Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Subtle Kuzushi With Hips

Here at KyuRyu we have not been filming much lately. But today I accidentally brought my camera. We have not been working anything flashy. Instead the focus is on smaller and smaller drills focusing on different expressions of balance breaking. Today I was inspired by the TaiChi classics and all it's writing on hip movement. Typically my martial work is based on foot movement, so we has fun switching up the game.

What is happening here? My partner is pushing into me, nice and even. I have to negate the power of his push with my hip motion. We found we could break the persons balance and walk them down a tight rope for a good amount of time. After we filmed we added arms and stepping and were throwing people crazy across the mat. But in the film you get only the small boring stuff, because that is the only important work.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweeps in Kendo

I found a film with old kendo with sweeps added in. I like! Its about 3 minutes in before any action happens.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Throws and Grappling in Kendo

When I lived in Japan, I studied kendo. I enjoyed it, but I always found it limiting. Also I often found myself in position to do aikido or judo but of course this was forbidden. After a little research have found that old school kendo used to have a little more teeth.

I found these pictures from the early 1900s kendo. It looks more my speed. Sorry about the goofy looking photo layout here, but having some tech issues.

More cool old Kendo pictures

I think adding kendo into a judo and aikido workouts like this would be a fascinating study, really bringing all the engagement ranges into play in one game.

A thread I found on Kendo World - written by a man named Ben.

"I recently interviewed my 84 year old sensei about this very topic. He had some interesting things to say about it.

First of all he said there was no time limit to a match, and no shiaijo boundary, so no jogai rules. There was only one shinpan, a sensei who sat on a chair at the side. The only criteria for ippon was that the sensei-shinpan felt the strike would have been effective if delivered with a sword. The matches of course were ippon shobu. Basically it was very much more simple then. With no jogai rules, no time limit and only one judge, there was no need for what we might nowadays call "transparency" or even "the appearance of consistency". IOW there was no rule book like there is today filled with rules to cover, in some cases, the most obscure and unlikely eventualitites.

Nagae sensei told me of how often-times an engagement with his opponent would lead to multiple techniques and take them all the way across the budokan floor. With no reaction from the sensei/shinpan, both shiaisha would eventually stop (and here I imagine them looking at each other before shrugging their shoulders...:D) and then voluntarily return to a point roughly in front of the sensei (again there were no lines, so no "x-marks-the-spot"). No call of hajime or yame, so they would start again upon mutual agreement. Sometimes, he said, if there was no score for a long time, that would be when the grappling techniques would come out, in which case whoever was able to rip the other's men off (or maybe choke-out their opponent?) would be the winner.

In this kind of kendo I think the shinpan was more like a duellist's second: someone who was there only to make sure there were no heinous violations of etiquette (like one of the two combatants drawing running away), not someone who was there to "run the match".

Nagae sensei said that he remembers competitions between university teams starting in the morning and not finishing until midnight. He also told me that during the war he visited the Toyama Military Academy where his uncle was a kendo instructor. After training with him, Nagae sensei's uncle said his kendo would "never be killing kendo" (Nagae sensei holds shodan in juken-jutsu as taught to all wartime uni students, so he certainly knew killing techniques). When Nagae sensei told me this he gave a hearty laugh. And rightly so. How could his uncle have known that it would be Nagae sensei's more "humane" kendo that would evolve to spread across the globe, and the Toyama Gakko's "killing kendo" that would die out?"

original thread

I found a film with old kendo with sweeps added in. I like! Its about 3 minutes in before any action happens.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kano - jita kyoei 自他共栄 in judo

Kano Jigoro Sensei, the founder of judo, taught the core ideas behind the practice of judo are jita kyoei 自他共栄 (calligraphy on left) and seiryoku zenyo 精力善用 (calligraphy on right). My previous discussion of seiryoku zenyo is

Typically I see the characters for jita kyoei 自他共栄 translated as "Mutual Benefit", "Mutual Benefit & Welfare", or "Mutual Prosperity". In my experience as a student of budo and language, often the translations are not literal, but poetic interpretations of the original language. So let's take a character by character breakdown and see what we discover.

