Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gavin de Becker

This guy is super-interesing.  I've got his 2 books that he mentions here, and I am reading The Gift of Fear now.  Very engaging writing style and very informative.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Attackproof/Kichuando anyone?

This is interesting from a kinesiology point of view. Have any of y'all had any contact with these AttackProof/kichuando guys? Anyone read the book? What do y'all think?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Entries into groundwork

How many ways can you guys think of that you might end up on the ground during a fight?  For instance,
  • the other guy might throw you or take you down or knock you down

  • you might just slip/trip and fall

  • you might be overwhelmed and do a sacrifice

  • you might throw uke and he pulls you down

  • you might duck or kneel during an evasion or during the execution of a technique

Educate me, guys.  There have to be other ways...

Monday, July 28, 2008

You bring it and we'll fling it!

Today and tomorrow the weather gurus are predicting near record-high temperatures for this time of year in Magnolia.  Something on the order of 108 degrees F.  We will still be having aikido class tomorrow, but I'll be turning the AC on a little earlier and it will be a no-gi day, so bring your shorts and teeshirts and a sweat towel.  You bring it and we'll fling it!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Aiki groundwork practice

Aiki with Patrick M.
  • aiki groundwork: shrimp-bridge, leapfrog, pins, rear naked choke
  • wakigatame
  • randori

Your feet will thank you and you will thank me

Ok, here's a product endorsement unlike the kinds I usually do.  Foot lotion... 
I noticed years ago that barefoot martial arts practice was making my feet tougher, with especially thick skin on the heels and big toes.  I thought that was sorta cool.  Sorta like a visible sign of the inward changes.  A progress guage. Well, my foot abuse is exacerbated by the fact that I am a Southerner and we only wear shoes to work, church, and the store.  In the past couple of years my feet have taken an even larger amount of abuse from doing jodo kata on brushed concrete outside.  The result, excruciatingly painful cracks in the thick skin of my heels.
I have tried many products to help relieve these cracks and they just got worse and worse until I got a sample packet of Eucerin lotion from work and tried it.  I felt a difference immediately, and went and bought a tube of Eucerin.  I figured to get some little bit of relief but to my surprise it actually healed the skin on my heels after several days of application 2-3 times per day.  Now I am a true Eucerin believer and am hooked on this product totally.
If you find that the barefoot thing in martial arts is 'toughening' your feet, you might want to go ahead and do yourself a favor and start using Eucerin to keep your skin on your feet supple so they won't crack like mine did.  I'm sure you can find Eucerin at your local pharmacy but if you feel like having it shipped to you, then you can buy it from the link below and I will get a little commission off the sale.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New exercise machine

I got a new exercise machine yesterday.  It's called a tiller!  today I tilled 8 rows 32 feet long for my dad and then tilled 6 rows at my own place.  According to ACSM, that should be greter than about 6 METS for several hours.  I'm tired.  I recommend tilling as a quick practical add-in to your workout.

What’s so ‘floaty’ about floating throws?

In the Tomiki scheme of things there is a class of throws called ukiwaza (floating throws). This class of throws includes maeotoshi (forward drop), sumiotoshi (corner drop), and hikiotoshi (pulling drop). In our class we have divided maeotoshi into two motions and commonly practice them as two floating throws with the first motion called kotetaoshi (forearm pushdown).
But after practicing these throws a while, you can’t help but wonder, “what is so floaty about these techniques that Tomiki put them into a group together?” For instance, the throw in kotegaeshi happens with similar mechanics to that of the floating throws but kotegaeshi is not one of the floating throws. Also, the kata form of the floating throws is done with the same evasion and offbalance as shihonage but shihonage doesn’t count as a floating throw.
I posed this question to a bunch of instructors a lot smarter than me a while back, and one of the answers that made the most sense regarding the kotegaeshi problem was that on kotegaeshi we use the wrist as insurance as we float uke into a fall but in the rest of the ukiwaza there is no insurance. I see this point with regard to sumiotoshi and hikiotoshi, but there is definitely elbow insurance on maeotoshi – uke can either float or get his elbow jacked.
Anyway, I don’t know what all Tomiki was thinking when he grouped the techniques like he did, but here’s what I think I know about the floating throws:
  • They demonstrate otoshi motion – that is, catching uke dropping his center and keeping him moving downward.

