Friday, October 2, 2009

Last Class

Ok, I've been putting off writing about my last class because it was pretty straightforward. We went over Tegatana with a notepad and pen to make SURE the steps were understood, then went over Honasu again and again until class was over. The last class was fairly short.
Something happened after class that warrants at least a mention. I was talking with a friend of mine about how his Aikido training was going and he commented lately he has no one to do it with. My natural response is "Oh, well train someone then you have a partner." My friend then told me he doesn't think he has what it takes to actually TEACH Aikido.
I think there are a lot of common misconceptions about teaching. I know I had quite a few in Orlando when I started teaching Rob. First off, you can't expect to teach everything. You can only teach what you do know. Tell your prospective student that, straight off the bat. I don't know know everything, but what I'm sure of, I'll tell you. When you're not sure of something, tell them that too. This is my interpretation of what happens, but only what I think. I've noticed over the past year that my interpretation of something when I explain it to Pat isn't always the same as his, but they both could be "correct" based on what we feel is happening.
After getting over that barrier, remember that teaching someone else something teaches you too, maybe even more than they learn from you. In Aikido (and again, this is just what I think), you learn the moves from your teacher so you can copy them when they may or may not feel natural at first. Then, they feel natural and you just start doing them, likely forgetting HOW you're doing them in the process. It doesn't end there. When you teach someone, you re-learn HOW you're doing what you're doing so you can show it to someone else, and by re-analyzing your own technique you discover things. I noticed that when I do Gyakugamae ate (the link is the closest pic I could find), I used to spread my arms farther and farther apart. I initially thought that at a certain point it became an arm thing. I noticed when I started teaching Rob, I don't do that anymore. When my arm comes across Uke's face, I turn my hips and rise and fall with my whole body. Sort of a Gedan ate feel. I never would have known I started doing that unless I taught someone else.
In learning new things about your Aikido you also start applying those ideas to different techniques. I prefer doing Mae Otoshi like Gedan Ate only with my foot in front of Uke and using my body push to continue Uke's rise. Sort of like the guy in the Mae Otoshi link, only closer.
Another advantage is by teaching Aikido to someone who doesn't know it, you get to really practice honasu (the wrist releases) with someone who has not idea what it is supposed to look like, so their resistance is genuine. They won't move for you, so you REALLY get a look at where the holes are in your technique. In making them softer, you have to get softer first.
All I'm trying to say in all this, and I WISH I could find the article in that book on my list at the bottom of my page called "Black Belt Korean Karate", is that teaching is not just a part of learning. I've learned SO much from it I think it should be mandatory to teach at least a few classes upon getting an Ikkyu or Shodan rank. It improves your techniques, makes you think in detail about what you're ACTUALLY doing, and if forces patience on you. Also, there's no reward in the world like when a student just "gets it" one day and starts doing Aikido on their own and you pointed the way.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Next to Last Class

Next Tuesday will be my final class at the YMCA in Bremerton, Wa. Since I'm down to one student, I decided this week I would use the class time to go through Tegatana, Honasu, then Junana once. Junana would (I thought) give her a peek at what she would be learning as her training progressed. A few observations I noticed were, I do Sumi-Otoshi much better the Junana way instead of the Nijusan way and I need to work on that. Gedan ate went well, but when we got to Mai Otoshi (I think I spelled that right), I could not remember exactly how to do it. I thought for a second and tried Gedan Ate and intentionally missed the timing and caught Uke on the rise coming forward and an interesting thing happened. Usually when I do get Mai Otoshi I have a feeling of almost catching the back of the elbow and it's a toss or continuation of that forward movement. While the catching Uke going upward and getting that forward feeling, I caught Uke just above the elbow and it felt like the throw, or point affected I should say, was Uke's shoulder. Is that right? Is that still Mai Otoshi?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's Been Two Weeks

So as far as last week's post (I know you're on the edge of your seat), I arrived at class and there was a sign on the front door that simply said "Closed for maintenance. Will open tomorrow." Inside I could see electrical wires hanging from the ceiling...nice of them to let me know they'd be closed, yes?
This week, my one student returned and we only have 2 more classes left together. I wanted to go over a few lessons such as, notice your surroundings. We went through the first 4 wrist releases standing near a wall. It took a few minutes, but hip switches developed and number 1 and 3 worked especially well using those, and the "lost releases".
Some concerns were expressed over release number 3 and 4. She, like almost everyone, enjoys doing number 1 and 3 because they FEEL like they have an end. I explained that neither do 1 and 3, and we practiced what happens after the 3rd step of 1 and 3. In other words, what if Uke keeps going? That moved nicely into a Junana lesson, most notably oshi taoish and ude gaeshi. I was requested to go over that a few more times next class, so my lesson plan is just that....more wrist releases chaining into Junana
After 2 weeks when I move, I don't know how much Aikido I'll be doing. I hear Western Washington University has a Judo club, so I'll look into that. The interesting thing I read about their Judo club is that for randori it's open to anyone who does any wrestling, grappling, or throwing art. There's also a group that just focuses on kata and not competition Judo, and that sounds great to me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

For Pat...

I was going to post how the past two classes have actually felt more like work than a class, where I've been teaching the same stuff and haven't really seen anything myself. I WAS going to post that, but I did remember something that happened last class where I was going over what we call "the stupid drill" which is going from kote-gaeshi to kote-hineri and back again and I felt something weird. Class was ending and I was feeling sick so I didn't want to explore it then, but I made a mental note of exactly what was happening and decided to further speculate on it later. This morning when deciding to post that I hadn't learned anything new or seen anything, I figured it out.

