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John Matsushima
04-08-2008, 10:25 AM
I think one of the biggest problems in Aikido is its ambiguity. One example is in the phrase "connecting to uke's center". I personally have never thought in these terms, as I think it doesn't make sense, technically, philosophically, or otherwise. Technically, there are much better ways to describe how to execute a technique using terms such as momentum, balance, speed, weight, etc. Besides, what exactly is uke's center? His center of gravity? Physical center? Spiritual center? What exactly does it mean to connect to it, and how exactly does one do that? What do you think?

Walker
04-08-2008, 10:46 AM
Personally, I think it is an invaluable concept that is a good description of the feeling. If forced to speculate I would say that it is of a piece with the proprioceptive sense. For example what is it to say stand upright? One might say that such a concept is better explicated by a description of gravity, physics, physical mechanics within the body etc, but for practical purposes anyone who has learned to walk upright will know what standing upright is and feels like.

As far as suggestions for getting a feel perhaps one might try looking for the feeling by trying to expand their "body sense" to include other bodies with which they are in contact. Then if one finds a sensation of a physical center one might also try over time to feel if they can sense other centers that might be present in an interaction.

cguzik
04-08-2008, 10:55 AM
John,

I was just thinking the other day about how the meaning of this phrase has changed to me over the years, and how cool it is that the inherent ambiguity is what has allowed my interpretation to shift as my experience has shifted. Had the teaching methods to which I've been exposed been more explcit in language and meaning, my understanding would have been much more constrained.

Now, it's a valid question whether some of the interpretations I've explored have taken me hopping down a bunny trail, but to me they've all been worthwhile as part of my own development.

The present interpretation I'm exploring has very little to do directly with the physical elements of aikido waza, other than how they manifest as a result of how I connect to my partner energetically -- how I feel -- in my gut -- about my partner and their intent. So the notion of center as strictly the center of gravity would have limited me from ever exploring this.

Someone once pointed out to me that when you hear somebody say something you're not ready for, it may sound completely crazy. It's possible that such clear explainations, incomprehensible to some, could prove more confusing or frustrating.

Ambiguity in language can be a very powerful tool for communicating different things to different people based on individuals' awareness and knowledge.

happysod
04-08-2008, 11:02 AM
...Technically, there are much better ways to describe how to execute a technique using terms such as momentum, balance, speed, weightAgreed, but this sort of misses part of the point - it's a bit like describing a painting only in terms of the frame, canvas and shapes on the canvas, it loses all the emotional message.

You get this kind of ambiguity is sports as well ("in the zone" springs to mind - what zone, where is it?) but I agree that some expansion of what exactly you're meaning/wanting should be given in purely physical terms first, then go on to the fluffy stuff (weight underside leaps to mind)

Stefan Stenudd
04-08-2008, 11:14 AM
I find the concept of center - my own and my partner - very valuable in understanding and exploring aikido. It is cryptic at first, but it becomes more an more clear by time.

Using "mechanical" explanations is not necessarily easier to learn, since the body is a complex thing, difficult to control in detail by mental effort. When using the center, the body learns to optimize itself, without the conscious mind having to control it all.
It is actually quite an efficient way of learning.

I wrote some about the center, and how to exercise one's awareness of it, on my website:
http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/tanden.htm

John Matsushima
04-08-2008, 12:15 PM
I don't think that one could compare "connecting to one's center" with "standing upright". Any human being who is fluent in the English language knows exactly what it means to stand upright, and to stand other things upright. But how often are the terms "using one's center, and connecting to other's center" used outside of Aikido?

I can see what some of you have said regarding the benefit of ambiguity in language. In art, it allows one to create, to fill in the emptiness and become one with the art. But, I don't think it applies in this case. The reason is that if this is such an important principle in Aikido, then it must mean the same for everyone. Otherwise, we all just make it up, and have our own principles. So, connecting to someone's center for me could mean ramming my fist into his belly. Is that Aikido?

What I have observed in dojos and on the internet is exactly that. Ambiguity has led some people down the wrong path, letting them imagine whatever it is that connecting to the center is (among other terms, like KI), while having very sloppy Aikido.

If you want to convey a though to your students, then you must be clear. If you want them to find the answer for themselves, then you can ask them questions, problems, or just not teach that aspect at all.

So, how could one convey the same idea without using the term "center", or any of the other foreign words, such as "tanden, chakra, seika no itten, etc."

This seems to be an ostentatious term, which I believe does more harm to our art then good. If Aikido is to continue into the future by passing on its most important principles, then those principles must be taught clearly and directly. Here is a good article about such terms --> http://tkdtutor.com/03School/Fraud/Ostentatious%20.htm

Mr. Stenudd, you mentioned in your post and on your website that the reason for using such a term is because the body is such a complex thing, difficult to control by mental effort. But then why is it that so many sports and physical activities such as dancing, seem to be taught much better without such terms?

Thank you for your thoughts.

charyuop
04-08-2008, 12:31 PM
I think one of the biggest problems in Aikido is its ambiguity. One example is in the phrase "connecting to uke's center". I personally have never thought in these terms, as I think it doesn't make sense, technically, philosophically, or otherwise. Technically, there are much better ways to describe how to execute a technique using terms such as momentum, balance, speed, weight, etc. Besides, what exactly is uke's center? His center of gravity? Physical center? Spiritual center? What exactly does it mean to connect to it, and how exactly does one do that? What do you think?

As per my personal experience, which is not very long, "center" has a great help. True Sensei could tell me to move here and there compared to Uke, he could tell me I need to lead Uke towards where he loses balance which is there...or couldn't he? Positions and movements in Aikido change according to Uke, so where I am once doesn't mean it will work all the time.
Using the center can help, well maybe for my level not 100% of the times, to identify or pinpoint a place in Uke to use as reference to co-ordinate your movements.
In other circumstances, the visualization of the center can prevent the beginner to focus solely on certain details. For example if I am doing...well trying to do a Nikkyo, trying to visualize the center and through the wrist and arm affect the center itself will prevent me from keep thinking to attack the wrist and nothing else.
In many techniques the eyes see big wide movement of one hand and the ones who don't know Aikido ignore the other hand which might be actually the one throwing. Giving the center to follow or aim to a beginner helps the beginner him/herself to avoid the same mistake. The center gives a much bigger target to focus onto, one which include the whole world of Uke. Of course it takes time to see it...that is true.

Walker
04-08-2008, 12:39 PM
I don't think that one could compare "connecting to one's center" with "standing upright". Any human being who is fluent in the English language knows exactly what it means to stand upright, and to stand other things upright. But how often are the terms "using one's center, and connecting to other's center" used outside of Aikido?

Just so my point. Almost everyone who learns to speak has learned to overcome the force of gravity and pulled themselves into an upright bipedal stance. Anyone who has learned to connect to one's center understands what connect to the center means. Now do we give babies complex instructions, physics explanations, lessons on mechanics to teach them to walk? No we provide a model (adults who have learned to walk) and let them keep trying until they grow strong enough and figure out how to do it.

Janet Rosen
04-08-2008, 12:57 PM
I agree that the meaning changes over time as understanding deepens.
When working w/ newbies, I very often use this principle, and the words, in order to explain why they should be facing me and not at some weird 30 or 60 degree angle facing the window when they are trying to throw me....it is a starting point for getting them to consider, and maybe start feeling, the physical and energy connection between us.

Aiki1
04-08-2008, 02:04 PM
The way I teach and do Aikido, it has to do with Kuzushi - loss of balance or structural collapse. Uke won't lose their balance without losing control of their center of gravity (and energy but that's a whole different level), and if I don't have the skills to feel into that process, i.e., kinesthetically connecting to their center not just their arms or upper body etc., Uke won't fall. Not in my style anyway.

Erick Mead
04-08-2008, 02:12 PM
I don't think that one could compare "connecting to one's center" with "standing upright". Any human being who is fluent in the English language knows exactly what it means to stand upright, and to stand other things upright. Do we? Human beings do not stand upright in the way that any other creature does, saving only birds. They can't tell us how they feel about it. It is a dynamic, not a static concept. It is even now only poorly understood. It is a highly chaotic process, and sensitive to cyclic reinforcement (and disruption) (funetori, anyone?). Interestingly, slight vibrations in the soles of old people's feet makes them more stable in standing upright. This is really only duplicating what furitama provides in our kokyu undo. The more I look and the deeper I study it the more I see that everything in the art is there for a reason.

But how often are the terms "using one's center, and connecting to other's center" used outside of Aikido? In more than you might suppose. There are many kinds of relevant physical centers -- of gravity -- of mass -- of pressure -- of gyration -- of percussion -- of instantaneous rotation, among many others. What distinguishes all of these (and I can, at some tedious length, go on about examples of them in aikido) is that they represent the points of inflection in various dynamics -- points at which the nature of motion changes sign in some way. That is to say, centers are the tools by which the the "method" of in-yo ho is employed.

In many impact oriented art and sports, the concept of controlling the use of the "sweet spot" (related to the center of percussion) is very important in mastering the subtlies of the art - especially as they govern the direction of rebound -- reversing the sign of the motion -- in-yo ho. Tiger Woods does a magnificent job of illustrating such subtle control of this particular center, when he juggles a golf ball on the end of his club. he can only do that by connecting his perception to the center of percussion of the club face, based on the feel of each reciprocal impact. It is quite literally the "feel" of that connection -- visually mediated responses are way too slow.

Thus, for example, to use one's own center of percussion is to determine whether and in which direction, when pushed, you actually will rotate. To "connect to another's center" is to sense the disposition of this quality in the other person's structure. The means of that sensation and connection is found in furitama -- and it is a subconscious process. I can tell you when I recognize that I have it, but I can, only with tedious detail explain what it feels like to find it.

