Monday, March 31, 2008

Chad from Akari Judo

Judo with Chad, Whit, Knox, and Quin
  • Ukemi for about 30 minutes before class with me throwing/spotting Whit, Knox, and Quin. then the kids bailed out and Chad showed up.
  • We had Sensei Chad Morrison down from Akari Judo of Richmond VA, now teaching at McCoy MMA. Chad and I traded ancient oriental secrets, me showing him some of the kumikata material we've been working on lately, and him showing me several good groundwork tricks, including a cool sankaku entry from ukigatame. We spun off into several bouts of randori, spinning back into lessons every so often. Chad's positional control and ground mobility have improved a lot from rolling with the MMA dudes.
  • The things that Chad seemed to enjoy and he'll want to remember include: 1) the sweep-prop combination that makes uke feel so stupid, 2) the bump-and-sweep deashi/kosoto from the outside cross grip, 3) the footsweep-to-control drill that we start each class with, 4) treat uphill escape as a bridging technique with the emphasis on smashing uke's nose into the ground - you'll get more mileage from uphill escape and bridge&roll (downhill escape) will be easier when it occurs, and 5) Chad, you need to start a judo blog. Do it today.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A helpful handful – 5 ways aikido rocks for self-defense

Over the past 23 or so years I have studied taekwando, karate, judo, aikido, hapkido, and jujitsu and I can honestly say that of the martial arts I have experienced, aikido appears to me to be the best self defense there is. The following are a handful of aspects of aikido that I think make it particularly suitable for self-protection purposes.
  • Ukemi – the art of falling safely – particularly the simple side fall and the forward roll. Proper reflexive falling skills will likely save you from many more hazards during your lifetime than any other martial arts technique or skill. Check here for a collection of good articles on proper falling.
  • Evasion and the aiki brush-off – the ability to efficiently get out of the way of an incoming force and push the opponent off of you or push yourself off of the opponent. This is the fundamental skill in aikido, practiced in every class as the foundation of every technique. To read more about the aiki brush-off, check out this article.
  • Shomenate and aigamaeate – the first two striking techniques taught. These make wonderful strikes, separators, and set-ups for other techniques. We have acid tested these two techniques in resistive, fast, relentless knife randori (free play) and found them to be the simplest, most effective techniques in the syllabus. Here are a couple of good articles about shomenate and aigamaeate.
  • Defensive groundwork - One of the common complaints about aikido is that there is no groundwork. This is not true. In all aikido there is suwariwaza, which is a limited form of groundwork, but in our aikido classes we practice a wonderful defensive groundwork system for aikidoka which I have personally seen proven outstandingly effective in combat in the street with a single aikidoka against multiple attackers.
  • Re-calibrating hyperactive reflexes so that you don’t make your situation worse through spastic motion when you are surprised. This is sort of a surprise, or side effect of aikido training. The aikido learning method tends to make your reflexes less spastic so that your reflexive movement is much more efficient and effective. Here you can read about a practice that showed this aspect pretty well.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Martial arts for older adults

Interested in a martial art that you can practice effectively until you’re 80 or older?

Let’s face it - It’s probably not going to be karate. Sure there have been a few notable geriatric supermen who have been effective karate guys into their grey years. But as a general rule, striking arts require about 1-2% more practice, effort, skill, and athleticism each year after age 30 just to maintain. And that’s not talking about skill improvement!

Then there are grappling arts, like jiujitsu or wrestling, but again, let’s face it. Those are young men’s sports. Again, there are a few middle-aged and older practitioners of judo and jiujitsu who are very effective, but you don’t see many of those older guys rolling with the young competitors because they just get too busted up and it takes too long to heal.

This brings us to aikido. If you are looking for a martial art that will provide a little reasonable exercise, that will reliably improve your chances of surviving an attack or accident, and that you can practice for the rest of your life, aikido is the right art for you.

If you live in southwest Mississippi and are interested in participating in an aikido class for adults, drop me a line at and I’ll get you set up. Or if you don’t live conveniently close, send me an email and I’ll see what I can suggest to help you.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Armbars for kids

The following is an awesome video of some kids doing judo. I don't especially like having kids this age working chokes and armbars, but that might just be my particular prejudice. The jiujitsu guys train kids to do this stuff and they swear it doesn't tear up kids. I personally only teach throwing and positional wrestling to any student of any age below about green belt because I feel the positional skills are prerequisite to good choking and joint manipulation skills. But in any case, these particular kids are doing a fabulous job practicing and demonstrating these skills. I learned a thing or two myself that I intend to put on Rob next week (so Rob, don't watch this video or you might spoil my fun ;-)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

PM judo and aikido

Kid's judo with Gavin, Whit, Knox, Emma, and Quin
  • Ukemi - and lots of it with me throwing/spotting Whit, Knox, and Quin for about 30 minutes before class started. Then the others arrived and we went through the ukemi routine for the parents' demo in about a month.
  • osotogari into kesagatame
  • quiet sitting counting sounds that we can hear.
Aikido with Kel
  • tegatana with emphasis on taking small enough steps that the heels do not strike or lift off the mat.
  • hanasu with emphasis on 'stay-off-me' hands.
  • chain #1, including shihonage, iriminage, and ushiroate
  • some various interesting techniques from Sankata as the cool ninja techniques of the night.

I am exhausted from the three workouts today. Elise, my darling wife, has gone to purchase me a bottle of whiskey to drink while I lie in a scalding hot bathtub.

