- Judo - 6:30 PM
- Kid's Judo - 5:30 PM
- Aikido - 6:30 PM
- Kid's Judo - 5:30 PM
- Judo - 6:30PM
- Aikido - 6:30 PM
- Private classes per agreement
The techniques of Aikido change constantly; every encounter is unique, and the appropriate response should emerge naturally. Today's techniques will be different tomorrow. Do not get caught up with the form and appearance of a challenge. Aikido has no form - it is the study of the spirit. - Morihei Ueshiba
The technical emphasis in any Dojo changes over time. Over the past year, I think our Aikido has been characterized by an emphasis on...
Ichikata - especially looking at 90- and 180-degree offbalance pairs and automatically flowing around strength and resistance conditions.
Owaza - emphasis on being able to do this set of techniques from very generalized attacks - as in ryotedori - instead of having to have uke flying at you.
We've ramped up the jo and aikijo this year.
The JW Bode seminar certainly gave me a lot to think about wrt decisiveness, control, and very close range Aikido. For years weve been talking more about synchronization and flow and less about control. But lately weve been talking more about irimi, atemi, control, and aiki as "instant victory."
So, now the question is... where are we going with our Aikido in 2012? Stay tuned as I collect my thoughts on that...
This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP)
Chapter 27 is a sort of a review chapter, but in it he does something remarkable! On the face of things, it is a note that henceforth in the book he will use the word "structure" as a shorthand for five recently-discussed principles...
But, more profoundly, and more importantly, Pearlman has managed to boil down much of the vague, pseudo-spiritual, mystical-sounding talk about 'structure' and 'ground-path' and 'root' and different 'energies' and such into a handful of easily-teachable, easily understood (though admittedly, not trivial to ingrain) principles.
Pearlman has gone a long way towards giving us the language we need to discuss the more vague, woo-woo, spooky parts of our arts.
This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP)
So, last BOMP post was about controlling the angulation and movement of the major axis of the body - the long vertical axis through the center.
Chapter 26 is a short little note applying the same principle to the other, minor axes of the body, such as the long axis of the forearm, for instance. Pearlman brings up two points regarding the minor axes of the body...
1. Seek the smallest axis possible for any rotation.
2. Rotate within the width of the rotating limb.
Pretty good points. Don't really have anything to say about those.
I've seen an interesting flaw crop up in some aikidoka's practice.
We are forever preaching efficiency - we spend a lot of time and
effort on trying to get each motion just right, to clean up the
connection and coordination between our minds and bodies such that
when the mind tells the body, "step there," the body executes the most
efficient step and nothing else.
When you look at the highest-ranked practitioners - people who have
been striving at this for years, often their motion is so efficient
that it is deceptive. It almost looks lazy, or careless. This is not
But when we start preaching "move slowly...be more efficient..." at
students, and they look at the masters who look like they are
lackadaisical in their movements, often the student begins to affect
that lackadaisical motion in an attempt to comply with the "slow but
Slow by means of inefficiency or laziness is not the kind of slow that you want.
What you want is motion that is so efficient that it has nothing
extraneous or incidental or arbitrary in it. This sort of efficiency
gives you so much slack that you can relax and slow down a little. In
turn, the relaxation and slowness will allow you to conserve your
energy and be a bit smarter in your tactics and techniques.
Efficiency begets slack which begets slowness which begets relaxation
which begets aiki.
Getting this out of order by going for "slow" first, you can lose the
prerequisite to slowness (efficiency) as well as getting the wrong
kind of slowness, which prevents you from attaining any of the
subsequent benefits (relaxation and aiki).
Some miscellaneous thoughts on Tomiki's floating throws...
Our Ikkyu requirement is Junana #15, 16, and 17. You can sort of throw #14 into that group as well, but youve already done that one at nikkyu.
These 3 or 4 throws are classified as 'floating throws,' which is sort of a misnomer, because all the techniques of junana can be done as floating throws. Its just that these three (4) techniques exemplify the floating throw principle well, and all the other stuff in junana is usually done with a different focus.
What does 'floating throw' mean anyway? Basically two things...
There is a loose, airy, void sort of lack-of-feeling between uke and tori. You are not mashing on an elbow or twisting on a wrist to make the throw happen. It is a subtle connection, light-touch type of thing that is executed through exquisite synchronization and footwork.
Like all of junana, these throws are done on otoshi timing - on a footfall - but in these three (4), there is an emphasis on exaggerating the preceeding rise in order to make the timing window for the otoshi more obvious. You literally throw uke up in the air, wait for him to come down, and when he does, exaggerate his drop so that he hits the ground.
In the kata, all of these are done entering to the inside, capturing the wrist, making a golf swing through the offbalance hole, and tweaking the wrist and the elbow just a bit on the rise in order to exaggerate their rise.
