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Old 03-16-2004, 04:47 AM   #26
paw
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George and Jeanne are making an important distinction between solo training drills which have value and solo training which does not.

So I don't seem to be picking on anyone, I'll use tennis as an example (and I do understand aikido is not a sport).

A good tennis drill is to take a bucket of tennis balls, head to an empty court and practice serving. This is good drill provided the tennis player serves just like they would in a game. (By that I mean if the tennis player would serve overhand, not that they would only practice serves they were "good" at) Anyway, this drill will work to develop serving skill and conditioning, and is certainly worth time and effort doing.

In contrast, if our tennis player walked onto the court, with no tennis ball and no opponent, and pretended to serve and then ran around the court pretending to hit returns in an imaginary game, that would be "solo tennis" and would not be a worthwhile pursuit, IMO. At best, it would develop conditioning by running, but frankly, that conditioning would be better developed in another manner.

And here's the kicker....that "solo tennis" may actually be harmful to the tennis players development. Over time, the tennis player would naturally repeat, developing patterns of movement. In a real tennis game, a skilled opponent will pick up on those patterns and counter them.

So I offer this tale of caution to "solo martial artists". I watched a black belt test in a kicking and punching art. There were several people testing, but one person was far and above the most skilled when in came to demonstrating solo forms (kata). I eagerly wanted to see this person spar, as it seemed, at the time, they had a high degree of skill.

That person was slaughtered in sparring. They would use combination from their forms. And while the combinations would be effective, they were done as a pattern, and opponents recognized this and countered with their own kicks and punches. Getting pounded, this person --- under stress --- fell back on their training, which was of course, more patterns from forms which made everthing worse....and the downward spiral continued.

They performed exactly as they had trained to, with a specific pattern of movement. So, I've no doubt that folks who imagine throwing a non-existant partner see improvement in class. Most likely in class they train in paired partner practice (kata), which is what they have been working on in their spare time. But as best I understand it, aikido, from a technical standpoint, is not about creating patterns, it's about transcending them...to an individual who will spontaneously create aikido techniques.

It's a fundamental law of nature. If you desire skill in something you must expend energy to do that thing. If you want to be a great singer, you have to sing. If you want to be a great writer, you have to write. If you want to be a great runner: swimming, biking and weight training can help and I'd recommend them, but ultimately you have to run and spend time there.

If you want great skill at aikido, you have to train aikido, but it doesn't stop there. If you want to be good at swari-waza, you'll have to practice swari-waza techniques. If you want to throw a real person....you have to throw a real, living, breathing person.

So forgive me for rambling and ending with silly cliches. But one should begin with the the end in mind. And practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 03-16-2004, 03:35 PM   #27
Marc Kupper
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Quote:
In contrast, if our tennis player walked onto the court, with no tennis ball and no opponent, and pretended to serve and then ran around the court pretending to hit returns in an imaginary game, that would be "solo tennis" and would not be a worthwhile pursuit, IMO.
I have done this though without the running back and forth to both sides of the court. I also leave the cover on the racquet, which provides resistance. The goal for me was moving about and executing strokes while maintaining center. You visualize hitting the ball.

People will also do it where if they mess up a shot during a rally then once it's over they practice how the stroke should have gone. It's both a way to calm yourself down and to keep working on imprinting good form into yourself (and it looks better than slamming the racquet into the ground in anger).

Solo practice for me is polishing practice that is part of the overall training with partners in the dojo.
Quote:
do you think all Martial arts need partners to get better? or is it only with the close-range arts (ex. Aikido, Judo)?
Arts like Tai Chi are solo until you get to things like the push hands exercises. Iado is also solo (not counting the invisible partner). Though practiced solo you are not alone as the master/sensei is there to watch and correct your form.

How about this as a thought -- If you are trying to improve yourself in working with others then it is best to practice with partners. If you are trying to improve yourself for the sake of improving yourself then you could practice alone.

Marc
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Old 03-16-2004, 05:22 PM   #28
ikkitosennomusha
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I think one will be able to maintain their level especially in theory but after so long the physicality could diminish some what just becuase we need that partner interaction to make it real. I feel this is pretty much true for any MA. In karate, one might need a partner less and could maintain physical techniques but after a while, you stick them in a sparring match and see what happens. After so long without that human interaction, it might take a short time to get that egde back. This is just a possibility.

Brad Medling
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Old 03-16-2004, 07:14 PM   #29
wendyrowe
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I agree that for "real" aikido training you need a partner. But there is still a lot of value to doing kata.

When I went on vacation for two weeks last summer and when I couldn't work uki/nage because of an injury, I practiced kata just so the hand/footwork placement and timing would be second nature to me. If I don't have to think about the basics and timing of a move, I can pull it off lots better when working with a partner. I worked a lot with a bokken, too, which helped clean up my form.

