Friday, February 29, 2008

Class cancellation

No aikido class tomorrow, March 1, 2008. I have a Boy Scout thing to go to with Whit. I'll hope to see y'all Tuesday at either the 5:00am or 6:30pm classes.
You know what would be neat, in a sort of weird, gruesome way? If we could clone ourselves, let the clones run autonomously (i.e. go places with our kids), then grind up the clone's brain and drink it and get its memories sorta like a flatworm that is ground up and fed to another flatworm gives its memories to the eater. That way we could have some extra help with this parenting thing but we wouldn't miss out on the kids' childhoods like we would if we had a house-load of anthropomorphic android servants...
Just thinking. I'm sure thoughts like that run through your mind all the time, just like me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday aikido

We had no 5AM class this morning - Rob had a test to study for.
Kid's judo with Gavin, Whit, Mason, and Emma
  • Warmup, ukemi, spider-crawling alternated with big falls (teguruma) with a spotter
  • Osotogari uchikomi "by the numbers" sets of theee throwing on the last rep and trading partners. Whit was doing especially good on the osotogari, and hammered Gavin once. Gavin tried to whine about it but then started laughing.
  • Osotogari into kesagatame
  • Uphill escape from kesagatame. Mason was majorly out-doing the others on this escape with an excellent bridging action.
  • Crawling man

Aiki with Rick
  • tegatana emphasizing balls of the feet and short, conservative steps.
  • hanasu #1-4 emphasizing the feeling of release.
  • partner evasion exercises using release motions to evase and brush off lunges.
  • suwari kokyuho (kneeling freeform pushing exercise)

Arm drag into sumigaeshi

Here's a good instructional on one way to set up sumigaeshi (the move I threw for ippon last Saturday)...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ju no kata

This is a film of Kano (I think, and perhaps Yamashita?) doing Junokata, considered by some to be the most advanced conceptual kata in the Kodokan syllabus, "the kata of the principle of Ju". Junokata bears little resemblance to much of judo that you see today. In fact it looks pretty alien in a lot of ways from a lot of perspectives. What do y'all make of this thing?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

First mokuren blossom of the season

PM Aiki

Aiki with Kel and Mytchi
  • tegatana emphasizing falling during the first half of the step and pulling with the front leg in the second half.
  • hanasu #1-4 emphasizing releasing feeling and "stay off me" hands
  • chain #3 emphasizing synch and brush-off in kotemawashi oshitaoshi, hikitaoshi, and udehineri.
  • review of shomenate and aigamaeate

5 AM Aikido

Aiki with Rob
  • tegatana, hanasu (#1,3,5,7 are much improved. Work on centering on #2 and #6.)
  • chain #2
  • Sankata #1-16

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Holy Grail

Over the past year, the specific techniques that folks have searched for the most, leading them to my blog, have included:
That makes this set of techniques sort of a Rogue's Gallery or a Holy Grail for aikido and judo technique. To me, that tells you a little bit about your potential enemies (Sun Tzu says to know thy enemy and know thyself and you won't know defeat in 1000 battles). If they know any grappling techniques, you can bet they will know these.
I think it’s interesting to know what is on the collective mind of the grappling part of the martial arts world.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some raw thoughts

Some things from my notes that I've been thinking about lately - unfinished, unpolished, but perhaps interesting. It appears that there are only about four kinds of footwork – the opponent can:
  • scoot toward me
  • scoot away from me
  • step toward me
  • step away from me
If he tries to sidestep or circle and I open or close the distance between us then he reverts to those previous four.

In self-defense, only "toward me" motion matters. He can't really hurt me running away from me (disregarding weapons) and if I hit him when he is going away it is probably not self-defense, it is probably pre-emptive or revenge.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thank y'all

