Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Study Group, 12/30/09

Josh and I drilled a little more tonight. We had to cut it short (1 hour) due to me hurting my elbow (wow, and it hurt like the dickens!), but I'll note what we did get to work on.

We started out by warming up with several reps of the armbar drill I mentioned in my last post, only this time, I did it very slowly, focusing on 1) breathing (I always tend to hold my breath during this drill, and indeed during lots of randori too - I have to break that habit), 2) control (of my body, with my legs), and 3) smoothness. I only did 20 or 30 tonight.

Next, we took a look at Saulo's first sweep on his "Guard" DVD (from the first Jiujitsu Revolution series). It's a response to top guy trying to break your guard with his knee in your butt. I couldn't do it well at first, but after a few reps, and trial-and-error to see what I was missing, I got it (well enough to add the drill to my routine, anyway).

During the course of our drilling, we sometimes drift into very light randori, just to break it up. It was at this point I hurt my elbow. It wasn't due to a submission, or crank...we weren't being stupid or playing too just happened. Wrong angle bearing weight, at the wrong time got me hurting badly enough to call an early end to our activities for the evening.

We decided to try some things that didn't involve my elbow (as long as no pressure was on it, it was fine). So, I got Josh in my guard, and let him try to figure out how to break it. This turned out to be very informative for both of us; Josh has always had trouble breaking my guard when I've decided to keep it closed. Lots of trouble. I was beginning to think I had some sort of magic guard, at least against him, and other small-ish guys. However, we discovered that Josh (and most other guys I roll with) tend to try to break it in one direction - to my right. Turns out I'm strong that way. Tonight it occurred to Josh to try it the other way (toward my left). My legs popped open like a (insert your own colorful metaphor here)!! So we discovered a tendency to be aware of, and I've discovered a weakness in my guard that needs to be overcome or compensated for. We decided to drill passes in both directions from now on.

We called it quits after that so I could get some ice on my elbow. I really hope it's better soon - we're scheduled to begin BJJ at the Gracie Barra school on Tuesday!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Study Group, 12/26/09

This time Josh and I worked on a few different things. First, we drilled a butterfly sweep from Saulo Ribeiro's DVDs. We also worked on a Little bit of the "position-choke-armbar" drill, as well as the typical armbar drill shown here:

Of course we rolled a little too, but nothing too strenuous. I actually made Josh tap for the first time tonight, with choke neither of us have ever seen before. We got a good laugh out of that.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A New Beginning

A while back, I mentioned that my grappling growth is sort of "stunted" because of my lack of different training partners. That's Pat's diagnosis anyway, and I don't disagree. But I'm going to do something about that.

Last week Josh and I visited the local Gracie Barra BJJ school, which happens to be right around the corner from where we work. Seriously, it's a long football throw away from our office. We enjoyed our visit, and we plan to start training there after New Year. Some of our other friends may start training there as well, which will be cool.

A few observations:
  • Camaraderie. The group there was small-ish (9 people), and seemed to genuinely enjoy hanging out with each other. Most of them went out of their way to be very welcoming to us as visitors, and took an interest in us.
  • Not too many fighters. This place is not "thugged up". Only about 3 of the members are fighters as well, and they seemed pretty cool too (nothing against fighters, just not my thing).
  • Great facility. The facility is also where the LSU Tiger Cheerleaders and dancers train. Top-notch facility. Incidentally, the owners (husband and wife) are former LSU cheerleaders, and the guy was the cheerleading head coach for a time (he's currently a BJJ blue belt).
  • Classes are led by Rafael Ellwanger twice a week. He's a black belt (over first degree, not sure how much over) under Carlos Gracie Jr.
I think my BJJ will help my judo, and my judo will help my BJJ. Who knows? I may even get involved with competition a year or so down the road. I went ahead and bought my Gracie Barra gi... it's pretty cool, although all the patches will take some getting used to, haha. I'll post training logs from my BJJ classes here as well. I'll only be training once per week, but I'm very excited about it!

Judo, 12/12/09

At the beginning of this class, I asked Pat to help me with a question I had regarding BJ Penn's armbar drill from his closed guard book. I was a little confused about how BJ was accomplishing what he was in that drill. We worked on the drill for a while, but I think it's going to take a lot more practice for me to be able to do it smoothly.

We talked about something else that's been on my mind: breaking top-guy's posture when he's in your guard. I showed Pat a posture-breaking technique Josh and I were drilling, but somehow Pat was able to stop mine (maybe it was the 2 decades or so of experience he has on me, haha). He showed me how to destroy top-guy's posture with shrimping, and I was pretty happy with those results.

Pat used that to transition into a lesson on the cross collar choke. We used the posture break as the set up for the choke. He threw in a bit of Roy Dean's "throat cutting" choke method as well.

Aikido, 12/12/09

We started with walking, and I noticed I was having more balance issues than normal. Not sure what was going on there.

We moved on to releases, and this was interesting. After a few reps of honasu 1-8, we tried them in a non-static way; tori and uke both began by randomly making a few steps....sort of wandering around near each other. When uke decided to attack, tori had to react and do the release from a (sometimes) less than ideal position/posture. This made the releases a little like randori, and I found it very informative. It provided some good food for thought in regard to real-life self defense.

We reviewed Junana 1-5, then moved on to several reps of 6-10. I'm still far more "at home" with 1-5. Six through ten still feel brand new to me so far. We also toyed with 6-10 from non-static positions like we did with releases.

Lastly, we looked at a little bit of suwariwaza from sankata, focusing on the idea of "continuous throwing".

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Little More Drilling

Josh came over again last weekend for more BJJ drilling. We both bought BJ Penn's new book about the closed guard, and since we worked on some posture issues last week, we decided to drill some of BJ's techniques for breaking top guy's posture when he's in your closed guard. We were pretty amazed at some of the results we were getting.

We also tried out Penn's armbar drill and triangle drill. These were a little tougher for me, because I have no experience with this type of motion yet. His armbar drill was especially confusing to me. I'm not (yet) sure what BJ's doing with which legs in order to move like he does. I'll get it though.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Little Drilling, A Little Rolling

My buddy Josh came over on Tuesday night to do some BJJ drilling with me. We drilled a few very basic transitions for a while, then a sweep to two. As it frequently does, our drilling crept ever so slowly into light randori.

Josh is far more capable than me on the ground, and he was able to help me learn a thing or two about my posture while grappling.

By way of taking a breather after increasingly strenuous rolling, we watched a little of one of my Saulo Ribeiro DVDs. Then we drilled a particular guard passing technique from the DVD.

We rolled a couple more times to end the practice. This was the first time I've trained with Josh in about a year (the last time, I had only been learning judo for a month or two). I could definitely see improvement from a year ago. In fact, I was able to last longer without being submitted, and for a while I was keeping him in my guard really well (he couldn't pass). I was surprised, delighted, and encouraged by the improvement I saw. Not that I'm anything great now, but I certainly couldn't have performed like that a year ago. It's nice to be able to see a little progress once in a while. Josh still dominated greatly (when we were competing and not cooperating), but the gap between our abilities will continue to close. ;o)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Judo, 11/28/09

I just realized I forgot to post my judo training log from the weekend! We started out by practicing a couple of combos: deashi to osotogari and deashi to kouchigari. Amazing stuff, once again. Pat also showed me a variant of koshiguruma that's pretty wicked.

