Showing posts from April, 2010

Start with your closet

Since mentioning my interest in pursuing the art of minimalism, I have to admit, I haven't accomplished much. Okay, anything.
The funny thing is, the first thing I want to do is simple. I remember a couple of times as a teenager, wishing to loose some of my embarrassing flab and get fit, I went nuts lifting weights and just about killed myself. Needless to say, the habit didn't stick. I was in too big of a hurry, biting off more than I could chew.
I look at this, as well as just about anything new, with the same mindset. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, as the saying goes.
So I decided to start with the smallest space in my house, the closet. Actually, now that I think about it, I should probably start smaller, with the dresser. Every weekend, I swear I'm going to dive in and weed out all the stuff I don't wear anymore.
Part of the problem for me is, I've been fit and overweight both several times in my life. I'm not attached to many of my clot…

Super amazing ukemi! Video!

Alright, I made another video detailing all the variations of the rolling/flying break-fall with the help of Todd Lannert (and Benjamin Hanby who held the camera). The first one I did just had the side version, largely because I'm an idiot who didn't have my memory card inserted correctly into the digital camera so that was all I could record. This time, I have all three variations that I talked about here.
The video/sound quality is crappy because I'm using a digital (photo) camera to take the video; I don't have a nice video camera, sorry.

The one thing I didn't cover in the video that I mentioned in the post was flipping yourself. Partly because I forgot, but also, I'm not sure I have all my thoughts together on that topic.
The ukemi series: Amazing ukemi, Step 1Amazing ukemi, Step 2 Amazing ukemi, Step 3 Amazing ukemi, Step 4 Amazing ukemi, Step 5

The tall and the short of it, part 3

Continuing my thoughts on approaching aikido and judo as a tall person and as a short person, let's look at the next chunk of junana hon kata, the hiji waza (elbow techniques):
6) Oshi taoshi Tall: The good ol' fashioned "elbow through the ear" version works well for me, being tall. It goes along with the idea I mentioned of "looming" over uke, or going over the top, and when extending along the side axis of off-balance, being behind uke (whereas shorter folks extend from in front).
Short: For shorter player, trying to do the straight "elbow through the ear" version can be tricky, especially since it usually means tori has to let their hands drift above shoulder level. Not that you can't ever do that, but I like to reserve it for moment when I absolutely have to and the risk is lower. Plus, going "over" uke isn't really a shorter person's strong suit.
Now, starting with a backward balance break to drop uke into a hole, and then d…

The tall and the short of it, part 2

Time to continue what I started thinking about last time regarding different approaches to aikido and judo for taller and smaller players.
For starters, I realized that I could add another basic dimension to what I've already mentioned. I talked about breaking uke back for taller people, and breaking uke forward for shorter people and then mentioned compressing shorter people and extending taller people. I'm noticing that the overall height of your hands (at least in aikido) seems to have some effect as well.
If you're tall, like I am, and you hold your arms at chest level, this will naturally put a shorter uke's hand at his own shoulder level, or ideally, higher, where they're weaker. However, if a shorter tori hold their hands at chest level, it only brings a taller uke's hand to his navel level. He can still function relatively well there. But, if a shorter tori holds their hands at navel level, it tends to bring a taller uke's hand below his waist, which…

The tall and the short of it, part 1

For some reason, we've never had that many female students in our dojo. Which is odd, because our school tends to eschew the sometimes over-the-top, testosterone-fueled, machismo that predominates many other fighting art schools, an attitude that I would suspect turns off a lot of women. On the contrary, although mainly men, we're such a nice, easy-going bunch of guys (heck, our old dojo cho used to, on rare occasions, dress in a pink gi with a black sash around his waist and demonstrate as "the Aikido Fairy"), you'd think women would feel more at home.
I think it's a shame, really, because I think as far as defending yourself goes, aikido and even judo are ideally suited to situations where bigger and stronger are pitted against smaller and—well, I hate to say "weaker", but perhaps "more delicate".
Recently, though, we've had a new student start attending aikido and judo classes who happens to be a girl, and a relatively small one at th…

Push vs pull teaching

The Gracie family has a series of videos called Gracie Bullyproof that's designed to teach young kids ju-jitsu. As a father of two young kids who are fast approaching school age, I'm seriously getting a hold of these.
The video below is a sample from the introduction that teaches the parents how to teach their little kids. Frankly, I think this little segment alone is really, really good advice on teaching anyone, young or old.

