Friday, October 31, 2008

ABG 2008 - Session 9

  • Rokukata knife-using set, including iriminage, release 7, kotemawashi, and the long-far iriminage.  We also played wakigatame from an over-hand forearm grab.  The main point was that grabbing a guy who has a knife to try to control him is stupid and gets you killed.  Better options that we explored included brush-off to outside ma-ai, kuzushi to slow him down, and crazyman.
  • stab-twice knife randori
  • grab&go knife randori
  • So, the lesson of the night, is don't engage with the knife guy if you can at all help it.  We worked on a couple of tactics that help with this.  Tomorrow we'll get into how these ideas fit with Sankata and Rokukata knife defenses.
  • The real lesson of the night is that you can never tell who has a knife and even if you could you wouldn't want to under-estimate the potential of the unarmed guy, so you need to work to make your aiki robust so that it doesn't matter if they have a knife or not.

Tomiki aiki demo

This is a really good demo of Tomiki aikido.  Of course, not everything is exactly how I'd do it (but that's  how art works) and not everything he does is perfect (but that suggests reality instead of weakness).  Overall, I very much enjoyed his demonstration of technique, and especially his demonstration of knife techniques at the end.

ABG 2008 - Session 8

  • releases into ukemi
  • floating throws into a crash pad, including sumiotoshi, hikiotoshi, and shihonage.
  • shodan and ikkyu candidates worked on nijusan all the way through working on flow.
  • lower kyu ranks worked on releases #1-4 and maeotoshi

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cool judo site

Cool judo site - check it out!

ABG 2008 - Session 6

  • flowing releases extending a step into smooth ukemi
  • inside motion template
  • kotetaoshi, maeotoshi, sumiotoshi, hikiotoshi

ABG 2008 - Session 5

  • hanasu with emphasis on extension in 2,4,6,and 8
  • releasing smoothly into synch
  • inside and outside motion paths

ABG 2008 - Session 4

  • Tegatana, hanasu
  • Releasing smoothly into ukemi
  • white belts worked on aigamaeate and gyakugamaeate
  • brown belts worked on nijusan 11-14
  • gyakugamaeate as a cool example of a ki-bump

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ABG 2008 – Session 3

Tegatana no kata with emphasis on small steps. We also brought up the possibility of doing the turns with a post right in front of you, similar to the bagua practice of pole-walking.
Hanasu #1-4 with tori brushing off of uke’s face strike instead of uke grabbing the wrist. Hanasu #5-8 with very light touch, working on following the French curve and making #5 and #6 reversible into each other.
Chain #4 – particularly the left-right loop and the hineri-gaeshi loop with emphasis on disengaging and brushing off of the thing that is not working.
YK#1 into kotemawashi oshitaoshi with emphasis on finding the right angle between oshitaoshi and wakigatame.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Training log

Judo with Justin, Jesse, Andy, and John
  • groundwork mobility cycle, crawfishing, short sit-in, meatgrinder entry, scraping a guy off your back
  • ukigoshi - three variations - pulling uke in, stepping through, and turning back in.

ABG 2008 - Session 2

Tonight we worked on releasing ento synch and then extending one of uke's steps into ukemi with an emphasis on ukemi as a natural consequence of the motion flow.  This was followed by more work on the omote and ura motion templates.  We then worked on finding Nijusan #1-10 within the flow.  Gedanate, which has been the nemesis of most of the folks in this club for years, was working especially good last night!

ABG 2008 - Session 1

The first 9 sessions of the 2008 ABG are going to be with our ikkyu and shodan candidates - Patrick M., John, and Andy. This weekend, several more black belts will be joining us for sessions 10-13.
In this first session we worked on releasing into synchronization and extending that synchronization for several steps.  We talk a lot about what it is we are actually releasing in the wrist releases (hint - we're not necessarily making the guy release our wrist).  We often say we are releasing some mechanical bind, or mobility limitation.  But you can also think about it as releasing a discontinuity so as to get back to a state of flow.  Why is this important?
Much of aikido is a pattern recognition problem.  We are trying to recognize the relationship that we find ourselves in, so that we know what we are able to do, or what is likely to happen next.  That is, we are trying to get some signals from uke about how this fight is working.  Whenever you have a signal reception problem it is important to make the baseline as clean and quiet as possible so that the signal stands out.  If your motion and uke's is so noisy, so discontinuous, that you can't pick up the signals, then you are handicapped.  Synchronization and flow reduces the baseline noise.
We worked extensively on evading, synching, and flowing in the two motion templates (omote & ura) that make up all of nijusan. By working on these two motions that make up all of the kata, we get better at all the kata, as opposed to beating 1-2 techniques to death and only being better at those two.  I saw some good flow this morning.

Do I worry about my aikido students?

The other day one of my students asked me, "do you ever worry about your black belt [aikido] students' ability to apply this stuff on the street?" My answer was simply, "no."
It's not because I think we have the best martial art around (even though I do think that) and it's not that I think I'm making these people invincible, because in a fight there is no such thing as a sure-thing. I simply have no worries about the efficacy of our aikido for two reasons:
  • - I trust my black belt students not to go out and get in fights.
  • - This art has been demonstrated to be extremely effective for self-defense by multiple people in our organization, multiple students of mine, and multiple of my friends that came up through the ranks with me. Sure, each of these cases by itself is pretty much anecdotal, but together they represent a pretty darn good body of evidence.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What have you bought lately?

