Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pre-Year's Resolution

I imagine the most popular resolution people make for New Year is to get in shape. Seeing the obvious need for it in myself, I'm going to go ahead and do the same, although I'm not usually one to make resolutions for New Year.

But I can't wait until January 1st. To me, that just gives me license to eat like a pig and sit around for a couple more days. Procrastination will not serve me for this need, so I've begun already. For the last couple of nights, my wife have done 30 minutes of strenuous (for me) cardio exercise with the "Hip Hop Abs" DVD (I'm secure enough to admit that, haha!). I plan on getting back up to my old habit of 1 hour of cardio per day. The other things I'm going to do are not that complicated: I plan to cut out sweets, cut out fried foods, and change my beverage consumption from 100% PowerAde to 50% water, 50% PowerAde (I've tried quitting completely, but it never took....so I'm taking baby steps). Portion control will figure in as well. I'll add some resistance training, as well as yoga/flexibility development.

This stuff coupled with my (hopefully) regular mid-week judo/BJJ "study group", and continued Saturday morning Judo, may be just what I need to finally get in shape.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts on UFC 92

I had a group of my buddies over Saturday night to watch UFC 92. It was a great time! Some random thoughts about the fights:

I've only been following UFC for a few months now...the first fight I saw was Quinten Jackson vs. Dan Henderson. Jackson's cocky comments after he beat Henderson made me kind of not like him. However, he did gain some points with me after this weekend. His reaction to Wanderlei Silva's schoolyard shove during the weigh-in spoke of a maturity the Axe Murderer apparently left at home. Rampage just smiled and laughed at Silva...that was great. In the cage on Saturday, 'Page was all business, and laid Silva out twitching. By the way, could there be a more melodramatic nickname than "Axe Murderer"? Give me a break.

I was, on one hand, disappointed in Forrest Griffin's defeat, but on the other hand, I just like the guy more and more. As Joe Rogan said, Griffin is always gracious in both victory and defeat. I like Forrest because he just doesn't seem to have as much ego riding on his fights as a lot of the other guys do. It just is what it is with him. If he loses, he learns, he gets back to training. He's probably now tied for my favorite fighter with Anderson Silva, because he has so much class. Rashad Evans earned his win over Griffin, but his cockiness in the ring (the laugh and "kiss" move after an exchange of blows) made me dislike him a little. After the fight though, he was respectful of Griffin, so I guess I can live with his win.

Frank Mir has got to be crazy calling out Lesner like he did after defeating Minotauro. I mean, I wish him the best, but I don't like his chances against Brock. I can't wait to see that fight. I hope he does take the belt from Lesner, but only because I'm not a huge Lesner fan. I'm not big on Mir, and was surprised he won Saturday.

I'm SO excited for January 31 - Penn vs. St. Pierre. That's gonna be great!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday Night BJJ

Tonight another of my nephews came over, and we worked on a bit more Judo. More deashi barai, but mostly escapes from kesagatame, which are still kind of hit-or-miss for me. We also tried a couple of takedowns we got from a Gracie basics DVD. This nephew is a semi-professional steer wrestler, so I was pretty worn out by the end of our time. My friend, Josh, gave me a call and was available to roll, and my wife is currently out of town, so I told him to come on over.

Josh has a lot of BJJ experience, and I have exactly none. I showed him the groundwork I've learned so far in Judo, and we moved into a bit of ground randori. I'm not really skilled enough to be any threat though. Josh rolls a lot harder than what I'm used to (so far, I'm really just learning the moves), which is ok...but once again I was shown how badly I need to get in shape. We would drill for a while, then randori for a while. Randori was really taking it out of me. I was exhausted! He showed me a variation of the bridge-and-roll escape I learned, which is kind of cool. I was also shown the Americana, Kimura (from mount or with the opponent in guard), arm triangle choke, and an armbar (from top and bottom). We drilled that stuff a few times, then turned our attention to Roy Dean's "Blue Belt Requirements" DVD, and practiced a couple of sweeps demonstrated there. Those were fun, but will really take some getting used to.

I used to think it was all just "rasslin' ", but since I started Judo a few months ago, I'm beginning to gain an appreciation for the sophistication of grappling techniques in both Judo and BJJ. I'm really thankful for Ibuprofen tonight...and, at least physically, I'm okay that I don't have Judo in the morning.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What a Friend I've Found...

Merry Christmas.

"Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
John 1:29

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Judo Study Group

Last night my nephew and his friend came over to practice some Judo with me. Let me start by saying I know that I am supremely unqualified to teach Judo to anyone. But, I figured I could show them a few things I've been learning and we could practice them. It turned out to be a lot of fun!

We warmed up with ukemi, then moved on to the foot sweeping exercise Pat always has us start with. I showed them deashi barai, and we drilled that to death. Then we played with transitioning to ukigatame right after the throw, and into munegatame and kesagatame after that. I showed them the ground mobility cycle, and the few escapes I "know" (sit-up, leg entanglement, uphill, and bridge & roll), and we had a lot of fun with that. I was feeling better about my shrimping/bridging by the end of our time last night. We did a BIT of kosotogari and osotogari as a preview of what we can play with next time.

A few things this independent "Judo study group" showed me:
  • As I said, I really can't teach, I can only show at this point...but I knew that already.
  • I am SO out of shape. These kids are in their early 20's and work out religiously. I'm in my mid-30's and have 25 extra pounds or so I have GOT to deal with. If I want to be able to keep up with...well...anyone, I have some work to do.
  • I should not do 2 hours of Judo after a large meal. A friend was in town for the holidays, so we went to VooDoo BBQ and I got stuffed. We started judo at 9pm, and went till 11pm. I was so nauseated afterward I felt like I would pass out.
  • My 12 foot by 8 foot mat space is okay for now. It's fine for ground drills and throwing drills, but for any randori, I'm gonna need more.

As I said, we had lots of fun, and I was very glad to get a couple extra hours of practice with deashi and the groundwork. Hopefully it'll help!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Times That Try Men's Souls

Last week I came down with an AWFUL bout of sinus crud. Sore throat, a cough that made my head feel like nails were being driven into it, etc. It started Wednesday, worsened on Thursday and Friday, to the point I couldn't really speak. Of course, I had an audit at work Thursday and Friday, so I couldn't take time off to rest. What bummed me out the most was having to miss Judo and Aikido again on Saturday.

