Friday, May 27, 2011

The Yogja seminar

Ah, Yogjakarta... one of my favourite place to visit in Indonesia. A very relaxed place and they really do have nice food that I recall from my first visit. I was really looking forward to this but like everything else in this world, something had to go wrong.

I couldn't really train well in the month preceding the seminar. Because of some health issues. Then I fell sick 5 days from the date and was basically a like a wet dead dog by the time I flew in. I also had to buy 2 separate flights back a day earlier to handle some work. Basically, it was like anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  Events occurred that really tested my endurance to actually go to the damn place. However, it was a commitment I had to force myself to adhere to. This was a test of will, and somehow I had to pass. Although I did go, I couldn't take much ukemi from sensei himself. So that was a major disappointment for me, but the training itself was good.

On Friday, there was a training session at the local dojo. I went to practice but in the end because the sensei was outstation, the seniors forced me to take the class. So we did some basic training in preparation for sensei's seminar. I started with the basic kamae focusing on hara and chushin development. Tenkan as an entering movement not a turning movement. Sinking hara to perform leading movements and sokumen nage. Then we did a few basic techniques like katatedori shihonage, kosadori ikkyo and tenchi nage, to look at half steps and movement from hara. The students were enthusiastic and energetic. For most, what I showed them was new to them but nothing too far from what they already know. I had a problem with only one uke who was very stable and I couldn't get kuzushi for shihonage omote. One of my weakest techniques, I was thinking that I didn't sink in chushin and perhaps I didn't apply aikiage before entering. But upon discussing with Sensei, I think the mistake was when I shift stance he felt some movement in my hands. The next problem was when I sinked, he told me to enter and displace uke's center straight away instead of vertically and then following with the irimi movement. Something to think about, but I told sensei that I saw him do what I was envisioning before. His answer was that's the next level, I have to get this right not skip it. Ah... yes we are fond of that. Changing methods when one doesn't work. In the end, we lose the opportunity to develop ourselves further by avoiding a difficult obstacle.

Sensei's class on Saturday near the Kenji outlet was interesting. Both his class and seminar the next day basically orientated around the same things. Hara, Sinking and Atari. Whilst the techniques are varied, those 3 was the core theme to it all. Fundamentally, this syllabus is actually up to 3rd kyu for our school. Yet, on occasion I do come certain uke's who I can't perform it well or immediately especially from static. But because I knew what we were looking for, this really helps with the progression of my own training. This means, its absolutely critical for us as students to train in this fashion. Not just in the dojo but with outsiders in seminars like this. Good progress can be made by applying what we know sort of like a revision against uke's who are not familiar with the material thus would not participate in a collusive manner.

One of techniques that I paid more attention to for the benefit of my uke was the irimi nage from a katadori. Although at above 3rd kyu he should be doing nagare training, I had to start him on static after a few rounds of full speed application. This is simply because having no understanding in sinking and entering instead of moving forwards, he cannot apply the technique well. For this technique uke grabs katatedori, and using our other hand we touch his forearm and sink. As the kuzushi occurs we enter his space and envelop him into iriminage. You could also do it without moving the feet, inviting him and turning kaiten and cutting his chushin as he comes across. But even so, the sinking on uke is an application of atari and hara movement/control and is used either way. If nage tries to cut the hand away or move in, uke is at liberty to stop or hit him.

A yudansha named Azhar who spent nearly 3 years in Japan with Inaba sensei led the Sunday's warmup with a hara building exercise. Looks like the sumo leg stomping exercise and is an absolute killer on the legs. It was pure torture climbing up and down the stairs on the airplanes that evening. Still, I'm wondering if its not a good idea to include this in my daily routine.

I have some vids up from yogja that you can check out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tembin nage

Coming back from Yogja, I was a bit disappointed. First at falling sick right before flying to see sensei. 2nd because I had to reschedule to an earlier day to fly back because of work. Worst of all, for being unable to take much ukemi from sensei during the entire time.

