Friday, September 20, 2013

Hodge Podge, 9-20-13

Mixed bag tonight. Worked out day one of a new program:

Bench Press
Bent over row
Seated shoulder press
Bicep curl
Seated tricep extension

Then my dear wife and I worked on horizontal elbows with focus mitts, and walking kata a few times.

Lastly, I stumbled through Heian Shodan twice. My techniques aren't polished, but I wanted to get the gist of the kata.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Karate Homework, 9-19-13

Tonight I walked the floor twice in:

  • Kiba dachi
  • Zenkutsu
  • Kokutsu
Then I walked twice in a kiba, zenkutsu, kokutsu progression (it allowed about 6 reps of each stance).

Combined, this gave me roughly 24 reps of each stance.

I "get" cat stance and crane stance, but struggle with seeing them as anything useful to know about at this point. 

Next I practiced "punching the corners" from kiba for a while, focusing on keeping the chambered hand low, and keeping the punching elbow close to my body. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

BJJ, 9-18-13

Tonight we drilled arm bars from the guard, then worked on triangles. Next we moved to a "teepee" triangle as a response to your opponent posturing up to defend the original triangle attempt. We worked an arm bar from that position, then practiced omoplata from a failed triangle.

Live rolling was next. I rolled with a blue belt for my first round and did about the same as I usually do against him, which is to say, not very well. I guess I was able to survive (postpone?) some of his onslaught.

Round two, I went against a no-stripe white belt (same as me)...little did I know he had a strong wrestling background. He rolled hard the first round and I played a lot of defense. Definitely more of a challenge than I was expecting. Class was running late, so we had the option to stop or go for one more round. I rolled again with the same guy. We turned out to be the only ones rolling, so we had an audience. I immediately went for a "shoulder guard" I've been studying up on via a Cyborg DVD I have. From there I quickly slapped a triangle on him, just like in the video, hah! Unfortunately, he postured and I had to rely on my just-learned teepee triangle to stop him from escaping. I squeezed hard but he wouldn't tap! I figured it wasn't working so I tried to transition to an arm bar but that was a mess that allowed him to get me in side control. From then on it was back to my increasingly normal "defend-and-suffocate-until-they-submit-me-or-the-bell-rings" game. He told me after the round that he would have tapped after two more seconds of that teepee triangle. Two. More. Seconds.

Despite almost submitting someone tonight, I felt like it may have been my poorest performance. None of my escapes seemed to be working even when I feel like they should have. I seemed to be getting gassed more quickly than usual too. I feel like I pretty much got steamrolled tonight.

Monday, September 16, 2013

BJJ, 9-16-13

Class was taught by one of the blue belts tonight. We drilled a ton of techniques, probably too many for me to remember, but I'll try:

  • Ogoshi (to arm bar)
  • Koshi garuma (to arm bar)
  • Osotogari
  • Arm drag to heel stab takedown
  • S-mount to arm bar
  • Full mount to knee on belly transition
  • Knee on belly to far side arm bar (in response to bottom guy pushing your leg)
  • Baseball choke from knee on belly and side mount (gi and no gi variations)
No live rolling tonight. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Karate, 9-14-13

Since I'm training BJJ now, I figured I wouldn't double up on grappling by continuing my return to Judo. That frees me up to pursue karate training! We're doing kind of a traditional karate curriculum, but supplementing it with occasional drills and ideas from other arts as well.

After starting with the aikido walking kata, we looked at seven karate stances and how they might show up in reality. Yoi (as the "interview" position, natural stance, hands in front), hanmi (kind of a natural fighting stance), kiba (horse-riding stance / jigotai), zenkutsu (front stance), kokutsu (back stance), nekoashi (cat stance), and gankaku (crane stance). We practiced walking with front, back, and horse stance, and looked at how cat and crane are transitory and when they might briefly show up.

We talked about striking with a fist vs a palm strike, and practiced punching "the corners" while keeping punches straight, elbows in, and generating power with hips and steps.

Next we practiced walking with front stance while practicing the punches from tennokata.

