Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mytchiko's aikido

Here's some video from today's practice. Here Mytchi and Kristof are practicing Hanasu (wrist releases) and atemiwaza from Nijusan. The only atemi I got on video was gyakugamaeate. The hanasu includes release#1 with uke resisting the motion and tori moving into release#2, also release #2 resisted into release #1 and release #5. I think my white belt is doing particularly well with these motions.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reinhold Messner

A while back I commented on someone's blog about a guy who climbed mountains without supplementary oxygen despite the intense danger and loss involved (he lost his toes and his brother on a mountain). Now I can't find that post anywhere, but it is a story that I heard long ago and has stuck with me because of the message. Recently this same guy was featured in National Geographic Magazine and I saw the article and tracked down the original NPR interview that made such a dramatic impression on me.
What was it that was so cool about this story? it is not just a cool adventure story about persistence in the face of danger. It is a story with an intensely spiritual theme about Messner's motivation for climbing. He says in the interview that it is not in the sense of conquering the mountain but the sense of joy in returning from a barren, sterile, hostile place to the normal world. The joy of feeling the first warm air, seeing the first insect and the first green grass. He climbs mountains because it intensifies the joy that he finds when he returns to the normal world.
And that is what we are doing in martial arts - we are not celebrating violence, but by approaching our dangerous, violent, human limits, we are able to more fully live in the real world. I can't express it as well as Messner does in his interview. I highly recommend y'all listen to it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gravy and crawfish

Okay, well that was a good class. We worked on all the stuff I'd planned (see the last post). Especially cool was the chain - Rob asked one of the classic questions, "What if you're in an enclosed space?" Well, we did the chain on less than one 6x12 mat space and Rob came up with the answer, "Oh, it's worse on uke..." I really wasn't trying to punish him or smear him (I promise) it's just that if you spread the fall out over several seconds and several feet then the impact is less than if you are thrown face first straight into the ground right where you are standing. Really, all the aiki that people see where tori moves around in these giant arcs and uke takes these beautiful long falls - that's all gravy. The technique happened and was over with fifteen feet and 5 seconds ago and all the rest was just zanshin.
After class we had a lovely session of crawfish eating and beer drinking. It was mighty fine. Rob and Andy and I talked about knife-fighting and grandmasters and the women-folks talked about Easter dresses and babies and we all ended up half drunk with very spicy fingers and smelling like crawfish.

Omote and ura hikitaoshi

Today at aikido we are going to work on tegatana a couple of times slowly emphasizing how we move about on the balls of our feet and what the muscles are doing in our hips as we move. The chain of the night is going to be #7 (kaitennage, hikitaoshi, oshitaoshi) and the technique of the night is going to be hikitaoshi. I want to work on hikitaoshi using both the junana and the nijusan forms (omote and ura). Since most of us have been over all this material a good bit, I want that part of the class to take no more than half of our time, during which I want everyone in attendance falling between three and six times per minute - that's falling, getting up, and doing it again without really hurrying but without talking or screwing around either. The second half of the class will be devoted to randori - three minute bouts with me providing short hints as we trade partners between bouts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Deashi, keylock, and Moose choke

Tonight Gary and I worked on deashibarai again. We played several reps of the fundamental version then played with deashi as an early-late concept, worked on bumping the stuck deashi, and got into a deashi-kosotogari combination. That took up roughly 1/3 of the class, after which we did standing randori for about a third of the class then worked on groundwork for the last third of class. On the ground we got into a keylock turnover from a rear entry on an opponent that is turtling. The keylock led to kamishihogatame, munegatame, or jujigatame and we got to work on four methods to loosen up uke's resistane so that juji will work (lay on the head, arm entangle, a biceps crushing armbar, and striping the biceps). The choke of the night was a "Moose choke," a very cool variant of gyakujujijime.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The way you do the thing you do

