by Steve Sharp
Because our vital senses are in the head and our hands are the most sensitive and able tools of manipulation we tend to view the World around us from primarily above the waist.
Also due to mechanical and digital innovations we are generally less active and tend to live more sedentary lifestyles. While our upper half has become hyper sensitive and over active our lower half has become desensitised and generally inactive.
We develop our nervous system from birth through a systematic development sequence from lying on the back and slowly becoming aware of the limbs taking hold of the feet to then rolling and turning onto the front where the spine is developed through the senses wanting stimulation by lifting the head to look at the surrounding environment to then using the limbs and spine to propel us through our evolutionary cycle within movements similar to fish, lizards, cats, monkeys and onto the beginnings of human locomotion.
In adulthood due to the invention of the chair and modern beds we rarely move as in the above sequence and generally spend little or no time moving around on the floor. Our modern lifestyles have over time sapped the strength in our muscles the elasticity in our tendons and mobility in our joints.
The practice of Aikido is one activity which offers the opportunity to reconnect to patterns of movement which can restore and build lost strength mobility and flexibility lost through inactivity.
Aikido is rather an unusual Martial Art in that it generally involves no attacks or defences using the legs due to its foundation built on the customs and etiquette of the samurai and the use of the sword. The techniques of Aikido being drawn from the wielding of the sword and the defence thereof focuses primarily around the use of the hands powered of course through the power of the legs and centre. The use of the legs is also hidden by the wearing of the Traditional Japanese Hakama by higher grades who are the teachers of the Art.
In contrast Chinese Martial Arts list four important areas of study and practice to help develop a rounded Martial Artist. These four include developing the skills in. Kicking. Striking. Wrestling(Grappling) and Joint locks.
We do have striking in Aikido through the use of Atemi but the full understanding of this Art is rare and many clubs will only practice the basic strikes to include Shomen Uchi, Yokumen Uchi and Tsuki. We do have throws which focus on taking Uke’s balance primarily to lessen the use of unnecessary force but this would not constitute being called wrestling or grappling. We do use joint locks and pins. We do not use either offensive or defensive kicks.
While some Aikido clubs will include the odd defensive move from an attack from a kick it is rare and often practiced little and therefore awareness and skills in this area is uncommon in Aikido.
In contrast Hapkido the Korean interpretation of Aikido does include strikes, kicks and some grappling often demonstrated with many Koshi-Nage (Hip throw techniques).
Although I am not advocating including defensive and attacking kicks as a general practice in Aikido I think the legs in both their hidden strength and Martial potential need to be more understood and honed within an Aikidoka’s consciousness so that at least when confronted let’s say by another Martial Artist who within their Art are familiar with various leg techniques we would be more aware of the legs as a potential threat.
This will also help balance our focus from viewing technique primarily from above the waist and what the arms and hands are doing to a greater awareness of the legs and their importance within ourselves as our core powerhouse and from others regarding a potential Martial threat.
The importance of the Legs and Core as the power source of the Cut and Thrust is also essential to understand in relation to Aikido Weapons training which I think can be investigated more thoroughly.
The next article will be looking at specific areas within the solo and partner practice of Aikido which help to develop the Powerhouse (Legs and Core).