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Kataude dori - release#1 ushirowaza



Here is another example (time 1:25-1:35) of release#1 being used from an ushiro position - this time, uke has tori in kataude dori - a locked-arm come-along.  Tori gets in synch with uke's stepping and steps away, drawing uke offbalance.  To further disrupt uke's motion, tori "kicks" uke's leg.  I use the quotes here because you don't really have to kick, just touch his leg to stop it and stick it to the ground.  From there tori does a large release#1 motion and finishes with wakigatame.
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We played with this interesting little tidbit during this past weekend's ABG.
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Giant release #1 from ushiro


Here is an old video of Yonkata.  Not a bad example at all.  I particularly like their interpretation of the first two techniques.  Very similar to some ideas that Henry Copeland showed us at a Yonkata seminar a couple of years ago.  I also like the (fast) pacing of this demo.
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But the reason that I posted it is as an example of the first ushirowaza that we played with this past weekend, which is the seventh technique from this collection appearing between time 0:20 and 0:22.  This is a good example of what I was mentioning in my previous post about it being very difficult to prevent release #1, even if uke gets behind you.
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Later in this exercise (technique #14, time 0:52-0:55) you see this idea repeated.  Tori tries to do #1 release from an ushiro condition but uke succeeds at preventing R1, so tori slips under the arm (release #5) and finishes with maeotoshi.


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Ushirowaza as releases

In our particular flavor of Tomiki aikido, we have a set of movements called releases that sorta act as beginnings.  Then we have the basic kata techniques in Junana and Owaza that act as endings.  You can, to a large extent piece together most any technique in aikido by starting with one of the releases and ending with one of the kata finishes.
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So, where does ushirowaza fit in with respect to the releases?  Easy.  Most of the ushirowaza are about the same things as releases #1, 2, or 5.
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In fact, at the beginning of ABG 2010, I posed the question, "In our system of aikido, what is our first exposure to ushirowaza?" Folks mumbled and stumbled around and finally came up with, "Koryu Dai San."  Well, actually it is at white belt, not quite the first day of practice but soon thereafter - Release #5 is usually introduced to beginners by saying, tori is trying to do #1 but uke is trying to turn the corner and take tori's back, so tori steps under uke's arm.
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It turns out that Release #1 is very hard to stop tori from doing.  There are several kata variations (like Yonkata #7) that illustrate a release#1 from an extreme ushiro position - deep in the hole.  But every so often uke grabs your back with sufficient vigor that you can't get #1 to work, so what are the backup plans for release #1?  Release #2 and Release #5.

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What I'm teaching at Union

This coming weekend, October 29-30, 2010, I'll be teaching a judo seminar at Union University in Memphis. The tentative curriculum includes...
  • 4 parts of a throw
  • 2 ways to do kuzushi
  • 1 time to do kuzushi
  • deashibarai
  • kosotogari
  • hizaguruma
  • osotogari
  • koshiguruma
  • taiotoshi
  • renzoku-style practice vs. static uchimata - what each is good for

Any of that sound interesting?  Want to attend? send me an email and I'll direct you to the right folks at Union to get you set up to come play with us.

Why ushirowaza?


The thematic focus for this past weekend's abg was ushirowaza (attacks from the rear).  "Why ushirowaza," I was asked. Well, besides the fact that it is a part of aikido that we mostly neglect, I had a handful of reasons...

To improve randori.  Ever get into a situation in randori where you hesitated to do an otherwise appropriate move because the guy might get your back? I bet if you hesitated then he got your back anyway.  More exposure to ushirowaza should reduce that hesitation.

Rory Miller made the observation in a recent blog post that we tend to tell students to attack from the back, and we teach them how to do it, but when we spar or randori, we revert back to toe-to-toe.  I think greater exposure to ushirowaza will have a positive effect on this.

Thirdly, I have been thinking lately about what a gruesome hodgepodge the advanced kata in Tomikiryu are.  If you want to study ushiro (for instance) you have to search thru all the kata because these techniques are scattered here and there.  To facilitate studying specific attacks, I've been disassembling the advanced kata and cataloging the techniques in lists sorted by attack.  Since it was already on my mind, we took the ushiro list and worked it.

...so that's why ushirowaza.

ABG 2010 Schedule

This weekend we'll be having our 5th annual Aiki Buddies Gathering (ABG) at Mokuren Dojo in Magnolia, MS.  Looks like we'll be having aikidoka from Starkville, Jackson, Magnolia, Baton Rouge, and perhaps a couple of special guest appearances from folks from Memphis and Seattle among others!  We'll be working on ushirowaza (attacks form behind) so expect a series of posts in the next few days on these ideas that we're working through.
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The schedule for the weekend goes something like this:
  • Friday 10/22
    • 5:30-7:30 aikido
    • eat something TBD
  • Saturday 10/23
    • breakfast (unhealthy-but-delicious stuff!)
    • 9:00-11:00 aikido
    • eat something (Elise is making a pot of chili)
    • 1:00-3:00 aikido
    • 5:00-7:00 aikido
    • Woodhenge - cookout - but bonfire is not likely due to burn ban.
 Plenty of open mat time.  Y'all are welcome to sleep on the mat or in the living room if you like.  If you need directions to the dojo, check the link in the top right corner of this page or call me.
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Be there and be square (triangle-circle-square, that is)!
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Shomenate - foundation of aikido

