Friday, July 31, 2009

Defining zanshin

Photo courtesy of esc8311976
The word zanshin literally means 'remaining mind. Interestingly (to me at least), 'zan' is the same word used to describe food leftover from dinner the next day. So, the implication is that zanshin is the state-of-mind or spirit that remains after something is finished.
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Like any abstract construct that describes a state of mind, there is a lot that goes into zanshin, but basically you can think of it as a combination of...
  • Situational awareness - both before a conflict and after the physical part of the conflict is finished.
  • Zanshin also has elements of "follow-through" but not in the sense of some motion that occurs after the engagement is over (like follow-through when swinging a baseball bat).
  • Zanshin is a mental connection that begins before physical contact and continues after physical contact is over.
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Do a guy a favor

Hey aiki guys (like Nick and the Windsong guys) and jujitsu guys (like Dan Prager et al.) check out Dojo Rat's short video clip of an aikijitsu-like thing that they are trying to develop. Leave them some comments and constructive criticism. I really like this sort of sharing...
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Practice in a spirit of Joy

Photo courtesy of Old Sarge
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zanshin Month

Next month's theme at Mokuren Dojo and here at the blog is going to be zanshin - the remaining mind.  I'd like to open this theme up with a very nicely-done video about zanshin in the context of kyudo (archery), then we'll try to define zanshin and investigate a few aspects of this state of mind.


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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Are aiki and ju the same thing?

Rick posed a question in a comment yesterday - basically along the lines of, "Why do aiki/judo look different if they are the same thing?" There are several reasons that they really are the same thing but they end up looking different in practice. I want to consider three...
  • They tend to approach power and strength from different sides. They both approach a common ideal - maximally efficient/appropriate use of power. But the aiki guys tend to approach that ideal from the use-no-strength side and the judo guys tend to approach that from the use-all-your-strength side. As aikidoka get better they learn to apply power properly and as judoka get better they learn to achieve their goal with less power.
  • The two arts play mostly with different skillsets within the whole of jujitsu (See this Tomiki article). Aikidoka do more kansetsuwaza and striking, judo does a broader range of throws and grappling. Because of the variety of the whole skillset in jujitsu, it's hard to devise a randori ruleset where you can safely play all those skills. So the aiki guys (basically) took a different half of jujitsu to specialize in.
  • The judo ruleset constrains judoka's behavior toward judo randori/shiai (e.g. ippon throws and either decisive groundwork or none at all) and the aikido emphasis on self-defense (particularly in the context of weapons and multiple attackers) constrains their behavior.
All of this is not to say that aikido and judo are different things. They are different lenses on the same thing. There is a lot of overlap despite their different specializations. Where you really see the similarities are in some of the higher judo kata (like Goshinjitsu and Junokata) as well as in some of the higher Tomiki kata (e.g. Sankata). In these exercises, judo becomes aikido and aikido becomes judo.
As examples of the above points, consider the exceptions...
  • judo guys that refuse to work from hi-power and strength paradigm look more aiki-like
  • aiki guys that use more physical power look more like they are doing judo's goshinjitsu kata
  • judo guys who agree amongst themselves to play with strikes in randori either get busted up or they begin developing aiki-like rulesets and looking more aiki-like.
  • Tomiki aikido guys doing toshu (empty-handed randori) have to have specific rules (like no grabbing the gi) to keep them doing something that looks like aikido instead of judo
...in other words, when you take either art and flex its rules or assumptions a little, you end up with the other art.
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Kano's ideal judo

