Shioda Aikido - Basic Kamae Testing

9 February 2020

In Kamae testing we are working on keeping a relaxed but connected body and reflecting the force of a push back into our partner. In other words we are maintaining our balance while "internally" [a highly loaded word] shifting our bodies to unbalance the partner.

This brings up an interesting point. Aikido, and technique in general, are not things you do to your partner, in fact it is the exact opposite. Technique manifests because you are moving in a particular way and the partner's body responds to the movement because they are attempting to apply force to your body. Your body movement affects your partner's and they become the technique. As your practice progresses, you will begin to feel where your partner's balance is and be able move your "Aikido Body" into that space and around their power creating technique. This is a difficult concept to explain in words and one best felt in the Dojo.

Below are three push tests we use to help create an understanding of how to "internally" shift the body.

Basic Push Test In Kamae

Stand in Kamae and have your partner hold your wrists and push against you.

One thing that you must be aware is that this test can lead to you being rooted to the ground. You may feel trapped and unable to move between your partner and the mat. This is not what you want to achieve. Your goal is to make your partner feel like they are pushing an immovable object and pushing themselves "away" from you - as if they pushed on a wall. At all times you should try to maintain the ability to move as needed.

Kamae - Basic Push Test

Standing Push Test

The following tests are not part of the standard Yoshinkan Curriculum. We use these tests at GR Aikido as additional training tools.

In this test we are learning to use extension of the spine and opening the body in all directions at once to create a stable structure that allows you to absorb and neutralize force. How much of a push you can take is irrelevant, again it is not a contest. Your goal is to steadily increase your ability to stand unaffected as your partner pushes on you with ever increasing force.

When you reach a proficient level, you will feel like your partner is not doing a lot, while they appear to be working hard to push you.

The Basics

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips and feet pointed straight forward
  2. Imagine you are sitting on a bicycle seat that makes you lower your hips a couple of inches
  3. At the same time imagine that you have a thread pulling your head to the ceiling
  4. Relax your shoulders and neck
  5. Imagine a soft breeze pushing you from behind and your balance responds
  6. Imagine a soft breeze pushing you from the front and your balance responds.
  7. With front and back and up and down activated imagine you are turning to the left
  8. Maintaining the above imagine turning to the right
  9. Have a feeling of the knees coming together activating the groin.

It is a lot to keep up and can be difficult at first. This "Standing" can be practiced separately until you get comfortable with it.

Now that you have the basic posture, have your partner place their hand on your chest and gently add a "cotton ball" amount of push - Do not try to lean forward or resist the push. The partner slowly increases the push and you distribute and neutralize the push internally.

Some Observations

  1. When you start to feel like you are loaded, you can think of raising the arms. This will activate your intercostal muscles and further stabilize you.
  2. Continue until you are pushed off balance.
  3. Take a short break, 10 seconds, and repeat.
  4. Failure is your teacher! Each time you are pushed off your feet, take note of what "broke" in your body. That is what you need to work on.
Kamae - Push Test 1

Standing Push Test 2

This test is a repeat of Test 1. The partner pushes on your arms, which are held up at chest height, with the feeling of relaxed extension.

This test is somewhat easier as you can now use the arms and torso to distribute the push

Kamae - Push Test 2

Partner Push Out 1

In this exercise, you are learning to use the distribution of force in a dynamic manner.

Taking the stance of Push Test 1 you face your partner at half an arms length. Partners touch palms and work on straightening the arms by using the Aikido Body. Note that while you are testing your ability against your partner's, it is not a contest. The goal is to feel what your partner is doing and counteract it without pushing or shoving the arms.

Partner Push Out 2

This looks like the old game of Patty Cake and we jovially call this exercise "Extreme Patty Cake." Take the same stance as Partner Push Out 1 and touch palms. Both partners draw the arms back and extend them simultaneously, powered by the Aikido body. When the palms collide, dynamically adjust to counter your partner's Push Out. The partner with the better Aikido Body will disrupt the other partner.

Again this is not a contest, so don't get caught up like it is a sporting event. Maintain your spirit and focus outward, and work on controlling your own body to counter your partner's. Do not directly try to push or shove against your partner.

Putting It All Together

As you practice these exercises, your goal is to bring the qualities of these postures into your everyday movement and being. Your Aikido body is not something you "switch on" it is a quality that becomes part of you.

In the next article I shall look at exploring balance.

Happy Training!

Thanks for reading

Darke Sensei