Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Night in Beverly

Since I'm needed at home early, for the month of May I can train only late nights. Beverly is currently a better option for me. In reality this is probably a good thing as I miss the people who left. At some point I'd like to talk to Mr. Mulligan about Friday night late classes. He tends to reserve these for more experienced folks. I have no idea if I'm far enough along in his mind for me to attend. I haven't asked recently.

Monday night had Jim teaching. Excellent class. I'd give details if it weren't so long ago at this point.

The most memorable technique was one where you trapped uke's arm to your center and turn your hips 180 degrees and throw uke.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Just Me and Eric

Eric and I were the only students this morning.

Started with some warm up ukemi. Peter did a few weeble rolls which left Eric a little puzzled at first. It's really the first time he's ever even seen them. He started about 3 months ago maybe. He did a pretty decent approximation. One of the things I noticed about Eric is that he seems to remember a good amount of what he sees the first time. He may not get the technique perfect or anything but he generally will move in the right direction most of the time.
(I found out later that he has previous martial arts experience... this makes sense)

Lots of tsuki attacks. Did a short version of iriminage which I loved. Kaitenage, udekimenage, a few koshinage ("I'd like to not do that"), ended with a sankyo.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Roll On Out The Door

j-step into ikkyo

j-step into iriminage

j-step into kaitanage

Beginner rolled me from kaitanage ... no room.. so I ended up rolling out the door a little into the hallway. Yes! I aimed there.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Every Time Is a Chance To Do Better

I try to keep a positive outlook when I practice. There are times that I feel like no matter what I do I'm not getting it. Other times things feel great. Keep in mind... that in both cases, this is no indicator of how correct I'm really doing the technique.

I now work a full hour away from the dojo. At times I get stuck in unpredictable traffic. This was one such night. I was about 10 mintues late for class. I came in just after people warmed up. Mr. Mulligan taught the class tonight as Bob was asked to do battle with the computer.

The problem with being this late as I didn't have much of a chance to change my mindset. I got onto the mat just as Mr. Mulligan had finished explaining what he wanted the students to do. I looked around and gave it a whack. It was a simple ki exercise where you move from side to side and reach out with unbendable arm. Mr. Mulligan stopped the class and asked me to do the exercise. I was doing them ok earlier but when I started up again it was so bad, he laughed and moved on. Ah hell. He grabbed Buddy and had him perform the exercise and did a few tests trying to raise the arm at the elbow. After a few repetitions of this I actually started getting my mind on things.

We moved on to rowing exercises.... then did some blocking exercises (block against a shomen strike). Mr. Mulligan asked me to do a few for the class. I didn't have much of an idea what he was going to do and I'm still not 100% sure what he did. Basically, he was showing that someone can have not just an unbendable arm but also an immovable posture. He pushed at my back. Judging by the smiles on the other students faces... I think he was actually leaning sideways with a hand against my back. In fact... I could have take on more force no problem. I was very stable.

We then moved on to practicing ikkyo first omote and then ura. My partners for this class were really tall guys. I had the usual problem where you want to catch the shomenuchi strike quickly before it has a chance to come down but they are so much taller that you have to adjust the technique. What I ended up doing was trying to blend(more than block) with the arm coming down and move it to the side. You don't get to off-balance uke by pushing back but instead by sort of translating their motion to the side a bit. Very interesting problem for me.

The last hunk of class we did nikkyo. I loved it. I had one the newer folks for my partner. This guy asks a lot of questions. I just tried to point out that you need the elbow bent for the "Z" and to use your tegatana effectively.

All in all it was a very basic class but still fun.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Tad Late For Sunday

Wife was sick so I had to help out a bit before I could take off for aikido class.

I missed a few of the stretches but came in toward the end. We then started with some ukemi. After, we warmed up more with a couple line techniques. Simple rollouts. Was nice to warm up.

