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Atemi

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Theory - Aikido - Intermediate - Orange Belt

Elbow strike to the jaw used to dislodge a clinched attacker

Description

Atemi are strikes. The ones commonly performed in Yoshinkan Aikido include strikes with the back of the fist, strikes with the blade of the hand performed as if cutting with a sword, and a thrusting punch.

Backfist strikes (Metsubishi)

During training, the most common backfist is first performed in Katate mochi Shihonage. In that technique, when Uke grabs and pulls or pushes Sh'te's hand, Sh'te maintains kamae and performs the strike in the following manner:

1. Raising the arm

  • Sh'te bends their free arm at the elbow and brings their hand to their ear.
  • The palm is open and the back of the hand faces uke.
  • The hand and arm are relaxed

2. Striking

  • Sh'te straightens the arm at the elbow, in a natural swing targeting between uke's eyes. 
  • While striking shite closes the palm into a fist with the middle knuckle protruding. 
  • As the fist is formed, the muscles of the hand tighten. 
  • If uke were to fail to block the middle knuckle would strike the target. 
  • Adjust the strike to uke's height.
  • Be sure to face the strike.

This strike in Shihonage can be performed more directly without raising the arm. Raising the arm, however, is both safer at a lower level, allowing Uke time to block, and useful practice for the strike as performed in a variety of techniques. 

The Front Strike (Shomen Uchi)

The front strike is very common in Aikido and is like a downward cut with a sword. It is often performed in techniques by uke as an initiating attack on shite. There are also techniques where shite performs a front strike. 

As with the back fist, the front strike typically targets the top of the bridge of uke's nose between the eyes.

1. Raising the arm

  • from Kamae, Sh'te raises their top arm up along their centre line  at the elbow and brings their hand to their ear.
  • The palm is open and the back of the hand faces uke.
  • The hand and arm are relaxed

2. Striking

  • Sh'te straightens the arm at the elbow, in a natural swing targeting between uke's eyes. 
  • While striking shite closes the palm into a fist with the middle knuckle protruding. 
  • As the fist is formed, the muscles of the hand tighten. 
  • If uke were to fail to block the middle knuckle would strike the target. 
  • Adjust the strike to uke's height.
  • Be sure to face the strike.

Effective Atemi

Atemi are a core part of Aikido. Though Aikidoka hope to avoid hitting people, in a violent situation, effective strikes are often necessary. And, It is impossible to practice Aikido fully without uke actually trying to hit shite. If the strikes are feigned, shite may find it impossible to react appropriately or effectively to a real strike.

So, performing atemi with intent is important. This means that the striker should actually strike, rather than simulate a strike. Practicing realistic striking does not mean, however, that anyone should be hurt, or that all strikes should be at full force. Rather, the individual striking should:

  • focus on the correct form of the strike
  • strike at a speed and with a force that the strikee can react appropriately to
  • strike through the target, not at it (assuming a situation where the strike can be blocked)
  • be of the mindset that the strike is real.

The structure of techniques and practice allow for experienced practitioners to strike fully with very little danger of injury (provided they are paying attention). Where beginners and lower level practitioners are concerned care needs to be taken by all, and it is appropriate to be prepared to pull one's punches.

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