Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shomenuchi Ikkyo omote. Adapting to reality

Basic shomenuchi ikkyo omote
Initial hand placement
Basic Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote initial hand placement
Shomenuchi ikkyo omote is the first control technique used by Tori to defend against an overhead attack by Uke. Uke's action is the empty hand equivalent of an overhead sword cut or kiri-oroshi. In this technique Tori intercepts and redirect Uke's forwards and downwards slash upwards and backwards towards the attacker by cupping the Uke's elbow with his left hand and slicing Uke's right forearm with his own right arm. This way of applying the technique is fine if the two partners are about the same size and weight. Have you wonder how to apply ikkyo omote to a fully committed attacking partner who is one head taller, has longer limbs and weighs more than you? Imagine trying to stop or to redirect a runaway freight train coming your way.

Intercepting Uke's upper arm
A humbling lesson from a beginner
Many years ago when I first started teaching Aikido in INTi, I asked a beginner student to attack me with shomenuchi. That person was one head taller than me had long arms and legs and easily weighed 90 kg. In comparison I was a midget as my height was up to his shoulder level only and weighed 56 kg.

When I asked the big guy to attack in a
Close up of Tori's initial
hand placement
committed way he did exactly as he was told. When I tried to redirect Uke's cut in the convention way that I was taught the impact sent my two hands collapsing towards my face. If  I had not retreated two steps backwards and stiffen my spine to brace against the attack Uke's forearm would have flatten my nose and smashed my teeth. That evening I went home with a sore forearm and a sprained back, and of course a very bruised ego.
Another view of Tori's
initial hand placement

Adaptive use of the initial shomenuchi hand placement
The problem is that if the attacker is taller than you and with longer hands it is difficult to reach for his arm and forearm on the Uke's upswing hand. By the time you intercept Uke's attacking hand it is on the downswing, almost mid-way to getting hit on the face. In this position your two outstretched hands, instead of deflecting the attacking force upwards become a focus of support for Uke's downwards cut. Thus unless Uke stops or slows his attack momentary for Tori to play catch-up Uke's attacking hand can slice through Tori's weak defence to slam on your face.

After some analytical thinking and experimentation I found out that by extending both hands together to meet Uke's upper arm instead of cupping Uke's elbow with one hand and trying to reach for his forearm with the other it is possible to catch Uke on his upswing yet preserving your own center without over-extending your body and take Uke down at his most vulnerable position. Thus by a slight adaptation of the initial hand placement I could take down guys taller and heavier than me and still preserve the essence of O Sensei's teachings. I would like to share this little piece of discovery with the reader. Imagine you are Tori and Uke attacks shomenuchi with his right hand.

1. Stand on right hanmi guard. Uke is standing on left hanmi guard
2. Watch Uke's body language especially his shoulders. When Uke raise his right hand over head to cut he has to rotate his shoulder first.
3. At the slightest rotation of his right shoulder you step in, your torso as plumb as possible and your two hands extended forward forming a wedge shape, slightly bent at the elbows and in a state of relaxed extension. You may have to bend your knees slightly in order to keep a straight back while in motion.
Final takedown

5. Use your legs to move into Uke's space while he is raising his hands over his head and not bend your body forwards at the waist.
6. You must time your movement in such a way that your right and left hands make contact with his attacking upper arm at the same instant, just below his shoulder at the end of the upward swing of his right hand. Your right hand should make contact with Uke's upper arm along the edge while the left hand slightly trailing the right cup the Uke's arm lightly with the palm. At the same time you must angle your body slightly offline from Uke's line of attack.
7. As the uke steps forward with his right leg and tries to swing his right hand downwards to cut, your two extended hands will hinder uke from initiating the downwards cut at the same time breaking Uke's body structure.
8. Once Uke's boy structure is broken, you slide your right hand from uke's right upper hand downwards towards the direction of his wrist at the same time controlling Uke's arm with your left hand. By this time uke would be bending backwards due to loss of structure. You then twist Uke's hands with your right hand at Uke's wrist and your left hand at Uke's shoulder. From this point onwards you advance forward and take Uke down in the conventional manner.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Systema roll vs the Aikido roll.

