Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why I don't hit things

Damn interesting. I have a sweet tooth for high speed film.

Looks like this guy is hitting the brick with glove full of jello. Can't be good for long term health!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Basics are too advanced!

Parker Sensei had an interesting comment on the demonstration videos.

"Cool! Congrats on getting some students up to shodan. Your work on the basics and fundamentals can really take off now."

Is there anything beyond basics? If so I have not found it yet. It just gets more and more basic as I train.


After slicing up the film of my guys demonstrating the 17, I noticed they had a real hard time moving from the center during testing conditions. Something they normally do fairly well. One of the basics.

One of the things we practice a lot at the Dojo is posture -nothing more basic than that! Usually good posture indicates moving from the center, and letting your weight do the work. One of the tell tale signs that ineffective Aiki is going on is the feet stop moving and the upper body hunches forward. Basically what is happening, is the mind says "throw now"...the body braces...and the muscles of the upper body fire to make the throw happen.

So it makes me wonder what changes in the testing conditions...that makes someone comfortable moving from their center, into someone who uses muscular force? We are all guilty.

pressure, intent, desire to throw....all screw up a perfectly good aiki moment.

When Lowry Sensei came down, he spoke a lot about Hazumi and Ikioi.

Hazumi -- defined in kudo's "judo in action" as a the force/ momentum that acts on the guy from your entire center moving ie. the effect of one center of gravity on another.

Ikioi --is the impetus of an isolated part of the body acting on the person.

In my current practice I am still guilty of too much muscle (ikioi) and not enough hazumi, just like my guys.

I really feel like the key from switching from being a Ikioi player to a Hazumi player is by switching intent.

Here are some of the things I have been trying to retool in my head to change my intent - back to the basics of the art.

- I must no longer desire a goal in an encounter
- I must lose my attachments to ideas of victory.
- I must stay sensitive to where my partner wants to move me...then I must go there on my terms with correct body structure.
- for some reason the idea of "surfing the energy" has been on my mind lately, rather than trying to control or do anything in particular.
- I must stay true to the principles of the art at all times. I will never fear defeat in the safety of the dojo. If my Aiki fails in an encounter...then ukemi is a way to reestablish the harmony.

So these are all the basics I have heard since my first day in the dojo. I guess it is one thing to hear them, and another to do them and have them so internalized you have no other choice but to move in harmony with them.

All these basics get kind of complicated. These basics are too advanced!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

KyuRyu's first shodans

This weekend, Waddell Sensei came down to observe the demos of two of my guys.

I always make a habit of videoing the demos. We get together have a few beers and break down what we like and didn't like. The higher stress also exposes some of the things we need to work on. (Like Hiki Otoshi) I already spoke to Mike on the phone, and he is dreading watching it. I think he did pretty good.

Here is Mike demoing the 17. (note my groovy 2 angle camera work)

As a teacher I find it interesting gritting my teeth when I see something I don't like - and my pride at seeing some great stuff. It is interesting being as emotionally involved in a demonstration as the demonstrators.

Scooter's kata - I am especially proud of Scooter. At Thanksgiving he was hospitalized for a month because of nerve damage. The day after he was released he was in the dojo, he couldn't even feel his hands and feet! What a come back my friend. I appreciate that kind of grit.

I will post some of their randori soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tegatana No Kata

I have posted more about the Tegatana No Kata than probably anyone other than Parker Sensei. I have reverance for the kata - but the spirit of the Usobuki mask still rides with me. This is actually kind of funny.

Minfune Kansetsu Waza

I am a big fan of Mifune, and watching his work. I had never seen this film before.

E Black Belt

Earn your black belt in Tomiki Aikido online!!!!

Does anyone know this guy? I would really love to talk with him.

Ok, I am hip to the internet being a training aid. It has been great for communication with teachers - and getting training tips, even learning techniques and principles. But earn a black belt online stuff makes me a little barfy. Nervous even.

I guess at the end of the day - if you believe you have a black belt..then great. But what leads you to that conclusion? If you want it from online, a video or whatever.... knock yourself out. But to learn an art form like this requires a lot of time putting your hands on someone.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Light hearted Budo

I tend to walk life walking the line between the sacred and the profane. I was talking about uniforms with Nick this weekend. I had heard of people being dismissed from an organization he was once in for uniform eccentricities.

