Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Little Deja Vu At First

I seemed to be the only one for class at first. I was early enough so that I had time to stretch out a bit and do a few rolls. No sign of other students but I 'lined up' at 6pm to wait for class to begin. After about 2 minutes my old partner Kim showed up, headed to the back and dressed. He came on the mat, did a few warm up exercises and must have seen sensei Mulligan as he sat down with me in line at that point. Sensei Mulligan popped his head in and asked us to warm ourselves up. We did a few more stretches.... Kim did a few more rolls.

As sensei approached we got back into line, and bowed in with him. So... here we are... Kim and I and an instructor. Seems like old times. About ten minutes into the class Serge showed up.

This class was pretty much just Shomenuchi Nikkyo. Tuesday nights sensei Mulligan said he wants to spend tweaking stuff so we worked a lot on getting the hand changes correct. I'm still only 50/50 even with spending all this time on it.

Although my posture was fine overall for most the of technique I guess I have a tendency to bend over during the vertical pin for the ura version. I thought you needed to pin the shoulder down when in fact you pull up. So... when I do it by pulling my posture is fine. I just need to make sure I do it this way from now on.

Kim resisting as uke got him a handful this class. Rather than trying to use force or starting the technique over Serge went around his resistance and put Kim into a sankyo instead of the nikkyo we were supposed to be practicing. Kim seemed bothered by the fact that nage changed techniques on him and actively fought his way out of the sankyo and was attempting to throw or twist Serge up. I think Kim gets mad a little bit when this happens.

I did have one thought occur to me through all of this. I know if someone has a sankyo on you, you can twist so that your hand is behind your back to relieve the pressure. The technique we practiced with Bob on Monday night could then be used I think. You let the hand being grabbed be slack. Step back behind uke and use your other hand to throw. Of course.... if someone has your hand behind your back there may be other things they could do to you such as punching you in the back of the head/neck/kidneys. I was just thinking you can put different things together and maybe sometimes that may be an appropriate thing to do.

I was tapping out early for the horizontal nikkyo pin as usual. I did however wait for pain to tap when sensei Mulligan was using me. In a matter of about 2 seconds he went through about 3 different pinning techniques before he found one that worked somewhat. The first was the normal pin. Then I think I felt him rotate the elbow as he did the pin, this was a little uncomfortable but really didn't hurt. He then twisted the wrist a little and the elbow the other way I think.... that was about the same. They he just went for force and moved his elbow way out to get lots of leverage. Because he went through the changes so fast I was concerned that if he got one that worked it would kill me because I wouldn't be able to tap soon enough. As a result I tapped out on the last one when I started feeling tingles. I didn't want to wait to see what would happen if he managed to get pain on me. He did look at me wide eyed after and asked "How come you have such strong wrists"? I shrugged..... just built that way, I guess. This is the one pin (horizontal pin nikkyo) I can mostly ignore. Same old story for those of you following the blog. Now that he knows, I'll tap out early as usual. It seems silly not to... you just slow up practice and most people would be affected.

Feel great. Although took some strong nikkyo's and an elbow atemi (accidental I think?) to the side of the head. Also, turned my head during a pin just in time to avoid an intentional knee to the face (he got the back of my head). You have to really protect yourself when working with Serge. I would never pair him with a new student.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Great Class.... Lots of Ushiro

No ukemi practice but lots of stretching and breathing.

We focused on a lot of ushiro techniques. All of which were designed I think to get us thinking about moving our center and staying relaxed.

First one, starts from static position. keep your arms loose but move your hands in sort of in a cupping motion. Turn them and raise them up.... step out but behind uke(fitting in) 'leaving your hands behind'. At this point you can sort of move your inside arm up and over sort of like a kokyuho. You bring your elbow up towards ukes face and flip your arm over while turning your body at the waist.

We also tried a similar version where you step out and grab with the other hand for a kotagaeshi. Almost everyone seemed to be concerned on which hand to use for the kotagaeshi. To me it was obvious but I wasn't getting the grip right all the time. You can sort of grab from underneath or on the top..... I seemed to do it correct half the time.

