Friday, December 20, 2013

Nihon Goshin Aikido

Work had me travel to New York the past few days. I brought a gi with me so I could visit a local dojo. I found myself at Aikido of Queens.

They follow a pre-war style of aikido called Nihon Goshin Aikido. Very direct.

Between work and my unfamiliarity with the area, I got to the dojo just as class was starting. I met the chief instructor at the front desk and asked if I could join the class. After giving him some background information and filling out the usual form, I was able to join in. It's important to know what experience someone has for safety. He asked me how long I'd been practicing and realized that I had a decent amount of experience so I wouldn't need a huge chunk of the instructors time.

I quickly changed and joined the class. I did a few quick stretches in the changing room as I missed their warm up. In our warm ups we stretch for quite a while followed by some ukemi practice. Their warm ups had some aerobic and strength exercises followed by a little bit of stretching.

The techniques covered in that class were very close to the techniques we do. They practice with lots of energy. Attacks are done at a good clip and with intent. There is less telegraphing of strikes than what I see at times. The practice is.... Attack, get up, throw, attack... One after another. No talking on the mat and everything at a brisk pace. Similar to a New England Aikikai class.

When I first got on the mat they had me work with the most experienced student on the mat. This is very common when I go to a new dojo for the first time. They don't know me so they give me someone that can handle me in case I'm nuts. Also, someone who can really help if I'm lost. They do colored belts in this system so I was working with a brown belt(a 1st kyu). Once they figured out that I can practice with control they allowed me to start cycling through partners. I was even trusted enough to work with one of their white belts. I made sure I treated each of my partners according to his ability. At one point I was putting one of their mid level belts into a pin that they do(one I know about but isn't practiced much). He was putting a lot of tenseness into his arm. I didn't say anything but I did take his arm at the elbow and wiggled it around a bit until he relaxed and then I pinned it. If I pinned his arm when he was putting muscle into his arm he could've strained something.

Maybe I can describe a couple of the techniques we did. Stand in a normal stance. No hanmi. Attack is moretetori. For the left arm grabbed, you'd take a step back to open your stance by bringing the left foot back. Let ukes energy take him past you. Bring the arm down then forward and then back for a kokyunage. We also did iriminage and other techniques from this opening. For their iriminage they like to pin ukes outstretched hand to nages leg as they bring uke around.

Their vertical pin was a bit different than ours. We usually take the edge of the hand and place it in the inside joint at the elbow. You can sandwich it there and get a good pin from it. They were doing the pin differently and I'm pretty sure I wasn't getting it 100% right. I tried doing it their way though. The just had the arm outstretched tall and pinned it to their body so they could apply pressure.

The horizontal nikkyo pin was pretty much the same. However after a couple pins I started pinning the brown belt, with one of Matt's style of pins where you start applying the nikkyo early and slide uke's arms down the angled leg tightening everything as you go. My partner loved it.

My favorite technique we did is similar to one we do. Yokomen strike. Turn to the inside, lead uke over as you take a knee. Not sure what to call it. I'd have to say it was a seoi otoshi. When I took ukemi for this I did a normal break fall like I usually do. This apparently got the chief instructors attention. He very much liked my falls. He repeatedly called over to me to tell me he really liked them.

At the end of class was a freestyle with partners (1 attack each). I was a lot more fuzzy than I usually am for this. I did a little bit of everything. I did stuff that was covered in class. I got my partner in an ikkyo and set him up for a hip throw. I got sankyo a number of times. One time I just went right up his center and dumped him straight over. I was pretty sure from his reaction that he hadn't seen that one. Another sankyo I cranked to get him around behind me(I did help out by stepping across the front a little to get a better position) and then did a seio otoshi. I let it go at the end so he could roll out. For the most part the class wasn't doing breakfalls so I didn't want to force him to take one. I think the last sankyo I turned into a kaitenage. They do a similar technique. Come to think of it, I don't think the general students were doing transitions from one technique into another. That may not be part of their syllabus yet. Actually, it's not really part of mine yet either.

