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  • Fall Aiki Buddies Gathering - Starkville. (November 14-15)
  • Winter Clinic @ Windsong (Matl, Lowry, Rea, Bieler, Parker) - Dec 27-30

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Ready - FIRE - aim!

You can't steer a bicycle while it's standing still, but once it starts moving forward it has pretty good maneuverability.  You can't learn to ride a bike without doing it badly for a while.  You could spend 15-20 years studying bike riding, learn every detail of the physics of torque and angular momentum, the physical properties of the alluminum frame, the chemical compisition of the rubber in the tires, the intricate details of the manufacture.  You could study the anatomy and physiology and biomechanics and kinesiology of the legs and hips and their interaction with the cardiorespiratory system and metabolism and on and on and on.  But at the end of that 15-20 years you still will not have gotten any bike riding done.
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Pretty much every discipline in the world works this way - the process has to be kicked off and develop some momentum before it can be can be steered or optimized or "done properly."  Why do you think doctors and lawyers are still practicing medicine and law after they graduate from school?
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Aikido and judo are like this.  So is learning to teach aikido and judo.  You won't get it right, but you cannot let that stop you from starting.
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Don't worry about screwing it up - start now and you can optimize it later.

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____________________
Patrick Parker

Uchidachi and Shidachi

A few weeks ago I was writing about how we have adopted for our classes the old practice of having uke (especially for rank tests) be considerably higher-ranked than tori (whenever possible and practical).  Well, today I was studying more about this partner relationship in Pascal Krieger's excellent text, Jodô - la voie du bâton.  It was mostly stuff that I already knew, but revisiting basic concepts like this is like visiting old friends.
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I also came across the following in Wikipedia...
Uchidachi (打太刀) means "striking/attacking sword" and is one of the two roles in kata of budō and bujutsu, the other being shidachi (受太刀).  The senior party is normally uchidachi. In kata, the uchidachi takes the role of instructor and initiates the action and governing the tempo, although allowing the shidachi to strike the winning blow. This role is like a nurturing parent (or teacher) who intentionally loses its skillful and true attack in order for its child (or disciple) to be able to develop. In no way is this of any competitive nature nor a way to test one's abilities. This role requires one to be humble and responsible because it embodies self-sacrifice of uchidachi in order to teach shidachi by offering guidance and education. Any corrections in the distance between the two roles are made by uchidachi. Usually this role is fulfilled by the senior practitioner, hence this role is in the more difficult position of facing the sun when practising outside. 
Shidachi (受太刀) means "doing/receiving sword" and is one of the two roles in kata of budō and bujutsu, the other being uchidachi (打太刀)...  This role which does a technique and is best described as an adolescent child (or disciple) whose goal is to eagerly acquire the skills presented by uchidachi's technique. Shidachi is led by uchidachi who provides a true attack; this allows shidachi to learn correct body displacement, combative distancing, proper spirit, and the perception of opportunity. Unfortunately, students often act as though they want to test their skills against those of the higher-ranked uchidachi. They consider this competition to be their practice. In fact, this leads to neither better technique, nor greater spiritual development, because the correct relationship between uchidachi and shidachi has been obscured...
...which I considered to be quite a good concise explanation of the concepts.  What I mainly took from Krieger and from Wikipedia included...
  • The senior partner should be uke because he is more capable of controlling the encounter to present the junior with an optimal learning experience.
  • The senior controls the tempo and the distance (ma-ai).  I found this a bit surprising, because I'd always thought that control of ma-ai was a mutually-shared responsibility - sort of a give-and-take game of trying to play the boundary to your advantage.
[photo courtesy of Nikopol_TO]

____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

BOMP - Ch 14 - Reciprocity

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on Saturdays.

