Happiness Runs In A Circular Motion

Tonight we worked on a few responses to Yokomenuchi which is nice since we practiced some of the things on the 4th kyu test I hope to take in September or October ( I'm saving up for a blog entry about Aikido testing).

I suppose this applies to any move in Aikido, but with Yokomenuchi it seems an especially true expression of the whole “deal” and particularly relevant. With a side strike to the head the Aikdo response is to keep the proper distance (ma'ai ) but really you embrace the attack and then redirect the force if you do anything else you are lost. If somebody isn't cooperating you lose. It's all or nothing. With Shomenuchi or tsuki, if you are fast enough you could just get out of the way, but here you are supposed to step into the direction of the strike and use that force all the way to the end.

The video above resembles what we did tonight but Sidney really showed how it was effective when you followed through and maintained the circular motion.

As an aside, I'm still trying to ignore this sore muscle and still trying not to aggravate it but sill keep coming to practice.


The Cat Is Slept ???

It took a while but I finally busted out the Rosetta Stone for some Español action. For the record tonight I finished Level 1: Unit 4: Lesson 5. I think the previous lesson was a bit boring because it was really hard to motivate myself into study mode. Especially when there is animation and video editing on the same notebook computer all just a few clicks away.

This lesson raised the bar somewhat, in that they slipped in the past participle as in “El gato está dormido” after "El gato está durmiendo".

I'm still pleased with “The Stone” but there are some drawbacks such as no explanation of the two types of sleep (-ido versus -iendo). The present progressive is easily translatable as “The cat is sleeping”, but what is “The cat is slept”?

Then there is the problem stepping onto la escalera, las escleras or los escalones. I think they are respectively, the ladder, stairs, steps. You are left to figure these things out just by choosing until you get the correct answer. But maybe that is their point, you learn by failure more than by traditional study.

I hope so.


Now that I've slept on it, maybe this is a lesson that sometimes the problem is with English. We say "He is sitting" and "He is seated". So why don't we say "He is slept"?

English, what a wacky language.


Cats as Cats Can

This is niether Aikdo, nor Spanish, nor Animation, but I still managed to spend a whole lot of time working on it.

Another one of my peculiarities is that even though I intellectually know other people couldn't care a bit for my cats, I still suspect that deep down if they really knew them they would be totally charmed.

So, here they are and I'm a little ashamed to realize how proud I am.


Animation Station: Lesson 3

I was going to focus on Spanish tonight but after work, grocery shopping, general chores and dinner, I lost energy. So I worked on this week's lesson in Animation from www.eclecticacademy.com. I know the result looks pretty basic, but as far as these things go it was a good project. That 5 seconds worked in multiple ways of creating and coloring shapes while organizing at least 3 layers of images.

In case you can't tell, it is an underwater scene and the object is a cartoon submarine.

Maybe before Aikido class tommorrow I can squeze in some quality Español time in.


Give and Take and Give...

I think we had an exceptionally insightful class tonight. We started off with a short breakfall practice on some soft gymnastic mats but that was just a warm up. However it was an indication of the class to come in that we didn't really work on techniques.

At least half of the class we worked on “feeling” what was an Aikido response would be to pressure from two arms raised with the wrists touching in a crossed fashion. I acknowledged the pressure from nage and stepped off the line of attack, but then I would freeze before I could decide what to do, allowing uke to regain their balance.

BUT, once or twice I actually relaxed enough to to follow up with an actual Aikido technique, thanks to Brian working with me a bit. Even if the whole thing is a little contrived it felt great. It is contrived because Uke and Nage work together, but of course, in a sense any “practice” by it's very nature is contrived, almost by definition.

If I was going to argue what was “real” I think a strong argument could be that this “practice” is possibly more real than than a more complicated and exotic arrangement of flashy techniques. We were trying to sense the motion and respond accordingly which I think is the whole point of Aikido.

Plus for some reason I love it when Sidney talks about how we look for information from the pressure of a wrist. The idea of gathering info from the way a person grabs you is really a pretty cool way to think of an attack. Basically not as an attack but a connection with consequences.


My Strength Lies Within?

I noticed yesterday a leg muscle was sore and as the class progressed I felt the unpleasantness grow.

