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Martial Musings- Syntax of Effortless Throws

Martial Musings- Syntax of Effortless Throws



Martial Musings: Syntax of Effortless Throwing


I have long searched for the Universality that makes for good martial motion. Insights on effortless throwing, though mine, became possible due to a combination of traditions -Aikijujutsu (SS, HRV & DA), Panantukan & Dumog (RS) , Silat (JK) and Baguazhang (BKF). Having spent a better part of 2014 & 2015 testing this insight, I now would like share it.

It was 7 AM, 37F degrees on a cold frosty Saturday morning at our Rengstorff Park Dojo. A handful of students were present, bundled up ready to train. I decided to unravel what I now call the "Syntax of Effortless Throwing".

I started the dialogue to get their juices flowing. Preferably, students arrive at the conclusion/discovery themselves where by "my" insight becomes, forever, theirs. My question to them on that chilly morning was, "what makes all our 9 throws and 4 major henka/variations effortless ?"

Responses ranged from "10k hours of practice" to "flow" to "luck."

I gave them a hint: "What is common across them all, what is the platform? If we view each throw as a specific application, then what makes the operating system (OS)?"

Silence. Thinking is hard work.

The OS is "universal laws of martial motion," regardless of style, system, race etc. We all have but two arm and two legs, and they can move in a finite number of natural patterns. Learning to tweak and recombine them is what separates mastery and pure expression from monkey see, monkey do.

I went through a bunch of our system's throws...and slowed the mechanics down. I then started to speak out loud as I executed the throws. As the pattern started to unravel in front of their eyes, I gave them the syntax, the algorithm.

"Perform Tai Sabaki, connect to the body, move into continuous locking until you get the spine, shift the opponent's c enter/weight and execute the throw."

Let's break it down.

Step 1: Tai Sabaki - Within our system, your body moves in 10 specific angles. These angles nuetralize the attack and minimize opponents options, while maximizing your own options. This is the foundation, now, you begin the task of

Step 2: Adhesion (Connecting & Sticking) - Begin to bridge of the gap (entering safely) and moving into the trapping zone (dreaded by many, but this is the stuff that seperates masters from the amateurs). You have now checked the opponents limbs and are connected as one system: adhesion at its best. From here one moves to

Step 3: Lock(ing) the Skeletal Structure - Progressively apply pressure on the opponents joints. The goal here is to create a wave of locking until the opponent finds their spine/skeletal structure locked/frozen - unable to move. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the neck and lower spine. The opponent's c hoice is to either collapse on himself (congratulations, you have an otoshi) or

Step 4: Move weight onto one leg - to release the pressure from the spine. With this you will notice the body move, the center is dislodged and shifts, creating that perfect opportunity to

Step 5: Executive the throw - BAM!

Do not forget to follow up, and finish the fight.

Don't take my word for it though. Try it, tweak it and make it yours. Each component on the algorithm has a purpose, leaving any out may come with a heavy price tag:

No TaiSababaki - you will be hit or not be in range, and the resulting struggle ensures

No Connecting - you will lose the sense of how you function as a system. Instead of skill you will try to muscle your way through.

No Skeletal Freezing - the opponent has plenty of opportunities to free himself/herself and in the worst case, counter attack.

No Weight Shift - yo u don't own your opponent's center and you will need to use tremendous effort to live.

See how you can adapt and bring true awareness into your movements. Without understanding the pieces of the whole, you leave a lot to chance.

And the biggest takeaway from this is - you now use all the throws you already know as suggestions only. You are able to mix/match them into entirely new possibilities - your own throws. Think about that. That is the true freedom of understanding and making this insight function.

Let me know if you have any questions or insights. I look forward to learning together.

Best regards,

Mahipal Lunia, Sensei









Martial Musings: Relax! Damn It

Martial Musings: Relax! Damn It

Relax Damn It! Let go, let the motion be, dont try to do the technique, let it flow through you. I have found myself saying these words over and over again in the dojo. And yet the words seldom sink in deep enough to cause real change.

