Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Test Night

We had our usual class before the test. It was relatively light.

We started with a kokyuho. Bring the arm in a circle starting down and then over.

Then the next technique was wagikitame(or something like that). I did this one in Beverly a few weeks back I think. Mr. Mulligan liked what we were doing. He offerred some refinements. Nice change from being bad at something. One refinement, when going down for the pin don't be right next to uke. You can get better leverage on the elbow if you leave a gap between you.

After this we did a sneaky sankyo. We used the same entry as the last technique, get the sankyo. Once this is done you kind of move the sankyo hand in front of uke's center and curl the hand up into uke by rotating the wrist up the center towards the head. Uke falls over.

I took my 4th kyu test tonight.

The problem with being at this stage of learning ..... you actually know enough to recognize the mistakes you are making. As soon as I sat down I reviewed the test in my head and thought. Ah hell. At one point my uke was trying to hint to me that I was doing something wrong by offerring resistance. Not recognizing the problem, I choose to respond by controlling uke. I kept him pinned and went so far as to offer an elbow to his back. This is part of the polish that I would have liked to work on.

Focusing more on what I was doing right. I had really good kazushi. I thought I controlled uke really well. I also think my zanshin was there.

Some of the techniques I did well, others, eh. I can't wait for the next class. I'm going to practice one of the worst ones over and over until it's second nature. I'll work on some of the footwork I didn't like too. I'm sure the instructors will work on all the holes with us.

At one point I was given the impression that I may be asked to do a freestyle. I was almost a little disappointed not to be asked. I was mentally prepared for that more than the test itself really. I think I would have done well for my level. No ukemi test tonight which is unusual. Then again, the instructors watch you every class so they know who is capable of what.

I had someone come by for moral support. If you search way back in the archives you'll see me mention my partner back at Gloucester, Kim. He swung by specifically to watch my test. Nice guy.

Special Thanks goes out to Greg who agreed last minute to be my uke for the test. I couldn't have asked for a better partner.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Alien Face Hugger Technique

I had Mark again as a partner tonight. The particular techniques and exercises tonight allowed me to really move Mark around. Tenchinage, iriminage, and the alien face hugger technique.

We did two versions of iriminage. The normal long version you normally would see, and another version where you do an atemi to uke's face and come straight through. Problem for me was that Mark didn't consider my atemi a threat so he never moved off balance. I usually had to lay my arm on his back with my hand on his shoulder to break his balance.

We did a technique where uke does tsuki. Nage steps in and plants his opposite elbow into the crook of the arm. Bob mentioned that ideally you can use your elbow to really hit the bicep and your other arm to hit the tricep at the same time. Just for practice we hit the inside of the arm, stay sticky, and twist the hips and drive uke down to the mat. This works fairly well actually.

Then we practiced the tenchinage to focus on the lower hand to aid in the previous exercise. Then we switched back to the other exercise again for a while. After this we went for the alien face hugger. Uke comes in with a tsuki (not that it matters much really), you step around uke, as you step behind uke, put your hand on uke's chest and move up till you get some traction on the face. Sometimes I managed to do this with my sleeve. Other times I had to cup the bottom of uke's chin. Bring the hand up and over. Simple but fairly effective.

Elbow's still hurt from Sunday morning but they are better. I skipped the usual second class in Beverly. I was torn actually. I'm sure they would've covered some test techniques for me and my test would've been more polished but I've been taking too many classes and my body needs rest.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Good Morning Mr. Tsuki

Home life interfered and I barely made it to class today. Frankly, if I didn't need to pretest and say I was coming to fellow students and instructors I likely would have skipped todays class. I'm not 100% sure what I'll be doing tomorrow.

I have no idea whats going on with me. It could simply be too many classes in a period of time combined with the hot weather. I felt terrible this morning. Started off with some light ukemi and then went into a lot of exercises designed to aid in freestyle. Usually, we focus on one attack and learn a specific response. Today we worked with many attacks to work with multiple responses. Well, it didn't start that way. At first we were limited in what we were supposed to do, but towards the end of class it was fairly open.

