Since I recently re-launched my judo classes after a 2-year sabbatical, several of my students and judo buddies have expressed their amusement and/or delight at what they have called my "Pat-isms." .
Those who know me know that I have a touch of a chip on my shoulder about American martial artists who try to out-Japanese the Japanese guys. People who know me also know that I have a passive aggressive streak about a mile wide, so I'm not afraid to turn a sacred cow into a cheeseburger just to frustrate a pseudo-Japanese grammar-Nazi. I also find it just plain funny that people think of Mississippi residents as ignorant yokels, so I enjoy wallowing in that stereotype. .
But you know what's really interesting? I have found over the years that I can communicate martial arts ideas better using portmanteau, malapropism, puns, and poetic terminology than I can using the martial-Japanese equivalent of pidgin, Spanglish, or Engrish. .
So, my classes end up being a celebration of colloquialism and loose translation such as,
"This technique is called, shomenate, which in the ancient Japanese language, means, 'Grab the other guy by his face.'"
"Tonight we're working on koshiwaza (that is, crack-of-the-butt throws)."
"Now let's do the drinking bird exercise."
"First thing you do in this move is get out da way (because you do not have time to get...out...of...the...way) and throw both hands up like a cow-catcher."
Y'all move around and get all swoovely so you won't pull a muscle.
This move is named, "Snow Resting on a Willow," because it was named by an old dead poet and we don't have any better name for it.
Scooting instead of shrimping.
"He might bust me and kill me and do all sorts of stuff to me - but he's going to have to do it with my arm spearing through his head."
My students have laughed and marvelled at this sort of Pat-ism for years, and it doesn't look like my storehouse of stupid is going to run out any time soon, so if that makes me the Yogi Berra of judo, so be it. .
But if you enjoy a friendly, colloquial judo practice full of people who actually realize that they are not, in fact, Japanese, then come on down to Mokuren Dojo and play with us!
You thought I'd completely shifted my focus to judo, didn't you? Not so! Here's some of the other stuff I've been thinking about and playing around with lately.
For jo folks that are not used to this sort of practice, watch with fresh eyes and think about it as similar to the foot sweep to control exercise that Nick demonstrates here - that is, simple set of paired techniques that repeats infinitely and provides a basis from which to riff and expound - a basic framework to insert other techniques, jodori, jo no tsukai, etc... And a framework to begin varying toward something like randori.
Or think about it as similar to a hubud drill - as this instructor calls it, "a generator." That is, a basic sequence that spawns all sorts of opportunity to delve into other techniques or aspects of the art.
Since the beginning of the Scouting Movement in the late 1800s, Scouting has had an association with Martial Arts. Scouting began as a sort of paramilitary organization intended to prepare, well, military scouts. It makes sense that there would be a martial arts or combatives component to Scouting. .
People all over the world rapidly saw the benefits of Scouting for youth development apart from the military and over the years the association between Scouting and martial arts has become largely obscured.
One of the original 14 Badges of Merit in the BSA was the Master at Arms award. Master at Arms had only one requirement (albeit a rather stout one) - "Master (or attain proficiency in) at least two (some pamphlets said three) of the following subjects"
single stick (fencing),
The quarterstaff, or scout staff was a standard piece of gear for all Scouts until well into the 20th century and now it is still an optional piece. Single stick was an exceptionally useful Scout martial art because Scouts are always near sticks. .
The BSA's current Guide to Safe Scouting states,
Boxing, karate, and related martial arts—except judo, aikido, and tai chi—are not authorized activities.
Some years ago I communicated with some of the BSA upper ups and it seems that the original idea of whoever came up with that rule was that boxing and karate were "against the spirit of Scouting" because they were offensive, attacking arts and the common perception of aikido and judo was that they were defensive arts. IKR, stupid, but that's how I try to understand what they were thinking. Now I think that the martial arts prohibition in BSA is almost certainly an insurance thing.
Even with the explicit exclusion of boxing and karate, the Master at Arms curriculum could easily be implemented for individual Scouts, Patrols, Troops, or Crews that wished to make martial arts or self-defense a Program Focus. .
