When is a retreat not a retreat?

After last weeks blog post I received some good feedback from online martial arts acquaintances – get your head down, train like you mean it, concentrate on doing your best and giving your best.  All this advice helpfully detail in this blog post by Ando Mierzwa : http://www.senseiando.com/perfect-sparring-partner/   Cue me going along to training with a very different attitude.  (Sometimes we need the metaphorical boot up the backside.)  And guess what?  Instead of coming away from training feeling like a failure I came away knowing I had gained something, that I had improved and that I knew exactly what to work on away from class.  So thank you everyone who commented on that blog post.

There is one thing I want to share, and which will also help jog my memory in the future, and this relates to a paired sword work exercise.  The aim is to help hone your foot work, striking technique and maintaining good distance from your partner.  It goes like this.

  1. Tori attacks – shomen (straight sword cut).
  2. Uki counters by side stepping and bringing their sword onto tori’s.
  3. This is then repeated with tori effectively chasing uki across the dojo.  At the end of the dojo you switch rolls and former tori is now chased up the dojo with the attacks.

All well and good.  Except when I was dong the counter we were making it across the dojo in about five attacks, but when I was attacking it was a good eight to ten before we reached.  I know I have small legs, but my stride isn’t that tidy.  What was going on?  Our instructor watched and then pointed this out.

“If you retreat a lot, he’s going to move in to close the distance.  If you stay put then he can’t move in because he can’t attack close up.  So he is adjusting to what you do.”

light-bulb

Well that’s like jitsu!  You can’t swing a punch if you are hugged up close to someone.  (And similarly you can’t make contact if you are more than an arms length away from them.)  So with my iaido by not retreating I was taking control of that attack.  In fact, I could even turn my counters to the attack into a form of attack by stepping in more.  Because if tori wants to attack he is now going to have to make room to swing that sword.

So in response to last weeks question about being scary enough, the answer to seems to be take the imitative and train hard.

 

 

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Posted in General observations, Other Blogs, Training | Tagged , , , ,

When can I be scary?

Two new people joined our iaido school last month, which means I am no longer the very bottom of the class. Which also means when we line up at the start and end of the class I need to be a little more on the ball because the guy to my left is looking at me for what to do.

The style of iaido our school practises is Musō Jikiden Eishin-ryū but on the last Monday of every month we train in Niten Ichi-ryu.  So far I have had six lessons (totalling 12 hours) formal teaching of Niten and as I type that out I realise that that’s the equivalent of my first week training in jiu jitsu.  Arguably I have had longer time outside of class to absorb the Niten lessons and get some practise in.

Some quick background information on Niten.  It is practised as a series of katas with a partner where one person is attacking (uchidachi), the other person responds to the attack (shidachi).  Like much iaido there is a certain level of mind games involved – using body posture, the way you look at your partner (not romantically!) and the intent you express.

  1. Shidachi has to encourage uchidachi to attack in a certain way.
  2. Uchidachi attacks and shidachi defends.
  3. Once shidachi has executed their defence they move in for their attack.

 

When you train you  are adjusting to the other persons stance and weapon reach accordingly.  But like any paired kata it works best when intent is put into it.  When our sensei pairs with me I don’t have to think, “oh this is the point where I step back,” I automatically flinch back because of the intent he’s projecting.  And yes, we train with wooden swords but I still have no desire to be clonked on the head with that sword by someone who looks like they are prepared to kill me with it.

It’s the intent I seem to be having the issue with.  My training partner was left trembling with giggles rather than fear when I went for my attacks.  OK, the physical technique needs working on (a lot) but arguably if I’m projecting that desire to cleave him in two then having my weapon at the wrong angle is a minor point.  But it seems I just don’t want to do that enough, as was pointed out to me by both my teachers and training partner.

My first thought was, “eeek, I’m too much in the mentality of defensive martial arts.”  Yet I recall a gauntlet run I did in jiu jitsu where no-one in the line would attack me because I looked too scary.  The sensei had to call a halt and tell people that someone had to punch or kick me in order for me to demonstrate a technique.

Didn’t even get as far as blocking an attack on that gauntlet run.

 So where’s the difference?  What did I have the day of that jitsu gauntlet run that I lacked so much of Monday’s Niten session?  Here’s a few thoughts:

  • Confidence.  If I feel I know something then you project that conviction without even thinking about.
  • Knowing the people you train with.  The longer you train with people the more you know how well they react, which then feeds back into the confidence point.  I don’t actually like knocking my training partners out (partly because it’s messy to clean them off the mat and partly because I loose training partners fast) so I tend to be cautious with those I don’t know no matter their grade.
  • Time training.  Nothing more to be said here.

