Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Journey in Aikido

 It started in middle school.  I started getting beat up on a daily basis.  My mother did not want me learning violent martial arts, but it was getting so bad she had little choice.  My journey in the martial arts began at the age of 11.  I was enrolled in Master Hans Academy in Carrollton, Texas.  I was 11.

                                                              Master Han.My first teacher.

I went on to study fencing, jujitsu, kick boxing and kung fu in high school.  In 1994 I was studying Northern Shaolin Long Fist at White Tiger Kung Fu under John Shelly in Flower Mound, Texas. Sifu Shelly was a competition forms man, and slowly I became dissatisfied with this type of training. At the time I was working at Mr. Jim's Pizza in Lewisville Texas while I was attending the University of North Texas. A dojo opened up next to the pizza place. The new place was called Aikibudo dojo owned by Russell Waddell. The main instructors were Russell Waddell and Paul Fowler. This dojo was part of the Jiyushinkai organization. I used to spend my smoke breaks looking in the window and being amazed, martial artists that actually touch each other! (ribbing to my kung fu friends out there)

Russell Waddell my Teacher

Eventually I joined this dojo in fall of 1994. My progress was slow. I broke my toe after just a month, and that put me out for a while. I was going to school and working. My girlfriends always fought with me about spending time training. I attended as many seminars as I could afford taught by the Jiyushinkai top teachers Chuck Clark, Steve Duncan, and Stan Conner during this period. These men are true budo men and they helped me start on this path. Memories of lessons from this time period still flash before me like episodes of Kung Fu the TV show. While the Jiyushinkai is were I started, I do want to make it clear that I do not represent them, their teachings or their methods. I still consider them pivotal early influences.  I like these people and I hope my path will cross theirs again.

In 1997 I moved to Austin to struggle on my own for a while. During this period I did not train regularly under a teacher. I started my first informal training club at Esperanza Residential treatment facility. I started teaching boys who were in the system a few techniques, mostly non competitive walking and the release motions.

Around 1999 I moved back to Dallas. Most of my training at the time was in my garage dojo. I heavily focused on weapons and knife throwing at the time. I could not afford Aikido lessons through this time in my life. Waddell Sensei said I did not need to pay, but I always felt bad about not contributing. I went to his dojo before classes and vacuumed and wiped down the windows. My technique at this time was getting decent. Promotions hadn't happened in years though - probably because I was not a centered person.

By 2000 I decided to move to Japan to train. This was an act to commit myself to my training. This was the trip that became a pivotal time period in my life.

During my time there I trained in Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu and I finally received my first grade in an Aiki art. My teacher was Ikuo Ota.

Eric's Daito Ryu history and certificates
In July of 2003 I moved back to Austin, Texas. This was hard time of life for me - working three jobs. I was not training, but I went to every dojo in town to search for the one that was for me. I became very disappointed as I simply could not afford classes. I became very sad because I did not have a club. Even though I felt nether qualified nor did I want the job, I decided to start an informal club in the garage in October of 2004. It started out as a Daito Ryu club, because that was the only art I was certified to instruct. Quickly I started using the Tomiki system as it is a good system to instruct beginners with. In December of 2004 we moved into the South Austin location. We stayed there for six years until we moved to the 51st and I35 location.

The early days

I spent a year in political isolation, training hard with a handful of students. I tried contacting some organizations, but most did not respond back to me. When I called my old teacher Russell Waddell, he seemed excited about me having a club. He came down and started helping us get going and doing grading for us. He had retired from practicing so at my prompting he began training again.

12 years after I began training in Tomiki Aikido I finally received a shodan. I feel more than anything the long road was right for me. I earned it. I knew the material, I had matured into an adult. I had formed a club and was producing quality students.

Things began clicking for me, and I began to understand this stuff deeper. Teaching has always been a learning process for me, and teaching/learning worked well for me. Over a year after I received my shodan, I demonstrated for my nidan rank.

