Basic shomenuchi ikkyo omote
Initial hand placementBasic Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote initial hand placement
Shomenuchi ikkyo omote is the first control technique used by Tori to defend against an overhead attack by Uke. Uke's action is the empty hand equivalent of an overhead sword cut or kiri-oroshi. In this technique Tori intercepts and redirect Uke's forwards and downwards slash upwards and backwards towards the attacker by cupping the Uke's elbow with his left hand and slicing Uke's right forearm with his own right arm. This way of applying the technique is fine if the two partners are about the same size and weight. Have you wonder how to apply ikkyo omote to a fully committed attacking partner who is one head taller, has longer limbs and weighs more than you? Imagine trying to stop or to redirect a runaway freight train coming your way.
Many years ago when I first started teaching Aikido in INTi, I asked a beginner student to attack me with shomenuchi. That person was one head taller than me had long arms and legs and easily weighed 90 kg. In comparison I was a midget as my height was up to his shoulder level only and weighed 56 kg.
When I asked the big guy to attack in a
Close up of Tori's initial
hand placementcommitted way he did exactly as he was told. When I tried to redirect Uke's cut in the convention way that I was taught the impact sent my two hands collapsing towards my face. If I had not retreated two steps backwards and stiffen my spine to brace against the attack Uke's forearm would have flatten my nose and smashed my teeth. That evening I went home with a sore forearm and a sprained back, and of course a very bruised ego.
Another view of Tori's
initial hand placement
Adaptive use of the initial shomenuchi hand placement
The problem is that if the attacker is taller than you and with longer hands it is difficult to reach for his arm and forearm on the Uke's upswing hand. By the time you intercept Uke's attacking hand it is on the downswing, almost mid-way to getting hit on the face. In this position your two outstretched hands, instead of deflecting the attacking force upwards become a focus of support for Uke's downwards cut. Thus unless Uke stops or slows his attack momentary for Tori to play catch-up Uke's attacking hand can slice through Tori's weak defence to slam on your face.
After some analytical thinking and experimentation I found out that by extending both hands together to meet Uke's upper arm instead of cupping Uke's elbow with one hand and trying to reach for his forearm with the other it is possible to catch Uke on his upswing yet preserving your own center without over-extending your body and take Uke down at his most vulnerable position. Thus by a slight adaptation of the initial hand placement I could take down guys taller and heavier than me and still preserve the essence of O Sensei's teachings. I would like to share this little piece of discovery with the reader. Imagine you are Tori and Uke attacks shomenuchi with his right hand.
1. Stand on right hanmi guard. Uke is standing on left hanmi guard
2. Watch Uke's body language especially his shoulders. When Uke raise his right hand over head to cut he has to rotate his shoulder first.
3. At the slightest rotation of his right shoulder you step in, your torso as plumb as possible and your two hands extended forward forming a wedge shape, slightly bent at the elbows and in a state of relaxed extension. You may have to bend your knees slightly in order to keep a straight back while in motion.
5. Use your legs to move into Uke's space while he is raising his hands over his head and not bend your body forwards at the waist.
6. You must time your movement in such a way that your right and left hands make contact with his attacking upper arm at the same instant, just below his shoulder at the end of the upward swing of his right hand. Your right hand should make contact with Uke's upper arm along the edge while the left hand slightly trailing the right cup the Uke's arm lightly with the palm. At the same time you must angle your body slightly offline from Uke's line of attack.
7. As the uke steps forward with his right leg and tries to swing his right hand downwards to cut, your two extended hands will hinder uke from initiating the downwards cut at the same time breaking Uke's body structure.
8. Once Uke's boy structure is broken, you slide your right hand from uke's right upper hand downwards towards the direction of his wrist at the same time controlling Uke's arm with your left hand. By this time uke would be bending backwards due to loss of structure. You then twist Uke's hands with your right hand at Uke's wrist and your left hand at Uke's shoulder. From this point onwards you advance forward and take Uke down in the conventional manner.