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Staycation, hip throws, & rank testing

I'm in the midst of staycation (some might say stagnation) and tomorrow is my 9th anniversary, so I haven't been thinking any martial thoughts at all for about a week.  I've been swimming twice a day and taking naps in the afternoon and doing my aiki and judo classes, and I'm down about 8 pounds so far this week.
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Ooh, I said no martial thoughts at all for the past week -that 's not completely true.  I've been contemplating vicissitudes - trying to figure out why it is that I've been kicked in the nuts so many more times in the last eight years by my own kids than in the previous 15+ years of TKD, karate, judo, etc...  We were fanatical about wearing cups in karate class - weren't allowed to participate without wearing one - but we were almost never hit there.  Maybe they ahould issue groin protectors to new dads in the baby care packages that they give out at the hospital.
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Anyway, tonight, we had a fabulous kids judo class, culminating in Whit&Brandon working on hip throws (REAL hip throws), including ogoshi and kubinage!  Coolness.  We also had a great aikido class during which two students tested for green belt (yonkyo).  They are doing great work and we're looking forward to getting deeper into the rabbit hole starting next week.  Congrats to Tony  & Dallas!
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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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Seth Godin on aikido and judo

Photo courtesy of Seth Godin via Squidoo
I read Seth Godin's blog because he is truly a braniac! He writes (on the surface) about business, marketing, communication, and advertising, but what he has to say about his domain of knowledge applies in many cases to other domains, like aikido or judo. For instance, today's blog is particularly practical and useful in the context of martial arts...

There's always a gap between the short-term results of a well-polished system and the first results of a switch to a more efficient one. If you stick with that thing you've worked so hard to perfect, the next few hours or weeks or months will surely outperform the results you'll get from the new thing. That's because there are switching costs, glitches and a learning curve... The end result is that organizations that choose to switch are usually the ones with the least to lose. The upstarts and the outliers. One reason they're always leapfrogging the market leaders. One way to stay innovative is to understand that this gap exists and to budget for it. Denying it won't make it go away.

You can brute-force your way through martial arts, even including aikido and judo, and get to a certain point.  You can even get into the black belt ranks with this approach, but you are self-limiting.  You will reach an age where you cannot continue to put more and more into it in order to get better and better.
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At some point you are going to have to buy into the "maximum efficient use of power" ideal in judo or the aiki ideal in aikido.  When you do, there will be a while during which you aren't able to get the results with the weakness approach that you used to be able to get with the strength approach.  In other words, while you are becoming more efficient, for a while you'll suck.
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You can get over the suck, but what you can't beat is the self-limitation of the strength approach.
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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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Skin contact in no-gi grappling

Photo courtesy of Ronald DeVilla
A while back I posted an article comparing and contrasting gi vs. no-gi grappling.  An issue that I didn't address in that article is that skin-on-mat and skin-on-skin contact gives a different kind of friction than does gi-on-mat or gi-on-gi.
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Wearing shorts and a tee, you have a different sort of interface with the opponent and with the mat.  Sometimes the skin interface is stickier than cloth (as with skin-on-mat in a warm, humid room) and sometimes it is slicker (as in sweaty skin-on-skin).  I remember in college, grappling shirtless with my buddy, Steve, in the yard.  I caught him offbalance and sailed in for a hip throw that should have been a sure thing but I slipped off his sweaty arm and busted facefirst into the ground!  I had done a sweaty sukashi to myself!
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When doing no-gi grappling, you also have to move differently to avoid matburn.  Sometimes with a gi you can slide a leg or arm or shoulder across the mat to make a quick transition but often with direct skin contact, you have to pick the limb up off the mat in order to move it.
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Bottom line: play both gi and no-gi grappling.  You will learn different things under these two different conditions.
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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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Spyderco Endura 4 FRN

My new Spyderco Endura 4 FRN came in today! I got this from climbinggearinc.com in exchange for some advertising on the blog here. Great knife! I'm looking forward to using this - it looks like it'll be a joy to use!
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Here's a very good review (my knife is identical to this one except mine is black scale, is half-serrated, and is not a limited production run.)