This is really remarkable. In an interview published at Aikido Journal, Past Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba gives an opinion and some extra details about a legendary meeting between Jigoro Kano and Morihei Ueshiba:
...Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, paid a visit to the Mejiro dojo in October 1930. Kano, a cosmopolitan, English-speaking intellectual, was in most respects the diametrical opposite of the old-fashioned mystic Morihei, but he too was dazzled by Morihei’s techniques. ‘This is the ideal budo — true Judo’, Kano exclaimed after witnessing Morihei’s performance...
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DOSHU: This is a much-talked-about story. However, since I was in the fourth year of elementary school then, I do not know any details. It is true that Kano Sensei was really impressed with my father’s techniques. I understand that Kano Sensei did say, “This is real budo, the true Judo.” I also understand that his student named Mr. Hideyuki Nagaoka then asked a question in return, “Does that mean that what we are practicing is not true Judo then?” I have heard that in answering this question Kano Sensei replied, “That’s not the case. Kodokan Judo is the Judo of 90 degree angles and Aikido is the Judo of 180 degree angles.” Although many people have talked about things which occurred later I am not familiar with the details.
This business about Kano saying that Kodokan is the judo of 90-degree angles, while aikido is the judo of 180-degree angles. That rings true to me and is very reminiscent of what my teachers seem to have been trying to beat into my head for years now in both aikido and judo - that aikido and judo are opposite sides of the same coin, and that the difference between these two arts has something to do with that Kitoryu 2-direction principle that we're always talking about.
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Kuzushi recap

Photo courtesy of wili hybrid
July 2009 has been kuzushi month at Mokuren Dojo blog. We have been looking at different aspects of kuzushi and the role of unbalancing in aikido, judo, and karate. Following is a recap of the articles I've posted this month on the topic:
Or, you might be interested in seeing all the articles I've written on kuzushi. If so, check out my archives on the topic.
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Do NOT try this at home

We've been working a ogoshi-to-ouchigari combo in judo, but you have to be careful to make sure that what you end up with is definitely not kawazugake - a banned technique. You do that by making sure to rotate fully toward uke so that you are facing him between techniques.
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The first of these vids is a controlled demo of kawazugake, but the second one is a neat vid of a kawazugake thrown in a sumo competition in the 1970's. It's not obvious from these videos why it is a banned technique, but I suspect that it is tempting for players under combat stress to entangle the leg and sit back onto it, endangering the knee as well as cracking uke's head and falling on him.
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The other thing that is not obvious to me is why it is called kawazugake (the frog-hook). Seems to me it would be called kiwazu gake (the dangerous hook) - but that's just me.





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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kubotan anecdote

Some years back, when I was in college, some friends and I got our hands on Tak Kubota's little black & orange police manual for the use of the Kubotan and we worked through it.
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One of the suggested modes of use for the kubotan was as a flail - holding the body of the keychain and striking with the keys. The book showed using it to flail the attacker's extended wrist or at his face. We were skeptical (to say the least) as to whether or not you could create significant injury by flailing keys to the wrist of an assailent. I suspect something was said about "B.S." whatever that means.
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Well, sometime later I was sitting around mulling over the question of kubotan effectiveness and I was absently tapping my keys against my wrist. Out of the blue, I tapped my radius bone a couple of inches above the base of the thumb and instantly numbed half my hand! It seriously hurt and I was only tapping.
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So, I'll definately vouch for the potential viability of flailing keys at wrists, and definitely flailing at the face as a distractor for another techique or to give you time to flee.
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Here's a kubaton very similar to the one I carried and worked out with throughout college (if anyone wants one).



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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Jutte and SMR Tanjojutsu demo

More SMR Tanjojutsu. I love this stuff. The first half of this film is jutte (truncheon). That's okay I suppose, but the real coolness starts at about 1:40 into the film.

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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Helpful handful: Backup plans in aikido

In our aikido classes we try to never lose sight of the one fundamental principle: Nothing Ever Works! Basic implication of that is, you have to have a backup plan. And a backup plan for your backup plan. And a backup plan for that... Five backup plans or general strategies that make aikido fail-soft to a large degree:
  • get out of the way (taisabaki)
  • get back away from the guy (ma-ai)
  • synchronize to reduce his potential energy (ki-musubi)
  • get behind the guy (shikaku)
  • hit him in the face (atemi, shomenate)
If a technique goes bad, doing any of these backup plans tends to improve your safety while you transition to another technique or get out of dodge! These backup plans reinforce each other so you don't have to be the ultimate master of all of them, but if you can do each of them fairly well (and automatically), your aikido improves immensely.
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Aiki for indirect violence

