Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dragon Calligraphy oracle bone script

Full article on Wikipedia

From Wikipedia: Oracle bone script (Chinese: 甲骨文; pinyin: jiǎgǔwén; literally "shell bone writing") refers to incised (or, rarely, brush-written[1]) ancient Chinese characters found on oracle bones, which are animal bones or turtle shells used in divination in Bronze Age China. The vast majority[2] record the pyromantic divinations of the royal house of the late Shang dynasty at the capital of Yin (modern Anyang, Henan Province); dating of the Anyang examples of oracle bone script varies from ca. 14th -11th centuries BCE[3][4] to ca. 1200 to ca. 1050 BC.[5][6][7][8] Very few oracle bone writings date to the beginning of the subsequent Zhou Dynasty, because pyromancy fell from favor and divining with milfoil became more common.[9] The late Shang oracle bone writings, along with a few contemporary characters in a different style cast in bronzes, constitute the earliest[10] significant corpus of Chinese writing, which is essential for the study of Chinese etymology, as Shang writing is directly ancestral to the modern Chinese script. It is also the oldest member and ancestor of the Chinese family of scripts.

Here is another large version of the bone oracle script dragon that I did on 3 foot by foot canvas.

Merry Tomiki Day

As of December 25, it will have been 33 years since the passing of Kenji Tomiki in 1979. Every year here at my blog it has become a tradition to post this as a holiday oriented memory of the man that has touched so many of our lives through his work in education and budo. It intrigues me and makes me wonder the nature of budo to how in such a short time the art he taught and spread and morphed.

according to an aricle by Yoji Kondo

"Tomiki Shihan was planning an Aikido tour of the U. S. in 1978 when he was suddenly hospitalized for an operation. It was kept confidential but he had an intestinal cancer. On Christmas Eve of that year, a choir from a nearby church came to the hospital yard to sing carols for the bed -ridden patients. Master Tomiki appeared to be feeling better as he listened to the choir. Thanks to the dedicated and loving care of Mrs. Tomiki, it looked as though he would see the New Year of 1980. However, he did not live to see the sunrise of December 25; he passed away early that morning."

In memory of Kenji Tomiki on December 25 I would like everyone the take the day off work. Sit around with your family. Exchange a present to represent the present of Aikido and Judo he helped spread. You can put up a tree up in your house because the ki part of TomiKI is the Chinese character for tree 木. Maybe if you are a good little boy or girl Sensei Claus will come down your chimney and throw you like crazy.

Merry Tomiki Day everybody!!! Remember our great teacher. We stand on the shoulders of a giant.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dragon Calligraphy pt2

This one is a flowing style. The brush I used was made from Mongolian horse hair. The wild spirit of the Mongol horse helps to capture the movement in this piece. My wife likes this one, but I prefer styles with more structure.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I love teaching

I love teaching.

I was really blown away in class tonight.

I had an old tough karate guy, an 8th dan judoka, and 4th dan judoka, a 2nd dan Bujinkan student, and a ex-army scout/sniper-now corporate security training in my class tonight. The caliber of work was extremely high level and creative. I am honored beyond belief to have a group of such awesome individuals to play with and foolishly they let me shape the game.

All of these martial artists are skillful beyond me in their specialties. Despite my shortcomings, my ability to run a group shined tonight. I turned on all these varied artists on to novel problems and methods of solving them. I am not so vain to think I can or need to teach these artists technique. But using the Socratic Method the right questions lead the group to their own conclusions.

Tonight's class made me realize that I am now teaching beyond style. The background of all the artists was completely irrelevant. They all could bring all their skills to the table. I am not trying to make anyone practice my style. I am helping all of them refine THEIR style into whatever they want it to be.

I love the martial arts. But now maybe - even deeper than that, I love the art of teaching.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Concept Of Love In Aikido


In seeking the Truth, both master and disciple must be modest in their Heart and also must love the Truth.

The Way starts from the original precepts set down by the founder and reaches the final goal through the achievement of the successors.

To treat those achievements of the founder as the base and go beyond it:

this is Creation.

To improve upon the achievements of the master and take them to a higher level by disciple's successive works though master's works sometimes being succeeded or denied:

this is Advancement.

Mutual Respect and Love exist here. To respect master and love disciple is no doubt to respect Love and Truth.


(Translated by Mr Itsuo Haba)

dang I forgot to post the source to this. When I find it again, I will post it here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Feints In Strategy

兵者,詭道也 All warfare is based on deception.

-Sun Tzu

Arts that deliver attack (the subject of the post) must develop a methodology to connect the vehicle of energy (body part or weapon)to the opponent. Due to self preservation the opponents do not want to let that happen. Often in order to score a blow against a skilled opponent kuzushi, off balancing, must be performed. The human system of balance operates largely on three functions of the nervous systems; the proprioceptive, the vestibular and the visual systems. You can influence the operation of balance by working against these systems, together or individually.

Feinting is to deceive your opponent by reacting to motion. The reaction is designed to make the opponent shift his defenses, creating momentary opening. It is one of the aspects of disrupting your opponent and causing kuzushi largely through the visual response.

As an aiki artist one can look to the work of the old masters and see the extensive use of atemi as a feint. Ueshiba Sensei used feints as a method to create enough postural disturbance to convince his attackers to fall.

"Feints are not imperative versus an unskilled fighter as against a skilled one. Between two evenly matched fighters the one who is the master of the feint will be the winner."

-Bruce Lee

"Confusing the enemy is achieved by constantly forcing him to redirect his efforts. With proper feints you can get the enemy focused on where the attack will be coming from. Causing confusion in the enemy means making him unable to concentrate on his attack, permitting you to come in with a well executed killing strike."

-Miyamoto Musashi

"Tossing out a brick to get a jade gem" (拋磚引玉/抛砖引玉, Pāo zhuān yǐn yù)

"Disturb the water and catch a fish" (渾水摸魚/浑水摸鱼, Hún shuǐ mō yú)

-from the Thirty-Six Stratagems

Sun Tzu certainly valued deception, surprise, feints and illusion.

"In conflict, straightforward actions generally lead to engagement, surprising actions generally lead to victory."

