Why Judo

Now that I’ve completed eight of the top ten principles used in the system of martial arts I teach, I would like to answer a question asked by one of my students, which I’m sure has also been asked by other readers of this “blog.”

That question being why I often use judo techniques to illustrate our principles instead of techniques used in Aikido. After all, our techniques, the art that I teach, must have more in common with Aikido than Judo.

Well, yes and no!

Of course, the simple answer is I’ve never trained in Aikido, so I have no idea how their techniques are explained. All I know about Aikido is what I’ve learned at a couple of seminars and from books. That is clearly not enough knowledge to discuss Aikido principles or applications.

There is no doubt that we use similar methodologies akin to Aikido, however I know for a fact our intention and focus behind our techniques is worlds apart from those taught in most Aikido schools.

Yes, it’s true we also believe in the ideals of peace, love and harmony, as sermonized in various Aikido literature. However, we only think that way if the other person has the same intention. When attacked, and forced in a situation where force is necessary, the gloves come off, and our techniques are designed to stop the aggression. If that means serious bodily injury and/or death then that’s what we will do. That’s what we train for, and the intention behind every technique we do. The samurai did not fight to lose, and they used whatever means necessary to accomplish their objective.

While I’ve never formally studied Aikido, I did on the other hand, train in judo for several years. I still keep in touch, and sometimes even practice with, some of my old judo training/coaching partners. (Though I must admit, as we get older we communicate/meet less and less, and unfortunately some have already passed away.)

Since I actually trained in judo, and have read a lot on the topic, I have some actual firsthand insight on how judo techniques work and how they are taught. This allows me to make informed commentary. And no, I don’t claim to fully understand all the intricacies that make up the art of judo. I’m no more than a passer-by, a casual observer of that martial art.

Fortunately, when I trained in judo I was taught techniques by several excellent judoka, some of whom were, or had been on the US Olympic team. I have to assume that if they reached that level they had to know what they were talking about. Many are nationally known and widely respected. Some of my teachers included:

Duke Moore – (seminars only) He made it all look so easy, and had so much technical insight to share. Though better known as a jujutsu practitioner, he was well versed in grappling.


Tim Delgman – (college years and seminars) I knew Tim before he became Soke (inheritor) of Mr. Moore’s system. In college his skills were good, but over the years have even become better.

Willy Cahill – (seminars as well as a few months at his school – right before college) As a teen, I remember Mr. Cahill as a giant of a man who moved with grace and speed. A few years ago, I ran into him again. While he no longer appeared to be a giant, he clearly still has all the skills, maybe even more, that I remembered.

Wally Jay – (Before college and several seminars up until his retirement.)
While known more for his jujutsu skills than judo, he did teach judo skills when I trained with him.


Mitchell Palacio (college) I think he does the best tai-otoshi throw I’ve ever seen. It is so smooth and effortless that you don’t even feel it until you hit the mat.


Neil Laughlin (college) (Promoted me to 1st Dan) (My main judo instructor) He was the first true heavyweight I had the chance to work with. He proved to me that even if you’re a large person, you should still use technique rather than rely just on muscle and speed. I learned a lot about mat work from him, and owe much of my ground skills to his training.


Mike Swain (seminars)


Bill Paul (college) I didn’t know who he was the first time we did randori (free sparring) and he just played with me for a full half an hour. I mean, no matter what I did he countered me instantly and effortlessly, barely breaking a sweat in the process. It was a totally humbling experience, until I learned who he was.

Phil Porter – (seminars) (Offered to promote me to 4th Dan, which I declined out of respect to those that actually practice judo on a regular basis.) I realize Mr. Porter, (I refuse to call him O’sensei) doesn’t have the best reputation in the martial arts community because of his policies regarding issuing rank and his organization’s politics, but he is an excellent judo practitioner with a lot of knowledge to offer. His technical skills are amazing as is the openness in which he teaches them.


Victor Anderson – While not an instructor of mine we have spent many hours discussing judo, judo theory, and judo techniques. He has also been invited to teach at several of the Budo seminars I have hosted.

