PDA

View Full Version : opening the joints


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


Gernot Hassenpflug
11-28-2006, 10:04 AM
Based on the following from the To slap the ground or not (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11360) thread:
(Post #94)/../My only addition is I'm still trying to understand what the "correct body mechanics" really is, and it will take me several more years to get anywhere./../
and
(Post #95)What do you mean about opening up your joints? Say for example the elbow, do you mean to straighten if bent or extending along the length of the arm?
let me explain this. In principle, it's the same as any number of other descriptions pointing to how the body should move in a connected manner (say, the 4 principles Tohei devised and taught in the West), or as Mike, Dan, Rob and others promote as a way of using internal strength. As such it's as much a result as an effort to cause such. (For concrete training methods I suggest using the aikido misogi exercises and of course the actual keiko techniques, and exercises such as Robert John described (from Minoru Akuzawa) in the Training forum.)

Opening the joints is extension - in all directions. Opening all the correct joints (I'm not sure if there are some that remain closed) creates one point and weight underside.

Example: leaning against a wall. As one pushes, one would be surprised if the chest muscles tightened. But probably the elbow muscles are tight and the joint compressed. Effectively, one pushes against the elbow/forearm joint, not the wall. So, the shoulder joint is mostly open, but not the other arm joints. Now, one attempts to open up the elbow joint, either straight arm or slightly bent arm. A downward rotation of the elbow helps, and also opens up the shoulder joint more. If one pushes again against the wall one should now feel that one is pushing against the forearm/hand at the wrist joint rather than at the elbow joint. Using similar principles to open the wrist joint allows one to feel that one now pushes against the wall with the flat of the hand. And finally, if one continues to extend the fingers so that the hand joints open up, one may feel that one is pushing against the wall at the actual fingertips. So, one has brought one's pushing strength to the fingertips. Keeping the joints open despite pressure from various directions is hard, inward-directed work.

The basic idea is to keep such open joints already at the time of contact. A simple exercise is to slightly bend forward and pretend to pick up something a slight distance away on the floor with the fingertips, thereby extending the shoulder, elbow, wrist and finger joints. Then standing up normally again, this position of the joints is kept during the contact and subsequent movements. Think of extension of limbs and fingers as the way to open the joints rather than making a shape which needs to be preserved with hardness.

The same applies to the neck and back, hip, knee, ankle and toe joints, without whose action it will be impossible to really "sink" underneath the partner without moving at the point of contact and "lift" (or in some cases "sink/collapse") uke before the visible movements begin.

The trick is in keeping the joints open while moving the limbs in gross external motions (vertical changes via knees, rotation and lifting/sinking of the arms). For such, the limbs must be connected and powered by the center. Without the open joints, I think the power of the center cannot reach the extremities and control their motion precisely.

Gernot Hassenpflug
11-28-2006, 10:19 AM
I meant to add: when pushing against the wall and feeling the push at the fingertips, then a connection from center to fingertips can be obtained, and the tips and the strength precisely controlled from center. If one now opens the joints down to the toes, then one may feel connection at the extremities, or if one keep this while raising the hands up into the air (with now no contact), suspended between heaven and earth. The 6-direction training (Minoru Akuzawa's exercises are my reference here) trains the body in this manner, as does shiko (which also teaches the central control of the limbs for movement and weight transfer).

Thomas Campbell
11-28-2006, 10:21 AM
Thanks for the detailed description, and for posting it as a separate thread (in response to the question on the other thread). A similar focus on opening the joints is trained in some Chinese martial arts. It's interesting to see discussion of joint-opening under pressure in the context of aikido.

DH
11-28-2006, 11:22 AM
Hi Gernote

I went over that wall exercises with Tom H. It is revelevant to start to feel the pressure with the joints and identify them. It helps most guys to start with the hands higher than the shoulders. Any lower and its easier to engage isolated muscles in the shoulders and triceps. Opening up takes a while and in my view one should never stop. We love the wall.
Once they can identify and open up, then start moving the body in say a hoola hoop fashion to identify that the hips and toros are free from any tension from the feet and hands. Typically even when trained men move they will put weight in their hands unequally and unknowingly. In the smallest sense not truly feeling or controlling what they are doing with their own hands. Remaining neutral with an "empty gi" feel while offering any manner or pressure with the hands becomes a training tool on a wall. Changing your feet, by cross stepping, with the hips and knees remaining open now helps identify the knee/elbow, sternum/hip hands/feet seqentially remaining open. Most guys you can get to sart to open up (after they start to let go of the shoulder) and feel the hand and feet while on one foot. Then get them relaxing and moving the whole body while on the one foot and just feeling hand and foot. Then as soon as they start to use the other foot and transfer weight they feel it instantly that the pressure is uneven in each hand.
There are numerous ways that this becomes useful in grappling and in control of their center. Not all of which are in the hands.

Ever notice that your fingers are now like drills when you contact people?
Good Post
Cheers
Dan

DH
11-28-2006, 12:24 PM
I'd also caution that the mental aspects of this repetative traning are whats paramount
I've heard "extend Ki" for years and felt many particular versions...as expressed....physically. Many times it was no more than that of a good relaxed jujutsuka stretching out of a lock.
So while stretching is good for fighting...this ain that.

Hey Gernot ever get... the buzz.... from various ways to wind these connections?

Cheers
Dan

DH
11-28-2006, 04:19 PM
Gernot,
My son just reminded me of one of his favorites.
Stand with feet and legs apart like a spread eagle standing. Hands a little down from hozizontal.
Have someone grab one of your hands and then push into you. Stand and start opening from the toes on up. Concentrate on sending out in all direction from the spine, paying attention to the opposite direction he is pushing (like you are agreeing with him)
Take your opposite hand (and enter him) by moving it in his direction just a little. The effect on his initial grab will be like he is grabbing steel and many times they bounce themselves off by their applied strength. Involving the other side- adds to that.
Next, sink while opening. Ask them what they feel.
Its a good beggining exercise. The frame supports itself without much flexation allowing you to identify the joints.
buzzz.....zZZZ.
Cheers
Dan

Gernot Hassenpflug
11-28-2006, 04:59 PM
Ah, that's a good one to try out! Problem is to find stronger people though :-) My partners are mostly university students, so while I can sense that my principles aren't completely wrong, I can't say I have a lot of "strength" either. Have to confirm with Rob and Akuzawa's students next visit to Tokyo. Don't know what you mean exactly with "buzz" but I feel something all right, I classify it in my brain as heat mostly. Maybe its subjective :-)

Tom H.
11-28-2006, 06:15 PM
I'd also caution that the mental aspects of this repetative traning are whats paramountYou mean, like training by yourself and imagining someone pushing and pulling? :)

What you are describing with the wall seems like a skill that combines maintaining a fully connected body with full mobility. I'm getting glimpses of parts of both of these things, but mostly in the context of carrying my own body weight, not interacting with force (either real or imagined).

My body is starting to suspect that mobility, stability, and connection go hand in hand. If you are getting one without the other, you're training badly.

Thomas Campbell
11-28-2006, 08:50 PM
One possibly analogous practice from a Chinese martial art, Baguazhang . . . circle-walking with fixed upper-body postures . . . moving zhan zhuang in a sense . . . externally stretched, internally bound, working to open the joints . . . once trained solo, the next step is "roushou," light-contact drills with a partner, circling around varying speed, pressure and contact, then more freeform, all the while trying to maintain the feeling of openness while in contact. It's not sparring (though you're practicing stepping and movements that would naturally lead to set-ups) . . . you could call it contact improvisation. The limitation is too easily getting your awareness caught up in the movement and losing the sense of externally stretched, internally bound.