-Sun Tzu

Feints are "the most important art in boxing"

-Jack Johnson (considered by many to be equally great a Mohammed Ali)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Problems in Aiki - The Attack

Daito Ryu AikiJujitsu and Aikido have been at the core of my passion for martial arts for a good long time now. After having had trained in these systems for extended periods of time and continually cross trained in other arts, I have found some aspects of traditional training ultimately lacking for my needs as it is typically practiced.

The first and foremost problem I find in the way aiki arts are practiced is that we have ‘dumb’ attackers. Largely as an art form we program our partners to attack in predictable and illogical stylized fashion. On top of that we program them to react in over dramatic and unrealistic responses. Why? So we can make easy and pretty techniques on the attacker. I think many artists just want people to fall down, and not have to do the work of figuring out how to make them fall over.

To have simplified and stylized attacks has educational uses, but it must be seen as a tool to use and discard when the situation is appropriate. Rather than doing endless repetitions with a dumb attacker, it is far more valuable to exercise with an intelligent attacker who has permission to do smart reactions. We want to train the attacker to be doing aiki.

First and foremost as we advance we must make our partners better at attacking. It matters not if they are attacking with strikes, or entering in with throws. The attacks must be realistic and put into combinations. Why is it so rare to see an aiki artist’s deal with combinations of punches from a boxer? Why does the tanto attacker simply stick his knife into the air then cleanly take a fall?

In juggling there is a saying, “if you are not dropping the ball, you are not learning.” I think aiki is the same way, if you find you are being successful at a high ratio, it doesn’t mean to have found Ueshiba’s enlightenment. It might mean it is time to turn your attacker’s difficulty level up from stupid to moderate.

Do you know the craziest thing happens when you turn the attacks up to realistic and you take the time to solve the problems you encounter? You get better.

What are some things do to make our attackers better and more dangerous?

• Learn striking/attack combinations and entries.
• Add feints into the attackers skill sets
• Make sure the attacker is genuinely trying to get his prey.
• Develop the spirit of attack as a legitimate form of aiki practice.
• Give them a training weapon and give them permission to get to work. Most people will be able to bring even a skilled martial artist to a failure point. Then dial it back once you learn the edge educational and failure speed.
• Let them strike even when you are busy clumsily working on a wrist lock.
• As skills develop let the attacker take advantage of errors and create technique himself.
• Let your attacker continue to be dangerous when he is on the ground.
• Practice from less than ideal situations. You are not going to always be at the correct distance or even standing up.
• Learn to do aiki with other parts of your body. It isn’t confined to your hands while you are standing.
• Finally, stop being so damn stylized! Question what you have been taught and shown. Grow and develop. Don’t replace critical thinking and exploration with the idea repetitions of mindless kata will magically make you grow.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More Knife Work

Hussey Sensei, Scooter and I did some knife randori today. I am enjoying the knife work more and more. It amplifies the problems.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Kids On the Block

There is a new Tomiki based blog on the blog-o-sphere. I have been chatting with them and I like them. They have all the attributes I like in an online group. They have a dojo, a blog, film themselves and are open for discussion about their work.

Stop by and say hi.


The Problems Of Aikido pt.1

As a member of any particular community I feel it serves best to be more critical of one's own group than anyone else's. For example I feel it is far more important, constructive and patriotic to point out problems with my own country, than to mindlessly wave a flag and tow the line.

Over the past few years my practice of aikido has grown tremendously by critically questioning the practices we adopt as aiki artists. I have found over time many of the practices have a limited use, but eventually need to be discarded after the lesson to be learned in digested and generalized.

So here I will start a critical series about the art I love and what I think the problems are of the aikido approach to training as it is generally practiced. I am hoping my readers will participate in this series by weighing in with their opinion.

What problems do you see in the practice?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thoughts On Uniforms

I am just dropping this out as a conversation starter.

In my history in the martial arts I have worked out with quite a few groups and people. One of the topics that often comes up is uniform standards. I know a lot of artists get very up tight about this subject. I have felt people giving me the stink eye at seminars because I have a patch which their organization does not, or am not wearing a hakama.

On various aikido websites I have seen teachers discuss strict standards they set for uniforms in the dojo. It makes me often wonder why. The last thing I want to do is baby sit adults or tell other people what they should do. I often wear a uniform, but I often think they are silly.

In any exploration I like to start with words. Let us look at the word uniform.

1.identical or consistent, as from example to example, place to place, or moment to moment: uniform spelling; a uniform building code.
2.without variations in detail: uniform output; a uniform surface.
3.constant; unvarying; undeviating: uniform kindness; uniform velocity.

Interesting. I would not use this word to describe any element of aiki practice as I personally see it. Aiki by it's very nature has no uniformity. Techniques are never identical. Consistency is an illusion we build in our communal physical culture by over conditioning partners to move the way our art form demands it.

In the old days people trained in their clothes. Karate men from Okinawa did not wear the white uniforms until the art began being dispersed in Japan. Kung Fu men from the days of old are seen in their street clothes, or their monastic clothing, which is really their daily wear. I have read in the early days in Ueshiba's aiki budo he insisted on hakama, but that was a fairly common piece of clothing, and people often borrowed their father's or grandfathers old formal wear. Strict uniform codes in civilian dojos doesn't seem to me to have ancient roots at all. Of course there is the flip side to this argument is that of course people wore uniforms when they trained in the martial arts, because they were soldiers. The martial arts are the art of war after all. Soldiers of course wear uniforms. A yin yang expression of the martial mind and the personalities that lie within it.

When I look at the modern dojos I see a lot of the character of the art they are forming by the way they wear their uniforms. If they have a strict uniform code they often have a military feel to the dojo. From my experience most of these dojos rank is followed and a strict curriculum is taught. Conformity is valued over creativity. Following example is valued over innovation. The martial form is to be learned by following and through example. Rank earned in other arts is not valued because it does not come from the dojos structure. Ritual tends to be enforced, even if it is exotic and from other cultures standards. The attacks are stylized, as well as the responses. Even randori, or free play, will have a lot of rules and be stylized.

After thinking about it for a while it struck my that often in groups that do have a uniform, the leader breaks the uniform code by wearing something different. Kano and Ueshiba Sensei both often are seen in demonstrations wearing clothing that no other person in their art seems permitted to wear. It strikes me as strange, what is good for the group doesn't apply to the head. There is something interesting to learn in that.

