Some time in the past year I bought a new front sprocket that was one tooth less than the stock version. This was first prompted from my one off road experience where I could immediately feel that any trail riding would demand different gearing.

However, after I got the sprocket I just could not get the nut off that holds the old sprocket onto the shaft. I was on the verge of buying an impact driver but this afternoon I called the nearest Suzuki dealership and they said they would do it for $40. Well...I figured an impact driver would cost at least $30 dollars and the only time I was likely to use it was for this task.

And when they said they could do it today my impatience and laziness where in alignment, so I rode over and they took care of it.

Although first gear really is alright now, I think I will change the rear sprocket because it just doesn't feel quite right when moving below 10 miles an hour. I still feel I would have to really work the cluctch if I ever get back on a trail.

it is not really snowing but i read this poem by sylvia plath and decided to find a picture and show a few lines and neither have i seen any tulips

The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.



Ok, I'm a wimp. A tough guy would have, well...toughed it out. Yesterday after our warm up we doing something and while walking to observe what Charlie was trying to demonstrate I had a slight accident. I slid my right foot forward and the long lanky toe next to my big toe caught some traction and the rest of me went on another inch or so with my full weight. I didn't break the toe but it sounded like 10 to 20 knuckles cracking in unison.

It didn't hurt at that time so I kept on practicing, but at the one hour mark it really started bothering me. Yes I could have stayed but it really was irritating even though it wasn't swelling.

Anyway by last night it was black and blue on the tip and today I walk like I have a club foot.

I will probably miss tomorrow unless it feels way better.

What a wuse!


Bind Faith

Sidney is out of town for a week or so, and Charlie taught last night.

We worked mainly from katate- tori (wrist grab) but the cool part was towards the end of class where Charlie felt we were getting too hung up on the mechanics of the techniques so he had nage close their eyes and extend their arm for uke to choose which hand to grab.

So we sensed whether it was ai-hamni or gaku-hamni and respond accordingly. We all tended to freeze up at first but it was cool to really feel the freedom to simply sense the attack and trust yourself to figure out the correct response.


Bokken Envy?

I got a Bokken (wooden practice sword) from the Internet and there were two lengths available and I got the one that I thought was most similar to the cheap ones we have at the dojo.

BUT, once I pulled the Bokken out of the box I saw it was smaller that the others, just by an inch or so. But it feels great and the finish is beautiful.

I just hope I'm not jealous of the bigger Bokkens that the other guys have at the dojo. Hey, I'm comfortable in my own skin AND my smaller Bokken, I mean it gets the job done doesn't it?

Next to the Bokken is a very cheap Jo I found at a Martial Arts supply store locally.


Draw Your Weapon

The only thing of note was while we practice shomenuchi with the “Jo” Sensei had us exaggerate our body movement so we really sensed our center driving the motion. It was fascinating when you “accidentally” felt you were doing it right and you hear the “whoosh” of the Jo cutting through air. Plus he had us practice the shomenuchi strike in batches of 100, if you tried to use your muscles too much you actually become winded.

Shiba Sensei said he wanted to at least regularly practice with weapons once a month an perhaps twice a month and that we should bring our own weapons on those days.

I suppose getting your own Bokken, Jo and Tanto is one of the things that designate a commitment to the practice. It also brings to mind one of those things that crosses my consciousness from time to tim, “what is my level of commitment?”. I missed a full week because of home and work duties again, and in general my efforts are minuscule compared to a really dedicated Aikido student, but I keep on gong. Oh well...


Left and Right of Center

Tonight Charlie emphasized unbalancing the attacker's center and basically letting uke throw himself. I think we started with yokomenuchi for each attack and in one instance we entered early to catch uke well before the strike gets any momentum and then bring the other arm up like iriminage and then step through in the most unbalanced direction.

Charlie kept pointing out he was trying to have us realize that we were addressing uke's area of power and neutralizing it by either catching the attack before it got going or flowing with it and simply directing it. Often it was by simply stepping slightly aside and lightly guiding uke through the direction were you (nage) are not.

A good class.

Then video shows the founder in 1935 and aroun the 30 to 40 second area he does some of the stuff we did tonight, although we were much slower.

As an aside I read in more than one place the ukes for the founder were shocked because they would attack as usual but "suddenly" find them self on the floor and not really know what happened. One guy deliberately tried to be more aggressive because he thought everybody was just playing nice with O Sensei, be he too was shocked to discover himself tossed like all the rest. So if it looks a little to staged in the video at least consider there may be more going on than mets the eye.


Aikido-less Week

I was sick last Monday, something came up on Wednesday and relatives came to town on Saturday. So no Aikido for over a week.

Today I rode around White Rock Lake in Dallas. Above are the Pelicans and below the water dogs fetching balls in the lake.


In The End It Is Always Kokyunage

KOKYUNAGE 呼吸投げ Breath throw. A cover-all term used to refer to a series of blending techniques with no common mechanical similarities

Saturday: Sensei worked us through some ushiro techniques starting with ushiro tekubitori (wrist grab from behind) and kokyunage and toward the end we worked on responding to kubishime (choke hold from behind) where I think we responded with Sankyo but stopped the kubishime after that.

After class I mentioned to Sensei that I thought he was leading us up to koshi nage. He admitted he thought about it as it is logical progression, but he decided to emphasize something else. He went on to say that you would use koshinage only if kokyonage was not an option. Then he dispensed this gem (to paraphrase)

“In the end it is always kokyunage”

He said you really only go (this is very much a paraphrase) with koshi nage when you must align yourself with uke to apply a technique but in a more pure approach kokyu nage would happen naturally and no such drastic maneuvers are needed. Then he pointed out that while strength is not a major part of koshinage it still takes more out of you than kokynage. He amended his cool aphorism allowing what you really want is the most appropriate technique for the specifics of the moment, but I think he meant that if you are aware you could generally position yourself so some kokyunage would be the easiest.

I don't think he meant this to be a special comment to me (the oldest person in the class) but he explained that when young you can use your strength with many techniques but as you age you are forced into wisdom since strength is not the option it once was, and that the goal is wisdom.

