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One month of 31 aikijo kata

Each month this year I plan to focus on a different kata or formal exercise here on the Mokuren Dojo blog.  This past month I have  dealt with judo's Koshiki no kata.  This coming month I will be writing a good bit on the 31-step aikijo kata and some of its associated exercises, like the suburi and kumijo.
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I know it's not the kind of jo work that we usually do - but what's the point of writing a month's worth of articles about stuff that we already know by heart?
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To whet your appetite, here is a demonstration of the 31 aikijo kata and associated kumijo.


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Your favorite part of judo

Judo is not just throws.  It also includes matwork, chokes, jointlocks, self-defense material.  It is a very diverse art that can be practiced through drills, randori (sparring), or kata.  It can be profitably practiced in a competitive or a co-operative environment.
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Coming up through the ranks, we were a heavily ground-oriented club.  But lately I've been surprised to see that the part of judo that I really love is the throwing skills - especially the small ashiwaza (footsweeps), and particularly in the context of self-defense application.
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So, what is your favorite aspect of judo?

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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Judo has become an art of 5 techniques

I got to thinking lately, trying to figure out which throws I've seen thrown successfully in shiai more than once in the last 15 years.  It turned out to be a pretty small set.  Just about the only competition throws I've seen successfully attempted are:
  • seoinage
  • osotogari
  • morotegari
  • uchimata
  • taiotoshi
  • tomoenage
And that's about it.  That's pretty much the technical range of most of the competitors I've seen on any level.  Every so often someone falls for some other action, but the throws in this list represent the vast majority.
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Then the IJF comes along and makes morotegari illegal, so the range is now reduced to a mere handful of techniques.
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Seems relatively easy to me if you only ever have to watch out for about five potential actions from the entire field of competition.  Seems like some expert at some unexpected throw could relatively easily become the Grim Reaper of the judo world. 
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What do y'all think?  Am I way off from reality?  If my perception is close to right then is this situation a good or a bad thing for judo as a whole?
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Patrick Parker

Koshiki no kata recap

This past month I have done a series of posts on judo's Koshiki no kata.  Like with any good kata, there is a lot there - certainly a lot more than I talked about.  But if you are interested in this exercise, you might find some of my posts this past month of use.

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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Things to be able to do from ukigatame

Ukigatame (knee-on-belly) is probably the most important hold-down taught in judo.  It is one of the two most-common transitions from standing to groundwork (the other is makikomi).  I recommend all of my students when practicing nagekomi of a throw that does not involve makikomi, always finish in ukigatame  (kneeling on top of a downed opponent) if possible.
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Here are a handful of things that you probably ought to be able to do from ukigatame -
  • get completely away from uke with minimal exposure to being grabbed or struck
  • maintain ukigatame as uke tries to bucks, shrimps, bridges, and rolls
  • transition to tateshiho, munegatame, or kesagatame
  • attack simple chokes, like katatejime, in order to expose uke to armbar attacks
  • attack jujigatame or hizagatame on the near or the far arm falling backward or forward
If anything on that list seems like a stretch to you, I would recommend doing some drilling on that skill with a non-resistant partner, then try it out in randori.
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Patrick Parker

Film of Tomiki doing judo

Tomiki Sensei was an expert judoka before he even started doing aikido with Ueshiba.  He ended up being very highly-ranked in both aikido and judo.  The Kodokan's esteem for him is illustrated by the fact that they chose him to chair the committee of masters that formulated the Goshin Jutsu in 1956.
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So why is there no existing footage of Tomiki Sensei doing judo.  He put plenty of aikido on film, but where is his judo legacy recorded?
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I'm dying to see him in action!
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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Difference between ashiguruma and oguruma


Seeing that I've been writing a series on differences between similar judo throws, one of my students asked me to clarify the difference between ashiguruma and oguruma.  "Oh no!" I thought!  "He's asked me the toughest one of all!"  This is a pair of techniques that I've traditionally taken the easy (and incorrect) way out of by saying that oguruma was just ashiguruma at the waist.
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But, that is obviously incorrect because the old dead judo guys that made this stuff up absolutely did not do this sort of needless multiplication of techniques.  In the same way that taiotoshi with a sleeve-lapel grip is still the same technique as taiotoshi with a 2-handed cross grip... If they had been into multiplication of technique, then ashiguruma at uke's ankle would be a different thing from ashiguruma at uke's shin, and both of those would have been a different thing from ashiguruma at the knee and so on...
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Thanks for exposing my long-standing cop-out!
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So, I had to go to Daigo's Kodokan Throwing Techniques book to find an answer.  It turns out that, according to Daigo these two things are pretty distinct.

