Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, is famously quoted as saying that aikido is 90% atemi. Yet atemi is absent from much of modern aikido. Aikido today is known for its beautiful flowing movements. In our roles as uke and nage we practice the kata of, and defences to, aikido techniques. In the pursuit of this beauty, aikido often omits the atemi built into the kata and therefore an important tool in ensuring robust and effective aikido is often the first casualty.
Atemi serves a number of important roles in aikido kata. Atemi helps to:
- define the segmental points in the kata (topple, enter, release)
- align our bodies with correct structure
- break balance effectively
- identify the opportunities for joint manipulation that arise spontaneously
- develop correct timing and understanding of uke’s responses
- remove hesitation and develop better flow
Our dojo, through the study of atemi-jutsu, has been able to accelerate our students understanding of aikido, dramatically improve self defence capability and ground our practice in modern conceptual understanding.
Currently we are using the syllabus of Target Focus Training, developed in the US from combative sciences, to help us understand how to strike targets effectively and efficiently. Some of our students train in atemi-jutsu occasionally to better ground their study of aikido, others have found it a study in itself.
words: Danny James and Andrew Sunter
image: Simon Russell