I now have access to a Chinese calligraphy site. The images I am posting are in the kaisho 楷書 on the left, and the ancient seal script 篆書 style on the right. Here at The Dragon's Orb we aim to educate!



So the first two characters make up the idea of 'jita' - "self and others"


The above version of the character looks to be the simplified Chinese version. You can see from the image on the right it had more strokes till recently. For those with good vision the original looks like this 榮. The modern Japanese has also been simplified, but the angles of the lines of the top radical are slightly different 栄.

be prosperous

So let's construct the most literal translation.

1. Self and others together prosper
2. Me and others both prosper

Lowry Sensei uses the translation I like: "you,me together shine"

I feel like the common translations work pretty good for getting to the heart of the message, "Mutual Benefit", "Mutual Benefit & Welfare", or "Mutual Prosperity". However it is interesting to note that idea of benefit is implied and not literal in the Japanese. 'Flourish' and 'Prosperity' are the original ideas presented.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Judo Texas Style

Yup folks here is a little judo in action from my hometown. Looks like on St Patrick's day someone had a little too much to drink. There is some rough language, but the violence is tame. No one gets hurt, a.k.a. perfect judo. Thanks to my judo buddy Douglas Smith for sending it my way.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dropping Versus Lifting in Judo

I went to the Round Rock Dojo last Friday. I walked in ten minutes late, and apparently the ferocious traffic had gotten the best of the rest of the class too. Everyone was late except for two beginners. They looked relieved that I had shown up. They had a book cracked open and they were copying the movements in it, fairly well too!

I watched what they were working on, and it instantly struck me the inefficient motion I was seeing. They would position themselves for a seio nage shoulder throw. They positioned themselves underneath their opponent, then they used the muscles of their legs to lift the person onto their back. Here they would stay, essentially doing a leg press to push the person away from the Earth. That is a lot of energy being used to throw. A judoka has to push himself up and a resisting opponent all with a few leg muscles with this kind of throw.

Here is an anvil. It represents weight. Imagine it as your weapon. Is it more efficient to drop it on an opponent, or lift it up with him on top?

Here is the deal in throwing arts people, The Earth is our weapon!!! Gravity is the tool. The floor is the target. If you are pushing away from the target, you have a conceptual problem and are doing things inefficiently. Your center is an anvil that you can drop where ever and when ever you want in the conflict.

It seems like many judoka are actually weight lifters. They try to fit in just so they can strain and grunt to lift something away from Earth just to drop it back down again. It works great if you are bigger, and stronger but this path has a dead end. In my humble opinion it violates the principles of the art form. It leads to injuries and strain. It assumes strength is a more important factor in technique than structure, technique and gravity. Weight lifting judo is an immature form a judo.

The high level teachers I have trained with are usually older, weaker and smaller than myself. They all realize one thing - gravity is a constant force pulling them and their opponents down. The softest and most effective judo comes not from lifting weights, but BEING WEIGHT. Why fight against the forces of nature, when effortless energy comes simply from the act of bending our knees, letting our center drop and becoming heavy.

Efficient judo is not lifting weight of a stable structure against gravity.

Efficient judo is loading weight on a opponents crumbling structure at angles that are difficult to recover to. Let your fat butt and gravity do all the work for you. Even one level better - use your opponents fat butt AND your fat butt. That is a lot of free and easy downward pulling energy to exploit without a single pound of lifting force.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

seiryoku zenyo 精力善用 in judo

Kano Jigoro Sensei, the founder of judo, taught the core ideas behind the practice of judo are jita kyoei 自他共栄 (calligraphy on left) and seiryoku zenyo 精力善用 (calligraphy on right). My previous discussion of jita kyoei 自他共栄 is

精力善用 Seiryoku Zenyo read from right to left.  I assume this is a Kano original.

