Showing posts from July, 2009

Foot sweep drill, part 5

Yoko wakare
This time, we'll look at several options when you sweep at uke's foot and he pulls it away and you miss. Originally, we looked at putting the left foot down next to uke's left (toes pointed across the line, or toward uke's rear) and then getting kosoto gari. Then we put that left foot down turned toward uke and slipped into tani otoshi or a sit-down variation of sukui nage (or even gedan ate for the aikido players). Lastly, when we put the foot down turned even further in throw to uke's front we got either ashi guruma or o-guruma.
Another possibility (again, assuming I swept with my left and uke pulled his right foot back out of the way), is to put my left foot down right behind my right heel (on the balls of my toes). Basically, you turn and end up in a classical tai otoshi.
I'm always wary, though, of just spinning around willy-nilly in front of uke, so I feel like I'd better have a very real kazushi first. I think what prompts me to take this ki…

Foot sweep drill, part 4

Having looked at 3 throws off of catching uke's foot with an initial deashi harai foot sweep from 3 scenarios (uke pulls his foot back, he pulls it out of the way and you miss, and he braces against you or even pushes you back), it's time to look at a few other possible entries that several of us have been playing with. At this point, these ideas become more and more nebulous; I'm not going to claim that anyone of them (or even the ones I've presented previously) will work all the time (or even a majority of the time). This is all, mind you, simply experimental.
But as long as we keep with principles, I think we'll find ourselves wandering down a good path.

First, we return to the idea of uke stepping back, pulling his foot free from ours.
With the first set of throws from this condition (tori sweeping with his left foot), we let uke pull our foot with his until ours landed near his back foot (as a reminder, I'll post the original illustration).

Now we're going…

17 again

As our dojo continues to find it's own path after parting ways with our long-time parent organization, we've gravitated toward practicing "the 17" (junana hon kata) as our kata of fundamental techniques the way we used to in the "old days". Not that there was anything wrong necessarily with the additional techniques of "the 23" per se, but I think most considered those additional techniques to be more expressions of randori applications rather than basic, fundamental building blocks.
Just for the heck of it, I thought I'd toss out my thoughts on those variations from a student's perspective.
I actually like the two different entrances to waki gatame that we did, and wouldn't mind practicing both occasionally. I don't know of any other technique off the top of my head (unless it's in a higher kata that I've forgotten) that covers the condition of tori stepping to the inside and using his right hand on uke's right attacking…

Foot sweep drill, part 3

Okay, let's wrap up the last part of this series, at least in the basic sense. Once I've finished this, I'll go back to each of the 3 entry conditions and talk about a few more possible throws that several other people came up with during shochugeiko and even since then.
In the first part, we caught uke's foot and we waited for him to pull it back; then, we rode that backward, exaggerated step into 3 throws based on the foot position of our landing foot. In the second part, we talked about another 3 possibilities if uke pulled his foot away and we missed our initial foot sweep, again, based on 3 possible positions of our landing foot.
This time, we catch uke's foot again, but now he's bracing against us or even forcing us to go backward, and we have to step back. Just as in the case with the first section where uke's recovery step was exaggerated, which prompted us to make a larger than normal step, tori's going to also take a larger than normal step back…

A plethora of irimi nage

This is the kind of crazy, flashy irimi nage the world seems to really love. And it does look pretty cool, I'll admit. This particular video features a plethora of irimi nages exclusively from French aikidoka Christian Tissier, 7th dan. And there are a lot of them. Plus, there's funky techno music to go along with it, just to get you pumped up.

I also kind of like the first entry in this video from Gary Boaz, which is from a yokomen uchi attack. I haven't played with it yet, but it looks interesting. (He's also done a sort of ushiro ate like technique from that same entry, "chopping down" the arm and turning uke, which is also kind of nice.) Off-hand, I think I might approach it with a little more of a circular motion, but I don't know.

