Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nikkyo Night

I headed out to Shodokan for a class. Mr. Mulligan taught this one. For the most part he had us working on our nikkyo. I was psyched as I still want to work with this some. Out of habit I was doing the nikkyo with my hands up on his hand. But really... the nikkyo he was showing had one hand on uke's elbow. I really should have been practicing that one more also. Although I think doing it that way is easier to get than the way I was doing it so I'm pretty sure I'd have no trouble with it.

At one point we did sankyo. I was getting a good sankyo on my partner. I noodled around with some differences to see what each did. I even did some ura versions as that always needs work.

After this class I headed out to North Shore Aikikai for another class. We worked on 2nd kyu test requirements as one of their members is close to testing soon. It's good practice for me as well as I need to take this test at some point soon also. What I learned was that I really need to polish things up a bit. I'm all over the place for probably half of the techniques. One of the differences I noticed from people lately was how they did their shihonage. For some reason, early on, I was given the impression that you kept uke's hand in front/a bit higher than your face as if you were reading your watch. This has the result that as you tenkan, uke's arm get's extended and torqued around and returned to their shoulder (assuming that's what you want to do). The other way I've seen it done (at both dojos by some members) is to bring the shihonage arm up, nage goes under, turns and cuts uke's arm back down before uke can really react.

The first method is nice because the extension keeps uke off balance the whole time. However a drawback is that if you likely tried this on a real attacker you may get more fight from him as he reacts to you pulling that arm in an unatural direction. Now... the second method is good because the attacker won't feel much pressure until it's too late. However, there seems to be a moment where nage is on balance and may be able to react.

I know one good thing from the second version is that if you have someone who is really stiff (and I've seen this), you really can't shihonage them using the first variation. I can do both versions but which is it they want to see in a test? I'll have to ask.

Although I've seen this in the past I never really paid much attention to it until now. At this point I want to explore the differences some I think.

Oh.... one of the test techniques had us doing nikkyo in the second class for a while. So between the two classes from my perspective it seemed like nikkyo night.

Good Morning Sunday

Peter had 4 of us Sunday morning. At this point I don't remember much of the actual class but I remember enjoying it lots. If I remember details I'll add it here later.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Basic Class Was Great

Seems like I've been seeing a lot of Mr. Mulligan lately as other instructors were unavailable this week. Alan couldn't teach Friday night so Mr. Mulligan took the class over. Since the early class is really supposed to be a basic class he had us doing some basic techniques. This was awesome since I really wanted a chance to run through them again and tweak things if needed. Overall, things felt pretty good. I got to work with a few different partners. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to fling people about but sometimes I just want to make sure I have good posture, my partner off-balance and focus on basic correctness.

We did have a couple watching us for the class. Frequently when someone comes to watch, they lose interest after 30 minutes or so. These folks stayed for the entire class. They had some concerns because there were a bit older. They seemed hesitant and for some reason did not want to 'bother' sensei. I talked to them for a bit and suggested that they could go at a pace they would be comfortable at. That it wasn't expected that they go fast or fall hard or anything bad like that. So while I'm suggesting that they could start slow and how it's possible to become more flexible and everything, the younger aikidoka next to me starts talking about injuries on the mat. I'm thinking... oh man... shut up. You're freaking them out. I think everyone knows that getting injured is a possibility but you don't need to focus on it.

The husband still seemed interested in aikido but the wife started asking me where the taichi group was. I let them know that just recently we have suspended the taichi classes. After I said that they immediately told me that there was a taichi program at the Beverly Y. I didn't realize that they did taichi there actually. They went further and told me that there is also an aikido program there. They also seemed to know a bit of the lineage. At this point in the conversation I mostly just listened. I have a suspicion that they had visited there before coming to Shodokan. I was wondering if they were hoping to take classes concurrently or something so they could 'commute' to class together.

In cases like this I tend to be closed mouthed. I don't go extolling the virtues of one dojo over another. It would make me very uncomfortable and in my mind isn't appropriate.

There is excellent teaching at both which is why I'm happy to take classes at both.

I'm curious to find out where they end up. It wouldn't surprise me if they both did taichi somewhere.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flood and Choke Techniques

Last night we practiced a special flood technique. In case the 2nd floor of the dojo floods we can jump 15 feet in the air and grab the steel girders. You grab about different shoulders about shoulder width apart. You need to be able to hang there for extended periods of time so the water has time to recede.

We also worked on some chokes last night. I have no idea why but I really enjoy chokes. The one that sticks out the most started with a shomen strike. You turn uke as if doing a shihonage. Then reach across the front of his chest grabbing the gi collar with your opposite hand (with thumb inside the gi). You move around behind uke and grab the same shoulder with the other hand. Your arms end up in an X. The trick then is to use your hand position in a scissor like motion to increase the pressure. I did these fairly well. After we switched to a strike to the face.

