Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Principle - Ate 当て - To Strike?

I decided to explore the word that appears in the core our first five of our learning curriculum - ate. Ate 当て, often translated as 'strike' is a word used in almost all Japanese martial systems.

modern and ancient styles

Really though as we explore the kanji, the character that the word is made of, we find it is one that has no clear martial meaning. It is a word like 'magic' - with no concrete definition. People's own training experience and preferences will influence and change the meaning of the word.

Traditional Chinese version

In the traditional Chinese we find the character to have a different flavor than the Japanese - to be; to act as; to hold a position (in space, time, or organizational space); manage; withstand; when; during; ought; should; match equally; equal; same; obstruct; just at (a time or place); on the spot; right; just at: replace

当 - to hold a position in space, time, or organizational space

Now that is an interesting way to view the Ate 当て - to hold a position in space, time, or organizational space. This is another view that holds real practical meaning in our exploration as an Aikidoka. Read that a few time friends, that is a big, profound change in understanding from the idea that ate is a percussive blow against an opponent. With this understanding we need not even put energy into the technique, we can simply hold space.

tranlations include 'to hit the mark' and 'aim'

Opening up my Japanese kanji dictionary the primary definitions that are given to the core idea behind this kanji are 1. apply 2. hit the mark

some examples of this word 当 in use include:

的に当たる(まとにあたる) / hit the target
日に当てる(ひにあてる) / expose to the sun
当てにする(あてにする) / depend on, expect,put reliance on

Looking further we find a multitude of definitions and ideas associated with the word.

Yes there is the idea of 'hit' and 'strike'. Also some of the rougher ideas that it is can be used for 'treat harshly, be poisoned'

I will be using the phrase Shomen Ate here. Here is a short clip in case you are not familiar with the Tomiki technical lingo.

But we also find the use as 'bump'. I find 'win' as an idea associated with the feeling of the character. Now as I scroll down I find another defining characteristic/idea of the kanji, 'touch'. Now that is interesting. Imagine the translation of Shomen Ate (usually crudely translated as front strike) actually meaning 'touch the face'. The next interesting idea I find is 'incur' and 'expose'. This makes shomen ate have the feeling of the technical relationship if you find yourself exposed to the front of the opponent. Then the next idea feeds right into Aikido technique, and this is 当 as 'apply'. Again with Shomen Ate - applying technique to the face. Another use of the word is 'an aim'. This offers a further spin in our understanding of the richness of the idea.

当 - touch, expose, apply, aim

So, I no longer feel like I can call a technique like shomen ate, a simple front strike. I feel for most of the advanced Aikido students I know this idea is inherently inaccurate. So now you have choices. Don't regurgitate the rough past translations. Words are important, they have power. Words carry Ki - 氣. The words we use to define our techniques and the words we choose to educate our students with can and do have an effect on the result. Choose your definition wisely.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The great forces in Aiki

Tonight I am cursed with a /brain/tongue tie. I have the ideas but making them flow into a coherent stream of words is a labor. I publish although I plan on further exploration.

What are the forces the efficient artist uses to effortlessly move an opponent around the room? I suppose there are many answers to this question, but today I see three major energies that a skillful Aikidoka uses to create his energy. These factors are a part of universal Ki 氣.

In 2006, the NAWTF - North American Wu Dang Taoist Foundation, sponsored an event bringing thirty Wu Dang Taoist Arts Practitioners to Austin, TX. I attended several of the public workshops they held. They taught chi gung, sword work, and even their methodology for amulet making. In all of the sessions people keep asking about chi 氣 cultivation and referring to their personal chi 氣. Eventually one of the monks said there must be a difference in the way we understood chi 氣 and their focus on chi. The monk said, yes of course there is personal chi 氣, but it is small and limited. The great majority of it comes from the universe. The Wu Dang systems, as I understood it from the monks were focused on tapping into this larger universal chi 氣 and largely they seemed uninterested in personal chi 氣.

Now If I just just lost you with references to eastern esoterica, fear not. Allow me to translate in a very relevant way for our exploration of the martial path. An effective martial artist does not really engage his opponent with the physical body and it's myriad limitations. Instead the masterful artists look to implement the very forces of the universe as their tools. Like a wizard - time, space and gravity are the weapons wielded by the Aikido master. The art is simply choosing where to place himself in this matrix of natural forces.

