Saturday, September 22, 2007

Beginners Are Good For Me

Techniques included tsuki iriminage, tsuki kotagaeshi.

The instructor said to change partners so I grabbed one of the newer guys that just came out of the beginners start. For those who aren't aware, the Salem dojo has a program where they have new folks signing up attend a special beginners class. It goes for about 8 weeks, 3 days a week. After that the new people are folded into the regular classes. This guy just finished his start about 2 weeks ago. Before striking he would ask... "Are you ready?". Every time. After nodding several times, I finally told him I was always ready and if I wasn't it's my problem.

The great thing about working with this guy is that the practice slowed way down. I had to slow down a bit for him. Why was this good? I finally noticed how much my posture is screwed for this kotagaeshi. What's happening is I am dropping my head which is really messing up my posture. I worked on trying to keep my head upright and my back straight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Surprise .... Free TIme For Me

Wednesday Night in Beverly. Was surprised to have free time. After I put the kids down for bed I headed to Beverly's class. Matt taught. Rob was my partner for the class.

We started off with some extensive ukemi practice. Started off with shomenuchi ikkyo. Working with Rob brought a couple things to the surface for me to work on. It's possible to start stretching and applying pressure to the arm before it hits the mat. You can start applying pressure as you are lowering the arm to the mat. I don't believe I've ever felt that from anyone before. Very neat.

The other thing I noticed was that for the ura version, I keep one arm on the arm and the other on the wrist and as I tenkan I push one side down. So, I'm essentially pushing down with one hand and lifting with the other and dragging the whole mess around with my center. Not bad but what Rob was doing was much different. Rather than forcing uke down he was leading with the hand that had the wrist all the way around in a circle. In my mind this seems like the better way to go. The few times I tried it felt quite unnatural. I've done it the other way long enough for me to develop some muscle memory. It's quite hard for me to do it any other way. I'm going to work on it though as I suspect that it's a better way to get uke down. I'll also keep an eye out to see how others are doing it.

Later on we did some shihonage. I haven't liked my shihonage lately. I think I'm turning uke's so much in the beginning that there is little slack in the arm. As a result I don't get to enter very deeply and I don't get the smooth motion I used to have. Another thing to work on I guess.

Rob helped me work on breakfalling out of shihonage. I'm not very good at it yet. I think I did better ones the first time I tried it but I was a lot looser that night. Hmm.... that's three things for me to pay attention to.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Last Friday, Alan was out so Sensei Mulligan taught. One of the more amazing things we did that night was a nikkyo. Just do a crosshand grab. Instead of cutting over and down back toward you, he had us just simply turning our hand over uke's in the same kind of motion. You wouldn't think it would be very strong but it was devastating. Worse still when its in place you can't just go to the ground and move in to alleviate the pain. It doesn't help any. There seem to be no help. The funny thing is... now that I've seen this in a class, it occurred to me I saw children doing this in a youtube video in their aikido class. Neat.

Another cool thing that I want to remember to practice... For a sankyo I had an inexperienced uke and I was just trying to use the sankyo to get him to stand up before I continued the technique. Mr. Mulligan thought I was just getting it wrong so he makes a motion like you are swinging a bat and says to me to do this. I know this uke would have trouble with this so I take a half swing. Guess I didn't do the fellow any favor. Mr. Mulligan looks and says... no no... like this. He grabs uke and does the full motion. Uke comes up rubbing his hand and wrist a bit. He took it better that I thought he would at least. I don't think I've ever seen anyone show me how to do a sankyo that way. It looked real effective too. Nice.

Friday Night class. Alan is still out on vacation. Bob showed up to teach.

Worked on a wrist grab. Slide in while turning a bit, use your other hand to aid removing your hand, iriminage. Then we did a kotagaeshi.

For the iriminage I had this big guy John for a partner. John isn't flexible in any manner. He is also built large and solid as a fireplug. I had a heck of a time breaking his balance. Even laying my hand/arm on his shoulder and back didn't do much for me. It was his opinion that they only way to break his balance was to push down on his lower back. I tried and and he claimed it helped but I didn't feel the difference. I think John is one of those guys that you have to be real dynamic with.

