Posted by: Eddie deGuzman | December 21, 2008

Effortless Center

by Eddie deGuzman

So, how exactly does one throw someone else effortlessly? That’s the way we’re told that we’re supposed to throw an attacker/partner in aikido.  Without using muscle, shouldering, forcing, how exactly can a body throw a body?  One key concept is moving from your center.  It’s said often enough, heard often enough, but is it understood?  We’ve spent a lifetime leaning into things to push and leaning back to pull.  It’s a hard habit to break, but necessary if you want to take your aikido to another level.

Any technique requires motion, the use of arms and legs.  That’s atarimae/only natural.  However, it’s important how you carry yourself for that leads to how you carry out your technique.  You must be balanced, centered. You need good posture.  Once you start to lean, you involve unnecessary muscle power and you start to force technique.  And if you start your movement from your arms or where you’re being grabbed, then you are using isolated muscle groups and NOT moving from your center.

How do you move your arms to throw someone without moving your arms? Good question.  Move your body instead.  And start from your center.  In aikido, traditionally our center is taught to be located in the lower part of the body, the 丹田/tanden, which is a couple of inches below the naval and into the body.  Learning to move from here is very important.  The real tricky thing is to be able to connect the rest of your body to this point and move as a single entity.  When you can do this, you can extend that connection to the contact point with the attacker/parnter and to their center.  And having your whole self behind a technique is much more powerful than using simply your arm or shoulder muscles.

“Effortless” technique is a somewhat deceptive descriptor.  It’s no easy task to give up on external strength.  It requires great effort, dedication, sweat and time.  A whole lot of each.

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