theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

二教 nikyō in MMA

二教 nikyō in MMA

I did MMA many years back with a very good school Fight G. I think it was for 3 months, once or twice a week.

It was in one of those training sessions that I realised Aikido has a value in MMA, although more often than not, using Aikido specifically to win an MMA bout would be next to impossible, well that is my opinion.

I was on the ground with this guy, or rather, he was on the ground and I was up. In terms of MMA, we were both kind of a novice. In terms of martial arts, I can tell, he has little or no prior martial arts experience.

He was a fit guy, but while we sparred, I got the better part of it, and started my ‘ground and pound’, and out of instinct, he grabbed my wrist. It was more like a ‘Gyaku Hanmi’, opposite hand grab.

That sets it up nicely for a nikyō, The MMA gloves was thick, but I knew I got the lock, and began to apply pressure. The poor guy, probably pumped up with adrenaline, has no idea what is his predicament, with his free hand, he tried to make something out of it, but it was in vain.

I applied pressure, the lock was there, but I decided to let it go. I would have severely injure him, had I continue.

That incident never left my mind.

The martial arts world is wide, there are many many moves out there that we have never heard of, or even think was possible.

Catching that guy in a nikyō, in an MMA training taught me that anything can happen in a fight. Aikido locks are almost never taught in MMA, and when someone in MMA encounters such a lock, or pin, they usually have no response or reaction to it. Which is a dangerous indication that the training has gone past the learning stage, right into dogmatism.

Letting it go

I let the lock go partly also because we are all kind of a recreational MMA students, we are not fighting for keeps. The guy was like me, just going there for ‘fun’, imagine, going home with a broken wrist, or worse, a wrist that is permanently  broken. That would have been on my conscience for the rest of my life. It was just practice, so let’s not injure each other with malice.

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Observe, Observe and Observe

The greatest thing you can do in a dojo, any dojo, is to observe, observe and observe.

It is not just observing the sensei, which is the obvious thing to do, we, as students have to observe one another, and if your dojo happens to have a full length, and breath worth of mirrors, good for you. But you cannot be looking at the mirror, while you do your waza, right?

So the next best thing is to observe each other, other than the sensei.

There are many good and not so good things we can learn from observing one another. After all, we are all humans and are endowed with the same bunch of tools, hands, legs, hips, spine and all, so geometrically most of us move in the same way, most of us do irimi nage the same way, and if we observe carefully, we will notice we all makes the same mistakes, the same way.

Same same but different

Well, other than observing the similarities, right and wrong way of doing things, we have to look out for some of the different ways we do things. Some of us while trying to follow sensei faithfully, but we always have our own interpretation of what we see and our actions is never 100% accurate. We are not machines.

So we need to see with our own eyes, how our training partners move, and why they move the way they move.

Recently, I’ve been kind of obsessed with observing my fellow Aikidokas in the dojo, I will stare and stare at how my partners move, and try to understand their physical interpretation of sensei’s techniques.

I want to observe until the observer melts away and while that is not always successful as there is a critical part of me remains while I looked at my partner’s techniques. Why is he/she moving like that? And why is he not able to see his own mistakes? Why is his/her circle smaller than necessary, so much so the uke can stop him/her?

Call it nit-picking but that is what we need to do for each other when we are on the mat. We have to help each other be our own worst or best critic, depends on how you look at it, and in doing so, helps us correct what we cannot see.

Unlearn

It is also perhaps my own personal way of getting back to basics. Remember when we were all white belts and coming to the dojo is a matter of monkey see, monkey do? We as beginners, will not be able to understand the intricate whys, hows, or the rights and the wrongs.

By observing intensely how my fellow Aikidokas work, I am trying to deplete myself of the self, and understand Aikido at a fundamental level. While we all want to critic, and point out what is wrong with who’s technique, it really takes an open mind and heart to drop all that opinion and just observe.

Sometimes I succeed in that, often I don’t. It’s a habit of mind, to make distinction so as to justify our ‘self’. It is a wonderful feeling in those rare times where my monkey mind can silence itself and just move with what I’ve observed.

Handling and Training with Weapons

Handling and Training with Weapons
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My collection of SOGs

We live in a very safe world, and generally we have not seen violence and conflict on a global scale.

That’s not such a bad thing, for obvious reasons, but safe has made people staid.

Violence are still aplenty but living in constant peace has lulled the most of us into thinking that we no longer need to fight, and we can refrain from violence, or leave violence to the hands of ‘specialist’ such as soldiers and law enforcement folks, to take care of and deter violence.

That is how a civil society ought to be no doubt, but as martial artists, we must constantly acquaint ourselves with violence and the tools of violence.

