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I teach Aikido at a small dojo in Winnipeg, Canada. Been doing so for many years now. This blog is just a collection of ruminations on teaching, descriptions of the events of daily practice, and the occasional funny story.
Nothing much to comment on regarding class. The usual sort of practice: Suwari waza (shomenuchi nikyo), tachi waza (shomenuchi irminage) and little zesty sprinkling of jiyu waza to finish things off.
Its fun for me to occasionally demonstrate directly to new students what is possible if they'll persist with training. The newbie, Jeret, was doing his usual katatetori shihonage (which he's been doing each night since he started a couple of weeks ago) and looking a little bored. So, I interrupted his practice and had him grab me katatetori as strongly as he could. He was a little tentative at first, but after some urging from me he began to grab my wrist very aggressively. I did with him the same technique he's been practicing the last few weeks. Of course, I've had a bit more practice at it, so I did it a little differently than he does. I gave him a soft version of shihonage and the look of surprise and bemusement on his face as he fell to the floor made me grin. By the time I was finished throwing him he was breathing hard, but with a big smile on his face. Most importantly, he didn't look bored when he returned to his practice of katatetori shihonage.
Well, they say brevity is a sign of genius, so, for now, I'll write no more.
It was just the older guys and the newbie tonight. So, instead of a night of thrashing and pounding I slowed things way down and had my students practice a series of opening tai sabaki against yokomenuchi for the entire class. I think the older guys appreciated this brief respite from the usual vigor of practice. I think they also liked the depth to which I went in explaining the mechanics of the various sabaki -- except maybe the new guy, Jeret. At one point, he asked, "Can I punch him now?" with such a note of hopefulness in his voice that I chuckled a bit. I think he felt some of the fun of practice was gone when no one was being hit or flung to the mat.
I've noticed that people have their own particular practice habits on the mat. For instance, last night after each time I interrupted the older guys to explain something, they always resumed their practice with more or less the same exchange:
"Um...whose turn is it?"
"Yours, I think."
"Really? I thought it was your turn now."
"Hmmm...maybe...No, I think you've got a couple of reps left."
"Oh, okay. Did we do the left side last?"
"Yeah, er, no, it was the right."
"Right? The right side?"
"Right, then. Okay."
And so on.
They also had this strange "stance dance" that appeared to be part of their lets-resume-practice ritual. They'd both get into gyaku-hanmi and simultaneously realize they ought to be in ai-hanmi. So, they'd both switch stances and find themselves ag
I recently saw a video clip on YouTube of Royce Gracie challenging a Hapkido teacher to a match. Three times Royce took the teacher to the ground and made him tap out. Very instructive. Royce just moved directly into the Hapkido guy as quickly as he could to nullify his striking ability and then dropped him to the floor. The clip reminded me of the value of not retreating in a straight line (which is what the Hapkido teacher did), the problem with needing to get distance in order to strike, and the necessity of having stopping power in every single blow. It also reinforced in my thinking the absolute necessity of having as solid a root as possible.
With these thoughts in mind I began Tuesday night practice. I've had my students practice rooting and moving energy through their body on a fairly regular basis, but the pushing involved in this kind of practice wasn't explosive and repeated like it was last night. The goal was to hold one's place against repeated hard shoves (10 in a row) first against the upper torso and then at the waist. I allowed my students to slip the pushes with shoulder rolling and hip turning and/or directly receive the energy from the push and move it through their body into the floor. I even suggested to some of my students to try returning the energy to the one pushing, but this didn't go so well. Instead of actually receiving the energy, these students began to preemptively push back against their partner's energy. Anyway, it was good to experien
Class tonight involved the usual suspects. Except for a very keen newbie, there were only core students in attendance.
We were back on the tatami tonight (as opposed to Tuesday nights when we have to practice in a space to which we cannot bring our mats), so back to classical aikido techniques. Did the usual warm-up stuff and then some hanmi-handachi waza. Katatetori kaitenage (uchi tenkan) was the order of the day. Everyone seemed to be working without too much difficulty. Lisa tended to raise her gripped arm almost completely extended above her head while going under uke's arm. At full length, raising her arm this way allowed uke to stand up straight and maintain balance, which of course wasn't any good. I only mentioned to her that her form was off and she self-corrected without any specific advice from me. Very good.
Jamie was feeling miserable with a stomach complaint, so she was having one of those grit your teeth and train days. Near the end of class she finally had to sit out. She was feeling really tired too, but still trained anyway. She's a great senior student to have in the dojo.
Jeremy's at that place in his training where he's feeling out the boundaries of his power in technique. Lots of "ooomph!" in how he does things on the mat -- sometimes too much for the older guys like Jim and Gary. Its interesting to watch as Jeremy tries to impose his power on them and they, in turn, attempt to slow him down. So far, I haven't had to intervene directly, but
Last night we were upstairs in the gymnasium - without our mats - and so we worked on the usual sorts of things that don't require a soft surface to land on. We swung, and twirled, and flipped our jo staffs around for a bit and then moved on to empty-hand practice.
I thought my students (and I) could benefit from some striking-focused practice so I began the class by running them through punches from full extension, then half extension, and then punches over mere inches.
Of course, before I got them smacking their fists into things I ran them through a series of exercises designed to help them feel some connection between their legs and hips and arms and increase flexibility in the shoulders and upper torso. Some were better at connecting, relaxing and flexing than others. It is still surprising to me to see how apparently unnatural it is for people (or my students, at least) to be loose through their upper torso. Most of my students have considerable amounts of tension through their shoulders and chest of which I believe they are mostly unaware. Even when I point out their tension, they are still often unable to release it. This isn't to say that they aren't improving -- they are, but there is still some way to go yet. I should say that my students really are a game bunch. The exercises I have them do to develop flexibility through the upper body are strange both in appearance and feel yet none of them balk at attempting them. You should see, though, the faces some o