New Schedule and Location for 2016

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

Shrimping escape from munegatame

Here's some of Steve Scott's guys demonstrating the shrimping escape from munegatame.  This is not one of the fundamental escapes that I teach beginners, but more of a branch or variation of the bridge&roll escape that I covered the other day.
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Notice that the first 5 steps of the recipe for this escape are the same as for the bridge&roll, but then, once you've shrimped away from uke, what if he does not pile back into you for bridge&roll?  Well, if he just hangs out with that huge gaping hole between you and him, stick your knee in the hole and move into guard.
  1. feet tight under your butt and elbows close as possible to your chest.
  2. bridge with both feet straight up to create space under you.
  3. turn onto your side, facing uke
  4. bottom elbow under uke's hips and top hand over uke's shoulder
  5. shrimp 2-3 times directly away from uke while pushing/holding him in place
  6. turn your knee in  and shrimp or scoot or pull into the guard...



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Bridge&roll from munegatame

Munegatame (chest hold) is the second osaekomi that we teach in judo, and the bridge&roll escape that is associated with it is one of the easiest bridge&roll escapes to get working, but sometimes students still have trouble getting a handle on this escape, so here is an explicit recipe for producing a bridge&roll escape from munegatame in practice.
  1. feet tight under your butt and elbows close as possible to your chest.
  2. bridge with both feet straight up to create space under you.
  3. turn onto your side, facing uke
  4. bottom elbow under uke's hips and top hand over uke's shoulder
  5. shrimp 2-3 times directly away from uke while pushing/holding him in place
  6. when uke climbs back on top, hold his head to the mat with your top arm
  7. bridge straight up with both feet and push uke's hips over your head with your bottom elbow.
  8. scramble on top of uke.
...and some general practice hints...
  • Practice getting all the steps in.  Work for mechanical precision, as if you were a bridge&roll machine that is designed  and programmed specifically to tear apart this particular hold-down.
  • Repeat each step several times, then add the next step, repeating all previous steps.
  • Practice with moderate-to-light resistance at first and build up toward heavy resistance over the course of weeks-to-months.
  • When drilling, allow uke to get all the way into the hold and start from a dead standstill, but when applying the escape in randori or shiai, do not wait for the opponent to set the hold 100%
... and a video of Nick and Damon demonstrating the bridge&roll from mune with only slight differences from my recipe...


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Why I like Yoshinori Kono's jo work


A few days ago I forwarded this video to a bunch of my friends with a note saying, "Check this guy out, I really like what he does."  Several of them were unimpressed, and had some good comments, like,
  • he is working too far inside ma-ai
  • no power behind his strikes
  • his ukes don't appear to know what they are doing
...so I thought I'd write some about why I do like his aiki-like jo work.
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First, I will readily admit I'm probably biased because of an old article I read about this fellow - Perceptual warfare in the classical Japanese martial arts.  This perceptual approach to aikido (etc...) feels right to me - I get the same feeling watching Ueshiba's later films of him doing magic.  Osensei was operating within the domain of his ukes' perceptions (inside their OODA loop), and that's what Kono appears to be getting at.
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In all martial arts (that I've seen) there appear to be different factions and cults based on different preferences or attributes.  You can take a dozen students and teach them the same stuff at the same time and you will end up with a dozen different arts in a few years, because each practitioner has individual preferences and filters and attributes that they  use to interpret the art.  Some are stronger, some are faster, some are better at receiving while others are better at attacking, etc...  For example, within the world of Japanese karate-do, you see Shotokan, which sort of epitomizes the cult of power.  They are strong and linear and they make their karate work through strength. Then you have Shotokai, which is the same set of material taught by the same original teachers, but now they more epitomize a cult of timing.  They take a  more soft and flowing approach.  (Sure, these are generalizations, and real karate masters make use of both strength and timing, but the generalization holds I think).
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With respect to jodo/jojutsu/aikijo, you see the same sort of differentiation into styles or cults.  Some folks are all about mechanical precision and power, while others are all about timing and flow.  Nick actually brings these aspects together in an interesting way in his jodo training matrix video...