The elusive sukui nage

As I work my way through the gokyu no waza, I occasionally come across throws that I don't really know all that well. Getting toward the end of the list, I run into sukui nage, "scooping throw".
Now, the main version (well, the only version) I've done is one where tori steps behind uke and places his arm in front, and then sits down along with uke. It makes for a nice, easy way to learn the throw for sure (although it starts to resemble tani otoshi).
For reference, the sempai in this one does it the way we usually do it:

Still, I wanted to learn a little more about it, so I started to do a little research.
It turns out that there about as many ways to do sukui nage as there are ways to top a pizza. The first knot I had to untangle is that there is actually two different throws often passing by the name sukui nage. There are versions of it that are also referred to as te guruma ("hand wheel") which, to me, are really a subtly different idea that I would prefer …

Alternate attack for junana hon kata

The other week I mentioned a little randori experiment we undertook in aikido that involved evading multiple attacks of either yokomen uchi or shomen uchi. I talked a little bit about how the novelty of the kind of attack seemed to take everyone a little off guard, as if they didn't know quite how to handle it, even though their aikido would work just fine regardless.
So, just for the heck of it, I thought, why not spend a few classes doing junana hon kata, the 17, with either a yokomen uchi, shomen uchi or in some cases a tsuki (thrust, like a punch to the stomach) attack. Certain techniques seem to be better suited for one attack or the other, I noticed. Not much changes, really, in terms of how the technique itself is performed; the only real difference is how you start off. This list by no means comprises all the variations you could do, but perhaps it may serve as a starting point.

Atemi waza
1) Shomen ate — uke attacks with yokomen uchi
2) Aigamae ate — uke attacks with shomen u…

The empty cup

My friend and teacher, Nick Ushin Lowry Sensei, offered the following sentiment on Facebook the other day: "The one who bows an the one who is bowed to are both fundamentally empty, which is what allows for true clear communication."
Another friend responded (in jest): " usually what in between my ears, sensei... absolutely nothing, nada, zilt..."
To which, Lowry Sensei replied, "Good for you—just don't get stuck on it."
. . . . . . . . . . .

Bare in mind here that I am not a serious student of any particular eastern philosophy or religion aside from reading the "Tao Te Ching" a couple of times, along with whatever odds and ends I pick up by virtue of studying a Asian martial art and hanging around a few folks who are more devoted students.
The concept of "the empty cup" is one of those that has come up a number of times. For the most part, I think I understand the idea behind it. Although I might embarrass myself by try…

The forward "splat!" fall

Maybe someone out there with a little experience and/or a more in-depth knowledge of Japanese can help me straighten out some names. I'm having a hard time pinning down one term.
The basic, rolling breakfall we do is most often called "zempo kaiten ukemi". Which makes sense, since from what I can tell "zempo" is "front or forward" and "kaiten" is basically "rotation" or rolling.
What I'm trying to nail down is the fall you do to the front, but there's no rolling. You basically kick your legs out from under you (backwards), land first on your forearms, then chest, then legs, sort of doing a breakdancing type or "worm" movement until you're laying face down, flat on the ground. This is one of the few images I could find of it:

A few rare instances, I find it called "mae ukemi" which makes sense, as "mae" seems to mean "front or fore", but the confusing thing is a LOT of sites use this …

Side version of zempo kaiten ukemi

In a previous post, I talked about practicing a few variations on the basic rolling breakfall, or zempo kaiten ukemi. I described them as best as I could (as I do with everything I talk about here), but many times, it's hard to picture a visual thing when reading about it.
And I've been wanting to start recording video of various things I've been tinkering with, but have never gotten around to it. Today, however, I finally gave it a shot. I had intended to record all of the drills I described in that post, but my dumb camera kept flaking out on me. I've never used it to record video before, so I'm not sure what the problem is. (I have no other media on it and it has a 2 gig card in it, but it would keep stopping in the middle of recording to say "Busy, please wait," and then when a picture came back on the view finder, it wasn't recording anymore.)
So, either I'm going to find out from friends what the deal is, or I'll try my wife's camera …

Techniques against a jo

Interesting video of Morihiro Saito sensei performing a series of techniques against a jo. Some of these are included in koryu dai san kata, but some are new to me.