I want to take this opportunity to thank, from the bottom of my heart, Sensei Jeff Miller and Sensei Dave Shorey of Acadian Judo for offering such a wonderful training experience this weekend. I also want to especially thank my honorable opponent, whose name I missed, but who gave me a great match and a good lesson today.
Today I participated in a USJA judo referee clinic and mock shiai at Acadian Judo. By the end of the ref training it was apparent to me that there was no way I was going to get in the ring as a referee, so I jumped into the competitor pool. There were only two people in my weight division and they were beginners, so Dave, who was arranging the pairings coaxed one of the referees into giving me a match. It was my first match with real-shiai, non-gentleman's rules in about 12 or 13 years.
My opponent was younger and larger than me, though I outranked him considerably. He was quite solid too. The first half of the match I was blind - I don't have a clue what was happening, but somehow I ended up with a koka (minor score) over the other guy - God only knows what I did to get that. Then I started calming down and prodding him and probing with deashibarai. I didn't get a score, but he got a shido (minor penalty) for noncombativity. Then at literally the last second I threw a sumigaeshi (sacrifice throw) as a counter to his infernal leg picks that he kept throwing on me (we'd previously spent half the time grounded after a leg pick with him lying prone and me trying to turn him over but the ref got bored and stood us up). Anyway, I got an ippon (full point) off of the sumigaeshi and won the match.
The lesson I learned... The guy appeared to be afraid of me going into the match. Not like quivering or un-manly or shameful fear or anything, but he seemed to be taking into consideration the difference in rank, as if expecting me to bust him or something - and it put him on the defensive. Can't really fault him, out of the blue he was thrown into the ring with a black belt that he didn't know. The lesson I (re)learned - it is really hard and really exhausting to attack a defensive man your size or larger for several minutes. Besides the excellent lesson, I got a cracked or strained rib (I think he speared me in the ribs with his head and the ref missed it but I'm not sure) - but that's what I get - you've got to pay to play.
I had a great time and I hope to be able to play at another of these events March 15th in Denham Springs at Wall to Wall Martial Arts. Between now and then I hope to work on a few of Rhadi's strategic tips on his Judo Success Secrets DVD and perhaps I can control my next match better.
Again, thank y'all

Friday, February 22, 2008

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The blogging masters at the top of the Toplist (the Best of the Best) tend to link to more often than the lower-ranked blogs. For instance, of the top 10-ranked blogs, 50% link to, but of the 10 lowest-ranked blogs... you guessed it! None of them link to
I'm letting you in on this highly efficacious secret knowledge because I like you and I want you to succeed. Now it's up to you to add a link to! Do it today!

Carnival at BBM's

Black Belt Mama has posted the most recent edition of Carnival of Martial Arts Blogs on her blog. You'll want to go check it out because it links to several good reviews for interesting martial arts books.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Evening aikido

Aiki with Kel and Rick
  • Tegatana
  • Hanasu #1 and #2
  • Chain #2 emphasizing moving the butt so that the hands work correctly without articulating the wrists or elbows.
  • several variants of maeotoshi as "cool ninja technique of the day"

A helpful handful: 5 ways to improve your suwariwaza

One of the characteristic things about aikido is the practice of working with techniques in which both partners are kneeling (suwariwaza) or with the defender kneeling and the attacker standing (hammi handachi). This makes movement more difficult and offers very direct examples of various principles with generally low-amplitude falls. It also makes your hips and legs stronger and more flexible. This handful of helpful hints is about the practice of suwariwaza as a whole rather than being about one particular technique.
  • Watch Doshu in the above video to understand the awesome potential for kneeling movement (starting at about 2 minutes). You usually think of kneeling as being less mobile, but this is a remarkable example of mobility and flow. This is also a good demo of suwari.

  • To get better at doing aikido on your knees, play with both structured techniques (suwariwaza) and freeform pushing (kokyuho). Play with throwing into a pin as opposed to continuous throwing (juntai).

  • Do groundwork randori (judo or BJJ rules) at different intensities all the way from scratching-and-scrambling anaerobic newaza randori to light-and-compliant flow. Skill in standing work (tachiwaza) and ground work (newaza) both carry over into skill in suwariwaza.

  • Suwariwaza is a good opportunity to play with the Kito principle. Define an acceptable level of effort in your mind and gauge every push against that standard. If you can’t effect the technique with less than that level of force then try something something else at 90 or 180 degrees to that initial force. I like to think of this as “pinging” uke and then using arms as “feelers” to gauge the resistance. A good example of this is kneeling shoulder-push sumiotoshi paired with a “Japanese pass” arm snapdown onto uke’s belly.

  • If you are doing your structured suwariwaza practice using the Tomiki kata set, don’t forget katamenokata and especially kimenokata from judo. These are different ways of doing the same things and the things in kimenokata back up the suwariwaza in Sankata (for instance) very well.

