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Evasion month recap

This month has been evasion month at Mokuren Dojo.  Well, ok, actually every month (every class) is an emphasis on evasion at Mokuren Dojo, but I've written a good bit about the topics of evasion, taisabaki, and footwork this month.  I think the most important thing to remember is that it's important to work carefully and thoughtfully on making your footwork and evasions efficient because during an attack you don't have time to get... out... of... the... way... - you gotta "get out 'da way!"
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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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Hizagatame - knee armbar

This is one of my favorite armbars - hizagatame - the knee armlock.  It is very versatile, and in this video you see the instructor demonstrate a lot of wildly divergent variations - some of which we call different things.  Here's to the BJJ guys that say judo doesn't have the omoplata...

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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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Mokuren Interview - Loren Christensen

Photo courtesy of Loren Christensen
Today, I am proud to present the latest in our series of interviews with great martial artists. Loren Christensen - Vietnam veteran, retired police officer, martial artist, and prolific author.
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Patrick Parker: I see on your website that your book, Solo Training, ranked in Amazon's Top 3 for three years in a row! That's incredible! You are such a prolific writer, how do you find time to balance writing with family and still have time to train to keep up your status as "one of the 20 Toughest Men on Planet Earth." (Per Black Belt Magazine).
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Loren Christensen: Easy, it’s my job. I retired from the PD in 1997, so that part of my life is over. Today I’m a full-time writer and have been literally from the day after I walked out of the police station. I write from 8 AM to late afternoon Monday through Friday and sometimes on the weekend, depending on what my gal has me doing and/or any pending writing deadlines. So my workday isn’t much different than that of most people except that my productivity shows itself in books, magazine articles and DVDs.
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Training is also part of my day. I weight train three times a week, but nowhere near the level when I was bodybuilding and struttin’ my stuff on the stage. My weight training these days is all about enhancing speed, power and explosiveness in basic martial arts movements. I train five days a week in the martial arts, which includes teaching, solo training and taking private tai chi lessons.
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I was quite shocked when Black Belt magazine told me that the “toughest man” thing was coming out in their mag the following month. I always tell people that it was a typo and that it’s really supposed to be, “The toughest man at my father’s rest home.” I expected all kinds of static over the label and many challenges from young upstarts, as in the days of the Old West. That’s never happened. Mostly my pals tease me without mercy.
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Patrick: You do karate, jujitsu, and arnis - and you have taught individuals as well as police. How much crossover do you see between the skills and knowledge that police need and the skills and knowledge that civilians need.
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Loren: The principles are the same. All fighting – two jets dogfighting over the ocean; three Navy Seals sniping three pirates in a lifeboat; two guys slugging it out behind a topless bar; a cop wrestling a drunken husband into handcuffs – involve the same principles of combat. What changes are techniques and concepts.
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Law enforcement relies on half a dozen to ten techniques. Martial artists study hundred and hundreds.
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One of the biggest differences between law enforcement and civilians is that the latter can flee (and should by law), but the police have to stay. The police go towards the danger from which civilians flee. So that basic difference influences the training each group gets.
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Teaching the police is all about controlling the resistor, maneuvering him into a position for handcuffing and then controlling him during the dangerous cuffing process.
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Teaching civilians is all about defending against a threat, stopping the threat or at least slowing it, so they can get away.
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Patrick: Are there parts of your arts that you don't teach to certain populations? Police stuff that you don't teach to civilians, civilian tactics that you don't teach to SWAT operators, that sort of thing? What is your view of the omote-ura, secret teaching traditions of some schools?
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Loren: As noted in the last answer, the needs of these two groups are different. I don’t teach civilians how to search someone in the kneeling position because it’s not something they need. But other than the few “need to know” issues, there’s definitely a lot of overlap. The only reason I don’t teach cops as I do civilians – particularly the volume of material I teach civilians - is because there’s no time. Most police agencies have very limited hours to devote to defensive tactics. So I take just a few police applicable techniques, and within hours try to help officers learn how to use them in a variety of situations.
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Regarding omote-ura, I’ve never given it a thought. On the surface, it seems rather silly to me. Why is something secret? So the sensei can use it to defend against a student who turns on him, as was supposedly one of the reasons for it in days of old? I had a teacher once, a ranked competitor, who said that he taught all his students his favorite techniques and winning tricks so that it forced him to train even harder to stay on top.
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It’s hard to have martial arts secrets these days with YouTube, books, DVDs and the like out there for easy access.
