Friday, July 31, 2009

How to treat your students

I finally finished the first battery of course work for my teaching certification for public schools. This week there was alot of inspired teacher talk. "You make the difference in a child's life!"

"A child will perform to your expectations if you believe in them" We were being taught by a master level teacher Mark Benthall whose passion for education flowed over the crowd.

I was talking with one of my spiritual guides a few years ago, Master Aaron. We got on the discussion of the Dali Lama. I am heavily influenced by Zen thinking but there are some things my intellectual mind doesn't buy. I asked "Master Aaron, do you really believe the the Dali Lama is the current incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion? Really?"

Master Aaron responded "What if you were to take a child, and tell him that he is one of the most important holy men in the world? What if you you were to give that child the best education and surround him with other holy men of the highest caliber? What if you respected that child's words and honored him?"

What if you were to genuinely tell every child that they were here for something very important? What if we made them believe they were responsible for leading us and teaching us the most important lessons?

Thank you for the lessons Master Aaron and Master Teacher Benthall for reminding me how I should not only treat children, my aikido students...but really how I should treat all people. They are all special.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Life Giving Sword

No one came to Aikido practice tonight. It gave me some time to think about magic and the concept of the life giving sword.

An Interesting Fight

I don't really watch fights very often. Every once in a while I stumble upon one that I think is interesting.

Here we have a fight between two kung fu fellows. One has a kicking strategy and the other has a judo like strategy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Taxonomy of Throws

Currrently over at the Kaze Uta Budo Kai site a few of the fellas are debating the technique that is used in this video. Some vote gyakugamae ate, others vote gedan ate.

conversation at Kaze Uta

A few weeks ago I was working out with Hussey Sensei. I asked him to tell me the names of the techniques he was using. "I don't use techniques, I use principles." Many teachers say that, but Hussey Sensei really does it.

Hussey Sensei's comment got me thinking about the conversation we are having about gedan ate versus gyakugamae ate. Really techniques and there names are learning tools. While useful at a certain level of our development, I think at a certain point they cloud our minds that simply want to move in freedom and create aiki.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What makes a great teacher?

Currently I am going through my teacher certification training course for elementary visually impaired children. One of the questions they keep posing to us is what makes a good teacher?

This has really struck me, not so much in the world of formal education, but in the world of budo. Examples of excellence shined through.

I think in the martial culture we have built for ourselves, having a teacher that can beat us up is almost irrelevant. Of course technical insight is important. But really the ability to lead a drill or game so everyone can learn is the primary roll of a martial arts. Really the set is stage so we can teach ourselves this stuff.

My teachers inspire me. Inspiration is a funny thing. Every time time I meet one of my teachers, I am usually looking for my one little gem. It is usually a moment I feel them doing something I had not noticed before. I then scurry back to my dojo and attempt to recreate the gem for the next 4 months or so. This is how my inspiration works.

I think great teachers bring people together. They are the center of a networking world of other experienced budo men.

All of these other attributes are irrelevant compared to the teachers ability to invest in a relationship with you. I am now excited to be at a position in my martial career where my teachers call me and email me. We chat about the ins and out of esoterica. I travel more and more to hang out with cool people, or I bring them to me and my students to spread their warmness and influence.

My teachers are my friends. They have knowledge and simply want to experience the richness of sharing their explorations. They inspire me with their words and actions, and I work hard to make them proud of my practice. I only pray that the people that call me teacher feel the same way about me. I have big shoes to fill, but I have good role models that we show me how to walk the path.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Old Chinese Fella

As we age the way we train we reflect in what we can do. Here is a neat example of an old Bagua man at play. I hope I am this cool when I am 94.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Aikido calligraphy in tensho

It is a hot summer Sunday in Texas. Tis time to play with brushes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New video found of Ma Yue Liang

This is a video I found of my favorite push hands player Ma Yue Liang.

From Wikipedia;

Ma Yueh-liang (Chinese: 馬岳樑; pinyin: Mǎ Yuèliáng; August 1, 1901 - March 13, 1998) was a famous Chinese teacher of Taijiquan. He was the senior disciple of Wu Chien-ch'uan, the founder of Wu style Taijiquan, and married Wu's daughter Wu Ying-hua in 1930.

I have posted many of his videos before, but I keep uncovering new ones!

Wikipedia of Ma Yue Liang

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cold Steel Tanto

I love my tanto. I had wanted one since I was 14. I used to go to the knife shop at the mall every week and hold it. Finally I ponied up the cash last year and purchased one.

One of the KyuRyu guys asked the other night how much damage a knife would do. Used well, I am sure they are terrible to behold.