Appearance can be deceptive
Outwardly the Systema roll looks different from the Aikido roll. That is only as far as the appearance goes. The principle governing
the two are essential the same though the form and shape between them may be different. Let us look at how the Systema and the Aikido practitioners do the forward rolls.

The Systema roll
The practitioner aligns his torso square with the direction that he is going to roll. He lowers his body vertically downwards to a squatting position and gather his two palms in front of his chest, similar to the movement of a swimmer at the start of the breast stroke. As he bends forward and downwards he sweeps his hand outwards in a big arch again like the shape of the end
Systema Roll
Aikido Roll
of the swimmer's breast stroke. With the right palm pressing against the floor, the left hand and palm rotating outwards to face the ceiling and his head turned towards the right side he eases his body forwards and downwards towards the floor. Using his left shoulder and the hand as a temporary support he swings his legs over his head to complete the forward roll. The path of the roll is diagonal starting with the left shoulder down the left hand across the spine as he comes out of the forward roll on the right side.

The Aikido roll
The Aikido practitioner aligns his body sideways (hanmi stance) parallel to the direction of the forward roll. He bends his body forwards from the waist at the same time gradually bends his knees. He extends his right and left hands forward at the hip level, the right hand in front and the left hand trailing slightly behind the right hand. With the right hand pointing towards the torso and the left hand pointing forwards, both palms facing the floor the two hands act as an elastic bridge in the shape of a arch. As he projects his body forwards and downwards he maintains the bridge-hand form until the time when he is about to make contact with the floor. Just before the body slam the Aikidoka swings his right hand forwards and downwards to touch the floor ahead of the rest of the body. The right hand acts as feelers and sensors to guide the roll along the right shoulder down the right hand, cross the spine to the left side of his body. To soften the impact of the body hitting the floor he slams his left hand on the floor as he rolls out on his left side. Similar to the Systema practitioner, the path of the roll is diagonal starting with the right shoulder, down the right hand across the spine he comes out of the forward roll on the left side.

The shared rolling principle
In Systema rolling the path of the roll is diagonal starting from the shoulder on one side of the body down the same side hand, then across the spine on the torso and exit on the opposite side of the body. The Aikido practitioner also executes the forward roll along a diagonal pathway crossing from one side of the body to the opposite side.

What is different between the two are the forms. The Systema practitioner approaches the roll with his torso square with the direction of the roll. He initiates the forward roll by lowering his body vertically by bending his knees, then as his shoulder make contact with the floor he gradually eases his hips and legs over his head.

The Aikido practitioner likes to stand sideways parallel to the direction of the roll. He initiates the roll by lowering his knees slightly and bends his body forward and downwards at the waist. The as he goes air-born with his body he projects his entire body forward and downwards.

Essentially the Systema practitioner executes his roll by first "sitting down" and then dips his upper body forwards to exit from the roll. The Aikidoka's roll is more of a rotational movement in the vertical plane starting from the standup position without a interim movement such as "sitting down" of Systema.

My take on the two ways of rolling
Personally I prefer the Systema roll more than the Aikido roll. I find that the Systema roll tends to be softer and easier on the body as the interim vertical "sitting down" movement resolves about 80% of the impact before the body makes contact with the floor. Thus by the time you hit the floor you only need to take care of the last 20% impact force. On the other hand as the Aikido roll is essentially a rotation in the vertical plane without any interim movement you have to resolve 100% of the impact force by means of dynamic body rotation. Sometimes the overturning force is so great that body rotation is not enough to resolve the impact and that you have to slap the floor forcefully with your hands to dampen the impact of the body slam and also to check the body from spinning out of control.

Rolling on a hard surface
In my opinion if you practice in a dojo that has mats there is little difference in how you want to roll as the mats are an additional mechanism beside your own ukemi skills for damping the impact force. On the other hand if you practice on a hard concrete floor without the protection of mats the Systema style of rolling is kinder to the body than the typical Aikido roll. Likewise if you have to take a breakfall any where outside the safety and comfort zone of the dojo eg on concrete, timber, tarmac, earth, sand, rock, etc it is safer and less damaging to your health and body to roll in the Systema style.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Principles vs Techniques

Stepping aside
Imagine somebody angrily swinging an iron pipe full speed at your head. What would you do? That depends on what kind of martial art that you have been taught. If you are a student of the traditional technique-based striking style martial art through repeated conditioning you would probably block the attack with your hand and counter-attack with the other hand or legs. This type of learned reaction will probably get you killed. The sensible thing to do is to step aside, not much but enough to let the weapon graze you, and counter attack with whatever is appropriate at the point in time. By not learning techniques and relying on your natural survival instinct your mind is free to invent it’s next move on the fly, because your brain has learned body mechanics through training, not martial forms cast in stone.

