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  • Summer at Union U. (Judo randori and Goshin Jutsu) - Sept 5-7, 2014
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A story in three pictures

I've talked to my students some in the last few weeks about how a series of pictures can be used to tell a story, but there is a lot of missing information between the photos. What is each person thinking and trying to do? How do the players get from one frame to the next?
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How would you caption these three pics? What story do they make you want to tell?

Photos courtesy of Elise D. Parker



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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 木蓮
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Helpful handful: 5 lessons from judo

If you wanted to pick up a handful of ideas from judo to complement your martial art, what few ideas should you look at?  Here are a handful of lessons that comprise the heart of judo - worth thinking about how these ideas apply in the context of your martial art.

  • jita kyoei - you and me going forward together - the point of a martial art is to improve the self in the context of society. "The teaching of one virtuous person can influence many; that which has been learned well by one generation can be passed on to a hundred."
  • seiroku zenyo - make maximally efficient use of the powers you have in order to get the biggest bang for your buck
  • ippon/yuko - strive toward both ideal and pragmatic - perfection and good enough
  • ukemi - learning to fall safely is the most powerful self-defense there is
  • randori/shiai - martial arts are meaningless outside of the context of randori- free practice against opposing players. If your martial art does not have competition or sparring, you don't have to drop it, but you might highly consider finding some adjunct that does involve live competition

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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 木蓮
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Chop those happy feet!

Photo courtesy of The Busy Brain
No, this has nothing to do with dancing penguins - I promise. Honestly, I'd never heard of this one before Chad asked me the question a couple of days. Oh, I'd heard the idea before, but never heard it called, "happy feet." The question:
What do you think about happy feet? I mean the idea of keeping your feet moving to stay more mobile... Like tennis players do while they wait for their opponents swing, so that they can better react, or like a running back will while he is getting hit so that he has a better chance of moving forward/recovering... My initial thought was that it would be bad, as unnecessary movement could invite attack, but then I thought it might be similar to the puncher's jab, in that the "steps" you are taking aren't any sort of committed movement, thus less vulnerable than "normal" movement, and then the judoka might share the benefits that the tennis player and running back enjoy...
I think our junior high school football coaches called it chopping, as in, "Keep those feet chopping up and down under your butt!" You also see baseball outfielders do this when they are starting to make a decision which way to move to catch the ball.
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I tend to do this in aikido and judo too, but I tend to do it like this... I chop my feet up and down in tiny steps right under my center (it doesn't have to be too obvious or dramatic) until uke enters ma-ai to engage, then I synch my feet to his and keep chopping - only doing it at whatever his frequency is. This does improve mobility - and it helps develop the proper sort of upright, feet-under-center mobility we're looking for. In judo this lends itself to presenting the opponent that legendary "empty jacket" feeling.
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I also don't think it invites attack through arbitrary movement so long as you are synched to uke's frequency. Notice in your example of the tennis guy, they don't do happy feet all the time - they chop their feet while waiting for the ball, then as it approaches they get in synch with it and set their feet for a moment to impact the ball properly. I doubt you'll ever see a good tennis player chop continuously at whatever their internal rhythm is all the way through a swing - only when they are waiting. They are using the chop to be more mobile, but also to make synching to the ball easier.
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I guess in summary I'd say that chopping, or happy feet, is a valuable idea, but it's just a model for how to do taisabaki and kimusubi (synchronization) in a mobile, flowing, yielding way.
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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 木蓮
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Putin doing judo

Cool film of Vladmir Putin doing judo - some nagekomi of a few techniques and some randori. Check out the sweet ouchi-to-okuriashi combo starting at about 2:18! I say if they put him on their Olympic team, we ought to enter some of our politicians into the competition! Which ones would y'all put up against Putin?

