Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kangeiko, Day 4

Just a handful of us in the morning, but we had one visitor from out of state, which was a nice change.

We spent the class working on the first 4 releases where one person did the release with 3 others attacking him, one after the other, from wherever they stood. After that, we did the same thing over again, but now adding a hand change.

The interesting thing to me was the difference in timing between all the participants. The two brown belts tended to be almost startled most of the time, if even in a very subtle way. Even though they knew what release we were supposed to be doing, they weren't sure which hand to stick out, who was attacking next, or even if they had remembered to do the right release (I kept telling them I didn't care; as long as they got off the line and kept moving, aikido would come out). Most of their reactions fell along the lines of, "Oh, crap, I'm being attacked! What do I do?"

The shodan, however, seemed a little more in control. He could still be a little surprised by which one of us grabbed him next, but for the most part, he moved when he was supposed to move and didn't worry about it as much if something odd came out.

I, on the other hand, almost felt ahead of the movement in a way. I'm not trying to brag on myself or anything. I wasn't trying to do anything but the same drill everyone else was doing. But I found myself nearly always slightly ahead, with uke chasing helpless after my hand. I could even almost control who attacked me and when, like I was a conductor of a symphony. Strange.

And while the others had a tendency to want to stop and analyze what happened when something outside of the plan happened, it was obvious to me ("Oh, you just gripped this way instead of that, and move here instead of there and did this technique instead the other one. No biggie.") They wanted to know what went "wrong" (because it wasn't part of the drill), while I'm standing around saying, "Wow, that was a lovely tenkai kote hineri..."

I suppose it all comes with time and training and the degree to which the movements are ingrained into the subconscious. But I was surprised by the amount of "control" I seemed to have (again, without trying!) and even a certain amount of prescience, knowing a split second ahead of time where they were going and when. And then, when I didn't know, and they did something totally out of left field, I still did something without thinking or worrying about.

Well, I have at least one more session at noon, and maybe, just maybe, I might be able to make the evening classes, too (if I can get a Kitchen Pass). After that, well, I'll see everyone next year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kangeiko, Day 1 & 2

I'm not getting nearly the same cool information as those who are able to attend the mid-morning and mid-afternoon sessions, but I've benefitted from what little I can attend.

Yesterday (day 2), I accidentally slept through my alarm and missed morning aikido. I never do that. In fact, for the most part, it takes an act of God to keep me from making morning classes (or maybe illness or broken down car). If anything, I usually wake up on my own before my alarm. I don't really know what happened.

Unfortunately, I missed seeing what Nick Lowry Sensei had to offer by way of some randori and multiple attacker instruction. Maybe there will be a video someday =)

I made it to the noon class, where Jim Ellison Sensei took everyone through a series of simple exercises that help you "go with the flow" of uke's movement. Great stuff, but stuff I've been through before, so nothing new there.

This morning, on the other hand, I woke up for some strange reason at 4 in the morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I ended up laying in bed in the dark (while my wife slept) and watched judo videos on my iPhone.

Once I made it to class, we had a pretty good session. I haven't allowed the morning guys to do regular nage komi, trading throws, for some time (for some dumb reason) so I've been laying off the lessons during the holidays and just turning on our 3 minute bell and let everyone throw and trade partners on the bell.

The last part of class was mostly a discussion from Nick about the difference of doing techniques "big", where it often looks like uke is "jumping" for you, and when push comes to shove and the action becomes very small. The resulting fall may not be picture perfect, but it still works.

I also took a few pictures during yesterday's noon class, but due to some issues with my camera, I lost them. I was going to take a few this morning, and just forgot. Tomorrow, I'll have aikido in the morning and at noon, and who knows, I may end up at the evening class as well.

The kangeiko is quite turning out like I'd hoped, but oh well, I suppose I'm always getting something out of training.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Kangeiko, Day 1

To be honest, I'm not able to take this week off and participate in the mid-day sessions, but I will be in the morning class as usual, plus the Tuesday and Thursday noon classes. I'd like to make at least one evening block of classes, but we'll see.

