Monday, September 12, 2011

Kazoku, 9/12/11

Just me and Michael again. We started with tegatana (He'd done his ukemi practice before I arrived), and this time went through the entire thing.

I intended to work on Releases 1-4, and briefly introduce 5, but we ended up looking at 6 and 7 as well. Some very cool body-drop stuff kept turning up in Release 7 that I don't recall noticing before. In retrospect, it's been there all along, but for whatever reason, it revealed itself more tonight.

We uchikomi'd the heck out of Junana #1, then did several reps completing the throw. By the time we got to Junana #2, we only had time left for a handful of uchikomi reps. For some reason, my #2 was lackluster tonight. Them's the breaks sometimes!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kazoku, 8/30/11

Just one student again last night: Michael.

We were pressed for time so we skipped ukemi. We reviewed what we've learned so far in the walking kata, and added the first two turns.

We did an extended review of releases 1 & 2, then introduced 3 & 4. Pat showed me a tweak that I think helped Michael keep that unbendable arm in release 1. His #2's felt pretty good and natural. We focused on synchronizing footfalls and letting uke determine where and how you step after the initial evasion. We also talked about having a relaxed arm (as tori), but not one that's completely turned that yields and fits and blends with uke, but also redirects his energy. Being directed, and directing. Welcome to the wonderful, frustrating, amazing, dichotomy that is aikido, haha! He picked up releases 3 & 4 just fine.

Next we had an extended review of Junana #1 (shomen ate), then I introduced Junana #2 (aigamae ate). We talked about how the evasion/off-balance for #2 shows up a lot from here on out. Michael's "#2 off-balance" was quite nice and effective. He seemed to get it very well, and almost threw me a couple of times with the off-balance alone. We worked on the "kata version" as well as Pat's "hiding around the corner" version. I did a quick intro to junana #3 (gyakugamae ate) just to demonstrate its relationship to #2. Something he can keep in mind as he practices is to wait for uke's reactionary step(s) to do the throw. I still have trouble "waiting on uke" as well, particularly on #15 - it's an easy thing in a lot of these techniques to jump ahead of and rush.

With the little bit of time left, our Cool Ninja Technique of the Day was Junana #10 (waki gatame) as the ura waza (countering technique) to Junana #1, and we cooled down with a little light randori.

Another great class!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kazoku, 8/25/11

Last night was the second class for our little group. Littler, even - only one student this time: Michael.
We started with ukemi (back falls), and Michael said he felt better about them this week than last week. He was eager to learn forward rolls, which I attempted to teach, and he picked it up much faster than I did when I was starting out.

We reviewed the first 3 parts of tegatana (walking kata) and added the next 4 (the pushes). Focus was on staying on the balls of the feet and moving our arms effeciently (not trying to pick an arm up when our body was dropping).

Next we reviewed Release 1, and ended up spending most of the class on it. I felt like we got a lot of good work in on this release. Really productive reps. It was a challenge for him to do the release without bending his arm too much to get into position, but there was a ton of stuff he was getting very right (synchronizing footwork, footwork timing, off balance, etc). And we all have things to work on in the releases, so he can join the club, haha! Some of the reps went a little haywire, but he was good at doing something (as opposed to freezing up), and usually it was enough - it got him off the line and made me unbalanced enough to have to take another step.

We discussed how some schools adhere more closely to the kata forms in order to internalize the principles, and others are less bound by the kata and primarily observe the principles (we're more in the latter category). We talked about not getting so focused on the kata that we forget what we're doing is getting out of the way and getting hands up; we try not to get the kata before the horse (sorry, I couldn't resist, and if said in a certain way, is a lot funnier than reading it).

For the last part of the class, we worked on release 2 as an option when release 1 won't go.

In the spirit of Pat, we ended with a couple "cool ninja techniques of the day". My ninja-ness being modest at best, I showed him a neat kote hineri from someone putting a hand on your shoulder, as well as something I can't remember the name of (uke grabs lapel or pushes, you feed that energy back to him in the form of a push or a strike or an eye rake - just giving him something to think about while you take possession of the hand he gave you to control his wrist and destroy his posture).

I was more aware of my time management - which is to say I noted how much time I spent on different things. I felt more prepared and more orgnaized, but there's still lots of room for improvement.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


For the past few months, I’ve been working on getting an aikido class together that I could teach locally (My teacher is 75 miles away). Well, it didn’t pan out exactly like I originally thought it might, but last Thursday, I did teach my first aikido class. It’s a milestone I’m pretty excited about. I’ll be keeping track of training logs here for that class too. We’re calling our group “Kazoku Dojo” – “kazoku” means “family” in Japanese.