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An Oriental Scimitar

Tools of Violence

Anything can be used as a tool in the application of violence, a hammer, fork, newspaper, mobile phone, keys; anything can be improvised as a weapons. More specialised ones such as firearms, knives, nunchakus, batons and others, are of course dedicated to the sole purpose of maiming and killing.

Aikido is primarily an empty hand art, we do train with bokken, tanto, and jo. These are mostly wooden training aid that helps us understand how Aikido moves in relation to the weapon’s design and integration to our body, and geometry of movement.

It does bring about an awareness of extension of striking range, the cutting edge of a blade, the design of a sword; it cuts, of course, but the hilt can be used as a striking surface, in the hands of a skilled and innovative swordsman.

Remington 870 shotgun used by SAF

Familiarity breeds respect

Peace has brought about a more aloof approach to weapons. People these days are alien towards what a weapon can be, and no one sees a gun, except in a Hollywood action film, or in Singapore’s context, handle an actual one (unloaded of course!) an Army Open house, or in a typical adult-age Singaporean taking national service with the military or the police. So we are very limited in our exposure to how firearm or weapons work, we are not sure nor will we be confident about how to handle them when we actually need to use one.

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A Sniper rifle used by SAF

It doesn’t mean we need to own a firearm to know how to deal with one, we just need to be constantly aware that we will one day be at the receiving end of a firearm, no matter how remote that possibility with be. We might be dealing with a knife welding crazy person (with a higher probability!!!), someone might charge at us, at random, with an ice pick, a hammer, a chair, a beer bottle, a brolly, you are free to imagine what improvised weapons one can use to inflict harm on you. What do you do?! WHAT DO YOU DO???!

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H&K 416 used by SAF

See one, know one

I happen to have an aligned interest in knives, and collect a few of them. This also helps me understand what a blade is capable of, while I cannot say that I am very trained in using one, nor disarming a knife assailant. Owning one, (in my case a few), helps me build confidence and respect for it.

Knives obviously have blades, and are build for a purpose of cutting. A kitchen knife has its obvious place, but it can still be used as a fighting knife. A purpose build fighting knife, on the other hand, is designed not for the kitchen but to withstand the rigours of penetrating a moving living meat which is very unwilling to die or get injured. In short, it is less likely to break under duress.

  • Ice pick, sharp in front, so we need to know what to avoid.
  • Hammer, well, that is something else.

Of course we cannot specifically train against each and every known weapon out there, it is not the reason for our training, or weapons training. We have weapons training to ensure that we orientate our mind towards a weapon when we see one, and apply the appropriate measures against it. We are also training ourselves to handle one, so that we can be advantageous in our fighting.

Knowledge is insurance

Statistically, we most likely will never encounter an armed attacker, so why train with knives? As martial artist, we must always ask ourselves is the art we are in limiting our dimension in fighting? Sure, there is no perfect art out there, but we must seek to perfect our art, and always be open to the potentials of other kinds of attack. Aikido as an art, is limited in its repertoire of locks, throws, and pins. There are some limited application in weapons training, and as an Aikidoka, we must use what little we know about fighting and combat, and expand that experience and knowledge so that when the time comes for us to count on our martial arts for combat and survival, we will not be caught in an ‘Oh Shit!’ ala Deer in a Headlight moment.

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blunt ornamental blades, still deadly in trained hands

Hard Aikido

Aikido is stereo-typically about love, peace and harmony. The flowing movements and effortless throws and pins showcased a form which is resistance-less.

I gave a class recently and decided to practice ‘hard’ Aikido. ‘Hard’ as in I wanted the students to grip hard. Really hard and resist the nage’s movement. The nage has to try his best to move despite of the resistance.

It is not an evening of nice Aikido techniques, with well-practiced pins and throws. It was meant to be ugly. It was meant to be physical. The uke is expected to be difficult and put the nage on a spot.

Smart Resistance

It is not about the uke giving ‘dumb’ resistance, and just put a huge amount of difficulty in front of the nage. The resistance has to flow with the nage’s movement. I told the guys it is not a muscular, lock down type of resistance. It is not a death grip. Instead, move with the nage and at every movement point, resist and counter. It is not going to be an easy class, I told the guys.

In short, I wanted the guys to give 80% asshole resistance, and not 100%. We are still in martial arts to foster learning and goodwill. We can give 100% or even 110% percent resistance, and it will just piss people off, and create animosity which will not help anyone in learning. It is about resistance, not countering the nage’s movement, which is a very fine line we will not be aware when we cross it.

The whole point of the exercise is to ground both parties. More often than not, the uke is too nice to give a hard grip and when it is the nage’s turn to be the uke, the niceties is reciprocated. To what end will we learn the dangerous downward loop of an ineffective, patronising aikido? Put all that aside, and give a good hard reality check to the nage.

