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Quick Recap of the Kaze Uta Budokai Summer Intensive

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals...


Instead of heading to the North Carolina camp this year (which is consistently awesome, and one of my students was able to go), Jacob and I decided to head out to Oklahoma City.  "Why?" you may ask.  Perfectly reasonable question.  I love tornadoes and excessively flat terrain.  And the Kaze Uta Budokai Summer Intensive!  Basically, it's a 3 day training camp that looks at the various martial arts practiced there, including Judo, Aikido, and Jodo (the way of the medium-length staff, roughly translated).  It, too, was awesome.  All of the instructors were phenomenal, I was exposed to some cool arts in which I had limited or no exposure, and HOLY GOD, the mats were the best I have ever experienced.  Everyone seemed to focus on fundamentals and bring in lessons that were good for the novice as well as the expert.  This was nice, as I was definitely a novice at most stuff.

Nick Lowry and Brent Zurbriggen taught the Judo.  Honestly, it was mostly an Aikido crowd, which turned out to be a bit of a downer because there tended to be a mass exodus from the mats during the Judo sessions and the classes got put at odd hours.  Redheaded stepchild or no, the Judo was awesome.  We'll be working the drills I got over the next several classes, but they can be summed up as "One Entry, Many Exits."  Effectively, you key off of the synchronization you get when your Deashi doesn't work, and learn to attack whatever Uke's next move is.  We did that a lot, and got drills that can give us the foundation for the light, flowing sort of Ashiwaza Randori-esque thing that you see here:  

Brent also went over the same concept from a Newaza perspective:  Basically, start with a decent shrimp, and then learn to attack the various responses to that, from various positions.  Cool stuff.  I all of it, we spent a decent amount of time making sure to get the fundamentals right, which I greatly appreciated (especially since they do a very different style of Deashi than I am used to).

The Tomiki-style Aikido (I've got my yellow belt, so come at me, bro) was taught by L. F. Wilkinson.  He looked at a set of techniques familiar to anyone who has been to a few classes, and focused on how to practice them to ensure that you were getting the most from your practice and not letting bad habits creep in.

George Ledyard taught "Traditional Aiki."  I didn't really know what that meant, coming in, but it definitely wasn't what I expected.  The best way I could describe his lessons was that they focused on using subtle movements in your core to create off balance.  It was... weird.  Not like anything I had been exposed to.  And difficult.  But doable.  Mind you, it would take me 30 seconds of standing there trying to break their balance ("Push my elbows down and in... don't use my biceps... Ack!  Stop using the biceps!), never mind completing the rest of the technique.  George, however, could do the techniques quickly and effectively.  He was a good teacher, and luckily for me, a patient teacher.  Keeping with the theme of the seminar, though he taught for several hours over the course of the thing, he didn't try to teach a million things.  He focused on the core idea, and gave us a number of variations on the theme to practice.  Good stuff.

Howard Popkin was brought in to teach Daito Ryu.  I didn't know what that was, either.  From what I experienced, it seemed conceptually similar to what Sensei Ledyard was teaching... except he almost never moved his feet.  I think Jacob summed it up best: "If I just saw this on Youtube, I'd think it was bullshit."  Honestly, the stuff looks like the Ukes are acting.  It looks like a dude is standing there, while another dude craps himself for no reason.  But he's not acting... there's a reason behind the self-crapping.  Howie Sensei is able to create awesome Kuzushi and manipulate his Uke with *very* subtle movements.  I wasn't very good at this, but again, he focused on reinforcing a couple of core concepts, and so now Jacob and I have something we can practice until he teaches his next seminar in DC. 

So, this is starting to get long... I'll look to write another post on some of this...


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Book Review: The Art of Learning by Josh Waizkin

Half autobiography, half one badass's take on learning theory, this is a good read for coaches and students.  Three stars (out of four)
Buy it here.

If you've seen or read "Searching for Bobby Fisher," the author is the subject of that film/book.  The short version is that he was a chess phenom.  He played world-class chess from an early age, and then his dad wrote a book about him, which then turned into a movie, which then made him more famous than was helpful for his chess career.  He got to a place where he wasn't loving chess like he once did, and then discovered Tai Chi, which then led to his introduction into push hands.  And after a few years of practicing push hands, he became world champion at that.  World-class chess player, world-champion martial artist.  Thus, badass.  He said that at one point he realized that his gift wasn't that he was good at chess, and it wasn't that he was good at martial arts... he was good at learning, so he decided to write a book about it.

