Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Still going strong

         So my students are beginning to settle into a routine of some going only to Judo, some only to Aikido, and a select few bouncing back and forth. I am teaching 4 days a week now, plus attending BJJ here and there. I have been going back over some old Karl Geis DVDs I have and am constantly learning new things each time I watch.
         On the youtube project of doing a move each month, I have posted the first Aikido move, and the first Judo move. Making two separate channels was more complicated than it needed to be, but hopefully it will all work out. I had Judo last night and had the class do kosoto gari and then uki-goshi. After doing that for awhile we moved into some groundwork, mainly bridge and roll escape from kesa gatame and an escape from the mount. I had them do some pinning randori with each person trying to hold the other in the mount and in kesa for 15 seconds before they could win. I think we all won when the lesson that rolling around can get very tiring very quickly if you are constantly exerting force.
       Tonight is Aikido, after Tegatana I think we will do releases 4 and 8, then gyakugamae ate (I hope I spelled that right) from Junana.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Too many students

              Never a problem I thought I would have. I had this idea about what exactly I was going to show at Aikido class tonight. 5 o'clock rolled around and only me and SJ were there. By 5:05 I had six students and no where near enough mat space. One guy had never done anything before nor heard of Aikido. The other two each studied different arts. A woman who does Jiu-jitsu and her husband who practices Kempo. Everyone was really polite and I had a lot of odd footing to play with. Tomorrow's Judo class promises to have the six students from tonight plus an additional two or three from the local BJJ class. SJ took on the role tonight as my helper with the students who regularly show up. I am going to have to either figure out a way to break the class up, or do more circuits. I am also moving my classes to four days a week as per requested by my students. I have been thinking a lot on how we show different applications of different moves that emphasize different things. That combined with Pat's Aikido Renaissance posts gave me an idea. I am going to contact him and Nick about making a youtube channel that focuses on a different move each month or so and have different people in our organization post how they do it and what they emphasize. It should be an interesting tool to help spread ideas. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Great Judo class this morning

     Yesterday was one of those days for Aikido when almost no one could show up, and this morning was one of those days for Judo when almost everyone showed up. I have actually run out of mat space so we've been doing circuit training, having one person throw everyone in class with a throw then rotate to the next person throwing everyone. Today we did Osoto gari with an emphasis on making a circle with the big toe of the sweeping leg. It makes the throw more like a smooth foot sweep than a huge reaping action. After that we worked on Ouchi gari but tried a way I saw Kyle Sloan do it starting with the normal, left-foot-moving, judo dance. You step on the same line like you are doing hiza guruma but your partner swings around and you catch their foot, again by making a circle with the big toe of your right leg, and it feels like kouchi gari done with the other foot. I really like this version and teaching it right after Osoto seems to make it click in my students' noggins. We did the deashi barai walk next, just catching our partner's foot and setting it down and I think that will be a staple part of class from now on. After the drills I had them pair up and one person pick a throw with their partner allowed to move around however they want (not just judo dancing, but side-stepping, moving in a circle, etc), to expose them to looking for timing in the chaos of normal movement.
   Then we moved to ground work. I had everyone get an exercise ball and try to move from mune to kesa and back to mune without falling off. After a few minutes I went over the bridge and roll escape and sit up escape from kesa gatame then had them drill holding someone in kesa and once the bottom person escaped, the person who lost control of kesa immediately bridge/roll their opponent back into kesa. Everyone seemed really impressed that if you lose control you can go with that momentum and use it to get back into a favorable position. I am really pleased to see people bringing their feet together and getting lighter and lighter on their feet. The class also has a feeling of no one trying to "beat" anyone else, and everyone working together towards getting better. It is just plain fun :) 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Interview with Pat Parker over at Mokurendojo

    Me: Thank you for taking the time to do this Pat. I've always found the best place to start is at the beginning. How did you get in to martial arts and what led you to Aikido, Judo, and Jodo?

    Pat: I got into martial arts when I was in high school in 1986.  I was pretty oblivious - probably the only 11th grader in the world who knew nothing about martial arts.  A buddy of mine came up to me and told me he was taking Taekwando and asked if I wanted to join and I asked, "What's Taekwando?"  He replied, "It's like Karate," and I asked, "What's karate? so he said, "It's like what Bruce Lee did," and I asked, "Who's Bruce Lee?"  So he finally explained it as, "like boxing, but you kick people in the head." That sounded interesting so I got started and have been hooked ever since.