The second technique in the video above has an example of a the kokyunage we practice on Saturday, although when Sidney does it it is way smoother and way cooler.


Teacher Student Conference

It was Wednesday night and Charlie taught and Sensei was just a regular Joe like the rest of us. Except of course that he was not perplexed like the rest of us.

I've missed a lot of Wednesday classes over the past months so I have not worked with Sensei as a partner in a long while so tonight I made a point of working with him. And I really think it is one the really cool things about the dojo, that the Sensei wants to (I think) work with everybody at an individual level.

He doesn't instruct or even correct (much) but he does take his time and tries to figure out what you are doing and how to make it better. It really is like a 10 minute private session with an Aikido Master. Charlie brought his Tomiki style background to the mat but so we did some things slightly differently but Sensei focused on the responsiveness of what I was doing and not whether the techniques were slightly different that had practiced in the past.

We were starting from a static katate-tori stance and went to shiho-nage. At one point Sensei struggled to get me to recognize the timing I felt as he grabbed my wrist (somehow we went to a more dynamic start), and helped me work on responding to his movements as I grabbed his wrist. He used the analogy of a metronome where the musician must pace themselves the beat that is give. But then he switch to saying that once you are in sync with uke then nage takes control of the speed, direction and pace.

At one point I think we spent 5 minutes of him grabbing my wrist, I tenkan and “feel” when I need to shift back and go to shiho-nage. We didn't complete the throw but just focused on me getting a sense of his timing and using that to move the technique along.

Anyway, it was a great experience. I hate to “beat a dead horse” but I can't help but wonder what a master of something must be thinking when all this wisdom comes out but can only go to a perpetually clumsy pupil. But he is never acts as if it is an imposition to explain and help us even though we seem to forget it the moment after he tells us something

We did some other cool stuff but the above video (around 1:09) show what Sidney and I worked on, although I didn't do the neat break fall in the omote version although he told me how I should position myself to did it if I needed.


Slides Rule

Tonight we spent a lot of time on ukemi with much of it pure practice where we were not working on a particular technique and sometimes we just worked on falling and sliding while not working with a partner.

The goal Sensei was trying to impart is somewhat shown in some of the ukemi in the video (Please to note timestamps 1:04 & 2:52), but Shiba Sensei REALLY emphasizes the sliding or rather your center moving as you compensate as uke to nage's irminage. This is one of the cool things about practicing this art, in that there is the obvious beauty of the art but it is when you find a teacher who makes it special that really confirms why you spend the time to practice.

It looks like Sidney is simply sliding across the floor more than the rest of us, but by working on it tonight I saw that he is really moving his center and it is just that he lowers his center and goes with the flow. It is so freaking cool to see it in action and the thing is that tonight I may have actually gotten a little bit of the technique down. It felt so great to sense what I was supposed to do, even if I never actually got it exactly right. But I was at least on the right path.

For me ukemi with iriminage is difficult, although if the nage is really good they compensate for my weaknesses. The less sensitive the nage the worse my ukemi is with Iriminage. But tonight I think I got a little bit closer to knowing what to do. I can't emphasize this enough, it is like magic when you find yourself actually practicing magic while practicing Aikido it is...well, magical.

Of course I'm scared it will all be gone by the next class.


Old News

This is from last week when I was in Phoenix and drew the Barry Flannagan sculpture. I had hoped to find a photo of the sculpture of a elephant with a wild hare dancing on top of its head.

That night I was walking to an restaurant and saw a real life hare (or rabbit) with its really long ears. So in place of the sculpture I give you a photo of a real hare to take the place of the one that I started to draw but ran out of room.


Man On Wire

After my bicycle ride I walked to the nearest Movie Theater and saw “Man On Wire” which IMDB says

...A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century”

It is pretty amazing and the video of Philippe walking and laying down on a wire across the WTC towers brings you to tears. Of beauty? Of magic? Of what?

But it really is stunning.

I saw it on the anniversary of 9-11 so it had some extra poignancy which might have been interesting to address in the movie (it was not).

Probably improperly I have sympathy for this guy, in that he does things that have no objective value. Of course my value-less hobbies are not nearly so stunning.

Ride Baby Ride

After Arizona I went to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Today I went to Bike and Roll and by 8:30 AM was on the road on a bicycle to the Golden Gate Bridge. I rode across the bridge to Sausalito where I had a latte while waiting for the ferry back to San Francisco. Then I landed near the Bay Bridge (not the Golden Gate Bridge) and rode along the piers back to the Golden Gate Bridge except that I turned left and rode up through Fort Mason on the road to Golden Gate Park.

Along the way I stopped for a couple of slices of pizza and a couple of glasses of wine. After lunch I went to a bookstore next to the pizza place where I was scolded for writing down the titles off books since the owner didn’t want to have her store used as a display case and the people buy them elsewhere. She was really pissed about it. I ended up buying the book I had planed to but I thought about stalking out in a huff, but I did not.

After that I rode through Golden Gate Park which was nice but somehow I took a wrong turn ended up bypassing most of the park and ended up at the far west end of San Francisco .

I managed to get back to the rental place around 3:30 PM after a lot of huffing and puffing up some steep San Francisco hills.

So it was a great day with a lot of Bicycling.

Oh yeah, I went to Seattle Aikikai last night. I practiced and looked like a total wimp, but it was good.

The picture shows my route in orange.


Art and such..

I’m in Phoenix tonight and while there was no Aikido available I spent a few hours at the Phoenix Art Museum today when I had a few hours to spare between work tasks.

It’s a nice museum with a nice range of genres and artists.

The first sketch is from a bronze sculpture by Kiki Smith from 1998. From a quick web search I gather there are a number of these around and that they represent the world of feminist suffering.

The statue is a fountain and the water drips from the hands, but it so reminiscent of tears it I naturally assume it meant she was crying. Whatever the artist’s motivations it was amazing. I spent a long time trying to capture the angles but the above is all I came away with.( a pretty poor result)

While Kiki may have wanted to make a feminist stament what really struck me was the pigeon that landed on the hand. It seemed to indicat the world is not really so sad.

