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Osaekomi month

Photo courtesy of PhineasX
I have a couple more monthly themes up my sleeve before I begin the weekly Interactions series for next year. Get ready folks, because October will be Osaekomi month!  We will be discussing the pins and holds that are associated with aikido and judo - and perhaps 1-2 karate articles.  Stay tuned...

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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 recap


Photo courtesy of TCM Hitchhiker
This month the theme has been atemiwaza - the role of striking techniques in aikido and judo. I got side-tracked a little bit with a family vacation and didn't post all the ideas I had outlined for this month, but that just gives me more follow-up material for later articles. Also, I sort of got side-tracked onto shomenate as a specific example of atemiwaza, but that's okay. Shomenate is rightfully the basis of all the atemiwaza, which can be seen as the foundation for all other technique. Following is a list of the articles I wrote this month about atemiwaza:


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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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You'd think I'd learn


Over the years, I have gotten into several 'street aikido' situations by walking around corners too close. You'd think I'd learn to turn corners with at least an arm's length or two between me and the corner. But no, I continue to get distracted and turn a corner sharply and find someone in my face. Fortunately, these situations lend some validation to my aikido training, because in every instance my aikido training has diffused the situation before I even realized what had happened.
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The first time I was in the Computer Science building at college. I walked through the front door and turned the corner sharply and there was a guy running toward me crossing ma-ai just as I turned the corner. Before I realized what happened, I had sidestepped just a bit and both hands were on that guy's face. He jerked to a stop and froze on his tiptoes with me holding him in offbalance. Finally I realized what had happened and stepped back and we both apologized for running into each other. The really cool things about this encounter were the automaticity of the response, and the gentle precision. I managed to stop both of us and separate us with shomenate without smashing him and without being smashed myself.
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The second time I was in the Maths building at college and was running to class. I cut around a corner and ran into a guy just like the previous incident. And just as before, my hands popped up into his face, but this time I evaded better and brushed off, turning and continuing down the hall. There were two or three people between us by the time I'd realized what had happened and I called back, "Sorry, dude!" and kept going. The really cool thing about this encounter was how I subconsciously applied the appropriate response without even breaking stride. This was an even better shomenate brushoff than before!
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Well, years pass and today I walked around a corner carrying a cup of water and was face-to-face with a lady who also had a drink in her hand. This time the brushoff was even more perfect than the previous two. Without even touching her I started to evade "over the hill", was blocked by a wall, sidestepped, and backed off to ma-ai. The shomenate reflex is still there but this time it was unnecessary. I had done an evasion and brushoff without touching her and without spilling either of our drinks.
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These incidents suggest to me that:
  • the shomenate reflex is a highly effective response for a surprise encounter
  • you can build shomenate and the aiki brushoff into a very finely-tuned automatic reflex
  • you can even train these skills to the point that they self-regulate appropriately
Now that's aiki - automatic, effective, and appropriate! Maybe I have learned something in the past 18 years of aikido. I've just got to stop running around corners!

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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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Nishio shihonage - with sword and stave

Whoa! This is really interesting instruction. We practiced shihonage today in the later aikido class (again, a little different form than this) but Nishio's instruction and performance here is superb. Especially interesting at the very end is his performance of this technique with the ken and with the jo.

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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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Shomenate ikkyo

A pretty good demonstration of ikkyo as a counter to shomenate. This is what we played with today at early aiki class. Although a bit different form, this is a good reference for the idea. In Tomikiryu this is called oshitaoshi and it is the #6 form of junana (the 17 fundamentals) instead of the #1 form (ikkyo) as in aikikai.


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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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Two helpful handfuls; To fall or not to fall...



