Tag Archives: NY Aikikai

Aikido on Howcast – Final Thoughts

Technically this is part ten, but I thought I’d separate my final thoughts from those regarding the videos. I hope you guys have enjoyed the series so far as much as I have despite some reservations that I will get into shortly. Here are the criteria from the first post of this series that I promised that I would keep in mind while doing these posts and while watching the series. Alas, here is my verdict of the series. I have them here now because I realized that for my audience to best absorb the information from the series, it’d be better to keep my opinions until the very end.

Accuracy: Other than differences in explaining how the techniques work and technical words that I had previously not known, this is a pretty accurate rendition of the art. The body-mind meditative portion of the art is missing, which coming from my background in the art is a little disappointing. However for the garden variety person looking for a new martial art to try out, this series gives a good initial.

Presentation: I was genuinely surprised by the quality of the presentation. I’ve visited the other martial art videos on Howcast (Ninjutsu, Shaolin Kung Fu for example) and the Aikido series is one of the premier series on Howcast. Take a visit there and see for yourself. Just now I toke a peek at the Capoeira series and it looks promising as an intro.

In any case, the three “experts” were quite informative and their respective presentations complemented each other. Mike Jones Sensei (the youngest one) had a very technical presentation coupled with powerful movements. In turn he was balanced out by Claire Keller’s flow-y forms and upbeat personality. However I found Pimsler Shihan’s appearance underwhelming in both his martial skill and presence in the series. Perhaps it was done intentionally to give more of the limelight to Jones and Keller Sensei? I don’t know. But true to the art the presence of the teachers here is sufficient for both the experience and the novice.

What make the Aikido series different from the Kung Fu and Ninjutsu series on Howcast was how “unpredictable” it was; that is how the talking would quickly transition to high falls and techniques. There was a clear transition from talking to demonstration and the talking never interfered with the demonstration and visa versa.

This is the entrance to the New York Dojo. I haven’t been here yet, but I’m making it a point to do so in the future.

Teacher presence: As mentioned before. Steve Pimsler Sensei was I felt underwhelming in the series. It seems that’s his personality, but given the fact that this series is accessible to millions of viewers on the internet I would imagine him needing to be a little more presentable. Keller Sensei was the one that I liked the best, mainly because her transitions between talking and demonstrating the techniques was seamless. It seemed (pun intended) that she has her “teacher face” on she flowed smoothly through her presentations. She also had a slight, self-deprecating humor that made the videos enjoyable to watch while at the same time it didn’t interfere with her art. Last by not least I’ve been raving about Jones Sensei since my first post in this series – and for good measure. It was obvious from the beginning that he has a very strong technical background in his Aikido – it was his movements that gave it away and his explanation style. Now that I’m thinking about it, that’s probably why he was in the majority of the videos – he had the best technical “speak” out of the three. Not to mention his movements were the most powerful out of all the three – most likely due to his youth (he doesn’t look a day older than 28, around my age). Personality wise he does seem a little challenged in front of the camera – weird considering what I’m sure is a long history of teaching in front of large classes of students off camera. Oh well, some people really do get uncomfortable in front of the camera.

Authenticity: Technique wise, it’s all there. The technical aspects of the art are also there – or at least the major ones. The body-mind portion of the art; nonexistent. There is probably the one and only disappointment I have with this series. I suppose it’s just my background talking. Given the situation time wise, I can understand that there will be things that are to be left out for the sake of length and time. However in my training the body-mind portion of the art is very important – if not the most important part of the art. The part that gives the technical portion life! Aw oh well, I can’t win all the time. It is my hope that the body-mind aspect of Aikido is featured more to those who are interested.

Miscellaneous: I hope I didn’t miss anything! This was an interesting series to watch and awesome to see Aikido being featured in a medium that is usually reserved for music videos, video games, personal bander videos, and artists.

At long last this is the end of my series. It took just over a month but here it is! I sincerely hope you all enjoyed it as much as I have writing about it. I’m going to include links to all of my posts below as a courtesy for all of you to see all of my thoughts. Alas, I hope that something like these shows up in the future. Till next time!

Steve Pimsler Sensei, 7th Dan Shihan

Aikido on Howcast by The First Dragon Rider

  1. Part One
  2. Part Two
  3. Part Three
  4. Part Four
  5. Part Five
  6. Part Six
  7. Part Seven
  8. Part Eight
  9. Part Nine

Aikido on Howcast – Feature & Review, Part Nine

Health Benefits of Aikido

Aikido Safety tips

About the experts (Mike Jones, Steve Pimsler, Claire Keller)

Commentary:

I thoroughly enjoyed how honest Mike Jones Sensei is regarding the health benefits of Aikido. Especially telling is his mention of how Aikido is a whole body exercise rather than just strength or just stretching. My experience has been especially for long sessions of high falls and uke-ing, you can easily earn yourself the equivalent of an 8 mile run or 30 minutes of cardiovascular training, though this not always the case. The whole point is having a whole body/mind mending where even though stretching and strength are not emphasized (through the requirements of the art), you are still through the martial aspects of it benefiting your system as a whole.

