Senior Students Step Forward Please

I’m in Pittsburgh tonight and practiced at Three Rivers Aikikai at Carnegie Mellon University. The Head Instructor was out of town so another black belt taught the class. There were only three other people plus the instructor, one had practiced for less than two months and the another was there for the 3rd or 4th time. I think the last student was still somewhat new but he looked better than me in his techniques.

The gist was that the instructor kept referring to me as the senior student and I was uke for the instruction almost half the time. After class I commented that I was uncomfortable being a senior student and she said that it was good for a student to be in that role sometimes.

While there are sometimes less experienced people at our dojo I know that my time with them is short and somebody better will be working to correct any errors. I offer help when I can, but I know others will help more.

So, it was a different and an interesting night.

While traveling I have practiced at 8 other dojos and 1 judo class. I first look for a USAF (US Aikido Federation) and if there is none I check for ASU (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba) and so far that has worked out well.


I'm Rubber, You're Glue

Aikido Article Here --
Former-Self Defense

I'm passing along an article my sister sent me. Some may find something to object to in the article such as the “Vulcan Nerve Pinch” (never seen it in a dojo), or being labeled “bookish” dorks. But it is a humor piece so we can let that go, and of course it applies to me anyway.

One point it alludes to but doesn't address directly is “Why do we practice Aikido?”

I have never been in a fight and probably won't in the future. In the past I've been able to talk my way out of trouble much like the author of the article did I suppose. I wonder if I ever became good at Aikido would I be more likely to not talk and actually fight? This would be ironic since O'Sensei's realization was that Aikido is “not a technique to fight with or defeat the enemy. It is the way to reconcile the worl and make human beings one family.” (The Way of Aikido by George Leonard)

It may be I simply practice because it is so freakin' cool, even when you are bad at it.


Next Stop: Animation Station

I was having a few problems with the animation software and when looking for answers I found this site that offers an online course for only $20 at www.eclecticacademy.com. Here is an excerpt from their website.

Q. What is the length of the classes - How many weeks?

A. A semester runs for six (6) weeks and includes six (6) lessons. A lesson is posted every Sunday and you have the entire week to complete it.

So after a quick trip to PayPal, I signed up and it starts July 8th. Reports will follow.


The UN-Doing of Aikido

Tonight we finished our class with a true exercise, meaning we didn't learn a specific technique.

Two people raise arms and one person slowly presses against the their partner's wrist as if they are aiming for the other person's head. Something like two people crossing swords. The second person should feel the intention and the pressure then remove any “information” and step off the line of attack, yet keep the connection to the other person. The two people switch roles and weave around their space almost like a dance.

Our Sensei made a few comments that I think are worth noting. During the initial instruction he implied that this exercise was not a technique but rather we are just doing “Aikido”. And when dealing with specifics he pointed out that in Aikido the point is to take advantage of any indication of the opponent's intention and use the appropriate technique and here we are trying to respond with no indication of our plans and in fact proceed no further than that.

In this case both people were trying to do NO technique and deliver NO “information” to the other person. Each person in turn presented a small intention toward the other's head but the “opponent” simply removes resistance (while keeping contact) and then the roles were immediately reversed. So with each exercise there was only non-resistance and a lack of technique.

Learning the essence of Aikido by doing no Aikido technique. Even experienced students had trouble adjusting and relaxing. The playing field was level for a few minutes and we were touching the core of Aikido.

I think this also relates to something Brian previously demonstrated, in that each technique has the potential of being reversed. Reversed, because you are giving too much information of your plan to
Uke who takes that and redirects your plan until it become their own.

I'm not sure the image above applies but I felt it presents the idea of contact yet not control.
No Theological implication to be inferred, just looking at a picture.


¡Rosetta Stone está aquí también!

I finally made it back to my Spanish Rosetta Stone long enough to finish Unit 2 or Level 1. It took me a week and a half to get around to completing all 8 lessons. So I'm already behind the schedule I'd hoped, but fortunately for me it was not a binding agreement.

