Saturday, May 31, 2008

Domestic Violence

Watch out. This video is so disturbing that I hesitated to post it, but it has an excellent, needed message. We wouldn't let our young kids watch it though. I want to comment on this video but it will take me a while to work up a comment. What do y'all think?

French curve

Aiki with Andy and Rick
  • tegatana x2
  • hanasu with emphasis on #6 and #8 being different arcs through space that you have to learn to follow with your whole body ll the way to the end without getting discontinuities. A great way to practice this is with fine fingertip pressure touch attacks from uke instead of grabs. This way, if tori screws up it is mroe obvious because uke comes unhooked.
  • shomenate and aigamaeate with emphasis on moving slowly and gently throught hte arc of the movement without adding a lot of random extra energy.
  • kotehineri and kotegaeshi with emphasis on flowing from one to the other (following the arc with your whole body just like in hanasu #6 and #8 above. we wound up alternately getting near and far kotegaeshi and everyone was flowing nicely.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wrist techniques and floating techniques

Aiki with Patrick M.
  • tegatana with emphasis on sliding the feet vs. not sliding the feet. We also talked about how to hipswitch with grippy shoes on.
  • hanasu with emphasis on getting offline in #2,4,6,and 8 and emphasis on getting a releasing feeling on #5 and 7
  • nijusan tekubiwaza (wrist techniques) and ukiwaza (floating throws) with particular emphasis on the difference between shihonage and tenkai kotegaeshi. We also looked at the kotetaoshi-maeotoshi pair.
  • Ichikata part C shihonage variations

Randori within constraints

AM aiki with Rob
  • releases as warmup
  • chain #1 - the first part with emphasis on left-right synch and hineri-gaeshi synch
  • chain #2 - the sharp turn with emphasis on up-down synch and the 'who's the boss?' idea. This led into the idea of chains as randori within constraints. It is randori with enough structure to make it repeatable so you get to do randori around a set of 4-5 techniques or positions with good flow.
  • Getting Rob ready for nidan in aikido. End of October would be a good time to do that as part of the aiki buddies gathering.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Knife class

Modular knife with Rob & Pat
  • 1-4-12 and 2-3-12 drills. I was beginning to flow a little in the first one - not because I know anything but because there is an obvious inherent flow, a structure to the game. The response to 12 in the first drill was awkward for me, but then Rob told me to think about it as if it were shomenate and it clicked. I guess that's one of the benefits of having the Instructor of the Year for your knife teacher ;-)
  • An application - inside forearm cut, hook pass into armbar...
  • Crossada - didn't really flow but I can see how it will with practice.
  • Some 2-stick patterns that really burned my brain up trying to coordinate them.
  • Had an interesting discussion about rebound and follow-through in jodo. Food for thought...
  • homework: practice turning the knife in hand and practice beating the pell with the 2-stick patterns

Tokio Hirano demonstrates kosen judo

Interesting video that is titled, 'Kosen Judo,' thought it is hard to identify with what is typically thought of as Kosen judo - hardcore newaza done by University youngsters. This demo of Kosen judo is more reminiscent of the abstract, theory kata of Kodokan Judo such as Ju no kata and Itsutsu no Kata. Interesting nonetheless. Check out all of the other segments of this program at this guy's videos page.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Variations on shihonage

Aiki with Patrick M., Kel, and Ross
  • ukemi, including airfalls and flying sidefalls with a spotter
  • tegatana with emphasis on hip switch
  • hanasu
  • aigamaeate with emphasis on not pushing past the offbalance, but leaving uke hanging in offbalance while tori slips behind.
  • gedanate - variants with the idea of attacking anything low when you can't attack high
  • udegaeshi/kaitennage
  • chain #2 including the gaeshi-hineri loop. We'll get to the migi-hidari loop next class.
  • cool ninja technique of the night: koryu dai ichi section C - variants on shihonage, hijikime and sukuinage

Dan Anderson

While I was at the WHFSC conference this past weekend I got the chance to have an extended conversation with Grandmaster of American Freestyle Karate and Modern Arnis, Dan Anderson.
It started out as an informal interview but I didn't have a recorder with me (I bet I don't make that mistake again!) and I got such a great flow of opinion and info that my note-taking ability was rapidly overwhelmed. I did get some notes and will be putting the interview together for posting here soon, so you can look forward to getting to read his take on topics like:
  • ...the best art to start kids in...
  • ...whether stick teaches knife or knife teaches stick...
  • ...the common denominator - why people stick around in martial arts classes...


AM judo with Rob

  • Footsweep to control drill to warmup

  • various techniques, including deashi, kosoto, haraiTKashi, ashiguruma, okuriashi, etc...

  • Moving from quarter-Nelson directly into submissions. Look for classes on half-Nelson, 3/4-Nelson, and bar-Nelson/force-Nelson in the upcoming weeks.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I failed to mention in my last post that Rob Belote also received an award for Tactical Knife and Long Rifle Instructor of the Year at the WHFSC conference we just got back from. Congrats, Rob. I'm fired up about getting CSSD knife classes cranked up at Mokuren Dojo.
As for the wardrobe malfunction story - The awards dinner was a swanky, black tie event so I rented a tux. When I went to pick it up the day before we were to leave for San Antonio, the woman smiled and said confidently, "It will be here tomorrow," to which I responded, "I'll be out of town tomorrow at the event that I rented this tux for." So, they cobbled together a substa-tux for me to wear.
My tux ended up being this nearly-psychodelic vest over some crazy ruffles on the shirt and cheezy piping down the sides of the pants. The only thing keeping this tux from looking like it was straight from the 1970's was the fact that it was not actually powder blue. It had the little adjustable zippers on the hips so that it is supposed to fit almost everyone but the left hip zip was broken, so the pants kept sliding down off my butt so I looked like a gangsta. As I walked I had to swagger to keep the pants up, and as I strode across the stage I opted for the hand-in-the-pocket-like I'm playing-wit'-my-jewels walk. To top it off - no cufflinks.
My wife was out shopping until about an hour into the event, so she was not there to help me dress. As soon as she walked in, all shiney and sophisticated looking, she said, "What the hell is wrong with that tux?" All through the dinner she would lean over and try to tuck or adjust the vest and straps, but after a few drinks we really didn't care anymore.
So, thanks, bad tux shop, for a really uncomfortable awards dinner.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I'm back!