On the ground, we drilled guard passing over and over and over. I need as many reps as I can get! We worked on going whichever way bottom guy wasn't resisting. That is, if he tries to stop me from stacking him and going under one leg, I can use the knee-over pass on the opposite side (and vice versa).

Good class - Pat puts the "fun" in "fundamentals". :o)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Falling Hard

I bought the book "Falling Hard" today, by Mark Law. He is a journalist that took up judo when he was nearly 50 years old, and wrote this book about his experiences.

I read the first two chapters today, and thought I'd post two quotes from the book here:

"A white belt at the dojo is like a toddler at a tea party, and demands a similar etiquette: people must take turns to play with him;it is incumbent upon everyone to encourage him, praise his simplest achievements, and not laugh when he falls over."

"If someone banged a tennis ball past me, it was hardly the end of the world. It was just a game. When someone threw me on the floor of the dojo, it didn't seem like a game at all. I was much affected. The former reflected badly on my ability at tennis. The latter reflected badly on me. And if ever I threw someone, it seemed somehow to be a worthwhile achievement, unlike scoring a goal, or a point with a ball."

I like the book so far. I think it'll be a fun read.

Aikido, 11/28/09

Well, since not writing training logs hasn't worked out so well, I thought I'd get back to it.

We started with Tegatana, and considered how there are no "dead movements". None of the steps are there just to get you back to the starting place in preparation for the next step. Every motion is a "move". Thinking about it this way made it seem like a longer kata! Twice as long! With twice as much to focus on.
We went through Releases 1 - 8 next. I mentioned how in 6, it's difficult for me to immediately follow uke's movement. I feel like I have to take a loooong awkward step to change direction and flow with him. With a little experimentation, I found that my #6 is awkward because my #2 has been wrong all this time. I discovered that the whole time I've been doing #2, I've been thinking of the whole technique as a "thing" (I think this will be hard to explain). Like this: "Ah! He's grabbing my wrist like that, so in response, I need to blah, blah, blah, blah, and end up like this (picture the ending of release 2)." But the approach I should have been taking is "Ah! He's grabbing my wrist; I need to step off the line (evade), and point my center at him, then flow with whatever he's doing."

Pat talked about making my reflexive reaction simpler - step off the line and face the guy - rather than trying to make the entire #2 motion my reflexive response. After this epiphany, my #6 was going much better. It felt more like I was at an intersection, and could choose to go right or left (#2 or #6, based on what uke does), rather than having to make a U-turn... in a large truck... on a narrow lane... with deep ditches on each side.

Next, we worked on Oshitaoshi and Udegaeshi (junana 6 and 7, respectively). The way Pat teaches oshitaoshi is different from the classical version, and different from how I've ever seen it. I find it interesting to play with variations to explore what makes a technique what it is. I imagine it helps me understand more about the "core" or "essence" of whatever technique we're working on. We looked at udegaeshi coming from uke escaping/resisting the oshitaoshi, as well as coming from an evasion in the wrong direction by tori. In the latter case, you can do the thing immediately if uke's arm is relaxed. If it's stiff, you can use the arm as a rudder to move him in a circle until the technique happens more naturally (no way I can describe that here).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Soaking It All In

Well once again, I've neglected posting training logs for a couple of weeks. I've been to class, but still have been either unmotivated or too mentally exhausted to write.

If I'm honest (and why shouldn't I be - it's just us, right?), I'll admit that part of the reason I've been neglecting my training logs is that I've been experiencing some frustration in both judo and aikido. Lately, I just haven't felt like I'm progressing. Sometimes I feel like I'm regressing. So I thought maybe I was thinking about it too much....over analyzing it. So I stopped taking such detailed notes after lessons. I don't think that's helped though.

In aikido, I've felt like my releases have been stinking more and more. In judo, well, I feel like all of that stinks, but especially my newaza. This past Saturday, I felt like I couldn't accomplish anything with our groundwork. I'd get armbarred pretty quickly, or I'd end up on the bottom, being crushed into submission. It gets frustrating. Maybe one day I'll improve.

I'm not trying to whine too badly about it - just expressing my feelings for the blog's sake. I hope one day I can look back at this and see that it was just a part of the process.

Pat's been encouraging and helpful as always. He does recommend I roll with a greater variety of people if I want to improve my grappling more quickly. I'll be checking out the Gracie-Barra BJJ school again in a week or two.

Until then, I'm just sort of marinating in this feeling, trying to put things in perspective, and remember why I love aiki and judo so much. I'm just trying to soak in all the coolness in both arts that I've been exposed to lately.

I've been very jazzed about Pat's interpretation of deashi barai as foundational to other judo throws...I think it makes a little sense to me. In aikido, we've been looking at the honasu releases, as well as the yon kata ones, which I've never been exposed to before. Aikido amazes me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Catching up!

What a busy couple of months I've had! Earlier this year, due to annual audits, I had to miss about 5 or 6 weeks of training. I was thinking "Well, if I have to do that once a year, I can live with that". But recently, due to a variety of reasons, I've missed about as many classes. Sickness, vacation schedules, family outings....they've interfered heavily with my training during September and October.

To make matters worse, I've been looking for a new job, then I found one, and since then I've been busy preparing for the transition. So I haven't even had the "oomph" to blog.

This post, then, will catch me up on the few times I did go to class recently. I apologize that they won't be as detailed or well thought-out as they usually are (haha), but at least this will get me posting again.

Aikido 9/26/09
We started with tegatana, as always, this time thinking about pushing with the arms, but not the hands.
As we moved to releases, I found I was even more rusty than I thought I would be. I kept forgetting to evade!
In our review of Junana 1-5, however, I was not quite as rusty as I thought I would be, although #4 was not so smooth.

We moved on to an introduction of Junana 6-10. Really fun stuff. This is really almost the first time I'm playing with this stuff, as I only had glimpses of anything beyond #5 at the dojo I attended previously.

As we went over #6 (oshitaoshi), I was introduced to the concept of "getting off the line, at the end of the line". Another new concept for this one was moving my body so my arms fall into place naturally, instead of forcing uke's arm into position.

Junana #7 (udegaeshi) was one I had played with before, but the way Pat taught it blew my mind. It's the same technique, but completely different, if that makes sense. The old way I knew used a lot of leverage, where Pat showed how it used the same principles we've been playing with in the other techniques (kuzushi, motion, blending/following, etc). Pat noted that it's sort of like a standing, walking Americana.

Number 8 (hikitaoshi) was taught as a variation of #6.

Number 9 (udehineri) can be looked at as a standing, walking Kimura.