Then I went into the exhibit “You who are getting obliterated in the dancing Swarm of Fireflies” by Yayoi Kusama. You walk into an completely dark room alone and there are thousands of Christmas lights on black wires in a smallish room walled with mirrors. Immediately you are disoriented and the impulse is to turn around and go back to the entrance. As you step into the room the lights somehow change intensity and color as you walk around.

I later read she meant it to show her loneliness but at least for my first time it really lifted my spirits.


Why Is A Non Martial Man In A Marital Art?

Today we worked mostly from tsuki (punch to the stomach) and in one example nage would almost make a block with one hand as they stepped across the front of the attacker. While it got you off the line of attack you are stil vulnerable so you used a strike to the head to distract the attacker. This is supposed to be a atemi that uke recoils from so that it is more of a feint. The point is that the strike is not the actual “technique” you are applying but something you use to get uke to the place you want them.

None the less, in a real world application you would make contact and if it hurt them, all the better I guess. But for practice we usually make half hearted strikes since that is not what we are really working on. And as Shiba Sensei explained when you bring your hand to somebody's head they natural react to avoid the hand.

Well most people do. Not me though.

He was giving a little personal instruction to uke-nage pair I was part of I and I was uke for the demonstration and just as he said something like “he will react and pull back” he brought his hand to my face but I just stood there and let his hand hit my nose.

Fortunately it was quite gentle and it didn't hurt or damage me, but I think he was a little taken aback that someone would not react to a hand to the face.

I think it shows that basically I an really not a fighter. Maybe I would be if people tried to hit me more, but it justing is not ingrained in my reflexes to response in a martial manner. Of course when practicing a technique I know what the goal is and how I should respond. But in this case I was watch Sensei and listening and even though I saw his hand coming at me I did nothing.

Later the same thing happened after Sensei left. You might think I would learn after one experience.

I don't know if fighting is in me but I just never had to develop those brain pathways, or my dna makes me non-violent. The net result is that when ever an Aikido teacher assumes a natural fighting reaction in the students I'm not in the shaded intersection of that venn diagram of mostly martial and mostly non martial people that react appropriately.

If it is true, why am I even there?

Since i still look forward to Aikido practice I'll just add it to my list of things I do that don't make any sense.


On a different matter, Sidney was showing some technique and he wanted to emphasize the spiral nature of the the movements and said it was like a sea shell that expands out from the center. From that I recalled hearing once that the the ancient Greeks felt the nautilus shell was an example of the perfect ratio in that some out the proportions of the shell as it expanded in size depicted some universal beauty.

May THAT is why I practice Aikido.


Aikido, In Sickness And In Health?

I finally made it back to the dojo tonight. We mostly worked from shomenuchi and went to ikkyo, kotegaishi, shihonage and more. After nearly 3 weeks away I was surprised to see so many new people, and so few senior students. I am still such a beginner it feels odd be asked to work with the newer students since I'm desperate to work with more advanced people.

I think of the 3 weeks I was gone because of some sort of bronchial problem. I suppose a dedicated student would hit the dojo no matter what. I see the point, why do something if you don't go all the way. But I think the answer is if that was the case then most of us would do nothing and where is the fun in that?

The clip is the way I wish I practiced shomenuchi iriminage.


The Soft Hard Throw

I've felt odd for the last week and decided to skip class (I actually made a doctor's appointment for next week and I hate going to the doctor)

I got an email from a fellow Plano Aikdo Center practitioner where he talked about one of our fellow students, Lawrence, who practiced in Shanghai and Tokyo over ten years ago and only recently started up again. The email related how he gently demonstrated to a more aggressive partner (uke) that his (nage) gentleness didn't mean a weak technique

Anyway, I replied with a story from the Saturday before last where we had practiced Irimi-nage but I didn't get to practice with real experienced people.

So after class I asked Lawrence to really bring me down as uke since I wanted to practice my ukemi where I tried to flow around nage as he performed the technique. I MEANT the part where nage steps behind and then tenkans and brings you and your shoulder around and down and afterwards you as uke try to recover after which nage steps through and performs the actual throw.

Well Lawrence thought I meant the last part where the actual throw happens and he THREW ME DOWN!!! I mean I hit the ground the hardest I can remember. It was freakin' amazing, I was literally floored and I barely had a chance to experience it, and Lawrence thought he was doing what I asked for.

The picture shows the founder of Aikido as if he is simply walking by and almost incidentally throwing somebody. It reminds me of Lawrence.

I hope to post about feeling sick and practicing soon


A Long Way Down

Tonight I went the one night showing of Long Way Down where Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman Ride some BMWs from Scotland to South Africa.

All in all a very pleasant evening. The most dramatic footage was of Africa and while some might complain that it they weren't really riding by them selves since they had such an extravagant support team. But to me you just accept it for what it is, if I had money and sponsors I would do exactly the same thing.

I made me think I would really enjoy riding with friend rather than alone. And that you have to PLAN to take the route that looks most interesting rather than the fastest.

Maybe this fall I can take a trip to Houston but stay off the highways. But for now the heat is a real beating.


It Was A Good Day

Tonight I’m in Indianapolis and after a full day I was able to have an hour of Aikido practice at Indianapolis Aikikai. I was up early flew into to town and worked until after 6, got tot the dojo at 7, went all out for 1 hour and then went to another store by 9, grabbed some diner and drove back to the hotel with the food and a bottle of wine. I made it to the hotel room around 10 and now it is about 11:30.

I was WHIPPED after class. I may have been dehydrated or tired or just out of shape, but I was pooped after an hour.

Anyway I have to comment... This is the friendliest and most welcoming bunch of people I’ve ever visited. And most Aikdio dojos are pretty pleasant places to visit.

Of course I have to note that I felt a little lost, maybe I felt more lost than I really was. We started with some basic tenkan from katate dori. Somehow this simple move was slightly different, even though I can’t recall just how. But nobody made a big deal out of it (or any other technique we worked on) so I was quite pleased.

So, I worked hard, practiced hard, had a nice meal by myself in a hotel room with a bottle of red wine….mmmm…What a great day!


"What's In A Name?"

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose
Loveliness extreme.
Extra gaiters,
Loveliness extreme.
Sweetest ice-cream.
Pages ages page ages page ages.