Class cancellation

We will have no aikido class this Saturday (3/29) because I have a church thing to go to. Class schedule will resume as usual next Tuesday (4/1).
I'm looking forward to tonight's practices - 5:00 Kids Judo and 6:30 Adult Aikido. See y'all there.

Early AM judo increasingly strenuous

5 AM Judo with Rob
  • Warmup with ground mobility cycle and holding cycle
  • Drill: uki→kesa→mune→ushirokata (10 reps each)
  • Drill: uki→kesa→mune→udegarame→wakigatame (10 reps each)
  • Drill: uki→mune→kesa→wakigatame→udegarame (10 reps each)
  • nagekomi: R1/R3→outside cross grip→deashi/kosoto
  • nagekomi: R1/R3→outside cross grip→osotogari (with a crashpad)
  • nagekomi: R1/R3→outside cross grip→uranage (with a crashpad)

It was good to be back to a more vigorous judo practice after bruising/breaking (or otherwise busting) a rib a couple of months ago. I can tell I've lost (temporarily) some of my tolerance to having my chest crushed in groundwork. Well, now that I can play more vigorously again I'll get it back pretty quick.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

April Promote Three

Each month I post links to three blogs that I think are excellent in some way. Some of them are especially interesting - others are especially educational. This month I am going with a theme of reciprocity. The old you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours routine. According to Google Analytics, the following blogs have sent me a TON of traffic, much of which has been comprised very low-bounce visitors who hang out for longer-than-average times and view multiple pages on my blog. These folks are sending folks my way who apparently really like my blog and are sticking around. Because of the excellent back-scratching these guys have given me, I'd like to spread the link love around.
And what's more, these guys all three have excellent, interesting, educational blog material. So, by all means, go check these guys out!
to Dojo Rat, the best word I can think of to describe this blog is eclectic. From martial arts to politics, nothing is too sacred to discuss and challenge on this blog. Dojo Rat sends me a lot of new visitors (about 1/3 of links from DR are new visitors to Mokuren Dojo) who might otherwise never learn about the Mecca of aikido and judo that is Southwest Mississippi. Thank you for the plugs and for the traffic.
to Bob at Striking Thoughts, a practitioner of TKD, PPCT, and a handful of other exotic-sounding acronyms. Bob doesn't send me very many new visitors, but he does send me a host of return traffic, including folks that spend a good amount of time reading multiple pages at Mokuren Dojo. I'm always flattered to see folks hanging around the dojo for longer-and-longer periods of time studying up. Thanks, Bob. Keep em' coming.
And to my good buddy, Andy at Epic Ramble. I've missed being able to work out with Andy while he's been off on an adventure in Central Florida, but I'm looking forward to having him back at Mokuren Dojo soon on a regular basis. Andy has great, personalized, engaging training logs and notes regarding his aikido and judo studies. EpicRamble sends me a load of traffic too.
So, for those of you out there who are interested in great blogging role models as well as great martial arts info, check out these wonderful participants in the martial arts blogosphere.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Good vibrations

Aiki with Kel and Rick
  • ROM and ukemi
  • tegatana with emphasis on finishing each step, making sure that you don't drag the recovery out, and bending the knees to take up the up-down slack and keep your COM level. It turns out that there are cool COM changes happening in one step - as you separate your legs to take a step, your center rises with respect to your head, but it drops with respect to the ground, so it almost balances out. With just a little flex in the knees the COM stays very close to level and you cease to telegraph so badly and you conserve your own energy much better.
  • hanasu with emphasis on taking the first step as a leap of faith, without knowing what technique will fall out. From there, we worked on transitioning between #1, #2, #5, and #6 as appropriate to follow the arc of uke's force and to attain that release feeling.
  • chain #1 - release #1 resisted into release #2 into reverse kotegaeshi, ushiroate, and iriminage. This is an especially cool exercise because it makes it easier to feel the vibration in uke's body when he tries to resist and you move with him instead of fighting and damping him out. We especially played attention to the ukemi because without uke taking ukemi, tori cannot ever learn the last part of the technique.
  • Kel managed to get two zen-ish sayings out of me in one night. That is a feat, because I don't consider myself a very zen-ish dude normally, so I told him to cherish it. The two zen-ish sayings...

Be like water running downhill.

Seek safety in the mouth of the Dragon.

Who should thank whom?

It is a custom in many aikido classes for the students to kneel after class and bow to the instructor and say, “domo arigato gozaimasu” (Japanese for 'thank you very much').
Certainly there is not enough gratitude and politeness in the world, but I think this particular custom is misplaced – particularly in American aikido classes populated by non-Japanese. I have had a lot of people (misguided or not) get offended by the religious appearance of the kneeling bow, and certainly few students and almost no observers know what we’re chanting to each other as we knock our foreheads on the mat.
Not only is there a cultural and linguistic disconnect in this custom, but it creates a hierarchy that fundamentally misrepresents the power structure of the class. This custom reinforces the students’ dependence on the instructor’s beneficence to glean a little knowledge, when it is actually the instructor who is dependant upon the students for the continued existence of the dojo and the opportunity to further his own training. Let’s just see the instructor try to have a class with no students.
Instead of making students bow and scrape to me after class, we stand in a circle (facing each other like equals), bow (as a salute to each other as well as a nod to the Japanese heritage of aikido) and I (the instructor) say humbly to the students, “Thank y’all for playing with me.”
Now that is a custom I can recommend to other instructors out there!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Backup plans in aikido

Aikido with John J. and Vincent
  • ROM, ukemi
  • tegatana with emphasis on heel-toe, shoulder-width stance, walking on the balls of the feet, complete recovery steps, and relaxed unbendable arm.
  • hanasu #1 and #2
  • chain #1, including release #1 resisted into release #2, which can lead to a reverse kotegaeshi. This gave us the opportunity to talk about covering uke's hands to damp or supress his potential.
  • Short lecture on the four main backup plans in aikido: 1) get behind uke, 2) disengage and move away, 3) move with uke, and 4) hit uke in the face.
  • We worked on shomenate as an example of backup plan #4 when we (for whatever reason) stepped inside and parried with the lead hand (a terrible, awkward mistake).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Letter from a Marine

Elise sent me this funny. This is a letter from a marine recruit - a farm kid from South Dakota.

