Sunday, April 9, 2017

On new shodans

We have seven new shodans in our dojo. Congrats!

Afterwards Sensei was giving away black belts like rings of power...
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone....

Monday, March 6, 2017

On joy of teaching aikido

For a long time I did not like teaching. I always thought my place is on the other side of this equation. But life (and Piotr) forced me to teach some, and not that I really disliked it, but rather did not find any joy in it.

Until recently.

You know - you are there in the middle of the mat and you call uke to show a technique... And he does not have the foggiest idea what you will do. You present one side or the other, you may call the attack. But he is blank. And this first time is the real deal. Second time he already knows the technique and he will play along his habits and preconceived ideas. But this first time... With good uke you can do the technique for real. This is the little spark of joy in the darkness of responsibility of a teacher.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

On Aikido Commandments

After almost a quarter of a century spent on tatami I decided to share some advice on what to do and what not to do in dojo. Observing these will make you progress faster and will let you avoid dead ends.

1. Do not quit
2. Always look at the feet
3. Always know where sensei and kamiza is
4. Elbows down
5. Try to do what is shown
6. Open chest
7. Heels together in suwari-waza
9. Do big motions rather than small
10. You are the owner of the responsibility that you do not get hit
11. Never let your sensei surprise you without your weapons
12. Danger may be real, but your fear is not - it is only your choice
13. Do not close your eyes when striking with weapons
14. Do not let your ego emotionally dead lock you with someone

Somme comments might be helpful

1. Do not quit
Pretty self explanatory. There are many people with amazing talent, most will quit. Same for mediocre people - most will quit as well. Make sure you are not one of them. The only difference between black belt and beginner is that the black belt did not quit.

2. Always look at the feet
This is what I always tell my students. Especially beginners. Whenever something is being presented - always look at the feet of the teacher. You will figure out the handwork later on, believe me. But if you do tenkan instead of irimi - no matter if you got the hand magic right - you screwed up. Observe the steps.

3. Always know where sensei and kamiza is
This is important. There are many legendary shihans who talk about zan-shin, mu-shin and similar esoteric subtleties. But how to apply this in everyday practice in dojo? I always try to know where kamiza is and where sensei is. You might be in middle of ushiro katate dori iriminage omote gedan, but always in the back of your mind keep this certain level of awareness. If you manage to keep this throughout the class - your zan-shin will grow. Two simple points of reference - kamiza and sensei. Easy-peasy.
Also - never sit with your back to kamiza. This costs push-ups in our dojo.

4. Elbows down
Difficult to convey the importance of this one. Just do.

5. Try to do what is shown
Especially on seminars. Sometimes teacher shows a different version of the technique and then you think 'Oh, in my dojo we do it differently'. And you stop looking at what is shown and already fall back into your old knowledge of the technique. No, wrong! Look at what is shown and try to do it as it is being taught. No need to show off you know it already. You can go back to your old ways when back in your dojo. But be here and now. Try to expand, experiment and see if you can do it the way the teacher shows.

6. Open chest
And keep shoulders down. Keep your head up and do not look into the eyes. Look through uke's throat.

7. Heels together in suwari-waza
Keep them like glued together. Do not drag your feet behind you. Be straight, erect and keep heels together. Sometimes I tie the feet of the students with obi in suwariwaza to teach this.

9. Do big motions rather than small
Extend, expand, own the space. Open chest and raise your forehead. Relax and flow.

10. You are the owner of the responsibility that you do not get hit
Yeah. Why did I hit you? Because you created opening for me. Because I could.

11. Never let your sensei surprise you without your weapons
Really. Is this so much to ask? Ties a bit with point 3 above. Always have your own weapons with you and know the fuck where you left it.

12. Danger may be real, but your fear is not - it is only your choice
Depends on the dojo, teacher and uke. But do not get cornered into fearing anything. This is training hall but sometimes raining hell. Go through it with your head high. And perhaps look at point 10 again. Could be you are doing something wrong?

13. Do not close your eyes when striking with weapons
I do that myself sometimes too, especially when going hard and for real. My recommendation? Work more with weapons with tough, strong studs for uke.

14. Do not let your ego emotionally dead lock you with someone
Sometimes this is positive, but most of the time this turns into pissing contest. Remeber your primary objective of being in dojo - it is to improve your skill, it is not to show off who has bigger bokken. So if you notice you tend to crush against this dude - try working with other people where you have less emotions and ego at play, where you have more space in your mind to finally understand footwork with yokomen-uchi.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

On Onnit

Some Onnit goodies have arrived, namely Alpha Brain.

Will let u know in a few months if I see any effects.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On tanto blades

I have owned several tanto blades, mostly Cold Steel. I owned Recon Tanto, Tanto Lite, all perished in the old time. Now I have laid my hands on Kobun.
There is this mystery in this shape, the same beauty that you find in all machines designed for one and solely purpose. Like Humvee, nuclear submarine and HK416. Tanto has this elusive quality as well.
I am enchanted by the spirit hiding in the blades. By the clean lines of the geometry of tanto-shaped blade, especially if it is shinogi-zukuri. My three samurai swords have these, but tanto seems to have it condensed in much smaller frame. It's like it is more dense...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

On data mining

So there was this time then I lived in equatorial Africa and I had near-real-time access (3-5 minutes delay) to all metadata on the biggest MNO (Mobile Network Operator) in Kenya. I used it to filter out all sorts of useful info from those gigabytes of transaction tickets. I was able to trace trends, see network failures, even caught a fraud or two.