DH
11-29-2006, 06:34 AM
You mean, like training by yourself and imagining someone pushing and pulling? :)

What you are describing with the wall seems like a skill that combines maintaining a fully connected body with full mobility. I'm getting glimpses of parts of both of these things, but mostly in the context of carrying my own body weight, not interacting with force (either real or imagined).

My body is starting to suspect that mobility, stability, and connection go hand in hand. If you are getting one without the other, you're training badly.

Hi Tom
Mobility and freedom of movement is easy to train on a wall and in our own quiet time. But a good fighter will zero in in on just those things; finding your center to forestall mobility, and freedom of movement. So it isn't just learning to carry our weight and move with center, its learning to also hide and evade our center within us on contact while capturing theirs
Identifying then enhancing various connections in us and then how we activate and use them daily is the training. While I am a very strong advocate for solo training I am equally strong on resistence training as well. It is facinating to me to see and feel the reactions of various body types and skill levels when I encounter. And then what it either does or doesn't do to my structure. While fighting with it is fun it has to be a small part of the overall paradigm of solo then incremental experimentation.
A major in road and result of good hard work is establishing structure in us. When committed force touches it it then easier to read the center of it and capture it. While that "capture on contact" is greatly aided by the quality of your solo work. It can't be perfected in a vaccuum. Training with an attacking frame to instantly be able to find his center and then control it on a fluid, changing basis is both fun and a requirement to perfect its actual use.

The winding exercise I showed you with the axises moving together so you are neutral the push/pull? The swimming pool training? That is an excellent tool for learnng to move...with those contradictions of push/pull rise/sink clearly identified in your body. If you set it up right in you and do it correctly...you can't even move one without the other. So the whole body is involved; upper/lower, left/right, and center one launches and activates the other. Which is your comment about carrying weight.
Its also a great exercse for grappling. They touch you, they get whole body movement with a center that they can't have.

Cheers
Dan

DH
11-29-2006, 06:56 AM
Hi Tom
I don't know anything about Bagua,.except that I met and trained with one of the big guns in it and his local guys and Iiked it. Saw some push/pull contradictions and winding movements openly taught both for training and in use.

The "expression" of these things is individualized in both "style" and in each man. So it is difficult to either dismiss or applaud style. The one thing we can look at is the goal, what does the master teacher do as a style and do you want to play, and then look at his students. Has he made any men who can do what he does.

Cheers
Dan

Mike Sigman
11-29-2006, 07:20 AM
Opening the joints is extension - in all directions. Opening all the correct joints (I'm not sure if there are some that remain closed) creates one point and weight underside.
I think we had a similar discussion on "opening the joints" some years ago on the old Neijia List. Personally, I think it's a discussion where people only have a vague idea what they mean by "opening" the joints. It is *not* the same thing that is meant by "extend the ki", although of you can do the two at the same time. But "open the joints" is one of the buzz phrases you hear tossed out in martial arts from time to tiem when people are talking about "interna", yada, yada, yada. Probable it needs to be looked at closer. Remember, for instance the zen priests that Tohei had his encounter with and he showed he could push them over easily, despite their posture. Their "joints" were open because they use basic postural concepts to help develop the ki, but the had no jin and Tohei pushed them right over. It's worth figuring out exactly what is going on, IMO.

Regards,

Mike

Gernot Hassenpflug
11-29-2006, 08:13 AM
I think we had a similar discussion on "opening the joints" some years ago on the old Neijia List. Personally, I think it's a discussion where people only have a vague idea what they mean by "opening" the joints. It is *not* the same thing that is meant by "extend the ki", although of you can do the two at the same time. But "open the joints" is one of the buzz phrases you hear tossed out in martial arts from time to tiem when people are talking about "interna", yada, yada, yada. Probable it needs to be looked at closer. Remember, for instance the zen priests that Tohei had his encounter with and he showed he could push them over easily, despite their posture. Their "joints" were open because they use basic postural concepts to help develop the ki, but the had no jin and Tohei pushed them right over. It's worth figuring out exactly what is going on, IMO.

Well you're certainly right in that I personally have only a vague idea here, and I'm doing my best to describe what I am doing while calling it "opening the joints". Basically I notice a better connection to the extremities in this way, and relaxed in the places that Akuzawa's exercises try to get me to relax in. So I threw this out for a discussion. It's no surprise to me that people who know more can tell things are mixed up :-) I don't know what basic postural concepts the Zen priests were using to help develop ki, for example, either. What exactly is going on? I feel that more muscles are not contracted (as much) than would otherwise, so probably in this manner they are freer to respond to mental judgments of where to put an imaginary groundpath? Maybe... I'm only playing around with this since two weeks back at Akuzawa's class, so I don't have a lot of practical feedback to think about yet.

Mike Sigman
11-29-2006, 08:26 AM
Well, remember that for clarity's sake on these lists I tend to artificially separate "ki" and the "kokyu/jin" forces. Both of these can be thought of as the Yin and Yang aspects of Ki. Both of them have to get to the extremities. If some part of your body is "closed", the ki won't go there. Does that give you an insight into a different use of the term "open"?

Regards,

Mike

Thomas Campbell
11-29-2006, 10:13 AM
[snip]
My body is starting to suspect that mobility, stability, and connection go hand in hand. If you are getting one without the other, you're training badly.

Maybe training "incompletely" rather than "badly"? In the sense that for me, personally, stability and connection are easier to achieve, or at least glimpse, in a static exercise or test, but really difficult to get once I begin stepping. Going mobile while maintaining stability and internal connection is the goal. How to get there . . .

Thomas Campbell
11-29-2006, 10:33 AM
Hi Tom
I don't know anything about Bagua,.except that I met and trained with one of the big guns in it and his local guys and Iiked it. Saw some push/pull contradictions and winding movements openly taught both for training and in use.

The "expression" of these things is individualized in both "style" and in each man. So it is difficult to either dismiss or applaud style. The one thing we can look at is the goal, what does the master teacher do as a style and do you want to play, and then look at his students. Has he made any men who can do what he does.

Cheers
Dan

I agree about the individual teacher and what is being transmitted to the students as being more important than a particular style label. I haven't had the opportunity yet to train with the bagua big gun you're referring to, but did work with a couple of different bagua teachers in Canada who demonstrated "push/pull" feeling both standing and while moving. Baguazhang is definitely not aikido, but it's interesting to explore possible commonalities to the ways they train internal connection and skill with respect to specific issues like opening of the joints. There is one godan in the U.S. who's trained baguazhang and speaks of opening of the joints as a common feature in both "ki extension" and in bagua practice. In his case you can actually feel what he means by open and closed hands-on. My own personal challenge right now is with opening my shoulders while still keeping them down.

Mike Sigman
11-29-2006, 10:55 AM
There is one godan in the U.S. who's trained baguazhang and speaks of opening of the joints as a common feature in both "ki extension" and in bagua practice. In his case you can actually feel what he means by open and closed hands-on. My own personal challenge right now is with opening my shoulders while still keeping them down.I can "extend ki" or shut it off without changing anything in my joints at all. In other words, this idea of expanding the joints is an old saw that I'm surprised is still around. And I know some westerners who still exhibit this kind of "extension" like it's some "secret of the Orient". It's the wrong road.