At one point to have some predictability and yet still have variety, we had three uke's. One always did a shomen strike, the second did a yokomen strike and the third did a tsuki strike. Shihonage, udekimenage, koshinage, kotagaeshi were all encouraged. The usual windmill thing you see in videos was shown as well but not focused on much.

On any other day this would have been an awesome class. I wasn't the only casualty. I was just about ready to ask permission to take a break, something I've never done in a class, when one of the guys threw his back out. I figured I could stick it out a while longer.

At the end of class, we reviewed my 4th kyu test again. I did pretty much as I expected. Not nearly as polished as I'd like. The instructor was my uke for the suwari waza though. I think I got a good nikkyo on him which is good. I usually can line things up fairly well. I've always been ok at it but I had a class a couple months back focusing on how to do a floating nikkyo. That worked as well as you lined it up. This taught me a bit about how to line up a regular nikkyo.

Some good things I was doing... I was peeling ukes hand off my collar well for the grabs. I seem to do the ushiro stuff better dynamically. I think there is too much delay in my technique. It wasn't always like this though. Somehow along the line I started pausing mid technique for a half a second.

My elbows and forearms were killing me from the earlier practice. I wasn't protecting myself as well as I normally do.

After class I helped Eric with his upcoming 5th kyu test. I just ran through his test with him. Lots of little things I noticed but I didn't say a word about them. It's probably better for him to figure the stuff out on his own anyway. The only thing I reminded him about was how he chooses to do shihonage. He has his arm way out and there is a safety issue for someone who can't breakfall. He's going to do fine for his test.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do tomorrow for class. I usually do a double. Right now I fell pretty good. For the first time in 3 days I feel normal. I think I've been walking around dehydrated for days.

No matter what I'll at least attend Salem to watch or offer to join the beginners class if they need me there for anything.

Coolest thing I saw today.... perhaps tsuki shihonage. You just blend with the attack and take the arm as usual. Neat.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I Managed To Get To A Seminar

Got to go to a seminar to see David Farrell (6th Dan Shidoin, Chief Instructor at New England Aikikai) and David Halprin (6th Dan Shidoin, Chief Instructor at Framingham Aikikai).

Friday Night Breakfalls

We did sumi otoshi, and some exercise using the same breakfall, and then we did a tenchinage reversal.

I had Eric as a partner for the first sumi otoshi. Even though Alan wanted us to do a breakfall for it, Eric isn't really comfortable with breakfalls so he wanted to roll a few times first to get used to it. After a few I asked him if he was ready to give it a shot and he said yes. I threw him and gave him a lot of support by grabbing his other arm. He told me they were the best breakfalls he had ever done and thought he was really getting the hang of it. He said he was landing really lightly. Terrific. :)

The last exercise was doing a tenchinage, have uke push against you and resist. Turn your hips and throw. My partner at this point was Rachael who I'm guessing I outweigh by 50%. At one point she chose to resist and I realized how hard it was to move her even though I'm larger and outweigh her. This was quickly resolved by putting one hand on her shoulder for the throw and pulling a bit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Light Turnout For Tuesday Class

As I said, near a test I would have expected more people to come to more classes. Tonight consisted of two students, myself and Buddy. I like working with Buddy.

We did a lot of Morotetori attacks. We did kotagaeshi, shihonage, iriminage, koshinage (that’s 3 days in a row of that), and a bunch of other very fun techniques. The class was a blast.

The Shihonage I'd seen before although I was fuzzy on the footwork even though I'd done that footwork 1000 times. The iriminage I don't think I'd ever seen. Peter did a couple versions of it. I just took a crack at it. I have no idea if what I did was even close. This was one of those times where I got to see the technique but had no idea what I just saw. The nikkyo wasn't 100% natural either. Once or twice I stuck the hand up to the wrong shoulder. I immediately knew something was wrong and stopped my technique to figure it out when Peter told me outright.