Junana #10 (wakigatame) can be done from the inside or outside (a shomenate entry or an aigamaeate entry) of uke's arm.

To wrap up, we explored using the "90 degree principle" to overcome uke's strength. That stuff rocks my socks, man. I can't wait until doing that is more intuitive to me!

Judo 9/26/09
I'm afraid the only notes I have for this lesson are that Pat introduced me to 2 throws: okuriashi and tsurikomigoshi. Honestly, the brain-strain of shaking out the cobwebs in my mind left me unenlightened on these throws....for now.

Aikido 10/17/09
Again, we began with tegatana. We moved to releases, and I had trouble with 6 and 8. Pat started talking about how a Release #2 isn't always the full version of the technique we see in kata. It's the relationship of tori and uke's centers and their movement that define it.

Pat then scrambled my brain by talking about the relationship between release 2 and Junana #5: Release 2 is sort of like a looser, more difficult ushiroate. I'm still reeling from that. Things like that make me love aikido even more. It's a genius system.

Next we played with Release #1, turning it into a throw, allowing uke to do a rolling breakfall. Pat talked about how practicing this way develops sensitivity for both tori and uke; uke learns when to "give" enough to stay safe, and when he needs to just roll out.

We spent the rest of the lesson working on Junana 6, 8, and 10, and exploring the relationships among them. We talked about how the Aikikai guys look at Junana 6 as their #1 (ikkyo). We also looked at how Junana 8 is a different flavor of #6, but on more of a "shomenate timing", on uke's body rise.

Judo 10/17/09
We worked on okuriashi and tsurikomigoshi again. That day I was feeling better about tsurikomigoshi than any of my other hip throws. We looked at how getting uke up off of his heels onto his toes, is actually picking him up, even if he doesn't go higher. Pat pointed out that I needed to be using the motion of my whole body to pull uke, not just my arms.

Lastly, Pat pontificated on his recent thoughts regarding deashibarai and its relationship to all the other throws in judo. Amazing stuff.

Aikido 10/24/09
After a round of tegatana, we moved to releases. Pat introduced me to some exercises from Yon Kata. I may not have understood clearly, so Pat, feel free to correct me. As I appreciate it, there are 7 variations....other versions of the releases done as an exercise leading into (or is it part of?) Yon Kata. Once again, aikido has my head spinning.

Lastly, we practiced Junana 6, 8, and 10 again, but this time we worked backwards (10, 8, 6).

Judo 10/24/09
Again, we worked on okuriashi. I think I started getting it a little better after Pat explained how "shearing across" the "train tracks" (parallel lines of uke and tori) helped the throw. Much too difficult for me to explain here (at least for now). We played with a failed deashi turning into an opportunity for osotogari as well.

For the remainder of the class, we did some light newaza randori. I did make Pat tap only once (as usual, with an Ezekiel - my highest percentage finisher at the moment). However, that was my only victory. The other 8 or 9 times we rolled, I was decidedly on the...."learning" end! :o)

We talked about how "switching sides" when you get in a bind on the bottom can solve a lot of problems.

That day (Oct 24), was one of those days I felt severely learning-disabled. Maybe it was a combination of being out of practice and being preoccupied with the new job I'm starting in a couple of weeks, but I felt like I was getting worse at both aikido and judo rather than better. I suppose that's part of the cycle....part of my cycle anyway. It is frustrating at times, but I'm hooked on this stuff. I'll give it at least 15 more years or so.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Judo/BJJ Study Group, 9/21/09

Last week we had a smaller group at our church judo study group. Three people, including myself. We reviewed all the material from the previous week, and spent a good bit of time doing that. Everyone did every technique with everyone else.

For the new material, we covered some fundamental ground movements: "bridging" and "shrimping".

We then went over munegatame, or side control, and 2 escapes from it: bridge-and-roll and shrimp-to-guard. I asked the guys to work on this not because I'm great at it, but because I suck at it!

We spent the last 15 minutes or so rolling.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Study Group, 9/14/09

I haven't really talked about it on the blog here, because I didn't know how it was going to work out, but for a while now, I've been talking with folks at my church about us doing a judo/BJJ study group using the church's facilities.

There was lots of discussion, since we didn't want to expose the church to any liability in case someone got injured, but at long last, it's been approved. This is a pretty cool development, because the church has a large room with an already padded floor in the children's' building (not as soft as real mats, but it'll do for grappling). The room is huge, and it's a lot different than trying to roll on my little 8x12 mat space while trying not to bump into furniture.

We had our first church study group on Monday, September 14 2009. I was very clear to all of them that I'm no qualified teacher, and we were just going to play with some of the stuff I've been shown and have a good time.
5 people were there, including me. It was me and one of my nephews (who's been practicing with me at my home study group), a guy with some previous judo experience, a guy with Gracie Combatives experience (through his training in the Army National Guard), and a guy with no grappling experience, but previous karate experience.

After light stretching and warm up, we went over the following:
  • Trap and Roll escape from mount, standard version, headlock variation, and punch block variation (from the Gracie Combatives DVDs)
  • Americana armlock, standard version and headlock variation (also from the Gracie Combatives DVDs)
  • Scissor sweep and hip bump sweep (from Roy Dean's Blue Belt Requirements DVDs)
  • Rolling (at around 50% intensity) for the last 10-15 minutes.
The entire session was an hour and a half. I think the guys had a good time, and they seemed to be having some success with most of the material. We're planning on making this a regular Monday night event, so I'll post a training log after each one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Great Video!

I was going to post this as a late (or early) Friday Night Video, but as I was logging in to my blog, I saw that Pat beat me to it!

Check out this awesome self defense video here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Catching Up - Judo AND Aikido, 8/22/09

Man, I have been falling behind in my training logs and other blog posts lately! In order to catch up, I'm combining the judo and aikido logs from last week.
First we did my demo for green belt (yonkyu) in aikido. It was pretty straightforward. Junana #4 (gyakugamaeate) has been a real adventure, since Pat showed me his vicious version of it. I love this take on it, although it makes it a little odd trying to do the classic version of it now. I don't think I did horribly on anything, and Pat was satisfied.

Next we did my judo yonkyu demo, and it was a little different. I think my aiki is still superior to my judo, and I am in obvious need of more time and practice before much of the judo stuff at this level feels comfortble to me. I'm not sure how it's possible, but my ukigoshi was worse on test day than it was the first time I tried it. That throw has always given me fits. All of my newaza escapes need further work as well.

So in short, I am now a green belt in both judo and aikido. I'm extremely excited to start learning the brown belt stuff in both arts, and to continue to develop the stuff we've already worked on.

The bad news is I had to take off this past weekend (8/29) and I can't make it to lessons next weekend either (9/5). The following week I'll be back, but the one after that, Pat will be out of town! I'm looking forward to getting back to a regular schedule.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Judo, 8/15/09

I'm a full week behind posting this training log, so we'll see if time has washed away most of the details I wanted to remember!