Photo courtesy of Knutgj
It is common for aikido instructors to tell students, "take the fall - don't resist..." This gets to be almost a mantra- take the fall...don't resist...take the fall...don't resist...
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Well, falling is important as a skill for uke, and as a cooperative practice between uke and tori, but it can also be appropriate to not fall for a given technique. Students actually learn different types of lessons when their practice includes falling for every technique and when it doesn't. Following are two helpful handfuls of hints - five ways falling is good and five ways that not falling is also good.
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By not having uke fall every time tori tries a throw...
  • tori learns when he has truly taken uke's balance and when he hasn't
  • tori learns how to move with a guy he hasn't controlled
  • tori learns to move from technique to technique appropriately and safely
  • tori learns that it is possible to do successful aikido without the goal being to sail uke a particular way
  • uke learns a different form of ukemi - how to walk out of a bad situation without falling
By having uke fall every time tori practices a throw...
  • uke learns to save himself by relaxing and submitting when he's been had
  • uke learns to do a safe fall before he is taken by surprise by a throw and forced to fall awkwardly
  • tori learns how to control his own body when uke suddenly drops out from the relationship
  • uke learns how to retain some control of the relationship all the way to the point of no return in the fall
  • tori learns how to continue the technique into the ground into a lock or control
So, practicing aikido without falling every time is not necessarily bad aikido or non-aikido. It's just a different sort of aikido lesson. The falling practice basically promotes continuity between standing and groundwork, while the non-falling practice promotes continuity from one standing relationship to the next.


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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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Never do an escape in judo!



Photo courtesy of Parrhesiates
Just don't do it!
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You see, the concept of escaping simply implies shifting from a condition where they have an advantage to a place where nobody has an advantage... Settling for merely breaking a hold... just getting him off of you. These end with both players in a sort of a distasteful neutral state with an indeterminate advantage.
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Never try to merely escape. Always reverse the opponent's hold-down! Turn the tables on them. Take back the advantage and initiative and position that is rightly yours and don't let him have a chance! Smother them every time they try to get an advantage.
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Don't ever escape, reverse!
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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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Helpful handful: hizaguruma


Photo courtesy of Kyle Sloan at Windsong Dojo
Traditionally the second technique taught in Kodokan Judo (per the Gokyo), hizaguruma is a vital part of the core of judo technique. Following are five hints that have helped me hit hiza more often.
  • Hiza-Osoto combos: Hiza and osotogari are dynamic opposites, so you can do them as a combo in either direction. In other words, make an attempt at osoto and if it is resisted, it makes hiza easier to get. Or you might try hiza and switch to osotogari. You can't resist both actions at the same time.
  • Stand on the line: As uke steps one of his feet onto the ground, draw a line extending through both feet and stand on that line or slightly in front - certainly not behind them. You can't stand behind uke and pull him to make him fall forward. Make sure your foot that is on the line is pointing at both of his feet.
  • Aiki brushoff in judo: Think of it as a brushoff, trying to push or brush uke past you with both hands.
  • Early and rear: Hiza works much, much better if you throw it early on the back leg instead of late on the front leg. In fact, when it does actually work on the front leg it's almost an accident. If you are going to throw this type of foot-stop late on the front leg, then use sasae tsurikomi ashi. In fact, because of the early-late nature of hiza and sasae, an opportunity for sasae almost always follows an opportunity for hiza. You can try this thing as a hiza-sasae combo.
  • Dump uke in the hole: Make your pull 90 degrees between uke's feet and try to give uke a little logroll action (guruma) so that he turns on his long, vertical axis.

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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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Schedule change


Starting this week, our 6:30 Thursday classes will be adult judo. We've got several folks that want to make more of a focus on judo, and we already have several aikido time slots.
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Aikido guys, don't let that deter you from showing up for classes on Thursdays, because judo is really just another word for "close-range aikido!" You'll still be learning a ton that will improve your aikido.
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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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Interactions between the principles


For the past year I've been doing themes, talking each month about one principle in a set of articles. Sensei Strange and Sensei Dan Prager have sorta taken this up as a challenge and have either done their own monthly series or have carried on extended discussions with me on my monthly themes.
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Having done this for nearly a year, it's just about time to begin a new series - a new thing! I've decided to put a different spin on my principle posts. This coming year I'll be doing a series of 1-2 posts per week on the interactions between various principles.
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For example, we can pretty much all agree that posture and relaxation and eye contact and footwork are foundational principles of martial arts, and we've written lots of articles on these principles individually. But what about the interactions between the principles? How does relaxation affect posture? How does proper eye contact change your footwork? Each possible pair of these principles suggests an new area to explore in a post or a short series.
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I figure to do 1-2 more months of the monthly theme thing and then kick off the weekly interactions series. I've already planned out two or three dozen potential articles for this interactions series and I'm really looking forward to putting those thoughts out here over the next year. I'd also like to invite a few more folks to try their hand at these interactions series on their own blogs. Dan? Strange? Anyone interested?
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If so, FYI, the principles I intend to explore interactions for the next year include:
  • relaxation
  • shizentai - natural, upright posture
  • maai - intuitive time/space sense
  • tai sabaki - evade offline
  • orenaite/kite - the unbendable arm/power hand
  • kimusubi - synchronizing your energy with theirs
  • kuzushi - offbalance
  • zanshin - remaining mindful
  • atemi - striking
  • osaekomi - holding
  • metsuke - eye control
  • shikaku - the dead angle
  • avoid engagement - aiki brushoff

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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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Aiki-like Systema

I have seen demos by Systema folks that look like utter nonsense, but this one is really pretty cool. What do y'all think?