Above, 'seiryoku zen'you' 精力善用 read right to left.

'Seiryoku zen'you' is a phrase the founder of judo Jigoro Kano often wrote as a calligraphy piece. Generally the idea is translated as "maximum efficiency with minimum effort." This is idea is generally regarded as one of the core driving philosophies of the noble art of judo.

Recently I have started working out with a sports focused Judo group again, and their ideas about this are very different than the teachers I have had before. They are trying to use and increase strength and power in order to score their throws. I feel this is a prevailing attitude in much of the judo world. It is also one that has a lot of proven success. On the other hand there is also an approach to judo that focuses on using minimal use of power while gaining maximum effect. I have had some teachers that successfully do Judo with less than 8 ounces of pressure. The great judoka Mifune was said to have 'air technique' or technique that was so soft it felt like you were fighting air.

So let's turn our attentions to this guiding principle of seiryoku zenyo 精力善用. I have found typically there are many ideas that can be found in these Japanese sayings that one translation alone cannot capture. Often too we accept other people's translations without investigating for ourselves the deeper lessons the characters might have to offer.

a spirit, a soul, energy, vigor, be expert, refined, fine

strength, might, power, force, authority, influence, agency, assistance, support, effort, exertion, energy, vigor, ability, capacity, resources

So these first two characters combine to form the idea of energy.

精力 - seiryoku - energy; vigor; vigor; vitality

good, goodness,virtue, a good deed

business, use, service, employ, take, adopt, apply, for

善用 - zenyou - good use

So probably the most basic translation seems to be 'good use of energy'. Using a bit of poetic license I thing we could say "efficient energy'.

Interesting the idea of 'minimum effort' really is not mentioned, rather is poetically implied as being a necessity of 'good use of energy'.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kokoro dojo - New judo group in Austin

Tonight I stopped by the new Kokoro Judo group that is forming. Interesting they are probably less than a mile from the KyuRyu Dojo as the crow flies. More Judo in South Austin! Hurray! Luckily too, their nights are opposite KyuRyu's nights, so hopefully there will be a little cross flow of people in the future.

The group is being headed by a Salvation Army employee, Glenn Macias. Glenn is a really nice guy. He immediately welcomed me in. While he is sporting a brown belt, I can tell he comes from a lineage of tough grading. We did some gentle uchi-komi and I could feel he has skills beyond his grade. He also has the backing of some of the University of Texas judoka and a handful of middle aged yudansha looking to help coach some sportsman.

They are meeting at a hall in the Salvation Army building, 1001 Cumberland in Austin. It seems to be some sort of community center sponsored by the nonprofit. The room is spacious and has a lot of potential. Glenn has been collecting some really nice mats, that I am really impressed with. While I might not want to be dumped on them, the mats were perfectly great for a workout.

No bones about it, they are a sports focused school. There was much talk about competitions and new rules about leg grabs that has turned the judo world up down. I have not trained in a sports focused club since I lived in Japan and I found the approach very alien. I personally will never have the urge to compete again, but after listening for a while I enjoyed the very different perspectives. Although my own training is philosophical and idealist in nature, I almost found it refreshing to hear people talk about the merits of power in judo. Because even though it is not how I choose to train, fact is power can be a useful tool, and the very least they will offer me some power to try to negate through my soft judo idealistic training.

Talking with Glenn it seemed like his real focus in the future will be to launch a strong youth sports program. Glenn seemed to indicate that the focus of his energies will be to kick that off.

It seems like this young club has some good elements in place to make it really work. I am looking forward to having a relationship with these guys, even though my personal interest is not in sport judo I know I already learned a lot of new perspectives. My real main interest is in budo and in relationships and I think these guys deserve whatever support the KyuRyu dojo can give them. Already they had readers of the KyuRyu blog joining the group tonight! I plan on showing up as often as i can or until they get sick of me.

