I am training with Tokuda-san, a young uchideshi, a live-in student at the Honbu Dojo. We are taking turns applying kotegaeshi, a hand reversal technique. When it’s my turn, I control his balance through his right  hand downward to his right front foot, and point his fingers toward his face as I wrap my right hand over the back of his. I step in and throw. He breakfalls, and stands to meet me again. He attacks again, this time with his left hand. I parry, controlling his left hand as I direct his balance downward and weight his left front foot. Instead of stepping in to throw, as is usual at Honbu Dojo, this time I pivot on the balls of both of my feet as I draw his balance forward, as I was taught in Shingu. I can read from the surprise on his face that this is new for him.

We switch roles: my turn to attack, his turn to parry and throw. I attack. He controls my balance downward, but instead of stepping in to throw, he wraps me in with a slight twist of his body. He doesn’t throw, but unwraps, and I respond by trying to retake my balance. He wraps me in again, and I realize his elbow is close to my nose. Then, he wraps me in and controls my balance into the ground. I breakfall and roll out. I attack again, and as he controls me downward, I can see this time that he is definitely experimenting with the distance between his forward elbow and my nose. I laugh.

We switch roles: my turn to parry and throw. I experiment, and find that it’s unnatural for me to actually be able to touch his nose with my elbow. But, it seems to me to be a good backup – if I were to lose control of his arm for some reason, my elbow is there near his face. I laugh. “This is a bit evil, isn’t it?” He laughs, too.

And there we are, trying things out, working within the form, experimenting with deviations from form, seeing what works, and creating Aikido for ourselves.

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