May 26, 2016, 5:30pm - class 101 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Ushiro Tekubitori Nikkyo Omote and Ura and Ushiro Tekubitori Jujinage (2nd kyu). I started the class utterly confused. I made a little progress during class to the point where Sensei acknowledged I did something right, but then I noticed I did it wrong again shortly afterwards. I feel the Ushiro moves are the most difficult for me.
May 28, 2016 - My sons received their yellow belts and certificates today. Now that you're a yellow belt, expectations are higher now," John told them, to which they nodded. Shihan Irving Faust held a seminar at the dojo today, but I couldn't attend. I really wanted to, but I can't afford to have visible bruises on my arms while I bartend for a wedding tomorrow.
June 1, 2016, 5:30pm - class 102 with Carlton Harris - 7 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote (4th kyu), Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura (3rd kyu), and Shomenuchi Sankyo Ura (3rd kyu), and Shomenuchi Iriminage (5th kyu).
June 2, 2016, 5:30pm - class 103 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Iriminage (3rd kyu), Ryotetori Tenchinage Ura (5th kyu), Kokyudosa, and Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi Ura (5th kyu). Sensei said that I shouldn't have to pull uke to do the Kotegaeshi. "Just lean forward and do the tenkan," he said.
June 6, 2016, 5:30pm - class 104 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo Ura, Morotetori Nikyo Ura (2nd kyu), and Morotetori Udekimenage Ura. Udekimenage means "arm extension." Sensei commented that I should never end up facing the opponent in a technique because it's the easiest way for the opponent to strike me. I need to have my "belly eye" pointed at my opponent at all times. In Morotetori Udekimenage Ura, I should be sliding my foot and not lifting it.
June 7, 2016, 5:30pm - class 105 with Dr. John Porter - 5 students. We practiced Katatetori Kaitenage and Katatetori Koshinage (lower back throw). I entered class late today because I had to finish up some work at my office. One of my peers was impressed that I was able to jump right into doing the techniques, which were considered fairly advanced.
June 9, 2016, 5:30pm - class 106 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Shihonage Omote (cross-arm block, slice to the neck), another Shomenuchi Shihonage Omote (Henry Smith variant - elbow to the face, step through, twice twirl), Ushiro Tekubitori Jujinage, Ushiro Tekubitori Shihonage (we did a line with this technique), and Kokyudosa. My biggest problem with the Shihonage techniques is the ending where I don't end in hanmi or I'm too far away from uke, but I felt I did well considering these are 2nd kyu techniques.
June 11, 2016 - The Kiyota Company - After my kids' aikido class, we drove to Baltimore to visit The Kiyota Company, a martial arts supply store that many people had recommended. True to the reviews, this was not a fancy store that relied on glitz and glamour. It was basically one big basement room filled with boxes of stuff, everything from uniforms, training gear, and weapons to books, magazines, and videos. The store's owner, Mr. Kiyota, is an extremely knowledgeable man who has trained in three different martial arts disciplines. He helped my oldest son and I choose a 100% cotton, lightweight gi for training in the summer months. I also purchased a hard-to-find aikido book for list price, not the inflated prices it sells for on Amazon. "It's out of print," Mr. Kiyota said. "Basically, a couple of people buy out all of the copies and turn around and sell them for outrageous prices." Even more impressive is he sells the Japanese versions of these books! The Japanese editions are printed on higher-quality glossy pages. There are more aikido books on Mr. Kiyota's bookshelf than in any bookstore or martial arts supply store I've seen. If you are in the Baltimore area, The Kiyota Company is a must visit.
June 13, 2016, 5:30pm - class 107 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. At the start of class, we practiced our ukemi with a bokken in hand, which forced me to stay in alignment during my rolls. We practiced Morotetori Kokyuho (5th kyu), Morotetori Nikyo Omote (2nd kyu), and Morotetori Nikyo Ura (2nd kyu). We practiced all of these techniques in a line at the end of class. There were some nice moments in which I felt I got the twirl to grab the Nikyo grip and the footwork down pat and then other moments in which I was fumbling with the grip, the footwork, and getting uke off-balance. It's strange that Morotetori Nikyo is a 2nd kyu technique because it doesn't seem that much more difficult to do than Shomenuchi Nikyo. With all of these 2nd kyu techniques creeping into the basics classes, it would seem that many of my classmates are getting ready to test for 2nd kyu.
June 16, 2016, 5:30pm - class 108 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Morotetori Kokyuho (5th kyu), Jodan Tsuki Ikkyo, Jodan Tsuki Iriminage, and Jodan Tsuki Sankyo. The Jodan Tsuki techniques are advanced techniques where you first block a Tsuki atemi and then block and apply a technique on a second atemi, which in this case is a Shomenuchi. We practiced all of these techniques in a line at the end of class. Some students were showing off additional techniques, such as Jodan Tsuki Kaitennage and Jodan Tsuki Shihonage. Sensei and a couple of senior students complimented me on my Jodan Tsuki Sankyo technique. Sankyo is a 4th kyu technique, so I want to get it right.
June 21, 2016, 5:30pm - class 109 with Dr. John Porter - 7 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, Shomenuchi Shihonage (2nd kyu), and Shomenuchi Kaitenage (2nd kyu). We looked at how a failed Kaitenage attempt could always lead to some other technique depending on where your hand lands. You always have options," Dr. John said. We learned some finer points of footwork, maai (distance), and hip turning. "You looked good out there tonight!" one of the senior students said to me. I believe the difference today was I was doing my strikes and techniques with intention and I was rolling more. After class, Dr. John and I talked about his experiences meeting Doshu and Waka Sensei.
June 23, 2016, 5:30pm - class 110 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced 5th kyu techniques today, including Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi Omote, and Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi Ura. Our classmate, Tom, was preparing for his 5th kyu test and we were called upon to help him by being his ukes. I could sense his frustration with the entire process and the way he looked reminded me of me a few months ago.
June 25, 2016 - I attended my sons' aikido class today to see if I could help them with their footwork and techniques. Sensei taught a basic Kotegaeshi technique that some of the kids had trouble with. It wasn't until my kids and I returned home that I got to explain more of what was going on with Kotegaeshi. Somehow, in the thousands of times I practiced the technique, I improved my speed and reaction. As my eleven year old came towards me with a punch or a haymaker, I met his arm with a whack Whack WHACK!!! and accidentally popped him in the mouth. A similar thing happened a few months ago when my partner, Robyn, and I were play-sparring. WHACK!!! as I met her wrist with mine. She couldn't believe how incredibly quick I was to defend her strike to my head. "Owww!!! There's something to this aikido," she said, after many months of doubts and praising the karate system she had learned in her youth.
June 27, 2016, 5:30pm - class 111 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Tsuki Kokyunage and 2nd kyu techniques, including Morotetori Nikyo Omote, Morotetori Nikyo Ura, and Ushiro Kubishime Koshinage. It was my first time practicing Koshinage in Sensei's class, so I had a difficult time grasping it. I told my sons about how awkward I'd usually look in class, but when it came time to show people outside of class, I'd look a bit smoother. Sensei praised my sons during their class, noting that I must be working with them to show that much improvement. My six year old is especially happy with his aikido training. I can see him being a black belt someday.
June 30, 2016, 5:30pm - class 112 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote and Ura, Shomenuchi Iriminage, Hanmi Handachi Shomenuchi Iriminage, and Ushiro Kubishime Koshinage. Today I performed my atemi with intention and commitment. Ken1 noted that I don't have to strike so hard and fast because a blending movement in Iriminage ending up feeling like my face was several inches away from my body. He advised that I slow down my attack. My latest aikido casualty is one-eighth of my big toenail ripped off during ukemi. It looks much worse than it feels.