If you'd like to check out a few pics of today's morning session, which dealt with aikido randori and multiple attackers, as well as the afternoon session, which dealt with a lot of sword work from jodo and aikido's san kata (plus future day sessions), check our Derek Hall's new blog and Kyle Sloan Sensei's blog.

For my little morning class, Kyle was nice enough to stop in and he watched us do a little hop randori for a while, and then had him chime in on what we need to work on.

After that, I was eager to pick his brain about escape ideas from kazure kamishiho gatame, and ushiro kesa gatame.

Tomorrow, for aikido, I have no idea if anyone out of the ordinary will stop by, but otherwise, I think we'll follow suit along the lines of randori drills and dealing with multiple attackers (based on stuff I remember, though, since I wasn't at the other sessions). And while the intensive officially ends on Thursday night (New Year's Eve), I may just end up coming in on Saturday to add to my week's total hours for my own training.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Where are the kata gatame escapes?

As I sit around the house on Christmas Eve, the snow falling outside, the tree lit, and presents still to wrap, I'm thinking about many things. Oddly enough, one of them is kata gatame.

I started out just thinking about transitioning, being held by one hold, escaping, and then establishing a hold of your own. It works well for most of the main holds (that I know of), except for yoko shiho gatame, with which the main escape puts the other guy in sankaku jime, and kata gatame, with which the escapes I know of anyway put the guy in an arm bar or a choke.

So I wondered if I were missing some escape ideas, particularly from kata gatame, and naturally started searching YouTube. I found a few explanations of the hold itself, but no escapes. Anyone know of any videos out there? While I kow the Kaze Uta Budo Kai forum will feature some osae komi waza soon, I wonder if they're go over any escapes I haven't seen yet.

At any rate, stop thinking about budo, people, for one lousy minute and enjoy the holidays! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Marcelo Garcia BJJ site

Just got directed to this site from Marcelo Garcia which features a slew of searchable videos.

One of the first videos I watched had to with an arm bar known in jujutsu (jiu-jitsu, whatever) circles as the "omoplata" (it looks like embedding his videos on a blog is allowed, but you can follow the link). In the judo world, however, it would most likely be refferred to as sometimes referred to as ude-garami or sankaku-garami ("triangular entanglement") or ashi-garami ("leg entanglement").

For whatever reason, it's not one that I've ever spent time on, and never knew existed until I started investigating BJJ a little. Frankly, I'm intrigued. I've seen a few odd ball entrances to it, which at first made me wrinkle my nose (a little too complex for my taste), but I've since seen a few that looked a little more palatable, such as this entry from Derek Hall at our humble li'l dojo:

I'm looking forward to playing with it—but for now, it's "sankaku jime/garami" month! So far, I'm having fun focusing on one basic principle and all its various applications and entries and so on. Maybe next month will be "ude garami" month....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kotohajime, the New Year

I ran across this nugget of information while reading Dave Lowry's In the Dojo:

"Making ready for the new year is called kotohajime in Japan. In the dojo, kotohajime custimarily begins on December 13th. On or near this day, in addition to the daily cleaning chores in the training hall, every crack is swept, every cranny carefully dusted or cleaned. Floors and other wooden surfaces are given a polishing. Windows are thrown up to air out the place.

"December 13th, however, is also the day when pupils of all the traditional arts dress in formal kimono and pay a visit to their masters or teachers to thank them for all their efforts. Martial artists, as well as students of pottery, tea ceremony, calligraphy, and other disciplines, present their teachers with small gifts and talk about the previous year's training."