Some good news came just in time: I mentioned in a previous post my wish for people to train with at home, between classes. Looks like I may get that wish! I have one friend who's trained in BJJ for years who's going to practice with me maybe weekly at my house. I also have 2 nephews (college kids, one of whom is a semi-pro steer wrestler) who are going to come over once per week to train with us as well. I'll pick up some BJJ tips, and be able to work on my judo takedowns and ne-waza as well!

Life really is much better than I deserve.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Beginning BJJ / Stephan Kesting

I thought I'd give a shout-out to Stephan Kesting, the guy behind the "Beginning BJJ" free e-book. Lots of bloggers have already written about Stephan's websites (here and here), so why does the world need another blog post advertising for him?

I just thought I'd express my appreciation for how he's going about this. For one thing, I HATE "interruption marketing". You know: the unexpected phone call, the spam in your email, the fliers in your mailbox or under the wiper blade on your car, or on your front door. Call me paranoid, but I don't like that strangers feel comfortable walking right up to my front door in the first place (check out this post from Adam @ Low Tech Combat for some thoughts on front door procedures). The fact that they leave litter there that I have to remove adds aggravation. With interruption marketing, I'm uninterested to begin with, and some part of me resents the intrusion upon my busyness at work or time with the family at home.

I'm much happier with "permission-based marketing" (as described by Seth Godin). I and so many others have given Stephan Kesting permission to market to us, and I think he respects that. I get an email from him maybe 2 to 3 times per week. I look forward to reading them. I think he adds value by giving pointers and inspiration to noobs like me. VERY occasionally, he sends me a special offer on his non-free stuff, and I don't mind at all. I'm going to order his full DVD library after Christmas.

Thanks to Mr. Kesting for adding a little value to my inbox, not just more spam.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Aikido 12/13/08

We started off with the walking kata, focusing on the first 7 movements. We then moved to releases. We repeated releases 1 through 4 for a while, then focused on Release 3 in particular. We spent most of the time working on release 3, and some variations that can happen. We talked about being able to move our hands into more of a release #1 relationship once release 3 was executed.

We also looked at controlling uke’s hand, and were shown why we should keep our thumb out of uke’s reach. Turns out “bad guy” can use our thumb as a handle to crank us pretty good if he gets hold of it. We ended up with an introduction to Chain #3.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Judo Anniversary

I got married 11 years ago today! Still got to go to Judo and Aikido. Hot dawg!

It was SOOOO cold in the dojo today. After a brief warmup, we drilled the entire ground mobility cycle for a while, complete with turnovers (turning the bottom man to his stomach by pushing his arm into his face, and turning him to his back by reaching across his face, grabbing his far arm, and putting weight into him). After a review of escapes from kesagatame, we worked on some escapes from munegatame. This consisted of shrimping, bridge-n-roll, and some neat entanglements (leg and body).

Some things for me to remember about escapes:
I need to remember that a leg entanglement can come from a “body entanglement” attempt that doesn’t quite work out.
2) Use top guy’s momentum – when I shrimp and he tries to reacquire position, I can use his momentum to help throw him off of me, or whatever I decide to do.

We also tried some very light ground randori during the mobility cycle, although I think Nathan and I are still trying to just remember the moves too much to be very competitive at this point. Still fun though.

Something I remembered today from last week (but forgot to include in my notes), is the “over, over, under, under” pattern in the ground mobility cycle. It goes something like this: when moving from kesagatame to munegatame, one leg goes under the other. To switch from there to backwards kesa, the one leg goes under the other one again. To transition to mount, one leg goes over, and a leg goes over again to land in backwards kesa on the other side. Pattern repeats.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To Boldly Throw Where No Man Has Thrown Before...

Pat, Nathan, and I somehow got on the subject of Star Trek during our last Judo/Aikido lessons. I've always been something of a Trekkie, I guess...although it's been a love/hate relationship with all things Trek. Seems like all of the episodes or movies were either so silly they were good, or they were so silly they were embarrassing. Once in a while a truly good episode would slip through, but I still consider it a guilty pleasure (I'm in the minority - DS9 was my favorite series).

Anyway, I mentioned how there was a scene in which Captain Kirk was doing some Judo training (in his red gi jacket and red...leotard...leggings, I think). It was in the episode "Charlie X" from season 1 if you're interested.

Tasha Yar from The Next Generation also had skills - I was re-watching the TNG episode "Code of Honor" (season 1) and Tasha threw a guy with a wrist lock. "That was Aikido!" I exclaimed to my wife ("Mmm-hm, that's nice" she replied). Sure enough, later in the episode, Tasha demonstrates the holodeck to a visitor by running a program called "Aikido 1". But the fight that ensues (with some ninja-looking guy) didn't keep that aiki flow, unless it's a style I'm not familiar with. Tasha was scheduled to participate in a kickboxing competition just before she died.

Hoshi Sato (from "Enterprise") was an Aikido black belt. The actress who played the Borg Queen in "Voyager" is also an aikidoka.

Other martial arts represented in Trek lore: Chakotay (from "Voyager") was a boxer, as was Boothby (the groundskeeper of Starfleet Academy). Tuvok (the Vulcan from "Voyager") studied Sumo. Will Riker's double, Thomas, practiced Tai Chi Chuan. Worf taught a mok'bara class on the Enterprise (a Klingon martial art very much like Tai Chi Chuan). Captain Picard, Captain Sisko, and Jadzia Dax were wrestlers.

Could I be a bigger geek?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

10 Reasons

I used to practice martial arts as a kid, and have only gotten back into them over the past couple years. Here are 10 reasons I'm glad I did (specifically relating to Aikido and Judo):

1. Both arts seem well suited to practical self-defense.

2. They challenge me. Every class. And I like that it's not just physically challenging, but mentally as well.

3. Aikido and Judo are helping me get over the discomfort I feel with a few things. For instance, having someone's hand in my face, falling (or being thrown) down, intense invasion of personal space, groundfighting/wrestling, and so on.

4. The sense of accomplishment. There's nothing like the occasional feeling I get when I do something more effectively than I have before.

5. Fitness. I am out of shape. Woefully out of shape. Aikido and Judo a) expose to me the reality of my unfit condition, b) provide exercise during class, and c) inspire me to exercise outside of class, because I want to be better than I am now.