July 7, 2016, 5:30pm - class 113 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. Not many students made it to class on this sweltering hot day. I almost didn't make it because I was waiting for my bus to arrive. I started class a little after six and got to practice Morotetori Kokyunage and Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi. We were all tired from practicing in the heat and I could see that look of frustration in Tom's eyes again. "I think Sensei's hard on us because he wants us to teach this stuff eventually," I said to him in between reps. He nodded as if he understood. He never gave up. We both sparred with commitment and intention. At the end of class, we helped Tom practice his 5th kyu test techniques. One thing I've noticed from Tom today versus Tom a few months ago is he's no longer muscling his way through the techniques. He's one of the strongest students in the dojo, but the techniques taught here are not about muscle, but more about finesse. Today I didn't feel as if Tom was yanking my hand off my wrist in Kotegaeshi. Sensei pointed out some things to improve upon in Tom's techniques at the end of class. Ken1 noted that I looked good in practice today. I don't do many backward rolls in my ukemi, but I'm learning to cushion my fall with my forearms more.
July 9, 2016 - I attended my sons' aikido class today and assisted Sensei with some of the practice exercises. I think my boys do better with me taking class with them.
July 11, 2016, 5:30pm - class 114 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. I attended my sons' aikido class today and assisted Sensei with some of the practice exercises. My kids and I learned the 13 steps in the jo sequence. I then attended my class afterwards. We practiced Morotetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Nikyo Ura, and Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Nikyo Ura. Our classmate, Tom, tested for his 5th kyu and passed.
July 14, 2016, 5:30pm - class 115 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. During ukemi practice, I keep hitting my knees. I don't think I'm rolling right. My big toe on my left foot feels like it's fractured and every time I've stood up from seiza in the past month, I have problems with my knees. Is this what getting old feels like? We practiced Morotetori Kokyuho (5th kyu), Hanmi Handachi Shomenuchi Iriminage (2nd kyu), and Shomenuchi Kaitennage Omote and Ura (2nd kyu). I admire Ramla's footwork in the latter techniques. She seems to know where to place her feet. I'm still at the stage where my left and right are sometimes mixed up in these 2nd kyu techniques. At the end of class, Sensei gave Ramla a practice test for 2nd kyu.
July 20, 2016 - I'm resting in bed as I write this. My surgeon said that the voice surgery was a success. The lower part of my vocal cords have been stitched together, so now begins the recommended 30-day vocal rest period. I can't speak, whisper, clear my throat, or cough during this time because that will stress my vocal cords. I should also avoid salty and spicy foods for one month, caffeinated beverages for two months, and alcohol for three months. The anesthesia has made me lose my sense of taste, but that should be temporary.
July 26, 2016 - audited class 9 with guest instructor Jay Petty - Jay taught Tai No Henko, Tai No Henko leading to a pin, Katatetori Kokyunage, Morotetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Iriminage, Katatetori Iriminage with a breakfall, Katatetori Kotegaeshi, Tsuki attack and evade, Yokomenuchi Shihonage Omote, and Kokyudosa. I will need to observe class until I'm able to participate again. This should be fine since Sensei is teaching a lot of 2nd kyu techniques in class these days to get several students ready for their 2nd kyu tests.
July 28, 2016 - audited class 10 with Roderick Johnson - Sensei taught what looked like a bokken version of a similar technique taught by Jay Petty on Tuesday followed by the bokken versions of Katatetori Nikyo Ura and Katatetori Kaiten Nikyo to Kotegaeshi followed by the open hand versions of Katatetori Nikyo Ura and Katatetori Kaiten Nikyo to Kotegaeshi. The class ended with Jiyu Waza (freestyle) practice where everyone took turns practicing their techniques on others one person at a time. All in all, an action-packed class with detailed step-by-step instructions.
August 1, 2016 - audited class 11 with John Holt - John substituted for Sensei today. John taught Shomenuchi sword striking followed by open hand Shomenuchi, Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Shihonage Omote and Ura, and Shomenuchi Kaitenage Omote. Class ended with a spirited Jiyu Waza practice. John encouraged me to participate in the training, including the sword strikes and basic attacks.
August 2, 2016 - audited class 12 with Dr. John Porter - Dr. John taught Tai No Henko followed by a number of tenkan-pivot-step techniques including Katatetori Sumiotoshi, Katateori Nikyo, Katatetori Udegari, Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Shihonage, Tsuki Kaitenage, Tuski Sankyo, and Tsuki Koshinage. "You never move backwards. Even when you think you're moving backwards, you're moving forward," Dr. John said.
August 6, 2016 - USAF Summer Camp 2016 - My aikido colleague, Ken1, and I trekked from downtown Philly to Absecon to do a day's worth of seminar events at this year's USAF Summer Camp held at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. We attended five classes in all starting with the 6:30am class and ending our day with the 2:00pm class. I practiced a number of rolls prior to the 9:00am class, but I'm not 100% yet. I'm still taking it easy after my recent surgery, so I sat out on most of the techniques while Ken1 was actively participating. Each class was about 45 to 50 minutes of intense, fast-paced instruction. Some techniques were basic. Others, such as those taught by Waka Sensei, combined several techniques into one. Waka Sensei is the real deal. He is fluid, graceful, and powerful without relying on brute strength. He walked around the room demonstrating each technique to small groups of practitoners and allowing them to attack him as uke. Osawa Sensei exhibited raw power in his movements, as heard and felt from the thunderous poundings on the mat from his ukes. He liked that I was practicing my wrist stretching exercises during lunch. Julia Freedgood Sensei, whom I was unfamiliar with until today, deserves special mention. She is small and stocky yet exhibits the kind of flexibility that would put a yoga teacher to shame. Her techniques were minimal in movement yet powerful in outcome. There were many more white belts at this event than at the Christmas Seminar, so I felt more at home. Our dojo was well represented with Dr. John, John, Brendan, Ken1, Ramla, Shanti, and me. A super bonus is I got to meet Jonathan Weiner Sensei whose videos have helped me prepare for my 5th kyu test. All in all, Summer Camp is a fantastic experience for any aspiring aikidoka.
August 8, 2016 - audited class 13 with Brendan Ryan - Brendan taught Tai No Henko, Katatetori Shihonage Omote and Ura, Morotetori Kokyuho, and two versions of Katatetori Iriminage. A new black belt I had not seen before participated in class.
August 9, 2016 - audited class 14 with Dr. John Porter - Dr. John taught Morotetori Kokyuho with and without bokken, Morotetori Kokyunage with Irimi Tenkan, Morotetori Shihonage Omote and Ura Morotetori Jujinage, Morotetori Kotegaeshi, Morotetori Udekeminage, Morotetori Sankyo with Irimi Tenkan, Morotetori Sankyo Omote, Morotetori Kaitenage (Sankyo to Kaitenage), Morotetori Sankyo into Kaitenage into Shihonage, Morotetori Sankyo into Kaitenage into Udekeminage, Morotetori Sankyo into Kaitenage into Maki Otoshi, Tsuki to the face echo Kotegaeshi, Kata Jodan Tsuki (Jodan means "to the face") Sumi Otoshi, Kata Jodan Tsuki Kokyunage, and Kata Jodan Tsuki Faceplant. The class ended with a spirited Jiyu Waza (freestyle) practice followed by Kokyudosa. A couple of students from another dojo participated in class.
