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Reader "Belt_up" asks in a comment what shakko ho is. I was going to post a hyperlink for him to follow, but when I Googled "Yoshinkan shakko ho," I discovered there is almost no reference to this practice on the Internet. Neither can I find photos or video to explain.
Shakko ho is practice moving in a standing position in Yoshinkan aikido. (Shakko ho is opposed to shikko ho, which is moving in a seated position. Now, I know there are other styles of aikido doing shikko.) I am informed by a reliable source that the literal translation of shakko ho is "diagonal-go-method". However, when I look in the Jim Breen dictionary, I don't see anything like that. If the search results in Jim Breen have anything to do with the aikido technique, it means something more like "distance-skill-method".
Shakko ho is performed by starting in the Yoshinkan kamae stance and stepping forward with the front foot. As the foot goes forward, the hips make an S shape. The movement ends with the back leg straight and the front leg bent, and with the hips low to the ground and facing slightly off the center line. Then, without raising the hips, step forward with the back leg, hips make an S shape, and hips end facing slightly off center toward the opposite side.
You can walk like this across the floor, and we do. The S shape of the hip
I had hoped to use the first weekend for recovery--lots of rest and good proteins and fats. Unfortunately, things didn't turn out that way. I had to get up at 7am and pop off to Osaka without breakfast, grab fast food for lunch, and generally spend the day stressing my knees more.
The knees are still swollen and stiff. They were a little difficult to bend enough to get into the shower this morning. I was little surprised as I had hoped that the days of swelling were behind me for good. After a quick shower, it was onto the bike for a fast ride down to the JR Kyoto station, then a bunch of train changes, up and down stairs to the platforms, Osaka, reverse in the afternoon and return to Kyoto, then ride the bike uphill into the wind and rain for a meeting with free legal councillors about my visa status. This was not the day of rest for my knees that I had hoped. I sincerely hope the swelling is down more by Monday as I am even higher in seiza now that usual.
The visa advice was pretty much useless. One encouraging piece of news is that they said I wouldn't have to leave the country in order to change my status and start working once I have a sponsor. However, I don't have complete confidence in them. It's difficult in Japan. Japan is a "low-information" society. You only get told what you need to know, and it is often hard to find information without going through a person who acts as a gatekeeper. Is that person telling you everything relevant to your situ
Tonight I got another treatment from Takagi-san. He spoke a little while he was working on me. He knows some English, although he never let on before. It turns out he has a public license in shiatsu, which is what I've gotten from him.
My knees were swelled up after today's practice, so he wasn't able to work on him adequately to get me into seiza, but I still felt much better after he had done his range of motion work, stretching, and massage. When he started on my legs today, he grabbed around my Achilles tendon and said, "Whoa!! Katai!!"--stiff! No doubt. My Achilles was starting to feel irritated today doing shumatsu dosa.
As a normally gassy person, I have always been nervous and self-conscious about having people working around my lower body since I almost always have gas moving around and waiting to be expelled. Anyhow, as Takagi-san was manipulating my feet, I could actually feel the tension coming from my abdomen and fighting him as he tried to work on me. It was very subtle but it was there. I had quite a strong feeling that most of the tension in my body in daily life comes from my abdomen.
Interestingly, my very first drink of liquor some years ago, I remember very vividly since I had an acute warming sensation that I could feel very clearly start in my stomach after I swallowed the liquor and spread outwards. I have never had this feeling again, but I have heard other people mention it. It was an amazingly relaxing feeling. Now, after drinki
Had to get up one hour earlier today because first keiko on Fridays is the ken class with ippan students. Very difficult to wake up in the dark. I think I hit the snooze button 5 or 6 times, and ended up rushing to class. At 10 minutes to 6:30 by my watch, Nick was still folding laundry. I was waiting for him because I thought he had the key to the dojo, but as the minutes ticked by, I started to worry that someone else was opening up that morning, so I left him and smashed it down to the dojo. Luckily, I made it on time. And Nick arrived late with the key.