Aiki nage or irimi nage

I'm constantly intrigued these days by the differences between the way I was taught many aikido techniques and the rest of not only the Tomiki world, but the Ueshiba world as well. Our whole dojo, as it happens, has been exploring those differences a lot lately, and it's been eye-opening, to say the least.
One such technique has been aiki nage, as it's called in Tomiki aikido, or irimi nage in Ueshiba circles (although irimi can mean a lot of things, it appears, but I won't get into to that here). In fact, we had a lengthy discussion on the forum about why the name is different at all, but I'm not sure anyone really knows.
At any rate, I'll try to describe the way I've always been shown (sorry, I don't have a video). The arm position is basically the same--the main hand centered in front, the palm sideways, the elbow out, the whole arm in a curved shape. But at the point of throw-- after spinning uke around in one direction and then reversing that directi…

What I've learned about teaching

A while ago, I posted a request on the Kaze Uta Budo Kai / Windsong Dojo forum for any of the dan grades to submit what they've learned about being a teacher. Here's a few ideas that came up:
Less is more. In other words, I try to distill what I'm trying to convey in as few words as possible and avoid the dreaded "verbal diarrhea" that so often accompanies the accumulation of knowledge. What's the old adage about the way humans learn best? Hear it, see it, do it. I would imagine that there ought to be less emphasis on the "hearing" end and more on the "doing" end of that spectrum.
I also try not to overload students (particularly white and green belts) with too much information all at once. One or two things to work on for a class is usually plenty; the rest will come in time, and probably from someone else. Bite size pieces. Kaizen is the Japanese idea of small, continuous improvement.
Build on success, as Nick has often said. Sure, a green …

An innocent gesture

I read this post over at Johndo and I couldn't help but feel a bit of a twinge when I read of one student's experience attending another dojo. One sentence in particular leapt out at me:
"...During some move, the instructor who was teaching laughed at her. Now this was completely innocent as the instructor was, I'm sure, reminiscing about a time when he first started and struggled with [the same thing] as we all do, but little seemingly harmless gestures can be disconcerting to new students. There were one or two times I can remember where [my teacher] chuckled and I felt inept at whatever we were going over at the time, even though I know that was not his intention. We as instructors need to remember to be concious of how unnerving it can be for someone new to a class and remember how awkward it was for some of us when we first started."
I twinge because I'm almost certain I've done that at one time or another, without giving it much thought. And there are…

Fun with releases

For some reason, not many people are showing up to class so far this week. There were only two of us in judo yesterday, and this morning consisted of the same two, plus one more. Most be the heat.
But it's always a little tricky when you have an odd number of people; usually the highest rank, the one who is generally leading class, will elect to sit out and wander the mat offering any advice or correction as needed or requested. But today, we decided to do our releases and the 17 in a sort of "round robin" routine: the first guy attacked right side, the second guy attacked left; then it's the next guy's turn; when everyone has had a turn, we moved on to the next technique.
The interesting thing about it was that we did it all from a paradigm of constant movement, rather than the typical method of practicing kata, which is to reset at ma'ai every time and start from a static position. It almost felt like a "multiple attacker" sort of scenario, except t…

Foot sweep drill, part 2

Only one other person showed up for judo this morning, which gave me the time and opportunity to review in my own mind (let alone with another person) the various aspects of this drill that I and many other explored during shochugeiko (a big old thank you to Scott Weaver for being such a willing guinea pig!).
As I mentioned in the last post, we've found a number of interesting possibilities stemming from these three conditions: 1) deashiharai where uke recovers by stepping back; 2) when uke pulls his foot out of the way; and 3) when uke pushes back forward). But to start with, I'm sticking with three basic throws based on three basic foot positions for each of those three situations.
The last post dealt with the idea that uke, once his foot has been caught, pulls it free and steps back. This time, we're working under the assumption that uke can see the foot sweep coming and attempts to pull his foot back to avoid tori's sweep. With the first situation, where tori actuall…

More than one way to skin a cat

For most of my time spent studying aikido, life was pretty straight forward. We had the "walking kata" (tegatana no kata), the 8 releases (hanasu no kata), "the 17" (junana hon kata), and "the Big 10" (o-waza ju pon). We had the advanced katas (though we started with koryu dai san kata, and then did yon, go, and roku katas), but for the most part, our day-to-day class time was spent on those fundamental 4 kata. And life was pretty simple.
Then, not too long ago, we added a series of renraku waza (combination) techniques, which started with a given release and continued with a string of various techniques (mostly from the 17) that branched off in different directions depending on possible situations or responses from uke, etc.
And they've worked out great. We understand so much better how to flow from one thing to another, obviously, but it also helped us to keep moving, to use our centers, to maintain principle. It even managed to magically deepen our u…