We did lots of stuff by starting with a tenkan and a j-step. One technique was jujinage. I have to say that this is the first time that we did this technique where I haven't been concerned about doing the ukemi for it and I was actually enjoying doing the technique.

After that we did both shihonage and kotageashi from a similar jujinage grab.

George sighting! This class we saw George again. It's been a while since he made a class.

Thumb.... I've decided you won't hear about the sprained thumb for a while. I'm guessing it will take months to get back to 100%. I'll have to settle for 96% in the meantime.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Another Day Off... Boy Am I Loose

Whenever I have a day off from work I feel really loose and relaxed for the aikido class. This was another one of those days.

We started out with some ukemi practice. The beginners from the last start are having some success learning rolls. There is one guy who looks like he's having some problems though. He actually has improved. I can tell you from my own experience that part of the problem is lack of conditioning. When you are 'sucking wind' from a few rolls and you start getting tired it really makes it hard to do them. I saw fatigue affecting him. I had the same problem when I started to a lesser degree. I don't think very much can be done about it.

Alan started us off with practicing a j-step. Unfortunately for most of the class I found myself in threesomes. Sometimes I actually like this but for this kind of easy paced class, I would have preferred one partner. The next technique was suwariwaza ikkyo omote. It was nice to practice this. My partner wasn't pushing through me though, he was pushing my arm off to the side. My current understanding is that you really want to push uke straight back by moving their elbow right at their face not bring it down to the side (you want to go through them... not go around them).

I had an interesting experience. Towards the end of class my partner was a small girl. I think she was around 13 maybe. She just came out of the last start so she's been at the dojo for only a few months. At this point we were doing iriminage. She did pretty well. Some of the off-balancing she did was excellent. If she would stop killing my throat that would have been nice too. It's tough when uke is a foot taller than you. You have to modify things a bit at times.

She wisely suggested that someone else stretch my back at the end of class. Eventually, she will be centered enough to be able to lift me but I wouldn't expect her to be able to do it now. Since I've been dropped a couple times I'd rather just pass.

After class, I thought I'd exercise my looseness. I practiced some rolls. Generally threw myself about the mat for a few minutes.

Thumb. Nailed it again when I failed to blend well with one of my partners. Someone told me that they sprained a finger and it took like 8 months to heal up..... great.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Do any of you actually daydream about aikido. I have noticed that at times I've thought about aikido, classes, even going so far as to think about how to handle multiple opponents?

Anyone else working out in their heads? Do I need to close the sunroof?

My commute is is boring and since aikido is fun and stress relief for me, my mind wanders here.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Hey... Same Partner From Sunday

For most of the class I worked with one particular partner. This is the same guy I had on Sunday morning. I guess I'm starting to get to know him. I think he's only been practicing about 2 and a half months so he has all the usual questions that a lot of people(myself at least) have when starting.... I tried to answer them as directly and minimally as possible.

I did do one thing I couldn't resist. He had a habit of turning his head and not looking at uke(me). So.. while he had turned his head, I went to tap his head with my finger. I could see that he barely caught the movement in the corner of his eye so I stopped myself. After a minute he asked smiling..... "You were going to hit my head weren't you?" "mmmm ya" I replied. He grinned from ear to ear. I didn't say anything else but he never took his eye off me for the rest of practice.

Oddly enough after this... I helped Bob by being uke for a few minutes while he showed some stuff to the class. Bob did an atemi to my face but he was overly cautious. There is no way that he would have hit me even if I didn't react. I reacted strongly and pulled my head back out of harms way. I usually do. This makes me think of Kim a bit. Due to his rough knees he's had to take a break from aikido for a while. He was my old partner back at Cape Ann. He used to take atemis to the face. He moved or blocked only about 10% of the time. He always said he was training his face to take hits.

As practice progressed I saw my partner improve a bit. I didn't try and correct him or anything, I just tried to do the technique as best as I was able. Even still, when Bob stopped the class to show us one aspect I realized I was doing one thing not quite right.

