Saturday, May 30, 2009

Judo 5/30/09

This past Saturday was one of those days I did NOT want to get out of bed to go train. I spent most of Friday moving lots of dirt from one location to another with only a shovel. As a bonus, I got a terrific sunburn. So when the alarm went off on Saturday morning, I was tempted to stay in bed. Nevertheless, I got up and went to the dojo.

We started with our entry into kosotogari from a failed deashi barai. The we practiced "stepping around the corner" into a variety of other throws. We had an informative discussion about what is, and what is not, "the sweep". The motion I've been thinking of as the sweep, is really the "feeler"...the antenna (putting a foot on uke and getting feedback from it). The sweep is actually a "hamstring curl" motion once the "feeler" determines the time is right to execute. I don't mean a full-range hamstring curl, or even a large one...I'm talking about a small motion that originates in the hamstring rather than a lateral motion of the hip. Difficult to explain, but I get the concept mentally. Making my body do it is another matter. We spent a lot of time just practicing using the feet as feelers during some super-light randori. It's tough to get myself to do this. I consider myself an intelligent person, but days like Saturday make me feel like I have a learning disability. I certainly don't feel naturally gifted at this stuff. It's frustrating, but I suppose I'll get it eventually.

Once the feeler foot detects the opportunity for a sweep, that decision has to be made very quickly. My problem, as a newbie, is that if/when I recognize the chance, it's long gone.
For groundwork, we went over a few fundamentals, and some variations: 1) shrimping across the floor, 2) shrimping while keeping the non-pushing foot on an approaching opponent (as a control mechanism), 3) shrimping with a foot and a shin against an approaching opponent, so when he tries something, you can use it to help you move, and 4) shrimping with 2 hands on a point.
Pat talked about how to rest when your opponent is in your guard if you have to: keep him in an asymmetrical position. Seemed to work wonders on me! Kept me in a bind while he expended little or no energy. Again, it's tough for me to explain here.
Lastly, we briefly played with an Aikido Release #3, transitioning into kosotogari.
The biggest take-away for me from this lesson: Feelers, Feelers, FEELERS!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Study Group 5/25/09

I'm on vacation from work this week. While I'm staying pretty busy around the house, I've still been very fortunate to be able to work in some extra training. If you count study groups, I've been able to train 4 times over the long Memorial Day weekend!

The other day I met my buddy Mario, who's just joined our dojo, at his Tang Soo Do dojang. We had the place to ourselves, so it was nice not having to worry about space. We only rolled for a dozen rounds or so...I prevailed maybe 3 times, and those were all near the beginning. As I got exhausted, Mario kept going strong and winning more and more. But I maintain one of my losses was due to his unexpected use of some chin na finger bending, or some such. Speaking of "chin" another loss may have been due to a knee to my chin. You really have to watch those strikers!

So, what observations did I come away with?
  • My lack of fitness/endurance is really hurting my judo. Not just costing me rounds, but interfering with my learning process. Enough of that. "Game on" for getting in shape, as they like to say on The Biggest Loser. I recently listened to an interview of Loren Christensen on the Paladin podcast. He was asked how much physical conditioning plays a part in a self-defense encounter. He responded that since most encounters last a few seconds, endurance and conditioning are much smaller factors than your training, HOWEVER, conditioning will enable to to train better, more often, and more efficiently, so it does have an indirect effect on the potential encounter.
  • I really need to learn how to deal with opponents with superior strength. Lots of times, my arms get pinned and I can't do anything at all.
  • I still suffer from weak guard passing and sweeps. I need to substitute some of my time spent rolling with drills.
  • Watch out for knees and finger-locks!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Aikido 5-25-09

We had a great aiki lesson on Monday. We started out with tegatana, while focusing on a couple of things. On the pushes to the side, I need to be sure my following foot does indeed follow, and not just hang out where it was. Both feet need to be pointing in the direction of the push, and my center does too (hips, shoulders square). We also took a look at how our center moves through space on the turning motions. I love tegatana no kata. There are at least 100 different things to think about, but you can only focus on a couple at once, so it will provide entertainment/refinement/learning for me probably forever.

Releases were next, and we went through all 8 of them. When I began training at Mokuren Dojo, releases 5-8 were alien to me, given the time since my previous aikido training and the way they were taught there. I think I'm STARTING to see some progress in that area. I say
"progress", not "improvement" because it seems like overstating the case when I say "improvement", hah. What I mean is, the movements are starting to get familiar to me again. I still need to work on letting the techniques work instead of trying to make them work. I need to think less about the way they're supposed to look and more about evading, turning my center toward uke, and putting my hands up. Pat compared the releases to untangling a knot. He recommended letting tori's free hand become the "doing" hand, and letting the grabbed hand just do whatever.

We explored these ideas through some very light randori. One point from that - I don't need to be married to the idea of the upright posture at the expense of getting locked up or thrown. It's okay to bend over to get under the opponent's arm, for instance.