6. It's nice to have a hobby. With the stress I deal with week-in and week-out (at work), it's SO nice to have mat time to look forward to. It's a very welcome and refreshing diversion from the more burdensome parts of my week.

7. The possibility of competition (In Judo, anyway). I've never been interested much in competition. Maybe it comes from tournaments I was in as a very young Tang Soo Do student. I never really did well in tourneys. But I'm wondering if this will be another point of discomfort that Judo may help me overcome. I sometimes think it would be nice to test myself by competing...

8. Coolness factor. Ever since I would skip Sunday lunch after church to watch "Kung Fu Theater", I've always been enamoured by martial arts. The kid in me still just stares, wide-eyed, day-dreaming of the day I might be able to do some of that stuff (never you mind that I waited until I was over 30 to begin).

9. The people I've met and valued relationships that have been forged.

10. They give me something to work towards. Earl Nightengale defined "success" as "The progressive realization of a worthy goal." I consider practicing these arts a worthy goal, for all the reasons listed here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Newton Sensei

I was thinking about something Pat demonstrated in our last Aikido lesson. We were drilling our 2nd motion template, and I was having trouble getting behind Nathan's arm (he's around 6'4"). Pat said to use a "bump" to help "bounce" myself into the spot I needed to be in. This is tough to describe in words. In essence, I bump uke's arm in the direction of his step, and use some of that energy to help propel me in the opposite direction. I asked Pat if it was the same idea he showed me in osotogari, where you use the pulling motion on uke's chest to propel your leg into position for the sweep.

Both of these ideas reminded me of Newton's 3rd Law of Motion: "To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." I guess it's just a matter of eating or using (directing/redirecting)the energy from that original action, in such a way that it improves my situation, or worsens my attacker's situation.

Funny how you can work on something for weeks, and all of a sudden, you see it used in a different context and think it's something new, until it dawns on you: "Wait...he's been saying that all along."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Addendum to Judo Notes

I just realized there were a couple of items I wanted to include in my last Judo training log. I want to remember these, so I'm tagging them on:

1) Pat talked about how the escapes we practice are not really "escapes" at all. We're not trying to escape, we're trying to turn the bind in which we find ourselves into a more advantageous position. (Remember: "Position before submission")

2) I wanted to record that this week was the first time I've noticed myself getting a LITTLE more comfortable on the ground. One thing that kept me away from Judo for so long is a lack of interest in groundwork. For one thing, it just doesn't feel natural to me to fight on the ground. I do however recognize the practicality of it and the need to develop ground defense skills. For another thing (the main thing), I've always been uncomfortable with people in my personal space. A BJJ friend of mine told me "You'll get used to it", and I think I may be beginning to...but it's still awkward for me. Time and practice will fix that, I guess. I'm actually starting to develop more of an interest in groundwork...it's getting more fun. It's so cool to see how some of the techniques work. I still like the throws more, but maybe it's all starting to coalesce into one thing...

One other thing about ground work: It's EXHAUSTING for me!!! I gotta get in shape!

It's All Connected!

Yesterday was my 11th Aikido lesson at Mokuren Dojo. We started with the walking kata, then moved to aiki brush-off practice. From the brush-off, we moved into Releases 1 – 4, then KiHara’s 2 motion templates. In the motion templates we focused on linear vs. circular motion (to pop open that can of worms on Pat's blog, click here). It was hard to think in terms of linear movement while I’m moving around uke… but Pat demonstrated how trying for circular movement has a tendency to pull tori and uke apart, while going for linear motion helps tori stay in the “safe spot” behind uke’s arm.

We also focused on controlling our eyes and where we look during the techniques to avoid dizziness. If I focus on uke’s head, that provides a constant while everything else (the room, other people, etc) are moving all around, from my perspective. Pat showed how constantly shifting our gaze confuses our brain, and it has to “reset” each time we re-focus. He said when we’re just walking around day-to-day, our brain compensates for how our eyes move to follow moving objects, but if you take a picture of something while moving the camera, the scene is blurry. Our brains compensate for the blur so we usually don’t see it when we’re looking around.
That is so much like what I’ve been learning about with regard to “white balance” in photography. Different kinds of light (incandescent, florescent, etc) give different qualities to what we see. Under florescent lights, a white sheet of paper is given a bluish tint. Under incandescent, it’s given a more yellow, or orange tint. Now, our brains know what “white” is, and our brains know that paper is white, so they compensate, and make our eyes think “Yeah, that paper is white”. But if you photograph it, the camera doesn’t know any better – it shows you the tinted paper. If you adjust the “white balance” on the camera, you can take a picture with truer color and compare it to the unadjusted shot – there’s a noticeable difference.

Sorry to get on such a tangent - I just thought it was interesting how I was JUST learning about the brain’s compensation for our eyes in an unrelated area, and here the same principle pops up in Aikido. It’s so cosmic. Here's another link to my photography blog.

For the end of class, we worked on the second motion template transitioning to aigamaeate.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Judo 12-6-08

We started with warm-up, and a bit of ukemi and shrimping. We went through the Ground Mobility Cycle, and practiced trapping the bottom man’s arms and other hand placement during transitions. Then we did some fine-tuning of kesa gatame.
Things for me to remember about kesa gatame:
1) Be sure to keep legs spread wide for a more stable base.
2) Try to keep both knees and the bottoms of both feet on the mat.

Next we went over 4 escapes from kesa gatame: the sit-up escape, the leg entanglement escape, the uphill escape, and the bridge-and-roll (which Pat nicknamed the “downhill escape”).
Things for me to remember about escapes:
1) Sit-up escape works well if top guy’s base is not wide enough.
2) Leg entanglement is good if his back knee is too high. Don’t go right for the knee with my foot. Goose his upper thigh and drive it down to his inner knee before latching on with the other leg. Straighten out and escape.
3) Uphill Escape – bump hard with belly and hips, grab his head, and drive his nose into the mat while escaping.

We spent a little time at the end talking about using “2 hands on a point” and framing the elbow to help effect a good escape. We also learned some escapes from other positions, like the “leapfrog”, the “crawfish”, and what I can only remember as “the long walk” (if Pat is reading, perhaps he could provide more technical terms for these?)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ready, Fire, Aim!