So what is the answer to the original questions and why did I answer “Well yes and no?”

The truth is that many of our projections are very similar to judo. We just do them slightly different, with an intention of breaking our opponent, rather than pinning him. Our projections are clearly designed to snap necks, break shoulders, and damage vital organs.

On the other hand, we use the principles of aiki, (those found in Aikido) to set up these projections, and make them easier to do.

In other words we utilize the best of both approaches. Or, as I tell prospective students, we’re the type of martial art that Judo and Aikido were founded on.

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The Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #7 Feet Always Pull and #8 Hands Always Push

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

Feet Always Pull / Hands Always Push

(Aka: Feet Never Push / Hands Never Pull)

To be honest, when I started to write explanations for the top ten principles I had no idea how to properly explain this one. I also knew that photographs would basically be useless since on a static image a push can look like a pull, and a pull can look like a push.

In addition, the terminology used to describe these principles may just be a matter of linguistics. Many arm movements that we consider a “push” could reasonably be called a “pull” from other points of view. I speculate that many martial art practitioners, especially those involved with older Budo arts that have a multitude of joint locks and projections, already utilize these principles even if they are unaware of whether the movement they make is a push or a pull—or even why it matters.

I know that in my case, I had never thought about it until I heard Don Angier, Soke of Yanagi Ryu, explain this principle at a seminar. Then it dawned on me why my teacher was so “fanatic” about moving my arms and feet in such a specific manner. Thus, while I knew these principles already, I credit Mr. Angier for the terminology, since prior to him I had no word/phrase to explain these concepts.

Of course, it still took me a few years more of examination before I discovered that these principles were always applicable and yet more years to start to explain them properly. My explanations are often made with physical demonstrations showing the different reactions pushing and/or pulling make on one’s uke (person receiving the technique) during a technique.

Fortunately, while I may lack the skills to adequately explain these two principles in writing on my own, I have some very intelligent senior students (one of whom has a degree in physics) who were patient enough to discuss the best way to explain these two principles based on their personal insights.

Basically, and most importantly, both principles mean exactly what they say. In any given martial arts technique involving a throw or projection, one’s feet always pull, and one’s hands always push. If you push with your feet or pull with your arms the technique will be more difficult.

According to Spencer, (my student with the physics degree) when you push you increase pressure and make yourself bigger. When you pull you decrease pressure and make yourself smaller.

Per Spencer:

“With Aiki techniques it is vital that you don’t let the pressure you have on the uke’s body with your hands slip, if it does you will lose kazushi. If you pull your arms, you will reduce that pressure and create space inside the technique that the uke can wiggle around in and readjust. Thus you must always push to keep your uke tied up with no space.

With your feet (which are only connected to the uke via your hands) on the other hand, pressure is created by decreasing the space between your bodies, which is accomplished by pulling. In addition, for the same direction of motion, pulling with the front leg is smoother than pushing with the back leg; if you push you risk bumping the uke’s hip away from you.”

Now I’ll be honest, I never thought of it the way Spencer explained it above, but it makes sense.

As for me, I’ve always found that pulling with the arms usually requires too much strength, and that my opponent rarely moves into the position I want him to go to. In fact, in most instances my opponent either falls on me, becomes too heavy for me to move, twists around me, or crowds me so much that I don’t have enough space to position myself correctly. In a life or death confrontation, none of these mistakes, even if they are minor, are acceptable.

When it comes to using my feet, I notice that if I use them to push my opponent, my opponent rarely if ever becomes weighted (grounded to the floor); all I end up doing is either bouncing off him or making him step away, neither direction being good for much. In fact, if I’m bouncing backwards my instability can certainly be used against me, and clearly it makes it hard to recover my momentum. In addition, by not pulling with the legs I certainly need to use more power to be effective.

Since I was taught that in order to be an effective fighter one must first be in control of themselves and their movements, I’ve adopted the principles of Hands Always Push/Feet Always Pull in to make sure that I consistently perform my techniques.

