This Week In Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #18
September 5, 2014
In This Issue:
Greetings Nihon Goshin Aikido Aficionado!
Wow two weeks in a row! I guess I’ve been inspired. Truth be told, I’m procrastinating on some Professional Continuing Education I need to get done. So, instead of working on that, I was thinking of things I could be doing instead of CE, and it occurred to me that writing this week’s edition of “This Week In Nihon Goshin Aikido” was a distinct possibility. So, my conscience affirming, “I’ve still got time to do my CE! I’ve still got time!” ` I begin my quest for further enlightenment in our wondrous art.
Clarifying Terms: Can Classical Techniques be Perceived as Martial Applications in and of Themselves?
Do you think of Classical Techniques as Martial Applications? I seem to go back and forth on this. In times of greatest confidence, I can hear the words, “to be most effective, the Application should have as much in common with the Classical Technique as possible” resound in my head.
That ringing endorsement is so easily confirmed when you consider Classical Techniques such as the
2 Hand Grip from the Rear, Throw to the Front
2 Hand Grip from the Rear, Throw to the Side
Unbendable Arm Against the Kick
Scoop Against the Kick
Twisting the Ankle Against the Knee
But what about some of the other techniques, like the 2 Hand Wheel Throw for instance? Is the Classical Technique of the 2 Hand Wheel Throw a stand alone martial application? Perhaps, you might just tell uke, “Really grip tight and try to keep my arms from moving.” Then you’d proceed to perform the 2 Hand Wheel Throw. If you could execute the throw in spite of uke’s more martial posture, I guess in theory that would make the 2 Hand Wheel Throw Classical Technique a martial application also.
Of course, from a safety standpoint, it might not always be a safe idea for uke to maintain a martial posture and resist a technique. In judo matches, they’ve outlawed the Scissors because of the number of devastating injuries for which the technique has been responsible. See the video to the left. It seems the problem is that in many judo matches, the Scissors is sometimes employed (in desperation) from a nearly frontal angle ~ causing the leg to snap in two, instead of bend backwards. If you’re in love with the Scissors as most purple and brown belts seem to be, keep in mind that it is a sacrifice technique ~ sort of a last resort bailout technique on the street. Also, since we’re talking about the Scissors, go ahead and practice the ankle lock ~ so that you can submit or cripple uke/ attacker as necessary once you’re down on the ground.
Well, now I’ve gotten side tracked....
Back to the point: In last week’s edition of the newsletter, “This Week In NGA #17,” we discussed the potential problems with traditional aikido’s Kote gaeshi (Front Wrist Throw) and pointed out how many of the dangers associated with that technique are avoided in our version of the technique (Front Wrist Throw). Link Here for reference.
Cliff Notes version of the problem: In traditional aikido, they generally execute a large irimi tenkan blend that places nage in the preferred position of just behind uke (think about where you’d need to be if you were facing the same direction as uke, and wanted to bite uke’s ear off). Once you’re in this great position however, uke is purposely turned back to front nage (and is generally sufficiently balanced) before the wrist turn causes uke to fall. It is at this point that nage is vulnerable.
Please watch the video to the left for clarification.
Of course, last week, we took great pride in pointing out that our art does not have the same problem in the Classical Technique version (Front Wrist Throw) because the entire throw is executed without that large irimi tenkan blend, keeping uke to the front. With Front Wrist Throw applications in which we do execute a large bend, our close to the belt, small circle, wrist turn minimizes the potential for uke to counter/ strike, etc.
That said our feelings of elation may be short lived as a survey of several of the other Classical Techniques ~ like the Elbow Chop, Peel Off, Spinning Hip Throw, and Cross the Body Wrist Throw could all be said to have the same disastrous potential problem as traditional aikido’s Kote gaeshi ~ where uke can simply strike nage with his free hand, etc., as the throw is in progress.
Negative first hand observations and experiences can leave leave strikingly memorable scars. I distinctly remember an occasion several years ago when my training partner and I were trying to work out some of the finer details of the Cross the Body Wrist Throw ~ as we were both preparing for the testing process for Brown Belt.