Ok, my other, firearm-related blog is up and running...check it out here if you're interested! Look for occasional posts there, but I expect it will be less active than this one.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Judo Training Log 12-1-08

10th Judo session. Determined to make up for missing class on Saturday, I planned to sneak out of work a little early to make the 4pm Judo class. Around 1:30, our entire network at the bank crashed, so I had to work on getting us operational again. Everything was resolved at 3:30, and I hit the road to get to class. I was only a little late.

Anyway, we worked on some basics with another new student, including deashi barai, uki gatame, and the ground mobility cycle. We played with some uke-driven groundwork Kyle Sloan wrote about on his blog. All that shrimping really reminded me how out-of-shape I've gotten. I was exhausted in no time! That'll give me a little more motivation for early morning exercise.

This was my first afternoon Judo class. I could really tell a difference between my 7am lessons, and a class right after a full day of work. I'm way better off in the morning!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Two Kinds of Shooting...

...Cameras and guns, that is.

This has nothing to do with Aikido, Judo, or indeed any martial art. This is a plug for a non-martial arts blog I just started to keep track of stuff I learn as I get into photography. If any of my thousands of loyal readers are camera/photography buffs, feel free to check it out here.

And stay tuned for yet another blog I'm going to get rolling this week. I only bought my first gun a few years ago, right after Hurricane Katrina. I'm now beginning to get more interested in guns and shooting, for fun and defense. This other blog will be about that stuff.

I guess to round out the "shooting" theme, I should learn single- and double-leg takedowns.

Man...novice martial artist, novice photographer, novice gun enthusiast....my novicity seems to know no bounds.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Recommended Listening

For a couple years now, I’ve been interested in so-called “Reality Based Self Defense”. One of the pioneers of RBSD is Jim Wagner. I’m writing this post to recommend a podcast I regularly listen to by one of Mr. Wagner’s certified instructors, Alex Haddox. While the show is not geared toward martial artists specifically, Mr. Haddox has fifteen-plus years of traditional martial arts training. He teaches both traditional martial arts and Jim Wagner’s Reality-Based Personal Protection System.

The Practical Defense Podcast has been both entertaining and informative. Mr. Haddox talks about everything from hotel safety, to road rage, to hurricane/earthquake preparedness, to warning signs of impending violence. I’ve particularly enjoyed his programs on handguns (as a budding gun enthusiast), the “Use of Force” ladder, and car emergency kits.

Check him out!

Of All the Cotton Pickin'...

I woke up this morning too sick to go to Judo/Aikido lessons. I'm having a hard time describing how dissappointed I am. In a previous post, I talked about how I really missed lessons last week, because I was stressed to my limit at work. That goes double for this week, and here I'm missing another class. I know it's not the end of the world, but I was sure looking forward to it. My wife and daughter have been passing a sinus infection back and forth for about 12 days now, and I've been oddly free from it. Until, of course, there's something I want to do.

I think in addition to just being disappointed about missing, there's also an element of "What next?" This week has seen my oven break, my garage door motor break, and a new job prospect fall through. Last night (Friday night) my DVR broke, and the cable company said they could have someone out by Tuesday afternoon. Last night (after being on the phone about my DVR for a while), I headed to the pharmacy to pick up some meds for my wife and daughter...my wife's car wouldn't start. Local weather people promised an all-day rain event for yesterday, and I was looking forward to rainy day at home, because I was off work (I love rainy days off). We ended up getting about 5 minutes of a mild rain. Oh, and of course I blew my diet at Thanksgiving. That's the one thing I had control over, and still jacked it up!

I'm usually an upbeat, positive person. But it seems like I can't catch a break lately. All this right here at Thanksgiving. There's a verse in the Bible in which Jacob tells God "I'm not worthy of even the least of Your blessings..." That really is my mantra. I really am thankful and amazed at how I've been blessed. I don't know anyone more blessed than me. Honestly. I guess sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in what is NOT going my way than the multitude of things that ARE going well - much better than I deserve.

Still sucks I'm missing class today, but I'm forced to admit in the grand scheme of things, in the biggest of big pictures, it's not THAT big of a deal. Sorry to whine like a little baby.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Learning to Write

So I was talking to my wife about the article I read and mentioned in my previous post. The one about the imperceptible growth we experience over time as we train. We were talking about how while I'm learning some techniques, it will be quite a while before I have those techniques at my beck and call...available to me at a moment's notice should I need them. She was saying it's like learning to write (she's a teacher):

When we're kids, we may practice our handwriting awkwardly, slowly. "Hmmm. An 'F'...I don't use that letter much...how do I write it again?" Compare that to now - I can scribble down an entire sentence with nary a thought. I don't have to THINK about forming the letters. They're ingrained and subservient to my every whim. Tools I can call on and effectively use in an instant. One day my Judo and Aikido will be like that. But for now...it's like C.S. Lewis said: "As long as you're counting the steps, you're not dancing; you're only learning to dance"

And after all these years of writing, you know what? Writing the letter "Q" still trips me up. I have to stop and very intentionally form the letter, whether I'm printing or writing in cursive. I suspect my martial arts will be that way too. I'll always be learning.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Watching the Change

I just read this article about progress in martial arts. It's a struggle sometimes for me to remember that each time I train, I add a LITTLE skill. It's encouraging to know that just because I don't "get" something fully this week, there's always next week. Or the next. Or the next. Or even next year. I recommend reading it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Down Times

No training logs or observations from class this week, as there WAS no class this week. When I have to miss a week of class for whatever reason, it always kind of bums me out. For one thing, I need all the mat-time I can get, so I can get the hang of this stuff. The main reason is it's just FUN, and I really could have used the diversion, this week in particular. Lots of work-related stress, etc.

I wish there were more ways to train in Judo and Aikido that didn't require a partner. I have a grappling dummy (a UFC product, which is basically like a heavy bag with a few contours to simulate someone's waist, head, hips, etc). I try to work with that a few times a week, however, it's not very good at giving feedback. On the upside, all of my techniques seem to work on it, haha. I'm planning on buying a (person-shaped) throwing dummy soon, so I can at least keep the throws fresh in my mind as well. Those should help SOME with Judo, but for Aikido... well, there's the walking (solitary) kata we do. I need to be more consistent with that.

