Monday, November 21, 2011

Elbow Stacking in Shihonage

Weed out the worms,starve them of the poison they love.
Replace it with knowledge,
that will shine light on the dank stagnant boils where they fester.
Dry them up until they crack into dust, then sweep them out.
Expel the worms that work towards your premature rotting.
This cleaning is infinity.

Continuing on with my discussion from the last two posts on elbow stacking, putting one's elbow directly above or below a partner's for ideal positioning, here I will show it's application in shihonage, a basic technique in Aikido. This particular version of shihonage starts from gyaku hanmi katatedori : in this case it's where I started with my left leg and arm forward and my partner started with their right leg forward and they grab my left wrist with their right hand.

The picture above does not match my ideal for elbow stacking. Can you see why? Because the elbows are not directly above and below each other! But perhaps this is the phase just before reaching the point of elbow-stackage, which reveals one problem I mentioned earlier about trying to break down these techniques; they should be done in continuous fluid motion. Stopping them allows us to take a picture and have a discussion on a particular point, but it is not the technique. Unfortunately, in the few pictures I took, I just couldn't get the shot right. Not to blame a partner, but successful completion of this technique does require some things from the partner, which my partner may not have been so privy too. First of all, one must maintain a solid grip on your wrist through the technique. If it is too lax and there is space, then my wrist will slip out of the partner's hand, connection is lost, and another technique would suit the situation better. Perhaps these pictures serve as a better image of what it looks like just before you stack the elbows. Or maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about! HAHA!

Anyway, I wanted to show this particular example of elbow stacking because in my last two posts, the tori's elbow (person doing the technique, me in these instances) is above the opponents, breaking their balance and dropping them downwards. With shihonage though, we get the opposite effect. As I move to put my elbow directly underneath my partner's as they maintain an honest grip, they will be forced upwards on to their toes to get the effect of what is often called, "floating waza"; a technique that utilizes this uprooting of the partner giving them a brief feeling of floating. If you don't stack the elbows properly, you probably won't get the "floating" effect which is key to breaking the balance of your partner.

Of the many potential boundaries I create in my technique keeping me from efficient movement, it's the tension in my shoulders which I think is most problematic. If one can relax their upper body, primarily the shoulders, then a solid/fluid (funny how those antonyms are both part of the same thing here eh?) connection with the ground is made, which is your greatest support and strength in this technique. You are the tool, the medium between the earth and gravity, the magician of forces that utilizes certain facts of life to produce certain outcomes, in this case, unbalancing your opponent and putting yourself in an advantageous position. If you are clean of impurities, in this case, muscle tension in the shoulders, then those forces you seek to utilize can work to their greatest potential.

Saying this, my shoulders are not completely relaxed in my technique. This is the greatest difference between me and my teacher. I can talk about it, but achieve little results in actuality whereas my Sensei can just do it. Well, how do you breach that wide gap between our respective abilities? Time and experience I suppose ... at least that's what everyone is saying.

But I need to go to sleep soon, and then I have to go to work, because I have bills to pay, and then I have to go to the supermarket to buy food, then I have to cook the food and then spend time in the bathroom. Then there's places I need to go in order to see people I need to meet. I'm here ready to devote myself to improvement in technique but it's just so ... complicated sometimes. Maybe not, it's all just time and experience right? I suppose there is also a gap between the realization of this ideal and practical daily life. It's all physics ... no magic.

Well, doesn't stop me from searching for the Holy Grail. Gonna live forever I swear, even if it kills me.


  1. Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.
    After enlightenment, eat pizza and drink beer.

    Nice series on the elbows.

  2. So you've got a new girl friend?