In fact to finish up tonight I had to push the pace so I took the instructions to heart that every exercise was not for everybody. I worked on the listening, reading and the speaking parts. Partly to finish up and partly because I didn't think I was getting much out of typing in Spanish when I knew most of the vocabulary already.

As the material gets harder I will mostly likely work on all of the sections to reinforce the new vocabulary.

I was happy to see two more verb forms in the second half of Unit 2. We had “El niño está sentado encima de la cerca.” (New word for me!! - Cerca, not meaning close but LA cerca for fence)

...and then “El caballo va a saltar”. I think I remember first learning this form in my first Spanish I class way back in the mid 1980's. Back when I thought “Yo voy a aprender Español” .

Anyway, it's good to see some exciting new tenses and new vocabulary.

Really it is.

Free Rosetta Stone At the Library

Thanks to a tip I now find out that a local library has Rosetta Stone available on-line! I didn't check it out to compare, since my software is past returning. I suspect there would be some inconveniences using an only online version, but I would have tried it before I bought if I know before hand.

I wonder if there are any restrictions or differences?

In any case, I'm committed to this chosen path and paying a few hundred dollars is a real gesture that indicates and reinforces my sincerity.

I hope.


Forget to Remember or Remembering to Forget

I found this comment about learning Aikido on another Aikido blog...

"If a beginner can’t remember the techniques after class is over, he or she should not be concerned or discouraged because with regard to learning techniques, the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba said, “Learn and Forget, learn and forget.”

By this, he meant that the ability to perform Aikido techniques was not based on the power of memory, but by practicing continually. It is through constant training that we will naturally remember and learn Aikido techniques and through steady and regular training, we will someday naturally and spontaneously reproduce the movements of Aikido without having to “memorize” the techniques with our minds."

I don't have much to add except that I hope it true, since remembering Aikido is...well it is just hard.

Found at
which has a wonderful design.


Suwari Waza, another Aikido Hurdle

Suwari Waza is one of the stranger aspects of Aikido and it is also one that on the face of it doesn't seem useful. You practice the techniques while walking on your knees. And it is yet another part of Aikido that is another demarcation between a beginner and an experienced Aikido-ist.

I am still a real beginner in Suwari Waza and today my toes were really hurting. Another reminder how far I have to go.

After Suwari Waza we practiced standing Irimi Nage today and I had a much better feel for it than Thursday. Today I was able to relax and go with the movement when I was Uke.

It reminded me about a previous comment :

"Being Uke may also mean being composed during a conflict!?!"

Today I was able to relax enough as Uke to turn into Nage's movement and ended up doing a forward roll rather than being forced into a backward roll (Thanks to Brian for his help). My point is that I had to be composed and relax to get to this point.

So I guess it was a good day.


Does Yamada Stay at Ramada?

Tonight at the Dallas Dojo Yoshimitsu Yamada instructed a full house (or full dojo).

We praticed a number of techniques starting with Irimi Nage. For some reason I was even less competent than usual, to the point my partner apparently thought I was such a beginner that I could not make a backward roll to finish the Irimi Technique when I was Uke.

I don't know why Irimi Nage causes me so much trouble. The last time we practiced it in Plano I thought I was really getting a handle on it as Nage and as Uke. Tonight I was again back to square one, which is a phrase I sadly use much too often.

Here is Yamada Sensei demonstrating Irimi Nage.

After all the above, for some reason what strikes me the most is that Yamada Sensei smokes. In and out of the Dojo. As an ex-smoker I don't mind, but it is strange to smell cigarette smoke inside any building now.


A Second, Slightly Less Primitive Animation

Here is another attempt to use Anime Studio Pro to create an animation of a character walking across the screen. This exercise is one often mentioned in books on traditional animation (pencil, paper and camera). Although it is still simple, it is much better than my first example.

