Anno Sensei & Top 40 List

I’d like to quickly mention somethings before the start of this week.

1.) On July 9th of this month I went to Santa Cruz, California to sit in on Motomichi Anno Sensei’s 80th Birthday. Anno Sensei, 8th Dan Shihan is one of the last remaining first generation aikidoka who studied under O’Sensei. That week he had made his 20th (might be more, I can’t remember off the top of my head) appearance at the Aikido of Santa Cruz Summer Retreat.

Keep in mind, this man is 80 years old (as of May 2011) and who has been training in Aikido since his 20s. Anyway back to the story so since I was busy with school, work, and homework I was only able to come to his birthday party on the night of the 9th. I was genuinely surprised he recognized me! I waved to him just before the presentation started, he smiled and waved back. I guess knowing that I am only one of perhaps tens of thousands of students he has met over the years made the moment better.

Honestly I don’t know why I keep on being drawn to this master. He’s not your John Wayne type. He certainly not a tough-guy type nor is he one to seek or be comfortable in the spotlight. Quite a humble sensei; “friendly”, “nice”, and “down to earth” are common adjectives used to describe him. Standing at 5’3″, he does give off a slight cartoon-ish presence (to me anyway).

So here I am at his dinner and throughout the night it’s a rather mature affair. Wine, cheese, few meat dishes, the whole 9 yards. fortunately for me there was a full stocked bar in the hotel that the party was at and I helped myself with a couple of beers. So comes the ceremony and guest speakers who praised Anno Sensei. It was mentioned that he was awarded the 人間国宝-Ningen Kokuhō (Living National Treasure) by the Japanese government a couple of years back. My own sensei gave his own short speech regarding Anno Sensei (who was one of his teachers in Japan, by the way).

The dinner/ceremony went on for another 2 hours before it ended. Honestly I came only for Anno Sensei. As I’ve mentioned before I can’t explain why I’m drawn to this master, perhaps my youthful and aggressive energy could use some calming influence every once in a while in the form of a martial arts master.

…though I prefer it in a women 😉

2.) I recently found out I was nominated in a Top 40 martial arts list!…in Tae Kwon Do.

Wait what? Did  someone miss the translation somewhere? You can view the list and page here, I’m number 28.

I appreciate the free publicity and all, but seriously Tae Kwon Do? You can’t get any further from Aikido! Hah, in any case I will thank whoever put me on the list, however I will advise said person to do some research. I wonder what the Striking Thoughts has to say about this (he’s number 3 on the list).

Alright that’s it for now, till next time ladies and gents!

Musings 070611: Kids have more balls than most adults!

In lieu of long posts (of which I have 5 in back order) I have decided to break the silence and share a couple of stories which support the title of this post. And seriously, some of these kids put most adults in awe! (myself included).

Story #1: 3 weeks ago I was teaching my normal kids class that Thursday. Towards the end of the class I notice one of the 5-year-old boys has the “I’m-going-to-throw up” face. Now mind you this boy is one of the rambunctious characters and is often caught by me and my fellow child instructors not listening and just being a little punk. He’s gotten better at listening to the adults but at the beginning he was very prone to just being distracted and “listening to his own record”. Anyway at first this was what I thought – but the slightly colored face gave it away that he was rather dehydrated. He’s usually has a rather colorful personality – being a bit of a brat – so him walking up to me in this fashion was out of character for him. I asked him if he wanted to have a seat and drink some water. He shook his head; he wanted to stay on the mat. Okay I thought so I allowed him to stay on. A couple of minutes later I noticed he still hadn’t gone to drink and his face was still rather colored. I asked him again – he said

“No I’m okay”.

At this point the class was about to end in a few minutes so I thought that having him sit down would deprive him of a much-needed closure activity. So I finish the activity and I’m having the kids sit down to bow out. Calmly this child stands up and says the words:

“I don’t feel well.”

Okay, I thought, and told him he could go to his mom and have a drink. My blue belt sempai on the other hand exclaims “You don’t look well, go throw up!” At this point the poor kid’s face was beige all over (he has white skin) and a small hue of green in the mix.

What happens next should be chronicled among the volumes of kindergarten/5-year-old badassery. He calmly walks up to his mother (her face is a mix of motherly worry/concern/and “w.t.f. is happening here?”) and stops as if to wait for his bottle of water. Instead he then turns away from his mom and stops at the trash can that is nearby (which by the way, is almost as tall of he is).

