Wednesday, September 29, 2010


So I've been teaching about three weeks now.  It's strange to be doing aikido on a college campus again.  When I first started, not so long ago, it was through a program on campus, and the feel of class is different then when you go to a dojo.  Also, I'm the first faculty member to be associated with the martial arts umbrella group that my class practices under so that's a little strange also.
I've only had one regular attendee, a judo guy, we're everywhere!  A great first student.  So far we've spent the last 15 min of every other class rolling, and he is one of those rare young guys that can practice ground work without going crazy trying to kill you.  It's been awesome.
He's learning the aikido techniques very quickly, but I've been in a bit of a quandary as to the rate of introduction of new material.  I always struggled when I was a lower belt over how much to shine up what I already knew and how much to work on adding new skills.  The awesome thing about the 23 and the releases is that the later techniques help your earlier techniques get better, so I think I think that we should cover as many techniques as possible and worry about getting any single one of them "right" later. 
But, we all want "to get it right" before we move on to new stuff.  So, I"m not sure how well that will go over.  I'm thinking about adding the first chain, which is an impossible amount of technique to learn, just so that he will be forced to do it by feel instead of rote memorization, as a tricky way of throwing a bunch of techniques at the poor guy.  The down side to this idea is that of course I'm the only one who can uke it, since the point would be to avoid mesmerizing the order of the techniques.  Still, it's worth giving a try.

One of the things that makes teaching on a campus unique is the increased volume of drop by folks and short time attendees.  Since I don't have a someone that can take the new folks and work on falling and such, I'm worried about how class flow is going to go once I have a few folks that know some stuffs.  But, I'm probably getting ahead of myself.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Class

As everything in my life is a strugglefest, so was my first class.  I'm teaching as part of a larger "Martial Arts" club and my class wasn't listed so that folks would know that they could show up.  So, it was only me and two other folks.  However, I have to say, it worked out to my advantage since I could spend a lot of time with the both of them.
One of the students showed up late, which was cool because the on time student was also a judo guy.  We had a chance to work on rolling, and since he already had a good grasp, we could do fun stuff like making it rounder and increasing surface area during a fall.
Once both students were there, we covered the first release as an excuse to talk about following uke and timing.  I'm not real sure how many techniques I'm going to make it through, so I've been thinking about what the "vital" stuff is.  By that I mean which techniques teach the most important ideas.  At this point I'm thinking 8 releases, first chain and first 5 out  of the 23.  The releases and chain focus on follow, feel and rhythm.  The first 5 of the 23 on spacing and maai.  If anyone has thoughts that would be awesome!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Well, I'm sort of back. I've been limited to weekly judo for the last year, a major cut back for me. Being married and promises about learning to ballroom dance have crushed my dreams of actually learning how to do this stuff. The ballroom stuff, (which has been pretty fun) has helped keep me keep track of balance and feel but really nothing compares to actual practice. I'm hoping to get a twice weekly class of aikido going at the school I'm teaching at, though I don't know where I'm going to get students / practice dummies.
Since I have only been working on judo recently, I've really been trying to work on the circle of throws that the man gave me as my foundation set of techniques. I can't really tell if any of them are getting better, but its good practice.
What I've missed now that I'm not able to practice with the Boss in Houston, is mostly two things. The collection of guys that I've found to work with are a great group of guys and have a lot of the same ideas about what a good class involves, but after spending seven years with Karl obviously things are going to be different.
The first is without ever being injured enough to miss a class in those seven years in houston, in the one year I've been away from his sharp eye, I've had my nose broken and missed a month with elbow issues. It is way harder then I thought to have a "safe" club, at least at the levels I was used to. I know part of this is because he's not working on the mat and is free to watch for trouble, but the whole feel of the club is somehow unique.
The second thing is about my circle of throws. Most folks that I've worked with here in Boston either work favorite throws or whatever they found in a book or internet. The Judo curriculum is more difficult I think to practice in a way that both trains a specific throw and in addition hones basics which are applicable to a group of throws. I know Pat talks about this a fair amount but the volume of confusion about how to link stuff, in more then just a counter to counter method is impressive.