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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 木蓮
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A judo testimonial


I have been doing judo since 1991 and I've gotten as far as 5th dan. Someone said a while back, "The first five dans come from what you've gotten from the art. The second five dans come from what you've given back to the art." I thought I'd ennumerate a few of the things I think I've gotten from my continued participation.
  • An education - our college club was so fun that it served as a huge motivator to stay in school for advanced degrees. Having spent several undergraduate years doing judo, I re-upped and got my Masters' degree - largely so that I could continue doing judo.
  • Some exercise - As a young adult I was always wraith thin, although I always saw myself as overweight. An instructor told me some years back, "Just wait till you hit 30 and your metabolism plummets." Sure enough, it seems that my metabolism plummeted and my weight shot upward around age 26, and again around age 30. Fortunately, I have maintained a schedule of 3-5 martial arts days per week since finishing college. About 2002 I rampled up my effort level again and dropped 40 pounds over the course of about 6 months. I think judo has helped me keep that weight off. Only God know what I'd weigh if I didn't do judo!
  • A pile of real friends - many of the people that I worked out with and struggled with and sweated on during college still keep in touch. I see some of these people at seminars 1-2 times a year and a few of them have even made it to our annual fall Gatherings at Mokuren Dojo. A friend that you have wrestled with is a different sort of thing from those you've had classes with or went to bars with or work acquaintances.
  • Confidence - over the past 20 years, the fights I've been in and seen have re-enforced the value of judo as self-defense. In college ours was an exceptionally rough club. Several of us finally came to the conclusion that unless someone killed us, they couldn't do worse to us than what we did to ourselves at class every week. That confidence gave us the ability to not be physically intimidated by anyone, to disregard bullies as pitiful souls, to know that what we work to obtain we will be able to keep for ourselves. That has been a blessing.
  • A fascinating puzzle - The way that this system is constructed is simply amazing. Everything is inter-related and inter-connected in overlapping, fail-soft relationships. Every lesson you learn opens up volumes of new ideas and concepts to work on. Every question you answer for yourself leads to a handful of new questions. I've done this thing 19 years and it looks like I've still got a lifetime or two of material to go!
I don't know how I can ever return that much value to the art...
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How about you? How long have you been doing judo and what do you think you've gotten out of 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 木蓮
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Going... down?

Here's a judo throw that I was chatting with a student about yesterday...

And here's the perfect self-defense application...


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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 木蓮
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How to stay young by playing at aikido


I have always been interested in ways that I could practice aikido solo. I'm constantly inventing solo aiki games to keep myself amused. Games like...
  • walking on curbs or parking stripes like on balance beams
  • standing on one leg whenever waiting on something
  • walking in synch with the person in front of you on the sidewalk
  • pushing doors open with unbendable arms
  • rolling around corners and doorframes as if evading an attack
  • stepping offline to the outside anytime you shake hands with someone
  • maintaining ma-ai when standing in lines
  • dancing the Charleston whenever you're waiting for something
  • tsugiashi back and forth, evading your reflection as you brush your teeth
  • dropping a ball and tsugiashi, planting your foot as the ball hits
  • getting out of bed the same way you would roll to standing from the floor
  • hopping, skipping, or galloping instead of walking
I think the gist of this is that it is a healthy behavior to play. At some point, children grow up and stop playing and that's about the time they start dying.  Get to playing.  Don't stop playing just because you're allegedly grown up! You should be constantly trying new things that test and stretch your skills and abilities and knowledge in strange and interesting ways.
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When you screw something up because you were playing around, the wrong response is, "I'd better not do that again!" The correct response is, "Hmmm, That was weird!"
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This sort of play will make you a better aikidoka (or judoka or karateka) and it will help keep you young.

 
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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 木蓮
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Distance perception game


Photo courtesy of An untrained eye.
Get a better understanding of encounter distance - here's an interesting solo game you can play to work on this crucial skill.
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As you are walking down the street (or hall, etc...) make note of a spot on the ground that is several feet away and guess how many steps it will take to reach it and which foot you'll step on it with. Then walk up to it and see if you are correct.  Try your best not to change the length or tempo of your stepping just to achieve your guess.  See if you can guess from 15-20 feet away which foot you will land on when you get to your target.
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I bet that after a few practices, you can become uncannily accurate at predicting the number of steps and the landing foot.  After a couple of repetitions of this game, I can usually guess within about 1/2 of one step from as far as 20-30 feet.
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But here's the really interesting part - the analysis of your results.  What sort of phenomenon are you really seeing happen here?
  • Is your perception of distance related to your stride length getting better?
  • Or are you subtly altering the size of your steps in order to make your prediction happen?
I think that some of both but more of the second  alternative is happening.  In any case, either of these skills (better distance perception or better gait control to achieve a goal) are good skills to develop.
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Try it out and let me know how you do!

