Sunday, October 29, 2017

Flamingo Class

So, I'm on a kick about teaching sensitivity in my Sunday morning class.  I want uke and nage to feel and understand what is going on.  To try and trigger some thinking today I started out with taking an uke for a demonstration and having him initially just stand on one leg.  As you might guess I was easily able to move him around any which way I wanted.  It required very little effort on my part to make them move and at one point even just pushed him back with a finger.

Once I got that idea in their heads I had uke take a normal stance and showed how much harder it was to move uke around.  Then I asked him to put 90% of his weight on one leg.  And again... showed how I can easily move uke around.

Then I had them doing various exercises throughout class to get uke's weight on one foot.  To think about getting that so they can then do a technique.

At one point to mix things up I even had them doing a rodeo throw.  Again.... feeling uke come around.  If you try to throw too early you just pull uke into you.

We did tsuki irimi where you get behind and take the shoulder/neck with one hand and the elbow with the other.  Draw uke out(guiding the elbow in the direction it was already heading) until his balance is on once leg.... then do the technique.  We did a couple like that.

I stole another one from a class at North Shore Aikikai.  Moretetori set up.  The rear foot steps off  90 degrees.  When the heel of the foot drops, you are getting uke's weight mostly on one foot.  Then you can push forward with your center.

All this one foot business isn't the answer to everything, rather, it's an exercise that allows nage and uke the opportunity to feel what off balancing feels like and to recognize it when it's there.  I want people thinking about what their aikido is doing to their partner instead of just going through the motions of a technique not truly understanding why it works.

I had some good response to the class.  At one point Peter(the student not the instructor) was recognizing when he had his uke's balance.  I suggested to him that no matter who is teaching a class, he should try to find this feeling of kazushi.

We should probably repeat this class next week to see if anything sticks.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Awesome Friday Night Class

Peter taught Friday night's class.  It's not usually a Peter night so I'm guessing Bob couldn't make it.

Things started off pretty slow.  Peter has been having us walk around with blocks on our heads again.  Well... they are round wooden discs actually.  It's supposed to remind you to keep your posture.  Walking around... doing tenkans and standing on one foot is all easy.  It gets harder when you have to knee walk and harder still trying to do a technique (kaitenage) with a wooden disc on your head.

We moved on to a lot of ryotetori.  He's done some of these in the past.  They are super fun.  Totally, something that I don't think of as a real defensive technique.... however it's an amazing exercise for both nage and uke.  I may repeat a couple of these on Sunday if I can remember them.  They were simple.  Things like ....

Offer your hands and as uke grabs throw uke back where he came from.  One hand is turned palm up for the grab and you push on this as if it were ikkyo-like, step through and throw.  There was another which threw the other direction.  I'll have to think a bit to remember how he got there.  He did 4 or 5 variations like this.  All very fun.

I've been wanting to get people to be more sensitive as uke's and nage's.  Be more aware of what state your partner is in.... where they are standing... where their balance is.  You should be able to feel that in your partner.

Too many people at shodokan think that a technique is that you move your hands that way,,, and feet this way, and then people fall down.  I want to get people thinking about balance and positioning.  If you feel what your partner is doing as nage you can get kazushi easier.  If you feel your partner as uke, you can take better ukemi (and also understand what the teechnique is doing to you better).

Eventually this feeling out your partner becomes more second nature and you instinctively make adjustments on the fly if things are not right.  Then you can work on getting things right without the adjustments.

But... it all begins with feeling our partner.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

No Idea

This is why I like going to North Shore Aikikai.  Last night we did some back stretches that had some subtle movements.  Some seemed easy, others less so.

One of the more interesting "techniques" we did was a two handed grab when the hand is palm down.  The back foot goes off to the 90 degree angle,   The ball of the foot plants first.  When the heel is dropped, uke is pulled in toward you and all his weight will be on their forward foot.  At this point you can redirect uke.  As you drop the heel, the hand cuts to your center.  Then the other hand will help around the elbow.  Uke almost turns himself around because of the movement.  Nage can then move their entire body in, displacing uke.  Not sure whether I call this a technique but all the principles of off balancing are there.

At the end of class we spent some time on a randori.  No idea why but I often found myself doing(sort of) something Rob used to teach in classes.  I apparently internalized that.  You never know what is going to feel right until you do it.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Test Night

Not a huge turnout but it was a test night for Ryan and Tony.

Everything went pretty much as I'd expected for both tests.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Had a Great Tuesday Class

Went to Peter's Tuesday night class.  He's not rid of me yet.

