New Schedule and Location for 2016


New Year's Resolution: Coming out of retirement

Well, it’s time again to think about New Year’s resolutions and I’ve got one that has been eating at me for a while. I am going to work up to competing in judo tournaments again. My wife has agitated ever since I’ve known her to see me compete because my competition era was pre-Elise. I also want to do it to improve myself in preparation for coaching my kids in judo competitions and because…well… just to see if I still can.
Here goes:
I will compete in at least 2 local or regional level judo tournaments in 2008.
I will ramp up my fitness program so that I can do…
… treadmill for 45 minutes at 10 METS
… jump rope at 100RPM for 10 minutes
…100 pushups smoothly and continuously
…100 lat pulls smoothly and continuously
…100 crunches smoothly and continuously
…100 squat-thrusts smoothly and continuously
Anyone out there want to do this with me? Anybody up for a challenge?
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5.

Not bad for an old guy!

I love this style of judo - the big hand throw - teguruma, morotegari, uranage, etc... Not that I actually do that type of judo. Virtualy all of the throws I ever get in randori are footsweeps, But I still love that teguruma! Randy Couture demos two pretty good variants here. Not bad for an old guy, Randy!

The last Promote Three of 2007

At the end of each month I do this Promote Three feature, sending a little link-love out to three blogs that I enjoy and that I think all my readers should check out. There are so many truly great martial arts blogs from which to choose, but I limit myself to three, and I think the following three blogs deserve honors, traffic, and link-love greater than they are getting:
Mark Cook’s Bunkai Blog is a nice look at various interpretations of various movements found in karate forms. Some innovative interpretations, but the really fun part of this blog is the cartoon explanation of the moves. A lot of times you can get a lot more relevant information with a lot less extraneous noise in a line drawing than in a photo or even in a video.
Marks Chat is another very interesting martial arts blog. I enjoy the eclectic and wide-ranging topics and the short-but informative posts. Definitely one to subscribe to or keep on your blog roll so that you can stop by regularly and see what he’s talking about now.
And last but not least, the anonymous AikiLass at So you want to start Aikido bills her blog as “first hand knowledge of what it is like to step into the dojo for the first time as a complete beginner.’ But AikiLass had better watch out – two years into her training and having recently passed her Sankyu rank, she’s not exactly wet behind the ears anymore.

A martial arts decade matrix

Fads come and go in martial arts as in any other domain. Here is a quick and dirty run-down of what seem to me like the most popular martial arts fads for the past several decades. What do y'all think is coming next? What will fade to obscurity? Which of these will last forever? What was going on in the martial arts world in the decades before the 1950's
  • 1950’s – judo
  • 1960’s – karate
  • 1970’s – kungfu
  • 1980’s – ninjitsu
  • 1990’s – UFC, Gracie
  • 2000’s – cqb, kravmaga

Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5.

Check it out. Mokuren Dojo has graduated to its own domain name. If I've set it up right you should be able to find me at Let me know if you have any trouble finding me...

Trust but verify

Since the David Camarillo interview, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the Maximum Efficiency Minimal Effort (MEME) ideal in the formation and evolution of judo. I think it is interesting that Kano started off saying that he and his students would be practicing using the MEME ideal toward a goal of mutual benefit and welfare (the other principle ideal of judo) but he still took the overtly dangerous stuff out of judo so they could practice in a vigorous, competitive manner. This almost seems like a Trust but Verify policy. Trust that everybody is doing MEME for everyone’s mutual benefit – but verify that they are able to safely exert maximal effort in less-than efficient ways. A concession to the rebellion of human nature against the mutual benefit ideal as well as a concession to the pragmatic reality that you have to be able to practice vigorously even though you may not have the skill to do so efficiently and gently.
So, while there are necessarily these great ideals in judo, including:
  • Maximum efficiency with minimal effort
  • Mutual welfare and benefit
  • Striving toward technical perfection (ippon) in throwing…
Kano recognized that you cannot achieve good judo through blind devotion to these ideals. Rather, you have to moderate the ideals through pragmatic reason.


Judo with Rob
  • warmup with the groundwork cycle. We worked on shortcuts from munegatame to tateshiho and from the guard to tateshihogatame.
  • randori - rob started out beating me a couple of rounds, once with a very uncomfortable face-down rear mount and the threat of a RNC. Towards the end I wore him down some and had better success. I then sprawled as Rob shot in and got him in a facedown position with a relatively wimpy collar choke but the addition of the sprawl submitted him.
  • osotogari working on getting the timing and direction of the individual pulls right.
Aiki with Jill
  • walking kata and releases
  • chain #3: wakigatame and kotegaeshi
  • nijusan wakigatame working on emphasizing the release feeling and brushing off.

Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5.

Sacrifice throws

Let your opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let him smash into your flesh and you fracture his bones; let him fracture your bones and you take his life. Do not be concerned with escaping safely — lay your life before him. (Bruce Lee)

Giving up the idea of having to remain standing and throw an ippon makes a judoka very powerful! In the beginning, and in normal practice, sacrifice throws are un-necessary and probably even detrimental to your judo. Normally we practice under additional constraints, such as making tori show control by ending the throw standing upright and supporting uke as he falls.
These additional constraints make judo more difficult to do and lead to greater skill in tori. But when these constraints come off… When you can give up the idea of throwing with control from a standing position and know that you will probably still survive intact…


Schedule flux

Notice a little bit of class schedule fluctuation for the beginning of the new year. Aikido will keep the same schedule that we've had. Kids' judo will be moving to Thursdays at 5:30. Big folks' judo will be Tuesdays and Fridays at 5:30.

Nuts-on-rail roll and uchimata

One of my devoted readers sent me an email a few days ago, mentioning that he was working on uchimata. He didn’t really ask for my advice on uchimata, but here it is anyway. First a film clip to illustrate a (very painful) type of motion…

What this illustrates is not the idea that uchimata is supposed to jack uke’s nuts into his spleen – it’s not. Rather it illustrates that when you sit astride a rail that is too tall for your feet to touch the ground then your reaction tends to be to lay down forward along the rail and then roll sideways off the rail. This is how uchimata works for me – a lot of sideways roll and not much forward throwing. The trick is to get the top of your buttcheek under uke’s groin just as he peaks out in his stride so that he will lay forward parallel to your sweeping leg and roll.
Here’s the big secret to uchimata – tori’s sweeping leg does not sweep uke’s legs. The only reason that you pick up that sweeping leg is because it raises the buttcheek that uke is sitting on so that his feet come off the ground.
See if you can see the sideward rolling motion in the following video.


Obsessing over singularities

Aikido journal recently reprinted one of my articles on the subject of expertise - how the best in the world go about getting better. This got me to thinking on the subject again. Here is another way of thinking about the same idea.
Suppose you put enough effort into practicing kotegaeshi to feel a noticable difference. You have only improved kotegaeshi and you are only able to feel that improvement when kotegaeshi happens.
But if you put the same effort into something more general, like the efficiency of a single step, then that gain is magnified by the number of times you take a step. You are able to feel noticably larger gains in performance when you work on smaller, more general skills instead of more complex and specific skills. Experts spend their time polishing things that affect much of what they do. Experts rarely obsess over singularities.

