Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Went To Peter's Class

Hit Shodokan on Tuesday night.  Peter did an awesome class.  Had us doing some controls.... some throws.  We did seoi otoshi.  Partners shifted around so it was cool to work with the different body types.

Buddy came to this class.  He's fairly sensitive and can feel nage/uke fairly well.  He looks at me and says.... you feel like I have a solid center.  I responded with.... I am filled with "nugat and peanuts".    Anyway..... not sure anyone else feels that when working with me.

After class a couple of the people complained about stiff necks and so forth after class.  I felt great.  This is all because of how they take ukemi.

Sunday Switched Gears

It was just Chris and I on Sunday.  So I started us off with an aiki principle thing.  I think he likes those because he doesn't see much of it.

All I wanted to do was show that if we have a hand grab... and we take the slack out of the arm by moving back a little(just shifting weight).   You can then cut palm up across uke's face height.  No more than shoulder to shoulder.  And uke will be turned away from you as if you had the start of a shihonage on them.  We were noodling around with that until Ryan showed up.

Ryan's aikido is very direct and uses a lot of muscle.  Being in excellent physical shape makes that easy for him.  I let him attempt the technique we were doing for a while.... then I changed course.

Ryan likes more direct and what he perceives as more 'useful' aikido.  The interesting thing is he believes in kazushi but usually gets it via force at the moment.  So.. a while back I had Peter in my class.  I know they work together and Peter recently surprised me with some very nice ukemi.  So I wanted to see where Ryan was.  He's a high ranking kyu.

So I had us doing kotagaeshi from all kinds of attacks and suggested he show me breakfalls.  Not once during the entire class did I see him do a breakfall..... so at the end of class I asked him to show me one.  He wanted to pull out the crash mat (a thick extra soft mat) and tried one and I instantly understood.  He's not comfortable doing those falls yet.  He said no one was really stressing or trying to teach him that.  I told him if he comes on Sunday's we can work on it together.  I had no idea.  The reason Peter's ukemi improved is because he was uke for Ryan and was getting thrown a lot.

Makes me want to hold ukemi classes for a while.  These guys really need to learn to keep themselves safe.

Yep Another Week

There was a Monday class at North Shore Aikido where I was presented with some interesting aiki principles.  Later Matt sent me a video on it.  I just thought of something.... maybe i should look at the video's before class so I can get an idea of what's going on.   Anyway.... it was a good class.  I remember seeing one aspect where uke is dropped down and I couldn't help but wonder if that was through uke cooperation or the technique.  Usually I see what''s going on but I didn't see this.  And at the point I asked about that, I hadn't felt it yet.  Seems like if it's done right it definitely can dump uke down.

Friday night there were just a few of us, Bob taught class.  He made mention of a possible demo in the future.  I'm not 100% committed to this as yet.  I definitely want to help and get more students in.  This could help.  However, the purpose of the demo is to get students in.  I'm going to give what feedback I can to help things along.  What I'm concerned about is that if we do a demo that only we can appreciate that anyone watching won't be impressed.  Centering a demo around a flowery idea is nice but doesn't get you students.  Still.... the whole concept is a good one and deserves support.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Wow.... -4 degrees For Class

So... I wasn't really expecting anyone to come to class because it was so cold.  Sunday morning when I left my house it was -4 degrees.  Because......

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night......

Oh... wrong one..... err... maybe....

In brightest day, in blackest night,  No evil shall escape my sight....

Oh that isn't it either....

Ok... I don't think there is an oath... but regardless of the weather I always try to make it to class.

I was shocked to see anyone arrive.  I know the arnis class cancelled.  Turned out that Chris K showed up.  He's usually pretty consistent.  So we kept things informal and had an open mat practice more than a class.  I abused him with the version of ikkyo that I was trying to show Chris M. on Wednesday.  

It was hard for Chris to pick up.  You need to enter as you do this and it's too easy to throw an arm up and try to duck instead.  Hard habits to break. 

What really got my juices going was that Chris wanted to work on nikkyo.  I got him to apply some real nice nikkyo's.  We talked about how to line things up and a lot of the common mistakes.  I really saw Chris digging into it.  Nice to see him do the learning process thing.  When you've been doing aikido as long as he has, it's easy to just go through the motions.  Much harder to really look at what you are doing.

