Chhi’mèd Künzang: How to add resistance within Aikido without destroying the art

Recently, there was an AMA on /r/aikido with Chhi’mèd Künzang. Mr Künzang is a black belt in Aikido as well as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and if I say so myself it was an excellent discussion overall. I asked him a number of questions myself, and we started discussing ways to create live-resistant training with Aikido. His response was excellent, so I’m reposting it here (with permission).


Basically, the idea would be to skillfully combine two ideas:

  • The ‘problem’ of mutually-beneficial symmetrical training is already solved by sufficiently advanced grapplers. How to tune resistance level to be appropriately useful is a learnable skill.
  • In the case of a technical skillset with a kata-like component, there should be some derivable way of bridging the gap between a purely choreographed form and a ‘fully-resistant’ one.

As I said, maybe this is already someone’s orthodox understanding, but here’s how I think that can fit together: the application of ‘correct’ body mechanics makes the transition from nage/uke/nage fluid; and when within the groove of a specific (and effective) ‘technique’ then application of ‘worse ukemi through resistance’ should increase effectiveness of the application. If that’s not the case, then we can say this was ‘no true technique’. This is the first subtlety. Can that pressure be used by a pair of training partners to seek and hone toward the set of applications which do have this property? In theory it should be possible, but if at least one doesn’t have knowledge of the target in advance, it might be nearly impossible.

In a pure grappling situation, this problem is less: even without received knowledge, the grappling dynamic will eventually produce decent grapplers through the effects of friction. (Which is not to say this is optimal — but it may be a difference with Aikido-like techniques: these may never converge on their own, exactly because they will devolve to grappling. But we’re positing here that there’s something distinct worth targeting, and which therefore won’temerge when the (righteouw) convergence to pure grappling is the only dynamic.)

So, the second subtlety builds on the first: assume one partner does have sufficient knowledge of the target. Rather than strictly imposing the resulting dynamic (assuming also sufficient skill to do so) — can he ‘take ukemi’ by accommodating resistance in a way which inexorably nudges the paired interaction toward the right dynamic (as opposed to ‘shape’). Fixation on ‘shape’ is especially problematic because it allows for ‘collusion’.

I think I’ve probably already over-described, but the idea is that ideally, both partners — to the limit of their current ability — use ‘feeling for’ some (at least subjectively) measurable ‘correctness’ as the control on the variable (as opposed to forced) component of their ukemi. This would also need to allow for a mutually-negotiated ‘intensity variable’ which increases/decreases the degree of surface conflict of the encounter — with one endpoint being fully-resistance (yet somehow still ‘in-mode’) grappling to submission.

The ultimate challenge then, would be to refine that to such an extent that when the opponent doesn’t acquiesce to this arrangement at all, application is effective and only tempered by situationally-appropriate ‘moderating ukemi’. And to the extent that has actually been accomplished, then any needed situational application (the mythical, hypothetical ‘real-world’) will be as accurate and effective as possible — without need for any adjustment because finding that adjustment will have been baked in as a core part of how one always engages.

Even if not explained perfectly, I think there’s a core comprehensible idea there. I think it’s consistent with the logic of Aikido, even if it also challenges many notions of how it should be trained.

Basically, it comes down to adding even some amount of “alive” training– adding in a certain amount of resistance as part of training. As I said in my previous article, the problem with adding alive training into a fundamentally static art is that you run the risk of losing what makes the art unique. In the case of Aikido, you can start simply: often, Aikido assumes the best case scenario when it comes to attacks and responses. The uke attacks, the nage does (something), and the uke goes flying. With the exception of kaeshi-waza (countering techniques), there’s not often a plan B, C or D if the first thing attempted doesn’t work.

What do you think? What’s the best way to add resistance training into static arts like Aikido? Is it even worth trying? As always, it comes down to what you want to accomplish in your training. So what do you want to accomplish with your training and how can you get there?

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