  • They happen by extending one of uke’s steps so that the center of mass floats out over a foot farther then they expected.

  • In the Pat scheme of things, I would call kotegaeshi a floating throw too. When you come down to it, all or most of the throws in aikido use this floating mechanic in some form, but the ukiwaza (and kotegaeshi) demonstrate it more obviously.

Floating throws again

Aikido with Kel
  • ROM, ukemi
  • Tegatana with emphasis on hip-width steps
  • Hanasu with emphasis on synching and moving with uke – particularly on #2 and #4
  • Preview of floating throws – kotetaoshi, maeotoshi, sumiotoshi (& variants), hikitaoshi. I let Kel do most of the reps of these things so he could get the feel of the motion and so I could do some ukemi.
  • Review of Kel’s rank material – elbow techniques – oshitaoshi, udegaeshi, hikitaoshi, udehineri (& variants), wakigatame (& variants)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Floating throws

Aiki with Patrick M.
  • ROM, ukemi with emphasis on falling/rolling as natural extension of a step that has been extended as in a floating throw
  • tegatana with emphasis on constant, standard-sized steps as opposed to extended (floating) steps
  • hanasu with emphasis on tori blending, following, and extending one of uke's steps.  We especially worked this idea with releases #2 and #4 because these are the releases that set up the floating throws at the end of Nijusan.
  • Floating throws including kotetaoshi, maeotoshi, sumiotoshi, and hikiotoshi.  Because of Patrick's 1-armed aiki, there appears to be only one of the sumiotoshi variants that he ever gets into and he is unable to do hikiotoshi without great modification.  He ends up doing a guruma version of ushiroate from owaza in place of hikiotoshi and it works great!  We played with tenchinage as a variant of sumiotoshi a little bit.
  • Cool technique of the night was suwariwaza menuchi tekubiosae.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rory meditates on aikido gripping

This is the third in a series of reviews on Rory Miller's excellent new book, Meditations on Violence. The previous reviews can be found here and here.
I really ought to try harder to find something to gripe about in this book just so I won't seem like some sort of kool-aid drinking Rory Miller sycophant when I tell you that you really, really need to buy this book. Hmmm... Let's see... How about this... RE: adrenaline response:

Blood is pooled in the internal organs, pulled away from the limbs. Your legs and arms may feel weak and cold and clumsy. You may not be able to feel your fingers and you will not be able to use some "fine motor skills," the precision grips and strikes necessary for some styles such as Aikido... (p59)

While I know that the author is only using aikido as an example, and that the aikido that the author has seen might make use of complex gripping skills. And while I completely agree with his premise that fine motor skills go to pot during a conflict, I still have to complain about the use of aikido gripping as the example. We just ain't like that.
There are no complex gripping skills involved in aikido. Any grip that is used is obtained by simply closing the hand on whatever it happens to be touching. If the grip that you get is different from the "classical form" of the thing - it really doesn't matter that much.
But you know, that's digging pretty deep into a really great book for a really tiny glitch. The use of that particular example doesn't change anything about this book. The author is still exactly right in describing this phenomenon as important and I still highly recommend that you buy the book and read it for yourself (over and over). It is simply that indispensable in the education of a martial artist.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rhadi and Taraje passing around sumigaeshi

Taking a short break from my ongoing reviews of Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence, here are some great newaza training sessions with Olympians Rhadi Ferguson and TarajeWilliams-Murray training a guard pass from a sumigaeshi-like position.  It's cool to see Olympians drilling some of what seems like pretty low-level material, but in an advanced manner.  I learned a lot from this trio of videos and enjoyed them a lot.
You can get on Rhadi's email list at, and I recommend that you do because you get a ton of high-quality training hints for free. Sometimes it even seems like Rhadi is "giving away the house" by sending out all this info for free, but There is so much knowledge lying under this thin crust that youget for free, that Rhadi still has a lot of knowledge to sell (for a reasonable price, I might add.)
It's also nice to see Olympians training in the living room surrounded by couches just like the rest of us mortals. 

