Saturday, October 31, 2009

10/30/09 f [ 3s, 12v] B This size group won’t last, but it does allow for a better class. I was able to have them do a different irimi [going to the front of uke] and then progress to two variations. This form if irimi began to expose them to the concept of “centering” as maintaining uke’s center on nage’s centerline as opposed to directly to their center/hara. People could see and experience how moving from the hips enabled them to maintain this centerline control in a fairly fluid technique, where moving from the shoulders quickly caused them to loose uke. We finished with a basic wrist lock [kote gaeshi]. Our two current chair cowboys were able to do most of these techniques, especially the last, with minor modifications, once they grasped how to move from their center/hips while seated.
NOTE: I really get a great kick out of seeing that expression on the face of someone who thinks they are “helpless” because they are chair bound. Amazed? Empowered? Like they got a little piece of themselves back? After, I could see them practicing moves as I worked with the rest of the class

Thursday, October 29, 2009

10/30/09 [3s 12v] B Small class, mostly new people. Small group allowed me to take one technique, irimi tenkan, through several variations ending with a nikkyo ura. I was able to spend more time with each person, not just stressing relaxing and centering, but helping each of them modify the technique to their particular physical condition. This was also a chance to demonstrate, and practice, centering a bit further from the actual harra or body center by keeping the hands, and uke, on a center line as we move our body.
NOTE: I should talk with the staff about doing some discussion around how aikido technique can apply in the real world. Especially the principles of breathing/relaxing/welcoming, centering, and moving off the line.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Onward - into the fog

10/21/09 w [5s, 22v] No new folk. Did Friday type class. Worked up from irimi tenkan to basic nikiyo [omote, no take-down/pin]. This proved to be a good technique to instill the need to “center” i.e., bring uke’s arm/center down and directly into nage’s center. Told them we would start at that point Friday after warm-ups, and continue that technique to a more advanced level.
Note: As the schedule of when new folks come in to the Ward, and to avoid confusing myself, I’m going to re-name the 3 types of class I defined above;
Monday will now be “A” advanced
Wednesday will now be “B” basic
Friday will now be “I” intermediate

10/21/09 At Aikido of Northampton [my regular dojo]
2 guys from the big 8 [ward 8 is the location at the VA facility where the PTSD vets live] visited a regular class. They were a bit blown away at how effective aikido can be when you go full out. They also remarked on how the very limited, basic technique we are able to do actually are the basics of a full aikido technique. They got to meet Todd Martin Sensei and liked how he reinforced what they were doing. One guy is leaving the program Tuesday and asked if I knew of any dojos in the Providence RI area. He thinks he might want to continue his aikido. I will get him a list of the dojos I know of.

10/23/09 f [5s, 20v] A type class. Warm ups, solo & partner irimi tenkan. Repeated irimi tenkan to nikyo omote as a standing pin. Progressed to nikyo ura as a standing pin. People were surprised at how powerful nikyo is, and how destructive nikyo ura could be if pushed a bit too far. Very high interest in this technique. A lot of people experimented with different grips and hand/body positions.
I ended with a demonstration of nikyo ura to a takedown and floor pin, and how well it enabled me to control uke while being completely relaxed myself.

10/26/09 [ s, v] B [3s, 10v] Apparently a lot of people left today and we had 2 new guys.
also, starting on-time, at 2:30 on Mondays is problematic. A lot of people are involved in other activities, group meetings, counseling, clinics, etc. that are supposed to end at 2:30, but often run over, and even if they do end on time, by the time people get to class it is often 5+ minutes before they get to the class. I don’t know if we can do anything about this but I will try to get the class to start and end 5 minutes later.
NOTE: I just have to plan on not being able to plan any regular sechedule of classes. I will just have to concentrate on the goals I set and try to implement them as best I can with the group I have on any one day. If I reach a few people, inculcate the concept of relaxing, breathing and centering when confronted or in stressful situations I will know I haven’t wasted my time. Althought it has only been a short time, it seems to have happend with a couple of guys and that feels real good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