Photo courtesy of Amanky
A few days ago I posted an article about how to use aikido to diffuse veiled attacks in everyday life. Today I wanted to write about another sort of violence that you see not only often, but increasingly often - the rant.
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Whereas the veiled attacks I mentioned before are sort of like someone shaking your hand and threatening you with a penknife in the other hand, the rant is more like someone poisoning a water supply, not caring who they injure. Someone who is into a full-blown rant is venting energy in every direction, making people around them hesitant to engage for fear of focussing the energy onto themselves. Well, there is an aikido principle that applies here too...
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If you don't want a response from them, don't give them a stimulus - synchronize with them but don't amplify them
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This idea can be seen in both physical and psychological realms. For instance,
  • In a physical conflict, if you reduce the relative speed between attacker and defender, then you reduce the attacker's potential to injure the defender. It is similar to driving down the interstate. Every time you pass a car or one passes you, there is potential for an accident to occur. But if you drive the same speed as everyone else, nobody ever passes anybody and you're safer. Additionally, if you are pushing and pulling on the attacker, they can feel you and know what you are doing. You are stimulating them to respond to you, but if you are synchronized with them there is no stimulus, so the likelihood of a response is much reduced. So, in a physical conflict, synchronize to reduce potential and avoid amplifying potential.
  • The same idea applies in everyday life in more of a psychological (or potentially-physical) realm. If someone is ranting then you can synchronize with them to reduce their potential as they run out of energy. Synchronizing also allows you to guide their rant here and there so that it does not become a full-blown attack before it runs down.
  • Some therapists call this 'predicate matching for rapport' but that is just fancy talk for 'talk like they talk so they identify with you.' A.K.A. get in synch with them. I remember a case study in a textbook where a therapist had a patient who was ranting and the situation was escalating toward abusiveness. Nobody around knew what to do. Suddenly the therapist shouted right in the man's face, "HEY!" (matching his tone) "Damn that would make me mad too!" (matching his emotion and his words) "I see why you were mad." Did you catch that? She put that in past-tense, automatically placing the patient's rant in the indeterminate past. The patient, realizing he had been mad but had now vented, calmed down and became reasonable with the therapist, who obviously shared his emotion and tone. That was predicate matching for rapport. That was synching to minimize potential. That was aikido!
Don't think that this recipe is a magic bullet for diffusing a rant. You might just escalate them by shouting in their face, but consider how you can use synchronization to reduce potential energy around you.
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tanjojutsu - the art of the cane

I think this is super-cool - Don Draeger demonstrating techniques from SMR Tanjojutsu - the art of the walking cane.  Perhaps the most practical of any of the weapon arts.


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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How to teach children's judo classes


Photo courtesy of Pingu1963
I have been teaching children's classes at my dojo for several years now, and have accumulated a lot of material in my archives here on the blog about how to teach judo to children. Following is a list of several of the best articles - I've gathered them together as a resource for all the folks that keep hitting my blog searching for info about how to teach kids' judo. Enjoy, and leave me a comment letting me know what parts of this helped you.

    The articles listed above are a few of the best of my archives on this topic, but of course you are welcome to dig through my archives and check out all of the material on teaching kids' judo and how I have implemented my childrens' judo classes.

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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282

    Sharpie or Cold Steel Sharkie?

    Lately, I've been thinking about the good-old kubotan! You remember - Tak Kubota's modern remake of the ancient Japanese yawara stick. I've loved this as a self-defense weapon for years, though anything like this has plusses and minusses.
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    A while back, Dojo Rat suggested an unsharpened carpenter's pencil as an option instead of a kubotan because of the un-likelihood of it being recognized as a weapon. I like that idea but the carpenter's pencil does not have as good a feel in the hand as I'd like. Recently I thought, "Boy, I wish I could get an un-breakable Sharpie marker - that would be the perfect size for a kubotan, plus you could always keep it in the same orientation and location in your pocket (like a clip-on knife), making it faster and easier to access. Well, voila! Check out the "Sharkie."


    Anyone interested in buying one of these (super-cheap and reliable-looking) pens, playing with it and posting a review here to let me what you think?
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    Alternately, if you want to splurge, you might like the Sharpie brand name marker in stainless steel.  If so, let me know what you think.

