Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #26
May 5, 2015
In This Issue:
Greetings Nihon Goshin Aikido Aficionado!
Please forward this newsletter to your training buddies (and would be training buddies). There is a link at the bottom of the newsletter that will also allow you to subscribe if you have not done so already.
This is a jam packed spring edition of the newsletter (parts of which have been writing themselves for years), and others just a few months. Still all these, I hope, will be worth your time.
Before we get too much deeper, keep in mind that I’m just a guy writing stuff down. Nothing I say should be taken as gospel, and certainly nothing I say should ever be assumed to be offered as an “official Nihon Goshin Aikido position.” I’m just a guy who learns by writing things down., And I write a lot because I hope to learn a lot. Alright, well with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at Spring time as a time for renewal.
1. Revisiting First Fruits.
Spring is the stuff of legends. Everything is new again in Spring, and in many ways Spring represents a “Back to Basics Mindset” for many people. It’s always nice to revisit basics, but “How ‘basic’ is basic?
Well, I think nothing should be left to chance in terms of things you can do to potentially make yourself better ~ regardless of the discipline. In a recent training session we deployed Slap to the Side of the Head from a roundhouse punch as a method to get uke to the ground. Once uke was down, we maintained control using Knee on Belly Ground Control (See the Theseus vs the Minotaur picture ~ upper left) ~ and this is a close approximation of what we were going after.
Why control uke in this fashion? Well, it does present an opportunity to work on your ground game. If you think of controlling uke after he hits the mat following a Slap to the Side of the head application ~ (control position depicted in the Theseus vs. the Minotaur picture), this is a potential scenario in which jiujutsu and aikido converge ~ which is appealing.
Anyway, after a few strikes in our practice session, it was pretty clear that everyone was going through the motions on the Slap to the Side of the Head, and focusing on what we were going to do next with the Knee on Belly ground control. After a few attacks, we just had to call ourselves out, and acknowledge the truth: “Hey guys! We’re not moving. We need to enter as the strike comes so we can execute a proper Slap to the Side to the Head Application, take uke’s balance, and then go to Knee on Belly.” Once we had reaffirmed our first principles, we then proceeded to Knee on Belly Ground control with a much more effective and realistic application of the Slap to the Side of the Head.
So, always evaluate your first principles ~~~ in this case, “Movement First ~ Technique Second.” Spring is a great time to do that.
2. Nage’s Work Station (Part 1).
Earlier this week, I was telling Sensei John Carter that this particular idea of “Nage’s Work Station” has been simmering for years, but did not come to an official head until Sensei Carter made an observation about a problem I was having with a particular Classical Technique. Consider a few Back Stories:
Back Story #1: Kayaking: Yes, White water kayaking. Before my wife and I had kids, we used to do all kinds of cool stuff. ol (parental humor never seems to get old for me). I regularly remind my kids, “You know, mom and dad were pretty cool people before you guys came along and ruined it.” ~
Anyway, at one time in my pre-kid era, I fancied myself as a pretty good water water kayaker. White water kayaking is a bit different from white water rafting or paddling a canoe down a river (so if you’ve ever done any of that, don’t feel like you understand what I’m going to say next), because the only thing someone in a canoe and someone in a raft have in common with a white water kayaker is that they are all wearing life jackets.
The aim of white water kayaking (sometimes referred to as “play boating”) is not to “shoot” a rapid (run straight through it as you would in a raft or canoe), but to “stop” and ‘play” in the most dangerous part of the rapid [usually called a “Hole” (hydraulic)] for as long as possible (see picture and youtube videos to the left).
You can play in these holes for days if you wanted because at the point immediately below the hole, the water is flowing back upstream ~~~~ feeding the kayaker back into the hole itself. So if you get kicked out of the hole, you often get sucked right back into it, or if you get blown out, you can still simply paddle over to a nearby eddy, and reenter the hole at your leisure for more play time.