While I don't own a kimono, I still thought it was kind of a nice little tradition, one that the author mentions is becoming more and more rare. I'm grateful, of course, for all my teachers (I'm also equally grateful for all of the students, from whom I gain quit a bit as well), but I have to admit that I'm especially grateful for all that Nick Lowry Sensei does for us, being not just our chief instructor but the dojo's owner and operator as well. I'm sure that involves a lot of less-than-glamorous drudgery, such as paying the bills and making sure everyone's ranks are up to date, and so on, things that many of us probably don't think much about.

So take a moment, either in December or any time of year, and thank your sensei. And if you are the sensei at your particular dojo, thank you. I may not train there, but your efforts bless the world of aikido and budo as a whole, and that still deserves a moment of gratitude!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lightness of touch

Wonderful demonstration of lightness from Daniel Messisco, 6th Dan. Jim Ellison Sensei has this very sort of touch, and I wish had even a glimmer of it. Perhaps in another 20 years or so.

There's actually several snippets from various seminars on this channel:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Playing the game

Once upon a time, it was really very easy to figure out which martial discipline was better, you simply looked to the battle field. If the practitioners of one style tended to die a lot, then that probably wasn't the best way to go about. The ones who walked away alive, however, must have been doing something right.

Even then, without the benefit of any battles being held conveniently nearby, you could always send your best students over to the other guy's school and have the compete against their best guys and whoever won, maintained the bragging rights. I believe Kano once put his boys up against the Tokyo police and won quite handily (and I believe judo is now standard training for the police).

But now, well, now you have arts like jodo, iaido and whatnot (the kyuryu, old school arts), who don't have the opportunity to use what they know in any sort of real, practical, battlefield application, and spend much if not all of their time in kata. I imagine that they assume that their techniques were once successful on the battlefield, hundreds of years ago, and must still be just as practical. But no two people do things the same way. Variation inevitably creeps in, and reasons get lost.

(Of course, some arts, like judo or kendo, have made a sport out of the art, which helps somewhat in terms of "if it doesn't work, throw it out", but that can also turn into a matter of someone getting really good at playing a game, with lots of rules and limitations.)

By way of example, there's the story of the woman who wondered why she always cut the ends off of her roast before cooking it. When she asked her mother, who taught her how to cook, then in turn her grandmother, she finally found out that it was because her great grandmother didn't have a big enough pan. If I remember correctly, even Pascal Krieger, in his seminal book, Jodo: The Way of the Stick, admitted to not knowing the reason behind one particular movement in the kata.

And where there is no randori, no shiai, no battlefield testing, it seems like the default means of arguing the truthfulness or correctness of a school is to rely on it's lineage. If your teacher was taught by the right teacher who was taught by the right teacher, etc., then you're the real deal and anyone else is a poor imitation and a hoax.

I'm sure there are folks who disdain aikido, being a gendai art, but I've also seen aikido practitioners turn around and similarly dismiss the Tomiki ryu. Unless your teacher is connected somehow with O-sensei, then by golly, you're just not legit.

Sure, to some extent, a person's lineage also serves to ensure the new, perspective student that their teacher isn't just a charlatan after their money. It's only when the need to cling to tradition and lineage clip the wings of a genuinely bright and innovative practitioner of an art.

All of that being said, there's probably a great deal of truth in the koryu systems and schools, but what do you do when they turn up their noses and casually dismiss what you have to offer?

Can we not share? Can we not be open? Is true budo not supposed to be love? Is it not true what my fellow budoka John Winter said:

"'True' aikido, judo or jodo or whatever one endeavors isn't in the art or ryuha, it's in the practitioner. 'True' anything is the heart of the person following the path."?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Options from O goshi

Not long ago, Nick Lowry Sensei mentioned how we ought to beware of falling in love with harai goshi. Rather, he encouraged us to focus on o goshi, because if you understand and internalize that one, all the other hip throw ideas will build on it. If you can do o goshi, in other words, you can do all the rest, but if you only focus on one of the peripheral throws, you'll only really have that one throw.

So, I myself have been trying to follow that advice for a while, and I've been trying to help the morning class do the same.

