Sunday, March 29, 2009

What I don't like to see in a dojo

So, I have hoping for a little more participation from the people who read my blog. If you find it helpful, let me know. Your thoughts are as important as mine!

Which this dovetails into my topic nicely - What I don't like to see in a dojo.


I hate coming to the dojo when it is supposed to be open and seeing three people standing around out front talking. When in the dojo I do not like to see people milling waiting for practice to begin.

I am a firm believer that when you get to the dojo the training starts. Take care in putting on your uniform - it is your Zen robes after all.

Be in the moment - and clean your training space. Do you know where the "witches broom" comes from? In witchcraft before a ceremony they ritually clean the space with a broom. In the ritual of martial practice we too should spend time cleaning, bring chaos into order.

Once on the mat - nothing to do? Stretch, do kata, practice some roles. See someone standing around? Grab them and start going through something. The good lord grants us precious few hours to train. Don't waste them away waiting for something to do. Training is in the here and now! Get to work!

Anything you don't like to see? Like I said, I hate seeing idleness - whether in the dojo or on the online version! I would love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Embodiment of Philosophy

People always talk about how philosophical Aikido is. When I was a young man -sometimes I felt a little disappointed that we did not have long talks on philosophy. We simply practiced. It took me a while to realize it, but....

Aikido is the physical embodiment of philosophy.

Practicing the physical motions of it literally reprograms the nervous system and brain into the system of philosophy. Working on your ethics and intent are all part of the practice as well, of course. But in it's very design Aikido is re-imprinting the nervous system in a new way to interact with the universe around it.

I have often likened Aiki/Judo and even calligraphy practice as a system of biofeed back. When you become stressed you, or at least an observant partner can instantly pick this up - just from a simple touch. In calligraphy the brush acts as a seismographic needle putting your emotional content into the lines.

In order to do these arts correctly we must achieve a particular state of mind. If anger, frustration and ego begin to cloud the mind, immediately it is reflected in the technique we are trying to employ. Techniques fail to work, but principles and philosophy become violated.

Because of the strong sense of biofeeed back we get in practice, I feel this is one of the huge reasons the simple practice of Aikido physically conditions a philosophy into us. That is how a simple exercise can become a DO - spiritual path.

To practice a thing of beauty, like Aikido, is to become it. This calligraphy piece captures what I am trying to express.

Harmonize with Beauty

To practice blending and softness arts is a practice of philosophy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The line between performance and martial arts

I am a martial artist. I study biodynamics in order to have an end result of efficient motion in conflict situations.

I am a performer. I study arts and entertainment in order to please a crowd. I have performed on the streets, at Lalapalooza and even at a Vegas casino. My chosen performance art is illusion.

Some part of me enjoys the mixture of martial arts and performance. Heck - I did a demonstration of KI effects for the society of American magicians. But I think as martial artists it is important we see and know these to be performances, rather than martial arts in the strict sense of the word.

Last year, the Austin Taoist society sponsored around 20 WuDang monks to come from China and to teach. I took a couple courses with them. One of them was a sword class. After studying with them for a few days, it really struck me that these monks were not martial artists in the sense of the word as I knew it. There was no "fight" behind their art. They were performance artists playing the role of martial artists.

What? That is a bold thing to say. They study motion, sure - but they study it under a discipline I would call dance and acrobatics. Did you can catch that recent dance competition on TV? So called Shaolin monks were invited to participate. Strange or appropriate?

Though they have the trappings of martial artists, every piece of their compositions are dance and physics stunts. What martial art teaches you how to balance on spears? Street performance friends. Is this martial arts, or is it performance art?

This next clip is great. The monks perform 3 physics stunts. Does this have anything to do with martial arts? Buddhism? Or is this just straight performance art?

Interesting history about the development of these martial arts styles.

Click Here For Vagabond History

Here is the book to learn these Chi effects -

Click Here For Vagabond Book

I know this blog post is getting long, but Chinese artists are not the only ones crossing the martial/performance line.