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There are certainly techniques that I don’t teach until I think the student is ready and I have a pretty good sense of their character. For example, I don’t teach brand new people how to knock people out with a nerve stun, how to rip an ear half off or temporarily blind someone. These so-called heavy-duty techniques aren’t taught until I have a good grasp of the person’s character.
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Patrick: Your books seem to focus on pragmatic, no-nonsense type material. What is it that makes a martial art more than just a set of high-percentage moves? Where is the art in the martial arts? What elevates a martial art from something like "seven ways to snap a neck in less than a second" into being an art form or a fine art.
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Loren: Yes, my approach is totally pragmatic, which began after my return from Vietnam where I had trouble making the traditional art I had learned work for me as a military policeman in war-torn Saigon. This approach continued throughout my police career and to this day.
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I have never emphasized the art aspect, that is, if we define art as “the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.” If I’m in a self-defense situation, I don’t care about the art. However, I’ve found that what makes a movement artful in the martial arts is often the same thing that makes it scientifically sound.
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For example, a perfectly aligned body that expresses the art and beauty of, say, a roundhouse kick, often includes the same scientific elements that facilitates delivering that kick as fast and with as much power as possible.
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Here’s a more detailed example: Let’s consider a combination kick to the outside of an opponent’s lead leg, followed with a backfist to his face, followed by a front kick to the inside of his other leg. Executed by an experienced martial artist and done quickly and smoothly, it indeed looks artful, even pretty. Now, here’s where the science kicks in, to use a pun.
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First, roundhouse kick (using your shinbone) the outside of your opponent’s leg, specifically that long, sensitive peroneal nerve that extends down it. You kick the nerve to draw the opponent’s attention to a low target and to numb, and even buckle the leg. Just as his brain rushes to that spot, you execute a rip-backfist to his nose. A rip backfist sinks only as deep as the nose cartilage, as it tears across his face in a sort of smearing motion. When the opponent’s brain rushes to the horrific pain in the center of his face, you follow with a penetrating front thrust kick to the inside of his support leg, specifically in the area of the femoral artery.
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Science wise, you have manipulated and overwhelmed the opponent’s brain by moving his consciousness to a low part of his body, then to a high part of his body, and then back to a low part again. You have done this by effecting not just blunt trauma impact, but trauma that is debilitating and excruciatingly painful. In short, you have affected him psychologically and physically. And for those interested in art, you did it all pretty-like.
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Patrick: Having trained in different martial arts from different cultures and traditions, do you find it more helpful to focus on the common ground between them or the parts of each art that makes it unique? Is it easier to teach someone two or three arts at the same time or to focus on just one at a time?
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Loren: My reason for choosing these three arts has to do with ranges. I found early on that too many kick/punch people were ineffective in the grappling range, too many grapplers were weak in the kicking and punching ranges, and too many fighters when given an object – rolled up magazine, telephone receiver, heavy coffee mug – didn’t know what to do with it.
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So that my students and I are better able to function in these various ranges, we practice the kick/punch arts, grappling arts and the stick/knife arts. Okay, I’m using the word “art,” but you get my point. I spend about 70 percent of the time on punching and kicking, 20 percent on grappling and 10 percent on arnis.
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I teach them all at the same time so that about the time the student reaches brown belt level, they’re able to blend the arts seamlessly.
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Patrick: What's your take on the 'ala carte' sort of 'take what you like and discard the rest' mentality you see in some martial artists today?
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Loren: It has to be done with intelligence. It would be ridiculous to take finger techniques from chin-na and tornado kicks from extreme kata and have some semblance of a system. Additionally, I can’t see anyone with less than 10 years in the arts able to create a system. Actually, “system” might not be the best word here. Let’s use “approach.”
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My approach is self-defense for the street. A friend of mine teaches techniques for point-fighting tournaments, and another friend’s approach is the study of a traditional martial art that’s been handed down within an Asian culture. While all three of us study the martial arts, our approach is quite different. The tournament teacher has no use for my mouth ripping, eye pressing and groin tearing techniques. I have little use for his sport techniques. My traditionalist friend enjoys what he is doing and doesn’t want to roam into what I’m doing, or into the sport fighting realm.
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I’ve been teaching and training since 1965 and I feel that all those years of training and exposure to a large variety of fighting systems provides me with sufficient know-how to pick techniques and concepts from various systems that blend with my particular approach.
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Patrick: Do you think it's more important to train your students' physical attributes (strength, endurance, etc...), the techniques of the art they are doing, or the conflict mindset (psychological, spiritual, etc...). I realize all are important, but do you emphasize one or two of these areas above the others?

