Monday, June 29, 2009

The Advertisement - Aikido and AikiJujutsu in Austin


Austin Muteshokai AikiBudo Dojo 合気武道会

Zdenek Matl sensei and Eric Pearson

I would humbly like to invite you into the world of traditional Japanese martial arts with a combination of traditional and progressive teaching methods. For me it has been the most challenging and fulfilling artistic journey of my life.

We are a small dojo located in a private residence in south Austin, Texas near the intersection of William Cannon and Manchaca. (email for details We train primarily in progressive non-sports Tomiki lineage Aikido, Judo, Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu, and knife training. Systema based drills are also a a part of our training now.  Basically, we train in soft, technical martial arts.  We train safely, pragmatically, ethically and in good humor.   While we respect Japanese influences we do not embrace the ritual culture.  We respect diversity and work with physical limitations of each student to design a study that is appropriate for their abilities.

Eric's Daito Ryu history and certificates

Eric's Aikido history and certificates

The class is taught by Eric Pearson.    Largely Eric cares little for ranks and the ranking game.   When searching for a teacher remember ranks are largely political ties. Go see a group and teacher for yourself to decide.   Eric sees himself as just a student who trains with his friends.

 Different organizations and teachers have ranked him as following -

Aikido - Although aikido is just one art form, different organizations have  presented Eric with varying grading or ranks.  He holds a rokudan, 6th degree, in Tomiki lineage Aikido from The Kaze Uta Budo Kai.  He has received a 5th dan in Aikido from his long time teacher Russell Waddell, and a 2nd degree in Aikido from the American Tomiki Aikido Association. Take your pick.

 Despite the impressive looking pedigree his Shiho Nage technique still sucks.  He is working on it.

Daito Ryu AikiJujutsu  He also has an associate instructor rank in from the Shofukan (formally affiliated with Renshinkan) under Ota Ikou Sensei when he trained for three years in Numata, Japan. He periodically studies with Howard Popkin sensei and Joe Brogna sensei, of the Ginjukai, to continue his study of Daito Ryu - though he holds no rank in their organization.  Eric also has trained with Roy Goldberg of Kodokai Daito Ryu.  He is friends with Houston Daito Ryu club.

 Judo  He is continuing his education in Judo and has received a nidan (2nd degree) grade under Zdenek Matl. Nick Lowry has also granted him a nidan.  This is a club ranking, not a sport judo-USJA ranking.  Eric has been developing and coaching a judo team focusing on students who are blind.  He has been running the judo club at the Texas School for the Blind since 2015.

His teaching practice is named the Muteshokai.  Currently he is also a member of the Kaze Uta Budo Kai and the Ginjukai.    Although based in Austin, Texas he  frequently travels and gives workshops in the Dallas area, Little Rock, Seattle and Oklahoma.  Students and teachers from many local dojos gather with Eric in  Austin to share techniques and friendship.

Aiki seminar in Little Rock 2013

Here are some clips of him training.  If it looks like you would enjoy practicing like this join us.  If not there are lots of schools in Austin that can meet your needs.

email -

Eric continues his journey under the patience, watchful eyes and good humors of many Aikido, Judo and Jujutsu teachers.  While he does not get to train with them as often as he would like, but he thanks Russell Waddell, Brendan Hussey, Zdenek Matl, Nick Ushin Lowry, Roy Goldberg, George Ledyard, Corky Quakenbush, Cory Juhl, Leslie Libby, Howard Popkin, and Joe Brogna for their teachings, help and friendship.  Arseniy Grebnov and Gene Smithson  influenced by introducing him to Systema concepts which he continues to explore everyday of his life.   He is eternally grateful to Ikuo Ota sensei and Master Man H. Han for their teachings and influence.

Also he could not do it without his best friends and closest teachers.  A million thanks to Scooter Holiday and Michael Chihal for being the backbone.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


If you have never heard of it, Fail Blog is a darn funny place to visit on the web.

Fail Blog

I was reading through when I found this martial arts related fail. Lord give me the wisdom and skill never to do this.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Getting off the line

Waddell Sensei has always taught there is one technique in Aikido practice that is the basis for all others. Getting off the line of attack.

On a friday night last June I found myself in the middle of conflict. It was a domestic disturbance. A drunken man was screaming at his sister and mother. I was called over to make sure nothing happened.

It was surreal. People screaming and accusations flying. I found myself trying to talk people into leaving, just "walk away". At all times I keep distance and tried to make sure no one was about to be hurt. I felt like the the calm in a hurricane.

Suddenly the insults between the people cut deep, and I could sense a change in atmosphere. The man went upstairs to his room.

A moment of silence.

I heard a firearm chamber a round from upstairs. The unmistakable sound made me move instantly.

