New Schedule and Location for 2016

Mondays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays from 8-9PM at Rejoice Dance Studio, 1418 Delaware Avenue, McComb MS.

Yonkyo and yonkata

At this morning's aikido class the weather was perfect. Sunny, breezy, and cool. We threw open both ends of the dojo and got a lovely breeze across the mat.
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I've had a kink in my low back for a few days, so we had a prolonged warmup, stretching, and kihon day. We worked on tegatana and hanasu a good bit. Patrick M. was doing especially good on his releases from his off hand. I've also had a hankering to be able to work some of the more advanced stuff, so we took to the ground with several minutes of the kneeling tekubiosae from Gokata (that's suwari shomenuchi yonkyo to you aikikai folks;-). The kneeling and the motion on the ground seemed to really stretch out my low back and helped it a lot. From there we moved on to standing Yonkata - the first seven techniques, alternately called shichihon no kuzushi. And I discovered something really cool in a moment of enlightenment (Usher will probably tell me that he's been saying this to me for years.)
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The timing and offbalance in these seven techniques is varying systematically - they are not just seven random techniques grouped together. In the first two, tori must hit the paralllel offbalance right at uke's first footfall. The feeling is similar to the initial part of shomenate. On the next two, tori hits the parallel offbalance on uke's second footfall and projects uke away. On the next two, tori slips uke's third footfall and drops uke right there. And on the last one, tori is way too late for an otoshi so he gets the motion started with a perpendicular offbalance (guruma) and then follows uke around in a very large hanasu#1 motion. So, the systematic order of the thing is in the amount of delay between grab and projection. The delay is getting progressively larger with each pair of techniques, until on #7 tori is so far behind that the timing switches to a guruma action.

Mental judo for kids


Tonight at kid's judo we had all five back from last week. Three more of them had their AAU memberships and one more had a uniform, so I fugure these five will stick and be a good core group.
We warmed up with throttling on cue to the words hajime and matte. Then we did forward roll, face fall, left and right side fall, and back roll. They universally did better at forward rolls today. From here we continued warming up with the kds running continuous laps of running, skipping, hopping, laterals, and galloping as I sat on the side. On each lap I would pull one kid out and I'd do a teguruma to them so I could get them used to being spun through the air. Teguruma is also a great way to do assisted breakfalls with kids so that you can lower them into the right position and they can work on slapping the ground properly. I'll try to get a little film of this excellent exercise on the blog soon.
After warming up we worked again this week on the kneeling kubinage into scarfhold and then played some combatives games, including kneeling knockdown (newaza randori) and standing pushing/pulling wars. Lots of fun.
At the end we worked on silent listening and you know what? the kid that had some challenges with some of the physical stuff did the best of any of them with the mental game. That was neat to see. I'm excited to be able to teach these kid's how to do a physical thing but also to be able to show them how to work their minds too. This is going to be fun.

Oshitaoshi, kaitennage, and hikitaoshi

You know, Rob is one tough dude. He has spent a significant part of his time for the last 8-10 years lifting weights and working out. And what's worse, he's used to rolling with people who want to break his arms and choke him. He's comfortable in that environment. Tonight we mostly fought each other to a standstill, or to phrase it in 'bear' terminology, we took some good bites out of each other but nobody got eaten. I got him to submit once in a tateshihogatame (north-south hold) and once in something else (maybe tateshihogatame) and he got me once with a toehold which was really just a painful calf muscle compression (but I tapped) and he got me with a jaw-crushing choke of some sort. I was proud that I was able to roll smoothly out of one jujigatame at the end and end up on top crushing him.
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In aikido we started with releases and worked on the fast-direct oshitaoshi, followed by hikitaoshi and kaitennage. For a while we also worked chain #7, delving into the relationships between oshitaoshi, kaitennage, and hikitaoshi. I got some video and I'll try to get it uploaded soon.