Here is the famous tests of people pushing them through car doors and such.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Christianity and Martial Arts

Father Photius is a Greek Orthodox Priest and a 9th dan. Here is his response to "martial arts seduce you into worshipping demons"

That is a very involved question. There are fanatics in every aspect of religion. I do not associate martial at all with religion, I wasn't taught it that way, and I find no "spirituality" in it that is God centered. Ueshiba belonged to a sect of shintoism that could be allogorically compared to the like of a very pentecostal holy roller sect compared to most fundamental protestantism. He imposed his religious beliefs and thoughts into the martial art he taught. He did not learn it as a religion, the Daito-ryu he studied was not taught with religion attached. Ueshiba certainly "softened" the practice, and he imposed his religious beliefs through his philosophy and "do". But his students did not always do this, even the homburyu does not really embrace the shinto sect he belonged to. Goza did not follow it, nor did Tomiki. Certainly Karl Geis does not follow it, and he is the one from whom my current practice of Aikido comes from. Neither Karl, nor Tim Joe, my direct instructor tried to put any theology, faith, or moral philosophy into what they taught.

My Okinawan karate instructor was a Roman Catholic, and he imposed nothing "spiritual" into what he taught. My Tae Kwon Do instructors did not try to infuse any spirituality into what they taught.

Is there discipline in martial art, yes. Is there discipline in faith, yes. Is there discipline in the Military, yes. Is there discipline in education, yes.
It is clear that mankind when he applies discipline to any endeavor seems to succeed better at it.

Martial art is doing. Faith is doing. You cannot write about, discuss, and philosophy about martial art and be effective with it, you must practice, train, and do. Those who practice hardest, train the most, do the best.

The same can be said for those who approach their faith with this "do" attitude and practice diligently at it and train themselves to act upon it and under its dictates. Addition of "religion" to martial arts is something that came after the fact. It was not from religion that martial arts sprang.

Men from the most ancient of days have tried to impose their religion and beliefs into their many endeavors. One must recall St. Benedict was the father of "scholasticism" in which he utilized elements of study to practice of faith. These practices, philosophies, etc. are methods men use as tools to try to help them learn to practice their beliefs.

Like any tool it can be used and abused. It is a tool, it is not an end to itself. Anyone who tries to make martial art his religion, has martial art for a religion. There are many "gods", and we of Judeo-Christianity have a commandment, "I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt have no other God before me." "Christ told us in the sermon on the mountain "Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, and then all things shall be added unto you."

Orthodox Christianity is very Eastern. It does not have a western mindset like the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches have. Many ideas in western christianity come actually from the Renaissance and not the living experience of the Church or the Scriptures.Secular humanism actually has many elements found readily throughout most western christian confessions.

It is easy to condemn something that you don't understand, or fear, or find useful to you to condemn for numerous purposes to advance your agenda. After all the High Priest and the Sanhedran condemned Christ.

To say that we received the fullness of the revelation of God to man in the person of the man/God Jesus, the Christ, and that we have that faith transmitted to us without change, neither added to nor taken away from , from the time of the Holy Apostles is a solemn statement. It does not mean we must live and behave exactly as the people did in the time of Christ in the vicinity of Jerusalem, though many would insist it should. Unique since most of them have no clue of what such a life was. It is not a condemnation of technological advancements, growth of civilization etc. Men change and need to change, to change from the corrupt beings we are towards God. We were created in the image of and "AFTER" the likness of God. That means while we were created to obtain Godlikeness, that man, when created had not yet attained that. Adam fell before attaining that.

In Adam's fall we lost the prototype. How can we know what true godlikness in man is, if we have no model? God became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus, the Christ. In Him we know what true godlikeness in man is and we try to emulate that, to become "Christ like" or "Christian."

The church has many tools to assist us in this, the divine mysteries, the scriptures, the writings of the fathers, the witness of the saints, the teachings of the Holy Apostles, prayer, symbols, many things, but each is but tools to assist us and only aid us when we use the tool properly as God intended for it to be used. To try to find God by some other method than the one he gave us is futile. He who is the creator of all things knows the path and has shown it to us. Men since the time of his coming have been trying to find alternatives and other ways, but there is only one way. Men have elevated many things to a human concept of divinity, all fall short of the glory of God.

Men have professed many "new" ways, but none are the true way. To speak of martial art and religion in the same sentence seems so ridiculous to me. I can draw analogies between my faith and a lot of things, but that does not mean because I can draw an analogy that the thing used becomes a new tool or sanctified.

