Monthly Archives: December 2015

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year

Well, my last class of the year is over.  Time to reflect and to plan for the new year.  We need more students next year, so we are inviting any new students to come for free throughout January.  Tell all your friends.

We did ikkyo irimi and tenkan from each of the attacks, and then did each of the techniques from kosa dori.  If you figure 10 techniques, and 10 attacks, that is 100 combinations.  Then there are irimi and tenkan versions, so about 200 basic movements.  Lots of variations, of course.  Toss in some weapons techniques, and that is what you need for shodan.

However, that is just what we use to practice aikido.  Practice enough, forget about technique, do what comes, and that is aikido.


Small class yesterday – Xmas is getting close.  We worked on how the different escapes (irimi, tenkan, and tenshin) get you out of trouble while leaving you in the right place to control uke.  We did some techniques from kosa dori, katate tori, tsuki (chudan and jodan), yokomen uchi and shomen uchi.

It is of course important to control distance, angle relative to uke’s attack (and line of energy), and angle of nage’s energy.  Atemi is important to both keep uke at the right distance and control his posture.  We mostly worked on ikkyo and shihonage, but the principles work for any attack and any technique, though sometimes it is difficult to practice them unless uke responds in the way you need. (If not, then something else works, but that makes it hard to hone a technique.)

Aikido is like dancing in that uke’s and nage’s movements are synchronized and related to one another.  This can be the most difficult part of a technique to simulate slowly, even though it generally happens naturally at speed.  When uke does something unexpected, it is usually because nage didn’t to something quite right.

We finished by practicing escapes from multiple attacks, both one after the other and simultaneously.  Of course, for ukes to attack simultaneously, nage must be cooperating by staying on one place.  If nage moves constantly and correctly, it is almost impossible for even two ukes to attack at the same time, so simultaneous attacks are the worst case situation.

It is very important for nage to avoid signaling where and when he is going to move (pre-motion, telegraphing).  This can be quite difficult to avoid, but it was noticeable how little pre-motion there was the time I saw Saotome Sensei demonstrating randori.

One more practice this year.  Please tell all your friends that new students can practice for free throughout January!

Nice class on Tuesday evening, with seven of us there.  My back is still a bit iffy, but I made it through the class without aggravating it.  However, I had to play it safe, which isn’t a lot of fun.

We did a little work on how the initial move opens uke up for a strike (atemi), particularly with a ten shin (quarter step back) escape from a punch.  If nage moves just out of range and off uke’s line of attack, he is relatively safe from uke, while uke is upen to a strike from nage.  However, if nage is where he can punch uke, he is still in range of uke’s foot.  If nage has moved off uke’s line, however, uke’s natural weapons are all pointed past him.  For nage to take advantage of this, whether using aikido or striking, nage must set himself up to where he is still pointing his weapons at uke.

We mostly worked on ikkyo and shihonage, from kosa dori and tsuki.  We worked a lot on position – where our feet should be, where uke’s feet should be, and how to move to a domimant position.  This is a lot like what we did working on escapes.  When nage is in a position where he can move uke with relatively little effort, he is in the right place.  Of course, uke should cooperate during nage’s learning phase and early practice phase.  As nage progresses, he should still be able to complete an effective technique even if uke is not cooperating, but to study his technique, he may still need to have uke cooperate.

Uke cooperating may sound a lot like uke falling for nage.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Uke just falling whether or not nage does the technique right is counter productive.  Nage will not learn then.  Instead, uke must attack correctly.  He can slow down a bit, particularly initially, but he must attack correctly, whether a punch or grab is needed.

Uke should then let nage do whatever nage wishes.  Uke should not resist any more than he should go ahead of nage.  So if nage pushes up uke’s arm, uke lets him.  Even this can be a pitfall.  If uke just lets nage push up his arm, but maintains his center, of course nage will not be able to do technique.  Instead, uke should move naturally.  If nage pushes up uke’s arm, uke’s body should also move, as it would at full speed.  Being uke is quite difficult to do correctly.

Uke should take the correct ukemi.  If this is a back roll, uke should let nage put him into a back roll.  If it is a front roll, he should let nage put him into a front roll.  Uke should not break off because he doesn’t feel like falling.  You are doing aikido!  When it is your turn to be nage do you want uke to bail on you too?  So complete the technique, even when uke.

Part of ukemi is staying connected to nage.  Once a separation happens, uke is vulnerable to being hurt, sometimes quite badly.  Stay connected and move correctly from the initial attack through completion of the ukemi.

As nage learns how to do the technique and practices it, uke should attack more firmly, and can begin to resist.  Note I said “begin to resist”, not go crazy and try to stop nage.  A bigger, stronger, higher ranked uke should always be able to mess up nage by holding back when attacking and then resisting the technique.  This is all too easy to do on the mat.  However, it is quite reckless on the street.  Do that on the street, and you will probably get hurt.  You can even get hurt resisting in the dojo.  If uke does stop nage, he should attack again and again until nage is successful.

However, people are all too eager to jump to resistance.  Better to concentrate on performing a good attack and good ukemi, better for both nage and uke.

As people started getting a bit tired, towards the end of class, we worked on blending.  We did this with bokken, with shomen and leg attacks (yoko ashi, perhaps).  We blocked the strikes, striving to move together with our partner, neither behind nor ahead, blending and connecting rather than hard blocks.  We did two head strikes then two leg strikes.