Timing is the use of time as a tool for the implementation of Aikido. The dictionary defines timing as "the selecting of the best time or speed for doing something in order to achieve the desired or maximum result." Through practice the Aikido technician understands the necessary time involved to achieve maximum efficiency. Simply by knowing when to move the Aikido artist gains more power than he could ever could through sheer force. Another aspect of time that the skillful student gains is being able to see potential futures - a precognition of sorts. By being put in technical situations over and over, the Aikidoka learns to predict to most likely outcome of a particular physical relationship and can see a few steps into the future.

Space is another of the major tools the Aikido adept masters in order to gain apparently effortless power. says act of someone or something that spaces.
2.the fixing or arranging of spaces.

Simply by moving himself into space in the correct time, the Aikidoka robs his opponent of a target, he becomes a door, a wall, a mirage or a statue. He gains the power of softness or the power of rigidity. He becomes supple or seemingly unmovable. A skillful Aikidoka creates harmony in violence and at the same time causes dysfunction with his opponents structure.

Gravity, the power of attraction is another of the major factors. Gravity gives us our ultimate power and hopefully our opponents ultimate weakness. It clearly defines the parameters for engagement. It clearly shows us We use gravity to create our steps, our movement through space and time. The aikidoka powers pushes through the effect of this constant power affecting our mass.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Principles - 意 Intention

Chinese - YI, Japanese - イlong E sound

One a the realizations I keep learning, forgetting and relearning is that Aikido is truly an internal art form. Philosophy and intention genuinely affects and shapes the expression of physical principles and technique and as much as anything we do with our bodies. What we are thinking about expresses itself on the mat and in our interactions with our training partners. I once heard a great teacher talk about 'internal work' really separating the artists from low and high caliber. He was not talking about esoteric meditation or KI manipulation. He was discussing the long process of hammering out and refining motivations and intentions.

Let us get a dictionary definition to explore the idea further.

Intention - purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct

Even though superficially the master and student are performing the same physical motion, the motivations and attitude will be different. I have often seen Aikido technique as a window into the mental / emotional mind of an artist. In a way technique is a seismographic needle of the soul, clearly drawing the lines of mind on the mat with a partner.

I have seen intention and touch played out daily in my professional career as an educator. I once saw a teacher come into work, sad because of some relationship issues. She taught deaf blind students. The teacher signed a greetings into the hands of her student. Much to my surprise the student signed back. "Why are you sad?". Through simple touch the student was able to feel sadness. Moral of the story, far more is transmitted through touch than you will probably ever understand on a conscience level.

Intention in Tensho script

When I work out with a new student, or a sports judo guy, from first touch I feel their intention. They want to win. The motivating intention behind their actions is a desire to control me. On the other hand when I touch an advanced person I often feel no intention. Some of my teachers operate in a state of 'mu-shin' or a mind devoid of conscience intention. Other teachers focus on a concept in their heads while they practice, such as 'move to freedom' or 'resist nothing'. The difference of the feeling of a technique from someone whose mind is bent on controlling you, versus the same technique from someone who is focused on simply moving to a place of freedom is staggering.

A passage that Lowry Sensei wrote illustrating this idea of how intention affected his ground game. Simply by changing his motivating intention, he changed his martial arts overnight.

"Once upon a time at our dojo there lived a genuine bad ass judo grappler (Korean/American National Judo Champ- been playing since he was 5 -- son of a judo 7th dan ) -- named Gene, he was around several years as I was just getting into judo and though my aikido made me comparable to him in standing work, on the mat in ground work he was so far ahead of me that he would inevitably destroy and humble me. I hated ground work anyway and gene's crunching on me didn't help any. But I had to put up with this shit to do judo -- so I took my licks -- one day the light dawned on me that maybe the aikido ground work was the way to go with this guy-- my teacher at the time had emphasized that the survival/pure defense game is much more efficient than the offense/ win/playing beat game by a factor of 10 to 1. So what did I have to lose? I was getting trounced anyway, day in day out, why not just slip into survival grappling mode and see what would happen with ole Gene? So I tried it out -- I didn't try to do a dam thing to Gene -- I just kept my ass moving, rolling, turn in, bridging, shrimping, any way I could-- I gave him a constantly moving target and never tried to stop and do anything to him -- it was amazing -- went on for about 20 min. -- Gene finally got so frustrated that he stopped and asked what was doing -- how was I thwarting him ? When just the day before he had been so clearly superior , this day he suddenly found himself in another reality."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Principles: Philosophy - Yin Yang

Henry Kono Sensei regularly opens his seminars by saying that he asked Morihei Ueshiba what the difference between his own Aikido and that of his students. What was the essential quality that made his work so different? Ueshiba Sensei responded that his own Aikido was different because he understood the principle of Yin and Yang.