Friday, March 20, 2009

KyuRyu Dojo and Round Rock Martial arts presents -

If you are a student of Judo, JuJitsu or Aikido - we have a gathering for you!


A weekend of AikiBudo at Round Rock Martial Arts!!!



April 17, Friday 8:30pm - 9:30 (times might be earlier as well, waiting for confirmation)
April 18, Saturday 11am-1pm, 3-5pm


Nick Lowry - Aikido, Judo, Jyodo

Nick is well known Aiki player and author in the Tomiki Line of Aikido.

An old interview -

He heads the Windsong Dojo in Oklahoma City

Brendan Hussey - Aikido, Judo

Brendan is Round Rock martial arts Aikido maven. He comes from the Seidokan lineage.

More high level teachers hopefully to come....will send out an update when I hear back from folks.


708 Round Rock West Drive, Round Rock TX 78681
(If you google round rock martial arts a map will come up - DO NOT TRUST THAT MAP. Make sure you put the above address in.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Train while Interneting

Interneting - kind of a cool word.

So, some of you might not be aware, but I am a magician and videographer. I make short you tube films about Aikido, magic, calligraphy, philosophy...etc. You name it, I will give it a try.

I remember back to a seminar in the mid 1990s. A particularly powerful and intimidating Sensei came to teach my school the art of Aiki. After a few days of training, he asked if anyone wanted to get up an do some Aikido in front of the group. Almost paralyzed with dread, the entire room shut up. Until finally one young girl stood up and did her techniques. The teacher spent a lot of time with her in front of the group improving her methods. She just had to stick her neck out.

I feel that way with magic and martial arts. I stick my neck out. I film my work to let others see. I am good at both arts, but I am still a humble student on the paths. One thing that has amazed me in my time on the web - People can be freaking brutal behind the computer screen. People can be mean when they can get away with it.

So, I am in the middle of getting abused over my latest magic video.

Some guy on a magic site has had it out for me for years - an internet bully. Every time I see he has posted a note, a feel a flash of anger and tightening of my system. Invariably I quickly type a witty, sharp tongued and rude message back.

Then I hover over the send button. I ask myself - "Is this Aiki?"

Will this sharp toned accomplish any goal? Does this just add pressure to greater conflict? Is this just the beginning of an emotional attachment - to simple words on a computer screen. If I can't shield myself from negative attacks on a stupid web forum - how can I expect to remain Aiki on the mat, or when it really matters? How can I keep cool in front of a audience of 1000 people?

I have come to accept that a small minority of people will hate me for no good reason. I have come to see that my arts will never be accepted by everyone. But what is important is the practice...and the way I respond to critics and bullies. I can't control the disharmonic elements in my life but with practice, I can learn to control myself.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Construction of a Martial System

I have been playing the martial arts game for a while now - 23 years. I have worked the gambit of styles, I have kicked, punched and wrestled. I have done the traditional Chinese and Japanese arts, and I have trained in gyms with a bunch of Brazilian brawlers.

So that being said I feel strongly that there is a way to design a martial arts system. A system is a way to scientifically explore ideas about human biomechanics, with the goal of improving marital skill.

A good friend of mine, a Chinese traditional martial artist, came to my school. I asked him to demonstrate a technique - which ever technique was his favorite. He looked puzzled, because while he knew 30 forms, he did not know how to touch someone to get the results he desired. The system had a flaw.

Things I think are critical for a successful system


"I am going to train to punch someone till I win." Or "I am going to learn to use a sword."

After you figure out the general idea, you need -


A form or two that demonstrates basic principles of movement. IN other words, how do YOU plan on moving.

"I am going to cartwheel to defeat my enemies!" or "I am going to use a relaxed posture, and practice moving in different angles"

3. PREARRANGED FORM- 2 man kata.

Now we have chosen our philosophies of intent and biomechanics, it is time to start technical training with a partner. This area of training is typically slow and methodical, people switching roles. "I am the attacker!" This allows someone to start working on technique, with less variables to worry about.