If nothing else, people should get a basic idea of what jin and qi actually are before they start looking at some of the mechanical side-effects (and misinterpret them). Besides, if you look at what a joint does and how it functions (say, the knee or the elbow), your alarms should be going off with the idea of "expanding the joint" and some perceived benefit that this supposedly accomplishes. Too many people are just parrotting the common "secrets" they hear on places like Empty Flower, E-Budo, and the like.

FWIW

Mike

Thomas Campbell
11-29-2006, 12:13 PM
INWM.

It's not "expanding" the joints that he shows, it's the manner in which the joints are opened and the palpable change in soft tissues around the joints. It's part of what he works to teach as "good form" in aikido and in his bagua training. In the context of aikido he sees it as subsumed within "extension of ki." In physical manifestation it's similar to the zhan zhuang demonstration of a Canadian yiquan teacher when he's working on six-directional forces. Both also talk of opening of the joints in the context of the Chinese term "song," looseness (not wet-noodle relaxation), and how the "openness" of a joint is affected by tension on either side and elsewhere in the body. A lot of their hands-on correction and teaching could be called "tension management."

It may well not be what you're referring to as "extension of ki." "Ki" is a big topic, and I'm not prepared to delimit precisely what Tohei or Ueshiba had in mind when they used the term. I just got done with Kenji Tokitsu's treatment ("Ki and the Way of the Martial Arts") of the set of ideas with the referent "ki" . . . and I'm going to have to go back through it again in light of some of the discussions here. The set of meanings embraced by the Chinese "qi" and the Japanese "ki" overlap, but the terms are not completely synonymous.

But I don't want to divert from Gernot's topic . . .

"Opening the joints is extension - in all directions. Opening all the correct joints (I'm not sure if there are some that remain closed) creates one point and weight underside. [snip]

Think of extension of limbs and fingers as the way to open the joints rather than making a shape which needs to be preserved with hardness.

The same applies to the neck and back, hip, knee, ankle and toe joints, without whose action it will be impossible to really "sink" underneath the partner without moving at the point of contact and "lift" (or in some cases "sink/collapse") uke before the visible movements begin.

The trick is in keeping the joints open while moving the limbs in gross external motions (vertical changes via knees, rotation and lifting/sinking of the arms). For such, the limbs must be connected and powered by the center. Without the open joints, I think the power of the center cannot reach the extremities and control their motion precisely."

I think that the aikido teacher and the yiquan teacher I mentioned above might agree with your description, Gernot. I'll be seeing them again in January and February when I will have some free time for travel. I'll do my best (which ain't much) to physically understand what you describe and run it by them. They have real skill, so it might be an interesting comparison. But Mike's right, it's important to be clear and consistent with the terms we use to write about these things. I think I understand what you mean by "opening of the joints." I'll leave "extension of ki" aside for another thread.

cheers,

Thomas

jeff.
11-29-2006, 12:27 PM
maybe a sidenote: but if there is a correspondence between opening the joints and anything within the 4 principles, would it be relax completely? to wit: i've often found it difficult to understand "relax completely" since we are obviously engaging and disengaging various muscles continuously. tho, of course, we should be using them minimally, minimal use is not exactly "complete relaxation", is it? so thinking of it in terms of "relax the joints", or opening them, i seem to get a better response. and as a side effect, my muscles seem to be more relaxed as well. so there you go.

jeff.

Mike Sigman
11-29-2006, 12:32 PM
The set of meanings embraced by the Chinese "qi" and the Japanese "ki" overlap, but the terms are not completely synonymous.Where do they diverge, then? I think most of the ideas that Japanese and Chinese ki-qi terms diverge have more to do with misunderstanding by westerners than to do with actuality. Trying to grab an example out of the air... it's like examining a Japanese automobile and an American one and saying that they "diverge". The 2 cars may diverge on color, where they were built, transmission, upholstery (I'm giving far more divergences then there are in actuality between ki and qi perspectives, just to give your comment the edge in the example, BTW). But in reality a car must have an engine, a mode of steering, a transmission, an alternator, seats, etc..... because a car is a car and the basics are necessarily the same. What I'm saying is that ki and qi aren't just singular terms, they are complex ideas that contain certain basic concepts whether in Japan or China. The extent of those complexities limits how diverse the interpretation can be, in reality.

In terms of the body skills, the same thing happens, even though some of the people on the list have tried to posit the idea the "jin" is some sort of Chinese thing and the Japanese don't have it. All it means is that they don't understand the core concept and how much it is constrained by the complexity that contains it.

Chris Moses met up with Akuzawa and, as an example, couldn't push him in some instances. That's jin. Kohei may call it "ki" or "ki power". Someone else may say "kokyu ryoku" is quite different... but they're simply ill-informed. All these things are the same things. There may be lack of information encouraging someone to posit a difference because *they* understand some terms differently, but I've never seen that theory pan out when you start breaking it down. That's why I suggest that we look at what you consider "divergents" and let's see why you think ki and qi are not synonymous. More often than not, just like in the "open joints" discussion, the problem is a misunderstanding by the westerners involved and what their peers are thinking.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
11-29-2006, 12:38 PM
maybe a sidenote: but if there is a correspondence between opening the joints and anything within the 4 principles, would it be relax completely? to wit: i've often found it difficult to understand "relax completely" since we are obviously engaging and disengaging various muscles continuously. tho, of course, we should be using them minimally, minimal use is not exactly "complete relaxation", is it? so thinking of it in terms of "relax the joints", or opening them, i seem to get a better response. and as a side effect, my muscles seem to be more relaxed as well. Actually, you have to slightly "extend" the body all over in order to connect it and that is not, of course, "complete relaxtion". Once again, think how many well-known deshi you've seen with the head and back obviously extended vertically. However, this too-focused emphasis on just the joints expanding, sort of misses the point; I've seen a few guys I know spend years thinking the secret was in the joints because that's the kind of stuff that gets passed around some of forums as the "True Secrets" (tm). ;)

Mike

Thomas Campbell
11-29-2006, 01:08 PM
[snip] What I'm saying is that ki and qi aren't just singular terms, they are complex ideas that contain certain basic concepts whether in Japan or China. The extent of those complexities limits how diverse the interpretation can be, in reality.

In terms of the body skills, the same thing happens, even though some of the people on the list have tried to posit the idea the "jin" is some sort of Chinese thing and the Japanese don't have it. All it means is that they don't understand the core concept and how much it is constrained by the complexity that contains it.

[snip]
Regards,

Mike Sigman

hi Mike,

I think to the limited extent I understand "ki" and "qi," we're in agreement. I just don't want to move the discussion away from Gernot's specific posit about opening the joints.

I also don't want to argue about something that I don't believe I have a full understanding of. If I find something useful in talking with my Chinese teachers with respect to "qi," I'll bring it here on another thread, after I see them early next year. Professional obligations allowing, I hope to see the aikido/bagua fellow next month, so should have a chance to clarify hands-on with respect to opening of the joints and "ki extension" as he understands it.