One subject that interests me greatly is how experts in any field go about their daily practice. How do the best in the world go about getting better?
A teacher told me one time that there is no such thing as a quantum leap in the martial arts. The best way to practice is to take some small, almost microscopic thing and work on that. But you have to pick some microscopic thing that applies to everything that you do.
For instance, it doesn't necessarily do as much good to get 100 repetitions of shihonage as it does to get 100 slow, careful, thoughtful repetitions of the hipswitch motion that is used in shihonage. If you do 100 reps of shihonage than you have pretty much only gotten better at shihonage, but if you do 100 reps of hipswitch then the improvements apply to shihonage as well as maeotoshi, tenkai kote gaeshi, and a lot of other techniques. For this reason, if you ask the highest-ranking aikido shihans in our organization what they are working on in their own practice they will more than likely tell you Tegatana no kata (the first thing we learn as white belts).
I was talking recently to a professional pool player and I asked him what he practiced the most. He talked about repeatedly working a certain type of spin or a certain type of bank shot. He even mentioned details about how he went about chalking his cue. Sure he plays games nearly every day just like we do randori, but the improvement comes from working these microscopic skills that apply to frequent situations in the game.
I also spoke to a personal trainer who has been doing weightlifting for probably 20-25 years. He mentioned that at the top of the game there is virtually no difference between competitors except genetics. Top weightlifters, after 15-20 years have (according to this trainer) developed their technical skills pretty much as good as they will get but what they do work on is making microscopic changes in their training routines - changing periodization, sets, reps, etc... one variable at a time in an everlasting attempt to get a 1% edge on the competition.
So, one great way to improve your martial arts skills is to identify a set of a few techniques that are lacking in some way and then try to identify the motions that are common to all those techniques. Then, instead of working that set of techniques to death, work slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully on making that common motion just a little more efficient. Do that for a while (weeks, maybe months) and see doesn't that change your performance of that set of techniques.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

It really is a spectacular day in the neighborhood. about 65 or 70 degrees rising into the mid 80's, spring has sprung, birds chirping, grass is green, etc... The only downside is the pollen. But that's not the kind of neighborhood I wanted to talk about.
Techniques in the martial arts do not exist in some kind of random distribution. Certain techniques live together in neighborhoods. A goodly part of our aikido practice involves these flow drills that we call chains in which we explore neighborhoods of techniques that live near each other. Today we walked around in neighborhood #3 and got to meet and chat with wakigatame, kotemawashi, oshitaoshi, kaitennage, gyakugamaeate, and gedanate. it was a pleasant little neighborhood party.
We did some randori and Patrick M. has improved his posture and timing a lot this past month or so. Afterwards we worked on udegaeshi and Patrick M. had this wonderful, miraculous variant that knocked me down most every time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sword sweeps

Tonight Rob helped me with the kid's judo class, which was very small - so each of the big boys got a small boy to wrestle with. We did mostly the usual suspects, motion drills across the mat to teach coordination and make them expend energy. Kneeling knockdown moving into kneeling kubinge into kesagatame escaped by a situp escape. kneeling arm snapdown and cross-face turnover. Standing toestomp randori. At the end we worked the kids back up into a lather having them run laps with one dropping out each lap to do a breakfall (teguruma or deashibarai)spotted by me. Lotsa fun and we had a new friend in class tonight.
Afterward I got to work my way through the Seitei jodo kihon and kata #1-6. The things that interested me most were the various sword-sweeping techniques (makiotoshi, kurihanashi, dobarai). I want to see how Henry does these three at the Starkville Henry clinic here in a few weeks. He showed me a sword sweep from Sankata last time that was beyond belief and beyond imitation. And speaking of an unbelievable sword sweep, check this out!!! I'm sure that poor guy had to go home and commit seppuku to try to cleanse himself of the shame (not that it wouldn't have happened to me...)


So, maybe some of y'all have wondered what the name Mokuren means? A mokuren is a magnolia tree, and since we live and teach in Magnolia, MS... Today Nanna bought me a mokuren tree because I'd been despondent that I had no mokuren tree to go with the dojo. If you look closely in the photo below you can see our firstborn Mokuren Ninja hiding behind the new tree.


Ok, folks. In our technical rotation we are back around to another technique that I'd classify as "not my best" - udegaeshi. I was taught (I think) a version of this thing in which tori ends up pretty close into uke's side in a position to drive uke into the Earth. In this more recent video clip, we see tori doing a very smooth udegaeshi with plenty of space between tori and uke. My students (and anyone else interested) should watch the that clip a few times because udegaeshi will be the technique of the day in tomorrow morning's class. Also, for reference purposes, check out the udegaeshi that was popping up in yesterday's video starting at about the 1:00 mark and compare the udegaeshi on the film to the kotegaeshi that was popping up in yesterday's video at about the 1:30 mark.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oshitaoshi and chain #1

