Monday, April 12, 2010

Congratulations, It's a ...beginners class!

In July 2010, I'm officially having something alien to me take place - a real beginners class!

I know, some of you were expecting me to say something like "heartfelt concern for people" but this beginners class is easier to do and really mean. This started more as a joke as do most of my decent worthwhile ideas, but with a bolt of lightning and a sprinkle of pixie dust, it sprang into life.

I'm enthused about the possibilities, but at the same time, I am a lazy sot by personal nature. I'm not wanting to do this, even though I see the need and know it needs to be done. My sense of 'giri'(look it up in an English Japanese dictionary if you don't know what it means) warred with my slothful nature and won.

I'm grateful to have had the Seattle School of Aikido board members agree with my proposal and to shift their schedule to accommodate this class.

It's not that I can't teach beginners, it's that I'm usually not of the temperament to do it. Kind of like with children, I am better suited to the Uncle role. But my class size has grown to the size that I can't manage it properly unless I separate the beginners from seniors to focus better on the needs of both.

This serves three purposes. One is to develop teaching abilities of the seniors as they learn more about how to present things in the manner I want used for Icho Ryu. I plan to do this by having them observe how I present things in class and help teach the beginners class. We plan on splitting the class into smaller size groups with a senior leading each group.  Which is why I post this on the Our Bad Budo Blog rather than on my Wretched Hive of Scum blog, it impacts the TNBBC seniors, not just me as the chief instructor.

Two, it brings in fresh blood with new (and somewhat used) students who need drill in basic skills like ukemi and conditioning, need to learn more etiquette, or simply want to get a different perspective on learning in a structured environment. Three is it makes my life easier to have more time on mat and to be able to focus better on the needs of beginners and those of more senior students in different classes.

At some point of course, some of the beginners will evolve into senior students and will become hopefully, students in the senior classes. Joining the senior class will be up to each student and how hard they work to get not only the physical aspects, but the social and mental aspects of class and learning the skills and techniques taught, and when I think they are ready.  Some will do so, others will not. And eventually, if they stick with this stuff, then they will assume their roles as assistant instructors in the beginner's class.

Thus, we continue the cycle of learning and teaching for students of budo as taught in Icho Ryu, as they spread their budo seeds, prior to their deaths upon the banks of the Bernie Lau River and Rice paddy-Sugar cane field drainage canal, before gasping their last breath and rotting away into mouldering bones and residual nourishment for the martial arts scavengers who skulk about the river banks, looking for knowledge and not quite empty bottles of beer and whisky. (I live in Seattle, there had to be some reference to salmon.)

My class for beginners is going to be mainly for those who have already pestered me enough to get me to let them join my class, those who have asked for more time on mat, and for members of Seattle School of Aikido, where Icho Ryu makes it's home, who want a different approach to budo than offered by aikido.

I'm not opposed to more people joining my class outside of those mentioned above, so we shall see what happens. The main limit to numbers in class is what I think we can manage to teach effectively, and that creates a low number limit. With seniors on the mat helping, I can't see room for any more than the toes and fingers on on a small child after an unfortunate encounter with dad's lawn mower, which is about 12-14 maximum.

Why a small class? Because I'm not foolish enough to think I'm any good, or an effective teacher, but I'm also good enough to know I'm better than learning from a book, unless you completed the Hooked on Phonics course. Then, a book might be better.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Anti-SPLAT Method!

Want to learn how to make someone (uke, “bad guy”, etc.) go SPLAT!?

Well then listen up, kid…

Stop trying so damn hard to knock ‘em down! Yer givin’ it all away with yer herky-jerky entry... givin’ ‘em a chance to evade/push back/redirect/etc.

The ONLY way to actually learn techniques and body skill is to be slow. Take every stance, every movement step by step. Each self-identification of activation and relaxation in solo exercises (correctly) is the key to building the “frame” and the engine to drive it. In two person kata and in two person testing exercises, including randori, one can test the limits of these aspects of strength. Be patient and get ready to be humbled (isn’t that the best way to find teachers? Sure helped me!).

Now I’m gonna switch it up on ya:

Internal “frame” and “groundpath” etc. are foundational, but a good technician, w/ excellence in techniques, focus, and strength will do just fine—if the “internal MA expert” has no ability in regard to technique, timing, or real fighting/ at the very least randori experience. However, if you combine the two, “frame/IMA strengths” and technical/experiential/attitudinal skills, what you have is exceptional.

Ain’t that so?

So why are standards so low???

I guarantee, if you knock your dojo mates over ALL THE TIME and they knock you over ALL THE TIME, at least one of you is full of crap.

A few rules for not fooling yourself:

Don’t believe that “teaching techniques” are applicable to fighting any more than video game perfected techniques are. Instead, use them to better understand a condition in you or your partner’s body during said drill.

If there is a technique you consider a “fighting technique”—Why? Have you played with it enough to feel strong in a high stress environment? Randori? Really?

Learn to hit someone hard for real, and learn to take some hits. No one I have ever met, amazing badass SENSEI or not, hasn’t been clocked. Suck it up. No one is an invincible ninja.

Be patient and be energetic at the same time about your training. Expect slow results, but love it enough to get some dang results. Visualization, solo practice, 2 person practice, and testing are the keys.

At least that’s my best guess…