Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On top of my game

I spent two weekends ago training and drinking with a man who will be a judo legend. I spent today traveling around my city with the head a martial system who is a scholar, sage and his beautiful wife. We laughed, smelled flowers, bought tea and ate the finest tacos and ice cream the city had to offer. Afterward another great teacher and friend called for an hour conversation about the art and way. This weekend my teacher of 15 years is coming to sleep on my couch.

I am truly blessed. I am living the art. I never dreamed to be so lucky.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Zdenek Matl Sensei - Shime Waza

Has been some magical times around the dojo lately. Nick Ushin Lowry has been visiting and spreading good times and cheer. He kicked my butt. I have gotten to train several times this week with the brilliant artist Hussey Sensei. He kicked my butt too. Matl Sensei dropped some neat judo choking techniques on me. He would have kicked my butt, but he spared me. Instead his student Cory, a newly appointed sensei in the art of judo, kicked my butt.

So special order for my buddies Kyle and Greg in Oklahoma, we filmed Matl Sensei doing a choke sequence on me. His chokes are freaky. He barely puts them on and I feel my eyeballs swell. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Training with Zdenek Matl

I had the honor of being invited to go train with Zdenek Matl, 8th dan judo, at his beach house dojo in Port Lavaca. The experience was challenging and rewarding. The event helped me gain an understanding for the man and his passion for the art of Judo. I had been waiting for a year to be invited to one of his training sessions. So of course the night before my brain was boiling with fever. My fever broke at 2 in the morning so come 11 in the morning I bounced out of bed, trying to convince myself I had the strength. Mike stopped by to pick me up and we made the three hour drive.

When we arrived Matl Sensei walked out of his ocean front dojo and greeted me and Mike with an unusual, "Watch for snakes!". What? I thought to myself, snakes? When we walked in the house there was a picture of a previous guest holding a 7 foot rattlesnake over a stick. The words "MAYBE YOU WILL NOT BE SO LUCKY" is written below the picture. I turned to Mike with my best Samuel Jackson impression and said, "there are snakes in this this mother !@$#%@^& dojo!"

Then the training began....

After doing 6 hours of training with him on Saturday evening I think I can say with certainty that the man is a Stalin era Soviet super solider project. How else could you explain his super human energy? He never stops. I think the only reason he gives breaks is so the rest of us won't die. After 4 hours of training he wasn't even sweating and the humidity was 100 percent! Did I mention he is almost 70?

One interesting fact I picked out from his stories is the reason he left Czechoslovakia around 1980. He was active in anti-communism movement. He said that the main repercussions against dissent at this time was not against the protester, but against their children. He said his children had been tagged and would never be permitted to have education or employment. So he left with his family for America. Brave man.

One of the things I noticed about Matl Sensei is that he always trains with the class. Even at his respectable age he does throw for throw with every single person he trains with. He is not a side line Sensei. I suppose honestly maintaining his training for over 50 years has helped him gain that freakish endurance of his.

I can say with certainty that Matl's judo is unique. He has taken ownership of his own art and removed techniques and applications that require the the of power or lifting. From my experience Matl's training program is largely centered around a core group of ashi waza, or foot techniques. The techniques all fit together nicely to create a wave a continuous attacks. I have only done shiai with him once and it felt like he cut my supporting leg with every step I took.

One feature that seems a major theme in his application of the art is head control. In the majority of his techniques that I have been exposed to, scooping the opponents head and controlling it close to your own body is of vital importance. Whether you are face to face, or are turning in to do a uchi mata - head control (at least in his basic waza) are present in the many of his teaching techniques.

Another feature of his judo style that I have not felt in other artists is that it feels like his body is crunching down the whole time. It looks and feels like he is doing an abdominal crunch as the main energy generator for his technique. The effect is that his body becomes a collapsing ceiling on his opponents weak structure. Maybe it is not the main energy generator, but it might be the way he promotes loading weight to cause kuzushi, or the crumbling of the opponents structure. I will have to think about it and ask his opinion.

On Sunday we worked more of the Goshin Jutsu style techniques, rather than the Judo shiai techniques. With the arm and wrist techniques I found some ground to disagree with some of the applications of his ideas. I believe mostly because I have some strong opinions about them coming from an aikido and aiki-jujitsu background. I get the feeling Matl is not a big fan of aikido, and his arm techniques reflect it. Overall his versions were still effective and solid, they just felt,well...different. I guess they felt like a judo masters versions of the techniques, rather than the aikido versions my nervous system was used to feeling.

What a great weekend. 8 hours of training with a great bunch of guys and a wonderful teacher like Matl. Overall I can say, every time I train with the man I come away with months of things to ponder and work on. He has fantastic, effective and soft judo. His methods will remain a path of my refinement of my own art and a basis for things to come. The influence of his Judo will forever be on my work.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dueling with Ushin

Me and my teacher Nick Ushin Lowry

My friend Nick Ushin Lowry recently had the honor of being published by Aikido Journal (again). He detailed his thoughts on the difference in the attitude between do and jutsu.

From Nick Ushin Lowry at Aikido Journal

I think much of what he has to say is accurate about the dual mentalities that are present in students of the martial path. However I believe he chose the wrong line to draw, that between jutsu and do.

The reason I am responding is this line.

"On a most basic level JUTSU is the madness of violence and DO is the sanity of nonviolence."