Relaxation response in a fight will enable you to take and survive hard blows. For example drunk drivers seldom get killed in the accidents they cause, because due to being drunk they are loose and relaxed. Even under extreme combat stress a free-style martial artist knows how to relax different parts of the body independently from each other and to use selective tension and relaxation to confuse or hurt an attacker. Contrast this with technique-centric martial art styles that condition the practitioner to tense his body by holding the breath as he meets the attack forcefully head on during sparring.

Redirecting the knife
Natural and relaxed movements based on reflexive response
Natural and relaxed movements that are circular and curved will keep you out of harms way in an assualt situation better than the linear movements of the form based martial arts styles. Natural movements by their nature are not static but ever changing and dynamic evolving and responding to threats in the moment and each moment is different from the previous. Let's look at how a forms based martial art practitioner would react when a fist flies at his face. The natural reflex is to bend backwards while raising his hands to block the attack, leaving his feet right where they were. The problem whith this approach is that you're still in the line of attack, and a slight push will make you topple over, not to mention that you could trip on something behind you. Once you can reasonably move in a relaxed manner, a flurry of opportunities "magically" appear for you to take advantage of. Your brain, free of unreasonable fear, has learned to recognize those opportunities and make your body move as to steal your opponent’s movement and make it yours, to his demise.

Knife evasion
Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth naturally and freely is essential to absorb blows, combat stress and also inflict damage to your attacker in a fight. Everyone breathes, we have been since the day of our birth. Breathing naturally and freely might sound simple enough yet in some traditional martial art tournaments that I see the practitioners tend to hold their breath at some point in time or restrict their breaths in response to combat stress and tension. Our strength comes not only from the food that we eat but also oxygen in the atmosphere. Forget to breathe for a few seconds, due to oxygen depletion in your lungs and you will run into a world of trouble fifteen or twenty seconds later, even after resuming it. For not breathing and regulating the oxygen intake some competitors even find 2-minute full contact rounds too exhausting to continue beyond.

Mass attack
Good posture
You require a good posture in order to move around freely, naturally and in a relaxed manner. Good posture does not imply a myriad of complicated body forms that mimic certain animal postures that you see in some traditional martial art styles. Simply stated, good posture should be as simple and practical as keeping your back straight as much as possible all the time. If you need to go down, bend your knees, not your back. If you need to move forward, backward, sideways or turning move your legs but always keeping your back plumb.

Trapping the leg
Stepping aside, relaxation, movement, breathing and good posture are not specific techniques but general martial principles derived from your natural and instinctive response that will ensure your survival in a confrontation. By not forcing learned techniques to deal with ever changing modes of attack and relying on the 5 principles you will gain the freedom to use all parts of your body (shoulder, knee, leg, forearm, head, finger, elbow, etc) to strike. For example with freedom from the limitations of conforming to techniques your blows will tend to be loose and heavy, like hitting with a sledge hammer on a string. Your response to attacks will not only be multi-dimensional but also multi-directional, and used to maximum effect to negate your attack's form and balance.

Take down
Traditional budo training still relevant
This is not to deny that the traditional technique based martial arts training in the dojo that you receive from your sensei has no role to play. Training in the traditional styles in the dojo can be used as a basis for developing strong martial fundamentals eg posture, centering, grounding, concentration, power, speed, combat distance, agility, discipline, different types of attack and defence forms, weapons, break falls, etc mastery of all of these fundamental skills will surely enhance your attack and defence capability in the development of formless martial art. For many people it is difficult to learn any thing without some sort of structure and free fighting has no structure. Thus practicing traditional technique style martial art with its focus on rigid structures can be seen as a necessary prerequisite, a sort of DNA for further progress to the next level of no form martial development.