Back in the 80’s when I did judo in college, I rarely questioned my coaches when they said to “push and pull” my opponent to break his kazushi (balance). I always assumed they meant push with the hands, and pull with the feet. However, I once went to a judo seminar where “pulling” with the hands was actually how the instructor described the entry for the throw. Funny thing was the throw was Osoto-gari (major outside reaping throw), which if analyzed is a clear illustration of a push with the hands/pull with your feet technique—more so that almost any other judo throw one could name.

Of course, when discussing how to do osoto-gari, whether one thinks that either or both hands make a pushing and/or pulling motion is really a matter of perspective. I really have no intention of upsetting any judoka who wish to believe in their methodology, terminology, or explanations. If the techniques works, explain it anyway you want to.

However, let me take a moment to explain my assertion.

First of all, I don’t think anyone will argue that the feet pull in this throw. The sweeping motion is clearly pulling the opponent’s leg from underneath them.

As for the hands, I was always taught the hands moved in a sort of steering wheel motion. This is the kind of the motion one would make to avoid a sudden obstacle in the road while driving. It turns out that when we drive, we “push” the steering wheel, few if any of us pull the steering wheel. In fact in the police academy you are specifically taught to move the steering wheel in such a manner.

The fact is when it comes to the handwork used to complete osoto-gari, one hand pushes the uke back, while the other hand pushes the uke down and to the side. Neither hand movement is a pull. In addition, during the pull with the legs, the hands often continue pushing the uke to the ground adding even more force to the throw.

Example:

#1Osoto-gari done correctly using the push with the hands/pull with the feet principle.

#2Osoto-gari done incorrectly, using a pull with one hand and a push with the second. While the movement might look similar in the photo, in this case the “pull” of the left arm was done with the biceps while the “push” above was done with the triceps.

Note the difference of the uke’s body position in both sets of photos. When osoto-gari is done correctly the hands make room for the tori to pass and enter in. The uke is also leaning less to the side and more to the back, over the foot that is about to be swept. When done incorrectly the tori is forced to come around the uke completely changing the uke’s body position, and making the throw much harder to complete, if it’s even possible to complete at this point.

I could go on and describe several other judo throws in this same manner, but I won’t. If you’re really interested you can test the difference pushing and pulling with your hands will make on your own. Chances are you’ve already experienced both results, without even realizing what went right or what went wrong when trying to do a specific technique.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you one last technique to contemplate, which is another aspect of the hands always push principle. In this case it has to do with chokeholds. To illustrate my point I will discuss a commonly taught constriction technique called kata-juji-jime (half cross choke).

The above is an illustration of how most judoka are taught to do this technique, which is extremely effective. It is actually my favorite constriction, and this technique helped me win several matches during my college years.

However, before I did judo I was taught this same technique, the difference being I was never on the ground when I applied it. I was also never taught to pull my hands in order to apply pressure as I was told to do by my judo coach.

The way I was taught was to push/bring my elbows together, which brings my hands together sort of like the working ends of a vise grip. This method not only allowed me to use all of my arms muscles to apply pressure, in a very natural motion, but also placed my opponent in a position where he could be immediately brought to the ground.

Like I said it’s just something to think about, and experiment with. (** Constrictions techniques should never be attempted in practice without a qualified instructor present since they are extremely dangerous. **)

Other Examples

#1

The above photograph is an example of a projection done with a pull of the legs. While the hands form the connection and help direct the opponent to the side, it is the rear kneeling drop that takes the attacker past his triangulation point and to the ground.

If one were attempting this technique with the use of a pull with hands the results would be quite different. Sure, the person would still fall, but he would fall directly into the person doing the technique. Ouch! The technique would also require a lot more force to execute, force that could be felt, and countered.

The sudden rear drop is also unexpected, and allows the tori to use all their weight against the uke.

#2

The above is an example of a projection done with the push of the hands. The right hand is raised and pushes to the left. The left hand goes dead, allowing the uke’s weight to push it back. There is no pulling action, the left arm does nothing but go dead.

Once the uke’s stability is completely broken there is a slight body drop and back-pressure (see forthcoming essay on the principle of Back Pressure) is applied.