I started associating with more Aikido folks and I joined the American Tomiki Aikido Association. I gained a brother in the arts, the hard-headed-grease-monkey, Jeff Duncan. He is one of my best friends. Although he is a solid technician and a great teacher, he has never learned to do the walking kata correctly.  :)   The ATAA was kind enough to evaluate me and recognize the rank Waddell Sensei had given me. BTW I did that calligraphy on Jeff's wall.

My New Years resolution for 2009 was to meet more teachers and to start writing an Aikido Blog - thus this blog was born!Around this time I started looking to play with more teachers. I started training with judo teacher Matl Sensei and Brendan Hussey Sensei.

Brendan Hussey my teacher, throwing me

In the early days of 2009 I got in touch with Nick Lowry. I had him come down and teach a seminar. I decided that I wanted to join his organization, the Kaze Uta Budo Kai. I consider him to be a great friend and one my guides on the higher path of budo.

Lowry Sensei and me, July 2010

In April of 2009 my students and best friends, Michael Chihal and Scooter Dembowski earned their shodans - the first of my crew to reach this rank. They earned this rank through Russell Waddell's authority. In addition the Kaze Uta Budo Kai recognized Michael's rank.

After studying the art for 15 years, on November 21, 2009 the Kaze Uta Budo Kai granted me a yondan rank.

In the summer of 2010 I drove through Texas and Oklahoma looking to train with new teachers.  I met a man named J.W. Bode and we became friends.  I started to travel every six months or so to train with him in Lawton Oklahoma.  As of 2015 we went our separate ways. 

In January 2011 it was time to move to a new dojo.  Sadly we closed up the old dojo.We moved to a new location with Matl Sensei at I-35 and 51st.  Here is a picture of us putting the mat together.  I took it at an artsy angle that was a bad idea. But this is where used to train.  This dojo closed in 2015.  I have built a few more since then. 

I have been training with Jack Bieler for the past several years.  He is a great teacher and a wonderful friend.  I am hoping he will download his incredible knowledge of classical Japanese weapons into my brain over the next few decades.

On my summer trip to train with my teachers in July 2012, I held a knife seminar in Lawton, Oklahoma.  I enjoyed it immensely.  It was the first workshop I have held outside my own dojo, and it was a great success.  About 20 people attended throughout the day.

After the seminar my teacher J.W. Bode was impressed enough in my teaching he awarded my my 5th dan in Aikido.  Although the certificate says March 3, I did not get it till July.

I will be honest.  At this point in my martial arts career I hate ranks.  It pained me to get a 5th dan, a rank I honestly believe is above my caliber.  I decided I was not going to mention it, and stay a 4th dan.  The very next day I went to train with my friend and teacher Nick Lowry and he separately presented me with a godan.  Damn!

During my summer trip of 2012 I had the honor of training with hapkido master Jason Mix for a week.  He graciously invited me to teach at his school.  I taught Daito Ryu and Aikido concepts to his amazing community of artists at the Enso Center in Redmond, Washington.  I now am honored to train and teach at the Enso center every July.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Daito Ryu AikiJuJutsu Training in Japan (and beyond)

contact Eric -

I trained in Gunma Prefecture at the Numata Budokan from the August 24th 2000 until July of 2003. The art form was the mother art to Aikido, Daito Ryu AikiJuJutsu. I trained under Ota Ikuo Sensei. During my stay there Ota Sensei's teacher (Maeda) died, so he broke off from the Renshinkan Branch of Daito Ryu and formed his own school, the Shofukan (place of windy pines.) During this time period I logged in more hours than any other student. According to my records I logged between 376-400 hours of training time during this time period with Ota Sensei.

Here is a copy from the log at the Shofukan Dojo Daito Ryu AikiJuJutsu club at the Numata City Budokan. This was from 2002 or 2003. it shows the lineage of teachers and major students going back to the time of Takeda Sokaku.