I suppose this is an aspect of any physical pursuit, sometimes something gets hurt. I don't think the problem was from any particular technique, rather it is as if I pushed too hard during a leg stretch. The upshot is that with each thing we practiced I tried not to use my leg muscles. I had to attempt to avoid using any lower body force or my upper thighs would scream at me.

Not being an athlete I am unused to such problems but it makes me think this......Even acknowledging body ailments are part of any physical endeavor I wonder if there is a feature of Aikido that is fundamentally different from other athletic pursuits. I mean, if you hurt your arm in Baseball, you have to stop throwing until it heals. If you pull a leg muscle in football, surely you can't run while hurt. Basically the muscles are the part of the body that drives the sport. But in Aikido the muscles shouldn't be the force behind the technique, and if you use strength to compensate for lack of technique you actually deviate from the whole point of using the attacker's energy to diffuse the situation and bring it all to harmony. Therefore if you are forced into not using muscle you actually do better at the “sport”.

There is an often told story (told by me at least) perhaps apocryphal*, that I think I read of O'sensei telling somebody that even he didn't appreciate the moves of Aikido until he was in his 70s and he could no longer rely on strength to complete the move, he could only use the essence of Aikido to complete the technique. Where else would a bodily ailment actually lead you to a better result?
*(I just love to use that phrase, "perhaps apocryphal")

Of course I don't know if I actually improved, but I did discover that to do whatever technique was required, I was forced to move with my whole body rather than straining my legs to finish the move.

That said....I read this at an Aikido blog where an injury is a bit more serious. “Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with a subdural haematoma and admitted to hospital for surgery almost immediately. The internal bleeding that was crushing my brain, causing violent headaches and swollen eyes, was the result of an injury sustained in the dojo more than two months earlier.” uchuuaiki.blogspot.com


It's All Just Like Ikkyo

Tonight Sidney Sensei was elegant as ever.

More Katatetori, which we worked on last Saturday was the topic tonight but Sidney has a way of showing you the gracefulness of a technique that, for me, speaks to the heart of why I practice Aikido.

What stuck tonight was that Sidney repeatedly said “It's just like in Ikkyo” when the technique itself was ostensively nothing like Ikkyo yet upon elaboration the truth of the observation was clear. I've heard the multitude of attack-technique variations said to be thousand and conversely the approaches to Aikido as few in essence. So tonight I weigh these two aspects, everything is either an explosion of possibility or merely one of a few inevitabilities.

The picture is from The Seven Samurai and I only use it because I was watching it earlier and I like it.


¡I Have Eyes But Cannot See!

Saturday we had an all Katatetori Day ..., Irimi Nage and Ikkyo are what I remember and from this I compose this thought for a day.

In Aikido sometimes the “point” of the technique is obvious even if you can't quite master it and sometimes it is NOT obvious.
(pretty great huh?)

Here is an example of Katatetori Ikkyo

Usually the heart of a technique is something like “Get off the line of attack, unbalance Uke, perform the technique”. Today the Iriminage response to a wrist grab made sense and I could see that if I had the skill it would work on anyone. But then I worked on the Ikkyo response with the only regular black belt at our dojo (aside from the two Senseis) and besides his Aikido ability he knows other martial arts and is just plain strong.

Quick aside:
In Katatetori Ikkyo you don't step “off” the line you take control of the attacker's line that goes through his center and then perform Ikkyo.

The matter came to a head when I just could not get my partner into Ikkyo, I never “felt” that moment when Uke was ready to go down. I never really saw the unbalancing and so I tried to use muscle. THAT was a mistake that I still feel with every word I type.

The troublesome part is that when I was Uke I could not tell whether I was thrust to the floor because of Aikido or just the strength of my OBVIOUSLY stronger partner so I never saw the essence of the thing. He was wonderful in trying to show me what I was doing wrong, but he is one strong guy and if I was going to perform this technique there was no way my inadequate strength would compensate for a lack of Aikdio technique.

To my despair I never “Got It”. Maybe next time.


¡Tal Vez Esto Va a Ayudarme!

I found some of the Frank Miller graphic novels in Spanish so I'm trying to read them to augment my exotic Rosetta Stone program. There can't be a better way to learn a language than comics, can there?

Above and below are some scans of my self imposed assignments. Please excuse any obscenities in Español.


Break Down Break Fall or Un-Break This Part

Sidney Sensei (or is that Shiba Sensei?) was still on vacation so brown belt Mark taught tonight and it was all good stuff. But for some reason what comes to mind now is an Aikido video I found.