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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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    Everyday application of aikido

    Photo courtesy of Cloneofsnake
    Ever had a co-worker, or perhaps a business phone call from someone, who wanted to attack you but still appear professional?  Throughout your interaction they keep throwing out feints or thinly-veiled attacks...  If you've ever had a job then you know the type.
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    These veiled attacks - the strategic purpose of them is to draw you out so that you will retaliate, thus granting the other guy the high moral ground by making it appear that you were the aggressor.  Do you know the best way to deal with this sort of attack?
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    You deal with this sort of attack by re-positioning yourself and/or the attacker so that they cannot actually hurt you, and then accepting the attack without counter-attacking.  This response tends to have one of two outcomes.
    • The opponent becomes so unbalanced so that they attack you vigorously and openly, even though you are safe from harm.  If this happens, at least you and everyone around you knows who the real aggressor is and the shape of the battleground.  Also, people that unthinkingly attack with vigor from a position of weakness and unbalance tend to be relatively easy to topple.
    • Alternately, since you refrain from counter-attacking, the opponent may take time to regain their mental composure and start acting professionally - actually accomplishing something productive.  This is how my phone conversation turned out yesterday.
    If you "get" the idea behind this post, you'll likely also enjoy this post on the pre-requisites to do violence.

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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    Pausing a kuzushi

    For several weeks I've been tinkering with the idea of kuzushi (offbalance) on this blog.  I've also covered the topic pretty extensively before - you can click here to see all the kuzushi articles in my archives.
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    But there's one most common problem with beginners' ability to generate and  use kuzushi - and that is timing.  Kuzushi is not a static condition, but contains elements of both posture and timing.  Even if you teach a beginner to generate kuzushi in their opponent, often by the time they recognize that the opponent is offbalance and get ready to do something, the opponent steps and spoils the offbalance.
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    The opponent always steps!  That's the biggest problem.  And here's how to solve it: step on their foot!
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    I mean it.  If you want uke to stand still in offbalance for a moment while you collect your wits and do your thing, stand on their foot.  Simply stepping on a foot will both magnify an offbalance and will prolong it in time.  This one simple trick improves the self-defense potential of much of the things you know.
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    You have to be really careful with this in practice, though.  Ankles and feet are super-easy to sprain this way.  If you want to practice this, do it slowly and gently with a compliant partner, and for goodness sake, get off their foot as they start to fall.  Don't stand on a foot as you throw someone!
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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Advice from a Judo World Champion

    Judo advice from Dr. AnnMaria Demars:
    ... I think once every few months the instructors should schedule a 'no students' workout and get together. There should be 90 minutes of people just showing each other drills or new techniques that they have been thinking about. This should be followed by 90 minutes of beer-drinking and swapping lies about how good and good-looking we all used to be.
    I'm all for this. We already do a version of this with our Aiki Buddies Gathering in the Fall of each year, but it's not always instructors-only. It's a doable concept on a lot of scales - you could do regional, state, or multi-state instructor hookups for judo, judo&BJJ, or even more diverse. The concept works best to improve the instructors if it is an informal thing with everyone contributing - and if everyone contributes, you have to limit the scope of the thing in order to give each instructor a few minutes to share and stay within the 90 (or 120) minute time limit (of course, if you did 120 minutes of judo, you'd have to expand the beer-drinking accordingly to maintain balance...)
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    Anyway, any judo/BJJ aikido, etc... instructors in McComb, Hammond, Baton Rouge, Jackson, Hattiesburg, or points between interested in setting up this sort of thing? I'm busier than a one-legged guy in a butt-kicking contest but give me a call and we'll see what we can set up.
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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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    Sunday, July 19, 2009

    Slicker than snail snot!