As far as the body skills go, I'd agree that good martial arts, Japanese or Chinese or other tradition, make use of "jin," whatever else they might call it. In my own current training, my Chinese teachers use more prosaic terminology, and rarely if ever use the term "jin" during training. That's their particular approach, however, and I am aware of the multiplicity of "jins" in CMA theory, for example with taijiquan. Here as well, I'm not arguing with your interpretation, since I haven't made a study of it. When I have the time I will go back over what appears to be several discussions on the forum with your contribution to the topic, and see if I can gain enough understanding to offer something useful.

best,

Thomas

jeff.
11-29-2006, 02:53 PM
Actually, you have to slightly "extend" the body all over in order to connect it and that is not, of course, "complete relaxtion". Once again, think how many well-known deshi you've seen with the head and back obviously extended vertically. However, this too-focused emphasis on just the joints expanding, sort of misses the point; I've seen a few guys I know spend years thinking the secret was in the joints because that's the kind of stuff that gets passed around some of forums as the "True Secrets" (tm). ;)

Mike

haha! well, i'm always after the true secrets, its true. i suppose what seems to be helping me out with the joints is that i try to extend all of my joints in some sense, which seems to just keep me extending, etc. but its also been interesting to watch how i'll "close" them (i guess you might call it) when i'm trying to draw something in. feels kind of like the standing practice (the one you described on the deep breathing thread if i'm even coming close to doing it right) does: when my hands are separating and coming back together in front of me as i breath... the coming together part feels almost magnetic, and it kind of feels like my joints close, without any kind of tightness reoccurring in my muscles.

never been taught this stuff... just using language i've read to try to describe what seems to be happening.

fun!

jeff.

Mike Sigman
11-29-2006, 02:59 PM
my Chinese teachers use more prosaic terminology, and rarely if ever use the term "jin" during training. That's their particular approach, however, and I am aware of the multiplicity of "jins" in CMA theory, for example with taijiquan. Well, this plays somewhat into the "opening of the joints" and all that. The "multiplicity of jins" is a misunderstanding. There is only one jin. All those other jins are simply variations and facets of the one jin. Different ways to use the one jin.

In the haste to get "all the secrets", a lot of people miss the fact that these things are pretty simple and have a basic alphabet (this is that beauty that attracted Asians into a cosmological worship of these skills). People who can do a few tricks are doing the equivalent of making a few words from the alphabet. However, making a few words and being able to write like Shakespeare are different things. The point to focus on is that the alphabet is actually fairly simple, though, regardless of what different experts, etc., show.

Mike

Alfonso
11-29-2006, 04:32 PM
So, by "opening the joints" do you mean, "unbending the kinks" or "stretching the limbs" ?

Gernot Hassenpflug
11-29-2006, 05:17 PM
Hi, I got left behind in all the posts here (time zone difference), so in response to Mike's point about yin and yang, and Alfonso's question, perhaps yes, it is nothing more than "unbending the kinks" and connecting pieces together. I'm confused by Mike's comment about the wrong path here, since for example IIRC Akuzawa and Rob mention that the exercises get more and more painful as you get better, partly because one gets better at stretching/compressing the joints. I'd love to hear whether this bodily extension is required or not in order to learn some basics, but can then be done away with, or whether it is an indivisible part of the whole package and doesn't get thrown out later after it as served some or other purpose. Clearly, I don't want to fixate on the wrong things, nor tell other juniors about them if they'll put them on the wrong track.

Mike Sigman
11-29-2006, 05:23 PM
I'm confused by Mike's comment about the wrong path here, since for example IIRC Akuzawa and Rob mention that the exercises get more and more painful as you get better, partly because one gets better at stretching/compressing the joints. I'd love to hear whether this bodily extension is required or not in order to learn some basics, but can then be done away with, or whether it is an indivisible part of the whole package and doesn't get thrown out later after it as served some or other purpose. Hi Gernot: You're into part of the divisions between the "internal" and the "external" training methods. Of course there's no black and white division between the two (there are gradations and levels), but I personally believe more toward the "soft" side of training. Either way, there is some "extension", but one way is more deliberate, saying "this is enough" and the other say says it's more complex, softer, etc. Part of the point of these conversations, in my mind, is to point out that no one can come up and say "here's the only way to internal strength". There are a number of approaches and you're beginning to touch upon them.

Regards,

Mike

Gernot Hassenpflug
11-29-2006, 11:23 PM
Point taken. Akuzawa, according to Rob, chose what he does as a starter method (as you say, there are many approaches) for going from zero to somewhere in the vicinity of understanding some basic body connections. As people training under him start to get in touch with their bodies, lot's of phenomena crop up, and these are all interesting, but not something to dwell on. The same, I would think, goes for aikido, in that the publicly available misogi exercises are good, if one knows how to do them at a given level, but what one achieves is never an end-goal since the topic is so enormously complex.

Michael McCaslin
11-30-2006, 12:10 PM
I thought I would chime in with another beginner's perspective, in hopes that it will either a. be correct, and therefore helpful to others or b. be incorrect, and therefore be helpful to me (assuming someone chimes in to offer a correction):

I think both "extending" and "opening the joints" speak to connection. We want our tanden to be the "engine." In order to transmit the power from the tanden to whatever we are acting on, we have to arrange our body into a frame. Other than the tanden and legs, the muscles that are used are not providing power, they are holding the frame alignment in place.

If the frame is not shaped correctly, it will buckle under the load. Opening the joints means arranging the skeleton in a way that will allow it to cleanly transmit the force without buckling.

Tensing the major muscles will also induce buckling, although the mechanism is less obvious. Remember that force will always flow through the "stiffest" path. It's possible that tense muscles lead to less than ideal paths for the force, paths which pass through the muscles rather than the bones. Also, tension in the biceps, for example, will tend to move the frame into a less efficient shape. We want to send the force along our bones. Muscles that act perpendicular to the bones must be relatively relaxed for this to happen.

While forcefully extending the joints may be a good workout for the tendons, I believe it is possible to extend beyond the "ideal" for force transmission, leading to a loss in power. I don't know enough to speculate on the merits of this as a training tool, but it's likely that a very forceful extension might be a hindrance in actual application.

From a practical standpoint, a joint that is fully extended is also close to being hyperextended, which is a risk. You don't want to present an opponent with 99% of an armbar.

Michael

Ron Tisdale
11-30-2006, 12:37 PM
From a practical standpoint, a joint that is fully extended is also close to being hyperextended, which is a risk. You don't want to present an opponent with 99% of an armbar.

Huh, good point. Done that...

Best,
Ron

Gernot Hassenpflug
11-30-2006, 10:46 PM
Are you saying you shouldn't just extend the joint without "ki"? :-)

Erick Mead
12-01-2006, 01:56 PM
I was asked to look at this "opening the joints" model in the course of another discussion on the learning of natural movement in aikido. Working toward a mechanical interpretation of some aikido principles, I have placed what Gernot describes as the "opening of joints" and extension in all directions in the context of a catenary (hanging chain) force profile.

I have also discussed some other thoughts on the issues of ki/kokyu training, aikido principles and and the mechanics of it all.
It is here for those who care to look:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=160465&postcount=317

The shape of one half of a catenary or inverted catenary arch is basically that of tegatana. The involute of a catenary is a tractrix, which has basically the shape of two tegatana meeting in shomenuchi. Both can be seen here :

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/CatenaryInvolute.html

One would know if a catenary profile is achieved by the sense of equal linear forces (compression/tension) along the the limb running across the joint and evenly distributed radially around the joint, This would mean that the line of thrust or tension is running within the middle-third of the arm's cross-section. If it runs closer to the surface there would be a sense of differential across the joint on one side or the other (a hinging pressure) that one could "open" to even out and put the line of force back into the center of the limb.