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Violence is... Well, It is VIOLENT!

Here's a quick addition to my previous review of Rory Miller's extraordinary new book, Meditations on Violence. In this book, the author writes about many concepts that, when you read them you immediately think, "Yeah, of course that's the way it is." But then you think about it a little more and realize, "Hey, I never thoght about it like that before." It seems common sense is pretty un-common.
One of the concepts that Rory goes into great detail on is what he calls the Four Basic Truths of Violent Assault. That is, violence happens...
  • closer...
  • faster...
  • with less warning...
  • and with greater power...
...than you are prepared to deal with.
Of course it does. In other words, violence is , by definition, violent. If violence were not close, fast, hard, and unexpected, it would not really be violent. It would merely be inconvenient or perhaps uncomfortable. Straightforward, right?
Well, the potential impact of those four truths upon your martial art could fill a book. In fact, it did fill a book. Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence. I highly recommend that anyone interested in the self-defense aspects of martial arts purchase a copy of this book to read and re-read.
More review to come tomorrow...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence

A few weeks ago I had the distinct privilege and pleasure of being asked to review Rory Miller's new book, Meditations on Violence. I was really looking forward to this book. It got fabulous hype from every reviewer; one even went so far as to call it "life changing." Let me tell you, there is probably nothing that stands a greater chance of making me skeptical than being told that a martial arts book is life changing. Ok, so maybe if the author's title is something like, "10th dan shihan-dai soke jedi master" - maybe then I'd be more skeptical, but telling me that a martial arts book is "life changing?" Come on...
This book is nothing short of remarkable, truly informed, and inspiring. This is easily the best martial arts book I've ever read. Period. You simply must read this book and think about these ideas that Rory presents if you want to claim to be a martial artist.
In this book, Rory talks about the challenges that any martial artist faces when confronted with real, shocking, fast, close, brutal, violent violence. But let me tell you, through most of the book I was wondering if the author was talking about the weaknesses in my particular martial arts practices or if he was really talking about martial arts in general. It sure seemed that there were a lot of viable, experience-based challenges to arts like judo and aikido in there. But on the other hand, virtually every other page has some insight that verifies or validates our practices in aikido in particular.
This book is so rich that I figured to do several days of reviews about different parts of it. I will not spoil it for you, so go read it yourself. But Rory was nice enough to invite me to "tell him where he got it wrong" (as if I could invalidate his experiences), so here goes:

Get used to being hit, and get used to being touched, especially on the face. For various reasons, face contact between adults is loaded with connotations. Accidental face contact almost always results in both students freezing and can cause outpouring of emotional sludge. Criminals use this by starting with an open-handed strike to the face (called a "bitch slap") that has paralyzing psychological effects. (p118)

This is exactly right on every point. For this reason, our first technique that we learn in aikido (shomenate - palm to the face) is the most effective thing there is and sets up every other aikido technique in the syllabus. Tomiki supposedly stated that none of the stuff in aikido works unless you do shomenate first. And shomenate is extremely un-nerving to say the least - I have seen students reduced to inability to practice from simple face touching, and I have heard from one of my judo instructors of light-touch facial knockouts in randori. Touching the face can just make the mind shut down from psychological overload. When I got into a fight with a gang of kids in Birmingham, sure enough one of them opened up with a bitch slap that paralyzed me until my girlfriend's screeching managed to break my freeze.
This is just one of many examples of Rory's understanding of his experiences matching my understanding of mine. This sort of thing is found on a page-by-page basis in this book. Highly recommended. More review to come tomorrow...