I did that for about a year before I moved off to college, and there was no TKD on campus at that point, so I got started in a Karate class, which I did for about 4 years.

Then a girl (it always starts with a girl, right?) that was in my karate class told me she was also doing judo and I ought to come do that with her.  So I did, and it turns out that there was an instructor teaching aikido in the same club.  

I'd been hooked years earlier in high school, but when I saw aikido, that was when I fell in love with budo.  That was in 1991.

    Me: Since the early 90's and the emergence of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) there has been a strong emphasis on cross training arts, specifically Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and Wrestling. In terms of effective self defense, what are your thoughts about training equally in multiple disciplines as opposed to focusing solely on one and specializing in it? 

    Pat: I like the idea of cross-training in more than one art for a couple of reasons.  First, every art or style is necessarily incomplete, so you will need to get some breadth to your training so that your knowledge and skills will be well-rounded.  

Secondly because the domain of each art overlaps to some degree with all other arts.  It is that area of overlap between arts that most represents Truth (with a capital T) to me.  To me, the differences between arts are not as interesting as the points on which all arts agree - that is the stuff that we should spend the most time studying.

But I also like the idea of studying one art sufficiently that you become really skilled at something instead of being a noob at everything (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing).

As a rule of thumb for my students that ask, I tell them to study one art (or maybe two highly related arts, like judo and Tomiki aikido). until they get to shodan or nidan, then start getting familiarity in other arts while continuing in their primary arts.

    Me: Speaking of Judo and Tomiki Aikido, both are relatively new arts when compared to arts hundreds of years old. Do you think Judo and/or Aikido will continue to evolve, or do you think they the ideas will cross pollinate into new arts leaving the traditional art behind? 

    Pat: I think that is the ideal of Judo to continually evolve and grow.  Kano was an eclectic sort of guy. And I think Tomiki was sufficiently influenced by Kano that his art would also evolve.  We got into a discussion a while back about who owns our aikido - whether it is the property and provence of the Ueshiba family or not.  I say I own Aikido, and judo, and you do too.
    Me: Great answer. I've always felt the Aikido and Judo I do are specific to me and the ideas I choose to express. Lastly, if you had a top three things for every Judoka to make sure they train as often as they can, what would they be? Same question for Aikido.

    Pat: Hmmm.... Training hints.....

Well, several of my suggestions apply to all judoka and aikidoka equally - 

Practice your basic ukemi forms in every class.  Safe, reflexive falling skills are the most valuable self-defense you'll learn, and it is good exercise.  The most important falls are probably forward roll and backward breakfall.

Also aikidoka and judoka should both practice some sort of randori during each class.  It might not be full-on sparring - it might be some sort of limited sparring or live drill where your'e not exactly sure of all the variables beforehand.   Nothing will kill the martial aspects of your aikido and judo faster than doing nothing but kata with a compliant partner all the time.

Both aikidoka and judoka, as they progress in the arts, should study the roots and other branches of their family tree.  Learn something about Daito Ryu, Kito Ryu, and Tenjin Shinyo Ryu.  Learn something about BJJ and Sombo and Systema.  Judoka, study your aikido cousins and aikidoka, study your judo cousins. Try some karate or boxing.  Check out some Baguazhang or Taiji. Believe it or not, your instructor probably does not have 100% of the answers and the other schools are probably not 100% idiots.

Judo folks, you should probably practice at least a couple of minutes of deashibarai during each tachiwaza class.  Even if it is just a couple hundred uchikomi, the footwork and understanding of timing and balance required to get deashi to work prepares you for every other throw.  In each newaza class you should practice some shrimping and bridging under lots of varying conditions - shrimp forward, backward, sideways, sitting on your butt, propped on an elbow, with and without a partner.  Shrimping and bridging are what make newaza work - and it's good exercise.

Aikido folks, don't neglect your weapons work - particularly blade work.  This is not so much to become a samurai sword master or learn how to defend against knives, but the addition of a blade to your practice will place tori (nage) at such a distinct disadvantage that it will provide incentive to improve.  Also, it will remove any tendency to slack off when working with an empty-hand attacker. Rubber knives are super-inexpensive and are invaluable training tools.  Metal trainers are even better because they look and feel more like a real knife and give better psychological training effect.