I suspect this is what we are seeing in Kono's video with respect to power - in his preference to work in the perceptual realm, he is concentrating on speed and timing at the expense of power.  So, he is demonstrating an interesting thing about one facet of the big picture - how to develop the speed and timing necessary to work on uke's perceptions.
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(but as a side note...speed is power... so they tell me...)
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Now with regard to his working inside ma-ai.  That is a problem from my point of view too, but I think it is understandable for a couple of reasons.
  • He is obviously working from the background of speed and timing, and in my experience, superfast practitioners love to work inside ma-ai, where they can disorient slower guys with a flurry of motion before the slower guys can react.  I probably enjoy that aspect of Kono's work particularly because it is so opposite of my personal preferences and style.  I avoid inside conditions like the plague unless I can cripple uke with kuzushi or get behind him.  So this seems exotic, like something that could benefit me.
  • He is also obviously showing pieces of motion instead of fight-ending waza like we're used to seeing.  As such, I suspect his ma-ai is contracted for the sake of getting some clear video of what he's doing.  The camera has him and uke confined to a smaller space.
And as for his ukes being incompetent.  I don't much to say about that because just about everyone in the world is more competent with weapons than me.  But Morihei Ueshiba made his ukes look pretty dumb too, which suggests that Kono may be on a similar track as Ueshiba.



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Patrick Parker
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An aiki recipe for jodo

Tomiki aikido has a pretty limited (but interesting in its own respects) set of jo material, so a lot of us in our aikido group study Seitei jo or SMR koryu jo.  SMR is its own thing, separate and awesome on its own, but for my part (and I suspect there are a bunch like me)  I like to do these jo arts because they are aiki-like and I want to see what the jo can teach me about aiki or how i can express aiki through the jo.

As such, I am not as interested in learning dozens of kata as i am in seeing where the aiki is hiding in the kata I do know. And it turns out that in the parts of Seitei and Omote that I have seen, there is a sort of heuristic or recipe that applies to most of the kata.

In the kata, jo usually...

  • evades off the line of attack
  • fixes the distance so he is outside of sword range but inside jo range
  • attacks/controls the centerline
  • gets a kuzushi
  • then, either destroys the sword-man or gets another controlling kuzushi when the sword-man tries to recover.
In some of the kata the order of these elements get rearranged, but they are mostly all in there (like Ragu - it's in there!)

...and, incidentally, that is also a basic recipe for doing aiki techniques - evade, control distance, control centerline, control balance, then execute.


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Grappling in the dark with no hands

A couple of years ago I did a post on How to Become an Empty Jacket in Judo.  All those pointers are great, and we have worked on all of them some, but none of them extensively.
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One of my students (my REAL teachers) reminded me today of how back in ye olden days we used to do a lot of handicap newaza randori.  The most common handicaps that we put on people were that brown belts and above had to close their eyes and black belts and above couldn't grip or grab.  Working under these constraints (especially the blindfighting) forces people to figure out how to pay attention to their other senses better.  When you can't see and you can't "grab, grunt, and go," you rapidly develop more acute awareness of the ups and downs and flow of things.
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Hmmm... "Pay more attention to the ups and downs in newaza..."  Where have I heard that before?  Oh yeah, an Empty Jacket told me that!
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Denizens of Mokuren Dojo, get ready for a couple of months of blind, no-grip newaza with emphasis on feeling the flow and the holes and the ups&downs!


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The Holy Bar Napkin of Antioch

Rick "Moose" Pollard was one of the most profound of the judo coaches at Houston a few years back.  I only got to play with him a couple of times, but one of my buddies caught up with him a couple of years ago and picked his brain regarding what order he taught newaza to beginners.  Moose apparently jotted some notes down on a bar napkin and this napkin has become sort of a holy relic around that dojo ;-)
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Following is my summary of the contents of the (in)famous Holy Bar Napkin of Antioch...
  1. shrimping with 2 hands in 1 place
  2. bridge&roll escape from kesa, mune, tate, and kami
  3. how to break and pass the guard
  4. basic pins/holds
  5. basic armbars
  6. basic chokes
  7. basic series/combos
He also had a couple of misc. pointers, like...
  • Keep your elbows close 
  • Take time to think about what you are doing
Despite all the joking about the Holy Bar Napkin of Antioch, that is a pretty good scope&sequence and good advice for all of us.


