Choking on something?

Ushiro kubishime: rear chokehold, one hand on wrist, the other potentially cutting off air supply across the throat.

In teaching techniques focusing on ushiro kubishime today, King-Sensei related a story of a female fellow aikidoka who lived in a dangerous area of town took a lengthy well-lit route to and from class. She eventually decided to take a rape prevention class and armed with her new techniques, demonstrated a response to a chokehold in aikido class. Her sensei in response (and with her permission) performed a chokehold on her, and did so for 10 minutes while she tried unsuccessfully to escape, and when released was so shaken she had to leave class. What shook her was the complete feeling of helplessness and one-sided struggle.

I had heard a similar story in a previous aikido lifetime, and have been thinking along a similar vein because of an upcoming “rape prevention” class my church is holding. So as King-Sensei introduced the technique tonight I was nodding inwardly. I’ve always felt that at the very least I have good instincts: I catch my kids one-armed as they fall off furniture, sometimes only seeing them with bare peripheral vision. And even more so, in an attack I would have the gut physical reaction that only being a pompous self-righteous intellectual can give you. What, you want to hurt me, punk?

Punk or not, we have a kid in our class who often gets a little excited about being the uke, or attacker role. Twice he put a chokehold on me a little stronger than I expected. The first time I felt a slight loss of wind, but continued with the attack. The second time he used both arms, instead of one as we were practicing, and squeezed. To my credit, I wasn’t nervous, but I did react with a lot of frustration and annoyance and failed to do anything to resolve the situation without struggling.

When you search for harmony in how you act, either annoyance or fear bring you to the same end.

The first “answer” to this problem is that you must train your body so much that it always reacts without you having to think (and overthink) the situation, much like me being so used to my kids falling off the couch that I watch them even when I don’t know that I’m watching. This perhaps is the military approach. King-Sensei’s followup to his story essentially said that despite your circumstances you must relax and let your body flow from one point without struggle.

Must relax. It’s almost a contradiction, but something to keep telling myself as I so often encounter my aforementioned self-righteous rage. What good does it to me to be right if I can’t be happy?


02 2005

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