Little House In Ise

Kotegaeshi Tech Note: A Point not a Plane
September 24, 2009, 13:16
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

Ninomiya Sensei once again schooled me using the Jedi art of mysterious explanations. This time, however, his explanation sank in and I was able to grasp what he meant. The old theory vs practice problem is biting me so I have only partially been able to implement what he struggled to teach me, however, I can communicate the gist in words. Maybe.

Sensei repeatedly stopped me, sometimes with a nasty reversal, while I was trying to do kotegaeshi (小手返し: wrist return). He indicated that I should stop using a surface or plane when doing the technique but rather use a point. Um, what?!?! Over and over again he repeated, “Not a surface! A point! Use a point!” I tried digging my thumb into a point on the back of his hand and he laughed at me. Yes, it can hurt but its not the point he meant. I tried to imitate exactly the hand, thumb grip that he was using — no dice.

It took many demonstrations and repetitions before the dimmest glimmerings of a clue finally began to light my way. The concept that he was trying to teach was that after the kuzushi (崩し: unbalance) any movement of the hand through which the technique is being applied reduces the effectiveness of the technique, takes more time and requires more muscle. Imagine you have already unbalanced your uke. Your weight extends down through your arm and rests on that of your uke preventing them from moving too much with the kinder and gentler trap that is “extension”. According to Ninomiya Sensei, uke’s hand should remain at THAT POINT in space when the kotegaeshi is applied. Any movement (“drawing” a surface or plane in the air) may allow uke to regain their balance and escape. So, maintain uke’s hand at the final point of the kuzushi and, ever-so-gently, apply your palm to the back of their hand for the rotation. Kerplunk!

It sounds simple (doesn’t it always?) but it turns out that I have doggedly repeated a variation in which I take uke’s balance and then sweep their hand along an arc to drop uke into “third point”. That can work but as Sensei demonstrated to me it takes a lot more effort and more time thus giving uke more opportunity to regain balance.


Sparring in Class
September 16, 2009, 14:28
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , ,

Hard training and sparing is fine. They are useful and I strongly believe they should be a part of Aikido training. However, before entering into that sort of training there needs to be an understanding of expectations. As an example, if one party is moving slowly, trying to reproduce the form of what their teacher has demonstrated then it is clear that sparring is NOT appropriate.

Doshu was gone today and Yokota Sensei substituted for him. That always adds a bit of fun to the morning as Yokota Sensei’s take on Aikido is fascinating and always a bit outside my comfort zone. Very cool! One of Sensei’s students invited me to be his partner so I was looking forward to a vigorous, educational class. The guy’s connection was very firm and his techniques quite hard. Technically he is very solid. I noticed immediately that he had a tendency to turn most techniques into hip throws or trips while finishing with fast, hard elbow pins. It was his elbow work, I think, that caused our practice to degenerate into wrestling — almost a fight.

The guy locked my elbows way too hard so I began using an extension “trick” that I had learned from the old guys. Simply, I maintained “unbendable arm” extension and curvature whenever I felt as though he as about to try to hyper-extend or crank. He noticed and, quite politely, asked if my elbows were injured — very cool. I agreed that they were and so expected that he would mellow his arm-bars a bit. He did not. In fact, he started cranking harder — not cool.

So, when I felt as though he was about to crank I would slip his pins. The problem here was that when I slipped his pin his first reaction was generally to try for a head-lock or choke. At first I pointed out that this wasn’t Aikido but it had no impact. There was a point when I thought he was finished doing whatever he was doing so I went on to my next attack and he floored me with something random then grabbed me in a headlock. I fought for position, kept my throat clear and mounted his hips (I used to wrestle). At which point he asked if I had had enough… WTF?

When we “settled down” for kokyu dosa the guy kicked me in the nuts as I threw him. At this point I verbally called him on his behavior. “You wanna go,” he asked? How off balance does one have to be to turn a breathing exercise into a fist fight? I still have no idea what his problem was.

Class ended. There was no final episode. A couple of witnesses asked what was up and one even asked why we had been fighting. It was not a fight, I maintained calm enough that I never tried to harm him and for his part he *mostly* stuck to the techniques demonstrated by Sensei. By that definition it was not a fight but it was too damned close. Hard training even sparring have a place in Aikido. However, that place is NOT during a formal class.

Just Showing Up
September 9, 2009, 16:40
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: , , ,

Today marked my 300th day of training at Honbu. It is one of the easier hurdles to cross before I can test for 3 dan. I will submit my application in the next couple of months and then see how that goes. For now, I am reveling in achieving this minor goal.

When asked how to achieve a goal that takes repetition, effort and patience, I have given the (non-original) advice to “mark the calendar”. Days when I have done my thing get marked. Days when I slack do not. The goal isn’t to get to some huge number but to maintain continuous blocks on the calendar. An unbroken string of consecutive days of effort becomes harder to break when viewed as a line of Xs on a calendar. Achieving mini goals such as “keeping it going” or “extending the longest unbroken streak” is easier than shooting for the huge number of reps. Success then breeds success.

One of my sempai, a 7 dan shihan (in Doshu’s class he is “sempai”), recently mentioned that he now has more than 8500 days of training at Honbu. I can’t compare my goal to that without laughing but still I will celebrate achieving it with a beer or two. More important than that though, I will continue just showing up.

September 6, 2009, 15:04
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Japan

I have been off the mat due to a knee injury for about three weeks. Last week I made an aborted attempt at returning to train but found the pain to be too much and took the rest of the week off. Trying to do my best lemons-to-lemonade response to adversity I spent the now available late nights doing OS upgrades on my home network and catching up with Cajun vampire adventures on TV. The TV is a good excuse to rest, ice, compress and elevate my knee but really, I would have preferred to be at the dojo.

So, yesterday I went back and though my knee was aching afterward, it was excellent! My partner was a young Russian man who, though matching my size, was probably ten kilos heavier. It was a pleasure to work with such an athletic young guy who was not only willing but able to “kick it up a notch”. It was good fun all around.

The only down-side to the whole evening was that I completely shredded my dogi. I bought this dogi when we moved back to Japan in 2006 and have used it very hard ever since. The collar has been threadbare for ages and there are small holes in the shoulders. Still, it has been my favorite. Last night, however, it became ventilated.

I threw a pretty hard shomen strike at my partner who responded with a very nice ikyo omote. I heard cloth tearing but didn’t bother to look down. From that point on every twist of my upper body was accompanied by fart-like tearing noises — embarrassing to say the least. By the end of class I had a twenty centimeter hole under my left armpit and another somewhat smaller one under the right. It was ruined.

So what to do with the old gi? The thing would obviously have to go into burnable garbage (it didn’t fit any of the other garbage categories) but that seems like a waste. Megumi isn’t a seamstress and other than patches for my other gi I can’t really think of another use for it. So far, the only idea that appealed to me has been cutting it up into cloth diapers but there are no nearby green babies to use them…

How do you re-use/recycle has-been dogi?

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