Yet, all things are possible with God, and if God can use something to bring someone to Himself, He will. God does not sin, nor bless sin in any way. In fact the very definition of sin is "missing the mark" or being "off target" thus outside of God and God's will. Yet many a man has come back to God because of some Sin. It does not mean God blesses the sin, it does not mean God caused the sin, it means that God will use all means to bring man to him.

Man has a free will and God does not intervene in it. If He did, then the will would not be free. Free will is nothing more than the ability to choose to love or not love God. Love cannot be compelled, if it is, it is not love. Thus, for man to truly love God, man must have the ability to choose to not love God. While we often try to infer Free Will to many other choices that is really the only choice we have, we either Love God or we don't. Every choice or action we take is either in His will or outside of it. If in, we keep His commandments, and as Christ told us, "He who loves me keeps my commandments". If outside of God's will, then we are in Satan's will, there is no other, we think it is our will, or the will of someone else, but the reality there is in God and out of God. All outside of God is evil and all within God is Good. Men think we can keep one foot in each, but the reality is , if we do that, we really have both feet outside of God.

It is wrong to make your religion a martial art, and it is wrong to make a martial art your religion. It is wrong to make a political philosophy your religion, and it is wrong to make your religion a political philosophy. God created all things in this world, and this world as Good. Man by his sin corrupted that. The corruption is man's not God's.

Monday, July 13, 2009

martial arts seduce you into worshipping demons

Do you know how Satan can use "doorways" including yoga, martial arts, and meditation, to bring demonic destruction into your home?


No, not really.

In the past few years a few potential students have asked me if they could still be a Christian and practice aikido. I guess that is a fair question. I myself walk a different spiritual path but my aikido teacher of the past 15 years is seriously into the work of J.C. So, of course you can be a christian and study aikido. OSensei himself said aikido completes all religions.

I never really thought about the reality models people construct for themselves. Some people believe and teach that are haunted by an unseen enemy - one that creeps into every aspect of everyone's life. That includes the martial arts.

A few years ago I thumbed a religious propaganada book called "prepare for war"

I looked at it originally because I thought from the cover it was cool that Jesus was using a light sabre. My eyes perked up when I saw the line "yoga and martial arts seduce you into worshipping demons." This book also includes such statement as the strength gained in martial arts is really demonic power. It also includes the lines that began this posting "Do you know how Satan can use "doorways" including yoga, role-playing games, and meditation, to bring demonic destruction into your home?"

Now I myself laughed this stuff off as crazy talk. It is the work of my own country's religious extremists. However this kind of "fear" talk really makes the humble martial artist a target in the eyes of those who believe this information. It makes our teachings and way suspect.

I thought this was a minority opinion. Then I started finding these....Pat Robertson here has some interesting lines steeped heavily in ignorance of the martial way.

Then there is the lady at the beginning of this next film.

Jesus did not instruct us to use cars, eat fajitas or use the internet either.

I will conclude with this thought.

Both religious practice and martial arts can bring peace, tranquility, and a enhanced connection to the divine. I will also state that both religion and martial arts will invite darkness and negativity to your life.

What is the difference? What makes a healthy practice of religion and martial arts versus a corrupted practice?

the Individual
Power and it's use
the Practice

I know my martial arts practice has these qualities that "lights the lamp that chases away the darkness". I hope your religion does too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Parting Wild Horses Mane Applications

One of my favorite bloggers, my friend, and an older version of me is Dojo Rat. You know with the intro of "older version of me" he must be a force a nature.

(Dojo Rat is the Washington Wooley guy on the right)

Dojo Rat Blog

Recently he posted a blog about a yang style tai chi posture called "parting wild horses mane". I enjoyed the blog, and found myself inspired. I have a sweet tooth for tai chi even though I have never formally trained in it. I believe Aiki, Ju and Tai Chi all are pretty much shooting for the same thing. The only separation lies in some of our training methods. I myself try to use any of the training methods I find useful for my goal.

Here is a short film on how to do Parting Wild Horses Mane in form.

After researching the applications for this motion, I found the Tai Chi guys were often applying it like this next fellow. You can see more application videos on Dojo Rat blog.

After watching these tai chi fellows, I wanted to add some thoughts about angle of execution, energy generation and demonstrate some slow applications I came up with. Again I am not a tai chi guy, but maybe you tai chi guys can start stealing our aiki ideas as much as I try to steal yours. As usual, learn from what you like and learn twice as much from what you don't like. I had to keep it slow because I had a newer student that could not yet take some more dramatic falls.


Sean Ashby asked a quesion on the Kaze Uta Budo Kai site....

"What is the appropriate way to use the term "sensei"? At what point does a person become or start being addressed as "sensei"? I would imagine that opinions vary on the subject, as would various schools and arts, so I'm curious to see what folks might have to say."