Every day while I'm waiting at school to pick up my son, I always practice either aikido kata or tai chi. I use trees as uncooperative ukis; haven't gotten any to go down for me yet. (I stop before kids start coming out, to avoid embarrassing my teen to death.)
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Old 03-16-2004, 08:17 PM   #30
paw
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Marc,
Quote:
It's both a way to calm yourself down and to keep working on imprinting good form into yourself
How can form exist without the ball? Can you surf without a wave?

Wendy,
Quote:
... I practiced kata just so the hand/footwork placement and timing would be second nature to me.
How can timing exist without a partner?

Honestly, I'm not trying to be a jerk, nor do I have any intention of trying to prove a point or convince anyone that anything I write on this or any subject has merit. But these are common responses and I've always wondered....

Regards,

Paul
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Old 03-16-2004, 10:25 PM   #31
mantis
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
Can you surf without a wave?
I live on the Gulf Coast, and the waves sometimes aren't there, but if i take the time to drive to the beach, then i don't want to just drive back home. So sometimes I'll still paddle out, just to keep my muscles in shape.

Paddling out (if your out of shape) is harder than actually surfing. Knowing how to surf is like riding a bike though, once you learn it, you don't forget how.

The limitations for me are physical ones that need to be worked on, not really technical ones.

So to me, that would be the difference in solo training as opposed to partner training. They really do go hand in hand, but as you say, you can't really surf without the wave, but you can suplement it for the days that there are waves.
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Old 03-16-2004, 10:38 PM   #32
Largo
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There are very good things that can come from solo practice. Repitition can make even complicated movements automatic. It is also good for fluidity. But, repitition doesn't necessarily guarentee perfection.
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Old 03-16-2004, 11:56 PM   #33
Marc Kupper
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Quote:
paul watt wrote:
How can form exist without the ball? Can you surf without a wave?
Paul, I personally found solo practice more challenging as the ball / partner is not there meaning it's up to me to fill in the gaps. As it's now "empty motions in the air" it also makes me much more aware that I'm doing those motions which leads me to thinking about why they are there, their purpose, etc. Once I start to understand the "why" the motions can become much more meaningful, and thus purposeful to me.

I can grab a bokken and take a few whacks at the air. It does not mean a whole lot. Now I take a few cuts at an imaginary partner. Suddenly I start thinking about maai, center, my connection with that partner, extension, etc. I would assume that in a few more years those whacks at the air will have even more meaning for me than they do today.

Thus the solo practice is helping me think about the meaning to the motions but also helps to imprint the form into muscle memory. My partner never gets bored.

A similar idea is partnered practice but at a very low speed. In that case a challenge is to consciously move your body in the same way as though it had been a full speed practice. E.g., just because it's low speed does not mean that uke can start effortlessly tracking nage or that uke can do small shifts to keep perfect control of their own balance and thus freeze nage out. Just like in solo practice the partners need to "fill in the gaps" and as a result the practice is a little more challenging.

Marc
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Old 03-17-2004, 12:31 AM   #34
Marc Kupper
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Quote:
paul watt wrote:
How can timing exist without a partner?
I'm sorry about the extra post on but I got to thinking about this question and realized I I have a little story about this. I had not played tennis in a couple of years and one day took a bucket of balls out to a court with a friend. I did a few practice serves in the air to make sure the form felt comfortable, grabbed a ball, tossed it, and missed the thing entirely. Oops… I grab another ball and this time I hit it too early and the ball goes sailing clear over the far fence. It took a few more practice balls before I got my timing back and could serve balls with accuracy.

However, it was only a couple of minutes before I was back to a point where I could rally with someone comfortably as the basic form had not been lost.

Ultimately it comes down to partnered practice with real balls, waves, parachutes, etc. The solo practice is just one of the tools I use to help polish things.

Marc
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Old 03-17-2004, 12:32 AM   #35
PeterR
 
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Shock horror - I am going to disagree with Paul.

I have a few students going for their first grading this Sunday and they needed a lot of work. Practicing with each other was a study in conflict - horrible to watch. Solution - teach them air waza.

a) separated from poor uke and therefore you can concentrate on form. In the actual test they use University student Yudansha.

b) you can do it alone and therefor more often.

It did the trick - once I put them together I only cringed on occasion and I found they were more able to execute a technique.

I use air waza myself - good way to build up a sweat when you have no partner. I think partner practice is infinitely more preferable but you can still get a lot out of your imaginary friends.

