Friday, May 28, 2010

Ura waza experiments part 4

Last month, the overall "theme" if you will for all aikido classes was "randori", and I chose to explore the ura waza techniques covered in both the usual forms but also the experimental stuff covered in last year's shochugeiko. This month, the dojo has moved on to koryu dai ni kata, and we're following suit in the morning classes, which means that I didn't get a chance to play with some of the last techniques in junana hon kata.

At least, not in regular class. I've a few occasions no to play around with some things outside of that, and I thought I'd jot them down here to finish out this series of posts and if anything make a record of what we found.

Where did we leave off? Oh, yeah, kote gaeshi. Wee covered ideas regarding tenkai kote gaeshi in early classes and posts, so we'll skip that and move on to shiho nage.

There is, of course, the classical counter of doing shiho nage right back to uke, which works pretty darn well, thank you very much. (There's another slight variation, though, that I've used in randori before, but I have no idea how to explain properly in words. I'll have to shoot a video someday.) But just for fun, I thought I'd poke around and see if I could find any other opportunities that lived there.

Interestingly enough, our work lately on ni kata as well as my own work with my friend Scott Weaver on yon kata over the last several months has apparently sunk in a little deeper than I'd realized. Specifically, I'm thinking of the 15th technique of yon kata (migi gyakugamae ate) and the 6th technique of ni kata (ushiro katate eri mochi gyakugamae ate).

There's a moment, when uke is trying to do shiho nage, that you can make that same sort of balance break. We work off of the condition where uke has stepped off the line of the initial attack and established his "butterfly" grip on our wrist (our right hand). Let's say he doesn't really get your balance here and he starts to do the hip switch in preparation for stepping through and under, turning, and finishing shiho nage. As he starts that first hip switch, we pivot the left foot back behind us with our right hand in our center and it catches uke perpendicular to the line of his feet, just like yon kata and ni kata.

Now, you can do the grip break action and proceed as in yon kata if you like, or you can spin them again as the try and recover and get a number of things: gyakugamae ate with your left hand, mae otoshi (which is strikingly familiar to #8 of yon kata), or kote taoshi; or you could do a #1 release and end up in an oshi taoshi sort of situation and all of the things that live there.

Since we dealt with mae otoshi earlier, we then played with sumi otoshi a little. The absolute best shot we found came from my buddy Christian Lamson. It incorporates, as so many of these counters do, a very very tight turning motion, pre-turning your foot under your hips. So as uke is trying to put your right hand into that back corner, you just keep turning tight, to your right, but here's the thing: cock your right hand, not with the fingers pointed upward like we normally would, but pointed to the right (the direction you're turning); at the same time, let your right hand come down to right thigh.

Yeah, I know, we're supposed to always keep our hands in our center, but this is one of those exceptions to the rule. But this brings up another fairly common method of countering techniques in addition to the tight rotation, which is attaching the arm and/or hand that's being attacked to your body while doing it.

Trust me, we got plenty of eyes going wide and various augh!'s from uke's who suddenly found their head shooting straight to the mat like a lawn dart (luckily, the guys I'm working with have such great ukemi).

Alternatively, I watched Henry Kono Sensei on video, simply go with uke's direction of power (rather than perpendicular to it) and drop to a knee. This also works pretty well, especially if you add your free hand to the inside of uke's forearm =).

I haven't had much time to play with the last one, hiki otoshi, but we did find that when uke is trying to get the arm lock that precedes the throw (the way the KG system does it, anyway; I don't think the rest of the Tomiki world does it with that preparatory jamming of the arm), you can do the very same hand cocked, pointing to the right, turn tight thing we did for sumi otoshi which worked pretty well. If I get a chance to work on it some more, I'll follow up later.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whatever happened to self-discipline?

It's almost a cliché, really. Whenever you ask someone why they want to study a particular martial art, they typically give you the same handful of reasons: self-defense, to get in better shape and self-discipline.

