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Atemi is 80% of aikido


Excellent video shamelessly pilfered from Sensei Strange's YouTube site

A commonly-cited rule of thumb is that 80% of all problems in aikido can be solved with atemi (striking techniques). That's probably not the result of any sort of scientific study - rather, it is an anecdote that serves to emphasize the importance of atemi in aikido - but let me run with that 80% statistic a little.
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The Pareto principle would suggest that 80% of all problems can be solved by 20% of all techniques. If you say there are about 20 unique fundamental techniques in Tomiki aikido, then 20% of that would be four techniques. What are your 4 tokuiwaza (best/favorite techniques) from aikido?
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For me, I'd say those 4 would be shomenate, aigamaeate (A.K.A. aikinage or iriminage), oshitaoshi (A.K.A. ikkyo), and wakigatame (A.K.A. gokyo). Some folks might differ on those last 2-3 techniques, but I bet, shomenate (A.K.A. palm jab under the chin) is on nearly everybody's short list. If not, it should be.
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Not only can 80% of all problems be solved with atemi, but I bet 80% of those atemi will be shomenate. (That would make shomenate about 65% of all aikido.) Want to get a good headstart at learning aikido? Work on shomenate a little bit each class.
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Easy lesson plans for judo

Photo courtesy of Notelse
Teaching in general, and lesson planning in particular, is a learned skill. Lesson planning is an art separate from the martial art, and in many ways lesson planning is the toughest part of teaching. Following is a handful of hints that might help you make lesson planning easier.
  • Integrated classes - Plan your lessons so that you don't have to split up the class to work on different things. This will keep you from having to lesson plan for multiple groups. The way I did this was to define a set of techniques that absolutely everyone from white belt to black belt needs to repeat often - a set of kihon. Then work your way through this set of kihon with everyone working one technique per class.
  • Softer ukemi - Teach and drill proper ukemi, and rethink your throwing practices so that the ukemi is softer. This lets newbies serve as uke for even the highest-level techniques. This expands your uke pool, lets everyone work with anyone else, and helps you to prevent having to split the class as above.
  • Lighter randori - Your normal mode of randori for most classes should be very light, low-resistance randori. Almost a "trading throws" type of practice (nagekomi). On the ground, the randori should be a light, flowing roll with emphasis on position and transition over submission. What this does is allows your players to get much, much, MUCH more practice than if they were to resist every inch of the way.
  • Lesson plan template - You'll want a template for a standard practice. The one I use is, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue." That is, we practice "something old" (kihon), "something new" (rank level material), "something borrowed" (something from BJJ or aikido or someone else's tokuiwaza, etc...), and "something blue" (something that the students are having problems with - Q&A)
  • Chained techniques - Many instructors like to chain the techniques that they are going to work for a particular practice. For instance, you might work a certain gripping sequence into a clench followed by a throw from that clench going to the ground into a hold followed by an escape or submission. The transitions between all these individual skills are rich with information that can be lost if you just drill the individual techniques.
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Zanshin recap

This past month I have written a host of articles on the topic of zanshin in martial arts. Zanshin is kind of a loose, vague concept that has something to do with awareness and something to do with connectedness. But despite being hard to get a firm handle on, zanshin is a critical part of martial arts. Following are links to my most recent thoughts on zanshin.
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All my archived articles on zanshin
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Another good article on zanshin by Sensei Strange
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Atemi month intro


The theme of the month will be atemi (striking). Typically folks think of aikido and judo as blending and throwing arts, but the fundamental principles, aiki and ju, really imply something along the lines of "do whatever is most perfectly appropriate at the moment." As such, atemi can be part of aiki or ju. In fact, more than one instructor has characterized aikido as "mostly atemi."

Stay tuned - I have a whole host of good articles on the drawing board for September.
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Why blog?


