May 22, 2017 - classes 201 and 202 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Hanmi Handachi Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi, standing Ushiro Tekubitori Kotegaeshi, Ushiro Tekubitori Shihonage, and Ushiro Tekubitori Ikkyo Omote and Ura. In the advanced class, Ramla and I practiced breakfall ukemi and Yokomenuchi Iriminage. My breakfalls weren't very good today as I was afraid of landing awkwardly on my back or shoulders.
May 23, 2017 - observed class 17 with Dr. John Porter - The class practiced Morotetori reverse Kotegaeshi, Morotetori Shihonage, Morotetori Makiotoshi. Shomenuchi Iriminage, Tsuki Iriminage, Yokomenuchi Sankyo, Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo, and Ushiro Tekubitori Udekeminage. It was a small class where everyone got to choose their favorite techniques to practice. I didn't practice today as my back and shoulders felt awful.
May 27, 2017 - class 203 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura and a variant, Suwari Waza Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, standing Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, and Yokomenuchi Kokyunage Ura. My rolls looked really messed up today and it wasn't until I practiced with Carlton that he gave me an "a-ha" moment about directing energy.
May 30, 2017 - class 204 with Dr. John Porter - 4 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Morotetori Kokyuho, Ushiro Tekubitori 5 techniques, and Yokomenuchi 5 techniques with partners and in Jihon Waza. During practice with Ken2, there was one throw where I felt like I was in mid-air for a split second longer than usual. Ken1 believes I likely did a breakfall. Last summer, Sensei made note of a mid-air roll I did, but I couldn't repeat it for some reason. The stars were aligned and it just happened, just like today.
June 5, 2017 - class 205 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo Omote and Ura as well as Morotetori Ikkyo switch to Nikyo switch to Sankyo switch to Yonkyo. Ken1 and I practiced Yokomenuchi Iriminage (variation 1) after class. It's very different from Yamada's version in that we cut down with our back hand so as not to absorb all of the impact with our lead hand.Sensei invited me to the black belt class afterwards, but I didn't feel ready for it yet.
June 6, 2017 - class 206 with Amelia Perkins - 4 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Kosadori entering inside, Kosadori Sumiotoshi, Kosadori Kotegaeshi, Kosadori Shihonage, and Kosadori Kaitenage. Ken1 and I practiced Yokomenuchi Iriminage (variation 1) after class.
June 10, 2017 - class 207 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura and Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote. We paid attention to entering the uke's blind spot in the first technique. We emphasized cutting the elbow, then cutting across the stomach to turn uke's body. A turn of nage's foot directs the energy across the body and forces uke to turn his shoulders in the second technique. After class, Sensei called up Ken1 and two black belts so Ken1 could practice his shodan test. After demonstrating a number of Suwari Waza techniques, Ken1 was asked to demonstrate techniques to disarm ukes with jo and tanto. Sensei added two senior white belts to create a four-person Randori.
June 12, 2017 - class 208 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, Shomenuchi Nikyo, Tsuki Iriminage, and Tsuki Kotegaeshi Ura. In Iriminage, the hand that holds onto the back of the neck is pushed down and forward to get uke off balance on one leg and then we tenkan back to finish the technique. In Kotegaeshi Ura, we are shoulder to shoulder with uke and then we slide forward grabbing uke's wrist going upward and then we bring his wrist inward as we step out or step back. At one point during Suwari Waza, I faceplanted my nose into the mat. Ouch! I think I'm okay. We paid attention to the entering step on the spine.
June 13, 2017 - class 209 with Dr. John Porter - 2 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Katatetori wrist grab in motion, Katatetori Iriminage version 1 and 2, Katatetori Sumiotoshi quick tenkan and with an extra 180 degree turn and step, and Katatetori Nikyo.
June 17, 2017 - class 210 with Roderick Johnson - 11 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, Shomenuchi Sankyo Omote, Shomenuchi Sankyo to reverse crank. Towards the end of class, Ken1 practiced some of his shodan test. After class, Ken1 and I practiced Shomenuchi Iriminage. Unfortunately, I fell wrong on my neck during a breakfall and had limited mobility for the rest of the class.
June 19, 2017 - class 211 with Roderick Johnson - 3 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo to Yonkyo Omote, Koshinage bokken practice with two bokkens, and Yokomenuchi Koshinage Omote and Ura. After class, Ken1 and I practiced Yokomenuchi Iriminage.
June 20, 2017 - class 212 with Dr. John Porter - 7 students. We practiced all of the techniques on the shodan test. I practiced at a slower pace than usual due to my neck injury. I accumulated lots of bruises on my arms from all the Morotetori techniques. Lots of famliar faces returned to the dojo. I was happy to see them. After class, Ken1 and I practiced Yokomenuchi Iriminage and dealing with a backhand atemi, which has elements of all three standard attacks in one. I proposed ducking the atemi.
June 24, 2017 - class 213 with John Holt - 8 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Ushiro Kubishime Ikkyo, and Ushiro Kubishime Sankyo Omote. After class, I was part of a Randori group so that Ken1 could practice Randori for his shodan test.
June 30, 2017 - Ken1, Ed, and I watched old videos of Dan tests from various members of our dojo. It was nice to see the natural progression from who they were before to who they are today. I noted that Ken1 looks very much like Sensei when he was going for his shodan. From watching the videos, it became apparent to me that speed is not what is being tested, but rather quality of technique.