 

Better go and pick up my sword and keep practising then.

 

Cover image from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8C6uAd0FCI 

 

 

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When nothing stops you

I have a neighbour, let’s call him Alun, who loves road cycling.  He rarely takes part in any competitive cycling but everyday he is out on his bike cycling the roads of the UK.  And I mean every single day.  No matter the weather.  In fact Alun loves cycling so much he recently cycled across the UK, caught the ferry to France and then cycled some more in France in order to start a European cycling holiday,  When the holiday was complete Alun cycled back to his home in the UK.  His friends thought him bonkers but part of me understands why he chose to do that.

I remember the love I felt for ju-jitsu from day one and how nothing would stop me attending as many training sessions as I could.  Other commitments were made low priority, work and social life revolved getting to the dojo on time.  Even with my current back injury I have to forcibly remind myself that I must not train until the back is better.  Short term training loss vs. long-term health gain.

This week I found I had developed a passion for my Japanese sword art (Eishen-ryu).  What had started as something to fill in the gap while my back issues prevent me from training in jitsu has now started to fill my thoughts.  Each day I find myself thinking about the katas, practising my stances and/or practising how I hold the weapon.  I want to do better.  I want to keep training.  Roll on the next teaching session!.

Studies into attitudes regarding exercise show that most people understand exercise is important for their health, but conversely they know they don’t do enough of it.  Reasons given for lack of exercise include the following.

  • Time constraints.
  • Health issues
  • Poor location.
  • Lack of knowledge.
  • No one to train with.

Let’s have a look at these reasons.

  1. If you have enough time to stare at the TV for an hour each day then you have enough time to go out and do exercise at least once a week.
  2. Don’t think that because you have health issue or disability that this precludes you from exercise.  Many things are adaptable be it team or solo sports.  Try something, ask the instructor, research on the internet to see what others have done(*).  Maybe you can’t be the rugby halfback but chances are there is something more suited.
  3. Miles from any sports facilities without any transport?  Walk, jog, follow YouTube videos on yoga, Pilates or hula-hooping.
  4. Try not to be put off going to a gym or a sports for the first time, everyone in there was new at some point. Tell people you are new and you will be surprised how friendly they are.  People who have a passion for their exercise want to share the love!
  5. Don’t be frightened to try other activities if the one you are doing feels a drag.  Just because aqua-aerobics was not for you then it doesn’t mean you will not enjoy water-polo or just swimming 20 lengths of the pool each week.

I honestly feel that if you find a sport or form of exercise that you love and feel the same passion for that Alun and I do for our then exercise happens not because you feel it’s good for your health but because you genuinely enjoy what you do and want to do it better.  Go and try something today because until you do you wont know how fun you find it.

(*) Check out this blog.  The Karate Kickin’ Dwarf.

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Sitting on the side of the mats

A fellow blogger has discovered that sitting on the side of the mats watching other people practice is a good use of time.

What Do You See?

Posted in Other Blogs

Cross-dressing in kenjutsu

Alternative title: the problem with wearing martial arts clothes designed for men when you are a woman.

A consequence of my persistent back injury has been a pause in my jiu-jitsu training, a slow down in my aikido training, and the start of training in Japanese swordwork (kenjutsu and iaido).  While I have been carefully managing to dodge my hakama wearing in aikido (hakama being those big baggy trousers some martial arts wear) it has become rapidly apparent that I can’t really get away with this for the kenjutsu.  Why?  The art of drawing the sword partly depends on all those bits of string that go around the waist region – obi and hakama ties.

hoshina_sensei

Image from http://www.iaido-koeln.de/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/hoshina_sensei.jpg

So I gritted my teeth, donned the dammed hakama and within an hour was reminded why I don’t like wearing them.  They are designed to be worn by men and women have a different shaped body.

Now I fully understand that historically martial arts were the provenance of men.  I also understand that the martial arts I am studying originate from Japan and an oriential body shape can differ considerably from a western body.  For those that haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ of wearing hakama let me just run down how to wear them.

  1. Tie your obi (belt) around you.
  2. Put the hakama on.
  3. Bring the front set of strings around you twice and tie at the back.
  4. Bring the back set of strings around you and tie at the front.
  5. At each stage the ties need to be tight to prevent them becoming loose.

