Monday, August 19, 2013

Avenue of the Saints

Several months ago I was asked to teach Aikido at the 2013 United States Martial Arts Association (USMAA) National Training Camp.

It has been a long time since I have considered myself an Aikido guy.

My passion is for how Aikido, Judo, and Karate work together. Especially for modern practical application. That generally makes me an "Old" Jujutsu guy or Taihojutsu guy, or even a "Combatives" guy.

There is nothing wrong with being an Aikido guy.  Aikido and Aiki Kenjutsu have served as the foundation I have built my combatives platform around.

However, being "just" an Aikidoka is something I feel I have out grown.

I had an opportunity to teach but that opportunity came with challenges.

The training camp is multidisciplinary. If I am being billed as the teacher for the Aikido Instruction block, there will be traditional Aikidoka who paid for the camp and expect traditional Aikido training.

My Aikido is very different than most.

There will also be students there that could care less about Aikido. They will be killing time waiting for the instruction block they paid for. If I don't interest them they will just sit on the side lines until the next class.

So that was my starting point. How does a "Old" Jujutsu / Taihojutsu /"Combatives" guy teach Aikido to Aikido traditionalists and martial artists from a variety of different backgrounds? How do I give both groups something they want / need without isolating / pissing off the other

Solid principles are solid principles. No one owns a copyright on them and it doesn't matter where they come from.

So I decided to focus on principles that are universal to all styles and cover the entire combatives spectrum.

I developed a lesson plan packed my gear and hit the road on the "Avenue of Saints"
That is the major highway system between St.Paul and St. Louis.

I car pooled with my Judo Sensei Gary Rudenick so my first stop was my home town of Mankato MN.

I stayed with my folks Tuesday night so we could get an early start Wednesday morning. After dinner my Dad likes to have a pipe and I like to have a cigar. We sit and talk and solve most of the worlds problems - if anyone would ever listen to us.

My dad was a teacher then he got into curriculum development and student teacher supervision. What that means is he taught, then he taught how to teach, and helped teachers become better teachers. Dad isn't overly interested in martial arts per se but he is passionate about the art of teaching.

So inevitably the conversation turned to - well, what are you going to teach?

I told him my concerns about teaching both groups something they want / need without isolating / pissing off the other

I busted out my lesson plan notes on my trusty tablet. As I was handing it over I realized it was just a bunch of Japanese words. So I started to explain my plan by talking.

Anyone who has sat and talked martial art with martial artists quickly comes to realize that we are a very kinetic bunch. There is not that much sitting and the talking we do about the subject mater is much more easily expressed through contact and motion.

What do you plan to teach? Stand up, I'll show ya.  I promise this won't hurt...much

Everyone reading this who has had a similar experience is smiling because they know exactly what I'm talking about

So I beat up on my Dad to explain what I was going to teach.
He was an excellent student. He represented someone with a limited training background and asked excellent questions. He helped me prepare and reinforced my belief that I must teach everyone as if it is their first day on the mat.

I can't assume people know things like:
How to fall
How to hit
How to tap

If I do, at best people get embarrassed that they lack training at worst they get injured.
Rule of them only injure on purpose and only those that you are justified in injuring. Never injure by accident.

Day two - Road trip

I woke up early and hit the road to pick up Gary.
Gary is a fairly quiet guy, who has led an interesting life. We were going to be in the truck together for 10 hours so I wanted to hear some of those interesting stories that his other Judo students may not have ever heard.

Gary was a State Champion wrestler who went on to wrestle in college.
After college he became a Marine.   While a Marine he started Judo.   During training he broke his Instructor's leg.  At that time there were very few martial artists in the armed forces so Gary took over his Instructor's position.

Gary traveled the world teaching Judo and hand to hand combat at different military bases.

Eventually he was stationed in Hawaii and received his Shodan at the Zen Monastery where he trained when he wasn't teaching.

Sounds like an 80's action movie, pretty bad ass.

We arrived save and sound at my sister Kay's house just outside of St. Louis.
I can't thank her or my brother-in-law Jim enough for graciously hosting us and how nicely they treated us. Thank you very much!

Day three training camp.

The day started with warm ups and Judo training led by Sensei Matl.
You can read more about him here

You know those days you don't feel like training?
Well,  next time you do I want you to remember Sensei Matl.

He grew up in a Soviet occupied eastern block country.   If he was caught training he would have been sent to Siberia or killed.

Your excuses are weak, man up bitches.

After watching him teach I was happy that he too focused on universal principles applicable to all facets of martial art.

After that I took Ukemi for and helped Jimerfield Sensei teach Taiho Jutsu.
Some folks think I am nuts for taking all those thumps.  The way I see it there are some things that have to be felt to be learned.  Taking Ukemi always teaches me something new.

Then it was my turn.  I started with Uke Waza - Evasion Techniques

Not getting hit is a skill that is necessary to all martial artists
Not getting hit while:
Improving your position
Worsening their position
Protecting yourself from damage
Directing impact ( damage ) into the attacker
May be equally new and equally useful to every one there so I figured I'd start there

I had a hell of a time loading video onto the blog.  Best I could do was offer links to the video on Face Book.

Apparently that only works if you are face book friends with me.

So I tried youtube and that was weird too.  I couldn't just embed a video but I could embed a link.

Directing impact see also striking may be a sticking point for some Aikidoka
"We do not hit in Aikido"

So I have a pull quote for that situation
"Atemi (striking) is 80% of Aikido" - Morihei Ueshiba

But I also make the point that as a Police Officer I don't strike to injure or punish but affect the skeleton so I can control.

Day Four

Well, the plan worked and the training was well received.  So much so that I was asked to return and teach next year.  Also, one of the other Instructors could not make it so I had an extra opportunity to teach on Day four.

That day I worked some close quarters neck controls that you will have to train with me in person if you want to see them.  (I can't give it all away for free)

Great experience, with great people.  I hope all of you reading this can make it next year.

If you do, or if you have an opportunity to attend any multiple disciplinary type seminar I offer this advice.

1)Try to have just one thing.
At the end of all of my classes I ask what was the one thing you learned today, or if many what was your favorite.  At a seminar like this tons of information will be thrown at you.  Too much to process all at one time.  So pick one and make sure you remember it and can take it home and work on it.

2)If possible take Ukemi.
Like I said before there are some things that have to be felt to be learned.  Also these Instructors have paid their dues in similar ways and appreciate people who step up.  They tend to teach them something special that the others don't get.

3)Try everything offered.
If it complements your combative platform steal as much as you can.  If not, don't do things that are contrary to your training, but try to get a feel for how that style operates.

“Know your enemy, know his sword.”

― Miyamoto MusashiA Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

4) Have fun and be respectful.

Train hard, train smart, be safe.


  1. Great article! One of the things I will miss most about moving to Michigan is not being able to train with you and Sensei Rudenick. You two are phenomenal artists!

  2. Thanks Ray

    Also for those of you for whom the video links didn't work, try the you tube links I just updated.

  3. Hey Kasey,

    I know this is an old post but I'm writing to ask you if you'd have any interest receiving some cigars for an honest assessment and saw where you noted that you occasionally like to toast a stick or two. Do you have a good email that I could touch base through? I'm at if you'd like to reach me. Thanks and sorry if this method of reaching out is unorthodox!