Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where is that Sweet Spot??

Monday nights at NSA still working on finding how to create kazushi in a particular way.  I've mentioned this before in this blog.  What they are trying to do is examine the kazushi of different techniques.  The thought being that this technique works because we do X.  Why does it work?  At what point do we have kazushi.

In the back of my head though I have to think that there are an infinite number of ways to create this kazushi.  There is no one-way, magic elixir.  Do X and uke falls down.  It's very situational.  Body types, positions, current motions can all be different for the same technique.

Now, you can pull off a technique without paying much attention to any of this, however, wouldn't it be nice to do almost nothing and have uke just fall down?

I'm guessing that the key to the whole thing is sensitivity to your partner.  As uke I can sense when nage changes things midstream and adapt to it.  I don't really think I'm quite sensitive enough as nage to always feel how on balance my uke is.  Sometimes I can tell right off.  Other times not.  Once I manage to increase sensitivity(assuming that's possible) I'm guessing I'll be in a better position to understand what I'm doing to my partner.

Great Friday Class

Friday night was fun.  Mr. Mulligan taught.  Since it's been a whole 4 days or so since the class I forgot a lot of what we specifically were doing.

I do remember that at one point we were doing some kind of kokyunage.  Uke grabs a shoulder.  You turn until you get some back pressure on uke's elbow.  Then feeling where uke is at, find the right moment to reverse the movement and throw them.

Instead of keeping some extension my partner Joanna was just simply dropping at my feet leaving me totally on balance.  So after seeing this happen a couple times, I let her know I was totally on balance by doing a choke on her.  She was down on one knee right in front of me with my hands on her lapels.  Seemed like a natural idea to me.  I just lifter her up a bit and let her hang herself.

Mr. Mulligan also lets us finish a technique however we wanted.  At one point he was suggesting we try some henka waza.  So all the stuff Peter has done with us on Sunday's got some exercise.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More Subtlety

NSA's class was still going down that road of exploration.  When Matt was my partner he was seeing how little he could do to actually accomplish the throw.  What it feels like is that you are standing there, you are a little off balance and then all of a sudden you are simply falling down.  No real major movement to make it happen.

I think one of the other students was making an ukemi breakthrough.  He's actually been around a couple years.  He's very flexible.  Last night I was tossing him and he was gently falling out of the breakfall.  I tried to emulate it but I can't figure out what he's doing.  I think I need to watch it or video it.  I suspect it has to do with his body angle.  If I have time to adjust, I tend to take ukemi sideways.  I'm suspecting he's going over his head more.  More forward.  Don't get me wrong, I fall fine and my sensitivity is usually pretty good so I can make adjustments mid air and everything.  However, I'm not falling from a breakfall that softly.  Weird thing is, it's different than the ones I've seen online.

Or at least, I think it is.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Visitor

We had a visitor Friday night hit the mat.  Some black belt from the MIT club.  A couple of people recognized him so he's probably been practicing a long while.  He looked familiar so I'm wondering if I've seen him at a seminar or two.

Well... the guy couldn't make it to MIT tonight so he dropped into our dojo.  For good or bad, Bob has a tendency to make visitors work.  Good for us to get exposed to someone from another dojo.  Bad for them if they thought they were going to get a chance to experience our aikido as a club.  So he was kind enough to started off with his version of a familiar kokyunage.  The difference in his version is that he tended to go through uke's head(as if his thought were it's a strike).  Perfectly valid, just different.

I also noticed a different ukemi.  For an iriminage, he would turn his back and roll away.  I've seen this and variations of this over the years.  I'm not sure I like that particular ukemi because you can't hang in there very long for the technique.  I think nage gets less out of the technique.  It's certainly easier on uke to bail like that though.  If someone had issues and needed to take care of themselves I'd do that in a second but otherwise I prefer to hang in there longer.

I liked how he went through the whole class taking turns with everyone so they could get a little help or at least feel what he was doing for the technique.

The only other thing of note was at the end he had us doing suwari waza kokyuho.  He went up the line, off balancing each of his partners as they attempted to do the technique.  When he got to me, I immediately pinned him and he had this look of surprise on his face.  Then for the second go round I couldn't easily move him.  He gave me a totally loose grip.  It's hard to establish a connection if there is no intent/no grip.  Still.  It's a good exercise.

Then after a certain amount of time of me failing to get him pinned, he tried to pin me.  I softened up and just bent with him.  The first time he tried it got him no where.  Then he finished the pin by coming forward and bumping me with his shoulder.  Other pins after that were a little more normal.  He tended to start moving before I settled in (which is a good thing) and easily could move me.  He adapted well.  For me he suggested that I extend before moving forward.  When I tried extending forward as he suggested, he merely pushed my hands down.  So that didn't work out for me.

After class one of the other students commented to me that he couldn't do the exercise well because our visitor didn't give him a real grip/attack.  Then he further went on to suggest that the visitor was doing this out of ego.  That he wouldn't allow a while belt to pin him.  I'm not totally sold on this theory.  Although it may be the case.  It may also be the case that this is how they practice at his dojo and you sometimes have to handle someone who doesn't give you strong intent (a solid grip).  Could be very likely that he was trying to teach how to establish a good connection when one isn't given.

At the end of class he did a quick demo of several techniques from one entry.  That looked fun, I was hoping we'd get to do that but he simply did the demo and ended class.  The demo was an extension of the last thing done.  But it was simple enough with a nikkyo, kotagaeshi, ending and so forth.

In any event, I'd love to work with him again to see what they do over at MIT for techniques.  We didn't do too much in that class.  I'd like to see more of their style.

EDIT:  Someone else I spoke with agreed with me and thought that the point of the whole class was establishing that connection. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

That Sweet Spot

Went to class last night at North Shore Aikikai.  Once again the class centered around exploring aiki principles.  The simplest description would be obtaining kazushi in a certain way.

We are paying lots of attention on getting uke in a position where his foot is stuck and he's not inclined to sink his weight down to regain balance.  The feeling that you can move uke's weight on to the side or front of the foot.

I used to think that kazushi was just a place that you put uke in.  While this is true, I've also come to think of kazushi as a moment.  Something that off balances uke may be effective for a second.  It's in that second that you can affect uke in the largest manner with the least amount of effort.  Another way of thinking of the same thinking is the concept of staying connected with uke.  Being sensitive and observe uke's position is key.

We can create kazushi different ways.  If we totally compromise uke we can certainly perform a technique after.  But... if we learn how to unbalance uke, we can still do the same technique.  The difference may be akin to the thought of using large circles vs small circles for the same technique.

As uke, when someone gets me in this position before a throw it almost feels like you don't know exactly what happened, you only know that you fell down.  I got feedback from an uke last night telling me this is what it felt like.  This makes me think I'm on the right track.

If you can unbalance an opponent in this subtle way, there is nothing for them to push or fight against.  This is the main difference between dragging someone around and leading them.  There were times in my practice that I was doing this without realizing it.  For example, at some dojos, when you do iriminage you pin uke's hand to your leg as you do a tankan.  This drags uke around.  What I was doing instead was to stretch uke's arm up and out(controlling the elbow) and then as I tenkan, bring it down.  This has the affect of locking uke's spine and putting them off balance and gives them a feeling that most of their weight is on the ball of their foot.  That means that I can easily bring them around.

So I've had some success using this kind of kazushi in the past but I didn't consciously know why it worked.