Sunday, August 31, 2014

New Guy

Terrific morning.  We had a new guy from PA start at shodokan.  He's obviously experienced.  His ukemi is relatively soft.  I didn't get to see him do any break falls.  I noticed he seems to be mindful of the possibility of atemi.  He covers up and generally keeps an eye on nage.  Very fun working with a new person.

Speaking of soft ukemi.  After much trying I finally managed a soft break fall.  Not sure if I can replicate it.  Nice to see that it's possible for me.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Another Quiet Night

It's Labor Day weekend.  It's also a nice night out.  As a result, only two of us showed for class tonight.  Usually, Chris will bail when he sees there isn't going to be a class.  He was kind enough to stay.  Without him, it would have just been me on the mat.

Mr. Mulligan suggested that he help me with my 1st kyu test.  Kind of ironic but Chris did just take this test recently.  I knew he prepared for it.  I had no idea how much of it was preplanned.  He wanted to give a good test and was afraid of locking up so he decided in advance what every single throw would be.  He even decided in advance what throws he would use during the randori portion of the test.  This is no doubt part of the reason that he gave such a strong looking test.

We did some knife disarms, some moretetori, some ryotetori and a little katemenuchi.  It became evident that I need to practice these.  Part of my problem is that I see a bunch of techniques and I'm not sure which one to pick.  It may be easier if I practice a group of them often.

I won't try to practice randori.  Any time I go into a freestyle thinking.... I'm going to do technique "x", I end up doing something completely different.  I'll just do what presents itself and go with the flow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Two Throws and He's Out of There

I recently had a class with one of our Shodan.  Towards the end of class Peter(the instructor) likes to do a little koshinage.  This was a garuma version.  With my other partner (we were a threesome that day not including Peter) I did a normal one.  With our Shodan I decided to try the version where you pull your foot back.  Uke tends drop straight down.  It's a tougher ukemi but he should be able to handle it.  The only time I can practice it is with more experienced people.

Not too unexpectedly, he begged off after a couple of throws.  Although he has tons of experience, he's not too confident in his ukemi.  He's generally ok but he typically will not move enough.  So at times, he takes ukemi harder than he needs to.  He doesn't seem to be interested in changing this either.  The whole thought of Shoshin(Beginner's mind) is lost on him.

This isn't 100% terrible.  At least he gets to practice.  Still there is more to it than showing up.  I have pretty good ukemi and I am currently focused on trying to make it better.  I've been experimenting for a while now.  I haven't been too successful in changing it but at least I'm mindful of it during practice.

Randori Night

Went to Monday night class at NSA.  We had a whole class of randori.  We just each took turns throwing each other.  Tsuki was the only attack.

We weren't just throwing each other with familiar throws.  At times we were trying out new ways to get kazushi.  If nothing else, maintain some kind of flow with the practice.

It was a neat class.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nikkyo Sunday

Tony messed up his back so he was absent.  Hope he gets better soon.  Back pain can be nasty.

Buddy showed up though which he does once in a while for Sundays.  Working with him is a lot of fun because he's very strong and at times will share honest feedback.  He's actually very sensitive to his partner despite the fact that his aikido feels a little stiff.  I think it's exposure to other martial arts with the one shot, one kill training they do.

Peter had us doing shomenuchi ikkyo and following it up with all kinds of possibilities.  Practicing henka waza.

At one point we were doing a Chiba style nikkyo.  One where you don't bring the hand to the shoulder but instead hold it in front of you.

The problem with this nikkyo is that most people don't pay enough attention to position.  If the elbow is a little high or low you need to make adjustments to the direction in how you cut.  The other option is to get uke's elbow level with the floor so you can cut straight through.

Sometimes when people are learning I tell them to do that.  After they've figured that out I start talking to them about how to get the nikkyo no matter where the elbow is.  There is more to it then just changing the angle.

So during the class, someone was asking for feedback.  I told him my elbow was too high for that angle.  Peter overheard and asked for my take on the subject.  So I went through a few quick nikkyo with my partner to explain how I like to think of it(at least the rudimentary version as that's all we had time for).  Peter has an open mind and is willing to look at a students nikkyo to see if there is something there worth learning.  He's not interested in someone's rank, only their ability.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

There Was Apparently Only One Student Friday Night. (oh.... and I showed up too)

Went to Friday nights class.  Turns out that a slew of people called sensei to tell him that they weren't coming.  Someone had an opportunity to go to a ball game, someone else was injured.... etc.  Usual life interruptions.

Usually if there are only a couple of students, Mr. Mulligan will cancel the class and have us work on our own if we like for some open mat time.  Sounded good to me.

The weird thing was that he mentioned the upcoming test and told me that Ariel and Tony were up for promotion for their 1st kyu tests.  Sensei and I have had conversations in the past about the fact that I need to take that test.  I'm not sure if he is waiting for me to tell him I want to take the test or I've annoyed him in some way.