I just returned from attending the World Head of Family Sokeship Council 15th annual Hall of Fame, which was held in conjunction with the Internationals Sport Karate and Grappling tournament. It was a very interesting conference, very well attended by a truly international group of participants, including folks from Britain, Israel, Scotland, the Cayman Islands, Germany, Canada, Russia, and the US (among other places). I got to see some very interesting seminars by some amazing martial artists. Among the people that did demos and/or received awards were the following two folks that have been featured on Human Weapon.

Additionally, having been nominated by 2007 Black Belt Hall of Fame Weapons Instructor of the Year, Bram Frank, I received an award for Master Instructor of the Year in Aiki and Grappling Arts. Quite an honor that they thought so much of me. I'll have pictures and more stories on that later, including a funny wardrobe malfunction.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Regional popularity of wrestling

One of the things that I asked Gene LeBell about in my recent interview was the reason for the regional popularity of judo and wrestling. Judo is far more popular in Europe than in the U.S.A., and amateur wrestling is only popular in some regions of the U.S., like the midwest, while being almost completely unknown in other regions, like the south. Why is this? Gene attributed it to lack of publicity and I'm sure that's part of it, but the topic comes up in a book that I'm reading, Four Days to Glory, by Mark Kreidler. Kreidler writes...

Wrestling long ago became a surrogate for many Iowans' perceptions of themselves, particularly those that spent days working the land. It was basic and it was predicated on strength of body and strength of mind; and just about anybody could learn to do it. Iowa got better at it than anybody else. And over time that became a calling card in itself, something that did distinguish the state. It became a thing to be cherished and appreciated and bragged upon...
...Iowans cling to it more fiercely than ever. It is, for lack of a more benign way of putting it, their heritage... It goes back to the roots, goes back to the rural...
...the sport succeeded in the small towns, in the way that schoolboy football did in Texas and basketball in Indiana. It wasn't that nobody else did it; it was that Iowans decided to adopt it. They gave wrestling a place of importance that it would not be granted in very many parts of the country, and in turn, Iowa became known as a place that not only loved the sport, but produced its finest competitors...

I thought this was an interesting description of the type of regional phenomenon I was talking about. I will have some further posts related to this interesting book. If you enjoy wrestling or sports writing or reading about the competitive ethos in rural America, I'd recommend the book. If you want a copy, please pick one up at my Amazon bookstore:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

12th Houston Open

Class cancellation

Don't forget - no class at Mokuren Dojo this Friday (May 23) or Saturday (May 24)
Hope to see y'all at class tonight (Thursday the 22nd)
We'll be back to the regular schedule next week

Rudolf Laban on the wrist releases

Laban’s principles of human motion:

  • side-to-side motion implies (or facilitates or is accompanied by) forward-backward motion, creating motion in a horizontal plane.
  • forward-backward motion implies up-and-down motion, creating motion in a saggital plane.
  • up-and-down motion implies side-to-side motion, creating motion in a frontal plane
So, pure planar motion does not exist in the context of the human body. Any time someone is moving or exerting force along any plane there are also interesting interactions going on in the other 2 orthogonal planes. Essentially all human motion is a form of spiral.
Where this has popped up lately in the release followups. The chains are about synchonizing tori's wave-like motions with those of uke. Release#1 is, on the surface, mostly about synchronizing with uke’s left-right motion whereas Release#2 is mostly about synchronizing with uke’s up-down motion.

But Laban’s principles suggest that, for instance, in release#1, in order for uke to have a left-right motion in his body he has to also have a forward-backward motion, which in turn, implies an up-down motion. So in any of the releases we’re learning this 3-dimensional, wave-like, spiral synchronization even though one waveform might be more prominent or obvious.

As an exercise it might be interesting to extend Laban’s principles to other dimensions of waveform motion in the human body – to dimensions like otoshi-guruma or hineri-gaeshi or toward-away. I’ll have to think on that one for a bit…

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A helpful handful: 5 ways to improve your seoi nage

Seoinage is certainly not my tokuiwaza (best, favorite throw), but here is a handful of good pointers that I work on to try to get better...
  • Make sure that when you turn in, your knees are well bent, placing your center way under theirs. You will often want to make sure your feet are closer than hip-width apart and between his feet. Watch the efficiency of the master’s footwork in the first video above.
  • To make a good time to enter, bump uke when he puts a foot down then use the recoil off the bump to turn in. Watch the bump and turn-in on the second video above.
  • You might try thinking about that bump as pushing yourself backward off of uke, as if to disengage. Then, when uke does not allow you to disengage (that is an attack on his part), turn in and throw. You just tricked him into attacking you so that your throw is easier.
  • Try the same trick from an outside cross grip, as if uke reached for a grip and tori executed aikido release #1 or #3, ending up holding the near arm down and out and holding the back collar with the other hand. From here, bump and turn in.
  • Uke, if you can slide around this entry and crush tori onto his hands and knees you will be set for koshijime (A.K.A. clock choke), among other things.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fundamentals and randori

Aiki with Kel
  • ROM, extended ukemi session on a crashpad
  • Releases with emphasis on pushing forward instead of cutting down or grabbing
  • shomenate, gyakugamaeate, udegaeshi
  • chain #2, including maeotoshi, shihonage, and ushiroate
  • randori with emphasis on synchronization, triangulation, and watching the role of tori (or 'boss') trade back and forth between partners during an exchange. This was the first time I'd seen a good, strong effect from practicing the triangulation trick.