This week, we've started by doing a throwing line on the crash pad, getting in a number of o goshi throws. From there, we worked with a few failure conditions.

1) Hani goshi
I asked Kyle Sloan Sensei about this one recently, mostly because I don't do it a whole lot and I don't totally understand it. I mean, I kind of understand it, but it's not "internalized" if that makes any sense. He said he didn't do it a whole lot either, but showed me a nice way to practice it based on an attempt at o goshi.

2) Harai goshi
Years ago, back when Windsong Dojo was located near I-40 and was owned and operated by Chuck Caldwell Sensei, we would occasionally hold a little shiai practice during class. There was a relatively small dude named Justin Rose (who now teaches down in Dallas, I believe) who used to toss much bigger guys all the time this way, which I believe we got from Mr. Caldwell.

Basically, he would start with a regular entry into o goshi, but the other guy would drop his center and brace against it, which is normal. Well, if you keep a hold of the man, and take a small step forward and down the line of his feet, dropping your weight into that step (just like aikido), you'll bring your uke with you and get him tipped forward just a tad. At that point, your other leg just raises and a harai goshi pops him over.

3) Ko uchi gari
Then we worked on a more classical follow up to a failed o goshi. When uke drops center and braces against your forward action, he's essentially leaning back to counter it. So, we go with it, slip our foot between his legs and behind one of his support feet and throw ko uchi to his back corner.

All of which just goes to show that if you want to stop a hip throw, you're better off dancing out of it rather than bracing, but it's still a fairly natural reaction and people, even trained ones, still do it on occasion, so it's nice to be prepared!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sankaku jime... almost

Three of us worked on a few sankaku entries on Monday, and it went... well, not quite as expected. Basically, most of us had a hard time getting the legs fully clasped with the foot of one leg behind the knee of the other. We could do it well enough on the escape from yokoshiho gatame, but the first version done from the turtle in this video turned out to be tricky.

Usually I can manage it okay, but I think the two guys I was working with then were a little more... "beefy" shall we say than what I'm used to. As for the other two, their own flexibility might be an issue in addition to the size of the uke, and in one case, with a dude who has spent a lot of time working out, his own thick thigh muscles might be getting in his own way.

Mostly, I want them to start thinking of their feet and legs to be just as useful as their own hands. Tomorrow, we'll probably go over the same drills as Monday (maybe an additional one), and see if we can't iron out some wrinkles.

I've got a number of entries, though, that I'd like to practice and explore, if anything for my own education, so hopefully it won't get too frustrating.

Monday, December 7, 2009

uchi mata sukashi

Sorry, I've been doing a lot of video surfing for some reason, and I find some interesting things. Like this rather different approach to uchi mata sukashi.

And though the embedding is disabled, this is a nice example of the classical uchi mata sukashi in tournament play:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Old judo film

The YouTube channel JuYokuGoOSeisu has a number of sequences from an old judo film that have served as a pretty nice reference for me (although you'll have to wade through a bunch of other stuff to find them). They start with the basic application of a classic technique and then show a few forms of it. They were originally narrated in English, but there's a Spanish voice over covering up what the original is saying. Still, you can get a pretty good idea of what's going on just by watching.

This one, on sankaku jime, is one example (since we'll be looking at sankaku issues this week in morning class).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Defense against... well, an "object"

A few months ago, I read a story about the mayor of Milwaukee getting beat by a thug with a pipe, and it got me thinking about self defense training against a weapon.

Now, one of the nice things about aikido is that the principles and techniques still work much the same way whether your attacker is empty handed or not. But, I've also noticed that for some reason, it seems to be human nature that when a person sees an attacker with something in their hand, they freeze, as if their conscious mind says, "Wait a minute. I've never practiced with this before—what on earth do I do?"

This may be only a momentary hesitation, granted. Once the guy attacks, I'm sure our subconscious mind will take over. Still, that hesitation could make a lot of difference. That, and someone asked me about weapon defense not long ago, and it occurred to me that as far as kata goes, we don't typically deal with weapons until san kata, around 2nd or 3d dan.

