Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Juntai releases and aikinage

Tonight we worked tegatana once then moved into hanasu, working it once fairly close to kata mode then shifting to juntai timing similar to what Whit and I are doing in this video. This is a neat exercise because it introduces the beginnings of chaining and uke learns that in order to give a good attack he has to keep trying to center on tori. Tori learns to recognize the line that he has to move off of each time. Tori also learns to treat uke centering on him as an attack. We worked through 1-4 using this type of timing.
Then we moved into aigamaeate and aikinage, two of my favorite throws! Everybody got the hang of these things almost right off the bat and we used them to illustrate several principles. One of the things that aikinage illustrates well is the scalable nature of aikido. Aikido done properly causes tori to act like a mirror, reflecting uke's violence back onto him. So, aikido automatically scales itself appropriately to the level of violence tori encounters.
The following is an example of Nariyama whipping the living sh__ out of his poor ukes using aikinage (the 2nd and 4th techniques in the following video). While I don't approve of abusing ukes, it does illustrate the point that aikinage can be easily upgraded from the gentle-but-effective, uke-friendly version we do the neck-wrenching, bone-smashing version seen here...

And my comments are not meant, by the way, as derogatory toward Nariyama. I think the following video amply demonstrates his skill with some very nice aikido without whipping his uke too badly (though the 2 ushiroate on the second uke are pretty harsh).

Promote three

Well, it's time again. I can hear y'all salivating with barely controlled desire. Folks want to know which three blogs will get the highly-coveted, prestigious Promote Three award this month. Enquiring minds want to know. We want to know! Well here it is...
I think the following three blogs deserve honors, traffic, and link-love greater than they are getting:
to Nathan at TDA Training. This guy has been one of my blogging heroes since I first got hooked on this crazy thing. Nathan always, without fail, posts interesting, timely, provocative articles. A while back he took a break from blogging and his ratings on toplist dropped a little bit but now he's back at it and going strong and rising steadily in the ratings so this may be my only chance to promote Nathan's blog before he is higher-rated than me (as he should be).
to Dave over at Formosa Neijia. Dave is great at thinking and posting out of the box. His thoughts are often off the beaten trail and he gets a goodly number of comments - both positive and negative on many of his posts. Anyone who can consistently spawn so much commentary is obviously stirring the pot. I especially enjoy reading his articles because they are typically on internal Chinese martial arts - a different perspective from mine but still directly related to what I do.
to Faik, at the Martial Arts Science Blog. While we're talking about folks that think out of the box and provoke thoughtful introspection about how you're doing what you're doing in your practice, we can't leave out Faik Bilalovic. Faik posts interesting articles on his blog, but he is also especially good at throwing thought provoking comments throughout the martial arts blogosphere. Sometimes it seems like he doesn't agree with much that some of us say, but you know what - he might be right! Check out this blog for sure!

New shodan in Seattle

Congratulations to the author of the Aiki in Seattle blog. He recently demonstrated for shodan and passed. He posted an excellent set of videos from his demo and I'd say that they are all quite good, but the real hallmark of excellence was his suwariwaza. Check out the video below...

Some observers might say the demo was too slow or that uke didn't fall violently enough, but all that is completely irrelevent. This demonstration was paced just right. Check out tori's freedom and fluidity and continuity of movement while on his knees. This is not easy to develop.
Again, bravo and congratulations! Y'all ought to hop by his blog and congratulate him.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Weapons Instructor of the Year

So, who is this Bram Frank guy that we got to work out this past weekend? 2007 Black Belt Hall of Fame Weapons Instructor of the year - That's who!

She fights like a GIRL!

That's why you have to be careful messing around with girls!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bram Frank pictures

Here are a few pictures from our weekend session with Bram Frank. We had the extreme fortune and pleasure of getting a couple of hours of instruction on the beginning of the CSSD Modular knife system and it was wonderful. I posted more details in the previous post. We're working out on the green by the gazebo across the street from Bowie's. That's the Mississippi River bridge in the background.