Dear Ma and Pa,
I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marines beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 AM, but I am getting so I like to sleep late.

Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon when you get fed again.

It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much. We go on "route marches," which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice but awful flat. The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move, and it ain't shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake . I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Great falling practice

Aiki with Kel
  • Ukemi emphasizing how the proper landing position is a natural consequence of managing the body properly throughout the entire fall.
  • Tegatana emphasizing the panther walk and bringing the recovery step in fully
  • Hanasu emphasizing full recovery steps
  • chain #1 including the transition from release #1 to release #5 and the stuff that comes off of release #1 - mainly tenkai kote hineri, kotemawashi oshi taoshi, and kote hineri.
  • Rokukata maeotoshi and Rokukata sakaotoshi with a crashpad emphasizing feeling to see if one step is enough or if you should take one more step and catch the next footfall. We were getting spectacular throws and falls.

Osotogari and taiotoshi uchikomi

Kids' judo with Whit, Mason, Knox, and Quin
  • ROM, ukemi, movement skills
  • osotogari ("the 1-2 throw) uchikomi sets of 3, throwing on the third. Emphasis on hitting the back of uke's knee with the back of your knee and pulling with your arms.
  • taiotoshi ("the 1-2-3 throw") uchikomi sets of 3 throwing on the third, emphasizing tori turning his leg downward.
  • standing randori
  • intro to the shoulder-push-knee-lift turnover

Rhadi and Ronda on the Wall Street Journal

A helpful handful: 5 interpretations for yoko o mawashi

A couple of days ago, John asked about potential applications for the last movement (yoko o mawashi) in our first exercise (Tegatana no kata). Following are a handful of applications or things that this last movement teaches - but not before a disclaimer. I consider this exercise to be very general-purpose. This movement, or something similar could occur in many techniques.
  • As John pointed out, all the steps in this kata are very small, conservative motions, so, in contrast, this large, lunging motion teaches us what a large recovery is involved with a large step
  • You may also consider this as a withdrawing evasion (like a retreating tenkanashi) getting the hands up on the centerline. You may not step that deep, but in essence yoko o mawashi is a specific type of aiki brush-off.
  • You may also interpret this motion as pushing uke down: an evasion with some degree of turning motion, dropping, and pushing uke into offbalance - taking an incoming opponent and driving them into the ground.
  • As for specific techniques, you may see this type of motion as a kotegaeshi. As uke punches, tori evades with a retreating tenkanashi, grasps the arm, and returns back to the starting point, throwing with a gaeshi.
  • You could also call it aigamaeate or aikinage - retreating tenkanashi scooping the arm and head in an arc, then turning the other way attacking the face.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2nd-day soreness…and 3rd… and 4th…

In Exercise Physiology school we learned about delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – fatigue and pain that comes hours-to-days after exertion (and is not caused by lactic acid). We often called it “day-after soreness” but as I got a little older (into my late-20’s) I realized that it really seems to happen not the day after but the second-day after – thus the term, ‘second-day soreness.’ Now, in my late 30’s, I have noticed it lingering a little longer and the other day, Rob pointed out that it might be turning into ‘third-day soreness’ because of advancing age (thanks, Rob).
I’ve had an instructor talk repeatedly about how when you get into your 60’s you will regret thoughtless movement for a week!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Randori with locking techniques

Aiki with Kel
  • We've gone from freezing cold to temperate to too-humid-to-survive in about two weeks. Scott Z. would feel right at home.
  • Ukemi with emphasis on landing properly and slowing the legs down so they don't get hammered on the mat
  • Tegatana & hanasu as warmup - no particular emphasis
  • Nijusan #6-10 with the ukemi and pins (see this training log)
  • Chain #1 - the shortcut that contains the hineri-gaeshi loop
  • Randori with both partners walking into and out of gaeshi, hineri, mawashi, and wakigatame locks.
  • Rokukata maeotoshi and Rokukata sakaotoshi as the cool ninja techniques of the night


A quickie question for y’all: What are some examples of things that you do in your martial art practice that don’t particularly serve any pragmatic, functional purpose – you just do it that way because that’s the way it has always been done?

Monday, March 17, 2008

3% error – bias or random error?

A teacher once told me that the greatest professional musicians in the world still make about 3% error - despite an infinite amount of practice. That is, they mis-play about three notes out of every hundred. If you look at Tegatana no kata, it has between about 70 and 100 steps (depending on how you count it). This implies that there will always be a few missed steps each time you do it even after you have practiced it for years. Thus there will always be something to work on in this exercise.
Something to look for is the difference between systematic error (bias) and random error. When you spot one of those mis-steps, are you making that same mistake repeatedly or was that just a fluke? Systematic error is (perhaps) more shameful for the expert but it is by far the easier type of error to fix. Errors that occur at random are hard to pinpoint, much less fix. Errors that you make repeatedly the same every time are pretty easy to modify, but to fix a random error you have to re-tool your entire thinking process and movement strategy to be more error-tolerant or error-detecting or error-correcting. Change everything that you do so that there are no consequences to the occasional random error and suddenly the error will cease to exist. This is why the greatest experts can do things that are taboo for novices – because some of these things make a difference for novices but don't matter for the expert that has worked through that particular error for years.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Submission grappling in McComb, MS

Doggone it! How is it that I missed this event that was apparently hosted right here in McComb? I wonder if Madison Wrestling is putting on this event on a recurring basis?