Safety is always a big thing in Aikido. Fortunately like with most martial arts, other less “strenuous” workouts like Yoga, pilates, and working out tend to have a higher injury rate than Aikido. That being said. The statements that Mike Jones is stating are very true. The small joints especially can be injured if someone tenses up and gets scared (they go hand in hand).

This one is very cool in how Howcast displays the bios of the “experts” of a series that they feature. I’m surprised that Steve Pimsler never stated that the title “Shihan” actually means Master Teacher . Perhaps an attempt to be humble? Claire Keller I find is quite inspiring; she’s been training since college and from the years that she stated she’s probably been in Aikido for 27 years, since I was born in 1985. Last but definitely not least is Mike Jones Sensei. After hearing his bio and his employment at the New York Aikikai I realized that I should have guessed he is an uchideshi , or a live-in student at the dojo. He just gives off that vibe – I suppose it was his body movement that gave it away; the very technical way of explaining and doing the movements.

I will be writing my final thoughts and commentary on this series in the next post regarding this series. I just thought it might be better to separate my opinions of the series as a whole from my commentary.

Aikido on Howcast – Feature & Commentary, Part Eight

Principles of Aikido

Role of Uke in Aikido

Can Anyone do Aikido?

Women in Aikido

Commentary:

Blend, extend, and lead. These are true, but I would add body-mind connection to the mix. The Principles of Aikido are hotly debated and just adding to what Mike Jones Sensei said might set off some opinions. Now I trust that my fellow Aikido folk are the less-egoistic types (not holding my breath though), so I’m going to continue. There are many, many interpretations of what “Aikido” is – and from I’ve heard and experienced it really depends on that Sensei’s approach to the art itself. Many claim what they know is the “true” Aikiodo. Very few learned it from O’Sensei, and even fewer had conversations with Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei himself regarding the art that he created. At the moment, I’m blessed and lucky to have two Sensei would are attempting to delve into what O’Sensei tried to teach his students.

Like the principles of Aikido, there are many explanations and viewpoints. And like another other martial art that diverge away from what their founders had intended, it’s not easy to pinpoint what exactly is the role of the uke in Aikido. Fortunately, Mike Jones Sensei explains very briefly what the uke represents, does, and why an uke would do the things that they do. I’d add to his speech that because Aikido is noncompetitive, the practitioners would still need to have a way to engage themselves to better themselves. If not a noncompetitive environment, then a willing partner would do. Everything else is correct, save the feel that his explanations were rather rushed and superficial, though that has been the theme this whole series. I would like to have him though emphasis on the connection with partner, namely how to have the physical connection.

Can anyone do Aikido? Physically yes; Pimsler Sensei is correct. At my dojo there’s an 85 year old grandfather who can do rolls better than men half his age. When I read the title I was thinking martially. If that’s the question that people are asking, then my personal response would be not every martial art is fit for everyone. However here, anyone can definitely do Aikido – it’s just a question of is it fit for you.

Women in Aikido is a very interesting topic to go into. I remember doing a few posts in my old blog at about the topic. Are women “better” in Aikido? No necessarily (as in any martial art); however what I have noticed that women given their biological and psychological differences from men do have differences in their movements and presence. For example in the technique irimi nage , I’ve noticed that experienced women have a “pulling the rug from under you” feeling that most men don’t/can’t do. I don’t know how to explain it but those tiny differences are what set women apart from men. It’s an interesting aspect that – for fun – is worth keeping an eye out for. Other than that, as Claire Keller Sensei has indicated, there is almost no real difference. Sure, it’s us men who tend to go a little rough on the edges, but that’s just the fellas.

This is the second to last post on this series. I’ll have my final thoughts and commentary in the next one! Till next time.

Aikido on Howcast – Feature & Commentary, Part Seven

Kotegaeshi

Tachi Tori

Jo Tori

Tanto Tori

Commentary:

Kotegaeshi is a lot like an old recipe handed down from your grandparents; it’s very basic, it has a long tradition, and good go-to technique if you’re stuck in a jam, yet people keep on having different ideas and ways of doing this old technique! This technique is a signature move in many a Steven Seagal movie. That said, good basic video; like most of his other videos, I get the impression that Mike Jones sensei is sometimes using strength rather than a whole-body approach. Regardless, I’m thoroughly enjoying his demonstrations.