Time began to move different. It was like everyone was slower than me. 19 thoughts raced through my head at once. Every situation ended bad. If that man came down the stairs I was going to have to attack. This would end up in someone - likely me, dead.

I grabbed the women in the room and carried them out the door. They were almost paralyzed. I commanded them in the car and started it almost in one motion. I felt like I was looking in all directions at once. Everyone else moved so muddled in emotions.

After a truck load of drama and a police intervention the story ends positive. No one got hurt, no one went to jail. But the game did get serious and Aikido possibly averted a situation.

What is Aikido? I was emotionally detached from conflict. My intention was to protect everyone. I saw that physical control was not possible.

I got off the line of energy.

Perhaps one of the more valuable lessons to be learned from the martial path is when it is a good time to fight. An intoxicated and angry man with a firearm is to be avoided when possible.

Like my friend Jeff Duncan forwarded me in an email once - "If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck." I guess it stands to reason when you find yourself in an unfair fight, get the hell out of the way. Not being there to let an attack effect you IS the strategy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thoughts on Tomiki Kata

Kata was one of the major additions Tomiki Sensei brought to the art of Aikido. Kata being defined as prearranged movement, typically with two people working on technique.

Kata is typically, or supposedly handed down in a standard form, what Charles Clark Sensei calls Seito Gata. Seito gata, means student kata or student form.

One of the questions I have been asking myself is, is there only one form, or one perfect kata? Or perhaps should we view it as an organic creation that is ever evolving? Which version should I teach to my students?

Lets take a look at a technique I have been unhappy with, Kote Hineri.

This is the classic style, and the style that it has been handed down to me. I have never really liked it. The angles are strange for my interactions, I never score it in randori, and I think it is too much like an elbow technique anyhow.

Then I discovered an Aikikai version. They call it Sankyo.

Because I changed my understanding of the technique, it has suddenly become my strongest technique. I almost have to stop myself from falling into it too much. So here is the problem. Why would I continue to teach an inferior way to do the technique. At what point do I have the right to alter the kata to suit my evolving style?

I suppose it is a rhetorical question, because I already have changed my kata and the way I teach it. I just feel like most Aikidoka have never given themselves permission to change. I feel like most are trying to studiously copy the angles techniques and teachings of those who have come before. This is great and important, but I do not feel we become artists until we begin the process of creation and accepting the ideas that really work for ourselves.

When I asked Waddell Sensei about changing techniques, he responded that he did not care. "The proof is in the pudding." was his response. Having new variation that works for you is far more valuable than classic forms that you cannot do.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aikido, Jujutsu, Judo Guide to Austin Texas

Greetings I am Eric Pearson. I lead a Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu, Tomiki Aikido, and  Aiki-tanto club here in town and this is my list. I made this because I am passionate about spreading traditional budo. There are many excellent clubs in town. My advice to the seeker of budo in Austin is to go meet and feel the energy of the people, dojos and teachers. The attitudes and practices vary wildly. Don't worry too much about teacher's ranks but feel how your personalities work together. Take time to find the right dojo. Call and visit as many places as you can. Best of luck in your search!

If you find any clubs that I don't know about let me know. This guide is always under construction. Any changes that need to be made? email me -

Map from 2010.  Much has changed.

Austin Center For Martial Arts - Austin Budokan

Judo, Aikido, Daito Ryu Aiki JuJutsu, Systema, Self Defense / Goshin-jitsu, and  Bujinkan Taijitsu. Location I-35 and 51st. This school is under Sensei Matl 8th dan, Arseniy Grebnov, Eric Pearson and Rick Cockerham.

Austin Center For Martial Arts - Austin Budokan website


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Austin Budokan - Aikido, Daito Ryu AikiJujutsu 合気武道

I would humbly like to invite you into the world of traditional Japanese budo. For me it has been the most challenging and interesting artistic journey of my life.

We are a chain of small dojo located in north central Austin at I-35 and 51st. We train primarily in progressive non-sports Tomiki Ryu Aikido, Judo, Daito Ryu Aiki Jujitsu, classical weapons and influenced by an interest in Tai Chi and other Chinese internal forms. Basically, we train in soft, technical martial arts. Mostly we focus on the balance of our opponents, and putting them in a place they cannot hurt themselves or anyone else. We train safely, pragmatically, ethically and in good humor. We respect diversity and work with physical limitations of each student to design a study that is appropriate for their abilities.