Keiko session 1 was ken training with the ippan class. Not much to report here, pretty unexceptional ken class. It was about twice as large as normal, so very difficult to move around without hitting someone. I think that is why we switched to jo in the middle.
Keiko session 2 was mostly work on shakko ho movement: repetitions and partner exercises. Also some tai no henko.
Lunch was extremely difficult to recover from again today. I started to get chilled in my wet dogi.
Keiko session 3 was more hiriki no yosei and introducing shumatsu dosa. Many repetitions. Then in the last few minutes of class, Payet-sensei took over from Crampton-sensei and we started doing exercises. Just when class should have been ending and Crampton-sensei was expected to ask us to line up and fix our dog is, instead he said, "okay, push-up position." What? I thought. Then we ran through a series of exercises directe
Last night, Nick got in to Villa Bianca late as usual and woke me up around 12:15. I must have said something critical, because I remember him saying "Whadda mean? You've 6 hours til you have to get up." And I remember saying, "Nooooooo, 6 hours isn't a whole nights sleep," then I turned over and fell asleep again. But it was a tough one this morning. I experienced the types of aches and pain that make it difficult to get up off the floor. Especially bad were the hips. Lovely.
Keiko session 1 was conditioning again. After an hour and a half of tai no henko ichi yesterday, my deltoids and triceps were practically useless this morning, but we pumped out 60 press-ups*, only about 30 of which I could honestly call real. We are a pathetic bunch, but we are getting better. We spent a while doing what I call shrimping, which is a sort of crawl on the back that jujutsu practitioners will be familiar with. And then we practiced getting up from forward ukemi. Like everything in Yoshinkan, there is a prescribed way to do this, formed, fast, fearless, and forward. After getting the form down reasonably, we spent the rest of class doing ukemi over and over and practicing getting up.
Keiko session 2 was all tai no henko ichi and tai no henko ni. When I say "all," I mean we spent 1.5 hours doing repetitions of these two kihon dosa. I was really dripping wet with sweat by the end. This pretty well fatigues the entire body, but it was my back and deltoids that took the
Like every morning, this morning started with cleaning the dojo. The morning routine is to smash it* down to the dojo on my cheap $30 used tourist bike, walk in pretending to be refreshed and relaxed, and greet any instructors present with a loud "Osu! Ohayo-gozaimasu!", get changed into dogi, and immediately start cleaning.
So far, I have been the first one at the dojo each morning, so I start on the bathroom right off. Most people might balk at bathroom duty, but I find the cut and dried goals of making mirrors and porcelain shiny very preferable to searching out hidden dust in forgotten corners. Since working as an RN for several years, I have almost lost my aversion to other people's feces and urine, so it is a good trade-off.
In Angry White Pyjamas, Twigger says that the mirrors at hombu were cleaned every day with newspaper. I never understood how this was possible because if you used my hometown paper to clean glass, the newsprint would smear all over. However, in true Yoshinkan fashion, we polish the mirrors at Mugenjuku with newspaper as well. I can report that Japanese newspaper is a fairly good cleaner, leaving behind no smudges or ink but a layer of fine paper particles. I find a once-over with a dry clean cloth takes care of the paper. The funny thing is, I am sure that at hombu in 1994, newspaper was used because it was an economical way of using something that would have been thrown out. Now, we still use newspaper, but we were told to be sparin
I wanted to post yesterday and call it "Day 2 - hardest day yet," which I thought was kind of a funny title, but I didn't get around to it.
Day 2 was hard, though. Unlike the first day, when I was rested and focused, the second day started with aches and pains and just promised more. I knew that's what I signed up for, though. Yesterday was more physical training in Session 1, practice on seiza in Session 2, and then starting tai no henko ichi in Session 3.
If you don't know Yoshinkan style, you can look up kihon dosa to learn about tai no henko.