July 8, 2017 - class 214 with Roderick Johnson - 12 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, Tsuki Koshinage Ura, and Kokyudosa. After class, Ken1 and three black belts practiced Ken1's shodan exam.
July 10, 2017 - class 215 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Sankyo Omote, Jihon Waza with five techniques Shomenuchi strike and Ikkyo block, and Jihon Waza with five techniques Shomenuchi strike and cross-arm block. Ken1 practiced for his shodan exam with Ramla, Barbara, and I. We practiced empty hand and bokken techniques. After class, Ken1 and I practiced Yokomenuchi Iriminage and Morotetori Iriminage.
July 11, 2017 - observed class 18 with Dr. John Porter - My neck and ankle were acting up again, so I sat on the bench watching everything as a spectator. I practiced one technique with Ken1, but I felt my ankle giving way in an Ikkyo move. My ex, Robyn, keeps telling me I'm too old to be doing Aikido, but I don't listen to her. I have to continue working towards my goal. Summer Camp is less than three weeks away. I hope I'm ready for it.
July 14, 2017 - Two students, Ken1 and Barbara, attended my first yoga class at the dojo. I created a 50-minute class with exercises and yoga postures from my pre-stretch warm-up routine, a beginner's yoga sequence called Core 26, an intermediate yoga sequence called Core 45, and my post-stretch cool-down routine. For a first yoga class, these students showed a lot of promise and looked eager to take the class again. I will try to teach this class every two weeks at the dojo, depending on everyone's schedules. After yoga class, Ken1 and I practiced the standing portion of my 3rd kyu test.
July 16, 2017 - class 216 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote and Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote. I practiced both Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote and Ura with Elizabeth using various Yokomen strikes as taught by Sensei, Dr. John, and Carlton. Elizabeth commented that I was very fast. After class, Ken1, Ken2, and Elizabeth were called up to practice Ken1's shodan exam. Ken1 did very well during this part showcasing his knowledge of all of the techniques. Sensei called up Tom and I to be a part of Ken1's Randori practice. My neck and ankle were feeling close to 100%, so I bolted forward as quickly as I could. Sensei restarted the Randori and somehow I ended up at the pole position, so I made sure I bolted forward ahead of everyone. Sadly, my ability to do an atemi was impaired by my feet not being planted firmly while running. During a demonstration, I felt like I was airborne in one of Sensei's throws. After class, Ken1 and I practiced Yokomenuchi Iriminage and Kotegaeshi.
July 17, 2017 - class 217 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Shihonage Omote, standing Omote and Ura, and with weapons (nage with bokken, uke with jo), Kokyudosa, and Jihon Waza. We practiced two ways of blending with the strike: moving off the line to the outside and getting uke's hand behind him with the blocking hand and an atemi to the throat, and tenshin back block and strike down. Sensei praised me during Jihon Waza for a Yokomenuchi Iriminage technique that I executed well.
July 22, 2017 - class 218 with Roderick Johnson - 12 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Yokomenuchi Shihonage Omote, and Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Ura. After class, Sensei called up Ken1 and five black belts to practice Ken1's shodan exam. Ken1 showed very nice fluidity throughout the test and was very smooth during Randori. I asked Sensei about getting my lost 5th kyu certificate replaced, but he said to not worry about it and to keep looking forward, not in the past.
July 24, 2017 - class 219 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Nikyo Omote, Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote third variation (strike and then uchi irimi tenkan), Shomenuchi Udekeminage normal and with a grab, and Yokomenuchi Udekeminage. We practiced the footwork for Udememinage. I landed wrong on a breakfall attempt and hurt my neck again.
July 25, 2017 - class 220 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Morotetori Kotegaeshi, Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Soto Kaitenage, Tsuki Kaitenage Omote empty hand and with a bokken, and Kokyudosa. We practiced a spirited Jihon Waza with partners and in a line. Sensei noted that I have to overcome my fear to be able to do a breakfall successfully.
July 30, 2017 to August 5, 2017 - USAF Summer Camp 2017 - My two sons and I attended the full week of USAF Summer Camp held at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. We arrived at 1:00pm on Sunday, July 30 for an early check-in at the hotel. We unpacked and got settled in before I took my first class with Penny Bernath at 4:00pm. After a few easy exercises, Penny called up four volunteers. "We're going to do some Randori," Penny said. "Holy crap! I'm being thrown right into the fire!" I said to myself. We practiced Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Iriminage, Katateori Kaitenage, Katatetori Kotegaeshi, and Katateori Sumiotoshi with irimi, tenkan, soto, and uchi variants. I fumbled my way through some of the techniques. Penny walked over and showed me how to improve my Kaitenage, advising me that I should be closer to uke. "Just have to see it tight," she said. She threw me so I could get the feel of the technique. Penny's small and petite frame belies the power she exhibits in her throws. She is one of my personal favorites when it comes to female Shihans because she gives me hope that, with my thin frame, I could someday do the kinds of things she does. At dinner, an older Aikidoka named Jim sat at our table and we had a good conversation about Aikido. "Aikido is the only martial art where you have to learn the techniques on your own. It takes a long time and a lot of frustration to learn Aikido," he said.
