New Schedule and Location for 2016

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If your timing is perfect...

I'm slow, I know.  But I just realized...
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When people would ask Karl for advice on "good" technique and "proper" form, frequently he would say, "You can do anything you want if you have perfect timing."  He beat us to death with drills that worked largely on timing - and largely on timing of footsteps.
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All of his heuristics that we took as law - that we thought were THE gospel way to do aikido correctly - those were not actually THE way, they were his preferred, suggested ways to handle the problems caused by imperfect timing.  All of our heuristics can be seen as backup plans for imperfect timing.
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Why do we do the same hand/foot straight arm thing?  Because it makes us stronger when our timing fails.
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Why do we do tsugiashi instead of ayumiashi? Because it makes us more stable when we miss our timing.
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Why do we spend so much time on reflexive ukemi?  Because tori is either going to get the timing right, in which case uke will need good ukemi, or tori will screw up the timing, in which case, tori will need good ukemi as a backup plan.
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It's all about the timing, because if you have perfect timing then your form does not matter.
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Of course, nobody has perfect timing - that's why we spend so much effort on timing drills and why we have so many backup plans that we all recommend keeping in place all the time.

That's why our aikido appears to be based on lists of rules or heuristics-  Keep your arm unbendable, same-hand-same-foot, arms stay centered, etc...
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And that's why the masters , the guys that trifle with us in randori and make us look dumb, appear to break all the rules that they just told us was the right way to do aikido - they break the rules and they still come out on top because they have better timing than we do.


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Patrick Parker
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Energy, Frequency, Vibration


Many of the worlds' greatest thinkers and warriors have been telling us the same thing.  Ueshiba, Tesla, Hirano, Laban, Tohei, Solomon.  The influential school of jujutsu, Kitoryu, was all about the waxing and waning of energy.  Henry Kono said (in essence) that he didn't understand aikido until he realized that Ueshiba was talking about yin-yang, and the implications of that.
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Karl Geis was fond of telling us, "You can do anything you want if you have perfect timing."



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Some of the lessons in Nanatsu


In some ways, Nanatsu no kata seems to be a better introduction to randori than does Nagenokata.  Watch the above video and observe, among other lessons,
  • It has a good technical range - several ashiwaza, koshiwaza, tewaza, and sutemiwaza spread out across the gokyo
  • It teaches tori to throw right-sided against both left and right postures by uke.
  • It teaches tori to throw uke out of jijotai as well as shizentai.
  • It teaches tori to throw tori out of light, moderate, and strong resistance conditions (watch uke's posture and arms going into each technique).
  • It teaches tori a counter (or a weakness to watch for) to each technique.
Nagenokata is also a good exercise and a good introduction to randori techniques, but I would not be offended if any of my shodan candidates chose to work up Nanatsu no kata for their shodan demonstration.




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Be like water, My Friend


Hirano was putting this lecture into a physical instead of verbal form when he devised and demonstrated Nanatsu no kata.



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Why all the arm waving and spinning!?



Modern judoka, competitive and recreational alike, seem to have about two distinct initial opinions about Tokio Hirano when they see his videos - 
  1. Whoa! This guy has amazing light technique that still gets big amplitude throws!
  2. What the hell is all that arm waving and spinning around nonsense!?
Those were certainly my initial thoughts, but then the question struck me, "how did he get from those crazy practice motions to that amazing skill?" or "What is the meaning and idea behind those unorthodox training motions?"
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I spent most of a year or so obsessed with Hirano and his videos and his crazy kata. I did searches on Google for info about Hirano and the kata. I played with what I could understand of the kata. But it still took a long time for me to get a glimmer of what I think he was getting at.
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Follow me here...
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The name of the kata is Nanatsu no kata, which means something like "seven forms." Not much help there. But then I found somewhere on the net some French practitioners that refer to it as le "kata des vagues" or "The Form of Waves." I like to use my own loose translations, so i call it "Seven Waveforms."
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It seems that Hirano was obsessed with ocean waves and spent a lot of time watching them and thinking about how they behave. He came to see judo throws as similar to the motions of waves. I also think that he was looking at the waves in a naturalistic, non-scientific way - like art, because his Waveforms kata is a work of art and not a Physics thesis.
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Once I started thinking along the lines of "He is demonstrating seven kinds of waves that exemplify judo throws." all of a sudden the pieces fell into order.
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Also note, there is video of Hirano's students on the net doing the kata and they don't always do the arm-waving thing, so apparently that was a teaching or a demonstration or a sometimes-practice sort of thing.
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Hirano was a stranger in a strange land. There was probably a language barrier and there was certainly a skill-level barrier between him and his European students. It must have been hard to communicate advanced ideas like he wished he could. Here's what I think. Here is the monologue that is running in my head as I watch Hirano do Nanatsu...
"Alright, listen up, monstrous, clumsy westerners. I'm about to really lay an idea on you. Judo is like waves..."
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(Imagine Hirano holding a giant paintbrush and painting a huge wave on the wall beside him...)
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"Some waves wash in and subside like this...Some judo is like that... Some waves wash in and cut along the shoreline like this...Some judo is like that... Some waves wash in and hit a rock and splash back like this...Some judo is like that... Some waves come in and become whirlpools like this...Some judo is like that..."
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He was saying the same thing as Bruce Lee in Lee's famous "Be like water, my friend" lecture.
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Hirano was, as literally as practical, painting you a picture of the sort of motion happening in the waves and the judo throws.  Watch it again and let me know if the arm waving thing makes more sense.