Yin-Yang, In-Yo, Ki-To
Give-Take, Wax-Wane, Ebb-Flow

This idea is so obviously universal to martial arts as well as just simply being the way that the world works, that it is surprising to me that we don't talk about Reciprocity more than we do.  It seems like we have lots of language to describe this phenomenon, but something about it still makes it elusive.  This concept is Tao, but it is not just Tao.  Consider...
To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
No, that's not The Byrds, or Pete Seeger.  It's a bit older than them and it is an expression of Reciprocity.  But this is also not just some tye-died hippie ideal.  It is the way of the world.  Take for instance the fascinating, and martially useful phenomenon of Reciprocal Inhibition.
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This brings to mind a great lecture by Henry Kono Sensei (which doesn't appear to be available on YouTube any longer), in which he recounts asking Morihei Ueshiba, "Why can't we do the things that you can do?" To which Ueshiba replied, "Because I understand yin-yang and you do not."


[photo courtesy of The Last Minute]

____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Midori Hanakuso Ho

I promised my readers a couple of weeks ago that soon I would reveal the secret to my amazing success with getting my kids' judo class to practice nagenokata without dying from boredom.  My secret - I am a follower of the Midori Hanakuso Ho - an ancient practice of the greatest masters of judo.
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Midori Hanakuso Ho translates (somewhat loosely) to The Green Booger Methodology.
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Yes, you read that right.  See, kids seem to love the idea of green boogers just as much as they hate the formality of kata.  The clever coach can use that little piece of child psychology to a great advantage if he can just incorporate a green booger or two into his teachings.
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Take, for instance, the first technique of Nagenokata - ukiotoshi.  Uke initiates the attack by stepping forward to take a right sided normal grip on tori's jacket and tori fades back, overextending uke and drawing him into a forward rolling breakfall.
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Getting kids to do the formal attack correctly is like... Well, let's just say it's excruciating!  This is where the Green Booger Methodology comes into play.
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Tell the kids to imagine that uke has just sneezed up a huge, slimy, stretchy green booger into the palm of his right hand.  And tell uke that his attack is to step forward with his right foot to step on tori's left foot so he can't escape as uke wipes the gross, viscid lump onto tori's jacket.  They get the idea instantly!  And not only that, tori knows just what he has to do to avoid getting slimed.  Tori has to step back with his left foot to keep from getting pinned in place, and he has to get control of uke's arms so that no booger-wiping occurs. 
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From there it is just a matter of a little coaching and adjustment to make ukiotoshi happen quite nicely.

____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Breathing during menuchi

Whatever physical discipline you practice, you can get deeper into it by examining the interactions of your breathing with your physical practice.  Martial arts, shooting, yoga, running... anything is made better by paying a bit of attention to your breath.
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This is not some mystical spiritual practice. Your breathing and your heartbeat are the two most fundamental rhythms of your being.  In martial arts we pay a LOT of attention to the rhythm and timing of our walking cycles, but (at least in my classes) somewhat less attention to breathing.  That doesn't mean that I think it's unimportant - I just have other stuff to focus on first.
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Today I made an interesting connection between a little piece of respiratory physiology that I already knew about, and my sword practice.
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Try this... Take a long, steady breath in until you're full up, then stop.  Did you notice a tiny hitch in your chest when you changed from breathing in to holding?  Now, let your breath out slowly and smoothly, and stop.  Did you notice the vibration as you stopped?  almost like a little spasm in your breathing muscles? Keep that in mind - it turns out that hitch can affect the cleanliness of your sword cuts.
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Yesterday I noticed that slowing down and starting the exhale slightly before I started my menuchi cuts cleaned up my lines a good bit - It took that little hitch out of my cuts.
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It's the small stuff...