Nick Lowry responded...

"in the budo tradition we come from, typically after 4th dan students and peers may use the term sensei to refer to a teacher-- though in Japansese culture in general,
who serves as a teacher may be refered to in this way -- Later, after 6th dan you hear the term shihan or "leader of men" used as well, though the term sensei is still also completely appropraite reguardless of rank--
as with all honorific titles and ranks it is coinsidered rude and arrogant to use such terms to refer to oneself -- a point widely overlooked in the west where such usage has become an ugly form of advertising --

For myself, i am pointedly embarassed at my own (unknowing) misuse of such in the past -- i see that i was just following the examples of my role models, but i did not yet understand how my models were themselves being rude and arrogant

there are also a variety of other honorific titles that have been misused over the years which are missappropriations form other ranking systems-- i think it is best to just avoid them entirely"

And I say.....

What??? But I am the Sensei Strange!!!

Let me explain something about myself. I have degrees in Anthropology and Psychology. Like Indiana Jones, I was sure when I moved to Japan I was going to seamlessly blend into the culture, mastering the language in days. Contrary to my fantasies I remained a giant, fat, larger than life, boisterous heavy beer drinker. Much of my fitting in involved dancing on desktops (much to coworkers horror) staging fire shows, pouring Tequila into the city mayor until he ceremoniously vomited over a banquet and levitating cards in classrooms. I have a flair for the dramatic after all.

Let's get one thing straight I know I am going to catch a lot of crap over the goofy name. Fact is though I am a sensei. I would never refer to myself as that in conversation. I am a professional educator. That is all sensei means.

In 2000 I was writing articles for a few Zen and Budo online magazines. I found no matter how well crafted and insightful I wrote, no one would remember my name. One day I was teaching an English class and I performed a bit of dance and ended with a magic trick. I heard one of the students gasp - "henna sensei" which means strange teacher.Then in a flash "Sensei Strange" came to me. Well aware of the Japanese language conventions, I started using it as a pen name. Instantly I became memorable. Interesting thing about art - how you frame it is as important as the art itself.

So I adopted Sensei...not as a mere title. I adopted it as my pen name!!!! Again, I proved myself to be a white, bearded Godzilla plowing through Japanese conventions.

I ran the name by some of my Japanese friends as a stage name for the magic act I was developing. They all gave it an enthusiastic yes vote. Then slowly over the next few years, being a shameless self promoter of magic I introduced myself as Sensei Strange more and more! It became my real and only name for almost everyone I now know in some circles. It is my professional freak name of sorts.

Then it came time for me to open a dojo. I explained for all my students not to call me sensei. Eventually I stopped fighting it. The title/name became an avatar to aspire to fill. I had to live up to my own legend. Yes I have the proper qualifications to take the sensei title in several martial arts now. But still I do not think of myself as the exalted budo sensei. I am a teacher though, and budo happens to be just one of my forums.

That's my story. Is it arrogant and rude to call yourself Sensei? yup. Magicians are special though. Martial arts magicians are double special. We can trick you AND trip you. Plus really pretty people like me can do what we like. :D No, I am just kidding of course if you couldn't pick up the jesting nature from the text alone.

When I wrestled with this pickle I found myself in, I threw caution to the wind and decided to continue to pillage Japanese culture - with reverence! Like in calligraphy and aikido, if you really know the rules - you suddenly find you can break them! I know the rules. I choose to break them, and ironically I find it silly when I find someone else breaking this convention. haha - ain't life a kicker! Do as I say, not as I do. It is all a goofy game.

I am now the Sensei Strange, sometimes online and on the magic stage. I have business cards and a website to prove it. Do I like the name? - not all the time. But for now it seems to have stuck.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Aiki Tanto pt 2

Here are some yoshinkan tanto techniques. They are a little dry and boring, but a good basic practice I guess. I am not hot for aiki weapons training that is simply get off the line a stab. Surely we should be using the tools to aid in real energy transference between people. I like weapons work that still breaks the structure of a person down to cause kuzushi. I also like to see flow drills with the weapons work.

This next film is interesting, but not very Aiki. Good to see how a really aggressive knife fighter might attack. This competition gets brutal, but it is still worth a watch.

I think if the fighters had real fear of the weapons the results might be different.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Aiki Tanto

In the weapons bag of any classic aikido man, they will have three training weapons. Of course a bokken, representing the katana. Depending on the school training in this weapon can be quite extensive. Then the jo is also a popular tool. This can represent many things, stick or spear. In the Tomiki system much of the jo work is based on the bayonet techniques from World War 2.