All of the activities in the Master atArms list (except boxing) could reasonably be used in partial completion of Sports Merit Badge, and the quarterstaff activity can be used in partial completion of the Scouting Heritage Merit Badge. .
A Troop or Patrol or Crew would not be able to re-issue the Master at Arms as a Merit Badge, but there is nothing keeping them from issuing it as an Activity Badge based on a Master at Arms program feature. . So, are there any local Scouts or Venturers up for a Master at Arms program feature involving judo, aikido, quarterstaff, and/or single stick fencing - because I might happen to know a Scouter around here that could make that a reality.
I've been on a martial arts sabbatical for the past couple of years. .
Before relaunching my classes a couple of months ago I hadn't done anything remotely martial in two years. I had a host of reasons - really lame rationalizations or B.S. excuses, including...
I am mostly doing it for my kids but they would rather do other things.
I can't afford it.
Judo and aikido make my joints hurt.
As I'm getting older I am getting fatter and more sluggish.
I am trying to deal with depression.
I'm not making any progress.
One of my teachers died and another one retired.
I am super-busy with community service.
My job is keeping me distracted.
I can't find many students or partners to play with me.
I have gotten into other activities, like hiking and mountain climbing.
I figure to retire and leave this area in a few years anyway.
I'm not really any good at judo anyway so what business do I have teaching?
So, when you give me some B.S. about quitting your practice and I smile thinly or raise an eyebrow, it's not just that I've heard that same stale excuse before - It's probably one of the same lame excuses that I've tried to use on myself a few times. .
It didn't work when I tried to convince myself to quit that way, and I am a lot more convincing than you are, so give it a rest and just go practice.
In judo, we assign names to the two partners in an engagement. Sometimes picking out who plays each role can be tricky, but in very broad terms...
uke is the guy that hits the ground first.
tori is the guy left standing when uke hits the ground.
Just because someone has fallen does not mean that the encounter is ended. Both uke and tori have things they need to be putting into action as uke is hitting the ground - strategies that will improve each guy's chances of coming out on top when the encounter really is ended.
tori wants to guide uke to the ground so that he lands facing away from tori, and then tori wants to move into a controlling position or hold. In our class, ukigatame (floating hold or knee-on-belly) is the most common position that tori moves to as uke falls.
uke wants to fall safely, and then immediately turn to face tori and shift to place his knees or feet between him and tori.
You can easily turn this set of conflicting first strategies into a micro-randori session. Specify a throw and do nagekomis, if uke is able to fall then turn toward then he wins but if tori is able to throw and then set ukigatame before uke turns in then he wins - fun little addition to nagekomi practice.
Judo is control. We used to say the criteria for ippon is "hard, fast, and in-control" but hard and fast are really poor criteria because speed is almost completely controlled by gravity and force is an endogenous opiate that you don't want to get hooked on. So, control is the central idea in judo.
I like to translate the term, gatame, as "control" instead of "hold," and however you translate it, the concept of gatame does NOT include pain or crushing or punishment.
Control is not the same thing as coercion. There may be times and jobs where coercion is appropriate - but that is not synonymous with control.
Learn to use your feet like hands (as if picking up a sock with your toes) and pull with the hamstrings instead of pushing with the hip. This will give you more power and fine control especially in small ashiwaza.
I want to be an uke-whisperer instead of an uke-breaker. If we are to become uke-whisperers we have to figure out how to avoid doing things that threaten uke and provoke an automatic fear-based resistance. Re-read all the uke-centric kata posts and continue along that line of thought.
If control is not the same as coercion and if it is to be non-threatening to uke, we need to figure out what kind of control is winsome. What does winsome control feel like to uke? How do we figure out how to embody winsome as a control strategy?
What does a typical judo class at Mokuren Dojo look like? Here is a really general sort of guide that I use to create lesson plans for most of my judo classes.
Individuals warmup with light, careful ROM or stretching exercises before class starts. Move around to create a sense of freedom in your muscles and joints. Do something that makes you feel slightly flushed and increases your heart rate and breathing rate a little bit.
