Sunday, December 20, 2009
Happy birthday, Jake!
The trun-out from Monash Caulfield was pleasining:
- Lizzie: purple I, jiu-jitsu
- Damian: purple I & II, jiu-jitsu
- Lejoe: purple I judo; purple II & yellow I, jiu-jitsu
- Ashley: purple I & II judo; purple II, jiu-jitsu
Disappointingly, club kata presentations were bumped because of a tight schedule. However, we should be very well practiced for next year!
There were numerous black-belt promotions across the organization. Of particular note, Sharen Cummings, who started training a year after me, but left to work in America for eight years, received her Shodan Ho (provisional first degree black belt) in judo.
Also, Sempai Tim Wilkin received his Shodan Ho in judo, and I received my Nidan (2nd degree black belt) in judo.
Well done to us, and to everyone else in the Federation who successfully graded this time, and to everyone for a great year!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
All I'd add to that discussion is that in our organization -- The Australian Jiu-jitsu, Judo, and Chinese Boxing Federation of Instructors -- I don't think you can make it to black belt without an affinity for teaching. As the name indicates, there's a lot of teaching in our system, and by developing everyone into teachers as well as martial artists there's a lot more hands-on instruction available than if teacher status is reserved for a select few.
Anyway, there's another dimension I'd like to explore. The next step after doing some occasional class teaching -- typically stepping in occasionally for the full-time instructor -- is to start your own regular class. In our organization this means that either you inherit and existing class or start a new club.
While this is something I recommend, you wouldn't want to rush into it. I've just completed year 5 with my own club, and even only running one class a week (a two hour class, though!), it's a lot of work: Class planning, answering enquiries, record-keeping and collecting dues, maintaining equipment, liaising with the venue owners, submitting grading recommendations, advertising, scrutinizing candidate students. There's a lot to do, and there's work and family life too, but once some simple systems are in place, most of that stuff becomes quite routine. Blogging, by the way, should be strictly optional.
Oh, and there's teaching, too. That's the fun bit!
It never rains, but it pours. After four years of running my class on a Monday night I switched in 2009 to Wednesday and suddenly I went from a handful of students -- typically 3 to 6 per class, sometimes less -- to more typical class sizes of 8 to 12, peaking at about 14.
There's a lot less hands-on instruction by me on each and every student now. The students who remain from earlier times sometimes say they miss that, but there's now more energy and camaraderie on our now crowded mat. And next year should be that much better, with a core group who train week-in week-out solidifying.
Next step may be to increase the mat area!
Teaching someone else's class or running a short course is a bit like doing some baby-sitting as an uncle or aunt: hard-work, hopefully fun, but you get to give them back. Starting your own class and/or club is more like parenthood; it's something you need to be ready for, and it's definitely not for everyone.
I highly recommend putting in a few years as an assistant to someone else first.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Learning to ski last winter, I took a lesson from an accomplished skier and certified instructor. He initially amazed me, as his instructions were very similar to the ones I use with my students. He spoke of the importance of relaxation, going with the contours of the slopes, and trusting my body to feel weight, balance, and flexibility. His images were creative and useful. I was inspired and immediately put to use what he was telling me. But after a point, I got stuck. The instructor came over, reeled off the terrific aphorisms, and I again tried to put them to use. But there was no use. Something was missing.Real teaching means more than passing on good information -- take it or leave it. It also involves the contact that Heckler complains was missing from his skiing lesson, including observation and trouble-shooting, and establishing and maintaining a positive learning environment.
I realized that he wasn't making contact with me. He wasn't seeing me and what I needed to learn in order to move ahead. His wonderful information lacked a connecting bridge to the more essential part of me. ... Perhaps if he had tuned in, he might have brought forth the suffestion to turn my hip a little this way, or lean slightly that way, or even work with the energy of my emerging frustration.
Much of the time I demonstrate with commentary, thereby passing on good information in visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (for my uke) forms, thereby catering to a variety of learning styles. This is still superficial, but given good curriculum and personal technique, this transmission of "good information" is the foundation of effective instruction.
