Tuesday, December 29, 2015

BJJ, 12/29/15

After stretching, we worked on partner drills for scissor sweeps, knee & elbow escapes, pendulum sweeps, and S-Mount arm bars. The version of the pendulum sweep we did was way easier than the one I'm used to. The "pendulum" leg didn't have to do much at all except get out of the way.

I rolled 5 times. I dominated the first two rounds, then fought a black belt (I tapped a lot), a blue belt (I tapped even more), and a brown belt. The brown belt was in the UFC years ago, and has another fight (in a smaller organization) coming up, so he wanted to start all his rounds standing. I was pleasantly surprised at how I did while we were on our feet! Of the 5 times we stood up, I threw him at least twice! One was with an Osoto gaeshi counter to his Osoto gari, one was an ouchi counter to his tani otoshi, and I forgot the other one. And the times he did take me down, it wasn't decisive. Of course he decimated me in the ground, haha. But I felt great after throwing him.

We got a rare treat at the end of class. The instructors had a Q&A for things we've been having trouble with. I was shown how to properly do the running escape from side control. I've been getting into the first position a lot but haven't been able to complete it. Apparently I wasn't controlling top guy's arm. Can't wait to drill it more!  Good class!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

BJJ, 12/15/15

Today we started by doing the both-guys'-hands-in-their-belts guard passing drill. That's exhausting. Then we went over fundamentals of the lasso guard. How to get into it, key points, common mistakes, etc.  Most of our drilling time was spent doing a lasso sweep when your opponent moves around to the inside, or pushes your leg that's on his hip to the outside. It was kind of like this:

Live rolling was a pleasure for a change, and I was pretty happy with my performance, if not my cardio endurance.

Judo, 12/14/15

Last night we worked on miscellaneous mat work in our rank groups. I'm still having a little trouble with the stock turnover, but just because it's new to me. Worked on a butterfly sweep a lot. We didn't have a "whole class" lesson, because the juniors had a promotion night and cut into the adult Judo time. I did one round of ground randori against an enthusiastic white belt who's only been coming a month or two. He had good pressure, and goes a little hard, I guess to compensate for his newness, but my defense was good, and I was never threatened. He was asking if he could work his scissor sweep on me, so I let him. He's having trouble with it, so I showed him the way I tend to do it (keeping my partner away / stretched out rather than pulling his weight on top of me). That seemed to work ok for him as well. We got a few more reps in after class. It's nice to be able to help guys that are even newer than me.

To end the class we had several rounds of tag-team randori, which is always fun.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

BJJ, 12/10/15, and a Rant

I'm kind of frustrated. I've been thinking lately about the typical BJJ pedagogy. At least it's typical to every BJJ school I've ever been to: About half the class (if that) is warming up / stretching, and learning and drilling a technique or two, and the other half of the class is spent rolling. BJJ guys take some pride in the fact that it takes SO long to get a black belt (~ 10 years), but I think the same level of proficiency could be achieved in a much shorter time if more time was spent on technical work, and less on drilling, up till purple belt or so.

I'm not saying eliminate live rolling for lower ranks, just spend more time building a foundation. Rener Gracie has been a big proponent of a similar method (his students don't roll until blue belt). His reasoning is that jiu-jitsu is a martial art designed for weaker people, but the typical approach weeds out weaker people so only the tougher ones ever make it past white belt. I know that's a generalization, and people will argue, but speaking from the perspective of a weaker person, who gets frustrated when he can't do anything with higher ranks (or even other white belts, depending on their experience), I agree with him. Most people aren't going to keep taking that kind of punishment long term. Yes, sticking with it will make them stronger, but it's questionable whether they will stick with it.

There are a few reasons I think it can be so punishing. First, like I said, there isn't enough of a foundation when you first begin. You're expected to learn by experience as you go. "Oh (six months later), I see that letting my elbow get far away from my body opens me up to an attack".  Why not teach things like that on the front end instead of waiting for the universe to reveal it to them. Thankfully I've got enough experience (and had some exceptional teachers) to know enough fundamentals to at least survive for a little while against better grapplers. Secondly, I don't know what it is, but I find Judo's spirit of Jita Kyoei ("Mutual welfare and benefit", or as Pat puts it "you and me getting better together") is missing from every BJJ school I've been in. The typical student (especially white belt, but I've rolled with some blues like this too) just goes so hard in rolling, like there's money on the line. If live rolling is supposed to be a learning experience, it just doesn't strike me as the most efficient way to learn something, going pedal to the medal, all-out, out of the gate. This approach seems to be encouraged (or at least not discouraged) by the instructors. This might sound like whining, and maybe it is; I just feel like it's a shame that jiu-jitsu could be such a beautiful art, but it gets "thugged up", and a lot of the gracefulness is obscured by current training methods.

That brings me to today's class. A guy I'll call Captain Sambo was teaching the class, and had a room full of white belts doing an advanced rolling armlock (we did some basic ones first, as well as some grip breaks). Basically, the white belt I was drilling with was not being at all cooperative. He was trying to stop me from drilling every move we were working on. I don't know if he thought he was doing them better than me because I was actually letting him practice the techniques, but whatever. I just had to work a lot harder to get them to work, and they didn't look as pretty. He was much newer than me, so he probably just didn't know how to be a good drilling partner. Anyway, he was going hard even during drilling. Like he didn't get the point that there was no trophy up for grabs, and we were supposed to be learning the techniques. During the rolling armlock thing, the guy hyper-extended my elbow. Kind of badly. It didn't hurt as badly during the rest of the class as it does now, but it seems to be hurting more and more. Anyway, I was able to finish the class, but don't think I'll make it to tomorrow's class if it's not feeling much better.

To sum up the rest of the class, I rolled with the same white belt first. He was huffing and puffing, and going all out, but I survived everything he tried. I stayed safe, but couldn't work on much offense. Still valuable I guess. Good thing he didn't have a knife.  We started each round standing, and the next white belt I went against seemed like he really wanted to throw me with deashi. I countered with a fine tsubame gaeshi and dropped him soundly. Then I went with a black belt, and of course got nowhere. Next roll was with a white belt that I pressured pretty well the whole time, and submitted him once. Last roll, another white belt, strong guy, that got me with an armbar on my by-then-hurting-much-worse arm.

I'm considering not doing BJJ any more. I still enjoy the kickboxing class a couple mornings per week, so I'll probably continue doing those. I'm still doing Judo a couple nights per week at a much cooler school anyway.  I need to reevaluate whether it's worth me continuing to do BJJ there. It's a sport-oriented school, anyway, so maybe the effort I'm putting in doesn't have enough of a payoff given my personal goals and interests. I guess I was hoping getting more mat time in during the week would help my Judo. Maybe I can still drill with friends a couple times a week for lunch. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Judo, 12/7/15

Last night our rank group worked on all pins and escapes, chokes, and armlocks for yellow, orange, and green belt.  The whole class then worked on okuri iri jime (I think). Clock choke, in BJJ. I didn't realize the clock choke is the same as koshi jime, with one hand placed differently (it grabs a lapel instead of going on the mat in front of the guy).  We also worked on putting weight on the guy's head if he tries to get up out of it. Instinct makes you want to lean on his back to keep him down, but weight on the head does it way better.

I only had one round of light ground randori last night. I tried out that nifty collar choke I mentioned in my previous post, and I'm pleased with it!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

This Week in (My) Martial Arts (Dec 1-5, 2015)

It's been a super busy week, so I haven't had a chance to post. My wife is still recovering from hip surgery, so I've been taking care of her, the house, etc, and I've fallen behind in my training logs.

To compound matters, I've trained a heck of a lot more this week than normal. I've joined UFC Gym, and in addition to a couple of pre-workday kickboxing classes, I've added no less than three BJJ classes per week! They offer them at lunch, so it should be easy for me to make most of the classes.

Here is the breakdown, as I remember it:

BJJ, 12/1/15
We worked on a ground mobility cycle that took us from kesa, to side control, to ushiro kesa, to mount, then up the other side. Basically everything except north-south. The focus was on not getting rushed, and constant pressure.
We also worked on an Americana and straight armbar with the legs, both from kesa.
We wrapped up the class with five, 6-minute rounds of rolling.

BJJ, 12/3/15
We reviewed the two armlocks from the previous class, then went over the following choke from mount:

We rolled for three, 6-minute rounds to end the class.