To tuck the foot or NOT

Well, I got several comments on the rolling video I posted a few days ago. I wanted to break these two rolls apart and discuss them, so I'll start with the back roll. First, what is excellent about this form of rolling? As several folks mentioned, it is very smoothe. Potatoe Fist also mentioned the demonstrator's awesome ability to roll smoothly to standing without apparently stopping and orienting in a kneeling position. This is very difficult to do - at least, I can't do it. But there is one glaring problem with this form of back roll, and that is the tucked leg.
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First, the leg is not made to bear weight with the top of the foot against the ground. Rather, it is made to bear weight with the bottom of the foot against the ground. This means that once the leg is tucked, it cannot be effectively used to slow the fall down.
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Second look at what we are trying to do with these falling exercises. We're trying to build a reflex that will save you when you are surprised and forced to take a fall from an awkward position. In order to execute this form of the backfall, you must first be in a prepared position, then you have to shift your weight forward, tuck the leg, then fall. There are a lot more steps than it first appears. What happens when you internalize this skill of this way and then you are placed in an awkward position in which you don't have time or control enough to do the weight shift and foot tuck?
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One more point against the foot-tuck fall. It is somewhat against the "Budo Spirit." By that, I mean by placing yourself into a weak, helpless position, you're giving up before it is necessary. What if, during the technique, something happened and tori lost control of the technique? Could uke reverse the fall and stand back up? IF you tuck the foot you commit yourself to the role of uke. Falling without the foot-tuck offers you the option of reversing the technique for a longer period of time.
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The way we teach this back fall is to take a half step backward, squat onto the heel bearing your weight on the ball of the foot. This way the foot becomes a smooth extension of the curve of the back. Then you just allow the foot and back to act like the rocker it is shaped like. This way your bottom leg is in a much better position to help you slow the fall.
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I used to think that this backfall was just a superficial difference between judo and aikido training methods. Judo guys tend to teach to fall like i'm talking about while the foot-tuck fall is most often seen in aiki classes. But then I saw an interesting thing - The non-foot-tuck fall is demonstrated as the basic form in Gozo Shioda's book, Total Aikido. You also see the non-foot-tuck fall in old videos of Tomiki. So, The old, "hard style" aikibudo guys were doing non-foot-tuck falls. I don't really know where this foot tucked fall originated from?
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I've had students who had started learning this backward fall in other classes and it is a difficult habit to break, but once broken, they have all admitted that falling from a crouching position with the bottom of the foot on the ground is much better than falling with a tucked leg. One even mentioned that he broke his tailbone learning to do that tucked-leg backfall and never knew why. Well, it's because you can't use that leg to slow your fall, so if anything goes wrong with the smoothe curve of the thing then you just plop down onto your coccyx. I'm surprised you don't hear of that sort of thing more often.

Rhadi video clip

A while back I mentioned Rhadi Ferguson in a couple of posts. Here is a really good video excerpt from one of his seminars. He has a lot of great stuff to say here. Pay attention.

Promote Three TKD


I'm about a week early on this month's Promote Three, but I figured I'd go ahead and do it while I have the time.
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This month I wanted to use the Promote Three Meme to honor the martial art that got me started in martial arts in the first place - taekwando. I think the following three blogs deserve honors, traffic, and link-love greater than they are getting:
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Blue Wave has great video footage of specific techniques. Anyone who thinks they're not afraid of the taekwando guy's flashy dance, check out some of these videos. These are some seriously fast, powerful, surprising dudes.
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Traditional Taekwando in Perth is written by a great, thoughtful coach. He gives these wonderfully detailed descriptions of techniques and training practices.
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Sun In Sun Ka - alright, I know it's not really taekwando, but it is such a close cousin that I wanted to mention it. My best friend in college was a Tang Soo Do 4th Dan and was one majorly tough dude. I learned a ton from him and grew to respect TSD greatly and TKD to a greater degree from him. Tom at Sun In Sun Ka writes great posts similar to Colins' at Traditional TKD above.

Forward and backward rolls



Alright, here's a demonstration of two forms of ukemi (falling). What do you guys think of it? I'd like some specifics to discuss. What do you think is excellent about these two forms? What needs work or rethinking? Is this level of refinement on these two skills sufficient or should one continue to strive to improve these two basic forms? Are these two forms good ones to teach a beginner?

Direct irimi techniques

In aiki class today we worked on the idea of falling out of the way vs. stepping in tegatana. Then we worked on Nijusan #2-6, emphasizing the short, direct irimi variants that were explicit in Junana but are now sorta just assumed in Nijusan. These were fun and we got a goodly amount of repetition on these.

