Time for a trip to the youtube dojo. The following video by Nenad Ikras has been watched over 1.6 million times. And I promise that only a few of those viewings were mine. This is a great example of the type of video you can learn from, but not in the way you might think. Let’s watch, and then discuss:
My first reaction was that I liked the video as entertainment. It was fast paced with a variety of settings and situations and, although the principle and his partners have clearly worked together a lot, there was a nice sense of how traditional aikido/aikijujitsu moves are applicable for real self defense. Having said that, you can’t actually learn these techniques from this video. Much of what makes each technique work is too subtle, and too fast to grasp. This is great entertainment, a great piece of PR, but not a learning tool.
Or is it? When you spend time training alone you have to look for lessons where you can find them and there are some fundamentals here that you can use. Timing and distance are certainly two such concepts that play big roles in every example shown. Over and over we see the protagonist time his attack very carefully so as to close distance and position himself for the throw or takedown. He is never still, always moving. When you train on your own you can visualize and replicate this type of timing and movement. You can ask yourself questions like, “Did I move my hands first to deflect the attack, or did I move my feet first and step into it? Did I telegraph my movements? Where was my opponent at the beginning and end of a given sequence?” All good questions and good ways to train.
There is another fundamental that is consistent in the video that may be even more interesting. Controlling balance. Watch carefully and you will see the protagonist attack the head and use it is a means to off-balance his opponent. In some cases, he does nothing more than put his attackers weight on his heels. In other cases he uses the head to move the entire body. The next time you are running through your kata, consider your opponents head and how your techniques might be pushing, pulling or torquing it in various directions. What you thought was a block or a punch can suddenly become something very different. If you push the head up and back, what comes forward? If you pull the head down, what do the arms do; the legs, the torso? There are many points on the body that effect balance but, as this video demonstrates, the head is clearly an important one.