After that, we did similar movements with empty hands.  Blending with two face punches then two body punches.  Then we did technique on the last of the four attacks, trying to move smoothly from the blending block into the aikido technique.  We moved up to doing the technique after the third attack, then the second, then the first one, still endeavoring to blend with the attack.

We finished with randori.  Generally, the ukes attacked in sequence rather than more than one at a time.  This made the focus dealing with attacks from different directions, and picking an appropriate technique on the fly.  Secondary issues are tracking all of the ukes, continuing to move, keeping out of the corners, maintaining extension, and not backing up.


Aikido is about energy – about “ki”.  There is nothing magical about ki.  It is just the energy we put into our lives.  Aikido is, more specifically, about manipulating energy.  We learn to constantly generate ki, and push it out to the world.  We need to practice doing this.

It is so easy in both aikido and in real life to suck in energy instead, to generate “negative” energy.  We feel lazy, or disgruntled, or angry, and we not only feel “negative”, but we are infectious, we make those around us feel the same way.

It is as easy to be positive, to generate good feelings, to make those around us feel better about life.  And which sort of person would you rather be around?

Aikido is, among other things, a way to practice exuding positive energy.  I do not stress the spiritual side of aikido much in the dojo.  That is largely because talking about it has little effect.  We can talk about it until we are blue in the face, but what really matters is how we act.  We can not do aikido (or anything else) effectively with a negative attitude.  If we are practicing doing aikido in the right way, we are practicing exuding positive energy.  This is one reason I almost always leave class feeling better than when I arrive.

In aikido, we practice extension.  If you don’t extend both your arms and your spirit, your aikido will not work well.  We practice generating momentum and passing it to uke.  We are attacked, sometimes quite fiercely, and we have to maintain our posture, our extension, and our spirit.  Otherwise, we will not successfully defend ourselves on the mat.

In real life, we are often challenged.  We may be challenged mentally, physically, or spiritually.  Maybe all three.  Maybe just one or two.  By practicing self defence on the mat, we are learning how to deal with threat, so that if we are threatened in the real world we are better able to deal with it.


We had a good turnout for class today (Saturday), but I could not work out as I tweaked my back (not in class).  So Rhiannon did the warm up, Anita taught first class, and Sid taught second.

I hated it.  It is so much more fun to do aikido than to watch it.  However, watching did give me time to think.  It is very important in practicing to know what you are supposed to be doing.  I don’t just mean which attack and technique – though obviously it is important to know that also.  Rather, I mean that for beginners to resist each other is counter productive.

Beginners are just learning the moves.  Which foot to move and where, which hand to move and where.  Until you know the technique to that level, resistance is merely frustrating.  In this sense, when an advanced student is learning a new technique, he is back to being a beginner.  Once you know the basic movements, you refine them, and resistance is still counter productive.

The next stage is to make the technique work.  Here, some resistance is useful.  A little in the beginning.  More later.  However, ultimately, somebody at least as strong (physically and in technique) as you can block your technique if they know what technique you are going to do.

When you meet resistance, most people want to bull through, increasing their effort to drive through the resistance.  This is understandable, but not what you should do.  Instead, tweak your technique, change the angles, the timing, whatever, so that it works without relying on strength.

The final stage is where it does not matter how somebody attacks, you are ahead of them, and can choose from a variety of techniques to deal with their attack.

People often practice as if they are in the final stage, when they are not supposed to be doing this.  I must admit I don’t discourage this as much as I should: it is fun to have somebody attempt to block your technique and have it work anyway.  However, it is somewhat dangerous for uke, particularly if they block your technique the wrong way.  Merely using strength to block leaves you open for a variety of options.  Nage can, by doing technique correctly, seriously injure somebody merely blocking.  Nage can also use atemi to deal with this.  Not good in the dojo, but then blocking technique is not good in the dojo either.

Sometimes people will do this in the spirit of “helping” nage.  If such ukes really examine their own thoughts, are they really trying to help nage?  I don’t think so.  I think it is about ego – see, I can stop you if I want to!  If the result is to prevent nage from doing the technique, it is almost certainly counter productive.

In actually practicing aikido, things are rarely this clear cut.  Often we are forced to skip ahead to one of the higher levels of practice because uke is not working with us, but rather is trying to prove a point.  Whenever nage fails to complete a technique, we need to examine why.  Did we make them fail, and if so, how, and why.  Usually, we need to improve our ukemi, working with nage to help him or her succeed!


Jeremy tested for 5th kyu.  He did a very nice job.  Looks like his last test was 5 years ago – if he had kept at it, he would most likely be a black belt at this time.

After his test, we worked on extension.  Most of us were not extending enough.  Easy to do, easy to get in the habit of doing.  Something we need to work on.

Hi everybody.  We had a great class today, actually had a beginners’ class, with two beginners, Tom and Shaun.  Sid was there too, so we were doing beginner techniques, with added information for Sid.

Tom asked about the syllabus.  I thought it was on the website, but he could not find it.  Well it was on the old site, but not this new site.  I have added it with a link from the information page.  It is a few years old.  I need to re read it to make sure it is still good.

I see we did not port over the jo suburi, either.  Something else we need to do.

Also, the link to Spitz Publishing for my books is dead – you get a 404.  More work to do!