Kid's judo season is starting

Yesterday we had a good beginning to Kid's judo season. Let me back up a minute. Judo, like most other martial arts does not usually work on a seasonal basis, like baseball or soccer. It's a year-round thing. Well, we've had some difficulty getting people to go for kid's judo and it seems that part of the reason is because parents are so caught up in a seasonal sports mindset. Teeball and soccer are big sports around here. Well, we decided to try Judo as a seasonal thing here too.
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We're going to initially try an 8-month season through the cooler parts of the year and take off during the most sweltering season. We've gotten a lot of interest in this thing and have set up a 4-8 year-old class on Fridays with red-white tourneys the second Saturday of each month. We've signed our club and all our athletes up with the AAU and yesterday we had our first practice.
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And the best thing is the price. You can do an eight-month season of Judo with me for almost the same price as one month at the nearby competition club and the organization membership, insurance, and tournaments are included in that price. That's a deal you can't possibly beat anywhere!
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Five kids showed up. Somewhat less than the ten or so families that expressed interest but I figure a couple of families were just being polite and a couple more families will trail in during the next couple of weeks, so we should have a nice sized class. I started by giving them the ultra-short explanation of what Judo is...

Judo is a kind of Japanese wrestling in which the goal is to throw your opponent onto his back or hold him on his back for 25 seconds. The name Judo means “the smart way of using your strength.’ It was invented about 120 years ago in Japan by a man named Jigoro Kano. When we practice Judo, we wear a uniform called a gi and a belt called an obi. The teacher, or coach, is called sensei. In judo you bow to each other as a salute – just like in the army.

... followed by talking about the terms hajime ("go") and matte ("stop and listen right now"). We enforced this by pairing up by size and having them throttle each other roughly by the shoulders every time I said hajime until I said matte and they had to stop. They though that was great fun. I figure to reinforce this response this way for a while.
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We warmed up with some ROM and some running, hopping, skipping, galloping, and laterals back and forth across the mat. From there we worked on falling exercises and moved into a kneeling takedown resembling kubiguruma into kesagatame. Next week we'll repeat some of the exercises, adding others and particularly enforcing the skill of getting into kesagatame. Toward the end of class we had a rousing round of toestomp randori.
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Since no parent likes having their kids worked into a froth and then given back to them, we're instituting a few minutes of quiet sitting at the end. The best intro to this that I've ever heard was to close your eyes and be quiet for 1 minute, while trying to remember every sound you can hear. Then you go in a circle and everyone names one sound they heard. This is a good intro to meditation/focus training for little kids.
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The kids had a lot of fun and so did I. I'm looking forward to next week already.

Class cancellation

No aikido or judo classes today, Thursday September 20, 2007. I have a church meeting that I forgot I was committed to.

Tae Bo for Chris

Here's one for Chris, who commented on TaeBo on my last post. I'm planning to implement this workout immediately (as soon as I can find a 110 pound Russian girl) in all my classes, and I pitty the poor fool who doesn't have the opportunity to train at Mokuren Dojo.

Counter-examples

To be fair in my warrior discussion, I should give some better exposure to some of the great counter-examples that some of the commentators gave in our previous thread on the Ranger grappling video. First, I’d like to mention something that stuck out to me – the video contradicts itself pretty blatantly.

"Fort Benning…is a place where the study of martial arts is not geared toward spiritual development, sports, or self-defense.”

But then, the narrator says explicitly, “our task is to imbue them with the warrior ethos.” That is, by definition a spiritual pursuit. That does not make it a less noble or less functional goal, but these guys seem to want folks to think that the Army BJJ program is all about practical combat efficacy, when it is really about spirit, heart, and gut.
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But on the other hand, The BJJ stuff that the military had gotten into is not without its apparent functional utility, as demonstrated by this news article that Nathan pointed us to a while back. Here the soldier grappled from a position of extreme weakness against an armed opponent long enough and successfully enough to save his own life.
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Rick Fryer made another excellent point, that it takes heart and guts to stand toe-to-toe in a boxing ring (for instance) and trade rib-crushing body shots. This is true. There’s a different kind of feeling to it, but it’s still courage. Incidently, for years the army combatives program emphasized boxing/karate type skills, and apparently found it sufficient for combatives skills but found it insufficient (or at least less-so than BJJ) for instilling the desired ethos.
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Dan Paden brought up the fact that it may not be illusory (as I phrased it) to think that a clean, hands-down victory might be possible. This is a great video that Dan had recently posted of a one-shot clean knockout in a street fight.
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Chiron has posted a couple of great articles that, if they weren’t inspired by this discussion, fit perfectly into it. I wish he'd enable post links so that I could reference them directly, but of you go to his blog and find his September 18 and 19, 2007 posts - they're well worth your time. Some of the best material on the spiritual side of martial arts that I've ever read. While youre there, read the rest of his posts. Great material.
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And, while it's not exactly a counter-example, there's another great tangent on the subject that was posted at Aikithoughts.
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UPDATE: Steve has posted a very good opinion piece that touches on the subject at hand - but from a very practical, non-woo-woo way.