Cady Goldfield
12-01-2006, 06:11 PM
Interesting, but why don't you just DO? In Asia, you'd get smacked upside the head for thinking in class. :p We Westerners are so into analyzing everything instead of just learning to walk the walk.

Erick Mead
12-01-2006, 10:16 PM
Interesting, but why don't you just DO? In Asia, you'd get smacked upside the head for thinking in class. :p We Westerners are so into analyzing everything instead of just learning to walk the walk. Looking around, I'd say I am not in Asia. I don't need my ticket punched. The assumption that the place where development began is the place where development is continuing to occur is romantic, but false -- among other false but romantic assumptions. A good read on these points from the "Western Aikido" discussion:

http://www.eurotas.org/Articles/AikidoTHP.pdf

Having said, and accepting the need for chastening unwarranted romanticism, I still give mythic statements of knowledge, metaphysics and psychology a lot of credit. They condense a lot of complex information into powerful mnemonic and recursive imagery.

That is as true of O Sensei's Doka and kotodama mandala as it is of Chinese traditional knowledge. That kind of mythic information doesn't bound itself into a well understood box -- it points beyond itself without boundaries. That's why it has appeal to us. Like juji -- the cross shape - (or spirals) the arms can reach to infinity without altering the essential shape.

Westerners excel, not merely by thinking outside the box. Ask Jim Lovell, or Gene Kranz. Hell, we don't even make boxes -- we break most of the one's we're given. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's good, but it's who we are.

I categorically reject the categorical rejection of working through the concepts. O Sensei didn't. Musashi didn't. Sun Tzu didn't. I couldn't move a comma in their work, but I doubt that any of them intended it to be repeated by rote, rather than explored and considered from novel perspectives.

If I just accept categories handed to Mike or Dan or Cady or Gernot, and then handed on to me, without challenging them and making their concepts deal or fail in terms of other categories or applications -- I am not doing budo and I am not true to my own heritage, either.

Michael McCaslin
12-04-2006, 03:44 PM
Erick,

Even as I am typing this, I don't know why... I guess it's because you wouldn't be taking the time to prepare these detailed mathematical descriptions if you didn't have a love and appreciation for this stuff, and I respect that. I don't want these skills to disappear, and I'm working on learning and sharing them with others.

I actually waded through most of your stuff. It reads like you were one of the only people to get an A in your kinematics class. On the surface, that's a complement. But it's also a problem-- I bet there weren't many other guys (or gals) who got A's in kinematics and dynamics. Of the ones who did, a vanishingly small percentage of them could be considered martial arts enthusiasts with knowledge worth sharing.

There are several people on this board with skills which have been independently verified. They have martial knowledge worth sharing. While they are different people with different backgrounds, they have hashed out an informal language for talking about these things. The language is built around a metaphor that helps a lot of us newbies develop a conceptual model of how this stuff works. For the more advanced, they have a framework that allows them to transmit information about the finer points. I've been following the conversation for a year or two, and while the model has evolved it hasn't broken down. At this point, I feel safe saying the model is good enough for people to use to communicate their ideas about how to really "do" aikido the way the great masters did.

You have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to explain your model. It's complex. It uses a language that only a small percentage of the population understands. I have an engineering degree. I (think I) get what you are trying to say with your model. As a consultant, I also understand that no one will use it. In order to talk about these things in your terms, people would have to learn a lot of kinematics and math, spending time that would be better spent training. And that assumes the math is within their reach. If I recall correctly, Takeda didn't write. Maybe not writing or reading freed up a lot of training time!

I freely admit that I don't know how to do these things. I'm working on it, but I am very much a beginner. I mine the forums for new information daily, and increasingly you're the guy screaming (metaphorically speaking) at people in a language they don't understand. You may well know what these guys are talking about, but as long as you insist on forcing your model on them no meaningful dialogue can take place. They won't receive information from you, and you won't receive information from them.

It looks like you are dismissing a lot of what is being openly discussed as basics, and claiming that real aikido is comprised of that plus much more. I think basics is too imprecise a term. They aren't basics, they are the fundamentals. Their study appears to be limitless. I think the "much more" is like the trees that hide the forest. Techniques and strategy are easy to understand. What is hard is developing a body that has the fundamentals so deeply ingrained that the techniques create themselves and the strategy happens spontaneously. But this is the goal that every master has plainly stated.

I've been doing martial arts a long time, now. It's only recently that I have learned how much time I wasted looking at the trees. There are lots of them and some of them are really interesting. They also can be a major distraction. The fundamentals make any technique work. Technique without the fundamentals is empty. There is too much empty technique out there, and I've invested years in empty practice. I think this is one reason Ueshiba pared the techniques from Daito Ryu down to a relatively small number. He was active in solo training until he passed away. He never stopped developing the fundamentals. I believe he intended the kata practice to be paired training that would be at least as effective as the solo work. He didn't have partners to practice on his own level with. Paired kata gives us the opportunity to force skill evolution to occur. Unfortunately, it looks like most of us missed this.

Personally, I think kokyu is not a basic condition which assists in the performance of the technique. It *is* the technique. It's the root. It's not something you can ever say "I understand that and I can do it" because it can always be developed more. Maybe you know that, in which case I'd appreciate it if you'd find a way to express your ideas in the prevailing model, so that I (and others) can wrap my head around it.

It's also possible that you've overlooked something, trivialized the fundamentals, and gotten lost down the rabbit hole of technique exploration. That, to me, is jujutsu in today's world. No martial art advocates force against force (at an advanced level), and to say that evasion and leading are what makes aikido unique misses the point.

If only there were some kind of forum, where people could meet and talk about these things, in a common language that most people undestand. Oh wait, there is! Welcome (back) to aikiweb. If you agree to talk about these things in the terms others have, there can be a meaningful exchange of information. As a bonus, you might find your frustration level decreases.

I guess this is a good place to apologize for sounding smug, or appointing myself some kind of ambassador for the discussions here. Worse, I admit to not having any skill! Still, it's my opinion that the first step to talking about this stuff is agreeing to a framework. No one says the prevailing model is perfect, but at this point I don't think it can be disputed that it allows effective communication about these skills to take place. Of course, it's only an opinion and it's offered with the best of intentions (and one selfish motive, to not see pages of people talking past each other in the middle of productive threads).

Take care.

Michael

Michael McCaslin
12-04-2006, 04:01 PM
Quote:
From a practical standpoint, a joint that is fully extended is also close to being hyperextended, which is a risk. You don't want to present an opponent with 99% of an armbar.


Huh, good point. Done that...


Ron,

I can't wait to progress from "keep doing" to "have done." I'm a slow learner, I'm afraid. There's one person in the dojo who doesn't hesitate to snap them on, so it's been educational.

Are you saying you shouldn't just extend the joint without "ki"? :-)
Gernot,

I'm not sure you were directing this question at me, but I wish I knew enough to answer it!

I know there are things we can do with our muscles that inhibit the flow of ki. I also know we use muscles to extend. What I am not as sure of is that too much extension will inhibit ki. It seems that it could. It also seems that it would develop the tendons and muscles, so it may not be wasted training. In my own experimenting, if I extend too much I feel a structural change in shape that isn't "right." It's a nice stretch, though. In my daily practice I try to avoid doing anything that doesn't have a certain feel to it, so I try to avoid extending too much. Not having a teacher, I may be too conservative in my approach. I am always trying to avoid burning in bad movement patterns. This may cause me to progress more slowly than I otherwise would, or (shudder) not at all.