  • Daigo says in ashiguruma tori's blocking leg only touches uke's lower leg - no other part of tori's leg touches uke's body.  In oguruma, however, tori's thigh as well as his knee or calf is in contact with both of uke's thighs.
  • This means that oguruma must be done more in-line with uke's feet while ashiguruma can be done somewhat looser (though I always try to get ashiguruma inline with uke's feet too).
  • Daigo also discusses why Mifune invented oguruma (see, I didn't know that either).  He says that Mifune specifically intended oguruma to be used against much taller opponents, implying that the height of uke's center of gravity is the deciding factor.  Oguruma is easier with a taller opponent, but it's hard to get in under a shorter opponent with oguruma so you would use ashiguruma.
  • The fulcrum for oguruma really is the blocking leg, whereas (just like in hizaguruma) the blocking leg on ashiguruma is not a fulcrum - it is a foot-stop.
I suppose that being taller than the average guy, I have never had many good opportunities to do oguruma, so I have developed a preference for ashiguruma and just assumed that oguruma wasn't much different.  But you know what assumption does... It makes an ass out of u and umption.  
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I guess I just learnt a thing or two.  That's just one more thing to add to my already-long list of stuff to drill and practice more.  I can already tell that I am going to regret teaching this to some of my smaller brown belts...

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Patrick Parker
 www.mokurendojo.com

Hizaguruma and sasae tsurikomiashi

Another pair of techniques that cause beginners much confusion is hizaguruma and sasae tsurikomiashi but once it's explained and you have a chance to practice each of these things slowly and carefully a few times, this mix-up is easy to resolve.  Hiza and sasae are different in several ways:
  • Action - Hiza is a guruma and sasae is usually an otoshi.  This means that the primary action of hiza involves rotating uke around his long-axis, like rolling a log.  Sasae is usually done as an otoshi, or a cartwheeling action.
  • Target - The difference between these two techniques is not a simple matter of targeting the knee vs. the ankle.  In hiza you target the knee of the rear leg.  In sasae you target the ankle of the front foot.  It is possible to sorta get these throws to work the other way around, but you're pretty much asking for trouble if you don't do them this way.
  • Timing - Hiza happens early, as the rear leg is just starting to move forward.  Sasae happens late, as the front foot is just about to strike the ground.
So, the way I'd recommend getting these differences internalized is to practice slowly with a compliant partner, emphasizing as you practice, "hiza-early-back knee-logroll" and "sasae-late-front foot-cartwheel."

Here's one of the most beautiful sasae I've ever seen.  You have absolutely GOT TO WATCH the slo-mo replays in the second half of this clip!


And here is a compilation of a couple of lovely hizaguruma.



____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Where is the fulcrum on hizaguruma?

Hint: It's not tori's foot or uke's knee.
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Consider this - even if you are the strongest dude on earth, it is not possible to balance yourself on one leg while holding uke's weight up at the end of your other leg.  If your foot contact with uke's knee were the fulcrum, or axis of rotation, for hizaguruma then you would have to be able to stand on one leg and hold up uke's weight with your other foot (even if only momentarily).
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The fulcrum for hizaguruma is the same fulcrum as for sasae (no, it's not his ankle either).  It is where his toes contact the ground.
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So, the goal of hizaguruma isn't to create a fulcrum with your foot and spin uke around it.  The goal is to stop uke's leg from moving forward long enough to advance his weight out over his foot so that his own foot becomes the fulcrum about which he continues to rotate.  If you catch the right timing and direction then you can reach across and tap uke's knee with your foot just enough to stop it then remove your foot and catch your balance with it.  If you can remove that foot during the throw, it's not the fulcrum.
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When I figured that one out it made hizaguruma SO MUCH EASIER for me!

