Showing posts from June, 2009

Different perspectives of etiquette

After studying at Windsong Dojo for a number of years, a friend of mine moved to another city. Hoping to continue his study of Aikido, he attended a class at a local dojo. Right off the bat, several things unsettled him.
It should be noted that Windsong Dojo, when compared to many martial art dojos, is a relatively casual one. My friend assumed that this new dojo would operate similarly, having a passing knowledge of the dojo cho to begin with. He was, apparently, mistaken.
First off, he was corrected when he walked across the mat before class on his way to the dressing rooms. He was then told his belt was tied improperly. And when he attempted to address the chief instructor by his first name, the man didn't answer (the other students informed my friend that he must use the term "sensei" when addressing the chief instructor).
So, my friend, having come from a much more relaxed atmosphere, and himself being a fairly relaxed individual, evidently didn't care for the prev…

Dog judo

This may be old news to some folks, but it still cracks me up.

Find the rest at There's quite a few.

Why wear the get-up?

The question of why we bother to wear the traditional garb of a given martial tradition is an old one. Bruce Lee, and others since, felt that one should practice in the clothes they would most likely be wearing when actually engaged in a fight "on the street". Which makes a certain amount of sense. On the other hand, I know a lot of martial artists, and not many of them have ever had to use what they know "on the street."
So why do it? A special get-up is not reflective of reality, and it doesn't improve the technique. They're certainly not cheap, either. Well, over the years, I’ve thought of a few reasons why we would, although the reasons might well vary from person to person (I'd love to hear anyone else's two cents), and here's one or two.
First of all, in terms of sheer practicality, no, it’s really not necessary.

One reason I do it (I owe this perspective to the acute insight of Lowry Sensei) is because of the focus it gives you. It’s for the…

Bitten by the bug

A young judo sankyu mentioned this morning how he was trying to study the other night, but just couldn't keep his mind from wandering, from thinking about Judo.
I just smiled and laughed to myself. Yep. He's bitten by the bug.
Sometimes, I lie awake at night thinking about this stuff, even when I'm dead tired. When I'm hanging around the yard while my son plays, I walk through throws in my mind (I do the same thing with Aikido). If anyone saw me, they'd probably think I'd lost my mind.

Every class is different

Every class is different. That can mean, of course, a great many things, but the way in which they differ, the way I've been thinking of lately, is how each class makes me feel when all is said and done. I'm certainly not proud of most of these emotions, but there they are, and I can't deny that they bubble to the surface once in a while.
Sometimes, after a class, I feel...
...Great. Sometimes, we have a great lesson; maybe I received one, or I actually managed to teach one. Sometimes I get to work with a skilled and talented individual (either higher ranking or lower, it doesn't matter) and together, we produce some beautiful budo. For whatever reason, the stars and planets align, I'm feeling energetic, I'm in a good mood and the work is truly exceptional, not just for me, but for my partner or even the entire class. I think about it incessantly afterwards, and can't wait for the next one. I love those classes; who wouldn't?
...Frustrated. Sometimes, nothin…

Shochugeiko Day 6

It's done. This was the last day of a week-long shochugeiko, and it's been quite a week. If you happen to have the time to attend every single class plus the special sessions, you would have spent around 45 hours or so doing budo in one week. I had the chance to do about 20, and that certainly felt like a lot.
The odd thing is, there are people who work in physically demanding fields (even a pharmacist who stands on his feet all day is demanding to me) and do it for 40 or more hours a week, so why would 20 hours feel so overwhelming, mentally and physically? Perhaps because I/we did it in addition to our normal jobs (and I sit at a desk all day and don't exercise like I should, which doesn't help, either).
Today, though, was the toughest for me. I did the 6:30 am Aikido class, the 7:30 to 9:00 judo class, then the 9 to 11 jodo class, took a half hour break and then did the 11:30 to 1pm Aikido class. Phew! I need a shower. And I think it's time to wash the gi!

Shochugeiko Day 4 noon, Day 5

During day 5 at noon Aikido, we spent the majority of class doing randori and switching partners on the bell. It was mostly good, but randori is a tough subject in Aikido for many reasons. More reasons, in fact, than I want to go into at the moment.
This morning and at noon, Jack Bieler Sensei from Denton, Texas, went over many of the subtle but differences between Seitei Jodo and the traditional Shindo Muso Ryu. In both classes, we covered the kihon (as performed solo, or tandoku dosa) and a little bit of the first kata in the Omote series (which the 8th kata in the Seitei no Kata), tachi otoshi. Those who had taken time off from work stuck around after the hour to look at the second kata, tsuba wari, but some of us had to get back to work.
We'll be doing more with Bieler Sensei during tomorrow's jodo class (which is two hours, so we should be able to go over more material).
It will be interesting to see what everyone thinks after the fact. There are some differences, no doubt a…