Eric Pearson's Daito Ryu history and certificates

Eric Pearson's Aikido history and certificates

The group is headed, Eric Pearson. (that is me author of the list. I hate all this lineage and rank talk as I believe it to be a silly game, but I will participate here) I hold a godan 5th degree, in Tomiki Aikido from The Kaze Uta Budo Kai. I have received aikido grades from the American Tomiki Aikido Association and Lawton Tactical. I also have an associate professor rank Daito Ryu AikiJujutsu from the Shofukan under Ota Ikou Sensei in Numata, Japan. I am continuing my education in Judo and have a nidan (2nd degree) grade under Zdenek Matl.

email -

I continue my journey under the patience, watchful eyes and good humors of many Aikido, Judo and Jujitsu teachers...Russell Waddell, Brendan Hussey, Zdenek Matl, Nick Ushin Lowry, and J.W. Bode.

Here is a flashy, show offy kinda film to lure you into my door!

UT Aikido Club

Founded in 1972, and once led by it's first student Bill Lee - "Grandfather of Austin Aikido" The U.T. Aikido Club is the oldest aikido school in Austin. The club is currently led by 7th-degree black belt Steve McAdam. The U.T. club is a Seidokan affiliated.

U.T. club website

Still Point Aikido

This club is run by Ross Robertson, a U.T. Seidokan splinter. Currently they are calling their art Honmatsu Aikido (independent). I have trained with Ross several times now. He is an excellent teacher. He sees Aikido in explorative ways, and teaches through many useful models of motion. He has a very philosophical and ethical teaching paradigm.

Still Point website

Round Rock Aikido

Founded Craig Phillips as a Nissho style then handed off to it's current head Brendan Hussey. He holds 6th dan ranking in aikido and judo. Hussey Sensei is another of the U.T. Seidokan branch schools who has gone independent. Hussey Sensei is a Aiki principles driven teacher. He is highly inspired by the works of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, Kobayashi Sensei and Henry Kono Sensei. Hussey Sensei is also an accomplished Judo player, so his work has more ranges and dimensions than many Aikido teachers. His style is extremely soft touch, pain free, ethical and philosophical.

In August of 2011 this group moved from the Acrotex building they had been housed at to a new facility nearby. Hussey Sensei asks anyone who wants to come by to give him a call so he can give directions to the new facility.

As a personal note on this group - I traveled up to Round Rock to do Judo with Matl Sensei, when I first met Hussey Sensei. He proved himself to be knowledgeable, kind, generous and sharing. Within two sessions we decided to adopt him into our dojo as one of our visiting teachers. Personally, I rank him as the most talented Aiki player I have yet to meet in Austin.

Round Rock Aikido website

Round Rock Martial Arts website

Austin Ki Society

Austin Ki Society recently made the move up to the north side of town. They were previously headed by Kathey Ferland, Yondan (4th Dan), with Chuden Ki rank. In 2010 she retired and Michael Farris became head instructor. He has a sandan (3rd degree), with Shoden Ki rank. He stumbled upon Aikido in 1966 and was introduced to it during an six-week class at the University of Texas in 1976. He began his current practice at the dojo in 1986.

Ki Society Aikido tends to be a more spiritually centered Aikido. Their focus tends to be more on the development of Ki than martial form. (Some of their members disagree with me on this point, so opinions vary) They actually have 2 ranks, one in Aikido and one in Ki.

Austin Ki Society was the first dojo I joined when I moved to Austin the first time in the mid 1990s. They are extremely kind and welcoming. Some of the members would take me out for a burger afterwords because at the time I was hungry college student. I can't thank them enough. Coming from a Tomiki line of Aikido, at the time I personally found that I could not merge my ideas of practice with theirs. They are still worth checking out if you are searching for Tohei flavored Aiki.
Austin Ki Society website

Aikido instruction at ACC

Austin Community College instruction group headed by Mark Leidig. According to the online resume of Mr Leidig he is one of the U.T. splinter groups. Certified Austin Ki Society as authorized dojo in the 1980s, but now seems to be affiliated directly with Imaizumi Sensei and the Shin Budo Kai.

I have not yet met Mr Leidig, but one of my friends is his student. She speaks very highly of the program.

(edit) I received the following message from a contributor.

I write to update your lovely website The Dragon's Orb, concerning the listing of Austin Shin Budo Kai - Aikido training at ACC, under Mark Leidig Sensei. Leidig Sensei is no longer affiliated with Shin Budo Kai and Imaizumi Sensei. I do not know what he calls his organization and he still teaches aikido at ACC, but he left Shin Budo Kai more than 5 years ago.

Mark Leidig Resume website

Aikido of Austin

Aikido of Austin is a USAF-AIKIKAI school. Head instructor is Josef Birdsong, who holds a 6th-degree black belt and has been teaching aikido since 1974. He is also on the faculty of Austin Community College.

I have stopped by Aikido of Austin several times over the past few years. They have the largest mat space in Austin. The dojo is a lovely place.

