A Review Of The Yanagi Ryu Aiki Bugei Seminar 09/23/07

Every year in April I look forward to Mr. Angier’s trip to the S.F. Bay Area and the seminar he teaches. This year that seminar didn’t happen, and for a while my students and I played with the idea of hosting him ourselves. Unfortunately, we came to the conclusion that financially and logistically that just wasn’t possible. In the end we just decided to wait until next year and hoped for the best.

Luckily for us, it turned out that a seminar was then scheduled for the weekend of September 22 and September 23. While attending both days wasn’t possible due to prior commitments (mainly that my wife is now over 7 months pregnant), we looked forward to attending the seminar and learning some new things. Or should I say, we to learning new methods/concepts that with some further study/practice can aid in the overall effectiveness of the techniques I teach.

Clearly, we missed a lot by not attending Saturday’s seminar; it appears a lot of information related to making proper “hand shapes” to attack and lock up one’s opponent’s skeletal structure, and the principle of “Back Pressure” was covered.

I for one would have certainly welcomed the information on the different types of hand positions one must use to affect one’s opponent, since that is clearly something I don’t know enough about. While I may apply such methods already in certain circumstances, sometimes without even realizing it, I currently lack the ability to explain what I’m doing or why it has to be done in such a manner.

It’s information such as that which is invaluable in these seminars. I have come to the realization that there are only a few instructors that truly can teach it. Mr. Angier is one instructor I know has the ability to do that, and the ability to teach it in a manner that–if one pays enough attention–will give a practitioner some basic information to study the topic on their own in more depth.

Learning more about the principle of Back Pressure would also have been great, especially after writing about the topic on this blog. While I’m comfortable with what I wrote, and the accuracy of the information presented in that essay, I know there is still much more to learn about it, and I’m sure that essay will be revised in the future.

While my students and I missed some valuable stuff on Saturday, Sunday’s seminar was still worth attending, even if the class was clearly designed to review material covered the day before.

As is often the case when attending a Yanagi Ryu seminar, it’s hard to describe what we actually did, and I would be lying if I said at this point I understand all the subtleties of the movement within the forms/techniques we did. Then again I don’t go to a Yanagi Ryu seminar to learn “techniques.” I go there to learn the science behind them, and why moving this way or that way makes things work better.

I go to these seminars to correct bad habits, expose myself to new concepts/ideas, and gain further insight to my own art. And yes, I did gain some insights on Sunday, mainly by carefully watching Mr. Angier demonstrate things on various people. By watching his movements, at least the ones that are observable, and listening to his explanations I can honestly say I have a lot of new information to ponder.

In my opinion the fact that Mr. Angier gets me thinking and investigating what I do in more detail, as well as visualizing the potential I could achieve with further study and discipline, is as I’ve stated countless times more valuable than the techniques taught.

As anyone who has been involved in any profession or hobby for any real length of time knows, we all go through bouts of “burnout” from time to time–periods where we feel we’ve hit a dead end, or the mountain before us is too steep to climb. No matter how self-motivated we may be, sometimes these feelings can be overwhelming. Its at these times where we need a little something to rejuvenate are enthusiasm, and that’s what these Yanagi Ryu seminars do for me. That’s why I look forward to them every year.

Lastly, some folks who recognized me from this “blog” had nothing but good things to say about the information I’ve presented. While I don’t write this blog in order to impress others or to have them validate me, it’s very nice to hear the positive feedback. I did appreciate all the comments, and the fact that many of you stated you you’ve been loyal readers since the blog started.

Prof. Rick Clark Seminar Review

I just returned from taking Prof. Clark to the airport, and I thought I would write down some thoughts about this weekend’s seminar.

Saturday July 28th 2007

Saturday’s seminar was held in San Francisco, with fifteen attendees. Since the class was largely composed of people familiar with Mr. Clark and what he teaches, Mr. Clark bypassed his normal introduction and proceeded right to the techniques.

These techniques ranged from striking specific points to several forms of joint locks. However, they all shared one thing in common; they were all painful.