[photo courtesy of Kyle Sloan]
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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

A walking and release video I'd never seen!

This is a most remarkable video of the walking exercises (unsoku or tegatana) and release exercises. The first B&W section is Tomiki and Ohba doing these exercises. This first section is commonly seen on Tomiki blogs here and there. But the rest of this video shows these exercises from several different perspectives with different aikidoka. Most of this video I'd never seen before. Check it out - be sure to watch to the end!



____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Ogoshi and tsurigoshi


Last week I posted an article about the difference between ukigoshi and ogoshi and I used a cool hipthrow picture that I found on Flickr.  The problem was, The throw shown was tsurigoshi - not ukigoshi or ogoshi.  I knew that at the time, but the picture was so cool that I wanted to use it anyway.
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I said to myself, "I bet if anyone in the world comments that the picture was tsurigoshi instead of ogoshi, it'll be Sensei Chad Morrison at Akari dojo."  Don't know how I made that prediction, but sure enough, a day or two later, Chad sent me a note about my photo of tsurigoshi. ;-)
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My initial response (inside my own mind) was that those two throws are really the same thing - that tsurigoshi and ogoshi are not really distinctly different techniques.  The grip-or-not thing is a false distinction.
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But there really is a difference betwen these two techniques even if I tend to minimize it...
  • The fundamental difference is that ogoshi is a pushing action while tsurigoshi is a pulling action.
  • This basic push-pull difference leads to a secondary difference in hand placement.  Because ogoshi is about pushing uke over your hips, a higher hand placement on the back gives you greater leverage.
  • Because you can't easily push uke over your hip with a low hand position, if your hand ends up low on uke's back then you naturally have to take a grip and pull, or lift.  Thus the name, tsurigoshi (pulling/lifting hip).
Sure, you can do ogoshi with a low hand placement, but because of the sorry leverage, it's hard to keep this throw from covertly becoming tsurigoshi.  It's also rougher on tori's shoulder trying to do low-grip ogoshi - especially with a larger uke.

I probably ought to do a better job teaching the difference between these two throws, because it would probably fix some problems and confusion that some of my students have with the action of ogoshi and tsurigoshi...
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If you have trouble distinguishing between these two throws, then here's something to try. Get a compliant uke and go slowly and lightly through a few minutes of trading throws, alternating between tsurigoshi and ogoshi, taking time to emphasize "ogoshi-high-push" and "tsurigoshi-low-pull."  I think the differences will become clearer and these throws will become more distinctive and useful for you. 

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____________________
Patrick Parker

New Class Schedule

I promised some exciting changes at the beginning of 2011 and here's one of the first...
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Effective Monday, January 24, 2011, we will be doubling our weekday class offerrings and shuffling our schedule a little.  Our new schedule will look like this:
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Monday
  • 5:00pm - Kids' Judo
  • 6:00pm - Aikido
  • 7:30pm - Judo
Thursday
  • 5:00pm - Kids' Judo
  • 6:00pm - Judo
  • 7:30pm - Aikido
Saturday
  • 7:00am private class
  • 9:00am jodo (stick&blade work)
Additionally, starting in February 2011, we will have a very talented karate instructor teaching at these same time slots on Tuesdays and Fridays.
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Patrick Parker

Ashiguruma, haraigoshi, and taiotoshi

Another set of techniques that are superficially similar and which cause beginners much difficulty is taiotoshi, haraigoshi, and ashiguruma.  All three of these techniques launch uke from behind tori to land in front of tori but that is really about where the similarity ends.