One of my favorites was the kotagaeshi. You sort of end up ducking under and drawing uke's arm to you turning uke around. The trick is to remain in contact with uke the whole time. Sometimes when you can't get a hand in the right place you can use your arm to push the back of uke's hand. On most nights I can do this fairly fluidly. It feels like a natural movement to me. Although I'm sure many instructors are perfectly capable of doing it this way, Peter is the only one I recall doing this technique in this manner. It's one of my favorite ways of doing this. Peter is really sticky.

I had one interesting experience. During the class, I was doing fairly well with one of the techniques. Although the technique doesn't actively need the other hand Peter suggested to Buddy that he make the sae motion with both hands. Although not necessary it is a nicer form. So here I was doing this fairly well, I thought I'd try to the change. All I had to do was simply raise one arm up to match the other and bam.... I was having a little trouble. I was so focused on the other arm that the motion didn't feel natural to me any more. Someone recently made a comment how when dans try out new ways of doing things they can sometimes fumble around looking for it. I now understand exactly why that is. I was doing this fairly well, I tried to add a trivial detail and it fell apart on me. In a sense I would think it might be harder for someone whose been practicing longer.

After this class I'm having some different thoughts about the nature of Aikido. Also about the nature of testing. I was always under the impression that you did the technique over and over until they called for a new one. Now I'm told that they actually don't mind and would prefer seeing a couple variations on a technique. Wow. I had no idea. As for aikido, I can't put the thought into words as yet. It's sort of like being absoutely certain something is on the other side of the hill even though you can't see it.

There is a piece of me totally freaking out about the upcoming test and another part of me that is sure that I know this stuff. I think most of the anxiety is not having things as polished as much as I'd like. It'll be nice to just get the test over with so I can focus on just practice again.

The test is a huge distraction in my daily life. My 45 minute drive home today consisted of me wondering about techniques in general and transitioning from one technique to the next. Like.... if you wanted to get behind someone for an iriminage could you do this or that first. Can you convert a sankyo to a koshinage. I don't think so. You lose the sankyo trying to get into position for the throw. Anyone have an idea for this? Anyone?

Uke Like A Rock

Mr. Mulligan taught the class tonight. He started off with a statement that if you want to do test techniques, you are free to do so after class. D'OH.

At first I had this new guy as a partner. I specifically picked him because he’s new to the dojo and I like working with new people, experienced or not. This didn't last long.

After the first exercise, Mr. Mulligan moved the line so that I had Mark as my partner. Mark is that really solid insanely strong boxer. He’s real hard to move and won’t move unless you move him. But… because he resists, when you do the technique correctly, he gets slammed a lot of times. Sometimes beyond his ukemi. This is why it's difficult to work with him. Depending on the technique you may be in the position where you can't make a technique work unless you crush him. I did this once a while back by accident. I never thought about it, we were just simply doing ikkyo ura. He was stiff arming me so I instinctively took a step in to get around his power and SLAM. I thought he'd land more gently for an ikkyo. But his arm was so stiff it just acted to accelerate him to the mat. I think he avoided me for a while and now that he's willing to work with me again I don't really want to hurt him again. He ended up being my partner for the whole class. Worse still, he has a bad shoulder(torn rotator) that he let me know about so I modify some techniques for his right side.

Mr. Mulligan had us doing a couple of mysterious kokyunage. After the class ended I finally figured out the second one that he had us doing. The attack was a collar grab with both hands from the front. Nage grabs uke’s elbow and sort of pulls down and in. While this is going on you take your other hand and do a spear hand across uke for the throw. Sort of a pull and push at the same time.