The spirit of the usobuki mask is still with me, and I finally found one of my favorite online videos. While training can be a serious journey, the path trying - painful and unrelenting...is it worth practicing if we can't laugh...at ourselves and for the pure joy of practice.

At our dojo we have a strict dress code. Here are a few of my students, showing proper uniform guidelines.

Jeff Duncan and I have long been talking about trying to have an ugly gi contest. Last year I showed up in a Michael Jackson looking red vinyl coat. You should have seen the look on his students faces!

This is Jeff's Dream Gi

I might make a gi just for his dojo! Here is my choice!

Usobuki Mask

Over the weekend seminar we were joined by a Bujinkan group. The Dojo's Sensei John Hidalgo is also involved with the Shinto religion - native to Japan. I myself have spent some time involved in the the rituals, symbols and imagery of Japan's native theology.

So today I present my Usobuki Mask. (in the video down the blog a bit) I first saw someone using this mask at a shrine near my house in Japan. I was surprised how transforming the mask was - truly invoking of a spirit.

The Usobuki mask is one of the numerous masks used in kyogen, although the number of masks in kyogen is much less than noh. Kyogen plays are the comic interludes between noh dramas. They humerously reflect old tales and the problems of the human condition. Therefore, these masks reflect that humorous aspect. They usually exhibit amusing or absurd, exaggerated expressions. Usobuki is one of the type of masks with an exaggerated expession. The name of the mask can be interepreted several ways: an expression of innocence, whistling, or blowing on a fire are several of those. The crossed, bulging eyes, the puckered protruding mouth and up turned whiskers all contribute to a sense of the absurdity of life. Actors wearing usobuki masks can represent both human characters and the spirits of animals and fragile insects such as moths mosquitoes and cicadas.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring Gathering 2009

Wow what a weekend! I am typing now through sore muscles and the post partum haze of a good time.

Nick Lowry and Kyle Sloan, Glenn and Greg came down from WindSong Dojo in Oklahoma. A bunch of the nicest guys you could meet.

Friday night started with Matl Sensei teaching his unique and brillant approach to Judo. Slowly Hussey's Aikido group started filtering in. The room was filling up nicely. Then I turned and was surprised as the local Bujinkan group had joined us and were quitely kneeling on the mat. Surprised by Ninjas! I have been training my whole life for this day!!!

Friday we did a round robin of techniques - trading off from the various art forms. I found it interesting when the students of one style were instructing the Shihan from another. Fascinating dynamic.

Saturday Nick did most of the teaching. I can only describe Lowry Sensei as a "Good Ole Buddha". He had a interesting blend of a highly articulate southern accent, mellow attitude, technical insight, and good vibes.

I have worked out with a lot a Budoka in the few decades. I feel like many teachers out there have have inflated ranks - beyond what they really need. Jokingly last night I awarded Nick last night with his 8th dan because I recognize him as a level of teacher my dojo wants to associate with.

Jeff Duncan Dojo Cho of Full Circle Aikido wrote me this morning with a wrap up -

"Seriously had some fun, mellow as an any guy could be with tons of info and people to get more info from...
Saturday of the Seminar, really brought about some fundamental differences that I need to bring around in my mindset of what really makes things work..
It was a really good seminar that was based upon learning the principals through a few exercises and drills, that really allowed you to break down what is happening in the altercation relationship.... sometimes you think you know all there is to know about something and just need to internalize it in movements, then you attend a class like this last Saturday and you learn you missed some of the simplest but most needed points of the entire system..."

"Big thanks goes out to Eric for getting this set up, and for Nick and his OKC crew that showed up to give us some insight on what all they are working on and their thought process on different things.."

Hussey Sensei yet again proved himself to be yet again to be a highest caliber teacher, gracious host and wonderful friend.

Click Here to read Sloan Sensei's review!!!!

After doing a count we had members from 7 dojos attend!