Mokuren Interview: 'Judo' Gene LeBell

I am pleased to present the latest in our series of interviews with great martial artists here at Mokuren Dojo. Today we had the opportunity to talk to grappling legend, Gene Lebell. From his website: “In a 50+ year career of high falls and fist fights, ‘Judo’ Gene LeBell has crashed cars, jumped motorcycles, wrestled bears, incited riots and fought some of the toughest men in the world. He was an AAU National Judo Champion and a Professional Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion at a time when wrestling was more about survival than show business… He was there during the "Golden Years" of martial arts growth in the U.S.”

Patrick Parker: Hey, I love that patch you are wearing on your left sleeve in the picture above. It’s hard to see in this picture, but if it's the patch I'm thinking of, it is a cartoon of a guy in a lion’s mouth with the caption, “When in doubt, Choke him out!” A few years back my judo teacher gave me one of those patches and I loved it!

Your bio on your webpage says that at age 20 you had 14 years of hardcore training behind you, including some grappling with Ed "Strangler" Lewis, who is credited with inventing the sleeper hold. Is that where you got your fabulous rear choke?

Gene Lebell: The 1st time I learned it, yes it was from Ed Lewis. Since then there have been many variations in the world, from which I have learned to do it from the sides, the front, etc. They are in my Encyclopedia of Grappling, Finishing Holds for those who want to learn them.

Patrick Parker: Who do you think were the greatest judo teachers you ever got to learn from?

Gene Lebell: In the U.S. Shig Tashma, Larry Coughran, Kenneth Kinyuki, Fuji Nazawa (who just died 2 days ago), and of course I learned a lot from training in Japan (Ishikawa), most are listed and pictured in "The Godfather of Grappling" book.

Patrick Parker: You mentioned your Godfather of Grappling and Encyclopedia of Grappling books... What do you think is the role of books in training? Since you've got to lay hands on a real guy to learn to grapple, how much of what kinds of things do you think folks can learn from a book or a website? What is the best way to learn something when you don't have face-to-face access to an expert?

Gene Lebell: Of course it is always better to work with an expert, but how often can you do that or afford it. As an alternative you use students of the experts, then videos or books. And there is no substitute for getting on the mat and experimenting and trying things to see what works for you and what doesn't.

Patrick Parker: It seems that judo is not as popular in America as it is in other countries, and amateur wrestling is only popular in certain regions of the United States. What do you figure is behind this regional popularity? What do you think we would have to do to grow judo and amateur wrestling in the United States?

Gene Lebell: Publicity. For example - Newspapers have results from horses, basketball, tennis, golf, but not the martial arts results. The people that are not good competitors become politicians, but they need to push the martial arts more. Every tournament and event should be publicized somewhere.

Patrick Parker: You've had so much experience in judo, wrestling, boxing, and jujitsu. Which of these arts seems to you to be the best way to start young children (like ages 6-8)?

Gene Lebell: I would say tumbling, gymnastics. Then if they fall off their bike they have less of a chance of getting hurt because they know how to move through the air. Then Judo and grappling involve all the skills from tumbling. Everyone should have background in boxing, judo, and wrestling.

Patrick Parker: There's been some hoopla in the news and on the blogsites lately about getting young kids involved in serious MMA competitions - do you figure that is a good thing or a bad thing?

Gene Lebell: It is a good thing if they are having fun. Less injuries occur on the mat than on a skateboard in the middle of the street.

Patrick Parker: Does it seem to you like our American society is predominantly becoming tougher and more Spartan/Bloodsport or are we becoming softer by pampering ourselves with excessive rules lawyering in contact sports?

Gene Lebell: As a whole - softer. Kids are not allowed to learn to defend themselves in the school yard. Everyone cries for a lawyer when they look at each other wrong. Men that can defend themselves and their families seem to be disappearing. That is why the MMA is a great thing and popular. It reminds men what men are and women what they are missing out on.

Patrick Parker: Folks call you the toughest man alive. Where do you think that toughness comes from? Is it more of a mental attitude or some physical skills you've learned or an inborn trait?

Gene Lebell: It isn't how you play the game, it's the final score that counts. A hundred years from now nobody knows how you won, only if you did or didn't. What I call a 2nd is the 1st loser. Toughness is mental and physical. You must be fanatical to put in the necessary amount of work to succeed.

Thank you so much, Gene, for sharing your thoughts with my readers and me. There is so much great info here that I’m sure they will appreciate. I know that I, for one, can hardly wait to lay hands on your two books that you mentioned.