First I would like to weigh in on what the real difference between 'jutsu' and 'do' is, then I would like to take Ushin's idea and modify it so the model he uses rings truer my own ears.

What is the difference between jutsu and do? I have belts that end in both suffixes. I have heard arguments and seen the fingers pointed back and forth for much of my martial life. I have seen all my teachers draw the line between the arts with their own intrepretations and spins.

In my years in the dojos around the world I have seen 'DO' arts. I have trained with Judo men that are singly obsessed with victory in sport, to the point they taught how to cheat. I have seen ego sick aikido masters cultishly control through fear and guile. I have seen hazing of students in the kendo dojos in Japan. Of course I have also met my greatest friends and teachers in the halls of 'do'. I have had the richest experiences of my life and have traveled far and wide to train with people I consider family. This too is 'DO"

In the 'jutsu' dojos which Ushin wrote, "JUTSU is all about winning and killing." I studied quietly and serene. My teacher watched closely the students, and any ego or 'fight' was taken shaved away from our technique. In the halls of the Jutsu dojo I learned deeper meanings of the harmony between people and training. I had challenges that polished my spirit and helped shape me into a better man. Then again the country is awash with men covered in blood championing the word jutsu as the ultimate form of combat, and they sure want to prove it.

What do these words mean 'DO' and 'JUTSU'?

Simply jutsu refers to art. I myself find the word art to be almost a sacred one. In my personal journey through life, art and the act of creation for the sake of creation has given my life a deeper meaning. My quest for art shaped my community, helped me find my wife and is my lens through which I view the world. The word art itself does not shape this intention for violence that Ushin proposed.

'DO' does speak a little more directly to the spiritual nature. It means path or way. I believe Kano Sensei, the founder of Judo coined this art suffix to point out the character and moral development he wanted emphasized in his art. I think he did the martial world a great service in pointing this out, but he did not invent the wheel. He was clarifying intention.

So what is the real difference between 'DO' and 'JUTSU'? Nothing. There is no difference. Sure you will find technical differences between schools, you will find attitude differences in all the personalities you find, but at the end of the day The people and arts that constitute 'DO' and 'JUTSU' are exactly the same. Period.

Now Nick's division in the arts do exist. There is a duality between our violent and spiritual natures. He hints to the answer of where to draw the line when he talks about 'self'.

Within us all are the yin yang binary of light and dark and the myriad shade of gray. No matter what art you study the moment you choose your path starts first with intention and ends in choice. Intention and Choice. This is the line that divides the noble, spiritual and moral goals of the arts from chaotic violence.

Intention is the plan or the map. It is the principles we strive for and train hard to obtain. Intention is the slogans we cover our dojo walls with and the lofty goals we read the great masters write about. But as we all know the path to Hell is paved with good intentions, and as we walk the path with our map of intentions, we often find the road forks. We make choices in our techniques, and in our lives that send us either closer to our higher goal or further away from it.

So friends, do not point fingers at 'JUTSU' as being the path of violence. Do not look to 'DO' for your salvation. Look only to yourself, and the way you organize you world around you. Only you can set your true intentions and only you can make your choices. There is nothing in these arts that fall outside of personal responsibility. As O'Shaughnessy wrote "We are the music makers. We are the dreamers of the dream." Our training and results are a reflection of our internal drive, no matter if it ends in 'DO' or 'JUTSU'

Thanks Nick for being the Muse. I am especially grateful for having a teacher that I am not afraid to randori with. Jita Kyoei!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Problems With Restraint - Exit Strategy

I am not sure how many martial artists have had to restrain a person before outside dojo conditions. The dojo can get rough as it is, but the real world problems are often difficult to divine.

Let me introduce some of my experiences. From the mid to late 1990's I worked in residential treatment centers. They were a motley mix of highly intelligent criminally inclined gang youth. The facility members were all low pay with high staff turn over. The staff shared power with the youth - barely, which is a bad recipe. The institution had a bad system. The youth were intelligent and bored. They were strong from seemingly non stop push ups. Violence in some form was part of everyday life in the residential treatment facilities. Power struggles were the day to day operation. Sadly due to the circumstances that we had to work in, restraints happened often. In some places I worked I participated in them several times a day. One day I recall I did something like 6 restraints. It was a bad deal, but I learned a lot of valuable lessons in those times.

Restraints Take Time

If you are going to take away someone's ability to move, the process of keeping them on the ground is going to take time and energy. Whether you move in arrest techniques to keep them permanently detained or if you are simply going to talk the person down from their anger, be prepared to spend some time with the person. In the incident I got into with the drug crazed maniac early this year, I spent a good 20 minutes keeping him pinned, then another 25 minutes moving him off premise to the waiting hands of the police.

Catch and Release

So now you find yourself pinning someone down. Now what? You have to let them go eventually. Of course how you do this depends on the situation but usually there is a period of negotiation. You have to give a person their freedom back in stages, as they demonstrate to you they have regained control of themselves. Let freedom become their choice.

Here is a sample dialogue of how to release a person from a hold. Of course the situation ALWAYS varies. This dialogue might be enough in real life, or it might take twenty minutes. But the conversation is a negotiation, and you have to respect the other person's rights and powers in the conversation.

pinned guy - You stupid *@#$%^^&&** I'll kill you!