If he can practice that more and develop the muscle memory, he'll be crushing people every time.  It was fantastic.

Friday Night Snowstorm!

Ya... didn't make it to class Friday night.  I was trying to clear snow in 11 degree weather(colder with wind chill) for many hours.  When I finished and came in I realized I was already late to class.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Wednesday Night Class

The past couple weeks has been holidays and weather and a rash of cancelled classes.  So I really wanted to practice last night.  Went to get to class, realized I was going to be a few minutes late when I hit bad traffic so I called the dojo.  Turns out everyone was calling in to say they weren't coming.  The only other person there was Chris M. who was covering for Joanna.  Mulligan told me that Chris was chomping at the bit to leave.  He among others in that dojo tend to blow off practice a little too readily.  Drives me nuts.  No idea why you'd ever want to skip a class just because there are two people.  I've taught classes where there was one student.

I told Mulligan I was coming anyway,  If Chris leaves then I'll just say hello to him since I was 5 minutes from the dojo anyway.  Plus I was hoping one of the regulars such as Chris K or Tony might show.  They are always up for practice.

Turns out that Chris waited for me and was willing to practice.  I was very grateful he stayed and let me get a practice in.

So we are keeping it informal and doing stuff.  I asked Chris if he wanted to try something different.  He said sure.  So I showed him a version of ikkyo where you enter, bring your hands up through your center, make contact early with uke and guide the shomen strike in, sort of above your head.  The effect for uke is that you feel a little off balanced forward and your hand your striking with doesn't actually hit anything.  Instead, it feels like you hit a pillow.  The energy just goes out of the strike.  In truth you are redirecting the energy of the strike and turning it into ikkyo.

Chris didn't really see it.  From his point of view he saw it as a late reaction with the strike allowing to come close to the head.  He just wasn't getting it.  I was about to explain further by having him strike me harder when Sam(kendo instructor) comes on the mat.  Sam knows a lot of stuff.  A LOT!

He looked at it briefly and immediately dismissed it before I could explain anything about it.  And... immediately started teaching his way of doing ikkyo.  Now... what he showed absolutely works.  But I think the other ikkyo works too.  I wish I had an opportunity to get into it more with him,  However, I didn't want to interrupt him.  I wanted to see what he was going to come up with.  Guess I'd rather learn someone else's style than to try to make a point.  Still... if he feels there is a hole in the technique when done that way then I sure would like to know about it.(he never got to feel it by having me do it to him)  The simple answer to this questions may be that I abuse everyone on Sunday with this technique and explore it more.

For the entire practice I could feel Chris putting muscle into every strike and not quite keeping up with his ukemi.  After class he said... don't you feel like everything hurts after class?

As a matter of fact.... no.   I don't.  Nor did I feel bad the next morning even though we pushed each other's joints pretty hard last night.

But I'm not the one using muscle in class.

Much Time Has Passed

All kinds of classes since I last wrote an entry.  One of which was back at Aikido Of Queens.  I was in New York and I always try to take a gi with me when i travel.  Last time I was in NY I practiced with Aikido of Nassau County.  I decided to go back to a class at Aikido of Queens because I hadn't seen them in probably four years.

Class there is much different than around here.  They start with calisthenics type stuff.  Push ups, stomach crunches, squats...etc.   Almost healthy like stuff... Disgusting.  If I did that more often maybe I'd actually be in shape.  That much didn't change from my last visit.  Not surprisingly, there wasn't a single familiar face.  Sensei Walzter was not around this time.  I got to meet him last time.  There was a black belt there to teach the class.  Don't recall his name much.  I got the usual spiel about them being centered around "practical", direct  aikido and self defense.  One of the more interesting things they were doing was some kind of kung fu like motion to get up from the floor where you sort of helicopter your legs.  Very similar to this...

I watched this carefully.... then asked them to do it once more for me so I could see it again.  Then, I was actually able to do it fine my first time through.... we did all right sides.... Then we did the left sides in which I was incapable of doing them right away.