A good day

The tournament I went to watch this morning was interesting. I ended up being asked to help out as the scorekeeper for the kids' kata divisions and I saw a lot of cute kids. Afterward the grappling competitions were still going on and I watched some hard-fought matches in the gi and no-gi rings. Some things I noticed...
  • It was well-attended. I was able to identify Madison Wrestling and Team Hopkins players. I also saw folks there from Brookhaven, Hazelhurst, Meridian, and of course, from McComb.
  • The grappling I saw seemed to be mostly won on points rather than submissions. There was relatively little clearly-defined technical grappling.
  • Again, just in the part I watched, there was almost no throws or takedowns. folks ended up on the mat either by mutual consent (they just knelt into the ground) or they fumbled a leg pick and ended up falling into a non-dominant position.
  • I don't think I saw anyone choked to submission, though there were a lot of rear-naked chokes thrown as well as some guillotines and sleeve-wheel chokes. Funny thing - folks kept slipping out of these chokes. I'm not sure if it's because these competitors were that good at defending chokes or if they were that bad at applying them?
  • The three skills you go to a grappling tournament to see: throws, chokes, and jointlocks. There were no attacks to the leg joints thrown at all, and there were no successful armlocks in the matches I saw.
  • Lest I sound negative, let me re-iterate: it was a pretty good tournament - well attended, well-referreed, good attitudes from the competitors, and nobody got hurt (that I saw). That makes for a good day of fun.

Friday, July 18, 2008

No aiki class this Saturday

Tomorrow, Saturday the 19th, I will be attending a grappling tournament in McComb, so we won't be having the 9:00 am aikido practice.
The tournament is being sponsored by Epic Martial Arts and will be held at the First Baptist Church on Delaware Avenue. If any of y'all are interested in observing, it starts at 10:00.
We'll be back to our regular class schedule beginning Tuesday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stepping aside into udegaeshi

Aiki with Kel
  • ROM, ukemi
  • tegetana with emphasis on how shifting how you think about the rhythm of the exercise changes what you get from the exercise.
  • hanasu with emphasis on the flow: R1↔R2↔R6. R1 (or R3) is sort of a prelude to all of the releases, with R6 (or R8) being a little curlycue on the end that is sometimes required to make the release work (almost an afterthought). So R1↔R2↔R6 and R3↔R4↔R8 make great flow exercises that seem to work on a lot of of the types of motions that occur in aikido. We also got to play with ushiroate and aikinage in the context of R1↔R2↔R6.
  • shomenate and aigamaeate with emphasis on moving offline using the cowcatcher.
  • oshitaoshi and udegaeshi with emphasis on stepping aside when you meet resistance. There is a lot going on in udegaeshi...

Martial arts values

The following is excerpted from this great article at Kimsoo Karate. Check out the whole article.

As a lifelong martial arts instructor, I know that while traditional training can bring many benefits, it is also a double-edged sword.

When abused or misunderstood, or when seen as a way to power and control, martial arts can bring harm and regret to the unfortunate practitioner. Undoubtedly, martial arts training has strong potential physical and mental influence -- for both good and evil -- on students. The mental influence does not come from movements but from an individual instructor.

This is why it is critical that any student (or the parents of any student) must consider carefully, above all else, what kind of individual one would study with for mental and spiritual guidance and influence.

A tournament, sport, and sparring-oriented instructor will teach values such as aggression, dominance, and mental focus on one thing above all else: winning the match and taking home the trophy. To achieve the mental strength and focus required to triumph above all competitors is a great achievement of athletics. But pursuit of this goal and these values can rarely come without scorning development of humility, patience, respect, and sincerity. Those contrary, aggressive traits do not have to be spoken aloud for their influence to be felt in students' lives.

Unfortunately, although martial art movements do not develop aggressive personality traits, some organizations' consistent over-emphasis on competition has resulted in a negative, harmful spiritual environment in martial arts dojangs.

The instructor interested in assisting students become better human beings, build their characters, develop self-esteem, confidence, sincerity, humility and responsibility is not likely to have trophies lining the front windows of his school. In a traditional class, the visitor is much more likely to see emphasis on formality, etiquette, non-violent behavior, full control of techniques, forms of old Grandmasters, student cleaning of the dojang, and a Training Hall Oath.

Instruction which only teaches the physical, technical side of martial arts, in order to fight and win tournament trophies, will turn out violent people with troublemaker attitudes. Traditional values and a scientific teaching method will shepherd students' bodies, while instilling virtues of sincere attitude, confidence, self-esteem, and modesty. Such traditional training will produce a mentally and physically balanced person. A scientific teaching method entails (among other things) proper breathing, rhythm, dynamic balance, and movements which are studied and refined to allow the maximization of speed and power without causing either sudden or progressive injury to the body.

