As I was fashioning a post in my head, it occurred to me that the expression “caught flat-footed” is a great way to describe what not to do in an aikido freestyle.
The secret to a successful freestyle is to always be ready to move. I initially wrote “keep moving,” which is often given as advice, but is misinterpreted as constant evasion without throwing, which is not what a freestyle is about. When I say “be ready to move,” the nage needs to stop momentarily to catch the uke’s energy and throw, but not to have both feet firmly planted on the ground and become immobile, thus allowing to get caught by multiple attackers instead of dealing with them one by one.
Last weekend, I had my first freestyle as nage since I attained my black belt. I was not caught flat-footed– it felt great to blend and move.