Ideally I suppose I'd have a friend who was into Judo and Aikido, lived nearby, and liked to train at 4:30 or 5am daily. No prospects so far. None likely for the future either. Ah well. Can't have everything I want.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Beginning

The video that follows happens to be what got me interested in Aikido to begin with (a couple of years ago). I believe this is a demonstration of Yoshinkan Aikido. I'm learning Tomiki Aikido, so the style is slightly different.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fierce Judo Player...

....in the future anyway. You'd never know it by looking at her today though, huh? She's doing newaza drills in this pic, I think.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Judo Training Log, 11/15

Ninth judo lesson. After warm-up, we practiced a failed hiza garuma going into sasae-tsurikomi-ashi. Then we worked on a failed hiza immediately going into a hiza on the opposite side. The push attempt to effect one hiza is really effective when switched to the opposite side. As your opponent defends to the opposite direction to your push, suddenly yanking him over the other foot (in the direction of his resistance) is comically easy.
Pat demonstrated that one thing that makes hiza work is uke tightening his lower back muscles to keep from falling. He showed how to defend against hiza by relaxing and leaning in toward your opponent, then stepping over his hiza attempt into a hiza of your own on his other leg. Nice.
Next we practiced the kata version of sasae-tsurikomi-ashi. This was my first introduction to formal judo kata. Pat talked about how in kata, the steps are shorter and quicker, and therefore they can be a little tougher to deal with. This version of sasae was pretty amazing though. The throw was BIG. It’s odd because it seemed like very little effort was put into the throw, but the throw was huge. Pat recommended I read “Judo: Formal Techniques” by Otaka & Draeger for a lengthy discussion on kata. I started reading it yesterday, and came across the following line that seemed to jive with my experience with that throw: "This discipline {kata}, instead of hampering the judoist, actually frees him from undue restrictions, liberates his bodily expression in movement, and best teaches him economy of mental and physical energy." That throw may have been the clearest example I've seen of "Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort" so far in my very short judo experience.

Aikido, November 15


Today I did a private Aikido lesson AND stayed for the Aikido class. That brings my total sessions to 10.
My co-worker, Nathan, began Aikido today. Nathan is brand-new to Aikido, and I’m sharing my private lesson time with him. I think it’s good that he’s there, because as Pat explains things to Nathan from the ground up, I feel like some of my potential deficiencies may get cleared up in the process. In some ways, having a little Aikido experience from a previous dojo has presented a challenge for me. Most of the techniques were the same, but the teaching methods, as well as defense theory associated with them were pretty different. I think hearing the instruction to someone with zero previous experience is filling in some gaps I have, and clearing up leftover misunderstandings. Nathan is also a different body-type to practice with, so I think that’s helpful as well.
We began the lesson by practicing the first half of tegatana no kata. Then we moved to Release 1, with emphasis on getting off the line and synching up with uke. If tori can time his technique with uke’s footfall, it’s easier to synch up from the very beginning. If you do it just right, you can start out in synch immediately. From there, we worked on flowing with uke and finding good times to separate (by a “bump” timed with uke’s footfall to one direction or the other).
Something for me to remember:
1) The bump should not be a “grab, pull/push, and release”; it should be instant.

We then worked on a Nijusan #2 off-balance, into a Nijusan #6. Pat talked more about the “evasion first” mindset.
Something else for me to remember:
1) When turning uke’s arm over for a #6, it’s easier to bring my body to his arm, then apply my weight, than it is for me to try to pull/force his arm into position.

For the Aikido class, we began by working on the Nijusan #2 off-balance, with the idea of tori stepping into the “hole” in front of uke’s feet (his line of weakness). Here again, the timing concept came up – by timing the off-balance to uke’s footfall, it worked MUCH better. Uke’s step should be when tori off-balances using the arm and steps into the hole. Maybe that will just click with me one day, but so far, I still have to be reminded. We then moved into several repetitions of aigamaeate, followed by lots of repetitions of shomenate.
Things for me to remember:
1) in shomenate, don’t pull uke to turn him around. As you evade, if he wants to engage you (has intent), he’ll turn around himself.
2) The deflection/off-balance should be straight out, not downward, as in my previous experience. This made more sense to me given the goal of separation/evasion. Back when my goal was a pretty off-balance, a downward deflection seemed to suit the technique. I really like my new dojo!
3) Use unbendable arm in the evasion. This will cause more separation and cause the 2 bodies to bounce apart like pool balls (tori evading at roughly 90 degrees). Tori should not “glance” off of uke, as that puts him in danger for far too long.

Pat talked about how it might be a good idea to shout things like “Stop! Help! What are you doing?!?” when defending yourself, so that it’s clear to witnesses that you’re not assaulting some poor guy. That may help you if/when the authorities document what happened. It also gets people’s attention and may get you some help. I thought of how funny it would be to take that to the extreme, and yell things like “I’m clearly outmatched!” or something to go into articulate detail while you’re busting some guy.
Lastly, Pat talked about the “Tripod” of Opportunity, Ability, and Intent in relation to defense. We discussed how all 3 need to be present in our attacker for him to be a danger to us. We talked about how different techniques might remove one of the three. We also briefly talked about the “Use of Force ladder”.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Aikido - Caught Up too!

Eighth Aikido lesson with Pat. We began the lesson with tegatana, and we went a little faster than normal. I found that poor balance showed up a lot more when moving faster. Not sure if my balance actually WAS worse, or if my poor balance was being magnified by the speed. Probably both. Pat said to imagine a line pulling me up straight from the top of my head, as well as a line pulling straight down from the center.

Next we worked on the releases, 1-8. I was having trouble with releases 5 – 8 (I haven't practiced 5-8 in over a year); it felt like I was forcing the technique, and even then it wasn’t working. Yet again, the idea of continuously walking with uke showed up. Pat demonstrated how the techniques came more naturally as a result of flowing and blending with uke. It’s an amazing thing to feel working, and another thing that wasn't really explained to me that way in my previous dojo.

Pat then introduced Chain #3. It begins with release 3, and has a near and far kotogaeshi and a near and far wakigtame. Pat showed me an exercise with kotogaeshi – if you take up the slack in uke’s arm (with his hand held in kotogaeshi), then bump him, and just gently and subtly “ratchet” the slack out of his arm when he tries to get up, he eventually collapses into a nice kotogaeshi throw. Good, good stuff.