Peter had us doing various responses to a yokomenuchi attack that included two specific entries.  Class was mostly this.  I got to work with everyone who came that night.  I think there were six of us.

Ryan was there.  He's going to be doing his test on Friday night.  Should be a pretty good test.

Actually I made a suggestion for Ryan's ukemi.  I make this suggestion for lots of people.  More stuff I picked up with the guys at North Shore Aikikai.  When someone has udekiminage, you place your other hand on nage's wrist on the arm that he's causing the armbar with.  What that lets you do is control how much armbar you want to feel.  You can always push down.  The trick is to not thwart the technique.  Just keep yourself safe.  I wanted Ryan to know that one so when he goes off to seminars he can stay safe.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Test Prep

Tony came for the Sunday class.  Since his test is supposed to be Friday, we worked on his test techniques.  I showed different entries for each attack.  A lot of times you get stuck in a rut, doing the same technique repeatedly.  Some times using a different entry can put you in a different position and you end up coming up with a different technique.

Things went fairly well actually.  Tony was doing fairly well.

We did have a bit of a problem today though.  The arnis class practices during the same time slot.  They use the back half of the mat (which is a smaller space).  In the past it's never been much of an issue.  We always had to watch out for swinging sticks on the edge of the mat but for the most part it was safe(ignoring the beginners losing a stick).

Today, I did not feel safe at all.  They arnis class was blessed with a very large class today and at times during their practice they were working on the aikido mat space.  Although I do realize we don't always need the whole mat, having them come on to our space while we are practicing is not acceptable to me.  It creates an unsafe environment.  I'll see how next week goes but if there is a repeat I will have to have a discussion with the arnis teacher to work this out.

I can't have them on our mat....  They would be working on a drill... backing up swinging sticks and think nothing of it.  All I see is a student I'm responsible for getting injured.  I don't think they'd pull that crap on Peter if he were still teaching the class.

As for giving up some mat space to make room for the arnis class.  I'd have to think that one out.  I want to do what makes sense for the dojo... but that's the aikido mat space.  Either it's available for class... or it isn't.  I don't want to have to ask permission from the other instructor just so I can do a freestyle practice.  It's more coordination than I want to deal with.  Perhaps it would be best if they picked a time slot where they could have the whole mat to themselves.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Silent Meditation

A while back the Zen Center moved into the bottom floor of our dojo.  They created their own space down there which is quite nice.  It's definitely a calming environment.  Anyone into Zen meditation should check it out.

Bob has started Friday night classes wanting to do 15 minutes of meditation down there.  Anyone wishing to can come.  Trying to keep an open mind I went down with them last night.

I'm not sure how much my presence disrupted Bob and the other aikido student but I've been having issues with allergies giving me a post nasal drip which causes coughing.  I didn't give it much thought until we were in there and I was unable to stay silent.  Not sure how bad I disrupted things in there with my coughing that started about 10 minutes in.

Ignoring the coughing part, I found the experience nice but I feel better from moving around on the mat.  Whether you want to say I am generating ki, or just exercising, I always feel good from that movement.  The mediation experience struck me as a good one but cannot replace the same feeling of energy I get when I work on the mat.  It's a different experience.

So Bob asked and there is supposed to be a test Friday night for Tony and Ryan.  Tony would rather put it off longer but he has a good attitude on testing.... It's just a test.  He's been through many(coming from a judo background).  I'm sure most of it will look just like what he does in class.

Bob asked which technique Tony wanted to work on and he said kate menuchi attacks.  Since there were three students this night Tony was monkey in the middle and we took turns attacking.  Bob had showed a few different responses.

Then at the end he asked Tony to do some of what he just felt like.  Tony did a few more but immediately started off with Aiki-otoshi.  Then immediately did one that ended with a koshinage.  Taking the fall for that sucked because he kept my "slap" hand when he threw me.  Although I wouldn't have slapped per se, I use that hand to make contact with the ground early to lessen the fall.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I Added My Confusion to the Monday Night Class

Was very happy to get to a class at North Shore Aikikai on Monday night.

Worked on a backstretch.  You might think it's a waste of time but there are basic principles even in what is supposed to be a simple backstretch.  There were three different versions.  I was getting some of it right.

