WORKING WITH GRABS

In Aikido, we practice our techniques against every imaginable grab possible. To someone watching Aikido, but unfamiliar with our training methods, some of these practices seem very silly or impractical. I would like to discuss some of what is going on with Aikido practice with grabs.

First of all, let’s look at the purpose of the grab. At a basic level, a grab is performed from a static position. Uke freely allowed to grab nage with full power in order to restrain his movement. This means that nage must learn to use the principles of Aikido to learn how to move freely against such an attack. Nage has to learn the difference from moving freely against various holds, as they all have a particular nuance that makes the attack most effective. So at this stage, the grab is not a technique, but a training tool that fosters strong, correct movement.

The part where the grab is trained as a technique to be defended against has several considerations. First, that you may be grabbed by a Judo, Jujutsu, or similar exponent. The threat of defeat when grabbed by an expert of such arts is very real. Also, since it is generally easier to strike at a person than to hold them and restrain them, the reason why they are grabbing you adds a different dimension to the attack. For example, imagine that you are a law enforcement officer or a soldier, and you have a gun pointed at someone who then grabs your arms or hands to control you and your weapon. Surely, you had best know how to not only defend against the hold, but do so in a way that allows you to retain and use your weapon. Having your weapon taken from you by an enemy surely means that it will be used against you. Also, a person may grab you so that others may more easily converge on you. So you must also be able to release yourself from holds in a way that allow you to overcome multiple attackers.

Next, we consider grabs combined with strikes. It is a very natural and obvious consideration that if a person grabs with one hand, they will hit you with the other hand. If they grab you with both hands, they may kick, knee, or headbutt you. If you are grabbed from behind you may be put in a choke. So you must train so that your release from the hold doesn’t allow for a second or third attack or technique being used against you.

Tactically, that you are grabbed in the first place is bad. If a person can grab you first, then they can just as well strike you first. So in addition to all of the above, you must learn to practice your techniques so that you cannot be struck at all. This is difficult to explain in words. Nishio Sensei makes a clear and remarkable demonstration of this in his video presentations of techniques against holds. By treating the hold as if it is a strike, you prevent further attack from uke and begin to control the encounter from the moment of contact.

I hope this clears up some confusion about holds for people that do not practice Aikido, and gives some ideas on how to improve your practice for those of you that do.

3 Responses to WORKING WITH GRABS

  1. A good explanation for the non-Aikidoists!

  2. Ben E Gesserit says:

    I agree that grabs in aikido serve multiple purpose and that, as one’s skill progresses, they start to be revealed for what they really mean. A static grab in aikido is a still frame of an energy vector. As a student becomes more and more proficient, the whole excercise becomes more and more dynamic, till the aikidoka can just respond to the energy vector itself as soon or even before the grab takes place. In this sense, one is training AIKI, i.e. blending with the opponent, which makes aikido’s strategy make sense: you deal with the problem at the earliest possible stage of its evolution.
    If a static grab is a great tool for the beginner to learn and for the veteran to explore; aikido actually happens in the split second in which the attack (energy vector) can be or is detected.
    In this way one has to deal with a lesser problem than waiting for the attack to reach its full potential before responding…..who, in their right mind and in the real world, would wait for an assailant to have a complete advantage before reacting?!?
    Ueshiba knew better and us aikidokas (along with all martial artists) should too.

  3. Fight Gear says:

    It explain well an Aikidoists!

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