Morning aikido

Aikido with Rob
  • Tegatana
  • Shichihon no kuzushi
  • Yonkata part B - Shichihon ura (responses for Shichihon gone bad)
  • Sankata suwariwaza 1-3 and tachiwaza 9-16

We will begin next week doing Tuesday 5:00 am classes in addition to our now-regular Thursday mornings.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another quickie question

Y'all have enjoyed and responded well to my last couple of quickie questions, so here's another for you. Actually two questions - or perhaps a two-part question...
What portion of the knowledge in your system is transmitted by structured form/kata/drills as opposed to free sparring/randori/pushhands - and how much structured form practice do you think must come before free sparring/randori for optimal training?
Plese jump in and leave a comment with your opinion...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The return of Rick

Aikido with Patrick M., Kel, and Rick
  • Welcome back, Rick, an old head that hasn't been able to work out with us lately. We're stoked about his return and are looking forward to working out and having fun learning a lot.
  • Warmup, tegatana
  • partner evasion exercises - the aiki brushoff.
  • hanasu#1 - the first wrist release - emphasizing the release feel and synchronization and finding a good time to brush off.
  • randori off of release#1
  • fast-direct oshitaoshi (ikkyo omote) as cool-technique of the day.

It's time to protect yourself...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Observation time

We frequently hear cited the “observer effect” in research discussions. This is the idea that you cannot observe something without changing it. Why is that?
Well, among other reasons, it just takes a discrete amount of time to observe something and turn that observation into usable information. If most folks take about 2/10 of a second to make the simplest of observation-reactions, by the time you have observed it, it has changed.
In the case of a human taking one step at a reasonable average speed of about 3 feet/sec then during the 2/10 sec that it takes just to see them moving and realize you’ve seen it, the moving center of mass has moved greater than 7 inches. If the observer is in motion too, the change could be as much as 14 inches in 2/10 of a second.
This has some dramatic implications for self-defense:
  • By intelligently synchronizing your motion with that of the opponent, you can cut the chaos and imprecision in the system by as much as half (e.g. from 14 inches to 7 inches in our example above). A 2X increase in precision is a big deal!

  • If you don’t move as he crosses ma-ai then he’ll be greater than 7 inches closer than you thought by the time you see him coming – and that’s just observation-orientation time. It takes much more time to plan a response and get your body into motion.

  • If you see an opening, it’s already too late to attack it because by the time you get there everything will be at least 7 inches different than it was when you made your plan. There’s a famous story (maybe apocryphal) that Joe Lewis retired when he realized he was seeing openings before he hit them because that’s when he knew he was getting too slow. He was still at the top of his game, but it freaked him out too much to realize that he’d never actually seen an opening before – he just hit where the opening was going to be.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New green belt

Aiki with Kel
  • Warmup, ukemi
  • Green belt demo for Kel: tegatana, hanasu, Nijusan #1-5. Good job on all of it. Gedanate needs work (but mine does too). Remember same-hand-same-foot on the releases. Work on turning your whole body (i.e. your back hip and shoulder into the pushes during tegatana.
  • One run-through of Shichihon to refresh the order
  • Chain #2, including kotetaoshi and gyakugamae ate
  • Randori for the rest of class

Friday, February 15, 2008

Judo by the numbers

Kid's judo with Gavin, Whit, Mason, Knox, Emma, and Quin.
  • warmup, ukemi
  • osotogari by the numbers: 1) stand next to uke, 2) stretch your leg out behind him, 3) sweep the leg. Worked pretty good with this crowd.
  • kesagatame, again, by the numbers: 1) knee on the ground, 2) wrap the arm, 3) sit on your butt, 4)hold the head. Again, worked pretty good.
  • uphill escape from kesagatame - no counting this time. worked pretty good except they had a hard time extracting the trapped arm, so I had them step over and pull uke to his back for a pin. This was good for a lot of grunting and groaning and energy expendature. Lots of fun. I even had kids where they would volunteer to be on the bottom of the hold-down.


Mrs. Red, Here are the links to the video I told you about. They sure are having a load of fun:

Goodbye and good riddance

The following article from the Yomiuri Shimbun is creating some ripples in the Judo world...
(Feb. 15, 2008)
PARIS--The International Judo Federation will consider a proposal to eliminate the koka from the scoring system, while also making a wrestling-like tackle illegal, it was learned Wednesday.

The federation will propose at its executive council meeting on March 6 that the koka, the lowest of the four levels of scoring, be eliminated, with the new rule possibly coming into effect in time for the Beijing Olympics.
Currently, there are four levels of scoring--koka, yuko, waza-ari and ippon--depending on what part of the body hits the mat when thrown by an opponent. But there is no firm criteria for distinguishing between them.

By eliminating the koka, it is believed that judges will be able to demarcate the differences better.
Japan, which emphasizes traditional judo with its big throws, has recently been hard-pressed to match the European style of building up points with small techniques such as the wrestling tackle.
Under the proposed rule, the competitor will no longer be able to execute such a move without first grabbing the opponent's uniform.
In addition, a judges' decision will again be used to break ties. If all three are in agreement, the match will end; if not, then the match will continue in a sudden-death overtime format.