By the way, a hole is where most people who swim in rivers drown, but it is the most exciting place to “play” if you are a white water kayaker. Of course, one of the things you quickly learn is that a 50,000 horse-power washing machine (which is essentially what a hole (river hydraulic) is, takes no prisoners ~~~ even if you are in a boat (see inverted kayaker to the left), so you’ve got to be in a safe position at all times. Regarding safety. If there is a golden rule of paddle placement, it is as follows: “Keep your elbows pinned to your sides if you wish to keep your shoulders attached to your torso.” Keeping your elbows in keeps your paddle in front of you ~ where you are most powerful and stable. While it might look cool to run a rapid with your paddle over your head (and rafters have a great time doing this while saying “Wheeeee”), this action is THE recipe for a dislocated shoulder if you are a kayaker. If your elbow is above your head regularly, the question is not “if” you will dislocate your shoulder kayaking. The question is “when” will you dislocate your shoulder?”
Back Story #2: Last week I was hard at work at my real job (teaching high school kids how to improve their SAT and ACT ~ College Entrance Exam scores). During a break, I asked if any of the students had any experience with martial arts (in preparation to market NGA). One kid had experience in Tae Kwon Do, and some other art whose name I did not recognize. We were on equal ground though, because he had no real understanding of aikido. I hoped to offer a quick, impromptu demonstration, and asked him to grab my wrist with both of his wrists. I had planned to do the First Wrist Technique (Nikyo)~ slowly ~ or the Unbendable Arm (Kokyu nage) slowly as well. That said when he grabbed my wrist, for some reason, he pulled his hands together underneath his center, and locked his elbows to his sides. Even though I outweighed him by 50 pounds and was much stronger than he was, he was stronger than me in this position. Raising my gripped arm was simply not an option, so neither of the two techniques I had planned on using would work at this point. If I wanted to raise my arm, I was going to have to lift his whole body off the floor in the process. Since it was not possible to raise my arm, I lead him down to the floor instead, and then easily established neck control and a Wheel Throw (Kaiten nage) set up... But that’s not the point.
So what is the point of both of these stories? Well, Elbow Positioning is crucial for leveraging your strength. In kayaking, or anything else (like gripping nage), you are strongest when your elbows are at your sides and locked into your center (core), with ki energy extending through your finger tips. The same was true with my Tae Kwon Do demonstration partner. He gripped me very well, and I could not move him in the way I had intended initially.
So how can we apply this idea to our aikido? Well, think about a technique like the Elbow Chop. If your gripped hand elbow separates from your side as you bridge up, lower your weight, and begin step back, will you lose precious lead and power. So you always want to keep that elbow tight to your body ~ with a sense of connection; regardless of what you’re doing.
This idea equally applies to service as uke. A few years ago, I began to experience rear deltoid muscle soreness any time I worked with someone on the Classical Technique of the Whip Throw. After some contemplation, I realized that I was letting my elbow separate from my center so quickly, that when nage rotated his hips and did the throw, the only joint that was not already “locked out” was my shoulder, and it ended up taking 100% of the energy of the throw ~ after a few throws, my shoulder would be so sore, I could barely lift it.
In the past couple of months, I’ve made a conscious attempt to keep a sense of “centeredness and connection” as uke. The result is oddly a more “manageable uke” for nage ~ as uke is never lollygagging or trailing behind the technique, and a safer ukemi experience for me also (so the classic “win-win”).
Here’s another Elbow Connection test (I just thought of, and tried about 5 minutes ago): Hamni Walk across the room. After the turn, instead of “resting” your hands on your hips ~ bring the hands out in front of your body a few inches, and clamp your elbows to your sides as hard as you can. This should energize your core, and you should sense a great deal of ki coming out of your finger tips. If you’re having trouble getting the feeling, it might help to imagine you are hugging something very tightly. Now in this energized posture, execute the same Hamni Walk. This walk should feel much more powerful than the first one, and there should be a powerful and obvious connection between the movement of your hands that is expressly tied to the movement of your hips. At the center is the idea that the secret to strong aikido technique is a strong ki extension from your core, and I wonder if locking your elbows in is a part of that). What say ye?
Next month we’ll continue to explore this notion of Nage’s Work Station ~ for powerful aikido in Part 2 of our segment.