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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Suggested great books on aikido, judo, and strategy.
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Raging bull vs. aikido

How much is effective a good aikidoka against bigger opponent who simply attack strong as raging bull?
While the large, strong, raging opponent is both dangerous and frightening, this one is an aikidoka's dream come true. If aikido ever has a really good chance to be effective, it is against just this sort of opponent. Where aikido often appears to have more problems is with more careful, deliberate opponents who want to surgically dismantle the aikidoka.
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Reminds me of a great anecdote... In college all my roommates were into martial arts and one of our mutual acquaintances (named "Skeeter") was always on me about how "that aikido sh** wouldn't work on me!" My roommates and I had tried to reason with Skeeter - tried to show him little tricks and limited examples of the principles behind aikido, etc... But he just wouldn't have it. Finally one day we were at the pool and Skeeter was riding me about how much aikido sucks and I'd had enough. I stood beside the pool and told Skeeter, "Alright, come at me." And you know what? HE DID! He stepped in to grab me and I sidestepped and threw him about eight feet out into the deep end of the pool to land on the back of his shoulders. The technique was a perfect kubiguruma! Skeeter came up sputtering and coughing and yelled out, "Man! If that will work on me, that would work on anybody!" From that day on, Skeeter was aikido's biggest fan, telling everyone we met how awesome aikido was.
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But where aikido is REALLY effective against this sort of violent, raging maniac, is not in the ability to break arms or throw them on their heads. The REAL power in aikido is to suck the energy (both physical and spiritual) out of the aggressor, reducing them toward a more reasonable, lower-energy state. Consider the famous Terry Dobson Tokyo Train story for an example of what I mean.
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See here for my answers to Sensei Zoran's first and fifth questions.
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More to come...
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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It's all YOUR fault!

It really is all YOUR fault, Dear Reader! Because of all your hits and pageviews and links and comments, You have made this the best month Mokuren Dojo blog has ever had! And that's on top of an already steady increase in popularity. Y'all have driven Mokuren Dojo to become more than I ever figured it could. Thank you, and keep coming back, leaving comments, and telling your friends to check out www.mokurendojo.com. Together, we'll make 2010 the Year of the Magnolia!


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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Suggested great books on aikido, judo, and strategy.
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Attack proof zanshin

Photo courtesy of Fatboyke
A while back I reviewed John Perkins' book, Attack Proof. I thought today I'd go back to Attack Proof as I am finishing up a month of posts focussed on the topic of zanshin in martial arts. The Attack Proof guys tell me they have a new, expanded, and much-improved 2nd edition of the book available, but the version I have in front of me is 1st edition. The first chapter is about awareness as a prerequisite to self defense. Some excellent excerpts...
  • By being aware of your surroundings, we are not talking about descending into some gobbledygook, New Age, Zen-like state of mind, but about the importance of training yourself to casually notice your surroundings all the time...
  • ...In nearly 100% of assaults, the victim had a feeling that something was wrong before anything happened...
  • ...Our primitive instincts are still fully functional, screaming at us; we're just not listening to them...
  • ...You don't have to go around in a continually paranoid state, however. Simply keep your attention outward, and if something looks amiss, you'll notice it...
  • ...Learn to trust your feelings...
What he is describing here is zanshin, and he gives numerous examples and exercises and hints for developing this sense in yourself. One of my favorite...
...every time you're out on the street: Decide to look for something during the course of your walk. For example, look for people with red shirts or people with mustaches. This gets you to open your awareness to your surroundings on a regular basis.
What I especially like about this particular exercise most is that you are not looking for a specific threat, but the trick of counting blue trucks (or whatever) gets you paying attention to your surroundings. If you were to try to look for specific threats, like large dirty men hiding in bushes, or suspicious-looking vans, then you would be concentrating your attention and actually limiting your intuition. By looking out for common, but specific items, like children with toys, you are staying aware without developing paranoid hyper-focus.
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If you are interested in the Attackproof book, please check out the 2nd edition at my Amazon store:

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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Suggested great books on aikido, judo, and strategy.
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Karate is better than aikido

