After Kizomba class, the dance teacher and I did some sparring. She knows some Taekwondo and I know some Aikido. After exchanging some moves, she did a forward kick with her right leg, which I avoided while at the same time entering to her right side. As I did this I caught her right leg from the underneath, and placed my left arm on her waist to immobilize her. This placed me in a position to transition to a variety of throws, but of course I didn’t really want to throw her.
She then placed her arms around my shoulders and lifted her left leg on top of her right leg, turned her head, and smiled at the teachers and students who were looking at us.
I was very impressed, but managed a “how nice!” How creative and smart of my friend to have taken advantage of the moment, turning the sparring into a partners-in-fun smiling at an audience situation.
I later reflected that the other amazing thing was Aikido itself. (Warning: long martial arts tangent.) Instead of blocking the kick (as one might do with a karate gedan-uke), I stepped to avoid it and entered as in an aikido iriminage, and I did this without thinking. When this happened, our positions changed from facing-off to standing close together with me facing her cheek. Psychologically, this is not a fighting position. What’s more, I had ended the movement with perfect balance and posture, such that I hardly noticed when she let me support her full weight. (Quando lo spippolo è saltato in braccio!)
People have asked me how Aikido is different from other martial arts. The reply I have often given is that with dedicated training, it is possible to become proficient in any martial art.
But, I’m discovering that what makes aikido different is that it trains entering to a position beside or behind our partner: a position of non-opposition. In fact, there is a non-aggressive quality to all of the techniques.
Once, I was training at a Korinkai Sunnyvale, and the teacher said to me that what I was doing was effective, but it wasn’t the best because it was done in such a way that I was exciting my partner’s “will to fight.” At that time, I was doing iriminage with a bit of muscling, and may have even been including an upward chin strike as part of the kuzushi (balance-breaking). He demonstrated a kuzushi without a strike, and indeed without any sense that I was being pushed. His point was that physically effective technique will accomplish a throw or pin, but psychologically effective technique will do this without exciting the will to fight.
This video is a good example of aikido principles in application: youtu.be/x5yFDukjqaM
The defender did a clean sumi-otoshi, surprising his aggressor without the psychological escalation that might have resulted from a strike or push.