Monday, March 31, 2014


We are indoctrinated from day-1 in judo and aikido that the pre-requisites to doing a technique include...

  • you have to have uke off-balanced (kuzushi)
  • you have to move yourself to the right place (tsukuri)

Most everyone buys into this kuzushi-tsukuri-kake idea, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell if uke is offbalanced - or if he is off-balanced enough that you can do your technique.  If you think that kuzushi means to make uke lean, then how far do you have to lean him?  And then you come across people that can still bust you even when they are leaning and you thought they should have been off-balance.
For a while now I've been trying to find simple, functional, reliable indicators of kuzushi.
Some of my betters define kuzushi as "any time that uke has to take at least one unintended step before they can attack you effectively."
If tori is able to get into shikaku (the dead zone behind uke's shoulder) then even if uke is not obviously leaning, he is (by definition) off-balance, because to continue to attack effectively uke will have to turn to face tori.
So, the act of moving behind uke is tsukuri for many throws, and it is also creating a condition of kuzushi.
The systematic way that we train tori to move behind uke we call hanasu (releases) and some clubs call it musubi renshu (connection practice) and other clubs just call it shichihon no kuzushi (7 offbalances).  The objective of each release is to place tori behind uke (in shikaku) and at the same time create a condition of offbalance (kuzushi).  So, since we train releases so much, you can use finishing the release as your heuristic-
If you are able to finish a release then uke is (by definition) off-balance and you are in position for a technique.

[photo courtesy of wikipedia]

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Patrick Parker

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Shikaku and technique vs. principle

A lot of instructors (including me) like to say that our arts are "principle-based instead of technique-based."  That the ideas behind the techniques are more important than the techniques themselves.  But that can be hard to implement because we all have a deep abiding love for cool techniques.  We want to exert our personal power and "do" our techniques to people so it can be hard to give up the idea of doing techniques in favor of the general idea of "following principles."
So, how about a more specific objective?  How about something like, "moving behind the other guy always trumps doing a technique to him."
So, if you see something cool like kotegaeshi about to happen but you are standing in front of uke, forget about doing the technique and move behind uke.  Only execute the technique if you are already standing behind uke.

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Patrick Parker

Friday, March 21, 2014

The intersection set

Judo and Aikido are related arts - you might even say they are sister arts.  We often go so far as to say they are the same thing (sometimes we qualify that by adding, "but not really.")  This relationship between judo and aikido goes right back to the beginning - both were at least partially derived from Kito-ryu.  The relationship can be seen more recently in that the judo that our group does (1950's Kodokan judo influenced by Kotani and Osawa) is highly-related to the aikido that we do (as taught by Tomiki at Waseda in the 1950's).  It is difficult to examine Kodokan Goshin Jutsu and not see Tomiki/Ohba Koryu no kata and vice versa.
So, you might say that 1950's judo and Tomiki aikido are different arts with highly-overlapping domains.  In a Venn diagram, they would have a large intersection set, including...

  • Basic posture (shizentai) is predominant instead of jigotai or hanmi
  • The same ukemi skills are taught and used in both
  • Many ukiwaza/tewaza are shared between the two arts

There are, of course elements that find themselves in the domain of one art but not the other (not intersection set).  For instance, the domain of judo includes ...

  • ashiwaza
  • greater variety of koshiwaza
  • sutemiwaza
  • shimewaza
  • newaza
  • kumikata (gripfighting)
  • resistive randori

...while the domain of aikido includes more...

  • solo exercises (tankdoku undo)
  • connection practice (hanasu dosa, musubi renshu)
  • suwariwaza
  • tekubiwaza
  • weapons work
  • hand randori

But hang on here for a minute.  There is nothing saying that these things have to be the domain of one art or the other.  Why cant we start (judiciously) moving more of the material into the intersection set such that players of both arts have explicit permission to make use of it.
For instance...

  • Tomiki originally envisioned the tandoku undo of aikido as a "Judo taiso" or a sport-specific warmup.
  • Kumikata and Hanasu have the same purpose and a great overlap in skills.
  • Suwariwaza and newaza are just different modes of groundwork practice.
  • Some aikidoka have had success working with ashiwaza, koshiwaza, and shimewaza
  • Roy Dean (BJJ and Judo guy) has had some success with working the tekubiwaza (for instance) into BJJ.

By "judiciously" I mean, we should not necessarily pile all of judo and all of aikido into one pile and do all of it together, because not all of each art fits well with the other.  It might take some time to figure out where each piece of the puzzle fits, but I say we should be working toward shifting more material into the intersection set.

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Patrick Parker

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring 2014 ABG preview - kuzushi & tactical aikido

The Spring 2014 Aiki Buddies Gathering is coming up in about a week, and this year the topics of interest are going to include -
  • Kuzushi - particularly in the context of the connection exercises we call releases, and with particular emphasis on answering the question, "How can you tell if you have kuzushi or if you have enough kuzushi that you can safely and efficiently execute a technique.
  • Bode's Tactical Aikido - some of J.W. Bode's ideas about using releases to enter into techniques from both aikido and judo.
  • Merritt Stevens' Tactical Aikido - Ten techniques selected by Sensei Merritt as forming the basis of a quickly-learned, easily-retained self-defense system.
We are also going to be having a pile of rank demos, including...
  • Whit will be demonstrating the Yellow- and Green-belt curriculum for both aikido and judo.
  • Knox and Quin will be demonstrating the first three sets of Nage no Kata.
Looks to be well-attended, and promises to be a load of fun!  be there or be square!