It may be done partially, as in the progressive destablizing that occurs in kokyu tanden ho (using the instantaneous centers of rotation of the limb segments, as another example). It may be done collectively and comprehensively as in a seamless kokyu-nage, or in a flowing kiri-age, suri-age, or kiri-otoshi with the sword.

So, connecting to someone's center for me could mean ramming my fist into his belly. Is that Aikido? It can be. It need not be, however.

If you want to convey a though to your students, then you must be clear. If you want them to find the answer for themselves, then you can ask them questions, problems, or just not teach that aspect at all. Amen to that.

So, how could one convey the same idea without using the term "center", or any of the other foreign words, such as "tanden, chakra, seika no itten, etc." The concept of "ki" underlies all of this. It is a valid physical concept, but it overlaps several categories of our western reductionist learning -- and so it has been disregarded or dismissed because it does not fit our more common terms of analytic convenience. We have many such schemes of analysis, however, using other terms of convenience.

There is a consistent and rigorous thread that links them in my view - a combined action|potential concept of angular momentum and its potential form of moment. I have not yet found a category of Asian thought on Ki which may not be adequately expressed in these terms. All western physics can be described purely in such terms (whether it is the most convenient for a given purpose or not), including Newtonian, and relativistic mechanics. Quantum mechanics already depends explicitly on the equivalence of mass and energy implicit in the nature of angular momentum.

I have been steadily working on these issues, but I must stress that much work on showing this with the kind of completeness that is necessary to overcome all arguments remains to be done. I should point out that I gained a strong measure of comfort in my approach to this description of Ki when I realized that it necessarily makes the term "harmony" in the name of the art a physical description, that of proper harmonic motion, not merely an affective term or philosophical aspiration.

But then why is it that so many sports and physical activities such as dancing, seem to be taught much better without such terms? Because all arts (and all sciences) resort to their experience in defining terms that are convenient to their disciplines. So in pitching baseball -- physically speaking there is no such thing as a "rising fastball" -- but there is a perspective analysis that makes the concept valid for the batter to assume and to act upon visual cues that suggest this condition of the ball when he makes his swing.

Aikido is the same so is Ballet. By the same token the same terms, which always come from a tradition of experience, do not necessarily work for everyone -- the experience of many has been different. So understanding the reality of the experience -- not merely the means to describe it -- it is the key.

James Davis
04-08-2008, 04:41 PM
John,

Someone once pointed out to me that when you hear somebody say something you're not ready for, it may sound completely crazy. It's possible that such clear explainations, incomprehensible to some, could prove more confusing or frustrating.

Ambiguity in language can be a very powerful tool for communicating different things to different people based on individuals' awareness and knowledge.

Some people, whether they be newbies or not, have to be taught in completely different ways. For some, techniques can be explained with physics and they catch on right away. For others, a seemingly unrelated analogy will turn the light bulb on. Some people can be spoken to all night and not understand a thing until you put your hands on them.

SeiserL
04-08-2008, 04:41 PM
There are those concepts (and descriptions) which are practical and can be put into words before they are experienced, and then there are those (such as connect to the center) that only make sense after the experience.

Ambiguous before? Yes
Ambiguous after? No

mathewjgano
04-08-2008, 05:31 PM
..."connecting to uke's center:" I think it doesn't make sense, technically, philosophically, or otherwise. Technically, there are much better ways to describe how to execute a technique using terms such as momentum, balance, speed, weight, etc. Besides, what exactly is uke's center? His center of gravity? Physical center? Spiritual center? What exactly does it mean to connect to it, and how exactly does one do that? What do you think?

I think it makes sense, but I've been using the phrase enough that it's accumulated a meaning for me so maybe it's not quite the same. I think it's a lot like the phrase "wash the car:" it says nothing about the specifics of how to do it, only to do it. If nothing else is said, it's left up to the student to figure out how that's accomplished. The beauty of ambiguous phrases (in my opinion) is the evokative nature they have in making the student start to question for themselves. Someone can tell you exactly what is happening, both in terms of the physics and the biology, but that still only points to the proverbial moon.

Stefan Stenudd
04-08-2008, 06:04 PM
Mr. Stenudd, you mentioned in your post and on your website that the reason for using such a term is because the body is such a complex thing, difficult to control by mental effort. But then why is it that so many sports and physical activities such as dancing, seem to be taught much better without such terms?
Well, some arts never tried teaching through terms like the center, so it is difficult to compare.
But several arts actually do. Dancing, for example. A very competent ballet teacher told me of its use in ballet, but they focus on another center: that of the solar plexus - because they want a more heightened posture. Jazz ballet might use the same center as in aikido. It is also applied to music and acting.

Peter Goldsbury
04-08-2008, 07:51 PM
I think one of the biggest problems in Aikido is its ambiguity. One example is in the phrase "connecting to uke's center". I personally have never thought in these terms, as I think it doesn't make sense, technically, philosophically, or otherwise. Technically, there are much better ways to describe how to execute a technique using terms such as momentum, balance, speed, weight, etc. Besides, what exactly is uke's center? His center of gravity? Physical center? Spiritual center? What exactly does it mean to connect to it, and how exactly does one do that? What do you think?

Have you looked at the book Center: The Power of Aikido, by Ron Meyer and Mark Reeder? The kanji on the front cover is 軸 jiku, which means, axle, shaft, picture (scroll), and is usually used in compounds. This is somewhat different from the usual idea of center, which would be 中心 chuushin in Japanese, and I have never found it useful to explain waza using the idea of jiku. In the book, Meyer and Reeder also use the concept of centredness, which is something you develop (or do not) during the whole course of your aikido training throughout your life. There is also a chapter in Stefan's new book, but Stefan refers to center as tanden (丹田), which in the Japanese dictionary I possess is the abdomen. Chuushin receives much more attention, with a far greater range of cognate meanings.

My point is that there are three separate concepts in Japanese which could be defined as center in English. For me, having to explain aikido in Japanese to Japanese students, this is far more important. On the rare occasions when I find myself talking about chuushin, I am usually thinking about the focus of the action, or waza, that is being done by two people, rather than any central feature of the person doing or receiving the waza.

However, you are right to raise the questions. I come from a background in western philosophy, where describing something like an action, whether intentional or not, is considered problematic. Thus I can see the need for sensitivity in the use of metaphors we choose to describe our own, or another's, actions.

Bill Danosky
04-08-2008, 07:56 PM
There are certain feelings you occasionally experience while doing waza that are difficult to explain, but are very rewarding.

Everyone has had "Aiki moments" that defy verbal description. You try using terms like finding Uke's center, etc. but they are moments when everything just works and language doesn't give you the right word for it.

I think those moments are why we show up for class.

Carl Thompson
04-08-2008, 10:44 PM
One problem is that there are many uses of "centre", both mentally and physically, both in the body (the point below the navel, the physical centre of gravity etc) and in that body's movement in relation to other centres or axes. I agree that it can be confusing if teachers don't make it clear which centre they are referring to.

:freaky:

I learned to ski in Japan. Ukemi did come in useful a few times until I learned to brake, but it was surprisingly easier than I'd feared, even with an amateur giving me just a few brief instructions in Japanese. I was initially a little confused by the request to "do a nosebleed" ("hanaji wo shite" 「鼻血をして」) until I realised I'd misheard "'ha' no ji wo shite" (「ハの字をして」 "make the letter ‘ha'" -- the katakana character which resembles the shape the skis should assume when braking).

There was no confusion however, over things like "lower your centre" because the instructions seemed clear to me. My understanding of "centre" came directly from Aikido and it seemed to transfer right into skiing. As well as chūshin 中心 my teacher also used the more specific jūshin 重心 (centre of gravity) to clarify which axis point was being referred to. When I heard "move your centre to the left" ("chūshin wo hidari e ugoku" 「中心を左へ動く」), I found I could turn with surprising control. These instructions produced immediate and dramatic results, sending me soaring across the snow. I was doing "Ai-ski-do" in no time!

If only I could get such dramatic results as easily on the tatami too! :D

Carl

Stefan Stenudd
04-09-2008, 04:34 AM
the usual idea of center, which would be 中心 chuushin in Japanese....
Stefan refers to center as tanden (丹田), which in the Japanese dictionary I possess is the abdomen. Chuushin receives much more attention, with a far greater range of cognate meanings.
I am far from an expert, but would it be fair to make this distinction: chuushin refers to a centered/balanced/focused mind, whereas tanden refers to the "core" of the abdominal region - the former a center of attitude, the latter a center of body?

That would also explain why chuushin has a more complex use, since things of the mind seem to get that in every human culture ;)
Maybe it should be compared to zanshin and such, rather than to tanden or seika no itten.

I think that the use of tanden today is mainly within the field of the martial arts, possibly also Zen and other paths that combine a mental process with a physical one.
I know that when I talk with Chinese people (outside the martial arts) about it, they immediately connect it to the martial arts, and rarely have their own relation to it.

Peter Goldsbury
04-09-2008, 05:23 AM
I am far from an expert, but would it be fair to make this distinction: chuushin refers to a centered/balanced/focused mind, whereas tanden refers to the "core" of the abdominal region - the former a center of attitude, the latter a center of body?

That would also explain why chuushin has a more complex use, since things of the mind seem to get that in every human culture ;)
Maybe it should be compared to zanshin and such, rather than to tanden or seika no itten.

