Monday, July 15, 2013


I just stumbled across a great article whilst searching for "Aikido in Belize."  (I'm going to Belize next week -- but that's another story).

I just wanted to share this awesome read:

Some passages that were particularly profound for me:

"It's not that physical strength isn't important, it just needs to be the proper kind of strength. A strong, fearless spirit is essential to do our art. But it cannot be the spirit of fighting... it must be the spirit of "fudo shin" or immovable mind. "   What I like about this is that it alludes to the difference between "strong" and "stiff" -- and between "relaxed" and "limp."   And that applies mentally as well as physically.

"When the mind is excited or "noisy" you are feeling yourself, not the partner."   I think this is at the heart of my struggle with Jiyu-waza.  Also the fact that we do stress technique in our Jiyu-waza.   I used to do "randori" at other dojos, where the attack was mostly limited to a grab, and I did much better.  Not focusing on the attack and "appropriate" response allowed me to just blend.  I need to get back to that even when there is a specific attack.  It really shouldn't matter.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013


We've all experienced it, but I'll speak for myself.  Uke is "being stubborn," and I'm getting frustrated.  My technique, rather than getting better and more focused to compensate, gets worse. I resort to speed and strength.  Which frustrates me even more. I should know better. I blame myself.  Training sucks.

As much as I hate to admit it, certain Ukes give me more problems than others.  Intellectually, I know that this isn't always all my fault.  Sometimes it IS "Uke's fault."   But that's irrelevant.  I can't change Uke. I can only respond -- and that is part of the training, too.

Aikido training is a very intimate thing. For newcomers especially, the human dynamics of grabbing each other, sweating on each other, causing each other discomfort, leading, blending, etc, are all obvious new sensations.  But those things are on the surface.  They are perhaps a bit unexpected for the newbie, but right out there for all to see.

The more subtle new sensations have to do with the interpersonal non-physical stuff:  perceived stubbornness or bossiness; a partner who seems overly interested in teaching rather than just training; class dynamics that include talking too little or too much.

To all newbies (say, less than 100 years of training): this never goes away.

I'm at a stage in my Aikido life where I "feel" like I should be able to show some proficiency much of the time.  Most of the time these days, I work with folks who are at least somewhat less experienced than I am.  So my ego says I should know something. <puff up chest> "I'm the Sempai!  Listen to me!", says I.  Unfortunately, when I'm tired or I've had a hard day and I'm not on my mental or emotional game, I find sometimes myself "arguing" with Uke, even if Uke is right. (note to self : Assume Uke is always right).

For my Ukes out there who know what I'm talking about, I apologize.  I'm still learning.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jiyu Waza

Well, Chris Lee's work on our new web site looks awesome! (I'll let him reveal it when it's ready).  With that site, he's threatened to add a link to this blog, so I  figure I'd better start writing again.

Where to start...

Recently, I've been struggling with Jiyu-Waza.  There are plenty of things I do in the dojo that I'm not satisfied with, but this is one that has me really frustrated.  The voices inside my head during Jiyu-waza are like this...

"Breathe, relax, blend... CRAP!  Whoa, that was clos... Shit!  Breathe, rela  MOVE! C'mon, Mike. Whu?  OK, not bad -- now do something DIFFERENT!  How'd I get here?  Blend, dammit! Why am I out of breath?!  Drop your center!  Damn -- not like that.  Grrr -- wrong blend again!!  <pant> we don't do that one here...  Where'd he come from!??  Jeez, when's she gonna clap, ferchrissakes?!....  "   etc, etc...

In general, too many exclamation points.

Here's the thing.  I'm a much better Uke than a Nage.  I've known for a long time that 80% of my "deep" learning comes from being Uke, not Nage. (note to self: blog about Tonya's recent awesome "Uke-centric" class).  But I also know intellectually that there's really no difference.  It's always all about blending, centering, breathing, etc.   They're truly identical in terms of everything that counts.   Yet, oddly enough, I feel much more in control when I'm Uke than when I'm Nage.  Honestly, much of the time I feel like there's a "reversal" just waiting for me when I attack -- the lesser the experience of my partner, the more that's true.   I think I'm more comfortable as Uke because, as Uke, I feel like I "turn off my brain" and just react -- which is the part of me that gets in the way, especially during Jiyu-waza.

A musicians' reference: Doing good jiyu-waza is like finding the "pocket" when performing a tune on stage.  It's when you really express yourself, rather than just play the notes and stay in time.

So, I says to myself... "Mike," I says, "what's it gonna take for you to tap into your Uke brain when you're Nage -- and especially during Randori?"

(Note: I might use them interchangeably, but jiyu-waza and randori are not the same.  Moreover, how they're different varies from style to style, and dojo to dojo.   Check out this conversation:

So here's the thing...  When it's my turn to do Jiyu-waza, I want to feel like I feel and think like think when I'm Uke.  I want to treat every attacker's energy as if it's coming from a Nage -- so that I can react like I'm an Uke -- except free myself up to execute those "reversals" that I feel are there.  They should be ripe for the picking, no?

So, if you're working with me, and I'm Uke, and you feel me playing with or hinting at reversals, or just offering a little resistance, it may be because I'm working on a "unified theory" for myself.

Domo Arigato