  • The three throws use wholly different actions.  Taiotoshi is a hand throw (tewaza).  Ashiguruma is a leg throw (ashiwaza).  Haraigoshi is a hip technique (koshiwaza).  
  • Much confusion comes from people thinking that the leg is necessary to trip uke in taiotoshi (it is not).  Of these three throws, ashiguruma is the trip - taiotoshi is not a trip.
  • Taiotoshi and ashiguruma are often confused because people do not understand the fundamental difference between otoshi and guruma actions.  Otoshi happens as uke's weight is coming forward and down into the ground.  Guruma happens when you turn uke on his long axis as he is coming forward and up out of the ground.
  • Ashiguruma and haraigoshi are often confused by people who lose track of the fact that haraigoshi is a hipthrow and ashiguruma is not.  The placement and action of the hip as a fulcrum is vital in haraigoshi, while it is vital that you keep the hip out of the way and out of the action in ashiiguruma.
  • Additionally, ashiguruma is a foot-stop action, while haraigoshi is a sweeping action.  Without the hip as a fulcrum it is hard if not impossible to sweep with the leg for haraigoshi but you can use it as a footprop for ashiguruma
Following are pretty good representative examples of these three throws. 








____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Kata tells a story

Kata - there is this undying argument amongst martial artists whether Kata is the indispensible core of budo or whether it is the great evil.

Someone sent me an email a couple of days ago mentioning that they'd heard that kata was like the ancient equivalent of a DVD - providing the practitioners of old the ability to record, preserve, and study the technique of the masters.  And I agree.  That is certainly part of the value of a kata.  But it is not the whole story.
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See, kata (if they are well-constructed) tell a story.  It is a real story about strategy and tactics with protagonist and antagonist and dilemma and climax, often divided into chapters, and often encoded with a table of contents or an index or map key so that you can understand the story better.
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Anybody with little kids knows that they love hearing the same story over and over again, and that this is a crucial part of kids development.  It is through this repetition of familiar stories that they develop stable worldviews and personalities.
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The same applies to kata - particularly for the less-experienced martial artist.  Sure, you are developing strength and endurance and muscle memory and good technical form, etc...  But you are also listening to the kata tell a story over and over again.  More than listening, you are embodying and enacting the story over and over again, allowing you to develop stable, mature ideas about the kind of conflict that the story is about.
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There are problems with this kind of learning.  Not all stories are equal.  Some are masterpieces and some are dime novels.  Likewise, not all kata tell equally valuable stories.  But the best of kata tell stories that are part of the accepted cultural literacy of budo.
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Eventually you will have to stop listening to the same story over and over again and get some variety in your reading.  Eventually you will have to grow up and live your own life (do some randori or shiai) instead of listening to these (very instructive) fairy tales over and over again.
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Patrick Parker

The differences between ukigoshi and ogoshi

This is one of the perpetual questions for beginners and often as not, even more advanced players have a hard time sorting out the difference between ukigoshi and ogoshi.
  • The name ukigoshi means floating hip, whereas, the name ogoshi means large hip or major hip.
  • Ukigoshi feels like your feet get lighter until they slip sideways and you fall.  In ogoshi you are spun around a fulcrum off your feet and onto your back
  • Ogoshi is a crack-of-the-butt throw - tori's buttcrack goes on uke's thigh or knee.  Ukigoshi is not a buttcrack throw
  • Ukigoshi often starts with  the side of tori's hip in contact with uke's groin.  Ogoshi begins with the back of tori's waist against uke's groin.
  • Typically ukigoshi is easier with a low grip around uke's waist and ogoshi is easier with a high grip near uke's shoulder.
  • In ogoshi, uke slides over tori's low back or kidneys as he turns over onto his back.  In ukigoshi there is no slide - uke turns horizontal on tori's hip then drops.
  • Ukigoshi tends to drop uke with his feet behind tori.  Ogoshi lands uke with his feet in front of tori.
  • Often ogoshi is a larger amplitude throw, but ukigoshi is a more severe fall because there is less time to get your fall right.
Following are a couple of pretty good video explanations of these ideas.