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Patrick Parker
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Judo seminar notes


This past week I got to attend probably the most fun and productive seminar I have ever been to.  One of the many treats was getting to work with Sensei Bob Rea on judo.  While we're waiting for the films to be processed and available on YouTube, here are some of my notes...

  • Solo movement drills that he likened to the Tomiki walking kata - walking forward deashi sweeping until your little toes touch each other, skipping 2 tsugiashi forward then sweeping deashi, laterals, and laterals with following sweeps (like okuriashi)
  • Sweep the footprint not the foot or ankle.  This also helps with timing b/c uke does not have a footprint until he starts to put his foot down.
  • Osotogari - pull your sweeping leg in with your ipsilateral arm, make a circular motion to stick his other elbow in your belly instead of pulling in, sweep the direction his toes are pointing.
  • Taiotoshi - This is a version that, if I understand it right, he practiced with or learned from Wim Ruska (pictured below). turning out wide on the line of uke's feet and popping under the inside of uke's near leg, like a small uchimata.
  • Okuriashibarai - follow the foot instead of propelling it because you always make your self late by propelling.  same on kosotogari. Then after you follow uke to his peak, cut both his feet toward your standing little toe.
  • Uchimata - (again, from Ruska I think) sister throw to okuriashibarai. Practice uchikomi with uke doing sumo dance. time the sweep on the footfall of the swept leg and pull the legs apart instead of lifting.
  • Perhaps the most incredible and important advice he gave was not technical.  He says instructors often get bogged down teaching everyone else and helping everyone else and they lose track of their own development.  He told all the instructors in the room to be sure that they choose something that they suck at and put it in their "learning circle," and prioritize working on it.  I think for me, this might just be the uchimata that he showed.



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Patrick Parker
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Embusen and mode in Gokata

A kata can be different things depending on what you are doing with it.  If you are demonstrating it to someone, the kata will be a different thing than if you are practicing it without an audience.  We have practice forms and demonstration forms of kata.  Demonstration forms of kata abide by different rules than do practice kata.  I have written about this "kata mode" before.
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Frequently, people that want to give a good demonstration will operate in kata mode during all their practices, allowing them to get familiar with these extra points and behaviors that make for good demos.  Basically good embu people are always in embu mode.  But there are potential problems with embu mode - things that you miss out if you always practice as if demonstrating to some external person.  
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We have two modes for kata because there are two potential recipients of the communication.  Sometimes the participants are communicating to the audience about the kata and the art, and sometimes the art consists of the kata communicating to the participants without consideration of the audience. 
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One example from Koryu dai Go - 
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In most of our kata, after each technique both participants move back to their origins on the embusen (the line of the performance).  That's the way we practice (mostly so that we don't throw uke into other people's practice area on the mat) but it is also how we demonstrate the kata (so as to place the audience in the most advantageous place to see what we want them to see.
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But in Koryu dai Go, uke attacks immediately from where he just fell without first moving back to the embusen.  So the embusen is different (and somewhat random) for each technique.  The kata seems to wander around the mat.  This makes Gokata somewhat non-optimal for demonstration in embu because the audience's angle is always shifting, but it makes it an excellent exercise in connection and zanshin.



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Jodo seminar notes


This past week I had the pleasure and privilege of getting to talk and work with Sensei Jack Bieler of Denton TX on my jodo.  The practice was sublime as usual, but this time I really had the feeling that Sensei was tailoring and directing his instruction right at me and my problems and foibles (I'm fairly sure that the other participants felt like they were receiving special attention from Jack too - he's that great a teacher!). Following is my list of notes and pointers from the jodo sessions.   As usual, any mistakes or foolish misunderstandings are mine - not Jack's.

