Thursday, June 29, 2017

Yay Ikkyo

Had an awesome class on Monday at North Shore Aikikai.  We worked on an ikkyo variation..... actually it wasn't the ikkyo itself that was interesting.  We were mostly working on the entry for it.  I think I was getting most of it although I still need practice on this.  This is one of those times where it's good to have no muscle memory getting in your way.

The attack was a yokomenuchi strike.  You enter on the open side with a tenkan.  You blend with the incoming strike (right on right or left on left) with your palm down.  Then you draw uke up sliding what was the blending hand down to the wrist as the other hand guides the elbow for the ikkyo.  I'm leaving out a bit of detail here but this is the gist of it.

This was very fun to work on.  Never hurts for me to practice blending.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Yay Pete Is Back

But one of his knees isn't.  He's having some trouble with it.  Hopefully he gets better soon.

Today he did a variety of techniques.  At one point he had us do tsuki sumiotoshi.  This was a technique I did when I taught in order to stress the j-step.  Was hoping everyone was mindful today.  I had Peter as a partner.  He's got about 2 years under his belt.  He was doing the version where you throw down instead of the projection.  I started to suggest to him that Pete showed it as a projection and he may want to try it that way.  Then Pete came over and said we should throw down so that Peter can practice his breakfalls.  So we do a few.  I would love for him to get a chance to do more but class ended.  He really needs the practice.  One side was ok but needed work.  The other side was barrel rolling time.

I don't like to say much when Pete is teaching.  He is very traditional and doesn't like it when someone else presumes to teach when he is leading class.  Out of respect for him I typically keep my mouth shut but I often want to help my fellow students on techniques or ukemi.

Friday, June 23, 2017

88 Degrees and All Is Well

Dojo got pretty hot tonight.  I can say though that this dojo is way better than the previous location.  That building got much hotter since it had no windows to speak of.

Bob taught tonight.  There were only 5 of us on the mat tonight but I got to see some faces I hadn't seen in a while.  That was good.

Bob kept things on the light side because of the high temperature.  Probably a good idea.  About halfway through class though I had adapted.... wouldn't have minded picking up the pace some.  Not sure how everyone else would have done though.  I'm massively out of shape right now.

Tonight we worked on a kaitenage ki building exercise..... a kokyunage and a sumi otoshi kind of technique.

At one point John was my partner.  He was concerned that doing the technique would make nage susceptible to a punch from the other hand.  My thought was that if you got proper kazushi than this wouldn't be a problem.  He disagreed and was going on at length.  So I simply listened.  Is he right?  Maybe, however, I want to practice the technique being shown so I can understand it.... not change it right on the spot because I think I see a hole.  Maybe Bob can do the technique without the hole.  That's why we need to practice it.  Not immediately judge it.  Good thing to be mindful of this kind of thing during practice but you shouldn't in my opinion stop you from trying to explore a technique.  maybe I have a hole but the instructor doesn't.  Maybe John saw the hole with his own technique.  I have no idea.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Easy But Not

Last night at NSA we worked on a simple kokyunage.

Its the typical one, started with a ryotetori attack.  We were really focused on uke's body position and reaction as we did the technique.

We started out by bringing the hands out just a little to make a connection as we enter to the inside.  Then we draw the elbows down which causes uke to move into you.  Then just pivot.

Those are the major parts.... but there was actually a bunch more details that we were looking at.  What was most interesting was that we all react differently as ukes.  So the distance for one uke isn't the right distance for another.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Arnis again?

I guess Peter isn't back from vacation as yet.  On Sunday Chris taught.  It was ok.  He had us doing some appropriate stuff including a sumi-otoshi variation. We did a very direct iriminage.  We did some good techniques for our new guy to be working on.  Although honestly, we should be doing test techniques for him. He's been around long enough we should be going over the 5th kyu techniques.  Maybe they did some of that in his other classes.