Students for the night were Michael, Melissa, and Kim. 2 of the 3 were being exposed to aikido for the very first time, so we began with simple back falls, concentrating on sitting-more-than-falling, and tucking our chins to make sure our heads didn’t hit the mat. Then a brief introduction to forward rolls from a kneeling position.

After a short explanation of what kata is (solo and paired), we went over the first 3 sections of our walking kata. We focused on “dropping” into the step rather than “shifting our weight east in order to travel west”. We also focused on bringing the “following foot” along without dawdling.

We then practiced using those same steps to evade an incoming zombie-arm attack. Just to demonstrate the idea of getting-out-of-the-way. We moved from that into the “aiki brush-off” concept that Pat teaches, which led nicely into Junana #1 (Shomen ate).

We ended the class with Release #1, and a little bit of Release #2, with a focus on synchronizing with uke's steps and finding the right timing to seperate and create distance.

Somewhere in all of that we talked about the how and why of “same-hand-same-foot”.

I’m thrilled about the prospect of teaching, and acutely aware of my insufficiency to do so. But it’s all part of learning, right? I do need to learn to organize the class time better….we have class again tonight, so we’ll see how I manage!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Aikido, 8/13/11

We started with walking, then moved on to Releases, with a focus on 1-4. We worked on creating an off-balance by continuing uke's line, and not providing him a stable base with which to regain his balance. One of the big takeaways for me was to let uke determine where my second step in the release is placed. We also worked on using releases 2 and 5 as options for a failed or stuck release 1.

Next we did some "cow-catcher" drills that evolved into junana #1, and we spent the rest of the class on junana 1 & 2. We played with getting a junana 2 from each release as well.

We ended the class with some fun randori and a little groundwork.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Aikido, 7/9/11

I'm still pretty behind, but I'll catch up soon!

We started with Walking, then moved to releases, which I found were still jacked up for me. Pat added “sticking to uke” to the other 2 new ideas we’ve recently been trying to keep in mind (structural weakness and the footwork in release 6 & 8). Altogether mind blowing, but so much fun! We explored the “releasefeeling vs the “stickyfeeling for a while.

Then we did all of Junana as a big chain, and began mixing and matching different techniques from here and there in the kata. After that we looked at floating throws, and focused on #17. It was pretty cool: we discovered that it didn’t make too much difference how you float the guy, as long as you float him. Could be the typical kata, or another "whatever-presents-itself" variation.

We ended the class with some fun (as always) randori, and a review of the second part of Ichi kata.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Aikido, 7/2/11

We started with walking, and I had a ton of mental hiccups. We talked about the cyclic feeling of regression & progress, and about how everything in aikido can be practiced in the walking kata.

We worked on releases, but mine were pretty jacked up for 2 reasons (I think):
1) I was thinking about the "Structural" component (as opposed to just the timing component) Pat introduced the previous week.
2) I was thinking about the footwork for 6 & 8 that Pat "fixed" the previous week. It seemed like this round of releases was worse than before he "fixed" them!
I think I was just thinking about too much. We discussed Thomas Edison's "Failures" as a way to encourage me, haha.

Next we worked on "light touch" wrist releases with an emphasis on connection and sensitivity, and moved into randori with a focus on finding the right times to yield and the right positions to smack.

We worked on junana #17 which is a really weird animal to me. We played with a couple different ways to float uke, including an "aiki-strikey" version.

We looked at ichi kata, and I'm getting a little more familiar with that. We discussed different emphases in teh advanced kata: Big, fast, light, hard, etc.

We also looked at a technique from judo's goshinjitsu and a similar technique from san kata.

We ended with a tricky version of junana #2. It was like a "micro iriminage" and is useful when uke resists being smashed with #2.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Aikido, 6/25/11

We started with ukemi and walking, then moved on to Releases 1-8. Ever since I’ve been training with Pat, he’s emphasized getting off the line and synching up with uke (evasion and timing). Now he’s introducing another concept to think about: This "mechanical/structural" dynamic. I probably won’t do justice to an explanation, but it involves stepping onto the line of uke’s weakness. Pretty cool, and it has a dramatic effect on kuzushi.

Next we played with the first section (I think) of Ichi Kata, then moved on to Junana #14. While practicing 14, Pat tweaked my footwork in such a way that (at the time I thought) he completely fixed my Release 6 & 8! A quick foot switch seemed to have my R6 & R8 working like magic.

