Thursday, August 31, 2006


Shihonage is the "four-directions" throw, or the "all-directions throw." It is derived from a practice in kendo of practicing menuchi to the front, left, right, and back. With the two hands on the sword, the basic form of shihonage looks a lot like the four-directions cutting exercise. The implication of the name of the technique is that you can throw uke any direction with it or that you can throw uke with this technique whatever direction he happens to be travelling in.
I currently favor the last interpretation - that however uke happens to be stepping there is an opportunity for shihonage to occur. This interpretation of shihonage jives well with the 2 variants we practice in hanasu and the variants we practice in nijusan. There are three primary variants of shihonage that we practice a lot, including the traditional shihonage, tenkai kotegaeshi, and reverse kotegaeshi.
There is an interesting article on the web about one sensei's opinion that the term "nage" as part of the name of a throw is counterproductive because it puts tori into a mindset that favors forceful, sudden, ballistic motion (like how you "throw" a baseball or anything else in the world). See also this interesting info and this too about ideokinesis - the concept that changing how you visualize motion changes how you execute motion. This sensei favors the terminology "release," which I very much like because we tend to "release" uke rather than "throwing" uke.
Thus the central role of the hanasu (release) exercises and the chains built off the hanasu motions. So, it would be cool with me if people called this technique "shiho hanasu" instead of "shihonage," although I don't know if that is proper usage of the Japanese terminology.
Check out this article for a handful of hints that might help you with your shihonage...
(Photo courtesy of Phineas X)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Randori night

Tonight we warmed up with two variations of suwari oshitaoshi - one with reactive timing and one with provocative timing. Then we did a couple of reps of tegatana and several reps of hanasu, followed by a lot of hand randori switching partners every 2-3 minutes. Randori is a tough concept for beginners to get a hold of but our beginners do much better these days sincebeing exposed to the chains. After randori we worked through te first chain up to hikiotoshi then cooled down with light randori drills and some ukemi from shomenate.
I think Andy became a true believer in shomenate tonight - and he didn't even take much abuse from it! Somewhere on the web a while back I read someone's opinion that shomenate alone will solve 50% of all problems tori encounters in aikido. Tomiki suggested that it was more than just another technique, that it was THE critical technique of the system. The truth is probably somewhere between these two estimates - probably a little closer to Tomiki's view.
Andy is a little bit beyond the hours for his green belt demo - we will do that demo either this saturday or next wednesday with either Patrick M. or myself as uke. Patrick M's green belt and Gary's yellow belt will be coming up soon after that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Kosotogari, osotogari, and deashibarai

These are the things we worked on in judo tonight. We started out with warmups and ukemi, in which we practiced forward kneeling roll, backward standing fall, and standing side fall. It is very important with beginers to introduce the concept and get a few reps then stop before they find a way to screw it up and injure themselves. This way instead of beating one technique into them in a short period of time and risking a cumulative trauma disorder (or worse), they master the movement over a period of time with much less risk.
Then we moved into a four-directional ofbalance drill in which tori takes an otoshi offbalance on the left followed by a left guruma offbalance followed by the same two on the opposite side. This exerciseacts like hanasu in aikido, in that it teaches some footwork and movement skils while providing hooks to hang much of the rest of judo on. Then we moved into kosotogari off of the first two of these offbalances. We got a few reps of osotogari in and then spend several minutes on the 1-2-3touch footsweep control drill. Paul asked about the difference between aiki and judo and we cooled down with the first 4 techniques of goshinjitsu as an example of the grey area between aiki and judo.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tenkai kotehineri

This technique incorporates the hanasu idea that sometimes it is more ‘aiki’ to go under the arm than to go around it to get to uke’s back. If you happen to be holding uke’s hand when you make a hanasu #5 or #7 motion then you end up with this technique – the turning wrist twist. It is also possible to get to this position walking around the arm as in hanasu #1 or #3 and adding a hand trade, but the ‘textbook’ kata variation is done walking under the arm.
We used to do this technique spinning very fast under the arm but to spare uke’s arm we would have to loosen up and let the wrist slide. Now we execute this motion very slowly with a more compliant uke so that we can hold the hineri wrist position throughout the motion.
To me, this is the most painful of techniques when resisted. If I were going to develop ‘magical thinking’ about a technique (see yesterday’s post) this would be the one. But I’ve had Henry Copeland sensei burst my bubble about this technique too many times in randori for that. It is still awesome to me to see a good tori rotate his mass 360 degrees around a hineri wristlock at the end of an arm-length lever. The mechanical advantage for tori is impressive!