Aiki practice and a cool knife video

Aikido with Rob and Kel
  • tegatana with emphasis on the goofy-foot pivots and turns in the second half of the exercise
  • hanasu with emphasis on synchronization
  • chain #1
We talked about aikido having about four major failsafes - strategies that you fall back on when something is not working. They include:
  • disengage and move away
  • move behind uke
  • hit uke in the face
  • synchronize with uke to limit his potential
Rob is having some cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile his knife-based knowledge (which is quite good and quite aiki - but just a different training methodology) with our aikido. He called it comparing apples to oranges. I called it getting stuck on the warmups to the point you never make progress. I don't know if we resolved it but I think it might be better. I don't think he isn't buyng into the aikido, but that he is having trouble reconciling how the two sysems seem to build up to the same thing through different paths.
We also talked about an interesting knife method that seems pretty viable and pretty aiki-like to me. (Watch out for some foul language on the film.) Rob had some commentary and potential problems with it. I think what I see there is pretty interesting because this guy talks all the same principles that we do in aikido - i.e. don't fight with the guy, disengage and run, control his balance and you control his potential, etc... I don't know if this is the 'best' knife system - but it sure is interesting.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ninja invisibility

A while back I wrote that we had practiced “ninja invisibility” during that particular class. That’s not the sort of invisibility like in Hollow Man, where light passes through you. Rather it is a phenomenon that happens when you are moving in a proper, aiki fashion with uke. What happens is uke tends to lose track of you and to be unable to reorient easily. There are roughly three skills going on in this phenomenon.
  • Evade toward uke, passing through the narrowest part of his field of vision. Evading away from uke keeps you in the widest part of his field of vision. By moving into uke as you evade it is easier to get into shikaku (uke’s ‘dead angle’ or blind spot).

  • Don’t grab and hang onto uke. If you do he can easily orient to you. Use your arms as feelers (Mississippi-speak for antennae) instead of end-effectors. Deprive uke of stimulus if you don’t want a response.

  • Synchronize your motions as closely as possible to uke’s motions. Motion in every direction – up, down, left, right, forward, backward, otoshi, guruma, etc... Peripheral vision only works on moving things, so if there is zero relative motion between your center and his it is much harder for uke to orient to you.
These skills have the cumulative effect of more than occasionally making tori seem to just disappear from in front of uke. It is not uncommon for uke to stop his attack and look around, bewildered. It is a truly odd, truly disorienting feeling – and really useful to tori.

Preparation, intensity, focus!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

1-2 counters 1-2-3

Judo with Whit, Knox, and Quin
  • Warmup
  • osotogari cueing off of uke putting a foot forward - every time uke gets a foot forward, tori throws osotogari (which they are calling the "1-2 throw").
  • osotogari as a counter to taiotoshi. At the last tournament, all the kids were throwing taiotoshi (the "1-2-3 throw"), so I have been working with Whit and company on how to turn and reap the leg for osotogari.
  • While Whit was practicing osotogari on me I was practicing the R1/R3 gripfighting patterns on him.

Scam Targeting Martial Arts Instructors

There is currently a scam e-mail making the rounds, this time targeting martial arts instructors. Yesterday, dozens of the instructors in our organization got the same email, as follows:
Hello, I am Mr Rhodes Cremas. I contact you on Dojo training.Well my Daughter (Jullie) is coming to stay with her freind in North America for 2 months and i want you to help me teaching her perfectly. So Note: my Daughter Jullie is just a beginner, so please kindly teach her well. Also kindly let me know your charges cost per lesson,inorder for me to arrange for her payment before her travel. Please Advise back on 1. The cost of an hour lesson. 2. And payment method ( Let me know if you will accept your payment by check) I will be glad to read from you soonest. Best regards, Mr Rhodes Cremas.
This is apparently a variant of the Nigerian check cashing scam that is so prevalent - so watch out. Don't give this guy your personal information and certainly don't cash a check for him.

Yonkata and other kata ideas

5AM aiki with Rob
  • tegatana
  • hanasu
  • Yonkata #1-14 (A.K.A. Shichihon no kuzushi omote and ura)
  • We talked about different ideas of what kata is - more ammo for some future posts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sad and senseless

Last week Nathan published a post on making sense out of senseless violence. Now it's my turn.
This morning, a man entered the Regions Bank office in downtown McComb (my hometown) and killed an employee and a customer. He kidnapped his ex-wife and fled south on Highway 51. He killed his ex-wife and threw her out of the car in Fernwood, continuing south. My mother-in-law was driving at the time and saw him turn into our neighborhood with the passenger door of the car hanging open. He turned again, drove down to the Cemetery, and shot himself, later dying at the hospital in McComb. Four dead within minutes in McComb.
For the news stories, look here:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Take on Colin's 'My Tekki...'