- by Gertrude Stein

Sidney Sensei is out of town for a few weeks so Charlie with his Tomiki background has been teaching.

Charlie often has the class follow what I take to be the Tomiki style of class. For an hour we work of techniques with a set starting attack and some variation and then to finish the class there is a somewhat structured Ji- waza (or Jiyu-waza or Gi Waza) basically a controlled free style (if that isn't a contradiction in terms). At least he called it that, but there were two attackers so I would have thought it was randori.*

We all took our turns and it is really interesting to see how different people handle the pressure. Sometimes it is the less experienced students that are more interesting to watch. You could sometimes see somebody perform a technique I was pretty sure they didn't really know, but came out naturally because they didn't know what to do and “BANG” they did Sankyo with out any training. It may have been an example of “Beginner's Mind” in action. They had to know enough of the movements to move a certain way but not enough to pause to decide on a technique. Some may just be naturals and keep it up, but I wonder if these moments will disappear until after years of practice and letting go of practice it flows naturally again.

I remember distinct moments over the past 2 and ½ years where after a particular technique I noticed “HEY! That worked out perfectly.” But then it was gone and I returned to my clumsy ways, with the hope or faith that someday, with more practice, it will return.

Is there any point to this post? I think I meant to say it is good to have teachers with different influences. Especially since Charlie is always respectful and deferential to Sidney. But even though they use different terms and teach in a slightly different way, they usually say the same thing, different but the same. Hence the picture and quote. I could have gone with Shakespeare
“ What's in a name? that which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

*I notice Charlie uses terms that are used more in Judo. For instance we normally say “nage” but he says “tori”. He also would say “Ude Kemi Nage” while Sidney would simply say “Kokyu Nage”.


The Cat Is Out Of The Bag

I took the day off to “DO” some things. Unfortunately I tried to do a thing I had never done before (well I did it thirty years ago).

I was going to replace the front sprocket on my motorcycle. First I discovered it wouldn't come off with an adjustable wrench. Then I found the Home Depot near me didn't have a 30mm socket but Loews did. THEN I discovered I didn't have a 1/2” drive....anyway it took a while but I finally ....gave up.

It made me think about what I hope to use this motorcycle. If I want to ride in even a semi-serious off road way I HAVE to make more changes. But I think what I really want is the more “off road if I have to” ability. And take back roads to get places. Much like the motorcycle Transamerica Trail.

In that vein, above are the results of my installing “Saddle Bags” (way easier) AND I attached a 25 year old bicycle carrying bag where the tool kit was bolted on. I wonder if I should question my design sense because it does look a bit odd but I went ahead and did it. You now see Dirt Bagz and Kangaroo Baggs.

Below is a picture of our crazy house cat (he really has mental problems) that got out while I was going in and out today.


Testing, 1, 4, 5!

Today we worked mostly from yokomenuchi. I've always had trouble responding with ikkyo, nikkyo, etc...For some reason the transition from sliding off center, bringing up the arms to applying ikkyo or nikkyo always stumps me. I don't know if I can say I figured it out, but I may have made a little bit of progress. I'll take what I can get.

After an hour of practiced we stopped for a few people to test. We had a 5th , 4th and 1st kyu tests. All were quite good. Bibliosk8 performed the 5th kyu requirements admirably. A little humbling when I remember how I literally stumbled through my 5th and 4th kyu tests.

The above video shoes Christian Tissier perfoming some of the Yokomen techniques that we worked on today.


In The Heat of The Day

I really took advantage of my head cold to practice laziness, so missed Aikido Wednesday.

I got off work a little early today and rode around White Rock Lake. If you don't know, Dallas on a late June afternoon can be a bit warm. I don't know if it was my lack of exercise or the heat, but I was really pooped after the hour ride.

I even stopped to take some pictures.


Re-Tiring at 51!

For the first time in almost 30 years I changed a motorcycle tire today. Actually TWO tires! I spent about 3 hours changing 2 tires and it was an experience. I used the YouTube video and the ADVrider thread from Neduro plus the 4strokes.com info to answer a question for me, all to make it happen. Maybe the Internet has something more than porn after all!

I think I can maybe cut that time in half in the future, but I was interesting since whenever I thought it just wasn't going to work I thought back to th eYouTube video that said if you have to work at changing tires you are doing something wrong.

Anyway, above is th photo of the end results.

I've had a head/chest cold for the past week, in addition to being out of town last weekend. So I've missed over a week of Aikido. I hope to make the Saturday class.


Seattle Afternoon

There was a time when reading was my main preoccupation and for many years going to bookstores was my main pastime. Perhaps to continue the nostalgic vein of this trip I wandered into a bookstore I discovered called “Twice Sold Tales” in the Queen Anne area of Seattle.

I would think it hard to pay the bills with only used books, but I did my part and bought a novel in the way I used to, by looking at the cover and reading the blurbs. I chose A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss.

There were at least three cats in the store and here are a few pictures.


I Say It’s My Birthday!

What makes a good birthday? Friends, family, time off? OR you work all day long rush through rainy day thick Seattle traffic to go to an Aikido class. Then have a great meal of Afghan food with two glasses of wine, then get a latte from Stabucks and go to your hotel room, all by yourself. THAT is a great birthday.

Tonight I went to Tenzan Aikido in Seattle taught by the Sensei Bruce Bookman . This was special since I originally tried Aikido for 9 months way back in 1988 and Bruce Bookman was my first Aikido Sensei. I enjoyed it at the time but I lost interest as I changed careers. Howerver I remember it as a good experience.

So how did this all line up, my memory, my current experience at Plano Aikido and my time tonight? First off, Bookman Sensei put more exercise into the beginning of the class, and that loosened us up greatly.

Then we practiced "tai no henko", shiho nage, nikkyo and something else. It was a good time but I noticed a difference form my home dojo. The techniques were louder but the instruction and practice was quiet. Meaning people slapped out loud and hard on falls, but neither my partners nor Sensei talked much. And the break falls were loud.

