Thursday, July 9, 2009

KOGA VS LAU Hilo Hawaii, June 2009

Bernie Lau and Robert Koga finally met each other. FYI, Robert Koga was perhaps the first person to teach tactical defense from an aikido training perspective. Like Koga, Bernie left aikido to develop his own take on Defensive Tactics based upon aiki arts as well. Bernie sent me a recap of his take on the seminar. Text in parentheses and italics are my insertions to clarify something Bernie didn’t explain since it’s something I knew about, or just a snide comment of my own. Photos are courtesy of Carrie Yonemori.
(Teaching aikido to police officers isn’t the same thing for those of you upset over this comment and who are thinking of emailing me about your own sensei teaching police. The topics are related, yes, but are different in purpose and intent.)
Left to Right, Robert Koga, Dennis Quiocho -Hilo PD Defensive Tactics Instructor, Bernie Lau.

I went to the Hilo Rec Center where Robert Koga was doing a seminar sponsored by the Hilo Seishinkai Aikido dojo. I joined in, met Koga, and the first thing he said was; "I've been hearing so much about you over all these years, I finally get to meet you". I said "Likewise". Strange, but Koga never met Wally Jay or any of those guys we got to know, and he was right in the LA area all those years.

Bob Koga is a very nice guy, friendly, clean cut, professional, 84 years old, good physical condition and mental health. Gives me something to shoot for. Koga's techniques and what he talks about are very much like our stuff. No bullshitting, some stuff works, some stuff don't, simple as that. He also hit on those "useless techniques" done in aikido training. "The real world isn't like that" were his words. Koga brought up the "fact" that most (or many) "aikido" techniques "look great in a demo" but won't ever work in a real situation. Went on to say that the better your uke can take a break fall, the better you look -duh ! As for the knife take aways taught in aikido- "Yeah right!” Koga also mentioned that there is no "one" technique that will work 100 % of the time.

(Part of what I see with what Bernie writes above is the distinction over teaching techniques versus readily practical techniques. The typical martial arts instructor can’t tell the difference all too often.)

Koga really didn't teach much cop type stuff to the "aikido" gathering, talked a good bit of the time. After all, they're not cops and wouldn't understand or need all that's involved in arrest and control techniques. He talked about common sense stuff. “Don't want to get into fights? Stay out of bars. Don't wear martial arts type shirts that say, ‘I'm bad and I can kick your ass’ etc.” He talked about de-escalation versus escalation of potential conflicts.

Techniques demonstrated to the aikido folks in attendance were basics, - grab wrist - removing/s hand with no effort, (wipe table, scratch hair, etc) same-same stuff that we of Lau Ryu, Oops, make that "Icho Ryu" do as basics.

Koga did demonstrate an interesting same-side grab to shirt. Uke grabs your shirt, your right side with his left hand, you bring your right hand up and snake it between his arm and his body. Your right hand continues down between his body snaking toward his lower spine area as you move in towards his rear, right foot leading, your left hand comes up under his chin and presses forward as your right hand pushes into uke's spine to take away his center. It should feel effortless, etc. kind of like Don's “magic” stuff. (Bernie is referring to Don Angier here)

One very important thing I observed him use. My all time favorite, the infamous "finger flick” Koga didn't say a word about it, he just used the flick once as a distraction, I saw it, I understood, and that one movement of his hand made a huge impression on me as far as Koga's understanding about "stuff that actually works". I observed it and thought to myself, “All-right, this guy knows stuff and has made it work.” I'm certain that no one else in the aikido audience registered the technique, but I did.

BTW, I did techniques with several Hilo area aikido instructors, I wore them out; the Muay Thai training has really helped my endurance come back big time. Twenty – thirty continuous techniques - I was still bouncing back, smiling, sweating and going for more. I was smiling because I could see that I was quickly wearing my partners down. Most of them said, "OK thanks, I need to take a break". I am so thankful for my past training and my new positive attitude from training actively and living back in Hawaii!

(Bernie has been doing Muay Thai with a local group - Spirit of the White Robe- training 2-3 times per week. His brief description of training: Each MT training session, we probably do over 400 of those Thai boxing shin kicks against pads. I have to stop and catch my breath for a moment but I don’t stop and drop out like people half my age do. I was sore and tired the next day for the first couple months, but nothing too bad. A few ibuprofen and I’m fine. Now, I just get minor aches that come from a good workout.)

Later on in the seminar I went around to practice with (not teach!) other beginners, guys and gals, and allowed them to throw me continuously, they were thrilled and I enjoyed it. At one point, I was training with a ten year old Japanese girl as my training partner and allowed her to keep throwing me; I was doing the techniques on my knees, suwari-waza fashion, since she was so small. We were doing kote-gaeshi, I modified the technique showing her to use my thumb as leverage as her hands were too tiny to apply the technique on me. Koga noticed this, came over, smiled and totally agreed with the modification. She was good and was having one hell of a good time. She never tired and neither did I. I noticed some of the aikido instructors watching me as they stood around and chatted instead of training.
I sat in seiza throughout some of Koga's long lectures, not one of the aikido instructors there are able to even sit in seiza properly for more than a few minutes. Old training habits never die, it sticks with you. Remember sitting for so long in seiza during testing?!

Koga was down to earth, didn't bullshit about the mystical power of "Golden Showers", but Koga did mention that he never really got to understand this "KI" stuff, and Tohei was one of his teachers! Strange, or perhaps, Koga was a bit more enlightened about the "real world". I forgot, how many arrests did Tohei make during his lifetime? Did Tohei really "grapple", outside of that "Rendezvous With Adventure". Tohei grappling - my all time favorite!

All in all, I like where Koga was coming from. It would have been interesting to hook up with him years ago. However; I no longer feel that need to find and connect with anyone out there for myself. I know what I know. I can make it work "most of the time". If not I can always get into my other mode, "Fucking Nasty Bernie ryu".

As for his "Police Weaponless Control" stuff, I didn't see much of it as it was an "aikido" gathering so I can't comment on that. I'm pretty certain a lot of his stuff is similar to ours. Our stuff is probably less complicated, and less of it. As you know, you don't really need much stuff to take some asshole down and cuff him. However, if you're selling DVDs and books, well, that's another story all together, as you know from experience.

Bottom line, I liked and agreed with all that Koga had to say. "No Bullshit Ryu". He is a very down to earth guy, easy to talk to, likes the lime light (like someone I know) ha-ha. (Bernie is referring to himself here.)