Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What To Do In A Bar

Joanna taught tonight.  She chose to do a theme of what to do if you're in a bar and someone does... x.

There were 4 of us aside from her.  All black belts.

The class warmed up with some line work.  I haven't felt Joanna in a while but for some reason she wasn't really throwing tonight.  She was stopping just before the throw.  I felt that from her several times.  Not sure if she's practicing or just teaching nowadays.  She had a bad injury to her neck.  I don't think it's healed up totally.

For one warm up the line did kaitenage.  Just about every single person in that class slammed my forearm down with great force.  Now... there were varying degrees of technique after that.... but after class I gotta say, my forearm is sore.  Thing of it is.... the whacking just isn't necessary.  Very clashy.  Very hard art, like karate.

We did some controls.  when nikkyo came up I gave Dave a little feedback.... he was supporting my wrist a lot so he was doing nothing.  After my suggestion he started doing better.

All in all the class felt pretty rough.  Osotogari was specifically taught.  It's not aikido but again.... this group of black belts wants street effectiveness.  I actually like that technique.

I kept my mouth shut the whole class..... not my class to teach.  I got my practice in.  I feel like these people chose aikido to study but don't believe it works.

There is one other thing I finally noticed.  We had a black belt test a while back.  They guy did well enough, especially considering his age.  Not sure why I hadn't seen a passing result for him.  It is true that he does a lot of things not ideal.... and will never do things textbook.  So... do you pass someone with the thought that he is the best he can be?  Really, the test is supposed to indicate his knowledge of the syllabus.  I thought he did that.  Was everything refined and perfect?  Hell no and never will be.  Maybe he should never have been asked to test in the first place.  He didn't even want to test.  He was dragged into it.  I'm just surprised they haven't given him some feedback.  If they don't pass him they should have at least told him why so he can work on it if he wants.

It's Like They Are Married.....

The class on Sunday I taught was awesome.  It had it's stressful moments however.  At one point Peter started in again resisting technique.  He was doing this for everyone in the class.  Eventually, the other students got annoyed and stopped cooperating entirely when it was Peter's turn.  Peter of course at this stage couldn't make anything work with multiple people in the line.

Then when I had people break off into partners, Peter asked Theo to give him resistance.  Theodore was our visitor from Greece.  Where he comes from they practice a close quarters aikido with resistance.  So he of course was good at it.  Peter couldn't do the simple ikkyo to sankyo technique I had them doing.  Interested in this... I asked if I could try it.  I was able to easily get the technique off.  Which means that I have a good shot at doing this if it matters to someone.  That's super good.  The difference was that I took Theo's balance right away, then got him into a control and never let up on it.  So... the thought I have is that even though I don't often practice with resistance, I can still overcome someone using resistance because I have a reasonable beginning of an idea of how to get kazushi.  The ikkyo I ended up using I didn't think about so much as felt it when I did it.  I could feel his balance and took him to the place where I knew he would be compromised.  This was all done instantaneously.... dynamically.

Then I had another interesting moment.  Theo was doing kaitenage on me.  And... for the first time ever I was stuck as uke.  I've heard Chris complain to me for years that he would get stuck.  And... I never understood it.  I couldn't figure out what was happening to him.  So I just wrote it off as he thinks he's stuck but he's not.  In reality he was stuck.....What I felt that got me in that position was on kaitenage, I often stretch the arm straight up and make a lever out of it.  Somehow, Theo brought it more towards the top of my head as well as being stretched out.  Now.... I have reasonably loose shoulders.  It took that much of an angle to let me feel the lock up.  Maybe Chris is built differently and feels it at a less steep angle.  It probably isn't the arm itself but how the pressure is pushed through my feet into the floor.  But that's the angle it took for me to feel it.  So now... I will pay tons of attention to Chris to see how this is happening and give him an out for his ukemi.

Later in the class I had a bad incident occurring between Chris and Peter.  Peter complained that he wanted Chris to be more resistant.  Chris complained that Peter was not being sensitive to his partners position and could easily inflict injury.  At first I was going to break them up... but I decided that in the end we are better off letting them have the heated discussion.  My moving them around would only delay it.  So I kept them together and tried to intervene when needed.  No one was physical about it... they were just both pissed off.  Each one was trying to make a point and neither one really heard the other.

I tried to talk to each of them at various points.  I told Peter not to push uke further than they wanted to go.

The thing of it is they both have a point.  Chris's point is obvious.... you should be sensitive to your uke's abilities and position and not give them more than they can handle just because you want to practice a certain way.  More than once I've let go of a control or throw because of uke's reaction.  I'd rather let go than take any chance at all of hurting someone.  It just isn't worth it.

Peter's point is more complicated.  There are times when Chris bails out on techniques a bit early.  I think a lot of it is simply because he never developed ukemi to deal with certain positions.  This can easily be learned if he wants.  He's fine if he doesn't as he will be still practicing safely... he just wont be the best partner he could be.  When you stay with the technique everyone benefits.