Both aikido and judo folk, because they are both 100% partner activities, can benefit from some sort of activity to do at home between classes.  Check out Tomiki sensei's "Judo Taiso" on youtube -  It is a set of activity-specific exercises that he created for judo and aikido folks.  Or get a buddy to teach you 2-3 karate kata that you can do at home.

 Me: Thank you very much Pat, I would say my reader will get a lot out of this, but you are that reader! So instead I will say I have gotten a lot out of this and appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Very nice Judo class

          Today I had 4 people attending and about a dozen on-lookers. The community center has recently developed a girls volley-ball class and it has taken off like wildfire. Saturday mornings now have dozens of people milling about that are either there for volley-ball, parents of someone there for volley-ball, or boys watching girls play volley-ball. That class ends right before mine begins so I occasionally get 1 or 2 onlookers but today I had more despite an invitation for them to join in.
          In class we covered de ashi harai, then ko soto gari. I think the girls that came last night are loosening up, but I need a way of incorporating more falling into class because they are still apprehensive about it and I don't want them getting hurt. I used the advanced foot sweep as a way of also working falls by having each person throw their partner 5 times on each side. After beating that to death I looked at ko soto gari and how it is more of a prop than a sweep.
           The last half of class we spent on the ground. Last week we went over Mune gatame and the escape, and I showed kesa gatame. Today we looked at the bridge and roll from kesa then a simple escape from guard and mount. The last 5 mins of class I chained all the positions together so that someone would escape from mount into guard, then they would break guard and move to kesa. After that, whoever was in kesa would escape from kesa and move into mune where their partner would bridge out of it. It was a very fun class and everyone seemed thrilled to see how this can be chained together.
         One of the participants, Julio, is a guy from the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu place who asked me after class to help him with side control (mune gatame), and kesa gatame because mine is much tighter than his. I showed him how to transition and keep his hips down and a ball exercise Pat showed me that helped tremendously. I think Julio has a lot of potential and seems to be willing to listen to what I'm saying and try to incorporate Judo's merits into his BJJ game. All in all, a great class.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Two New Students

       Yesterday two new students came in to Judo looking for a fun self defense class. We went over some basic off-balance ideas I always like to show beginners to get them over the "but the guy is way bigger than me" stigma and after showing Osoto gari and letting them toss me once or twice they really seemed to get into class. They were two women in their mid-late 30's and enthusiastic about learning so it was a laid back but really productive class. After Osoto I spent a minute on kouchi gari then the questions about groundwork came up. The last 20 mins or so of class was spent on shrimping, showing mune gatame and our basic bridge escape from it. They both seemed really excited about learning more and promised they would be back next week. As a side note they are friends with a yoga studio that is right by my house and said since the community center is starting to charge me for rental space they might be able to swing me teaching at the yoga studio at a cheaper rate, and times that would be more conducive to getting more students. All in all, a really good Saturday :) 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finally a class again

The BJJ instructor went out of town for 2 weeks so no BJJ class, but a couple of the students said they'd like to work on Judo while he's gone so I've been going to the Community center and each weekend something comes up where they don't show. My Aikido student has been out of town for work but today my girlfriend decided she wanted to do some Judo! So off to the community center we went and worked on some newaza, mostly Mune Gatame and Kesa Gatame with an escape or two from each. Boobs present an interesting challenge when trying to show how to keep tight elbows. Any advice from my true believers out there who've worked with women frequently on how they deal with the issue of physically not being able to keep their elbows in tight?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stand up straight!

