Ikkyo exercise and rowing exercise. I used to think they were cousins and tried to relate the movement of each to the other because they both involved hips and arms. I said, “Ron, how do they relate to each other?” and Ron said, “They don’t.” That brought me up short.
And it set me free. Just because 2 things have similar qualities does not always make them the same.
Ikkyo exercise is an extension of ki and then a dropping of heavy arms with a precise stop at the hips to end. The hips come out, then the hands. The hips come back and then the hands. Perfectly simple and often misunderstood. Frequently people extend hips and hands together. It is a careful practice to do hips, hands, hands, hips. And it feels so very good: an accomplishment every time it is completed correctly. Very satisfying.
Rowing exercise is lower and different than ikkyo. When rowing motion is done solo it can be very neat. Hips lead and arms follow at hip level, very relaxed with wrists slightly bent into open hands not clenched fists as they extend out.
Feet are in hamni for both and posture is chest open and shoulders back.
When ikkyo exercise is practiced with a partner nage does it in a relaxed and regular way not “more” because we are being tested. Uke extends their arm so nage has to lift through uke’s arm to accomplish the extension. Nage’s challenge is be natural and do it just like they do when there is no resistance.
For rowing exercise uke grabs nage’s wrists and pushes gently as nage extends out and pulls gently as nage rows in. Again the challenge is to move naturally and not get muscly just because there is resistance.
Sometimes I ask nage to stop working with uke and show me how they do it with no uke. Then I ask nage to resume working with uke with resistance in the manner they just demonstrated with no resistance. It is very challenging because we forget that we are looking for a dependable feeling in ourselves not an accomplishment of moving the arms of another.
Resistance ought to always be appropriate for the person doing the exercise. To be helpful uke should push or pull just a bit so nage has some energy to work with but not so much that they feel discouraged or develop a “pushing with muscle” feeling.
While they are not cousins Ikkyo and rowing are fundamental exercises in Aikido training that give us opportunities to develop strong extension of ki using our whole bodies with the emphasis of the hands arriving last.