Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Nothing to do with Aikido

If you're looking for an aikido post move on.  The original intent of this blog was for me to write down what I was working on so I could process it better.  Help me learn.

I'm still trying to process a recent experience with my kids' dojo.  They go to a local TKD dojo.  VERY traditional.  The instructors are very talented and as far as I can tell the teaching is very good(perhaps excellent).  It was part of the reason I chose that dojo for my kids.  It was also part of the reason that we stayed with that dojo despite moving a whole town further away.

My kids have been attending this dojo for at least six years or so.  At this point they have earned their black belt.  They continue to work and try to learn in every class.  I've taught them to not squander mat time.

This year my daughter wanted to stretch her legs a bit.  She wanted to do a different activity.  She would love to do both this and TKD but she simply doesn't have the time.  In fact, previous years they were in classes almost 5 days/week, every week.  This year is a bigger homework load and we are lucky to hit 2-3 classes a week now.  This new activity will make it impossible for her to hit any classes and so she has to give up TKD for now. 

I encouraged her to stay but she really wants to move in another direction right now.  Being the supportive parent, I'm at the point where I am 100% behind her.  She even said that she may go back to TKD at some point soon.  All this sounds good to me.  It's her decision.

So... what is there to even think about?  Her TKD school asks for a 1 year commitment.  I spoke to the chief instructor there (a grand master in his art).  I told him that my daughter is leaving for now to pursue something else and won't have time for TKD.  He looked disappointed.  I know he likes her.

I then mentioned that her activity didn't start for another six months and was wondering if we could have her come during that time and not make a 1 year commitment.  He said... the only option is just the monthly option.  There was no six month contract.  The price structure he described was a 25% increase over the normal rate.  Having two kids with bills to match (orthodonture and so forth) I asked if it was possible to pay at the rate we were paying before.  He said no.  I told him my daughter's last day was Friday.

What I got for a reaction was anger.  Barely contained anger.  I was grateful for the half wall between us as I seriously wondered how far this person was going to go.  I could only stand there as he let loose a tirade.  After he was done he walked away.  There wasn't even an opportunity for me to speak.

I've had a couple days to think about the encounter.  He is pretty old school.  He basically was most likely headed nowhere in his life, was selected by his TKD teacher and recognized for the talent he could develop.  The teacher then took him under his wing and taught him.  The master.... choosing the student.  In his mind, being chosen is an honor.  He was able to make TKD his life's work.

When I asked him about a reduced rate he spouted off many things first of which was "Do you expect me to work for free!!?"  He also said things such as ... "he is paying $230/month" (pointing at an adult student).  "You don't think my teaching is worth what I'm asking?"
Keep in mind these questions he brought up were fired one after another with no chance to respond.  He wasn't looking for responses or a conversation.  He was just yelling.

He had interesting questions.... we actually pay more than that gentleman when you combine our two kids.  Whether it be 1,2 or 10 kids there is only so much money we have for expenses such as these.  In fact, my own practice has been impacted.

At first I understood where he was coming from.  The master chooses the student... we were lucky he was willing to teach our kids and so forth.  However, there are a lot of good teachers out there.  Hopefully ones that are better businessmen.  This attitude he copped was bad business and frankly it was bad TKD.  There are tenets that he teaches to my kids.  You're supposed to believe that stuff not just teach it.  Saying no would have been fine.  Looking like he was going to hit me ... was not.
Not once did I say that he wasn't worth the money he was asking.  It's just that there is only so much money to go around.

The other comment really tells me something about his character.  I don't know if his dojo is going to close due to money issues and he's stressed but commenting "do you want me to work for free"....

The dojo's I attend are filled with talented, generous teachers.  People who teach to spread the art and to help people develop.  None of them are paid.  I'm honored to be teaching among them and training with them.  The chief instructor at shodokan, whether you agree with his policies or not... has committed his life to teaching martial arts(essentially for free).  He's lived a modest life style.  A sharp contrast to this TKD teacher driving off in his $50,000 Mercedes.

I don't expect someone to be a monk and give up all luxuries in life but when I look at these two chief instructors, I am amazed by the contrast.  One teacher really spending his life teaching (albeit, his way) and the other, egotistical and self interested, demanding respect.

The scary thing is that this teacher is in the TKD hall of fame and has a lifetime achievement award.  Isn't the commitment supposed to be tabout teaching the students?