Here is some recent video of a couple of my students practicing oshitaoshi and chain #1. I think that the first two reps on the video are probably the best - though there are a few excellent kotegaeshi throws later.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lesson plan for tonight

Tonight's aiki class we're going to warm up with the usual suspects (tegatana and hanasu) then get a couple of reps of Patrick M's and Kristof's rank requirements in then we're going to focus in on oshitaoshi and chain#1. For a goodly part of the practice I want everybody hitting the ground between 3 and 6 times per minute (The weather has turned off nice and it's time to begin sweating again...) At least, that's the lesson plan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Judo meatgrinder

Tonight at judo class we had Gary the Hattiesburger, Rob, and myself. We warmed up with a few reps of deashi and kosotogari trying to throw into ukigatame. From here we moved into the meatgrinder series, working on getting from the back mount to tateshiho and working on getting hadakajime, okurierijime, and the cool backwards meatgrinder choke. We also got to work on the wakigatame/udegarame part of the envelope series.

Getting the evil smashed out of you

Ukemi practice teaches a falling reflex that helps keep you safe, but it also has some hidden benefits. Ukemi has greater leverage for positive change in peoples’ personality and behavior than perhaps any other aspect of martial arts.
Ukemi is about knowing when you can keep going along your current path safely and when you can’t. You have to learn to tell when you are beaten so you can stop putting energy into the system – energy you’ll have to eat at the end.
Bad actions begin with wrong thoughts and the two are so linked as to be inseparable But a lot of us get in trouble when there is no apparent consequence for a wrong thought or a bad action.
Ukemi is about consequences. After spending hundreds of practice hours getting tens of thousands of reps of being smashed for mistakes caused by wrong thoughts, you begin to get the idea that “maybe I shouldn’t act that way,” or more specifically, “Maybe I shouldn’t think that way.” Thus, ukemi gives you a vast amount of aposteriori knowledge that wrong thoughts have potentially severe consequences. Ukemi literally knocks the evil out of you one throw at a time.
Take for example, this fellow who made the news recently. What if, as a child and young adult, he'd been smeared a few thousand times by an elderly female sensei. What do you suppose would have gone through his mind just before this encounter?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Those magical soft breakfalls

Some ukes - typically only the most skilled - are able to attack vigorously and get smashed by tori but still manage to land softly. They appear to break the laws of physics with this skill - being thrown hard but magically landing softly. But this is a skill and it can be taught and learned. Telling you everything that you need to know to do soft breakfalls is beyond the scope of this few-hundred word post, but I can give you some hints...
  1. The essence of the soft breakfall is skillful coordination of the muscles of the trunk - primarily the abdominals. Skilled ukes are able to contract when appropriate and relax when appropriate.
  2. Small wheels turn faster than large wheels. Skilled ukes stretch out at the right timesbecause it slows things down and absorbs some energy. When they are ready to turn over they curl up and the energy stored by stretching out is released into a fast roll.
  3. In forward roll, energy is absorbed in different muscle groups at different times. Watch a skilled uke and try to figure out when during the roll they are extending their trunk and when they are curling it. This is the essence of the thing.

Try this exercise - do several repetitions of forward roll alternating between rolling to standing and sticking the landing. You'll notice that it is easier to keep from slamming your feet when you roll to standing than when you stick. The energy is going somewhere - Where? Hint: the answer does not involve the circular nature of the rolling-to-standing form. Remember what we are talking about in the first place - some ukes are able to stick a landing from a forceful fall SOFTLY.

Keep doing the forward roll alternating between these two forms and pay attention to the state of contraction of your abs. You'll notice that when you roll to standing the abs lock and the energy of the lower body is transferred to the upper body and throws you out of the mat. The abs are like a fulcrum in this action.

So, a major part of the soft breakfall skill is the ability to contract and relax at the right times. Work on it and if you want some good instruction in this skill, drop me a line and hop on down to Mokuren Dojo.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The most aiki-like of all techniques

