Weekend Aikido in Alabama

The umbrella organization for my aikido dojo (American Tomiki Aikido Association) held its semi-annual seminar/clinic this past weekend. It was, in name, the Spring Seminar delayed by several months by all sorts of things.

6 dojos and 5 cities were represented by the attendees. We had: Nick Lowry's Windsong Dojo (Oklahoma City), Frankie Canant's Kumayama Dojo (Bessemer, Alabama), Tim Cleghorn's Clear Creek Dojo (Houston), Jeff Duncan's Full Circle Dojo (Killeen, Tx), two folks from West Houston, and two folks from Arlington, Texas.

Totaled up there were 22 aikidoka and, at the start of the weekend, 15 yudansha. At the end of the weekend there were 17 yudansha. And, a day or two after the seminar, we found out that Frankie Canant is to be promoted to Rokudan! I have no idea what the total number of dan grades were, but we had an amazing group to work with. This was the biggest group I've ever worked with and the most experienced group by far.

Trey, Tim and I flew out to Birmingham Friday morning. we were the only folks who flew to this gathering, everyone else drove. 12 hours on the road does not thrill me, but maybe it would have been the better approach? We arrived early in the afternoon and headed to Frankie's place. Most of the folks were already there, so we got the chance to renew friendships and make some new ones before heading over to the local Y for the first session.

I think the first session was spent working on what will likely be a new kata at some point in the future. A groundwork kata! Jeff Duncan had been playing with ideas in his dojo and presented them to us to learn, play with and improve.

His base for the groundwork was Ju Nana Hon Kata. Translate as many of those techniques to be usable from the ground. If I remember correctly, the following techniques have analogs on the ground: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12. It was interesting and challenging working with these ideas and trying to figure out where the appropriate off-balances are. We also played with height differentials on the ground. They do make a difference.

At one point my partner and I were working on one of them and thought we saw a spot where uke would be likely to collapse in on tori. Sensei Lowry called me over to try doing that on him. I still feel where his elbows were pointing into my chest. Ouch.

We did some exploration of tweaks to make to some of the releases. The first release you can flip your wrist over and will generate a nice body drop. The second release, if uke turns inside you can pretend to be the Queen of England waving and then get a nice arm wraparound. The second release, if uke turns outside, you can get a nice wrist lock (my notes are incomplete on this). The fourth release can turn into the 7th release which then morphs into kaitenage. At that point if toir attempts to put his finger through uke's ear, uke will do a nice whole body rotation before hitting the ground. You can also, on the fourth release, point the fingers on your knife-hand down and get a nice body drop. We also played with shihonage and if it doesn't feel right at the fourth off-balance, you can release your hand from the grip and get a nice ushiro-ate.

We then adjourned back to Frankie's place for beer, food and conversation.

The next morning we convened back at the Y for another session. We did some more exploration of the groundwork and then did some work on randori. Normally, we do the randori where there is no designated uke or tori, both players try to find an off-balance, an opening, or a mistake by the other. This time we tried assigning a role to each player and working from there.

One of the folks I worked with was Sensei Lowry. OMG. He toasted me so often, and I was supposed to be tori. He felt the slightest amount of tension in my hands and arms and was able counter 98% of what I did. I did manage to find an opening two, or maybe 3, times.

One of the things he noticed was that when working with him, I was directing my center perpendicular to his. If I managed to point my center through him, things were more likely to go my way (if I also had very little tension in my arms).

I'm not certain I took as much advantage of that opportunity as I could, but I'm still glad I had the opportunity.

We then broke for lunch back over at Frankie's.

We came back after lunch, but I can't remember what we worked on. We then had two Shodan demonstrations. Congrats to Russell Stewart (who was the uke for my Shodan demonstration last November) and Jamey Best. Jamey had real struggles as his back was quite painful, but he made it through.

We then went back to Frankie's place for a great spread provided by his wonderful wife Joy. After dinner there was more drinking, and storytelling long into the night.

We flew back home on Sunday. We tried to change our flights to get back earlier, but it would have cost us $50 each. It wasn't worth, even though we sat in the airport for about 4 hours.

I'm not certain how many different folks I worked with over the weekend, let's see if I can come up with most of the names: Sensei Lowry, Allen, Larry, Paul, Christian, Cameron, Russell, Steve, ........


At the Movies: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince : 4

I'd happily go see this movie again, but you have to take it for what it is: a treatment of a book as a movie. As such, there are subplots and scenes from the book that just can't make it to the screen. There are also scenes that are changed from the book.

I'd overheard people talking about the movie commenting on the fact that it was not as "dark" as the book: too much humor, etc. I do not agree. My thoughts are that, without the humor in the movie, you don't want to take any suicidal friends to see the film.

I don't know if I'll see it again at the theatre, but I wouldn't mind doing so.


Aikido Saturday Afternoon - 7/18/09

Aikidokas: Tim, Trey, Brad and Sal.

Ukemi: I watched Sal during his warm-ups. He's already moving up to the non-kneeling version of the rolls.

The Walk: Four times, I think, today.

Releases: Worked with Sal on his releases. We managed to get through the first two fairly well


I then worked with Trey, as uke, as he ran through 1-11 of Ju Nana Hon Kata. It went very smoothly. He had a couple of bobbles on Aigamae-ate, as is the current trend, and a couple on Shomen-ate. At the end, kote-hineri, things got a little loose and he let go of me too early. I tried, but failed to keep my head from bouncing off of the mat.