Wrap, not grip

The essence of Aikido hold is not a grip. I’ve learned long enough to know a wrap works better as it doesn’t kill the connection. As an uke, I wrap my hands around my nage’s wrists;instead of gripping, this allows me to feel and flow with the nage. And of course, resist from my centre, and it doesn’t lock me down. I don’t become a dead weight attached to the nage’s hand. The nage move, I move, but I also create resistance while the nage move.

In a very experiential and intrinsic sense, wrapping instead of holding or gripping, allow my hands fully feeling the nage’s move. And I can manoeuvre and control my hands via my wrists. My body is not locked into the grip, from my wrist onwards, I can flow. This kind of holding doesn’t tire me out and I can hold a person for a long period of time.

Immobilization

When your uke holds you, are you immobilized or is your uke immobilizing himself upon you? We commonly think that the nage is the more being held, and arrested by the uke’s grip. When you are free enough, you can see that the uke has essentially given up his mobility and immobile himself onto you. You as the nage continue to be mobile, no matter how hard the uke grip. In fact, the hard the uke grips, the more he pins himself to you and allows you to move him.

There is always slack

Which brings us to the next point; there will always be slack. There is always a minimum level of movement on our skin, muscle and sinew. You cannot be gripped to a level where you are totally immobilized. You uke can only immobilized you at your cerebral level, physically, the human body has some many parts moving, there is almost always something you can move, in response to your uke. There is always some small movement you can execute. Your wrist still turns even if your hands are held in a morotedori (two hands on one wrist) grip. Learn to use a small wrist movement to move the entire uke’s mass.

Full contact

Personally I am not a big fan of ‘no-touch’ Aikido. We are humans and from the day we are born till our death, we will be in constant touch with another human being. That is what makes the connection which defines us. We are not fire-and-forget missiles that we can destroy a target without touching them.

Touch and contact helps us adjust our movement and psyche which is the best feedback for helping us improve ourselves on just our Aikido. And during that class, that is what I emphasised to maximum, full on, hard gripping Aikido.

When we are on the streets, no one is going to hold you with a courtesy grip. Everyone who wants to harm you will hold you down and beat you up. The holding down part will be gnarly and nasty. If we are not trained to deal with a hard, nasty grip, we will only dupe ourselves into thinking that we can do what we keep doing in the dojo, when it matters.

Easy is easy

It is a no brainer. It is easy to have our uke fall all over us; at a touch we pin our uke. We think of Aikido as flowing, and when our uke offers resistance, we go ‘tsk’ and thinks of our uke as stiff, lousy or don’t understand Aikido. More often than not, our uke doesn’t understand our movement, and they have only one job, to offer resistance. So they resist, they best they know how, and it is our job to work around that resistance, the best we know how.

The world we live in isn’t always working in harmony, there is not always peace and love, and we need to train with the reality that Aikido sometimes needs to be tough, ugly and haphazard. In the real world, all your practice and training will fail in the face of your enemy. The world doesn’t understand Aikido, and the world will offer resistance. The world will fight. We have to learn that fight, and yet not fight that fight. So we need to train with a hard grip, move and understand our body movement, choose non-aggression over a hard-ass uke. If we are unable to move when our uke grips us hard, it is high time we ask ourselves how good is our Aikido in the face of resistance.

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Kokyu Ho and Fear

I learned something about myself last evening when I exercised kokyuho with Siew Chin. there was something i cannot figure out from last week’s session I had with Gaynor.

I thought I was doing my usual kokyu ho exercise with Gaynor, when Harry sensei comes along and explained that ‘We should not be preventing our partner from learning.’ Gaynor gave me a feedback similar to that and I couldn’t comprehend what he said. It was something about the way i am resisting him and reacting to his actions.

I got my answer last evening, and I realised that I was afraid of Gaynor, hence I was reacting to him rather than resisting him. There is a subtle difference as reacting will negates his actions, preventing him from doing the technique. I carried my psyche with defense and instead of allowing him to conclude his technique and trying his best to exercise, I snubbed him out. Basically I draw him into my centre and there was no way he could do the technique. Whatever he did, I countered.

So last evening, when I exercised with Siew Chin, I resisted her, because I was not afraid of her. And without that fear in the way, I could open myself up and allow me to resist her while she tries to exercise Kokyu ho. It didn’t make it any easier for her, but it sure as hell didn’t frustrates her.

So why do I fear Gaynor and not Siew Chin? Admittedly, it stems from my inferiority complex, and of course the e-g-o. There is an uncertainty in my confidence that Gaynor IS going to be better than me. So I go on a defensive and block him out. And why not Siew Chin? For obvious reasons, my logical mind justifies that she is ‘no threat’ to me, in short I deemed that I am ‘better’.