On Monday, July 31, my son, Matthew, and I took Bob Zimmerman's weapons class at 10:00am. Bob, a man with a very gentle, elegant voice, broke down a complete sword sequence from beginning to end, including how to hold a sword, the different types of cuts, standing in maai and studying your opponent, how to approach and how to move back, disarming a sword with your sword, and how to avoid a strike and then counter with your own. I practiced the sequence with my son. Bob walked over and showed my son how to improve his stance. After class, my sons and I spent some time in the indoor pool. I attended Joe Nemeth's weapons class at 4:00pm where we practiced jo techniques. My training partner, a disciple of Koichi Tohei, took an immediate liking to me because we had the same markings on our jos. "Tohei Sensei always said to mark our jos with two lines," he said. I attended Harvey Konigsberg's class at 5:00pm where we practiced Tai No Henko, Katatetori Kokyunage, Katatetori Iriminage, and Kokyudosa. I practiced Kokyunage with one of the women I practiced with yesterday. It turns out this lady is Marilyn St. John, one of the senior teachers at Harvey's dojo. I practiced Iriminage with Paul Manogue. Harvey walked by and commented, "Good, good, very good," of my iriminage. "Lift up more," he advised, "and go where your partner isn't. Once you establish the center of the circle, you maintain it." I had fun with my last training partner, a young man who was an Aikido enthusiast. We practiced very spirited throws on each other. "Thank you for being a very good uke," he said at the end of class.
On Tuesday, August 1, I attended Yamada Sensei's class at 9:00am. We practiced Tai No Henko, Katatetori Iriminage, Katatetori Shihonage, Katatetori Kotegaeshi, and Katatetori Nikyo. I met a nice beginning student (6th kyu) who considered me her Sempai during Iriminage practice. Over 200 students were in attendance so there was limited room on the mat. "I'm sorry. As I get older, I talk more," Yamada said. I feel that Yamada is opening up more to the way many Americans think. Although there are some students who would rather learn the techniques on their own, many of us like verbal instruction and moreover like to be told what we're doing wrong immediately so we don't continue doing it wrong. Seminars are great for people like me because of all of the collective experience of the certified instructors among the crowd. Sometimes classes are so large that us white belts need help from more experienced Aikidoists because the teacher can't be in multiple places at once. My kids and I spent some time at the outdoor pool where I got to soak in some rays and in the family recreation center where we got to play ice hockey and shoot pool. I attended Donovan Waite's class at 5:00pm. I love how Donovan conducts himself in such a regal way and I love his voice. We practiced Tai No Henko, Katatetori Kokyunage, Morotetori Kokyuho with three variants, Morotetori Iriminage, and Kokyudosa. I practiced Tai No Henko with Michelle and Morotetori Kokyuho with Marilyn. I practiced the Morotetori Iriminage with my favorite instructor from last year, Julia Freedgood.
Posted by Clare Din on Tuesday, August 1, 2017
On Wedneday, August 2, I attended Ben Pincus' weapons class at 10:00am. Yamada Sensei and Osawa Sensei were standing at one of the open doors to the main practice room. As we walked down the garden path to weapons class, they smiled and waved to us. I had no idea who Ben was prior to taking his class and only later discovered that he studied under Paul Sylvain, one of the Chiba Sensei's strongest students, before studying under Yamada. We practiced entering, entering and blocking, entering and blocking and cut (and variants), and ending with a weighted downward clash. Ben talked about the physics of the katana. "The top three inches of the sword are for cutting," he said. I watched the black belt tests at 11:30am. There were only two this year, one for nidan and one for sandan. My son Matthew was very interested in a non-weapons class, what he called a "rolling class," so we took Barbara Britton's class at 3:00pm. Barbara reputation for hard throws and tough classes precedes her. "I especially like to work out aerobically very hard, so at the end of class, I like to be pouring sweat and totally exhausted and then I feel that thats a good day," she said in a quote. Sounds like me after a yoga class! Her throws in class ranged from spirited to thunderous. We practiced Ryotetori Udekiminage, Ryotetori Kokyunage, Ryotetori back foot out, drop to the knee Kokyunage, Ryotetori tenkan tenkan Udekiminage. "Let's sit out on this last one," I said to Matthew. "Why?" he asked. "Because the last one's hard," I said. "You gotta' try," he said. Now those were the words of a true Sempai! We stayed and practiced the last technique. "Did you have fun?" I asked Matthew after class. He nodded enthusiastically.
Posted by Clare Din on Wednesday, August 2, 2017
On Thursday, August 3, I attended Steve Pimsleur's 6:30am class. We practiced Tai No Henko, Ushiro Ryokatetori Kokyuho, Ushiro Ryokatetori Kotegaeshi, Ushiro Ryokatetori Shihonage, Hanmi Handachi Ushiro Ryokatetori Kokyunage (and standing version), and Shomenuchi Iriminage. "Don't make your hands go up that high," Steve advised in Tai No Henko. I attended Robert LeVourch's weapons class at 10:00am. We practiced jo wrist turns, entering, high blocking, high blocking with a strike, counter with a strike, blocking with a circular throw, and Shihonage with a jo. I attended Harvey Konigsberg's class at 11:00am. We practiced Morotetori Kokyuho, Morotetori Iriminage, Morotetori Kotegaeshi, and a Morotetori sink down exercise. In the last exercise, I learned that sometimes it take a little bit of foot movement - a tenshin - to keep your hands in front of your center. Once you keep your hands in front of your center, then sinking and taking your uke off-balance is much easier. When done correctly, it looks, to the untrained eye, like you are using just one hand to overpower your opponent. My son Matthew and I attended Yamada Sensei's class at 5:00pm. Matthew wanted to sit up front. I wasn't sure about that, but one of the black belts said to go right on ahead because Yamada Sensei loves kids. We practiced Shomenuchi Ikkyo, Shomenuchi Ikkyo to Kotegaeshi, Shomenuchi Koshinage, and Shomenuchi Shihonage. Yamada was very pleased to see Matthew on the mat. He walked over and helped Matthew with Shomenuchi Ikkyo to Kotegaeshi. Janice, a black belt I was sparring with from the start of the week, noted that I was "moving much better than the first day... you now look like you have elbows and knees!"