Head lock
Be realistic
Just be aware that in case when you are forced to resolve a showdown outside the comfort zone of the dojo environment eg in the streets, you may have to adapt the basic skills and fundamentals that you learn in the dojo to survive the attack as the technique-based and structured traditional style martial art training that you receive may not get you out of serious trouble.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

National Kyu Grading of 13/12/09 Review

Sun 13/12/09 MAA HQ Dojo

10.00am. Dojo already packed full of people apart from the 50 candidates. There were a couple of visitors, family members and spouses of the candidates and some parents accompanied their children to the dojo.

Grading in progress
Looking at the grading list all the kyu applications from 5th kyu to 1st kyu were represented. The biggest group was from the 5th kyu candidates numbering about 20 people. MMU Melaka candidates constituted the bulk of the candidates from the 5th kyu group. From my group only IH from Semenyih Dojo was entered for the 5th kyu test.

Low Sensei asked me to conduct the 5th kyu tests while waiting for Dr Leong Sensei and Tony Sensei to come by. About mid-way through the grading Dr Leong Sensei walked into the dojo followed by Tony sensei a little later.

By the time the 1st kyu test concluded it was already half past one in the afternoon. After the grading review by Low Sensei all of us bowed out and the students then started to leave the premises in batches.

All the candidates did well under their respective categories except the 3rd kyu and the 1st kyu groups. But after close consultations among the 4 senseis a unanimous decision was taken to pass them with the condition that they would have to attend corrective classes to be conducted by the senseis in their home dojos.

While the students were busy walking down the staircase the 4 senseis were busy huddled inside the cage to conduct the last business of the day: NTTC meeting and planning for next year's MAA activities.A lot of time I think MAA matters are similar to house keeping work. Ask any full time homemaker and he/she will tell you that house keeping work is an endless task and never get done. Fortunately the 4 senseis were able plan next year's seminars and wrap up the last business of the day within 15 minutes.

After collecting the kyu certificates on behalf of INTi for the previous grading from Low Sensei I too made my departure from the dojo.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the successful candidates who had passed their tests.

After all is said and done I just wonder if anybody noticed a large group of about 20 youngsters who were from another state outside the Klang Valley attending the grading.

This particular group of outstation candidates showed their true mettle, fighting spirit and commitment to the art and their sensei by traveling all the way from Melaka to grade. This group comprised of students from MMU Melaka and they told me that in order to make the trip to KL they had to get up at 5am in their campus to catch the 6am bus in Melaka. On arrival in KL they had to transit by other buses and LRT to get to the dojo. After the grading they had to make the long and tiring return trip back to their Melaka campus by the reverse process. Congratulation to this group. All their efforts are not in vain as all of them had passed their tests in their respective categories.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Similarities between Karate and Aikido?

On the surface Karate and Aikido look like two contrasting styles at the opposite ends of the spectrum. However on closer examination my personal observation is that the processes by which Karate and Aikido practitioners evolve in their respective styles are remarkably similar.

Karateka on-guard stance
The Karate beginner executes a basic punch with solely muscular strength. As the Karateka tightens his muscles all the way the muscle contracts and work against each other. After training for some time he learns to relax through the punch and tense only at the end. At the next level, he does not even tense at the end of the punch, but aligns and connects his body as the technique is completed. The final level finds the student executing the technique totally relaxed physically, yet connected to his body all the way through the technique and possessing great internal spirit.

Aikidoka on-guard stance
This process of evolution is similar in Aikido development. The majority of Aikido techniques can be represented by geometrical shapes of a square, triangle or circle. In the begining the Aikido trainee performs his techniques based on the square concept. A square is a stable and strong shape. Lacking in movement,it is completely grounded and it plays mainly from physical strength.

After a period of sustained practice, he  will graduate to the triangle. A triangle can be seen as having two angles at the bottom and one at the point, the two lower angles can be imagined as a stable platform and the angle at the point as the atemi. It can be compared to entering techniques (irimi) giving the impression of direct movement. At this stage the Aikidoka has learned to soften and relax his movements somewhat from his previous square development stage.