I know this next part is going to make a lot of people nod their heads (and by a lot, I mean my one reader) and say "well duh!" but it's something that just never really occurred to me and I'd like to voice it. First off, when I do kote-gaeshi, I feel like I'm locking Uke's hip when I do it right. I get the wrist to a point where I control the elbow, then the elbow to a point where it shortens one of Uke's legs, at least that's how it feels to me. With kote-hineri I feel like I control the wrist, then elbow, then the shoulder.

Ok, now that the preliminary explanation of how I feel Uke responding to the two is out of the way, onto the speculative part. When doing the drill, I've usually had trouble transitioning from kote-gaeshi into hineri. What I was doing is when Uke pushes out of kote-gaeshi and I switch hands as uke's arm straightens, I'd extend uke just a little to set the wrist and elbow close to the same time as the arm comes back up. What I noticed is, I don't have to. If I feel the wrist, then elbow, then shoulder/hip locking up as I set it, I can work back down in reverse order during the switch. When Uke pushes out of kote-gaeshi I lose the hip feeling but I have the elbow. As the arm straightens I lose the elbow but I still have the wrist and that is what I've been neglecting. If instead of stretching the arm as I switch hands, I just focus on the continual rotation of the wrist, I lock it down in the opposite direction, which gives me more than enough tension to follow it up through the elbow then to the shoulder. I haven't had a chance to apply it yet, but I just KNOW my kote-hineri has improved a lot just from realizing this, this morning.

There you go Pat, an epiphany, all stemming from a post initially intended to being centered around me feeling like I haven't learned anything the last two classes. I suppose I still have a lot to learn about learning things :P

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ok, I haven't posted in a while...

There have been complaints from certain people (Sarah Jane) that I haven't update in a while. The reason being that there isn't really anything to report. I've had a single student the past two classes and with me leaving for Bellingham in a month, there's only so much to teach in each class. We've been going over the Aiki-brush off and tegatana almost exclusively. The wrist releases were the subject of the last 20 minutes of this past Tuesday's class. Updated!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Week Ago at Pat's

This post is one week overdue but I've been doing a lot of traveling. Last week at Pat's I got to meet his new group of students, and we went over a few familiar exercises, mainly waki-gatamae to kote gaeshi and back again. It was extremely hot in the dojo, but there were two new things I learned that I found really interesting. With the eighth wrist release, I always interpreted it as Uke grabbing Tori's wrist then pulling it across his body causing the turning motion. At Pat's well there was almost no resistance from anyone on any wrist releases, but from what I gathered Pat was doing, Uke grabbed Tori's wrist but didn't change anything, Tori just does the turning motion with no prompting. I always thought Uke determined where Tori went, but it felt more like Tori determined where Uke went after Uke grabbed. The most interesting thing though was Gendan ate. I learned in Washington that the timing issue of performing it while moving behind the arm could be fixed by actually stopping your motion for one step making Uke "catch up" and putting him in a perfect position for Gedan ate. Pat had a twist on this where Tori tosses Uke's arm over behind him which twists Uke slowing him down. The end result is Tori and Uke in sync with each other and facing each other and Tori could just push Uke backwards. It's an odd feel. Wish I had a camera to get some footage of it. Maybe later :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Surprises and Speeches

Just before class I received an e-mail from the YMCA saying "Congratulations on keeping 2-3 regular students. We were going to cancel your class this month but decided not to since you've had regulars." Thanks for telling me you were thinking about suddenly dropping my class! It went on to say "We'll decide at the end of August based on your numbers whether to continue to give you that time slot." I replied with the reminder that I'll be gone two weeks in August. Will I still have a Tuesday night class when I return? Who knows?
As I did have a class last night though, here's what went down. We went over Tegatana (the walking kata) then number 1 through 4 of honasu (the wrist releases). My newest student decided to show off a few things after work the day after her first class with me. This inevitably led to questions like "when someone grabs you like this what do you do?" Then came the classic "well what about after someone has your wrist and has planted their feet and they're a lot stronger than you...what then?" After a movement exercise she seemed happier about the situation.
Class ended with a story of my first day of Aikdo which I'm SURE I've posted at least once before and won't bore everyone with again. I know, I can almost see the look of surprise in everyone's faces.."You're NOT telling a story?!" I think that just shows me growing as a teacher. I now am learning when NOT to bore my readers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Homeward Bound

Well I'm teaching class tonight, but Saturday I'll be heading back to Mississippi with SJ for a week then to Texas for a week. What does this mean? It means We'll be at Pat's for next Tuesday's class. That's right Pat, I return bearing your Ki. What Aikido will I do in Texas? Probably none, but classes resume when I return to Washington. I'm excited to (hopefully) be doing a little Judo as well. As usual, if you're reading this Pat...can you e-mail me directions so I don't call Bryce like I always end up doing? :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Student Craze!

Well Tuesday night, Marina did not show up, but my new student (this being her 3rd class) did. I'm terrible with names, so forgive me. I also had a woman who was looking for a late night self defense class show up, and a college student who took Kung Fu and was looking to supplement it also show up. 3 new students, no demonstrations, no idea what Aikido is (except for my 3rd class chick who had a vague idea). Everyone being new put everyone at ease though. I guess they were expecting an academy of black belts to start pouring in, but when that didn't happen all the tension was gone. We briefly went through tegatana (the basic walking kata) then into the first 4 wrist releases. I explained how Tori (the defender) is not trying to make Uke (the attacker) let go of his/her wrist, but is "releasing" the tension that builds from someone grabbing you. After just a few repetitions, they all seemed to get it and the older woman even said "I don't even use my arms, I'm moving you with my body" and I did all I could to hold back what would have been a ridiculous grin in favor of the stoic wizened old master "Mmmm" with nod look. The woman wants to return and take the class with her son, but I think Aikido in a relaxed easy environment isn't the workout the Kung Fu chick was looking for. It was nice to have another chance at a class with totally new people and THIS time be able to explain things in a clear, direct manner. Also, anyone who knows me will be happy to know, I did NOT give more than 1 speech this class, lasting less than 5 minutes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And now a Confession...