10/16/09 [4 s, 22v] Great class! Had them leave about 11 chairs out. Started with regular warm-ups and solo irimi tenkan. Then explained that we were going to develop some chair aikido, together, as I wasn’t sure what I was doing with this. Stressed that the 5 points still applied, especially relaxing and moving from the hips, even though you might assume they were locked in by sitting down. Pointed out that in addition to Uke’s center being higher, Uke would have to reach in and over their legs to grab them. This would cause Uke to already be somewhat over balanced.
Started with a simple wrist grab, irimi variation where Nage “scooped” Uke’s “center” to their center/lap. Then continued this into an ikkyo, pinning Uke over Nage’s knees. Then a couple of the guys said they thought an arm pin to the chest would work from a chair, so we tried that. Worked great.
This was the first time we had every one trying moves. At the start, I could tell that a number of folks didn’t think they could do any of this. Some very serious doubts on the faces of former armchair cowboys, By the end of class, those looks had changed, at least to the possibility they weren’t totally helpless in a chair. The biggest hurdles were learning to sit back in the chair, relax the shoulders and not jerk on Uke. Many guys realized, for the first time, the power of relaxing and bringing Uke to their center.
I think, that as practicing technique to a standing pin, practicing technique from a chair can be an excellent teaching tool for aikidoka at any level.
For me, this was a very satisfying class. In part because applying the 5 points while “trapped” in a chair worked so well, but mostly because we were able to involve everyone in the class but also because of the level of enthusiasm the guys showed. The room was replete with really positive “vibes” today. I am even more firmly convinced that the basic principles of aikido, both O’Sensei 5 principles and the 5 points of technique, are truly universal and can be used by anyone, in almost any situation of conflict/ aggression/stress.
Damn, I love this stuff!!!!!!!

10/19/09 Confused start. Began with 4 staff and 7 vets. Was told there would be more vets as well as several new guys. Ended up with 5 staff [1 new] and 14 vets with 4 new guys. Obviously my Monday plan got changed. I guess I am going to have to be ready to adapt to who ever shows up.
Basically did the Wed plan. Guys who have been to a few classes voluntarily partnered with new guys. I concentrated on basic static irimi techniques. As expected, several people left the program. Unfortunately, they were a couple of the better ones. But, then again, a couple of those staying are coming along. Hopefully Wednesday or Friday I can get in some more active techniques using timing and momentum, working on a smooth flow of movement and using energy from the hips

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I shoulde make it clear, I don’t necessarily see Aikido as therapy for PTSD. I do believe, and it has been my experience, that Aikido can be theraputic. In working with young people, I have seen practicing Aikido contribute to changes in attitude, in approaches to problem solving, to responses to stress and agression. Like many physical activities, Aikido can be a kinesthetic, i.e. non-intelectual method for learning and changing behaviors. Hopefully in more positive directions than football or karate and other martial arts as they are taught in the US.

9/9/09 First class. Started with 6 staff and about 20 Vets. One or two had a bit of martial arts training outside of regular military hand-to-hand. No Aikido. Gave a brief explanation of Aikido, that it was a martial art, but the only one I knew of where the objective was to beat the opponent, but to bring everyone to a safe, secure place. Began with warm-ups, stressing breathing and moving only to the point where the stretch could just be felt. A lot of these guys have physical issues so I have to remember to encourage them to go only as far as they can, not to push to hard, both in warm-ups and practicing technique.
Demonstrated solo irimi tenkan stressing how the 5 points are applied. Had them practice as I went around.
Demonstrated irimi tenkan with a partner, stressing again how the 5 points are applied. Had them pair up and practice as I went around.
Did one variation on irimi tenkan to a standing pin, ikkyo. Demonstrated with a partner, had them pair up and practice as I went around.
Finished class with a “breath down”.

This was the routine for most classes, with variations after doing warm-ups and Irimi tenkan.

