Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We misunderstand randori AND ukemi!

So, I commented in a previous article that since...
  1. Kano said/implied that Junokata was meant to transmit practical randori knowledge to relative beginners, and...
  2. We can no longer see much relationship between randori and junokata...
Then something must be wrong with our idea of what we think randori is.
I spent this past weekend emphasizing this idea at our wonderful Junokata get-together at Windsong in OKC, and our time together there pretty much confirmed/cemented this idea but there was something else that I saw - a different facet fo the same idea...
We mis-understand ukemi as well as randori.
Aikido and judo are give-and-take things.  These arts have been compared to playing catch - tossing a ball back and forth between two people, where the ball consists of energy and initiative and control and balance and space and slack...
Without someone to receive (uke), then the best you can do is bounce a ball against a wall.  Without someone willing and able to receive the energy you are putting on them, then you are practicing kata or pulled-punches type randori.  And without an uke that is good enough to yield and flow out of the initial dis-balance condition, you can never get to the more interesting subsequent conditions (renzoku).
Junokata is a practical randori thing in one sense, because it is about building smart ukes and building judoka that can switch freely between the tori and uke roles.  It is about teaching people to play catch.
Patrick Parker

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spurt vs. long haul

Recently I was chatting with a local martial artist who has been doing kick-block-punch type stuff for longer than I've been alive!  Great guy!  Unassuming fellow.  Very interesting to talk to about a lot of subjects.  This fellow seemed like the epitome of a long-time martial artist.
That same day I'd been talking to a patient of mine that had been on Okinawa in the military during the Vietnam conflict.  He was talking about signing up at the local villiage dojo to do some karate.  He said that the class was taught by an American and whenever anyone would come into the dojo this 'instructor' would start out their program of instruction by kicking the noobie around the dojo for a while, generally abusing the hell out of him, and demonstrating how much he knew and how little the noobie knew.  Well, my patient had been forewarned and when the instructor approached him for the first time, my patient told him right off the bat, "You'd better not try that because either you'll have to kill me or I'll find a way to whip your ass if you treat me that way."  I don't think they had a very long or fruitful martial arts relationship.
Anyway, I got to thinking about the contrast between these two people - The American karate teacher on okinawa and the 40 some-odd year local karateka.
In the martial arts, there are tortoises and there are hares.  Sprinters and endurance runners.
Seems to me that the natural athletes that do martial arts in sprint-mode and use it as a way to place themselves above other people in a hierarchy of pain - those folks either burn out or get so broke-up that they stop after 5-10 years.  But a lot of the folks that are lesser athletes, or that have to struggle to integrate the principles the folks that couldn't care less about the rank or the hierarchy - those folks go on to be the life-long budoka...
... and incidently, those are the guys that end up becoming the master teachers of the next generation because of the extreme attrition of the sprinters and the assholes.
Tortoises and hares, sprinters and endurance runners.  I aspire to be the endurance-tortoise type martial artist.

Patrick Parker

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Somebody That I Tried to Throw

"Somebody That I Tried to Throw"
[featuring: Gotcha and Kimbo]

Now and then I think of when we were competing
Like when you said you felt so happy just to try
They told me you were in the same weight class as me
But I felt so puny in your company
But Oh my body it's an ache I still remember

I guess I only knew how to do osoto
Like uchikomi in the class, like sensei said
So when I found that I could not get it
Well you said that "now it's gonna be your turn!"
But I'll admit that I was glad when it was over

But you didn't have to throw me down!
As if I was not there, as if I did nothing
And I didn't even need the points!
You beat me like a white belt and that feels so rough
No you didn't even try to throw!
You started like seoi then you changed your number
I guess I ought to try to learn another throw
Now you're just somebody that I tried to throw

Now you're just somebody that I tried to throw
Now you're just somebody that I tried to throw

Now and then I think of all the times you uchikomi'd
You did kuzushi but you never did the throw
But I don't wanna learn that way
Doing half-assed non-throws all day
You thought that you could make it go
And I wouldn't catch you, break your arm, and throw.