Ok, I've felt bad about this so I'll publicly apologize for it. Before SJ went to Midland, I had used her as a guinea pig now and then for some Aikido ideas or for working something out. She'd asked me what I was doing then I'd explain (at length) what it was...she doesn't ask anymore, lol. When she said she was going to an Aikikai affiliated place (I'm part of the Fugakukai), I warned her that Aikido is Aikido, but there may be some slight cosmetic/flavor differences. In my past experiences, the people who happened to be Aikikai were a bit elitist. When I first started Aikido I was anxious to learn everything I can and compare notes, etc. Each time I ran into someone who was less than friendly, the HAPPENED to be from the Aikikai. I'm definitely not saying everyone or even the majority are like that, those were just my initial experiences and unfortunately I warned SJ she might run into that. I say unfortunately because when she did have a slight bad experience instead of saying "I'm sorry" I said "I told you so". I thought myself better than doing something like that, but I did. All I did was perpetuate a stereotype of different styles or schools of the same martial art having some kind of animosity towards each other, and despite what I said, I don't. It has made me cautious, but I don't hold any lingering grudges or anything. I disrespected what I was taught, and hurt SJ's feelings in the process and I publicly apologize to her and to the Aikikai and anyone it I may have inadvertently offended with this post

Falling Behind

It's been brought to my attention by one of my (two) readers that I haven't posted anything in a while. The reason being, because I haven't gone over anything other than the first four wrist releases the past few classes, and that's what I'll be going over tonight as well. There is one thing I would like to mention however. Recently Sarah Jane has attended an Aikido class in Midland, TX. She was expecting to go to a beginner's class (because they advertised they had one), only to find out after she was there and after she paid, that there was no longer a beginner class offered. All classes were condensed into one adult's class, which can be off-putting. She said she seemed a little lost and no one offered up any direction unless she specifically asked for it, and during some move, the instructor who was teaching laughed at her. Now this was completely innocent as the instructor was I'm sure reminiscing about a time when he first started and struggled with something as we all do, but little seemingly harmless gestures can be disconcerting to new students. There were one or two times I can remember where Pat chuckled and I felt inept at whatever we were going over at the time, even though I know that was not his intention. We as instructors need to remember to be concious of how unnerving it can be for someone new to a class and remember how awkward it was for some of us when we first started.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Interesting Challenges

Last night I had a new student. She had a form of muscular distrophy with made her hands oddly shaped and she had trouble manipulating her wrists. It provided interesting challenges in showing her honasu. We worked on foot movement and honasu works relatively well even without manipulating the wrists. It's more than enough to keep Tori safe with proper movement and judging of mai. More next week

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Magic of Tokui Waza

Last night we discovered my student's tokui waza. Tokui waza isn't necessarily your favorite technique (it can be), but it is your best technique. The one that for some reason your body type, size, and subconscious just gets and you can do it consistently. Marina's is kote hineri. She's the only person I know who has trouble with kote gaeshi but can hit kote hineri almost anywhere. My wrists are sore for the first time in a while. At the end of class we did a little free form movement exercise and she got a beautiful kote hineri like motion from just above my wrist on the forearm. It always surprises me exactly what techniques turn out to be people's tokui waza. For me, it was the one I had the MOST trouble with at first, Gedan ate, until Bryce did it to me at random a hundred times a day. Rob had a really good off balance which almost always resulted in ushiro ate. I don't get a chance to practice with Andy enough to know his tokui waza, and I think every move Pat does is his tokui waza. Anyone feel like sharing their best technique here?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Last Night's Class

I've been thinking a lot about the things I learned in the brief time I had with Sensei Crist during my visit in Florida. I was going to go over the concept of irimi and tenkan (entering into, and pivoting away from) techniques...but no one showed up. Instead I picked up the 20 or so mats from the previous class and just went over kata by myself for a few hours. It reminded me of the first Aikido class I ever had with Pat. When I showed up, Pat was alone doing Jo (short staff) excercises back and forth across the floor. I remembered thinking "I wonder how many classes he's here by himself going over things alone" and thinking "I bet he's here every class even if he is alone". Although, picking up the previous Hapkido class of 20's things by yourself is no fun at all.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Another Honorable Mention

Sensei Charles Crist passed away recently. A link for his site and to find out more about who he was in under my links section on the right. Although I only met him in person once, he had a profound impact on my Aikido. He would talk about making sure your Aikido was practical and the subtle differences that occur when you do a technique at full speed. I spoke with him while he was in the hospital and was able to tell him how much I enjoyed the brief time I was able to have with. I mentioned I wish I had more to say and that it's strange I felt a kinship with someone I only met once before. He simply said "You don't have to say anything at all. It's Zen that way."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Carradine Dies Today

David Carradine, star of the tv series "Kung Fu" died today. You can find the details elsewhere, but I thought it deserved a post.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why Do We Train