9/21/09 Began with warm-ups, stressing breathing and moving only to the point where the stretch could just be felt then solo and basic partner irimi. Much better at centering and being more relaxed. Partner irimi with three slightly advanced moves. Some confusion with position of hands and using a bit too much upper body strength but pick up corrections quickly, with a small demo. Breath down. Spoke briefly about what I felt was most important about aikido, and what I hoped to give them in the short time we had, i.e. the sense that dealing with aggression and stressful situations by relaxing and centering can be very powerful and effective. A few of the guys leaving thanked me, both for the way warm ups help their various joints, and for the exposure to aikido. Two have said they intend to keep practicing at a dojo near home.
NOTE: Don’t try to do backstretch with someone over 300 pounds!!! I really like the A-HA! moments.

Staff still haven’t figured out schedule.

NOTE; Unless the staff drastically changes the schedule, and given the ebb and flow of vets i.e. the 6 week cycle with new people able to start a Wednesday AM class, I think the general schedule should be;
Wednesdays 8am Intro to Aikido and difference from other martial arts, i.e. “collaborative nature, slower warm up and more explanations, stress 5 points, safety, explain teacher/student relationship, centering, breathing, slow smooth movement in technique. Focus on ireme nage, solo and partner work with 1 or 2 simple variations.
Fridays 8am Touch briefly on points above. slightly more complicated techniques, again working from same side and cross hand grabs. Demonstrate how using the 5 points actually gives more “power” and control than using upper body muscle.
Mondays 2:30pm Everyone will have had at least a couple of classes. This being the case, do a little more advanced techniques, possibly yokomen, two hand and shirt grabs. Again, stress relaxing, centering and use of breathing.

9/23/09 w [6 staff 20 vets] 7 new people. 4-5 people do warm ups but sit down when we start partner practice [3 who have had a week or more, 2 first timers]. I know some of them have physical issues, but some just don’t want to do anything. I’m not going to push it just yet but will talk with staff. See how they want to handle it.
Regular Wed program. Putting people with a couple of weeks with newbies seems to help move things along. These guys are mostly pretty supportive of each other. I’ll try to continue to use this dynamic.

9/25/09 f [5 staff 16 vets]. Again, 4-5 people do warm ups but sit down when we start partner practice. Apparently 4 people just didn’t show up. Able to get in 4 techniques and generally people are doing much better at relaxing, breathing and centering. Asked one of the biggest guys to do a move with me. As he started he went to his shoulders. I just said”sholders”. He stopped, took a deep breath, let it out slowly as he relaxed into his center, and a very nice irimi nage. Man! This makes it all worth while! And, while everyone is not doing this well, I can see real progress, and several of the guys have expressed the same feeling.
The staff want to try changing the schedule to Monday 2:30p to 3:15, keeping Wed & Fri at 8:a. We’ll see how it goes.

9/28/09 m [5 staff 16] vets This will only be a 45 min session. 3 people do warm ups but sit down when we start partner practice. I think this class is here voluntarily so the fact the numbers are pretty much the same is a good sign. Although, maybe it just means there isn’t anything else to do. As everyone here has been to at least 3 classes, we are still able to get through warm-ups, irimi practice and three techniques even though the time is shorter. Still making progress, When I tell someone to “relax”, or “bring partner to your center”, they respond. They may not get the movements exactly right, but the concept is beginning to be internalized.
NOTE; I am probably talking too much but in the short time we have, I want to make sure they understand the principles behind the movements. As I go around and work with the partner groups, I find what seems to work best is to watch a move, complement what is right, demonstrate emphasizing the corrections needed w/o talking, demonstrate again this time explaining the reasons, the physics behind the corrections and stressing relaxing the upper body and the 5 points.
There are a couple of guys who like to “test”, me or the move, I don’t know which, but it gives me a “teaching opportunity” by showing how a proper, 5 points grounded move allows me to either control the “test” or flow it into another move/pin.
I am having fun.

9/30/09 w [5 s 18 v] Same group so I am able to take it up a notch. Do 3 techniques from Yokomen. Even though it starts from a totally different attack, some people pick up idea of “guiding” nage’s attack, not blocking, and a couple of people realized how they were actually bringing nage’s “center” to theirs.