The technique that stuck out in my mind the most was something I love doing.... which just to simply do the sky hand from tenchinage as a lead.  Force them to be put in a position where they almost can lean on it and then take it away which makes them fall to the ground.  You have to make sure that you don't push uke back.  Everything has to move forward.  Definitely wanted to do something like that on Sunday.  I was thinking of having people do this to feel a lead.  But... maybe after we can do the throw Rob had us doing.

At the end we did some randori practice.  For whatever reason... found my self in sankyo a lot.  That happens.  Some times you find yourself doing one particular thing.  Part of it may be because we are always doing yokomen.  Matt had a seriously cool thing.... he was dealing with Rob, as I moved toward him, he turned and struck at my face which caused me to block giving him a connection to use.

Fun class.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Great Sunday

This was another day I didn't expect any one to show for class.  Yesterday they held a 3 hour clinic at Shodokan.  I couldn't go.  I figured after that class most people wouldn't be interested in class on Sunday.

So three people showed up for class.  Which is good because I was able to be the fourth and mix in.  I had us do a class with attacks from tsuki.  Theo joined us again so I kept a mix of controls and techniques.  Theo's ukemi isn't well developed so I didn't want to push him for the whole class.

We did nikkyo, sankyo and so forth.  I did a 'simple' sumiotoshi.... irimi deflecting the tsuki as you enter and take the top of the arm at the elbow moving it in a small circle and aiming uke's elbow down to the third point..  I gave Buddy some pointers on his pinning technique.  I tried to show how to off-balance uke for the techniques.  Later I mixed in taiotoshi and makiotoshi.  Turns out that Peter has been helping Ryan study for his 1st kyu test.  Part of that is Ryan wanting to do a yokomenuchi taiotoshi.  So out of the blue I see Peter do a really nice breakfall.  A big difference from the last time I saw him(which admittedly was a while ago).  I was so excited to see him progress.  I think I was seeing progress in his techniques as well which is awesome because I thought he had hit one of those slow plateau like spots we all hit.  Maybe working with Ryan helped him focus.

Long ago.... I went through a phase of doing nothing but those kinds of throws when my teachers were doing a lot of that.  So although I personally don't feel the need to do lots now, I feel it gave me a great experience for my ukemi.  I've been wanting to improve everyone's ukemi at Shodokan so I intend to mix things up a bit and do these throws more often than I have seen other teachers.  Which is good... they can learn some stuff from one teacher and maybe pick something else up from me and so forth.  I'm hoping this will complement what they are learning.  Bob said he wanted to see a more dynamic class at Shodokan.  Since he's overseeing the aikido program now I'm guessing he won't mind.

I mix in as people do techniques.  Not surprised when Buddy did his taiotshi he blasted me down with all muscle.  I could totally feel it.  So I tried to explain that he should use less muscle for now and let the body drop do the work.  Instead of 100% muscle, I felt about 90% on the next throw.  Then about 50% on the one after that.  So he made a huge improvement.  I'm thinking we should keep doing this so he has a chance to keep refining it.  A while back Buddy told me that after class he always felt pretty rough.  It's because he uses so much muscle on techniques.  He can do it because he is a strong guy but he still experiences soreness.  So overall, I'm trying to get him to use less muscle.

After class Peter told me he was interested in working on his 3rd kyu test so I'll be focused on his and anyone else's test that shows up.

One of the things I noticed was that they obviously cleaned up a bit before the clinic as the dojo was looking pretty good. Somehow.... I have no idea how.... someone managed to clean the blasted mirrors.  I'd love to know how they did it and what they used.

What I'm excited about the most is that one or two of the students have told me that they see what I'm driving at.  That if you do a technique with kazushi, you don't need muscle (or you can add it if need be).  That getting the technique is more important.  I was seriously concerned for a while that the dojo was headed down a path where atemi was replacing other forms of getting kazushi (through off-balancing).... in my mind atemi should add to it not replace it.  I have hope now that the dojo Isn' going to head down some strange road that leads to a striking aikido. ( I do use atemi in some of my techniques, I just don't rely on atemi to make the techniques work).

Friday, October 06, 2017


Ya that was Friday night..... Between busy people, injury, and who knows what, I was the only person that showed up Friday night.  Good thing I did too.  We had a guy from Greece come in to take a class.  I guess he's been kicking around for a week or so and will stay in the area a couple months.

His english was good but not great.  Still impressive as English is a crappy language to try and pick up.

He came in with a brown belt which in a lot of aikido systems is like a 1st kyu.  At the end of class he told me he was a 2nd kyu in his system.  I think his lineage is through toyoda sensei.  So that puts him in line with AAA maybe?  If so that means he's been practicing about 2 years.  I didn't ask.