Every so often I put a call out to my readers to help me out here on my blog.  I try to keep this to a minimum because I don't want to seem needy, but I do need you, Dear Reader.  Today I need you to help me a little bit with the focus of my blog as it related to advertisements.  I need to know what products you value most so I can sell advertising space most efficiently.  All it takes is for you to leave me a comment and answer one question:
Tell me about the last 2-3 things that you have purchased or thought about purchasing related to your martial arts practice.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Top 10 referrerers to Mokuren Dojo

Colin and Nathan have posted the top ten referrers for their respective blogs. I'm glad that Mokuren dojo is the top referrer to both of these fine blogs. I love supporting both of these guys. Here are my top referrers in rank order:

Incidently, most of my personal favorite blogs are on this list. I can hear you thinking, "Hmmm, I wonder if referring more traffic to Mokuren Dojo would make my own blog more popular???"

How many kids should you start with?

When you start your kids' judo class, should you start with just a couple of dedicated students or just throw the floodgates open and accept all comers?  Here's what I did - I started with six kids ages 4-8. This gave me 3 larger (6-8) kids, and three smaller (4yo) kids. This small cohort had positive aspects as well as negative.
  • We had great teacher-student interaction and it was easy for one instructor to maintain good control over six kids.
  • With great personal attention, the kids made fast progress on technique
  • We really had too few kids to really do good club tournaments.
This pilot program worked so well that at the beginning of this year we expanded it to about 25 kids, aged 4-11, split across 2 classes.  There were pros and cons to this larger class size.
  • The old heads from last year got more easily distracted and had a harder time showing the newbies how to act right in class.
  • With more older/larger kids we had a couple with attention/activity problems bordering on bullying.  We've had to work on this a bit.  I think we've just about got the kids indoctrinated on how to act humanely toward their peers.
  • More kids=more chaos=less teacher control (have to have a parent volunteer or two in each class)
  • Slower progress on technique
  • Better variation of partners – easier to do a really great club tournament
This week, after trying it this way for about 6 weeks, we divided these two classes into three to drop the size of each class down to about 8 kids, and we’re planning to combine all the classes into one competitor pool for club tournaments one Saturday each month, so we should get the benefits of small class size as well as a large competitor pool.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Age and size matching in kids' judo

So, I’ve been doing a series on how to teach judo to children. I have covered topics including why you would want to teach kids’ classes, things I’ve learned teaching kids, games we play in class, how to help the kids develop concentration, and the best age to start kids.
Today I thought I’d get into class structure a little bit. Specifically, should you divide children into classes by age or by size or have mixed classes? There are plusses and minuses to each idea, based on the abilities children in each age group. Here’s what I did…
I divided kids into very broad size classes with generally larger, older kids on one day and generally younger, smaller kids on another. Within those classes we have a range of sizes and ages, but we usually try not to have the 3-4 year olds working out with the 11-12 year olds. I consider this to be a great arrangement for the following reasons:
  • While we are not strictly observing the AAU 10% weight categories guideline, we don’t have weight differences as large as they could be. So how do we do randori and club tournaments without weight classes when we have a greater variation in weights than 10%? Check out the kohaku shiai method. Works like a charm!
  • Kids get to work out in a heterogeneous group, which is good for them because they learn more. Larger kids have to learn to be more controlled, and smaller kids have to learn to handle aggression from larger kids. Interacting in large homogeneous peer groups with low teacher-to-student ratios is much of what is wrong with schools today.
  • Parents with 2-3 kids of different ages can often drop them all off for the same class instead of making 2-3 trips to take individual kids to different classes.
I suspect that your mileage will vary based on what kind of parental support you have and what kind of scheduling arrangements you make with your childrens' parents. How do you guys handle this issue in your classes? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Want to be great at baseball? Learn aikido!

Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to talk with the guys on our local radio sports show, Chasing Foul Balls, on K-106. Kel and I talked about aikido and judo and our programs we are doing here in Magnolia. Hopefully I'll be able to get a MP3 of the segment and I'll post it here (if I can figure out how).
Right at the end of the segment, one of the guys asked Kel, "Yeah, but does aikido help you throw a baseball better?" This was a gentle jibe at Kel for his performance throwing out the first pitch last season at a local college game. I perked up because it reminded me of a great story about Japan's most famous baseball player training with the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. I didn't have time on the air t otell the story, so here it is, excerpted from the May-June 1992 Psychology Today Magazine...

Bambino San
Sadaharu Oh benefits from martial arts
As much as any transformative practice that commands a significant following today, certain martial arts facilitate a many-sided integral dvelopment of human nature. At their best they simultaneously promote moral sensitivity, athletic abilities, and a degree of unitive awareness. Some, such as aikido, are superior to modern sports in their reliance upon spiritual principles, and superior to quiet meditation in their cultivation of stillness in action. The transformative power of martial arts can be seen in the influence of aikido on the great Japanese baseball player Sadaharu Oh.

Oh hit 868 career home runs, to surpass Hank Aaron's American record, and won 15 professional home-run titles in Japan during a 22-year career. He also helped the Tokyo Giants win many national championships, including nine in a row from 1965 through 1973. But he might not have achieved his great success without special training with Hiroshi Arakawa, a baseball instructor. Oh has told his story simply and eloquently.