But to be fair, it was my practice with Siew Chin that allowed me to learn this so that the next time I practice with Gaynor, I can keep this feeling in check. It is silly to classify who is better or worse than who, but these kind of judgment can creep in subtly and without constant practice, we might one day be clouded by such little irrelevant voices in our heard.

Published on: May 27, 2012

Aikido vs MMA…again???

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Well, we all have our fair share of arguments, pros and cons, yadah, yadah, blah,blah, blah.

So why am I adding more noise to the already noisy?

It is just to share my experience, period.

To begin with, MMA is a much superior fighting system, period. If you want to fight, learn MMA. Let me quote a lady who was trying to ‘sell’ MMA to me, a few months back, when I just did a casual walk-in to a locally famous MMA school, she asked me if I want to learn MMA, ‘To beat someone up?’ Yes, that was how she said it.

Fight G

Anyway, I took 3 months worth of MMA years back in this very good MMA school known as Fight G. Well, it is probably very biased for me to say that, as I hadn’t been to any other MMA schools. Well, Fight G have nice guys, they gave me a good experience, so they are good, in my opinion.

So why did I took up MMA since I am already so deep into Aikido? Back in those years, I was kind of in and out of Aikido, and since I’m not so full on, why not try to switch? Perhaps MMA?

So I went to Fight G, one day with Steven, see how they train and I decided to give it a try. And after 3 months, why did I decided to stick with Aikido?

The more important answer I got out from that 3 months was I know I can most likely handle myself well enough on the ground, in a tight physically testing fight.

Oxygenate!

You can’t fight if you cannot breath. I was out of breath during one of their 3 minutes 5 rounds, round robin training. there were 10 of us, we faced each other, goes for a 3-minute round, the switch partners, so we will have 5 different partners for each 3-minute round. I called for a timeout on the third round to catch my breath, the joined back the 4th and the last round.

So before we can pin a person, throw a person, or lock a person, we need to be able to breath, and not get too excited, and fill our minds with drama, and our bodies with adrenaline. Excitement is good, too much, robs us of a grounded perspective. Getting knocked around in MMA helps teach me to take a few punches, before I justify putting my assailants to the ground.

Confidence

Unless you are in a real fight, you will never know how you perform in a real fight; and no, I do not want to find a real fight, just to find out how well I’d fair in a real fight.

MMA helps me train hard for the real thing, while it is still not the real thing, it gives me enough confidence to know I can handle it when the real shit hits the fan.

On top of that, MMA also helps me become better rounded, since Aikido does little tutelage in kicking, or punching, nor ground work, it is not a limitation of Aikido, but a design in Aikido.

My little training in MMA helps me kick, punch relatively well, and I know enough ground work to get me off and on my feet, where I have a better chance in a fight. So I use my lesson in MMA ground work, not to pin nor arm-bar a person on the ground, but to help be disengage in a ground fight and get back up.

A more confident Aikidoka

The reality is, a typical Aikidoka seldom gets hit, punched nor kicked. To receive one for the first time, can be quite a showstopper, and a showstopper in a real fight can means injury, maiming or death. MMA helps me bring that mental confidence to receive punches in form of a tsuki (突き). from my fellow Aikidoka. I’ve often told my junior belts to punch me, harder, like they mean it, since projection of that tsuki is very important for the understanding of leading and redirecting. The common fault is to punch too lightly, literally holding back the punches, and the Aikido technique will fail, if the punch is not projected properly.

Aikido in MMA

In a close struggle, there will be wrist grabs in MMA. and I was partnering this guy and he was relatively new to MMA like me; we were in a full guard, he was on the ground and he grabbed my wrist. It was a perfect position for me to apply Nikkyo on him, I did. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t recognize it as a lock, and while I continue to apply pressure, he resisted it, not sure if his adrenaline filled brain is registering pain or not. He didn’t tap, most likely didn’t recognize the kind of damage he will be getting.

I let him go, anymore more turning and the results will be predictable, a badly damaged wrist, heck, I might have broken it, but I don’t want to be the person in his memory as the one who broke his wrist. What is the point? It was training, not life and death.

There is no conclusion

This debate will go on, but as an Aikidoka, I have a deep appreciation of what a well trained MMA chap can do. But there are some tricks in Aikido that can be effective especially when your opponents don’t know about, never trained for it, and never see it coming.

So it is always good to keep an open mind, in reality, Aikido taught me that there is never really a “this Vs that” thing. If we do that, we did not escape the duality we are trapped in. Aikido trains me to free myself from that, and look at things, issues as it is. Aikido is neither better nor is MMA superior, let the singer decides how well the song ought to be sang and the proof is, in the singing, not the song.