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I made it to all three classes last week, and it felt good to get that much training in. Our attendance is way up compared to even a few months ago. I may not have mentioned it before, but just about a year ago, in August of 2002, we moved our dojo. We didn't move far, just a few miles, but there were some trade-offs. Our old dojo (which I also helped build) was on the second floor of an old, converted cigar factory. It had plenty of mat space, beautiful wooden floors, and a high ceiling (great for weapons work). But, as nice as it was, the location was awful. The building was located in an alley, and we had only a small sign on the outside of the building to indicate our presence. I say the building was located there because the owner sold it and it was demolished so a parking lot could be built in its place. That was the impetus for us moving to a new location.
The new location is in a much nicer location -- in a small shopping /office plaza right off one of the main streets in York, PA. The trade-offs are that the place is smaller, has lower ceilings (though not too low), and is more expensive to run. It is, however, much more attractive from the outside and as attractive from the inside -- though without those beautiful hardwood floors. My wife, Robin, and I painted a very cool sign that can be seen well from the highway. That, along with some other, fairly easy, promotional activities (three fold flyers left in a mailbox on the door and a sign by the road we use ever
I only made it to one class last week. Home buying chores kept me away last Tuesday, and a cold kept me from training on Saturday. But, tonight it's Tuesday again, the cold is shaken, and the home buying stuff is (at least temporarily) on hold. I'm going to train!
Last Thursday's class was good. We had one brand new student in addition to two of the three "not quite as new" students. Additionally, we have five regular, "older" students. It was a pretty good crowd. I felt gratified that our instructor used me to demonstrate the long version of irimi nage. That's a technique where, as uke, I've had some trouble in the past, but I seem to be doing better now. The way we do the technique, nage enters strongly to uke's rear, and then drops uke strongly to his rear while performing a tenkan movement. This is followed by a second tenkan where uke is raised up, and then a zengo undo movement where uke is bent over backwards. Nage finishes off by stepping into and sort of under uke's bent back for the throw.
The most difficult thing for me as uke is continuing the attack after being dropped so strongly with the first tenkan. This is especially true for me as I'm overweight because, quite frankly, my belly gets in the way of my legs if I don't do things right. Over time, and with some help from my instructor, I've learned how to continue my attack on that technique until I'm thrown. At times I've thought it was silly to focus so much on the ukemi for just one technique, but afte
I feel like I'm ready to start the "Lake Woebegone" section of the Prairie Home Companion radio show: "It's been a quiet week here at the dojo. . . " But, it has been a quiet week.
We're assimilating two new students, both women. They're friends, and they practice Tai Chi together at another dojo. They seem to be adjusting well to the way we do things in our dojo. As usual with new students, rolling is causing them a bit of trouble. We also had a guy stop in last night who had practiced for a few months in Ohio a couple of years ago. He did pretty well last night and has joined the dojo.
Things are busy for me personally. My wife and I are in the process of buying a house. There's a AAA summer camp the weekend before we settle, and I'm trying to figure out how I can go to the camp and still do the things I need to do for moving. Robin is planning on coming with me to the camp, though not to train. Still, it'll be nice to have her along.
I said I was going to write about competition, so I shall. The arguments for competition in aikido generally make the following points: (1) competition exposes one to unscripted, unpredictable action; (2) it adds pressure to ones training that can simulate the stress of a real encounter outside the dojo, (3) it is a good way to counter the problem of ukes who cooperate too much with nage's technique.
The arguments against competition generally go like this: (1) O Sensei found the idea of competition anathema to aikido; (2) using c
...right in the jaw. I'm feeling okay today after the Ibuprofen and ice treatment last night, and some rest. It happened when I was practing munetsuki sokomen irimi nage with Micah. This particular technique involves a strong movement turning uke's head away. My problem was that I tilted my head instead of turning it thereby leaving my jaw in basically the same place. I got hit on the left side of the jaw, and that stretched or strained the right side. I must point out that Micah is one of the most gentle people I know, even with technique, and he felt bad about hitting me so hard. This was a training accident of the kind that happens when people train with energy, not the result of Micah trying to "teach me a lesson.". The rest of practice went well, but the mild jaw injury took a lot out of me afterwards.