We look forward to having a potential sister dojo in the neighborhood. If it doesn't work out then maybe we can have cool street battles for control of the hood! Just like on Big Trouble in Little China!

At the time they don't seem to have a regular schedule. Facebook seems to be their main way of communicating. (Though their facebook incorrectly states they are the only judo group in town! What about us guys?)

Kokoro Facebook

Friday, March 12, 2010

The panic response in Tai Otoshi

Tai Otoshi, the body drop technique of judo. It's a lovely technique that I am currently trying to really wrap my head around. How can I make it work more bullet proof?

The most prevailing thing I feel when it is done unsuccessfully on me is this.

My opponent spins around and enters for a tai otoshi. Generally he blocks my leg too high up with his leg. It causes my knee to lock straight out. The my opponent tries to force me into the throw, but I am a trapped rat. I have no safe and easy landing path. I am worried about my leg, and there is no easy fall out of the position. My nervous system's response is to fight against the action any way I can.

So what causes many throws to fail is that the uke's nervous system is getting triggered to panic. Nervous systems will always do that in a pinch. That's why we have them, to keep us safe.

So what we need to consider when we are designing a techique is..

a. How do I do this with out panicking my uke?
b. Have I given uke a safe path to travel down?

After playing around with this idea, my first thought was to eliminate the tripping leg, I want uke to feel free to move and fall where I am guiding him. By putting the leg in the way I am trying to trap him. The nervous system does not like the feeling of being trapped. Instead I want his nervous system to feel like it is escaping harm. Doing it with this attitude the person will not panic.

After playing around with this for a while it suddenly struck me that I was reinventing the wheel. One of my judo teachers Matl Sensei, 9th dan, throws tai otoshi like this. Not only that, but it is the only technique I have on film of him doing from the seminar we had last April. He demos it at 23 seconds into the film.

This link will take you right to the throw.

Matl Sensei teaching tai otoshi

One of the interesting things that I see in this video, is that Matl Sensei throws this as pure te-waza, hand technique, which by definition tai otoshi should be. Most people's versions are really ashi waza, a foot stopping technique or a trip.

It has been a year since I have gone over this technique with him, but some of the things I feel when I work with him are (on a right side throw)

-he keeps his center over the left leg
- the movement of his right leg out shifts uke's center over uke's own right leg, but Matl seems to keep his center over his left.
-Where the head goes, the body follows. His head scoops are very soft. He is not putting pressure on the head.

Or watch the whole film

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dreams of Tai Otoshi

The 'body drop' is in my head. Last night I watched videos of the body drop throw for about an hour.

As I lay my head to sleep a line of Japanese gentlemen attacked, and they received a tai otoshi. Then my teacher Russell Waddell Sensei appeared and I tai otoshied him over and over.

I woke up at 2:20 am and felt a little late night brain fry. "Damn, I need to relax on the Judo a bit" I thought to myself. I hit the can, then went back to bed.

Kyle Sloan Sensei appeared in the cloud of dreams and received the brunt of my tai otoshi fury. Perhaps because he is from Oklahoma he received the worst of the throws. Then Ota Sensei my old Daito Ryu teacher. Then a hazy cloud of others....

Dear world,

My brain is preparing to tai otoshi you. You have been warned.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

judo is a puzzle

I got the judo bug bad right now. It is a challenging chaotic game. The lines are energy are not clean like in aikido practice. Nothing ever seems to work out like I plan it.

I was reading a judo book a while back and the author phrased a certain judo attitude interesting. He talked about solving the opponent. Interesting idea that, to solve an opponent. Not defeat, not overcome, but solve. You see each engagement on the mat is a puzzle.

Words are useful tools for changing our understanding and results. So let's look at the word puzzle and see how it relates to our budo practice. Perhaps 'puzzle' is a useful word to retool our attitude of the problem at hand.

puzzle - a toy contrived to test one's ingenuity

I think that is a lovely alternative definition for Judo.