Mr. Mulligan asked Chris to have me show what we were doing Friday night with our guest instructor.  Problem is, I got hung up and called the dojo Friday night to tell them I would be really late.  I missed a good chunk of class that night.  Actually, I had an amusing quandary.  I arrived with class in full swing Friday night with the guest instructor obviously teaching.  When I finished dressing, I waited at the mat edge for recognition so I could enter the mat and bow in.  While waiting, Bob tells me to just come on.  Now, I'm confused.  I know etiquette means I should wait for the teacher to let me on the mat but my normal teacher said to get on.  So I stood there confused for a moment when Mr. Mulligan gets clearly annoyed and tells me I should be listening to Bob and get on the mat.  So I enter the mat at this point.

This is one of those moments where I was attempting to use my best judgement.  Mr. Mulligan got annoyed with me real fast.  I think it may because of his background in the marines.  When an 'officer' gives an order you just follow it.  Well.... I've never been in the military.  I will never just 'take orders' blindly.  Although when the chief instructor tells me to listen and get on the mat, I kinda felt like I was let off the hook in terms of insulting our guest instructor.  Now....later on I found out that Bob was the one that actually bowed the class in.  So theoretically that helps too?  In any event it didn't matter much.  Either our guest didn't notice one more dan in the room or didn't care that I hopped on late.

Anyway.... so I show the Sunday class some of what we were doing from the Friday night class.

After that Chris had us doing this horrible striking exercise.  with a jodan tsuki attack, he wanted us to enter and strike to the face with our rear hand and roundhouse strike to the kidneys with the forward hand.

I'm not saying this isn't effective.  I'm not even saying this is a bad thing to know.  What I will say is that this is not aikido.  There was no technique following the atemi.  It was just atemi.  If we really want to train as strikers we should do it and pull out the pads.  My biggest worry is that it's feeding the people coming up with notions that we need to ignore kazushi in favor of striking.  The current thinking is that some of the students are getting it into their head that if they come up with the perfect technique or position, they will be able to impose their will on their aggressor.  And... that's the problem.  We should be learning to deflect and blend with attacks.  Not initiate our own.

Many seem less interested in learning how to properly take kazushi.  I just hope that not all the teachers keep stressing this atemi for atemi sake.  I had a short conversation with a 2 year student on the way out the door.  He's interested in learning "practical aikido".  As if aikido with more strikes is more practical.  Nothing wrong with strikes but if you can do the technique just by off-balancing someone why wouldn't you want to learn to do that first?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Guest Instructor

A few years back we had a visit from a travelling aikidoka.  He came to Shodokan for a workout.  Instead, he was asked if he'd be willing to teach.  This is something like his 2nd or 3rd visit.  I'm guessing he had other business in the area but it sure was generous of him to come teach a class.

This is a link to Robert Cowham's dojo.

A lot of the teaching tonight reminded me a lot of a ki society kind of class.  There was a focus on internal energy.  Keeping one point and so forth.

We did several exercises.  One was similar to a back stretch we do but posture and bending the knees were stressed.  All terrible things for sure ;)

At the end there was an interesting exercise.  You stand 90 degrees to uke.  Uke puts out their arm/hand and you lay your wrist right on top.  You then are supposed to cut down as if using a sword.  You try to sink without using strength.  I was able to do it.... then after watching more... made some adjustments.  Then, Christine took a turn as my uke.  She gave me an interesting problem,  She totally connected her center to her arm and had her arm locked.  That meant that any 'pushing' or downward force generated would get translated directly into her front leg.  There was no way(for me) to do the exercise as it was shown.  So I made lemons into lemonade.  I drew her arm out away from her body a little bit.  Just enough so that she couldn't translate the force into her forward foot.  Then I could sink down and easily move her.  Later on when Sensei Cowham worked in with us he felt what she was doing and he did the same thing I did.

I take this as a good sign that I'm occasionally able to understand how to affect kazushi given a situation I've never seen before..