While we train hard physically, I probably emphasize the mind a little more than the physical, though I teach how to use the mind to improve such things as the quality of technique, power, explosiveness, timing and speed. I teach that when all things are equal, and even when the opponent is physically superior, it’s the powerful mind, especially the mindset, that wins the day.
I’ve seen guys who weren’t that skilled defeat those who were. I knew a man who had an extraordinarily powerful warrior mindset, though his martial skills (he was a low-ranked colored belt) were sadly lacking. Once when he was working as a prison guard, several cons challenged him out in the yard. He didn’t back down but went about dispatching every one of them, looking somewhat like the hero in a Hong Kong chop-socky movie. I would take this man with me into that proverbial dark alley over many black belts I’ve seen.

The longer I’m in the arts, the more I understand the incredible importance of using the mind to push yourself in training, to maximize the quality of techniques, to manipulate the opponent’s mind, to bring forth a sense of controlled rage within yourself, and to bring forth a sense of deep calm.

Patrick: Any tips for instructors?

Loren: Yes, I have three...

1. Don’t Use Exercise to Punish or Reprimand Students - I’ve been in schools where the instructors make students who have broken a rule do 20 pushups or sit in horse stance. I believe this is wrong because you’re teaching people to dislike exercise. You want students to enjoy it and to use it to improve their martial arts skills, to strengthen their bodies in general, and to establish a pattern of lifelong fitness.
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When Wim Demeere and I began writing The Fighter’s Body, the national statistic for obesity in this country was at 60 percent. Six months later, as we were putting the final polish on the book, new stats came out that showed 70 percent of Americans – 7 out of 10 people - are overweight. Sadly, that includes too many martial artists.
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You go into virtually any martial arts school and you see overweight people training, and half the time the teacher is one of them. What the heck!? Martial arts students, especially the teachers, should be examples of fitness. Never should someone whisper, “That guy takes martial arts?” In what? The Way of the Buffet?

Don’t punish your students with exercise; teach them to enjoy it and to love being physically fit.

2. Stop Using Absolutes, Such As “Never” and “Always.” - Replace those words with “often” and “sometimes.” Why? Because there are no absolutes in fighting. (Yes, I know. That’s an absolute.)

I have heard so many teachers and read so many writers say, “A knife attacker would never come at you this way” or “Hit him in this spot and it always knocks him out” or “This move will break his ribs.”

There are too many variables to say these things as absolutes. Such blanket statements risks filling students’ heads with false confidence.

As a cop, I saw people shrug off injuries that should have seriously hurt or killed them and I saw others die from seemingly no big deal techniques. I saw two people survive after being shot five times in the head. Five! And one was still combative. I knew of people who fought up to 90 seconds after receiving a fatal shot to the heart. I dealt with two people who didn’t even know they had been wounded: One was a man whose ear had been sliced completely off with a knife (I found it lying under a car) and another was a guy with a hole in his earlobe from where he had been shot. Again, neither of these people – both were mentally agitated, combative, and had been drinking - knew they had been hurt.

There are no absolutes when dealing with bullets and knives and there are certainly no absolutes when dealing with martial arts techniques.

3. Don’t Kill Your Students - The teacher pronounces a student dead when he is “stabbed” during knife defense practice or “shot” during gun disarming practice. This instills in the minds of your students that they give up when seriously hurt.

Your profound responsibility is to teach students to survive violence, not succumb to it. You want to drill into them that no matter how badly they’re hurt they must continue to fight. You do this by not allowing them to die in training.

You say, “Yes, you got stabbed” or “Yes, that bullet would have hit you,” but I do not give you permission to give up. I command you to keep fighting. I don’t care how many times he stabbed or shot you, you are not dead. You must fight!”

Today’s progressive police agencies teach this survival mindset. The result is that many gravely wounded officers have kept on fighting to ultimately neutralize the suspect, and thus prevent him from hurting anyone else. Many of these officers tell us later that they heard their instructors’ nagging voice in their minds, telling them, “Come on and fight. I don’t give you permission to die. Get up and keep fighting.”

In my book Warriors Extended Edition, I tell of a female officer in Florida who was ambushed by two drug dealers in a garage. During the course of the two-minute exchange of gunfire, the assailants shot the officer 10 times, but never once did she stop fighting. She kept telling herself that she would not die in that garage, that she would not give up, and that she would keep fighting back. She did - and went on to kill both assailants.

That’s an example of a person who had been trained to keep on fighting no matter how gravely injured. That is an example of what you must instill in your students.
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Train hard!
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Wow! That is fantastic information that you have given us from your immense experience. I am so grateful that you agreed to chat with me about these ideas. I have really enjoyed it and have learned a LOT, and I know my readers will get a kick out of this material too!
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Check out Loren Christensen' books,
at his webpage, www.lwcbooks.com
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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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This week at Mokuren Dojo

Aikido: ushiroate, R3↔R7→kaiten nage→hikitaoshi→oshitaoshi
Judo: meatgrinder turnover, randori
Karate: kihon, Heian1, Sanchin
Jodo: jodo kihon, men-kote-do-tsuki, kote-men, harai men, shamen
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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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Cool old bassai dai performance


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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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Don't neglect the inside condition

Photo courtesy of Kubina
When you are making a study of evasion, as we are this month, You inevitably get into a discussion of shikaku, the "dead angle." This is sort of like a blind spot behind uke's shoulder where, if you stand there it is relatively hard for uke to attack you. It doesn't take long for beginner martial arts students to figure out that it is preferable to evade to the outside, toward shikaku, behind the arm, than to evade inside toward the space between the attacker's arms.
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But, it is difficult without foreknowledge of the attack, for tori to choose whether he evades inside or outside. In the heat of the moment, when jumped, hopefully tori just steps out of the way and puts his hands up. He might end up inside or outside. It's probably not exactly 50/50 chance of inside/outside, but a significant portion of time you end up inside the attack instead of in the preferred position outside.
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Point is, you cannot neglect dealing with the inside condition in practice because you will end up there a significant portion of the time. Even though you prefer the outside condition (shikaku), you'd better spend some time learning how to survive on the inside. This is why we start our beginners learning shomenate as a solution for tori having stepped inside.

