Thursday, March 31, 2005


I *could* make it to class this evening, but I think I will opt instead for a (semi?) private lesson at 7AM tomorrow, since it is rare that I can make that class anyway.

Being at the dojo early AM is nice, quiet. If I can make it there early I can stretch out and relax a little before class.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Made it to 7AM class this morning, a nice start to the day. It was just me and JL, the first time I've worked with him this extensively. It was a more technical workout, learning more than sweating, though in my current condition, I was certainly sweating by the end. So the question is: should I do 7AM on Friday also?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Soiled Again!

I had ambitious plans for this morning, thinking of making the 7AM class. Well, after the alarm went off, I had major second thoughts. OK, so I'll go this evening.

Getting ready to leave, I grabbed the bag with my gi. Harry the dog had apparently decided during the night that my gi bag looked and smelled like his personal urinal. Bad dog Harry! OK, plan B, or is it Plan C? Got my other gi together, so I'm hoping to make it to class this evening.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Resolving Conflict

Last night I felt as if I was making progress. I wasn't completely winded as I sometimes am and my technique was, well, let's say it resembled the proper techniques to some degree. There are the various levels of refinement of course. Sometimes it feels good and sometimes not. Sometimes it may feel right, but it's not quite there yet.

The standard rule of thumb is that you have to repeat a technique 1000 times before it is internalized. I remember hearing this once, not sure where, but it seems like a reasonable number to me. For the first 10 or 20 repetitions, you struggle with the bare essentials. For the next 100, the basics are covered. The next 100, you begin to become aware of the subtleties of motion. And so on.

Last night I worked again with A. She is an experienced yudansha (black belt). There are some standard "conflicts" that happen all the time in practice, namely somebody isn't doing a technique correctly. The conflict part is when the error in technique is causing pain for the partner. We were working on shihonage, one of the few techniques I feel reasonably confident with. However, when performing the technique, I apparently brought uke's (partner's) shoulder slightly out of its normal range of motion--pain! So A reacts, shaking out the kinks, and I'm a bit confused as to what I was doing wrong. She appeared slightly annoyed. After a few tries, she was able to correct me. For best results, keep uke's hand close to her shoulder. I made sure to thank her for the help--this was the most important part of the exercise, maintaining goodwill between myself and my partner. Goodwill, maintaining a positive outlook between nage and uke is a fragile thing really, but perhaps the most important aspect of practice.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Practicing Ukemi

Ukemi (falling) is always a challenge. The mat is unforgiving, though fortunately better than concrete! Last night's practice was mostly attended by less experienced folk, with sensei being out of town. One of my objectives was to learn to fall "properly" for techniques where I typically do a backward roll. Watching the more experienced take this sort of ukemi, there is a certain style, apparently "Chiba sensei style", where you make contact with one and then the other hand to break the fall. J sensei, who was teaching last night, described the motion as similar to an outrigger (a projecting frame extending laterally beyond the main structure of a vehicle, aircraft, or machine to stabilize the structure or support an extending part--from, where you in a sense rock from one side to the other, extending feet into the air to absorb the momentum. Practice practice.

Another question J brought up from one of her old senseis: what quality do you want to bring to this technique?

Friday, March 11, 2005


One can tell a lot about a person by their posture. Posture is an outward expression of personality and mood. For many of us, myself included, many elements of posture are unconcious. I often catch myself with tension in my shoulders, or in some hunched over position, as if I am expecting the sky to fall upon me. Likewise, we adopt a "verbal posture" with the tone and volume of our voice, and our facial expression has its own posture of sorts. Of course, we are all familiar with being threatened by some badass walking down the street, walking "the walk".

In martial arts training, over time people develop characteristics through habitual training that can be seen in the way they walk. I was noticing this last night as I watched a guy walk into a local dojo. He has a posture that is a result of his training.

As martial arts students we need to become aware of subtle postural details of our opponents. A master can actually influence another person's posture with their own and defeat an opponent without even touching them. This sort of thing happens to us all the time in everyday life, but we don't usually recognize it. When we see a certain person, we immediately feel and react to their posture. We may become tense, or we may be put at ease. So the master senses the intent of an attack before it occurs and is able to interact with this energy to dissipate or redirect it before the attack has even taken place physically.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

On the Other Hand..