We had a good number of people there tonight.  We even made some use of the newly matted area.  Recently we put zebra mats down to extend the mat.  A new very large wood floor was installed downstairs for the karate and kendo guys to use.

I got to see Buddy tonight.  He hasn't practiced in the past couple months.  Someone threw him and he took a bad fall on his shoulder.  These things happen.  That being said.  I grabbed him after class and told him if he wants to practice, I'd be happy to work with him and keep him undamaged.

I'd love to get his ukemi to soften up more.  He just started softening up maybe a year or so ago.  He told me that he is sore after every class.  I haven't really been that way since I the first 2  years maybe.  Somewhere along the line, I learned to take ukemi without damaging myself.

Come to think of it, I think my right shoulder is almost healed up.  A few months back, a beginner was attempting a throw.  Lost his balance and fell as he threw me.  I was going to land on top of him.  I managed to twist in the air and miss him but I caught more of my shoulder then I wanted.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Taught Once More

Peter is still away on vacation.  So, Mr. Mulligan asked me to teach the same class I taught that Friday night.

So, mostly I did the same class.  I did add a couple of techniques though. I added hiki otoshi because  thought it fit in well with the rest of the class.

Then I added maki otoshi because I went mad with power and wanted to practice maki otoshi.

We had a mixed class of experienced folks, middle of the road folks and a beginner.  So these were good because they can be rolled out of if nage lets them.

After class I helped Chris by taking ukemi for his practice for his next test.  Chris had a cool start to a wakagatami.  He started it out doing an ikkyo where he purposely dropped me "into the hole".  It was awesome.  I told him I am still on a search to get that feeling with other techniques.

No exact idea how everyone else felt but I had a blast practicing those.  I did speak to the beginner a bit after class to let him know that some of what we were doing were advanced techniques, that he shouldn't feel as though he would have to get them 100% right now.  He was actually doing quite well after a couple corrections.  I just wanted to make sure he left the class feeling like he did ok.

The experienced person told me they think they got something out of the class and the guy with 2 years experience seemed pretty jazzed at seeing something he never saw before.  Actually, he looked at me a little different then normal because he realized that my pool of knowledge for aikido is deeper than he was assuming.  Usually he just gets to see me confused in class.

Friday, June 09, 2017


Bob taught tonight.  We did some responses for a punch to the face.  A couple Iriminage variations.

Then he had Tony doing 5 responses to a yokomenuchi attack.  He was doing random stuff but nothing unusual.  Bob then had me partner with him as he was doing taiotoshi.  A very direct version.  Tony does them at speed and often judo style.  He pulls you down quickly so there is a ton of force from the throw.  It's not the happy aiki version that is fun to practice.

Not sure if I got partnered with him so he could practice with a partner who can handle him or what.  But... we stayed on that throw for quite a while.  It got to the point where Tony was tired of throwing me.

If nothing else I really got a good workout tonight.  Did much better on staying with it aerobically.  I'm hoping Monday night was a fluke.

Sunday should be interesting.  Mr. Mulligan said Peter is still away and asked me to teach the same class I taught last Friday night.

Should be fun.  I'm going to make everyone work on being thoughtful about proper j-steps again.  Because it's my pet peeve and I've gone mad with power.

It Was Tenchinage and I Didn't Hate It

I don't know what it is but there are some tenchinage classes I hate and some are awesome.  There is no middle ground.

This one I liked.  There were a couple variations we were playing with.  Both of which I was happy to practice.

NSA also had a newer student.  She was doing really well for what I think was her 2nd class.

One thing I noticed Monday night was how easily I was winded.  We weren't really doing anything.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Had A Great Class Tonight

There have been many excellent classes since I last posted.

Tonight's class was great.  Why?  Cause I taught it.  Can't complain about the teaching.  Well.... I suppose I could.  We only had 4 people show tonight.  Everyone else was busy or otherwise occupied.  I wish there were more regulars coming Friday nights but life gets busy.  Especially when you have a family.