I think we can all understand where the "self defense" part comes in to play. For various reasons, many of us at some point feel a basic, fundamental need to protect ourselves. Maybe we live in a dangerous part of town or work in a potentially violent profession (such as law enforcement, emergency services, or even playing music at a raucous hole in the wall) and the threat of violence is ever-present; or, maybe we've always been picked on by bullies, be it physical or psychological abuse, and we want the confidence to stand up to them.

It's a fairly strong motivating factor, one that's probably worth spending a few posts on in and of itself. But it's not what's on my mind.

As for getting in better shape, there are probably much better ways to accomplish that, or at least more direct and efficient, truth be told. And for some people, pumping iron and running 10 miles a day is just fine. But I suspect that, for some people, lifting weights and climbing a Stair Master is just a little too boring. They want physical exertion, but they also want to engage their minds somehow at the same time. Sports (and by extension, martial arts) are a great way to do that.

Now, I'll be brutally honest, here. Our particular dojo is not the most... physically demanding, shall we say. One of the nice things about judo and aikido is that they can be practice at various levels of intensity and at various ages; our dojo has students in their 20s and students in their 60s+ and everything in between. For some reason, though, it seems that most people aren't very interested in working hard enough to break a sweat (which I find rather disappointing, actually), so I suppose for them, they're looking for a more "tai chi" kind of physical activity, which is fine.

Again, another post for another day.

For me, I'm perplexed by that last reason: self-discipline. First of all, while I think I understand the first two motivating factors, I'm not sure I fully get this one. What are people feeling when they think they need "self-discipline"? Are they defining it the same way the dictionary does, "Training and control of oneself and one's conduct, usually for personal improvement"? Is it a deep-seated unhappiness with oneself and the desire to somehow feel better about who we are?

I've often heard this same reason given for joining the military, self-discipline. Do we think of ourselves as aimless, lazy slobs with no direction in life, incapable of achieving anything of note? And that adhering to a strict set of rules, jumping at every command barked at us by a drill sergeant or sensei, will somehow whip us into shape, and "make a man" out of us? Will following rules and obeying orders actually do all that?

I can't answer any of that. Do you know? Any thoughts you might have on the matter I would certainly appreciate.

All that being said, here's what got me thinking about it in the first place. As I watch the other students in my dojo, I can't help but wonder what motivates them. For example, we have a couple of newer students who are attending just about every class they can, morning, noon and night and even weekends. But other students are much more laissez faire about their attendance, especially with the morning class. I hear, Oh, it was too hard to get out of bed yesterday morning, and that sort of thing often. When they do show up, most of the time, they're several minutes late; chronic tardiness in any other dojo, I'm fairly certain, would not be tolerated.

Frankly, I just don't get it.

Back when I first started, I was in my early 20s, in college, and had plenty of time on my hands, so I made every class I could. Even now, I'd go to more classes for sure if I could (career, family, etc. takes a priority, of course). As it is, I don't miss a single class unless I'm out of town, my car has broken down, or somebody in my house is sick (really sick, not just a case of the sniffles). I also do my damnedest to get there on time.

I also take my falls as often as I can. No one else seems to want to, for some inexplicable reason. The older, more physically limited folks, I understand, but even many of the younger, fit guys act like taking a few air falls for a technique demonstration is going to kill them.

I also see a number of people spend a minute or two working on what the teacher presented and then, when bored with that, move on to the next technique ahead of the class. What, did you master that one already? Two minutes, and you've got it down?

Where's the dedication, where's the heart? I don't get it...

I'm not describing everyone, mind you, but a disturbingly large number of folks nonetheless. I've written too much here already, so I'll stop for now. But it continues to perplex me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ura waza experiments part 3

We covered counters to waki gatame (#10) in some of the earlier techniques, and countering kote hineri seemed pretty much the same as oshi taoshi (although, if I've missed something, by all means, let me know!), so we moved on to kote gaeshi.

There are probably as many ways to counter kote gaeshi as there are ukes, but here are just a few that we've discovered.

