NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #72

June 2019

Inside This Edition:

Greetings Nihon Goshin Aikido Aficionados!

We welcome June, and all of the "official" summer fun that comes along with it.  I am fresh off a great seminar in Middletown, NY where Shihan Bowe taught a 3 hour class on Classical Techniques and promoted Sensei MacEwen to Shihan.  Congratulations to both men for their commitment to the art.  

First off, let me say that it was great to train with so many dan ranked Nihon Goshin Aikido practitioners, and I was mostly happy with the techniques I performed under Shihan Bowe’s and Shihan MacEwen's watchful eyes.  On one occasion in the seminar, I did a nearly perfect Leg Sweep, then looked up and made eye contact with Shihan Bowe who was watching the whole thing just a few feet away.  Shihan Bowe asked me to do the technique again (see picture to the left), and unfortunately I couldn't put lightening in a bottle twice, but I was able to get closer to the truth of the Leg Sweep on the third attempt with a few pointers which he provided.  

Let me tell you.  Shihan Bowe has a presence about him that is hard to describe.  I have thought a lot about how to describe it, and this is the best parallel I can come up with:  One St Patty's day weekend, I was visiting NYC and eating brunch with my family at “The Boathouse” in Central Park.  At some point, a guy who "registered power" walked in with a group of people surrounding him and I said out loud, "Who is that?"  A security guard appointed to the man's detail who had entered from the back and was standing right behind me heard my question and he leaned over my shoulder and said in a distinctly Irish accent, "THAT is the Prime Minister of Ireland!"  Meeting Mr. Bowe was kind of like that, just on a smaller scale.  The second he walked through the doors of the Middletown dojo, everyone in the dojo was changed by his presence.

For those of you who don't know Shihan Bowe, and I pretty much count myself as sort of in that fold, I have to say that I think Shihan is great.  Case in point:  at one point in the seminar, a call was made for someone to demonstrate the Muggers Throw.  My host, Rich Hammer,  and I were training together, and we were selected to demonstrate the technique for everyone.  Rich threw me with certain expertise. It felt good to me as uke, but not so good to Rich's back, and he could not throw again, so another pair volunteered to replace us.  That pairing was not an ideal match according to a height disparity however, and the Mugger's Throw is one of the techniques where a training partner your size makes things easier.  

Anyway due to the size discrepancy between uke (tall) and nage (not as tall), the technique did not fair well at all, and it was painfully obvious to everyone in the room that the technique was  performed poorly.  A tense, if not cringe worthy, moment or two passed because the nage was a fairly senior black belt.  Sensing the tension, Shihan Bowe walked over and said, "Well, where to start? (slight pause) Maybe you should consider joining another dojo."  The comment released the tension completely, even resulting in some laughter.  Then Shihan Bowe talked nage into a passable version of the technique to everyone's relief.

The training was excellent.  One of the more fascinating periods of the workshop was the grooup Question and Answer session with Mr. Bowe at the end.  I was able to ask one question which was: "What was it like to be uke for Master Morita?" Shihan Bowe's response was, "It was perfect.  Every movement was the model of efficiency, Everything was in its place.  There was no extra movement.” and he added, “Working with Shodo Morita's senior students was also like that." He went on to describe a specific training partner he liked to work with, who served in the Japanese Air Defense Force.  Another comment he made really resonated with me, and that was, “I hope that the art will go on without me unchanged,” adding that “in the 50 Classical techniques, every self defense scenario is covered.”

When I got home Sunday evening, my wife asked, "So, what did you do when you were up there?" I was able to describe the training experience by leveraging a portion of a comment Shihan made to me in a personal conversation that we had before the workshop started, and another portion of his answer to the question I had asked him in the Question and Answer session.  My answer to Jennifer:  "I did exactly what Shihan Bowe told me to do.  And it was perfect."


Aikido ~'s  "The Official Uke Follow Me Guide:  How to Be a 'Good' Bad Guy."

Part 4 of 6:  

Beginning a few months ago , I began a series of articles discussing the aspects that all good ukes should manifest.  The aim of every Uke is to be a "good" bad guy ~ we hope to highlight actions that promote good uke behavior in this ongoing series.  

Watch almost any generic aikido video you see on youtube, and it will typically be saturated with what I define as generally "unnatural" uke behavior.  Now let me be clear, I am not being critical of the act of Aikido ukemi ~ the falls and rolls ~ or the act of receiving the technique.  The falls are great ~ if not spectacular.  When I reference unnatural uke behavior, I am referencing the simple fact that the attacking intention of uke is typically negligent in many respects ~ if not possibly even non-martial in many training scenarios and demos.

"Good" Bad Guys don't have to strike with lethal intentions, but every strike should have these qualities:

1)  The strike should be on target (Covered in the March 2019 edition of the newsletter),

2)  The strike should be delivered with a closed fist, as opposed to an open hand (Covered in the April 2019 edition of the newsletter),

3)  The strike should be delivered with uke's conviction to stay in the fight (not tossed out there and immediately followed by a self inflicted flop onto the mat), (Covered in the May 2019 edition of the  newsletter)

4)  The striker should always seek a combination punch (in other words uke's non striking hand should be kept martial throughout nage's technique),

5)  The uke should look for a way to counter nage's technique,

6)   Uke doesn't need to say anything between attacks ~ just train.

This month we are considering Quality #4 ~ namely that when serving as Uke during applications practice, Uke should always seek a combination punch.

Consider this anecdote:  

Once while working with a yellow belt on some applications, I found myself pleading,

Wait!  Don’t fall down yet.・

Try to keep your balance.・

Look at me ~ you just hit me, you’ll probably want to hit me again.・

Try not to let me get behind you.・

Why are you facing backwards?

Uke's posture was just not martial.  He was so loose, like jello, and falling for no reason.  All these corrections were needed to be said over and over again because uke had ZERO martial awareness.  Realistic applications and transitions between applications were nearly impossible with him for many techniques.

After stewing about it all weekend, I mentioned the scenario to a buddy of mine, who is a sho-dan in traditional aikido (aikikai). He thought about it for awhile, and asked, “When did you begin to strike him?”

I laughed at my buddy's inquiry, but he followed up by saying, “Seriously, a gentle atemi cut short of contact, to let uke know he needs to be paying attention, can go a long way in helping him become more instinctively martial, and that’s what you want, right?”

A few weeks later I was able to work with the same student again, and this time when he would lose his martial presence, I would feign a gentle strike, and he would immediately snap into a more martial application, but his movements were still so unnatural that it wasn't that much better.

Finally I came across this notion:  I told him, "If I am holding your right hand doing a technique, think about how you would position your body to hit or grab me with your left hand."  This concept proved to be the marker for him, and for the rest of the training session he was always "where he should be.  After the session was over, he even commented, "I really never understood what I was supposed to be doing as an uke until today, so thanks for helping me out."  It was kind of cool.

In next month's newsletter, I'll discuss the 5th good quality of all good ukes in application training.  What is the 5th quality all good ukes must have?  Namely:  the uke should always be seeking to counter nage's technique during applications.  

Click Here for A Random Archived "Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido" Newsletter Edition

Mystery Articles of Interest

Mystery Article A

Mystery Article B

Mystery Article C

I hope you have a great month in training.  Let's meet together on the mat and soon.

Jonathan Wilson

This guy’s aikido makes me smile.  This is what my Aikido looks like.

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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.

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Doing the Leg Sweep incorrectly here.

Do you see the mistake?

The contact point is my thigh instead of my calf.