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Over the past several weeks, I've been focusing more and more on the process of generating power by sinking my center. Combined with that concept is the concept of keeping three points of contact with uke during waza -- a concept borrowed from judo by Don Dreager, and passed to Ellis Amdur from Terry Dobson (if I recall what Ellis said correctly).
A lot of what I had been doing did not result in good kuzushi, despite my best efforts. I had some idea of moving from my center, but did not really understand which way to move. A lot of my focus was on catching my opponent's timing. I don't think any of these things are bad or wrong, but there's something to be said for being able to make your own opportunities for catching timing by creating kuzushi with powerful movement and good strikes. Dropping one's center plays a part in both powerful movement and powerful strikes.
Where timing does come in is the irimi part of our movements. Ellis makes the point at his seminars that O'Sensei always talked about irimi and irimi-tenkan. So, there's no tenkan without irimi. We worked on Saturday with tsuki kotegaeshi. My initial reaction was to get off-line while entering. However, one of the senior students pointed out that doing so leaves uke in a good position for a follow-up attack. The better response in that situation is to strike straight down with an atemi to the punching arm while it is coming in -- to enter first (there's the timing element), and take up the space that the a
A lot of the work I've been doing over the past month or so centers (pun!) on generating power -- ki -- during atemi and waza. A lot of that power is generated by sinking or dropping one's center during movement. This reminds me of what fighter pilots call "God's G." Fighter pilots make maneuvers that result in forces several times the normal pull of gravity. They measure those forces as "G-forces" or "Gs." Two Gs are twice the force of gravity, etc. But when flying straight and level -- or simply standing up -- there's 1 G. Pilot's use that 1 G, or God's G, to add energy to some maneuvers, or bleed energy away from others.
I can't help but see a parallel with the ki work I've been doing. Previously, I focused mostly on moving my center on a horizontal plane, but dropping my center and taking advantage of God' G adds significantly to the energy I can apply. A natural consequence of dropping my center is acceleration during technique that gives a change in tempo during waza.
Again, a lot of my previous study resulted in a focus on doing techniques smoothly and without cheating by speeding up to get ahead of uke. For that matter, uke were not supposed to get ahead of nage either. This is good training, and that sense of matching speed and giving an appropriate attack is very much a part of training at my new dojo. However, I'm realizing that working at an appropriate speed does not mean that every movement during the waza are done at the same speed!
Saturday we worked on basic movements and kata during iaido class. The kata are somewhat similar to the kumitachi I studied previously, but with different emphasis and technique for the cuts. However, the need for zanshin and the transference of principles from sword to aikido are readily apparent.
I've got a number of annoying problems to work on for my sword work. My footwork is strange, but correct on the left side and weird on the right. Finally, I need to relax a lot more on my cuts (making sure the sword follows a clean line on cuts) and on my stances.
Aikido class was very interesting too. We worked on sankyo. The technique as taught at my new dojo is different than the more classical technique as most aikidoka would perform it, but the end result is unquestionably sankyo -- it most certainly felt like sankyo.
It's a lot like the difference between multiplication and division. Three times four is twelve, and twelve divided by four is three. No matter how you look at the problem, the relationship among the numbers does not change.
For the past two weeks, I've been suffering from strep throat. After nine days on one antibiotic, I still wasn't feeling well and was actually feeling worse. So the doctor changed antibiotics for me and now, after three more days, I'm finally starting to feel better.
Naturally, I haven't felt well enough to train much, which is very frustrating. I've made it to two iaido practices, but not aikido. I should be back in the swing of things this coming week.
In the nearly ten years that I've been training, I've had to take time off several times. I've taken time off for injuries, writing my thesis, taking care of my wife and son after my son's birth, and various illnesses. The key is to get back into training as soon as possible and work through the inevitable frustrations of loosing ground due to lack of training.
Last night I attended my first "internal arts" practice. My understanding in brief synopsis of how Itten Dojo got into this practice is this: Ellis Amdur has been studying, and to a certain extent, deconstructing O Sensei's aikido for a number of years. A few years ago, the folks at Itten Dojo started working with Ellis to explore and implement Ellis's ideas on aikido.
In recent years, Ellis has determined that a lot of O Sensei's power came from an understanding of "internal martial arts," or "internal training." I don't really know much about internal training, but I've seen the results. The principles work and make for powerful movements and techniques. Ellis connected Itten Dojo with Mike Sigman, who has made internal training a major focus, and gives workshops on it. This interview with him is interesting: http://www.iay.org.uk/internal-strength/related/interview.htm
From what I can tell, a lot of what we're doing is similar (or even identical) to the emphasis on ki development like Koichi Tohei did. I'm not sure about the differences yet. I really don't know enough about what I'm learning to be able to speak with any authority, but the general aim of the training seems to be like ki as it is taught in traditional aikido.
