Tuesday, April 26, 2011


The last few days have been full of self introspection. An old classmate gave me some candid evaluations, and some unique insights into my practice and how it is viewed among his teachers and peers. Even in the harmony I continue to look within.

How do view my own training and my relationship with the arts?

Honestly I continue to be happy with my slow development, my relationships, my techniques, my students and my teachers. I enjoy my expression of the arts.

First to my development as a martial artist. I mean here the nitty gritty technique part. I am not super human, that much is for sure. In judo shiai I get really bogged down with 4th and 5th dans. In aikido shiai I have traded some great techniques with people that far outrank me. In the grand scope of things that doesn't seem so bad. I tend to be terrible with kata, but I am strong at creativity, and randori. I see relationships in body dynamics that not many people can see.

I love randori. Some days I am a force of nature. Other days my ass gets served to me. I am not afraid to lose or take ukemi. I have far less ego in technique than I have had before.

Kuzushi, breaking the structure of an opponent using their energy, or minimal energy of my own is my obsessive pursuit.

My techniques continues to get softer and more effective. I do still have some muscly and pain hot spots, but I feel them coming on and now I abandon them. I tend to practice against people who are resistive or have poorer ukemi. This has made my approach more pragmatic, and I chose safer throws that I can safely control the decent of almost any opponent, no matter their skill level. It makes the aiki a little less flippy and graceful, but I don't require people to 'go with the flow' in order to gain the controls I am after.

I am now teaching at two schools. Since I have started the second school I am beginning to take on a few shodan and above level students from a variety of clubs from around town. The new guys seem to appreciate I don't control them with rules, and I let them explore their training in a principled yet non limited way. I really get along well with my guys. There is a lot of laughter. On the horizon a third club is forming that I will be teaching at as well.

I have solid relationships with other oddballs, eccentrics and wise men in the arts. My evenings not training are often spent bloggin and on the phone, laughing about the way and sharing life with my fellow budoka.

I have been training very close with my some of my teachers lately. They have out poured generosity in their time spent with me. Matl Sensei has been giving me a couple hours a week. Hussey Sensei has been coming down and working with small groups. Bode Sensei and Lowry Sensei have kept their presence and influence active through the internet and phone. Waddell Sensei is who I take my trips to meet. We speak of God, whiskey and the way. I realize I don't fit with all people in the world, but I have found a few who seem to like me.

I continue to enjoy the martial arts. I am putting in 5-7 hours on the mat and another couple at the range every week. It keeps me happy, fulfilled and constantly striving for improvement. My body is strong, largely pain free and healthy. My relationships are solid and deep. I try to be respectful and kind in all my dealing in the arts and in life. I feel I am reaping the rewards of the practice. I have a long way to go and much to learn. Hopefully I will be blessed with a long life and the health to train till the very end of it.

It is entirely possible that I have my head up my ass.

Walk In Peace

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tai Otoshi 体落 Henka

I got the chance to get another private lesson with Matl Sensei this week. He went over many of his favorite variations on the 体落 Tai Otoshi (body drop) idea. He is very clever with his adjustments on the classic ideas. He does not follow the classic form when he finds a better way to do them. He has slowly carved away inefficiencies from classical judo ideas, until they have become softer, safer and more efficient.

Usually I cut out me doing the throws in my films with Sensei. I kept them in because he is always correcting my mistakes. Keeping in my clumsy version will probably be useful to understand the sequence of teaching.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hagakure on training

"A man who gains a reputation due to a technical perfection in martial arts is an idiot. Out of his foolishness he focuses all his force on one thing and in order to succeed at it forgets to think about anything else. Such a man is not properly prepared."

"A man's training is endless. Sometimes, you start to feel that you have reached perfection at something, so you stop doing what you were doing. Whereas, he who wishes to reach perfection must always remember that he is very far from it. Only he who is not satisfied with just being an achiever and always striving for new achievement can consider himself to be a great man."

from Hagakure ("Hidden in the leaves") by Yamamoto Tsunatomo 1716

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Matl Sensei ground work

I shot some video notes of a few ground work sessions with Matl Sensei. He has a very different feel to his ground work. He floats above his opponent taking up space for them to move. He believes that if you put weight on your opponent, that you are resting on unstable ground. If they move - you move. This idea is contrary to many ground work artists. Hussey Sensei on the other hand feels like the heaviest man in the world when he pins your ribs down. Different strategies, I like them both - no one person has all the answers.

By the way, I am a big believer in having video notes now. I will review these time and time again, picking up small details. Even if you don't want to share your training on youtube - I highly recommend you video and watch your practice as often as you can.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More structure breaking

This is the second shot that Mike (white pants)and I (black pants) took this week. We are working slow, minimal energy and relaxed. We are giving each other a pretty tough puzzle though - the constantly recovering person. Here mostly we are focusing on breaking the person down their weak lines and when they make a recovery step to correct for the distortion in their balance, we break them again. We find 2-4 decent balance breaks makes an unrecoverable kuzushi (structure crumbling) chain.

Another point of interest to look for is the difference in Mike's and my foot techniques. Mike's strategy is not to throw with the sweeps, but to change my recovery of few inches from where I am expecting to have my feet land. That caused enough postural distortion that the next movement was a structure collapse. My sweeps tended to be a bit more decisive towards the tsukuri-to-kake idea, but looking at it, Mike's strategy seems to maintain a softer edge.

Watching the film, another thing I would like to point out is the relaxed zanshin - or remaining energy. Notice how even between throws we are keeping an eye on each other and moving in a way to always face each other. Zanshin does not always have to burn a hole in each other, but this is one long engagement. We never disconnect our focus. There are a few times we almost turn our backs to our partner, but you will notice we are watching intently from the corner of our eyes. Also notice how me manage distance as our partners are getting up. We are playing loose and relaxed here, but the attention does not lag. We are monitoring at all times.

Unless we are working on something specific in our dojo, we do not have any stylized attack or beginning attack distance. It is an interaction of management of one another. Nothing is prescriptive, only reaction to circumstance. An attacker tries to come up with novel problems. The receiver of the attack merely moves and connects, and starts working angles. A partner has permission to attack at any time during practice, which is why me maintain focus. In our films you will regularly see people getting attacked while standing back up if they are not paying attention. Even in this film, Mike thought an engagement may have been over, so he stood back up right into a foot technique trap. Any time we see a hole in focus we always continue to work a connection.

A final thing to point out, which is related to zanshin. Notice how we monitor our position after the throw. As the guy on the ground we have permission to continue the attack from the ground if we can. If we can grab our partner's legs, or entangle him in some way, we almost always do. If you build these factors into your play, you will find that students will use better strategies, distances and angles naturally.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tueller Drill

A bunch of the blogs are posting information about the 21 foot rule. Basically a man can sprint and stab 21 feet before an officer can draw a weapon. Check out this video.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kuzushi practice

Grad school has killed my urge to type, but I am still shooting video! Here Mike and I are working on multistage balance breaks. In my mind this is what kuzushi looks like, a crumbling of the structure with every step.

I was talking with Hussey Sensei about this last night, and it feels like swimming in mud and being overwhelmed with problems. Looking at the film though, it looks like we are just falling over for each other. The camera caught a valuable view.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Internet Budo

Just saving this for future reference.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Matl vs Mike

My student goes against my teacher in some fun randori.