We camped out on Release 3, then went into Chain 3. It included wakigatame, kotemawashi, oshitaoshi, gyakugamaeate, and gedante. We looked at how hand placement (or tori's body in relation to his hand) may determine whether you do one technique over another in the chain. We spent some time at the end looking at a nasty gedanate variant. I gotta remember to turn into uke during gedanate, and not try to execute it sideways.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Machida vs. Evans

I was pumped that Lyoto was going to get his shitle tot against Rashad Evans. I still couldn't believe Evans took the belt from Griffin a few months ago. I was SO happy with how things went down on Saturday night.

The glimpses into the locker rooms before the main event were telling: Evans with his headphones on, jumping around constantly, while Machida sat relaxed, yet focused, finally warming up (stretching a little) right before the fight. I don't know how many times Lyoto got hit, but it wasn't much. He folded Rashad like a dishrag in round 2. I was thrilled that traditional martial arts were so well represented, and that such a humble, respectful fighter won. We've been hearing about the weaknesses of TMAs since oh, around 1993. Hopefully the Dragon's victory proved that it's more about the fighter than the art, and that the arts that have been around for a century or more still have something of value to offer us.

Karate-Do 5-25-09

Pat was kind enough to give up part of his Memorial Day to let me get a couple of extra lessons in. Nothing earth-shattering in Karate-do today...we just worked on kihon the whole time, which was excellent for me - I need to get these techniques into muscle memory (this was only my second karate lesson with Pat).

Pat also reminded me of a couple of bunkai principles he's told me about before:
  • A closed hand is not always a punch - it could be a grab. The withdrawing hand could be pulling something to me (by the hair, for instance)
  • A block may actually be a strike

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Additional Thoughts on My Last Judo Lesson

I forgot to mention a couple of things in my recent judo training log.

Pat's been doing a theme each month this year for his aikido classes. This month the theme is "Unbendable Arm". Well, yesterday unbendable arm showed up in our judo lesson! Pat showed how if you're holding uke's sleeve, and you can bend him forward (thereby lowering him a bit), you can make your gripping arm unbendable in order to hold him down there and keep him from regaining his balance. Indeed it will further deteriorate his balance. Neat stuff. I'm always amazed at the cross-over between judo and aikido.

Secondly, we were talking again about using our hands and feet as feelers..."detectors" instead of "effectors". In randori, when I'm trying to do something instead of feel where opportunities might be, it can be compared to a concept from Gavin de Becker's great book, "The Gift of Fear". He advocates learning to trust our intuition more, and worry less. He maintains that our intuition is designed to analyze clues quickly and efficiently, and warn us of any danger. When we worry, we're supplanting our intuition and trying to do its job for it, and we (that is, our conscious mind) just can't do it as well. I really do recommend you read the book for a much better and more thorough treatment of the subject. Anyway, Pat compared it like this: when I'm looking for a chance to execute a particular throw, it's like I'm worrying and turning my intuition off. When I'm just trying to synch up with my opponent and feel what's happening it's like I'm not worrying, and letting my intuition dictate the right throw at the right time.

Study Group 5-23-09

Last night I had a bunch of my family over to visit and some stuck around to watch the UFC fight. My 2 nephews and their friend were among them so we had an impromptu Judo/BJJ study group. One nephew (Cody) and I try to practice regularly, but my other nephew (Chase) and the friend (Trey), are way newer to grappling. Unfortunately, last night we didn't work on learning or improving anything - maybe we were pumped up from the fights, but we just started rolling full speed, full power. We didn't accomplish anything impressive, all of us being so new, but it was a lot of fun.

Chase got me with an armbar once, I got him with an Ezekiel the next round. Trey is incredibly strong, so he was tough for me to manage. I need better technique! I also submitted him with an Ezekiel, and he got me with a rear naked....strangle. It wasn't a blood choke, but it hurt enough to make me tap. Cody and I didn't face each other last night, but he and the other guys went quite a few rounds. I mostly let the young folks have their fun. What did I learn? Nothing new, however, I did notice I was able to stay a bit calmer and not panic while in disadvantageous positions. That's progress, I guess, but I'd also like to learn to not end up in those positions so often!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Judo 5-23-09

I am slowly getting back into the swing of things at the dojo. I think my mind is still muddled or atrophied from my recent time off.

Today we played our footsweep drill, moving from a deashi sweep into other throws. After that we did some very light randori, practicing going from a failed deashi into any other throw. During the course of that, Pat taught me ashi garuma, hiza garuma's evil twin from the mirror universe. I really like ashi garuma. Pat tweaked my foot placement on hiza and ashi - I was stepping too far outside of uke's line of weakness to pull off the throws. They're working much better now, I think, and I can't wait to try these on my nephews. We also worked on a counter to deashi, tsubame gaeshi.