[photo courtesy of Basegrinder]

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Multiple Randori - Spearing into the center

Very nice bout of multiple randori here - particularly impressive because of the apparent youth of the tori.  This young lady has apparently put in a lot of training.  Not that there aren't potential problems.  In this bout she appears to adopt the strategy of aggressively entering onto the center of the crowd of ukes in order to scatter them, almost like a bowling ball hitting bowling pins.  This strategy is risky but she pulls it off, partly because of her youth and the vigor with which she attacks.  Older, fatter men might think twice before trying this strategy.  Also, her ukes were holding back and attacking her singly even though she positioned herself where she could receive multiple attacks at once but randori goes like that sometimes.  Overall I'm impressed with the demo, mostly because of her age and size.



____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Shomenate variations

Interesting footwork dealing with people who want to fade back and around your shomenate.  Notice how this tori is able to remain squared up on uke's weak line as uke moves about.


____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Calling your shots in multiple randori


____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Mizuguruma - the water wheel

I've watched this many times and am still not wholly sure what to think of it.  It is obviously the same general idea as the Mizu Guruma in Koshiki no kata - though heavily modified or re-interpreted.  At first it looks rough and pretty un-skillful.  But I still can't stop watching it (like a train wreck), and upon more watchings I see more and more of value and interest.

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Working the edges in multiple randori


____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

A Kitoryu rendition of Koshiki no Kata

That surface that they are on... It looks like concrete!  ouch!


____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Strategy in multiple randori?

When doing multiple-opponent randori, say against 3 or 4 or 5 opponents, what are your favorite strategies?  Do you prefer to try to work around the edges or to scatter the opponents out and work the center?  Do you try to take out the biggest/toughest opponent or the smallest/fastest first?  What have you found that works for you?
[Photo courtesy of Act, Don't Think]

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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

The third level of knowledge

I mentioned in an earlier post that Koshiki no Kata illustrates two levels of knowledge - Omote (superficial) and Ura (profound).  But actually there is a third level of knowledge that is illustrated in the kata - a set of techniques or behaviors that is assumed to exist before Omote can happen.  Uke's attacking actions.
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Throughout Koshiki no Kata, uke attacks using a handful of actions that must have been commonplace on the feudal battlefields that spawned jujitsu schools such as Kito Ryu...
  • hipthrows similar to tsurigoshi - bodily lifting an opponent and smashing them to the ground
  • grabbing for an opponent's weapon if yours is broken or lost
  • reaching/grasping/thrusting at the opponent's exposed face or throat
  • an arm-locking shoulder/hip throw or scooping throw - again bodily lifting and dropping the opponent
  • pushing the opponent facefirst into the mud
  • trying to bodily bear the opponent down or tackle him
  • rear bearhug pinning the opponent's arms so your buddies can dispatch him.
If you were tasked with training a bunch of noobies a handful of tricks that might save them (or at least make them more effective) in the event they were disarmed on the battlefield, the above would be a pretty good short list. 

If you were to design a school of jujitsu with different levels of attainment, then the above would make a pretty good first level of skills, followed by common counters to the above (Omote) and perhaps a third level of advanced flow and understanding (Ura).

So, the knowledge underlying Koshiki is actually divided into three levels - The above pre-requisites for uke, the Omote, and the Ura.
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Patrick Parker

Interesting aiki

This is a dramatically different mode of practice than what we usually play with, but interesting.  Good lessons here...

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Embodiment of integrity and dignity

Integrity literally means to hold together.  As a virtue, it suggests that your beliefs and your behaviors remain the same over time - that you do not vacillate or try to put on a different face in different circumstances. What does that have to do with Koshiki no Kata?
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Koshiki no Kata is intended to be performed with solemnity and dignity, but how to be solemn and dignified is pretty much left up to the practitioners because it can't be taught or affected. Do you pretend to be a Samurai and feign disdain for your uke who is obviously beneath you?  Do you move extra-slowly, refusing to break your upright posture?  What do you do to make your kata look dignified?
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Well, if you have integrity, then you do absolutely nothing special.  If you already have a deep personal dignity then all you have to do is let it shine through the kata.  You don't have to put on a new face or affect some different behavior to pretend to be dignified because you already are.  Perhaps that is part of why this is considered such an advanced kata - it just takes a goodly part of a lifetime to develop that sort of stable, mature self-image.
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If you have to try to act like some old, dead, Japanese murderer in order to feign dignity then you lack integrity.
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Watch the Yamashita demonstration of Koshiki no Kata again and notice how naturally they walk and stand and move.  Nothing is affected in their behavior.  They are just being Koshiki.  That is both dignity and integrity.