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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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Junanahon Kata - the basic seventeen

Kenji Tomiki developed the Junana Hon Kata (Seventeen Fundamental Forms) based upon the countless aikido techniques that he'd been taught by Ueshiba. These seventeen basic aikido moves form the core of Tomiki aikido in most clubs in the Tomiki lineage. Following is an outline of the seventeen techniques, along with some pointers to articles I've written over the years about each technique.
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atemiwaza - striking techniques
hijiwaza - elbow techniques
tekubiwaza - wrist techniques
Ukiwaza - floating techniques
I was surprised to find that in all my archives, I have written next to nothing about the three floating throws in the Tomiki system. I expect to fix that right soon, but in the meantime, here is an article about the class of floating throws in general and here's another 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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Smaller, more conservative steps

Photo courtesy of Rutty
The topic of the month is evasion.  We are making a deliberate study of how to step out of  the way of an incoming attack. Check back through this month's archives to see some of the previous posts.  Today I wanted to add a small detail - that is, a detail about small steps.
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You want to take small, conservative steps out of the way. Avoid huge, lunging evasions.  Consider Mifune's famous beachball lecture.  If you take a beachball and kick it dead center, it acquires a lot of energy and flies a long way.  But if you kick it tangent to its surface, barely grazing it, it mostly just stays in place spinning.  Even if you get slightly off-center your energy will go, to a large extent, into spinning the ball instead of sailing it.
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The same goes for evading an attack.  Even if you only get partially out of the way, you will be in a much better position than had you stayed put.  The energy you take from the attack will be greatly decreased and off-target. (But it will still pay you dividends to put on some boxing gloves sometime and learn to take a hit).
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So, if you only have to get slightly out of the way to disrupt an attack greatly, you can afford to take smaller steps, rendering you faster and more stable.  We train this by cutting a square of paper the width of your stance (slightly narrower than hip width) and doing footwork exercises referencing off of the corners of the square.
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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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Ezekiel - or sode guruma jime

This is one of my favorite choking techniques. Extremely versatile. I like to put it into play from a side position with my legs around him - as if mounted on him but facing his side. The BJJ name is Ezekiel, while the judo name is sode guruma jime.

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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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Disqus at Mokuren Dojo

Trying our Disqus here at Mokuren Dojo. I first saw it at Ikigai and thought it was a very elegant, powerful comments system. Since then I've seen it crop up on 2-3 more blogs in our niche - so let's try it here...
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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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Martial arts for special populations

Other than the excellent blog at Gisoku Budo, Mokuren Dojo is the only blog I know of that has dedicated a significant number of posts to the topic of martial arts for people with physical disabilities (or perhaps just other-abilities). These posts come from the perspective of having taught a blind aikido/jodo student, a one-armed aikido student, and a lot of older students ranging in age from their 50's to their 80's. Now I'm not saying that aging=disability, but certainly the elderly have differing capabilities as opposed to young adults. These are all special populations.
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If you are interested in this topic, check out the following articles, and by all means, follow the Gisoku Budo blog.
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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 re-emergence of judo kata

This is a quite remarkable video. Well worth seven minutes of your life. Watch it and consider it.

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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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Kata is not real aikido


Photo courtesy of Tharso
Kata takes a bad rap, in many ways undeserved. I've heard it said, but haven't seen the source, that Ueshiba said that there is no kata in aikido because kata is basically not aiki-like - not real aikido. Tomiki, on the other hand, structured his aikido teaching around a set of kata.
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It occurred to me last night that kata is actually harder than randori or shiai because tori has to call his shots, just like calling your shots in pool. When you define ahead of time what technique is going to happen, if you throw some other technique (even if it is fantastic and aiki-like) then your kata was a failure - you missed your called shot.
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Consider Hanasu no Kata - the wrist releases. Technique #5 is an under-the-arm version of technique#1. The two things begin identical but something causes tori to either move around uke's arm (#1) or under the arm (#5). In aikido (real aikido or randori, that is) we say that uke is calling the shot. It is uke's reaction that drives whether tori does #1 or #5. But when you're doing kata the moves come in a defined order, so tori is calling the shots. This can be both good and bad.
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Good: it is harder for tori to call the shots. Tori has to develop greater skill and understanding to be able to do a specific technique at a specific time.
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Bad: It's not really aikido that you're doing because uke is not calling the shots. It is a drill or simulation of an aspect of aikido but it is not real aikido. Additionally, it is virtually impossible for tori to call his shots unless he has a compliant partner.
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So, aikido kata may not be real aikido, but it is in some ways a better, more difficult exercise for developing aiki-like skills than jiyuwaza (free techniques) or randori (freeplay).
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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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Endo breaks Yamashita's knee

Ever since I've been in judo, kanibasami (the crab-claw sweep) has been illegal. We'd always been explained to that it was dangerous but we figured because it tends to smack uke's head against the mat so hard. We always joked that they banned kanibasami to stop sensei Mac McNease from throwing it so viciously and so successfully against so many competitors.
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I'd never seen this clip of Yamashita getting his left knee broken by Endo with kanibasami, immediately after which the technique was banned in competition.


