Saturday, September 30, 2006

Do-nothing self-defense aiki

Today we had Clan McKenzie, Hattiesburg Andy, and Kristof the Ukrainian uchideshi. We calibrated, worked on ukemi, and moved rapidly into tegatana, which we repped twice without any particular focus. Then we paired up and did hanasu, at first in "kata mode" then moving into "experiment mode" for several reps. The topics that came up in hanasu included some commentary about there only being three releases in hanasu (walk-arounds, pass-bys, and walk-unders) and some discussion of the importance of beginning evasion at maai while there's still time. We practiced aigamae from nijusan, then the chain of the day was hanasu#3 followed by kote mawashi, wakigatame, and gyakugamae ate. The emphasis ended up being on evading, getting behind uke, and moving with him while limiting his potential. Good fundamental aikido self-defense.
Sensei James Reuster of Edwards AFB made an interesting comment in an email a few weeks ago that has been eating on me for a while. We were discussing the upcoming Aiki Buddies Gathering in Magnolia and tossing around ideas for topics or themes for the clinic. I suggested a self-defense theme, perhaps something related to how we teach "self defense" along side the principle of "do nothing." Reuster commented that everything we do every class day is self-defense oriented, that we don't have to do anything special or stronger, or rougher or anything different at all to be teaching self-defense. That pretty much put an end to the discussion because he is absolutely right. Self defense is not something special that we cover every so often at a special class. It is the ruling strategy underlying every technique and tactic that we teach and practice every class. Everything we teach has to have good probability curves under conditions of chaos, has to fail relatively softly, and has to be testable and falsifiable.
And that makes pretty good sense to me after nearly 20 years of martial arts practice, but the question still stands: when a student comes in wanting self defense and we tell him we can teach him a viable self-defense, then we try to explain "do nothing" aiki principles to him, it does not make sense. So my suggestion was not so much to work on cool ninja defense techniques at this ABG, but rather to work on how we teach the things we teach. What is the best way to explain the things we do in order to get the buy-in necessary from the beginning student to invest the time and effort necessary to learn our ideas of self-defense.
Which reminds me of a little story that Andy would like. An old master swordsman, veteran of a thousand battles, was trying to impress a student. The master asked the novice, "Quick, tell me, what would you do to save yourself if I were to attack you like this?" To which the novice answered, "Nothing." The master left enlightened.
(With that story in mind, check out my 'Creamed Asparagus' post from 9/24/2006. Interesting contradiction...)

Friday, September 29, 2006

What-ifs for tsukezue

Tonight my judoka didnt show, so I beat Woodreaux Roper with an axe handle for a while as warmup, then practiced my jodo. Having spun through about 20 reps of each of the kihon, I ran through Seiteikata #1-6 several times, Settled onto #1 for several more reps, then played some what-if henka type scenarios. What if, during the evasion in the beginning of #1, tori's left hand falls onto the jo in gyakute grip? It feels like this will become a sword trap similar to kuritsuke. What if tori grips the jo in sakate grip during the evasion? There is an opportunity for a knee atemi during the evasion and perhaps a dobarai type sweep/strike. I need some victims to play with in jodo. I need victims badly!
Wanted: 2-3 people who want to learn a 400 year-old stickfighting art with me.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Low is the way to go

