Thursday, January 31, 2008

Randori night at aikido

Aiki with Kel
  • Tegatana - no particular emphasis. Just repetition.
  • Hanasu - emphasis on getting both tori and uke that smoothe, flowing release feeling. Uke doesn't want to stop becuse then he eats all the momentum and mechanical advantage tori has built up. Instead, the smart uke attempts to flow to diffuse the problems tori presents. This way both uke and tori are active learners.
  • Chain #2 working on the sharp turn, shomenate, and wakigatame
  • Randori - and a goodly amount of it at that.
  • Aiki-handshake as the cool technique of the night.
  • We also had a lovely discussion of PNF in aikido, hyperactive reflexes, and these wonders at the ends of our legs that are our feet!

The best, easiest-to-use, and least-expensive randori timers

The best way to time a hold-down in randori – especially with kids – is to make a rule that they have to hold the pin long enough to recite a sentence aloud. The sentence might be a scripture verse, part of your dojo kun, or some other moral. The ones I use include:
  • Honesty means always telling the truth.
  • Courtesy means showing respect for others.
  • Courage means doing what is right even when you are afraid.
  • Honor means always keeping your promises.
I’ll pick one of these each night that we’re going to do newaza randori or newaza holding drills and we’ll practice reciting it a few times. Then they become their own hold-down timers. I tried having the holder do a 3-count but you can easily count 1-2-3 in less than a second (I can subvocalize a count to about 8 in 1 second) but it usually takes most kids about 3 seconds to recite one of these.

Another cool thing about timing hold-downs this way is you have to keep your mind at least clear enough to be able to remember and recite the sentence even in the thick of the fray.

A helpful handful: 5 ways to iprove your wakigatame

Here are a few hints I hold in my hat when I'm teaching wakigatame. Hope they help y'all too.

  • Wakigatame is really the same thing as gokyo in aikikai – but the basic form that is commonly practiced looks different. In Tomiki and in Judo, the gokyo relationship is called wakigatame. This thing is superficially similar to ikkyo (oshitaoshi) but the hand grip is different (one hand over and one hand under).

  • The first version we were taught was a “look ma, no hands” version in which the wrist is trapped in the crook of the elbow and the upper arm trapped under the other armpit with the elbow turned backwards across tori’s chest. This gives tori a little less control but leaves both hands free to do other things.

  • When you try a variation more similar to the basic gokyo, try to get your hands on his arm (under the wrist and over the elbow) as if you were holding a jo, then maneuver your body in behind your hands and stab his arm forward in the direction his arm is pointing as if his arm were a jo.

  • Try it with both hands on the wrist and your top elbow controlling his elbow. This elbow-to elbow wakigatame is an abrupt submission.

  • If wakigatame goes bad, it tends to lead into kotegaeshi, gyakugamaeate, or gedanate.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Generalized motion patterns in martial arts

Recently there has been a lot written in the martial blogosphere about the nature of kata - whether the motions are intended to be generalized or specific. Whether or not there is a historical basis to the modern proliferation of bunkai (applications) for kata movements. Articles about exercises that look like motions from martial arts forms.

What if the kata were designed to be specifically vague - not just so that a particular motion could be interpreted as several techniques - but so that by doing the kata you get better at all of the types of motions that you will see in the martial arts? What if these kata that look so strange are intended to be general neuromuscular physical education? Check out the following:

This video shows a student therapy assistant learning to do Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). These are big, expensive words that mean something like, "stimulating the sense organs in the joints and muscles to improve the coordination of muscular activities." What you see in the video is the student applying manual resistance to the patient as the patient is coaxed through four specific patterns of motion. It's these patterns that are the really special part of PNF. Notice the diagonal, spiral, multiple muscle group nature of these patterns. These two upper extremity patterns are actually the two fundamental building blocks of virtually every motion that can be made with the upper extremity. If you look at any given applied motion, like drawing a bowstring, you will see a piece of D1 here and a piece of D2 there and another piece of D1 somewhere else... Functional motions are all just composed of these two motions.

Doesn’t the D1 upper extremity pattern look like a down block (and everything else that the down-block might be interpreted as) Don’t the two lower extremity patterns on this video look like various kicks, sweeps, and steps in the martial arts? Notice the diagonal spiral nature of the patterns? Doesn't that sorta look like the silk reeling exercises?

Martial forms are chock full of these PNF patterns because the PNF patterns represent generalized natural, whole-body, functional motion, The karate kata are generalized in nature. Even old books like Karate-do Kyohan talk about (I don't have the specific reference right in front of me) how the large, general motions are for beginners because it’s better 'physical education.'

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Up and down, down and up

Aiki with Patrick M. and Kel
  • Tegatana emphasizing using relaxed arms as a measure of how well controlled your momentum is, synching up-and-down of center with up-and-down of arms, and complete hip turns in preparation for turns.
  • hanasu releasing into ukemi , ukemi as a natural extension/consequence of a release, catching uke's footfall and stretching your step to extend him smoothly into position for a roll.
  • chain #2 emphasizing up/down motion, extending release #2 upward to disconnect uke from the ground and slow him down, kotetaoshi, gyakugamaeate, release#2 into release #1.
  • Rokukata #1-4 making use of the stuff we did previously today.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A helpful handful: 5 ways to improve your ushiroate

Here are a handful of (hopefully helpful) hints for ushiroate. Five things I've noticed. Maybe you have too or maybe you can get something from them.