Next, I let the students get to work in pairs and try to leave them alone while they figure out the technique (or refine it) by themselves. Part of good teaching is getting outta da way and giving the students space to figure stuff out for themselves.
Occasionally I'll intervene, or answer a question. This is where the observation comes in,. The student starts to describe the problem. "Show me your throw", I say. I want to see it in its totality, not hear what they think the problem is. "Again", I say, so that I can get more data. Sometimes I'll have them throw a different uke, perhaps with a different type of body. If I can't identify the source yet I'll have them throw me, so that I can better feel what's going on. Then I try to give one (sometimes two) succinct instructions, and apply the technique to the person so that they can feel how I do it, and/or to their partner so that they can see it. I may also imitate what I want them to change. With more advanced students, I might explain the cause of the problem and ask them to work out the solution. In my book this is where much of the real teaching happens.
If I see that a problem is widespread, I'll make a particular point for the whole class. If the problem is affecting every (or nearly every) student in the class, it's time for me to have a good hard look at the likely source of the problem. This usually involves a mirror, real or metaphorical.
Inspired teaching, by contrast goes above and beyond. Sometimes it's when a new activity, or instruction clicks for a whole bunch of students at once. On an individual basis, it can happen when the problems of the student seem intractable, the way to help uncertain, the likelihood of success low, all attempts at correction thus far have met with abject failure, and yet in a flash of insight the teacher realizes that there's something else that might just work.
Here is Brian's story about his experience tutoring Ali, a boy who was making no progress while attempting to learn mathematics, either at school and under the uber-systematic, yet non-directive Kumon method:
[T]here was one boy for whom Kumon did not seem to be working its magic. Ali was the boy's name, and he seemed to be in such serious trouble that Kumon seemed beside the point. When he did sums they were all over the place. Answers were totally wrong, and figures written the wrong way round. He could hold a pencil and write, but what he wrote was crazy. We seriously doubted if there was anything we could do, and we were ready to give up right there. He would make repeated mistakes, both of calculation and in the way he wrote numbers, and we even started to believe that he might be "dyslexic", or even brain damaged. Also, Ali seemed to be an extremely arrogant little boy. He had a way of lowering his eyelids and raising his head that made him look as if he thought the world to be populated entirely by fools.So there you have it, a real-life an example of inspired, outside-the-box teaching. You can read more in Brian's post.
At which point I got very, very lucky. I said, let me have a try with him. I decided to do some teaching.
I separated the task he faced into a succession of tiny steps and got him to do each step right before proceeding to the next. You start by writing your name there. No, there. What's your name? Ali. Good. Can you spell that? Good. Please write Ali there. Good. Now: what does this say? I point at a two. Two. Good. And what does that say? I point at a one. One. Good. What about that? I point at the plus in between the two and the one. No? That says plus. That means you are adding two to one. What does this say? Don't know? That says equals. That means what does two and one come to. What's it the same as? What is two plus one, two and one, two added to one? So. What's two and one? Don't know? It's three. Do you know how to write three? You do. Good. Please write three there, which is where the answer is supposed to go. Excellent.
And so on. I never made him guess more than once, and I was unfailingly polite. I always said please before asking him to do anything, and I never raised my voice. I never, that is to say, confused Ali being ignorant with Ali being stupid. I did nothing that would be unfamiliar to an averagely capable aerobics instructor working with a arthritic old-age pensioner, but for some reason this sort of thing, when needed by a child, is not always supplied, even in something as widely known as simple arithmetic.
Aside from not knowing the answers, Ali's biggest problem was writing the numbers the correct way around. He would routinely write mirror reflections of them instead. Not all the time, just rather a lot. (This was what had prompted the dyslexia diagnosis.)