All of sudden he stands up on his toes and a gigantic blob of vomit ushers forth from his mouth and into his trash can. For those of you who have seen your vomit after a night of heavy drinking – imagine that flying out of a 5 year old’s mouth!

The whole waterfall scene happened less than 2 seconds, but what happens next makes him a god among kids. He wipes his mouth with the sleeve of his gi, walks up to his mother (she’s still looking at him with a “what-the-hell-are-you-thinking” gaze), takes a sip of water from his toddler-size water bottle. He then turns and bows towards the shomen of the school, gets on the mat, then sits in seiza with the class that’s waiting to be bowed out. He then looks at me (I’m seated in the instructor position) and gives me the most serious, disciplined, I-am-ready-for-your-orders-sir! look that I have ever seen him use. He says nothing for the rest of the class.

That kid took it like a boss!

...kinda like this kid. Only less of this badass and more like...

... this badass.

FYI: the rest of the students who were politely sitting waiting for him showed and expressed their disgust at the scene, saying “ewww…”. And like a boss, he ignored them (at least from what I could tell).

Story #2: So this is actually from a classmate of mine that reminded me of my student in #1. So his wife and him were watching the fireworks this past 4th and according to him, they were waiting for the show when suddenly his wife lets out a scream! He turns around and a woman nearby lets out another scream. Apparently there was a cockroach that was about 4 inches long walking under them. The two women were screaming “Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!”. My friend was standing around trying to decide what to do when an 8-year-old badass comes out of nowhere and crushes the sucker under his foot.

I asked my friend what he thought and he stated that he didn’t want a cockroach carcass at the bottom of his shoe. However, little Jimmy had no problem with that.

…And that’s it! That’s all the time I have left before I need to go sleep like an old man and wake up in 5.5 hours to “enrich” the minds of 25 7 year-olds…like a boss.

Till next time ladies and gents!

Update: 16 hour days

Student teaching!

As part of my master’s program I am to being a student-teacher to a classroom I would spend the next 4 weeks getting wet in the world of teaching young minds. In this case, 2nd grades at a school where I would have to make a 45 minute commute each way. I appreciate the “me” time but it’s only killing my wallet each trip. That and the fact I don’t have an active income is not helping the situation.

I don’t know what I’m more angry/impatient about: Not having an income or the wait until the possibility of having an income.

I guess it’s all part of the “plan”, getting through my program with the hope that with a Master’s in Education and (hopefully) 2 credentials in tow I will have a greater chance of finding and keeping a position that will have me become a responsible and contributing adult to this society.

So long story short: a 45 minute one way commute (4 days a week for the next 4 weeks) to a 2nd grade classroom with a teacher whose position is akin to a Jedi master training a padawan (me) who academically destined to take on the minds of the young children in this nation. As for the first week I feel like a fish out of the water; today for example there was a full 15 minutes that I sat there and I couldn’t come up with a way to teach the kids especially after the lesson was done. My master teacher (their official designation) gave me the “What are you doing?” look and I felt bad that 1 year of teacher training didn’t prepare me for 15 minutes of not doing anything after the main lesson had been completed.

But she (my master teacher) I feel is a good fit. I believe she was awarded teacher of the year award a couple of times in the past in the district that she works in. It’s the first week so we’ll see.

As for my absence in posts? The homework load just shot up 4 fold (along side my current student teaching 4 days a week) so tonight is one of the few nights I get to write (along with my much, much reduced attendance in Aikido). Before my world got invaded by a cargo hold of homework whoop ass I actually was attending to this blog more often than my homework! I’m know I’m a bad example of  a teacher but I suppose that writing has always been a medium in which I could express myself honestly and freely. This is in great contrast to my past academic and personal life.

Well it’s back to the grind again. The textbooks await…=/

Update 061911: A Bunch of Stuff and the Cereal Killer

It’s 1 am here in California and my feet are still sore after an 8 hour shift at my part-time retail job that I recently started. It’s actually the same one that I had for Christmas, but that’s a story for a different time. Oh well here it goes.

1. Aikido Journal Online has featured another one of my articles! This time about my journey of ukemi ever since I restarted Aikido almost three years ago. Have a look and tell me what you think? I believe I mentioned I am only a 1st Kyu and I’m already talking about a concept/actuality that only the founder truly understands. You can view the article here on their website and the original here in my blog.

2. My Sensei has publicity! It’s awesome that a Sensei like him who has trained for over 40 years is getting this type of recognition and notice. It’s always a great thing that people other than Aikidoists are recognizing him and the message of Aikido that he is trying to spread. Thanks to Bob from Striking Thoughts! The original video and blog are seen here.