Sooooo, just for the heck of it, I started thinking about techniques we could go over as a class that dealt with just a general, non-descript weapon. Not a knife, not a jo staff, not a bokken; nothing uniquely Japanese, really, just a thug with a pipe (or baseball bat, or pool cue, or whatever).

I referenced mostly san kata, plus one or two other ideas I've picked up here and there. However, I wanted to stick with fairly simple, basic techniques that even a white or green belt with a working knowledge of the first 5 techniques of the 17, the walk, and basic principles (unbendable arm, same hand same foot, getting off the line, etc.) could do.

Fortunately, we happen to have a bunch of plastic sticks covered in foam rubber, which I highly recommend, especially with beginners. It can be dangerous practicing with an object, even a wood, rubber or foam one, especially when falling with one (so I also tried to keep the ukemi simple).

From there, I started with a basic attack: uke holds the stick in one hand, his right, rears back and swings sort of down, sort of diagonally at uke's head, just like you were, I donno, clubbing a seal or something.

1) Tenchi nage
Step to the inside on the Right side (R). The Left hand (L) comes down in the inside crook of uke’s R elbow. The L hand yokes under uke’s left elbow. Continue turning. (The R hand can also go to the neck or uke's R arm as in the guruma throws at the beginning of O-waza ju pon).

2) Ushiro ate
Step to the inside (R). This time the R hand comes down in the inside crook of uke’s R elbow. This will turn uke. As he does, your L hand reaches over to his far shoulder for ushiro ate.

3) Gyakugamae ate
Step to the outside (L). Both hands comes down, with the palms facing down, touching gently, on uke’s R elbow/forearm. This will extend uke down slightly (don't push, just drape dead weight). As he rises, the L palm turns up. Step into uke as he rises, arm under his chin (keeping the R palm againt uke’s forearm). As opposed to the pushing form of gyakugamae ate we usually see, I like to use more of a lifting (palm up, under the chin) version to capitalize on the extreme rise and fall action here (but really, either would work fine).

4) Irimi Nage
Step to the outside (L). L hand comes down, now with the palm facing down, touching gently uke’s R arm; the L hand falls deeper, past his head onto his far shoulder. Keep turning and as he rises, turn into him with irimi nage/aiki nage (R hand) as in O-waza ju pon.

5) Tenkai kote hineri
As uke pulls back to strike, his free hand will naturally float out in space as a counter-balance. Step forward and grasp his emtpy, extended L hand. Step underneath his arm into tenkai kote hineri (as in #7 of the san kata knife techniques).

This one deals with a slightly different attack. This time, uke uses both hands and lifts the stick overhead, as if he wear going to chop down like an ax. Here, we take a bit of initiative and enter early, as he raises the weapon.

6) Gedan ate
As uke raises his arms over head, step forward, leading with the L foot (can be done on either side) as in gedan ate, with the L leg behind uke’s R leg. The L arm, however, is not low across the chest, but high, just under uke’s raised elbows, keeping them from lowering (the arms are surprisingly weak when lifted above the shoulder, especially when blocked under the elbow).

[Note: This high placement of tori's arm may not make this technically "gedan" ate (as gedan means low), but since we're still under uke's arms and we're placing our leg behind uke the way we do gedan ate in the 17, I thought the name might make this more recognizable.]

There's a few more after this, but I've save those for another time. Maybe, I just might get a video of all this sooner or later, now that I have a digital camera again.

Seitei jo demonstration

Nice video demonstration of the 12 seitei no kata. Unfortunately, it starts at hissage (#3, skipping 1 and 2) and the embedding for this video was disabled, but you can view it at YouTube here:

And as there are precious few videos available on jo, I was disappointed that the old Japanese seitei jo instructional movie that someone had converted and uploaded was "removed" (no doubt due to copywrite issues). Alas...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Take a moment, pause

I don't have much to say other than to make note of a small moment I experienced earlier this morning.

