Current events

  • Fall Aiki Buddies Gathering - Starkville. (November 14-15)
  • Winter Clinic @ Windsong (Matl, Lowry, Rea, Bieler, Parker) - Dec 27-30

Help support Mokuren dojo

Helpful handful; 3 most common hip throw mistakes

Photo courtesy of Mundoo

One of the distinctive features of judo is its many varied forms of hipthrows.  Judo has named hip throws from every conceivable grip with the thrower standing on two legs or one.  But despite teh amazing variety of hip throw techniques in judo, they are all doing about the same thing - planting a fulcrum (tori's hip) against uke's body, taking a grip somewhere on uke's upper body, and using that grip to spin uke around the fulcrum.
.
When you are learning to do hip throws it seems like there are an impossible number of things to remember - where to put each hand, where to put each foot, what part of your hip to place against uke and where to put your hip, etc...  But it turns out that there are only about 3 things that you can possibly mess up with a hip throw.

  • slippage in the grip - If you do not have a good, tight connection to uke's upper body then he can slip around in your arms and escape or your fulcrum might slip upward on his body, reducing your leverage and making the throw harder.  Whatever type of grip you are taking on uke, make sure to take all the slack out from between him and you.
  • misplaced hip - your hip is the fulcrum that you will spin uke around.  Generally you want your hips lower than uke's, and you want to place the correct part of the hip depending on the type of throw (side of hip or back of hip) so that uke doesn't slip to either side.
  • misplaced feet - you have to set your feet so that your weight and his is borne through your legs into the ground efficiently.  This generally means getting your feet closer than hip-width apart and making sure that your feet and knees and hips are all pointing in the same direction.
  • I think you'll find, as I did, that the first of these three common mistakes is the easiest to fix - just take a tighter grip with less slack.  The second two mistakes take a lot of repetition and experience to correct such that you can step into uke and get the correct hip and foot placement on the fly.
  • This is where uchikomi becomes most valuable - uke does not have to take a pounding for tori to learn to set his feet and hip properly.  In fact, only doing nagekomi when learning hip throws slows you down and punishes uke unnecessarily.  You can learn proper hip and foot placement much, much faster doing uchikomi and picking uke up to the edge of falling then setting him back on his feet.  Also, when tori is inexperienced at setting feet and hips properly, he has to apply much more force to uke to make the hip throw work, and this leads to more awkward, punishing falls.  Learn hipthrows using uchikomi and when you do start throwing nagekomi the ukemi will not be as bad.




____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

How to get kids to slap when they fall

I had another triumph last night at the kids' judo class.  This one was about how to get kids to slap properly when they fall.  We'd been through all the standard exercises - rock on the back and slap, sidefall and slap big, etc...  I'd told them to, "swing big," and "hit the mat harder than it hits you," and all that. But in forward rolls and airfalls, most of them would still either slap with the backs of their hands or curl the arms up against their bodies and then land on them.  I'd just about worn my voice out, telling them, "don't land on your arm!"
.
Then it came to me.  I put a spotter in  to hold the hand of the lead (rolling) arm, and just before they would roll I'd have them give the spotter five with their free hand.  Each time they slapped the spotter's hand I'd say, "This is your slapping hand."  The fix was immediate and complete.  100% of the kids stopped landing on arms and started landing on their sides, slapping big, and slapping with their palms instead of their knuckles!
.
There are lots of this sort of breakthrough in teaching martial arts.  Instructors strive for the right way to say it or demonstrate it to get the idea through the students' skulls, then suddenly the students get it perfect, as if you'd just now told them the right thing to do for the first time.  One of my instructors long ago liked to say, "apparently the speed of sound is different for everyone because I've been telling you this same thing for years and my words have just now gotten to some of you."