Though he had been a high-school star as a left-handed pitcher, Oh was assigned to first base as a professional because he was a powerful hitter. But during his first three years with the Tokyo Giants, he did not fulfill his great promise and often drank to excess. The Giants' manager hired Arakawa to work with Oh in 1962. Arakawa extracted a promise from Oh that he would stop drinking and smoking, and during their first months of training introduced him to Morehei Uyeshiba, who offered them insights from aikido. Uyeshiba taught Oh about ma, the "psychic time and space" in which a contest occurs, and other aikido principles. But these first lessons did not have an effect. Not until Arakawa made Oh adopt an unusual one-legged batting stance in his hitting. This change in style helped focus Oh's aikido training. The athlete wrote:
"I had reached a point where aikido had become absolutely necessary to what I did.

One of the first things a student of aikido learns is to become conscious of his 'one point.' This is an energy or spirit-center in the body located about two fingers below the navel. While many martial arts make use of this center, it is essential in aikido, [which] requires tremendous balance and agility, neither of which are possible unless you are perfectly centered. So much of our early work was getting me to pose simply with the one point in mind. I would get up on my one foot and cock my bat, all the while remaining conscious of this energy center in my lower abdomen. I discovered that if I located my energy in this part of my body I was better balanced than if I located it elsewhere. If I located my energy in my chest, for example, I found that I was too emotional. I also learned that energy located in the upper part of the body tends to make one top-heavy. Balance and a steady mind are thus associated with the one point."
Besides centering, Oh learned other things through aikido, among them awareness of ki and the power of waiting.
"As long as I had [a] hitch in my swing, I could not begin to think of using ki in my battling. But posing on one foot, ki did not seem so far-fetched--if I could learn to steady myself.
Earlier in the season, when we had simply been trying to overcome my hitching habit, Arakawasan had had yet another discussion with Ueshiba Sensei about the problem.

'Look,' he said, the ball comes flying in whether you like it or not, doesn't it? Then all you can do is wait for it come to you. To wait, this is the traditional Japanese style. Wait. Teach him to wait.'

During the 1962 season, Arakawa incorporated concentration, ki, centering, balance, and waiting into Oh's baseball technique, so that he would achieve the "Body of a Rock" described by Musashi, the legendary Japanese swordsman.
"The image entered my mind as simply as a bird alighting on a branch. The global of perfecting what was in my body seemed entirely natural."
Sometimes Oh practiced in front of a mirror, visualizing the many kinds of pitches he would face. To strengthen Oh's form Arakawa had him imagine that his body was a gymnast's bar that could bear immense pressure without breaking. Oh practiced his stance with this image in mind until his blisters callused over. But his form was still imperfect. With his teacher's help, he realized that his upper body and bat position also needed to be reorganized. Only after months of practice could he balance his entire body so that his power was fully concentrated.
"Our training enabled me to hit thirty-eight home runs, twenty-eight of them coming after July 1. I raised my battling average to .272 and my RBI total to eighty-five, both career highs. Most important, I won the home-run and RBI titles for the Central League that year. [But] I received no particular praise from the Master of the Arakawa School. I accepted that. I knew he had his reasons.

The Gentleman's rule

There is an ethic in judo practice that is often unspoken, but without which judo practice would completely cease to work.  Without this rule, judo would become a very abstract, untestable theory.  I call it the Gentleman’s rule, and it can be stated something like this… 
You may attempt to throw a fully resistant partner with full force and speed all the way into the mat, BUT you must help him to fall properly. 
Of course, most of our practice is much less than full force, speed, and resistance, but you still must help to insure the safety of your partner. 
An interesting instance of the Gentleman’s rule in judo is this… Often it is safer to throw your opponent with full force and speed directly onto his back. Otherwise, if you give some people some slack, either in the form of reduced force or speed, they will attempt to turn out of the technique and end up injuring you or themselves (give a guy an inch and he takes a mile). So, a lot of times, you’re actually doing the guy a favor by blasting him. 
On the other hand, there’s not much faster way to get thrown out of my class for being an a-hole than blasting your practice partners into the mat every single time you touch them. If you know it is kata (form) or nagekomi (throwing repetitions) or randori (sparring) instead of shiai (lit. death match), and you know that your partner will take a fall, then you can modulate your force and speed.
But you still have to help him fall correctly.
This is sort of a trust but verify ideal.  Trust that you're practicing with a partner rather than an opponent, but verify that proposition by throwing him hard, fast, and correctly every time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What is the best age to start kids in judo?

People often ask me at what age should they start their kids in martial arts. I will occasionally take kids as young as 3-4 as long as the parents know that a) I’m not babysitting, and b) their kids won’t really get too much out of it until they are older. Here are some basic guidelines as to when to start kids. 
  • 3-4 year olds can usually warm up with the class and do some specific exercises, but most lack the physical coordination to do more complex drills. They lose interest quickly and often don’t get much other than fun from class. They tend to enjoy randori (sparring) games and do well against age and size-matched opponents. If I have a 3-4 year old, I tend to let them do however much of whatever they can until they start to lose interest, then let them go play in the corner. The goal with this age group is to get them to have fun so that they will tell their parents, “I love judo! I want to do judo again next year!” 
  • 5-6 years old is when the little kids’ soccer and teeball leagues start, so there is a lot they can do athletically. Around age 6 seems to be the optimum age for beginning judo classes, but there is a lot of variability in physical and cognitive maturity around this age. With this age group the goal is still to have fun but within the structure of the class.
  • 7-8 year olds are more competitive, more coordinated, and do better at randori, but some still don’t tolerate repetitive drills very well. They understand rules and structure better but get distracted and get into the same mode as the younger students. 
  • 9-12 year olds can do drills and complex skills, but still enjoy the games-based approach. 
  • Around age 13 (again there is a lot of plasticity in their maturity), we switch kids into the adult class. They are usually big enough, coordinated enough, and competitive enough to do well in a drills and randori based approach.