BJJ, 12/4/15
We reviewed the two arm locks again, then looked at another choke from north-south. I hardly remember the details, sadly. I need more drilling.  We ended with four rounds of rolling.

Karate, 12/5/15
Promotion time is coming up, so 90% of the lesson, we worked on my orange belt promotion material. Kihon, three-step sparring, and heian nidan. I need to fix the following things in heian nidan:

  • My spear hand is too high
  • My back foot always turns out on the second kibadachi, for some reason
  • I need to work my hips more in that same transition
We also went over my tendency to do things really slowly. I need to start moving faster. Not just the strikes and kicks themselves, but from the moment it begins, it all needs to be faster. I'm concentrating a lot on doing it correctly, and that's slowing me down. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Judo, 11/23 and 11/30

The 23rd was just a pre-thanksgiving open mat night. I was a throwing dummy for a fellow orange belt, and he let me work some side control escapes. I got one round of ground randori in, against a yellow belt. One of our school's BJJ students was there watching, and paid me a high compliment: "I like the way you move, very relaxed and flowy."   That's what I'm shooting for, glad it was noticeable.

Last night, the 30th, our rank group worked on green belt throws first, then the whole class worked on the green belt self defense scenarios. I had one round of standing, and one round of ground randori. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Judo, 11/16/15

Our rank group worked on all the ground work for green belt. As a class we worked on an arm bar escape. I had one round of ground randori, but it kind of ruined my night, haha. For one of the first times, I had good control over my huge buddy I frequently roll with. I had a really tight spider guard working and was getting ready to sweep him. Being a mountain compared to me, he was able to pick me up slightly and sort of slam me on the mat. Then he said reset and stopped rolling.

I had no idea what was going on, but the teacher was nearby and explained to me that by "judo rules" if you can pick your opponent's back up even a little off the ground, it's a stop, and you reset. I was appalled. I thought "What kind of martial art is this, that gives an already stronger opponent a greater advantage?"

For the rest of the roll, every time I got caught in something I'd say "oops, let's reset" in a real sissy voice, to make fun of him. That's a laaaaaaaaame rule! I'll be ready for it next time.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Judo, 11/9 and 11/11

For the first class last week (my first class as an orange belt) we worked mainly on ouchigari and a couple different setups. For randori, I only went once, against a black belt, but did okay. I had a nice tani-otoshi, and got lucky with one tai otoshi.

For Wednesday's class, my rank group worked on counters and combos for green belt. The whole class lesson was about ken-ken uchimata. I did better with it than I did the last time we worked on it. I did 2 rounds of ground randori; once against a brown belt. I almost had him in an inverted triangle, but couldn't finish it. Next was against a black belt. I survived pretty well, but couldn't really mount an offense against him.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Judo, Study Group, and Demo, Nov 4th, 5th, & 7th

Wednesday we worked extensively on rank material, and did maybe 4 rounds of ground randori. I was really apprehensive about my uke, but he was able to help me tweak some technique to make throwing him easier - jita kyoei!  There's a "side entry" to ogoshi that really helped, and pulling and twisting more helped my ippon seoi nage.

My uke came over and we worked on rank material for a couple of hours. I'm really glad we did. I think it made a big difference in our demos today.

Rank test! Three of us tested today - one acquaintance of mine tested for green, me and my buddy for orange. It was a grueling, nearly 2 hour comprehensive test. I feel like I did okay for the most part, especially with the ground work. My ogoshi, ippon seoi nage, and seoi otoshi weren't the best I've ever had, but they were 10x better than they would have been a week ago. In the end, I was promoted to orange belt (gokyu), and felt like I earned every inch of it, haha! I should have another 6 months or so until I'm ready to test for green. I feel like I'm going to grow a lot in skill between now and then, so that's exciting.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Judo, 11/2/15

We got lots of work on rank material. I'm testing Saturday for orange belt, and I'm a little concerned because my uke for my demo is ~40 heavier than me. Ogoshi, ippon seoi nage, and to a lesser degree, seoi otoshi are tough against him. I want them to look passable for the demo.

We ended the night with ground randori. I went a couple rounds, and did okay. Lastly, we did a really neat thing - "Tag team" randori!!  Everyone in our rough size group (10-12 people that night) sat in a circle. Two guys would do ground randori in the middle, and at any time, either guy could tag someone sitting in the circle. Then for 5-10 seconds, the tagger and tagee could gang up on the other guy! It was a lot of fun and introduced a situation where grappling is weakest as a defensive art - multiple attackers. I only got in once, but it was great! Trying to neutralize one guy while keeping the other guy at bay with my feet was tough (but somewhat doable, if only briefly).

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Things Pat Taught Me

My long-time aikido teacher, Pat, has been doing a great series of helpful and interesting posts over at www.mokurendojo.com about things his past teachers have taught him. I don't get to train with Pat as much as I used to, but I thought it would be fun to write a post about some things he's taught me over the last 8 years or so.

  • All martial arts are the same - Well, not exactly the same, but different expressions of the same Thing. For the longest time, that was hard for me to swallow, being a guy that loves to categorize things into clearly defined buckets. But the longer I've trained, the more I'm convinced of it. It echoes Funakoshi's sentiment, "all karate is one"
  • You can't be strong in two directions at once - This has been maybe the biggest fundamental concept that has shaped my aikido. Not that I've mastered it, but in a "yielding" art like aikido, this concept has been amazing. It's also helped a lot with my grappling. 
  • Teaching skills by moving on from them - This is something that's helped me as I teach aikido to my students - I have a tendency to camp out on one thing until they get it right, then move on. Pat's approach is to add a "part 2, part 3" and so on so I'm unconsciously getting better at "part 1" while I'm focusing on the new stuff. 
  • It doesn't have to look perfect in order to be Aikido and A hand is as dangerous as a knife - Or it can be, if a knife is in it (and you never know if there is)! A lot of times, we would do the Walking kata, releases, or JuNana with a training knife in one hand. Pat said this was a transformative practice to our aikido and I agree. Techniques had to work, or you get stuck with a knife. They still worked, they just didn't look as pretty as they do in formal kata. 
  • Be mindful - It didn't take me long to realize that after every time....EVERY time we did our Walking kata together, Pat would turn to me and ask "What'd you see there?" It caused me to be introspective and aware of what was going on during the kata, and kept me from mindlessly just going through the motions. I knew I'd have to have an answer! Occasionally my answer was "nothing", but most of the time, I was able to pick out something from the kata that was making it wonky, or something that was working well. Sometimes knowing the question was coming caused me to try something new during Walking just to experiment. I never felt like he was testing me; he was always genuinely interested, and would share observations of his own performance to me. 
  • I'm so bad, I make sixth dan mess up - Pat got this joke from Ms. Miyake, I believe. Sometimes when he would screw something up, he would jokingly put it back on me by saying "You so bad, you make sixth dan mess up". It was, ironically, Pat's way of letting me know he messed up. It was always encouraging to know someone who's been at this maybe 3-4 times longer than me still makes mistakes. 

Judo, 10/28/15

Wow, it has been a solid month since I've been to Judo class. The tournament prep got to be too much for me, but we're past that now, and back to technical work. That makes me happy.

Last night we worked on all standing and ground rank material for yellow and orange belts (I'm testing for orange next Saturday). We spent a lot of good hard work going through all that material. My partner last night was Kelly, who's 50 pounds heavier than me, so some of the throws were a real chore (seoi otoshi, ippon seoi nage, and ogoshi).

We did a couple rounds of light standing randori and a couple of ground randori sessions. I am SLOWLY improving, I think. My standing randori was way more relaxed last night, and Kelly wasn't able to impose his will in every case on the ground last night.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Karate, 10/17/15

We started off with a few reps each of heian nidan and heian sandan. Then we did lots of solo sidekick and roundhouse drills, then moved on to partner drills for roundhouse kicks and a couple of punching combinations. The partner drills were awesome-sauce, and really helped with timing and focus.

A few things I need to work on:

  • Two turns in heian sandan: the one coming out of the spearhand into the spinning hammerfist, and the one where you turn with your hands on your hips before the stomps and elbow "blocks"
  • Need continued work on my roundhouse kick
  • Need to work on "landing" in a good back or horse stance. I keep having to make adjustments ("arbitrary steps" in KG aikido terminology) after moving from one stance to another. 
Might be time to test again next month, so it's time to get to work!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Karate, 10/10/15

We warmed up by going through heian nidan a few times. Again, I need lots of tweaking. Next we worked on the hand and foot techniques and 3-step sparring for the next couple of tests.

