Friday, August 27, 2010


8/27/10 w,w,f [0s, 12-1v] A Classes have ranged from 12 vets to just one today. Most days I had 3-4 fairly serious regulars. I spoke with a staff and he said the problem is that a lot of the current group “blew out” of the program in the first and second week. He said some groups have a lot of vets with some real, major problems. As supportive as the program and staff are, some guys can’t deal with one or more of the conditions or treatments.

In some ways the small groups allow me to personalize what and how I teach. I have been able to build some relationships that kind of allow me to use teaching a technique a certain way to ease someone through a personal issue. It is difficult, because I not only have to focus on the technique I want to teach, I have to be relaxed and centered enough to be sensitive to where each guy is, not just in technical ability, but emotional condition as well.

As difficult as this may be, it seems to be helping my own Aikido as well. Sort of what I am giving out is an investment on which I am getting a significant return. I wish I could do as well with my finances.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Americanized Names for Techniques
Given the short time I have with these vets, and my own dyslexic inability to learn a foreign language [after 43 years I think I finally have the difference down between yokomen uchi and shomen uchi] I am trying to use Americanized terms. Some of these are descriptive terms rather than an attempt to do a translation from the Japanese. Some are probably completely wrong. Some are descriptions of standing pins I have developed from throws.
I would greatly appreciate any advice on this, remembering that I need easily remembered, fairly descriptive terms.
Static stances [Unfortunately, almost all of our work is done from static]
Mirror stance Gyaku Homni
Cross stance Ai Homni

Shoulder grab [one hand] Katadori kah-tah doe-ree
Grab shoulders with both hands Ushiro watte kumi tsuki
Single wrist grab [mirror stance] Katate Dori kah-tah-the doe-ree
Single wrist grab [Cross stance] Gyakute Dori gyah-koo-the doe-ree
Grab both wrists Ryote Dori ree-oh-the doe-ree
Grab one wrist with both hands Morote Dori moe-roe-the doe-ree
Grab elbow Hiji Dori he-jee doe-ree
Grab sleeve Sode dori:
Grab lapel with one hand Eri Dori eh-ree doe-ree
Grab lapels from front with both hands Mae eri shimeage
Chop to top of the head Shomen uchi show-mehn oo-chee
Chop to the side of the head/neck Yokomen uchi yo-co-mehn oo-chee
Straight punch to stomach Mune tsuki moo-net skee
Grab both wrists from the rear Ushiro ryote dori
Grab head/neck from rear [choke] Ushiro kubi jime katate dori
Grab around chest from rear Ushiro watte kumi tsuki
grab two hands from rear Ushiro ryote dori:

First form #1 straight wrist Ikkyo ee-kyoh
Second form #2 bent wrist [finger] Nikyo knee-kyoh
Third form #3 wrist twist inside Sankyo sahn-kyoh
Fourth form #4 forearm nerve point Yonkyo yohn-kyoh
Fifth form #5 back of wrist to floor Gokyo go-kyoh
Sixth form #6 Wrist twist outside Kote gaeshi co-the gah-eh-she
Entering movement Irimi nage e-ree-mee nah-geh
Rotary movement Kaiten nage kigh-ten nah-geh
Breath/relationship throw Kokyu nage co-kew nah-geh
Four direction throw Shiho nage shee-ho nah-ghe
Corner throw Sumi otoshi sue-mee oh-toe-she
Heaven and Earth pin Tenchi nage tehn-chee nah-geh
Wrist twist to shoulder pin Kote Gaeshi co-the gah-eh-she
Rear arm bar
Side arm bar
Front head lock & arm pin
Rear head lock & arm pin
Rear neck pin/choke [use extreme caution]
Nape of neck moving pin
Snake arm pin

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


8/11/10 w [2s 6v] I Although I started out with six vets, three of them had to leave about halfway through, and the staff dropped out even sooner than that. One of the vets returned after about 20 minutes.
We did ikyo, nikyo, sankyo and Kote gaeshi from ai homni. The four vets I ended up with are very focused on pretty much every aspect of each technique. They really work at being relaxed and balanced throughout. I told them this, but got confused looks when I then said working at being relaxed is sort of an oxymoron. They would reach the next “level” when they didn’t have to work at it, they would just be relaxed. I think two of them began to get a glimmer of an idea as to what I meant.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


8/08/10 w&f [2s 12v] B Given the size of our “dojo”, this is about as large a class as I want. Four vets are back from last week and the 2 staff are new to the program, nurses or interns I’m not sure.
As I said in the NOTE on 8/3, I tried having the vets do ikyo omote to a ground or take-down pin if they wanted. Four of them did/took the pin. The response was “Well there seemed to be a be a bit more control, but I don’t see much benefit to it.” and “Okay, but I don’t think it teaches me anything new.”. Remember, these guys tend to be extremely pragmatic. One of the things they have consistently said they like about Aikido is that it is highly functional and very efficient. Can’t argue with them there! But I think I will do the take-down pins once in a while when I feel there are a few guys who will gain from it, like the chairkido.
I am feeling like I am getting too repetitious with no clear sense of what I am going to do as I come into the class each time. Sometimes I feel like I am not giving them as much as I would like, and greater variety could help. I think that the kinesthetic learning process is stronger when the learning objective, the basic principles, are learned through a wide variety of approaches. With this in mind, I think I am going to sketch out a six week curriculum that will help me teach techniques from as wide a variety of attacks as possible.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