    A friend of mine loaned me a couple of DVDs that he recently bought.  One was Zdenek Matl's Variations DVD and the other was Clif Norgaard's Ashiwaza DVD - Both available from GW Enterprises.  I have to say, these were the most astounding technical DVDs I've seen in a long time. 
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    Dr. Norgaard's broken timing entries into the ashiwaza were not so different from some of my entries on some of my throws, but he was doing it across this whole set of throws and the effect seemed magnified, as if his understanding of this whole set of things was based on that broken timing.  I do a similar broken timing entry on ashiguruma, but this video clearly demonstrates that I stand to improve by carrying that concept into some other techniques - especially Dr. Norgaard's miraculous uchimata.  It seems this lesson has been the one I've been missing for a long time with regard to uchimata.
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    And Mr. Matl's approach to haraitsurikomiashi and uchimata were particularly instructive too.  It was apparent that he has made his mantra of "safe - effective - simple" a part of all of his judo.  I also liked how his variations on judo techniques were NOT optimized for shiai or for self-defense, but were clearly effective in both environments.
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    It's going to take me a long time to dissect and internalize the information on these two DVDs.  If you want to join me in this quest, check out these DVDs at GW Enterprises.
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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Game face

    Whit trying on his judo game face in the mirror...
    A few days ago, I asked Whit, "Son, how did you and me get to be so cool and awesome?"  To which he responded immediately and without thinking, "I donno, Dad.  I figure you used to be pretty lame, but then I was born and things started looking up for you."
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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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    How to rank kids in judo

    Photo courtesy of Vanou
    I've written a goodly number of articles about children in martial arts - mostly about how to teach children judo - and a healthy dose of bragging about my kids' performance in judo. But I haven't much mentioned the elephant in the room - Children's ranks.
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    I was talking to a martial artist friend of mine a few days ago and I asked him if his son, who has been doing BJJ for a couple of years, had ranked yet and he replied, "Oh, no. They don't rank anyone younger than 16... And I respect that." And I respect that too. We've all seen the so-called 6 year-old black belts with black belt egos but not enough physical maturity to actually do any of the skills. You don't want that sort of situation diluting the value of your ranks.
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    But also consider, kids are externally motivated and not getting promotions at least every so often can be very demotivating. We walk a thin line when we try to figure out how to set up a ranking system for kids. Here's a handful of hints on how I did it.
    • I start kids as young as 6 or 7 depending on their physical maturity. If they are coordinated enough to play tee-ball or soccer then they are coordinated and large enough to do judo. I start the adult classes at around age 13, again depending on both physical and emotional maturity. So I have potentially a 6-7 year range of ages in the class.
    • If a kid starts at age 6 I want to have sufficient ranks for them to get regular promotions until they are old enough to get into the adult class at age 13. I do at most one rank per year - that's the time in grade. So, I have to have about 5-6 ranks for kids.
    • I recommend using colors for kids that are not used in the adult classes. My adult classes use green, brown, and black (yellow is a club rank for adults halfway to green belt). My kids do white, yellow, orange, blue, and purple. By having the kids never get an "adult" color, it effectively makes the kids automatically lower ranked than the adults. This prevents kids from diluting the value of the adult ranks.
    • The majority of the ranking requirement for kids is participation. If a white belt kid participates regularly for a year, enjoys it, and learns a lot, he gets a yellow belt. If the participation, enjoyment, or learning are marginal for a year, they get a striped belt of the next color. The stripe indicates "almost" the next rank.
    • The benefits of this sort of rank structure for children are 1) simplicity of one ranking per year and few ranks, and 2) subjectivity and flexibility of the 'requirements'. There is so much variability in physical, mental, and emotional maturity in kids ranging from 6 to 12, that it is impossible to create fair and objective requirements and tests. The requirements of participation, enjoyment, and learning for a year solves this problem.
    How are your kids classes different from mine? What unique challenges do you face in ranking kids? How have you worked your kids' ranks to fix these problems?
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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Asian racism

    In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment [of Japanese Americans during WWII] on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation stated that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership".

    And now we are gearing up toward what looks like military engagement with another Asian country - one with which we already have a historical military involvement - North Korea.