Sunday, August 27, 2006


This is the Holy Grail of aikido. Perhaps the one technique that people think of when they think of aikido (aiki is also known for iriminage and ikkyo too). Kotegaeshi is most aikidoka's favorite technique, at least for a while. I'm not sure why this is - perhaps because as Henry Copeland sensei once told me, "People only like the techniques they're afraid of." As if kotegaeshi has more magical qualities than some other technique in aikido.
Anyway, kotegaeshi is the dynamic opposite of kotehineri (sankyo) in that resistance on the part of uke tends to lead back and forth in a cycle from kotehineri to kotegaeshi. In nijusan, kotegaeshi is taught as a direct followup to uke pushing out of kotehineri.
Kotegaeshi presents tori with the choice (and the temptation) to end the technique by cranking the wrist, but the actual technique comes when we resist this temptation to actually turn the wrist and we arrive at a beautiful otoshi-motion floating throw with the wrist held at it's end of range but not twisted. If kotegaeshi has a weakness it is that the classically known version places tori inside uke's arms with both hands occupied, so if anything goes wrong with the technique then uke is in a position to apply atemi or a reversal. This often exacerbates tori's feeling that he must end the technique quickly by cranking the wrist. We frequently practice two variants of kotegaeshi that solve this problem - one is to execute kotegaeshi one-handed with the free hand used to simultaneously apply shomenate as a separator. The other variation is executed as tori retreats backward taking uke's wrist along for the ride.
So, while kotegaeshi is not the Sun and the Moon of aikido, it is a beautiful technique executed properly and it is a practical, indespensible, representative piece of aikido.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Four flavors of oshitaoshi

Today we started over with the beginning of the chains. We were not quite through with the last one and it is possible to start beginners at any point in the chains, but we had 2 newbies today and I felt like getting a fresh start. After 2 reps of tegatana concentrating on balls of feet and complete recovery steps we moved into hanasu then into chain #1. We got through the first four techniques - tekubiosae, udeosae, oshitaoshi, and tenkai oshitaoshi. These are all just iterations of the same thing - oshitaoshi (ikkyo). We cooled down taking breakfalls for shomen, aigamae, and gyakugamae atemiwaza. At the end I demonstrated for the class the remainder of the main branch of chain#1 and briefly discussed things to look for, including cycles of left-right, bentarm-straightarm, up-down, hineri-gaeshi, etc...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Gohonme - sakan

The technique known as sakan is gohonme (the fifth technique) taught in the jodo seitei kata. It is a combination of kihon #10 (the trapeeze deflection) followed by kihon#3 (hikiotoshiuchi). These two techniques are performed in this kata just as in the kihon. The only thing different or unique about this combination is the transition between the two techniques - so that must be where the meat of the teaching lies.
The transition involves giving up a series of offensive thrusts and moving into hikiotoshi without giving up the offensive momentum of the technique. The switch from right side thrusts to left-side-forward hikiotoshi kamae is done by advancing the left foot to heisokudachi as the jo is raised during the reversal, then dropping the right leg back as the jo drops back. Thus the turn is done in place - not as a retreat.
Another very interesting thing that occurs in sakan is that we get to experience all the checkpoints of hikiotoshi uchi in reverse. We get to know hikiotoshi literally backwards and forwards!
For henka-renraku (combination/variation) practice tonight I practiced sakan left sided. Then at the end I had the distinct pleasure of getting to throw sticks at my beautiful bride while the neighbors watched!