At the next level all the techniques assume the circle concept, where the circle evolves to a spontaneously flowing, and continuous spiral. Circles are not stable but as they are constantly moving they never fall (can a ball be made to fall over?). If all the possible circular and semicircular movements around the centre of an Aikidoka are combined into one image, the result is a dynamic sphere whereby the mental attitude of the Aikidoka is centralized and the energy required to carry out a technique is extended outward from the centre.

Advanced level of Karate and Aikido
So, while the first few years of Karate and Aikido are interpreted differently, the evolution of the techniques is quite similar. The end result is that each style graduates from a more structured, hard and rigid state to a more relaxed, dynamic, efficient and economic state. When both styles execute their movements in a relaxed, dynamic and efficient state at the advanced level perhaps the one aspect that differentiates between the two is that the Karateka's movements tend to be linear while the Aikidoka's is more circular

Payment of fees for kyu grading.... have become so forgetful...

Paying the grading fees on behalf of the students can be a chore. Maybank would not accept online payment via Maybank2u because the MAA account is a business current account that has more than one signatory.

Forgetful person
Maybank2U only allows current account transaction if the current account belongs to an individual. There is no such restriction in Public Bank online. Don't understand what is the logic behind such a practice. So each time when I want to deposit money to MAA I have to do it in person over the counter in the bank, usually during lunch time. Luckily for me there is a Maybank branch within walking distance from my office.

Forgotten something?
Today after lunch I had thought about going to the bank to pay in the grading fees in cash  the counter. As usual I searched my Nokia handset for the stored MAA account number. To my surprise I couldn't locate the account number. Puzzled I tried to recall where the account number is stored in the hand set. After a while I realised that since the day I changed my hand phone to the current model I had not remembered to save the MAA account in the phone. ....Oh dear! ...How forgetful I have become of late....

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Body Language of Fear and Tension

It is said that the bodily manifestations are the mirror of our deepest and innermost state of mind and mental wellbeing. If you are fearful of being injured then your body will act in ways to reflect that fear. You may be able to willfully mask and hide your true state of mind behind an inscrutable facade when you are still conscious of your mental faculty but once that is lost your body language will reveal to the observer your true mental, spiritual and emotional state of mind.

The flinch response of a fearful practitioner being projected air-bond into the air is typified by recognizable natural body reactions such as shutting his eyes tightly, squeezing his facial features by grimacing, holding his breath, flapping limbs wildly in an uncoordinated fashion, awkward pose due to stiffening his body, etc.

To avoid unnecessary injury during training it is important that the trainee should be relaxed at all times. This can be achieved by synchronising his breathing with his body actions. Instead of holding the breath the trainee should learn to breathe naturally and freely. Breathing naturally and freely means to inhale and exhale at the rate that is in harmony with his bodily actions. Inhaling represents tension and exhalation represents relaxation. Thus just before the body slam the uke should have completed his exhalation and by which time his body will have released the stored tension and soften sufficiently to receive the impact without suffering bodily distress.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Teaching the beginner knife evasion drills

For the beginner trainee confronting a knife attack can be a scary experience, even it is a drill, the attacker is wielding a dummy knife, and the attacks are executed in a slow walking pace.

In last night's SySSDA training the students were given fruit peelers as knives for the knife evasion drills. The fruit peeler does resemble a knife, only that the blade edges are blunt. Even then it can be quite intimidating to the beginner.

WL, who joined the class last night was extremely nervous when handling the dummy knife whether playing the role of the attacker or defender. It took some coaxing to persuade him to join in the knife evasion drill. Instead of moving away from the knife calmly WL was jumping excitedly off the line of attack. When playing the attacker's role he had no concept of how to strike. Instead of lunging forward with the dummy knife he stood in his place and just pointed the knife in the direction of his partner.On the other hand his partner IH who have been practicing with me for about 3 months seemed to be an old hand and at ease with the drill.

This type of response is the norm for people who has little or no martial art background in particular weapons work. They have no concept of how to move in attack and defence. Most often they don't know how to move but just wave their hands standing in a fixed position.

WL had told me on the phone that one day he had to meekly hand over his car to a group of parang wielding threatening his life. As a result of the unpleasant experience he decided to sign up hoping to learn some reality-based self defence application. That was why I decided to do a knife evasion drill involving two guys attacking one to find out his response. At the end of the Aikido and SySSDA training he seemed genuinely pleased with the experience. Well, I will have to wait until next Fri to find out for sure if he wants to commit to the training.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sore calfs

The calf muscles are still sore today, though not as much as yesterday. The pain worsen the next day after the traditional massage treatment in Hulu Langat on Friday.