We started with our "oozing" ukemi exercise. In preparation for working on hip throws, we did a more elevated version of the exercise. This practice, plus Pat's instruction really increased my comfort level with falling from hip throws.

We worked on seoinage and ogoshi, mostly. We'd do the throw, then transition to ukigatame, then into kesagatame, at which point uke would pick an escape to do. This not only gave us lots of practice with seoi, ogoshi and escapes, but it was a really good way to practice moving from tachi- to newaza. It was helpful to practice in different domains during each repetition.

What a difference I saw in my ukemi! I used to have a terrible time being thrown with ogoshi or seoinage, but I feel I really had a breakthrough during this practice. The difference was night and day. The falls were fun, and didn't hurt a bit! I was really excited and encouraged to see such significant growth in just one lesson.

Next we worked on ouchigari and kouchigari, and again, we transitioned into groundwork with each throw, in this case, passing the guard. I had gotten pretty rusty with ouchi, so this was a good review.

We ended the class by working on some "Zdenek Matl style" really "soft judo". It was a good cool-down, but still very intellectually stimulating! It was really amazing stuff, sort of aiki-fied judo.

This was one of the best lessons I've had in recent memory.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aikido, 8/15/09

We started with tegatana, with an emphasis on trying to describe how the mats felt under our feet.

Next we worked on Releases 1-8. Sometimes it seems like the more I learn, the more I suck at this stuff! This was one of those days. We camped out on 1, 3, 5, and 8, working on being "invisible" to uke. Release 8 really had my number and I kept getting screwed up with it.

Junana was next, and we went through 1-5. We talked about what the non-atemi hand's role in these techniques is, and that was an entirely new concept to me! I always think of that hand as the "off" hand, or just the "stay off me" hand. Pat talked about how that arm also needs to stay unbendable, and the push is done with that hand too, not just the atemi hand. We spent a Little time talking about a failed Ushiro-ate, and turning it into a separation / brush-off.

I wish I would have typed this up sooner, because now my notes on the "Cool Ninja Technique of the Day" make almost no sense to me. That'll teach me. I know it was from Sankata, but maybe Pat can chime in here with a name and/or description.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Judo, 8/8/09

We began with the ground mobility cycle, with bottom guy practicing escapes from kamishihogatame when the opportunity presented itself. This slowly developed into an extremely light "positional randori".

I can see a huge value in this low-intensity, "stop-and-assess" randori, particularly for beginners like me. It takes the "panic" out of the equation and allows me to think about what's happening, and what my response could be. However, it's difficult to keep the "governor bolt" on this, and very easy to slowly get more and more competitive and intense. Good fun though!

Next we worked on what Pat called the "Saulo Spins", taken from Saulo Ribeiro's BJJ DVDs. These are all techniques for taking the back of a turtled opponent.

From there, we worked on hadakajime, the rear naked choke. Pat approached it this time by using Stephan Kesting's "rear naked choke checklist" (see the video here). We ended by looking at the kata version of hadakajime.

I'm so grateful for all the excellent instruction you can find on DVD and the internet now. Instructors like Saulo Ribeiro, Stephan Kesting, the Gracies, and Roy Dean have some really high quality products out. It's great to be able to get quality technical instruction from lots of sources, then try it out in the lab/dojo.

Anyone care to recommend other judo or BJJ DVDs they've found useful?

Aikido, 8/8/09

We started with tegatana, as always, trying to keep the "hypotenuse" of our steps consistent. It became quickly apparent that I make unnaturally large steps on a several of the pieces of this kata. I'll work on that.

We went through Releases 1 - 8 ,and Pat corrected a few things I've been doing on #1, #3, #5, and #7. On #1, I need to remember to step to the "end-of-the-line" on the second step. This will help me to relax and not push on uke. On #3, I need to step toward uke, not directly to the side. I also need to square my shoulders (point my center) to the direction I'm moving. Doing this will allow me to do either a #3 or a #7, depending on what the situation calls for. I also need to sort of "blend" my first and second steps to avoid excessive shuffling. On #5 and #7, I have to remember to relax at the end of the thing...not try to do something to uke, but relax and not resist what's going on with my hand. It's an issue of flowing and following uke better...being more "aiki".

Next we worked on Junana 1 - 5, and we played with it in "kata mode". The longer distances were really screwing with my head. We talked about zanshin, and remaining aware after the "end" of the technique. We went over where tori should be after the throw, and how uke should move on the ground. We camped out mostly on #4 and #5.

We worked on Chain 3, but I didn't feel like it was getting better like 1 and 2 have been - probably because we've played with 1 and 2 more. There's more foot shuffling to get in synch and "phase" with uke's footfalls in this one, so that was tripping me up a bit.

The "Cool Ninja Technique of the Day" was kaitennage from sankata. Neat because you could throw uke on his far footfall, or screw him straight down into the ground with a guruma motion.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday Thoughts, 8/6/09

"No matter how one may use techniques mastered in secret, if his mind becomes attached to techniques he cannot win. It is one of the greatest importance in training that the mind does not become fixed, either on the enemy's movements or one's own movements, either on striking or blocking."
~Yagyu Munenori

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


This week I finished volumes 3 and 4 (Kumite) of the Best Karate series by Masatoshi Nakayama.

Am I glad I read them? Yes.

Will I read them again? Absolutely, but not until I get a good bit farther down the path of karate-do.

Reflections? At this stage, I've only just been re-introduced to karate, so much of the technical discussion in the books were beyond me. Each section however, began with a discussion of a particular principle, as well as an introduction to a different karateka (presumably members of JKA). Sort of a "Who's Who" in the Japanese karate world at that time. I found those interesting, and fun to read. It also made these books quick reads for me, as I skimmed most of the technical examples.

Recommended? Yes.


Here's another blogger's post regarding the same type of thing I wrote about on the post directly below this one. Check it out here!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Other Forms of Self Defense

I'm practicing martial arts mainly so I'll have the skills I need in the event I ever need to defend myself or my family. Statistically, I'm not very likely to need to use those skills in self-defense. So why do I work on this stuff if I have a low probability of needing it? My primary answer is "Just in case", as it is better to have the skills and not need them, than to need them and not have them.

But martial arts are, for me, only one piece of a more holistic self/family-defense strategy. I was driving around the other day thinking about other things my wife and I are doing that might fall into this more broadly-defined "defense" category:
  • We wear our seat belts, and make sure our daughter's car seat is secured properly. When the traffic light changes to green, we don't cross the intersection without making sure someone from the cross street isn't going to run the light for whatever reason.
  • We're not OCD about it, but we do try to keep our hands clean, by washing them often. CDC says hand-washing is the #1 way to prevent sickness. I go so far as to try to open public doors by touching parts of them that are probably less-used (push the bar closer to the hinge, push the glass with my elbow, etc). Okay, that may be a little out there, I admit.
  • We're trying to get fit (my wife is fit already, but ugh, not me) and improve our diet. I read a GREAT post related to this from "Man of the West" today. Please take a minute to read it by clicking HERE. Kind of a "self-defense against socialist health care" article!
  • I'm going to take a basic first aid / CPR / AED course soon.
  • We put money and supplies aside when we can.
  • We stay out of "bad" areas of town and stay aware of our surroundings when we're in public.
  • We keep the exterior of our house well-lit at night, and the doors locked.
You get the idea...are these ground-breaking, innovative tips that will revolutionize your life? Nope. I'm sure most people do this stuff already. I'm just trying to develop a broader view of what it means to take care of myself and my family, and include more likely scenarios in my defensive outlook.

