Kendo, Aikido, martial art related

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aikido Seven Suburi

11:37 PM Posted by author , , , , , No comments

The seven suburi are an integral part of our style of aikido. This little document is an attempt to get the beginner's arms and legs moving in roughly the correct form, and as a reminder for those times when memory fails. It is in no way definitive, and any real detail must come from personal instruction.

Holding the Bokken
Begin by standing in right hanmi. The bokken is held by placing the left hand at the bottom of the hilt with the little finger almost falling off the very end of the hilt. The grip is primarily between the thumb, ring finger and little finger, and is applied with a wringing motion, keeping the arm relaxed. The knuckle of the left hand index finger of the should be halfway between the top and the side of the weapon. The middle and index fingers should be relaxed and tucked under the bokken. The right hand should be one fist's width above the left hand and it should mirror the left hand grip in all respects. It is important to grip with a wringing motion and to keep the arms and shoulders as relaxed as possible. The bokken should be held out in front of the tanden or center with a feeling of extension. The orientation of the blade is rotated slightly clockwise from the vertical.

All of these exercises start from right hanmi with the bokken held as described above. This will be referred to as a basic ready position.

First Suburi
The first suburi is a basic shomen cut From the ready position, raise the sword so that your left hand is on your forehead and the sword is angled slightly back. During this movement your hips should turn from a triangular orientation to a square one. Cut down and out with a wringing motion, as if you were flinging something off the tip of the bokken, and let your hips return to their triangular position. Finish with the sword in front of your center. The tip should be just slightly lower than the hilt, though you should not allow your wrists to flex up in order to accomplish this. At all times keep the sword within the plane of your centerline. Always cut with a relaxed motion.

Second Suburi
From the ready position, step back deeply with the right foot and raise the sword so that the left hand is just above the left eye. This position is known as hasso kamae. Step forward with the right foot and perform a shomen cut.

Third Suburi
This suburi starts the same as number 2, except the sword raise continues over head in a circular motion until the sword is almost resting on the right hip. This position is known as waki kamae. Step forward with the right foot and perform a shomen cut, making sure the sword comes directly down the center line.

Fourth Suburi
From the ready position raise the sword as you bring the right foot back to the left foot. The sword should be directly overhead and your feet should be together. Step forward with the left foot and perform a shomen cut. Now raise the sword as you bring the left foot back to the right foot. Step forward with the right foot and perform a shomen cut. Continue this process while alternating feet.

Fifth Suburi
Do a shomen strike as in number 1. Rotate the blade clockwise until the edge is up while raising the hilt to your forehead. Simultaneously rotate the left hip back and the right hip forward. This is a _right parry_. Let the tip of the bokken drop and continue around behind you in a circular motion as you step forward with the left foot and perform a shomen cut. Rotate the blade counterclockwise until the edge is up while raising the hilt to your forehead. Simultaneously rotate the right hip back and the left hip forward. Your arms should end up in a crossed position. This is a _left parry_. Let the tip of the bokken drop and continue around behind you in a circular motion as you step forward with the right foot and perform a shomen cut. Alternate left and right in this way, moving across the floor.

Sixth Suburi
This suburi is the same as number 5, with one addition; in between each cut and parry shuffle forward slightly and perform a _tsuki_ on that side. A tsuki on any side is a thrust to the midsection with the tip of the bokken. Shuffle forward slightly with the front foot and turn the blade so that it faces the opposite side from the front foot, e.g., a right tsuki has the right foot forward and the blade facing left. Again, alternate left and right in this way, moving across the floor.

Seventh Suburi
This suburi starts from the ready position with a right shomen cut. Move forward with the left foot and perform a left tsuki. Perform a left parry and step forward with the right foot int a right shomen cut. Repeat, moving across the floor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Aikido Common challenges

Every student is encouraged to practice at their own pace and level. Beginners are helped to go slowly and practice at a level which is safe and appropriate. However, many beginners will experience some common difficulties that can be part of starting Aikido.

The first difficulty is simply being a beginner. Everything will seem strange and difficult, and you will feel klutzy and out of place. Don’t worry. Beginners are supposed to be beginners. The advanced people will welcome the opportunity to help you with your practice, just as they were helped when they were beginners.

Beginners often feel uncomfortable being attacked or acting the role of the attacker. However, the attack/defense process is a model for all of life’s challenges, and learning to handle feelings of discomfort in Aikido is a way of finding harmony in all of life’s difficult moments. In Aikido, the attack is a gift which allows us to practice and grow. There is no ill will in the attack or the defense.