Whether the strict accuracy of “Hands Always Push and Feet Always Pull” is a case of linguistic quibbling or not is arguable. I use this terminology because it suits my needs, and I can show what happens in a given technique if I use one or the other method.

My intention in sharing our principles is not to tell others how they should train, or to say I’m so gifted and skilled that my way is right and the only way things should be done. These principles, and the way I apply them work for me, and my students. They are right for us.

Like Bruce Lee stated, his martial art system was all about whatever works for you. Whatever is right for you is how you should practice.

Navarro’s Martial Arts Championships August 26, 2006 — A Review

As I left the tournament at about 5:00 PM, all I could keep muttering was: Never Ever Again, Never, Never.

It had been a long day, mostly of waiting around for nothing, and I had had enough. Too much. I had seen too much poor sportsmanship, bad form, lackluster performances, and so much disorganization that they made the Department of Motor Vehicles look like a finely tuned machine.

Yes, all I could think during my whole drive home was Never, Never, Never Again!!!!!!!!

But let me start from the beginning…………………

I received the flier for Navarro’s Martial Arts Championships about two months ago. Now, I like Sifu Navarro and what he teaches. And in the past he has run a fairly decent tournament. Since it had been seven years since I last attended a martial arts tournament I played with the idea of having some of my senior students compete in some form divisions.

The idea wasn’t to go and win trophies; neither my students nor I care about that stuff. Instead I wanted to do a little advertising that the school exits, and to re-connect with some of the local martial art bigwigs I hadn’t seen in several years.

That was the original plan. However plans don’t always work out, and the decision had been made not to go at all. That was until my younger son decided he wanted to go and compete in the grappling division. What’s worst is he had saved his allowance to pay the entry fee, so what was left to argue about.

I woke up Saturday morning semi-dreading spending the whole day at a martial arts tournament I really didn’t want to go to. However, I dug out an old karate uniform I keep for situations such as these, made sure my son and his friend had all the equipment they might have needed for competing, and set off to face the day.

We arrived at about 11:30 AM, and after waiting about 20 minutes in line to register we entered the gym: a single basketball court filled to capacity to with competitors, family, and numerous black belt judges.

The first thing I noticed was that the place appeared to be in chaos. People were standing all over the place, even within the boundaries of the rings where the forms competitions were in full progress. It was so bad that those sitting in the stands couldn’t see what was happening on the floor. Over and over, announcements were made to clear the floor, but no one seemed to hear or care.

Now I can forgive choosing a place that is too small to accommodate a crowd, especially when one has no idea how many people may or may not show up. In addition finding an affordable place to hold any event is extremely hard. So I was ready, willing and able to overlook this issue. Besides, I was there to watch my son and his friend compete.

While waiting for the grappling events to start I distracted myself by watching the forms competition. I wish I hadn’t. If what I saw is an indication of the current state of the martial arts, then we are facing a very serious situation. A situation that calls for an immediate change, otherwise the martial arts will soon become nothing more than a glorified dance method.

As one instructor stated to me, some of the practitioners’ kiais lasted longer than their forms. What was worst was the definite lack of balance, power, focus, and intent almost all the competitors exhibited. I mean, some just flailed their arms wildly in gestures that made them look more like they were on fire than trying to fight an opponent.

Now, there were a few competitors who had skill and exhibited what one would expect to see at a martial arts tournament. However, few of these were black belts, and most were under the age of 15. Scary really, when you think about it.

Fortunately, the forms division ended soon after we arrived and the “fighting” portion of the tournament started. I say fighting portion since there were divisions for Thai Boxing, Savate, Grappling (with uniform and without uniform), Boxing, Kick Boxing, Point Sparring, MMA, Self-Defense, Stick Sparring, and Knife Sparring.

I thought things would get better, but boy was I wrong.

Now I can’t make any comments on the Thai Boxing since these events took place outside the gym and out of my view. All I can say is that a Thai Boxing competition that does not allow elbow and knee strikes isn’t Thai Boxing. However, these rules are most likely for safety and I can understand not wanting to have people hurt at your event.

