RIP Russ Davis

Some of you old timers might have practiced with Russ Davis at the old Sand Drift.  Dave Ederer forwarded this obituary: Vero Beach – Russell Scott Davis, age 74, passed away Sunday, October 27, 2019 at his home in Vero Beach. He was born in Athens, Georgia and moved from Pittsburgh in the 1970’s, to Florida. Russell had a lifelong passion for motorcycles and loved riding his Harley Panhead with the wind in his hair. He was a 5th Degree Black Belt in Aikido and taught compassionate self-defense to thousands. Russell loved nature, animals, hiking, canoeing and birding. He was a member of Vero Beach First Church of the Nazarene. Russell has gone home to be with the Lord; is deeply missed, but we will meet again in heaven. He is survived by his wife, Melissa; sisters, Dawn, Patty, and Claire; children, Russell, Sean, Heather, and Dawn; and 5 grandchildren. Russell was predeceased by his parents, Melvin and Bunny Davis; brother, Jim; and sister, Cindi. No services are planned.


In many ways, randori is the epitome of aikido.  We started some new guys on it yesterday, and there are some points that we all need to remember.

First of all, keep moving.  When you stop, everybody is right on you.   Keep moving, keep away from corners, keep away from walls.

Keep turning.  You always need to keep checking who is behind you, and you are harder to hold when you are turning.

Maintain extension.  That way you have time to deal with an uke.

Blend, blend, blend.  When you come into conflict with somebody, you will stop moving and they will all jump on you.

Deal with one uke at a time.  Move so that only one uke is close at a time,

Do good technique.  Take your time and do technique correctly, and it will usually work.  But don’t waste time either.

Have a plan B, and a plan C, for when something goes wrong.  (Or have no plan, and just improvise really well.)

Extension and flow

We worked today on getting and maintaining uke’s extension, while maintaining good flow during the technique.

Getting uke to extend seems pretty easy and simple, especially from a grab.  However, angles are important.  Generally, you want to extend uke towards his triangle point, typically the front triangle point.  To do that, position of your feet is important.  Generally, you want to extend uke by extending your own arm, and to do that, you need your feet aligned roughly along the line of force.  Getting uke to move from there, however, is less obvious.  Generally, you want to press down on the end of uke’s arm.  Pulling on his arm just makes uke want to pull back and resist, but pressing down moves uke’s balance forwards, and he naturally feels a need to step to recover his balance, thereby moving in the direction you want him to go.  You do want to move your arm as uke moves, but to keep him off balance rather than to physically move him by muscular efffort.

Once you get uke moving like this, you can keep him moving with little effort as long as you don’t lose connection or let uke catch up.  Typically, this happens with, for example katate tori kote gaeshi when you change direction, and that is where flow comes in.

Our brains seem to work in chunks.  The first chunk may be to get uke moving, but once we go to throw uke, another set of instructions seem to kick in.  Both chunks might work well on their own, but the transition between the two is often where there is a problem.  We often simplify techniques by saying there are three parts to a technique (or five if we are a bit more advanced), but in fact, a technique has to flow nicely from one part to another.

The first thing to do is to make sure that you make all changes in direction smooth and gradual.  In the case of kote gaeshi, you will want an arc of one to two feet in radius rather than a sharp change in direction.

You also need to maintain your extension on uke’s arm.  Your first extension should get uke’s shoulder away from being right over his hip.  As you progress through the technique you need to keep it away from his hip all the way into the ukemi.

Don’t hurry.  Uke needs time to respond to changes in direction or velocity.  If you go too slowly, you will lose contact.  If you go too fast the flow will be lost and, often, your grip will slip and you’ll complain about sweaty arms.

Finally, the tempo of the technique needs to be even, and accelerating slightly as the technique progresses.

If you can do all this, the technique will need a lot less effort and work a lot better, whether you are uke or nage.

On power, and other interesting things in life

One of my students said: “If you ever been attacked or in a situation where someone is trying to do you harm, your adrenaline goes through the roof and it difficult to think straight and getting hit adds to this difficulty and you need power to stop an attack. Just like Mike Tyson says, everyone has a plan until they get hit… I do believe you can deflect, if you’re lucky or quick enough, then move to execute a technique. Just an experience observation.”

This is an interesting and relevant point of view. And he backed it up with this video: which pushes the view that power is more important than speed.

The guy in the video is right, and he’s wrong.

Power is important, but misused power can be as ineffective as no power, worse, it can work against you. This is what the unbendable arm is about – about not fighting yourself. (And everybody does fight themselves to an extent.) Still, if you have less power than the other guy in a given situation, you will lose in a head to head confrontation.

Power is not a simple thing, either. If you think of an arm wrestling contest, it is mostly about simple strength. (Yes, there are ways to use your strength more effectively there too, but it is mostly strength of certain muscles and position.) Martial arts is like cheating at arm wrestling. You know what a fair fight is? An oxymoron. A story I like is one I heard at a party when I was a kid. This gate crasher was wanting to come in to a private party. The guy on the door said if he didn’t leave in three seconds, he was going to hit him. He counted: one….two… and he hit him. Fight over.

You can be the weaker of the two, overall, and still have the greater power where it matters. In kote gaeshi, for example, to break uke’s balance it is the power at the end of uke’s arm that matters. So you can be much smaller, and still be able to do technique.

We train a lot. And that is important, because you eventually find you are reacting without thinking – what the Japanese call mushin. Tyson is right in that plans go by the board when you get hit. Training, however, does not necessarily. Good training does not. Bad training (e.g. inappropriate training, unrealistic training) does. A plan is a good thing when training. It is often counter-productive when fighting. Randori is all about training under stress, in unpredictable situations. It is about as good as it gets in the dojo, and can be very good indeed. But on the street there are no referees, and the adrenaline will be pumping more.  It is hard to replicate that amount of stress in the dojo.

Speed and power are not unrelated. In fact, energy equals mv2. So the best way to increase power is often to increase speed. Double mass, and double energy. Double speed, and quadruple energy. Big muscles can increase power, but fast muscles are also important. There is another aspect to speed. If you want to kick or punch somebody, you want all the energy to appear in the last inch or two. Energy elsewhere is irrelevant. If you want to throw somebody, you want the energy to be spread out over maybe as much as two or three feet. And it isn’t the simple integral. There are certain times in any technique where energy is more important than others. So the relevant power differs according to the technique and art. And almost all power comes from gravity. (Think about fighting in weightlessness.)

People working to bulk up often fail to work at flexibility enough, so they are tense, stiff, and their speed falls.

The things that are important for martial effectiveness include the following, not necessarily in order of importance: attitude, technique (including leverage, position, timing, etc), power, and stamina.

Where power fails is when it is overmatched, but that applies to all of the above. Combat is the weighing of the different attributes of the two sides, which lets you see which is the more useful of the two mixes in a given situation. In the dojo, you are pretty much on your own for strength, stamina, etc. All I teach is technique. Coming to class, you will get some attitude, stamina, strength, flexibility, but the focus is on technique.

Class closures for Hurricane Dorian

Karate, yoga, and my aikido classes will be canceled until further notice because of the hurricane. If the dojo comes through undamaged and has power, I expect we will be reopening next Saturday, but I will put out a notice before we do reopen. Those who do the weekday noon classes and kali should check with the respective teachers.

Everybody be careful, play it safe, and good luck.