Friday, April 20, 2012


Very nice series of demonstrations on centering from Doug Wedell Sensei—understanding where you're center is and where the center of the "system" is:


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The magic of switching your hips

Here's an interesting little variation you might try in your aikido practice, just for funzies. Take junana hon kata / randori no kata as well as the eight release movements and try doing them by starting at least with only a "hip switch."

Not the full, 180° turn we do in the Walking Kata, but more of a 30 to 45° shift to one side or the other on the balls of your feet.

Be sure to do it right at the point of contact. The hands would do mostly the same thing, and after the first switch or two you can either move normally, or I dunno, see what happens!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Renraku waza - technique combinations

One of the most profound additions to my aikido practice, in my humble opinion, has been the development in our system of what we commonly refer to as "chained series" or renraku waza. The concept isn't new, of course, but I don't know that many people practice it in aikido (help me out if I'm mistaken, I'd love to take a look at what others are doing).

Basically, you would start off with uke either attacking or grabbing a wrist. Tori performs technique A, uke falls down (or submits). Then you do it again, but this time uke attempts to escape or counter technique A, so tori moves on to B, so on and so forth.

Many of these chained series can get rather long, upwards of 9 or 10 even. When it comes right down to it, there are probably an infinite number of ways you can combine them, but the main idea is to practice flowing from one thing to another, to follow uke, to keep from getting attached to making a single technique work, by golly, blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, while I've enjoyed the benefits this has had on my aikido, I've often wished we had a similar sort of chain series for judo. So far, the only judo renraku waza I can find consist primarily of combining two throws, and that's it (again, if you know of any exceptions, holler).

Sooooo, off and on over the years I've made my humble attempts at doing just that. Here's a few we worked on this morning that I've been playing with:

Hiza guruma series

1) Hiza guruma
Start by doing—you guessed it—hiza guruma, using your right foot. Do the throw for real a number of times, with uke taking the fall.

2) Okuriashi harai
Okay, now uke tries to step through with his left leg (tori has to honestly try to make hiza work; you can't half-ass any of these just because you're moving on to another throw). Tori puts his right foot back down, toes pointed out and uses his left foot to sweep uke's trailing leg with okuriashi harai.

From here, we can get two possible throws:

3a) Sasae tsurikomi ashi
Let's say tori misses the timing, uke's foot is already stopped and solid, and tori ends up just kicking a tree trunk. Now tori puts his left foot back down, pre-turned, toes pointed at uke and next to uke's right foot. Tori then uses his right foot to throw sasae tsurikomi ashi. And just for fun, here's a great video of said throw (although from the other side):

Here's another possibility:

3b) Kosoto gari
Maybe uke knows the double foot sweep is coming and he pulls his right foot back and out of the way after the failed hiza, which means tori totally whiffs it, his left foot hitting nothing but air. Tori shouldn't  just put his foot down anywhere, though. Place it immediately next to uke's left foot (on the outside), and switch your grips (assuming you've had your right hand on uke's collar, and left hand on his elbow, you'll want to reverse that). Tori uses his right foot for kosoto gari. This is a sweet one, rarely expected.

There's more, of course, but I'll get to that later.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slow if fast, fast is slow

I've heard the expression "slow is fast, fast is slow" for many years as I've trained. Frankly, I always thought I understood what it meant. And I did—do—but I guess my understanding of it has broadened.

Sorry, but I don't have time to go into all of it right now (I know you were just dying to know), but I thought I would share an interesting visual example of this particular maxim, one you can try for yourself and even demonstrate to a class.

All you need is a piece of scrap paper and a pen or pencil. Your task is to draw as straight a line as you can over and over, 10 times. First, do it as fast as you can. Then do it again, but go as slow as you can. Below is the result of my attempt:

Quite a difference, huh? The first bunch of lines is fairly scattered and broad, while the second batch is not only pretty consistent with smaller variability, it's also darker, or more intense. Bare in mind, that I'm a graphic designer and illustrator by trade; I've been drawing my whole life, and I am no exception to this principle.

If you practice your technique as fast and powerful as you can all the time you get a technique that is fairly scattered, with varied results. However, if you practice slowly and precisely, your technique tends to be more consistent and even more intense.

Just something to think about. Happy training!