Promotions are a funny thing

Getting promoted is always a strange experience, for me at least. Mostly, I just never really feel worthy of it. I suppose I should worry if I, or anyone else, ever thought with any degree of sincerity, "I deserve to promoted, darn it! What's keeping my sensei from giving me that belt or certificate?"
So, if I never really feel worthy, then I suppose it falls upon my superiors to be a more objective judge of my readiness. But then, sometimes I even questions their judgement! I shouldn't I suppose. They stand further down the road, they see a bigger picture from their vantage point than I do.
And for that matter, while we have a standard written down in terms of hours and time in grade, etc. every budoka is different; progress and achievement varies from one person to the next. So one sandan may stand at a different level of skill than another, and that's okay. The two were never meant to be compared side by side, but rather compared to how far they've come give…

Shochugeiko Day 3 evening, Day 4 morning

Let's see, what happened... Judo was fairly informal last night, just a handful of us. I spent it working with a young brown belt (I love working with spry young brown belts who can take lovely falls all night long!) on the series of throws I'd been thinking about based off of the foot-sweep action, and getting some wonderful feedback from Kyle Sloan and Nick Lowry Senseis.
Which has been the absolute beauty of this week: the experimentation, the influx of ideas and thoughts from other perspectives. I think there's a time and a season for everything, and perhaps most of the time one should devote oneself to the practice of, shall we say, "established principle." But once in a while, the exploration, the broadening or even bending of the mind is a wonderful way to stretch one's skills and knowledge a little further than where they were.
I ended up spending most of the Aikido class sitting out in the genkan with Lowry and Sloan Senseis talking about some surprisi…

Stefan Stenudd

One of the Aikidoka I've been following somewhat of late is a Swedish gentleman by the name of Stefan Stenudd, 6th dan. Most of my exposure has been through video, although he's written a number of books as well; I just haven't had a chance to investigate any of them.
But I am impressed with a lot of his seminar footage, where he exhibits a wonderful ability to keep things extremely light. Then, when you look very closely, and you know what to look for, you can see he's very skilled at finding the right angle of off-balance at the right moment in a very sub-conscious, intuitive way (it reminds me of Jim Ellison Sensei quite a bit, someone I would characterize as "devastatingly light"!) Plus, he just seems like a genuinely nice guy.
This is one example among many. The first portion is devoted to shiho nage, followed by some nice kokyu nage applications (something fun I've been playing with myself since observing a number of Ueshiba style Aikidokas perform it…

Shochugeiko Day 2 evening, Day 3 morning

I'm a little stiff and sore today, but I'm not sure why. Sore, I think because I made a few less-than-perfect attempts at ippon seoi nage during a lesson/discussion with Kyle Sloan Sensei. That's mostly isolated to my lower back, but it's not unbearable. The general stiffness all over, though, I'm not sure why that is. Sure, I went to several classes, but I didn't exactly exert myself to an extraordinary degree.
. . . . . . . . . .
In Aikido, we continued working on the kaeshi waza reversal techniques, and saw some nice experimental discoveries. The one problem that always seems to plague most aikidoka when attempting randori is we get into a competitive state of mind (winning and loosing) and many time forgo "real" attacks and honest recoveries for a spirited game of "slap and tickle." We all do it, me included; it's human nature, I suppose.
Lowry Sensei has described truly productive randori as a game of catch, tossing the "ball&quo…

Kesa Gatame

I've heard several terms for this little sub-set of holds, but not all of them were the original Japanese name. All of these are based around one of the fundamental hold downs of osaekomiwaza(pinning techniques), kesagatame, or "scarf hold".
The first, most basic form can also be called hon kesagatame (hon meaning "main" or "basic/normal/regular"). Oddly enough, I had a hard time finding a decent picture of it online (everyone seems to favor one of the variations).

Then there's what I've mostly heard of as the "envelope" but which is technically kuzurekasegatame. I most often hear kuzure translated as "broken" but most online dictionaries translate it as "crumbling" or "collapsing", which makes me wonder if this hold was originally thought of as a lesser form of the hold, as in "the world is falling apart and this is the best hold you can manage"? Hmm. Anyway, here's what it looks like, mostl…