 

If I wear the hakama in the correct position, just above the hips, I can draw the sword correctly.  BUT because my body shape thins above that to my waist then the obi and hakama rise up, become loose and then come undone.  Cue the entire class pausing while I tie up all the bits of string again.  This is not a problem most men have!

If I wear the hakama on my natural waist line then nothing comes undone.  But now the sword sits so high I can’t draw it properly.  And,to put it bluntly, the sword knocks my lady bumps when I draw it out from my belt.

Am I the only woman who has this hakama wearing problem?  Are there any female kendo, iaido, kenjutsu or other weapons based Japanese martial arts systems that have come up with a good way to tie them?  Please let me know.

2013_canada94

Image from http://www.mjer-iaido.org/

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Adaptability

I have been thinking a great deal about adaptability in martial arts of late.  Every modern martial art has evolved over the years, no style has remained static.  Of the martial arts I practise it is a requirement for the higher dan grades to show they can continue to evolve and adapt the martial art, “to make it a style that is uniquely theirs.”

The first trigger point for my thoughts was the excellent article by Kai Morgan, hosted by the Karate Kickin’ Dwarf,  about teaching martial arts to people with physical disabilities.  Amongst the issues Kai discusses is how we view people and the parallels between able-bodied and non-disabled.  We frequently adapt our training without much thought for people taller, shorter, heavier, lighter etc, so this can be readily extended to people with disabilities.

The second trigger was I had injured my back, again.  One of the side effects of this is I get horrible pain in my left hip so I cannot land from throws on this side.  Ironically after the initial high intensity pain has eased off from my back pain (typically three to four days) I need the exercise martial arts gives me to prevent the muscles seizing up and becoming stiff.  My doctor assures me that I cannot damage my back, what I have a is nerve issue rather than bone, disk or muscle damage.   I can carry out the techniques, I just have a limitation in how I receive them, i.e. I can’t deliver right-handed punches because that leads to me being thrown on my left side.  Consequently I couldn’t do my jitsu grading.  To say I felt frustrated is an understatement, but everyone I spoke to said, “well, it’s just too confusing in the heat of a grading telling people you can only land on your right side.”  To be honest, I partly agree.

Then the Stick Chick wrote a blog about some of the reasons she felt why women find it difficult to progress in martial arts.  And I found myself glaring at the computer and muttering, “what is with the inflexible attitude of some martial arts?”

In the last three paragraphs I have shown that there are people out there who want to learn and progress and show that they have progressed in their chosen martial art, but often artificial barriers are erected that can lead to a person loosing heart.  No, I don’t expect that with my back problems that I can carry out a full range of techniques, but there is a heck of a lot I can do.  No the Stick Chick isn’t expecting her partner to take over the childcare so only she can progress, but she would like to see a more integrated approach with martial arts classes and childcare.  And again, I am sure people with physical disabilities acknowledge that you can’t do things exactly the same, but if a man with one leg can learn taekwondo then it just shows that adaptability to teaching, training and assessment is vital.

So next time someone turns up at your martial art class and says, “I’d love to learn but…” don’t see it as a problem, see it as just another challenge in your own learning.

 

 

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Knees must

I have one very simple New Years resolution for 2016.  I will bend my knees more when doing blocks and throws!  And then bend them more.  If nothing else I want to her constructive criticism beyond the, “you can bend those knees more!”

Posted in General observations, Technical | Tagged , , ,

Sweat and tears

Yesterday I spent a happy half hour in jitsu practising groundwork techniques.  The good points were:

  • Matched with someone who was good training partner.  (He was more skilled but lighter than me, so it all balanced out.)
  • Progression of technique.  The instructor started off with the basics and then went through the, “so if you can’t do that, try this.”  By the end of the half hour we had five potential responses to one ground lock.
  • It’s always good fun rolling around doing groundwork.

The bad point?  The guy I was with clearly hadn’t washed his gi (training gear) for quite a while.  Every time he locked me in a choke I was nearly tapping out from the smell!  It was only the quality of the groundwork that stopped me from calling a halt to the fun and games.

Jitsu is a physical activity and everyone gets sweaty.   BUT, there’s a heck of a difference between sweat that is two hours old and sweat that is two months old.  The former is OK, the later is disgusting, especially in a martial art where you spend a lot of time in very close proximity.  I have, on two occasions, flatly refused to train with people whose old sweaty gi’s were…. enough to bring tears to the eyes.