Quite a workout

Roll, rolls, and more rolls
Phew. I'm still sweating, even after the drive to work from the dojo.
Needless to say, aikido class today was quite a workout. Due to the odd number of students, I worked in with a pair of yudansha, and the three of us managed to knock out the hanasu no kata and the entire junana hon kata (which means, of course, you end up doing each technique twice and taking ukemi for each technique twice). With yudansha, there wasn't much need for discussion, so we were able to keep a pretty brisk pace.
On top of that, once class was over, Scott and I continued to work on the last half of yon kata, plus the jo-no-tsukai-kata (jo against hand) and the tachi-tai-tachi (sword against sword) section of san kata. Well, to be precise, I attacked him for all of it for the purpose of his rank demonstration.
On one hand, I can't help but feel many of my technique were pretty sloppy. I'm afraid that I end up "odd man out" and standing around more than I&#…


In response to my post that was mentioned on Aikido Journal regarding what I call the "sphere of influence", Nev Sagiba pointed out that when inside the sphere (where I would start introducing judo) koshinage ("hip throw") would be the likely aikido response.
The interesting thing to me is, as far as I know, koshinage doesn't really ever appear anywhere in Tomiki Ryu Aikido except for in koryu dai roku, the last of the advanced katas (unless someone can point me to one I'm forgetting?) Which is odder still, since Tomiki came from a judo background. Perhaps he thought everyone should train in both and therefor let judo take care of hip techniques?
I, myself, am interested in learning more about aikido's perspective of hip techniques. I have, of course, a long laundry list of things I'd like to explore, but this is one of them. Fortunately, I have a number of morning classmates who study both judo and aikido, which ought to make it a little easier.

In th…

An article in Aikido Journal ?!?

I'm not sure how it happened, but one of my blog entries was featured on Aikido Journal's web site. I certainly never submitted anything, and I certainly never would have dreamt of it. I mean, a lot of the people who contribute articles have faaaaaar more experience in aikido than me. I'm kind of humbled, kind of embarrassed, really. I may lead some classes, but that's really because not very many people are insane/desperate enough to get up that early in the morning! I don't really consider myself a "teacher" by any means, and I certainly would never attribute the "s" word to my name.I'm really just a student like anyone else, trying to wrap my mind around what so many great minds have put before me. That's all this blog is, really. I just find that the attempt to describe a thing, to put it into words, has a way of "processing" what I'm learning, of retaining things that may have otherwise just gone in one ear and slipped…

A little mokuso never hurt anybody

I've been struggling to try and squeeze a little sitting meditation into my life, and haven't been very successful. My life is fairly jam-packed, as it happens (I'm sure that's most people's excuse). I have too many interests and hobbies, it seems.
In the past, I had entertained the idea of adding it to the routine of our morning classes, but feared I would be the only one truly interested in it (although the others would probably be too polite to say they weren't interested in it).
And then, lo and behold, someone else actually suggested it! My friend and fellow budoka, Scott, happens to have had a little experience with it and he wanted to know if we could do a little seated meditation in aikido. Well, sure, I said!
Now, most traditional budo classes start right off the bat with a little mokuso (meditation), but he suggested doing it after the ukemi practice and just before the Walking kata (tegatana no kata). Since some have described the Walk as a form of &quo…

Aware, or just paranoid?

It would seem that, even though we study a martial art, an attack that we don't expect or see coming would still put us at a distinct disadvantage.
But what is the line between being more "aware" of your surroundings, or in other words, being prepared for a possible attack, and being paranoid?
How can you "be prepared" for an attack without becoming distrustful of mankind, of other people's intentions?

Off to a pathetic start

Well, I have to admit that "April as ne waza month" is off to a rather pathetic start. On both Monday and Wednesday, we only had three or four people, and once again, we ended up spending a bunch of time on throwing (all of time on Monday), and little on grappling.
Sigh. I think the combination of small numbers and the fact that everyone there were all long time buddies (as opposed to new blood we don't know very well) naturally lent itself to a casual atmosphere. That kind of lame excuse, combined with my own inherent like/hate relationship with grappling are not going to get me very far.
I'm never going to get better at this stuff...

Fighting a blind man

Learned another interesting term, courtesy of fellow budoka/blogger Pat Parker (the definition comes from a handful of sources):
Shikaku: Literally, the "dead angle" or dead corner, or the vulnerable angle. Position relative to one's partner where it is difficult for them to continue to attack, and from which it is relatively easy to control one's partner's balance and movement. The first phase of an aikido technique is often to establish shikaku.
Pat, then, takes the term a bit further to refer to those place where uke can't quite see what tori is up to, such as with shomen ate. Well, just read how he explains it.
It's interesting to me how it might relate to judo as well. I haven't given it a lot of thought, so while I can't think of a specific example other than the fact that, when grappling with guys who know what they're doing, you very rarely see the choke or the arm bar coming. Hmmm....