A Mississippi Aikido Christmas Eve

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the dojo
No students were stirring, none had their mojo;
The mats were all stacked in the corner with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The sensei was nestled all snug in his bed,
While kotegaeshi danced in his head;
And shihan in her hakama I in my gi,
Had no sooner tied them and we needed to pee,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a crow,
grabbed up my tanto and drew nigh my jo.

The moon glinting off of the leaf-strewn driveway
Gave a lustre to the objects as if of mid-day,
When, what do you think I saw then from afar,
But a van and a truck and a hoopty old car,

With a little old driver, so lively and flush,
I knew in a moment that it must be Usher.
More rapid than eagles his minions they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, P3! now, Rich-san! now, Porkchop and Quan!
On, Edward! on Gimli on Malloy and ‘that other one!
Get into that dojo and lay out the mats!
Now dash away! dash away, while I wake up Pat!"

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
In Doctor Usher came with a bound.
He was dressed in his gi, pressed shiny and neat,
Tied with his belt he just couldn’t be beat.

His eyes -- how they twinkled though he said his back ached.
His joints creaked, his hips popped and his knees they were fake!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And it looked that despite that he was ready to go!

He spoke not a word, we went into randori,
Sankata newaza and yoko wakari,
He throttled poor P3, to his team gave a whistle,
And we practiced like mad throwing ukes like missiles.

After practice he marked in his book with a glower,
"Merry Christmas to all! That was worth half-an-hour!"

Fred Ettish

This is remarkable. I've always wondered what ever became of those poor traditional karate guys that got smeared so badly in the first UFCs. Then I stumbled across the following - a series of posts by Fred Ettish, Okinawan karateka from Minnesota (I think) who lost in UFC 2, about his life since then.

Improvement on osotogari and kesagatame

Judo with Gavin, Whit, Mason, Knox, Emma, and Quin
  • warmups, running, ukemi
  • kneeling kubinage into kesagatame - most were doing much better on getting into kesagatame
  • uphill escape from kesagatame - this is the first time they'd seen it and most of them did pretty good. This will give them incentive to get better at kesagatame, which wil in turn, give them incintive to get better at uphill escape and to learn more escaping actions. A cool feedback loop.
  • osotogari - all were improved and we worked on uke's falling action - making sure the butt hits first and slapping instead of putting arms down. We also wlrked on supporting uke by pulling up with both hands on one arm and moving in beside the chest as uke falls. The 6+ year olds were grtting this action pretty good.
Aiki with Kel
  • warmups, tegatana (worked on some hand motions), hanasu (kinda off tonight)
  • Chain #2, including maeotoshi, over-the-shoulder straight armbar, shihonage, aikinage, sumiotoshi, and tenkai kotehineri
  • This transitioned into randori. Kel was doing well tonight.

Superman vs. Batman

Judo vs. Karate...
Aikido vs. Judo...
Aikido vs... Karate...
How about Superman vs. Batman?

Couldn't resist it. Had to do it. Especially for John and Andy and Michael.

Shtuff happens

The following video is a neat example of the ippon ideal that I was talking about in a previous post. Look for instances where the technique was missing one of the three qualities of ippon (mostly on the back, speed/power, control) but was still called ippon. You’ll find lots of instances of vague throws or maybe doubtful calls. Granted, not all these were ippons, but you can bet that deep down in every competitor's mind is the desire to win with a perfect throw. You have to balance that desire for perfection with the pragmatic reality that sh...stuff happens.

Carnival of Martial Arts Blogs

Carnival of Martial Arts #4 has just been posted at TDA Training with a host of great articles. I particularly like the movie trailer for Bacon Samurai. Check it out!
Carnival of Martial Arts #5 will be hosted at Mokuren Dojo, and I wanted to try a new little twist. Carnival #5 will be a “Warriors for peace and justice” themed issue to coordinate with the observance of MLK day in the United States. .

There has already been a great deal of discussion in the martial arts blogosphere related to the concept of warriors in general, and in particular, the Peaceful Warrior concept. I know nearly everybody out there has an opinion on issues related to MLK, Gandhi, social justice, peaceful warriors, civil disobedience, and the like.
So come on and submit your related articles (old or new) for inclusion in the January 2008 Carnival of Martial Arts Blogs.

CLICK HERE to submit a post.
Submission Deadline: January 19, 2008
Carnival Posting: January 21, 2008

Pink elephants

Aiki with Kel and Jill
  • tegatana emphasizing balls of the feet. Have you ever tried to not think about pink elephants? Trying not to turn the ankles out in tegatana is the same thing. It works better to concentrate on something positive, like bearing weight on the medial two toes - the long levers of the foot.
  • hanasu emphasizing pushing forward, centered, same-hand-same-foot especially on #1 and #3
  • chain #2, including kotetaoshi, maeotoshi, hikitaoshi, sumiotoshi, and ushiroate.
  • ushiroate from nijusan as well as some interesting variants including short-guy hipbone ushiro, a wrestling-like kneecap and waist ushiro, and an eyeball and far shoulder ushiro.

The ippon ideal vs. sufficient proficiency

A lot of judoka that I've met struggle for months or even years, beating their heads against various techniques without feeling like they are becoming sufficiently proficient. Judo, the gentle way, is supposed to be simple but sometimes simple just ain’t easy. Nearly all judoka go through their entire career with at least a handful of throws that never reach that level of efficient ease.
Part of this distress may come from our preaching the ippon ideal. That is, we preach that we want to throw uke 1) mostly on his back, 2) with appreciable force and speed, and 3) with the thrower in obvious control of the action. These are good criteria and the competition rules are set up to reward this type of action. One perfect throw (ippon) wins the match instantly. A throw lacking any one of these qualities should be considered waza-ari (not quite a technique) and two waza-ari constitute an ippon. Throws lacking two or three of these qualities receive lesser recognition and no amount of these accidental or clumsy throws are considered to add up to a waza-ari or ippon.
This ideal is a good thing. It promotes improvement. But blind devotion to the ippon ideal is the same thing as perfectionism, which I’ve mentioned before as being the enemy of self-improvement. To prevent this perfectionism from growing within your judo, you must seek a dynamic balance between the ippon ideal and a second ideal – typified by the expression…

A sufficient response right now is better than a perfect response sometime later

So, I think it is a good thing to strive for the ippon ideal (as in classical judo) as well as the sufficient proficiency ideal typified by yuko (small throw) judo or Kosen (university) judo or BJJ.

Parkers do judo

Judo with Whit, Knox, and Quin
  • ROM and warmups: running, tornado twisters, smashing pumpkins, etc...
  • ukemi: rocking&slapping, teguruma with me as spotter interspersed with more running
  • newaza: crossface far knee tap turnover to mune
  • tachiwaza: osotogari emphasizing kicking knee-to-knee and helping uke to land properly. Whit hammered Quin once. We'll have to work on falling better as well as showing tori how to help uke better.
  • newaza: kneeling kubinage into kesagatame. This seems to be the best way to get kids to actually do kesagatame.
  • Below is a technique that Knox spontaneously invented tonight - nose gatame - submission by nose honking!

Irresistible aiki

“Aikido is the principle of non-resistance. Because it is non-resistant, it is victorious from the beginning. Those with evil intentions or contentious thoughts are instantly vanquished. Aikido is invincible because it contends with nothing.”