I'm finding more often lately that I need to make many minute adjustments to my technique and ukemi. Things like turning my head instead of tilting it. I've also been working on where I put my weight during tenkan movements and how I turn my legs, with special attention on avoiding injuring my ankles (again) or knees. I also noticed while looking at photos from my recent test that my back foot was coming up quite a bit. So, I'm also focusing on bending my front knee more and sinking from the hips at the end of technique and when I'm striking.
This is a good development, and one that I've been through a couple of times before. It seems that just as I achieve some lev
I've wondered about cross-training and why so many people find it tempting.
A number of people in my dojo, including me, have prior experience in a striking art like tae kwon do. We've all moved on, for one reason or another, to aikido. We don't cross-train, and we focus on the traditional aikido attacks -- though we strive to make them strong and centered attacks. In other words, despite our previous experience, we haven't found anything lacking with the traditional aikido attacks.
Another reason people cite for wanting to cross-train is that they feel aikido does not offer something that they think they need. While each art has its advantages and disadvantages, my feeling is that aikido is a complete martial art for my needs. People will say that aikido does not use strikes; we practice using strikes as nage during techniques. People say that aikido can't be used aggressively. We sometimes train in an aggressive manner with nage initiating with an attack and then using uke's response to create the technique. We also sometimes preemptively throw uke.
Of course we still work toward peaceful resolution of conflict as our goal. More specifically, although we sometimes look at how to cause our attackers damage, we feel it is important to not harm our attackers if we can avoid it. What we don't do is the stuff I learned in TKD -- blocking strikes and counter-striking. My TKD training was good, and it actually came in handy once or twice, but I hadn't learned
Last night (July 17, 2003), I went to the only class I'll make this week. A student who hasn't trained with us for two or so years, on of my sempai, joined us for class last night. It was interesting working with him as he's been training at another dojo and his ukemi is rather different from ours now. One thing I had trouble with was him spinning back to back with me when I tried the opening blend for ryotetori kaitenage uchikaiten omote. I think I know how to fix the problem, but I didn't figure that out until later. He and I did a few rounds of jiyu waza that felt pretty good. This was during the open mat session prior to class.
During the open mat session the three of us who are senior students were trying to figure out how to do juji nage (sometimes known as juji garami). This is a throw into a break fall with uke's arms crossed. Both Richard and I had trouble with this technique. We each had a side that worked correctly and one that didn't work. This is a well-known phenomenon and I'm sure that pretty much every aikidoka has gone through this at some point. Still, it is a bit frustrating to have a technique go well on one side, think I'm doing the same thing on the other side, and have it consistently not work.
My wife and I are heading out to Pittsburgh this weekend so I'm going to miss out on a chance to teach tomorrow. Last Saturday's class went pretty well except for the henka waza that I tried to teach, and Richard tried to help me figure out. I asked our se
Yesterday was hot. It was ninety-four degrees at 6:30 p.m. while I was driving to class. Our philosophy regarding the climate is like that expressed by second doshu in The Spirit of Aikido -- we adapt our training to the climate, not the other way around. The upshot is that even though we have air conditioning, we seldom use it.
Heat, really heavy heat, affects me differently than what I normally feel when physically exerting myself in class. Normally, I'll get very hot and out of breath, but a short rest (as when we're watching our instructor demonstrate the next technique) is usually sufficient for me to recuperate. With the extreme heat, however, I get fatigued all out of proportion to the physical exertion I've done. I also quickly get a little nauseated.