I hate to rub it in, but y’all missed out! A while back Colin Wee of the Traditional Taekwando Blog offered his readers a free copy of his kata DVD, “My Tekki On It.” (Here's the 1-minute teaser trailer) Unfortunately for y’all but fortunately for me, I was the only one who responded, so I got the free DVD and I have to say - it is outstanding.
On his DVD, he shows a wide assortment of bunkai for Tekki, illustrating how this single kata could, as Choki Motobu put it, be an entire self-defense system. Tekki has always been my favorite of the Karate kata because of the variety of ultra-practical self-defense application – but what Colin illustrates on this DVD is the fact that Tekki by itself could be the core of an extremely good karate-do or jujitsu system.
I enjoyed all of Colin’s applications that he demonstrated and he only scratched the surface of the potential of Tekki, but I also wanted to comment that I see the practice of Tekki perhaps a little bit differently than Colin illustrates on his DVD. I do not really see Tekki as a catalog of dozens of situational applications to specific attacks, but rather as a small set of the most common, most useful general-purpose motions for close-fighting. Look at the motions in Tekki:
  • Lateral stepping with strong rotational hip motions
  • An open-handed shuto, back-knuckle, or eye-flick
  • A horizontal elbow smash
  • A couple of conservative, low, snappy kicking motions
  • Two or three sets of two-handed push-pull motions that can be applied in many ways
That’s it. You repeat those motions on both sides and you’re done with the exercise - but this handful of motions and skills are infinitely applicable to close-fighting and grappling situations. Personally, I don’t find it really helpful to try to visualize a specific application for each move during regular practice, because Tekki is a very general thing – the building blocks of in-fighting strategy. For instance.
  • When overwhelmed or waylaid, lateral stepping and the stepping-in-front motion is the basis of most of the useful evasions and body displacements possible.
  • The open-handed eye flick is a great distracter, separator, or delaying measure, as well as having the potential to end the fight right away.
  • The elbow smash is the most powerful upper body infighting strike there is and the same motion is applicable as a block or a lock too.
  • The kicking motions can decimate opponents’ legs or set up great off-balances making the rest of the grappling stuff work even better.
Anyway, you get the point. In my opinion you could study Tekki in a couple of productive ways.
  • Dissect hundreds of specific applications out of it and practice them as bunkai.
  • Practice the kata as a motor control exercise to improve body coordination in this handful of general motions and then use one-steps and randori to creatively look for application.
Both practice modes are probably good. Both may be necessary, but I lean toward the second training method. That way you only have to learn a handful of things and then you work in an “aliveness” type environment on creating application. But enough of what I think. Well, nearly enough
I think Tekki is awesome, and I think Colin’s DVD demo of Tekki bunkai is fantastic, and I think if you hop over to his blog and ask him nicely you might be able to get him to re-run his original offer, or at worst, he’ll probably only charge you a tiny fee for such a great demonstration DVD.

Blending and ukemi

Aiki with Patrick M. and Kel.
  • Warmup with particular emphasis on ukemi. We don't do a whole lot of ukemi during the winters but its about spring and it's time to get back into ukemi. It is very hard, if not impossible to develop superb aiki without throwing all the way into the ground and taking the falls yourself too. You simply have to feel both sides of the relationship all the way through the techniques.
  • Tegatana emphasizing shizentai (natural upright posture) and closing the hands to protect the fingers.
  • Shichihon no kuzushi with emphasis on getting rid of the discontinuities. In this exercise it is both partners' responsibility to blend intelligently throughout the thing. The ukemi on the end is a natural extension of the blend in the beginning.
  • Nijusan hon kata #1-10 with more emphasis on uke blending into falls and tori throwing into the pins at the end. Gedanate was working particularly well tonight and we explored it from aiki, kime (karate), and ju perspectives. Kel was doing exceptionally well on the wakigatame that begins like shomenate.
  • Release #1 into maeotoshi from Rokukata (pushing with the free hand on the body).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dog attacks

Here are a couple of videos about dog attacks. The first one about how different types of large dogs make best use of their natural attributes to bring down a man-sized victim. In the second video a policeman has to defend against a large dog and does a pretty good job of keeping the monster off of him until his partner can taze it. How would y'all respond to this sort of attack? What would you do the same or differently from the cop in this second video?


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Woman of Ninja Warrior

This is pretty cool. Check out the previous winner, Ayako Miyake. The announcer sounds like an idiot, but I have to admit his enthusiasm is infectious and her performance is stellar. I'd watch this show if I watched TV.

Aiki practice

Aiki with John J.
  • It was cold in the dojo (after our snow last night!), so it was streetclothes, no-mats practice today.
  • Tegatana emphasiding bringing recovery foot back under your center and same-hand-same-foot.
  • Hanasu #1-4 emphasizing relaxed, unbendable arm and moving the center behind the shield of the hands no matter where uke moves that shield. We particularly worked on #1 and #2 emphasizing how each flows into the other when resisted.
  • Shomenate
  • Kotemawashi off of release#3 as the cool ninja technique of the day.
  • A little bit of "crazy man" randori, emphasizing relaxed movement and "stay off me" hands and

Friday, March 07, 2008

Last night's judo

Kids' judo with Gavin, Whit, Mason, Knox, Emma, and Quin
  • warmup
  • ukemi - we're practicing their ukemi set (fwd roll to standing, face fall, left fall from plank, right fall from plank, backfall) in proper order in preparation to demo it to their parents at the end of the season. We also practiced sidefalls from deashi with me as spotter alternating with laterals across the mat.
  • osotogari uchikomi sets of three throwing on the third.
  • newaza transitions from kesa to mune to ushirokesa and from ushiro kesa to tate to ushirokesa on the other side.
  • crawling man randori
  • standing randori to the first fall with each player staying out until the entire class had done randori with him.
  • Somehow my students have gotten the idea that grabbing the opponent's legs is the thing to do, but they charge with their head down and often get smeared because of it(see the third iteration here), so we finished the class working on proper technique for shooting into a leg pick (level change, lunge, back knee touchdown and immediately back to feet, dumping the sprawled opponent off the side).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

5am training

Judo/aiki with Rob
  • footsweep to control deashi & kosoto from outside cross grip, normal grip, and 2-sleeves grip
  • releasing (R1 &R2) into cross grip into osoto or deashi or kosoto or wakigatame
  • Sankata tachiwaza empasizing that each technique can be treated just like a chain of checkpoints rather than a kata of specific steps. This makes the technique smoother, gentler, more flowing, and more robust.

