Thursday, March 31, 2011

Looking For The Float

Went to NSA last night for a class. Rob taught. We focused a bit on a couple of reponses to a yokomen strike. As usual there was a lot of focus on getting kazushi.

I had a problem with my atemi. Apparently, I was not delivering my atemi with enough real intent. I thought I was past this but I guess not. I still don't want to hit people. I have to trust my partners to move. It's not like we are moving real fast and it would hurt or anything. Maybe I'm just subconciously being overly cautious because I poked Rob in the eye a month or so ago.

One of the techniques had me fighting muscle memory. Rob had us doing a version of udekimenage that was interesting. Rather than taking the step he had us square off our stance and push the hand as we moved uke forward.

At the end of class we did a few minutes of freestyle. For whatever reason I wasn't being overally careful about allowing people to get behind me. I just wasn't even trying to treat it as a freestyle. Not sure how I got into that mindset. I was at one point purposely throwing multiple uke's at Matt. Just as an exercise. There may be a time where you just don't want to deal with one particular person. I didn't get stuck with one technique which is fine but it was less flowy than I usually manage.

Jim helped me add up hours. Just at NSA alone I had about 85 hours built up. I have twice that many at Shodokan. So, although I have plenty of hours for the second kyu test(you need 200), it's not quite as bad as I thought. I could have tested about 5 months ago. I thought it was worse. Still not sure what to do about testing. I took my last test 2 years back before Shodokan moved to Beverly and the paperwork still hasn't been submitted. I have doubts that it ever will. However, if I don't test than the clock won't start ticking for 1st kyu. Bummer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Class At NSA

Went to North Shore Aikikai last night. Matt taught. Good class. We focused practice around doing a proper tenkan. So the techniques we worked on had a tenkan in them. Had a lot of fun. Towards the end of class Matt had us doing those techniques for a freestyle practice. We also practiced controlling an uke with a sankyo.

What I found was that the first techniques and the last were my best ones. Somewhere in the middle I was not doing a full tenkan. This kind of thing happens with freestyle. Even at the easy pace we kept, it was harder to focus on proper technique in that environment. So that means I need more practice.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fun Morning

Really wished I got to see the tests Friday night. It would have been nice. In any case, I got to class this morning. Peter had us working on wrong sided attacks. Since you never really know how you will be attacked he wanted us to practice dealing with attacks from the 'wrong' side when you are in a particular hanmi. It focused for the most part on possibilities you may want to do during randori. Later on you could attack on any side you liked.

I usually do fine on wrong sided attacks. I just deal with it. I do have to say though that at one point I lost focus and just reacted to an incoming attack. Rather than doing the prescribed response, I just started going into nikkyo, changed it to sankyo and then did a throw all the while muttering out loud about how this is not what we are doing. Peter was smiling at me. What I did was fine for a response but it wasn't what I should have done. I stayed more focused and got it right the rest of the time. This kind of random response from me is only ok because I know my uke is very experienced and can follow it fine.

We were doing kotagaeshi at one point. I extended the arm of my uke out before doing the throw because I wanted to throw him in a particular direction. My uke just stood there and when I threw he was letting me know that his wrist was too tight. I told him I was sorry if I hurt him but I expected him to actually move and not just stay there. Sometimes for some of these throws you have to take a step or slide a bit to get into a better position to take the ukemi. Standing there like an ox is not always the best bet. So after that I loosened up on him a bit. Maybe when I get a chance I can talk to him about how to take the ukemi better(if he's interested).

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Missed Class Tonight

I was so exhausted from the night before that I felt like crap. I decided it was best for me to stay home tonight and rest. I feel much better now. Bummer missing class but I think it was necessary.

Mixed Class Sunday

One of our newer students came to Sunday morning. So, Peter broke us up and had us rotating in and out with him. For the most part he worked on ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, and shihonage. He had us working on kaeshiwaza. We did a bunch of reversals off of shomenuchi ikkyo.

The newer guy I believe is in his 60's with a background in karate. During my turns with him I tried to get him to loosen up and tried to get him to work on his ukemi. In my mind he needs that more than the technique. He's really stiff and was resisting some. I talked to him about it and suggested that he may not want to resist yet because that means that someone has to overcome it or do something else to him. I told him the resistance is good practice for later after you've had a good chunk of time on the mat and your ukemi is better. My goal was to get him to take care of himself so he doesn't get hurt. He was much improved by the end of class. A little looser and less resistant. If he keeps it up he'll be less likely to injure himself.