But you didn't have choke me out!
Sit on me and put on that armbar thingie!
And I didn't even need the points!
But you beat me like a white belt and that feels so rough
No you didn't even try to throw
You tripped me and I stumbled then you made me slumber
I guess I ought to try to learn another throw
Now you're just somebody that I tried to throw

(I tried to throw)
(Now you're just somebody that I wanted to throw)

(I wanted to throw)
(That I wanted to throw)
(I wish I could throw)

Patrick Parker

Monday, September 17, 2012

Meta-knowledge in nagenokata

The purpose of kata isn't just to teach a few moves.  In fact, frequently by the time a student learns a kata they already know how to do all of the techniques in that kata.  It turns out that kata is a sneaky-efficient method of brainwashing a student so that they think about the subject the same way that the creator of the kata thought about the subject.

Take the Kodokan's Nagenokata for example.  By the time most students get around to playing with nagenokata (just before a shodan test usually :-)  they have either already learned the individual techniques or the techniques are trivial variants of something they already know.  So, what does learning nagenokata do for the student that already knows that set of techniques? 

It enforces/insures that the student thinks about those techniques in a certain way. 

For instance...

Nagenokata teaches the student to think in terms of the traditional Kodokan divisions of throws - i.e. tewaza, ashiwaza, koshiwaza.

Nagenokata suggests to students that some techniques (like sacrifices) are more 'advanced' than others

Nagenokata teaches students to value large-amplitude ippons to a larger extent than small takedowns.

I'm sure that given a 10 minute headstart, you could come up with at least a couple more examples of the meta-knowledge'that is encoded in kata and enforced by its practice.


What if there was a teacher that didn't especially care if his students thought about nagewaza in those three groups?  What if an instructor wanted a student to value small, energy-efficient techniques over the big ippons?  What would stop some free-minded instructor from saying that their club-version of Nagenokata would consist of (for instance)
3 footsweeps
3 two-legged hipthrows
3 techniques named 'guruma'
3 techniques named 'otoshi'
And 3 sacrifices
Such a fluctuation of the technique selection for nagenokata would change the meta-message conveyed by the kata.  This club kata would (among other things) place more emphasis on easier hipthrows, enforce the guruma-otoshi concept especially among the hand throws and leg throws. And reduce the feeling that the sacrifices are more important than the other sorts of throws.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

OKC Junokata clinic!

In or around 1887, Kano designed Ju-no-kata to illustrate the principles at the heart of Judo. Some years later, Kano saw an Aikido demo by Ueshiba and exclaimed, "This Aikido is my ideal Judo!" So, since Ju-no-kata and aikido are both Kano's ideal of Judo, one would expect Ju-no-kata to have something to do with Aikido - particularly Tomiki's aikido (also known as "separated judo").

Ju-no-kata expresses the same principles as seen in Tomiki Aikido, but instead of the ideas and motions being separated out of their context like in the Walking, or focusing on a particular type of connection like in the Releases, Ju-no-kata keeps everything in a rich, complex context. Kano could have separated all of these ideas out and illustrated them in a much more straightforward way, but instead, he chose to trust the students with the complexity involved in the context.

Ju-no-kata is fundamental, but not basic. Ju-no-kata is sort of like a Rorschach blot or perhaps a Mandelbrot set - different folks can see a lot of different things within these 15 exercises. Despite this, Junokata was not designed to be abstract performance art for aging masters or retired competitors. It is well-documented that Kano intended Ju-no-kata to convey practical randori knowledge to relative beginners.

For two days in September, Patrick Parker (6th dan aikido, 5th dan judo, instructor at Mokuren Dojo) will be teaching the 15 exercises of the Ju-no-kata at the beautiful Windsong Dojo in Oklahoma City. Parker sensei will be discussing and exploring the connections between Kano's Ju-no-kata and Tomiki's "separated Judo" (Aikido). This should be a fun and intriguing exploration for beginners and black belts alike, and you should leave with some great hints and ideas to improve both your Aikido and your Judo.

First Session Friday Sept 21, 7:00PM -9:00 PM / Second Session Saturday Sept 22, 10:00 AM to Noon/ Third Session Saturday Sept 22, 3:00 PM to 5:00PM

Cost - $60 full Clinic/ $40 for one day Limited Registration of 35 -- First come, first serve -Reserve your spot today! http://www.eventsbot.com/events/eb784095958

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Guruma throws in tewaza?