Old-Bear regains his honour

Another good class. Tonight in judo we worked the Meatgrinder entry into groundwork and focussed on entering into jujigatame from the rear mounted position. Cool and easy. Standing we worked on some nice, easy ukigoshi followed by some uchimata. Good work. Rob needs to work on getting the standing leg placed properly under himself as a fulcrum. That involves:
  • toe-out and hipswitch
  • standing foot slightly farther back underneath our collective center of mass.
  • standing foot, knee, both hips, and all abdominal muscles pointing in the same direction
  • butt cheek underneath uke, almost through uke's groin
On the ground the old bear recovered his honor. I got Rob in 4-5 good submissions, including a kesagatame (i think), a couple of tateshiho, and a jujigatame. Rob crushed me at least once with something or other - maybe a kesagatame? Good stuff. Neither of us got clean throws tonight in randori. I got a partially successful kouchigari and he attempted several single leg picks, which mostly got him sprawled-on and grounded. I think I may have gotten an arm-snapdown and I know I got a great cross-face turnover.
At aikido tonight, Kel and Patrick M. and I worked on hanasu into ukemi, a little light randori, some kata shomenate and several variants of aigamaeate, including some from goshinjitsu and kimenokata. Cool stuff.

What is it about grappling?


Rick Fryer posted a good comment on my last post. He reminded us that you don’t want to grapple with a guy who has a knife. I agree. Of course you don’t want to grapple with (or even be near) a knife guy. The guy in the video says that. The idea of teaching to defend against a knife is nearly ludicrous because you can’t afford to screw around with knife guys. It’s such a good weapon it makes virtually anyone mortally dangerous.
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But the point that the guy in the video made that was so interesting to me was that there is something about grappling that seems to bring out the warrior spirit in people. They are not teaching soldiers to grapple; they are explicitly involved in fostering the warrior spirit in these soldiers. This is because, as he puts it, we don’t win wars by grappling, but we win wars by being warriors (my paraphrase).
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So, what is it about grappling that fosters the warrior spirit?
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Grappling instills a willingness to get down and dirty and closely involved with things that inspire primal terror (i.e. being immobilized and choked, being dominated and forced to submit, being in peril of broken joints, the possibility of grappling with a guy who might have a knife, having your every action make your situation worse, impending total anaerobic fatigue, etc...)
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It is this willingness to engage the enemy even under conditions of terror that defines courage, and grappling instills this ethic better (in my opinion) than stand-up fighting styles because the student of stand-up fighting is allowed to hold out the illusion that it might just be possible to achieve a nice, clean, hands-down victory. It is this stand-offishness, this unwillingness to dirty oneself for the cause that seems antithetical to the warrior spirit.
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This seems to me the basis (besides friendly competitiveness) of why Marines and Army guys ridicule Air Force and Navy guys. Marines and Army are stereotyped (or maybe archetyped) as the guys that are willing to get dirty to win a war, while the Flyboys and Navy guys are portrayed as stand-back, technological fighters or as bus-drivers for the real warriors. Well, in this world of advancing technology, it is easy for the Marines and Army to develop this same creeping stand-offishness and lose part of the warrior spirit. Has anyone seen, for example, the Newsweek some years back about the new generation of electrically-fired rifle that will shoot timed, exploding bullets around corners?. So it seems the Marines and Army have instituted this jujitsu grappling training to nurture that old-style jarhead/grunt ethic of willingness to engage in the mud.
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And that is what I think the guy in the video is talking about that makes the video so interesting to me.