I think the original question was about learning Aikido from books and tapes alone - this is impossible and not the same thing as solo practice.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 03-17-2004, 05:13 AM   #36
paw
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james,
Quote:
I live on the Gulf Coast, and the waves sometimes aren't there, but if i take the time to drive to the beach, then i don't want to just drive back home. So sometimes I'll still paddle out, just to keep my muscles in shape.
I'd call that a solo drill and one worth doing. I wouldn't call it solo training (see past posts)

Marc,

You didn't answer either question, or if you did I didn't understand it, sorry.

Maybe this will help:

What is good tennis? On the top of that list should be the ability to hit the tennis ball over the net in a legal shot in such a way that one's opponent cannot return it.

What matters is the result. In other words, "form" must follow function. How can there be a result without a ball?

Relatedly, how can timing exist without the ball? Are you late in hitting the non-existent ball? Early? Are you putting enough spin on the non-existent ball? Where's the result? How can you know?

Does that help show you where I'm coming from?

Peter,
Quote:
Shock horror - I am going to disagree with Paul.
Et tu, Peter?
Quote:
I have a few students going for their first grading this Sunday and they needed a lot of work. Practicing with each other was a study in conflict - horrible to watch. Solution - teach them air waza.
Sounds like a coaching/instruction decision based on someone not having proper mechanics. So you isolated the problem, coached/instructed and then reintroduced an actual person.

Sounds perfect. Did you think I would disagree?
Quote:
I use air waza myself - good way to build up a sweat when you have no partner.
Sounds like a conditioning drill or warm up you enjoy, or did I miss something?

Regards,

Paul
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Old 03-17-2004, 05:45 AM   #37
wendyrowe
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Paul Watt,

The timing I'm talking about is timing my hands and feet together properly, since often when I learn a new technique I don't feel comfortable with it for a while. I'm an engineer, so this might be one of those personality things: I need to go over something until I understand every detail about it.

For instance, one thing I practice repeatedly in the air is getting the flow just right when I step forward and cut down during shomenuchi. Another is the timing of my atemi during irimi tenkan. Another is generally how to get from one irimi to the next if I miss my imaginary partner. No matter how many times I practice in the air or with a partner, I always feel that I could do it better; and practice either way always makes me incrementally better.
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Old 03-17-2004, 06:11 AM   #38
paw
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Wendy,
Quote:
Paul Watt,
Just "Paul" is fine.
Quote:
The timing I'm talking about is timing my hands and feet together properly, since often when I learn a new technique I don't feel comfortable with it for a while. I'm an engineer, so this might be one of those personality things: I need to go over something until I understand every detail about it.
I think I understand.....
Quote:
Another is generally how to get from one irimi to the next if I miss my imaginary partner.
Or maybe I don't....

In "moving from one irimi to the next if you miss" is building a habit. A habit that says, "if I miss irimi, another irmi is the appropriate response". With a living, breathing uke, that may very well not be the case. But that's what you are "programming". It might even be worse than that if you are actively or subconsciously "missing" the first irimi. Then your "program" is: "miss the first irimi, transition to a second irimi".

Does that make sense to you? And if so, is that what you want to become skilled at?

Regards,

Paul
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Old 03-17-2004, 06:33 AM   #39
wendyrowe
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Paul (I'd added "Watt" to differentiate you from the other Pauls out there),

The good news is, my air waza is very varied -- must be that tricky imaginary partner of mine, he never reacts the same way twice. So I don't think I'm being programmed; it's totally unlike my karate kata. I've been concentrating on irimi to irimi because I noticed when working with an uki that although my second irimi is often effective, I feel like there's a rough spot in my transition from first to second. I've had a lot of success concentrating on something solo to get the mechanics down the way I want; then when I apply them "for real" they feel good and work.

Some techniques feel very natural and work very well for me with an uki right off, but others don't feel good until I've practiced first with an uki and then by myself for a while. Whichever way I learn them, though, ultimately they wind up feeling equally comfortable; so for me, air waza as an adjunct to training with a partner is very helpful.
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Old 03-17-2004, 06:41 AM   #40
paw
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Wendy,
Quote:
Paul (I'd added "Watt" to differentiate you from the other Pauls out there),
Oh, I'm different, all right!
Quote:
so for me, air waza as an adjunct to training with a partner is very helpful.
Well, if you think you get something out of it, then that's that, I guess.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 03-17-2004, 06:45 AM   #41
George S. Ledyard
 
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Solo Practice

So, possibly I jumped to a conclusion about what the original question was... anyway, people are all over the board in what they are talking about here.

Some folks are talking about solo drills. This is for the purpose of imprinting a motor skill or combination of skills. It is something teachers often use wit their students, especially when they find the students are paying so much attention to what the partner is doing, they are losing track of what they are doing. Peter R. Sensei's use of this technique is a good example.

