Little House In Ise

Aikido with my Kids
June 29, 2008, 21:57
Filed under: Aikido, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

Kokoro has been complaining about not being able to do rolls properly. She has been doing what we used to call “egg rolls” — going over from side to side rather than shoulder to opposite butt-cheek. I was proud that she knew it was wrong and even more pleased that in her frustration she came to me for help. As an aiki-geek papa, any opportunity to share my geekiness with the kids makes me super happy. They can sense my enthusiasm and we have a lot of fun.

My plan was to go to Cosmic Center (a public gym) and use their mats but heavy rain dampened that idea… So, when Kokoro brought up rolling again we went up to her room and arranged the interlinking, soft, ABC pads on her floor and did very small rolls. The Squirt favors one side but other than that was actually looking pretty good. I decided that we needed to do a bit more so we tried some forward flat falls. I emphasized the forearm to floor contact for preventing wrist injuries since it seems to be a detail often skipped in kids ukemi training. She caught on quickly and soon we were both making horrible thumping noises banging on the floor.

The noise brought Ray in and he immediately said, “Papa, do yokomen uchi!” Silly me, I did. It turns out that yokomen uchi shihonage is his favorite technique and he has really been wanting to show it off. So he did it hard — it’s a small room and if there had not been a nice friendly wall to keep me up I would have gone down for real. Training at Honbu has really added some oomph to my little boy’s Aikido!

Fourth graders are the youngest kids in that class and so there are a lot of bigger kids. Given his almost five years of Aikido, Ray outranks a lot of them and is the only fourth grader that lines up with the junior-high and high-school kids. That seems to bother some of them — so they resist. Resistance training isn’t always bad for the partner with more advanced skills. For the bigger, less skilled partner, their own resistance may cause trouble but I haven’t heard any complaints if it has. Anyway, Ray has learned how to move and has picked up a trick or two. When I resisted (lightly) his second attempt at shihonage, The Big Guy stuck his foot behind my heel and downed me AGAIN! 🙂

Kokoro of course wanted to show off too and she requested that I strike shomen. She did a lovely little ikyo omote. Since she chose that one, I assumed it was her favorite but she corrected me. Her favorite technique is irimi nage and the variation she is comfortable with is a very Steven Segal-esque direct entry irimi nage that just does not match the image of a pretty-in-pink, gap-toothed, six-year-old having trouble with rolls.

I am definitely going to be more careful the next time I give these kids a time-out…



More Bathroom Humor …
June 21, 2008, 15:12
Filed under: Family | Tags: , , ,

I thought I would share a smile with you.

I was in the bathroom, wishing that the long stick incense that was there fit our short stick incense burner. I called Ray over and asked him to get me some scissors so I could shorten a stick or two. It was a strange request for that special time that most people use for meditation.

Ray asked, “Why? Pants?”

I responded, “No, incense”.

The door isn’t very thick but he obviously misheard me. There was horror in his voice as he tried to confirm what he thought he heard.


I almost fell off the throne laughing.

A Muggle Meets a Wizard
June 18, 2008, 19:07
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , ,

I have spent today re-playing in my mind three bits of wisdom from one of the little old wizards of Honbu Dojo. His other tips and corrections, however, have faded like the last remnants of a pleasant dream — leaving behind a familiar frustration. So, I have been clinging firmly to what I have been able to and these notes are a part of that.

Shomen uchi iriminage (正面打ち入り身投げ) is all about appropriate distances, entering, blending and connection. For me, it is the epitome of Aikido. When iriminage is light as wind, it is at its best. However, hidden within that lightness, there is a heavy shaleighli and an abrupt introduction to the ground. The iriminage related tip was about blending and entering. I have been cutting uke’s arm too far to the outside. When cutting down, bring uke’s striking arm into your own center, they will be drawn in. As they are drawn in, you enter too. Together, the two motions puts nage in ideal position to gently (or less gently) guide uke into the ground. I have been playing this cut and blend over and over in my mind.

For many years, I have performed ikyou (一教) by alternately “drawing a circle around uke’s ear with their elbow” or pushing their elbow through their head. My partner’s tip was far more elegant and subtle. Instead of “pushing”* around or through, my partner suggested that urging uke’s elbow UP was best. Up seems to create a softer connection that unbalances uke without them being as aware of it. I may have been taught this a half dozen times in the last twenty years but today it clicked. Soft is good!

The tip on Morote tori kokyunage (諸手取り呼吸投げ) was more of a really well timed reminder. The arm that uke takes should project outwards and curve gently up. Maintaining upright posture, nage performs an irimi tenkan (入り身転換) and meets uke shoulder to shoulder. Nage ‘s arms should be extending out and up similar to those of the statue of OSensei. At this point, if nage rotates their hips, uke will fall.

I hope this makes sense to others. To me, it is just my way of hanging on to what was being taught. I hope my muscles remember some of the rest because my brain certainly doesn’t.

*”Pushing” is the wrong word but it’s what I’ve got. If you’ve done this before you know what I mean. If you haven’t done it before, “push” will do. 🙂

Ueshiba Sensei and Kokoro
June 15, 2008, 21:00
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Family, Japan

Kokoro trained with Wakasensei the other day. This is a picture of the two of them after class — Ray was in his class and so isn’t in the pic. The yellow strap around her neck holds her Dojo membership card. Most of the kids put their cards on straps so they don’t lose them. I can pretty much guaranty that we’ll lose one or two in the next couple of years anyway but it is a good idea.

Wakasensei and Kokoro

Mystery Solved — Revisiting Summer in Hell
June 11, 2008, 16:32
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , , , ,

The first time I visited Aikikai Honbu Dojo was the day after the 45th All Japan Aikido Demonstration. The mat was packed with aikidoka from all over the world and the day was hot and humid. Even given the conditions, Doshu ordered the windows closed during practice. I had been told that he felt that students should “feel the seasons” when training. That may be true, but the real reason for closing the windows was more practical: he was being a good neighbor.

Though the Aikikai Honbu Dojo, in both of its incarnations, has been on the same spot since 1931 (the current dojo was built in 1967), the neighborhood has changed with the times. Most of the surounding buildings are mansions and so there are certainly many dojo neighbors who wake daily to the arrhythmic percussion of falling bodies. From street level, the thumping and thudding can be heard clearly so mansions at the same level as the training spaces must be almost as noisy as the dojo itself. Closing the windows is probably the nicest thing Doshu can do to improve life in the neighborhood but it makes for steamy classes.

Tokyo’s dripping summer heat has yet to start simmering in earnest but, for me, the best feeling of the season is breeze through my dogi on my bike ride home.

The Hardest Falls in Aikido
June 3, 2008, 10:39
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , ,

It had to come some time. This is my first “Top Whatever” list. I’m sure throngs of Diggers will pick it to pieces… Ha! Anyway, these are the falls that give me the most grief — especially with a new partner or someone I know I don’t trust.

4) Kubinage 首投げ
This is a trust issue, if I don’t know my nage I don’t like to do this one as my neck connects several of my favorite parts.

3) Aikiotoshi 合気落とし
The height of the fall isn’t the problem.  Landing properly has always been a bit of a challenge for me since I tend to land on my tail bone (yet another favorite part). Getting clobbered with an aikiotoshi during randori is harsh.

2) High fall from Jujinage 十字投げから飛び受身
Having my arms completely bound up as I am thrown makes me nervous.   I’ll take the fall but I really like to know if the other guy is going to release my hands at the other end of the throw (they don’t have too).

1) High fall from Shihonage 四方投げから飛び受身
Even if I know and trust nage this one still gives me the shakes. The reports indicating that Shihonage is a killer technique, added to the very awkward angle make it my least favorite high fall.

What about you?

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