This week, being the third of the current beginners’ course, we looked again at the techniques that we have been learning so far but also focused on movement and avoidance.

When someone goes to strike you with a hand or fist and there is not too much commitment it is fairly easy to block the strike and redirect it without really moving much. The trouble is if they really mean to hit you and you block poorly or late then uke will most likely take your head off, which is not good. Also, by blocking rather than blending with the strike you are not following good aikido principles and this leads to poor technique or at the very least an incorrect mindset.

So, to encourage more movement and avoidance, we got out the bokkens (wooden swords). After some initial introduction to the bokken we had uke cutting “men”. This cut is straight down as though you are trying to cut tori in half through their head. Now this has two benefits to training. If you don’t avoid this cut it is likely to hit you hard on the head or at least on the arms if you try to block it. Second, the act of striking with a weapon in you hands actually slows down the strike. This is due to the additional inertia from the weight of the weapon over that of just your arm.

Sorry, there is also a third benefit, and this is that it is more scary to have someone swiping a bit of wood at you rather then an open hand. This introduces a psychological element that is very interesting to work with.

Everyone did well and I was generally pleased with the movement. We even had time to look at a few techniques against sword attack.

We worked on the three techniques that we have looked at already: oshi taoshi, hiki taoshi and shomen ate. In addition we spent some time on aigame ate. This is a very hard technique to do well. The focus of the teaching was on breaking uke’s balance rather than doing the full kata style technique.

Since there was a good number of grade students there I decided to let them have a little knock about at the end of the class. This was partly to let them have a more free practice after helping so much with the beginners. It was also to let the beginner see some more fluid aikido and see what to expect in the future.