After class they asked where I had done this form of aikido before. I told them I hadn't seen it but a lot of the techniques looked similar enough. I had to fight muscle memory on a couple of things but for the most part I was able to keep up. It's definitely like being a beginner again when you enter a new place like that. I watched feet, hands, body position, kazushi, etc.

They asked me a bit more about my background. Then invited me to come back. They were trying to convince me to make more classes while I was in the area. I would have loved to but didn't have the free time. I had a great time there and would definitely like to visit there again if I have the chance. It was a great group of people there.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Stiff Morning

So glad I went to class this morning. I started out stupidly stiff. Not sure why. Got in as much stretching as I could before class and that helped a lot. By the time class was over I felt all loose like I usually do. Peter had us doing wrong sided attacks. We did various responses such as kotagaeshi, udekiminage, shihonage, tai-otoshi and so forth. For the most part I was able to do a decent enough job on them. There are some mornings where everything seems strangely difficult and this wasn't one of them. No secrets of the universe today but it was an excellent practice. It's good when my partner actually screwed up a couple times and attacked me from the 'correct' side and I just did the technique from that side instead without thinking about it. One of the techniques I'd like to noodle around with more was a simple tsuki, you try to do a kokyunage. One hand is on the tsuki hand going down while the other grabs the elbow or arm of the other side and pushes that up. Similar to the windmill thing you see in all the freestyle videos. I tried messing around with that lead hand a bit. Instead of grabbing or pushing the arm down, I tried to lead it out, stay sticky and use the bump at the joint of the wrist to 'push' against for the lead. After leading it out, then I went down with that arm. I was able to off balance my uke enough doing this that I didn't need my second hand on him. Now... normally I'd use the second hand as part of the technique but I was just focusing on how much I could get with the one side. I would've liked to try that with a different uke to see if I get the same result. I was wondering if my uke was too compliant. After class I was watching the arnis folks again doing some hand-to hand stuff. Looked like an arm bar on the elbow, turned into a driving pin down to the ground using the same lock.... at times they showed it with an ude-garame like lock. Always fun to watch those folks.

Caught the Tuesday Night Class

With the holiday weekend approaching I thought it would be good to get in an extra class as I didn't think classes would be well attended or even available over the holiday.

For sure it was an interesting class. Peter was teaching the beginners class over on one side of the mat. Joanna, a 1st kyu, was teaching the rest of the class. I was actually glad it was Joanna because she is one of the better students there and in my mind always had the most potential.

Quite recently, our chief instructor asked some of the first kyus to teach classes. I was wondering how I'd feel taking classes from some of these folks. I decided that I would treat it like any other class where I have an opportunity to practice and noodle around a little. I would even try to keep an open mind to anything being taught by my peers. Joanna did fine running the class. It was a good practice. We had fun doing various stuff. At the end she had us do freestyle practice which we probably all depserately need.

There were only a couple of painful parts of the class for me. Once when I had done a particular pin for shihonage and she comes over to tell me about another way to pin. She's been in the same.... heck fewer classes than I have. She knows that I and my partner knew the other pin. If she wanted a particaular pin I'd give it to her but it seemed silly to bring up such a basic point just to mention it. She's not paying attention to who she is teaching. You really have to tailor your class to who is in it.

There was some other odd thing about one of the demos I didn't care for but it's a personal preference. I like showing the one technoique being shown or the two or three techniques that exemplify a thought or concept. Showing random responses to attacks without a purpose never made sense to me. Why show a bunch of responses and then say to the students.... do that last response? Maybe she just didn't know where she wanted to go with the next technique?

Despite all that, she did a fine job and seemed to be a little more serious on the mat which I liked to see. Usually she is chatting quite a bit on the mat and she cut way back when she was teaching.

I'd be curious to ask her if she thinks she is learning anything from teaching the classes.

I look forward to her next one if I get the opportunity.