August 13, 2016 - My youngest son, Matthew, was practicing his rolls before his class today. I was amazed that his rolls were so fluid. "How did you do that?" I asked him. "I just believe in myself," he replied.
August 15, 2016 - class 116 with John Holt - 5 students. John taught Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, Morotetori Ikkyo Omote, Morotetori Shihonage Omote, Katetori Nikkyo Ura, and Kokyudosa. It was my first class in four weeks. I had to take frequent water breaks and rests because I felt dizzy and the dojo was 100 degrees. The big takeaway from this class is I have to continue to improve moving my center rather than using strength and leverage in all of my techniques.
August 16, 2016 - class 117 with Dr. John Porter - 3 students. The class started with just me and Dr. John. Two more students joined partway through the class. We practiced Tai No Henko, Shomenuchi Iriminage, Morotetori Kokyunage, Morotetori Shihonage, and Ai Hani Katatetori Shihonage. We reviewed Waka Sensei's lesson from Summer Camp on the three basic movements in footwork: irimi, tenkan, and tenshin (circular movement). Every movement in aikido is based off of these three movements. I clumsily trodded along in class, but there was one point in which I was very fatigued and not thinking too much and the correct movement came out! I didn't need to take any breaks despite the same grueling temperature as yesterday, so that was good. I bought a new notebook, actually a sketchbook, for documenting my 4th kyu techniques.
August 27, 2016 - class 118 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. Finally, after a month of vocal rest, I could speak again! Sensei taught Yokomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, Yokomenuchi Kaitenage, and Yokomenuchi Ikkyo to Kotegaeshi. I did okay for the first two techniques, but stumbled through the last two. I think I've been mixing up the foot and hand movements of Yokomenuchi Shihonage and Shomenuchi Shihonage. That has lent to my confusion of these techniques. A number of us had lunch at Tampopo after class.
August 29, 2016 - class 119 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We learned Tai No Henko, Katatetori Nikkyo Ura, followed by a breathing exercise that served to introduce Ryotetori Nikkyo Ura, two methods of stepping back and dropping to the knee with arms over the head to create the ukemi, and a jo technique that stengthened our understanding of Katatetori Ikkyo (video, 0:45 to 0:49). We learned about breathing in your opponent and releasing the breath as you complete the technique. Ken1 and I practiced a few more reps of the last technique after class. It was crazy hot in the studio again, but I survived without any breaks.
August 30, 2016 - class 120 with Dr. John Porter - 4 students. We learned various gyaku hanmi Katatetori, Ryotetori, and Morotetori techniques and practiced with partners and in a line. Ed showed me how to not use force in my movements and to think of the arm movements as cutting uke with a sword. Dr. John added, "It's all in moving your center along with your arm. Remember how you move in the rowing exercise?"
September 1, 2016 - class 121 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We started practice with an Katatetori Ikkyo stretching exercise and then learned Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, and Yokomenuchi Gokyo, all ai hanmi. Elizabeth was preparing for her 2nd kyu exam, so class ended with her demonstrating the techniques we learned today.
September 6, 2016 - audited class 15 with Dr. John Porter - I caught the tail end of class and watched everyone practice Yokomenuchi techniques.
September 10, 2016 - class 122 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We learned Tai No Henko, a continuous Tai No Henko, a continuous Tai No Henko that ended with an elbow over the arm variant of Nikkyo on the fourth count, a Jo equivalent of Nikkyo, line practice with whatever Katatetori techniques we wished to demonstrate, and Kokyudosa. Today it was all about survival as many of us were feeling the effects of the 100+ degree heat. There were moments in which I got the technique, but then the next iteration I'd completely forget what I did. In the continuous Tai No Henko, I could move my feet much better with a lighter partner, but even so, there were moments in which I felt I had two left feet again. I seem to learn aikido in spurts instead of incrementally.
September 12, 2016 - class 123 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We learned Morotetori Kokyuho and Hanmi Handachi Shomenuchi Iriminage. I had to leave class a little early today because I had a work-related job to do in the evening.
September 13, 2016 - class 124 with Dr. John Porter - 3 students. We learned Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Shihonage, Katatetori Kotegaeshi, and Katatori Yonkyo. "Cast Yonko like a fishing reel," John said, "and make sure the hand is curved downward to push the nerve towards the skin's surface." Yonkyo was really painful. John ended practice with a few ori waza techniques to show aikido's practical side. We simulated real-world situations, such as what to do when someone gets too aggressive at the movies or in a dark alleyway. My latest aikido injury is a big bruise on my leg from someone accidentally stepping on me.
September 15, 2016 - class 125 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We learned Morotetori Kaitenage Omote, Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, Tsuki Koshinage, and Shomenuchi Kaitenage. We did a line with Morotetori Kaitenage and then a two-on-one Morotetori Kaitenage exercise where we practiced launching an attacker into a second attacker. The latter exercise was pretty fun.
September 19, 2016 - class 126 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We learned Tsuki Kaitenage Omote, Tsuki Ikkyo Omote, Tsuki Nikyo Omote, and Tsuki Yonkyo Ura. These were new techniques for me and somewhat confusing, but I did the best I could today.
September 20, 2016 - class 127 with Dr. John Porter - 6 students. We learned Tai No Henko and a full gamut of Morotetori techniques from Ikkyo to Udekeminage. "Morotetori is not a street technique," John said. "It's based on classical techniques with a sword."
September 22, 2016 - class 128 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Morotetori Kokyuho, Shomenuchi Shihonage Omote, Shomenuchi Kaitenage Omote and Ura, Koshinage footwork with a bokken, and Kokyudosa.
October 1, 2016 - class 129 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Morotetori Udekimenage, Morotetori Kaitenage, Yokomenuchi Kokyunage, and Yokomenuchi Ikkyo/Nikkyo/Kotegaeshi. We ended our practice with line practice where we practiced whatever techniques we felt would extinguish uke's attack depending on his free arm position. After class, I practiced my 4th kyu techniques with Ken1 and John. My latest aikido injuries are multiple bruises on my arm from blocking strikes. Ouch! Nobody said that aikido was a gentle art. Do not be afraid of aikido. With every bruise comes the knowledge associated with how you got that bruise. Some people say that every bruise develops character. I believe every bruise helps you understand how lethal a technique can be.
October 3, 2016 - class 130 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Morotetori Kokyuho (Ramla), Ushiro Ryokatatori Kotegaeshi Omote (Ken2), Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo Omote (Jimmy), and Ushiro Tekubitori Jujinage Omote (Ramla and Dr. John). The advanced class tonight was the black belt class, which I'm not ready for yet. The attacks are more purposeful and you really have to be good at ukemi. I saw and watched 8 students practice Yokomenuchi Iriminage, Yokomenuchi Sankyo Omote.
October 4, 2016 - class 131 with Dr. John Porter - 8 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, different Kosatori techniques, kihon waza versus ki no nagare practice, Hanmi Handachi practice, and Kokyudosa. During Hanmi Handachi practice, I got to practice extensively with Ed.
I've accepted a yoga teaching job on Thursday nights, so I won't be able to come to Thursday aikido classes for a while. I may try extending my Mondays to include the advanced class or make an attempt to attend every Saturday class.
October 10, 2016 - class 132 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Ikkyo and Tsuki attack and defend exercises, Tsuki Nikkyo Omote, and Tsuki Kaitenage Ura. We watched Elizabeth practice her 2nd kyu exam techniques with Ken1 and Ken2. I was too tired to attend the second class. After my wrist healed from last week's practice, I ended up with a big bruise on it again from today's practice.
