Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mats of concrete

I don’t recommend this, though it can be very educational if you decide that you want to do it once or twice…
I had a roommate in college that was doing aikido with us and he was not content to practice his rolls only on the mat. He would dress in boots, jeans, and a sweatshirt to protect himself a little, then practice his rolls on the sidewalk. Or on the ground. Or through bushes. Or on a brick sidewalk.
I’ve done some of this, and it is certainly not something that you have to do a lot to get some pretty good feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your ukemi forms. The worst surface I've found is brushed textured concrete or stairs.  It also gives you a newfound appreciation of just how much a 1.5” mat absorbs the consequences of wrong ukemi.
I suspect if everyone would do a little bit of concrete ukemi, we’d see less of the ankle-hammering cross-legged landing and the sitting-on-the-top-of-the-foot backfall.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Judo is dead in Japan

There is quite a spirited discussion going on over on the judo listserver about the scope of judo and whether or not Olympic-style competition is good for judo and judoka in general. Richard Porro of Friendswood Judo posted the following interesting story (which I got permission to excerpt here).
I thought that this story was very interesting, because I too, have heard from Japanese who learned judo in Japan in the 1950s, or whose teachers were 1950’s judoka, that judo (real judo) is dead in Japan. And that it (the judo ideal) only lives on in isolated pockets throughout the world (USA, Brazil, Southwest Mississippi, etc...).
2 weeks ago at the dojo I was lecturing the students after observing a session of randori. For the first time since I started judo I have a group of high school and early college students. They all want to compete ... After they were watching the Olympic matches from the links you folks sent to me and which I forwarded on to them. They all wanted to emulate the athletes. Well low and behold I started seeing too much grip fighting, the "tee pee" stance. And a reliance of force over technique. I stopped the class and started my tirade. I told them not to emulate these people. They are not doing judo and that they are merely wrestling.

One of my students is a 6 year old boy half Japanese and half American. He was brought up in Japan the first 4 years of his life and started judo when he was 5 in Florida. Japanese is his first language and his mother, who is Japanese, comes to class and watches every week. As I was bitching about the muscling of judo I noticed her paying attention and nodding her head. After class she paid me the biggest compliment I ever received. It almost brought a tear to my eye and gave me validation. She told me that she called her mother in Japan to send her some matches of judo so her son could see high level judo from Japanese players. She told me that her mother replied and said judo was dead in Japan. I asked her why she said that. She told me that judo is no longer the same judo that her father and grandfather studied. That the sport has devolved into a form of wrestling and muscle was substituted for techniques. She then went on to tell me that of all the judo schools she checked out that mine was the closest to that of her father taught her. And that I was keeping the principles of Japanese judo and its philosophies alive.
She told me about a conversation she had with her mother that judo today whether American or Japanese was dead as she and her family learned .it. She went on to tell me that "ju" in judo was replaced with "go" something I said on list a few years ago. She also told me that the emphasis in judo was to apply these techniques using kusushi by movement and control of Uke. Not by forcing an opponent off balance but to "lead him off balance. Now by no means am I comparing my judo that I do personally to any figure past or present. But I am trying to teach the art the closest I can from papers I have read and my own personal research I have complied. students have become very adept at applying their techniques fairly slowly and using principles of body rise and body fall. Even though Uke my be attacking quickly by moving off line and leading them to a balance point. they can throw most people the compete against. My past students always win medals from regional on down/ although I had 3 triple crown winners and the same three winning gold s at the junior national a few years back using my methods. So not only did I, and do I get validation from my theories in contest but now I get them from a Japanese citizen who did judo in Japan when she was young as well as her family.
This one compliment from ... the mother, was so near to my heart that if I died today I felt like I accomplished something. Judo may have changed over the years to a mere sport where the object is to get your opponent on his back by any means necessary opposed to getting him on his back with the applied principles of the art. And yes there is a difference.
What do y'all think of that?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Deep martial mysteries

Ok, I have three questions for those of you who consider yourselves martial blogospheric experts. These are not just any old three questions, but three of the deepest, most mysterious quirks of our martial arts blogosphere!
Grading scale:
  • answer 3 of 3: you may claim the title of Blog-o-hanshi
  • answer 2 of 3: you are a Blog-jitsu master
  • answer 1 of 3: you have attained your first Blog-o-dan
  • If you can't answer any of these three questions then you must repeat the last year of your training, Bloghopper!
And now, the three questions:

Training log

Aiki with Patrick M., Kel, Daniel & Dustin
  • ROM, ukemi, evasion, brush-off, shomenate, kote hineri, kote mawashi from a chest push

Commie jokers!

