New Schedule and Location for 2016

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

The fundamental kata of the Kodokan

If you were to take a guess as to which of the Kodokan Kata was the fundamental kata that Kano based the other katas off of - which would it be? Which kata did Kano have in mind when he developed the DNA of the Kodokan?
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Maybe Nagenokata?
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Maybe Koshikinokata? 
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Nope.
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In Kano's Memoirs...
... I finalized the eight seated and twelve standing techniques for Kime no Kata. This was, incidentally, the fundamental kata from which the other Kodokan katas were created. (Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano, Chapter 57)
What WHAT? Kime No Kata!?
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WHO would have thunk that?



photo courtesy of C. Gilmore


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Patrick Parker
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Kodokan Goshin Jutsu - Sato demo

I enjoyed this demonstration of Kodokan Goshin Jutsu (the demo at the beginning of the film  a lot.  Things that I found especially noteworthy -
  • the large amplitude of the kotegaeshi throws
  • in the separated empty-hand section, uke's attacks are great!  not the overly simplistic or telegraphed feeds that we usually see.
  • in the knife section, uke's mind apparently slips and he changes the attack but tori seamlessly slips into an appropriate response.




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Patrick Parker
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Kodokan Goshin Jutsu is not a kata (again)

Some time back I had a discussion with several bloggers about Kodokan Goshin Jutsu.  I contend that It is a group of exercises or drills or starting points and not a formal kata.  Some of my honorable opponents contend that it is a formal kata with one right way to do it.  We basically agreed to disagree.
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Today, upon revisiting the JudoInfo page on Kodokan Goshin Jutsu, I came across this that I found interesting...
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re: Haimen zuki (pistol against the back) - the last technique in the set.
Attacker steps forward with the right foot. As gun is placed against the back as the attacker says te o age (or hands up). The defender glances to see what arm is raised. As attacker reaches for wallet, defender turns to the right, drops the right hand under the gun hand, raising it up to lock the gun arm against his chest. He then grabs the gun with other hand disarming attacker and striking him with it or applying kote gaeshi to throw him.
I thought the option there was real interesting.  Take the gun away and either pistol-whip uke with it, or throw uke with kotegaeshi.
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Off the top of my head, I can't think of any formal kata in which there is an "either-or" in the description of one particular technique.  Sure, there are either-ors in Junana and in Koshiki where uke's reaction forces either this technique or that one.  But this is within one technique in which tori has an option A or B.
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To me, this seems to support my idea that these are not formal kata techniques, but bullet points for discussion and exploration - categories of things to work on in a self-defense program.


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Patrick Parker
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Spring 2013 ABG

This weekend, April 26-27, we will be having an Aiki Buddies Gathering  (ABG) at Magnolia.  This will be a great few sessions - not to be missed - we have a lot on the agenda, including...
  • 3 new shodans!
  • several hours worth of Kodokan Goshin Jutsu - Mokuren flavored
  • a sack or two of crawfish
Looks like the class schedule will be something like...
  • Friday 4/26 - 5:30pm
  • Saturday 4/27 - 9:00am and 1:00pm
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I think the crawfish will be Saturday PM, and if it is cool at night, a bonfire Friday is not out of the question...
 photo courtesy of Jmarkb

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Patrick Parker
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Call me "Trim Tab Sensei"

This weekend I'm going to be talking at Union University about kuzushi (off-balance) among other things.  
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Kuzushi is a force magnifier.  Suppose, in a given situation, it would take 100 units of force to throw your opponent, and you only have 50 units at your disposal.  Unless you do something to weaken uke or make him at least 50 units more susceptible then you will not be doing your technique.
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That is not too hard to imagine, but what if you only have 10 units of force at your disposal... Do you suppose you still might find a long enough lever to do a 100 unit technique?
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What if you only have 1/2 unit of force that you can use... Is that sort of force magnification even possible?  I mean sure, Copernicus or someone said if you give him a lever long enough and a place to stand he'd move the Earth,  but I'm talking about in real-world situations.  Is it possible to get good enough at actual skills (not jedi magic tricks) that you can magnify your potential 200x or minimize the opponent's strength by 200x?
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Sure.  There are examples from physics of force magnification much greater than that.  For instance, from the Wikipedia article on trim tabs...
The engineer Buckminster Fuller is often cited for his use of trim tabs as a metaphor for leadership and personal empowerment. In the February 1972 issue of Playboy, Fuller said: "Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It's a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trim Tab."
Apparently the old dead Chinese dudes were right when they suggested that a force of an ounce could turn a force of 1000 pounds.