Aikido of Austin website

Austin Aikikai

This dojo was sanctioned by Yamada Shihan. If you are in the North Austin area I give this group a thumbs up to check out.

Accordng to their website, Damir Jamsek, 5th degree black belt (godan) and a certified instructor (shidoin) in the United States Aikido Federation, is the head instructor at Austin Aikikai.

I spent a weekend seminar and an after dinner with this group. They are knowledgeable, friendly and have a good thing going. Damir is talented and kind. He kicked my rear at seiza work. Also he was accepting of me raiding into their party, which I appreciate openness in training. Their dojo is a work of art, a worthy temple to aiki training. I believe they also have formal sword training from a different instructor, which is a nice bonus.

I saw one thing I thought was really neat from this group. They were mentoring a young teenager. I talked with his mother and she was extremely grateful to the group for their support. I think this showed this group is a tight family, not just a commercial Mcdojo. It is really special.

I hear they do not often use air conditioning. This is something to consider when choosing a Texas dojo. Their sensei told me they will kick it on when the heat is brutal out. Not having climate control does have an traditional appeal, but I tend to overheat really easily.

They are closely tied to the New York Aikikai scene. They train with Yamada Shihan and Harvey Konigsberg Shihan. These teachers are giants in American Aikikai.

Austin Aikikai

Chiisai Aikikai / Rising Sun Aikido

This group is in south Austin by the Alamo Drafthouse. It is headed by Leslie Libby. Libby Sensei holds a 4th Degree Black Belt in Aikido (Yondan)

After she graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering she went to Japan. She so enjoyed training at the Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo that she lived and trained in Japan for 5 years. During this time she trained with many Master Teachers (Shihan) and also with the founder's son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and grandson, the current Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba. While in Japan she also trained in the art of Japanese Archery, which she continues to practice to this day.

Rising Sun Aikido

Chiisai Aikikai

South Austin Aikido

This dojo is an affiliate of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba under the leadership of Mitsugi Saotome Sensei. They were once part of Leslie Libby's group, but went there own way and moved about 3 miles further south on Lamar.

This group is headed by Jay Lindholm. The last business card he gave me said he was a nidan, 2nd degree black belt.

I have stopped in this dojo 4 times the past year. They are always friendly and inviting. Their technique looks solid and they have a good group dynamic. The last time I stopped by I was very surprised that Jay Lindholm did not say a word the whole class. It is rare to see an instructor empower other members of the dojo and let them teach unrestricted. Overall this is a beautiful place, nice folks with a good practice.

South Austin Aikido

Oak Hill Aikido

The instructor there is Michele Ruschhaupt 3rd dan. Affiliated with Birankai North America, founded by T.K. Chiba Shihan, 8th dan.

I got the opportunity to briefly meet and train with Michele at an Aikikai Harvey Konigsberg seminar. She seemed strong and focused. She had an interesting intensity. Something I appreciated about her technique: I attacked her with the wrong hand we were supposed to be using. She did not miss a beat, she made another technique and still launched me across the room.

I have not made it to the dojo yet, but if you in the Oak Hill area and need to train, you might want to check this place out.

Oak Hill Aikido

Austin Aiki Budo Kai

Shin Budo Kai Aikido/ Kuroda Shinbukan Ryugi/ Aikijujitsu / Ralph Hutchins/ Cliff Derdeyn / Ph. 512 656-3107

Mr. Derdeyn has studied the martial arts for at the last twenty-six years and he trains in and instructs in Aikido, Aikijujitsu, and part of a study group based in San Antonio, Tx for Shinbukan Kuroda Rugi.
About Cliff Derdeyn

I have not had the pleasure of working out with this group yet. I called Clif Derdeyn, and he was pleasant and willing to share. I asked only brief questions about his claims to Koryu connections. I did not dig deep, but he is willing to share information for anyone looking for verifications.

Dojo Website

Austin Iwama Aikido

8863 Anderson Mill Rd.
Suite #104
Austin, Texas 78729
(512) 257-8552

From their website - Austin Iwama Aikido was founded by Christopher S. Field in 2010. Field Sensei is a Yondan (fourth degree black belt) with over 18 years of experience in Aikido.
Field Sensei was trained by David Alexander, one of the top Iwama Aikido teachers in America, who spent over 10 years studying under Morihiro Saito Shihan in Iwama, Japan.
After Alexander Sensei’s retirement, Field Sensei became the Technical Director of Westlake Village Aikido where he continued to teach until moving to Austin in 2006.
Field Sensei has also been fortunate enough to study under many of Aikido’s top instructors including Morihiro Saito, Hiroshi Isoyama, Steven Seagal, and Robert Koga.
The Aikido training at Austin Iwama Aikido follows Saito Shihan's traditional Aikido style and teaching methods.

