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05 Fridge Aikido - an analogy

(original article circa 1999 See How to Throw Someone for videos of this  and other concepts in action)

While moving into a house recently I had to move a fridge as well. Although a fridge is large, it is not especially heavy. Nonetheless it is tricky to move into place. This started me thinking about how we move a fridge and if there is any aiki involved (and of course a little physics too). This then begs the question, are there any parallels between moving a fridge and moving uke?

In many ways a fridge is like those big solid ukes you sometimes get stuck with when you pair up a bit too slowly and s/he’s the only other left. Out of the corner of your eye you see them madly waving at you from the other end of the dojo. On the plus side though, when practicing Aikido with a fridge you have no chance of having an overly co-operative uke and if you want to have any chance of moving it you need to have mind and body coordinated. Uke is also unlikely to actively resist or block your techniques, use sneaky Ki tricks and/or kaeshi waza.

Grunt Work

There are many ways to move something heavy (such as a refrigerator). We can either try to move it directly though its center or we can move it indirectly by moving its extremities. In the following illustrations the shaded square represents the Fridge's one point in its starting position and the black square represents it after it has been moved, so too the dotted lines represent the initial position of the fridge and the solid lines the fridge's final position.

Figure 2 shows how we might move the fridge directly. In Fig. 2(A) we push directly against the center of the fridge and try to move all of it back at once, (B) shows a 'dead lift' of the fridge as we lift it through its center or one point. While not impossible these are nonetheless difficult tasks for all but the strongest of us. Clearly, Figure 2 shows that in lifting or moving the fridge we are trying to move the whole mass of the fridge at once to shift it about. Consider now Figure 3, which adopts a more aiki approach.

Using Aiki

Here the direction of our force is not applied to the one point of the fridge but rather to the extremities or corners of the fridge. Hence we end up moving the fridge by either (A) pushing on only one the side of the fridge or (B) tilting the fridge to raise its ‘one point’ by either pushing it on one side near the top or by raising a corner.

The methods of Fig. 3 are physically easier to perform than those shown in Fig. 2 and achieve the same result of moving the fridge's one point. Do these second methods obey aiki principles of not opposing the one point (of the fridge) directly? I think this can best be answered by seeing if these ideas are useful in passing a Ki test.

Ki Test - Moving a Stable Uke

In this Ki test uke crouches down into a 'strong' position, with an elbow held at eye level and the wrist firmly grasped by the opposite hand. Nage's job is to move uke back. Being somewhat artistically challenged I represent uke as a box and nage as a stick figure.
From the position at the start of the test (shown in Figure 4(A)) it is very difficult for nage to move uke physically, because the force is applied directly against uke's one point. This is like moving the fridge using the methods illustrated earlier in Figure 2. Instead when nage keeps mind and body coordinated he/she is able to move uke. In this case the relaxed body of nage achieves this by allowing the horizontal movement of his/her one point to be redirected into a slight vertical movement of the arms 4(B). In this position nage's applied force is no longer acting directly against the one point of uke but is displaced easily into a more vertical direction. The result is that uke's stability is lost (through a small movement of their one point). This is like the fridge movement in Fig. 3(B). Once uke's one point is lost as nage continues moving, uke is easily moved from their place.

Joint Locks on a Fridge

Figure 5 shows a method of moving the fridge that uses a connection to the fridge (and hence its one point) via a short piece of rope. However you can clearly see that by moving the rope it will not shift at all until (B) all the slack in the rope has been taken up, at this point (C) the fridge can be moved either by pulling the rope sideways (though this is in a direct line with uke’s centre) or by dropping the rope directly to the ground (out of the line of uke’s centre).

Consider now that the rope is attached in as in Figure 6(a), where the slack has been completely taken up. (B) It follows then that by moving in the direction of the arrows we can spin uke around quite easily. (C) Once uke is in this position we can no longer spin it around, however if we have spun it quickly enough initially it will continue to spin on its own. In addition if the rope was also attached high up on the fridge (i.e. above its one point) it may even fall down. This reminds me of something  Tamura Sensei once said: "...much Aikido is in a straight line and only appears to be circular because of the movement it creates..."

To see some of these idea in action follow this three part article

03a Ki: Generating Power
03b Ki: Transferring Power
03b Ki: Applying Power

Daniel A. James