New Schedule and Location for 2016

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New eyes and fresh hearts


Over the past few years, maybe 10 or 15 years, I've heard several practitioners of various schools of koryu kenjutsu and jojutsu say that they just don't get the attraction of aiki-jo and aiki-ken - that there is just not that much martial skill involved in aiki weapons practices as compared to koryu.
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Some of this I can attribute to koryu snobbery.  Nothing but the inside teaching is going to be good enough for some folk that fully buy into the propoganda about how they are the real guys with the real knowledge.  Brand loyalty plays a large role in this - but brand loyalty gets old eventually.
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And some I can attribute to Ueshiba's lack of structure in passing down his weapon skills.  His students, and to a far larger extent, their students have a very un-even skill set ranging from great skill to cut-your-own-arm-off incompetence.
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And some of this I can attribute to a difference in goals.  The SMR guys (for instance) are not trying to use the jo to get at takemusu aiki, so it makes sense that aiki-jo may differ from SMR jo because they are aiming at different endpoints.
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But the snobbery of some (certainly not all) koryu guys and the resentment it engenders in some (again, not all) aiki guys is tiresome.   I like practicing with and learning from both groups and my personal practice has benefited from allowing myself to be influenced by each group, but I've gotten to the point that I don't especially want to be included in either group.  
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Perhaps both communities could benefit from each looking at the other with new eyes and fresh hearts.

[photo courtesy of Magali Veldhuis]


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Patrick Parker
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Uke-centric ukigoshi



So, one of our emphases this year is an examination of nagenokata with particular emphasis on the role of uke.  We have previously been working the first couple of techniques in this uke-centric fashion, but over the last week, we've gotten to kataguruma and uukigoshi.  Following are a handful of hints we've found for uke-centric ukigoshi...
  • In the first stage, tori (the spotter) is learning to lift and support uke on his hip, while uke is learning to plank-out head-down and examine the conditions at the edge of the world - just like in Junokata.
  • Also, early-on in the build-up to this technique, we had uke practice the step, overhead konk, and forward roll without tori.  This makes an interesting contrast to the earlier seoinage because in seoinage, there is  smooth flow from the overhead konk into the forward roll, but in this one, the overhead konk is stopped and the roll is on the opposite side.
  • I like practicing this one in contrast to the seoinage, because ukigoshi provides a backup when tori turns the 'wrong way' for the seoinage - that is, when tori gets freaked out and ducks inside the strike.
  • The kids hit this throw right off the bat - it was pretty remarkable how they all got the left-sided ukigoshi the first time and every time after we built it up this way!




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Patrick Parker
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Generations in budo


Coming up through the ranks, we used to talk about our relationships using a family analogy.  All of our cohort of students were like budo-brothers and budo-sisters.  The teachers of our teachers were like grandparents.  Some of the folks that studied when our teacher was coming up through the ranks - those folks were like aunts and uncles to us.
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Thinking about that reminded me of a tidbit that they taught us in grad school - this was in a class on physiology of aging and gerontology.  The instructor said that once a person reaches about age 30, "Nature is done with them" because they'd had time to grow to maturity, have kids, and raise the kids to maturity.  In an evolutionary sense, there is no reason for nature to put any genetic energy into developing and maintaining the individual, so they begin an inexorable decline around age 30.  Sure, there is a lot of plasticity in this phenomenon.  Some folks are able to devote enough energy and willpower into self-maintenance to remain strong and healthy long after 30, but it's still a pretty good rule of thumb (age-related decline often begins around 30) and a fairly reasonable explanation.
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Thirty years is also close to the length of a generation (25 years) as described in Howe & Straus' really interesting book, Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069.
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That made me wonder - how long is a generation in our budo analogy?  The first thing that pops into my mind is the average time it takes to get to yondan (teaching rank - roughly 10 years) and then raise a student to yondan (another 10 years or so).  You could probably add 5 years to that because of the attrition rate in martial arts - it'll take a while to find a student capable and willing to get to yondan.  That would be about 25-year generations - four generations per century - just like Howe&Straus' Generations.
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What does it matter?  Well part of the Generations book discusses why each generation tends to rebel against the values of the prior generation but embrace the values of the generation before that (2 generations ago.)
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Does that phenomenon perhaps hold with respect to budo?  Does that suggest that the Shu-Ha-Ri (keep-break-leave) cycle only describes individuals within one generation but doesn't describe the life-cycle of a school of budo - that is, we eventually break with our teachers but then tend to embrace our teachers' teachers?  Does that have some implications for a move from modern budo back toward Koryu?

[photo courtesy of Wikipedia - Yonsei]

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Patrick Parker
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Uke-centric nagenokata for kids


A couple of years ago I started a series of articles about re-examining nagenokata  from the POV of uke.  I had found that this approach was especially effective for teaching children, but it also seems appropriate for adults.
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I'd gotten as far as the first set (the three hand throws) but I got distracted so now I'm ready to return to that line of thought and that series of articles on uke-centric nagenokata.  The first articles included...
Kataguruma was a bear to get working from this uke-centric POV.

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My current tack on training this uke-centric kata is going to be...

  • work it in smaller pieces - break each technique into 2-3 steps and practice each step
  • high repetition - rep each piece of each technique, then rep the whole technique
  • work it in reverse - from the critical moment of throwing (which is the most frightening so they balk right at that moment), backwards toward the initiation of the technique so that when they do the technique for real they are so familiar with the end point that it is not intimidating.
So take ukiotoshi for instance.  The training will look something like...
  1. standing in right shizentai with grips, kneel, position uke, uke does forward roll (repeat 10x)
  2. starting in right shizentai with grips, tsugiashi backwards 3x, kneel, position uke, uke rolls (repeat 10x)
  3. take grips, tsugiashi back, kneel, position, uke rolls (repeat the full technique 10x)

Uke's goal here is to demonstrate the ukemi associated with the techniques of nagenokata.  Tori's goal is to provide structure and support for uke's demonstration without disrupting uke's flow.
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We're also going to work on having tori (the spotter) kneel so that uke can roll nicely out of kataguruma.
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I think I have it worked out how to get the kids through the first 9 techniques (hand, hip, and foot techniques) using this uke-centric POV.  Stay tuned...





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Patrick Parker
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