Modern life, especially with all of the technology we have is driven by stress. Unless you actively get on a program to de-stress as a martial artist, you are in serious trouble. Why should you care about it?

Martial Musings: Aiki Energetics aka Dont Wage War On Yourself

Martial Musings: Aiki Energetics aka Dont Wage War On Yourself

Wham. Bham. Take some more punishment. Condition harder, sweat it out. Now to prepare for that one (a handful at most) encounter/s, most ardent practitioners put their bodies and minds through a lot of abuse. It is almost a cliche to hear of martial artists’ with bad knees, hurt backs, jammed joints etc.

Martial training usually has one focus - survival. This means doing maximum damage on your opponent while sustaining minimum impact on oneself.

Martial Musings with Mahipal Lunia: Defining oneself and one's practice AKA This is not your friendly neighborhood McDojo

Martial Musings with Mahipal Lunia: Defining oneself and one's practice AKA This is not your friendly neighborhood McDojo

Martial Musings: Defining oneself and one's practice AKA This is not your friendly neighborhood McDojo I had a strange conversation this week. A millionaire father contacted me to "do my aikido and fix his 3 children" who were aged between 18 and 23. He also expected prompt responses in writing about when he wanted me to show up, then spend 2 hours each day with his kids. He then wanted to know if I had the facilities to accept his AmEx card, as he would not use any other card. Finally he emphasized his "kids" would be driven by a private chauffer.

This April come train  in the Warrior Ways among the ancient pyramids and pristine beaches of Veracruz

This April come train in the Warrior Ways among the ancient pyramids and pristine beaches of Veracruz

Training in different environments is a critical aspect of our training. It informs how we hold and change our structure, influencing how we move. Additionally we have sought to make the most beautiful places in the world our dojo - the place where we practice our ways. The aesthetic aspect of training trains a worldview which we believe to be imperative in becoming whole martial artists.About El Tajin: Located in the state of Veracruz, El Tajin was at its height from the early 9th to the early 13th century.

Martial Musing: Aiki Eyes -Key To Decreasing Reaction Times

Martial Musing: Aiki Eyes -Key To Decreasing Reaction Times


"Soften, soften more" is a mantra I keep repeating in the dojo, and yet almost always the beginner "tries even harder" to soften. The effort to soften is almost always focused on the big muscles and yet the face hardens. The first marker for it is in the narrowing of the eyes. 

Some interesting things happen when the eyes narrow and your vision gets "locked in." In many ways you are now unable to really see. Everything tends to move a lot faster around you, and our responses tend to seem a lot slower. I have always equated this with the mind getting locked in or frozen - which is quite the opposite state of flowing. This is referred to as Foveal Vision.

The foveal vision locks us into a task, concentration and thinking mode. It closes of everything else other than what its locked onto. it has its uses, and Martial Arts is not one of them. For example if you are locked into the opponents hand with a knife, you almost certainly will go blind to everything else his limbs will do. This can be a death spell in a fighting situation.

To unfreeze and flow with what is coming, one must learn to really see. In the dojo at Mountain View Aiki Kai, I call this "aiki eyes" or "samurai eyes". To do this one has to learn to move from foveal/narrow vision to peripheral vision. This shift allows you to take more of the world in, and has a dramatic effect. Things begin to slow down in your experience, and you catch a lot more of what is going on.

The process of opening the perception/vision is the fastest way to move from a frozen to flow state. The the key marker here is No-Mind - in other words no locking into a method of thinking/concentration but rather openness to respond.

Peripheral vision is is what a lot of animals do naturally to survive. If you spend any time in nature, you will quickly come to the conclusion, that the only way to relax is to have your eyes everywhere. Tom Brown Jr, the world famous survivalist and author talks about his training in "splatter vision." The term his mentor - Stalking Wolf used in describing the all seeing/peripheral vision. This is one of the key skills taught to survive in the wilderness.