Whoa Nellie! Another unexpectedly cold day in the dojo. We had Mytchi and Richard McKenzie, Rob, Kristof, and myself. It was so cold I thought we'd break if we had to hit the ground, so we took tegatana apart and practiced each move separately, repping it many times to warm up a little bit. we did shomenashi, wakiashi, hipswitch, forward and backward pivots, and the "washing the mirror" exercise. Then we moved into hanasu for several reps and then focussed on hanasu#2 leading into the"who's uke now" part of chain #2 where we get to practice shomenate, wakigatame, gedanate, and ushiroate. This went well for a nice, long practice, and then we moved into the nijusan version of ushiroate for several minutes. At the end of class, we worked on the "wrong sided" shomenate from gokata and the "aiki brush-off" from sankata. To me these two things feel like the most aiki-like things that exist within the program.
Richard wants to see some video added to this blog of the basic stuff - like tegatana and hanasu. I'll work on filming some of that stuff this week and see when we can get it up.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The best self-defense skill there is

So, since holding-type armlocks are not really the best of our self-defense arsenal, what is? Ukemi (the ability to fall without being hurt) is the single best self-defense there is for the simple reason that you will slip, trip, and/or fall many more times in your life than you will be attacked. In aikido and judo we teach several types of falls and we work constantly to refine these skills and make them habitual and reflexive. There are two types of falls in particular that occur over and over and deserve the majority of your practice time: the forward roll and the side fall.
The forward roll is a response to tripping - your feet stop unexpectedly and your momentum keeps your body going forward. My instructor in college has had numerous people come to him after learning forward roll and tell him, "guess what saved me the other day" type stories. Typically they are running and trip over an obstacle but have time to turn over. Often they will pop right back up to standing before they realize what happened. One time a student of mine fell out of the side of a bread truck going about 15 miles per hour, rolled over, stood up, and calmly walked back to the truck telling the astonished onlookers, "Don't try that at home. I'm a trained expert!" But I think he was amazed at that reflexive fall himself.
The other skill that will save you over and over again is the side fall. This is a typical response to slipping, as on ice or slick mud. Whenever you slip, one foot almost always gets at least a little more traction than the other, turning you somewhat as you fall, so the real trick here is to land on your side and keep your hands out from under you. This fall has saved me personally twice - once on ice and once on mud. I didn't even know what was happening till I was on the ground and realized that I'd landed properly. It has also saved my wife once when she was about 7 months pregnant with our second son. She twisted her ankle in a pothole while waddling across a parking lot. Everyone around her was shocked and horrified at the sight of the pregnant woman falling. But she landed properly and climbed back to her feet with a resounding, "I'm okaaaay."
So, since slipping and tripping are so much more common than being attacked (at least for most of us), these falling skills deserve continuous practice.

Parker Ninja Army

Here is the most recent pic of the Parker Ninja Army. This is Whit, Knox, Quin (with the busted chin), and Ellie. All you Shotokan guys out there, check out how Ellie is already trying to do the Choppy block from Heian Shodan!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Omote and ura oshitaoshi

Good class tonight. We calibrated with tegatana and with hanasu then began using hanasu as a vehicle to explore some of the principles I wanted to look at tonight - specifically, metsuke (eye contact), shizentai (upright posture), and moving from the center.
This led us to alternate between the omote and ura versions of oshitaoshi (ikkyo) with emphasis on how the insde version is more direct but promotes worse situational awareness. We worked for a good long time on oshitaoshi trying to shorten the duration of the power transfer between uke and tori. From here we moved into Nijusan 1-10, which led us to emphasize wakigatame (gokyo), hikitaoshi, and gedanate as three techniques that happen early in an ura path - right as uke rounds the corner on tori.
At the end we played with a part of chain #3 in which we transition between wakigatame and gedanate. This led to a couple of interesting variants of gedanate, which is really any well-trained balance attack against the lower body. The variants included a stepping knee strike against the common peroneal nerve in uke's leg prior to pushing uke off, and a simple but effective step-on-uke's-foot as a balance disturbance prior to pushing uke off.

Holding techniques

Yesterday I started writing a response to Nick Hughes’ article about armlocks being useless for self-defense. It rapidly started turning into an epic because it brought up all sorts of topics like the role of osaekomiwaza (holding techniques) in aiki and judo and the relative merits of positional vs. submission wrestling. As the length and scope of the post was burgeoning, this is a condensed version. Perhaps it will be the first of several posts about holds and armlocks

I agree fully with Mr. Hughes that holding techniques are generally unreliable and unproductive from the point of view of self-defense. You can’t guarantee that holding someone immobile will make them stop trying to hurt you and you can’t even be sure that they won’t break your hold.

