Sunday, April 19, 2009

Australian Martial Arts Hall of Fame event

The 13th Australian Martial Arts Hall of Fame awards night will be held in Melbourne on Saturday 8th August 2009.

On Sunday 9th August there will be a martial arts workshops and display day featuring new inductees, martial arts Legends, Grandmasters, and many more.

Tickets are limited.  For enquiries and to book tickets email:

My parent organization are the local hosts, so expect good things.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Small circles - all in the wrist?

In a previous post -- Ways to Push and Pull -- I showed a clip of Professor Wally Jay -- founder of Small-Circle Jujitsu --  inflicting impressive pain through a range of joint-locks at the impressive age of 70 on a variety of strong young men.  Here's another (shorter) clip of an even older Professor Jay dishing it out:

In the previous post I mentioned that Professor Jay emphasizes a wrist action similar to how you would turn off a tap; it combines push and pull.  One of my students -- Hi Lejoe! -- asked me whether that was all there is to it: Is it all in the wrist-action?  My short answer was: "No, there's more to it than that".   There usually is.

The push-pull wrist action is important, but not enough.  I showed Lejoe a lock using the wrist-action by itself -- a little unpleasant, but quite resistible -- and then I did it again, but added a missing ingredient: A small weight-drop.  The result?  Instant compliance (and belief).

I think that the wrist action must be present in small-circle techniques to create the small circle, but other movements and principles contribute.  In other words, the wrist action is necessary, but not sufficient.  The other components may need to be switched in or out depending on the technique and situation.  For example: In the clip there are times when Professor Jay lifts or twists rather than drops.  

More broadly, push and pull are part of the story, but just a part.  Even when something works, maybe it can be improved: Made more efficient, more effective against other opponents, and so on.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tips on learning to throw

Pushing and pulling (together with lifting and dropping) supply the power to execute throws.  Here are some tips that I find useful to learn and develop my throws:
  1. Go soft and slow: By going fast all kinds of flaws are hidden.  In particular it makes it too easy to rely on brute strength rather than finding the effective levers to push and pull
  2. Be sensitive: Try to sense exactly where your partner's balance is and the moment at which -- prior to throwing -- it is lost (i.e. where you are supporting them).  That's the time to apply the final push and pull.
  3. Be gentle: With efficient kuzushi, positioning and leverage it should be possible to throw with little effort.  If you find that you are using a lot of force to try to make the throw work, that's a sign that something else is not right.  Find and correct!
  4. Visualize: Practice with an imaginary partner too.  Include details of all the pushes and pulls.
  5. Focussed awareness: Once you have a throw basically working focus your attention on one aspect of the throw at a time (e.g. foot placement, weight-shifting, hip movement, points of contact, etc., etc.) and observe what you do.  Trust our body to do the rest of throw.
  6. Smooth it out: Try to eliminate stops and gaps; execute the throw with a smooth, continuous movement
  7. Practice with lots of partners: Working with people of different shapes and sizes will teach you how to adapt the throw to make it work in different ways
  8. Compare with other throws: While there are principles that are common across throws, there are also points of distinction that the different throws allow us to practice.
  9. Add dynamics:  While I prefer to practice from a static position at first and initiate movement, incorporating an initial push or pull from my partner allows me to start to practice the throw in a reactive form.  Experiment with different directions for the initial push or pull.  What works?  What doesn't?  Try the throw while moving forward / backward / sideways / circling.
  10. Be a great partner: When you are being thrown, be aware of what your partner is doing and learn from that.  Don't jump for them.  Don't sabotage.  If you have reasonable skill and they are a beginner gently nudge them into good position (this is more challenging than being able to do the throw yourself!).
Hope that helps.  Let me know how you go.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Beyond technique

When the amazing violinist and teacher Maxim Vengerov gives a masterclass he takes it for granted that his student is technically adept and instead works with him (or her) on bringing a sense of story to the music:

When Vengerov plays it's so much more than sweet-sounding notes played in the correct sequence and time.

Make no mistake: Both teacher and student have devoted an incredible amount of time and effort to the development of technique, but there is a playfulness, a sense of adventure, and a wonderful emotional engagement that Vengerov brings to his art.