  • Trust the kamae, when properly structured, to do what they were designed to do, either protect you and/or forestall Sword.
  • Widen the feet a bit to counterbalance the jo
  • Shochugeiko can mean "grip practice"(if stretched a bit, or made into a pun)  ;-) - In honte the jo lies diagonally across both hands.  In gyakute the jo lies in-line with the knuckles of both hands with the door-knocking knuckles of both hands on the 'edge' of the jo.
  • Don't draw backward such that a lot of the jo lies behind you.  Rather, stretch forward to encompass the jo so that most of it stays in front of you.
  • Honte is honte - weaponize the jo before you use it - The jo must be in honte before you apply leg/body power.  Don't use leg power to lift the jo, use arm power to lift and position (weaponize) the jo, then apply leg/body power through it.
  • Jodan is jodan - both of these positions (honte and jodan) recur throughout the art, and their structure and use should be uniform.
  • Tsukizue and monomi are mirror images of each other in several ways - one steps forward to the right, the other back to the left.  Both control/threaten the entire centerline.  One applies kuzushi into the back heel, the other applies kuzushi into the front toes.
  • Hikiotoshi - set kamae so that jo lies in proper plane before you start.  Throw the stick using front-hand grip power.  Back hand has to follow rather than propel b/c when back hand propels, the body stops and you can't catch up with your own jo in time. Contact near middle of jo and twist hips so that the back heel comes up.  Stretch yourself forward almost into sutemi, then step. Project the sword 3'x6' behind, as in sumiotoshi.  must control Sword's hips.  In paired practice, responding to this gives Sword practice in tsugiashi and ayumiashi.
  • A cool drill - Sword drops his tip a bit so that hikiotoshi misses and Sword takes control of chudan.  Jo bounces off ground and reverses path, sweeping sword from below and controlling centerline with honte (this feels like tsubamegaeshi to me) - this comes from the end of Ranai.
  • Hold the kamae without bobbling if Sword disappears.
  • Hiding in the shadow of the jo - as in gyakutezuki, etc...


Incidentally, re. the italics above - 
"Back hand has to follow rather than propel b/c when back hand propels, the body stops and you can't catch up with your own jo in time."
This was Sensei Bob Rea's same lesson to us re. okuriashibarai!  the following foot has to follow and must not propel, because you stop and lose timing with uke when you try to propel!  The synchronicity between instructors at this seminar was incredible!


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Patrick Parker
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Tori also changes the rhythm in Gokata


Gokata is sometimes characterized as a "more aggressive tori" practice - but just like it is not really "faster," it is also not really an aggressive tori thing.  I prefer to think of it as a more proactive tori thing.
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In much of our practice, tori stands and waits for uke to come give him the attack energy.  Uke moving toward tori is the predominant energy that the techniques make use of.  But in much of Gokata, tori is moving at uke while uke is moving at tori.  It is a coming-together.  Because both partners are in motion, the energy of most of the techniques is doubled.
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Instead of aggressive, tori's spirit is proactive.  To get myself into this mindset when I start Gokata, I like to tell myself, "Well, if this conflict is inevitable then lets get it over with right now."  That helps to put me in the "running toward the sound of the guns" frame of mind, and helps to produce that proactive aikido feel.
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Physically, the way that tori demonstrates a proactive spirit, is by taking at least one step forward (toward uke) into each technique instead of waiting or separating.  Thus, it is not uke that chooses when the encounter takes place.  In Gokata, tori gets to choose when uke breaks ma-ai - which means that tori knows when the encounter will happen and uke doesn't.
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So, the combination of uke taking the slack out of the kata (see the previous post), and tori taking a proactive role in the encounters, gives Gokata more energy and a different sort of tempo or rhythm.




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Best of Roy Harris - JiuJitsu after 40

Roy Harris - One of the first Americans to get a BJJ black belt and teacher of Roy Dean.  This is an excellent 3-disc set for an excellent price.  Not your everyday lecture topics but very valuable information.  My favorite disc of the three is "Jiu jitsu after 40."  Everything here is applicable to your judo practice too!



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Frequency and rhythm in Gokata


A lot of aikido (and judo too for that matter) involves vibration.  In a lot of ways, our motion can be likened to a pendulum or a slinky or a yo-yo.  One interesting thing with models like this is, you cannot make a pendulum or slinky or yo-yo oscillate at an arbitrary frequency no matter how much power you apply to it.  Because of its unique mass and inertia and structure, it works at its own innate frequency or it does not work at all.  In aikido, tori wants to get into synch with uke's vibration and not go faster or slower based on some fantasy aesthetic that exists only in the mind.
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So... the idea that Koryu Dai Go is just a repetition of old techniques but done fast is B.S.
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Additionally, one of the main advantages of kuzushi (unbalancing the attacker) is it nullifies uke's speed advantage.  If uke is moving fast, and tori correctly applies an offbalance, uke will slow down and start vibrating at his natural (slow, human-speed) frequency.  So, why would we want to do a kata real fast?  If you succeeded in making it fast, then you just demonstrated that you were not achieving kuzushi.
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If Gokata is supposed to be a "fast thing," but it makes no sense to try to do the execution of the actual techniques at some arbitrarily fast speed, then it must be a matter of changing the tempo of the stuff that is happening between the techniques.  Consider that there is a difference between speed and tempo or speed and rhythm.
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In our normal kata demonstration mode, we often have a rhythm sort of like...