The above quote from Ueshiba, like a lot of what he said, sounds like a lot of mystical woo-woo psychobabble nonsense. But I think a lot of what he was probably talking about is natural and rational - it's just that he spoke in a strange manner.
A while back I talked about SWOT. Strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat only exist within the context of an objective. If tori does not have the objective of exerting his will upon uke, if tori does not want to execute his plans upon uke, then tori has no weakness relative to uke and uke presents no threat to tori. Tori has become irresistible because he has no plan of attack. You cannot resist something that is not occurring.
But you have to have at least minimal objectives – you know that tori must remain alive and intact. That counts as an objective. In another recent article I talked about SMART goals and I mentioned that if you define your goals properly then you gain a lot of slack in how you execute your techniques. Specific goals (like “I will now do shihonage to make him fall just like this”) get tori into trouble. Broad, general goals (like “avoid, evade, do not engage, roll the ball, brushoff, disengage”), also called strategies, keep tori viable.
Tori starts to get into trouble when he begins planning tactics more than about one moderate, conservative walking step in advance. Everything that happens more than about one step in the future has to be handled strategically - not tactically or technically.
Ueshiba also said, "Free of weakness ignore the sharp attacks of your enemies: Step in and act!"

Super-stardom vs. quiet obscurity

"The West is driven more by entertainment in its culture. People like rockstars! And fighters are becoming the quintessential rockstars of our time. They are not on the level of Football or Basketball players but they soon will be. Remember, ego plays a large roll in our culture. We like the tough guy. And there is no greater aspect of entertainment that is creating the Ultimate Tough Guy than MMA or UFC competition." (Dave Camarillo)

This weekend Ryan Gracie died in a Sao Paulo prison. I haven't heard anything definite but there was the mention of antipsychotics, antidepressants, cocaine, and marijuana. In an athlete that young sudden cardiogenic death is often attributable to either cocaine or something congenital - and you haven't heard anything about the other Gracies dying young of congenital bad hearts. And then there is Royce and his supposed steroid use. Steroids can cause heart problems but I think it takes longer than Ryan or Royce could have been using them.
God bless the Gracies. They are on top of the world and their jiu-jitsu prowess hasn't made them immune to the problems that seem attendant with fame and power and wealth. They have got one of the greatest things in the world going for them and they can't keep from showing their asses and screwing it up. Do these guys realize that they are our kids' role models?
If that is super-stardom, give me quiet obscurity. If that curse is becoming associated with MMA then give me classical grassroots judo and traditional aikido anytime.

December 2007 kohaku shiai

Today's club shiai was a blast. The parents got fired up and had nearly as much fun cheering as the kids had grappling. The champions for the month are:
  • 1st place - Mason Alford (8 wins)
  • 2nd place - Gavin Jarrell (5 wins)
  • 3rd place (tie) - Whit Parker, Knox Parker (3 wins)

Our goals for the month after last month's shiai were to work on the crawling man game, making each person a little better at holding and each person a little better at shucking off the holder and escaping. Everybody did much better. The crawling man game was the most exciting event and they were definitely thinking on their feet (on their knees?) because they would roll over the holder to keep going and they would dig in with their feet and drag the holder and they would roll around resistance, even crawling backward in order to make progress. Overall some great grappling. Amazon wrestling was a blast too. last month or month before they were only using the knee grab tactic but this month they were securing side/rear bearhugs and attempting sweeps too.

Our goals for next month will be to add another skill or two (i.e. crawfishing) to the crawling man game and work more on Amazon wrestling and standing randori skills (i.e. osotogari).

Surprising and educational - made me think

"Judo is the best art to start with… Jiu-Jitsu breeds students who base their fighting ability on technique. That means you will naturally see a major difference in a Judoka and a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. The difference is a Judoka will be a force, bred to be aggressive with technique as a secondary focus. The Jiu-Jitsu student is bred to look for the easiest ways to accomplish something. This means they will generally be lazier than the latter…If a student starts with JJ they will find it much harder to build those attributes to push their technique under extreme circumstances. The Judoka doesn't have the same difficulty in learning the important technique after the fact…It is a mindset that we are talking about. And when someone is bred to be lazy, breaking that spell could possibly be impossible." Dave Camarillo

I thought this was the most surprising and interesting part of the Dave Camarillo interview. Coming up through the ranks in judo, we were absolutely indoctrinated with Kano’s ideal of maximum efficiency with minimal effort (MEME). And we bought into that ideal too. I’ve been worried lately that this perhaps made some of us lazier than the jiu-jitsu guys, who seem so rough and tough. Now Dave Camarillo comes along and says that in his opinion, the judo guys are the rough and tough, strength before efficiency guys and that the jiu-jitsu guys are the true believers in Kano’s MEME ideal, the misuse of which can make jiu-jitsu guys lazy. A total reversal of how I thought the world worked. Surprising and educational - made me think.
This sort of reminds me of Protestant churches that split over some political issue and the people of one faction say. “I believe in God the Father Almighty…” and the folks of the other faction say, “No you don’t, I believe in God the Father Almighty...” Who is right? Who are the true believers? In the case of judo and jiu-jitsu, I’d say they are probably both true believers – more evidence for my previous claim that judo and jiujitsu are merely brand names for the same thing – they are based on the same technical ideal of MEME.
I do have to admit, though, that there is also a counter-ideal in judo – perhaps mostly unspoken, and certainly not as famous as Kano’s MEME, but still there. You have to be effective before you can worry about being efficient. Or as Rhadi recently put it in once of his CDs, “proficiency before efficiency.” I once heard one coach describe this as the idea that, “There is no such thing as good or bad technique. Anything that puts the opponent on his back on the mat is good technique.” I wrote on this ideal here. I suspect you don’t have to search too deep in jiu-jitsu to find that ideal too.

Sensei and the wakasensei

Tonight was photo night at kid's judo class. I have a lot of good photos to share. Here is a photo of sensei caught unaware but still looking sensei-ish. Also included for your enjoyment are two photos of my kids trying to look fierce. All I can say is all you aspirants to the 2020 Olympics, look out. Y'all better work hard if you want to earn bronze below these guys! Imagine what these photos will go for in 2021 after these little guys take the Gold and Silver medals... (and no, I can't yet tell which one will be Gold and which Silver.)

Mokuren Dojo Exclusive Interview: David Camarillo

David Camarillo began judo as a young child, training with his father in Bakersfield, CA until the age of 18. Continuing to do judo at Fresno State University, David traveled on several occasions to Japan to train with Olympic and World champion judoka.
Getting his start in Jiu-jitsu with Cesar and Ralph Gracie in Pleasant Hill, CA he progressed rapidly and eventually took a teaching position at the Pleasant Hill Gracie Academy as well as joining the infamous San Jose State University judo team. Since that time he has branched out, teaching at several Gracie affiliates that in Northern California as well as at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose.

Called by the legendary Rickson Gracie, “the most technical American Jiu-Jitsu fighter,” David Camarillo has himself become a legend in modern judo and jiu-jitsu. We are pleased to present the following exclusive interview between David Camarillo and Mokuren Dojo’s Patrick Parker.
Patrick Parker: Some of my readers have told me that you were the most amazing martial artist that they'd ever gotten to personally work with. What do you think are your particular strengths as a martial artist and as a teacher of martial arts?