After noticing a recent spike in gun sales, a television station sent out a reporter to find out what was going on. The reporter found a redneck toting a shotgun over his shoulder and asked him, "Excuse me, sir, Why do you think guns have been selling so well lately?
He responded immediately, "Haven't you heard? Russia invaded Georgia a while back! Just let those commie jokers try that with Alabama!"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't just do tsuki forever...

Here's a little tidbit that might upset a few aikidoka - or maybe not...
Tsuki as it is practiced as an attack in class (similar to a Shotokan or TKD lunge punch) is a good place to begin learning aikido technique, but it tends not to happen that way in real attacks. What happens more often is more reminiscent of a jab-cross or grab-cross attack. While working against tsuki can teach you the mechanics that will allow you to deal with jab-cross and grab-cross attacks, you have to constantly keep the off hand in mind. It has to dictate pretty much everything you do in aikido.
If there's one lesson you learn in aikido randori, it is that if you become too intent on doing something to the lead hand, you will get smashed with the other hand. You have to be handling the rear hand as you are evading the lead hand and vise versa.
It can help you greatly if you will (at least every so often) explicitly practice your techniques or kata against the following three attacks:
  • stab twice - rubber knife in the lead hand, uke gives one lunging attack from outside ma-ai like you're used to, but then uke can stab or slash again any way they want to. Uke's specific goal going into the technique is to cut you more than once no matter what happens.
  • jab-cross - similar to the above. Uke leads with a jab then throws the rear cross. Either may be real or a feint for the next punch.
  • grab-cross - practice grab defenses like the wrist releases with uke not simply stepping in and grabbing. Have uke grab with the goal of holding you in place or pulling you into a punch.
If you are unfamiliar with the jab or the jab-cross type attacks, here are some good sources for additional info:

Old tegatana no kata video

This is an old clip of Tegatana no kata, our first exercise and the only solo exercise we do in aikido.  Not exactly how we do it, but you can see the new within the old (or vice versa).  The goal of the exercise is to learn the general motions that occur in aikido techniques, footwork, whole-body coordination, etc...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Show me the love!

So, you have enjoyed the hundreds of informational and opinion articles at Mokuren Dojo for how long now? Maybe your conscience is hurting you because you have done nothing to give back to Mokuren Dojo for all we've given you. Here's the hard sell! pull out your credit cards!
All you have to do to spread a little of the love around is Fave this blog on Technorati. It's simple - if you're a member, then click on the link below to show me the love, and if you are not a member, click on the link below to join up (it's free) so you can show me the love!
But in either case, click this link:

Add to Technorati Favorites

Training log

In addition to re-labeling my training logs, I intend to shorten them to be as concise as possible to reduce the amount of real estate they take up on the blog page. Any detailed commentary that needs to be written I will put in separate posts.
Aiki with Patrick M., Daniel, and Daniel's brother (sorry I'm bad with names at first)
  • ROM, tegatana, tai sabaki, aiki brushoff, shomenate, kotegaeshi

Friday, August 22, 2008

August Promote Three

Here's the latest installment in a feature I haven't done in about 3 months - the Promote Three! Thanks to Colin for prompting me to return to it.
Blogging is tough work, and often I don’t do enough (commenting, interacting, linking, etc…) to build up the bloggers who I enjoy reading regularly. It is not uncommon for life to intervene and make regular posting impossible or at least onerous. This month’s Promote Three is dedicated to three martial arts bloggers who have made tremendous contributions to the martial arts blogosphere, but who have not posted in a while. Thanks to y’all for sharing with us, and I hope it’s not the last we’ve seen of:
These are three great examples of blogs that you should read back over. Even though they haven't been updated lately, they still represent a huge archive of interesting and educational info and opinion.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Training log