            A few nights ago I wasn't feeling 100% but said I would go to this night class at the BJJ academy so I decided to attend but observe. The BJJ guys were doing randori (rolling) starting from a standing position. Most of the night classes are no gi classes for the more MMA attuned guys and everyone that was there started from a low wrestler stance. I have been working with the instructor for a few classes and trying to get him to straighten his posture and even he was sinking really low. After class I spoke with him about it and got a response of "well, I judo stance is fine for gi, but for no gi you need a wrestler stance so the guy doesn't shoot in on you." I went home, starting looking up some videos, reading some forums and generally seeking popular opinion. Popular opinion is you need to stay low but I also came across one guy saying popular opinion on stances changes about every 10 years or so.
            I starting thinking about the benefits and disadvantages to both and from what I can surmise (and please leave comments if I am wrong or you have something to add as I have little experience with wrestling myself), is that in a wrestling stance your hips are low and away so it makes it hard for your opponent to shoot in on you but your torso is extended forward so you lose mobility in the process. In a Judo stance your hips are right under you so you maximize your mobility but if your opponent is lower and within reach you may get your legs picked. After asking around and giving it some thought I came up with 1 solution, Pat had another solution (or piece that could be added on), and Nick in his infinite wisdom had already posted a video on youtube with yet another way of dealing with it. My solution was to stand sugar footed (one leg closer than the other to your opponent) and keep an eye on distance while just giving him my wrists but keeping him out of reach of my legs. Pat suggested the first 4 wrist releases of honasu (which works great for when they grab your wrists), and nick suggested just bending the knees.
          The next class I was at I did all 3 and they all worked beautifully. The wrestler guys get so fixated on my legs they just leave my upper body alone and over-extend themselves. When they do grab and lean on me turning away and tossing them the direction they are leaning is really easy. The only caveat is they are good at taking small steps to attempt to close that distance to get at your legs so pay attention to that. I'll be experimenting with that more in the coming weeks. Any pointers, hints, tips, cheats, experiments, comments, questions, or suggestions would be welcome. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

All that glitters

         I apparently have a problem asking people for money when it comes to teaching. I suppose it's because I want training partners more than money, but that seems to create some sort of paradox as when you offer something for free people are skeptical but if you charge for it they think it must be worth more. When I was training I was driving almost two hours each way a few days a week to get to an hour and a half class of Judo or Aikido. My instructor cut me a break on most of my classes and I don't know how I would've afforded to train without that and it compels me to attempt to pass that on.
       Reading up on the subject of charging for classes I have come across a few people experiencing similar issues. They offer classes cheaply and people willingly go to the more expensive training areas. I am sure some of you have experienced the same thing, so what did you do? Just start charging more? If so, what about your students that you either weren't charging at first or were charging much less for?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where to begin...again

           It's been a long time true believers. Three years in fact. I've moved from Washington to Texas to Colorado in that time. Currently I am living in Trinidad, CO (near the New Mexico border) and am teaching Judo at a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy. I have gotten WAY out of practice in Aikido and Judo, a fact which was emphasized this past weekend at Pat's Aiki Buddy Gathering.
          The ABG was great, met some new people, one of which used to follow my blog "hey, didn't you used to write that training blog, Johndo?" and if he's reading this, please comment with a link to your training blog and I'll put it up.
          Teaching at the BJJ place has been great, while having many challenges. First off, I felt like having to defend my views of Judo as a viable martial art since most Judo guys don't do enough newaza to really make progress against a martial art that specializes in it. Secondly, BJJ historically comes from Judo as Maeda taught the Gracies. Hearing things like "well Judo emphasized strength so the Gracies had to modify techniques for leverage because Helio was so frail used to get under my skin. Kano was around 5'2 and weighed 90 lbs and Mifune was around 5'2 and 100 lbs so there is little evidence they were using strength based techniques. I can not argue however that the spirit of BJJ is something to envy. These guys train 3-5 days a week, about 2 hours a class, sometimes two classes a day and have a blast. They kicked my butt the first day (although moving up to a mile high in altitude, not having done Judo in years, and being out of shape didn't help me). As I'm (slowly) getting back into my groove I am seeing how the basic ground positions we emphasize are overlooked by them and the the guard/mount relationship maybe Judo guys don't spend enough time on.
         I have also after much tossing gotten some of them to stop standing in a wrestler's stance and stand upright when throwing. That continues to be an uphill battle as the teacher keeps using that stance. When he does randori (they call it rolls) with me, he grabs a sleeve or anything he can get and throws a foot up to put on my hip and falls dragging me to the ground. I need an exercise to practice at home to counter that and get him to stop using that crutch. Well this is getting long, if you took the time to read all this, thank you. If not, I don't blame you. I will (at a few requests) start posting 3 times a week after each BJJ class. Any tips/suggestions/anecdotes/etc would be welcome.