When I look at dojos with looser uniform I tend to see the opposite mentality of the players involved. Ritual breaks down into conversation. Senior/junior relationships come more from mutual understanding than from a system. Drills are often novel and may include influences from several styles. Creative novel movement is rewarded as long as it effective. The parameters of style of more for safety rather than passing on a perfect copy of an idea. Drills and exercises are preferred to precise kata work. Often there will be multiple instructors rather than a center standard of knowledge.

I am sure most dojos fall in between these two ideas I have laid out. I don't really care how you run your group or your school. For me though, I find telling adults how they must dress to be distasteful. I don't want you for your dress code, I want people to join our training for the shared experience of movement.

I am sure all educational models have their uses. Personal taste and artistry come into play. We have made our personal choice how to approach it as a group. Our group doesn't really have a uniform code. Most of us sport the judo jackets and the colored belts. I usually wear a rope with a kendo gi, because I find it fits nicer. Some of our members like t-shirts. One of our group doesn't like uniforms and doesn't wear it. I only ask everyone eventually get a white uniform for seminars if we travel to them, so we don't blunder through everyone else's game too much. I personally respect the color of belt anyone has earned in any school. I find the people that can move wear their belts, The people that have forgotten or never went high in the other art choose to start with white. Many teachers try to control the group with rules, I personally prefer to let people control themselves. For me, and my path it feels more like the free motion that is supposed to be aiki.

Whenever the topic of uniforms comes up, I like to pull out this classic film.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our current knife practice

At the Austin Budokan we are hard at work putting together a knife defense practice. It is still not where I want it to be, but we have made leaps and bounds advancing forward. We have graduated from suckitude to mediocrity. Tonight we were practicing our strips and keeping the flow with a partner that is a medium level pain in the butt. Watching the practice is kind of weird because the knife quickly bounces back and forth between the partners.

I wish I would have kept recording, because about a half hour later we hit some really nice stuff.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Teaching Japanese Calligraphy to the Blind.

I have a deep respect for Asian culture and a passion for calligraphy from China and Japan. I am teacher of students with blindness and visual impairments. In order to share my interest in Japanese and Chinese calligraphy I have started a collection of tactile kanji. I photocopied calligraphy pieces onto a special piece of paper. After exposing it to heat, any part of the paper that is black puffs up and becomes different from the background. It looks neat too.

I started the project by showing the students s variety of pieces I found on the internet or wrote myself. I gave a brief background on Chinese writing. We took some time looking at and feeling the brushes, ink and ink stone. It got a tad messy.

After showing the students how to use a brush we traced the tactile calligraphy with a brush with no ink on it so they could feel how the bristles and brush moves on the paper.

I had some visitors from Japan, who were in to visit my art program. I had the Japanese teachers work with the students and help them write their names. The problem when doing art like this with a student with no vision is they cannot appreciate the end result. (I cut off the student's faces from the picture to protect their privacy.)

So we brought our calligraphy names to the library at our school. I had the students photocopy their name calligraphy onto the puff (piaf) paper. I also added black dots in braille onto the sheet with the students names. Then they lined up and fed their calligraphy through the machine. They all shouted Abracadabra as we did it, because this is where the magic happened.

Puff Paper Machine

Instantly after running the paper through the machine the black parts puff right up. They could now feel the calligraphy and the braille dots now.

Is it perfect? Will a blind student really understand the beauty and finesse of calligraphy? I don't know. Despite the difficulties I will try exposing my students to as much of the beauty that is in the world as I can. I just have to think outside the box and try showing them in different ways.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An interesting knife video

In the aikido community Systema has gained a lot of respect in the past decade. In this video the head of Systema is showing some interesting knife work. I like it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tactile Japanese Calligraphy for the Blind

I have a deep respect for Asian culture and a passion for calligraphy from China and Japan. I am teacher of students with blindness and visual impairments. In order to share my interest in Japanese and Chinese calligraphy I have started a collection of tactile kanji. I photocopied calligraphy pieces onto a special piece of paper. After exposing it to heat, any part of the paper that is black puffs up and becomes different from the background. It looks neat too.

I started the project by showing the students s variety of pieces I found on the internet or wrote myself. I gave a brief background on Chinese writing. We took some time looking at and feeling the brushes, ink and ink stone. It got a tad messy.

After showing the students how to use a brush we traced the tactile calligraphy with a brush with no ink on it so they could feel how the bristles and brush moves on the paper.

I had some visitors from Japan, who were in to visit my art program. I had the Japanese teachers work with the students and help them write their names. The problem when doing art like this with a student with no vision is they cannot appreciate the end result. (I cut off the student's faces from the picture to protect their privacy.)

So we brought our calligraphy names to the library at our school. I had the students photocopy their name calligraphy onto the puff (piaf) paper. I also added black dots in braille onto the sheet with the students names. Then they lined up and fed their calligraphy through the machine. They all shouted Abracadabra as we did it, because this is where the magic happened.

Puff Paper Machine

Instantly after running the paper through the machine the black parts puff right up. They could now feel the calligraphy and the braille dots now.

Is it perfect? Will a blind student really understand the beauty and finesse of calligraphy? I don't know. Despite the difficulties I will try exposing my students to as much of the beauty that is in the world as I can. I just have to think outside the box and try showing them in different ways.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bio Mechanics of Tripping and Recovery

Everyone was practices throwing or balance breaking should know this information on bio mechanics. I have long been searching for information like this. This is quite an interesting find.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Kano on Judo

"I have been asked by people of various sections as to the wisdom and the possibility of Judo being introduced at the Olympic Games. My view on the matter, at present, is rather passive. If it be the desire of other member countries, I have no objection. But I do ...not feel inclined to take any initiative. For one thing, Judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment. Only one of the forms of Judo training, the so-called randori can be classed as a form of sport... [In addition, the] Olympic Games are so strongly flavored with nationalism that it is possible to be influenced by it and to develop Contest Judo as a retrograde form as Jujitsu was before the Kodokan was founded. Judo should be as free as art and science from external influences – political, national, racial, financial or any other organized interest. And all things connected with it should be directed to its ultimate object, the benefit of humanity."