  • On the entry, I often get the feeling of crawling up uke’s arm to his shoulder. Right hand controls uke’s right wrist, left hand controls uke’s elbow, right hand switches to uke’s right shoulder, left hand switches to uke’s left shoulder.
  • If you put your right hand on the front of uke’s right shoulder as you pass him, your momentum and the connection will slingshot you around him into position for ushiroate. The feeling is similar to that of skating around a post holding on with one hand.
  • We talk about grabbing uke’s shoulders to throw him down but shoulders are too easy to slip off of. A better contact happens when you put the entire palm of the hand one uke’s upper chest near his neck.
  • If ushiroate does not throw uke down, let your momentum slingshot you around him and center on him with a push to the front of the shoulder to separate you and perhaps throw him backwards.
  • Try this technique as in the Sankata tantodori. As you pass on his right side, hook his far (left) shoulder and push off of it. This adds to your separation momentum and it may spin him into a backfall.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ninja hand-slap

Chris Marshall and I have been having a little discussion about reaction time and intelligence in martial arts. His contention is that you can train reflexes toward the 0.1 second mark, while I contend that a more normal average in the context of martial arts would be around 0.75 seconds.
Chris posted this really cool online reaction speed tester that tests how long it takes you to recognize a simple stimulus and press a button. It seems like most of the folks that reported their results took between 0.1 and 0.3 sec to press a button when a light is lit. I figure for a more complex task (like a martial arts technique) or a more difficult decision (like more than 2 choices) the reaction time would be magnified toward the 0.75 sec reaction time that my instructors have told me to aim for as a general rule of thumb. In any case, Chris' simple reaction time game sure has some interesting implications.
I thought about challenging Chris to a rousing game of Ninja hand-slap, but alas:
  • He lives thousands of miles from me, and

  • He scored way faster than me on the reaction speed tester, so I'm afraid.

Kids' newaza randori

What you see here are some of my white belt judo kids doing some newaza (groundwork) randori (freeplay). The child in the yellow belt is not really yellow belt - that's just holding the gi shut. The kids in the foreground in this video are 3-4 years old. The kids in the background are 7-8 years old. Looks like fun? It is. I was there and it's a blast!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Baby got backfall

Here is a quickie video of a couple of my 4-year old students demonstrating the best, most powerful self-defense technique there is.

New folks at aiki

Aikido with Kel, John, and David
  • warmup, ROM, ukemi
  • tegatana emphasizing moving with the nearest foot first and always bringing the back foot back under your hips ready for another step
  • partner evasion drills using the steps from tegatana and pushing back off uke
  • building release #1 off of the idea of uke grabbing tori's wrist during a brush-off. This led into chain #1 moving along watching for foot timing and either pushing into a face-down armbar (oshitaoshi) or pushing them off back outside the safe distance.
  • Rokukata maeotoshi talking about the same ideas

January Kohaku Shiai

Kohaku shiai this morning with the kids. We threw Quin into the mix for the first time and everyone had fun and did great. Knox and Emma were more aggressive today. Whit and Gavin were more strategic.
  • 1st place - Mason Alford (7 wins)
  • 2nd place - Emma Jarrell (6 wins)
  • 3rd place (tie) - Gavin Jarrell, Whit Parker, Knox Parker (4 wins each)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Yesterday's classes

Kid's judo
  • warmup, ROM, ukemi (including deashi airfall with a spotter), hopping
  • osotogari left and right every time uke sticks a leg forward
  • newaza randori starting back-to-back. The little kids had to get the opponent's back on the ground. The older kids had to pin the opponent on their back long enough to say, "Persistence means keep on going!"
Aiki with Bryce and Kel
  • tegatana, hanasu emphasising 1,5, 6, and 8
  • newaza #1-5 (Kel's rank requirement)
  • Rokukata ryotemochi ukiotoshi (with good success)
  • Owaza jupon and Sankata #1-12 with Bryce
  • deashibarai and kosotogari with Bryce

Who pays the piper calls the tune

I do requests. You pay the piper (with traffic and comments) and you call the tune. Let me know what you'd like to read some scintillating commentary on and I'll oblige if I can. The other day one of my faithful readers dropped me a line with this question:

"I am having trouble with sasae tsuri komi ashi. Any suggestions on drills to work on the timing? I am missing something bad on this one..."
Three things have helped my sasae tremendously:

  • Realizing that hiza is an early technique and sasae is a late technique. This means that a chance for sasae always follows a spoiled hiza. Practice hiza-sasae gently sliding your foot down their shin as they step then stopping them just short.

  • One of my instructors shows a hook on the end of sasae - so not only do you stop his foot short, but you change the direction slightly so they have two problems to deal with. Do this by wrapping your toes around the outside of the ankle and pulling back slightly with your foot just as you foot stop them so that their foot not only stops 1 inch early but also slides toward you 1 inch .

  • Practice the nagenokata form of the thing. This is the toughest timing problem you can have - doing it when uke is doing tsugiashi - you have such a short timing window between when uke picks his foot up and when he puts it back down. You really have to get your feet and arms doing the right thing and coordinated together efficiently. Practice this most difficult timing and everything else will be slower and grosser (wider timing windows) for you.