Before we get into any of them, however, it's important to understand one fundamental element that relates to pretty much all of these (except maybe one). Actually, the first thing to remember is that, with any of these counters, if tori does everything right, you're pretty much toast, end of story. Remember that we're working under the presumption that tori goofed and maybe sped up or tried to force something to happen.

With that little caveat out of the way, let's talk about the base for all of these counters.

Changing the kote gaeshi angle
I like to illustrate this right up front with a little drill. Stand facing your opponent at ma-ai distance. Have one person, uke, grab your wrist in kote gaeshi. Go ahead and get both hands on there for this if you like (or if you have a relatively weak grasp).
Without either of you moving, try to straighten out your wrist. Unless you happen to be big muscle-bound brute and your uke is a petit little waif, you probably won't be able to do it. Even if you can, it will only work as long as you're dealing with someone smaller and weaker, so the probability of success is pretty dicey.

Now, while uke still stands in place, take a pre-turned step to your left side (if uke is holding your right hand). This should put you at about a 90 degree angle relative to uke. NOW try straightening your hand. Much, much easier, right? Just doing that much alone in motion has a very real tendancy to dump people on their heads who aren't expecting it. Establishing that angle as uke is trying to apply kote gaeshi is the key. That being said, there are a number of variations you could encounter.

1) Countering kote gaeshi with kote gaeshi
We'll start with the text book ura waza. This assumes, of course, that uke has both hands on yours and is trying to extend you out over your toes. Once you find that angle and you'll step a little further and extend the other guy. You'll also use your free hand to nab uke's left hand, step around and do kote gaeshi back to him.

2) Countering kote gaeshi with gyakugamae ate
It probably goes without saying that tori does, after all, have a free hand. There are a couple of things you could do with it. First off, let's say uke is trying to get you with more of a converging kote gaeshi, or in other words, instead of backing away or extending you over your foot, he's trying to collapse your wrist and arm back toward you (and a little off to the side). Not a common form, but usefull in certain circumstances. Or maybe, rather than take your balance, he's just trying to wrench your wrist off. In this case, rather than try and break the grip, you'll just go with it and curl your own wrist until your whole arm is sucked up tight against your body. Do that as you turn to the left and stick a hand (or arm) in uke's face and down he goes. The whole thing has a way of stretching uke apart, his hands going one way, his head going the other.

3) Countering kote gaeshi with kubi guruma
For a long time, whenever I felt kote gaeshi coming on in randori, and I had a free hand, it automatically went to uke's face. Which worked for a time, but with experienced players, or anyone who had upgraded, they quickly turned that into a waki gatame. Oops. After a while, my hand ended up, instead, on the side, slightly curled around the back of uke's head, as in kubi guruma from the Big 10 (at the same time, mind you, as the tight turning grip-break mentioned above).

4) Countering kote gaeshi with juji garami
Many times, uke doesn't have his second hand involved in the kote gaeshi. In this case, I like using my free hand to catch under uke's free elbow, which ends up getting his arms crossed like an X in a form of judi garami. (And you can always throw a leg in front of uke, if you're judo inclined.)

5) Countering kote gaeshi with kote taoshi
A form we found pretty devastating for smaller toris to use is, along with the usual grip-break, putting your free hand on uke's throwing forearm. But unlike the usual downward motion of kote taoshi, curl uke's elbow in towards his body as you back away (fairly remeniscent of the 3rd technique from goshin jitsu no kata in judo). If you have the pleasure of having a smaller person do this one to you, I would advise you to reeeeeally tuck your head, because the ground comes up fast.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ura waza experiments part 2

We've been having more fore fun with aikido ura waza. We went over what's covered in the KUBK forums from last years shochugeiko in regard to gyakugamae ate and ushiro ate; gedan ate, we sort of covered when we encountered it with shomen ate, and we looked at oshi taoshi conditions with aigamae ate.

Which brought us to ude gaeshi, #7. Now, in the traditional Tomiki ryu randori no kata no ura waza some of the techniques from the 17 (randori no kata) are omitted, namely, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17. Frankly, I have no idea why (in fact, for various reasons, our dojo has only been looking at this kata for a very short period of time).

