Saturday, February 27, 2010

Take a Ride on the Koshi-Machine...

Do NOT pass go! Do not collect $200.

Friday night I went to two classes at Shodokan. The first class was very aerobic. We started slow with some back stretches and then moved on.

Bob had us doing iriminage. My partner for a good lot of it was an experienced person but at times doesn't necessarily follow what is being taught. Some times this is a good thing for exploration. Other times I just want to do what is taught. This night I was happy to experiment a little bit. One thing I noticed right away was noodling around with how to take uke around. Uke attacks with moretetori. The technique called for nage to tenkan and bring uke around, and then does the iriminage. After bringing uke around you can do two things. You can bring uke around where your hand goes low, or you can bring uke around with your hand about mid level. The effect is totally different. In the low version, uke still has a grip on your arm and the way I was doing it I had trouble with uke now having two hands on me leaning over my arm with his weight in a powerful way. I'm wondering if there is a way to do this where uke won't have that moment of control over me. For a while I practiced it by bringing my hand mid level as if you were doing the same attack as a nikkyo. You break ukes grip somewhat and you end up on top of uke's arm still. This seem to work better for me.

So what version are you doing? Are you coming around low, or coming around higher and going 'above' the grip to break it some. If you are going low... have you ever noticed a point at which uke has a moment of control? How do you get around the problem?

Is it one of those things where you want uke to feel as though he HAS to hold on? Still.... I feel as though I have a hole there when I go low.

Bob had us do udeminage in a line. Some people had some nice improvement when the tried it again. The last time through the line we were throwing, turning around, and throwing again right away to keep a nice pace going.

The second class Mr. Mulligan started us off with some 'easy' kokyunage. These are always interesting. Some are ridiculously hard to do correctly. Some are easier. We did this for a while and then Mr. Mulligan called for a koshinage. Normally this isn't a problem from me but the particular partner I had at the moment was Tony. He's the guy I also see a lot of on Sundays. Years and years of judo have made his hip throws effortless for him. His timing is just amazing. So he tossed me around. When he does a hip-throw and he knows you can take it, he will go for it. I was being whipped to the mat repeatedly. The nice thing is I can abuse him and he has no problem with it. By the end of the koshinage session I was pretty spent at that point. Then a change to technique was called for. Some form of tai otoshi. Normally I like otoshi but this was a tougher one to get right. Then.... another change and we do somthing I remember he called aiki-otoshi. Basically you pin uke's hip to you with one hand and use the other hand to scoop the closest leg. Turn and toss. How I used to do ukemi for this was to slide down uke's back. I spent some time during this session working on a different ukemi. More of an ushiro otoshi ukemi feel (Donovan Waite style). The few tries I had at it felt really comfortable. It's a really active ukemi but it felt better. 'Scraping' down someones back slows things enough to be fine but does not guarantee that you will not land on the flat of your back. This is where the other ukemi seems better. My biggest concern is that I don't blow out my shoulder by doing this wrong.

We skipped tachitori. Sort of ran out of time. I actually remembered more details I think and I certainly remembered the 5 techniques we've covered most recently.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Curious George Strikes!

Headed off to Shodokan. The focus for this class was to increase our aerobic benefit. We set up into groups. One person in the middle taking ukemi from the people surrounding him. The intent is to finish your ukemi and immediately attack the next person. You keep a pace that you could practice a full class for. Rob and Shira at the other dojo used to do this with me quite a bit. Now that the concept was introduced to all of the students at Shodokan, I'm going to see if I can get some people to practice in this manner. I could sure use the workout. This was absolutely fun practice. The other thing we worked on was moving from technique to technique. Get uke in an ikkyo, change it to a nikkyo, to a sankyo, to an iriminage....etc. Really helps the fluidity of things.

After that ended I headed off to North Shore Aikikai. Mike was teaching. This was an interesting class because just recently Shodokan had some randori practice that was good but I was fairly shaky at. Mike decided after showing us a few techniques to do a session or 3 of randori practice. The three techniques he gave us to use were an ura version of sumi-otoshi(something we do a lot of), an ura version of tai otoshi, and something I guess I would call an uchi kaitenage with a magic hand rotation. The first two I was familiar with. The uchi version of kaitenage I haven't practiced much. In order to get your hand in the right spot without letting go you really need to be sticky and rotate the hand around. For those that aren't familiar between uchi and ura versions.... with ura you take a normal kaitenage, step behind uke some and rotate them around as you tenkan before throwing. With uchi.... you go under uke's arm, bring it down and then up to a normal kaitenage.