Overall, I didn't get a lot of corrections for posture or other things that can be a problem. I'm hoping that's because I was doing some of it right.

We then started in on doing the techniques dynamically where you run around uke. Then Bob gave us the option of using any technique you like in response to uke's attack.

I'd have to describe my ukemi as spazzy today. Falling quite safe but I'm projecting myself way out. Once I almost rolled into Bob and twice I almost ended up in the wall. I was aware of the space limitations though and avoided any real damage to myself or others.

No advanced class tonight as people had other places to be. I'll be glad to do the jo kata again. Maybe next week.


Sunday, August 27, 2006


Alan had us doing kaitenage for the entire class. In this particular case it was pretty fun. I like these techniques because I get to practice my ukemi. Whether its related to the recent class time I missed or just because I haven't had the opportunity to practice it much...... my ukemi felt a little rusty Friday night.

For the beginners like myself..... kaitenage I'd have to describe as projection throws.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm Pulling a No Show

At least on Monday night I was unable to go to class as I was sick. Tuesday night(tonight) I feel lots better and could've practiced but alas I have no one to watch the kids. So.... I'm home tonight.

My next planned class will be Friday night.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Interesting That We Worked on Techniques

Alan had a golf game to go visit so Sensei Mulligan filled in for him.

Class from what I remember of it was....

Three different versions of iriminage, kaitenage, kotagaeshi, and a kokyunage. Followed at the end with suwariwaza kokyuho.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Building Blocks

The focus of class is changing. Sensei Mulligan said that we will be focusing less on test techniques and more on good aikido for a while. I have the feeling that he/Bob believes that a lot of basic exercises about moving/maintaining our center/posture/etc.... have been ignored.

I was feeling that a lot of that was coming from working with more talented people. I noticed some of my movements mimicking others at times. Perhaps this isn't enough. In a sense I feel like I'm starting out from scratch again. With this different emphasis the classes seem different. In some ways, less clear.

I just found out there is a Saturday class still. I'm curious if it's Rob's still. If it is, I'd like to ask him if I could attend a class once in a while. His classes tend to be more active and I'd likely get a workout from it. I'm guessing he can help me keep my ukemi sharp. Also, I'd really like to to look at his aikido more.

Sensei Mulligan had us doing a kokyu nage. Actually.... he's been having us do kokyunage I think every Tuesday. We did a shomenuchi nikkyo. I needed to practice that hand change. I had that really tall, strong guy again so I still have problems addressing his attack. I tapped out early as usual for the nikkyo to keep moving practice along.

There was other stuff of course but that was a long time ago.


Monday Night Bob

Class started a few minutes late. Perhaps Bob got caught up in some bad traffic getting to the dojo.

Most of us had been warming up before he came on the mat which I think he knew. He did sort of a speed warm up. We did some ukemi practice. We did a few rolls. My rolls although comfortable still aren't where I'd like them to be still. We then tried rolling over partners. Someone moves ahead 6 feet and sits on their knees similar to seiza and keeps their head down. Partner does a forward roll and becomes the hurdle for their partners turn.

Then we did it again but Bob wanted us to use our partner as a platform. I don't know if he wanted a breakfall but that was the most obvious thing for me to do so I attempted a left breakfall and then a right. I'm sure they weren't textbook but they were comfortable landing.

The advanced class Diana and I stayed and Bob had us doing jo work again. We once again were learning a 31 step jo kate..... 31.... not 21 as previously posted. That shows you how much I need to learn. I don't even remember how many steps are in the thing.

The first time we did it I felt like I could follow Bob's motions better. This time I did some from memory. After screwing up step 2, I think I kept up with Diana until around 7 or so. It is slowly sinking in. Everytime we do it. I just need practice.

Then we did some partner practice. I come in with a tsuki strike with the jo and Diana deflects it, steps offline and strikes with her own tsuki. We did this for a while back and forth.

I can't remember what exactly went on in that class at this point as several days and another class has passed. If I remember more I'll edit this post.