Yonkyo Night

Friday night was yonkyo night..... All night. Mr. Mulligan had us doing yonkyo techiques all night. This was one of the first classes where I was pretty much getting it every time. Big improvement on my yonkyo.

Unfortunately, I went through an uke or two on these. Everyone has different levels of tolerance for this. I had Buddy as my first uke. We were both doing a good job at getting the yonkyo. After 30 minutes or so he says to sensei. "How about a break?" "Can we do something else?" Sensei responded with... "Oh... we're just getting started." You change partners. So I was assigned a different partner. The thing with yonkyo is that you get sensitized to it. If you get a few good ones then you feel everything. I was getting good ones on her. After a while she moved on and changed partners. Then I got Tony. We worked together. I got him to start finding the yonkyo spot. By the end of class he was getting good ones on me.

This is 3 days later and although the bruising was worse yesterday, I still have a bruise on my left wrist from that class. Almost nothing on my right side.

That was a great class. Really got to work on something that needed it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

If You Go Into a Pool, You're Going To Get Wet

Forgive the writing mess. Mostly it's a mind dump with no particular order.

I'm so jazzed today! I hadn't managed to get to an early Monday night class in a while. Last night I was free so I got to go to two classes. I went to the Shodokan early class. Mr. Mulligan taught. We were doing exercises that required us to make nice round aikido circles. Some were easy. Some less so. I worked with a few people.

My hip throws needed work. I was doing ukigosh instead of ogosh for the technique. It was nice and smooth and fit well but wasn't what Mr. Mulligan showed us. I was half aware that I was doing something different but couldn't put my finger on it. After Mr. Mulligan was kind enough to give me a correction I did ogosh for the last few throws.

Chris really has improved quite a bit(he's 3rd kyu, I think). He was doing some very nice koshinage. I think he was floating me too far off to the side instead of forward but he still made it work. One side was perfect. The other side he never got me lined up right and although the throw was done, I was high on his back for that side on a consistent basis.

I got the concept of floating reinforced mostly by Rob at North Shore Aikikai. He's very focused in keeping uke off balance. Actually, I haven't seen him since I poked his eye a few weeks ago. We were practicing and I was reminded to do an atemi, as I started I brought my hand up and accidently tocuhed his eye. I knew what I did immediately and stopped the technique. The thing is.... when I started doing aikido, I couldn't give an effective attack. I had no intent. I'm quite passive by nature(even now). It took a lot of training for me to be able to actually understand enough to trust my partner and attack properly. Along the same lines, I was one of those people who was constantly apologizing. Do a technique wrong... apologize, step on someone... apologize, make light contact with an atemi to the face... apologize, etc. Again, after much training I beat the habit out of me. My partners understand that accidents happen on the mat. It's not intentional. We occasionally get a face hit or get stepped on. Short of causing some bleeding I don't react to these things the same way any more. I'm certainly concerned for my partners safety and may ask if they are ok but I rarely apologize nowadays. My mindset has changed. This is what happened when I poked Rob. I think he was a little surprised I didn't apologize. Although I expressed and felt much concern it didn't occur to me at the time to do anything else. Well... I know you read this blog Rob. Sorry about hitting your eye.

So, anyway, I had a lot of fun in Mulligan's class. At one point I had to work with Gary again. It's not that I dislike the guy. He's just odd. We are doing something like iriminage and he feels the need to drive me into the ground at the end. In fact, he accelerates the throw at the end. It's a little rough but I wouldn't call it abusive. Unnecessary perhaps, but not abusive. A lot of his techniques are unecessarily rough. So later on we are doing taiotoshi. I have a bad(good?) habit of planting uke for this technique. I tend to drive my ukes down rather than throw them out. I've been working on being more mindful so I think about it more, however, last night I was not thinking about it I guess. So I plant Gary nad he actually complains about it. So..... it's ok for him to plant people with techniques on purpose but not ok when people plant him(even by accident)? Gary... make up your mind what kind of aikido you want to practice.

He has a shodan test coming up at the end of the month. He was looking for practice partners after class and most people evaporated. Truth be told, lots of people in the class don't like taking ukemi for him. I wish I could watch the test but test night is my birthday. I plan to be out with my wife somewhere. If it weren't birthday night, I don't think I'd be too keen taking ukemi for him during the test anyway. I'm guessing his natural tendency to be rough will get exacerbated by the stress of the test. Nothing I want to subject myself to.

