Showing posts from December, 2010

Hard to fight what you've never seen

One of the greatest potential weaknesses of any martial art is the fact that it's hard to fight what you've never seen before. The Gracie family proved that quite effectively when they took every kind of fighter who signed up for the UFC and took them to the ground. Virtually no other style ever spent time on the ground, so the jiu-jitsu folks had a field day once they got down there.

Aikido is like that. No ground game whatsoever. Our particular school or ryu or whatever has a supplementary system of very basic, self-defense ideas for aikidoka because our organization historically has also been involved with judo as well. It works pretty well against people without much training should things degrade to a ground fight. Against a trained grappler, however, you're more or less toast.

But even in judo, which of course has a grappling component, has left out certain aspect of the ground game, namely in the interest of sport. There's no wrist locks, for instance, no ankle …

Looking back, looking forward

Well, it's that time of year, isn't it? Time to look back at and reflect on the previous 12 months, and then to look forward to the next 12. I've been doing as much in my overall personal life, but I thought I might share a few thoughts as they pertain to my budo Path.

Looking back at 2010

♦ I missed quite of training this year, but fortunately not due to injury or illness. My wife, on the other hand, had the misfortune of undergoing 3, count 'em 3, operations: a C-section, a hernia and a tonsillectomy (which is a much more difficult recovery than one would think).

Which meant I spent a lot of time off from working staying home and taking care of the kids and missing some budo. It's a tough thing to go without training, but I tried to at least keep my mind in the game as I thought and pondered and watched videos. And since I used all my time off, I never got a chance to participate in either the shochugeiko or kangeiko intensives.

♦ I feel like I might several strid…


A lovely demonstration of sensitivity, touch, and a bit of the ol' "on/off" principle.

Breaking balance with shiho nage

I've discovered that, after all these years, I was never really getting the balance break for shiho nage quite right. The same goes for mae otoshi, or any other technique that begins the same way.

I think it comes from starting our training looking at a technique from the stand-point of choreography: step here with this foot, put your right hand here, step there, turn, etc. etc. I think that's the way we need to start, working on ourselves first. But after a while, we find that, though we have the movements down (kind of), the technique still isn't quite working right, or maybe only works some of the time.

That's the point I think we all make a transition from thinking about what I'm doing, to thinking about what's happening to uke. We move from an inward focus to an outward one. We think less about how to do something, and more about why we do it.

Shiho nage, for me, is one of those techniques about which I'm starting to make a number of realizations. (Not…

The oft neglected mae ukemi

I have noticed recently that there is one element of ukemi at our school that I frankly think is somewhat neglected, or at least skimmed over too much.

Different people refer to it by different names, but it is essentially mae ukemi or "front falling". In some circles, this term refers to the forward rolls so common in aikido, but I think the terms mae kaiten ukemi ("front rolling fall") or zenpo kaiten ukemi ("forward rolling fall") are more descriptive and therefor clearer. Here's what the fall looks like:

For the most part, we have practiced only one piece of mae ukemi, as part of our opening warm-up, which is taking the fall from our knees. Unlike this video, however, we don't do the "worm" sort of movement, just reach out and slap the mat with our forearms, pulling ourselves a little forward, chin up. I'm not sure why, but while we would practice all the other falls from both a low, close-to-the-ground position as well as from a…

Tying loose ends

For whatever reason, my frequency of posting has dropped off considerably of late, sorry. Not that I don't have a lot to think about, a lot that I'm learning, a lot that intrigues me. I definitely have a nice list of things to address for the coming year, if I ever get around to it all.

I also have a list of topics I've started but never finished, and hope to in 2011:

The chin is magic
This concept has been fairly pervasive in my aikido and is starting to creep into judo as well. I've only gone so far as to look at the first technique of aikido's randori no kata, shomen ate, but there's soooo much more. I tried making a video that glazed over many of the applications I've been thinking of, but I left some things out and it's too quick. Maybe next time I try, I'll bring a check list.

Practicing budo while killing time
I have a need to isolate and organize and categorize that borders on OCD. One of the things I really enjoy doing to creating drills. I …

More stuff

On the subject of minimalism, George Carlin's classic bit on "stuff". Which is, in my opinion, good... stuff.

Are you REALLY moving from your center?

We say it all the time—move from the center—but, truth be told, a great deal of the time, when something isn't working, guess what the culprit is?

And I don't necessarily mean "moving" in the sense of your center traveling over a certain distance, but just about every action (aside from some ikioi ideas) needs to have the hips engaged and zeroed in on the target.

We've been focusing somewhat on that concept in both judo and aikido in the mornings, and I thought I'd share a few drills/exercises I've pulled out of my bum to help illustrate it. The first set is...

Have everyone pair up, and give each pair an extra obi. There are two experiments each pair can do.

#1 The Truck Pull
Have tori stand stationary facing one end of the dojo. Have uke stand behind him, facing the same direction but several paces back. Wrap the belt around tori's waist so that uke is holding either end in each hand, and there's no slack.

The object here is for tori…

Getting better as you advance, not worse

I've noticed an unfortunate tendency creeping into my training the longer I do all this budo stuff. It's most noticeable when I'm the one leading class on a regular basis.

Basically, I stop doing things correctly.

Which seems odd, doesn't it? You'd think that the more advanced you get, the more correct your technique would be, right? Well, yes, it should, darn it.

But the truth is, when I'm the most senior rank, I have a bad habit of getting lazy. Why, I ask myself.

For one, I can get away with it with lower ranks. Because they're not as skilled, I only need to get most of the pieces in place to make a technique happen, and they typically don't know enough to take advantage of it to counter it.

And frankly, deep down, sometimes I'm showing off a little. Look how easily I did that technique, aren't I smooth? Check it out, I'm not even looking at the guy...

Sigh. Not good.

Even then, I'll botch something on occasion, and frankly, that jus…

Not just the throwing leg—the support leg, too

There's always lots of little things to think about on any given throw or technique, and this is a nice one. In this video, Yamashita Sensei talks about o soto gari. He starts off emphasizing the idea of pointing the toe, which is a pretty common pointer, but it's one of the things I see people get lazy about far too often.

The other interesting thing I think is worth noting starts around the 3:35 mark, where he talks about what the support foot is doing. It's true for a number of throw entries and worth the reminder.