Bear karate

Rick over at TDA training has posted a good article on how to make the fearsome groin kick an even better maneuver for a fight. Check it out for the juicy details, but the jist of it is to distract or disable the opponent's vision prior to and during the kick. With that in mind, I give you the following. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Intelligence, instinct, and efficiency

I have written in previous articles about the necessity of making use of reflex, instinct, and natural motion in self defense. The idea is that you have to be able to act effectively and decisively within the amount of time that the opponent needs to observe, orient, decide, and act (the OODA loop). The common approach to achieving this in martial arts is to build upon defensive instincts or low-level generalized habituated responses. But on the other hand, Chris Marshall recently noted the need for a higher-level of intelligence in conflicts and less animal instinct. With our recent interest in more creative, perhaps non-violent resolution of conflict, it seems like Chris’ call for a more highly evolved intelligence in combat may be a good thing.
This brings up the pragmatic question, how is it possible to develop greater intelligence in combat but still stay within the attacker’s OODA loop? What exactly do you have to do to get the faster intelligence that Chris says we need? Well, really we can’t. From my understanding of the neuromuscular machine I don’t really think that you can make the brain/spine/muscle machine work faster than it already does. There is hardwired into us about a ¾ second delay (if not more) in the OODA loop.
But we can make it SEEM like we are speeding up the higher brain functions by making ourselves a little more efficient in our motions and strategies.
Example: Assuming that you see the attacker coming when they are at least outside of touching distance (about 3 feet), if the attacker has to move 3 feet to hit you and you only have to move 18 inches to evade him, then you are effectively about twice as fast as him (plus or minus a negligible amount). A speed differential of 2X is huge! This effectively gives the defender a really large reserve capacity to do things to help the situation. What can you do with this spare capacity? Wait longer to act, move slower and more precisely, watch for more precise timing windows, etc… Think - use your best weapon – your mind! You can use this reserve potential to act on a level higher than instinct.
But – in order to achieve this reserve potential you have to diligently practice and you have to be ruthless in your self-evaluation of the efficiency of your own motion. Choose the things that happen most often during a conflict (e.g. footwork) and practice them relentlessly, looking for minute improvements in efficiency. Are there places in your footwork when you have to lean one way to move another way? Do you sometimes find that you have to shift a foot before you can move the direction you need to? Are you bending your knees (i.e. loading up some energy) so that you can jump out of the way fast? Do you take such large steps that your center falls and rises more than you can take up in the bend of your knees?
Little things like this eat up your spare reserve of potential for intelligent action, leaving you at the mercy of instinct or habituated response, which is better than nothing, but still not all that you can be.
Check out the following video of Gozo Shioda doing amazing things. Look how late he waits to move and what small motions he makes. This is what I'm talking about. Efficiency in motion leads to a great reserve that one can use to great effect.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where to begin...

Coming up through westernized school systems and colleges, etc… we are used to courses of study being set up with prerequisites. You have to take come courses before others because without the prerequisites you cannot be expected to succeed at the more advanced material. Coming from this sort of academic environment, I think it is interesting that there are virtually no prerequisites to any aikido techniques. You can pretty much teach anything to anyone in any order. You can start in any place. You can build the system around any technique.
Nearly the only restriction on this is ukemi (falling) ability. It is reasonable to teach the non-falling stuff before the stuff that requires a backward breakfall before the stuff that requires a forward roll before the stuff that requires an airfall. But beyond the ukemi/safety consideration, each technique is a subset of aiki, an example of aiki-like motion, so anyone can improve their aiki-like motion by practicing any aiki technique.
One really cool consequence of this asynchronous syllabus is that the first-day newbie does not have to spend an inordinate amount of time banished to a corner of the mat wasting an assistant instructor's time showing them 'the basics'. Beginners can jump in wherever the class happens to be that particular day and people of all 'levels' can gain from practicing any of the techniques in the system because (here's the big secret) techniques don't matter. They are just examples of the underlying principles. Principles matter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

How did you decide, Martin?

Today we remember one of our country's foremost warriors in the cause of peace, equality, and freedom - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Though in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, he states that he was a force of moderation standing between extremists on both sides, King was considered extreme by the establishment of the time, and this led to his assasination. Dr. King could have possibly prolonged his life if he had skillfully shifted his position based on the forces that he encountered (aiki), perhaps going along with the prevailing forces until he could overpower them or unbalance them (ju) but instead, he effectively took a stand and spent his life all at once in the service of his cause (kime) - And it was certainly a worthy cause.
But this begs the question, how do you determine whether to stand and fight right here and now or shift and live to fight another day? At what point is the evil you face so grievous that you decide to spend all of yourself right now in its downfall? Or do you simply let your enemies decide when you take your final stand?
What do you think King's effect on the civil rights movement would have been like if he were alive today? If he had accomodated the establishment to any significant degree he would have sacrificed some of the moral power of his cause, but he would have had many more years to exert that lessened power.

With that question as an introduction, welcome to the January 2008 edition of carnival of martial arts. This is a themed issue on peaceful warriors and conflict resolution - not that every article submitted is directly on topic, but all are interesting and worth checking out.

Hilltown Families presents Peace Episode on HFVS (New Year's Day '08) posted at Hilltown Families. A little peace music to stimulate your sense of nostalgia as you peruse the carnival.
Patrick Parker presents Nonviolent self defense posted at Mokuren Dojo. A curious look at a (perhaps) faulty idea of non-violent self-defense.
Dave Chesser presents Aikido-like Chinese IMA posted at Formosa Neijia. A potential answer to the question in the above post.
Patrick Parker presents Rolling the ball and brushing off posted at Mokuren Dojo. My own take on Dave Chesser's article above.
Chris presents Conflict Resolution: A Casualty of Non-Violent Martial Arts posted at Martial Development. A valuable reminder in light of the above articles.
Nathan Teodoro presents Preventing Sexual Abuse in Martial Arts posted at TDA Training.
Michael Bell presents Why Study Martial Arts? posted at
Dave Shevitz presents Jury Duty and Ki Tests posted at AikiThoughts. Nobody I've seen has done a better job of applying the philosophy of aiki to his everyday life than Dave Shevitz.
Patrick Parker presents Creamed Asparagus posted at Mokuren Dojo. Another perspective on nonviolent self-defense - in the context of bullying.
Dave Shevitz presents Martial Arts and Bullying posted at AikiThoughts. A very good answer to the above post about Creamed Asparagus.
Dojo Rat presents The Significance Of Billy Jack posted at Dojo Rat.
That's it for this month's issue. Thank all of you for participating - I hope we can keep this important discussion going. Drop by the articles you find most interesting and leave comments.
Submit your blog article to the next edition of *carnival of martial arts* using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Lastly, but certainly not least, We're always looking for blogs to host an upcoming issue of the Carnival. If you are interesting in having the Carnival appear on your blog, drop Argonautica a line at Argos Classic Martial Reprints .