Yasuhiro Yamashita (JPN) - Sumio Endo (JPN) [Open]
Uploaded by McCormick1971
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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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Don't step forward

Photo courtesy of Amerigoland
A year or two ago, an instructor who has been doing judo for a long, long time gave my class a rule of thumb to watch for in judo randori and shiai. I was surprised because I'd never noticed this particular phenomenon before. What he said was:
  • Larger players don't like to move forward. They tend to hang back and pull because when they advance they are more easily loaded up on top of hip throws and shoulder throws.
  • Smaller players don't like to move backward because they get overwhelmed by the advancing larger guy.
As I said, I hadn't noticed, but I've watched for it since then and haven't really found enough evidence to support it as a rule or to refute it. I agree that I personally, as a larger-than-average player, like to hang back and wait, but that may just be me.
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Have you guys noticed any patterns like this in randori or shiai?
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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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Don't step back

Photo courtesy of Tharso
This month, we've been focussing on the initial evasion in our aikido classes and on this blog. Today I wanted to follow up with a quick addition to the articles I've already written on the topic, and that is, avoid moving backward.
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This is not revolutionary - lots of my instructors have told me that you don't ever step straight back in response to an attack - but it is important. There are several problems with this...
  • If you step straight back, you are not solving the problem. The attack is still coming at you, you are still directly on the line of attack, and now he has more momentum.
  • the attacker can always move faster forward than you can move backward.
  • Because of the shape of your feet and the position of your eyes, you are inherently less stable moving backward then forward.
  • You can't see what you are about to trip over when you walk backward.
But it seems from my previous post on pushing back from a fight, that I am contradicting myself. On the one hand, in that post I said that to get good effect in aikido you pretty much have to be trying to evade and step back outside of ma-ai (and I stand by that). Also, this advice to not move backward seems to be at odds with the tenkan motion (turning backward around the attack) that seems to make up about half of aikido. So, how does that work?
  • Always evade offline first, before stepping back.
  • I would recommend minimizing the number of backward steps that you take when brushing off of uke. 1-2 tends to be enough to get outside ma-ai. If you have to take a step backward to get out of ma-ai, that's okay, but watch out and don't build up a lot of momentum.
  • When doing tenkan, try doing repeated sidesteps directly toward uke's center instead of walking backward around uke. This gets you closer to the center of rotation, gets you into shikaku (uke's blind spot) quicker and more efficiently, and is much more stable than walking backward around 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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This week at Mokuren Dojo

Aikido: gedanate, hikitaoshi, kotegaeshi↔kotehineri, kotetaoshi→maeotoshi
Judo: uphill escape from kesagatame, randori
Karate: kihon, Heian1, Tekki1, Sanchin
Jodo: kihon, menuchi, men-kote-do-tsuki, kote-men, suigetsu
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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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Neutral bow and sanchin dachi

This guy has some of the best amateur videos out there on practical jujitsu/karate. Check out this one, in which he takes a traditional stance, called 'neutral bow' and applies some of his preferences to it.



What does the new stance, the 'functional neutral bow' or the 'not-so-neutral bow' remind you of? To me it looks a lot like sanchin dachi. Check out the following. This is not the version of Sanchin that I practice but it is a good demonstration of the kata and the stance and hip mechnanics.


Perhaps it would benefit us to go back and watch the first video a time or two, mentally replacing the words, "neutral bow" in our minds with, "sanchin dachi."  Or perhaps we could go back and watch the second one a time or two in light of the principles and ideas from the first one.  Perhaps that would teach us that sanchin dachi is not some weird, contorted, twisted, kata thing, but a profoundly functional, powerful, pragmatic thing.
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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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Aikido and tsukuri

A few days ago I wrote a post about the meanings of the Japanese names for the arts we do.  A couple of my readers corrected/clarified and what we came up with is that aiki means something like fitting energy, whie ju means something like flexibility-of-mind.
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The question popped into my mind today, "does the fit that is implied in aiki have anything to do with the fit that is impied in tsukuri (the second stage of a judo throw)?"  I'm no Japanese scholar but I took a semester in college and I have a cool Japanese dictionary, which tells me that tsukuri does not really mean to fit, as we usually translate it.  Instead, tsukuri appears in phrases related to constructing or fabricating or building or creating something. So, in judo the four stages of a throw woud be offbalancing, fabricating (setting up or creating or building the structure of the throw), throwing, and remaining.
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To me (and this might just be my connotation) the fitting in aiki implies appropriateness instead of a spatial, structural fitting.  So, initially I'd guess that no, aiki and tsukuri are both good things but not the same thing.
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Anybody have a better answer?
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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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Tegatana the time-waster

Years ago, when I had just gotten my shodan (first-degree black belt), our instructor invited a very highly-ranked instructor to come do a seminar at our club. I was excited because now that I was black belt we could work on the really cool stuff – the high-level stuff! But, when the seminarian got there, he announced that we'd be working on Tegatana no kata (our first exercise that we learn as white belts) for the entire weekend. I tried to hide my disappointment but I was absolutely crushed. I mean, Come on! Tegatana! We had done that kata 3-4 times per class, every class, for years! Sure, it's a good exercise and all, but what could this guy possibly tell us that our instructor had not already beaten into our brains? Tegatana was a dead horse so far as I was concerned.
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Well, to my surprise, the seminarian taught on Tegatana the entire weekend without saying a single word I'd ever heard about the kata. I mean that literally - he did not repeat a single concept that our instructor had ever told us! I was astounded. That lesson opened up a huge new territory in aikido for me,and I have never since then gotten bored with Tegatana or thought of it as a dead horse or a completed exercise.  Rather, Tegatana is a rabbit-hole that keeps geting deeper and deeper.
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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: How to make judo rules