Our top 10 favorite games for kids' judo

Another thing that Chad asked for the other day in his comment to my post about teaching kids judo was some description of our favorite judo games to play with kids. Following are my top ten favorites (and my kids’ favorites too.) These games teach physical skills used in judo and are used as prelude to judo training in younger children and as warm-ups for older children.
  • Tug o’ war – two players face each other across a goal line. The players are given a judo belt (or two, one to hold in each hand) and they try to pull the other guy off his base or across the line or make him lose his grip on the belt(s)
  • Kneeling knockdown – my name for newaza randori. Starting on knees, the object is to push/pull (not hit) the opponent to the ground onto his back and press him long enough to say some moral statement, like “Honor means always keeping your promises.” This gets them used to grappling and pinning for several seconds.
  • Toe-stomp randori – the object is not really to stomp toes but to step on the tops of their feet without getting your feet stepped on. This one is hard to contest because it moves so fast that an outside judge is hard pressed to call it.
  • Seated push/pull – two partners seated back-to-back or feet-to-feet. The object is to push/pull the opponent across their goal line.
  • Rooster tail randori – like flag football. Two opponents have spare belts tucked into their belts in the back. The goal is to pull the opponent’s tailfeathers without getting yours pulled out.
  • Repetitions (e.g. cross-face turnover) down the mat – The best way I’ve found to get them to do repetitions of anything is to have them roll their partners down the mat using the specific technique I call for.
  • Side roll - Get a partner in guard and roll laterally down the mat – similar to bridge&roll from tateshiho and leg sweep from the guard, two partners just roll over each other down the mat.
  • Sled drag - Partner lies between your feet and holds your belt and you drag them like a sled. This is a good warmup.
  • Monkey toes (pick up tape balls with toes) – get two opponents and throw an odd number of 1-inch round balls of duct tape between them and have them pick the balls up with their toes. This gets them used to the idea of using their feet like hands.
  • Crawling man – everyone’s favorite game by far, is crawling man. One partner starts on hands and knees and the other starts standing behind with both hands on the kneeling man’s back. On “go” the crawling man crawls toward the other baseline and the standing man strives to turn them and pin them on their back. This is their favorite form of randori and it provides a great basis to hook techniques and other groundwork skills onto. This game forms the basis of all our newaza practice with kids.

A little more on this topic - Excellent video series - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

photo courtesy of Carlaarena

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Training log

Judo with Todd
  • Groundwork mobility cycle all the way through, touching on the shoulder push turnover, push back to base, meatgrinder entry, scrubbing someone off your back, shoulder spike knee lift turnover, and quarter nelson. A preview/review of a lot of the groundwork fundamentals.
  • Three entries into ukigoshi - step through on a backstep, pull uke around into it, or step back into uke. By the end of this session, Todd was getting good floats, which is important because ukigoshi is not just a great throw, but the basis of many of the advanced hipthrows, including haraigoshi, hanegoshi, and uchimata.
Aikido with Todd, Kel, Erin
  • Tegatana with emphasis on the forward and backward turns
  • practiced these forward and backward turns as evasions with partners
  • Releases #1 and 3 as events that might happen as you are evading and brushing off
  • the 2 udegarame from the knife sets of Sankata and Rokukata - how to maintin the overall strategy of evasion and brush-off but still get this technique sometimes
  • tekubiosae and brushoff

Friday, October 17, 2008

These guys are dropping like they're shot

A few months ago I posted this great interview that I did with Dave Camarillo, author of Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu: Revolutionizing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo and BJJ black belt. Here is a video I came across of his brother Dan, also a Judo and BJJ black belt. Check out the wonderful skill, particularly his fabulous kosotogari or deashibarai (whatever you want to call it). He demonstrates it from a leg twitch a time or two in the beginning of the film and later demonstrates it straight off the first touch. Opponents are hitting the ground as if they were shot!

Scam resurfacing - watch out...

I posted on this variation on the Nigerian Check Cashing scam a while back. Apparently these guys have lain dormant for a while (or at least they haven't targeted anyone I've heard of) but now they are plying their scheme on kettlebell trainers. Watch out guys!

Can you hear the clouds?

Chad asked in a previous post about a comment I’d made about teaching “quiet seated concentration games” in kids' judo classes. The main activity that I’m talking about is this…

Have the kids sit on their tape spots so they can’t touch each other.  The seated position minimizes motion and noise. Tell them that when you call, “go,” we are all going to close our eyes and be completely quiet – no noise at all! And while we are being quiet we are going to count the sounds we can hear. I set a timer and at the end of a minute I ask each kid in turn to name one sound they heard.  Sometimes I ask them to try to figure out exactly where the noises they hear are coming from.