We looked at our “Junana chains” (consisting of Junana 1-5) with an emphasis on finding opportunities for atemi between the techniques. Made some good “aikey-strikey”. Then we did the same thing, but looked for floating throws instead of strikes.

At some point it really struck me how differently various aikido techniques can be applied. It’s like there’s a way to do things with “Oomph” (more muscle, less dependable, but possible), and there’s a way to do them more effortlessly…..more efficiently….more “aiki-like”. And I’m starting to get a peek behind the curtain at how people much farther along than me are doing what appears to be magic. I can’t wait till I’ve been doing this 20 more years.

We ended the class with some fun randori.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Aikido, 6/18/11

Yes, I know - I'm behind on my training logs again. I'll catch up soon!

We loosened up by walking through a few karate stances before doing tegatana, then moved on to releases. We played with release 7 as a brush-off, and it was surprising how effective it was at creating space. Next we added a "glancing" elbow strike to uke's ribs as we passed under his arm, then played with a "hip chock" to keep uke off of us. It was a great exercise in "aiki-strikey".  We played with these "gravy" techniques as alternatives to pushing uke in the face or chest on the way through, which tends to stick your feet and kill your mobility (or at least be less efficient).

Next we played with releases and randori "through a stick" about 2 feet long. Uke and Tori both held one end of the stick rather than each other's wrists. The stick was like a magnifying glass that helped demonstrate principles that are harder to see otherwise. The contact was more "slippery", and it really makes you move your feet correctly. Maybe it was just the stick, but my footwork during randori felt like it was getting better.

We moved on to an introduction to junana 14-17, my next rank material. We played with 14 with an "unhooking him from the ground" feel, 15 with a garuma motion which made it feel WAY lighter and more "aiki-like". We looked at 16 on either footfall, and 17 was just a big puzzle (we explored how it works as an otoshi).

This was one of those mornings I REALLY didn't feel like making the 1.25 hour drive to train, but I'm so glad I did. Seems that's always that's always the way - the classes I don't feel like going to end up being the best ones.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Since I didn't get around to posting my training log last week, I'll do last week and this week in one post:


We started with tegatana, then did releases 1-8. They're feeling better and better to me.

Next we worked on getting Junana 1-17, all from release 1. Then we did it again, all from release 2. These were really interesting variations, but my feet kept getting stuck due to the unfamiliar footwork.

We worked mostly on Junana 11, 12, and 13, focusing on 13 (with and without the turn).

Next we did a "4 Rule" hand-centering randori exercise that led nicely into free randori to finish the class (if I remember the rules correctly, they were 1) arm can move freely up and down at the shoulder, but not side-to-side. 2) to move to the side, keep center pointed at your "do-ing" hand. 3) if you couldn't, switch hands and keep center pointed at the new "do-ing" hand. 4) If you have a hand free, stick it in your opponent's face).


Short class today, aiki-speaking. We started with tegatana and moved to releases, as always. Next was my nikyu (2nd brown belt) demo. I was pretty comfortable with Junana 1-5 (well, 4 was sloppy), but I rushed number 7, as well as number 12. Otherwise I was mostly happy with it.

After the demo, we played with chaining Junana 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 for a while. We played with a REALLY slick "gravy" technique - slipping a number 3 between 6 and 7. One of my favorite evil tricks! Then we discussed and explored concepts of ma-ai.

At the end we brushed up on karate kihon, as well as tennokata, taikyoku, and a little bit of heian shodan. I plan on beginning to practice karate again on my own time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Just a quick post to congratulate Andy (a buddy and fellow student of Pat's) on his first aikido class (as recounted here).

I know you'll do a great job!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Aikido, 5-28-11

After a warmup, we did some ukemi, with emphasis on how to teach beginners to fall.

Walking - focus on not lifting my arms while taking a step, per Pat's recent post.

Releases - We did releases 1-8 and they all felt better today than they have in a very long time. Not perfect, but much better. After my recent frustrations with 2, 4, 6, & 8 in particular, it was refreshing to feel more successful. We talked about the evasion step on 6 & 8 not having to be huge, and it helps the footwork when the step is more reasonable. Again we talked about how to approach the first couple of releases with beginners.

We talked about teaching beginners a lot today, because there's a decent chance I'll be starting a club in my area soon (more on that later, we're waiting on a couple of approvals to fall into place, but I have about a dozen people interested). With that in mind, we brushed up on the aiki brush-off (see what I did there?) and Pat's patented "Cow-Catcher" exercise. The brush-off is to create separation, but sometimes it doesn't work so well; the cow catcher is there to salvage that and still create a little distance while staying safe.