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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 木蓮
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Helpful handful: 5 lessons from aikido



I suspect there are a lot of people out there who have some interest in or respect for aikido, but don't have a teacher or perhaps your teacher is teaching you some other art and you wish you could explore some of the ideas from aikido. Following are five lessons that I consider to be the heart of aikido. I think that if you get nothing else from aikido, you ought to think about exploring these five ideas.
  • ma-ai - if they can't touch you, they can't hurt you. If they have to come to you to touch you, you have the advantage of knowing what they are going to do, and you get a chance to act while they're doing it. So, try to keep them outside touching distance.

  • tai-sabaki - anytime the enemy positions themselves where they can easily touch you, reposition yourself where they can't easily touch you.

  • airen - compassion - pity - mercy - love - you can (often) defend yourself effectively without attacking the "enemy".

  • shomenate - whenever anything goes wrong, hit them in the face. This one technique will solve 80% of your problems, and it will set up all the other techniques in the system.

  • kito (yin-yang, in-yo) in any situation, energy waxes and wanes. Riding the direction and rise and fall of energy is often wiser than opposing it.

So, if you had to pick your five most important take-away ideas from aikido, what would they 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 木蓮
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Wonderful newaza game for kids

I love these little guys! Check this video out. I can't claim to have invented this exercise - it's a common game for kids' judo classes. But I think we might have taken it farther than some classes.
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The basic way it works is, one man tries to crawl from one baseline to the other while the opponent tries to immobilize or delay him. This game promotes mobility, pinning, and escaping - but if you play it right, it also promotes self-defense strategy. I am constantly yelling at the bottom man to NOT engage the top man in a wrestling match. The bottom man's job is to escape and get away. Now that might involve the bottom man having some control skills, but the strategy is basically escape safely and leave.
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The kids love this exercise so much more than any of the other games, that it has become our primary form of randori with the kids - followed closely by standing flag judo ("Rooster tail").


Notice some of the high points: the little man in the first match does a great job of controlling the big man. Then, at about the 1:40 mark, the bottom man in the second match executes a great escape from having a guy on his back. In the last 2 matches, the bigger, more skilled player uses his skills to brush the attacker off so he can leave.
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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 木蓮
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Aikido releases in bagua

Fair warning - I don't do bagua, I do aikido, so these opinions may just be the ravings of a sick, sick mind, but...  A few days ago, Dojo Rat posted a article on the importance of Structure and I commented that when I watch Bagua circle walking I see aikido releases.  There was some follow-up to this thread.
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Anyway, here is a piece of a vid I scraped off of YouTube of some wooly-looking dude doing some circle walking.  Again, I don't do bagua, so I can't comment on the quality of his performance, but I have labeled a few of the releases that I see in this circle.

A note about my shorthand: There are 10 basic releases in our flavor of aikido.  The first eight I call R1, R2, R3, etc...  The last two, I call YK1 and YK2 because these two releases are the first two techniques of Yon Kata (Koryu Dai Yon kata).
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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 木蓮
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Frankly my dear...


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

I attended a seminar with a very high-ranked instructor who dropped this really interesting idea on the participants. He said that when his students complain about not understanding what they are doing, he tells them something to the effect of...
"I absolutely don't give a damn if you ever consciously understand what I'm teaching. I'm teaching your subconscious to protect you automatically in dangerous situations where your conscious mind can't."

I've thought about that one for a long time. What do you think are the pros and cons of this sort of teaching philosophy?
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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 木蓮
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Most common habitual acts of violence


Sets of goshin jitsu (self defense techniques) like the Kodokan Goshin Jutsu are very common among martial arts.  Most of these goshin jitsu sets have several features in common:
  • They are basically a nod toward situational, reality-based self-defense (RBSD)
  • They are designed to defend against common, realistic attacks "on the street"
  • They are often fairly limited in scope, making no attempt to be encyclopedic or comprehensive.
  • They are suggestive or illustrative of concepts or principles that can be effectively applied against classes of attacks
Here's an interesting thing to think about.  Following is a list of the most commonly experienced violent attacks.  This is derived from a UK study a few years ago, but you can find similar lists on the net - particularly if you search for something like, "most common violent attacks."  These lists are organized from most common to less common...

