How often have we wished we’d arrived home five minutes before the rain started instead of five minutes after the heavens opened up? Or bought a stock just before its meteoric rise instead of after it began its tailspin into the penny stocks?

In business, we hear the expressions “Location, location location!” and ”Timing is everything!” all the time. These maxims are true in the ‘business’ of aikido, too. We must learn to be aware of placement and timing (opportunities!), and practise our ability to use both these elements to our advantage in ‘making a sale’, i.e. throwing uke.  In other words, we must be in the right place at the right time.

Static techniques emphasise this in a most meticulous way, but sometimes proper placement and timeliness go out the window when we’re practising jiyu waza, or so I’ve been finding out lately.

Being in the right place begins with ma-ai - the ‘distance of opportunity and co-operation’. We see effective examples of this in nature all the time: hawks flying in tandem, schooling fish, geese in formation, wolves on the hunt; the spacing of trees in the forest, cacti in the desert.

As shite, you must move (forward!) to establish this this. If you stand still waiting for uke, you’ve lost the initiative and your best chance to take control of the situation and lead your partner. So seize the moment (pick your moment) by moving in to maintain your ma-ai.  And remember, while ma-ai is the distance between your centre and that of your partner, having your hands ‘up’ in kamae gives you an ‘early warning system’. 

Now you’re in a position to intercept the attack before it builds up any steam. That’s right, you guessed it, “attack the attack”. Lead uke by reaching out and meeting the strike, guiding it (and the attached body) to where you want it: in your centre.

Once you’ve made contact with your partner, it’s important to move at the same speed, and tune into the little cues that dictate the timing of what you do next: re-direct, apply a control, etc. Feel their motion, watch their balance, listen for their feet when they re-plant. When you match your partner, you will be able to ‘pace and lead’; together, you will co-create the outcome and ‘close that sale’ in a mutually satisfactory way.

Can you say “Ka-ching?”