Ame no Torifune – by Dick Willems
Because of the Corona-virus control measures, there are no Aikido classes at Aikidojo Amsterdam the coming week. But does this mean you can’t train? Absolutely not! Although it’s often said it takes two to do Aikido, there are plenty of exercises you can do by yourself. Even though you’re not going to be able to lock up your training buddies for a while, there’s still plenty you can work on. It might even be a good idea to do this when we get back to our regular schedule!
In this installment, we’re going to take a look at Ame no Torifune. This exercise (like many others) is often seen as a warmup exercise, but it’s more than that. Take a look at O-sensei demonstrating this exercise with Terry Dobson:
As with many exercises in Aikido (including technique), it’s instructive to ask yourself what you’re supposed to learn from it, aside from how to do it exactly. My (admittedly limited) take on this is that you’re trying to learn a form of full-body movement.
So, with this in mind, take a look at the video first and check out how O-sensei does this exercise. First, note that he does it in a couple of different ways. If you look at his arms, at first he seems to swing them up in arc, later he thrusts them out. If you look at his torso, first he keeps his hips straight, later he turns while coming back. What do you do? Now try it the other way. How does this feel? Are you engaging your entire body? If not, what seems to be missing? Now try to add that. Ask yourself those three questions repeatedly. You can spend a good amount of time improving your Ame no Torifune this way.
Here’s some things to consider:
- Are you stable while doing this? Does your heel keep touching the ground or is it coming up? Check the video again. What is O-sensei doing?
- How far are your knees coming forward? If you can’t see your toes when you’re coming forward, you should probably tone it down for two reasons. One: you’re messing up your knees, and two: you’re reducing your mobility. You’re making it too hard for yourself to come back. Check the video again. What is O-sensei doing?
- Are your legs involved when you do this exercise? In what way? Is one leg doing more than the other leg? Does that mean that you’re under-engaging that leg, or over-engaging the other? Can you balance this out? Check the video again. What is O-sensei doing?
- Is your spine engaged? In what way? Can you switch it around? Does this make it easier or harder? Check the video again. What is O-sensei doing?
- Are your shoulders tense or relaxed? Are you hunching? Are your shoulders coming forward and backward? Can you keep them relaxed and stable? Can you reduce the stiffness? Can you reduce it even more? Check the video again. What is O-sensei doing?
- What are your arms doing? Do they feel tense or stiff? Can you reduce the stiffness? Check the video again. What is O-sensei doing?
- Overall: do you feel balanced? Do you feel your entire body is engaged and coordinated? Is there any stiffness and can you get rid of it?
That’s it for now folks. I hope you find some value in this exercise, and to see you back on the mat in good health soon.
Dick Willems – 14th of March 2020