-Jigoro Kano

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Silat 2 man knife attacker drills

I always learn something when I watch drills from this system of silat. They are always interesting and creative.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ueshiba Ukemi

I have long been disappointed that I have not seen any pictures or film of Ueshiba Sensei taking a fall and practicing ukemi. I had come to the conclusion that it was not much part of his practice. Finally I found a film, and took a still of it, of Ueshiba taking a fall for a boy practicing with him. I am still not convinced he took a lot of ukemi in his later years, but at least we see him doing it once.

Here is the film it came from. This still was taken at 7:13 in the video.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Black Widow

It has been 4 weeks since the shoulder injury. Motion is back, but working out is still not a good idea. I have been playing around with the brush and magic again to get me through the injured time till I can hit the mat again. Doc says it might be as long as a year before everything is working right again.

I choose the Black Widow as a subject because, to me, they look the most like calligraphy of any creature. Yoshimitsu, the mythic founder of the aiki concept, learned his understanding of jujutsu from nature. He noticed that a spider making its web could catch its prey that was bigger than the spider itself. This gave him the idea that the small could defeat the large.

Etymology and Calligraphy for 合in Aikido 合気道

Regular/Stiff Form script (Chinese: 楷書; 7th century)

1.the derivation of a word. Synonyms: word origin, word source, derivation, origin.
2.a chronological account of the birth and development of a particular word or element of a word, often delineating its spread from one language to another and its evolving changes in form and meaning. Synonyms: word history, word lore, historical development.
3.the study of historical linguistic change, especially as manifested in individual words.

Seal script (Chinese: 篆書)

Modern stiff form stroke order

The character 合 originally comes from from the Chinese mainland, and was much later adopted into Japanese (maybe 1500-1900 years ago.) Pictographically 合 is an inverted mouth 亼 talking to another mouth 口.

Let's start by taking a look at the pieces of the character.

An important radical (part) of this character is a the symbol for mouth/opening.

Oracle bone script (Chinese: 甲骨文;) from 14th -11th centuries BCE.

The meaning of 口 - the mouth / a person / a certain article ( as a cistern, a big jar, etc. ) / the edge or blade of a knife / an opening / a gate ( especially in the Great Wall or city walls ) / a crack

Now let's take a look at the second radical. - In most contexts represents an upside down mouth - a mouth talking to you. Another meaning of 亼 - to assemble. to gather together

Oracle bone script

In Chinese 合

to combine / to unite / to gather / to collect / to close / to shut / to suit

合 in Cursive/Grass script (Chinese: 草書)

In Japanese 合

fit / match / suit / join / combine / unite / coincide / agree

Clerical Script (Chinese: 隸書 Japanese: 隷書体, Reishotai)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Aiki 合気 defined

Defining the martial arts term aiki 合気 is a tricky venture. In fact I will venture to say defining aiki is absurd. It is undefinable, but the journey of defining it IS the path and practice. It is my belief that essentially it is a word like 'magic' with multiple meanings, or even no real meaning. It is a word an artist adopts and spends their entire life rethinking the meaning of over and over.

First lets take a look at some common translation errors. Often 合気 is translated as harmony-spirit. Some translators have even called aikido the art of peace, again a poetic, but non literal translation. This character 和 means peace/harmony not 合.

'Ai' in Japanese is love, so again it is a common incorrect translation to call aikido the art of love. Aikido uses this 'ai' 合, not this one 愛.

合 - to fit

In our quest to understand this elusive term, let us look at the literal translation of 合. In most dictionaries the definition of 合 - to fit. To fit. I like that. It makes a lot of sense really. I can see how many translators want to layer their own poetry onto the definition, but I think 'to fit' works great.

That being said, kanji are quite complex, so sometimes other words are associated to make the meaning clearer.

合 fit, match, suit, join, combine, unite, coincide, agree

気 - atmosphere, spirit, will, intention

Now let us look at the second charecter in 合気 aiki, the 気. Spirit is a fair literal translation. But the BIG problem is that even in our native tongue of English this is not a clearly understood word. In Japanese there are a handful of characters meaning spirit. Let's look at the other characters so we can determine what spirit ki 気 is not.

- a spirit,a soul,energy,vigor,
- the ghost, the departed soul, the soul, the spirit
- a soul, a spirit, a ghost

So 気 is not soul kind of spirit. It is something different, really.

気 air, atmosphere, spirit, mind, heart, will, intention, feelings, a mood, nature, a disposition, attention, care, a sign

I suppose we could take a word from the first character translation and combine it with the second to begin to construct our own personal poetic translations.

合 fit, match, suit, join, combine, unite, coincide, agree
気 air, atmosphere, spirit, mind, heart, will, intention, feelings, a mood, nature, a disposition, attention, care, a sign

合気 is fit/mind, match/disposition, join/nature, unite/mind, fit/spirit

While hopefully the word soup gets us thinking about aiki in new and different ways, that fact is as artists we all begin to come to a personal understanding of what aiki is and what it isn't. Over the years I have heard many people give personal definitions of it and I would like to start collecting them here as the years progress. Following I will list personal definitions I have heard, or that readers submit.

合気 is

1. Accommodation to circumstance
2. Instant victory
3. Instantly penetrating the spirit of the opponent
4. Nonviolent action
5. Movement that is invisible to the tactile senses of the opponent
6. Teaching lineage from Takeda and Ueshiba
7. Fitting to energy
8. Sagawa reports that AIKI was defined by Takeda as a specific technique that could be taught quickly, therefore he was very careful about whom he showed it to.
9. Finding the fit
10. Confluence
11. Synergy
12. The skill of unifying yourself internally , both mentally and physically, as well as externally with space and change(opponent and with environment.)

What is yours?

As a final interesting note, Aiki 噫気 means burp.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Myth of Invulnerability

As a young child I stared at the silver screen in fascination of the Hollywood martial arts. The young, strong and muscled characters could dispatch a legion of people who stood in their way on their quest for righting wrongs and fighting evil. They gained their miraculous powers through the study of the martial arts - a form of magic it seemed. I think Hollywood advertises for the martial arts more than anything else. The message they sell on the behalf of martial artists is the myth of invulnerability. The martial path is a path of ultimate power - preserving one's own life and dispatching the life of another.