I feel drills often fall in this category.

4. RANDORI - or a system of free play

Now this phase is SO important. The flaws of most martial arts is either they stop the practice at level 3, prearranged form - or they start their training at this level! Both methods are flawed.

Randori is a system of free play, people countering within the confines of their system. Usually it is done slower than a fight with rules of play in place. Technical goals are sought after.

this might be sparring in karate, randori in Judo, push hands, chi sao, generalized wrestling, all fencing also falls into this category.

I my humble opinion, if you do not have a good system of Randori - your results in the long term will be severely limited. You will be stuck in a happy place with your two man kata, thinking you have achieved martial excellence. Randori is key!!!

You see, randori will quickly show you the flaws in your understanding, strategy and technique. It is the testing ground of your science. In the early stages you had hypothesis - but now you must test and retest to prove and develop your ideas and strategy. If you are failing to have results in randori - you must go back and change either your philosophy of study, your principle form, or your techniques. Continue to do this until you start to be successful in randori.


Shiai is a level of training where I don't have to follow all the strategies of the system. As we are doing push hands - I might tackle you. If we are boxing I might engage for a throw. This level of training helps you adapt to different strategies. This is one reason the Karate guys get slaughtered by the ground fighters. Most karate training is a punching game, and because they did not train in a way that they could break rules and strategies.

A general guideline of where I believe it is optimal to spend your training time

1 philosophy always
2 principle form 15 percent
3 techniques 50 percent
4 randori 30 percent
5 shiai 5 percent

Hopefully this will help you in some way. Most martial arts have big holes in their training. Even if you do not accept my ideas into your training - I challenge you to figure out other methods around the problems you will face. I promise you, doing the drunken monkey form 10 times a day for 40 years will not qualify you defend yourself on it's own.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Balance the Equation

Hussey Sensei came to work out with me the other day. He was quoting Henry Kono, when he was trying to teach me about an idea that Aiki technique is "balancing an equation"

While I am sure it will take me take me a lifetime to under the mechanics of this idea, I found this picture above that made me think of this idea in the elements. Funny enough, the nature of steam is what the Chinese character for KI was originally written after.

Anyhow I am on spring break. I am going to try to train with most of my teachers in the next few days. They are stretched out over the I35 corridor that goes from Austin the Oklahoma City. So needless to say, I will be back blogging next week - full of soreness and new ideas!

Know the Old - Learn the New

The study of Budo, and it's sister arts has been a fascinating ride for me. I believe Budo to be a living spirit. I moves between teachers and students through the power of touch and the ki of words. Once the student receives enough, they become ready to hand the spirit on while they continue to cultivate it within themselves.

Budo is a chain through time and space. I can trace my lineage of teachers back 1000 years. A hopefully through me a 1000 years more of students of the art will emerge. It links us to a spirit of feudal warriors, and we have taken the art and polished it so it will be useful for the modern man of peace.

"Know the old, learn the new"

This phrase of budo instructs us to look back, and gain inspiration from the masters who have walked the path before us. But it reminds us of something more. A zen phrase "Ima Koko" Right Here, Right Now. It is now our art, and we must learn or relearn the new.

The paradoxes of Budo practice! Learn an art of war to know peace, learn the old ways to make the new ways. Train in structure, so we can execute technique outside of structure.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ki and the classroom teacher

Here is piece I wrote in 2003, while I was living in Japan.

The bell rings at Niiharu Middle School.

I gather my books and trek upstairs to my classroom.

Inside I hear the students...laughing, talking about various things, playing jokes on each other, and generally making a hell of a lot of noise.

I open the door, and my spirit enters the room.

With my spirit, the feeling of structure enters the room. The Sensei is here. The most compliant students race to their desks.

My spirit thus far fills half the room. There are pockets of resistance to my will.

"Good Morning" I boom, silencing 95 percent of the spirits.

