Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Test Night at North Shore Aikido

The beginning of the class was the most amusing.  I walk on to the mat and there was a pretty full class present for test night.  I finally wore my black belt and hakama.  The entire mat full of people were staring at me.  Like they were all in  shock.  It was like one of those movies where the party is going on and then someone walks in and then you hear the record scratch and dead silence....  That was me.... I walk in with just a black belt on and carrying my hakama and then.....


I think everyone had to digest the picture.  Some of these people have practiced with me for years.  I'm not used to the attention.  People will get over it fast I'm sure.

I struggled to get my hakama on for the first time.  Turns out I need strap extensions cause I'm fat.  Frankly, you'd have to have some small hips to not need extensions for this hakama.

I liked the length of the hakama.  It might be a tiny bit on the long side.  I wasn't tripping over it much.  I got my foot caught in it once trying to get up.

So we do some generally basic techniques before the test.  One of them was a strange yokomenuchi  iriminage.  You enter in and take the striking hand in a shihonage like grip, keep moving aroind leading uke and do the iriminage.  I was wrestling with it a little but got the gist of it I think.  At one point my partner said something about my having a hakama so I should exactly know how the technique is done.  I take all comments like that at face value.  I lost my ability to recognize sarcasm at a company I used to work for.  They were so screwed up, everything they did you thought was a joke until you found out they were serious.  Anyway..... she said she expected me to know the technique perfectly because I had a hakama.  I laughed.... and said absolutely not.  Extra clothes haven't as yet granted me with super aikido powers.  I have to continue learning like everyone else.

Then we started the tests.  Overall they were great tests.  A couple of the techniques even looked pretty.  Ukes did a great job for their partners.

Busy Sunday

Peter had a pretty full class on his hands.
All I can remember was that it was a good class.  I think he did some taiotoshi.  Then did a hip throw after.  Pushed my ukemi more than usual.

Friday, February 24, 2017

More Realistic Strikes

Went to class tonight at Shodokan.  Surprised to see certain people on the mat as it's not their normal practice night.

Bob was teaching.  Mostly, he had us practicing deflecting incoming strikes.  At first it was the usual exaggerated tsuki to the face.  Then it moved on to a a more realistic strike to the midsection where uke pulls his fist back.

Not a bad thing to practice once in a while.  Now, you might think... wait a second, doesn't he complain about people in the dojo doing realistic responses?  Well, in this case, this was different.  Uke is giving a realistic attack and rather than strike as a response, we were simply deflecting the attack and/or entering depending on the exercise.  So, I was able to take this class and practice blending which can be a challenge for me at times.  For the most part I was blending well.

Later on I switched partners to a different uke.  I was having trouble doing much with his attack when I realized that the mai was all wrong.  He wasn't even hitting me if I stood still.  So I explained he was too far away if he really wanted to hit me.  After that, I was able to enter and do something.

Not my favorite kind of class to have but its good to do these so you're used to having someone try to actually hit you in the face.  During practice tonight I covered up without thinking about it a couple of times when someone unexpectedly struck towards my face.  Always happy when that happens.  Makes me think if someone actually tried to surprise me and hit me I might actually do more than just stand there and take it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


It's unusual for me to be free Wednesday night but I made an effort and was able to get to class tonight.  Joanna was teaching.  Was also curious about her teaching.

Started out with a few line techniques to warm up.  Then moved on to 3rd kyu techniques to help Richard with his next test.  Richard forgets a lot of stuff, I'm not sure if he'll ever actually be ready to test for 3rd kyu.  No knock on the guy.  He just isn't physically capable of remembering stuff well and knows it.  I'll help him as much as possible and I have no idea if he was thinking of testing but he's no where near ready (and may never be).  Nothing wrong with that though.  He should keep showing up and working out.

Chris had his brand new hakama on tonight.  Looks great on him.  Although he said it felt odd, he didn't trip over it once.  He did quite well with it.