It's not too much of a stretch to believe that this sort of leverage exists.  The REAL trick is learning to do it on a scale that is useful in combat, without tools, in real time, and under stress.

;-)


photo courtesy of JD Hancock


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These guys got rhythm!

I've been watching and re-watching this demonstration by T. Suga Sensei.  He makes an interesting, creative use of weapons (like the sheathed sword, or knife vs. sword), but what I find most interesting is his relaxed, rhythmic motion and his complete lack of robotic formality (there is rei there, but it is not robotic).
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Watch how his knife and arm swings freely, the blades bobbing up and down, and how he effortlessly matches the motion of the knife to the motion of uke to express a technique.  He does the same with the jo, switching from hand to hand, tapping the stick on the ground, letting the end rest in a downward slant sometimes, sometimes swinging up and down.  His relaxed walk is imparting a motion to the weapons that he is not suppressing (like most folks try to), and the rhythm of the weapon always ends up being appropriate to the rhythm of the uke's attack.




You know what this relaxed rhythmicity reminds me of?  Tokio Hirano's remarkable, distinctive motion in his demonstration of judo technique.



Here is another demonstration of Hirano's impressive (albeit confusing) kata.  This one, if not better, is at least more accessible and understandable...



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Turn ukemi on its head

I've stated on many occasions, my opinion that safe falling skills are the most important things we learn in judo and aikido and are probably the best self-defense anyone can learn.  Ukemi (falling) is a big deal.  
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But how do we teach ukemi?  If your class like most, then beginners spend a few minutes at the beginning of the first few classes working on rolling and falling before they are thrown into the deep end of the pool.  If your class is among the best, perhaps you make every student (new and old) spend a few minutes on ukemi during every class - before we get to the real meat of the class. See, even in classes where it gets a lot of lip service, ukemi is mostly relegated to a secondary role or a minor skill.
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So how do we put ukemi in its proper place in our training?
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One way (and I'm not sure I want to go this far, but it is one possibility...)
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How about in aikido, we make our basic pre-shodan curriculum consist solely of how to fall appropriately out of the most common 30 odd ways (8 releases, 17 junana, 10 owaza) that the other guy can push/pull/knock you into the ground?
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How about in judo, our pre-shodan curriculum could be how to survive 20-30 of the gokyonowaza?
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I mean - what if we take the emphasis completely off of teaching tori how to throw uke down, so that we make tori's role into a spotter rather than a thrower? 
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So tori's job would be to help uke get a proper offbalance (kuzushi), turn into a proper position (tsukuri) to spot uke, apply just enough force (kake) to make the thing go smoothly  and then help uke land right at the end (zanshin).
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The whole class could be an assisted ukemi class, with the following potential benefits...

  • produce better ukes faster
  • beat up uke less
  • drag tori along for the ride - that is, tori would be passively developing the offensive skills and motions typically associated with the tori role.

I know... Crazy idea, right?


photo courtesy of DefenceImages


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Patrick Parker
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BOTH partners' responsibility

No analogy is perfect.  They all break down eventually.  But my analogy from my previous post (aikido/judo is like a game of catch) holds.
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For instance, doing aikido with someone who wants to win or wants to force you to be uke is about like playing catch with someone that is always trying to hit you with the ball or who is always throwing the ball over your head so you have to run to get it every time.
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It is BOTH partners' responsibility to keep uke from being the loser's role.  Uke has to keep in mind that he is not the loser but the receiver.  But the guy that ends up being the tori has to keep in mind that tori is not the winner's role either, because if there are only two people in the relationship and tori has decided to be the winner, uke has to be the loser.

