Thursday, June 30, 2011

And Socrates said..

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

I bring this up because Pat's class is a constant reminder of this quote to me.

Instead of having class tuesday i tried to lure my students to McComb for Pat's class, but it was to no avail. I'm still hoping to get them out there at some point in the next two weeks. Anyway, as class began and we went through tegatana I was embarrassed to learn that I have completely forgotten an entire series of moves in tegatana : the rising up/arm above the head then move forward and the arm comes around and back up segment (or soto mawashi since i cheated and looked on the Internet). I was pretty stunned that it had completely left my memory and to make matters worse I've been teaching tegatana without it. D'oh!

Hanasu came up next and i uked ok enough but my turn as tori met more resistance with my fumble brain and I stalled on 5-8. Now i've done this kata about fifty thousand times by now and I've been showing people how to do almost 2/3rds of it for a month. I felt practically dumb at this point as i had flubbed two rather simple things in front of Pat.

We continued to work on hanasu with an emphasis on the idea of stepping onto a tightrope with the first step. At first i was fairly anti-absorbent to the idea and tangled up with putting too much strength into my arms or simply being stuck with the kata way i've gotten used to doing.

Being confronted with a more refined way to do something that I've been doing and teaching to others had me feeling more than a little worried. Had i been showing people new to aikido the wrong thing? And worse, had i simply been doing this wrong the entire time blindly ignorant?

"Verily, Nay." Said Pat. He went on to explain in more modern english that everything i had been doing is fine, this was just a more randori/real life way of doing the same old thing. The more we practiced the more comfortable with the practice i became. We moved through some different randori practices, with hands and with a stick about 18 inches long, using more flowing movement and better positioning. Relaxed and attentive to uke's force was the way to go. I eventually felt better as practice continued.

After class finished and Kel left Pat and I continued working on hanasu and some of junana since i had didn't have to leave anytime soon. There was some jo work in there as well. Overall it was a great practice and I'm glad i came to McComb (as i always am). I just have to become more relaxed with my aikido and with my thinking. There's always more to learn....some routes are all about the journey, not the destination.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Morning showers and deep thoughts.

This isn't really all that important, just something I wanted to jot down. A notion struck me earlier today that a key to better understanding something like aikido is to be comfortable and confident in the path you're taking at the pace you're experiencing it in. It opens you up to better familiarize yourself with what you're doing without having the access baggage of self-doubt(or consciousness or worry or fear). Follow along at your own pace and revel in it. Sure some people may get to A goal or THE goal faster than you or become better than you but you'll never achieve the optimal design for you by chasing after what everyone else has.

Anyhoo, that probably came out as a lot of hooey but when that thought floated into my mind I realized that if I had been able to figure that out way back when I wouldn't have beat myself up near as much over the years of learning as I have. I suppose I have trying to teach nijusan (in the way it makes sense to me) to thank for showing me that.

I owe Pat a bunch for pushing me into trying to teach.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Double the students, double the fun....

...."it's the statement of the great mint in Doublemint gum!" (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

So I had two students last night which really helped me stick to my plan to keep it simple. After spreading out the tarp and doing some warm-up stretches we gave it a go:

Ukemi was more forward rolls and back falls. With the forward rolls it was pretty much business as usual. Back falls we had to make sure to take enough of a step back to assist with being round. If we tuck and roll from a neutral standing position there's more chance we'll land right on our tailbone...and since we don't have mats that's something we have to avoid for sure.

We did a few reps of Tegatana focusing on those turns again. Using the tension in the first leg to turn the second helps to make a more relaxed motion and it generally keeps the steps small. The extra rehearsal also gives everyone a chance to learn the kata so they can practice it away from class.

I was able to keep on track with hanasu 1-4 this time. I went through them all with Chris then again with Jesse. After that I broke it down one technique at a time and had them switch off as uke and tori for several minutes.

With 1 we continued with diagonal step, to the end of the arm (usually causing uke's off balance to worsen enough to cause him to step and allow tori to) step behind the arm. Maintain unbendable arms assists with every part of the process.

On 2 we continued with the idea to "open the door and allow uke to walk on through". I'm really attempting to stress the idea that if tori is patient and willing to let uke follow up on his off balance it will really improve tori's chance of completing the technique with minimal force. (As a matter of face that's true on all the hanasu techniques we're working on AND with Aikido in general)

3 brought more of the same lessons from 1, it's just same being idea but being grabbed on the same side vs opposite armed. I'm working more unbendable arm on this one as well to help with the whole.

With 2 it's the same with 4 except with the same sided attack as 3. "Open the door", be patient for uke to wobble, then step behind him when he "comes through the door". Easy peasy!

I never thought I'd ever be this interested in 2 & 4. I've always seemed to struggle with these two (though never quite as much as 6 and 8 for some reason). Then one day Pat pointed out a little tweak that made the whole thing click and now I really like these.

With all our work on Hanasu class seemed to fly by and we were all having a lot of fun. Just to shake things up a bit and give a fun close to the evening I had them get on opposite ends of the tarp and we did the same ma'ai exercise from monday. We traded off opponents and used the aiki brush-off and the cow catcher to block, deflect and evade uke's attack should he decide to strike inside of ma'ai.

Before I forget I also brought Jesse up to speed on what Chis has dubbed "attacking the tree". It's just an exercise demonstrating stepping with same hand same foot, meeting resistance or some kind of opposing force (this instance the tree) and then stepping to the other side's same hand and same foot and building another "wall" with that side. Something for them to piddle with and noodle over.

Aaaaand that was class. Seems to be going well still. Hopefully we'll have a streak of continued luck and Jesse will be able to get off work on time to be able to come to class.

As with the initial mission statement for this blog i may tend to ramble and most of what i say may not make a whole heap of sense. If it DOES though, and you have any advice on how i can get better with teaching and aikido in general PLEASE leave me a comment.

Thanks everybody!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ma'ai, ma''s hanasu!

So far class is going well. I'm trying my best to be patient and not overload the guy with too much info at once but at times it is a bit difficult. I worry I'm going too fast so for the next two classes i think I'll just stick to tegatana, hanasu 1-4 and nijusan 1-2.

But on to last night's breakdown:

Warm up stretches and ukemi. There's still some drift off to the side when he rolls but with more practice and continued emphasis on rolling across from shoulder to opposite hip it should correct itself. He's getting the backward rolls rather well. He even commented how important that step to half step backwards was in making it feel more relaxed. Success!

With tegatana we did the standard initial run through then broke it down and looked at it a few ways. The second time we emphasised correct posture and moving from the center and less stepping. The next 2-3 reps we worked mostly on turns and how loading the forward leg like a coiled spring and allowing the other leg to turn around the first helps with footwork and keeping our steps small. This worked really well.

With hanasu I wanted to see how well 1-4 has sunk in so far so i uke'ed straight through 1-4 and then we reversed so i was tori. He's catching on to the motions, and after 1 million or so reps he'll have it mastered for sure. If he seems to get frustrated i always make sure to remind him that it will get better with practice, practice, practice.

We did several reps of each and after trying to explain how the hand raising motion in 1 and 2 should feel we worked on hanasu 5 to get that feel of "going under the bridge" we returned back to 2 and 4 using the same raising motion to get a better stretch out of uke. I also introduced 6 as a response for when 2 goes wrong as a branch off the same tree but this is where i feel like I'm throwing too much at him at once. Definitely using 1-4 alone for a while.

With us being all hopped up on hanasu know-how we used a practice from the book of Pat to use 1-4 and practice with ma'ai as well. Uke and tori stand several paces apart from each other and walk towards then past. Uke has the option of attacking or simply passing by. Tori's job is to concentrate on when ma'ai is broken and if he is attacked (by having his wrist grabbed) how to respond. We used alot of class time working on this and at the end threw in some cow-catcher and aiki brush-off as well.

To wrap the evening up we worked on shomen ate and aigaime ate with a little gedan and slowly doing the back fall out of it (as we practice without mats). More work on using the unbendable arm as a feeler for what uke is attempting and having the patience and confidence of tori's position to wait and let uke attempt something. He'll either be foiled from the initial off-balance or he'll get wise and stand up or move to face you. Whichever he chooses you can use his arm (by feeling where his shoulder and elbow are turning) to determine how to act. He's really catching on to this idea and so I'm looking forward to see how he absorbs the rest of nijusan in the months to come.