The most notable one–which will require a lot of practice to become proficient in–was a method of locking up the thumb. While difficult to do, this technique is clearly utilized in several Aiki and Jujutsu techniques. However, while this method is most likely widely applied to some degree or another, I don’t think many practitioners who utilize it are even aware of the fact.

Another interesting technique Prof. Clark taught was a specific point located on the back of the hand. Not only was it painful, but when properly done one’s opponent can not make a fist. Or, if one’s opponent is holding a weapon, this point can be struck to make them release it.

Now I realize that anyone reading this will say there is nothing really interesting or ground breaking about striking or pressing a point on the back of the hand, but chances are this point isn’t the one most martial art practitioners are familiar with. Even Prof. Clark stated this was something new he was investigating.

Overall, I think those that attended this seminar had a good time, and left with several new concepts and techniques to mull over–not to mention a few bruises to recover from.

I know I had a good time on Saturday. Not only because I enjoy learning new things, but also because several old friends I haven’t see in a long time were in attendance.

I also want to thank my student Chad for allowing us to use his office to host this seminar. I know a couple of people had a little problem finding the place, but it worked out really well.

Sunday July 29th 2007

On Sunday we traveled to Dixon, California where Jim Ernest, the owner of Ramtown Karate, hosted the seminar. Fourteen people attended this seminar that focused on various applications found within karate kata (forms).

I don’t practice karate, so I rarely have a clue when Prof. Clark discusses various katas karate practitioners do. But I enjoy watching and learning his interpretations of the various kata movements.

The most interesting thing I’ve observed is how similar many of the movements in kata are to those movements practiced in Aiki and Jujutsu arts. For me, the more similarities I see within different martial arts, the more I really believe that in some point in our training, we all end up doing the same things. Only the approach, and the specialty a particular style focus on initially is different.

What I really like about seeing Prof. Clark’s interpretations of kata movements is that he makes sense of some movements I’ve often questioned, such as double upper blocks. I for one have never believed the most common explanation, which often says the movement is designed to block two attackers who simultaneously paunch to your head. My main reason is that the chances of such an attack occurring would be so extremely rare.

Certainly, there would be karate practitioners who would debate Prof. Clark’s interpretation; however, the technique he showed for that particular movement makes a lot more sense. If nothing else, it shows a deeper examination of a commonly practiced movement.

I think Prof Clark’s approach of “thinking outside of the box” to explain commonly done techniques is why I continue to invite him to the San Francisco.

Another element that was interesting during this seminar was that there was attendee who didn’t feel or react to any stimulus intended to cause pain. I mean nothing worked on him at all

I have always taught my students that pain is never a goal of martial art techniques, just a pleasant by product when and if it happens. That no one should wait for a person to react to a painful stimulus, since they may be very disappointed when it doesn’t happen, and worst yet by waiting put their safety in jeopardy.

Prof. Clark agrees with this theory, and makes it clear that the techniques he teaches are a supplement to all ready viable techniques. He makes it clear no one should rely on these techniques alone. This is unlike some other instructors who teach seminars such as these.

I think Sunday was another successful day, and that everyone in attendance left with a lot of information to process and play with.

I want to thank Sensei Ernest for co-hosting Prof. Clark, and for allowing us to use his school. He has a great school, and his students were a pleasure to meet and work with.

Rick Clark Seminar, July 28 & 29, San Francisco and Dixon, CA

Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei and Ramtown Karate

Prof. Rick Clark

Ao Denkou Jutsu

Vital-Point Striking

Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29, 2007

Professor Clark’s Ao Denko Jutsu, based on the use of vital points, enhances striking and grappling techniques of any given system or style to achieve maximum effect. Many of his techniques are developed through analysis of traditional forms, uncovering effective applications hidden within them.

This world-class instructor has taught martial artists all over the world how to increase the effectiveness of their techniques and gain a better understanding of traditional forms they practice.

