To hold down a pillow

tests of strategy it is bad to be led about by the enemy. You must always be able to lead the enemy about. Obviously the enemy will also be thinking of doing this, but he cannot forestall you if you do not allow him to come out. In strategy, you must stop the enemy as he attempts to cut; you must push down his thrust, and throw off his hold when he tries to grapple. This is the meaning of to hold down a pillow”. When you have grasped this principle, whatever the enemy tries to bring about in the fight you will see in advance and suppress it.” – Musashi, Go Rin No Sho

We need to lead uke and not get lead by him. If uke leads then he exerts some control and therefore some advantage over us. If we respond to his attack with only defence, then we are always a step behind. We need to take control and lead uke. We can do this by attacking, drawing or feinting.

There are three times we can act;

1. We can act before uke starts to attack
2. We can act at the same time uke starts to attack
3. We can act after uke starts to attack

Once we are leading uke we need to ‘hold down a pillow’ and not allow ukes head to rise. We must continue to lead and not give him a chance to regroup, recapture his position, regain his kamae or reassert his spirit. We can do this through continual attack, breaking ukes structure, controlling the space and dominating ukes spirit.

We should strive to lead uke from the outset, and maintain this lead throughout.

To lead uke means to take the initiative, to stay in front, to cause uke to respond to our actions.