Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Good ukemi training today at KD

Its always refreshing when going to class to train instead of thinking about teaching. You can just listen and do and leave the thinking behind. Though, I don't mean training dumb. In learning from someone, be it a Sensei, Sempai or Kohai, understanding what their objective of teaching is essential. Besides mimic'king their movements, it is also a good idea to reflect on your current experience and knowledge and apply. Applying the principles you've learned is always a good idea in Aikido. Beginning students stick to Kihon Genri, advance students can add Fudo Genri, Aiki Genri and so on.

Today we did a lot ukemi with Miles. It seems everybody is of a mind to improve their ukemi and fitness in preparation for Jakarta. There's a lot to be said of about this sort of events. Just like Sensei Marcus once remarked. Its good to have seminars and grading to look forward to. It gives an added incentive to train harder in preparation for it, thus if we keep that level of training, we have improved ourselves and hopefully our Aikido too.

What is preparation so important? Remember Sensei told us of his student that once left training for quite sometime because of work. But he never stopped applying the principles in his daily life. He soon realised a lot of the meaning behind those principles whilst applying it in his life. Later he came back to class to train, every body remarked that his Aikido has improved a lot. They all suspected him that he has been training secretly somewhere. In fact he didn't do physical Aikido at all. In applying the softer side of Aikido he has brought balance to his martial skills. Kancho Inoue mentioned this too in his seminar. Aikido has a physical side and also a mental side. In order to be good, you need to train your physical side a lot. In order to be very good you have to train so that your mental side equals your physical side.

I've always mentioned to my kohai, Osensei wasn't just a man of martial arts. As a budoka, he has never forgo his training of the mind and spirit. He trained in Chinese and Japanese literature since he was 6 years old. In his library collection he had books of Einstein, Newton and famous philosophers amongst his collection of war manuals and martial books. A man who is only good at fighting cannot be a true budoka, at least not as an Aikidoist.

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked here. About the student who left class and came back better. Don't try this at home kids. Not everyone can apply and learn Aikido's softer skills in their daily routine. Sure I do try to apply it 24/7, but we seldom succeed. That is why you will find very very good Aikido teachers far far fewer than just good or ok teachers. Everyone can do 10s of thousands of hours in practice, but can any make all those hours alive in our hearts?

The ukemi we're doing will help us in many levels. To improve strength, fitness, flexibility and muscle memory. Just like Tiger woods hitting thousands of balls a day but also doing gym work to build muscle tone, doing Aikido waza alone is not enough. We need to increase cardio work so that we can take more ukemi. The easier we can do this, the more we will be able to act as uke. And the more we act as uke, the more we get to learn. Sometimes Sensei will go through us students like flies. Everyone drops in exhaustion past the 2 min mark, myself included. Sometimes when he goes really really aiki like, we don't get near 1 min when we already start panting. This is bad, because if we could take 10 minutes ukemi, we are getting 10x benefit to learn and feel his techniques.

The breakfalls were pretty routine, but I would like to talk more about the shihonage ukemi that I pointed out tonight. Uke and Nage must carry the feeling of being armed at all times. Even as nage holds uke in shihonage but has not thrown yet, the feeling is as if uke and nage are pairing with swords, feeling each others center. Uke is not resisting, but he is connecting to nage. As nage moves, uke moves, he follows harmoniously nage's center, always keeping his center under control. Uke shouldn't go rigid, or go halfway down to a fall. Uke should be light on the feet and extended in everyway. If nage drops, uke drops... it doesn't mean he has to fall. Nage goes up, and uke can go up too. Somewhere along the line, if Nage loses control, Uke can take initiative of Nage's center and throw him too without changing hands position. But if Nage does throw uke well, uke should be light in taking the fall. I.e. not resisting the energy but going through it.

The other one that we did was koshinage. In koshinage, the principle here is to displace uke's center. You do this by unbalancing uke and entering so that you form a T to his chushin. The back of your heels in line with his exact centerline. Your body is bowed at a slight angle. Your arm is like a see saw. The arm being held starts extended up, the other lightly touching his knees. As you displace his center with your hips, you extend your hands up and away and cut down, the other hand brushes his knees and legs to swing him over your hips, and you pull your rear leg closer to your lead leg, the effect is like having someone roll over your hips. How you displace uke's center is important. You really want your hips just below his center. Going in and under, then springing up is basically like a shovel motion.

The last thing we did was to kokyu sorewaza. This time I wanted nage to maintain proper zanshin with uke and  throw him around the mat. Decide on which direction to throw, and as he comes up, go to the proper location and enter into his center so that he is force to move into that direction being the easiest for him. Waiting for uke to come up, is like waiting for the enemy to attack the base. Instead, we have sent out mobile units or raids and engage him beyond our borders, i.e. attacking him in his discomfort zone. Not that we should have the intention of attacking. More like being overly harmonious, like a fog enveloping the car hiding and obscuring the path in front of us, instead making new paths that lead inevitably down the cliff.


  1. cardio thru ukemi? wow, its gonna be sweaty...

  2. Ukemi work is cardio. If you get up immediately and go in again. But if you take time to adjust your gi, look around and stuff, then its like jogging 10m and pausing and so on so forth.