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It's hard to keep up with this. The days float by. I'm going to every class we have at the dojo which isn't all that much, but I hope it will be enough. I should do more work outside of class, but I already feel like the time commitment is pretty high and I'm also just shy about asking people. It's also hard because it's hard for me to really understand what I need to work on.
Charlie helped by pounding one piece of advice into my head: 5 techniques from each attack. That's very concrete and seems like it shouldn't be too much trouble. He also suggested writing them down, except that we don't really use named techniques all that much in the dojo.
Munetski: kotegayesh; zemponage; straight in strike; kaitenage; koshi (tenkan with hand underneath, leading uke around).
Lots of people came and Eric didn't show up, so I taught two classes. I'm really focused recently on the idea of getting off line and entering. In the first class we tried doing that with katate dori. In the second class we did the same thing, but from munetski. The problem that I noticed everyone had, including me, was when someone is coming very strong, it's hard not to bang into them with the approach. I think the key to this is timing. Good timing puts you in the right place (right in the hole) so that they have to respect your atame. Bad timing against a strong attack allows them to subtly shift the attack so you are really no longer off line any more.
I think I hurt Xavier's hand in class today. He was struggling with my shihonage, and I cranked it a little hard. It's very scary to hear a crack. He says he is fine, but I'm quite worried.
Charlie taught both classes. In the first class we did a variant of the ikkyo/nikkyo/sankyo/yonkyo progression. The attack was shomenuchi, and the idea was to really focus in on the way that kokyu can deflect the attacker and move him off of your line. This is something that I need more work on. It's hard not to simply pass my arm sideways, hitting ukes hand. Instead, it's important to catch uke and then to use the turn of my body to turn my arm, so that uke rolls along it. This is easy to say, and I've sort of known how to say it for a while. I need to practice it before or after class in order to make it more of a part of my movement, especially when I'm feeling intimidated.
The second class focused on ushiro waza. I think the key here (like so many places) is moving from hamni to hamni. When things are moving so circularly (like they are in ushiro) it's hard to really keep a strong hamni.
Only Alan showed up for morning class. We worked on what it means to stay on center, both as uke and nage. I wonder how this connects to what I need to be working on. One thing is the basic way that flexibility and good hamni make it possible to hold a strong center line without getting rigid.
A big part of dealing with ski is finding a way to let it slide by me. This means soft hands. However, hands that are soft can lead to a weak defence. This means: good placement and, even more important, connecting the hands to the hips. You need floppy hands and strong hips.
Trouble waking up Saturday morning. Missed most of Brian's class. However:
Noticed that the idea of getting offline BEFORE trying to tenkan worked really well. This way of re-establishing the connection before any large or obvious movement is made gets at the heart of taking the initiative which is what I'm trying to learn. Couldn't quite get it to work with Brian, though. This has to do with feeling intimidated. I thought about this later during the day and thought about the idea of 'seeing the holes' which I think is really central to making Aikido work. When someone attacks, it's important to see it (from before the attack begins) in terms of the holes and open spaces towards which I can comfortably go. Instead of waiting for Brian to attack, I need to see and go to those holes.
Chuck taught bokken kata #10 and I really noticed the way that the defence of the neck needs to be a block before I flick the sword away from me to the other side. Also, if you make the flick go all the way over to the other side (good because it locks the peron's arms up) you can follow smoothly into the shomen that comes next.
Monday morning with Tom Hickey, back from Colorodo Camp, teaching, again, a new way to look at the unbalancing at 'touching time.' The basic idea is to try to settle uke back into his tail-bone but also to twist so the upper body curls up and back, away from the tail bone.
Another interesting idea was a way of leading a kosa dori around so that uke bas
Morning class (Tom Zielinski):
Irimi and tenkan practice
And what did we notice?
That ski rondori is much harder for us than shomen rondori. I think that's because it is much easier for me to irimi straight in on a shomen than on a ski. I think that's because when you irimi straight in on a ski, you really need to have your angles right or you are just walking into the punch. Shomen is more forgiving.
That I can do a spiral block, but only very slowly. The key is to make sure that the block is coming out of my rear hip and not out of the hand. This is hard to explain, but it basically means that I am trying to connect my rear hip through to uke's center through the two joes (heehee), and then to drive forward through that. Hard hard.
My Nidan test in on Sept. 18, and I was looking for ways to help me focus and organize my practice. This journal thing came to mind. There's a lot of advice that I'm getting write now, and a lot of things that I'm trying to think about and integrate into my Aikido. Just keeping track of it here might help keep me from feeling overwhelmed.
The test is going to be a stretch for me. Even though I've been practicing in my current style for 5 years, since my shodan exam, I still haven't internalized a lot of the things that are important here. My teachers put a lot of emphasis on a 'martial sense,' which involves a careful maintenance of a martial posture and an awareness of where my feet and arms are at all times. Those are all good things, but they are different than the things I was really brought up focusing on.
Anyway, here are the things that need focus:
1) moving from hamni to hamni. Almost every time I find myself struggling, I have also moved out of hamni.
2) keeping my shoulders drawn back in order to open up my posture
3) taking and controlling the first move. This is just like back in Seidokan, but I guess it's time to take that to another level.
It's also worth noticing what, specifically, I want to be working on:
1) Rondori. Worked on this recently and I am starting to feel comfortable with it.
2) Bokken and Jo kata. I am at a place where I 'know' all of these, but they still need a lot of work. The key here is finding senior stud
So after trying to teach atemi, I took a bunch of poor students at my dojo and gave them a class on atemi. I've got such a 'soft and gentle' Aikido reputation that one of our sandans actually scoffed when he heard that I'd taught a class on atemi. "THAT I'd like to see," he said.
At the end of the class I usually ask for questions. Xavier asked, "What are the points to concenrate on when doing atemi." It was a nice question because it let me sum up the points I was trying to make in the class:
Atemi should not interrupt the flow uke's movement
Atemi should be used as a check of positioning and stance
Effective atemi should not rely on the 'respect atemi' agreement between partners. Truly effective atemi commands respect
Effective atemi should not rely on hurting uke. If you can not influence your partner without hurting them then your positioning, stance, timing, or intent need work
These are easy things to say, difficult things to demonstrate, and nigh-on impossible to teach, I think.
It's amazing how ideas that are simple and everyday in one dojo can be revolutionary and inspiring in another. Sunday at Capital District Aikikai is an open-mat day. I showed up hoping just to throw and be thrown. Still, I was the only yudansha and we had a circle of 7 people working techniques and it seemed like people were pretty much following my lead, so I started to turn it into an informal and simple randori class. Now, anyone from my home dojo can vouch for me when I say that my randori is nothing to brag about. Still, we do randori very regularly and start on it from the very beginning, so in my 4 years at the dojo I've at least learned the basics of how we teach it. That was what I brought to the class.
It was a lot of fun helping the students let go of the break that came up for them between one uke and the next and helping them let go of the tendency to get stuck on one uke as they tried to complete a technique. I'm not a big fan of the 'randori as fear inducing threat to high level students.' I like much better the everyday randori-as-meditation. Finding the flow of moving from uke to uke and feeling that you are still at the center and in control is a wonderful and exciting feeling. It was fun to share it.