But, that doesn't stop us from experimenting!

So on we went with ude gaeshi. With this one, we utilized the same turning of the outside foot as we did in our particular version of the counter to oshi taoshi, but with two variations:

1) A large, extending turning motion. As uke begins to try and coil your arm, you basically do a #1 release movement, which should put you behind uke's arm. In this version, you'll have to step away from uke to create space. This one also works as bodies fall (before uke comes up to put your arm in a coil)

2) A small, tight turning motion. This is more like the oshi taoshi reversal, with one exception. It's basically still a #1 release, but this time, you're working with the bodies rising (as uke is trying to put your arm in a coil), and your palm is up, leading with the fingers. Bring it all the way down to your thigh as you turn and you'll find yourself in a lovely set-up for aiki nage/irimi nage (or of course, ushiro kubi gatame).

That is, if uke doesn't fall flat on his face from the initial turn, which seemed to happen the more determined uke was to make ude gaeshi work. On occasion, uke would be so far along in the process of coiling tori's arm, that he got cross-armed (a la juji garami) and flipped. Evil stuff.

Next, we played with ude hineri (after we worked on the counter for hiki taoshi, natch) and found at least two ideas. Both of these operate at the moment that uke, in trying to do hiki taoshi, has your arm extended and has done his little eye threat. He feels like you're not going to go down for hiki taoshi, and decides to try ude hineri. But as the two of you converge towards each other, you're not going to let him slip past your right hip (if he has your right arm) and get your arm coiled behind you. Instead, you can:

1) Step with a sharp, pre-turned foot to your right (uke's left). Your hand will naturally uncoil and end up palm upward, your arm across uke's chest and under his chin in a form of gyakugamae ate. Or, you can...

2) Go down on one knee, your right arm up and your left hand down, clipping uke's left knee, much like sukui nage from yon kata.

. . . . . . . . . .

Fun stuff. I'd like to get a little of this on video, too, if I get the chance. Next, we spent a whole class on just kote gaeshi...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Some techniques just aren't for everyone

I like sankaku jime, frankly. Many judoka and BJJ players do. It works pretty well, when everything goes right.

The problem I'm finding is that, as I try and work on it with my class, not everyone is having as easy a time of it. Sure, there's a player's level of inexperience that factors into it, but aside from that, I think there's an issue with their build. Judoka come in a wide range: small and large, young and old, flexible and tight, thin and stocky. And for whatever reason, this crew seems to be all the wrong builds for this version of sankaku jime (no offense guys).

Either that, or I'm terrible at teaching it (I hope that's not the case; I seem to be able to convey other things well enough!)

Upon reflection, I think there are two things that might be getting in the way: 1) not shifting their hips over to the side a little and 2) getting too much of uke's shoulder in the way. Although, with some, they just plain lack the physical "bendiness" for whatever reason.

Hmm. I'm going to move on for now, but I'll be thinking about it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On Aikido Journal again

Looks I got another blog post featured on Aikido Journal. It's nice, but at the same time I'm embarrassed because, for the most part, I feel like most of what I write about is stuff everyone else has already figured out by now, and I'm just catching up! Many deep bows...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Practice judo while killing time, part 2

Here's another little set of drills you can do without a partner when you find yourself out in the real world, waiting around, bored out of your mind.

This time, we're looking at kouchi gari as well as ouchi gari, in both retreating and advancing approaches (you can catch the earlier hiza guruma drill here).

In addition to what I'm doing with my feet, there's also things to think about with your hands, as well, that I didn't go into. For a little further clarification—and you have a ton of time to kill—you might review my little series on how I approach the 4 gari throws:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Practice judo while killing time

Some time ago, someone on the KUBK forum asked if there was anything you could do to practice aikido or judo by yourself. Of course, there are a few obvious answers, like tegatana no kata ("the Walk" as many call it), or maybe ukemi (if you have a decent surface to roll on at home). But in addition to that, a few of us have developed our own little drills over the years that I've found pretty beneficial to my training.