I am constantly looking back over our teaching systems that the old dead Japanese guys gave us and asking myself, "Why is this thing organized this way?"
Today I was looking back over the throwing techniques of judo and something struck me that I hadn't ever noticed before.  I don't know if it's significant, but it sure is interesting (to me at least).
First some background (as I understand it.)  There are two major classifications of throws in judo - otoshi and guruma.  Many throws are named either otoshi or guruma based on which action they represent.  Most throws fall into one category or the other even if they are named something else (like nage or gaeshi).
So, what I noticed was this...
  • almost all throws named otoshi are tewaza
  • almost all throws named guruma are ashiwaza
And that led to me to wonder...
  • Why are there so few tewaza gurumas in judo?  Is it something about the close-range (first thing that comes to mind)?  This is weird to me, because in Tomiki aikido (hamare judo) there are numerous gurumas that are essentially tewaza.
Patrick Parker

Monday, September 10, 2012

Change is the only constant

Every so often I make a few little (and sometimes big) changes to keep the Mokuren Dojo blog fresh.  You'll notice that yesterday I removed the schedule and map links at the top and side and just put the schedule and map right at the top of the sidebar.  I'm also going to be tweaking some of the lower sidebar a bit in the next few days, but the thing I really wanted to get y'all's input on today was the comment system.
I'm thinking about disabling comments for the blog site entirely, for the following reasons...
  • I have rarely ever been able to get a good conversation going in the blog comments anyway.
  • Most of the folks that do comment on my articles follow my blog on Facebook and they comment over there.
  • I haven't really liked any of the three comment engines that I've tried (Blogger, Disqus, and IntenseDebate).  The Blogger comment engine is primitive and the other two are glitchy and cumbersome.
  • The comment fields and comment sign-in fields and etc... just take up real estate that can be put to better use. 
  • I won't have to worry about getting posts written in Cyrillic or penis enlargement ads or Nigerian scams in my comments any more.
Anyody have any thoughts or suggestions on this?  Anybody care one way or the other?
Patrick Parker

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

What is "classical judo" anyway?

I frequently refer to the judo that I teach as "Classical Judo," and some of my students and budies have picked up on that and started hyping the Classical Judo label.
But a while back, another sensei asked one of my students, "What does the 'Classical' thing mean anyway?"  To which we didn't have a really good answer.  But like lots of things that I don't have a good answer for, this has eaten at me for a while, until my understanding and feelings have resolved a bit.  So when we say "Classical judo," do we mean...
  • We try to do judo like the old-dead guys - sort of an anything-new-is-inferior view?
  • We are deliberately out-of-date or anachronistic?
  • We are anti-competitive judo?
  • We don't like the recent IJF rules changes?
  • We are just trying to create a competitive (in the business sense) name brand?
Well, there might be some of that in our understanding of Classical Judo, but having thought about it for a while, I think most of the differentiation that we draw has to do with...
  • Classical Judo must abide by Kano's two axioms - Mutual benefit and welfare, and Maximally efficient use of power.
  • Classical judo is not a sport - it is broad in scope and sport judo is just a subset.
  • Classical judo was not specialized for any one context (like self-defense or combatives or shiai or fitness...) but was generally applicable to all these contexts.
  • Classical judo randori and shiai took place under a small, broad ruleset - more like a set of guiding principles than an enumeration of every allowed or disallowed action.
  • Judoka classically de-emphasized weight classes in competition.
  • Classical judoka had a wide technical range - far greater than their 2-3 personal tokuiwaza.
  • In classical judo there seems to have been an emphasis on application of ashiwaza and tewaza in highly-mobile upright postures.
  • Classical judo seems to have emphasized teaching generalities and allowing the student to develop an understanding of the specific details in randori - as opposed to teaching many, many techniques and variations.
You should know, just because we think Classical Judo as defined above is the greatest thing, that doesn't make us right or this the only opinion.  There are plenty of very good judoka who would be proud to wear the Non-Classical-as-defined -by-Pat-Parker label.  But perhaps this at least begins to put some meaning to the words we use to describe what we are trying to do.
And before you start protesting that I'm just being elitest, trying to place myself above some group of non-classical vermin, I am far from finally decided on the above points.  I'd love to discuss any of the above with y'all and I'd love for y'all to add points that you think separate Classical from non-Classical.  I'm even open to being told that I'm full of manure, but if you think so, I would prefer for you to expand on that so I can better understand your dissent.
Patrick Parker
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