Shomenate is the first "real technique" that we teach beginner aikidoka because it is foundational to the rest of aikido practice but also because it is just about the best fall-back self-defense technique there is. Here are a couple of hints to make the most of your shomenate.
  • Extend uke's neck fully - Remember, you don't want to press horizontally backward on uke's face. Instead you want to use your palm under his chin to tilt his bead backward so that his spine is locked into an upward-looking position. This makes it harder for uke to attack you (he can't see you), it is disorienting, and it gives you tremendous leverage on uke's center through his locked spine. From this position you press horizontally backward through uke.
  • Tori, extend your step through uke - You want to take a larger-than normal step through uke's feet with both of your feet. If you leave one foot back then you sap power out of the throw. Try to get both of your feet past the line of uke's heels. Try to get your second foot (recovery step) in there as fast as possible. This sort of feels like a hop, but not upward - your direction of travel is downward and forward between uke's feet.
  • Uke, yield and fall - take a step back and sit down. Oftentimes if tori is nice to you, it would be possible to step back and not fall, but this can spoil your learning effect. You want to take this time to learn how to handle this fall so that it is not as severe, so ... take the fall!
 [photo courtesy of Ashley Rose]
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Proof of Chinese influence on aikido

There's this conspiracy theory promoted by nutjobs like Dojo Rat and some of his ilk, that Morihei Ueshiba must have been influenced in his creation of aikido by the internal Chinese martial arts - particularly by Baguazhang.  There are similarities between these arts, but nobody has been able to put forth any definitive proof that Ueshiba visited Master-X in year-y and studied these particular parts of art-Z that eventually became this thing in aikido...
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Then I remembered this little nugget and it hit me, this is suggestive of a Chinese connection.  Is it proof positive?  Certainly not, but it is at least suggestive...
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Canadian Aikido master, Henry Kono, states in this lecture, that he asked Ueshiba directly, "Why can't we do the things that you do?" and Ueshiba replied, "Because you do not understand Yin and Yang."
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I watched that lecture a long time ago, but it just hit me today, those are Chinese words for a Taoist concept.  The Japanese terms for the same concept would be In and Yo.  So...
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If Kono was quoting OSensei directly and not just spontaneously translating for his audience, then Japanese Ueshiba was using Chinese terms for a concept that he claimed was the secret underpining of aikido.
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Interesting.  Maybe Dojo Rat is not as much of a nutjob as you might first suspect ;-)  Nah  I'm sure you're right...

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Shambhala's new Book of Five Rings

I recently got a chance to review a wonderful new edition of Miyamoto Mushshi's Book of Five Rings that was just published by Shambhala.  This is a lovely yellow hardcover binding of the classic Cleary translation (I've read good, bad, and ugly translations of this book, and Cleary's is by far the best) and it has lovely, full-color art on the cover and within.  Also, as a nice bonus, the entire text is included in audio on two CDs.
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If you're looking for a good translation nicely bound with good art and audio, this is definitely the book for you.  Click on the link to the left to order from Amazon.

The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers!

I stumbled across this on Netflix today and watched it on a whim. First, let me assert my masculinity. I am not a Gleek and I don't watch dance movies unless my wife threatens me.  I even puke at the thought of having to endure America's Got Talent and Dancing with the (hasbeen) Stars.
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But this was the most extraordinary show I've seen in a long, long time. I sat engrossed and watched 10 episodes back-to-back. According to Wikipedia, they have the first three seasons already filmed. I for one, cannot wait to see the rest of the show.
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Check it out for a much more engrossing superheroes/martial arts series than Heroes (which went down the toilet at super-speed)



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High tech blogging


Trying out a new thing here.  I just got a new high tech Android phone with a blog client, so I'm trying out flogging on the go.  Client seems to work nicely...

Both Taikyoku and Heian

What do you learn in Taikyoku that you don't learn in Heian?
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Nothing really. You could toss Taikyoku out the window if you wanted to - a lot of instructors do. I prefer to practice both Taikyoku and Heian.
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So we're back to the question - why do Taikyoku if you are going to be doing Heian?
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I consider Taikyoku a very general-purpose exercise. The arm motions are just PNF patterns (PT-speak for universally-applicable general motions) and the lower body work is just teaching how to lunge, transfer weight from leg-to-leg, turn, and recover.
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So, why can't we just work on that stuff in Heian? We can, but I prefer to separate out the true fundamentals, so we can concentrate on that stuff in Taikyoku, then start working on how to turn those general-purpose fundamentals into techniques and applications in other exercises. This way you get to concentrate on the fundamentals in their own context and you get to concentrate on the techniques and oyo and bunkai in other exercises.
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In any case, I am one of those (perhaps rare) karate guys who see value in both Taikyoku and Heian.
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As an aside, why do you suppose Funakoshi named this nearly trivial kata Taikyoku, which means something along the lines of "Universal" kata?
[photo courtesy of Marius Zierold]

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Avoid a fight at all costs?

