Monday, January 29, 2007

Learning by looking forward, and backward...

I was debating whether to edit this out but then this blog wouldn't really be my thoughts as I truly see them. I've had this growing theory of how things get taught and it consists of two parts. First off, people much better than me having an insight into inner workings of movement I can't fathom yet so I just do as they tell me or I see them doing hoping to understand or finding understanding in it, at least partially. Secondly, the people who teach me, looking towards the people that taught them the same way. I wonder if they see something they don't understand and just attempt to find meaning in it too. For instance, when I was asking about the getting behind the arm in Nijusan, I was wondering if Karl or Henry said to do that for all of the movements or if that was extrapolated by the mid ranks and being taught that way because that's how they saw it. Later, the upper echelons looking at the mid ranks and seeing what they're doing and deciding "well if they want to get behind the arm ALL the time, the lets concentrate on teaching them that" and the mid ranks looking forward, seeing more taught on getting behind the arm and being validated. I'm getting at a cycle. While things can and are learned greatly from this, does misinformation travel that way too? Pat once told me bad Judo came from Japanese purposefully teaching bad Judo to Americans. Later Japanese kids wanted to be like Americans so they mimicked our culture and with it our bad Judo. Then, when America looked back at Japan we saw those kids doing bad Judo and therefore thought we were doing it right. There are only so many hours one can teach, so what determines when something old gets thrown out in favor of something new? I think occasionally Pat finds such a deep understanding of something that it's lost in translation when he tries to teach it to lower belts...I know a few were on me :) I think there needs to be a bridge to span the gap of old an new. For instance, we don't teach the three steps anymore in Honasu and Junana (now Nijusan) in favor of fluidity. I know I couldn't do it fluidly if I didn't learn it in those steps in the first place. I know Pat and them learned in steps initially and now that it's not taught anymore it occasionally brings up interesting situations when I try to discuss a certain step with Andy. I'll call out which step, and he's asking which chain it comes from. After talking about this with Bryce, we came up with the idea that maybe they should both still be in the curriculum somewhere. Teach Honasu the steps way to white belts. Then at yellow teach the fluid way of Honasu, and 1-5 of Junana the linear way. At green, 6-10 of Junana the linear way, 1-5 of Nijusan the fluid way. This way students get both, younger students come into class, looking ahead at higher belts they see how fluid it'll become but it's in a language easier to grasp initially for them. Opinions?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Samurai Steve...

I've recently taken a part time job at Logan's roadhouse for some extra cash. My night trainer was a guy everyone calls Samurai Steve. He's called this because he wears a small pony tail that resembles a top-knot....and because he takes 8 different martial arts. After talking with him a few minutes I gleaned some info about his martial experiences. First off, he's been taking some form of martial art for 3 years. He takes some form of Kung fu, Taekwondo, grappling Hapkido (I didn't know Hapkido was distinguished as two separate things), some form of martial art that's his own design and was approved by his karate teacher, whatever the form of karate is he takes that he's changed into his own, and a few weapons martial arts. He holds a black belt in two of the arts mentioned (let's hope at least one is in his own). Now the reason I bring up Steve is that after asking me about Judo and Aikido and telling me how lame it was and me just blowing his comments off as ignorance, this grill cook who works next to us came over after eavesdropping on, well on Steve's one sided conversation. He was interested in taking some form of martial art and wanted some advice from the two of us. Now Steve can say whatever he wants to me, I don't care, but I didn't want to give off a false impression to this grill guy. So as Steve's telling how you need a strong stance and widening his legs, I casually mention that it depends totally on the style and what you're looking for. Steve basically tells the grill guy that I take a "weak" martial art so I don't know what I'm talking about, and I'm patient...but after 3 straight hours of him berating Aikido and Judo I thought a little check was in order so after him saying that he was in an immovable stance, I gave him a little tug down the line. His feet were so far apart his back leg had to pop up to catch himself so he didn't fall. He blamed it on the wet floor and I went back to prepping since orders finally started coming in again. My latest quandary is, what should I have done? In that situation is it best to just let the grill guy's experience start off with someone like Steve, who's a self proclaimed innovator of his own style, just because of some flashy punches? I don't have the time or desire to argue or even discuss things concerning martial arts with Steve because he's only waiting for his turn to talk. I think Bryce would say "Let Steve talk, let the grill guy figure it out for himself" but I don't like the idea of ignoring someone's who's interested and leaving them to, well to Steve, lol.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ok Gedan ate--(lower body push)