There are still problems, and after I finished I said to myself, "His walk makes him look drunk". So I added to bumps on the ground to explain his erratic movement.

But I learned much for the effort. I gained some experience with Anime Studio's "Bone Structure" system, discovered the use of adding "points" to a shape, found out how to change the the time actions take, and more.

Why Does New Stuff Always Have to Be So Difficult?

I finally got some time to return to Animation. But not really. I'm tyring to first create a reasonable “cartoon” character to use in the software. Not to bore anybody with the details but in Anime Studio each moving part need to be drawn on it's own layer and then pulled together when the animation starts.

The question is, how to get the drawing from your mind or from paper into the application. I tried to import a picture to work from, then I tried to create a model from some graphics application. Neither worked out well.

So in the end I'm just trying to learning how to draw in the application it self. This may not be the best answer, but after hours of trying different things and looking at forums for Anime Studio, that is the choice I made. To get to this decision took hours and learning how to actually do it is taking hours.

Creating the initial objects are extremely important and the upfront effort should be rewarded once motion is actually applied to the objects. By comparison in traditional frame by frame animation, you would half to recreate the character anew for each frame, and at 12 to 24 frames a second, it would be VERY time consuming (there are shortcuts for this but to make a really smooth animation you might drawing every frame).

Just to show I've done something. Here is an early design (no motion at this time). The image on the right shows the bone structure that allows you to manipulate the image rather than redraw it every frame.

Remember, I'm going for the cartoon look AND I'm planning on up to a year to actually produce something I like.


Koshi Nage Redux

Monday was a multi-technique night, and we revisited koshi nage for a time. We started with the Sankyo and that lead into koshi nage. The clip is doesn't start quite the same as Monday but the first half of the clip demonstrates the basic idea. The last half shows a variation from we did NOT practice Monday.

From a beginner's view there are a number of landmarks in Aikdo (aka obstacles) and koshi nage is one of them. Here is my current list

1. Backward roll
2. Forward roll

3. Breakfall
4. Koshi nage

The first two are relatively easy to handle adequately. The second two are real demarcations of note. After a few weeks most people can get by with 1 & 2, but 3 & 4 may take a while (years?) to be able to perform adequately.

So far after a year and a half I can fake 1 & 2 and "get by" with the others as long as nobody looks closely. Neither 3 or 4 hurt as uke but I'm still a fat middle aged guy who makes a lot of noise when I land. And THAT can be a scary sound.


El cuadrado es más pequeño que el círculo.

I made it through lesson 4 of unit 2 of Level 1.

It started off with more esta ....ando. I look forward to other conjugations. The vocabulary is pretty primitive but is has worked, giving me some words I didn't know. Like “rastrillo” and “tienda de pampaña”.

At unit 2, I can still fly through the choices pretty fast, and mistakes come from not paying attention and I wonder if I should slow down, but to do so would be really boring. For now I'm going on the premise that if I can fly through it I will, and at some point the difficulty will make me slow down.

However, the speaking test already really slows me down. I REALLY have a problem with geometric figures. Círculo is particularly difficult.

I still wonder about the criteria it uses to judge, but it is true that if I have trouble saying it (to my ear), then my rating is pretty bad.

But my real problem is time. For an adult with no children and not a student I would think I should have more time to pursue those interests I earlier declared. But it is as if every moment is precious and/or the world is determined to deny me the time to study.

I mean each day I still have to find time to watch two hours of TV and drink a full bottle of wine.

These things take TIME people!!


Uke Etiquette

Our dojo has the unusual arrangement that the official Sensei sometimes "merely" participates with the class while another black belt teaches. The arrangement has never been explained but the gift of the situation is that on Saturday's you can often personally learn from the Sensei, one on one.

