Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #29
August 5, 2015
In This Issue:
B. Atemi (Striking) ~ How Much is Too Much?
Greetings Nihon Goshin Aikido Aficionado!
It’s August in South Carolina: What does that mean? Well, someone from New York recently asked me to describe the summers in South Carolina. I said, “June is the best month. July is a proverbial hell. August is the same proverbial hell as July, but with 100% humidity. Of course the benefit to August over July is that when you spontaneously combust, the humidity will immediately douse the flames.”
Assuming I was in someway not appreciative of the climate in SC, the person asked me, “Why don’t you move to NYC?” ~ I immediately replied, “DeBlasio.” ~ Checkmate.
Seriously though: I used to think of August in the worst possibly way ~ and never because of the heat. The end of summer, marked by its predictable “Back to School” sales, the rush for new shoes, and #2 pencils. Oh how I hated the month of August. It was bad when I was a kid, but now as a father of three, I have to pretend to be positive with the summer’s freedom surrendering to the fall’s chilly, harsh tyranny. What we do for kids.....
Actually, the only redeeming aspect of August is that it marks the beginning of College Football practices. I’m glad I’m a football fan for that reason alone.
Of course Aikido knows no seasons, so let’s get to it ~
1. The Sho-Dan Test. What You Need to Know
This summer we’ve discussed some ideas to help us prepare for our upcoming sho-dan tests, and I wanted to continue looking at some more ideas that might help us. In previous newsletters, we’ve addressed the importance of continuing to train after sho-dan, remaining composed during every type of attack from every type of attacker, controlling your breathing, focusing on your initial movements. Those ideas have received their own category on a page called, “Testing For Shodan”) on the website, and are listed here, and we’ll add articles to this page periodically, and please feel free to share your experiences an insights also.
In this month’s edition of “Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido,” I wanted to expand our list of sho-dan testing considerations and look at some other concepts that might help you during your test.
1. Handling Weapons
Watch the video of your own test, and you’ll begin to see things that bug you. I am no exception. When I watch my test now, one of the most aggravating aspect of the entire test was my poor handling of weapons. When I was a kid, my father and grandfather were constantly drilling me on the proper way to hold a weapon. Front sight discipline, Two Hands on the weapon, trigger finger never actually on the trigger until you were ready to shoot, the BRASS acronym (Breath, Relax, Aim, Shoot, Surprise), the value of the functions check, and most importantly: “Always Treat the Weapon as if it were loaded.” My childhood lessons (and these were all childhood lessons), were reinforced during my time as an infantry officer in the United States Army.
Unfortunately, in this test, I completely disregarded a lifetime’s worth of training in my treatment and handling of weapons. Whether the weapon was a tanto (knife), escrima stick (club), or rubber handgun, after every takeaway, I typically casually slid the weapon back across the mat towards the attack line.
At the time, it was sort of funny, as people standing in the attack line kept jumping out the way of a club or tanto sliding toward their pinky toes, but in reality it was poor behavior on my part.
What should I have done?
I should have treated every weapon as if it were dangerous, and with utmost respect. After the takeaway, I should have escorted the weapon back to the attack line and presented it to the next attacker, or possibly laid it down gently on the mat at the font of the line before readying myself for the next attack.
2. Atemi (Striking) How much is too much?
One of the sho-dan tests I’ve heard a lot discussion about about in my dojo was Bryan Winfree’s test. Sensei Winfree has a very decorated and accomplished karate background. So he approaches his aikido through the mind of a “striker” (his words). As such, most of his applications have a hard feeling to them. With every block or parry there is a near simultaneous strike. His aikido is very direct, and effective.
So in aikido you have these two warring impulses ~ the Hard and the Soft. When I have my “Hard” hat on, my first thought on nearly every round punch is enter and execute an Unbendable Arm application ~ with the unbendable arm being a strike to uke’s chin. That said, there is precious joy in putting one’s “Soft” Hat on and leading uke’s striking intention around in a circle to off balance him, allowing him to ‘almost’ recover, before ending the engagement with another technique.
Regarding the “Hard” hat (striking). One of the things Sensei Carter has always said is that your test should not look like a Karate exhibition. While it may have all the elements of karate contained in it, you should still see Aikido movement, blending, and the performance of aikido technique throughout.
I think that about sums it up. Hitting uke’s “reset button” by fanning your open palm in front of his eyes, or placing your inside fist on his chin while parrying the wild roundhouse punch with the outside hand before transitioning to a recognizable Nihon Goshin Aikido technique is A-OK!
