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Old 02-08-2012, 08:18 PM   #1
notdrock
Join Date: Jan 2012
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Australia
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Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Hi All,

I only started Yoshinkan Aikido a few months ago but now I'm in a total state of confusion because I don't know if the footwork and posture is important or not. The reason why is because all the blackbelts hold different stances to each other, and when they come to train us whitebelts, they tell us the opposite of what sensei is telling us. Is this normal?

SENSEI:
60/40 weight distribution front foot bias
Front foot just off centre (45 degrees too much)
Legs slighty bent and relaxed at the knees.
Front arm out with a gentle curve like a sword, back hand about 4 inches from dantien, both hands spread but relaxed down centreline.
hips forward
Back/head/neck to attention but relaxed as if suspended.

BLACKBELTS:
they say 60/40 but put us into a 90/10 because they make us go...
front foot 45 degrees out with knee bent over toe
back leg straight and locked, should be able to lift it (keep in mind a 60/40 ratio is only very slightly off centre and should not be able to lift it)
fingers spread apart and rigid

Watching the blackbelts is also confusing because they don't actually do what they're saying to do. Some have their back hand over their opposite hip, some have bent fingers, some have the lead hand rigidly straight... one blackbelt even has his feet about 4 inches apart pointing in almost perpendicular to one another.

What do I do? I can't exactly say "That's not what sensei showed me".

Help please

Last edited by notdrock : 02-08-2012 at 08:23 PM.
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Old 02-08-2012, 08:59 PM   #2
robin_jet_alt
Join Date: Jun 2011
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

That's a good question, and it's something that happens to a lot of us at some point. Of course, once you get good enough, it won't matter so much as you will be able to do your own thing and ignore others to a certain extent. Saying "that's not what sensei showed me" will just lead to trouble with the senior students, so that's not the approach I would take. I would talk to sensei instead. Tell him/her what is happening, and ask his/her advice. If the others are doing it wrong, he/she should really correct them. If they aren't doing it wrong, then perhaps sensei can explain something to you that you have missed. If on the other hand, sensei does neither of those things, and just lets it slide, you might want to start questioning the integrity and value of that dojo.

As to what is "right", I can't help you. I don't do Yoshinkan aikido, and in any case you are likely to get so many different answers on here, that it won't really help you anyway.
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Old 02-08-2012, 10:27 PM   #3
gates
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 193
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Sticky fix - we have all been there - especially us beginners.

You could:

As suggested - ask Sensei
or after class ask a friendly senior about the problem in general terms.

Personally I would do whatever the senior student I am practicing tells me to do to the best of my ability.

EVEN if I think or KNOW that it is incorrect or different from the way Sensei instructed me.
Inevitably at some point Sensei will come over and tell me what I am doing is wrong. At which point I just say "Hai Sensei" and do it the new way I am shown. This has taught me humility, patience and good dojo manners. Which I think are key components to being a good Budoka !!! Helps us to keep a beginners mind which in turn keeps us grounded, so we never stop learning, arrogance is the worst enemy for development.

An explanation as to why they tell you one way and do it another could be found in the traditional learning process of Shu Ha Ri.

As a beginner, you like me, are in the Shu phase, this involves mimicking exactly. Some yudansha may have moved onto a different phase but there is a strict path to follow and they know this, or on the other hand maybe they are just complacent and/or inconsistent. Only you can work that out. If you really don't like the inconsistency then consider finding a more consistent place of practice. If you haven't shopped around you may want to as you may do this for years and years and invest a lot of time and effort. Consistent places do exist, and generally the more consistent the students the 'better' the training es likely to be, IMHO. Or at least it will be less frustrating (Could of course be consistently bad).

Above my pay dirt but technically:
You can have your front knee over your toes and more weight on the back foot but it requires you to suck in your tummy and rotate your hips, trying to put your anus to the sky (don't practice this in public showers, in some places this may give off the wrong signal). It is not a natural stance, and a little uncomfortable at first. Not taught in all styles.

Also watch how open your hips are by looking to see which way your knees are pointing when you turn out your feet. With incorrect alignment especially when turning pivoting you can apply torsion to your knee joint, especially if the mat is kind of sticky. To stop this the upper and lower legs should be nice a straight, not pointing in different directions. Ballet dancers practice for hours and hours and hours to get good ‘turn out', Aikidoka don't but somehow they are expected to just do it.