Little things can make a big difference in your aikido if you choose things that affect every single part of aikido. This is why basic exercises like tegatana andhanasu have so much leverage to improve your aikido. Anything that you improve in these ends up improving all the rest of your aikido in small ways, until all those small improvements snowball and make a big difference.
One little tidbit that will help in hanasu is the positioning of tori's hand as he offers it for uke to grab. Tori wants to make sure that he presents the arm low, close to his own body, so that tori's face and hand are both the same distance from uke's lead shoulder. What this does is makes it unclear to tori's subconscious whether the attack is coming to the face or the wrist. Tori is helping uke to make a stronger attack and this forces tori to learn a response that begins as uke crosses maai and is viable for either attack. This also goes a long way toward tying all the wrist stuff (hanasu) together with the striking stuff (nijusan) so that we are not doing tegatana, then stopping that and doing a different thing (hanasu) then stopping that and doing something else (nijusan), etc... We're working on different views or facets of the same thing (aiki) throughout class. So, with hanasu, low is the way to go.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Alright, Andy, ID this quote:
"Power without perception is spiritually useless
and therefore, of no true consequence."
Wow, it seems like forever since I practiced and since I blogged - even though we only missed one day.
Tonight we calibrated and worked on tegatana, focussing in on the action of the off hand during the pushes and thinking about how our brains like to make patterns out of the walking steps. We did a repetition of the kata deliberately changing the grouping of movements in our minds and the result was interesting - nothing quantitative and not better or worse, but different perceptually.
Then we practiced hanasu in kata mode and played with a couple of other motions that allow us to easily play with the sidestep during any direction change. That sidestep is something that I've had a hard time wrapping my mind around for the past few years but tonight I felt some progress.
In a sudden direction change we have to absorb our own momentum, which stops our motion and leaves us vulnerable. I've understood that part for a while. Tonight we worked on the hanasu#1 motion, the deashi harai stepping around the corner motion, and the omote-ura offbalance for nijusan. I felt that absorption of momentum spread throughout the extra weight shift of the side step. It was a pretty cool thing perceptually.
Then we got down to wakigatame night. Chain #3 was the chain of the night, so we worked on a couple of variations of wakigatame and a couple of variations of kotegaeshi that come off of hanasu#3.
Gary and Andy asked for more airfall practice, so we did forward rolls and small airfalls on the crash pad. Everyone did great and there was some improvement in everyone's motion, but Thank God for crash pads and for closed-cell foam in general, because I would have pretty much run out of students tonight if we'd been practicing on rice straw tatami.
We cooled down with suwari katatedori gyakugamae followed by kote mawashi, waki gatame, and kotegaeshi. Sort of a combo of some of the rokukata stuff and the suwari kotegaeshi from sankata.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A class cancellation poem

For those that care,
Be aware!
No judo tomorrow,
Though you may sorrow.
I have a date,
With my bride of late.
Normal schedule will resume;
Wednesday afternoon.
Same judo time, same judo place,
We'll practice with grace.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Creamed Asparagus

One of the main reasons I wanted to build the new Mokuren dojo at my own house was so that my kids (three so far, one on the way) could more conveniently learn judo and later, aikido. I feel that there are lessons that these arts in particular teach that I want my kids to learn as they grow up.
Today I saw a thing that I thought was interesting - it was the DVD of Veggietales: Minnesota Cuke and the Hairbrush of Samson. The theme of the show was dealing with bullies. In it a playground bully oppresses Junior Asparagus and after Jr learns his lesson he confronts the bully and tells him that he won't fight but if the bully wants to keep up the bullying that he'll have to beat up Jr. and his friends every day because they're not afraid of him anymore.
Now, I love Veggietales.
And I understand the scriptures about turning the other cheek et al...
But I don't really like teaching the lesson that the little guy's only response is to get creamed by bullies every day of his life. Surely that's not the only application of "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" that the animators could have illustrated in this show.
I like aikido and judo because the moral underpinnings of these arts in particular are very much compatible with the Christian ethics and beliefs and worldview in which I will be bringing my children up. It is interesting that an episode of Minnesota Cuke could elicit such deep topics. I could probably write for hours on this but I won't. Suffice it to say, "Bravo, Veggietales team, for such an overall fine series and a fine show!" But consider not teaching kids to get beat up as the only application of the scripture.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sharp and wide

Today's aikidoka included Kristof, Patrick M., and 3 of Clan McKenzie. Most of the Hattiesburgers were either sick or working. We calibrated and rolled. I think I saw a couple of the newbies being a little rounder - so we're making progress there. Worked on tegatana, mainly with the focus of balls of feet and recovery step and getting the pattern into the newbies. Everyone did hanasu 1-4. The more advanced folks did all of hanasu. We all got several reps of that then finished up chain #2 with the ideas of what happens when tori's execution of hanasu#2 is either too wide or too sharp. Wide tends to whip uke back around onto tori, which can lead to hanasu #1, 2, or 5 - or really anything that we have covered so far in chain #2. Folks seemed to especially like aigamaeate and gyakugamaeate as counters to wide hanasu#2. Sharp execution of #2 leads to the the interesting "Who's uke now?" exercise in which uke whips around into a shomenate and uke and tori take turns playing with wakigatame, gedanate, and ushiroate. We cooled down and rested our minds a bit with the omote-ura entry into most of nijusan. Post-aiki breakfast included pancakes, fruit salad, and juice.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Judo interrupted...