So, I'm working my way through a series of posts answering Sensei Zoran Stojanovski's, five questions about karate vs. aikido. A couple of days ago I wrote on his first question. Today I think I'll tackle his fifth question (Who ever said I had to go in order, anyway?)...
If [an] expert of aikido [were] permitted to apply all his aikido arsenal, whether he had a chance to survive in the K1 fights?
Again, I have a couple of possible answers to this. First of all, it would not be possible to free either participant to use their full arsenal in a contest like K1. Even events that are billed as "No Holds Barred" have some of their holds barred. How often do you see eye gouges or ear-biting or nut-avulsion allowed in a combative sport? Why do you think they hold these events in rings or cages? It's to prevent aiki-minded competitors from evading and avoiding. So, the best parts of aikido (e.g. avoiding contact until you can blast their eyes into the back of their head) are pretty much off-limits in this environment.
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But, suppose you did put the aiki guy and the karate guy in a ring and told them only one walks away? My money is on the karate guy! Karate is definitely the better art in this environment because of one simple fact...
For fighting, aikido absolutely sucks!
We drill into our students that you never bet your life on this aikido stuff because it absolutely does not work in a fight. Nobody, regardless of strength or skill, can make aikido work reliably. Don't get me wrong - aikido is exquisitely effective for self-defense against violent physical assault - but that's not the same as using it to fight.  You just can't call your shots with aikido like you would need to do in a fight. Aikido either works its magic automatically, on it's own, in its own way, or it doesn't work at all.
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That is a large part of the reason that aikido demonstrations tend to look so fake.  Once you decide to demonstrate certain forms of certain techniques in a certain order, and you rehearse them once or twice, you are no longer doing aikido the way that it works best, so uke might have to jump in order to make it look like it should look.  But then, you can't jump and get the same quality of magical aiki effect.
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So anyway, Aikido sucks and Karate is the bomb!
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More to come on Sensei Zoran's other questions...
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Suggested great books on aikido, judo, and strategy.
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Rhadi Ferguson's Morotegari DVDs

Photo courtesy of Dr. Rhadi Ferguson
The other day I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of receiving a review copy of Rhadi Ferguson's instructional package titled, Ugly Judo 101; Morote Gari. I was very impressed with the whole package and would highly recommend it.
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Dr. Ferguson is uniquely qualified to present this material because he is the Olympian who probably made better use of morotegari in his career than any other. Just do a search on YouTube for "Rhadi" and you'll find clips of him throwing a bunch of poor 100kg dudes into the rafters. You could probably rename this technique Rhadi-gari!
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This package, consisting of two DVDs and two audio CDs, takes morotegari to a technical level far beyond the 'tackle' or even the double-leg takedown seen in BJJ and wrestling. But more than that, it expands upon Rhadi's previous instructionals by extending the theoretical range of his gripfighting material into what Tomiki sensei called hamarejudo, or separated judo. On the first DVD, Rhadi gives some good instructions on ma-ai (the time and space it takes for uke to touch tori). Rhadi uses morotegari as a means to threaten uke even well outside the normal grappling range, as well as describing ways to shorten the distance without the opponent realizing until it's too late.
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The second DVD covers common counters to morotegari, including sumigaeshi and a slick teguruma. Also included on the second DVD is a set of exercises that competitors might want to use to develop the explosive strength and stamina to continually threaten the opponent with morotegari throughout the match.
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The audio discs reiterate some of the theory behind no-touch judo (or hamarejudo) and how morotegari is a vital part of the hamarejudo technical domain. The audio CDs are actually so good that they have my mouth watering for Rhadi's more comprehensive Gripfighting packages, titled Grip Like a World Champion, and Underground Gripfighting Secrets, which I suspect delve into the hamarejudo concept in a much more comprehensive manner. They also suggest that Rhadi et al. will be doing a sequel (Ugly Judo 102) on kataguruma, which I am also excited to see.
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I highly recommend Dr. Ferguson's Ugly Judo 101; Morote Gari as a superb instructional package for competitors as well as classical judo enthusiasts. The technical detail and the underlying theory are both deep and wide, and will provide you a valuable reference worthy of years of study. You can get these packages through his website, http://www.rhadi.com/.
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Aikido is better than karate

Sensei Zoran Stojanovski, of Macedonia recently posted his take on the age-old karate vs. aikido debate.  He posted five questions and sent me an email prompting me for some answers.  I figured I'd answer them one at a time over several days.  The first question:
[Can] a good aikidoka successfully parry feints of the good karateka?
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Depends on what you mean by a "good" practitioner of each art. 
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If by good, you mean the ideal, ultimate master of the art, then the question is mute, because the ideal aikidoka and the ideal karateka could never fight.  The karateka would ideally never punch unless he was sure of a hit.  The ideal aikidoka would never engage in a conflict in which he could be hit.  so, you can't really put the two together.  (Sorta like trying to glue two similarly-polarized magnets together.)
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But you probably mean something like a competent, proficient practitioner - not perfect but not a neophyte, in which case, the question is still no good.  This boils down to the facet of the question that John answered in the comments to Zoran's post - whichever happens to be more skilled or more lucky that day will win.
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A lot of times, I think the question that really lies at the root of things like this is more along the lines of, "Which is the better art, aikido or karate?"  That can be answered a lot of ways, but I think since Sensei Zoran asked me for my opinion, I'll give it to you.
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Aikido is the better art, clearly and by a large margin.
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It is at least possible to win a fight using aikido skills practiced in every class without ever placing yourself in danger of reprisal by the attacker (disregarding guns).  This is not possible in karate (at least not using the skills most often practiced in class - punching, kicking, blocking, joint-twisting, etc...).  If everything goes right for the aikido guy then he is never in danger of even being touched.  But even if everything goes right for the karate guy, he has to stand close enough that he might be hit or grabbed or dragged down.
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;-)  More to come...
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Which lie is true?