Aftermath: Trying to reduce the strain on the hip. Trey's Ikkyu demonstration is, currently, scheduled for August 21st or 22nd. I've got to be able to take the falls by then. There's a seminar this coming weekend, so I've got to be careful there.

Aikido Friday Night - 7/17/09

Aikidokas: Tim, Trey, Tom and Sal.

Ukemi: I watched Sal during his warm-ups.

The Walk: Twice, as usual.

Releases: Worked with Tom on his releases.


I spent some time working with Tom on Shomen-ate, Aigamae-ate, and Gyakugamae-ate. It went pretty well for a first serious look at the techniques.

Then I did some work on Shihonage of Owaza Ju Pon. Normally, this is done right-sided only. Sensei had me work on both sides. Getting the footwork for left-side was very challenging, but it managed to be passable at the end.

I then worked with Trey, as uke, as he ran through 15, 16, and 17 of Ju Nana Hon Kata. Trey's starting to get comfortable with these. We haven't tried the air fall finish for hiki taoshi, yet. Because of my hip, I'm trying to take back falls instead of air falls.

Aftermath: The hip joint is affecting just about everything I do. It limits the amount of techniques I even attempt.


Weekend update

Friday - Aikido

Saturday - Blueberry pancakes, Aquarium work, out in the shop to do some turning, Aikido, dinner at Joe's, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Sunday - Blueberry muffins, out in the shop to do some turning, baked two pies: cherry and peach, dinner at the in-laws, Armadillocon work

Wish someone would put HP and the Order of the Phoenix on the tube. I need to see that before this weekend's HP and the Half-Blood Prince.

I've been working on turning stuff for display at Armadillocon. We've got enough empty space in the Art Show that I feel ok putting some stuff in the show.

I wanted to try out another recipe for Ciabatta bread, but did not do it. Maybe tonight.

Aikido Saturday Afternoon - 7/11/09

Aikidokas: Tim, Richard, Trey, Brad, Tom and Sal. Our biggest group in quite some time. Richard was there for Jyodo, but came on the mat to help Sal.

Ukemi: Not quite full set. The hip's ok in warmups, most of the time.

The Walk: Twice, as usual.

Releases: Not tonight.


I did some work on some techniques. We were going to do some suwari waza in Koryu Dai San, but my hip is not allowing me to move properly at the moment. I can't put my legs 90 degrees from each other at the moment.

Owaza Ju Pon

1. Kubi Garuma

2. Kata Otoshi - I tried this, but the pivot for the technique is another hip wrenching move at the moment.

9. Ushiro Kubi Gatame

I then worked with Trey, as uke, as he ran through 11 through 17 of Ju Nana Hon Kata. We've not tried roll-outs on a left-sided Hiki Otoshi yet, but we're getting close.

One of the falls for Sumi-otoshi was a little stunning. Trey's grip slipped (whether because of his sweat, or mine, or both who knows) and I landed with no support. The landing was soft enough, but my neck tweaked a little for some reason. (I think I may have been attempting to look for Trey's missing hand.) I really expected that the muscle would lock up on Sunday, but it wasn't too bad.

Aftermath: I hope the hip heals soon.

Aikido Friday Night - 7/10/09

Aikidokas: Tim, Trey, and Tom.

Ukemi: I watched Tom during his warm-ups.

The Walk: Twice, as usual.

Releases: Not tonight.


We spent a bit of time with Tom on "strike-the-dummy" and the moved on to shomen-ate. We're working on reducing the tension in his off-hand, as the current amount of tension tells uke a awful lot about tori.

Then I did some work on some techniques.

Standing Koryu Dai San

1. Kote Mawashi
2. Uchi Tenkai Nage
3. Gyakugamae Ate
4. Kote Kajiki
5. Mae Otoshi

I then worked with Trey, as uke, as he ran through 15, 16, and 17 of Ju Nana Hon Kata. After we finished working on those, we ran through Shomen-ate and Aigamae-ate, briefly.

Aftermath: My wrist is finally (3 months after the massive kote gaeshi day) comfortable, but my hip joint is still troublesome.


Aikido Friday Night - 7/3/09

Aikidokas: Tim, Trey, Tom and a new student, Sal. Sensei Tim was back on the mat!

Ukemi: I helpd introduce Sal to ukemi.

The Walk: Twice as usual. Then I spent the evening helping Sal to learn the Walk. He did amazingly well. We actually made it all the way through.

Releases: Not tonight.


I ran through:

1. Kubi-guruma - neck wheel
2. Kata-otoshi - shoulder drop
5. Aiki-nage - fitting in throw

Kata-otoshi is the throw that is most vulnerable, in my opinion, to the slightest error. There just feels to be a very small window for this technique to work.

A couple of items got pointed out to me/I figured out while working on this. The first is that the entry really needs to be with a knife hand, you don't want to push in the direction from which uke attacked. Doing that stops uke's motion and stops the technique. If you keep the knife hand and can get it on the outside of uke's shoulder, pivot and then push on the back of the shoulder, the technique is more likely to happen.

I also need to pay attention to my pivot. If I stop it short, or if I fall away from uke, the technique will not happen. My center must stay involved with uke's center.

Trey ran through 1, 2 and 17 of Ju Nana Hon Kata. We spent a bit of time on Hiki-otoshi (#17). He was able to get roll-outs from me on right and left side.

The next step is to have him hold on, replacing the roll-out with a big fall.

Aftermath: None of note.