There are times when I'm just standing around, killing time, like waiting in line, or hanging around the park while my kid hits the playground, and it can be pretty boring. Plus, I'm kind of a fidgety guy; I can't really stand still, but would rather pace or shift back and forth. These moments turned out to be great times to practice my footwork.

Just for the heck of it, I thought I'd film a few. This one is actually a partnered drill Greg Ables showed me once, but sometimes I would just go through the motions by myself when I didn't have a partner to play with. I also filmed a couple of others dealing with solo drills for kouchi and ouchi gari as well as a general advancing hip throw, which I haven't uploaded yet. (I'm embarrassed by the yellowness of these; I thought I had fixed it in iMovie, but not enough, it seems. There's a setting on my camera that would help, I'm sure, but I keep forgetting to look into it.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Renraku waza: hiza guruma to hiza guruma

Hiza guruma to hiza guruma/sasae tsurikomi ashi

One of the slickest follow-ups to a hiza guruma that didn't quite work is a second hiza to the other side. The trick here is to take the foot that you initially put up for propping uke's knee on the first try (let's say your right foot), and put it down pre-turned, inward. If you don't, the angle of the second hiza will be all wrong and plus, you'll miss out on the power that a coiled hip springing into action gives you.

We also found that for smaller players, stepping close to uke at a right angle on the second throw and catching a sasae tsurikomi ashi worked well.

Incidentally, this same action of pre-turning the foot also sets up the nice kosoto gari I mentioned in the last renraku waza post.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2 sweeps for larger opponents

In line with my recent interest in strategies for tall and short players, here's a couple of interesting sweeps from the guard from the perspective of a female player.

The devil and hiza guruma

In both judo and aikido, techniques can often prove elusive.

In some instances, just when we think we have a grasp of how something works, it suddenly stops working. It feels awkward for some reason, like trying to write with your left hand (if your right handed), although everyone else, regardless of rank, can get you with it just fine. It's maddening, frustrating. You're on the verge of going down to the crossroad to make a deal with the devil just to make it work again.

In other instances, you may think you've got a pretty good handle on something, but then a red-and-white belt descends like and angel from on high and shows you a slightly different way of approaching it. Your eyes widen, you slap your forehead and think, Oooooh, yeah, why have I not been doing it like this all along?

Hiza guruma is one such technique for many people I know, not just myself. But it's also a technique that frustrates students more than any other, for some reason. In fact, many students will complain that they never felt like they had a grasp of it, however tenuous.

I can empathize. I, myself, have been fortune enough to have experienced a number of revelatory moments with hiza guruma:

Kyle Sloan sensei helped me understand that, 1) when stepping three feet on a line, don't step so deep (as everyone is wont to do), and 2) extend uke out, get his shoulders out in front of his hips. If uke's posture is upright, you can be doing everything else right to the letter, but he won't go over.

Clif Norgaard sensei helped me focus on putting uke's right shoulder over his left foot (if I'm throwing with my right leg). It's a guruma, after all, not an otoshi (shoulder over the foot on the same side). Secondly, he pointed out that my right foot can not just stop his knee, but could actually hook a little around to the far side, and sort of pull his knee inward.

Bob Rea sensei mentioned once after a clinic while playing around with Kyle Sloan (I just happened to be watching), that he liked to pull his right hand down to his navel. I wondered about that, since "pulling down" seemed to just make uke more stable. But, I realized, once he's properly extended (shoulders over past his feet), then you can start going down. Tthink of it as starting with the elbow up, look at your watch, and as uke's natural arc starts to turn him, your hand naturally goes to your navel; you left hand, remember, is also going up with uke's elbow, so the whole thing looks like you're turning him like a big steering wheel.

