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Old 08-28-2003, 04:24 AM   #1
justinm
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broad or narrow?

I had an interesting discussion with one of the students in my class on Tuesday. She is 3rd kyu currently, and we were talking about progression.

It occurred to me that we had a choice to make together. Over the last few months we had diverted from the core Yoshinkan grading syllabus and worked a lot more on randori, flow, blending, timing and so on rather than pure technical accuracy. So we had been training in a style that is more reminiscent of my aikikai and ki days than Yoshinkan. To me, this was giving her a broader experience and a different feeling to her aikido that in my experience is not common at Shodan level in Yoshinkan aikido. The balance is a loss in focus on the technical aspects.

As a result of this training, her aikido is more fluid, larger and more circular than it would otherwise have been, however she has made no progress in learning the required form for her next grading, and there is a lack of what I would perhaps call 'sharpness' to her technique.

So I asked her - "do you want me to help you get to shodan in the shortest time, and focus entirely on the Yoshinkan grading syllabus, or do you want to keep training as we are?".

I think we can work together to get a much crisper, strong, accurate technique aka Yoshinkan, and get to Shodan, or keep a broader but less 'deep' approach that will result in a less technically strong technique but will have improved sensitivity, timing, softness, however this path will take substantially longer to achieve the level of technical skill needed to achieve shodan in our Yoshinkan syllabus. Nevertheless, when she gets there, she will have a breadth to her aikido that is far greater than she would otherwise have.

(Not a clear explanation, but I'm typing quickly before my battery dies!!)

As a dojo, we are trying to combine the fundamentals and focus on basics that Yoshinkan has, with the flow and feeling of aikikai. In simple terms, one approach focuses mostly on what to do with your body, the other focuses mostly on what to do with your partners body (simplistic view, I know!).

For me, these two paths seem to merge around Nidan but before that there is a definite difference in how to approach the training, resulting in very different classes and this gives me a challenge as a teacher.

Has anyone else come across this dilemma?

Justin
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Old 08-28-2003, 06:01 AM   #2
ian
 
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Yeh - I waver between the two in teaching. Luckily I'm affiliated with a group that mainly just do blending and not techniques. Therefore I generally have a session of teaching just solid techniques (often starting with atemis included) and stationary techniques. Then move on to more fluid technique (with far fewer atemis) and do these in 'sets' so people feel happy doing a variety of techniques. Then we do exercises in blending, and incorporate them into the technique, and finally blending and adaptation to uke's repsonse (so the techniques are not predetermined).

I used to think this is a linear progression, but now I believe it should be cyclical. A good grounding is essential, but even quite early on I think people should look more deeply into what 'aiki' is really about, rather than just technique.

Ian

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Old 08-28-2003, 07:24 AM   #3
L. Camejo
 
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Personally I think the 2 can coexist.

In our dojo I stick to the Shodokan grading syllabus so folks can get in some serious practice as regards refining technique and understanding the nature of their dynamics in kata. Then we have randori practice where the kata techniques are to be applied in a more fluid environment where things move faster with more unknowns and dynamism.

To me, technique should not suffer when applied in a fluid/dynamic manner - in fact this is one of the things I use as a benchmark to judge my students' development -how well they can apply things effectively, acurately and fluidly while under pressure.

Something I noted in particular when I hit Shodan a while back was the progressive increase in accuracy that techniques should have as one progressed, and this technical accuracy should prevade all elements of training, especially during exercises that help train fluidity, timing etc.

Generally, for about 2 weeks after a grading has taken place in our dojo we tend to move away from the syllabus a bit and work on applying things fluidly and under pressure - plenty randori in other words. The idea here is to hone and adapt the "static" form to fluid situations without losing technical (and practical) effectiveness.

Difficult sometimes - yes, but far from impossible, and it serves us well as we progress in our gradings beyond Shodan as well.

Just my 2 cents.

L.C.

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Old 08-28-2003, 07:34 AM   #4
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Justin, Excellent problem!

As a yoshinkan student myself, I've been through this too. Here's an idea for you. Try using the yoshinkan basic techniques for her next exam but:

1) do the techniques very slowly

2) have shite pay very close attention to what effect each movement has on uke...if uke's balance is not taken with the first movement, go back to the basic movement it comes from (hiriki no yosei ichi, shumatsu dosa, etc.). Work that basic movement slowly, with a partner and find out how to apply that to break the partner's balance.

3) make sure that balance break is maintained or increased through the slow movement and the entire technique...never give uke back their balance once taken. Again, do it slowly...focusing on the transitions between basic movements. If you have to deviate a little from some of the yoshinkan "standard" postures, at least figure out and understand why.