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A glimpse into Hirano's head (maybe)


I think watching this instructor makes Hirano's rhythmic work make much more sense. He (Hirano) appears to have been decomposing whole-body motion into its constituent components and drilling each technique with each movement component - the thesis being, if tori is skilled enough at fitting with each of several components then he will be able to fit with chaotic-seeming motion that is made up of those previously-understood components.
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Check out the last 3 throws on the video - tori spazzes out (chaotic motion) and then finds the throw inside the chaos.



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Patrick Parker
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Tokio Hirano tachiwaza (esp. sumiotoshi)


Watch this video of Hirano sensei with an eye to his rhythmic application of tsukuri.  I think my favorite throw on this video (there are many!) is the superb sumiotoshi at 5:15, but they are all worth studying.  The wealth of Hirano sensei's material that is available on Youtube is an outstanding resource!


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Other examples of Koryu Dai Ni

For the past couple of weeks I've been doing a series on Koryu Dai Ni, featuring Nick Sensei's instructional videos.  I like Nick's ideas about this kata a bunch, but he's certainly not the only guy out there with opinions about how it should be done.  Here are several other examples for compare/contrast...





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Where does Hirano's magic live?

I am signed up to lead an exploration of Tokio Hirano sensei's cool/crazy rhythmic exercises and training methods at OKC at the Summer 2015 seminar.  Check out this video (The first 2 minutes) of some of what I mean by cool/crazy.


Here's a hint as to my line of thinking/exploration on this stuff. Notice in the title at the beginning of the film what he calls this material - kumikata - "forms of gripping!" This strange, rhythmic thing that he is doing that we think of as kuzushi or tsukuri - he is calling that gripping.
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With that in mind, check out this excerpt from JudoInfo's essay of Hirano...
Traditional nage-waza (throwing techniques) were taught in the following sequence: kumu (gripping), tsukuru (the entry and proper fitting of your body into position taken just before the movement required for completion of your throwing technique), kakeru (completing), and nageru (throwing). 
Hirano revolutionized the order to tsukuru, kumu, kakeru and nageru. This is the current European style Judo. This is a proven method to defeat bigger opponents, as demonstrated by Hirano's stunning success.
The magic that he is doing seems to live within the "fit-in-and-grip" stages of the conflict.  That makes sense, because it is much harder to induce a useful vibe into uke if you have already set your grips (like in the Classical Kodokan approach above) because your grips tend to damp out that vibration (like holding a bell while trying to ring it).  But on the other hand, uke should be more susceptible to that vibe-induction thing as you are coming to grips, while he still has freedom to oscillate.
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So it seems we're going to be studying how to come to grips with gentle, facile hands while inducing a vibe into uke and/or matching yourself to uke's oscillation.



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Patrick Parker
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KDN #12-16 - The Final Five

The Final five techniques of Nikata are yokomen attacks - that is, uke is striking downward diagonally at tori's head.  The five responses are...

Ukiotoshi

Kokyunage
 

Shomenate

Sukashi nage

and Hikiotoshi


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KDN #10-11 - ushirojime

Uke is continuing with the same idea - the previous attacks didn't work because he couldn't control tori's center, so uke attacks with perhaps the ultimate rear attack - ushirojime.  So tori responds with oshitaoshi...

