Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 - A year in the life

Lately I've been reflecting on this past year (2013) and projecting some plans...

In 2013 I planned to attend/teach one event per month (including my ABGs here).  I ended up doing 10 instead of 12.  Not bad...

  • I started out with a trip to Corpus Christi for a get-away with Eric, Matl, Waddell, Nick, and some other excellent folks.  We ought to do another of those this next year sometime...
  • I had the privilege of teaching a benefit seminar in Jackson MS to raise money to send Police trainers to Thailand to show people there how to extract children out of the sex trade.
  • I got to attend a most excellent Isshin/Aiki camp at Hazlehurst.  Can't wait for the next one of these.
  • I did one seminar at Union University (on kuzushi) but I wasn't able to attend the Fall shindig because of illness.
  • I got to teach Koryu Dai Go at Windsong In OKC - what a great group of people!
  • We did two Aiki Buddies Gatherings here in Magnolia - at the first one we worked on groundwork and goshin jutsu and we had two excellent Shodan demos - Jason in judo and Todd in aikido.  At the one in the Fall we worked on koshiki kihon and aikijo  - the second one was very well attended.
  • In November I got to return to Richmond VA to teach a couple of classes on koshinage and Junokata.
  • I made a flying trip to Starkville to work with James Reuster (who I haven't seen in about 15 years).  He taught a profound class on releases that has and will continue to impact my aikido.
  • I also got to attend one judo tournament with Mike.
Here at Magnolia, we had several areas of emphasis in our studies...
  • Aikijo and modular knife
  • Ukemi as the most important, most practical self-defense skill
  • Koryu dai go - more proactive, direct initiative "go and get em'" type aikido
  • Tomiki's aiki taiso
  • The extensive gray area between Kodokan judo and Tomiki aikido - we've been playing more with starting judo throws from releases and ending aikido throws in ukigatame (for instance).
  • I've been watching a lot of Yoshinoro Kono - particularly his footwork, his aikijo,  and his students Koshiki no kata.
  • I've also been watching a lot of Tokio Hirano and his students - particularly his wave-like entries into uchikomi and his Nanatsu no kata.  This man is inspiring.

There have been many ups and downs.  I've been plagued with elbow and shoulder pain problems for about 8 months.  It's getting better but it really put a damper on my jo work at Windsong this past summer.  I wasn't the only one with shoulder problems - Kel fell over a bush or something and broke his rotator cuff and had to have surgery so that put a major damper on our working together.  I'm looking forward to having him back with us this coming year.  On the positive side, I moved my oldest son, Whit, from kids classes to adult classes and it's been a blast having him as a regular partner.

In the coming year - 2014...

  • I would like to attend 1 event per month, with the exception of January (new baby girl is due).  I'm especially looking forward to the Windsong Summer event - sounds like it'll be a hum dinger.
  • Mike will attend 1-2 more tournaments this spring.
  • I'd like to devote Saturday 9-noon classes for 2014 to embu-mode kata practice with emphasis on Koshiki, Nanatsu, Nage, Katame, Ju, and Nikata.  Hmm.  sounds like 6 katas 2 months each.
  • We will continue our emphasis on aikijo and knife.

Want to discuss this blog post?

Patrick Parker

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hirano sensei's interesting kaeshiwaza

At about 5:05 in this video of Hirano Sensei doing Nanatsu no Kata, he does a really interesting counter.  Uke is turning in for something like TKgoshi and Sensei just takes a knee.  Uke falls as if it were a taniotoshi, but tori's action looks like a backwards ukiotoshi.
So... what name would you guys give that thing?

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Patrick Parker

Monday, December 23, 2013

Syllabus and drills are encoded in the kata

What does kata give to judo as an art?  A lot of things, but the one I'm thinking about today is - Kata gives your instructor a syllabus and a set of suggested drills - sort of like a set of bullet points on what to teach when.
Take for instance, Nage no kata.  This kata can serve as a reminder to instructors of appropriate skills to work on...