An Additional Thought RE: Intuition VS. Instinct

I posted yesterday about the difference between instinct and intuition. I read a post on Dave Camarillo's blog today that speaks to this issue as's an excerpt:

How can I be so good at driving to be able to do it without thinking? The reason is simple: Because I have done it for 17 years!
You do something long enough, you get good! Period! If you dabble, a little here, a little there, you stagnate.
Armlocks are a natural part of my life. They are like driving; they are like breathing. They come as easy for me as any mundane task in life. I don’t have to think, I do. I don’t have to plan, I do.

Cruise over there and check it out!


While this has nothing to do with martial arts, I thought others might find interesting. I've always wondered why, when I hit the "snooze" button on my alarm clock, there's an interval of 9 minutes before it sounds again. Today I finally looked it up. Here's what I found, if you're interested:

By setting the snooze time to 9 minutes, modern digital alarm clocks only need to watch the last digit of the time. So, if you hit snooze at 6:45, the alarm goes off again when the last digit hits 4 - at 7:54. They couldn't make the snooze period 10 minutes, or the alarm would go off right away - or the clock would take more circuitry.

That question's been bothering me for a while. Now I can rest easy ;o)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Instinct vs. Intuition

Lots of things pop up for me as a beginner in aikido and judo that seem counter-intuitive. Like (in aiki) not pushing with muscles in your arm, but with your whole body attached to your arm. I've been used to trying to push things with my arms my whole life. And (in judo) not trying to sweep uke's foot too far, but just far enough to get the kuzushi, for example. It always seems like if a little sweep knocks him down, a bigger sweep would do it more decisively (that's not always the case).

Getting something into our intuition takes time though, and it's certainly different than instinct. Instinctual actions are those that are hardwired into us...things that come along with being human. Putting my hands up in front of my eye-line when there's a threat to my face is instinct, and thankfully, a beneficial one. I don't have to try to figure out where my eye-line is, then tell my arms to lift my hands up to protect my face. We can use these beneficial instinctual actions to aid us in self defense (like Pat's "cow-catcher" analogy). On the other hand, the tendency to put a hand out to catch oneself when falling backward is also instinct (seems to me anyway, Moro reflex notwithstanding), but a potentially harmful one (likely to hurt, if not break or sprain, the wrist). We work to retrain the instincts that interfere with good self defense...or to replace them with more beneficial intuitive actions, if you will. So now it's intuitive to keep my chin tucked and slap my arms to the side when falling.

Intuitive actions are things we learn...things we train until they seem instinctive. If I notice a hazard on the road while driving, it's an intuitive process for me to remove my foot from the accelerator, move it to the brake pedal, and push with the appropriate amount of pressure to stop or slow the car before reaching the hazard. The process might also include a glance in all my mirrors to look for safe routes to take in case I can't stop in time. It's still a thought process, but it's been moved to sub-conscious thought so I don't have to a) pull up the mental checklist suited to the situation, and b) consciously tell my limbs and eyes to do what they need to do.

I'm really looking forward to getting this aikido and judo stuff to the point it becomes intuitive.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Study Group, 8/2/09

Our study group tonight was pretty lackluster, for a couple reasons. When Cody and Chase arrived, my wife was shopping, so I had my hands full with my daughter. The boys got bored and started to roll, intending to take it easy. By the time my wife got home they were both exhausted and really didn't feel like doing anything else.

We persevered, and worked on a couple of lessons from the Gracie Combatives DVDs: Taking the Back and the Rear Naked Choke.

The "taking the back" lesson turned out to be a little trickier than it looked. After a few turns each it started feeling better though. The "Remount" section of that lesson was a little tricky at first too.

Once we got that down alright, the "rear naked choke" lesson was a breeze. We didn't get as much done as I'd hoped, but I guess some practice is better than none.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Aikido, 8/1/09

We started the class with tegatana, with an emphasis on the hip switch. Pat talked about how it's not so much a pivot on the balls of the feet, but actual steps. He showed me a couple of exercises I could do to practice the feel of it. I was also reminded (again) that I need to square up my shoulders and feet (and center) during the pushes to the side.

Next we did releases 1 - 8. The emphasis was on where the hip switch motion showed up in the releases, which really threw me for a loop. Even the releases I was getting comfortable with fall apart when I'm concentrating on a new aspect of them. More practice will help. We also looked at moving to the "end of the line" during each release, and how the "end of the line" for #2 and #4 is UP, not "out". Lastly, we played with release 3 becoming release 8, if uke resists in a certain way. Really neat.

Pat showed me a little "release randori" next. I think it was a very basic intro to aikido randori, and I think it clicked a little better. It's encouraging that 2 of the things that give my mind the most trouble in aikido (chains and randori) are starting to make more sense....feel less awkward.

We moved on to Junana / Nijusan 1 - 5, camping out for a bit on gedanate. I have trouble doing the kata version of gedanate lately, since Pat showed me the more vicious version....but I'm okay with that for now.

For the last part of class, Pat taught me the sankata gyakugamaeate. I loved this technique! It worked best getting the kuzushi off the far footfall (extending uke along the line perpendicular to his feet), but you can also work some pretty good mojo on the near footfall. On the near footfall, you can pin your arm to uke's arm and rotate around it, and it demolishes him pretty good. It's hard to explain, sorry. Even if you can't get gyaku from this version, it gives you a little time to figure out what's going on and what to do next.

One of the neat things about this technique was that even if uke doesn't get a solid grip on tori, the thing still works. Uke usually still falls down and goes "boom" if your timing's right. We even saw the occasional "aiki brush-off" (TM) pop up once in a while. Lastly, Pat demonstrated how you could even add a reverse punch to your attacker's solar plexus if you felt it was needed. With your "gyaku hand" in his face or on his eyes, he'll never see it coming! Alternatively, your gyaku could be a high-block type karate strike to the jaw if the situation warranted.

Sankata gyaku is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very cool.

Keep your gyaku hand strong!

Judo, 8/1/09

We started class with newaza randori. I was able to make Pat tap twice the first two rounds we rolled (once with an Ezekiel, once with a collar choke I saw Mike Swain do on a video yesterday). I reckon that was before he was good and awake, because he paid me back with interest after that! I don't think I came close for the other 10-15 times we rolled.

I'm still having trouble with takedowns from kneeling, and I'm still having trouble doing anything while I'm on bottom being crushed. I need to get used to being on the bottom so I can survive better there....think more clearly, and move more effectively. Something exciting is in the works that may provide me more opportunity to practice that, but more on that as it develops.