For more info on the Legendary Judo Gene LeBell,
or to buy copies of his books,
check out his websites,

Monday, May 19, 2008

No class this weekend

There will be no class at Mokuren Dojo this Friday (May 23) or Saturday (May 24). I will be in San Antonio rubbing elbows with Bram Frank and a bunch of other big name martial artists. Should be interesting and educational. Be sure to drop by late Sunday or early next week to get the scoop on the Who's Who of the martial arts world.
Hope to see y'all at class Thursday of this week and back to the regular schedule next week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Striking training equipment

A quickie question for y'all that do striking arts. If you had to choose only one piece of equipment for your striking training, what would it be? Heavy bag, body shield, focus mitts, makiwara, focus pad, or something else?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Variations on katatetori ikkyo

Aiki with Patrick M., John J., John W., and Andy
  • We did environmental training today - since it was so pleasant outside, we worked out on the concrete slab, mostly avoiding falling, in street clothes and with or without shoes as each person felt led to practice.
  • Tegatana with some emphasis on panther walking.
  • Hanasu with emphasis on #1, #3, and #5.
  • Koryu Dai Ichi section B (variations on katatetori ikkyo)
  • Crazy man randori
  • My arm is still swollen - but not like it was - and the rash has receded for the most part but still itches. Still working on the antibiotics.
  • John W. asked me for some help with organizing a teaching syllabus. I haven't forgotten that - I'll get it to you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Granby

Even with all my nice talk about "knowledge is not power - knowledge shared is power..." This clip is so good that it hurts me to share this. This is a video clip of some awesome wrestling, and if you back off a touch, what you see is a good offensive application for ukemi skills in judo or even aikido. Check out these guys' great ground mobility. If you want to begin playing this stuff in judo or aikido, uke had better be rolling and blending compliantly or he's going to eat a lot of energy and break corners off of his body.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

He said...

Ok, perhaps I’ll turn this blog into a medical drama. I've previously posted on my brush with death last year...

This past week I’ve had a little rash under my arms because I had a reaction to a deodorant a few days ago. Well, I’ve done the hygiene thing and kept it dry and trusted in the body’s amazing recuperative properties. And it spread. And spread…

I decided that I’d gotten a mild case of pickly heat. Pretty common and pretty innocuous. The pattern and the circumstances supported that diagnosis. But it continued to spread. And hurt…

I was useless at aikido Tuesday and the past couple of days I’ve lay spread-eagled under a fan waiting for those amazing recuperative properties to kick in. And I itched and burned and had the pinprick sensations, etc… Fortunately prickly heat is not contagious. Unfortunately, I was considering modifying my diagnosis to something like Hidradenitis suppurativa. Boy, could I use Dr. House at this point!

Well, the last couple of nights I’ve watched my left arm go bad as this neon red rash spread about 4 inches per day. Mind numbing pain, itching, burning, and prickling, similar to what I figure Paul Maud Dib must have felt when he had the Gom jabbar at his neck. I started thinking about a more exotic diagnosis, like necrotizing fasciitis. (WARNING: you had BETTER NOT look that term up in Google image if you are squeamish!) In the meantime, my left arm has swollen and I have gained 6 pounds of fluid.

Well, after this jungle rot had eaten ¾ of my arm all the way down to the middle of my forearm I decided I’d go to the StatCare to get a couple of shots to knock it out. But first I had to go to work and make sure my rehab patients were covered. I figured to zip in and out at work and be off to StatCare. Nope. My nurse has called in with conjunctivitis, so we set out to disinfect everything in the room so my patients wouldn’t get it. Patients start rolling in and it’s 10:00 before I can get off to StatCare. (Found out later that my one of my personal nightmares came true while I was out – I skipped out on rehab and my boss came whirling through the department asking, “Where’s Pat?”)

So, I finally got to the StatCare and the FNP looks at it and says, “Oh my!” and starts talking about running a CBC so they can figure out how fast to get me to the Emergency Room. Hmmm. My day is getting more interesting. So they run their CBC and determine that it is not a systemic infection based on lack of fever and normal WBC. So I don’t have to got to the ER. They decided it was a combination of contact dermatitis and cellulitis.

I got two shots in the butt (steroid and antibiotic) and I got a prescription for two different oral antibiotics and I got instructions to come back to see the MD if by arm continued rotting off. I spent $50 at StatCare and $50 at the pharmacy over the course of an extended lunch. When I got back to work they propped me up at the telemetry monitor with an icepack the size of a baby blanket covering my torso and me moaning, “yeah, baybee!”

I figure that tomorrow should be better and I should have more fun at aikido class due, if nothing else, to regression to the mean.


See here for my lovely wife's account of this ordeal...

She said...

Okay, Elise here, a.k.a. Shug (only to Pat) and The Boss to everyone else.