Michael

Gernot Hassenpflug
12-04-2006, 05:27 PM
Hello Michael, much appreciate your effort in writing here. Mike Sigman earlier pointed out the "external" and "internal" training method distinction, and I would say that - from the limited exposure I have had - that the earlier students get away from trying to do things with muscles the better: not because the muscles will not in fact be used, but because our usual understanding of "usage" is not correct for (dare I say) Asian martial arts premised on the use of jin/kokyu/ki. I'm getting a clue that there's a "point of no return" where a flip in thinking occurs and one's body use simply becomes different and never goes back to what it was before. So in that sense, anything one does before that "flip" using muscles explicity, most likely (I think) burns in bad patterns. As Abe sensei and many other teachers say, first use ki, then work on the (very different) "power" and (very different) "speed". Minoru Akuzawa, whose exercises are decidedly physical, also advocates this approach, in my experience.

eyrie
12-04-2006, 06:53 PM
Damn fine post (#35), Michael....

Mike Sigman
12-04-2006, 08:45 PM
......I would say that - from the limited exposure I have had - that the earlier students get away from trying to do things with muscles the better: not because the muscles will not in fact be used, but because our usual understanding of "usage" is not correct for (dare I say) Asian martial arts premised on the use of jin/kokyu/ki. I'm getting a clue that there's a "point of no return" where a flip in thinking occurs and one's body use simply becomes different and never goes back to what it was before. So in that sense, anything one does before that "flip" using muscles explicity, most likely (I think) burns in bad patterns. As Abe sensei and many other teachers say, first use ki, then work on the (very different) "power" and (very different) "speed". Minoru Akuzawa, whose exercises are decidedly physical, also advocates this approach, in my experience.
I think this is a very important point, Gernot. There are the cool parts of using the kokyu/jin forces. And there is the very powerful strengthening of the body "structure" by tying it together (although, bear in mind that there are different ideas of how this is done). But those things are only part of the whole picture and my worry, just like you said above, is that people will go for these baubles thinking they have the whole. There's more to it than that. First of all, the "muscle" issue has to do with the points of tying the body together, but not merely with just "structure" and "tension exercises". Muscle has to be foregone while you work on this new kind of strength, even though it means leaving yourself weaker for a while.


Secondly, and probably the big giveaway if someone is worrying whether they have the "full process", is the use of the dantien to control the whole body. And I mean control it. Not assist every now and then. If you go the route of muscle and some jin skills, you'll automatically limit forever your forward progress. When Tohei and so many others talk about "relax", they mean it, but it's a complex understanding of "relax" and what you have to do while you're "relaxed".

FWIW

Mike

Erick Mead
12-04-2006, 10:31 PM
Even as I am typing this, I don't know why... I guess it's because you wouldn't be taking the time to prepare these detailed mathematical descriptions if you didn't have a love and appreciation for this stuff, and I respect that. Fair enough. I'll leave the manual on the desk tonight.
....skills ...martial knowledge worth sharing. .... hashed out an informal language for talking about these things. .... a metaphor that helps ... a conceptual model ... that allows them to transmit information about the finer points. Doubtless. Chinese traditional knwledge has been passed on in just this essential way for thousands of years. But then, the West also went to the Moon first. We have adopted and adapted aikido to a greater degree than even in the place of its birth -- apparently as its founder intended, if Saotome and some others are to be believed. So, there is something to the Western approach that bears dwelling upon more deeply in its own terms when it comes to aikido.
If I recall correctly, Takeda didn't write. Maybe not writing or reading freed up a lot of training time! Not generally a point advocated by O Sensei, or any proponent of the deeper concepts, in either tradition -- East or West. Even the system advocated by these gentlemen, and as much as I enjoy the sparring, I respect what they are doing, requires ultimately a willingness to embrace that tradition of depth,subtlety and complexity on its own terms. And that system at its heart, like that of the West, also requires confronting what is neither familiar or comfortable.

The mind leads the body. I think there is truly no disagreemnt on that point here. Training also provokes the mind. It too must be attended or it will do mischief. O Sensei had his kotodama, mandalas, and other means to encompass the complex activity of his mind provoked by his training. Taking the time to work through his efforts there is worhtwhile activity, arcane though they may seem. And your training provokes that activity also, or else you wouldn't be here. You will find need to attend to it, and look for your own version of things like mandalas and other means to encompass the play of knowledge in your head. My training has. I do not work through these concepts out of choice, but necessity.

And truly, having some significant background in both systems of knowledge, neither is less complex than the other, they are just structured and oriented differently in how they comprehend how "knowing" and "doing" relate to one another. I find the two systems of thinking more complementary than exclusive of one another, but maybe that's just me.
At this point, I feel safe saying the model is good enough for people to use to communicate their ideas about how to really "do" aikido the way the great masters did. And that is where I respectfully leave the train, because that contention is, quite simply, not proven. The fact is that O Sensei knew a great deal about these concepts. He indisputably used them to demonstrate again and again that in budo it is utterly pointless to contend in strength. Having got their attention by these means and shown the reason why contention in strength (subtle or overt) was not the answer, he then offered to teach people aikido -- and notably -- did not teach these things for the purposes that they seeem to be offered here. I have pointed this out from his own history and statements. That set of facts cannot be got around. But why would he not teach them?

Someone out there is stronger. Very likely sooner than later, strong as anyone may become in these skills of kokyu/jin and relying on their application in the way discussed here, you will find yourself gravely weakened and still under threat. This revelation, spoken of in a deeply personal manner by my first teacher, very much informs all my practice and all my thinking on these points.

The manner in which these kokyu skills are being offered here emphasize things and lead in directions that are quite away from the aikido described by O Sensei, taught by him, from all accounts and in the tiny unfolding package of aikido first given to me. It still opens further, everytime I step on the mat or lend my attention to the thought of doing so.
Techniques and strategy are easy to understand. Would that it were so.
What is hard is developing a body that has the fundamentals so deeply ingrained that the techniques create themselves and the strategy happens spontaneously. ...
.... kokyu is not a basic condition which assists in the performance of the technique. It *is* the technique. It's the root.
... Maybe you know that, in which case I'd appreciate it if you'd find a way to express your ideas in the prevailing model, so that I (and others) can wrap my head around it. No martial art advocates force against force (at an advanced level), and to say that evasion and leading are what makes aikido unique misses the point. In whch case, I have failed to communicate indeed. Kokyu is a much broader tool of effective work (pneg-jin or qi gong for Mike) than its uses in aikido. Aikido also has a much broader field of action than kokyu skills. I have used aikido to more and greater effect in legal practice than in any physical confrontation.

When I do it properly, I do not evade, I do not lead. Aikido is fundamentally ukewaza. I receive what is offered, and in the spirit with which it is given. This is what my first teacher taught me, from my beginning and until quite lately now. How I receive it matters very much, but fundamentally I must receive it completely

What is advocated by some here in regard to kokyu is a facility, like flexibility developed in yoga. It is a facility in not being affected, in holding, dissipating and counterpoising offensive action against you. Daito ryu (and other arts) have developed a remarkable suite of tactics from the intensive development of that facililty. The threshold questions of rooting, grounding and neutralizing that have so absorbed discussion among us, are among the applications of this kokyu power. But hidden power is still power and power is that which does what those who possess it desire to do.