[photo courtesy of Onasut]

____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Who gets to be the boss?

In judo and aikido, we are basically pushing/pulling our opponents so that they fall down.  If you get a partner and push them 100 times, like in randori, sometimes they will fall and sometimes they won't.  Sometimes the other guy is able to choose not to fall down.
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So, what determines who is the boss at any given time?  What determnes who is going to be uke and who is going to be tori?
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Here's a hint - it is not kuzushi (offbalance or posture destruction).  Kuzushi determines who is not going to be the boss.  Kuzushi is meant to weaken and slow the opponent so that they cannot be the boss of you. Kuzushi gives you a chance to enter into a technique without being murderized.  Kuzushi gives you the possibility of becoming the boss, but it is not the deciding factor.
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It is timing or synch or kimusubi that determines who is the boss in a given encounter.  The person who is able to get even a little bit of kuzushi, but do it at exactly the right time - that is the guy who will usually be the boss.  The guy who is free to exploit kuzushi for a throw at any given moment (because he is in synch) - that is the guy who will usually be the boss.
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Anyone out there ever asked their teacher, "How do I do this throw?"
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Maybe a better question would be, "When do I do this throw?" or, "How do I get to the right time and place to do this throw."

[photo courtesy of Singapore2010]

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____________________
Patrick Parker

BOMP - Ch 13 - Michelangelo Principle

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on Saturdays.

This is the principle that I learned years ago when I first started exploring martial arts.  I got a copy of Bruce Lee's most excellent book, Tao of Jeet June Do, and was blown away from the very first paragraph...
To obtain enlightenment in martial art means the extinction of everything which obscures the "true knowledge," the "real life."
Lee goes on to explain (though I couldn't find the exact quote) that martial arts mastery is not a matter of accumulation, but rather a subtractive process.  Instead of adding this technique on top of that one, and piling this artform on top of that other one, you begin stripping away the things that are not martially artistic. Just like Michelangelo said - chipping away all the stone that is not part of the angel of his vision.  As Pearlman puts it in BOMP...
Martial arts cannot be about accumulating practices that empower usbut rather ceasing practices that disempower us.
Whoa!
WOW!
Figure out how your martial arts practice is holding you back and let go of it!
[photo courtesy of Wikipedia]

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Moving toward the ideal

In most martial arts that I know of, there is this ideal of the right kind of movement.  It can be sort of hard to describe, but martial artists are generally looking for that sort of movement.  It is generally characterized by strength and balance combined with fluid pliability.  I've heard this elusive ideal described as "stillness in motion."
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Different arts approach stillness in motion from different directions, making different assumptions.  In my experience...
  • Karate guys sort of assume that everyone knows how to walk around, and they build powerful stances from the ground up, feet, then legs, then hips and abs... working on the stillness part of stillness in motion... Like statues.
  • Aikido guys tend to move like gyroscopes, turning their mass in an arc around a pivot, then placing another pivot and swinging around that.  When they need to apply power, they flow into a power structure as if they are pouring their center into a stance - building the stance from the center downward.
  • Judo guys tend to move like pogo sticks, keeping feet under center, and when their center is displaced, they move their feet to replace them under their center.  When they apply power, they typically don't do it from a stance, but just the opposite - by throwing themselves to the ground, adding their mass and momentum to that of the opponent's.
Sure, those are sort of simplistic metaphors, but they sort of get at what I've seen. 
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Is one method of approaching stillness in motion better?  Nope.  I reckon one is as good as the next.  One style of motion might be better for whatever particular purposes the martial artist wants to put it to. 
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I tend to prefer to approach this sort of hard-to-grasp ideal from both sides.  For instance, you can sort of define a spectrum with karate stances on one end and aikido/judo flow at the other extreme.  Then practice both extremes until you can find the point in the middle that is ideal for your purposes.
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____________________
Patrick Parker