____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Immunization against being thrown

Photo courtesy of Tcg3j
Have any of y'all noticed that in a room full of aikidoka, the person that has taken the greatest amount of light, compliant ukemi is often the hardest guy to throw against his will?
.
That's just the way it works.  Some instructors have suggested that taking thousands of light, compliant falls for a specific throw is a lot like being immunized against that throw.
.
That's part of the reason that we practice with partners instead of opponents and why we preach for uke to be compliant (there's other reasons too).  Even if you're not learning anything else (but you really are), then you are at least learning:
  • how to survive being thrown, and
  • how not to be thrown when you don't want to be

____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Questions about innovation in aikido

Photo courtesy of Can3ro55o
Is aikido perfect just the way it was handed down from Morihei Ueshiba? Was Ueshiba's magical aikido transmitted to your teacher and on to you with perfect fidelity?
.
Where does the innovation in the art come from? That is, who is in charge of innovating; every individual aikidoka? the mid-level instructors? only the greatest masters? Who owns aikido, along with the rights to preserve or change it?
.
In what other form of art is the object to faithfully reproduce the master's skill and performance?
.
I don't know what your answers are - I'm not even wholly sure what my own answers to these questions would be, but the traditional Japanese answer is shuhari - the three-stages of learning

  • Shu - to keep - your object is to learn to copy your master's skills with as perfect a fidelity as possible. This stage generally lasts to some rank around shodan (first black belt)
  • Ha - to break - After about shodan, you are given progressively more freedom to adapt the art to your own body and personality and preferences, while staying within the confines of your master's system and framework for the art. This stage generally lasts from about nidan (2nd black belt) to godan (5th black belt) or longer.
  • Ri - to leave - Eventually you are expected to transcend your master's understanding of the art, creating your own personal expression of what the art is. Many practitioners never get to this level, but if they do, it is typically after rokudan (6th black belt).
What do you think?

____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Stake standing seems to be tadasana

Lately, Mondays have been my day to post a yoga idea.  Here's what I've been thinking about and working on lately - actually it's a martial arts/yoga crossover.


What got me thinking more about this standing introspection thing is Rick's repeated insistence that the Stake Standing practice found in some Chinese internal martial arts had benefited him in other areas, including relaxation within his martial arts techniques.


____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Explode early or ooze?

Photo courtesy of Simmr
For years now (nearly 20), one of my main ideas in newaza with respect to escaping hold-downs has been to see the hold coming and to explode into the proper escape technique just before the opponent got completely into it.  Of course, I could still do the technical, methodical, high-leverage, maximal-efficiency escapes, but I was taught and I have been teaching that the escapes happen best when you pull the trigger just before the holder gets set. And that's a pretty good way to teach escapes.
.
But it's been working differently for me lately.  Lately I find more and more times when I don't see the hold coming and he's pretty well settled before I can pull the trigger on the escape.  In these instances I'm finding that my strength is not as explosive as it once was, so my age-old strategy has been getting me bogged down under people.
.
But I've still been coming out on top a lot of the time - just not by exploding early.  I have found that I have been having good success controlling the top man's position so that I'm not taking as much punishment, and using that time to relax, take a breath, let it out, find the weakness in the hold, and start oozing or rolling or sliding toward that weakness.
.
Different strategy for me - been having good success with it.

____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Posture facilitates relaxation

One of the best ways I know of starting to relax in the context of martial arts is to get your posture working properly.  Here is an article I wrote some time back on correcting posture starting at the feet, since that's where we directly interact with the largest force (gravity) and the largest object (the Earth) in our lives.   Following are a couple of good videos about getting posture working rightly starting from the shoulders.  Matt A. at Ikigai turned me onto the Esther Gokhale video some months ago, and I've really found it helpful.





____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Can you rise and fall at the same time?

Photo courtesy of ISAFMedia
One of the strangest phenomena in aikido (and judo and karate, etc...) is the motion of the Center of Gravity (COG) of the body as we move around.  Consider this example...
.
From a natural, upright, relaxed posture (shizentai), take one sliding step (tsugiashi) forward a couple of feet with the left leg, then bring the right leg up under your center.  During the first part of this step, as your left leg is moving, is your center of gravity rising or falling?
.
Falling, right?  Sort of...  But it's also rising at the same time!  How can your center of gravity be both falling and rising at the same time?
.
As you take the first part of that step, your center of mass (approximated by the knot of your belt) gets closer to the ground.  voila - your center is falling!
.
But as you separate your legs to take the step, your knees and the bottoms of your feet get closer to the top of your head.  This means the mass of your legs is moving upward, floating your center of gravity along with it.  Your center is no longer approximately under your belt knot - it has risen some.  Voila - your center is rising!
.
Rising and falling at the same time!  Now that's odd!  But what does it mean in a practical sense?