What strengths or virtues do you think your martial arts practice has developed within you? How does your training or environment promote these virtues or strengths? Do you think your training has contributed to overdevelopment of any particular aspect of your personality?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Aiki practice tonight

Aiki with Kel
  • ROM, ukemi
  • tegatana emphasizing walking on the balls of the first two rays of the feet. Also looking for the combinations of moves that can be trailed together into one long French Curve.
  • hanasu with emphasis on following uke's curve on #6 and #8 instead of picking some arbitrary place to turn and forcing ukke into your curve.
  • shomenate with emphasis on getting the initial offbalance right on the initial footfall.
  • aigamaeate with emphasis on checking the elbow to keep the knife hand off you as you push him down. We were getting a little bit more vigorous falling practice with aigamae today than usual - it was good!
  • Chains: R1→oshitaoshi; R1→R5→tenkai kotehineri; R1→R5→kotehineri; R1→R5→kote mawashi oshitaoshi→hikitaoshi→ushiroate. On these we were emphasizing letting the motion of the bodies tear uke's grip apart and tori just closing his hand on whatever he happened to have. This way there is no fine motor skill or specialized gripping required.

Kotodama and kiai

Here’s an interesting thing I ran across on the net. It is taken from the June 1991 issue of Kim Taylor’s Iaido Newsletter. This stuff is definitively some of the more “woo-woo” of the theories in martial arts, but after you’ve spent the vast majority of your time dealing with pragma, this can make for some interesting thinking material on the more esoteric possibilities. Just don't go off the deep end like we saw in the Youtube videos of the "Kiai Master" or the "no-touch knockout" knuckleheads.

Ran across some interesting information on Kiai from Kanemoto Sunadomari in the Aiki News #83 (January 1990). He was discussing the Shinto theory of Kotodama, the study of the physical effects of sounds. Sunadomari mentions three Kiai sounds used by budoka, "Ya", "To" and "ei". "Ya" and "To" are found in the partner practices of Iai and in the Kendo no Kata exercises. Uchidachi (the initiator), strikes decisively with "Ya". Shidachi (the finisher), avoids and responds with the last strike and with "To". Kotodama theory states that the effects of a sound will be different depending if one is using In or Yo (Yin or Yang).

"Ya", used in the Yo manner means that one is covering something from the outside, (one is smothering the opponent). When it is used in the In manner "Ya" means to pierce something from the inside out. "To" means a conclusion, in Kotodama it means stopping, staying, passing through, or escaping in any direction. On a purely physical level, "Ya" contains a stop of the breath, one closes the throat and maintains air in the lungs for further action. With "To" the sound can be maintained until the breath is gone. One sound means the fight continues, the other that it is over.

The sound "e" means to cleave, to split the enemy. When it is used in the Yo manner it is the Kokoro (spirit) that divides and allots, it also has the meaning of happiness. When it is used with In, it is the Kokoro that receives what has been divided and allotted, it means "to scoop out". When it is linked with evil "e" can be used to scatter and destroy an enemy. In a real dual one uses "ei" to smash down the opponent.

For many years I used "U" as a kiai in Tae Kwon Do. This has a meaning of great effort, it is the sound from the bottom of the hara when lifting a great weight. No wonder my katas seemed ponderous and heavy. With "e" the sound can be longer than "ei" and the stop of breath is not as decisive. This may be why a swordsman uses "ei" in a real duel and not "e" since "e" could allow too much breath to be lost. "U" of course, is a complete and fast expulsion of all breath from the hara, it opens the throat and the lungs together. There is never any breath remaining after using this Kiai so one is completely open (and perhaps vulnerable, in "suki").