Aikido with Kel
  • Everything ebbs and flows - including my motivation for practicing. lately I've been ratcheting my workouts up to try to beat the middle-aged flabbosity and I have been feeling tired and sore and generally blah. But Kel showed up for training with an in-person response to my question, "Why do you train?" that floored and humbled me. Kel said he does it as a meditation - a way to get to that extraordinary state of in-the-moment-ness where the burdens of the world dissolve. I had been thinking about begging off of practice today until I heard that.
  • ROM, ukemi
  • tegatana with emphasis on hara - moving from the center as if all your mass were concentrated in one spot
  • hanasu with emphasis on the concept of monitoring the distance (ma-ai) between centers (hara) and moving when ma-ai is breached. We homed in on the last 4 releases, practicing reversing #5 into #6 and vice versa and reversing #7 into #8 and vice versa. Cool practice.
  • oshitaoshi from R1 as in ichikata. This was a cool practice in trandferring energy between tori and uke instantaneoudly and changing directions if it doesn't work. This sorta feels like tring all the directions in rapid succession to see which one will work. Alternately, you can think about this as alost programming the attacker to resist in a given plane, then overturning that plane on a perpendicular. Again, cool practice.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

So, why do you train?

What is the goal of training? Why do we go through the thousands of repetitions with precise attention to detail?  I've heard a definition of discipline as the ability to defer gratification to gain a desired outcome - so what outcome does our discipline get us?
You can’t really make it your goal to win real fights because that’s a goal you hope you never have the opportunity to test. Plus, that goal is not completely in your control - the other fighter has some say in the matter. Plus, when you do get into a real fight, even if you do win, then it can be hard to tell if it was really your training that tipped the scales in your favor or if it was your physical fitness or just circumstance.
Sportive competition is just a limited form of duel combat, so it sorta falls into the 'win fights' category above.
You can set a goal to ‘master’ the system – that is, to learn to do all the kata and exercises and drills in the system and get better and better at them, but then you are working toward mastery of an abstraction rather than mastery of reality (the system is not the thing itself - the map is not the territory).
Training for health is a strange goal because you can’t ever measure success – you can’t really measure the non-existence or non-occurrence of untoward health states and events. You can train to get more fit, but then you are left with the question, “fit for what?” What do you want to use your improved strength, reflexes, speed, agility, etc… to do? And that leads you back to fighting, competition, or mastery of the system.
Some people train for the social interaction and the enjoyment. They just think it is fun and they enjoy being around the folks in the class. But then they eventually end up asking themselves, “Am I getting any better at this?” and you’re back to trying to set a measurable goal.
Some people claim that they train in a martial art because it is a spiritual experience. By this, I think they mean it gives them a venue to explore some of the intangible aspects of human performance under stress. I think it is pretty rare that martial artists claim to be communing with the supernatural or transcending to a higher state as part of their practice.
Some folks train because it satisfies an obsessive compulsion within them. They might just as well enjoy participating in most any ritualistic activity. Some of these practitioners crave the clean, systematic orderliness of the dojo as an antidote to a chaotic life.
So, why do you train?  What do you get out of your training?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Training log

For a while now I have been labeling my training logs (uncreatively) "training log".  However, because one of my faithful (non-martial) readers complaining that the jargon gets too much to handle in my training logs, I am going to start titling all of y training logs as such.  This will make it easier for y'all to tell the difference between the jargon-laden training logs and the more conceptual posts.
Aiki with Kel
  • ROM, tegatana (with emphasis on the pause between the moves), hanasu (with emphasis on 'stay off me' hands)
  • ushiroate with emphasis on getting in tune with uke's vibations instead of over-riding his vibrations.  We also emphasized the slingshot and wedging uke away fro you with an unbendable arm.  A method of brushing off and disengaging fro a too-close situation.
  • randori

Just run at him and kill him

There is an apocryphal story about legendary Japanese swordsman, Miyomoto Musashi, that goes like this:
One time the daughter of a merchant was kidnapped by a ronin (rogue samurai) and the merchant came up to Musashi crying, “My daughter has been taken and you have to go get her back for me!”
Musashi replied, “That is none of my business. I will not go rescue your daughter.”
The merchant, in desperation begged Musashi to teach him enough swordsmanship so that he could go rescue her by himself. Musashi tossed him a sword and told him, “The secret to winning is to just run at the enemy without thought for your own survival, and kill him.”
The merchant, in a moment of enlightenment, took the sword, ran at the ronin, and cut him to pieces, saving his daughter.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why the barefoot thing?

