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Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #36

March 6, 2016

In This Issue:

  1. Something I Was Surprised to Hear At An Aikikai Aikido Seminar
  2. The Bare Bones ~ Three Simple, Must Have, Aikido Principled Ground Fighting Techniques
  3. Website Updates:  Real Fight Breakdowns (See what a real street fight looks like, and our frame by frame analysis)
  4. Seminars:  New Jersey every Saturday, South Carolina in April, and Georgia in June
  5. New Nihon Goshin Aikido Study Group Opening Up in North Central CT/ Western MA Under Mike Murphy’s Leadership
  6. Growing Our Subscriber Base ~ Please Forward to your Friends and Training Buddies
  7. Announcements:  Got a rank promotion, opening a new dojo,  hosting a seminar, etc.,? Let us know, and we’ll spread the word

Greetings Nihon Goshin Aikido Aficionado!  

Even though we’re just 6 days into it, March has had far too many deadlines for my liking this year; including the writing of two books totaling 162 pages of material on the New SAT and the current ACT, corporate taxes, wife’s birthday, etc.  Before the end of the month, I’ll add:  daughter’s birthday, wedding anniversary, and something else I keep forgetting because I have not written it down.  March ~ what can I say about it?  Especially early March ~ it has been keeping me on my toes.

Regrettably, my efforts on writing the newsletter had to take a back seat due to the gaggle of other priorities on my plate, but rest assured:  my mind was still simmering on the topics I would cover in this month’s edition of Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ when I eventually could sit down to write it.  So, let’s get right to to it.

1.  What did I hear a senior Aikikai Shihan say in a recent seminar that surprised me?

In a Saturday morning aikikai seminar session, the guest instructor, Andy Demko Shihan, stopped in the middle of training the Wheel Throw (Kaiten Nage) off a simple straight grab and said, “You’ve got to assume that your opponent knows how to fight on the ground.”  My ears immediately perked up at what was up to that point in my mind, a very atypical statement to hear at an aikikai seminar.

He continued, “People don’t fight like they used to 20 years ago.  20 years ago, no one ever thought about going to the ground on purpose, but with the growing popularity of the UFC and MMA, it’s probably one of the most natural ways to fight now.”

Next he offered the solution:  “Make sure you avoid the potential of a double or single leg take down when doing kaiten nage (Wheel Throw) by extending some outward pressure on uke’s neck with your shuto (hand blade) to keep uke from turning and coming up underneath your center ~ and taking you to the ground.”

Revolutionary and Potentially Controversial.  

This was the first time I’d ever heard the possibility even mentioned in aikikai ~ that “it could go to the ground, or that there could be a possible attack that was something other than a shomenuchi, yokomenuchi, tskui, or a grab of some sort.”  In a follow-up correspondence with Demko Shihan about the comments he made and my plans to use them as a spring board for this month’s newsletter, I expressed some concern about using his name and suggested that it might be “safer” if I referred to him generically as a “high ranking sensei” because of the unique nature of what he had said relative to non traditional aikikai attacks and ground fighting possibilities.  He quickly replied, “please feel free to use my name.... I'm allowed the latitude to incorporate and associate the classical art of Aikido with my extensive background in other arts and practical application of self-defense. This is a very important part of my teaching methodology.... What I showed at (the seminar) is not necessarily what is on Aikikai's "radar screen’....(but) I take personal ownership of my teaching.”

So where do we go next if we are to accept the fact that we should be wary of the possibility of being taken to the ground, and how do we seek to avoid the ground in general?   In addition to avoidance, perhaps the next step may be to actually consider the dreaded “what if it does go to the ground” scenario.  

Occasionally It’s Not Optional.

I’m fairly certain that no aikidoka would ever prefer to go to the ground intentionally, but sometimes we have no choice.  

Recently, while serving as uke in a demonstration where one of my favorite techniques, the Elbow Chop (Kokyu nage), does not quite take uke to the ground (because the uke has moved well and bent his torso to accommodate the energy in the throw), I was the beneficiary of a particularly awesome Inside Leg Sweep Application (Uchi-Mata) which was demonstrated as a potential “finisher” to an Elbow Chop which only unbalanced uke and did not put him on the ground.  

As far as throws go (see video to the left), like I said, it was a magnificent throw.  When nage swept the only foot I had in contact with the floor, I did what any sane uke would do in that situation, and that was to hold on for dear life during the process of being thrown!  I hit the mat with a classic judo break fall, and then felt nage come down on top of me.  The power behind the throw actually toppled both of us!  

Unfortunately, It Does Go South Sometimes

So what would you  recommend nage do in that situation?

#1  The Elbow Chop Worked (While I was not on the ground, I was completely off balance).

