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.

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