Getting up from this position we usually aren't static and we use whatever energy exists from a throw to continue the motion and redirect it so that you just get up using the energy.  They are practicing their ukemi from a dead stop.  Much harder to get moving.

I noticed other differences.  They do an attack we don't practice much.  If we practice against a roundhouse punch it's usually to the face.  One of their attacks they like to do is a roundhouse to the body.  And... it's an exaggerated one with a really wide swing.

Once of the exercises was an evading practice where uke strikes and nage just needs to move out of the way.  That was fine.  They did some techniques such as udekiminage, ikkyo, iriminage and so forth.  The teacher had things kept simple.  There were 4 really new people (white/yellow belts) and one older guy who was a blue belt.  For them that's a mid-level belt but he felt to me like he'd been practicing about 6-12 months.  He was good but wasn't moving fast enough with his ukemi.  I had to make sure I didn't hurt him.

The iriminage had some differences but one thing they focused on was taking balance by bringing the arm out and down.  They may not be calling it that or thinking about it but it's what makes their variant of the technique work.

Interesting thing was that the sensei for the class never once laid hands on me.... even to show me something.  Not sure if he was afraid I would get hurt or if he was afraid I wouldn't think much of his technique.... no idea.  After class I asked him if he wanted to throw me around.  He said there weren't many high level folks around to practice with... he declined.  Unfamiliar ukemi can always be challenging but I think I got the gist of their style from the class and thought I could keep up fine.

I have to say I liked the class I took years ago a little better.  At least in that one we did a couple throws (taiotoshi).  New people were encouraged to roll.  The brown belt and I did fun breakfalls.  Nothing like that this class.

If I'm in the area next year I may try to go back to the other dojo I've seen in the past.  I picked up some really interesting stuff from them.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Had a Good Class. Asked People to Move

We were missing Peter today but had a good class.  I focused the class on ukemi.  Not anything fancy such as falling or stuff like that.  Just wanted to focus on moving.  Too many people don't move enough for their ukemi.  They let themselves stay rooted or get out of position.  So I had us do techniques like ....

Yokomenuchi kotagaeshi
shomenuchi sankyo
Shomenuchi koshinage

Each one of these has an element of ukemi where it's good for uke to move depending on the circumstances.  The kotagaeshi, you are stepping back off the line as you are doing it.   Uke gets way stretched out and is in no great position for a decent ukemi.  The best bet is to slide in as uke as you feel your wrist being taken further out.  You put yourself in a position where you can do a comfortable breakfall or sit down.

The shomenuchi sankyo went through ikkyo.  Once the control was on I asked ukes to move and not just stand there and tap out.  It is possible to do sankyo in such a way to lead uke around or get them stuck so that you can do a pin after.  I wanted some cooperation from uke so that he would just move when he felt the sankyo control moving him.

For the koshi, I suggested that uke can move an inch to the left or right or alter an angle if need be.  And even go up on their toes.  You can move as uke to make the throw more comfortable.  If the partners want they can give feedback so as to improve their positioning. 

Also was covered was the concept of bailing out on a technique too early.  Ukemi is a balance of staying in as long as you can within the technique while trying to protect yourself at the same time.

Wish Peter could have come to class today, he could have benefited.

I asked people in the class if they want to continue doing aiki principles and I got a yes.  Wasn't sure if I was boring them and they just wanted a class with random techniques.  Wasn't feeling like a very good teacher last week.  Doing better today.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Open Mat Time

Bob was in Friday night but caught up in dojo admin stuff.  There was only Tony and I tonight.  Tony wanted to go real slow.  He didn't even want to do rolls for the most part.  I'm guessing his back wasn't ideal.  So we took turns picking techniques and did a whole range of stuff.  Everything from kokyunage to koshinage(no throw though).

I tried to focus on taking his balance.   Tony at times was doing the same.  At other times falling into old muscle memory patterns.  But it was definitely a fun night.  People who didn't come totally missed out.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What To Do In A Bar

Joanna taught tonight.  She chose to do a theme of what to do if you're in a bar and someone does... x.

There were 4 of us aside from her.  All black belts.

The class warmed up with some line work.  I haven't felt Joanna in a while but for some reason she wasn't really throwing tonight.  She was stopping just before the throw.  I felt that from her several times.  Not sure if she's practicing or just teaching nowadays.  She had a bad injury to her neck.  I don't think it's healed up totally.