My lineage

Takeda Sokaku - Toshimi Matsuda - Takeshi Maeda - Ikuo Ota - Eric Pearson

Here is a picture with Ikuo Ota Sensei and Eric Pearson (me). This photo is either late 2002 or early 2003. Ota Sensei was very kind to me. He grew up scared of foreigners, as he was child during the invasion of Japan during World War 2. I mostly remember him huddling around the space heater during the winter trainings, smoking cigarettes, and massaging his bad shoulder. He would walk around the dojo with an ash tray in one hand and a cigarette dangling from his lips. When he saw something he wanted to correct he would put the ashtray and cigarette next to you, then twist your body around for a while.

Ikuo Ota and Eric Pearson 2003

Ota Sensei is one of the best joint lock practitioners I have trained with. He never thought much of Aikido. He said Aikidoka use too much strength and pain compliance. His technique was very slow and soft. He moved me around easily despite my obvious size advantage.

In 2001 I had the chance to go down to Tokyo and meet Kondo Katsuyuki, the widely regarded head of what is refereed as mainline Daito Ryu. When I told Ota Sensei about my conversation with the head of Daito Ryu, Ota Sensei looked sour and waved his hand dismissively in front of my face. He made it clear that he cared nothing about the idea of "main line".  That being said I enjoyed my short conversation with Kondo Sensei.  My Japanese was particularly poor and he was patient with my grunting.

Here I am receiving my Daito Ryu certificate in 2002. Originally I was offered my Shodan after just 3 months due to my previous experience of 5 years in aikido. After some thought Ota Sensei told me to wait till the next grading one year later. The next year though, I angered the second senior instructor by throwing him. He did not appreciate it (it was a good throw though) So during the next grading a week later, he shamed me in front of the dojo and pressed sensei not to promote me. So, I learned some of the sticky politics of a dojo in Japan. His grudge cost me getting higher level rankings in the limited time I had there. Untangling the mess was perhaps the most profound lessons I had to deal with in this dojo.

Certificates 2002 - Numata Budokan, Gunma Prefecture

My shodan certificate

When the summer of 2003 came around it was getting time for my contract to end with Mumbusho and it was time to head back to the USA. I had a talk with Ota Sensei about the continuation of Daito Ryu training in the US. He told me that he felt like his study of Aiki was small and focused, and I saw it in a much larger way. He encouraged me to keep studying and to start a group in the United States. He issued me a "jun-kyouju" 準教授 rank or associate professor and granted me the right to have a Daito Ryu AikiJujutsu - Shofukan line dojo in America.  I am truly honored to have been given the opportunity to receive such an title. To my knowledge I am one of two people outside Japan that Ota Sensei honored with this title. The other is Andrew Deluna who currently trains in Katy Texas.

My jun-kyouju 準教授, associate instructor certificate

Training at the Shofukan 2003.  'Saka Tekubi Osaedori'

Training at the Shofukan. 

My Obi. Embrodery reads "Daito Ryu AikiJuJutsu and Shofukan" (Pine Wind Place)

Edit - September 2012

Since my return from Japan I started in 2006 a small club in Austin TX to study Daito Ryu, Tomiki Aikido and Judo principles.  The club has had a small and devoted crew that continues to train.

One of the small Daito workshops I held

In the summer of 2012 I attended the multi-discipline seminar hosted by George Ledyard Sensei in Seattle.  I met Daito Ryu AikiJujutsu teachers by the name of Howard Popkin and Joe Brogna.  I enjoyed their lesson, and was excited about having Daito Ryu people to train with again.

Popkin Sensei dropping me Seattle 9-2011

I decided to attend an intensive 4 day seminar in July 2012.  It was the spark I needed to reawaken a lot of the old training.   I filed an application to join their growing organization called Daito Ryu Ginjukai based on the Kodo Harakawa lineage. While the Daito Ryu lineage is different from the one I came from (Matsuda Toshimi), the feel and mechanics seem to have been preserved in both lineages.

Seminar in Seattle 7-2012

In March 2013 I attended a three day seminar in Oklahoma City at Windsong dojo.   It was a blast and I really hit a new level of understanding the mechanics in this art form.

 Windsong Dojo in OKC 3-2013 .  