  • do a technique...
  • uke falls...
  • uke takes a breath or two and collects himself as tori walks off...
  • uke gets up and moves back to his starting position...
  • uke and tori set up and prepare for the next thing...
  • uke attacks...
  • do another technique...

This is a lot like the rhythm of many of our kata demonstrations, but the tempo between techniques in Gokata can be different without being faster.  Sort of like...

  • do a technique...
  • tori takes 1-2 steps away and turns to face uke.
  • uke stands up as efficiently as he can, and immediately attacks from where he is...
  • do another technique...

This is different from the prior kata mode because all the slack has been taken out of the interstices between the techniques.  Tori and uke are forced to be "always on," always engaged during the course of this kata.
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That is how we're supposed to do all kata anyway, but there is so much slack between techniques in our normal kata demonstration mode that it is easy for our zanshin to wander.  Not so with Gokata.
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Gokata is not the "crazy-fast cardio kata." Gokata is about the stuff in the middle - about taking all the slack out.  Gokata is about zanshin - about never having a chance to rest and let your mind wander.

photo courtesy of PhineasX


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The rhythm of Doshu's embu


Notice that there is a rhythm to Doshu's performance.  It is not a monotonous, metronomic A and then B and then C and then D... He does several techniques with near-continuous timing, then there is a pause where he pins uke for a few seconds then gets a new uke.
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I have often wondered to what degree these high-level embu are choreographed.  Does Doshu just go out there with a pile of ukes and tell them, "run at me and I'll do techniques to you for a while," or does he pre-arrange, "I'll do 5 techniques with this uke and 6 techniques with that uke..." or is every technique pre-planned for the entire demo?
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In any case, there is a rhythm - near-continuous activity followed by a pin and a pause.
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I've also often wondered (assuming the whole thing is not choreographed in every detail), what determines the frequency of those pauses?  Do ukes run at Doshu untill he is tired of dealing with them, after which he pins one and takes a break, or does he take breaks when the ukes start to get ragged out?
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This is what we're going to be working on with regards to Koryu Dai Go in Oklahoma City later this week - controlling the rhythm of the encounter - and I thought Doshu's embu would make a good intro.


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Sensei doesn't know what he's talking about

The big secret - your sensei is still trying to figure this stuff out - still trying to figure out how to express the art with his body while at the same time trying to figure out how to teach you to express the art with your body.  The ship is being sailed while it is being built.
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Another big secret - sensei doesn't even speak your language!  He can't.  We are learning a very personal, subjective body art and he has a different body than you do and he has a different subjective understanding and perception of his own body.  His manner of thinking about how he is accomplishing the art is not the right way for you to think about your own body doing the art.
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So, a lot of what sensei tells you is B.S. - it just doesn't apply to you.
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It's not malicious.  He really does want you to learn this thing and become skilled.  It's just that your sensei doesn't know what he's talking about and doesn't even speak your language.
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But sensei can still do the thing better than you can - he just can't figure out how to tell you how to do it.
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What sensei does when he does his thing is of greater importance than how he explains what he is thinking about when he does his thing.  So, listen and pay attention to what sensei says, but WATCH WHAT HE DOES!  It is difficult, but you have to figure out how to turn your perceptual filters off so that you can see what is actually happening instead of what you think is happening or what sensei tells you you should see.  Make special note of the times that sensei does things differently from how he tells you to do them.
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And remember - all the rules apply (except when they don't.)



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Wisdom on training intensity

Replace the word, "Jiu-jitsu" in this talk with "aikido" or "judo" or even "jodo" and you have a very fine lesson...