Just look at the evolution to a break fall that comprises the first half of the video. If I can ever do a decent and even half way elegant break fall I think my Aikido career will be complete. Even though I can more or less handle a break fall situation now, it usually scares the Nage too much since I land with the arm at about the same time as the rest of my body. I'm fine and it doesn't hurt, but....

I have seen Aikdo instruction videos that don't even worry about the softness of a break fall but once you've seen it, you realize how beautiful it is.

Anyway watch the arm of the Aikidota. I think that is the key. I tried it a little tonight before class, but one of the drawbacks of not having a real dojo means you have less free mat time than other dojos.


¿Again with the Cansado?

I just felt too wiped out ( mejor dicho, "Estoy cansado") to go to Aikido tonight. Simply not enough sleep the night before, plus a little stress of trying to squeeze too much into too little time. And with me being a lazy person by nature I sometimes just give in and go home.

A contributing factor may have been the my arm and shoulder muscles that hurt more today than they did yesterday after Saturday's Aikido gymnastics.

I tried to use the extra time to catch up some with español and to report on the first animation assignment from www.eclecticacademy.com.

I finished Unit 3 (lessons 1 – 11) of Level 1 of Rosetta Stone. So far so good I guess, although I'm still not working very hard as the beginner stuff is pretty easy. Plus I paid all that money to Rosetta Stone so it would be easy didn't I?

Here are some good Spanish words
tiene avergonzado
tiene orgulloso
está cogiendo

Plus “Son las dos pasados” which I guess means a little past two.

The picture is from the my very first assignment with the cheap online Anime Studio beginner's class. Very simple, but I wanted to archive the result to compare to to what comes after the other 5 weeks of exercises.

I posted a question on the Anime Studio class form and got a reply today with an answer. So event though the start is pretty rudimentary I guess there is not much room to complain with a $20 Internet course. Plus so far there is a one day response form the teacher.

Here is the link to where I will post my results... www.virtual-weltanschauung.com/astudio/


Ukemi or The Art of Falling

Today was Ukemi Saturday with the peak being what I wouldn't categorize as Aikido Ukemi. Two people face each other with one (#1) holding the wrists of the other(#2). Then #2 twists around as if to give the other a back stretch. #1 kicks their legs up and and over the head of #2 and bingo they are facing each other. It turned out to be amazingly simple, but unfortunately after a few times I started to think about what was happening and apparently made things difficult for my partner.

I couldn't find a clip of the what I describe above but here is a clip of which we did some of the falls.


¿El tiene frio, hambre, calor?

I fell even more behind in My Español but my new plan is try and fire up the ol' Rosetta stone at least every other day if not every day and spend even just a few minutes chipping away at it.

Tonight I made it to Lesson 7 of Unit 3 and we started in with us being hungry, hot, full, cold and thirsty. Pretty basic stuff but along the way I encountered some new words which is nice. I'm curious to see when it starts to become really difficult, but I should think I'll have to really start the hard work around Unit 5. So I better build up some steam for that.

But for now..
¡Yo estoy cansado!


Yonkyo and the Forearm of Pain

YONKYO: Fourth teaching. Refers to pressure applied on a nerve point in the lower forearm to bring the attacker into a pinning position.

Tonight we mainly worked on Kokyu Nage (Breath Throw) of which the number of actual techniques seem endless. However, for a short time we switched to YONKYO. Yonkyo is a really fascinating technique because while learning it you might say "Yes this could be effective". But once a master of the technique has applied Yonkyo to your forearm you know that somehow a dagger has mysteriously been inserted to the center of bone and you MUST drop to the floor.

All the talk of harmony, flow, blending...it all disappears. All that matters is that you go down. When learning we mostly approximate it and sometimes I suppose the situation will mean Yonkyo is less piercing. And I'm told the more often it is done to you the less fearsome it becomes to you.

But for me the memory of Sidney Sensei softly controlling my arm followed by the stab into the center of my forearm as I dropped, is a reminder of two things.

1. Aikido started as a way to effectively control and manage an attack
2. While techniques can be learned in a reasonable amount of time. A real master is just that. A master of techniques.

The above video demonstrates Yonkyo but watching is such a pale intimation of the real deal.