I think that the use of tanden today is mainly within the field of the martial arts, possibly also Zen and other paths that combine a mental process with a physical one.
I know that when I talk with Chinese people (outside the martial arts) about it, they immediately connect it to the martial arts, and rarely have their own relation to it.

Hello Stefan,

In the Japanese dictionary I have consulted, tanden has a much narrower meaning than chuushin. It is short for seika tanden (with SEI (SAI, heso, hozo) meaning navel. Apart from seika tanden (and seitai, hoso-o = umbilical cord), all the compounds have to do with 'attitude'. Thus, hesomagari is a cranky person, hozo wo katameru is to make up one's mind, hozo wo kamu is to regret something bitterly, and hesokuri / hesokurigane are secret savings. (Notice that all these compounds use the Japanese kun reading and not the Chinese ON reading, which suggests to me that seika tanden was borrowed more or less whole from Chinese.)

Chuushin, on the other hand, has a much wider range of meanings: center, heart, middle, focus, nucleus, core, crux, pivot, stress, emphasis, importance, priority, basis. There are many compounds and examples using these compounds. The term also means balance, as in balancing oneself on one leg (片足で立って体の中心を取る).

I am not sure that you can conclude much from these examples, except that centre is a reasonable translation of both terms, but that they have quite differing connotations in Japanese.

Best,

PAG

dps
04-09-2008, 07:27 AM
I think one of the biggest problems in Aikido is its ambiguity. One example is in the phrase "connecting to uke's center". I personally have never thought in these terms, as I think it doesn't make sense, technically, philosophically, or otherwise. Technically, there are much better ways to describe how to execute a technique using terms such as momentum, balance, speed, weight, etc. Besides, what exactly is uke's center? His center of gravity? Physical center? Spiritual center? What exactly does it mean to connect to it, and how exactly does one do that? What do you think?

Part of the reason for ambiguity in Aikido is the overlapping of explanations for the different parts of Aikido.
For me it is very helpful to separate Aikido as three distinct parts; body, mind, spirit and place the explanation into one of these three parts. Uke has a physical center, mental center and spiritual center. To understand you have to distinguish whether the explanation is applying to the physical, mental or spiritual.

David

Rupert Atkinson
04-10-2008, 03:21 AM
I have my own interpretation of centre, and as far as I can tell, most of the other interpretations I hear explained are different. I might be right or might be wrong, but this is one of the reasons few in Aikido really understand what they are doing. I cringe when I hear some teachers rattling on about 'centre' when it is blatantly obvious from what they do that they have not got the slightest clue. And how do I know that my idea is right or not? Where is the measuring stick? And though we might topple a static man who barely resists, why do we assume that we could do the same to someone bent on attacking us? Aikido is turning into Taichi for health.

happysod
04-10-2008, 05:54 AM
Hi Rupert, can't fully agree with you here. Yes there's ambiguity and misuse of many terms, but I still think they're a valid teaching/training tool for two reasons.

Firstly, once they've been explained what's meant in your system, they're a useful short-cut. I'd much rather use "drop your center" as a hint than try to go into the various bits of the body that need correcting as this leads to that heinous breed of aiki-nag (no , foot here, no, other foot, this hip down etc. etc.).

Secondly, I think the concepts which they try to describe are vague (wrong word, but I'll stick with it). My body is different to yours - for you sake I really hope this is true - so what feels right for me in a given situation will be different, although they should share a common meme. Add into the mix that each uke will change it again, as will the attack and I think trying for too much precision leads to a nightmare. Codifying things does lead to errors.

Aikido is turning into Taichi for health.only if you remove the "joyfully try to take the other persons head off" from your training

Erick Mead
04-10-2008, 07:08 AM
"joyfully try to take the other persons head off" Ooh. I like that.

Sensei: NO. No No. Not like that. With JOY. Once again -- with more feeling!

Student: But, Sensei, I've already taken his head off

Sensei: Well, then he won't mind it, will he?

Budd
04-10-2008, 09:22 AM
In some ways, it only matters how you define it within your practice group. However, if you're trying to tie it back to its historical roots, maybe there's something to looking at how connecting your hands and feet to your center/middle is historically trained in aikido, in other martial arts - and how that leads into controlling/manipulating/directing another person's center.

Or, you can just apply whatever definition makes you feel good ;)

Mike Sigman
04-10-2008, 02:04 PM
What I have observed in dojos and on the internet is exactly that. Ambiguity has led some people down the wrong path, letting them imagine whatever it is that connecting to the center is (among other terms, like KI), while having very sloppy Aikido.

If you want to convey a though to your students, then you must be clear. If you want them to find the answer for themselves, then you can ask them questions, problems, or just not teach that aspect at all.

So, how could one convey the same idea without using the term "center", or any of the other foreign words, such as "tanden, chakra, seika no itten, etc." Hi John:

It's fascinating to read the posts in this thread. :) "Ki" is a word that was a best-attempt, long ago, to describe various phenomena. Before there was much knowledge of physics and mechanics. But it was an attempt to be accurate, not vague. In other words, when you read traditional/classical descriptions about "ki", you can rest assured that they are trying to describe something functional, not figurative/rhetorical/fantastic. In terms of our own and present descriptions, "ki" is not so accurate, comparatively, so we don't use it. But my point is that even though "ki" is not very well understood or defined, the descriptions of it were meant to be accurate, not ambiguous.

The same thing with "connecting to the center". It is a literal description and it has a lot to do with what ki/kokyu refer to. I'll try to give a couple of simple examples (without trying to cover every possible situation, of course):

If you and I stand facing each other, e.g. like wrestler, and you grab me firmly so that our to bodies are connected, our centers are then connected so that I can directly move your center by moving my center and directing my focus of movement on doing so. Moving my own center is far more powerful than if I just try to move my arms. Using my center to move your center cuts to the chase... that's where your kuzushi is focused anyway.

If you and I shake hands firmly and back away slightly so that there is a tension-connection that goes from my center, up through the torso to shoulder to arm to our hands, up your arm to shoulder through torso to your center.... then our centers are again connected so that I can move your center by moving my center and focusing the directions of forces accordingly. It is far easier to pull you by moving my center than by using arms, etc.

If there is a slackness somewhere in the connection between centers, then ideally something should be done to regain the connection. For instance, a joint-lock should wind through Uke's body so that you once again have control of Uke's center and hence his stability. Or perhaps we configure a position that forces Uke's shoulder's to twist and suddenly we have control of Uke's center/hips through the twisted torso. And so on. Of course, there are other instances where you might, for instance, simply stick out your foot and trip Uke, but we're talking about control of Uke during techniques.

"Connecting to the center" is a quite literal and necessary thing to do. And learning to configure your forces, your sourcing of forces, the purity of your forces, and so on, is all of what ki and kokyu are about.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

John Matsushima
04-11-2008, 09:39 AM
In my experience in Japan, I have also encountered various terms describing different aspects of the center, but never any in terms of connecting to the uke's center. However, my Japanese is not that great, so I would like to ask those more fluent if they have ever used in teaching, or been taught in Japanese to "connect to the uke's center". I have been taught things similar to the what Mike Sigman described, concerning taking out the slack and moving with my tanden, but no mention of the uke's center was made, only of my own. So, from my experience and study, while i can understand concepts such as chushin, and the one point, I doubt the validity of the concept of connecting to the uke's center.

I may be mistaken, but I cannot recall any writings in which Ueshiba Sensei referred to the center in this manner, either. Perhaps someone could correct me, but as I recall, when he spoke about the uke's center, it was about drawing uke's attack away from it, and thereby weakening his strength. Any input on that?

One question I have in relation to "connecting to uke's center", is that once connected, why is the advantage given to nage to control uke at this point? If it is the connection from nage's center to the uke's center that allows control, shouldn't uke be able to use that very connection to control the nage as well?

Ron Tisdale
04-11-2008, 09:52 AM
Hi John, I'm not able to answer most of your questions but:

If it is the connection from nage's center to the uke's center that allows control, shouldn't uke be able to use that very connection to control the nage as well?

Yes, that can happen, and sometimes does. One of the methods of kaeshi waza, though more advanced, in my opinion. One of the reasons some Daito ryu exponents disagree with aikido, by the way. When some people "connect to center" they do it in a very paralyzing, or crushing, or penetrating way, to prevent just what you are talking about. Others are very soft, you don't even know what they are doing, so you can't really turn it against them easily. When I felt some of Ikeda Sensei's waza, it was like this. You didn't know he had your center...he would pause, ask you if he had your center, you would say no...and then you were flying. Really quite sophisticated...

Best,
Ron

jennifer paige smith
04-11-2008, 09:56 AM
my teachers from Shingu, Japan talk frequently about connecting to the heart, or center as one translation that was offered by that same teacher mentioned, as the point of conection. To do so is to connect to that which compels them. On a more base level that involves timing, pure physical ability at the point of physical contact.
In my experiences over the years with many people talking about connecting to uke's center ( so, yeah, i guess I've heard it quite a bit to answer another of your q's) it was when this teacher from Shingu expanded the concept of center as not only how others are speaking of it in this forum, but as the place where our hearts reside, that it took on a new dimension that I coud grow into.

One advantage is that you know their heart, or motive, and you can repond before they are completely aware of their own intentions. Get behind them early.
As well as the phase in training where we begin to unite centers to a higher spiral of movement. I think this is a line of reason where you might find some of what O'Sensei has to say about center.

Oh yeah, the Uke/Nage relationship is fairly ephemeral in stages; distinctions that interchange very quickly. I would again point to timing as to what creates control in this question of dynamics.