We then talked about what happens when uke really clamps down hard (in release 1, for instance), and how you can use uke’s strength to not only escape, but to really put him in a bind. THAT was the really amazing part. It’s based on the way a person can’t be strong in 2 directions at once. You feed uke information, and use his response to effect what you’re trying to do to him. It works like magic, but it will be a WHILE (centuries?) before I’m able to pull this off automatically.

Judo - Caught Up!

11/08/08 - this was my eighth (and most recent) judo lesson with Pat. We went over the “stepping/sweeping” exercise, with an added element: having uke plant his front foot to try to stay solid while tori bumps him. This makes uke go back more dramatically, and gives tori a real feel for the timing of the bump. Crazy.

Randori-like exercise: taking turns doing deashi barai three times (2 on one side, 1 on the other, any order). The element of randomness here may help my randori some, but there's enough non-random stuff (which sweep we're working, how many times, etc.) that I can sort of keep up.

Pat demonstrated 4 entries into osotogari. All 4 were done with tori’s right leg, and are responses to the following 4 movements by uke: forward on tori’s turn “side”, backward on tori’s turn “side”, forward on uke’s turn “side”, and backward on uke’s turn “side”. I know this is not the case, but that almost felt like 3 new throws to wrap my head around. We worked an uchikomi cycle of the 4 entries, but my brain wasn't great at remembering the 3 new entries (particularly the 3rd one). Stupid brain. Repitition may help.

We repeated the concept of an early and late deashi barai. Pat also discussed 2 sweeps similar to deashi barai and kosotogari: okuriashibarai (sweeping both feet together) and harai tsurikomi ashi (sweeping the foot behind the other one).


10/25/08 Aikido lesson with Pat. That brings my total sessions to 7.
We began the lesson by practicing shomenate, with emphasis on staying in the “sweet spot” (square to uke’s weakness). Also practiced continuously walking with uke. When those two things happen, I don’t have to bust uke – he busts himself when he tries to stop what’s happening. It's really amazing how this works!

We worked on the Nijusan #2 off-balance. For that off-balance, tori directs uke into an imaginary hole just in front of his line of weakness. A brush-off or technique will come out of that depending on how well it goes and what uke’s reaction is.

Pat then introduced Chain #2, which begins with release #2. We explored how release #2 could go wrong and different reactions (and counters to reactions) that come out of it.

Next we talked about randori basics. This is an odd thing for me, because it's done quite differently here than in my previous experience...and I wasn't that great at it the old way either.
Things for me to remember:
1) Be the good guy. When you try to do something, you give your opponent control.
2) When a hand is free, it should go to your opponent’s face.

Judo - session 7

10/25/08 - My seventh judo lesson. We went over the “stepping/sweeping” exercise, with an added element: random movement, as in randori.
We worked on hiza garuma again, and Pat introduced “hiza’s little brother”, sasae-tsurikomi-ashi (lifting/pulling ankle block).
Things for me to remember:
1) Think of the foot more as a “feeler” or prop – you’re not trying to support any weight with your foot.
2) Less is more.
3) The time to effect the throw is JUST before uke’s foot steps down.
4) This throw can come from a failed hiza if the foot is used as a feeler and just slides down uke’s leg.
5) Hiza happens early in the step, sasae-tsurikomi-ashi happens late in the step.

Double dose of Aikido

Today I did an Aikido lesson AND stayed for the Aikido class, bringing my total lessons to 6.

We began the lesson by practicing releases 1 - 4. Pat clarified for me that if I evade at ma-ai, and uke never gets a hold of my wrist, that’s still a valid technique.
He then introduced chain #1. The KiHara chains are kind of halfway between kata and randori. Pat described them as “kata-fied randori” or “randori-fied kata”. Chain 1 begins as release 1 and the object is to get in synch with uke. Then look for opportunities in uke’s steps to brush off and escape or effect a technique. Chain 1 includes release 1, and Nijusan 6, 7, 8, and 9.
Things for me to remember:
1) the techniques in the chain don’t have to, and won’t always follow that order. It’s an exercise in responding to the feedback you get from uke.
2) when trying to synch up, it’s easier to take small steps when making your corrections to uke than large steps.
3) tori is not guiding or leading uke, just coming along for the ride…”fitting”.
4) if you want uke to turn, turn in/around behind him, still “fitting”.
5) When turning, put your butt around behind uke, turning around his center, don’t pull/lead his arm out for a turn.

Pat demonstrated how our shoulder gets in different relationships based on the positions of our arms. When pushing or effecting with our palm, our strongest position is fingers-up. When our forearm is the effector, fingers-down is the strongest position. When our upper arm is the effector, fingers-to-the-inside (as in “Pet the Dragon” from the walking kata) is the strongest position.

For the Aikido class, we began with tegatana no kata. Pat focused on the turns, reminding us to get the leading foot on the same side of the line as the other foot. Then he took Tegatana #8, and had us practice it as an evasion with a partner. We did the same thing with Tegatana #9 and Tegatana #11, and added knives for the evasions. He then taught a couple of arm entanglements from sankata.

One of the most interesting things from this class was how Pat explained the essences of the releases. That is, what makes a release #1 a release #1 is the relationship between tori and uke’s centers…the movement of the bodies is what makes it a #1, not necessarily the position uke ends up in after the release. It was most clear when brushing off a knife attack to the gut with the knife in uke’s right hand, and the brush-off happening with tori’s left forearm. The relationship of the centers made that motion, technically, a release #4.

Judo Six

10/18/08 - my sixth judo lesson. We went over the entire Ground Mobility Cycle including escapes. We covered the shoulder spike/knee lift turnover, shoulder push turnover, and the quarter nelson. Pat introduced the leg entanglement, uphill, and sit-up escapes from kesagatame. I'm still all thumbs with newaza.
Things for me to remember:
1) While learning transitions, work on getting hands in place first.

Next Pat introduced a new throw: Ukigoshi (floating hip throw). There are 3 entries into this throw:
a) same beginning as in osotogari, but tori bumps uke and reaches around to pull him (his feet) into the “T” position.
b) same beginning as in osotogari, but if uke does not step around into the ”T”, tori steps backward into the “T” and performs the throw.
c) when uke steps back, tori can move into the “T” position and execute the throw.
Things for me to remember:
1) Tori’s right hand can go around uke’s waist, shoulder, head, or trap his arm as he performs the throw.
2) when entering the throw on uke’s back step, tori really needs to jump into position at uke’s back leg to do the throw.