2 of the other folks started aikido before me, have seniority and are also Shodan.  (although I may have more time on the mat as I am more consistent).  The last guy is 1st kyu but was doing martial arts decades before I ever thought to start.  Despite this they all asked if I would teach a class tonight, so I obliged.

When I asked what kinds of things they would like to look at I got person asked for no breakfalls... she wasn't up for it.  So I asked if they would like to see something different.

We warmed up stretching.... then I had them do an exercise I first saw at a NY dojo for warm ups.  Sort of a hanmi handache.  At some point I think I had seen this at NSA as well.  You offer your hand while on live toes.  When they grab, you lead with your elbow and draw it across your body.  Then you flip your arm over.  This gives uke a feeling of being drawn forward and down.  Great for rolling out warm ups.

After we were warmed up I had everyone working on j-steps.  Pretty much everyone at Shodokan...... Everyone!   Is not doing a real j-step.  Annoys the crap out of me.  I mentioned it once or twice over the years to teachers.  So.... I showed everyone a j-step.... had them do tsuki sumi-otoshi with an actual j-step.  Got everyone thinking hard about it because they are all fighting muscle memory on that one.  The other footwork is fine if that's what you are shooting for.  I just told them that if they are going for a j-step they should be mindful.

I had them do the same tsuki attack.  I entered the same way.... had them do a j-step, pull uke around and then go under the arm taking a sankyo.  Then run the sankyo up their center for the throw.  Simple.... but has the same j-step footwork.

Did a technique that I picked up at NSA.  I don't know if it has a different name but it's like a jodan tsuki kaitenage.  You lean forward a bit to help blend with the incoming strike.  Using the opposite hand(left on right), bring the strike up almost above your head.  You are attempting to draw uke forward.  The other hand goes up at the same time and reaches for the same shoulder.  The should hand tries to draw uke up, you then push the punching arm down(at about 45 degrees to the body) and up again behind uke.  (The initial down is to stop people's shoulders from binding up.)  Sliding in pivoting continuing to push.  Uke will roll out.  It's a fun technique.  The point of it is that you never actually grab..... you just continue to push with extension.

After that I wanted to keep the same feeling.  So... For the next technique.  I started out with a wrist grab to uchi kaitenage.  The difference is that after you go under you step behind across uke's back and do a kaitenage.  After they got that feeling we changed it so the entry is the same but instead of cutting down..... you cut yokomen and keep entering on the other side.  While you do this you can push the arm similar to the other technique we were doing.  The hardest part for me is making sure I continue to enter to stay in uke's blind spot.

These last couple techniques were practiced at NSA regularly for a while.   They've moved on to other interesting stuff.

We also did some techniques where the hand goes to the top of the head....saw lots of this in Donovan Waite Seminars in the past.

Then at the end of class we separated off into pairs.  I had them work on 6-7 responses to one attack.  I took Tony as a partner because he can be random and often does judo throws.  I did this so the other person would be comfortable practicing.  She didn't want to work with him when he's unscripted and can do anything.  Often if he's pressed he'll do hip throws or ippon seoi nage.  She didn't want to breakfall.  For the most part, Tony kept it tame... He asked for yokomen.  He did iriminage, kotagaeshi, a couple of kokyunage's, aiki otoshi, udekiminage, etc.  Then for sure he did a couple of hip throws.

Then I ended class as it was a few minutes over.  Bowed us out.

I'm hoping that these advanced folks will take what I said to heart about j-steps.  If you are trying to do one... then do one.  if not, then that's fine.   Be mindful of actually doing the j-step if that's what you intend.  Also hoping that they carry this to the beginners.

After class I pulled a red crash mat out and tried a couple falls on it.  It's like hitting a pillow.  If we do an ukemi class some day and there are newer people learning breakfalls,  I might pull that out.
Would love to teach a class at shodokan on tightening peoples controls and pins, another on the nature of ukemi(it's an active thing not something that is done to you).  The question is..... would the more advanced students find it valuable?  No idea.