It seems like there is a constant stream of new rules, adjustments, and re-interpretations to old rules in judo. I agree with Strange's and especially with Chad's comments in the previous post regarding Judo rules. Sure, you have to have some rules to constrain the contestants to decent play of the game we're playing, but there comes a point where there are so many rules that nobody understands them or can even cite them all.
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Here's a quick and easy way to solve a lot of the problems with the judo ruleset – affix a clause to every rule that gives the reason for that rule's existence. For instance, the rule in question yesterday would read something like, “A player may not “first” grab the trouser leg(s) then attack, because _____,” and then fill in the blank with whatever reason they had to institute that rule. This would have several benefits:
  • It is human nature to comply with a rule to a greater extent when a reason (even a poor reason) is given.
  • Given a good, reasonable justification for a new rule, people would be less likely to gripe about the new rule
  • It would be easier to tell when a new rule is spurious because the lack of reasoning would be more obvious. You'd get statements like, “A player may not “first” grab the trouser leg(s) then attack, because that would give BJJ guys an advantage over judoka if we allowed pants-grabbing.”
  • Knowing the intent behind the rules, it would be easier for judges to make calls more in line with the spirit of judo, rather than simply enforcing the letter of the law.
  • Adding this “because-clause” to every rule would increase the workload for the rules lawyers, thus providing a disincentive toward further constant rules twiddling. Having to give a reason for every rule would likely lead to a smaller number of more consistent rules.
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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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This week at Mokuren Dojo

Aikido: Green belt requirements, YK2→2HG→tenchinage
Judo: spinout escape from munegatame, randori
Karate: kihon, Heian1, Tekki1, Sanchin
Jodo: kihon, menuchi, suigetsu
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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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Why not grab the pants leg in judo!?

So, the Powers That Be have issued a new set of rules for judo competition (again). I got this in the mail this morning. Among other inane fluctuations in the rules...
A player may NOT "first" grab the trouser leg(s) then attack, but may grab the trousers to assist in finishing an attack that has already been initiated. Grabbing the trousers first, results in an immediate Mate and (shido). Grabbing the pants in the midst of an ongoing attack or even simultaneously in order to finish the attack should not be stopped or penalized. Grabbing (Grasping) the leg (not pants) – arm-hook or hand-hook (as in Morote-gari and Kibisu-gaeshi) without grabbing the trousers/pants is still legal. These actions should not be stopped or penalized and any subsequent action should be scored.
Why would they make this rule? They have standards for the pants that they are growing more and more fanatical about enforcing, and those standards only exist to povide a gripping surface along the entire length of the leg...

The trousers, free of any markings except for c3 and c7, shall be long enough to cover the legs and shall at the maximum reach the ankle joint and at the minimum 5cm above the ankle joint. A space of 10 to 15cm shall exist between the trouser leg and the leg (bandages included) along the entire length of the trouser leg. (IJF Referree rules Part 3, section e).
I rather like grabbing a thigh or knee and jacking the guy up with tsurigoshi or ashiguruma on the other leg... Then there's this lovely, evil variant of uranage check it out here.
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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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Push back from a fight

Photo courtesy of Abolotnov
This month we've been talking about evasion - particularly in the context of aikido. Even if you evade out of the way of the first attack, if you are still within the attacker's reach (especially if you are in front of him) then you are in trouble. You have to evade off the line of attack AND try to regain ma-ai distance between you and the attacker. The easiest way to do this that we've found is what we call the aiki brush-off.
  • evade off the line of attack as he passes ma-ai.
  • put your hands between you and him, as in the cowcatcher maneuver.
  • use your hands to push yourself straight back away from the attacker. Push against whatever presents itself - arm, face, chest, shoulder, whatever. Take a step or two backward to re-establish ma-ai.
  • If you can't get back away from the attacker then all your cool aikido techniques come into play, as sort of a bunch of backup plans for the aiki brushoff.
Point is, you pretty much have to be trying to do the aiki brush-off to get those good, feather-light, smooth, magical aikido techniques to happen. If you are not at least trying to brush off of the attacker then you are probably trying to stand and fight within his reach and that is a recipe for disaster.

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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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What is aiki? What is ju?

Great discussion going on in a previous post about what constitutes aiki or ju (the philosophies or principles that drive aikido and judo respectively). I have perhaps a little different way of looking at it. Don't know if it's better or worse. don't even know if it's much different.
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The syllables ai and ki mean something like harmony and energy respectively, but instead of translating that as harmonious energy, lately I've been thinking about it as appropriate energy. so aikido is the art of appropriate energy or the art of being in an appropriate relationship to the energy around you.
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UPDATE: Both Rick Matz and Sensei Strange jumped in to correct my statement that ai=harmony. The syllable ai apparently literally means to fit. In my mind, though, that doesn't make me particularly wrong when I said that I like to think of aiki as appropriate (fitting) energy, or aikido as the art of being in a appropriate (fitting) relationship with the energy around you. Check out Strange's post here - apparently first in a series.
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Ju literally means something like gentle or flexible or free, as in free-moving. I like to translate it as flexible tactics. So judo is the art of flexible tactics.
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In aikido, you strive to maintain that appropriate relationship, and if you are successful then that energy won't run you over and kill you. In judo, you seek to find whatever tactic will most efficiently get you your goal, which is usually defined as a throw or submission. In aiki your goal is survival, not throwing the guy down, so you can say you are doing judo because you are looking for the most efficient tactics to get you your goal.
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But the way we Tomiki folk do judo is pretty aiki and the way we do aiki is pretty ju. It's like that Reece's commercial that Mark quoted a while back on his Boobishi blog - "Hey, you got your aiki in my ju! No, you got your ju in my aiki!" it turns out that a lot of what we practice in both arts is within the intersection set of aiki and ju, so you might as well call aiki and ju similar or the same or complementary principles.
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Suwariwaza in amateur wrestling