1. To baffle or confuse mentally by presenting or being a difficult problem or matter.
2. To clarify or solve (something confusing) by reasoning or study: He puzzled out the significance of the statement.

Judo mind is a walk down yin and yang. It confuses and frustrates, while later enlightens. The problems that judo present me are a gift. I find that if I meditate on any particular problem long enough I can overcome it.


1.To be perplexed.
2.To ponder over a problem in an effort to solve or understand it.

To ponder. Yes that describes my relationship with judo well. I am often astonished at how ineffective I can be with my hard trained technique. Every obstacle is a gift. Indeed like the old Zen phrase goes, "the obstacle is the path." Like a koan, or zen riddle (a form of puzzle) a judo problem rattles around the brain and infects the judoka. The drive to solve the puzzle is what makes the judoka grow.


1.Something, such as a game, toy, or problem, that requires ingenuity and often persistence in solving or assembling.

Yes persistence in solving. Puzzle indeed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Waddell Sensei's visit

Russell Waddell is my teacher and friend of the past 15 years. I feel truly blessed to have an old friend that calls up and drives down from Dallas just to play with us. He has been a supporter of our dojo from it's creation, a time when I could not get some teachers to even return my phone call, much less support us.

This time he had an interesting tour. He stayed in Austin for a night, then went up to Killeen's Full Circle Dojo for two days. He worked his unique balance breaking exercises with the KyuRyu guys. Then Waddell Sensei and I had a long randori session.

On Saturday, I picked up Hussey Sensei from the Round Rock Dojo. We traveled up to Killeen to work out the the Full Circle crew. I got to spend the better part of the day doing Judo randori with the Fort Hood soldiers that are part of Duncan's crew. I also enjoy corrupting Duncan's students with my latest insights on aikido.

I am pleased with my progression of my Judo game. There are still many holes in my understanding, but I am remaining relaxed the whole time now. I focus on moving wherever my opponent tells me to move, and I am mostly avoiding any hot spots of tension and pressure. Now some more work on fitting in!

Overall great weekend! Every muscle in my my body is now nagging me. The Full Circle crowd, Waddell Sensei and Hussey Sensei made this an excellent training experience.

Also this week we re-canvased the mat. The new golfing green we made looks lovely. It needs a good wet vac to soak up some of the extra die, but it is good for the Feng Shui of the place to have that old canvas replaced.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Kyudo Arrow

At KyuRyu Aikibudo we have been busy this week. Kono Sensei last weekend. We installed the new mats this week. Waddell Sensei is in town to train. Shibata Sensei is lecturing this weekend. Not much time for blogging I am afraid.

However I did find this film about the physics of an arrow, that I thought was really amazing. How does energy transfer down a shaft and remain stable in air?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oba (Obha) Sensei

Hideo Oba Sensei was Kenji Tomiki's good friend and training partner. Together they formulated much of the syllabus of the Shodokan system of Aiki. He took over as head of the system after Tomiki Sensei died in 1979.

I have never seen a film focused on Oba Sensei before. I am glad this one surfaced. While technically my own aiki is moving away from this stylized kata form often seen in Tomiki players, I still find it interesting to see the work from the lineage of teachers that my own practice is rooted in.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Politics in American Kyudo

I am a new person to the world of kyudo. I do not really know people, and I do not have deep relationships yet. There has been a bit of turmoil in the world of American kyudo and I watch fascination of the process. All organizations have a flow of energy to them, and when it becomes sick the organization crumbles.

Evidentially much of kyudo in America has been run by one man, Shibata Sensei who is based out of Colorado. He has traveled and taught for many years. He built an organization. Now people are breaking off from him, and all the drama associated with it follows.

Here is a letter recently sent out detailing some of the goings on. Even though I am not involved I do find it interesting as a case study in budo politics and the ebbs and flow of an organization's energy.

Letter about Kyudo politics

Monday, March 1, 2010

Political Debate

There is a long history of politicians getting into it. Fights happen through votes, smear campaigns, fist fights....and yes judo!!!!