When Ali did this - getting, say, the answer right but writing it mirrored - I would say well done, you got the answer right. The answer is five, and that's what you wrote. Well done. However, you wrote the five the wrong way round. Please rub out the five you did, and rewrite it the correct way round. Good.
As I say, you aren't supposed to do this in Kumon. If all the children were to get twenty minutes of solid attention, the way I was attending to Ali, the place would have stopped being the learning factory for everyboy and everygirl that it's supposed to be and would have reverted to being a few tutors helping a few rich kids. But I didn't care.
And the reason that I didn't care was that it worked. After about three sessions along these lines, Ali reached his personal plateau of arithmetical excellence (a few sums wrong but almost all of them right), just like any other Kumon kid.
We should all strive to do real teaching all the time, and aim to rise to an inspired level as often as insight allows. It's worth it.
The truth is that there is nothing noble in being superior to somebody else. The only real nobility is in being superior to your former self. -- Whitney YoungAim to improve. Draw inspiration -- not envy -- from the achievements of others.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Part II: Defences against Chokes
Part III: Defences against Strikes
Some defences: 1st leg throw, 1st shoulder throw
Thanks to my models -- Brenton (orange) and Le Joe (purple) -- for the quick photo shoot!
Sunday, December 06, 2009
The Higher Goals of Judo: Course Aims
- Definition and history: To introduce participants to the higher goals of Judo practice, beyond self-defence and competitive skills, and to their historical basis
- Dojo / real life connection: To inspire participants to seek to apply what they learn in the dojo in the rest of their lives, and, conversely, to use the opportunities afforded by martial arts training to deliberately further their personal and social development
- Practice: To provide a venue in which participants can identify and explore areas ripe for their own personal and social development, in a practical fashion
Several other Federation instructors will also be presenting four week courses on a variety of aspects of the martial arts. Other short courses include:
- Sensei Stephen Cochrane: Combinations & Counters in Judo (starts December 8)
- Sensei Peter Howell: Weapons of Mass Destruction (starts December 11)
- Sempai Owen Dransfield: Dedicated Experience in the Art of Judo (starts January 9)
- Sensei Colin Bachelard: Jiu-jitsu Application of Technique to Survive (starts January 12)
- Shihan Chris Bailey: The Strategy of Weapons and the Empty Hand (starts February 7)
I always look forward to summer training as a chance to learn something different; so I get a break from regular training, without having a break from training!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Three Levels of Judo
We have now established judo's three aspects -- training for defense against attack, cultivation of the mind and body, and putting one's energy to use. We have also affirmed judo's highest goal as self-perfection for the betterment of society. For the sake of convenience, let us place the foundation -- training for defense against attack -- at the bottom and call it lower level judo. Let us call training and cultivation, which are by-products of training for defense against attack, middle-level judo. The study of how to put one's energy to use in society comes last, so let us call it upper level-judo.
When we divide judo into these three levels, we can see that it must not be limited to training for fighting in the dojo, and even if you train your body and cultivate your mind, if you do not go a level higher, you truly cannot benefit society. No matter how great a person you are, if you die without achieving anything, as the proverb says: "Unused treasure is a wasted treasure." It can be said that you perfected yourself, but it cannot be said that you contributed to society. I urge all practitioners of judo to recognize that it consists of these three levels and to undergo their training without undue emphasis of one aspect over another. -- Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo
Saturday, November 28, 2009
The company, formerly known as Theater by the Blind, mixes able-bodied actors and actors with disabilities. Mr. Mozgala, who has cerebral palsy, in particular shatters the myth that actors with mobility problems make for static productions, throwing himself around the stage with abandon.In his latest project Gregg has teamed up with choreographer Tamar Rogoff in an original dance piece, Diagnosis of a Faun. Please read the New York Times article about the project, and be sure to view the embedded video.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I have a pile of spiral notebooks about five feet high that begin around 1977, my early years of writing in Taos, New Mexico. I want to throw them out -- who can bear to look at the junk of our own minds that comes out in writing practice? I have a friend in New Mexico who makes solar houses out of beer cans and old tires. I think I will try to build one out of discarded spiral notebooks. A friend who lives upstairs says, "Don't get rid of them." I tell her she can have them if she wants.