Anyway.... The attack was tsuki and Mike first had us do 2 ukes. After a turn he quickly moved it to 3 ukes. For my first turn, I was doing a fair job of rolling my uke into the next attacker. In fact, Mike thought I did good but could have done better if my uke's would press me more. There were some points where I would look up to judge intent and I was seeing them both be a bit standoffish while I was throwing. My plan of course was to throw my uke into the closest attacker. Since there wasn't an obvious uke with intent there was a momentary stop of motion as I kept an eye on both of them and neither moved. After a brief moment, I just picked one and threw and moved to deal with the other. I've had this problem before on other days.

So ok... turn two for me comes up with 3 ukes. They start to press me more. I did fairly well at moving off and making sure I dump one uke into another. My aikido however was starting to fall apart a bit. I was failing to tenkan much for the suggested techniques and the magic hand change which I could do during practice for the kaitenage was eluding me half the time.

I was pretty happy overall with my experience though. There were some good moments where I dumped ukes right into oncoming attackers forcing them to actually backpedal. I really felt like I was controlling them to some extent. My uke's were pressuring me just enough to make this very challenging but not so much that I couldn't get a learning experience out of it.

For right or wrong, I don't really plan much what I'm going to do with uke. Sometimes I'll have something in mind but just as often I just do one of the techniques showed to us and if uke isn't in the right space I adjust for it if I can. For example... I'd do the uchi kaitenage, find out that I'm pointing the wrong way, so I just simply step behind uke and do the ura version to toss him where I need him. I'm curious if this is the way it's always going to be for me or whether I will have stuff muscle memorized to the point where I know which way uke will be sent before I 'pick' a technique. Right now, I'm kind of organic as I'm adjusting as I go along.

Mike talked a lot about planning where to move, about gaining space. I could really see it when it was Diana's turn. On one of the occassions, the attacks where in a bit of a tight circle, and then she settled in and got us seperated(I was uke too) and was able to expand the circle, use more of the mat and slow down the pace of her randori. It was very cool to watch.

The only other thing of note during a randori session was when nage did what looked to me to be some kind of kokyunage and way undercut uke. Uke was flying. Unfortunately, in the process of doing this he turned his back to me and went to one knee as I was headed his way. So I ended the randori..... by jumping on his back like a rabid monkey. Actually, what I thought of at the time was that I could get a good choke in from that position. I chose not act on that though as I didn't really want to

A. Choke someone just trying to practice a freestyle and....
B. Didn't want to deal with the possible response which might just get me hurt.

So I settled for just knocking us both over to the ground.

After these two classes, I was actually physically tired even the next day.
What a great night.

Friday Night / Sunday Morning

Friday night was a bit of a test. We did the sword disarms we did the previous week. He asked us to do them without showing us anything. I actually remembered all three disarms but not necessarily some of the subtle points. Mr. Mulligan suggested we take some time to practice these midweek to try and help us remember them. Then... he added two more. What did he add? The first one was actually the same as the first one but from uke's right side. The problem with it is, instead of being able to just stick your hand on the hilt and go from there you have to sort of snake it in between uke's arms. The second one was to move in to uke's left, reach under and grab uke's right arm as high as you can, grab the sword with the left and then throw. Reminds me a bit of seoi nage.

We had someone show up who typically doesn't show for Sundays. We did a normal good class of course. The one bit that was eventful at least in my mind was that Peter called for a koshinage. My partner's ukemi has always been so so. I've asked him in the past if he wants help with it as I think I can relate to exactly whats going on. He's refused for some reason.

I did some lifts with him. Peter immediately came over to help with his ukemi a bit. I'm pretty careful nowadays. I've had too many people not hook, or otherwise grab me to protect themselves. So I spent some turns doing lifts. I tried to get him to firm his center up a bit so he doesn't drape over me. At the end he said ok... throw me. So I moved in, things felt great, so I threw him. He did a terrific fall. I asked him after how he felt and he said it was 'like nothing'.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mr. Mulligan Makes Local News

There was a post of this up on but the link aged. Here is a working link to the story.

