Little House In Ise

Recent Stuff at Honbu
December 22, 2008, 18:42
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , ,

I’ve been busy and so haven’t a single coherent thought to write about. Instead, here is a potpouri of Aikikai Honbu Dojo related “stuff”.

1) Morning Class Bonenkai (忘年会: forget the year party):
The location was the same as the last Morning class party and the format was similar. It was neat to see everyone wearing regular clothing and talk about Aikido with all the old foggies, pros and the occasional wannabe (me). Doshu’s speech seemed to be directed at me (isn’t that always the feeling?). His theme this time was, “If you want to learn from me, just watch what I’m doing and then do the same thing …” Ummm… yeah, I’ve been getting right on that all year and it’s still not quite gelling.

2) Pre-Test Class:

Back falls x 100
Forward rolls across mat x 6
Back rolls across mat x 6
Shiko across mat x 6
Spinning shiko across mat x 6
Shomen uchi ikyo x lots
Yokomen uchi ikyo x lots
Shomen uchi shihonage x lots
Ushiro ryote dori sankyo x lots
Kyokyu dosa x lots

Kids’ class is tough!

3) Kids testing:
No video, no cameras, no parents, OH NO?!?! The doors are closed at the start of class and parents get to hear the dramatic tales of perfect/botched waza from their kids semi frantic perspective. Can we FINALLY watch Narnia now?

4) More on Yonkyo Omote:
Start with a solid ikyo making certain the hand near uke’s wrist is well above the joint so the wrist can’t bend. Sword cut into position, use your forward knee to assist the pressure your yonkyo hand applies to the meaty part of uke’ forearm. Simultaneously lift and pull their wrist. The key point is to make certain that both of nage’s hands do not move in the same direction as though pushing a stick. The slight lift/pull by the hand on uke’s wrist turns their into a lever with the yonkyo finger as the fulcrum. Inakoshi sensei with his Yoda-like presence (and power) managed to cause severe pain but did not leave me with welts. Usually, I end up with enormous welts but experience little pain.

5) Clash of the Titans:
Recently two of the more hard-core members of differing schools-of-thought in the Honbu Dojo Morning class ended up paired off. Both are silver-haired fellows who are around fifth or sixth dan. Both are also very physical with one famous for his athletic ukemi and the other for his aggressive atemi. This was the first time I had seen them training together. One is a left mat kind of guy and the other is pretty strictly right mat (that’s just the way it is). This time, they met in the middle and the thumping was VIGOROUS! It was pretty easy to see that they were giving each other a LOT of resistance and all techniques were hard fought. I’d never seen old bulls training together like this before! Watching them do jiyu waza was pretty amazing and a little frightening — for bystanders!


What makes a basic technique, basic?
December 7, 2008, 20:55
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , , ,

When I first started Aikido, I understood kihonwaza (基本技), to mean “basic technique(s)”, in the sense of basics-for-beginners. That was a major failure of understanding. In fact, most advancement in Aikido comes through deeper understanding of basics. That then leaves the question of “what is basic” open for interpretation.

I have seen sensei within and from outside of my ryuha perform their own variations of kihon waza and it has always troubled me that there could be so many interpretations of the basics. It is from the basics that all else grows, right? So, does that not imply that there should be, “One true way”, that there is a best or at least correct way to do things? I have been down this path before on this blog and don’t care to repeat my thoughts in that regard, however, what might help is a better of understanding of what “basics” means.

Returning to the most simple movements taught at the start of Aikido training.

Irimi (入り身) Entering / Tenkan (転換) Turning

These two concepts are basic as basics get. However they are not complete techniques in themselves. They are building blocks onto which other actions and principles (lowering, extension, distance and timing) are added to create technique.

When starting Aikido it is also common to learn techniques from the hand-grabs rather than strikes or other attacks. However, a grab does not necessarily mean the response will be a kihon. Also, from the start onward teachers emphasize going slowly but it is possible to do very elaborate technique slowly or, conversely, kihon waza at high speed so that doesn’t seem to be the ingredient of a basic either.