At Plano Aikido Shiba Sensei is very soft spoken and his technique is quiet. His rolls are soft and any breakfalls are gentle. BUT, he makes a real effort to explain what he is doing and talks frequently with the students and welcomes questions as he walks around. I got the impression tonight it would be poor etiquette to ask Sensei a question as he walked by.

But it was nice to make that connection with my younger self, and to realize I’m happy with the dojo and the Sensei I go to now.

The video is of me in an alternate universe, much like a star trek episode without the evil twin.

But really, I must rent Metropolis by Fritz Lang.


A New New Beginning

Scenes from a mall

Tomorrow is another birthday, my one year blog anniversary.

A year ago tonight I blogged…

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

Then the next day I posted…

… 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

Ok, the animation has pretty much stopped and may be usurped by my new motorcycle obsession. I still have not given up on Spanish, but strangely after getting back from Spain where I loved any opportunity to speak a little Spanish (“Café con leche por favor”) I have not studied once.

Aikido, I’m still at and still plan to keep at, with a Zen like acceptance of my own ineptitude. If I say it that way incompetence has a much better spin.

So, where do I stand? I am keeping to my crude statistic of dying at 75, which I will gladly ignore if I turn 76+.

Even though I know it means nothing, the pressure is on. What to do with the remaining 24 years? I’ll ponder it a bit more and post any results I discover.

By the way, I’m in Bellevue, WA tonight and DAMN this is a beautiful place. Trees and hills, here they are as common as dirt.

The picture doesn’t show the mountains but it has some trees that are more impressive in person. This was the view as I went into a shopping mall to get to a Starbucks.


Sloshed in Seattle

Just to say, I missed Aikido this Saturday because I had take a work trip to the Seattle area. A difficult day starting with forgetting my birthday was coming and that I need to renew my Drivers License I also found out this affected my return trip since my DL will no longer be valid and marks me as a possible terrorist. Then the rental car place will only give me a car until my license expires. I don’t know how I will handle the last half of the trip since travel is necessary.

Anyway after a very long day I finally found an India restaurant near the hotel I was staying at in the Queen Hill part of Seattle.

It is amazing how my mood changes after a big meal and a few beers. Before I was depressed and fretful how I would deal with my Drivers License problems. But by the end of the meal I loved everybody chatting in the restaurant and I was even accepting of the persnickety patron who didn’t want peas in his rice and spent the whole meal adjusting his iPod.


Aikido as a RESPONSIVE art!

Today we worked on Ukemi, offcially called “The Art of Falling” but this time as we worked on it, it was more the art of responding. We focused on the Uke part of Aikido, practiced some falling parts but much of our work was about maintaining the balance between knowing what is coming as Uke and reacting spontaneously.

At the close of class Sensei said something like “Aikido is not a Martial Art but a Responsive Art” or something like that (As with so much of Aikido I can't remember what Sensei says or does, no matter how much I want to). To be fair, he later also said that obviously Aikido is a martial art.

For a moment today I felt like I was getting close to appropriate responsiveness as Uke to Iriminage. I actually felt my center following nage's technique, which of course I've often been told to do, but today I felt it.

Ukemi for Iriminage has been one of my greater weak points. Iriminage is a foundation technique and my response to it has always been awkward, so each time we practice it I am simultaneously eager and fearful.

After class I talked with Sensei and he emphasized (in effect) that we need to recognize, and work more on, the Ukemi side of Aikido. And that as our Ukemi improves so does our Techniques. In fact he mentioned that in rank testing the Shihan of France, Christian Tissier, examined not only techniques applied by Black Belt students but their Ukemi.

The IrimiNage Christian Tissier video shows a little of what we practiced today. Particularly notice the “sliding” effect as uke is first drawn around nage. We did not follow through with the flashy roll over nage's leg.


“Please show me your papers.”

Tonight a few of us got our Certificates for passing our tests. For any doubters here is my paper. Not as powerful as the documents that drove the plot of Casablanca, but it is nice to have something tangible.

This past weekend I missed Aikdo to visit my parents in Houston. I stayed alone at my sister's house and Saturday I was forced to spend the afternoon drinking wine, reading Manga, listing to music I saved on my laptop, eating bree and later chocolate, all the while cleaning up my ancient motorcross boots while periodically swimming in their pool.

A strange but nice time.


Clear Night, Fuzzy Picture

Tonight I went to the North Dallas “Meet and Greet”. There were maybe 20 motorcyclists with their bikes. I was the smallest motorcycle there, but nobody pointed it out to me. Anyway I saw 3 Triumphs, of which I took one fuzzy picture displayed above.

Anyway I talked to some people and it was fun. There was one other dual sport (a DR650), so I wasn't totally alone.

I couldn't help but notice there were quite a few BMWs and Triumphs. Nice big bikes.


Domo Arigato!!!

Tonight we practiced many different techniques but all starting from Ryotetori.

I was afraid my soreness from Sunday adventure would interfere with my ability to ...well, do anything. But after about 30 minutes I finally started to loosen up. In was a good night and I worked with many different levels of Ukes. With a variety of responsiveness. Once in a blue moon I managed to get a move at least in the correct “ball park”. So, it was a good night, especially since I feared my absences would hurt me. The above YouTube clip shows one of the responses we practiced.

On a different subject, it came out that one of the Akidoka commented that he still didn't know what to say after I said Onegai shimas(u) meaning “I make a request"“ in preparation of working together.

I then gave him the phrases for before (the above) and at the end of class - “domo arigato Gozaimashita” (thank you very much for what you have done )

The thing this is, we heard that after a demonstration at an Asian Festival last weekend, two different people commented that they liked the bowing part of the demo. Basically they liked the politeness of Aikido, which is what all the Japanese phrases are about. You pay your respect to everybody. The founder, the Sensei and each other. Done it the right spirit it means we do it all with a sense of gratitude. This is what bowing is really all about (in my understanding).

For a few years I “practiced” Zen meditation where we bowed (from a knelling position) all the time. The teacher explained the bowing was a way to empty yourself before whatever, the teacher, the teacher's teacher, the door, the floor, a bug...whatever. Everything is “worth” bowing before, even each other. But again it is a pouring of yourself out before “thou”. And everything is a “thou”, a “du” a “tu”, etc...