Saturday 07/28
2729 Mission Street
2nd Floor (room #201)
San Francisco, CA 94110
10:00 – 3:00map
Sunday 07/29
Ramtown Karate
628 North First Street
Dixon, CA 95620
11:00 – 4:00map
Cost: Pre-registered – 1 day $55.00 / both days $85.00
Day of event – 1 day $65.00 / both days $100.00
To pre-register: Checks should be payable to: Spencer Burns
Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei
Attention: School Treasurer
3440 20th Street, #101
San Francisco, CA 94110
For more information contact:
Gary Moro, Kyoshi Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei (415) 821-1902 / yachigusaryu@aol.com
Sensei Jim Ernest, Ramtown Karate (707) 678-4899 / jimernest@sbcglobal.net
Or visit http://www.yachigusaryu.com, www.ramtownkarate.com, www.ao-denkou-kai.org/seminars.htm

The Other Side of Hojo Jutsu

Hojo Jutsu is the traditional Japanese martial art of restraining prisoners with rope. Since the “Yachigusa” family were involved in law enforcement, likely as doshin, hojo is part of the Yachigusa-Ryu curriculum. However, it is a secondary art and we only practice it once or twice a year. I enjoy hojo in a Boy-Scout-merit-badge-in-knot-tying kind of a way.

Some years ago a group of us went to a seminar by Don Angier of Yanagi-Ryu where he spent a whole day teaching hojo techniques and history—as well as another day of jutte and tessen. It was an excellent seminar and I would like an opportunity to learn more of this art.

So I thought it’d be worthwhile to throw up this link to this upcoming seminar, even though I don’t expect to be attending. After all, what better place to learn hojo jutsu than from a Rope Dojo? Although they seem to call the art shibari. And they give a discount for couples. And there’s a section on “Visions and Perversions.”

It’s actually really amusing just how much the arts of hojo jutsu are being kept alive by the bondage community. The traditional art was very intricate, with increasingly elaborate knots for highly ranked prisoners. They took pains to make ties elegant and symmetric with intertwining loops—since “knots” would be dishonorable (if there are no knots, the prisoner is not techinically tied up, so he saves face, right?). Yet the restraints are very efficient and tight (in case the prisoner is a ninja or something). All these qualities are very appealing to certain subsets of society.

In that vein, perhaps our neighborhood hojo opportunities could be expanding now that the SF Armoury down the street from our dojo is going to be opening under new management(nsfw) as a bondage and fetish film studio.

Or perhaps not.

Ah, San Francisco.

A Review of the 2006 San Francisco/Sacramento Rick Clark Seminar

On Oct. 20, 2006 Rick Clark arrived in San Francisco. Since was arriving early Friday afternoon he had agreed to do a private class for my students at my school.

The class started with a lecture where Prof. Clark discussed the pros and cons of using vital point striking in an actual life and death altercation. He discussed the controversy over whether or not vitals were possible to hit on a moving target. While Prof. Clark readily admits it takes a lot of accuracy to hit vital points on a moving target, his rebuttal is that not every part of attacker’s body is moving during every phase of an attack. For example, when a person is grabbed the attacking arm is static and a fairly easy target for vital point striking. Or, when a person is kicking with one leg, the other leg is static.

He then told us about a new concept he has been using to describe the advantages of utilizing vital points in various techniques. He has started using the term “force multiplier.” Basically, this is a military term that he uses to explain how vital points can enhance other techniques: if an arm lock is effective, applying that arm-lock with the addition of vital points increases the force and lethality of the technique. The way he described things made a lot of sense.

After the lecture, Prof. Clark then showed us various techniques, which utilized vital points to make techniques more effective.

Among the techniques he taught were several variations of thumb locks. Unlike the straightforward method where one grabs his opponent’s thumb and bends it backwards, these thumb locks were done by rotating the wrist is specific directions such that the thumb was in a position where the slightest pressure would cause discomfort/pain.

Now, these thumb locks were nothing new to me, but it’s the first time I actually understood—consciously became aware of—what I’ve been doing all these years. In this case, Prof. Clark made me more conscious of how my techniques work, which in the long run will help me to execute and teach them better.

