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Mike Sigman's Blog Blog Tools Rating: Rate This Blog
Creation Date: 06-08-2011 03:18 PM
Mike Sigman
Blog Info
Status: Public
Entries: 2
Comments: 11
Views: 63,607

In General Baseline Internal Strength parameters Entry Tools Rating: 4 Stars!
  #1 New 06-08-2011 03:30 PM
In an effort to help create a baseline of understanding about qi/ki and jin/kokyu in Asian martial-arts, I tried my hand at very simply writing the baselines. The topic could be expanded tremendously, but I was trying to lay out some (not all) of the basic elements so that people can get a foot in the door. The below represents a series of posts (each from its own thread); when I wrote them I indicated that it was OK to copy these basic posts from the QiJin forum and put them in other places if the posts would provide help in setting a baseline of sorts.

Just as there were great reactions and outrage in the earlier days about something as simple as "groundpath", I expect some of these posts will be puzzling, too, but ultimately they'll be understood a fairly basic and obvious comments. If you re-post these comments, please attribute to the QiJin Forum.

Anyway, FWIW:

[1.] Jin as Balance, Body as Flexible Frame


One of the things I've been changing in recent times at workshops (and on the forum) is the perspective of Jin as a Balance Skill, getting somewhat away from the vector perspective. I think people can grasp the balance-skill concept perhaps a little more quickly than all the steps that become confusing in the aggregate.

Here's a quick video that Price and I made today and which I want to use to illustrate the Balance Skill idea. I also want to point out the "flexible frame" emphasis that I've been using in recent workshops. I notice that many of the 'old hands', when writing their reviews of workshops, didn't really notice the change in emphasis because nothing has changed in terms of principles, just perspective. Hopefully the newer people at workshops were aided by the more-simplified "balance skill" and "flexible frame" descriptions.

The video:

Notice two areas: my forearm where Price is pushing and where my feet are making contact with the ground. Notice that while various things move and change, those two areas pretty much remain fixed (except when I withdraw in preparation to push). I *balance* Price's incoming force on the spot where my feet contact the ground. It's not really any different than balancing a pole in the palm of your hand and it's essentially a skill that needs to be practiced; the emphasis is in letting the ground be the point of balance (much as the palm is the focus of balance when balancing a pole).

Secondly, notice how I move around trying to illustrate the body's intrinsic ability to maintain that balance-path/ground-path if I'll just let it. The body is a frame, but it's a flexible frame as long as you're using jin rather than rigid "structure" to handle the incoming force.

In order to not introduce unnecessary tensions while trying to learn these basic skills, the arm/shoulder angle and the rest of the body should be in comfortable angles. As you do breathing and other suit work the body will become more able to sustain odd angles without introducing muscular tensions which disrupt the use of the ground-support as a strength.

I'll post more of these vids on basic theory and perspectives within the next few days. Hopefully some of these simplified perspectives will help people move forward more quickly. Feedback appreciated.

[2.] Jin, Vectors, and Unit-Body



One of the basic tools I've always used in my understanding of how jin works is in vectors. A vector is a force that has a direction and a magnitude. Usually vectors are drawn as arrows to show the direction and the length of the arrow-shaft indicates how strong (magnitude) the force is. If you have a bunch of forces, some push and some pulling, on a soccer-ball, all the forces much exactly balance each other in terms of aggregate direction and magnitude or the ball will begin to move in the unprotected direction. If all the forces exactly balance then the ball won't move.

When standing on one leg with someone pushing against your forearm, you can only stand still if all the forces are in equilibrium. If you know a few of the forces, in terms of direction and magnitude, you can generally figure out how much force and from where it comes that is needed to keep everything in equilibrium.

In the post about [1.] Jin as Balance, Body as Flexible Frame I was basically talking about what the makeup of jin is: it's a force skill based on an intrinsic ability of the body to juggle forces even while the body is moving and it's a force skill that draws its power from the ground (or sometimes the weight, in the case of down-power). The question of jin and force vectors gets confused when we begin to look at 2 humans interacting with their forces.

The first question is whether the whole jin and force interaction between people is adequately/lucidly viewed by using force vectors. Yes, the force vector view is correct, but does it get so complicated that it's worthwhile to look for a simpler representation that can be grasped by people who don't have an intuitive feel for force vectors?

The idea of the "unit-body" (aka "the four-legged animal" comprised of two people in firm contact) can probably be used to convey an intuitive feel better than a vector-analysis of the complex interaction between two humans.

