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.