____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Rob Redmond's Folk Dances of Shotokan

In case you've somehow missed out, Rob Redmond has made his very informative and detailed Folk Dances of Shotokan book available for free to download as a PDF.  If you are interested in karate kata, this is a valuable resource with a unique and interesting perspective.
.
____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Lenten Challenge at Mokuren Dojo

Rick at Cook Ding's Kitchen has issued his yearly Lenten Martial Arts Challenge.  The challenge is to work out every day during Lent - no exceptions - no excuses.  I figure to ramp up my yoga practice from nearly-daily to daily, and I am also going to ramp up my aikido walking kata practice from my current 4-5 reps/week to 2-3 reps/daily.  As a guide to my walking kata practice, I'll be going back to my list of 100 Terrific Things to Try in Tegatana, and focussing on each of the hints for 1-2 reps.
.
I don't figure to bore y'all with the daily details but I'm liable to update y'all every so often in addition to maybe posting insights that excite me about the walking kata whenever they come to me.
.
Anyone interested in taking Rick up on his Lenten Challenge?  Hop on over there and check it out.

____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

The 10-minute rule for exercise

Face it, we hate to exercise - otherwise 2/3 of us wouldn't be overweight and 1/3 of us wouldn't be Type II diabetic and 3/4 of us wouldn't be sedentary and half of us wouldn't die of heart disease.  Exercise is pretty low on most folks' list of things to do today.  But we have to get some regular exercise if we don't want to face that long, slow, painful decline.
.
I have this guideline for the particularly bad days when I can't convince my mind to kick my butt into gear.  I call it the 10-minute rule.  I do my exercise routine for 10 minutes and at the end of 10 minutes I decide whether or not I feel better.  It almost always works, at least for me and at least for the exercise modalities that I prefer (yoga, judo, aikido).  It's pretty easy to find something in the first ten minutes that is so stimulating that it motivates me to keep going.
.
And on those days that it doesn't work - just don't exercise.  I figure if your mind and spirit are so out of it that 10 minutes won't pique your interest, you need rest more than exercise.  And if nothing else, you just got ten minutes of exercise, which is more than 3/4 of the population will get today!
.
So, some on!  You can do it for 10 minutes!  Then you can decide if you want to do some more.

____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Six qualities of a master


Eric Pierson posts a lot of exceptional material on his blog, but I think this was the most intriguing post I've seen there for a while -

The Six Qualities of Painting

  • To display brushstroke power with good brushwork control
  • To posses sturdy simplicity with refinement of true talent
  • To possess delicacy of skill with vigor of execution.
  • To exhibit originality, even to the point of eccentricity, without violating the li(the principles or essence) of things.
  • In rendering space by leaving the silk or paper untouched, to be able nevertheless to convey nuances of tone.
  • On the flatness of the picture plane, to achieve depth and space.
- "Lu Ch'ang"
If I may take the liberty of rephrasing this in the context of aikido, I'd say that six cardinal qualities of masterful aikido (perhaps not the only six) include -
  • demonstrate the art with both power and fine control
  • embody simplicity, economy, and efficiency in effective techniques
  • demonstrate refined, gentle, lightness-of-touch within a vigorous practice
  • exhibit eccentric originality, but still be recognizable (by other masters)
  • convey nuance through restraint - not just appropriate action, but appropriate inaction
  • convey the depth of the infinite potential of the art within the finite system
The fourth quality is really the one that wowed me the most. Notice that in my refinement of the wording I made eccentricity necessary for the master, rather than merely a possible extent of the master's creativity. The art of a true master is at once eccentric, exciting, unpredictable, amazing, unexpected, and challenging!
.
A band director once got to lecturing us about how to play masterful jazz. He said that the trick is not in the sounded notes, but in the rests (quality #5). He went on to play a given piece with subtle variation in the rests, illustrating his point.
.
As a last point to think about, notice that several of these qualities represent spectra, or sliding scales - powerful but controlled, gentle but vigorous, eccentric but familiar, active, but resting. The master of an artform optimizes all these sliding scales in every moment - in every instance of the art.
.
____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Yoga - standing vs. groundwork

Photo courtesy of Angela
I much prefer seated yoga, or groundwork over standing yoga. I suppose both are necessary for a well-rounded practice, but the seated yoga has always felt better for me. It's as if the standing practices are an exercise in breaking my body like you'd break a horse to subjugate its will to yours, while the seated yoga might be likened to gentling or whispering a horse (not that I really know anything about that either).
.
Anyway, I still try to get 2-3 days of standing practice per week, but I look forward to the seated days.