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Patrick Parker

Precision in Koshiki no Kata

Some years back, Tsunako Miyake did an invitational seminar on Koshiki no Kata in Texas. The folks that were invited were yondan and above, so I didn't get to go since I was Sandan at the time. But LF Wilkinson, the Thoughtful Sensei of the Aikibudokan did get to attend Miyake's seminar and he had some great comments on my previous post.
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Regarding the specificity of corrections and the precision of technical specifications for Koshiki no Kata, he writes...
... When [Tsunako Miyake] taught this to us years ago she was very specific in some of her corrections, less so in others. I think that the corrections were for those areas in each of us that had too much slack (while each person's "other" areas were already tight enough and needed little to no correction). For my uke and I her specifics were ...
**to him - more body/less arm ... meaning he was thinking with his arms and not his center and she continually corrected the placement of his body relative to mine (hip to hip, chest to shoulder, etc.) and where his feet went. Since his center was in the wrong position relative to uke, he was resorting to his arms to catch the slack and force the waza. So foot position is important and cannot be sloppy. 
**to me - the only correction I received was "squat, more lower" and upon my stating that "Sensei, I do not understand" ... she commented that I walked too upright/high and too smooth "like Aikido player ... must walk like Judo-man" and those comments didn't stop until I was walking not in a squat but in a lumbering, low-center saunter of sorts with my head straight up (Aikido-man rooted to earth, as-it-were). 
Once I got it right she said, "ah good, now you look like an uchimata man" which blew me away because my first judo teacher said exactly the same thing and had me specialize in it (so what came 1st ... the walk or the throw?? I dunno, probably my walk since I was tagged with that when I was only a green belt). 
So in my case, everything was pretty much in line with what was needed except my center initially was too high and that she wanted me to lower my center (even on the approach before tori & uke ever engaged) in order to get UNDER uke's center for each throw. 
Unlike Judo .... this kata requires (with a few exceptions) tori's center to be lower then uke's as both are wearing armor and uke cannot have his center lifted to "roll" over tori's center (and tori cannot effectively use his arms). Without trying to recount all three days and the corrections she made to the group and to the judo people (who had their own set of issues) she was VERY specific about certain areas such as where the foot went and where tori stood and placed himself relative to uke. 
Other items such as precisely where tori placed his hand (on uke's shoulder for example) on some of the sacrifices was less precise leading Lynn and I to the conclusion that in a kata of this level some items must be critically precise in order to express the underlying principle for each waza while other items are less critical .... likely because the "more" critical items assist the pure form of the principle while the "less" critical items have much less effect on the pure form of the principle and therefore have less of a change of "queering" the pure form if a hand or foot is slightly off on inch one way or the other.
I would offer that Koshiki MUST be VERY precise .... just not in the way we would see with a 1st tier Yudansha kata (1st tier being Shodan thru Yondan). I think that precision is precision ... it's just that the precision required for a Shodan is not the same as needed for a kata of this level and the ability to tell what parts must be exact and what parts can have a little slack here and there is what sets the shodan apart from the hachidan.
I highlighted that last part myself - pretty outstanding I think.

____________________ 
Patrick Parker 

Old Spice Karate


____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Poetry in motion

I mentioned the apparent variability around the technical standard of Koshiki no Kata in a previous post, and I have posted several old videos of the giants (Kano, Yamashita, et al.) demonstrating different understandings of the exercise. A commentator left me a message suggesting that all the "vagueness" in Koshiki no Kata would disappear when the powers-that-be manage to publish standards for Koshiki no Kata for world-level competition.  I agree that likely will happen, but I don't think it will be a good thing.
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See, whereas Nagenokata and Katamenokata are more like elementary-school copy-work or learning to play scales, Koshiki no Kata is more like poetry or jazz.  Koshiki is a whole different sort of kata - one that will not well bear rigorous technical specification.
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Even the names of the movements in the kata are poetic instead of being descriptive.  In Koshiki no kata you do not do techniques, so much as you physically embody ideas like "Dreaming," and "Water Flowing," and "Willow Snow."

