Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

It's been a while since i've updated and both John and I are looking forward to posting about our training and ideas but i just wanted to say Merry Christmas to everybody. Here's hoping that the year ahead fosters peace on earth and good will towards everyone.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I claim the first dojo injury

It was bound to happen sooner or go to a martial art class long enough and eventually, as the man says, "the bar eats you". Tonight for our session we had both Beleek and Beau (the aforementioned absent class mate) down in the dojo for some judo. John had us go over a new judo throw, deashi harai, we all did a few reps of that. Then we moved on to ground work. John went over the mount and guard positions and ways to manuever our of being scisored. Then we went on to some simple sparring where the idea was to simply roll around and try to gain position but it escilated. I got a knee to the mouth. I still gots mah teeth, but i have three holes in my upper lip now. Bitting down on a sock with ice in it to stop the bleeding, John snaged a pic of it so im sure it'll be up on the net tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Let's try something different.

Last night's workout was a lot of fun. We started out by doing a quick go over of ko soto gari, i wanted to make sure i still had the basics of the throw from the other night. I still remember how the throw goes, woo!

Next we went through tegatana, nothing especially new there this time around. We forgot Pat's jumpy jelly leg syndrome exercise but we're going back to the dojo tonight and that's one of the things we'll work on.

Next John wanted to work on a judo throw who's name escapes me at the moment. I'm sure he'll be describing it in his next post.

After i had gotten off the mat several times we moved on to the first five of Ni ju san:
  1. Shomen ate
  2. Aigame ate
  3. Gyaku gamae ate
  4. Gedan ate
  5. Ushiro ate

These first five are all striking techniques and i had been noodling over the idea for the last few days of changing the exercise up a bit from the way we normally do it just for a change of pace from the established way and...well...mainly just to see what would happen. Instead of uke making a straight armed forward attack from mai as usual, after checking mai and tori dropping his hand (signaling he's ready for the attack) uke brings his hand straight back to his shoulder then pushes it back out as he steps forward. Not quite a punch granted but the fact the arm, and especially a hand, visually seems to be "coming at you" was a load of fun to avoid during ni ju san.

Our mantra of "getting the hell out of the way" was a quicker and more automatic response with a different simulated attack thrown into the mix. Another thing we both noticed was that the initial off balance became a more "final" maneuver if uke was totally committed to the attack (which an attacker may or may not have a recover step in their game plan when they're trying to kick your ass and i'm wondering how different your body's natural recover step will react vs. a deliberate attempt to right one's self) and the technique often ended there if we were devoted enough into dropping the attacking arm into the hole between their feet. When the techniques DID continue they often produced spectacular results. We did tweak a few things every now and then, making sure tori stayed close to uke and aigame ate works better if you wait for it instead of just stiff arming your buddy in the head whenever, but over all pretty kewl beans.

After that John wanted to work on some ideas he had about being attacked in the guard and from the guard. He's been thinking on different ground work ideas he's come up with while watching UFC and other MMA shows where the opponent on the ground generally gets pounded instead of tying up the arms or simply shrimping side to side to avoid the attack entirely. Now this is not generally the case but i've seen it happen alot on TV (which is always a great meter stick to judge your ideas). I strapped on some gloves to be the uke on this one, and while i'll let John describe the whole thing in his words when he posts on it i will say i was pretty amazed at the ease someone can simply shrimp out of the way of an attack. The guy in the mount has to change his posture if he wants to attack someone in the guard which facilitates an easy block or evasion. It's a weird point where aikido and judo get close to the same thing in relation to being attacked.

I'm going to TRY and get some pictures up for some stuff soon. I think our dojo would definitely fall under a Dojo Rat heading. Nothing beats having an automatic door rise up as you approach your inner sanctum.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The difference between 1 and 1

John and i got some practice in the other night. We warmed up and went through tegatana (the walking kata we practice that teaches the basic evasions) a couple of times, the first runthrough as a warm up then the second go round we emphasised the idea of keeping our feet under our rears. It was interesting to see how different we each did the first attempt. I suppose it shows what we've each gotten used to and how we comfortably interpret the motions when we're not shaking things up.

Next we went straight to nijusan (the 23 main forms as it's called, all dealing with the forward attack of a single uke) and after clearing up the misunderstanding of which technique John wanted to work on we did several reps of both shomenate and the initial offbalance that proceeds the techniques throught the rest of the kata. John's interest was focused on where our initial step off the line places us when doing the shomen ate and how the second foot ends up (John may have to correct me on this):

1) Uke attacks; tori side steps off the line avoiding the attack at the same time as uke's forward foot lands with the second foot coming up underneath then face uke's center and a push forward,


2) Uke attacks; tori's sidestep ends with him already in postition to shomenate uke and he pushes forward.

As i typed this i realized that the same number of foot movements occured in both versions we tried. John's shomen ate leaned more towards the first, while mine favored the second idea but we came to the conclusion that both worked.

I'm going to have to start asking Pat for his long distance training tip of the week.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Solo Training is still training.

In the absense of a training partner (John's pretty busy) i've reverted back to my can't-go-to-McComb method of training. This time around though i get to add some ukemi practice to my routine thanks to the mats we have in our makeshift dojo in the garage downstairs. So on top of the triangle rolls i'm doing straight off the mat (both backward and forward) in the half hour or so before i get prepared for work i'm also doing"

  • Toothbrush tegatana (One of Pat's super secret training techniques)
  • Wall brush offs (these still get odd looks at work, i don't know why)
  • The easy floor push offs for getting off the ground without so much strain on the knees (making a bridge with your legs and pushing off the ground up and over the gap between them, it's great for stocking shelves on the bottom and then getting right back up) = this one i'm repeating over and over so i can make it a more automatic idea then pushing up with my knees after a breakfall

One of the things i've noticed as of late that i thought was (maybe) worth a mention was moving your weight onto the balls of your feel during the day, especially if you're standing around or walking on them all day. It really helps with sore feet and it gives me the opportunity to take a step or two from tegatana. As you've stretched up on both feet, you can pick a hip to disengage for a overexagerated example of the evasion movements we practice.

(P.S. Didnt realize my link to Aikithoughts wasn't working. It's fixed now so go check it out if you havent already! Check out the one on blending he did recently. Sorry aikithoughts dude!)

Monday, October 29, 2007

I made it to Florida!

First post since moving in and getting settled down and so far i'd have to say i'm enjoying myself. John and i haven't specifically done aiki yet, my schedule had to be ironed out and i've spent my free time just checking out some of the sites and and what not. All i have of note aikido wise is that which is pool oriented. I played around with tegatana in the pool and to a plesant discovery the falling forward method of movement (disengaging the forward foot and "falling" in that direction) works wonderfully in a pool. Something that would be a unique way of getting a new student to understand and expeiriance that concept. Another thing that came to mind was that if you use your lungs to correct your posture (ala feldenkrais) during tegatana becomes another thing that's easier to expeierence in a pool. I shared these tidbits of idea with John and he seemed to dig them. So if you want to do some rather effective tegatana just go for a swim.

Hopefully in the next few days John and i can get back in a regular training schedule for both aikido and judo. More updates later.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Winds of change.

Last post i was in the frame of mind to put together a post about perfection in aikido, trying to weigh the pros and cons which might have ended up into some sort of andy vs. self solo discussion on old school aikido vs. new aikido. I would have tried my best to get my point across on all of this, eventually saying that wether you learn aikido rigidly going through 1,000 move or the dojo you train at experiments and what-not it's still aikido. It would have been an insightful post (if anyone could keep up with my scatterbrain).

All of that will not be appearing in this post.

Woosh. (That would be the aforementioned wind of change, just go with me on this)

I'm moving to Florida. That has taken up a huge part of my mental storage space the last few weeks as the idea has taken shape from concept to actually happening next thursday (the 18th of october). Yikes would be an understatement. I'll be moving in with ol' John, my best friend and also student of Pat. We'll be getting to train practically everyday and there are several dojos (dojoes? sp?) in the area to attend as well. The downside is i feel like a heel. I like learning at my dojo. Now i'll be learning with new people and under new teachers, probably always wondering "How would Pat approach this". I'm leaving home territory to learn from them! I think the culture shock is going to get to me, plus as i progress i can't even see myself getting rank tests from anyone else? Has anyone else had to undergo sensei transplant? What is that like, learning a certain way of doing things, even inside the same organization, and then going somewhere else where everything could be (God forbid!) different?

These are the things i ponder at the moment. Well, that and all the chances i'll get to help John with his ukemi ;-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Isn't the blogsphere great?

I found this while i was wandering around the Aikido oriented websphere and i wanted to share it. The whole blog at Aikithoughts is pretty insightful. Somethimg else i wanted to bring to someone's attention is this article at Martial Views. I think the second most difficult thing someone taking aikido faces, after falling, is the idea that it doesn't have to be perfect to be effective. That, in fact, the search for perfection might actually get in the way of achieving functional, comfortable aikido. This is only my thinking btw, and only applies to my experience. I'm going to try and collect my thoughts on that and make a post about it later.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Just an update to keep things current and to invite discussion.

I just wanted to link to these two things from Pat's blog. His post about Rhadi Ferguson is pretty interesting and i wanted to keep track of the discussion on forward rolls since it's something i struggle with. I doubt i'm the hub of anyone's blog perusal, but if so check them out.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Way of the Warrior - Aikido and Kendo Pt4

Way of the Warrior - Aikido and Kendo Pt3

Way of the Warrior - Aikido and Kendo Pt2

Major point of interest in this one is his ideas on "cultural movement". I really enjoyed the insight of it. It's not something one thinks of often but it's so true. His insight on the difference in breathing is another good thing to listen to, i thought.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Aikido on thursdays

I made it to class last night, and we went through the usual tegatana and hanasu. Pat is turning those into general warm-up practices instead of actively working on them in class. We worked on oshi taoshi, kote gaeshi and kote hineri by first breaking down the initial off balance and getting the feel for how uke is balanced and which direction he could be leading the technique. It also helped illuminate how timing effects both tori's and uke's positioning.

For anyone curious as to how these techniques begin (if anyone's reading) all of the moves in this kata (where oshi taoshi, kote gaeshi and kote hineri can be found) begin by checking mai and uke moving in with a shomenate. As uke moves in, tori responds by making a small forward step, his hands raised to guide uke's shomenate off his line of attack facing into the gap created between his feet.

One of the two main ways this will end up (if i'm not mistaken) is either uke's off balance will leave him "idling" on the balls of his feet with his mass leaning in some direction or he'll get his footing right after the "push" and that will leave him flat footed and stable.

Anyhoo, we worked with those three techniques for quite a they work and interact with each other. This all ended up in some cool sensitivity drills akin to the tai chi push hands exercises. All in all another good class.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What's going on.

You know the story: i haven't been to class. A preveously held job was keeping me busy but i freed up my schedule (unemployed). Now that Pat's got class 3 times a week i'm looking forward to going back and much more often. I haven't gotten to practice that much, but i have gotten into an email chat with some aikikai guys in town that want to start a small club. Getting to chat about aikido has been nice, and if their club ever gets off the ground i may stop by between McComb class.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Apparently all that conservative talk radio i listen to is going to waste.

I've been called a lot of things.. but liberal has never been one of them. I do agree with the ascertation that i have a strong sense of right and wrong and believe in economic fairness, but i feel icky being in the same group as Hillary Clinton and Bono.

You are a

Social Liberal
(63% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(18% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Socialist (18e/63s)

Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

I also find it humorous that i'm Pat's diametric opposite.

Another training weekend.

Ah, it's been a while since i've been to class. I was able to go a couple of weeks ago to the saturday morning class but this weekend felt like i was actually coming to class (regularly). John was back in town this week and the plan of going to judo and staying overnight for aikido was formed.

I'm glad i got to go to judo, everytime i do i realize how much i enjoy it but i rarely get to go. With recent events and a new job i hope to be able to attend once a week from now on. Both the class and john's and my randori session brought out the glaring fact of just how yellow my belt is. We filmed it, and upon several rewatchings i must say there is much work ahead. Things to work on: foot sweeping (period) and technical ground skills. Basically everything about judo.

On the aiki side of things we worked on hanasu and the "lost wrist releases". My brain quickly mired on these and it took a while to re understand what was happening (happens alot). When we moved on to knife randori i kicked myself a bit over just how many times i got stabbed. I realize that i'm going to get stabbed... but sheesh! In my defense though, i don think being attacked by a knife wielder trying to make me laugh will happen in too many times "on the street" or what have you. Still, compared to the bar set high in my head, a deplorable accounting. On the other side of the coin, though, i think i was acceptable at multi-opponent randori. Plus it's just fun to do.

My next rank test is on the horizon, and my fondest wish is to feel better capable at breakfalling. I know it's a reoccuring request of myself, but i wouldn't care if i ever ranked again if ukemi would simply cease to be a foriegn concept to me. Cheifly among these techniques... the ever evil forward rolls and the yet to be fully explored air falls (of which i can wait on a while). The hardest part of training is vs. yourself and this is definately the Great Wall of China in my thoughts where insecurity steadfastly patrols.

I should have some video and pics of the weekend as soon as i can figure out how to image capture them off the disc i have.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Just thinkin'

Pay no mind to any of this.