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Kotehineri begins a new class of techniques in Junana and Nijusan kata - that of wrist manipulations. Previously we were affecting uke's center either directly (atemiwaza) or by controlling the elbow (hijiwaza). Now there is another set of joints (the wrist) involved between uke's and tori's centers. One of the main lessons for tori for this group of techniques as a whole is to control the range of motion of the joints between centers so that tori is able to push on uke's center through the series of joints.
In kotehineri (A.K.A. sankyo) uke's wrist is extended and his forearm is pronated to the end of the range of motion for these joints. The purpose of these wristlocks like hineri is not necessarily to hurt or to injure the wrist, but rather to control the degrees of freedom in the joints between uke's and tori's center. With the wrist controlled in this hineri fashion, the rest of the technique mostly looks like oshitaoshi (ikkyo), but because of the lack of freedom in uke's arm, uke tends to lean forward and turn away to relieve the pressure. Thus tori tends to spiral into the ground above uke, whereas oshitaoshi tends to be a more direct path into the ground.
In aikikai the pin at the end is often done kneeling in seiza and entangling the arm (still in a hineri posture) with one arm then pressing the wrist toward uke's head to force a submission. This is a good basic way to learn the control, and it is a beautiful and effective pin, but we prefer to execute the pin from a standing position. Tori holds uke's palm (still in hineri) on tori's thigh so that he can use his leg and weight to press into the arm while tori's free hand control's uke's elbow. This results in a very effective pin that has the advantage of allowing tori greater opportunity to bail out of the pin and flee if appropriate.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Today's aikido

Today we started out with range of motion and ukemi, moving into hanasu. Patrick M. got some advice on hanasu#6 and hanasu#8 with emphasis on the idea that these should begin with tori moving ofline just like in hanasu#2 and #4. Kristof got advice on hanasu#1 and particularly on hanasu#3 - walking forward in order to apply tori's strength and weight (ki) along the length of the unbendable arm instead of pushing sideways.
Moving into the #7 chain, we practiced kaitan nage. As a stylistic preference, I prefer to execute kaitennage as an otoshi pushing toward the far front corner instead of the classic aikikai rotary throw. When this doesn't feel right, uke shifts into hikitaoshi then into oshitaoshi. We arrive at super-interesting situations because we have a student who has one arm that is incapable of swapping grips and doing things like everybody else. As a result, we ended up practicing tekubiosae (yonkyo) instead of oshitaoshi (ikkyo) as the last move in this series. The parallels between tekubiosae omote/ura and oshitaoshi omote/ura were very interesting.
Kristof says he is enjoying the aikido here. He says that the mat space he is used to practicing on in Ukraine is slightly larger with more headroom and they average about 10-15 aikidoka in class each day. That would be a very crowded mat space at Mokuren (and there will be this many attendees at the October Aiki Buddies Gathering at Mokuren). Kristof says that the aikido we do is much the same stuff as he is familiar with. It has been obvious that he has practiced the same motions a good bit because he has put them into hanasu order very rapidly.

Yesterday's judo

Yesterday we moved the old joints around a little then warmed up with part of the #1 osaekomi cycle (kesa, mune, ushiro kesa, tate, ushiro kesa, mune, kesa, kami, kesa) for a while. We played briefly with newaza randori but cut that short to spare Paul's knees. For standing work we did kosoto and deashi and then played around with some standing randori with the idea of finding the times that the other guy is off center and finding the times in randori that both partners fall into the basic judo dance relationship. Paul caught on quickly and did well. We cooled down with the beginnings of the "footsweep to control" drill.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Wakigatame is the Tomiki name for a variant of the traditional aikido technique known as gokyo. We practice three major variants, including the under-the-arm (judo) version, an elbow-to-elbow variation, and the traditional gokyo. The Judo version places tori at a tremendous leverage advantage but it tends to also place tori too close to uke. The elbow-to-elbow and traditional gokyo versions are often superior for self defense purposes in cases when tori wants to stay neutral and avoid force and stay off the ground with uke.