My personal notes. I had the honor of training with Sensei Field during an aikido peace week seminar. He was very cool and knowledgeable about his specialization. He moved very nicely. I found his techniques extremely painful and maintained large amounts of tension. I did find my wrists ached for about 3 days after a session with him. So if you are looking for training with high tension and very tight joint locks, he might be your guy.

Dojo Website

Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin kai

This group is run by Stef Finley. Sensei Stef Finley was awarded a Shoden Menkyo teaching license, a traditional ranking system, by the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai.

From his website - Sensei Finley operates his Shoshinkan Dojo in Austin, TX. Along with traditional classes in Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu,, Sensei Finley helps to train law enforcement and military personnel as a certified instructor for Stratego International.

I have not yet had the pleasure to meet this group. One of my students attended a seminar with them. He said they very good. I hear they like traditional weapons and work with a live blade.

One of their guys has come over to train. If he is representative of their school they are knowledgeable and nice and passionate about their training. Also I got the chance to train with the head of their system, Threadgill Sensei. He was top notch.

Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Kai

Hakkoryu Jujutsu

Hakkoryu Jujutsu / John Cole / Ph. 512-302-5826

Martial Arts Center of Austin

I called the head of this school whose name is Charles. While advertised as Aikijujitsu his school is not from the Daito Ryu lineage. He claimed a family sogo bujutsu style, which is interesting. He was very knowledgeable about history and is a very nice fellow. Worth checking out the school if in South Austin.

I stopped by his school and spent a few hours watching the ground work class. I really liked the vibe of the place and how the students worked together. Charles is a really friendly guy, knowledgeable and intensely into the martial arts. I like him, and likely in the future I will try to pop in and train with this group every now and then.

Dojo Website


Austin Center For Martial Arts - Austin Budokan

Judo, Aikido, Aiki JuJitsu , Self Defense / Goshin-jitsu, Bujinkan Taijitsu. Location I-35 and 51st. The judo school is under Sensei Matl 9th dan, a national champion and coach to olmypians.

Judo classes are small, with one on one teaching from high level teachers in the art form.

This is the place to train in town!

Here is a short film of Sensei doing some light training

Austin Center For Martial Arts - Austin Budokan website


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Round Rock 'Team Haas' Judo

Chad Haas is a student of Zdenek Matl. Mr. Matl's system includes all of the techniques of classical Judo. His teaching emphasizes leg techniques, ground fighting, and techniques for unbalancing an opponent. His throws are safe, simple, low power and extremely effective.

Chad Haas is a really nice guy, great teacher and a monster on the ground.

This school is a mix of sports team, self defense and recreational club.

Round Rock Judo website

Kokoro Judo Club

Corps-Community Center, 1001 Cumberland Rd, Austin, TX

A USJA affiliate group headed by Glenn Macias. I stopped by and trained and here is my impression. This is a sports focused club.

Go here and help the process!

UT Judo Club

This club meets on campus, so I think you have to be a UT student to join. Among the Austin judo scene this club is often thought of as the young man's power judo club. I do not believe they have a high ranking teacher on staff.

UT Judo website

Vandry BJJ

Vandry BJJ up in North Austin off 183N has a Wednesday Night Judo class.

Vandry website

Austin Community College

I know they run judo classes, and that they are very cheap. Worth doing a search.

search around here

Paragon Mixed Martial Arts

This dojo just opened up at the intersection of William Cannon and Westgate. Their most popular class to date is the Judo/Jiu Jitsu power 2 hour. The first hour is taught by 3rd degree Judo Black Belt, Che Valdez, then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu taught by BJJ Black Belt Darrin Lillian.

I stopped by and watched their judo/jujitsu group in March 2011. Che seems like a nice guy, open to conversation and invited me to join in. The work was fairly athletic in nature. Che is a third dan and he looks like a solid one.

I like the focus they have of infusing the BJJ with their judo. Although the school had only been open a few weeks the class was full. It did not look like very many people where advanced in judo, but there were many formidable looking jujitsu guys. Only one student had a judo gi, everyone else was decked in the flashy jujitsu garb.

Paragon's Website

Tang Soo Do Academy

It looks like they have Friday night Judo classes in Cedar Park.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

I personally have not trained with any BJJ groups in Austin yet, so I do not have any suggestions. If you are looking for the BJJ flavor, I hope this list helps.

Great List of Austin BJJ


Usually known as Bujinkan Taijitsu, it is a martial art that trains in the imagery of the shinobi of feudal Japan. It is an interesting mix of aikido, judo and traditional jujitsu.

I have trained with the guys in Round Rock. They are really nice, and have a solid workout. They also share space with Round Rock judo and aikido so cross training is available from world class teachers. Hidalgo Sensei in Round Rock is also in Shinto philosophy and Sumo, so you can get a very unique study of Japanese culture.

