I have a vivid memory of being uke for Endo sensei on ushiro ryote dori. I was holding him, and I remember that I was very content with my grab. Then suddenly he disappeared. My fingers opened and we left each other naturally. He was not pulling away or doing any trick to break the grab. Suddenly he was just not there anymore, and it became ridiculous to keep holding his wrists. I let go without thinking, without hesitation and without doubt. It just happened. This moment has puzzled me ever since.

In our keiko we always try to keep the connection with the partner. As tori we try to give a good grab and not lead the partner into unnatural or uncomfortable positions. We try to be sensitive and feel the signals from the partner leading him/her in a natural way so we don’t come to a dead end where our movement stops or the grab breaks. As uke we try the same from the opposite role. We try to follow in a natural way and to keep the grab as complete as possible after the circumstances.

However, at the end of every throw we arrive at a point where we are separating from our partner and going our separate ways. Also inside the katas there are times when we need to change the connection from one point of our body to another. Some are less problematic than others. Often we are changing the connection from one arm to the other. Other katas require some more finesse as we are changing the connection to a different point on the same arm, outside the grab.

One such example is katate dori soto kaiten nage (the way it is traditionally defined). In this throw we have to find some way to disconnect from the partner’s grab, rotate our arm inside the grab, at the same time we need to rotate the partner’s arm in the opposite direction and fluently connect via points of your own arm with points on the partners arm. Actually, at my level, there is no way I can do this at all without violating the grab. Still, we do it in the training all the time. It is impossible, but we do it anyway. We help each other because there is no other way to continue on our road.

Tai no tenkan with Bob and Andrea  in the airport of Vienna November 2013. Photo by Jacqueline Von Arb.

Tai no tenkan with Bob and Andrea in the airport of Vienna November 2013. Photo by Jacqueline Von Arb.

I have tried to explore this a little bit lately, on my own and with some help of my teachers: If I have my partner holding my wrist in katate dori; How can I take my hand away without breaking the grab, or having the partner following me around? I kind of need to lead the partner in one direction while moving in the other direction with my physical body. At the same time I need to have my presence leave my wrists in such a way that the partner still receives my signals, but will not follow my hand as I remove it.

Almost all my time on the tatami has been focused on how to keep the connection with the partner. I think it is interesting to study how to disconnect from the partner in a good way. By knowing how to disconnect I believe that we will understand better how to keep the connection, which is what we generally want, most of the time.

Enjoy your practice! Aiki make people happy!