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When your only tool is a hammer...

An acquaintence of mine (we'll call him A), who has done a good bit of boxing, recently got in a fight with a drunk friend of his (call him B).  From what I heard it sounded like classic monkey dance behavior...  B bumped A, A said, "look what you're doing," B chest-bumped A even harder, A grabbed B's throat and was more assertive verbally, B punched A in the face, A hook punched B and broke B's jaw.
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Seems mostly like clear-cut self-defense (at least as clear-cut as monkey dances in bars between drunk young men get) but now there are all these potential consequences that were unforseen to them at the time.
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I think (just from what little I heard) that the broken jaw was probably justifiable, but it sure would have been nice for him to have had some options...

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What is karate?

Really nice demonstration of some American Kenpo. I think this is pretty close to the epitome of modern karate. No, I don't do Ed Parker Kenpo, but if I were to start over in karate and had the opportunity, I'm pretty sure this is what I'd choose to be doing.  As it is, I study Parker's Kenpo thru books and video, seeking to apply his principles to my karate and I think it would do a lot of modern karate folks a lot of good to do likewise.
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Of particular interest to me is Planas' demonstration of Shield and Mace, beginning at 2:00. Notice that this is a very direct and very elegant bunkai for parts of Tekki/Naihanchi.  I think if you look carefully, you'll also recognize the circular motions in Sanchin or Heian Sandan.


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Seishiro Endo ushirowaza

 This is outstanding - both his explanation of the principle in the first 3/4 of the film and the beautiful, fluid quality of the motion in his demonstration at the very end.
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Because of the structure of the teaching system in Tomikiryu, we rarely get much concentrated practice on ushirowaza, so this fall at the Aiki Buddies Gathering in October I will be teaching ushirowaza with an emphasis on the principles and structure of the ideas underlying the ushirowaza. Look for more details on the ABG here in the upcoming weeks.

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Kata interrupted

Here's you a great karate exercise that will improve your kata as well as your self-defense.  You will need a partner, a kata, and a set of self-defense techniques (goshinjutsu).
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Here's what you do - you do your kata and at random times your partner will interrupt your kata by attacking you in various ways - a bearhug, wrist grab, etc...  The attack doesn't have to have anything to do with the kata or its bunkai.  It's just a random attack at some inopportune time while you're doing something else.
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When your partner disrupts your kata by attacking, you do an appropriate self-defense response from your set of goshinjutsu, then return to your kata right where you left off.
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This way you get to practice your goshinjutsu from weird times and positions and you have to maintain the presence of mind to jump right back into the kata when you have dispatched each attack.
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Try this for a change of pace and let me know what you think.

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The tipping point in kids' judo


For a while, young kids should play a games-based judo approach. Fun preparations that build strength and coordination and familiarity with judo.  But then at some point they have to move to "real judo."  I'm not talking about adult judo - we start kids in regular adult classes at about age 13, depending on their physical size and maturity.  I'm talking about an intermediate level between games-based judo and actual judo technique.
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One indicator that they are ready to step it up a level from games to real judo, is that they understand and can abide by the gentleman's agreement at the heart of judo.  I've mentioned this Judo gentleman's rule before.
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The most central rule to judo practice is that if I am going to allow you to use my body to learn to throw hard and fast then you must save me at the end.  You can throw with force, but you must support me and help me get into the proper landing position.
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Without people abiding by this rule, judo falls apart and cannot be practiced.  When kids are progressively demonstrating that they can take better and better care of their ukes, they can be taught progressively more vigorous judo.
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Whit (age 9) is getting to this point and Knox (age 6) understands but can't get the skills together.  I suspect these are typical ages for these skill development levels.

[photo courtesy of Stefan Schmitz]

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Judo playday practice points

Yesterday we had an excellent judo playday here at Mokuren Dojo with regional judoka each bringing something to try out on new bodies.  We had a couple of folk from Mokuren Dojo, four from Starkville, and one from Denham Springs.  Stuff we worked on includes...