Army Ranger grappling training

Interesting video. he has some good comments on some things we've been discussing on this blog for a while, including the knife thread and the warrior thread.

Taiwan SWAT and Iron Penis


No, you didn't read the title of this post wrong! This is a super cool old BBC martial arts documentary similar to the new Human Weapon series, but without the irritating numbskulls for hosts. There are a lot of episodes available and they are all so interesting I had a hard time choosing which to put up here. It came down to a choice between the Taiwan SWAT team episode vs. the Iron Penis episode. You see which one I picked to post. I recommend watching all the episodes.

Day of the bear

I got schooled tonight by a measley judo shodan! Rob tapped me 5-6 times to my 1-2. Mostly positional deals, but I do recall him getting one fine jujigatame and one good choke of some sort. I think I tapped him with a sodegurumajime (sleeve wheel choke) and with a head-crushing tateshiho (north-south hold). But I know for sure that my mat mobility was off tonight and Rob did very well. Standing I got a sode tsurikomigoshi (sleve lifting hip throw) and a morotegari (double leg pick). Rob, as I recall, mostly got these clinches and dragged me into the ground, from which position he crushed me. He must have had a good judo instructor at some point in his past.
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And that was all before aikido class started! By the time Kel got there I had the shaky jelly triceps fasciculations. We worked releases into ukemi, tegatana, and the atemiwaza (striking throws) from Nijusan. Kel is getting very good at shomenate and his aigamaeate and gyakugamaeate were better than mine tonight. We'll keep working on his rank requirements and solidify his skill and knowledge and have a rank test in a few weeks. At the end we played with the offbalance for kubiguruma and the kata otoshi brushoff from Owaza Jupon. Fun, but not very sklled performances on my part by that late point in the night.
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If I did not already have a great name for the dojo, I think I'd come up with a name involving a bear - as in my defacto motto, "Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you."

Kohaku shiai

A while back I wrote about differing opinions on weight classes in judo competition. Some folks say they are necessary to promote fair competition and prevent injury. Others blame weight division for the apparent technical decline of Kodokan judo from a high point in the 1950’s (before weight classes).
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Well, recently I came across some references to a kind of competition used traditionally in judo schools that pretty much negated the need for weight classes while retaining the variability in the competitor pool that made for great judo in the 1950’s. From the 2006 AAU Rules:
STAND-UP CHALLENGE Contestants lined up from lightest to heaviest. Winner of each match stays on mat against next challenger in moving from lightest to heaviest.
And a more complete description from judoinfo.com:
Traditionally Judo competitions were organized using the "winner stays up" or Kohaku shiai method. In this method contestants were lined up by size, or sometimes rank and experience were also considered, and the smallest two competitors in a division would fight. Then the winner would stay on the mat to fight the next biggest competitor. The winner of each match would again stay up until losing. The largest person, if he won, would be permitted to fight back down the line a limited number of matches. The person with the most wins at the end would be declared the winner.
Perhaps the best discussion of this sort of old-style tournament and the plusses and minuses of modern tournament systems is Ichikawa and Draeger.
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I, for one, wish I’d come up through the ranks in a club that did monthly red-white interclub tourneys with this “winner-stays-up” lineup method (as opposed to 3-4 'real' tournaments per year against folks from other clubs). I can’t wait to get this going with my judo kids class.

Judo, baby!

Yeah! This is a fantastic judo video. I'd love to be there playing with them. How could anyone in the world not think that this is the most fun sport around?

Though, I'll have to admit, I bet it's hard to catch a fish anywhere around there after a good practice!

Releases, shomenate, and udegaeshi

Another class of aikido with Kel and I. I've been really enjoying the classes with just Kel because I get to move more and uke more and generally do more aiki than when I have to stand on the side and coach. (not that I wouldn't like to have a half-dozen more regulars...) Kel seems to be enjoying the individual attention too.
Tonight we worked on hanasu a lot, making little adjustments. We completely skipped over tegatana tonight and went back into shomenate and oshitaoshi just like 3 classes ago. We used that as a lead into working on #7 (udegaeshi) a lot - that was our big repetition technique of the night. We also worked a good bit on the initial evasion and brush-off (kokyunage) concepts, part of the time with a knife.