[The General Point]

It's worth noting that it's hard to "ground" an incoming push unless that incoming push is strong enough to "complete the circuit". Until someone is pushing me hard enough for me to "feel through" their body via the bones/suit connection, I don't feel like I'm comfortably in control. "Completing the circuit" is just another way of saying "making the two bodies into one unit-body".

So the real question that always causes me to stop and think is about how the vectors work if two humans are in such solid contact that they are essentially one unit-body. In other words, we normally look at one person pushing at some point on the other person and the pushed person responding with enough forces that something happens via the 'point of contact'..... but if the two people are essentially one unit, there really isn't an actual 'point of contact' where the work is done. The work is done throughout the whole of the unit-body. So the vector analysis becomes almost too-messy, in terms of an understandable analysis.

It's easier, IMO, to think of the jin forces being used within a unit-body.

So, up to the present we have the idea of jin as a "balance skill" through a "flexible frame", but as we become more adept we have to think of how the jin forces work as part of a "unit-body"

In terms of the points I'm trying to make on this forum in order to help speed up progress, there's 3 things:

1. Jin is a Balance Skill
2. Jin is the constant/solid force through a "flexible frame".
3. Jin interactions become a more advanced development when adding a "unit-body" to the equation.

In some ways, you can relate the above to the idea that learning a Taiji form, solo Aiki Taiso, or whatever is the way that (1.) and (2.) are practiced. Doing push-hands or other 2-person techniques is where you learn to handle the unit-body aspect.

[3.] Suit, simple view


Just to reiterate, after excursions in the last year, I'm trying to simplify and condense a couple of topics in an attempt to make the entry-level into practice simpler. I'm posting these on QiJin knowing full well and accepting that they'll probably make their way off to other places soon, but I consider that maybe a good thing for the current progress of re-introducing internal-strength parameters back into some of the Asian martial-arts practices. More detailed discussions will be put on some of the non-general forums (like VL, etc.).

Numbers [1.] and [2.] posts were like steps #1 and #2 for what jin is. Suit is actually more the basis of what the whole "qi" thing is about in the practices of the human body. Jin can actually be viewed as a subset of how the human body/suit works.

'Suit', an artificial and simplified model used to represent the main component of "qi" functions, has a lot to do with some of the fascia/connective-tissue, tendons, etc., of the body. A lot of the strength in the body depends not only on the pull of the muscles, but in the strength of the body connection: bones, muscle, tendons, connective tissue. The ancient Chinese analysed strength in terms of the routes of power through various "channels" of muscle and tendons and connective tissue; in the West we have tended to analyse strength in terms of muscle and frame, although we're now beginning to factor the connective tissues, tendons, etc., more into the equation.

In order to most efficiently use the body connection(s) for strength, the body logically should function as a complete unit when doing tasks. The logical control unit for whole-body usage is the middle of the body and that's why there's so much emphasis on the dantien/tanden/hara as the focal point (and why shoulder usage would hinder whole-body control).

The suit can be pulled and stretched by itself, so a lot of the storing and utilization of strength and movement can slowly be trained to be done with minimal movement: hence "stillness in movement" and "movement in stillness" when the suit is doing the work.

The suit can also be used as a supportive structure somewhat like a weight-lifters broad belt supports his middle, except that the supportive function of suit can be global in the body, not just restricted to one area.

The suit is able to contain the pressure of the body when breathing is done in certain ways and that pressure can be used to generate power in an unusual way (which needs to be slowly developed from good basics).

For simple purposes and perspective, the suit can be thought of as akin to a human-shaped balloon and the pressure inside of the balloon. A strong, pliable balloon-skin and a comfortably-full air pressure would be the ideals. So thinking of the term "using your qi" as "using your balloon" (both skin and pressure) would be a good general way to start your practice and understanding of qi-gongs (qi exercises), martial usage, and so on.

Relating the "suit"/balloon to jin, think of a pressurized balloon 'whole-body' pushing someone or pulling down on someone and you can get the general idea.

[4.a] Theory of Dantien, Part I, simplified


The traditional view of the use of "Qi" (which is closely aligned to the idea of strength) is that Man uses the Qi of the Earth and the Qi of Heaven and mixes/uses them using his own qi. The short idea is that power/strength/health is provided via the solidity of the ground (groundpath), gravity (downweight jin), the power of air (we'll leave the etheric aspects of qi out of this since it's a simplified discussion), and a superior man trains his body to utilize these powers.