Let me tell my version of Pat’s pit problem. Last week, Pat ran out of deodorant. He claims he told me several times that he was out, meaning I had to buy him some more. Now, Pat’s a big boy, right? He has a debit card in his wallet, what’s stopping him from going to the store and buying his own darn deodorant, one may ask. Well, I homeschool our children, as well as organize and conduct classes for the children of 7 other families. I am mom, teacher, principal, secretary, librarian, janitor, and school nurse from 8-2:30 Monday through Thursday, and half-day on Friday. Going to the store for anything (finding the time, organizing someone to keep the kids, etc) is a strategic event that takes days to plan. Again I ask, what was stopping him from getting his own deodorant? It would take him 10 minutes, me 10 days! Twice he used my deo. Perhaps I should preface Pat’s particular pit problem by explaining that he has had mild allergic reactions in the past, and we’ve learned there is one kind of one brand only that he can use with no reaction.
Anyway, a few days after using my deodorant, he gets a little red. A kind of blister forms in his arm pit, and I lovingly (laughingly) applied some anti-itch ointment to it. Men can’t take pain, I might add, and the burning he claims to have suffered after the application of this ointment was enough to grip sheets, grind teeth, and squirm for 5 minutes. Big baby. The next day I comment on his numerous baths – and the fact that he has gone through a bottle of bleach and a bottle of vinegar and my house stinks. Not to mention water in Magnolia is like a dollar a drop (long story about re-piping the town, engineering screw ups, inflated water bills for people in the city limits, etc) and we ration water as if we live in a desert 3rd world country. When, on the third day, his baths came at hour intervals, I knew I needed to intervene.
“Pat, show me your arm pits.” He was lying on the bed, his knees crooked over the footboard, arms flung over his head, draped in a towel having just come out of the bath. He removed the towel.
“Oh, hell, you need to see a doctor!”
What had been a little pink rash had spread from his nipples to his shoulder blades, and from the inside of his elbows laterally to his midsection. The pink of it was raised and swollen, so puffy his shirt-sleeves were tight. When he stood it looked like he needed a man bra. He’d come home early from work (usually a bad sign – he knows better than to come home unless he’s worked his full hours. We’re poor! I knew it had to be serious if he’d chance my nagging him about coming home early) and claimed the rash was now seeping.
“What could it be seeping?” I asked.
He replied with some medical mumbo-babble that I can’t pronounce, much less spell, so I gave him directions and permission for going to the doctor first thing in the morning.
I called him at 9:30 this morning to see what the doctor said. Instead of being able to go to StatCare after getting his ducks in a row, he was still at work. His one nurse had called in sick with the pink eye, and his other assistant is 10 months pregnant. He couldn’t conceivably leave her there alone with patients, so he was suffering in silence.
He finally got to go at lunch, and later told me the doctor, upon first seeing it, backed away calling for the number for the CDC in Atlanta. A tech in a HAZMAT suit took some blood, only to discover his white blood cells were okay in number, and he had some contact dermatitis which has caused cellulitis. He didn’t need House, he needed J.D. and Janitor!

Two shots and a gallon of antibiotics later (and a shot or two of whiskey) his swelling is much decreased, my water bill is stabilizing, and hopefully soon he’ll stop walking like a sissy with his hands propped on his hips.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Aiki training log for tonight

Aikido with Patrick M., Kel, and Rick
  • ROM & Ukemi
  • Hanasu #1-8 with emphasis on releasing #1 and #2 into ukemi and emphasis on #6 and #8 as pieces of shihonage
  • shomenate, aigamaeate, and gyakugamaeate
  • chain #1 with emphasis on taking the steps between the steps in order to stay synchronized. We also emphasized having uke constantly moving to diffuse tori's technique.
  • Cool techniques of the night: Koryu dai ni first two techniques - R4→katagatame and R3→2HG→gyakugamaeate

"Almost certainly"

The best of East vs. West... (watch out for some bad language)

Longitudinal and cross-sectional progress

Someone suggested on one of my videos on YouTube a while back that it would be great if we could make a video of the two people on that video a year later doing the same stuff so we could see progress. I think that’s a great idea, though I can’t do it in that particular case because one of the students has now returned home to Ukraine.

But that brings up a teaching topic I thought I’d write on today. There are two types of progress that you want to see in a martial art – longitudinal and cross-sectional progress. In longitudinal progress, you follow a particular individual over time, measuring skill in some way, and you should be able to see progress in that individual's skill. So, Bob should be more skilled at green belt than he was at white belt, and he should be more skilled at black belt than he was at green belt, and so on.

The other type of progress, cross-sectional, is where you look at a class full of people at one particular time and try to figure out if the black belts are generally more skilled than the brown belts, who are, in turn, generally more skilled than the green belts. In a good class you should see pretty obvious skill increments between groups of like-ranked students.

This is one of my outcomes measures for the viability of my classes at Mokuren dojo – if you attend one class, you should see higher-ranked students are generally more skilled than lower-ranked students, and if you follow one student over time you should see that student improving. A good martial arts class should create both cross-sectional and longitudinal improvements in the students' skills.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wrestling vs. boxing

So, who would win? A wrestler or a boxer? If you forgive, at least for the sake of argument, the incredible stupidity of this question, you might find the following video clip interesting.

The steps between the steps

Here is another Musashi quote for us to think about – again, from his Wind book. This one is on walking methods. In aikido we define two walking methods – ayumiashi (normal walking) and tsugiashi (a dropping/sliding motion without crossing the feet). There are benefits to both, and for the most part, we walk using ayumiashi whenever we are outside of ma-ai, instantly switching to safer, more conservative tsugiashi as we cross into ma-ai. Here’s what Mushshi had to say about walking methods…

Use of the Feet in Other Schools

There are various methods of using the feet: floating foot, jumping foot, springing foot, treading foot, crow's foot, and such nimble walking methods. From the point of view of my strategy, these are all unsatisfactory.

I dislike floating foot because the feet always tend to float during the fight. The Way must be trod firmly.

Neither do I like jumping foot, because it encourages the habit of jumping, and a jumpy spirit. However much you jump, there is no real justification for it; so jumping is bad.

Springing foot causes a springing spirit which is indecisive.

Treading foot is a "waiting" method, and I especially dislike it.

Apart from these, there are various fast walking methods, such as crow's foot, and so on. Sometimes, however, you may encounter the enemy on marshland, swampy ground, river valleys, stony ground, or narrow roads, in which situations you cannot jump or move the feet quickly.