Well, today we started out by calibrating then working on the 1-2-3touch drill emphasizing synching the little finger curl to the ankle touch. Then we started working on deashi, intending to use it as an intro/lead-in to kosotogari when ... life intervened... I had to stop class and go fix an exchange student's attitude problem at my mother-in-law's house.
We won't be having judo next Tuesday because I have a hot date with my wife. We'll have aiki tomorrow as normal then resume normal schedule next Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Omote and ura in atemiwaza

Tonight's aiki class worked on tegatana and hanasu, then did nijusan #1-3 with tori making the full omote and ura motions as I talked about in the previous post. It worked well and we played for a while with chain #2, including the hineri-gaeshi loop and the reverse kotegaeshi loop on both sides. We got to play with a little bit of hand randori. Cool class overall - nothing earth-shattering to write about...

Omote and ura

Omote and ura is an interesting relationship. most aikidoka think that they are opposites, omote meaning "to the front" while ura means "to the back." Some styles teach that omote techniques are the "face" of the movement (i.e. superficial learning) while ura are the more profound teachings. I think that omote and ura are not opposites, or even opposite faces of the same coin, but rather part of one spectrum of motion.
It seems to me that if one practices ikkyo (for instance) with an omote irimi type entry and finishes with a tenkan ura type motion then the path of tori's motion includes all the points where uke can flush himself in this particular relationship. So tori, instead of learning two techniques (omote and ura) can be said to be walking down this path looking for the time and place where uke's posture and offbalance is right for ikkyo. Tori is learning all the variants of ikkyo in one motion.
but my knowledge is small - your mileage might vary.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mac put the 'ju' into judo for me!

Tonight we calibrated and rolled then practiced the 1-2-3touch footsweep drill emphasizing vertical posture and walking on the balls of the feet. This drill teaches an awful lot about being able to know where uke's feet are at all times. It is common for uke to want to leave a foot hanging out so that tori can feel like he is successful but it is very important for uke to be honest in this drill. Uke should retreat with steady rhythm without trying to give the foot to tori or snatch it fom him. When tori reaches out, if he misses the foot control then he learns to turn that motion into a step and get back in synch with uke. So honest ukemi is a no-lose proposition for tori.
After getting our juices flowing we practiced the fundamental form of deashi and worked on fixing two common ways itcan get screwed up. his led to the "bumping the stuck deashi" variant and the deashi to kosotogari combination. They loved this pair of techniques - especially the deashi kosoto! There was constant giggling as uke dropped like he was shot.
For newaza we got into the groove with the first groundwork cycle then learned leg entanglement and bridge&roll escape actions for deashi. Bridge and roll is often a monster to teach properly because observers ignore whatever sensei says and all they see is tori dragging uke horizontaly over himself - which is NOT what is going on. I have found that by over-preaching "plant his face in the ground" as a performance goal and by setting it up with an uphill bridging action students get the proper motion as well as a workable randori technique much faster and easier.
This led to a discussion of how Judo is supposed to be "ju." That is, it is a gentle art of flexible tactics. If something is difficult to perform then tori is either not trying to do it right or is trying to do it wrong. This is a common problem because it is not natural to imagine that it should be easy to loft an opposing person. We think that we should fight during a fight!
God bless the late, great Mac McNease for finally telling me a few years back, "If it's not easy then you're thinking wrongly about what you are trying to do." That meme buried itself in my mind and transformed my judo miraculously over the course of a few months! For that great lesson, I honor Mac as my first Judo instructor.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Up against the wall, redneck mother