Wrist again

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Don't Attack Me Unless Your 5' 9" Please

Friday night with Allan teaching. I actually felt like I got a bit of a workout this day. We did....yokomen kotagaeshi... felt like I really wanted to do a shihonage. Hand changes felt unatural.

Then we moved on to suwari waza ikkyo. My biggest problem with this is my timing. We have a relatively new guy in the class who obviously has had some aikido training in the past but not recently I believe. He's really tall, big and strong.... and oh ya.... fast. When he attacks with his shomenuchi I have trouble getting him before he starts coming down. I really want to practice this with him again. I have two issues to work on here. What do you do when the height difference is big and the person striking you is 10" taller than you. And.... can I react fast enough to catch the attacking arm earlier. Now, in the back of my mind I wonder if the problems are connected. I can't really reach his arm when its up there and my rising up to meet his arm is a bad idea. So... what do you do?

We did a third technique but me no remember at this point. Duh.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What? More Shihonage?

Just in case you didn't get enough Monday night..... tonight was more shihonage.... and guess what tomorrow night will be? That's right.... more shihonage. The 2nd class for tomorrow night will be Bob doing about 30 minutes worth of weapons training.

One other announcement was made by Sensei Mulligan. He publicly mentioned that some of the instructors have chosen to move on because of a disagreement. I believe he said something like.... "the 'junior' instructors wanted to be the ones to set policy instead of me". He didn't seem very centered when he said it but I don't know him well enough to gauge his mood. I couldn't tell if he was sad, mad or disappointed. He sure as heck wasn't ambivalent. He also hoped that people would stay loyal to the dojo and if they felt they had to leave to wait a couple of months before doing so. I am not aware of the details but I'm given the impression that things are run on a fairly tight budget and the instructors leaving may have somehow excacerbated this. Or perhaps it's as simple a concern that there will be a sudden exodus of folks following them.

I myself will have to train where I can. If I have a choice I'm not sure what I'd do.... perhaps split my time.
There is still certainly good instruction at Shodokan.... but I seriously miss the people who left. I can't discount the significant progress I've made in the past 6 months. The economic reality may be that I can't afford to add additional fees at this point in time even if I wanted to. Bad timing I'm afraid, but I sort of warned Mr M. last week that after many months of unemployment I may have a small period where I can't pay my dues. He told me to just keep coming. Not a surprise. I'm hoping to not have it be an issue soon. I have a lot of irons in the fire right now for job prospects.

This whole concept of loyalty is an interesting one to think about for a moment. I was surprised by Mr. M's call to be loyal to a place.... and not a person. As if the dojo itself is more important than any one individual. Perhaps this thinking is prevalent in martial arts. I'm so new to martial arts that I don't really know what is normal. Any indoctrination that is given to beginners normally I never got to hear/experience as I moved in from another dojo. I have a simplistic view at this point. I just like training with certain instructors. I was not directly involved and therefore fairly uninformed about what occurred. Without that kind of information loyalty doesn't enter into it for me. I guess I'm a little older than the average student and need more than faith that just because someone is a certain level dan they are right. I can't take sides.

I find it kind of interesting that there is an article on loyalty written quite a while ago by Bob up at Click on discussions then Loyalty.

Here is a great passage from it...
As an ideal of conduct, Bushido emphasized personal honesty, reverence and respect for parents, willingness to sacrifice oneself for family honor, consideration for the feelings of others, indifference to pain, loyalty to one's superiors, and unquestioning obedience to duty in the face of any hardship or danger.

I particularly like other parts about "lip service". It's hard to engender loyalty from students when you make promises and don't follow through. I have some firsthand experience of this and I will write more on this later if the situation continues.

Now... on to the class.....

The earlier versions of shihonage we learned have us offbalancing uke and stepping across in front of uke(for omote) really extending him out... then... twist 180 and cut down.