We asked for clarification from one of the senior students who was training next to us in the dojo. As we were describing our question, he said, “Just do it to me so I can see what you’re talking about.” So he took the hand of my my 6’4” training partner who immediately executed the throw. I should probably add, apparently much faster and better than uke was expecting.
Uke was completely caught off guard, and he was way behind the technique. He was going for a long plane ride, and he knew it, so rather than allowing himself to be launched into the dojo’s far wall, the uke grabbed my training partner around the neck with his free hand to arrest his own momentum. Uke’s movement was instinctively self “preservational” (if that is a word), and in my mind, it represented a potentially natural reaction of a would be attacker.
My first thought was something like: “Note to Self: Like the Classical Technique version of the Lift Up, the Classical Technique of the Cross the Body Wrist Throw might not have a direct martial application without some adjustments in nage’s direction of movement, (Omote would probably work better), etc.”
What say ye?
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Aikido Topic Of The Week: The Spin Around
For all the fanfare the Scissors technique receives in our art, to me the Spin Around is top shelf as it relates to the coolest looking technique in our system. It is so recognizable in the movies, and watching people do the technique on youtube is always thrilling. Best of all, you learn it when you’re a yellow belt in our system!
That said, of all 50 techniques that make up the Nihon Goshin Aikido system, the Spin Around Classical Technique is probably the one I feel least certain of, and ironically the most drawn to. I really want to do it well, but often I seem to have trouble.
This summer Mr. Beckham came down for Kevin Hovan’s sho-dan test, and Sensei Carter gave him about 15 minutes to address the class as a guest instructor. In one part of Mr. Beckham’s address, he asked me to come forward and demonstrate the Classical Technique of the Spin Around.
Given my past history of struggle with the technique, I was immediately worried. In the first attempt, my uke stepped on my hakama as I stepped back, essentially freezing me in place, and causing me to lose my balance. I was able to execute the throw by reversing my footwork, but the standard was not met. I immediately cried, “I need to do that again!” A point to which Sensei Carter was quick to agree. Anyway, the second time was better, but there is always this feeling with me that “I’m not comfortable doing the Classical Technique of the Spin Around.”
After some extensive contemplation over the later part of the summer, and thinking ~ then realizing ~ that “none of the other students I work with ever seem to have the problems that I have with the technique” ~ I began to see some light. As it is with most things.... “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” (Charles Kettering). This is when I think I finally figured it out. I had discovered the source of my problems. I believe that most of my seemingly inherent trouble with the technique is more of an uke problem than a nage problem. ~~~ Haha! When in doubt ~ blame the other guy!
Seriously though here are some of my thoughts on the ukemi that will make the Classical Technique of the Spin Around successful for everyone.
Uke should not be slow to respond to nage’s lead in the Classical Technique. If uke is slow, nage will feel like he is dragging uke around the dojo to execute the technique. This is unnatural, as a realistic attack will contain all of the energy necessary to execute the throw ~ so the feeling of uke dragging behind you is counter to actually learning the technique.
Once uke is moving in synchronization with nage, the second point of difficulty with the Classical Technique of the Spin Around is uke’s response to nage’s establishment of head & neck control. Namely, uke should begin to stand up to resist the head and neck control. It is this movement ~ uke’s decision to stand up straight and face nage ~ that leads to the dynamic reversal. Nage’s attempt to reverse uke’s forward momentum before uke begins the process of regaining his balance and returning to his normal posture leads to an awkward situation where nage can easily lose his balance and make it nearly impossible for uke to take the throw properly.
Finally, nage must be patient and wait for uke to stand back up. To strike early is to meet force with force ~ which is against the nature of aiki. So spin and wait.
So in summary:
To be good at the Classical Technique Spin Around, I think you need the following aspects in your favor:
#1 An uke who is staying level, if not slightly ahead of the technique (so you don’t feel like you’re dragging him)
#2 An uke who seeks to regain his balance and not be content to remain bent over once head/ neck control is achieved. Think about it: if uke just does not attempt to recover and stand up, the Arm Bar is the much more natural way to go ~ given his present posture....