The long hours of walking at KLCC yesterday must have contributed to the delay in the healing process.
sore tendons in the calf

I felt my left calf muscles pulling during the 3rd National Aikido seminar in Melaka about 3 weeks ago. At first the pain was felt around the left calf region only. Then a few days later it spread to my left toes causing stiffness and soreness in the leg. A week after the seminar the pain spread to the right leg.

After receiving massage treatment in Hulu Langat two weeks ago the soreness receded some what. Then after the hike up the sleep trails of Broga Hill last Friday and the long walk about at KLCC on Sunday, the discomfort got worse.

The last class I had to wear a knee guard to relief some pressure on the left calf especially when sitting down in seiza. I am hoping that I should be able to lead the class this Friday without too much discomfort. Anyway I'll keep my knee guard on standby mode in case I need it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Preparing for 5th kyu grading

Fri 20/11/09 Semenyih Dojo

There are only 7 techniques to do in the 5th kyu grading. After about two months of consistent training the serious student should be able to pass his exam with ease. In the two hour session tonight I went through 6 of the 7 techniques with Ilham. The 1 remaining technique that I couldn't do with him was Sanin Gake Shomen Uchi Iriminage, multiple attack using shomenuchi attack and iriminage defence. This was because Ilham was the ony student training tonight.

Tonight I taught Ilham one more additional technique that I have been quite reluctant to teach in the dojo. The technique is suwari waza ryote tori kokyu ho. Why so reluctant to teach this particular technique to the students?  The reason is that this particular technique requires moving on your knees and because we train on the hard concrete floor without the benefit of mats the body weight bearing on knees and rubbing on the hard surface can damage the knee cap in the long term. I am also not certain if the adult students can accept this type of training stress on their knees.

I was also quite worried if I could walk on my knees as I had sprained my left knee and still experiencing some pain whenever I flex my leg. However the knee guard that I wore tonight provided enough support to enable me to move without too much discomfort.

As I watched his movements I was confident that with two more sessions he should able to acquire enough skills and confidence to pass the 5th kyu test.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Knee woe

8.00pm. Aikido class. Semenyih Dojo.

As I was sitting down in seiza on the hard floor to start the class I felt a sharp pain at the back of the left knee. From the back of the left knee the pain radiated upwards to the caft and tight till it disappeared at the buttocks region. Trying to distribute the weight equally between the two legs didn't bring any relief. Finally transferring most of my body weight to the right leg gave some relief. I wondered if the student noticed that I was sitting not upright but slighting tilting towards the right.

The first time I experienced some pain in the left knee was one week ago during the Aikido seminar in Melaka. As the pain was not bothering me I dismissed it as sore muscles due to sitting in zeiza for too long. Then the next morning I felt the pain shooting up the left tight and the leg becoming a bit stiff. The Hulu Langat traditional Chinese medicine massage therapist whom I consulted said it was muscle sprain and after more than one hour of massage I experienced tremendous relief, as if some weight had been removed from the tired leg. The therapist said that I would have to return for more massage treatments in order to heal the injury completely.

In retrospect I am not sure how the pain came about. I don't recall ever hitting my knee cap on the floor due to a bad fall. Maybe as I am getting on in years, the muscle-skeletal and the nervous system are starting to degenerate as well. Well, I will have to find another way of sitting in seiza until the left knee recovers.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Danger of slapping forcefully on the mat

At the 3rd National Aikido Seminar in Melaka 7/11/09 and 8/11/09

I noticed many students habitually slapped with great gusto on the mat without regard to the health of their limbs. It is as if banging forcefully on the mat is the only acceptable way of taking ukemi. If the floor had been concrete instead of tatami mat slapping forcefully on the hard and unyielding surface will surely damage the limbs in the long term. Even one sensei opined  that  by banging hard and loud on the floor it would impress the public with the power of Aikido while falling and rolling softly and quietly would make Aikido appear as dull and uninspiring.