This week they've been stressing a different way of doing it. Same side wrist grab.... Take a step offline and raise your hand in such a motion as if you want to touch your thumb to your nose(keep your hand live). Use your other hand to grab the wrist and rotate it toward you a bit. This really moves uke off balance. Step in and turn 180, and move your feet and hips and now you are standing sort of 90 degrees to uke holding them in a shihonage while your hands are in front of your center.

One partner of mine was having some trouble with the shihonage pin. He showed us a few ways to increase pain on uke to get him to tap out. I seem to be immune at first so we asked Sensei Mulligan for help. He put me down and twisted one way.... said ok... that won't work for him so do it this way.... tap. Or ... this way..... tap... because when you twist this way ...tap..tap... you put pressure right here on this joint tap...tap...tap.. you see it ? TAP...TAP...TAP. My partner then puts me down..... and.... TAP...TAP.
She learned well.

I was shocked today as Sensei Mulligan actually remembered my name. Perhaps it was the recent test but he even came over to me to make a few corrections.... at one point he attempt to correct the same mistake I was making over and over again. Welcome to frustration Mr. M. (aka teaching me). I figured it out before class was over at least.

Ugh.... tap...tap...tap... TAP !!!

Shihonage Night

Bob taught class tonight.

I had a job interview so I ended up being a bit late for class. But..... near as I can tell.... we did nothing but flavors of shihonage all night. In the middle of the class we added a knife to the attack.

Adding weapons to attacks is always interesting. You just plain can't screw up. A couple of times I did things wrong and brushed the knife against my arm or leg. Always a bummer to think that even with all your concentration on the attack you still can get badly cut up. Reminds me of a quote I once heard maybe in a movie or tv show..... Nobody wins a knife fight.

At one point Bob was giving one of his talks about things and showed a shihonage (hanmi handachi). I realized that I had done that in an advanced class a while back. I didn't recognize it as shihonage at the time. I must have missed the point Bob was trying to make. He was talking about how you can make space for uke and for yourself to throw uke. I'm not sure what that had to do with what we were practicing at that moment. None of our practice was hanmi handachi.

Then we had an interesting practice. We set up two groups of five. Four attackers and one nage. Nage places knife down in front of an attacker.... you make eye contact and uke will attack you with the knife. Then we added a second knife and had anyone who could make the attack. Sort of a junior randori kind of thing. All throughout this I did fairly well.... My breathing was even and I was relaxed. I felt like I could keep it up all day.

Then we had the entire class surround one nage. There were two knives and anyone could pick it up and attack one at a time. For some reason my breathing was much worse, I got worn out a lot quicker because of that. I found I had trouble finding the person who had the knife. We had the lights dimmed quite a bit. As a result I found myself looking around to see who was coming at me more than looking for the knife itself. Just goes to show I need practice at this. It was a fun exercise.

The other thing I noticed is I first stepped on to the mat and watched for a second to see what everyone was doing so I could practice with my partner (he just started so he couldn't tell me). I saw a yokomen strike for the shihonage. When my partner did his strike to me my first instinct was an irimi. I didn't even think about it, it was just my reaction. So... I had to sort of use my brain to step offline and grab it for the shihonage like I'm supposed to.

Bob stayed and taught the advanced class. The only people in class were Diana and myself. She's excellent to work with but I miss the usual class. To no surprise we kept things light. Bob had us focusing on using the jo. Once again doing a shihonage like move. We did a bokken take away practice. I remember seeing this same from Souix Hall at the Harvard/MIT gathering last winter. At the end he had us do what I think was a 21 step jo kata. I remembered most of it. There is one step I wasn't getting. I think there is a hand switch around step 14 or so. I can't remember exactly.

I did ok for someone who never saw it before. I certainly wouldn't mind learning the jo kata. It would give me something to do at home.

Hey btw.... they posted the test results. I passed my 5th Kyu test. Reminds me of Steve Martin in "The Jerk". Jumping up and down wildly..... I'm in the phone book... I'm in the phone book!!! I'm somebody now!

Not to make light of the accomplishment. It's neat to have passed but I still am very much a beginner. I've barely scratched the surface of aikido.