Weddings and knives and grandmasters

What a wholly remarkable weekend! First, we got Rob properly and officially married off to Nikki. Congratulations to the new Belote family! All the wedding details were perfect. Just as they should be, thanks to great attention to detail by the mothers and the wedding planner and the proprietor of the tour home where the event was held. The weather was perfect and Natchez was beautiful.
But an added bonus was that the groomsmen got to meet and work out for a couple of hours on top of Roth Hill in natchez overlooking the Mississippi River with Bram Frank, grandmaster of Modern Arnis and owner of the Common Sense Self Defense (CSSD) knife methods. Truly a masterful teacher. It was wonderful. I am so excited about the stuff I saw because of the explicit overlap between it and the aikido that we do. Bram was talking directly about many of the principles that I preach so much, including:
  • get off the line
  • natural motion
  • centered, strong arm positions (i.e. unbendable arm)
  • same-hand-stuck-foot (he didn't talk about it but he was doing it)
  • working from the worst predicaments first
  • covering the opponent's face with your hand to block his vision and get startle reactions
The first of his modular knife things (similar to our chains) that we did was almost directly analogous to our kata versions of shomenate/aigamaeate.
This stuff that I saw really was aiki-knife at it's finest. One thing that I have to admit - and this was probably the finest lesson I got that day - although I could see that the motion was common to aikido, and although I know that theoretically the addition of the knife shouldn't make much difference - it did! While I didn't absolutely suck, I was much worse than I should have been. It was similar to when I show my students something slightly new and all their previous stuff falls to pieces and has to be rebuilt into a cohesive system with the new thing. That's really why I thought the lesson was so fine - it highlighted a weakness in my aikido. I'm really excited about working this stuff a lot more. Fortunately, we have a great CSSD instructor right here at Mokuren dojo - Rob Belote.
Pictures of the weekend coming soon...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Class cancellation

There will be no aiki or judo classes this Friday (October 25) or Saturday (October 26). I am going to be out of town getting Rob Belote married off. Poor girl, Nikki! We'll be returning to normal schedule next Tuesday but expect a similar fluxuation in class times next week because I will be having kids on Thursday instead of Friday and I will be out of town teaching a seminar at Starkville that weekend.

Aiki in the interstices

Very fine night of martial arts here at Mokuren Dojo. We started with an hour of kid's judo, in which we played with all the regular running, jumping, etc... but then settled into working on the pancake into munegatame. Our randori tonight included clothespin gripfighting and belt tug-of-war. Everyone had fun. The adult aiki folks came in and helped me with the kid's class a lot - especially Jill. Thanks, Jill!
In aikido tonight we did warmups, ukemi, tegatana focussing on the backward turn toward the end, and releases #1-4 without beating any of the releases to death. Then we worked on chain #1 emphasizing getting behind uke, moving with him and sort of "testing each throw out" to see if tori had the right time and place for a throw before transitioning to the next position.
At the end I pointed out one of the coolest phenomena - at the beginning everyone was struggling and gripping and grabbing and groaning over release #1. But when we moved into chain #1 and I gave them 3-4 "real techniques" to worry over they relaxed and practiced the release just fine. At the end we retured to release #1 and everyone was amazed at how magically easy it was after fumbling through the chain for 30 minutes. Part of this is simply because every repetition of chain #1 starts with release #1 so you get a lot of practice doing it - but there's more. The "techniques" within the chains serve as distractors to worry over so tori's subconscious mind gets to relax and just do the release. All of a sudden at the end you realize that the technique is just gravy and the movement between the techniques is real aiki.
Let me repeat that for emphasis:
The techniques are not what make aikido special. All the techniques we worked on tonight are common to jujitsu, aikijitsu, karate, judo, hapkido, and probably most other martial arts. What makes aikido special is the type, or quality, of movement between the techniques.
Aiki is in the interstices- not in the techniques.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monster in the closet!

Aiki brush-off and oshitaoshi

Great aiki class last night. We had a new guy (the word is spreading) and he did good. We worked on ukemi, tegatana, and evasions (aiki brush-off) for most of the class and then for into oshitaoshi at the end of class. We did the standing ikkyo omote variation and the seated version from the beginning of sankata. My lesson plan had been to get back into chain #1 but new guy had to see this stuff and it didn't hurt the old heads to practice it too. We'll get into chain #1 Thursday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Today everyone was getting ready for aiki class and Knox wandered in. I told him to tell Ms. Jill who won third place in the tournament this past weekend and Knox beamed and stabbed his own chest with a thumb and said, "I did." Then he made a muscle and showed her and he launched into a mostly indecipherable ramble about how the tournament went.
I am so excited about the potential these kids have. The confidence judo inspires in kids (and adults) will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rhadi Ferguson's Judo Success Secrets