Still, I did get sensei to show me how tembin nage is done outside of class. I wish I had time to practice this but it'll be a homework for me until he gets here in June. This is the video

Its very very different then the typical hiji ate we've all been doing. None of that grab the hand and put pressure on the elbow, shoulder, armpit whatever stuff that you get floating about. Its contact at the tembin pressure point is soft. All of a sudden you find your head being projected forwards. There is NO fulcrum being used whatsoever.

This is even different then the one Kancho showed me earlier this year. Anyway... that's all I have time for today. I'll try to write in about Yogja soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Udekimenage, Hijiate and Mae otoshi

Hmm, normally I wouldn't talk in great detail about a particular technique. But we were talking about this technique over in Aikiweb and it was one of those techniques that done in the 'normal' way doesn't really seem practical whatsoever. However, I had previously asked Sensei about it and he mentioned that he too at one time was unconvinced of the viability of this technique.
Sensei related to us how he met with Kancho Inoue when he visited Malaysia a long time ago. He then asked Kancho how to perform this technique. Kancho asked him to hold his hand and then performed the technique. Without understanding how and without pain, sensei found himself flipped on the spot. Kancho did this 3 times and sensei still can't explain to me what he did until today.

Sensei does this technique differently now though. He uses more of tai no awase with the free hand. Thus kuzushi is happening at the core not at the hand. In fact it feels very much like you are falling over his hand thus there is no real application of force whatsoever on uke's elbow. To me mae otoshi seems pretty appropriate here.

I'll put up a video link here once I find it in my HDD somewhere.

To revisit the technique (I'm more familiar with Hijiate, but the other 2 was described to be similar techniques. In hindsight, I find mae otoshi to be more relevant to what is being practice in Aiki no Kenkyukai rather than Hijiate which eludes to hitting the elbow to effect the throw), hijiate is done when we have uke's left hand with our left hand and using our right hand to go underneath his armpit and then palm up taking kuzushi, take a right foot sliding step forward, rotate the palm down and projecting uke forward. Kuzushi is achieved by leading the left hand outwards, and locking out uke's elbow using the right arm.

Now this is where most applications will vary. I'm not an expert but what I've observed so far.
1. Typically aikikai way, in ai hanmi (say kosadori), you make an ayumi ashi movement and kaiten so now you are besides uke in a similar stance. Some nage will have grabbed uke's wrist by now, some will  just lead it outwards. Next the other hand will go just above uke's elbow and stepping forwards with the back leg diagonally into uke's space, throwing with a rotating hand at the same time.
2. Some will not go beside uke, and instead moving obliquely in the direction of uke's omote proceed with the throw. (the hands are almost crossing and thus real pressure is applied on the elbows).
3. The way kancho showed me though was quite different to how sensei got thrown. He basically utilises enshin into uke's shoulder and projects the throw through uke's shoulder. Some would say, once you've applied enshin into the shoulder and uke's on his toes, you then drive him into the ground. This is quite similar to how you apply a yonkyo.
4. I've seen another method and typically this is used in shiai. Nage basically holds down onto uke's hand and  brings him down with force. This is reminiscent of the unofficial 7th technique. Or a variation of nikkyo where uke's arm is straighten instead of bent. I don't know this is even accepted as a mae otoshi variant or a what, but for most it looks almost the same and I thought just to mention it anyway.

I'm sure there's many more intricate details that I've missed in this list. Its not meant to be exhaustive. All I'm doing is saying that the talks in Aikiweb raised my curiosity a bit since we seldom practice this technique. Thus I revisited it and yes, the issue of non-compliant ukes who resist by bending their elbows and posting with their legs do happen. So its not as fine and dandy as most videos of uke flying forward from such a throw are seen. I don't blame the technique however and most Aikido 'analysts' will come up with a great number of reasoning why such and such technique doesn't work. Inevitably it'll boil down to the fact that we are employing technique instead of applying Aikido principles. If you achieve control of uke's center it is unlikely that he can resist your technique. If you don't, no matter how forceful the technique is applied, uke can definitely resist or counter.

Easier said than done. And as I've mentioned the ideal form for me is to follow sensei's tai no awase and disrupt his core to effect the throw. I don't know how long it'll take for me to learn to this but in the end it'll be far more useful than were I to improve on my elbow attacking techniques.