Budo guy - Well looks like you have two choices, I break your arm or I let you go. Which do you want?

pinned guy - eat $#@%#^#.

Budo Guy - the broken arm then??? (tightening hold)

pinned guy - ok, ok, ok....

Budo Guy - ok what? Do you want your arm broken or to be released?

pinned guy - *^%$#$@ let me go!

Budo Guy - Ok I will let you go, but you have to show me you are calm. Are you calm?

pinned guy - I'm $#@%%#%^& calm

Budo Guy - No swearing. You don't sound calm to me. Are you calm?

pinnned guy - I am calm...I am calm.

Budo Guy - Good. I am going to relax my hold on your elbow here. I want you to remain cool. If you start going acting crazy again I am gonna snap it in tight again and it might break this time. You don't want that do you?

pinned guy - no

Budo Guy - (relaxing hold) there. Feel better?

pinned guy - yes

Budo Guy - look I really want to give you your arm back. But here is the deal. I can't have you acting all crazy. I really want to trust you. Can I trust you?

pinned guy - yes, you can trust me.

Budo Guy - Great. I am glad you are talking with me now. Here is the deal. I am going to trust you. I am going to put your arm beside you, to get all the tension off of it. However, you got to just lay there for a minute and talk with me. After I trust you are cool again, I am going to go buy you a beer and we are going to laugh about this ok? However If you acting a fool again, we are going to tangle and I am in a better spot here buddy. I don't want that. let's be cool ok?

pinned guy - cool.

Budo Guy - Here is your arm back. It might be a little sore tomorrow but no real damage. Just lay there for a second and relax. In a minute we are going to get that beer and everything is kosher right?

pinned guy - right.

Notice I am trying to keep the conversation tight and controlled. I ask questions at the end of every statement. I am giving him choices and power with every correct response, and making things worse with every incorrect response. He chooses his own destiny. Be cool. Be respectful. Steer energies towards the positive conclusion no matter how big of a schmuck the guy is.

Hope this helps! May you never have to restrain another person!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Problems With Restraint - Positional Asphyxia

In the dojo, our safety training is almost always focused on safety in the dojo or our own artificial laboratory conditions. After all we want to train and play safely. Often though we fail to look at real life consequences or dangers that our techniques possess. After all if we are merely trying to protect ourselves using a throw and the person hits their head, our soft techniques become inadvertently lethal. This happened just a few months ago in my fair city. A young man died.

For those of us in grappling and restraint arts there is a danger I have never heard a single martial arts teacher lecture about. The danger is positional asphyxia. When we train and our partner can tap out when they are uncomfortable. However if you have ever restrained a strong, angry person you will know the problems continue throughout the restraint. What if they keep fighting? What if they remain angry and dangerous? What if you are morally/legally bound to cause no injury to the person?

Often a long restraint gets tighter and tighter. The person being restrained has a feeling of helplessness and will exert energy beyond their means to keep the fight up. There is always scratching and biting involved. Nothing is like in the dojo, the conflict does not end with a cheery tap. The conflict can go on and on. People DO DIE from the act of being restrained.

From Wikipedia

Positional asphyxia, is also known as postural asphyxia, is a form of asphyxia which occurs when someone's position prevents them from breathing adequately. A small but significant number of people die suddenly and without apparent reason during restraint by police, prison (corrections) officers and health care staff.[1] Positional asphyxia may be a factor in some of these deaths.

* Positional asphyxia is a potential danger of some physical restraint techniques,
* People may die from positional asphyxia by simply getting themselves into a breathing-restricted position they cannot get out of, either through carelessness or as a consequence of another accident.

Research has suggested that restraining a person in a face down position is likely to cause greater restriction of breathing than restraining a person face up.[2] Many law enforcement and health personnel are now taught to avoid restraining people face down or to do so only for a very short period of time.[1] Risk factors which may increase the chance of death include obesity, prior cardiac or respiratory problems, and the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine.[3] Almost all subjects who have died during restraint have engaged in extreme levels of physical resistance against the restraint for a prolonged period of time.[3] Other issues in the way the subject is restrained can also increase the risk of death, for example kneeling or otherwise placing weight on the subject and particularly any type of restraint hold around the subject's neck. Research measuring the effect of restraint positions on lung function suggests that restraint which involves bending the restrained person or placing body weight on them, has more effect on their breathing than face down positioning alone [4]

There is a degree of controversy amongst researchers regarding the extent to which restraint positions restrict breathing. Some researchers report that when they conducted laboratory studies of the effects of restraint on breathing and oxygen levels, the effect was limited.[5] Other researchers point out that deaths in real life situations occur after prolonged, violent resistance which has not been studied in laboratory simulations.[6]


* a position that obstructs the mouth and nose (“upper airway”); or
* a position that causes hyperflexion (extreme bending-forward) of the neck,
so as to obstruct the trachea (the largest “lower airway” passage); or
* a position that causes restriction of the chest or diaphragm –
a position that impedes or prevents the MECHANICAL means of breathing;
* OR a combination of any of the above-described asphyxiating positions.

The above is a slice from the following excellent website. Look at this link and inform yourself about the realities of the consequences of your restraints

From Great website about positional asphyxia

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tax and Balance

The martial arts are a deep study in how to use efficient energy. Budo also is a study of balance. I often see the world through expressions of the yin and yang - how to balance energies.