Henry Kono

Yin Yang is a philosophical concept. It is not the pretty little black and white swirly picture. The principle of yin yang is often pictorially represented by the Taijitu (literally "diagram of the supreme ultimate"). This is the divided circle image we are all so familiar with.

The philosophical principle is used to describe how polar opposites and contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent. The power of each crests so they give rise to each other in turn. It in the Taoist tradition a study of the "grand and ultimate" a study of everything really.

from wikipedia

"In Taoist philosophy, yin and yang arise together from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle), and continue moving in tandem until quiescence is reached again. For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin–yang, thus, are always opposite and equal qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle."

So the question remains, how does this seemingly esoteric principle affect and shape the practice of Aikido? The answer is simple, it is everything in our practice and lives. We are expressions of the myriad of binary pairs that form a whole. Since it is very difficult to talk about yin with summoning forth it's balancing power of yang, I will give a short,simple and somewhat superficial list so maybe the student of the path can grow to see the principle for themselves in all aspects of practice.


Any study of one aspect demands examination of the relationship it holds with its opposite. Obsession with an single aspect without a deep study of the opposite idea takes the student away from understanding of what Aiki truly is. It is the balance of the forces.

Where does the Aikidoka fit into this relationship? I can give you a hint, a skillful Aikidoka lays at the center as the catalyst of the blending energies. Aikido is the surfing the crest as one form transforms into the next. Appropriate use of each of the binary energies to create a whole.

In the mystic circles every once in a while you will find an individual that has entered the state of mind where all is one! This is a great and important state to understand. However, Lowry Sensei told me that people in his lineage that remain there too long are considered to have the 'stink of Zen'. You see yin yang can only be understood when you get beyond the polarities, when you transcend dualistic and binary thought models. The kicker is that the expression of yin yang is 2, and it is 1! All expression of energy falls into 2 and 1 at the same time!

"The only way to replace what you have now requires a belief in yin and yang principle so strongly that it will over-ride any argument your mind will throw at you."

- Henry Kono Sensei

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Principles: Philosophy

In the mid 1990s during a seminar a great teacher told he something that changed my relationship with the art. He said, "Aikido is the physical embodiment of a philosophy."

I believe that you do not read a book, or have long discussions on ethics, Aikido philosophy will transmit simply through the act of practice. Unlike the practice of formal Zen which seeks to quiet the mind through the act of seated meditation, dynamic non-action, Aikido engages the mind and body in dynamic action. Each motion of it slowly working to reprogram the nervous system and the mind/body reaction to stimulus.

For many practitioners the movements of the art become a constant source of learning, inspiration, bio-feedback and self reflection. The physical expression of Aikido techniques are mimicked in patterns and relationships in the practitioner's life. Aikido transcends mere techniques and becomes an overall strategy for conflict resolution for the artist.

We stare deeply into the mirror of ourselves as our ego is challenged with varied issues as social rank, approval and failure. We are always painfully aware of of physical limitations. In the tempering conflicts of practice we are brought to a physical and mental state where we are forced to submit - and we learn to trust the people who are our classmates with the welfare of our physical frame. All of these factors have a tremendous influence of the evolving ethos of the student.

Of course many of the devoted students of the path also speak of the philosophies that drive our practice. The movements that arise out of conflict make us openly question our ethics. We ask ourselves many 'what ifs' as we put ourselves in the role of warrior. We write books and blogs as we continue our practice in our search for....whatever it is we are looking for.

The great Zen master Dogen wrote,

"Practice is the expression of an enlightened mind."

While my personal enlightenment is still lackluster, I will hand it to myself - at least I am trying. I am trying to embody of philosophy that I struggle to understand. At least I am practicing what I am not good at. I seek improvement.

Perhaps the goal of training is not stunning enlightenment or illumination. Perhaps the driving philosophy the the constant practice of self improvement. Perhaps it is not a philosophy of perfection, but of making something beautiful.