Posted by Clare Din on Thursday, August 3, 2017
On Friday, August 4, I attended Osawa Sensei's class at 3:00pm. We practiced Tai No Henko, Ryotetori Tenchinage, Tsuki palm strike to the face, Iriminage shoulder drop, and Kosadori Kotegaeshi Ura. "Keep your elbows close to your body," I learned during the Tai No Henko exercise. I got to do palm strike practice with big John Gribben of Aikido of Greater Philadelphia! I also attended Irv Faust's weapons class at 4:00pm. We practiced jo wrist turning, Tsuki, Tsuki with a block, Tsuki with a block followed by Shomenuchi, Tsuki with a block followed by Shomenuchi and another Shomenuchi, tanto Shomenuchi tenkan collar grab and extended tanto arm, tanto Yokomenuchi tenkan collar grab and extended tanto arm, tanto Tsuki tenkan collar grab and extended tanto arm, Jihon Waza with all three tanto attacks, and jo wrist turning. I practiced with Damon Grace from Kingston Aikido for all of the tanto exercises. The banquet at 7:00pm featured sliced prime rib, two kinds of shrimp dishes, and salmon with orzo. Everything was delicious. A dance party in the cocktail lounge followed.
Posted by Clare Din on Friday, August 4, 2017
On Saturday, August 5, I attended Yamada Sensei's class at 9:00am. We practiced Ryotetori Tenchinage, Ryotetori Kokyunage, and Ryotetori Nikyo Ura. After class, we checked out of the hotel and drove back home. We had an amazing time and were impressed that we were able to take classes taught by instructors from all over the world and practice with really good teachers and superstars from many different dojos. I am especially grateful to the USAF and Aikikai of Philadelphia for providing me and my family the opportunity to attend the full week of Summer Camp.
Posted by Clare Din on Saturday, August 5, 2017
|Be sure to check out my USAF Summer Camp videos produced by my son, Brandon, on
August 12, 2017 - class 221 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, Yokomenuchi Kokyunage (extend uke's arm, the hand blade cuts uke's elbow), Yokomenuchi Soto Choke with Uke's Arm, and Yokomenuchi Soto various techniques. Everyone congratulated Ken1 for passing his black belt exam. Ken1 got to wear the late Henri Smith Sensei's hakama. Such an honor! It was almost Star Wars-ian as our Sensei, a student of the Henry Smith Sensei, produced his first black belt student. Our Jedi group just got stronger.
August 14, 2017 - class 222 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Kaitenage Omote, Yokomenuchi Ikkyo Omote and Ura, and Yokomenuchi Yonko Ura, Yokomenuchi Shihonage Ura, and Kokyudosa. I ordered a new gi from Seido Shop, the same place I bought my weapons set and obi. I'm hoping it will be as great as I think it is.
August 15, 2017 - class 223 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Ryotetori Tenchinage, Ushiro Tekubitori Jujinage, Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo Omote, and Kokyudosa. We practiced Ushiro Tekubitori techniques in Jihon Waza, but today was a bad day for me. I turned my foot the wrong way and I was so exhausted from the humidity I saw stars, but I kept going. I'm continuing to think about and practice my 3rd kyu techniques shadow boxing style.
August 19, 2017 - class 224 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Shihonage, Yokomenuchi Shihonage, and a variant of Yokomenuchi Shihonage with a jo. After class, I practiced Yokomenuchi Iriminage with Ken1.
August 25, 2017 - Ken1 and I practiced my 3rd kyu exam during today's open mat practice. "Don't even let uke touch you," Ken1 advised in the Suwari Waza Katatori (shoulder grab) techniques. That jogged my memory as to what to do in the two techniques. "Allow the tsuki punch to continue forward," he also advised in Tsuki Kaitenage. This made sense because the point of all of these techniques is never to block the force that's moving forward, but rather to blend your energy with uke's energy to redirect the force in another direction. For the first year and a half, when Sensei taught us the Shomenuchi techniques, I assumed that nage was blocking uke's attack as the first step and then following up with the rest of the technique. I didn't put the two parts together because stopping at the top of a strike meant a block to me when it really should have meant a blend. "What you thought was happening isn't happening at all" were the words I remember from the Aikidoist who pens the Concrete Lunch. I also need to work on my footwork and timing in Ushiro Ryokatatori Sankyo. Ironically, the 3rd kyu techniques were some of the first techniques I learned when I started Aikido, because several classmates were preparing for their 3rd kyu back then. After practice, I helped move Ken1's name stick to his new rank as 1st dan on the nafudakake board.
August 26, 2017 - class 225 with Roderick Johnson - 11 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Tai No Henko, Suwari Waza Katatetori Nikyo Ura, Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, and Ushiro Ryokatatori Kotegaeshi. At the end of class, we practiced Ushiro Ryokatatori techniques in Jihon Waza with classmates. "Breathe in your opponent; don't just breathe out," Sensei advised. "As he comes in towards you, breathe him in." I think what I've been doing is breathing in, holding my breath as uke comes, and then breathing out during the technique. Hmmm...