Anyway, I'm going to try to show up here more, hopefully with the start of school I'll be able to talk about aikido.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Damn the blogger and eating my post! It was going pretty good! So, if when reading this you feel that I have written a disaster, remember that the good version was lost by the evil computer. Hold on a second while I save this one.
Well save didn't work. You can't see it, but right now I'm typing with one hand because the other is poking myself in the eye. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Pat made a point a while back the class size always works in cycles. I have no idea why this is true, but gosh darn it if it ain't. We haven't had a new white belt in months and on Monday three new ones walked in the door. One of them was a judo guy looking for some sweet cross training but three new guys is three new guys!
Its great to have some new blood in the club. Its been close to four months since I've worked with someone that wasn't rocking a black belt. While that's good, its also good to teach the basics and work with an uke thats not as cooperative. Or at least, one that's moving in unexpected ways.
So, from this experience I have two points.
First, eventually all of us learn to move in very similar ways. Taking into account size and age and such things, we've learned the efficent way to get around. White belts move in seemingly random ways. I'm almost always suprised at how an untrained individual gets from point A to point B. Their body movement is different as well. How they move and where they move is different from what you're expecting. It really highlights which parts I'm doing by rote and which parts I'm doing by feel.
This really brings me to my second point. When I first got my black belt I dreaded working with the white belts. Not because they weren't fun people or because I didn't enjoy teaching but because in all honestly, I feared the white belt. I assume we've all gone through this phase where everything feels like its working but then when you work with a white belt the wheels fall off and nothing works. I did/do. I could do the 23 (our main set of techniques) like a pro when I was working with other black belts. But, hell was cold and satan was wearing a parka before I could get it to go on damn white belt. I've had that argument where I'm near tears pleading with the newbie to "just attack right!" It's a moment that lives on in shame.
The point is, for a long while (longer then we think) we've only learned the techniques by rote, or as Karl would say, we've learned the choreography. There's plenty of folks that never get beyond that. And, most of the time, I would say that's fine. At "full speed" or on the street, many of the varriables that occur in practice are lost and the choreography is close enough to be effective.
But, back to my point. When I finally learned the priniple of the techniques, everything started to work more often. I wasn't really doing a technique anymore I was following prinicple and following uke and that was causing a techinque. One that looked remarkably similar to the choreographed techinque. In fact I might be bold enought to say that only uke and I knew it was any different.
I guess that's why it's hard to tell good martial artist from bad by just watching a demo.

anyway, be good folks.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

been out of town

Sorry I haven't updated in a while, I've been back home in Ca. Man is it pretty.
Least ways, the big MMA fight happened while I was home and one of the dudes I was hanging out with was a big fan. I'm not much of a fan. I haven't seen very much either. From what I have seen I'm left with a question.
Why would anyone use the guard if the other guy isn't wearing a shirt. Now, I love the guard. It's my primary ground position. But, I don't get how often I've seen it used in the mma fights I've seen.
One of the main elements to how I understand the guard is the need to keep your body close to your opponents for it to be effective. I always lose when my buddies can push away and get space. They get free or they climb over a knee. In the mma stuff they just punch the guy from inside the guard. Are they effective punches? Not most, but some. They can only punch because of the space between them.
My point is that without a shirt or gi hang onto to keep everything close, the guard is very vulnerable. I almost always have a least one hand (mostly two) on the collar of the gi pulling me to him so that there isn't any space. There is nothing that is as effective at staying close that can be replicated on a shirtless duder. So, in every fight I've seen on the tv there is tons of space.
I just wonder why it seems to be the primary position fighters are looking for when it so ineffective without something to hang onto.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Walk

First off, let me be honest, for the most part I hate the walk. You might know it as Tegatana. In general if find it to be boring. I believe that it has great value, I just don't like doing it all that much.
It's why I stay away from Jyodo.
Pat has a whole bit on how to do better walking on his site. I have no doubt that working dilligently on the walk will better my aikido.
Anyway, my point is something else. The man was a little fired up in class last night and pointed out that we were completely out of synic with one another while doing the walk. His point was that while the walk trains how to do the steps, its greater value is in that it teaches you to be in rhythm from the inital step of the bad guy.
With this in mind, I payed more attention to the walk then usual (that is to say I paid attention at all). What I noticed was that the walk teaches more then just being in time with someone else, it forces you to be in time without changing the length of your step. Its something unique to the kata. Well hello new intrest for me.
When you walk with someone, girlfriend, boyfriend, marching troop, to get in step, you agree to walk with the same leg velocity and to take the same size step.
So, when we work on the chain or releases, I've noticed that I end up taking the same size step as uke. Its a hard habbit to break. It feels ok because most everyone in the club is about the same height and we're going slow.
However, in life, sometimes your "working" with some one who has a drastically longer or shorter step. There's no way to take the same size step, and they're not going to try and meet you in the middle, like an occomidating uke in practice. So, you have to get in rythem with the man by having a different velocity of step so that you have the same footfalls (which is what I think the important part is).
We have to break somewhat the training of life. The key to breaking it, perhaps, is dedicated tegatana work with a partner. Crazy pete! Because you're not linked to the man, you feel less pressure to modulate step size. This frees you to emphasize hitting the footfalls while forcing yourself to take your normal step size. You walk at the pace of the counter not the speed of the counter. Way hard. It's make the walk fun again.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I couldn't throw for a rats ass tonight.
My work all week has been pretty wonky. As in, pretty much terrible.
Robert and I were working on sumi-otoshi in aikido. The throw was going ok, we were really trying to hit the back otoshi motion. (rear throw action)
Least ways as class wore on we were getting closer. Karl commented that we were almost right, then came out and demonstrated so we'd have a better idea.
That lead to a round of working on the back fall where you don't turn your foot. That is, not a pivot front fall.
Well, I spent the rest of the night crashing my head into the blue crash pad. It was like, elbow, head, elbow, knee, cry.

Disaster! Robert of course got it on the first try!
It wouldn't be a strugglefest without the struggle.