 
Male vs. male:
  • Push to chest followed by a punch
  • Punch (usually a haymaker) thrown without preceding physical technique
  • Chest/lapel grab followed by punch
  • Two-handed chest/lapel grab followed by headbutt
  • Two-handed chest/lapel grab followed by knee to groin
  • Bottle, glass, or ashtray to head
  • Lashing kick to lower legs
  • Stabbing the face with broken bottle/glass
  • Side head lock
  • Front head lock
Male (assailant) vs. female:
  • Single hand grab of victim's raised wrist, gesticulating with other hand
  • Grab of one wrist and the opposite upper arm, victim's arms pointing down
  • Victim raises both arms, attacker grabs one wrist in each hand
  • Victim's arms are down, attacker grabs both upper arms
  • Two hands grab one arm, at wrist and upper arm simultaneously

So, my questions for you, dear reader...
  • How does this list jive with your experience of things that are likely to happen "on the street?"
  • Do you know of any other studies besides the UK HAOV study that resulted in data like this?  perhaps more recent or specific to the US?
  • To what degree does your self-defence practice reference the most common attacks that you might expect to experience?
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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 木蓮
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Freaky scary kosotogari



Photo courtesy of Sportschule Tokio
You know something that is interesting is how on any given day, the simplest things that you have been doing every day since you started martial arts might be beyond your capacity.
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Yesterday it was the simple backfalling ukemi for kosotogari.  Nothing spectacular but the throw was really freaking me out for some reason.  Finally I realized that it was creeping me out so much that every time my partner set the throw up, I was sitting down before he had a chance to throw it - instinctively saving myself from having to fall from the real throw.
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Interesting... Haven't experienced this phenomenon that intensely for a while - especially with a white belt throw!
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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 木蓮
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Interactions: Posture and ma-ai



Photo courtesy of Postaletrice
I've mentioned before that posture affects ma-ai. Specifically, a wrestler's stance seems to draw the conflict in towards you, as opposed to a more upright stance, which seems to facilitate disengagement better. Here's another way of thinking about the same phenomenon.
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Get a partner and stand facing each other in natural, upright postures. Measure ma-ai (however you like to do it) - basically both people reach forward and stand so that your fingertips barely touch your partner's extended fingertips. Now, everyone keeps feet in the same place and hunkers down toward jigotai or toward a wrestler's stance. Measure again and you will see that you are well inside of ma-ai. It's likely that from this posture, uke can reach your wrists or forearms without moving his feet. Without moving your feet, you and your partner have broken ma-ai!
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This demonstration can be startling for some folks the first time you see it - it seems to mean that ma-ai is a fuzzy thing instead of an absolute thing. But when you think about it a bit, it's not so amazing. It just means that you can reach farther forward when you bend over at the knee and waist, using your butt as a counterbalance. But this does tell us a couple of important things about ma-ai.
  • Ma-ai is not a spherical boundary around your center. Instead, it is sort of ellipsoidal or egg-shaped. Try this experiment - stand with your feet side-by-side and measure how far you can reach forward before you have to move your feet. Now measure how far you can reach to the side before you move your feet. Ma-ai is slightly larger to your front than it is to your sides and rear.
  • Don't let uke crouch at ma-ai in preparation to attack. If you think that uke is just barely outside of ma-ai but you allow him to crouch in preparation, he's actually closer than ma-ai and he can spring across ma-ai before you can move. If you are watching for uke to move across that line before you react, you'd better react if he steps on the line and crouches! That counts as breaking ma-ai.
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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 木蓮
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Seen it, felt it, learned it, & still don't believe it

Every so often, an old conversation that I have had pops into my mind.  A lot of times, what it was that brought this memory to the surface, remains a mystery.
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Today I remembered a conversation I had a long time ago with a friend about deashibarai.  He'd seen some miraculous-looking video of my instructor throwing deashi seemingly effortlessly and getting uke about four feet into the air.  My friend was sure that uke had to be jumping, and that this particular deashi could not be done to a resistant person.
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I said, "I donno, I'm not as good as him, but I bet I can get you into the air."
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We did some randori and sure enough, I got him in the air a time or two.  He looked amazed so we worked for a while, showing him the particular timing and angle to hit the thing, and we traded throws back and forth until he could throw me about 3 feet into the air with it.  It was working sweetly for both of us by the time we finished.  I asked him what he thought of that and he replied,
"I've seen it...
you've done it to me...
and you've taught me how to do it...
but I still don't think it's possible to do it that way."
All I could do was shake my head and walk away.  It's funny how we (all people - not just him) deal with evidence and perception and prejudice.