  • Nage shows some suggested possible defenses against three of the most common attacks experienced on the street - an overhand right to the head, a two-handed chest-level grab/push, and an encircling low grappling sort of hug.  Three things that can easily get overlooked if we concentrate too much on how to win tournaments.
  • Nage shows a wide range of technical responses - hand throws, hip throws, foot throws, and two kinds of sacrifices.  This is a huge technical range that is easily enough to stretch any instructor into teaching beyond his tokuiwaza.
  • Nage shows some lessons about how to vary throws based on uke's resistance - for instance, the ukigoshi-haraigoshi-tsurigoshi sequence.
  • Nage shows some lessons about good ways to teach particular actions - for instance, the side-to-side okuriashi action is a good drill to get folks working on okuriashi, but it seems to never occur that way in randori.  In randori it happens stepping around the corner, but it seems to be harder to teach stepping around the corner into okuriashi to beginners whereas the side-to-side okuri is an easy introductory drill.
  • Nage teaches uke how to handle a wide variety of falling actions.
The list could go on and on.  So, Nage no kata is like a set of bulleted reminders to the teacher about what to teach and how to try teaching it.
Ju no kata is the same way.  It's hard to see specific ways that the techniques (as demonstrated) in Ju no kata can be used in randori (which Kano said was its purpose), But when you look at it like a set of reminders of topics and prescribed drills, it makes much more sense instantly.  Take the first technique, for instance.  To be able to do this movement, ...
  • Uke and tori must develop a good perception of ma-ai, a smooth, graceful tsugiashi, and an understanding of how to deliver and receive a deceptive attack to the face -  so the 3-step approach works as a drill.
  • Tori is learning to yield out of the way and disrupt uke's timing and balance.
  • Uke and Tori are both learning a very common reversal for a rear attack and tori is learning how to diffuse that reversal.
  • Uke is learning to know when he has been had - while still testing tori's control (by bridging back onto tori)
The fact that this technique is first, and is similar in structure to the rest of Junokata suggests that is a good way to teach any technique - that is,...
  • Teach how the technique develops during the transition from hamare to kumi judo.
  • Teach the technique from both points of view - uke and tori.
  • Make sure that the technique fits the Ju ideal of judo.
  • Teach how to reverse it or the weaknesses where the technique can be broken.
  • Teach how to recover a broken technique.
  • Teach uke how to safely submit when he is truly compromised.
Once you have taught one good (ju-ish) technique from both perspectives(uke and tori), and how to counter it and how to counter the counter and how to submit you now have all you need to start doing randori!

Want to discuss this blog post?
Come find me on Facebook at my Mokuren Dojo FB group

Patrick Parker

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Major throws on non-dominant side

Every so often someone asks me something about learning throws on their non-dominant side, or someone recommends to me or my students to learn to throw left seoi or left osoto or something. I have mostly resisted this because one of my teachers recommended some years back that we should learn a few small ashiwaza on both sides but probably not major throws like seoinage. He had a few reasons -
  • You will always have a dominant and a non-dominant side and regardless of how many reps you put into it, your non-dominant throws will not be as good as your dominant-side throws. 
  • It takes more than twice as long to learn a throw on both sides because you need some number of reps on your dominant side and maybe 2-3 times more reps on the non-dominant side just to feel competent. So, learning throws only on your dominant side lets the students progress mroe than twice as fast. 
  • You will not miss throwing opportunities only throwing one-sided because any opportunity for left osotogari (for instance) can be thrown by some other throw (right kosotogari comes to mind). 
But regardless, you should be able to throw some portion of your throws on the non-dominant side. There are reasons on this side too -
  • Kano intended judo to promote balanced physical development - to teach left and right actions both big and small. Learning to throw on your non-dominant side fits the spirit of judo (gentle, yielding flexibility) the same way that learning 40 ways to throw the guy down fits the spirit of judo better than only practicing 3 (dominant-sided) tokui fits that spirit of judo. 
  • It's good for our ukemi skills to be able to take falls on both sides with more-nearly equal facility. 
  • It's good for your brain to learn to work both sides of your body. 
Note I'm not saying necessarily that we need to learn to throw all 40 (or 67 or however many) throws on both sides. But for starters, Kano suggested 15 throws that should be learned on both sides (nagenokata)...
  • ukiotoshi, ippon seoinage, kataguruma 
  • ukigoshi, haraigoshi, TKgoshi 
  • okuriashibarai, sasaeTKashi, uchimata 
  • tomoenage, uranage, sumigaeshi 
  • yokogake, yokoguruma, ukiwaza 
I might add to that some throws from what I consider the kihon of judo...
  • deashibarai, kosotogari, hizaguruma, osotogari, ukigoshi 
  • kouchigari, ouchigari, ogoshi, seoinage, koshiguruma 
This would suggest that we should work perhaps as much as half of our throws bilaterally. As it is, my pre-nagenokata students mostly only work on a handful of throws on both sides ....
  • deashiabarai 
  • okuriashibarai 
  • hizaguruma 
  • kosotogari 
  • ukiotoshi 
I don't think I want to blow up my time-in-grade requirements right now by making my students practice half the gokyonowaza on their non-dominant sides, But I do think I want to expand our repertoire some this year. How about we start by devoting significant effort to learning/practicing the following on our non-dominant side this coming year...
  • ippon seoinage 
  • osotogari 
  • ukigoshi 
  • kouchigari 

Want to discuss this blog post?
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Patrick Parker

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

Happy little trees

Who remembers this fellow?  Bob Ross was an artist who did a PBS show in the 1980's and 1990's - The Joy of Painting.  He was much parodied (even self-parodied) for painting "happy little trees" and painting in "your world,"  but there was real artistry here.
And not just in the finished paintings.  There was artistry in his technique, and in his selection of tools and media.  There was mastery behind his eyes and artistry in his manner of talking about what he was doing.  There was artistry in the filming of his processes.  So, in the case of Bob Ross's work, what was the artifact - the finished paintings or the film recording of him doing his thing?  Was he a painter or was he a movement/spoken-word artist?  Who was his audience - his own soul or the TV audience or whoever ended up with the finished paintings?
Artists create artifacts, right? Painters create paintings, dancers create dances...  Some folks say that without producing an artifact for an audience -without that communication between artist and audience - there is no art.  Some of the artifacts are consumed instantly by the audience (e.g. dances, sushi) and some are more durable (e.g. bronzes), but pretty much all artists produce artifacts for an audience.
So, in the martial arts, it's easy to figure out who is the artist, but what is the medium?  What is the artifact?  Who is the audience?