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Patrick Parker

Very old Koshiki no kata film

I love this instantiation of Koshiki no Kata.  You can see that the tori does not merely know the moves, but he embodies the principles.  Some of these techniques flow so well that they are startling - especially the throw at 1:35!  This is a film to study!

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Koshiki no kata is like a family reunion

Koshiki no kata has a different sort of feel to it than the lower-level kata in judo.  Not exactly less precise-feeling, but perhaps vague might be the right word for how I feel about Koshiki.  The lower-level kata such as Nagenokata and Goshin Jutsu (if that one is even a kata at all) have more of a technically defined, rigorous feel to them.  Sort of a, "Put your foot right here and do exactly this with your arm..." sort of feel.
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Sure, Koshiki has technical standards, but they seem to have greater flexibility within the standard than do the lower kata.  Greater allowance for different masters to express these techniques and principles their own way.
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I suppose part of this is that you can't really stand on the sideline watching a couple of red belts in judo doing this kata and then tell them, "No, you put your foot wrong there, and you should have pulled more like this..."  By the time you get to the point in your judo career that you should be working on Koshiki no Kata, you've pretty much already figured out how to do all the principles expressed in this kata. 
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Learning and practicing Koshiki no Kata should be more like getting reaquainted with a bunch of old friends than learning new principles and techniques.

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Patrick Parker

Koshiki - omote and ura

Some basic comments on the form and structure of Koshiki no Kata...

  • Koshiki no kata is composed of two groups of techniques.  The first set is named Omote, suggesting that it is preliminary or superficial knowledge.  The second set is named Ura, suggesting that it exemplifies more profound understanding of the principles of the kata.  So, basically the kata progresses from superficial toward profound.
  • Omote is composed of seven pairs of techniques.  Each pair explores similar or same attack conditions but uke either resists or modifies the attack to determine which of each pair comes to pass.
  • Ura is composed of seven techniques that are done rapidly and continuously.




____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

On loan from the Kito Ryu

Jigoro Kano adopted Koshiki no kata from the old Kito school of jujitsu.  In fact, an alternate name for this kata that you will hear occasionally is Kitoryu no kata (The kata of the Kitoryu).  By studying Koshiki no kata you can get a decent idea of what those old, dead Kito guys must have been thinking about.
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First, the name they chose for their school (Kito) means something along the lines of "rise and fall," or since I almost always prefer looser, more westernized translations, I call it "waxing and waning."  See, the most distinctive philosophical principle of the old Kito school seems to have been that everything is always waxing and waning.  
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Our strength rises and falls.  Our enemy's strength rises and falls.  What seems strong in one sense is weak from another point of view. If you can figure out how to survive the ride until your strength is waxing and your enemy's strength is waning, then you will crash over him like a wave.
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You can mainly see this idea represented in the kata in the first section (omote).  The first section is composed of matched pairs of techniques which mostly start the same way, but reach a branch in the stream where they either flow one way or the other.  
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Take the first technique pair, for instance.  Uke attempts something along the lines of tsurigoshi and tori disrups uke's balance backward.  Tori and uke stumble backward several steps until uke is toppled backward (technique #1) or uke resists and changes the flow of the technique (technique #2).



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Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Koshiki no kata month

As part of my regular posting this year on the Mokuren Dojo blog, I intend to do a month-long focus on a single kata or traditional exercise.  This month I will start with Koshiki no Kata - probably one of the least known or practiced kata in the judo repertoire, but also one of the ones deepest in principle.  
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By no means do I write this as any sort of authoritative knowledge, but I do have a month's worth of observations that I can make about this set of exercises.
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So, with that, I leave you with this old video of Kano and Yamashita performing excerpts of Koshiki no Kata - Judo's "Forms Antique."


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

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