Want to discuss this blog post?
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Patrick Parker

Friday, March 07, 2014

Rory Miller hints on toshu randori

Rory Miller has a pretty cool book about Drills...

In which he gives some of the best description and hints for a drill that he calls "One Step," but which we call "toshu randori."  Hints that we don't hear every day...
This is my most basic drill. I find it useful and versatile on many levels. At it’s most basic it is very simple: one partner initiates a move in slow motion and the other partner at equal speed makes one motion to respond. The partners continue this without resetting, winding up wherever they wind up and finding solutions.
  • To reinforce that this drill is about self teaching I break every few minutes when we first start and have the students tell me what they’ve noticed and what they’ve learned. One of the first ones that come up is “You can’t win on defense.”
  • If you block an incoming strike, your opponent is free to make another attack.
  • If someone gets in an untenable position, have the partners maintain position, have them ease up any pressure causing pain and have them think of options. Bad guys don’t give do-overs; don’t practice them here.
  • Do not practice dying, either. Students will have a tendency to reset and start over when they feel a decisive blow has landed. This is a bad habit. You may be knocked out in real life, but you might not. If a man can take ten bullets to the chest and head and keep fighting it seems a little delusional (and a terrible habit) to give up over a slow-motion strike.
  • It’s hard to stick to one-step on the ground because so many grapplers practice a flow of motion. Try to restrict them anyway. Limiting it to one move you often find an efficient strike that is missed when people go into grappling mode.
  • Most locks are relatively complicated and take several moves to get, and thus usually fail on moving people in real life. Show how locks in real life are based on ‘gifts’ where the threat puts himself in the lock position. By just applying power to one point, efficiently, you can make a lock work. Same goes for many take-downs.
  • If two students are starting to spar, have them start with the initial attack coming from behind or on the flank.
  • When a student gets stuck, have them freeze and brainstorm; then ask their partner for ideas, then other students, then the instructor. I haven’t seen any position so hopeless that a room full of people couldn’t come up with something.
  • Watch for people who are moving arms but not feet.Show that striking and off-balancing are both good options.
  • It’s okay to run away.
  • After they have practiced for a while, explain that they are on a quest for the golden move. The golden move is anything that prevents damage to you, causes damage to the threat, puts you in a better position and puts the threat in a worse position. If every action does all four things, you will win.
  • In a seminar situation, encurage everyone to play with people they do not know and to switch partners each time.Use foam ‘bricks’ and scatter them around the training area. When a group or pair go to the ground, they can use the brick as an equalizer. It tends to change the ground game quite a bit.
  • Stop action critique: Straight-up coaching for the one-step is dead simple: “Freeze. Go back one move. Why didn’t you…” when you see an opportunity for something more efficient than whatever the student used. Don’t overdo it, though, or you’ll be stopping them every move. Let them play.
  • Let the rounds go for a minute or longer. At the end ask, “What did you notice, what did you learn?” And get the students to evaluate their own learning process and milk the experience for themselves. This is critical!

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Patrick Parker

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Tachiwaza principles or heuristics

Proudly stolen from Nick Lowry - stuff to work on in standing judo - I love lists of hints like this...
  • Be offensively oriented
  • Every time a foot moves you have a chance
  • Get religious with the line conditions: on, down and ,across the line
  • Point your foot in the direction of the throw
  • Keep weight on the ball of the foot, knees slightly bent—cat like
  • Keep posture upright (don’t get sucked into jigotai) 
  • Grip with little fingers-loose upper fingers
  • Grip lapel at shoulder level
  • Grip sleeve with wrist down and elbow in 
  • Turning causes two pulls- elbow up and elbow in
  • Elbow in is locked to your ribs using the pecs and lats
  • Eyes at the heart/chest
  • Never block for defense, always counter with movement-- dance out
  • Work with graduated resistance
  • For sweeps and reaps: point the toe and flex from the knee-not upperleg
  • At the intermediate stage work all ashiwaza from progressively smaller steps
  • Hip throws are crack of the butt on the lead thigh (posture may distort to accomadate) 
  • Fulcrum of hip throw is the HIP
  • Shoulder throws , fulcrum is shoulder—posture stays straight
  • At the intermediate stage, work all big throws from all stepping conditions
  • Hands stay light –dont hang weight on the grip
  • Hands always support foot actions
  • Stay in step (mostly)
  • Work with continuous movement
  • Throw on the move – dont stop the center to throw
  • Work for kuzushi on the step
  • In beginning stage-- lots of nagekomi (no resistance --trading throws) 
  • Intermediate to advanced stage –renraku waza -- esp. footsweep to control drill including allashiwaza on both sides 
  • Advanced and for competitors: stugeiko and renzoku (consistant consecuative attack against conditions of resistance within prescribed rules)

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