Aikido from the Inside Out


The Principles:


Take the mind

Fill your openings

Atemi literally means strike, but in aikido it has a more specific meaning and usage. Atemi is used to strike at your partner's openings, not to inflict injury, but to take your partner's mind and affect or lead your partner's ki.

Take the mind

If, for example, your partner moves in with a strong, hard lunge punch and you move to the side and place your fist in the position that his head will be at the moment of his strike, you're likely to dramatically change your partner's attack. Unless your partner is completely oblivious to your fist, you'll likely see the attack falter. Typically, the forward momentum of the attack will stop. In fact, your partner may try to reverse his movement to avoid running into your fist. Notice that you're not specifically or actively striking at his face. You are just placing your fist in a position where he's likely to run into it if he follows through with his attack.

This is the kind of reaction your body would automatically have if you were surprised by a low tree branch during a walk. You might jerk backwards, even fall down to aviod hitting the branch. By the judicious placement of a "strike," you can dramatically affect your partner's energy, position, and relationship to you.

This is not to say that you should always use an atemi. In aikido, you want to use your partner's energy, so changing a forward motion to a backwards one may not necessarily be what you want. It's just an option that is available to alter your partner's ki.

Fill your openings

Another important role of atemi is to fill openings in your own sphere so that your partner can't attack you.

Take the case where your partner grabs your right hand with his left hand. In response, you raise your arm diagonally to the upper right so that you can go underneath his armpit for a throw. As you enter under his armpit, you're potentially vulnerable to a strike by your partner's right hand. So as you enter in, your left hand strikes at your partner's face. This strike is not actually meant to hit him. It simply forces him to raise his right hand to protect himself. This block effectively insures that he won't be using that hand to strike you. You've filled in the momentary opening your movement creates.

In general, atemi has three practical aspects:

• To stop or change your partner's ki or movement
• To fill your own potential opening so your partner can't enter
• As a last resort, to actually strike your partner

If all else fails, atemi can be used as an actual strike. When your life is in danger, you use whatever you have available. If all you have left is a strike, use it.




The Techniques


©1993-1998 Howard Bornstein