And, most recently, Greg Ables sensei introduced me to a little drill that really made hiza work well for me. I wish I had a video of it (if there is one, I couldn't find, so let me know), because it's kind of hard to describe. Basically, I walk forward with my right foot (loading a little weight into uke's back foot). Then, I cock or pre-turn my left foot, which is still trailing behind me, rock back and load with my right foot on uke's knee. I then let uke off the hook, step once with my right, then step forward again with my left and load a little weight in uke's other back foot. I cock or pre-turn my trailing right foot, rock back and prop uke' with my left leg. Over and over...

The foot movement is something you can even do on your own, just standing around, which I admit, I will do from time to time. There's a number of budo related things I do while standing around, actually. I'm at an age where I don't care what folks think, I guess.

At any rate, this drill has made a huge difference for me. Fortunately, I'm at a high point right now with hiza, and it's clicking. It has excited me to the point that I want to share with the folks in class, but for some strange reason, it's proving more difficult for people to get the hang of than I thought.

Of course, the flame of that excitement may abruptly get snuffed sooner or later. But the nice thing is—and I don't think we can always see this—that every time something falls apart and we feel like we just don't get it, it comes back (and it will come back, if you keep at it) stronger, smoother, more refined. It may feel like you're taking one step back and one step forward just to break even, but believe me, it's more like one step back two or three steps forward.

You don't need to make any deals with the devil to make progress. The answer is simple, and pretty much the same for almost every hurdle there is to overcome:

Just keep coming to class.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Renraku waza: hiza guruma to foot sweep

This morning, we worked on another handy little combination technique. or "renraku waza" (to see any other renraku waza I blather about, just click on "judo renraku waza" on the lower right of the page under "labels").

Hiza guruma to okuri ashi harai/harai tsurikomi ashi

We started with the individual components, first working on okuri ashi harai, which we typically do from a "step around", turning entry. Next, we practiced hiza guruma for a bit.

Then, we looked at the condition where hiza doesn't quite work out. When uke steps through it, you catch his trailing leg with a foot sweep. Now, when this happens, depending on certain factors, you may catch both of uke's feet for okuri ashi harai, or push his trailing leg behind his support leg for more of a harai tsurikomi ashi (I'll explain in a sec). Frankly, you don't really care, so long as you sweep the guy's foot.


When we do the step around version of the double foot sweep, we would normally like to place the foot that ultimately going to do the sweeping pretty close to uke's foot (three feet on a line, toes pointed at uke). That way, your foot can find uke's easily when it comes time to follow it for the sweep; it also gets you closer to uke so you're not leaning back in order to reach him.

But when you start with hiza, that foot (which is supporting you while the other is doing hiza) is typically quite a ways away from the foot you're about to sweep.

We found that changing the alignment a little of your support foot helps close the distance. You tend to get more of your leg in contact with uke's and even push uke's foot behind his support leg (which would be more of a harai tsurikomi ashi, technically). I'm not sure if I can accurately depict what's going on with these drawings, but I'll try. With the normal step-around version, I'm going to point my support foot perpendicular to the line of uke's feet (which means I'll be sweeping uke's back foot down that line):

In this case, try pointing you support foot angled more to uke's far back corner:


I've also been playing with doing kosoto gari as a follow up to hiza guruma, which seems to work pretty nicely. Basically, I take the foot that I tried to do hiza with and instead of putting it down turned outward, I put it down turned inward. It's kind of hard to describe in words, so I'll try and get a video of it.


Now let's say hiza didn't work and then the foot sweep didn't work, either. If you tried hiza with your right foot and tried the foot sweep with your left, it's now time to put your left foot down. Probably the easiest thing is to put it down across uke's line and step into osoto gari. This tends to work when you made contact with uke's foot for the sweep, but it got stuck on the mat.

When uke sees the double foot sweep coming and intentionally pulls his foot back and out of the way (so you miss altogether), try stepping with your left foot deep into that space, the foot turned outward for a rear corner o goshi (I'm tall, so I throw my arm over uke's shoulder and it looks more like koshi guruma rather than o goshi). Shorter folks, may step in for ippon seoi nage. (Again, I think I'm going to have to put this on video, I think).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ura waza experiments

We've been playing with ura waza (counter techniques) in aikido recently. There are, in Tomiki-ryu aikido, at least, ten techniques with one counter each (you can see an explanation of each here on the Kaze Uta Budo Kai forum).