August 28, 2017 - class 226 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Tsuki Kotegaeshi, empty handed and with a tanto, and a variation of Tsuki Kotegaeshi with a weapon to the throat. Three new students joined our class today. One student in particular, Ben, showed lots of promise.
August 29, 2017 - class 227 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, Yokomenuchi Shihonage, Yokomenuchi Iriminage, bokken to bokken techniques to practice footwork, and Kokyudosa. After class, I practiced Yokomenuchi Iriminage (three variations) and Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi with Farrah.
August 30, 2017 - observed class with Ken Harris - 3 students. I got out of work late, but I still wanted to at least watch today's class to see things from a third person perspective. I was pleasantly surprised to see Ken1 teaching Carlton's class today! Ramla, Asamina, and Keith were very adept students. Ed and I watched from the sidelines. Ken1 taught several Yokomenuchi, Shomenuchi, Morotetori, and Ryotetori techniques as well as a handshake grip move that floored his ukes. He looked very comfortable and relaxed in his new role as teacher. I was very impressed with the skill of everyone's ukemi. Today I learned, from reading about bokken techniques, that you're supposed to stay relaxed and perform your movements "with minimal effort and yet with speed. This would allow the samurai to deal with an indefinite number of opponents rapidly and without fatigue." It was an ah-ha moment. There's no need to be rigid or use excessive strength as we simulate sword movements with empty hands. That's why everyone keeps telling me to stay relaxed during my movements!
September 1, 2017 - Ken1 and I practiced my entire 3rd kyu exam during today's open mat practice. I recorded it for self-study. Although my techniques are not ripe enough yet, the goal of today's practice was to get a ballpark estimate of where I'm currently at and also to see how well I do on both sides of every technique. In terms of the latter, I pleasantly surprised myself because, up until today, 90% of my self-practice has been focused on right hanmi.
September 2, 2017 - class 228 with Roderick Johnson - 12 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Tai No Henko, Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Shihonage, Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo, Ushiro Tekubitori Shihonage, and Ushiro Tekubitori Jujinage. We also practiced twice in Jihon Waza. Sensei inserted himself into the groups.
September 3, 2017 - class 229 with Ed Shockley - 2 students. We practiced bokken techniques, including the 8-step and strikes, and techniques from my 3rd kyu exam. I learned how to grip the sword properly. At the downward stroke of the bokken, you twist both hands outward simultaneously. I see a lot of the beginning stages of Tom in our new student, Franco. Franco has a solid build and was naturally using a lot of strength in his techniques, however, he wasn't falling correctly. At one point, the weight of his body landed on my foot. Ouch! "From what I saw on Friday, you basically know the techniques. What we are doing today applies to taller, longer people, not just people your size," Ed said.
September 5, 2017 - class 230 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Tai No Henko, Katatetori Iriminage, Tsuki Iriminage, and Tsuki Kotegaeshi. After class, Tom helped me with applying Tsuki Kotegaeshi on him, since he was a large uke, and I helped him with a couple of 4th kyu techniques for his upcoming exam.
September 11, 2017 - class 231 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Nikyo Omote and Ura, Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo Omote, and Ushiro Ryokatetori Kotegaeshi Omote. "Don't let your thumb up after you cast uke's arm down," Sensei advised in Ushiro Tekubitori Sankyo Omote, "and keep the thumb down as you go around the arm."
September 12, 2017 - class 232 with Roderick Johnson - 4 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Nikyo Omote and Ura, Yokomenuchi Shihonage Omote, Tsuki Iriminage, and Kokyudosa. "A 4th kyu Tsuki Iriminage is going to look different than a 5th kyu Tsuki Iriminage," Sensei said. This immediately reminded me of what Sensei said about "making your Aikido your own" and what Ed said about "My Aikido now is different from my Aikido years ago. I have to make it fit my body. Just like when a person gets older, his or her Aikido changes with his or her body."
September 16, 2017 - class 233 with Roderick Johnson - 11 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katatori Sankyo Ura (4th kyu), Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi (3rd kyu), Ushiro Rokatetori Kotegaeshi (4th kyu), and Ushiro Ryokatetori Sankyo Omote (3rd kyu). We followed our techniques with a spirited Jihon Waza practice and ended class with Tom and Jim practicing a few of their 4th kyu exam techniques.
September 18, 2017 - class 234 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Shomenuchi Kaitenage, Shomenuchi Shihonage, and Yokomenuchi Gokyo (with a tanto). After class, Ken2 practiced part of his 2nd kyu exam.
September 19, 2017 - class 235 with Roderick Johnson - 5 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Shomenuchi Iriminage, Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, Morotetori Nikyo Ura, Ushiro Kubishime Udekeminage, and Ushiro Kubishime Koshinage. I went over in Koshinage three times today, the first with an assist from Sensei. It is a crazy feeling falling over someone. Thankfully, I didn't land on the small of my back and butt this time.
September 22, 2017 - Today was the second time Ken1 and I practiced my entire 3rd kyu exam during today's open mat practice. I recorded it for self-study. I was more fluid in several techniques, but regressed in Morotetori Iriminage, brain-farting after the first successfully executed technique. Ushiro Ryokatatori Sankyo didn't intimidate me this time like it did last time. I remembered almost all of the techniques without having to refer to the exam list. The practice went faster today than three weeks ago. I graded myself half a letter step up for today's effort.