In my strategy, the footwork does not change. I always walk as I usually do in the street. You must never lose control of your feet. According to the enemy's rhythm, move fast or slowly, adjusting you body not too much and not too little.

Carrying the feet is important also in large-scale strategy. This is because, if you attack quickly and thoughtlessly without knowing the enemy's spirit, your rhythm will become deranged and you will not be able to win. Or, if you advance too slowly, you will not be able to take advantage of the enemy's disorder, the opportunity to win will escape, and you will not be able to finish the fight quickly. You must win by seizing upon the enemy's disorder and derangement, and by not according him even a little hope of recovery. Practice this well.

I thought it was interesting that he essentially said, “Walk normally, but be careful that your walking doesn’t get you out of rhythm with the enemy.” Similar to his advice that I previously quoted.
I have also found it interesting to note that even if we emphasize tsugiashi in kata, when we do randori, we revert back to the more natural ayumiashi and we often have the feeling that we are doing very badly because we can’t make randori work with the type of footwork found in the kata. Working chains more has corrected this for me by showing me that the kata-style tsugiashi is sort of a one-step instantaneous thing. For instance, you might walk around for a while in ayumiashi but then tsugiashi once to push uke. Then you might ayumiashi some more, then throw uke with one more tsugiashi. The ayumiashi has been taken out of the kata for the purpose of boiling each technique down to its essence, but to make it go in randori, there often have to be some “steps between the steps.”
One more hint related to this - you can often tell if you have gotten a good offbalance on uke because it will reset him from the tsugiashi he's trying to do to the more natural ayumiashi. So, for instance, the pattern of uke's stepping during a release exercise will look like: ayumiashi up to ma-ai then attack through ma-ai with tsugiashi. Tori gets an offbalance and uke reverts back to the ayumiashi, at which point tori blends using ayumiashi (the steps between the steps) then tori switches to tsugiashi to apply a push...

Order your copy of Musashi's Book of Five Rings:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bram Frank & Rob Belote

We're famous (again). This teaser for with grandmaster Bram Frank includes my student, Rob Belote, in the second-to-last segment starting at about 2:30. I'm glad to see that Bram is starting to get some of his stuff out there on YouTube. I've tried to search for his name, or for CSSD every so often and this is the first time that I've found any extended clips to speak of. In the brief time that I got to train with him I was very impressed with his knife material - it was very aiki. I'm looking forward to seeing him again at the end of the month for a short vacation in San Antonio.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ranai – Chaos into order

So, we saw in class today that once two vibrating objects (uke & tori) are coupled together, they may either amplify each others’ motions or they may damp each others’ motions out depending on how they are synchronized and how they are coupled. Here’s the cool physical example of this principle that I mentioned in class. And here it is done with three metronomes… and with five metronomes.

So, who all out there can say they've seen this type of phenomenon happen between two people in a martial arts setting?

Getting in synch and flowing around obstacles

Aiki with Patrick M., Kel, and Rick
  • Today we discussed getting in rhythm with uke, like Musashi was talking about in the passage I posted a few days ago...

  • Tegatana with emphasis on shortening steps to keep in synch with an external pace.

  • Hanasu with emphasis on shortening or stretching steps to get in synch during releases #1 and #3. From there we played with brushing off and disengaging. #2 turns into a particularly fabulous brushoff if tori stays light on the feet, times uke's near footfall and brushes himself off of uke.

  • Koryu dai ichi section B with emphasis on staying light on the feet and flowing around obstacles.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Ukemi is a kind of intelligent blending

Cool aikido, iaido, and jodo demo, including the multiple opponents aikido randori that I was talking about with Rick last night. Notice in the randori that the tori does not engage in a fight with every single opponnent. In fact, he doesn't really engage any of them. He evades and brushes them off, moving on the the next attacker. Most of the attackers blend well with tori's redirection and brushoffs, ending up in simple forward rolls, but a time or two you can see an uke that hangs on an instant too long, applies force the wrong way at the wrong time, or is slightly out-of-synch with tori, and that uke eats a lot more energy in a bigger fall.
In situations like this you can see that skillful blending is a part of uke's role too - and I don't mean jumping for tori. I mean really attacking, then responding by blending intelligently to remain viable. Ukemi is a kind of intelligent blending. The falling is a natural extension of the act of blending with the relationship between tori and uke.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

We're famous!

Our recent crop of yellow belts made the Enterprise Journal today, so I figure we might get some hits for folks interested in kids' judo, 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, so 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 off-season, so we're not starting beginners right now, but classes are forming right now for the 2008-2009 season to begin in September. Class sizes will be limited, so if you think it sounds like fun, send me an email at to get more information or reserve a spot for your child.
I also teach martial arts for older children and adults, so if that interests you, drop me an email at
If you have friends here in Southwest Mississippi that might be interested, then please forward them an email suggesting they check us out.

Working the envelope

AM judo with Rob
  • warmup with the ground mobility cycle
  • kosotogari→(kesa↔mune)→(wakigatame↔udegarame)
  • near leg (bent) armbar, far leg (straight) armbar, and elbow crank from kesagatame
  • top shoulder choke and step-over choke from kesagatame
  • straitjacket holds from kamishiho, tateshiho, and munegatame

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Musashi and Canadian Brass on speed

Last night, as we practiced aigamaeate, Kel and Rick commented on the difference between what I was doing and what they were doing. They were pulling uke around in a circle and it was making tori have to go faster to compensate for lack of offbalance and for the centrifugal effect. I was floating uke into offbalance, slipping aside at the proper time, doing less, moving slower, and getting greater effect.