In Semenyih dojo where the trainees practice on a hard concrete surface with no mats, such reckless floor slapping antics are actively discouraged. Instead the trainees are taught how to relax and soften their bodies so as to resolve the impact of bodies crashing on the floor. In addition the trainees are also taught how to exhale just before hitting the fall. In my experience slapping is probably safe if you are in the prime of  your youth but as you grow older continuous slapping the floor can lead to bone and tissue damage.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Featuring in FaceBook

Am considering publicising the Semenyih Dojo by creating a Aikido group in FaceBook. What should I call this group? I have just created the group with the name of SAG. SAG stands for  Semenyih Aikido Group.

The danger of slapping the floor

At the 3rd National Aikido Seminar, Melaka, 7/11/09 and 8/11/09

I noticed many students habitually slapped the mat with great gusto when performing their breakfalls. This kind of practice will lead to broken bones if performed on a hard surface. One sensei even commented that slow, soft and quiet rolls would make Aikido appeared as unworthy of sturdy.

In the Semenyih Dojo where the students and their instructor practice on the hard tiled concrete floor, such reckless practices are actively discouraged. Instead students are taught how to breath, soften and relax their bodies whencrashing on the floor.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Girls can box

Wed 30/9/09. INTi Dojo

I, the new girl who signed up for Aikido  last week joined the SySSDA class. She is about 165 cm tall with a fair complexion and wears her hair shot. About 55 kg she is of regular built in relation to her weight but certainly looks heavier than J1 and J2 the two senior girls in the club. 

For a long time all the girls who have ever join the club for Aikido and SySSDA training were rather girlish, soft and weak due to their Asian culture, upbringing and famine nature and I thought this one was no exception. I soon found out that sometimes you can't judge a book by its cover.

I was quite amazed by her strength and precision when I asked her to deliver a punch to my body in the strike receiving exercise. Although not hurting I could feel the intent, concentration and power of her punch that even exceeded some of the striking ability of the guys.

Normally the typically beginner would try to hold back his strike for fear of injuring his partner or the teacher, This applies to both the guys and the girls and I would have to remind them over and over again to hit harder to no avail. However when I asked her to strike with realistic force this girl literally took my word to heart. Without hesitation and forethought, not even a flinch, she spontaneously fired one power shot after another at my body repeatedly. Wow! I was impressed. It has been a long time since I received power shots from the students. Always inevitably I sense the intent of the students momentarily holding back the strike during impact with its target due to fear of hurting their partners.

"Have you practiced any martial art before you joined the Aikido club?" I asked  rather amused after the strike receiving drill had ended. "Yes. I practiced taekwondo until I attained yellow belt rank." she answered with a nod. "Not bad, even for a yellow belt in TKD." I thought to myself.

"Hey guys. All of you should train with this lady!", turning around to face the rest of the class I proclaimed with a knowing mile in my face.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

National Kyu Grading on 27/09/09

Sunday 07/09/09 MAA HQ Dojo

More than 50 candidates from various dojo affiliates reported for grading from 5th kyu to 1st kyu. The majority of the candidates were taking their 5th kyu tests. Candidates from all the university dojos namely MMU Melaka, MMU Cyber, IMU and INTi were represented. From INTi Dojo I entered 4 students for the tests, two for 5th kyu and two for 3rd kyu.

As were past practices I conducted the 5th and 4th kyu tests while Tony Sensei and Low Sensei handled the 3rd , 2nd and 1st kyu grading. Due to the large number of candidates the whole grading exercise lasted about 4 hours. We started at 10am and by skipping lunch managed to wrap it up at 2pm.

I was very happy that all the 4 INTi students passed the tests in their respective class. The two 5th kyus were performing up to expectation in their 5th kyu exam. However for the 3rd kyus there were a few anxious moments. M appeared to have forgotten to do the ura version of some of the techniques and momentary lost his concentration during the grading. This was probably due to the fact that he was unnerved by Tony Sensei for the way he called out the techniques in an erratic manner. Finally all ended well as the committee  decided to pass all the 3rd kyu candidates, including the two from INTi.