3. So back in March of this year I was put onto the Top 50 Martial arts blogs of the internet list by the Guide to Online Schools site. This list at that time included heavy weights and big wigs such as “Striking Thoughts”, “Fist in the Frost”, and “Epic Martial Arts Blog”. I love to say that I’m rubbin’ shoulders with the head honchos of the martial arts blogasphere, but it seems the list has vanished and became this. I was planning on releasing the news of my massive promotion…but I guess not anymore!

4. Last but not least, I found this funny video as done by Youtube celebrity, USC grad, and video-editing guru Freddie Wong!

I’ll admit, the whole reason why I’m featuring this video is the movement in 0:40. Other than that it’s funny humor and CGI.

Here’s the behind the scenes version.

Freddie Wong is actually a duo comprising of Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch. Both maintain the channel freddiew and is as of May 2011, the 14th most subscribed channel on youtube. In recent years, their skills and talent have led them to collaborate with various on-and-off youtube celebrities such as Andy Whitfield, Shenae Grimes, Eliza Dushku, and Wong Fu productions.

Till next time ladies and gents!

Ukemi: The Basics and the Journey thus Far

It’s been a while since I have done a training themed post. With the onset of a series of fresh lectures by my Sensei about Ukemi, I thought I’d chime in with my own personal journey.

Ukemi is one of the most important components of being an Aikido practitioner, it is also from my experiences with other teachers one of the most abstract – and consequently misunderstood – aspects of the martial art. I might expand on this in the future, but for now I’m going to share with you some of the insights that I have witnessed, experienced, failed at, and done in terms of Ukemi.

What is Ukemi?

Ukemi is also the art of protecting oneself during the fall. You see all these spectacular turns, rolls, and falls by aikidoka and you may wonder: “It’s all flashy stuff, but it is real?” My friends, from the injuries that I’ve sustained from not doing ukemi, I will attest that it is quite real.

Ukemi by itself is translated loosely as “receiving with the body”. For a more technical translation view here at Aikiweb. The art itself, for those of us who train in it, is composed of two people – partners: Uke and Nage.

Uke: The person coming in with the “attack” and “receiving the technique” according to the situation.

Nage: The person receiving the “attack” and “executing” the technique.

These are just general translations. I will also get into the “attack” part later.

A good Uke leads to a good Nage. A great Uke leads to a great Nage.

~ J.Wada Sensei

But not necessarily the reverse. Running with this way of being it’s been an interesting ride so far with my Sensei and the senior black belts in the school. Ukemi is emphasized so much here that I have gotten scolded by my Sensei in front of the class for not coming in with a full body presence.

How is Ukemi done?

You see, Ukemi is not falling. This is a big part of the misconception of it in the art, the “falling part”. Most often times you fall in order to protect yourself from the motion of the technique. Take this in mind: some guys are hard-hitting – dominating guys, some are soft – more inclined to help you, most are somewhere in the middle. No matter the person – or body type, one should not simply cave in. The practitioner has to be present in the moment, allowing the body to be included in the movement. In the almost 3 years at this dojo it has been journey (still is) allowing my body to do this.

Take for example salmon going upstream to their breeding grounds/graveyards. If you look at the salmon they aren’t simply going with the flow. If they were they’d simply be swept downstream. Yet they are not fighting the water either – just watch them. They are “going with the flow”, yet to the untrained eye their behavior and actions would contradict this statement (that is so often used in Aikido circles). That’s the best I can describe the feeling.

Ukemi is simply the honest expression of the person who’s simulating the “attack” – one who is allowing themselves coming in with full presence, to be taken into the technique and taken out – either by rolling, falling, etc . Think of every exchange between Uke and Nage as a conversation, as my Sensei would explain it. Honestly I agree with him – and him (there’s two of them).

When I come into “attack” my Sensei or my partners, I allow myself to have the intention of coming in at them. Even at slow speeds and with new people, it is imperative that all incoming Ukes know that their movements simulate an “attacker”. Often times I find myself working with white belts and for my practice as well as improving theirs, I always take the time to show, demonstrate, and have them experience what it’s like to come in on someone with intention.

When one is “attacking”, the uke is balanced; when one is receiving the attack, they are balanced. If one is unbalanced (all it takes it one partner to throw the system off), then it throws off the whole practice. You see unlike most other martial arts where the point is to attack the “opponent” and take them down and hurt them in the shortest amount of time possible, Aikido’s aim is to have its practitioners achieve balance within themselves – a body/mind balance that is one part of a process of growth and evolution in that person.