Popkin sensei making fun of our comparative head sizes

Winter 2013 I was asked to share Daito Ryu with the Kaze Uta Budo Kai in Oklahoma City.

Budokai at Windsong 6-2014

Howard Popkin, Eric and Peter Boylan

In July of 2014 I returned to Japan to study with Ota sensei.  I learned a tremendous amount.  It was interesting to see how much sensei's technique evolved in the last decade.

Eric and Ota - 7-2014 at the Shofukan

I got to rekindle some old friendships and learn a lot about the Renshinkan, Shofukan history and kata.

Tsutsuni sensei and Eric

In January 2015 Andrew DeLuna ran a workshop on Daito Ryu principles at the Austin Budokan.  It has been his third or fourth visit over the past few years.

June 2015 Seminar at Windsong

Seminar at Windsong 4/29-5/1- 2016
7-2016 I attended one session with Brogna/Popkin in Seattle.

In May 2017 I picked up the phone and it was Roy Goldberg from the Kodokai coming through Texas.  He offered to do a 4 day workshop at my place.  He stayed with me and generously poured as much Daito Ryu information into me as I could handle.

While visiting Seattle I attended Daito Ryu Takumakai training with Kenneth Freeman.  He is a super cool and talented guy.  Sadly I lost my picture I took!

July 28-30 2017 I attended Ginjukai intensive with Howard Popkin.  It was a great seminar with a fun group.

Popkin Seattle 2017

In 2017 the Reshinkan Daito Ryu in Japan began to open up.  They began issuing videos and online courses.   They have been grading people to high ranks without ever meeting them, only online training.  I would like to publicly mention that I am opposed to this method of transmitting Daito Ryu.  I believe it hurts the art.  So after almost 20 years of promoting that line of Daito Ryu, I respectfully withdraw my endorsement of the Renshinkan.  After some spirited online debates they no longer endorse me either.  Chapter closed.  My relationship with Ito sensei is intact, as he too broke from the Renshinkan.

Roy Goldberg came to Austin again in Feb. 2018.  I got the chance to train with him at Rising Sun Aikido.

Goldberg Austin 2-2018

After teaching at the Enso enter I had the chance to train with Popkin/Brogna. 
Popkin/Brogna Seattle 8-2018

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shogun Total War 2

I loved the last Shogun game. This next one should be a blast. Here is some fun animation of a duel from the game.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chinese Archery

The cooler weather in Texas has driven me outdoors. I have been shooting my longbow everyday to start gaining some understanding of archery.

I found a splendid series about Chinese martial archery.

I like this one when he gets into knocking drills. He is expanding out of target archery into the realm of martial archery.

Some advice that opposes Kyudo methodology about releases. He shows some neat using the belt as a quiver. Then there are some cool shooting exercises.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Aikido Works

Here is a football video that has viral on the net. For good reason, it is clever. As a martial artist I think it shows us the lesson of how aiki works. Don't let the other person's system know you are fighting is the key. If you do an action calm and relaxed it does not trigger alarms in your partners or opponents nervous system.

Lowry Sensei has been using the phrase 'tactile invisibility' lately. I like that phrase.

Confuse your opponents nervous system with relaxed movement.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Knife Training - Poor Example

Every time I post a video with what I call a poor example in training I like to preface it with that I have respect for all arts and people who are training. Sometimes I see film that does not work for me and my system of thinking. I have the upmost respect to the artists who act as the focus of my scrutiny. We are all just working it the best we can.

In my searches of the web I keep bumping in to a video of Thai knife fighting. Honestly, I do not like the work they are doing. However, I think it is very valuable to look at systems that are not working in my view, so I can intellectually process what the flaws, danger spots and inefficiencies that are in the movements. Why don't I like it? How can I avoid these mistakes in my own work?

The number one aspect I do not like is they break their own posture to execute dodges and evasions. While it might work in the context of their game, I feel like they are ingraining bad habits that will not serve them as the training gets increasingly difficult.

What do ya'll see?