Then there is the tanto. The use of the tanto is rarely taught. It is the weapon we train to strip away from someone else, but never learn to use ourselves in the classic style. At Kyuryu we have been adding more aiki tanto into our work to develop our work, and I highly suggest it.

(I keep the above beauty, a cold steel tanto next to my bed. Tis love my friends)

About a year ago and a half ago we filmed some of our tanto work at KyuRyu. Looking back on this video, it is not our best work. It was our first go at being creative outside the system I was taught. I suppose there are some nice moments in there. But I humble myself and offer our basic jam session of a tool of learning. Learn from what you like and from what you don't like. The next version will be much better - you betcha!

Now here is some cool Aiki Tanto.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Finishing and Restraint

Here is my writings on the Kaze Uta Budo Kai site. A question was posed about finishing holds, and how many of us are drifting away from this practice.

For the full thread

I have read several teachers say Aikido is 60 percent ground restraints - and I have felt my own practice move away from that. When I was focused on Daito Ryu EVERYTHING ended in restraint. When I was training with Waddell and Fowler in the 1990s 70-80 percent of technique ended in restraint. One of the guidelines Clark Sensei had was to try to restrain while standing so you can deal with the next guy when he comes in. The only techniques I recall going to the knees was shiho nage and ude gaeshi. As I recall, Clark said in a seminar back then he never really liked those restraints.

Even though I have been a little lax about restraints, we continue to keep the engagement dangerous even when uke is on the ground. He has the right to sweep, pull down and trip tori if he can. This rule has helped us maintain zanshin, good post-waza maai, and it helps lead into more dimensions of Aiki problems and solutions. In Matl Sensei's Judo he insists we reach a place of strength and safety within one step after the throw. He does not emphasize the locks in class, but says if you really need it step on their face. Works for me.

I say there is a curse in much of Aiki. It is the notion that Uke * dies upon impact *and fails to be dangerous while on the ground.

Perhaps we should start randori with one person on ground and one person standing. Alternate positions and who initiates the attacks. I betcha you would get some interesting results.

Another thing to consider - when Daito Ryu was my focus, the restraint typically happened in the moment between throw execution and uke hitting the floor. By the time uke finished falling he was typically already 90 percent restrained.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Aiki in Juggling

I try to infuse all my art forms with lessons I learn in Aikido. Here is a sample of my Aiki juggling. I try to move as smoothly as possible, listening closely to the energy of the balls. When they tell me to move to a new pattern I follow their energy. The goal is to not clash, and move from one thing to the next without breaks in flow...sound like Aikido?

I sincerely believe we can infuse the ideals of Aiki in almost all of our artistic and creative ventures!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

10 yard Aiki

I am an iconoclast.

I learn my Aikido now by tearing apart the principles in order to disprove them, or at least to find loopholes in the rules. I challenge now, what as a younger aikidoka was fact expounded by the system of training.

I have found in the past few years a handful of teachers who have a hard time playing by the strict rules that a larger educational system lays down. Search for efficiency at a ranges of human interaction and conflict!

For the past few years I have been teaching a very passive and reactive Aikido. Matl Sensei kicked my butt a few months ago and noticed "you have no attack!" Hussey Sensei has a very, not aggressive, but active and engaged style as well. My previous theories of passivness were not incorrect, but they did not cover the whole of the Aiki experience. There is always more to learn. There are more facetrs and aspects than any one man can ever learn.

So I became involved in the martial arts at the age of 11 in 1985. I was getting beaten up by the football players at my middle school. I grew to hate football and everything about it. I have only seen a few games in my whole life. Then it occured to me they are playing a high speed game of Judo with a ball. It also struck me how difficult it would be to take down a 350 pound, 25 year old athlete fully armored and traveling at 20 miles per hour.

Maybe they are practicing Aiki too. Of course they are going to research the most efficient methods to reach their goals. Sure they collide energies. I have always been taught collison is an Aikido no-no, but is it?

I watched a few football tackle videos, and laid out Waddell Sensei with one. He laughed and joked that I wasn't allowed to do Judo with Matl Sensei anymore, thinking I had learned my technique from classical martial arts.

Maybe we are all searching for maximum efficiency with minimum effort. maybe there are just a sick few of us that can keep up one game, or one flavor of it, for our entire lives.

So without further ado...check out some tackles. If you have been doing martial arts long enough I bet you will start naming off technique names as you see the people go down.

I have never watched a "how to" football video before. They talk a lot like martial artists. They go through safety concerns, and most effective strategies to putting energy into the opponent.

So how is that for being an iconoclast? I am even throwing out and challenging my own thoughts and teachings, and looking to the art forms I had shunned for inspiration!