After we bow in the entire group will warm-up with about 20 minutes of ukemi (falling/rolling) and sport-specific activities. For safety reasons we almost never practice standing judo and groundwork on the same mat at the same time so I have two slightly different warmups depending on whether it is tachiwaza (standing judo) night or newaza (groundwork) night.
tachiwaza warmup - rock on back, rock&slap, rock&flop, fish flops, kneeling forward rolls, seated back rolls, kneesavers, drinking bird, footsweep to control
newaza warmup - rock on back, rock&slap, rock&flop, fish flops, kneeling forward rolls, seated back rolls, shrimping forward and back, shrimp w/ feet on uke, knee-in knee-out, push-backs, x-crawl
After the sport-specific warmup, There is an instruction time.
If it is tachiwaza night we'll do a few minutes of nagekomi (trading throws) focussed on one of the first few techniques that I consider to be foundational. Then we'll do a few more minutes on a more advanced technique - either someone's tokuiwaza (favorite technique) or a rank requirement.
If it is newaza night, we'll do a few minutes of something that comes from or happens in the basic clock cycle (uki-kesa-mune-ushirokesa-tate...). Then we'll do something fun or curious or a rank requirement.
Then it is randori (free play) time. For 1/3 of each class (or longer), we should be doing sparring, drills, or exercises that involve some sort of resistance, free flow, unstructured play, or unpredictability. This is not shiai (competition) - but more like a musical jam session or a game of catch.
Henry Copeland sensei asked me one time, "What is your favorite technique?" and I instantly responded, "sumiotoshi." .
I was excited at the prospect of working on my most favorite move with such an auspicious teacher but he was not thinking to build a lesson plan out of my tokuiwaza and he let the wind out of my sails pretty quickly when he said, "The reason that is your favorite technique is because you are afraid of it." .
Like much of what Henry said, this didn't make sense. I was pretty good at sumiotoshi and I'd practiced it a good bit. I'd thrown it thousands of times and been thrown by it thousands of times. I knew how to fall out of it safely. What was there to fear? .
Maybe he was talking about fear in the biblical sense of the word, as in, "Fear of the Lord," as in respect. .
He went on to say that in order for that to be my favorite I had to attribute some quality or power to it that I thought other techniques lacked. He was saying that deep down I felt that sumiotoshi was a magic talisman that could fell opponents and slay dragons. .
He was saying that I wanted to practice it partly in order to put that magic talisman into my arsenal but also because I was afraid that the magic might fall into the wrong hands and someone might use my magical move against me. .
I think he was onto something - but you know what is weird? Even 25 years later, I still have techniques that are my favorites (tokuiwaza) and techniques that I dislike so much that I have a lot of trouble even practicing. You might call these anti-tokuiwaza. .
I have no problem admitting that there are techniques that I'm still afraid of - techniques that represent an opponent's fearsome power over me. Techniques that, as a teacher, I am loath to teach to my students. .
But you know what? Shining light on this collection of dragons robs them of power, so here goes - my anti-tokuiwaza include...
I'm sure there are a few more dragons in there but just listing this few makes my stomach roil tinking about them. .
You know who would be my ultimate arch-nemesis? An athletic, healthy young adult with any 4 of these as their tokuiwaza!
Sometimes you hear martial arts referred to as spiritual disciplines, and sometimes you hear of parents who put their kids into a martial arts class to "get discipline," But all the classes I've ever seen seem to deal a lot more with sweat and pain (or the avoidance thereof) than they do spiritual things or even with training mental discipline. .
So, what do martial arts actually have to do with honing the mind or spirit? .
Here's how I look at it. .
My spirit leads my mind
My mind uses my brain to operate my body.
My body creates results or actions in the physical world. .
But it is not a one-way relationship. .
My actions in the physical world influence or change my body.
The operation of my body influences the operation of my brain.
The functioning of my brain influences my mind.
My mind over time forges my spirit. .
So, if I want to influence any one of these aspects of my being, then I can choose whichever other aspect I feel like I have the most leverage with right now, and by exercising that aspect, all other aspects of my being are influenced. .
So, If I want to develop spiritual or mental discipline, then I can use a martial art as a physical, active lever with which to influence or reform my actions, my body, my brain, and in turn, my mind and spirit. .
Or I could play hockey or read self-help books or any other activity that activates or exercises my actions, body, or brain.