Last couple of Saturdays we've spent the class covering multiple attack(s) training. The Tomiki Ryu has a greater focus on individual (toshu or hand) randori but when the mood strikes we'll bunch up and go after it; or as an old S. Texas saying goes, "All you big guys line up and all you little guys bunch up; it's time to dance."
Multiple attacks (in my view) provide a window into the Aikido players' head in that some uke attack with full vigor, others with less vigor and others holding back as if they are concerned about the ukemi; their not knowing with certainty the exact type, configuration or force the fall (they are getting set to take) will contain.
So with that said; some of the worst Aikido players I have ever had the misfortune to lay my tired eyes on are those who, afraid to take a fully dynamic fall, never really and truly commit to an attack whether that be in kihon & kata training or in randori. Since they are afraid of the ukemi, they never really do a fully commited attack and conversely, since they know not how to attack they never "feel" what happens when they attack and loose control after tore snaps that kuzushi on them. If they are afraid of the ukemi then it's likely that their uke also has a certain fear level and will also not fully commit. Bottom line; you cannot understand the tore unless you understand the uke, and vice versa.
So now the issue takes on multiple layers of problem;
- they never fully attack (always slightly holding back ever so subtly) so they do not know what it feels like to totally lose control as the attacker, so they have no visceral "feel" for what an attacker will undergo when attacking,
- they are unaware of "holding back" and thus do not have full "awareness" of the interaction of forces onging in the uke/tore relationship,
- since they have no visceral "feel" for what uke will have to live thru' then they have no appreciation for the waza they are applying and never develop a complete understanding of it nor will they be able to make "on-the-fly" adjustments based on uke's reaction at any given moment (since they have never gone thru' it themselves),
- since their uke will also likely have "lesser" ukemi skills, then they will not have the opportunity to really, truly bear down and throw it with full gusto,
- since they can't throw with full gusto then they will never comprehend the full dynamic range of the waza and will not be able to throw against a fully resisting uke.
Ukemi ..... ukemi again ..... lots and lots of ukemi ..... lots and lots of QUALITY ukemi.
What is that .......... that "quality" ukemi?
They only way to fully develop ability in ukemi is to be thrown multiple times (tens' of thousands actually) in every possible configuration of a throw. Kote-gaeshi, ushiro kote-gaeshi, sumi-otoshi, uke-otoshi, projection rolls forward, backward & sideways, koshi-nage, aiki-nage, shoman-ate, sacrifice throws, even be throw in judo throws such as o-goshi, ippon seo-nage, kata-guruma, foot sweeps, uchi-mata, be throw in all type and manner of Aikido and Judo throws ........ even be body slammed a few times just to get that one in also (crash mat highly rec0mmended for that one).
The idea here is two-fold; first,be thrown in any and every possible configuration a throw can possibly take and second, be thrown in each configuration a sufficient number of times in order to allow your subconscious mind to be able to take control the moment a throw begins and at full speed-full tilt boogie & high velocity, automatically recognize the configuration and by turning in mid-air, orient your body such that a safe "landing" becomes easy(ier) and safer. And, to be able to do so even if the throw is a complete suprise and totally unexpected. And, to be able to do so whether being thrown fast or slow or anywhere in between.
Ukemi is a hyper-critical element of training in MA and the ability to take any throw is the mark of a high-level player since it results long-term in being able to fully commit to an attack, viscerally understand the gyrations ukes undergoes as the planet rises to meet and greet them, and be able to adjust on-the-fly to the dynamics of a throw; any throw both as tore and as uke.
Players who train in dojo with a poor falling surface or too-small area are unfortunate as they simply do not have the physical plant and equipment to fully experience dynamic waza from the aspects of both uke and tore. But, an adjustment can be made by having some extra crash mats so that they can be thrown with gusto (safely) or, the Sensei can have the class take turns working in a small group such that the available falling space can be maximized even if it means the class lines up and only one or two people are being thrown at any given moment.
The adjustment must be made so that the experience can be garnered and maximized. Good ukemi skills are simply too critical for fully developing the Bushi to not pay heed to the need.
L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudo Kancho, Aikibudokan, Houston, TX