Want to discuss this blog post?
Come find me on Facebook at my Mokuren Dojo FB group

Patrick Parker

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Kata for knife defense is big-time B.S.

This thing makes the rounds every so often, and it's a good 4-minute laugh-riot, right? Well, if we are  honest, it makes instructors uncomfortable too, because of the kernel of truth within it.
In aikido and judo, we often do hand-to-hand randori or sparring with a goal of 50% success rate. That is, I "win" about half the time and the other guy "wins" about half the time. This is not just trading throws (nagekomi), it is managing the intensity and controlling our objectives such that it is a toss-up as to who is going to come out on top in every encounter. If you find yourself throwing the other guy down 80-100% of the time then something is wrong with how you are doing randori. You need to dial it down so that the other guy has a chance to work his material and you need to reconsider what your goals are for randori - maybe work on something besides throwing.
But when you give uke a knife, if the practice conditions are even remotely realistic, then tori's success rate should plummet to near-zero. The knife is just that good a weapon.
If, through practice, we can build tori's success rate back up to near 50% while maintaining moderate realism, that is a phenomenal result! That suggests that the addition of a knife wouldn't change the odds much beyond those of a hand-to-hand encounter. That would be superb knife-defense - bordering on amazing!
I think we get into trouble doing knife-defense in kata (as in Kodokan Goshinjutsu or Tomiki Sankata or Rokukata). In kata, tori is defined to have a 100% success rate and he is forced to look and move a certain way while doing it. The only way this is possible to overcome this double-whammy against a knife-wielding partner is for uke to throw the encounter badly in tori's favor, like Bob is teaching in the video above.
Therein lies the knife-defense B.S. factor.
I think kata is the culprit - at least, embu (demonstration) mode kata. Attempting to hit 100% against a knife while moving in a prescribed manner is impossible. But kata is not totally useless - what if we take the kata patterns as starting points and redefine our goals and what we think kata is supposed to be.
What if kata were a set of pre-arranged starting points for a randori-like drill, in which the goal were to survive (not triumph) about 50% of the time against a live (semi-resistant) partner?  That would be doable!
By starting with the kata patterns, you are able to reproduce the starting conditions precisely, which allows you to study some particular area of interest.  
In drills you are allowed (maybe even expected) to fail sometimes - which is unacceptable in kata.  By reducing the target from 100% to 50% you eliminate the ego threat involved in learning to do kata. No longer do you have to worry about failure as an ego threat because a drill is like a game of tag in which you are supposed to lose 50% of the time (because losing is valuable experience too).

Want to discuss this blog post?
Come find me on Facebook at my Mokuren Dojo FB group

Patrick Parker

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

More productive aikido randori

Randori is a funny thing.  Funny-curious - not funny-ha-ha.  It is a lot of different things to different people.  Randori is a test of your skills, an ego-booster and an ego-killer (at the same time), a fun social game...
For me lately, I've noticed an interesting thing about randori.  I'm tired of throwing people down.  When you throw someone down the randori goes into a different sort of mode, in which no more randori happens until uke gets back up and fixes his suit and wastes a bunch of time, then eventually we get to do another encounter.
Randori is about accumulation of domain-specific experiences and encounters.  Anything that gets in the way of accumulating experiences (like throwing your partner down) is counter-productive to randori.
I can hear some of my lazier readers sighing a breath of relief.  He's not gonna make us fall down any more! Not so fast!  Falling is the most important skill, and it is almost the whole game.  There are only about 3 kinds of experiences that we are really interested in during randori - 

  • falling down
  • getting a arm in a bad bind
  • getting punched in the face

If we were to remove the falling down part then the arm-bind face-punch randori would be of limited value and would also get old real quick. 
So, we have to take falls, but the ensuing getting-up and re-starting part of randori is the biggest time-waster.  There are a few potential solutions...

  • Do tsukuri randori - that is, take uke right to the edge of the abyss (kuzushi and tsukuri) but instead of pulling the trigger (kake), allow them to walk out of that back to a viable position.
  • Implement a form of groundwork (newaza and/or suwariwaza) such that the encounter can continue after a fall.
  • Allow a fallen uke to take tori down or attack from the ground  - again, so that a fall is not an encounter-ender (zanshin).
  • Add in another uke or two so that when one is down, the other(s) can continue the randori (sannin randori)
  • Yell at uke to get his butt off the ground faster each time (better ukemi).

I suspect we all could benefit from implementing some of those suggestions...

Want to discuss this blog post? 

Patrick Parker
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