This brings me back to Musashi’s Wind book, which I was quoting the other day:

Speed in Other Schools
Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy. Speed implies that things seem fast or slow, according to whether or not they are in rhythm. Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast.

Some people can walk as fast as a hundred or a hundred and twenty miles in a day, but this does not mean that they run continuously from morning till night. Unpracticed runners may seem to have been running all day, but their performance is poor.

In the Way of dance, accomplished performers can sing while dancing, but when beginners try this they slow down and their spirit becomes busy. The "old pine tree" melody beaten on a leather drum is tranquil, but when beginners try this they slow down and their spirit becomes busy. Very skilful people can manage a fast rhythm, but it is bad to beat hurriedly. If you try to beat too quickly you will get out of time. Of course, slowness is bad. Really skilful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy. From this example, the principle can be seen.

What is known as speed is especially bad in the Way of strategy.

The reason for this is that depending on the place, marsh or swamp and so on, it may not be possible to move the body and legs together quickly. Still less will you be able to cut quickly if you have a long sword in this situation. If you try to cut quickly, as if using a fan or short sword, you will not actually cut even a little. You must appreciate this.

In large-scale strategy also, a fast busy spirit is undesirable. The spirit must be that of holding down a pillow, then you will not be even a little late. When your opponent is hurrying recklessly, you must act contrarily and keep calm. You must not be influenced by the opponent. Train diligently to attain this spirit.

I particularly enjoyed Musashi's analogy of holding down a pillow. The image that comes to mind is smothering someone with a pillow in their sleep. In a lot of ways aikido is like that.

Order your copy of Musashi's Book of Five Rings:

L.O.C.K.U.P. police combatives method

Here's a really interesting police combatives system that appears to have a lot in common with the aikido and judo that we do. Notice the things I found most ingteresting included:
  • The adjectives and descriptors that Lt. Col. Grossman (the first guy on the film) used to describe the system: "more than just combatives, the spirit, the soul of the warrior. Teachable in a lecture framework to executives... and substance..." How many instructors can claim that kind of teaching skill?
  • Reality based training, or as they refer to it, environmental training. Recreating the physiological responses and environment that occur in combat. I would really like to implement this. Anyone out there in Southwest Mississippi want to practice aikido or judo at night under a sprinkler with a strobe light? Let me know and we can play that one... That might just be something to play at the next ABG!
  • "We discuss everything that would be important to that officer right from legal aspects all the way down to the hands-on physical"
  • Gross motor skills. Good retention under duress.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Great rolling exercise

When we begin training beginners to roll, we put them kneeling and have them roll forward into a proper landing position. Then we reverse that and have them roll backward from either a landing position or a seated position into a kneeling position. It usually doesn’t take too long to get to feeling fairly proficient with these two exercises, and here’s why: momentum covers mistakes.
Take a bicycle wheel as an example. Stand it up on its edge and it falls over. Stand it up and start it rolling and it takes much longer to fall over. Because of conservation of angular momentum, a rotating object resists a change in its axis. So the wheel does not fall over and it is fairly easy to roll forward and backward with momentum.
But what if as you gain proficiency you begin to slow down your kneeling rolls. Your momentum is reduced and the roll again becomes a challenge. As you slow down the rolls the muscles in your abdomen and torso have to adapt and become more coordinated at balancing you on the line of the roll.
As you become more proficient these slower rolls become easier so you reduce the momentum further and it’s challenging again. You can actually continue profiting from these two initial exercises indefinitely so long as you keep balancing your feeling of success with reductions in momentum. The natural endpoint of this process is the forward roll into shoulder stand or the backward roll into shoulderstand.
So, if you think you’re pretty good at the forward roll, try slowing it down until you feel uncomfortable again. Try to prove to yourself that there is such a thing as ‘not enough momentum’ to do the roll (there isn’t).

Monday, May 05, 2008

Boxing and aikido

Nathan at TDA Training has a lot of good info on boxing, including articles on boxing for self-defense, boxing combinations, and such… One of his more popular articles describes 3 C’s of boxing defense and 3 C’s of boxing offense – good rules of thumb that make things a lot better better during sparring. In this article, Nathan says that for defense, you should Circle, Cover, and Counter and that for offense, you should Close, Cover, and Clear. Read his article for details.

I’d say this is all mighty good advice but just as a thought exercise what if we change a thing or two …
  • The line between offense and defense is blurry at best most times, so, what if we combined the two groups into one?
  • Cover appears twice. Maybe it is twice as important, but what if we replaced one Cover with a Clinch.
....all of a sudden it becomes a general strategy that looks like this:
  • Cover – Keep your hands up between you and the opponent. Try to keep your hands on the plane between your centerline and his. Controlling the center of the conflict is extremely valuable.
  • Circle – Get slippery. Evade, avoid, brush-off, refuse to engage, disengage.
  • Close – If the opponent is putting enough energy into the thing to confound your avoidance strategy, close the gap as safely, quickly, and efficiently as possible and…
  • Clinch – either in the standard head-elbow or side-bearhug or just place your hands on top of his hands or forearms to suppress his punches and keep him offbalance. (You sure wouldn't want to clinch much or for long in a situation like that pictured above!)
  • Counter – bust him if/when you get a chance, and…
  • Clear – get out of there!
Wow! All of a sudden Nathan’s boxing strategy is the same as our aikido self-defense strategy. Cool. Whoda thunk that boxing and aikido have that much in common?
Interested in Reading More?

