New Schedule and Location for 2016

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

Tomiki's murky past


I posed the question the other day, just because I was curious...
When Tomiki went to study with Ueshiba (in 1926), did he take some ukes with him to practice with, or did Ueshiba already have a bunch of other students for Tomiki to practice with, or do you suppose Tomiki actually got to throw Morihei around a lot?  I was curious because you don't hear much about the folks that were practicing aikido that far back.
Well, during my searching, I found this old video of Ueshiba throwing some guys around.  It says it is 1930, but it was probably closer to 1935 - in any case, It's the oldest Ueshiba film I've seen, and the one closest to Tomiki's time.  Some of the ukes mentioned on the video include Tsutomu Yukawa and Shigemi Yonekawa.  Someone also responded (but I haven't checked the reference) that Rinjiro Shirata mentions Tomiki in his book.
.
Anyway, Tomiki remains a murky sort of mystery.  We have a bunch of his writings and we can touch people who touched Tomiki, but we don't have any film of him doing judo (except for goshinjutsu - no kumijudo), and we have little or no info about his time with Morihei.  There is, however, this great old pic of Tomiki and Morihei lounging around on the porch in matching bathrobes :-)
.
It seems odd to me, and sad, that someone as prominent and as recent as Tomiki sensei can be so thoroughly obscured by time.


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

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Kisshomaru shihonage


Looking for something else, I came across this 1957 video of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the Founder's son, doing a demonstration of some very nice aikido.  The first three minutes are shihonage - watch how nicely Doshu synchs with uke's ups and downs!  You can really start to see it at about 1:30.
.
It almost looks like he is throwing uke up in the air and turning under him as uke becomes weightless.  Profoundly nice.  Something to work on for a year or ten...
.
Also of interest, look how much the preparatory exercises he does for the first few seconds look like Tomiki's old taiso videos.


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

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Don't make your own job harder

A natural corollary to all this "Be gentle with uke" stuff I've been writing the last few days is...
.
If you are doing something that makes uke frightened or uncomfortable
Then he will naturally resist,
Therefore, you are making your own job harder.
.
So STOP.  You'd probably be better off doing nothing at all than doing something to make the other guy fight against you more desperately.
.
Ueshiba said not to do aiki that everyone can see, instead do INVISIBLE AIKI!
.
(...because if they  can see it and they know it is directed against them, it will make them spazz out and fight harder.)



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

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Learning judo kata for shodan

This weekend I'm going to be working with some of the Unionites on kata in preparation for shodan.  It is going to be either Goshin Jutsu or Nage no Kata - I'm not sure which because there was some clamoring for both of them. Traditionally, folks do Nagenokata for shodan, but I don't mind them substituting Goshin Jutsu if that is more up their alley.
.
Anyway, switching from an uchikomi/randori/shiai training mode to a more co-operative kata mode just before shodan freaks a lot of people out.  So here are some hints that might soothe some of the Union judo beasts before I get up there...
.
Much of the frustration with learning kata comes from our desire to look like the World Champion or the 10th dan that we see on the example video.   We think that in order to say we have “learned” the kata, we have to be able to do it like the old dead guys.  This is dumb, because…
  • The folks you see on the videos have done those kata FOR YEARS longer than you.  When you have done the kata as long as them, maybe you will have a basis for comparing your kata to theirs.
  • Why should a shodan’s kata have to look like the World Champion’s kata in order for him to be good enough for shodan?
  • Believe it or not, you are a different person with a different body and different upbringing living in a different society with different needs than the Japanese 10th dan that you saw on the 1950’s B&W video.  Your kata will teach you different things than it taught them because your NEEDS are different.