How can an already ultimately cool class get cooler and cooler each day? Part of it is the people - we had 2/3 of Clan McKenzie and 2/3 of the Hatiesburgers and 1-2 locals. Part of it was the material (we worked on chain 2, delving into the Steven Segal over-the-shoulder elbow lock, shihonage, tenkai kote gaeshi, reverse kotegaeshi, and aikinage. The one-armed versions of these were particularly interesting. Everybody seemed to especially enjoy the fact that tori can easily hide behind uke during these techniques so that uke shields tori from other attackers. When they got to the aikinage I actually saw shudders of glee! (Or were those reverberations from hitting the mat???). Anyway, we broke for breakfast then did some jodo, working on kihon #1-3 and seiteikata #1.
After all that was over, Andy asked how to do what he calls "closet aiki"- that is, aikido in very small spaces. We leaned a crashpad up against a wall and practiced aiki moves from being pinned with our backs to the wall. This is a very interesting practice because it illustrates one of the grey areas in which aikido and judo become one thing. In this situation, it is still possible to fall sideward along the wall, and you can use the judo pulling-in type move to get some forward motion off the wall. Combine these with some offbalance and tori ends up planting uke in the wall as he evades and flees. Using this sort of combination of a couple of aiki and ju tricks, it is possible to work your way through hanasu starting with your back pinned to the wall. And since hanasu is the foundation of the chains, this means that most of aikido still works pinned to the wall. Additionally, shrimping and bridging and 2-hands on a point still work when pinned against the wall, which means that the entire Shirai defensive groundwork system is still valid against the wall.

Friday, September 15, 2006

No guarantees, no insurance

There are no guarantees, and can be no guarantees in this life. Any instructor that tells you in unqualified statements that you can insure yourself against armed, violent people is a liar or a fool. Any martial artist that is not at least a little discomforted by violence like this is either a fool or is dishonest.
Despite this, dojos (including mine) advertise as self-protection and many people who take martial arts classes in the United States are concerned with issues related to self-defense (see this article). In pretty much all aikido classes in the world, at least some of the practice involves taking knives and swords away from violent people. In jodo we practice using a stick to defend against a sword-wielding person. The self-defense kata in judo involve disarming violent people armed with sticks, swords, knives, and even guns! Is this really inconsistent or what? Are we all charlatans?
Well, while there are no guarantees and no insurance, there are some principles that can improve your chances of surviving armed violence. Numerous instances have demonstrated in violent street situations that these principles affect the likelihood of survival:
  1. Attacks are probabilistic events – nothing is certain. Good weapons are terrible things but people are remarkably resilient. I have personally seen people who have survived being stabbed through the heart or having their aorta burst.
  2. Everyone has potential to be dangerous – even the defender. It is not unheard of for an attacker fall on his own weapon. The smallest, weakest defender in the world can still put a finger in an attacker’s eye.
  3. Make use of defenses that you can put into effect and then forget – locks, security systems, etc… They are not foolproof but they rarely hurt.
  4. Think carefully about how you live your life. While you have the right to go to a rough bar or a bad neighborhood, do you HAVE to exercise that right?
  5. Be aware of your surroundings. Be in the present and connect with people around you (metsuke, ki musubi, zanshin). Attackers favor weakened, distracted prey.
  6. Try to stay away from violent people (ma-ai, taisabaki). If they can’t reach you it's harder to kill you.
  7. Get out of the way of violent people and move toward safety (tai sabaki, shikaku). Knives only cut with 1-2 surfaces. Guns almost never kill the person behind them or beside them. Elbows only work in one direction and the person standing behind the attacker is harder to kill.
  8. Get in synch and move with the violent person (shikaku). If he can’t turn to face you, you’re harder to kill.
  9. Don’t fight with violent people – control or injure them enough to disengage and move to safety. Fighting is about winning but survival is about surviving.
  10. Don’t grapple with violent people – evade, disengage, and flee.

This list contains only ten principles out of many that are internalized over the course of a lifetime of martial arts study. Suppose that each of these principles only improves your chances by 10%. That is, the attacker has a 90% chance of killing you rather than 100%. These principles combined would produce a .9 to the 10th power chance of being killed. Thus, a 100% certainty (which really doesn’t exist anyway) is reduced to about 33%. Anything that has the conservative potential of reducing a near certainty of death to a 1-in-3 chance is worth exploring. Particularly with the fact that most Americans will not be a victim of violence three times in their life anyway.

