Saturday, January 05, 2008
Friday night at the Aikikai
Lots of aikido this weekend, starting on Friday with Doug Firestone's class. Doug, at left, has his own dojo, Aikido of Westchester, but comes to the New York Aikikai on Fridays to teach the 6:45 p.m. class.
Doug's aikido is very strong and dynamic and his classes are always interesting and instructive. Perhaps because he teaches at the start of the weekend, the dojo mood is always upbeat. In addition, Doug's running Jay-Leno style monologue keeps the class fun.
Once again, we had a class focusing on a single attack, this time ryōte-dori, which is when both hands grab both wrists.
There is a lot of wrist grabbing in aikido. Traditionally, this may have been due to the fact that most adversaries in feudal Japan carried swords or other weapons and a wrist grab would hinder them from drawing them. That is not the whole story, however. In aikido, any attack, be it a strike or a wrist grab or whatever, can be defended against by almost any technique. It's just a matter of learning how to apply them in a given situation. Wrist grabs have the benefit of connection with the other person, so they are a good way for a beginner to learn.
Aikido has taken its share of criticism from other martial arts as being "unrealistic" and the emphasis on such attacks as wrist grabs is part of that. Such criticism doesn't take into account the fact that we call it practice for a reason. (I saw an aikido t-shirt poking fun at this with the phrase "GO AHEAD, PUNK... GRAB MY WRIST!!" which I have to admit, is very funny.)