I pile them on her stairs leading up to her apartment and leave for Norfolk, Nebraska, for four days to do a writing workshop. When I return she looks at me oddly, plunks herself down in the old pink chair in my bedroom: "I've been reading your notebooks all weekend. They are so intimate; so scared, insecure for pages, then suddenly they are not you -- just raw energy and wild mind. And now here you are -- Natalie -- in the flesh, just a person. It feels so funny." ...
She said it was empowering to read my notebooks because she realized that I really did write "shit," sometimes for whole notebooks. Often I tell my students, "Listen, I write and still write terrible self-pitying stuff for page after page." They don't believe me. Reading my notebooks is living proof of that. My upstairs neighbor said, "If you could write the junk you did then and write the stuff you do now, I realize I can do anything. There's so much power in the mind. I feel like who knows what I can do!" She said the main thing she saw in the notebooks -- whole notebooks of complaints, boring description, and flagrant anger -- was an absolute trust in the process. "I saw that you kept on writing even when you wrote 'I must be nuts to do this.'"
Friday, November 13, 2009
Apart from Chen XiaoWang's* magnificent XinJia** renditions, I have seen only one other person whose XinJia has impressed me. This was a woman, Japanese, one of the six, all teachers, who came to Sydney in 1997. She was of a narrow and light build. Her delicacy had a lithe power, it brought out quite a different quality in XinJia's character. I find wildness suits women. Female practitioners have a paucity of exemplars to be inspired by. Master Chen said that the woman was gold medal material, only her responsibilities in running an organization did not allow her enough training time. When I have asked him if the training for women is different from men's, his reply has been, "No, it is the same." When I enquired after women in his family who had reached a high level in TaijiQuan (as one hears almost exclusively of men), he said that some had excelled in their early years, but then they had married, etcetera.* Chen XiaoWang is Kinthissa's famous teacher. An impressive video of Chen XiaoWang in action.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Practise mindfully, with ease in the heart. Practise because it is doing one good, not because it will make one a master. To become a master, or mistress, of TaijiQuan is a very long aim. Practising without expecting the day to arrive soon will be the most sensible way. Remember the road to wisdom: "Err and err and err again -- but less and less and less."The quote within the quote is from a grook of Piet Hein:
The road to wisdom? Well, it's plain
And simple to express:
and err again,
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
- Dive rolls over increasing numbers of class mates (arranged like sardines)
- Rolls using big gym balls
- How many throws can you do in thirty second seconds (racing back and forward between two ukes)
Saturday, October 24, 2009
- Horse stance with tension: Just stand in horse stance and tense every muscle, all at once, increasing the duration over time. Warning: If you try this do not allow pressure to build up in your head, as it can be dangerous.
- Low forward stance: The front knee should be in line with the toes; the back leg braced straight. Sound hard? It is.
- Circular punching: This should actually be fairly relaxed, but my shoulders and upper arms don't understand this, and tense up, making me want to stop.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
- Keep our thumbs and fingers together (not splayed), so that an adversary can't snap 'em off, and for concentrated force
- Grip more tightly with the weaker fourth and fifth fingers to strengthen them, while keeping the thumb, index and middle finger more relaxed and sensitive; these guidelines apply whether taking a grip of your partner's gi, forming a fist, or a holding a sword
- Breakfall mainly with the hands (thumb and fingers together!), even though there is greater surface contact with the fleshy part of the forearms.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
- Damian seeing "fireworks" when Kancho struck a couple of pressure-points on his wrist.