So, what should our kata be like in order to be good judo and good kata (or good enough for shodan)?
  • For one thing,  you do not have to know the whole kata at shodan. Traditionally in the Kodokan, the first 3 of 5 sets (9 techniques) of Nagenokata were considered sufficient for shodan. So don't fret over the sacrifices.
  • The kata is a form, or format - like an outline of ideas to demonstrate.  For shodan, you are to demonstrate three specific hand throws in a certain order, three specific foot throws, and three more specific hip throws.  The kata has to be recognisable - you can’t just do any nine things in whatever order you like.  This is because there is, embedded within the format and order and technique selection, some ideas about strategy.  These strategic hints can become garbled if you rearrange or replace the techniques.
  • The kata, as you demonstrate should be a reasonable vehicle for self-improvement.  The folks watching the kata should be able to agree that this is a set of exercises that you can use to improve your skills.  It should give you ideas about which techniques or groups of techniques you are better at and which ones could be improved upon.
  • The kata should be a reasonable vehicle for mutual-benefit.  Both tori and uke should be able to learn and improve using this exercise.  Uke is an active participant rather than a throwing dummy.  Even the audience should be able to gain something from watching you do this exercise.
  • The techniques of the kata should illustrate the ideal of maximally efficient use of the power you have.  If this thing is to be required at shodan (relative beginner level) then it should not take extraordinary power or skill that you have not had time to develop.  This means that a small woman (with a couple of years of training) should be capable of expressing and demonstrating the ideas in this kata just as well as a 200 pound male (with a couple of years of training).

Within this framework, There is a lot of leeway for you to express the kata your way, as only you can.  There are some gray areas for you to work through with your sensei...

  • Do you have to do all techniques on both sides or can you do the kata one-sided? Or might you even have one partner demonstrate a technique and then switch roles and the other partner demonstrates the same technique (like I-Do-You-Do)?
  • How close to the standard form (like the iron cross kataguruma) do you have to be?
  • How rigorous do you have to be on the Japanese cultural elements of the thing (like all the crazy crawling around on katame no kata?


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

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Untying knotty judo and aikido

For most knots, you cannot untie them by pulling on the free ends.  In fact pulling against the knot creates greater internal friction and allows the knot to bind tighter.  So how do you untie a knot?
.
You untie a knot by pushing the ends together, creating so much internal slack that the knot just comes apart.  You untie a knot by relaxing it.
.
So, applying this as an analogy for judo, if you have a knotty problem with your judo, can you resolve it by struggling against it?  No, you'll make it tighter.  But if you go with it and create relaxation instead of tension associated with the knot, it will work itself out.
.
Can't get the hang of forward airfalls?  Don't do MORE of the thing you can't handle, relax and practice things that build up toward that airfall using skills that are easy for you.
.
Can't figure out an escape in newaza?  Don't do MORE reps against tougher partners, relax and do more reps with a relaxed, loose, compliant partner and gradually, gradually build up toward a tougher partner.
.
Can't get uke to fall like you want him to?  Stop trying to force him down and try to figure out how to work with him to get him to the ground comfortably and safely (which meets your goals too).


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

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Whispering - not breaking

As tough, sporty, martial arts folks, we have a natural inclination to push through discomfort or fear.  You often hear advice like, "Suck it up, Buttercup!"  and "No Pain, No Gain," and "Pain is weakness leaving the body."   It makes immediate intuitive sense that martial arts should be uncomfortable or frightening, and we think that we'll never make it very far in these deadly martial activities unless we suppress the fear and pain we feel.  Sometimes we feel that if it isn't frightening and uncomfortable it must not be very effective.
.
When I was a beginner in judo just starting to learn ukemi, I was in a college club populated mostly by fairly athletic young adult males.  This population (including myself) is mostly dummies.  My approach to ukemi was to bull through and "Suck it up, Buttercup," because obviously, "no pain, no gain..." and all that.  I couldn't figure out why ukemi became more painful and more frustrating every single time I went to practice, and I couldn't figure out why the straight-ahead charging approach to ukemi wasn't working so good.
.
It never occurred to me at the time that the gentleness and efficiency ideals of judo could also  apply to the learning of judo - and that those ideals should particularly apply to learning ukemi.  I was approaching learning judo like breaking a horse back in the bad old days (I was the horse being broken).  It took me a long time - many years) to figure out that learning judo could be approached like doing judo - that is, with gentle flexibility - like whispering a horse.
.
We talk a nice talk about "Self-Improvement" and "Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort" and "Mutual Benefit," and then we grab uke and push and pull and twist and throw and crush and force him to submit. You even hear the nice talk every so often about ukemi being "the receiving of judo knowledge through your body," but then we grab uke up and bust his ass on the mat and grind on him and everyone wonders why uke is not "self-improving" and why he is not receiving the "efficiency" and "mutual benefit" ideals that we're always talking about.
.
I think it is super-important - vitally critical - if we are going to attempt to improve upon the arts of aikido and judo as we pass them on to our students that we re-consider some things, namely..