For one warm up the line did kaitenage.  Just about every single person in that class slammed my forearm down with great force.  Now... there were varying degrees of technique after that.... but after class I gotta say, my forearm is sore.  Thing of it is.... the whacking just isn't necessary.  Very clashy.  Very hard art, like karate.

We did some controls.  when nikkyo came up I gave Dave a little feedback.... he was supporting my wrist a lot so he was doing nothing.  After my suggestion he started doing better.

All in all the class felt pretty rough.  Osotogari was specifically taught.  It's not aikido but again.... this group of black belts wants street effectiveness.  I actually like that technique.

I kept my mouth shut the whole class..... not my class to teach.  I got my practice in.  I feel like these people chose aikido to study but don't believe it works.

There is one other thing I finally noticed.  We had a black belt test a while back.  They guy did well enough, especially considering his age.  Not sure why I hadn't seen a passing result for him.  It is true that he does a lot of things not ideal.... and will never do things textbook.  So... do you pass someone with the thought that he is the best he can be?  Really, the test is supposed to indicate his knowledge of the syllabus.  I thought he did that.  Was everything refined and perfect?  Hell no and never will be.  Maybe he should never have been asked to test in the first place.  He didn't even want to test.  He was dragged into it.  I'm just surprised they haven't given him some feedback.  If they don't pass him they should have at least told him why so he can work on it if he wants.

It's Like They Are Married.....

The class on Sunday I taught was awesome.  It had it's stressful moments however.  At one point Peter started in again resisting technique.  He was doing this for everyone in the class.  Eventually, the other students got annoyed and stopped cooperating entirely when it was Peter's turn.  Peter of course at this stage couldn't make anything work with multiple people in the line.

Then when I had people break off into partners, Peter asked Theo to give him resistance.  Theodore was our visitor from Greece.  Where he comes from they practice a close quarters aikido with resistance.  So he of course was good at it.  Peter couldn't do the simple ikkyo to sankyo technique I had them doing.  Interested in this... I asked if I could try it.  I was able to easily get the technique off.  Which means that I have a good shot at doing this if it matters to someone.  That's super good.  The difference was that I took Theo's balance right away, then got him into a control and never let up on it.  So... the thought I have is that even though I don't often practice with resistance, I can still overcome someone using resistance because I have a reasonable beginning of an idea of how to get kazushi.  The ikkyo I ended up using I didn't think about so much as felt it when I did it.  I could feel his balance and took him to the place where I knew he would be compromised.  This was all done instantaneously.... dynamically.

Then I had another interesting moment.  Theo was doing kaitenage on me.  And... for the first time ever I was stuck as uke.  I've heard Chris complain to me for years that he would get stuck.  And... I never understood it.  I couldn't figure out what was happening to him.  So I just wrote it off as he thinks he's stuck but he's not.  In reality he was stuck.....What I felt that got me in that position was on kaitenage, I often stretch the arm straight up and make a lever out of it.  Somehow, Theo brought it more towards the top of my head as well as being stretched out.  Now.... I have reasonably loose shoulders.  It took that much of an angle to let me feel the lock up.  Maybe Chris is built differently and feels it at a less steep angle.  It probably isn't the arm itself but how the pressure is pushed through my feet into the floor.  But that's the angle it took for me to feel it.  So now... I will pay tons of attention to Chris to see how this is happening and give him an out for his ukemi.

Later in the class I had a bad incident occurring between Chris and Peter.  Peter complained that he wanted Chris to be more resistant.  Chris complained that Peter was not being sensitive to his partners position and could easily inflict injury.  At first I was going to break them up... but I decided that in the end we are better off letting them have the heated discussion.  My moving them around would only delay it.  So I kept them together and tried to intervene when needed.  No one was physical about it... they were just both pissed off.  Each one was trying to make a point and neither one really heard the other.

I tried to talk to each of them at various points.  I told Peter not to push uke further than they wanted to go.

The thing of it is they both have a point.  Chris's point is obvious.... you should be sensitive to your uke's abilities and position and not give them more than they can handle just because you want to practice a certain way.  More than once I've let go of a control or throw because of uke's reaction.  I'd rather let go than take any chance at all of hurting someone.  It just isn't worth it.

