Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #65
August / September 2018:
Inside this Edition:
So what happened to August's edition of Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido? Quick Recap: Well we went on vacation the first 8 days of August in sunny East Hampton, NY ~ which was splendid by the way. When we got back, I immediately fell into a general business explosion (in a good way) ~ which was compounded by the fact that I had been on vacation the week before. There was a whole lot of work to do, and not much time to do it. The task-list left me in arrears on August's edition ~ to the point that I figured I'd just omit the August edition of the newsletter all together.
So let's move to September with quickening fall aspirations. So many stories to tell ~ two whole months worth ~ and so little room in the newsletter!
I'll start here: Relic Hunting
One afternoon in early August in the middle of my aforementioned business explosion, I found myself sitting beside a honest-to-goodness relic. I was sure he had a few good stories wrapped up in him. It turns out he was a bit of a collector's item. He talked of his favorite punching combos a lot. Previous to the encounter I am describing, I had never spent that much time talking with a professional boxer, but the meeting was certainly amicable. Willie is the name of the old relic, and he is a 70+ year old former professional boxer. We sat out on his front porch, and he told me of the power in a 6 inch punch with 50 or 60 pounds of pressure behind it. "The jab, Jonathan ~ you just can't beat it, I tell ya. Left hand jab, right hand windshield wiper. Jab - Jab - Wiper - Wiper - Jab - Wiper - Jab - Cross and Good Night!" Then he started speaking in Spanish with a lot of enthusiasm. "You know what I just said?" he smiled as he leaned in. "No idea." I replied. Energetically, he leaned closer still, and whispered, "It means, 'Jesus help me' in ole' Espanol."
He straightened proudly. "Now see, I learnt that language you were just hearing in a boxing match I fought in Cuba in the late 50s." Right before I knocked my man out, he was a hollerin’ that phrase in espanol over and over again. After the bout, I asked the referee what the guy was saying before I clocked him that last time, so the ref translated it for me. The official tole me, "He was saying 'Jesus help me! Jesus Help Me!' haha! The jab. My God, let me tell you about my jab ~ Jesus! that night my jab was angelic. It was holy that night! You know you can't beat a good jab? 60 pounds of pressure behind a six inch punch. If you can master it, it can change your life. Course, I got my fanny whipped a time or two myself by men with a better jab, but I don't think much on those times."
The most intriguing part of the conversation was the demonstration he was giving me. The jab. The windshield wiper (envision an inside block timed during and between jabs). The cross. It was all demonstrated as preciously as you might think possible. Striking had become a part of him. It was ingrained into the fabric of his eternal soul. Then I got to thinking... I need to practice striking more.
This leads me to my second point. Make sure you can throw a punch. If you can not strike effectively (with the jab, the cross, the uppercut, etc.) and employ these attacks into your Uke behavior, how are you helping your Nages ? In dojos I've trained at where striking was not emphasized, it was clearly evident, and I've usually asked about it. Most responses to my inquiries went something like: "Well, we want to see how you punch ~ because the way you punch is probably also the way you'll be attacked on the street." After careful consideration, I think the reasoning extended to me in those scenarios might not be ideal. Seriously, if we were training to defend ourselves like untrained fighters, I might buy that line ~ lol ~ but why pay the dojo dues if I'm going to attack or be attacked by a guy untrained guy on the street? Last year I did a striking survey, and many Sensei's replied with a wholeheartedly "You HAVE to be able to throw a punch if you plan on defending yourself from a punch of similar quality." ~ and I agree.
Sorry if I stepped on any toes: I've just grown weary of watching NGA training clips on YouTube, or in the dojo, and observing so many uke's looking over their right shoulder right before throwing a right handed punch (as if there was something behind them), and being so off balance that the mere attempt to strike has defeated them. These same punches, by the way, would not even land in the same zip code of nage's jaw generally, and often need not even be parried. While these are isolated cases to be sure, can we claim modern attacks and effective self defense ~ if some prominent among us can't or don't attack with sincerity? Truth be told, I'd rather see a marital version of an open handed chop than a sloppy closed fisted cross, jab, roundhouse, etc. from so many of our students throw in training.