Going a little more left field into the works of Carlos Castaneda he speaks of his training with the Shaman Don Juan "Instead of teaching me to focus my view, as gazers did, he taught me to open it, to flood my awareness by not focusing my sight on anything. I had to sort of feel with my eyes everything in the 180-degree range in front of me, while I kept my eyes unfocused just above the line of the horizon." This process his vision, and was critical to stop the world, a term he used to be in a state of No-Mind or Mushin. This brings me back to Martial Arts

My first experience with this came when I started to train without my glasses. My vision went broad and it was as though I saw better when not looking directly. The next piece came together when studying NLP and learning to adumbrate the client by watching the whole form. Finally while studying Baguazhangs Wind Palm with Bruce Frantzis ( he is nothing short of an enigma in CIMA) he kept telling us to "relax the back of the eyeballs." This started to gel things together.

Things then began to just click and other pieces such as survival training and meditation fell into place. The once unconsious process started to become conscious, and I will share some of the methods of moving towards peripheral vision:-

1) SOFTEN: Soften the eyes consciously, and move your focus to the back of the eyeball where the optic nerve sits. Feel that space and relax

2) TRAIN EYE CONVERGENCE :Do pencil push ups and move our eyes from side to side. (

3) LOOK WIDE: Learn to see from the side of the eyes instead of from the middle. Sounds strange to do so in the beginning but try it and once you get a hang of it, its easy. I use this while driving and constantly work on developing the 180 degree view of the road, esp. while riding my motorcycle.

4) FOCUS ON SPACE: Instead of looking at your opponent in the dojo, focus on the space around them, this will rapidly shift your perception

5) CASTANEDA'S METHOD: Whilst walking rest your gaze gently on the horizon point and curl your fingertips, as if you were holding cylinders in each of your hands. Without moving the eyes and gently resting your gaze become aware of what is present in your peripheral vision, above you, beneath you, to your right and to your left. Continue this until such a time as the State deepens and settles."

The key benefits of moving from a foveal vision to peripheral vision are a) is that your opponents movements appears to slow down, allowing for more time to respond. b) is a critical step in the process to "stop the world", enter into what the Samurai arts have refereed to as Mushin or No-Mind c) absolutely invaluable for survival in new areas or environments d) You will quickly move into a state of extreme relaxation

Playing with the perception of time, and speed are critical attributes to train for a martial artist. Play with the methods described above - share your results, and if you are aware of methods please do share.

As always I remain open to your thoughts, comments and constructive criticism.

Mahipal Lunia Sensei (4 photos)

Martial Musing: Randori as Warrior Dialouge

Martial Musing: Randori as Warrior Dialouge

Martial Musing: Randori As Warrior Dialogue Free sparring has long been a way to test ones skill and understanding in the warrior arts. A small shift in perspective in the goal of randori brings massive rewards. I will share my view and approach to it.

Randori (乱取り?) is a term used in Japanese martial arts to describe free-style practice. In the dojo we do emphasize randori as a means to test ones skill and create new understandings. We usually have one person get in the center, and from that point on everyone just attacks the person in the middle. 

Sometimes things get heated, and emotions flare. And its my job as Sensei to bring things under control. One one such occasion I was trying to explain the difference between "winning" the randori session and "learning in randori."

When the student views the randori session as a mere fight the objective is to win. And we begin to rely on our most trained attribute and favorite techniques to do the same. And that is quite all right yet something is forgotten. The literal meaning of Randori is "chaos taking" or "grasping freedom," implying a freedom from the structured practice of Kata (preset forms). 

What we do when we hit a brick wall is to stop the session and together find a way out of it. This to me is the essence of Randori or Kumite or free sparring. When this shift happens in the dojo everyone wins. No sacred cows here, and every option is explored. This is the beginning of true Warrior Dialogue, and for me captures the essence of freedom from the known. Also we all learn what works best.