One thing I really need to work on is relaxing, loosening up. I tried to get a bunch of slow reps of down blocks over the rest of the weekend, trying to get the feel right. I'm also still struggling getting my hips right during blocking.

Lastly, we did a bit of free sparring. My teacher welcomed me to include some aikido and judo, so I did. One thing about aikido, it's tough against a karate player; they don't leave their hands out there for very long. I was able to pretty consistently catch his roundhouse kick by getting off the line though. A couple times I was able to set up a good tai otoshi, but I had to eat some strikes to do so. All in all, my sparring was better this time around, according to him.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Karate, 10/3/15

Finally got to do some karate again!

We started with a review of Heian Nidan, then I learned Heian Sandan. I love learning new kata!
Next we reviewed line work and three-step sparring for orange and green belt.

Finally he taught me the karate version of a footsweep, ashi barai. Man, that was cool! It seemed a lot less dependent on timing, which I liked. It works while you're avoiding a punch, or as a follow up to a punch of your own. And even if it doesn't drop the person, it puts you in a great position for a follow up attack. I loved it!

My teacher has asked me to give an aikido lesson to his karate class one evening soon. I'm excited about that! Just need to plan it out and make it interesting for karate folk!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Judo, 9/28/15

We're still in tournament training mode, so lots of grip fighting drills again. I got to work with a black belt who was giving me pointers about standing randori. He stressed the importance of keeping a superior grip while denying one to our opponent. Still feels like two separate things to me: gripping and throwing.

We did a few rounds of ground randori, and I didn't do too badly. My new favorite side control escape is still working, but I lack follow ups to chain to it. I'll work on that next!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Karate Konundrum

I love karate. A few things I like about it are:

  • Solo Kata. Karate has way more in the way of solo practice methods than judo or aikido. 
  • Paired kata-based drills. The stuff Iain Abernethy does with regard to kata-based sparring really helps make traditional karate work as a practical means of self-defense
  • Legacy. I just really like the history and rich tradition of karate. 

But as I've said before, it's hard to get training in karate around here. I mean, there are a ton of karate dojos, but very few of them are what I'd consider legit. Of those, the schedules don't work for me, and the teachers I've reached out to aren't keen on doing private lessons. My current Shotokan teacher has been okay, but lately he hasn't been available for lessons. I't been about 3 weeks since I've been able to train with him.

Even though karate provides for solo training, when I'm not doing regular lessons, I'm finding it hard to stay motivated to practice at home regularly. That's on me. 

For all the reasons above, I chose karate for my striking discipline, but if it's increasingly difficult to train, it may not be the best choice for me. Since my main concern is self-defense, the Shotokan I'm learning has to be heavily supplemented anyway. I'm wondering if I should switch over to another striking art. It would have to be something more modern like Krav Maga/Combatives and/or kickboxing/Muay Thai. I think either of those would be easier (more efficient) to learn than karate, and there's a lot of kickboxing around here, even at my judo club. I also have some guys at work that might be interested in kickboxing with me during lunch breaks. 

Even if I stop karate lessons, I can still practice the two kata I know in my free time (heian shodan and nidan). I'm not sure what I'm gonna do yet. Just putting thoughts-to-keyboard to try to sort it out. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Judo, 9/23/15

Wow, super tough class tonight. I didn't feel tip-top going into it in the first place. Anyway, we went over groundwork for our rank groups first. Most of the class was taken up with that. Then we played a game where one guy tried to pin, and the other guy tried not to let him. I know that sounds like normal Judo, but top guy couldn't get to his feet and couldn't attempt submissions. Pins only. Bottom guy couldn't sweep, he could only maintain guard and escape the pins. I started on bottom and pulled my large opponent into my guard. Once I get my feet locked, they stay locked (usually). That was the case here, and he spent the whole time trying to open my guard.

When it was my turn on top, I passed a few times, and always got my partner into turtle, but he's got a huge, stable base, and I couldn't turn him over very well. Oh well, practical self defense is my main concern, and in a self defense situation, there's no reason I'd want to turn a guy on his belly, over onto his back; I'm much safer with his back to me.

Next we did two rounds of standing-to-ground randori, and four rounds of ground-only randori! Brutal!  I don't remember much except my first throw was countered, and me and my brown belt opponent went to the ground pretty quickly. I did escape his side mount and recover guard once! Escaping side control is rare for me so I was pretty excited. I used a spin-out escape I saw on Marcelo Garcia's website. The next few rounds were all a blur. I went against the brown belt again, and did okay (I got a good mount "escape"....that is, a leg entanglement, from a bump/frame/shrimp I learned from Roy Dean's first DVD). The other rounds were against a couple of the heavier guys, so survival was my focus. Most of the time I succeeded! Most of my taps were to my lungs being crushed.

Everyone was spent by the end of class. Good workout! I'm getting better, just very, very slowly.

Judo, 9/21/15

Tough training! We started with grip fighting drills, then moved to a pinning drill. Kesa, to Mune, to Kame shiho, to kesa and mune on the other side, to tate, then back to the beginning. Then another round of it while our partner gave some resistance. Fun drill, and wore me out!

Next we did a few guard passing drills, then ground randori. My partner for the night was Kelly, who outweighs me by 50 pounds or so, and bench presses 350ish. I juts try to survive when rolling with him. He usually gets me in an americana, but mainly using his strength. On the bright side, if I can learn to deal with him, I can deal with most others.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Aikido, 9/19/15

It was so good to get back to doing some aikido over the weekend! We worked on Merritt Stevens' self-defense methods, mainly from an overhand right punch. Lots of good practice! It's always fun to see our stuff work in a slightly more realistic way. So many techniques can come off of the initial "hands-up-get-off-the-line" reaction!

Judo, 9/16/15

Another pretty light night. We got in throwing lines and did a side-version kubi nage and osoto gari. I can't recall what else we worked on. That's what I get for waiting so long to blog! I went one round of standing randori, with a new guy. We traded throws, and I felt pretty good about it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Judo, 9/14/15

Last night was a pretty easy night. First we worked on grip fighting, but it was more conceptual this time, as opposed to finger-rippingly painful. The instructor talked about a couple of things I've been having trouble with in randori lately. Preacher was reading my mail, as it were.

First, we looked at how you can't expect to have an "equal" grip with your opponent and expect to use judo on him. You might get lucky, and be stronger or bigger than him, but if neither of you have a grip advantage, the stronger/quicker/bigger guy is likely to throw the weaker/slower/smaller guy.  Conversely, if you have an advantageous grip, you have a better chance of getting the throw, despite other disadvantages.

Secondly, he talked about how he sees a lot of guys in randori stiff-arming their opponent, and how that in turn makes the other person get strong and stiff-armed, and both guys find it really hard to throw. PREACH!  He talked about how your grip needs to be strong, but your arm should be soft, like an antenna rather than a ramrod... hearkens back to what Pat's been preaching for years! So the idea is if we're using our arm as a "feeler", we can feel where our partner is moving, and tell what throw we need to do, and when. "Connectors instead of effectors", as Chuck Clark used to say.  We worked on a sensitivity drill that I think I got a lot out of. Really brings back some "ju" to the judo we're doing.

We ended the class with hop randori. I went against a pretty new white belt. I felt like I could make my throws work a lot better, and that was encouraging; shows I am growing, despite how I feel against other, more "seasoned" guys.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Good Article Regarding Knives for Self-Defense

Deadly force better be justified if you pull a knife! Check out this post for some good thoughts on knives for self-defense:   http://tgace.com/2015/08/18/cut-to-kill/

Friday, September 11, 2015

Judo, 9/9/15

We're still in shiai prep mode, but it was a fun class. We worked a lot of grip fighting, then moved on to seoi otoshi, and kubi nage or harai goshi, whichever one we wanted. I haven't done much harai goshi before, but I really liked it! I got a couple really good throws with it.

I did one round of standing-and-ground randori, but it was against Kelly, who outweighs me by 50 pounds. He shuts down my throws but I'm getting a little better against him on the ground. It's tough out there on the mats!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Judo, 9/7/15

First, an update:  I recently let my instructor know that although he wanted to get me ranked up to green belt, I only wanted rank verification up to orange. After training in this club for a while now, I have a better idea of where I am in relation to my classmates. And as rusty as I am, I feel way more like an orange belt than green.