Great List of Austin Bujinkan

Austin Bujinkan Tanemaki Dojo

For some reason this dojo was left off the complete list above. This group is run by Kendall Kelsoe. I watched 2 classes about 7 years ago in this East Austin dojo. Kendall was very well trained and had excellent technique and knowledge. His sword work and knife work might be the best I have seen in Austin. He is a very powerful teacher.

Tanemaki Website

some future research notes for me
Araki Ryu

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The magician in the martial arts

For the past week I have focused on my stage show. I was drafted into a large magic competition and I performed on the Austin City Limits stage. It was a really great time and my new act won over a lot of fans.

So I have been viewing Aiki through the magician's eyes again. Here are a few random notes.

1. The power of kata

A magic routine is very much structured like a kata. A magician practices it hundreds of times so the body acts on its own. Yesterday I did my rope sequence 50 times. When I was on stage a level of mushin (no-mind, unfettered mind) takes over. Trust in the magic kata, and use the concious mind to accomodate to circumstances that arise.

2. The eye more easily tracks linear energy than curved energy

In recent years psychology and neurologists and been taking closer and closer look at magic. We understand things others do not. One of the deep studies we make is in the way people track with their eyes.

People do not pay close attention to a hand moving across a straight plane. They see it and estimate and track it eventual destination, then they refocus on whatever it is you really don't want them to see.

A curving motion locks in someone's eyes. The brain is unable to calculate the destination so it pays closer attention. The effect is magnified when the curve is moving upward.

Now go and figure out how to add that gem to your martial path.

3. Magic and Aikido are arts of controlled message sending

In magic and Aikido I am attempting to interface with your nervous system. I am attempting to control the input into the nervous system so I steer the person to a desired goal. Often in both arts I give a person something to think about - as a cover for the real dirty work that is happening.

4. Much of the power in Aikido and magic comes from angles. Angles between bodies control what information is being expressed. You can melt right into the holes of someone's perception by introducing information or no information at just the right perception angles.

"I am the universe."

Morihei Ueshiba

Another nice article on magic and aikido

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Good

So finally we get to what I see as some of the best you tube has to offer in the world of Tai Chi push hands.

The flow drill model of push hands

I have classed push hands into a few categories. One of them is a flow drill model. I believe these flow drills will teach a student to naturally move in a strategically beneficial way, naturally and easily.

In the first video I like the fact they have dynamic motion to their flow drill style of push hands. They move all over, switching patterns and ranges. They move seamlessly from inside to outside grips. I think there is a lot of good learning going on here.

One one big criticism of the flow drill model of push hands is that they remain at a constant homeostasis. Neither player wins or loses posture of balance at any point. With this practice they are learning to stay even at all times, rather than starting a relationship where real problems need to be solved, or any real problems are caused. My push hands I have been working on I hope will look like this first video, but there will be a steady chain of balance breaks and technique entries. Flow, but give each other problems to solve.

I have watched the following video countless times. Lots to be learned here. The reasons it made a link, rather than featured video here is overly low stances, and over emphasis on fixed step work.

Another nice flow drill push hands video

Fixed Step

The fixed step model of push hands seems to be the most common form practiced. While it has has uses, the practice of it should be used only for the most basic...and maybe fine tuned advanced work. It creates an artificial game.

There are a few artists using it interestingly. I really like the nice balance breaks this gentleman gets at the beginning of this video. There seems to be a genuine exercise going on here rather than seeing this as the totality of reality.

My criticism of some parts of this video again comes from adhering to this model to much. At a few moments there is some artificial posture breaking that could be corrected by stepping. Also there are a few moments of timing breaking - speeding up, that I think should be avoided. Overall though I really enjoy this video. I love the emphasis on balance breaking.

This next film I like. They move interesting. They give problems to each other. I really like some of the problems, yet they are unattached enough to technique that they do not have to chase it to conclusion. They go static, then they move. Their work is still in the realm of drill, but it is successful free play and drill that makes it dynamic, and makes the art form still work.

And finally my award for the greatest demonstration of push hands I have seen is from Master Ma Yu Liang. Softness and controlled technique is the game. There is some fine tune kuzushi, balance breaking, that is masterful. He respects the safety of his partners. I really hope I am doing work this subtle and nice in my lifetime. It is not bad for a 93 year old.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Bad

Patrick Swayze being Tai Chi bouncer in Roadhouse

Today I would like to look at what I see as some bad habits in the practice and methodologies in push hands practice. Again, I respect the art and artists. In today's blog there are actually some good practice going on, but I feel there are bad habits that could easily be corrected to make a more thoughtful and successful practice.

So that is what i would like to illustrate BAD habits as I see them.

