Aikido Sword Techniques
Above is a video with some basic sword exercises of irimi (entering), the initial move in both aikiken and aikido. Irimi is the decisive step to immediately gain control of the attacker.
Aikiken, the aiki sword, is the common name for sword against sword exercises in aikido. It is practiced in many different ways. In this video, I focus on some exercises I often teach for the purpose of experiencing and understanding the strategy and methods of the Japanese sword arts.
They are all about the first step, which is entering (irimi) to a position where the attacker is within reach, at the same time avoiding the attack. This is done similarly in the sword arts and aikido.
Osensei's ExerciseThe first aikiken exercise on the video is one shown very often by aikido’s Osensei Morihei Ueshiba, and some variations on it. It is worth practicing regularly.
Notice that I always start with opening my guard, by tilting the sword slightly to the side. The move can be very small, maybe just a slight relaxation in your mind, but it has to be there. Without this opening, the attacker would be hesitant to charge – and rightly so.
Chudan KamaeNext, the chudan kamae (middle level guard) is examined. This is a formidable guard. Miyamoto Musashi called it the field marshal of guards. So, how to enter through it? Some examples are given – as well as simple parries to the same techniques.
I find such aikiken exercises excellent to examine chudan kamae and learn to respect its potential. That’s essential in order to understand the strategy and techniques of the Japanese sword arts.
KirikaeshiFinally, there are some kirikaeshi (repeated cutting) exercises. The attacker’s shomen uchi (straight strike to the head) is met with yokomen uchi (side strike to the head), left and right, with irimi taisabaki movements, taking you off the line of attack.
These simple movements work the same, even if there is an additional attacker (futari), which is also shown on the video. You can – carefully – practice it with more attackers. As long as you move between strikes, you should avoid all the swords by this way of moving. Well, it’s easier said than done.
Irimi movements of the same kind are also used in aikido taninzugake (against several attackers).
Rewarding PracticeI find aikiken practice very rewarding to aikido development, in so many ways. You learn to respect the attack and always avoid it. You train the most sufficient moves and how they suddenly give you the upper hand. And, as always with sword practice, you increase your mental sharpness and physical precision.
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