On some nights, I am the newbie! Things just don't work right sometimes. Tonight was a 'mixed' class. There are two basic flavors of classes: beginning, covering the basics of aikido, and mixed, covering more advanced techniques and principles.

I felt just plain goofy tonight, as I often do in the mixed classes. To make things even more fun, I lifted a toenail a bit and it started to bleed. Bleeding on the mat is not cool. I went to the bathroom to tape up my toe--it wasn't too bad, but I felt like a total clod. My sempai kindly suggested that I keep my nails cut shorter and that I check the mat for any bloody remnants.

On one technique, an iriminage (entering) throw, sensei was demonstrating the technique to me with me as uke (taking the fall) and I felt like I wasn't flowing with the energy at all. I have a long way to go. I am acquainted with almost all of the techniques, but I have a lot of beginnerisms. I'm turning 41 this week. I can't possibly be that old.

Monday, March 07, 2005


I was gratified to learn that the son of someone I met joined our dojo recently. They had been checking out several area martial arts schools and were thinking of joining another group, one that I give a stamp of approval to incidentally--they are a very practical, self-defense oriented school, but I said before they join they should definitely check into our dojo (actually, this was before I'd joined in January). I didn't realize that I was working out with him last Friday until I spoke with his mom yesterday. Aha!

I enjoy working with new people for several reasons. For one thing, they don't react to techniques in a predictable manner. They may do something I completely didn't anticipate and I need to be alert and ready for anything. This is more like it would be in "real life" applications. They may not react in the traditional "correct" way, but in my view (almost) any reaction is a valid response that must be considered. Another obvious positive benefit is the opportunity to help someone learn, which I find fulfilling. Teaching also forces me to think about why I operate the way I do, to become aware of my habits, both good and not so good.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Beginning and Beginning Again--A Brief History

My martial arts training began in 1974 at age 10. Along with my brother and sister, I trained with Tompkins Karate Association of Maryland for about 14 years. Our school taught Tang Soo Do along with some Jujitsu. In 1981 I received my 1st degree black belt.

I had my first exposure to Aikido around that time, in a class I took to improve the effectiveness of my Jujitsu techniques. It was a Tomiki style class. Tomiki Aikido differs from most other forms in that it features competition. Most styles of Aikido are non-competitive, emphasizing cooperation between partners instead of competition. I was only a beginner in the classes I attended, so I was never in a position to even think about competing. I did not continue for more than a few months and though I gained a new perspective, I was not a serious student of Aikido at the time.

In 1988 I moved to western Massachusetts and trained with a Shotokan club at University of Massachusetts for a semester. Then, in 1989, I began my Aikido training with Valley Aikido in Northampton, Massachusetts. This was the real beginning of my Aikido training. I advanced to the rank of 4th kyu and then moved to the Chicago suburbs in the winter of 1990. I went back to practicing with the local Tae Kwon Do (a close relative of Tang Soo Do) club that was nearby, but I really wanted to get back to Aikido, and joined Glen Ellyn Aikido Club, affiliated with Midwest Aikido Federation. I practiced there for a total of about 2 years, taking a yearlong break when my daughter was born in 1992.

After moving to Durham, North Carolina in 1995 I began a period of "slackitude". Family and career put martial arts on the back burner for several years. Finally getting back into the action, my wife and I joined Karate International (an American style mixing various "hard style" influences) for a short time and then I began teaching a class of my own once a week, mostly to our friends and family (which created its own issues for sure). In my own teaching, I felt more drawn to Aikido than my other previous training, but not feeling qualified to teach Aikido, I mixed Tang Soo Do, Aikido, and Jujitsu, a survey course of sorts. When that class was discontinued in 2004, I decided it was time for me to begin again as an Aikido student. I recently joined Open Sky Aikikai in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

That's the story so far.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Onegai Shimasu

Onegai Shimasu: Literally, “please teach me”, used between partners before practicing or by the group at the start of the class. - from an aikido terminology webpage compliments of:

Welcome to my aikido blog, a personal account of my journey.

I would first like to send my thanks to all of my senseis, past and present, as well as my sempai and fellow aikidoka, who continue to support my practice, and who tolerate my mistakes with goodwill and good humor. Thanks also to my family and my former students, who have given me the opportunity and motivation to continue.