In truth there is no one philosophy that drives Aikido practice. It is an ever changing organic philosophy that grows as we nurture it. While Aikido is the physical embodiment of philosophy, it is physically embodied in untold thousands of Aikido practitioners, each walking the path at their own pace.

And for those that doubt us Aikido fellows are always defining and redefining our practice, I will leave you with the words of Nick Ushin Lowry, who sees the practice through the lens of a Rinzai Zen priest.

"The principle of aiki transcends victory and defeat, steps out of the dualistic frame of reference and expresses a non dual reality where in buddhist terms we could say that samsara is nirvana, form is emptiness ... As nev sagiba put it recently, Primordial chaos is inherent harmony. This is the place where the whole world can become one family. Self and other loose the hard edge of separation and the spontaneous play of the whole operates through the medium of the players. We do not use the principle of aiki, it becomes embodied in us."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Principles – the essential quality

So using the following 4 dictionary definitions of principles I continue on with exploration of discovering what are the principles of Aikido.

-a determining characteristic of something; essential quality
-a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived
-a personal or specific basis of conduct or management
-an adopted rule or method for application in action

So using the first definition, a principle can be a determining characteristic of something or essential quality. After pondering the words ‘essential quality’ for some time I have come to the conclusion that a principle might be able to tell us what Aikido IS and what it IS NOT. Perhaps this type of principle is simply a definition of the art.

Merriam Websters dictionary defines Aikido as, "a Japanese art of self-defense employing locks and holds and utilizing the principle of nonresistance to cause an opponent's own momentum to work against him".

I find myself feeling like this definition is lacking in capturing the essence of Aikido. How would this be any different from judo, jujitsu or Bujinkan? No I feel we must explore further.

Stanley Pranin noted Aikido author and historian tried his hand at defining the art and principles.

“-Aikido is a discipline based on the martial art and philosophy of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei- ---Aikido has a core of techniques which constitutes the physical manifestation of the art (ikkyo through yonkyo, shihonage, iriminage, kokyunage, etc.)
- Aikido is basically defensive in nature
- There exists in Aikido an ethical concern for the well-being of the attacker beyond a preoccupation with self-defense”

I think these are great points, and most of the Aikido philosophical world could get behind these. I do however have some questions about the ethics and defensive nature of Aikido. Is it a schools preference of is it universal in application? I will dive deeper into this topic later.

Lou Fernbaugh pondered this question and wrote a definition of aikido.
Training the subconscious, and nervous system
Based on Principles, not unique actions
Leading to a reactive mode of moving
Allowing a seemingly endless stream of adaptive variations."

If my memory serves me, a Jiyushinkai bumper sticker from the 90s read,
“Peace and harmony through non-violent action”

Jack Bieler offers,
“Aikido is one particular incarnation of a perennial mode of interaction with violence, with the typical Japanese cultural style of simplicity and artistic balance, organization and efficiency, which can be described as "elegance". That character may best define what is unique about aikido.” suggests Aikido is,
“A Japanese internal energy-based martial art. Aikido was created by Morihei Ueshiba in the 1930s from a unique blend of Daito Ryu aikijitsu (a form of jujitsu), sword techniques, and the teachings of a mystical Shinto-like religion that included mantra and sound work called the Kototama”

So looking at these definitions I can distill a few things. In order for the art to be formally Aikido the teaching must come through the lineage of Morihei Ueshiba. While I am not a devoted follower of Ueshiba I can buy this as a distinguishing characteristic.
Another characteristic is that it a martial art based on principles. But there I go defining principles with principles.
While the ethics might vary greatly I do feel that Aikido can be defined as having a strong ethical system, and a certain artistic style of model to which it aspires. Perhaps it is the elegance Bieler Sensei described.

Aikido FAQ offers probably the best definitions or
“Aikido -- The art of unity with the ground”
“Aikido: The way of blending energy The Aikidoka (one who practices Aikido) attempts to become one with the mat by being thrown into it repeatedly in the hope that s/he will merge with the mat. This usually doesn't happen, so the process must be repeated. Frequently.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ri - 理 principle

Ri - principle, reason

In my continuing quest to understand the principles of Aikido, I look to the Japanese language. Generally in budo it seems the kanji ri, 理 is the most common used to describe the idea of principle. In judo, for instance, this word in used in the name of the ju no ri, or the principle of softness.

