Little House In Ise

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.


9 Comments so far
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Hi Eric, sorry to hear you had such a jerk for a partner. But I’m glad you wrote about it on your blog. As you know, I had two bad partners when I visited honbu dojo in August, one guy having violent tendencies also. I had wanted to write about the experience, but the more I thought on it, the less comfortable I felt bad mouthing a dojo I was visiting. At least you’re on home turf. Kokyu dosa sounds rough and completely uncalled for. I wonder what Yokota Sensei thought of his antics.

Comment by Eddie deGuzman

There are jerks everywhere. Dealing with them in a way that doesn’t compromise yourself is the hardest part. From the sound of it you drew a really bad hand the last time you got here. I hope your next visit is more pleasant!

Comment by Eric Holcomb

Hi Eric

WTF….. What was his problem? On a note I have encountered a similar situation in Hombu dojo with a guy (from the middle east) – don’t know his name and I really don’t care! During Doshu´s morning class he didn’t like to move around when I did the first irimi nage and then it all started… The more he obstructed – the more I had to work harder for the technique to work.. At some point he raised his fist like he was going to punch me in the face! I was surprised and asked him – just to be sure! Do you really want to hit me? I was sure he hated me and blamed me for the holy crusade or something…. He had some strange things going on during his technique as well! Now I know why nobody in the dojo talked to him… one should be better to read between the Japanese lines….


Comment by Thomas Hansen

In this case the guy was a fellow American. Other than frustration that he wasn’t hurting me as much as he wanted with his normal techniques, I can’t think of any reason for his behavior. My best guess is that he really is just a jerk and Aikido has given him a place and a way to express that.

Comment by Eric Holcomb

Thanks for the story. Perhaps in such a person’s mind they are approaching/approximating a martial ideal as well, but from a very different starting point, and without concern for any frou-frou philosophy. I’ve noticed that some people consistently ignore instructions from the teacher to go slowly or ‘explore’ a technique. They just don’t accept that that is a valid way to train. Ultimately, it’s dysfunctional and disrespectful.

Comment by lukasa

Yokota Sensei’s Aikido is very powerful and direct. In fact, his demonstrations can be quite “hard”. Also, I have never seen fuzy-wuzzy style Aikido in any of Honbu’s *morning* classes. Even given all that, I have to guess that Sensei would not have been pleased to see that guy behave as he did. I have no idea how aware he was of what was going on as I was actively engaged in preventing my elbow from being messed up again.

Thank you for your thoughts — I agree about the lack of respect (for everyone including sensei) that he showed.

Time for break, thinking about it is making me steamed and THAT is a waste! 🙂

Comment by Eric Holcomb

My bad experience was with two foreigners. One, perhaps an American and the other might have been French. Not really sure.

Funny, iriminage was part of the problem with me as well. It seems my partner wanted me to magically go around him in a circle and was pissed that I didn’t.

The other guy kept forcefully breaking the connection but looked at me like I was an idiot for not running around him after he broke away.

Both guys had no sense of connection, awase or guiding ability whatsoever. But plenty of bad attitude.

And you’re right, Eric, the more I thought on it or tried to write about it, the angrier I got. So I didn’t. Thanks for bringing it back to the surface! 😉

Comment by Eddie deGuzman

My guess is that your experience rests somewhere on the continuum of you being a gaijin and him being an asshole, . I could wax on, but that’s the simple version.

Comment by Allan Kaplan

Hey Allan!

Great to hear from you! If he had not been an American too I would totally agree. I have spoken to a couple of my sempai and they have offered other perspectives. One says that the jerk acknowledges that he can be “over exuberant” on the mat but won’t go beyond that. Another said he is a fine and friendly fellow — off the mat — but that sempai hates training with him too. It was nice to hear the last as the person who said is a tough-minded guy whose “skill level” is similar to that of the jerk.

Take care!

Comment by Eric Holcomb

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