Dave Camarillo: My strengths as a martial artist coincide with my strengths as a teacher. It all boils down to experience. This is like anything in life. I have trained with some of the best in the world in Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. I have been exposed to so many styles and have accrued so much knowledge from that experience that it translates into my ability to answer most questions concerning the arts.
What makes me a good teacher is that I pay attention to the students in that I look at them individually and cater to their needs. I form a curriculum that covers the basics of the art so that different styles of learning are taken care of by a wide range of training methods. From there I nurture their training by allowing them to explore their own game (style).
I am also very free in being an instructor. I allow my students to train where they want when they want. The teacher/student relationship is a reciprocal one. The loyalty goes both ways. If one is loyal while the other is not, it is just a matter of time until that system crumbles, as it did in my previous relationship with my former instructor. I do not believe in ownership of students. An instructor needs to understand that wanting what is best for their students is in their best interest. If a student outgrows an academy, then they need to do the most sensible thing, leave the nest and find the best possible place for their personal and technical growth.
I also take into account what art I started with. I come from an intense Judo background. I have trained at some of the best Universities in the United States and Japan. I have competed since the age of eight. And I feel there is no better art to prepare someone for the unpredictable nature of fighting and that of life itself than Judo. It created a mental toughness in me that has proven itself in every aspect of my life. This goes from learning other arts like, Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling and kickboxing to studying anything outside of the arts. It gives me the mental edge and removes the ego from the equation, which creates a more suitable atmosphere for learning.
Patrick Parker: What aspects of the martial arts (i.e. physical fitness, self-defense, self-improvement, competition, etc.) do you think you emphasize the most in your teaching?
Dave Camarillo: I emphasize the most important (in my opinion). In my next book (Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu II) I will be talking about the three aspects of training that prepare you for anything. I gained all in my training as a Judoka. The technical conditioning: The ability to accomplish something with attributes as a secondary focus. The Physical conditioning: The ability to push your technique when met with extreme resistance. And Mental Conditioning: The ability to accomplish both for an extended period of time.
If a student understands all three then they are on a proper path. It is not good for anyone to understand 2 out of 3 or 1 out of 3. If one wants to reach their full potential (in anything) they will need to understand the three, learn to develop them and apply them at the proper times.
Patrick Parker: What was your first experience with martial arts that got you interested in pursuing this path? What do you think most interests your students and keeps them coming to class?
Dave Camarillo: My father was my first sensei. That being said I grew up like the creator of Judo (Jigoro Kano) wanted me too. I was ingrained in Judo as a child. It became a part of my life early on. This is why Martial Arts are so important. If the child has a chance to "choose" their path, they seldom choose what is good for them. They will tend to eat candy all day and play video games. But if they are engulfed in an art from the beginning they will grow up with more than just rotten teeth. They will be great human beings and great citizens of their country. I believe the path to relieve the problems facing our world today starts in the home, and Martial Arts is a great aide to that progress!
The reason my students keep coming is a combination of the three most important aspects of the Martial Artists I talked about earlier. They see it as a way of learning great technique (along with honor/respect for their peers). They also see it as a place to become physically and mentally fit. My training methods range from those who first walk in the door to those who have been there for a while. I am known for not just being an instructor but also a coach, and there is a difference.
An instructor teaches the technique that is functional for the technical growth of their students. The coach makes them motivated in that process. Which also enhances their mental and physical conditioning.
Patrick Parker: I obviously have a big interest in training children. I have two of my kids (aged 6 and 4) in judo already and can't wait to get the rest of them old enough to play with me. Do you think it is better to start kids on the ground, emphasizing newaza and perhaps smaller throws and takedowns, or is it better for the young athlete to emphasize the higher-amplitude ippon judo.
Dave Camarillo: Judo is the best art to start with. It is simply understood by what Judo gives you versus its counterpart, namely Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu breeds students who base their fighting ability on technique. That means you will naturally see a major difference in a Judoka and a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. The difference is a Judoka will be a force, bred to be aggressive with technique as a secondary focus. The Jiu-Jitsu student is bred to look for the easiest ways to accomplish something. This means they will generally be lazier than the latter.
Overall: It is easier to build attributes and technique than to rely on technique as a default setting.
If a student starts with JJ they will find it much harder to build those attributes to push their technique under extreme circumstances. The Judoka doesn't have the same difficulty in learning the important technique after the fact.
It is a mindset that we are talking about. And when someone is bred to be lazy, breaking that spell could possibly be impossible.
Patrick Parker: So, do you think coming from a judo background at a young age and then branching out into jiu-jitsu, wrestling, etc… is the best way, or might a child just as well begin in jiu-jitsu then pick up some judo, boxing, etc...?
Dave Camarillo: Judo is the ultimate in Martial Arts. It is the toughest art I have ever sampled. It builds character, respect and aggression in its application. I believe it prepares the student for anything.
As far as its translation in MMA it is easily adaptable because of how it builds proper coordination. From grip fighting you gain fast and precise movement with your hands arms and legs. In tachi-waza (throwing) you build fast hip movement and extreme core strength. In Ne Waza (ground fighting) you build an aggressive ground game.
I calculate its holistic application by what it gives you:
Grip fighting: Fast hand movement. This translates to fast hands in Boxing.
Tachi-Waza: Fast hip movement and core strength. This translates to hip coordination required for kicking and good throws means a good clinch game and getting your opponent to the ground.
Ne-Waza: Decent ground fighting. This translates into an increased progression level when learning Jiu-Jitsu.
All of this translates into a good fighter in MMA competition. The talents gained while practicing Judo creates the will and body that is extremely conducive for MMA fighting. I will be outlining this in my next book Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu II. I don't think this topic has been given proper analysis.
Patrick Parker: How have the martial arts with which you've been involved changed over the course of your involvement? What does the future of these particular martial arts look like to you?
Dave Camarillo: Jiu-Jitsu has grown since I started. It is huge. It has also had some growth in its professional appearance. Like I talked about earlier, an instructor does not own their students, the relationship has to be reciprocal. But in the case of JJ the growth is there, but it has a long way to go in that area.
My first book talked about this type of Medieval behavior. I had a bad falling out with my former instructor and many have a similar experience. There are a large number of people who invest time and money in their arts only to be faced with an instructor who uses loyalty like dictators use the bludgeon. If you train with your friends, and they are from another academy, to the instructor, you have committed treason. It is just a weak control mechanism based on the students' inability to realize their options. These instructors do not want what is best for their students, they want what is best for themselves.
That being said there is a movement that has naturally spawned out of this negative aspect of Jiu-Jitsu. And it is gaining momentum. With it comes some of the best instructors I have ever seen!
Patrick Parker: I recently did an informal study of martial arts trends for my blog, and some of the results were pretty much as expected (UFC and MMA rising steadily with a peak around each big event) but some of the trends were somewhat surprising, like popularity of aikido dropping steadily. Do you have any ideas about what is happening here? Are traditional martial arts, like aikido and classical judo going to continue to decline as MMA continue to increase?
David Camarillo: Yes. I read an article about top wrestlers leaving the sport prematurely because they can make a career out of MMA competition. MMA is a force and it is only getting bigger. It is hard for Judoka and others you mentioned to make a career out of their craft.
There is also the cool factor. This has to do with our culture in this country. Martial Arts is very eastern. The West is driven more by entertainment in its culture. People like rockstars! And fighters are becoming the quintessential rockstars of our time. They are not on the level of Football or Basketball players but they soon will be. Remember, ego plays a large roll in our culture. We like the tough guy. And there is no greater aspect of entertainment that is creating the Ultimate Tough Guy than MMA or UFC competition.
Patrick Parker: Over the course of your career in martial arts, who were the 1-2 most amazing martial artists that you ever got to personally work with? What made them so great?
Dave Camarillo: I recently got a chance to train with the Great Marcelo Garcia. Besides him being the best Jiu-Jitsu fighter in the world I believe him to be a great Martial Artist because of his humble attitude. He is one of the nicest individuals I have ever met in our art. He invited me into his academy, trained with me and showed that the most accomplished can also be the most modest.
I also just recently taught a seminar in King William, Virginia. And from that I got to see John Simons, Odyssey Martial Arts instructor, teaching his kids team. I was impressed with Simons not only in his ability to turn his kids into tough competitors, (the most accomplished in the country) but also in his ability to ingrain in them what it really means to be a Martial Artist: respect, honor and the ability to give to others.