For people unaccustomed to going barefoot in public, practicing a traditional Japanese martial art can be surprising or uncomfortable.  Other than just because that's how it's always been done, there are several practical, functional reasons for practicing martial arts barefoot.
  • It provides a good, uniform ground interface.  If we cut out the variables associated with shoes, uneven surfaces, etc... we can concentrate on other variables in our training. (Of course, eventually you are going to want to practice this stuff with shoes on uneven surfaces of different textures with varying lighting conditions, etc...  But in the dojo it's shoes-off.)
  • There are supposedly health benefits to going barefoot.  For an interesting look at some of this info, check out this article.
  • It helps to keep the mat surface or the dojo floor cleaner.  Nobody likes wallowing in the filth tracked in on the bottoms of people's shoes, so the shoes are left at the door or the edge of the workout surface.  It is thoughtful to bring a pair of flipflops or slippers to wear whenever you are off the mat to keep your feet clean.
  • Shoes can tear the surface of the mats or break down their resiliency, forcing us to replace them more frequently at great expense.
Besides...  It's just that's the way it's always been done.

I can tell you want to buy a book

You know, I can see y'all clicking my Amazon ads and looking around at the books I recommend buying. Problem is, you're not buying anything! Y'all were doing a pretty good job of buying stuff when I was hammering Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence a few weeks ago, but since then nobody has bought anything.
It's really no skin off my back if you don't buy something at Amazon because I'm not really losing anything, But just so you know, they throw me a little kickback on any purchases you make after clicking my links, and pretty soon I'll have enough saved up to buy another cool book to read and review here. So here is a suggestion:
John Jerome's Staying Supple is about the best flexibility book I've ever read. It is a lot more than a technical how-to stretching book, though there is some of that in there. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in improving flexibility, prolonging vigorous activity into middle age and older, or improving their falling skills.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gedanate and maeotoshi day

Aikido with Patrick M., Kel, and Todd
  • I started off by reviewing the last couple of classes (R1 and kotegaeshi) with Patrick M.
  • ROM, ukemi
  • tegatana, hanasu
  • Today was gedanate and maeotoshi day. We worked on gedan as the fundamental idea, "If he won't let you hit him high, hit him low." We worked the kata variation for a while (it was going pretty good today, unlike some practices we've had) and then we moved into an elbow separator brush-off version of the thing and for the cool technique of the day we played with a kind of gedanate that is sort of like the classic James Bond schtick where he elbows them, slaps their nards and backfists them in the face. From here we played maeotoshi for a while.
  • At the end we worked on the owaza or gokata ideas from double wrist grabs. We saw guruma action (like tenchinage) and otoshi action (like sumiotoshi)

Kid's Judo Meeting

Hopped-up druggie crack-heads on the mat

It's kind of a no-brainer, right? Everybody knows that it's unsafe to get liquored up and go throw people around on the mat. Nobody would feel safe practicing judo with a drunk. But have you considered what other drugs might affect the safety of your practice?
What about NSAIDS (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs), like aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc... It is part of the yoga ethic that you don't practice while under the influence of NSAIDS because it defeats the purpose - you want to be able to feel what your joints and muscles are doing. Having taken NSAIDS it is harder to feel the internal state of your body so it is harder to find your edge and easier for fall over the edge.
What about caffeine or ginseng? They affect your central nervous system and can affect your fine motor control and your cardiovascular function.
How about Nyquil?
How about pot or cocaine or mushrooms?
What about Zoloft or Xanax or Paxil?
You know, athletes with low body mass are particularly susceptible to hyponatremia - so called "water poisoning" - ingestion of too much H2O can dilute the electrolytes in their blood to dangerously low levels and impair their functioning - from drinking water.
When it comes down to it, we use so many substances - legal or illicit, prescription, OTC, homeopathic - to make it through the day that you'd be hard-pressed to find an American who is not impaired (or at least modified) at any given time.
So, where do you draw the line? What does an unimpaired practice partner look and act like?

