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.