Speaking of clothing.  At the end of class we got to do some awesome taiotoshi.  I purposely grabbed Dave and we threw the hell out of each other.  On one of the throws though, I hear this... rriiipp noise.  I had managed to rip the sleeve of his gi.  I felt kind of bad.  But the gi was very old.  They wear out.  So, not wanting to rip it further I modified the throw on that side after that to do an anti-otoshi, where you step in, pivot and put the "wrong" knee up as you throw.  It's easier on the arm and I was grabbing a little differently for that version.

After that was done, we did a little 31 jo kata.  Looked like everyone needed the practice.  I noticed Joanna doing one of the strikes differently than I do it.  I'll have to look it up somewhere to verify if it's a yokomen or shomen strike.

Great class!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Awesome Ikkyo

Monday night at North Shore Aikido we were working on ikkyo.  The most interesting part of this ikkyo is the blending with the attack.  Instead of just getting to the shomenuchi strike early and pushing through uke or even to the side of uke, nage receives the shomen strike, continues it's motion forward some and then changes its direction.

I've felt Rob do this and to me it feels like my shomen strike is hitting a pillow.  The initial impetus is changed.  All of a sudden the attack is stopped in it's tracks.  All this is done from blending with the attack.  This is the kind of aikido I enjoy learning.  There is nothing to struggle against or push against.  The attack is simply absorbed and redirected.

This is the kind of thing I wish some of my fellow practitioners at Shodokan could understand.  Any monkey can hit/atemi someone and then do any old variation of ikkyo.  And that's ok.... but to be able to absorb and redirect an attack is really what aikido is all about.  Sick of hearing some people go on about street effectiveness...... hell, we haven't even learned ikkyo yet.  There is a depth to aikido.  The first step is knowing there is more.  The next step is learning it.  If you don't see the depth to begin with then I guess your inclination might be to look at each technique as flawed in some way and assume that most techniques are not effective.

UPDATE:  Oh.... and now that I think of it.  We had at least a couple of students at Shodokan using the most basic of techniques (1 even after only a few weeks of training) and those techniques were effective.  So if a vanilla ikkyo from a rank beginner or sankyo variation will work in the street then maybe there is something to this that is street effective.

Another Disappointing Conversation

Had a great class on Sunday.  Peter had us doing mostly ryotetori attacks and responses.  At one point he said just come up with whatever you like so I set up a nice taiotoshi.  He came over and asked me to do it a few more times so he could check out how I was making a hand transition.   That's what I like about Peter, he's always willing to learn from anyone.  He has an open mind.

The sad conversation was after class.  I was talking to a student who has been around for about 18 months.  That's a good chunk of time.  Basically, he's yet another person that wants to see a street version of aikido.  He and others want the aikido program to just be a self defense course.

I tried to suggest to him that before he goes about changing anything, maybe he should learn aikido more in depth first.  My suggestion was totally lost on him.

Things aren't any clearer to him when he and another student start (mutually) grappling in the corner on Saturday while a beginners class is going on.  Totally giving the beginners the wrong idea about what aikido is all about.  Also, just reinforcing for them non-aikido.  Nothing wrong with cross training but we should really keep it under the direction of the teachers.

He's all ready to alter his version of aikido for street use.  Meanwhile, he can't even forward roll properly yet.  18 months and he can't get a live toe down.  Not sure why his teachers aren't nagging him about it.  I mentioned it to him in the past but since I'm not his teacher there is only so far I'm willing to stick my nose in where it doesn't belong.

Maybe the dojo should open up a Krav class.  6 months and you can be street effective, decimating anyone that you come into contact with.

The future of soft aikido here is grim.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Helping The Next Tester

So Friday night was quiet.  A string of people called the dojo to declare sickness.  So it was just myself, Chris and John.  John wants to test soon for Shodan so I figured we could go over his test.

Test isn't for 2 or 3 months out but he really needs the time.  We would go through each attack and a lot of the time he looked like he was thinking a bit much about possibilities.  He was stuck a lot on coming up with 5 techniques.

I'd also like to see him work on his sensitivity.  I'd almost call his shihonage dangerous.  I don't think he is aware of how tight things are.  Also, he uses a ton of muscle.  The guy is real strong so when he uses muscle he has no idea how hard he's actually pushing his ukes.