photo courtesy of Beausaunders


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Initiative in ukemi


We have this tendency to see uke as the loser.  Even when sensei explains the non-confrontational, non-competitive, mutually-beneficial nature of the relationship to us over and over and over for years on end, it still sometimes feels like losing - and it chafes.  Even though we can't even express what it is that we are losing, it still sometimes feels like losing.  Intellectually, we know uke does not mean 'loser,' that it means something more akin to 'receiver,' but it still often feels like it is a painful, shameful loss that we are receiving.  
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Aaron Williamson writes in an amazing article on his blog...
Though the 'uke' in 'ukemi' means 'to receive' in Japanese, 'ukemi' can also mean 'to have lost the initiative'; which is an important part of understanding what the purpose of the practice actually is. As you progress in Aikido, you realize that the purpose of ukemi is to regain the initiative in a situation where you have clearly lost it
So, we're not competing and contesting and winning and losing - our practice is more like a game of catch - tossing initiative back and forth, occasionally for the fun and experience of it, stretching or challenging each other a bit, but still playing catch instead of keep-away.
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What is this initiative thing that we're talking about?  In common parlance we use initiative as nearly synonymous with motivation, like, "Take some initiative, you slacker!"  But in martial arts it is a timing and rhythm idea something akin to who gets to take the next turn.
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Or maybe a better understanding of initiative is who has the power to make choices and affect the relationship.
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So, after uke has attacked and tori has taken his turn and uke has countered and tori has flowed and the initiative has flipped back and forth from one partner to the other several times, eventually one of them gets in a bind.  The other one has actually "gotten a technique" and the receiver of that technique is out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas, and he has to take a fall.
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Does that mean that tori came out on top and uke lost?  No, that means that tori has used his turn/initiative to put such an interesting bind on uke that uke's only choice to get the initiative (the power to keep going in the relationship) back is to take a fall. 
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Uke is not the receiver of the loss, uke is the receiver of the initiative.

photo courtesy of PacoPH


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Initiative, kuzushi, and lapses

My blogospheric buddy, the Aikidokie from Muskogee recently posted this great post on the Controlling Whack of Peace and Harmony.  But you know, Japanese is a tricky language.  How do you know that should not be translated as "The Harmonious Whack of Peaceful Controlling," or maybe even something like, "Love busts in?"
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Anyway, There's a lot of principles/ideas/jargon in the Japanese martial arts that a lot of times us Westerners seem to mis-understand, mis-appropriate, or conflate (myself more than anyone, I'm sure), and some of these terms Okiedoka either mentions or suggests.  Things like...

  • disbalance (kuzushi)
  • initiative (sen)
  • weakness or opening (suki)

These are all sort of different things that work together to be one very confusing, almost numinous idea.  I thought I'd discuss today how I understand/misunderstand/divide these concepts.

Initiative is primarily a timing or rhythm concept.  Basically who gets to take the first turn to do their thing.
Different sensei have discussed a three-part model of initiative...

  • pre-emptive timing - I take my turn before you have a chance to take yours
  • in-time - you and I act at the same time
  • responsive timing - I let you take your turn first so that I can counter your actions.

In my mind, I sort of divide it into a five-timing model

  • pre-emptive timing - To me, this is sort of a-hole or bully mode - but I guess all is fair in a fight, right?
  • provocative timing - I act on you in order to get an expected response that I know how to deal with.
  • in-time - This is difficult to do - We both take our turn and I hope to come out on top just because my action is better than yours.
  • responsive timing - There's this eternal debate about whether the guy that wins the initiative has the advantage or if the advantage actually lies with the defender or responder - the second to move.
  • victim timing -  You act upon me and I hope to be able to survive/endure long enough to eventually get a turn.


As children we are taught to take turns - I go - you go - I go - you go.  But in a martial sense, we would like to use our turn to accomplish something while at the same time depriving the other guy of his turn, so we get to take this turn and the next one and the next one...  So, how do we deprive the opponent of their turn?
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Kuzushi is typically thought of as dis-balancing the opponent or disrupting his structural integrity so that he begins to fall.  Some of my senseis have said before, "Kuzushi is anything that forces the other guy to take an unintended step."  This sort of confounded me when I was thinking of kuzushi as unbalancing uke, but when I began thinking about initiative events, If you can cause the other guy to take some random, unintended step, then he just used his turn to do nothing, so it's your turn again.
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There is also this unending debate about whether kuzushi is a thing that uke does to himself or if it is a thing that tori does to uke.  Is tori learning to recognize states of kuzushi in uke and time his turns accordingly, or is tori doing something to uke to weaken uke and make him lose a turn?  Potentially both, but this provides an opportunity to talk about a third martial arts concept.
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Suki (gap or lapse or opening).  I usually think of suki as any momentary lapse of attention or mis-positioning that I have done to myself that has cause me to be open to the opponent's attack.  Basically suki is when I offer the current turn of initiative to the other guy because of some weakness in myself.  Kuzushi, on the other hand, is when I do something to take the turn from him.
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Interestingly, it appears to me that folks from grappling-type aiki- or ju-jutsu (like those descended from kito-ryu) tend to be obsessed with the kuzushi idea, while folks from a more striking-based aiki- or ju-jutsu  (like daito- or tenjin-shinyo)tend to jive better with the suki idea.  But they are just different facets of the same thing.