I told my daughter to be sure to thank him before she left for her final class last week.  I also told her if she wanted to come back to his class some day she should let him know that.  I suggested she form it as a request.  Feeding his ego is free.  He responded well and said she was always welcome in his class.

At least he can separate his problem with the parent from the child.  I wasn't sure that was within his capabilities.  This is good as I still have my son going there.

Next week we examine other TKD options much closer to home for my daughter for the next six months.  If one looks good enough perhaps both my kids will change schools.


Monday, February 12, 2018

New Face

So I get in to teach the Sunday morning class and someone is waiting for me.  This girl had wanted to watch an aikido class.  After speaking to her for a while, it was suggested that she jump on the mat with us.  Sounded good to me.  She had done aikido years ago.

So I started out real slow with ukemi drills and backstretches.  So I could see how she moved.  Then I moved her on to easy basic techniques.

After class she was very enthusiastic about restarting aikido.

At the end of class I spoke to her and she really wanted to join.  Her problem was one of timing.  She worked a late night job and wont be able to complete the standard 8 week training session that Mr. Mulligan likes to have people come through.  Her schedule simply doesn't allow it.

I voiced my opinion on this to Mr. Mulligan in an email.  It's his call but it would seem foolish to lose a potential student over something so minor.  Especially since it would mean the difference between her coming back to aikido and not.

More Demo Prep

Bob had us doing some exercises with the bokken.  Ten... had us set that aside and do techniques empty handed with exaggerated movements as if we still were using bokken.  Then he came up with a sequence for us to follow so we can do some tanto/sword disarms.


Sunday, February 04, 2018

Awesome Sunday Class

Of course, I'm biased.... I taught it. 

Today I had people focusing on sensitivity again.  It's important for both uke and nage to know exactly what is going on with each other.  Nage needs it to help create kazushi.  Uke needs it to take proper ukemi.

We started with basic ukemi drills.  I noticed that one of the students made an improvement in his forward rolls.  Nice to see.

Then I had them do an ukemi drill where nage is sitting, uke walks past nage taking his wrist.  Nage will pick a moment to move uke back in the direction he came.  The moment can come late or early.  Uke will never know when.  He has to feel when nage moves.  Uke then rolls back the way he came.  At first only the more experienced person managed to do this well.  Then after a couple repetitions, I saw huge improvement with others.

I then had them doing 2 variations of yokomenuchi kotagaeshi.  The first version nage enters with an atemi mirroring uke and then does the kotagaeshi.  The second version was one where nage steps back with the forward foot off the line.  Using the same side hand, he cuts the yokomen attack to his center, takes a kotagaeshi grip and pivots.

We practiced the first version for a while.... then the second.

The second version I was seeing a student telegraphing.  Instead of just moving the foot back, he moves the forward foot forward a bit and then backward.  he was working on it.

The difference between the two variations is that uke has to be in two very different positions to take proper ukemi.  The first one uke doesn't have to move very much to be in position.  But the second variation, uke really has to move to try and place himself in a good position for proper ukemi.

After a while, I told them that nage will randomly pick one of the two responses for the attack.  That means that uke will have to be paying tons of attention and be sensitive to what's happening.  I was seeing people out of position all the time for this.

I definitely want to repeat this class.

After this we did some 3rd kyu techniques for the guy who may be testing soon.  Then we did a two man randori.  Although it's not a requirement, Sometimes, they call for this for a 3rd kyu test.


After class Russ approached me talking a mile a minute as usual.  Russ is the arnis instructor.  I couldn't really figure out what he was getting at.  He did say that one of our long time aikido guys was going to try Arnis.  Then he was asking me if I wanted to join or if I had questions I was always free to ask them or mix in.  I'm not 100% sure what he was getting at.  Perhaps he was just trying to build some bridges.  This is the second aikido person he's gotten interested into his program.  I actually think this is great.  I don't think of it as poaching students.  Everyone should try different arts and do what works for them.  Arnis can be a good complimentary art.

Last week he asked if they could take over a section of the matted area for arnis. for that class.  This is the second time this has come up.  At times he is blessed with a nice large class.  I'm not sure why he isn't working on the giant floored area downstairs.  Perhaps the Zen center asked if he could practice upstairs.... or maybe they are trying to save on the heat bill.  I have no idea.

My biggest concern is that it is VERY obvious to me that the arnis folks are not paying attention to their surroundings.  They swing their sticks into and move into the aikido area as it is(our mat area is adjacent).  It's not just one of their students.  It's like half of them.  It could be that their focus has to be entirely on what's going on if front of them.  If I had sticks whacking about at me, I think that would occupy a good deal of my focus as well.  Perhaps it's the nature of the practice.