As I grew into my life in the martial arts, more legends were handed to me. I learned of the great teachers such as Ueshiba of aikido, Mifune of judo. A devoted cult of the faithful rise to support the exploits and legends of the greats. Here we go beyond Hollywood. Now we find the real men who were supposedly invulnerable. The stories of the great masters whose pictures are on the wall seem more credible to the young artist as now I found living proof. I found a man called sensei who had hints of these powers. He told stories of the greatness and invulnerability of the men he has met. Sensei assured that the masters before him out shined even the greatness of his own understanding. As I have grown I look back and see that these great men were no more invulnerable than anyone else. Now they are cloaked in myth, and their exploits border on legend and fact. The quest for invulnerability continued on.

Years of training turn into decades. But I look at myself and I find myself no closer to any form of invulnerability. My body still breaks, and I still feel fear. My maturity erases the the foolishness of youth. The myths a young man learns about the arts is the opposite to the martial reality. The martial path is NOT path of ultimate power, and no form of invulnerability is obtained. While yes, skills are developed, the deeper lesson that emerges from our training is our ultimate vulnerability. The myth was given to us only as a something to eventually disprove.

In opposition to the modern movies about the martial heroes, the writing and stories that came from the samurai shows a different view of the martial path. Typically the old stories of the samurai end in failure and tragic death. The hero fails and there is no happy ending. It seems to me that the traditional tales do not prop up the myth of invulnerability. Instead the old tales remind us that even though we walk the martial path there is only one destination and that is our ultimate mortality. Invulnerability is a myth. Accepting our vulnerabilities is truly one the deeper lessons we learn from the martial path.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Saturday Shiai

Saturday I got invited to join an informal judo tournament between the major Austin clubs. Most were from Kokoro dojo's team, there was a judo/BJJ guy and a few from the old Round Rock martial arts.

My first three matches were uneventful. It ended being the mutual fall over to ground work sort of affair. I controlled my opponents fairly quickly. I scored an arm bar, pin and a choke.

The fourth match was with the BJJ/Judo guy. He was young and strong. He felt like a statue of rigidity. I slipped on a lovely standing choke and his face went purple. It took him about all he had, but he got out at the last second ad commented that he had never felt that before. After some balance breaking back and forth I drove him into the ground, and we entered the briefest ground work session I have ever been part of. He snapped in a arm bar that was pure art. It is lovely experiencing technique that clean. Hats off. It never bothers me losing to good technique.

The fifth match I found myself outclassed. He moved in a beautiful entry and lifted me off the ground. Sadly as I came down all of my weight was driven into my shoulder. I felt the snap. Shoulder separated. Damn.

No training for at least 2 months. Likely I am going to be feeling it for far longer. I have been on an odd emotional ride, knowledge that I will not be training along with sleepless nights have me feeling a tad off. I might not be able to take my braille final that I have been studying for since June.

But I am open to the new lessons. Time to learn to use my left hand. Time to see what life is like as a non-martial artist is like. A different path opens up as another one closes. Adventure ahead!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kung fu lives in how we treat people

The one gem of knowledge that came through in Jackie Chan's version of Karate Kid is found in the line "Kung fu lives in how we treat people." Good stuff.

I first joined the martial path as an 11 year old. I was tormented at school by a pack of bullies. Bullies by their very nature have power and use it to oppress and attack the weak and defenseless. I was an innocent child with no fighting spirit. I simply had no anger, I had no desire to hurt another. All I felt was fear. I was a punching bag for the other kids. Children outside the gaze of authority can be every bit as cruel as adults, maybe worse.

The past year has seen an interesting rise in aggressors in my life, from people who have never met me. I have weathered a storm storm of insults. But I am not the innocent child who will live in fear. My thoughts will not be hidden away. I have a voice and I have opinion. Despite how I am treated I will always treat everyone with courtesy and respect.

Following is an clip verse 27 from the Tao that has greatly influenced the way I interact with my fellow man.

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn't reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn't waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.

So despite being treated poorly, why would I not attack back? Like the 11 year old self I have no desire to harm another. Further I have no desire to waste my energy on people who treat me poorly. After a lifetime of experience I am not that defenseless 11 year old any longer. I have no need to feel fear. I will not be bullied again.

Jackie reminded us in his movie, kung fu lives in how we treat people. I choose to have good kung fu. I choose to treat people well. I choose to have positive kung fu where the world is full of friends, not enemies. I choose not to engage in battles where there is no positive outcome. My kung fu is to help protect the defenseless and never to attack and insult another. I choose to have a kung fu of creation and protection, not destruction.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Pink Sticker

I first wrote this on Thursday September 13, 2001

When I was 17 I used to borrow my mother's car. It was a 1986 Ford Taurus with a big pink sticker on the back that said "visualize world peace." To my 17 year old world nothing was cool about it. I used to carefully peel off the sticker from the bumper and attach it to the dashboard. I did not want anyone catching me driving around with such a lame sticker on the back of an already lame car.

In college I studied forensic anthropology under the professor that worked both the Oklahoma City bombing and the Branch Dividian fire. He said that whenever he worked a case the blood and bodies would never affect him. He could work on the body of a child that had been crushed by a bus and he would be OK. However, when he saw the crushed frame of a bicycle he would burst into tears.

Terrible things are unfolding in the world right now. I have been watching the news with shock and disbelief with the rest of the world. The images of planes and burning buildings are haunting. But when I watched it I was OK. Then on the news they showed a scene from Palestine. Old women were dancing and celebrating in the streets because they had heard the news of the attack.

I openly wept.

I wept for these people so full of anger and pain they relish in the misery and destruction of others. I wept because because this is the cause of the tragedies that humans purposefully inflict on one another. I wept because they are lost children. I wept because the this joy they felt was the reason so many others were hurting.

When a society makes enemies with another society an interesting process called dehumanization starts. Basically one group transforms the other group in their minds. They demonize them or make them less than human. During World War 2 the allies painted the Japanese as robots. The Japanese believed the Americans to be demons. The Nazis likened the Jews to a disease. This happens in every war.

It deeply saddens me to see another society viewing mine as demons.