In the first film we see what looks like a very advanced teacher of Tai Chi. He establishes a pace, speed and flow. All very nice. Suddenly without warning he accelerates, breaking rhythm, increasing speed and intensity. Frank he turns a soft art practice into an external force generation art, rather than a sensitivity art. "Bursting" or sudden timing changes can for sure be an effective combat strategy, but honestly I feel it is very elementary strategy for push hands practice.

Often we feel this in our randori in the Tomiki system, someones desire to win overtakes the intent of the game. Speed replaces sensitivity, strength replaces skill. In my humble opinion it is a bad habit that we all do in all kinds of martial practice, and one I would guard against.

Here is another classic bad habit we also see in Tomiki Aikido randori. Playing beyond skill level - fear of loss, over desire to win and control. Suddenly when it becomes time to win, we throw out everything we have studied years to gain, and simply start wrestling.

I have found intention is helpful here. Is your intention to simply win, or is it to train in your art form ?

When I find these games arising - a good player can say "Hey we are playing above our skill level. We are no longer hitting technique and we are violating the principles of our art form. While this may be fun, once we tire out we need to slow down and soften up and really examine our form here".

In this next film we see some very good players. They are moving around scoring great and interesting techniques...etc. The bad habit I wanted to address is not their application, they are great!! - it is the rules of their exercise. Fixed step push hands is a bad idea. Ok, it has it narrow place, but overall (from my ignorant outside perspective) tai chi students have an overall over attachment to "rooting" and this method of push hands training.

Guess what guys? It is ok to move your feet. It sure as hell is more important to move you feet than get in the habit of letting your structure and posture buckle as you struggle to keep footing.

I have have been working with Tai Chi training methods in the aikido and judo dojo for a while now. Without giving my guys too many instructions I found it impossible to get some sticky hands and push hands techniques on them, because they simply moved. Interesting and enlightening it was. It is not some great victory to make someone take a step - it is just the beginning of the chain of events that makes technique happen. It is not technique itself! The very reason these fixed steps techniques get so dynamic is because of the body struggling to correct the structure, but it is robbed of the most basic tool to do so; stepping. If you can't tell I am a big fanning of movement in the martial arts and I personally never stop moving my feet once the game begins.

Fixed step should be seen as a simple game. It could be quick warm up maybe. I would be highly suspicious of my practice if this was the highest level of push hands I studied.

Tommorow I will have an example of some very good fixed step pratice and some moving step practice as well. I would like to thank the artists in the videos for sticking out their necks and letting us all learn from their study of the way!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Ugly

Here is the beginning of a couple days at looking at push hands videos I am calling the good, bad and ugly. I mean no disrespect to the people and art forms that will be shown here. After all we are all students walking the path. I feel some people's practice gets clouded with some thinking errors, or some people do not look deep enough to find the correct mechanisms. Poor methods are adopted and sometimes a cult like following happens around people and flawed exercises.

I would happily train with all of these people in the videos, so we could all grow together. I am always open to being proved wrong.

In order to understand better what push hands is...let us first see what it is not IMHO.

Ok. Hmmm. This is Professor Huang Zhen Huan, the founder of unidao tai chi. I don't really know what's going on here. I get the feeling watching this video he is trying to pinch their nipples, and they are tired of it so they jumping out of the way. Perhaps they are playing a martial game that translates poorly to video. I do know the apparent cause and effect is questionable in this display.

Now we join a Buddhist compound ran by Lama Dondrup Dorje also known as Dr. Yeung. From my perspective they simply checked out the realm of reality long ago. They are doing hypnosis show like martial arts, that are surprisingly common in the martial arts world. (FYI - I used to tour with a big name hypnotist, and have done a few small shows myself) I find this film fascinating, and an excellent example of what legitimate marital arts is NOT. Wait till about a minute and a half in before it starts getting really interesting. Now perhaps they have unlocked some keys to energy work that I have never experienced before. I am genuinely open to be educated, but I highly doubt it. More power to them if they find value in their practice.

Now we go to the world of competition in push hands. Sport competition is the same plague that damaged Tomiki Ryu Aikido and Judo - again just my opinion. Principles, in sport, are sacrificed for rules and the desire to win at all costs. Artistry is killed.

I like competition. I like a good round of rough randori. Sport however makes things goofy. These guys are simply failing to do anything I would call Tai Chi at all. Its cool, I guess, but when a training method takes you so far from the ideals that you practice - you either need to reexamine the principles of the art form or the validity of your exercise. These guys are doing some wrestling but they are failing to employ the art of Tai Chi, from my outsider's perspective.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Push Hands

I love watching Tai Chi push hands work. I learn from what I like and from what I don't like. Push hands has some interesting advantages - and some fatal flaws built into it's methodology. This sounds like the topic I will be covering for the next few days.