...or with jujigatame or tenkai kotehineri or kotegaeshi...


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More balance training with balls

It's what it says - Ronda balancing on some balls.  Some interesting games to add to your balance practice routines.


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KDN #8-9 - ushiro ryokata dori

For the next pair, uke seeks to get still-tighter control over tori's center.  Instead of a wrist-and-collar grab, uke moves to secure both shoulders in an ushiroate-like attack.  The problem with this is the time between uke letting go of the wrist and grabbing the shoulder.  Check out a couple of techniques that can fit in that space, like tenkai kotehineri...


or kotegaeshi...


Interestingly in this pair, tori is using the same strategy - use the hand that uke just let go of to reach and grab uke's hand off his opposite shoulder.  What differentiates these two techniques is how tori's hand happens to fall upon uke's.


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Rener shows how to stand on a ball

Rener Gracie talking about and demonstrating some of the things that core strength and balance training with an exercise ball has done for him.


And a great little lesson on how to get up to standing on a ball (starts at 7:30)




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KDN #6-7 - ushiro katate-eri dori

Next in Koryu Dai Ni comes another pair of rear attacks.  As we progress through this set uke gets tighter and tighter control over uke's center - last time uke had both wrists, leaving uke a great deal of freedom.  This time uke gets a wrist and the back of uke's collar, giving him much better control of tori's center and preventing the previous techniques.  But uke exposes a different weakness - clutching a wrist convulsively to prevent it from moving makes it almost trivial for tori to turn his wrist out of the grasp, especially when offbalanced...

The second technique of this pair occurs when tori is not able to shake off the wrist grip.  Often when this happens, it is because of the other hand - the one that has the collar control, so we deal with that controlling hand by ducking under it and peeling it off into kotemawashi oshitaoshi.



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Never want to use it!?

Who ever said it and made us believe the pervasive lie - that the ultimate goal of our training is to never use our training?  Maybe it was Mr. Miyage or David Carradine or some movie someone.
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Well, that's just dumb!  Any training that is never used is useless.  Any training that never creates an effect (in the real world) is ineffective.
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Who in their right mind would want to pour twenty or forty (or even two or three) years of their blood and sweat and tears down the drain, painfully and tediously developing skills that we want to never use!  Crikey!  That'd be like continually sharpening and polishing an unused sword to keep the rust off - until you wear the blade down to nothing without ever having slain a dragon!
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I lied.  I do know where that sentiment comes from.  It comes from a misunderstanding or a partial understanding of what martial arts are about.  We think budo are about how to fight and kill and die - so we hope in a vague sort of way that we never have to engage in that aspect - but martial arts (all fine arts) are really about how to live.
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I don't have the quote in front of me, but Bruce Lee wrote in Tao of Jeet Kune Do that it is the goal of all martial arts to become a master of living - basically to master the art of living (as opposed to fighting or surviving or existing).  Kano and Ueshiba both taught that the goal of our training was to make better people who could make a better society - to teach people to spend their lives saving the world!
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I want to practice and teach martial arts that everyone puts instantly into use every day.



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Patrick Parker
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KDN #4-5 - ushiro ryotedori

The second set of Koryu Dai Ni, consisting of techniques #4-11 are ushirowaza - defenses against attacks from the rear.  They are organized into complementary pairs, similar to Koshiki no Kata and parts of Junana Hon Kata.
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In the first pair, #4 and #5, uke grasps both of tori's wrists from behind, as if trying to hold him for another attacker or to stop tori from deploying a weapon.  The first technique (kotegaeshi) is distinctive because tori stands his ground and offbalances uke so decisively that uke is forced to move in front of tori.
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When I first saw this demonstrated several years ago, I thought it was incredibly stupid.  I interpreted it as tori obstinately standing his ground and forcing uke to run around - sort of like showing off by running the table."  Then at some point I realized it was a n exercise - sort of a game to see if tori can develop sufficient internal structure to offbalance uke sufficiently while holding the foot movement in reserve.  That is, it is an exercise of making the techniques more challenging by constraining tori's movement.

