Archive for March, 2009

Duct Tape - The Aikidoist’s Friend

Well, my elbow got tweaked recently. Again. (Must stay on my toes when I’m receiving hijiate!)  And that got me thinking about duct tape, as I ripped off a goodly strip and applied it to my dogi.

Duct Tape - The Aikidoist's Friend

Duct Tape - The Aikidoist's Friend

What is it about duct tape that practitioners of aikido love so much? Is it the satisfying ripping sound that results from tearing it off the roll? The pretty colours? The fact that it solves tailoring issues more readily and easily than needle and thread?

No one knows who began the time honoured tradition of using duct tape to repair dogis and highlight injured areas. I doubt it was O’Sensei, or Shioda Kancho (the Younger or the Elder); perhaps it was Terada Kancho? Naaa! - more likely it was some hockey-crazed Canuck whose pastime was aikido.

Duct tape will figure largely in your aikido career, so you’d better stock up. First and foremost, aikidoka use it to mark off injured joints. And remember, they’re not targets, they’re precautionary markings, or perhaps badges of honour, although it’s hard to whimper and strut at the same time. While there is no hard and fast rule, traditions of colour coding may apply in your dojo, check with your seniors before application.

So what else can we use it for? The list is endless:

Got ‘dry cracker’ feet? Slap on some tape to protect them and improve your suriashi at the same time.

Rip the knees out of your dogi pants? Fix them with duct tape. It will even stay on during laundering.

Got a big date this weekend? Why not remove unsightly facial or body hair by applying and quickly removing a few strategically placed strips. (Put one over your mouth first to avoid alarming family members and neighbours with your screaming.)

Training partner talk too much? Assuming you outrank them, feel free to apply a little ‘duct tape silencer’.

Pants fall down during tests? Try duct tape suspenders.

Solve Your Tailoring Issues

Solve Your Tailoring Issues

Forget your kyu belt? No need to borrow one, just wrap some duct tape around your waist, leaving enough to tie a decent knot. (Be sure to use the colour that reflects your rank.) 

Dogi  always coming undone, revealing the fact that you’re hairier than a muskox? Again, wrap a hunk around your waist - your kyu belt will cover it up, leaving everyone to wonder how your dogi stays closed, even after a few rounds of mune mochi.

Pony tail fall out during ukemi?  Try a duct tape scrunchie - it’ll stay in place for weeks (but may cause your pillow to stick to your head in the morning).

Are you getting the idea? It’s the aikidoist’s friend, and will make your aikido journey just a little bit easier. Here are a couple of quotes gleaned off the net:

“Duct tape is like the force; it has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.”

from “Where’s the Duct Tape When You Need It? (or Ramblings of a Travelling, Smiling Aikidoka)”

by Candice Lawrence

“Does anyone have experience on teaching Aikido to little children?” (Jorgen)

“Duct tape - lots of duct tape.” (PeterR)

from a post on Aikiweb.

History of Duct Tape

Adhesive tape (specifically masking tape) was invented in the 1920’s by Richard Drew of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, Co. (3M). Duct tape (the WWII military version) was first created and manufactured in 1942 (approximate date) by the Johnson and Johnson Permacel Division. Its closest predecessor was medical tape.

The original use was to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases. Because it was waterproof, people referred to the tape as “Duck Tape” Also, the tape was made using cotton duck - similar to what was used in their cloth medical tapes. Military personnel quickly discovered that the tape was very versatile and used it to fix their guns, jeeps, aircraft, etc. After the war, the tape was used in the booming housing industry to connect heating and air conditioning duct work together.

Soon, the color was changed from Army green to silver to match the ductwork and people started to refer to duck tape as “Duct Tape.” Things changed during the 1970s, when the partners at Manco, Inc. placed rolls of duct tape in shrink wrap, making it easier for retailers to stack the sticky rolls. Different grades and colors of duct tape weren’t far behind. Soon, duct tape became the most versatile tool in the household.