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JuDokie from Muskogee

Musashi wrote that we should be experts at 1-2 arts but familiar with all arts.  The old, dead budo masters seem to have had a thing for writing poetry.  Morihei Ueshiba was especially prolific with his doka (budo poems).  I don't do much original poetry, and what I do is horrid, and only for my wife's amusement, but I do have a fondness for re-writing popular songs with budo lyrics.
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This one's dedicated to our Okie-dokas.  I don't know if we actually have Okies in Muskogee doing our flavor of aiki and judo, but after this song was written, I think all Okies started claiming to be from Muskogee.  Shoot, I've even declared myself to be an honorary Okiedoka from Muskogee!


We don't do Hapkido in Muskogee
We don't take no trips on Kuk Sul Won
We don't punch and kick in Oklahoma
We like throwin' down and bein' done!

I'm proud to be JuDokie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can roll and fall
We still do our judo like Okano
And deashi's still the biggest thrill of all

We don't make a party of randori
We like grabbin' hold and pitchin' you
We don't like our techniques long and fancy
Like the hippies down in Austin like to do!

And I'm proud to be JuDokie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can roll and fall
We still do our judo like Kotani
And deashi's still the biggest thrill of all

Plain gi are still in style for manly matwear
Rash guards and corporate sponsors won't be seen
Guruma's still the roughest thing on campus
But sometimes makikomi can be mean.

We still do our judo like old dead guys
In Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.A.


--
____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Yoshinoro Kono Sensei

We are currently feeling ripples of this teacher's influence in some of the things that we do.  Pay attention to this fellow's research...
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...and watch how he moves!



There's actually a ton of material on YouTube about Sensei Kono



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A pair of Aikijo books

On Wednesdays I've been doing short, quick book recommendations.  Today is a pair of Aiki-Jo manuals - the first of which (Autrelle's) I have found very useful in my studies, and the second of which (Kalkhof's) looks very handy - though I haven't gotten a copy yet.  I very much enjoy Kalkhof's illustrations and Autrelle's detailed textual descriptions.  Both are available on Kindle, and both are  very inexpensive compared to the information provided.



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Return to beginnings, middles, and ends


Some time ago I wrote a post describing our lineage of Tomiki aikido as organizing the tori-uke encounter into beginnings, middles, and ends...
Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that "A whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end."  This applies to aikido as well as to poetics because an encounter also has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Hanasu is the main exercise that we use to study beginnings. 
  • Randori is the main exercise that we use to study the middles.
  • Kata is the main exercise that we use to study the endings.
A student told me today, "under previous aikido instructors I used to spend a whole lot more time kneeling on the ground trying to finish a pin on uke."  I pointed out that different classes like to emphasize different parts of the whole of aiki but my preference is to spend most of our practice time on beginnings and middles because if uke is finished then he's finished but if he's not finished then it's not time to play the end-game.  You're still in the middle.
Today, thinking about this old article, I still agree wholly with my conclusion - I prefer to emphasize beginnings and middles in my classes, but I think I would re-word it a bit.
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Hanasu (wrist releases) are the main exercises that we use to study beginnings.  These teach evasion and entering and off-balancing skills that are most crucial in the initial parts of an encounter.
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Randori, as I said earlier, is used to study the middles, but in Tomiki's lineage, a lot of our randori study takes place in the context of Randori-no-kata (also known as kihon no kata or junanahon kata) - a set of seventeen (plus or minus - some instructors have said 15, some have said 23) techniques that represent the vast majority of technical aikido things that you will see in randori.  So, I might characterize Junana as being about the middles of the tori-uke encounters.
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In my old post I said that kata was about the endings, but What I should have said was osaekomi (pins that we usually only see in kata) are the study of endings.
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So, a typical encounter would start off with a release-like motion (hanasu), and flow through something that probably looks like something in Junana, and end in something that looks like one of the pinning controls that we see in the various kata.  So Hanasu-Junana-Osaekomi is sort of a template for organizing your ideas about encounters.
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This reminds me of a story from days gone by.  Many moons ago, my sensei took three of us lowly shodans to a seminar in a neighboring state.  It was an Aikikai dojo that was hosting one of the biggest of big-name Japanese sensei.   Everyone would sit in a big circle in seiza as the sensei demonstrated some move or another.  He always demonstrated three times. He never spoke English or gave instructions, just demonstrated the thing three times and grunted permission for us to all go and do likewise.
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Then the class would break up into partners and small groups that would try to do what the sensei had demonstrated and chaos would ensue because nobody in the room had a clue.  Everyone would start asking their neighbors on the mat, "how did he do that?"
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Except for us - the four Tomikiryu pariahs in the room - the guys that did that sport crap instead of real aikido.  We were able to watch what the sensei did and immediately translate that in our minds to, "Oh, he just did release #1 and flowed into #6 from Junana and then held the guy down like this."  So we would grab a partner and start practicing the thing.
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Pretty soon all the lower-ranked Aikikai dudes were asking us," show me how he did that." and we wisely whispered, "Hell no!  That old Japanese guy over there - this is his day to be sensei, not mine!"  We could tell that he was getting progressively more frustrated with the students' inability to follow his demonstration, and we didn't want to draw his wrath when we were the strangers in a strange land.
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It's not that the Aikikai students were poorly taught or incompetent.  They just did not have a framework to understand what they were seeing the sensei do.  Thank you, Tomiki sensei, for providing us that framework of beginnings, middles, and ends.