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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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Impending judo-tudinal adjustment

These two have the sport judo 'tude down! Now all they need is a bit more practice on a technique or two. Or maybe we'll just go with the 'tude!


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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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Beach judo

So, what do you think this is going to be?  Leg pick or sprawl and snap-down?  Either way, it's going to suck in the surf for someone!


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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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Helpful handful: 5 ways to get more reps


A student of mine who is starting a new club asked me for some advice.  Seems he'd teach a skill and his students would try it 2-3 times then sit around waiting to see something else.  He wanted to know how to get the students to do more reps of the mechanical drilling that is necessary to build skill.  My first thought is, "use a bullwhip or a tazer," but here are five more humane tricks to get more reps out of your students.  You might not do all of these, but try them and mix and match and see what works for you...
  • Everybody works with everybody: switch partners fairly frequently and have them do the same technique with a different body. Keep doing that till everybody has worked with everybody.
  • Add progressive detail: show a technique and have them rep it a few times, then add more detail and have them rep it more precisely. Do this about 2-3 times before you move to the next technique.
  • Line/circle drills: arrange everybody in a large circle or line on the mat, then have the first person do the technique on each person in the group. When that first person is through with all the people he takes his place in the circle/line and the next person does the technique on everybody.  Continue on down the line.
  • Review of all previous moves: teach only 1 technique per class but make a rule that at the beginning of each class they have to rep all previous techniques 10 times before they get the next technique. This will not only force repetition, but it will force them to become more efficient and faster so they can get through with the old techniques sooner.
  • Continuous motion drills: work drills that allow both partners to be active - drills that automatically change sides/roles. For instance, partner #1 does bridge&roll from mount, placing partner #2 into guard so partner #2 does a sweep from the guard, getting back into the mount and the cycle continues. This way the partners get continuous action and don't have to stop and reposition and restart the drill.
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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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Technique #0


Photo courtesy of BekiPe
The aikikai guys named some of their techniques with ordinal numbers (e.g. ikkyo=technique#1, nikyo=technique#2, etc...), suggesting that ikkyo is foundational to the rest of the stuff. Tomiki appeared to think that the atemiwaza was more foundational to aikido than ikkyo (which Tomiki called oshitaoshi) because Tomiki taught oshitaoshi as technique #6 after all the atemiwaza.
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I guess that makes all the atemiwaza (shomenate, aigamaeate, etc..) = "Technique #0" just because it's the set of stuff you learn before ikkyo.
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What would the Japanese word for zero-kyo be?
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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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Saulo Ribeiro vs. Roy Dean

Not really "versus" - but this wonderful short film popped up in my recommendations in YouTube today. Love it!

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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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Helpful handful; deashi barai


Thoughts on deashibarai.  Let me know how your mileage varies...
  • Deashi barai is an excellent low-force, low-commitment footsweep I've seen it thrown as ippon or as takedown by both beginners and experts in both judo and bjj. When thrown as a delicate timing throw, it sets up every other throw in the syllabus, but it is also quite effective on its' own, when it does fail it often leaves uke in a worse position, and it is quite difficult to counter.
  • Deashi is the first of the gokyo (Kodokan syllabus) for a reason. It teaches you timing lessons you need to understand to do the rest of the gokyo. It sets up every other thing in the system. So potentially you can build a deashi-anything combination.
  • You really don't have to sweep very far - certainly don't sweep their leg up into the air. I tend to sweep just far enough to place all four of our feet in a line, then do the rest with a little hand twitch toward my chest.  If they don't fall, that's ok, but more often than not, uke will spazz out and pick both feet up off the ground.  From there, it's all downhill!
  • But if you do sweep their foot into the air and they don't come off their other foot and fall, try kosotogari - sort of a backwards footstop action as they are about to put their foot back down.
  • Watch out for tsubamegaeshi - especially if you try to execute this sweep as a power stroke through their leg.
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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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A fight to the distance

It's past time I finished up my series of responses to Sensei Zoran Stojanovski's five questions that he posed regarding the efficacy of aikido, particularly against karate-trained opponents. Today I'll work on the second question:

How much is effective a good aikidoka in the fight to the distance with good karateka?