Some beginners have an opposite difficulty: they feel that Aikido practice is unrealistic. In order to be safe, Aikido must be “unrealistic” to some extent. Aikido practice is kata — that is, pre-arranged attack/defense movement routines. Kata are meant to create a safe practice situation in which you can learn the basics, so that you have general patterns which you can intuitively and spontaneously modify to fit the specific requirements of a real attack. Kata are not meant to be actual combat.

Some beginners have a hard time accepting corrections to their techniques. It is hard for people to realize that such criticism is not belittlement but is offered as a gift and comes from a respectful desire to help people understand and improve. This is important. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn, and you will learn best if you enjoy discovering your mistakes. Try not to be ashamed of making mistakes.

During practice, the instructor will ask people to help demonstrate the techniques to be practiced. Of course, someone has to act the role of the attacker in order for the instructor to demonstrate the defense. Many people feel shy about demonstrating in front of the class, but everyone gets used to it. It is an opportunity to participate and learn, but you can always ask not to be used if it makes you too uncomfortable.

A few people may find that being attacked in Aikido parallels or brings up actual attacks they have experienced. If you feel this kind of discomfort, don’t hesitate to ask the teacher for help.

Another area of confusion has to do with individual learning styles. Everyone is different, and each person learns and teaches in her or his unique way. You may find that some styles of practice don’t seem to “speak” to you and you may feel like avoiding them. Sometimes it is right to follow your intuition and practice the way you know you need to. However, if you avoid everything that is unfamiliar and confusing, you will miss out on new possibilities. Sometimes it is right to practice what you are shown, even when you don’t understand it or agree with it. Normally, proper class etiquette is to practice respectfully whatever is being taught in class.

If you are engaged in a practice that you feel is more than you can handle, you have options. In most situations, the problem can be solved by asking your partner to “go easier.” But if this does not help, you can simply excuse yourself and move to practice with another partner or sit out the particular practice that is difficult for you. At the next immediate opportunity, you can resume normal practice.

If there is some part of the practice that is too uncomfortable, talk with the teachers or advanced students about it and they will help you find a way to deal with it. You may wish to put off doing that part of the practice until you have more experience in Aikido. Usually it is possible to modify the training and make it more suitable for your stage of practice. In any case, as a beginner, you will never have to do anything that you don’t want to, and you will never be made fun of.

If you experience a problem or conflict with a specific person during practice, you could talk with the instructors about it, or you could talk with senior students if you would find that more comfortable. You could also arrange a meeting between you and the other person, with an instructor present to help. If you feel that you are experiencing a problem which affects the whole dojo, you could bring that problem up at one of the dojo meetings.

Ask questions. If you have difficulties, talk with a senior student or an instructor off the mat when full attention can be given to your concerns. Most of all, remember that Aikido practice can be a lot of fun, and don’t let the difficulties get you down.

source : internet article

Aikido Common Questions

10:15 PM Posted by author No comments
Aikido is completely new for most people, something unlike anything they have ever done in their lives. Most people have questions and anxieties about beginning Aikido. Most of the common questions have simple answers.
1) What kind of shape do I have to be in? Aikido practice can be tailored to meeting your needs and abilities, so you don’t have to be in good shape to start.

2) Do I have to be big and strong to do Aikido? No, Aikido techniques depend on softness and efficiency of movement, not sheer bulk or strength.

3) Is Aikido good exercise? Yes, it definitely is, but you will start off practicing slowly and get more vigorous as you learn how to do the movements safely.

4) Are injuries common? No. Since Aikido is non-competitive and since the techniques are designed to be non-violent, there are relatively few injuries in Aikido.

5) Am I too old to start practicing? Aikido can be practiced and enjoyed safely by people of any age. If you have any questions about specific medical conditions, check with your doctor.

6) Won’t the advanced students be irritated at having to practice with a beginner? No they won’t. We change partners frequently. Everyone practices with everyone else. Advanced students can learn from beginners, and the willingness to help beginners is part of the spirit of Aikido.

7) Is there a religious component to Aikido? No there is not. There is an underlying philosophy of respect for life, but no religious practices. The founder of Aikido was devoutly religious and expressed his understanding of Aikido in his religious terms, but that is not part of Aikido as such.

8) Do I have to speak Japanese or memorize a lot of Japanese vocabulary? Definitely not. There are Japanese practice terms that are part of Aikido, but they will gradually seep into your memory as you hear them over and over again.

9) How long does it take to get a black belt? It may take around six years. However, it really depends on how often you practice, how athletic you are, and whether you are ready to deeply examine your movements. Everyone should practice at their own pace, and the black belt will come when it does.