    I wonder, if we were to get into a sticky war in Asia, would we see the sort of "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" that we saw previously with Japanese Americans? Have we learned from our history, as suggested by the reparations paid to Japanese Americans in 1988, or would we be in for another two-generation round of racism? Would such racism carry over to a distrust or distaste (or worse) for Korean martial arts like Taekwando and Hapkido, and their practitioners?
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    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Kuzushi is an out of body experience

    Photo courtesy of Germaine
    Kuzushi can be thought of as an out-of-body experience! Consider this - uke and tori each has a center of mass. When they are standing upright their centers of mass are generally somewhere behind and below their navels - inside their bodies. When you walk your center rises and falls with respect to the ground and it also moves around inside your body. But your center of mass generally stays inside your body except when you get into exterme, weird postures.
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    But what happens when uke and tori grab ahold of each other? They become one object with one center of mass, and that center of mass is generally outside of both bodies.
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    Now, center-outside-the-body does not necessarily mean offbalance or unstable in either the separate or together conditions. Each person may get his center outside his body and still be stable, and either or both partners might be stable with their collective center of mass outside both their bodies.
    .
    But here's where it gets interesting. Each partner, individually, has equal control over the collective center of mass. If uke (for instance) stands still trying to remain stable, and tori shifts his individual center then he shifts the collective center. For a moment, until uke is able to compensate, he is unbalanced.
    .
    This trick works best with tori shifting slightly after uke's footfall. Tori lets uke pick a place to stand, and an instant later, shifts the collective center, disrupting uke's balance and forcing another step from uke. I highly recommend playing with this as a balance game to introduce the practice of randori.
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Kuzushi in your spare time

    Photo courtesy of Gravestone
    There is some debate in aikido and judo circles about the nature of kuzushi - whether tori has to specifically do a kuzushi to uke or whether uke is always offbalance and tori just has to figure out how to make use of it. I tend toward the second opinion, though I will readily admit that there are times when you do a specific thing to uke to make him lose his balance.
    .
    It is also commonly said that aikido and judo are based on unbalancing the opponent, and this is so. I would, however, like to assert that if you are going to deliberately effect a kuzushi upon uke, then kuzushi is not the first, or last, or even the most important thing that you are doing. There is a lot of stuff that you have to pay attention to (like your own balance and movement and evasion and positioning) prior to ever getting to the point that you need to worry about doing kuzushi to the other guy.
    .
    A while back Chiron had a note about discretionary time. That's what I'm, talking about. As you become more skilled at things like controlling ma-ai, evasion, taisabaki, positioning yourself in shikaku, etc... you get more and more discretionary time (I often call it 'slack' in my lectures. You can use that slack for many things, including kuzushi. So, in short...
    .
    Kuzushi is something that you effect upon uke only in your spare time.



    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Friday, July 10, 2009

    It takes two to tango

    Photo courtesy of Sebastien B.
    Here's a very fundamental consideration for soft (perhaps you call them internal) martial arts like aikido and judo- strength is not a unilateral quality. Strength requires an object to be expressed against.
    .
    Any time you feel like your partner is too tense, too strong and forceful, consider that it takes two to tango. If you were yielding and flowing properly it would not even be possible to feel his strength because there would be no object for his strength and tension to direct itself against. If you feel like you are getting into a fight or a struggle with uke, it is perfectly within your capacity to end that struggle - by not struggling against him.
    .
    Sometimes you'll have certain practice partners that you naturally jive with and that you flow well with, and other times you'll have partners who you don't flow so well with - who you seem to naturally clash with or struggle against. It's like there are some people who are so damned strong that they make you have to be strong against them.
    .
    Not so! Consider that they might just be reflecting your own strength back onto you! Such a partner can be an opportunity to look within for the discontinuity that is amplifying the struggle between you and them. It takes two to tango!
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Thursday, July 09, 2009

    Core throws of Judo

    Photo courtesy of Parrhessiastes
    One of my favorite blogging topics in the last few years has been the idea of a core of throws in judo – that is, the idea that there is some handful of throws that are representative of and foundational to the rest of judo. If one could identify such a technical core, then it seems to me that core should be practiced more regularly than the rest of the judo techniques – as in every class or nearly every class.
    .
    Well, in my research and practice, I have identified nine throws that I consider to be the core of judo. For a while I have called this handful The Divine Nine at my dojo. Following are some good links to resource articles I've written over the years about the idea of a core of throws in judo, as well as articles about each of the individual throws in the Divine Nine core throws of judo.
    .
    The general idea...
    deashibarai
    kosotogari
    osotogari
    hizaguruma
    ukigoshi
    ouchigari
    • Amazingly enough, I've written very little on ouchi - I'll have to set about fixing that...
    kouchigari
    ogoshi
    seoinage
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    Kuzushi is positioning plus timing