October 11, 2016 - class 133 with Dr. John Porter - 6 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, different Hanmi Handachi Katatetori techniques, Ryotetori Tenchinage Omote and Ura, and various Ryotetori techniques leading to a multiple transition technique I've only seen in aikido seminars.
October 15, 2016 - class 134 with me and Ed Shockley - 3 students. Sensei and other dan practitioners in our dojo were travelling to North Jersey today to attend the Peter Tamagni Memorial Seminar. Of the three students attending today's class, Shanti was the most senior student, but she didn't want to teach the class. Sensei turned to me. "You're up, lady," he said to me. It felt like the premise of Designated Survivor. "Teach what you know and it could be 5th kyu techniques since you know those," John advised. I didn't start off class in the teacher's spot, but as soon as I saw everyone doing their own thing, I decided it was time to move to the front. Everything fell into place after that. I related Sensei's warmup exercises to the yoga postures I teach in my yoga classes. We practiced tai sabaki, rowing exercise, and ukemi. I emphasized Sensei's points on stance. Ed arrived to take over class after our warmup session. If he wasn't present, I would've taught what I knew of Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho (two ways), and Yokomenuchi Shihonage. After class, Shanti said she liked my instruction and explanations of the warmup exercises. Ed taught us the four-step bokken sequence for Shomenuchi strikes, the four-step jo sequence for Tsuki, and the thirteen-step jo sequence for defending against three attackers. We also practiced using the five different techniques against a Shomenuchi attack in kneeling, Hanmi Handachi, and standing positions. We ended our practice with Kokyudosa. Shanti and I agreed that we should help each other with our 4th kyu techniques.
October 17, 2016 - class 135 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo Ura and Omote with a Tenkan. Sensei tried to teach us Morotetori Hijishime, but some of us weren't getting it so he simplified the technique to something Kotegaeshi-like. We practiced rolling over our practice partner while he or she is on hands and knees - which looks a lot easier than actualy doing it - and then returned to practicing the previous technique. After class, I practiced Yokomenuchi Shihonage and Tsuki Iriminage with Ken1.
October 18, 2016 - class 136 with Dr. John Porter - 4 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo Omote and Ura and a variety of Yokomenuchi Uchi Irimi Tenkan techniques followed by a spirited Jiyu Waza practice. We ended with a practice showing us how the Yokomenuchi techniques look with a tanto. I suffered another toe injury in class. One third of my big toenail cracked off on a hard landing. My toe was in the wrong place at the wrong time. We've had a strong influx of new visitors the past few days. Pretty good considering the weather has been unusually warm in the past couple of days.
October 31, 2016 - classes 137 and 138 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Yokomenuchi Gokyo and Ushiro Kubishime Koshinage in the first class. Elizabeth passed her 2nd kyu test today. In the second class where it was just Sensei and I, we practiced 4th kyu techniques Shomenuchi Nikyo, Yokomenuchi Shihonage, and Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Nikyo.
November 1, 2016 - class 139 with Dr. John Porter - 6 students. We practiced various Morotetori techniques, including Morotetori Udekeminage, Morotetori behind the back Kotegaeshi, Morotetori Jujinage, Morotetori Kaitenage, and Morotetori Irimi Tenkan Irimi Tenkan Kotegaeshi.
November 7, 2016 - class 140 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Morotetori Nikyo, Shomenuchi Nikyo, Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo, and Ushiro Ryokatatori Kotegaeshi. Shanti practiced part of her 4th kyu test today.
November 8, 2016 - class 141 with Dr. John Porter - 4 students. Dr. John solicited requests for techniques we wanted to practice today. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, Yokomenuchi Iriminage, Yokomenuchi Shihonage, Shomenuchi Nikyo, Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Sankyo, and more.
November 12, 2016 - class 142 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Nikyo Omote, Katatori Sankyo Omote and Ura, and Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo Ura. We also practiced Jiyu Waza and Kokyudosa. Shanti practiced her 4th kyu test today. "We're all going to help you get your 4th kyu next," Barbara said. Barbara recently earned her 2nd kyu.
November 14, 2016 - class 143 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo, Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, and Tsuki Iriminage. Shanti passed her 4th kyu test today. "You're next!" everyone said to me. Sometimes I feel like I can do all of the techniques and other times my memory falters. I think the important thing is not to rush through a technique.
November 15, 2016 - class 144 with Dr. John Porter - 6 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, and a series of Shomenuchi techniques in gyaku hanmi and ai hanmi, uke striking with the hand of the back foot and front foot, ((uchi) irimi) tenkan techniques, and more. We did a spirited Jiyu Waza practice towards the end. Somehow my body seemed to be programmed to do Kaitenage. It just flowed right out of me. "That was some excellent Jiyu Waza," Ken2 complimented me. "Thanks! I was tired and just didn't think about it. I just did it," I replied.
November 16, 2016 - class 145 with Carlton Harris - 6 students. We practiced Yokomen hip and foot movement, arm movement, strikes and blocks, Yokomenuchi Shihonage, Yokomenuchi Iriminage, and Suwari Waza Yokomenuchi Kokyunage.
November 29, 2016 - class 146 with Dr. John Porter - 9 students. We practiced a series of Katatori Shomenuchi and Tsuki to the face techniques that Dr. John learned from a variety of Senseis, including Steven Seagal.
December 3, 2016 - class 147 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Iriminage, variations of Katatetori Shihonage, and did a Jiyu Waza practice afterwards. A couple of new faces were present, instructors from another dojo.
December 5, 2016 - audited class 16 with Roderick Johnson - One of the nurses this morning chuckled when I asked him if I would be ready for my martial arts class later in the day. "No, you should rest after your procedure. It takes at least eight hours for the anesthesia to wear off," he said. I still felt dizzy as I walked to class. The only thing I could do was watch and take notes. The class practiced Ushiro Tekubitori techniques, including Sankyo, Ikkyo, and Nikkyo. The class of eight included two people from another dojo. I missed out on Jiyu Waza practice. That's always fun. I stayed for the Black Belt class. The pace was a little quicker and included many of the same techniques taught in the Basic classes, but everyone was a lot more fluid with their ukemi. There was a spirited Randori practice at the end that looked like fun.
December 6, 2016 - class 148 with Dr. John Porter - 5 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, and a variety of Kosatori techniques, including a new one - Udegarame - that we did slowly to prevent an arm break. Dr. John emphasized the importance of learning the techniques and making them your own. He also suggested that we learn techniques in pairs. "Sankyo can become Kaitenage," he said, in the same way that Ikkyo can become Nikyo.
December 10, 2016 - class 149 with Roderick Johnson - 11 students. We practiced various Shomenuchi attacks and ended class with a spirited Jiyu Waza practice in which I was able to practice Nikyo and Sankyo techniques.
December 12, 2016 - class 150 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Morotetori Kokyuho, Shomenuchi Kaitenage, and Shomenuchi Udegarame. Many more students from the other dojo attended class tonight.
December 13, 2016 - class 151 with Dr. John Porter - 4 students. We practiced Katatetori Iriminage, Kokyunage, Ikkyo, Nikkyo, Kotegaeshi, and Shihonage and ended with Kokyudosa.