I also can’t comment on the MMA, since that too was held outside. I also didn’t have a chance to review the rules.

I can however, talk about the Kick Boxing, Boxing, and Savate.

Okay to be fair the Savate never happened, because there weren’t enough people interested. Of course with the event canceled it afforded me the opportunity to talk with the guys who did Savate I learned a lot about Savate history and how some schools still practice the weaponry associated the older form of the art. It was very interesting, and I have to say was the best portion of the day.

Unfortunately, the boxing and the kickboxing were terrible. Now, I’m not saying I would want to be on the receiving end of many of the kicks and punches I witnessed, but almost 90% of the competitors had absolutely no skill. I mean basic skills such as moving off line, or fighting with your eyes open. That’s right, many fought with there eyes closed and just swung wildly. It was really pathetic.

Now, before you start assuming things, I’m not talking about the five to ten year olds. It’s cute to watch them; especially those who don’t seem to have a clue what’s going on, and you know really don’t want to be there. You know the kid who stands there and just becomes a punching bag, or those children who cry even before they are hit. Or how about the kid who charges in like a bull, and misses everyone except the bystander watching on the sidelines or the referee. Yes, I enjoy the kids, I enjoy them a lot, except watching them lose.

Distressingly, my comments were in regards to the older teens and young adults. These are people who should know better, or at least have the ability to be taught better skills. They had no business competing if these demonstrations represented their level of skill. Clearly, their teachers either don’t care about their safety, had no say in their decision to compete, or have lowered their standards so much that this is what now passes for competency.

This of course leads me to my worst observation of the day, and I’m not talking about the grappling events.

Like I said, one of my early reasons for attending this tournament was to re-connect with fellow teachers I hadn’t seen in a long time, instructors who helped me when I first started in the business. I wanted to see the instructors who were old school martial artists like myself, who had learned the hard way: from many, many hours of brutal practice, where blood, sweat, injuries, and tears had been the willing sacrifice we gave to achieve a certain level of expertise.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a hard time being politically correct or “softening” my opinions when I express them. The truth is that I normally speak my mind, often without thinking about future ramifications or who else might overhear the conversation. This is an extremely bad habit in the martial arts community where egos run rampant. This is a business where when you bruise one person feelings, others judge you solely based on his opinion rather than getting to know personally or learning why you said what was said.

Fortunately, those I talked to during the day mirrored most of my comments regarding my observations of the day’s event. However, agree as they might, they had succumbed to the fact that was just how things are in this day and age. They agreed that it was wrong and was ruining things, but they defended things by saying that was the only way martial art school owners could stay in business.

In other words, they claimed that to run a successful school, standards must be reduced and the teacher has to promote people who really shouldn’t be promoted.

Of course, with the lack of high standards also came a definite shortage of teaching respect for teachers and fellow students, and the ability to even appear as if one had any real skills. If this is what having a commercial martial art school is all about all I can say is, thank God I don’t have a commercial martial arts school.

Now, I won’t bore you by telling you about the grappling events. They were what they were, and many of the competitors were the first to tell you they had very little if any grappling experience or training.

What I will share is this: after waiting almost five hours, my son’s event never took place. By 4:45 there weren’t enough people in his division to hold the event.

Now my son paid $50.00 to compete, and for a 17 year old that’s a lot of money. No, that’s a lot of money period. Of course, we went to the event coordinator to discuss the matter and get a refund. She quickly took down his name and a short description of why we were requesting the refund. Then came the bombshell… We would have to wait for the refund in the mail.

“How long will that take,” asked my son.

“Indefinitely” she answered as she walked away.

“What’s that mean dad?” asked my son.

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“Great, that means I’ll never get it back, $50.00 wasted” he muttered.

“No, I’ll make sure you get it back,” I said, knowing he is most likely right, though I’ll try my best to see that it happens.

So as he left the gym with his older brother and friend, (who also had to request a refund), all I could think of was how I had wasted my day. This day, which should have been fun for my son, turned into a disaster and left him with a negative view of martial arts tournaments.