More on variety and repetitions in class

There is, of course, some flux to be expected in the general class outline that I provided in the previous post. You know what they say, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." The guideline I posted is not absolute and you can and should frequently break from the pattern to meet your students' needs.
Here's another structure I like to use in my lesson planning. Consider Judo, which really only has one large pile of techniques (called The Gokyonowaza) as opposed to the three main things of the previous post. In this case, I like to work through the system like this: pull out about 8-12 of the most important throws or techniques in the system and put them in a group. For about 1/3 of each class, work through this short list like this:
class 1 - technique#1, technique#2, technique#3
class 2 - technique#2, technique#3, technique#4
class 3 - technique#3, technique#4, technique#5
class 4 - technique#4, technique#5, technique#6
and so on. This way, you get plenty of review and repetition from class to class. Whatever you introduce in today's class will be repeated in the next two classes.
With the next 1/3 of each individual class I work on things outside of my short list. I may pick a kata to pull a technique out of or I may ask the class for a tokuiwaza (favorite technique) that is not in my short list.
The last third of class should be randori.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Provide endless variety in your martial arts classes

The problem: beating the same old thing to death every single class bores your students and they quit.  So you decide to throw in some variety  by working on something cool and interesting at random in each class and all of a sudden your students stop progressing because they are not getting enough repetition on the core of the system, so you begin customizing lesson plans to their needs and all of a sudden you are eating up hours of your time planning classes.

What you need is an easy way to organize your classes, providing ample repetition but endless variety.  Here’s what I do:

Suppose your system has three main exercises or kata or drills.  For the purposes of this explanation, we’ll call the first one hanasu (which has 8 techniques), the second one junana (17 techniques), and the third one we’ll call owaza (10 techniques).  You can arrange your classes like this:

class 1 – hanasu#1, junana#1, owaza#1
class 2 – hanasu#2, junana#2, owaza#2
and so on for 8 classes, at which point you run out of techniques in hanasu to focus on so you start over with the hanasu while continuing with the others
class 9 – hanasu#1, junana#9, owaza#9
class 10 – hanasu#2, junana #10, owaza#10
now you have run out of techniques in owaza so you start over on owaza while continuing with the others
class 11 – hanasu#3, junana#11, owaza#1

and so on.  The cool thing is that because the three forms or drills have different numbers of techniques and the numbers are not simple multiples of each other, for each class for a very long time you get a different combo of three techniques selected from the core of your system.  The interactions between the three techniques will provide a different challenge to your students bodies and minds for practically forever but because you are repeating fairly small sets in order, you get good repetitions on each individual technique.

For example, in the case above, you get to focus on junana #1 every 18 classes, but each time you practice junana #1 it will be with a different combination of techniques from hanasu and owaza.

Voila! Instant lesson plans forever!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I forgot to post Tuesday's training log

Aikido with Kel and Whit
  • ROM, tegatana, hanasu
  • R1 with juntai timing as an entry into a limited randori game that goes like this:
  • R1→(YK7 or R1 on the other side). I really wish I had my video capability up and running because this is an excellent randori drill along the lines of the flow drills Dojo Rat has been posting lately. Oh well, I'll get video back at some point and will make a point to video this game for y'all.
  • This class and this exercise really brought to light a couple of illusions - the illusion that you can control the other guy and the illusion that you can escape the other guy's control. It's a funny thing... when you start to see these two as illusions the aiki really starts to work. It's one of those weird "have to give up control to get control" things.

Magical kotegaeshi night

Aiki with Kel and Whit
  • ROM
  • tegatana with emphasis on balls of feet and the 'washing the mirror' exercise
  • we worked 'washing the mirror' into a sort of general-purpose evasion and offbalance program using attacking partners
  • gyakugamaeate
  • chain#3 including wakigatame, kotegaeshi, and gyakugamaeate
  • variations on kotegaeshi with emphasis on taking the slack out of the arm without crushing the arm, striking to induce a vibration in uke, then following the vibration. (the magic kotegaeshi)  We also played with siilar mechanics in the suwari munetsuki kotegaeshi from sankata.
  • We ended up tying it all together with kotegaeshi from owaza, using the 'washing the mirror' idea, getting in synch, and throwing on the step

3rd best 88kg wrestler in the world is a LOSER!