  • Your arms move only you - pulling yourself into throws.  We worked on osotogari and seoinage as specific examples of this.
  • Up and down - deashi and taiotoshi are down throws.  They can be made to work as uke is rising but they work much better if he is already dropping.  But in the heat of battle it can be hard to get in synch and it can be easy to try to force these on the up.  Try kicking uke into a rise and then throwing these throws on the subsequent drop. This results in great combos like uchimata-taiotoshi and deashi-kosotogake.
  • Relax and don't resist - usually tori has to make a definite tsukuri step in order to attack.  If you watch for this tsukuri step then you can bump uke out of position with a little tap from either arm (your arms make short on-off piston motions at 90 degrees to each other).  The way to develop this is for one guy to only attack and the other to only defend (but relax and no resistance if you miss it and are thrown).
  • Inside series - usually deashi or kouchigari are the first things you can reach when you engage.  We work on deashi-kosoto combos a lot.  Yesterday we worked on kouchi-ouchi-uchimata-otoshi series that we don't play as much.

It was hot and sweaty and I am tired and sore.  Great judo!

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What is judo?


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Classical Judo - spirit and motivation

Last week I posed the question, "What is Classical Judo," and I got some good input.  I have several things to say about Classical Judo - but today I want to talk more about the philosophical underpinnings of Classical Judo.  What I really think defines Classical judo is much along the lines of Charles James response to the previous post...

"Classical Martial Arts" are those that retain as much of the originality as practiced by the person who created it.
What makes judo classical is not so much you doing your techniques the way that the old dead guys did their techniques. What makes judo classical is doing it in the same spirit and for much the same reasons as the founder and his original disciples.Kano expounded two fundamental philosophical principles upon which judo was based...
  • Jita Kyoei - "Mutual benefit and welfare" ... "You and me going forward together" ... Classical judo must be a win-win sort of thing instead of being exploitative in nature.
  • Seiryoku Zenyo - "Make the best use of your powers" ... "Maximally efficient use of effort" ... "Maximum efficiency with minimum effort" Classical judo must be both effective and as efficient as you can make it.
Problem with this is, anyone can say, "Yes, I subscribe to those two ideals whole-heartedly... jita whatever and seirokyu blah blah..." and then go and do judo any way that they want, calling it "Classical Judo" for some of the nefarious purposes I listed in the previous post.
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You have to do judo in the spirit of, and for the same reasons as the founders, but those beliefs and ideals have to influnce your practice and your technique too. 
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Your actions have to be congruent with your beliefs because not only will people not believe you otherwise, but also because the dissonance within incongruent, inconsistent systems will eventually shake them apart.
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In the next post I want to get into some of the technical differences between classical and non-classical judo, but I thought to leave you with some questions...
  • What is the antithesis to classical judo? Is it "modern judo" or "Olympic judo" or "competitive judo" or "eclectic judo" or "American judo" or what?
  • Judo has been influenced by so many masters over the years, where do you draw the line as to which ones classical judo should emulate?  Is Kano the only model, or should we include Mifune?  What about Fukuda? Kawaishi? Feldenkrais? Okano? Daigo? Geesink? Sato? Gracie? At what point do we draw the line between what judo was and what it is now?
  • Wherever you draw the line, what was the spirit in which the classical sensei did their judo?  How were their motivations different from those of non-classical sensei.

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Call me about children's judo classes

Want your kids to have fun while learning something that might help save them in a fight? Email or call me at 601.248.7282 and ask about kids' judo classes in southwest Mississippi (McComb, Magnolia, Osyka area)!




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Attack the attacker from behind


...there are things that are obvious, so obvious that you feel stupid mentioning them. For instance, it is easier to beat people up from behind. Obvious, right? Then we look and see that the students generally don't have tools for getting behind, so we give them the tools, right? And then, despite the fact that it makes common sense, they have the tools and it is the freshest thing on their minds, the minute the tension levels go up the slightest bit... boom. Fighting face to face again. I'm hoping "fight like a criminal" might be the magic words that give people the permission to step up to the predator's level.