This has been a question asked time and again on Pat's blog among many others. Every time I came across one of these posts I would think to myself something along the lines of "to be better" or "because it's fun, duh" but lately I'm wondering if there's something more. I've wanted to learn martial arts (and Aikido specifically) from an early age. I wanted to learn so I could teach and spread Aikido to everyone I knew. Up until lately I've trained so I can be a better teacher, or at least so I thought. Last night while walking home from class I was thinking about it, and that's not why I train. Even when I don't have anyone to show anything to, I'm doing Tegatana or even Nijusan against an invisible Uke just to keep doing it. Playing the saxophone is fun to me, but I don't play anymore, so why Aikido? How come when I was on firewatch in bootcamp I'd shuffle step all the way up the deck, then all the way back? Why would I practice my collar chokes on my unsuspecting bunk mate, or take extra time to go to the gym to practice grappling? I don't plan on competing or looking for glory. Pat once talked about an exercise to get to the core of something where you keep questioning something over and over until you get to where you don't have an answer anymore. For instance, I want pizza, why? I want pizza because I'm hungry and I like pizza. Why do I like pizza specifically? I enjoy the bread, cheese and sauce due to taste, and because it's filling making me less hungry less often. Why pizza now and not a hamburger? I want a pizza just because I feel like pizza...that's all. If I apply the same thing to why I practice Aikido...I don't make it much farther than that. I could say it's for self defense, but that's not true. How often are people nowadays really in a situation they can not run or walk away from or avoid? I could say it's for exercise, but that's not true. I'm definitely out of shape :) I could say a lot of things, but I don't have an answer other than there are days when I'm excited going to class and days when I dread it. Either way, when I physically step onto the mat I cease being anxious, or sad, or anything. I just doing Aikido. I'm looking for an answer deeper than that, but I don't have one at the moment. What are some of the core reasons any of you train?

Kote-Gaeshi and Kote-Hineri

Tonight in class we went over an exercise in moving from Kote-Gaeshi to Kote-Hineri and back again. This is affectionately known as the "stupid drill" partly due to endless repetition of it, and partly due to it becoming stupidly easy after only a few cycles of it. My two students who show up regularly have been showing remarkable progress and I have to admit I'm extremely happy to see that everything's coming together. They did the first 8 wrist releases without me having to remind them the order or how they went, and they picked up on the "stupid drill" more quickly than anything else I've shown then. I wanted to show them how these fit into Nijusan and while attempting Kote Gaeshi, Marina stepped oddly, or I moved, or something weird happened and she transitioned smoothly into Kote Hineri instead without realizing she'd done it until after it was set.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Teaching Methods

Last week I had one observer and one participant in class. Both of them learn in very different ways and I tend to custom tailor my teaching as best as I can to whoever I'm teaching. After class the observer made a few observations (they've never done Aikido before) and remarked that they hoped if I taught them that I'd do it in a different manor. I would teach differently, but my initial thoughts were "If I'm teaching, I'll teach how I want" but it got me thinking. The methods we use to teach represent to others what the art is. If we use a lot of mysticism, then that's what the martial art is perceived to be and if we over simplify or over complicate a move, then the art is super easy or too hard. My question is, should a teacher of a martial art modify his teaching based on the student's feedback/criticism? I had students at first only want to see the advanced stuff so that obviously doesn't work. When I began at the Y, I had a student ONLY want to do a wrist release until it was perfect (in her mind) before moving on to the next thing, but Aikido is organic and needs to blend and chain together so that didn't work. However, if I become rigid in my teaching methods it might drive pupils away. What are some experiences any of you have had with any of this? I'm sure there have been teaching challenges for you Pat :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Situations We Aren't Prepared For

It was pointed out to me that I didn't make a post this week other than links to my previous ones. Well when making my Posts to Ponder section I reread a lot of old stories. This one stood out more than the others. I still think about that guy today and what happened to him. Take a second to read the link and the responses. I only had two students show up this Tuesday and they were starting to play around, so I took a moment to relate that story and how situations like that can happen. I wanted to relay that story so that they're aware that there are situations that can come up that your training just doesn't cover, since we train in SELF defense. After relaying the story one of them asked "so..what do we do if that happens?" and all I could say is "I teach Aikido so you can protect yourself. I can't tell you how to use your training for anything else." I talked about how some responses were along the lines of "I'd jump in" and others were "what good would it do me to jump in and get hurt too" and that they were all correct. I think it really gave them something to think about and the rest of the class was a lot more productive. I'd really like anyone reading this post to comment on here how they would react to that situation today. Anyone who's already replied before, do you still feel the same way? Would you do anything differently now?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Posts to Ponder Section

At Pat's behest, I made a few labels so my readers can look over some of my older posts that deal less with the technical aspects of Aikido or Judo, but are just entertaining or thought provoking for me. I'm going back over the older ones and putting updated comments as I look back over my old musings. Also, my Einstein quote I found but did not see my John Adams quote. Therefore, here it is:
“I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Question about blogspot

I've looked around and could not find a way to make a separate archive for certain posts. A way to organize them into "Posts about this" and "Posts about that". Does anyone know how to do that?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On a Related Note...

