New Schedule and Location for 2016

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Tokio Hirano - Nanatsu no kata

For the last couple of years, I've watched this bizarro thing so much (and gotten hints off of internet and Judo Forum) that I actually think it's starting to make sense!  Either that, or I've taken too many falls - but I'm starting to see meaning within the exercise!


It would be easy to write this crazy thing off as the flailings of a deranged mind, but bear in mind this was one of the most successful competition judoka in the history of history, and this was how he was trying to express his understanding of judo.
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He seems to be illustrating seven types of wave action (as in ocean waves crashing into a beach).  In each form he does one big motion that sort of looks like a kind of ocean wave riding into a beach or crashing into a rock or swirling in eddies or erupting in spray... Then he immediately demonstrates that sort of wave action in a judo context.
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Then he shows how to bust someone's technique when they try to put that type of wave on you - usually by standing against it and reflecting it, or by eroding completely out from under it and letting it pass.




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Kumikata and ashi-sabaki interact and inform


Here's where all this talk of gripping becomes really generalizable to judo, aikido, and even into everyday life...

  • If you are holding onto something that is keeping you from expressing gracefully, let go of it.
  • If you are standing in a place or in a way that makes it hard for you to express gracefully, move.
  • If your hands are getting in the way of you moving your feet gracefully, let go and move.
  • If your footwork is making you feel like you have to latch on with your hands, let go and move.
  • If you are standing in the wrong place for your technique, you're standing in the wrong place.  Gripping harder won't cure that.
  • If your hands are gripping convulsively, you'll never get your feet (much less your center) to move gracefully.
If you study kumikata (gripping), then you should, as part of that study, pay close attention to your footwork.  If, like me, you are OCD about your footwork, you should pay attention to how your hands are helping or hindering your footwork.
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Get your hands and your feet working gracefully, and everything in-between will work gracefully.


photo courtesy of Judy Van Der Velden

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Patrick Parker
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Get feet and hands working right


Another way to think about the facile grips idea...
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What we really want to do in judo and aikido is to learn how to use our bodies in a flexible, pliable, facile, harmonious way - initially in stressful, combative situations, but more generally in all of our lives and interactions.  We want to develop grace.
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One manner of approaching this is to pay the most attention to hands and feet.  Hands and feet are where we deal with two of our biggest problems (the Earth and the opponent), so they are of primary importance.  If we can get those two areas working flexibly and harmoniously, everything in the middle should begin to work itself out.
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The analogy one of my instructors used was un-kinking a hose.  We can spend hours working from the middle outward, but if we get a person on each end of the hose and they walk apart until the hose is straight, they can shake it and the middle will come unkinked.
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Imagine if we were to splint our feet and ankles and knees in a rigid cast.  How graceful would we be?  Not very, because our feet and ankles and knees have to be pliable for us to move gracefully.  With our legs rigid, our entire body is thrown out of whack in any task we try to do.
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The same goes for our hands.  If we squeeze our hands into fists (or handblades) then that tension is reflected throughout our entire body, and our grace is compromised in every task.
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Pay attention to feet and hands.  Get them working right and everything between them will begin to move more gracefully.

photo courtesy of ggianni3

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Patrick Parker
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Convulsive grips vs. facile grips



Language is rife with kinesthetic expressions related to gripping or grabbing or holding, because this form of manipulation of the world through our hands is very important to our lives as humans.  To live is to have to handle difficulties, to have to come to grips with situations, to grapple with day-to-day exigencies.  We have to grasp lessons and hold ground...  How we hold things is how we deal with the world.  It is how we are.
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Aikido and judo are all about holding things.  This is part of why these arts are rife with analogies and implications in real life. It is important how we grip things, and in these arts we make a careful study of gripping and holding.
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In judo or aikido classes, some participants (especially beginners) reflexively respond to their partners' actions and motions by latching on with their hands in a convulsive grip and trying to hold the situation still.  This appears to me to be some form of defensive reaction, almost like a flinch.  At some time in the past, these folks learned that they could protect themselves by clamping onto threatening things and locking them down, and this may not be too bad of a defensive reaction for some survival situations.  It is probably an adaptive thing, but there are potential side effects...

  • Once you clamp down with your hands, you can't do much else with them.  Locking down the threat locks down your hands too.  In fact, locking down with your hands locks your whole body - especially your arms and shoulders - in place.  With your upper body in a defensive spasm, there is no way to breathe naturally, and you end up gassing yourself out.
  • While reflexively clamping with the hands can be a good response to some situations, it will surely be maladaptive in other situations.  You might be able to grab a snake right behind the head, but try clamping onto a sparking high-voltage wire.
  • In a general, everyday-life sense, you can't live your life by latching onto anything around you that makes a surprising motion and crushing it until it is still.  You might be able to do that to some mild people/situations, but try latching onto a policeman who stops you about a broken tail light and you'll quickly learn that grabbing and clamping is not always best.  Even if you do not get into a dangerous situation by clamping onto something with more horsepower and willpower than you, you will alienate people around you by habitually grasping and suppressing them anytime they try to interact.  You will rapidly teach people not to try to help you.
Judo is about pliable use of strength to achieve flexible goals.  Aiki is about harmonizing with the energy around you instead of squelching it.
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Learn to use your hands in a facile, pliable, harmonious, flexible way, and this will carry over to your body and your mind and your spirit and your life.