But keep in mind…there are no guarantees and no such thing as insurance in this life!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The magic in the interstices

Interstices is a cool word! Tonight we worked on different ways to glimpse the magic in the interstices. First of all, uke and tori have to be relaxed in order to feel the magic. We warmed up then worked on tegatana with an emphasis on relaxing and allowing the motion of the body to throw the arms into the right position. This also had the effect of synching tori's arms with his body in terms of rise and fall. This tends to make the interstices larger and more prominent. We played with hanasu, only getting through about 2 of the techniques.
From thence we moved into the introductory randori drill where uke holds both of tori's hands and tori gets one free move to offbalance uke then tori moves step-for-step with uke to maintain or exaggerate the offbalance. It was interesting for me to see that different people fell into different techniques but it was the same for each person over and over. Andy, for instance, perpetually fell into tenchinage or sumiotoshi. This turned out to be apropriate because the chain ofthe night was #2 with the different variants of tenchinage and sumiotoshi and ushiroate. It was a cool class, in which we actually did get to glimpse the magic within the interstices. Not only does nothing work, but nothing really does work!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Judo fundamentals

Tonight we warmed up with groundwork cycle #1, which gives an overview of most all the basic hold-downs in judo and allows exploration of transitions between them. Then we named two of the holding positions, munegatame and kesagatame, and worked on escape motions for these two. We reviewed bridge & roll from munegatame and then played with situp and uphill bridging motions from kesagatame. For standing practice we reviewed the 1-2-3touch footsweep drill and then looked at the 'stepping around the corner' entry to deashi harai. Overall a very productive fundamentals class. The students caught on fine and did great!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hickory jitsu

Today's practice was hickory jitsu. I took my axe handle and beat on Woodreaux in sets of 12 right and left sided until sweat was flying off of me. I didn't even realize that the sweat was flying because I was so absorbed. I practiced cincotaro (both diagonal and vertical), V-down, arrow up, and C-crescent drills at high, middle, and low levels. I also practiced V-pattern footwork with high-middle-low C-crescent strikes. There is something amazingly therapeutic about mercilessly whipping an opponent as evil and worthy as Woodreaux.
I also got the sill and front door of the dojo fixed so that we can lay out the rest of the mats. I cut the door to swing out over the mats and I will be getting a sweep to attach to the bottom of the door. This Thursday I plan to finish the moulding at the top and bottom of the walls and around the south windows. We should be very close to finished with the interior of the dojo before this Saturday's party and certainly before the Aiki Buddies Gathering (ABG) at the end of October.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Kata mode

Often the way we practice kata in class is different from the way we want to demonstrate it for a rank demo or other demonstration.
The reason for this is that there is (and should be) a lot of experimentation and stopping and starting and rewinding and repeating and refining involved with day-to-day practice. Everyday kata practice is a laboratory exercise in which we manipulate variables and get the repetition we need to internalize the principles contained in the kata.
Formal demonstration (embu) is a different thing. Embu is not a time for experimentation or stopping and rewinding. It is intended to be a polished representation of the students' understanding of the principles in the kata. Here are a few hints for performing a good kata embu.
  • Get the attitude right. Embu is a demonstration of principles that are intended to be used in combat. Therefore, the attitude should reflect a life or death seriousness. This doesn't mean that you have to abuse uke any more than usual. This doesn't change the physical execution of the techniques at all, but a difference in attitude should be apparent in your zanshin (awareness).
  • Attain a connection with uke the instant the kata begins (typically the first step uke and tori take toward each other) and maintain that connection throughout the demo. This connection should be obvious through tori's use of metsuke (eye contact), centering, and synchronization (ki musubi) with uke.
  • The formality of the kata is primarily involved with keeping in mind that you are demonstrating the kata to someone (joseki) Therefore, it should be obvious that tori is keeping joseki in mind throughout the demo. Tori should not stand with his back to joseki and the kata should be arranged if possible so that uke is not thrown toward joseki and that tori is always at least somewhat between uke and joseki. Sometimes these demands conflict and tori has to make the best compromise possible at the time.
  • Set up a rhythm appropriate to the kata. You can do this by doing the same thing before and after each techique. Sort of like a bass line in music, the formality between the technique sets up an environment in which the techniques stand out.
  • Purely aesthetically, it helps to make sure that uke is physically larger than tori. Nobody likes to see a big guy beating up a little guy. Uke must have sufficient falling skills and both partners should have sufficient cardiovascular strength that neither of them gets ragged-out looking during the demo. Both partners should look clean and crisp and healthy during a demo. For kata demonstrations it is most appropriate to have uke and tori roughly the same skill level.
It is crucial that tori select the uke he will be using well in advance of the embu so that they can get additional practice together so that they both have the same understanding of kata mode by performance time. This preparation time can take weeks for a in-class rank test up to months for a national-level kata embu. A good method of getting used to this embu formality and staying sharp on it is to always practice the first repetition of each kata in everyday class practice using embu kata mode.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Lots of people enjoying aikido