So try this next time you spar or do randori

1) Instead of testing your attributes and winning, begin to see it as an inquiry - begin to see each attack as a question posed to you. Now examine all possible answers, and most importantly the best answer for you

2) When you get stuck in a particular place or technique, return to your basics. I return to my Tai Sabaki (body positioning methods) and have discovered that most answers are there. When you do this particular method for a while you discover that "Advanced techniques are basics understood and done well."

3) Get into the mode of multiple attackers on one, and its ok to get knocked out or tap out. The moments of "failure" can become what the Nobel Laurette Bucky Fuller used to call "Great moments." Failures become great moments when you stop and learn from them in real time. Randori provides the best opportunity for great moments on the Warrior Path, when you approach Randori right. 

When the student gets this, s/he begins to see randori as "dialogue" rather than a test. This step is critical as now the student is no longer viewing the sessions as something to win, or show his might. Rather s/he begins to understand that is is an opportunity to truly make this an inquiry into what works best. It becomes about finding the right way together with other students and the Sensei. In short everyone wins. 

As always I remain open to your thoughts and constructive criticism. Until then train hard, and enjoy the chaos taking.

Mahipal Lunia


Martial Musing: The Wisdom Not To FIght

Martial Musing: The Wisdom Not To FIght

Martial Musing : The Courage & Wisdom Not To Fight

For years have taught my students at the public park in a predominantly blue collar town with its fair share of trouble seekers. That evening as I was working with a group of my brown belts, a drunk man walked through the class. He then went on the be less than respectful, and challenging my right to be in the park. Two of my senior students got ready to jump in, I noticed deep anger on their faces as their neck muscles tightening. I signalled them to stay put. The drunk then wanted me to apologize for being in his way, and I took a deep breath. At first felt a little anger creep in, then I took a step towards him. Held my hand out and said "am sorry for having caused you trouble, be well my friend. I am now going to go continue my training."

I stepped right past him firmly and respectfully, showing him am not afraid as I started teaching again. He looked at me in sheer silence for what seemed a minute and then walked away. I could still sense the anger on my most senior students face, who is respectful and feels very protective of me. "Sensei, we could have taught him a lesson. Why did you let him walk away disrespecting you like this?"

"You remember the parking lot incident? The 5'4 guy who was rude and came in to fight over a little parking spot. And he ignored the fact that his 6 year old daughter was watching , and she was terrified out of her wits? Well I walked away from that fight too. Even though I had already run more than a few scenarios in my head of how the fight would end - quickly." They all nodded remembering another incident not to long ago. So I continued " whats common between those two scenarios?"

"You did not fight Sensei, and let those disrespectful guys get away without teaching them a lesson." said F.

"Well, the purpose of a fight is to win. And in both cases I won, because I kept my freedom of choice and right to be a freeman. Besides what would the two fights have achieved? What would anyone have gained? A parking spot? Respect from a drunk guy? What after that.... how would I justify the use of "trained force" .. and what would the impact of that action be on my loved ones, and their loved ones.. esp the 6 year old."

The students now looked relaxed and surprised. And deep inside I was happy that in someways was able to demonstrate a key lesson on the warrior path. Sometimes walking away in peace, is perhaps the greatest victory. It may seem cowardly, but IMO it takes great presence of mind and courage to walk away from a meaningless confrontation.

Another student who does like to fight a bit asked "so when is it ok to fight?" And without missing a beat I answered "if I had my way Never. The only time I would be compelled to fight would be to protect a life or to stop an assualt. Thats my take, and you need to find yours. Though I want you to remember that there are serious consequences of actions. Not thinking of consequences leads to disaster all around. So the highest form of fighting is fighting your own inner urges to prove a point. That is the ultimate goal - to be in peace no matter what is happening around. And should it come down to drawing the sword, then make it quick and effective."