Immediately, you will find that there are a couple of kids that want to deliberately make little noises to see if the others can hear them. I try to reiterate to these kids that they can’t hear as many noises when they do this, so they are just making themselves lose the game.

You will also find a subset of kids, usually older pre-teen boys, that want to sit cross-legged with thumbs and forefingers in circles on their thighs, a spacey look on their face, moaning, “ohmmmmmmm…” I usually try to emphasize to those kids that this is not what we are doing. We’re supposed to be listening – not acting goofy.

There is another reason for not allowing the goofy kids to adopt the meditation clich├ęs – and that is you want to go out of your way to NOT present the image to the parents of these kids that you are teaching TM or anything like it. This is especially important in the Bible belt in the U.S.A.  I emphasize to the students and to the parents that we are working on being able to be quiet, block out distractions, concentrate, and listen, because those are critical skills in learning, and because you have to be able to do that to be a winner.

A lot of times, we’ll repeat this quiet seated listening game several times, successively eliminating the more obtrusive sounds. I might run the game for a minute, then turn the air conditioner off and run it for another minute (we can often still hear water draining out of the AC), then run another minute with the lights off (they hum). We can often hear birds, parents taking outside, and cars on the road. Recently we heard crickets for the first time.

I’d personally like to play this game somewhere miles from roads and technology – some place you can hear the clouds.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What should our judo green belts know

Our Judo green belts at Mokuren Dojo should know...
  • 4-5 more throws from the first two kyo of the gokyonowaza, perhaps including some tewaza (such as seoinage) and koshiwaza (such as ukigoshi)
  • 1-2 more holds or control positions and 1-2 productive escape actions for each hold
  • 2-3 chokes or armbars from each control position
Most students take 25-30 mat hours beyond their previous rank to feel comfortable with this material.  at least 1/3 to 1/2 of those mat hours should be spent on randori.

10 reasons to teach kids' martial arts

I was told by another local martial arts teacher a while back that I could have as many children in my classes as I wanted - that is, the only limit to the number of kids is time and space and my desire to teach them.
But for a long time I had a prejudice against teaching kids. I wanted serious, adult learners. I always figured that I would teach my own kids when they got the right age, but hesitated teaching other folks' kids. I don't think that I was alone in my distaste for kids martial arts. They seemed less authentic. More like a P.E. class or a babysitting service. I wanted to teach real, serious martial artists.
But, as I said in my previous post, I learned a lot from starting kids' classes. Martial arts instructors stand to benefit greatly from adding childrens' classes to their dojo schedules. So, Why should you start some kids classes? What kids classes can do for your dojo?
  1. You will be doing a service for your community – giving children something wholesome to do that will benefit them in many ways throughout life. This is not only just a good thing to be doing, but it is seen by the community as a good thing, leading to greater respect for the instructor and the dojo throughout the community.
  2. Children's classes are an additional income stream, and kids can easily become your most profitable customer base due to volume. It is harder to make a dojo go on just adults.
  3. Children can fill unused class slots in your dojo schedule, leading to better utilization of your physical space investment.
  4. Children add potential for longevity to your club/dojo. Simply put, younger students can participate for longer periods of time, taking your dojo into the future. Today's children can become tomorrow's adult martial artists.
  5. Teaching children attracts potential adult students to the dojo. Parents are often looking for activities they can do with their children.
  6. Teaching childrens' classes provides more personal practice/workout time for the instructor. The instructor can get some more workout for himself.
  7. Childrens' classes provide great opportunities to increase your media exposure. Newspapers love to print pictures of local clubs' promotions, tournament trophies, etc…
  8. Childrens' classes make your dojo more attractive to the general public because people like doing business where they see other people are doing business. If you only teach 2-3 adults, then it is very hard to attract any more adult students, but adding children's classes gives the dojo a busy appearance, which attracts more business.
  9. Teaching a children's class can help an instructor improve his teaching ability. An ability that is particularly improved with children's classes is skill in modifying your curriculum and way of teaching to fit individuals with special needs or varying physical and cognitive abilities.
  10. Teaching children can offer an instructor an opportunity to validate the art on smaller people with different physical/cognitive abilities.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Things I've learned teaching kids' judo

A parent told me a few days ago that I have the patience of Job working with the judo kids. I don’t know about that, but I can tell a difference in myself since teaching the kids’ class for a year or so. It was tough for the first couple of months last year, dealing with the chaos. It was two or three months before I really started having more fun than trials. I have learned a few things…
  • It doesn’t do any good to get mad at the kids for things they don’t know or can’t do.
  • I don’t easily tolerate lying around on the mat, whining, not making an effort.
  • Judo is supposed to be about, "You and me getting better together," so I will not tolerate kids being mean or unnecessarily rough with each other (but it is a rough sport).
  • When kids get bored or overwhelmed they become more chaotic and meaner and rougher with each other. Instead of yelling about the chaos, redirect them to another task.
  • Be prepared with enough 5-6 minute tasks/games/exercises for a 45-60 minute class.
  • If the class is more chaotic or frustrating than usual or is not really making progress, don't be afraid to cut it off 15 minutes early and play quiet seated concentration games.
  • The biggest time waster I've found is having to stop to re-tie kids’ belts or pants. If I have to re-tie someone’s pants I tend to cinch them up so tight that their feet almost turn blue.
  • When you want kids to be structured, like lining up to bow in, give them tape marks to stand on. Space the tape marks far enough apart that they cannot touch each other.
  • I would rather bench a kid for 5 minutes for misbehaving than make them do exercises (like pushups or crunches) as punishment.  I'm not out to make exercise punishment.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Munegatame video for Jesse & Justin

Jesse & Justin - I promised I'd repost the munegatame instructional video. Here it is. Enjoy.