I left the gym vowing never to go to a tournament again. Never. Ever. Or at least never again until I forget this day, which just might take another 7 years.

Cartoon

After spending the last two weeks writing nothing but information on scientific principles, and coming to the realization that the hard ones are yet to come, I thought I would just take a break.

Part of that break included catching up on some e-mails I’d been ignoring. One of them included this cartoon I found pretty amusing.

The Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #6 Indirect Pressure

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

Indirect Pressure

This is another example of a principle that has both a tangible explanation and an intangible explanation depending on how it is used. In either case, both explanations have scientific corroboration to back them up and explain why they work. However, I’d be the first to argue that the intangible variation is better explained through physical demonstration than written description. But I will try my best in both cases.

Of all the top ten principles I teach, Indirect Pressure is most likely the one my students have heard the least about. It’s a principle we use a lot, but I rarely point out. I’m not exactly sure why that is the case, but it is. The only excuse I can think of is that we use Indirect Pressure so often I really don’t think about it, and take the principle for granted. So much so, that when trying to think of a specific technique to use for this “blog” I was at a definite loss.

The best analogy for Indirect Pressure I have ever found has nothing to do with the martial arts. However, it has a direct application to the aftermath of a bloody altercation when first aid may be required.

According to the American Red Cross indirect pressure is taught to stop arterial bleeding when other methods have not worked. According to the American Red Cross first aid book:

“When there is hemorrhaging, due to arterial bleeding, with blood gushing out in time with the rhythm of the heart, applying the direct pressure method may not be enough to stop the bleeding. In these cases, apply pressure with your fingers to the artery at a position closer to the heart than the wound itself.”

In other words in order to affect one area of the body, pressure is applied somewhere else. That indirect pressure has a direct cause and affect on the other part of the body.

In essence that is exactly the way indirect pressure is used in the martial arts. We attack one part of the body in a specific way that has a direct effect on another part, or even on the entire skeletal frame.

Most martial art practitioner’s first introduction to the principle of Indirect Pressure happens when they are taught joint locking techniques. The principle is especially important for joint locks used for projecting/throwing an opponent. Consider, for example, a technique like kotegaeshi (wrist rotation).

In kotegaeshi direct pressure is applied to the wrist in order to rotate it. However, the actual technique works because it locks up the shoulder. The force applied to the wrist “indirectly” affects the shoulder.

However, while kotegaeshi is a good example of the principle of Indirect Pressure it should be noted that not all joint locking methods are. In many cases such as yubi waza (finger techniques) and certain ude waza (arm techniques/locks) they are clearly not.

Okay that’s an example of a “tangible” form of Indirect Pressure. Now let me explain an example of the “intangible” type.

First of all, when I use the word intangible, I’m not saying there is no physical connection between a person and their opponent, or there are not clear forces at work. I basically use the word intangible because there are no outwardly visible signs to show the observer what is happening. There is also no direct connection between point “A” where force is applied, and point “B” where the force is felt.

And no this has nothing to do with the application of chi, ki, or any other metaphysical force. It is nothing more than proper body geometry, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.

On the human body there are four specific pivot points, one on each shoulder, and one on each hip.

These points are used to rotate the body, and to destabilize a person’s balance. However, if they are pushed directly, little if anything will happen unless a tremendously high amount of force is used (diagram #1 below). The chances are that one will never be able to rotate an opponent with direct force on the pivot points.

However if attacked indirectly (diagram #2) the body will rotate very easily, and the person will not even realize what is happening until it is too late.

To test the above-diagramed techniques try the following:

  • First test – Grab one hand and pull the arm as depicted in diagram #1. When that doesn’t work, start pushing the hand to the rear of the person and see how far you have to move it until the body moves. Carefully watch how the body moves. Is it pivoting, twisted, or collapsing onto itself?
  • Second Test – Grab the other hand and push it towards the pivot point, the closer against the body the better. Actually it needs to be close to the body to work. Keep extending the hand forward as depicted in diagram #2. If you do this correctly, the body will rotate with almost no force. The person will actually twist around one leg.
  • Third Test – Follow all of the instructions for test two, except instead of using the pivot point move the arm somewhere below the chest. Did you get the same results? If you did this test, you’ll discover the person will not rotate, or that it takes a lot more force, and I mean a lot more force, to rotate them.