Today in Beijing, Swedish wrestler, Ara Abrahamian demonstrated what a loser the third best wrestler in the world can really be. When he was awarded the bronze medal he dropped it and walked off, stating, "I don’t care about this medal. I wanted gold."
Loserboy continued, “This will be my last match. I wanted to take gold, so I consider this Olympics a failure,” demonstrating that he was not only a poor loser but a quitter too.
Regardless of whether or not the indignation was justified, I don't figure there's ever been a case where trying to intimidate the judges and throwing a worldwide fit has ever gotten an athlete a higher-level medal. The only thing that this fit positively accomplished was showing that you can get more media attention by behaving badly than you can by being the third best wrestler in the world.
What a bozo!
UPDATE: Here's a more in-depth blog post about this Swedish guy and a Japanese competitor and how they reacted to their losses.
You'd think I were on vacation or dead or something, having not posted three days. But no. I am neither dead nor vacationing, though I am planning to take a vacation to Savannah in September. I have a host of posts in the pipeline that I'll be getting uploaded soon, so stay tuned.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Greatest martial arts movie ever made

This beautifully made movie starring Eric Roberts and F. Murray Abraham, is a story of obsession, of revenge, and finally of redemption. When this came out in college my roommates got a copy and literally watched it 1-2 times per day for months.  After college, I hunted high and low for this movie and finally my lovely bride found me a copy that I have watched repeatedly (though not daily).  I don’t know why this movie never made it onto DVD, but if you can play VHS and want to see the greatest martial arts movie ever made, check it out.  You can get it pretty inexpensively at my Amazon Store:

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ma-ai, metsuke, and randori

Aikido with Patrick M.
  • ROM
  • Tegatana with emphasis on the extra rise at the end of the turns
  • hanasu and shomenate with emphasis on ma-ai and metsuke
  • hand randori

My Olympics rants

I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics last night and thought it was amazing and great. I was spellbound. One of the people watching with us was a German exchange student and she commented, "if Germany were to host an Olympics we would be unable to put on such a great display. We just don't have this kind of culture."
I wanted to argue that Western civilization and German history and culture were great in their own way, but I really couldn't. When it comes down to it the USA (or any Western country) would have hard time putting on such an awesome show. Sad but true IMO.
Now for the rant:
  • No baseball or softball in the next few Olympics? No judo coverage at all except on internet and then only for folks that have Windows Vista? The people that select the sports for the Olympics must be stupid. They put such inane activities as ping pong, trampoline, and synchronized swimming in the lineup and they swamp the network broadcasts with such lame sports that they can't find any time to broadcast any real sports like judo.
  • Beijing 2008 was a wonderful opportunity to have Taichi as a demo sport. That would have been cool.
  • If you're going to have such a lame lineup, why not have golf in the Olympics. Boring as it is to watch on TV, it is better than ping pong.
  • Professionals competing against amateurs is a terrible thing. As a child I was always so proud that our amateurs were able to do so well against countries that sponsored their athletes professionally. I was so proud that America was above sending their pros to the Olympics. Then they started with the basketball thing. Shame on them and shame on us for descending to that level.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Atemiwaza and randori night

Aiki with Kel, Whit, and Quin
  • ROM, warmup, ukemi - all with particular emphasis on achieving relaxed looseness with just enough control to maintain structure
  • shomenate, aigamaeate, gyakugamaeate
  • hand randori

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Where's their face paint?

You know, I've always thought judo was cool because they mostly managed to avoid all the crazy fads that overcame some practitioners of other arts.  Flamboyant red-white-blue stars-and-stripes uniforms...  Tassels, epaulets, stripes, belts of every color imaginable... Every square inch covered with logos and advertising and the name of your sensei/sifu/guru... The introduction of the blue gi as an optional standard in judo was a little scandalous to me, but I got over that pretty quickly.
I thought I'd seen it all, and then Hatashita sent me this today...
The new camoflage gi!  What I want to know is this, are they trying to avoid being seen on the mat or are they doing judo in the desert against real enemies?