I am convinced that if I share mat space with them, that there will be a safety issue.  Sooner or later, a body will fly into them.  Or more likely they will be backing up swinging sticks and hit a student I am responsible for.  Right now, we only have to worry about the edge that joins our mats.  When I have a new student, I make sure to tell them to give that edge a bit of space.  Don't be close to that edge.  Be mindful of what's happening there.

In addition, today I used the whole mat area for the freestyle practice.  It would be awkward if I couldn't count on that space and had to have conversations with Russ every time.

I said it before in a previous post.  Either we have mat space to have an aikido class.... or we don't.



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Couple Classes and Today I Went to a Seminar

Monday night this week I went to North Shore Aikikai.  We worked on the usual strange stuff.  It was quite an interesting class.  Every time I go there they really challenge me to break down certain aspects of the things they are teaching.  On any given week I may have no success at all... or a lot.  This past class I felt like I had some good amount of success.

Friday night, Bob taught.  We worked on freestyle more.  This time we were limited to a couple techniques.  Bob asked an interesting question which was who thinks they can alter their ukemi mid way through.  I can so I raised my hand.  I didn't see anyone else very positive about it.  I find it odd.  Everyone in that class has more experience than I do.  I expected a couple of them would feel comfortable with that thought.  I guess not.

Today's seminar was at Boston Aikikai.  Donovan Waite Shihan taught.  We did a bunch of familiar techniques but done in a different way.  In a way these can be the hardest to do as you are fighting muscle memory.

A couple things taught were.....  a version of kaitenage that reminds me very much of my iriminage.  You cut ukes arm down in front of them so they go down, the hand that goes to the neck goes to the opposite side of the neck and pulls toward you as you pivot.  What this does is pull uke off balance and forces him to take a big step around.  Then you push at the hip for the finish.

Kokyunage.... verious ones.  tenkan in and pivot to finish.... an omote version where you stay in front....

Tenshinage - a couple version of this.... the most interesting was the throwing using the forward foot hand.  The other verison brought the earth hand in a little bit while the sky hand came up and over ukes shoulder.  The purpose behind this is to help draw uke in, and then you send uke back.  Really moves their center.

All great stuff.  The mat was pretty full.  Even when paired off into groups there wasn't much room to work with.

One thing I noticed this class though.... This is the first seminar where I was seeing more than I used to.  I had a lot less confusion about what was being shown.  Most times I was even able to get my body to do what it was supposed to do as well.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Yay Sunday Was Great

Of course.... I'm biased since I taught the class.  I was very happy to see a couple faces I don't see enough of on Sundays.  And.... We had a visitor float in.

Russ met him and managed to find a gi for him I think.  He explained to me that he was here for a class and Russ volunteered him to join us... but if that was a problem, he could play with the arnis folks.  I said... awesome... of course he can join us.

My initial impressions were of a relatively fit guy a little younger than me.  He said he used to do aikdio at an aikido club and that they did some judo and other stuff.

Just to get an idea what I was dealing with I made sure to do some ukemi after stretching so I could watch him.  That right there often will give you an idea of where they are at.

We started off with a back stretch.  Then I moved us to tsuki iriminage (direct version where you deflect the strike and go straight in).

Other things we did.... Tsuki sumiotoshi,  katatori nikkyo, kata hiki otoshi, ikkyo, kokyunage....etc.

I kept switching the pace of the class around.  Sometimes slowing it down to give people breaks.  The new guy had lots of difficulty with anything big and flowy.  For some of those, he sat through them. 

I felt like I had a good class because I had a whole bunch of different levels in the class and everyone seemed to be enjoying it.  At one point I had Chris and Buddy switch to something else while everyone else did the more basic techniques.  Instead of iriminage, I had them enter and get behind uke and push into the inside of the elbow and shoulder to structure them.  They were both digging it.

In the dressing room Buddy showed me something he saw during class that was interesting.  Never saw it before.  You do a shomenuchi attack.  Nage enters like he would for an iriminage, then, he controls the right arm with his right arm and his left with his left.  Sort  of was a kokyunage like thing except nage is behind uke.

I may have to play with that.



Movement Practice

Friday night Bob had us focus on our freestyle practice.  We had a few run turns each.  My second run through I managed to get people all lined up nicely and worked them one by one.

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.