But the answer is to train and find out for yourself what the whole concept turns into.

jennifer paige smith
04-11-2008, 10:03 AM
When I felt some of Ikeda Sensei's waza, it was like this. You didn't know he had your center...he would pause, ask you if he had your center, you would say no...and then you were flying. Really quite sophisticated...

Best,
Ron

Kind of brings to mind how many other things we think we're sure of, only to discover there was so much more in there.
Experiences like the on you described create so much faith in my practice and I love it. How much more do we really know that we aren't willing, or capable, of recognizing? ( that last sentence is rhetoric..just so ya know :) .

enjoy the day.

Larry Cuvin
04-11-2008, 10:23 AM
"Connecting to the center"
What center, who's center? Coming from what I've learned so far (may be not much yet), since the universe is infinite, I can say that I am the center of the universe and extend ki on all direction infinitely. My uke in his mind can also be the center of the universe and likewise extend ki on all direction as I am. When a technique is performed, we form a new center, we are both the center of the universe, both extending ki on all direction. There is no me, nor him. We are one and thus move as one, no collision, no resistance, no dissension. This is how I look at this.
When my sensei performs a technique on me, properly resisting (extending ki at my level) does not even affect him- I get led and the next thing I know, I'm on the ground even with the fullest intention of staying upright.
Just my take on the matter.

Mike Sigman
04-11-2008, 10:52 AM
In my experience in Japan, I have also encountered various terms describing different aspects of the center, but never any in terms of connecting to the uke's center. However, my Japanese is not that great, so I would like to ask those more fluent if they have ever used in teaching, or been taught in Japanese to "connect to the uke's center". I have been taught things similar to the what Mike Sigman described, concerning taking out the slack and moving with my tanden, but no mention of the uke's center was made, only of my own. So, from my experience and study, while i can understand concepts such as chushin, and the one point, I doubt the validity of the concept of connecting to the uke's center. Hi John:

Well, "connecting to Uke's center" means making his center a part of your center. His attack therefore becomes a part of you and what you control. If his center is not under your control (and there are a number of ways to control his center, from crude to very refined), then you are dealing with a loose cannon. Upon touch (or even before, at high levels), you want to "blend" with his center so that you are like one four-legged animal and you are the controlling part of the animal. Generally, the better the connection, the better the control, but that's not necessary to discuss in the general point. I may be mistaken, but I cannot recall any writings in which Ueshiba Sensei referred to the center in this manner, either. Perhaps someone could correct me, but as I recall, when he spoke about the uke's center, it was about drawing uke's attack away from it, and thereby weakening his strength. Any input on that? Look at this drawing where I've indicated that Uke's center is a ball resting on a 4-legged stool. The problem is that the stool only has 2 legs, so it's missing 2 and is therefore open to off-balancing in a number of directions (including "up", since there are no stool legs going to the ceiling). So "drawing uke's attack away from his center" is essentially saying "kuzushi" and from the stool-drawing you can see that there are many ways to affect Uke's balance.
http://www.neijia.com/ConnectCenter.jpg

You move the combined centers like they are connected with a straight line or bar between them, even though the actual connection is through the torsos, arms, etc.
One question I have in relation to "connecting to uke's center", is that once connected, why is the advantage given to nage to control uke at this point? If it is the connection from nage's center to the uke's center that allows control, shouldn't uke be able to use that very connection to control the nage as well?Well, once Uke initiates an attack, he has a force going in a certain direction. No matter what technique you use, you want to connect to his center so that you and he are ONE center and the combination movement that you make with your center adds to his so that there is a resultant movement which ends up in Uke being thrown, put into a lock, and so on. In other words, we could say that Uke cannot really attack you because he becomes a part of you, if you "aiki" correctly.

Best.

Mike

phitruong
04-11-2008, 10:57 AM
every time someone said connecting my center to uke center, i have the urge to plan my fist or my foot into the other person gut. I know, I am still working on the peace and harmony stuffs. Peace and harmony would be so much easier if i didn't have to fight for it. :)

Aiki1
04-11-2008, 11:30 AM
Did O Sensei speak of connecting Uke's center other than "leading their attack away from it etc.?"

Only those who were there would know, I think. The way he spoke about Aikido, as it is available to us, is more general and philosophical, rather than focusing on specific points of training and execution etc. As far as leading Uke's power away from their center, Tohei certainly has addressed this concept, at least, in his "the mind leads the body" training methodologies.

Connecting to Uke's center, for me, has to do, on the most basic physical level, with the skill to work with the core that is ultimately generating the intention (consciously or unconsciously) rather than overly focusing on the outer expression of that intention, i.e., the part of the body that is manifesting the attack. Try and throw someone who is either very strong or doesn't care about pain with a kotegaeshi by only focusing on the hand and wrist, and it can be difficult. Kinesthetically and energetically connect to their center and move that, or for me, allow that to move, and it is a different story altogether. Two completely different approaches, with different dynamics of connection, interaction, and kuzushi involved. The feeling and experience for both Uke and Nage is also very different.

To paraphrase an old saying - watch the sword, die by the sword....

As far as Uke having a potential advantage if they are also connected to Nage's center - it depends on how they attack, and how much Nage knows about their own center, connecting, tracking, moving, and leading, among other things. The more Uke is able to attack from their own center, and attack Nage's center, the more skill it takes Nage to connect to Uke's center in a way that will allow for kuzushi to happen. It's yet a "higher level" of Aiki, which is what it's all about.

For me, connecting to Uke's center is such an important, core, and deep aspect of what Aikido is for me, that it is every aspect of my teaching, and quite experiential and "obvious" during training.

Budd
04-11-2008, 12:48 PM
Since we're on the subject of connecting to uke's center and what that could specifically mean. How are people specifically training themselves to be able to do that? Aiki Taiso? Waza? Having an open heart? Suburi? Randori?

Is it something you have to train within yourself first? Or maybe better put, do you need to be able to first connect your center throughout your body before you can engage another's? If not, are you just training to deal with someone else -- does most of your training rely on having a partner?

How have you formed this/these methodologies? Your best guess? Your interpretation of a translation of what Ueshiba wrote/said? What your teacher told you?

Ron Tisdale
04-11-2008, 12:55 PM
Hi Budd,

When training by myself, try to find different ways to take the slack out of my body. All kinds of things can work for this...Dan's / Aunkai methods, Mike's methods, suburi, yoga, all kinds of things. Problem is me getting a clue...

When training with other partners, try to find different ways to take the slack out of both of our bodies. Sometimes I have to hit them first... :D

My best guess is probably first on the list. Listening to others, then trying it, then giving up, then trying again...

Best,
Ron

MM
04-11-2008, 01:12 PM
Since we're on the subject of connecting to uke's center and what that could specifically mean. How are people specifically training themselves to be able to do that? Aiki Taiso? Waza? Having an open heart? Suburi? Randori?


Specific Training: Working on exercises that develop structure.

Aiki Taiso: Yes, in a manner of speaking. However, I've modified them to build suit, ground, and structure.

Waza: Egads, not yet. I think in another year, I will be able to do this in waza.

Open heart: Er, not so much. More like intent driven.

Suburi: Not yet. Maybe in 6 months to a year. Gotta have integration in the body first. Otherwise things fall apart and I use muscle.


Is it something you have to train within yourself first? Or maybe better put, do you need to be able to first connect your center throughout your body before you can engage another's? If not, are you just training to deal with someone else -- does most of your training rely on having a partner?


Within first: Yes, definitely. I find that if I build structure, connecting to center happens as a byproduct.

Connect center inside first: I don't view it that way, no. I view it as 6 direction training, suit training, and ground training within and when I've got that going, connect to center just sort of happens.

Partner:Yes and no. There are solo exercises and paired exercises. Both are important for me right now.


How have you formed this/these methodologies? Your best guess? Your interpretation of a translation of what Ueshiba wrote/said? What your teacher told you?

How: Heh. Dan and Mike.

Guess: At what?

Interpretation Ueshiba: Wacko religious fruitcake. ;) No, just kidding. Seriously, I don't have the background to even guess at this point.

Teacher: I'm still trying to figure out what my teachers have told me. I'm a bit slow, but I overcome that with being tenacious. :)

Mark

Budd
04-11-2008, 01:33 PM
Ron, that's a fair answer - so are you trying to develop a "singular" method for yourself to follow and stick to? Or are you taking some of "this" and "that"? Do you have a definite yardstick or criteria for measuring the progress you want to make, beyond "not sucking"? ;)

Myself, I'm just working the basics as I was shown at the seminar in Feb, despite having seen some "other stuff". I'm pretty intent on trying to stick with one logical progression - I don't know that I'm at a place where I can synthesize a number of these approaches - or even speak with authority on who's doing what or who has the same "stuff".

I can feel measurable progress with what I'm doing, so for now, that's plenty enough. And for me, since I'm on the road so much, a lot of my time is solo work, then level setting with people when I'm able. But it's very much (my best attempt) at staying line with what we did in February.

I do remain very curious as to what others are doing as well (including you other bums what was there in Feb, too ;) ) . . especially since I remember some particular phrases revolving around one's hands, feet, middle and coordinated movement. To me, that's been as clear a definition as I've gotten regarding "connecting to center".

Budd
04-11-2008, 01:38 PM
Connect center inside first: I don't view it that way, no. I view it as 6 direction training, suit training, and ground training within and when I've got that going, connect to center just sort of happens.


Hmm . . just sorta happens - is that like a byproduct, i.e. something that you're not concerned about? Are you willfully training 6 directions, suit and ground all at once, in pieces, etc? How are you describing connect to center?