#2  The Leg Sweep Application (Uchi-Mata) Worked as a Finisher (I landed flat on my back with a huge thud!).

#3  Nage Still Wound Up on the Ground in a Grappling Situation.

Further, Suwari waza (see video to the left) ~ an aikido based fighting style taught in some dojos in which both combatants are fighting from their knees ~ is not a ground fighting system that would be applicable in a situation like the one I just described ~ where you and your attacker are both lying on the ground and chest to chest!

Chest to chest positioning with one guy flat on his back, or other ground fighting scenarios are trained via a separate Gracie Combatives class at Sensei Carter’s Nihon Goshin Aikido dojo in Lexington, SC.  This being the case, it wasn’t a foreign exercise for nage to be on the ground after the Inside Leg Sweep capsized us both.  In fact, without hesitating nage quickly passed my loose guard, and established side mount.  He was well on his way to a submission, or regaining his feet had he continued the scenario.  

So, What is the Point?

I submit that most, if not all of us, would say, “nage needs to work on keeping his balance at all times so he does not wind up on the ground.” ~ And this was a close approximation of the Demko Shihan’s warning.  “You don’t want to be on the ground, so make sure you do x, y, and z to avoid it.”  

This is the paragon of aikido intent, and wholly applicable to what we are trying to do, but sometimes even with those steadfast  admonishments, I simply can’t avoid it.  Periodically, it just happens.  On those occasions, it is like the ground is a surreal deep sea ~ pulling me down into it ~ and in those instances I can’t help but get wet ~ even if I did the technique properly.  

Even If You Did the Technique Properly?

Yes ~ here’s an example.  My sem pai, Tim McNeal can seemingly counter anyone’s High Bridge (sumi otoshi) at will (using the video to the left @ 26 seconds as an example of the attack and the High Bridge).  The counter is not demonstrated so let me paint the picture of the counter Tim uses off this technique.  

So it works like this:  “Great High Bridge Jonathan!  That was executed perfectly!  Now you’re on the bottom of the fight with a 240 lb angry man laying on top of you!  Better do something QUICK!  What’s that?  Did you say, “You can NOT defend yourself on the ground?”  Haha! Well, Rest In Peace brother; it’s been great knowing you!”

It Actually Happens to Me All the Time.

Last month I referenced an instance on my sho-dan test, in which I got taken to the ground.  The video to the left presents a frame by frame analysis of that very randori attack.  As the attack went down (and by “down” I mean “south”), my limited ground training kicked in and I think I resolved the situation somewhat nicely under the circumstances.  Watch the video to the left with the heading, “What Could Happen When the Fight Goes to the Ground?” ~ And tell me what you think.

Of course, going to the ground should never be our preferred option, but if the fight ends up on the ground, we need to have an understanding of how to finish the fight wherever we find it, but how do we do it?

Addressing the Issue of Ground Fighting from an Aikido Perspective.

In my mind, it makes sense to train it.  In the last two or three Nihon Goshin Aikido seminars that we’ve had in South Carolina, one instructional portion in each seminar has always been been devoted to a ground fighting scenario.  Last fall we worked on Heel Locks as a finisher for the Scissors Throw (Kani Basami).  The Heel Lock (which could be interpreted as a grappling application for Twisting the Ankle Against the Knee Classical Technique) is a perfect mate to the (Kani Basami) Scissors Throw.  This sequence transitions seamlessly into our predisposed martial tendencies, and effortlessly shifts our martial posture from standing aikido to grappling aikido.  When combined they present an organic Nihon Goshin Aikido ground fighting Application which spawns logically from a dynamic Nihon Goshin Aikido Classical Technique.  See Video to the left for an MMA example of this exact same technical series in action!

2.  The Bare Bones Minimum:  Here Are Three Easy “Aikido Feeling” Ground Fighting Techniques that I Believe Every Aikido Practitioner Might Consider.

Let me be clear  I don’t want to spend my life learning to fight on the ground.  If I did, I’d be training in Judo and not Aikido!  Still in my mind, we need to be competent in a relatively few number of “Lifeboat” ground fighting techniques so that we can self rescue in case we should ever find ourselves in the deep and unforgiving sea that is fighting on the ground.  I’ve listed three key ground fighting techniques below, and included accompanying instructional videos on these same techniques in the left hand column as well.  You’ll see that all of these techniques assume that you are on your back, and that your attacker is in the dominate position (on top of you).

These techniques do not represent the sum of what you should know, but these three techniques provide a leveraged, “aikido feeling mechanism” to improving your position from the worst possible ground fighting scenario (eg:  you are on your back and your attacker is on top of you).  Practicing these three simple techniques a few times a month, should result in a marginal degree of readiness should you ever go swimming.