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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 木蓮
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Junokata with Kano and Yamashita

Here's an old film I found on YouTube of Kano doing Junokata with Yamashita. I may have seen pieces of this before - it looks familiar. But I've certainly never seen Kano performing the whole shebang! Interesting that the formality and artistic arm-waving and all that does not look so mechanical and obtrusive in this performance as in some that I've seen. Looks like aikido in places, doesn't it? Also of interest is how remarkably relaxed and casual Kano looks between moves. The toris that you see nowadays are programmed to move like robots to the next position for the next technique.


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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 木蓮
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Precision is a fool's errand anyway


When you define kata exactly down to the smallest technical detail, like "step back with tsugiashi to the left 45 degrees, turning your centerline slightly leftward..." not only is that not working on principle (it's working on technical details), but it makes precision impossible to achieve.  There will always be variance from any precise technical standard you set up.  Not only can you not reach any precise technical hurdle you set up, but your performance and precision will get even worse under stress, causing you to miss the mark even farther.
 
But if you define the central forms of a kata like Goshin Jutsu using principles, like "evade, kuzushi, atemi, wakigatame" then there is sufficient room to act within those principles and achieve the aim of the kata.  In this case, precision is posible in the sense that a good tori can hit all of those principles in that order, even if it's not possible for him to duplicate the look and feel of the central form of the kata.

So, is this a success (tori was able to demonstrate the use of certain principles to diffuse the attack) or is it a failure (tori doesn't look like sensei)?
 
Engineers call this, "tolerance," and in this context, tolerance is a virtue.
 
More to come on why we really DO want to strive for precision in kata... 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 木蓮
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Kata, quality control, & mediocrity


In any quality control situation, you strive to remove variability from the system so that the system never varies below some preset control level - but in reducing variability you can also prevent the system from ever varying much above that level.  I wrote on a similar topic a while back. When you reduce variability you reduce the potential for excellence to emerge.
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Kata can be used as a quality control mechanism, assuring that the technical level of the practitioner never gets below a certain level - and that's not a bad thing, but if you spend so much of your time teaching to the test (the central form of the kata) that you don't get to play very much, then you may be precluding the potential for excellence beyond the level of the kata.
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That's okay if you want to believe that the kata is a perfect expression of principle devised by the martial arts demigods and delivered unchanged through the generations to us. But if you think that the kata might have been merely a pretty good expression of principle devised by pretty good practitioners and taught in ever-decreasing fidelity to all their successors, then striving toward the level of excellence represented by kata is just striving toward mediocrity.
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Personally, I think that kata is a vital training tool, but I prefer to have variability with the potential for excellence instead of the security of kata as quality control
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More to come on our ability to achieve precision in kata. 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 木蓮
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Of course Goshin Jutsu is a kata!

I've been doing blog-randori with LF for several days regarding whether or not Goshin Jutsu is a kata and how it should be practiced.  It's kinda like doing randori with him on the mat because he's so experienced and knowledgeable, I take a lot of falls.