Dehumanization happens because it is easy to kill a robot, demon, zealot, or animal. It is not easy to kill a human of equal value.

In the Tao De Jing:

"When it comes time to pick up the weapons of war, one should do so with a heavy heart."

...and so the kharmic wheel turns and the old hate creates new. Many people have died and many more will. The weapons of war are being readied, hopefully with the most heavy of hearts. I see the things that must be done, but I pray I never see in the streets of America what I saw in those streets of Palestine - celebration of the misery of others.

Now I wish to God I had never taken that sticker off my mother's car that said "Visualize World Peace." I don't just visualize it. I pray for it, I scream to the heavens for it. I feel a great sadness in its eternal absence. Maybe world peace is an impossible dream, but if we don't visualize it we never stand a chance of even tasting it.

Visualize World Peace

Walk In Peace

Friday, September 9, 2011

I wear a rope

Although I had announced it several weeks ago on facebook, I had not gotten around to talking about it on the blog. Looking around the martial arts world I have become tired of people's politics over belts. It really is a silly game. The politics are not even my own, nor concern me, but I see how they make people all goofy. I decided to shed the politics of rank on the mat - I now wear a rope. Actually I wore no belt for a while, but people got tired of seeing my belly. So a rope it is, unless the gi covers my flab. Here is a photo of me at a workshop last weekend among judo, aikijujitsu and aikido practitioners. I am the ugly guy in the middle wearing a rope. My gi had just been torn off and shredded by the old guy to my left so I had to grab my old kendo one from the back room.

Why do I wear a rope? I give everyone who shares the mat with me the right to grade my according to whatever system they see fitting. While many teachers have granted me rank in the past few decades, that is between me and them. I don't expect anyone else to respect or care about that. I invite you to grade me according to your own system as we play. I have no intention of lording rank over you, that you probably don't respect anyhow. If I have something to offer I will teach. I you have something to offer I will listen. Likely I will listen even if you don't think you have anything to offer. I am done with the politics game, let's hit the mat.

In other news, and timely with my disgust in rank issues, Bullshido has gotten around to giving me the stink eye. I invite any of my readers to join in the fun and flogging me. I believe it is under the thread labeled - So American Judo doesn't totally fellate equine genitalia. I believe I was used as a counter argument to that thesis. I have little ego in the game, so have at it kids. I would especially like the guys who I work out with to take a look, as the fighters at Bullshido seem to have a serious problem with our methods. Listen to the criticisms and take a serious look at your training. Get a new workout group if you have questions about your training at all.

Patrick Parker sent me the following cartoon.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Flaming Jian 火劍

Dr. Green stopped by this weekend and dosed with with some traditional Chinese medicine and internal arts. He introduced me to a Chinese weapon I had never seen. It is the straight sword with a flail off the handle. I found it impossible to use. Of course, he lit his on fire to increase the awesome factor of this difficult weapon.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

That Guy

Just back from the seminar in Seattle and Lowry Sensei and I had an interesting discussion about the interesting little egos battles you find on the mat at the big seminars. Of course in every seminar you find 'that guy' who simply doesn't want to play nice. That guy actively seeks to not let you work out in any way. That guy tends to be a brown belt, who knows just enough to have ego, but not enough to do the techniques correctly himself. This last seminar I went to was stocked with that guy.

I felt that guy wanting to ego battle me. I tried to diffuse him, "hey brother I am just learning this stuff, can we go slow and relaxed so I can feel it?"

That guy wanted to teach me a lesson. He resisted and flexed all he could, simply making the technique we were working on impossible.

I take a nice fall for him when he is ready.

"Hey you know you are resisting this motion, but it is just putting you into this I throw" (That guy falls over, upset that I changed the parameters to another throw)

I take a nice fall for him when he is ready.

Next round that guy is more ramped up. He is in shiai (fight mode) now That guy is determined not to be thrown. That guy resists my technique with all his might, but falls over to a foot sweep. He is frustrated that I am an aiki cheater. Yes I am.

I take a nice fall for him when he is ready.

Now he is ready this time. fight fight fight. I loop around behind him and put my fingers in his nose and guide him to the ground. I can be a real sonovabitch when you want to play like that. It was gentle but invasive.

I take a nice fall for him when he is ready.

After Sensei calls a halt, I look at that guy and thank him for giving me such hard puzzles to solve and tell him I loved working out with him. He seems confused that I am genuinely warm towards him.

Funny thing, the next lady I played with was a joy to touch, and we laughed the whole time. Oh ...that guy, you make training so hard on yourself.

Thanks That Guy for playing. Anytime you want to prove to me that I can't do that throw, please let me know! I know plenty more that will work instead.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Spooky Stuff

My skills have amplified. No seriously. Some things from the seminar stuck, and my own experiments have yielded some killer results. I have have leveled up this week.

Tips that pushed me over the edge this week.

Absolutely no fear of falling, not clinging to the need to stand - any tension to fight to stand is a failure to do aiki
no thought of techniques
No tension in arm
Breathing to create relaxation and weight drop
deeper levels of dynamic relaxation
Circling around still point, or flanking the opponents attack in a neutral pivot point
Moving where I am told, then moving to places of freedom
Pulsing energy - use power to create connection, then drop power to zero creating a void
Entry focused on moving my hips into my partners structure
Emotional intention dramatically affects results
becoming heavy and exhaling into the triangulation point
Never trying to throw or move my opponent - I only connect and move myself

Simply do all these at once and you too can create Aiki magic!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Aiki Multi-Discipline Seminar Seattle 2011-2012

A special event inspired by the successes of the Aiki Expo a decade ago was held on the weekend of August 19-21 2011. Many teachers and students of a variety of differing arts came together from across the united States to share and compare ideas.

George Ledyard was the man who I believed organized the event. His is a sixth dan in his organization, but I believe he shows talent and insight even above this rank level. I first heard of him when Nick Lowry sent me a few of his DVDs on Kaeshi Waza and Connection. Both DVDs are excellent and helped reframe the problems in Aikido. He touched on both of these issues at the seminar as well. I got to get my hands on him a few times and he masterfully controlled my balance and structure. He lessons on preconnection intention and irimi will take me a long time to truly understand, but rest assured there is truth in his practice. He was also very critical of the way most schools of Aikido train their uke’s to attack. I agree with his ideas on this front too. Thank you Ledyard Sensei for putting this valuable training together. I will defiantly support this man’s work in the future.

