I love training with my aikido teachers. In particular on of them is always an inspiration to train with, be it him teaching a class or us training one-on-one together. He encourages me, helps me out when I am stuck, remains humble, isn’t frightened to admit a mistake and is an all round good egg. One of the things I admire is that he (like some of my other instructors) have that wonderful way of making a technique look effortless but when you are on the receiving end you know it is deadly. It’s the effortless look that causes many people to think aikido is ineffective, but that’s a debate for another day.
On Friday a combination of circumstances led to me driving past my aikido club just in time for training. I hadn’t planned to be there, so lacked the right kit, but I thought a break in my journey for a few hours of aikido was a good idea. I was delighted when I found the above mentioned instructor was teaching the class.
Martial artists know the importance of instigating movement from the hips (or your centre). The body creates strong movement from the hips, it prevents an over-reliance on upper-body strength. Sooner or later someone will be physically stronger than you but few non-martial art people work out how to be mechanically stronger. What I took away from last weeks lesson wasn’t just about hip movement, it was about which hip in which direction is the principal driving force.
I’ll start this simple. In Jitsu and Iaido we learn that there are two ways you can move forward.
- Use the forward leg to pull the body towards it, dragging the back leg with you.
- Use the back leg to push the body towards the front leg.
Try it. Which one creates the most power? If you get a friend to hold out an arm and try and stop you moving is it easier to push against them from the back leg, or pull yourself on the front leg? Back leg wins every time. Your body is driving against the arm, rather than the muscles in one leg.
What my aikido instructor showed us, and we successfully showed amongst ourselves, is that which hip that drives a hip turn is as important as which leg drives a step forward. Conventionally aikidoka are told, “turn the hips.” This causes the forward one to rotate back and the backwards one slightly forward. Which is good, you do generate more power than by using the upper body alone, but that power is limited. And because the forward hip is now moving away from your opponent then the power and direction behind your defence is now reduced.
Instead we were shown to drive the back hip forward. This achieves two things. Firstly, to successfully do this you have to drop your weight. Dropping your centre of gravity is a common theme across martial arts! Secondly, you no longer produce an inadvertent move backwards, and subsequent power reduction. Instead you continue to drive towards the opponent. I’ve written about the need to do this for both Iaido and Jitsu.
The class went through a variety of techniques with each one utilising this modified hip turn. Wow! We were all feeling the effects of it by the end of the class! For me it was a real light-bulb moment. There has always been this nagging feeling in my mind that my aikido tends too much to the passive side. And if that is because I have unknowingly been including a minor retreat in my techniques then this makes semse.
So for a random drop in on a class I came away having learned a great deal. Hip, hip hurrah!