Ok, so maybe I am selling Rhadi stuff. Just a little bit. Rhadi Ferguson saw some articles I wrote on him a while back and sent me a review copy of his Judo Success Secrets Professional Package. I have to say, it's outstanding material. Seven DVDs, some bonus material, and several teleconference CDs with accompanying transcription books. The video material is good - I'll have to go back and watch it several times to see what I've missed - but the audio CDs are a real GOLDMINE of information.
Rhadi has his detractors. Folks say he doesn't do "real" judo, that he's just a poor wrestler (phooey). I haven't heard it, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that someone thinks he only knows competitive sport judo (phooey) and not 'classic' judo or 'self-defense' judo or that he's not interested in the little man (phooey). From the DVDs and especially the CDs in this package, it is apparent that he knows a lot more than just how to do pickups on a 220 pound guys (which he does spectacularly, by the way). The videos and audios are a wonderful mix of judo coaching (strategic - not technical), business coaching, and life coaching. The information is easily applicable to sport judo clubs as well as classic judo clubs, local grassroots clubs, and even personal trainers doing one-on-one consultations. Some of the best info in the package is advice on lesson planning for grassroots clubs.
Of course, from my experience and perspective I don't agree with or choose to practice 100% of what he says, but that doesn't lessen the value of this educational package. The surest way to know that you're doing wrong is to have everybody agree with you, and it's also been said that when everybody thinks the same thing nobody is really thinking at all. Rhadi even discusses on the DVDs that you can't do something noble and great if you just do the same things everyone is doing. So, despite his vast experience, I would choose to disagree with his assertion that gripfighting is central to good judo. But that's a topic for another post (or book, or series of videos) and he has sure gotten a heck of a lot of mileage out of that paradigm.
I would highly recommend checking out some of Rhadi Ferguson's educational videos and teleconferences. You can find them at www.rhadi.com - and there's a bonus. You can sign up for some free weekly email newsletters, the first of which I got this week and it was very good info - and FREE!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Backflip out of a single leg pick

A while back I posted a few articles on improbable moves that actually worked for folks in contests. Well now, you have to watch this. Maybe the craziest thing I've ever seen. The craziest part - it worked!
UPDATE: Here's the full match that this clip was taken from. Very entertaining wrestling!

Ok, who's ready to practice that at class???

October 2007 Kohaku Shiai

Today we held our first intraclub kohaku shiai for the kids' judo class and it was a blast! We ran five events, including toe-stomp randori, Danish wrestling, duck wrestling, crawling man, and newaza randori with 3-second pins. The winner-stays-up arrangement was a snap to organize and worked like a charm.
The three October Champions were (drumroll please)...
  • 1st place - Mason Alford (14 wins)
  • 2nd place - Gavin Jarrell (8 wins)
  • 3rd place - Knox Parker (4 wins)
I am so proud of all the players! Everyone had fun, stretched themselves a little bit, and figured out some stuff to work on before the next kohaku shiai in November.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Granby roll

Several months ago, Chad Morrison of Akari Dojo in Richmond Virginia showed me a cool takedown from a failed uchimata. We had a hard time figuring out what it was because the motion initially seems pretty alien to judo, but I finally figured out that it was a variant of the Granby roll. At that time I couldn't find a good video but now I have. Imagine that done from standing after an uchimata. Enjoy...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Consistency over accuracy

One point that is often overlooked or even mistaken in kata practice is the fact that you don’t have to be objectively identical to some standard technical model. It is absolutely unimportant that the student’s motion look exactly like the instructor’s motion during a kata. The important thing for kata practice is that you make sure that you strive to do the kata exactly the same way every time you do it (or at least as nearly constant as possible).
The reason that consistency is more important than accuracy in kata performance is that it is easier to correct systematic bias than it is to correct random error. If you do the same thing every time, then even if it is the wrong thing, it’s easier to correct than if you make a unique error every time.
Another reason this is important is because of the prevalence of relatively inexperienced instructors. These instructors cannot even show their students the exact, ideal model of a technique because they are, in many cases, still learning what the ideal for that technique is. So the student is trying to achieve accuracy with the instructor presenting a shifting target.
This does not mean that the lower-ranked instructors are bad. In fact, in many locations they are necessary if the arts are to survive and grow. It just means that the instructors and their students have to have an agreed understanding as to what degree of precision is necessary and even in what sense the word precision is meant.
So, remember – in kata, consistency is more important than accuracy.

Was that chad hanging or dimpled?

This is worse than the 2000 presidential election! Google's polling tool dumped about 20 of the votes in the poll. Why can't Google's tools (i.e. Google Video and Polls widget) work properly with Google's Blogger??? I know - I'll get some advise to jump over to Wordpress or some such, but Google looks at first glance to be more intuitive and I've also seen blogs that have died because of inability to transfer archives from one platform to another.
Anyway, the question was whether or not to move the Quote bar to the top of the page. Votes were generally running in the affirmative, with negative and apathetic responses in a vast minority. From the first two days of the poll it looks like a clear win, but I haven't counted dangling chads or had the poll observers release their minority reports, etc...
The real test for the quote bar is whether it improves my traffic. For the past couple of weeks it has improved my traffic immensely, so I guess I'll try it at the top and see if that continues. If you like interesting martial arts quotes, refresh your browser screen for a new one...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Goshin Jitsu in aikido and judo