In aikido in general, and particularly in wakigatame, tori does not supply the power to break uke’s arm. Tori simply places an immovable bar against uke’s elbow and walks forward in the direction the arm is pointing. As long as uke moves with tori then the arm can’t be injured but if uke breaks the relationship then he endangers his own arm. If uke stops suddenly then tori’s motion will stretch uke’s arm longitudinally and if uke tries to stand this can break the stretched elbow.
Tori must apply this armbar on the move and continue to move and keep uke extended. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in uke scooping tori with gedanate or sukuinage. I’ve also seen one of my sensei (Usher-san) repeatedly counter this technique with oshitaoshi in randori. Gedanate makes a great backup plan for tori, as does kotegaeshi.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Waxing and waning at Mokuren

The move to Magnolia has, if anything, strengthened the Aikido program at Mokuren. We have the new uchideshi and 4 newbies that look like they might stick. The Judo program is waning. I think it's a longer drive for most of them and they've been mostly skipping out on me for various reasons. But it looks like one of the aiki guys may enjoy Judo too. We'll see - the two programs wax and wane over the course of time anyway. For some reason, it appears to be a natural cycle that the two classes don't flourish at the same time. The karate instructor should be back from vacation this week and we should have his students in here twice a week.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Funny thing happens when someone pulls their arm back from you. Depending on which way they are turning their arm - inward or outward - they tend to lean forward or backward. Thus, we have two things that tori is often able to follow that retracting arm into - udegaeshi (#7) and udehineri (#9). In udegaeshi uke retracts his arm, rotates it outward, and leans back. In udehineri, uke pulls his arm back, rotates it inward, and leans forward, creating that gem of a technique in every martial art - the bar hammer lock. In Judo it is called udegarami. In jujitsu it is called the Kimura. Tori's job in this technique is to find a way to safely follow the arm to it's final resting place and hold it there to maintain uke's forward leaning posture and to provide leverage to make uke move in the desired direction.
In our kata version everything is done with uke's arm very tight against uke's flank with the wristlock pressed against uke's butt or lower back. This is actually a safety measure for uke. With the arm in this position, uke's body is actually splinting the arm so that it is difficult to accidently break the arm before uke can roll out of the technique. Later variations in the koryunokata execute the technique with the arm away from uke's body. This requires a gentle tori and a skilled uke because this position is a recipe for disaster for uke's rotator cuff. This is a feature of the hineri position of the arm - it isolates the smalest muscle in the rotator cuff and places tori's and uke's weight against it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


In oshitaoshi, tori controls uke’s wrist and elbow from a shikaku position and pushes uke into the ground. Hikitaoshi is pretty much the direct opposite, in which tori controls uke’s wrist and elbow from an omote (front) position and pulls uke into the ground. Hikitaoshi is one of the first techniques used in the followups to the wrist releases to illustrate the kito principle in a front-back manner – the idea that if pushing isn’t working then uke may be susceptible to a pulling attack. So, in the chains, hikitaoshi is often used as a backup for pushing techniques like oshitaoshi and udegaeshi. In this context it is important to be able to smoothly and safely transition from an ura/pushing position to an omote/pulling position by moving down the line of uke’s arm and applying shomenate during the transition.
Hikitaoshi was the favorite technique of my first student and he taught it to his three year old daughter. Whenever things did not go her way she would convincingly threaten the offending person with “I’ll number-eight you!” She frequently number-eighted the cat.
Overzealous hikitaoshi was often the specific reason that the big bad judo guys in our club didn’t like to do aikido – because being off-balanced, whipped face first into the ground, and dragged across the tatami into an armbar was too un-nerving for folks who were used to being planted in the mat on their side or back. Of course, the aiki guys often hated being planted in the ground by judo folks too.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Yet another cool class

Two more new students and one more watching on the sidelines, along with Kristof, Patrick M., and myself, made for a good, full class. Wehad almost all the mat space laid out. We need to work on the positioning of the mats to get all of them into our new space. Three pair of partners had plenty of room, and I can see how two more pair could easily work in our space. Beyond that we'll have to start working groups and taking turns, but that shouldn't be a problem. We're planning a seminar for end of October, in which we are likely to have 12-15 people working out. depending on what we are working on, with 7 pair we might have to group and take turns but it'll work out.
Tonight we worked on the first 4 moves of tegatana, the first two of hanasu, and 1 or 2 of the chains related to release #2. Everybody caught onto the motion well and seemed to enjoy it.