Holds are really either an artistic (in the case of aikido) or a sporting (in the case of judo) abstraction of the battlefield skills of joint manipulation and breaking. In order to practice aikido and judo with some degree of safety we have to have this particular abstraction but if you are to call what you do self-defense training then you have to recognize the abstraction as such and understand what it is abstracted from.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Big boys' butt-busting judo

The bane of all childrens' martial arts teachers has struck again - the infamous... the insidious... teeball! Tonight I had a bunch of the kids (all but Whit and Knox) out practicing teeball. Whit's practices are on Saturdays so he got to attend tonight. It worked out okay, though, because I got to do big boys' judo with Rob Belote. It was a good class. He's been doing a lot of arnis and karate in the last four years so we started out slow to make sure his ukemi skills were still reflexive. They were. So we moved into a warmup of nagekomi trading deashibarai then moved into osotogari. By the time we got to osotgari we were both glistening nicely and we'd begun to add in a little oomph on a throw here and there to test our landing skills. It is nice to have a grown-up black belt student to beat up and to beat me up. I'm really looking forward to Rob being a regular fixture here at Mokuren dojo.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Shizentai and shomenashi

Whenever someone in judo or aikido says the word shizentai it always makes me want to say gesundheit! But that's just me.
Shizentai is the natural, upright posture used in aikido and judo. The feet are under the hips with slight (but not over-done) separation side-to-side and front-back. Some instructors call this a heel-toe, shoulder-width stance but I think that makes for a little bit too big a stance for shizentai. The stance is generally vertical, with the ears above shoulders above hips above toes. weight is on the balls of the feet (particularly the medial two toes) and is approximately evenly balanced between the feet.
An important thing to work on is to be able to take one conservative step and recover without getting out of shizentai. This one basic step forms the basis of all footwork in aikido. Try this as an exercise - take one step forward (i.e. shomenashi) and stop halfway through the step just as your moving foot hits the ground. Is your front foot under your center or out in front of you? If it is not under your center then you are stepping too far out of shizentai and you are succeptible to getting immobilized in this wide stance at the bottom of your motion. Now, try the motion like this - from shizentai, shift your center in the direction you're going and then put your front foot directly under your center and freeze. This is a more mobile position (closer to shizentai) and it is not possible to get stuck at the bottom of this step. Any force that is put on you at the bottom of this step just shifts your center out of the way again. It's like your center is floating over your feet.
Another way of thinking about this same thing is think about always putting feet right under your center as you move instead of positioning your feet in some stance and then trying to get your center back over your feet. Remember - "feet under center - NOT center over feet."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Run, doggies, run!

Tonight we did a lot of moving in kid's judo class. Warmed up with ROM and did laps of running, skipping, galloping, and laterals across the dojo. Worked on three standing techniques tonight - deashibarai, kouchigari, and a single leg takedown (I can't ever remember kuchikitaoshi and kibisugaeshi apart but it was one of them). The kids did great. On the ground we worked on kesagatame and the situp escape from kesa. Inerspersed in there was some kneeling knockdown randori - but not much. The last part of class was more laps and ukemi. I had them run laps across the dojo constantly with one of them dropping out each lap and doing a teguruma or deashi breakfall with me as the spotter. We cooled off with laps of dragging and/or carrying each oher across the mat. As they left with sweat flinging off their hair, a mom expressed her gratitude for wearing them out.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Samurai Whit

Short and sweet - that's the best way it seems to get some practice with Whit and maintain his interest and not frustrate him. Today we worked on menuchi suburi for a few minutes, by the end of which he was able to get the tsugiashi steps right and get the up-down of the sword synched with the up-down of the body. Pretty cool. Then we worked on men-kote-do-tsuke cuts and I worked on migimaki harai and hidarimaki harai. We may not be getting hours worth of sword bashing but we are getting a few minutes each night and he is getting some exposure to how to move in a way that will translate well to aikido later on.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Aikidoka do it with upright posture!