This sounded like such a fun meme that I was really sad when Bob didn't tag me. Fortunately, Wim tagged me, so here goes.
The meme works as follows. You post five things about yourself. Four are untrue. One is true. All are so outlandish, implausible or ridiculous that no one would be inclined to believe that any of them are true. And despite the pleas from your readers, you never divulge which is true and which are fabrications. You then tag five other people (four seriously and one person you are pretty sure would never participate).
  • Of the seventeen life-or-death streetfights I've been involved in, I've only been seriously injured once - a street-punk in downtown St. Louis perforated my colon with a screwdriver.
  • Having taken more university mathematics courses than anyone I know, I ended up with a Ph.D.
  • My first wife was murdered eight days after our crazy, spur-of-the-moment, Las Vegas wedding. The murderer was never found and the police didn't seem too interested in pursuing the case.
  • I made a $250,000 donation to Mississippi State University a few years ago to help finance the renovation of their historical McCain Engineering building.
  • I never leave the house without at least eight concealed weapons and I generally keep at least fifteen improvised weapons at hand (except at church).
Ok, Let's see who I'd like to tag with this meme...

The great morotegari debate

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Morotegari (the double-leg pick) is a second-rate, second-class judo move - not even a technique - just a move - at least that is some folks' opinion. Crude wrestling. Ugly judo! There are definitely two sides to this debate, both with some reasoning behind them. I thought I'd suggest a few points on each side.
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One side says that morotegari is not good judo, because...
  • ...with both hands on uke's legs, it is hard to control uke's upper body during the fall (control being one of the key components of the ippon - the instant victory by perfect technique).
  • ...the lack of control may make morotegari unsafe.
  • Morotegari tends to lead to newaza (ground grappling) and a war of attrition instead of promoting ippon judo.
  • It's too easy to grab legs - it doesn't take much skill - so it makes for poor physical education - sort of like buttflopping (ahem... pulling guard) in BJJ.
  • It's a brute-force technique, lacking the elegance of the rest of the judo syllabus.
The other side says that morotegari is a valid technique because...
  • ...it keeps the participants honest. Knowing that morotegari can happen at any time makes everybody play more careful judo.
  • ...knowing how to defend against leg picks is important in the context of self-defense.
  • ...it promotes skill in hamarejudo (separated judo) as Tomiki called it, or 'no-hands judo' as some other proponents are calling it now.
  • ...it tends to completely scramble uke's defenses (even moreso than most judo techniques), leaving him wide open to newaza attacks.
  • ...to throw it for ippon or to specialize in morotegari in contest requires great strength and stamina, thus making it great for physical education.
So, what do you say? Are you pro- or anti-? Are your reasons among the ones I listed or do you have other reasons you do or don't like it? Want to try to refute one of the points above? Leave me a comment.
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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The awesomeness that is green!

Photo courtesy of Sybren A. Stuvel
This weekend at the dojo Todd did his demonstrations to progress from yellow to green belt rank (yonkyu) in both aikido and judo. Todd did a great job on both demos and is pumped up about proceeding to the brown belt material while continuing to work to improve the yellow and green belt material.
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For brown belt in aikido we will be emphasizing controlling uke's center by connecting through his elbow. In judo we will be emphasizing a handful of new throws, guard and mount, the surrounding escapes, and variations on jujijime and jujigatame. Should be fun.
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Y'all should send Todd some adulations regarding the awesomeness that is GREEN - either here or at his Ichigo Dojo blog.

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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Kids' judo randori, August 2009

Here's a vid of some of the kiddies doing tachi (standing) randori.  They were mostly playing osotogari and deashi/kosoto because those were the throws we were working that day.  Couple of sweet throws.

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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Anyone want to rupture a disc doing judo?

Interesting set of somewhat sport-specific exercises for judoka.  Note that I do not recommend that you do any of these.  It'll be a cold day in hell when you see anyone doing this sort of activity at my dojo, but interesting nonetheless.  Looks to me to be just about the perfect combinations of movements if your goal is to prolapse a disc in your low back.