Me and Bryce have gone over this move in particular almost every time we practise. In the new circular way we do Nijusan by off-balancing and getting behind the arm, it makes little sense. The timing has to be perfect and sudden and it feels to us that by doing Gedan ate this way you have to force it, which isn't Aikido. Nijusan over all feels leaps and bounds over Junana in terms of smoothness, but Gedan ate always feels awkward. Upon examination of it, I asked Bryce..."why does this one have to be circular"? He told me that all the moves in Nijusan get behind the arm in that dead zone (sorry Pat, I don't remember the name for it) and are performed from there, which I replied "but why this one?". We decided the best way for it to come naturally is for Tori to pull back after Uke steps off-line and off-balances Tori. As Tori pulls back, Uke follows the movement and catches Tori on the rise and continues his movement backwards. It seems to flow smoother. Gedan ate isn't something that happens in circles, it happens when something goes wrong and a line is created. How does Karl perform Gedan ate? Then again...his timing is always perfect so that small window for him is probably enormous. Thoughts? Here is the way Gedan ate feels best for me.

Finding a Teacher...

I read Pat's post on his blog about my response to Jory-san the other day. I think Jory-san was just interested in my particular reasons for picking Fugakukai, and for me to clarify what I was typing because it could've been stated better :) Since Pat's put in his two cents about what brings people to different places, I felt I should elaborate on how I got where I am. I didn't just fall into as I said. I'd actually forgotten how many other places of martial arts I'd looked at until I ended up where I am. As Andy can attest to, I tried Seibukan, a form of Okinawan Karate, for a brief time. Although Sensei Bill-Jack was an outstanding teacher, the art itself didn't "feel" right for me. I didn't "ride the waves", I wanted "THE WAVE". Me and Andy (who I enlisted in my quest for the metaphorical wave) once drove 4 hours to an Aikido dojo to look at it. They taught Aikido, which I wanted to learn, Iaido which he wanted to learn, and the dues were relatively cheap...which we both thought was a plus. I asked the teacher how sparring worked in Aikido (knowing it was a loaded question because I was wondering how he'd react), he sternly looked at me and said there was no sparring but delivered it in such a way that he was almost admonishing me for asking a question that a student who'd never seen Aikido before would ask, so I left. Before my tangent continues, the point I'm getting to is to make sure that anyone reading this doesn't just go to a dojo and stick with something that doesn't click with them until something better comes along, sometimes you have to go out and find it. I looked for a while until my friend from high school told me he knew someone that took it. So in a way I did fall into Fugakukai because I didn't seek out Bryce to point the way to Pat so I could learn...but I wasn't aimlessly going from place to place either. You'll know when you find a good teacher and when you meet the martial art that's for you. That being said, a lot of places are getting more and more commercialized so make sure the aim is in teaching you a martial art, not selling a bunch of t-shirts and trophies. Find out the style of a school and research the history of it and make sure the person teaching you knows a little about'd be surprised at the results sometimes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How Martial Arts are Viewed Lately...

I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend flipping through tv and there's a channel called FitTv. This particular channel caught my eye because it was all about martial arts. They covered Jujitsu, Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Karate, and TaeKwonDo. The show was geared towards getting fit but the questions being asked of the instructors were about self defense and how it related to getting fit. Beleek seemed interested in the show but as it went on I felt hurt that this was the perception the public really has of martial arts, that their only value is for aerobic least that's what the Kung Fu master and the TaeKwonDo master said. After the show was over, my girlfriend asked me which one of those schools were good and which ones weren't. I said at first glance, the Karate place and the Tai Chi place. She asked why those and not the other ones. I should mention we have a form of TiVo at our house so I could go through the show and give examples of why I personally would go to one over the other. While typing this and discussing this with Andy, he made a good observation. She wasn't asking me which style was "stronger" but which school I felt taught better or I would look at after seeing the information presented in the 5 min segments on each one. First off I showed the TaeKwonDo dojo (cause it was last and I was rewinding). I picked a particular frame and froze the tv and pointed out a few things that looked out of place for me personally picking a dojo. In the frame, there was a merchandise section of his shop that had huge collections of shirts, buttons, hats, posters, it was like the whole place was a billboard. The key thing that stuck out was a banner over the instructors head that read "Your Goal is to Become a Black Belt". That may be people's general idea of what to strive for, but isn't it our responsibility to change that perception? The Tai Chi class was taught by Terry Dunn who said blatantly "Tai Chi was originally a martial art, but the class I teach is not" and I totally respect that. The Kung Fu school I can't for sure say what I did and didn't like about it, so I'll leave that one alone. The Jujitsu school's instructor had a gi with so many patches, his black gi looked checkered. He had his own boxing ring in his dojo and after the FitTv lady said "let's say I'm someone right off the street and have never heard of jujitsu before, what can I be expected to do first", he went into a routine of 20 something strikes and throws as her first exercise. Everything he did looked flashy and it just was strange. Now for the Karate teacher. They said he was the 4th American to be given the ok from Japan to teach Karate in America. He was an old black man with a rustic simple dojo, a few mats, and mirrored walls. Beleek asked me what distinguished him from the other guys and Bryce was walking through and said "his black belt is so old and used it's turning white". I just wanted to post this because I see these chains of dojo's everywhere and kids and adults walking into my workplace still wearing their gi's and belts talking about how high their kicks have gotten. That's a good goal, but is that all people look for anymore out of any of the martial arts?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Throwdown and Competition Judo