Manipulating and using the solidity of the ground and the power of gravity as we can within our bodies is jin, or "intent" (yi) power. I.e., "intent" refers to the skill of directing the power of earth-support and/or gravity where we need it (generally speaking).

The overly-simple term of "suit" refers to the functions of the "qi", both the connectedness and the pressure aspects. A good Chinese teacher of internal martial arts will often show in a movement the "yi" movement and the "qi" movement. These are the jin and qi of the term "QiJin".

1. Back Bow

Pure usage of jin involves bringing the straightest parth of support from either the ground or weight (we'll stick with the ground example) from, say, the ground to the point of application. For instance, if you're pushing someone's chest you utilize a path of support from the ground straight through the body and air to the point of contact; you push by extending that path of support. A straight line of support from the foot to the point of contact does not go through the shoulders, so initiating anything other than directive forces in the shoulders is a no-no. The middle is the area of the body which is most closely aligned with the ground-to-hand force, so it is the middle which can best manipulate the ground force.

The easiest manipulation at the middle is to bow and unbow the back, using the lower back and musculature/tissues of the middle like a large joint. Sort of like a backward-facing, very powerful knee. So if you push someone, you can slightly bend the knees, hips, lower-back, etc., to compress and extend that line of support from the ground to your hand. Pushing or pulling using the jin forces, is most efficiently controlled by the middle, for reasons of force purity (putting the control unit along the line of force).

The bowing of the back is deliberate and obvious at first, but over time it is the tensioning and release that dominates; the overt mechanical bowing becomes hard to see.

The jin view of the back-bow doing its store-and-release is like the contraction and expansion of the straight-line groundpath.

In terms of the 'suit' view of the back-bow store and release, picture an inflated human-shaped balloon bending at the back (and some at the knees, hips, shoulders, etc.) while more air in inhaled into the balloon, increasing the pressure inside and drawing the skin of the balloon tighter. These components add to the store and release.

There are a number of steps of increasing sophistication that have to do with the middle. The next step, after the simple back-bow would be the development of the dantien-turning and how it relates to other stores/releases in the body. I'll try to put that next portion (there will be more than that one, though) on the VL forum soon.

Any comments or clarification on this attempted simplification?

[4.b] Moving with the middle


Using the Middle

The really big first hurdle in developing internal strength is learning to move the arms and legs with the middle. Most people can't really do this, even though they talk a lot about "hara", "dantien", and so on.

The general idea is to connect the body so that a movement of the dantien is connected to the hands (or feet, legs, elbows, head, etc.) via the Jin/intention and the suit/qi. The dantien draws its power from the solidity of the ground or the central weight of the body ("ground or gravity"; the Qi of the Earth). A person who has practiced and developed this skill (over a long time) can spot very quickly whether or how much some other practitioner has developed the same skill; the skill (and percentage of skill level) can be felt in another person, as well.

Large, slow movements are the best way to start practicing so that the movement of the dantien can be brought to the hands, feet, and the rest of the body.

Good examples of practicing these skills can be seen in many slow qigongs, Taiji forms, Bagua walking, and so on.

Here's a couple of examples, but all of the slow exercises, including Bagua walking, Aikido aiki-taiso, etc., are meant to focus on this usually neglected vital aspect of training.



Hope that helps. I decided that this was so important an idea that I put it in the general forum. Any "internal strength" training that doesn't focus on this area is pretty obviously not really internal strength.

[5.] Breathing, Basic Start


Breathing exercises are pretty much the basis of "qi" in the human body; i.e., they're the basis of strength and the framework through which "jin" works.

Very basic breathing exercises involve inhaling in such a way that pressure is contained in the lower abdomen: "concentrating the qi/ki behind the navel", as it were. Over a period of time, the abdomen-area (all around the waist, crotch, perineum) will get strong. Gradually this area strengthened by the breathing exercises is then extended out the arms, legs, throat, and head. Supplemental stretching, tensioning, etc., are used to supplement the spread of strength outward from the dantien/hara area.

If real "internal strength" is to be used, the exercises connect the extremities to the dantien/hara so that movement of the dantien/hara is adequately conveyed. If more "external" strength is being used, the conditioning from the torso to the arms, legs, etc., will still strengthen the body greatly.