As conclusion I will summarize with

1. Walk away from every fight as much as you can, this requires a lot more courage than you think.  2. Apology does not make you smaller or wrong. You dont need to prove anything. Sometimes giving the other person a way to save face is all thats needed. 3. If it does come down to an alteration then apply only "justifiable force" and think "systemic consequences." War tactics are not needed for a simple argument and a simple hold will not suffice in a urban war scenario. Work those option out in your mind over and over again (more on this process in another post). This is the beginning of wisdom on the martial path. 4. All the years of training in the end is for learning to be at peace with violence and move towards harmony

This to me the courage and wisdom to NOT FIGHT.

As always I remain open to your thoughts and constructive criticism. Until next time Train Hard!

Mahipal Lunia

Martial Musing with Mahipal Lunia Sensei: Brevity in Motion

Martial Musing with Mahipal Lunia Sensei: Brevity in Motion

Martial Musing of the Day: Brevity In Motion

I always enjoy a great demo, with its high flying kicks, loud kiais and superhuman feats of power. It makes for great Martial Theatre. And back in the day I was as guilty of this as anyone else.

Now as I think about Martial Arts prowess, its not the high theatre that leaves me in awe, but how little the movements seem from the outside. And yet the opponents seem to disintegrate as though on their own accord.

What do I mean by this? I suggest you watch 1) A truly good Aikijujutsu person break structure and gain control with little movement 2) A skilled Filipino Martial Artist who in a fraction of a second has completed the kill 3) A true Internal Arts exponent, who is able to absorb energy like a willow tree and hit with FaJing (explosive energy) at will

The skilled practitioner wastes no time or energy to get the job done. There is effectiveness, elegance and directness while being completely aware of consequences. So as I train myself or teach others the emphasis is on

1. Making sure the techniques are executed with presence, awareness, focus and concentration 2. Focus on effectiveness, elegance & simplicity over theater by learning to remove as much as possible, and no more. The goal is to capture the essence of the technique

What I am getting at is that as Martial Artist evolves , the flash and doing a lot (which can be impressive to an untrained eye) goes away. In its place comes a mature sense of "just enough" movement with full awareness of consequences. An unskilled eye will not even catch the movement leave alone be in awe. I call this "Brevity of Motion" which IMHO is the soul of Martial Mastery!

As always I remain open to your thoughts and constructive criticism

Mahipal Lunia Sensei

Rules For Giving Great Martial Arts Demos & Blast from the Past

Rules For Giving Great Martial Arts Demos & Blast from the Past

I found this old video (early 90s) and saved a few minutes of it. The quality is a little grainy - however you can hear the sound of the swords clashing, the hard falls etc - as we PLAYED HARD! Back in the early 1990s when I was still a "young punk"in my teens, and had been training under Sastri Sensei for about 2 years. Its so interesting to watch this as it was many demos like this that got the art established in South Asia even attracting many 4th dans and above to join the dojo. To this day many of these high ranking masters refer to their time with Sastri Sensei with humility and awe!  The "Original Group of 6" Oku Iris under Sastri Sensei followed his example as much as possible. Of the original group of six - two made Menkyo and actively teach. 3 made Moku Roku and one remained at Oku Iri.

Sasti Sensei rules for Demos as I remember them -

1. Never rehearse for your demos, just do your thing - show what comes naturally from what you have learnt. 2. Always use live weapons be it Tanto (dagger), Ken (Sword) or sticks. 3. Seek what works, and make it yours 4. "Play with what you know" and never be afraid of who comes to play. You will always learn something. We always invited people from the audience to come and play with us - and as its a tradition in Asia, they usually did  5. Showcase your art in the best way you can, and dont stop even if you have made mistakes. Keep moving, until completion 

On this video you can see Mahipal Lunia Sensei and Melvin Francis Sensei "playing and demonstrating" in one of our many demos across South Asia. Jeevan Gowda Sensei provides the narration the expert announcer. And througout you can catch a glimpse of Ramesh Jodige Sensei across the screen.

 — with Jeevan C. Gowda and 4 others.