Good luck

Last edited by gates : 02-08-2012 at 10:29 PM.

Enjoy the journey
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Old 02-09-2012, 04:55 AM   #4
Mario Tobias
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Sensei always knows best.

As for the front forward foot, your sensei is correct. 45 degrees is too much. It just needs to be just a little tilted off the center line.

And the technical reason for this is very trivial. The more you twist your front foot outward, the more difficult it is to use your hara if you need to twist it the opposite way, or same way even. Twist it 90 degrees you can't even twist from your center. Do this as an experiment to see what I'm talking about.

Essentially your front foot is locking your hara the more you twist your foot outward which is not recommended . This might mean your techniques might look that you are using more upper body strength rather than using center. More use of hara = more power. Very simple really but not easy!

The 45 degrees can work IMHO if you stand on the balls of your feet and focus on the big toes if you want to twist, otherwise you get locked out. This takes a lot of practice though.

Also do suburi/jo practice for tenkai and tenkan since its a different feeling. You might think you're pretty good with empty handed tenkai or tenkan but you'll scratch your head if you start weapons practice since you will be stumbling badly at first.

Another one of my "secrets" is when you are doing tenkai or tenkan, FOCUS your mind on the front knee and it'll be automatic 60/40 weighting after turning.

So bottomline, there is no correct way but IMHO the recommended stance is where you 1) can maximize use/twist of your hara and 2) feel balanced when you do basic footwork with or without weapons. If your stance doesn't meet the above 2 requirements then at least you know how to improve it.

Last edited by Mario Tobias : 02-09-2012 at 05:04 AM.
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Old 02-09-2012, 08:06 AM   #5
JJF
 
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Change to Nishio style of Aikido - we don't have a 'stance'... that kind of solves this dilemma...

Also I don't do what I tell my students to do.. It's a common problem with instructors.. we may know more than we are able to do.

On a serious note. I know you are a beginner, but it seems you manage to pick up the essence of your senseis teachings. Keep that up, and try to do what he says. If somebody tells you different, decide on each occasion if you want to follow their suggestions, or you just want to stick to what you have been told previously.

Eventually you need to take responsibility for you own aikido, so experiment with anything that sounds like a good idea, and develop your own style that matches your body.

We are all at different stages of our 'aikido development' and you should always apply your own sense of quality and judgement every time somebody tell or show you a new way to do a technique.

And remember to have fun.

JJ

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 02-09-2012, 09:30 AM   #6
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Everyone you learn from is going to have their own version of the "right way" to do things. This is because over their years of training they have found what works best for their body. The best advice I was given by my teachers was to just do whatever the person teaching is telling you. Latter on down the road in your training, having experienced many ways of doing things you will eventually fond what is the "right way" right for you.
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Old 02-09-2012, 09:59 AM   #7
Eric in Denver
Dojo: Ronin
Location: CO
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Quote:
Luke Hobbs wrote: View Post
Watching the blackbelts is also confusing because they don't actually do what they're saying to do. Some have their back hand over their opposite hip, some have bent fingers, some have the lead hand rigidly straight... one blackbelt even has his feet about 4 inches apart pointing in almost perpendicular to one another.
I unfortunately have been guilty of this myself.

My Sensei once said that when a student gets their black belt, they shouldn't be allowed to talk for ten years.

A dynamic that might be in play is that your Sensei may have changed how he performs the techniques as he works on different aspects and subtleties of the techniques, and the blackbelts might still be doing it the way they were originally taught (or what they thought they were taught). For my first three years, we did shihonage ura with a very specific wrist motion, but then Sensei changed it to a wrist position that had a very different effect on uke. Even now, ten years later, I tend to stick with the first wrist movement, it is what is more ingrained.
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Old 02-09-2012, 10:06 AM   #8
Eric Joyce
Dojo: Budoshingikan
Location: Gilbert, AZ
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 179
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Quote:
Luke Hobbs wrote: View Post
Hi All,

I only started Yoshinkan Aikido a few months ago but now I'm in a total state of confusion because I don't know if the footwork and posture is important or not. The reason why is because all the blackbelts hold different stances to each other, and when they come to train us whitebelts, they tell us the opposite of what sensei is telling us. Is this normal?