Training log

Judo with Justin & Jesse
  • ROM, ukemi
  • drag&drop kosotogari, nidan kosotogari
  • left hizaguruma-right hizaguruma combo
  • nidan kosotogari-hizaguruma combo
  • maintaining control during transitions between munegatame & kesagatame
  • shoulder spike turnover and quarter nelson turnover as additions to the ground mobility cycle.
Judo with Nick, Matt, Mick, and Zach, Whit, & Knox
  • ROM, ukemi, ground mobility skills (lateral rolling with a partner,dragging a partner)
  • crawling man, holding the turned partner long enough to say, "honesty means always telling the truth."
  • kneeling knockdown
  • review of randori rules

Earlier aiki randori

What is the smallest set of things that you must teach before getting the student involved in aikido randori that is really recognizable as randori and not just a randori drill? Lately I’ve been starting newbies doing randori after getting about this much aikido into them:
  • How to evade offline using tsugiashi as uke passes ma-ai
  • Release#1
  • Shomenate
  • Aigamaeate
(…and these last 2-3 are really optional.) This lets them get into randori earlier, and learn the rest of the things (i.e. nijusan, owaza, etc…) in the context of things they are experiencing in randori. Seems to work well and my students have been enjoying it a lot!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Helpful handful: hizaguruma

Dave commented on a post a couple of days ago that he wasn't ever able to get hizaguruma to work against resistive guys. Here's a handful of hints that might help.
  • If you check out the Kodokan Judo book, hizaguruma is shown on page 61. I think the actual action of the throw takes place between photos #11 and #12, concealing the secret of the throw, which is you have to do it on the rear leg instead of the front leg. (as in the video above) Sometime after photo #11, tori touches uke's rear knee, causing him to begin roataing (thus the name of the throw - knee wheel). By the time photo #12 is snapped, uke has already rotated some, giving the impression that tori actually propped uke's front knee. Check out photo #16 for the wrong way to do it and photo #17 for the right way to do it.
  • Mifune, in his book, Canon of Judo, demonstrates the technique on pages 48-49. If you check out the accompanying text, I think you'll likely agree that whoever translated the Japanese probably screwed it up because he talks about doing this technique to "the back of the knee" (pure nonsense) when he probably meant "the back knee." Mifune demonstrates it done both ways (front and back leg) but I've never seen anyone who can reliably throw anyone with the front-leg hiza and I've never seen someone who can reliably resist a rear-leg hiza.
  • The time for this leg prop is the instant the moving foot hits the ground. Get in synch with any forward step and slip to the side so that your standing foot is lined up with both of uke's feet. Prop his rear leg and pull him 90 degrees to the line you are standing on.
  • It helps to think about brushing uke behind you. As he steps forward, you slip to the side, push behind the near elbow and pull the far collar as if just brushing uke behind you - but then trip him onto his face!
  • It helps to pair this thing up with a couple of techniques that set it up, like deashibarai and osotogari. The harder they resist hiza, the easier they make it to do osoto. If they resist osotogari strongly, they make hiza more likely.
The following are six books that I recommend as essential reading for judoka. The first three, in particular, reference hizaguruma - check them out!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba

Here is a new video I found of Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba demonstrating a wide variety of technique. This demo, like many of his previous ones, showcases his superb suwariwaza (kneeling techniques) and his unbelievable lightness of movement on his knees. He also demonstrates some excellent weapons techniques, including an interesting section of jo techniques in which he alternately performs techniques with the stick and the same techniques empty handed.
Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to be the Doshu. This man did not simply learn this art to a high skill level - he inherited the thing from his father (the previous Doshu) and from his grandfather (the founder, Osensei) with the responsibility to preserve it and pass it on into the next generation of the family. I wonder what it is like to have people want to revere you for something over which you have no control (i.e. a hereditary title). My first thought is that it must be a huge ego trip, but humbling at the same time. I figure it must be tiresome.
Have any of you readers ever met this man? Layed hands on him during practice? Talked with him over a beer? What is he like as a man?

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Friday, October 10, 2008

What should our Judo yellow belts know?

By the time you (adult judo students) get your yellow belt (first rank beyond white) at Mokuren Dojo, you should know the following…
  • 4-5 standing techniques (throws) from the first kyo of the gokyonowaza - probably mostly small ashiwaza.  Deashibarai almost certainly has to be one of these.
  • Ukemi skills  sufficient to practice the above safely
  • 1-2 holds or control positions (including ukigatame) and how to transition from standing techniques through ukigatame into newaza
  • 1-2 productive escape actions for each hold
  • 2-3 techniques (chokes, armbars) that can be done from that control position
When I say you should “know” this material, I don’t mean that you have to be the ultimate master at all of it, but you should be able to at least mimic the motions of about 80% of it (4/5 techniques) with coaching and a compliant partner.
Most students take 25-30 mat hours to get to a sufficient level of proficiency at this material so that they are able to play with it without feeling embarrassed about their performance, but remember, a few extra hours practice is not something to be ashamed of and a few less hours of practice is not something to be proud of.
At least 1/3 to 1/2 of those mat hours should have been spent in randori, or free play.