While Japan welcomes the rule changes, some officials expressed concern that this summer's Olympics may be too soon to introduce them.
As for me, I say, "goodbye, koka, good riddance, and the sooner the better!" It is sufficient to promote excellence to have a 3-level, "good, better, best" scoring system and it is certainly easier to judge. I have never been able to reliably tell the difference between a koka and a yuko anyway and it doesn't do anyone any good to reward "clumsy throws" with a koka.
Maybe while they are at it, they can tell the referrees to not call ippon for half-hearted throws onto uke's side. Referrees used to be more stringent in their interpretation of the ippon ("hard and fast, on the back, with control") now in many tournaments I see, it seems like anything that doesn't land uke on his feet gets called an ippon.
I think the illegalization of the double leg is unnecessary and probably not a good thing. And more gripping rules are almost sure to make Judo a more marginal, more ridiculous thing. IMO, judo is not supposed to be just jacket wrestling.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A helpful handful: 5 ways to improve your aikinage

This is really the thing that aikikai guys call iriminage. Here are a handful of things that I've played with on this technique.
  • This technique contains two tenkan motions and sorta describes a yin-yang shape on the floor. Either of the tenkan motions might cause uke to fall. In fact, in aiki demos you often tori throw uke facefirst into the ground and uke pops back up as tori switches directions and clobbers uke.
  • Think of the hook around the head as a feeler instead of an end-effector. If you pull hard with the head-hand then you can spoil the technique and give uke stability.
  • Try throwing with a tenkan motion back into the front of uke's hips instead of a clothesline.
  • Try throwing with a palm to the face, like aigamaeate. This is a much better small-tori technique than the clothesline.
  • This can be thrown as a hip throw.

Another 25 degree, 5am aikido session

Wow, Cool class! Cold even. When I got down to the dojo it was 25 degrees and one of the windows was open! Needless to say it was sweats and shoes aiki today.
Aiki with Rob
  • Shichihon no kuzushi
  • chain #1 emphasizing whole-body motion, stepping to release, and the hand trades in the gaeshi-hineri loop. udehineri was working especially well today. Rob's dominant left side was not as coordinated as his non-dominant side today - interesting.
  • various ryotedori and ushirodori from the koryunokata - these things seem to make tori more slippery and harder to hold onto.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Marital arts

No class tomorrow night - Valentine's Day - 2/14/2008. I have a hot date with my wife. So, stay home and practice marital arts instead of martial arts. Be a lover - not a fighter. Give peace a chance and I'll see y'all at the next class.

Yesterday and tomorrow

Aiki with Kel (yesterday)
  • Tegatana emphasizing whole body motion like in the Chinese exhortation to "consider the palm as the center."
  • Shichihon
  • Chain #4, including the gaeshi-hineri loop and the left-right loop
  • Chain #8 - ushiroate
  • Rokukata tentai maeotoshi

Tomorrow: 5:00am workout with Rob

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hanasu vs. shichihon

Lately, we’ve been working on Hanasu– the wrist releases – in greater detail, trying to really get that ‘releasing’ feeling. We’ve all been doing great, and I’ve been tweaking little details, “This time do it this way… Good, but think about this… What if we try it like this…” and then I realized that I was bringing elements into Hanasu that we usually practice in the other fundamental release kata, Shichihon no kuzushi (the 7 fundamentals of offbalance). So, what is the difference between Hanasu and Shichihon?
Superficially, Hanasu includes eight techniques and Shichihon contains seven. Looking a little deeper, Hanasu includes four releases and four backup ideas in case those first four go in an unexpected direction. Shichihon repeats those first four releases from Hanasu, with a different emphasis, and adds three new releases.
What is the different emphasis? Hanasu is mostly about evasion, blending, and synchronization, while Shichihon is more about timing and direction and extension of specific offbalances. It is possible to do either kata emphasizing any of the ideals from either exercise, but in normal practice, each has its own set of things that it teaches. Each of these two exercises contains a different piece of the puzzle. The pieces of the puzzle begin being put together in the chains, where we evade, blend, synch, and watch for proper times and directions to extend uke into weakness.
So why the different emphasis in Shichihon? Because of the first two new releases being inside you don’t have the safety margin like you do on the outside releases so you have to do something (kuzushi) to slow uke down and sap some of his potential while you are releasing. The rest of the kata is a timing progression. That is, the first 2 techniques are timed off of the first footfall, the next two are timed off of the second footfall, the next two are timed off of the third footfall, and the 7th technique is just plain too late.
We used to spend the first 1-2 years of our practice working almost exclusively with the releases in Hanasu, then we would practice the releases in Shichihon but in less detail. Since about Y2K, practicing the chains has brought some of these higher-level ideas back into the kyu ranks, but I want to start doing a little more work on the Shichihon ideas.
We are going to be alternating the release kata that we use for warmup – one class we’ll warmup with Hanasu (emphasizing evasion and blending and synch) and the next class Shichihon (emphasizing timing and direction and extension). We should be able to see pretty soon if this will help us to move toward that vague, elusive ideal ‘release’ feeling in more of our motions and techniques.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Interested in Kids' Judo classes at Mokuren?

