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Extension in Aikido

Updated on December 13, 2016

Morihei Ueshiba performing Ikkyo


Vocab list

Before reading this article there are some terms to know in Japanese. These terms will be used within the article.

Ikkyo- first principle or the first technique learned in Aikido

Shiho Nage- A technique in Aikido involving throwing one's opponent over your shoulder

Uke- your opponent

Kosa dori- cross hand grab

Randori- Japanese word for freestyle

The Application of Extension in Aikido

Extension is used in every, if not most, techniques in Aikido from the most basic, Ikkyo, to the more difficult techniques like Shiho Nage. How many times have you tried to do a technique with a new Uke( your opponent) who doesn't know how to go along with techniques, for practicing purposes, and your technique gets stuck? The reason for this is because we forget to keep out lever arm extended. This can be seen in Ikkyo. If a Uke grabs your wrist from Kosa dori( cross hand grab) and is twice your size you need all the help you can get. pointing your energy through you finger tips allows your arm to go unbendable and move your opponents balance with ease. This same idea can be seen used in countless other techniques.

What is Extension?

Extension describes the outstretch, but relaxed, positions of your arms. This position prevents your arms from caving into your body and allows you to create a longer lever arm. A lever arm isn't necessarily an arm. It just refers to the amount of leverage you have(and need) to throw a person. Have you ever heard the quote " Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum to which to place it, and I can move the world" by Archimedes? The longer the lever arm the more power the Aikido technique has. This means the more effective it is on the street.

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How to practice using extension in Aikido

There are several ways to practice using extension to dramatically improve your Aikido, but I'll share with you two I think are the most effective

  1. The Unbendable arm principle.

This is just a principle but it helps one get the feel of using their extension. You extend your arm and place it on a partners shoulder. Your partner is going to try and bend your arm toward the floor at the pit of your elbow. First, you should try to resist it with your strength and see how successful you are. Now, while he is pulling down extend through your finger tips and see the the different. Do this before training to get a feel for extension.

2. Randori

Randori is basically Japanese for free style. This is when you get your partner to do what ever attack he or she wants to and you deal with them appropriately . To have maximum results from this training exercise focus on how extended your arms are instead of what technique you want to do. This allows you to train your subconscious to use extension, as well as give you an accurate feel of what a street fight would be like. To increase the difficulty you could also add more and more people. Below is a link to see videos of some Randori.

The Unbendable arm



So we talked about what extension is and how to use it. Remember to remain mindful of your extension in practice so it can become instinctive on the streets. What aspect of Aikido do you think is the most important? Leave your answer in the comments.


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