If you’re reading this and shrugging saying, “well, no one has complained,” that’s NO EXCUSE!  Even if you can’t wash your training gear between one session and the next then at least haul it out the bag and hang it up to air.  Better still, buy a second kit so you can wash one and wear one.  After all, do you really want to be that person no one trains with?

Posted in Uncategorized

Kote gaeshi

Kote gaeshi is a popular wrist lock in both jitsu and aikido.  Both those martial arts teach a “jump out” from the lock.  Dan Djurdjevic has explained a range of counter- techniques from a kote gaeshi application in his blog.  See it here!

Kotegaeshi

http://dandjurdjevic.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/taiji-qin-na-more-about-countering-kote.html

Posted in Other Blogs, Technical | Tagged , ,

Good course?

I like to go on courses relating my martial arts.  You train with different people. you learn different ways of looking at known techniques, you learn new techniques, and you have a lot of fun with people who also enjoy their martial art.  Courses vary – they can be good, brilliant and (sadly) indifferent.  I have yet to go on a bad course, but I have come away from a few which have left me feeling a little frustrated with the lack of organisation.  So here is my view, as a student, on what I like to see on a course.

Flexible payment options
I appreciate that costs have to be covered, but try to think of the matter from a student perspective.  If other commitments make you unable to attend one day of a two-day seminar, yet you are expected to pay for both days, then chances are the student wont even turn up for the single day.  This week the British Aikido Federation have been running their week-long summer school.  You can either pay for the week block (£120, an absolute bargain) or you can pay for a day slot (£25).  I could only make one day, but if the charge had still been for one week then the organisers would have missed out on £25.

Mat/training space
The overcrowding of training spaces at a seminar is something that really irritates me.  This problem often occurs where someone well-known in a certain martial art is teaching.  I understand the need to cover costs, and to keep the cost down for each individual training, but if the instructor or his assistant cannot get around to see you because there are 200 plus people in the room, then really your benefits from the course are limited.

There is also the safety aspect.  If your martial art involves falling, then you need to be able to have the space to land safely.  I have been on one seminar where we couldn’t complete the throws because the mat was too crowded!  If your martial art involves weapons, then space is required to be able to move the weapons.

If need be, split the class in two for when it comes to techniques that involve throwing.  I have seen this done.  It allows half the class time to pause to recover their breath, watch what the others are doing and learn something as an observor.  Which neatly brings me on to my next point….

Time out
I am not superman, nor are most the people I train with.  A four-hour seminar should not have four hours of constant training!  People can only absorb so much information, then they stop learning.  Organise a break where people can have a snack and some water.

Splitting the class
To date my favourite weekend long course is the Auichi Jiu Jitsu annual nationals.  One of the reasons I love this event is because of the way the classes are run, alternating between everyone training together and then splitting down into smaller, grade based groups.  So a typical morning will see the entire mat train together, then the mat split into different sections depending on the kyu and dan grades present.  There are many advantages to this system.
a) The joint training allows everyone to learn off each other.
b) The grade related training allows specific techniques to be honed in on for a specific level of ability. It stops the lower grades getting frustrated because they cannot grasp the advanced techniques. It stops the higher grades getting bored and gives them a chance to practice advanced skills with people of equal ability.
c) It allows other people to teach. These people may not get a chance to teach much in their own club.

Social event
So you train with your fellow martial artists all day, then you shower up and go home.  Humans are social animals, we like to meet people.  Any social event after the course, be it a coffee, a beer, a pizza or a full meal, gives the chance for people to:
a) discuss what went on in the course,
b) get to know each other.

Feedback
As a student, feedback what you enjoyed about the course.  I know it sometimes seems that the instructor has super powers, but I promise you that mind-reading is not one of them.  Let them know what was good, let them know (kindly) where you felt things could have been improved.  If you couldn’t attend the course that your own club organised, let them know why.

As an instructor, be open to the feedback.  Encourage students to tell you how they got on.  This is where that social event comes in handy.  You can’t please everyone, but if 90% of the class are saying something was good/in need of improvement then it’s likely they are right.

Posted in Courses, Training | Tagged , , ,

I can do something!

It’s often said that learning progresses by leaps and bounds.  Rapid progress is made in a new area, then the acquisition of new skill sets slows, and with it progress seems to slow as well,  This is due to the refinement of existing knowledge, rather than something brand new, and it is considerably harder to measure progress in this area.