Windsong Dojo
Matl Sensei's Judo club
KyuRyu Aikibudo Dojo
Hussey's Aikido Dojo
Ross Robertson of Still Point Aikido showed up to play
Full Circle Aikido
John Hidalgo's Bujinkan group

Good Seminar - now getting ready for Waddell Sensei next week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is Ju different than Aiki? Part 3

OK I have been working and training all day - so I am going to have a video day.

Nick Lowry Sensei suggested these in connection of Ju and Aiki.

This one is really cool. The two Judoka run through a flowing kata - stop...then do the kata in reverse. Very cool.

This Judo kata is known as "the five forms" Master Kano died before giving the five techniques names. They're supposed to represent the principle of maximum efficiency, but also to be evocative of the movements of the universe. A little trippy. It is performed by Mifune 10th dan, a serious Judo man.

Monday, April 13, 2009

3 kinds of Sen

The 3 levels of Sen - or what I think of as timing and initiative.

Sen sen no sen - is an early timing, almost done the moment uke flinches to attack. Much of my personal study as of late has been at this timing. Tomiki Sensei in his writings considers it the highest level of timing.

Sen no sen - Is a fairly standard timing in the world of Aiki and especially Tomiki classical 17 kata. Charles Clark Sensei always called it middle of the road timing, and when I was part of the Jiyushinkai he wanted the junana hon kata to demonstrate this timing.

Go no Sen is a retaking the initiative timing. Tori was too slow, and the initial attack overwhelmed standard aiki distance and timing. Drawing backward to regain initiative is the name of this game. From what I have seen, it looks like the Kihara students use this timing extensively.

Here is a karate video that nicely demonstrates 3 kinds of Sen

In Tomiki Sensei's own words

from Fundamental Principles of Judo
by Kenji Tomiki


In all athletic sports one must, in order to gain the victory, surpass the opponent in mental power, technical skill, and physical strength. These three factors must be united in gaining the mastery over an opponent. The mastery is brought into play in the form of various techniques, and although there are a large number of them, they may be summed up and resolved into one word sen (initiative or lead).

In the old densho (books of secret principles) the way of taking the initiative is explained in three stages.

1. Sen-sen-no-sen (superior initiative). Superior initiative is given play in a delicate situation where one confronts an opponent who intends to attack, and gains mastery over him by subtly guessing his mentality and forestalling his actions. This is the highest reach of the mental cultivation in any military art and is regarded as not easily attainable. But if you consider it more deeply, you will find it too late to try to gain command over anything when it has taken a concrete form, and you must have the mental preparedness to hold it down beforehand. For this purpose it is necessary to learn to maintain the openness and serenity of mind as signified by the old expression, "Clear as a stainless mirror and calm as still water." Lao-tse teaches this almost divine state of mind in the following words: "It is the way of heaven to prevail without contention."
2. Sen (initiative). This is to forestall your opponent by starting an action before he begins attack on you.
3. Ato-no-sen (initiative in defense). This is not to guess the mentality of your opponent and check his action before it is done, but to start action in defense the moment you have an inkling of the offensive of your opponent. It is to avoid the opponent's attack the instant it is about to be launched upon you, and to make a counter-attack taking advantage of a pause in your opponent's movement and a disturbance in his posture. A man who takes the initiative in defense rises in opposition to his opponent's attack, and parries or averts it. Seemingly it is a defensive move. In order to stave off the opponent's attack at the last moment and restore one's position one must keep the moral attitude of initiative so as not to get worsted by the adversary.

The secrets of victory thus lie in taking the initiative, and in getting the start of one's adversary there are included the following factors:

* The first is the eyes. From old times it is said that the important things in a bout are "first the eyes, second the feet, third grit, and fourth strength." The eyes are said to be the window for the mind. They are an index to your mind. Where the eyes are fixed, there the mind is concentrated, and naturally the will is attracted.
* The second in importance is the posture. In a wider sense, it is the bodily attitude. It is a preparatory posture either for attack or for defense. Therefore, unless a proper posture is well maintained, not only is it impossible to take advantage of any opening for attack in the adversary, but you get your posture broken and are given a blow.
* The third is the movement. Even though you maintain the proper posture or bodily attitude, you cannot attain your object unless your movement and action conform to the rules.
* The fourth is the space condition. It consists of your distance, direction, and position as against your opponent. It is essential to study the principles of space condition, for from this study you will realize the secret principle of "fighting after getting the better of the opponent first."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Is Ju different than Aiki? Part 2

So looking at the 2 arts being practiced we do see some differences - of course. But if these arts are basically the same thing, why do we see the differences in their applications?

