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.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fun Friday Class And a Thank You

Peter taught Friday night.  There is this series of throws he likes to do that's a lot of fun.  Ryotetori grab dynamically.  You tenshin step then step forward.... the hands are just leading uke forward and them around back the other way.  There are a few variations on this he does.  They are fun fr ukemi too.  You can feel the changes in direction.  Maybe we will do more of this on Sunday if there is time.

For the past couple months we've had someone visiting from Greece.  We call him Theo for short.  He's been showing up to a lot of my Sunday classes and the night or two I had to teach on other nights, he was there.  So he has seen lots of me.  Last night before class he presented me with a card and gift to thank me for teaching.  I told him it was totally unnecessary but he wanted to give me something for being his "sensei" while he was here.  His teacher.  I thanked him.  There have been a lot of people over the years that I've learned from.  Some teachers, some fellow students.  They all deserve a thank you.

During class Theo mistook my ukemi for a problem.  He was going for udekiminage... and was looking for the right spot to apply pressure.  As soon as he got it... it was strong so I reacted instantly and moved up and closer to him.  He just as quickly let it go, afraid he was going to hurt me.  I told him it was fine... I didn't expect or need for him to let it go.  I was just staying a moment ahead of the technique.  I'm not going to wait and endanger my elbow.  I'm going to move.  My reaction was extremely fast though so I think that scared him.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Great Sunday Class

Did a similar class to the past couple weeks.  Stressing kazushi.  At one point I wanted to push Peter's ukemi just a bit and see if he could try a shihonage breakfall from kneeling.  So I did a hanme handache version of shihonage for him.  He tries to leap into the air and somehow barrels out(he's bending at the waist).  It's not quite there yet.  We talked about him going more up and over.  Maybe next week we will do breakfalls over the jo.

For some people breakfalling when someone "has" you is more difficult than when you are just doing them on your own.  This is the case here.  He's made such huge progress the past few months I don't doubt that he will get there sooner or later.

My biggest problem with teaching this ukemi is that one of the regular students has a major back issue.  I don't force him to ever do breakfalls now.  I don't want him doing anything that will mess with his back.  Usually I pick things he can roll out of if he wants.  On Sunday I had him and someone else doing one thing while I worked with Peter on ukemi across the mat.

I had an interesting thing happen sort of by accident.  All along I was describing how I want them to think about taking balance before doing a technique.  I was talking to Peter at the time and said... "ya if you wanted to instead of a technique you could do anything".  At one point I showed how you could drape your arm over uke's shoulder and turn your hips to throw.  But right after I told him I wanted the feeling of this.... then from in front of him, I placed my forearm on his chest(he's taller than I am by a lot) with my hand loose on his shoulder... and then somehow pushed down through him(using no strength at all).  My center was definitely attack his center.  He was driven down and back.  He took a couple steps back and his eyes went wide with surprise.  Surprised me that it worked as well as it did.  I used no muscle and for sure it was my center attacking his.  It felt right too.  I wonder if I can do that twice.

Although Useful, Doesn't Seem Like Aikido To Me

Friday night Bob taught.  For most of the class he had us doing some kind of exercise of throwing elbow strikes.  He said it was from Nishio Aikido.  I've seen many of their videos.  I've never spotted one with this exercise.

A common theme for the Nishio Aikido is that everything is closely linked to weapons.  Often I've seen a video where they show a technique with a weapon and then the empty handed version.

It's been a while since I looked at their stuff.  I should go back and look at more to see if I see something that I didn't see before.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

I Saw It When It Was Made Obvious

Went to North Shore Aikikai last night for class.  Of all the things in the class we did the one that sticks out in my mind is this particular backstretch.

Ryotetori beginning suck them in just a little bit.  You end up rotating with your forearm being the axis.  So, you turn palm down.  Uke should have their elbow driven up.  Then you release and rotate the other way.  The motion for uke is similar to shihonage.  In fact, as nage you can pay a lot of attention to uke's elbow and try to drive/lead it in that circle.  Once uke's balance is comprimised you can move in and do the backstretch.

When I first saw it I was missing some of it.  Until Rob did an exaggerated one with a big circle for me.  After a few repetitions we tried making the circle smaller.

At the end of class we did a freestyle practice.  I've done better freestyles.  This is why we practice.

Monday, November 06, 2017

A Few Went By

I've had a few classes since I put a post up.

On Monday night I went to North Shore Aikikai.  They were doing strange things again.  Really challenging me to think about what I'm doing.

On Friday night Bob taught.  He wanted to have us practice freestyle.  So, he had us do a response from certain attacks that put uke in certain places.  Then after practicing each separate technique, asked the class to use these specific techniques in a freestyle like atmosphere.  This is actually very hard to do.  Limit yourself to something like four separate techniques for a freestyle.  I had to leave early so I missed the end of class.