Example

  1. The uke has punched at the tori who has stepped to evade. As the punch passes the tori it is “checked” by both hands.
  2. The tori drops his right hand over the uke’s attacking arm, and pushes downward back towards the uke.
  3. The tori continues the downward push placing the arm next to the pivot point of the uke’s hip. (The hand and the hip never touch)
  4. The tori continues pushing the uke’s arm across his body. Notice how the uke is rotating around his back leg. (The picture makes it look like there is a lot of space between the uke’s arm and body, but this photo shows a point after the rotation is almost complete, not the actual moment when the rotation starts. When the rotation starts the uke’s hand is almost near his back leg.)
  5. The uke is now fully rotated 180-degrees and so off balance making him fall requires no effort.

Of course the principle of Indirect Pressure can be used in other ways, such as moving around the point of force. For example while you are standing minding your own business a guy grabs your wrist. The guy holding you is 6 foot 7 inches, 450lbs, and is built like a tank. There is no way you can out-muscle this guy, so any effort you make to raise your hand is futile. So what are you going to do?

I know, because I’m describing a cousin of mine and while we were roughhousing I had to figure a way to get away from him besides kicking him in the testicles or eye gouging him—he is family after all.

First of all, you’re never going to move the wrist, the point where this guy is applying “DIRECT PRESSURE.” Even if you can move the arm, which you probably can’t because he is pressing it down, using the old thumb trick to slip your hand out of his hold won’t work. His hands are big enough to wrap around. Strike One!

Secondly, you might try striking the arm on a vital point, but if that doesn’t work now you have an angry giant to contend with. The same goes for any other strike or kick you may attempt. Strike 2!

Lastly, you might try to beg for mercy and hope he lets you go. Depending on his mood and his intention that might work. However, there is another way in case this strategy fails.

First of all, let the guy have the limb he wants. That’s the Aiki way. While he is holds your wrist at least he can’t hit you with that hand, making it one less weapon of his to worry about.

Now use indirect pressure to raise your arm and make space. In this case the indirect pressure comes from the shoulder. Yes, the shoulder raises and the arm follows. When done correctly you have basically gone around the point of his force.

Now this won’t get your hand free, but you now have control of your arm, and can move. You have taken his advantage away. Now you can apply other skills in your arsenal to lock up and/or project/throw your opponent to the ground.

This is an example of what happens when you try to move with direct pressure, your arm versus his arm. Notice the uke is still in full control. In order for this escape to work one must be a lot stronger than his opponent, and with that kind of force the uke will know you’re up to something and most likely counter you.

This is an example of what happens when indirect pressure is applied. In this case the lift is done only with the shoulder and the elbow pulls the arm back after the lift. Notice the difference in the uke’s posture, and that he has a hard time maintaining his grip on the wrist. In this case very little power is used, and the uke shouldn’t feel any change until it is to late to react and counter.

Chances are that every martial artist, no matter what style, already uses the principle of Indirect Pressure in some form or another. They may either call it something else, or just do it with out bothering to label it all. Of course there are some practitioners who just don’t care, and will never care, as long as they can do the technique, and the technique works.

After all, we all don’t have a giant cousin to play with and see what techniques we can actually get to work on someone who isn’t quite so accommodating or patient enough to allow you to make a mistake and start over.

To be honest I never really thought about the concept of Indirect Pressure on its own or appreciated the importance of it, until my cousin held me, and threaten to pick me up and slam me to the ground. Necessity is clearly the mother of insight as well as invention.

Video of a Younger Don Angier

As an interlude among all the dense theory, I wanted to link to this old video of Don Angier. This seems apropos; Mr. Angier has been an inspiration for Gary to improve his understanding of aiki principles. In many cases Mr. Angier provided a new way of looking at things or a new vocabulary to use.

http://youtube.com/v/QvWiYcxTm2A

This video is truly sublime.

