Sunday, April 11, 2010

Are there any questions?

In our classes, prior to the closing ceremony, it customary for the instructor to ask, "Are there any questions?".  Usually these are answered with briefly, then any announcements are made, and the we pack up, get changed into civvies, and go straight home*.

This format is fine for covering Q&A about administrative matters, but not ideal for consolidating learning. While I have been toying with extending the time available to allow greater reflection and sharing about technical matters, I am coming round to thinking that keeping it brief is fine, and other approaches may work better anyway for enhancing reflection and learning.

One approach that appeals is used by one of our Shihans.  After giving the class a new or challenging exercise to work on, he'll often get the group to debrief  by having the class form a circle around him and each in turn describe something they just learned or observed.  This encourages reflection, and also gives everyone the benefit of picking up on the perspectives and observations of others.  The instructor is also at liberty to respond briefly to some of the observations, but it's not compulsory.  I think I'll trial this method for a while in my class.

Another good way to help consolidate one's own learning is to make notes after each class.  And review them later.

*Or hang round and chat, but that makes for a late night.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

What are your (other) favorite martial arts blogs?

I list the martial blogs that I regularly read on the right sidebar.  Some of the ones I enjoyed have dried up and stopped, so I'm on the hunt for replacements, especially (but not only) "Japanese" Jiu-jitsu blogs.

What are your top recommendations?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Flying practice

Judo doesn't teach you to fly, but you will learn to fall (safely).

A couple of weeks ago Lisa and Ash brought their digital SLRs to class and captured some nice action shots:

Up in the air

Seoi otoshi (4th shoulder throw): Sensei Dan, tori; Brenton, uke

Hane goshi (6th hip throw): Damian & Lizzie

Hane goshi (reverse angle):  John, tori; Ash, uke 

Remember to breakfall

The moment before landing

Lejoe's breakfall is a blur

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Complexity vs Simplicity

When I started learning jiu-jitsu and judo, I immediately appreciated the broad, intricate and varied syllabus.  If I was unable to make a particular technique work, be it a throw, groundwork technique, or restraint & control application I was nevertheless making progress in other areas, which was good for my morale.  I would struggle for a few minutes with the problematic technique, try some things, get some tips, and often get a bit frustrated, but then my sensei would move us onto something else.  Over time, the progress on other fronts would help me get unstuck on my problem technique (really techniques), since the underlying principles all intersect and what I learned elsewhere I would eventually be able to apply.  From time to time techniques would cease to work, or fail on a particular partner, even in cooperative practice, but nothing was permanently stuck.

By contrast, when I took some ken-jitsu (japanese sword class, performed initially with a wooden bokken) we started by doing an entire class of a single cut (maybe there were a couple of variations), with YELLING.  The next day I had a raspy voice, sore arms, and blistered hands.  But I was fascinated by the sustained demand for focus, the feeling of surging energy, and the occasional blasting through a pain barrier that such narrow training demanded.  Truly a complementary experience to what I was used to in jiu-jitsu.  And yet, "jiu-jitsu comes from the sword".

As I progress with my martial arts, I have begun to ask myself what hidden possibilities lie behind simple-seeming movements, while complex techniques reveal themselves to consist of common components and principles.

Is it better to start with the simple and build to the complex, or to start with the composite and discover simplicity?  For me, the latter approach proved a better starting point, but eventually the two perspectives must intertwine.

Friday, April 02, 2010

New template: Tell me what you think

Dear reader

As you can see, I have finally updated the template that controls the layout of this blog, including colors, fonts and what goes where on the side-bars.  I hope you like the new look!

I'll continue to refine the layout, but I am keen to hear how I can make it work better for you:
  • What do you like / not like?
  • Suggest improvements
And, while you are at it, please tell me what kind of posts you would like to see more of in the future.
  • Principles
  • Learning and teaching tips
  • Connecting martial arts practice and real life
  • Links to other online martial arts articles and resources
  • Book reviews
  • You name it (and I might do it!)
If point me to examples of past posts that you liked (or don't! ;-), that helps me too.

Also, since I have a few overlapping audiences, could you also tell me which camp you fall in?  E.g.:
  1. Prospective martial arts students, especially those considering learning jiu-jitsu
  2. My own students, and martial arts colleagues
  3. Other martial artists, including martial arts bloggers
  4. Friends and adoring family.
You can leave a comment, or alternatively email me at

Thanks in advance

-- Dan