#3 Nage must be patient to wait on uke to begin standing up before initiating the reversal/strike. As uke stands up, the striking arm meets uke’s face gently, and then adds to uke’s momentum to “help” uke over the top and back down to the mat. In this fashion, we eliminate the “uke bailouts” ~ where uke never stands up, sees the reversal coming, and then sits out or flops down underneath the technique ~ which looks ridiculous to the untrained and trained alike.
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Our future rests in our ability as martial artists to market our art to the general public. Youtube is the place to do this. To date, however, there is regrettably little in the way of inspirational marketing material of our art on youtube, but Chris Leventis has struck gold with his current video. It is the total package, and is certainly worth your time. Lots of solid applications ~ including the Scissors ~ (lol) ~ and an intriguing Lift Up application to name a just a few. Check out the video to the left ~ and watch it for yourself!
It is a quality product ~ one we should try to replicate on our own. One other point. When you post a video on youtube, you should title it “Nihon Goshin Aikido” ~ or something similar so that it pops up when people search for aikido.
My only complaint with Sensei Leventis’ video is that it’s not titled in a youtube search friendly format. In other words,unless you visit the Tarpon Springs Aikido website and see the video on the dojo’s web page, you are extremely unlikely to ever find the video in a general web search of our art ~ or a related art for that matter.
In other words, if you type in “aikido” this great video is never going to show up. So, if I may suggest: instead of titling the video: “Aikido Academy of Self Defense - Tarpon Springs” it needs to be titled “Nihon Goshin Aikido - Tarpon Springs” or something similar to directly reflect on Nihon Goshin Aikido.
One other point about marketing our great art: I believe that we should more actively leverage the natural commonality of our name with its more popular and well known traditional counterpart. In doing so, I believe it makes sense for dan graded practitioners to wear their hakamas in video demonstrations, when training in the the dojo, etc. Most people outside our dojo walls associate the hakama with aikido ~ so don’t disappoint them!
Consider this story: A few weeks ago, I was early to the adult class at the Irmo SC Dojo, so I went to the dressing room and changed. As I was observing the last 20 minutes of the kid’s class, a parent came up to me, and said, “My kid was really not sure he wanted to do this, and then he saw you wearing your skirt!” (I was immediately on the defensive ~~~ lol), but the parent followed up immediately, “He made me look it up on the internet, so I typed ‘aikido skirt’ into the Google search engine and learned all about it!”
What followed was a series of parent driven questions,
#1 What does it mean?
#2 Why do only black belts get to wear it?
#3 Why don’t all the other black belts wear it?
#4 Is it hot?
#5 It looks like it would be hard to fold?
#6 How much did it cost?
#7 When will my son be able to wear one?
As soon as I answered one question another one quickly followed. The hakama ~~~ it is associated with our art ~ we need to make the hakama “cool” again.
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Traditional Aikido Kotegaeshi
The established position (@ 20 seconds) is extremely desirous for nage, but quickly conceded (@ 34 seconds) ~ when he mentions, “my partner turns to face me.” Note: At this point, uke has one hand free to strike, while nage has both hands on uke’s wrist. In the rest of the demonstration that follows, you can see that an “aware” uke would be able to strike nage with his free hand every time.
I wonder if Takeda had a newsletter? ~~~ lol
Chris Leventis is doing some great video demonstrations at his Aikido Academy of Self Defense in Tarpon Springs, FL
Consider this unbelievably processed Nihon Goshin Aikido trailer/ demo. Very Exciting to Watch! Kudos Sensei Leventis!
Also make it a point to list your youtube video under “Nihon Goshin Aikido” ~ so future students can find it when searching for aikido related material. The future of our art lays cast in our ability to market it to the public.
It’s all in the marketing.
Why has the Scissors been banned from Judo Matches?
Here’s why ~~~ Be warned, if the sound of a leg breaking in two makes you vomit... Well, you were warned.
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