This led to my interest in the whole data mining concept and I found this US company which, I still believe, would be the most amazing place to work at. No, not Google. The company I have in mind is Quid Inc. Please see this TED talk. From very simple, easily available info they can reach such a far-reaching conclusions. I can't even imagine how much intelligence I could get out of my Safaricom metadata using this approach. Unfortunately - ,as I wrote in my book - the Marketing Dept. at Safaricom was not able to comprehend this, or they were just too lazy to bother...

Still, I was following (out of sheer curiosity) the world trends in data mining. Then big data was a big world. Now at IBM everything is cognitive, employing the intelligence to filter out the noise and get something meaningful out of this flood of information.

And then... one of the podcasts I subscribe to is SofRep by former US Special Forces operatives, where they just chit-chat while patting themselves how dope they were when they were still operating... And in one of the episodes they bring Mark Lombardi and his data mining and visualizing. Approach much like Quid Inc. but... manually.

Currently going through this book on him and his work. Will let you know what I think once I finish.

Monday, December 28, 2015

On iPad Pro

So yes, I got myself one. Bought it in London's Covent Garden Apple store. No, they did not have an Apple Pencil - I had to get this one post-factum while roaming in Warsaw.

This is awesome piece of hardware. Really stunning display. But this device has its quirks and issues. Lets go through these step by step. First of all...

This is not just a bigger iPad Air. This is totally new device with expanded functionalities.

Again: expanded.
I use it for all things I used my iPad Air 2 plus a few other uses.

My main motivation was in-situ photo editing. Why? I often take photos during various Aikido events and I am asked to provide results in real time. I wish I had like 3 days, to go home, transfer the pics to my Vaio Pro and play with them with Adobe Lightroom for several hours while sipping single malt and listening to Yusef Lateef. No, I am expected to provide results within the timeframe of the event. So I am dumping the photos from my Nikon to iPad Pro (via use of this and this device), there I have Lightroom and Photoshop Fix for photo manipulations. Then I can post directly on FB, other social media or just email the pics. Easy, right?

First issue - uSD to CF converter allows for any size of uSD, but my Nikon D700 does not recognize SDXC, so I can not use my 64GB card, only the 32 GB one. This is still more than my 16GB CF, allowing for 1.3K photos. Speedwise I see no change. OK, 1.3K photos is still an improvement.

Bigger issue is in software - once card is connected to iPad - it automatically launches Photos and imports all pics (shot in Nikon *.NEF format). But neither Lightroom not Photoshop Fix see these pics in gallery. So I have to go through another program - Procreate to import NEF as a new layer, flatten image, then export as JPG back to gallery. This workaround is unnecessary annoyance. Blame Adobe.

Bottom line - with some idiosyncraties I achieved my goal - I can use iPad Pro's amazing display for image processing.

Second major usecase... Apple Pencil allows for interesting interactions.

I started taking work notes, private notes on iPad, I started (finally) designing my tattoo, I drew the house I lived in till I was 3, I built and expanded mind map of my over 20 years worth of Aikido notes...
And I doodle a lot.
Preferred app - Concepts.

My only other complaint is that I have such a huge screen real estate and I still get to keep only 6 icons in launchbar (its not jailbrokem).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

On Cathedrals

It is pretty obvious why.

Recently went to Prague, visited St.Vitus Cathedral.

And also flew to Barcelona, with its beautiful cathedral

And then, of course, Sagrada Familia

The first question is - why is it that I do not have any pics from Westminster Abbey? Is it possible the Brits did not allow photography?

The second question more interesting. Sagrada Familia is finished on the inside, all they have to complete are towers and some portals on the outside. It took them what, 133 years so far? Long project. And then when you think that building St.Vitus in Prague took 300 years... Then you wonder - how do you build WBS and whole project plan for something that will take 300 years to complete?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

On Coffee

So today on my way to work I decided to stop by at Starbucks.
I ordered the usual and then noticed that they have this new beans Kati Kati - blend of Kenyan and Ethiopian. I got a brewed sample to taste, and I have to say that I do not like coffee. I don't even know why I drink Cafe Latte. I guess it's for its milk?
Lets face it - I am a tea guy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Wakizashi - final chapter

So, you might have read here on this blog that sometime ago I bought mumei koto wakizashi.
It was in shirasaya.

It has beautiful rain-pattern silver habaki:

Then I had it mounted.
Initially I wanted to have it in aikuchi, but Daniel sensei said it's too beefy for aikuchi. So I went for traditional set, only - as you can see - I have had the tsuka made longer:
It is well balanced and has nice harmony to it. The furniture is from Higo school. Unfortunately, I did not have proper tsuba, so I just had something put inside as a gap filler.

Then I went for search of the tsuba I wanted. I knew: no aikuchi, but still wanted a small tsuba. Eventually (with Daniel's blessing) I found this Owari-school gem. Seller estimated it's from around 1550:
It took me like 2 hours with the file on the copper inserts and now I have it mounted: