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 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!