So, I started off light to see what I was working with,  We started with some back stretches.  Right away I could see stuff just from his back stretch.  Enough to concern me.

So I kept it light by starting with some controls.  I changed things a lot because I was trying to see what he knew.  When I asked if he wanted to show a technique, he would put his arms out as if to say he didn't understand me or he didn't want to pick.

We did variations of nikkyo, sankyo, kokyunage, shihonage, udekiminage.  I tried to show how to increase the effectiveness.  His nikkyo grip was odd.  I didn't focus on that though.  I had him make some adjustments though.  He was doing what a lot of people do.  He brough uke's whole hand/arm down... which does nothing... or sometimes he would not have his center attack mine.... other times he would turn as he attempted nikkyo which made it looser.  Every time he did something like that.... I did the same to him so he could feel the difference.  Then I did it to him with a correction.  He improved his nikkyo a ton.  If he remembers the changes.  May be hard for 1 class to remember it forever.

Then I tried moving us into kaitenage, sumi-otoshi, and maki-otoshi.  It was apparent that his ukemi is not too advanced.  He was barrel rolling a lot.  So we took a moment to talk about it a bit and practice forward rolls a little.  he showed vast improvement while focusing on it.  However, during techniques, muscle memory crept in and he barrel rolled.  He fully understood that this was a harder fall.  In any event, I thought working a little on ukemi was sufficient.  No need to spend too much time trying to fix something all at once.  He said he gets hurt falling all the time.  And he seemed very uncomfortable with even the thought of a breakfall so I didn't even go there with him.

I did a varied type of techniques.  Some flowy and long, others short and very direct.  When class was done he said he liked tenshin style aikido.  So he likes the short direct stuff.  Glad I mixed it up.

Anyone that works with him will have to be careful with him.  His ukemi still needs work.

In any event, I was glad as hell he showed up so I had someone to practice with.  It was a fun night.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Busy Tuesday Class

Went to a Tuesday class at Shodokan.  Peter taught... there was a good group there.  Maybe 7 people, including Ariel who I haven't seen on the mat in a while.

There is a chance that Sunday attendance will pick up.  At least a couple people told me that their schedule was shifting and the weekends are the best days for practice.

At least two people attending this Sunday are working toward testing... so we'll focus on that I think.  We shall see who shows up.

So... class this night was fun... Most of it was from moretetori.  Towards the end of class Peter said we could do anything we wanted from it.  I got to work with people I hadn't worked with in a while. 

At one point I worked with Peter (the student).  For moretetori he was grabbing me in all different ways.  Sometimes strongly, sometimes wrong hands in the wrong place.  Other times he'll grab with a little twist on my arm to start.  I told him that in some cases, if he grabs me differently then I wouldn't be doing the technique that was shown, I would do something else.  His kind of attacks can be good practice but if you were trying to learn something new, there are other things to focus on.  More important things.  It's like his mind is always active and impatient.

Come to think of it, because he isn't concentrating on the technique.... he threw me on to the extended mat once which is normally fine but the judo guys were there practicing for an upcoming test.  The second time he almost threw me through the shoji screen into a closet.  But... I modified my ukemi and pulled my legs in as I knew where I was.

One of the more strange things I'm going to have to get used to was the absence of Mr. Mulligan.  I'm not sure what nights he will visit the dojo but it was strange to walk in there and not see him there on the couch.  I did not miss the cigar smoke but I did miss him. 

Sunday, October 01, 2017

No Where To Go But Up

So Sunday was an interesting day.  I had finished up from fasting.  Some digestive issues caused me to be late.  No big deal.. it happens.  I know Peter hates when students are late.  But I thought I was teaching and although the teacher shouldn't be late either, I wasn't sweating it.  I show up and Peter is there dressing in hakima.  A little confused as I thought I was teaching.  Turns out that Peter showed up.... dressed... and got on the mat just to FORMALLY turn the class over to me.

I thanked him for his years of teaching and he bowed out off the mat.   Took off his hakima... folded it carefully and left.  I can only guess that he joined the Zen meditation folks downstairs.

During Peter's speech he said a few things.... respect Eric's teaching as you would respect me.... show up on time for class..... maintain the place... sweep and clean the mirrors.

