Anglais (US)
Aïkido Knowledge base

Mutual stance on attacks

An old saying goes that “the right shoulder is the key to Ken exercises, while the left shoulder is instrumental in empty-handed exercises”. This principle holds good provided the right mutual stance is taken. It is only natural that one of the two hands which is more skilful than the other should prove more useful and effective at the time of contact with your partner. The fact that there are an overwhelmingly more right-handers may be accounted for by the natural tendency to protect the heart from attack.  

I was once childed by the Founder for walking on his right side while escorting him. He thundered:”Don’t you dare block your Master’s right hand. It is the Master’s duty to protect you.”. The Founder was right-hander.
The posture required in Aikido is different from that in the ordinary fencing art. Many of the readers must have noticed the difference, which was referred to in “Basic Techniques”. You might observe the Founder’s posture. It is quite clear that his posture is a shade different from that of members of the Hanayagi school in the rear row who are presumed to be taking lessons from him. To illustrate the pint, the same photo is shown here again.
Posture and mutual stance 
Right oblique posture is ordinarily required in Ken exercises. Conversely, empty-handed exercises require left oblique posture. The latter case is because the initial stance between the two partners is more than two steps apart so that when they mutually take one step forward with their right foot, they may come into contact with each other in the mutually right oblique posture. 

I suggest you position your eyes in such a way that you will see the upper rear of your partner’s right shoulder. Your eyes are not supposed to be fixed far from or near your partner but should rather grasp him as a whole. The Founder used to explain as follows: 

“Don’t look at the eyes of your partner because your mind tends to be absorbed by them. Don’t look at his sword, either, because your Ki (Spirit) will get involved with it. Don’t look at him because you absorb his Ki by so doing. The essence of a real martial art lies in the buildup of magnetic power to absorb your partner as a whole. Having mastered the art, all I have to do is just stand where I am.” 

The above remarks explicitly point to the ultimate stage of attainment where no posture is considered necessary in Aikido practice. Such stage, however, is far beyond the reach of beginners. As a practical approach, I recommend that the instructors or senior trainees on the receiving end of Ken partnership provide guidance on the posture, mutual stance and eye positioning explained earlier.
The desired mutual stance calls for the tip of one sword barely touching that of another. Taking too close a stance and engaging in a tip-to-tip skirmish with an eye to an opportunity for attack should be discouraged. Keep the tip of your sword as high as your throat. There is no need to direct the tip straight at the eye or throat of your partner.