From time to time, we enjoy poking fun at the attacks from the Aikikai gang down in Tokyo, and while they may attack like they're trying to imitate Queen Elizabeth's famous goodbye wave (see the Queen's demo to the left), what they do ~ they clearly do martially.
Speaking of Aikikai's attacks ~ another Aikikai Sensei named Bruce Bookman is cop'ing our uke behavior. See video ~ advertising his DVD series and judge for yourself.
Fruit of the Loom Aikido ~ The Rubber Band Effect:
When I try to describe the Nihon Goshin ukemi connection to others, I generally end up describing the rubber band effect so prominent featured behind the teacher's back in my 5th grade class. Not familiar with the Rubber Band Effect? Let me paint a picture:
1) Take any rubber band &, hook it around the tip of your index finger
2) Pull the band back on the band with the fingers of your other hand to the point that if you pulled the band back another millimeter, the band would break
3) When you are SURE the teach is not looking, quickly aim your index finger at your buddy and release the rubber band.
4) Watch it fly across the room and hit your best friend in the ear.
From time to time, you will see cousin arts in the Aikido universe describe the relationship between nage and uke to be a lot like dancing partners. In my mind, the connection I feel in Nihon Goshin Aikido is not really like dancing at all. It is much more violent at the point of reversal. I believe Steven Seagal's Irminage contains some of the quality our aikido possesses. That said, might it make sense to minimize some of that explosiveness in our training sessions to forestall injury? As it stands now, you are more likely to be injured practicing to defend yourself than you would be if you didn't practice to defend yourself. So there is some inherent value to the ability to train without injury.
So intellectually speaking, is it even possible to preserve the rubberband snapback approach ~ where nage nearly loses connection with uke, and then reverses the motion with all of uke's momentum moving in the most painful direction possible?
I have seen it done several ways.
Way One: Catch and Release Method.
My old Sensie would go at full speed matching the inherent momentum of the attack exactly to the point of reversal. When the moment of truth (point of reversal) came, he would stop the technique completely ~ usually with a wide eyed uke standing bolt upright, and ready to die. That is one way to do it, and it was convincing ~ especially to new students who wound up on the receiving end ~ and knew they were in trouble but spared. He demonstrated ultimate control of his movements, and it was convincing. I loved it when Sensei would call on me to be his uke during a demonstration. It was the closest I could get to the real deal ~ and still be assured I could go to work the next morning. Imagine a full speed Pivot Take Down ~ but instead of throwing you just release uke's hand. No falling necessary, but it does have to be experienced. Also it doesn't translate to video very well.
Way Two: Slow and Steady
Another option is the slow and steady approach. You work the technique as fast as you can, and no faster than your uke can absorb. Knowing where that line is a bit of an art though. I've seen knee injuries, shoulder injuries, elbow dislocations, etc. ~ when the "speed threshold" was crossed leaving uke exposed or at risk. Our style is far more devastating when we amp up the intensity, and people can get broken without much effort. This nuance is certainly acceptable on the street, but possibly hurtful on dojo membership. Just an observation ~ Slow and Steady sounds good... but uke has to be very proactive in the process.
The Duke Knows Aikido?
Eh, probably not, but the best Elbow Chop you've ever had is the one that works. If it throws your attacker into a horse's butt, even better! No one messes with The Duke (on a film set), and the integral message speaks hard against the growing entitlement/ socialism movement which is bonus material. Check out this video.
A final thought: I appreciate the feedback I received from the July survey question. Thanks to so many Sensei who took time from their day to offer some wise words on how they started their dojos. I may, or may not have a personal announcement on that front in the future... lol.
A call for input
So, I have been holding the NGAexperience website down mostly solo for quite some time. If you have an article you would like to submit for publication, please submit it at ngaexperience.com
Mystery Articles of Interest
Let's meet together on the mat ~ and soon!
All the best,
Tricks Are For Kids
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.
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1. Ki Finger of Gripped hand Extended
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The Duke has a passable Elbow Chop!
This guy’s aikido makes me smile. This is what my Aikido looks like.