Because it is difficult to learn strengthening and stretching exercises externally and then try to convert them to movement initiated by the dantien, I personally think that basic jin skills learned first is the best route to follow.

[6.] Traditional I.S. Theory


One of the confusing things I used to run into was the number of statements about things that were done in a Chinese martial-art; the impression was "these are the things done uniquely in this art". It took a while to realize that almost all of the "things that we do in this art" are also pretty commonly the things that are done in all the other arts, although with occasional variations and permutations. Looking into some of the written lore that is sparingly available in Japanese martial-arts, it's pretty clear that the same basic principles are also found in those arts, again with variations, permutations, and different levels of completeness.

The acupuncture meridians (the Jingluo) seem to have derived from an early/primitive analysis of "channels" of collective muscles, tendons, and connective tissue that tended to delineate the major pathways of strength usage (see Deadman et al for comments). The analysis of strength using these channels is applied to traditional Asian martial-arts, but is not unique to "internal strength" arts.

The Daoyin refers to the concentrated exertion of inner force (qi and jin) to move the body, usually accompanied (but not always) with bending and stretching the body into different postures. This idea is movement using internal force is the basis for many/most qigongs, and also plays heavily in the training methods of martial-arts that use some form of "internal strength" (almost all the Asian arts do, to some degree).

Tu na (deep breathing exercises) are used to stretch, condition, and develop the tissues of the body, usually in conjunction with the Daoyin training methods. Tu na has a lot to do with the neigongs (internal exercises) of many martial-arts. Various systems of Daoyin and Tu na are usually closely guarded within different qigong and martial-arts methods.

The direction of development and training using the Daoyin and Tu na usually begins around the middle/dantien/hara of the body and then out (after the torso meridian/channels are developed) toward the extremities, following the lay of the various acupuncture meridians/channels.
Views: 16642 | Comments: 9

RSS Feed 9 Responses to "Baseline Internal Strength parameters"
#9 01-31-2015 11:25 PM
monostory Says:
@Mike, Can I ask your permission to translate your writing to Hungarian and spread it? Thanks Miklos
#8 06-15-2011 08:45 AM
Mike Sigman Says:
Trifri, the "suit" more or less represents the connection of the body, with a very rough focus on getting in touch with it so that you can learn to control it, pressurize it, etc. 'Connection' helps tie the whole body together so that you can combine the contributions of force to movement from all over the whole body. If you'll p.m. me your geographic location, I'll try to suggest someone who might be able to show you personally how to at least start some of the suit exercises.
#7 06-15-2011 04:35 AM
trifri Says:
Hi Mike, Would it be possible to explain by a simple example how the suit participates in, for example, opening the arms. I understand from your description ("human-shaped balloon") that opening the arms would stretch some parts of the suit (the front part) and squeeze other parts (the back). Is that stretching and squeezing giving me additional power to open the arms? (how?) And what happens when I close my arms? Wouldn't it stretch the back, in this way hindering me to close my arms?
#6 06-14-2011 08:42 PM
bernardkwan Says:
Hi Mike, may be best to remove references to VL, as most people may read it and not understand that it is another private forum
#5 06-13-2011 06:47 PM
Thanks for sharing! As a native Chinese who is also interested in this art, I would say it must take a Westerner great efforts to study and master the theories with such a deep, accurate understanding, even with the language and culture. Very Impressive!
#4 06-11-2011 09:48 AM
Mike Sigman Says:
I replaced the links with ones that hopefully have been stripped of garbage. I'm not sure about this editor and don't know if I should use the "link" setup, so someone will have to advise me.. As it is, you should be able to cut and paste. Note the old lady's exercise and how much it resembles Fune Kogi Undo.... they have the same "hook and file" roots that go back into antiquity. M.
#3 06-11-2011 06:10 AM
Hanna B Says:
Interesting read. The two youtube-links in the section "Moving the Middle" doesn't work, though. Would you mind reposting the correct URLs?
#2 06-09-2011 10:45 AM
Mike Sigman Says:
Hi Graham: Actually, that is more or less the "best English simple translation I can do" in relation to the traditionally standard Asian model of internal strength. In other words, what I'm laying out is basically the ancient traditional foundation, with annotations; it's not my own "system" or innovation, by any means. 2 cents. Mike Sigman
#1 06-09-2011 02:00 AM
Interesting. Clearly put. I now see your basic frame of reference and how you apply it and to what. Thank you very much. Regards.G.

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