Archive for the ‘Aikido’ Category


Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
Hi There,
I hope you don’t mind me checking in. Just because I’m not training, doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it.
At Hoa Sensei’s dojo opening the other day I was particularly interested in the distinctions of technique between Witt Sensei, Kim Sensei and Hoa Sensei. All started with the same attack, or a variation of that movement (for example tsuki and katate dori both reach out along a vector), but each executed the techniques very differently.
Witt Sensei is very grounded and solid. He moves easily, but also seems to minimize how much moving around he does. His technique comes from deep in his center, and of course years and years of training. I noticed that he lets uke come to him as much as possible, then turns that over-extension into technique.
Kim Sensei expresses great strength and power in his technique. Although he creates the opening necessary to engage uke, he also has no problem driving uke with additional momentum. At first glance, his throws look like they involve a big upper body movement. But actually it’s all driven by his hips, with his upper body following through, like a golfer or baseball batter.
Hoa Sensei’s movements are very fluid. I always saw them as cat-like. It never looks like he’s exerting great power. But as anyone who has trained with him knows, he is remarkably powerful. On Saturday I noticed his dramatic vertical movement. His hips move constantly throughout the technique, like a sine wave.
Of course, as I watched all this I wondered about my own technique. How do I express Aikido? What is my-ki-do? Well, it really isn’t hard to see: I’m very practical. I don’t like long, drawn-out technique, or highly theoretical practice. I like attacks that are strong and clear, and I want my techniques to be effective. Unfortunately, I do use strength to make up for technique, but usually I express that with big hip movement, rather than upper body strength. I’m very physical and like to mix it up on the mat.
Next time you’re on the mat, notice that everyone of us has his or her own Aikido. I try to notice, because it helps me understand what may be going on with a student’s Aikido, or even the mental or physical hurdles they face. I try to notice myself – what do I embrace or avoid.
Notice the instructors: how do they play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses? How does their Aikido reflect their personalities, their physicality, their lives?
More importantly, observe your own Aikido. How do you express yourself through Aikido? Where are you comfortable and confident, or hesitant and unsure? And perhaps, what can you do to exploit your strengths and remediate your weaknesses. I bet that if you can identify a strength in Aikido, you can track that strength to the rest of your life and use it more consciously. Or, if you can name what troubles you on the mat, you might see the same troublesome patterns in your relationships, your job and anywhere else you interract with others.
We don’t just train to execute technique. We train to be better people. Being observant of yourself and others on the mat is a wonderfully effective, safe and fun place to grow.

Blending in Motion

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
If Iwama-style Aikido gets a bad rap, it’s for being overly static. And from the outside, I can see how that might be perceived. We focus on essential body geometry, explore techniques through deconstruction and basic practices, and often execute techniques in an explosive — rather than ultra-flowing — way. We start with stability and work our way into flow and motion. Numerous other forms of Aikido start in motion and — I hope — work their way back to stability.
But here’s the part they don’t see: once we’re in motion, we have stability, technique and flow. HAR!
Of course, that doesn’t happen by accident. Sure, Aikidoko X can do a great basic ikkyo. But what about ikkyo in motion? What about ikkyo under pressure? What about ikkyo when it doesn’t even look like ikkyo but there’s nothing else for it to be? That’s the spirit of takemusu. and the way we develop it is through practice that progresses from static, or kihon, to flowing.
The big flows we always think about are jyu-waza and randori. BTW, the difference is that jyu-waza, or free attack, generally means one faces a single attacker. Ran dori (ran = chaos; dori = to grab) is usually considered an exercise in which one faces multiple attackers.
Anyway, we glamorize it because, well, because it’s cool. It’s hard to do well, looks great at times, and makes you feel like you’ve truly exercised your martial skills.
And that’s kind of true. But the very best Aikidoka I’ve ever seen in randori aren’t really focused on technique. They’re focused on blending. I’ve been told (reminded, admonished, scolded) that if one concentrates on blending, technique will follow naturally.
NEWS FLASH! Focus your Aikido on blending.
Well, truth be told it’s more easily said than done. You’re moving fast, you’re under pressure. Of course, under those conditions, your weaknesses will show. For most of us, the biggest weakness is blending.
So that’s what we’ll work on tonight. We’ll explore basics of blending. Attach blends to techniques. Then start moving things around and speeding things up. We’re all going to get plenty of time on the mat, and hopefully we’ll all walk away excited. Humbled, most likely, but excited.
See you on the mat!