Structure in nijusan

Today I was thinking about the structure of the Tomiki system and came upon an interesting concept that I'd never considered (probably because I'm behind the curve - other instructors probably already knew this).  The techniques of junana all start with one of the release motions.
  • Except for shomenate, eveything in junan) prior to and including kotegaeshi is built off either the first or third release motion.
  • Everything after kotegaeshi is built off of the second or fourth hanasu motion.
  • Shomenate and the first four of owaza jupon are built off of a #9 or 10 hanasu motion (the inside releases that start yon kata).
  • Owaza #5 is built off of hanasu#1 and owaza 6-9 are built off of a variant of hanasu#4.
All this info is encoded in the release followups so that we get an intuitive feel for which technical possibilities live in the vicinity of each hanasu motion. I think it is really interesting to see that structure existed within the Tomiki system (i.e. junana and shichihon) prior to the explicit development of the hanasu no kata or the release followups.
So, if the first 6 of shichihon are the prototype motions for most all the material in aikido, why did Tomiki include that odd 7th technique in shichihon? And why were shichihon#1 and #2 removed from the material that was used to create hanasu?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

New Student, old ideas

Today we had a new judo student. Paul is a (perhaps) middle aged guy who did Judo as a kid and who has dome some isshinryu recently. We warmed up (or calibrated - see the earlier posts on this) and practiced some backfalls, side falls, and forward rolls. He did great! Then we worked on the kito principle using some suwari (suwari kubinage and suwari hizaguruma). This got us into kesagatame and munegatame so we could discuss these positions and beginbuilding the situp escape from kesagatame.
From standing we used kosotogari as our excuse to practice some more ukemi and talk about tori's responsibility to help uke fall properly. This also afforded us an opportunity to talk about how to engage by occupying the center with your hands as you approach. This gives us an advantageous inside gripping position and provides an automatic block/parry. The Gracie guys (I think) call a variant of this the cowcatcher or the wedge.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Suwari is an interesting practice. It's hard to get a handle on the underlying structure to the practice. I think that's because Tomiki structured the tachiwaza and weapons practice to a greater degree and left the suwari as both more advanced practice and more of a retro-type of practice. Thus its inclusion in the koryunokata. So the small amount of suwari practice that we get tends to be either exemplary techniques (i.e. koryu) or freeform playing. Of course, suwari is a beneficial practice, but I think it would be more beneficial if it were subject to the same structure as the tachiwaza we learn.
I've been thinking about the suwari that we do a lot lately, and I want to begin including a very small amount of suwari as part of the warmup in each class. I've actually been including some suwari in the judo warmups and it has been a good thing. It introduces some techniques as well as the Kito principle while serving as a physical continuation of ukemi practice. Y'all aikidoka can probably expect to see 1-2 techniques from koryu katas #1, 3, 5 ,and 6 over the next few weeks while I try to figure out how to both structure it and fit it in.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Who's uke now?

Today there was only Kristof and myself at aiki practice. The Hattiesburg group couldn't make it because of car trouble. Patrick M. Didn't show. Brian & Jennifer havent started back since school just started. When only two people show up we always have a much more fast paced, physical class. Today we reviewed tegatana and hanasu then practiced the chains associated with releases 2, 3, and 4. We were particularly looking at the techniques that spin off of 2 and 4 when tori (mistakenly) turns wide around uke or cuts sharply into uke. The wide #2 and #4 were pretty straightforward. These tend to blend into release 1 with all its' versions of oshi taoshi, or #3 with wakigatame.
On the other hand, #2 when done sharp like an iriminage, becomes this confusing jumble of uke and tori changing roles and practicing shomenate, wakigatame, gedanate, and ushiroate. Nobody ever knows who attacls each time. The easiest way to keep on track is recite "I attack, I attack, you attack, you attack," as you practice the techniques. I for one wound up thoroughly sweaty and exercised despite the coolness of the dojo this morning.
Those of you who missed aiki this morning also missed out on a breakfast of blackberry waffles and smoked sausage. Hmmmm, sounds good doesn't it? WELL SHOW UP NEXT TIME!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Judo plans for tonite

Wow! I'm excited about getting to resume Judo classes in an airconditioned, lighted dojo. I'm going home midafternoon to get the dojo cleaned up some in preparation for class. We'll be able to lay out the entire mat space tonight and leave it because the karate instructor is going to be on vacation for another week. Tonight's judo plans involve kosotogari and osotogari and some ground randori. The adult class (tonight probably just Cody and I) will be doing some ground cycles and some ukemi practice warming up toward seoinage, kubinage, and ukigoshi, then some standing randori.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dojo progress

In addition to a good class tonight, we had a special surprise when we got home. The workers had finished the lighting and A.C. and started the ceiling. We'll have a truly functional dojo by Friday. Can't wait to see everyone Friday and Saturday!