For tachi-waza, we worked on a variant of seoinage. Pat calls it "Gregor-nage" after a guy from Germany they used to train with. It's a seoinage entry set up by uke's reaction to tori knocking uke's grip off his sleeve.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Night Videos

Okay, I'm not sure how funny these will be unless you live in southern Louisiana, or have otherwise had experience with cajun culture. This stuff is hilarious to me, because my wife's family.....shall we say "closely resembles" this guy in accent and expression (my wife is NOT anything like this though). I'm so glad my friend Byron turned me on to these vids.

And another one::::

Monday, July 27, 2009

Aikido, 7/25/09

For Aikido class we started with tegatana. I was trying to focus on "falling" into the steps, and found it made me feel really heavy. This bears some further experimentation. Pat said he felt heavy too, so it may have been the tides or something, haha.

We practiced releases a little next. Pat emphasized moving away from uke on the second step, and we looked at how to do that without jerking the guy around.

Next we worked on the beginning of Chain 2. Once again, the chain was feeling a little better to me than it has in the past. I'm encouraged by the small growth I feel regarding chains.

We ended the class by looking at wakigatame from a shomenate entry.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Judo, 7/25/09

Today we worked on a combination/cycle of throws that goes deashi barai, kouchigari, ogoshi, and ouchigari, each one coming from the previous one failing.

We also drilled a few escapes from mount, kesa, mune, and north-south. Spin-out give me maybe the most trouble. I also really need to work on shrimp escapes instead of constantly playing with the ones I'm most comfortable with. Oh, we went over some concepts for my uphill escapes which also suck at this point.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Aikido, 7/18/09

For tegatana no kata yesterday morning, the emphasis was on falling into the step instead of shifting weight and lunging. I've heard I-don't-know-how-many-times that I'm supposed to just turn off one leg and fall that direction, instead of first shifting my weight left to move to the right. One of the reasons is to take out extra motion. The trouble I've had is that it's pretty ingrained in me to compensate with one leg when the weight comes off the other one. I get the concept, but couldn't make myself do it. Pat directed my attention to my center when doing the lunging step, and sure enough, it moved one way before moving the other way. By thinking about my center, and not letting it move in that opposite direction before taking the step, I was finally able to get the feel for the "falling" step. I think I had been thinking of the means (falling step) as the end (eliminating wasteful motion), and it just wasn't working for me.

We played with releases 1 - 4. We talked about being in synch (timing tori's footfalls with uke's) and being in phase (tori's footfall is on the same side as tori's...their footfalls "match"). In releases 1 & 2, tori tends to end up both in synch (assuming good timing) and in phase. In releases 3 & 4, tori tends to end up in synch, but out of phase. A pretty neat thing happened: Coming off a release #1, my feet ended up in synch, but out of phase with Pat's. It was a really awkward feeling, but I didn't know why at first. Pat explained that through a ton of reps of release 1, my brain knows how it's supposed to feel. So when something went wrong with it, it was as if my subconscious said "Whoa, something's not right - I'd better not attack right now...let me flow with him and see what happens." It was my brain was making a withdrawal on stuff we've been depositing in my subconscious all along. I knew something was wrong before I noticed we were out of phase. Pat talked about the concept of "Not knowing what you know". That's deep.

We moved on to Chain 1, and I probably felt better about this chain than I ever have. We talked about the concept of the chain being divided into certain sections, but also the existence of "wormholes" where you could skip from one place in the chain to a later section without passing through the sections in between. Pretty neat stuff.

We ended this lesson with a technique called gokyu gyakugamaeate (or kokyunage). It was a slick shomen ate / brush off to uke's face without shomen ate's normal off-balance.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Judo 7/18/09

Judo was tough this morning! My wife and I went to eat last night at Texas de Brazil, a fantastic all-you-can-eat Brazilian Steakhouse. It was our first time there, so of course I had to try a little of everything. I was stuffed (still am, 24 hours later). Anyway, it made judo an "iffy" proposition. I commented after the lesson that I felt "green". Pat asked whether I meant I felt like a green belt, or green as in "not ripe" (noob). I meant I felt like I was green the way I would feel if I went bungee jumping after eating way too much sushi.

Anyway, we started with the footsweep drill, and tweaked my foot position a little more.

We worked on seoinage for a while. I need to remember that in addition to getting my hips low, I need to take out the space between our bodies...really clamp him to me. If my hips are good and low, but he's not clamped to me, they slide up during the throw. We talked about using that inside arm to take up some of that slack as you pull him around.

For groundwork, we played with the ground mobility cycle, inserting escapes and armbars as appropriate in a very light, "turn-based" randori. We talked about not fighting too hard to hang on to a screwed up position I've gotten myself into. I need to let myself lose and experience the consequence of my mistake so I can learn from it (at least in randori).

We ended the lesson with standing randori, which we usually don't do very much of. I still feel more lost during standing randori than ground randori. Pat tweaked lots of things on lots of throws during this time, and my mere four hours of sleep last night is keeping me from remembering all the points we talked about at the moment.

I glad I nutted it up and went to class this morning, but I'm glad to be on the couch this evening!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Thoughts, 7/16/09

I found myself with some free time over the weekend, and I was flipping through television channels. I came across a show called "Spectacles" on the Sundance channel. Basically, Elvis Costello interviews folks, and they talk about music, life, etc. Seemed like a cool show.

His guest for that night was Bill Clinton, but they were going to be talking about music, so I didn't change the channel. In case you're unaware, Clinton is a pretty good saxophone player. I'll leave any cheap shots regarding "hot air" and the like unsaid. Maybe I'm feeling generous - I didn't care for President Clinton while he was in office, but I think he was mostly harmless compared to what we have now. But I digress...

They were talking about why Clinton didn't pursue a career playing music instead of politics. His answer was something like "I looked at myself in the mirror one day, and realized that even being a great sax player, I would never be the greatest...I would never be on the level of John Coltrane or Stan Getz...and if I couldn't be among the very best, I didn't want to pursue it."