Aikido is not senjutsu -- tactics. It is, still less, mere facility in movement or intergration of body. It incoporates those things, but to say that you then have aikido is truly to have the trees for the forest. Aikido is heiho -- a strategic paradigm that commands all those other things toward a certain purpose and approach to the conflict.

Kokyu application in what I understand as aikido distingushes it from what is spoken of here. I do not exercise power, because I do not do that which I desire in the midst of conflict. I do not stop my enemy or render his action ineffectual. I do what the enemy very much desire desires, and I very much give his desire effect -- but with a twist.

It is a curious thing that most people are utterly unprepared to get just what they always thought they wanted. The conception of aikido my teachers have given of the "skills" and whole-body movement ensures that when my attacker seeks to take a part of me -- he in fact gets the whole of me -- and nothing less.
If you agree to talk about these things in the terms others have, there can be a meaningful exchange of information. As a bonus, you might find your frustration level decreases. Nah, when I get mad I get real quiet. It's the Irish.
"I come not to bring peace but a sword.... my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." The pair of paradoxical Gospel verses I am called to live up to.

Terms set assumptions before they communicate anything. Unspoken assumptions are dangerous, and ultimately it is more unfriendly to be surprised by them later than to challenge them up front.
To not see pages of people talking past each other in the middle of productive threads.
And as you can see, there is some major questioning on those assumptions, or at least, dire need to ensure we clarify or make them expressly clear . That is the cause of much of the "talking past" and it is worthwhile, even so, if you take it in those terms.

The terminology used has suggested things (stopping, "not moving", rooting, grounding, resisting) that are departing the topic of the thread, but more so, moving away from, rather than reaching deeper into aikido, as I have been taught it, and as it has come to make sense to me physically, intuitively and in my own inchoate intellectual way.

Erick Mead
12-04-2006, 11:19 PM
Interesting, but why don't you just DO? In Asia, you'd get smacked upside the head for thinking in class. :p We Westerners are so into analyzing everything instead of just learning to walk the walk.Bunbu ichi. The virtues of training in the Two Ways
Both of the Sword and of the Pen
Has brought realization in the body and in the soul.

Mark Freeman
12-05-2006, 04:12 AM
Kokyu application in what I understand as aikido distingushes it from what is spoken of here. I do not exercise power, because I do not do that which I desire in the midst of conflict. I do not stop my enemy or render his action ineffectual. I do what the enemy very much desire desires, and I very much give his desire effect -- but with a twist.
It is a curious thing that most people are utterly unprepared to get just what they always thought they wanted. The conception of aikido my teachers have given of the "skills" and whole-body movement ensures that when my attacker seeks to take a part of me -- he in fact gets the whole of me -- and nothing less.


Good posts Erick ( and Michael for #35 which prompted Ericks reply)

I particularly like the section I quoted above and have nowt to add apart from bravo!

These forums are interesting and frustrating in equal measure. They provide an arena to discuss our art, an art which can only be understood by literally years of practice with a good teacher.

I find the concept of 'truely' learning any skills from text a big problem. The best that can happen is an awareness that they exist ( or some say they exist ). The only place to 'get' any of the skills that are being endlessly discussed here, is hands on with someone who both has them and has the ability to teach them. If you read something and try it out, without someone to correct you should you get it wrong, then this maybe worse than not doing it at all.

I 'know' I have some relative level of 'internal'/ki/kokyu skills, but I would hesitate to to try and put them into text, as on the mat I demonstrate and explain as best as I can, and some people immediately start to practice something else :crazy: at least there I can intervene and put them back on track :)

I'm off to another thread to put my oar in over there.....

regards,

Mark

Mike Sigman
12-05-2006, 06:59 AM
O Sensei wrote:
The virtues of training in the Two Ways
Both of the Sword and of the Pen
Has brought realization in the body and in the soul. So what do you interpret that to mean, Erick?

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
12-05-2006, 10:35 AM
OK, let me prime the pump a little bit. Japanese calligraphy is based on Chinese calligraphy. The relationship of qi/jin to Chinese calligraphy is the same as ki/kokyu is to Japanese calligraphy. The same can be said of the sword arts. Same thing for Aikido.

From:
http://www.page.sannet.ne.jp/shun-q/INTERVIEW-E.html

4、INFLUENCE OF AIKIDO ON CALLIGRAPHY

What influence did practicing both misogi and aikido eventually have on your calligraphy?

The three converged into one for me. Aikido, for example, is ultimately not really about twisting wrists, causing pain, or throwing people; it is about cultivating "ki," which is something distinctly different from these things. The same is true of calligraphy. There are five or ten thousand characters we can brush in learning about form and line, but ultimately we are pursuing something beyond these, and that something is none other than "ki".So calligraphy and aikido became the exact same pursuit for me and I began to practice both as hard as I could.

 

You once remarked that "the essence of calligraphy lies in kokyu. (lit. breath)." Is this the same sort of kokyu we find in aikido?

The very same.

This brings to mind the question, "What exactly are we teaching when teach calligraphy?" We teach form and how to draw the characters, of course, but I think if we are unable to teach a certain "something more," then the life will go out of calligraphy and it will no longer interest people.


Mike

Michael McCaslin
12-05-2006, 10:54 AM
Erick,

Thanks for taking the time to consider my post, and for your reply. I've snipped out a chunk that I think highlights the difference in concepts. I think there is more common ground here than it might appear at first glance.




Someone out there is stronger. Very likely sooner than later, strong as anyone may become in these skills of kokyu/jin and relying on their application in the way discussed here, you will find yourself gravely weakened and still under threat. This revelation, spoken of in a deeply personal manner by my first teacher, very much informs all my practice and all my thinking on these points.

The manner in which these kokyu skills are being offered here emphasize things and lead in directions that are quite away from the aikido described by O Sensei, taught by him, from all accounts and in the tiny unfolding package of aikido first given to me. It still opens further, everytime I step on the mat or lend my attention to the thought of doing so.

-----snip----

In whch case, I have failed to communicate indeed. Kokyu is a much broader tool of effective work (pneg-jin or qi gong for Mike) than its uses in aikido. Aikido also has a much broader field of action than kokyu skills. I have used aikido to more and greater effect in legal practice than in any physical confrontation.

When I do it properly, I do not evade, I do not lead. Aikido is fundamentally ukewaza. I receive what is offered, and in the spirit with which it is given. This is what my first teacher taught me, from my beginning and until quite lately now. How I receive it matters very much, but fundamentally I must receive it completely

What is advocated by some here in regard to kokyu is a facility, like flexibility developed in yoga. It is a facility in not being affected, in holding, dissipating and counterpoising offensive action against you. Daito ryu (and other arts) have developed a remarkable suite of tactics from the intensive development of that facililty. The threshold questions of rooting, grounding and neutralizing that have so absorbed discussion among us, are among the applications of this kokyu power. But hidden power is still power and power is that which does what those who possess it desire to do.

Aikido is not senjutsu -- tactics. It is, still less, mere facility in movement or intergration of body. It incoporates those things, but to say that you then have aikido is truly to have the trees for the forest. Aikido is heiho -- a strategic paradigm that commands all those other things toward a certain purpose and approach to the conflict.