Ron Tisdale
04-11-2008, 01:48 PM
I guess I feel a certain affinity for some of the Aunkai exercises and postures, and I try to focus on "open and close" and bringing the ground while doing them. Goals? What Goals??? There is no goal, only the pursuit! :D

B,
R (still suck, but hey, what else is there?)

Budd
04-11-2008, 01:53 PM
Ron, I can agree with you in the broader sense of the "journey" being important . . . but I find that little goals/checkpoints along the way can really help me enjoy the view from road a bit more clearly ;)

ChrisMoses
04-11-2008, 02:06 PM
Did O Sensei speak of connecting Uke's center other than "leading their attack away from it etc.?"



While certainly it's speculation, I believe when he said by nonresistance in Aikido he meant that your attacker becomes "a partner you control only" that center to center contact was a critical component in that. In that way, I do believe that center to center contact is nearly critical in any aiki event *where contact is made*. I'm going to limit my discussion there just for clarity and because it's my belief that if you can't to aiki through contact, you can't do any of the woo-woo no touchie stuff.

MM
04-11-2008, 02:12 PM
Hmm . . just sorta happens - is that like a byproduct, i.e. something that you're not concerned about? Are you willfully training 6 directions, suit and ground all at once, in pieces, etc? How are you describing connect to center?

Yeah, sort of a byproduct. For example, if I'm working from a same side grab (katate dori for you aikido addicts), right side, then I'm trying to keep structure as I step to my right. If I can keep my wrist as my dantien and the groundpath clean, then uke just seems to go with me and can't let go. It's sort of a sticky feeling. But it isn't anything I'm actively trying to do. Besides trying to make my wrist feel like it's my dantien, I'm also trying to get the 6 direction thing going (which works groundpath, too). So, yeah, it's pretty much all at once if I can get it.

Mark

Budd
04-11-2008, 02:21 PM
Yeah, sort of a byproduct. For example, if I'm working from a same side grab (katate dori for you aikido addicts), right side, then I'm trying to keep structure as I step to my right. If I can keep my wrist as my dantien and the groundpath clean, then uke just seems to go with me and can't let go. It's sort of a sticky feeling. But it isn't anything I'm actively trying to do. Besides trying to make my wrist feel like it's my dantien, I'm also trying to get the 6 direction thing going (which works groundpath, too). So, yeah, it's pretty much all at once if I can get it.

Mark

Do you always train them all at once, or did you have to learn the pieces first . . . can each piece be tested, or does it only manifest appropriately when you have them all going?

MM
04-11-2008, 02:25 PM
Do you always train them all at once, or did you have to learn the pieces first . . . can each piece be tested, or does it only manifest appropriately when you have them all going?

I consider myself lucky when I have them all going at once. :) So, yeah, I've trained them separately. Although, not on purpose but because I just couldn't get it all going at once. So, a step at a time.

I don't know that each piece can be tested separately. I haven't been able to do that very well. Usually when something works, it's because i've got most of these things going at once. Then I slip on one or two and everything goes to pieces. :)

Budd
04-11-2008, 04:09 PM
Mark, how are you defining when something "works"? Is it based on feats or feeling? Or something else?

MM
04-11-2008, 07:24 PM
Mark, how are you defining when something "works"? Is it based on feats or feeling? Or something else?

I work with Chris. I hope you remember him. Ask Ron about working with him. :) If I can move Chris, something is working. So I rely on feedback from Chris on what's happening. He'll note if he felt like the movement was sticky and he couldn't let go. He'll tell me if it felt like muscle. When it works, he usually says something like I didn't feel much but I had to move and I couldn't let go. :) And, of course, when he's working on this stuff, I do the same. Some times, though, you just feel or know when it works right.

I guess, the short answer is I have feedback from myself and a practice partner.

Aiki1
04-11-2008, 07:33 PM
One way to approach this is to first be clear about the experience of one's own center. Learning Tohel Sensei's "one-point" exercises is a good place to at least start. This should provide a palpable experience of what it feels like to "keep" and move from one's center, and the ability to reproduce the feeling/experience.

Once one has a good sense and understanding of that, I think it's important to find someone who can induct you into the experience and awareness of connecting to another's center and doing Aikido. Again, there are some Ki society exercises that start to go down this road. We have exercises that are specifically designed for it (and more), something I call Ki Musubi Undo, that has a specific process that leads to the experience of being in and moving from one's center, connected to one's partner's as well, and moving with them with what we call Kinesthetic Invisibility (not giving any physical reference for Uke to feel, react to, or use to counter.) The feedback is clear and immediate.

Budd
04-11-2008, 09:40 PM
I work with Chris. I hope you remember him. Ask Ron about working with him. :) If I can move Chris, something is working. So I rely on feedback from Chris on what's happening. He'll note if he felt like the movement was sticky and he couldn't let go. He'll tell me if it felt like muscle. When it works, he usually says something like I didn't feel much but I had to move and I couldn't let go. :) And, of course, when he's working on this stuff, I do the same. Some times, though, you just feel or know when it works right.

I guess, the short answer is I have feedback from myself and a practice partner.

Of course I remember Chris, sorry I didn't get to work with him :) So are you working on six-directions, suit and ground when you move him? How are you moving him, etc. Yes, I know, I'm being persnickity . . . But it's related to this thread, where we're asking for specifics. For instance, I'm happy, at this point if I can ground a push and be able to move back into it or redirect it.

I don't know about asking Ron stuff . . . he keeps saying how much he sucks ;) *runs, ducks and hides . . quack*

MM
04-11-2008, 09:57 PM
Of course I remember Chris, sorry I didn't get to work with him :) So are you working on six-directions, suit and ground when you move him? How are you moving him, etc. Yes, I know, I'm being persnickity . . . But it's related to this thread, where we're asking for specifics. For instance, I'm happy, at this point if I can ground a push and be able to move back into it or redirect it.

I don't know about asking Ron stuff . . . he keeps saying how much he sucks ;) *runs, ducks and hides . . quack*

I think I echo both you and Ron in that I'm just a beginner at this stuff. If Chris uses any ground at all, I'm pretty much stuck. But, if we work with, say 10 pounds of force from muscle, it helps a lot. Especially in moving exercises. And I should restate that I don't "move" Chris. When things work, I move and Chris just sort of moves with me. :) I really have to unfocus my attention on trying to do *something* to Chris. I have to just be *me* and be the best I can at that. Sound familiar?

In the moving exercises, I find that the 6 directions sort of incorporates the ground, so I don't really focus all that much on "grounding". In the katate dori example, I focus on 6 directions and also on having my wrist be my dantien. The hard part is the right shoulder socket. Not the muscles, but the actual socket itself. It has too much play and really creates havok on movement. So, part of the 6 directions, I have to now focus a bit more on the upper cross and the pushing out while pulling in.

I find that if I think of the actual shoulder part sort of being pulled into the socket and clicking there, it helps. But, whatever visualization works ... ya know. :)

I get maybe 1 out of 10 good moves. The rest is either total crap or real close to total crap. LOL. And maybe 1 out of 25, I get something just like air. I move and don't feel anything at all -- just me moving. But remember, as uke, we're using low force that's mostly muscle and no ground.

Budd
04-12-2008, 08:38 AM
Thanks for the detailed description, Mark (sings, "I gotta be mmeeee" -- nope, no idea what you're talking about ;) ) . .

One thing, though . . if you're focusing on the wrist BEING the dantien -- isn't that "connecting to the center"? Would it maybe be worthwhile to look at just that piece? (hence the topic of the thread) Do you have to also be doing the pushout/pulling in, six directions, alongside it to achieve the "budo body"?

(and folks, I'm bugging Mark cause he's my boy and I haven't seen/spoken to him in a while - so he gets all my grief at once *lucky you, Mr. Murray* -- but I'm curious, too, what other folks do to physically train to "connect the center" -- do you not care? is it only one piece? can it only be explained by PHD's in physics?)

MM
04-12-2008, 09:17 AM
Thanks for the detailed description, Mark (sings, "I gotta be mmeeee" -- nope, no idea what you're talking about ;) ) . .

One thing, though . . if you're focusing on the wrist BEING the dantien -- isn't that "connecting to the center"? Would it maybe be worthwhile to look at just that piece? (hence the topic of the thread) Do you have to also be doing the pushout/pulling in, six directions, alongside it to achieve the "budo body"?


Hmmm ... just focusing on the wrist being the dantien? I don't really know. I think maybe, if you're intent is focused such that you are using a whole body approach to the wrist being the dantien, it'd probably work. It's that mind moving the body thing. For me, I have trouble with that darn shoulder socket. So, what has helped me has been focusing on the 6 direction thing at the same time.


(and folks, I'm bugging Mark cause he's my boy and I haven't seen/spoken to him in a while - so he gets all my grief at once *lucky you, Mr. Murray* -- but I'm curious, too, what other folks do to physically train to "connect the center" -- do you not care? is it only one piece? can it only be explained by PHD's in physics?)

Heh, no grief here. Just trying to put down in electrons what I do in training. As hard as some of this stuff is, I find it's harder to put down in writing what I'm doing.

And I've found that I can do the below exercise one time and be completely ungrounded/movable and yet do the same thing again and be grounded/unmovable. Weird. I think there are minute adjustments being made that I'm just not really understanding still that allows things within my body to work properly. There really is a level of intent here that you just have to have for this stuff to work. And unfortunately, no amount of Internet/words/video will give it to you. I've changed how I do shiko quite a few times now and each time the exercise has gotten harder, not easier.

Exercise:
Focus intent/energy on pushing out through the arms at the same time as I'm letting intent/energy come back through the arms. Stretching the spine as if a hook is in my head and I'm being pulled upwards while at the same time, intent/energy is going downwards into the ground.

