Katate-dori: A Few Thoughts…
by Dennis Hooker, Sensei
Katate-dori is not a passive or submissive attack. It is not simply an act to let your partner execute a particular form on you. Katate-dori done by a skilled person is an effective attack that takes your center and places you in a position of vulnerability. I think to often people misunderstand katate-dori and therefore make jokes about its use and even relate it only to Aikido passive training.
To begin with, the attacker approaches you from the back, side or angled off to the corner front, never straight in front of you. If the attacker comes from the front they approach you at an angle that allows them to drive your wrist and hand into your center. They garb with what has been described as an “aiki” grip or sword grip. Their little finger is over the heal of your hand and the ring finger in along the joint of the wrist with the other fingers and the thumb holding firmly but not squeezing. Your hand and wrist are locked-no easy nikkyo here. In some schools I have even seen a partner take the attacker’s hand and move it further up his wrist, so that his hand was free, because they couldn’t do nikkyo or some such thing otherwise.
Nage’s hand and wrist are driven into his/her center forcing their weight onto the back foot. You can’t reach the attacker with your free hand and if you lift your front foot you will be shoved even further off balance. All this while the attacker has a free hand that can strike you and both feet that can kick you, or if the attacker is fast and skilled, you might find yourself thrown to the ground. You are for the moment very vulnerable. Katate-dori has worked because the attacker knew how to grab you. The misunderstanding comes when a bogus attacker stands in front of you and grabs your lower forearm leaving your hand and wrist maneuverable and not effecting you center or balance. Thus we have Aikido’s famous “sacrificial uke” an animal known to exist in many an Aikido dojo.
The reason katate-dori worked to displace your center and balance is because the attacker touched you first. You were practicing passive, or reactive, Aikido and now you must respond to the power of the attacker. Nage must now react. To get to the point most Aikido students understand as katate-dori, that is the lower forearm grabbed with hand and wrist mobility, nage must reach out to the attack and touch them first. To do this, place your lower forearm in the palm of the attacker’s hand a split second before you are grabbed. Nage touches the attacker first. If you do this then I guarantee you will move uke’s center and you will be doing interactive, or proactive, Aikido and not reactive as is so often the case. In all this you must study the dynamics of push – push and pull – push Aikido.