Thank you so much, Dave, for taking the time to do this interview with me. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to talk about some of these issues with you and I know my readers will enjoy it. I am also looking forward to talking with you again after your next book comes out. I know that after getting to read some of your ideas in this interview, I can't wait to get my hands on it. I can certainly see why some of my readers called you the greatest martial artist they'd ever gotten to work out with.

Attacking in aikido

A few days ago an anonymous commentator left me a question:

… In both Aikido and Judo I've been a little confused by the punching expected from uke. Coming from a Kenpo/Kung Fu/Karate background, I'm used to a variety of punches, like the jab, cross, etc. I don't hold them out there and I don't expect to follow through with my body weight unless I've got a good combo. I'd expect this is a pretty common question, but how do you train in Aikido or Judo's Goshin Jutsu for those kind of punches? As tori, I would be tempted to fake my own high straight blast in response and rush in low, or just fake high, roundhouse kick low, then grab high for grappling. However, if I'm gonna hold my punches out there long enough for somebody to train with it, I want to know how to apply that against what I know *I* would use in actual confrontation. Thoughts? I'm sure you've heard this one hundreds of times...hope I didn't make you roll your eyes. :)

I answered with the quick, short answer that the straight-arm zombie attack is for the most part a beginner’s training tool and the training should advance to a greater variety of attacks, though it sometimes doesn't. I promised Anonymous dude a more comprehensive answer in a future post, but then, beginning to write it I realize I’d written most all of it before and didn’t feel like I could re-word it better right now. So, here are links to seven of what I consider my best discussions of proper attacking in aikido. Let me know if this helps or if you need more clarification.

The Nutty Buddy

An impressive product demonstration - the Nutty Buddy. Might be worth trying out for some of our karate buddies!

Resolution and the business of jiu-jitsu

To carry the metaphor from my previous post a touch further, selling big, heavy monitors for years actually created an increased demand for flat panels. Companies got to sell you two monitors – a big one and then a couple of years later, a flat panel. If they’d sold you a flat panel monitor first, you’d never buy the bigger, heavier monitor.
In the same way, increased resolution of martial arts techniques gives folks something to teach to prolong the teacher-student relationship and it creates a scan-time problem for the students, requiring additional teaching on strategy to be able to solve that scan time problem. Increased resolution is good business in more than one way.
At what point (number of techniques) does high resolution balance with minimal scan time. Kano’s Kodokan syllabus is an interesting example of this. There are 40 fundamental throws, several more habukaretawaza (techniques preserved from older syllabi), about 20 more shinmeishonowaza (new techniques like the leg-picks) for a total of around 70 throws. So, Judo has pretty high resolution in standing clinch work, takedowns, and throws.
But look at the Kodokan ground syllabus. There are only a handful of named techniques. The katamenokata contains five holds, five chokes, and five jointlocks for a total of fifteen named techniques and it doesn’t really leave too many of the named things in judo. So, judo groundwork really has relatively low resolution. If you look at BJJ or amateur wrestling, these have much, much, much higher technical resolution than judo. These guys named and studied a lot more of the motions that occur in ground fighting.
Does this mean that BJJ has a “more highly developed ground game?” (BTW, I’ve heard that phrase from so many sources so many times lately that I’ve started wondering where it originated. Who was the first guy to characterize BJJ as a “more highly developed ground game” than judo?)
I’m not sure if BJJ is more highly developed or just differently developed. Judo has been demonstrated over the course of more than 100 years to have sufficient resolution on the ground to handle a great variety of ground situations. Judo has had tremendous staying-power despite fairly low resolution on the ground. Take a hi-res BJJ guy and put him against a low-res judo guy in a tourney with judo rules and the outcome will be a toss-up. Match the same two in a JJ tourney where increased resolution (leglocks, points system, greater variety of submissions, etc…) plays a role and the hi-res guy might have an advantage but the advantage of resolution might be offset by the improved scan time of the low-res guy.
Funny thing, Kano reduced the resolution of jiujitsu when he created judo, but the early judo guys did exceptionally well against jiujitsu guys in competitions using jiujitsu rules. I have heard, though, that the Kodokan guys got their clocks cleaned by one particular school of grapplers (Fusen, maybe?) prompting Kodokan to implement a more diverse ground syllabus.
Does this mean that I think that judo guys can’t learn anything from rolling with BJJ guys or vice versa? NO. Absolutely not. I do, however, think that BJJ and judo are just different perspectives on the same thing. Playing with someone who approaches the problem differently than you do can be extremely educational. I sure wish I had a couple of good BJJ guys around me to roll with and to teach me a few things.

At the age of seven, a Spartan boy is taken...

This is an interseting videoblog from Steven Morris NHB on the subject of Emergency Mindset, the mental and hormonal state prerequisite to handling an emergency or a violent encounter. Good stuff, but a lot of it. I'm still working my way through it. Among other things it deals with how to train a child to deal with violence without abusing them or doing the Spartan thing. Reminds me of a judo competitor who said he had to inoculate himself with the "your arm is your problem" mindset - sort of get rid of compassion for the other guy.

Aiki randori day

Aikido with Patrick M. and Kel
  • warmup and ukemi emphasizing forward roll and slipping side fall
  • tegatana emphasizing keeping fingers together, the pulling feeling in stepping (i.e. moonwalk), and not making extra arbitrary motions to correct for imperfections in stance.
  • hanasu emphasiing releases #1 and #5
  • chain #1 emphasizing the shortcut - chudan aigamae to tenkan to kotegaeshi-kotehineri loop. We talked about letting the step release instead of releasing then stepping.
  • randori emphasizing slow, smooth, continuity, going with your reflexes to see if you win or lose.
  • we saw a lot of different instantiations of the goofy-foot backwards turn from tegatana (the next-to-last move)

Jigoku variations

The following is a very nice pair of lectures on jigoku jime (lit. "hellchoke") which I like to translate loosely as "choking the hell out of the poor guy." The variations on the first video are not really what I'd call jigokujime but the rolling over the turtle variation on the second vid is the classic jigoku. I like all the other variants though. Watch out, Rob. You'd better study up on this because after failing to get you with the rolling jigoku in randori this past week you'd better bet we'll be working these things!