8) Can I use Aikido to defend myself? Aikido is a very powerful and effective selfdefense art. However, this question is essentially unanswerable. Whether you can defend yourself depends on who will be attacking you and how long you will have been studying. If you have practiced Aikido for three years and you are attacked by someone who has practiced Karate for twenty-five years, you will probably not be successful in defending yourself. Or you may surprise yourself and succeed.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Postures, Stances and Body Shifting in Karate

5:02 PM Posted by author No comments
Basically there are three postures widely used in karate. The front-facing posture is mainly used in attack and the shoulders are at ninety degrees to the line of attack. The half-front-facing posture is mainly used in defence and the shoulders are at forty-five degrees to the opponent's line of attack. The side-facing posture, in which the shoulders are in line with or parallel with the line of attack, is used both in attack and defence.

With all three postures the upper half of the body will normally be straight and perpendicular to the ground, otherwise the balance will be endangered and the correct performance of most techniques difficult if not impossible. Naturally, the rare occasion does arise which calls for a non-perpendicular posture.

As much as the posture, the stance is an integral part of any technique you perform. Therefore, a strong technique from a weak stance is a contradiction in terms. The different stances used are the outcome of two considerations - one for strength, the other for agility. The actual ratio of these factors varies with different stances.

Heisoku-dachi (attention stance). Just stand naturally with the feet together and the weight evenly balanced on both feet. The knees should be not quite straight.

Hachiji-dachi (open leg stance). As for the above but with the feet about a shoulders' width apart. This and the preceding stance are simply natural stances from which you can move with maximum smoothness into stances appropriate to actual karate techniques.

Zenkutsu-dachi (forward stance). This stance is very strong toward the front and is useful both in attacking to the front and in blocking attacks coming from the front.

Step with one foot about two shoulders' widths forward and about thirty degrees diagonally to the side. Keep the back leg straight. Bend the front leg, forcing the knee outward directly over the big toe. Both feet should be flat, the front foot pointing slightly inward. In this stance the front leg takes sixty per cent of the body weight.

Kokutsu-dachi (back stance). A very useful characteristic of this stance is that, after having used it in stepping back and blocking or avoiding an attack, a mere shift of body weight into the forward stance enables you to close with the opponent and counter-attack immediately. Also, as most of the body weight is taken on the back foot, the front foot is free for kicking.

Again, the legs are about two shoulders' widths apart. A line extended to the rear from the front foot should touch the heel of the back foot, and this later should be at a right angle with the line. The rear leg takes seventy per cent of the body weight, and should be deeply bent and forced outwards. The front leg should not be quite straight, otherwise a stamping kick to the knee would easily break it.

Kiba-dachi (straddle/stance). This is a strong stance when attacking or defending to the side.

As in the two previous stances the feet should be two shoulders' widths apart. The feet themselves should be turned a little inwards, the knees forced outwards, so that the legs are rather like bows under tension. This involves a screwing tendency of the feet into the floor which is essential for the stability of the stance. It is equally important that the knees should be bent
deeply, thus keeping the centre of gravity low. The weight of the body is carried evenly on both legs, all the muscles of which (along with those of the pelvis) should be tightened. Sanchin-dachi (diagonal straddle stance). A stance equally strong to the sides and to the front - for attacking or defending.

As in the straddle stance, the knees must be tensed outwards. This is, in fact, just the straight straddle stance with one of the legs twisted forward, the front knee over the big toe and the rear knee a little in front of the big toe. The body weight is again carried evenly on both legs.

Neko-ashi-dachi (cat stance). Here the front leg carries hardly any of the body weight and so it can easily be used for kicking. Another great advantage of this stance is that from it you can easily and quickly move into any other stance - whether to the front, back, or to one side.

The back should be absolutely straight. Keep the rear foot flat and raise the heel of the front foot, the knee pointing a little inwards. The rear knee should be well bent.

Body Shifting
In karate, body shifting may be achieved by stepping, sliding, turning, or by any combination of these basic elements. The following general rules apply to all methods of body shifting:

1. Your head should be always more or less at the same height from the floor. Therefore, when moving from one wide-legged stance to another your feet come together and your knees must be well bent. This helps to maintain a strong balance.

2. You should neither raise your feet very high from the floor nor drag them. You loose both speed and balance in either case.

3. Whether fast or slowly, the weight of your body must always be shifted smoothly.

4. Begin and end every movement in a strong, correctly-spaced stance, and maintain correct posture throughout the movement.