  • What should ukemi be like?  Should it be severe?  Could it be gentle?  Might it even be supportive or protective? 
  • Can we approach the teaching of judo like the old dead guys said we should approach the performance of ideal judo?  That is, with gentle, flexible efficiency and an eye toward self-improvement and mutual benefit.



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

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Beginning and ending kihon

There is this practice seen mostly in pre-war aikido guys, like Tomiki and Shioda, and their students - the practice of measuring ma-ai by crossing handblades prior to practicing a technique.  This practice is not seen as much (at least in this form) in post-war aikido folks, and I have not seen video of Osensei doing this, but Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba talks some in his videos about the idea of precisely setting up each practice condition.
.
I suspect that the practice of measuring ma-ai is currently in disfavor because of some misuses or misunderstandings related to it, like the zombie attack.  But it is a valuable training tool, when used properly.  This sort of practice is valuable for improving kamae, ma-ai, metsuke, and zanshin
.
How we were taught to begin techniques - prior to practicing a kihon (basic form) technique,

  • Uke and tori stand in front of each other in a proper stance (kamae) - whatever that is according to their teacher Tomiki-students and Shioda-students prefer different basic kamae. 
  • Uke and tori extend their lead arms, nearly straight, with fingers touching or hands slightly crossed. This defines the basic operational distance for kihon (ma-ai).
  • Then both partners lower their arms and look at each other for a moment.  This allows both partners to get used to judging ma-ai distance visually instead of by measuring.
  • When tori is ready for the attack, he establishes the visual connection (metsuke).  Different folks will tell you to do this eye-control differently, but we were told for tori to watch uke's center while measuring and when ready for the attack, make eye contact and maintain it.
  • Then uke attacks.

How we were taught to end kihon - 

  • Uke falls.
  • Tori follows uke into a lock or pin (unless the throw is a projection)
  • Whenever possible, tori lands uke either face-down or side-lying facing away from tori
  • Tori places a knee and two hands on uke, chocking him and keeping him under control.
  • Tori maintains as straight a posture as possible and looks around for more attackers.
  • Uke submits
  • Tori backs out of ma-ai moving toward uke's head instead of his feet.
  • Uke turns to face tori, gets his feet between him and tori, and gets up moving away from tori.
Again, this applies primarily to kihon (basic forms) of techniques.  You will want to get some variation on these beginnings and endings, and perhaps even drop it from most of your practice once you've done it for a while.  But I think if you implement these scripts for beginning and ending kihon, you will get  some additional practice at kamae, ma-ai, metsuke, and zanshin.


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

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Get some jo in your aikido

I read it somewhere - not sure where - that the old jodo guys said that it was relatively unimportant to correct students on the things that go on in the middle of the kata.  He was saying that the really important thing to get right was the beginning and end of the kata.
.
This jives to a large degree with what little teaching I've had from SMR jojutsu guys - they were very peculiar about the beginnings and the ends, and they seemed perhaps slightly less interested in the in-between actions than I was.
.
They were emphasizing principle over tactics - the intangibles - ma-ai, kamae, metsuke, zanshin.  By paying close attention to the beginning and to the end of the encounter you get reinforcement in these intangibles.
.
You see this same sort of attention to beginnings and ends in some of the pre-war aikido folks (like Tomiki and Shioda), and perhaps a little less in some of the post-war guys, though I have heard Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba speak on his videos about the importance of precision in setting up the conditions before each technique.
.
In experienced jo guys there is a psychological (or dare I say, "psychic") pressure between them, as if there were terabytes of interaction being beamed back and forth between their eyes.  Because of the extreme consequences (jo or sword embedded in skull), neither partner dares break that line-of-sight communication until they see how it all works out.  I have found as an observer, it is easy to get drawn into and lost in that psychic communication between two good partners.  Often I have to make a concerted effort to watch their feet instead of their faces, or I won't know what happened after they are through with a kata.  
.
There is value in carrying this type of practice with you when doing aikido taijutsu - (improvement of ma-ai, kamae, metsuke, and zanshin) but there is also potentially stupid tangents (e.g. the zombie attack, the no-touch ki masters), so beware the stupidity, but be aware of the potential value to your practice.



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

____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com