Today we practiced kokyu nage and Irimi nage and I was working with Sensei on a type of kokyu nage (breath throw). FYI, one thing about kokyu nage is that there appears to be an endless variety of them. Anyway, Sensei pointed out that for this technique I should not try to anticipate what the technique intends, rather act as if you didn't know what would was to come and you as uke then react spontaneously

All well and good. Except you are often advised, as uke, to react and move with nage's technique. And once, I was advised by one teacher that I, as "uke", should know what was to come and to act accordingly. There are sometimes instructions about not causing too much resistance yet also instructions that being a good uke means committing fully as an attacker. The positive spin is that this is another example of the wonderful complexity of Aikido. the negative spin is that you never know what to do.

I could not find a YouTube example of the exact technique we worked on, but this clip does exemplify how being an uke means many different things. Attacker, follower, knowing how to attack and respond. Some people might think the Uke is stupidly following a course no normal attacker would, but that would be to miss half of Aikido. The "uke" part.

Milwaukee Art Museum

I was in Milwaukee for one night and the morning before I left I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum

When I go to an art museum I take a sketch book and make quick drawings of whatever catches my eye. They usually are not very good but aside from forcing me to look at the art closer, I don't know why I do it. It is just one of the odd things I do (one of many).

The drawing below is of a bronze statue by Marino Marini and while the small bronze horse was nice, the comment to his art was also interesting. He said...
"I Believe that we are heading toward the end of the world...My equestrian statues tell of the pangs caused byt the events of my age"

Then I sketched this pen and ink drawing by Rosemarie Koczy, who survived the Holocaust as an infant, but perhaps it still guides her art. From somewhere there is a lot of pain.

I actually started the visit sketching a metal sculpture made by a Haitian artist named Georges Liataud called "Child of the Sea" in 1959 the same time Marini was making his sculptures.

To me the Liataud metalwork expresses true joy.

How did the Haitian sculptor find the joy that the Italian sculptor could not?

All I know about the artists is what was expressed on those placards next to the pieces, so it may be more complicated, and as usual I have to insert the disclaimer that I may be wrong.


Yokomenuchi Ikkyo

Anyway tonight we practiced different responses to Yokomenuchi (side strike to the head). The example (not me) shows the ikkyo response. The attack itself may not be a realistic attack, although I'm not much of a fighter so I don't really know. But it doesn't look like the kind of attack a thug would use.

But the teacher (Sensei) tried to get us to recognize that this attack shows the circular nature of Aikido. A sort of yin yang thing. As the strike comes toward you, you move into the circle and redirect the the force.

It is almost like some of the things we learn are not the most practical but once integrated they are supposed to allow you to receive any attack and shape it into something you can use.

That is what I THINK he meant. Or I could be wrong.

But is an example of one of the ambiguities of practicing Aikido in that what you practice may or may not "work". Many times you ask the Sensei what would happen if the attacker resisted, and he might say that what we are working on was really an "exercise". If an attacker didn't cooperate you would simply use some other technique.

If you look on the web there are some martial arts people that lambast Aikido as not being "real". Of course I'm not in it to win any fights so it is not an issue, but it does show that Aikido may take more patience than some people are willing to endure, since the real world applications are not are not always apparent.


La Mujer tiene pelo largo

The speaking portion or Rosetta Stone is paradoxically the most confusing and yet may be the part that reinforces the most learning. I don't know what the measurement is since you can say the wrong words yet still get a good rating. And sometimes it seems to be where you hold the microphone determines how well you do rather than how you speak.

The net result is you really work at pronouncing every syllable.

My study from so many years ago got me through Unit I fairly easily, so I did the entire unit in one day. But it took almost 2½ to 3 hours to make it all the way through.

There are 8 units in Level 1 and 9 in Level 2 which is all I bought, so it may take a while for me to work my way through. 17 units at one a week means about 6 months if I am really diligent and can absorb a unit each week, which may NOT be the case so it may be a year or two.

Maybe somebody will magically find the Level III and send it to me, but for now I think the application does seem to have enough to keep me busy for a while.

El gato está saltando

I went through the Rosetta Stone Unit 1 lessons 1 – 11.