Tuesday noon shochugeiko class

Another good class. I got to work with Byron Curtis for the hour, someone with whom I haven't had a chance to work since I moved to the morning schedule, which was nice in itself.
Jim Ellison Sensei had us all work on a favorite drill of his (and a good one): transitioning back and forth from kote hineri to kote gaeshi. The idea is to follow uke, let his movement drive the action. (You can also pick a point at random when instead of going to kote hineri, you transition into tenkai kote hineri, but that's essentially the end of that sequence!)
Then we did the same thing with oshi taoshi and ude gaeshi. After that, we did a little bit of another one of Ellison Sensei's favorites. Basically, uke and tori stand facing each other, and tori has a hold of uke's wrist, but lightly. Very slowly, uke takes a step (either foot) toward tori. Tori's job is to sense that movement through his hand and move uke's hand either down the line or perpendicular to the line. If tori ha…

More budo terms

Renraku waza
Basically, it means combination techniques, or flowing from one thing to the next. I've also seen it as renzoku waza, which seems to be a clearer term according to the Denshi Jisho online Japanese dictionary.
Henka waza
Variations of a given technique.

Shochugeiko Day 2

Day two has begun. The schedule for the week, which I failed to mention yesterday, goes as follows (all times are part of the normal schedule except the 9:30 am and 2:30 pm sessions, which are unique to this week):
Monday 6:30 am Judo 9:30 am Aikido kata kihon/henka 2:30 pm Aikido Randori Renzuko Waza 6:00 pm Jodo 7:30 pm Aikido
Tuesday 6:30 am Aikido 9:30 am Aikido kata kihon/henka 12:00 pm Aikido 2:30 pm Aikido Randori Renzuko Waza 6:00 pm Aikido 7:30 pm Judo
Wednesday 6:30 am Judo 9:30 am Aikido kata kihon/henka 2:30 pm Aikido Randori Renzuko Waza 6:00 pm Judo or Chi Gung 7:30 pm Aikido
Thursday 6:30 am Aikido 9:30 am Aikido kata kihon/henka 12:00 pm Aikido 2:30 pm Aikido Randori Renzuko Waza 6:00 pm Aikido 7:30 pm Judo
Friday 6:30 am Jodo 9:30 am Aikido kata kihon/henka 12:00 pm Jodo 2:30 pm Aikido Randori Renzuko Waza 6:00 pm Aikido
Saturday 6:30 am Aikido 7:30 am Judo 9:00 am Jodo 11:30 Aikido
The Aikido emphasize for the week is to be on randori; the judo emphasis on ashi waza and ne waza; and the jodo emphasis on …

Review: "In the Dojo"

In the DojoA Guide to the Rituals and Etiquette of the Japanese Martial Arts by Dave Lowry
Synopsis: "Beginning students in Japanese martial arts learn that when they are in the dojo, they must don their practice garb with ritual precision, address their teacher and senior students in a specific way, and follow certain unwritten but deeply held codes of behavior. But very soon they begin to wonder about the meaning behind the traditions, gear, and relationships in the dojo.
"In this collection of lively, detailed essays, Dave Lowry, one of the most well-known and respected swordsmen in the United States, illuminates the history and meaning behind the rituals, training costumes, objects, and relationships that have such profound significance in Japanese martial arts, including the dojo space itself, the teacher-student relationship, the act of bowingwhat to expect—and what will be expected of you—when you visit a dojo, the training weapons, the hakama (ceremonial skirt) and dog…

Budo terms

I recently happened upon a few new words that I thought were kind of interesting:

I'd heard of kohai and sempai or course (someone who is your junior or senior, respectively), but what if someone is your exact same level? Well, he'd be your dohai.

Shucho embu
Public demonstration of a martial art. I've participated in a few, but never knew it had a name!

"Free practice" where one may move around, training with various folks with no formal "lesson." We'll do this in our school periodically, and it's a nice change of pace.

Practice session where two or more dojos get together to share an informal practice. We've always just called these "play days", but now I have something "official" to call it (even if I'm the only one!)

To train through teaching. Ever realize you knew something only when you tried to teach it someone else? Or even learn something entirely new? That's one of the beau…

The First Step

I never had any intention of starting a blog about budo, and yet, here I am. I didn't want to do it for several reasons:

1) My time is limited. I have a career, a family, other interests, another blog on a completely unrelated topic, church, and now Facebook (my, how that thing is tempting).

2) Whatever I could possibly think of to say about budo, someone further along the path than I could probably say it better, or with more authority, or, heaven forbid, would say something completely contrary.

But I do think about budo, a lot, really, so why not jot a few of those ideas down? Maybe no one will read them, but that's fine. Mostly, I think, this is for me. If anything, the process of transcribing my thoughts helps to either solidify them in my own mind, or bring to light their inherent flaws. Either way, if I alone learn something, grow, take a few steps further down the Path, then it will have been worthwhile.

And so I begin...

Today was the first day of Shochugeiko at Windsong Do…