Ballet by Alain Bachellier

ashi waza and aikido in the same sentence

I once asked Shigenobu Okumura Sensei (Aikikai 9 dan) about ashiwaza (leg or foot techniques) in aikido. He looked surprised for a moment and then he said categorically there were noashiwaza in aikido.

Okumura Sensei had a kind of analytical and systematic approach to aikido. He would ask things like how many ways can you take uke’s wrist when you’re being held in katatedori (hand inside uke’s hand with your thumb up, hand outside uke’s hand with your thumb down…). And you would always forget one.

In fact I think Okumura Sensei wrote the modern Aikikai grading system for kyu and dan promotion tests.

So he thought that if there was an ashiwaza in there somewhere it wasn’t aikido. But I don’t think we need to be rigid about it. Some teachers do use ashiwaza occasionally. And in some styles they are actually normal techniques. I was invited to train as a guest in an offshoot of Tomiki Aikido once and they used ashi waza as a matter of course (along with ippon seoi nage – another judo waza). So I want to talk about a few of the sub-techniques – the techniques within the techniques – from judo (and karate) we can use in aikido (with some pretty random videos). These techniques are only components of the overall aikido techniques and unlike judo they can often be done without a grip on the uke. The connection (musubi) is through the energy of the uke’s attack.

My first teacher Asoh Sensei (7 dan) who had some judo experience showed us a self-defence applied (ouyou) version of shiho nage combined with osoto gari – that’s an outside leg reap. The technique becomes very powerful and dangerous for the uke because it is so difficult to protect the head from impact with the ground.
If you’re not familiar with judo throws this is a normal judo osoto gari.

I was the uke for Arikawa Sensei (9 dan) at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo for many years. Arikawa Sensei used very fast ashi waza occasionally without even thinking about it. Like a striking cobra. As he broke my balance sometimes he did a fast ashi waza like deashi barai – a sharp foot sweep of my advancing leg – or as I took a step forward his outstretched back leg would sometimes do a hiza guruma type technique blocking my front leg and pivoting me over.

These are the kind of judo techniques he used:

De ashi barai

Hiza guruma

Kouchi gari

Kosoto gari (here with a double attack)

Even in karate there are some ashi waza that could be relevant to aikido.

There are a few in these karate kata techniques

And finally another interesting and simple ashi waza from karate (kind of a kosoto gake) – you can see the resemblance to an aikido kokyu nage

I don’t think ashi waza are essential for aikido. But if we know what ashi waza are and how to do them and even occasionally train in them perhaps we won’t leave ourselves so vulnerable to them. And that’s got to be a good thing.


Aqui la traducción en español.

Hier die Deutsche Übersetzung.

This post appeared originally on the aikido site aikiweb

very cool photo of deashi barai: Ballet by Alain Bachellier

© niall matthews 2010

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