Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Owaza Ju Pon (The Big 10)

It's been a while since I've had the chance to write anything, though it isn't for lack of anything to write about. Just time.

Lately, in Aikido, we've had mostly yudansha and maybe one brown belt, so I thought it might be nice to go over the last half of owaza ju pon, or "the Big 10". Typically, when we do a demonstration for shodan, we go through randori no kata (be it 17 or 23 techniques, depending upon a given point in history) and then the first 5 of the Big 10. I'm not entirely sure why we would only do the first half, but there it is.

Then, when we demonstrate for nidan, we'll show the last half, plus the first 16 techniques of san kata (we've left out koryu dai ichi and ni katas for decades in our former organization, for nebulous reasons). After that, many of might do a demonstration for sandan, but after that the demonstrations for advanced die off. Ultimately, the last half of the Big 10 often gets lost in the shuffle, it seems. You look at it for that one brief period of preparation for nidan, and then never again.

It's been a good refresher, for me, anyway. I like the exploitation of uke's forward momentum and balance by going back as in shiho nage and kote gaeshi. The ushiro ate it brutally fast and efficient. Using ushiro kubi gatame is a particular favorite of mine when dealing with multiple attackers. (Uke becomes a human shield, so when the bad guys are shooting at you, he gets riddled with bullets while you pick them off one by one from a position of relative safety. Because real life is a lot like the movies, as you well know.) And there's something so deceptively simple and yet deviously delicious as a well-timed, unexpected shizumi otoshi (the hapless yelps of surprise from uke's who aren't expecting it outside of kata is priceless).

The problem is, I can't find much on the kata on the old internet (I understand it's not a part of the general Tomiki curriculum). There is, at least, Sensei Strange's video to enjoy!

I just noticed, though, that the way he does ushiro ate here is slightly different then the way I was always shown, but it's exactly like something I've watched a Ueshiba style aikidoka do many times, though it had a different name (naturally), an approach which I really liked and found to work very well. And now that I think about it, this version falls more in line with the idea of continuing the forward momentum of uke like the rest of the techniques in the Big 10. Hmm. Something to think about (Sensei Strange is always giving me wonderful things to think about!)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fall godo geiko - Day 2

Saturday was fun, if anything because I get to see all the folks I hardly ever see anymore now that I've been relegated to the morning classes, and they're all genuinely good friends. But also because I get to absorb what they have to impart.

I spent the better part of an hour with Nick Lowry sensei alone going over some insights into Tomiki's randori no kata (particularly the last three, uki waza, or floating techniques) that frankly blew my mind. To borrow an expression Kyle Sloan sensei is fond of saying, it wasn't so much drinking from the Fountain of Knowledge as it was the Firehose of Knowledge. 

I need to take some time processing it all, maybe reviewing with some of my early morning companions. At some point, I'd like to pontificate on it here, if possible.

Ran some errands over lunch and came back and did a little randori with Byron, whom I used to get to play with at the noon classes. Always enjoyable.

I'm really glad we've been doing more of these than we ever have, and I look forward to the next one!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fall godo geiko - Day 1

The first stretch of the fall godo geiko (or "play-day" as it's affectionately referred to) is done. And I'm pooped. Judo is typically Friday evening, from 6 to 8-ish. I did about half throwing, and got a few pointers on doing sukui nage and/or ura nage from Kyle Sloan sensei, fortunately with the aid of two stacked crash pads.

I spent the rest of the time feeling inadequate and helpless with ne waza. Several of us spent time trying to deal with the way one brown belt held ushiro kesa gatame. It frustrated most of us no end. It was a pretty darn good hold!

In general though, I wish I could have done more, but I just don't have much gas in the tank. Meanwhile, I'm watching all these other guys grapple for like an hour! How do they do it? Am I that out of shape? They just seem to have limitless energy, and I get exhausted after a few minutes, and they look like they're working every bit as hard as me if not more! Doesn't seem to matter: age, weight, rank. Do they all work out outside of the dojo? I just don't know what's wrong with me.

It wouldn't be so bad (or embarrassing) if I were a brown belt or something for what I'm able to do, but I'm supposed to be higher ranking than that! My throwing game is decent, but my judo experience is really lopsided to that side. Just have to do more.

I don't know if we'll have any pictures from this one, though. Unless David Rose comes to aikido tomorrow. Speaking of which, it's time I showered and got some rest. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feeling a little dumb

Do you ever get a point in your training when you realize you've either completely forgotten something important, or have gotten lazy, or even realized you never truly understood something as well as you feel you probably should?

I've been having a few of those moments lately. One has to do with zanshin. Patrick Parker and Sensei Strange have been posting about it lately, and reading it has felt like pointing out that your fly is down. At first you're embarrassed; then you wonder, How long have I been walking around like that?

It's something that I've heard before, but had partly forgotten, or sort of got lazy about, but also didn't truly understand (or perhaps internalize may be a better word?) Perhaps lower ranks don't notice anything missing (the see my fly down and think, Hey, that's just the way you wear pants.)

I got to talking about oshi taoshi today with several students, and realized that we'd all been a little lazy about it. Or maybe lazy isn't a good word. Maybe they didn't quite understand how it worked, and that coupled with my (and perhaps other's) laziness gave them the wrong impression.

Basically, what I saw was this: tori does the balance break, uke recovers, turning, tori follows the arm as it bends, putting his hand on uke's elbow, and then... well, not much. After observing them, I noticed a few things. Again, stuff I should be doing, but I think I've let it slip.

1) The arm that's on uke's elbow is bent. Not just crumpled up, but sometimes the elbow curved a little outward. By straightening the arm (not completely locked, but almost) and pulling the elbow created a much stronger "unbendable arm".

2) The hand was sort of gently caressing uke's elbow more from the side. Again, a little too relaxed, and that hand position puts your palm pointed out in space somewhere and not at uke's center line. And since your energy/power goes where your palms are pointed, you can't do much.We engage the hand, palm forward, suddenly, in a matter of inches (centimeters!) there's power and life and energy. Not muscle, mind you, not brute strength. But principle-based power.

3) Tori followed uke's arm until it reached the end of it's range of motion and stopped. Essentially, we were accommodating uke. He remained "comfortable" within his range of motion and his center line was never truly disturbed. Now, I've been taught since probably green belt that the man's elbow goes in his ear, but I don't know, it's slipped my mind.

Instead, tori follows uke's bending arm, he reaches the limit and we keep him going maybe an inch further than he intended. Now his spine is crooked, he "ate" his energy plus a drop of ours. Big difference.

4) Tori also stopped moving his center all together at the end of uke's range of motion. Why? We know not to stop our butts, to keep moving, but there we were, standing there wondering, why does this feel awkward? Once we kept all the other stuff in mind, and kept moving, we were suddenly launching uke through the air like a cannon.

5) After all that, and you still hit a wall, then do the tenkan (back around) version. But if we didn't have the first part right, and we tried to do the tenkan version, we felt like we were dragging uke around with us. Not very aiki.

Done right, it never felt like we were muscling. Uke's arm floated on it's own natural path, unaware of tori even really having much of a grip, until the end. Then suddenly, you got hit by a train.

And eye opener. Stuff I need to work on, remember, and remind others. But it makes me wonder. What else am I missing?