Monday, December 09, 2019

Junokata shows us how to learn hip throws


Junokata is a curious exercise - especially to modern eyes and competitive western minds.  But one of the points of value that is probably easiest to see in Junokata are the hipthrows, shoulder throws, and pickups.
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Most judoka will readily admit the impressive skill that is apparent every time tori lifts a stiff uke and balances her right on the edge of the abyss and then slowly places her back on her feet.  This type of exercise is obviously a great way to build the strength, suppleness, and balance that it takes to execute world-class hip throws, shoulder throws, and pickups.
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So check out this video but don't pay too much attention (right now) to anything that looks totally alien and useless.  Instead focus on the slow, controlled lifts that occur just after 1:15, 1:40, 3:40, 4:10, 5:00, and 7:00. 
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Consider how we could use slow lift-and-return type exercises like this to build those qualities of control, strength, flexibility, and balance in ourselves and our partners.

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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Tsurigoshi compilation

Just like kosotogake last week, tsurigoshi is another point of curiosity for me.  One of my instructors has told me that tsurigoshi is basically an evolutionary throwback to an earlier age of judo's development - a phylogenetic curiosity that was superseded by better techniques like ogoshi and ukigoshi.
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IDK, It seems to me that a lot of people make good use of tsurigoshi but I'm not sure that they couldn't have just as easily thrown ogoshi in those particular situations.  What do you think?



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Patrick Parker
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Monday, December 02, 2019

How to test your balance

If you know me then you know that I am always playing balance games, standing on one foot, walking on curbs, doing judo rolls as slowly as possible backwards and forwards.
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But you might have missed a really good balance game that Tomiki gave us as part of our aikido.  We know it as tegatana, or simply, "the walk," but some other practitioners call it unsoku and tandoku undo (footwork and solo exercises).
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There are several movements in which the practitioner waves a hand in front of himself, turns around, and then puts the hand above his head.  These moves look a little bit like a ballet pirouette.  It turns out that these aiki-pirouettes challenge your balance in several ways.

  • Taking the step creates horizontal momentum, which you then have to control.
  • Turning 180 degrees creates rotational momentum and suddenly changes the muscles that you have to use to control your momentum and balance.
  • Raising your arm above your head raises your center of balance and makes you less stable.
  • Some groups even finish this movement on tiptoes, which raises your balance further.

So, not only is this movement pattern functional, mimicking some motions that you will see later in techniques, but it is a fantastic balance test and balance-building exercise.


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Kosotogake compilation

Kosotogake is a curious thing for me.  One of my most beloved judo instructors, Mac McNeese told me not to bother with kosotogake - that it was basically a waste of training time that I should be spending working on kosotogari. 
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I never got the chance to ask him what he meant and why he'd said that because he has since passed away.
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There are certainly people who make the gake move work beautifully.  Anyone have a guess what he was talking about?




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Patrick Parker
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Uchimata compilation

Statistically, uchimata is the most frequently thrown tournament technique in most levels of competition.  I'm not sure why.  Is there something inherently magical about that technique, or has everyone bought into the uchimata-is-magic thinking so they perform better because they have more faith and try it more often?  IDK. 
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It is a majestically beautiful thing when done properly. In this compilation, there is a clear, obvious difference between #1 and all the rest - #1 is just THAT much more skilled (or lucky?) performance!




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Patrick Parker
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Friday, November 29, 2019

How to show progress in a demo


We've been talking about embu lately - how to do a good demo - a demo that does several things, including
  • shows that the student knows some things - "Wow! That guy is really good at this!"
  • shows that the student is improving - "Wow! That guy is a lot better than last time!"
  • creates social validity for the school - "Wow! Mokuren Dojo is really good at this!"
  • creates self-confidence in the student - "Wow! I'm really good at this!"
One way that you can do this is to clearly demonstrate longitudinal improvement.  That is, the demo should contain at least some material that is repeated in all demos.  That way, it is easy to see that you are better (or at least different) than you were 6 months ago when you demonstrated this same material.
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You don't want to repeat a LOT of material every time because that is a recipe for boring the joseki to sleep, but you should at least show some repeated material.
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What I'm thinking about for this is to have all rank embu start with koshiki kihon (a short, somewhat casual exercise where you demonstrate 21 falls in about 3 minutes) and the clock exercise (1-2 minutes where you demonstrate moving into and between various groundwork positions).
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By having everyone demonstrate these at every level, it provides a sort of baseline against which improvements will be obvious.



Here is a video of a guy doing a clock exercise in a little different way than we usually do - but you get the idea of what I'm talking about.