Is GJ a kata?  Of COURSE it's a kata!  It has defined roles for uke and tori.  It is prearranged in that both partners know what's going to happen before they start.  Uke attacks a specific way and tori does a specific thing to diffuse the attack. That's kata.
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But what kind of kata is it?  By that I mean, what is it that is pre-arranged between the partners?  what sort of program is tori running in his body-mind to "do the technique?"  Let me use my favorite example of late - the first technique of Goshin Jutsu.  If you say GJ tells a story, is this technique this sort of story:
"Uke steps in (tsugiashi) from ma-ai with his right foot forward and grasps both of tori's wrists at the same time.  As uke attacks, tori slides (tsugiashi) backward 45 degrees to his left, pulling uke into offbalance in a line parallel to uke's feet and frees his right hand by pulling against uke's thumb.  Tori then executes a back-knuckle strike to uke's temple, grabs uke's right wrist with right hand on top and left hand below, turns his body 90 degrees to the right, and steps away from uke, applying wakigatame."
Or is it this kind of story:
"Uke steps in from ma-ai and grasps both of tori's wrists.  As uke attacks, tori evades offline, draws uke into offbalance, and frees his right hand.  Tori applies an atemi to distract uke and keep him at a distance, then applies wakigatame."
I say it is the second kind of story - a short story rather than a novella.  What is prearranged between the partners is not the exact, precise specifics (uke right foot forward, 45 degrees, tsugiashi, how to free the arm, which variant of wakigatame to do) but rather, the partners prearrange which principles are in play (evade, kuzushi, release, atemi, wakigatame).
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There is a standard, central form - the "kata form" - that illustrates a good way for those principles to be applied to solve the problem in question. But you do not have to apply the principles-in-play in the manner or order shown in the central form.  You might evade, atemi, atemi, evade, wakigatame and get a solution to the problem under study.  Or you might evade straight into wakigatame.  Or you might evade and end the encounter with atemi.  Even your evasion alone might create sufficient kuzushi to end the encounter.
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My point is, there is a cloud of potential techniques (instantiations of principles) surrounding each of the central forms in Goshin Jutsu.  I maintain that you have to get some sufficient number of repetitions of the central form, but that it is more profitable to explore the cloud surrounding that central form than it is to precisely re-create that central form over and over for the rest of your life.
 
...more to come regarding using kata for quality control.  Stay tuned...
 
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What would you fight for?



Photo courtesy of Publik16
This morning I had an interesting discussion with one of my co-workers. He made the statement...

"Fighting is stupid. It shows lack of intelligence just like using foul language shows lack of vocabulary."
It took a few moments for that to sink in - not because it's so profound, but just the opposite. It is so profoundly non-profound that my mind refused to process it for a few moments. I replied that in my opinion,

"Fighting does not show stupidity. Fighting the wrong battles shows stupidity."
He immediately admitted that he wasn't talking about self-defense, and rephrased, saying that fighting outside of self-defense is stupid. But I don't even think that's right. There are certainly battles beyond defense of the self that deserve to be fought. In fact, of all the possible just wars, self-defense might be the least important.
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I think that it is important to take time before the frenzy and blood and insanity starts to consider just what you think is worth fighting for. And I don't mean the new-age hippie definition of a fight as just some sort of social or political struggle. I mean real, honest, bloody VIOLENCE.
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In your opinion, what would be worth your becoming violent?
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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 木蓮
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Someone is wrong on the Internet

Someone sent me this a while back - this current conversation about Goshin Jutsu reminded me of this cartoon...




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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 木蓮
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Miyake the videorecorder



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Regarding Miyake teaching Goshin Jutsu the same way the three times that you worked with her on it,  I was only able to get to one of those seminars and I know you and your wife were more intimately involved with her teachings, but I've talked to several people who were at the last two Miyake Goshin Jutsu (1997 and sometime around 2008) seminars and they all confirmed independently that she taught the thing  vastly differently those two times.
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I didn't press them for details of the differences, but I imagine I can see what they're talking about.  It's inconceivable that she would practice the exact same thing the same way, like a human videorecorder for the ten years between those 2 seminars.  Hopefully she had more, better, and different insights at the second one than at the first one.  Had I gone to the second seminar and found that it was an exact reproduction of the first, that would have been sorta disappointing (though you could make a case for my perspective changing during those 10 years, making it not a waste of time.)
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Even within the one Miyake seminar I went to (ca1997), there was variation. Sure, she was working on the central form of each technique - the jumping off point as I called it - and wasn't delving into variation.  But there was still plenty of variation between repetition of techniques.  She was constantly saying (or implying in broken English) things like "here's how you do this and here's a bunch of different ways to make it better," or "Here's how the Kodokan people are doing this but here's how I like to do it because I'm a small woman."
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So, you say you saw the same thing every time (and who could argue with that?) but I saw variability within the one seminar I went to and I heard reports of more variability between the seminars.  Probably talking about the same thing in different accents - toMAtoe - TaMAHtoe - sort of thing.