So... I started the class by showing up late..... the mat was swept... but I purposely did not do the mirrors.  Seems like despite all my efforts at cleaning those I can never actually get them clean.  I have no idea if the windex is watered down... or the z-fold utility paper towels aren't cutting it.  But I've literally spent an hour in the recent past trying to clean the mirrors and they come out looking like crap.  Next week I'll bring in some proper paper towel and windex or something.  Just to see if they can be cleaned.  I'm actually curious as to what the problem is and if the mirrors can be clean.

So.. ya I'm sure Peter came back upstairs to see the mirrors dirty..... so I'm sure I impressed the hell out of him today.

Peter was always very formal.  I was almost as formal when I started aikido.  What changed my mind?  One day I see someone (of high rank) grab the bokken from the kazima by the "blade" and use the handle to whack a switch high up out of reach to shut the light off.  I guess I had a funny look on my face.  He said.... it's only a practice stick.  Since then I realized that many american's go further than even the Japanese on customs.  Perhaps we overcompensate.  This all being said... I still like people lining up properly and some of the initial bowing and so forth.  However, now... if I visit a dojo that is less formal, I have no problem with it.

So... we started class.  After stretches and some ukemi practice, we did some back stretches.  Tony was in class but I know his back is lousy nowadays so I adjusted class to compensate for him.  It was actually just the three of us anyway(Chris, Tony and I).  Actually, I was expecting no one to show.  I thought Tony's back would have kept him out and Chris usually hides for the month of October because his town is taken over by tourists that month.  So I was glad to have a couple people today.

This class I wanted to focus on two things... One was sensitivity.  The other was Tony's test practice.  So I had us doing a few exercises where you could feel what you are doing to uke.  Watch uke's posture break down little by little.  Then we did a technique along those lines.  The thing about sensitivity is that it allows us to feel what is happening to our partner so we can adjust what we are doing on the fly to get kazushi.  I'm less interested in causing the feeling and more interested in recognizing it right now.  Those are two different things.  I also had a secret motive for this which is that the same sensitivity that you use to get kazushi, is the same sensitivity that you use for ukemi. 

We did have an ukemi question pop up during class.  I noticed that for kaitenage Chris was getting screwed into the ground somewhat and just would fall down.  It's comfortable for him to do so but thre are two issues with it.  One is that he's giving up on the technique early.  This means that nage doesn't get to practice the technique fully.  The second issue is that it's way harder to take ukemi that way.  So, I watched him and realized that some times.... not all the time.  Chris wouldn't step out for kaitenage with the forward foot.  On those occasions he would just screw into the ground.  When I brought it to his attention he raised a concern with the ura verison.  He thought stepping out would put him in a bad position for ura.  I think my response was less than optimal.  I think I said.... "your foot's not nailed down, you step out and if ura starts then you step again".  He tried it and his ukemi looked way better.  But.. he would have to fight years of muscle memory to change this (assuming he even wanted to).  I have always said that ukemi is an ACTIVE role.  It isn't something that happens to you.  Chris has always felt as though that he can get stuck in kaitenage.  I wonder if this ukemi is why.  Cause if you take a more typical ukemi with the step you can bail out any time you like.

One thing that teaching the class has done has made me a little more aware of how I am doing techniques... because now I have to explain to other's how to do them.

At the end of class you are supposed to write in the book what you worked on.  It helps the teachers know what they have been learning in class.  I almost put a "Kosh"-like entry in the book as simply "Sensitivity" with no further explanation.  But I couldn't do that as much as it would amuse me. 

Who is Kosh?  This guy.....

Wednesday Night Fight Night

So Wednesday night Buddy taught.  We focused on one entry.  It's very practical.  It was a deflection, then a strike to the face while pulling uke's arm forward followed by different techniques.  We did that the whole class.

I sort of figured this was coming but this night Mr. Mulligan told me that Peter wanted to give up teaching the Sunday morning class.  What I wasn't sure about was who was going to take over.  Mr. Mulligan said he discussed it and they thought I would be a good choice to teach.  My aikido looks fairly different from most everyone's at Shodokan.  Every one has always got their own differences.  My classes will definitely expose people to a different thought.  It may send them running away but I hope not.

I've taught classes before when instructors couldn't make it.  This is my first regular teaching slot.  Truth be told.  This is not the first time someone asked me to teach.  The folks at North Shore Aikido asked me a while ago (pre-shodan) to teach a class once in a while.  I refused.  I learn so much from their regular classes that I didn't want to give any of that up.  Maybe it's a selfish thought.  I know though that anything I came up with they will noodle around with until something interesting pops out.  But still... I would feel the need to prep something to give a good class and I never feel like I have the time anyway.