December 14, 2016 - class 152 with Carlton Harris - 4 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Shihonage, Morotetori Kokyunage, and Morotetori Ikkyo. Carlton emphasized turning the hips rather than moving uke with the arms in Morotetori Kokyunage. "When you step in, sink down, and bring your arms up in a Kokyu movement like you're holding a sword. Always keep it centered," he advised, "and when you coil out, turn your hips as you move your arms. You're not pushing me with your arms." For a brief moment, a split second, I felt it. Moving with my center and moving Carlton effortlessly as if I was moving air... that's the best way to describe it... and Carlton isn't easy to move! The next iteration I lost the feeling because my arms weren't in sync with my hips. The iteration after that I felt it again, but not as strongly as the first time.
December 17, 2016 - New York Aikikai Christmas Seminar - Ken1 and I took a bus up to New York for the day to attend this year's New York Aikikai Christmas Seminar. I attended four of the day's six classes with Steve Pimsleur, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Donovan Waite, and Harvey Konigsberg. Each of the teachers took the time to walk over and show me the finer details of the techniques they taught. Pimsleur took interest in correcting my throwing motion in Katatetori Irimi Tenkan Kokyunage. He advised me to try not to bring my arms back behind my hips at the end of a throw. In Donovan's class, I didn't think I had it in me, but I was able to execute the very beautiful technique of Hanmi Handachi Uchi Soto Irimi Tenkan Nikyo Ura. "You can do it. Like anything in life, it just takes practice," a black belt classmate advised. I stopped about halfway into Konigsberg's class when he started demonstrating piledriving techniques that forced your opponent into the ground. I enjoyed the first part of his class where we learned the martial underpinnings of Tai No Henko. We were encouraged to experiment with as many ukes as possible in an almost synchronized dance. The goal of today's seminar was to learn as much as I could in each class and not worry about selfies with aikido masters like I did last year. I jammed my thumb early in the day, but didn't feel it until several hours later. There was an audible crunch at that moment and the black belt who threw me to the ground kept apologizing, but I didn't feel it at the time. I think I was too engrossed in the practice to notice. These one-hour classes flew by quickly as we paired up individually and in groups to practice, sometimes in rapid succession. The dan test followed the classes. Senseis Yamada and Pimsleur were the judges. In the shodan (1st dan) test, groups of three or four stood in front of the judges and were asked to demonstrate everything they knew in a span of twelve minutes. Every student was then asked to demonstrate their knowledge in a four-on-one randori attack. In one group of three shodan testees, each testee was pitted against not four but six ukes! I studied what each of these testees did to overcome their attackers. They simply moved over to one side and worked their way from one side to the other. It stands to reason that if you could defend yourself against four attackers, you should be able to do so against six attackers just as effectively. As you execute the technique on the uke in front of you, you have to take into consideration where the next uke is or will be and throw your uke in line with another next uke. Each of the testees in this special group received thunderous applause. The nidan (2nd dan) test was a lot shorter, but more intense. The judges asked every student to demonstrate a series of techniques and then demonstrate their knowledge in a five-on-one randori attack. I found the nidan testees to be slower but more refined than the shodan testees. The Christmas party followed. Like last year, a large number of savory dishes were featured, everything from meat roasts to sushi to lasagna. The Christmas seminar represents different things for different people. To some, it is a social event to meet new and old friends and eat great food. To others, it is a learning experience, especially to kyu and dan students seeking new knowledge and practicing techniques on partners they would not normally meet at their dojo. For many, it is a place to test for their first or next dan level. I believe the underlying message of the Christmas seminar is a celebration of progressing from the old to the new, paying respects to the founders of our art, and acknowledging all of the wonderful people who comprise our extended aikido family.
December 19, 2016 - class 153 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi and Jiyu Waza where we tried different Ushiro Tekubitori techniques with three ukes. The various bruises on my hand and wrist were from the weekend's aikido seminar. One of my coworkers is a weightlifter and a pretty big guy. I've been telling him about the tough guys and girls in my dojo. He challenged my aikido training the other day by saying that he didn't believe in aikido and that he could kick my Sensei's ass. "First of all, you're basing your beliefs on a demonstration I gave you many months ago when I was just promoted to 5th kyu," I said. "Doesn't matter. I've trained in many different forms of martial arts. I'll bet your Sensei is some skinny little Japanese dude," he boldly proclaimed. I showed my coworker a video of Sensei in action. He stopped in his tracks. "Oh, shit, he's built like a wall! I don't want a piece of that," he exclaimed, backing out of his previous challenge.
December 20, 2016 - class 154 with Dr. John Porter - 6 students. We practiced Morotetori techniques, including Uchi Irimi Tenkan Kaitenage and Shihonage, and ended practice with Jiyu Waza with a partner. It was quite challenging moving Ken1 and the black belts in class.
December 24, 2016 - class 155 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Shihonage Omote and a series of techniques using uke's arm against him. As uke grabs your wrist in katatetori, you enter and kokyu your hand while slicing it free with the other. You then grab the top of the wrist and push his shoulder down with your free hand. Extend his arm around him. From there, you can execute a series of techniques, such as Udekeminage, Kotegaeshi, Sankyo, and more.
December 26, 2016 - classes 156 and 157 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Katatetori Nikyo Omote, Katatetori Shihonage Omote, Katatetori Shihonage to Iriminage, and all of the same techniques using a jo. We also practiced empty hand and jo Jiyu Waza. In the second class where it was just Ramla and I, we reviewed 4th Kyu techniques Shomenuchi Nikyo Omote and Ura, Yokomenuchi Shihonage Omote, and Tsuki Iriminage.
December 30, 2016 - New Year's Eve Misogi Purification Practice with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. Sensei chose Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo as the technique we would practice 108 times as both nage and uke, all for the love of aikido. We also practiced Shomenuchi sword cuts and Kokyudosa. We celebrated the New Year afterwards with sake and a toast to a prosperous 2017.
January 2, 2017 - class 158 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced various Yokomenuchi techniques (Ikkyo Ura, Shihonage Ura, Kotegaeshi) and ended with a Jiyu Waza practice. Sensei practiced Yokomenuchi Shihonage with me. A new black belt practiced with us today. I didn't stay for the second class since it was a black belt class.
January 7, 2017 - class 159 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Ryotetori Kokyunage and various Katatetori techniques. Ken1 and I practiced my 4th kyu exam techniques before Sensei. "That was a solid pre-test," Sensei said. He gave me some tips on how to improve my techniques.
January 9, 2017 - class 160 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Sankyo Ura (with Shanti), Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo Ura (with Ken2), and Yokomenuchi Shihonage Omote (with Ken1 and Barbara). We practiced Jiyu Waza with Yokomenuchi Ura techniques. I also practiced my 4th kyu test with my classmates. "You've cleaned up your techniques from last week. Lots of improvement since last week," Sensei noted. He said that it's important that I never crawl after a technique, that my spine should always remain upright. I've devised a unique at-home practice method for myself using a Halloween prop, a lifesize severed hand, that I've been practicing my Nikyo, Sankyo, and Kotegaeshi techniques on.
January 14, 2017 - class 161 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo and variations of Morotetori Iriminage. We also practiced Jiyu Waza and one hundred cuts with a bokken at the end of class. Everyone looked tired, even exhausted. We all thought class was ending, since the clock struck noon. I thought my test would come on Monday, but Sensei called me and Ken1 up. Oddly, I wasn't nervous like I thought I would be. Sensei called out each technique and I demonstrated each to the best of my ability. I dispensed with any fancy stuff this time and economized my movement to only what was necessary. I also managed to stay upright most of the time. I'm sure if I saw a video recording of my exam, I would be very critical of it. What I seemed to be able to do every step of the way was sense what I could have done to make each technique better. At the end of the test, everyone applauded. "That's the best aikido I've seen from you. You've really improved over the last few weeks," Sensei commented. I'm now a 4th kyu aikidoka! "How does it feel?" Ken1 asked me after class. "Like just another day," I replied.