The room is now mine. I impose the structure, the format, and the rules for learning. I am the game master.

I hear two unfocused spirits rise up in the sea of students. They are talking about their hair. Simply focusing my attention on them, the KI of the room shifts from me to them. All eyes in the room divert their direction. Under a wave of curious eyes they fall silent.

My teaching partner begins. She teaches a painfully boring lecture. The previously enegized spirit of the room dwindles and sputters. I begin to stare out the window, daydreaming of other things.

Catching myself, it is my turn again. With a clap and a shout I reenergize the room. This time I give the students more power. We are balanced. They shout out questions and laugh and joke with me.

Class is over. I go to the elementary school to teach a special class.

40 six year olds tackle me when I come in the door. I don't understand their childish Japanese. Their faces are covered in snot and filth. Their energy is uncontainable. They scream and shout. They steal my things and run around the room with them. I am not used to this tremendous raw energy. It is solely focused on me.

I pull out a container of special bubbles made from a glue from my pocket. The lovely little bubbles won't pop when touched. Neat. I fill the room full of bubbles. The energy of the child river now fires in all directions as they give bubbles chase. I smile to myself thinking I had just performed the ninja disappearing technique. While the children hunt for their fragile prizes, I gather my energy and figure out a plan to refocus them when they regroup.

Ki works in interesting ways. Motion, intent, and focus all dance together. Now that I recognize these energies and the way they play with the mind, I can now affect them in ways...only a Sensei...a school teacher can.

Walk In Peace

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What is Ki - What is Chi

Here is the modern simplified Japanese character for Ki.

Personally I like the slightly older version. This one is still in use in China, but pronounced "Chi". Most Aiki martial artists in Japan also seem to favor this one.

This is a modern simplified Chinese version - with cool stroke order animation!

Construction of the Character

The image behind this pictogram is cooking rice with vapors coming off of it.

I made a video to explain

So lets try to get a clearer understanding of the meaning of this word. I think most people have a poor concept of it. They see it as magic, or the force.

The dictionary definition is Gas, Spirit

The original meaning was Gas

Let's look at some Japanese words using Ki in the "gas" context

Kitai - gas, vapor
Kika - evaporation
kiryu - air current
kanki - ventialtion

It also has many atmosphere feelings to the word

taiki - the atmosphere
fun'iki - mood
keiki - things, times, business conditions

Ki can also mean Breath

kikan - trachea, windpipe
kisoku - breathing
ikik ni - in one breath, at a breath

Ki - vital energy, spirit, breath of life, vitality

byoki - sickness
genki - vigor health
seiki, energy, essence
yuki - valor, courage

Ki as energy or force

denki - electricity
jiki - magneticism

Ki as natural phenomena

kisho - weather conditions
kiko - climate
tenki - weather

Ki as spirit, mind, conciousness

shoki - sanity
kyoki - insanity
kigamae - readiness of mind
kizuku - notice, become aware of
kimochi - feeling
kimae - generosity
honki - seriousness

When used as a suffix - can indicate temperment, temper, disposition, pne's nature, character.

tsuyoki no - strong, firm
tanki na - short tempered
makenki - unyielding

Ki as "mind to do something, intention, will"

kiraku na - easy going
kaiki - bullish
hakike - nausea

Ki also has meanings like - care. attention, precaution, sign, indication, symptom, trance air, flavor, a dash of

When independent it Ki feels more like

Spirit, mind conciousness, one's feelings, mood, frame of mind, temperment, temper, disposition, one's nature, intention, will, attention and precaution

In a special reading it can also mean honor and self respect.

So I hope this has helped to confuse you on the complex meaning of ki. Really by looking at the words the Japanese make out of it, I think the meaning becomes somewhat clearer, and useful for our practice as Budoka.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Judo, Aikido and Jujitsu

I suppose it is useful to closely examine the various Japanese arts, and see what the differences are. Many people are always telling me at parties what Jujitsu is, versus Judo....etc. I myself have been growing more and more as an inclusionist.