Now in contrast. Last night I also took a class at North Shore Aikikai. Jim taught. Had a great class. At one point we were doing katemenuchi shinonage. We change partners a lot and eventually I got paired up with a younger student. He's also a beginner. The first time he did shihonage he did what I call 'evil' shihonage. There's nice shihonage where you return the hand back to the shoulder. And... there is evil shihonage where you have the hand out from the body in more of a dislocating/breaking position. I don't mind practicing either. However, usually beginners are taught to return the hand to the shoulder at first. It's safer when they go after each other. I was caught a little by surprise that he had me really extended and I had to breakfall to release the pressure. After that I took a few throws the same way. Uke can either breakfall, or if they know it's coming can sort of backwards tenkan to get your hand back to your shoulder yourself. After a few of those I showed him the difference between evil and nice shihonage and suggested that he learn how to do nice shihonage first. I will say this, considering how few classes he's been to so far, he was doing excellent.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Recent Practices and A Long Ago Test

A week ago Sunday was Peter's class. He had us doing kotagaeshi from every attack. This was a fun class. It seems as though we have been devoting Sundays to lots of 1st kyu practice in general. No one that comes Sunday morning is ready for 1st kyu, shodan or nidan test. Still. It's excellent practice.

Friday night at Shodokan. We started with some easy iriminage. I had a beginner as a partner. He's a much older, stiffer, individual. I tried to make sure I never pushed him beyond his limit. Later on I saw someone else had him as a partner and he had to leave the mat. I never found out why. I'm thinking that person overestimated his ukemi.

We did aiki-otoshi after that. I don't usually like this technique but I had one of the more flexible students as a partner. Actually, she sort of grabbed me for a partner. We settled into a nice rhythm of practice. Both of us taking ukemi. I'm in the habit for that technique to either use my hand to slide down uke's back, or to put it back for an easy ukemi. What she was doing in addition though was interesting. She had a grip on my gi and put her hand back for the ukemi. The result was an ukemi with very little impact. Very cool. I tried it.

At some point I had Joanna as a partner. We were doing a technique to unbalance uke and pull them by the inside of the elbow forward so that they are past your center. Your other arm/hand is in their face so when they get drawn towards you they bend back to avoid getting a hand in the face. Then you can treat it as iriminage. So we do a bunch of rounds and sure enough she starts resisting. She's fun that way. Once in a while she will do something unexpected. I still tried to do the technique but her force was applied in direct opposition. Since in a real situation I wouldn't keep fighting with her I just did something else. The attack for uke was katemenuchi so I just took the grab hand and did a nikkyo. At one point she did the strike suddenly and I reacted. That was pretty good.

Sunday morning Peter had us doing knife disarms. Great class.

This practice had me thinking. Here is a general question regarding shihonage technique. I have been told in the past that for a yokomen strike you want to use only one hand to bring the strike down. During knife disarms, I have been told to use two hands on the striking arm. I have also been told on other occassions that the reason you practice a particular technique a certain way is that you want to have the response be automatic(muscle memory). So.... if you want to practice such that you always respond the same way to a yokomen attack (knife or no knife) why would you only use one hand. That means that when you are attacked with a knife in that manner that you'll have to think about your response or worse you may do the wrong thing and end up getting cut up.


I'm overdue for a 2nd kyu test. Although there shouldn't be issues surrounding this.... there are. I have to decide where to take it. I actually took my 3rd kyu test a full two years ago and have yet to have my paperwork sent in. I'm not hung up on rank(if I were I'd be testing more often) but this is beyond ridiculous. I've reminded sensei about this on three(perhaps four) occassions over the years. At one point I even volunteered to send everyone's paperwork in.

I have a concern that my 'time in grade' will get messed up by all this and some day when I am ready to test I will have a problem. I've read about such cases. I'd rather test at Shodokan, however, I'm concerned that the next set of paperwork(2nd kyu) will not be sent in either. I'm worried that if the paperwork isn't sent in and Sensei retires that it will NEVER get done. The last person at Shodokan to test elsewhere was thrown out of the dojo. She was a serious, and very talented student. Losing her, diminished the dojo. Her testing elsewhere touched on a sensitive spot so she was thrown out. Is this still a sensitive issue? I have no idea.

Still, what are my choices? Never test again? Test and not have the paperwork ever sent in or test elsewhere? Terrific. They say in aikido that you should be aware and not get into bad situations. How was I thrust into this position? How could I have avoided this?

To those of you who think that even mentioning this in a 'public' forum is disrespectful (although in reality only about 8-10 people will read this and they already know what's going on). Perhaps it is, and I apologize to any that might be offended but the message being sent and received is that responsibilities to the students don't matter. After two full years, what else am I supposed to think? Some people have left the dojo in the past over this very issue. It seems silly to me that this should even be happening.