Last night, for some reason, I had horrible sleep. I got to bed late, then woke up several times in the night, and had a nightmare. I dreamt something surreal and thought in the dream, "This isn't a dream, I'm hallucinating!! How do I stop?! Arrgh!!" then woke up. So it was very hard to get out of bed this morning, what with more aches and pains and the foggy brain on top of it.
Training today was extremely difficult for me. A lot more work on proper form for getting into and out of seiza. It was extremely hard on the knees and also on the mind, as it is frustrating to not be able to do something so simple as stand up correctly. At the end of the day, more tai no henko ichi and introduction to tai no henko ni. Unlike ichi, which I can't do well but feel I understand, I don't understand ni at all. I am never balanced or grounded and whenever I am told my position is correct, I seem to be in a stance I can't m
The first day of the kenshusei course is over. I'm alive, and I didn't quit. However, I did put in a shameful performance.
Last April, of 2012, was the last time I did any exercise. At the time, I had a mixed routine incorporating spinning, CrossFit circuit training, and traditional weightlifting. I wasn't Captain America, but I could make it through an hour-long workout just fine. When I was in Mongolia, I went horseback riding, and I was the only one in group without saddle sores, because I had enough leg strength to ride properly for a long time.
But since spending a year in Asia eating noodles and rice and drinking too much whiskey and... beer (yes, I had stopped drinking beer altogether, but for some reason it tasted soooo good in Laos and Burma), my fitness level is way down. Plus, too much time sitting on western style chairs in buses, saloons...
When I came to Japan, I was told the best way to get in shape for aikido was to do aikido, so that's what I did, eschewing running, biking, and the gym. Let me tell you, if you ever want to try this course, CrossFit would be a pretty good prep.
Keiko session 1 consisted of command-following exercises and a circuit training routine. Command-following means sprinting from one place in the dojo to another and getting down into and up from seiza quickly, over and over. And bellowing "osu!" in response to each command. Done properly from the abdomen, this is almost like exercise itself. Class ended with "mo
Tomorrow is April 1st. The Kenshusei Course starts at 7:30 sharp. Frankly, I am quite nervous. At the age of 36, I think it is entirely possible that The Course is beyond me, and perhaps would be at any age. Then there are the knees. The thing is, you never know how you are going to react or what is going to break you until you experience something. You can know that there will pain, but it is very different to experience that pain.
On the other hand, I am also quite excited. For the last 2 weeks or so, the regular students have been doing testing in the dojo, so every day is the rokyu exam as uke for beginners, over and over. It was getting a little boring. They say The Course can be boring, too, and that is part of the challenge, but at least it will be a challenge!
Needless to say, I hope to report tomorrow afternoon that I am still in the program and didn't quit on the first day. It has happened on The Course before.
There is a man named Takagi in the dojo who trains intensively and regularly. He is very quiet and serious. His job outside the dojo is to work with elderly people in functional rehab. So he is basically a physical therapist.
He approached me last Friday and told me through an interpreter that he wanted to help me sit in seiza. I said, "you are the right man to help me with this problem, because I have the knees of an 80-year-old," then I laughed, but Takagi-san didn't laugh with me. (Japanese people don't have the same sense of humor we do. I hate Japanese TV comedy, for instance, but I thought my knee joke was at least a little bit clever.) Then I explained that the doctor said I have a bone problem, so I didn't know how much he could help. But he still wanted to try.
So on Friday he did some range of motion exercises with me, and back stretches and then an incredibly painful massage of my legs, mostly on my hamstrings. It was one of those massages where the masseuse grind their thumbs or fingers into the muscle, compressing it against the bone. I had this type of massage in Mongolia, too. But there it just made me feel like crap, whereas Takagi-san's actually made me feel looser afterwards.
It was a great thing because after the seiza session on Wednesday, my hamstrings tendons had been in pretty much constant pain, and his massage actually helped settle them down.
After he was done, he asked to try seiza, expecting me to be able to get down all the