New Schedule and Location for 2016

Mondays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays from 8-9PM at Rejoice Dance Studio, 1418 Delaware Avenue, McComb MS.

Aiki-strikey and the starburst

A while back, I published a list of five pointers that I try to keep in mind in order to make my atemi better.

  • Timing - only hit on a footfall
  • Kuzushi - only hit after an initial off-balance
  • Direction - strike on one of two weak lines
  • Gravity - add a full body weight drop
  • Connection - don't hold them up afterward

Today I want to add a sixth idea that comes from some of the striking gurus - specifically I think I got this from the Parker Kenpo guys.  I call it the starburst principle and I think they might call it something similar.

When your striking limb has momentum, it is not possible to change its direction arbitrarily.  When its in flight you can steer it some, but not much.  This is one of the basic rules in toshu randori. But as soon as it hits something, you can redirect that limb in any direction, because its momentum is imparted to what it struck.

If you imagine a starburst, or a three-dimensional asterisk, at the point of contact, the points of the star describe the places you can go after that impact.

The Kenpo guys use that to build combos.  They might strike arm then glance off to neck, drag through to strike the other arm, and bounce off to the groin, etc...

But you can use this idea to figure out how to put successive off-balances on uke until he crumbles.

Basically, in an aiki context, the starburst tells you to hit, and instead of driving through uke in that same line, change your line of force by 90° or 180° and keep hitting them with off-balances separated by 90° or 180°.

Tsugiashi - kuzushi - ayumiashi

For our purposes, there are basically two ways to walk -

  • regular, everyday walking down the street - the Japanese call this ayumiashi
  • sliding, trying to keep the same foot forward -this is called tsugiashi

Ayumiashi is very energy-efficient, using only about 100kcal/hour at moderate speeds, but it has some serious problems when you're in a fight - especially when you are up close and someone has grabbed hold of you.  for this sort of application, tsugiashi has some advantages, and it minimizes some of your disadvantages.

So us cool martial artists usually try to shift from ayumiashi to tsugiashi about the time we get inside touching distance (ma-ai).  Notice how that shift in walking methods is encoded in the approach in each technique of Junana Hon Kata?

But have you ever noticed that kuzushi almost always forces the unbalanced player back into ayumiashi? Makes sense - we've been doing ayumiashi since childhood so we revert back to our most experienced mode when offbalanced.

Interestingly,  you can look at that as one of the main goals of kuzushi - to get the other guy to shift back to ayumiashi, thus magnifying his disadvantages, thus making your opportunities greater.

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 Patrick Parker
 www.mokurendojo.com

Lies, damned lies, and averages

You've heard the expression, "There's three kinds of untruths - lies, damned lies, and statistics."
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Today I wanted to discuss an important phenomenon that sort of falls in that third, most despised category - that of averaging.  But I'm not talking about numerical averaging like a grade point average or a pitcher's ERA.  I'm talking about a terrible sort of averaging that goes on with motor control 'programs' in your body/mind.
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When there are two common ways to accomplish a goal, or when there are two actions that are nearly identical but have critical (life-threateniing) differences, unless you are careful to choose one and always be absolutely ruthless with yourself in practice that you do that one motor control program in that given instance, occasionally you'll get distracted or confused or hurried and your brain can sort of 'average' the two programs, creating some potentially non-viable bastard non-solution.
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We saw two absolutely perfect examples this weekend.
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When doing a forward roll, there are two common landing positions - one with the top leg behind the bottom leg and one with the top leg in front of the bottom leg.  We teach the top-leg-behind form exclusively, and we have pretty good reasons, but honestly I'm not sure that the other form is all that bad (if you land that way 100% of the time).  It seems that where people really get in trouble is when they don't pay attention to their landing and sometimes they land one way and sometimes land the other way.  These folks are habituating two different forms of the same solution, but occasionally (far to often) you'll get confused or distracted, and you'll land almost exactly halfway between these two positions.  That is, with one leg atop the other.  This usually has disasterous results with the top leg hammering the bottom ankle, knee, and/or legs crushing testcles.  I don't know that it matters which of these two falling positions you choose, but you had better choose one and pay attention to it all the time.  (We recommend the top-leg-behind version for several other reasons.)
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The other example is one of our instructors who has done an extensive amount of both pistol shooting and tactical knife work.  When drawing either a pistol or tactical folder, the hands come together in front of the chest, but the hands are doing different actions/grips depending upon the activity.  Well, this instructor apparently suffered a momentary lapse of attention, and drew his folder (which automatically opens when drawn from the pocket), brought his hands together in front of his chest as if grasping a pistol, and cut his own thumb severely.  One tourniquet and six stitches later he is mostly okay (kinda grumpy), but he has provided us with another perfect glimpse of this damnable motor averaging. 
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This second example I don't have a good solution for because I don't have any experience with pistols and fairly little with tactical folders, but the gurus that I listen to have one rule that tends to cut down (get it "cut" ;-) on self-mutilation.  Always, always, always keep the blade closer to the opponent than your other hand.  In other words, never put your free hand between your blade and the opponent.  I might add, on a personal note, that I don't especially like the Emerson self-opening 'wave' knives for that reason - sometimes I like to take my knife out of my pocket without it opening ;-)
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But anyway, this isn't intended as me griping about him and his choices or practices.  That accident could happen to anyone who works with blades.  The point is, I advise that all my readers watch out for situations where this motor control averaging phenomenon can come into play, and create rules of practice (like top-leg-behind, or free hand behind blade) that you always, always, always abide by in practice.


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Attention to details

About 15 years ago I was running a dojo in the next town up the road from my current location.  Pretty small, rural location, but due to the generosity of the folks in our aikido organization I was able to get several big-name teachers to come do seminars at my little dojo.  These usually drew pretty good attendance from all over the region.
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For one of these seminars, the teacher brought one of his brown belt students who was all fired up about judo competition.  Well, it seems that he'd heard that there was to be a tournament in Jackson MS the same weekend as our seminar, so the brown belt talked a handful of my students into ditching the seminar and going to compete in the tournament instead (I know, right?).
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You can probably see it coming.  One of my yellow belt students managed to get his leg broken at the tournament, and the whole group of them came back to the dojo that afternoon, looking sorta sheepish.  That yellow belt missed a bunch of practice in the subsequent months, but he eventually healed up, like teens usually do.  A couple of years later he wanted to get into the Marines and I had to write them a letter telling them that he'd completely healed from that injury.  He finished his stint with the military and now he's in college and doing some boxing and grappling.
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A couple of months ago I got to thinking about that student so I wrote him a note asking if he remembered any lessons or wisdom that he'd learned from ditching the seminar in favor of the tournament that he'd be willing to share with my blog audience - since we're all about learning from each other's stupid mistakes ;-)
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He responded...

I guess if I learned anything, it was to pay closer attention to detail.  Specifically in form, as it was my own bad form that broke my ankle (when I was throwing the guy, my foot was planted on my heel rather than the ball of my foot).  I've always been pretty careful with things like that, but that really drove the nail in that coffin.  I also came out with a clear understanding of my own vincibility.  Before that, I was pretty sure I was untouchable, and often prided myself on how I'd never broken any bones.

Since then, I've been extremely careful with precision regarding form, especially as it correlates to the preservation of my body, since as you well know, we pretty much only get the one.  When I am striking or throwing someone or something or even playing a sport, I go out of my way to analyze the impact my movements are having on my body.  I feel like I've been able to avoid many more injuries just by paying closer attention to detail.


So, there you have it.  The voice of experience.

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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com