10/2/09 f Most of the guys and staff had to attend “family days” so we started with only 4 staff and 6 vets and this slowly evaporated to three vets and one staff. This gave me the opportunity to do some larger moves and work closer with everyone.

10/05 & 0/7 Missed both classes due to #*&#@ cold.

10/9/09 [4s 22v] I got a round of applause when I walked in????? Made me feel good. 6 new guys so I did the Wednesday intro and warm ups. A bit more time spent on irimi nage, solo & partner. Nice the way guys who have been here move right over to new folks. Even if they don’t have the technique exactly right, it sets a great tone for the class, a sense of comradlyness [sic?]. I wonder if the staff notices this making a difference anywhere else?

NOTE: 4 - 6 guys always come, try to do some of the exercises and even take a stab at the easier techniques but mostly they sit on the perimeter and watch. What about developing some chair aikido, techniques that can be done while sitting down???????? Would the abler guys be willing to work with me? Would the “sitters” be willing to do it? Can there be any advantages/strengths? How do we deal with the lack of mobility? other blocks/drawbacks?

10/14/09 [5s 22v] No new people so I did a Monday type class. Only did 3 techniques, but stressed the more subtle aspects, i.e. moving from the hips, relaxing the upper body, precise “grips”. Another example of how the limitations of not having to work on falls enables us to focus on these points at a rather early point in their training. I still think occasionally doing no-throw techniques could be helpful in a regular dojo class.
Broached the idea of doing some chair aikido so those guys with physical issues can still participate. There was a real positive response to being able to get these guys more involved. I did say this was new ground for me and that we would have to develop these things together.


9/09-11-14-16-18/09 MY MACHINE ATE MY LOG AND NOTES!!!
Up to 9/21 is just my best guess as to what I had written.

I want to extend my Aikido into more of my life as well as getting back to putting energy something with more socially redeeming value. Being semi-retired, I have the time to put that energy where I want, not just where I get paid best.
To quote someone, “all that counts in life is how you move through the fire”. As a Vet, my Aikido has had a very positive effect on how I have moved through life. I am going to approach the local Veterans Administration facility to see if they would be interested in having me teach a class on Aikido to Vets.

Met with the volunteer coordinator. She refered me to the clinic where they work with vets with combat related PTSD. Attended a staff meeting and did my pitch on how Aikido can help deal with stress, agression, etc. They got back to me the next day and asked if I could do a class at 8:00 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is great, better than I expected.

We are doing class in the ward day room, rug, but no mats.
Vets are usually here for 6 weeks, with a new group of 4-7 new people coming in about every week and 4-7 leaving. There will usually be about 20 +- vets at each class. A new group process in on Mondays which means I plan on having some new people join the ongoing group every Wednesday.

While I want the class to be an enjoyable break from their regular schedule, I really want to give people something positive they can use outside of class, in their regular life, dealing with their real life issues. Properly taught, the physical activity should have an effect on their mental/emotional activity [kinesthetic learning]. It doesn’t really matter if they are consciously aware of this. Covert can often work better than overt.
Based on discussions with the staff and given the time and location realities:
Stress the collaborative nature of aikido practice, Nage as teacher, Uke is student.
All techniques will end with a standing pin, occasionally a take down. No throws or falls.
Concentrate on basic moves and techniques; 1 & 2 hand grabs, shoulder grabs, shomenuchi. No ski.
Drill on the 5 points of technique
1. welcoming “attack” and relaxing to center
2. getting “off the line”
3. blending attacker’s [Uke] “center” with Nage’s
4. Nage utilizies technique to move their own body, and not focusing on Uke
5. coming to a place where the attacker is secure and both participants are safe [especially Nage]

To evaluate progress/success on these I’ve come up with the following set of goals;
That guys will enjoy the class and keep coming
That there will be a good interaction among the various “demographics” of the group and a sense of group will develop
Guys will learn and demonstrate an ability to consciously relax and center when “attacked”/stressed
Staff will have some commonly held language they can use to help Vets in certain situations, i.e. relax, center, breath down
All of these will carry over outside of class