Hizaguruma and ukigoshi

Lately I've been getting more randori time in, and I' ve had some pretty good randori sessions. First off, I've been doing more hizaguruma and you know what, it's really easy! For years I beat my head on this technique. I even had an instructor tell me that the reason that it is close to the beginning of the gokyo (Kodokan syllabus) is that it is so darn hard that they put it first so you have plenty of time to learn it before black belt. Phooey! That's just plan stupid. That instructor just sucked at hizaguruma and was coming up with a rationalization. Once I finally had someone show me the right way to work it and the right time/situation in which to do it, it was really easy! I've even got white belt students that can reliably do it on most opponents in moderately resistive randori.
Another thing that I've been working on lately is ukigoshi. Well, I tell my white blets that I'm doing ukigoshi because that's what they are supposed to be working on, but more often I get into hanegoshi, which is just a minimal variation on ukigoshi. You can ask anyone who knows me - I'm certainly not a hip throw guy. But lately, the way we've been working on this stuff more, I've not only been getting more and better ashiwaza, but the ashiwaza timings have actually been creating hip throws for me. Yesterday I was getting some fairly magical hanegoshi by letting uke footsweep me into it! Coolness!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Training log

Judo with Jesse & Justin
  • ROM, ukemi
  • osotogari otoshi, osotogari guruma, hizaguruma, and ukigoshi as an example of a circle of throws - a pile of throws that all come from about the same place.  Extremely confusing to the opponent when you can throw any od 3-4 throws either forward or backward on any step!
  • randori playing with that circle of throws in particular
  • ground mobility cycle with empahsis on gyakukatagatame and the elbow push turnover
Kids' judo with Whit, Dylan, Knox, Luke, Chance, Whit, Sarah, & Ethan (did I miss someone?)
  • ROM, aerobics, ukemi
  • cross face turnover with partner down the mat.  Everyone has gotten the hang of this one pretty well.
  • 3/4 nelson turnover with partner down the mat.  This one was challenging.  We'll get better.
  • a game of picking objects upp off the ground with the toes, getting used to using the feet like hands.  Will work later into skill in deashibarai.
  • crawling man randori with the condition that you have to turn the opponent onto his back long enough to say, "honor, honor, honor.
Aikido with Patrick M., Kel, and Alan
  • ROM ukemi
  • tegatana with emphasis on synching up-down of arm with up-down of body.
  • hanasu
  • 3-opponent randori all night, bringing into emphasis ideas of synchronization, flow, keeping the momentum going, brushing off, and using shomenate and aigamaeate (in particular) as back-ups.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Training log

Kids' judo with Whit, Knox, Quin, and Chris
  • ROM, jump-lunges, jumping jacks, burpees, ukemi
  • duck randori
  • seated pushing/pulling randori
  • cross-face down the mat
  • crawling man randori
Aikido with Patrick M., Kel, Erin, Habib, and Mytchiko
  • ROM, ukemi
  • tegatana with emphasis on natural upright posture, as if being drawn vertically
  • Hanasu #1 with emphasis on evading as uke passes ma-ai
  • random releases and brush-offs with ukes in a line
  • kotegaeshi with emphasis on taking up the slack and following uke rather than just crushing the wrist.
  • release randori
  • contact improv

How fast?

Martial arts are rife with wise-sounding generally zen-ish sayings and stories. One common one follows...
A prospective student went up to a master, and asked him how long it would take to learn his art. The master responded, “10 years.” The student, flabbergasted at the idea of committing for ten years, asked, “What if I train twice as often as the other students?” to which the master responded, “20 years.” Even more aghast, the student asked, ”What if I study 8 hours per day, every day, as hard as I can?” The master responded, “30 years.”
Take from that whatever meaning that you want – and the story does have some value. But there is also something to be said for the willingness to commit and devote yourself to serious, regular, repetitive, consecutive training. Simply put, the more often you come, the more you get out of it, and the faster you get it.
I have found that regularity of training counts for more than intensity of training.

Monday, October 06, 2008

What judo can do for your child

I generally don't toot my own horn, but I don't mind at all telling you some of the great testimonials I've gotten about our kids' judo program...
One parent of a child that was a beginner last year and returned this year as a yellow belt told me that she can see a huge difference in her child's physical coordination and confidence, and that she can see a big difference in skill between her child and this year's beginners. They have apparently learned a lot of judo skills.
Then today another mother told me that she'd just told her husband, "I don't know what Pat is doing with them, and I don't care - it's great." Apparently they'd both noticed improvements in one child's self-control, another child's energy level, and a third child's focus and ability to listen and follow directions.
So, were not just running, jumping, and wrestling!