Hands-on instruction

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Ichikata - Parker & Lowry


____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Transcend victory and defeat

I am slowly working my way back through Henry Copeland's list of principles that make aikido go.  The third one is, "Transcend victory and defeat." You have to transcend victory and defeat to the point that you stop playing dominance games with your training partners..
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I had an instructor for a while some years back.  Quite skilled at karate, and a great teacher.  But we got to discussing aikido and judo one time and she told me that she hated those arts because she just couldn't stand that un-balanced, out-of-control feeling that goes along with practicing that material. She was self-limiting.  I know I've learned a whole lot more about karate since I've been studying aikido and judo than I ever did in the years I studied with her - and I think a large part of that is because I gave myself to that un-balanced, out-of-control methodology, which allowed me to learn a lot about life on the edge of failure and a lot about getting myself out of bad situations.  Because I was able to transcend that control thing, I'm still practicing and learning.  (Partly) because she was not able to transcend, she's not.
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This point on Henry's list also brings to mind one of my very first blog posts - the one about Productive newaza randori.  See, if you fight a huge, terrible fight during every encounter that you have with a partner, then you exhaust yourself and waste all of your class time before you can get the number of repetitions that you need to get better.  You have to transcend that desire to fight with your partners and get to the point that you can roll with them.  When you do, you will find that your skill progression skyrockets because you are getting immensely more reps in much more varied situations.

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____________________
Patrick Parker

But you're throwing them on their heads!

During the kid's judo rank demo this weekend, we were demonstrating one of the two most important things that we teach in judo - how to fall safely.  This picture was of the results of an okuriashibarai double foot sweep - and the results are so surprising to an outsider that a mom protested, "You're throwing them on their heads!"
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I had to stop and show that, with me holding their sleeve and standing upright, and them holding my sleeve, it's not possible for the kid's head to hit the ground... (unless both of our grips slip, which can happen - that's why we have informed consents and waivers.) But seriously, you think I'd damage my dojo floor by bouncing this batch of heads on it!  Come on, Mom!

[photo courtesy of Elise D. Parker]

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Great dynamic judo action!

Looks like yokogake or hizaguruma begging to happen!
[photo courtesy of Elise D. Parker]


____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Movin' on up to the East Side!

Today we had a busy day of martial arts.  First a Nikyu rank demo for Todd.  His atemiwaza was very nice, I think he was pleasantly surprised with his hijiwaza, and his tekubiwaza was fine.  I think his strongest individual  techniques today were #2 - aigamaeate, and (surprisingly) #9 - udehineri, and his techniques that need the most work included #4 - gedanate, and #10 - wakigatame.  We spent the rest of the time working on some atemi that can be added to #7 - udegaeshi, and on chaining from release#7 to kaitennage to oshitaoshi to hikitaoshi and to wakigatame.
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Congrats to our new Nikyu!
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Later this morning, we had a judo rank demo for a pile of kids - had two that moved to yellow and two that moved up to orange belt, as well as a pile of stripes.  These guys ukemi is looking really good, and they demonstrated osotogari, koshiguruma, morotegari, and kouchigari.  On the ground they demonstrated uphill escape from kesagatame.  Then we did randori and they all really shined!
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Congrats to our new yellow and orange belt kids, and congrats to all of the kids for putting forth such a great effort and doing  so good!
____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

BOMP - Ch 12 - Natural Action

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on Saturdays.   

Some years back, one of my teachers was showing us some grip-switching drills to show us how to give up a grip that was going bad, allowing us to replace it with a better grip as we kept flowing.  He was explaining that these ways of moving were more "natural" than the way I had been moving.
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I did the exercises, and I got better at flowing and grip-switching during randori, but I never really figured out how the new motions were more natural than the old ones.  Sure, it was better motion (for our purposes) but more natural?
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Pearlman gives two definitions of Natural Motion in the beginning of this chapter.  I finally realized that I had been working off of definition #1 (instinctive, untrained) and the instructor was working off of definition #2 (conforming to a large degree to the body's way of moving.).  Neither definition is wrong, but this is a classic example of teacher-student misunderstanding.
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Pearlman makes use of a great example of what I call The Cowcatcher.  But he also makes a point that just floored me when I read it.  "We ultimately do not train for hours upon hours so that we can fight as if untrained."
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Wow!  Why does such simple, self-obvious truth take me by such surprise?
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We don't train for years to move more naturally (per def'n #1), but rather, to move more naturally (per def'n #2).
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I don't think that I can state it any better than the last paragraph or so of the chapter...
As martial artists, we must concern ourselves with exercising the intrinsic power of the body, mind, and spirit - the "natural." Yet, intrinsic power does not refer to what is common; it refers to the ways in which a human being is anatomically , mentally, and spiritually powerful.  In short, we must seek  the "natural action" of the human being, not in terms of the most common action or the initial action, but the deepest inherent connection to power.
[photo courtesy of Giarose]