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Patrick Parker
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Ukigatame is a better way of doing things

Our first positional control or hold in judo, ukigatame, is more than just a hold and it is more than just a near-universal transition between tachiwaza and newaza.  Ukigatame is not just a tactic in which you crush uke with your knee on his belly or chest (or neck or back) - ukigatame is an example of a better way of doing all ground controls.
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What I mean is this - a common way of doing groundwork for beginners, especially physically powerful and mentally competitive beginners - is to get the other guy in a hold and use your size and power to lock and crush him into immobility.  Problems with lock&crush groundwork include -
  • it is exhausting for tori
  • it is abusive toward uke
  • it makes standard escape actions (like bridge & roll) easier for uke to do
  • it makes transitions harder for tori to do
  • it makes submissions like chokes and armbars harder to get to
But ukigatame shows us a different way of doing all our groundwork - a way that dissolves all of these issues associated with lock&crush newaza.

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Ukigatame means "floating hold," and the name suggests hovering over uke close enough to suppress his movement but remaining loose and floaty enough to shift and move over an uncontrolled uke.  Sort of like smothering uke with a heavy bag of shifting sand instead of crushing him with an iron bar.
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When I teach ukigatame it is not a specific position that I tell students to get into.  Rather I tell them that as uke takes a fall, move to stand beside (preferably behind) uke and put a knee and two hands somewhere on uke's body.  After just a little bit of nagekomi (throwing practice), tori finds that this is a great, balanced position to finish throws in, that it smothers uke's motion a little bit and provides tori an instant to get his bearings and decide how (and whether) to proceed to groundwork.
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As uke moves under tori, often the knee will slip off of uke's belly and will be replaced by a little more weight on tori's hands, or by tori's hip or butt, or by a body-surfing munegatame.  Tori only holds ukigatame until uke shows an opportunity for a better holding position or submission technique.
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You could put a knee on uke's belly, take nice grips on uke's belt and lapel, and use your weight and power to crush the ooze out of both ends of him - but that would be missing the point of ukigatame.  You can control uke more effectively with a floating feeling that is more in-line with judo's ideals.



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Patrick Parker
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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Udegatame the pressing armbar



A great testimonial and a couple of nice variations on our first armbar - udegatame. Check this out!


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Patrick Parker
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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Haraigoshi compilation

Haraigoshi is such a versatile technique that you see it a LOT in judo and in MMA - and unlike some other techniques, it seems to mostly be thrown cleanly.



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Patrick Parker
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Friday, November 22, 2019

Killing fields

Killing field is a military science term describing an area through which an enemy is forced to move where they will be exposed to your power. Examples might include a fortified beach like Normandy or the mountain pass at Thermopylae.
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Basically a cattle chute.
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But the term applies in interpersonal conflict too, so where is the killing field in aikido, judo, and karate, for instance?
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I refer to the space in front of uke and within his reach (inside the boundary of ma-ai) as the killing field.  So, if you are in front of the opponent and you are close enough for him to touch you then you are standing in the killing field.
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Occasionally I will refer to this as being "between his arms" or "toe-to-toe."  Traditionally we called this, "within ma-ai" but that is sort of esoteric-sounding and does not have any of evocative connotations for western students.
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If you stand inside the killing field then it is likely that the opponent can do something to you before you can respond. But life happens, so you cannot avoid the killing field, so what is the best way to handle it?
  • You have to have your strategy defined and your tactics drilled before you get into a killing field because you cannot think and plan while under fire.
  • Do not stand still inside a killing field.
  • Attack the attacker in order to reduce his capacity (kuzushi upon contact)
  • Move as quickly and efficiently as possible (tai-sabaki) while in the killing field.
  • Move through the killing field to the opponent's flank (shikaku ) if possible, or retreat and regroup outside the killing field (push back past ma-ai)


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Patrick Parker
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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Social validity and street cred