During practice, Bob pulled me aside to do a technique(I was in a 3 partner exercise so I was free). I think he might have been testing my ukemi for it. It's basically grabbing uke's arm and move it in a big circle behind them. You breakfall out of it. I had done this a few times in the Sunday classes so it was familiar.

Later in class he called me up to demo it. During the demo I felt the technique change a little bit. I'm not sure if he wanted to see a higher fall maybe or was just trying to support me. In any event I was fine. One thing he did comment on was that this was one of those pretty looking not so useful techniques. We practice it occasionally on Sunday's. I like it a lot for ukemi practice. It's fun. It's also a good timing exercise.

At the end of class we did a freestyle. As I've said in the past, every time we do one of these I think I come away learning something. On this occassion, I managed to not freeze up at all. I was pretty much just reacting to things and not really planning stuff. So as a result, I managed to do a variety of techniques. At one point I found myself in sort of a kokyunage kind of position. My instinct was to throw an elbow. Quite frankly, it took a large amount of my control to stop the elbow short.

After class Bob mentioned that if you are going to throw an elbow you want to make sure you do it from a position where you are on balance and can really smash the opponent. I was definitely not perfectly on balance but I think I could have had a good effect with it had I meant to connect. I was sort of going to elbow in an uppercut sort of direction. This uke was taller than me. One other comment he had, assuming he meant me I'll take to heart. Sometimes uke's move for you because they are supposed to or they are afraid of you(newer person) and that some things appear to work only because of the speed of the technique. I was definitely screwing around too much. Rather than simply letting go of uke, once or twice I tried to adjust him to get him to head towards the other uke.

I redirected a kaitenage and a nikkyo/ikkyo towards another opponent. Likely, I couldn't have gotten away with that if I were working with people who were not trained to move a certain way. So I have to work on my technique a little and maybe screw around a little less.

I think the biggest thing I took away from this freestyle was that I probably work harder than I have to. Sometimes just moving out of uke's way can be enough. No need to square off on every uke and do a technique on him.

All this aside, I think this was a great freestyle experience for me.

One of our more experienced members had his freestyle. The choices of attack were limited to tsuki and wrist grab. He had long finished doing a technique to his last opponent. I was the only one moving in to attack. I do a tsuki with my right hand and ooooommmpphhhh. Oh hell, I just hit the guy in the stomach. It wasn't a full speed/strength strike but it wasn't mamby pamby either. I actually felt some abrasion on my knuckles and his gut was tight. This is only practice, not some kind of test, so I backed up a little, saw he was ok, and repeated the strike. He did some kind of technique and moved on to the next guy. I felt kinda bad but thought since he wasn't really hurt it was a little funny too. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect him to just stand there. At least we know I can give a committed attack. Part of being uke is to trust nage to take care of things. Sorry man. I checked with him after class, he was fine.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Behind Again As Usual

Had a few classes since my last posting. Stay tuned for the results of my last freestyle, the nikkyo that you can't alleviate, why iriminage was hard to do to my uke and other fun stuff.

On another note.....
I resolve to not have a yuk face when people congratulate me on my recent promotion. I was so unhappy with the test that I guess whenever people would nicely come up and congratulate me, my face would twist up and and I would say thanks in a not too excited way. While I do believe that I'm experienced and as good as any average 4th kyu and thus deserving of the grade, I know I didn't do my absolute best on the night of the test.

Quite a while ago I took some of those personality tests at work. One of the traits was perfectionist. That's a chuckle for someone in aikido. Seems, there is always more to learn even about the techniques you thought you knew. So how does someone with perfectionist desires survive learning aikido. I try to balance it with my optimism and by training well.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Passed My 4th Kyu Test

Monday was labor day and there was no class so I came tonight to get a class in earlier in the week. I showed up early enough, straightened up some, did some tenkans with a wooden block on my head, and stretched myself out a bit. After about hanging about for 15 minutes it finally occurred to me to check the message board for the promotions list. Sure enough my name was on there for the test I just took.