Peter's point is more complicated.  There are times when Chris bails out on techniques a bit early.  I think a lot of it is simply because he never developed ukemi to deal with certain positions.  This can easily be learned if he wants.  He's fine if he doesn't as he will be still practicing safely... he just wont be the best partner he could be.  When you stay with the technique everyone benefits.

The interesting thing is that this very class and others I've been trying to get people to be more sensitive to each other.  I started out the class with tai no henko.  Then.... I changed it.... same exercise... but uke isn't allowed to grab.  Uke has to keep a good solid connection to nage.  Nage has to move in a way that doesn't strip uke.  They both have to feel each other.

Also did a rodeo throw with the same thought.  I wanted uke to feel nage.... so that no one felt any pulling.

I have been teaching classes on taking balance and getting partners to be more sensitive to each other for the past couple months.  This reminds me a great deal of how it felt when I first started aikido.  You'd have weeks when you would feel like you are learning lots and other weeks that you felt like you are getting worse or making no progress.  As a teacher I've felt the same way again.  There are weeks I see understanding in the students.  I see techniques improve.... then we get stuck in this resistance rut.

It's not me... it's fostered by the current generation of black belts.  Everyone is so concerned about having effective aikido, no one is realizing that it can be effective and soft at the same time.  That you don't have to use muscle to be effective.

I feel like the lone voice of reason.  I'm amazed anyone comes to my class since my message is so different.

I will continue to try..... as I say to my kids..... I am the river.

Week Recap

A lot of time has gone by and I forget a lot about what I've been doing in classes.  Monday night I went to North Shore Aikikai.  Did a good class there as usual.  Wish I could remember what specifically we did. but it was more core principal study.

Friday night Chris and I were left on our own since the instructor couldn't make it.  Not a problem... Since it was only the two of us anyway, we treated it like an open mat practice.  We practiced softly for the most part.  He was trying to show my a knife disarm at one point done in a seminar.  The problem with that is.... he is giving me his interpretation of what he thinks he saw on what the teacher thought they were showing.   couldn't figure out how to make it work in a way that made sense.  At one point the blade was turned towards me.... I didn't like it at all.  I must be doing something wrong there.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Didn't Do Much On Sunday

So Sunday I taught.  One of the students wants to take his 3rd kyu test so I wanted to focus on that.  We started out with some more exercises in taking balance.

For ukemi practice I wanted to push everyone just a little bit.  We have our visitor from Greece attending the Sunday class pretty regularly.  They do a lot of close in, direct aikido.  His ukemi isn't as good as it could be.  So, after the normal rolls.  I had them do a roll where you stretch out a bit.  And... wow... he didn't barrel roll.  His roll looked better.

Later I asked what the student wanted to work on for his test and he said tsuki kaitenage and yokomenuchi iriminage.  For the iriminage he's been getting different explanations from different teachers about what to do.  He said I was the first teacher to mention... why we are doing it.  Also, my version is different than the other teachers.  I explained to him that one of us isn't necessarily doing anything wrong.  That people are different, our aikido is different.  That I like my way for these reasons.  And... that in the end we are a product of all our teachers.  He might find something I do easier or more effective and some other technique, he may like what someone else does.

After class I spoke with Chris a bit.  Peter (the student) tends to resist a lot.  Although he doesn't do that to me often(that I've noticed).  He does do that a lot to Chris.  Peter feels that the practice is more real if he resists and therefore more useful.  There is some validity to this... but his ukemi really isn't up to this.  I tried to point that out to him in the past.  Also, it makes practicing certain techniques more difficult.  If you can't get the technique you need to flow into the next.  Which is fine but you still aren't getting to practice the original technique.  So in some cases, resistance can hurt practice.  I noticed he seems to give Chris a harder time than he gives me.  So, I suggested to Chris after class that if he misses a technique with him, he should flow into something else and make it very uncomfortable.  And remind Peter that ... now that we've done this second technique X lets get back to practicing technique Y.  So, attack me so that I can practice it please.  We can practice with resistance later.  It's more important to get the technique right first.