A big difference is simply the attitude or intent of the practice. Sport changes the intent dramatically. As Karl Geis said "Once you put a trophy on the line, people start breaking arms." The same goes for Judo and Aikido. Judo practice is aiming for soft, but change the intent, or goal to VICTORY, and skill is replaced with power, softness is replaced with hardness, timing is replaced with speed.

Needless to say, I feel sport damages good budo. Rules have to be developed - then they are exploited. Loop holes found...and plugged and the whole game drifts farther and farther away from good self defense.

So yesterday I demonstrated what I believe was the founder's intent or goal of Judo. Today we see it's modern sport reality.

Typically Aikido people don't compete. Some Tomiki folks are the exception. Here is an example.

Notice how changing the INTENT changes the result. If we intend to win at all costs, both Judoka and Aikidoka throw out softness and harmony in order to score points.

So to go back to my original point - Aiki and Ju are pretty much the same thing. We can see during training in kata the results are similar. In sport competition the results are similar. While technically the arts are similar the primary difference is simply the motivation of the sportsmen - their intent changes everything.

Important lesson we can take from budo and apply to life - intent changes results.

Is Ju different than Aiki? Part 1

Short answer - no, they are pretty much the same thing.

Before I start on a tanjent let's go back a bit to the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano. Lets look at his demonstrations and see if we can find anything that looks similar to Aikido.

All the films I can find of Kano, he is playing very softly. He seems to be very much into the name sake he gave Judo - Soft Way.

Here he is practicing the Ju no Ri kata - The principle of softness. I think this is even soft for Aikido standards!

In the next two clips he is demonstrating the Koshiki no kata.

Dr. Kano preserved the techniques of this kata from the Kito-Ryu School of jujutsu, because of the extent to which these techniques embody the principle and techniques of Kodokan Judo. Since the Forms Antique were intended for the "Kumiuchi", the grappling of armored warriors in the feudal ages, it is essential to perform the movements imagining that you are clad in heavy armor. The kata is separated into two parts, omote (front) and ura (back). Also known as the Kito-Ryu No Kata, it consists of twenty-one (21) techniques. These techniques are of a high order and highly refined, and their practice brings insight into Judo theory.

So at this point, I am willing to state that Kano Sensei's version of Judo is somewhat removed from the modern sports practice. Like most martial arts, Judo runs the gambit from being uber soft to brutally hard. I believe the founder's practice and goals are clearly illustrated in these videos. He was truly searching for softness and effortlessness in his technique. His methods are very Aiki is you ask me.

So, while these videos do not completely answer the question, are Aiki and Ju different, I believe it clearly shows the founders intention was different than what many people now practice. Kano was searching for Aiki! Kano was searching for Ju! He was truly a man of softness, looking to blend and harmonize his energy! He was a true genius that many Aikidoka, and even Judoka for that matter, ignorantly ignore his methods and innovations.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Splitting Shins

On a night similar to this one long ago...a few beers in me and up late watching TV. It must have been in 1994 or so. I was a hard style martial artist. I was on the verge of going even harder. Then on TV, came some fights in Thailand. Boxers, fierce warriors. They stood and smashed each other to bloody pieces.

That night I chose the path of softness.

Everyone needs a hobby. For me, no thank you. In my mind's eye - this way to resolve conflict is not martial perfection.

Here is some traditional training techniques. Seems awesome when you are in your 20s.

Seems like a lot of me calling in sick to work because of injuries in my 30s.

If I had the eyes of a man in my 40s or 50s I believe the response to this kind of training would be - Hell no!

While as a artist I still study conflict, like these gentlemen do - I am searching for a higher ethical and philosophical through the conflict. Can I take a something that is terrible like human conflict and not get hurt, and protect my assailant at the same time?