My initial thought was, "What sort of students would have trouble getting behind the opponent?"  I mean, from day #1 in aikido, we teach folks to get behind the attacker as part of nearly every technique.  It's part of the mental process that we go through constantly. We try to get students, when attacked, to:
  1. get out of the way
  2. get your hands up between your face and theirs
  3. take a step away from uke (while figuring out whether to engage or run away)
  4. get behind them
  5. move with them to stay behind him while you figure out what to do...

That is pretty much the beginning of every technique that we teach in aikido.
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But then I got to thinking about it some more.  It is pretty common to see people forsake this strategy when we start doing randori.  It's pretty common to get stuck in front, inside ma-ai, trying to figure out what to do.  I bet if we watch for it now that Rory mentioned it, we'll see a lot more of this toe-to-toe nonsense in our randori.
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So, what do you do to fix this in-front problem?  There are several pretty good options...
  • hit him in the face and drive him backward off of you (shomenate)
  • push yourself backward 1-2 steps out of his reach (aiki brushoff - also step 3 above)
  • grab an arm on the far side of his body and turn him away as you pull yourself behind uke (release #2 or 4)
And I agree, thinking, "Fight like a criminal" might get you into more of that predatory mindset, giving you permission to attack the attacker from behind.

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Gracies ain't got nothin' on us!

I suppose you poor Gracies are going to have to practice harder so you can grow up to be as cool as us!
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More ushirowaza


In karate we had it pummeled into us that you, "never turn you back to the opponent."  Sure, there were rare exceptions.  One sensei used to like to feign fleeing from us and then hammer us with a turning back kick as we stepped in - a Parthian shot.  But the exception to that rule was very rare.
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In aikido and judo we learn that there are times that it is appropriate and effective to turn your back, including hipthrows and under-the-arm techniques - and sure you can get these things to work pretty good with a compliant partner, but then you try it in randori and you get beat up whenever you turn your back.
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A lot of this has to do with hesitation.  You start to turn your back, knowing that it is the right time and place, then something in your mind says, "better not!" and you hesitate and your momentum and synchronization are spoilt.  The folks who can smoothly and in synch just go ahead and walk under that arm or just do the hipthrow more often than not are successful.
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One possible solution for this - get more experience at ushirowaza.  Get used to having an attacker behind you restricting your motion.  Learn how to walk out of this most terrible of mistakes.
[Photo courtesy of Wontolla]
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What is 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 木蓮
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Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

What is Classical Judo?

A couple of weeks ago a student of mine and some aquaintances of mine got into a somewhat vigorous discussion about "classical judo."  It didn't quite devolve to, "But I do classical judo too..." and "No you don't.  I do classical judo," but it seemed headed down that path.
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During that discussion one party asked the direct question, "What is Classical Judo?"  I didn't join in the discussion at that time but I though that was a really good question.  See, the Classical Judo construct is so multi-faceted and complex that it is sort of a slippery chameleon.
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"Classical Judo" can be a lot of things, including...
  • ...a hammer to bludgeon someone with in an argument.
  • ...an appeal for validity to the dead (and therefore un-assailable) demigods of Judo - mere name-dropping
  • ...a marketing tactic - an attempt to brand your judo club such that it has greater perceived value
  • ...a weapon to coerce students into compliance with your way of thinking about judo
  • ...an excuse not to have to validate your techniques and methods in contest.
All that is not to say that I think there is no such thing as Classical Judo.  There is.  I consider myself to practice Classical judo and I have been laying out an ever-expanding discussion on the topic that looks like it will become a series of posts in the near future.
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But in the mean time, I thought it would be interesting to get some feedback from y'all as to what you think Classical Judo is and what could be the value of such a construct?