There is an old aphorism about the difference between freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  It is said that...
  • Freshmen are clueless and they don't know it.
  • Sophomores still don't know anything but they realize that they are ignorant.
  • Juniors know something but they don't realize what they know.
  • Seniors (hopefully) know and they know what they know.
I suppose what this is saying is that over time, knowledge increases and meta-knowledge (knowing what you know) increases.
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But that is not the end of the progression.  New graduates may know their subject and they may have great self-awareness of their capabilities, but they have no job experience.  Their education and knowledge still lacks social validity and they often find themselves in a Catch-22 situation in which they can't get a job without experience and they can't get experience without a job.
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Without street cred, noone will hire them because the public does not know if or what the graduate knows.  It is similar to a recent quote by Elon Musk - He is apparently not interested in hiring you unless you can demonstrate clear evidence of exceptional ability.
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Perhaps you could add a couple more levels to the hierarchy above...
  • An novice practitioner knows that he knows but nobody else knows it.
  • A master or expert practitioner knows and he knows that he knows, and everyone around him can see that he knows.
You have to know. (knowledge, skills, abilities)
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You have to know what you know. (self-awareness)
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And you have to show what you know. (demonstrate clear evidence of exceptional ability)
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So, what does this have to do with martial arts?  It's not like most of us are trying to learn martial arts in order to get hired based on those skills.
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Everything! You could replace Freshmen, Sophomore, etc.  with white belt, green belt, etc..
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The black belt is not an expert, partly because he knows that he does not know it all and partly because his skills have not had enough time and experience and seasoning.
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The shodan knows some stuff but nobody else understands or acknowledges it because the shodan has not had time to develop and demonstrate his skills.
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Often this will lead to an existential crisis soon after shodan.  At this point, they are suddenly awarded the "coveted black belt" honor (because they know stuff) but the new shodan is acutely aware of his own deficiencies (they know what they don't know) and noone around them can see much difference in them (no social validity).  This creates self-doubt.
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One possible solution is what Roy Dean has done - create rank demo embus that make it obvious to everyone that the student has knowledge, knows what he knows, and knows how to show what he knows.
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Who are you demonstrating to when you do a rank demo (embu)? You are demonstrating to others and to yourself in order to generate social validity (street cred) and to boost your own confidence and belief in self and system.
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Check out this demonstration (not a rank embu but still a demonstration) and watch how the it shows these three things about their knowledge/skills.


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Patrick Parker
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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Taiotoshi compilation

Taiotoshi is a magnificent tournament throw when properly executed.  Check out this compilation!




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Patrick Parker
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Nothing ever works

Folks are always moaning about how aikido doesn't work.  Well, let me tell you a secret... Real aikido folks already know that!  See, we know that aikido does not work, because nothing ever works.
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I dare you to show me a move from karate or kravmaga or any other super-awesome martial science that always just works.  It would be worth a lot of good money to study your one super-cool thing that has no pre-suppositions or assumptions, and just plain works regardless of the context!
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But saying "aikido doesn't work" is not the same thing as saying "aikido sucks."  Aikido is amazingly practical and efficient as a self-defense (among other things).  It just doesn't work - at least, not like you think it should.
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Nobody can make it work.  You can't just go out and aikido someone to death.  Even the greatest aikido masters can't just choose the cool technique that they want to use to exert their will upon the bad guy.  Aikido does work, but in its own time and on its own terms.
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What really takes a while is learning to trust that the way that aikido works is okay.  The first step on that path is realizing that there is no magical samurai technology that just plain works.  There are no sure things.
  
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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Friday, November 15, 2019

Seiichi Shirai, Kodokan Judo 9th dan


photo from: http://files.4medicine.pl/download.php?cfs_id=1388


Our judo and aikido teacher, Karl Geis, attributed a significant portion of his newaza doctrine to seemingly little-known judo sensei (at least in America) Seiichi Shirai. Geis even called part of his groundwork doctrine, "The Shirai System."
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But there is relatively little online about a Shirai-sensei, so who was this Shirai guy? It turns out that he was one of Kyuzo Mifune's uchideshi, favorite ukes, and later Mifune's nephew-in-law. That clue gives us some research leverage because there IS a lot online and in print about Mifune!
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We can get a glimpse into Shirai-sensei's thinking on judo from these quotes in Draeger's Training Methods book:
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...and from Draeger & Otaki's Judo Formal Techniques book:
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...and from some lessons quoted from the Spring Park Judo Club at Garland TX:
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"...Another of judo’s first generation who trained under founder Jigoro Kano was Seiichi Shirai. He also trained with Mifune and eventually married Mifune's niece. ...a story that Shirai would tell about the importance of repeating a lesson:.The mind is like a tea cup. And if you fill it again and again with green tea, the cup will eventually turn green, absorbing the lesson. “And that’s the way,” Shirai would say, “I would repeat a story, over and over and over again.”...Another lesson ... from Shirai was about gaijyu and naiko. While the outside appearance of people in dealing with each other should be soft and gentle – gaijyu, the mind and the heart inside should be strong like steel – naiko."
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Shirai doing randori with Mifune begins at about 3 minutes into this video.



And here's Mifune-sensei demonstrating kata with Shirai-sensei




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So, what parts of our judo doctrine at Mokuren Dojo appear to have come down through the years from Shirai?

  • Throw into ground control. Throws should transition directly, immediately, and naturally to ground control.
  • 2-hands on a point and shrimp-bridge - Tear holes in the opponent's ground control and balance by getting 2-hands on 1 point on the opponent and blindly shrimping and bridging.
  • Use pointy elbows and knees to fill the holes created by shrimping and bridging. Also use pointy elbows and knees as part of udeosae-type hold-downs
  • Meatgrinder - our basic lessons about turning turtles and taking backs that we call "The Meatgrinder" have been attributed to Shirai.



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____________________

Patrick Parker

www.mokurendojo.com
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