Tonight we're going to work on gyakugamae ate (some call it sokumen irimi). After the initial offbalance (the one in junana and nijusan) there are three common reactions that ukes make:
  • If they have enough momentum they may pivot and continue backwards for a step or two in the direction they were going.
  • If they are strong and reactive they may stop in their tracks and try to regain their balance.
  • If tori hits the offbalance just right uke will sometimes stumble in the direction of uke's push.
Gyakugamae works with all three reactions and all three are worth working on.
The principle of the month for my students is going to be shizentai (upright, natural posture). If you can't do it with upright natural posture you can't do it. If you can't do it with one well-timed, small step forward (just like in tegatana) then you likely can't do it very well with a larger step. If you break your own posture then it was a poor technique even if uke does hit the ground.
We're also likely to be previewing some of the gokata material that Henry will be teaching at the Starkville clinic in April. Gokata is interesting - especially the suwariwaza at the beginning - because it's the same old stuff but tori is the instigator. Tori provokes an attack from uke then deals with it. That's a type of sen (initiative) that we rarely deal with outside of gokata.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Encounter at Aston Avenue

The other day I posted a smartalek comment about crime in Mississippi, but Mississippi and particularly the towns in southwest MS really are nice places to live. But I had an interesting encounter yesterday after work.
I was walking in a nice neighborhood down a well-travelled avenue in the middle of the day and was assaulted by two schoolkids in a random act of malevolence. I passed by this couple of teens who were about the size of 11th graders or so. They were crossing the road on a side street. As I passed I said something like, "hey, guys, how's it going?" They said nothing and kept going. I kept going.
I am situationally aware enough to look at them and speak to them and make sure their path is not intercepting mine and theat they are not trying to surround me, but about the time I got to the other side of the street one of them threw a fist-sized piece of concrete at me. It landed next to me and I looked back at them and one of them yelled at the other (apparently for my benefit), "Hey, that wasn't very nice of you!" They took off running.
I wasn't about to try to chase them down to beat them up - what could I hope to gain from hurting a couple of schoolkids? Plus the fact that beating up a couple of high school juniors can be an iffy proposition.
Anyway, I walked on. No harm no foul - right? Well, This happened right in front of an assisted living home. What if it hadn't been me but had been an 80 year old man? What if I'd had Whit with me and they'd hit him with a piece of concrete? What if these two numbskulls had thrown a brick at someone with a gun and a shorter fuse? What if they'd actually hit me and stunned me?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Deadeye Whit

Tonight Whit and I set up a drink can on a post at about 20 feet and shot groups of five into it with a BB gun. Whit was shooting about 60% and I was shooting about 90%, yay me! I can out-shoot a five year old! Really, I think Whit is doing exceptionally well - not only with the actual shooting but also with the safety rules and controlling the direction of the gun.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sword kata

Sword work with Whit today. Whit worked on kata #1 - men-kote-do-tsuke with me as uke and I worked on kata #3 migimaki harai and kata #6 hidarimaki harai with Whit as uke. No comments. not because we are the ultimate masters or anything - I just have nothing to say about that one right now.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Another good fundamentals class

This morning was surprisingly cool in the dojo considering the 70+ degree days we've been having for a couple of weeks. I think (hope) that there will only be a couple more 30 degree nights this spring and pretty soon we'll be back to broiling in one anothers' sweat here in southwest Mississippi. I don't like the heat but I HATE the cold.
This morning's class included 2/3 of clan McKenzie, Kristof, and myself. We worked on tegatana several times looking at potential applications for the moves in tegatana. This is sometimes an iffy proposition because tegatana is just a collection of general-purpose movements that reoccur in aikido - not really techniques. So, no one of these motions really has one definite application. Rather each movement can be reused in part or in whole in any number of situations. But, we went through all of them and gave 1-2 common applications as examples.
Then we worked on hanasu #1 and #2, melding into part of chain #2 where kotetaoshi and gyakugamaeate live. Everyone was picking up on these movements well when a tiny bout of randori broke out between Richard and myself, leading into the technique that I particularly wanted to work on today anyway - aigamaeate. We did aigamaeate with hanasu#2 as a leadin, holding the elbow with the free band and releasing the held hand and then using the newly-released hand for aigamaeate.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Kid's Judo

Sensei has got the one-week, new dad drag going on. I got off work at noon eagerly anticipating a nap before judo but alas it was not to be. So it was a low energy nite. We warmed up with range of motion followed by hopping, skipping, galloping, low-craw, inchworm, seal walk, spider walk, crabwalk, and hipheist. Then we moved into suwari kubinage (kneeling knockdown) for a while but nobodt was getting into it. I don't know if I was putting a damper on everyone with my low energy or if it was just a tough night for everyone, so we did about 20 minutes of teguruma falls with me as the spotter. We finished off this tiresome night with toestomp randori.
It's funny how time perception goes. sometimes 2-hour classes fly by and sometimes one-hour classes drag. I was sure that we were only about half-way through this class and that I was irresponsibly ending class early, but they got right at an hour, which is about all you can get out of five year olds anyway so I don't feel too bad about it.


