Monday, June 25, 2012

Aikido, 6/23/12

We used a training knife again during walking kata. We did three reps with normal grip, reverse grip, and off hand (I think).

We did releases 1-8 with the knife as well, and Pat talked about another way using a knife in training is transformative: it exposes some of our favorite, go-to techniques as being based on fantasy. That is, our go-to technique that we're so comfortable with, that yields a high percentage of "success", sometimes doesn't hold up when uke becomes "dangerous" (like with a knife, for instance). Sometimes we have to rely on other techniques when there's (simulated) danger involved.

My releases definitely feel better when the measure of success is "not getting cut" versus "looking/feeling like the kata version".  In other words, I felt like the technique kept me safe, even when it wasn't pretty or technically executed. While I do want to be able to perform the kata correctly (there are valuable lessons about principles in them), if I have to choose, I'll take effective over "text-book". 

Next we worked on Junana 10-17, again, using the knife. On number 10, I realized that one of my problems with it has been that I tend to think of going right to kake (execution, terminus) on it, and not thinking about the kuzushi (off-balance). Pat talked about how the kuzushi is what actually keeps uke from hurting you because he's more concerned about getting his feet back under him. He shared Henry's lesson about how if Crazy Guy is coming at you with intent to hurt you, the last thing you want to do is add more craziness to the encounter. Kuzushi can have a dampening effect on all the craziness.

We talked about the grip in number 12 being more snug for better control.

For 14-17, we practiced relaxing the shoulder while maintaining unbendable arm to keep Crazy Guy from being able to jerk out of your control and cut you.

On number 14, we talked about where the "fight" is in the technique. I tend to try to make things happen ("fight") before I'm in an adventageous position to do so. Next month, I will have been practicing aikido for five years. I think the hardest thing for me to "get" has been that the whole following, fitting, waiting-for-uke-to-determine-what-happens-next makes it work so much better. I get it cognitively, but trying to make my body remember it is another thing entirely.

We looked at a couple of variations of number 15; the normal one that throws uke away, and a "Bode-fied" version where tori keeps him close and maintains control. We also played with a variation of number 16 that kept us closer to uke and had some neat results.

We cooled down with some "Stick Releases" and "Stick Release Randori" games. This helped to focus on moving your body into the right relationship with uke so you don't have to use strength.

Before I left, Pat let me know that somewhere in all that, I had done my ikkyu demo, and he promoted me to first degree brown belt.  Next stop: Shodan. I'm looking forward to playing with the Owaza Ju Pon stuff!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Aikido, 6/16/12

Today was my first day back to train after about a 6 week absence. I was excited to go back, and even went to bed early last night so I could wake up on time. Unfortunately, I woke up about the time I was supposed to be there, and it's about a 75 minute drive. I went anyway, and Pat was kind enough to accommodate me.

We started with the walking kata, with a training knife in one hand. The wrong-footed turns messed me up today.

We did releases with uke holding a training knife as well. Pat described the knife as "transformative", and it really was; it makes you focus and try to make sure the techniques are actually keeping you safe from the attacker. It's easy to get accustomed to our training and begin just going through motions, what Funakoshi called "jumping around like a puppet".  As Pat said, the knife removes the illusion that the attacker isn't dangerous.

Next we did Junana 1-5, and 6-9 in our "continuous movement drill". I was rusty, but I feel like I flowed ok for most of it.

We spent a good bit of time on Junana 6, 7, and 10.  Six is one of those techniques at which I feel I get continually worse. We worked on letting uke determine my movement and timing, and that seemed to help for the moment. My number 7 usually feels pretty effective, but it always feels like a strength or leverage thing, more than an aiki thing. We looked at again letting uke determine the timing, as well as using a more upward angle to make it more effortless and more aiki (similar to how we've practiced making release 2 more disruptive to uke's ability to come back at us).  My number 10 usually feels pretty weak, so we worked on that some too. Felt way better afterward.

We discussed ma-ai and how it sometimes gets things artificially out of whack. That can be corrected by extending it a little, or by starting much farther away and walking toward each other.

We ended by playing with two knife drills Pat picked up from one of Bram Frank's students. I always feel a little awkward practicing knife techniques. While I value them and want to know them, I always imagine police reports containing phrases like "over a dozen knife wounds". I'd never want to have to use a knife in a real situation. That said, the techniques are designed to remove someone's ability to hurt you, not to carve them up.