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A helpful handful: 5 ways to improve your shomenate

Check out my collection of articles
on the
techniques in Junana Hon Kata
Everybody who does Tomiki aikido or one of the Tomiki derivatives knows shomenate. It’s one of the first things taught, and it can rightfully be considered the foundational basis of virtually everything that comes after it. Shomenate is the essence of irimi. Here is a handful of helpful hints to get a little bit of extra mileage out of your shomenate.
  • Get your distance right. You want this thing to be a mental shock to his system. You don’t get a good surprise reaction if he sees it coming from a couple of feet away. You want to be at arm’s length from his face at the end of the first step.
  • Play with this technique with the idea of pushing yourself off of uke instead of pushing uke down backwards. Think of uke as a sprinter’s starting block to push off of. This will shorten the energy transfer between tori and uke and will help tori to get back outside ma-ai more quickly, even if it doesn’t knock uke down.
  • It helps for tori to cultivate the attitude, “He is going to go backwards no matter what. Hit me, cut me, whatever… he’ll do in moving away from me.”
  • It is more effective to bump uke’s lead arm with a straight arm as you evade just shorter than arms-length than to step aside and chop uke’s arm. Let uke feel the entire weight of your body through your unbendable arm and let that bump him into offbalance.
  • Tomiki reportedly said of his aikido, “None of this stuff works unless you do shomenate first,” so, try shomenate as an entry to other techniques. For instance, enter, grasp the arm, push off the face and keep your momentum going until you hit the end of his reach. Then turn into shihonage or snap him past you into ushiroate.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Personally, I like police

Dojo Rat has posted a great police video on his blog and has asked some good, thought provoking questions. Y'all ought to get over there and check it out and leave a comment or two. I thought I'd post here as a sort of Devil's Advocate ;-)
I've heard a police forensics guy say, "the problem with cops is they're always there when you don't need them and they are never there when you do need them." I've done some research with some of the wildlife enforcement guys here in Mississippi (one of the most dangerous LEO jobs there is) and they are woefully undertrained in combatives and maintain poor physical fitness standards. Dojo Rat tells a couple of stories like one about some cops that pinned a knife-weilding crazy lady with grocery carts and shot her because they couldn't figure out what to do with her. You hear stories like this all the time.
But I still like police. They are the good guys. The blue wall between us sheep and the wolves in society. Like any domain of practice, there are some cops that suck at their job, but overall, in my experience, the police I've run across have been well-trained, well-intentioned professionals. I know several of the local police and I had a particularly good experience with one of our local policemen (Officer Kenny) a year or so ago.
How about the following as a counterexample to DR's video. An example of well-trained, good-hearted policemen. This sniper took a lot of flak for this shot, as did his superior that authorized it. But they took this shot instead of the fatal one anyway.

So, what do y'all think? Have the majority of y'all's interactions with police been positive, negative, or neutral? Come on, I want to hear juicy details!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Upcoming carnival deadline

You still have time to submit an article for the Carnival of Martial Arts Blogs theme issue on the peaceful warrior idea. The deadline is tomorrow (1/19) and I'll have the carnival up and posted on Monday (1/21) - MLK day - The United States' day of rememberance for one of its' foremost peaceful warriors.
I've already gotten a host of good submissions but there are some great martial arts bloggers out there who are notably missing. I'm sure y'all all have an opinion on the topic of peaceful conflict resolution - and I'm pretty sure I've seen appropriate articles on most of y'all's blogs. So you already have the material sitting out there ready to be re-published at the carnival - ready to create some more exposure for you and your ideas - ready to drive some new readers to your blog!
So go ahead and jump in with your submission. CLICK HERE to submit a post.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Taking the slack out

Kids' judo with Gavin, Whit, Mason, Knox, and Emma
  • warmup, ukemi
  • deashi
  • deashi into kesagatame
  • rolling with a partner, dragging a partner, etc...
Aiki with Kel
  • tegatana - went into detail on specific questions from Kel
  • hanasu - more specific questions, taking the slack out of #6 and #8, difference between #5 and #1
  • Chain #7 and #5 particularly kaitennage/udehineri, and particularly looking at releasing and moving the butt so that the hands work right.

"I would never punch that way"

One of the most common arguments against the viability of aikido training methods has got to be, “But I would never punch that way.” Folks want to know how aikido deals with short, efficient lead jabs and jab-cross combinations and why we don’t train against quick jab or jab-cross attacks.
In order to make any attack, the attacker has to step to within arm’s reach. Saying, “I’d never punch that way,” assumes that the attacker is in good control of his momentum and balance and movement at the end of that step. When you are practicing kihon in karate, or shadow boxing, or some other solo striking form, that’s pretty easy to assume. There’s really no reason to expect that you shouldn’t be able to control your own body at the end of the attack step. But when your target moves during the middle of your step, when someone bumps into you during that step, when there is the possibility that the target might hurt you back, all your body dynamics change. You are not in complete control at the end of the attacking step.
As an experiment, try stepping two feet forward and hitting a moving speed bag – hard – however you like – lunge punch, lead jab, hook, whatever. You just have to hit hard. Try this several times and unless you are really masterful, you’ll miss or hit improperly pretty often. Can you control your body just like you’d like when that happens or is your balance and momentum and timing at least a little off?
A funny thing happens when something interrupts an attack step. The attacker seizes up for just a moment while he regains his balance and figures out a good appropriate next move. In this situation, the defender has caused the attacker to reset to the beginning of his OODA loop and now he has to observe his situation, orient to what is going on, and decide on an action, before he can act. The funny thing is, people tend to become cataleptic to some degree when they are reset to the beginning of the loop. They literally freeze in place almost catatonic for an instant.
An instant is a long time to someone who expects it and knows when it is going to happen…