Someone asked me a while back to discuss the differences between how we practice the Kodokan Goshin Jitsu kata in our aikido classes as opposed to in our judo classes. Some of this we've already discussed in a previous post about the pros and cons of aikido and judo. My official position, from what I understand about the arts, is that judo and aikido are two lenses on the same art. Somewhat similar to the idea of climbing a mountain by different paths but ending up close to the same point. Sometimes folks like to call aikido “separated judo,” suggesting that they work at different ranges, but this is only true to a degree. Some folks also like to separate them based on their aggressiveness, calling aikido reactive or defensive and judo an art of aggressive attack. Again, I think this is only true to a point. So, back to the question – how do the two arts differ in their understanding of Goshin Jitsu. Short answer – they don’t.
But there are minor differences in how the exercise is typically practiced in the two arts. For instance, take the first technique. Uke steps in, grasps both of tori’s wrists and tries to either pull him into or hold him still for a frontal knee strike to the groin. Tori responds by slipping back and to the side, breaking the grasp on the far arm and using it to deliver a strike to uke’s face, then grasping uke’s near wrist with both hands and applying wakigatame. In judo we typically see a direct pulling against the fingers grip release followed by a closed-fisted back-knuckle strike. In aikido we tend to avoid having tori do closed fisted striking atemi because it disrupts his ability to move properly. So the grip break is a winding thing and the atemi is an open-handed palm to the face – really more of a separator and distractor than a strike. This type of slight modification is typical throughout the kata.
If you watch two well-trained aikidoka do Goshin Jitsu and watch another pair of well-trained judoka do the kata, it will be easily recognizable as the same thing. They will be more similar than different. It is not like we want to train the student to do it one way in one class and another way in another class.

Gokyu and yonkyu rank requirements

Last night we had another well-attended aikido class. Perhaps our recent slump in attendance is turning around. We worked on tegatana, emphasizing the last movement, sometimes called “polishing the mirror.” With partners we practiced using this movement in a variety of offbalances in which tori’s part includes a turn, a centered push forward, and a body drop. From there, we moved into hanasu, emphasizing the “stepping over the hill” evasion and the same-hand-stuck-foot structure in technique #1. For the rest of class we worked on nijusan #1-6. So last night’s class pretty much constituted all of the gokyu and yonkyu requirements. I’m looking forward to this great group of aikidoka going forward together.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Regression to the mean

There is a phenomenon in statistics known as regression to the mean. Basically, anytime you have a variable whose value is changing over time, if you measure it and find it to be at an extreme value, then next time you measure it it will tend to move back toward its mean value. This means that when you have a record-high temperature, for instance, it is likely that tomorrow's temperature will be more moderate.
Regression to the mean shows up in all sorts of fields of study. If someone has an illness and is trying to let it pass without going to see the doctor, they will tend to wait until the illness is at its worst before they go see the doctor. Because they feel about as bad as they can possibly feel, anything (or nothing) that the doctor does will tend to make them feel at least a little better. Because they are at an extreme they tend to regress to the mean.
This is a good phenomenon to make use of in martial arts too. In the context of self-defense, if we assume that most folks are at least marginally sociable as their normal state, then they will only attack you when they are at their worst. In this extreme case, if you can keep yourself from being harmed but do not do anything to increase the attacker's aggression, they should tend to regress toward their mean state, which should be less aggressive than when they first attacked.
Sure, this is all theoretical, but it is backed up both anecdotally and in practice. Chris recently posted some advice from a blind kung fu master that is similar in tone and spirit. Sun Tzu wrote, "What begins in a surge of violent motion is always reduced to the perfectly still." You can see this phenomenon in action in the classic Terry Dobson train aikido story. Also, if you go back and check out the guy's videos for the nonviolent self-defense system that I posted several days ago, you'll see that he is always talking about not making things worse. Limiting the reasons that the other guy has to be aggressive. Reducing stimulus to limit the attacker's response.
THAT's making intelligent strategic use of regression to the mean.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another difference between aiki and judo

While we're on the topic, has anyone noticed that aikido and judo throws tend to end in different kinds of falls from uke. A lot of aiki falls end up smearing uke facedown into the mat in an armbar or else throwing uke away and letting go of him. Judo throws tend to throw uke straight downward into the mat with tori still holding on.
Folks whose minds jive with aikido tend to fear judo and judo-types tend to hate aiki-like falls.
Of course these are generalizations - but has anyone else noticed this?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Funny lookin' #1 releases