I see Aikido, Jujitsu and Judo and almost the same art. Of course they might be some differences in body dynamics, training methods and ethical intent; but I think you will find these differences in the same art between differing schools. Really, as in all art, the process is in making it your own.

Ju, Aiki, Jitsu and Do. I search for all of these. I am searching for softness, I want to fit into the energies. I am an artist. I walk spiritual path. I study AikiJuJitsuDo. I believe focusing so much on one philosophy of education leads an artist to have huge weaknesses they have not learned to deal with.

I read Tomiki Sensei once said "If you think your Aikido is good, try introducing it to my Ashi waza."

I want to find effortless technique from the range of tori ma-ai, from a clinch, on the ground, and at sword range. The goal is the same at each range, but a different yet related set a biomechanical tools can be more optimally effective at different times.

I genuinely believe I study a higher art form than just mere Aikido. I study BUDO in all it's flavors. I search for effortlessness in all Budo, hence I call my simple art, AikiBudo.

A rose by any other name.....

Walk In Peace

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brew and a throw

One of my hobbies is crafting fine beers. My wife makes it. Four of my neighbors make the sweet elixir that makes life worth living. We are a serious beer makers and drinkers of the best man can make.

My next door neighbor works at the home brew shop. He is always coming over with the latest advice. Strangely his advice is always changing, as he continues to learn his art. Brewing under the watchful eyes of a master of his craft can be challenging, simply because our systems and understanding is different.

I think I do everything wrong according to my brew miester neighbor, but you know what - I still make some damn fine beer.

I guess that is the same spirit I practice my arts in. I crave the connection of other artists, I learn lessons from them, challenge their ideas. At the end of the day, I just need to work my craft with all the knowledge gained, but with the passion of working my own art - as an artist.

I think I do everything wrong according to the Aiki world...but you know what; I throw people pretty nice, I teach them how to do it, AND I make a damn fine India Pale Ale.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The picture at my dojo

Supposedly at all Aikido dojos it is tradition to hang up a picture of Ueshiba Osensei. I did not really do this, I hung a picture of Tomiki Sensei. One of my students, Scooter Holiday put one up though, and I have grown fond of it, especially the more scholarly I am becoming in the art.

Here is the picture up at KyuRyu AikiBudo dojo

I like the thoughtful, studious energy of this photograph. It represents my vision of Aiki well.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Shizentai - How far apart are the feet?

Recently on my favorite blog, I was reading...

"In shizentai (natural, upright posture) the feet are less than hip-width apart. The farther apart you get your feet, the greater the tendency to get both of them out from under your center. From this mid-point of shizentai, you want to take small, conservative steps - as small as practical to get the job done."

I hate to seem a like a nag to my favorite blogger, I seem to be practicing a different style of the art than him. But it is through those differences I am learning the most. He could probably kick my butt and is a true scholar so take everything I have to say with a grain of salt. Thank you sensei for the inspiration, your hard work and putting up with my daily banter.

Now on to the topic at hand.

Keep your feet less than hip width apart.

Really? I don't see this, myself. I understand some people do some nice Aikido with this in mind, but I do not see keeping your feet close together as Shizentai.

Shizentai demands a stable base. The mental models I use to maximize stability are to keep the feet at shoulder width - no narrower.

Now I am not saying we have to do anything the way our teachers did, but I think we must look closely at their technique to learn from. Let us look at Tomiki Sensei executing technique.

Even when looking at his films, Tomiki Sensei always keep a shoulder width or wider Shizentai. Mifune, a martial artist I highly respect also demonstrates a wider shizentai than hips. His was shoulder length or wider.

Here is a copy of his book The Canon of Judo. Check out his stance work on page 38.