This is really the hardest of the five questions because I don't understand the idea of "to the distance." I think that could either be a question about fighting "to the death" or fighting in a prolonged, endurance battle.

If it's a question about whether an aikido guy could kill a karate guy in a fight, that's kind of gruesome and awful because it's possible for anyone to kill anyone else regardless of their training. Whether or not it's likely that a aikidoka could win in a fight to the death with a karateka, I couldn't answer. See, that sort of fight is outside of the domain of both aikido and karate. Aikido is about avoidance, evasion, offbalance, and control. Karate is about defense rather than offense. so the question is a tough one if viewed in that sense.
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If it's a question about who would win in a prolonged fight requiring great stamina and endurance, I couldn't answer that one either. See, both arts are about self defense, and nearly all self-defense encounters have nothing at all to do wth endurance. Most all fights are over before you can shift from anaerobic to aerobic metabolism (something like 2-3 minutes), and most all exertion that occurs in a fight is anaerobic in nature. So in a fight, "to the distance" would generally be a few seconds, perhaps as much as a couple of minutes.
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For more interesting reading on some of my ideas about the efficacy of aikido and karate, check out these previous articles...

And all five of my responses to Sensei Zoran's 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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Two hints for practicing throws

A student of mine asked me a question about practicing deashibarai, and I thought that it would make a pretty good hint for anyone in their practice of any throw - aikido or judo. His question...
...when I would do the technique, [uke] would start to fall but then hop to catch his balance. Is my timing off ? or is he just naturally countering ... he is about 120 lbs which is quite different than you or I...
A couple of points regarding the practice of deashi at the beginner's stage - and these carry over to most other throws as well...
  • If you are practicing with a much smaller, faster, more agile partner then you have less room for error. While it might be possible (and tempting) to just pick their butts up and smash them, this is unproductive. When you work with such an uke, you have to be even lighter, more relaxed, and pay more attention to timing the thing correctly. This often means you have to practice more slowly. If you are putting too much tension in your arms, this can stabilize your partner - and this is even more apparent with a lighter, smaller partner. Soften up, slow down, and make sure that you are not holding them up with excess arm tension.
  • Secondly, consider that this is your partner's chance to learn how to fall for this thing. If he refuses to fall at this early stage then he is refusing to learn how the fall for this thing works. At this early stage, you might hit a magical, perfect throw one time out of a hundred, but as you progress, your timing and judo magic will improve so that you hit that surprising, magical sweet spot more often. If uke has never practiced the fall for this thing, then when tori does happen to hit that sweet spot, it will be a sad, painful lesson learned too late! So, uke should go ahead and practice the fall for this thing - especially while tori is going slowly and gently.
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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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Strange answers about atemi and brushoff

The other day, Sensei Strange dared to disagree with me about what was going on in my video that I posted. The nerve of some people! Actually, I'm not offended at all by folks disagreeing with me in the comments on my blog - especially when they do it as intelligently and civilly as he does. Today I wanted to post a few thoughts in response to Strange's comments.
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First, aiki is a lot of things to a lot of people. Strange characterized it as being primarily about breaking uke's posture. I disagree. Aiki is about harmony or unity of energy. Lately I've liked to translate aiki as defending yourself by doing the most perfectly appropriate thing at just the right time. Maintaining your own posture (shizentai) and breaking the other guy's posture (kuzushi) are important parts of that, but they are not the first or the only thing that you do when applying the principle of aiki. This is the same message that I've been trying to communicate in some previous articles...
The aiki brushoff as demonstrated in that film is not done as an attack. It is done specifically to avoid attacking uke in order to minimize the chance of uke countering. I don't see it as simply moving the relationship around as Strange says. I see it as absolutely refusing to have a (physical) relationship with uke (if circumstances will allow). Incidently, it is nearly the same thing as the 'stealing the initiative' timing that Strange demonstrates on his excellent shomenate video, with the exception that your intent is to steal the initiative and use it to separate rather than to step into uke or hold your ground.
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Strange demonstrates on that same video, one counter to a shomenate used as an attack - wakigatame. That weakness exists in all aikido techniques, and I agree that when tori steps into uke with shomen it's often begging for wakigatame, but the aiki brushoff is not more succeptable to wakigatame than other variations of shomenate. It is actually less succeptable - that statement comes from a lot of randori testing. In fact, in our series of knife freeplay tests against FMA guys, this sort of shomenate and aigamaeate were the only things in the system that reliably reduced the likelihood of getting cut.
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On my film, the times that tori steps through uke with shomenate were specifically demonstrated with tori backed into a wall such that he couldn't separate. I offered the step-through shomenate as a solution when you can't brushoff. And it's a pretty good one, even if uke does counter with wakigatame. At least he's not holding you against a wall pounding on you, and wakigatame has just as many weaknesses as shommenate.
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I'd like to end by repeating, aiki is a lot of things to a lot of people and my way is not THE only way to do the thing. I do, however think it is a valid and highly valuable paradigm under which to apply aikido technique. In a previous article I characterized this type of motion as the Aiki Gift That Keeps On Giving. There are other ways to play aikido, and I'm sure that Strange's is pretty good - maybe even better than mine in some ways - but I still suggest you at least make a study of what this paradigm can do for your aikido.
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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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Kesting's two WORST techniques