When i'm attacked, though it looks like they're punching at my head or kicking at my legs they are really aiming for my center. It's a pretty small target (figureatively speaking..just a little point under my gut), so all i have to do is move just a's out of the way...and i avoid the attack. Simple stuff. All the appendage waving is something to get distracted on. (Easier to brush aside that way)


Monday, June 04, 2007

Kids Aikido

I came across this and thought i'd post it. I figured John would be interested in it in particular.

Armed vs. unarmed attacks: another pebble on the beach of discussion.

For saturday's class we took an extra minute to work on forward rolls. I hear what Sensei Pat is saying about that "point of no return" and then it goes in to the roll but i'm still not totally feeling it. I just can't quite discern that one missing piece that'll make everything fit together yet, it's still a step away at this point.

At the end of class Chops (whom is down from starkville for a while) and i did some knife randori where uke makes one dedicated attack (easy enough to avoid) and subsequent attacks (not so easy). We also did nijusan with a knife where we picked the response ahead of time but uke keeps attacking. Defense against a knife attack is a strange animal. I didn't care for using shomenate at all, i'd much rather move to the outside of the arm instead of the inside where it's easier for uke to slice and dice.

It will take getting used to the idea that i'll only be able to take my chances down from a "100% chance of getting stabbed to a 90% chance of getting stabbed". It's not quite defeatist, but it definately has an overtown of some kind of defeat. Maybe that's the point? I mean, i understand.. i'll get stabbed most likely, but i don't want to accept it as finality. I'm no sure... there's a lot about the concept i'm a novice to. Something to mull over.

During randori I got the impression (not saying it's correct) that the first attack is easy to avoid, the second one is considerably worse, but the third swing seemed to be a tad easier to discern. That doesn't mean i still didn't get the shiv but that bit floated in my mind on the drive home. Conclusion = i want to do more knife randori.

John and i got into a chat about being tackled or speared, part of a discussion that he had with Bryce. I don't recollect the entirety, but i believe he seemed to think it was much more difficult to avoid than i did (is that right John?). Since Chops and i had some time to piddle around with aikido at the end of class i asked his thoughts and if he wouldn't mind lunging at me and a side step and a shomenate seemed to be all it took to keep a Goldberg type off of you. He, Pat and i discussed a couple of different variations of lunging takedowns for a moment or two then it was off to pick blackberries for morning breakfast.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Is this post leading anywhere?!"

Some philosophize that martial art training is supposed to chip away at the junk surrounding our core selves, or remodeling us into someone who is "better". The mental training aspect of aikido has been attributed to emphasize relaxation of mind and body even under stressful situations, as i understand it to better handle being attacked but to also make daily life simpler and more enjoyable .

Ueshiba is quoted as saying that one "must be willing to receive 99% of an opponent's attack and stare death in the face". Staring death in the face is one thing, all bravery and calmness focused on one extreme idea, but i think it's a lot harder for those ideas to challenge the everyday things we face. Everyone can tell a story about how something has made them lose their cool, it's just human nature. Sooner or later something will come along that will bother the hell out of even the most stoic person.

I am by no means one of those stoic people. Insecurity is one of the things that reoccurs in my mind as i train. I am my own worst critic and i often berate myself over a misplaced step, a technique done wrong or "poorly", or as in the case of seeing video with me in it: the way i look while moving around and especially falling. There are several things i could list off as to why i beat myself up but the fact remains that it's really not a good thing to do whether necessary or not. As i sit around and sorta meditate on aikido i often try to tackle what i can do to improve my ability. Practice and patience seem to be the top two keys and not necessarily in that order. Something that has seemed to be more important lately is how i perceive myself in aikido, what am i bringing with me into the dojo and what am i trying to sorta leave behind me on the way out. More important than both of those is what i'm carrying around day to day?

Something i think helps, and i think a lot of people have trouble with this, is what kind of goal you've place in front of yourself. Is it realistic? Are you expecting it to occur much faster than it should? Are you trying to be good for your level or someone else's? There's nothing wrong with wanting to improve, but sometimes things just "are as they are". Looking at where i am in relation to others that i see as better could make anyone in the same shoes feel discouraged. I have to remind myself that sure, someone else at my rank may be way ahead of the curve but what's important is am i refining "me"? "Am i moving from my center instead of trying to reach out to something that will throw me off balance," so to speak.

Just some thoughts. Next lesson, practicing what i preach. Haha

Anyone have any thoughts?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"With the blast shield down, i can't see a thing..."

I was able to make it to class yesterday...and as usual, it was great. The walking kata tegatana still has some bumps and kinks i need to work out (as many reps as i do i would thing i'd have the thing perfect).
Pat threw in some blind ninja training into hanasu and we repped through it with our eyes closed. I liked the way it worked out. Later on in class we went through the two versions of kotegaeshi and koteheneri (tenkai) and added some blackout to those too at one point. I like the way it feels to give uke total control of the attack and move around that (lol, that's the whole point isn't it?). I wish i could develop that level of relaxed sensitivity while my eyes are open. Im going to have to talk gary into doing some of these before he leaves so i can get some extra practice.
We did some "aiki brush off" drills. I still had some highs and lows with these.. either they felt like they worked or they felt way to forced. They seemed like a finesse element i don't have the ability to make work all the time, like the bumps and the ends of certain otoshi or garuma movements.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Starkville Aiki weekend

This weekend i had the opportunity to travel to Starkville, MS (home of MSU and tha Bulldogs) and go to a clinic headed by Henry Copeland (9th dan). The focus of the clinic was go kata (sp?) which starts off with several two handed grabs (i.e. two wrists grabbed) and goes into some...well..other throws.

I really enjoyed the clinic. It was cool getting to see the Starkville bunch again and getting to do aikido with Henry. I got thrown by him and slamed pretty hard once and i got to do randori with him and didn't notice anything but me falling. I was amazed at just how simple and relaxed his aikido was. I was wowed by it, but some might not be.

Some of the things i came away with this weekend?

1) My ukemi is "functional" but definatley needs improvment.
2) This weekend was brought by the letter L. (As in straightent the hands straight out with thumbs out to the side - thanks Porkchop).
3) Attach yourself to uke with the ring and pinky fingers, NOT the index and middle (this one seems the most daunting to adapt to).

Those are the ones that have been at the front of my mind. Hopefully the pics of this weekend will be up sometime this week, maybe video too. If so i'll try and link it.

I'll be thinking on this weekend for a while. I may post again on it later.

I really enjoy aikido.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Catching up on "The Walk"

I really enjoyed last night's class. We practiced tegatana, both the regular version and Pat's new "tooth brushing" version where all the turns are done in one spot instead off all over the mat (easier to do in the bathroom while brushing Pat says). The single spot turns helped in hanasu, especially in turn 5-8 because it exemplifies the "under a barb wire fence" motion of the techniques. That's, in numerical order; Hon Uchi Hanasu, Hon Uchi Ude Heneri, Gyaku Uchi Hanasu and Gyaku Uchi Ude Heneri for those keeping track.

Ukemi was a big part of lcass last night and i did really well. I felt confident about my aikido last night which was an awesome feeling. Ukemi was this major hurdle that just seemed insurmountable at times and it finnaly feels like i'm "there". Appropriately enough there's a seminar this weekend that should get rid of all that. Haha

Also.... Pat had an acident.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It may not be art, but....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Aikido + food = enjoyment

Last night was my first class back in quite some time. I feel sore again and it's awesome. The focuses put into tegatana last night were gripping forward with our toes (kinda like cat walking from Pat's post on the msg board) and making sure we end up on the balls of our feet. A new one that was throw into the mix was snapping our center under us and the end of the movement. I noticed all three cause an accentuation of the up and down motion generated by our walking. I still think it's neat that by having your toes lead you to where you're going there's very little chance of ending up off balanced at the end.

I think i did a lot better at rolling last night, much less flat tire flapping. I think having less clutter in my head when doing it helps. I still need to work on rolling out of hiki taoishi.

We worked on chain number 7. I think that hand switches go along with the changes in garumas and otoshis as we move from gyaku uchi hanasu to ude heneri (?) to hiki taoishi. If i got the names right.

One of Pat's old students is coming to class now. Seems like an alright guy. The crawfish we had after class was fantastic, haven't had any in a while so i got double the goodness out of the return trip to class.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bits and pieces.

I haven't been to class in a WHILE, life has gotten in the way lately. I've still been "practicing" if you could call it that. I do tegatana frequently, posture (i.e. balance) and the drop vs step idea my two main concerns. My ideal place would be getting it so hardwired in my brain that i won't even STEP out of the way or whatnot but fall. (there's got to be a better thing to call that.) I'm playing with the unbendable arm too. One armed wall pushing, two armed wall pushing. We have a swinging double door at work and i check the different strengths of the one armed or two armed unbenadable arm push. A few other things here and there. I haven't given up!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Just some thoughts.

Life gets complicated. Things change, problems arise, people come in and out of your life. Sometimes, and i know this is true in my case, some of that complication is aggrivated by you. You dont take the time to think things through maybe, or past experiences already determine how you view some things. From my standpoint the most complicated thing i face is the future; what will i do, is what i picked the right thing, will i be able to support myself with what makes me happy. I don't really have anything figured out just yet, but every now and then something will pop up that sorta helps put things in perspective. Pat recently made a post on aiki and there's something i'll quote from it here

"Often aiki is translated as something like “coordinated energy” but lately I have preferred to translate aikido as the art of making peace with the energy in the world. People who are able to do the magical aiki effects are able to make peace with the things going on in the world. They have reduced their desire to impose their will on a situation so they are able to move around with uke and live with the results. They are at peace with the energy around them.And that’s real, magical aiki – being able to move so that you can live with uke’s actions. "

It's pretty easy to replace uke as what might be troubling you i suppose. I sorta like the implications that makes.

Something else i stumbled across just a few minutes ago i would like to share. I'll post the whole things so i can come back to it.. it may be long, but i think it's worth the read.

So You Chose the Martial Arts as Your Career Path: What Were You Thinking?
By Tom Callos

As I write this I’m preparing for the graduation ceremony for participants in my first Ultimate Black Belt Test ( I’ve been searching for the right words to put the 13 months each of the candidates has invested in their test into perspective –and that lead me to writing the following piece, A “Career” Black Belt’s Graduation Address.

The piece, as it is here, is for an imaginary group of black belts, a graduating class at a “Black Belt University,” who have chosen to pursue the martial arts as a career. If the martial arts are your chosen career, maybe you’ll find some value in reading it? In my mind, every day is a graduation of sorts, so the truth is that maybe I wrote this for myself –and for you too?

A “Career” Black Belt’s Graduation Address

When planning this address, I realized that I don’t have a single answer to give you, only questions. However, the questions, mine and your own, are what I think contain the real power in life. At least that is what I have learned, but continually need to practice to remember.

Up to this time in your martial arts journey, there have been any number of people who have cared for your education, nurtured you along, and cared about how you performed –your teachers, your seniors, your fellow students, some friends. But beginning next week, you will, more or less, be on your own (like you have always been) and back with that one person who got you into this thing in the first place –your inspiration, your truest critic, your most faithful supporter, and your some-time-enemy … yourself.

Yes, this is the same person who (might have?) chose the martial arts over, oh, say a law degree, medicine, architecture, and all the other noble careers you could have had --had you not been on the mat so often.

What were you thinking?

You weren’t, were you? At least not in the sense of considering the ins-and-outs and calculating your choices. Being a martial artist --or pursuing art of any kind--is a path that doesn’t make a lot of sense at all when you think about it logically. But the internal call of the martial arts is compelling and powerful. And there are lots of other kinds of thinking other than analysis.

Did Baryshnikov think when he danced? Did he analyze and calculate? Did Michael Jordan think when he ran down the court, stopped, took three steps back, faked, turned the other way, turned again then jumped and sent the ball through the hoop that he hadn’t looked at since mid-court? Is that thinking? One important thinker, Educator Howard Gardener, calls it intelligence in his book Multiple Intelligences. He calls it kinetic intelligence. Athletes use it. So do neurosurgeons. This isn’t a surprise to you, is it?

And he cites other intelligences –musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence –and adds them to mathematical and verbal intelligence, which were, for years, the only ones most educators acknowledged. Technology isn’t set up to measure all of these intelligences, but everyone can recognize the truth in the idea. And here’s the thing: They all come into play when one pursues the lifestyle of a black belt –and then the path of the professional martial arts teacher. We may not understand it all, but we use them, just as we didn’t have to understand grammar when we started talking.

So, through some invisible process, you choose to pursue this path. Maybe you saw something in a movie or on TV, maybe you met a black belt who inspired you, perhaps it was simply an idea you found in your head? But when you put on that uniform and you felt your power on the mat, you were changed.

It isn’t always easy, this martial arts thing. There’s pain, there’s push, there’s humiliation and defeat. But like the oyster that turns a grain of sand into a pearl, you take all the experiences and find transformation. As a result of training you are different than you were before. You are expanded by it all.

I’m not speaking figuratively here. Thanks to brain imaging, we have started to see something of how we are changed by our experiences. When the brain encounters something new, something it has never seen before, its neural pathways shift, and some synapses become more active while others become less so. Properly wired up and monitored by a scientist or doctor, the image of your brain lights up like a pinball machine. When the stimulus is removed the brain reverts back to its prior state –but not all the way back. It retains some of the new patterning. You create neurons every time you learn something new as a record of sorts of how to do the thing. The first years of your life were completely taken up by this patterning and stretching as you encountered the bright light of birth, then Mama, then water, and on and on.

This is all exhilarating, but after 20, 30 or 40 years of it, it can be a bit too intense for some people. Maybe that’s why some people tend to get careful and conservative as they get older. They want things to stay the way they are, so they can get a handle on life.

But not martial artists; we go looking for the change. The fear of the unknown, a quick triumph over fear, something new, the crafty new opponent --then a rush of dopamine to the brain. Of course there are other things that change us. New arguments change us, new concepts, new people, and new places. But martial artists make most of their change from the inside. They use it to grow themselves. It is exalting –and exaltation is pretty hard to find in the everyday.

So there’s a succinct definition of a good training day for you: You come home and you’re not the same person as when you left in the morning. Your daily efforts may not always create a huge change, but it’s there and it adds up.

Will you ever wonder why you chose the martial arts over everything else you could have done? Probably. Will you ever “hit the wall?” I think you will. Will you ever doubt yourself and your decisions? Most certainly. The famous artist Richard Serra said, “The place where you are dumfounded by your own lack of understanding is the place to start working. Once you stop doubting you might as well stop working.”
Now, graduating to a new level, your real work begins. It’s not about being a great martial artist, this journey. It’s about being a great human being. That’s your graduation thought.

My last bit of advice: Stay awake, stay out of your comfort zone. Keep searching. Keep working. Don’t get stuck for too long. Practice evolving physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That is The Way.

You’ve chosen the right career. Make it a great one. Make the martial arts industry, no, make the world better --because you were involved.

About the AuthorTom Callos is a veteran consultant to the martial arts industry. His latest project, The Ultimate Black Belt Test can be seen at His personal website is He resides with his wife and three children in Placerville, CA.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Aiki weekend

So John came down this week and Pat Sensei let us do some judo and aikido friday and saturday. It was a pretty productive weekend in my book. Sparring with John made me notice for the first time just how much judo and aikido are related. It's one thing being told they are and another actually feeling the similarities. I was able to keep up with him standing but more or less lost it on the ground. The different arm bars and that kinda strategy isn't really firm in my head.

Still, doing judo again was fun. It's been many moons since the last time i got to practice it at all and to me it's kinda neat to look back and see just how much the aikido i've learned has helped. I used to be deathly afraid of being foot swept and now it's no big deal at all. Although i still think Vincent would put the fear of God in me were he to show up again.

As well as some sparring, John and i also did the basic throws of judo and played around with those some. Pat Sensei came in and we sorta moved back and forth from judo to aikido, and at some point Kary showed up and we did....something (here's where posting when i get back to town would be helpful). At some point that night Pat nailed me rather well with ALL of nijusan. Ouch!

Saturday we did a couple of reps of tegatana and hanasu. I helped refresh kary on them since he's only been to a few clases and has been absent a while. We did some ki bump exercises with oshitaoshi and the broke out the crash pad for some owaza. After class John had Pat and i demonstrate nijusan and all of the different technique chains so he'd have a video to compare things to while he's learning from Bryce. I was practically exhausted, which won't be hard to tell once the video John took makes it to the internet, so i'm sure it'll be an interesting thing for me to see from an outside perspective.

John and i got a chance to catch up on things, compare notes and whatnot. More on that in a different post. An interesting thing occurred to me on the way back home though. The way i've been absorbing aikido is a lot like tetris, the blocks fall down and every once in a while make a line that actually becomes something learned. That's why after the umpteenth time i'm told something i'll finally grasp it. I think i did pretty good this weekend. I definitely had fun.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


This one's a tad short. I've just sorta been thinking about my training and how dedicated i seem to be. I live 85 or so miles from the dojo, so it's sorta a long haul from home to class and back. I've missed a lot of class nights lately and though most of them have been due to random events from school to car work and things in between, there have been a couple where i just didn't want to make the trip. I love aikido and enjoy going to class, but sometimes the will to go just isn't there. On the nights i don't go i know i'm not going to be getting any practice in elsewhere to compensate for what i've missed as a matter of fact class is the only time i get any reall practice at all other than doing tegatana and pondering on things in my noggin. Dave Lowry once wrote to the effect that one who is serious should go to class no matter what because you never know if it will be there tomorrow. I happen to know how true this actually is through various experiences in the past but if a student misses class on purpose is he slacking off? I feel guilty (and more to follow as soon as i hit publish) because i'm not giving it a hundred percent. Anyhoo, those are my thoughts at the moment.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Morihei Ueshiba - The Founder of Aikido (complete) 1 of 5

Another cool thing i came across on YouTube. I posted this in reverse so it can be watched in order (atleast that's the plan, i dont know how it came out on my blog yet) i hope someone enjoys!

Morihei Ueshiba - The Founder of Aikido (complete) 2 of 5

Morihei Ueshiba - The Founder of Aikido (complete) 3 of 5

Morihei Ueshiba - The Founder of Aikido (complete) 4 of 5

Morihei Ueshiba - The Founder of Aikido 5 of 5

O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba Interview

I came across this video a while back and now that i can actually get it to post i wanted to share it. Really shows some insight into the man he was.

Everybody has a story.

John recently started a blog and posted his "how i got into aikido" story. Then Pat laid out his epic over on his blog.

Guess i could try to follow suit.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away.... (who didn't see that coming?)

I was but a mere 4 years old when i first got into martial arts. I was in a private daycare/kindergarten and Mrs. Elaine the owner and teacher one day presented us with the option of taking karate instead of a nap (with parent approval). With me it was a no-brainer. Not only did i get out of having to pretend to be asleep for over an hour but i got to learn how to fight like a superhero (i was 5!!). I enjoyed it and continued going untill my parents freaked out over a belt rank test at the main dojo. Part of the rank test involved all of us sitting in a dark room and defending from an attack. For some reason my mother and father just wern't keen on it and pulled me on the spot. I didn't take it well, especially having made it through the test and not getting scared in the dark (i was addicted to night lights at the time) but that's the way it goes. My interest never really went away, (i held onto the belts and gi for years) but for a long time i never got to go to another class on a regular basis. Until. I was going to Jr. High ( i think?) and i got invited to an American Kenpo class. The short version of the story is the teacher wasn't affiliated with Kenpo and wasn't even a black belt IN the style. The class broke up. It was sorta a blow, i wasn't far from sankyu and at the time i was disappointed that all i had worked towards was for naught (amazing to look back and see how different my opinion is now. on some stuff. yeah yeah i know what you're thinking John.)
After all that i went to Seibukan Shorin Ryu and fell in love with it. I even got John to come to class for a while but it wasn't his thing so he stopped coming. Biljac is an awesome teacher and i pretty much enjoy everything about the style but cost ended up being an issue. If aikido ceased to be i'd end up back in Seibukan. I constantly see Biljack Sensei and he's always wondering when i'm coming back. High school was a sprinkle of Seibukan, fencing, a small bit of kendo (that ended up mostly being an introduction of just how many times I can take a bokken to the ribs before my eyes leak water), some Shotokan with a substitute teacher (i wonder if John remembers that), a quick return to kenpo and a just as sudden departure, John and i trying to learn Aikikai Aikido from Kisshimaru's Aikido book, and other adventures. I was always looking for a sword fighting school to take up, that's sorta always been my thing but along the way i began to dig the ideas of aikido. I guess it finally came together for me when John and i made the 4 hour trek to the coast once to go to an aikido dojo there. John would have his aikido and i could go for iaido. Watching the class was fun but what really got me into it was seeing how their bokken and jodo training looked a lot like their regular aikido so it really piqued my interest. John ended up finding Pat Sensei's dojo and so we went there. I went for a while with John, we stopped going due to a deer demolishing his truck, a huge span of time later and then i started going back and for the most part have been going ever sense. Aikido is definitely a lot different that anything else i've taken but i can see myself taking it till i'm old, the only thing i guess that's "missing" is kenjitsu or kendo (if you prefer) of some kind. But who knows what'll happen in the future.

Messy and inchoherent but it may have gotten an idea across.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Just another step

Pat talked about a cool idea on how the side step (fall) is a basic idea of all the steps (falls) in tegatana. Side stepping is easy and pretty much everyone can do it with the "right" spacing, so if you do it diagonally you should have the right spacing, the only difference between that and the normal move is facing your feet worward. It's something else for me to try to remember as i practice on tegatana.

I was having a bit of trouble with the inside and outside ideas of kote gaeshi, my brain was moving a little slow for that so i sorta fumbled through it. We also did kote heneri, tenkai kote heneri, tenkai kote gaeshi, and shiho nage. Thanks to the internet for giving me a visual reference to go over.