I guess what I saw that sickened me in Thai boxing is that they are fighters. I on the other hand, studying fighting so I don't have to fight. I must train to care for my body. Sure my body can be used as a weapon, but I also use it to work, make love and celebrate with my friends.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Silent Game

I believe only a fraction of Aiki training happens on the mat. Mat time is when us devotees gather to share our thoughts and ideas we have gleamed since the last time we gathered.

I would like to share with you my self training I have been playing with for the last few days. You see i tend to be a heavy footed shuffler of my feet. I thump thump down the hallway of my school. So here is the mindfulness exercise I use.

Try walking silently.

Around the house, around the office, or even on the mat - simply soften your auditory signature.

I have found it to be an interesting play. First I noticed my steps becoming more efficient. Noise, from what I understand of physics, indicates energy is being inefficiently used and coverted to sound. Then I took this idea to the mat - oh yeah, I am not supposed to drag my feet in kata. hey! I can try to make my ukemi (falls) silent too. Hot damn - they are softer that way!

So - play around with it and tell me what you think. Remember, just because you leave the mat, doesn't mean this amazing path of budo stops! The study is in every moment!

Walk In Peace

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I have a dream

I have had bad experiences with martial arts organizations so far. I find them to be cults of personality. I find them to be a homogenization of form and technique. I believe usually creativity is a pyramid scheme, and only the upper echelon earn the privelage of being called an artist.

but I have a dream...

I want to see an organization of NO organization.

I want to see a list of friendly like minded dojos - where students can go to share and learn.

I want to see an organization where different arts can come together, Judo men play with Aikido - Tai Chi and Kali.

I have a dream...

We lose our silly attachment to words like AIKIDO - instead we see it as reality of movement and ethics. We need to play together. Other arts practice a piece of the TRUTH too.

In the past year, my humble dojo has been hosting seminars bringing different arts together and people together. I have a dream that this model shatters the old way martial arts is taught and shared. Politics and ego inflated masters have no place in this new NO system. Respect of ability, respect of mutual respect, and a deep love of playing the game of budo is my No organization mantra.

I don't want to owe you dues - I want to owe you a beer. I want you kohai to be inspired and come to play. I want my Sempai to inspire me...and I will support them and their arts.

Independent artists gathering for the love of training, brotherhood and art - that is the dream of the growing NO organization.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Our slogan

Here is a lovely piece my good friend, Zen teacher and calligraphy sempai wrote for me. It is now our slogan.

It says (from right to left)


BUN => character, word, literature TOKU => virtue, goodness
KOU => achievement


KYUU => penetrate RYUU => dragon

AI => to fit KI=> spirit, energy

BU=> martial, military DO=> path,way

Kokuu is the hanko - it means "void"

Altogether it means the combination of the virtues of literary education with accumulated martial success.

The above part in Gyosho style says - KyuRyu AikiBudo - That's me!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Aiki in 3D

I have been doing martial arts now for 23 years. I have traveled around and seen dojos and teachers in America, Japan and England. I touched many teachers and one thing I have found is that Aikido people are different than Aikido people that have a strong Judo background. I feel like the Aiki/Judo guys really control me, and can do it on multiple planes and distances.

I feel like the Judo influenced Aikido, is just as soft - but it plays on more levels. Waddell Sensei has nice relaxed ground work and hip throws. Hussey Sensei seems to move me on various levels - one second he is affects me in the hands, then he seemlessly moves to ashi waza, the ne waza, and back out to a controlled distance.

I have noticed a lot a martial arts play in only one dimension. Most Tai Chi push hands, they keep their feet planted in one place. Wing Chun sticky hands demands a tight distance. Aikido guys play a big flowing game, but it still has it's spacial dimensions it seems to prefer.

As I continue to develop my personal art form, I feel doing 3-D Aikido is the way to go. We should be able to tangle with Judo guys, wrestle with the Brazilians, push hands with the Tai Chi folks, swing swords with the kendo students and move around the mat with the traditional Aikidoka. I feel if you just master one range, and neglect the other ranges of Aiki, you have not generalized the principles. You are simply favoring a preferred range.