Allen Beebe
04-12-2008, 10:57 AM
I've found that I can do the below exercise one time and be completely ungrounded/movable and yet do the same thing again and be grounded/unmovable. Weird.

If this is your description of the shizentai chest push exercise. I can totally relate! Although once I nail it and go back gleefully to "do it again" and then get pushed over relatively easily, "Weird" is not the phrase I usually utter!! :grr:

Allen Beebe
04-12-2008, 11:10 AM
It is amazing to me, and a seemingly un-ending source of frustration, how one can go, "Pop," "Pop," "Pop," and then a resounding "Splat." As if one's mind and body had nothing to do with, and no knowledge of, or clue about, the successes that came before.

Sometimes it feels as though one were groping in the dark and comes across "the thing" can reach back to confirm, "Yes, there it is." and then lose track of it and go right back to groping in the dark again. One can only hope that they are closer to the "area in question" than they were the last time they groped.

This is pretty much a description of my entire career.

Although when my sensei was alive, in his presence I felt like things were nailed down almost iron clad. When I would leave his presence that confidence (and to a good degree the results) would go away. He died in 1993 so you can imagine how I've felt since then . . . boo hoo!

John Matsushima
04-12-2008, 11:20 AM
I think I echo both you and Ron in that I'm just a beginner at this stuff. If Chris uses any ground at all, I'm pretty much stuck. But, if we work with, say 10 pounds of force from muscle, it helps a lot. Especially in moving exercises. And I should restate that I don't "move" Chris. When things work, I move and Chris just sort of moves with me. :) I really have to unfocus my attention on trying to do *something* to Chris. I have to just be *me* and be the best I can at that. Sound familiar?


Hello Mark, I think that you're on to something when you say that when things work, the uke just sort of moves with you. This has been my way of thinking. I don't focus on doing anything to the uke. I found that when you focus on connecting and attempting to control the uke's center, it just results in failure or struggle because uke is trying to do the same thing. Uke provides any connection needed with his attack. I create a form in changing myself, and uke is left with two options, keep attacking and lose his balance until he hits the floor, or cease his attack and his balance will return.
On a different note, you mentioned in your last post that you are having trouble making stuff work on a consistent basis with regard to your intent. I still have trouble with this too. This is excellent practice for developing the spirit, I think. I'm sure I could make a leap to another level if i could just stop "trying" to do techniques. I worked with one sensei at a Man Sei Do dojo, who had a really great exercise for that. He would stand in front of me and grab me as in katate dori, and then i would proceed to move in different ways as how Mike Sigman described concerning taking out the slack. The thing was when i began to move, he could instantly feel my intention and say "No, you have ego; No, you have power in your shoulder, No, you're not moving with your center, No, No No. It was almost funny because i was so suprised at how he could read me. And the moments when I did move him with correct body, mind and spirit, it was like i wasn't doing anything at all, just moving. I started to think to myself "I got it!" NO! Sensei chimed in. ha ha ha.

Hi John:

Well, "connecting to Uke's center" means making his center a part of your center. His attack therefore becomes a part of you and what you control. If his center is not under your control (and there are a number of ways to control his center, from crude to very refined), then you are dealing with a loose cannon...

Hello Mike, thank you for your drawing and your comments. I am familiar with the concepts you described, but I have found that uke can be moved in any direction, not only in the direction in which the stool does not have legs. Uke can also lose his balance by toppling over one of the legs; for example if uke's center is completely shifted over his rear leg, and he maintains the connection as I move past him, he falls backward. I agree with just about everything you said up until the last part. I used to think the way you described, but found out that control is just an illusion. Uke unbalances himself through his attack. His attack is an attempt to manipulate, control, or destroy my center. Someone once told me when i first started Aikido, that it was a was an art of manipulating one's opponent. I was offended by that, but now i can understand that point of view. When we describe Aikido in terms of connecting to and controlling uke's center, it sounds like exactly that - manipulation. So, now Aikido is now broken down to a struggle for control. It is hard enough to control one's self, much less another. Aiki is not about joining with the attacker (why would I want to join with evil, anyway?), it is about proper alignment within one's self, mind, body, and spirit, and finally with the universe. So, as the uke increases his strength in his attack, he distances himself from his center; the stronger his attack, the more vulnerable/ off balance he becomes. Here we have a connection, but only one center. The rest results in how i described above; i move freely, uke either keeps attacking and fails (completely loses his balance) or he returns to a peaceful state in harmony with the universe.
Technically what i am describing, i think is 95% identical to what you described and demonstrated in your drawing. The difference is mainly in perception and intention. And so far what I have learned is that the actions we do, and the way we live our lives are determined 10% by the decisions we make, and 90% by what's in our hearts.

I'm sorry for making this too long. I usually try to keep it short, but thanks for reading and for everyone's comments.

John つかれた!

Stefan Stenudd
04-12-2008, 07:17 PM
Since we're on the subject of connecting to uke's center and what that could specifically mean. How are people specifically training themselves to be able to do that?
I would say that you need to develop your own center (tanden) before being able to connect to that of your partner.
One of the best exercises I know for training one's center is bokken suburi - basic chudangiri. Start with your bokken in chudankamae, in front of your center, raise it to jodankamae, over your head, and cut down to chudankamae. Again and again...
You can do it slowly, too. Very slowly, so that it takes several minutes to go through one chudangiri.

Sword art training also helps in connecting with the partner's center. Start from both persons meeting at chudankamae. Whatever you do from there, such exercises will increase your awareness of your partner's center - as will, actually, any aikido technique.

In the aikido techniques, grip attacks are better than strikes, when you want to learn to get in touch with your partner's center, simply because you have closer contact in those.
Suwarikokyuho is a particularly rewarding exercise.

Mike Sigman
04-12-2008, 07:50 PM
He would stand in front of me and grab me as in katate dori, and then i would proceed to move in different ways as how Mike Sigman described concerning taking out the slack. The thing was when i began to move, he could instantly feel my intention and say "No, you have ego; No, you have power in your shoulder, No, you're not moving with your center, No, No No. It was almost funny because i was so suprised at how he could read me. And the moments when I did move him with correct body, mind and spirit, it was like i wasn't doing anything at all, just moving. I started to think to myself "I got it!" NO! Sensei chimed in. ha ha ha. Hi John:

Actually, I simply laid out the idea of what "connecting to someone's center" means. If you are connected, you don't need to move, if you have ki/kokyu skills, but I was only trying to answer your question about the importance of "connecting" in general terms. Hello Mike, thank you for your drawing and your comments. I am familiar with the concepts you described, but I have found that uke can be moved in any direction, not only in the direction in which the stool does not have legs. Uke can also lose his balance by toppling over one of the legs; for example if uke's center is completely shifted over his rear leg, and he maintains the connection as I move past him, he falls backward. Well, yes, of course that's true. I agree with just about everything you said up until the last part. I used to think the way you described, but found out that control is just an illusion. Uke unbalances himself through his attack. His attack is an attempt to manipulate, control, or destroy my center. Someone once told me when i first started Aikido, that it was a was an art of manipulating one's opponent. I was offended by that, but now i can understand that point of view. When we describe Aikido in terms of connecting to and controlling uke's center, it sounds like exactly that - manipulation. So, now Aikido is now broken down to a struggle for control. It is hard enough to control one's self, much less another. Aiki is not about joining with the attacker (why would I want to join with evil, anyway?), it is about proper alignment within one's self, mind, body, and spirit, and finally with the universe. So, as the uke increases his strength in his attack, he distances himself from his center; the stronger his attack, the more vulnerable/ off balance he becomes. Here we have a connection, but only one center. The rest results in how i described above; i move freely, uke either keeps attacking and fails (completely loses his balance) or he returns to a peaceful state in harmony with the universe.
Technically what i am describing, i think is 95% identical to what you described and demonstrated in your drawing. The difference is mainly in perception and intention. And so far what I have learned is that the actions we do, and the way we live our lives are determined 10% by the decisions we make, and 90% by what's in our hearts.Well, John, obviously we see it differently. If you don't control Uke's center through some attachment, you don't control his balance. You should be able to lightly touch someone and without moving take his balance. But the road there is through learning how to connect to his center. You asked what was the importance of "Ambiguous: Connecting to Center" and I was simply telling you why.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

G DiPierro
04-12-2008, 09:08 PM
Hello Mark, I think that you're on to something when you say that when things work, the uke just sort of moves with you. This has been my way of thinking. I don't focus on doing anything to the uke.This is true, but not because you are not doing anything. That would be like just randomly picking a stock and then when it goes up saying, "See, there's really no art to it at all. When you pick it right it just goes up without any effort." In fact, it just feels effortless, but actually requires a lot of effort to be effective in a real situation.

I found that when you focus on connecting and attempting to control the uke's center, it just results in failure or struggle because uke is trying to do the same thing.Perhaps your lack of success is the result of a lack of skill rather than the fact that what you are trying to do is not possible.

Uke provides any connection needed with his attack.Maybe in the typical aikido dojo with its overcooperative ukemi this is true. The real world is somewhat different.

I create a form in changing myself, and uke is left with two options, keep attacking and lose his balance until he hits the floor, or cease his attack and his balance will return.What about the third option: the attacker is simply better than you and succeeds in the attack?