Later on he has us doing a nikkyo version for the response. We also did a Kotegaeshi response to the attack. Toward the end he even had us do a koshinage response. Where I was fumbling around for the kokyunage, I did fine for the koshinage. It was similar enough to others that I’ve done. Mark didn’t want to take throws or give them for a good part of the practice. That was kind of a bummer but perhaps a welcome relief for the koshinage. I've been seeing a lot of that lately. He wasn’t getting right all the time. One time he had me coming down in such a way as to slam my foot down and hurt my ankle a little. If he had just committed to the throw I would have been better off. He was just trying a lift and missed. It felt fine after an hour or so.

One of the techniques was a collar grab with both hands. You are supposed to do a no hands throw. Spin in place tightly, then suddenly reverse direction and kneel down. Moving Mark around was crazy difficult. On top of that, he didn't want to take ukemi for this and I'd say I managed to get him to roll off of me maybe once.

I was hoping to pretest this night but Bob got called away. I seem to be the only person even concerned about the upcoming test. People seem laid back about getting pretested... getting the paperwork in and about the test itself. Last year, the group of people testing went to practically every class for the last two weeks before testing to get more mat time in. This year seems different to me.


Once I realized I was out of luck I headed off to Beverly. They had a new beginner start recently. This was his third class I think. Third class and we did….. jujinage, koshinage, tao toshi. The beginner did terrific.

For the first time in a while I took a shot to the face. There was very little I could do about it too. The attack was kate menuche or something. Basically, you grab the collar with one hand and do a shomen cut to the head with the other. So I couldn’t protect my face when nage’s response was to accidentally miss the shomen block and come straight in at my face. Although I pulled my strike….. nage was more committed. It wasn’t that bad of a hit really. Next time maybe I shouldn’t pull my strike. It might have slowed nage down. Got me right on the eye socket. Felt it for about 20 minutes.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Morning

Pretty much spent most of the time with yokomen attacks.
Udekimenage, kaitenage, koshinage.

The one test technique we did from my 4th kyu test was yokomenuchi shihonage. For some reason it seemed unfamiliar. Then it hit me. Alan is the one that seems to cover this technique. He enters in for it by stepping in and matching uke's attack. I'm not 100% sure but I think Peter did it with a step offline. Both corect of course but which one I'm expected to do on the test I have no idea.

At the end of class I went through my test quickly with some help. I didn't feel as smooth/fluid as I once was on a couple of the techniques. It could have just been my normal Sunday morning fuzziness. Frankly, I feel as though I'm easily capable on any given day in passing this test but I wish I had a little more time to work the kinks out.

:(

My other problem is uke troubles. There are a good number of people testing and a couple people begged off as they are themselves testing or already acting as uke. In one case, the guy moved out of state. Then I was sick and unable to talk to anyone. So I'm likely drawing a random uke at this point. I'm actually ok with this but if I get someone more experienced and uninjured I'll be likely to do a better test. I'm not sure if the instructors realize this because the guy doesn't really complain but there is this one large 5th kyu who actually has a torn rotator in his right arm. So, when I do shihonage and other techniques I'm careful to treat that arm differently.

I had an interesting conversation with someone on the way out the door today. He'll be testing for 5th kyu at the upcoming test. I asked him how I was to work with after he came out of the beginners class. I was surprised by his answer. He said that what he learned was that going into a class with a totally relaxed attitude was best. He said when he first started working with me I was doing techniques well enough and that he wasn't moving where he was supposed to. This usually resulted in some discomfort. He said fairly soon he learned to move and not resist. I'm pretty sure that I never push my uke's past their limits but this concersation makes me want to be extra aware of what I'm doing in the future.

Getting Over Being Sick

Last class was Monday. I only went to Salem as I just finished off a head-cold and don’t want to stress things.

