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Lessons from the mat on Community Day

Wherever our lineage goes back to, serious and disciplined training are our common ancestor.

About once a month or so, our dojo hosts a "Community Day". An opportunity for martial artists to train with Dojo Cho (chief instructors/sensei) from neighboring dojos. The experience has been growing, with more and more attending each time and the feedback has always been positive.

"A great seminar!" "Sensei Dale was fantastic!" "Sensei Ed teaches an assertive and powerful technique" "Sensei Oscar was clear, concise, and powerful!"

We're blessed with some amazing dojos in the area, housing some amazing chief instructors. Our goal is to continue hosting such events with added/different instructors from the area each time, to help learn and add to our training. Most of all, it's an opportunity to strengthen the ties between traditional martial artists here on the west coast of Florida.

Technique should be effective first. Dance with it later.

One of the biggest mistakes made in martial arts is the focus on big showy techniques that may look nice, but inevitably fail the "Bullshido" test. There is nothing wrong with these techniques as a way to preserve our heritage and lineage as traditional martial artists (the same way forms do in other martial arts), but without a clear focus on efficacy, we are ballroom dancing from "pretend" attacks. The danger of course is this kind of focus is injury or the fear of injury. This, I think, is one of the chief roles of a sensei. To monitor their students and help them train effectively while minimizing risk of injury. However, a turned ankle here, bruise there, or bloody lip surely is better to experience in the controlled atmosphere of the dojo, rather than an alley with no exits.

Good ukemi comes from the core first.

I've been blessed with some of the most amazing sempai when it comes to ukemi (Gary Pike, Joseph Roy, Jim Soviero, and many many more). Their passion for training and help kohai helped me to develop my ukemi as it is today. The chief muscles associated with proper ukemi are in the core (abdominals, hip flexors, glutes, adductors, etc...) By learning to maintain a strong connection with Nage by consistently applying resistance and flexing into falls, while breathing correctly, ukemi can become not only beautiful, but more importantly SAFE. The chief role of ukemi should be that of protecting yourself from injury so that you can get up and keep moving.

Take your opponent/partner's (uke) balance first. All else is secondary.

Isn't it so? Try getting yourself into perfect position and executing Kotegaeshi, Ukigoshi, Harai Goshi, Maki Otoshi, or any other technique. Impossible. Why? Because a balanced opponent is your strongest opponent. Trying to move a 2 ton boulder from a static position without the use of tools is practically impossible (or at the very least impractical), BUT adjusting the course or directing the course of the same boulder as it is in motion? Doable with much less effort (not that we recommend trying this).

Give uke a reason to initiate, don't just wait passively for the attack.

One of my biggest "pet peeves" when training is a Nage who sits and waits to be attacked, especially during randori or jiyuwaza. Even with an aggressive attacker who may seek to initiate an altercation, one of the chief reasons we study so rigorously is to learn how to INFLUENCE our attackers so that we maximize our opportunity to control a situation. No, I am not talking about no-touch or Jedi fiction nonsense (although it may be entertaining). Instead, the learned management of distance and timing (ma'ai) that allows you to initiate an interaction giving yourself the best opportunity to move from where you are most confident. For example, uke approaches clearly showing intent to attack. You close distance raising your open hand to their nose level while maintaining your other hand in a defensive, Kaeshi, position. Uke must now decide whether their initial plan to attack you will still work, how to deal with your initiating hand, and then move based on the new dynamic between you. Odds are they will either move to engage the hand you offer (if they are less experienced), or they will move to an open point (if they are more experienced). Either way, you now have reduced the possible attack points to 2 from infinity. This is an oversimplification of why it is so important to initiate interactions, especially as Aikidoka who desire, above all, a peaceful outcome to every interaction.

As always, remember that everything offered here and at our dojo is for your to examine, try, and ultimately decide to integrate or discard from your daily routine. The only time I consider myself victorious is when someone finds their path due in small or large part to my shared experience.

See you on the mat,


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