NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #25

April 5, 2015

In This Issue:

  1. Max Reps Training: Two Articles Devoted to the Concept of Accelerating Your Technical Ability as a Martial Artist, and Improving Your Martial Fitness at the same time.
  2. The Push Up.... Are You Doing It Correctly?
  3. Recent Student Promotions!
  4. Growing Our Subscriber Base ~ Please Forward to your Friends and training buddies
  5. Announcements:  Got a rank promotion, opening a new dojo,  hosting a seminar, etc.

1.  Max Reps Training: Two Articles Devoted to the Concept of Accelerating Your Technical Ability and Improving Your Martial Fitness.

I’ll get to my “Max Reps Training,” system in a minute, but before I just jump right into it, let me tell you a quick story that will provide the backdrop for the entire system of training.  

When I became a college head soccer coach in 2002-2003, I was unaware of just how bad the team I had taken over actually was.  Sure there was the 2-38 record over a 2 year period (with one of those wins being a forfeit), but the record alone did not prepare me for what lay waiting in the bushes.

The truth was, when I accepted the job in May (4 months after National Signing day), there were just 7 players on the roster for the upcoming season (most rosters would have 18-25 players on them, so you can see how bad the situation was).  It would be like having a football team with 7 players....  

How it got this way was a bit of a mystery.  As much as I could gather, the previous coach wasn’t altogether a soccer coach, and had recruited soccer players for the team  ~ mostly out of the college’s very small student body.  

As a result of my predecessor’s ‘efforts,’ I had more than one scholarship soccer player on my roster who had actually been cut from their own high school soccer team.  It’s not that they were terrible soccer players, it was that they were simply not soccer players.  Then there was the team’s athletic trainer who was also given a scholarship.  Apparently the trainer’s job was to jog around the field when numbers were low, so the team could continue playing if a “regular” player was injured and thereby avoid forfeiting the game.  

I remember asking the Athletic Director if we were going to cancel the 2003 schedule, and recruit with the idea of fielding a team in 2004.  To which he replied, “No, you’re playing 20 games this season.”  

So, I beat bushes like a mad man, and found 9 people who I convinced to play soccer in college.  It was a tough job.  One of them never even practiced a minute with our team due to an intestinal issue, and was forced to withdrawal from school, and a few of the others were simply holding down a roster slot, with very low inherent talent.  So with a roster of 15 players, I went into fall camp.  I knew it was going to be difficult as there were only 8 or 9 players on that team that “might” be considered to be soccer players.

They reported for practice the first week in August in form consistent with their previous experiences.  They were unbelievably out of shape.  Only one player passed the fitness test.  My best player had managed to gain 40 pounds between May and August, and the doctor literally told me, “If you force the fitness issue, you could literally kill her.”  So.... “How do you play soccer without running around?”  Thankfully, the other players were not in danger of suffering cardiac arrest on the field so I could work them, but there was simply no way around the fact that the team was not a good high school team, much less a team that could produce on the collegiate level.  To get to the level in which they could compete, I had to maximize their opportunities to get better.  This team needed a ton of practice.

Now one of the interesting things about the NCAA (the premier governing body of collegiate athletics) is that in the interest of “fairness,” they limit the amount of practice time a team can have every week.  I wanted to argue, “My team is so bad, I need twice the allotted practice time of 20 hours per week,” but that only got a chuckle from my athletic director.

So what do you do when you need to improve faster than everyone else, but you are not allowed to work out any more than the other guys ~ who are already much better than you?

Well, one of the things I tried to do was maximize my training plans in order to ensure that the time I did have to train my players was stuffed full of the maximum amount of meaningful repetitions possible.

For starters, every practice had a theme centered approach that was identifiable from the warm-up exercises to the cool down exercises.

Secondly, the players were always working.  This proved difficult initially as fitness levels prohibited the type of intense work that would normally be done, but active rest programs (where they might dribble the soccer ball in a small grid while my assistant coach and I set dimensions for a new training grid) proved valuable.

It worked fairly well.  By mid season, my vision of how the game of soccer should be played was being executed fairly consistently on the practice field and in games.

We had the #4 and the #20 ranked teams in the country on the ropes for much of those respective matches, but a lack of depth proved costly.

In an away match against Carson Newman College (the #20 team in the country) in Tennessee, at one point the opposing team’s coach became so embittered with his team’s inability to possess the ball that during one of our extended possessions,  he yelled out to his players:  “Why can’t you play like they’re playing?” ~ referring to us.  I turned to Mark Turner, my assistant coach, and said something like, “I’ve been waiting to hear another coach say that for 2 months.”  It was a fine moment in what had been a flawed season from the very beginning.  It was clear to anyone paying attention, we were turning the corner.

Overall, the season was not successful by any standard other than by comparing it to the seasons that had come before it.  My team team finished 6-14, and failed to record a single conference win.  Still, the wins we did tally equaled a number three times greater than the team had secured in the previous two seasons combined.  

After a good recruiting season the following spring, I was looking forward to a winning record and possibly winning “Conference Coach of the Year” honors (because that award always goes to coaches who have engineered ‘turn arounds’), but a new athletic director wanted to have “his own people” in place, so I was let go with all the other coaches in the athletic department, and replaced by a hand picked coach the AD was familiar with from his previous university.  