How can I expect you to prepare for imbalance when you’re not balanced to receive it.

~ R. Nadeau Sensei

Among all of this activity of attack and receiving the attack, uke and nage are balanced. Not just in stance, but in body/mind harmony, their own energies, and that of the situation. As Nadeau Sensei has stated many times (I’ve lost count), the main themes of Aikido is achieve body/mind harmony balance. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s value in the experience of chaotic “street” situations where all hell breaks loose, your adrenaline hits the sky, and you throw every notion in the book out the window in 0.0003 seconds flat. These situations are lacking in many martial arts school and need to be addressed – I for one would love to delve into ways on how to handle high stress situations. Yet in the “typical” rough-and-tumble, put-em-down-keep-em-down martial arts, you simply are not geared toward achieving inner balance, whether martially or otherwise.

There’s still lots to be said about Ukemi. There’s the aspect (of lack of) kuzushi, balance, body/mind harmony, etc. If any of you want, I can delve into any of these into as much detail as my experience allows me to. My personal Ukemi is constantly changing – evolving. If someone were to have asked me what ukemi was six months ago I wouldn’t be this deep or detailed. If any of you would ask me what ukemi is to me six months from now I willing to bet money that my answer will be different from the explanation here. A good example of this would be how my rolls have changed since I started almost three years back. When I began I was the typical white belt – my rolls hurt me more than they helped me. Now I can say with relative confidence that they’ve smoothed out a little yet I can only hope that they will improve with the years to come.

Till next time ladies and gents!

The Ultimate Virtual Training!

Otherwise known as Fruit Ninja Kinect for Xbox 360. As stated in the article, expect this at the end of this summer!

 

You have no freaking idea how awesome this is! I wonder if I can bring my bokken or staff to practice “slicing up fruits”! I can also totally see Wing Chun people (or any art specializing hand movements) in practicing with this.

It’s also available in co-op mode. Basically you can ninja your way through fruits with a partner.

Now I want an Xbox!

Musings 060611: What’s your Mutant Power?

Left to right: Magneto, Moira MacTaggert, Emma Frost, Azazel, Beast, Havok, Angel Salvatore, Mystique, Professor X

We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. Yet it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities but its own talents as well.

~ Bruce Lee

So this past Saturday I had the opportunity to watch the movie X-men: First Class with my cousin who’s visiting from out-of-town. Naturally I’d pass up on movies nowadays since they’re either a.) the tickets are over priced and climbing at the moment, and b.) the quality of movies have fallen to the level of shock and awe, boobs and bomb blasts – however I don’t mind the boobs at all.

Warning – SPOILERS

There was something that was drawing me to this movie, a story about beginnings. For those of you not familiar with the X-Men read this article first then this one (the second link being the movie). There’s something about “the beginning of your power” theme that drew me into the movie. A group of humans that include a runaway, a holocaust survivor, Oxford professor, shapeshifter, a “beast” of a scientist, etc would be led by the great Professor X is all brought together to save the world from nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis. All of them have powers of their own that occur under circumstances that are unique to each of them and are discovered (usually) during their lives.

All of this hype coincided with a lesson one day that my Sensei spoke to us about: how sometimes through training there is a development of certain attributes…abilities that weren’t there in the beginning. You get what I mean? An example would be that some of us who are tall (5’10” >) can develop a sense of “groundedness”. The smaller guys could develop a sense of speed. Some others could develop a sense of flexibility without having done little to no stretching, etc. Was there something our consciences had to let go in order to let our “talents” come out? I guess so.

According to the X-men universe, a human mutant would have their respective powers come out usually during puberty (makes since that’s when our hormones are through the roof). Other ways power might show up is during times of extreme stress – a traumatic event or otherwise. I found the connection intriguing from the movie. For example: Magneto at first could only access his powers whenever he got angry (in the movie’s case, when his mother was murdered). Charles Xavier found his power right after he went through puberty and Mystique had it since she was born.

Could it just be body types? It could be, but it’s funny how I’ve noticed my body doing certain things that I’ve never thought I’d be able to do. Now I’m going to keep my “powers” a secret (mainly because they are in their infancy and they only come out after receiving an ass whooping), but I thought I’d share this funny coincidence between the movie and my Sensei’s message.

So, what’s your power?

Till next time ladies and gents!