Also odd was the way he suggested we run through the test.  Rather than asking me to run through the test with him, or suggesting that we both could use the practice, he said something else.  He said he had a great class in mind for Ariel and Tony but since it's just the two of us maybe Ariel should practice for his 1st kyu test.  No hint that my presence could be some benefit to Ariel at all.  No thought that perhaps I should be training for the test as well.

So it started out with just myself and Ariel.  A few minutes into class John showed up.  I believe Mulligan asked John to run Ariel through the 1st kyu test.  John did recently take his 1st kyu test and it's still fresh in his mind.  But John's aikido is miles away different from Ariel's or mine for that matter.  He's an older guy and extremely stiff.  And extremely strong.  What he may lack in subtle technique he more than makes up for with muscle.  He could easily injure someone.  Despite the differences, John did come up with a couple of good alternative techniques for the test.

Ariel's aikido looked really rough that night.  But from what I remember, his freestyles are usually very good.  When he's under pressure, his aikido used to get better.

I know that I need a bit of practice but Ariel needs a ton.  Hopefully the test will be put off for a bit longer.  I was going to practice with Joanna but she hasn't been around much.  I'd like to take the test just so the clock can start ticking for the next belt.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Was Able to Go To Two Classes

I haven't been free in a while to do a double class.  I started off going to Shodokan.

Found out after I got there that the typical Monday night class was moved to start at 5pm.  Maybe someone should update the schedule.  Luckily they go till 7pm so I was still able to get an hour in.

I hadn't been to a Monday night class in a while.  Serge teaches these.  His aikido is still more like aikijitsu than aikido.  He concerns him self with opportunities for strikes, keeps uke's arms and so forth extended.  The limb extension is excellent in that you can do it without using a lot of force but I think the likelihood of damaging your attacker is quite high.  I know exactly how to move to take ukemi and he still stretches my arm/shoulder out to it's limit.  An untrained person is going to merely stand there or move the wrong way and have his shoulder dislocated.

He had some interesting points on taking ukemi.  In one instance he suggested doing a breakfall with your legs crossed.  One leg tucked under and the other leg has the foot slamming to the ground to avoid the bell-ringer affect.  There is no way in hell I am going to practice doing this kind of ukemi.  I've done it when I had to because I was out of position, but it's not a good position to be in because of the chance of crushing your own parts if you don't do it correctly.  Also, even if it you do it correctly, you are slamming your foot down on the ground, straining a joint you don't need to strain.

This isn't the kind of aikido I want as part of my muscle memory.  I'd rather do something possibly less effective, have someone try to fight out of it, then simply change the technique if need be.

Aikido for me is about going with the flow of the attack.  It's not about enforcing your will on another to overcome the attack.

Although effective, his style is not the one normally associated with the chief instructor or other instructors. 

After class was done I hung around a little bit and then made my way over to North Shore Aikikai.  We played with the jo for a while.  Started out doing some jo kata (which I do fair at best), and then did some jo disarms.

Oddly enough I can't remember what techniques we did after we put the jo's down.  This probably means that it was some crazy crap Matt made up on the spot.

Oh wait.... some of it is coming back to me.  He was having us do a morotetori attack.  Tenkan irmi, pull uke around, start tenkan with a dropped elbow and as you pull around bring the hand low.  Keep uke going in the same circle for an irminage.

I was fighting 20 kinds of muscle memory for this as what I wanted to do was tenkan bring the arm down and enter, reversing uke so he then spins the other way for the iriminage.  I think it is ten times harder to keep kazushi by doing it the other way.  You end up with this foot shuffle as you try to keep uke moving in a circle.  This is not a technique I'll be doing by default.  It's too hard to not screw up.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I was away last week.  Caught up in my mail and I am amused to see an email sent out to the dojo to help do a cleanup.  Why amused?  It gave 3 days notice.  It was a moot point since I was away anyway.  I think it's ridiculous to assume that people can drop what they are doing with no real warning to show up.  I'm guessing that not many people showed because they didn't get the mat cleaned.

So after class today we scrubbed the mat.  I had no problem doing it as I was free and have done it in the past.  A little warning would have been nice.  I would have brought street clothes that were appropriate for cleaning.  I realized that I valued my old gi less and kept my gi on.  Someone else did the same thing.

Good thing I had an old gi on.  My only other choice would have been to walk.  Totally unnecessary.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Just Visiting

So I'm over in Rhode Island this week.  I did some research and found a dojo near where I'm staying. The dojo was Ocean State Aikido.  Their web page seemed to be down so I called and left a message that I was coming.  I was hoping to speak to someone but no such luck.

I came to their Wednesday night class.  There were six students and a teacher to start.  We started with some nice stretching, moved on to some simple forward and backward rolls.

