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!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Seminar in Oklahoma

This past weekend the Windson Dojo in Oklahoma city hosted J.W. Bode to teach a session on aikido from his unique police tactical background. I was attended by many of the usual suspects of the growing Kaze Uta Budo Kai scene.

I just wanted to write a few quick notes about some of t he people and experiences, to start getting my head back into writing and blogging.

J.W. Bode

He was the featured presenter at the seminar. Much of the material he covered was the same as when he visited us in March, it was a good refresher. Basically he has shortened release motions, and ends them all in control positions. I feel that this slight shift in methodology is a good move for the kata. We also started exploring the notion that if you understand release motions, you have enough material to start doing some valuable randori. Bode Sensei was his usual charming self. Rather than saying he is a martial artist, I believe him to be a strategist, in the way Musashi viewed swordsmanship. Every release motion had correlations to arrest, squad movement and military strategy. Good stuff.

JW is a good friend.

Nick Ushin Lowry

Our host was laid back and chill this session. Often he shoulders much of the long session teaching. This time, he chilled out and did not even put a uniform on. He spent time filming and playing host. I feel the big lesson to learn from Nick is how to run a loose organization. He built a lovely dojo, and invited people to come play. He has a place where we come together, exchange and play. Minimal politics.

Nick did get into a conversation with Bode about Judo foot sweeps. Nick threw me a few times harder than I have been thrown in a good while. It felt like my feet were surprised by an ice patch. The throw wasn't hard, per se, but I accelerated towards the Earth due to gravity and girth. Bam. Nick has wicked sweeps.

Nick is one of my best friends. I love that guy.

Patrick Parker

Patrick Parker from the Mokuren Dojo and Blog drove 14 hours up to the session. I didn't get to play with him too much, but I love it when I see him at a session. For a fact he has a damn cool southern accent. It is not a yokel one either, seeing how he is a reader and all.

I did get to briefly show him a ukemi/sacrifice drill we have been working on in our dojo. He saw it and instantly did it better than me. He gots some skills that guy.

We did not get to have our second randori off for glory. I assume he backed down this time due to my awesome mohawk. He is often intimidated by stunning fashion and good looks.

Patrick is damn cool, despite being wrong about something he wrote one time. (I don't remember what) I consider him a good friend and a true scholar in our field.

Jack Bieler

Jack is the Kaze Uta Budo Kai sword and stick maven. He moves cool, with grace and poise. I watched him for a while teaching a separate iaido session and it made me envious of his skills with the art form. He looked exacting, focused, meditative and dynamic. Neat stuff.

We did a good long session of release motions where we gave each other a lot of problems. The one thing that stuck out as we got increasingly physical intense, we talked casually about topics. There was an odd separation of intensity that even thought there were difficult training problems going on, there was an over riding internal 'cool' going on. Physical training need not be an ego or stressful issue.

Jack is always fun, plus he has a cool mustache. Only regret this session with jack is that I did not get to drink a beer with him.

Jack is a great guy and I am looking forward to when he invites himself down for a seminar.

Damon Kornele

He attended this event.

George Spriggs

I had long heard of this man who I finally met just last year. He taught a interesting session with his friend Daniel about thinking about aikido differently. He was full of ideas, for sure. He is one man I wouldn't want to tangle with.

He tackled me when I was trying to to leave the mat. I was hoping he was going to teach me something, but much to my surprise he started picking my brain and stealing my secrets. I was impressed at how open this high ranked artist was to learning different ways of moving and thinking. Although he far outranks me he still is learning and I was honored that he enjoyed some of the strategies I have been developing.

I hope George can make it to Austin sometime this year. I am looking forward to making this guy a close friend.

John Boone

My long time friend, and new member of my dojo. We drove up to Oklahoma together and discussed strategy, military tactics and aikido. I laughed so hard and almost passed out on the drive back.

Missouri College guys

I loved meeting these guys. I had some nice randori with several of the guys and they were all nice and skilled. I hope to get invited out there sometime.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Right Here, Right Now

I first encountered this poet and calligrapher when I lived in Japan. His name is Aida Mitsuo. Some of my Japanese friends introduced me to his work, and tried to convince me of his cleverness. Above we see a piece of his work. His calligraphy is child-like and almost burped out onto the page. He even childishly uses the kana or phonetic alphabet rather then the refined kanji, or Chinese characters. On the surface I do not like this piece. BUT, I have remembered it for ten years...I have recreated it, I have found it's wisdom. OK, I like it.

It says "Ima Koko" - Now, Here. In the English language it is often translated as 'Right Here, Right Now'. This is a Zen idea. I reminds us that the past is gone, the future is unknown, and truly all we ever have is the right here and now. All thought, action, change, and work only happens in the now. Living in the past or for the future is not the way, because we will never be in the past or future, only the now.

For those of into Zen or the martial arts, we like to build myths about teachers. Eventually the teachers that came before us become symbols of what we can achieve if we follow the way. Often the teachers take on a quality of purity and perfection. For those of in the martial arts they become enlightened or invincible.

Ima Koko - 'Right Here, Right Now' beckons us out of the fantasy and mythology. So what is Mr Monk or Mr Teacher was so great? That was their path. That was their practice. The only practice and person you can ever be responsible for is yourself. Budo, the martial way and Zen did exist in the past, but largely it is irrelevant to you and me practicing right now. We stand on the shoulders of the great teachers that came before us, not so that we can copy their art. We don't try to become them, or deify their lives. We stand on their shoulders so we can practice the art and spiritual paths, right here and right now and come to our own own conclusion. Nothing else matters except what you do this moment.

So remember fellow travelers on the path. Live in the now and seize the day. Make every encounter with your teacher, student, coworker, wife and child meaningful. Show them who you truly are, and what you are working on becoming. The teachers that came before are mere legends. The teachers that are to come have not been shaped yet. There is only you - and you perpetually exist in the here and now.

"Do not look back. And do not dream about the future, either. It will neither give you back the past, nor satisfy your other daydreams. Your duty, your reward--your destiny are here and now."

~Dag Hammarskjold

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Zen teachers like to draw circles. Sometimes they draw them around from right to left, sometimes around from left to right. These circles can represent emptiness, fullness, or the moon. Or they can represent the practice. The circle that goes around from right to left-against the path of the sun on the sundial - represents the hard way of practice before any glimmer of understanding appears. When it goes around left to right, following the path of the sun, it represents the easier way of practice after a glimmer opens the Way. But both before and after glimmer, the practice requires investment and conscientious diligence.

-Robert Aitken

Here is one of my humble attempts. Again, photography cannot capture the 3 dimensional quality of this painting.