Today's wrap up. Stance work is a personal choice. Shizentai, Hanmi, or a deep horse stance - it all has it's place and time. Each stance, I am sure has it's weakness and strength. In my quest to define what is Shizentai by the originators and founders intent of the word, I believe Shizentai demands the feet are wider than hip width. Just my observation. I imagine if my knees were bad I would modify my Aikido to make shorter steps with a narrower stance. But is modifying a stance to something totally different, still deserve the name of the original stance?

I can't believe I have been writing so much about stances. Man o man, I am such a nerd.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hanmi Vs. Shinzentai

Let's talk stances for a minute.

Much of the Aikido world practices with the hanmi stance. The feet kind of look like this.

On the other hand, the Tomiki system promotes shizentai, a natural body posture.

From my personal point of view, it doesn't really matter a hill o' beans as to which stance you choose. It is more than obvious that there are many splendid artists on both sides of the stance issue. As long as an artist trains in a logical and disciplined fashion, good results are going to be reaped.

Why do I bring this topic up then? Last year a particularly passionate Aikidoka and I had a discussion on an Aikido YouTube video.

Someone insulted a technique saying it had no Hanmi

I responded with - "Hanmi is not important. Most higher level Aikidoka that I like use shizen hontai - a natural body posture."

genkitengu responded with - "I'm not sure what gave you that impression. Hanmi is not negated through experience but improved upon. Aikido is nothing without hanmi. Without hanmi you cannot use your hips to execute powerful nage for example. The Founder constantly stressed the importance of basic form. Aikido without hanmi is like aikido without kiai or kokkyu: Not Aikido."

So no Hanmi = no Aikido

I would like to shatter this illusion. Here are 5 clips by Ueshiba Sensei and some of his top students.

O'Sensei - at no point do I see Hanmi

Tohei - no Hanmi

Gozo Shioda with no Hanmi

Hirokazu Kobayashi - yup, no Hanmi

André Nocquet - no Hanmi

So today's moral is - Maybe Hanmi is not so critical after all. Some artists use it. Others don't. Some use it sometimes. Maybe the lesson needs to be pointed at me too, don't be a geek about stance work.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Walking Kata - Stepping not Floating

Stepping efficiently is really the meat and potatoes of what the walking kata is about, in my humble opinion.

I have seen many versions of the Tegatana kata, or walking where the demonstrator raises up higher on his toes as the movement is being executed. While I am sure these students have a strategy they are trying to express, I simply do not understand it. Perhaps it is an expression of my lineage of teachers.

One of the critical principles that have been drilled into me about Aiki motion is - your center must be stable. Carefully watch the shihan. They do not bob up and down with every step while executing technique. Their transverse plane is a still point. The center moves along a plane, without actually having vertical motion.

When doing the kata watch closely your hara, or center. Is it constantly bobbing up and down the transverse plane with every step? Some motions in some groups taught to rise up and float high up on his toes. Especially watch the 8th set, the Uchi Mawashi Gaeshi and 9th set. I do not believe floating your center is the most efficient and effective way to apply Aiki principle. In fact I believe it to be unwise.

"Find motion in stillness and stillness in motion." This is a key phrase in my understanding of the motion we are making. I was taught to imagine standing in pool of water up to my center, a few inches below my naval. As I perform the walking motion my center was to never rise above this point. My center is still and calm, though in motion. No rocking back and forth as feet inefficiently shift weight from one to another. The center should be sliding on a sheet of glass. In fact the center should be heavy and always bearing down towards gravity, the very force that Aiki relies on for life. How can you throw someone down by moving up?

The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics say, "someone who has extremely good T'ai Chi Ch'uan kung fu has arms like iron wrapped with cotton and the weight is very heavy. As for the external schools, when they use li, they reveal li. When they don't use li, they are too light and floating. Their chin is external and locked together. The li of the external schools is easily led and moved, and not to be esteemed."

The 9th set of 8 counts is the set known as Soto Mawashi Gaeshi - opposite hand and foot spin. This is the most common motion I see people lifting straight up in the air with their arms and rising up on their tip toes while floating their center. A high level Sensei and I recently had a email discussion about this motion. He said after years he found one use for this motion. One use?!?!?! Does this make the motion part of our principles if it has one use?