More to come on what makes the thing the same or different (I say it has to do with staying within the general parameters and principles under study, while allowing exploration and variation around that theme)...
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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 木蓮
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Not Goshin Jutsu no kata

Hang onto your chairs, guys, I'm about to speak heresy again. ;-) 
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Last week I wrote a post in which I mentioned that in my understanding, Kodokan Goshin Jutsu is not really a kata, and doesn't have to be practiced like a kata.  Instead it can be practiced like a set of pointers or suggestions - starting points from which to diverge into self-defense practice.
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Well, it seems my article scandalized LF in Houston.  He responded pretty vigorously on his blog.  I respect LF's knowledge, and his experience - both of which are much more vast than mine.  But I hold to my assertion and I thank LF for his counterpoint - you've given me enough material to write about on my blog for a week!
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From day-one of my experience with Goshin Jutsu, my instructor emphasized to us that Kodokan Goshin Jutsu is not really a kata but a set of things to explore.  He made note of an interesting point that I'd like to bring up here.  If you look in the Kodokan Judo book, all the things that were conceived as formal kata bear the name, "________ no kata."  That is, you have nagenokata (forms of throwing), katamenokata (forms of holding), kimenokata (form of decision), etc...
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Then you have "Kodokan Goshin Jutsu" - not "Goshin Jutsu no kata..."  There are other exercises in judo that are sorta like kata but don't reach the level of formal kata - exercises like Kimishiki and Seiryoku Zenyo Kokumin Taiku.
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It seems like just the past few years that the judo powers-that-be have started standardizing the practice of Goshin Jutsu and promoting it as a kata.
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I'm not trying to put this forward the name of the thing as proof-positive of my point.  The naming of kata is not definitive, but it is suggestive of my point.  Names of things have power, otherwise there would have never been any feud over Tomiki using the name aikido for what he was teaching.  Names have meaning, otherwise Tomiki might just as well have stuck with the Aikikai naming scheme and we would be practicing ikkyo now instead of oshitaoshi.
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It also doesn't offend me if you want to treat this thing as a kata and practice it that way.  I prefer to use it as a jumping-off point.  I hope that doesn't provoke you to send a bunch of aiki-ninja from Houston to kill me in my sleep ;-)
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I figure to address (not disprove or discount) some more of LF's points over the course of several posts.  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 木蓮
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Metronomes doing aikido

I've posted this before, some time back.  Isn't it interesting?  Can you think of instances where you have seen two people behave like this?  Can you see the martial implications?


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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 木蓮
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Cool judo story: Kano vs. Mochizuki


A while back I was telling one of my students a story - one of the apocryphal legends. It had some bearing on some conversation I was having with him at the time. Anyway, I couldn't remember the names or details (as often happens), so I wrote a note to the one guy who I knew would remember the story I was talking about - Sensei Mike Denton of the Wind of Change Dojo in Charlotte NC. I wrote...
...I remember a judo legend about some badass young competitor back in the day who missed one of Kano's classes to attend (and win) two shiai in one weekend. He thought Kano would be proud of him for winning but Kano was pissed about him missing class and told him he didn't know anything about the real meaning of judo.
Do you remember the story i'm talking about? Do you remember the names or details?
Mike replied...
I am familiar with that story – I forget where I heard or read it…I THINK it may be from one of the interviews in the Pre-war Aikido Masters volume… I have that at home if you don’t… I think it’s Minoru Mochizuki
And Mike even went home and verified the details for me...
Turns out my hunch was right - it's Minoru Mochizuki on pp 103-104 of Aikido Masters: Prewar Students of Morihei Ueshiba (Aikido Masters, Volume 1),

Mochizuki talks about going to two judo tourneys and missing an appointment with Dr. Kano. He returns home, and his sister reminds him of the appointment. He says that Kano planned his day down to the second, so he rushes over to Sensei's house. He forgets his wallet and because he has to change trains, he has to convince two different conductors to let him ride. The first time he says was less embarrassing because he didn't realize he didn't have money when he jumped on, but it was very difficult the second time because he knew he didn't have money when he got on.
He arrives about 2 1/2 hours late and is worried about the scolding he will get. Kano changes into formal wear to meet him (a fact that impressed him since he was 50 years Kano's junior). Kano studies Mochizuki's face and asks if he is sick. Mochizuki explains that he was in and won two tournaments that day. He then says there must have been pride in his voice, because Kano's tone changes completely.
Kano asks Mochizuki what he thinks "tournaments are anyway?" Mochizuki cannot understand why Kano is mad that he has won twice. "We write shiai with characters which mean 'try out together.'" Kano continues to explain that shiai is part of the system in order to test one's strength at any given time. "Does it take you two times in one day to do that?"
Mochizuki reflects, "I'd just been out there to win. I hadn't given any thought to the idea of trying out my strength." Kano continues his scolding, "You have a mistaken understanding of judo. Competition is not some sort of game you do for fun. With that kind of attitude, you'll never be a good instructor."
Yep, that's the story. Thanks, Mike! I'd forgotten the part about the train ride and about Kano getting dressed up for their meeting. That's impressive.