Today we worked on all the usual suspects (warmup, tegatane, hanasu) but then focussed in on #1 of hanasu and looked at variations that pop up throughout the system. First we played with the shortened timing of the third technique in yonkata, working on stepping off the railroad tracks and raising the arm to put a post against uke right when he finishes his down motion. From this place, uke pretty much can only move away and if tori is in step he can project uke away.
Then we worked on the wrist-and-elbow grab from the beginning of Goshin Jitsu. The one in which tori kicks uke's knee to stop him for a moment then releases all the way around uke. This is a creepy feeling for uke because tori gives the appearance of nearly teleporting from uke's left front to his rear right corner. But it's just a big variation of #1 wrist release.
From here we moved for a moment into hiktaoshi from nijusan with the emphasis of sidestepping when you run forward into uke's power. This was not exactly #1 release, but it leads to #1 release - just stay with me for a minute. When you move forward into the nijusan offbalance for hikitaoshi and uke stops your momentum, you create two lines in space, one is the line you were travelling on, which you know is no good now. The other is the line that uke is on, which you nkow is where he is strong enough to stop you. You don't want to be on either of these linse so you switch hands and sidestep off the lines into a dead space for uke. Like I said, not exactly #1 but it gives a great example of releasing a bad situation.
Finally we worked on oshitaoshi as a neat example of both this sidestepping at the end of the line motion and the release #1 motion. As you sling apart from uke, slip sideways as the line snaps taut and you are automatically in a weaker place for uke. Cool. Things you can do with the first release we learn.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Aikido vs. judo

Someone asked me a while back to post what I consider to be pros and cons of aikido and judo – sort of what I like and dislike about aikido and judo.
There’s a couple of disclaimers that apply. First, this is all just my view of it. Your mileage might vary. Secondly (the big secret) aikido and judo are really just the same thing taught somewhat different ways. So, it’s kinda difficult to create an explicit comparison of the two. Also, any list like the following is necessarily incomplete. With that said, here goes…
Aikido Pros:
  • Good, viable self-defense. Probably better for self-defense than any of the empty-hand martial arts that I’ve done for any significant amount of time, including TKD, karate, hapkido, jujitsu, and judo. I’ve heard of old-school judo teachers telling their students that for real self-defense, you do aikido but for sport you do judo. But, on the other hand, the self-defense viability of aikido is probably highly dependent on who you find as a teacher.
  • Scalable, ethical responses are a specialty of aikido. The ability to control without hurting when that is appropriate – without sacrificing the great self-protective aspects of the art. This makes aikido particularly appropriate for responders under special constraints (i.e. police, psych workers, nurses, etc…)
  • Almost anyone can do aikido effectively, regardless of physical handicap, age, or fitness level because it is not dependent on size, strength, speed, or even agility. If you can see and walk pretty well, then you can do effective aikido – and there are even large subsets of aikido that you can do without being able to see or walk.

Aikido Cons:
  • Not really great exercise. Aikido approaches self-defense with the ideal of being able to do it effortlessly, and the better you get at aikido the less energy you expend doing it. American aikido guys tend to end up very competent but also overweight and underfit unless they do something else for exercise.
  • Sometimes non-intuitive. The idea of avoiding and evading and not using force is often difficult for young people to grasp. Young adults, especially males, tend to have a lot of trouble figuring out that it is okay to avoid and evade and disengage without necessarily smiting the enemy. They often can’t believe that aikido will be effective.

Judo Pros:
  • Great for exercise. Good way to maintain strength, aerobic capacity, and flexibility.
  • Great venue for competitive sport activity. You can compete on any level from local grassroots all the way up to Olympic level.
  • Very pragmatic, intuitive, and practical. If it does not put the other guy on his back in a resistive randori situation, it just doesn’t work.
  • Creates very tough fighters. I've heard professionals (i.e. military police) say that they'd rather go into a real fight with a judo guy backing them up than any other martial artist because judo guys tend to be tough and practical.
  • Judo is very standardized. This is because there is an internationally standardized set of competition rules. If you learn in America and go anywhere in the world, you’ll be doing the same judo. Almost all Judo clubs in the world follow the general guidelines of Kodokan Judo, whereas almost every karate club in the world teaches something different.

Judo Cons:
  • Tends to tear up the athlete after a while. All competitive judoka, without exception, end up with broken toes and fingers, and a great many end up with bum knees. A lot of old judo guys retire into aikido to prolong their mat-years.
  • Problems with grappling? We've all heard the admonition to not go to the ground with multiple opponents or with a guy with a weapon. While that applies to all martial arts equally, it may affect the self-defense viability of judo somewhat.