8/3/10 NOTE: I really like doing this blog. Well, I don’t like writing it much, but I do like having written it. And I especially like doing a section where I get some good responses and generate some good discussion. The last section [8/1/10] is one of those that is generating some good replies on the AikiWeb Aikido Forums, External Aikido Blog Posts [] It goes to show how vibrant and alive is the art and the community of Aikido.
The discussions I have read in most martial arts forums usually start with “my form/style/school is different than yours”, but rapidly move to “my form is better than everything else.” and often deteriorate to “ your form sucks and your mother wears combat boots”. Aikido forums mostly stay with the first level of discourse. And given what I am trying to do, with the people I have as students, I appreciate the strong opinions I am getting, both pro and con. They force me to more closely examine what I am doing and why I am doing or not doing a particular thing. And sometimes I can bring what I am doing more in line with traditional dojo teaching, sometimes not.
For example, today I started the class with ikyo omote, but only bringing uke to a standing pin. I then got a volunteer and demonstrated the same technique but brought him to a smooth, soft ground pin. I then gave those people who wanted, the option of doing the standing or the ground pin, based on what their physical limitations allowed. Some guys tried the ground pin. What was interesting was how people began to see how important it was taking relaxed and balanced ukemi.
All that being said, personally I don’t see there being one fixed and rigid Aikido. From what I can tell, O Sensei’s Aikido grew and changed through out his life. The great consistency was that Aikido should be “a way to peace in the world”. I have done a fair amount of traveling and try to put in some practice with what ever dojo is in the area. While I almost always learned, the dojos I gained the most from were those in which the sensei and most of the students practiced technique as a way to the inner strength and self knowledge that enables them to move through life calmer, more peacefully and more in control of themselves and circumstances as they come at them.
To me these are the core principles of Aikido. They are the structure, the skeleton on which can be built a flexible, highly adaptable, organic body of practice and technique. Thus, Aikido can be appropriate to almost anyone, no matter what their age, gender or physical ability. At one time it was believed that women were not physically capable of practicing or learning Aikido. Even today there are those who hold that children can not, should not learn Aikido. Of course we know that Aikido is not suitable for those with physical disabilities, the wheelchair bound, the blind, the aged and decrepit, etc, etc, etc.
It only takes a few minutes running through the internet to prove all of those assumptions wrong, and that one of the great strengths of Aikido is that with careful thought, aikido can be, has been, is constantly being, adapted to meet the needs and capabilities of all those people with out losing or violating the core principles and practices. To hold that Aikido can only be taught in such a way that it can only be practiced by athletic young men is quaint, but denies the it’s vast range of possibilities. I mean if some arthritic, 71 year old, duffer can’t practice what am I going to do four times a week?

Sunday, August 1, 2010


NOTE; A few people have questioned why I do not teach throws. I have found three reasons for doing techniques to a standing pin, as opposed to finishing with a throw or a ground pin.
Site limitations
It is very rare to find any kind of mat in a VA facility. Much more usual is linoleum, wood, concrete slab or rug on slab. These all preclude any type of throw. I may do an occasional take down to a ground pin, but I usually only do a demonstration if I have a vet who I feel can take the move safely. There have always been a number of vets in each class who do not have the flexibility or capability to get down on the ground safely.
Teaching objective versus time limitations
Learning to do even basic falls safely, can take many classes, even in a dojo with adequate mats. Plus, falls and rolls are rarely useful in the real world, and probably won’t be particularly helpful in dealing with their PTSD issues. As I normally have vets for only a few weeks, I would much rather commit the time to giving them exposure to principles and practices which can be of value in their day-to-day living.
Learning advantages
An Aikido, technique is a process, it is not an end. In the dojo it sometimes seems as if most nage are focusing intensely on getting to the end of a technique, the throw. All to often the process between the attack and throw are rushed through, often given short shrift. There is not adequate focus on the intermediate motions and actions that bring you to, and allow a successful finish. This lack of attention to the process also often results in a loss if control of uke. [NOTE; working with people who don’t know how to “take ukeme” has shown me how often I am apt to lose control during a technique because my technique is not consistantly focused on where I am “now” as a part of a flowing process. I’m not always sure the vets are learning much, but I am learning an enormous amount about the misperceptions, subtle weaknesses and glaring faults in my own Aikido.]
When doing a technique to a standing pin, there in no idea of “throwing uke away”. As the desired end result is to hold uke in a safe and controlled position, there is more focus on attaining and maintaining control through out the entire technique. Students quickly find that a smooth, balanced flow is what best allows firm control from the initiating attack through to the final pin, where, as on of the vets put it, “Now we can talk this situation over. Right?”

Of course, it would be best to teach technique to both a standing pin and a throw. But without mats, I can’t do that. And I really believe it would be very benificial to occasionally do techniques to a standing pin as a part of a regular dojo’s learning process.