Kokyu application in what I understand as aikido distingushes it from what is spoken of here. I do not exercise power, because I do not do that which I desire in the midst of conflict. I do not stop my enemy or render his action ineffectual. I do what the enemy very much desire desires, and I very much give his desire effect -- but with a twist.

It is a curious thing that most people are utterly unprepared to get just what they always thought they wanted. The conception of aikido my teachers have given of the "skills" and whole-body movement ensures that when my attacker seeks to take a part of me -- he in fact gets the whole of me -- and nothing less.

The terminology used has suggested things (stopping, "not moving", rooting, grounding, resisting) that are departing the topic of the thread, but more so, moving away from, rather than reaching deeper into aikido, as I have been taught it, and as it has come to make sense to me physically, intuitively and in my own inchoate intellectual way.

What you are hearing Mike, Dan, Rob and others say differs from what I am hearing. I don't think any of them advocate "standing like an immoveable mountain in combat." Yes, kokyu power can be used to resist a push. Learning to coordinate the body to be able to do this is an important skill. While this is an important skill, these kokyu demonstrations have little to do with actual application. Combat does not consist of "kokyu wrestling" where the more powerful person "wins."

Like you pointed out, the idea is to give the opponent what he wants with a twist. But how do we know what the opponent wants? In kata practice, we know because we are told. Since we know, we all get to experience blending in kata practice. But how do you know what the opponent wants in actual application? I believe that we can feel it through the body. The problem is, this sensitivity cannot be developed without first developing kokyu. Kokyu is how we "feel" the opponents intent, kokyu is how we absorb his energy, and kokyu is how we return it to him.

The problem with how aikido has been practiced for me in the past is that kokyu is not specifically developed as a definable skill. It's not pointed to and called out as the core of what we are trying to do. The thinking seems to be that if one practices enough it will come. I think the sample population is large enough by now to determine that this doesn't work. People will happily do the kata over and over, taking what the uke gives, and never learning to feel and adapt to the pressure of his incoming energy.

Spending time isolating and developing kokyu, while it is not actually "doing aikido" is the only way to build the bridge that leads from empty replication of the kata to actual free form application of aikido.

I think so many of us waste time with scripted attacks that don't require us to develop this essential skill.

You seem to be saying that kokyu is necessary but not sufficient to do aikido. I think that the "higher skills" in aikido can be restated in terms of kokyu, albeit used in a different way from the exercises we use to build the basics. As Mike Sigman might say it, "all jins are variations of the core (peng) jin."

I think Mike, Dan, et al emphasize the basic kokyu so much because chasing the other stuff before we have this piece of the puzzle is somewhat pointless. Once the basics are understood by most, it will make more sense to talk about the subtle applications.

Michael

Michael McCaslin
12-05-2006, 11:58 AM
I think this is a very important point, Gernot. There are the cool parts of using the kokyu/jin forces. And there is the very powerful strengthening of the body "structure" by tying it together (although, bear in mind that there are different ideas of how this is done). But those things are only part of the whole picture and my worry, just like you said above, is that people will go for these baubles thinking they have the whole. There's more to it than that. First of all, the "muscle" issue has to do with the points of tying the body together, but not merely with just "structure" and "tension exercises". Muscle has to be foregone while you work on this new kind of strength, even though it means leaving yourself weaker for a while.


Good point, Mike. I have problems with this all the time in the dojo. Every time the going gets tough, I can feel myself abandoning the "new stuff" and resorting to old fashioned force. I don't like it when it happens, but it's quite instinctive. I suppose when the "new way" of moving becomes more ingrained this will get easier.


Secondly, and probably the big giveaway if someone is worrying whether they have the "full process", is the use of the dantien to control the whole body. And I mean control it. Not assist every now and then. If you go the route of muscle and some jin skills, you'll automatically limit forever your forward progress. When Tohei and so many others talk about "relax", they mean it, but it's a complex understanding of "relax" and what you have to do while you're "relaxed".

FWIW

Mike

The use of the dantien to control the whole body is a vexing question for me. For one thing, I don't have the control and flexibility yet to make this a reality, although I am working on it.

For another, the legs provide so much available power it's hard for me to avoid relying on them. If I understand you correctly, I should be using the legs like the arms, as transmitters rather than generators. This morning I was experimenting with using the dantien to send force down one leg, then the other while standing in a natural posture. Mainly, I wanted to cultivate moving the dantien while the hips and shoulders stay fixed. This is a struggle for me!

At any rate, I'd appreciate some clarification on the role of the legs-- in one scenario, dantien turns and force goes from there out through the arms and legs. In another, the legs move the body and the dantien controls and directs this power. Which is more correct, or is the truth a hybrid?

Michael

Mike Sigman
12-05-2006, 12:18 PM
The use of the dantien to control the whole body is a vexing question for me. For one thing, I don't have the control and flexibility yet to make this a reality, although I am working on it.

For another, the legs provide so much available power it's hard for me to avoid relying on them. If I understand you correctly, I should be using the legs like the arms, as transmitters rather than generators. This morning I was experimenting with using the dantien to send force down one leg, then the other while standing in a natural posture. Mainly, I wanted to cultivate moving the dantien while the hips and shoulders stay fixed. This is a struggle for me!

At any rate, I'd appreciate some clarification on the role of the legs-- in one scenario, dantien turns and force goes from there out through the arms and legs. In another, the legs move the body and the dantien controls and directs this power. Which is more correct, or is the truth a hybrid?Well, the real bugaboo, IMO, is that you can use *some* jin skills and still be heavily allied with muscle. This is the heart of the old scornful "Shaolin!" derision by some of the so-called "internal stylists". And this is part of why I've made a few superficial comments that probably Aikido doesn't need to go so far with its worry about "internal", since most of what I've seen appears to be from the ki/qi-kokyu/jin skills of the external arts. But it's some sort of hybrid, in reality, with Ueshiba and Tohei leaning actually closer to the "internal arts" stuff sometimes. I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure. ;)


Some of what I've seen of Ueshiba in his 80's (this may be the same thing that Ellis was recently talking about) leaves me definately in the camp that Ueshiba's skill was pretty high order and not the jin&muscle stuff that is so easy to fall into. At least that's my opinion, FWIW.


So, back to your question. Pooh.... the more I think about it, the more my enthusiasm for trying to write it wanes. Yeah, legs and waist should be the source of all the power and the upper body only transmits the power. That's the best start, even though it feels absurd at first and all of someone's "many years of skills" will evaporate for a goodly while. But it needs to be shown.

Part of my problem is that while I think this stuff has to be rammed through as a missing basic, I don't think that it's going to be productive to stray to far off of the absolute basics and how to do them... so talk about control with the middle needs to be recognized as an important topic, but it's probably way to far down the road to be timely.

Regards,

Mike

Michael McCaslin
12-05-2006, 03:38 PM
Part of my problem is that while I think this stuff has to be rammed through as a missing basic, I don't think that it's going to be productive to stray to far off of the absolute basics and how to do them... so talk about control with the middle needs to be recognized as an important topic, but it's probably way to far down the road to be timely.


Thanks, Mike. It's a quandry. I figure if I just keep doing my homework the time won't be totally waisted... er, wasted.

I'll be hanging a training weight in the new house soon, which should provide some quantitative information to go with the qualitative I'm getting from basic exercises. It's hard to tell subjectively if "the ground is in my hands" when doing qi gong or other exercises, but some force feedback should help.