I know there will be some folks stopping by here looking for more information because I had a poster presentation at the regional Homeschoolers' Association meeting tonight, so here's the scoop: I teach kids' judo classes.
Judo is a Japanese martial art that emphasizes throwing and grappling. Kids love judo because most all kids love to roll around on the ground and wrestle. Look here for some great video of some kids having a blast in our class. Judo is also a competitive sport and you will be seeing some great Olympic judo this summer. As both a traditional martial art and sport, judo offers a great opportunity for fun, fitness, discipline, and defense.
At our training hall, we're running it as a seasonal sport in which we take the hottest months of the summer off, so the season lasts from September to April. We have classes once a week and club tournaments once a month. I am in a fairly unique position in the martial arts world, such that I can offer high-quality instruction in a family-friendly atmosphere for very low cost (roughly 1/3 the cost of the local competition).
Right now we're in the middle of the 2007-2008 season, so we're not starting beginners right now, but classes are forming right now for the 2008-2009 season to begin in the Fall. Class sizes will be limited, so if you think it sounds like fun, click on my photo at the bottom of this page and send me an e-mail to get more info or to reserve your child a spot.
If you have friends here in Southwest Mississippi that might be interested, then please forward them an email suggesting they check us out.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another question for y'all

A lot of you seem to have enjoyed the last time that I just posed a short, direct question and let you run with it, so here's another one. What do y'all make of this (paraphrased) quote from a highly-ranked instructor I met a few times ...

“I don’t give a d___ if the student ever consciously understands what I am teaching. My job is to reprogram the student’s subconscious mind to make appropriate defensive reactions to attacks.”

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Everything's eventual

Whit is right at the proper age (7) to start asking the really tough questions - and he is precocious. Today we watched the A&E Biography of Anne Frank as part of his homeschooling and he asked, "Mom, are there ever going to be any more wars here in America?"
Her response, "We hope not, but everything's eventual."
Makes me thankful for the right to keep and bear arms. Makes me thankful for a mostly democratic, mostly upright political system (though Dojo Rat has warned us to watch out for the abridgement of those rights).
Makes me wonder just what is going on in Whit's head.

Mokuren Dojo Yudanshakai

The following are the names of the students and instructors who have either earned black belts at Mokuren Dojo or who have trained with us for so long that I think they belong here..
  • Patrick Parker (6d aiki, 5d judo)
  • Mike Belote (5d karate)
  • Vincent Fernando (5d karate, 3d judo)
  • Greg Jefferson (3d karate)
  • Jamie Allen (2d aiki, 1d judo)
  • Brian Biggs (2d karate, 1d aiki)
  • Patrick McKlemurry (2d karate, 1d aiki)
  • Rob Belote (1d aiki, 1d judo, 1d karate)
  • Kim Venable (1d aiki, 1d judo)
  • Bryce Lumpkin (1d aiki, 1d judo)
  • Chad Morrison (3d judo)
  • Jennifer Biggs (1d karate)
  • Sam Brown (1d aiki)
  • John Wood (2d aiki, 1d judo)
  • Kel Feind (2d aiki)
  • Mario Melendez (3d aiki, 2d judo, 3d karate)
  • Andy Sims (1d aiki)
  • Jason Fortinberry (1d judo)
  • Todd Pierson (1d aiki)
Congratulations!  What you have achieved is remarkable!  Perhaps only one in a thousand students ever make it to yudansha rank.  But before you get the big head about your awesome accomplishment, check out the following reminders about the nature of the game we are involved in...

Want to earn your place on the list? Contact me at
If you got your black belt here at Mokuren Dojo and I left your name off or got your rank wrong - that's my forgetfulness. Call or email me and I'll get it fixed.

A helpful handful: 5 ways to improve your ude hineri

A.K.A. kaitennage in aikikai, A.K.A. udegarame in judo. A.K.A. hammerlock in wrestling. A.K.A. Kimura in BJJ. This is a pretty universal arm-twisting technique found in most all martial arts. Here are a handful of hints that have helped me in my practice.