For techniques we practiced some kind or irimi where you slide behind uke and turn at your hips as you bring your arm up(this is the part I was missing) and then throw. We did this from two hand grab attack and from a tsuki.

Bob then broke the class up into two groups. We basically did the same exercise where 5 people attacked the guy in the middle. After a while we switched to a line. The people in the line were supposed to attack as soon as the previous uke could get out of the way.

For me this exercise was sort of like juggling two beanbags and a bowling ball. If you've ever juggled you'd know what I mean. As uke's attacked I had to respond with the correct amount of force. I'd have a light attack/response... another... then one of the more experience folks Buddy would attack with some zeal and I could respond more strongly as his ukemi is better.

Thumb showing small improvement again. It's still weak. The two hand grabs I had to do in class weren't as strong as I would have liked. Did the best I could do.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hey... I'm Seeing Students

When people want to learn aikido, our dojo has the new folks run through a specific 8 week training session where they learn customs, history, basic terms, get exposed to some techniques, and start learning ukemi.

The latest beginner start finished recently and it was a larger class. I guess 2 of them decided to try out Sunday morning. This was kind of nice. This morning is typically the same two or three of us. They did pretty well. One of them was doing shihonage way out and I almost was forced to breakfall to get out of it(and I have loose shoulders). I think I could've managed it but since I've never done a breakfall out of that techinque it wasn't my first choice. You do what you have to to protect yourself of course. Afterwards I let him know what the difference was between keeping uke's arm out or in and to be aware of which one he was doing.

In today's class we used a knife for attacks so we could focus a bit on body awareness. Toward the end uke was encouraged to attack uke in 'wrong' hanmi, and even go so far as to switch the knife hand in mid attack. Basically, get nage to react, rather than think. We did this with nikkyo, kotagaeshi, and shihonage. Also did an irimi where you sort of spear your hand past their face grab the tsuki hand with the other hand.... push uke back a bit, rotate your elbow and do sort of a reverse headlock on uke dragging him back. Then you go to the ground on one knee with uke falling to his back. Then you attack the elbow by placing it on your knee and pushing the arm down. I always hate this technique. There are too many excitable/inexperienced nage's out there that have really attacked my arm. I fared pretty well for this today.

Overall, I did real well compared to the past on the no thought part. Aside for one bad hand grab I was moving without thinking too much. I was simply reacting.

This was the first class since spraining the thumb that someone actually caused some discomfort on it. It wasn't enough to make me tap but someone had my thumb wrapped up for a nikkyo. Wrist felt fine... thumb was eh. I have no qualms about doing more of it. It just doesn't hurt that bad but I did notice it.

Thumb. Sure is hard to open jars when one thumb is a little weaker.

Another Class of Heavy Breathing

Ok... so in this one, Sensei Cowham had us doing a form of ikkyo focusing on the breathing aspect. We also did a flavor of iriminage. What was interesting about this was that instead of simply entering behind uke, bringing them down.. letting them up and then throwing/projecting them, Sensei Cowham had us step off line a bit but pretty much stay in front of uke, cut/blend with the arm coming down (shomenuchi attack) and don't let uke up again... just grab at the shoulder and bring him down(similar to other things I've seen in the past).

Ok.. if you were able to read that last sentence then you have breath control. I believe he headed elsewhere at this point. Glad he was able to share his point of view on things.

Thumb about the same. Feels good until I stress it. Usually doesn't interfere with anything in class really.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday Night Guest Instructor

Sensei Robert Cowham of London came for a visit so our dojo put him to work teaching tonight's class.

We spent the class focusing on our breathing. Bob has mentioned this in the distant past when he taught at Gloucester. I've actually practiced breathing once in a while. How does one practice breathing? Don't you just breath? Well... the thought is that you exhale and inhale with your stomach and not your chest. If you look at a 3 year old and watch them breath you will see the tummy go up and down. Sometime as we grow older many of us lose this kind of breathing.