Here is a video showing interesting technique from a master. I really enjoy this film. He really has some excellent soft touch manipulation of body mechanics.

The bad thing to watch out for is their ukemi, rolls and falls. It seems almost universal in the tai chi world (on you tube anyway) that once technique is executed the uke flies away out of control. In this film uke even crashes into the audience. In some other films by this group they are doing throws, with poor ukemi on concrete.

So like the Yin and Yang, I feel this offers a best and worst of push hands. Very nice application of technique and principles, and poor receiving of technique.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Batman trained with Osensei

Time for a goofy post.

Everyone knows Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman has a ninjitsu connection.

(Little known fact the cool mountain top ninja temple in the movie is actually based on KyuRyu AikiBudo Dojo here in Austin!)

But according to the Batman cartoon he trained with someone who looks suspiciously like Osensei. In the show they call him Sensei Yoru.

A point of interest that only a calligraphy nerd such as myself would see - The calligraphy in Sensei Yoru's dojo is Hikari "light", which happened to be Ueshiba Sensei's last piece of calligraphy before he died. (I can't find a web image of it)

Here is all of the good stuff edited into one video.

The full episode

At 3 minutes into the video, we see Bruce in a Judo match. At about 3:50 we see Sensei Yoru throw a aggressive tenkan ikkyo to a projection technique.

If you want to see the second half - click here

Interesting quote

Bruce: I have to be the best there is, no matter what it takes!
Sensei Yoru: Defeat can be more instructive than victory.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Here is a really important article on ukemi written by our regular contributor Nick Lowry.

The importance of uke and ukemi

As you seek to learn aikido and develop skill in timing and the details of control and off-balance,the importance of uke and of ukemi cannot be overstated.

Uke is literally the role of the "receiver" -- uke recieves off-balance -- recieves the techniques and throws and trains to implement ukemi cleanly and reflexively-- automatically without interference or exaggeration. For Ukemi to stay safe you need to give yourself over to it without internal resistance or pause --Ukemi exemplifies the principle of ju, of softness, yielding and flowing, so as to bring the forces acting upon one into harmony and avoid destruction. Great Ukemi is great surrender, but Ukemi is not defeat-- taking a fall is not a loss -- it is rather the reception of the "information" that the waza is transmitting. As uke, if we receive the technique and energy of tori cleanly we will have leg up on internalization of the same technique -- this process is like an imprint or a photographic negative. You feel the off-balance over and over acting upon you and you subconscious learns to recognize the same pattern in others -- spontaneously you can fit (tsukuri) in correct time and place -- uke builds tori form the inside out.

As Uke, we want to recieve the transmission of tori's technique with as little distortion or interference as possible. If we are resisting off-balance, fighting to maintain control, then we are making "noise" in the system which both distorts the signal we are receiving and makes flowing light easy ukemi impossible -- fighting off-balance just leads to harder and harder falls -- if we invoke the principle of "go" or hardness, rigidity, stength by trying to stop or dampen the effects of kuzushi -- usually by rigidifiying our postural muscles and making internal torque to counter the forces acting upon us -- we will have to pay the price of high intensity falls and low quality imprint. Even a highly skilled tori can't insure your safety under such conditions. Probability of injury is high because you cannot fall and try not to fall at the same time. The contradictory signals in the nervous system don't allow for both to happen. So Ukemi tends to be catastrophic.

My best advice is to give yourself freely to off-balance -- surrender posture and position easily, lightly and take all the nice easy falls you can until they become automatic and non-consciously controlled events -- only after building the internal falling automatic mechanism is it advisible to experiment with conditions of resistance and the principle of "go" and even then with caution and trepidation.

Nick Lowry - Apr 30, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009


© 2007 David Kerkhoff


Live in joy,
In love,
Even among those who hate.

Live in joy,
In health,
Even among the afflicted.

Live in joy,
In peace,
Even among the troubled.

Live in joy,
Without possessions,
Like the shining ones.

The winner sows hatred
Because the loser suffers.
Let go of winning and losing
And find joy.

There is no fire like passion,
No crime like hatred,
No sorrow like separation,
No sickness like hunger,
And no joy like the joy of freedom.

Health, contentment and trust
Are your greatest possessions,
And freedom your greatest joy.

Look within.
Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of the way.

How joyful to look upon the awakened
And to keep company with the wise.

How long the road to the man
Who travels with a fool.
But whoever follow those who follow the way
Discovers his family, and is filled with joy.

Follow then the shining ones,
The wise, the awakened, the loving,
For they know how to work and forbear.

Follow them
As the moon follows the path of the stars.

Dhammapada - Sayings of Buddha - Translated by T. Byrom