____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Take the ceremony out of kata

A couple of interesting excerpts from Otaki & Draeger:
Jigoro Kano intended kata as a medium  for self-discovery and self-realization through judo.  He intended kata as the steering gear for the technical development of every judoist. But kata as "grammar" or theoretical bases, must be joined to the practical side of training so that it may fulfil its theoretical purpose.  To do this you must learn to take the ceremony out of kata. (p411)
Whoa! there's more...
Too often, through misunderstanding kata is thought of by inexperienced judoists as nothing more than a ceremony and of little lasting training value. Kata is scorned by them as unfit to be included in the training routines for a "fighting judoist." It is only tolerated because, perhaps, it is a basic requirement for advancement in judo rank.  The study and practice of kata is often left to the last-minute training rush by students and instructors alike. (p417)
Otaki and Draeger are not advocating getting rid of kata.  They are advocating reviving and reinvigorating them so that they are real, productive training methods.  They are advocating taking them out of the realm of formal ceremony, exhibition, and show, and making the kata a part of your everyday life and training - so that kata is nothing extraordinary - nothing especially different from what you ordinarily do.

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Don't want a response? Don't give a stimulus.

Henry Copeland blew our minds (as usual) when he posted his list of principles that make aikido work.  I'm going back through this list, seeing what I can make out of it some years later.  Henry's second principle on his list is Mutual Benefit, which he divided into several ideas, including:
  • Transcend victory and defeat
  • No un-necessary harm
  • Uke provides honest responses
I get the feeling that Mutual Benefit is largely just a lip service thing in a lot of clubs - sort of a nice, comfortable general idea about being nice to our training partners - almost a social fiction that we like to mention before we get down to the nitty gritty of trashing bozos!  But Henry made this Mutual Benefit central (almost the first idea he talked about) and he even extended this idea to include the enemy in the circle of mutual benefit!
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This is not just a lovely moralistic ideal either - it is a pragmatic, tactical principle that makes aikido more viable than it would otherwise be.
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If you set out from the beginning of a self-defense encounter to coerce the enemy into a certain behavior by harming him as grievously as you can, then you are forcing him to try to defend himself against you.  Then you have to defend more vigorously against his reaction, which provokes him to an even more vigorous response.  You are pushing a violent situation to an even higher energy state.
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But if you were able to diffuse the attack without harming the attacker any more than you have to, you would be refusing to add energy to the system, which might just let this high-energy situation degrade to a lower energy state.
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So, Ueshiba's mumbo jumbo about loving and protecting the enemy - maybe it wasn't crazy talk after all...

"If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries,
you can see right through them and avoid their attacks."

"To injure an opponent is to injure yourself.
To control aggression without inflicting injury in the Art of Peace."

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____________________
Patrick Parker

Pushing uke over the edge

My long-time readers know that, when translating Japanese martial arts terminology to English, I usually prefer looser translations over more literal translations.  I do not so much care if I get the exact same connotation as a native speaker.  What I want is for my students (and myself) to have an easily-understood, evocative, coloquial name for the thing.
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Traditionally, throws are said to be divided into four phases -
  • Kuzushi - breaking uke's balance
  • Tsukuri - fitting yourself into the throw
  • Kake - the momentary effort of throwing
  • Zanshin - remaining aware
But I realized today that I've got a metaphor that I like a lot -
  • Kuzushi - placing uke right on the edge of the cliff
  • Tsukuri - standing next to them
  • Kake - tipping them over the edge
  • Zanshin - watching them all the way down
Ha, that tickles me.