I found another word which brings up an interesting idea, that of immutable principle or iron law. 鉄則(てっそく) Tessoku / an invariable principle, an iron law. I have chosen to follow ri 理, because I believe in the power of words. I do not believe in rigid thinking in our pursuit of the martial path. Principle flavored with reason and justice as the definition of ri 理, rather than rigid 鉄則tessoku law. I feel the ri 理 definition follows the true underlying philosophy of Aikido closer.

Lets look at the kanji, both in it's modern form (kaisho) and it's ancient form (tensho).

Ri - 理

a principle

I think looking at the parts of a Japanese symbol is telling of the logic of it's meaning. The word 'principle' is made from the parts - 'king and village'. You can use your imagination and see that a principle could be an proclamation to his people in the village. Indeed this character says to me, law of the land!

Here are the composite parts.

It is made of two parts or radicals 王,里

a king
a sovereign
a monarch
a ruler
a magnate
a champion

a village
the country
one's parents' home

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What are Principles?

Ri - principle, reason

Throughout my martial art studies I have heard the great teachers say that principles are more important than techniques. Yet it is rare that I have ever heard anyone really discuss what these principles really are. Searching through the texts I have found some authors or teachers that have approached the subject, but often to my dissatisfaction. Usually they discuss aspects of techniques, or preferred methods of training as taught by themselves or their teachers before them. More often than not they are spoken of in a mixed match set of technical pointers that seem to lack the true weight of what should be seen as the core principles of the art.
I suppose our first step to understanding what the principles of Aikido are we must begin to define the word principles itself.
I found 4 definitions of ‘principle’ that can help in this search for the principles of Aikido

-a determining characteristic of something; essential quality
-a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived
-a personal or specific basis of conduct or management
-an adopted rule or method for application in action

So from my eye it looks....

1. a principle defines WHAT is Aikido - or what is not.
2. general condition that is a requirement for Aikido expression
3. training philosophy
4. best practices, biomechanics

So in this general word principles as it applies to aikido we should be looking for ideas that help us define the following ideas. What is Aikido? Are there laws that govern Aikido creation and expression? What are the rules of studying this art of Aikido? What are the best methods of accomplishing the goal of Aikido?

Karate with Judo

Hats off to this kid who found a great blend with his application of the arts. The throws drop out easy at this highly dynamic level with big motion and kicks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Principles of Aikido with Henry Copeland

Lowry Sensei and Parker Sensei told me about a series that had been compiled and was worth looking at. I guess at some point, someone asked Henry Copeland a 9th dan in the Fugakakai system "what are the principles of Aikido?" Then he started writing, others started writing, and what happened is a lovely draft full of nuggets of insights from some of the great artists of the American Tomiki scene.

Priciples of Aikido

Here is a little film Patrick Parker put together of a seminar with Henry Copeland Sensei. It is interesting watching the giant of a man. He is old, big and lumbering, and despite this looks gentle as a can be. You can see with every motion he moves to change the relationship and posture of his uke - mojo is there. From what I have seen he deeply impresses people he trains with with his skill and insights.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pedagogy in Martial Arts Part 2

As a teacher moves up the ranks he/she has a responsibility for improving the craft of teaching within themselves. Teachers that teach principles rather than techniques are more skilled seminar teachers.

It is my firm belief that once a teacher becomes of advanced rank and they start teaching seminars they need to improve their skill at teaching. As I have written before, I really dislike going to a seminar and having a poorly constructed lesson. Please great teachers do not merely run me through the basic techniques of your system. An advanced teacher teaches principles so we understand the hows and whys of a technique. I no longer want to merely copy a great teacher's aikido. I want the principles to make my aikido develop.

Once a teacher becomes a seminar level teacher they should stop teaching techniques and basic kata. First of all going through the process of learning kata is what regular class is for. Second, if I do not already know the collection of techniques, likely I will not use them in my practice anyhow.

Of course the advanced teacher can and should use a kata, or collection of techniques to teach the deeper principles. For example, "let's look at breathing in techniques and lets use the atemi waza kata to explore that idea." The advanced teacher needs to narrow down an element of budo and help the student see it in all levels of his practice.

In my humble opinion a good seminar teacher is a principles teacher. A good seminar teachers transcends the limitations of a single art form and enlightens the student to the nature of all martial forms.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pedagogy in Martial Arts Part1


I have been to numerous seminars over the past handful of years and have gotten to see first hand how aikido, judo and varied other art forms are taught at the seminar level. I have also spent the past ten years in teacher education seminars, some of the presenters were great, other dreadful.