The interesting thing is that this very class and others I've been trying to get people to be more sensitive to each other.  I started out the class with tai no henko.  Then.... I changed it.... same exercise... but uke isn't allowed to grab.  Uke has to keep a good solid connection to nage.  Nage has to move in a way that doesn't strip uke.  They both have to feel each other.

Also did a rodeo throw with the same thought.  I wanted uke to feel nage.... so that no one felt any pulling.

I have been teaching classes on taking balance and getting partners to be more sensitive to each other for the past couple months.  This reminds me a great deal of how it felt when I first started aikido.  You'd have weeks when you would feel like you are learning lots and other weeks that you felt like you are getting worse or making no progress.  As a teacher I've felt the same way again.  There are weeks I see understanding in the students.  I see techniques improve.... then we get stuck in this resistance rut.

It's not me... it's fostered by the current generation of black belts.  Everyone is so concerned about having effective aikido, no one is realizing that it can be effective and soft at the same time.  That you don't have to use muscle to be effective.

I feel like the lone voice of reason.  I'm amazed anyone comes to my class since my message is so different.

I will continue to try..... as I say to my kids..... I am the river.

Week Recap

A lot of time has gone by and I forget a lot about what I've been doing in classes.  Monday night I went to North Shore Aikikai.  Did a good class there as usual.  Wish I could remember what specifically we did. but it was more core principal study.

Friday night Chris and I were left on our own since the instructor couldn't make it.  Not a problem... Since it was only the two of us anyway, we treated it like an open mat practice.  We practiced softly for the most part.  He was trying to show my a knife disarm at one point done in a seminar.  The problem with that is.... he is giving me his interpretation of what he thinks he saw on what the teacher thought they were showing.   couldn't figure out how to make it work in a way that made sense.  At one point the blade was turned towards me.... I didn't like it at all.  I must be doing something wrong there.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Didn't Do Much On Sunday

So Sunday I taught.  One of the students wants to take his 3rd kyu test so I wanted to focus on that.  We started out with some more exercises in taking balance.

For ukemi practice I wanted to push everyone just a little bit.  We have our visitor from Greece attending the Sunday class pretty regularly.  They do a lot of close in, direct aikido.  His ukemi isn't as good as it could be.  So, after the normal rolls.  I had them do a roll where you stretch out a bit.  And... wow... he didn't barrel roll.  His roll looked better.

Later I asked what the student wanted to work on for his test and he said tsuki kaitenage and yokomenuchi iriminage.  For the iriminage he's been getting different explanations from different teachers about what to do.  He said I was the first teacher to mention... why we are doing it.  Also, my version is different than the other teachers.  I explained to him that one of us isn't necessarily doing anything wrong.  That people are different, our aikido is different.  That I like my way for these reasons.  And... that in the end we are a product of all our teachers.  He might find something I do easier or more effective and some other technique, he may like what someone else does.

After class I spoke with Chris a bit.  Peter (the student) tends to resist a lot.  Although he doesn't do that to me often(that I've noticed).  He does do that a lot to Chris.  Peter feels that the practice is more real if he resists and therefore more useful.  There is some validity to this... but his ukemi really isn't up to this.  I tried to point that out to him in the past.  Also, it makes practicing certain techniques more difficult.  If you can't get the technique you need to flow into the next.  Which is fine but you still aren't getting to practice the original technique.  So in some cases, resistance can hurt practice.  I noticed he seems to give Chris a harder time than he gives me.  So, I suggested to Chris after class that if he misses a technique with him, he should flow into something else and make it very uncomfortable.  And remind Peter that ... now that we've done this second technique X lets get back to practicing technique Y.  So, attack me so that I can practice it please.  We can practice with resistance later.  It's more important to get the technique right first.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fun Friday Class And a Thank You

Peter taught Friday night.  There is this series of throws he likes to do that's a lot of fun.  Ryotetori grab dynamically.  You tenshin step then step forward.... the hands are just leading uke forward and them around back the other way.  There are a few variations on this he does.  They are fun fr ukemi too.  You can feel the changes in direction.  Maybe we will do more of this on Sunday if there is time.

For the past couple months we've had someone visiting from Greece.  We call him Theo for short.  He's been showing up to a lot of my Sunday classes and the night or two I had to teach on other nights, he was there.  So he has seen lots of me.  Last night before class he presented me with a card and gift to thank me for teaching.  I told him it was totally unnecessary but he wanted to give me something for being his "sensei" while he was here.  His teacher.  I thanked him.  There have been a lot of people over the years that I've learned from.  Some teachers, some fellow students.  They all deserve a thank you.

