensitivity? By creating instant kuzushi, the attacker will normally fall into a lock or throw rather than me applying it on them. Secondly, our locks must be structurally sound. In my opinion, pain is just a cool side effect rather than the intent of the technique. I'm not doing joint manipulation, I'm doing joint destruction. So how do you create instant kuzushi? I can't tell you everything now, can I?
The final principle I'm going to discuss is that of a void. This principle is two-fold. There must be a void where the attacker was initially attacking, often described as a ghostly feel. They're expecting you to be one place, and suddenly you're not, as if they're attacking nothing. The second part is that with your initial movement, a void should be created within their balance point. Often, their weight will be shifted to one side or the other. This means the opposite side is weightless and has no base. This is ultimately where the technique will finish, by "dumping them in the void." We create a hole and fill it.
This article was originally published on the US Association of Martial Arts blog. To view the original article, please click here.