SENSEI:
60/40 weight distribution front foot bias
Front foot just off centre (45 degrees too much)
Legs slighty bent and relaxed at the knees.
Front arm out with a gentle curve like a sword, back hand about 4 inches from dantien, both hands spread but relaxed down centreline.
hips forward
Back/head/neck to attention but relaxed as if suspended.

BLACKBELTS:
they say 60/40 but put us into a 90/10 because they make us go...
front foot 45 degrees out with knee bent over toe
back leg straight and locked, should be able to lift it (keep in mind a 60/40 ratio is only very slightly off centre and should not be able to lift it)
fingers spread apart and rigid

Watching the blackbelts is also confusing because they don't actually do what they're saying to do. Some have their back hand over their opposite hip, some have bent fingers, some have the lead hand rigidly straight... one blackbelt even has his feet about 4 inches apart pointing in almost perpendicular to one another.

What do I do? I can't exactly say "That's not what sensei showed me".

Help please
I would stick with what the sensei is telling you vs. what his black belts may be telling you and your questions about stance and footwork should be addressed to him, just out of common courtesy and respect. I come from a Yoshinkan background and there is a method that needs to be followed in order to understand the basics to do Yoshinkan.

Last edited by Eric Joyce : 02-09-2012 at 10:07 AM. Reason: typo

Eric Joyce
Otake Han Doshin Ryu Jujutsu
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Old 02-09-2012, 10:34 AM   #9
dapidmini
Dojo: Surabaya Aikido Dojo
Location: surabaya
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 96
Indonesia
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Quote:
Luke Hobbs wrote: View Post
Watching the blackbelts is also confusing because they don't actually do what they're saying to do.
I think that answers your question.. IMHO, people who can't stay consistent with their own words are not very competent. so I suggest that you stick to what your Sensei told you. but to avoid unnecessary conflicts, when in the presence of those blackbelts, you can pretend to agree and try to do what they say.

trying different things can give you a richer experience, though.. so you probably want to decide which movements are more comfortable for you after experiencing them yourself..
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Old 02-09-2012, 11:33 AM   #10
NekVTAikido
Location: Wolcott Vermont
Join Date: Nov 2011
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

If someone's verbal description doesn't match their own posture, you *could* try asking them to show you what they're trying to describe, and see if they discover the inconsistencies on their own. And watch to see whether they're comfortable with the self-discovery that could happen there. If they're not comfortable with it, that may be an important thing to know.

Of course the key thing is to ask in a manner that is genuinely curious, and has no hint of "Aha! Gotcha!" If you can't do that, then forget this suggestion, and talk to Sensei about what you observe.
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:37 PM   #11
gregstec
Dojo: Aiki Kurabu
Location: Elizabethtown, PA
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,110
United_States
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

IMO, I think the "When in Rome" approach applies - IOW, follow who ever is teaching at the time and just soak it all in and see how you can apply what is being taught - eventually, you will find your own level of what is right for you.

Greg
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Old 02-09-2012, 07:17 PM   #12
kewms
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 998
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Who will preside over your next test?

Do it the way that person wants.

Katherine
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:25 AM   #13
Dave de Vos
 
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Dojo: Shoryukai, Breda (aikikai) & Aiki-Budocentrum Breda (yoseikan)
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

I can only say what I do in similar situations. I don't know what you should do in your particular case.

When my partner's rank is more than about two ranks above mine I try to follow their advise, even if I suspect it contradicts what sensei wants us to do.

When my partner and I are about the same rank, I only offer my opinion if my partner seems unsure what to do while I feel fairly sure that I understood what sensei meant. But if my partner urges me to do something in a particular way, I tend to go along with that even if I suspect that sensei wants us to do it differently.

Sometimes sensei comes over to show us again what he wants us to do. Sometimes that's different from my sempai's thoughts as well as mine. Sometimes both our thoughts are besides the point. Sometimes sensei realizes he needs to address some point of confusion to the whole class.

If sensei corrects my partner, I keep a straight face. I don't want my partner to think of me as an asshole.

Last edited by Dave de Vos : 02-10-2012 at 03:28 AM.
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Old 02-10-2012, 05:01 AM   #14
SeiserL
 
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Who heads your test committee or has the final say in your promotion?