That made me think about my martial arts practice, and my expectations for how I'll progress. I don't expect I'll be the next Mike Swain, Karl Geis, or [pick any] Gracie. I don't think I'm naturally gifted "raw talent" at this stuff. I don't think I have the potential to become a household name in judo or aikido, but I still consider it a worthwhile pursuit. So I've been thinking about what I do expect from myself as I continue my training - what I want to get out of it (or give back to it, in some cases). I bet most martial artists go through a similar process at some point, and I'm sure if you asked 15 people, you'd get 13 different answers, so the answers may vary for each individual. My personal list may change with time or experience, but here's what I've come up with for myself, in no particular order:
  • I want to be better able to defend myself and my family from physical attack should the need arise.
  • I want to accomplish something...stick with something. As I glance back down the trail of my experience I see so many projects and goals that lay abandoned...begun with great enthusiasm, but never accomplished. I don't have a particular dan rank in mind, and I'm not under the impression that my training will ever be complete - I think I'll just know one day "Hey - I stuck with this!"
  • I'd like to have influence. Not necessarily over a multitude of people, but at some point in the far future, I'd like to be able to begin teaching martial arts, and I hope that I can provide positive influence to those I teach. Not in a "guru-ish", have-all-the-answers, run-their-life kind of way though. I'd like to be a part of helping people enrich or improve their lives. I think in its proper place, martial arts can contribute to that.
  • Speaking of which - I always want to keep martial arts in their proper place in my life. There can be a tendency, I think, to elevate the things we place more affection on them than they are due, even above things that matter much more. I'm not talking about feeling guilty for taking enjoyment in hobbies. But when martial arts occupy more of my thoughts than God or my family, for instance, something's probably out of whack.
  • Speaking of which (again), I try not to divide the "sacred" and "secular" in my life. To me, it's all sacred. By that, I mean, whether I eat or drink, or work, or play, or grapple, or throw - I want everything to be full of and pointing to Jesus Christ (I Cor 10:31). I want to practice martial arts (and everything else...indeed the way I live) in such a way that Christ's work in my life and my love for Him is evident. This is my highest pursuit. Does that mean I want to preach to my opponents while I'm grappling, or wear obnoxious bumper stickers on my gi? Nah. I just want to let my light shine, so people see something in me that causes them to honor God (Matthew 5:16).
  • I want to move toward a more healthy lifestyle. Drop weight, gain endurance, build muscle, and improve my diet. Maybe martial arts can help motivate me to do that.
  • I want to represent traditional martial arts in such a way that promotes a respect for them (culturally, practically, and artistically).
  • Unfortunately, some in Christian circles have ideas about the martial arts that are way off base (some automatically associate martial arts with demons, humanism, new age philosophy, etc). In the same way some people equate all Christians to a few isolated examples of nuts, some Christians equate all martial artists to a few examples of weirdos (you can read one example of this here). I'd like to be one of the many Christian martial artists whose very lives and training refute these ignorant ideas.
So it's not important to me that I become known as the best aikido/judo player around. My indicators of success or failure will come mostly from how closely I'm moving toward the things on my list.
Anyone care to share a list of their own?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Judo, 7/13/09

Monday night was rank-requirement-mania! We covered everything that will be on the upcoming green belt demo.

First we covered kouchigari. Of the four throws required for green, I think I'm most comfortable with this one.

Ouchigari was next. We looked at 2 different entries. A "normal" one (to my thinking) and a "stepping-around-the-corner" version. We explored it a little in terms of it being an otoshi motion or a guruma motion, depending on the timing. When I was being thrown with ouchi, there was a feeling of my step continuing and evolving seamlessly into the throw. We played with how to throw with that feeling as tori. We also talked about it not being a hand technique. I threw a couple of good feeling reps with virtually no hand involvement. It was a neat feeling. During our ouchi work, we also talked about the center of balance of the "two-person structure" made up of tori and uke, and looked at how "Arbitrary steps" can affect that center and cause off-balance.

Next we worked on ogoshi. I really need to work on getting my hips lower and feet closer together, as I've said before. I just feel so darned unstable when I try to! We talked about trying to get a combination of correct form (low hips, close feet, etc), timing, and getting uke to step the right way. Enough to occupy my judo education for years to come, I'm sure.
The last throw we worked on was seoinage. This time we did it as sort of the same throw as ogoshi, but using your bicep as the fulcrum rather than your hip.

We worked on lots of groundwork stuff too. We reviewed hadakajime (Rear Naked Choke) and talked about a few variations in hand placement and the scooping motion Stephan Kesting talks about in his instruction about it. We reviewed the meat grinder entry to the choke as well.

We looked at the "envelope" exercise focusing on kesagatame and munegatame, and the wakigatame and udegarami combo sequence. We played a little with the kimura (from guard) and how setting up a kimura also sets up a hip-bump sweep if he resists the kimura too much. That's a fun combo.

Lastly, we went through several reps of the hold-down cycle. I think I'm finally beginning to internalize the order of things for this cycle. I feel like I'm improving here. Pat mentioned that I'm a lot heavier then I was 3 months ago. He didn't mean I seem to have gained weight, but that my ability to apply pressure on bottom-guy is improving. He said I'm not holding myself off of him as much as I used to. That probably comes not only from practice, but getting more comfortable with grappling in general.

It was a really great lesson. I had lots of fun, felt a bit of improvement in some areas, and got to work sequentially through the material. What more could I ask for?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Aikido, 7/11/09

We did aikido outside today...that provided a new set of challenges for me. Sloping concrete is different from flat mats! Wearing shoes made things different too.

We started with tegatana. I almost completely lost my balance once, just adjusting to the different conditions. It wasn't even on a tricky step! It was a good reminder that "real life" (i.e. a real self defense scenario) will not happen or feel like what we practice in the dojo. We tried it again, this time while holding a knife. This served to demonstrate a couple of things: 1) either hand might be the "doing" or "active" hand in the kata, and 2) we shouldn't be lazy or unaware during the kata - the knife made me pay attention so I didn't cut myself (conceptually, anyway - it was a rubber knife).

Releases 1-8 were next. I think I'm improving on these. I feel like I am, anyway. This week I was looking at Nick Lowry's Aikido book again in regard to releases. Quoth he: "...power comes from the movement of center, not the action of the arm or upper body". Pat's been saying that all along, and I've read Nick's book several times over the past couple of years, and it was like that part just clicked to me. I even had it highlighted in the book, but it just wasn't sticking before!

Next we worked on Chain 1. Chains are still a little confounding to me (not the concept - the execution). We started with an emphasis on a "touch-follow, touch-follow..." idea...sort of testing uke during each footfall to see what might be there (an opportunity for a technique). The "touch-follow" is a very short thing....near testing a stove to see if it's hot (you don't put your hand there and leave it, you touch it, then stop touching it quickly). Pat talked about how during chains, both tori and uke are learning how to flow and deal with unexpected or weird situations.

Jodo, 7/11/09

Today the mats were being cleaned at the dojo, so we had class outside. Since we couldn't do judo very well on concrete, we did a jodo class and an aikido class (which was essentially 2 aikido lessons, but more on that in a minute).

This was only my second jodo lesson. We went through kihon for a while (solo and paired) and then a couple of the beginning kata. Unfortunately I can't remember the names of the techniques or kata - as infrequently as we practice jodo, I'm going to need to sit down and document this stuff carefully in order to retain it (not to mention practicing kihon more on my own). Again I was wishing I could find more time to devote to jodo study, but aikido and judo are much bigger priorities for me at the moment.

We talked about the formality of the kata and its roots in "not screwing around with weapons".

