Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Night Class

Mr. Mulligan taught tonight.  At one point he had us purposely had us doing sloppy shihonage allowing uke to turn out of it.  Sloppy is easy.  Then he asked us to do something else when we don't get a technique the first time.  I was doing all kinds of stuff..... found sankyo, kokyunage, aikiotoshi, kotagaeshi, udekiminage.just to name a few.  Piece of cake.

He had us doing other stuff.... something like a kokyunage you see on the typical black belt test.  But we started from static with a two hand collar grab.

We also did the four directions for shihonage.  Somewhere along the way, I actually learned these and know them.  So when he asked if we could do them without a demo, I was like.... "yes".

We did some other stuff as well.... class was moving along at a good clip with a minimum of talking for a change.  So I actually got a good workout.

It was good to see Buddy come tonight.  His back and knees aren't 100% so I try to take it east when I work with him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Fighting Muscle Memory

Went to North Shore Aikikai last night for the Monday night class.  They've been doing this katatetori variant that applies to all kinds of techniques.

For example for katatetori kaitenage soto version, you enter and move the hand/arm in a circle bringing them down and set them up for the throw.  Instead of that initial entry, they are having us try something else.  You keep your arm inline with uke's arm and drop your elbow and center as you pull your elbow in towards your center.  The effect is that uke loses balance and falls into place at which time you can then bring the hand around and up for the throw.

It was very difficult for me to fight many years worth of muscle memory to try and do this.  One thing I was getting wrong, I was not moving and dropping my center, instead I was trying to use the flexibility in my hips to create the same motion.  I wasn't doing this intentionally.  It's just what I was doing.  I only realized it when I saw someone do it again and thought about what I was doing.

Later on in class I helped Joe with his 2nd kyu test.  I need to look over the requirements for that one.  It's good practice for me to review these things.  Some of them are from so long ago that I don't remember the variants that they like to see for the test for certain techniques.

After class we had Joe throw me around for a while.  His freestyle needs practice.  His aikido in class is fine but he must not practice random techniques often enough.  I'm sure they'll give him some opportunities to practice that as part of his test prep.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What Is A Black Belt Anyway??

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine recently.  He's had some aikido experience but has a black belt in Kenpo.  That belt was hard earned with years of practice and a ton of effort.  I think his final test was as much an endurance thing as much as a skill test.  Almost a hazing.

So we were talking about my kids.  I have them in Taekwando right now.  I think it's an excellent art to learn and fits my kids well.  I happen to mention that they will be going for their black belt test within a year.  My friend made a face.  He asked if it was a "kids" black belt.  I told him that in their school, kids of a certain age and higher (12 or so I think) can earn an adult's black belt.  The face continued.  He believed that this practice 'cheapens' the belt grade.

He commented... "I don't like kids getting black belts."  He said that in his mind that meant that the kid could take on an adult black belt and have an even chance at "winning".  I understood his point and didn't give it too much thought.  I didn't even argue the point or anything with him.  I'd say a couple weeks past since this conversation took place.  I had a thought occur to me today.

What is a black belt according to aikido?  I was always taught that the rank of black belt was earned by any student showing that they are at a certain point in learning aikido.  That they are generally capable in their syllabus and probably a little more.  They know the basics and are ready to self-explore aikido and continue learning from wherever or whomever.  Nothing is said about whether the black belt can actually defend oneself against an older, or larger opponent.  Or beat someone in a fight.

I've also heard the chief instructor at my kids' dojo say that he will make you into the best black belt you can be.  That seems to go along with the notion I was taught.  He expects you to know your kata really well and have a thorough understanding of your basics (stances and kicks).  Each kid progresses at his/her own rate.  As it turns out, although my Son has been doing TKD longer, my daughter will be testing for her black belt at about the same time.  I've seen other students in his school move at their pace as well.

So, what is a black belt??  It's just a marker.  Formal recognition that you've reached a certain point in your practice.  I don't think of it as an indication that you are now a lethal weapon.  It's pretty much at this point that you realize that you don't know anything.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Yay Taiotoshi

We had a bigger Sunday morning class today.  There were six of us.  Most people don't like waking up that early so not many people go normally.