When I have seen Mr. Angier do techniques in recent years, he looks quite different. He has refined his art to a degree that he can now be barely seen to move—ironically, his technique is so good that it now makes for a poor video.

This was put up on YouTube by a former student of Mr. Angier’s, Richard Elias of Yoshida-Ha Bujutsu. I highly recommend all of the other videos he has posted as well.

The Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #5 Double Weighting

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

Double Weighting

Over the years I have heard other people describe this principle as “grounding,” “anchoring,” “basing,” and “rooting.” Though the names are different, for the most part the applications and effectiveness have been the same.

Double Weighting, simply defined, is a state where one feels their limbs to be too heavy to move. A person is put in a position such that their body, or part of their body, feels rooted to the ground. Either they are unable to change their position without first readjusting or their entire mass is solely dependent on a specific limb for support.

In other words, the body, or part of the body, is manipulated into a position where it seems to become so heavy that the person is unable to move or adjust their position. Often the body is unable to maintain its own balance and must rely on an external force (normally the other person doing the technique) for stability.

In most Aiki, Jujutsu, and Judo arts double weighting is an essential step used to set up projections/throws.

A simple way to think of this principle is to imagine a man who weighs 200 pounds. If you cut him exactly in half, each half would weigh 100 pounds. In this case, both halves even each other out, and there is equilibrium. In this state the man has no problem changing body positions.

Now take that same man, and put a 100 pound dumbbell in his left hand. The left side of his body has essentially just doubled in weight. Every movement he makes will now require more effort, and for many physical actions he will have to make adjustments in order to maintain his stability—if he can move at all. He has essentially become “double weighted” on one side of his body.

Double weighting is used to manipulate stability in the same way judoka use their principle of “pushing and pulling” to place someone in an optimal position for a throw.

Consider the technique Osoto-gari (major outside reaping throw), for example. Osoto-gari is done by using a steering wheel-like motion with the hands to destabilize the uke, and then sweeping the foot from underneath him. When done properly the steering wheel motion of the hands places all the weight of the uke on the leg that is about to be swept.

In this example, the uke is “double weighted” since the majority of his weight is placed on one leg. He is “anchored” in that position until other forces push him back and down to the ground.

Of course applying the principle of Double Weighting isn’t limited to just using the uke’s weight against him. There are times when a person will use his or her own body weight and body position to add mass to the uke.

Example:

  1. The uke is pushed down so that his entire body weight is balanced on his toes. He is now “double weighted:” all his mass is pressed towards the toes. In addition. he also has the weight from the push adding more force to his centerline. In this position he is totally dependant on the tori for his stability. It is almost impossible for the uke to “right” himself and regain his balance, let alone launch a counter attack.
  2. The tori steps back and lets his right arm go completely dead. The tori’s left arm lifts and pushes the uke in a circular motion to the right. These motions lift the uke and force him to shift all his body weight to his left foot.
  3. As the uke places his weight completely on his left foot, he is now double weighted on that leg. Once again he is totally dependant on the tori for stability. His hold on the tori‘s arms are the only thing keeping him from falling.
  4. (Not pictured) From the position pictured in photo #3 it just takes a small body drop to project the uke to the ground.

Understanding the principle of Double Weighting is one thing, applying it is another. It is not hard to do, but it requires practice and knowledge of how to lock up the skeletal frame.

For beginners, applying the “push and pull” principle of judo is the way to begin. Of course, as one’s techniques become more sophisticated—and one learns that there are specific reactions to every movement they make—other methods will present themselves.

The above statement in no way implies that I believe that the art of judo lacks sophistication. In fact, I have seen many senior judoka apply the principle of Double Weighting so flawlessly that their techniques appeared as soft and effortless as many techniques performed by Aki practitioners. Of course, these were judoka who had transcended from the “sporting” aspect of judo where many judoka rely on muscle, power, and speed, instead of technique and finesse.