When I arrive at the dojo in the early mornings during the winter, it's still very dark and bitterly cold. So, too, is the dojo itself. I come in, turn on the lights, turn on the heater and wait for things to warm up. I used to leave my bag which contained my gi in my car all the time, but climbing into a stiff gi that's been sitting outside all night in the freezing cold is not the most pleasant experience, so I've began bringing it inside when I come home after work (when I remember).

Needless to say, it takes a while to get the blood flowing and the joints loose. Once you get going, though, the darkness and the cold seem to fade away. When you can enjoy a good session with a friendly partner, where both of you learn and grow, the warmth begins to emanate from inside.

After class was over this morning, we got dressed and filed out of the dressing room as usual. The way our particular dojo is built, you have to cross a corner of the mat to get from the dressing rooms to the main lobby where we leave our shoes. As I emerged from the dressing room, though, I stopped dead in my tracks.

The entire dojo had turned to gold. At first, I couldn't make sense of the sudden change. The normal overhead lights, which are florescent, are bright and bluish-white. Someone ahead of me had switched them off, allowing the rising sun to flood the dojo in a rich bath of warm, glowing honey.

Everyone else continued to chat and put on their shoes. But I was awed into silence. I could only stand and behold. Suddenly, the dojo had become... a temple, for lack of a better word. I couldn't help but feel I needed to be as reverent as a monk in a chapel.

I wonder... while I'm sure I would have felt the same if I had experienced that sort of light show out in nature, which is its own temple, would I have felt that way if I had experienced it in another building? My home? The place where I work? A gas station?

I'm not Catholic, but from what I understand, most Catholic churches are open all day, and people are welcome to come in and find solace, quietude, a place to pray and ponder (I think; I know I've encountered it somewhere). I've never had something like that available to me, but always thought it would be nice. For me, the dojo is sort of that place. A couple of times over the years, I've taken my lunch break and ducked over to the dojo when no classes were being held, and just sat there.

I suppose a place which hosts positive activities with positive participants, where friendliness and encouragement and safety are abundant, can't help but become a positive thing in and of itself. Whether it's spiritual or magic, I don't know.

But it's definitely worth stopping to notice.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jodo videos

There isn't a whole lot of videos out there, this channel has a few old movies that are kind of nice, such as this version of tachi otoshi from omote.

YouTube Sensei

For some reason, I never saw a lot of tai otoshi in my early years in judo. After a few periods of absence, I came back to judo and found myself in a situation where the only time I could do it was during my lunch hour. Problem was, there was no judo noon judo class at the time. So I had to start one. The other problem was, I was barely a nidan, and if you ever want to get a good idea of how little you really know, try running a class all by yourself.

Here I was, pretty rusty from having been out of it for a while, and really not as experienced as I'd like to be, running a class. I quickly realized I needed help from anywhere I could get it. The forums are nice, but to be honest, it's hard for me to get an accurate idea of a physical action through someone's written description.

I was at least fortunate to have a handful of students who attended other judo classes, which were taught by people much more qualified than me. As you might imagine, it takes a good deal of humility to be a black belt and ask for input from brown belts!

Truthfully, I felt quite unworthy of my rank and position. Consequently, I became determined to catch up however I could. Whenever possible, I would grab someone like Nick Lowry sensei whenever he would pop in to the dojo during noon aikido classes. He would typically stop by to take care of some administrative tasks, but I would politely and humbly ask if he wouldn't mind showing me how to do one thing or another.

I actually felt terrible separating myself from the aikido class in order to do that, because I respected the teacher, Jim Ellison Sensei, and hated to disrupt his class in any way. I'm eternally grateful for his patience and allowing me to sneak off like that periodically.

But, when other flesh and blood teachers were not readily available, I turned to the internet. Wonderful place, the internet, full of all kinds of information, both good and bad. In my search, I found quite a few good sources of information, but somehow I still felt not only guilty, but a little silly.