photo courtesy of Paco PH

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Patrick Parker
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To strike the un-strikeable strike


So, in my previous post I basically said that Aiki guys need to use strikes to be "real martial artists", but not really.  Some of my readers jumped in on my FB group and said, "That's stupid, there's nothing keeping an Aiki-guy from knocking someone senseless (in a loving harmonious way) if'n they so desire.
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You guys are catching onto a couple of my big secrets...
  1. I am not infallible in my opinions - sometimes I'm even completely full of B.S.
  2. No blog post is complete - that's the nature of the beast.  In fact, the most successful blog posts are selective enough to stir enough controversy to elicit a reader response.
But, let's get back to the idea of atemi - to smash or not to smash.  I gave several rules of thumb yesterday about why percussive atemi is non-preferable in aikido.  Today maybe we could point out and discuss some specific instances where we like the effects we get from percussion.  Here's a handful of my favorites that might not be as intuitive as a knuckle in the nose...
  • I am a big fan of the outward hammer from naihanchi/tekki applied to the corner of a jaw.  I frequently tell folks if they end up on the inside in control of one arm and want to slow down or eliminate the threat of the other arm, to turn uke's face away by pushing (or hammering) on the opponent's jaw.  This is one of my favorite atemi in aiki situations.
  • I also enjoy cuffing ears with a cupped palm - certainly not on ukes or partners, but I will often indicate in iriminage where the head grab could just as well be a percussion to uke's far eardrum if you needed to disorient him more or dispose of him sooner.  This air-pressure cuffing strike is also extremely disorienting when applied to the orbit of an eye.
  • I have found that a straight, open-handed strike/push to uke's hip joint can be very disruptive and helpful in situations like kaitennage, udehineri, gedanate, or sukuinage.
How about you guys - where do you find some unusual atemi in aiki encounters?


photo courtesy of SigurdR


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Thoughts on aikido atemiwaza

I've said before, several times, that atemi (striking) is a vital part of aikido - at least aikido that is done as a martial art or self-defense.  Remove the strikes from aikido and it becomes an especially boring form of modern dance.
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It turns out there are about 2 different ideas about striking in martial arts - 

  • percussive impacts intended to cause severe structural damage - what you think of as karate and boxing strikes.
  • non-percussive bumps and pushes intended to distract and disrupt the opponent's balance and posture - like you may see more often in jujitsu and aikido

There are plusses and minuses to both kinds of striking techniques.  Whichever one you favor, you can certainly find some justification for it - but whichever one you favor also has some potential problems to consider.

  • Percussive atemi is direct and intuitive and fairly quick and easy to learn.  Percussive strikes can also end a fight very quickly.  So boxing and karate may be a shorter path to quick self-defense than aikido atemi.  It also makes you feel powerful to be able to defend yourself with your fists - so that may appeal to some folks.
  • But in a litigious society, percussive atemi may create legal entanglements.  I know a fellow that was blind-sided and managed to collect himself enough to lash out with a hook punch, breaking his assailant's jaw.  Even though there were witnesses and it was a clear-cut case of self-defense, the assailant still sued.  It may be more defensible in cases like this to be able to say, "He attacked me and I was afraid so I pushed him away and I guess he fell down."  Pushes also look more innocuous to witnesses than do skilled-looking punches.
  • Punching is a higher-precision activity than pushing or bumping. Pushing someone is a much grosser motor skill than punching, and is a much more easily retained skill under pressure than punching properly.
  • Pushing is a more automatic, autonomous response than punching.  If you push against a mammal, they tend to push back automatically, whereas, surprised people often have to collect themselves a bit to prepare themselves to punch or kick.
  • With punching, there is greater potential for self-injury.  That is largely why boxers tape and pad their hands.  People that fight with bare fists tend to get their hands cut up if not broken.  These particular injuries don't often occur to people that fight open-handed.
  • There is less potential for control with percussive strikes.  Since there is no way to know just how much force you need to put on someone to disable them, the common strategy is to generate maximal force and apply it to the opponent's weakest spots.  This means greater potential for injury and less potential for control.
From reading those bullet points, I'm sure that you can tell that I personally favor the non-percussive aikido-type atemi.  It's no skin off my back if you disagree - I'm sure there are a lot of kick-punch folks that could beat me up.  But per my analysis, the benefits of non-percussive atemi clearly outweigh the benefits of percussive atemi.

What do y'all think?


photo courtesy of Germaine


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