____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Nasty driving conditions for class time

It might not be 3 feet of snow, like some parts of the nation have gotten in the last few days, but southerners suck at snow and ice driving, so be careful.
.
I figure y'all probably have sense enough to NOT show up for kids' judo and adult aikido tonight, since it's been sleeting since mid-morning and we expect snow beginning midafternoon and intensifying after dark, maybe accumulating as much as 2-7 inches.
.
If you do show up, I'll be there and we can have class, but come on, martial arts are about self-protection anyway, so play it smart and stay at home and I'll hope to see you Saturday or next Tuesday.
 
____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

More on teaching kids ashiwaza

Photo courtesy of Ella Novak
Last night I was super-pleased with the kids' performance in judo class. For a while I've been trying a couple of new things in teaching them -
  • first, I've been teaching more generalized motions that tend to result in a footsweep-like throw instead of trying to teach them all the right motions to make each particular named throw.
  • second, I've been doing more uchikomi (which I hate for adult practices, but kids get uchikomi faster and easier than nagekomi) with emphasis on only 4 throws - deashi/kosoto, osotogari, koshiguruma, and a leg pick
Well last night, I worked a slightly diffeerent angle on the first idea above. I told the kids to close their eyes and stand on one leg. Whichever leg a kid picked up we called that leg their "swinging leg" and the other leg we called their "standing leg." I told them that they would always only be sweeping with their swinging leg no matter what the other guy did.
.
Then we worked on a general motion like in the link above:
  • push uke so he takes a step back
  • use your swinging leg to grab the ankle of the foot closest to you
  • push them butt-first into the ground
This resulted in them consistently getting either deashibarai or kouchigari, dependent on which foot uke stepped back with. Worked like a charm. There were a whole lot of judo midgets hitting the ground and getting back up! I bet I could do the same thing with a different swinging motion and get them throwing osotogari and ouchigari!


____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Pat McCarthy's Koryu Uchinadi


____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Turning sacred cows into cheeseburgers



Every martial art makes presuppositions and every martial art is based on principles that practitioners say make the art work.
.
In aikido, it's things like ma-ai, kuzushi, get offline, unbendable arm, etc...
.
In judo, it's things like get proper grips to facilitate your tokuiwaza and nullify the opponent's, kuzushi, forward-backward combinations, don't try sacrifices against larger or higher ranked opponents, etc...
.
In karate, it might be things like "don't hit first but never hit soft," ideas about what parts of the anatomy are weakest, or axioms like "never kick above the waist, never punch below the waist."
.
How about one of my favorites...

"All rules are made to be broken."

In your martial art, what are the 1-2 most fundamental assumptions or inviolable principles?
.
What if you slaughtered those sacred cows? What if you built the system up from a different fundamental assumption? What if you made the inviolable laws into flexible guidelines?
.
How can you break your own rules in order to achieve more effect, better effect, or more artistic effect?



Working out in the morning vs. evening

Photo courtesy of Sami Taipale
It seems that there are morning people and non-morning people. I have always considered myself a non-morning person. I always thoroughly resisted morning workouts but in the past year or so I took on a 7am Saturdays private aikido/judo class and I changed my yoga schedule from some evenings to most mornings at 6am. Some mornings I'm still resistant to working out (especially judo and especially in cold weather) but for the most part, the change seems to have improved my practices.
.
Yoga is this strange mind-body unity thing and a lot of times it seems like my mind and body are on different schedules. In the mornings (after a few minutes of waking) my mind is clear and sharp but my body is cold and stiff. In the evenings my body is often warmer and looser but my mind is fatigued from the day.
.
I've done aikido and judo for so long now that I almost always slip instantly into that here-and-now mode that the Japanese call mushin whenever I step onto the mat, regardless of the time of day. So the mental aspect doesn't seem to manifest itself in the martial domain, but I do notice in yoga that mental and physical readiness is often opposite biorhythms. Maybe that's part of what makes yoga such a good morning thing for me - it seems to bring my sense of mental and physical wellbeing back toward the same rhythm.
.
How about you? What time of day do you like to work out? What difference does timing make in your routine?
____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Elvis and Ed Parker - Protecting the King