September 23, 2017 - class 236 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Katetori Kaitenage Uchi, Shomenuchi Kaitenage Uchi (remember to grab and sink), Shomenuchi Kotegaeshi (two variations: tenkan back and quarter turn), and Kokyudosa. Carlton mentored me on the finer points of Kokyudosa, which he described as "magic" with a smile. We had a special guest in the dojo today, Sensei Henry Smith's son, Wilson, who exhibited some nice ukemi. His resemblance to his father in the old dojo pictures was uncanny. "It's an honor to be in your father's dojo," I said to him. After class, Keith practiced his 2nd kyu exam with Carlton and John Holt as ukes. A number of us had lunch together at Rione, a pizza place next door.
My new Deluxe Extra-Soft Double-Layer Aikido gi and pants set arrived from Seido Shop. Weighing over five pounds, the gi feels like wearing a coat of armor. It's also quite stiff, but I suspect that the material will loosen up and become soft over time. For the colder months, this gi might be a blessing in disguise. The pants are double reinforced from the thighs to the ankles making this a superior choice to my pants that are only reinforced at the knees. They're also quite comfortable as I walked around my home while wearing them, almost forgetting that they were Aikido pants. By far, these are the best Aikido pants I've ever worn. I later discovered that this gi and pants set is the preferred choice of master teachers, so now I'm really locked into Aikido for the long haul! Pretty fitting for someone whose ex has said, "You're not married to me; you're married to yoga and Aikido!"
October 2, 2017 - class 237 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, Yokomenuchi Shihonage, and Ushiro Ryokatatori Kotegaeshi. After class, Tom practiced his 4th kyu exam with Ken1 and Ken2.
October 3, 2017 - class 238 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Kaitenage, Hanmi Handachi Shomenuchi Kaitenage, and Ushiro Kubishime Koshinage. I wore my new deluxe gi in class today and noticed that my falls felt a lot more comfortable. The extra layers in the gi really helped absorb the impact of hitting the mat. "That was an A-class breakfall," Sensei remarked after I slapped my arm first on the mat and landed magically on my side. Unfortunately, I landed on my back on the next throw. Sensei mentioned that landing on your back is potentially dangerous as there is a great chance you'll hit your head on the ground and knock yourself out. After class, Ken2 and Keith practiced their 2nd kyu exams.
I ordered another gi from Seido Shop, a Deluxe Single-Layer Slim Cut gi. This gi is much thinner and has a more streamlined fit. Being thinner, it is probably not the best choice for landing softly in breakfalls. The amazing thing about Seido Shop is my order arrived two days after I placed it.
October 7, 2017 - Yoko Okamoto Seminar - Ken1, my two sons, and I drove up to Bucks County Aikido in Doylestown, PA to attend Sensei Okamoto's seminar. This amazing teacher taught two two-hour classes today filled with subtle tips and techniques for finding your center, meeting your uke's attack, unbalancing your opponent, reducing the energy of uke's attack, and moving through a technique without force, something that she coins "soft touch Aikido." Sensei Okamoto demonstrated skills for dealing with the three major attacks as well as showing us how to slip an attack and apply a powerful shoulder push. She emphasized the importance of showing intention in every attack. "Don't stop just before your hand reaches me. Really try to hit me," she said to her ukes. Sensei Okamoto did not shy away from showing us how applicable her techniques were to much larger opponents. It was interesting to see her manipulate her opponents like ragdolls. The seminar was packed with dozens of Aikido students of all levels. At times, it was so crowded it was difficult to find space on the mat to throw your partner. Sensei Okamoto did a clever mat management technique of dividing the class in two and letting one half practice at a time. This gave the other half the ability to observe the technique in action. Everyone survived the 82 degree weather, which felt warmer with all the sweat-drenched bodies all around us. I'm glad I wore my new single-layer gi rather than my double-layer one. Ken1 and I met many friends and acquaintances at the seminar that we recognized from the USAF Summer Camp. I had a chance to practice with one of my favorite Sempais from Summer Camp, Janice Taitel. Janice was very patient with me as I fumbled through some difficult concepts. The Bucks County Aikido dojo is a unique and beautiful dojo set in a rustic environment complete with trees, Buddhist meditation decor, and a gorgeous lake in the background. Many thanks to Sensei George Lyons for organizing this rare event.
October 9, 2017 - class 239 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura, Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, Morotetori Iriminage, and Katatetori Uchi Irimi Tenkan Sankyo Omote with a Jo. Sensei showed us three variations of Morotetori Iriminage where we did a kaiten, a step out to the side 90 degrees, and a tenkan. I learned from Ed that I have to not be afraid to pull myself in a little closer before I do the tenkan. When I practiced the same technique with Eric, I was very careful not to let him hit the ground hard by placing my hand on his back to cushion his fall. I'm not sure I should've done that, but it felt right at the time. I wore my deluxe gi a second time and it was hot as hell in the dojo, but I survived. I like my new gis, but I wish they had a smaller waist to them so my belt would stay put.
October 14, 2017 - class 240 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Katatetori Kotegaeshi and Morotetori Kotegaeshi empty hand and with a tanto. After class, Ken2 and Keith practiced their 2nd kyu exams. Prior to class, I helped John Holt with an Ushiro demonstration for the children's class.