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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Suggested great books on aikido, judo, and strategy.
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Jin Iizumi - LEGENDARY SOFT JUDO

Has anyone out there watched these DVDs of Jin Iizumi's LEGENDARY SOFT JUDO? I seem to have heard good things about this program and his approach to judo has gotten some rave reviews and testimonials. A notable couple from the Legendary Soft Judo website:
Congraulations to Sensei Iizumi on his wonderful DVDs on Soft Judo. The explanations and the demonstrations are expertly demonstrated by both Iizumi sensei and his students. This is an excellent means of learning various techniques of judo and can be enjoyed by one and all. Hayward Nishioka
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The Legendary soft judo series takes you step-by-step through the learning process. The level of technical detail shown is exceptional. You will be exposed to the full spectrum of Judo throws, as well as important Judo pins and submission techniques from Shihan Iizumi... Every serious Judo or Jiu-Jitsu player ought to take the chance to study these DVDs. Saulo Ribeiro
I'd love to hear from anyone who has seen these videos. Are they as great as the hype? Should I get them to study?
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Zanshin as active noise reduction

Photo courtesy of Cayusa
Zanshin is a state of mind that can be defined as something like quiet awareness, or connection that starts before physical contact and lasts afterward.  Since we are talking about zanshin as a kind of connection (like an internet or telephone connection) you can consider a conflict as a sort of signal theory problem.
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Tori is trying to determine if uke is sending a message and if so, what is the meaning of that message.  In signal theory, the basic idea is that the signal passing between the sender (uke) and the receiver (in this case, tori) is to some degree obscured by noise.  The noise can be an attribute of the environment, the sender, or the receiver. Of these three noise sources, the receiver can only control his own noise.  Tori can't control the noise in the environment or in the uke.
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One way to reduce the level of noise tori is injecting into the baseline is to do the same thing before and after every technique.  Whenever you are exposed to the same thing over and over, your mind is good at filtering that out.  As an example, you don't normally hear yourself breathing.  On the other hand, if you do something random and different before and after each technique, then the randomness stands out in your mind and serves as noise (like trying to listen to yourself breathe while whistling). 
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In a conflict, this noise can obscure important messages that might otherwise be obvious.  Messages from uke like, "I am not going to fall that way" or "Here I come again!"
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So, an aspect of zanshin (the stuff between the techniques) is doing the same thing before and after each technique in order to reduce the noise in the baseline so you can stay connected to uke.
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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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Zanshin for uke

Photo courtesy of Invunche
Zanshin is not just a thing for tori. Uke is learning aikido too, and ukemi provides a fine exercise for improving zanshin.  For example...
  • in junana hon kata, each time tori throws uke, tori should end up moving away near tori's head. Uke, keeping in mind (zanshin) the potential for tori in this position to kick uke in the head with impunity, turns to place his feet between tori and himself, effectively placing tori in a loose, open guard. From here, uke will at least have something to say about it if tori attacks, so tori backs away and uke rises to his feet moving away (sprinter's start).
  • in kimenokata, uke never allows himself to be stretched out on his belly in a prone armbar. This is considered to be a terible sign of weakness - worse than submission!  Instead, when tori is pressing uke with an armbar, uke goes with it until he is on hands and knees and is about to be stretched onto his belly, then he submits by tapping. Uke never voluntarily gives up his last bit of potential by lying on his belly.
These are both aspects of these kata which facilitate improvement of zanshin for uke - things to consider when you are doing kata.
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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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Helpful handful: Easier falls for hip throws

