Lesson 31: A Slight Emphasis on the Wrist

A while ago I attempted to write an entry after every class under the varying titles of “Lesson X: blah blah blah”, but it seemed to have dropped off because … blah blah blah. It is difficult to do so everytime, but if there’s anything my aikido has taught me, it’s “bochi bochi” … little by little. In fact, it reminds me off the first proverb I learned in Japanese, which I have also forgotten to think about, but its coming back … “senri no michi mo ippo kara” … A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So let’s call this large interim “Lesson 30.5: Small Accumulation” (Isn’t there a chapter in the I-Ching called that? No rip-off intended). But without trying to be too dramatic, (which I think I tend to do in my writing), it’s time to write these like it’s to save my life … or at least my sanity. Ever since I decided to leave Japan about 5 months again, I have searing mental anguish concerning leaving my dojo after every practice. I don’t know how I manage to forget it and ease my soul before I go to bed, but now it’s time to do so by way of these “Lessons”, a productive and therapuetic way to think about my training. So enough of all that. Let’s get on with the lesson. And let’s try to keep it brief, to start off on a solid foot. A couple months ago for a couple months, I was avid about training with my jo (short staff), and was determined to nail the two kata I’ve been shown, 31 and 13. Now, things have changed, and I’ve come to want to focus more on the ken (wooden sword) instead. It could be for many reasons, but namely, because my sensei said it was his favorite. If there’s any large lessons I’ve learned in aikido, it’s to find a good sensei and copy everything he does. The original intent wasn’t consciously meant to follow this method of learning, but is a natural side effect I guess. Though it seems to me there are less options, or at least less movements I’ve learned with the ken compared to the jo, sensei seems to emphasize these movements in our empty practice a little more often. As a matter of fact, I see more in the action of lifting the ken in our empty handed practice than all of the moves of the jo combined. This is particularly evident in the waza kokyuhou. It comes in various applications, but these specific attacks and defenses aren’t as important as paying attention to raising your arms in the manner of doing so as if you held a ken. But to even say “raise your arms” is a huge misnomer because if you were to just literally raise your arms, you would be so absolutley very far from the technique. One must do so from the hip, which starts at the legs, and transfers through the torso, through the arms, wrists, and opponents body. But that last sentence I wrote is so cliche and well known, that it kind of pisses me off I wrote it, but it is true. Perhaps if I could focus on one thing it’s the wrists. I’ve been infatuated in how the wrists move in this movement, but to emphasis some movement in the wrist would be to put too much stress into it. For me, it helps to think of it more as an extension, or last tweak to the whole form that makes or breaks the form. Just try and pick up your sword, raise it over your head to a place where the sword almost drapes down your back (but doesn’t because you’re keeping good form). HOLY CRAP! This is why when we raise the ken over our heads, we let it go down our backs a bit. The first post I wrote about the ken in this blog addressed the problem of how we should hold our ken in the upright position … 1.) Like kendo where it’s a 45 degree angle shooting upward and backward, 2.) parallel with the ground, or 3.) draping down the back (the one I thought was the obvious worst form!!!) But we do so partly because of that very subtle twist of the wrist. There you go, back into the “Lessons”. No pictures, frequently off on a tangent, and starting from a point where I have no idea where it’s going … here it is. For my sanity.


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