That's about all there was to last night's class. Still really digging the teaching thing. If you have any criticisms or advice I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Deflect, evade

2nd class was a repeat of the basics with the student that's new to aikido:

A few reps of tegatana with relaxed small steps as the focus. We went through the whole kata each time. Next we did some ukemi. Stepping back falls and forwards/backwards ground rolls. For the ground rolls we tried to follow that invisible line across our backs from the shoulder to the opposite hip. After 1 million of these master status will be obtained.

Hanasu 1-4. Need to work on footwork but he's getting the feeling of the off-balance. Since 4 was the new technique there was a bit of a stick up but the same emphasis on the "open the door and step out of the way" motion helps just like it does on 2. We just need to keep working on stepping off to avoid, move around the arm, and then getting behind. Unbendable arm is a must.

Before we did nijusan we played around with some same hand/same foot drills using Pat's "building walls" idea. Find a wall, or in our case last night a tree, and post against it with one side or the other "building a wall". With this stable base it allows you to deflect or block as strong as you can. The second step is when uke's resistance builds up step off to the next side (left if you blocked right or vice versa) and build another "wall".

We did this against a tree several times until the concept made sense then moved on to the "cow catcher" and the aiki-brush off. We talked about avoid and deflect. Either block and get behind the arm or brush off to deflect and head in the opposite direction. This was a set up for our reps of the first three moves of nijusan: Shomen ate, Aigamae ate, and gyaku gamae ate. Use uke's attack to off-balance to the side pointing them down into the space between their feet. If that fails stay behind the arm and continue to step in motion with them. We did a lot of practice with being patient and letting uke decide what happens next: either waki gatame works and they're down or the arm you're behind can be your guide as to what uke will do next. Aigamae ate or gyaku gamae ate is just a response depending on the conditions.

After all of that we ran out of time. Granted that's a lot of typing but I'm trying to get this all down so I can get pointers on how to do things differently and better.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The difference a year makes.

Its been one year exactly since the last post on this blog and there has been a lot of changes in my life since then. The video blog project fell through almost right after its inception. I moved back to Mississippi from Washington State. Several other upswings and downturns occurred but yesterday one of the biggest things for me personally finally happened: I taught my first class!

Who would have thunk it?

Even though I've been doing aikido for years and I always had a somewhat illusive concept I would teach one day, I never really believed the day would actually come. At the end of the day I suppose it was nothing really special (class activity to be described shortly) but its a milestone we all get to at some point or another if we continue our practice.

After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting a local group together vs. schedule conflicts and disinterest I was able to get a friend of one of the Starkville instructors and a friend of mine (who has done some aikikai) to meet up at a local park. The class was what I assume would be standard "this is aikido" fare. After some chatting with the new aikidoka and my friend we did stretches and a little intro ground ukemi. Nothing to report on the ukemi really, just forward rolling from a kneeled position and backwards falling with emphasis on the "sitting on the couch" focus I learned from Pat. The new guy picked it up rather well.

The next thing we worked on was tegatana no kata, the walking kata. I went through the entire kata once as a walk through, breaking down which directions we were going in and how the turns were executed. The next few reps we did with just the first 3 sets: diagonal moves, side steps, and turns. Stepping on the balls of the feet was emphasised for these.

Hanasu was our next segment. All of the eight techniques for Hanasu are wrist releases and I had us work on the first three as a primer. We worked on all three pretty slowly as I wanted them both to get used to feeling the moves in three steps at kata speed. I also wanted them to get the concept of being good ukes so we used a firm initial grab to give tori something substantial to work with. It went great!

The last few things we did was Shomen ate and Aigamae ate from Nijusan. I went over Shomen ate first then explained the idea of the "cow catcher" block against an incoming attack. After several reps of both we moved onto aigamae ate. On this we worked on staying behind uke's arm and allowing uke to decide when he would stand up to face tori.

All in all it was a lot of fun for me and I believe they had a blast as well. It has always seemed like a daunting task in the past, but once I actually got to show people some aikido it was a relaxed thing. I just tried to show them what I know and help them understand it the way I do, which I guess is the whole concept behind instruction.

Can't wait to get better at it! If anyone has advice I am all ears....