October 16, 2017 - class 241 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Katatetori Tenchinage, Ryotetori Tenchinage, and Ushiro Kubishime Koshinage. Something magical happened in class because I was taking ukemi in Koshinage much better today than in previous days. Arm slap to mat... boom!!! The thousands of times I slapped the mat with my arm during a fall finally paid off. I surprised myself. It was like I was channeling my son Matthew's energy! "I just believe in myself," I remember Matthew saying to me one day when I asked him why his rolls were so good. After class, Asamina and I were called upon to be ukes for Ken2's 2nd kyu exam. I was taking Koshinage falls during the exam! It was almost trial by fire for me as we went through all ten techniques with their omote and ura variations in rapid succession. A lightbulb moment hit me during Kaitenage. Now I know why Sensei told me not to launch myself during breakfalls in ukemi practice. It's because we were actually practicing for Kaitenage! Ken2 passed with flying colors. "Very nice breakfalls, ladies," Sensei said to Asamina and I.
October 17, 2017 - class 242 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo, Morotetori Ikkyo with a tenkan, and Morotetori uchi irimi tenkan Kotegaeshi wrist and arm crank. At the end of class, we demonstrated what we learned in a spirited Jihon Waza practice. Sadly, I could only get one technique out of myself today. I was feeling a little worn down from yesterday's class.
October 23, 2017 - class 243 with Roderick Johnson - 6 students. We practiced Morotetori Iriminage and Morotetori Kotegaeshi empty-hand, with bokken, and with tanto. We ended our practice with a Jihon Waza with bokken where we demonstrated Morotetori Iriminage, Kotegaeshi, Shihonage, and Udekeminage. A new student joined our dojo today. She reminded me of me when I first started Aikido. In fact, she reminded me of me twenty years ago. "You're so fluid," she said to me when we were sparring. "No, I'm not, but thank you," I replied with a smile.
October 24, 2017 - class 244 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Ikkyo Ura and Shomenuchi Sankyo Ura. Sempai Ed showed us how to control the arm of a longer uke. Sensei showed us how to control uke's arm to keep uke in our center. He showed us how the pin is the same no matter if you use your arm or your leg. Sensei praised me for my techniques today. I showed a lot of good movement in my heavy double-layer gi and sweated my brains out.
October 27, 2017 - Today was the third time Ken1 and I practiced my entire 3rd kyu exam during today's open mat practice. I recorded it for self-study. The test progressed smoothly, but the final three techniques - Morotetori Iriminage, Ushiro Ryokatatori Sankyo, and Shomenuchi Sankyo - needed some fine-tuning. Overall, it was another half a letter step up for today's effort. My son Matthew practiced for his orange belt test. Roger demonstrated what it might be like to be confronted by a drunken assailant. At the end of practice, I taught a mini yoga class to Ken1.
October 28, 2017 - class 245 with Roderick Johnson - 13 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo exercise, Morotetori Ikkyo Ura, Ushiro Kubishime Sankyo Omote, Ushiro Kubishime Ikkyo Ura, Morotetori Udekeminage open-hand and with a bokken. After class, John and Ken1 were called upon to be ukes for Keith's 2nd kyu exam.
October 30, 2017 - class 246 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote, Tsuki Iriminage, and Tsuki Kokyunage (backwards neck brace). I had some issues moving Franco in Tsuki Kokyunage since he was much bigger than me. One of our new students noticed I was very toned and wondered if I did anything else besides Aikido. I told her I was a yoga teacher. Sensei and I reviewed a recording of my recent practice session. "That's a good start," he said, "but you also have to show the little things that make our Aikido unique." Specifically, our Aikido is based on Chiba Sensei's studies with O Sensei.
October 31, 2017 - class 247 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Tsuki Iriminage and Tsuki Kotegaeshi Ura, breaking both techniques down to their details at every step. We worked on the little things. Sensei thought I did well today.
November 3, 2017 - Today was the fourth time Ken1 and I practiced for my 3rd kyu exam. I actually stopped by the dojo with no intention to practice, but I ended up practicing the techniques I needed more refinement on from last time. In particular, we went through the three techniques involving Iriminage as well as Ushiro Kubishime Sankyo (a similar variant - Ushiro Ryokatatori Sankyo - is on the 3rd kyu test). I helped Ken1 with his stretching and we also attempted to practice a technique from Brazilian Ju-Jitsu called the Kimura Arm Lock.
November 6, 2017 - class 248 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Morotetori Udekeminage Omote and Ura, Morotetori Nikyo Omote and Ura, and Kokyudosa. I watched the black belt class, which was open to 3rd kyu and above. Class started with Morotetori Udekeminage with twelve rolls per person instead of the usual four and progressed to Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, Yokomenuchi Udekeminage, a two-on-one Randori, Yokomenuchi Irimi Tenkan Sankyo Omote, a "gauntlet" with Ken1 whose birthday was today, and Kokyudosa (abandoning the center line and coming from the side against larger opponents). The emphasis was on good breakfalls in every technique.
November 7, 2017 - class 249 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Morotetori Kotegaeshi and Morotetori Iriminage. We broke Morotetori Iriminage down to incremental steps: Uke grabs your right wrist. Step and sink to the right at an angle as you swing your hand face-down to the right in the same direction as your foot. Bring uke's head to your shoulder with your left hand and press his head down to your shoulder. Slide forward with your right foot as you raise your hand up, rotating your hand inward. Follow your fingertips with your eyes. As you approach the apex, push your left hand into uke's shoulder. Kaiten turn 180, keep your right arm up and continue to push uke with your left hand as you step forward with your right foot at a diagnonal across his body. Arch your right hard over like a rainbow. As he falls, end your arm movements with your right hand pointed towards uke.