What you can learn from a child

Aikido with Patrick M. and Whit
  • ROM, ukemi
  • Tegatana with emphasis on tsugiashi and weightbearing on the balls of the balls of the feet.
  • hanasu 1-4 with emphasis on measuring ma-ai properly, moving right as uke passes ma-ai, and releasing and getting back to ma-ai by pinging and brushing off.
  • shomenate
  • shizumiotoshi
Whit is doing such a good job with his aiki and judo lately - really looking like a yellow belt.  All my kids are doing great and I am really proud of them.  It was really neat to see the aiki functioning properly despite such huge size differences.  The fact that a 7-year-old could evade and brush off of reasonable attacks from people 3X to 5X his size gives the rest of us some hope that the thing will work for normal-sized adults. 
It is important for both parties to work with partners of vastly different sizes.  Both the smaller and the larger partners learn a lot:
  • The smaller partner has to learn to work the technique using all of his mass effectively and efficiently
  • The larger partner has to learn to deal with the speed and narrow timings of the faster man.
  • The smaller partner has to learn to move at the larger man's pace in order to get the timings right.
  • the larger partner has to learn to hold his muscular strength in reserve so he can work on developing real power.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Key, Kirby-san,  Here's a move I figured you'd enjoy trying out since we've been talking about things you can do from that outside position.  Uchimata to kouchigari to kataguruma to kesagatame.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Grueling rank tests

I enjoyed this video of Sheila Eglen's rank test very much.  Congratulations Ms. Eglen.   
Though I really enjoyed this vid, especially the music and the choking laugh at the end, I don't really get into abusive rank tests. Any instructor worth a hoot can look at a student of their art for fewer than five minutes and tell their approximate skill level, so this isn't really a rank test. This sort of thing really only serves to demonstrate to the student that undergoes it that she is tougher than perhaps she thinks she is (which isn't a bad thing to be taught).
This reminds me of the horror stories about some of the surprises during one of my old karate instructor's sandan test.  Allegedly, during her execution of various kata and techniques, an observing black belt fired a shotgun into the air to panic her.  At another time during the test, an observer crept up behind her and garroted her with a rope.
That was one tough lady.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Working from the aiki brushoff

Aiki with Kel, Patrick M., Whit, Knox, and Quin
  • ROM, Ukemi
  • tegatana with emphasis on the 'helicopter' pivot and the hip switches
  • paired practice using the helicopter pivot against an attacker to get yourself out of a close toe-to-toe situation - this works out just like a 'Japanese pass' in wrestling.
  • evasion and brushoff inside and outside using R3 and YK1 motions.
  • Shomenate and gyakugamaeate as in gokata working with the idea of brushing off
  • wakigatame, kotetaoshi and maeotoshi as fall-backs when the brush off fails or uke sticks to tori

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dead sensei tell no tales

It probably ought to go without saying, but maybe it doesnt...
Dead Japanese (or Chinese or Okinawan or Philippino…) guys have no power to dictate how we do the things we do. They taught their lessons to their students and now it is our turn to teach our lessons to our students. 100 years from now my students’ students will have their turn to teach their lessons in their own ways.
When their turn comes, maybe some of them will use some of the same exercises I used when I taught their teachers. Or they might have different exercises and different ways of teaching. It might even be so different by that time that they don’t call it aikido’ or judo anymore.
And either way will be okay by me. I don’t think they will be betraying my tradition if they re-brand their martial art when they start teaching it on Mars.

It's better to get punched in the nose...

...while facing your problem trying to deal with it, than to get blindsided while trying to pull away, turn, and run.  At least when you are facing your problem you can see it coming and you have some choice about how you get hit.  This was the lesson of the night.
Aiki with Whit, Knox, and Quin
  • ROM, ukemi
  • release #1 and #2 with emphasis on moving away from the other arm and pushing off to disengage back to ma-ai.
  • As a cool technique of the night we previewed releases #3 and #4 by generalizing all four of them as, "move away from the free arm and circle your hand around his thumb or his little finger."  Worked great.  They did great.
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