Next is jujigarame nage.  Uke's attack is the same, except tori is unable to do the previous technique because of uke's resistance, so tori slips under, crossing uke's arms.  Because jujigarame is often an onerous fall for older and heavier ukes, some toris like to release the second hand, turning the technique into kotegaeshi.  Honestly, once you get uke off-balanced and his arms tied up, you should be able to think up something nasty to do to him.



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Judo newaza movement with a ball


Sensei Greg Ables at the recent Winter Intensive in OKC was hyping balance drills using balls, BOSU boards, and other stability training devices.  This is valuable because there is relatively little sport-specific solo exercise that we can do to improve our martial arts, and this is (I think) some of the best. 
 Stay tuned for some more examples...



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KDN #1-3 - The first three


One of our technical emphases for 2015 (see the sidebar at the right) is Koryu Dai Ni, because one of our shodans is working this kata up for his nidan rank demo.  For his benefit and viewing pleasure, I figure to do a series of posts about this kata.


Japanese and European Tomiki aikidoka tend to group the first 11 techniques together into one group, but here in Southwest Mississippi nobody has ever accused us doing things the right way ;-)  so I like to classify the first three techniques as one set, sort of stating a set of themes for the kata, and the next eight techniques are a second set.




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Booze before budo?

We were brought up through the ranks in college under the strict admonition from our sensei that noone in the club may drink alcohol before coming to class.  Makes sense - nobody wants some drunk bozo doing life-or-death precision martial arts techniques to them. Just like we don't drink and drive, we don't drink and judo.  I thought that everybody followed the same rules - I certainly have in my classes that I teach and attend.
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But over the years I've met several more Cosmopolitan fellows that poo-poo those Puritanical American ideas - martial artists that are accustomed to drinking a beer or two with lunch or a few Mimosas with breakfast before heading to class.
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Is anything wrong with this?
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I'm not talking about slovenly falling-down winos, I'm talking about adults who know their limits and can reasonably expect to metabolize an ounce or two of alcohol in an hour or two before class?  Should they be allowed to participate in class after a beer or two or should they be expected to refrain before class - and if refrain, then for how long?  What do y'all think?


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2014 review, 2015 preview

2015 is officially here - 2014 is a thing of the past.  Over the course of the past year, we had a baby born and a sensei pass away.  Last year I posted a list of several technical emphases for my practice in 2014 - sort of like budo resolutions.  Like any resolutions, some worked out and some got sidetracked.

2014 TECHNICAL EMPHASIS
We did have a definite emphasis on Nagenokata, and particularly on uke's role.  The kids did a demo of the first 9 of nagenokata in the Spring and it really worked out well.  In September I got to go to Union University and show those guys some of what I've been working on wrt Nage no Kata. Later in the Fall, three old heads from Union University demonstrated Nagenokata for Shodan and Nidan ranks.
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We also did a goodly amount of Koshiki no kata, and I recently had the honor of leading some classes at Windsong in OKC on some exercises that bear at least some superficial resemblance to Koshiki.  This was well-received, because these forms are ...
  1. ...good ukemi practice for both partners
  2. ...good introduction to the structure and attacks and basic form of Koshiki
  3. ...good intro to both aikido and judo ideas
The other Patrick (P4) is currently working on Koryu Dai Ni for his next rank promotion, so put a check mark beside that one.
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I have continued my aiki-jo studies throughout the year.  Jack has been hammering kamae and honte this past year, and Eric has recently shown me a good many holes (get it?) in my knife defense work, so we'll put a check on that one and move it forward to next year for continued study.
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We did get to work some of Tokio Hirano's ideas on and off throughout the year, including his Nanatsu no kata.  Much of what Matl sensei showed at the recent Windsong Winter shindig reminded me of Hirano, so we will be revisiting that in much more detail this coming year.
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The non-dominant throwing and the contact kuzushi ideas got put on the back burner.  they're still back there simmering.
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So, I present to you, our Mokuren Dojo

2015 TECHNICAL EMPHASIS
  • Return to my personal yoga practice, which I had forsaken some years back.
  • Koryu Dai Ni - P4 Nidan demo
  • Judo and aikido kihon - Whit Sankyu demo
  • Kamae and honte in jo - let's fix that so Jack doesn't have to correct that particular thing again.
  • Role of tanto in aikido, and of Tanjo
  • Nanatsu no Kata & Hirano's rhythmic uchikomi & his students' & more of his students' work.



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Patrick Parker
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