This is great!  Let's see you aikido and judo nuts try and master this awesomeness.  If y'all aren't subscribed to Kesting's emails, you ought to.  Go to his site listed at the end of the video and sign up for his really informative free grappling newsletters. (and stuff like this...)

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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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My favorite deashibarai clip

One of my favorite tournament deashibarai. There are several good throws on this vid, but the one starting at about 3:00 is IMO the greatest!  Check out the opponent shaking his head as he gets up and walks back to the starting line.

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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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Brush-off applied to atemi

Sensei Strange asked for some footage of what I was talking about the other day RE: pushes being two-directional things.
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Here is a short film of two of my students putting a little different spin on the Tomikiryu atemiwaza. I suggest that your first idea should be evade and disengage (or refuse to engage) rather than evade then smash the guy. Here, they are trying to stay light enough on their feet that if uke will let them push away, they do that. Otherwise, the atemiwaza techniques work mostly along classical lines.
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You'll see shomenate, aigamaeate, and gyakugamaeate played with this idea. Actually, all aikido techniques can be played in this paradigm (first try to separate and if uke won't let you, then he falls into one of the techniques). At the end of the film you'll see a couple of shihonage as an example.
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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 slow blade penetrates the shield

Photo courtesy of Sean Dreilinger
Aikido tends to move at the speed of uke, which is generally pretty slow. From a standstill, most people can move their center of mass about 3 feet per second, and moving from a condition of off-balance is about the same. So, if aikido guys move so slowly, how can they do atemi (strikes) - and in particular, how can they move slow and still hit hard enough to knock someone down? Following are four thoughts on why slow atemi still works.
  • Increased mass: If you use more of your body mass, you can afford to reduce speed and still put a lot of energy on uke. If you were to attach a baseball to a rope and swing it five or six feet away, you would probably no be too hesitant about letting it swing back and hit you. But if you put a bowling ball on the same rope and swung it, all of a sudden you wouldn't want to be hit, even though it is still moving slowly.
  • Overcoming inertia: If you are trying to knock someone down, his body will only move so fast anyway. You can put all the muscle you've got into forcing him to go faster, and he won't. You still have to overcome that starting inertia. Try this: grab uke by the lapels and throttle him back and forth as fast as you can. You'll notice that he really doesn't move much. Now, push and pull with longer, slower oscillations and you'll find that uke moves more and is easier to move.
  • Vital anatomy: Any slow strike to the face could just as easily be an eye-rake, which doesn't require speed or force. Pick your anatomical targets properly and apply a significant part of your body mass to them and you don't have to be all that fast.
  • Perceived speed: Humans are pretty good at paying attention to fast-moving things but we tend to ignore things that are still or which are moving the same speed we are (relatively still). If you are moving quickly and there is any telegraph in your motions then it can be harder to hit uke. But if you let your body flow slowly and smoothly into theirs they will be less likely to respond. As they said in Dune, "The slow blade penetrates the shield."
Relax. You can push instead of punch and step instead of kick - and still be very effective.
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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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Rope Trick

Here is a short clip of my kids practicing falling in judo class. This is a trick you can do to get some variety in your falling practice if you don't have a partner to spot you but you do have a rope, a sturdy hook, and a mat.