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New nikyu

Judo with Rob
  • Footsweep to control
  • Deashi, stepping around the corner, hizaguruma, kubinage/ogoshi, ashiguruma
Aikido with Patrick M., Kel, Jill, and Cynthia
  • Warmup, ukemi, tegatana (emphasizing following-foot and shizentai), hanasu #1
  • Aiki brushoff from hanasu #1 on the far footfall and on the near footfall
  • Rokukata hikiotoshi as a brush-off and ushiroate as a follow-up to a spoiled hikiotoshi
  • Patrick M. did his nikyu demonstration. His shomenate, aigamaeate, gedanate, and shihonage were particularly excellent. His kotegaeshi might need some work.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Scuttlebutt has it that the material for the Starkville Henry clinic this spring is going to be Koryu Dai Roku (Rokukata). Cool stuff. The following is a demonstration of Rokukata by Shaun Hoddy. There are sure to be stylistic differences between what Henry shows us this spring and what we see here, but we should be able to at least get oriented to what comes after what in each set.
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Vision vs. goals

Don’t you find it funny when armchair philosophers espouse some idea beginning with, “ There are two kinds of people in the world…”
Well, here goes… There are two kinds of people in the world – goals people and vision people. Some very successful people simply do not get into the whole goal-setting thing and for this type of person, the SMART methodology seems unnecessary or alien. There are a couple of problems with this goals-vision dichotomy. First, it can be tough to figure out which group you are in. Sometimes we think we are one way when that is just how we would like to be – how we think the “right” people think. Also, no one person fits wholly into either group. Each of us is a unique blend of goal-oriented and vision-seeking.
With that disclaimer in mind, you might find it useful to try both methods to see which one you get the most mileage out of. For years now, it has been considered good business practice to devote some time and energy to creating both vision (real vision – not just a vision statement) and goals.
Paraphrasing one of the vision gurus from the business re-engineering literature, Peter Senge, a vision is some idea of the future that you absolutely, literally cannot live without. Senge’s idea is that if you can create a vivid enough picture of a future that you can’t live without, then hold that vision up beside current reality, the tension or dissonance between the two will naturally and subconsciously drive you to do whatever it takes to bring current reality closer to the vision. The difficulty here is in holding the vision constant without allowing cognitive dissonance to erode the ideal.
Visions share some of the characteristics of a SMART goal, but are different in other ways.
  • Vision should be specific, or vivid. The more vivid you can make your vision the more you will be drawn toward it. What does the ideal future look/sound/smell/taste/feel like?
  • Vision is often more subjective, while goals should be objectively measurable. Visions do not have to be measurable as long as you can subjectively or qualitatively tell the difference between current reality and your vision of the ideal.
  • Vision can be farther from current reality than SMART goals and the nature of vision makes more distant realities attainable. Even if you cannot pre-plan a way to progress in a stepwise, orderly fashion toward a distant goal, so long as you can envision it, you can move yourself toward it.
  • Vision is usually open-ended instead of time-bound. In fact, you want to set your vision so far beyond your most distant reasonable SMART goals that you will never actually get there.
And that’s really the secret to vision – the closer you come to it, the less the cognitive tension driving you to improve. You want to lasso yourself to such a distant ideal that you will always have tension pulling you toward the ideal.
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"What just happened to me" aikido

Kid's judo with Gavin, Whit, Mason, Knox, and Emma
  • ROM, warmup, ukemi
  • skipping alternated with a spotter flipping the kids from their knees into a side breakfall
  • Crawfishing out of the Referee's position
  • osotogari into kesagatame
  • a randori-ish exercise where partners move around in a standard grip and any time they turn their side to tori they get osoto gari'd
Aikido with Kel
  • Tegatana emphasizing putting feet under center instead of center over feet.
  • Hanasu emphasizing getting the releasing feeling, or as Kel calls it, the "what the hell just happened to me?" feeling.
  • Standing kokyudosa as a way to start teaching randori.
  • randori

Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Tai chi for effect

Now this is interesting. This goes back to Formosa Neijia discussion of the reality of the no-touch energy effects which I commented on here. It also goes back to my Tai chi question from a few months ago about the hopping backward thing. This guy is getting much better effect (from what I can tell) than the magical dude in Dave's videos. This type of motion from uke is more like what I would figure involuntary motion would look like. It even resembles to a great degree the aikido offbalances I'm used to seeing - stuff I know you can't reproduce with strength. In fact, you can't even reproduce this quality of motion with a compliant, jumpy partner.

SMART failure

So, we've been talking about SMART goals. What do we do about goals that you fail to make?

Failing to make a goal is frustrating and can be discouraging but having a strategy to deal with setbacks gives hope. If you have a strategy then you have a systematic way of making your situation better. What if we use the SMART goal, itself, as a strategy for dealing with set-backs.