Peter had us doing some regular stuff.  At the end of class though he had us do taiotoshi.  So much fun both throwing and taking ukemi for that.  Buddy was in class and had me as a partner for this.  I offered to let him roll because I know he's been having back issues.  He insisted that he take a fall instead.  I said ok.... still tried to take it easy on him but did the throw.  He landed nicely.  In fact, his ukemi is finally getting softer.  All it took was some major back pain for him to rethink things.  As he's gotten older he's been trying to soften up some.  Never actually asks for help or advice though but he does watch and experiment.

After class there was an interesting discussion regarding how our dojo teaches.  Peter (The newer guy) watches a lot of aikido video.  He's most impressed with flashy demos.  Particularly stuff like "Real Aikido" and that guy that used to do the combative concepts video.  I try to explain till I'm blue in the face but Pete seems to have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to this subject.  He was suggesting to Chris M and I that our dojo should train a harder style.  He had Chris agreeing.  Then as support for the argument, Chris comments that he heard similar opinions from when John Rogers visited us.  That just started me on a tear.  I gave my opinion why Mr. Rogers should be ignored and gave highlights of one of his visits.  Makes me sad to think that Chris is the next generation of aikido that will likely teach at this dojo and he actually believes this.

Speaking of teaching.  Chris lately has been cross training in Arnis.  I think this is awesome.  I often watch them after class.  There are a lot of similarities in a lot of arts.  The human body only moves so many ways.  It's interesting to see how they get to certain techniques.  Anyway, Chris teaches Saturday mornings.  I'm not sure if it's a one time thing, once in a while thing or an every class thing but Chris has started teaching Arnis techniques in his aikido class.  Once in a while isn't a problem in my mind.  However, I would have waited for the beginners to get more aikido under their belt before confusing things.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Open Mat Night

Friday night started out small with just two of us hitting the mat.  On nights like this we typically give Mr. Mulligan the night off and just hold an open mat night.

So I asked Sean what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to work on the Shodan test.  Seeing as that's my next test anyway, that sounded fine to me.  We started out doing some tachitori.  Neither one of us remembered lots of sword disarms but between the two of us we managed a good number of them.  Soon after that we were joined by two other students.  One them wanted to work on his next test which was the third kyu test.

Although I'd love to do more of my test, I separated myself from the other two so they could focus on Sean's test and I could help Richard with his 3rd kyu test.

We made pretty good headway.  Richard even made a lot of improvement along the way.  The problem with Richard is that he usually doesn't come enough to retain what he picks up in class.  I'll still do my best to help him though.  He has a long way to go before he can test for 3rd kyu.

We got a good amount of his test covered when we hit a technique, I couldn't remember which variation we like to see on a test.  I had Chris come over and help us out for a few minutes with it.  Chris has a good grasp of these so he was able to show us what is expected.  Couldn't help myself on my turn while we were showing the technique.  I made comments as I went suggesting that you start the control early and never let up(sankyo).

Richard had his hand positions messed up for sankyo so we worked on that a bit.  He got a good enough sankyo at the end that he had me moving.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

When You Go Too Far

One of our newer people was out with an injury.  I hadn't seen him in a few weeks.  I saw him this morning.  This is the guy that resists a lot of techniques.  He thinks he needs to practice this way to get honest practice.  He just doesn't listen when people tell him he's not ready yet to resist techniques.

So, it turns out after talking with him, that the reason he was out was because someone liked his kaitenage.  They said... that was great, let me show you what that feels like.  Then they must have cranked away.  Now... since I wasn't there to watch, I have no idea if uke didn't bail or worst still resisted.  Or.... did nage crank the crap out of this beginner without thinking about whether he could take it.  No idea.  Wasn't there.

What I don't understand is how he could have gotten hurt with kaitenage.  You can always bail out of that one whenever you like.  I've never felt trapped taking ukemi for that technique.

I spent the whole class trying to baby his shoulder so as not to aggravate the inury to his rotator cuff.  I made sure I never stressed the shoulder.  If the technique required stress on that area I would do his right side instead or just skip the stressful part.  eg.  I did kaitenage on that side but after I got his head down I disconnected from his arm and instead did a hip bump to finish for that side.

I'm trying to keep this kid safe and even with his injury he learned nothing from it.  There was one technique during class today where he was stiff arming me trying to make it harder for me to do the technique.  So I just did nikkyo instead.  That was it for resistance for the rest of class from him.