Wow, today was a big class with both Clan McKenzie and the Hattiesburg group in attendance. We were about evenly split between old heads and newbies. We worked on ukemi, tegatana, taisabaki, and hanasu, then moved into the release#2 chains. This allowed us the chance to practice kotetaoshi, maeotoshi, hikiotoshi, and sumiotoshi as well as the motions surrounding these techniques. Each week it seems like there is a different technique that makes a true believer out of Andy. Last week it was shomenate. Today it was sumiotoshi. Everyone caught onto the motion and had fun learning. There was a new Hattiesburger and he also seemed to catch the aiki idea and enjoy it.
After class, Andy did his green belt demo and did fine, so we have a fresh new green belt. Congrats, Andy. Patrick M. is about 6-8 classes from having green belt hours, and Gary is about the same from yellow belt.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Osotogari and deashibarai

Tonight for warmups we practiced crawfishing out from under uke and we extended that drill into bridging onto the mat to bang uke around a little then pushing back to base and crawfishing out from under. In standing work we practiced the beginnings of the footsweep to control drill (1-2-3touch) and then worked on throwing deashi (early and late) and osotogari. We did several 2-minute rounds of randori looking particularly for osotogari and deashibarai, then cooled down on the ground with bridge&roll escape motions from munegatame. Lots of fun. Everyone did good randori and had fun.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New aiki-cub

Well, I have permission from my wife, Elise, to announce now... We're expecting baby#4! Elise is 14 weeks (out of about 40) along and we're already arguing over names. My favorite name for a girl is Maire McInnis Parker, and I don't have a serious favorite for a boy unless it is Particular Triumph Parker or perhaps Kenneth McInnis Parker. Elise's favorite names are Eliot Dean or Eloise Dean Parker. She also likes the sound of the names Kent, Joss, Lex, Beau, Noah, Jude, and Jonah.
We've about come to the point that we want to take a poll as to what we should call our new aiki-cub and let y'all decide, so let the names flow in...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Broken rhythm in tegatana

There is an intertesting phenomenon that happens within tegatana no kata. In many places, the kata lulls us into a sense of rhythm, then breaks the rhythm. Each time the kata breaks the rhythm that it has apparently been setting up there is something to learn. For instance, at the end of the three forms of taisabaki the pattern changes from diagonal offline (taisabaki) to forward online (pushes). In the four forms of pushing that follow, the first three follow the pattern "left, right, right, left." Then the last of these is in the form of "left, left, right, right." There are examples of this throughout the kata, and each pattern change should focus our attention back to our kata so that we look for errors especially around the pattern breaks. forinstance, small extraneous foot adjustments are common near these rhythm breaks. These breaks should also make us ask ourselves the question "What is so special about this particular movement that the rhythm is broken for it?"
After exploring tegatana in this context tonight we went over hanasu #1-4 and then moved into chain #1, getting to the udehineri. For some variation on the theme we worked on menuchi tekubiosae with tenkai oshitaoshi as a backup plan. We also played with suwari oshitaoshi with provocative timing.