A plethora of o soto garis

This morning in Judo, we only had three people, two black belts and an experienced brown belt. I don't know what possessed me, but I decided to focus on o soto gari, and we ended up spending the whole class on it.
Bascially, we looked at every entry I could think of: the standard approach, where uke is stepping forward; with uke stepping back; where tori steps away from the leg he wants; using your leg to drive back and create a large "wave" or tsurikomi action; when uke's locking you out in jigotai; and even did a few on the left side. (I'm sure there's more we could've covered given the time). We practiced them in uchi komi fashion, loading four times and throwing on the fifth, and each one of us did that with two partners. We had some pretty good discussions about it, too.
It's a basic throw, but it's such a good throw. It often seems like, when all else fails, you can usually always snag an o soto gari, so it's nice to be able to hit it fro…

The responsibility of sempai

The other week, a green belt in aikido asked me a simple question that I have been unable to shake. It had nothing to do with technique or history; that kind of question is easy. Either I know the answer, or I can find it out from someone who does.
No, this question had to do with an aspect of my behavior in each class. I don't think he intended to confront me or even subtly rebuke me (or anyone else, for I'm not the only one guilty of it). He was just curious. But it's continued to gnaw at me. And after reading Dave Lowry's "In the Dojo", certain passages managed to shine an even brighter light on the subject.
You see, as I've mentioned before, our dojo, compared to most, is a relatively relaxed one. The rigors of obeisance to strict codes of conduct within the dojo walls have always come second to the cultivation of an atmosphere of fellowship and mutual benefit, of genuine warmth and camaraderie. Why? I can't say for certain; the dojo is almost as ol…

Working with difficult partners

When I say "difficult", at least in this post, I'm not referring to those people who are by nature obnoxious or stubborn, unwilling to listen, etc. That would make for an interesting post, for certain, but it's not what's on my mind today, anyway.
No, by "difficult" I mean partners who are, as far as their personality goes, perfectly reasonable and amiable. They can often be wonderful people, in fact. But something about the way they move and operate physically may be, well, less then ideal. They're not the young, spry type of brown belt who loves to fly and take ukemi all day (we all love to throw those guys). Maybe they're older, maybe a lot older, they move slower, their steps are smaller, they take more compensatory steps due to old injuries or just the general physical limitations that come with getting on in years.
When working with someone like this, suddenly, the spry young green or brown belt finds that none of his throws will work. His t…

My world upside down

Man, Jack Bieler Sensei really rocked my world during shochugeiko. I don't think he intended to, but he did nonetheless! At Windsong, we practice the Seitei no Kata from Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo, but Jack was kind enough to travel up from Denton, Texas to show us how the traditional Koryu no Kata. His demonstrations included some wonderful insight into the kihon, as well.
I feel like a white belt again! I love Jodo, but I can't help but feel a little sad that I can't devote more time to the traditional kata. Maybe I'm nuts to try and pursue more than on art, much less three. At any rate, it's given me a lot to think about.

Gyakugamae ate

I've been thinking about gyakugamae ate (#3 of jun nana hon kata) more and more over the last couple of years, especially since we've been exploring other approaches to aikido techniques lately at Windsong.
For the longest time, I was taught, and the way I always saw it done, was to use the near hand as a sort of "eye threat" (it could be with the edge of the hand, or the back of the hand, etc.). In other words, you just stick your hand in front of uke's face, usually without any contact whatsoever, with the intent of getting uke to flinch and fall down as a response.
Now, I have nothing against eye threats. I've seen a well-timed hand, or even finger, suddenly appearing in front of the face make an unsuspecting uke jump on their own head. It looks like magic, as if the person doing it simply reached out and extended their "ki" with enough force to throw his opponent without even touching him.
But I've also seen it fail. I mean, I've seen uke n…

Foot sweep drill, part 1

[NOTE: As of July 13th, I've modified the foot placement image in this post to something I think is a little more accurate.]
We have a drill that we do toward the beginning of most judo classes based on deashi harai. I don't have a video of it (there's a major effort under way to make a large number of instructional videos for Kaze Uta Budo Kai, so I'll let the folks in charge of that take care of that), so a written description will have to suffice for the time being.
Basically, two partners stand on one side of the dojo floor and take their grips. The first partner (tori) steps forward and makes a sweeping action as the other person (uke) steps back, catching and picking up his foot (I believe most of the judo world does deashi with uke advancing, but we tend to execute it as tori moves forward). Tori holds the foot for a beat, until uke essentially pulls his foot away. When he does, tori promptly sweeps with the other foot and picks up uke's trailing foot. The two…