  • Put the free hand on his back and coil the moving arm around it. This is the simplest way of getting this lock when you're in motion without twisting and fighting and snaking your arm around his.

  • You might slip out of the way as uke comes at you and throw it as kaitennage. I like to do this one pushing forward through uke in an otoshi motion instead of rotating the shoulder toward the head. This prevents those pesky double-jointed people from screwing up your kaitennage.

  • This technique is nice and safe when the locked arm is bound to uke’s side, but as you get uke’s arm away from his body tori gets more and more mechanical advantage on the rotator cuff. Be extra careful when practicing this one – uke, don’t think you can resist in this position - go with it and take the roll/fall.

  • An interesting variation is to set the udehineri, then sit on uke’s near foot, hooking his thigh and throwing with a wrong-side sumigaeshi or elevator-like technique. Roll with uke and end up on top with a Kimura. Again – scary and dangerous – but a good backup if the attacker runs over you and you can’t get out of the way for kaitennage.

  • Hikitaoshi gone bad tends to lead to udehineri, which often ends up in kotegaeshi if it goes bad.

Cool ushirodori day

Aiki with Kel
  • tegatana, hanasu
  • Hanasu from wrist-twists as a lead-in to randori. We did randori for a good while, working on the idea of walking out of wrist binds, staying centered on the opponent, and covering hands.
  • Kel wanted to work on backfalls, so we repped hanasu #2,4,6,8 into backfalls emphasizing upward extension to unhook the guy from the ground and slow him down.
  • Rokukata ushiro tentainage and a bunch of various ushirodori like it including maeotoshi, kotegaeshi, tentainage, and shichihon#7.

February kohaku shiai

Today was our monthly club tourney. Everyone did well but we mixed things up a little by changing the lineup. We added the rule that the winner from last month moves up 1-2 places to the heavier end of the lineup, handicaping him more and disrupting some of the advantage the guy in the middle of the line has. We also added a time limit to crawling man, so you only have to immobilize the crawling man long enough to recite a sentence (Today's winning sentence was, "Honesty means always telling the truth.") This time limit prevents players from being ground to exhaustion but it also keeps them from resting on the bottom - they have to stay active and stay in motion or they lose faster.
Congratulations to month's shiai champions:
  • 1st place: Gavin Jarrell (8 wins)
  • 2nd place: (tie) Whit Parker and Emma Jarrell (4 wins)
  • 3rd place: Knox Parker (3 wins)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Nicely done aiki demo

Koryu no kata as aiki puzzles

Each technique is another clue in the puzzle. A jigsaw piece in the big picture that is aiki.
Clue to what? A clue to what is it that Tomiki was trying to communicate to us? A clue to the ri-ai, or the internal logic of the kata and to the system as a whole.
For instance, Sankata at first appears to be a huge, diverse pile of situational defense techniques preserved from older aikijitsu, but after playing a while it becomes apparent that you are working with varied distance conditions. Yonkata also looks like just a pile of techniques but it is obvious from the beginning that it has a different spirit to it than does Sankata. Yonkata is a wrist release kata, exploring seven ways to release a wrist-grab, seven things that happen when those releases screw up, and a pile of techniques that can occur from those situations. Rokukata is another wrist release kata, but has yet another spirit to it – one I can’t really express yet.
I like trying to figure out these puzzles.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Getting better at randori

Kids' judo with Gavin, Whit, Mason, Knox, Emma, Quin
  • warmup, ukemi
  • galloping, sidefalls rolling off of stacked mats (easy as falling off a log)
  • leg-lift shoulder-push turnover to munegatame
  • randori standing continuing into pins
  • kneeling kubiguruma

In this video, among other things, you see a couple of pretty good leg picks, an exceptional aiki-like counter to a leg pick, a demonstration of how to absolutely NOT do a leg pick, a pretty good uphill escape from munegatame, a good, vigorous turnover, and an impromptu technique for dealing with the poor guy who wants to crawl out of bounds away from you to stop the match... enjoy.

God help us - another school shooting

This happened this morning - a teacher's husband ran into her schoolroom and apparently stabbed and shot her to death in front of her students, then fled.

Los Angeles SWAT officer killed

This is a shame. A 27-year police veteran was shot and killed in the line of duty. This was the LA SWAT team's first fatality in their 40-year history. Let's pray for this officer's family, friends, and comrades - as well as those of the shooter and the other victims.

Early morning aikido

Aiki with Rob

Today was the beginning of our 5am aiki/judo mixed class. This morning was pretty cold and the mats were stacked so we did sweats and shoes aikido without the mats.