Last summer, during the shochugeiko, however, we all spent much of the time experimenting with additional counters, or rather, counter-to-the-counter-to-the-counter, and so on, which was a really enlightening experience. Fortunately, much of what was developed was recorded and is also available on the forum.

Today, we worked on aigamae ate and mostly what's presented here:

Basically, there's 1) aigamae ate, countered by 2) picking off the hand to oshi taoshi, which is then countered by a sharp turn into 3) tenkan oshi taoshi. After that, we found a few interesting possibilities you might play with.

First off, we had one pair pick the hand off the wrong way. Well, not the "wrong" way, exactly, but maybe a less efficient way. Instead of tori getting his free hand behind uke's wrist and pushing it, he grabbed in front and pulled. This allowed his other arm to turn palm up toward uke's chin in a form of gyakugamae ate.

We had another pair who, instead of doing the second oshi taoshi, began with the same motion and ended up 1) stepping underneath the arm for tenkai kote hineri, or doing a hip switch and catching 2) sumi otoshi.

Following that, we played with a counter to the second oshi taoshi, or tenkan oshi taoshi. As it's coming on, if tori steps reeeeeeally far out with his outside leg, and pre-turns his foot, he can extend tori out. At that point, tori can reach out with his free hand and snag an "short cut" tenkai kote hineri (where you don't spin under uke's arm).

It's been fun and enlightening to play with and I can't wait to explore more.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The tall and the short of it, part 4

Continuing my thoughts on approaching aikido and judo as a tall person and as a short person, let's look at the last two sections of junana hon kata:

Tekubi waza (wrist techniques)

11) Kote hineri
Tall: Just like oshi taoshi, elbow through the ear, over the top of uke seems to work great.

Short: Just like oshi taoshi, it's harder for shorter people to get the elbow through the ear, so the tenkan, turning version tends to work a little better.

12) Kote gaeshi
Tall: For me, I have plenty of success with extending uke over his toes, but I also do well with a more sideways version, which puts uke's wrist over the side of his foot, or even back towards his rear corner, collapsing him.

Short: Kote gaeshi can actually prove fairly problematic for smaller people, mostly because of the grip. It's hard for a tiny hand to put torque on a big bear paw. I find smaller folks have two options here.

One, if they're keeping with the idea of extending uke forward, drawing him out, you can try adding the other hand to help get the torque on the wrist. Ordinarily, we warn everyone about committing two hands to one spot, because if everything isn't just right (if you don't truly have uke's balance, and he's within reach) he'll likely use his second hand and push on your elbow or face, game over. It's a calculated risk, but when it works, it drops uke like a stone.

Second, maximize the "principle of dynamic reversal". I watched our tiniest class member dump one of our biggest several times the other day like this. Basically, tori uses the tenkan action to set it up. Once the bigger uke catches up and "rounds the corner", tori changes direction and starts going back the other way. In effect, it looks like tori is scooting underneath uke and the big lug just falls over her (much how shorter players do with hip throws in judo).

Again, there's a calculated risk here: you're traveling right towards uke's second hand. But, as I mentioned in a previous post about what I call the "sphere of influence," you can actually negate much of the effect that hand can have by stepping so close to it, it can't get a shot off or deliver efficient power. Again, if done right, it's a heckuva ride!

13) Tenkai kote hineri
Tall: Any time taller folks step under uke's arm, they always assume they should sink low to accommodate uke (if you do, remember to bend at the knees, not the back). But, why accommodate uke at all? Maximize your height by remaining as close to normal height as possible and really extend uke up on his toes!

When finishing this one, I like to turn 180 degrees and face uke, which nearly makes him do a face plant.