Recently, during a vigorous round of jodori (杖取) practice, it hit me (an answer not the jo) — kihon waza can be thought of as something like the eigenstates that Physicists use to describe some systems. A pair of weakly linked pendulums (of the same length), as in two old fashioned clocks hanging near each other on a wall provide a simple example as it has two, non-trivial, eigenstates. The two eigenstates of the system are, pendulums in sync and in phase (swings in the same directions) and in sync but out of phase (swings toward and away from each other). Any other motion of the pendulums is a combination (super-position) of the two eigenstates. This is where I made my connection to Aikido kihon waza. Kihon waza are (in this way of thinking) the most simple variations of a technique that moves uke in a particular direction based on the starting position. Anything else, is a combination of the basic movements and is, therefore, not kihon waza.

For example, moretetori kokyuho (諸手取り呼吸方) and kokyunage(呼吸投げ) can be done the following ways:

tenkan throw uke forward
tenkan arm high throw uke to rear
tenkan arm low throw uke to rear

irimi tenkan throw uke forward
irimi tenkan arm high throw uke to rear
irimi tenkan arm low throw uke to rear

Please pardon my shorthand here, these simplistic descriptions fit variations in morotetori koyunage and kokyuho that I do regularly. All others that I can think of (admittedly, this last is a huge caveat) are combinations of these. So, by this definition, a basic technique is one that contains the essence of motions possible for each particular entry. This allows multiple definitions of what the details of those motions are. Put this way, differences in execution of various kihon waza as seen between different teachers can be seen more as differences in emphasis rather than in differences in the techniques themselves.

With this in mind, I think it should now be easier to take a single technique apart and experiment with its basics.

Walking Targets: Uchi Deshi
December 1, 2008, 19:10
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

It seems as though some new comers to Honbu feel as though they have something to prove. The uchi deshi are the ones who bear the brunt of this testosterone fueled “training”. Hard training is fine. Tough training is fine. However intentionally pushing so hard that people get hurt is not fine — even if that someone is yourself. Mind you, pushing someone else until you hurt yourself is pretty stupid.

So far, the uchi deshi with whom I have trained have been polite, respectful and very skilled martial artists. These are the folks who are not just aspiring to be the next generation of world class Aikidoka but are actively working on becoming so. They train many hours every day with the current generation of giants of the Aikikai. They are young, tough and can dish out hard-hitting, high-speed, Aikido whoop-ass. In other words: they are shithead magnets. Any jerk that walks in the door with a chip on their shoulder will end up asking an uchi deshi to knock it off.

Today, the uchi deshi (a very nice fellow) who was training next to me had a shithead on his hands. It was clear to everyone around them that these two guys were going at it VERY hard. Since they were my neighbors they were frequently landing in my lap. Even my partner, a gentle giant himself, commented on them. He suggested to me, loud enough to be heard by all around, that they were getting scary. I agreed and went back to trying to relax as hard as possible.

Anyway, the new-comer kept on pushing the energy level up bit by bit and the uchi deshi just went along for the ride. Then there was a sickening thud and the new guy was flat on his back, eyes closed and quieter than I had heard him all morning. Shihonage (四方投げ) is a killer technique and this guy had planted the base of his own head into the forehead of another student. The other guy shook it off but the new fellow was pretty well KO’d. There was a doctor present and the newcomer was cleared of concussion and such but Doshu was furious. His anger was aimed at the uchi deshi.

Truth be told, the uchi deshi shared a lot of the blame. He did throw very hard and he did not end the engagement when the guy started to be a jerk. I don’t think it was just testosterone though. The uchi deshi ARE bad-asses (though very nice ones) and they DO attract this sort of goober regularly. I was there, I know the uchi deshi was well within his comfort zone, it was the goober who attacked with such speed that caused the accident. He got as much out of the interaction as he put into it and, in this case, there was no soft mat to cushion his stupidity.

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