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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Old 02-10-2012, 06:18 PM   #15
Alic
Dojo: Sokushinkan Dojo, Vancouver
Location: Richmond, BC
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Hey Luke,

I am also a fellow Yoshinkan student, and also new at that. I don't know who's at a higher level, you or me, but I will attempt to answer your question anyhow, and you can decide what to take away from it.

I am training at the Sokushinkan Dojo in Vancouver, and not long ago Andrew McBride sensei showed up at our dojo and began teaching us regularly in addition to our dojocho, Keith Taylor sensei. Andrew sensei is a yondan, and a senshusei graduate. If you did your research, then you probably know about senshusei. Needless to say then, he is very skilled at both applying the techniques and in teaching them. Being a graduate of that hell camp, he is very big on basics, such as kamae and kihon doza.

His way of explaining, and that goes for all my sensei's, is that there is only one kind of kamae, and you do nothing but that at Yoshinkan. Students who gets creative with the stance don't get very far. The idea behind the kamae and the kihon doza is very deep, and so students like us won't get it right away. But in order to one day grasp the meaning behind it, you must not deviate from the standard.

Later on at godan and beyond, your kamae will be in everything. It won't matter how you stand, because you will know how to control your centre. But at our stage of training, we need to have the correct form in order to start learning how to become aware of that centre.

Yoshinkan is unique among other styles of Aikido in that we focus on correct form first, rather than timing and flow. Shioda sensei feels that doing timing and flow first is like trying to write cursive before standard blocky scripts. It won't be very good and no one can understand it.

Kamae is done like so:

put your front foot directly forward, then put your back foot 90 degrees to it. Then, slightly rotate the front foot 30 degrees to 45 degrees to the outside, and bring up the back foot by the same angle. Now the foot should be in a V shaped position. The distance between your foot should be average stride distance, or you can check by kneeling down on the back leg's knee. The knee should be in line with the middle of the front foot. Bend your knees forward and distribute weight at 60/40, at the same time straighten your back leg and have it locked at the knee. Keep the waist squared to the front, and the shoulders relaxed with armpits closed (should be able to hold a tea towel in there). raise the arm that is the SAME side as your front foot to chest level (not shoulder), with the arm slightly bent, just the same shape as when the arm is hanging freely. the other arm goes down towards the obi, and at one fist distance from the knot. Both hands should have some tension on the forearm, and fingers spread apart flat and open. The hands should be aligned to your centreline, same as your feet, as if you are holding a panel of glass. Both hands should have the ring finger parallel with the ground, and so the lower hand must bend a lot. This should resemble the position of holding a sword. Then, bring your head back so that the back is touching the collar of your dogi, and keep your head level and looking forward. This will straighten the spine and keep your balance centred, resulting in an axis that runs down your centre of balance. Finally, engage your hips by pushing it forward so that there is a curve at the small of the back, and your knot on the belt should be point diagonally downwards.

In other words, your sensei is correct. The fingers should be tense though, not totally relaxed. The only problem is the senior students, who seems to differ from your sensei.

However, there is a possible and very simple explaination for this: they are trying to train you

The 90/10 is the weight distribution for high power throws. By doing kamae at this form, you increase your flexibility and strength/endurance of the muscles that are used for Aikido. Your blackbelts will tell you to do this so that you get stronger as you go. The sensei's form is the correct kamae, but it won't make you as strong as fast. The legs will naturally shift at the foot and the knees do to the sink in, but that is natural and expected. You shouldn't follow the blackbelts who raises the arm opposite to the front foot, nor should you have your foot pointing inwards like an A. Those aren't kamae or permutations of it, but experimental stances that won't work. There is a lot of things to watch for in kamae and the lower sinkdown versions, but essentially it's this: at 60/40, your knee should be inline with the front foot, at 80/20 your knee should be one fist apart from the front foot, and at 90/10 it should be two fists distance apart.

If you wish to be certain, ask your sensei, but the 90/10 is training you to be stronger and more flexible.

Andrew sensei will sometimes press diagonally down on the small of our back to force us to work harder to hold kamae. It will make your muscles scream bloody hell, but you'll get strong real fast.

Hope this helps clearing up some confusion, and remember: when in doubt, do it hombu style!

Alic.

Last edited by Alic : 02-10-2012 at 06:23 PM.
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Old 03-13-2012, 02:48 PM   #16
notdrock
Join Date: Jan 2012
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Australia
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Hey all,

Thanks very much for your replies. Haven't had the chance to be on the net, been practicing diligently.