Bob had us warm up and started us off with a few line techniques. It seemed like I was the only one paying attention. One student was doing a line technique but not the one that Bob was showing us. Others were doing it to the best of their ability. At one point, Bob stops us and has us look at how he’s using his hands. For this particular line technique it was tenkan, keep your hand in front of your center at mid level and then when pushing forward, roll your arm over as if you are going to do a rollout. Not a single person other than me was consistently turning his hand over. It’s like everyone was asleep. He just spent 5 minutes talking about it and no one was doing it. It’s not like it was a subtle point.

So, after a few line techniques, we moved on to nikkyo. There is a new student (he’ll test for 5th kyu this month) called Eric. At first he wasn’t getting the nikkyo and slowly improved. Toward the end, he did a couple that dropped me to the floor instantly. He let go as he was concerned about me getting hurt. I told him to keep going, and don’t let go next time. I hit the deck that quickly to avoid pain and injury, not because I was getting injured.

The test is coming at the end of the month. I still intend on testing myself for 4th kyu. Unfortunately, I've missed a few classes due to illness at a bad time so I don't know where I'm at in terms of testing.

Blindfolded Practice

Bob had us bring blindfolds. I thought this was going to just be silly annoying but I eventually got into the spirit of things as time progressed. He had us taking turns putting them on and doing stuff. First it was a simple wrist grab, tenkan and turn uke around exercise. Then… he moved on to responding to ushiro attacks while blindfolded. At the end, he had us doing a sankyo while blindfolded. I actually did fairly well at it I think. I’ve done enough of these that I can just do it without looking. There is no way to tell of course how well you did because you can’t see yourself doing the technique.

I knew when I put the blindfold on I’d have some auditory clues as to where I was and where uke was. You could hear the fans from either end of the dojo, you could hear others chattering away during practice. What I didn’t expect was that you could feel uke moving across the floor toward you a lot of the time. You could feel the movement in the floor and you could feel the air pushing against you as he went past. (My uke liked to get behind me and then grab rather than grabbing in front and then going behind). The one thing I never thought about was that you could get your orientation somewhat by feeling the seams in the mats. If you happen to be standing on a seam you could orient yourself.

The one last thing I noticed was my posture. I think it either got worse when I was blindfolded or I was just aware of my bad posture but I worked on that a bit.

At the end of class, Bob’s comment this week was “no flash”. He basically said that he’d rather see us do basic movements correctly rather than get our test techniques correct. Although I feel as though I should pass the test, I think working on test techniques would be a good thing.

We ended the night with suwari waza. I tried to be mindful about how I was doing it. I tried extending, like Bob likes and I can but at the moment that’s harder for me. Once without even thinking I did it easily another way where I involved my center more. Now I understand that’s that what was what Bob was talking about. It’s a definitively Mike-like movement. I find it more natural and requires less strength. I’ll continue to practice both ways for a while.

Now you’re thinking, how could you top a blindfold class? Easy, it’s “attack the elbow night” at Beverly.

Beverly did some awesome stuff last night. Instead of normal ukemi practice, Mike started us out jumping over the jo a bit. For whatever reason I have a good technique with the jo. I don’t even own one. Somehow I find moving with it quite natural. Mike had us practicing breakfalls over it. I really focused on it and did quite well. Mike gets all jazzed up when he sees me doing something correctly. Aside from being a morale booster, it’s good feedback to know that you are actually doing something right.

Mike has been building a progression of classes. Balance, posture, now this week it was working on timing. We did an exercise where we wanted to time uke’s attack and blend with it. Uke pushes nages shoulders a couple times each. Then the next step was to step back as uke comes in so they are only touching your shoulder the whole way back. Then you receive uke’s power by staying a little ahead of the push and doing a technique. Through various grabs of the hand top or bottom we managed to do shihonage, udekimenage, Ikkyo(omote and ura), and one other technique I think was called kaitmime. The last one you do by grabbing the top of the hand as uke comes in. You then move uke into an ikkyo position and then pull it toward you and bring some of it down. The next position you are in, you have one hand on his wrist doing a nikkyo, your second hand is on uke’s forearm on the backside in a sort of reverse yonkyo grip. Uke is down and you have his whole arm under yours with your elbow/arm pressing down on uke’s elbow. This drives uke to the ground in a hurry. Put another way, its almost as if you took a standing nikkyo where the style has your arm on top of uke’s arm and uke is driven down by the pressure on the elbow (not from the nikkyo). You sort of pretend you are rowing a boat with uke’s arm. Mike comes over to me while I’m practicing it and says, “I like what you’re doing, you have excellent control (of uke) and your posture is excellent but you need to put the grip on right away like this (and he shows me). I like this feedback.