  • tegatana emphasizing pulling with the front foot and making the turns more stable and stronger.
  • hanasu working a lot on synchronization, stretching the step, direction of offbalance, and doing true releases so that uke can't reverse you.
  • Chains 1 and 3 as a demonstration of how these release ideas come together into techniques.
  • shomenate (junana and nijusan versions as two ends of a spectrum)
  • Plus I got some jodo solo work done. Saw a neat thing on #7 and #8. Hard to put into words right now, but might improve #8 some.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A question for y'all...

When you go to a practice session of your martial art, which do you want more - a great workout or a great lesson?
I realize both are necessary, but which do you prefer in your normal practices?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cool rokukata tentainage

Aiki with Patrick M. and Kel
  • tegatana emphasizing turning the hips/body with the leg to develop a powerful position and keep the knee safe.
  • hanasu segue into chain #2 but starting chain #2 from the wrong side (i.e. like shomenate or yonkata #1). This also got us off onto a tangent of how to use uke's motion and mass to get tori out of a corner or off of a wall and reverse positions.
  • nijusan #1-5 (Kel's rank requirement)
  • rokukata tentainage (this thing worked like a charm! Even wrong-sided! Even against really strong opponents! Even against really light opponents! Man this thing was cool!)

Cheat notes in jodo

Here's a hint that has helped me in my jodo a good bit. Mark up your practice jo and bokken with a black Sharpie so that you will have significant reference marks. I thought about using marking tape so that I'd have a tactile as well as visual reference, but I figured the tape would rapidly wear off, leaving the jo gummy. Here's how I marked mine:
For the bokken, first find the center of mass of the weapon by balancing it on one finger. Place a mark on the flat back edge right at the center of mass. It doesn't have to be conspicuous to others, but it should be highly visible to the swordsman holding the bokken. Then hold the tip end of the bokken in one closed fist and make a second mark on the back edge that is one palm-width from the tip. This marks the cutting surface (the last 3 inches) as well as marking the point to cross sword and jo to measure ma-ai. The center-of mass mark serves mostly as a reference point for your subconscious to make note of relative positions every time the jo and sword meet during a technique.
For the jo, make a mark at the center of mass just as above. Then hold the jo in a proper honte grip and make a mark at the point that your front index finger and thumb rest on the jo. Do this on both ends. Finally, make a mark one palm-width from the end of the jo on both ends.
These marks will be valuable references during kihon in getting your grips precisely correct, they will help you develop a more precise understanding of ma-ai distance, and they will serve as positional references for all the techniques.

A helpful handful: 5 ways to improve your kubiguruma

The first of the 'black belt techniques' in our syllabus, kubiguruma exemplifies a new type of motion not seen in the previous fundamentals kata. Following are five faithful pointers that have helped me.
  • Anything named guruma in this system is done with a slightly later timing that things named otoshi. Otoshi happens right as uke steps down onto a foot but guruma happens an instant later as uke tries to rise from the preceding otoshi.
  • Guruma is also a spinning action whereas otoshi is a straight action. Define an axis from the crown of the head through the center of mass to the lead foot and turn uke around this vertical axis.
  • Try this as a followup to the second movement in yonkata – the inside gyakugamae release. Bump the wrist as uke steps down with the front foot then, holding the wrist and the neck, back around drawing uke down a line perpendicular to his stance line.
  • If you can only get a partial guruma action around that vertical axis, but can’t get uke to fall, osotogari makes a great backup technique. Do the guruma then pull in and clip the leg. Osotogari is roughly equivalent to aikikai’s tenchinage, so tenchinage also pops up in this situation a lot.
  • Guruma is a very versatile action. You can try this thing with uke leaping/punching at tori, with uke grabbing one wrist (gyakugamae posture) or from a two-wrist grab.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I'm speechless...

A helpful handful: 5 ways to iprove your gedanate

Here is a handful of thoughts about the fourth technique in the fundamentals kata, gedanate, which name means 'lower body strike.'
  • Musashi claimed to be able to throw people 10-20 feet and kill them with this technique. Are you to that point in your training yet? No? Keep practicing, Grasshopper!
  • Gedanate is the Tomiki aikido name for the judo technique called sukuinage. In normal practice in aikido you don’t grab his legs, but you can. If tori happens to fall with uke during gedanate then it resembles the judo throw called taniotoshi.
  • If you are throwing uke over your forward leg to land behind you then you are using your weak back rotator muscles. Try getting this technique to work lunging forward through uke with a dropping motion like an otoshi throw – and with no over-the-leg rotation.
  • Don’t hold uke up with the hand that is controlling his wrist. Sometimes it can make for a dramatically effective throw if you just carelessly toss uke’s arm over your shoulder behind you instead of hanging onto his wrist.
  • Your first thought is to attack the face (which you might call jodan ate) but if anything prevents that you can still attack the lower body (gedan ate). For the purposes of this technique, you can consider lower body anything below the face. So, try pushing him off with an elbow to the ribs. Or keep in mind that you can step on his near knee or foot for a dramatic offbalance. Attacking anything lower than jodan (essentially face) can be considered gedan.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Eight releases