Regular classes were cancelled for Labor Day, but they did open the dojo for open mat night!  Only about 7 of us showed up. I got to work with an Ikkyu buddy of mine on my orange belt rank material. Mostly counters to the throws:

  • deashi harai as a counter to Kouchi gari
  • kosoto gake as a counter to ouchi gari
  • tsubami gaeshi to counter deashi
  • osoto gaeshi to counter osoto makikomi
  • sumi gaeshi to counter kibisu gaeshi (this one is really fun!)
We also worked on the two orange belt combos:
  • kouchi to kibisu gaeshi
  • kouchi to ouchi
I had a frank discussion with a couple of ikkyus and a black belt about my frustration with my standing randori. I told them how I feel as awkward with tachiwaza right now as I did with ground randori when I first started. To my surprise, the brown belts feel much the same way! We got to talk about how they've persevered through the exact same frustrations that I'm dealing with now, and some things to try to be more successful. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that the reason a lot of my throws aren't working, is because I'm not fully committed when I throw. I'm hesitant and overly cautious.We'll see if I can keep that in mind next time.

Finally, I rolled once with the brown belt that was teaching me. I did okay, he never tapped me, and I swept him once. I did get him into a "shoulder guard" I learned on a Roberto Abreau video, but forgot what to do with him when I got him there, haha!

I'm glad I went, and it made me feel a little better about my judo. I'm hoping I can make it through this tournament prep season without losing interest!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Karate, 9/5/15

After a warm up, we learned a few one-steps. All are done against a right-handed punch to the face:

  1. Parry with right hand as I evade to the back right, counter with right elbow
    • I need to work on the parry:
      • Don't over-extend my arm
      • Parry with palm, not fingers
      • Use hips for power in the elbow strike
      • Choose my target
  2. Parry with left hand as I evade to the back right, right ridge hand strike to neck or temple
    • I need to work on the arc of my ridge hand. I'm going too "straight in"
  3. Rising block with left hand as I evade to the back left, counter with right roundhouse kick and right punch to the ribs
    • Need to work on judging my distance better so I don't have to readjust after my evasion. Lots of the efficiency of movement we're working on reminds me of aikido.
  4. Rising block with left hand as I evade directly backward, counter with right front kick and right punch to the face
On all of these drills, I need to get used to evading away from uke. I think aikido and judo have made me want to enter. There are times shotokan enters (just like we can also evade away in aikido), but not in these drills.

Next we did some good old line work. Kihon can be hard work! I was ready to hurl a couple of times.

We ended the class with some light free-sparring. It was a lot of fun! Although I was uke for most of it, haha. I'm impressed with (higher level) karate's ability to fight from long range. I suppose aikido and judo are both technically grappling arts, and are usually within one or two arm's lengths. Toward the end I decided to try to stay in short range. There's definitely a different dynamic, but I didn't fare much better. I think my teacher has learned to deal with different ranges after 35 years of practice   ;-)

Looking forward to next time!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Judo, 8/31/15

Last night we drilled some grip fighting, and then got into throwing lines to throw our tokui waza. I don't know what my tokui is, really, but I was hitting some pretty good kouchi's last night. After that we worked rank promotion material, then did several rounds of standing and ground randori. It was a good workout!

I don't know why, but last night was one of those times I found myself thinking "Why am I doing this?"

I can think of a few possibilities, but I can't put my finger on the reason for sure. Possibilities include:

  • I've been doing Judo pretty regularly for 3 months now, maybe I'm just getting tired of it.
  • I missed both classes last week, maybe it's just hard getting back to it.
  • Maybe I'm dissatisfied at how I still feel like a noob, especially in standing randori.
  • Maybe increasing stress at work is making it harder for me to commit 2 nights a week to Judo.
  • Maybe it's because the club is switching into "tournament prep mode" for the upcoming tournament in October. I'm just not interested in shiai at this point.
  • Maybe it's because I was on 3 nights of poor sleep, and I was just "off".
Whatever the case, I'm gonna keep at it, and see if the feeling passes. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Karate, 8/20/15 (Belt Demo)

Thursday I tested for yellow belt in karate. Students from three schools gathered at the Hammond dojo to do their belt demos, 15 of us in all. I was one of 3 white belts testing for yellow. I had to perform heian shodan, hand kihon, foot kihon, and three-step sparring. The way they grade in this organization is "A", "B", or "Fail". I received an "A" and was promoted to yellow belt, which is 8th kyu in this system. I'm just getting started, but they allow you to test relatively frequently, and sometimes you can double-test if you're ready. My instructor thought I might get to double test this time, but there were no yellow belts testing for orange so I didn't get to. No big deal, the work continues.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Judo, 8/19/15

We had a short judo class because a couple of girls were testing for their green belts at the end of class. For our rank group, we did all yellow and orange belt throws. At the end of class, we had 2 rounds of ground randori.

First round: I went against a yellow belt that's normally pretty spry. I was able to use some things I learned from some Ryan Hall DVDs I recently watched. I felt good about this roll, and felt I dominated 80% of the time.

Second round: I went against a guy that outweighs me by 55 pounds. He has a reputation in our club for going a little harder than what's called for in randori, so I wasn't looking forward to it. He just crushed me most of the time, but for 30-45 seconds, I was able to use spider guard to keep him off me. I'm about to watch Stephan Kesting's Spider Guard Masterclass DVDs, so I'll be better equipped to deal with these big lunks!

It was interesting to watch the young ladies do their green belt demos. I should be doing mine in the next 2-3 months. There is a LOT of material covered!  No to take anything away from the girls that tested, but after seeing that demo, I feel pretty good about my technique for when I test myself.

One thing I struggle with is this: If I'm a green belt, should I still be getting dominated by a yellow belt (2 ranks below me) even if he does outweigh me by 50+ pounds?  I think my technique is better while drilling, but randori is a different story. In this particular case, I'm pretty sure he does BJJ as well, so that might account for some of the trouble. In any case, I don't want to only be able to deal with people my size or smaller, so I'm about to really focus on holding my own against much larger guys. Especially since we have 3 of them in our club!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Karate, 8/17/15

Had a make-up lesson Monday night; we worked on nothing but the test material, since I'll be testing for yellow belt tomorrow night, and possibly (hopefully) orange belt.
I guess I'm feeling best about the katas, and worst about the 3-step sparring. I haven't practiced it much, and when I have, my distance is off.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Judo, 8/12/15

Last night our rank group worked on orange belt counters. We only got to about 80% of them though.  I did ok, but I need way more reps. We were running a little behind, so we didn't do a whole class lesson. There were two rounds of randori:

The first round was hop randori, with about 30 seconds of ground randori after the throw. I went against a shorter white belt with a wrestling background. Again, the different body type is tripping me out, but we both did ok. I did get a nice butterfly-ish sweep on him, but it wasn't from butterfly guard. I felt like I did okay keeping my wall up and not letting him pass my guard (much).

For the second round, I went against the same yellow belt from Monday night. I find, especially with him, I'm trying not to play a strong closed guard any more, because I know it works well. I'm trying to explore some other things, and found myself playing a little spider guard with him. It's not a guard I ever do, and I only know one attack from it right now. When I went for the triangle, it was awkward and he saw it coming and escaped. I'm becoming more comfortable opening my guard though. I swept him twice again (and he swept me once). In the end, I got him in S-Mount, and he tapped to my ummmmmmm......"efficient use of gravity" on his chest.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Judo, 8/10/15

Last night our rank group worked on all orange belt ground work. One or two things were new to me, but I felt comfortable with most of it.

For the whole class lesson, we worked on an armbar setup from uke being in turtle.

I rolled twice:

First, with a tall yellow belt. I was feeling really good last night, and felt like I was just "on". In retrospect, I felt like I was a swarm of bees attacking him as he was drowning. I was just having a good night, flowing well from one attack to the next, maintaining good position, etc. I got two good sweeps, and a nice, effortless kata gatame choke - which I credit to the Ryan Hall video on arm triangles I watched over the weekend!

My next roll was with a black belt. I didn't feel as "on" then. I did get a good choke when he started from turtle. But he was alternately letting me play, and dominating.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Judo, 8/5/15

Judo tonight was pretty good...