I had no idea the local papers visited. Must have happened on a Wednesday most likely. There have been a few articles written about Mr. Mulligan or the dojo over the years. This one was quite extensive.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nice Class Sunday Morning

Nothing in particular stuck out this class except for one thing. I was distracted a bit. Usually I can go with the flow for the ukemi. There was one that I had no idea where we were headed for. By the time I decided to pay attention it was kind of late. So I have some idea what an aikido technique moving at a reasonable pace will do to an unsuspecting person. I myself took a last minute ukemi to avoid any damage. It wasn't pretty but it worked fine.
So Peter had us doing a bunch of techniques from shomenuchi. Fun class.

After class Peter asked me about the kotemawashi from Friday night. Apparently lots of people thought it was cool enough to talk about. I showed him what I could remember from it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Whoa.... I Remembered Something

Awesome night for this kind of stuff. For whatever reason my left knee is a bit sore. Feels great after I warm up a bit and mostly during practice. I definitely think it's getting better. I'm guessing that within a week it should be back to normal.

Tahitori night for sure. I went to two classes at Shodokan last night. Bob taught for the first class. We started just by practicing our irimi. We did a few knife disarms and then some sword disarms for the class. The tougher sword disarm was one that involved using a sankyo. The other ones I had done before and was ok with them. Oddly enough the tanto disarm using sankyo is easy. Fr the sword however, I always felt as though I had to work to get my hand in the correct position for the sankyo.

Second class was taught by Mr. Mulligan and a real fun one. He also did some sword disarms. We did three in his class. One was to enter on uke's left, tenkan and match uke's stance. Raise your arm as you come in to match his sword going up. As he comes down, put your hand down on the hilt/handle between uke's hands, rotate out a bit, get your elbow under uke's elbow, raise the sword in kind of an unbendable arm feel, and move forward to throw.

The second one was to enter on the same side but instead of doing a tenkan, you are more or less facing uke, grab the hilt with the left hand, simultaneously, raise the hilt up as you use your right hand on their face to push it up and back(move forward).

The third one was to enter weakly on uke's right. So you turn your back to him as you come in. Turn all the way around, put your right hand on the hilt, raise it up as you do a kokyunage thing with your elbow under his chin.

These are more or less the 3 we did in the second class. We also did a couple of other techniques so it wasn't all sword work. One was something I'd never even seen before. It was very cool. Sensei referred to it as kote mawashi. I have yet to find a youtube of it. It was nikkyo with a different twist(insert laugh track here).
You get a nikkyo so uke's arm is upside down. The hand is down. The pressure for the nikkyo is up. However, what you do with it is lead uke forward to continue his forward momentum. So he is led forward and then you pivot in place and throw by pushing uke out with this control. Very neat. This took some practice. One side I had a good lead, the other needs work.

The other technique I remember us doing is some kind of kokyunage. I've done it before but it's been a while. You end up whipping uke out while going down on one knee. After some tweaks I managed to get this going pretty well.

One thing about these classes is that for the most part I was constantly improving as I went on. Whether from suggestions from the sensei or from my own noticing things (myself or my partner) I was generally making good adjustments.

Towards the end of class, Mr. Mulligan had us do the three sword disarms. For some off reason I remembered them fine for the most part. Again I made an adjustment or two as I went but I had no problem remembering the basic technique. A far cry from other nights.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

More Practice Needed

If last night was any indication, I need gobs more practice for my freestyle. I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here though.

I started off at Shodokan. Bob had us start off with some tenkan practice and some back stretches. The rest of the night was one exercise building on another. At one point we were doing a tsuki attack and responding with either a tenkan/j-step/sumi-otoshi, or just the 5th kyu version of kotagaeshi. We had to really watch our spacing as there were quite a few students on the mat last night. These two exercises were fine. Then at another point we had been doing a tsuki iriminage(longer version with the tenkan).
Then we did a similar start ending with a sankyo.

Basically we did a whole bunch of stuff and some of it flowed from one to the other. All of these exercises/techniques felt really good. Most times I think I had some sense of what I was doing and things were working.

Bob then had us split into groups(of 4) and take turns attacking one person in the middle. I did so so on these. For some reason I kept going to a nikkyo. We really were supposed to be doing something that we practiced that night. Nikkyo was not included. Neither was koshinage which is what followed after I got the nikkyo on my uke. I wasn't sure what to do with him. I realized I did the 'wrong' technique but wanted to finish doing something so I looked at him and saw hip throw. I slid in and did a beautiful ogosh. I know the throw must have felt relatively gentle to my partner (as it was really smooth) but I am still not happy about doing the 'wrong' technique. This theme continues.....