So I, your humble narrator, in this spirit described above pour myself out before you..


Boot Full of Mud

Warning; this is a motorcycle posting

I finally took the DRZ400S off road today. Yes it was a blast, but maybe the best thing for me was that I was not too afraid. BUT, I think the motorcycle had a lot to do with that since it was PERFECT!! Well except for the tires and the gearing.

Before I was trapped in a mud bog...(more later), the first thing I noticed was that it handled wonderfully and was VERY forgiving. BUT, 1st gear is WAY TOO HIGH. I must get different sprockets. If you ride off road in even a semi serious way and don't want to burn up the clutch, get some new sprockets.

I was having a grand old time but I really blundered when I tried to ride along the edge of a medium sized Mud /Water pool. First by front tire slipped into a shallow mud pond and I finally just lifted the wheel out of BUT when I tried to ride forward with my front tire free, my rear tire slipped down into the track of some ATV tire rut. This is where you understand the buddy system, and I had no buddy. Well, at this time my rear wheel was firmly entrenched. I rested and pondered my options.

There where other ATVs and motorcycles around but at this time nobody was coming by me. So, with the front wheel on somewhat firm ground I tried to lift the rear wheel out, but was afraid the whole thing would tip over into the water. But I was unsure how deep the remaining pool was and couldn't let go the the bike to test the depth.

Finally I gambled, let out the clutch and figured with the front wheel out I could put the bike forward the remaining 6 feet and find dry ground.

Yes I made it out on my own without having to find help. But many lessons were learned. First, I need to get new gearing, maybe before knobby tires. But new tires are another must. Then I have to go to some local motorcycle group meetings and find other people to ride with. And I probably have to get new boots. My old boots did really well, and I mean really well. But when I got home the right boot looked like it was about to fall apart.

Out of the bog I crawled.

The water in the background was where I spent 15 or 20 minutes.

Tomorrow an AIKIDO posting!


The Rack Of Time

Time, time, time
See what's become of me

– The Bangles

Life is complicated. But at least part of the “problem” is time.

Tonight I tried to install the rear rack on my motorcycle before I left for Aikido class since tomorrow night I hope to be installing a skid plate. But given my poor mechanical abilities I should have known better. What should have been at most a 30 minute job turned into over 2 hours. So...I missed my Wednesday Aikido class. But I felt really crummy on Monday so I wimped out and skipped on Monday. AND I will miss Satlurday becasuse of family obligations....AND I missed last Wednesday because I stayed late at work and somehow forgot my Gi (Aikido outfit).

Anyway, this is where my personal deficiencies come into play. I should have dropped the project tonight and gone to class, but once focused on something like that I can spend hours and hours and I HATE being distracted by anything once I'm in process. But the gist of the thing is, I ran out of time.

I also should have sucked it up and gone to class on Monday and the previous Wednesday. So I just have to make sure I make Monday's class.

Below is a picture of the accursed motorcycle rack


Just Because It Looked Nice

I rode around the lake this morning and I took this picture just because I thought it looked nice and I had my camera with me.


Mid Life Crisis Successfully Navigated!

Thanks to a very friendly loan I was able to buy a Suzuki DRZ400S Dual Sport Motorcycle. I suppose it might be considered similar to the middle aged man getting a Corvette, something that denotes youth but is actually a hollow attempt to recapture a lost age.

Yeah, I suppose...but, DAMN motorcycles are cool!!! And the DRZ400S strikes at my soul with it's coolness even though I now owe a good friend a ton of money. Anyway my high school chum and his friend from work met in Bartlesville, Oklahoma to by 4 motorcycles (mine, theirs and another sucker they talked into this project) from the same shop we bought our high school Suzukis from.

Then we rode a very short portion of the TransAmerican Motorcycle Trail, before I pealed off to ride the bike back to Dallas (over 300 miles according to Google maps). It was a heck of a windy day but I made it safely back a and felt great. DAMN motorcycles are cool!!!

The picture shows me and an old College roommate with our new motorcycles.

Am I a cliché? Perhaps, but there are reasons clichés are..well, clichés. BECAUSE they point to a truth. If you don't want to be old...act young. Not childish, but young. But for me riding a motorcycle doesn't make me feel young, rather it transcends age (to be a bit pretentious) in that riding a motorcycle forces you to live in the moment. Not young, not old,.. just there!

I think this means I will rework the subtitle to the blog to include motorcycles now.


On the Road and on the Go

Tonight I practiced at Aikido of Columbus where Paul Linden is the Sensei. It was good to practice since I have been away from Plano Aikido Center since last Saturday. Plus the out of town work was very busy, so a chance to focus on Aikido was a treat.

The sensei really focused NOT on the effects, or “peripherals” but wanted us to find the essence of what we were practicing. I was….not so good. I really missed the boat on most of it.

There is a little trepidation when practicing at a different dojo since you feel like you are partially representing your home dojo. But you can only worry about so many things, so I plunge ahead.

My fumbling and missteps showed me how crude my Aikido skills remain. This brings me back to a repeating thought, which for some would be a sad thought. Realistically I have no hope of “achieving excellence” or being really great at anything. But yet I carry on, plunge ahead, and maybe even “keep the faith”. What that faith is, I can’t say.

But I keep going, even happily keep on going. And I think the moral of the store is “No matter where you go, there you are!”

But after a week in Columbus I'm off to Oklahoma where I hope to come home with a motorcycle


Not A Pretty Picture

It’s bad, not so pretty, but here it is…my 4th kyu test. Looking at it I don’t think I would have passed myself.

Here are the rest of the tests


4th Kyu at 50

I was waiting for the videos from last Saturday's test before posting, but it isn't ready yet. So....yes I am now ranked at 4th Kyu. The historic part is that this testing was the first since Plano Aikido (formerly Aikido of Plano) became independent of Aikido of Dallas. Which means that Sidney Sensei (again.. is that Shiba Sensei?) was the judge.

Previously you trained under one Sensei (Sidney) but tested under another, as was the case for my 5th kyu test. So I suppose there was a little less stress this time, but you still worry. I also suppose that in this type of situation the Sensei would simply say you were not ready to test if there was a chance of not passing.