[photo courtesy of TristanF]

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____________________
Patrick Parker

Uke-centric ukiotoshi

So, a while back I started introducing my kids (the oldest age 10) to nagenokata with a distinct emphasis on  the role of uke.
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The first technique of nagenokata is ukiotoshi, the floating drop.  I told them that we were going to call this one, "The Drinking Bird," because that links this move to our nickname for this forward rolling motion (Remember those drinking bird toys that sit on the edge of your glass?)
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Uke and tori start slightly outside arm's reach, facing each other and looking at each other.  Uke initiates the motion by reaching in for a lapel grip with his right hand.  Since he is out of reach, he has to step in with his right foot.  Tori takes his grips and fades back with his left leg
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Uke and tori take 2 more sliding footsteps (3 steps in all) with uke pushing tori and tori fading back.  On uke's 3rd front footfall, tori kneels slightly to the right with his left retreating knee.
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Up to this point this is all pretty standard.  You can get more extensive and better descriptions in books like Otaki & Draeger.  But this is where my uke-centric ukiotoshi diverges.  See, in the Standard Kodokan nagenokata, tori snaps both hands to his left hip as he kneels, pulling uke into a front airfall.  But in this kid's version, tori kneels, and shapes uke properly for a right-sided forward roll.  This basically means placing uke's right hand near the ground and letting uke maintain his lapel grip with his left hand for balance.
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From this position, uke is able to easily demonstrate his forward rolling skill, using tori as a spotter for balance.

Works great, and it's a blast to see 8- and 10-year olds doing nagenokata.
[photo courtesy of Seven Morris]

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____________________
Patrick Parker

BOMP - Ch 11 - Simplicity

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on Saturdays.   

Simplicity seems to be a mantra among the martial arts crowd.  "KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid," is one of the first lessons I learned.  The basic idea is that when under extreme stress - like in a fight - we all become clumsy and stupid because of the adrenalin response.
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This reasonably leads to the conclusion that you should formulate your martial system with the least number of moving parts and only a few of the most effective techniques - a sort of martial minimalism.  That works great, and that's how I have learned from day #1.
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But recently I've kept running across another idea - an alternative or corollary to the KISS principle.  One that might be exemplified by a quote I've heard attributed to Einstein...
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Everything should be made as simple as possible - but not simpler.
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There's a core of martial stuff that is simple and effective, a kernel - but then there are dragons hiding in the interstices and magic in the shadows surrounding that kernel of simplicity.


____________________ 
Patrick Parker 
www.mokurendojo.com

Uke-centric nagenokata

A couple of weeks ago I started introducing nagenokata to my 10-yo, 8-yo, and 6-yo sons.  We did the first technique - ukiotoshi - and they were really catching on well, so I thought I'd write down how I presented it to them because I think it's sort of unique.
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I started out by telling them that a kata is a special way of demonstrating your skills in front of people - like when parents watch a rank demo.  Parents really like it when their kids look like they know what they are doing.  On the other hand, it makes for a really sorry demo when the coach has to constantly tell them what to do and correct and goad and coax them to get them to demonstrate their skills.  The time for coaching and correction is during practice - not during a demo.  So, a kata is just a demonstration of skills that had been rehearsed a certain way so that you look like you know what you're doing - like a dance recital.
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I also emphasized that this is a demonstration of the uke's falling skills.  We often get hung up on tori's role of throwing uke down, and the uke (if they are any good) just fades into the background.  But I wanted them to think about their roles a little differently.
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See, tori is the spotter - not the thrower.  His job is not to throw, but to place uke into a position from which it is easy to demonstrate the proper fall.  Tori sets up the position, uke demonstrates the falling skill, and tori helps him to land correctly.
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Incidently, this mode of kata demonstration is an excellent demo of tori's skills too.  If tori is able to position uke into a correct falling position and support him into the right landing position, then he is showing good skill at the kuzushi and tsukuri and zanshin phases of the throw.  Also, if tori is able to position uke into the easy-fall position, then tori is also able to position uke into the easy-to-smash place - because they are the same place.
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Check out the photos above of Mifune.  Typically we would read these sequences from tori's POV - tori catches uke overcommitted forward, tori kneels down, and tori pulls uke into a forward fall.  But couldn't you just as easily read those photos as tori sets uke up into a favorable position to demonstrate a fall, tori gets out of uke's way, uke demonstrates his fall with tori helping him to land right.
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____________________
Patrick Parker