photo courtesy of Giant Ginkgo


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Patrick Parker
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Magnificient sutemi by Hirano Sensei

Tokio Hirano is a name that is rarely mentioned in American judo circles - at least the ones that I circulate in.  But I get the impression that he was more of a household-name in European judo.  And there's not a single European nation that fails to beat the hell out of the USA in both grassroots Judo promotion and in Olympic competition.  So it probably would behoove us to take a look at some of their revered teachers...
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From Judoinfo.com...
Tokio Hirano (5’5”, 75 kg), obtained Godan (5th dan) at age 19, is perhaps the greatest Judo technician of all time. He is probably the best known Japanese Judoka in Europe. In 1952, Hirano went to teach Judo in Europe. Within six years, he had accumulated over 4,300 wins
In order to promote Judo, Hirano would fight all black belts in the city where he taught Judo. In November 1954, in Mannheim, Germany, Hirano scored all ippons in 34 minutes against 54 black belt opponents (1-3 dan).
There is a good bit of footage on YouTube of Tokio Hirano in action, much of it very abstract and confusing.  But what struck me today was the beauty and power of his sutemiwaza. I can watch his uranage and tomoenage videos endlessly...



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Patrick Parker
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Knife practice in aikido


A few days ago, Sensei Strange made a comment in a conversation that I thought was interesting.  He called aikido - at least as we are trying to express it - a "knife-aware art."  I thought that was a pretty good description.  See, it's not our primary purpose to learn knife fighting or knife defenses, but the addition of a knife does seem to make aikido closer to what it is supposed to be.
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Lately (last couple of years) we've been progressively adding more and more knife into our practices and looking to see how it changes things.  A training knife or two can spice up any of our exercises or techniques that we practice.

  • Tegatana - the walking kata - hold a trainer in one hand and suddenly you get a lot more aware of different things each hand might be doing.  This is also a good basic exercise on how to move with a knife without cutting yourself.  Sometimes I like to wear bluejeans and put a pocket clip trainer in my pocket and practice deploying it during each step of the walk.  Try holding the knife in a standard grip (like a hammer) or a reverse grip (like an icepick) and you glean different ideas from the walking kata.
  • Releases - give uke a trainer in his free (non-grabbing hand) and all of a sudden tori is a lot more interested in getting off line when uke passes ma-ai and getting into shikaku and controlling uke's center.  Give tori a trainer and let uke grab tori's knife arm and tori gets a lesson in weapon retention - or let uke grab tori's non-knife hand and tori gets a lesson in continuing to do aikido despite having a free blade - not letting his own knife capture his attention.
  • Junana/Owaza - of course, the obvious practice mode here is to give uke a practice knife and tori tries to apply Junana or Owaza.  But what if you give tori the knife?  How can tori express the principles of the techniques of Junana or Owaza with/through/using a blade?  What if the knife is folded and in uke's pocket - can tori control uke enough that he can't deploy the knife?  What if the knife is folded and in tori's pocket?
  • Randori - try doing toshu-style randori (both players trying to do aikido) but give both players a blade and see where it goes.
  • Blade vs. blade flows - similar to Filipino practices - we've been working on inserting a kuzushi with every cut without disrupting the flow of the drill or getting too preoccupied with either the blades or the kuzushi.  Of course, this is difficult b/c a kuzushi should, by definition, break uke's rhythm and flow and make it hard for him to continue until he recovers.  So you have to  slow down the flows to give uke time to recover from each kuzushi so you can continue the drill.
  • Disarms randori - We've been working disarms in a give-and-take sort of flow, almost like randori.  the partner attacks and you take the blade and immediately attack.  He takes the blade and reattacks...back and forth.


photo courtesy of Seniju


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Patrick Parker
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Police searching for armed robber

Wow! I just heard about this.
Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013 4:03 pm
(http://www.enterprise-journal.com/)
McComb police are searching for a man suspected of stabbing a woman during an attempted Thursday afternoon armed robbery. Officials said the suspect is a a black male wearing a white T-shirt and blues jeans and is possibly in north McComb. 
Officials and witnesses said a man attempted to rob a woman at the Medical Arts Building on Rawls Drive around 3:15 and stabbed her in the left shoulder. The assailant took nothing, and police brought the woman to Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center for treatment. Police were searching for the robber in the vicinity of Delaware Avenue, West Street, Kendall Street, Rawls Drive and around Edgewood Park.
I was walking by that building about that time with my four children, and saw nothing!  Gotta stay prepared and stay alert!




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