    Typically in judo you begin learning throws by making an agreement that uke will stand still and let you push and pull him into the right shape for the throw. Then it is sort of assumed that you can, over time, figure out how to get uke into that shape in randori or shiai. The problem with that assumption is the opponent never stands still! Never - Ever! So, it is really hard to translate the so-called skills that you are alledgedly learning in kihon practice into resistive randori practice.
    .
    Part of this problem is a misunderstanding of what kuzushi (offbalance) is. Kuzushi is not just a positional challenge for uke. You do not necessarily attain kuzushi by pushing or pulling uke into a certain posture - even if you do the pushing/pulling exactly right. You can do everything that sensei tells you, consistently right every time, and sometimes you get a true offbalance condition and sometimes you don't.
    .
    The secret: Kuzushi is not just a positional thing, but it is also a timing event! If you do something close to right positionally, and you do it with close to the right timing, you get a reliable offbalance condition nearly every time! So, what's the magical timing?
    .
    The instant that uke's moving foot hits the ground is the time to do an offbalance. You can perhaps find other times, but this is the only reliable one that is easy to use. As uke moves either foot, watch for it to land and then do your offbalance push or pull that sensei taught you. You'll get much more mileage!
    .
    PS. This is equally applicable in aikido, judo, or karate!
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Tuesday, July 07, 2009

    Step counting and efficiency

    Here's a little aspect of Tegatana that Bridge brought up this evening. We rarely talk much about it but tonite we explored it in detail. - the number of steps it takes to turn a certain degree is dependent upon your hip and knee flexibility - and most everyone has the same amount of slack in their lower extremities. For instance...
    • It takes 2 foot motions or weight shifts to move anywhere within about 135 degrees of where you are facing. We practice this in the first four pushing motions in Tegatana and in the hip switch.
    • It takes 3 motions or weight shifts to move farther than about 135 degrees - as in turning to face backward (180 degrees). We practice this in all the turning motions of tegatana as well as the motions of Hanasu (it takes 3 steps to turn around and start walking the direction uke is attacking).
    You don't want to blur through these steps. You want the things that take 2 steps to actually take 2 steps and you want the things that take 3 steps to take 3 steps. You learn from every repetition this way.
    .
    Count the number of steps that you are taking on each movement and watch carefully for extra weight shifts or steps. A little shift here or there might seem insignificant, but consider it this way, if it should take you 2 steps to make a move and it takes you 3 then you are 50% less efficient or 50% slower! If it is taking you 4 steps to do a 2 step move then you have the potential to be twice as fast as you are now!
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Defining kuzushi

    Photo courtesy of Colin Whittaker
    There is a funny phenomenon about defining terms - you have to strike a balance (get it? ;-) between having a definition that is sufficiently broad and vague to encompass all of the meanings and connotations of the construct, and having a definition that is more specifically useful but which leaves out part of the meaning of the construct.
    .
    For instance, the definitions that we typically find most useful in judo and aikido are so broad as to be nearly useless to the beginner.
    .
    Offbalance is catching the opponent unprepared
    .
    Offbalance is when the opponent has to make an additional arbitrary motion before they can continue fighting effectively.
    .
    The immediate first question is always, "Well, how do I do that?"  These conditions can be easy to achieve but difficult to know how to use effectively and systematically.
    .
    But on the other hand, you could define kuzushi as when the opponent's center of balance is teetering over the edge of their base of support and their posture is completely wrecked.  This is a offbalance condition that is easier to use but harder to find or achieve - you just can't get the enemy to hold still in that wrecked posture long enough for you to do something to him.
    ..
    As you move beyond the uttermost basic levels in aikido or judo and you begin to make a study of kuzushi and how to attain it and how to use it, you will find that the previous, more broad definitions are far more useful. 
    .
    Kuzushi is everywhere.  It is in us and all around us.  We just have to figure out how to recognize it and how to put it to use.
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Monday, July 06, 2009

    Gedan barai as kuzushi

    Let's start off this month with a demo of the principle of kuzushi (unbalancing the opponent) from a source you might not typically associate with kuzushi - karate-do.  Notice the repeated gedan barai (downward sweeping) action used here as a grab and off-balance instead of being used as the expected low block.