The parting from Aikido of Dallas was amicable and there was no scandal.

One one of Sensei's “things” (I think) is that exposure to different schools helps you in your training. Previously he asked Alberto who originally trained in Mexico, to teach the Saturday class and now that he is gone Charlie who trained in Tomiki Aikido to teaches Wednesday's class. So tonight we work on what Charlie calls “Dai Nikkyo” which I think just means “The number two” in Japanese. But his nikkyo is slightly different from what Plano Aikido or Aikido of Dallas teaches.

I couldn't find a video of the difference but I think all of us thought it was damn painful. So I only used a drawing of a hand which shows part of the muscles and joints we use to apply the technique (and also for Yonkyo).

As an aside, I will probably drop the animation part of the blog statement and insert video.


The Time of Test

Back from Madrid. It was great, etc...

I will go for the 4th kyu test this Saturday and then almost immediately head to what could be the last trip to Oklahoma to clean out the parent's house. So between getting back from Spain, catching up with work and figuring out how to handle the weekend...it's been hard to concentrate on preparing for the test.


Symbol of Madrid in Puerta Del Sol

It is now past midnight so officially I leave for Madrid tomorrow (the 14th). I skipped Aikido tonight to buy a few things for the trip and I've already packed most of what I'm planning to take.

I never heard back from my email to one of the Madrid Aikido dojos, but it is probably for the best. I only have a week and as I've never been to Europe, so I hope to be very busy being a clumsy but pleasant American. I will be staying near the Puerta Del Sol and although it is sure to be fill with fellow tourists I'm still hoping it will will be appropriately foreign.


Find Your Inner Koshinage

Tonight we worked mostly from yokomenuchi (strike to the side of the head) but toward the end we switched to koshinage from shomenuchi (overhead strike to the top of the head). I quickly found a partner who wouldn't be troubled by full weight. It had been a while since we worked on koshinage so it was treat.

We only worked on the type where you start off as if you were doing ikkyo and then you step in and put your arm around their back as you step in for the throw. I actually felt like I was getting the hang of it tonight, but I think this way of getting to the throw forces you to put your center below uke's center.

Anyway I suppose it is not a coincidence that the one of the first results from you tube shows Christian Tissier demostrating the version of koshinage we worked on. Since Christian Tissier was our sensei's sensei.


Fight Less Harmonize More

Tonight's theme at Aikido was to let the movements flow and the example Sensei used was the gymnasts who twirl the long ribbons circling around as they perform. We were to emphasize the flowing nature of Aikido and the ribbon gymnasts can't make square movements. Rather it is either a flow or nothing.

But the memorable quote came when he was trying to get us to stop fighting when uke made the attack. So he came out with “Fight Less Harmonize More”.


Check out the piernas on that mujer!

Note to self: You just finished Unit 5 Lesson 2

In Italian legs are sometimes called "gambas". Somehow in English it just sounds better to say “check out the gams” rather than “check out those piernas”. In this case Italian wins the English slang contest.

But then again I may be one of the few people in Dallas that has an interest in 1930's slang. In which case my judgment is worth even less than the virtual paper it is written on.

Again it was so easy I should really be plowing through these things.

Feeling nostalgic for an age you see only in movies? Check out

It could come in handy if you are ever in a clip joint lookin for some hooch but there's a shamus on your heels and your gat is out in your flivver.


The Turning Point

Saturday was tanto dori (wooden knife practice) and after a few techniques Sidney Sensei had uke put the tanto to the back of nage at which point nage picked a side to swing around and choose the type of technique to use in response to the attack. Basically if you turned around and your chest is vulnerable, you went for nikkyo. Otherwise you went for kotegaishi.

But the point of the exercise wasn't clear until Sidney announced we had to responded the moment we felt the tanto touch our backs. Up to this time I was basically trying to remind myself what I might do and then turn around and pick the response. But Sidney's point was that we had to get used to responding at the moment of attack. We didn't have to perform the technique quickly, just start quickly.

It was really a neat experience, and reminded me why I practice Aikido. Not to to win (although that would be nice), but to to respond.

The video has some examples of some of what we worked on, although it is a bit flashier that our examples.


Finally A New Unit!

Note to self: You just finished Unit 5 Lesson 1

Boy was that easy! I should have done this weeks ago. I'm just too darn lazy.

It's about a month to the trip to Spain. I'm sure it will be fun, but there is the temptation to just take off on my own and see where the bus or train can take me. Forget quality time with relatives.

But, I'm just too timid for such actions. Still it is a whole different country and who knows what might happen.


Where you lead I will follow

Tonight we were working on katatetori Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi
and Sidney Sensei came over and demostrated that I was resisting Uke's grasp. His point was that for this technique to make any sense Nage must remove all resistance and lead Uke around to tempt him into grabbing the other hand. When he had me grab his wrist it was really amazing, as if by magic I was drawn around his back. All by the way he lead me at just the right pace.

Later we switch to shomenuchi irimi namge. Initially I groaned to my self, since this move as uke is something I've always had trouble with. But while working with Sean initial Iwas able to lower my center and actually flow a bit. I think I actually surprised him to the point he commented on it. But, either that jinxed me or he changed his irimi, but sunddenly I was stiff and resistant again.

Maybe someday it will last longer.


My Life As A Non Reflexive Verb

Today we worked from katate dori (wrist hand grab) and during some “one on one instruction” Sidney took the time to point out that he was trying to teach us to react naturally but NOT by reflex. Again he was hoping we learned the essence of Aikido and not just some technique. At multiple parts of techniques he tried to get us to stop anticipating what would happen to us as uke. It looks like you find the essence of Aikido mostly as uke and not so much as nage who is administrating the move.

I really like the idea that the goal is not to respond in a predefined way, but to simply do what is appropriate. And by not offering resistance we naturally discover what is appropriate.

The video only relates to the word reflex, since my time in the 80s programed be to think of Duran Duran whenever I hear the work “reflex”


An empty mind is a terrible thing to waste

Another good workout by Charlie tonight. The pacing was good in that I didn't poop out too early.