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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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Power and mobility in aikido and swordwork

Photo courtesy of Vincent
Aikido is, in large part, based on swordwork. This extends not only to superficial motions (for instance, shihonage looks like shihogiri), but to concepts and strategies too.
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Mobility and power is largely a trade-off, and each martial art makes this stategic decision differently, placing itself on a spectrum between power and mobility.  A good example of this is modern karate, in which mobility is largely forsaken for power. Aikido would be an example of an art that largely forsakes power for the sake of mobility. There are, of course, counterexamples in both arts but the exceptions only serve to prove the rule in that they make it even more obvious that the exception doesn't “look” like karate/aikido.
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In the case of swordsmanship, which is more necessary – power or mobility? Obviously you don't need power because you have a 3-foot long knife! You have so much leverage and mechanical advantage with the sword that any cut at all is likely to be very serious. If he can touch you, he can kill you.  You'd better get your butt moving and keep it moving. You can't ever count on having enough time to stop to develop a maximally powerful stroke.
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Aikido gets this idea from swordsmanship – if you allow uke to touch you, he may kill you, so you need to stay in motion more than you need to develop power. You need mobility – and the right mindset – to keep from getting cut
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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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Avoid heat injuries in judo and aikido

Photo courtesy of IntangibleArts
Yep - it's that time of year again. Summer is just about here and we are languishing under day-after-day of 96+ degree temperature, combined with humidity that you can swim through. In such an environment, we have to turn on the air conditioner full blast hours before class in order to get the temps down to a survivable level - and it's still pretty hot in the dojo.
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During the summer I am not a stickler for uniforms. We declare it to be tee-shirt season at aikido class and kids judo (most of our adult judo happens very early in the morning). It would just be suicidal to try to wear those oven mitts during the late afternoon classes. Sure, there's the down-side to it, we sweat all over each other. But it's either that or die of heatstroke.
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Which brings me to the real reason for this post - to warn y'all to take some precautions against heat injury during the summer at your dojo. Some common sense hints you might consider, include:
  • Dispense with the traditional uniforms for the summertime. Implement tee-shirt classes.
  • Consider rescheduling more of your classes to early morning or evening after sundown.
  • Consider shortening classes or working less strenuous activities during the summer.
  • Make students, instructors, and observers bring bottles of water or gatorade with them and encourage them to drink. Watch out, though - drinking too much clear water while sweating can cause electrolyte problems - especially in children or low body mass adults.
  • You don't lose significant heat through your teeshirt until it becomes wet with sweat, so stop changing your wet shirt for a dry one.
  • Watch for the signs: red or very pale skin, confusion, irritability, headache, dizziness, fast heartrate and breathing, muscle cramps
  • Know the first aid: move the victim to a cool environment, remove clothes, try to get them to drink cool water or gatorade, pour cool water onto them, and put a fan on them. If they don't get better soon, or if it gets worse, call 911 and get them to the ER rapidly.
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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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...to be transmitted orally


"This volume is to be taught and learned by teacher and student in actual exercises, and need not be detailed in writing."
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"The following...must be learned in actual exercises, for they are difficult to explain in writing."
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"These six approaches must be learned and explained orally in actual exercises with your master, so they are not detailed in writing."

The examples above are from The Sword and the Mind. It was recognized early on that you couldn't pass on some knowledge in writing, so disclaimers like, "This is to be transmitted orally," are very common. Of course there is part (even most) of the art that has to be taught and learned by touching and speaking to each other in person, but what part of the arts can be taught via book or blog?
  • History - Who founded the art and what was he like? How did his life and his environment affect the development of the art?
  • Culture - Culture can refer to both the national culture of the founder and developers, or to the local culture of your club. House rules, preferences, unique exercises - these are all examples of the culture of martial arts - not just how to eat with chopsticks or how to tie an obi.
  • Mindset - How your thought processes affect the physical performance. What and how you need to be thinking during a conflict - why that helps and what it does for you.
  • Metaphor - Similar to mindset, I see metaphor as a way of tricking the mind into controlling the body in a particular way when you can't figure out how to explicitly tell the student the mechanics. "This technique is like..." or "visualize a great whirlpool drawing..." or "imagine you arm is a water hose with water blasting out the end..."
These things are all teachable in print. Movement and touch, nuance, aren't. What other aspects of the arts do y'all think are or are not teachable in print?
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Which reminds me of an interesting story about the late aikido master, Terry Dobson. I read that whenever people asked him what he did for a living, he told them he was a "transmission specialist." They, of course, dismissed him as a mechanic, but he meant it as an inside joke. He meant that he was a specialist in transmitting Morihei Ueshiba's touch to people who the founder could not have otherwise touched. Ueshiba touched people through Dobson. Check out the books:

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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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Sasae - otoshi

Sasae tsurikomiashi is a prime example of otoshi in judo. Notice that the throw happens right on the footfall, mostly inline with uke's feet, and produces a cartwheel-type airfall - all characteristics of otoshi motion. Both of the following videos are superb.
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Also of interest in the second video, there is some resistance or hesitation for just an instant on the part of the uke, and this hesitation gives the throw a guruma-type motion (remember how guruma happens an instant after otoshi?). As uke begins to cartwheel he attempts to withdraw for just a moment and this starts him log-rolling through the air. This is more visable in the slow motion segments toward the middle and end of the second film.
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Yoko guruma

Otoshi happens on a footfall and tends to happen in the direction of the step - as in yesterday's video.  Guruma is the dynamic oposite - it happens late (wrt the footfall) and tends to happen about 90 degrees off of the line of the feet - between the feet.  Yoko guruma is just about the best, purest example of the guruma action n judo.  Kirby-san, I figure you'll especially like the second variant here - it comes from the setup we've been working on lately.




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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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Taiotoshi - mine or his?

Time for some specific examples of some of the otoshi-guruma ideas I've been talking about for the last couple of weeks. This is a video of an outstanding taiotoshi. Not only is this player superbly proficient, but this video makes the otoshi footdrop timing perfectly clear on every throw. Watch the slow motion segments, and you'll see that every throw happens right after a little footfall. Tori is catching uke right as his front foot comes down, and is keeping uke moving downward.



This brings up an age-old question that students nearly always eventually ask. I'll leave you with this question... "In taiotoshi (body drop), whose body is doing the dropping - mine or his?"
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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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Intended change in pocketknife laws

If you use or carry a pocketknife, and want to retain your right to do so, It's time to write a couple of letters. From an email a student sent me today:
...US Customs is trying to broaden the definition of "switchblade" to include some pretty common pocketknives, making them illegal. You can see this site for more details: http://www.kniferights.org/
...Customs has only allowed a 30 day Request For Comments instead of the normal 90 or 120 day RFC. Deadline is June 21. The site has good instructions for how/who to write. Also, they're not accepting online comments, so you have to write them snail mail! LOOKS like they're trying to sneak it through quickly, and make it hard for people to block. I'll be writing them and my congressmen!
You will notice, in reading the document referenced at this website, They "intend" to change this interpretation, rather than "proposing" to change it.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends to revoke four ruling letters relating to the admissibility, pursuant to the Switchblade Knife Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1241–1245 (and the CBP Regulations promulgated pursuant thereto set forth in 19 CFR §§ 12.95–12.103) of certain knives.
I find it very underhanded and distressing that Homeland Security and U.S. Customs intend to change the interpretation of this law, rather than proposing that legislators or voters do it (or not).
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I will be writing a letter. And I suspect (hope) that many of you will too.


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

Notice the change in our Saturday schedule. Starting immediately, we will be having aikido at 9:00AM and stick&sword at 10:30 for those that want to stay for that. See y'all there!
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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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Otoshi in Junana, Guruma in Owaza

At least, that's mostly how it works.
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In Junana, all the techniques occur with otoshi (foot-fall) timing. Some of the techniques, though, may have a preceeding guruma or otoshi-guruma motion that sets up the throw of interest on a footfall.
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The floating throws, for instance, contain an initial otoshi, rapidly followed by a guruma as you swing uke's arm through. As uke then responds to that guruma in different ways you get different techniques, but all are otoshi. So the action of the floating throws goes otoshi-guruma-otoshi.
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As an interesting and more detailed example, take hikiotoshi - the last of the floating throws and the last technique in the kata. Hikiotoshi is actually a sort of a missing link between Junana (the otoshi exercise) and Owaza (the guruma exercise). Hikiotoshi can be thrown as either otoshi or guruma. Recall a comment on Sensei Strange's blog a while back about throwing hikiotoshi with a guruma action? That's right. You can throw this thing as otoshi or guruma. That makes ukiotoshi/guruma (in junana) and kataotoshi (in owaza) interesting transition techniques binding the two kata together and reminding us as we practice either principle, of the other.
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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 judo emphasis