Mostly for the practice I tried to let him just go through as much as he could.  Chris on the other hand was trying to teach him stuff that he wasn't doing before.  In my mind the best thing you could do for him is teach less and practice more.  He needs to build up memory.

At one point though they did ask to see something very different.  So, I threw Chris with a straightforward taiotoshi.  Sure enough, I got the response I expected.  Some "oooohhh....ooohh" noises and he resisted the technique a ton, and took a not too good looking ukemi.  This is why I didn't pick this when he was my partner for my last test.  I know he's not comfortable with the ukemi.  Chris was expressing interest at one point in learning an advanced ukemi but then told me he'd rather someone guide him through it rather than him trying it on his own.  Personally, I'd be happy if he just learned how to do a regular breakfall comfortably.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some Nerve

Rob actually suggested I bend my knees.  Crazy thought.  Then all of a sudden the technique was easier.

We did a bunch of stuff Monday night.  Tenchinage, katatori kokyuho, some sankyo.... some nikkyo.

They have a student there who is stupid strong.  And... he's very good where if he sees a technique a couple of times, he knows how to make it difficult for you to perform it.  So he is an excellent partner to really figure things out.  At one point they were doing nikkyo and experimented with ways to get the nikkyo when he was actively fighting it by stiff arming you.

They eventually figured out a way around it.  Then had me on Monday night try the same thing.  I was a little different but eventually they figured out how to get around it in a soft manner.  It was ridiculously strong.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Big Class This Morning

Pete had six of us on the mat this morning.  Most people don't want to wake up for an early class.  It's good to see people come.

For the most part Peter was starting us out with an unusual opening.  Start with a cross hand grab to the wrist.  He was moving the wrist to the inside in a shihonage-like manner, then grabbing the wrist with the other hand, using the first hand to start an armbar in a vertical direction.  We got a few techniques off of that.  One of them looked very much like seoi nage.  They were fun to noodle around with.  Great class.

One of the surprise students was Buddy.  I don't get to practice with him enough.  He works odd shifts.  Sunday morning is actually a good class for him but it's tough to get out of a warm bed on a Sunday morning.  Working with him can be fun.  We were doing nikkyo at one point.  I was having trouble on one side breaking his grip, but I realized I didn't have to and ended up trapping his hand and doing the snake around the tree kind of thing for a nikkyo instead.

On his turn, his right side was fine.  Maybe could use a little fine tuning but when he did nikkyo, I had to hit the mat.  He also was moving at a good pace the whole time, so he was really keeping me on my toes.  His other side, I barely felt any nikkyo.  After class I mentioned that he had a way better side and I told him I'd be willing to just take ukemi for him if he wanted to work on it.  He appreciated the offer but had no interest.  He's usually pretty tired after a class.  Even still, I must think differently than others.  If someone offered to help me work on improving something and I had the 5 minutes.... I'd be all over that.

Actually, after class our 5th kyu Peter wanted to show me a jujitsu technique that was done to him.  I said sure.  It looked a lot like a gooseneck nikkyo.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Quiet Friday Night

Most of the tests are over so people disappear.  Reminds me of all the folks that hit the gym for the first 6 weeks of the year.  Then.... they disappear.

It was just Chris and I to start with the other Chris showing up a bit later.  Chris likes to examine the practical side.  If there isn't an atemi in the technique he's not happy.  Not that I'm against atemi, but it should be used to add to the technique in my mind, not replace it.

We started out with the jo.  I noticed from last week that Chris didn't quite have all of the 31 jo kata down.  So I led him through it, section by section.  If he could watch you while he did it he could keep up.  He just didn't know all of it from the top of his head yet.  We did a bunch of this in a row to help him cement it in some.  If he keeps it up he'll remember the whole thing soon I'm sure.