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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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Atemiwaza facilitates ukiwaza

A lot of things come together to make a throw in aikido or judo, including timing, mechanical advantage, and strength.  Most of the time, we use some combination of sufficiently good timing, mechanical advantage, and moderate strength, but it's possible to do a throw with one quality being so dominant as to be nearly the sole factor.  For instance, Morihei Ueshiba was reputedly very strong as a young adult, but he was most certainly not strong as an elder - but his throws were even more exquisite as he aged because of perfection of timing and mechanical advantage.  The same observations apply to Kyuzo Mifune.
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I remember hearing a story about one of my teachers sitting with his friends watching the action in the Kodokan.  One of his friends told my instructor, "Watch this guy," and pointed out a sensei throwing his partner all over the mat.  They watched for a while and my instructor remarked, "That guy looks like he's doing everything completely wrong!"  His friend responded, "Yeah, but his timing is perfect."
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In our aikido sylabus, the class of throws that most exemplify perfect timing throws is the ukiwaza, or floating techniques.  This set of ukiwaza consists of maeotoshi, sumiotoshi, and hikiotoshi.  I've written before about how this classification doesn't make much sense to me because most everything we do is based on that floating feeling developed in the ukiwaza.  The best answer I've gotten about this was from a sensei who pointed out that the ukiwaza was a relatively late development in the evolution of the Tomiki system.  Prior to this set being incorporated into the syllabus, the techniques were more highly dependent on mechanical advantage and strength.  Timing was present, but in an imperfect form.  Then this class of floating throws was developed to demonstrate the ability to throw with perfect timing, minimizing strength and mechanical advantage.
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Even though we now pay more attention to timing from the beginning, as students come up through our current syllabus they still go through this evolution of developing mechanical advantage before timing.  Then as they get to the point that they can reliably do the floating (timing) throws, they are expected to go back and make a study of timing in the rest of the syllabus.  So, everything to some degree eventually becomes a floating throw.
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It occurs to me that if you are working on perfect-timing throws, like the ukiwaza, you need a fall-back technique that still works when you are unable to perfectly time a floating throw.  In the old-line Tomiki system I suppose everything that is not floating throw (techniques #1-14) serve as the fall-back while students learn the ukiwaza and then re-tool their skills to incorporate the ukiwaza principles. 
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In the way that I currently teach, the fall-back techniques are the atemiwaza (striking techniques - #1-5 in junana) - and especially shomenate (#1 - the chin jab).  These five techniques are good, reliable expressions of exquisite mechanical advantage and they are so easy to learn that they serve as a great back-up plan as the student develops both timing and mechanical advantage in the rest of the syllabus.  A good foundation in atemiwaza allows the student to safely work on timing throws much earlier.
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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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Pushes go both ways

As I've mentioned in a couple of recent posts, Tomiki atemiwaza is not really like most karate atemi.  Aikido atemi can be seen as more of a whole-body push than a strike.  One interesting thing about pushing against the opponent is it gives you two possible actions.  Take shomenate, for instance.  In shomenate you typically evade inside and push uke down backward by pressing under his chin or on his face.  But another interesting and useful action of shomenate is to push yourself backward off of uke.  We call this the 'aiki brush-off' but all it is is an instantiation of that physics principle about 'equal and opposite reaction.'
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I teach aiki brush-off as the first, most fundamental form of shomenate.  I tell students their initial goal is to evade inside, get both hands up, and push backward from whatever they contact (hopefully face) so that you end up outside of uke's reach.  Then the classic shomenate becomes a backup condition - any time you're unable to push backward off of uke, use the immense leverage you've developed to jack uke into motion backward away from you.
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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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Tomiki's atemi - maybe not what you think