    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Sunday, July 05, 2009

    Kuzushi in July

    Photo by Andrew Deci
    "Off-balance is the fundamental principle of aikido and judo."
    .
    I'm sure that you've heard something like that before. Well, it's partially true - perhaps even mostly true. Kuzushi plays a large role in aikido and judo. I probably wouldn't call it the single most important basis of these arts, but still indispensable. Without kuzushi, smaller players would have virtually no hope against larger players and the two arts would be unidentifiable, but there are a lot of fundamental elements that you need to get in order before you start worrying a lot about kuzushi. That will be part of the subject of this month's principle theme at Mokuren Dojo.
    .
    July is Kuzushi Month!
    .
    Stay tuned for some good posts on the role of offbalancing in aikido, judo, and even karate.
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Saturday, July 04, 2009

    On deck at Mokuren Dojo

    This past week, we had two students test successfully for Green belt (Yonkyu) and one student test successfully for 2nd Brown Belt (Nikyu) - Congrats Kel! So what material is waiting in the wings for these guys?
    .
    In aikido, our green belts will be working on elbow techniques - controlling uke's center of mass through his elbow...
    • oshitaoshi (A.K.A. ikkyo)
    • udegaeshi
    • hikitaoshi
    • udehineri (A.K.A. kaitennage)
    • wakigatame (A.K.A. gokyo)
    The 2nd brown belt will be working on floating throws - hitting precise timings and directions to effect an otoshi...
    • kotetaoshi/maeotoshi
    • sumiotoshi and its variants
    • hikiotoshi
    Here are some links to previous articles on the abovementioned aikido techniques.
    .
    In judo, we'll have another student ready for green belt in about 2 months. Between now and then, this student will be working on the following material...
    • inside reaps (ouchigari & kouchigari)
    • seoinage
    • ogoshi
    • improving the fundamental escapes from kesa, kata, kami, and mune
    • hadakajime (rear naked choke)
    • basic armbars (wakigatame and udegarame)
    Here are some articles I wrote about these judo throws, and about hadakajime.
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Otoshi-Guruma recap

    Photo courtesy of Kentanen

    In my ongoing series of monthly principles, June 2009 was Otoshi-Guruma month.  In several posts I discussed an interesting dimension of human motion that, if you can take some time and get acquainted with it, you can use this type of motion to your advantage.  To see the posts in which I discussed otoshi and guruma, check out the following.
    ...and stay tuned to see what this month's theme will be at Mokuren Dojo.
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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    Friday, July 03, 2009

    Helpful handful: Ogoshi - the major hip throw

    Our older kids in judo have gotten into hip throws.  Above is a good example of the basic form of ogoshi - the large hip throw.  Notice the main parts:
    • 3-step entry for tori (the thrower).  1) Right leg turns inward in front of uke's right foot, 2) left foot steps behind to face the direction of the throw, and 3) right leg adjusts to face the direction of the throw.
    • Tori wants to enter this throw with his feet close together and between ukes' feet.  If your feet are wide, you prevent your own throw.
    • I call this thing the "crack of the butt throw" because the correct positioning for tori's hips places his buttcrack on uke's right thigh - low - toward the knee.  Also, the correct fulcrum for this thing is the top of your buttcrack, near your tailbone - not the side of your hip
    • To throw, tori bends forward, straightens his knees, and turns to look behind himself toward uke's feet.
    • Uke must not cling to tori.  If you do, you will pull tori down on top of you and you'll be sorry.  Slide over tori's back onto the ground just like in our oozing exercise.  When you land, make sure you are on your side, that you arm slapped beside you insted of getting under you, and that your feet are separated.
    ____________
    Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
    ____________
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