The most interesting technique of the evening was a counter to the technique called Ni-kyu. Now, in my 30 plus years of doing martial arts I have been taught and/or discovered about 67 different ways to apply/counter ni-kyu. However, this variation was a new one for me, and so easy I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered it long ago.

Not only was this counter to ni-kyu simple, but within moments I came up with three new variations I can apply from it. That brings my total to over 70 ways to apply/counter ni-kyu.

Now before I go on, I should mention that I was very worried about how this weekend would go. Not because I was worried about what Prof. Clark would teach, he always teaches an excellent seminar, but because so few people had pre-registered. I told Spencer several times that I was worried I would lose money on this venture. This fact kept bugging me until Spencer said I wasn’t doing this seminar for others, I was just bringing Prof. Clark here because I wanted to learn form him.

You know that is so true. I firmly believe that if one can walk away from a seminar with one or two new techniques, concepts, or theories, then one’s time and money was well spent.

So, worry as I might about breaking even financially, I clearly got my money’s worth on day one.

Saturday October 21, 2006 – San Francisco

(Photos of S.F. Seminar courtesy of "Many V")

Approximately 15 people showed up for Saturday’s class. The group was small, but this worked out well since it allowed for a lot of individual instruction and time for specific questions to be addressed.

One of the things I like, and really respect, about Prof. Clark is his openness to answering questions. He shares information clearly, openly, and often with a sense of humor that tends to keep things very relaxed.

Prof. Clark is also open to discussing new ideas and discovering what other people have to offer on the topics brought up during the seminar. In other words, if someone can answer a question better than he can, he has no problem letting him or her take the floor. This “lack of ego” is refreshing in the martial arts, and once again I proved my belief that one can learn from just about anyone no matter what their skill level may be. I mean isn’t there a saying…’Out of the mouth of babes come the darndest things?”

Saturday’s seminar started basically the same as the private class Prof. Clark had done for my students. After that basic introduction came the techniques and the daylong application of painful locks and pressure points.

The techniques we worked on ranged from the various thumbs locks we had worked on the previous night to vital point location and activation. We also practiced various defensive vital point striking techniques that can be used to set up and enhance the joint locks already done in most martial art systems.

Saturday was a day full of pain, laughter, hard work, and some very interesting techniques and concepts. There was a lot of material to think over and work on for some time to come.

Sunday October 22, 2006 – Sacramento

About 12 people showed for the Sacramento seminar. Like Saturday this small group led to a lot of one on one instruction, as well as addressing questions brought up during various techniques.

While Prof. Clark covered the same basic information he covered on Saturday, we ended up doing a lot more variations. This made the class very interesting for those of us now on our third day of training and let the other people in attendance see just how vast and varied these techniques can be.

Even my wife, Shirly, joined in. She took a lot of pleasure trying the techniques out on me. A warning to all you martial artists out there: beware of training with your wife/girlfriend, especially if she doesn’t normally practice martial arts. Like the saying goes, “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” My poor wrist will never be the same.

Of course, my wife’s participation just shows that Prof. Clark has something to offer anyone no matter what his or her experience level happens to be.

It’s been four days since Prof. Clark left, and my body is just returning to normal. The bruises are almost gone—or at least they are now a lesser shade of pale green.

The consensus among my students and other attendees who offered feedback was that Prof. Clark’s seminar was very valuable. It helped them understand what vital point striking was all about, and how to apply it in their respective martial arts.

As for me, I learned, relearned, and came away with new ideas and concepts to explore. More importantly, I had the chance to spend a lot of time with Prof. Clark and really get to know him. We share a lot of things in common, especially our views regarding martial arts training, and seeking out new information that will make us better practitioners.

I’m planning on bring Prof. Clark out again in June or July of 2006, and I hope at that time to learn a lot more. I’m also hopeful that many of those who attended this past weekend will tell their friends about their experience and that we have a lot more people come and train with us.