Want more info about the relationship between judo and aikido? One of the best resources I've found is Aikido: The Tomiki Way

Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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Releasing from awkward situations

Last night I was feeling especially tired, so Rob and I started our judo practice off with some light randori-like uchikomi, moved to the ground for some moderately-vigorous newaza randori, and finished up with some standing nagekomi of seoinage and taiotoshi into a crash pad. In aikido class, we warmed up, did some ukemi, worked through all of tegatana emphasizing good stance and posture, worked through hanasu emphasizing same-hand-stuck-foot, and got into some miscellaneous applications of the release movements, including the kata-ude dori release (#7 in yonkata), rear bearhug as in sankata, and frontal hair-pull countered by release #1.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rhadi Ferguson jumps in

For those of you keeping up with the Rhadi Ferguson posts here on my blog, Rhadi popped in yesterday and left a couple of comments of his own here and here. As always, he makes some good points and defends his position intelligently. I'm glad Rhadi found my my posts about him and I hope he enjoys reading my blog and keeps coming back.

Rolling the ball and brushing off

Dave over at Formosa Neijia posted an article on this guy's teachings the other day. Good article. Spot on. Some of the practice methods in this video may look a little wierd if you are coming from an aikido background rather than from a Chinese IMA background (bendable arm, uke static with locked arms, etc...) but hopefully this stuff will look a lot like the aikido that you are doing. If not, it's worth studying this guy's movement. There's a lot of value there.
In my classes we've been working on this stuff more explicitly and more frequently for about a year now, calling it by different names, including the aiki brush-off, kokyunage, and 'rolling the ball.' I'm always practicing the 'pushing the wall' exercise shown here. You can play that in different situations - wherever you are. In corners, walking through doorways, etc...
After you watch the following, check out all of this guy's videos...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mastery of the Art of The Profound Quote

If you like the rotating quote bar at the bottom of this page, check it out again. I have added a pile of new quotes to the database. Refresh the page to get a new one.
I'm a sucker for good martial arts related quotes, so if you know a good one post it in the comments below.
UPDATE - now the quote bar is at the top of this page - not the bottom.

Goofy-foot parry, hikitaoshi, and tekubiosae

We had another small class last night. Jill and I warmed up, did some ukemi, and got a little farther into tegatana no kata. We've been adding 1-2 new motions to the kata each night and last night we got into the first goofy-foot turn, sometimes called the "helicopter pivot." One possible application for this is to build on our reflex to partly sidestep an attack and block/parry with the opposite arm. Well this is not always a great position - particularly if you happened to sidestep inside, so the helicopter pivot fixes the position by swinging uke's parried arm between uke and tori, placing tori behind.
We worked on hanasu no kata (wrist releases) getting through 6 of the 8. Jill was doing much better last night of creating mechanically sound ground-paths during the releases (especially #1). For some reason release #3 is uncomfortable for her but she naturally does #5 just right.
For the technique of the night we worked on hikitaoshi from the point of view of offbalancing, switching hands, and continuing your motion away from uke. We got into the idea of how the technique changes for reluctant vs. aggressive ukes. Aggressive ukes tend to get smeared onto their face, while reluctant ukes getbrushed off into shomenate. Ukes that become too aggressive to deal with get kaiten nage or udehineri.
At the end we worked on suwari shomenuchi yonkyo (seated head-konk forearm press), also known as tekubi osae. This builds on the idea of the goofy-foot parry from tegatana, a blending loopty into an awkward posture for uke, followed by an immobilization of the arm/shoulder on the ground.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Discovery Channel's Last One Standing

The Discovery Channel has come out with an outstanding series called Last One Standing. The premise is that these six athletes from the U.S. get to travel to various remote villages and train with the natives in the indigenous warrior games, after which they get to compete against the tribe's enemies. Tonight the episode (perhaps the pilot?) was about this ethnic wrestling style in Brazil. One thing that really interests me is how the game of grappling changes when you change the ruleset. Well, in these contests, there were three ways to win:
  • get your opponent in a rear control (i.e. rear bearhug)
  • get your opponent's back on the ground
  • get control of one of your opponent's legs
It looked like the rules were loosely enforced, I guess based on whether or not the fight was interesting to the observers and referees. For instance, there were instances of someone getting a single leg pick and the match continuing into a double leg pick and bodyslam similar to teguruma. There were also instances where legpicks were broken and didn't stop the fight.
Three of the Americans were such noobs that the Chief disqualified them from the competition to keep them from embarrassing his village. The three that fought did pretty well.
I would have liked to see a good collegiate wrestler pancake some of these natives and I would have liked to see how a BJJ guy would have fared naked in the dirt with greasy body paint and alien rules. And I'm not picking on the BJJ guys, I just think it would have been interesting to match some Brazilian JJ guys vs. these Brazilian natives.
Next week's episode is about Zulu stick and shield fighting. In the trailer I saw a clip of several stick-wielding natives chasing a white guy down in the bush, apparently whipping him for turning and fleeing. I aslo saw a guy's head laid open to the skull with one of these canes. Should be good watching...