For the first part of class, I had to demo all the yellow belt material (throws, counters, combos, sweeps & other misc mat work, pins, chokes, arm bars, and escapes) for one of the senior black belts, for him to report back to the head instructor on my performance. So I felt a little pressure. My buddy who's closer to my size wasn't there tonight (my throws look beautiful on him) so I had to demo on a tall, lanky guy. So I don't feel like my performance tonight was my best. Monday may have been my best. In any case, I got through all the material with only a few pointers from our coach, and feel like it was adequate for a yellow belt demo. Not my best, but maybe 75-80% of my best to date, for those techniques.

For the whole class lesson we worked on deashi harai, moving forward and back. I feel like I'm getting my deashi groove back finally. Those went well.

Finally, we did hop randori. I went 2 rounds:

First round with tall lanky guy. We did ok, he's a cool guy and always fun to work with. We both got some smooth throws in.

Second round with the strong yellow belt I was apparently trying to keep my distance from last week. This time I did seoi otoshi right out of the gate, dropping to where he was standing, and yeah, it was much easier. He's a super guy as well, and I always learn something from losing to him. I did get an okay gedan ate on him tonight.

I find maybe the thing I'm struggling with most, with my return to judo, is getting used to the idea that people come in lots of shapes and sizes, haha!  I've found that doing aikido with different sized folks doesn't seem as disparate as doing judo with a variety of body types. Aikido calls for an adjustment here or there when you have to go under a short uke's arm or something, but my mind short circuits when I go from tall, lanky uke, to short n' stout uke.

I'm curious what our coach for tonight had to say to sensei about my pseudo-demo, but I'm not anxious over it. I did my best, it was what it was, and is now in the past. Wish I would have done a little better, but I'm not ashamed either.

Ah well; Kano said the way to get better at judo is to keep going to class. Onward!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Judo, 8/3/15

For our rank group, we went through all yellow belt throws, combos, and counters. Mine were all feeling really good. The ippon seoi nage to osoto gari combo felt a little awkward when done statically, but it works great when uke "floats around" to defend the ippon seoi nage.

For the whole class lesson we did more seoi otoshi, and then a wrong-sided variation. Note: sometimes the wrong sided one works better with only a 90 degree (or so) turn.

Next we did standing randori. I went three rounds.

First round: against a white belt roughly my size. We normally work together well, and are roughly equally skilled.

Second round: Short bulldozer yellow belt that dominated me on the ground last week wanted more. So he made sure to partner up with me this time. We were only supposed to be doing standing randori, but he was insisting on newaza when we went to the ground. I went with it. This time I had him playing defense a lot more than last time. I did tap to being crushed once, but I got an arm bar on him, recovered guard twice, and did a right nice job of playing defense with an open guard this time, if I do say so myself. I've always gravitated to a closed guard if I can get it, but I'm learning I need to adjust my tactics for different types of partners. At one point, I even shoved him away with my feet, far enough to allow me to do a "technical get up", which I never thought I'd use in randori!

Third round: against another heavy weight yellow belt, but a more technical one.  He stayed pretty far away from me and kept leaning in. Normally, I'd go for a hip or shoulder throw if my opponent is leaning in, but in this case, I was scared I'd just pull him on top of me. After talking with him later, I realized I was trying to do all my techniques while staying away from him, too. Next time I'm gonna try harder to take his space with my throws. I did get his back once, but this guy is un-choke-able. He just stood up and I went for a ride.

Good fun, hard work!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Karate Homework, 8/2/15

Last night I decided to start focusing more on the testing material, until I test later this month. To that end, here's what I did:

Stance progression:  10 times each side

Heian Shodan: Three times

Heian Nidan (all of it): Three times

Yellow belt hand technique demo: three times

Yellow belt kicking demo: three times

Yellow belt three-step sparring: once, with my imaginary friend

Orange belt hand technique demo: three times

Orange belt kicking demo: one time, but I'm confused and have reached out to my teacher for clarification.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Karate, 8/1/15

After stretching and going through kihon, we took another look at my heian shodan. Here are the tweaks my instructor suggested this time:

  • My wrist is bent on my rising blocks. I need to straighten it out.
  • I'm still fighting old muscle memory when it comes to my hip direction during blocks. Need more work on that.
  • My back stance is still all jacked up! I don't know why it's so elusive to me, but I'll keep at it. 

Earlier this week, my instructor said he wanted me to test for yellow belt later this month. During class yesterday, he suggested I test for orange on the same night.  I'm pretty confident in the yellow belt material, but nervous about the orange belt stuff. 

He showed me the 3-step sparring stuff I'll need for yellow belt, and the basics demo I need for Orange. In a couple of weeks, he'll show me the 3-step I need for orange. He also showed me the rest of heian nidan. I really like the kata but the second half is totally new to me.

I have a lot of work to do in the next couple of weeks! 

Karate Homework, 7/31/15

Stance progression:  10 times each side

Rising block: 10 times each side, front stance

Down block: 10 times each side, front stance

Front kicks: 10 times each side, front stance

Side kicks: 10 times each side, holding wall

Back kicks: 10 times each side, holding wall

Roundhouse kick (over back of a chair): 10 times each side, holding wall

Heian Shodan: Three times

Heian Nidan (First half): Three times

Yellow belt hand technique demo: three times

Yellow belt kicking demo: three times

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Judo, 7/29/15

Tonight was all about juji gatame! 

First we drilled the typical one, from bottom guard, then the typical one from the top, from mount.

Next we worked on a few ways to get the arm from the top when bottom guy doesn't extend it for you. First was a "climbing juji", using your knees to get his arms out. Then, doing the same thing, but  doing things like figure-four-ing the arm you're attacking, picking bottom guy up on his side by his arm, sitting on his ribs, and doing a bicep crush when he won't let you get the arm loose.

Finally, we looked at how to slip out of an arm bar if you can pull it off quickly enough (grab your own lapel, shove their bottom leg under your leg and trap it, put their top leg behind your head, then turn into them). Has to be really fast. I tried it in randori later, but my opponent got the bicep crush on me anyway.

I rolled three times:

1. With one of the large yellow belts. Again, he dominated, but I'm determined to learn to deal with him.

2. A brown belt about my size. Sometimes I do okay against him, but tonight he was a little more aggressive. No big deal, I wasn't ashamed of my performance.

3. Against a 3rd dan. I think I surprised him a couple times. Once I escaped his arm bar attempt and turned it into a sweep. I also had him in open guard and nearly turned it into a triangle, but time ran out. He was obviously letting me play, which I appreciated.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Karate Homework, 7/28/15

Stance progression:  10 times each side

Punches: 10 times each side, horse stance

Backfists: 10 times each side, horse stance

Backfists with step: 10 times each side, horse stance

Rising block: 10 times each side, horse stance

Down block: 10 times each side, front stance

Inside block: 10 times each side, front stance

Outside block: 10 times each side, horse stance

Knife hand block: 10 times each side, back stance

Front kicks: 10 times each side, front stance

Side kicks: 10 times each side, holding wall

Back kicks: 10 times each side, holding wall

Roundhouse kick (over back of a chair): 10 times each side, holding wall

Heian Shodan: Three times

Heian Nidan (First half): Three times

Yellow belt hand technique demo: three times

Yellow belt kicking demo: three times


  • I feel like I'm "getting" back stance better today. 
  • Both my hips are killing me from side and roundhouse kicks - they're not used to that range of motion. 

Judo, 7/27/15

Last night my rank group worked on all yellow belt material. It was good to run through the whole set of material pretty quickly. Again, I'm feeling pretty good about this set of stuff.

For the class drills we worked a couple of triangle entries (lapel grab and arm control), then the cross body arm lock, and the leg-grabbing sweep version of that. Wrapped up with the flower sweep. My triangles and flower sweep started to feel better this time.

I had a couple rounds of ground randori. My partner was another guy with a wrestling background, so he gave me a lot of trouble. He was light and spry, and it was tough to get him in guard. Once I did, I could dominate, but it only happened once. Also had better luck with survival and escapes due to his lighter weight.

Standing randori was with the same guy. I had a decent kouchi-to-ouchi combo, and a good ogoshi counter. I also pulled of a very pretty deashi, which I normally don't get during randori.