Finally, we looked at the first handful of motions in heian 1, and the related bunkai. We're going to be approaching the bunkai from the most common forms of attacks that occur in real life, as laid out in the HAOV study.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

BJJ, 9-11-13

After our warm up we drilled a few techniques from a Thai clinch. The first was just a way to practice controlling our opponent's head, while keeping our body's relatively safe from his attacks. Things for me to remember: pinch his head/neck with my arms. Put a hand on the crown of his head to keep it under control and deny him the ability to raise it. Keep my chest to his head if possible (keeping me higher than him), and keep my legs far enough back to avoid getting taken down. Step back (tsugiashi) to keep him fighting for balance. Emphasize the body drop during the step by putting weight on his head.

Next we worked on pushing his head out to the side on a recovery step to set him up for a knee and/or elbow to the face. Obviously an MMA or combative application.

We also worked on "shucking" him down to the ground and sprawling over his turtled position. Then we worked on keeping pressure on him while doing a "knee tap" turnover. That was kind of confusing for me. Need more work with it.

Lastly we worked on a counter to being in someone's clinch. It turned out to be a lot like some aikido self defense stuff (in aikido it's from a grab, then you turn his arm over into wakegatame), but we played it as a disengaging/escaping technique. They had no idea how close they were to a maiotoshi. Although the goal wasn't to throw the guy away, but to get out of his clinch and establish a more dominant position.

Instead of rolling tonight we played a game: 2-3 guys would start on the floor, and the rest of us lined up against the wall. Each of us on the wall would take turns going to an available guy on the floor and get in his guard. Bottom guy's goal was to sweep top guy. Top guy's goal was to pass bottom guy's guard. whoever accomplished their goal first stayed on the mat while the loser got back in line. It kept things moving nicely, and allowed us to play positions without being concerned about submissions.

I did ok, I suppose, but I never won. I came close once, almost passing a blue belt's guard. I do remember that I tended to keep getting caught in half guard when I'd try to pass, then get stuck. To the video library!

Monday, September 9, 2013

BJJ, 9-9-13

We started with the usual warm up - arm bar drills from guard and mount. The first part of tonight's instruction was the Ezekiel choke, also from guard and mount. We practiced making it work even if we got swept from mount. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be like this, but my and my partner's Ezekiels kept feeling like more of a pain on the adam's apple than an arterial choke.

Next we worked on the collar choke with a couple of variations / fallback options, and the scissor sweep.

I rolled three times tonight:

Round one was against another no-stripe white belt, but he's been training off and on for 3+ years. He got a few arm bars on me, but I was pleased with my defense while he had my back. I used Saulo's "scoop" defense rather than a more typical bridge, and it served well. Once I "chased" one of his arms, contrary to Saulo's advice, and paid for it. It was easier to remember to keep my hands near my neck for defense after that.

Round two was with a 3-stripe blue belt. It was like rolling with a tree - I couldn't move him. I kept getting caught in the same positions over and over. I hate being in someone's spider guard!

Round three was with our instructor, a 2-stripe purple belt. Again, he was more interested in teaching me that steamrolling me. I was happy with my control on the top. Pat has demonstrated (on me) putting pressure on / smearing bottom guy so many times, that I think I must be picking some of that up. I kept a great position for an anaconda choke, but couldn't remember how it worked, haha! My teacher coached me through it, and I look forward to trying it again. I picked up a couple tricks from a Stephan Kesting DVD that I was able to use tonight: one dealt with "stepping one leg through" (into kesagatame) in response to bottom guy's attempt to control that leg. The other was getting really heavy when you have bottom guy in side control, and "running" from his near leg when he tries to move it toward you. That served me really well, and elicited a compliment on my improved top control.

I was struck tonight by how very cerebral grappling is (while simultaneously being very physically demanding)'s indeed like a chess match; the more counters you know, and the more quickly you can recognize when to use them, the more fun it gets!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Aikido, 9-7-13

This weekend was our fall "Aiki Buddies Gathering".  I could only attend this morning's session. There was a good turn out, and we warmed up with a few throws from koshiki no kata. I've been enjoying these throws. The newer ones I was introduced to today had an almost owaza feel to them.

The main content of the morning session was a handful of aikijo sword disarms. Lots of good info, but descriptions are failing me at the moment. I'd like to experiment and see if any of those techniques can translate to long gun (rifle or shotgun) disarms or throws.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

BJJ, 9/4/13

I went to BJJ tonight for my second class. The warmup was way more grueling tonight, but I can use the exercise.