I've been thinking about my last post and it reminded me of something. Continuing on that train of though concerning perception, there's a point where you need to question what you're looking for when you train. There's a common time, usually after yellow or green belt where the student knows enough to be confident in their abilities, but not enough experience to keep from getting over-confident. They start getting over confident and are sure they have a firm grasp of understanding what's happening as they continue to train. This can be a serious problem should their abilities get tested and the outcome not turn out as they expected. I'm no exception to this. When I was in the Marine Corps a lifetime ago, there used to be a class on grappling in one of the schools I attended. Everyone learns basic movements in boot camp from the Marine Corps Martial Arts program (MCMAP). Well I was sure I had an edge thanks to my Judo training (I think I was a green belt at the time). So I'm watching people and thinking to myself "Oh, that guy's weak on his back, that guy obviously doesn't know what he's doing" etc. When it comes my turn to grapple I can win the matches against people who'd never done any of this before, but the guys who were high school wrestlers, or significantly larger than me were wiping the floor with me. I had it in my head that my training must've failed me, or that it just didn't work outside of the rules structure of Judo matches themselves. There was a week long break in our training and I took that opportunity to return home for a few days, then the grappling class would resume for the next 2 weeks after I came back. So I show up at Pat's dojo, and start yelling at Pat, saying things like "this training doesn't work against wrestlers, I haven't learned anything" and so on. Pat patiently listens to me then says "well, let's do some randori and see if we can't figure it out" and promptly beats me mercilessly for an hour. After I was exhausted he simply said "You've forgotten your basics. You're not shrimping and you keep trying to make moves work." I went back and beat everyone in class including the instructor. I've told this story before, but there's another part of it I didn't emphasize the past time or two. When I went back, it wasn't my perception of techniques that changed. It was my immediate goals I altered. I didn't want to be the "best" anymore, I just wanted to be better than what I was. The only thoughts going through my head when actually grappling were "ok, here I am, now what?" I wasn't trying to get an armbar or a choke, I just concentrated on what WAS, and things just happened. I started trying not to lose instead of trying to win. My opponents would get so caught up in trying to beat me that they in turn would put themselves in a position where they might as well have taken my hands and just placed them around their neck. The point is, should you reach a point in your training where your training comes into question and you feel like you fail, think about what you were trying to achieve in the first place.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Last night one of my students made a comment about using Aikido against an attacker with a knife and how you'd be safe as long as you used Aikido. When I commented "well, you'd be safe-ER" I got some questioning looks. In Aikido we train to prevail and increase our odds of safely getting out of a confrontation. We're never 100% sure we'll be fine, and that's especially true when someone has something lethal, like a knife. Even untrained, someone with a knife has a VERY good chance of cutting and/or stabbing you. We try to lessen their chances and increase our own by training in avoidance, having a good understanding of mai, and maintaining balance. I could see the disillusionment setting in. In martial arts we get this idea of being invincible due to getting a sort of tunnel vision thanks to training. We think "well this works in class and I can do this" but somehow this translates into our brains as "this works and as long as I do this I can never be hurt". I'm not saying confidence isn't good to have, I'm just saying that we need to think about our goals. If our goal is to "take this knife away from this guy and walk away without a scratch" that's a hard goal to meet. Now if it's something closer to "I want to survive this" or "I want to get away" that's something much more attainable and realistic. This is also why I keep telling students not to try to make a specific move work. When you do that, you have a habit to foget about everything else you can do also. This post came out sounding more pessimistic than I'd hoped but hopefully I've explained myself well enough to get my ideas across to you guys.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ideas and Movement

Tonight in class some of my students were having trouble making the turn in honasu number 6. I mentioned that whatever is going through your mind while doing the technique will affect how you do it. Personally, when I do the turn I think about projecting out with my arm and the turn comes naturally. We played around with doing number 6 that way, then tried thinking about just our feet, then tried making a wide arc with the arms. The results were very different in each attempt. We moved back to tegatana from there doing the first few movements over a few times trying to see how different our bodies moved depending on what was going through our noggin at the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is Aikido

Tonight in class I was asked at two different times by two different people "what is Aikido?" and I didn't have a satisfactory answer. Not satisfactory to me I should say. A little history lesson (and please correct me if I'm wrong): When O'Sensei was passing away, his son and the head teacher of the Hombu dojo at the time, Koichi Tohei had different ideas of what Aikido was or should be. Tohei thought Aikido was more a breathing meditative excercise and required less physical practise. Ueshiba (O'Sensei's son) wanted to carry on the teachings of his father in the same way he was taught. Until tonight I thought Tohei was crazy taking the emphasis of movement out of Aikido. While I still disagree with that generally, I think I understand the idea better. Allow me to elaborate: Aikido has always been there for my good days and bad days. Whether it was raining, or flooding, or a drought, or hot, or cold...the dojo was always there. We still dressed in our gi's, the mats were still blue, the sweat still came, the movements still came. The Aikido I do, is the same martial art my teacher learned in college, that his teacher's teacher learned decades ago, the same my kids will learn one day. It's a timeless tangible thing that makes me forget for the duration of class any problems I might have had that day, or worries of things I need to do after class. That itself is the greatest asset Aikido has been in my life. The odds are I'll never get into a gang fight against guys carrying chains and knives, or use it against the bully quarterback and end up with the cheerleader like in a Hollywood movie. I'll use my falling practise when I slip on ice or trip over a coffee table corner, but I'll use the stillness and calming effect it has on me every class I teach or attend. That aspect of Aikido, the stillness, is just as important to me as any throw or joint-lock. I think THAT is was Tohei wanted to capture and focus on exclusively and I don't think it's a fruitless endeavor. That's also the hardest concept to get across to people. I don't like describing Aikido without including that part. That is partly what Aikido is to me, but how to do explain THAT part to other people?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tough on the Teacher

Class wasn't as good as it has been lately. It wasn't especially bad tonight, we went over Honasu number 6 and tegatana. It's just getting difficult to keep things interesting doing the same moves over and over.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Many Students

Tonight I had 6 students! It was great. I was able to observe and give advice with my most senior student directing the other 5. The only problem I've run into is a guy who's shown up from the Hapkido class. It's not really a problem, just different ideas about confrontations. He's constantly questioning how things in Aikido could work with someone striking you. I pointed out that we start from outside Mai and are in almost constant motion whereas in Hapkido (from what I've seen) they start in a fighting stance almost elbow-width apart and root their feet instead of moving their bodies. I love questions, but don't like repeating myself every class on the same thing. It just reinforces my idea that every martial artist has a root martial art and everything else they learn, they may really like, but it only serves to supplement the main one.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Comic Update

For any of you interested, I haven't mentioned the comic in a while. It's still coming along. We're getting it lettered this week and next week it gets submitted for publishing. The art is being done by Zack Finfrock. Here's a sample of the first page for your viewing glory. That's's a purse snatcher. Who can stop such a diabolical fiend?