When you miss your goal, try to figure out if your original goal was lacking in one or more of the SMART goal qualities.
  • Could your goal have been more specific? Did you get into trouble because you didn’t define what you wanted to do specifically enough? Did you have trouble staying motivated because the goal was someone else’s and not yours?
  • Was your goal measurable? If not then there’s no way to know if you made it or not. Pick some variable that you want to change and operationalize it – that is, write down how you plan to increase or decrease the variable (how you will operate on it) and how you will measure it.
  • Was your goal challenging-but-attainable or was it simply too large a leap?
  • Was your goal based in reality or in fantasy?
  • Was your goal properly time-bound? If your goal was too long-term then you might try setting goals to make smaller changes in your operational variable over a shorter time period. If your goal was open-ended then go ahead and set yourself a finish line in time.
Re-set a SMARTer goal, and go again!
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Time-bound goals

The final criteria for a SMART goal is to make your goals time-bound. It does no good to make a goal that you can easily procrastinate on. With an open-ended goal you can always tell yourself, “I just haven’t accomplished that goal... yet...” and ‘yet’ can stretch on forever.
Not only should you set a time limit to accomplish your goal, but it may help to periodize your goal. That is, divide it into shorter-term goals. So, if your goal is to improve your diet and increase your fitness in order to drop 30 pounds in a year, then you might set a short-term goal of specific dietary changes to make during the first three months, followed by specific workout changes to make in the second three months, and so on…
So, remember, when setting goals, try to make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. That’s the SMART thing to do

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Missed class

Hey, Mokuren Dojo aikido folks,
I'm sorry if I missed y'all at class tonight. I had an oral surgery this afternoon and what I thought would be a 45 minute in-and-out became a 90 minute ordeal followed by a prolonged trip to WalMart to get the prescriptions filled. I actually feel fine (though still numb) and would have been up for class, but we just ran out of time.
We texted Kel and Rob to call off class but we didn't have Patrick M's or Jill's number in the phone that we had with us, so I hope y'all didn't trek out to Magnolia for nothing.
Hope to see y'all Thursday.

Realistic goals

In general, the advice to make realistic goals means you have to base your goals in reality instead of in fantasy - to work in probabilities instead of possibilities.
Specifically, it means to make goals that are actually within your control. Things that you have the ability and leverage to change. For instance, if I make the goal to “win my next judo tournament,” then this is not a SMART goal because it is not realistic. I am not the only one that makes the final decision as to whether or not I am the winner of the next tournament. My opponents have a say, the referees have a say, and fate/chance/Providence has a say in it. I simply don’t have the leverage to make that a realistic expectation.
On the other hand, If I identify uchimata as a weakness of mine that had something to do with me losing the last tournament, then I can do everything in my power to improve my uchimata and hope that that improvement carries over into the next tournament. My performance on a specific thing is something I can control to a great degree.
SMART, realistic goals are ones that you are in control of.
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Exclusive Interview: Ed Saenz

