New Schedule and Location for 2016

Mondays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays from 8-9PM at Rejoice Dance Studio, 1418 Delaware Avenue, McComb MS.

Make them STOP RIGHT NOW

I've had some discussion recently with some buddies about the effectiveness of aikido at making a real life bad guy stop what he is doing right now.  That is, when a situation is critical and imminent and you have to force someone to cease their misdeeds immediately.  Some practitioners suggest  that in such a critical situation, the typical tools of aikido might not be sufficient, and a better way to make the attacker stop right now is by causing massive physical trauma (broken finger or arm or knee, gouged eye, broken neck, etc...).
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And this is a pretty reasonable suggestion on the surface, but how much trauma is enough?  Here are a couple of recent examples of guys that functioned just fine after massive physical trauma.  One of them survived a bear attack that laid open his scalp and broke his arm - not only survived, but was clear-headed enough to hike miles to his vehicle then drive to get medical help AND make a video!  The other one managed to survive days of pain and dehydration before amputating his own arm, climbing out of a ravine one-armed, and then hiking for miles until he got help.  Point is, massive physical trauma did not make these guys stop.



How many of y'all think you can do as good as a Grizzly bear at the massive physical trauma paradigm?
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Also, the massive trauma paradigm is not scaleable.  It's not possible, especially in the heat of the moment, to figure out how to apply just enough trauma to make the bad guy stop - so you are left with the desperate strategy of applying as much (literal) overkill as possible.  Taking the massive physical damage to the logical extreme of maximum overkill may not be legally or ethically defensible.
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Now, I've heard all the "tried by 12 or carried by 6" talk, and I've heard all the "go home to your family at the end of the night no matter what" stuff, and I don't have any particular problem with those sentiments, but what if we were able to keep all those trauma skills (jutsu) in the back of our mind as a sort of a safety net or backup plan while we develop some other equally or even more reliable way to make attackers stop right now? 
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What could that skill be that is just as reliable as destroying the attacker but is also scaleable and probably more legally and ethically defensible??



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Patrick Parker
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Real-time aikido


Here is another excellent demonstration of Koryu Dai Yon kata.  I like this one even better than the previous one that I posted.  Although that previous kata was perhaps more polished, this one feels more real to me.  The previous one had a rushed feeling, but this demonstration is more reasonably paced.
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There used to be an ideal in judo (it may still exist, though I've long had a sinking suspicion that it is not actually ideal) that for a throw to be perfect ("ippon") it has to happen fast, uke has to hit the mat hard, and tori must be in control. - Hard, Fast, and Control was the recipe for an ippon.  Now I think for a throwing-type technique to be good enough, uke must descend to the ground and tori must remain in control throughout and after.  I don't care about hard and fast because hard is arbitrary and abusive and fast is irrelevant (acceleration due to gravity is a constant 32 feet per second per second or about 22mph per second.)
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I suspect that pushing down on uke as he falls does not increase his speed much - it just increases his effective mass so it hurts more.
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When I see a demonstration of aikido or judo, and it looks super-fast, that does not make me think, "That is super-realistic."  It makes me think, "Something is wrong with that demo." Just about the only way to make an un-realistically fast technique work is to have a overly-compliant uke.
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So anyway, When you're demonstrating something in "real time" or at "real speed," that is not arbitrarily fast.  That's part of why I like this demo so much.  It is real-time.



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Patrick Parker
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The aikidoka and the light bulb


How many aikidoka does it take to screw in a light bulb?  A dozen - one to screw the thing up and eleven to tell him, "That's not how we do it at our dojo."
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When I was preparing for my recent gig at Windsong Dojo teaching Yon kata, I perused the videos online of various folks doing the thing and some of them I posted with commentary because I thought they illustrated a point that I might want to make when I taught the thing. I did not post the above video because, even though the aikidoka are obviously talented and precise, it just didn't look like what I was going to talk about.  I didn't think they were doing the Yon kata that I was thinking about.
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Well, after I recuperated from my epic roadtrip and whirlwind teaching gig at Windsong, I did a YouTube search for Koryu Dai Yon again, and this was the first video that popped up, so I watched it again, and WOW! It looks just like what we were working on and talking about at OKC last weekend!
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I think if you put the "We don't do it that way" part of your brain on hold and watch this thing again, you'll see a lot of similarities between what we were doing and what Fielding sensei is doing here.  In fact, I think the only major difference I see is Fielding is using a more dynamic uke, whereas we were working with more static ukes.
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I have vastly benefited from the opportunity to lead an exploration of Koryu Dai Yon at Oklahoma last weekend!  This exercise has been my least favorite, most frustrating part of aikido for the past 25 some-odd years - my worst enemy!  But this past weekend has turned it into such a fascinating exploration of kuzushi that I think I could probably spend a LOT of time playing in and around this thing profitably!
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Thanks, Nick and Windsong guys for teaching me this thing that y'all claimed I was teaching you!



