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Update

Just to keep everybody in the loop, attendance at the dojo is picking up again. We now have about 700 sq ft of mat, and on Saturday we had 6 people practicing. IIRC, everybody has been vaccinated, so there should be minimal risk. Besides myself, we had Bill, Randy, Sid, Doug, and Dan deFluiter. There is still room for more, and there were only three of us yesterday. If we need to, I have another 5 ft of mat we can put down.

Lately, I have been working a lot on the initial contact between uke and nage. I remember Ron Russell (my 2nd aikido instructor) saying it was important, but we didn’t work at it in any particular way. Now, I have been. The key is how uke attacks. You really can’t practice that point of contact if the two of you stand at ma ai and uke attacks from there. You have to start a little further apart, so that uke has to move in to attack. To make it realistic, uke has to minimise telegraphing, which means he has to be relaxed. Nage also has to be relaxed. Both of them have to extend – uke so that they can attack, nage so that they can defend. This relaxed extension is what the unbendable arm is supposed to teach.

You can practice the extension starting from ma ai, and that is useful too. Then it is about figuring out how to get the resultant of the two forces (uke’s attack and nage’s defense) to go to uke’s front triangle point. From there, you can go into any technique. Both uke and nage need to maintain the extension and contact until uke is into the ukemi. If nage breaks the connection, the technique falls apart. If uke breaks the connection early they are vulnerable to being hit.

Making the connection with a grab is pretty easy, because uke is grabbing you. All you have to do to take kuzushi is to maintain the connection (threat) and direct it where you want it. You do, however, have to be in the right place, and with your feet and uke’s feet aligned suitably so that you are not overpowered by a strong uke, nor lose contact with a weaker one. Ideally, you want to do this between uke grasping your arm and clamping down.

Making the connection with a strike is harder, because you don’t want uke to actually hit you and the window of opportunity is smaller. The principle is, however, the same. Extend, make contact, redirect. You can do this with irimi, tenkan, or ten shin movements

New bigger mat and more people

We just finished enlarging the mat at the new dojo to 720 sq ft. . We have been having classes of 5 – 6 people for aikido, and have picked up a new student in yoga. (Welcome Victoria.) Some of the aikido folks are old students. (Welcome back Sid). Some are new. (Welcome Josh.) With the increased attendance, we needed the extra space. Though we are spoiled for space. A 500 sq ft dojo in Japan might have 20 people working out. You just learn to pay attention to where you are putting your uke, and as uke you learn to fine tune your trajectory so that you land on mat not somebody else.

It has been hot this week. Florida summer coming on. We have been talking about A/C vs fans, but I’m not sure we can effectively air condition the new dojo without walling off the dojo from the rest of the barn and insulating it, particularly the roof. In the winter, even the 100 kW heater did not really heat up the place.

We did go outside to do weapons on the grass both on Saturday and Tuesday. This was only partly for the heat. We also needed the space for some of the kumi jo techniques. It was nice to have lots of space, and it is actually good for practice that the ground is slightly uneven. It makes you pay attention to your feet.

I did think about going outside and doing yoga on the grass, but then it started to rain. And then the power went out. It was plenty light enough to do yoga, but after a minute or so the power came back on.

Slowly getting back to normal

The regulars have been vaccinated, so we are getting back to doing taijutsu. It does feel good to be rolling around again. New students or old ones coming back are welcome. If you have been vaccinated, that’s great. If you have not, we will all wear masks and use hand sanitizer.

During the pandemic, we have greatly increased our repetoire of aiki weapons. We have learned all 15 of Saotome’s kumi tachi, and Saito’s kumi tachi and kumi jo 1 through 5. We have also learned a couple of bokken kata. Hopefully we will continue to work on these as well as the tai jutsu. It was interesting learning new stuff, though really there are not a lot of totally new ideas, more variations on a theme.

Status

Wow. No posts since January. Time flies when you are having fun.

The four people who have been coming regularly have all been vaccinated at least once, and the two of us coming most often have been vaccinated twice and have had time to fully develop immunities, so we are starting back to doing tai jutsu (empty handed aikido). So far, we have been revisiting kihon, particularly looking at position, direction, and extension. While none of us are perfect, working on these does noticeably improve our techniques.

Nobody seems to have a good idea of where they are relative to uke. By extension, I wonder if I am where I think I am. Maybe I need to start video taping my movements. Often, we can make techniques work anyway, and the ability to do that is not be be disparaged, because this is a martial art. However, making them work can become a habit, and get in the way of our further development.

So anybody who has been immunized is welcome to come back and work out with us (at the new dojo, remember!). Anybody who has not been immunized can come work out, but will need to keep wearing a mask and sanitizing hands (as will the rest of us in that case). After all, the vaccines are only 95% effective, not 100%. But with 100% vaccination in the dojo, we are pretty safe.

I plan to test Randy for nidan soon using the modified test (weapons only). No date set as yet.

The new dojo is pretty nice. With a rectangular mat, even though it is a bit smaller in area than before, it is more usable. I have enough mats to add another 4′ (about another 120 sq ft), and if enough people start coming I will put that down. Right now, we rarely have a problem with space. After all, in Japan, a 500 sq ft dojo would be quite large, and could have over a dozen people practicing.