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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 木蓮
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Critics, What are they good for?

Roosevelt's famous critic quote that I mentioned in a comment to the previous post...
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." "Citizenship in a Republic," Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Regardless of what one thinks of Tomiki's aikido legacy, he certainly could never be called a "cold and timid soul who knew neither victory nor defeat."
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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 木蓮
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Tomiki Sensei performing Junana

Here's an interesting demonstration of Junana Hon Kata with Tomiki Sensei as tori and Ohba as uke. I've seen this before, long ago, on VHS, but haven't seen it on YouTube. I've heard instructors say that his demonstration here is so incredibly poor that if they had been his instructor they would have never given him a black belt based on this performance. (Notice the one-star rating on YouTube.)
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Perhaps that is too harsh. Certainly Tomiki Sensei knew more than he showed in this demo. I've thought occasionally over the years various reasons (excuses?) trying to figure out why this demo is not that impressive.
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Was it because of advancing age? Perhaps he had to move slowly and simply because of primative video equipment? Maybe he was trying to demonstrate something other than what we are trying to see in the demo or maybe it just doesn't look like the way we prefer to teach it. In any case, it is interesting and educational to watch.

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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 木蓮
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Interactions: Ma-ai and the aiki brushoff


"What block would you use to stop a 400lb linebacker who was charging at you?"

This question was posed to me very soon after I started doing TKD as a teenager.  Even at that early point, I knew it was a trick question.  I knew that, "None.  I'd get out of his way," was the right answer.  Our instructor emphasized the wisdom of getting out of the way, but that strategy was pretty much left undeveloped in TKD.  Even though I could recite the right answer, I still got run over a lot.
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Later I got into karate and learned some more sophisticated angles and footwork and they expanded on this idea, saying,  "Wait till the last moment to get out of the way so they don't have time to adjust." It was better, but I still got hit a lot.
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Then I got into aikido and judo and we began a decades-long study of space and time in attacking.  We call it ma-ai, and every single aikido class emphasizes this principle.  I've heard folks say that the biggest difference between aikido and other martial arts, the thing that aikido emphasizes that other arts don't, is ma-ai - encounter  time and space.
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After I started this more rigorous study of ma-ai, I started noticing the difference between really masterful karateka and merely competent karateka, is that the masters have an amazing, precise understanding of ma-ai.  They absolutely know when they are within your reach and when they are not.  Same with judo - y'all ought to watch Rhadi Ferguson's Morotegari DVD to see how a great understanding of ma-ai (among other things) made him a master of morotegari.
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Ma-ai is the difference between aikido and not-aikido.  Ma-ai is the difference between masterful karate and basic karate.  Ma-ai is the difference between regional-level and Olympic-level judo.  Ma-ai is that important.
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But I think ma-ai is still left  mostly undeveloped even in otherwise very good aikido (and karate and judo) players.
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Back to the original question - the 400lb linebacker.  Is it sufficient to step out of his way at just the right moment but to stay inside his reach?  Is it sufficient to say, "Ma-ai is really important, really the most important aspect of aikido" but only apply your understanding of ma-ai to the time when the attacker is "over there," and not, "right here?"  Is it okay to pay attention to ma-ai only until you engage with uke?
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I don't think so.
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When we started emphasizing that tori wants to maintain ma-ai to the best of his ability, evade when uke breaks ma-ai, and push back away from uke to regain ma-ai, a whole new world of aiki opened up to us.  Maintain - evade - regain.
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I know that I sound like a broken record to my long-time readers, but the aiki brushoff is crucially important as the completion of the concept of ma-ai.  I would recommend (again) that you spend a month or so of dedicated practice on this idea of evade, push-back, and run away - and see what it does for your aikido (or karate).
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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 木蓮
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Other blogs (not as good as mine, but they try awfully hard!) :-)