Class was almost ending so Bob had us taking turns for freestyle practice. We each had to attempt to handle 4 ukes. Discussing just my own performance here...... Bleeechh. The only thing good that I felt I did is that I had a really good sense for where all my uke's were. I didn't always have great position(surrounded). Frequently I felt like I was stuck not doing aikido. At least twice I ended up with a nikkyo but instead of just following it up with something I became conscious of the fact that I was not doing one of the techniques we practiced that night.

I really feel like my freestyle went severely downhill. I did better on my last test in the spring (although that was only 2 people). At least there I purposely got off the standard set of techniques. I don't know if it's from lack of practice or I was just overwhelmed by too many ukes. The thing is.... if I merely screwed up my position I wouldn't be that unhappy. That has to be learned and I haven't done much of this kind of practice. What I am unhappy about is that I expected more aikido to come out.

I'm trying to keep a positive mind on this but it's difficult. It was a disheartening end of a fun class. I still wonder if I would do the same or better if I wasn't trying to limit my responses to what we did that evening. We frequently limit an attack or response so people can practice more safely. People know what ukemi to take and so forth. The thing is... I think I have it in me to do better at this stage but I may be wrong. I feel as though I should be able to purposefully do one of 4 or so techniques.

It makes me want to practice that more. I don't see this as an ending or anything. It's just where I am right now.

Despite my dismal finish I headed out for North Shore Aikikai.
We practiced tenkans. Afterwards we worked on doing a tenkan with a j-step concentrating on our foot positions, balance, and hand positions.

When that was done we tried to use this and apply it to a moretetori ikkyo and then maybe nikkyo. Matt also focused on teaching pins. I got to focus on something that's been bugging me for a while. I found that I needed to transition before I get down to a knee. The class was doing real well pinning. Even the least experienced person there was pinning me really well. Everything was really tight and he had control of me about 85% of the time. He did amazingly well for where he is at right now.

Later we moved to a jujinage from ushiro. This was actually a good thing to work on since it's on my next test. I did fair on it. There are some aspects that I need to work on still.

At the end of class he showed us a really fun throw. There was a bit of body movement and somehow as uke I felt like I was whipped/cast out.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Got a Few Minutes

Don't discount the entertainment value of an aikido demo done at local colleges. Some of them are just great. Kudos for the ukemi on the hardwood stage.

Ikkyo and Counters

Friday night I went to Alan's class. Alan had us doing suwariwaza ikkyo for quite a while. It was good practice to be on our knees. I had a taller partner for that so as a result I had to move a little further for the pin. I had to take whole steps to get there.

After a while he stood us up for more ikkyo. We did something else as well but it's been a few whole days so I can't quite recall what that was.

A day or so ago I look at my wife and say..... I feel like someone has been punching my tricep. She said, "Aikido". I said... nah... we don't really punch there or anything... then I realized the ikkyo class. The partner I had was a strong guy with a strong pin. A few times he varied it a bit(experimenting I think) and was on the muscle. Didn't even notice it until much later. It showed up as a dull ache. My wife says I'm so used to being beat up I don't remember when any of it happens.

I couldn't attend the second class. I had to be home. Bummer. From what I understand I missed a cool class from Mulligan focused on blending and really subtle stuff. At least this is what I was told by a fellow student. I couldn't resist asking what I missed.

We started off with a few exercises to do some back stretches.

Warmed up with a line of kaitenage and so forth.

After.... we did a ryotetori start. We did a kotageashi here. But... instead of the usual reverse kotagaeshi you might think to do here, Peter had us doing a different one. There was a hand change. So you had to bring the hand up as you'd expect, pluck the hand off with your other hand, take the original grabbed hand and grab the wrist and get a kotagaeshi grip then use your other hand, tenkan as normal. Ok.... sound good? Now try it the way Peter was showing it. DON'T just pluck the hand off to do the hand change. You have to do the hand change while staying sticky the whole time. Never lose contact and rotate the hand around to get your hand in the correct position.

Then we did a ryotetori shihonage. No surprise there. Did omote and ura.

Toward the end of class we practiced some reversals. One was a shomen attack, uke responds with an ikkyo and nage counters with a kotagaeshi. I had the darndest time with this one until I realized I was just moving with my feet in the wrong direction. Once I figured that out (after some help from Peter and my partner) I was able to do the technique correctly.