I watched a cool movie this weekend - Protecting the King. The movie chronicles Elvis' descent from being on top of the world into drug-induced paranoia.  The story is told from the point of view of Elvis' stepbrother, David Stanley, who spirals down the tubes right alongside Elvis but who finally is thrown free of the destructive spiral by Elvis' death.  For more on this story, see Wikipedia.

The best scene in the whole film was this scene in which American Kenpo Grandmaster, Ed Parker (played by his early student, Larry Tatum), dismantles several of his students in a demonstration for Elvis and  David Stanley.

Sound interesting?  You can get the film pretty inexpensively from my Amazon store:


____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Dojime - keep this in mind

In my syllabus I refer to the BJJ guard as the Japanese Judo technique, dojime. In our BJJ-inspired descent into ever more technical guard-work it can be easy to forget about the sheer, gruesome, bone-rending vice that is the original intent of dojime.
.
Make no mistake. This technique creates enough mechanical advantage to squeeze the oatmeal out of both ends of the victim, pushing rib bones and organs along for the ride. As such, dojime is illegal in randori and competition and you guys had better not try to play this thing at my dojo. But as a reminder of the intent and potential of this technique, while we practice the technical "guardwork," we call it dojime instead of "the guard." Whenever you hear me refer to the guard as dojime, stick a mental Post-It in your brain so you can remember that then the grits hit the fan, you might want to crush the ever-lovin' snot out of your enemy.
.
Following are a couple of demonstrations of dojime (the body strangle) and a fundamental way to break dojime.


____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

How aikido has made me a better surgeon


[The following is a guest post from my student and friend, Dr. Kel Feind. Very interesting take on what kata is and some of the benefits of doing kata - PLP]
.
Tomiki aikido is widely practiced by martial art enthusiasts throughout the United States. I have practiced in dojo in Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and now in Mississippi for the past 5 years or so. Recently, I began to notice how principles and practices in aikido have improved my surgical techniques.

Kata is a Japanese word loosely defined as "form." As practiced in Aikido, kata refers to the many different stylized movements that can be encountered in a martial contest. By breaking down the movements into their basic building blocks, one develops nerve, joint, and muscle memory that is called upon during freeform martial interactions, or randori. These principles (but not the word) are found in many different sports. Golf and tennis both are built on stylized movements that are practiced while learning how to play the game. Football and baseball is also improved by practicing drills that improve quickness and coordination on the field. And in performing highly complex surgical procedures, I have realized that the principles of kata can inform and improve my practice in this arena as well.

A surgical procedure is best performed precisely, quickly, and as close to the same way in every patient. By doing it the same way each time, one minimizes mistakes, improves technique, and limits patient discomfort and risk. Since I began practicing Tomiki aikido (especially in Mississippi) I have realized that thinking about surgery as a kata has improved my skills in the operating room. Surgery can be broken down into a series of events: holding a scalpel, tying a knot, using different instruments, directing assistants, moving items from one hand to the other, are all preformed stylized rituals that are strung together in an operation. Thinking about them as parts of a kata has made them flow more smoothly and be performed with greater success than just jumping into an operation without this practice or method.

The other aspect of kata that is surprising is it's similarity to meditation. I can't prove it but suspect that both are heavily "right brained" activities. Meditation "turns off" your left brain. By repeating a mantra you overpower the chattering left half of your brain and your right side takes over. In kata too, the right brain seems to take over. It would be interesting to perform EEGs on aikidoka to learn more about what happens during kata. In performing surgery as a kata, it becomes less stressful and in some ways more meditative. That's not to say that there is less awareness in what is going on but it say that there is less distraction created by my left brain chatter.