While in the dojo we play with muscular energy, gravity, the energy of stamina. But business is often a part of budo too. We have to make deals for the space to train, for the lights to come on, and supplies we train with. Money is a quantification of energy and it too can be seen through the lens of yin and yang. Too much spending is unbalanced yin and will kill an organization. We must have balance.

So today I call in a guest author to talk about unbalance of energy in our system, my Dad. This is not a right versus left wing issue. You simply have to pay your damn bills no matter what your political agenda is. If you don't, the system is sick and unbalanced, and it will break down.

The following is a picture of my Pops at my wedding, if you feel like arguing with him. He showed up with a battle ax, got real drunk and wheeled off. Apple don't fall far from the tree, eh?


In honor of tax week, I figured I would give you some insight into exactly how much Washington is spending and how they are spending it. On average, of course.

* In 2010, Washington will spend a record $31,406 per household.
* In 2010, Washington will collect $18,276 per household in taxes.
* The $13,130 difference between spending and revenue is our budget deficit per household ... on top of all prior government debt.
* Since 2008, government spending has increased by $5,000 per household. That's in just two years folks.
* Over the last decade, government spending has increased $10,000 per household.

Now, considering that Washington spends $31,406 per household .. here are the highlights:

* Social Security/Medicare: $9,949 per household
* Defense: $6,071 per household
* Antipoverty programs: $5,466 per household
* Unemployment benefits: $1,640 per household
* Interest on the federal debt: $1,585 per household
* Veterans' benefits: $1,052 per household
* Federal employee retirement benefits: $1,018 per household
* Education: $914 per household
* Highways/mass transit: $613 per household
* Health research/regulation: $550 per household
* Mortgage Credit: $470 per household
* All other federal programs justice, international affairs, natural resources, the environment, regional development, farm subsidies, social services, space exploration, air transportation and energy: $2,078 per household

At the same time that our government has seen fit to spend more money that it has ... the number of non-payers (there are people without income tax liability) has increased by 59% in less than a decade. The number of non-payers grew from 32.6 million in 2000 to 51.6 million in 2008. At the same time, the total number of tax filers only grew by 10%.

This is simply unsustainable. Our country absolutely cannot survive this slide into fiscal hell. We're at the point where only a minority of working Americans actually pay for the operation of our Federal Government.

This debt clock is nutty.

debt clock

Monday, April 12, 2010

Current Judo Will Not Produce Judo Master

I have been a busy fellow lately working, studying and training. I found this article on Judo Forum and I thought it was worth spreading.

original post on JudoForum

This is a really interesting interview with Isao Okano about the current state of Judo. Atsushi's father translated the original article. Atsushi posted this on Facebook. It's a long read so take your ADD pill prior to reading it.

Article: “Current Judo Will Not Produce Judo Master”
Source: Kindai Judo, Jan. ’09, monthly periodical

Interview with Isao Okano, b 1944

In 1964 at the age of 20, Okano won the Gold at the Tokyo Olympics in the middleweight division. He was called ‘Showa Sanshiro’ after Kano’s favorite student.

1965 – Rio/World Championships – middleweight – Gold
1967 – All Japan – won Open Division (weight less than 80K)
1969 - All Japan – won Open Division
Retired competition at 25
Presently teaches at Ryutsu Economic University

Plea – for judo to survive

Interviewer: The world of judo is more and more moving away from the concept of ‘ju yoku go wo seisu’ (strength can be overcome with flexibility).

Okano: That’s correct. Soon, people will start thinking judo is not fun and that we should get back to the old judo. I wonder whether they would have the energy to do it the old way. One of the bad things about current judo is that it is a suit-style judo; it’s no longer kimono-style, as in Kano’s day, with room in the sleeves. Also, judo should be open division, little guy with the big guy.

Interviewer comment: Kano Jigoro, who designed the kimono style judo gi, designed it with many types of techniques in mind, judo being very dynamic at that time.

Okano: That’s right. If you have the kimono-style gi, you could fight two very different sized opponents, by using different types of gripping. In jiu jitsu time, the jiu jitsu gi was very small, very tight.

Interviewer: That gi had no sleeves.

Okano: That’s right. Jiu jitsu’s main purpose was to put down and defeat by power. Judo is about exchanging techniques. This is the reason why jiu jitsu has no sleeves. The purpose in judo and jiu jitsu is different. When judo started, the larger gi was accepted with no question. Exchanging technique was the goal, not defeat as in jiu jitsu. After the weight categories started, judo became smaller and smaller and has become suit-style now, something more limited.

Recently, a judo-gi distributor told me of being approached by a player who requested a gi made with sleeves shorter and tighter. Of course, the purpose was to make it more difficult for his opponent to grip. He was thinking of his advantage only and about winning.
Interviewer: Have the Japanese Judo Assn somehow rejected this suit-style judo?

Okano: They need to clearly explain why this type of gi is not good. Merely making a statement of opinion is not enough. They need to explain why this sets limits for judo and if they continue down this path, it will no longer be judo.

Interviewer: The idea of ‘ju yoku go wo seisu’ is diminished?

Okano: Yes, you have to grip your opponent to exchange technique, but now players don’t want their opponent to grip at all which is further aggravated by getting penalized for not attacking. That’s why this incomplete timing ends up frustrating the player and results in non-dynamic judo. You are unable to perform any combination. It becomes a one-technique attack. I feel sorry for competitive players today.