When I lived in Japan, I pulled some Aikikai guys down to the mat. They were furious. I have heard Aiki Shihan have said "we Aiki guys don't do foot sweeps, OSensei did not do them so we don't." I humbly disagree.

I vote for making your martial arts 3d. Do it from a distance with weapons. Do it from punching range, from the clinch, and on the ground. I truly believe only when I can moved relaxed through all these levels and ranges, through timings and spaces, will I truly begin to master these concepts of Ju and Aiki.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When does a technique end?

About a year ago, I heard a shihan talking about kata practice. The shihan mentioned that "that Zanshin stuff" was not important. In the demonstration of kata off balance and execution was all that was important.

Upon hearing this, I felt like nashing my teeth and pulling my hair. Zanshin, often translated as 'remaining energy' is one of the more important high level practices.

I have read about Zanshin being referred to as budo spell. It makes your art come to life.

Zanshin is a large and complicated word, but let us start with this one question to begin the exploration of Zanshin's ways...When does a technique end? At what moment may you begin to focus on something else other than your uke?

Most Aikido schools practice like this...uke attacks. Tori/nage does a technique. Suddenly there is a neutral time from when the impact from the fall happens to the set up for the next attack.

This is fine, but this is not the high level stuff. There is no magic in practicing like that. There is no focus that leads to those Zen states of mind.

In aikibudo we should strive to be aware of space and connection at all times.

When the uke sets up to attack, we become connected. He attacks, then is thrown. Now is when most people end the game - but really it is just beginning.

Most people practice like uke is slain upon impact to the ground. Many styles even pose in a deep kamae to look cool. The primary concern after is thrown is...is uke restrained or...is uke far away enough/in a difficult enough angle he cannot affect me after the throw.

When I practice with Aikido folks from different schools, I always throw them from the ground - by grabbing their legs and pushing. They seem very surprised like a whole new world opened up to them. Funny, Judo guys don't seem to have this problem.

So the rule has to be - while the throw is happening tori must be moving to a safe place. Once uke lands, they should be given permission to continue the attack if they feel like they can.

This picture is called "Zanshin while uke falls"

So now we assume, Tori threw uke and the correct distance was maintained. Is the technique over? I say no. You can be relaxed and calm, but keep the focus. Intently watch uke as he rises from the floor. The whole time correct distance and focus must be kept. Uke - as you rise from the floor keep focused on that guy who just threw you. Maybe he is showing a weakness as you rise - another window of attack.

This is part of Zanshin. This is the remaining energy. The focus remains sharp throughout the practice. At all times, uke remains dangerous. At all times tori remains focused. I promise you - train like this and it will transform your practice.

Here is an excellent zanshin article

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

2 forms of Randori

These guys are doing some interesting wrestling. I have trouble saying they are practicing aiki though. Using the randori method of training is a tightrope walk between reality training and non productive training.

You see, they are moving to fast for their skill level. They are trying to fabricate technique when there is non to take.

I would like to digress for a moment and talk about calligraphy.

When I moved to Japan I started the practice of calligraphy. I was not interested in the stiff forms, and learning the proper brush strokes. I wanted to do the large swirling pieces of art. I wanted randori, without studying kata or understanding the principles of the art form. My calligraphy looked like a train wreck.

Similary just jumping into randori, you will get a similar result. You must learn the principles, so technique will emerge. A strong philosophy of what you are doing must be in place.

What I am seeing in this video is crashing energy. I am seeing people trying to throw, then people trying to feel. I see people afraid to lose, so they are willing to violate the rules and principles of the art they are trying to learn.

Here is a video of what we consider randori at KyuRyu AikiBudo. Me and Mike could easily attack each other to the point where we would be struggling - rolling around on the ground biting each others ears off. We have to slow down, and attempt to obey the rules of our ethics and art form. We are allowed to counter, but we are not afraid to lose. We walk the line of reality training and training at a speed where we can actually learn.

I suppose either method is practice. But like Kano Sensei taught, I am searching for maximum efficiency with minimum effort.