Looking back on that experience, my 1 year as a college head coach marked the best coaching of my entire career.  Starting from nothing, with a few players who had never played the game competitively before but were somehow on my college team, I was able to create a team with an identifiable and somewhat effective style of play (though always inherently flawed).  As college soccer seasons are extremely short, all this was accomplished very quickly ~ within the span of just two or three months.  Further, my replacement ~ with the benefit of an entire recruiting class that I had landed for him which resulted in a significant roster upgrade, and an easier schedule which I also secured ~ was only able to win 4 games the following season.  The chatter from my former players about the new coach’s incompetence filled my email inbox nearly daily, but it was no longer something I could address.  

Now let’s talk about translating my college coaching experience into aikido.  In an attempt to take the training concepts I used in soccer and cross them over to aikido training, I have written 2 articles on the subject of “Max Meaningful Reps Training.”  One article is written more for instructors (Coaches), and is focused on designing practices that “thematically stack concepts together” with the idea of maximizing a student’s understanding, which should lead to the quickest mastery of essential concepts.  It’s not a recreation of the wheel, but probably more of an affirmation to what you’re already doing, with some tweaks.  Still I think there might be something you could take from it (namely the ‘cyclic’ approach to training and maximizing every minute of class time).

The second article is written more for the student (Player) in the sense that it focuses on developing an individual work rate in the context of an overall training session, but it does have application to instructors also.  

The two articles are here:

Training Progressions in Aikido

Pace of Play ~ How to Maximize Your Reps In Training

As a final recommendation on training models, Anson Dorrance did a film called, “The Competitive Cauldron” ~ documenting practice concepts he developed at the University of North Carolina ~ where he has won 21 of the 31 Women’s Division 1 College Soccer National Championships.  This is an incredible feat!  By comparison, the legendary John Wooten won 10 national championships in basketball.  Dorrance has won twice Wooten’s number, and is still coaching.  Above any other college coach in US history, Coach Dorrance is a winner, and his ideas are worth emulating.  Now, the general idea behind his “Competitive Cauldron” is that each player owes it to the other players to do his absolute best at all times during the entire training session.  Maximum effort is expected by all participants.  Even if you know nothing about soccer, the ideas discussed in the DVD are universal to any activity ~ including those in the corporate world.  I recommend it highly.

2.  The Science & Reason Behind the Push Up Exercise. If your push up looks more like a full body spasm than an actual regulation pushup, you need to read this article.

There is a reason push ups are part of our daily aikido warm ups....  And that reason is so that you can pick yourself off the mat when you fall down.  Unfortunately, so many of us do not do them correctly.  

You may stink at push ups now, but your body is an adaptive engine, and will get better as you train the push up properly.  Strength training, introduced to even the oldest and sickest patients in hospitals, has confirmed this for all ages.  So don’t cheat on your push ups.  Do as many correct push ups as you can ~ just before the point of failure, and you will improve your ability to perform this exercise.  Click Here to read the article.

3.  Nihon Goshin Aikido Promotions:

Promotions from the Nihon Goshin Aikido Dojo in Lexington, SC.

Promotion to Sho-Dan:

Tim McNeal to Sho-Dan, 3/12/2015

Here are three promotions from the Nihon Goshin Aikido Dojo in Greer, SC  

Promotion to Go-Kyu:
Daniel Reter Jr. to Go-Kyu, 01/30/2015  Greer, SC

Nathan Burin to Go-Kyu, 02/24/2015  Greer, SC  

Promotion to Sho-Dan:  

Tim McNeal to Sho-Dan, 3/12/2015 Lexington, SC

Promotion to Ni-Dan:

Daniel Rester to Ni-Dan, 03/01/2015  Greer, SC

Join me in extending a hearty congratulations to these NGA Aficionados!

4.  Newsletter Subscribers:

More subscribers is the goal ~ so can you help us grow our Newsletter Subscription Base by passing the website along to your training buddies and asking them to subscribe?  

Our hope is to be an inter-dojo clearing house for all things NGA, but we need more subscribers to do that.  Best of all, it’s free, and who doesn’t like the word “free!”  Click Here to Subscribe! (And make sure your forward to all your training buddies, and would be training buddies).

5.  Announcements:  

Do You Have News On Seminars, Dojo Expansions, Relocations, Grand Openings, Promotions, and/or Other Information You Want To Share?  Send us the information on it and we’ll post it here for you.  

Let's meet on the mat together soon!


Jonathan Wilson

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In this picture, it is pretty clear that uke’s balance has been compromised.

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Unless otherwise stated, the author’s views, musings, and opinions do not necessarily reflect the attitude of leadership within any of the various Nihon Goshin Aikido associations, or unaffiliated Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos.

The Tenshin Movement demonstrated.   

Note how nage controls uke’s striking hand past the center line and into kuzushi.  Read our article on the Tenshin Movement by Clicking Here!

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The Tenshin Movement:  A movement back and off line. Offering tremendous kuzushi opportunities, the Tenshin movement works especially well against round attacks.  

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The Tenshin Movement

Highlights from Tim McNeal’s Sho-dan Test.

Your chances of breaking your wrist, arm, hip, ankle, leg, or receiving a concussion during training is much larger than your chances of being attacked by a bad guy.  Make “Ukemiwaza” ~ Learning to Fall” A Priority In Your Training.  Click Here to Access Our Articles on Ukemi.

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Sensei Rester after his promotion to ni-dan.

Avoid Long Lines.....  Better Yet, Avoid Lines Altogether.

This picture demonstrates poor training principles with regard to MAXIMUM reps.

A concept was taught, but the line is WAY too long to allow enough repetitions for the concept to sink in.

The players could triple their meaningful repetitions by having 3 lines.... Or better yet, NO LINES.  

As expected, there was no measurable improvement in any player during the training session.

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