Then, each of these throws is differentiated from the others by how uke tries to get down off of point...
in #14 - shihonage, uke retracts his arm by bending the elbow. Tori turns and follows and exaggerates that retraction
in #15 - maeotoshi - uke tries to take a step away. tori catches uke's far-footfall, and extends his step, pushing uke away.
in #16 - sumiotoshi - uke pulls his hand back, as if chambering a punch. tori follows that retraction and exaggerates it, pushing uke into the back corner on a near footfall
in #17 - hikiotoshi - the footwork is confused and uke somehow managed to foul #16 for you and ends up facing you, about to come down on you. Tweak the elbow again to get a bit of rise, then drop backward away from tori as he comes in and down.
Any of that make sense?
I came up with an interesting idea for a drill to work towards multiple opponents this weekend. We didn't get to play with this because we had other things to do, but you might try this and see what sort of mileage you get out of it. I know we'll be trying it soon.
Choose a kata that you are thoroughly familiar with, like releases or junana, and execute it with a second uke hanging onto one of your sleeves, or hanging onto your shoulders. You could do this with different levels of difficulty - for instance, it will be easier if the hanger-on will willingly trail along with Tori, mostly staying out of the way, so that Tori does not have to drag them around. Or it will be harder if the hanger-on were less mobile and compliant, forcing Tori to move them while interacting with the other uke too.
Either way, the hanger-on represents a challenge because no matter how compliant they are, they constrain tori's motion and take up space that tori could otherwise be using.
Try it - you might find it fun and interesting.
The falling skill is not a reflex, it is a learned, habituated thing, but it does take into account (work with instead of against) true reflexes that take place when we slip or stumble.
Everything is all status quo from our body's pov, then something disrupts us (stimulus) and a bunch of reflexes happen (postural righting, extension, crossed-extensor, metatarsal kick, etc...) and while the reflexes are happening and we are beginning to fall, our mind has time to catch up to what is happening and guide the fall enough to minimize the consequences.
So, yes, the skill part of it is responsive instead of reflexive, as Rick pointed out in the last post. But the response is based upon, and works in harmony with reflex to the extent possible.
That is reflexive falling skill.
I like to walk along the edge of sidewalks or on concrete bumpers in parking lots whenever I get the chance. Its just one more opportunity to play with balance and motion. I suspect a lot of my readers play like this too - aikido and judo people tend to be like that.
Have you ever noticed, while walking on a balance beam or playing on a rocker board or balance trainer, there are times that your body completely seizes up to avoid falling. You're moving along fine and suddenly something disrupts your balance (usually you misplace a foot) and your arms fly out to the side and you lean and freeze. It is as if your brain figures if you continue moving then your position can only get worse, so you lock up to try to avoid the degradation. I have started calling this phenomenon, "the seize&freeze."
Yogis, have you ever felt that same fear reaction during a balance pose in yoga? I get that feel in triangle pose and in half-moon all the time, when I get my hips rotating properly then I tend to fall over backward.
Have you ever noticed that when your postural muscles seize and freeze, there is no avoiding falling? The seize and freeze is like a denial of the inevitability of a predicament. Just like in my previous post when I talked about hospital patients who seize and freeze, locking up their torso in a fear/pain reaction, making it impossible to stand up.
Denial does not sound very much like yoga, does it? And denial does not sound very healthy in the martial context of aikido or judo either.
The seize and freeze is counter to the ideals of yoga, aikido, and judo because it is mindless and automatic instead of being voluntary and controlled. Feldenkrais talks in his books a good bit about the undesirability of mindless, automatic fear reactions.
What if we were to learn to safely and gently fall/roll out of those broken postures instead of doing the seize and freeze? That way, all the places on the far side of the point of no return become part of the spectrum of that particular posture.
If we can eliminate the fear of falling out of a yoga pose (or any posture), then we can eliminate the seize and freeze fear reaction and make the ukemi just part of the exploration of that pose. This way, the pose becomes a whole range of postures and motions in and around and before and after the actual textbook photograph. That should make your yoga more joyful and more flowing.
Interestingly, the same thing happens when walking along the edge of a curb. If you get out of whack and can just take one more step instead of going into seize and freeze, more often than not, your balance will right itself - gently and without making a fuss, just walk out of the unbalance instead of submitting to the seize and freeze.
Once I attended a therapy seminar in which the seminar leader taught us a truly miraculous technique for helping a patient rise from seated to standing.
She introduced this technique by pointing out that most patients that need assistance to stand are in pain and are afraid to stand up, and that a common reaction to this pain and fear is to take a breath in and hold it, locking the chest muscles, effectively making the entire torso into one massive, unmoving block of meat and bone. It's no wonder the patient can't rise to standing while locking their torso.
So, the solution is to get the patient to the edge of the seat with his feet under him, and get him rocking forward and backward. The rocking motion is soothing, it facilitates breathing, and it prevents them from locking their torso. Then, after two or three rocks, at the peak of a forward rock, you suddenly say, "look up!" And the result is the surprised patient looks up and sucks in a breath, and their respiratory accessory muscles almost fling them up out of the chair to their feet. This technique works like magic!
It is the fear of the maneuver that prevents normal function. And the miracle of the technique is in using deeply-seated natural reflexes to bypass the fear reaction, facilitating normal function.