November 13, 2017 - class 250 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, Ryotetori Tenchinage, and Ryotetori Kokyunage Omote and Ura. In the Ryotetori techniques, we focused on stepping in with the lead hand down to unbalance uke (cat step), rotating the front foot to face uke in earth position (feet about shoulder width apart), sinking low, and coming up and over with the back hand in a hip turn to throw uke at an angle. The hand coming up is close to uke's body starting from his gut all the way up through his head. I accidentally hit Franco in the jaw with an open-handed uppercut. "That's it!" Sensei exclaimed, not referring to the hit, but rather to the moving energy of my hand up Franco's centerline. After class, Ken1 was called up to be an uke for Franco's 6th kyu exam.
November 14, 2017 - class 251 with Roderick Johnson - 3 students. We practiced Morotetori Kokyuho, Morotetori Kokyunage, Morotetori with a tenkan uchi irimi tenkan Kotegaeshi Omote and Ura, and Morotetori with a tenkan uchi irimi tenkan Shihonage Omote. We focused moving our handblade up and down our centerline in the techniques and incorporating the slash across the waist atemi in the uchi irimi tenkan techniques. We practiced a spirited Jihon Waza at the end. "If you stop during a technique because of a brain freeze, take ukemi to reset your mind," Sensei advised. I think I took some breakfalls without realizing it. Sensei thought I did well today.
November 17, 2017 - Ken1 and I practiced a few techniques, but it was more about yoga today. He and new student Michelle practiced yoga with me. Michelle practiced her rolls in preparation for her 6th kyu.
November 20, 2017 - class 252 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Katetori Nikyo Omote, Katetori Nikyo Ura, Katetori Kaitenage Omote, Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Ura with a tanto, and Yokomenuchi Gokyo Omote with a tanto. In Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi, make sure you tenkan (rather than push his bicep down and crab step) around uke's wrist keeping his arm extended so he doesn't cut you with the knife. Pin with a leg lean. In Yokomenuchi Gokyo, make sure uke's arm is extended and above 90 degrees from his body before bending his arm. Secure his wrist with one hand (thumb and index) and push inward and slide the other hand against his back arm to create the tension so he releases the tanto.
November 21, 2017 - class 253 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote, Shomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote.
November 25, 2017 - class 254 with Roderick Johnson - 11 students. There were four adult women, three adult men, and four children in class. We practiced Shomenuchi Ikkyo Undo, Shomenuchi Iriminage, and Shomenuchi Kotegaeshi. At the end of class, we thanked each other as usual. Mark, a new student and friend of John, stepped forward and said, "I wanted to especially thank you for throwing me with such control. I could really feel it." Something in my neural network really connected today. I think it may have had something to do with doing irimi tenkan, tenkan, and kaiten all on the same side first instead of alternating left, right, left, right. I connected the dots with how I saw Chiba Sensei move in an Iriminage video.
November 27, 2017 - class 255 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Katatori Nikyo Omote, Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Shihonage Omote, Shomenuchi Shihonage Omote, and Shomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote. After class, Mario, Elizabeth, and Ken1 were called upon to be ukes for Asamina's 2nd kyu practice exam.
November 28, 2017 - class 256 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Shomenuchi Kaitenage Omote and Ura and Tsuki Koshinage. The more I practice my techniques, the more details I pick up from watching Aikido videos of other Senseis demonstrating these techniques. After class, Sulaiman and Ken1 were called upon to be ukes for Asamina's 2nd kyu practice exam.
December 4, 2017 - class 257 with Roderick Johnson - 10 students. We practiced Morotetori Nikyo Omote and Ura. After class, Elizabeth and Ken2 were called upon to be ukes for Asamina's 2nd kyu practice exam. The black belt class practiced tenkan palm to the face uchi Sankyo to Nikyo Ura.
December 5, 2017 - class 258 with Roderick Johnson - 8 students. We practiced Hanmi Handachi Katatetori Nikyo Ura, Hanmi Handachi Shomenuchi Iriminage, Ushiro Kubishime Koshinage, and Ushiro Tekubitori Jujinage. Today, I really felt the difference in power between a Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Iriminage and a Hanmi Handachi Shomenuchi Iriminage. After class, Farrah and Ken1 were called upon to be ukes for Asamina's 2nd kyu practice exam.
December 9, 2017 - class 259 with Roderick Johnson - 9 students. We practiced Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Nikyo Ura, Tenshin Ryotetori Jujinage, and Tenshin Ryotetori Sankyo Omote. The latter two were advanced techniques. We learned a Chiba Sensei "top of the food chain" breakfall that required us to send our energy diagonally across our body. I had trouble doing this today, but was this the breakfall I had accidentally performed early on in my Aikido studies?
December 11, 2017 - class 260 with Roderick Johnson - 7 students. We practiced Morotetori Ikkyo Ura and Yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi Omote. Sensei praised me for my practice today.
December 12, 2017 - class 261 with Roderick Johnson - 3 students. We practiced Tsuki Kaitenage Omote and Ura and Tsuki Iriminage (2 variations). I taught one of my classmates how to fold a hakama at the end of class.
My Aikido journey: classes 1-100, 101-200, 201-300