 photo courtesy of Paco PH


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Patrick Parker
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I left my toes in San Francisco

Over the years I've done several articles about the prevalence and incidence of various injuries and illnesses related to judo and aikido classes.  Some of the most memorable ones include...

And perhaps the funniest...
But somehow in all my blogging over the years, I managed to miss posting about perhaps the most common judo injury - mat burn.
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Pretty much all beginners, when they begin judo, succumb to mat burns - typically on the tops of their most proximal toe knuckles.  Most cases are pretty mild and go away in a day or two with some soap and water and maybe some Lanacane spray.  My personal bout with bat burn was more profound because I was a bit more obstinate in my newaza encounters.  I scraped all the meat off the tops of my metatarso-phalangeal knuckles so badly that I could see the white of tendon moving about in there.  Fortunately I've wised up (a little bit) in the ensuing 20 years.
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My coach's instructions with regard to mat burn on the toes was along the lines of, "Maybe you shouldn't do that to yourself."
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Recently, having completely forgotten about the specter of mat burn, I had two different beginners tell me that they burnt the meat off their toes during newaza class.  First time that's happened in a LONG TIME, so I figured I'd drop a couple of hints with regard to avoiding matburn..

  • God made us to bear weight against the Earth with the bottoms of our feet - not the tops of our feet.  Not only is the skin of the bottom of your foot tougher, but you can push much harder when the bottom of your foot is on the ground.  So, LIVE TOES!
  • Mat burn on the forehead and corners of the brow is also very common, and this happens when you turtle up and someone jumps on you and grinds you against the ground.  So, DON'T TURTLE but if you do find yourself being smeared on the mat, TAP EARLY instead of insisting that the other guy injure you to prove that you are in an inferior position.
  • Mat burn and gi burn also happen commonly on your knees and elbows.  You might want to GET A RASHGUARD - a long-sleeved, long-legged set of nylon undergarments - Under Armour or the like - to prevent this.
  • The three previous warnings probably eliminate 95% of all mat burns, but BURNS HAPPEN, so LEARN FIRST AID.  You want to wash a mat burn with soap and water, perhaps spray some Lanacane on it, and cover it with a sterile bandage.
[Photo courtesy of Nate Marquardt]


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Patrick Parker
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Playful, productive randori

Jason and I were talking just last night about this video, in which Ryron discusses trading roles in randori so that you get experience in playful survival grappling as well as submission grappling.  One of the things that I especially liked was how his explanation on this video mirrors exactly what I was saying on one of my first blog posts years ago (not that I'm claiming to be years ahead of the Gracies or anything... but... ;-)


I like the coin. It's a cool piece of Gracie paraphernalia, but if you would like to do the same thing with any coin - flip a coin and if it comes up heads, you're in thinking mode and if it comes up tails then you're in butthole mode.

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Patrick Parker
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Secrets of the Samurai - by Ratti & Westbrook


This is an excellent, must-have volume for your library.  Ratti delves deeply into the historical origins of martial arts in Japan, and Westbrook's illustrations are beautiful and classic of themselves.


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Mike Sigman on Internal Strength

I watched these two videos some years ago, and just now found them on YouTube.  Interesting material.  Well worth a couple of hours of your spare time.


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Patrick Parker
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