Kimberly Richardson played host to the event at her dojo Two Cranes Aikido in Seattle, Washington. The dojo was a sculpture of the Aikido aesthetic. The people who built this dojo and train there should be proud of their accomplishment. Richardson Sensei was the unexpected surprise of the event for me. I have never seen a powerful female teacher in martial arts. She filled the room with her presence. She moved like effortlessly on the mat like a ballroom dancer. She moved so well I started questioning the ukes in her demonstration, because they were being easy on her. I am pretty sure she read my doubts and grabbed me and started moving me around the mat in a way I have never felt before. Her explanations of her thoughts were on a different realm of any teacher I have heard. I told her I really liked her and that I didn’t understand a thing she was saying – BUT I want to understand. I plan on making contact with her regularly so she might push me in unexpected directions. She was awesome.

George Popkin was almost exactly the opposite personality from Richardson Sensei. Popkin Sensei is a fireplug of a man, with a thick New York accent. He moved in the tell tale signature of some of the lineages of Daito Ryu. I enjoyed his work, and I really think many of my friends in the arts would really dig this guy and his work. One of my regrets was that I did not get to connect with him, as I would like to have had some of the deeper Daito Ryu conversations with him. I hope to see more of him in the future.

Systema, one of my new favorite martial arts was represented by a teacher named Kaizen. He took us through a series of yoga-like breathing, stretching and relaxation drills. I will admit at the time I did not really enjoy these segments as much as some of the other teachers, but already I have found myself thinking about the drills many times since I got home. Perhaps the lessons will be slower to unfold in my practice, but they have merit.

Toby Threadgill is someone I have been looking forward to meeting for a while. He was a pleasant and humorous teacher. He emphasized the still point, but I forgot the word he used for it. He also emphasized the importance of relaxation. I enjoyed his work.

Nick Ushin Lowry was not a featured teacher, but he is one of my artistic influences, and good friends. Besides bringing me to the event, he showed me some tastes of the things he is working on. Good creative stuff. I learned many lessons in our few days exploring and training together. I am always grateful for his company while walking down the path of budo.

The Enso Center hosted Nic, my traveling partner, and me in their home. They are amazing people. If you live in the Redmond/Seattle area you should drop by and train with the 4 generations of martial artists training in one dojo. They were some of the kindest, generous and devoted artists I have met in a long time. There dojo was magnificent on a scale that makes most of us humble dojo owners feel impotent. It is a temple to the martial practice, and to education process itself. I fell in love with the Mix family and I plan on getting back up to the Enso Center as often as I can.

It was a great time, with great friends, in a great part of the world. The teachers guiding our experience were all wonderful, and all the participants were a blast to get to know. About 20 percent of the people could have been one the featured instructors in their own right. My only small disappointment of the event is that the featured instructors often sat on the side talking and joking when it was not their turn to teach. I found this disappointing because I traveled to work out with these folks and to watch them try to solve the puzzles that the other teachers offered. I would have preferred to have had to chance to play with them all, even if we were practicing something that was outside their comfort zone.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bruce Lee's Grave

When I was 19 I went through my Bruce Lee phase. I was determined that if I ever went to Seattle I would visit the humble shrine to his mortal shell. It took a few years, but with the help of Nick Ushin Lowry's Zen magic, and Jason Mix's knowledge of Seattle - the mission was accomplished

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Myth - why people flip from kote gaeshi

Kote Gaeshi, the wrist return is a classical aiki throwing form. The physics of it seems irrational to the new student. How could a person be thrown from a wrist connection into a head over heels flip?

The answer that is given by many Aiki teachers is

"People have to take the fall to avoid having their wrist broken."

In my humble opinion training with this view on the mechanics is a huge heap of manure. What they are really saying is, "I have not figured out the mechanics of the throw yet, so I conditioned this guy to jump over for me."

To be a real and effective technique kotegaeshi must affect uke's center, distort their structure and break balance. Any pain on the wrist comes from stylistic temperament and ethics, improper use of power, or flawed application of mechanics.

Application of the lock should transmit energy through uke's elbow, shoulder, and torso. Kote gaeshi is not a wrist break, it is a connection from one center of balance to another's. Pure and simply it is connection. The best artists can do this technique without any pain, and virtually no detectable pressure for the proprioceptive nervous system of uke to register. This, in my opinion should be the highest goal of all artists: no pain, minimal pressure.

So why do people flip out of the technique?

Simple answer is because they were told to. For the vast majority of kote gaeshi throws actually an easy back fall would suffice. In the past five years I have only been forced to choose a flipping break fall maybe twice. Sure I bet someone out there can really nail it, but for the several hundred thousand of other practitioners, we are playing make believe when we take these throws. Yes there is collusion in the way aikido is often practiced. It is ok, as long as you recognize it, admit it and are using it as a tool to get to the next level.

A few years ago I was at a dojo and a man was fervently arguing that a flip was the only proper and safe way to get out of kote gaeshi. He was upset that I could always take a easy back fall out of the technique. "Really? Ok I will tell you what, I will throw you ten times as hard as I can and you have to take the flip, and you can throw me ten times as hard as you can, and I will back fall. That way we can see which method of ukemi is superior" He agreed. I bowed off the mat, put on some slippers and walked outside into the parking lot. "Where are you going?" the man asked. I responded "We are doing it out here on the concrete." I casually kicked some broken glass, and sharp rocks out of the way as he declined the invitation to demonstrate the superiority of his technique in non ideal conditions.

Sure I know, your Sensei could throw me and make me flip. I know, I know. There are many circumstances were this condition happens, but the flipping ukemi is one possible falling reaction, not the rule.

So why do most aikidoka flip out of kote gaeshi? I believe it is the collusion that flaws much of our practice. There are artists that can make it happen, yes. So we, the humble students, try to copy the example without understanding the mechanics. We have to justify the flipping action great sensei got that alludes us so we rationalize an excuse. We tell people they better flip or their wrists will break, and we perpetuate a false myth about the practice. We then practice aikido that looks like the way the high level teachers do it, but it is a pale imitation. The collusion kote gaeshi techniques are a mere phantasm of aiki. They are a faux reflection lacking the substance and mechanics of a martially valid expression of principle.