Too much at a time

So anyone who's met me knows I tend to ramble. Not such a great thing when trying to teach new students. I'll over-explain something or get excited over a question and go on and on about whatever. Well I came up with a great idea to show the correlation between honasu and nijusaan by doing wrist release number 5 and should Tori also spin, it can become Ushiro ate. I was excited at the prospect but my students just said "that's great, but can we just work more on honasu until we get it down pat?" Well you gotta give the fans what they want. Next week, all honasu, all the time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Delayed Post

This should have been yesterday but I've started a new job and have been getting up super early. After class last night, I came home and crashed, thus no post till now. Last night we went over hanasu 5-8. I had a Hapkido student from the class in front of mine stay to see what Aikido was all about and he picked up the wrist and arm movements relatively fast. The stance for Hapkido they use is wide so his movements were a bit flat footed and slow, but for his first day he picked up everything pretty rapidly. While my other two students reviewed wrist releases 5 and 6, I went over a few basics with the new guy and showed how each release can chain into another. I did have a nice moment where we were going over release number 8 and Uke (the attacker) turned with me which ended up in us facing each other with Uke still holding onto my wrist. I continued the motion and it turned into something similar to release number 3 with me getting behind the arm. I had the class play around with going 2-3 steps beyond the end of the release just to see where it ended up. I can't wait for next week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Class of Two

It's not unusual for me to only have two students in my class, but last night Olivia (the 13 year old) didn't show up. Her mother said she was feeling ill so she came by herself. I'm only a Shodan so I can't rank my students (not until Nidan as I understand it), but I wanted to make sure they know what they're supposed to when it would be time for them to rank test if I could rank them. In order for that to happen, they'd need to know Tegatana and Honasu when approaching 30 hours of class time. They're only at about 10 hours thus far. There still seems to be a lot of confusion over the order of wrist releases so last night I decided I'd go over numbers 1-4 a few times until everyone felt more comfortable with them. Later we tried an excercise where uke and tori keep going a few steps after the release. There were questions of "what next?" so I showed them how even after the release has been performed, wherever uke goes, tori would still be safe. Overall it went really well. I think they're finally understanding that the point of the releases (at least as I see it) is not to get Uke to release your wrist, it's to release the tension generated.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ushiro ate

Tonight I had four people in class, which was very nice. My circle we usually make at the start of class, actually looked more like a circle instead of my usual triangle. We briefly went over the 8 wrist releases (honasu) and the walking kata (tegatana). After a quick explanation and run-through, we moved into Ushiro ate. Ushiro ate is the first move I learned when coming into Aikido and when done right, it FEELS like's almost as if the person doesn't feel you doing anything at all. I was told my new student who was a student of Tae Kwon Do when youger, will be back next week. At the end of class I even had enough people to do a multi-person SLOW randori session where one defender gently brushes off each attacker. All in all, a great class after an otherwise bad day. I also wanted to say, that's my favorite thing about Aikido. No matter how bad a day you've had otherwise, all your problems are left at the door of the dojo (or in my case YMCA dance studio entrance), and all there is during that special time IS Aikido. I love being in the moment and feel better after class, every class.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A few cool tricks

Tonight in class we went over Honasu (the wrist releases) number 5. My plan was to do number 6 as well but we got caught up in the turning motion of number 5. Afterward, I was asked "What happens if you're against a wall or something" which lead into the "lost releases". Class ran a little short due to me going over Tegatana (the walking kata) a few times and emphasizing how different your movements are in Aikido when you change how you think about something. Next week I plan on doing Ushiro ate and a few movement games. The only area that really needs improvement that I can see is that my two students seem to not want to move their feet. They'll lean as far as they can before taking a step when Uke, and wait until Uke is RIGHT next to them before moving when Tori. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Must Be Doing Something Right...

Last night I had three people show up. The mother, her daughter, and Mark who hasn't been for two weeks. We went over wrist release number 3 and 4 with emphasis on not trying to make a move work, but making sure to get out of the way (an idea that seems to be difficult to convey with release number 4). After beating those two to death I showed them Gyakugamae-ate which they picked up surprisingly quickly. Everyone seemed to grasp the idea of blending with Uke's up and down motion pretty well. We did a few reps of that and I had some class time remaining so I briefly showed them Gedan Ate before doing some falling practice. Mark and Olivia were excited about falling and rolling, Oliva's mother...not so much. There are some fairly good pics of these moves here. After class Mark kept asking if I could teach on weekends and while I need to clear it with the activities coordinator, it would be nice to have another class :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

People Can Surprise You

Tonight at class we started with a little ukemi which Oliva, the little girl was ecstatic about but her mother dreaded. A few side and back falls later, I demonstrated a triangle roll and told them we'd get more into that at a later class. Honasu number 1 and 2 were the review of the night and then we got into the meat of class. Aigamae-Ate was the move of the night and I had to show Oliva's mom a dozen or so times until she got the turn down while Oliva herself stared off into space. Her mother kept suggesting Oliva pay attention while Oliva insisted she was. When I felt the mother had the gist of it, I told Oliva it was her turn. I attacked and she executed a near perfect Aigamae-Ate with the off balance spinning me almost in place. I even staggered back just a bit and she pseudo went into a Gedan-Ate-like motion. I was amazed, and so was the mother. It's a great feeling when everything seems to come together out of nowhere. I should have thought to get a video of them the first day to show them in a month or two. It's been difficult not having anyone experienced to demonstrate on, but thankfully with a little patience we're coming along fine.