I wrote a while back about the concepts of zanshin (remaining aware), mushin (acting without analysis), and kime (explosively focussed concentration). Basically my assertion was that we need to develop a healthy balance in our martial arts between these (mostly) mutually exclusive states of mind.
Different martial arts seem to specialize to different degrees in these ideas. Karate, for instance is all about kime, while aiki (as I understand it) is more about zanshin - to the point that I'd be willing to say there is almost no kime in aiki. I know Ueshiba said "Aikido decides between life and death in an instant," and this is used to promote the idea of kime in aikido, but I don't really think that dog hunts. Maybe that will be a topic for another post.
Today I want to talk about zanshin. Remaining aware. There are a couple of practices that lead to a greater awareness of your surroundings as you are playing the role of tori.
  • proper posture - The aiki posture we use almost exclusively is shizentai (gesundheit!) - the natural, upright posture with feet under hips. Musashi called this "stance of no stance" and talked about remaining "open in all eight directions." I take this to mean that a neutral stance keeps your options open - but it also means that upright posture makes you more alert in all directions. Try this: stand upright and look straight ahead. notice what you can see in your peripheral vision in all directions - up, down, left and right. now, bend over 90 degrees at the waist and look straight down and check how much you can see. upright posture gives you a better field of vision - thus better awareness.
  • The ura forms. Tomiki collected seventeen fundamental techniques that occur a lot in randori into a kata and named it (uncreatively) Junana Hon Kata (the 17 fundamental forms). I don't know if it was coincidence (I suspect it wasn't) but almost all the techniques in Junana are omote forms, meaning that tori enters in front of uke and executes the technique from there. For most of these 17 techniques, we also frequently play with the ura forms, meaning tori enters behind uke and stays there while doing the technique. This tends to take the form of entering, turning 180 degrees behind uke, then throwing. A cool side effect of this 180 degree turn is that it allows tori to see what is going on all around him before he commits to busting uke. Zanshin!
So, next time you're practicing your aiki, consider how upright, neutral posture and the ura (turning backward) forms allow for greater situational awareness. Look around a little bit!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Local crime

Mississippi is a nice, friendly place to live - The Hospitality State. Just ask any Mississippian and they’ll tell you the same – and if you don’t believe us, we’ll beat you up!
Check out the following crime stats for Mississippi from

In the year 2000 Mississippi had an estimated population of 2,844,658 which ranked the state 31st in population. For that year the State of Mississippi had a total Crime Index of 4,004.4 reported incidents per 100,000 people. This ranked the state as having the 27th highest total Crime Index. For Violent Crime Mississippi had a reported incident rate of 360.9 per 100,000 people. This ranked the state as having the 27th highest occurrence for Violent Crime among the states. For crimes against Property, the state had a reported incident rate of 3,643.5 per 100,000 people, which ranked as the state 26th highest. Also in the year 2000 Mississippi had 9.0 Murders per 100,000 people, ranking the state as having the 2nd highest rate for Murder. Mississippi’s 33.3 reported Forced Rapes per 100,000 people, ranked the state 23rd highest. For Robbery, per 100,000 people, Mississippi’s rate was 128.2 which ranked the state as having the 21st highest for Robbery. The state also had 317.2 Aggravated Assaults for every 100,000 people, which indexed the state as having the 18th highest position for this crime among the states. For every 100,000 people there were 906.9 Burglaries, which ranks Mississippi as having the 10th highest standing among the states. Larceny - Theft were reported 2,864.8 times per hundred thousand people in Mississippi which standing is the 15th highest among the states. Vehicle Theft occurred 288.0 times per 100,000 people, which fixed the state as having the 32nd highest for vehicle…

For most of the types of crime listed above we are pretty much toward the middle of the US states rankings, but second highest murder rate in the country! Who would have guessed it? I’ve lived here all my life and I wouldn’t have guessed it by a long shot. But, that’s just another example of people being bad statisticians by nature. If you zoom in on Pike county using the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, you find that McComb and the surrounding area has approximately one murder per year and one rape per year.
I certainly don’t want to be a fearmonger here, but us local guys need to watch out. It may behoove us to get a little training in self-defense and conflict resolution. Hmmm. Sounds like aikido and judo to me…
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