We began with arm bar drills from guard and mount, then worked on four techniques from the same arm drag entry.  One was the arm-drag-to-back-control we did last time. Next was a strange way to go under his arm and control the opponent's body with your head until you're controlling him from the back again. This led naturally into a fireman's carry throw, and the last technique: a way to take his back if the fireman's throw failed. Things for me to remember: 1) Make the guy take a step and time the arm drag with his footfall (duh, I should have seen that). 2) I need to step around the guy with my inside leg for the arm drag. 3) Lay your opponent's body over you early and get a really good grasp on his leg for the fireman's carry throw.

Next it was time for free sparring. My first round was with the teacher, a 2-stripe purple belt. He was really helpful, reminding me to keep my hands off the mat, and recognize when he was trying for a triangle. He also showed me how susceptible I was to getting swept when my CoB is too high while trying to take his back.

Round two was with a 2-strip blue belt, much bigger than me. I don't remember much besides getting arm barred a lot. really nice, helpful guy though. I find that all the guys have been willing to help, and give me a ton of instruction, but it really is like drinking from a fire hose - I am so befuddled by rolling, it's tough to keep their tips in mind on the off-chance we end up in the same position. I appreciate the 30 words of wisdom tonight, but I think it will take more time and practice before I get it!  :-)

Round three was with a young guy, maybe 12-13. I didn't try to crush him, just let him work his positions. I could have smothered him but I know how unpleasant that is.

Round four was interesting. I rolled with a guy I rolled with last week again. He was much more..."enthusiastic" this time, but a good kid. I'm not sure if it's legal, but while in his guard, I got a very decent kotegaeshi on him. He didn't seem to know how to deal with it, and it basically denied him the use of his left arm for most of the round. When he would try things with his right hand, I would gently prompt him to return his attention to the wrist lock. It worked out well, and I maintained control of him the whole time. I eventually let him out, just to avoid being a punk. His determination not to let me grab his hand again resulted in me getting an elbow to the lip, but it was accidental. It happens.

My last round was with a no-stripe purple belt. He seemed to just looooove the spider guard, and I don't really know how to deal with it, so I felt like a marionette for most of the time. He did let me out of it occasionally. This past weekend, I was getting Pat to help me with some grappling issues I've been having. Namely, getting smothered and shut down, especially under someone's side control. Pat reminded me of a Judo escape from munegatame that involves creating space, then using top guy's attempt to close the space to chunk him over your head and get side control on him. Normally these things make sense and work well for me in drills or practice, but pulling them off against a resisting opponent is another story. Now, don't get me wrong, I understand this guy was in a whole different world than me in terms of skill, and he was toying with me for most of the time... but I'm telling you: there came a time I saw he was about to get me in side control, so I got a little on my side, and pushed back from him as he tried to solidify his position...and as if in slow motion, things started playing out exactly as Pat had demonstrated on Saturday! As he tried to get on top of me, I hugged him, bridged, and threw him over into my side control....Now who's asking the questions?!?   Now, it may be that he just wasn't expecting it and I caught him by surprise, but he didn't let me do it. So whether he was caught sleeping or not, I'll take it as a small victory. There were a couple other times I was able to sweep him, but I believe he was just letting me into the game at those times, sort of allowing it.

Great fun, and great exercise tonight. Looking forward to next week!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Judo, 8/31/13

We spent most of our time with ground randori. Focus was on survival while being crushed. Pat showed me how to get my feet under my butt to get my back off the ground and allow space for my lungs to expand. Neat trick! We worked on creating space that caused bad guy to try to close the space; then using bad guy's recovery attempt to throw him and escape.

My biggest takeaway was that when I'm in a survivable position (top or bottom), I don't have to try to progress. If I try something just because I feel like I have to, I may be giving up an advantage or giving myself a disadvantage. This doesn't apply to sport application, but it was a valuable lesson.

We spent the last 15 minutes or so working on ukigoshi, one of my least favorite throws from the last time we trained judo. Thinking about the off-balance as a "3-pointed bump" helped a lot (right and left arm, plus front footfall).

Monday, August 26, 2013

BJJ, 8/26/13

Tonight I visited the local BJJ school. I'd like to try to return to training there, but we'll see how things shake out.

After a warmup, we drilled some entries into a double-leg takedown. Then we practiced a kind of arm-drag-to-takedown. Similar to the one in this video:

The main instruction for tonight's class was the scissor sweep and the circle (or "flower" or "pendulum", if you like) sweep (videos at the end of this post, for referrence). The scissor sweep was familiar to me, and seemed to work better than it used to during the short time I tried BJJ 3+ years ago. The circle sweep is one I vaguely remember, but was never one I had much luck with. Tonight it felt good, at least while drilling. I need to remember that whichever of my arms has most of uke's arms determines which foot I use to push off his hip with. That makes sense to me, which is ok, since this is mainly to help my retention!