I have come to a conclusion. All seminars are not created equal. I have been to stunning life changing events, and I have been to dreadful and boring sessions. Just because someone has rank in a style, it does not make them a insightful or skilled teacher. Teaching and learning is the art I study both professionally and for my martial interests. Because of this I really notice a poorly taught seminar, and they pain me greatly. The amount of time and money I have spent on poor education in my life has been staggering. I will drive across the state or country to attend a seminar, spend money on accommodations, gas, food and fees. But....I expect something in return. Teach me! Show me the magic!

Dear teachers, your single job as an artist hosting a seminar is to impart information. A vast majority of the seminars I have been to have no focus - "what do you want to learn?" is a question I have heard many times.

What I really want to learn is all the stuff I don't know. Enlighten me!

Do you know what the problem is? Is most martial arts teachers don't study the art of being a teacher. Knowledge of kata, or technique is not going to cut it. Study pedagogy! Study it those of you who will be emerging in the coming decades as the next generation of teachers!

"Pedagogy (pronounced /ˈpɛdəɡɒdʒi/ or /ˈpɛdəɡoʊdʒi/[1][2]) is the study of being a teacher. The term generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction.[3]

Pedagogy is also occasionally referred to as the correct use of instructive strategies (see instructional theory). For example, Paulo Freire referred to his method of teaching adult humans as "critical pedagogy". In correlation with those instructive strategies the instructor's own philosophical beliefs of instruction are harbored and governed by the pupil's back-ground knowledge and experience, situation, and environment, as well as learning goals set by the student and teacher."

So I attended a seminar sponsored by an Aikikai dojo some time ago. The system of teaching at the seminar level equated to a teacher coming out, grunting and throwing the uke once or twice. He then went to the side and sat and watched as the overcrowded room practiced whatever they perceived him to do. While this is a traditional model of teaching, I venture to say it can be improved. It wastes time because half the time the people did not know what they were supposed to be doing. There was no goal to the teaching. it was a 'do as I do' seminar. Merely copying and regurgitating technique. What teachers like this are doing is showing a lack of growth in teaching methodology.

How do you effectively teach a seminar? Let me use Lowry's winter sessions as a good example.

1. First, let us know what you want us to learn. What is your goal? Clearly define it for yourself and your students. Have exercises work to develop that clear objective.

Lowry Sensei told us he wanted us to learn and practice skills for multiple attacker scenarios.

2. Use students existing skills, and focus them on drills towards the goal. Drill with a focus on the goal!

Lowry Sensei took techniques all students in his system know, and slowly built drills and exercises around them towards the goal of multiple attack.

3. Build upon successfully drills one variable at a time - always keeping the goal in mind. In case you did not hear that last sentence - BUILD WITH THE GOAL IN MIND!

Lowry Sensei carefully crafted each lesson to make it more challenging, but keeping it in the realm where the students could be successful. Every lesson logically built on the next - towards the goal.

4. Highlight the successes and creatively test and access people during the process!

We went through the sequence of learning several times. Every person in the room that came to most of the sessions found success.

Clear goals, based upon building students previous knowledge, exercises to build and challenge new skills, assessment and individualized instruction. Key factors in a successful seminar teaching session.

Teachers, I show up to learn. Please don't waste time with poorly constructed teaching. A great teacher can change a life and practice with one session. Take this responsibility seriously.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shime Waza sequence

Here is the standing choke video I was supposed to do for the contest several months ago. This is series that Matl Sensei teaches. I switched the first two moves to make the flow a little better. I ran it by the old guy, and he liked my change.

I tried to it slow so any of my interested viewers could follow along. Although this shows the sequence, I came to the conclusion the balance breaks you so with the techniques are more important than the chokes themselves. Matl Sensei agreed with my evaluation.

BTW after working on this with the dummy for the past fews days, I have been scoring standing shime in randori lately.

Here is Sensei demoing it on me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yoji Kondo Seminar

Last Friday was my last day of work for the school year. I raced through my grades and end of the year work. I had to make the trip to League City for the Yoji Kondo seminar. I did not know much about the man except I knew he was an old timer, one of the few who knew Tomiki Sensei himself and he would have some unique historical insights that I probably could not get anywhere else.

Though I have lived in Texas most of my life, I have never been to Houston. It is the size of a small country with the traffic of L.A. The weather felt like an armpit or perhaps someone's gym socks. After wading through 2 hours of Houston Friday rush hour traffic, I made it to the event mostly on time.