During some of the night I was working with Joanna. She's fun to work with because every so often she'll start resisting a technique and I'll be forced to do something. Usually, I try to keep doing the technique in the best/softest way possible but there are times when it is so much easier to do something else that I just do something else. She knows this and expects this and I think half the time she resists, she's just curious what I'll do with it. At one point I couldn't do a particular technique so I ended up in a nikkyo, then got to another technique to get her on the ground, she quickly started to rise but since I still had my connection (her hand) I just went to a kotagaeshi with it and flipped her back over after that for a pin.

The reason that this is fun is because she may do this once in a class. She won't keep doing it constantly defeating the practice. Once or twice is fun. After that it would be somewhat annoying and at this level as I just want to practice my techqniques.

At the end of class Mr. Mulligan had us doing a kokyunage. It's king of like an iriminage like motion getting uke to move/fall because of the threat of a strike to the face. He asked us to kiai. The usually quiet dojo got louder then. At least for a few minutes.

I've been noticing lately that I'm not paying full attention to myself for basic techniques now and this is not a good thing. To bring an arm down for a yokomen attack, all my teachers would have me use one hand. For whatever reason I was using my second hand as well. This isn't something I learned from anyone. It's just something I started doing without thinking. It may not be a big thing but in my mind that should be second nature. At one point I believe it was. I am not too sure where or when I changed but I need to make sure my techniques are still there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

There's That Technique Again

Peter had an excellent class Sunday morning. We did a variety of techniques from a shomen attack. Peter continues encouraging us to attack from whatever side to whatever hanmi. Your foot position shouldn't be a problem when dealing with an attack.
In fact, for many techniques, I don't even need to pay much attention to this. During one class someone attacked the same side twice even though I had a different hanmi. After we finished he commented that he wanted to attack me on my other side and it was then that I realized that I didn't really care what side he attacked on. My foot position had changed but his attack hadn't. This is good at least.

One of the last techniques was similar to the twisty hip throw that was done Friday night in Alan's class. I think Peter liked it enough that he wanted to try that one out more. Although he is an instructor he will often mix in with this group taking ukemi and allowing us to feel the technique from him. After this one we did a quick shomen one where nage pretty much just moves in for the hip throw as uke strikes. It's very fast and really needs a good committed attack to help it out.

Great class. Felt warm and fuzzy for the rest of the day.

Learn By Watching Others

One of the things asked of you when you are first starting is to pay attention to your instructors and listen to them. What they don't explicitly say is that you can learn from just about anyone at any time. You have to keep an open mind.

Recently we were doing lots of hip throws. There was one partner who was taller than I and for whatever reason I felt like he was draping himself over my back. So, I dismissed it as something 'he was doing'. Later on I had cause to watch him with a different partner.

A light bulb went off. Although he was indeed not firming up his center, part of the problem I think could have been solved by my position. I have a suspicion that I was too far away from uke. You want a little bit of space at times so you can draw uke a little off-balance forward. However, if he's too far away and he breaks down over your hip, your belt will likely be higher than his no matter how low you get.

So. You really do have to keep an open mind as to why something isn't working as well. There may be more than one reason.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Am I Progressing? Can't Tell Lately.

Seems like I've had lots of challenging classes lately. Early in the week it was lots of new techniques which really pushed the ukemi envelope at times. Tonight it was a mixed bag.

I caught both classes at Shodokan tonight. Alan teaches the early class. We started with suwari waza ikkyo. Then.... we just did koshinage for the rest of the class. I had one of our newer folks. He's been around for a few months. He improved vastly. He still doesn't give a committed shomenuchi attack but his hip throw was excellent on one side. The other side was a little messed up but some of it was because he was practicing with a bad ankle. So he did what he could. I tried to throw him a bit but had to get him to hold on to my gi or hook my arm. So... I get him to grab my gi and he says to throw him. Just as I'm reaching to grab that arm to support him, the grab hand he had on me disappeared. He let go of me entirely. He said he landed on his hip but it looked hard to me. I don't think he slapped and since there was no connection to nage. Ah heck.

The second class was taught by Mr. Mulligan. He had us doing all kinds of exercises. He was emphasizing softness for some techniques. One was a two hand grab leading to a kokyunage. You brought one hand up (I chose to lead uke forward a bit here). You then step in and pivot, bring your hand forward and down. Go down to one knee backwards a bit so you complete the circle. Uke may feel this as being whipped out and then undercut.

We did some tenchinage and ura version of it. We also did a hip throw that started from the two hand grab.

I made some mistakes I was aware of..... some mistakes I was not aware of... and who knows what else.