Right now, with the weather being nice, we have room outside for hundreds of people. We did recently go outside and do some cutting practice on the bushes. I find that there is no substitute for lots of cutting. You do have to clean off the swords afterwards, but we would have to do that even if we were cutting mats (or, for that matter, people).

When it gets hotter, I will need to get some A/C units, but right now the fans are plenty cool enough.

So come by, check out the new place.

We have moved

Enmei dojo is now practicing at the new location. Everybody is still welcome, and because we are not paying rent, dues will be half what they were, so $40 a month for full aikido membership, and $20 for beginner’s membership. Karate and yoga will now be $20. We will see how this goes, but it should adequately cover our costs for utilities and insurance.

Enmei Dojo is moving

As of the beginning of the new year, Enmei Dojo will have a new address: 4000 Holder Pk Dr, Mims. We are moving to a new facility to reduce costs, because of our smaller attendance due to the pandemic. Hopefully, once most people get vaccinated, we will be able to go back to normal classes, and encourage new members, and old members to return.

Still open!

Just so everybody knows, we are still open. We are just doing weapons rather than aikido, and non contact karate (kata, floor exercises), and of course yoga is non contact. However, this is working. We do get to focus more on things we tend not to work as hard, like kumi tachi. These exercises are vital for developing timing, and distance, as well as being good for general physical development.

Continuing practicing safely

The dojo is still open, though losing money rather faster than usual. Before each of my classes I am disinfecting surfaces likely to be touched, like door handles, light switches, and so on. That and maintaining distance seems to be working to prevent transmission of viruses.

Students are asked to not come if they have been exposed or have any symptoms such as a cough or fever. Otherwise, we’d love to see you in class.

Karate classes involve everything but kumite and other exercises involving contact like tai ho jutsu – so kata and floor exercises. Randy just tested for 4th kyu and did fine.

Aikido, we are doing weapons. We are pretty familiar with Saotome’s kumi tachi and kumi jo, and are getting familiar with Saito’s. The two systems are similar, but fairly different, particularly the kumi tachi. It is instructive to work out why each movement is made, and why it is effective.

Weapons are very good for ma ai and footwork in general. Most people practice aikido too closely, and don’t attack like they would IRL. This does not matter too much up to shodan, but for higher levels it is critical. The attack actually starts before making contact, and the technique continues after breaking contact.

Yoga, we are doing just like we always did it, except for arriving and leaving where we are careful to maintain distance. We are maintaining adequate distance during the practices, so we are not wearing masks though people are welcome to wear them if they wish.

Getting lots of weapons practice

Well this isn’t aikido, but we are doing lots of aiki weapons practice. Suburi, kumi tachi, kumi jo. Jo kata (though we haven’t done that yet, since this new regime). I always vaguely regretted not having done more weapons work. Now we don’t have a choice. Lemons, lemonade.

You do learn a lot of aikido from weapons. This includes body movement, distance, timing, position, and the interpersonal interaction often identified with the vague term “ki”.

There are a lot of weapons systems out there. In the past, I have mainly used the ASU weapons systems. Their jo suburi is identical to the Iwama suburi, but the kumi tachi and kumi jo are different. Now I’m also pulling from Iwama. I guess eventually I’ll have to develop my own set, as I did my syllabus.

Looking at youtube videos, I see a lot of people doing things in ways that I think are suboptimal. Weapons are after all weapons, and should be treated as such. The differences are often dismissed by calling aiki weapons practice aiki weapons practice, and that there are different goals than those of traditional weapons ryu, but IMO that loses the critical benefit of the weapons. We are weekend warriors, and are not samurai, but we can benefit from practicing realistically, though we certainly don’t want to get so realistic as to send anybody to the ER.

One thing we are doing differently from how I learned weapons is much more work on just attacks and defenses. Personally, when doing a kumi weapon exercise, I focus on the flow of the whole thing. If I don’t practice the individual attacks and defenses, they don’t get the attention they need to be crisp and effective. And I do practice them left and right. I should do the kumi weapons practices left and right also, but I have always done them on one side only. Maybe I will get around to that before we can get back to hands on training. I guess no matter what, there is never enough time to do everything.

Yay, we are open again!

We have had our first classes for karate, aikido, and yoga since having to shut down. For karate and aikido, we are only doing things that do not involve contact. Kata and floor exercises for karate. Weapons for aikido. Yoga of course is not a problem as that is always no contact.

Participants are asked to follow the following rules:

  1. Don’t come to class if you don’t feel well, especially if you have a fever, chills, coughing, sneezing, or problems breathing, or any other symptoms of this virus, or if you have been in contact with somebody who does. In previous communications I assumed this was too obvious to state, but nothing is too obvious.
  2. Wear a face mask to enter and leave the dojo, and maintain 6 ft separation. We do have to use the door to get in and out, and the office area and changing room are small.
  3. Wear your gi to the dojo. The changing room is unavailable at this time.
  4. Wear a face mask for anything involving getting close to somebody else, like pairs practice with weapons. Generally for pairs practice, we will still be six feet apart, but barely.

I will sanitize the dojo regularly, particularly things like door handles that everybody touches. Good thing we usually bow in the dojo, rather than shaking hands.

Visitors are still welcome. In the event we have too many people to practice safely, we will work out in the parking lot. Generally with weapons, you want more than six feet of separation anyway, especially for techniques like katate hachi no ji gaeshi.