Learning martial arts from a book or video seemed like the kind of thing "wannabes" did, young geeks who've watched too many ninja movies who wanted to attain an instant "bad-assness" (is that a word?). In time, I came to realize that there was one crucial factor that makes all the difference: are you learning ONLY from a video or book? or is it a supplement to regular person-to-person instruction with a qualified teacher?

Now, I love it. And thankfully, I not only have videos from other budoka available to me, but a growing collection of videos from my own teachers, and together, they have improved my skills quite a bit.

Anyway... back to tai otoshi. How did I finally got a hold of it? Well, not that I've "mastered" it in anyway, but I'm certainly more comfortable with it now than I ever was. I got a lot out of a single session with Nick during one noon aikido class, who showed me that it could be thrown two ways, actually: perpendicular to uke's feet, and also down the line.

I also got a lot from a guy named Brad Wells, who was a brown belt at the time attending my noon judo class. He had spent some time during an evening class with a fine gentleman judoka by the name of David Wire, who is an old school player who has been doing judo probably longer than I've been alive. Brad relayed to me Mr. Wire's preference for loading weight into uke's left rear corner and throwing on the recovery (the perpendicular version). That was like a light bulb to me.

Then, I dusted off a distant memory of Charles Caldwell Sensei, who owned Windsong Dojo prior to Nick, showing us a version which he set up with a short "on/off" tug with the right hand (which caused an exaggerated recovery step with uke's right foot), and the turn and throw down the line of his feet (right front corner).

But after all that, I think I really solidified it in my mind by watching these videos from Superjudo.TV, a site run by Leo White Sensei. Maybe it was the instruction, maybe it was just seeing people do the throw over and over (probably a combination of the two), but I definitely have to say it helped.

That being said, every judo school or aikido school (or instructor) is going to have their own spin on things, and sometimes certain details don't really jive with the principles taught at my own dojo (not wrong, mind you, just different). But there have been plenty of things that not only did jive with my own training, but greatly enlarged and expanded it, like someone flipping on a switch.

So, domo arigato, YouTube Sensei.

I still feel silly bowing to my computer, though.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Yes, but is it PRACTICAL?

It seems like just about every issue we look at in aikido, judo or jodo ultimately gets measured by many of the budoka I know against the ruler of "practicality."

Of course, the word "practical" can really mean a lot of things. But for the most part, they seem to be thinking about what is commonly referred to "the street." Essentially, everyone wants to know how the things, or a specific thing, will help them "on the street," meaning in a physical confrontation with another human being bent on doing us bodily harm. Occasionally, that definition is expanded to include non-physical confrontations (such as a pushy, argumentative or angry person).

The art that seems hardest for many students (typically the younger ones, kyu ranks to early dan grades) is definitely jodo. And I've heard a number of explanations over the years about the various subtle, amorphous ways it can be "practical," even though we don't walk around with 4 foot sticks and rare is the occasion when someone attacks us with a Japanese katana.

They will also think "practical" in terms of convenience, especially when thinking of things like reishiki or wearing hakama, for example. Don't want to wear hakama because it's hot or uncomfortable? Okay, then be comfortable. Why bother with any of the outfit, for that matter; just show up in sweats and a t-shirt.

But for me, there is so much more to budo that is practical, just not in regard to confrontations with thugs or bullies. When it comes right down to it, if you asked most of the students in my dojo, at least, they would tell you they just don't get into fights. Maybe verbal conflicts, but rarely is a punch ever thrown (I've known many police officers and prison guards who would stand as a notable exception to that rule, of course, but they are the minority).

All I ask of any student (and of myself) is to spend time thinking outside the rather limited paradigm of "self-defense."

The issue is not, "Is it practical?" but rather, "In how many ways can it be practical in my life?" We just might be surprised. And we may stop asking such silly questions!