Contrary to some folks' opinions, suwari does not suck! In fact, probably the most commonly used technique in BJJ matches (and pretty darn common in judo and amateur wrestling) is a suwariwaza technique - the shoot into the single leg pick!
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I can imagine all the aikido purists as well as all the hardcore BJJ guys out there grimacing in horror. Well, as a very basic example, check out the following video...





What? You don't think that counts as suwariwaza? It happens on the knees, there is movement on the knees (shikko or kyoshi) and an expression of principle. It just does not start with both parties in seiza drinking tea.
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To fall or to step over the hill?

In a previous post on walking, I broke the walking cycle down into four events for discussion. Here is another way of thinking about the same thing.
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Whenever one of your feet is weightbearing, one of two things is happening...
  • your center is moving toward your non-weightbearing (free-moving) leg
  • your center is moving toward your weightbearing (stuck) leg
The first condition is when it is approipriate and efficient to fall out of the way. The second condition is when it is appropriate and efficient to step over the hill to get out of the way.
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The cowcatcher

I've written a lot about getting out of the way - the first and probably most important idea that you learn in aikido. Now I begin working on how to integrate these ideas into the rest of the aikido that we're doing. I'm going to talk about an idea that I call, "The Cowcatcher."
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A cowcatcher, in old railroad parlance was an angled grate welded onto the front of an engine that was designed to pick stray cows up off the railroad tracks and throw them to the side so they didn't get hung up under the wheels and derail the train. A cowcatcher is a fender or a deflector or a flying wedge. We use a maneuver I call, "The Cowcatcher" at the beginning of nearly all aikido techniques (at least all frontal attacks). Here's how you do it:
  • close both hands into tegatana (a.k.a. shuto or spearhand) shapes so that you don't break you fingers against uke's arms.
  • point your spear-hands together in front of your belt with unbendable arms
  • as you evade out of the way, sweep both arms upward between uke's face and yours, both arms still unbendable
In effect this is a double rising block (as in karate - think the middle of Bassai Dai) that is blindly swept through the center line of the relationship. it has several benefits, much like the old railroad cowcatchers...
  • it occupies the centerline that uke has to come through to hit you
  • it tends to deflect any attacks coming at you
  • it tends to leave tori's arms in contact with uke's arms, so that it is easier to grab in preparation for some technique
  • it can clear some space for tori to walk around in
  • having hands thrown in his face disrupts uke's attack and makes him hesitate
I recommend that if you don't typically use the cowcatcher in your practice, consider this exercise - do whatever aikido or jujitsu techniques or karate one-steps you practice but make the first move a step off the line of attack combined with this cowcatcher motion. That is...
  • get out 'da way
  • do the cowcatcher motion
  • now, do your cool jujitsu/karate move
I think you will find that your techniques become much more robust, general-purpose, and fail-soft if you add the cowcatcher to the front of them. Try it and let me know how it goes.

Photo courtesy of PSD

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Power and consistency in evasion

Photo courtesy of Yelnoc

In a previous post on gett'n out 'da way, I characterized trying to lunge, or push yourself out of the way as “feeble and inconsistent,” as compared to turning a leg off and falling out of the way. I'd like to expand on that some.
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First, consider the position of your legs with respect to your center of balance. In whatever stance you want to put yourself in, your legs are mostly vertical below your center. That means that they are positioned such that the only thing they can do well is push against the ground to lift your center. You can expend a ton of energy with your legs and not get much horizontal motion. Basically, the only thing that pushing with your legs does, is jumps you into the air. Pushing with your legs is a terribly inefficient way to get out of the way.
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Also, consider this, it is hard, if not impossible, to push the same way, with the same strength several times in a row. Your muscles fatigue, the joint angles change, your balance changes, and all this lends to your speed of evasion being inconsistent. Sometimes you push hard and move slow. Sometimes you push more weakly and move somewhat faster. The upshot: you never know how much time it takes to get out of the way (i.e. to move your center 18 or so inches). On the other hand, gravity always works at the same speed, and if you learn how to collapse and fall out of the way from from shizentai, it takes very close to the same amount of time every repetition. You have a constant understanding of how much time it takes you to get out 'da way, which, when compared to a good innate knowledge of ma-ai makes for a very powerful evasion skill.
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Karate-do footsweeps

Interesting - a karate-do take on ashiwaza (footsweeps). We studied these two sweeps in karate but only to a small extent - and we were told not to play them in sparring because the guy tends to fall on his own leg and break it or sprain it. These guys seem to have worked it much more than we did.