- Lejoe seeing a technique demonstrated in the middle and wondering whether Kancho's uke was just "falling for him", until Kancho repeated the technique on Lejoe, and all doubt as to its efficacy vanished
- Learning about breathing, mental aspects, and of course martial arts applications of animal movements from both guest instructors
- Shihan Angelo's message to work to simplify your martial art as you progress
Friday, October 09, 2009
Here's the blurb:
Her destiny was set two generations before her birth, during the final days of the samurai era. In 1934, at 21 years of age, Keiko Fukuda embarked on a long journey with judo as her vehicle. This path meant giving up marriage, family, and her Japanese citizenship. She has endured war, discrimination, and crossed oceans, to become the highest ranking woman in judo history. She is the last living link to judo’s original history. Today at 96, she still teaches judo three times a week, and through her gentle soul she exudes wisdom and inspiration to all who come in contact with her. “Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful,” is an hour‐long documentary film about K it eiko Fukuda’s inspirational journey.
[Edited May 2016: Keiko Fukuda was promoted to 10th dan in 2012 and continued to teach Judo until shortly before her death in 2013, aged 99.]
Thursday, October 08, 2009
- Tai otoshi (Body drop, Judo): Throat Attack & Double-strike turning throw (Jiu-jitsu)
- Uki otoshi (Floating drop): Lapel choke takedown & Sleeve pivot throw
- Kuki nage (Minor floating throw)
- Hiji otoshi (Elbow drop): Defence against a straight-arm choke from the front
- Mochiage otoshi (Lifting drop)
- Sukui nage (Scooping throw)
- Sumi otoshi (Corner drop): A follow-on to the Come-along armbar
- Obi otoshi (Belt drop)
- Kata ashi dori (Single leg drop): Pressure-point take-down to the lower leg
- Ryo ashi dori (Double leg drop)
Saturday, October 03, 2009
- Tai otoshi (Body drop): A handy take-down method for self-defence. Adding pain compliance makes it very effective. Note: The version that we do doesn't put the leg across.
- Uki otoshi (Floating drop): Almost like a half-sutemi, wherein tori drops to a knee rather than the back or side.
- Kuki nage (Minor floating throw): Performed as a combination technique
- Hiji otoshi (Elbow drop): Includes an arm-lock
- Mochiage otoshi (Lifting drop): A very useful technique for use in groundwork
- Sukui nage (Scooping throw)
- Sumi otoshi (Corner drop): Another effective self-defence takedown method
- Obi otoshi (Belt drop)
- Kata ashi dori (Single leg drop)
- Ryo ashi dori (Double leg drop): Similar to the double-leg takedown beloved by the BJJ-ers
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I would post a photo of a boa constrictor, but I really hate snakes!We were encouraged to wrestle “slowly”. Slowly? That puzzled me. How could you wrestle slowly and be effective? Wasn’t fast and hard always better? I would have gone on believing this except for the fact that both Roy and his senior students were able to demonstrate this principle to me first hand. If you have never experienced being submitted slowly with an arm bar or choke hold, it’s hard to understand what it’s like. It’s the “boa constrictor” approach. The big snake on top of you holds you down patiently; he reads your mind and knows exactly what you are going to do next. Every time you move to get away, the snake tightens his grip a little more, and a little more, until you can no longer move or breathe.
So I too began to practice grappling by moving more slowly, more patiently, more precisely. And I began to find that it worked for me too. Of course, old habits die hard. Every so often when another student would start to get the best of me, the competitive urge would rise up. I’d start thrashing about, trying to make techniques work through sheer speed and power. I’d re-injure my back or some other part of my body, and go home cursing my stupidity. At forty-some years old, I was too old and vulnerable to injuries to try and compete head to head with athletes twenty years younger. So I had to get smarter.