My ego is soothed somewhat by the fact that everyone was affected one way or another by the heat last night. We dealt with it by taking small breaks (with our instructor's encouragement), drinking water, and working on techniques a bit more slowly. The whole tempo of class was slower last night, which is a good thing because I was having a hard time paying attention at times. I noticed a similar thing happening to one of the students when I was leading class this past Saturday. I took that as a cue to take a break and get some water. That seemed to do the trick.
I've had a week of good practices. Last week, on Thursday, I got mad as hell at my instructor, but we worked things out pretty quickly. In short, I was honestly confused about something, and he thought I was deliberately holding a contrary and incorrect view. We almost argued about it, with me getting very angry that he wasn't understanding me; his attitude was very closed. This was all before the class actually started. After bowing in, and demonstrating the first technique we were to work on, my instructor took me aside (probably noticing that I was rather angry) and we worked out the problem that was confusing me. He apologized for his attitude, I learned a bit more about ukemi, and class was good from there.
In the course of almost four years of training with my instructor, I've gotten really upset with him two or three times. Each time, we've been able to quickly get to the heart of the problem, solve it, and move on. There is a lot of mutual respect in our relationship. Some would argue that confronting one's instructor is disrespectful. In some circumstances (as when studying a koryu art) it is. But aikido is a modern martial art, and I'm practicing it in America. With that in mind, I think it is disrespectful to not confront my instructor. Obviously, I don't attack him, and I don't pick a bad time (like during class). Instead, I pick a good time and as calmly as possible present my complaint. This approach has worked well dealing with co-workers, family, my wife,
In rereading some of my entries, I realized that I complained about cold and wet weather (cold's okay, but cold and wet is hell on my injuries), and yesterday I complained about hot weather. Boy am I a grumpy aikidoka when it comes to weather!
Paula Lydon posted an interesting observation on the Aikiweb board:
I love my Aikido training, but sometimes I wish my uke would follow through on their attack with multiple strikes if I miss the first timing/movement, or a full choke, etc. I've had years of prior Jujitsu training and our theory was that you'll likely be in a compromised position regarding posture or positioning if attacked and so your 1st response probably wouldn't work (or 2nd and 3rd too, just keep moving!). Chances are you'll get hit, cut, pinned, choked...then what? How to handle a situation where you're already down or half out? I get together with my old Jujitsu buddies from time to time just to romp with what-to-do-when-I-inevitably-screw-up or gee-uke-isn't-politely-waiting-for-me.
Below is part of my response to her -- captured here for posterity.
This is part of our overall philosophy on ukemi. We are taught that uke must continue the attack until he or she hits the mat. We view grabs or strikes as the first part of an attack. If nage does a good job, that's all uke gets. But if nage makes a mistake, then a second punch or reversal can happen.
Let me add some notes of caution:
(1) Be sure nage and uke both agree on this kind of trainin
I skipped class on Saturday; my body needed the break. I guess it worked, because I came to class yesterday (Tuesday 6/24/03) without all the soreness I've been feeling the past couple of weeks.
Yesterday's class was somewhat mixed. I was able to participate fully even though it was rather hot. As the sun was going down, shedding its last killer rays through the plate glass window in the front of our dojo, I was silently chanting, "die, you evil orb, die!"
Anyway, I'm feeling better about my tenkan movement. I've been paying attention to the how I place my feet and my weight. I'm working to avoid placing unneeded stress on my ankles and knees. A good, proper movement does exactly what I want it to, but I guess I've been fudging it and getting a bit sloppier over time.
I felt as though my instructor had it out for me last night. His criticisms were valid (for the most part), but far too frequent for my taste. Part of the problem -- at one point, anyway -- was that I was working with a new student and my instructor was doing his best to make her feel comfortable. I feel that that happened a bit at my expense. This was annoying, but not to the point of being upsetting. Part of my frustration was that I was genuinely confused about the technique, but the instructor had to spend more time correcting the new student's attacks than helping my with the technique.
I know that sounds peevish, but I was in a slightly peevish mood with all the heat, humidity, and occasion a