Carnival of Martial Arts Blogs #2

Hi, all. Just a quick note to let you know that Carnival of Martial Arts Blogs #2 is up. I've skimmed it but haven't digested all of it yet. Looks interesting. Check it out...

Gyakugamae, wakigatame, and kotegaeshi

Another great class with Kel. The new schedule really seems to be jiving with his schedule and he is able to make more classes. Tonight we warmed up on ukemi from releases and tegatana focussing on different chest wall positions for different types of pushes. From there we moved into gyakugamae ate from nujusan. After repping that a while, we talked for a few seconds about how the assumptions you start with govern the techniques that pop up in your syllabus.
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Well, we begin with three atemi to the face (shomenate #1, aigamaeate #2, and gyakugamaeate #3), which suggests that uke might respond by blocking the strike (technique #4) or running into you (#5) or running away from you (#6). Tonight's option was to grab or parry the hand in the face into waki gatame. Funny thing about waki gatame, it can serve as a follow-up or a counter to shomenate. We worked on both of these situations. Then we worked on wakigatame as an unorthodox release from a reverse forearm grab. Then we moved into Chain #3 and worked on wakigatame and kotegaeshi from both sides.

Starting on the path

This is some very good advice from Aikithoughts for beginners in aikido. I'll probably proudly steal it and give it to all my beginners. I particularly like the "commit" part. It's the same advice I give my cardiac rehab patients - The frequency and intensity of training don't matter as much as the regularity.
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I, of all people, surely know about being busy and having a life and I understand all that. It is good and necessary to do other things. Aikido is not religion and it is not family and it's not employment - so it's pretty far down most sensible folks' lists. But you get the most benefit from consistent attendance - even if it is once a week.
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(And again, I'm not ragging on my current students about their attendance. I'm just stating a fact. ;-)

Chiron on knife defense

Rory at Chiron posted a superb piece (September 3, 2007) about knife defense training that mirrors and amplifies some of what I've said before while adding some GREAT simulation exercises. Check this out...

Systema


A few days ago, Aikido Journal linked to one of my articles, Attack of the Living Dead, and sent several hundred interested visitors my way. I sure appreciate the extra exposure and am grateful for folks' interest in Mokuren Dojo.
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Today I'd like to return the favor (in a small way - I don't have several hundred readers to refer) while maybe doing something to retract/correct a post I made a good while back that demonstrated my ignorance and prejudice (I do that every so often).
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Aikido Journal recently posted a set of links to resources on the Russian martial art of Systema. The Journal's commentary of Systema, from folks with many years experience in aikido as well as direct experience of Systema, was glowing. Indeed, from reading the articles at Aikido Journal about Systema, the teachers as well as the system seem very interesting.
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My earlier post stated that from what I could tell, Systema looked ridiculous. That was based on my viewing several videos that were poorly done and must have misrepresented the system. I should have just shut up and waited to be educated, because from what the Journal guys are saying, Systema appears to be a highly effective, parallel evolution of aikido, and appears to be paired with some great modern training methods.
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I'm looking forward to getting some better, more representative video info about Systema. Thanks again, Aikido Journal, for the link love and for the education.

Taekkyon

For a while now, I've been doing a series of posts about various styles of ethnic folk wrestling. The following videos are of a Korean foot art known as Taekkyon. I don't know the rules and it's not easy to infer the rules from what we see below - at least not as easy as some videos of folk wrestling, but it obviously involves kicking and throwing. I seem to recall reading a while back, perhaps in Journal of Asian Martial Arts, that this was basically a kids' folk wrestling game with the object of kicking the opponent off his feet. In any case, it's a pretty cool game.




Another aiki basics class

Another good aiki class (is there any such thing as a bad one?) with just Kel and myself. We spent a goodly long time warming up stiff low backs and hips and worked on some ukemi, including releasing into rolls and backfalls. From there we worked tegatana a couple of times emphasizing walking on the balls of the two longest levers in the foot instead of the outside toes.
Last time we worked on #1 and #6 (shomenate and oshitaoshi) so this time we worked on #2 (aigamaeate) and #8 (hikitaoshi). Kel took to doing hikitaoshi as if he'd been born to it.