4 ideas to improve anyone's aikido

Tonight's aikido class we worked outside for about half the time until we (finally) got our thunderstorm that cooled us off. We did tegatana, making a point to completely recover the back foot after each step. Then we zoomed in on the first turn, as in yesterday's aiki homework assignment. We worked on it for several minutes emphasizing getting the timing of the push up synched with the timing of the body rise. Then we worked this motion into hanasu, reviewing #1-4 with Kristof and introducing #5 to him. In hanasu we emphasized low-level strategies, including:

  1. get out of the way

  2. turn to face uke

  3. get behind uke

  4. move with uke
It turns out that each technique in hanasu is an example of these principles in this order. Really, these four principles will improve your aikido randori pretty much no matter what type of aikido you do. Keeping these principles in mind instead of trying to DO a technique to uke tends to help performance considerably. Tonight's material included some of the techniques surrounding hanasu#4, including reverse kote gaeshi, aikinage, ushiroate, kaiten nage, and release#3.
One of the great things about training at Mokuren is the variety of students. We get to work with a small, maybe 130 lb, student, a 170lb student, a couple of 250 pounders, and a 350 pounder on a regular basis. We also have the special benefit of having a student with a birth injury that resulted in one "normal" arm and one arm that is drawn into a permanent chudan uke (middle block). Aikido that will keep a one-armed guy safe against a 130 pounder a 250 pounder and a 350 pounder will work for anyone! We pretty much have the 5th through the 95th percentile of the population represented. We are looking forward to having a couple of females practicing with us starting this summer, including one blind student. Aikido is awesome as an adaptive self-defence!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Shichihon no kuzushi

Some schools of Tomikiryu practice an exercise caled shichihon no kuzushi early in the syllabus. This exercise consists of seven fundamental forms of offbalance found later in other aikido techniques. We, instead of practicing shichihon no kuzushi, practice an exercise known as hanasu no kata (forms of release). Hanasu consists of eight ways to move from in front of uke to behind uke while releasing any tension or pressure that is building in the contact between uke and tori.
The first four hanasu are roughly identical to the shichihon techniques named chudan aigamae, gedan aigamae, chudan gyakugamae, and gedan gyakugamae. The last four hanasu are responses for tori when uke changes one ofthe first four. for instance, in hanasu #5, tori begins hanasu #1, chudan aigamae, and uke changes it so that tori's easiest release is to step under the arm into something similar to tenkai kote hineri.
Later in our syllabus we encounter shichihon no kuzushi as the first seven techniques of yon kata. By this point #3-6 are mostly trivial because the student has practiced these techniques as part of hanasu in every class for years. But the first two techniques of yonkata (jodan aigamae and jodan gyakugamae) are monsterously tough for us. I have been working on yon kata on and off for probably ten years and I still feel like I don't have a grasp of how these two are supposed to work. I wonder if these two techniques are particularly hard for other Tomiki practitioners? I'm looking forward to having Usher-san and some other instructors in the Mokuren dojo at the end of October to work on yon kata and maybe enlighten me.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Tonight's aiki homework

Here's what I'm working on tonight at home for aiki-sans-uke practice. The eighth motion in tegatana (the first turn) is essentially the same as the first motion of hanasu.
  • practice this motion five times on either side for warmup.
  • five more reps concentrating on only bearing weight on the first two balls of each foot.
  • five more reps imagining that you are being pulled by a rope attached to your center.
  • five more reps imagining you are being pulled by your wrist.
  • five more reps imagining an iron rod keeping your spine straight.
  • five more reps imagining your head as a balloon that is bouying your spine upwards.
  • five more times visualizing your hips as a fountain bouying your head upwards.

This comes from an interesting teaching process called ideokinesis, which involves changing the quality of your motion by changing how you visualize your own motion.