8th Degree Black Belt Ed Saenz got his start in martial arts in 1967 as a student of Chuck Norris. Mr. Saenz has spent his entire professional life in the martial arts and fitness business. In his current position as Directior of Operations for Mr. Norris’ KICKSTART program, Mr. Saenz is responsible for instructors, school operations and program development, overseeing more than 6,000 students and more than 40 black belt instructors in 38 programs in 34 middle schools, one high school and one elementary school in the Houston and Dallas areas. Mr. Saenz ability to translate the vision of KICKSTART into real terms is proven by the success of the program. He is a true example of the tenets of the martial arts and the commitment of those involved with KICKSTART.
Patrick Parker: I was familiar with Chuck Norris’ ‘Kick Drugs’ school programs from years ago. Could you tell us a little bit about the newer KICKSTART program?
Ed Saenz: I’ll start by telling you what Mr. Norris has to say in our web site on what KickStart the program is, what the mission and goals are and how the martial arts can accomplish this. The overall mission of KICKSTART is to change and save children’s lives. Resiliency is enhanced through the values and philosophies taught through the Martial Arts. Specific goals of the program are to encourage students to resolve conflict productively, avoid participating in gangs, choose drug-free lifestyles, and remain in high school until they graduate. Martial Arts training serve simply as the vehicle to instill the values and skills necessary to combat the drug and gang-related peer pressures. The core philosophy of Martial Arts stresses the vital importance of a healthy mind and body necessary to lead a productive life. The KICKSTART karate program replaces many missing elements of our students' lives including offering a role model, a figure of authority, a chance to set and reach goals, physical and mental conditioning and very importantly, a feeling of hope for the future and belief in themselves.
Houston and Galveston Independent School District studies show that drug and gang related peer pressure is the worst on the sixth grade level. The goal is to instill protective factors in these children, so that they will have the resiliency to combat these pressures. From Chuck Norris’ vast experience working with children through the Martial Arts, he is confident this program provides the necessary tools for these children.
On August 16, 1990, the Kick Drugs Out of America Foundation was formed in Washington, D.C. The Foundation received its 501(C)(3) status on March 1, 1991. The headquarters for the Foundation is located in Houston, Texas and also maintains an office in Dallas. Currently, the Foundation has a national board with Chuck Norris serving as Chairman, Houston and Dallas Advisory Boards, an Executive Director, a Director of Operations, two Community and School Relations individuals, a Business Manager and over forty Black Belt instructors. Funding permitting, the Foundation will be expanding on a continual basis. Beginning in 2003, in order to widen the focus of the anti-drugs aspect of the program, and to better represent the core values and philosophy of encouraging every child to lead a productive and healthy life, the Board decided to change the working name of Kick Drugs Out Of America to KICKSTART. The Foundation still maintains its official name as Kick Drugs Out of America Foundation, but now it has added a "dba" (doing business as) KICKSTART.
Patrick Parker: Some of my readers have told me that you were the most amazing martial artist that they’d ever gotten to personally work with. What do you think are your particular strengths as a martial artist and as a teacher of martial arts?
Ed Saenz: My experience and association with many respected martial artists such as Chuck Norris Howard Jackson, Pat Johnson, and John Natividad have allowed me to gain tremendous strength in both the knowledge and practice of the martial arts. I started in 1967 when I was 12 years old under a black belt named John Robertson, who was one of Chuck Norris’ earliest students. The experience of having Chuck Norris’ as my mentor has given me exposure to some of the best martial artist in the world and therefore allowed me to gain invaluable strength. In teaching the principals of the martial arts, I teach that a quality technique contains six components.
  • Posture
  • Lines of power
  • Methods of generating Power
  • Footwork
  • Timing
  • Focus
Using these six components I can identify to a student more clearly what is happening when a technique is being executed. It also allows me to layer a movement. This gives the student more control of his body when he is executing the technique. Instructors often tend to use the “Do it like this” method to teach. I feel that this method is not always teaching karate as much as showing karate. A student can be overwhelmed with all that is happening and not understand all that he needs to do and the timing of how it needs to be done.
Patrick Parker: What aspects of the martial arts (i.e. physical fitness, self-defense, self-improvement, competition, etc…) do you think you emphasize the most in your teaching?
Ed Saenz: I feel that physical fitness, self-improvement, self defense and competition are all equally important. I feel a Martial Artist should always be working on his physical, mental, and spiritual development. I feel that it is important to concentrate on three areas of practice: the art, the self-defense and the sport. In my opinion the three need to be kept in balance. I have found that when these three are out of balance you become too much of a martial art sport athlete, aggressive and disrespectful, or you have an unrealistic opinion of your skills and abilities. Keeping the three areas of practice in balance, gives a person more respect for others and the inner-strength to always be improving and staying on the path of being a true martial artist.
Patrick Parker: What was your first experience with martial arts that got you on this path?
Ed Saenz: My Dad saying to me and my brother, that he just enrolled the three of us in karate. I joke with everyone now that when I first started karate, I didn’t know I was allowed to quit, when your whole family is doing it with you. (Even though, I was the only one who went on to become a black belt)
Patrick Parker: What do you think most interests your students and keeps them coming to class?
Ed Saenz: Though my methods of teaching the martial arts, as I described above, they can actually do karate and though executing the martial arts they can be empowered to doing anything. It’s the empowerment of the martial arts that keeps students coming back.
Patrick Parker: Your involvement with KickStart appears to be a great example of a remarkably successful children’s program on a local (Houston and Dallas) scale. What do you think has to happen to have a successful local grassroots children's program?
Ed Saenz: A successful program is one that meets the needs of both the parent and child. “Most” parents are not interested in having the toughest or strongest child, but are interested in ensuring their children are provided with the best education and discipline in order for their child to someday become a strong and confident adult. They want a good and safe program that supplements their personal values and goals for their child’s life. Parents want a program that will build a “winners attitude” for life, not just for sport.
What most children want is a program that is both fun and safe, safe both physically and emotionally. Where it is just as safe to fail, as it is to succeed, where the compliments and encouragement is real not just rah, rah or worst of all hurtful. Children’s programs should have a structured method of teaching to develop the skills necessary to execute correct movements and techniques. Everyone should have the same opportunities to feel the empowerment of being successful at doing martial arts, not just the physically talented and gifted. There also needs to be additional programs, where if the child is physically talented they will still have challenges and not get bored and disappointed with their instructor and fellow students. A school needs to have children’s classes set up by levels (Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced classes) so that material can be layered and your intensity expectations can be taught to each level of maturity. Most of all children want instructors who are fun and exciting, who care about them, and who are proud of each and every one of their students.
Patrick Parker: How have the martial arts with which you’ve been involved changed over the course of your involvement?
Ed Saenz: When I started martial arts back in the sixties, there weren’t that many schools like there are now. Now there seems to be one on every corner and a person can get involved with just about any type or style of combat art you can think of. Because of that, schools are becoming more diverse in what they are teaching. This isn’t really anything new; it’s just that during the seventies, eighties and nineties sport karate was so popular that a lot of martial art school taught only a sport style of their martial art, now with the MMA being so popular everyone is returning to the cross training of the martial arts again.
Patrick Parker: Mr. Norris in his autobiographies talks about doing judo when he was younger and working out in some Brazilian Jiujitsu later on. Have you gotten much chance to cross-train in different martial arts? How important do you think it is to cross-train.
Ed Saenz: At Mr. Norris’ yearly convention for his martial art of Chun Kuk Do we are always bringing in the top martial artist of the world to present their styles and concepts. In years pass we have had Gene LeBell, Carlos Machado, Frank Shamrock, Fumio Demura, Wally Jay, Richard Norton, Neil Adams and Geoff Thompson to name just a few. We have also brought in David Meyers and John Wills to set up a curriculum up to the blue belt rank in the art of Machado Jiu-jitsu. So as you can see, Mr. Norris and all his instructors and students, definitely believe in the need to cross-train in all the difference skills for self-defense and combat. Mr. Norris style of Chun Kuk Do means The Universal Way.
Patrick Parker: What does the future of these particular martial arts look like to you?
Ed Saenz: In my opinion everything goes in cycles; self-defense, sports and self-improvement. I believe schools that teach being a martial artist will always be around and will always be sought after, as compared to those who teach doing martial arts. I feel that these schools tend to come and go with the latest trend or sport.
Patrick Parker: Over the course of your career in martial arts, who were the 1-2 most amazing martial artists that you ever got to personally work with? What made them so great?
Ed Saenz: The most amazing martial artist I have ever personally worked with is Chuck Norris. First, as a competitor he was the best of his era. Second, as a teacher, he always stayed a student of the martial arts and what he learned he shared. Third, as a person, he is a very giving and caring person. He is one of a few martial art champions who probably have given back just as much to the martial arts community as he has received.

