No Shihonage Break Fall

by Joseph Caulfield

When I was training in Cambridge under Kanai Sensei, the technique I hated the most was shihonage break fall. The throwing I liked, the taking the ukemi was hell. Ukemi, receiving with or through the body, is as important to Black Sword Aikido as throwing, pinning, joint locking, and striking skills. You cannot really learn a technique, until you have learned to receive it with your body. If I was the slightest slow in my body movements, my shoulder, elbow, and wrist would start to break and the pain would be excruciating. When I fell, I was afraid that I would land on my neck; the fall was a very hard fall. Some of my fellow students refused to take the fall, others would only take it when it was absolutely necessary. I never thought that made sense. First, I treated shihonage break fall as a suki, a weakness or gap in my aikido and was determined that I was going to close this gap. Secondly, believing the biblical adage ďThat which I most feared has come to pass,Ē I was convinced that thatís just the ukemi I would need on the street. Thirdly, throughout my life I have always found it necessary to confront my fears. For example, I used to be afraid of insects. Unfortunately, one summer when we were living in Roslindale, I did not listen to Oku-sama, the Honorable Wife, and had left some garbage down the basement in the summer. When I went down to retrieve it, the pull cord from the lamp appeared thick and furry. I realized that those were all flies clinging to it. My first impulse was to run. My second impulse was to force myself to go up to the string and actually caress the flies. My aversion to insects ended in that instant. I still donít like them, but they no longer exert the same emotional response in me. I closed the gap in my psychic armor in that regards.

Similarly, fearing and abhorring shihonage break fall, this was the technique I practiced the most. Before class, after class, during class, I would request nage to throw me in shihonage break fall. Gradually, I overcame my fear of shihonage break fall and, on occasions, even enjoyed it. Today, I am still not crazy over taking ukemi from shihonage break fall, but I am confident I can do it, and it does not have the same emotional response in me. I eliminated the suki, closed the gap.

Now, my students donít want to do Upper Hook Dividing, or they donít want to do Turning Finger Dividing. Overcome your fears! Close the gap!