He would stand in front of me and grab me as in katate dori, and then i would proceed to move in different ways as how Mike Sigman described concerning taking out the slack. The thing was when i began to move, he could instantly feel my intention and say "No, you have ego; No, you have power in your shoulder, No, you're not moving with your center, No, No No. It was almost funny because i was so suprised at how he could read me. And the moments when I did move him with correct body, mind and spirit, it was like i wasn't doing anything at all, just moving. I started to think to myself "I got it!" NO! Sensei chimed in. ha ha ha.Well that's the right idea, but again if your partner can feel what you are doing and block it then you are aren't good enough, at least not relative to that opponent. So then the question is how to get better at what you call "moving with correct body, mind and spirit." Do you have a method for training this?

I used to think the way you described, but found out that control is just an illusion. Uke unbalances himself through his attack. His attack is an attempt to manipulate, control, or destroy my center.And what if it is successful? Would you say then that "defeat is just an illusion," "injuries are just an illusion," "death is just an illusion," etc.?

So, as the uke increases his strength in his attack, he distances himself from his center; the stronger his attack, the more vulnerable/ off balance he becomes.This is a very common viewpoint in aikido but it is one that is totally divorced from reality. There is no correlation between the power of an attack and its level of balance. A very powerful attack be also be very balanced. The only martial artists I have ever heard suggest otherwise are aikidoka. In most other arts, a significant aspect of training is precisely in how to be both powerful and balanced (in both attack and defense).

John Matsushima
04-13-2008, 03:08 AM
This is true, but not because you are not doing anything. That would be like just randomly picking a stock and then when it goes up saying, "See, there's really no art to it at all. When you pick it right it just goes up without any effort." In fact, it just feels effortless, but actually requires a lot of effort to be effective in a real situation.

Well, you are right to say that I am doing something, but the point is that I'm not trying to do something to the uke. Concerning effort, how much effort does a rock or the water exert when you trip/slip on it and fall on your face because you were so focused on something else? Was the rock trying to make you fall? This is the principle I'm describing. Yes, you do your best to pick the stocks, but you don't make them rise by doing so. In katate dori tenkan, it is not physically possible for uke to not move if I just turn in the opposite direction. Of course, one must move correctly, like correctly choosing a stock, that doesn't take a lot of effort. Also, the principle of using minimum effort is not unique to Aikido. And, it doesn't mean uke is overcooperative. Techniques in which one cal throw an opponent with 2 or 3 times one's own strength with minimum effort have been described in Judo as well.

Perhaps your lack of success is the result of a lack of skill rather than the fact that what you are trying to do is not possible.

Exactly my point. The reason I am not able to "control" uke's center is because of my lack of skill in the ability to control. In a battle for control, the one with the most strength, speed, power and skill will win. I cannot depend on that. If I spend all my time mastering my the ability to control,then the uke may beat me with strength, speed and power. That is why I think the idea of controlling uke's center is flawed.

Maybe in the typical aikido dojo with its overcooperative ukemi this is true. The real world is somewhat different.

Well, in the real world, I think someone who really wants to punch my face will follow it whether I move to the left, right, up, or down. If I run away, he's still coming after it, if I put my hand up to block, he's still coming after it. There's your connection.

What about the third option: the attacker is simply better than you and succeeds in the attack?

Failure is not an option.

Well that's the right idea, but again if your partner can feel what you are doing and block it then you are aren't good enough, at least not relative to that opponent. So then the question is how to get better at what you call "moving with correct body, mind and spirit." Do you have a method for training this?

The method I described is exactly that. Whenever my sensei could feel what I was doing, then I was stopped. The concept I described about not doing anything to uke is very important for this. You're exactly right, anytime the uke can feel, or otherwise sense anytime of maniputation, he will resist, in the real world. The concept of "Aikido is non-resistance" describes exactly this. Any form of resistance, manipulation, or control can be felt, and in turn countered.

And what if it is successful? Would you say then that "defeat is just an illusion," "injuries are just an illusion," "death is just an illusion," etc.?

What I mean by that is that you cannot really control anyone. You cannot control thier heart, mind, or spirit. I don't know of any martial art which can control anyone regardless of the person's strength or skill. Every control technique can be countered. What if its succesful? What is successful control? No matter what happens, the uke will continue to fight, to resist, until you kill him. Where is the control?

This is a very common viewpoint in aikido but it is one that is totally divorced from reality. There is no correlation between the power of an attack and its level of balance. A very powerful attack be also be very balanced. The only martial artists I have ever heard suggest otherwise are aikidoka. In most other arts, a significant aspect of training is precisely in how to be both powerful and balanced (in both attack and defense).

No correlation between the power of an attack and its level of balance? NO correlation??? Wouldn't you agree that an object which is moving has less stability that one which is not moving? In order to attack me, you must move; in order to add power, you must shift your center. Do you have more control over your car when you are driving at 100mph or at 5mph? In the real world, one does not decide his own stability. Physics does.
Aikido does have its problems when it comes to "real-world" applications. The reasons for this include faulty training methods, the failure of the transmission of the art, and there are many others I believe. However, the reason I don't believe that Aikido is totally divorced from reality is because its techniques come from jujutsu, and principles very close to Judo, both of which have proven very effective.

Thank you for your comments.

John

G DiPierro
04-13-2008, 04:03 AM
In katate dori tenkan, it is not physically possible for uke to not move if I just turn in the opposite direction. Of course, one must move correctly, like correctly choosing a stock, that doesn't take a lot of effort.I think I could prove you wrong, as could almost anyone who trains realisiticly. This type of movement (katatedori tenkan) is something that many people in aikido think would work the way it is normally taught but most people familiar with realistic resistance training know is almost totally based on cooperative ukemi.

Exactly my point. The reason I am not able to "control" uke's center is because of my lack of skill in the ability to control. In a battle for control, the one with the most strength, speed, power and skill will win. I cannot depend on that. If I spend all my time mastering my the ability to control,then the uke may beat me with strength, speed and power. That is why I think the idea of controlling uke's center is flawed.Sure, but that's true of any martial arts strategy or technique. Just because the opponent can beat you by being better than you doesn't mean that your technique is inherently flawed or not worth training. All training does is to increase your chances of success; it is not a guarantee. There is no magic silver bullet technique or art that is so powerful that it negates all advantages of skill, speed, power, etc.

Well, in the real world, I think someone who really wants to punch my face will follow it whether I move to the left, right, up, or down. If I run away, he's still coming after it, if I put my hand up to block, he's still coming after it. There's your connection.But how does the attacker following the movement of your face give you a connection to his center? This is the crux of this entire thread, isn't it?

Failure is not an option.No, but it is often a reality.

You're exactly right, anytime the uke can feel, or otherwise sense anytime of maniputation, he will resist, in the real world. The concept of "Aikido is non-resistance" describes exactly this. Any form of resistance, manipulation, or control can be felt, and in turn countered.Right. So again the question is how to do you move in a way that cannot be felt, resisted, or countered? In fact, it can be done, but it happens to be quite difficult to do (especially on a trained opponent) and requires a great deal of training. It is not simply a matter of "doing nothing."

What I mean by that is that you cannot really control anyone. You cannot control thier heart, mind, or spirit. I don't know of any martial art which can control anyone regardless of the person's strength or skill. Every control technique can be countered. What if its succesful? What is successful control? No matter what happens, the uke will continue to fight, to resist, until you kill him. Where is the control?I would say that in a martial context "success" is whatever is good enough to achieve your goals, whether they be simple self-preservation or something more ambitious.

No correlation between the power of an attack and its level of balance? NO correlation??? Wouldn't you agree that an object which is moving has less stability that one which is not moving? In order to attack me, you must move; in order to add power, you must shift your center. Do you have more control over your car when you are driving at 100mph or at 5mph? In the real world, one does not decide his own stability. Physics does.Is it difficult to attack both powerfully and stably? Sure, that is why people in other arts spend time training in how to do it. But to assume that an attack that is powerful will also be off-balance is dangerously out of touch with reality. Yet I have encountered many, many people in aikido who believe this. I can't tell you how many times I have been training with people who could not successfully handle an attack of minimal power ask me to attack more powerfully so that it would be easier for them to do the technique! I don't know what kind of fantasy world they are living in where increasing the speed, power, and intensity of an attack would somehow make it easier to deal with (actually, I do -- I have trained in aikido dojos!). Virtually anyone with any kind of realistic training would tell you that it makes it exponentially more difficult.

Aikido does have its problems when it comes to "real-world" applications. The reasons for this include faulty training methods, the failure of the transmission of the art, and there are many others I believe. However, the reason I don't believe that Aikido is totally divorced from reality is because its techniques come from jujutsu, and principles very close to Judo, both of which have proven very effective.I would agree with this. The problem with aikido is not the art, but the way it is taught and trained.

Thank you for your comments.You're welcome. Thanks for the response.

John Matsushima
04-13-2008, 07:18 AM
But how does the attacker following the movement of your face give you a connection to his center? This is the crux of this entire thread, isn't it?

To answer your question, I don't need a connection to uke's center. Through his attack, he connects to me. I move either before, during, or after his attack, affecting his movement, thus affecting him.

It may sound as if I've oversimplified it here, but I'm not trying to give lessons here. I'm just trying to express the principles and technical aspects necessary to support my beliefs. This does not mean that its not deeper then that. Maybe you think that I'm saying that I just flick my wrists and BULLSHIDO! uke goes flying! That would be nice but it doesn't work for me.

Perhaps I've gotten off a little bit of a tangent, so allow me to refocus.
My point in this thread is that the teaching and practicing of "connecting to the center" is incorrect. The teaching of it is often too ambiguous, and its principle is faulty. While other concepts and principles concerning the center are valid, this one is not. The reasons are that which I have already stated.