We have several green belt (yonkyu) demos coming up in both aikido and judo.  Two in judo at the end of this month, another judo and an aikido demo around the first of August.  Having evaluated these students' current skills and discussed it with them, here's what we need to focus on for the next couple of months:
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Aikido:
  • releases #5-8, especially #6 and #8
  • demonstration mode for junana #1-5
Judo
  • newaza, both yellow and green belt level - particularly escape drills involving kesa, mune, kata, and kami.
  • ogoshi and seoinage
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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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Ukemi in otoshi and guruma

Thus far in my series on otoshi and guruma in aikido and judo, we have seen that otoshi is a linear dropping motion that happens just as uke's foot hits the ground.  Guruma, on the other hand, is a rotational motion that happens as uke's center starts to rise slightly after a footfall.
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The ukemi that follows these two types of throws is also distinctive.
  • otoshi ukemi tends to be simpler, rotating around one axis in a cartwheel-like diagonal forward roll.
  • guruma ukemi tends to rotate uke around two axes - one the same as in otoshi, and the other, a vertical axis through the head, center, and one leg.
So, in response to an otoshi, uke often does a forward roll or airfall.  In response to a guruma throw, uke turns on his long axis as he turns over in the forward roll. 
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Some people find gurumas more difficult to fall for because of this added rotation.  Fortunately in our aikido syllabus, all guruma-type airfalls are deferred until about ikkyu or shodan.  Not so in judo - the second throw in the first kyo is a guruma (hizaguruma), and a lot of students find hizaguruma especially scary when they are first learning to fall.  Instructors might consider this when a student is balking at taking the fall for a guruma.
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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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Sifu Mike Martello

Someone sent me an email this morning telling me that Belgian kung fu instructor Mike Martello died yesterday.  I have not been able to confirm the details, but my condolences go out to his friends and family.
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Rest in peace, Mike.
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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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Otoshi-guruma as directed force

So, I came to the conclusion in the previous post that otoshi is a dropping forward motion that happens right on the footfall, and that guruma is a turning and rising motion that happens an instant after the footfall. So, timing plays a role - otoshi is on-time and guruma is late (wrt the footfall).
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The idea is that on or around the footfall, you do something to uke (or something happens to uke if you want to say it that way). You are pushing or pulling him - applying a force. This suggests that there is a proper and improper direction to put force onto uke. This direction thing plays into the otoshi-guruma concept.
  • otoshi happens on the footfall as you put force onto uke in line with (or parallel to) his feet.
  • guruma happens slightly later as you put force onto uke perpendicular to the line of his feet.
This is not absolute. It is possible to otoshi uke perpendicular or guruma him parallel to his feet, but for the most part and in a general sense, this rule holds - otoshi is related to the parallel offbalance line and guruma is related to the perpendicular line.
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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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Possessions or power?

Photo courtesy of Grant MacDonald
Something I've been thinking about lately...
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Is it better to have something that you want, or to have the power and freedom to obtain that something anytime you need it?
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Posessions or power?  What do y'all think?
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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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Slow-motion otoshi and guruma

To get a good handle on the meaning of otoshi and guruma in aikido and judo, you need to watch some slo-mo video.  Check out this guy...
 
Things to notice:
  • As the guy's feet separate his center drops.  As the feet come together, the center rises.
  • As his moving foot strikes the ground, his shoulders are both facing the striking foot and he is leaning slightly over that striking foot.
  • As he gets ready to pick up his back foot each time, his shoulders rotate and his back tightens to straighten him up a bit.
This dropping forward motion that is occurring during a footstrike is called otoshi.  The twisting and straightening motion that is happening just after a footstrike or just before the other foot takes off, is called guruma.
  • otoshi is dropping into a footstrike.
  • guruma is turning and rising out of a footstrike.
There's certainly more to otoshi-guruma than this, or I wouldn't be able to get a month's worth of posts out of it, but this is one of the most important fundamental lessons.  Watch the video again and count his footsteps, saying to yourself, "otoshi, guruma, otoshi, guruma..."  See as you walk down the street naturally, aren't you leaning and turning into each footfall a bit (otoshi), and twisting and rising out of each footfall (guruma).
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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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Other blogs (not as good as mine, but they try awfully hard!) :-)