Since my dojo doesn’t concentrate on weapons too much, Tachi Tori has finally now entered my vocabulary where my dojo have always done tachi tori without telling its technical name. That said I want to rephrase what Mike Jones is saying on a couple of things (with all due respect to Sensei Jones). At 1:04 he states “drop your weight”, although this is true up to an extent, I’ve be taught that simply extending the whole body, lining up with the sword (in your hands) is a more honest way to expressing the technique since “dropping your weight” can be misinterpreted easily.

Again, another technical name that I missed. However Jo Tori is practiced in my dojo quite often. Loved the improvising and the “mistake” at 2:48; the jo smacking against the uke’s leg and for the time period of 2:45 – 2:50. The improvisation in this episode is great; uke was good with the notable exception (on both Mike Jones Sensei and his uke’s part) of the Jo nikkyo at 3:00.

And lastly, the tanto tori video here does a good job at displaying some of the basic moves in Aikido regarding how to handle the tanto. As a personal opinion, I stress tanto and not “knife”; handling a knife and a tanto are different experiences which actually makes this type of training a hot button issue between those who are strict to the techniques and those who wish to get a more “realistic” set of training when encountering a knife. I consider myself in the later party. I’ve never been attacked with a knife (…yet *knocks on wood) but I’ve done some independent sight seeing and sampling and it sounds like getting attacked with a knife is a scary and fast experience which can get out of hand very quickly. I’m not saying that this segment is fake; what I’m saying is when it comes to topics of knives and weapons, one must respect techniques taught along with realizing that people on the street will do things completely differently than in a dojo.

Please note that for this series, I will be saving my full critique and review for the very last episode (Part 9), that’s why I’m not saying too much in my mini-reviews/summaries. Without further ado however, there are two parts left! Till next time.

Aikido on Howcast – Feature & Review, Part Six

Kaiten Nage

Udekime Nage

Juji Nage

Sumi otoshi

Summary

For the Kaiten Nage, this was nicely put in less than 2 minutes. He has all the basics down to the point that someone who has little to no experience of Aikido can follow along and not be completely off if they were to go to a dojo. As I’ve mentioned before, Mike Jones has a good “instructor” presence; he’s very formal and can dish out information and  say it in a way that most people can relate to. At times I’ve noticed here (and in past videos) that he can fumble on his words and does give off the feeling that he’s nervous. Regardless, he’s very technical, but for the limited time that the video was on, it’s a good way to give out the information. Coming from a school that focuses less on technique and more on the internal side of Aikido, I’m biased when I say that he’s explanations are limited and more “muscle”-based. Despite that, I understand that not everyone watching this will have the chance of knowing the difference between Aikido’s technical and internal side. With that said, how he explains it is authentic enough for someone to begin Aikido. Great Uke by the way!

It seems that some of the technical names such as Udekime Nage were left out of the memorization process in my dojo – even though we do them ALL the time. I remember learning this technique in the first month of my training. The one thing that stood out for me was – as it has been for this series – the wording of and description of how techniques are explained. For example at 1:00 she says that she “takes her [the uke] down”, how it has been explained to me is you’re not “taking someone down”; a smooth, relaxed body/mind connection/presence is what leads to an uke to “comply” with the execution of the technique. It also makes for a safer practice! Now if only I could allow myself to do that every time…

Ah Juji Nage, one of my favorite techniques; unfortunately also one of the least done techniques! Believe it or not, this technique can be found in other martial arts; I remember watching an episode of Human Weapon on the Discovery Channel and remember how this movement was done in Filipino Kali episode. In any case, this is a very fun (hint: disabling) technique when properly done. What caught my eye here was at 0:56 where Mike Jones Sensei cautions to avoid collapsing. Good call since a lot of beginners – and even more advanced people can do that accidentally. As for the role of the uke, at first it can be intimidating since your arms are tied up, but as you get comfortable in your own body it’s just a huge high fall. Just thinking about receiving a Juji Nage makes my head spin!

And finally Sumi Otoshi, one of my favorite techniques mainly because it’s one of the “easiest” to do. I say easiest because it’s relative so long as you’re not using strength or pushing. It’s easy to push someone down especially if they’re smaller than you. It’s the bigger guys who you have to learn how to execute this properly. In any case, this is a great technique to practice on; especially when you’re testing yourself if you are centered, settled, and not straining or using strength. Again, it’s very easy to just use strength – hell I can do that! But it’s always cool to allow yourself to perform the technique gracefully on an uke that’s twice your size!

Notes: Just revised the schedule here and there’s going to be 9 parts to this series. So any of you are wondering when is it going to end, it will soon enough. Look forward to the next one soon! Till next time.