Interviewer: Under these conditions, will a lot of technique disappear?

Okano: Yes, that’s right. When I teach judo to newcomers, I teach ‘o-o-goshi’, this technique is holding your opponent at the hip and throwing both their legs over. This will cover leg, hip and hikite. Next step is tsurikomigoshi, then uchimata, then taiotoshi. This kind of teaching is very basic. After you master these, the student will say they want to learn ‘so-and-so’s’ uchimata. Then if they can do right and left technique, this will be a significant improvement. This kind of step, no one is teaching. In my opinion. if we teach this way, much more technique can be presented to the student - this is part of that. Also, they will discover techniques that have no name yet. For example, I am the only one to do my type of ‘osotogaishi’. If we don’t name a technique, then it is only for that one generation and is lost. This is why I’m making a video of this so that others can use it and it is not lost.

Interviewer: I understand. You need to name a technique to keep it. “The time will come when judo needs to look back.” I’d like to ask directly this question of you. In the future, can current judo produce the master of judo?

Okano: No way. Not only can there be no master of judo, but will judo survive is the question.

Interviewer: No more master of judo will come and judo is that much on the edge?

Okano: Good judo is something that even a non-judoka will look at and feel is beautiful.
Currently, the level of judo does not approach that beauty. For example, if you try and teach seioinage, the current judo-gi prevents you turning your wrist, the gi is so tight. Japanese judo players are a little bit better than foreigners whose gis are very tight. It is truly hard to turn your wrist.

Last time there was a championship at Kodokan, they used new rules; these new rules concerned gripping and made it easier to watch. I think this was a good thing.

Interviewer: New rules also included no more koka.

Okano: That’s right. It is very difficult for referees to determine on koka and yuko. If it’s wazaari and ippon, the referee will find it easy to determine, however, only wazaari and ippon means that fighting time is longer and they left out koka which is a good decision for judo rules. Judo rules should be simple to understand for non-judoka. Currently, a referee looks at a rulebook in his pocket - this should not be. If it’s that complicated, they will lose the fans.

Interviewer: How do we get back to original judo?

Okano: In Japan, judo is in decline; even new coaches such as Mr. Shinohara and Mr. Sonoda are not going to change things. The entire foundation needs to be changed.

365 days camp will change judo.

Okano: For example, to change the foundation, I’ve been doing ‘sho-ki-jiku’ style. Currently we have five or six camps in one year; this is not enough, it should be 365.

Interviewer: Is that the 365 day camp?

Okano: Good coaching and choosing judo players who stay in the same place, live together, and do judo – this is a 365 day camp. We used to do this way. If they do so, they will be able to fight at one more weight level. After Beijing Olympics, Ishii left judo and became an MMA fighter. The ones left were very weak I think. Straight talk, these people could not keep winning in world championship levels. Most people belong to a company/they are working – the company is not going to pay to improve their ability so they only do All-Japan’s camp or they go back to their old college and practice. This kind of limited practice will not make them strong.

Interviewer: In what way exactly do you feel they are weak?

Okano: They have no power in their technique and they don’t have stamina. If somebody tries to fight up a weight level, how many judoka could fight up one category?

Everybody is going their own weight level. I’m not saying you should do open division, but in practice they should be thinking of open division. They will develop stamina and get power in their technique. If they keep up like this, they could fight up three levels. Then they would be able to compete on world level. The idea is a 365 day camp, like sumo beya. There should be maybe 4 or 5 clubs like this, training together, staying together, eating together, then you can send the strongest players to the Worlds.

Judo – please survive.

Okano: I don’t like the relaxed feeling we have in the dojo – they practice in a very relaxed environment. They need tension to practice over and over. It’s good-friend judo practice. Each university has a program but they don’t visit each other. Between players and coaches, there is not a tense relationship. They practice what they like to practice – they don’t prepare for stronger than you or bigger than you or they avoid who has an unusual style. In Japan, one of the reasons for judo’s weakness may be the rules or judo gi, but this is the biggest reason. I visit SJSU every summer in America and sometimes I look at the Japanese students who visit San Jose – most people are wearing t-shirts under their gi. American judo players don’t wear a t-shirt unless they are catching cold – usually they don’t wear that. They shouldn’t be wearing t-shirts under gi, but Japanese students wear them. What are they doing judo for? Judo is training in sometime winter or summer training – this has meaning. Most people bring a water bottle in the dojo and they drink when they want to drink. There is no set-tone. France has tougher rules and are more like the original protocol.

(Weight categories should go back to light, middle, heavy and open. Then open division idea will remain.)

Interviewer: First, coaches should change their idea. In Okano’s time, everyone thought about open division, now it is different.

Okano: When we were doing judo, basic thinking was open division. Then, Tokyo Olympics started it – light, medium, heavy and open division. I think they should bring back light, middle, heavy and open divisions. Right now, there are seven categories, so everybody thinks only of their own category. Nobody thinks about open division. The purpose of seven divisions was to develop judo for different countries; there could be more medals. Judo is now all over the world, this has been accomplished.

Interviewer: That’s right.