I'm happy that I passed the test but I am still not happy with my perfomance that night. What I'd like to do is perform up to my current level of understanding. I don't think I quite did that for this test. If I notice mistakes being made I'm not happy. Still, there were some nice aspects of the test. It wasn't all bad. All I can do is move on and work on what I perceive are the problems.

Tonight's class pretty much spoiled me. I think we did a whole bunch of stuff I like.

Shomenuchi was the attack. Responses included....

Kaitenage. I did slightly better at this tonight that I did on Sunday.
Kotagaeshi. I like this one. Block somewhat, take your other hand and grab uke's wrist, bring it down and turn uke around. A couple steps back and tenkan.

Different entry Kotagaeshi. I usually do this one a lot smoother but I was trying to do something a little different tonight. The entry has you blocking the strike, bringing your elbow up into uke's chin(almost), go to the side and behind uke, take whatever steps you need to get a good hanmi for a tenkan at the end.

Shihonage. I think I need more practice for this. I haven't done one yet lately that I've liked.

Sumi-otoshi. What can I say. Get an under hook on the arm, turn uke around, j-step, and project.

Some other kind of otoshi I think. I don't recall a name for this. Block somewhat, take a step, bring one knee down and one knee up. The knee up ends up in uke's path, use one hand to grab uke's arm to pull them forward, use the other hand on uke's hip to push.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Early Sunday

We started class a bit early today. It was basically a matter of when there was an instructor available. I was greatful that he even comes. There are lots of other fun things to do on a Sunday morning other than wake up drive in and go to teach a small Sunday class.

Despite the earlier time I was awake somehow today. I had the usual moments of confusion but at times I was getting some stuff right away. Other stuff I was able to work out as I went on. I actually made improvemnts as I practiced. At one point I couldn't figure out a hand position. I did a block and put the second hand up over the first, when in fact I wanted it under. As soon as I saw the instructor do it, I had an "aha" moment before he even said a word I had figured it out. Wow! A lucid moment on a Sunday morning. The reason I was doing that was because the first technique had the hand over. The next had your second hand under the first.

Yokomen strikes for attacks. Responses included, gokyo, kaitenage, kokyunage(tough one for me), kotagaeshi, iriminage, koshinage.

The koshinage was interesting. Enter and block the arm really early, grab uke's collar, tenkan, pull collar towards you while getting your hips in the right place (Answer the phone technique). I've seen the answer the phone grip before but I never really spent any time on it. I had one side going pretty good. The hardest part for me was I was leaving uke behind a bit with my arm position. The other side needed more work. When I was uke for Tony I had a treat. Tony has got this huge background in judo. His way of doing this technique is to bring me up on his shoulder instead of his back. I was waaaaay up there. I could take the ukemi but I have no idea how that one would feel.

Although there were only two of us aside from the instructor, this was one of the more enjoyable classes I had in a while.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Quiet Friday Night

Alan taught as usual for the Friday night class. We did three techniques. I was sempai so I ended up taking ukemi for the demos. I actually enjoy this. The only problem with it is the usual cry you hear from folks (I didn't see it). I was familiar enough with these techniques though so no problem.

Ushiro sankyo
Ushiro kotagaeshi
Ushiro kaitenage

For the sankyo I purposely grabbed a beginner from the beginners class. Alan came over to help him get the sankyo. He did ok.

The kotagaeshi I did with Joanna. About midway through she decided to start actively resisting me. She quickly found out that trying to resist the kotagaeshi was not comfortable or fruitful. She did however keep me busy trying to roll her over for the pin. After a while, I figured out that if I put a bend in her elbow I can roll her over even if she resists. Letting her keep a straight arm and I couldn't do anything with her to turn her over.

Her kotagaeshi was really strong when she choose to do the tenkan version. I had to breakfall out of it once or twice.