Karate Homework, 7/26/15

Stance progression:  10 times each side

Hip rotation:   10 times each side

Punches: 10 times each side, horse stance

Backfists: 5 times each side, horse stance

Backfists with step: 5 times each side, horse stance

Rising block: 10 times each side, horse stance

Down block: 10 times each side, front stance

Front kicks: 10 times each side, front stance

Side kicks: 10 times each side, holding wall

Back kicks: 10 times each side, holding wall

Heian Shodan: Twice

Heian Nidan (First half): Once

Yellow belt hand technique demo: three times

Yellow belt kicking demo: three times

My main focus this time was on correcting my back stance; keeping my torso upright instead of leaning back.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Karate, 7/25/15

Today was my second private karate lesson. We warmed up by doing a neat little stance progression that went like this:

  • Move into a front stance with either a punch or low block, I can't remember which
  • From there, the front leg comes back, then out into horse stance with a side elbow strike
  • The same leg moves backward into back stance while doing a knife hand block
  • Move same leg into front stance and it cycles for X repetitions
  • Repeat on other side
    • Things to remember:
      • Keep hips at same level throughout all movements
      • My back stance needs work
This was a great warmup, and I need to build more endurance to do much of it.

We warmed up more with some front kicks, side kicks, and a 2-person roundhouse kick drill. I need to make all my kicks more fluid. So far I keep breaking all the details down in my mind and it makes for choppy technique. We also did a few back fists and back fists with a kind of lunging step. I need to remember to breathe through all my movements, especially kicks.

Next we looked at the rank material for yellow belt. Seemed pretty straight forward. 
  • For hand techniques, you demonstrate 
    • three punches while moving forward in front stance 
    • three rising blocks while moving backward in front stance 
    • three forearm / outside blocks while moving forward in front stance
    • three knife hand blocks while moving backward in back stance
  • For foot techniques, you demonstrate
    • four front kicks while moving forward in front stance
    • four side kicks while moving sideways in horse stance
      • remember hips must not turn at all during these
  • Three step sparring
    • We haven't covered this yet
  • Kata
    • Heian shodan
      • I need to clean up my high blocks
      • I need to really work on my knife hand blocks and back stances
      • I also need to work on my hip direction during high and low blocks
Karate is turning out to be really hard work. Now to get to practicing!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Judo, 7/22/15

Last night we drilled nothing but guard passes. We covered:
  • Thigh press guard pass
  • Separation / Step back guard pass
  • Stacking guard pass
  • Stack and flip guard pass
  • A few more variations I'm struggling to remember

Afterward we rolled a good bit. I went four rounds:

  1. Against a brown belt, roughly my size, I feel like I did well against him, at least positionally (I had some okay escapes, and maintained superior position for a while). I also remembered to play the choke threat / armbar and armbar threat choke game, but didn't get to pull it off (I would have tried for an armbar once, but another pair of folks was right behind us).
  2. A really smooth older black belt, that lets me into the game as well. I like rolling with him, but he gives me lots of trouble!
  3. A 275 lb short stocky yellow belt bulldozer. Once he gets on top of me it's over. I did almost pull off an armbar / triangle / spider guard defense, but only for a minute. It's ridiculous to even try to go against guys so much bigger than me at this point. Hopeless.
  4. A yellow belt closer to my size and skill. We always give each other a good challenge. He got an americana on me once, and I got a tee-pee triangle on him to end the night.
Lots of hard work!

Karate Homework, 7-23-15

Stayed in front, back, and horse stance, for 30 seconds each side

Walked the floor in front and back stance, 4 steps each, total.


  • Punches: 20 each side, all from front stance.
  • Backfists: 20 each side, all from horse stance.


  • Rising block: 10 each side, all from horse stance.
  • Down block: 10 each side, all from front stance.
  • Inside block: 10 each side, all from front stance.
  • Outside block: 10 each side, all from front stance.
  • Knife hand block: 10 each side, all from back stance.


  • Front kicks: 10 each side.
  • Side kicks: 10 each side.
  • Back kicks: 10 each side.
  • Roundhouse set up (Leg lift only): 10 each side.
  • Roundhouse set up (lift and rotate only): 10 each side.


  • Hip rotation: 20 each side.


  • Heian Shodan: 2 repetitions.
  • Heian Nidan (to the first kiai): 3 repetitions.

Karate Homework, 7-20-15

Figured maybe I overdid it last time, so trimmed it back a little, but for endurance and time's sake.

Stayed in front, back, and horse stance, for 30 seconds each side.

Walked the floor in front and back stance, 4 steps each, total.


  • Punches: 20 each side, all from front stance.
  • Backfists: 20 each side, all from horse stance.


  • Rising block: 10 each side, all from horse stance.
  • Down block: 20 each side, all from front stance.
  • Inside block: 20 each side, all from front stance.
  • Outside block: 10 each side, all from front stance.
  • Knife hand block: 10 each side, all from back stance

  • Front kicks: 10 each side.
    • Focused on keeping hips close to the same height throughout
  • Side kicks: 10 each side.
  • Back kicks: 10 each side.
  • Roundhouse set up (Leg lift only): 10 each side.
  • Roundhouse set up (lift and rotate only): 10 each side.


  • Hip rotation: 10 each side.


  • Heian Shodan: 2 repetitions.
    • Focused on my 3 "tweaks"
  • Heian Nidan (to the first kiai): 2 repetitions.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Karate Homework, 7/19/15

I figured I'd log my solo practice times as well, since my karate lessons will be sporadic.

Tonight, I measured out where my feet should be for front, back, and horse stances, and put tape on my mats. The goal is muscle memory, so I can naturally find the right stance. 

Stayed in front, back, and horse stance, for 30 seconds each side, 3 times (so 90 seconds in each stance, for each side in the case of front and back stances).

Walked the floor in front and back stance, 12 steps each, total.


  • Punches: 20 each side, all from front stance.
    • Focused on keeping elbow close to body throughout the punching motion (for the pulling hand too).
  • Backfists: 20 each side, all from horse stance.


  • Rising block: 20 each side, all from horse stance.
  • Down block: 20 each side, all from front stance.
  • Inside block: 20 each side, all from front stance.
  • Outside block: 20 each side, all from front stance.
  • Knife hand block: 20 each side, all from back stance.
    • Focused on proper chambering


  • Front kicks: 20 each side.
    • Focused on proper foot angle, and pulling the foot back quickly after the kick
  • Side kicks: 10 each side.
  • Back kicks: 10 each side.
  • Roundhouse set up (Leg lift only): 10 each side.
  • Roundhouse set up (lift and rotate only): 10 each side.


  • Hip rotation: 20 each side.


  • Heian Shodan: 3 repetitions.
    • Focused on the 3 tweaks mentioned yesterday.
  • Heian Nidan (to the first kiai): 3 repetitions.
I'm also working on the "relax-tighten-relax" concept in each technique. It's tough to stay loose throughout, especially when practicing slowly.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Karate, 7/18/15

For a long time now, I've wanted to train karate as well. I've always felt like it would round out my martial art identity, so to speak, since I've been lacking a striking art. I trained in Tang Soo Do when I was a teenager, but that was more than 25 years ago. I've dabbled in it a few times since then, but never trained seriously.

I've always been drawn to shotokan karate for a few reasons:

  • The lineage (even though Funakoshi hated the idea of karate being splintered into different styles, and said they are all just "karate").

  • The popularity - There is more supplemental material out there for shotokan than any other style.That's a big deal if a lot of practice will have to be done solo.

  • Greater standardization - it's easier to know what's expected from you in shotokan.

  • Given how much more popular karate is than aikido or judo, you would think I would be able to find some training pretty easily, but I haven't. My schedule won't allow me to train both karate and judo on weeknights, and it's turned out to be pretty difficult to find teachers who are willing to do private lessons on Saturday mornings. Long story short, I finally found someone willing to give it a go, and this morning was my first lesson.

    Shotokan guys, for better or worse, are pretty concerned about precision; doing a technique "right" and not "wrong" from the get-go. I can think of pros and cons to that approach, but for now I like it. I feel like, as in aikido, when we practice something "correctly" for thousands of reps, we will subconsciously recognize when we vary from it or something isn't quite right. I really like having a baseline.

    We covered a ton of material today, and my plan is to work on it daily at home.

    • Front stance
    • Back stance
    • Horse stance
    • Reverse and Lunging punches
    • Knife hand
    • Back fist
    • Rising block
    • Down block
    • Inside block
    • Outside block
    • Kife hand block
    • Front kick
    • Side kick
    • Back kick
    • Roundhouse kick
    • Walking in front and back stances
    • Hip rotation
    • I ran through heian shodan. He said I would have passed my first belt test based on my performance, but he did make 3 tweaks I need to work on: longer stances in my knife hand blocks at the end, a contract-and-expand chamber for the knife hand blocks, and a fuller front stance on the hammer fist at the beginning.
    • He taught me heian nidan up to the first kiai. 