At one point Peter asked us to strike with more intent and try to do the ikkyo with more intent. Don't let the reversal just happen because we are trying to be 'nice' to our partners. This is a group of experienced folks so he was expecting us to ramp up a bit. It had repurcussions though. I actually managed a proper ikkyo on my partner. Nage wasn't able to reverse mine easily. I was thinking that some of the reason might be because I don't grab the arm right away. By the time I actually do grab your arm I have you off balance already.

Then Peter called for us to line up at end of class and I was shocked that it was over.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Polishing Things Up a Bit

Often times I like to spend time in class just working on techniques I already supposedly know. This Monday class was one of those. Bob had us doing a simple exercise to start out. Uke grabs the wrist. Nage does a tenkan. My partner for some of this was funny. He kept telling me that he felt as though he could strike me before I got him off balance. I said... dude, this isn't a technique, it's only an exercise. Maybe I should've just started moving the second he grabbed on but I was concentrating on other things.

After doing this for a little while Bob added an extra element. Sort of an uchi kaiten? One was with a tenkan, j-step. The other was same attack, tenkan, step back. Bob had us focus on keeping uke's hand in a position where we are pulling him around against all four fingers. If you have your arm rotated the wrong way you can strip uke's grip unintentionally. Although I never had that problem I am not sure what I was doing before he mentioned this to the whole class. I think I was doing ok there. I certainly was after he mentioned it and I was mindful of it. Another thing I worked on was leading a little better. Bob made it clear when he worked in with us that I needed to focus on leading uke out a little bit before pulling him around. Leading him out will put him off balance. Although I have clear memory or being taught this I wasn't doing it that night. Odd thing is, that if we were doing tsuki kotagaeshi, I would have definitely remembered this. For some reason, I don't lead that way for every technique. We also finished with uke being a bit off balance as the grabbed hand is now off to the side.

From what I recall we did kaitenage in lines after this using the same opening. I was working on controling uke well. I think I was doing really well judging by my uke's responses however, I would like to be controlling the head a little earlier I think. Yet something else for me to noodle around with.

Later in the class we moved to sumi otoshi. One of the guys in my line was driving me nuts. He would tenkan around and pull me around but.... rather than keeping my arm at the same level or lower, he would raise my arm high. I think that he was trying to make the throw more effective by starting high and 'throwing' down. Of course, this isn't particularly effective and makes the ukemi a little funny. I kept my mouth shut the whole time and just took ukemi. He'll figure it out someday.

One thing I didn't keep my mouth shut on though was when the same guy took ukemi and was planting his opposite hand on the mat. Moves like that can break your wrist(especially when you are newer) so I took him aside and had a quick 10 second conversation with him to try to explain what he was doing wrong and why it was a bad idea. I told him I didn't want to be the one that broke his wrist because he wasn't rolling correctly. He did better after that.

Then we got to work on iriminage some. This is always a good thing to practice. I think I had my partner off balance most of the time. Usually this technique is a good workout but my partner wasn't really pushing me hard. He really didn't have my balance most of the time.

Koshinage Full Speed

I'm a bit behind again on posting blogs. I had an awesome class on Sunday. Peter had us really going at it. He focused a bit on the weaker open entry. Instead of entering behind uke, this entry is in front of uke with your back to him at one point. We did all kinds of techniques from this.

Toward the end of class we had moved on to a simple yokomen attack. The technique that stuck out in my mind was the koshinage. Why is that you ask? Well, Tony was present in class. Tony was a judo guy long ago. He used to win competitions and such. He does hip throws like most people breathe.

I gave him a good committed attack and got a judo compeition style hip throw from him. He was really planting me. There were a couple in there that were really smooth. He got right under me and wham. I think Peter was enjoying the show. I really got to get a video camara in some day so I can see what it looks like. I'm also curious to see if I can spot problems with my technique.

The taiotoshi was in that class too. Now I got to noodle around with it a bit. At one point I was learning it where uke keeps moving. In that case you take a step as you throw. But.... on this day I was getting uke static. After the strike, uke was planted and not moving at all. So in this case I experimented with popping my foot out and doing the taiotoshi right there. I took it easy for the most part but I knew Tony's ukemi was up for it so on one occassion I did one closer to full speed and got a nice result.

I did have a scary moment during that taiotoshi exercise. My partner at the time didn't have my arm in a standard position and had an arm bar of sorts for the tai otoshi. I felt a good amount of pressure on my elbow. In reaction, I somehow managed to slide my arm in a little more to get a piece of his gi and breakfalled over to release the pressure. I don't expect an armbar as part of taiotoshi. It was an accident on nage's part. Still... it got me moving for sure.