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I teach Aikido at a small dojo in Winnipeg, Canada. Been doing so for many years now. This blog is just a collection of ruminations on teaching, descriptions of the events of daily practice, and the occasional funny story.
I have a new student at the dojo who has come from a fair amount of training in striking arts. I think he said he'd done kung fu, boxing, and karate. Anyhow, watching him move reminds me once again of the benefits of learning a martial art that focuses on building a solid base. He has light, fast hands and a bounciness to his movement that one would expect from a striker, but virtually no root. The thing is, although he can strike quickly, his striking has no deep power. I can see clearly that his punching power originates from the shoulder and tricep. He has a complete disconnect from his hips, which astonishes me since he claims to have quite a bit of martial training. This guy is not unique, however. I had an Isshin Ryu karate instructor practice with me for a time who told me he had never been shown how to punch from the hip until he came to my dojo.
Speaking of hips and root and power, I've been thinking about, and experimenting with, how to transfer loads through my body. This, I believe, is key to having a solid base and becoming immoveable. I used to think that one gripped the ground somehow with mental intent, bent the knees, widened the stance and physically resisted an attacker's force, but no longer. As I ponder and attempt to employ the principle of tensegrity within myself, fine-tune body posture, transfer and bear loads efficiently, and learn to get out of my own way physically, I am beginning to feel more "rooted." I have fiddled with some Feldenkrais stuff in this process, too. The net result, so far, has been worth the effort.
The new student I mentioned earlier provided me with an opportunity to see the benefits of my dabbling. He was performing kaiten nage on me and had me bent over, head and arm controlled, and just ready to throw. In spite of my position, I felt no loss of balance sufficient to make me fall, so I just stood in place and waited for him to make me fall. He began to shove my head and arm repeatedly and even bumped me sharply with his hip but could not take my balance. Now, some of the problem he was having was with the form of his technique, the way he was pushing me, but most of it was the result of the difference between his base and my own. I was a little surprised (and, I must admit, pleased) to feel so distinctly the lightness of his center and the comparative heaviness of my own.
I shall continue to experiment and, hopefully, develop a truly immoveable base. I'll let you all know how its going and what I discover. At the moment, I've been loading my structure with rubber tubing and standing in the basic chi kung posture. Interesting...very interesting...