We worked on what to do if we end up sweeping too far with deashi, and helping uke instead of throwing him. I've got to learn to recognize when my sweep isn't working, and taking that as my cue to switch from "doing" to "feeling"... letting go of it if it's not working. My tendency is to hang on to what I was planning to do for dear life. I've got to lose that mental hitch. It reminded me of my first time trying to water ski. Pretty soon after being pulled up out of the water onto the skis, I fell forward, but my mind was determined to salvage an unsalvagable situation. For what seemed like a long time, I couldn't let go of the handle. I was being pulled along by the boat head first, swallowing way more of the river than I should have. It took a while for me to finally figure out I could simply let go and the trauma would end. So if my sweep fails, I need to just go with it. Let it go - it's not accumulating interest, and I don't have to try to catch up to it. I should heed one of Jack Handy's "Deep Thoughts":

"If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, let 'em go, because man, they're gone."

We looked at "hooking" from the hamstring during different sweeps. The timing is tricky for me - I kept trying to hook too early, but I need to wait until the instant before uke's foot settles back down. Again, being a "feeler" is important here. Developing that sensitivity is going to be key. I also need to learn to reference my own feet better when I'm in synch with uke.

On days like today, I have trouble deciding whether I suck more at groundwork or standing, hah! Slightly frustrating, but more than that, it's exciting to see what I'll be able to do one day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Night Video 5-22-09

I've always been fascinated by "Free Running". If you're not familiar with it, here's the wiki article. If you saw the new(ish) James Bond movie, "Casino Royale", you witnessed an excellent Free Running scene in the beginning of the flick. Last night my wife and I were watching the History Channel special "How Bruce Lee Changed the World". In it, there was a brief testimonial by a runner talking about how Free Running was highly influenced by Bruce Lee's philosophies (the famous "Be water, my friend" idea, among others - economy of motion, etc).

So here's a video of some free running for you. Man, it looks like fun, but is one of those things I'm going to go ahead and predict I will never be doing. It's too bad - it looks like it will be a vital skill to have during the zombie uprising. Their ukemi ain't bad either.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday Thoughts 5-21-09

"The belt only covers 2 inches of your ass, the rest is up to you."

~Royce Gracie, on belt rank

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Judo 5/16/09

Saturday I was finally able to make it back to the dojo. We ended up doing 2 hours of judo rather than mixing it up with aiki or karate. I have a friend who has been interested in judo for a while, so he came to my lesson with me. He currently holds a 3rd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. I think he really enjoyed our time, and plans on joining the dojo soon.

We started with the old foot sweeping exercise, then moved on to deashi barai. I really love that throw. We played deashi into ukigatame, into a weird (for me) armbar. The transition from the throw into the armbar was really slick, and I enjoyed it a lot. That's not to say I was performing it well. I'm still new to submissions, and for some reason, I have trouble cinching the arm up correctly when I try for an armbar. We also looked at the wakigatame/udegarami cycle, which still fascinates me. We then drilled the Ezekiel (I forget the judo name) for a while as well.

We ended the class with several spirited rounds of rolling. Once again - I GOTTA GET IN SHAPE!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I don't consider myself a great husband. Let me go ahead and say that first. Utterly devoted and loving? Yes, absolutely, but I feel I have a lot of room for improvement, as I do in many areas. So this post is not meant in any way as a peal of my own trumpet. I hope this isn't too much of a ramble, and that it makes some sort of sense. It's just an attempt to A) explain what's been tumbling through my head, and B) get back into the habit of blogging!

My wife and I were having a discussion this morning about our one-year-old's sleeping habits, and what we're going to do about them. At some point, my much better half said "We're just going to have to (whatever was said), and you're going to have to deal with it." Now, I should also point out that her tone and attitude were NOT what they may sound like from what I just typed. My wife is as sweet and un-bossy as can be. But as I considered her words (knowing she didn't mean them that way), I thought of how careful we should be in our communication. Sometimes we get used to certain tones-of-voice, knowing that the people we're around most "get" us, and understand what we mean and what we don't mean. Since we're used to it, it can carry over into our conversations in the workplace, or among strangers. I think it's important to be aware of how things might come across to others, who might not know our natures or idiosyncrasies.

So I carefully and good-naturedly brought it up: "Maybe when we're discussing things like this, we can approach it more from a 'team' mindset rather than one of us laying down the law and expecting the other to fall in line..."

Now, I'm not one to say Aikido fills and informs every part of my life, but I can't deny that the things we practice and think about have an influence over other, unrelated areas. When my sweetheart was telling me later "I appreciate how diplomatic you are when we have a disagreement, instead of just striking back", I thought "Is that indicative of an aiki-tude?" I'm a peaceable guy by nature anyway... but I wondered if things like this are an example of "Verbal Aikido", specifically, the "fitting" aspect (tsukuri). My response drew attention to the "togetherness" of our relationship rather than focusing on the differences (force-meets-force) of our opinions/methods.

My point is only that I should try to consider the "fitting" aspects of my interactions with others as much as I can. Both in how I express myself (in the case of my wife's statement) and in how I respond to the way others express themselves. I'm not speaking of political correctness (at all), but a mindset analogous to the tactile sensitivity we strive for with our training partners and attackers in Aikido.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
~ The Apostle Paul, to the Christians in Rome
Romans 12:18

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I thought I'd post this video....I love Cinco Claus!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Return of Friday Night Videos!

This video was sent to me by my friend Byron. People that are good at things amaze me. This video makes me wonder in shame what I've done with my life.