Ichikata recap

This past month I have done a series of posts on the first advanced kata in the Tomiki aikido curriculum - Koryu Dai Ichi.  It is a seldom-performed exercise , and I think that is a shame because it tells some interesting stories about variations in initiative and variations onthe most fundamental wrist release actions.  If you're interested in the topic, you might enjoy going back and checking out some of the posts this past month...



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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Pick low-hanging fruit first

A few years ago, someone on an online forum asked one of our greatest teachers, "What are the principles that make aikido work?"  We all expected a bunch of the usual - ma-ai, taisabaki, unbendable arm, etc... but when he responded with his list of the principles of aikido, it began...
#1 - Recognize and accept responsibility for your contribution to failure.
Wow!  At that time, we had a little game going where we would take one of these points and discuss it for a week on the forum.  The results of those discussions came to be this massive compilation of aiki thoughts.  I thought that now, after 15 years or so of greater exposure to aikido, I'd go through the list and see how my thoughts have changed (hopefully matured) over the years.
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So, "recognize and accept responsibility for your contribution to failure..."
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To me right now, this is speaking of picking low-hanging fruit first.  If you liken it to a fruit tree, the material that is internal to yourself is the low-hanging fruit and the stuff that is external - that you can attribute to the enemy or the environment - that stuff is progressively farther out of reach.
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Instead of obsessing about some obscure, hard-to-reach, external fruit, it makes sense to first gather what you can from where you stand.  That is, work on the internal before the external.
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As an example, consider some simple self-defense scenario.  Perhaps a monkey dance chest-push.
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You could spend a good while working on how to flow with the force of the push while maintaining your base, how to drag the enemy off balance, how to pummel him to submission.  You could deal with all that first, and it's sorta tempting to do it that way.  But this principle suggests to me that you can gather a greater volume of fruit faster if you accept that the situation is at least to some degree your responsibility.
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The factors that belong to you are easier for you to control - easier to get hold of - than the factors that belong to the enemy and the environment. Perhaps you could have re-thought your lifestyle, avoided the monkey dance, de-escalated the conflict.
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The part of this conflict that belongs to you is yours to control.  Why not take ownership of as much of it as possible!
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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Make uke live on the edge

We usually try to spend most of our time in middle conditions instead of living on the edge of cliffs.  When you're on the edge, any fluctuation might send you over the edge.  When you are in a more moderate condition, you have some room for fluctuation without necessarily falling off the edge of the world.
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This condition of being so close to the edge that you have no slack for choice - that condition is called kuzushi.
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Kuzushi is the first phase of a throw in either judo or aikido.  You can think about kuzishi in different ways...
  • catch uke standing on the edge of the universe,
  • put uke on the edge of the universe,
  • help him up to the edge of the universe,
  • or at least refuse to help keep him away from the edge of the universe.
Doing more than just positioning uke at the edge of the cliff is not kuzushi - it is kake (the momentary effort of throwing), and it is often doing too much.  If you push/pull too hard to try to throw uke off the cliff then you can end up moving him past the edge to a position of greater choice/stability.  I think a lot of folks (maybe all of us) get too wrapped up and invested in kake - we want to smash and destroy! HARD, FAST, HULK SMASH!
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Try getting some practice at positioning uke right at the edge of the cliff - the point of no return - and letting him live there for a moment without trying to push him over the edge.  I think you'll find that your tsukuri becomes easier and your kake is often near effortless if you are able to begin your throwing action from the edge of the universe.
  
We see this sort of action in junokata and gonokata, but this is also a great mode in which to play nagenokata.
  
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Patrick Parker
  

Make uke live on the edge

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