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Booth
One point that is repeatedly brought up in the age-old BJJ vs. Judo debate is that the BJJ guys think that the falling-intensive practices in judo are just plain abusive. I've heard several BJJ guys say that they thought the only way to survive that much falling is to do judo when you are young and then move into BJJ for the rest of your martial arts career. I've also heard of judo guys getting into aikido to prolong their mat-years.
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Indeed, learning to fall was a bear for me. I seemed to get more hurt with every practice. The pain was frustrating, and the frustration made the falling more painful - a vicious loop that it took years to break. The worst, most abusive throws to practice were the hipthrows and shoulder throws (commonly known as koshinage in aikido).
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Well, it turns out it is possible to make the ukemi for hipthrows and shoulder throws much lighter, more survivable, and even enjoyable. Here is a handful of hints I've found helpful for improving falls from hip throws.
  • Go with the flow. The harder tori has to exert to throw you, the more energy you will have to eat at the end. I'm not saying to jump or throw yourself (that's dishonest and dangerous). But if you know you are going to be taking a fall (as in nagekomi or trading-throws practice) then allow the off-balance to raise you onto your toes and bring your feet together. This makes it easier for tori to be kinder to you.
  • Slide over tori's back. Don't cling or hang on, and don't try to speed up your turn-over. If you try to speed up or slow down the energy of the throw, you will inevitably fall wrong and it will hurt more. Try to think about oozing over tori's back like... well, like something that oozes.
  • Extend till the point of no return, then curl. If you stay stiff the whole time, you will hit wrong. If you stay floppy the whole time and just drape yourself over tori, it will take more energy for him to throw you, so the landing will hurt more. The solution is to extend your back and neck until you reach the point in the throw where you are just about to start sliding headfirst into the ground, then breathe out and curl up.
  • Back of your shoulder lands first. You want the back of your shoulder to be the first thing to hit the ground. Similar to the previous idea of not speeding the energy up, if you try to un-roll out of your fall before your shoulder is on the ground, you are going to take more of a vertical drop, and it will hurt more. Put your shoulder on the ground and then unfurl your body onto the ground.
  • Tori, don't try to hold uke up. Especially don't try to soften the fall for uke by holding up on his waist. That is a sure-fire way to make uke land in a weird way. It seems counter-intuitive, but often you are being kinder to uke by trying to throw his head at the ground. This way, he lands shoulder-first and doesn't have a time lag in the air to find a way to screw up the fall.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Booth
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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

Kids' judo, August 2009

Here's a new vid of my kids' class doing some judo.  You will see kosotogari, kesagatame, situp escape from kesagatame, and bridge and roll escape from munegatame.  There is also a stray osotogari in there that was not what we were working on, but I left it in there because it was so sweet.

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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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Has aikido ever NOT worked?

Photo courtesy of Justin Lowery
You know, people are frequently complaining that aikido sucks because it's not this, or because it's not that. I can't count the times that I've been told that aikido sucks for self defense. I have written more than a handful of articles defending aikido as a pragmatic martial discipline and as an effective self-defense. Then it struck me, none of these folks that I've ever heard complaining about the viability of aikido have ever cited any actual experiences in which aikido has failed in self-defense. Their complaints are based on their personal theories of combat.
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So here's your opportunity. I want to know...
  • Have you ever heard of an aikido practitioner of any experience failing to defend himself in any sort of physical confrontation?
  • If so, what were the conditions? Multiple attackers, weapons, ambush? Why did the aikido fail?
Note, I don't want to hear that you think aikido sucks because it's too slow or too soft or only compliant partners or no resistive sparring or etc... I don't want to hear complaints based on your theories and fantasies about combat. But I DO want to hear details if you have ever actually heard or seen an aikido person get beat up. I'll go first...
I recall reading a long time ago that the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, got mad at a bunch of kids that had beat up his young son, Kisshomaru. According to the story, Morihei got so enraged that he ran at the kids to catch them and beat them up, but they evaded and laughed at him. OSensei supposedly got so careless in his frustration that he tripped and fell into a mud puddle, embarassing himself.
Ok, that's my story. If y'all don't give me some more stories then I'll assume that aikido has only failed once in the last hundred years. That will give me lots of great advertising ammo - having a claim similar to Helio Gracie's ;-)
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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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Pay attention to your situation

Zanshin is basically awareness, right? Awareness of what? Awareness of special constraints that might be placed upon your actions - situational factors under which you are operating. So how do you get better at zanshin? Start paying attention to special situational constraints.
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One great way to work on zanshin is to set some extra rules for practicing your techniques. For instance, choose a place in the dojo and define it as shomen (where the VIP's sit). A videocamera makes a good shomen when you don't have a VIP. Then practice your techniques making sure that...
  • You never throw uke toward shomen.
  • You never stand with your back to shomen, and minimize the times when your back is to shomen
  • Between techniques, tori is always a little closer to shomen than uke is
  • Tori always ends each technique closer to uke's head than to his feet.
Another great way to practice zanshin is to do randori while carrying a cup of water. Better not spill the water on the mat! Alternately, if you have small children, you might try doing randori while carrying the child or while letting them ride on your shoulders. This tends to slow the randori down and smoothe your motion out, but it also forces you to put part of your attention on the safety of whatever you are carrying.
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By setting additional rules and constraints like this, you are forced to begin dividing your attention between the technical aspects of your performance and the situational factors that constrain you. At least part of your mind is forced to remain on the constraints - by definition, zanshin (remaining 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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Where to be after a throw