After drilling those two sweeps for a while, it was time to roll. My first round was with a blue belt. Very nice round. He's a very technical guy and didn't have anything to prove to a no-stripe white belt. I think I did ok, even though he was obviously not trying to smoke me. Round two was against a one-stripe white belt that I am positive weighs 50% more than me. Different story here. Apparently he felt like going hard, so he bulldozed me most of the time. No way for me to deal with his mass. I just kept Saulo Ribeiro's counsel in mind: "As a white belt, your job is just to learn how to survive."  I tapped early to an armbar he didn't really have in order not to risk injury to an enthusiastic partner. I tapped once to suffocation that amounted to him just laying on top of me. Other than that, I felt like I did an okay job on defense. I could mount no offense though. Round three was with a much lighter kid than me. Apparently he was only 16 or so. Yellow belt, or some junior rank. I didn't try to kill him. I pulled guard and worked from there the entire 5 minutes. I felt pretty safe, so I experimented with some posture-breaking I learned from a Kid Pelligro app last week. It seemed to work well. I crept closer and closer to a choke, but never got there before time was up.

Overall, it was an intense class, but very enjoyable. I hope to be back soon.

Scissor sweep:

Circle/flower/pendulum sweep:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Judo, 8-24-13

I always planned on picking up another martial art once I reached shodan in Aikido (which happened in April). I couldn't decide whether to return to Judo or start studying karate again. I decided on Judo, and today we resumed my training. I made it to green belt a couple years ago, before quitting to focus on Aikido, so it's going to take me a little time to shake the cobwebs off.

We started with a couple of excercises from koshiki no kata. Really cool demonstrations that disrupted uke's balance in simple ways. Next we practiced our footsweep drill, as well as some solo walking drills. I need to remember to "wipe away uke's footprint" during footsweeps.

We worked on deashi barai, and that one felt surprisingly good to me. We did kouchigari from a failed deashi, and while I was no expert, kouchi felt better to me than it used to. Kosotogari, on the other hand, seemed more difficult than I remember. We played with hiza garuma for a while, and that felt fine. The gentle "foot prop" felt better than I remember. We played with relaxing as a counter to hiza, and being patient to make the foot sweeps work.  We took a brief look at ippon seoinage; I've never been great at that one.

We ended the class by looking at getting a modified osotogari from Aikido's release 1, and release 1 into choke or control.

The plan is to take some time to catch me up to where I was before I quit. If I use a 5 point scale to describe how the basic techniques felt to me today (5 being only as good as I've ever felt about the throw before I stopped training, and 1 being feeling like the first time I've tried it), I would rate them:

Deashi:  5
Kouchi:  3
Kosoto:  1
Hiza:  4

In any case, I'm really excited to be doing Judo again. With the perspective of my longer training in Aikido, I can be a little more patient with my feeling like such a newb in Judo; I'll get it eventually.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Walking, Part 1

Pat recently issued a blogging challenge: write a blog post every day for 12 days, about tegatana no kata, Tomiki Aikido's walking kata. While I don't think I'm going to take up the full challenge (I won't even try for every day), I'm going to try to write 12 posts about walking. I'm not sure I have that much to say about it, so some posts might be very short, and not worth reading.

Tonight as I was thinking about what I might write, I thought I might as well go through the kata once so it would be fresh on my mind. I went into my man cave and had an idea: The room was already a little disorganized since I taught a concealed carry class in it last night. I decided to leave it as it was, and clutter it up a little more for an experiment.

So I began the kata among stacks of CDs, plastic containers, and a chair. Maybe a dozen obstacles in all. I was trying to keep the motions in correct directions, relative to where I was when I began each step, but allowed myself to randomize the direction I was facing before beginning each new step.  I found myself needing to take bigger or smaller steps, even in the same section of movements. Keeping my mind on the footwork to avoid tripping or stepping on something was a new thing. I figure any time I need to move in an aiki-like fashion, it probably won't be under ideal conditions.