Aikido Four

10/11/08 was my 4th Aikido session at Mokuren Dojo. We began the class with brush-off practice. We went over the two “templates” of movements used in the KiHara system. One comes off the Nijusan #1 off-balance/evasion, the other off the #2 off-balance/evasion.
Things for me to remember:
1) Let uke dictate when the direction changes and what techniques happen.
2) the push to the chin is not just a strike, but can also be a brush-off motion.
3) Instead of coming to an abrupt stop at the last step, step to the side and let that motion eat the leftover energy.

We discussed some fundamental weaknesses to be aware of with the brush-off:
1) an attacker can run faster forward than you can backward.
2) Moving backward is risky (can’t see, may trip over unseen objects, etc).

We played with uke doing unexpected things to tori, and tori having to either brush-off or find a technique if a brush-off was not possible.

Judo V

10/11/08 was my fifth judo lesson. We did the walking/footsweep exercise and new sideways variation, which uses a throw called okuriashibarai (two foot sweep) This demonstrated the concept of holding uke “in the air” by "ratcheting" his arm. It's called “tsurikomi” (“the pull that lifts”). We then played with hiza garuma, and osotogari with that idea in mind. Tsurikomi shows up in lots of other throws too.
Things for me to remember:
1) The pull in both hiza garuma and osotogari pull 90 degrees to the line of uke’s feet (straight in front of uke). Then it transitions to a pull IN to tori. It’s not a right-angle path, it's more curved in at the end of the pull.
2) in hiza garuma, tori’s right leg should sweep immediately after the left foot steps down in the off-balance.
3) In hiza garuma, the target for tori’s foot is actually tori’s lower thigh, not his knee.
4) Hiza garuma is really a “trip” (just stopping that leg from moving), you’re not supporting any of uke’s weight on your sweeping leg.
5) With tsurikomi, tori is not lifting uke at all. Rather, pulling uke in as his body rises lifts him up. Uke is actually made to lift himself up as tori pulls.
6) In osotogari, tori’s non-sweeping foot can be behind the line of uke’s feet. In hiza garuma, that foot should be a bit in front of the line.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Aikido III

9/27/08 - Today was my 3rd Aikido session (first private lesson) at Mokuren Dojo. We began the class with Ukemi, then moved to the tegatana no kata. Pat talked about how the rising motions in the kata can be used as a test of your balance and control. During the turns, arm motions can also be used for balance (like a tightrope walker’s pole). It may help to think of a bubble around you, and your hand brushes along the inside of the sphere. Pat said the following foot of each step should move quickly back under you, to maintain balance and control.

Next we practiced releases 1 through 4. We talked about the trigger for evasion being when the attacker breaks ma-ai, not when he grabs your wrist. EVADE. AVOID. The idea is to not let him grab you in the first place. When he DOES grab you, the releases take place.
Things for me to remember:
1) Don’t force uke into the technique. Think about the “Rolling the Ball” drill, but let uke roll tori (not tori rolling uke) do determine which release if performed.
2) Release #2 really begins like a #1 with your hand in an odd position. #2 occurs when uke won’t let you move into a #1 (the #2 flows naturally from this condition).
3) Release #’s 3 and 4 have the same kind of relationship described above - #4 begins as an attempted #3…

We then worked on brushing off with the first couple techniques of the Nijusan.
Things for me to remember:
1) don’t brush-off, create a little space, and plant yourself and assume a stance like you’re ready for more, or want to fight. A good brush-off can be used to create at least 10-15 feet separation, even if you’re not trying very hard. It’s possible to use it to create a much bigger distance to effect an escape.

Next we worked on shomenate. We talked about how a good shomenate doesn’t have to look like a good shomenate. The essence of shomenate is using a push to uke’s face to get him off you.
Things for me to remember:
1) Minimize contact time.
2) USE uke’s step for the off-balance, don’t ignore it!

Aigamaeate (Nijusan #2) – After the off-balance, try to stay behind uke until you can push/separate/brush off. IF he forces himself around to you, or comes at you, THEN do the #2.

Judo #4

9/27/08 was my fourth judo lesson. We reviewed deashi barai, kosotogari, and Osotogari. The new throw for the week was hiza garuma (knee wheel). I'v heard about this being a tough throw to do, but I don't find it that much harder than the other stuff we've gone over at this point.
For randori, we explored the idea of 3-feet-on-a-line a bit more. Pat showed how there’s always an opportunity to bust uke when he steps back or forward. Something to remember for randori: stiff-arming your opponent may keep them from doing Judo to you, but it will definitely keep you from doing Judo to them.

We went over the following ground techniques: Shrimping, “2 hands on a point” exercise, and the “Bridge & Roll”.
Things for me to remember:
1) You can do small shrimps or jumbo shrimps depending on the need.
2) Be careful to keep your hand out of the way when rolling him off you – it could get jammed up.
3) Use your other hand on his head as sort of a lever.

2nd Aikido session

I remember it as if it was 9/20/08...
My 2nd Aikido class began with Ukemi, then moved to the tegatana no kata. Pat explained that not only should the weight be on the balls of the feet, but also on the first 2 toes. He explained that those are the toes that are actually designed to bear our weight. The other toes are pretty much there to push our weight onto the big toes and the toes next to them.
Next we practiced the Aiki brush-off from release #1. We worked on blending with uke until there is an opportunity to send him on his way, and create distance. This can be done by looking for uke to take a step, and time your push to take advantage of that step’s momentum. Try to remember to change “feeler” hands so that you keep “same hand, same foot” principle.

We played with “Circle of Death” (multiple attackers), focusing on brushing-off, and keeping our eyes on our “current uke” and using him to keep the other attackers in view.

Neat quote I heard from Pat today: “Warriors have the option of pacifism. Everyone else is compelled to it.”