I decided to follow what sensei shows me. I trust the man (or woman) who takes Aikido outside of class time too.

Now my partner just got home yesterday and has run into the same problem at the dojo. She's being drilled to do kamae by the one same black belt for 40mins a day for grading training, and being made to do more of a lunge than stance than kamae.

I appreciate that the black belts may be doing this to be a leg-strengthening but wouldn't that be risky because it could end up building bad habit in the students right from the start of standing too wide and too deep, in what is meant to be a natural stance? Hmm, maybe I should go to Japan and see how they do it...

Aikido looks to me to be very much about planting a seed, not relying on muscular strength, but in fact knowing yourself so well that when the tree is finally grown you are unique in your own Aikido. Whatever it's intention, it's awesome!

Osu!
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Old 03-13-2012, 03:54 PM   #17
lars beyer
Dojo: Copenhagen Aikishuren Dojo
Location: Denmark
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Quote:
Luke Hobbs wrote: View Post
Hi All,

I only started Yoshinkan Aikido a few months ago but now I'm in a total state of confusion because I don't know if the footwork and posture is important or not. The reason why is because all the blackbelts hold different stances to each other, and when they come to train us whitebelts, they tell us the opposite of what sensei is telling us. Is this normal?

SENSEI:
60/40 weight distribution front foot bias
Front foot just off centre (45 degrees too much)
Legs slighty bent and relaxed at the knees.
Front arm out with a gentle curve like a sword, back hand about 4 inches from dantien, both hands spread but relaxed down centreline.
hips forward
Back/head/neck to attention but relaxed as if suspended.

BLACKBELTS:
they say 60/40 but put us into a 90/10 because they make us go...
front foot 45 degrees out with knee bent over toe
back leg straight and locked, should be able to lift it (keep in mind a 60/40 ratio is only very slightly off centre and should not be able to lift it)
fingers spread apart and rigid

Watching the blackbelts is also confusing because they don't actually do what they're saying to do. Some have their back hand over their opposite hip, some have bent fingers, some have the lead hand rigidly straight... one blackbelt even has his feet about 4 inches apart pointing in almost perpendicular to one another.

What do I do? I can't exactly say "That's not what sensei showed me".

Help please
Hi Luke,
If in doubt ask your sensei and if he is not present ask one of the senior students you know teach what sensei teaches or at least tries to.
You can also go with the flow and see what the different statements means to you and then take it as a way of learning trying out different things. Sometimes you will also face the fact that sensei doesn´t allways say what he does and vice versa. It´s part of he game.. everybody evolves and tries out different things so rely on being persistent and eventually you will get a natural feel for what is right and what is wrong in your particular dojo.

Regards
Lars
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Old 03-13-2012, 07:07 PM   #18
danj
Dojo: Brisbane Aikido Republic
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Just on the weight distribution aspect, last year I trialled some force plates (one for each foot) to help understand unbalancing/kuzushi. But as an interesting aside we looked at weight distribution and discovered that even for people with more than 10 years training under their belt, what they felt was 90/10 distribution was actually closer to 60/40. We were amazed!

You can try this yourself with a couple of bathroom scales, it might help explain somethings and maybe everybody is right (in their own mind)

Sorry meant to chime in with this a month back
best,
dan

Brisbane Aikido Republic: AikiPhysics, Aikido Brisbane news,
ph 0413 001 844, 1593 Logan Rd, Mt.Gravatt, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
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Old 03-15-2012, 01:48 AM   #19
notdrock
Join Date: Jan 2012
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Re: Help! Blackbelts vs Sensei!

Quote:
Daniel James wrote: View Post
Just on the weight distribution aspect, last year I trialled some force plates (one for each foot) to help understand unbalancing/kuzushi. But as an interesting aside we looked at weight distribution and discovered that even for people with more than 10 years training under their belt, what they felt was 90/10 distribution was actually closer to 60/40. We were amazed!

You can try this yourself with a couple of bathroom scales, it might help explain somethings and maybe everybody is right (in their own mind)

Sorry meant to chime in with this a month back
best,
dan
Cheers Dan that's a great idea I'll try it out. Alhtough sensei and another BB did frown at me the other day when I was standing like that... so I got a tshirt made saying "She told me to do it" jokes
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