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Patrick Parker
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To Eff the Ineffable


“Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” Douglas Adams

What is this aiki thing that we are always talking about? Ask a dozen experts and you'll get a dozen answers - all of them mostly vague and/or doubtful, but all of them will probably hint at the aiki-thing in some sense correctly.
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The actual literal word has something to do with energy or life-force, and something to so with harmony or blending. Some folks have translated in different ways similar to "harmony energy."   A lot of people's ideas of aiki seem to have something to do with a natural ease or efficiency - almost like discovering the niche that you were always meant to be in and settling in..  That all plays a role in aiki too.
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I like to think about aiki as something like, "Getting in tune with the energies flowing around you," which brings me to another of my favorite esoteric quotes...
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“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Nikola Tesla

Harmony

Energy, Frequency, Vibration

Natural

Efficient

Ease, Settling into place


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Patrick Parker
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The Spirit of Yon Kata

Each of the Koryu kata seems to have a spirit or theme that makes it distinct and unique.  This is done as a challenge to growth - sort of a, “now that you know most all the aikido techniques that can be done, try working them this way,” sort of thing. I've written about this some here.

These Koryu kata also present us with a challenge to not only master their theme within the context of their subset of techniques, but also to take that theme into all of your aikido - each Koryu kata should transform all of the rest of your aikido.

So, what are the characteristics of the Spirit of Yon Kata?
  • Emphasis on kuzushi - kuzushi is anytime uke has to take an unintended step.  When held in a state of asymmetry, the body eventually crumbles.
  • Flowing instead of Throwing -  the epitome of flow cannot be achieved when tori is thinking about throwing and uke is thinking about figuring out how to survive being thrown.  Tori is not Nage ("The Thrower"), because that presupposes figuring out the time and place to stop moving and apply intent.  Tori is more like a spotter for a weightlifter or a gymnast.
  • Big motion
  • Feather-light - In the first part if the kata, uke wants to be so light and responsive that tori can throw with just a hint - just a breath of intent in a certain direction at the right time.  When doing the second part, the throws happen because uke refuses to take the hint so the second hint is not stronger, just perhaps more obvious a hint
  • Short/fast releases as compared to hanasu (which gives tori more time to stand around waiting)

How can it be big motion but short/fast at the same time?

  • One of those could be a false characterization, or
  • Part of each technique is short/fast (the kuzushi) and part is big motion and flowing-not-throwing (lot of following steps after the kuzushi until uke inevitably crumbles.)




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Patrick Parker
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Kuzushi can be done right or wrong



One can think about kuzushi in a lot of different ways, including -
  • A pre-requisite or set-ups for doing a technique.  The first step in executing a technique.  (Classical judo thinking)
  • Slowing/weakening uke so that tori/nage has more than enough power to effect his will upon uke. (IIRC, The Book of Martial Power calls this "shortening uke’s line."  One of my favorite instructors of all time use to hammer us with the idea that the purpose of kuzushi is to make uke slower and weaker than yourself - that is, kuzushi forces uke to work at however slow a speed you want him to.)
  • Crumbling structure - if you become expert at kuzushi, you can do it so well that you do not need any of your own power to effect the kake part of the throw. Sort of like expert demolitions men that can disrupt the structure of a building so precisely that they can drop it wherever they want to, or an expert woodcutter that can fell a tree exactly where he wants to.
Watch the video above.  They're not putting external force on the tree (or at least not much - they appear to be adding wedges to keep the saw blade free.)  They just disrupt the tree's structure so precisely that it falls where they want it.  If this is analogous to an aikido or judo throw, then there is no kake phase.  They just do tsukuri and kuzushi and then wait in a safe place.

Watch the following two videos - one of kuzushi done right and one of kuzushi done dramatically wrong. 

People, like buildings, have a lot of potential energy, and causing them to fall to the ground recklessly can cause a lot of grief, so it behooves us to figure out how to do this kuzushi thing right.






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Patrick Parker
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Seven fundamental off-balances



So, Nick's got a cool shindig planned for end of September at his place in OKC.  I think the way it works is everyone that shows up is supposed to bring some aiki or judo thing to play with.  The piece that I want to work on is Koryu Dai Yon  - especially the first 7 movements that some people call Shichihon no kuzushi.

The first two of these things have long been my nemesis, my aiki-arch enemy.  But what better to work on with the gurus in OKC than the thing I suck the worst at?  Should be fun.

You should come play with us - you'll either learn something or have a good time laughing at my incompetence!




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Patrick Parker
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The effects of aiki porn

There is, of course, an objective skillset underlying aikido and judo, but each practitioner seems to also have a subjective aesthetic ideal of what the art is supposed to look and feel like.  Perhaps this is (some of) the difference between do and jutsu.
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We inherit a lot of our aesthetic ideal from our instructors, but we probably also get a bunch of it from movies and youtube.  How many mid-1990's aikido guys out there can honestly say that they didn't get a kick out of seeing the beginning of this movie (and the rest of Seagal's shenanigans)? Depending on how it jived with the aikido you were being taught, it probably either made you want to do aikido that looked like that - or even if you hated what you saw in Seagal, I bet it took a long time to really, honestly get over thinking that this was what real aikido was supposed to look like.