2. Real Fight Breakdowns:
When was the last time you saw real fisticuffs? Personally, I can’t remember the last time I saw a fight, but I can clearly remember one altercation in particular. It happened in the 4th grade.
I think about that fight a lot. Actually, I’m not even sure you could call it a fight. After the final bell of the last day at school, Sammy, one of my good friends, was slapped across the face so hard by another boy that he lost a tooth.
The strike occurred as we were standing on the steps just outside of the main building. It was a surreal moment. We had just been celebrating the beginning of our Summer freedom, and then “SMACK!” There was a pause in the action as we all looked at Sammy’s tooth skipping down the steps and then skidding across the sidewalk. Then Sammy looked to me, and then he and I looked up at the boy who had struck him. The boy, as if on cue, slapped Sammy again ~ even harder (if that were possible).
I remember two things about that fight. First: Sammy never lifted a hand to defend himself, and he never showed any emotion (anger, fear, or otherwise).
The second thing I remember (and can never forget) was my response. I did not come to his defense, but watched in shame as Sammy lowered his head, turned his back on his abuser, and his friend (me) simultaneously, and went back into the school building. As the door was closing, I heard him begin to cry. I didn’t want to miss my bus, so I forfeited my fraternal responsibilities, and quickly ran in the other direction. The ride home was the longest and worst bus ride of my life.
Some friend I was. Sammy had looked to me for help in a great time of need, and I remained frozen on the sidewalk a prisoner of fear manifest in the observation of the percolations of his lost tooth. Then I ran for the bus ~ when I should have stayed to console my friend. My home was only a few blocks from the school.
Worse yet, I never saw Sammy again after that day. A few days into the summer we moved to a different town (“better schools” ~ I was told). 38 years later, I wonder, “What do you do with the guilt you feel when there is no one to apologize to?” My defense (or lack thereof) of Sammy haunts me regularly.
As an aside, the reason for the fight? Sammy was an excellent student (and he led the class in grades that year). His abuser thought that making good grades was an offense to the race they shared, and he sought to deliver a just punishment.
As I write this article, I wonder how Sammy is doing. I hope his excellence in the classroom continued and transferred into a life of achievement in regard to family, faith, and occupation. I hope he has lived a full life; complete with friends who stand by him when the going gets tough.
As they say in the Army: When Under Fire, Keep Moving Forward. I endeavor to do so.
Let’s look at a video case study. The one I’d like to consider this month is an electric, real life, randori situation that was caught on a cell phone camera. It happened on the street in Turkey. It is clearly not “faked.”
Pay close attention to Nage’s movements (video to the immediate left). While his techniques are not pure, the movement is divinely inspired. Also notice the actions of the most committed attackers ~ especially the uke in the white shirt. Pay close attention to how many times he throws himself as a result of nage’s well timed movements.
Also notice nage’s effective use of well timed striking. He never overextends himself, and keeps his ukes at a comfortable distance as a result.
In my mind, this is what your aikido will most likely look like when it gets to the nitty gritty on the street.
Remember Movement is a technique in and of itself.
What say ye?
3. Website Updates:
We have been working hard to update content in the Ukemi Section as well as the White Belt Applications Section (Whip Throw), Brown Belt Application Section (Kokyu Dosa), and the Real Fight Break Downs Section. Please be sure to check these areas out.
4. Newsletter Subscribers:
More subscribers is the goal ~ so can you help us grow our Newsletter Subscription Base by passing the website along to your training buddies and asking them to subscribe?
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Stay tuned, and let's meet on the mat together soon!
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Unless otherwise stated, the author’s views, musings, and opinions do not necessarily reflect the attitude of leadership within any of the various Nihon Goshin Aikido associations, or unaffiliated Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos.
Cool Video demonstrating the Soft Ukemi Training Pedagogy.
Starts slow and close to the ground, and builds height gradually as you gain mastery.
One day ~~~ It will be mine ~~~ One day.
The Classic Lines of the Nihon Goshin Aikido training gi are unmistakable.
Some things simply never change. The student/ instructor uniform is one of those things. It marks a connection all the way back to the Chitose dojo, and should be preserved.
Turkish Randori ~ Pay Close Attention to the Attacker in the White Shirt
Shihan Weber after promoting Cris Leventis to San-Dan on
26 June 2015.
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