We the started with tai no henko.  Moved on with that same entry for a throw(we would likely classify it as a kokyunage perhaps.). Right in the middle of this I lost my partner.  He rolled on to his own thumb as he came down.  He said it was totally his fault and nothing I did.  I still felt bad though.  I don't like to see anyone get injured.  He said it was previously injured and this made it worse.  The teacher suggested he ice it down but he just left the dojo instead.  A lot of people can't work with a hand injury so there is no use making things worse.

Then we did some form of garume but instead of bringing the arm out, they return the arm to the shoulder.  This is more akin to a friendly shihonage position.  I'm used to a version where the arm gets extended some.  Oh... The other part that was different.  They take your own shihonage hand, place it on your own shoulder and push through your shoulder by stepping in.

We did soto and uchi versions of kaitenage.  Nothing too different there.  For his soto version, he liked to cut the arm in such a way you have a little ikkyo like motion going on.  He pushes a little bit into ukes face a little before bringing him down.

We also did a tsuki kotagaeshi.  Theversion they practiced tonight went as follows.  Tsuki to mid section.... Connect with opposite hand as you slide in to enter, grab wrist with other hand, original hand follows fist and fingers down.  Instead of an off to the side type kotagaeshi, they do one where they bend the wrist and force you straight into the ground.  If I had normal wrists it might have actually hurt.  As it is, I felt nothing.  Not even a lot of mechanical pushing.  They were a little too nice there to me.

We ended the class with suwari waza kokyuho.  Although they had a different name for it.

Great group of guys.  Very casual atmosphere.

At the end of class we bow out as a group.  Having visiting a few different dojos over the years I usually wait to see where the lower ranked students sit so I can sit at the very end of the line.  In the past I got it wrong assuming the higher ranks sit right to left and so forth and ended up sitting in the wrong place.  So now I watch to see what happens.

At the end of class, I looked to see where the yellow belts were sitting so I could sit at the end of the line.  I see a yellow belt head for the right side of the line, I say excuse me and get to his right.  This was noticed by everyone in the class and the teacher started pulling my leg.  "Oohh, He is asserting himself.  Maybe he wants to be near the air conditioner."  Then I look over and see the other yellow belt on the other end of the line.  This dojo doesn't line up according to rank at all.  I just made a big stinking mess out of that one again.  I was about to reply to explain but just threw my hands up to surrender and kept my mouth shut.

After class I spoke briefly to the teacher to ask about the dojos affiliation.  I wanted to get some idea of their roots.  I believe they were all under saito sensei eventually.  He said they were iwama dojo.  Reminded me of the nihon folks at aikido of queens I met last winter.  They also claimed to be following a more direct form of aikido.  I didn't see it.  I'm starting to think that Kanai sensei's influenced aikido in my area to perhaps be more direct in relation to other aikikai dojos under the aikikai umbrella.

I found the class pretty low key.  No big throws.  Easy ukemi.

I'm hoping I get to practice with them again but I doubt I can make it there again before I have yo head back.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Where did the j-step go?

Over the past few classes over at shodokan I've been internally cringing.  They like to do a sumiotoshi variation that starts with a an iriminage tenkan entry.  Tsuki attack.  They do a tenkan step back as they are pulling uke around and then step in.

I don't know exactly when it happened but now the entire dojo practices this variation this way.  The problem is that you are too far away after uke comes around.  What they used to teach was to j step after the tenkan.  You stay close to uke and it flows better.

I was doing this one Sunday morning when Chris commented to me that the class I missed earlier in the week, Bob mentioned that you can have a dead spot when doing sumiotoshi.  I'm not sure what he taught to eliminate the dead spot.  Chris said that he didn't feel a dead spot with me.  This is because I j-stepped and re-entered after uke comes around.  He didn't seem to notice why I didn't have the dead spot.  He and everyone else at that dojo do that k step I hate so much.  I don't like to teach in class as a student.  It can be considered rude by some instructors.  There are some things though that I can't resist.

This is going to be one of them.  I'm sick of the whole dojo doing k steps by accident.  If you want to do this on purpose that's one thing but this is something happening on an unconscious level.  Maybe the best thing is for me to grab a couple of the senior students after class and ask them if they realize they are doing this.  If it's intentional then fine but I doubt this is the case.  Although it's been my experience that even if I do this it will only last about a month at most before people just let muscle memory do it's thing and go back to k steps.  The teachers at the dojo would need to reinforce it regularly.

Save Me A Seat

NSA is fairly relaxed but we still bow in and out like normal.

A few weeks back we go to bow out at the end of class.  Rob the instructor sits down in front of the Kamiza.  The rest of class including me sits down behind him.  One student who has been around a couple years had a brain fart and sits down right next to Rob.  While we try not to laugh, we could see Rob even cracking a smile but was unwavering.  He waited patiently for the student to realize his error and line up with the rest of us.  Then we bowed out as normal.

Funny but you definitely had to be there to really enjoy it.  In many years of aikido I've never seen someone line up with the instructor by accident.