During class Theo mistook my ukemi for a problem.  He was going for udekiminage... and was looking for the right spot to apply pressure.  As soon as he got it... it was strong so I reacted instantly and moved up and closer to him.  He just as quickly let it go, afraid he was going to hurt me.  I told him it was fine... I didn't expect or need for him to let it go.  I was just staying a moment ahead of the technique.  I'm not going to wait and endanger my elbow.  I'm going to move.  My reaction was extremely fast though so I think that scared him.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Great Sunday Class

Did a similar class to the past couple weeks.  Stressing kazushi.  At one point I wanted to push Peter's ukemi just a bit and see if he could try a shihonage breakfall from kneeling.  So I did a hanme handache version of shihonage for him.  He tries to leap into the air and somehow barrels out(he's bending at the waist).  It's not quite there yet.  We talked about him going more up and over.  Maybe next week we will do breakfalls over the jo.

For some people breakfalling when someone "has" you is more difficult than when you are just doing them on your own.  This is the case here.  He's made such huge progress the past few months I don't doubt that he will get there sooner or later.

My biggest problem with teaching this ukemi is that one of the regular students has a major back issue.  I don't force him to ever do breakfalls now.  I don't want him doing anything that will mess with his back.  Usually I pick things he can roll out of if he wants.  On Sunday I had him and someone else doing one thing while I worked with Peter on ukemi across the mat.

I had an interesting thing happen sort of by accident.  All along I was describing how I want them to think about taking balance before doing a technique.  I was talking to Peter at the time and said... "ya if you wanted to instead of a technique you could do anything".  At one point I showed how you could drape your arm over uke's shoulder and turn your hips to throw.  But right after I told him I wanted the feeling of this.... then from in front of him, I placed my forearm on his chest(he's taller than I am by a lot) with my hand loose on his shoulder... and then somehow pushed down through him(using no strength at all).  My center was definitely attack his center.  He was driven down and back.  He took a couple steps back and his eyes went wide with surprise.  Surprised me that it worked as well as it did.  I used no muscle and for sure it was my center attacking his.  It felt right too.  I wonder if I can do that twice.

Although Useful, Doesn't Seem Like Aikido To Me

Friday night Bob taught.  For most of the class he had us doing some kind of exercise of throwing elbow strikes.  He said it was from Nishio Aikido.  I've seen many of their videos.  I've never spotted one with this exercise.

A common theme for the Nishio Aikido is that everything is closely linked to weapons.  Often I've seen a video where they show a technique with a weapon and then the empty handed version.

It's been a while since I looked at their stuff.  I should go back and look at more to see if I see something that I didn't see before.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

I Saw It When It Was Made Obvious

Went to North Shore Aikikai last night for class.  Of all the things in the class we did the one that sticks out in my mind is this particular backstretch.

Ryotetori beginning suck them in just a little bit.  You end up rotating with your forearm being the axis.  So, you turn palm down.  Uke should have their elbow driven up.  Then you release and rotate the other way.  The motion for uke is similar to shihonage.  In fact, as nage you can pay a lot of attention to uke's elbow and try to drive/lead it in that circle.  Once uke's balance is comprimised you can move in and do the backstretch.

When I first saw it I was missing some of it.  Until Rob did an exaggerated one with a big circle for me.  After a few repetitions we tried making the circle smaller.

At the end of class we did a freestyle practice.  I've done better freestyles.  This is why we practice.

Monday, November 06, 2017

A Few Went By

I've had a few classes since I put a post up.

On Monday night I went to North Shore Aikikai.  They were doing strange things again.  Really challenging me to think about what I'm doing.

On Friday night Bob taught.  He wanted to have us practice freestyle.  So, he had us do a response from certain attacks that put uke in certain places.  Then after practicing each separate technique, asked the class to use these specific techniques in a freestyle like atmosphere.  This is actually very hard to do.  Limit yourself to something like four separate techniques for a freestyle.  I had to leave early so I missed the end of class.

I was caught moving for ukemi.  During a demo Bob was giving, he started to go into shihonage.  When I'm not 100% sure what someone is going to do with it I tend to move more to protect myself.  Some people change pace and speed up at the end for instance.  This is easier to keep up with if you move as uke.  So when Bob started his shihonage I took a half step around with the outside foot to get myself into a position that was safer for me.  Normally this isn't a problem but my moving put me in a different place than Bob was expecting and he was trying to show something specific.  Oops.  I won't call this a mistake on my part.  I think ukemi should be a very active thing.  As long as you aren't bailing out of the technique, there is normally nothing wrong with moving to a safer spot.

On Sunday morning I taught a class similar to last week.  Tried to get everyone thinking about taking uke's balance before throwing.  Some people were understanding it.  Ryan wasn't necessarily getting it I think.  He showed me his version of a technique and said..... "What's wrong with doing it this way?"  My reply was.... "Nothing".  What he was doing was fine.  I was doing techniques that clearly show (almost exaggerate) that you have uke's balance.  Ryan is still thinking in terms of a hard art.  Enforcing your will on others.  If I do this..... they fall down.... While you can do techniques this way, you aren't doing a soft version of aikido.  You can techniques softly and have them still work devastatingly well.  The difference is understanding what is going on within the technique.  I'm afraid Ryan's mind is currently closed of to this type of thinking right now.  I'll keep showing him another path and maybe he will see that he doesn't need to use strength.