At Aikido practice I found myself training with someone who started a year ago.  Now I consider my aikido pretty shambolic.  I try and try, I enjoy the learning process, but oh boy is there so much to learn!  There are times when I feel I am tripping over my own feet, that I wouldn’t know how to stop an attack if it came with a five minute warning… all the usual feelings martial artists get, so I know I’m not alone.

Training with someone who has “only” been training a year made me realise that actually, I have progressed.  I’m sure I am still causing a few private giggles, but hopefully not as many as I was before.  And OK, the moment we do randori I have to firmly suppress the jitsu techniques, but I am starting to move more in a manner of an aikidoka rather than the proverbial puppet without the string.

At the same aikido practice I then paired up with someone who is more or less on the same level as me.  Both of us had missed the detail of the three techniques we had been shown and were meant to be practicing.  Rather than raise our hand up for the sensei (teacher) to come over, we decided to work things through and see if we could figure it.  To the delight of both of us we came up with something that was workable…

…only for sensei to come over and point out the tiny bit we had totally wrong and why it wouldn’t work.

Oh well, at least we could do some of it right!

Posted in Training | Tagged

What if?

A few weeks ago I was, for the first time in my adult life, a victim of crime.  Some low-life scum smashed my rear windscreen with a rock, tore the parcel shelf up and stole my (hidden from view) handbag from the boot/trunk of my car.  I was fortunate in many ways.  There was a low volume of cash in the handbag, nobody was hurt (I was away from the car for 10 minutes), and family nearby where able to come to the rescue and help me.

However, in the aftermath of events, when credit cards had been cancelled, the police informed, the window repaired, a new lock fitted to my house (the keys were in the handbag), a new driving license applied for and my ranting calmed down etc etc, then a number of, “what if,” scenarios came to mind.

Now for various reasons I think someone had seen me store my handbag in the boot/trunk of the car and had followed me to the remote parking spot.  A few minutes after I left the car  a drive past and confirmation that I was gone from it presented them with a chance to smash the window and make off with things of little monetary value but of great convenience value.  So how determined were they to get that handbag?

What if some drugged up idiot had been determined to get that bag no matter what?  What if they had followed me into the field I had gone into and instead of smashing my windows had smashed my head?

What if I had come back to the car when the crime was taking place?  Would the person have panicked  and responded violently?  Or tried to just drive off?  Or stopped and run away?

And from my point of view as a trainee martial artist, what would I have done if either of those above scenarios have happened?

One advantage our martial art training gives us is to help prevent us from freezing with fright when encountered with danger.  While I find it unlikely I would have physically engaged with the low-life-scum I do like to think I would not have frozen in shock.  Instead I would have found it within me to shout out, frighten them a little and (hopefully) deter events from escalating.  Yes, at one level it would be good to think I could have gone in with metaphorical guns blazing (gun carrying is not normal in the UK), but perhaps training in a martial art has made me more aware of my own limitations.  If this person was just lifting my bag out the car, probably best to shout and leave it at that.  If he/she was attacking me with a rock then the game changes and I would have been forced to defend.  If they had a mate with them?  Different story again.

So despite running several, “what if,” scenarios in my head, the reality is that I just don’t know how I would have reacted.  But it makes for interesting thinking.

Posted in General observations | Tagged

When does push become pull?

I have previously mentioned the perils of training with someone who continually over-steps the levels at which you feel confident at training at, but sometimes this a good thing.  So what is it that differentiates the partner you train with from being one who makes you uncomfortable when they push your limits to the one who you approach with a slightly weary smile knowing that you might be challenged but you don’t mind?

Part of me thinks it comes back down to that interaction that people have.  Some people in life you get on with, some you don’t.  One person might be a joy to train with for you, but avoided by someone else.  It is a quality which is hard to define.

Being a good teacher is hard.  I have a been a student and teacher in many areas of my life.  As a student I admire teachers who can pause, reflect and suggest another way of tackling a learning problem.  As a teacher I become delighted when a student and I manage to work out the stumbling point.  But sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes more and more confusion results until the student is left more confused and I, as purported teacher, am left feeling frustrated.

Perhaps that is the key bit.  If someone can grasp your issue, then you are halfway there.  And if someone can work through that issue, then there is a real chance of progress.

What I have noticed is that person doesn’t have to be more experienced than you, they just have to be willing.  A few weeks ago I confessed my being thrown from ipon seio nage hangup to someone I was training with.  He’s been training for less time than me, but I wanted to explain why I was going to resist the throw if he went in full throttle.  So we both went slow.  We refined our throwing technique, we refined our falling technique.  I am not going to claim being cured of that slight worry of ipon seio nage, but I am now longer eying up the dojo door thinking of excuses to leave if it comes up in training.