Junana 1 (Shomenate) - transitioned from the brush-off to shomenate, again focusing on breaking it down for beginners.

Junana 11 & 12 (Kotehineri and kotegaeshi) - We played mostly with J12 resulting from a not-quite-right J11. Used the cycle of going back and forth from 11 to 12 and back again. I need to remember to move my body correctly in order to maintain good hand position (as opposed to putting my hands in bad/weak positions just to get the grips).

Urawaza - we worked on urawaza for J6 and J11, which just involved stepping on the other side of the line and countering with J6 or 11 as well.

Randori - I'm getting more comfortable doing randori all the time. Not necessarily better, but more comfortable. I'm getting to the point where I feel like I'm learning from it, and not just learning to do it. There was a neat "wrong-handed" hineri that kept showing up today.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Week Off

No Aikido this week, since Pat's been doing his Koryu Dai Ichi clinic up in OKC at Nick's place. Worked out nicely, since my wife had a beach trip with some girls from church and I was at home with our three-year-old, AND I ended up with a bad sore throat for most of the weekend. It was a nice, long, exhausting weekend and I'm looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow.

Looking forward to resuming next weekend. My wife says several of the ladies that were on the beach trip were pretty interested in learning aikido after hearing her talk about it (and she pretends she's not interested, haha), so we'll see what might develop.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Aikido, 5-16-11

During Tegatana this morning, we focused on which part of our arms were the points of contact in the pushing motions. That made the floating throws, especially maiotoshi, apparent in the kata.

Next we worked on Releases. I swear sometimes it's like I'm going backwards. I think as I learn more about the techniques and principles, they keep blowing my mind. Shorting it out and resetting it. Of course 6 and 8 were perplexing as always. Now 2 and 4 are also getting to me, haha. We worked on staying in synch (footwork), maintaining connection, and a couple releases from yon kata. Maintaining the connection seems contrary to what my brain wants. It's tough to override the "Oh crap, he's got you, get out of his grip!" instinct. We talked about how it seems like the art is constantly being broken down and rebuilt / rethought as you progress, and that was certainly the case today.

We worked on Junana #11, kotehineri. My footwork is better on my strong side, so I don't have to compensate with my arm as much as I do on the weak side. I need to remember to let uke react; not to try to force the technique or underestimate his evilness or capabilities.

We took a look at the Aikikai version of kotegaeshi, and Pat showed me a version that's sort of a Tomiki/Aikikai hybrid that was pretty neat. We played with it in the context of not being able to get around uke's arm in release 1, and getting this kotagaeshi in the other direction.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Aikido, 5-7-11

We opened with tegatana, focusing on relaxation and posture.

We played with releases 1-8 for a while, and while certain parts of 6 and 8 still felt better to me, other aspects (that I used to have less trouble with) seemed to give me problems. Sometimes it feels like when one thing gets fixed, it pushes 2 or 3 other things out of line. Ah well, there's time enough to "master" this stuff, right?

We played with our "continuous Junana" cycle, for Junana 1-5. That's really good practice. It just feels way more awkward when done on the weak side.

We looked at a few tai chi exercises to demonstrate deflection, angles, evasion, etc, and that's always neat. This led into a little bit of light randori, and I was amazed at how different randori can feel when you're looking at / thinking of different principles. We stayed in motion, and focused on yielding... "out-wussing" the other guy.  You can't always be stronger than your opponent, but you can be weaker - and neat things can happen when you do that. This art continuously blows my mind.

We worked on Junana 11 quite a bit, from the perspective of it being a modified number 6. I need to focus on taking the slack out of uke's arm and pushing through him.

As I'm hitting stride as a sankyu, I'm really struck by how different the art feels now. Pat described the feeling in terms of learning letters, then words, then sentences (and learning to write in cursive somewhere in there). In any case, it definitely feels different. Sankyu feels as different from previous ranks as white belt through green belt felt different from knowing nothing about aikido at all. I'm very excited about where my aiki will go from here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Aikido, 4-23-11 (Abbreviated)

Forgot to post a training log for April 23rd, and my memory is foggy. The one thing I do remember is feeling like certain parts of my Release 6 & 8 felt better than they have ......ever! It's mostly in the correct footwork at the correct time. That made a huge difference.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday Thoughts, 4/14/11

I follow Rener and Ryron Gracie on Twitter (@GracieBrothers), and they tweeted some really interesting statements this morning:

Imagine if the student was not fearful of disappointing the instructor.
Imagine if the student had the freedom to study the art to the extent that they would allow all inferior positions to happen.
The path to black belt can be cut in half.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Aikido, April 9 2011

Today we did "concrete aikido", out in the driveway. All the unusual aspects of that (wearing shoes, Sloping ground, acorns/debris, gnats and sweat in my eyes, etc) tend to shake things up, which I think is good once in a while, since chances are pretty low I'll be attacked on a mat while I'm barefoot.