Mike caught me going easy on Scott for the udemikenage. I don’t like to push people’s elbows directly, especially if I don’t think their ukemi is up for it. I had someone as a partner who was barrel rolling last night. I know he can do better most nights but I was guessing he wasn’t comfortable with the technique so I backed off of his elbow and pushed at the upper arm and shoulder. Mike told me to stop going easy on him and showed the class how to control the pressure on his elbow.

Notes For Three Classes

Sunday’s class with Peter was mostly dealing with two hands on two wrists attacks. One of the more interesting moments was watching the other students when he did a tenchinage Bob style. Instead of putting one hand high and the other low, you turn in keeping the low hand at your center. Position the sky hand vertically and then turn your hips as you step and throw.

On Monday I went to both Salem and Beverly. Both dojos had an easy class for some reason. Salem had Bob focusing on test techniques which was a welcome change.

The 3rd kyu technique was kaitenage. Bob had us learn two ways to do it mentioning the old way and the new way. People do it the new way because it’s easier and doesn’t require timing. The ‘traditional’ way had nage coming in early and catching the inside of the elbow before tsuki has time to come forward. Then you turn uke like you normally would and slide your hand to the arm for the throw. The new way, you irimi during the tsuki so it misses, then you put your hand on top of the out stretched arm, bring it down and then turn uke and throw.

The 4th kyu technique he had us work in tsuki iriminage. In fact, he had us focus on the very one I was interested in for the upcoming test. There are many versions. He just happen to hit the one I wanted to do. I’m excited I got to practice that. For this version, you irimi and come straight in and bring uke’s head up and then forward. There is no tenkan or anything. You just come straight in and do it. If you wanted to be mean, it could instead be a clothesline.

The 5th kyu technique was tsuki kotagaeshi. Same old stuff, look back the other way, pull uke around, tenkan and do it.

At the end of class we had a randori session with a guy who I believe is a 1st level kyu and then Sensei Bob got a turn as nage. I got to serve as one of the three ukes for both. On the 1st kyu's turn he did a lot of grabbing of heads. The attack was limited to tsuki. I could have kidney punched him once but held back a bit. He lost track of me behind him. On another occasion I got a punch in and got him in the gut. It wasn’t a hard punch but I didn’t wait for him to set up as he should have seen me coming. I was coming straight at his front.

Bob did better and one thing I noticed was that he moved around a lot more. He got out of the way a lot positioning himself better which slowed the pace down. Interesting to watch.

Bob said he noticed something in my practice. He said.... “I see a lot of Mike and Matt (from Beverly) in your technique which is ok but you should try doing this”. Over the next couple weeks I've been trying to be more aware of how I'm doing techniques. I try now to pay attention to exactly what I'm doing. Eventually, I figure I'll make some kind of determination as to what fits me best.

On to a class in Beverly.....

Beverly focused on some simple self defense moves. Things like collar and elbow grabs. How to break the grip when you want and not break the grip and draw uke in.

The drawing of uke in led to a nikkyo. There was a whole bunch of other stuff that Mike didn’t get to because we ran out of time.

The point of the classes was to also practice timing.

Yes... I've Been Training

The past week I had to skip a couple classes because of sickness. I'm in good shape finally and hitting the mat again.

I'll try and grab my brief notes and see what I can recall about the past couple weeks.

Here goes......