I did get one break. There was one partner I had who is a big guy who regularly was dragging me over his back for hip throws the past few months. Finally at least for this class, he started throwing me on his hip instead. It was a welcome relief. I don't know who was working with him but I have someone to thank.

Thats all for now. Kinda tired after the two classes.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Rrriiiippppp... Yep... that's the sound of some energy being dispersed. In the form of uke's gi ripping open a good 15 inches or so. This happened when Mike was demo'ing on a throw. Now I think Mike was just interested in ripping more of uke's gi off with further throws. The dan he was demoing with looked a bit disappointed as the gi was all nice and broken in. It didn't even looked frayed or anything other than the new damage. Bummer.

We did a lot of very fast, very powerful throws. Aikido can have a lot of big or even medium flowy movements. Leading uke and so forth. We still had the lead but instead of a larger movement these throws were generating energy in a short period of time and dumping uke down very fast. In a lot of these, when I took ukemi I felt like I was standing.... and then.... I wasn't. There wasn't a lot of time. With some throws I go up.... float around a bit adjust myself mid air and come down. None of that with these throws.

I suspect a couple of these throws were based on judo. If I had to name them... it was something like taiotoshi, seionage, and some kind of sacrifice throw that struck me as being a tae waza as well.

Why is this taiotoshi different from other nights? In the past we've done this from a tsuki, where we step aside, grab the arm, lead uke forward taking a step across uke at a 45 degree and then throw. Uke has a bit of time for this. This version feel pretty natural for me. Last nights version we did from a grab. We did different versions for when they get the grab or whether you intercept the grab. But in both cases you lead the grab hand up, and then do the taiotoshi immediately. Generating the power with your body when you pop that foot out. I'd like to try that some more.

I spent a lot of time staring at uke trying to piece it together in my head. The problem with that is you end up throwing from static which makes the throw harder. If I come across these again I'll make some attempt to keep things moving.

The sacrifice throw was the same beginning. Uke goes for a collar grab, you intercept the hand and lead it up as you raise the same foot. As you lower that foor you then sit down on one heel sort of and fall back. The other (formerly raised)foot is kicking out.

Pretty wild class.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Twisty Hip Throw

We had a good amount of snow come in. However, since NSA is excellent at communicating with the students I knew that they would be having a class. They broadcast class closures via email and even have gone so far as to call once in a while if they felt it necessary.

So, I headed over to North Shore Aikikai last night. I had a very challenging class. Rob taught. For the most part the techniques began with a kaitenage like start. In fact... part of the class we did do some kaitenage. But... rather than pivoting your hips we were doing a tenkan.

There were two techniques that stand out in my memory.

One was some kind of kokyunage? It's similar to one I've done with Peter. Not sure why I was having issues with it. You start out with the bringing uke's arm around as if there was a kaitenage happening but you don't capture the neck/head with your hand. You slide in with a foot, draw uke toward you, go down to one knee and do the throw.

The other technique was a koshinage. I've actually done this once, many, many months ago in one of Rob's classes. The first time I did this, I only got the throw down pretty much at the end of class on my last throw. This time, I had more aspects of it right quicker but I still need work on it. You start off the same with the kaitenage like cut down of the hand, bring it around and up, at the top you grab the wrist, while this happens, uke is getting up because nothing is holding his head down. As he comes up the other hand goes for uke's other wrist so you can turn them a bit for better position. Now.... you step between uke's feet as you would normally for a hip throw, but know you just pivot all the way around. As you turn, uke gets wrapped around you and will go over your hip. If you do it correctly the throw requires no strength.

It seemed that most of last night I was getting different aspects of the various techniques correct. One time I'd get the feet right and the hands were wrong... or the hands were right but my posture wasn't as good as it should be....etc. Some the of the throws, whether right or wrong felt really good though.

For whatever reason, I woke up today with a lot of very worked muscles. I feel like I need to stretch in a big way. I've done so a couple times today but the feeling remains. The only problem I have is that for one throw someone was trying to be nice and support me for the breakfall. Unfortunately, they didn't allow enough of my body to sink down which was actually harder on me then just letting me go. I think my elbow ache is from being stretched out from that.

At one point in the class I was being thrown high on someone's back and frequently when this happens I have a habit to touch or lightly grab nage for a reference point. Somehow.... I have no idea how.... I grabbed his gi.... and inside that gi was .... a nipple. I knew instantly what I had done and let go as soon as possible so my turning over in a breakfall would not result in a torture of twisting.

Anyway... It was a great class.

Almost used my aikido outside the other day. I was walking into a building when I slipped on some ice. I ended up recovering my balance but after, I looked down and realized I had extended and unbendable arm and was ready to take ukemi without even thinking about it. Considering how fast slipping occurs that was pretty good.