At the asageiko sessions at every Kyoto Taikai the 8th dan motodachi are colour coded. Each wears a coloured band around his zekken denoting hanshi , kyoshi or handle with care. The latter refers to the older sensei, who whilst still able to reduce the average seventh dan to tears, have reached a stage where the body does not repair itself as quickly from hard physical knocks.
Although nowhere near the level of these living legends and hopefully with a few years to go before I shy away from physical contact, I am increasingly aware that a push to the face now means two or three visits to the chiropractor.
Younger people whom I practise with usually fall into two groups; those who are committed to finishing their technique and those who are wary of hurting the old codger in front of them. Luckily most are in the first category and regardless of who they are up against, will take the centre and go forward in a straight line. The few who are nervous about colliding with their opponent make the mistake of launching themselves of at a tangent after hitting the target. This unfortunately has the effect of spoiling both hasuji and zanshin and invalidating the technique.
When we launch an attack against a motodachi , regardless of age, we should follow the principle of attacking with total commitment and full spirit. In 99 percent of these situations your opponent will be able to move to the side and allow you to go through and execute correct zanshin. In most cases moving to the side or diagonal is an automatic response following a successful strike. If he or she does not move, then the answer is obvious – taiatari.
As we all know, taiatari is not a push from the shoulders and arms, but uses your abdomen and back muscles to close with your opponent so that you are in a safe “tsubazeriai” distance and no counter attack is possible. To do this effectively you simply drop your hands and push down with your hips as you complete your strike. The objective of taiatari is sometimes oshidashi , the act of pushing your opponent out of the shiaijo, but this is definitely not always the case. You can make “soft” taiatari and then use the safe distance to either cover your opponent’s shinai as you move back to issoku-ito-ma. Alternatively you can use the chance to launch a hiki waza.
So don’t worry too much about the old boy in front of you, he can probably take care of himself.