So the things I might have gotten out of the experiment were as follows:

  • A slightly more "realistic" practice
  • Confusion that distracted me from doing the arm movements and prearranged "dance steps" just so
  • A more interesting repetition of the kata
  • Avoiding tidying up my room for one more night

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Honor the men, challenge the material"

I came across this fantastic article tonight by Rob Pincus. Besides being right on target, it immediately reminded me of the Great Kata War Pat started on his blog back in January 2010. Here's the post heard 'round the world that started it all.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I'm proud to report that after 22 hours of training this past weekend, I passed my NRA Basic Pistol Instructor course. That means after the paperwork with NRA and Louisiana State Police is all taken care of, I'll be able to teach the class for concealed carry permit applicants!

I learned a lot during the course. Much of the training can be applied to the aikido lessons I teach as well, since they're just good didactic methodology.  Met some great folks, and had a good time shooting. I was originally planning to use the certification to teach family and friends, but the more I learn about it, the more I think I may be able to make a legitimate side business out of it. I'll also use the opportunity to advertise my aikido lessons to my shooting students as well. Devious, I know.

Stay tuned for developments!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kazoku, 1/16/13

After a short review of our shomenate lesson from earlier in the week, Kim and I worked on release 1, focusing on:

  • Timing your footfalls to coincide with uke's.
  • Following uke from a safe position behind his arm.
  • Synching up our feet, and recognizing when and in what direction to push, as determined by uke's steps.
  • Not using strength to lift uke's arm in order to make the technique look like it's "supposed" to; rather, moving our body in such a way that the arms naturally come up, and the "bump" at maximum distance facilitating the rest of the components (lifting the arm, getting behind it, etc.).
  • Evading in such a way that doesn't leave you in a dangerous position. I was having trouble getting this across, until I used Pat's patented "put-a-knife-in-uke's-hand-and-watch-tori-magically-learn-to-evade" trick. Realizing uke could be dangerous really helps you forget about "counting the steps", and get the heck out of the way.
  • We briefly looked at how release 1 provides entries into other techniques. We specifically looked at a release-1-to-junana-3 combo.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kazoku, 1/14/13

Worked with Kim on Shomenate, focusing on:

  • Keeping your center pointing at uke (demonstrating the advantage of doing so) and getting your hands up, via the "cow catcher" drill.
  • Making sure the hands are coming straight up from the shoulders vs making a circular, sweeping motion that imitates what the kata makes tori seem to be doing.
  • Evading to a relationship that allows room for unbendable arms rather than being so close to uke that you have to, you know....bend your arms (demonstrating the disadvantage of doing so).
  • Pointing out a couple places where a kuzushi (off-balance) could be found in the technique (on uke's initial footfall and their recovery step, into kind of a spine lock).
  • Waki gatame as a counter to shomenate.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Obligatory Reflection

I don't have that much to say about my training in 2012, but in the interest of keeping a record of it:

  • I think 2012 may have been my most inconsistent year yet, in terms of attendance. Frustrating. Redoubling my efforts to train more in 2013.
  • That said, I have felt a little more effective than I used to. One lesson that stuck with me from 2012 is that the magic, effortless aiki hocus pocus is great and all, but the bottom line is that my aiki has to work.  This was mainly highlighted by our increased use of a knife during kata practice. 
  • Nothing really happened on the teaching front in 2012, but I'm going to keep trying to build my local club in 2013. Teaching for free, if anyone near Baton Rouge is interested!
  • On a related note, my dear wife finally decided a few months ago that she wants to be forged into a living weapon! Exciting!

What I'm looking forward to in 2013:
  • I may finally make shodan (first degree black belt). Not that I will have "arrived", but it's a landmark, nonetheless!
  • Once I get shodan, I plan on adding another art to my formal study. I still can't decide if it will be karate or judo/BJJ.
  • I will receive my NRA instructor's permit (hopefully by April), so I can teach their basic pistol course and concealed carry classes.
  • I plan on digging in to knife and impact weapon (jo, baton, kubotan, cane, etc) training this year. What was a tangent in 2012 will be pursued with more intent in 2013.
  • I would really like to get Kazoku Dojo up and running; I love teaching this stuff! Maybe I can fish prospective aikido students from groups of my pistol students.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


On the heels of Pat's recent post about blogging, I'm renewing my efforts to regularly blog about my martial arts training. Godin & company make good points.

Additionally, I'm going to start a new blog about my family's prepping efforts. There's nothing there yet, but there will be soon. You can find it at

Talk at you soon!