Well being

I brought up the idea of "minimalism" in a recent post as a potential subject of future posts, but after further thought, I realized that I'm ultimately interested a little bit broader of a topic. The best phrase I can think of to describe it (so far) would be "well being."That may encompass a number of things, really: mental health, being organized, physical fitness, food and diet, humanitarianism, minimizing, etc. Again, not that I'm an expert on any of it, just the things I discover as I go. What do these subjects have to do with aikido or judo? Well, as I try to look for ways budo can influence my whole life, not just the practical, "self defense" aspects of it, these are some of the areas it takes me. One web site that I've discovered lately is Zen Habits. While I am by no means an expert on the subject of zen, I have found the posts on this particular useful to a very broad audience, ideas that would benefit anyone. One particular post t…

Love gives birth to harmony...

Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido
"Love gives birth to harmony. Harmony brings forth joy. Joy is the greatest treasure."

Light bulb moments

Hiroshi Kato Sensei

Doesn't everyone who went to college have at least one professor who stood out from the rest? Someone you really identified with, who inspired you, challenged you, and at the time, you even wanted to be like them someday?
Well, maybe not everyone. I did, though. In the graphic design department at the University of Central Oklahoma, it was Dr. Jim Watson. The guy is crazy, but wonderfully so. You either hated him, or you idolized him (there were more of the latter than the former, but the former shouldn't have been in the program anyway, which I believe was the point). I could write post for months about him.
Anyway, he always used to describe the point at which the "idea" for a design becomes clear as a "light bulb moment". Now, obviously, he's not the first one to coin the term, but he was the first one to give it meaning. I always thought it meant you got an idea or something simple like that. In fact, it means much more than that. I…

Troubles with yokomen uchi

This morning in aikido, we took another step or two in our progressions toward "chaos" (or randori). Grouped in threes, each person took turns being attacked by the others with a basic shomen ate attack. The drill was to simple practice evasion with a slight touch (no technique). Not many problems there.Then, we moved on to arced attacks, such as yokomen uchi (or a straight overhead "hammer" strike, or "upper cut" kind of strike). That's when things started to get a little messy.The odd thing is, there's really not a lot (if anything) that you ought to do differently as tori from what you would do in any of the other kata that typically use a shomen ate attack. So why did things fall apart?Well, I have one theory (so far). I suspect that, when people are attacked with something that's different from the norm (the same could be said of an uke with a weapon), their brains simply freeze. It's "unfamiliar" to the Conscious Mind, even…

Learned a new term today: Shidoin

This from Wikipedia:

Shidoin (指導員:しどういん) is a Japanese title, often used in budo. The word means instructor and is usually used to designate an official intermediate level instructor within an organization. A senior instructor would have the title Shihan.
Various budo arts and organizations have different requirements for the usage of the title, but in general it corresponds to 4th or 5th Dan. Some organizations also have the more junior title Fuku Shidoin which corresponds to assistant instructor. These titles are often separate from the dan rankings and are much more specific than the more general sensei.
The titles Fuku Shidoin, Shidoin and Shihan roughly correspond to the titles Renshi, Kyoshi and Hanshi, respectively, used by other martial arts organizations.
The Aikikai adopted this instructor designation system in the 1970s, around the time of the creation of the International Aikido Federation.


I think I'm going to add another dimension to the subjects about which I ruminate on this blog. In short, "minimalism".
Allow me to explain. What, you may wonder, does "minimalism" have to do with budo, which is, after all, the focus of this blog? Maybe nothing. But then, maybe it does, if even in a broad, general sense.
For starters, let me clarify: when I talk about "minimalism", I'm not talking about living like this guy:

Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's what you're into. Personally, I find this sort of thing a little extreme. My idea of the ideal home would look a little more like a Pottery Barn catalogue or something out of a Martha Stewart magazine (with a few hints of Japanese aesthetic sprinkled in).
What I mean by "minimalism" is an approach to life, rather than a decorating style. One way I like to think about it is in a phrase an old graphic design professor, Dr. Jim Watson, used to drill into our …