Nariyama embu

Nice video of Nariyama Sensei demonstrating at a recent event.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The meaning of your communication is the response you get

It doesn’t do anyone any good for an instructor to assume that their students are knuckleheads who can’t follow instructions. A better way is to assume good faith on their part – that is, assume that the students are really trying to do what they think you are telling them. So, if you don’t get the response you want from your students, you can assume that you are not communicating what you think you are communicating. Change how you are saying it to them.

Be careful how you say what you say because different people have different connotations for any given word. Colin Wee gave a good example in a comment a few days ago. If you tell the student, “step over here,” then they might understand step any old way. They might step as in normal walking (ayumiashi) when what you intended was slide over here (tsugiashi) or even bring your feet together under you then slide over here (tsuriashi). A better way is to explain the difference between these 2-3 types of walking and give them their technical terms. Then you can say, tsugiashi over here, or you can let them know that when you say slide over here you mean tsugiashi.

Another example of careless instructor-speak is something that I have had to try to overcome. I used to see a student doing something wrong and say, “you want to…,” when I actually had two different meanings to this. Sometimes I would mean, “It looks like you want in your mind to do such and such, when actually you should be thinking about it this way…” Alternately, “you want to do so and so,” could mean, “Instructions follow on how to execute this move.” Sometimes I’d get so twisted up as to say something like, “you want to do (are thinking about it wrong) this, when really you want to do (should execute it this way) that.”

Beth Shibata makes the point in her article, that how we name things affects how we think about them, and therefore, how we execute them. She suggests that aikido is overly rife with the term throw, when there is no way in the world you can use a common throwing action as we normally understand the word (like throwing a ball) to propel a person-sized thing. What we are doing is not really a throwing action, but something else. She suggests the term release. So, perhaps, shihonage (“all-directions throw”) would be easier to get across if we called it shihohanasu (“releasing in any direction”). Perhaps iriminage (enter and throw) could profitably be called (“enter and release” or "enter and separate"). Maybe the rotary throw (kaitennage) is more accurately a rotary release (kaiten hanasu).

Or maybe two other alternatives would be to either use poetic language, as in Chinese martial arts or to just rename things in your native language and ditch the exotic-sounding jargon…

Saturday, May 03, 2008

How to learn jodo without an uke

Jodo has grown on me like a fungus. When I first tried it out I found it quite esoteric and unpleasant and non-fun. In college I played with it off and on - more off than on. I think most of the folks that were in the college club with me were of the same opinion, so my instructor, Usher-san, wound up without a consistent, reliable set of training partners for jodo.
Usher-san kept up his own solo kihon and kata practice though, and practiced with real live people when he could. Some years later I had the pleasure of watching Usher-san demonstrate in Houston for his Sandan and he wowed the examiners and the observers. I overheard one very highly-ranked examiner say that Usher was one of the few jodo or aikido folks he'd ever seen who actually looked comfortable and competent holding a sword. Everyone was doubly amazed because Usher-san had, for the most part, taught himself when he was between partners. When folks would ask him how he did it he'd shrug and say, "solo kihon and kata practice in front of a mirror."
Well, now I'm in a similar situation with a lack of regular jo partners, and while I can't say I have excelled as Usher-san did, I do have a couple of pointers (in addition to Usher-san's mirror hint)that y'all might find helpful if you have to practice jodo without a partner.
  • Build a pell. I bought an 8 foot long 4x4 and buried about 2.5 feet of it in hard packed ground. Because it still gave too much when I pushed on it, I took a 2x4 that was about 3 feet long, cut one end into a wedge, and drove it into the ground directly against the back of the pell. This firmed it up nicely. I wrapped the pell from the top down to about knee level with 5/8” sisal rope – two windings thick to keep the post from splintering and more importantly to keep the post from denting or cracking my jo. Eventually I painted a couple of targets on the post – one the height and size of the orbit of my eye and the other the same size but solar plexus level. I would NOT recommend building a makiwara for punching this way – you’ll tear up your hands and arms – but for stick practice it is invaluable if you don’t have a regular partner. I gave my pell a name – Woodreaux Roper so I could practice cursing my enemy.

  • Re-think your techniques. Instead of basing your actions on the likely responses of a partner that you don’t have, concentrate on keeping yourself safe and moving. Anything that can be thought of as stabbing uke and pushing him back can also be thought of as pushing yourself backward off of uke and getting away from him (resulting in the same spacings as in kata). So, for instance, the second kata, suigetsu, becomes a sidestep, push yourself backward off of the sword guy, then strike down with honteuchi.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Dave at Formosa Neijia posted an Ironman trailer that had some scenes I hadnt' seen. We're also super-excited about this movie. We're going to see it tomorrow afternoon. Can't wait. Here's a cool Ironman video to whet our collective appetites...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

AM training

AM aiki with Rob
  • Koryu Dai Ichi - Sections B (variations on release #1 and oshitaoshi) and C (variations on YK#1 and shihonage).
  • We talked a little about the positive influence that jodo has had on my aikido - particularly in the last year or so.

PM aiki with Rick

  • We spent a lot of time working on ukemi paying attention to muscle coordination - relax/contact and the appropriate times for each.
  • Same lesson plan as the AM session - Ichikata sections B&C - worked great. Wonderful flow.

No education for me, thank you.

After writing the previous post on gun safety, I got to looking for vids on YouTube on the subject, and found this travesty. This is one of those rare instances where everyone involved would have probably been better off not being educated. This was one of the scariest things I've seen in a long, long time.

And what's more, the agent had the balls to sue the DEA (his own agency) for releasing the video and thus tarnishing his reputation.
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