Monday, July 14, 2008

You can under-power those you can't over-power

Power corrupts; Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Baron Acton
This is usually thought of in a political sense, but can also apply in a physical sense.
Take for instance, shomenate, it can be done with a power stroke or without. When it is done with a power stroke, driving uke’s chin strongly up and back, it looks a lot like the traditional Junana version. Done without a strong power stroke it looks like a brushoff or like a kokyunage breath throw (i.e. gokata). Most any aikido technique can be done either way.
How can power stroke get us in trouble?
  • Power depends upon a base of power. To exert you have to plant your feet. If it doesn’t work it sticks you in place. This gives uke a specific, directed force to adapt and respond to. Uke can actually use your strength and power as a crutch if your angle and timing is not quite right. Applying power can make it easier for uke to pull you down with him.
  • Power is addictive. If a little power isn’t enough, you naturally think of adding more strength first. This leads to escalation of the conflict.
  • You never know if you are powerful enough to overcome your enemy. This leads to a struggle to gain more and more personal power and there is no upper limit in this kind of power struggle. Weakness as a virtue, however, does have a limit – zero power. You never know if you can over-power an enemy but you can know for absolute certain that you are able to under-power any opponent.
UPDATE: Here is another facet of the power vs. weakness thing. Interesting...

Friday, July 11, 2008

What you are getting yourself into

To spend even a few minutes around wrestling is to understand one of its immutable laws: People get hurt. This isn’t by accident; it’s by design... [These arts] inflict immense amounts of pain and suffering ..., often by means that look outright cruel but in fact are the product of months of hard labor spent in perfecting the technical aspects ... If you should quit, be it mentally or physically, and you are still at some indeterminate midpoint ... then you stand roughly a 99% chance of getting hurt. (Mark Kreidler, Four Days to Glory)
There is, to my way of thinking, an unusual trend in American martial arts. Folks get into the arts without fully understanding that they might be setting themselves up for injury. These same kids will sign up for football knowing that it will be rough and tough and painful. Their parents understand this too. We all know folks that have been hurt playing contact sports. But then we sign up for a martial arts class (supposedly a class on how to fight) and we don't expect it to be rough.
My instructors have always made it abundantly clear that there is no chance involved - if you practice these arts you will eventually be injured. Hopefully later, but maybe sooner. I tell all of my students in writing the dangerous nature of the activity. Note also the disclaimer at the bottom of this page – it is not just for decoration…

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only. Do not mistake any of this information for advice.

Martial arts training is a physical contact activity in which there is risk to the participants. Practice is frequently very physically strenuous and mentally and emotionally challenging. Participation can result in injuries or damages of any sort, including permanent disability, deformity, or death. Sometimes the risks are not even foreseeable by trained experts.

It would be wise of you to obtain the help of a qualified instructor and have a physician examine you and clear you for strenuous physical contact activity before you try any of these very dangerous activities. Always inspect the practice area, the equipment, your partners, and yourself for risks before starting. Your participation is voluntary, so if you see something that you think is unsafe you should immediately tell the instructor and decline to participate in that activity. Always work within your own limits.

In fact, one of my instructors, when repeatedly asked about starting 3 and 4 and 5 year-olds in karate classes eventually began responding, "Would you give your child a handgun for Christmas?" And after seeing their horrified responses he would tell them, "Well, this is the same thing because in this class, I teach people to kill other people."
While I would not go that far (I do not teach people to kill other people) the violent physical contact activities we practice and experiment with in class are derived from battlefield sciences that were designed and evolved to injure and kill.
You can't go into this thing without knowing what you are getting yourself into.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Colin Wee interview

Very nice interview from our buddy down under - Colin Wee. This interview touches on the history of taekwando, its interactions with Shotokan and tangsoodo, and Colin's experiences in aikijutsu and trying to figure out how the aiki and TKD pieces fit together. Colin's got a good bit of experience and knowledge from sorta going his own way in teaching TKD and we can learn a lot about syllabus construction and teaching methods from interviews like this. Thanks, Colin.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

You can't just 'yo'

I had an instructor tell me one time , “You can’t just ‘yo’, you have to ‘yo-yo’” What that instructor was saying was this: you can’t make a yo-yo or slinky or a pendulum work at any arbitrary speed you want. They only work at their own innate frequency. Notice how, in the end of the video here, the smaller slinky has a different frequency from the larger ones. You can’t make a larger slinky perform like a smaller one no matter how much energy you put into it. It just has a different speed of oscillation to it.