The Real History of Duct Tape

by Jim and Tim, the Duct Tape Guys

Tim and me researched the history of duct tape extensively - we even looked in books. As far as we can figure out, duct tape was invented in Greece in about 400 B.C. by a guy named Socrates Duct.  His house had a big hole in one of the walls which was letting a draft in. When Duct went out to the woods to get some wood to fix the hole, he accidentally got some pine sap stuck to the bottom of his toga, which stuck to his leg and made him really uncomfortable. When he got home, Duct ripped of the sticky strip of toga and stuck it over the hole in the wall, and just like that, no more draft!

He showed his repair job to his buddies, and they started using the combination of cloth and sticky stuff to fix all sorts of stuff. They called it Duct tape after Socrates Duct, but then he got famous and dropped the “Duct” so he only had one name like Madonna and Cher. After that, everybody started asking him what other ideas he had, and pretty soon he was spouting off about everything. The rest is history.

Some goofy sites that feature duct tape:



A Safer Course

Well, the snow’s gone, and so are Aiki-Doh!-ka’s plans for being a stunt man. I confess I’m a little bit relieved - it was eating up a lot of my time having to run him to the E. R. every couple of days, but hey, that’s what friends are for.

Like the time he called me on his cell, asking me to bring all the ice packs I could find and pick him up behind the Brass Door. It seems he had been practicing more Jackie Chan-style stunts and had been trying to scale the wall at the back of the alley. After many attempts, he finally reached the top, only to come face to face with an angry mother raccoon who gave him what for. Losing his perch, he came crashing down into a dumpster where he met the rest of the family who felt inclined to reinforce their mother’s lesson.

A-D looked like he’d been dragged behind a garbage truck for days.

“Nikajo doesn’t work on raccoons,” he told me.

Or the time we were at the coffee shop and he wanted to demonstrate a combination chair tumble/backward roll, another Jackie trademark. Unfortunately he hadn’t noticed the group of bikers at the next table until he crashed into them. I have to give him credit, though, he’s a quick thinker and runs pretty fast.

I’ve gotta take away his DVD player.

I suggested to him that, if he wanted to be in front of the camera, maybe he could be a product spokesman; it might be safer.

“Like, for what,” he asked.

“Well, how about duct tape?” I suggested, thinking of all the precautionary additions to his dogi.

“Yeah, maybe they’d give me a discount,” he mused. A-D’s a two roll a week man.

“Or Bounce fabric softener,” I said, “you could demonstrate that using it when you wash your dogi makes for getting more air on your breakfalls.”

“Yeah, I’m good at getting air,” he agreed. I tried not to think of the landings.

Happy that I’d steered him onto a safer course, one that would allow me to get more sleep in my bed rather than in one of those horrid plastic chairs at the hospital, we headed for the dojo




“Change is the way the future invades our lives” - Alvin Toffler

Having finally reached shodan, I must confess that it feels very much like being a beginner again, and this has stimulated some reflection on the original beginnings of my aikido journey (this lifetime, anyway).

A friend recently asked me how long it took to get my black belt, and I was a little stymied. I could have said, “about 20 minutes,” that’s how long the test took, but instead I replied that I had about six years on the mat. I didn’t explain that those six years were split into two blocks of roughly three years with a gap of eight years in the middle (now we’re up to 14 years). Nor did I tell him about attending a few classes ten years earlier (25 years), and that doesn’t count the original inspiration that came perhaps a year prior to that (half my life). 

I first learned about aikido when I read “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman. The book had been loaned to me by my college roommate, and there was a scene where the (90 - year old) protagonist subdued three muggers in short order by using their energy against them. This appealed to me, as did the fact that it was part of a lifestyle that the book inspired me to emulate, and so I began a quest to discover more about aikido.

I was attending university in L. A. at the time, and I turned to my martial arts-loving room mate for advice(the one who loaned me the book). He had trained in various styles from childhood on, in fact had even trained briefly at Steven Segal’s dojo. But he didn’t think that was the way for me to begin, and instead found a seidokan  studio nearby that he thought might offer a more gentle introduction. We took a few classes, but I found it very confusing (and the tumbling made me very dizzy!) and soon gave up. It wasn’t my time.