For the past two weeks, I had been training the INTi students up to 3 times a week to prepare them for the grading. From the begining of the month even the Wed SySSDA training was temporarily suspended in favour of intensive Aikido training. It would be a real let down for me as well as the students if after all the effort some could not make the grade.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fri 28 2009. La Pelangi Semenyih Dojo

Was pleasantly surprised that one guy had already shown up in the center by the time I  stepped into the hall. The guy is a Chinese youth by the name of Y. He was the one who asked me by phone on Mon about Aikido training in Semenyih. After answering his call I thought nothing of it, half expecting to be just another of the so many unproductive calls that I regularly receive. Anyway I followed up by sending a sms  reminder on Tue and Fri morning, not treally believing that it would matter at all.

Another surprised. The young man signed up for the premium package of RM90.00. After all necessary paper work I started the class with the usual warm up.

About 15 minutes into the training, I came. I immediately asked him to join the training as I didn't want to interrupt the class with paper work.

The two guys seemed to take the training with relative ease even though we were rolling and falling on the hard floor. Of the two Y is a complete beginner in martial art while I revealed his previous martial art background in the way he moved and deliver his strikes. I paid for the dogi and also signed up for the regular package.

After the class ended at 9.30pm we hung around the place for a further 1/2 hours for some chatting. I was particular talkative, asking me many questions while Y just observed the conversation in silent.

Time flew and before I realised it dear wife was already buzzing me on my hand phone. As expected when I stepped into the house after returning from the dojo dear wife was already complaining loudly about my late home coming.

As I was half expecting standing in front of an empty gallery I was happy with just two persons signing up and paying the mat fees. It is a good start and I hope these two will bring in their friends to practice Aikido at the centre. After Ramadan I expect the student enrollment to pick up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teaching one student

Fri 8/21/09. La Pelangi Sports and Recreation Centre, Semenyih. The inaugural Aikido class at the centre.

I turned up at the Centre at 7.30pm to wait for the first student to show up. By 8pm there was no sign of anyone coming and a thunder storm was in the process of forming. I exchanged
small talks with the manager to pass time while waiting for the first student to report for training.

8.15pm. the few remaining swimmers was getting ready to leave. Blinding rain accompanied by lightning strikes had descended on the Centre. The manager, getting bored and restless had already retreated into his office. I guessed he already knew that he would not be issuing any receipts for Aikido training tonight. Alone, I was wondering whether I too should pack up for the night.

Just as I was getting ready to leave a SUV with a family of 4 people pulled up the curb side. The driver wa
s the Malay university lecturer M whom I was expecting. Accompanied him was his wife and two kids. After the usual greetings we sat around the table and started to chat.

I could see from M's demeanor and body language that he was not yet ready to commit on the training and so I decided to put away the application form and attendance register.

Before I realized it we had already chatted about Aikido for more than 1 hour. He was throwing all kinds of questions at me. How long it takes the trainee to achieve shodan, why are the fees so cheap in comparison with what others are charging whether once a week training is enough, whether it is possible to extend the training time beyond 11/2 hours allocated, the grading frequency and where it is conducted, why are so few Malays taking up Aikido, my take on religious sensities with regard to bowing in the dojo, whether Aikido is effective in street attack situations, why teach self- defence applications seperately from Aikido training, etc, etc were some of the questions that he fired in my direction. I sensed that asking questions was M's way of sizing up the worth of his potential Aikido teacher. I answered all his questions promptly and as honestly and sincerely as I could. I was not sure if all the answers to his queries made sense to him.

"Sensei do you mind coming to the Centre to teach even if there is only one student?", M's last question as we were about to bid goodbye to each other. "Yes, I am pleased to teach anyone , even if only one student comes to class." I reassured him without any hesitation.

From time to time I am often confronted with the stark reality of facing an empty gallery where not a single soul shows up for practice. After so many years teaching the art you learn to deal with this sort of depressing experience with a shrug of the shoulders and a smile in the face.

In my mind it is not the matter of the teacher teaching the art to only one student but more importantly whether the one student is willing to learn from the one teacher. Perhaps I should be the one to ask " M san if you are the only one student in the class do you mind learning the art from the one teacher in the class all the time?" Naturally I kept my counsel.

Waving goodbye as he fired up his car engine he said that he would start his first class next Fri 8/28/09. Well I shall soon find out the outcome in one week's time.