High-resolution jiu-jitsu and low-resolution judo

Martial arts randori or shiai or sparring is to a large degree a pattern recognition problem. You have to find the right opportunity to apply the tactics and techniques that your strategies and principles suggest will help your situation. This is the Observe-Orient-Decide part of the OODA loop - finding the pattern in the chaos of combat.
Techniques are just named reference positions, labels that are placed on commonly-occurring motions just to have a shorthand way of talking about that type of motion or situation. Part of the pattern recognition problem involves the number of techniques in the system from which you have to choose, the number of categories you have to recognize.
This is similar to the problem of resolution in a computer monitor. The greater the resolution, the greater the scan time required to keep all those pixels refreshed and lit up. In the olden days (10 years ago or so) this problem was solved by moving the gun farther back from the inside of the screen so that shorter gun motions described a wider arc on the screen. The problem was this led to much larger (deeper, heavier) monitors. It took a while to develop the technology to make fast, hi-res, flat panels.
In the same way, you can increase the resolution of your martial art by labelling more and more of the motions that you find in randori/sparring/shiai. For example, the escape from the mount (tateshiho) in judo or BJJ. If you do some randori for a while you can probably come up with a dozen or more decent ways to get out of tateshiho. Keep doing randori and each of those dozen will recur at least once. So there you have it – recurring motion! Let’s name it and call it a technique and teach it as part of a high-resolution syllabus. Problem is, it takes time to learn a technique and it takes time to scan thru those techniques during a fight to choose the right one. Thus leading to a larger (deeper, heavier) jiujitsu.
What you need in your martial arts system is sufficiently high resolution with minimal scan time. Technical resolution has to be great enough to solve many of the likely problems you will encounter but it needs to be small enough to minimize scan time. Scan time has to be minimized and your system has to be relatively light so that it is not too hard to pick up (to teach and learn).

Re-setting hyperactive reflexes

Aiki with Kel and Jill
  • ukemi, including the sideturning and back-turning rolls
  • tegatana emphasizing hipswitch and polish the mirror
  • hanasu emphasizing centering on the active hand in the end of each move - especially #2 and #4
  • chain #1 working on pinging and strolling. I am always amazed how the stuff that starts off clumsy in this exercise ends up smooth and powerful by the end of the session. It isn't so much like learning something as re-setting hyperactive reflexes or re-calibrating one's intention. These chains are amazing.
  • aigameate and ushiroate at the end of class. Ushiroate was clumsy until I told them to think about brushing off or pushing themselves off of uke instead of trying to whip uke into the ground. Then all of a sudden it was ushiroate.

Strategy and tactics in the OODA loop

Are you one of the many folks who are at least a little bit confused about the difference between strategy and tactics? Well, the OODA loop provides a pretty good framework to put these issues into perspective.
First a review of OODA: OODA stands for Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. The idea is that in order to do some action, you basically have to observe your conditions, orient yourself to your situation, decide how to act, then act. The orientation and the decision typically take most people the most time but every so often you come across a martial artist who seems to be able to process through this OODA loop much faster than others. How do they do it?
They do it through Strategy. Strategy is a broad, general, big-picture plan of how to behave in a conflict in order to achieve a goal. Great martial artists are able to strategically shift some part of their orientation and decision time so that their general behaviors are pre-programmed and tied to specific observations. For instance, in aikido we spend much of our time training and refining a reflex to step off the line of attack anytime anyone passes within arm’s reach.
Strategy takes place before the OODA loop starts in order to reduce Orientation and Decision time.
Tactics take place within the OODA loop. The actions that you take based on oriented decisions are tactical.
You have to have tactics, but tactical action is limited. When your situation becomes unique or chaotic then you are unable to act tactically and stay inside your opponent’s OODA loop. You have to start thinking and working strategically.

A short primer on the Art of Strategy

It's easy sometimes to talk about what is the difference between various martial arts. But what they all seem to have in common is that each one is a peculiar model of a subset of the Art of Strategy. This is the nearly-mystic field of study epitomized by Sun Tzu's Art of War and Musashi's Five Rings, as well as some modern texts like Greene's 48 Laws of Power. Most any martial art you can think of is really just a set of concrete examples of some subset of the Art of Strategy. A very good text that makes all this strategic talk more concrete in the context of martial arts is Morgan's Living the Martial Way.
The following are some concepts that are useful to define and understand if you want to understand the Art of Strategy or whatever subset thereof that your particular martial art represents. I'm planning on talking some more in some upcoming posts on some topics surrounding these concepts.
  • Objective - your goal or desired end result. This may be anything ranging from destruction of the enemy to subjugation and control to simple self-preservation.
  • Doctrine (A.K.A. presuppositions, assumptions, worldview) – how you believe the world works. The way you believe things work affects your rational choice of strategy.
  • Strategy – (A.K.A. grand tactics) broad, general, or long-term goals or action plans that support your objectives based on your doctrine.
  • Principles – rules of thumb that govern which tactics are chosen to implement strategy.
  • Tactics – what you do in the short term to move toward your strategy.
  • Techniques – named models or examples of commonly-occurring tactical movements.
  • Effectiveness (A.K.A. proficiency) – Your ability to use your techniques, tactics, and strategies to create or tend toward your objective. Effectiveness is typically an objective consideration of whether you do or do not achieve your objective.
  • Efficiency - your ability to effect your objective with minimal expenditure of some chosen resources. Efficiency is often a subjective consideration.

Check out Chiron

Let me tell you, you are going to want to be in on this discussion at Chiron Trianing. Amazing stuff. Good points on both sides. Get over there and contribute...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 Moving, Seeing, Training

Pizza trumps aiki

Judo with Rob
  • warmup with ground cycle followed by several rounds of newaza randori. Rob beat me up pretty badly tonight.
  • standing repetitions of ouchigari, working on the fundamental teaching variation as well as a couple of variants (wrong leg and wrong direction ouchi). We worked this into the ground, working on going to the ground with uke and smoothly passing from between the legs to a side position.
Aiki with Rob
  • Sankata, several repetitions of all suwariwaza and hammihandachi moving into the first two standing waza. I really enjoyed kaitennage tonight.
Aiki with Kel
  • tegatana emphasizing the goofy-foot half, especially hipswitch and polish the mirror.
  • a couple of repetitions of hanasu, emphasizing starting out same-hand-same-foot.
  • chain #10 playing with some things out of gokata.
Pizza and beer with Elise, Nikki, Rob, and Kel

Kata guruma

The above is one of the finest demonstrations of my least favorite throw of all the judo syllabus, kata guruma. And whats more, this awesome demonstration takes place in a competitive setting against a resistant opponent. And this thrower even makes it look easy!

The story goes that Kano invented this throw and actually was able to throw it in shiai (competitions of death-match type seriousness) but I sure wouldn't figure to ever actually see it tried - much less successfully. I could see doing some sacrifice variants, but this is pretty close to the standing kata form of the thing. This is outstanding (pun intended).

So, what is this ki thing, anyway

Several martial arts bloggers have weighed in on this topic lately in various forums. I wanted to throw my understanding of ki out there because if you're going to try to understand ai-ki-do then you need to understand what is supposedly at the center of it. I also recently re-published an article somewhat related to ki and I wanted to clarify that concept a little if I can.
Ki is simply another word for Energy. I like the current wikipedia definition of energy:

In physics and other sciences, energy (from the Greek ενεργός, energos, "active, working")[1] is a scalar physical quantity that is a property of objects and systems which is conserved by nature. Several different forms, such as kinetic, potential, thermal, electromagnetic, chemical, nuclear, and mass have been defined to explain all known natural phenomena.