Okano: Judo is now all over the world, however, the quality is down,. How are we going to bring back the quality? At this point, bringing back light, middle, heavy and open is the best idea and quality will go up. If you can’t fight off 15K, that is not judo. When I was doing judo, I won middle weight then and as soon as I graduated college, I tried the open division. One problem was, I was too light. If I didn’t gain weight, they will put me in middle division -I didn’t like that so before the tournament I ate so many riceballs and in the middle of night I ate, I ate in the morning and I didn’t go to the bathroom until weigh-ins were over. Sometimes I had 2.5 K dumbbells in my underwear before I weighed in.

Even lightweights should go up a weight if they want.

Interviewer: Is that right? That much you wanted to go to open division?

Okano: Even now, some smaller person want to beat a larger person so even a smaller person should be able to go up a division. They can easily change this in the rulebook if they wish. That way, even the open division idea will come back.

Interviewer: Surely that’s right. That’s not a difficult thing to do. If you don’t do that, the idea of ‘ju yoku go wo sei su’ is not going to develop. In order to bring back original judo, it’s going to be very important to do judo education and also to teach young kids how to teach young kids. That’s the question. How do you teach the young kids.

Okano: Currently, there are too many judo tournaments. If they have too many, the kind of technique used will be limited. Judo players want to win, so they will use what has worked before. This is not a good thing for judo. Tournaments should be only twice a year. My basis thinking is, do good judo.

Interviewer: Good judo?

Okano: Good judo is first good standing technique. There are five points to do this:
1) Keep good posture
2) Learn how to use ‘tsuritei’ (wrist and elbow) when you are a beginner, you must learn this.
3) You learn movement including ashi waza.
4) You find out your own best technique
5) Do good ukemi.

There is a lot of meaning to do a lot of ukemi.

Interviewer: Good ‘ukemi’?

Okano: You will improve if you do more and more ‘ukemi’. You cannot cheat. If you do more and more ‘ukemi’, your body will become more relaxed and you’ll be able to adjust. The person who doesn’t like ‘ukemi’, their body movement is not flexible. The reason to take a lot of ukemi is so that you’ll not worry about getting thrown and you will attack again. If you keep doing that, your judo quality will go up. That’s why it is very important to teach kids how important ukemi is.

When I was a kid, I started doing ukemi and did only that for three months. I understand if you try and get the kids today to do like that, they won’t consider it “fun” and they will quit. That’s why you must make sure that while you’re concentrating on ukemi, you teach some ne-waza so they don’t get bored. Maybe instead of a tournament, you have a ukemi exhibition where the best demonstrate and the students can see how it looks.

Jiu jitsu overcomes judo ‘newaza’.

Interviewer: If you keep doing good judo, its future will become brighter. You mentioned that judoka need their own special technique

Okano: There are not many people, even among coaches, who have their own special technique. A player with his own special technique is fun to watch out for (when will he use it?) but nowadays there are few like that, so it’s very disappointing.

Very few, even coaches, can do newaza. Recntly, jiu jitsu is very popular in U.S., and I was wondering what is jiu jitsu because what they’re doing is judo’s newaza. Jiu jitsu is largely an imitation of judo and they bring sambo technique like a knee-lock or leg-lock. The level was lower than judo’s newaza, but they are practicing only newaza and become better. Even imitation becomes better which grows confidence.

I have a friend who has a dojo in Brasil and some Japanese judoka went and my friend said to me: “My dojo is not high level jiu jitsu but my students beat Japanese judoka easily.” I was so surprised that Japanese judoka were so weak in newaza. I believe it is so because the coach doesn’t teach newaza in Japan. In America, judoka say that in order to win over Japanese judoka, you should go to newaza.

Interviewer: Is that so? As soon as possible, they have to make an effort to do newaza. Is there a good training way to become strong?

Okano: In order to make a srong newaza, why doesn’t Japan put on an All-Japan Newaza tournament? You have to do that, or Japan’s newaza will get weaker and weaker. In other words, the player who doesn’t have confidence in newaza will have less chance to win. If in gripping time an opponent puts their knee on the mat, the player with good newaza will always have an advantage. Currently the problems with gi or rules it is hard get your grip for tachiwaza. Most people can be very competent newaza in two years. However, if you start newaza before tachiwaza, then your tachiwaza will not get strong and you will not have confidence in tachiwaza. This is why when you have some confidence in tachiwaza, you should then start newaza. Some people say in order to develop good newaza, one idea is to do newaza match. You start tachiwaza, but even the person who throws, there is no point until newaza starts. I think this is a good idea for practice to develop newaza.

Ishii (Olympic champion) moved to Kakutongi (like MMA) in Japan.

If he hadn’t done this, with effort, he would have made another level in judo.

Interviewer: That’s interesting. I think to reinforce newaza is very necessary. Before Beijing Olympics, Ishii judoka visited Okano-sensei. Did you give him some advice on newaza?

Okano: No, I didn’t give him any advice. Especially because this was just before the Olympics. If I advised about technique, it would have confused him, so I did not mention anything about technical matters.

Interviewer: Is that right? What do you think of Ihii’s judo?

Okano: His judo is getting more stronger. Even he has become champion at this point, he is not complete in his judo. His judo is only ‘attack’ so opponents can easily study his judo. Someday he might hit the wall. The next step is to let his opponent attack him and have counter. If he does this his judo will become complete.

Interviewer: Is that right/? But Ishii moved to (MMA in Japan).

Okano: That’s right. So quickly he decided to go to (MMA).

Ishii judoka, please do not wear judo gi in the ring.