You can probably write a book about what happens to a person going through a masterful kote gaeshi. "Flipping out to avoid the wrist breaking" would not be in it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Merritt Stevens Video

Meritt Stevens was one of the guys to bring Tomiki aikido to the USA.
A film has just been digitized of him teaching. This is another Tomiki lineage treasure to surface on YouTube. He brought the practice to Ohio and it spread. Ohio is one of the focal points of Tomiki aikido in the USA because of his work. The only two states with more Tomiki based dojos are Oklahoma and Texas.

This film was made in 1983.

Friday, August 5, 2011

no reload knife throwing

I enjoy knife throwing. 15 years ago I was quite good at it.

What this guy demos here is pretty insane. as the video progresses he gets both knives to hit at once, then the second knife strikes before the first. Neat stuff. He has a cool target too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Headlocks for Throws

I have been having a conversation about headlocks on Rum Soaked fist the Chinese internal arts forum. Apparently a lot of artists don't use it, so I was exploring it.

Questions posed by member JohnWang

- How to break (or take advantage on) his strong body structure/alignment?
- How to take advantage on his waist wrapping arm?
- How to destroy his balanced horse stance?

My findings

- How to break (or take advantage on) his strong body structure/alignment?

I assume we are talking about when the opponent is standing before we lock happens. I used the model of head misalignment and spinal rotation. The entry into the head control rolls the head around, and I scoop the head to my shoulder, so it is connected to me. This moves the head away from its normal position on both the X and Y axis. Matl Sensei demonstrates this well. Now the opponents head is connected to my body as I rotate my body the opponents head-spine-hips are all misaligned robbing him of virtually all power.

The only problems I sometimes faced was the entry as my partners knew what I was shooting for. I found as long as I had a grip on their sleeve with my non head locking hand, I could manipulate their shoulders as I entered reinforcing and causing more structural distortion in my opponent.

- How to take advantage on his waist wrapping arm?

I did not find that is was a big issue - at least with the players I was with tonight. (of course there is always someone better out there) If the above step was done correctly. The two problems we found, was if you did not distort the posture correctly you found yourself in position for counter Tani Otoshi (valley drop) throw. If the head lock was performed well this was not an option, as the spine was too distorted to generate the counter.

The other issue I found once my partners saw what I was trying to work on, they predicted the entry and pushed away my hips with the "waist wrapping hand". This was difficult for them to do, but the times they were successful it propelled me into an outside reap or drop (osoto gari or osoto otoshi) yes it negated the headlock entry, but it fell well within the chain of renzaku (continuous attacks based of partners reactions)

As to issues of the kidney punch. With the twisted head a spine my partners could deliver virtually no energy.

- How to destroy his balanced horse stance?

I found this one was the easiest. Our conclusion - there is no balanced horse stance in a grappling situation if you are with people who understand triangulation and center drop who is holding a person with a misaligned head and twisted spine. Once the head lock (head misalignment and spinal twist) was in place the two partners have a shared center of balance. We were connected. If I moved my hips just a half inch it rocked my partners balance to his heels. Stepping through him caused structural collapse. Stepping behind either of his feet caused either a reap, or a trip with center drop. Stepping forward was a ashi guruma throw. Stepping to the sides caused versions of Tai Otoshi. As long as the head a spine misalignment happened at the first stages - you were pretty golden. When it didn't happen I had to go into a barrage of foot sweeps to make up for the mistake.


I am higher ranked in aikido than judo, so I prefer to deal with the problem before it gets to tight grappling and wrestling. If typical aiki strategies fail and the opponent gets close enough, moving in with the hips and feet are the way to go. Judo time! To insure the hip and foot attacks will be successful the structure of the person has to be broken. We have to bend the spine somehow. Controlling the head seems to be a good option. While there are problems and counters, it is the skill and talents of both participants that will shape the unknown future into a technique or failure. I personally will keep the headlock in my arsenal of tools to train with. A perfect tool, no - but in martial arts I haven't found one yet.

My recommendation is to train longer and be more skilled than your opponents.

The elements I felt tonight (but may change on my next practice)

Head control

1. the opponents head must be taken off its alignment in at least two dimensions
2. the opponents head should be embraced to your own body

Spine control
3. The head now off alignment and attached to another center. Now the body adjusts to continue the spinal twisting in the opponent, effectively robbing them of power and options.

Foundation Control - attack with the hips and feet.
4. Now that the two people's structured are attached and the opponents structure has been crumbled - there is an endless variety of angles to drop center, reap feet, trap feet preventing recovery. In my techniques the majority of opponents stance crumbling at this comes from hips moving in, or my opponents feet being moved by my reaps.

The most effective head locks I have thus far made seem to start with the head, move down the spine, affect the hips and then feet - then the whole structure comes crumbling down.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Impressive Move

Here we see a fascinating conflict. A lady gets harassed on a train, and a really interesting move happens that totally breaks the spirit of the attacker. A lot to ponder here really.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Homemade Training Dummy

Look at the above picture. Ip Man is way cool. What do those Chinese artists have that I don't have?

Cool uniforms? I got them. Plus I have magician clothes.

Styles based on the animals? my wife says I have perfected Drunken Ass.

I know, the cool wooden dummy.

Wooden dummies are just plain neat. I have wanted one since I was 14. I got to play around on one when I was a Wing Chun student, but really I have not had the time to trance out on one.

A few years ago it occurred to me that I was never going to shell out the money to buy one. The traditional dummies do not move in a way that would be helpful to my current martial training anyways. Then a spark of inspiration hit. I have so much crap in the garage. I bet there is a training dummy in here somewhere. 3 hours later I had a pretty good workable first version. Cost - free. I worked out on it for about an hour. I gotta say it was nice getting back to some sweaty garage training. This was the way I used to train 12 years ago - just losing myself, by myself. My current art form has the nice space, the students and all that, but there is something cool about having a little space at the house you can go trance out at.

Here is a video and picture of mine. My dummy is quite versatile.

Here is a collection of photos and videos from the net of other artists dummies. You can do it!