[This article realy interested me because I'm always looking for interesting ways that aikido interacts with other specific activities (like aikido and baseball or aikido in the office) and with life in general. To some degree, Kel's article disagrees with some of what I was saying in my recent article on Kata and quality control - but that doesn't make either of them wrong. In fact, that just makes both viewpoints more interesting. Thanks for a great guest post, Kel - PLP]
____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Adventures in yoga

Recently, Sensei Strange posted about one of his latest undertakings - kyudo - Japanese archery.  In his post he discussed what it was like to be a beginner again after having been an aikido teacher for quite a while now.  I applaud that! Kudos!  It can be a difficult thing to take off the instructor role and approach a new thing as just that - a new thing.
.
My thing that I am a perpetual noob at is yoga.  I've been doing it most days for about 7 years now, but every session still surprises me.  Every practice shows me something about myself that I hadn't thought much (if at all) about before.
.
I've been thinking for a while now about adding a regular yoga feature here at the Mokuren Dojo blog - not because I teach it (I don't), and not so much because I have a niche of readers ravenous for yoga insight (I don't know how many yogi-readers I have), but more because it will help me organize my own lifestyle practices and ideas and because someone else might get something from it as a sort of side-effect.
.
It also seems like yoga will naturally dovetail with the topics already in play at Mokuren Dojo.  The word yoga means something like 'unity', while aikido refers to 'harmony', judo refers to 'gentle pliability', and sanchin (a karate concept) refers to 'unifying mind, body, and breath'.
.
Namaste
____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Corrolaries to the position-choke-armbar rule

Photo courtesy of Anthony Goto
A quick thought about defending chokes and armbars...
.
If you buy into the idea that I presented some time back, that the action in newaza randori often tends to flow from position to choke to armbar, then a couple of ideas follow:
  • One of the best ways to avoid getting caught in armbars is to avoid using your arms to fight against chokes.
  • If you're not going to use your arms to fight chokes, then you will have to reposition your body to prevent the choke.
And now we're back to another idea that I presented a while back... position before submission.
.
Not only does position lead to choke then to armbar, but positional dominance also helps to shut down the choke, breaking that position-choke-armbar cycle.
.
Mobility and positional dominance are the mother and father of groundwork skills. 


____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Aikido is NEAT

Photo courtesy of Encontrogerminar
In my most popular post ever, I mentioned that I thought aikido is not especially good as exercise - at least not compared to judo. Aikido excels at many other things, but it is relatively non-vigorous for the most part.
.
Well, this morning I was reading through the USA Today and they mentioned a couple of new studies that have recently been published in the journal, Circulation. Apparently these researchers followed their Australian and Canadian subjects over the course of six to twelve years watching the amount of time that they sit around doing nothing and comparing that to various health outcomes. What they showed was remarkable!
.
In this study population, positive health outcomes were associated with the amount of time the subjects spent standing up but not exercising. In the exercise physiology jargon, this is called Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), meaning that you are neither sitting nor exercising - you're standing and walking around but doing too little to be considered exercise.
..
These folks found that replacing 1 hour/day of sitting with NEAT reduced sudden cardiac death by as much as 18%! That's HUGE! By way of comparison...
  • after a heart attack it is standard practice to put the patient on a beta blocker. These are the best medicines around for this population. Statistically they reduce these patients' chances of having another heart attack by 20-25%
  • comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation programs have also been shown to reduce the chances of negative outcomes (like second heart attacks) by about 20-25%
  • Now these guys have shown that just GETTING OFF YOUR BUTT for an hour per day - even if you're not exercising - can reduce your chances by as much as 18%!
I'd just like to point out that aikido is NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). Most of your time is spent standing and walking around, but not to any level of exertion that could really be called exercise. Every so often this standing and walking is punctuated by falling down and getting back up, and if the frequency of falling is great enough then aikido can become honest exercise, but for the most part, aikido is just NEAT!
.
So, if you're looking to replace an hour per day of butt-sitting with an activity that is fabulously interesting and rewarding on a lot of different levels, you might consider aikido.
.
____________
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
____________
Subscribe now for free updates from Mokuren Dojo
____________
Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

Other blogs (not as good as mine, but they try awfully hard!) :-)