Photo courtesy of Jeremylim
Tomiki Sensei apparently had a fundamentally different concept of atemi than we usually think about - not your typical karate strike. Tomiki's atemiwaza was not about using impulse (sudden change in acceleration) to injure the opponent. Tomiki's idea of atemiwaza appears to have been to impact the opponent with your whole body mass during the opponent's footfall with the goal of knocking the opponent off his feet. Tomiki's atemiwaza are throws - not punches or chops.
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The following is excerpted from an essay by Tomiki on the Modernization of Jujutsu. The original text can be found at www.judoinfo.com/tomiki2.htm
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Aikido is much the same as judo because the origins of both reside in the ancient schools of jujutsu. If we generally classify the kinds of techniques (waza) in the ancient schools of jujutsu, there are four categories:
  • Nage-waza (throwing techniques)
  • Katame-waza (locking techniques)
  • Atemi-waza (striking techniques)
  • Kansetsu-waza (joint techniques)
Among these, many nage-waza and some katame-waza have been collected into the system of training that is "competition judo" (judo kyogi), and various atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza have been collected into the system of training that is "competition aikido" (aikido kyogi).
Although one group of kansetsu-waza are included among the katame-waza of competition judo, the many varieties of kansetsu-waza (and their implementation) should be combined with the atemi-waza into a system of training so that these two groups of techniques will be sufficiently revitalized.
Although the atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza can be viewed as techniques that can inflict a severe injury on an opponent, if we study the principles of the martial arts well, we realize that they are exquisite techniques for toppling (taosu) or controlling (osaeru) an opponent without necessarily harming him.
In the same way, the nage-waza and katame-waza of competition judo--in the way they are taught and used by Judo players--are superb techniques that have the same purpose, namely controlling the opponent without injuring him. In this shared sensibility, both competition judo and competition aikido have been derived from the essence of the ancient schools of jujutsu and developed in to modern, competitive sports.
So, Tomiki's atemiwaza are not necessarily about injuring uke - rather, they are about skillfully timing a directed collision so that uke falls down. This is not just a superficial difference in atemi ideas. There are some very important consequences to approaching atemi this way. We will be covering these consequences in the next post or two.
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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 lost facet of judo

Photo courtesy of Parhesiates
In judo competition, it is illegal to touch your opponent's face.  This is nominally a safety rule, but there is a second reason that people either don't understand or don't talk about.  What's the dark secret behind this rule?
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Much of judo tachiwaza (standing technique) is defined by what is possible when you know the other guy will not hit you in the face. Shomenate basically negates virtually all judo throws.  Don't believe it? Try this - do some uchikomi but give your partner permission to put either hand in your face and stiff-arm your head away from them.  See how easy it is to get your body into position for a throw.  For goodness' sake, go slow and easy with this so you don't run your face into a palmheel.
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It is possible to bypass this problem if you develop some good kumikata (gripping skills) in judo. Rhadi Ferguson and Jimmy Pedro assert that gripping is a lost facet of judo. I'd say that gripping is a piece of the lost facet of judo - that facet being hamarejudo (separated judo) which mainly includes aspects of gripping (kumikata), moving safely from outside ma-ai into a clench (taisabaki), and striking (atemi).
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Hmmm...  kumikata, taisabaki, and atemi...  sounds to me like aikido.
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That's right.  Aikido is the lost facet of judo - the separated judo as Tomiki called it.  The part of judo that deals with atemi and defending against atemiwaza via proper kumikata and taisabaki.  Aikido and judo are opposite sides of the same coin.
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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 60kg puppy dog

Regarding Sensei Zoran Stojanovski's fourth question about karate vs. aikido; Sensei Zoran asked,
Whether a good aikidoka is able to free of strong squeeze from a strong man, when the difference in weight is 40 or more kilos?
My instructors used to tell me that if you do it right, you can't even tell if the opponent is strong or weak - aikido is that effective at negating the opponent's strength. I had a hard time believing it, but over the years I have worked with several students, each of whom weighted at least 60 kilos more than me. I frequently work with students who are physically stronger than me. Aikido works fine against all of these people, and sure enough - you really can't tell much difference between someone 60kg smaller than you and someone 60kg bigger than you.
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In fact, aikido is especially harsh on uke when uke is so big that he has to reach down or bend over to get to you. Small people have these awful arms, such that strikes slide in under uke's chin, appearing from nowhere and locking uke's spine! Ooh! Messy!!
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I recall a cool old story about Terry Dobson. I'm not sure where I read it but If I remember rightly, Ueshiba used to carry Dobson around with him to serve as uke because it made for such amazingly violent demonstrations when someone as big and athletic as Dobson attacked someone as small and aiki-like as Ueshiba. I seem to remember that OSensei had a nickname for Dobson, "Terru-san," which made Dobson really mad because it was so trite it was like Sensei calling him, "puppy dog." Taunting the big man because of his utter ineffectiveness against the little old man.

Stay tuned - I bet you can't guess which of Zoran's questions I'm going to answer next!

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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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