Our walking kata was odd - it's tough to "fall into a step" uphill. We also did the kata with a knife in one hand, and that changes it up even more.

Releases were wonky too; for some reason, release 2 gave me fits this morning, and it usually doesn't. We talked about not only getting off the line, but getting out of the "box".

We played with Junana 1-10 with a knife-wielding uke. It was really interesting, and we explored ways to keep the knife at arms length by not engaging shoulder muscles. We talked about how Junana 1 and 2 were pretty much the only things that consistently had a chance for knife defense.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Aikido Buddies Gathering, April 2011

I was happy to be able to make the Saturday session for this Spring's Aikido Buddies Gathering this weekend. Pat led us in an exploration of 2-hand grabs in Koryu Dai Ichi and we had a really good time playing with it. There was some very cool stuff in there.

Some of the guys from Starkville came down; it was great getting to train with Dr. Usher, Chops, Ross, and Tony. It was nice seeing Andy again too, and training with Jason, Kel, and good to meet Kevin, a striker who's a little new to Aikido.

One of the highlights to me was getting to play almost-full-speed randori with Andy for a while... Pat and I normally practive very slowly, and Pat has probably 20+ years experience on me, so it was nice to see the effect of our normal training expressed in a more chaotic situation with someone closer to my level.

Bottom line: wow, the day was really fun. We ended with Kel's shodan demo and promotion. Big congratulations to him!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Pat's Naihanchi stuff this past Saturday was so interesting, it may have renewed my interest in karate. I think I'm going to try to start practicing Ten No Kata again, just to get my feet wet again. It's simple, it's easy, it's......universal?

Evasive Walking

I just thought of something I forgot to include in my last training log:

Saturday, during our walking kata, the wrong-footed portions felt more awkward to me than they usually do. So we spent more time on them, and talked about hip switches, ranges of motion, foot placement, etc. But the big "sticking point" for me was the "helicopter" motion (the first wrong-footed turn).

It turns out I've been leaving out the evasion aspect of that step and just doing a mechanical set of motions. When Pat emphasized the initial motion as an evasion, it made way more sense to me, and felt much better than it has in the past.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Back to Blogging

Well, after a while away and a false start or two, I'm gonna try blogging again with regard to my martial art studies. These really are the times that try men's souls; I have a job that keeps me busier than ever, a car that keeps giving me trouble, aches, pains, and general ailments. In a word, life.

Speaking of my martial studies, for the reasons listed above and more, I haven't been as consistent as I should have been. Part of that has been circumstances, part of it just some laziness I suppose. Maybe I need a good dose of a freezing waterfall in my undies or something.

My last post was about how I was all committed to training at the Shotokan Karate place, but I've since given that up, haha. I think they liked to "play Japanese" too much for me there. Yes, the training was tough, but I wasn't inclined to keep going there if they insisted on playing "warrior-monk".

I have continued training Aikido with Pat, albeit way too sporadically. Hopefully that will improve soon. I'm a sankyu (third brown) now, so if I can get my rear in gear, I might be looking at shodan sometime in 2012. Not that it matters...

So this past weekend, Pat and I worked on releases quite a bit. Big takeaways:
     --- In Release 1, I need to stay centered behind my hand and push, not try to push uke sideways with my arm (using my shoulder muscle - duh!). Pat tweaked this for me and it made good sense. Hopefully it will stick!
     --- Dare I hope Pat was able to fix my Release 6?!? Six (and eight) have been problematic for me since day one. Pat tweaked my footwork and the timing of my turn (and pointed out the need for some urgency when my back is to uke) that felt like it did the trick! Also pointed out a bit of the hip-switch in the walking kata that appears in Six. I felt better about that release maybe than I ever have.

From releases, we went into randori. I feel like I'm getting a little better at yielding. At least I think it kept me out of a particular bind I normally get myself into.

Lastly, we played with karate's Naihanchi kata, which fits surprisingly well with Aikido. I'm always amazed at the inter-relatedness of that martial arts. Truly genius.