Own the Space

I am learning that, in conflict, only two things really matter:

  1. Who controls the space?
  2. What does that person do with that control?

For the past few months, I have been looking heavily at technique. How a technique works, how it is performed, what effect does it have on my uke, and so on. This is not a trivial study; I think it is important to understand why techniques are the way they are. Saying that a technique works “because it does” is very Zen, but not very helpful. At least, not at first. Or, at least, not to me at this moment. The notion sits well within the mind, but doesn’t translate to the body. Perhaps that is a better way of putting it: my pursuit of understanding why technique works is my pursuit of having my body, as opposed to my mind, understand the logic that flows below the movement.

And yet, I think that I have put too much focus in understanding where my hands go, feet go, body goes. I think this because I have lost sight of the fact that true technique begins when the mind and body is fully engaged in one’s space. To use a metaphor: I cannot drive to work until I am prepared to acknowledge that, while I am in the car, I am responsible for driving in the space around me. New drivers do not have that acknowledgement. They either drive too cautiously, which leaves them vulnerable to forces well within their control, or they drive too recklessly, failing to fully acknowledge the responsibility they have over their surroundings.

The same is true with technique. I understand ikkyo, kotegaeshi, kaiten nage. That is to say, I understand their movements. I know what they look like. But until I acknowledge the space that is the conflict or dialogue between myself and my opponent, this knowledge is useless. In fact, even acknowledgement is not enough. I must completely own and inhabit the space between myself and my opponent. Only by owning this space will I even have the beginnings of a chance to execute correct technique.

We call this idea by many names: keeping one point, controlling the center, sending ki. The terminology is almost irrelevant, because words only sit in the mind, they don’t seep into one’s bones or muscles. I think the only way to catch this idea is through training, through action. In fact, I know that I have the ability to own the space: when I practice with those who are less-experienced than I, I have no problem filling this space. When I think that I am practicing with someone my rank or higher, I begin to freeze up.

My goal is simple: I will own the space whenever the opportunity presents itself. Once I accomplish that, I will begin to address the question of what to do with that space.

4 thoughts on “Own the Space

  1. My inital reaction was that this was part 3 on the Next step :-0.
    This idea is still sinking in, but it is starting to make some sense to me (at least at the mind level, the body still has a long way to go).

  2. Doug: Haha! No, that will be titled “Next Step, Part III.” I’m at least consistent in that regard, I hope.

    Pavel: True enough. It takes a great deal of time to understand these movements. That’s a subject for another post, however…

  3. Hey Dave,

    Glad to see that you’re not just focused on the business aspects of Aikido 😉 (ROTFLMAO)

    I was teaching a class last night and had an especially difficult time expressing this concept to my students (stop laughing damnit!). I had started by working on irimi-tenkan and then moved into ude-garami (kinda like the bastard child of kotegaeshi and shiho nage). Anyway, the key to the technique is entering uke’s space.

    Everyone was clearly thinking, one foot here, hand goes there other hand too now … grunt … throw. Their focus was so clearly on the mechanics that they missed the dymanics of the space that I was trying to teach. In the end they got sweaty and were able clobber each other pretty well but I don’t know if it was really Aikido yet. Once they get the occupy-the-uke’s-space and the throw will take care of itself concept then, maybe, it’ll be aiki…

    All the new from Ise that’s fit to print.


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