Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New schedule for 2012

Starting January 2, 2012, we are going to be expanding our class offerings. The new schedule will look like...
  • 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
Patrick Parker

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ritual and spectacle in martial arts

In modern educational circles, folks like to talk about three domains of learning - psychomotor, cognitive, and affective.
  • psychomotor - learning to do the skills associated with the subject of study
  • cognitive - learning about the subject, vocabulary, history, etc...
  • affective - feeling good about, and "believing in" your increased knowledge and skills
 All three are important parts of learning.
Some people have a need for ritual and ceremony and spectacle in their martial arts practice.  It is part of the affective domain of learning.  They can practice and increase in knowledge and skill all day long, but until the "rank test" or the "belt ceremony" or the tournament or demo, they just don't feel like they have reached the mark yet.
Some instructors are very good at using ritual and spectacle and ceremony in the martial arts to augment their students' affective learning.  Bruce Lee and Ed Parker were brilliant showmen who played the mystique of the East for all it is worth.
I am not one of those great affective coaches.  The phoney-ness of having an American Redneck pretending to be Yoda sorta sticks in my craw.  I remember reading about Chuck Norris failing a rank test because all the candidates had to kneel in seiza while the folks ahead of them tested.  He'd knelt on the cold floor for so long that his legs were asleep when his turn was called.  That's kinda stupid in my book.
I'd rather run through all your material, taking turns throwing for a couple of hours, than do a formal, strenuous rank test with half a dozen inscrutible-looking sensei in hakama or suits glaring from the sidelines as the student sweats bullets. 
I'd rather every class day be a test than build up to one big event.  I'd rather spend the agreed-upon amount of months working on the agreed-upon material and then just toss the next belt to the student after class one day.
But there are students that need (or would like) more ritual and spectacle than I provide.  To those students, I'm sorry.  I've tried for years to build dojo traditions and rituals to help provide some of that affective learning, but those traditions seem to always fall to the side and get superceeded by the practical day-to-day running of the club and teaching of the material.
I'm not against having some of that go on.  I just don't do much of it.
Patrick Parker

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Changing forms and the thing-itself

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
I remember, as I was coming up through the kyu ranks, it seemed to us that our instructor and his instructors were forever changing things up on us.  They would tell us one way to do something, then a couple of months later (usually after coming back from a big seminar) they would tell us what seemed like a wholly different way to do the same thing.
I particularly remember several changes in how we were to practice kotegaeshi.  That thing seemed to change with the phase of the moon.
This was always frustrating from the point of view of the student, but looking back at it from a little greater distance, It seems like just the way the thing has to be. 
We are studying a huge, complex, and chaotic reality.  You have to have some sort of form to put the thing into to study it, but you also have to understand that after you study one form of the thing for a while you will start to be subject to diminishing returns.  You will need to look at the thing from a different point of view.
This does not invalidate the forms of the thing that you have already studied.  It augments them... zooms in and emphasizes different facets. 
Often neither the old or the new form of the thing will be the thing itself, but if you have a good teacher then the older and newer forms should sort of bracket the thing itself.  The aiki always lives in the interstices between forms.  But it is the forms that we use to outline the aiki-thing and study it.

Patrick Parker

Friday, December 09, 2011

Range of self-defense skills in judo

With respect to tachiwaza (throwing skills) in the traditional Kodokan gokyo, how many of those throws have you ever seen or practiced in a self-defense context?  Or, put another way, how many of those throws have you either heard of being used in self-defense, or can even imagine cropping up on the street?  For me, it's mostly the following list...
  • deashi, kosoto, osoto, hiza, ukigoshi
  • kouchi, ouchi, ogoshi, seoinage
  • sasae
  • teguruma or kataguruma
  • morotegari
...and that's about it.  With greater than 25 years of martial arts experience, I can only come up with about a dozen of the Kodokan throws that I've ever heard of being used on the street - or that I can realistically imagine ever coming to pass in a fight.  Sure, anything can happen, but we're really not into preparing for every bizarro eventuality.  We're generally more into probabilities than possibilities.
So, why do we have 40 throws (or 65 depending on who you ask)?  Why not spend more time on the down-and-dirty dozen that I listed above?
For one thing, we're not just practicing self-defense.  The other throws are part of the art.  Also, depending on the ruleset under which you compete, the rules might create situations where some of those other throws might be viable.
But personally, I think that the main reason that we have all that extra material is because when you work on those situations, it makes you better at those more fundamental throws that I listed above.
Patrick Parker

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

One thing - Aikido 2012

Y'all remember the old western comedy, City Slickers, with Jack Pallance playing the wise, old, grizzled cowboy named Curly?  Y'all remember Curly's Law?  When asked what his secret was, he held up one finger.  When asked to expand on that he just said, "Choose one thing, and do that one thing."  Pretty good secret cowboy knowledge.
For a long, long time, there has been an emphasis in my aikido classes on atemiwaza.  Direct, simple, effective.  And we've mostly got a decent handle on that facet of aikido.  So, I've been casting about for a bit of a new direction to take my aikido classes in next year.  That's when Curly's Law came to mind.
I figure we'll pick one thing and focus on it for the whole year and see where it takes us.  And not only are we going to do "one thing" but we're going to do an emphasis on what Ueshiba called, "Thing-One."
Ikkyo.  Oshitaoshi.  Udeosae.
Sure, we'll continue to work folks up through the excellent teaching system that weve developed over the years.  We're not throwing the baby out wwith the bath.  But I think that a few minutes of various forms of oshitaoshi during each class next year is likely to open up some new  ideas for all of us.
And if not, at least I'll know that my students will be the best in the world at One Thing (Thing-One) by the beginning of 2013.

Patrick Parker

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Where we've been - aikido 2011

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...




Patrick Parker

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