All of these levels need hands on explanation. This writing is intended to provide a skeleton for students to hang the lessons upon.
- Static – Co-operative
- Flowing – Single coordinated attack
- Dynamic – Responsive continuous attack
- Randori – Multiple opponents and spatial awareness
- Jiyuwaza – Freestyle attacks and defences
- Goshin – Non-traditional line familiarization
Static / Co-operative
Initial static training is the phase of postural correction, building structure through skeletal awareness, increasing awareness of misuse of muscular tension and/or isolation. This process should be slow and steady for both uke and tori. Especially uke needs to be aware of not applying more resistance than tori can comfortably handle. This can be felt by uke as overuse of isolated force, particularly in the shoulders, or by tori leaning the body mass into uke’s posture. If uke is not aware of these signals, (not the only ones) then tori should ask for less pressure. This phase should never be competitive. In this context cooperative training for uke means not changing posture or attack direction as tori begins to move. For tori it means solving the attack “problem” within the technique being studied and not introducing artificially placed atemi, or sudden changes of speed.
Obviously this process requires an understanding of the correct dynamics of the attack. This requires uke to study and model the alignments and force vectors related to each attack and to be able to increase speed and intensity according to the level of tori. Some of these understandings only really become available after passing through the flowing and dynamic stages of training, however superficially, in order to return to the static phase with more martial knowledge.
Tori has the opportunity in this phase to explore structural weakness in the way they receive force, how they handle low levels of stress, both physically and psychologically, the inefficient use of isolated muscle power, how breathing can increase or reduce whole body power, how to move as one unit with multiple force vectors, etc.
Katate dori is a standard wrist grab in aikido. It is either the precursor to a pull or a push, or the beginning of a throw or lock. It can also be an immobilisation for a brief moment.
In the static phase of training uke should only have the intent to grip tori’s center.
This is the learning process for uke, requiring awareness as well as power. There should be no pull or push at this stage, but as joint understanding of the techniques being trained increase, vector energy should be introduced requiring correct flow. There is no threat of a strike from the free hand, but tori should already be considering the principle of defence and attack as one (kobo ichinyo).
Power should be increased steadily until tori can move freely regardless of the force applied. Only after that point can flowing training actually begin to be effective. When tori is capable of moving freely when held with maximum force, the mind is also beginning to be free, a vital condition for dynamic training.
Flowing / Single coordinated attack
After static training we come to flowing training. Now, instead of segmenting and analyzing the components of a technique we try to maintain a steady movement and flow of energy from beginning to end. It is still only a single attack but the energy given by uke must fit realistically with the nature of the attack. It can be slow or fast, depending upon both partners’ abilities. At this stage targeting becomes important for uke, as well as some degree of striking skill, understanding physical attributes and anatomy. Uke must also seriously commit to following tori’s movements as a precursor to dynamic training and kaeshiwaza. This means that uke should not try to anticipate the response of tori, even though we are dealing with pre-arranged attack and defence, kata, in other words. It is not however intended that uke should compensate for poor technique but no pointless resistance should be applied. Correcting poor technique in either partner requires stepping back to static training from time to time. Faster repetition can engrave wrongful body habits, so correction and improvement must always follow the principle of.
Slow makes smooth, smooth makes fast
This is also the stage in which perceptual speed and combat positioning (maai) can begin to be studied. Due to the nature of static training there are no surprises, practice is with a clear grip or strike. With flowing training the desire is to maintain the condition created previously with a more immediate “on contact” response.
Dynamic / Responsive continuous attack
Dynamic training for uke is maintaining the attack flow into secondary attacks when the opening presents itself. This should be practise at a slow tempo to begin with, no sudden jerks or changes of momentum in either partner, speeding up as accuracy and safety allow. The objectives here are slightly different for uke and tori. For uke it is to explore and present openings to tori, either by exploiting them and executing a second (or even third) attack leading to kaeshi waza, or merely through indication.
As already stated problems for tori should be solved through examining phase 1 conditioning and reintegrating phase 2. Tori’s role is to close openings for secondary attack, so that there can only be one attack, thus no fight, according to aikido philosophy, only victory.
Randori / Multiple opponents and spatial awareness
It is randori that begins to make sense of many aikido movements, such as irimi and irimi tenkan. Multiple opponents demand a far greater spatial awareness, and constant movement to optimum position whilst maintaining internal structure and connection. The mind must not be trapped by a single opponent; the group must be perceived as one, and manipulated accordingly. Randori practise should proceed through the first 3 phases of training, with variety and intensity increasing according to capacity. The aim of randori should ultimately be the control of the group mind through subtle manipulation of timing and body signals so that tori is actually orchestrating the process.
Jiyuwaza / Freestyle attacks and defences
All attacks, all defences, unplanned and unscripted. This will inevitably degrade the aesthetics of training for a long period of time, so again slow (even static) practise leading to flow and dynamic practise is the way forward. It is possible in the advanced phases of training to begin to work on the adrenaline response, which won’t happen without a reasonable degree of stress.
Goshin / Non-traditional line familiarization
The function of this training is to begin to test the body qualities and skills developed thus far and to begin to leave standard techniques behind. This is really the stage OSensei referred to as Takemusu Aiki, the spontaneous emergence of techniques according to the nature or conditions of the moment. Aikido as self-defence exists at this stage, both through awareness and technique.