January 16, 2017 - class 162 with Roderick Johnson - 3 students. We practiced ukemi with a bokken, footwork with bokken, Katamenuchi Ikkyo, Udekeminage, Iriminage, Shihonage, and Sankyo, and ended with Jiyu Waza.
January 17, 2016 - class 163 with Dr. John Porter - 5 students. We continued our practice of Katamenuchi techniques, including many arm switching movements.
January 21, 2017 - class 164 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Katatetori Ikkyo and Katatetori Kotegaeshi. Two new students joined the dojo. One of them thanked me for being patient with her while I stepped through the techniques. Strangely, I experienced this scene before when I first started and I thanked my classmates for being patient with me.
January 23, 2017 - class 165 with Roderick Johnson - 2 students. The other student in class was new, so we practiced very basic techniques, including Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Katatetori Kotegaeshi, Kosatori Kotegaeshi, and Kokyudosa.
January 24, 2017 - class 166 with Dr. John Porter - 6 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Tai No Henko with a pivot, step, followed by Sumiotoshi, Shihonage, or Kaitenage, and Tsuki (back or forward hand punch) Tai No Henko (or Irimi Tenkan Tai No Henko) with a pivot, step, followed by various techniques. We also learned Henkawaza - switching techniques - such as Nikyo to Kotegaeshi. he new student from yesterday returned today and seemed hesitant to perform certain techniques, but she did fine. "These are black belt techniques," Dr. John said, "and whether you're a black belt or a beginner, you're all treated the same in my class."
January 28, 2017 - class 167 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo, Morotetori Udekeminage, Morotetori Ikkyo, Morotetori Nikyo, and Kokyudosa. At the end of class, Sensei called Farah up to practice part of her 2nd kyu test.
January 31, 2017 - class 168 with Dr. John Porter - 4 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Kaitenage, Yokomenuchi Gokyo, Ushiro Tekubitori Shihonage and Jujinage, Morotetori Nikyo (4 variations), and Kokyudosa.
February 4, 2017 - class 169 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Kosatori Ikkyo Ura, Kosatori Nikyo Ura, and Kokyudosa. After class, we had an open mat session where we practiced breakfalls and whatever techniques came to mind. I practiced Yokomenuchi Shihonage, Ushiro Ryokatatori Kotegaeshi and Sankyo.
February 6, 2017 - class 170 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. Today I arrived late and my classmates were throwing each other in Koshinage. I wasn't ready for it as I felt great fear falling over someone. Sensei said that Koshinage is a 2nd kyu technique and not to feel bad for not getting it. We also practiced Ushiro Kubishime Sankyo, Ushiro Kubishime Ikkyo Ura, Ushiro Kubishime Iriminage, and Ushiro Kubishime Kaitenage.
February 11, 2017 - class 171 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Ushiro Tekubitori Shihonage, Ushiro Tekubitori Jujinage, and Ushiro Kubishime Koshinage. I practiced with Farah, Ed, and John. Ed sunk down more than usual to enable me to do the Koshinage ukemi. I tried three times and each time landed awkwardly. At the end of class, Sensei called Farah up to practice part of her 2nd kyu test.
February 13, 2017 - class 172 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Nikyo Ura, 1-2 Tsuki Stomach and Face Sankyo Omote, Tsuki Udekiminage, and Yokomenuchi Sumiotoshi. Ramla was surprised that I was so into my Tsuki attacks. "As O Sensei says, 'Always practice aikido in a joyful manner,'" I said. Just like how Ken2 helped me learn the techniques by talking through each one, I did the same with our new student. One technique was especially interesting to me. Was it Udekiminage? It starts off with uke doing a Tsuki to the stomach. You step to the outside to grab her sleeve, lift her arm up and step in to face her for an irimi and palm strike to the face with the other arm, move the striking arm under her armpit and lift up as you extend her arm down (one arm goes up, the other goes down like a lever), pivot 180 as you come down landing on the knee closest to uke (other knee is up, foot flat on the ground like an L shape), have her extended arm pressed against the thigh of your L-shaped leg, brace her shoulder with your knees, and apply the pin.
February 18, 2017 - class 173 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Iriminage, Shomenuchi Kaitenage Omote, Yokomenuchi Iriminage, Shomenuchi Makiotoshi, Shomenuchi Kotegaeshi Ura, and more.
February 20, 2017 - class 174 with Roderick Johnson - 11 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Ryotetori Tenchinage, Ryotetori Kokyunge, Katatetori 1-2 palm-kidney strike Sankyo Omote, and Ryotetori Sankyo to Nikyo to Kokyunage. Shingo, one of the new guys in class, was really resisting my techniques, making it very difficult for me to pin him. Consequently, I went full-on at him with my attacks. I looked for openings, such as the fact that he didn't protect his face. He had a lot of strength in his techniques, reminding me a lot of our old classmate, Tom.
February 21, 2017 - class 175 with Dr. John Porter - 7 students. We practiced Tai No Henko and a series of Ryotetori techniques, including Tenchinage, Shihonage, Iriminage, Kotegaeshi, reverse Kotegaeshi, and Makiotoshi.
February 25, 2017 - class 176 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced breakfall rolls over uke flat, rolls over uke on hands and knees, rolls over uke's wrist while standing, Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, and Shomenuchi Sankyo to Udekiminage. The Nikyo technique we practiced involved shikkoing into uke rather than remaining at a safe maai. From there, a short turning motion of the elbow gets uke's arm into the requisite pin.
February 26, 2017 - class 177 with Ed Shockley - 1 student. We practiced Shomenuchi and Tsuki attacks with a jo and bokken and then practiced three series of six techniques in progression. Less than two months ago, I watched an aikido teacher practicing weapon strikes and cuts with a student on video. I thought to myself, "Gee, I wish I could do that someday," and here I was doing it today with Ed! We also practiced a three-step approach, draw the blade and cut down for Shomenuchi on the fourth step, and a three-step reverse walk while facing the opponent.
February 27, 2017 - class 178 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Nikyo Omote, standing Katatori Nikyo Omote, Katatori Kotegaeshi Omote, Katatori Kaitenage Omote, and Kokyudosa. We also practiced breakfalls with a partner with an outstretched hand. I felt great fear doing a breakfall at a height any higher than ground level. A few days ago, I launched myself and accidentally kicked one of my classmates in the face. Somehow my last breakfall was a good one and I don't know how I did it. This happened once before last summer where I did some kind of aerial roll and Sensei pointed it out and wanted me to do it again, but I couldn't.
February 28, 2017 - class 179 with Dr. John Porter - 8 students. We practiced a series of Yokomenuchi techniques, including Uchi Irimi Tenkan Kokyunage, Kotegaeshi, and Shihonage, and Kokyudosa at the end. Shingo eased up on his power today. Tom came on full force during our practice of Iriminage. It would be interesting to see Shingo and Tom going at each other. Lots of little lessons and pointers from Ken1. What a great teacher he will be someday! I don't know what's happening with me lately. I've been experiencing momentary hesitations during techniques in my last three classes. It's like I'm thinking too much.