After many years of practicing this new way of wrestling, I’m pleased to find that I can frequently hold my own against opponents who are much younger, faster and stronger than me, even if they are coming at me with everything they’ve got. I get injured less (and injure others less). I’m continuing to learn and can look forward to many more years of enjoyment in the sport. -- Tom Moon
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
When practicing, always execute the techniques so slowly that it is impossible to make a mistake. The slow pace and predictability of proper training will provide your partner with many opportunities to counter the technique. Again, your training partner’s role is to consistently simulate the most common behavior so that you can perfect the techniques – not to fight with you. Eventually, your diligent and exacting practice will produce precise, efficient, and quick reflexes that will leave your attacker with no opportunity to counter your techniques. In a real fight, you will also have the advantage of surprise since your attacker will have no advanced knowledge of how you react to his actions.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
What on earth is the technique you’re trying to do in that picture? If it’s ude-giri your hand is too high up his arm (pressing down on his shoulder or the upper part of his arm isn’t going to do much), for waki-gatame you’re standing too upright and it can’t be just kote-mawashi since it’s impossible to put enough pressure on the wrist in that position. Besides that kiba-dachi, while traditional, is not a great stance for that position since he can just plant his knee into yours and you’ll collapse, losing the hold. -- Zara
In Jiu-Jitsu formal stances are typically used transitionally, and are learned in the context of actual application. For example, in this photo I am applying a reverse-armbar -- a restraint and control technique -- from a horse-riding stance:
From here I could take Adam down to the ground or move into a more mobile lock to better escort him to the local police station. Either way I would not need to stay in this position for very long.
Granted, blogs aren’t the best source of information in the first place (usually the content is rather mundane, one-sided and superficial) but to be told to buzz off and ‘do your homework’ is a first. So much for common courtesy and cooperation in spreading martial-knowledge. A simple refusal would have been enough, I don’t need your condescending attitude, nor your useless advice. -- Zara
- Asking good questions, which will stimulate some more blog posts (once I figure out how to respond more usefully, without breaching my self-imposed boundaries)
- Prompting me to reflect once again on the nature of conflict, and to work on my tone and clarity when responding to comments from the privileged position of blog-proprietor
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Very interesting article, come-alongs or taiho-waza (arresting-techniques) are fascinating to study but often an area that is poorly understood and consequently just glanced over. Probably because it's inherently dangerous to attempt to control a standing, struggling opponent (always risky in terms of escape and counterattack) and very technical in nature. -- ZaraThank-you. Like most sophisticated areas in martial arts these techniques need expert instruction and significant, regular practice to achieve competence; and more instruction and practice to make 'em really good.
If techniques and body-mechanics aren't perfectly understood and executed the adequate pain-level will not always be maintained: either you'll injure him or he'll just slip out and since most people don't take kindly to such treatment you'll be in for one hell of a fight.There's certainly a need for sensitivity in training these techniques and that comes with cooperative practice over a long period. You need to be able to feel that the lock is on, and practicing very slowly is both safe for training and a good way to acquire the necessary sensitivity.
I'm training for my first dan in ju-jutsu, part of the requirements are two come-alongs while uke is standing, two when he's lying flat on his belly and two on his back (forcing him to stand up). I do think I have some notion of which techniques would be suitable for these tasks but I would appreciate it if you would write a follow-up post to this one delving a bit deeper and going over some appropriate techniques (preferably with photo's).
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
A dojo is a space of commitment in which people practice together. What is powerful about the dojo is what it tells us of learning, and ultimately, of waking up, of being alive.
In Japanese, "dojo" refers to the place where we train "in the way". This points to two important distinctions. The first is that the dojo is a place of learning where one practices what is being taught. This is different from the conventional classroom where students sit passively taking notes or listening to a lecture. This is not to say authentic enquiry is unavailable in lecture halls, but it points to the difference between academic knowledge and an embodied knowledge that allows people to take actions that sustain and enhance their lives. In a place of learning like the dojo students practice what is being taught and over time begin to embody the subject matter. It lives in the body, it is who they are.
The second distinction revolves around the concept of "Do", which translates as "Way". The origin of the word "dojo" comes from the Sanskrit bodhimanda, which means the place of awakening. The Japanese kanji for Do is composed of two parts. One depicts a man walking on a road. The other is the human throat, which surrounds the jugular vein, representing the very core and pulse of our life. A man walking toward life. The Way is a theme of life. The dojo is a place where we awaken our body, grow the self, and unite with the spirit through rigorous and compassionate life-enquiry.