A Little Comic Help

After Diamond's price hike (for those of you who don't know, Diamond distributes almost all comics in the US), and MUCH debate...we've decided to make our comic an online web comic. It will still be the length of a regular 22 page comic, it will be FREE, and it will be an ongoing regular series. I would like any suggestions from readers who know anything about running an actual website other than blogs for a little direction. I've been looking into wordpress, but would love any help that could be provided.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Night Number 2

Well two of my students came back which is a good thing. We went over the basics of falling and number 2 and 4 of Honasu. I think the teaching is coming along well since my students are asking questions that are related the to the releases instead of just random ones. It's exciting to see them learning and putting things together. To wrap up class we went over part of Tegatana to give them something to work on at home.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Few More Details..

I quickly wrote the first entry about Tuesday's class and wanted to elaborate a little here. The daughter was a bit quiet and shy during class, the mother was surprised that everything seemed so defensive yet effective, and the guy was like I was when I first started taking Aikido. He would raise his hand and ask "What about this, What happens if I do that", ect. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Pat for having patience with me through the years. It's hard teaching a beginner's class without 1 other person to help demonstrate the moves on. I guess if I do things right then I won't have that problem later on because my current students will fill that void. There was one moment that was exceptionally great. Two of the students were having trouble with Honasu #1 and were accidentally getting Tori's hand on the inside instead of out. I didn't realize I was doing this until after I had done it, but I pulled a Pat mimicry. I walked up, said "Huh, that does look weird. Why don't you try thinking about your feet" even my posture changed while I was saying this and SOMEHOW it fixed everything. I took their minds off thinking about what to do with their hands, and their hands naturally did what they were supposed to do. I felt so wise and thought "this must be what Pat feels like all the time". Is that true Pat?

On a personal note (this has NOTHING to do with Aikido or the comic), I usually don't post things concerning my everyday life on this blog. It's just not what I meant it for, but the most extraordinary thing happened the other day. I was dating this girl I'd met up here, Jenn for about 3 weeks before we discovered there just wasn't any chemistry between us and 2 days after breaking up I met THE coolest chick on the planet. She's absolutely gorgeous and her idea of a good time is watching movies, playing video games, and listening to my ramblings about whatever. For those of you that know me (and my roommate said this after meeting her 5 minutes) she's like a sexy female clone of me. If she knew Aikido as well I'd marry her on the spot. Just thought I'd share that tidbit :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

3 Students Tonight!

So tonight I had not one, not two, but three students. I had the mother bring her 13 year old daughter to class and I think the mom came out happier. The whole class everyone was asking questions and there was electricity and excitement. We went over Honasu number 1 and 3 emphasizing moving your second foot under you after an initial step. I was talking about getting behind the arm and how that's the safest place when you're attached to someone. They asked what happened if you grabbed and you had the opposite arm and I was able to demonstrate a hip switch and everyone was impressed :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Slight Delimma...

So I had another night where no new students showed up but I did have a note waiting for me when I got there tonight. A mother left a note asking if I would consider teaching Aikido to her 13 year old daughter. Most of you are probably saying "so?" well here's the problem...the Fugakukai doesn't teach Aikido to those under 16 years of age. Normally I'd just say "sorry, I'm not allowed to teach your daughter", but if I don't get a regular student each night I won't have a class anymore. If I DO teach her daughter I can't rank her or even have a higher ranked member rank her (and parents generally want to see progress for their children in the material form, namely belt colors). Also, I have no idea how I'd teach Aikido to a 13 year old. I could do the wrist releases and flowing excercises but I certainly couldn't do kote gaeshi or kote hineri. I could really use some suggestions soon. I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place. Oddly enough, 13 is the age I realized I wanted to study Aikido and close to the target age range I'd like to start teaching anyway. Kids at 13 seem to absorb things like a sponge and have pretty good control of their appendages at that age. Any advice would be most welcome...ANY

Thursday, January 22, 2009

When it Rains it Pours

Ok this post isn't about Aikido or the comic. I just had one long night where I almost didn't make it back home and felt like posting about it. First off let me say I live just across the water from Seattle in a little town called Bremerton. Taking the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle is free, but it costs almost 7 bucks to take the ferry from Seattle back to Bremerton. Well I forgot to take my debit card with me when I went in to Seattle tonight. I had it out of my wallet and just forgot to put it back in. When I got to the terminal I felt a little embarrassed and asked the teller if I could pay with a check. She said of course as long as it's a state check. I just had starter checks but the bank address (in Washington) was printed on it and the teller said that'd be fine as long as I had my license...which I did. Unfortunately I haven't gotten a Washington state license yet so the teller said they just couldn't take it. My last resort was to collect call my roommate and ask for a few bucks. His cell phone doesn't accept collect calls. The only other number I could remember was my mom's land line. All this took place about 10:30 and the last ferry leaves at 12:50. My mom offered to call and give them her credit card number to buy one, but that's against their policy. The ONLY thing they could do was tell me to tell her to buy a ticket online and give them the confirmation number. So I call mom back and tell her what to do, and head back to the teller. Turns out they don't need the confirmation number, they need the barcode number off the pdf file. We have to wait 30 mins before all this goes through...and I should mention my mom only has a dial up connection where she lives. So we get the e-mail at about MIDNIGHT and the file is corrupt. The teller says all she can do is tell me to tell her that she needs to buy another one and ask for a refund tomorrow as all help lines are closed. The teller then tells me that I should've thought of that before forgetting my card to which I replied "Thank you, that was very helpful" in as sincere a voice as I could muster. Well then I get a call from my roommate. He looked at his phone, called my mom who explained everything and gave him the payphone number to call me back. I tell him he can drive to the ferry right next to our apartment and buy a ticket in person and they can let me on here. A solution the teller gave me an hour ago only she forgot to mention all the terminals are closed over in Bremerton. She does say that he can drive 30 miles to Bainbridge and get one long as he gets there before 12:50. At this point it's 12:30 and I'm starting to think that I might be sleeping outside as the teller informs me I'll have to leave at 1am. So I have no money on me, no place to go, and it's FREEZING outside. Out of nowhere mom calls back and says my little sister was able to ungarble a little bit of that pdf file and get the barcode number. I write it all down and give it to the teller who gives me a ticket to BAINBRIDGE! It's now 12:45 and I tell her I wanted a ticket to Bremerton. The lady tells me I need to get a refund and exchange it. I ask who I can return it to and she says it's her. So talking with this wonderful public servant for 5 more minutes I BARELY catch the ferry and made it back. Just thought I'd share that with everyone. God bless and remember to always have a little cash in case of emergency