And how about judo guys?  I bet nearly all of us love to circulate things like this on Facebook...


...which is cool and ok, until someone gets the idea that this is what all "good judo" looks like.
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The problem with this sort of media depiction of our arts is the same problem with porn - it can fool you into thinking that is the way real people are supposed to look and act.  It can deform your ideas about reality, which can then deform your practice, your teachings, and even your interactions in the real world.
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Personally, I was exposed to a lot of teachings in both aikido and judo coming up through the ranks, that I've begun to wonder about in the last couple of years.  There are a lot of teachings that I have a hard time telling if they are someone's aesthetic or if they are necessarily functional principle.  I have a hard time separating practitioners' aesthetic ideals from teachers' heuristic rules of thumb from champion's ideas of best practices.
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Things like unbendable arm in aikido - I've seen folks do really cool aikido with or without that piece.
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Things that we take for granted, like "get your center lower than uke's to do a shoulder throw" - I've also seen tall people able to do good seoinage and koshinage without bending their knees at all.
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Things like whether gripfighting is an essential skill or a time-waster.
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Even things like the idea that kuzushi or atemi must come before any technique for it to work properly.
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The list goes on and on.


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Patrick Parker
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What's jo got to do with it?


Today we had our first Aikido Renaissance Playday of the year, and I went into it thinking along the lines of playing with aiki-jo material and trying to figure out what sticks and swords have to do with our aikido anyway.  What is so 'aiki' about aiki-jo?

We worked on the first four of Tomiki's Jo-no-tsukai, A.K.A jo-nage in some aikido lineages.
  • migi sumiotoshi
  • hidari sumiotoshi
  • tekubikime
  • maeotoshi
As we worked on these techniques, I was paying attention to the hints and instructions that I was giving people.  I was particularly looking for times when I was telling stick-weilding aikidoka the same things I'm always telling the empty-handed aikidoka.  Today's major themes ended up being -
  • Push straight down the length of the jo instead of pushing sideways (as if trying to bend the jo).  You'll bestronger, more controlleed, and less likely to slip and bust someone's teeth.
  •  If you get to a place where you can feel uke's strength, then you are in the wrong place - move somewhere that he's not as strong.
  • If you want uke to move away from a strong position, you can't hold him there.  Often you have to relax and give up your own territory in order to get uke to shift to different ground.
Do those sound familiar?  Anyone recognize those situations or phenomena from aikido or judo?

Then we worked on three of Tomiki's jo-dori
  • shomenate
  • gyakugamaeate
  • maeotoshi
Here we wound up repeating one major theme a lot -
  • If you allow uke to choose his own ground, you'll end up in a strength battle.  Walk away and tear his root out of the ground, and then do your technique.
Finally, we worked on the first two of the Seitei-jo techniques -
  • tsukezue
  • suigetsu

Here our emphasis was on honte and honteuchi and hikiotoshi.  I've said before that hikiotoshi has been the bane of my existence, but I have to admit today it was almost fun to work on ;-)  It was working very nicely.



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Patrick Parker
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Ukigatame ends throws and begins groundwork

We almost never allow students to do newaza (ground grappling) and tachiwaza (stand-up throwing) practice at the same time on the same mat.  This is especially important in a small practice space because when you have mixed classes the newaza folks end up tripping the tachiwaza guys and the tachiwaza guys end up throwing and falling on top of the newaza guys.  This guideline is necessary for safety, but it creates some issues that we have to keep in mind so we don't develop problems with our judo.
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One major issue involves control.  We would like to throw, or take-down directly into a controlling position (remember we're supposed to be all about control).  But controlling a downed opponent often involves getting down in the mud with him, which we just said we didn't want to do in practice for safety reasons.
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So, how do we minimize problems from this issue of not having standing and newaza practice on the same mat?  Set a couple of near-universal practice guidelines:
  • All throws/take-downs end in ukigatame - In our class, I always teach that all throws where it is feasable end in ukigatame (knee-on-belly).  Ukigatame is the controlling position that almost all throws end in.  We began working on that last night by having tori throw and make sure that when uke landed, tori had at least one knee and two hands touching uke's body.
  • All newaza practice begins in ukigatame - Ukigatame is also where we begin all of our newaza practices.  So, if we are going to be practicing groundwork, one partner or the other starts on bottom with the other guy's knee on him.
MAKE SURE YOU DON'T POUNCE OR LAND ON UKE'S RIBS WITH YOUR KNEE IN PRACTICE - that is uncontrolled and dangerous and nobody will like you anymore if you do.



This is also a good practice guideline because of the often-cited rule of thumb that in self-defense situations, you'd rather stay off the ground if at all possible.  So, by training to throw/take-down into ukigatame, there is a pause where tori might be able to maintain control without going to the ground, but by training all of our newaza starting in ukigatame, if tori does get dragged down, it will be a familiar and smooth transition.
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Try to make ukigatame (knee-on-belly) your universal transition between tachiwaza (stand-up) and newaza (ground grappling) and I think you'll have good success with your judo practice.



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Patrick Parker
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