Picture courtesy of Tobstone
In judo and aikido, the thrower tends to end up in different places in relation to the guy being thrown. These differences are related to the different goals of the two arts.
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In judo, most of the throws happen straight into the ground and the thrower ends up beside the faller, holding one arm or sleeve, frequently with one knee pressing the faller's belly (ukigatame) to keep him from turning over. This ending position in judo facilitates the thrower continuing the attack by moving into groundwork toward a pin or submission.
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In aikido, the throws tend to project the faller away, separating them from the thrower completely. Or if the thrower and faller do stay in contact then the thrower ends up standing above one of the faller's shoulders, diagonally away from all the faller's limbs except the one being controlled. This is a position of safety, from which it is relatively difficult for the faller to continue an attack.
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In either case, whether you intend to continue the attack or make it harder for the other guy to continue his attack, controlling this ending position is an important part of zanshin (follow-through or awareness). During practice I recommend my students end up in the appropriate ending place for whichever art we are doing.
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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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The Polish Wizzer

There seems to be an endless number of cool rolls and attacks in judo.  Everybody you talk to seems to have one or two that you haven't seen before.  Check out this turtle attack.  Not only is it really cool, but it has a really cool name...

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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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Falling with friends

So, this month I've been writing a good bit about zanshin - an important concept that comprises various mental states such as follow-through, connectedness, and awareness both before and after an encounter. It's time now (for the next several posts) to begin sharing some of the exercises that I use to work on zanshin.
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The first, and probably the easiest zanshin exercise is simply practicing falling in a group. I always tell all the students to fall so that they all slap the ground at the same time. This is not just some OCD glitch of mine, but it helps in several ways.
  • it gets you paying attention to the people and things around you - an important part of safe falling practice.
  • it gets you started practicing connecting and synchronizing yourself to other people.
  • it gets you started practicing falling within an external constraint. You have to adjust the mechanics of your falling techniques in order to both fall safely and match the external rhythm.
All of these are aspects of zanshin - attention, connectedness, synchronization, working within constraints - and all are improved by simply falling as part of the group.
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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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Chain #3 - kaitennage

Here some of my students and I are playing with Chain #3 - specifically with kotemawashi, oshitaoshi, hikitaoshi, and kaitennage. Enjoy. Things I found interesting, and of note:
  • Notice the atemi to chest or face at the beginning. This not only softens uke up, but also pushes tori into the release#3 motion.
  • We are paying particular attention to synchronization of our techniques to uke's footsteps.
  • The kaitennage is an interesting variation that screws uke straight down into the ground instead of projecting him. Of course you still have the option of projecting him if you need to.
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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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Kids falling exercise

Here is one of the exercises that I use to teach my judo kids to fall.  So far as I know I invented this particular drill - at least I don't remember having ever seen it elsewhere.  It has become our best and favorite falling drill that we do every class. I have included some coaching hints in the video that I have used to help my kids do this fall better.


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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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Correctly defining the positive space

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
In kata, one does not just do a series of techniques one after the other.  There is a context, or baseline, within which the techniques are performed.  There is stuff between the techniques - stuff happens before and after each technique.  That in-between stuff in the interstices is zanshin.
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In art classes we talked about positive and negative space, an example being the black and white Rubin's Vase illusion above.  Do you see two faces or a vase?  Depending on what you want to call this a picture of, the spaces take on different meanings.  If it is a vase then the spaces to the side are nothing - negative space.  But if you want to say the faces on the side are the positive space (the thing itself) then the space in the middle is the nothing-space (the negative space). So, is the positive space (the thing itself) black or white?
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Kata is the same - where is the positive space and where is the negative space?  Are you demonstrating techniques with mostly an uninteresting void inbetween, or are you demonstrating the interesting stuff in the middle being occasionally interrupted by a coincidental technique?
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Most people begin aikido concentrating on the techniques and ignoring the inbetween, but consider this... In life (real life) you might never have to ever do a given technique.  That sort of diminishes the potential importance of the techniques, doesn't it?  But the stuff in the middle - that is the stuff that you do all the time - all of your life. Getting up, walking around, observing people, keeping your mind straight.  You live your whole life in the middle spaces with only the occasional interruption!
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That's zanshin!  Zanshin is defining the stuff in the interstices to be the positive space of your life.