I see the walking kata as a system of programing the brain to move in the best possible way for most circumstances. I believe it should teach the rules, not the exceptions. It should demonstrate the solid principles, not technique that is unassociated with the rules and grammar of our style. Either we need to change our understanding so the motion becomes a real tool to help us execute principle or we must change the motion to come in line with the reality of our practice.

Bad bad bad bad bad

Bad bad bad bad bad

So my wrap up is...I believe the center moving smoothly on a plane, ready to load weight is superior to the center bobbing and raising for motions we never use in the application of Aiki technique.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Walking Kata - Friction

I have practiced the walking kata, tandoku undo or tegatana no kata, in many Tomiki dojos. Invariably you hear the swish..or really vip vip vip as the feet slide across the floor. On some of the turning motions hip switches you might hear a deep grind, or farty noise, especially on vinyl mats.

I remember at a seminar in 1995 I asked how to correctly slide the foot across the floor during the walking kata.  Sensei then gave a lecture about how the foot moves just slightly above the floor during the steps of the walking kata. Although he taught this, the group went immediately into practicing the kata and all I could hear was the dragging of feet over the mat. I am not saying  Sensei was not doing what he was teaching, I am saying no one else apparently listened!

These slides and grinds of the feet into the mat are friction. Friction in mechanical motion is inefficient and indicative of wasted energy.

I am not promoting any way to do the walking kata, it is for the student of the art to decide. I would like to suggest doing the walking kata under test circumstances to see where the friction points are.

Put on your tennis shoes. Go outside. Find a nice rough concrete driveway. Perform the walk in tennis shoes on the concrete. This exercise will quickly draw out any flaws in the efficiency of your stepping form. Feeling brave, think I am crazy? Now take your shoes off and practice the walk barefoot on concrete. The little red marks spouting fluid will more clearly demonstrate the evils of friction in the walking kata.

If you are unwilling to go outside I have one last exercise. Try doing the walk silently. No *vip vips* as the feet drag across the mat. Be like ninja!

Moral of the story, quit dragging your feet!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Walking Kata - Shizentai - Weight on Feet

So the exploration of the stance we take in the Walking Kata continues. The stance is Shizentai, or a natural body posture.

As a young'n I was taught the Waking Kata. From the very beginning we heard "yoi" which was our command to rise up on the balls of our feet. As I recall we were taught that you should be able to slide a piece of paper between your heel and the floor. The entire kata, indeed the entire art form was to be practiced this way.

At this point of my development I would like to challenge this idea of constantly floating on the balls of the feet. The first point I would like to point out about riding the balls of the feet is this required the calf muscles to be firing constantly. In my humble opinion muscle tension just to remain standing is inefficient. Second, riding the balls of the feet causes "floating" to happen much easier. Floating is a balance break when your weight shifts forward and you become pinned on the balls of the feet as a result from body rise.

The New Idea - How to distribute weight on the feet

Stand normally and relaxed on your feet. Now focus approximately 60 percent of your weight on the balls of the feet, and let the remaining 40 percent dissipate through the rest of your foot. Your can keep weight on the heel. Just make sure more weight is on the ball.

This is how the foot works. Don't reinvent the

Why not use your entire foot? It is natural, the way we were evolved to walk. We can through training make it more efficient. The old way of focusing your weight solely on the balls of your feet means you are balancing your entire system on two points, one per each foot. The human foot was evolved to carry weight on three points per foot! 1 versus 3. Which sounds more stable?

How weight is normally distributed.

Look at he above picture. For Aikido purposes switch the focus of weight (most weight) from the heel to the ball. Switch the (second most weight) to the heel, Otherwise this picture stands as a good example of what we should be doing to be relaxed dynamic and NATURAL.

Try the old way too, and use what works for you and your practice.