Interviewer: If Mr. Ishii loses after moving to MMA, will that be shame for Japanese judo?

Okano: I don’t think so. This was his decision and he’s not fighting as a representative of Japanese judo. What I want to say is personally, please don’t wear the judo gi in the ring.
In the past, some people have worn judo gi in a ring – every time I’ve seen this, I do not like it. To clarify, I’m not disapproving of Mr. Ishii of going to MMA, I just don’t want him to wear a judo-gi .

Interviewer: The judo gi for a judoka is a pure thing?

Okano: That’s right. The judo gi is designed and made to do judo in. If someone decides to do some sort of MMA, then just wear shorts, but not a gi which represents Japanese judo. Why doesn’t the judo association make a rule about this? If they make a rule, martial artists will understand so it will be clear.

Interviewer: By the way, currently, Okano Sensei is teaching at Ryutsu Keizai University. I don’t mean to be forward, but what are you thinking of after you retire?

Okano: I’m thinking about a lot of things. I’m thinking about opening a dojo or maybe go abroad and help support judo but I haven’t decided yet.

Interviewer: One more thing, I’d like to have your opinion on.

Okano: Over and over I mention about world judo hitting a wall. When they think about judo at the time, I’d like to leave some technical info in a book or tape to help judo. I believe I should do this. What if there is no document there, then judo can’t go back to its roots.

Interviewer: This interview is very hard for a coach or judo player to hear. If it bothers the reader, that is because they love judo and it disturbs their thinking so I hope this interview will find those that love judo.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Learning from poor example

Now I don't mind if people are not good at martial arts. Really it's cool and normally I wouldn't even bring it up. But check this guy out. He rolls on a whole new level.

A website about the man

The juicest bits from the above website:

Stefano Surace sensei holds the highest official Ju Jitsu grade in the world, recognized in Japan: 10th dan Menkyo-Kaiden, member of Nippon Seibukan.

The Dai Nippon Butokukai was the Imperial Martial Virtue Association until the end of WW2. The best masters of the 11 most important Ju Jitsu schools were brought together there and were in charge of elaborating a synthesis of the most efficient techniques of each school.

Particularly rational and structured, this "supreme method'' was only taught to a selected élite which refused to ensure its diffusion after 1945, for the sake of coherence with its Japanese traditional ethics.

By an exceptional combination of circumstances detailed in Surace's book (available in French) "La plume et la main vide'', the last holder of this method is now Stefano Surace.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fat Buddha and Belly Rubs

Several years ago I was reading the book 'Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind' It is a lovely little book on meditation. A follower of a carpenter walked by and made quite a awkward scene, "how can you worship a fat man?"

I responded, "Well, I do not worship Buddha. He was teacher that was trying to teach people how to live a spiritual life. I do not know how he got the fat guy image because through much of his life he was an ascetic, and he spent a great deal of time starving himself."

My zealous assailant sneared a "you are going to hell" as he walked away. Not a pleasant fellow.

This question about Buddha's health came up today when a coworker asked about why the picture of Buddha on my desk was lean, when all the Buddhas at her Chinese restaurant were fat. I had a pretty good idea, but I researched it and here is what I found.

notmrjohn at Answer Bag wrote to this query...

The "Fat buddha" is not THE Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and strictly speaking the statue is not an idol.Buddha means "one who has achieved a state of perfect enlightenment" and there are several people who have been given the title. Siddhartha lived from around B.C. 560 to B.C. 480, it was not until around 127 BC that statues actually depicting him became prevalent.

Before that, and still today, statues of the Bodhi Tree and other objects associated with his life were common. Of course by then nobody knew what he really looked like, he was from a noble family and had been described as tall, slender, and of "manly build", but that may have been just because that is what people expected "Nobles" to look like, we still expect that today, few movie heroes are short and squat. And the image of a fat overfed Buddha didn't fit with his teachings, and an "enlightened one" might be so enlightened as to disregard material needs like eating, probably not to the extent of the Hindu mystics but probably influenced by them. The style of the statues was influenced by the various cultures that influenced all culture in the sub-continent (India), Greek styles early on, then Roman, Persian and others. And by the cultures in areas where his teachings spread, and now we finally get to the Fat buddha. Buddhism reached China around 100AD, and was wide spread there by 600AD.

And we get three theories on Fat buddha, each one probably reinforced the others over time.

1.First the physical image of a Noble was different as was the concept of the results of enlightenment, a Noble was not athletic or a warrior, but a well fed person of leisure. Enlightenment led to material success and wealth and a position at least close to nobility. And a belief that fat men were inherently benevolent , similar to the "jolly fat man", Jolly Ol' St. Nick for example. Just as baseball players still try to rub a red headed players head for luck, people tried to rub a fat man's belly in hopes of luck and ample meals.

2. Then there is the story of a Chinese Buddhist monk in the 6th century, who just happened to have a belly that shook like jelly, he was a benevolent fellow who dedicated himself to helping others, and was regarded as the incarnation of the Boddhisatva Metteya, who had reached nirvana but stayed around just to help people.