Some years later, after I returned to Canada and settled in London, enquiries revealed a new aikido dojo nearby, and with great excitement, I went to introduce myself and observe a class.

I was ready this time.

I commenced training and was elated to discover an athletic ability I thought I didn’t have. Although I had been a very active runner and swimmer, I never pursued traditional ‘glory’ sports like hockey and football as I felt awkward and geeky (we often believe thing about ourselves that aren’t true), and thus made the assumption that I wasn’t athletic. But after the first few months on the mat (at times painful, confusing and discouraging), I found myself flying across the room with great joy and a modicum of situational awareness.

I began to change.

This is the truth about aikido: it changes people. You see this all the time at the dojo  as kamaes expand and ‘aikido smiles’ emerge on the faces of aikidoka when they catch a throw and ride it like a surfer carving a 30 foot wave off the North Shore.

Inevitably, I began to change too. Aikido has helped me to be more open, giving and expressive, improving all the relationships in my life. It has saved me when times were difficult by helping me ’surrender’, ‘enter in’ and keep moving forward. I have learned to fall down and get up again, to the extent that, at times, I can’t even tell the difference.

How does aikido do this? It reveals the truth. The truth about you, your partners and the world around you. And faced with the truth, you have the choice of whether or not to change. Or put another way, when faced with change, you have an opportunity to decide what the truth is.

So I’m happy about being a beginner again, for I know that the invasion of the future through change is inevitable, and it will forever render me a beginner. In fact, it’s the only thing I can count on.

That, and aikido.



Well, I survived, er, I mean passed my shodan test; it’s good to be released back into the general population again, and as I begin the healing (body sore!), I find that I’m awash in a flood of emotion and thought.

First of all, I’m very grateful to Sensei Jaimie for the opportunity and to Sensei Steve and Sensei Jon for the enormous amount of help and support they gave my partner Keith and I during our shinsa. In fact, I was buoyed through the entire process by constant well-wishes from all my fellow aikidoka at the dojo and that helped a lot. (BTW Jon passed his Sandan test the same evening - it was awesome!) 

I gained many insights into my technique (and life!) from the preparation and the test, from the inane to the arcane, and I know that it will take some time to assimilate everything and express it on the mat. Our shinsa often seemed like a never-ending series of out-takes from a Jackie Chan movie; you know, at the end, when they show you how many times it took him to get over a wall or slip feet first through a teller’s wicket? Eventually, though, we got our test in shape for presentation. If I had to say there was just one thing that I learned from the test, it was this:

Expectations can trap you, and the object lesson came for me when it was time to preform jyu waza. I was shite first, and in the stress of the moment, my partner began attacking me with his left hand instead of his right. (We had a good laugh about it afterwards!)

I was completely bamboozled! It took three or four passes before I realized what was ‘wrong’ and began to adapt (I may have taken a few to the breadbasket, I honestly don’t remember!). I mean, I can do all my techniques, including jyu waza, on the left side; but we had been so thoroughly briefed and drilled on the right side that my mind froze, struggling to break free and just do aikido.

And so my training in the future will be guided, in part, by the maxim:

“Rather than have expectations, have great expectancy.”

The inane:

Did you know that you can wear your dogi, like underwear, four days in a row? Frontwards, backwards, and then twice more inside out. It’s a little hard to hold a good kamae when it’s on backwards, but it can be done; in fact, it feels a little bit like a straight jacket, which you feel you need as the test looms closer and closer. And the looks of puzzlement from passersby are fun, as is the frustration of uke when he realizes he can’t grab any chest hair.

When it’s time to wash it, you may, like me, find yourself a little short of coins. Try this: many foreign coins will work - a French franc will sub for a quarter, and a euro will trick most washers that need a toonie, especially if you give a good kiai when you ram it in.

Wishing you great expectancy (and a clean dogi),