Judo again

9/20/08 - told you I was behind on posting!
This was my third judo lesson. We reviewed deashi barai and kosotogari. We also went over a variation of deashi, with a later timing. The new technique today was osotogari (big outside reap).
Things for me to remember:
1) during the sweep, legs connect at the back of both knees.
2) pull with right hand slightly before left hand.
3) left hand pulls uke’s elbow to naval.
4) Generally, when there’s an opportunity for osotogari, either person can do it. Usually the person who recognizes it first gets the throw.
5) If you can get uke’s elbow to your naval, it’s very hard for him to recover.
6) use the pull to help throw your leg into place for the sweep.
7) the throw can actually be done without the leg if the hands are right, even though it’s a leg technique. Just lean your chest toward the ground once you’ve pulled him in.

We went over the following principles as well:
1) pushing too much on the “bump” (kuzushi) actually helps uke step back and maintain balance.
2) 3 feet in a line. Whenever you find 3 feet in a line, somebody has a good chance of going down – it’s an unstable structure. You also have opportunity when one of your feet is perpendicular to the line formed by uke’s feet. Learn to recognize when 3 feet line up. This has been pretty difficult for my to recognize on-the-fly. Time will improve that, I think.

Now for some Aikido

September 13 was also my first Aikido class at Mokuren Dojo. I had previously taken Aikido at a Jiyushinkai dojo, but my wife and I left there after "we" got pregnant. We began the class with Ukemi, then moved to the tegatana no kata (Walking kata).
Next we practiced the “Aiki brush-off”. The idea is not to try to create a “leading, controlled off-balance” as in my previous Aikido experience, but to deflect uke’s attack while evading, and retreating to at least ma-ai distance immediately after the brush-off. Conceptually, in Aikido, you should go into every situation with the intent of separating yourself from the attacker. So every technique actually comes from a failed or impossible brush-off. (this was slightly different from how I was conditioned to think about things before, but this makes much better sense to me). We drill the techniques so that when we’re unable to brush-off for one reason or another, our bodies recognize the options (techniques/principles) available to us.
Things for me to remember:
1) During and after brush-off, keep both hands between you and uke. "Get off me" hands.

Then we worked on release #1 and #3 from a failed brush-off. We then moved into practicing Shomenate (#1 of the Nijusan kata in the KiHara/Karl Geis system), as if we were unable to separate due to an obstacle behind us.
Things for me to remember:
1) The chin makes a great lever. A person goes where their head goes. In Shomenate, the idea is that since you’re on the inside, uke may be able to do something to you, but he’s going to have to do it while flying backwards.

Second Judo lesson

9/13/08 was my 2nd lesson with Pat. We started off with a review of deashi barai. He enhanced the exercise we worked on last week (walking across the mat with sweeping motions);
1) the non-sweeping foot should be angled to the outside – this gives a wider range of motion for the sweeping leg.
2) the sweeping foot does not strike; it “hitches” a ride on uke’s foot that is being swept.
3) as tori sweeps, gripping hands should be turned in. This trains the mind to pull uke as the sweep is taking place.
I learned kosotogari (small outer reap). This sweep comes natually out of a failed deashi barai.
Things for me to remember:
1) This is a foot technique, not a hand technique. If tori uses hands to effect this technique, it actually helps uke.
2) Be careful on the sweep not to strike uke’s foot. Tori’s sweeping foot should follow and fit with uke’s foot until the moment of the sweep.

Next we covered the entire ground mobility cycle. It goes all the way around uke while he's on his back, THEN take uke’s inside arm by the elbow and force it over his face. Use your weight on that arm to roll him onto his stomach, and there's another cycle there. The cycle around a face-down uke involves one knee up and one down (alternating knees). The knee on the ground should “chock” uke so he can’t move around. Both hands should stay on him as "feelers" to get feedback as to what he's trying to do.
Things for me to remember:
1) In munegatame, one knee should be against uke’s hip at the belt (not the butt), and the elbow should be against his other hip.
2) When practicing transitions from one hold to another, get the body/legs correct, then adjust the arms/hands. As skill develops, they should move closer to happening simultaneously.

When on your stomach, to get up onto your elbows and knees, don’t try to do a push-up. Rather, bring one knee up (like in munegatame) and use the bottom half of that leg to ROLL the rest of your body onto. Think of how the Egyptians used logs to move heavy stones to build the pyramids.

First Judo Lesson

On 9/6/08, I had my first judo lesson with Pat at Mokuren Dojo. We went through an exercise walking across the floor with one person placing their foot in sweeping position as the other person was walking backwards. Awkward, but hey, I'm a n00b!
We went over deashi barai (advancing foot sweep).
Things for me to remember:
1) stay in a relaxed and upright position.
2) foot position should be like a “monkey foot” – bottom of tori’s foot makes contact with side of uke’s foot under/behind the ankle (the bottoms of human feet are designed to bear weight).
3) tori should pull uke towards him, NOT down; this tightens the circle and helps tori throw, while pulling down is more difficult and places tori in a weaker position (pulling him up rather than keeping him grounded).
4) the sweep does not need to be a huge distance – moving uke’s foot a short distance accomplishes the throw.
5) the kuzushi is a “bump”, not a shove or a push (and not a “leading” off-balance as in Jiyushinkai aikido). It’s an instant transfer of energy uke has to recover from, and when he does, the sweep takes place.
6) during randori, when the kuzushi is attempted, the sweep should follow immediately – don’t wait to evaluate the off-balance.

We went over ukigatame (floating hold). We also covered the “Ground mobility cycle”, which consists of munegatame (chest hold), kesagatame (scarf hold), and reverse kesagatame {hips switched the opposite way}, with a transition into a mount on uke's stomach, and a transition around his head, so you can make a big circle of those holds. The ground mobility cycle is more of a workout than I thought it looked like at first. I'm really a fish outta water with the groundwork, moreso even than with the throws.
Things for me to remember:
1) keep a connection with uke in holds and during transitions (put pressure on head and hip with elbows).
2) keep weight on uke’s chest.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Catching Up

I set this blog up a while back, but have been way too busy to post to it, so I'm about 10 weeks behind. But, in an effort to get some of these thoughts posted, I'll be catching up with my training journal over the next several posts. To catch my padnah's up, I've been training with Patrick Parker at Mokuren Dojo in Magnolia, MS ( a Fugakukai - affiliated dojo). It's been mainly private lessons, although I've been able to squeeze in a few group classes here and there. I've done 8 lessons so far in both Judo and Aikido. Before starting at Mokuren Dojo, I took about a year off from Aikido (after just over of 40 hours of training), and this is my first experience with Judo.