    Judo, 7/15/15

    For our rank group, we worked on orange belt throws.

    Kouchi gari - small inner reap. Mine felt better tonight. I suspect it was a kind of new way I'm thinking about the quick step. Hard to explain in words, but just to remind myself, I'm going for more of a step replacement, than two separate, but faster steps.

    Ouchi gari - large inner reap. Still a little awkward with this one. Need more reps.

    Deashi harai - advanced foot sweep. I felt much better with this one this time. I got a compliment from the black belt helping us on my timing.

    Osoto maki komi - large outer wrapping throw. This was the first time I've done this throw. According to the YouTube videos I watched, it's good for putting some gravy on an osoto gari that isn't quite working. We worked it as it's own thing though, something to use when uke lowers his center of gravity too low to get a normal osoto.

    Kibisu gaeshi - heel pick reversal. This is probably the throw I feel best about from this set.

    For the class lesson, we did a throw James called "ken-ken uchi mata".  It's a hopping version of uchi mata that apparently is a little easier on uke, and can be done without the full commitment of a normal uchi mata. The trick is to hop toward uke to get him to fall. Every rep was scary, groin-wise, but we all made it out okay.  Here's a video to remind me how it goes:

     Lastly, we did a few rounds of hop randori. I had to go against a much shorter, much....stockier guy. It was okay, but not my best night of standing randori.

    Monday, July 13, 2015

    Judo, 7/13/15

    Tonight the rank group I was in worked on yellow belt throws and counters/reversals.

    All five of my throws felt really good tonight. The white belt I was working with did great too. #JitaKyoei  

    Ogoshi - counter with an "inside cut to throw". Basically, uke steps around and throws with an ogoshi of his own.

    Ippon seoi nage - counter with a hip block (with the sleeve-grip hand), and moving around in front of your partner.

    Seoi otoshi - counter with a sprawl and koshi jime (hip choke).

    Osoto gari - counter by planting the left leg back, and hopping around backwards to throw with an osoto of your own.

    Morote gari - this is the only counter we didn't get to look at tonight. The syllabus says it's a "sprawl and turnover to pin". I'll have to wait to see this one.

    For the class lesson, we did the same 4 techniques from goshin jutsu that we did last week (see previous post).

    Lastly, I did one round of light standing randori. My partner and I both got some solid techniques. I was having more trouble with my footsweeps than he was, but I did get a couple counters on him. I've also been wondering if something would work, and I got to try it tonight in randori: A number 13 from junana hon kata in aikido (tenkai kote hineri) into a tai otoshi. It was really cool. The standard grip break led into the 13 well, and made a beautiful air fall for the tai otoshi (the kind you see in fancy demos)!

    For the first time since I started judo again, I felt like I'm getting close to being ready for my yellow belt rank verification. A couple more techniques to look at, and a lot more reps, and I should be good.

    Saturday, July 11, 2015

    Judo, 7/8/15

    Our rank group practiced the following:

    Juji gatame - Cross body arm lock. This one needs to become even more ingrained in my muscle memory.

    Tsukikomi jime - Thrust choke. This one is still a little senseless to me. It isn't a strong technique, so I'm just looking for the principle in it. I learned I could use my fist to finish it if I'm not getting the gi choke.

    Sode garuma jime - Sleeve wheel choke. Nothing to note here. Easy-peasy.

    Ude garami - Entangled arm lock. All variations. BJJ calls each thing something different, but I like how Judo terminology doesn't care as much about what direction or shape it takes.

    Ude gatame - Arm or shoulder lock. Same deal.

    For the main lesson, we practiced Sankaku, or triangle choke. This is another one I need to make second nature. I need to be able to do it without thinking about it as much. I also need to remember to angle my body enough. I do remember to angle out, but forget to do it more when I'm not quite getting it.

    At green belt, our curriculum begins requiring self defense techniques. Tonight we covered a couple techniques I recognized from the goshin jutsu kata, and two others. They were defenses from a standing rear naked choke (ushiro jime) and bear hug (over the arms, kakae dori), then from a bear hug under the arms, and a full nelson.

    I liked James' description of the techniques, and how he differentiated between the way we practice and the way they might be used in real self defense.

    I rolled with two people:

    The first time was a yellow belt, that I usually hold my own against. Tonight was no exception. I think he got me with an Americana (I need to start thinking in Judo terms). I got him with a collar choke, and once with dojime (diaphragm choke, body choke, whatever - I squoze the oats out of him while he was in my guard).

    The second guy I rolled with is 50 pounds heavier than me and bench presses 335. So he's always a big challenge. After being manhandled again and again, I finally steamrolled him backwards, and made a quick transition into north/south. FINALLY! For the first time with this guy, I wasn't just trying to survive. He actually kicked his legs in desperation a little as I suffocated him with my belly. Time ran out before I could finish it, but I have a new strategy for him now!

    Tuesday, July 7, 2015

    Judo, 7/6/15

    Last night our group worked mostly on yellow belt groundwork.

    Hadake Jime - rear naked choke. I usually prefer the figure-four-ish, hand-behind-the-head version, but last night, the gable grip version was working better for me than it normally does.

    Koshi jime - hip choke. Got it good and tight; hardly had to walk around to get the choke.

    Escapes from kesa gatame and yoko shiho gatame - Head push, bridge and roll, shrimp, guard recovery.

    Guard passes - thigh press, stack, separation/step back pass, and leg hug (my least favorite).

    Turnovers - cross face, half nelson from the side, half nelson from the front. Our teacher emphasized that these weren't nuanced, technique-driven moves, but more like "imposing your will".

    Sweeps - hip bump and scissor sweep. Emphasis on getting uke up on the knee more. It felt harder to me doing it that way. I've always had decent success doing the sweep with uke in front, rather than on top of me. I'll keep working with it.

    Then the entire class worked on a juji gatame sweep from guard, as well as a pendulum sweep.

    I rolled twice; the first time was with another white belt with a strong wrestling background. I couldn't do much with him, although I defended pretty well. I'm happy with survival right now! He got me in one arm bar, and I actually got one guard recovery from under his side mount, which is unusual for me.

    The next time was with a yellow belt I normally give a lot of trouble, but this time he was determined not to get in my guard. His pressure was good, I was playing a lot of defense the whole time. I did catch him in a good wrist lock, but didn't finish it - I was using it more to control his hand to keep him from attacking with it. Saved my bacon.

    I felt like maybe it wasn't my strongest night, rolling, but that's part of it. Ebb, flow, yin, yang, etc. Looking forward to tomorrow night!

    Tuesday, June 30, 2015

    Judo, 6/29/15

    Tonight's class was chock full of judo goodness!

    First we drilled (most of) our Orange belt throws:

    Kouchi gari - small inner reap. Wasn't bad tonight. The guy teaching us got us to emphasize stepping off the line better with our back foot, to help the throw.

    Ouchi gari - large inner reap. He showed us a version I'm not accustomed to, where tori kind of drives into uke with his hips, to make uke take a turning step. The reap takes place when his second foot comes around to square up against you again.

    Deashi harai - advanced foot sweep. Nothing to add here, still need more reps.

    Kibisu gaeshi - heel pick. This one felt pretty good.

    We didn't have time to work on the last orange belt throw, osoto maki komi, which is a shame because I haven't seen that one yet. 

    Next we did a drill with a "sticky foot deashi". Tori would stick his foot to uke, and uke would lift it up a bit, then they play a game where uke tries to survive and tori tries to throw. I didn't do so well at it, my uke kept turning around backwards, and since the drill was for deashi, I didn't want to throw him with something else.

    Ground randori was next. I rolled with a yellow belt, and got a collar choke I was unusually proud of. It was a lot "cleaner" (better technique) than I usually get. It felt more effortless. I think the difference was me remembering to break his posture down more. I also had a really good scissor sweep, that I set up well ahead of time and worked beautifully. 

    The next guy I rolled with was a black belt, and things didn't go so well for me ;-)   I kept getting caught in side control again. I get the concept that I need to start escaping side control before I'm in it, but I haven't been able to pull it off yet. 

    Finally, we did some "hop randori". Pretty light, not attacking with 100%, and not defending with 100%. My partner was the same black belt I just rolled with. He's left handed, which made most of the throws I'm used to doing awkward (impossible). I did get a couple of smooth morote garis I was proud of, a very sloppy osoto gari (at least he fell), and a "wrong sided" tai otoshi.