We also played with forgetting about the stick in our hands and concentrating on the motions of our hands, feet, etc. From that point on, the relationship between jodo and aikido was way more evident to me, particularly in the "twisting stick thrust" strike (can't remember the name) and some of the hand motions in the turns in tegatana.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Picking One Thing

I read a quote from my teacher today (who was paraphrasing one of his teachers) regarding aikido training:

" pick one thing to put into place and the rest of it goes to pot, but if you succeed in putting that one piece into place then you have succeeded at that repetition of the kata. Then you pick another aspect and your first thing goes to pieces but eventually working at it like this more than one aspect begins falling into place at a time."

I tend to go in cycles of being (somewhat) comfortable, then overwhelmed in my training. Lately, I've been going through the "overwhelmed" stage again. Not in a frustrating way...more of a sense of awe/wonder at what a deceptively complex art aikido is (that is, how freaking cool it all is!).

Anyway, it can be tough to remember and do more than a handful of things during a technique (example: don't bend your arm, don't force it, move your feet, point your center at your hand, relax, etc). I'm going to use this in my solo practice, whether with the walking kata, or practicing with my imaginary uke. I'll consider it a successful rep if I get that one thing right that I chose to focus on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Judo, 7/4/09

We worked on an osotogari/hiza guruma combo. If you try for one of those, and uke resists it, he makes it very easy to throw him with the other one. Pat said it seemed like I was feeling more comfortable with both of those throws. I think that's true - especially for osoto, but I only noticed a big difference in that one shortly before he mentioned it! I think I had been doing my osotogaris more like a trip than a sweep. It is indeed feeling much better to me now. That's exciting to me. We ended up playing with osoto a lot more and exploring this epiphany.

Next we worked on seoinage. We played with it as a hip throw variation rather than a hand throw. We also looked at a drop knee seoiotoshi, both as a standalone throw and as a transition into groundwork. This was only the 2nd time we've looked at seoinage. A few weeks back when we first looked at it, I suspected seoi might become one of my favorite throws. I felt like I was getting it, and it seemed easy to do. But this time it was confusing me way more for some reason. Two things I was having a ton of trouble with, and need to get into my head: 1) keep my feet closer together, and 2) get my hips lower!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Aikido, 7/4/09

After warming up, we went through Tegatana. Pat talked about staying centered, particularly during the turns. We talked about paying attention to how much slack is in our hips, and adjusting our center so that we move before all the slack is taken out. Pat also mentioned that I should watch out for my knee not pointing the same direction as my foot, especially when bearing weight on it.

Next we went through Releases 1-8. I really feel like I'm getting more comfortable with all 8 releases. I'm obviously no expert, but I feel like I'm progressing a little. I think a big part of helping them "click" to me is Pat's instruction a few weeks ago to worry less about what the release is "supposed" to look like and concentrate on pointing my center toward my hand. That helped a lot. This week he added that I should do the releases in such a way that I feel no tension in the muscles surrounding my shoulder. When I was able to do that, it felt like my releases were way more successful. We talked about release 2's "rising" component too.

We also played with a new (to me) concept regarding releases 6 and 8. Let's see if I can describe this: As tori/uke are moving/turning, their center (that is, the center of the "structure" created by the combination of tori and uke) is travelling. It's not staying at a fixed point. If I follow that moving center like I should, the release works great. If I try to make it happen without following that center (as I often do), it doesn't work well at all. As I was driving home considering that, I imagined it like a tiny, weak tornado. If I stay in the middle of the twister, I can turn easily (making the technique much more effortless). But if I let the tornado's center get too far from me, and I end up in the "wall" of the thing, it interferes with turning naturally. Might be a sophomoric analogy, but it may help me remember to follow that center.

Finally, we worked on Junana/Nijusan 1-5. Of those 5, I think #4 (gedan ate) is the one that's most awkward for me. Pat tweaked my off-balance for 2-5, and that felt a little better. I need to stop trying so hard for the downward motion in the kuzushi - if it happens, it happens. I also need to remember to move behind uke's arm on 2-5. We went over #6, and it's almost brand new to me. We covered it a little during my time at the previous dojo, but not enough for me to get accustomed to it. Hopefully I won't have as many bad habits with that one for that reason.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rough and/or Tumble

Tonight my judo/BJJ plans fell through with my nephews, so we had a friend over for some 3rd-of-July burger grilling. I had my mats out in the living room so we decided to horse around. My buddy has never had any martial arts training - he just works out a couple times a day religiously. His "style" (if you'd call it that) is brawler/wrestler. A real Tank Abbott, but really lean and in shape.

Los is strong as an ox, and can really crush you with his mere 168 pounds. Feels more like 230 when he's crushing you. Early on, I had a successful Leg Hook Takedown (that I've been watching on the Gracie Combatives DVDs), right into mount and pretty quickly got an Americana on him. For the next 4 or 5 rounds, Los would end up giving up his back. I'd rear mount and go for RNC after RNC, but I think the muscles in his neck kept getting between me and his arteries. I did pretty well maintaining rear mount though, and I was able to conserve my energy while he spent all of his trying to get out.

As the night went on, I got less and less successful, and had to tap more and more. Los figured out that keeping control of my arms pretty much neutralizes me. I've noticed this trend with Cody and Trey as well - they're much stronger than me, so they can clamp down on my arms and keep me from moving or getting any leverage. I was thinking "Why is it I have so many freakishly strong friends?", then it dawned on me: I may just be freakishly weak.

In any case, I need (at some point), to learn how to deal with much stronger opponents, because so far, even if they're "unskilled", I'm not able to prevail.

What did I observe tonight?
1) I actually saw my opponent gas out while I calmly conserved my energy. That was pretty neat.
2) I eventually need to learn to deal with opponents who use unorthodox methods and strategies.
3) I need to develop a little more strength of my own (and a LOT more technique)
4) Practical proficiency in this stuff is going to take time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dare I Hope?

I didn't make it to any judo or aikido lessons this past weekend...and despite my best efforts, I was not able to do a Judo/BJJ "study group" with either of my nephews. My wife went out of town, so my 14-month-old daughter and I chilled out all weekend.

Before my wife left for her trip, I asked her to let me try a triangle choke on her (I had just watched the Gracie Combatives lesson for it). I always bother her like that , haha! "Let me try this armbar..." or "Try this choke on me..." Sometimes she indulges me, sometimes not. She was packing her luggage and didn't have time, but she said "I'd like to learn that one when I get back". That was different! Normally, she will participate to help me out, or simply to humor me, but never expresses a desire to learn. Back when we trained in aikido together (at my previous dojo), she was really into it - she loved it! It was like pulling teeth to get her to try it out at first, but the more she did it, the more she liked it. Since we stopped (due to her high risk pregnancy), and especially after our daughter was born, she's had better things to do with her time, so her interest in aikido waned.

I think she's interested in learning a few things in the event she needs to defend herself, and the triangle choke has obvious applications for a woman defending herself from a rape attempt.

So do I DARE hope that this may be the beginning of a renewed interest in martial arts? I don't want to get my hopes up, but it's difficult not to. I'll definitely be nurturing her interest though.