I rented a movie last night called "Throwdown" the tag line was in the world of Judo, failure is not an option . It looked cheesy, but the fact that it was about Judo and not Jujitsu caught my eye. First off, it's a TERRIBLE movie, don't rent it. There's no plot and lines don't make sense dubbed or with subtitles. It's like they took 600 lines for a movie, put them in a hat and had actors just recite whatever they picked out of the hat. The Judo wasn't bad however. Lots of shoulder and arm throws, 1 hip throw, good groundwork, but not one single foot sweep. It reminded me of a time when Vincent (a competition Judo guy who used to come train and play at Pat's) and Pat did some randori. Vince is very competition, hard style oriented....and Pat's the exact opposite. Me and Bryce were working out and we both stopped and watched as Pat and Vince whirled around the mats. In fact, it was the only time I ever remember seeing people walk by and stop to look in the window for a second or two to watch. It was kind of surreal to see a 5'7-ish muscular rigid guy trying to throw a 5'10ish(?) heavier set (or full of Ki if you will) guy who's dancing around trying to do foot sweeps. The contrast was very dynamic. After watching the movie it made me curious...I've never seen any competition guys go for foot sweeps. I know they aren't worth as many points, so are they not taught as much either? Hopefully someone with some insight into that particular world can enlighten me.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fitness training

While typing the last post there was one other thing I wanted to mention but I felt it warranted a separate post. In Judo and especially in Aikido I know we have a tendency to get lazy in the exercise area as our technique develops. While this does mean you'll have to continually have better technique then someone more fit than you, it reminds me of a Japanese proverb and a story. The proverb goes "experience should always fear the strength of youth". The story was about a match between a boxer and a taekwondo practitioner. The taekwondo guy was expecting to win because his legs had far more reach and power than the boxer's arms. The boxer trained like he would for a heavyweight match. When the time came for the match the taekwondo guy scored a clean kick to the boxer's head and the boxer staggered back. Thanks to his hard work, the boxer shrugged it off, then stepped in and beat the taekwondo guy mercilessly cause the taekwondo guy was out of shape, had no stamina, and got lazy in his training. Now I know Aikido and Taekwondo are drastically different, but because we train our minds on how to deal with certain situations doesn't mean our bodies shouldn't be prepared also. Judo's a better example because if you don't get uke to submit in the first few minutes, it becomes a stamina match. I've just noticed in our race to perfect technique I've felt a lack of conditioning in getting there.

First off....

I'll start with a shameless plug for Pat's site. Ok I'll start off this page like I do every practise I have with Bryce when he doesn't know what to go over....hip throws. He went over something with me yesterday that I've never noticed before. The entry for hip throws can occur one of two ways. First off, there's the competition way where you pull or in any way offbalance your opponent and you step into them as they're falling on you. The second (and my favorite way) feels like taiotoshi in my opinion. You pull your opponent and sidestep while holding onto them so that as they rise again they in essence wrap themselves around your body and onto your hip. The timing's much harder but it feels a lot smoother. Bryce was telling me that You don't dictate which one of these you'll use, uke does. If he pulls, you step into him. If he comes forward, you offbalance and perform the second one. Well if anything, this Blog will make me better at giving word descriptives.