Tweaked that same wrist but overall it's better.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tuesday Night In The Easy Bake Oven

Was silly hot in the dojo tonight. Oddly enough... it didn't really get to me at all. We kept the practice really light which I'm sure was part of it. Once again we skipped ukemi practice and warmed up with a technique. Move hand uke's I think from outside to inside and low. Uke is off balance, you step around and other hand is high. Walk behind uke.

Had a few younger(in their 20's?) people watching the class tonight.

For some strange reason I found it easier to breakfall most times than to rollout for the technique we were doing. I think I inadvertantly gave a show to the perspective students. I get really focused on the mat and I happen to forget they were watching. I did a breakfall and I heard a "whoa". Maybe they thought it was cool.... maybe they thought this old guy is crazy... maybe they thought that was really an ugly breakfall.... they most likely thought that nage was kicking my ass. I hope the high fall didn't scare them off. We also did some rollouts and they got to see some back breakfalls as well. Shira said that this was a good time to practice breakfalls.

I wish they stuck around long enough for me to talk to them. A lot of people see aikido and think.... I could never do that. If I can start martial arts at 40 with absolutely no previous experience.... anyone can. At this point I've seen a few people come and go after a couple of months. I'm not sure why they give it up. Maybe it just isn't for them. I think most times students are easily discouraged by the initial learning hump. Odd thing about that hump..... it never seems to quite go away totally.... it just changes. For me it its always there.... posture, timing, moving my center correctly, being a good uke, ukemi, oh ya.... and the techniques in general. I think perhaps the reason the hump never discouraged me was because of my goals. I initially, just wanted to do something interesting to help get more fit. Now... I'm more focused on trying to have really good ukemi. On other days, I'm just trying to get a technique down better. I keep my eye on the tiny goals in front of me.

Nikkyo versions including moretetori nikkyo. step off the line, circle hand around. grab uke's hand so it can't move and cut with other hand right at their center.

Learned lots about simply how to grab nage from one of the other students. He's been around quite a while and is very knowledgable.

Wrist is almost healed up from long ago.

Hey Matt... Where'd You Go?

Matt did not teach last night. This really bummed me out as I really look forward to his classes. Worse yet, I don't believe the advanced class happened or if it did, Mike didn't teach it. I was looking forward to taking both classes last night. Both of these instructors have been very key to my continued growth. I'm almost tempted to go into long details about how each instructor at Shodokan has helped me but it would be too long and bore most of you.

My old sensei Bob taught instead. One thing Bob stresses is moving with your center. Remaining soft, etc. I particularly liked the line techniques that he had us do. It starts with a tenchinage and with the heaven hand you put the back of your hand on the back of uke's neck and with the earth hand you sort of push by turning on your hips, using your whole center to do the throw. It's a fun ukemi too... you can roll out or try a breakfall. There was one nage who slammed me to the mat so hard that I swear I bounced. I did a breakall for it and it didn't hurt at all. I really have to get a camara on me so I can see if I'm doing these falls ok. In the end, any ukemi that doesn't hurt has to be at some level.... correct. I'd just like to have ukemi as good as Matts someday and I need to know how close I am to doing it right. Rob, the saturday instructor helped our line. There were two lines set up. One set of throws he threw us at a nice speed. Then for some reason he tried throwing each of us slowly. So I rolled out slowly... which sort of got me thinking about how to weeble roll slowly. At first I didn't like it.... I like being tossed at a good clip. Then I realized something. I have trouble doing weeble rolls in ukemi practice but not in the line. I didn't even realize I could do one that slow. Which really, gets you to thinking about what movement is done to do them in the first place. After thinking about it a bit, I think I may be able to do weeble rolls during ukemi practice better now. Thanks Rob!

When I got home I usually have this relaxed, exhausted, tenderized feeling after one of Matt's classes. I didn't have that at all last night. It was kind of a bummer. Hot or not, I think Bob took it easy on us last night. Now that I think of it..... we didn't even do normal ukemi rolls before class.

I seriously missed Matt teaching and hope this Monday is a temporary state.

Wrist still bothering me a bit but its better