Communication ladies and gentleman!  Mind reading is not a skill many of us possess, and some people are not good at picking up on body language.  Tell your teachers and training partners the points that make you have a mental wobble.  If they don’t care, then don’t train with them.  Instead find someone who is willing to help you overcome that hurdle.

Now excuse me, I still have a lot to work on from falling from a jitsu throw.

Posted in General observations, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Love of martial arts

Why do I practice martial arts?  Principally because I find it fun.  The very first time I stepped into a dojo saw me hooked on jitsu.  For eight months I trained six to eight hours a week because I loved it so much.  When I had to move house then one of the first things I did was find another dojo.  A work placement abroad saw a similar occurrence.

To be able to block an attack and throw or pin someone who is twice your body mass is both liberating and fun.  To be able to safely land, without injury, from a throw awakens something in me.  The development of a close group of friends with whom I literally trust to safeguard my health and life is something special.

If you’re thinking of trying out any martial art, I would say go and try.  The only way to find out if the same love for martial arts resides in you is by experiencing it first hand.

Want to know why other people practice martial arts?  Perhaps they might inspire you. Check out the following.

Brain Johns  http://wp.me/p4tMbY-xp
Jackie Bradbury http://thestickchick23.blogspot.com/2015/02/why-do-i-keep-training.html
Joelle White http://abeginnersjourney.bloggersonline.com/?p=423
J Wilson http://thinkingmartial.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/what-motivates-you-to-take-martial-arts.html

Your-heart

Posted in General observations, Other Blogs, Other martial arts | 1 Comment

The Light Response

Some years ago, when I was working on ships, my boss asked me to tell the crew not to use compressed air for cleaning up the deck and tank tops. There was a danger paint chippings could go in their eyes, and using compressed air in this manner was against the Code of Safe Working Practice. The crew were to use a broom instead.

Now I felt we had more pressing safety concerns on our hands than this, I had been on the receiving end of a lot of grief about the lack of safety standards of some of the crew, but I dutifully passed the message on. Perhaps the scepticism was clear in my voice, because one hour later I found a crew member cleaning down with… yep, compressed air.

I lost it. It was in the engine room, were you have to shout to make yourself heard, but even I had been speaking quietly it would have made no difference. I called the crew member stupid, I demanded to know why he had ignored what I said. I knew I would be in trouble if my boss had caught the guy, so I was furious.

Unsurprisingly the crew member lost his temper in return He shouted back, things went downhill, and it took us about two months to recover to a good working relationship. In hindsight there are a number of things I should have done, such as going to a more quiet environment to explain what the issue really was, but what had been done was done.

I was reminded of this incident during aikido training this week. (Yes, I snuck in an aikido class, despite saying I would concentrate on the jitsu.) We were doing an exercise which required the defendant to be relaxed in order for the throw to work. The experienced was from the least threatening attack of all, a wrist grab. I am sure the experienced amongst you are now nodding wisely when I say it was very difficult to reach that relaxed state.

75T3ACgntbT_q_AVcwkRYsHRz42PDGQVxBhERCkYwc8,Sanct0iicDhb21XG2pjsrERtapbWBHYktjVrNx3kGSYIf you haven’t done this before, try it at your next training session. Hold your arm out, get someone to grab your wrist with as much strength as they can, and then relax your own arm. To check if it is relaxed ask your training partner to let go without telling you. A truly relaxed arm will swing down, a tensed one will not.

I reached the stage were I was able to keep that relaxed state when standing, but the moment I moved my arm tensed against the attack. And when I tensed up, my uke was able to respond and throw me. Eventually I managed to maintain a relaxed arm throughout the technique, but I can honestly say it is not an easy state of mind to be in and not one I could put into practice if someone were to attack me now.

Though it occurs to me that I sometimes do something similar in my jitsu groundwork. With certain training partners I know it is tricky to make a pin hold. So I cease to fight back. I go all limp, squirm out of every hold like a fish and wait for my uke to be worn out. Then I pounce!

It does feel counter-intuitive, not to fight back, but this is what our training is for. Staying calm and engaging on your terms. Shout at someone, they will shout back. Fight someone, they will fight back. Jitsu and aikido are not about shows of strength, they are about being able to take what your attacker offers and directing it back at them.

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