Ed, I have thoroughly enjoyed talking with you today. Your great attitude and obvious commitment to using martial arts to help kids is inspirational. You have given us all a great gift in this interview. Thank you.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Naked choke

After posting on jigokujime (the hell strangle) and after Steve posted koshijime (hipchoke or clock choke), I figured I'd go back and pick up hadakajime (the naked choke). This is a pretty decent video of the basic forms of the thing. I figured Steve would enjoy the last variation shown on this vid.
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Attainable goals

We've all heard the stories about folks paralyzed in accidents who, despite all odds, regained use of their legs.
Well, I knew a guy several years ago that got his neck broken in a street fight. His legs and lower abs were paralyzed but he retained use of his arms, lungs, and upper abs. He was remarkably lucky to have that sort of function. His therapists set goals for him to strengthen his arms, shoulders, back, and abs, to improve bed mobility and independent transfers to and from from his wheelchair, and to be able to drive his manual wheel chair himself. Those were his therapists' goals for him but his personal goal was to walk again. He didn't care that the doctors told him he could never walk again. He didn't focus on the positive things that he still had going for him. He was fixated on walking.
One day he came into the clinic and told his therapist, "Look Doc, I can move my legs!" The therapists watched, incredulous but interested, as he sat on a mat table and, using his hand he picked up his leg and dropped it and it bounced several times and quivered. His therapists had to tell him, "Sorry, what you just saw was a muscle reflex caused by stretching your leg muscles suddenly." He wouldn't hear it. He was sure that since he could induce some reflex motion in that leg, then he could relearn to walk. "Sorry," the therapists had to tell him again. "But there is no communication going on between your legs and your brain. You cannot re-teach your brain to control your legs when the wiring between them is destroyed."
This guy never did very good on the goals that the therapists had set for him because he was focused on an un-attainable goal. His therapists, being pros, had set him realistic, attainable goals but he mostly wasted his time in rehab half-heartedly doing the exercises and fantasizing about walking. He would have done just as much good setting a goal to grow wings and learn to fly.
When you are setting goals, you want to make sure your goals are attainable. Sure, you don't want to settle for mediocrity, but you also don't want to set goals that are simply impossible to fulfil because that is a waste of your time and a recipe for frustration and disapointment. So, aim high, but don't bet on a miracle.
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Measurable operational goals

The second part of the SMART acronym for good goalmaking is Measurable. Your objective should be objectively measurable or else you will never know if reach your goal or not. If your goal is tied to a subjective measure you still won't know if you reach your goal or not. For instance, if your goal is to "get better" then your feeling of advancement will subjectively vary from day to day or even hour-to-hour. A better goal would be, "I will compete in two tournaments in 2008." This way, at the end of 2008 you will be able to absolutely figure out if you did or didn't achieve the goal.
Some people call this an operational variable. That is, you define something you want to change (a variable) in terms of the operations that can be made upon that variable. Operations that you can make on a variable basically include increasing it, decreasing it, and measuring it. So, it is a good idea when you are setting up a goal (to change some variable), give some thought as to how you will try to change that variable and how you will measure the change in that variable.
In the end, this piece of advice from the business world applies:
"If you can't measure it, you can't control it."
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Making specific goals helps you 'know thyself'

I wrote about SMART goals a while back. Good goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. What does it mean for a goal to be specific? It does not simply mean precisely stated and detailed, but it also means that the goal must be specific to you and your motivations – not someone else’s goal.
Ask yourself, “Why do I want to achieve this?”
Then ask yourself, “Why does that matter to me?”
Then ask yourself, “So what?”
Keep asking “why” or “so what,” drilling down into your motivations for your goals. When you get to the point that you can’t answer “why” or “so what” anymore because you just stammer around and can only come up with something like, “well… just because…” you have dug as deep as possible into your motivations. You are working at the level of worldview or presuppositions about how the world works. To know thy presuppositions is to know thyself. Take the following dialog as an example...

Socrates: What do you want to accomplish this year, dear friend Ursus?

Ursus: I want to get better at judo.

Socrates: What do you mean, “better?”

Ursus: Well, I want to get better at newaza.

Socrates: Why?

Ursus: Because Rhadi told me that more and more judo guys are studying BJJ to get better ground game.

Socrates: So what?

Ursus: So I want to be able to use Rhadi’s strategies that he taught me to take matches to the ground and win.

Socrates: Why?

Ursus: Because I want to win.

Socrates: Why?

Ursus: Because that makes me the best.

Socrates: So what?

Ursus: So I want to be a winner.

Socrates: Why?

Ursus: Well… because... I just like to win. I think it's fun.

Socrates: Well, it sounds like you know yourself, Ursus. You know, some Chinese guy I met at a philosophy convention told me “know thyself and know thy enemy and you won’t be defeated in a thousand battles,” or something like that…


Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Crazy world

It's a crazy world. Ronda Rousey, one of our US Olympic hopefuls, was attacked by 8 people at a theater a couple of days ago. She managed to defend herself and extract herself and her friends from the situation without even using her superhuman judo skills... and now one of her assailants is threatening to try to ruin her career over this fight. Good grief!
You know, there's really a pretty good lesson or two buried in here and related to fighting vs. de-escalation. A pretty good discussion of this is in the makings in the comments below and for further reading, check out...
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is also related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Performance enhancing drugs

Just a quick thought that I had recently. A hint to competitors out there considering steroid use, blood doping, ergogenic drugs, etc...
People don’t want to see a contest of whose drug is better – otherwise there would be a pharmacokinetics section in the newspaper instead of a sports section. People want to see endurance and the possibility of an underdog doing something phenomenal in the face of adversity. That is what sport is all about anyway.
So, if you don’t think you will stand a chance without using steroids because everybody else seems to be doing it, don’t bother. If you have to resort to doping to even the odds then you’ll be an even bigger loser no matter the outcome of the match.
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