Click Here for more information on ground fighting essentials for the “Aikido first” practitioner.

3.  Website Updates:  

Real Fight Breakdowns.  We’ve got a whole section of youtube videos featuring links to videos and commentary on what happened.  Click Here to See a Complete Inventory.

4.  Seminar Announcements:  

A.  Spartanburg, SC  (April 16, 2016):  Instructors will be Nihon Goshin Aikido Sensies John Wyndham (Host Instructor, Spartanburg, SC), John Carter (Lexington, SC), and Joe Beckham (Greenville, SC).  Cost is $75 to preregister, or $100 at the door.  Time is 9:00 am - 3:45 pm.  Click Here for more information, and to register.

B.  Covington, GA  (June 3 - 4, 2016):  There will be a Nihon Goshin Aikido Seminar at the Covington, GA dojo.  Sensei MacEwen will be the primary instructor.  The dates are the first weekend in June, so mark your calendars.  The cost of this two day workshop is only $89 total, so don’t miss it.   Click Here for more information, and to register.

C.  Edgewater, NJ  (Every Saturday) Time is from 1:00 - 4:00 pm beginning this Saturday.  Sensei Jose Garrido will be teaching Daitō-ryu Aikijujutsu at the UFC gym in Edgewater, NJ.  Cost is only $20, but you must let Sensei Garrido know you are coming at least one day in advance.  I think this is a special opportunity.  I always talk about the importance of gaining a better understanding of our art and its roots.  Sensei Garrido is uniquely positioned to bridge Daitō-ryu and Nihon Goshin Aikido for those Nihon Goshin Aikido brown and black belts who might have an interest in exploring their martial history. Click Here for more information, and to register.

5.  New Study Group Leader in North Central CT/ Western MA.  

Mike Murphy, a Nihon Goshin Aikido sho-dan under Sensei MacEwen, is beginning a Nihon Goshin Aikido study group in the North Central CT/ Western MA area.  Please forward this information to everyone you know in that area so that they can begin their training in our great art.  You can contact Sensei Murphy by email here, or via our website here.  

6.  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 also?  It makes for good conversations as there’s nothing like sitting around the water cooler in the dojo and lambasting me for all the stupid things I’ve written over the course of this newsletter!  

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 you forward this link to all your training buddies, and would be training buddies).

7.  Announcements:

Do you have an announcement?  If so, we would like to share your information on Seminars, Dojo Expansions, Relocations, Grand Openings, Promotions, and/or Other Information with our subscribers.  Please forward all of your announcements to us so we can get the word out.  Send us the information on your announcement, and we’ll post it here for you.  

Stay tuned for next month’s edition.  Here’s a sneak peak:  I’ve been musing on the Whip Throw, and it has taken me down many interesting pathways with several unexpected twists and turns.  Is it possible that Master Morita invented the Whip Throw himself?  Think on that until next time!

Let's meet on the mat together soon!


Jonathan Wilson

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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.

Time Waits for No Man Don’t Let 2016 Go to Waste

Read our Article on the Signature movement in Nihon Goshin Aikido ~

The Yang Blend

What Could Happen When The Fight Goes to the Ground?

Here is a frame by frame breakdown of a ground fighting scenario on my

old sho-dan test.

Click Here to Read Our Analysis of Steven Seagal’s Aikido

Explanation of the Inside Leg Sweep Application


Just change nage’s set up so that nage is grabbing uke’s right wrist instead of uke grabbing nage’s gi jacket).

“Hokkaido 2020”

Let’s establish a Nihon Goshin Aikido Dojo in Chitose, Hokkaido Japan

by 2020.

Ground Fighting Necessities

“The Hook Sweep”

For our purposes, the technique would probably end when nage resumes his standing position @ 1:00 minute

Ground Fighting Necessities

“The Elevator-Hook Sweep”

Different than the Hook Sweep ~ and works when you are on the bottom of the fight in the “guard position.”

Note this gets you to the top of the fight but not back to a standing position.

Ground Fighting Necessities

“The Arm Trap & Roll Escape”

Different than the Elevator Hook Sweep ~ works when you are on the bottom of the fight and your attacker is in the “mount position.”

Note this technique gets you to the top of the fight but not to a standing position.

Fast Forward to 26 Seconds and You’ll see the exact High Bridge Application discussed in the article.  Imagine if Uke grabbed Nage’s right shoulder with her left hand....

~ Grappling to Follow ~

Suwari waza ~ probably does not present realistic ground fighting situations anymore.  It is valuable to those with the knees to train this way because it helps you learn to move from your center.

Scissors to Heel Lock

As an MMA Submission

A very natural way to finish your Classical Aikido with a grappling application of Twisting the Ankle Against the Knee

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