3. Growth Via Multiplication: Increase Our Student Population by Increasing the Number of Our Dojos:
Besides selling lots of cool official ngaexperience.com
t-shirts, one of my big goals with the NGAexperience.com website is to simply grow the art. Actually t-shirts have a lot to do with that growth model. Besides being universally stylish, they are also walking advertisements for our brand of aikido. Marketing is a mindset as much as it is anything else. As I’ve said, I’m always thinking about growing the art, and as a business owner outside of my exploits with ngaexpereicne.com, I find myself fascinated with business growth models to grow my own business.
Since the goal is more students, we must also have more teachers, and more teachers mean more dojos. I’ve seen many church growth studies that have documented the following phenomenon: “When the seats in the sanctuary are consistently 80% full, the church will stop growing unless the leadership adds another church service, or plants a new church.”
In many of our dojos, 80% full might describe a class with only 10 students (or less) on the mats at a time. Further, this 10 student per class dojo may be the only NGA dojo in a 100 square mile radius! Simply put, we need more students than that if we wish to grow our art. To grow, one of my thoughts is that we must increase our NGA population density.
So what does that mean. Well, when we consistently get to the point of 80% capacity in a class ~ where the dojo is 80% full ~ we’ve got to add another class, or start another dojo (in that same area) so that we can begin to leverage the name recognition and expand our numbers via social connections.
As to adding classes: This is an easy first step. What you’ll soon discover, however is that you can only add so many classes. Why? Well, there are simply only so many training hours that are conducive to training ~ especially if you plan on being the “dojo-cho” ~ and also the sole instructor).
Regardless, once you fill up your days of the week (eg: Monday - Thursday & Saturday), and your prime teaching slots on those days (5pm - 9pm weeknights, and 9am-1pm on Saturdays), there is no other alternative but to expand the training facility (to increase available mat space for new students), or to add another dojo.
Let’s explore some of these options.
After you’ve maximized your current dojo’s training hours and days, expanding the training facility is an interesting option. It is also risky as it often necessitates a dojo relocation, and will undoubtedly increase the monthly overhead costs ~ as more mat space will surely cost more money.
So let’s look at starting another dojo in the same area, as a way to leverage local name recognition, and referrals from the existing dojo’s natural market.
What is a natural market? Well it is a representation of all of the circles of influence of every student and teacher in the area. Consider the old Faberge Shampoo Commercial to the left. Word of mouth referrals is the best way to grow anything (martial arts or otherwise). I have had people ask me about aikido (maybe while wearing a NGA t-shirt, etc.). They’re typically very interested, but they often live on the other side of town (over an hour away at rush hour), so they can never come to train.
I think that if you added an NGA dojo on their side of town, chances are that prospects like these become students, and a new dojo would be quickly established.
Don’t look at another Nihon Goshin Aikido dojo on the other side of town as a dojo that will compete for your students. Heck, the cross town Sensei ideally will be one of your own students. And keep this in mind, while it is true there are aikidoka who drive over a hour each way to attend an hour aikido class (Danger! Will Robinson!), those dedicated students are few and far in between. If you lose a couple of students to the new dojo across town, be assured that your dojo will began to grow again (remember the 80% rule). Later this month I will release a full article on “how this process might work” in an amicable way.
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).
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.
6. A Sneak Peek Inside Next Month’s “Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido:”
Stay tuned, and let's meet on the mat together soon!
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Knee on Belly ~~~ Good enough for Theseus vs the Minotaur, good enough for me, and an excellent follow-up up to many aikido techniques
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.
A Perfect Example of the power of your natural market. Heather Locklear and the Old Faberge Shampoo Commercial. This works in aikido also.
The BEST way to dislocate your shoulder when kayaking is demonstrated here ~ an ill advised technique known as the “High Brace” (Elbow above head). In any condition other than calm, flat water, this is a sure recipe for shoulder surgery.
Note the position of this kayaker’s elbows (low and in front of the body). A stronger position still would be if his elbows were locked at his side, but this is acceptable and safe. Imagine what type of torque his shoulder would receive if he were to extend the paddle over his head (elbows out and up position) at this point.
This is a video of the “Saluda Boys” (named after the river we paddle near our home). The Boys are a group of guys I used to paddle and hang out with when in the pre-kids era.
You can see great white water/ play boating kayaking technique in this video.
BTW, “Jeff Wilson” (one of the guys featured in this video) is not me.
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