As I stated above, it is half autobiography... he gets a lot into his chess career and development, and into his martial arts career.  These stories serve to build credibility, provide illustration for some of his points, and it's just pretty interesting to learn about his experiences.  The learning theory bit is good stuff.  Nothing revolutionary, but I think that his stories really help illustrate his point.  The basic idea of his theory (condensed to my take) is:

  • Deconstruct the thing you are trying to learn (e.g., if you are trying to learn Judo, you may think of it consisting of skills such as gripping, using footwork to neutralize Kuzushi, disrupting the advancing foot, etc)
  • Focus down on one thing at a time, building from the ground up, and perfect and internalize that thing (e.g., spend time practicing Tsugiashi movement, then practice Tsugiashi while connected to a moving partner... then connected to an attacking partner, finding and fixing gaps and mistakes, until you are unconsciously maintaining a solid, mobile base wherever circumstances lead you)
  • As you internalize more and more of the base skills, time will "slow down" as your conscious mind can focus on less and less, and you can "specialize" the skills which you are seeking to learn
  • During this process, you will need to "invest in loss" - in part, that means not being afraid to lose as you are working on a new skill; in part, it means that you should seek out those who can beat you so that you can find new areas to develop in your game
  • There is also quite a bit on psychology... both how to "get in your opponent's head" as well as how to trigger optimum performance states in your own mind

Last I looked, this thing was $9 on Amazon...  It's a fairly quick read, it has pretty cool stories, and may well help you improve how you learn and how you teach.  It is already influencing me, and I'll post more about that in the near future.


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Nage no Kata Attacks - Uke Gets ... No Smarter?: The Sumo Shuffle

... Umm... I got nothing.  And I don't like it.

As I mentioned in this post, I have a hypothesis that there was some reason for Tori to select the throw she does... some reason more meaningful than "Tori really wanted to do Uki Goshi."  So, in these posts, I explored the subtle differences in Uke's actions which trigger specific throws, and I am pretty satisfied with the answers.

As I was performing the Kata the other day, however, I couldn't discern any difference between what Uke was supposed to be doing during the "Jigotai Shuffles" in Sumi Gaeshi vs. Uki Waza.  So I started reading.  I have a few books by people who know a lot more about Kata than I do, and thus far, I have been really happy that these books have been able to answer the questions I have had.  Not so here.  In Formal Techniques, Draeger mentions no difference.  In fact, he says a few times that Uke and Tori are repeating themselves in Uki Waza.  Same thing in Leggett's book.  Same in Kawaishi's.

So... is my hypothesis wrong?  (I already know your answer, LEO!) Or, is there some difference that these clowns didn't pick up on?  What do you think?  Do any of you guys do anything differently to induce Uki Waza instead of another Sumi Gaeshi?

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The Gokyo - Kodokan vs. Mifune

Mifune was a wizard, and evidently a rebel.  He was the Harry Potter of Judo?

Did you guys know that Mifune had his own Gokyo (well... you would if you had read my review of his Canon of Judo).  Some interesting differences...  I don't have a ton of insight here just yet, but figured I would post this for those who are interested.  At some point I will post my color-coded Excel file which makes comparison between the two a bit easier.

# Kodokan Mifune
1-1 Deashi Barai Deashi Barai
1-2 Hiza Guruma Hiza Guruma
1-3 Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi Uki Goshi
1-4 Uki Goshi Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi
1-5 Ogoshi Osoto Gari
1-6 Osoto Gari Tsuri Goshi
1-7 Ouchi Gari Tai Otoshi
1-8 Seoi Nage Tsurikomi Goshi
2-1 Kosoto Gari Kouchi Gari
2-2 Kouchi Gari Koshi Guruma
2-3 Koshi Guruma Kosoto Gari
2-4 Tsurikomi Goshi Ogoshi
2-5 Okuriashi Barai Seoi Nage
2-6 Tai Otoshi Ouchi Gari
2-7 Harai Goshi Kosoto Gake
2-8 Uchi Mata Harai Goshi
3-1 Kosoto Gake Uchi Mata
3-2 Tsuri Goshi Hane Goshi
3-3 Yoko Otoshi Hane Makikomi
3-4 Ashi Guruma Harai Tsurikomi Ashi
3-5 Hane Goshi Tomoe Nage
3-6 Harai Tsurikomi Ashi Sukui Nage
3-7 Tomoe Nage Ashi Guruma
3-8 Kata Guruma Ushiro Goshi
4-1 Sumi Gaeshi Yoko Guruma
4-2 Tani Otoshi Osoto Guruma
4-3 Hane Makikomi Uki Otoshi
4-4 Sukui Nage Utsuri Goshi
4-5 Utsuri Goshi Uki Waza
4-6 O Guruma Tani Otoshi
4-7 Soto Makikomi Yoko Otoshi
4-8 Uki Otoshi Yoko Gake
5-1 Osoto Guruma Ura Nage
5-2 Uki Waza Sumi Otoshi
5-3 Yoko Wakare Yoko Wakare
5-4 Yoko Guruma O Guruma
5-5 Ushiro Goshi Okuriashi Barai
5-6 Ura Nage Sumi Gaeshi
5-7 Sumi Otoshi Kata Guruma
5-8 Yoko Gake Soto Makikomi