It can, however, get very complex as in "visualization" techniques that athletes use in sports where certain actions are repeated over and over requiring precision or in which long and complex forms are required. Who hasn't seen shots of Michelle Kwan in the back hallway with her head phones on, going through her routine in her mind one last time? Even sports like the Biathlon use this technique with the athletes doing visualizations of "perfect" performances before they begin their races. I have done this in a way myself when I was getting ready for one of my Yudansha tests. I pictured myself doing a "perfect" randori in which no one could touch me...

When you start talking about arts which are actually done solo, you have entered another realm. T'ai Chi Ch'uan (the way most people train) and Iaido are both good examples of this. What you have here are forms of "moving meditation" but in neither case is the practice going to result in any applicable fighting ability. These are merely systems designed to use physical movement as a means to quiet the Mind.

Solo forms practice as a part of training in art which is primarily paired is another type of solo training and Aikido has this, especially in weapons work. Once again we are talking about taking a series of physical movements and linking them in a series which the student practices, initially to imprint the motor skills themselves but later more as a means to enhance focus and concentration and quiet the mind, not to mention the pure physical conditioning involved.

"Timing" has been mentioned here several times. Timing is a word that requires movement to have any meaning. Usually we talk about timing in terms of the relative movement of the two opponent's in the martial arts. My ability to execute a certain technique would be possible only if I performed the movement at the precise time and position relative to my opponent which made that technique possible. Solo practice is pretty much useless in developing this type of "timing" as the fundamental definition is the "timing" between two people.

But there is a different kind of "timing" and that can be solo. It has to do with relative movements of the different components of a technique. Are you breathing in or out at this moment? Is the right foot stepping forward at this moment or after I have raised my arm? Solo practice can help quite a bit i this type of timing. It falls under the heading of solo exercise as outlined by Peter R. Sensei.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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Aikido Eastside
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Old 03-17-2004, 10:31 AM   #42
Marc Kupper
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Quote:
Paul Watt wrote:
What is good tennis? On the top of that list should be the ability to hit the tennis ball over the net in a legal shot in such a way that one's opponent cannot return it.
Being calm, centered, keeping your hands in front of you, drop your center, use your hips, know the bodies strengths and weaknesses so that as you rally you can tilt the game towards your strengths and towards your opponent's weaknesses, moving with focus, remain in the present though be aware of the past/future, etc.

Hitting the ball over the net is a secondary issue. The first priority is effective technique in moving your own body. E.g., control yourself first and that'll allow you to take control of the court or mat. Tennis games are randori and so any of the training practices that apply to randori are also applicable to good tennis.
Quote:
Paul wrote:
Relatedly, how can timing exist without the ball?
I believe Wendy and others have already replied on the internal timing (coordinating mind and body). To learn external timing you are right -- you practice with a ball as you are learning how it bounces/spins/moves. However, once you have a good handle on the ball then you can visualize that as part of solo practice.

Just like we can't practice for every possible "street" situation in Aikido we can't imagine all the funny ways the ball may bounce. A solution is good form so that regardless of the situation we remain centered and deal with it. Solo practice is just one of the tools some people use to improve their game.

Marc
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Old 03-17-2004, 12:13 PM   #43
paw
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Marc,
Quote:
Being calm, centered, keeping your hands in front of you, drop your center, use your hips, know the bodies strengths and weaknesses so that as you rally you can tilt the game towards your strengths and towards your opponent's weaknesses, moving with focus, remain in the present though be aware of the past/future, etc.
...so you can hit the ball over the net (or in my case, just hit the ball at all). After all, there can be no rally unless the ball goes over the net. The rally only exists in the context of tennis when there is a ball present.
Quote:
However, once you have a good handle on the ball then you can visualize that as part of solo practice.
The only studies I've seen about visualization were not particularly conclusive. If you are aware of more recent information, I'd love to read it.

George,
Quote:
When you start talking about arts which are actually done solo, you have entered another realm. T'ai Chi Ch'uan (the way most people train) and Iaido are both good examples of this. What you have here are forms of "moving meditation" but in neither case is the practice going to result in any applicable fighting ability.
Exactly!
Quote:
But there is a different kind of "timing" and that can be solo. It has to do with relative movements of the different components of a technique. Are you breathing in or out at this moment? Is the right foot stepping forward at this moment or after I have raised my arm? Solo practice can help quite a bit i this type of timing.
I'm an athlete. I'm interested in performance. If something doesn't work, I don't care how "pretty" it looked. If something works, it is "pretty" by definition.

This does not mean that I have no concern for technically correct movements. As an athlete, I seek to be efficient and effective as possible so that positive results are easy and as close to effortless as they can be. So if this is the problem then there it is.

Practicing technique without a partner, without immediate coaching/instruction and the immediate re-integration of a partner seems, at best, a poor form of conditioning. At worst, it is ingraining habits that may prove to be detrimental.



Regards,

Paul
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