4) Extra practice on kihon dosa to kanren waza, but again focus on what happens to uke, not just what shite is doing. Slow and smooth is best...after just about a month of slowing all the movements and techniques down, when we went back to doing them sharply at speed, we saw a major improvement in the overall technique. The balance breaking was really there as opposed to just speed, with uke trying to keep up in their ukemi. It may not take as long for you, we only get to practice 3 times a week right now. In preparation for our test/demo, we added about 3 to 4 hours training on sunday.

5) send the student to the source for the aikikai and ki stuff...find seminars where good teachers and students are and have her adopt shoshin to get familiar with the feel of those techniques. It might require a different mindset...in my experience, its worth it. The role of uke can be slightly different, depending on the source...somehow there is a very important contribution there that I didn't easily see at first. My first response in some styles was "this isn't martial". Luckily for me, I learned to drop that attitude, and learn from what was really happening. Sounds like you already know this though.

Good luck! Wish I was there training with you guys...

Ron

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Old 08-28-2003, 08:03 AM   #5
justinm
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Thanks guys.

Ron - on a related subject, how do you reconcile the initial block in many shomen uchi techniques (eg Shomen uchi ikkajo ichi) with the idea of balance taking and blending? Having come from a primarily aikikai background, where we NEVER blocked, I've been struggling with this for years. While we spend years training in basic technique with this initial block, I have never seen it used in randori, and it does appear to directly conflict with some of the basic principles that other styles emphasise - eg blending with ukes engergy.

In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and say that ikkajo is a very common randori technique in most aikikai dojo, and a very rare one in most Yoshinkan dojo.

For years I was taught to redirect and not receive a shomen strike, but now I am taught (and teach) a strong block.

As an aside, I was reading about Daitoryu where the author also emphasised this block before applying technique. I get the feeling that this is more typical in aikido taught by O Sensei's earlier students, whereas later students seem to teach this as being wrong.

This is probably the most challenging area to reconcile in my mind between basic static technique and more dynamic flow.

Justin McCarthy
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Old 08-28-2003, 08:59 AM   #6
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Excellent question again, Justin. I don't know if I can pull an answer off as well here...let's give it a try. I'd also like to hear Steven Miranda's opinion.
Quote:
I was reading about Daitoryu where the author also emphasised this block before applying technique. I get the feeling that this is more typical in aikido taught by O Sensei's earlier students, whereas later students seem to teach this as being wrong.
Yes, this is also a function of strongly kata based styles vs more freestyle movement styles. I use the word 'styles' advisedly. If you look in the book 'Budo', you'll see the same types of techniques in use in the kobukan dojo days. Iwama practisioners use these as their static practice as well. So how do we reconcile these blocks with the more free flowing techniques?

I believe it comes down to timing...catching and capturing the timing of uke. If you look at Kondo Sensei's book on ikkajo, and in particular, ippon dori (the technique our ikkajo is based on) you'll see that the initial movement is not really a block. In his seminars, Kondo Sensei stresses uke attacking as if 'cutting through the opponant with one blow'. This is not an attack you can 'block'. You have to catch uke's timing as they raise their arm to strike, continue that movement, and actually do a sort of standing pin, freezing their ability to turn out, and maintain that while you deliver an atemi.

Now lets look at shomenuchi ikkajo osae ichi. Here, instead of waiting for uke to attack, shite strikes with tegatana to uke's face. But if you strike their face before they block, no technique. So you have to actually use the strike as a lead, to cause them to raise their arm to block. As they raise their arm to block, turn your palm from facing to their right, to facing them, at the same time controlling their elbow, and leading them out to their left and back. Do this slowly so that you can feel how turning your fore arm and palm affects their balance as you make contact, while turning your hips at the same time (with the open step / shuffle step in body change). What you find is that these apparently small movements, when performed as whole body movements, actually take uke's balance. And if you do this as a lead, and not just a devasting strike, you don't get a bruise, nor do you bruise uke. You actually blend with the movement of their block. This is almost impossible at first, especially if uke strikes, and shite blocks. But if shite strikes first, it suddenly becomes much easier, and it starts to make sense.

Last, look at the word we use for block in the yoshinkan: 'yoke'. I've been told that the base form comes from 'yokeru', to avoid. This is critical. It is not blocking as you might think from seeing really basic shotokan blocks (I know this is not what happens at advanced levels). But the idea is to 'avoid', not to stop. Combine that with the principle of evasion. So in gamentsuki iriminage ni, we don't simply stand and block the incomming strike; we move and enter at the same time, evading uke's power, and using the contact of the 'block' to aid in taking their balance. But if you wait until a good striker is planted on their front foot, the technique doesn't work so well. You have to find their timing, and take their balance before they plant.