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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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Video response to DR & Strange

Dojo Rat posted a video of an aiki sequence that he and his friends were playing with on their secret island hideaway.  I posted some comments and Sensei Strange One-upped me by posting a video commentary with some really good motion.  I didn't figure to be able to out-do Strange's motion on this thing, so we took a little different tack on this material.
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I gave the students a look at the sequence (which happens to be part of our chain 3) and then told them to play around within that set of techniques - basically randori with shomenate, wakigatame, and kotegaeshi on the table.  These guys played for several minutes with this set of movements.  Some of the motion is outstanding, some is ok.  Almost none of it just plain sucks.  Hopefully this will be interesting in the context of DR's video and question.

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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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Zanshin as integrity

Photo courtesy of Ted Abbot
Zanshin is also about integrity - holding together despite the ease of pragma. Not slipping your standards based on your feelings.  A few days ago I posted on my other blog, this remarkable poem written by Kent Keith. The poem was so inspirational that Mother Teresa posted it on her wall to help motivate her.  I just realized today that one of the reasons that I like it so much is that it speaks to the Art of Love (as Morihei called aikido), including the concept of zanshin as integrity.

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today, will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Zanshin is "anyway."
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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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Equanimity

Photo courtesy of Centrifuga
Zanshin is not about outcome, rather it is about internal state. Notice in the film I posted the other day, on some of the faces you can guess at the outcome of the shot - that is a glitch in that person's zanshin. That student's mind is churning on something internal - approving or disapproving of something.
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You don't have to approve or disaprove of the outcome because that doesn't change your performance. Just observe and trust your subconscious to adjust your next performance toward a better outcome.
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Thus, zanshin is somethiing like poker face - only backwards.  You are not trying to keep your face blank in order to fake your opponent out. Rather, if you can get your internal state right, your face reflects nothing. So your face can be a measuring stick to gage your zanshin.
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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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Kotegaeshi-kotehineri loop

Good News!  my lovely wife bought me a nice new digital videocamera, so I'll be able to start putting my own videos back on here.  Here's the first - a couple of my students playing with some pieces of chain#2, including kotegaeshi, kotehineri, and shomenate.

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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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Absolutely NOT zanshin

Photo courtesy of Mr. Photoshop
Let's continue trying to define zanshin by discussing briefly what zanshin is most certainly not! Zanshin is not posing.
  • It is not zanshin when you do some crazy kung-fu-looking posture with eagle claw hands and a Bruce Lee scream.
  • It is not zanshin when you try to look like a movie samurai in your indigo hakama and hair pulled into a topknot.
  • It is not zanshin when you furrow your brow and say, "ahsoo" or "hmmmm..." as you look at the guy you just threw down.
These things are not zanshin mostly because they are focussed on your own appearance. Zanshin is about quiet awareness and connectedness - not image.
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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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Mental states in martial arts

There are several important mental states that are cited a lot in martial arts, including...
  • Zanshin - the remaining mind; quiet awareness; follow-through; connectedness
  • Mushin - mindlessness; doing without thinking; appropriate automaticity
  • Kime - explosively focussed concentration; expending all of your physical, mental, and spiritual power on one action in one moment.
Are these three states-of-mind compatible or mutually-exclusive? Can they exist in the same mind at the same time or does the mind flit from one state to the next as necessary?
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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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Mysnyk's Winning Wrestling Moves

I'm still having trouble with takedowns from kneeling, and I'm still having trouble doing anything while I'm on bottom being crushed. I need to get used to being on the bottom so I can survive better there....think more clearly, and move more effectively.
I don't think anyone really ever gets better at being crushed.  You can get better at shifting their weight off of you, and we'll work on that, but I wanted to mention a great source of info on kneeling takedowns.
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Check out the book, Winning Wrestling Moves by Mysnik, Davis, & Simpson. Great overall technical wrestling book with a good section (pp 89-99) on short takedowns (so-called because you're shorter when you're on your knees.)
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If you don't want to ante up the full price of the book for a 10-page section on short offense, don't worry, there is an excellent detailed discussion of the single- and double-leg takedowns including most of pages 5-60 and some scattered stuff elsewhere. You'd get your money's worth out of that - especially since there is no judo manual (that I've ever seen) that delves into leg picks to that degree.

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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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