I had seen Rosetta Stone advertised on TV but it wasn't until I saw a demonstration at DFW airport one morning before a flight. It was that demonstration that prompted me to even consider paying the enormous price Rosetta Stone charges. Enormous compared to other language software, but cheap compared to a school.

I read some reviews and I remember somebody upset that the first lessons focuse on the present progressive “The cat IS JUMPING”, as that is not the most common way of expressing that action in Spanish.

It is true the lesson had many many “...está ...ando”, and it makes me think the application is really designed for English speakers who often use this construction. But is true that after a session one of my cats flew by and I thought “El gato está saltando.” So it worked!

The application has sections on listening, reading and writing. But I think the key feature is the listening that is arranged so you see four pictures and click on which image corresponds to the phrase you hear. Basically you are banking that this gimmick is the key to a new language.

Koshi Nage

Last Saturday we practiced Koshi Nage which is a throw where the uke or "attacker" is thrown across the back or hip of the Nage who performs the technique.

My problem is that I often end up trying to make up for the lack of ability with muscle which is a VERY bad idea for me, especially when the muscles in question involve my back.

Fortunately I was only sore for one day and by Monday I was fine.

This video of some other dojo shows some of what we practiced. The Koshi Nage throws are the ones where the victim rolls across the back of the Nage.

A Primitive Animation

I only post this HORRIBLE 3 second animation as a benchmark against which I hope future work will seem extraordinary!

I have worked through SOME of the Anime Studio Tutorials and this is what I can produce at this point. OBVIOUSLY I have a long ways to go.

Let's see what happens.


White Rock Lake in a minor key

This is from some old video I finally put together with the help of Señor Bach


A New Beginning?

I did in fact wake up this morning, so I have now lived half of a century.

In anticipation of this somewhat arbitrary milestone I earlier decided to consciously focus on 3 parts of my life and if I don't set actual goals at least try to track my progress as I pursue these interest.

1. Practice Aikido
2. Make a 2D computer animation short
3. Learn Spanish with Spanish Language software

1. I have been practicing Aikido for not quite 1 and 1/2 years and passed my first test (5th Kyu). I am NOT a natural and I think in my 50 years I've become a little uptight and have a problem relaxing. Being relaxed is important to Aikido techniques so that is a struggle

2. After my disappointment with Toon Boom Studio Express I purchased Anime Studio Pro and so far I think it is the application that matches my animation goals and skills. But it will be a long haul and I can only hope that in less than a year I will have the video on YouTube that I now see in my head.

3. I've studied Spanish a bit before over the last 30 years and even spent 2 months in a language school in Mexico. but that was over 25 years ago and IF I had really used Spanish back in 1990 when I returned to Texas, I might have actually developed some ability.

But I did not and now I am practically back to "square one". (I wonder what the Spanish equivalent to that is?)

I spent the money and purchased Level 1 and 2 of Rosseta Stone Spanish Latin America Edition.

I don't know it that was a wise decision, but I do know I don't have to the time to take classes.

I hope to use this blog to motivate myself and not simply sit back and drink wonderful cheap wine and watch TV for the next 25 years.

New Latop and Animation Test

I bought a new laptop with a plan to use it as a mobile workstation for animation and Spanish Language study.

I downloaded Toon Boom Studio Express and here is an early trial.

I was not really please these results.

Arts Animation Video

This is from 1982 when I first wanted to try animation with my Super8 camera. I was discouraged when I realized I just could not supply the quality because of limiting equipment


A Virtual Weltanschauung

Tomorrow morning I wake up for the first time as a 50 year old man.

Statistically I have 25 years to live ( more or less). So what do I do with those 25 years?

Do I make a list? Is that what this business of living is about?

Do I study philosophy or dive into religion? Must I find meaning?

And if I don't or can't, does that mean I failed? Is life about finding meaning? Is life about not failing?

If not that, then what?