I was caught moving for ukemi.  During a demo Bob was giving, he started to go into shihonage.  When I'm not 100% sure what someone is going to do with it I tend to move more to protect myself.  Some people change pace and speed up at the end for instance.  This is easier to keep up with if you move as uke.  So when Bob started his shihonage I took a half step around with the outside foot to get myself into a position that was safer for me.  Normally this isn't a problem but my moving put me in a different place than Bob was expecting and he was trying to show something specific.  Oops.  I won't call this a mistake on my part.  I think ukemi should be a very active thing.  As long as you aren't bailing out of the technique, there is normally nothing wrong with moving to a safer spot.

On Sunday morning I taught a class similar to last week.  Tried to get everyone thinking about taking uke's balance before throwing.  Some people were understanding it.  Ryan wasn't necessarily getting it I think.  He showed me his version of a technique and said..... "What's wrong with doing it this way?"  My reply was.... "Nothing".  What he was doing was fine.  I was doing techniques that clearly show (almost exaggerate) that you have uke's balance.  Ryan is still thinking in terms of a hard art.  Enforcing your will on others.  If I do this..... they fall down.... While you can do techniques this way, you aren't doing a soft version of aikido.  You can techniques softly and have them still work devastatingly well.  The difference is understanding what is going on within the technique.  I'm afraid Ryan's mind is currently closed of to this type of thinking right now.  I'll keep showing him another path and maybe he will see that he doesn't need to use strength.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Flamingo Class

So, I'm on a kick about teaching sensitivity in my Sunday morning class.  I want uke and nage to feel and understand what is going on.  To try and trigger some thinking today I started out with taking an uke for a demonstration and having him initially just stand on one leg.  As you might guess I was easily able to move him around any which way I wanted.  It required very little effort on my part to make them move and at one point even just pushed him back with a finger.

Once I got that idea in their heads I had uke take a normal stance and showed how much harder it was to move uke around.  Then I asked him to put 90% of his weight on one leg.  And again... showed how I can easily move uke around.

Then I had them doing various exercises throughout class to get uke's weight on one foot.  To think about getting that so they can then do a technique.

At one point to mix things up I even had them doing a rodeo throw.  Again.... feeling uke come around.  If you try to throw too early you just pull uke into you.

We did tsuki irimi where you get behind and take the shoulder/neck with one hand and the elbow with the other.  Draw uke out(guiding the elbow in the direction it was already heading) until his balance is on once leg.... then do the technique.  We did a couple like that.

I stole another one from a class at North Shore Aikikai.  Moretetori set up.  The rear foot steps off  90 degrees.  When the heel of the foot drops, you are getting uke's weight mostly on one foot.  Then you can push forward with your center.

All this one foot business isn't the answer to everything, rather, it's an exercise that allows nage and uke the opportunity to feel what off balancing feels like and to recognize it when it's there.  I want people thinking about what their aikido is doing to their partner instead of just going through the motions of a technique not truly understanding why it works.

I had some good response to the class.  At one point Peter(the student not the instructor) was recognizing when he had his uke's balance.  I suggested to him that no matter who is teaching a class, he should try to find this feeling of kazushi.

We should probably repeat this class next week to see if anything sticks.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Awesome Friday Night Class

Peter taught Friday night's class.  It's not usually a Peter night so I'm guessing Bob couldn't make it.

Things started off pretty slow.  Peter has been having us walk around with blocks on our heads again.  Well... they are round wooden discs actually.  It's supposed to remind you to keep your posture.  Walking around... doing tenkans and standing on one foot is all easy.  It gets harder when you have to knee walk and harder still trying to do a technique (kaitenage) with a wooden disc on your head.

We moved on to a lot of ryotetori.  He's done some of these in the past.  They are super fun.  Totally, something that I don't think of as a real defensive technique.... however it's an amazing exercise for both nage and uke.  I may repeat a couple of these on Sunday if I can remember them.  They were simple.  Things like ....

Offer your hands and as uke grabs throw uke back where he came from.  One hand is turned palm up for the grab and you push on this as if it were ikkyo-like, step through and throw.  There was another which threw the other direction.  I'll have to think a bit to remember how he got there.  He did 4 or 5 variations like this.  All very fun.

I've been wanting to get people to be more sensitive as uke's and nage's.  Be more aware of what state your partner is in.... where they are standing... where their balance is.  You should be able to feel that in your partner.

Too many people at shodokan think that a technique is that you move your hands that way,,, and feet this way, and then people fall down.  I want to get people thinking about balance and positioning.  If you feel what your partner is doing as nage you can get kazushi easier.  If you feel your partner as uke, you can take better ukemi (and also understand what the teechnique is doing to you better).

Eventually this feeling out your partner becomes more second nature and you instinctively make adjustments on the fly if things are not right.  Then you can work on getting things right without the adjustments.

But... it all begins with feeling our partner.