The term “between techniques”, is for me is a great help to understand what aikido is about. In spite of the fact that the general level of our art has improved a lot technically thanks to the increase in teaching skills and Aikido literacy of the practitioners, I think the that the moment of time that elapses between two techniques is often misunderstood.
For me, it is very important to use this time of “non-contact” with the partner in order to prepare for any subsequent solicitations from him that are to come. It is essential to maintain this effort of attention for the body to keep the same pace as uke’s. An attack is not only a contact between two partners, but it is an ongoing assessment of uke’s distance, how he stands up, and how he prepares for an attack.
As far as I am concerned, there is only one spontaneous attack takes place between tori and uke; the very first one. All subsequent others will be essentially function of how tori has thrown or immobilized uke. Depending on the strength of the projection, the pain caused by twisting of the wrist, uke will not return to tori the same way, with the same state of mind, with the same body tension. It is therefore essential that tori remains focused at the end of the technique so as to better perceive and deal with the subsequent contact since it will be so heavily influenced by the way the end of that very technique is perceived by uke.
Our most significant effort has to occur during these times of “rest” between techniques. During the physical efforts, the many years of practice have made it so the body knows what to do. It is the attitude of tori and uke that is crucial for the accomplishment of the techniques. In Japanese, ki no nagare (flow of energy) refers to the a river where water never stops and is never stopped. Obstacles only affect its speed and direction. Uke represents these “obstacles” and it is up to us to find the adequate rhythm and adapted speed so as not to break the ki that lives in us and makes us move forward.
The only way I have found to preserve that rhythm is to refrain sanctioning uke when he surprises us and to focus my attention on these moments of rest without contact. Here, without contact is used in its physical sense because obviously, all through the exchange, a visual, auditory and perhaps even olfactory remains between both partners. This is why I believe that all practitioners should give up the desire to “successfully apply in the technique”, and instead focus on the moments without physical contact in order to infuse the practice with a reflexion rather than an urge for a result.
That way, we can put all our senses into action in order to preserve the beauty, integrity, and honesty of our art.
Original in French by Philippe Gouttard
Translation by Guillaume Erard