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My roommate was good enough to come with me tonight to make sure I had someone to teach. We went over my original lesson plan I've had for 2 weeks. We did Honasu release number 1, 3, 5, and 7. I emphasized getting behind the arm and moving as Uke passes mai. We talked about the parallels between the MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) and Aikido. Rigney's picking it up relatively quickly, and hopefully he'll be back next week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When the student is ready...

The rest of that quote is "then the master will appear". I received an e-mail a week ago saying that there were two students that were going to show up tonight and an e-mail yesterday saying something came up, they'd come next week. The subject of the original e-mail said "When the student is ready" I started thinking. No one showed up to class tonight. My question is, what happens to the master? I used to think that the saying meant that when a student is serious he'll be able to find a master with commitment to looking. Now I'm thinking it's because there are no serious students that it'll be easy to find a master because they're not in seclusion...they're just bored waiting around for a student. Let's substitute "teacher" for "master". I'm by NO means even close to a master. Still, I want to teach, but I can't without someone to learn.

Update on the Comic

Apparently I have 1 person reading my blog who used to be an illustrator/cartoonist/designer. Mark Cook over at Oldman's blog. So since I have a new update concerning my project I thought I'd let you guys in on it. Me and Rob have FINALLY commissioned our artist, Zack, to start on the first few pages so we can submit them to a publisher. We have a very favorable shot with 1 publisher and we're really excited. I don't want to say who yet, in case it doesn't work out. More news soon so stay tuned...same bat time...same bat channel...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

First Class!!!

Okay, so here's what all my adoring fans have been waiting for. My first class was...empty. WHERE are all my fans? To be honest I wasn't really expecting anyone to show up for the first class anyway. The poster I put in a previous post was not even put up until this afternoon. How are all the Seattlites (or Bremertonians) supposed to show up if their local YMCA hasn't informed them? Oh well, there's always next week...unless no one shows up a few more times.
There was one interesting thing that happened though before class however. After I arrive at the YMCA about half an hour before my class, a guy at the desk named Mark introduces himself to me and asks if I'm the new Aikido instructor. I say yes and he asks if I know where I'm teaching the class. I tell him it's upstairs and he asks me to follow him. I start trailing behind him as he's walking and remind him that the Hapkido class runs until 8:15, when my class begins. He asked if I knew Vern (the Kung Fu instructor) and I explain I've only met Vern once. We go down this hallway that ends in a door I've never seen before. Mark opens the door and steps aside. I go with Mark right behind me to see we're on a racketball court with no windows, just a blank square room with hardwood floors and the door closes making this ominous sound. I turn around to see Mark dropping his keys and squaring his body to mine. He starts talking about how he used to teach MMA and has taken Jeet Kun Do and how him and Vern spar from time to time because they used to be in competitions together. I'm thinking "great, my first day and some guy who works here is about to take a swing at me". Mark keeps talking and I say "That's interesting" as I put down my gi and take off my jacket maintaining a non-threatening posture but never giving him my back. Mark squares his posture to me and I relax my arms and shift my weight to the balls of my feet. I keep going through my head saying "Just step out of the way, throw your arms up. Just step out of the way, throw your arms up and ask what the hell he's doing. Just fall out of the way and put your arms between you and him". Mark finally stops his competition stories and how the YMCA here doesn't want an MMA class because it promotes violence and says "So teach me some Aikido" and his arms are partly raised and he's definitely in a fighting stance. I respond "Ok, my class starts at 8:15 upstairs." Mark who's been sizing me up, all of a sudden completely changes his posture to this relaxed, weight on his heels, hand in his pockets posture and says in a calm voice "Oh, I can't make it tonight. I have to work at the front desk from 8:15 till close. Show me something real quick". WHEW! I would have bet anything he was about to jump me and all of sudden just didn't. So I showed him the first wrist release explaining how Aikido is more about evasion and protecting yourself, not hurting the other guy. Mark listened and seems to really grasp everything I said. At about 8:10 he says "Ok, I'll try to switch shifts or something and make it to one of your classes. You'd better get going or you'll be late." Not what I had in mind for a first day, but it was interesting.

Poster Credit

This class poster was brought to you by a guy in Singapore. Here's a link to his deviant art page. As a side note, after going through orientation at the Y up here and seeing all the other martial arts and self defense class posters, maybe I should do a flashy one. The Kung Fu guy has two, one of him in this flowing white frog button shirt in a crouching position, and one of him in robes weilding two tai chi swords. The Hapkido guy has a shiny glossy black one of someone being thrown with something that looks suspiciously like kote gaeshi. Maybe I should get something more like this!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Class Poster

Here's the poster for the class I came up with

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Classes start Tuesday

The Aikido classes start this Tuesday and I'm excited. The only problem I see thus far, is that the class time will only be 45 minutes long. How am I supposed to get in ukemi (falling practice), Tegatana (the walking kata), and my long speeches all within 45 mins. All that PLUS new material? Talk about condensing my vast Aikido knowledge! In all seriousness I would appreciate any ideas. I really want to get the basics done every class.