March 4, 2017 - class 180 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced two variations of Katatetori Kokyuho (Osawa variant), Katatetori reverse Kotegaeshi, and Katatetori Shihonage. In the stretching portion of class, we practiced rolling ukemi. We also practiced breakfalls with a partner with an outstretched hand.
March 6, 2017 - class 181 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Ikkyo to reverse Kotegaeshi, and Shomenuchi Ikkyo free elbow to the chin swing around switch hands Kotegaeshi. In the stretching portion of class, we practiced rolling ukemi.
March 10, 2017 - class 182 with Dr. John Porter - 9 students. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the start of Dr. John's aikido journey. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote and Ura Kihon Waza and Ki No Nagare, Shomenuchi Iriminage, and various techniques that led to Tsuki American punch Sankyo to Kaitenage to Kotegaeshi or Makiotoshi, and Kokyudosa. It was very cool having Sensei be a part of the class.
March 13, 2017 - class 183 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Nikyo and Shomenuchi Gokyo.
April 4, 2017 - class 184 with Dr. John Porter - 6 students. We practiced a series of Ushiro Tekubitori techniques, from Kokyunage to Makiotoshi. It felt good to be in class again. During my time away, I taught a mini aikido course in one of my yoga teacher training classes. I taught stretching exercises, redistribution of energy, the different types of strikes, aikido philosophy, Tai No Henko, and Tsuki Kotegaeshi. One of my classmates tried to use her kickboxing skills to punch me, but I stepped to her outside and grabbed her wrist for a Kotegaeshi. She tried to punch me again and I grabbed her wrist again for a Kotegaeshi. Tony let me teach a mini-aikido class. We did some basic breathing, stretching, and energy redistribution exercises followed by Tai No Henko and Tsuki Kotegaeshi. I talked about the different types of strikes, how yoga and aikido are related, and how every aikido technique is presented as a colloboratice exercise. One of my classmates wanted to try using her kickboxing skills to punch me to see how effective she would be against aikido. As she punched, I stepped to her outside and grabbed her wrist for Kotegaeshi. She tried to punch me again and I grabbed her wrist again for Kotegaeshi. Another student tried and I was able to grab her wrist as well. "The whole point of these collaborative exercises is we practice having the opponent physically grab our wrist first and as we accumulate experience we get to a point where we no longer need to be grabbed. We read the intention of the opponent by studying the face or shoulder movements," I said. I explained that aikido was based on principles, not techniques. The techniques are just used to illustrate the principles.
April 8, 2017 - class 185 with John Holt - 7 students. We practiced various Katamenuchi (grab shoulder and strike to the head) techniques. It felt easier rolling with the extra muscle around my arms. At the end of class, John called Ken1 and two shodans (Anthony and Carlton) up, so that Ken1 could practice part of his shodan exam. Ken1 showed a lot of composure in executing his techniques, especially with two very experienced ukes. "That was the best I've seen you yet," John said to Ken1. "You looked like a black belt up there!" I told Ken1 after class.
April 11, 2017 - class 186 with Dr. John Porter - 5 students. We practiced various Kosatori techniques followed by an Ushiro technique. "Ushiro basically starts off as a Katatetori technique," John advised. He showed us more of his philosophy that there is always a technique available no matter where your hand ends up being grabbed. I finished watching season 1 of Iron Fist. Compared to Marvel's other television series, Daredevil and Luke Cage, Iron Fist was a little too much drama and not enough action. I found myself skipping ahead a lot and still being able to tell what's going on, which means the drama is way too slow and predictable. When there were action scenes, they were mostly boring and staged-looking. Daredevil looks cool because he's doing aikido with BJJ. I don't know what the hell Iron Fist is doing, but his cheesy Shaolin pistol grip isn't convincing.
April 15, 2017 - class 187 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced breakfalls, Kosatori Iriminage, Kosatori Kotegaeshi, and Kosatori Kokyunage. I received my USAF 4th kyu certificate today. Sensei acknowledged all of the hard work I put into my classes, including my advanced classes. In the last couple of kids classes, I was called upon to be a Sempai (there were three Sempais in today's kids class!) since the class attendance has skyrocketed to as many as 17 students. My youngest son told me that my ex signed him up for baseball. "I hate baseball. Aikido is more important," he said.
April 17, 2017 - class 188 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Sankyo Omote, two variations of Shomenuchi Sankyo Ura (one where uke gets up and nage slashes him down), and Shomenuchi Sankyo to Makiotoshi. Sensei called Ken1 up to practice part of his shodan exam. Sensei and Ken2 were his ukes. Everyone looked exhausted afterwards. At some point, I will take some advanced classes again, but not today.
April 22, 2017 - class 189 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi and standing Kokyu throws. It was a weird day for me because I didn't seem to understand the energy movement. We moved to bokken work where we practiced stepping off the line, tenkan, and applying a technique while armed with a sword as well as on an opponent who is armed with a sword. At the end of class, Sensei called Ken1 and three senior students up so Ken1 could practice part of his shodan exam. The first part was a demonstration of various techniques. "Don't do the same technique multiple times in a row," Sensei advised. The second part was a demonstration of techniques using a bokken. Ken1 looked very composed as he executed technique after technique with accuracy and conviction. The third part was a three-person randori. Sensei advised Ken1 that Randori is about executing quick techniques rather than lengthy ones like Shihonage and Iriminage. I assisted Sensei with the children's class today by helping the older kids with bokken chopping practice and teaching the younger children the basics.
April 24, 2017 - class 190 and 191 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi, standing Ushiro Tekubitori Ikkyo Omote and Ura, Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo Omote, and Ushiro Tekubitori Kaitenage. We broke the last technique down to four parts, each ending with an atemi (elbow to the ribs, chop to the back of the arm, chop to the back of the neck, and a kick to the head). At the end of class, Sensei called Ken1 and Ken2 up so Ken1 could practice his shodan exam. The beginning was a little rocky, but Ken1 soon got into a rhythm and looked very purposeful in his movements. This was perhaps the most confident he has looked in the past couple of weeks. In the advanced class, Ramla and I practiced various breakfall techniques and applied them as ukes in Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi. We ended our practice with Kokyudosa.
April 26, 2017 - class 192 with Carlton Harris - 4 students. We practiced Tsuki to Yokomenuchi and seven movements with a jo (staff): 1) tsuki forward, 2) defense over head with hands coming together, 3) yokomen strike, 4) defense over head without moving hands, 5) yokomen strike, 6) tsuki to the rear, 7) swing around tsuki. We also practiced moving off the line with an uke attacking with a jo tsuki strike, taking control of the weapon, tenkan'ing, and flipping uke forward. When you move off the line, there is a kiai and an atemi to the ribs to get uke off-balance. You have to strike uke with intention. The moment you have uke off-balance is the moment you apply the technique. When you are uke, you have to move as if you had been struck to keep the attack looking honest. We also practiced Tsuki Iriminage (variation 1 and 2) and Tsuki Kotegaeshi. In Iriminage, as you move off the line to the outside, you deflect uke's tsuki with a 1-2 motion of your hands and 3 (down and up circular push to the lower back just above the hips) and 4 (arm hooking under the chin and moving up) to finish. The entire motion should be a fluid 1-2-3-4.
April 29, 2017 - class 193 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Shomenuchi Kaitenage, Yokomenuchi Gokyo Ura (with and without tanto), Yokomenuchi Udekiminage (two varations), and Yokomenuchi Sankyo Omote with tanto. In Kaitenage, Sensei reinforced the concept that all of our grabs or foot movement could, in fact, be strikes, such as a strike to the back of the head or a kick to the head. John Duke Sensei from Southernmost Aikikai in Florida practiced with us today. At the end of class, Sensei called Ken1 and four black belts up so Ken1 could practice his shodan exam. Sensei looked pleased with Ken1's performance.