How would you describe the quality of your motion during each set?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Class plans for this week

Aiki class this week will be primarily spent on the atemiwaza that comprise Andy's yonkyu requirements (shomen, aigamae, gyakugamae, gedan, ushiro). He's certainly already ready but we'll work on them Tuesday and then have Andy's rank demo Saturday. We'll also continue on the followups to the wrist releases, probably getting through #3 into #4 this week. Lets also plan to start our jodo class Saturday after aiki class.
In Judo we'll get back to grappling, assuming the A.C. is working. We'll also be working primarily on Cody's green belt nagewaza, including deashiharai, hizaguruma. seoinage, and kubinage.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Gokyo and kotegaeshi

Another day of no-gi, hot and dusty aikido. Fortunately it was cooler for our 9:00AM aiki class today than our 6:00PM judo class yesterday. We had to cancel judo class yesterday afternoon because it was simply to hot to be grappling. The ceiling, lights, and A.C. should be installed Monday or Tuesday.
This morning we went through tegatana, highlighting the proper foot/ankle posture for tsugiashi and discussing the usefulness of the "helicopter" pivot as a great way to get from an omote position into an ura position. In hanasu we reviewed releases 1-4 and then explored the gokyo-like wakigatame and the kotegaeshi that comes off of hanasu#3.
Kristof's aikido is remarkably clean and gentle. We started off our aiki relationship agreeing that each practitioner will understand aikido differently and that each instructor will teach what they understand of aikido differently. With that in mind, it will be easier for Kristof to look for the commonalities between the teachings of his American Tomikiryu instructor and his Ukrainian Aikikai instructor. Today we had somewhat different ideas about ukemi and about footwork, and we had different names for the same stuff, but both Kristof and the Mokuren guys recognized what the other was doing as aikido. It's pretty cool that a person can travel from the Carpathian mountains of Ukraine to the sweltering pine woods of southwest Mississippi and still practice aikido.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cool class

Last night's class was very cool. Cool in the sence of interesting - not cool in the sence of cool. In that sence it was hot. We haven't gotten AC and ceiling installed in the new dojo yet, so it was an hour and a half of Mississippi Aikido - that is, teeshirt and shorts instead of the oven mitts that we call gi.
In ukemi we worked on trying to improve our sensitivity of the posture of our shoulders so that we can more easily determine when we roll over a misplaced shoulder.
In tegatana we worked on staying on the balls of our feet - specifically on the balls of the first two toes. We contrasted our ankle stability and balance in tsugiashi landing across the ball of the foot as opposed to landing on those to most medial toes.
In hanasu we worked on the idea of finding a place in space during the first step that is neutral between #1, #2, and #5. Then we dove off into the chains associated with hanasu#2, including kotetaoshi and maeotoshi. We mostly worked on kotetaoshi with the idea of getting into and staying in shikaku and keeping gyakugamae ate ready if shikaku fails. I thought it was interesting that I was forever going into gyakugamae early. I had to wait and wait and wait in order to get it right.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Choreutics and Aikido

Another genius whose work informs the study of aikido is Rudolf Von Laban, the mid-20th century dance instructor and ergonomist. Laban invented a field of study known as Choreutics, which is, in essence, an aesthetic instead of scientific approach to kinesiology and ergonomics. Some of Laban's insights that apply to aikido include:
  • side-to-side motion implies (or facilitates or is accompanied by) forward-backward motion, creating motion in a horizontal plane.
  • forward-backward motion implies up-and-down motion, creating motion in a saggital plane.
  • up-and-down motion implies side-to-side motion, creating motion in a frontal plane
So, pure planar motion does not exist in the context of the human body. Any time someone is moving or exerting force along any plane there are also interesting interactions going on in the other 2 orthogonal planes. Essentialy all human motion is a form of spiral.
The magic of aikido and Judo often lies in these 2 orthogonal planes.
One of Laban's successors, Lisa Ullmann, followed up on Laban's Choreutics insights with the following:
  • motion across the centerline of body implies straightness and stability.
  • motion away from the centerline of the body implies flexibility and freedom.
  • upward motion implies mobility and lightness.
  • downward motion implies stability and hardness
  • fast motions tend to contract inward toward the center.
  • slow motions tend to extend outward (forward) from the center
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