Dojos commonly advertise that they build self discipline, confidence, and self-respect. How is it that participating in a pseudo-military subculture builds these qualities? It occurred to me this morning that a lot of men probably participate in martial arts because they realize (perhaps subconsciously) that for the most part, all they have to do to earn the respect of other men is to behave properly (the way they should be behaving anyway) and persevere. When men begin to see that it is within their ability to make other men respect them, this acts as a foundation for self-respect.
Pulitzer Prize winning feminist, Susan Faludi, in her book titled Stiffed, The Betrayal of the American Man, puts forward an idea that masculinity is in crisis in modern America because of a shift in cultural norms that has left men dis-empowered to exercise the power that they were brought up to believe that they should have. Very basically, societal norms raise boys to be masculine, then those same cultural norms make it uncool to be masculine as a man. Masculinity remains a desireable goal for boys (and their mothers) while it has become a collection of undesirable traits to have as a man. While I certainly don't count as a feminist and Susan Faludi is not really a heroine of mine, parts of her book are compelling.
Some of the radio preachers I like to listen to like to make the point that in 'normal' relationships (whatever those are) women crave love and men crave respect. Some men can find this potential for respect within themselves by participating in the martial arts. Some sociologists have even suggested that men go to war primarily in order to participate in a subculture that celebrates masculinity and offers the potential for men to receive respect from other men.
My teacher discussed with us at times over the years that one of the beneficial things he has found that aikido and judo do for people is that they teach men to be less dysfunctional in their masculinity and they teach women to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy physical contact. The degree to which this teaches women to accept the love they crave is material for another essay (or book), and probably one that I am unqualified to write, but I can say that aikido and judo do help men operate in a manner that facilitates the respect that they crave.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jodo muscles

Tonight was a lovely jodo practice. Nobody showed for judo, so I went down to the dojo about 30 minutes early and beat on Woodreaux for about 45 minutes. I practiced cincotaro for a while with my hickory axe handle as a warmup, then whipped out my oak jo and practiced honte, gyakute, hikiotoshi, tsuki, and taihazushi. From thence I moved into seiteikata #1, 2, and 4. By that time I turned around and realized that Kristof had snuck up and was watching silently like a ninja! We went over kihon#1-3 both in solo and paired form then practiced the paired form of seiteikata#1.
Hikiotoshi was working remarkably well for me tonight. Pretty light effort, very little rapping sound when the jo struck the sword, the jo was left occupying the centerline, and it was almost wrapping the sword around uke's butt.
Jodo always makes my lower and middle traps sore - particularly when working on paired practice. I've got a renewed awareness of several muscles in my back.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Introducing Woodreaux

We have a new jodo partner. Alow me to introduce Woodreaux.
This afternoon I installed a makiwara for jodo striking practice outside the dojo. I used an eight foot 4X4 and sunk it 2 feet into the ground at the edge of the concrete slab. I backed it with bricks turned 90 degrees and tamped clay and pieces of brick around it and watered it. It still has a little give at the top, but I figure that as people use it they can walk around it and tamp it with their heel and pretty soon it should be pretty solidly planted. I wrapped the top 2 feet with 1/2 inch hemp rope soaked and stretched. I plan to get another length of rope and wrap it all the way down to knee level so that it doesn't take bites out of the jos that hit it.
For a while tonight I struck the new makiwara with a dymondwood jo. I got to practice honteuchi, gyakuteuchi, hikiotoshiuchi, tsuki, and suigetsu in sets of 25 left and right. The feel of actually being able to stab an inch round piece of dymondwood into a stable target is indescribably exciting!
Domo arigato goziamasu, Woodreaux-san.

Just your standard, everyday, supercool class!

In tegatana we worked on balls of the feet, recovery step, and synching the arms to the motion of the center. In hanasu it was more repetition of hanasu#1 and it's associated techniques. We worked a good bit with the beginners on the ideas of offline and power side. The motion in the beginning of chain#1 boggled some of the beginners today so we backed off and played with suwari shomenate with provocative timing. In nijusan we worked on shomenate and aigamaeate as falling exercises from a static position. The cool ninja technique of the day was kotemawashi as a follow-up to hanasu#1 motion.
The thing that interested me most today was during jodo it occurred to me that, while each of the seiteikata teaches multiple things, they each seem to emphasize one principle. for instance...
  • #1 = get offline
  • #2 = attack uke's weak place
  • #3 = try to confuse uke's sense of ma-ai
  • #4 = keep at least 2 options from any position
  • #5 = don't get over-committed
  • #6 = move through a known posture to reduce chaos
so, while each technique exhibits several of these principles, each particular technique appears to have it's own quality to it.
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