We want to learn a similar trick for falling. We don't want to have to prepare for the upcoming fall, to screw up our courage and suppress our fear and steel ourselves, because resisting the fear strengthens and solidifies it. We want to learn to fall out of positions that we naturally reflex into when we stumble, and we want to learn to use natural reflex actions (like a sigh of relief) to facilitate our fall.
I love having new white belt students! They make me revisit and rethink how I present the basic fundamentals. I have a theory that you can find the best Aikido teacher in the world by finding the one person who has brought the most students through the white belt material. And I think I'm definitely in the running for that position! :-)
So, last night we were working on shomenate. I've done this helpful handful before, but here are the things that I was emphasizing last night...
1. Kuzushi-tsukuri-kake - these elements might show up in different orders or they might develop all at once, but you have to have all three.
2. Get uke's chin lifted fully, so they are looking at the sky instead of you. When they can't see you its harder for them to continue attacking. Plus, lifting the chin locks the spine, which then becomes a great lever for you to use to move their center of mass away from you.
3. Step both of your feet all the way between and beyond uke's feet.
4. Don't add the little extra oomph with your shoulder at the end. If dropping your entire mass onto their locked spine is not enough to blast them, then a little extra shove from the shoulder won't be either - plus you can wreck your own posture and maybe hurt your partner's neck.
5. Uke - take the fall. Take a step or two back to absorb some of the force, then sit down. This gets you lots of practice falling from one of the most severe back falls you'll ever have to take, and it allows Tori to learn to apply his mass over a full range of motion.
This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on Saturdays
I don't have much to say about this chapter in Pearlman's book, not because it is not important - control of the center line is one of the most fundamental and important concepts. But because I just don't have much else to say beyond what Pearl an has said in his explanation.
Simply put, because most of our vital targets are located on our center line, we must protect ours, while seeking to own theirs. Additionally, because most of the important action in a conflict between two people happens in the center of the space between them, we must seek to own the center line of the conflict.
I think if I were writing this book, I would have placed this chapter before the two that surround it, because Owning The Center is the central theory, and Triangle guard and Primary Gate are primarily how we go about owning and controlling our center, their center, and the center between us.
It's a fine balancing act, and it is the nightmare of all martial arts instructors (at least the ones with any sense) because you have to go for the right balance of co-operative and competitive, frustration and building the student up.
I'm leading a workshop in a few weeks at a local yoga school on the art of falling - ukemi. I've got the technical details pretty much lined out - what were going to be doing for about how long. But I've been pondering how to tell the story... how to explain what falling has to do with yoga and why a yoga practitioner might want to be interested in the input of a martial artist.
Then all of a sudden, I got some input from a couple of my aikido buddies. Its funny how ideas swirl around, almost as if in some sort of collective consciousness, cropping up here and there in different forms. One of my teachers posted a short lesson about the nature of balance and unbalance, and he closed it with this (paraphrased) idea...
When placed in assymetrry, and held there, falls naturally occur.
Seems pretty straightforward. No big stretch there. But, phrased that way, that idea coalesced with something I've been tumbling in my mind. That is...
The desire to refuse to fall creates a Black Vice that crushes your mind, body, and spirit.
When placed in assymetry and held there... whatever is holding you there creates one arm of the vice. The other is created by your desire not to fall. Just like a rock wall reflects the heat of a campfire, amplifying it for someone sitting by the fire, the two walls of the Black Vice reflect the energy and fear of your desire, focusing and intensifying it.
You have to stand here...but you can't... you need to fall... but you can't... so you have to stand here... but you can't...have to... dare not...can't.... must... need... can't...
And by this time you have been run over and don't even know it because you're so confused and broken.
So, I'm thinking about this, and another nice tidbit pops up from a buddy that went to a seminar and came back talking about how there must be absolutely no resistance to falling because that urgent desire to remain standing hijacks your mind and prevents aiki from ever happening.
The aikido solution - when placed in assymetry, go that direction with no resistance...
The yoga solution - when placed in assymetry, stand there until your mind goes quiet...
Both are effective ways for dissolving the Black Vice.
I've been thinking a bit about the timing of events in the first two techniques of Junanahon kata. The way that I teach these techniques, they start off with the same actions - as uke invades ma-ai, tori gets his hands up between his face and uke's, and tori also steps off the line of attack toward the inside. But tori ends up in different places with respect to uke in these two techniques. In shomenate, tori ends up inside uke's arm and in aigamaeate, tori ends up outside uke's arm.
Same actions place tori in two different places. Sorta like Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park lecturing whats-her-name about chaos theory - microscopic differences cause the water to run off of her hand in different directions.
But it turns out that it's not just how uke and tori happen to knock together that drives these two techniques. The timing of tori's actions tends to place him either in front of or behind uke.
Tori's step out of the way has a wave like, down up quality. As a general rule, Tori wants to synch the rise and fall of his arms with the rise and fall of his body so that he is not raising his arms as he is dropping out of the way. This means that he can either raise his hands then drop out of the way, or he can drop out of the way then raise his hands.
If Tori raises his hands then moves, he tends to end up behind uke's arm - aigamaeate If he drops out of the way, then raises his hands, he tends to end up inside uke's arm - shomenate.
Photo courtesy of Nicolas B