Walking back towards the dojo I can see students bowing at the entrance of the dojo as they arrive for the evening's training. Bowing is a ritual in aikido, as it is in many martial arts. At the beginning of the class we bow in respect, and at the end of the class we bow in respect. It's also a way of acknowledging the place where we learn. I have a Buddhist friend who bows to any place where he feels learning and training have taken place. This has included hotel rooms, a grove of trees, delicatessens, park benches, a friend's living room, even a jail cell where he was once detained for an illegal protest.
My teacher once tapped me on the chest and said "Jiri shin kore dojo". Mind as it is, is the place of training. He was reminding me that the dojo ultimately lives inside us, in our hearts, speech, thoughts, and actions. The dojo exists because of the meaning we give it. This meaning can never be lost from its place in the world because it is that place. The dojo is where we declare it to be. Each moment can be a place of awakening, of learning, of walking toward life.Whew! That bears reading and re-reading.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Re-issued in 2009, with a new forward and afterword by Moti Nativ, Feldenkrais's little book includes additional photos, including an appendix with a sequence showing Feldenkrais's teacher Kawaishi applying the eponymous technique to Feldenkrais in a dojo setting.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
There were people of all ages, but I was acutely aware that I was the lowest grade by far for someone my age or older. The only other white belt, in fact, was six years old. I passed the first grading, but was still absurdly ashamed of my level. Not being remotely competitive by nature, something like this should have been a put off. Here I was, spending hours at a time making awkward, jerky and unbalanced movements for reasons I was aware I didn’t really grasp, and generally feeling abnormal and uncoordinated. And yet I loved every minute of it. I wanted to do it for no other reason than to do it. The concept of improvement was lurking in the back of my mind somewhere, but I found that each time I did a technique it was enough to just concentrate on trying to get the movement right. Indeed, it was more than enough. It felt fantastic. I had never felt this passionate about something before, and indeed only once since.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
- Most styles have some solo elements: For example, in my jiu-jitsu classes most of the breakfalling exercises are performed individually (although as a group). Many of these require mats -- another obstacle to home practice -- but many do not. Try those ones at home. Benefits: These sorts of drills develop coordination and physical conditioning appropriate to the art.
- Partner techniques can be practiced within an imaginary partner: You've practiced a technique class. Practice at home, but imagine your partner. In karate or kung fu the challenge is often to figure out the application of a solo form. In partner-based styles we can go the other way. You can practice against different-sized phantom opponents, invent combinations, etc. For my students I highly recommend practicing the eight movements of kuzushi in this way (video). Benefits: Improved fluency, strengthens the imagination, etc.
- Partner techniques can be visualized without moving: This one borders on some forms of meditation, and can be practiced while standing, sitting in seiza, on the train, as a cure for insomnia. Visualize an entire technique, imagining the movements in as much detail as you can. Feldenkrais had a nice idea in his Awareness through Movement technique that we can steal: Practice an asymmetric technique several times in its right-handed version with an imaginary partner. Then do a few reps visualizing the left-handed version without moving. Benefits: Even stronger mental training. Improves your adaptability. Learn to transfer skills drilled on one side to the other with minimal physical practice.
- Find the fundamental movements: Applications in the martial arts can be quite elaborate, but there are movements that come up over and over. By practicing with your imaginary partner these should become more and more apparent. Isolate them and practice them, visualizing the various applications. This kind of practice can start to look a bit like qigong. Benefits: Most of the above, plus gain deeper insight into your martial art.
- Slap in the face
- Japanese Jiu-Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Where does jiu-jitsu come from?
- Read this blog like a book
- The dojo, its purpose and meaning
- Defending the cows - with judo
- Ninjas in the news
- Left-handed training
- Train as you fight vs deliberate practice
- Some Notes on Come-along Techniques