Notice, energy is a property of things - it is not a thing itself. Ki is the same. Just because things (like people) have ki (energy) does not mean that ki is a supernatural spirit that lives in the belly of people and circulates through meridians and can be made to perform magic tricks, etc... People, just like every other physical thing, have energy.
Energy is the ability to do work (i.e. to make things move)
So, how does this relate to ki in the context of aikido? If ki is energy (the ability to make things move) then aikido is an art (or skillful method) for getting into harmony with energy - specifically the ability of an attacker to move us. In aikido we talk a lot about kito, which is the theory that energy rises and falls and changes form all the time. We also talk about kimusubi, which literally means "binding ki" but which translates more practically to the idea of synchronizing the changes in your energy to the changes in your opponent's energy to obtain an objective (i.e. not getting hurt).
One last point... As scientists, we have a pretty vast experience in watching energy change forms. We become accustomed to what energy transformation looks like. If you see something in aikido (or another martial art) that looks like magic. If it looks like energy changing form in some alien way (i.e. action at a distance) , something else is happening (like uke jumping).
Harmonious energy transformation (i.e. aikido) works via natural processes and tends to look like it works through natural processes. Occasionally these natural processes are extremely efficient and skillful, but they are not spiritual ki magic.

Faking reactions in ukemi

A while back, Dave Chesser at Formosa Neijia posted a pair of videos that, as he put it, strain credulity. An old Chinese guy making a student flop around like a ragdoll without even touching him. I posted a short comment there but I wanted to expand on it a little here with some more to think about regarding the differences between voluntary and involuntary motion.
The gist of my comment was that voluntary motion has a different character to it than involuntary motion and that the guy in the video seemed to have characteristically voluntary motion. In other words, it looks like he's faking the reaction. The official medical term for this is "F.O.S." Which acronym I won't expand upon in this family-friendly forum. But what did I mean by voluntary and involuntary motion having different qualities?
  • Involuntary motion, like a reflex or a spasm, occurs in one muscle group while voluntary motion recruits accessory muscle groups. As an example, voluntary motion blurs generalized, linked structures on x-ray, while involuntary motion (i.e. spasm) blurs individual structures. You can't make voluntary motion in a single part of your body without changing the muscle structure of the rest of your body. A couple of interesting demonstrations of this follow:
  • Look at the video below of ankle clonus. Try on your own to reproduce that quality of motion voluntarily. Alternately, get a doctor friend with a reflex hammer to tap your patellar tendon to elicit a knee-jerk. Then fake a knee-jerk and look for the difference in muscles other than the front of the thigh. It's usually pretty easy to tell a fake (voluntary)knee jerk reflex from a real, involuntary one.
  • As another interesting demo, get a partner to lie on his back and you sit at his feet. Hold his heels in your hands and lift them about a quarter inch. Then tell him to pick one of them up out of your hand. You will find that he cannot lift the leg without pressing down on the other heel to get support. Now, tell him to "fake" trying to lift it, as if he were trying to convince you that the leg was dead. If he is not really trying to lift the leg he will not be pressing down with the other leg.
  • Additionally, voluntary motion may be reversible – involuntary motion is ballistic. As an experiment, try throwing yourself out of a chair to standing position and alternate that with rising in a controlled fashion to standing. Compare your ability to reverse the rise and sit back down at some random place in the motion.

Saturday training log

Aikido with Patrick M. and Kel.
  • We are entering into the cooler part of the year. That means more warmup time and fewer falls on cold mats.
  • Tegatana with emphasis on the goofy foot heliopter pivot.
  • Hanasu - miscellaneous pointers, including trying for that beautiful, pure release feeling in #1 and #3, sticking uke on both heels in #2 and #4 and hipswitching and stepping instead of pirouetting in #6 and #8.
  • Chain #9 working on stepping inside and bumping the ovvbalance then continuing to the outside. This led us into working on the two fundamental types of motion (omote and ura) found in nijusan.
  • The atemiwaza (the first five) of nujusan as examples of these two types of motion. Gedanate was working exceptionally well today. Udegaeshi and kotegaeshi as cool ninja techniques of the day.

Bloggy Award

Hey, check it out! Mokuren Dojo has been awarded a Silver-level Bloggy Award! The review and commentary that goes along with the award is entirely on-track and I appreciate the constructive criticism. The main gist of the commentary is that I write too-long articles and use too much jargon for a general readership but it might not be too awful for a narrow niche. Believe me I know! I have struggled with the technical jargon for a long time and have not yet found a good middle-ground between specific technical jargon and the thousands of extra words that it would take to explain each Japanese term.
The reviewer also mentioned not wanting to have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to get to the archives and my profile. I think that is probably a good point and an easy fix.
Anyway, I'll keep working on it annd improving it and maybe I'll earn a Gold award next year!

Kid's judo

Kid's judo with Whit, Mason, and Knox
  • warmup, ukemi, hopping interspersed with ukemi using the exercise ball as a form.
  • attacking the turtle with a cross-face turnover and with the roll into rear seated guard from the beginning of the meatgrinder.
  • push back to base repeated over and over is a cool ground mobility skill. Sort of like backwards low-crawl.
  • crawling man randori.with emphasis on keeping rolling, shucking the opponent off, and pushing back to base.

The Nitty Gritty truth

I just stumbled across a quote that floored me. I don't know how many of you like bluegrass music, or the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but this is the truth about art in general and it applies to martial arts as fine art forms as well. This is the spokesman of the band, I guess the 'lead singer', in the introduction to the song, Precious Jewel from the album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Pay attention...

Now I'll tell y'all a little secret of my policy in the studio, and I find it is true. I believe it is true most times. Whenever you once decide that you are going to record a number, put everything you've got into it because... Don't say, "Oh, we'll take it over and do it again... Because every time you go through it you lose just a little something... So let's do it right the first time and to hell with the rest of it.

Who is with me on this one? Who can say that they understand what he is saying in relation to martial arts, or kata, or... pretty much all of life?

Promote Three - Keepin' it going

Time again for the Promote Three feature. This time I’m featuring three blogs that have impressed me because of the authors’ stick-tuitiveness. These guys get the ‘keepin-it-going’ award. I think the following three blogs deserve honors, traffic, and link-love greater than they are getting:
Nathan at TDA Training gets it again this month for managing to keep his training and his blog going, and even expand things a little by offering free classes for veterans and hosting the Martial Arts Blog Carnival on his blog next month. And all that in the face of a move to another state and all the lifestyle upheaval that carries with it. Great job, Nathan! You’re an inspiration.
John over at JohnDo – The Way of John. Not only did John move to another state fairly recently, but he managed to harass his ultra-busy roommate into continuing to teach him aikido and judo. Even with a very small space, couches for mats, and wooden spoons for practice knives, they kept on practicing. John finally managed to get some mats and a larger practice space – and what did the have to contend with then? His roommate-instructor graduating and moving off. So John has taken over as club instructor and has not only kept it going but has grown the club. That’s fantastic dedication!
Andy at Andy’s Epic Ramble. John can’t get all the credit for keeping it going. Andy, one of my most dedicated students (who would regularly drive 90 miles one way to class), just moved down to Orlando and is working out with John, learning Johndo. I’m impressed with Andy’s desire and stick-tuitiveness. Keep it up!
And as an added bonus, starting this month, each month I will move the three Promote Three winners to the top of my blogroll. You get first position, above the fold linklove in addition to kudos from me! That change in my blogroll will be in effect by tonight.