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How is stepping faster than falling?

We usually emphasize falling out of the way as the best way to evade off the line of attack, but it turns out that walking over the hill, as I covered in a previous post, is actually faster and more efficient than falling out of the way. Consider this...
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When you fall out of the way, you collapse a leg (let's say the right one) and you begin to fall to the right. Then you put your right leg back down under you and draw your left leg under you. In stepping over the hill, you stick a weightbearing leg and as your momentum is carrying you upward onto that leg, you step across with the free leg.
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About the shortest unit of movement that is worth discussing much is a half a gait cycle, during which you have moved a foot and shifted weight over it but haven't yet moved the other foot. If you look at both types of evasion, you find that by ½ a gait cycle into the evasion, the falling step has only moved you partially out of the way. Your trailing leg is still in the way. The over-the-hill step, though, has moved you completely out of the way within a half gait cycle. So, the over-the-hill step is nearly twice as fast/efficient as the falling step.
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This speed/efficiency advantage serves as a good justification (but not the only good one) for starting the first two wrist releases the way we do (stepping over the hill) instead of starting them the way that feels natural for nearly all beginners (falling out of the way).
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Suwariwaza is groundwork

Photo courtesy of DimmerSwitch
Rob commented a couple of days ago on my suwariwaza post – I don't think Rob was wrong, but that was not quite how I would put it.
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The knife in kata is a symbol of power in that it represents the opponent that totally outclasses us. If we can learn to deal with the knife-wielding enemy and we treat everybody like they have a knife, then the empty-handed guy is easier to deal with. Knife teaches empty-hand but empty-hand does not teach knife.
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Suwari can be symbolic of standing technique with limited motion, as Rob suggested (though I prefer to just stand up and work in a corner or small space) or it can be symbolic of being attacked while seated (though that is tenuous IMO). It is also just plain good exercise for the hips and legs and hara.
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But I prefer to think about suwari not as a symbol of anything, but as a kind of groundwork. Suwari doesn't symbolize groundwork – suwari is groundwork.
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The problem has to do with the formality and the level of abstraction at which suwari is done.
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And my question from my previous post stands - why do we have to practice suwari in such a way that it is onerous, painful, and useless. Why can't we practice it such that we benefit from it and enjoy it? What would have to be done to our practice of suwari to make it worthwhile and fun?
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Walking over the hill


Photo courtesy of JommeV
This month's dojo theme is evasion – getting out of the way. In a previous post I talked about how we typically teach to fall out of the way, letting gravity take over and power our movement instead of trying to lunge out of the way under our own feeble, inconsistent power. Well, it turns out that there is an exception to this idea of falling out of the way.
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Take a slow walk across the room using a normal gait and watch what happens. You are always in one of four conditions:
  • standing on right foot, falling toward left foot
  • standing on left foot, falling toward right foot
  • your right foot just hit and is stuck, but your momentum is still carrying you toward your right
  • your left foot just hit and is stuck, but your momentum is still carrying you toward your left

The first two conditions occupy most of the time in your walking cycle, and these are the conditions under which it is appropriate to fall out of the way. For instance, if you are attacked when you are standing on your right foot falling toward your left foot, then you just extend that left footstep and fall out of the way.

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But what about the second two conditions. If your right foot has just hit and is stuck but your momentum is still carrying you rightward, you can't easily unstick that right foot to move. (This is the condition that Dan Prager mentioned in his comment to the previous post.) To solve this problem, you have to do the evasion by stepping with your unweighted foot toward your weighted side. If you practice this several times, you'll get the feeling that you are stepping over a hill (your stuck foot being the hill).
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This is the type of evasion used in the first 180 degree turn in the walking kata (Tegatana no kata) as well as the type of evasion taught in the first and second wrist releases (Hanasu).
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It turns out that this walking over the hill step is actually faster and more efficient than the falling out of the way step - stay tuned for more on walking over the hill.
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Yippee, we're doing suwari!

Photo courtesy of Dokiai
A few days ago I was having an email discussion with an aikido guy whose opinion I respect a lot. We were talking about suwariwaza and he had this to say...
I hate the kneeling techniques. I don't really get a lot out of them and they always make my knees hurt.
At the time I didn't really think twice about this. I even half agreed. This is a pretty common sentiment - that suwari is a time-waster, is out-dated, is culturally irrelevent, and doesn't add anything to your practice. But the more I think about this, the more bothered I am by it. Not by his opinion (everyone has opinions), but by the situation behind it (aikido suwari sucks).
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Why does aikido suwari practice have to be terrible? People should be shouting, "Yippee, we're doing suwari!" when we work on it. Why is it such an onerous time-waster? People in BJJ don't moan, "Damn, it's time to do groundwork again!" Consider the following spectrum of martial arts practices arranged in close-and-tight to loose-and-far order...
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(close) judo newaza - BJJ - suwari - standing clench - aiki (far)
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If you buy into this ordering, then suwari becomes the missing link between close standing work and loose groundwork. Some BJJ guys call suwariwaza 'kneeling takedowns' and some old amateur wrestling books refer to these techniques as 'short takedowns.' Everybody does suwari as a link between ground and standing, so why does aikido suwari suck so much to have to practice?
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