Koshiki no kata

This is a very nice demonstration of Koshiki no kata (Forms of antiquity), one of the most advanced kata in the Kodokan kataset. These were the forms of the old Kito school from which part of judo theory and practice was devised. Koshiki demonstrates the principle of kito (literally "rise-fall" or "wax-wane"). Notice that the first section is composed of pairs of very similar techniques in which tori executes the first technique, then in the second repetition uke resists or changes it somehow and tori must accomodate the change. It is also a very punishing kata for uke, as you will notice that almost every technique is a sacrifice throw. Often you will see uke fall out to the side of tori and afterwards tori, in a kneeling position, will shift his knee out to the side. This is a symbolic reminder that tori could have brought uke down onto or over his knee.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ju no kata

Usually we learn Ju no kata (Forms of pliant strength) right after Goshin Jitsu, which places it well up in the dan grades. However the nature of this kata and the lessons in it are excellent for the beginner in judo. Notice that the wierd formality of katamenokata and kimenokata are almost entirely gone from this kata but the attacks are much more abstract. The kataset of Judo tends to progress from specific technique (nage and katame) through defensive application (goshinjitsu and kime) toward more general, universal principles of movement (ju, koshiki, and itsutsu). As such, ju no kata is the beginning of the most theoretical of the kata in judo. Notice also, that it is good exercise applying techniques against a strong opponent right to the point of no return and then setting them back upright before the fall occurs.

Kime no kata

This kata is not generally encountered next after Goshin Jitsu but it is the Kodokan's ancient self-defense form, whereas Goshin Jitsu is the modern self-defense forms. Kime no kata (The forms of decisiveness) are pieces of old jujitsu systems that Kano pulled together as judo was coalescing in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The coolest thing about this kata to me is the repetitiveness. You will notice that the same core set of unarmed combat principles are applied to empty handed kneeling, knife kneeling, standing, standing with a weapon, etc... This really drives home the idea that these ideas are good regardless of the situation. You will also notice that these ancient forms have a distinctly different flavor to them than do the modern forms. A different feel. Kime no kata is about combat decisiveness, whereas Goshin Jitsu is more about self-defense.

Does this look fun or what?!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Goshin Jitsu

The third of the Kodokan judo kata set, Goshin Jitsu (The Forms of Self-Defense) is the Kodokan's modern self defense kata. Invented in the 1950's by a committee headed by Tomiki, it bears a striking resemblance to Tomiki aikido, including the Tomiki kata, Koryu Daisan (also known as Goshin no kata).

Katame no kata

Recently we’ve had a new aiki partner at classes. Jill comes to us from a judo background but is getting into aikido. She lives and works locally, so it seems like she could end up being a good, stable workout partner at Mokuren. She’s also dating the judo instructor at Lafayette, so she represents some more connectivity with the rest of the local judo scene. Welcome, Jill.
Last nite at judo Rob and I warmed up as usual with ground cycle #1 and then I introduced Rob to katame no kata. This is an interesting exercise. Required for demonstration at nidan, sandan, and yondan levels, it is comprised of 15 grappling techniques, almost all of which the shodan has already seen – just not in this form. The really neat thing about katame no kata is that it is a hybrid between kata and randori.
When you are doing randori and you get into a bad position you don’t want to avoid that position in the future. You want to recreate that position over and over and over until you learn from being at that particular disadvantage. Well, in normal randori, often it is hard to recreate a particular situation because your observant mind is not working as well as your habitual/reflexive brain. So sometimes it is hard to figure out how to recreate the position you just got into. Well, katame no kata gives us an exercise for exploring fifteen pretty common ground situations.
Katame is done switching back and forth between kata and randori mode. Tori approaches uke, applies a precise form of a hold or choke or jointlock, and as tori cinches the position, uke takes that as a signal to switch to randori mode and attempt to break the hold or neutralize tori’s advantage. In practice it is often done with uke struggling full-on against tori’s position of advantage. For kata demonstration it is done with uke attempting three explicit escapes/neutralizations for each position then tapping. Below is a pretty good demonstration of katame no kata You have to forgive the silly posturing and crawling around on the knees – that’s part of the specified formality of the thing. Pay attention to uke attempting to reverse each position tori places him in. This video also gets the award for cool, funky background music!
At aiki for the past couple of times, Weve been introducing Jill to how we do aiki. We worked on warm-ups, ukemi, about half of tegatana no kata (the walking exercise), about half of hanasu no kata (the wrist releases), and aigamaeate and oshitaoshi. She’s doing great and seems to be having fun. I can tell from the giddy grin when she smears a guy twice her size facedown on the mat in an armbar. We’re looking forward to having her at class and progressing – like Kano's motto...