Gaze angle in multiple attacker randori

A few weekends ago I taught a seminar at Starkville and we talked about and worked on the importance of metsuke (proper gaze control). We demonstrated and gave some exercises to work on how to slow down the speed of the conflict by keeping the gaze angle constant on a fixed place on uke. In order to be able to do this when uke is facing away from us and in order to be ale to get that “far mountain gaze,” I told tori to always look through the center of mass of uke’s head, as if burning a hole with laser-vision. (Bet you didn't know that turkeys were masters of metsuke, but anyway...)

Chops made the observation that this change in perceptual speed is likely part of why multiple opponent randori is so fatiguing. We’re forced to switch gaze angle from one attacker to the next to keep track of them. Good catch, Chops. Sure enough, we do tend to screw ourselves up and wear ourselves out by switching back and forth from one uke to the next. I’ve been thinking about how to minimize or at least reduce these gaze shifts.
Consider this article from a while back about tenkan ura forms (turning backward movement like in most of nijusan) giving us a wider view of what is going on around us before we commit to smearing uke. What if we can make use of this to reduce shifts in perspective. Let’s try this…
Everybody in class gets an uke and finds a place on the mat. Uke stands still while tori fixes his gaze on uke and then walks around uke outside ma-ai keeping eyes burning right through the center of uke’s head. Pay attention to what you can see in your peripheral vision without ever changing gaze angle. Now do some techniques from nijusan keeping your eyes focused on the center of his head but attending to what you can see in your peripheral vision. Now add a second uke at walking speed and see if you are able to keep track of the uke you are not dealing with by making these tenkan ura motions.
I think you will find that your peripheral vision is actually enhanced by this strategy. You see, peripheral vision only picks up motion – not shape. So a relatively motionless uke in your peripheral vision would be invisible to you. But by turning in a circle with eyes fixed on a point, we’re moving our field of vision without ever changing gaze angle, thus making everything in our peripheral vision move with respect to us. So we can see the second uke even better when we are turning backward.
Try that out, Chops (and everyone else), and let me know how your mileage varies.

Vigorous judo tonight

Judo with Rob
  • ROM and groundwork cycle as warmup. The groundwork cycle was a lot more freeform and ranged across the mat almost like no-resistance ground randori. Cool.
  • Three flavors of ukigoshi. Good nagekomi. Lots of airtime and mat pounding followed by light standing randori emphasizing ukigoshi.
  • Newaza randori. I think I was the bear tonight. My ground mobility was particularly good tonight and Rob just had a hard time. Take away lesson: you have to keep your butt in motion., or if you're going to rest, get an assymetric grip on the opponent, get him offbalance and make him bear your weight. Then you can rest.
Aiki with Rob
  • Suwariwaza and Hammi handachi from Sankata.
CSSD with Rob
  • basic cuts (1-12 and the abbreviated 1-2-3-4-5-12), a Modular pattern, and some stick Crossada. I can see how I could become comfortable with the system but it sure sucks for me right now. Ah, the joys of being a newbie!

Attention Martial Arts Bloggers

SWOT yo’ Blog
Chris at Martial Development recently challenged us to examine ourselves and confess to a handful of personal weaknesses as a personal development-type thing. I think this is a great idea and something that I occasionally do (though I'm not really into publishing the results of my navel-gazing). In fact, this is such a good thing that I think perhaps Chris does not go far enough with this. Personal weaknesses are only part of the picture.
One great tool for the sort of self-examination I’m talking about is called SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT is a structured way of doing a systematic overview of an operation for strategic planning purposes.
I am challenging y’all to SWOT yo’ Blog! Here’s how:
  • First you have to have an Objective. Some goal you want to accomplish. I recommend you use SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound).
  • List a few of your Strengths. Things your blog has going for it that will help it toward your objective. Be honest. Sometimes it is harder to write down good things about yourself than to admit to weaknesses. I recommend listing roughly 3-5 strengths.
  • List a few Weaknesses of your blog. Challenges that are internal to the way you are blogging that might hinder the attainment of your objective.
  • List a few Opportunities that exist within the environment (not within your blog itself). Chances you might have or conditions that might exist for you to approach your objective.
  • List a few Threats in the environment that might hinder your progress toward you objective.
  • Brainstorm a few SO Strategies – think of several ways that you can use your blog’s Strengths to take advantage of an Opportunity in the environment.
  • Brainstorm a few ST Strategies – think of several ways that you can use your blog’s Strengths to reduce the risk or potential impact of a Threat.
  • Brainstorm a few WO Strategies – think of several ways that you can reduce or overcome your blog’s Weaknesses in order to take advantage of an Opportunity in the environment.
  • Brainstorm a few WT Strategies – think of several ways that you can reduce or overcome your blog’s Weaknesses in order to reduce the risk or potential impact of a Threat.
  • Now, you have a list of several strategies! Things you can do to move toward your objective. Directions you can go with your blog! You might pick the strategy that seems easiest or choose the one that seems most likely to succeed or pick the one that you think will have the biggest impact, but pick one and GO DO IT!
SWOT yo’ Blog!
How about a little linklove to sweeten the deal? You don't have to publish all your dark weaknesses or tell the world all your secret strategies for blogospheric domination, but if you SWOT yo' blog and drop me a note telling me what you thought of the exercise and a little bit about what you learned, I'll post a link to your blog at the top of my blogroll - front-page above-the-fold linklove!

Controlling the encounter distance

In a couple of articles in the past few months I’ve written about perhaps the most fundamental rule of aikido – ma-ai. The basic gist of this idea is that you never let someone within arm’s reach of you without beginning to act. If you let them build a base of support within arm’s reach then they can attack faster than you can respond. I demonstrated this with the funny Trinity video as well as the Emil Boztepe video. Here is a video of a guy playing with some aikido throws and one of the things I was most impressed with was his skill at maintaining the encounter distance, forcing uke to leap at him. Before nearly every encounter there is at least a little retreat, forcing uke to commit.
But in a book I was reading recently, Mastering Jujitsu by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher, the authors made the impressive point that in all the history of UFC, no fighter of any style had ever been able to control the encounter distance in order to remain standing and separated against an opponent intent on taking the conflict to the ground. In other words, if either fighter wants to go to the ground then that is where the conflict will take place regardless of the other fighter’s skill or intent to maintain ma-ai. To me, this further implies that no fighter has ever been able to prevent an opponent that intent on clinching, since a standing clinch is mostly prerequisite to a throw/takedown.
But Gracie & Donaher’s observation works both ways in a self-defense situation. Consider this interview in which he talks about covering the hands and strategically retreating (two tactics that are commonly against the rules or simply impossible in ring-fighting). Gracie and Donaher suggests (albeit in a round-about way) that it is virtually impossible to stop an aikidoka from covering (a type of clinch) and retreating per the above interview. Indeed, we have found covering and retreating (what I call aiki brush-off) to be a spectacularly effective strategy in randori against judoka, modern-arnis guys, and other aikidoka. In fact, one of my students told us a story just last night about reflexively brushing off an attacker on the street and sailing him 8-10 feet.
The bottom line: you can’t engage the enemy and control the encounter distance both at the same time. In order to control the encounter distance you have to be actively and strategically retreating (i.e. aiki brush-off). If you can do this while covering hands to damp out the attacker’s potential to hurt you, you can learn to be very effective in self-defense very quickly.