Does this help at all?

Ron

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Old 08-28-2003, 09:11 AM   #7
Ron Tisdale
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Oh, the next logical question is probably 'how do we find their timing?'

Well, this is where kokyu, reading uke's intention, stuff like that comes in. But one relatively simple way is to initiate even while waiting to recieve. So in the last technique, gamentsuki iriminage ni, don't stand and wait for them to attack. The standard lead is to drop your hands from their kamae position. Before you do this, read their intention as much as possible, and just as they are ready to strike, drop your hands, bend the front knee, shift your hips forward and you will usually see uke respond to this movement by striking when you want them to strike. By initiating the timing yourself, even with small and subtle leads, the strongest attack can be controlled.

Ron

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Old 08-28-2003, 09:39 AM   #8
justinm
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Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
This is almost impossible at first, especially if uke strikes, and shite blocks. But if shite strikes first, it suddenly becomes much easier, and it starts to make sense.

Ron
It does make more sense especially if sh'te is initiating the attack
Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
As they raise their arm to block, turn your palm from facing to their right, to facing them, at the same time controlling their elbow, and leading them out to their left and back. Do this slowly so that you can feel how turning your fore arm and palm affects their balance as you make contact, while turning your hips at the same time (with the open step / shuffle step in body change).
From a kihon view, how much of this happens in the first count? It seems to me that this needs to start at the point of contact, and this is certainly what feels right to me in practice, although most explanations I have heard on the mat consider the first count to be a block, which I agree is not realistic if they are 'cutting through the opponent with one blow'. I never liked the term 'block', but I had also never heard the term 'yoke' used. I like that a lot more!

So, if I understand you correctly, this is no different to the aikikai approach, the difficulty being application in a static situation as the same concept of avoidance/redirection needs to happen within a small movement ie within the first 'count' in the kata, and at the end of this first movement, uke should already be off-balance in preparation for the next move?

You have reminded me of a class many years ago where the Sensei said "in a static technique, don't consider each of these points as a place to stop the previous movement, but as a place to start the next".
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Old 08-28-2003, 10:05 AM   #9
Ron Tisdale
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Quote:
It does make more sense especially if sh'te is initiating the attack
If you look at any of Gozo Shioda's books where the shomenuchi ikkajo, nikajo, sankajo, osae ichi techniques are described, or at Inoue Sensei's basic training manual, or at the DVD of the yoshinkan basic techniques, they all stress shite striking and uke blocking. Without learning this method first, I'd have a very difficult time with this. Uke striking is usually reserved for the 'ni' versions of these basic techniques.
Quote:
From a kihon view, how much of this happens in the first count?
For kihon I think of ichi as elbow power # 1 (the strike), ni as turn the fore arm/palm and shuffle step in body change, san as cross-step in body change...etc. The elbow power # 1 done as initiating uke's rising block and continuing that movement should give enough of a balance break...it is then continued through the rest of the movements.
Quote:
So, if I understand you correctly, this is no different to the aikikai approach, the difficulty being application in a static situation as the same concept of avoidance/redirection needs to happen within a small movement ie within the first 'count' in the kata, and at the end of this first movement, uke should already be off-balance in preparation for the next move?
In a word, yes. When this is applied in the manner I spoke of above, then the yoshinkan basic technique can in fact be used to facilitate the same level of flow as you see in other 'styles'. That's why I recommend doing the movement slowly while paying particular attention to their effect on uke.

First get the movements down (ichi, ni, san) shite and uke.

Then get the movements down well enough to go quickly and sharply with attention to posture, forward focus and fine detail.

Then get the movements down slowly and smoothly, really understanding their effect on uke. The transitions between the basic movements become really important here.

Then speed up again while maintaining that feeling of connection and causation, while maintaining the yoshinkan basic movements in technique.

That Sensei was quite correct I believe. If you don't get the first movement right, none of the rest are 'real'...they are built on a false sense of what is happening. No amount of atemi will correct that against a competant fighter.

Just my opinion, and thanks for a great conversation! You've helped me figure some things out...

Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 08-28-2003, 10:20 AM   #10
justinm
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Ditto!

Love to train with you some day.

Justin

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Old 08-29-2003, 08:07 AM   #11
SeiserL
 
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IMHO, some people learn better from the big picture (broad) to the little picture (narrow), it give a frame work in which to set the waza. Others learn better by sequencing the little/narrow prior to the big/broad. We each have our own learning style/sequence. Both are important.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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