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90 degrees

What we worked on tonight...
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If you can do something to get uke to commit to fighting you on a certain line, then hit him 90 degrees to that line, you will often break his structure.
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Works like magic... Absolute magic...
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Rhythm in striking combos

There is a rhythm to a good combination.  Not every strike can be a full-force crushing blow to the center of mass.  Some beats are occupied by lesser strikes that can be used to good effect.  This rhythm concept can be analogous to drumming.
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In basic doumbek drumming there are three notes, or techniques.  Their names are onomatopoeic - doum is the bass note, tek and ka are less forceful, more melodic rimshots.  Listen to the following, thinking of the deep bass (right hand) notes as crushing full-force blows and the other notes as raking or slapping targets of opportunity with less forceful passing strikes.



Can you feel some of those rhythms could be similar to fighting rhythms?  Watch the following (throughout, but especially starting at about 6:00) and listen (in your mind) for the doums, teks and kas...




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What is aikido?


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Situational karate combinations

So, in the context of striking, what is a combination?
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I say a combination is not picking three basic strikes and practicing stringing them together so that they become one neuromuscular program.  You don't pull the trigger and automatically these three techniques happen in sequence. (That is a very basic form of combo, but not what I'm talking about.)
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I say that skill in throwing combos comes in developing the ability to throw one fundamental technique, then rapidly assess, "What else useful can I do from this position with this momentum while I am returning toward guard or neutral?"  Basically taking targets of opportunity.
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So, a good combo is not, "Do inside hammer, then front kick, then shuto to neck, then back away."  Instead, a better combo is, "Ok, I have hammered his attacking arm and I am moving away from him so I might as well check this arm and that leg and chop the neck in passing."  Or another combo from this position might be, "I've hammered his arm and am moving away... How about I rake across his eyes and then push myself away from him with a reverse punch to center of mass." Situational things strung together appropriately in the moment.


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What is karate?


____________
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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Send me an email or let's connect on Facebook or Twitter

How to subdue a German without handcuffs

I got to looking through W.E. Fairbairn's old WWII era combatives manual titled, GET TOUGH the other day.  Interesting book with a lot of foundational info. 
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It also has some interesting, varied, miscellaneous material, such as the method shown above for restraining a prisoner if you have a pole or sapling but no rope or cuffs.  Interesting even if you don't expect to ever need to knowhow to do this.
 I would highly recommend not getting drunk and trying this restraint out on your buddies at a party!

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An American martial arts myth

Martial arts are rife with myths and apocryphal stories meant to convey some point or moral. I absolutely love these stories. Most of them occurred long ago in some exotic-sounding place and involved a samurai or a monk or that sort of character.
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Well, here's you a distinctly American piece of martial arts apocrypha that could have taken place in Appalachia... or perhaps Missouri... or even down in the bayou... or maybe even in L.A...
It seems that Clem and Abe had a long-standing feud between their families with great suffering and attrition on both sides. Finally, Clem called for a parley with Abe and proposed an end to the feud. "Let's just have a good old fashioned nut kickin' contest between me and you." Well, Abe had never heard of this sort of contest and he asked about the rules.

"First," Clem said, "I kick you in the nuts as hard as I can. Then when you are recovered you kick me. We go back and forth until someone gives up." Abe thought about that for a minute. It sure sounded painful but if it meant an end to hostilities he was willing to endure it.

So, Abe stood straddle-legged and Clem got a running start and punted poor Abe so hard his feet came off the ground and he landed on the ground screaming and puking. Clem waited paitently as Abe rolled around for about half an hour, finally getting up to his knees and then to his feet.

"Alright, now it's my turn." said Abe, hitching up his pants and getting ready to get a running start.

"Nah,"Clem replied, walking away. "I give up. You win."
For some reason this story put me in mind of Kickboxing legend Bill "Superfoot" Wallace.  Wallace, among his many other accomplishments, got kicked in the nads so hard in a fight in Jackson Mississippi that he had to have one testicle surgically removed.  According to Wikipedia, Wallace saved the testicle and showed it to the other announcers at UFC1.
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Also on a related note, Superfoot Wallace got his bachelor's degree at Ball State University...  Coincidence?