There are differences, though. I feel them when I train. One of the primary difference seems to be a very detailed and mindful study of internal training principles at Itten Dojo. For me, this is the difference between being aware of something
Both classes I attended this week have focused on movement, generating power, and efficiency. We did not even work on a specific technique last night.
This type of detailed study of the fundamentals is very interesting and fun. It's also very clear how we need to apply the movements we practiced to techniques.
I'm forulating some thoughts on the differences between how I trained before and now, but I can't really speak with any authority on the new training methods, so I'm sure to get the comparison horribly wrong.
I started studying aikido in September of 1999 at Susquehanna Aikido in York, PA. I live in Harrisburg, which is a 40-50 minute drive away.
When I started training there, I was single and ... well ... nearly ten years younger. Now I've got a wife and a three-year-old son. I've finished my bachelor's degree part time and gotten a masters degree.
In short, my life has changed pretty dramatically. One result has been that I wasn't training nearly as often as I really wanted to train. I was down to two to three times a month, primarily due to the distance and resulting travel time eating into my evenings. I was driving for as long as I was training, and the long evenings away from my family meant that I kept choosing to not train. As a result, my skills pretty much stagnated or even back-slid.
As of December 1st 2008, I've been training at Itten Dojo, which is barely 15 minutes from my house. I've trained with them several times over the years and gotten a good vibe. I'm happy to be there, and while I miss my friends at Susquehanna Aikido, I'm enjoying training more often and training differently.
As others who have changed dojos point out, things are different at different places. The training and techniques at Itten Dojo are in some ways very different from what I was doing before. I'm a white belt again after nine years of training -- and loving every minute of it. I'm finding that I'm uncoordinated and that many of my ingrained habits aren't working at the ne
It's been a while since I posted. This is something I wrote in a post that I want to keep :
My instructor has stated that it takes about two years of training in aikido before a student can use his or her skills in a violent encounter with some success. That seems about right to me, based on my own experiences. At the same time, I've been training for seven years, and still feel like a rank beginner in a lot of ways.
Note, that's not the same thing as saying that two years of study would give a student the ability to win a street fight. I'm actually not sure what a "street fight" is, or what "on the street" means. I know it's verbal shorthand for things that happen in the real world outside the dojo, but people seem to have a concrete (pun!) idea of what that means. I don't.
Both times that I've really had to rely on my training in a physical altercation, I was in a house and there was no fighting involved. In both cases, I had to physcially restrain somebody who was high on drugs for his own safety. This situation is about as far removed from the dojo, as I can imagine.
My experiences are probably not typical, but I'm not sure what is typical. My point is that with training and experience, we progress from a very narrow understanding of how to apply techniques (he grabbed my wrist, so I repond with ...) to a much broader understanding and spontaneous application of aikido principles.
As an example, last year, when I had the second physical altercation, I ende
I've not been participating here for a few months, and I've not been training since early November due to the birth of our first baby!
John Richard Ames was born on November 19th, 2005. He was 6 lbs., 7 oz. and 19 inches long. My wife and the baby are doing very well, and his first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years were wonderful.
I'll be back in the dojo this week. I really missed it.
In another week or so, I'll have been training for exactly six years!
It's been a few months since my last entry. Getting the nursery ready for the baby has been my main focus during that time. I've had to strip the paneling off the walls and put up drywall. I'm spackling now. Luckily, I've had a lot of help from family and friends.
In spite of that, I've been managing a regular training schedule. I've had some challenges over the past few months other than getting ready for the baby. The hardest thing has been adapting to having diabetes. For a while I was on a medication that made me pretty sick. My current medication only makes me a little sick, and only sometimes. I've also experienced some weight gain, which has been exceedingly frustrating. I think I'm starting to get that back under control, though, and my blood sugar has been pretty good.
My biggest challenge in training has been working on jiyuwaza (a single attacker, usually any attack, with any technique is usually how we define it). I'll need to show five arts against three different attacks for my shodan exam.
So my focus has been on starting with a good hamni (even when tired), thinking about my next technique as I'm finishing the last one, presenting clear, clean techniques, moving sooner (as opposed to quicker), and using my initial movement to blend well.
In other words, I'm working on gaining a minimum level of proficiency.