Short: Well, you can't extend uke up on his toes even if you tried, so whenever you go under uke's arm take it as far away from his body as you can, turning directly underneath his hand.

When finishing, turning and facing directly at a tall uke may not always work, so stepping down the line of the arm and extending uke out seems to work nicely.

14) Shiho nage
Tall: Placing uke's hand behind his head works well for taller people, but...

Short: ... for shorter people, they end up having to reach too high. I would recommend turning to the side (which some might then call tenkai kote gaeshi), which will keep your arms more in your center and brings uke down to you.

Uki waza (floating techniques)

15) Mae otoshi
Tall: This one seems made for taller guys, extending uke down a line from behind. The thing to remember is that with the initial arm coil, if I put my arm at mid-level, between my naval and my chest, a shorter uke will sometimes follow the upward arc and slip under in a release motion and I'm dead. I have to keep their arm low at my belt level.

With the throw, I find that my center line intersecting uke's center line happens primarily at uke's shoulders.

Short: It's just as important to keep the arm coil low here, too; not because a tall uke will duck under your arm in a release, but you want to bring uke down to you, right? With the throw, your center line will intersect uke's more at his hip level.

16) Sumi otoshi
Tall: Sumi otoshi is actually really ideal for smaller people, because it keeps that hand nice and low. So if you're taller, you might try the turning, more "guruma" version from "the 23" version of the kata.

Short: Sumi otoshi was made for you. Become very good friends with it.

17) Hiki otoshi
Tall: Dropping to the ground in front of uke doesn't alway get the effect I'd like, perhaps because, being tall, when I drop, it doesn't feel to uke like I went very far. Then again, having long legs, I can extend a loooong way away and get something. But, you might as well try the turning "guruma" version (which looks a little like the big 10) instead and save your knees.

Short: For you, the old school Tomiki style where you step back right off the bat and extend uke will yank uke out of his jockey shorts.

. . . . . . . . . .

Next up, the judo side of things.

Renraku waza: Osoto gari to kosoto gari

For the next little while (who knows, a month or so?) we're going to start incorporating a few renraku waza (combination techniques) into the morning class. I thought I'd keep a little record of some of my favorites and also include anything cool other folks come up with. And of course, if anyone has any ideas that they like and want to share, toss 'em out there!

Osoto gari to kosoto gari

We're going to start all of these combination practices by working on the first throw by itself. In this case, we took good ol' osoto gari, and did a number of uchi komi (basically, to practice the set-up of a throw without throwing) for several minutes. We want people to get plenty of practice getting the throw as close to correct as possible.

Then, we work off the premise that uke, whose weight in mostly loaded into his right foot, takes a step back with his left. This may because he's trying to step out of it, or simply trying to keep his balance and not fall. Regardless, tori will put his right reaping foot down with a forward step, too, then use his left foot to catch kosoto gari off uke's right (just as uke is trying to walk back with it).


The important thing for tori to remember is to keep shoulder-to-shoulder contact with uke, and keep leaning forward slightly. The most common mistake I'll see is having nice contact for the osoto to start with, then as uke steps back, tori lets him drift away, creating space. But you never want to let uke off the hook! Just because your osoto didn't quite work, you still have his posture broken, so don't give that up. By keeping the shoulder-to-shoulder contact with uke, and leaning forward slightly, you'll keep him off balance, bent backwards, giving your kosoto the best chance of working.

. . . . . . . . . .

Two is usually enough for beginners to play with, but for brown belts and above, you might try introducing a third throw to the mix.

In this case, we've tried twice to throw uke backwards over his heels, right? If he's fighting being thrown back, where is his main energy now going? Right, forward. Let's take him there.

Remember how I talked about keep that close contact and not let any space in? Well, now you need to do the exact opposite. Step back and create a lot of space, putting your left foot three feet on a line. Your arms should straighten, like taught ropes. Your right foot will then reach up and catch either hiza guruma at his knee or sasae tsurikomi ashi at his foot. If the first two throws didn't put uke down, this will turn his world upside down.