There were some names in the field there. Nick Lowry of the Kaze Uta Budo Kai, my friend and teacher had flown in. The infamous blogger and aikido man Patrick Parker of the Mokuren Dojo and Blog had shown up, trying to scoop me on the good stories. Karla Martin of the American Tomiki Aikido Association was also in attendance. Then there was some Clint Eastwood looking Judo guy who I had never heard of, but wore one of them funny looking candy cane belts.

Yoji Kondo is a small kind man. He talked in a thick accent and tended to ramble on about Nobel peace prizes, alcohol in Australia, rocket science stories and about the historical context of techniques! He was very entertaining to listen to. His technique was small, short, sharp and effective. It was nothing fancy or pretty to look at but, I was his uke several times and despite being twice his size he handled me OK. While his technique was not the spirit I am trying to craft my Aikido into, I thoroughly enjoyed his preferences and perspectives all the same.

Patrick Parker and Me

About an hour into the seminar I partnered up with Patrick Parker. The instruction was not very clear, so we decided to play and do some randori. I think for both of us randori is our default system of play. I have been a fan of Patrick Parker's blog for a few years now and was looking forward to getting some mat time in. I was not sure how good he was going to be, but I will be damned he countered me into a sweet Ikkyo/oshi taioshi within a few moves. I snared him in a few sweet kote hineri techniques. I gave up a few ushiro ates to him as he drug me down from behind. I scooped his leg and sent him vertical. His next waza he responded with a foot sweep that sent me crashing. Dragging myself up off the mat I took my time and scored a few sweeps myself. He scored some of the best sumi otoshi motions I have felt in a long time. We played smooth, technical and consistent. He has my stamp of approval as a great player with a soft touch. Getting to play the game with this man was one of my big three highlights of the weekend. Read his blog!

I need a T-shirt "I threw Patrick Parker and all I got was Sumi Otoshi-ed"

I also got to randori with the Clint Eastwood looking guy. By Clint Eastwood looking, I mean old and tough. He looked well into his 60s with a white buzz cut, but still larger and more muscular than myself. The second I touched him I knew I was outclassed. His name is Bob Rea. He was very nice to me, breaking my balance and half foot sweeping me playfully about 40 times. He is amazing. Immediately I knew I had found a new person to start playing with. He has the mojo.

We got to watch Bob Rea play with Nick Ushin Lowry. These guys are two high level Judo players. They played nice and technical. Within two steps Bob lifted up Nick in the most beautiful foot sweep I have ever seen. True to character Nick was grinning ear to ear, knowing he got taken clean and sweet. It was appropriate that NASA was a few miles up the road, because in two more steps Bob lifted up Nick again in a textbook sweep, more beautiful than the first that sent him into orbit. Nick's Judo is awesome, so this Bob fellow is someone I plan on meeting again and stealing all his secrets.

Seminar highlight #2 - meeting Bob Rea.

After the Saturday training and meal Patrick Parker, Nick Ushin Lowry and myself went to Pat's hotel for some beverages. Pat and I put down some drinks and the three of us talked deep into the night. Nick was true to form, acting of the agent of wisdom that he is. The lessons and insights that came from the conversation between the three of us was one of those art changing moments in my personal history. I look forward to seeing how my art unfolds from here on. Again one of the true highlights of a seminar weekend is a moment like this.

Lowry Sensei and I shared several meals, discussing politics, rambling on about philosophy and sharing concerns for loved ones. Moments with teachers like this make the art worth studying, as there is so much to be learned over a stack of pancakes and a giant biscuit.


I am back!!!!!

The past few weeks has been full of hard work and little steps forward. I finished my first school year as a teacher, and there is a chance I will get to start a very soft martial/dance/kinetic class. I went to an art festival and hung 13 painting – which won some awards! Of course the guy who was in charge of storing them got them wet and now they are all ruined! Ahhh - Impermanence! Also a big feather in my cap is that my work with the aiki -wooden dummy got published on the Aikido Journal website!

From My film on Aikido Journal!

Finally I went down to Houston this past weekend for the Kondo Sensei seminar, and I met Nick Ushin Lowry of the Kaze Uta Budo Kai and Patrick Parker from the Mokuren Dojo and blog! Many future blogs will spring from the interactions of this weekend.