This is the common, wise-sounding advice that most sensei tell their students... "Avoid a fight at all costs, but if you have to fight..."
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I'm waiting for any of y'all to wake up and protest the inconsistency in that. Come on - That's an obvious load of malarkey!  "Avoid ... at all costs...but..."
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If there was no cost you were unwiling to pay to avoid fighting, there would be no, "...but..."  It would be impossible to make you fight.  It would literally be "Not worth it, man" (another common piece of folk wisdom).
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What cost would you be willing to pay in order to avoid a good ole' fashioned Saturday Night Knife Fight?  Would you be willing...
  • to take a few extra steps? to cross the street? to completely change your itenerary?
  • to be humiliated? in front of your lover? in front of your buddies?  in front of your kids?
  • to give up your wallet or purse?
  • to give up your right to vote?  How important is sufferage, anyway?
  • Are you going to avoid "at all costs", attacking the intruder in your child's room?
Pay attention to this next part...
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If you are willing to pay any cost to avoid a fight...
...then you raise the value that someone receives by accosting you.
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Whatever you do, do not "avoid fighting at all cost."



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The long lost Goshin Jutsu kata post

Several months ago I had a great, extended blog discussion with some of my blogospheric Tomiki Aikido buddies about the nature of the Judo exercise titled Kodokan Goshin Jutsu.  This discussion went on for week after week and spilled over at least three blogs that I can think of right off the bat.  If you have good endurance, you can click on the Goshin Jutsu tag below and read through them, but if you just want a summary, the discussion basically went something like...
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"It's not a kata... Yes it is... No it's not... Yes it is, here's how you do it... No you do it this way..."
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Basically I took the position that Goshin Jutsu is not really a kata, rather more of an exercise or drill with a greater extent of variation within it than one would expect from a kata.  Some of my buddies insisted that it should be done in a high-precision, kata-like way.
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Anyway, in my last post in that series I promised a final post on why my buddy's high-precision approach is really a pretty good way to approach it... But I never delivered that promised post, so here is it... The LONG, LOST GOSHINJUTSU POST! (fanfare)
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This exercise, whether you call it a kata or not, should (usually) be done with as great a degree of precision as you can possibly muster.  Even if you try to do it exactly the same way every time, some variability will creep in.
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Both the precision and the variability are good things.
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You still need kata-like precision in your repetitions because this provides a baseline against which variation stands out more clearly.  If you deliberately do the exercise differently every time, you introduce a lot of deliberate variability but you can never detect (and figure out what to do about) more random variation.  Slight changes in timing and pressure and cadence and angle remain hidden and you can never learn from them.
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But on the other hand, if you do the exercise (dare I day, "kata") the same way every time, then when there is some random variation, you immediately sense it and you say to yourself, "Hmmm... That was unusual."  (which is the real beginning of the learning process).
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It is the striving to attain precision that is valuable to you - not the attainment of absolute precision.
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In the striving, you set the stage for variation (which is what you actually learn from) to happen and become noticable.
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Did I say this was the long lost Goshin Jutsu post?  I meant that this is the long lost kata post.  That concept of precision and variability is applicable to any kata in any art.  It is even applicable to stuff you would never call a kata (like newaza drills for instance).


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"I dare not fight for fear of revenge"

Whenever someone is talking about self defense some interesting questions always come up...
  • "What if I try to fight back and it just makes them mad?"
  • "What if I sucessfully fight back and they blindside me later?"
  • "What if they take it out on my wife or kids or friends?"
Seems pretty straightforward to me. Sure, you might get some revenge action sometime later in your life but you can't live your life right now based on imaginary worst-case futures... .
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If there is no chance of avoidance, then you absolutely must stand up for yourself when attacked.  If you are able to successfully solve the immediate problem right now then you can worry about the imaginary worst-case futures as they draw closer to becoming real and immediate (and you'll often find that they are much less than worst-case).

How do you deal with this sort of potential revenge issue?


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Doshu doing ushiroryotedori iriminage


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Weapons in martial arts

One thing that is interesting to me is which weapon systems go with which empty-hand arts.  For instance...
  • In karate classes, you most often see long staff, nunchaku, tonfa, and sai.
  • In kung-fu classes, you see longstaff, spear, and saber.
  • In aikido, you see knife, short staff (or spear), and sword.
  • In judo, the little you do see involves stick, knife, and gun.
Of course in each, you see other weapons but for the most part the above seems typical.  Why do we never see bo work in aikido?  I know the answer is because it just isn't done.  But it doesn't make sense that you can weild a jo in an aiki-like fashion but those principles don't translate to the bo.  Why couldn't someone (for instance) do aiki-bo?
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When I first started doing karate in college, we did staff work but I haven't done much of that for a long time.  I figure it's time that I dusted off whatever remnant still lies in my brain...


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