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Follow-through in Aikido

Mar 12 2016 | By: Johnson Sensei

When is an Aikido technique “over”? What should your posture look like once you’ve thrown or pinned uke? What can you tell about nage’s skill level just by looking at what he or she does AFTER uke has been thrown? These are interesting questions and answering them can help us develop and enhance our own technique.

Let’s start with a sports analogy: Tennis. When you’re first learning tennis you hit the ball and your racquet head basically stops as soon as the ball has been struck. After obtaining some level of skill the racquet head moves through the strike. A top ranked professional hitting topspin will continue through the strike until the racquet head ends up behind the opposite shoulder (please, please search Bjorn Borg on YouTube!). Why is this important? How could anything that happens after the ball has left the racquet head affect the shot? It’s not that the movement of the racquet head after the strike is actually having an effect on the now-distant ball, it’s that the weight transfer and trajectory of the racquet on a good shot will cause the racquet to naturally continue through the strike point. This is called “follow-through”.

The exact same concept applies in Aikido. With proper center movement, posture, distance and form, you will naturally end up “following through” with an extended, triangular, powerful stance that continues your connection to uke even as they are rolling away from you. Beginners often completely disengage physically and mentally from uke as soon as uke is starting to roll. To a trained eye, this looks like the technique is being “stopped short”. Like tennis, as your skill level increases so does your follow-through. In the senior dan ranks every technique execution includes follow through, not because of conscious effort on the part of nage, but because follow-through is the natural outcome of proper movement of your hips and center and a relaxed calm mind.

So, pay attention to your posture at the completion of a technique. Strive to develop technique that includes proper follow-through.

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