Sidney was there and I worked with him on one technique and fortunately it wasn't too aerobic so I wasn't too exhausted. However it was interesting to take advice from Sidney (my Sensei) that later appeared to be contradicted by Charlie. What made it interesting was that I think they were actually saying the same thing but from a different approach. So while Sidney said to raise my hand, Charlie said to lower my hand. BUT, I think after Sydney said to raise my hand to apply nikkyo but it looked a little too high when Charlie walked by. So he said to lower it.

The class closed with jiu-waza and Charlie said for beginners to use one attack by more advanced student could use more. I worked with Sean (advanced) but I still think of myself as at best an advanced beginner and probably just beginner. Anyway I was please to find my self using the response to yokomen where you bend the blocking arm to slip behind uke to slid across their back and by grabbing their shoulders you bring them to the ground.

Even more amazing was that I was able to deflect a punch (tsuki) with an irimi type opening but then switch to the slip by the back and bring uke to the ground movement. So I managed to take what I learned from the yokomen attack and apply it to the tuski attack. And by accident.

I speculate it worked because I was too tired to think, so my mind was too empty to spend time planning what to do.

I think one can think as jiu-waza (or jiyu) waza as the step before randori. With randori a bit more “all out”.


The Weakest Link – is the whole damn chain!

I meant to make use of the hour of so between work and Aikido to work through another section of Rosetta Stone. I made it to the library near the “dojo”, powered up my laptop... but I had to sit near the young adult magazine display. There was Shonen Jump and the manga for Death Note in view and I could not help myself and spent my time reading manga meant for teenagers.

According to wikipedia ...

“Weekly Jump targets young males ("Shōnen" is made of the kanji that mean 'young(少)' and 'years (年)', and is a Japanese word for 'boy'). It features manga with lots of action and adventure, often featuring young, male protagonists with special powers and/or abilities. “

So there I am, meaning to better myself through self paced study and I end up reading comic books like I did 40 years ago. The cold hard facts are a bit pathetic. Not that I failed at one point in my chain of interests designed to fulfill my life, but that the whole approach (my whole world view in fact) is perhaps is flawed. Pathetic also is the fact that it doesn't bother me too much. This is paradoxically encouraging and depressing at the same time.

I did make it to Aikido class and it was good. Charlie worked us pretty well and I think what I liked best was the part where we were encouraged to leave no time off between attacks so it all felt like someone was coming at you all the time. The point being to teach us to react by reflex and not by thought. It was the most tiring and I felt like an old man, but it was also the most rewarding (clichéd but true).


Teacher is Taught

Our dojo now has a regular instructor from a different Aikido tradition, Tomiki Aikido. Sidney Sensei has often said it is good to learn from other traditions and indicated that by broadening our Martial Arts experience we better understand what he is trying to convey. He often shows how a karate attack would relate to a technique and even how we should learn from the way a boxer reacts to an opponent.

That sensei willingly takes on the role of student, I find somehow inspiring. The Tomiki Teacher asked how to proceed but Sidney simply said to proceed as he thought best.

I like the references to the practicality but I gather that although the goal of Tomiki is a Randori type competition, the training is quite structured, and I'm not a structured guy. So it is nice to see another perspective but the best part is seeing the willingness of the official teacher to be a student like the rest of us.

The clip above is from some Tomiki competition. I don't know much about Tomiki but this is what I found on YouTube.


El hombre sin gorra está escribiendo

Note to self you just finished Unit 4 lesson 11

That's it for Unit 4 and WOW it is well over a month since the last time I worked with the Stone. I've be playing with the Spanish language paper some, but I must admit I've not done well with my español studies. Buy at least it is more than animations attempts. So if you set a bunch of goals be the average to poor results look good when compared to the abysmal products of the those in worse shape.

The holidays were tough so I'm giving my self a break. Plus I still want to pursue the Spanish think so rather than drop it because I haven't done enough, I'll keep trying when I can make myself and maybe before I'm 75 I will be able to talk a little Spanish.

We also passed an anniversary of sorts, over 6 months of blog posting. That means I still have 24 and ½ years to finish the blog and achieve my “goals”.


Exaggerate Your Way To Success

Last night we mostly practiced from a Shomenuchi attack and one response was kote-gaishi. For some reason I thought I knew how to do this technique, but actually I saw last night how much I didn't “get it”.

It is always a bit difficult to balance the slow speed you use to learn something against what would really happen from and attack with real speed and intention. If somebody attacks well you tenkan (turn) and uke's forward momentum goes naturally but with a slower “training” attack nage must shift their weight forward after grabbing the wrist to simulate the momentum of uke. While this is not quite “real” and Sensei emphasized that a faster attack would require less from nage, the intention and motion is still part of the movement. (see the video at about a minute into it)

Sidney often tells us to exaggerate our movements when we are practicing and going slow. Once the exaggerated flow is internalized, what you learn remains at the heart of your practice.

Anyway, last night I kept feeling how I was NOT shifting forward, rather I was extending my hand while I was already stepping back to apply kotegaishi. I guess I can at least recognize what I'm doing wrong. That is progress of some sort.


Easy To Be Hard

Today we worked mostly from ai hamni katatetori and at one point we responded with sankyo. I've done this before where after the ikkyo start you lean in with your shoulder to the armpit of uke while you switch hands for sankyo. But today Sidney demonstrated it with just a shift of forward and the hands naturally switch.

I had trouble adapting and when I had a chance I asked Sidney about the difference and he insisted this way was easier.

The problem is that, while I can see when the move is done well it is easier, but when done poorly it is harder since you can't feel the move. So in this case the harder method is easier and the easier method is harder.

The clip shows yet another version of Katatetori Sankyo, so it demonstrates neither of the versions I've worked on, but it shows something of the technique


Tengo una idea con al día

Since I've fallen down on my Rosetta Stone practice I'm trying to supplement my studies by attempting to read the free Spanish language paper al día. The Spanish looks to be simple enough, perhaps the stories are clear enough that few idiomatic expressions are needed.

Anyway here are some words I learned today.

cifras – numbers
sede – seat
escolta – convoy
presuntos – presumed
pulgadas – inches
la madrugada – early morning

la tos – cough
hipo – hiccough