May 1, 2017 - class 194 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Ikkyo Tai Sabaki movements, Tai No Henko, Katatetori Kokyunage static and in motion, and Katetori Kotegaeshi. I had lots of problems with the Kotegaeshi part of the practice. There were some a-ha moments, but then they seemed to disappear just as quickly. I sat and watched the black belt class. In it, the students practiced Morotetori Udekiminage (12 rolls apiece), Katatetori Iriminage, Tsuki Iriminage, Tsuki Udekiminage, and Kokyudosa. At the end of class, Sensei called Ken1 and the black belts up so Ken1 could practice his shodan exam. Ken1 demonstrated Suwari Waza techniques, Hanmi Handachi techniques, standing Yokomenuchi, Tsuki, Morotetori, and Katamenuchi 5 techniques, Tsuki Koshinage, Tanto Tori, and a mini Randori with three attackers. "Go to the outside. Line them up. Send one person into another creating space," Sensei advised. Ken1 was using a lot more quick techniques in Randori this time. After the practice, Sensei gave Ken1 some tips for improvement next time. Class continued with practice of Yokomenuchi Gokyo with a tanto.
May 2, 2017 - class 195 with Dr. John Porter - 3 students. We practiced various Katamenuchi techniques, including ones with a tenkan movement to redirect the energy of a much stronger opponent. It dawned on me that these Katamenuchi techniques, or 1-2 combinations, are part of the 1st kyu test, so, at some time between 2nd kyu and 1st kyu, these techniques are practiced to a point where the student is reasonably skilled at them. I believe that it is at 1st kyu that an aikido student can reasonably defend against many other martial arts styles. Up until 1st kyu, all techniques demonstrated on tests are single attacks. The 2nd kyu test has a taste of multiple attacks with its Randori segment, but these are still single attacks done by two different people. All of the techniques that are practiced up until the practice of combinations gives the student the ability to slip (avoid) an attacker's incoming power and then counter with a throw, similar to a slip and jab in boxing. After class, I practiced Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Shihonage Omote and Ura with Ken1.
May 6, 2017 - Aikido North Jersey 20th Anniversary Seminar - Jerry Zimmerman's dojo celebrated their 20 year anniversary with two of the greats, Yoshimitsu Yamada and Harvey Konigsberg, teaching the classes to a large group of enthusiastic students of all ages. The two Shihans taught very basic techniques, but described them in intricate detail. Konigsberg stressed the importance of body position and maintaining your center. We practiced with partners and in groups. This was my chance to practice with as many black belts as possible, so I threw myself into the fire. We moved around the room doing something as simple as Tai No Henko. When I got to my third black belt - a very strong, well-built man - I got whipped around like a ragdoll and slammed into his shoulder so hard I was lucky I hit the top of my ear and not my nose. He would've broken my nose! Just an inch lower and my ear would've been ringing. It was like hitting a brick wall and this was only practice! I quickly learned to be more alert and hold my position more firmly. We then practiced Kokyunage and then Shihonage where a black belt advised me to move both my hands in sync and in a circular motion to redirect the energy. I kind of knew what he was saying, but my body wasn't doing what my mind wanted it to yet. Yamada also taught us a Kokyunage technique that required an irimi kaiten with a big overhand throw. He walked over to the group I was in to observe. I was messing up and he stopped to show me the technique again. I tried again and rushed it which resulted in a weird arc and a look of frustration on my face. "Take your time. No rush," he said. I tried again and was successful. At the end of class, as Yamada walked along the side of the room to leave, his eyes met mine and he had a look of acknowledgement. That made my day! A special dinner followed the seminar with a nice variety of sushi and Chinese food.
May 13, 2017 - Founder's Day Seminar - Our annual Founder's Day Seminar is held every year to honor the memory of Henry Smith Shihan, founder of Aikikai of Philadelphia. Irv Faust Shihan, a good friend of Henry, visited our dojo to teach three classes to more than 20 students. We practiced Ryotetori Tenchinage Ura and a series of Ryotetori techniques of increasing difficulty including reverse Kotegaeshi and Kaitenage. We learned subtle concepts and techniques that you won't find in any book or video. Irv walked around, made corrections, and showed students how a particular technique should feel. Hidden beneath Irv's seemingly lanky frame is a man with over 40 years of martial arts knowledge in multiple disciplines. "Too strong... relax!" and "Work on being smooth!" were the two mantras of the day. "When you go to a seminar, try to take at least one thing out of your time there and work on it," Irv advised. My seven year old was very enthusiastic about meeting Irv. "I want a picture with the Samurai!" my son said. He meant Shihan. After the seminar, we had dinner at the Chinese restaurant downstairs where we enjoyed a sumptuous feast that included eight different dishes, including meats, vegetables, and fruit.
May 15, 2017 - classes 196 and 197 with Roderick Johnson - 3 students. We practiced Ryotetori Tenchinage Ura, Ryotetori reverse Kotegaeshi, and Ryotetori Kokyunage. The advanced class focused on ukemi as Ramla and I practiced various breakfalls by themselves and as the result of Shomenuchi Kaitenage and Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi. I landed awkwardly several times. Some of these falls would've made a lesser person give up, but something within me kept making me get back up again like the Energizer Bunny.
May 16, 2017 - class 198 with Ed Shockley - 5 students. We practiced bokken techniques as well as Shomenuchi, Katamenuchi, and Yokomenuchi techniques with partners as well as in Jiyu Waza. At the end of class, Ken1 presented me with a special gift, his first bokken.
May 20, 2017 - class 199 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, a stepwise breakdown of standing Shomenuchi Ura which can lead to a variety of techniques, Shomenuchi Iriminage, Shomenuchi Ikkyo to Kotegaeshi, Hanmi Handachi Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi. "As you step off the line to the outside, hands apart against the neck/shoulder and arm, sink down," Sensei said. My uke for much of the class was Ed. Ed showed me all the little things to look out for, such as making sure I can see uke, but he can't see me, and all the possibilities for where atemi can happen. After class, Sensei called up Ken1 and three black belts so Ken1 could practice his shodan test. Ken1 was asked to demonstrate bare hand techniques, tanto disarming techniques, jo techniques (disarming someone with a jo as well as using a jo to throw someone), bokken disarming techniques, and techniques in a four person Randori.
May 22, 2017 - classes 200 and 201 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Hanmi Handachi Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi, standing Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi, Ushiro Tekubitori Shihonage, and Ushiro Tekubitori Ikkyo Omote and Ura. In the advanced class, Ramla and I practiced breakfall ukemi and Yokomenuchi Iriminage. My breakfalls weren't very good today as I was afraid of landing awkwardly on my back or shoulders. Two hundred classes so far! "You two have come a long way," Sensei said to Ramla and I the other day.
May 23, 2017 - audited class 17 with Dr. John Porter - The class practiced Morotetori reverse Kotegaeshi, Morotetori Shihonage, Morotetori Makiotoshi. Shomenuchi Iriminage, Tsuki Iriminage, Yokomenuchi Sankyo, Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo, and Ushiro Tekubitori Udekeminage. It was a small class where everyone got to choose their favorite techniques to practice. I didn't practice today as my back and shoulders felt awful.
My aikido journey: classes 1-100, 101-200, 201-300, 301-400, 401-500