    I need waaaaaaaay more work on standing randori. Lots of fun!

    Wednesday, June 24, 2015

    Judo, 6/24/15

    Tonight we worked on chokes and joint locks from the yellow, orange, and green belt requirements.

    Hadake jime - Rear naked choke. This one's easy. Tonight we worked on a variation I don't normally do, with a different grip and different angle.

    Koshi jime - Hip choke. This is sort of like a clock choke, and I was getting it better than I did last time we drilled it. I need to remember to keep my non-gripping arm close to uke's neck.

    Juji gatame - Cross arm body lock. Another one I've had some experience with. I need to remember to scoot in close to uke's shoulder, glue his arm to my chest, and squeeze my legs together during the arm bar.

    Tsukikomi jime - Thrust choke. This is a new one for me, and for an orange belt choke, it was a little challenging. It's a collar choke with both hands are on the same side. I'm not sure why it's included in the curriculum, as it's ridiculously easy to escape, and the black belt working with us tonight said it won't work against anyone higher than a white belt. In any case, I need to work on it more.

    Sode garuma jime - Sleeve wheel choke. It's the same as BJJ's Ezekiel choke. Black belt's tip: start with both hands facing each other - turning the hands finished the choke easily.

    Ude garami - Entangled arm lock. It looks like this can be in either direction - like an Americana or Kimura. We practiced the Kimura variation from the bottom as well as the side mount.

    Nami juji jime - Normal cross choke. Again, one I've done for a while.

    Ude gatame - Arm or shoulder arm lock. Sort of like juji gatame but without turning uke over.

    Lastly, we rolled. My first round was with the same yellow belt I rolled with last week. I submitted him once with an Americana, and nearly got him to tap from a diaphragm choke (squeezing the air out of him with my tight closed guard). Between pressure on his abdomen, and collar choke attacks, I kept him pretty busy.

    My last round was with the black belt that worked with the yellow belt and me tonight. I tapped a lot. I did pass his open guard a couple of times, but he was undoubtedly dialing it back for my sake.

    Another good workout. My left shoulder has been hurting every time I leave class. The kind of pain you'd expect from not tapping to an Americana. But I do tap, early and often, so as not to take chances on injury. I don't know what the deal is, maybe I just need to get conditioned to this stuff again, or maybe it's injury-prone now. Turning 40 hasn't been a picnic!

    Tuesday, June 23, 2015

    Study Group, 6/23/15

    My buddy (BJJ purple belt) came over tonight to drill in my new "dojo room". We drilled lots of reps of ippon seoi nage, seoi otoshi, and a ton of reps of kouchi gari. Mine weren't as good as last week in class, but that's the point of drilling, right?

    We drilled a turn-over back attack for a while, then drilled a bunch of triangle set-ups. It's amazing how much easier a technique is when you do it correctly. All the things that make it work, the angles, etc, make it more effortless when done correctly. I've been having trouble finishing triangles, and it turns out I was forgetting to change the angle of my upper body.

    We finished with a couple rounds of light rolling. I'm hoping I didn't wear myself out too much for judo tomorrow!

    Saturday, June 20, 2015

    Aikido, 6/20/15

    Today I was able to get back to Pat's for some aikido. After walking kata and releases, we worked on junana. Pat talked about how in a way, our aikido works only when uke resists us. So when uke gets solid, or resists in some direction, he's weak 90 degrees to that direction. The old "you can't be strong in two directions at once" principle.

    It felt like kind of a deeper look at what's going on in the techniques, and some practice moving from one technique to another when uke resists. Pat pointed out that causing a vibration by bumping or "juking" uke makes him resist and allows you to execute another technique. It reminded me of the old "strike to lock, lock to strike" idea from kung fu, jeet june do, etc.

    We played a little randori, and for some reason, I kept reverting to junana 13. My tokui for the day I guess.

    Finally, we looked at owaza, and how it's different from junana. We looked at both the distance uke attacks from and consequent late timing in some of the techniques, as well as the greater separation in some of owaza compared to the same techniques in junana.

    Hopefully I can train aikido more frequently from now on. Even with the other martial arts I'm dabbling in, aikido is still my favorite. If I had to pick one traditional art that best fit my self defense philosophy, aikido would still be the one. Judo and karate are great when the context calls for them, but in my opinion, aikido allows for more options, and might cover a wider range of circumstances.

    Thursday, June 18, 2015

    Judo, 6/17/15

    Last night was my first class as an official member of the judo club I've been visiting. We worked mostly on the following throws last night:

    Kouchi gari - I remember always having trouble with the timing on this one, but I think last night I figured out what I was missing. It worked better when I remembered to off balance in a way that made uke's step bigger. That fixed my timing issue. I got a few beautiful ones, with both of uke's feet going leaving the ground.

    Ouchi Gari - this one works ok for me, although I don't feel like it's smooth, and I always fall on my partner as well. Need more drilling.

    Deashi harai - this is the one I'm probably most familiar with, but for some reason, I just wasn't pulling it off last night. I think I'm so rusty, I've forgotten what to do with my hands, and I know for a fact, on some reps I was sweeping for the fences, and that was killing the throw.

    Kibisu gaeshi - heel hook takedown. Felt really good to me.

    I only rolled for one round last night, against a yellow belt. I did well; kept him in my guard almost the whole time, until I swept him shortly before the round ended.  I need to work on my chokes from guard. I usually feel like I get close, but I have trouble finishing it.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    Judo, 6/15/15

    Last night I went for a third trial class at the local judo club. I'm glad I did; for my first two classes, I knew I was rusty, but it felt like drinking from a fire hose. Too much info, not enough repetition. It turns out they are just preparing for a big tournament this weekend. I suspected that might be the case. Before last night, there seemed to be a strong competitive focus there, which isn't my thing. After class, the owner told me he teaches in cycles that alternate among kata focus, self-defense focus, and during certain times, competition focus. I think I can deal with that.  I'm meeting with him this afternoon to get a couple more questions answered, then I'll make my decision about whether to join. I'm 95% sure I will though.

    So last night, while higher-level belts were practicing for the tournament, he separated us white belts, and had a black belt go through the list of yellow belt requirements with us. I enjoyed the slower pace, and technical focus. I'm analytical by nature, so breaking things down helps me a lot.

    For throws, we covered ogoshi, seoi otoshi, osoto gari, ippon seoi nage, and morote gari.  We went over two pins: kesa gatame and yokoshiho gatame, with an escape or two from each pin ("head push" and bridge-and-roll for kesa, and a neck pushing, shrimping guard recovery for yokoshiho).
    We also did rear naked choke, and koshi jime, a "hip choke". It was kind of like a clock choke from BJJ.  The only arm attack we went over was the cross-body arm lock, juji gatame.

    Finally, for "miscellaneous mat work", we did a cross-face turnover, half-Nelson turnover, and scissor sweep.

    Saturday, June 13, 2015

    New Dojo / Training Room!

    After we got back from family vacation, my daughter and I switched our rooms around - her bedroom moved to my workout room and vice versa. Since we were moving, we decided to paint and put new floors down. With my wife's help, we turned the new workout room into a "convertible" training room / dojo!  She was nice enough to let me adorn the walls with lots of cool stuff too. Pictures below!

    I put a small (32 inch) TV on the wall with a built-in DVD player. Then put a shelf under it with all my martial arts and workout DVDs and books.  That's a karate kanji to the right of the TV, and a krav maga symbol above it. My aikido shodan certificate hangs to the left. There's a "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign above the door.

    The closet, with an aikido kanji to the left, and judo to the right.

    My new weight bench & mat, and my grappling dummy punching bag. This wall was left blank because I'm thinking of putting a folding weight rack on it later in the year. For now, dumbbell workouts are fine for me.

    The fourth wall, with a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu triangle to the left of the window, and "Pierson's Three Pillars" to the right, haha!

    One of my favorite things about the room is how quickly and easily I can make space:

    Everything fits in the closet completely, and I have a dumbbell rack in there as well. Takes about 30 seconds to go from workout room to empty space:

    With the floors clear, I have enough room for karate kata and floor work, or I can put down my 8'x8' mats for throwing or grappling. The 8x8 is okay for now, but I plan on replacing it with a 10'x10' roll-out Dollamur mat when I'm able to.

    Along with the new mats and weight rack, future plans include a heavy bag, and maybe a throwing dummy. Hope you enjoyed the tour!