March Promote Three

It's that time again (actually a little past time)! Time to spread a little of the linklove around to three blogs that I especially like. This month's Promote Three goes to a trio of judo blogs:
To Dr. AnnMaria deMars, former World Champion, coach at the West Coast Training Center, Vice Pres in charge of development for USJA, and mother of Olympic hopeful, Ronda Rousey. I have very much enjoyed this blog and have learned a lot from reading what she writes.
To Ronda Rousey, a seriously bad judoka (in a good way). Her list of accomplishments goes on and on and her blog is very interesting. My family and I are enjoying watching her ascent toward the Beijing olympics this summer.
To Jan Snijders' Judo-The-Blog. Always interesting reading and good judo news from the "other side of the pond." I don't usually get the chance to promote his blog because I set myself the rule that I'd only promote those I outrank on Toplist - but hey, it's my rule and rules are made to be broken, right.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Exclusive Interview: Mike Martello

Mike Martello is Director of the Wu Tan Federation of Belgium, co-teaching with the Wu Tan Organization in Taipei Taiwan. Having been studying and teaching martial arts for over twenty five years, Mike has taught and performed in Europe, Canada, South America, Taiwan and across the U.S. He is a nationally and internationally ranked competitor in Chinese martial arts (gold, silver, bronze medalists, 86-88, 90-92 and 94-2000 U.S. Nationals and International Competitions).

Recently awarded the Taiwanese Kuo Shu medal of achievement for his work in Chinese martial arts, Mike continues to travel and study Chinese Martial Arts in Taiwan with Grandmaster Wang Chieh, specializing in Yue Jia San Shou (Yue Family Style), Ba Bu Tanglang (Praying Mantis), Bai He Chuan (White Crane), Joint Locking (Chin-Na), Tai Chi, Push Hands (Tuei Shou) and Shuai Jiao (Chinese Wrestling).

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?
Mike Martello: Pat, amazing is a gracious compliment by your readers, really I am nothing compared to my teachers and mentors and the many others I have met during my travels over the years. I have had the chance to meet some amazing people who helped me, inspired me and taught me beyond dreams; these are the ones who should get the accolades; my Father, Wang Cheih Laoshi and many others. I would like to thank them all!
The second part of the questions is tricky, Pat; it takes more than one idea to better understand your question, I will try to sum it up.
Well, my life experiences and all my mistakes in life are my strengths. As my Father told me, mistakes are the keys to learning. I had a very early start in training, having been taught boxing from my father since I was 3. I was exposed to the fighting arts from an early age and was able to absorb a lot of information and experiences. I started quite early as a teacher of martial arts, and the accumulated knowledge and experience really helped me develop my understanding of martial arts training, teaching and culture. Teaching itself is a very important aspect of the learning process. It forces one to delve deeper in order to transmit knowledge better, but moreover it makes me want to search deeper to just learn more and more about it all.
I therefore relentlessly strive to achieve deeper understanding of martial arts and its culture for my own personal cultivation and in order to preserve and teach the principles of martial arts culture: To bridge the culture, philosophy and lifestyle into my own life and martial arts teachings, not just the fighting aspects, and to help all people better understand cross cultures to allow a better foundation grow for the future for martial arts. Martial arts is my venue where I can help and teach people these experiences and martial essences.
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?
Mike Martello: Of course, in a legitimate martial arts school, every above-mentioned aspect should be stressed, with self-improvement being foremost. Physical fitness, self-defense, competition... these are all different forms or channels for self-improvement.
Having said that, I would like to point out that in my teachings I emphasize the aspect of "awareness of oneself" or total body awareness. I stress proper foundational training for my students.
In the early stages of training, the student's body has not been fully developed martial arts-wise. The direction to which the student might develop is also not clear; will he or she favor competition above anything else? Maybe he/she is really interested in Mantis? Bagua? Taiji? This all depends on the student's body type, character and personal preferences. I was fortunate to have started at a very early age and to have learned from many excellent teachers various styles of traditional Chinese martial arts. In my foundation training I do not lean towards one single style; what I am most interested in is the common ground of all Chinese martial arts. It is this foundational training which I teach the students: to condition the physical body, strengthen the tendons and joints, waist power, to develop total body coordination, connection and awareness. Once this foundation is firm, the student is free to explore different styles; the student would only need to adapt to certain stylistic characteristics, but the proper usage of the body will come natural to him/her. That's my approach: I plant the seed in order for the student to grow and develop without limitations, to achieve realization of oneself.
Patrick Parker: What was your first experience with martial arts that got you interested in pursuing this path?
Mike Martello: I started boxing with my father when I was 3 years old growing up in NYC. When I was about 7 or 8, an uncle who had been in the military taught me kickboxing. I was really fascinated by the use of the legs. I moved onto Shotokan, and later TKD. When I was 11 I met a kung fu teacher (Teddy Wong), who showed me that the CMA were the best for me, not the best in general, but the best for me and then I met Su Yu Chang when I was in my early 20s. Even before that I was exploring Muay Thai, Karate, and Eskrima with whomever was around, I was taking seminars, going to schools and doing drop in classes etc.
I really enjoyed fighting, and being small, all my life I had plenty of opportunities to test my skills against kids on the street. That is the reason my father started teaching me boxing at such an early age, as he knew I would be tested on the streets of NYC. But I also had opportunities to try my skills out in the ring where I boxed, and I also competed in many Chinese, TKD, Karate tournaments, and kickboxing events as well. I just wanted to go try what I had learned. Growing up fighting I was not scared of getting hit, but I was scared of not hitting them hard enough! I wanted to learn how to hit harder! Don't get me wrong, before any blows are thrown both fighters are anxious, but once that first hit is in, either me or the opponent being hit (90% of the time I was the one who got hit) then I am in the zone, and I am comfortable. The moment between is the anxious part. My thirst for knowledge knew no bounds though, and so all of these situations were my teacher if you know what I mean. Every loss, every win, every hit taught me unforgettable lessons.
Yet, after having acquired fighting experience inside as well as outside the ring, these same experiences slowly led me away from fighting in order to pursue martial arts truly as an art form. I learned to appreciate the beauty of artistic expression through movement, and this same beauty urged me on a never-ending quest of research and perfection. Just as a painter uses pallet, paint and brushes to create a beautiful painting, as a martial artist one should create magic through movement, rhythm, explosiveness and flow.
The French moralist Jean de La Bruyère once said:

False greatness is unsociable and remote: conscious of its own frailty, it hides, or at least averts its face, and reveals itself only enough to create an illusion and not be recognized as the meanness that it really is. True greatness is free, kind, familiar and popular; it lets itself be touched and handled, it loses nothing by being seen at close quarters; the better one knows it, the more one admires it.
That is one of my favorite quotes; it describes exactly how I perceive movement arts and what a martial artist stands for. How can I not pursue this path?
Patrick Parker: What do you think most interests your students and keeps them coming to class?
Mike Martello: The answer to this question can be three-fold:

Firstly, it is the contents and ideas of my training methods, which interest the students; i.e. the development of total body awareness and the results in physical awareness as mentioned previously.
Secondly, apart from the physical aspect of CMA, I also try to transmit authentic martial arts culture to my students. It is strange that in this era of multicultural societies, information technology and convenient means of transport, appreciation of culture and higher cultural awareness seem severely lacking. Through Chinese martial arts culture, which is a culture based on the ideas of brotherhood, respect, righteousness and honor, a student can reflect on his or her own behavior and mindset, and this can lead to better self-understanding.
Lastly, I teach by example. Martial arts is all about self-improvement. In present-day society, many people are living too comfortable lives and have forgotten about personal struggles, self-improvement and the pursuit of ideals. The world is a tough, cruel place, and we are fortunate that we have the opportunities and means to improve our lives, yet what I see around me are people who waste their precious time and energy through laziness and self-indulgence. I had to work hard for everything in my life, and I still do. My presence, my entire being, is somewhat of a non-stop wake-up call to my students: Life is short, work hard! I try my best to inspire my students and other people around me.
Patrick Parker: How have the martial arts with which you've been involved changed over the course of your involvement?
Mike Martello: Pat, I have been involved with a myriad of martial arts throughout the years and it would be impossible for me to point out the changes, which have occurred. I can only comment on the fact that in my younger days I have studied many styles and even though I may not practice these styles anymore, I have absorbed certain aspects and principles, which I still cultivate in my personal training and life.
Patrick Parker: What does the future of these particular martial arts look like to you?
Mike Martello: Instead of commenting on a martial art in particular, I would like to share my views on the future of CMA in general. Let me start with the famous story of Buddha...
Siddharta Gautama was born a prince, and at his birth it was foretold that he will either become a great king or an enlightened sage. Siddharta grew up in luxury and wealth, and as befits a prince he was betrothed and later married an aristocratic lady, who gave him a son. Yet at a certain point in his life, he forsakes his throne and abandoned his family, leaving his wife, child and wealth behind, to seek knowledge. He began a life of poverty and wandering, seeking out great masters and learning from them, in his quest for enlightenment he studied every form of spiritual cultivation available to him, going as far as leading an aesthetic lifestyle up to the point of near-starvation. Siddharta then meditated for 49 days, in which various demons tried to seduce and distract him, yet he persisted and reached true enlightenment to become the Buddha.
The tale of Buddha is a wonderful lesson and can serve as a metaphor for the martial arts practitioner's journey. In order to become a true martial artist, many sacrifices need to be made. One needs to search for knowledge, and through diligent practice and great perseverance can one succeed. Furthermore, society will distract you, there will be many factors to lead you astray, one single misstep and you might not fulfill your true potential.
In contemporary society, how many are able to accomplish this? I always ask: who are the new masters? We had Yang Cheng-Fu, we had Dong Haichuan... yet who are the new masters of martial arts? Who can be the new icons in Chinese martial arts history?
In order for Chinese martial arts to be preserved as well as evolve, certain boundaries need to be broken. Martial arts are not about fighting, it is about self-preservation and self-improvement. Although not many people can become martial arts masters, martial arts can enrich the lives of everyone. Martial arts can make life more endearing to everyone, but first those who teach martial arts need to re-educate themselves to reach a deeper understanding in order to re-educate the public.
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?
Mike Martello: Of course, my views are quite subjective. Firstly, my second principal teacher Master Su Yu-Chang who provided me with the tools and arsenal from which I could grow.