People are the same way. You can’t make any given person move at an arbitrarily fast speed no matter how much energy you impart to them. As a martial example, grab a partner in a double lapel grab and throttle him back and forth as hard and fast as you can. It is uncomfortable and unpleasant for uke, but you’re not really moving them much. Each time you push and he gets ready to start moving, all of a sudden now you are pulling and you cancel his impulse out. You use a lot of energy and don’t really move him much. Now, grab him and start rocking him like you would rock a pendulum or swing a child on a swing set. Each time he gets into a certain phase with you, push a little to amplify his movement. Pretty soon he is sailing all over the mat because you are moving at his frequency, lightly bumping him every so often.

Not only do our bodies work at a certain speed, but our minds do too. Try counting in your head, “1,2,3…” to ten. Now do it faster. Keep trying faster and you will find a point that you just can’t go faster. That speed limit is much slower than the speed of neurons firing, so what is slowing the count down? Subvocalizations - microscopic jaw and throat movements. As you think about a number, your muscles in your jaw and throat begin getting ready in case you are going to say it. This happens whenever we think because we can’t think outside of our language. The bottom line – you can’t move your jaw muscles as fast as you might want, so you can’t think (i.e. count in your head) as fast as you’d like either.

You can't just yo.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

Flow is not the goal either

You know, you can blend and flow and still get beat up. Rolling with the punches is still getting punched.
I wrote a few days ago that strength as a primary means of making technique work is pretty sorry. Around the same time, Dave Chesser wrote that aiki guys tend to "get it" better than a lot of folks. They get that they are supposed to be blending with something rather than opposing it. I don't necessarily know about all that. I've met some pretty strategically amazing folks with harder, more direct ideas.
The other day in class we found an interesting problem. The student had sorta decided that flow was the goal, and that if he could smoothe the pieces of the technique out then the thing would work better. It turned out that, in this particular case, flow was counterproductive because it was making him gloss over some vital parts of the thing, making the necessary tactics seem kind of blurry. We concentrated on getting each tactic working in sequence without regard for smooth flow and all of a sudden the aiki appeared.
And funny thing... When you get the aiki in there, then you can also get the strength and the flow for free.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Who do you think would win?

This is for my aiki buddies who are also comics fans. In this pic, Marvel is in position to do gedanate or maybe maeotoshi, while Supes is in position to do a great gyakugamaeate, throwing Marvel all the way into the Second Universe. If these guys would just learn a little aikido then they could more easily beat up their buddies during the inevitable cross-overs and the poor artists wouldn't have to draw so many bulging muscles and grimacing faces!

Working with Andy on flow vs. blur

Aiki with Andy
  • Folk's expectations going into a practice have a lot to do with the outcome. Today I think Andy came to class expecting to suck and be frustrated, and for me to grumble at him about it. Sure enough, he was stiff and rough. But we did randori naming the release motions being played to give his conscious mind something to do besides whipping his subconscious mind and within about 10 minutes he was doing great aikido. Good, light, smooth, flowing, etc... Maybe the best aikido I've ever seen Andy do.
  • ROM, tegatana, releases, chain #1
  • Andy uked for me doing all of nijusan and I uked for him doing 1-10 before we ran out of time and steam. The thing to remember on nijusan is to get all the pieces in there before going on to the next thing. It is easy to get too focussed on flow, and end up with a clumsy blur. Flow will come if you put all the pieces in there.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Trivia from the website:
  • 31 - Number of places nationwide with “liberty” in their name. The most populous one as of July 1, 2006, is Liberty, Mo. (29,581). Iowa, with four, has more of these places than any other state: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty and West Liberty.
  • Thirty-one places are named “eagle” — after the majestic bird that serves as our national symbol. (Places include cities, towns, villages and census-designated places.) The most populous such place is Eagle Pass, Texas, with 26,401 residents.
  • Twelve places have “independence” in their name. The most populous of these is Independence, Mo., with 109,400 residents.
  • Nine places adopted the name “freedom.” Freedom, Calif., with 6,000 residents, has the largest population among these.
  • There is one place named “patriot” — Patriot, Ind., with a population of 192.
  • And what could be more fitting than spending the Fourth of July in a place called “America”? There are five such places in the country, with the most populous being American Fork, Utah, population 25,596.
Previous Mokuren Dojo Independence Day tributes:

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Stronger and faster

There are a lot of attributes that go into making a technique successful. The timing, offbalance, strength, speed, mass, etc… of both attacker and defender play into it. But when a technique goes bad in practice, what do you immediately think to change in order to make the next repetition more successful? I’m not asking what should you be thinking about working on, but what do you naturally think of
For many folks, I'd bet you think, "I've got to be stronger and faster."
This reminds me of a tournament I was in years ago as an orange belt. I beat a green belt pretty handily with what I have to admit was a superbly-timed sukuinage. The guy jerked on me hard and I clipped both of his legs with my whole body, using his own strength to throw him and his mass to turn us so I landed on top. It was a beautiful judo moment.
After the match, that guy’s coach came up to me and asked, “Are you the guy that beat my green belt so badly?” Being a young smartalek and high on adrenaline and testosterone at the time, I answered, “I donno, I beat somebody’s green belt real bad.” (If you’re reading this, I’m sorry I spoke to you that way. It was disrespectful and stupid.)
But anyway, I thought then and I still think that coach’s response was remarkably short-sighted. He sighed, looking exasperated at his student and said, “Yeah, I’ve got to work on him to make him stronger and faster.” I actually managed to control the response that popped into my head, “Yeah, you go do that and next time I’ll throw him that much higher.”
Point is, his first thought was that this player was unsuccessful because he was not strong enough and fast enough, when the reality was that the player’s own strength beat him in the first place.
Strength and speed are good things, but they are pretty sorry as a first line of defense. When a technique is not successful in practice, look somewhere besides strength and speed to make the next rep better.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Simple self-defense

Violence is... Well, It is violent!

This is the second in a series of reviews of Rory Miller's excellent new book, Meditations on Violence. Check out my previous review, and by all means, get a copy of Meditations on Violenceto read and re-read.
Violence is, by its nature, violent. Rory puts forth this idea that should probably go without saying but it often doesn't so Rory spells it out for us.
By definition, violence happens...
  • closer than you are accustomed to dealing with
  • faster than you are accustomed to dealing with
  • more suddenly than you are accustomed to dealing with
  • and with greater force than you are accustomed to dealing with
In other words, violence is more violent than you think. If it were not, it would not be violent it would be merely uncomfortable or inconvenient. The implications of this statement to your martial art could fill a book. Actually it did fill a book - Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence.
Highly recommended for all martial artists interested in actual self-defense applicability of their art. Get your copy from my Amazon store:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Pinning and holding

Aiki with Patrick M. and Rick
  • ROM, ukemi (Rick looks like he's feeling more comfortable with the side and turn-back rolls)
  • tegatana with emphasis on making the backward turning steps shallower to minimize the cross-legged weakness in the middle. We also paid attention to trying to find subsequent motions matching the natural rhythm of the body. For example, the "reaching around in front and push up to the side" is not two separate moves but an arc (or french curve) that your arm is descriving and which your body has to follow.
  • hanasu & chain #1
  • Nijusan #6, 7, and 8 with emphasis on the forms of pinning on the ends of these kata
  • suwari menuchi tekubiosae with pin

Amen, brother! Preach it!

This is the best video explanation I've found of what I've been teaching and calling the aiki brush-off. Just like this guy mentions in these videos, if you watch most aikido randori sessions, the tori is concentrating on applying techniques to each successive attacker. Problem is, this ties the tori up, creating openings for the other attackers. Most of the time, when you see really successful aiki randori practitioners, they brush-off more attacks than they counter with actual techniques.
This type of brushing-off action is what I've been concentrating on in my personal practice and in my teaching for the last couple of years and it has really changed my aiki for the better. I've had several highly-ranked folks whose opinions count a lot to me say that my aiki has become more robust and effective, while at the same time becoming softer. I attribute this to practicing the aiki brush-off.

Another interesting thing to note about these randori sessions: when the brush-off either fails or creates enough time to actually do a technique, the two techniques that pop up most often are shomenate and aigamaeate (A.K.A. aikinage or iriminage). Just exactly like the results we've gotten in knife randori like here and here. Atemiwaza is the first backup for the brushoff. Everything else in the art is backup for the atemiwaza.
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