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How I kill people with a knife

I remember a class back in the early 1990's, we were working on some knife techniques.  Standard type knife defense stuff you see in martial arts classes. 
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At that time we had a middle-aged Cambodian woman in the class as a white belt.  Pretty unassuming woman - plain-looking - quiet - stocky build.  I think she was studying something nerdy and boring in college like Plant Pathology.
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After the instructor had demonstrated a technique, she whispered to me, "I don't attack like that when I kill people."  I thought that she had just mis-spoken because her Engrish was pretty broken.  So, being a smartalek, I jokingly asked her, "How exactly do you hold a knife when you kill people?"
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Without flinching or hesitating, she turned the knife over (icepick grip) and said, "I sneak up behind, grab face like this and jerk back.  Then I stab in neck two or three times!" (pumping her hand up and down.)
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I was dumbfounded...  Mortified... It was at that point that I realized she must have been a young adult in Cambodia during the 1970's and 1980's.  She had not mis-spoken.  She'd said exactly what she meant.  When she'd killed people she hadn't done it like we were practicing. 
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The moral of the story - You can never tell who you are standing next to.

[Photo courtesy of Alan Chan]
For a great intro to how knives are really used by one of the foremost experts...
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Kata then bunkai ...is backwards

Somehow a while back Charles James' excellent Isshinryu Karate blog fell off my blog list.  I recently discovered and corrected that and Charles has realy been knocking the ball out of the park with most every post lately.  I highly recommend you follow that blog!
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One thing that he has written about in the last couple of posts is kata and bunkai, and what I personally took away from these recent posts is that kata-then-bunkai is, in a lot of ways, a backwards way of thinking about learning.
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He talks about practicing goshinjutsu (self-defense applications) with a live partner first, getting the hang of the skills, then stepping away from the partner and seeing how the old dead guys managed to encode those goshinjutsu skills into the kata.
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Of course that's the right way to do it.  That's probably much better than learning a precise but abstract kata first then attempting to layer some practical meaning on top of it.  Why haven't I thought of that all these years?
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Bunkai-then-kata

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Riding the wave in aikido and judo

To everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under Heaven.
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We move about in cycles. Left/right, forward/back, up/down, expand/contract, extend/retract, exert/relax - those examples are common and easy to see. But there are other cycles we probably think less often about. Important cycles like balance/unbalance and strong/weak.
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If I understand what I've read and heard about the old Kito School of jujitsu (from which judo and aikido were partly derived), one of the central theories of Kito was that our ki - our energy and potency and strength and vitality - was constantly ebbing and flowing. Thus the name of the school ("Kito" = "rise and fall").  This idea manifests itself in techniques in which tori synchronizes with uke such that the decisive encounter takes place when tori is strongest and uke is weakest.
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This Kito principle (as I call it) is central to aikido and judo.
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We move through these cycles at a certain rate based primarily on our body size. It takes some finite amount of time to go from strong to weak, and back to strong. Trying to speed up or slow down the period of these cycles is counter-productive, so you need to learn to recognize these cycles and go with the flow.  Relax and go along for the ride until you are stronger and the opponent is weaker.
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Sure, you might get beat up while you are in the wrong part of the cycle, or if your synch with the opponent is non-optimal. But tensing up and standing still and fighting the cycle won't help either. You'll still get beat up, but you'll be tired too!
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We don't make the waves,
We just ride them.
[Photo courtesy of Nathan in SanDiego]
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Uchimata

Probably the most popular competition judo throw in existence - uchimata.  Some folks throw this as a leg sweep and some throw it as a hip throw.  Officially it is classed as an ashiwaza (a foot throw).  I've never been able to make much of this trying it as a foot throw (though I've seen people who can!)  I personally throw it as a variation of ukigoshi.  In any case, it is an excellent throw!
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What is judo?


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

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