Secondly, Grandmaster Wang Chieh who is truly an amazing man. He is now 82 years old and still healthy and strong. He is a living proof of kungfu, an example of correct martial arts training. Master Su made me into a beautiful, streamlined shell of a racecar, but it was Master Wang who gave me the powerful engine to match the exterior. The most amazing thing is that, despite his great level of mastery, Master Wang does not consider himself a master, just forever a student of martial arts who likes to practice.
Last but not least, I would like to mention my father, the Late Rocky Martello, who was known as "The Rock" during his days as a boxer 1940`s. It was my father who taught me "the school of hard knocks", who gave me the guts to tackle anything. Master Su gave me the car, Master Wang gave me the engine, but it was my father who made me a racer, the one who taught me to take the steering wheel of life into my own hands and reach for my goals no matter what.
Thanks Pat for the venue to express some personal thoughts to you and your readers. I hope I answered your questions.

And thank you, Mike. I have surely enjoyed getting to talk with you and glean some of your understanding and experience. I can tell from our brief exchange here as well as from your videos why some of my readers have told me that you were one of the most amazing martial artists that they’d ever met. I hope to get to meet you in person at some point and learn a bit more.

Previous interviews have gone back and forth for several rounds of questions and answers but Mr. Martello has been so busy recently renovating a new club and travelling to Beijing, that I only did the first round of questions. If any readers have questions about the info in this interview or want to pose additional questions, leave a comment below and I'll make sure he gets them.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ninja invisibility in aikido

Aikido with Patrick M., Rick, and Mytchi
  • Jodo with Mytchi. We worked on rolling the cane from pencil grip to honte, gyakute, and sakate grips. We also worked on #1 and #6 seiteikata as separation events against unarmed attackers.
  • Tegatana emphasizing using ideokinesis to release into shizentai by visualizing forces drawing the crown of the head and the balls of the feet apart (is that enough jargon for you or what?). This was an amazing, relaxing postural fix.
  • Hanasu #1-4
  • Randori as a game of random releases. Everyone was doing great on this.
  • Oshitaoshi (irimi omote and tenkan) emphasizing sidestepping into uke's blind spot and staying there with feelers until you can separate or execute a technique. We also got to play with good locking posture in pins.
  • We talked about several really disorienting tricks that are part of tori's motion. Things that make tori seem to disappear and make it more difficult for uke to continue attacking. We nicknamed this the ninja invisibility trick. I'll probably have a good blog post on this soon.

A helpful handful – Tegatana no Kata

I have previously published a list of 100 terrific things to try when practicing our first footwork exercise, Tegatana no Kata. I have also published some video (I know it’s not very good video) of the exercise here and here. Following is some elaboration on a handful of helpful hints that we have been working on most recently.
  • You want to be weight-bearing on the balls of the feet. Specifically the balls of the two most medial toes of each foot (the big toe and the second toe). The heel and the outside of the foot is slightly brushing the ground and helping you to balance on the two long, strong levers on the medial side of the foot. If you try weightbearing on the outside of the foot you will lose power and you will notice a tendency to roll the ankle outward, which is practically the only way that it is possible to sprain the ankle.
  • You are trying for a dynamic posture that is balanced around a central norm of shizentai, that is, a normal, upright posture. Your feet should be slightly closer than shoulder-width and heel-toe alignment, head over shoulders over hips over balls of feet. Notice that you cannot easily attain this natural upright posture if you stand on your heels – everything on up the chain gets out of whack. If you imagine some force drawing the crown of your head up, stretching your body out between your head and the balls of your feet then you will rock forward onto the balls of the feet and the rest of the body will tend to release into shizentai.
  • Take small, conservative steps – no greater than the width of your stance (width of your hips). This minimizes rocking and bobbling and reduces the amount of recovery needed after each step, making your motion faster and more efficient.
  • Your steps should be gravity-powered; falling instead of stepping. Concentrate on a feeling of your center dropping toward the center of the Earth during the first half of the step, then concentrate on pulling with the new weight-bearing leg and tightening the thighs together to recover from the step.
  • And one more hint, hopefully helpful, that I don’t think made my first list. Check out the following video and watch carefully the alignment of the hips, knee, and foot during the turns. I’ve been preaching this more explicitly for the past several classes and these ideas make a difference in strength and stability during the turns.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A helpful handful: 5 ways to improve your aigamaeate

Consider the similarities between aigamaeate and aikinage (known in aikikai as iriminage). They are really the same technique - or perhaps you could say that aigamaeate is a form of iriminage. Here is a handful of helpful hints - some of the things I work with my students on.
  • Often in practice, aigamaeate is done as a more direct entry and abrupt atemi, whereas aikinage seems more flowing and roundabout, but either technique can be done either way. Try aigamaeate from a backing-around situation when uke interrupts your tenkan and tries to turn back in on you.
  • Because aigamaeate and aikinage are about the same thing, all the helpful handful for aikinage apply to aigamaeate too.
  • Where there two techniques really diverge is in the relative height of tori as compared to uke. A taller tori will often find it easier to strike over uke’s arm, while a shorter tori will strike under uke’s arm. Takng a palm to the chin from a short tori sliding upward along your body can be one of the worst experiences ever.
  • Aigamaeate happens abruptly and effectively when someone is trying tori out using snappy lead jabs and testing feints. If you see 1-2 testing jabs, get ready for another one and follow it back into uke with an atemi of your own.
  • Another fundamental version of aigamaeate is in response to a jo thrust – slip out of the way moving forward and outside the strike and clothesline or better yet, palm uke to the face while blocking and taking the jo with the other hand.
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