Here is a video I found of some guys doing the 8 releases exercise that we always warm up with and that I mention a lot. I call it "hanasu," or "wrist releases" most of the time that I refer to it. There are some stylistic differences (i.e. some of the angles are different and we don't specify particular throws or follow-ups associated with each release) - but still recognisable as what I'm talking about.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Aikido this afternoon

Aiki with Kel
  • ROM, warmup
  • tegatana
  • hanasu emphasizing synching with uke's up-down rhythm all the way through the technique. We also worked on recognizing when uke shifts from casual walking to "getting ready to fight" walking and seeing if we could switch him back with an offbalance.
  • rokukata maeotoshi off of release #4 emphasizing executing hte technique by stretching a footstep right at the instant of uke's footfall. Kel was getting it on the wrong footfall about half the time but it was still working great! Coolness.
  • We started working on chain #3 and got as far as the elbow-to-elbow wakigatame when Kel was called away.

Tagged with a meme

Bob at Striking Thoughts tagged me with a meme. I don't do many of these but this one sounded interesting, so here it goes. The rules: "Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!) Find Page 123. Find the first 5 sentences. Post the next 3 sentences. Tag 5 people."
The nearest book to me at the time was John Gardner's Grendel. From page 123:

No one would have balked at my persecuting him then! I made him what he is. Have I not a right to test my own creation? Enough! Who says I have to defend myself?

I know, I cheated. It said post three sentences and I posted five... Lets' see. Who would I like to tag with this? How about...

Fun with Whit and stick

Here's some more video I've been holding onto for a while and now have finally had time to get it processed and posted. Here Whit and I are playing with a sword-throwaway from jodo. Legend has it that Draeger could break sword blades with techniques like this - I guess by driving them into the ground. I'm a long way away from that sort of ability.

And yes, I really do get a kick out of beating up on poor little kids - at least on this one. Whit would have probably kept coming back for more all evening long but I seem to remember it being about a million degrees outside that day.

Friday, February 01, 2008

February Promote Three

Time for the February Promote Three. When I was checking out the Toplist looking for three bloggers to feature, I remembered one particular blogger who sent me a fine reminder several months ago about the Promote Three feature:

“That's a very nice thing you are doing, but I don't think the rankings on that list have anything to do with the quality of the blog. I've seen some much better blogs than mine have much lower rankings.”

And that’s exactly right – and it’s the point of this whole Promote Three thing – every month I point out three blogs that I like and that I think are under-trafficked and therefore under-ranked. Hopefully I can spread some link-love and send some traffic out to these guys who really have a lot of interesting material to read about on their blogs. With that said, I think the following three blogs deserve honors, traffic, and link-love greater than they are getting:
  • to Becky’s Fine Martial Fiber – a blog about Karate, and sketching, and knitting and … other stuff. Becky has a lot going for her – first, she’s blogging from her secret headquarters in Mississippi. Maybe Dixie bloggers are taking over the martial blogosphere. We can only hope so. And not only does she have the right geography, but she posts really interesting opinion pieces related to her karate training. …and then there’s the knitting…
  • to Rick Matz at Cook Ding’s Kitchen a blog about martial arts, history, poetry, etc… etc… etc… There’s a lot of thoughtful material here. This month Ding is starting his annual Lenten training challenge. Be sure to check that out and, if you think you’re up to the intensity, jump in there and participate.
  • to Rory Miller of Chiron Training. This is really breaking the Promote Three rules because he’s not on Toplist, but I made the rules and I figure that, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a small mind.” This is an amazing blog! Possibly my all-time favorite. Rory thinks like a man of action and acts like a man of thought because if it has to do with use of force, he’s been there and done that. This is one blog that I never miss. Rory is coming out with a book the middle of this year. It is to be titled, "Meditations on Violence" and y'all will likely want to pre-order your copy from Amazon. Rory also gets bonus points because he identifies himself with Chiron, the Centaur warrior scholar who taught Achilles to fight.
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