Sensei Cowham has a blog at

In one of his posts he says.....

"My sources are mainly Inaba sensei's teaching regarding the breathing, and Peter Ralston's book "Zen Body-Being" for a fascinating approach to relaxation and effortless power which I am finding very rewarding to study."

I'm not sure I can spend the time needed to cultivate any skill in this area but I bet the book is an interesting read.

Unfortunately, Bob was called away from the dojo. He asked if I would drive Robert home and I said no problem. It wasn't until after Bob had left that it occurred to me that it's still Passover. This means I wasn't able to offer to take him for a meal or really hang out somewhere for a drink. I feel kind of bad about it but I really didn't have an option.

Thumb hurts less but is still weaker than normal.

Ok... So I Finished Tiling My Floor

Why even mention it? Because it was directly responsible for my missing two or three classes. If I ever get around to taking a picture of it, I'll post it here. It came out quite nice actually.

One thing I noticed was that I did a lot of sitting in seiza the whole time I did the floor. This saved my knees I think as I never bothered with kneepads. My teachers would be proud, I moved with my center the whole time I did the floor.

Thumb still hurts..... knees feel great.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

No Class For Me

I absolutely have to get my downstairs completed. Sunday I spent the day fitting and cutting tons of tile for my entry and laundry room. Wife looks at me after getting a price from a tile place.... you can do that right? *hangs head....sigh*, "yes, I can do it". I read a whole bunch of stuff so now I'm laying tile.

Monday night I missed class because of Passover.

I should be able to restart this weekend.

The month of May is looking dim for my going to class. I may be going to a different dojos for that month as they have later classes for Monday and Friday's. I need to speak with Mr Mulligan so he knows I'm not totally disappearing.

Monday and Friday

ah hell.

No memory of Monday. Ok.. some. I think this class Bob led us through stretches and then ran us through some ukemi. I seem to remember something about having to do forward rolls on one side instead of alternating. First time I ever got a little dizzy rolling.

I remember liking the class. Darned if I can remember exactly what we did. I can say that we have been doing more and more freestyle. They will limit the attacks and perhaps the responses.

At the end of class Bob frequently will attempt to impart some of his wisdom. On this night he carefully suggested that for some people you progress to the point where you are expected to learn the techniques by figuring things out on your own. Traditional Japanese..... you 'steal' the technique. So... do you learn better? I know I've had one teacher who would cover the Sunday class a long while back that would show me the same thing like 5 times and I just wouldn't get it.

I seem to remember getting to be uke for Bob when he threw me for a koshinage. It was nice to practice this a little.

After class I tried some side to side movement suwari. It was a simple exercise Bob showed us a while back and I really need the practice. I also picked up a jo for a few minutes and went through the 31 jo kata. I had the benefit of watching one of the other students who attends weapon nights regularly. I can't make it Wednesday nights. As a result I don't really know the kata well. I've done it maybe 10-15 times.

One side note... in a previous post I mentioned that I don't feel like I'm learning. Don't think for a second that it's because I believe nothing is being taught. I just feel like I'm missing the point. Every once in a while I have a moment of "oooohhhhh, this is what I really am supposed to do". Then I have the feeling again about perhaps even the same thing as my level of understanding grows.

It's been a while since I've had one of those moments.


Alan did a different class. Typically he'll pick 2 or 3 techniques and work on those the whole class. He doesn't change much. This has an advantage of being able to really focus on something. His whole class was centered around freestyle. First we practiced techniquessuch as shihonage, kaitenage, iriminage, kotagaeshi. Then... we did them in a freestyle manner. We were told to attack yokomen for a while then we did them while responding from a shomenuchi attack. The goal is to get us to think less and just react. I seem to want to do a iriminage or kotagaeshi 90% of the time.

Thumb slightly better but was exacerbated by my cutting tile for a floor in my house.