You and me going forward together.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Nage no Kata

Don't know if this will work because I've had trouble in the past embedding Google videos inside a (Google) Blogger blog. Don't know why they are not compatible with themselves, but... Here goes...
This is a demonstration of the first kata of Judo, Nage no Kata (The forms of Throwing). This kata is required for demonstration at Shodan, Nidan, and Sandan levels, and is intended to be a broad demonstration of a large sample of the throwing principles in Judo. This is a particularly good demonstration of the exercise.
[DRAT! Didn't work. You can link to the video here.]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The scoop on Rhadi

Someone sent me an email response to my Rhadi Freguson post the other day. It seems my devoted fans are demanding an explicit opinion from me (of all people) on Mr. Ferguson:
I read your post on Rhadi Ferguson and everyone's responses. I agree ... that his video seems more like everyday positive thinking tips. I looked up a few of Rhadi's videos and yes he does a lot of pick-ups...but his record is impressive... Anyway, I noticed you didn't leave any opinions of the guy or his video. So do you have any? Also I really liked the post about the spirit of grappling.
First, I should say that Rhadi’s apparently a really tough dude. He’d almost certainly beat me up as soon as he touched me. Probably pick me up and hit me against the ceiling! Also, I’m not in the business of approving or disapproving of Rhadi or anyone else. I’m not selling Rhadi-stuff – I just posted the videos because they are interesting and, despite what his cowardly anonymous detractors say, he demonstrates good judo in those videos.
Where has it been said that a big, strong man should not do big, strong judo? I do seem to recall reading somewhere that Kano and company did not want to put leg picks and pickups as early parts of the syllabus and the reason given was that they prevent the learning of ‘real’ judo. Leg picks are so easy in a lot of cases that if they are encouraged then some beginning students would do nothing else. Maybe this is where the folks decided that pickups were ‘bad’ judo.
Rhadi is obviously a powerful man, and his tokuiwaza appears to be high amplitude leg picks – strength throws. This brings up another strange mis-conception about judo. One that it took me a long time to get over personally. The idea that judo is supposed to be a genteel (as opposed to gentle) way - an effortless thing. Well, the basis of the idea is not “no strength” but rather, “maximally efficient use of the strength you do have”. Lately I’ve stopped telling students that judo is the “gentle way” or “soft way” because I think a looser translation is much better – “Judo is the smart way to use your strength.” And, based on his videos and his tournament record, I’d say he was using his super powers pretty intelligently. So, in short, my opinion of Rhadi Ferguson (for what it’s worth):
  • He’s a tough dude
  • He’s a great athlete
  • He does good judo
As I said a while back in a post, “He’s both a pleasure and a terror to watch.”

Blast from the past

I filched this photo off of the Wind of Change aikido site. It is a photo of Mike Denton throwing yours truly outside on the lawn between the student union and the YMCA/Post Office building on the MSU campus. We're both skinny and we're wearing dark belts, so that would put it about 15 years ago. There are flowers behind us so it must have been late spring, when the weather was still cool enough to practice outside. If I remember rightly, this pic made it into the campus newspaper. Ah, the memory of our 15 minutes of fame...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Explicit and implied in various ryuha

Jujitsu is divided into different ryu, or streams of thought about the material being taught. Over the years, each ryu has divided into smaller streams (ryuha) as students, each with different understandings, have become teachers. The aikido and judo that we do may be classified as descended of kitoryu, daitoryu, and several other ancient ryu down through the ryu of Morihei Ueshiba and Jigoro Kano, down through the ryuha of Kenji Tomiki and into our schools.
So, though it’s really all the same type of material (jujitsu), the exterior form taught in one branch of the family tree often looks very different from the forms taught in another branch. But within a particular ryu, like aikido (Ueshiba-ryu), what differentiates the various ryuha? It is mostly the following three things:
  • what is considered fundamental or foundational (kihon)
  • what is to be taught explicitly (kata)
  • what is implied or assumed to be learned over time (randori)
For instance ikkyo omote is an explicit thing in Aikikai (ikkyo being the first thing you learn, the most foundational technique) but it is mostly just implied in Tomiki. The Tomiki curriculum to some degree assumes that if you happen to get someone fairly close to ikkyo omote then you’ll be able to figure out how to do the technique. Shomenate is another example. Shomenate is an explicit technique in Tomikiryu (indeed, it is considered the most foundational of techniques) but in Aikikai it is mostly implied, or absorbed within other concepts (e.g. irimi). In each system, some material is made explicit and other material is either assumed or is taught in an unstructured way (i.e. in randori).
Hopefully, at some level, the students of all ryuha will progress beyond the foundational material and all the different ryuha will begin to approach the same thing – the ryu – aikido – takemuso aiki - aikijutsu. In my experience, Tomikiryu begins looking a lot more like Aikikai toward the end of the student ranks (sandan). Some of the videos of Doshu Moriteru very much express the same qualities and attributes as Tomikiryu.
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