Training Log

I haven't posted my last 2-3 training logs for a couple of reasons. First, I've been pretty busy and haven't taken the time.  Secondly, they have become so tedious that I haven't bothered to write them out.  Let me explain.  A while back, upon the advice of a great, respectable, and successful blogger, I started trying to condense my training logs into as concise a form as possible to relieve all the readers who might not be interested in wading thru the verbiage surrounding my personal training.  Well, having tried that advice out, I discovered that I have condensed all the info out of them that was actually of interest to me.  So I figure to re-introduce a more verbose form of the training logs.  If you don't like them, don't worry.  I plan to continue titling them clearly so you can skip them if you want to.
Judo with Jesse & Justin
  • ROM, ukemi
  • ground mobility cycle with an active bottom man
  • shoulder push turnover onto belly
  • reviewed escapes from kesagatame: entangle, sit-up, uphill, bridge&roll
  • reviewed bride&roll from munegatame and learned shrimp-to-guard escape from mune
  • ukigoshi
  • These two guys are likely not far from time in grade and skill for yellow belt.
Kids' judo with Whit, Knox, Mason, Nick, Mick, Matt, Zach, Stephen, and Laurie
  • ROM, jump-lunges, jumping jacks, burpees, ukemi
  • duck randori (squatting, make partner touch down with other than feet)
  • back-to-back pushing and seated pulling to get opponent across a goal line
  • cross-face turnover rolling partner from one side of mat to other
  • British bulldog with the restrictions that you could only shrimp or roll across the mat and the guy in the middle had to get his feet around an opponent to get them out.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Basically Just Judo

Some years back, Dave Chesser posted an article in which he suggested that the acronym BJJ, which a lot of people mistakenly think means Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, actually means Basically Just Judo.  I laughed my proverbial asterisk off - particularly after asserting for so long that Judo and BJJ are just competitive brand names for the same thing.
The other day I managed to dig up a copy of a book I've been looking for a long time, Feldenkrais' Higher Judo Groundwork!  Fantastic book!  Following are a couple of pictures from this book, published in 1952, showing some judo moves that a lot of folks think of as distinctively BJJ.
First we have a minor takedown that is allowed and used in BJJ contests but is disallowed in Judo and is derisively known by some as 'buttflopping' (watch out for some mildly offensive language if you follow that otherwise hilarious link).  Feldenkrais presents this as a good way to take the contest to the ground if it is allowed in the rules. Note, please, that if any of you smartaleks ever do this to me or do this in my club, get ready for a ride you'll wish you hadn't signed up for. Feldenkrais' variant of pulling guard shown here is extremely dangerous and places uke at a great risk of breaking his ankle.  But it is judo per Feldenkrais' 1952 book - not just BJJ.

Secondly, we have  a guard pass into a leglock.  Again, commonly thought of as the domain of BJJ.  Wrong again.  This stuff is judo - it is just disallowed in judo shiai and usually in randori - partly for safety, but partly just to allow emphasis to be placed on other stuff so you can become better in a smaller technical range.
Anyway, there is nothing at all wrong with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  If you can find a good instructor for a good price near you, then by all means, roll with them - it is a great way to learn judo!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Minimally acceptable outcomes

How hard is it in your art to obtain a minimally acceptable outcome? Is it ok for you to push an attacker off and run away or do you think that the least you can do and still be successful is to claw his eyes out, break his leg, or kill him?

Don’t read me wrong – I'm not talking about some hippie love ideal.  This is not only a moral issue but also a pragmatic one. If you define your minimally acceptable outcome more broadly, your art will be more robust and technically easier to execute. If you define your minimally acceptable outcome more narrowly, it will be less reliable and more technically difficult to obtain that objective.

Take for example, any throw in aikido. If you decide that in order for that throw to be a success uke must fall through the air a certain way, it will be very hard to create a successful outcome unless you have a compliant partner. But if you are willing to call it a success for uke to stumble away from you and maybe hit the ground, this objective is much easier to succeed at.
Look at judo kata competition as another example.  If the judges didn't especially care how uke falls from each throw, there would be much more variability in the performances.  One could reasonably demonstrate the concepts of the kata in many different ways and it would be impossible to judge.  Lack of specificity would make the competition too easy and the judging too hard.  So, for official kata competitions, uke must take a fall that looks exactly so, or points are deducted.  This specificity forces the competitors to be more skilled and makes the judging easier.

This same idea goes for karate – what is the minimal acceptable effect that a punch or kick will have?

Same goes for weapon arts – what is the minimum you can do with them and still be reasonably assured of obtaining a good outcome?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How to teach judo to kids

Yesterday I got an email question from someone interested in teaching kids judo. It read, in part…
Every time I see you talk [on your blog] about class with [children], it seems to be positional wrestling, etc. … So more ne-waza and less tachi-waza for the kids?
I absolutely do emphasize positional newaza with kids. Holds, escapes, turnovers, transitions, etc… No chokes or jointlocking submissions. Positional newaza is safer and more fun for kids and more within the realm of the possible with regards to their motor skills development. Each class, we tend to work on ukemi, perhaps one low-skill low-impact takedown, then positional newaza and motor skills stuff, then some fun form of a randori-like activity.

To see examples of my class structure and the way I teach kids, check out this thread of articles.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Nathan vs. Pat - who'd win?

Nathan at TDA Training (our resident boxing expert) has posted a new article about aikido vs. boxing. Interesting questions - things that need thinking about and deserve an answer. Check it out and leave your own thoughts over there. For my own part, I've been honored with the task of guest-posting my response on TDA Training. Maybe not the response you'd immediately think of, but it's not an easy, A-B-C recipe for dealing with the boxer. Look for my post this afternoon and let me know what you think.
And as for the question I posed in the title of this post - I suspect there wouldn't be a winner - just two losers ;-)
UPDATE: wanna see more on defending the jab from a guy who can both dish them out and shrug them off, check out this thread of blog posts.
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