3. And finally the theory held by most Buddhist scholars. A sagely Zen monk appeared in China around 850 A.D. and died in 916A.D. He said his name was "Knowing This" (ChiChe). No one knew where he came from, he carried a big fat bag and was famous for his fat belly. When asked how to obtain nirvana he would lay down the bag and not said a word. When asked about what happened after reaching nirvana. he would pick up the bag and walk away, still not a word. It is pretty much accepted that such a monk existed. He is probably the inspiration for Fat buddha, as the statues began appearing in the late 800's, 1200 years after the Gautama's death. If you'll look at an authentic Fat buddha, you'll see he has a sack on his back, in fact his names include Hotei, Pu-Tai AND Mi-Le-Fo (Cloth Sack.) Then again the appearance of the statues may have influenced the legend of, or the actual, monk.

At any rate, rubbing the belly of a fat buddha statue is not a prayer or idolatrous it's just a more or less superstitious habit and the rubber may or may not really believe it any more than someone knocking on wood or tossing salt.
Blackcats is somethin else again and I keep statues of them, fat or scrawny, in a big sack buried under a big tree.

original article

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The sound of one card shuffling

The koan of the zen magician, "what is the sound of one card shuffling?" Funny how much sound one card can make to a person who spends their lives looking into them for meaning.

Today the tarot deck sits in front of me and I ask it to show me some of the secrets of the path that I am trying to learn. What can a simple card teach me of Aikido? Where is the art of Judo in this card? The card of hanged man appears and appears again. Superficially it is seen through the laymen's eyes as a dark omen. But look deeper in the hanged man and he will begin to whisper his secrets.

The traditions of the hanged man cross time and cultures. It is a human archetype. An archetype (pronounced /ˈɑrkɪtaɪp/) is an original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized by all. Interestingly, peoples from all over the world have found some ritual use of the idea of the hanged man.

The Mandan, who were not hunters and gatherers, lived in villages and cities along the Missouri River in what is now South and North Dakota. The primary Mandan suspension ritual was called the O-Kee-Pa. It was both a rite of passage for all young men and also a repeated practice for a vision-seeking shaman.

The main lesson of the Hanged Man is that we "control" by letting go - we "win" by surrendering. The figure on Card 12 has made the ultimate surrender - to die on the cross of his own travails - yet he shines with the glory of divine understanding. He has sacrificed himself, but he emerges the victor. The Hanged Man also tells us that we can "move forward" by standing still. By suspending time, we can have all the time in the world. (1)

In readings, the Hanged Man reminds us that the best approach to a problem is not always the most obvious. When we most want to force our will on someone, that is when we should release. When we most want to have our own way, that is when we should sacrifice. When we most want to act, that is when we should wait. The irony is that by making these contradictory moves, we find what we are looking for. (1)

Students of the tarot, such as A.E Waite, creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot, suggest this card carries the following meanings or keywords:

* Sacrifice ----- Letting go ----- Surrendering ----- Passivity

* Suspension ----- Acceptance ----- Renunciation ----- Patience

* New point of view ----- Contemplation ----- Inner harmony

* Conformism ----- Nonaction ----- Waiting ----- Giving up

Serenely dangling upside-down, the Hanged Man has let go of worldly attachments. He has sacrificed a desire for control over his circumstances in order to gain an understanding of, and communion with, creative energies far greater than his individual self. In letting go, the hero gains a profound perspective accessible only to someone free from everyday conceptual, dualistic reality.

The Hanged Man is a card of profound but veiled significance. Its symbolism points to divinity, linking it to the Passion of Christ in Christianity, especially The Crucifixion; to the narratives of Osiris (Egyptian mythology) and Mithras (Roman mythology). In all of these archetypal stories, the destruction of self brings life to humanity; on the card, these are symbolized respectively by the person of the hanged man and the living tree from which he hangs bound. Its relationship to the other cards usually involves the sacrifice that makes sacred; personal loss for a greater good or a greater gain. (2)

It reflects the story of Odin who offered himself as a sacrifice in order to gain knowledge. Hanging from the world tree, wounded by a spear, given no bread or mead, he hung for nine days. On the last day, he saw on the ground runes that had fallen from the tree, understood their meaning, and, coming down, scooped them up for his own. All knowledge is to be found in these runes.

The Hanged Man, in similar fashion, is a card about suspension, not life or death. This is a time of trial or meditation, selflessness, sacrifice, prophecy. The Querent stops resisting; instead he makes himself vulnerable, sacrifices his position or opposition, and in doing so, gains illumination.

The most common interpretation of the card is of an outcast of society that appears to be a fool, but is in actuality completely in alignment and integrated. The inversion of the Hanged Man furnishes an advantage opaque and impenetrable to others.(2)

The Hanged Man is every hero committed enough to the adventure to die for it.(2)

The sacrifice the Hanged Man asks us to make is in the form of giving up things in our lives that do not serve us.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Tomiki Aikido Training Dummy

I have a affinity for Chinese martial practices that are not form based. I like push hands and I will forever be in love with the practice ideas and methodologies of Wing Chun, also spelled Vin Tsun. Part of the Wing Chun practice program involves working with the famed wooden dummy. I made one a while back to practice and flush out new ideas. To be sure it is a world of difference than a training partner and having a full mat, but it does let you work subtle aspects of the arts without having to depend on a partner.

Here is a very basic introductory look to the link between Tomiki Aikido and wooden dummy work.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

KyuRyu Mandala in art

I photo shopped the KyuRyu AikiBudo mandala over a throw. I have found that the shape of this wave motion has become a personal key of understanding aiki motion. A common phrase around the dojo is now, "move like the mandala."