So at one point he asked me to show him something we could practice.  I decide to do something fun that was shown at a seminar( someone from NY was in town).  He refused to do it and judged it immediately as unusable.  Totally closed minded.  One thing I've learned is to always keep an open mind,  A teacher or fellow student may show me something.  Even if I suspect a technique isn't my style or not useful or flawed in some way I'll always try it out.  See what I can get out of it.  Chris from moment one refused to even try it.  Wow.

In my mind there is a lot of this kind of thinking in the dojo at the moment.  Everyone watches MMA and is worried about the practicality of everything all the time.  Maybe this technique isn't something I would do on the street.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't practice it.

Later on the other Chris wanted to try a nikkyo of some sort.  It's a weird way of applying nikkyo but it does work.  The first Chris was willing to try this out.  Then on me he was attempting a normal nikkyo (with the z in the arm).  Now... if you do it right I'm forced to tap out.  He wasn't even close.  I wanted to tell him what adjustments he could to make it work but he didn't have any interest in learning it.

Then he says you can't do nikkyo from a certain position because someone can straight/stiff arm you.  I know there a few ways to get uke to loosen up a stiff arm.  I show him one.  Then I tell him he shouldn't care about whether someone has a totally stiff arm because you can still do that same nikkyo.  He didn't believe me so I had him present me with a nice stiff arm.... then nikkyo'd him.

He's learned technically how to do nikkyo but doesn't understand what makes it work.  There is difference.

Then after class broke up I stayed on the mat to work on my ukemi some.  There is a feather fall I've been wanting to learn better.  At one point I could do it but I was inconsistent.  Still need to work on it.
Here is one example....

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Kids Are Doing Nikkyo

I have my kids going through Taekwando training at another dojo.  They came home from class to show me something they were learning.  It looked a lot like nikkyo.  Lots of people who cross train will tell you that the body only moves so many ways.  So different arts will often mess with the same joints in the same way.  The nikkyo they were doing was different then a standard aikido version but essentially, that's what it was.

Later on in the evening(yesterday) the kids were talking about my test again.  They liked the freestyle part the best because that looked fun to them(they do advanced sparring, but it's mostly 1-1).  The rest of the test I explained to them what I've heard Mr. Mulligan say before every test.  "That we are not interested in speed.... we are looking for kazushi".  It was more important that I do the technique well than what technique is chosen.  This is what tests are judged on.  The kids were able to grasp this quite easily.  When asking me for an example, I showed them a spot in my test where I was given a yokomen strike and in receiving it, as part of the technique I took my partners balance forcing him to take a big step around.  This is the kind of thing that is looked for when judging the test.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

More Ik

Did some more ikkyo at North Shore Aikido tonight.  You may think there is nothing to ikkyo but there is ikkyo and there is ikkyo.  A lot to learn there.  Been having fun with it.  Saw something I was doing wrong and made a correction.  Then Rob was making corrections.  I got one form of it down a lot of the time.  Still need to practice it.

Also got to help a couple of the other members on their tests.  One of them offered to let me do a different technique but I refused.  If he's practicing for his test then we should just both do his test techniques.

Both Rob and Matt and come to think of it the other students were kind enough to congratulate me for passing my shodan test.

Still No Ukemi Improvement

Every Sunday at Shodokan I watch this newer student Peter.  He's been learning.  but for whatever reason, even his forward rolls aren't there yet.  Everything about them is generally fine but he doesn't come up in live toes.

In the past I've mentioned it to him.  I've got him at least fixing it before he gets up (something Matt has beginners do over at NSA).  But as a habit, he just doesn't do it right away.  I've gotten him to do it once or twice one class.  It's hard to help someone like that when they show no interest in improving and i can only help them before or after class.

Anyway... Peter(the instructor) had an interesting class.  He was also kind enough to congratulate me on my passing my Shodan test.  He seemed genuinely glad for me.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Friday Night

Did some jo work.  Bob seemed a bit out of it that night.  Not sure why.  No big deal.  We all have our off nights.

Did my best to make sense out of whatever was being taught as usual.  Always trying to think.  You never just want to show up to class and treat it like a gym workout.

After class things were even stranger as Bob made some comments that made no sense to me at all.