Erick Mead
04-13-2008, 10:23 AM
I'm just trying to express the principles and technical aspects necessary to support my beliefs. ...
My point in this thread is that the teaching and practicing of "connecting to the center" is incorrect. The teaching of it is often too ambiguous, and its principle is faulty. While other concepts and principles concerning the center are valid, this one is not. Let me offer something less ambiguous and much more precise. I have attached an image of an arch -- made of tangent spheres. It is simplified, but usefully so. Coulomb used this to derive the form of catenary arch (an inverted hanging chain). But the point for aikido is easily seen.

In this form the line of thrust of the weight of the spheres passes precisely through both the center of each sphere, AND precisely through the center of the connection between them. If the line of thrust passes any where else it is off-center, and then it forms a moment, and the sphere rotates. Since there is no friction between them, the spheres are free to roll -- and the arch collapses.

In aikido the equivalent to the spheres are the segments of the limbs. There is ACTIVE friction (muscular action) at the joints, but this has to be disposed to isolate eccentric loads by resistance at the joint. A spiral wave (the in-yo, kokyu form) will find -- by its nature -- any plane around the joint that lacks resistance and follow that axis -- taking the loads outside of his structure, and thus collapsing it. Conversely, if one follows that same spiral line to hold the line of thrust within the structure at the physical limits of the joints muscular "friction" -- it results in a pin.

Of course, since we are free to shift loads to one or the other leg of our structural arch as the loads on our bodies change , it is necessary to destabilize, not merely a peripheral connection, but the the keystone of the arch, the center at the top. Thus we pass that wave of instability through the opponent's structure to his center -- and follow it by immediately realigning everything on OUR side of that instability so that we are again connected from center to center to center -- and ultimately to HIS center -- and then he has no stability with which to resist wherever I choose to move and he is so connected that he cannot NOT move when I do.

G DiPierro
04-13-2008, 10:45 AM
To answer your question, I don't need a connection to uke's center. Through his attack, he connects to me. I move either before, during, or after his attack, affecting his movement, thus affecting him.If you allow him to, he will certainly connect to you, but he will do so by connecting his fist to your face. If he is good, he might also connect his center to your face through his fist. So how do you stop him from connecting in this way? One way is to first connect to his center and then control his movement. This is not the only possible way to deal with such an attack, but it is the way that should be used in aikido and other aiki arts. Of course, not everyone in aikido actually knows how to do it.

My point in this thread is that the teaching and practicing of "connecting to the center" is incorrect. The teaching of it is often too ambiguous, and its principle is faulty. While other concepts and principles concerning the center are valid, this one is not. The reasons are that which I have already stated.I'd agree that the teaching of this concept in aikido leaves a great deal to be desired. However, the principle itself is quite sound.

velovet
04-13-2008, 11:40 AM
Not an expert. Center of gravity seems to make the most sense. That is, if your efforts are to displace position and direction of the opponent.

mathewjgano
04-13-2008, 04:09 PM
To answer your question, I don't need a connection to uke's center. Through his attack, he connects to me. I move either before, during, or after his attack, affecting his movement, thus affecting him.

But we're not looking for any kind of affect over uke. We're looking for one in which we're in control. Any time I want to have complete control over an attacker, not just some part of that attacker, I have to control the center of their power. I do this by considering how I'm connected to that center. This principle is pretty sound I think.
The issue I think you have more cause to criticize is in how the teaching of this is accomplished. My experience is limited, but I disagree with you as it has applied to that experience. If I'm just pressing on nage's arm and not connecting to their center, they rotate around my force and prepare to strike me. When I am applying pressure to their center, they can't do this as easily. For me the concept has been pretty thoroughly demonstrated. Again, I'm far from an expert, but I do know what it means to try and overpower someone bigger than you and the only way to do that is by considering your connection to their center. You might consider it in different terms, but what's happening is still the same...as I understand it anyway.

Stefan Stenudd
04-13-2008, 06:03 PM
I forgot to mention one important way of developing one's center: breathing.
Exercising deep belly breathing is a very effective way of developing the center.

It is also an ingredient in connecting to the partner's center. Advanced martial artists pay attention to the breathing of the opponent. They also work on influencing the opponent with their own breathing. But that is not so easy.

John Matsushima
04-14-2008, 11:16 AM
If you allow him to, he will certainly connect to you, but he will do so by connecting his fist to your face. If he is good, he might also connect his center to your face through his fist. So how do you stop him from connecting in this way? One way is to first connect to his center and then control his movement.

1) I could step off the line of attack and enter while having my forward arm extended in the direction of his face.
2) I could irimi behind him.
3) I could tenkan in front of him while making contact with the inside of his arm and drop down as he falls into his forward right quarter (a forward sumi otoshi). Now, in the real world, I know that people don't leave their arm out hanging for me, so I won't do a complete tenkan. This done at the same time of the strike will at least get me off the line of attack. Having made contact with is arm, if he fights me or pulls back, it tightens the connection to my hands, if he does nothing with that hand but decides to attack with the other hand, he will miss me as I drop down, with his other arm.

These are but a few options of how I can not get hit while not "controlling the center". These options show what can be done without control over uke.

I would like to open this next question up to everyone. Is the principle of connecting to uke's center in Aikido a universal one? I mean, is it something that is applied in all Aikido techniques?

Something else that I have pondered is that the principle of controlling the uke's center doesn't seem to vibe into Aikido as a "do" as well. Off the mat, in daily life, is this the Aiki way, to connect and control other's centers, hearts, and minds? I don't think so. Rather, it is to open one's own heart, mind, and center, accept others' attacks, and change one's own direction (tenkan). When you get into an argument with someone, is control the way, or acceptance? When you drive, do you avoid accidents by controlling others, or by controlling yourself?

John

Aiki1
04-14-2008, 11:45 AM
1)
I would like to open this next question up to everyone. Is the principle of connecting to uke's center in Aikido a universal one? I mean, is it something that is applied in all Aikido techniques?

It depends on what "kind" of Aikido one is learning/doing. Some Aikido is just jujitsu technique, while on the other end of the spectrum, some address very deep dynamics - including everything being done from center/connection (part of musubi.)

Something else that I have pondered is that the principle of controlling the uke's center doesn't seem to vibe into Aikido as a "do" as well. Off the mat, in daily life, is this the Aiki way, to connect and control other's centers, hearts, and minds? I don't think so. Rather, it is to open one's own heart, mind, and center, accept others' attacks, and change one's own direction (tenkan). When you get into an argument with someone, is control the way, or acceptance? When you drive, do you avoid accidents by controlling others, or by controlling yourself?

John

One of the most subtle aspects of Aiki involves Allowing someone to do exactly what they "want to" and understanding how strategically, positionally, energetically, and technically, how to Allow them to lose their center (if appropriate), not be "doing something to them" but by "being With them." This is a much deeper Aikido, on the mat and in life.

mathewjgano
04-14-2008, 05:16 PM
When you get into an argument with someone, is control the way, or acceptance? When you drive, do you avoid accidents by controlling others, or by controlling yourself?

John

In my opinion it's both. The power of persuasion is a form of control, but it usually relies upon some level of acceptance of the other person too. The persuasive arguer accepts some aspects of the other person's position in order to change other aspects of it.
Control is an elusive concept here I think. Certainly in the sense that we're trying to prevent uke from harming us, we're controling their actions. But they still have free will to change their own course of action however they can, whenever they can. This is where acceptance comes in. Whether it's arguing or "fighting" it is crucial to accept the natural strengths of the other person's position.

mathewjgano
04-14-2008, 05:22 PM
These are but a few options of how I can not get hit while not "controlling the center". These options show what can be done without control over uke.

But aren't you still controlling uke? In each of those cases you're applying pressure to uke and uke's center. It's just choosing to apply control at a different time (after the attack).

G DiPierro
04-14-2008, 05:39 PM
1) I could step off the line of attack and enter while having my forward arm extended in the direction of his face.OK, so you enter with your arm towards his face. What happens next? If you have no control over his center, he can still continue to attack.

2) I could irimi behind him.OK, so now you are behind him. Great. Next he turns around and strikes again, or hits you with an elbow as he turns.

3) I could tenkan in front of him while making contact with the inside of his arm and drop down as he falls into his forward right quarter (a forward sumi otoshi).Why would he fall forward if you have no control over his center? He wouldn't.

Now, in the real world, I know that people don't leave their arm out hanging for me, so I won't do a complete tenkan. This done at the same time of the strike will at least get me off the line of attack. Having made contact with is arm, if he fights me or pulls back, it tightens the connection to my hands, if he does nothing with that hand but decides to attack with the other hand, he will miss me as I drop down, with his other arm.Sounds to me like your strategy pretty much comes down to evasion. That's fine, but it's not aiki, nor is it aikido. As I said, there are many possible ways to respond to a strike. You can take any strategy you want. However, the fact that you choose not use aiki does not invalidate aiki as a martial principle.

These are but a few options of how I can not get hit while not "controlling the center". These options show what can be done without control over uke.You could also step off the line and punch him in the kidney. This would be the type of strategy that many martial arts take, and it too can be effective without controlling the attacker's center.

Something else that I have pondered is that the principle of controlling the uke's center doesn't seem to vibe into Aikido as a "do" as well. Off the mat, in daily life, is this the Aiki way, to connect and control other's centers, hearts, and minds? I don't think so. Rather, it is to open one's own heart, mind, and center, accept others' attacks, and change one's own direction (tenkan). When you get into an argument with someone, is control the way, or acceptance? When you drive, do you avoid accidents by controlling others, or by controlling yourself?I'm not going to say your philosophy of conflict is wrong and mine is right. If you are not interested in training in the control of other people's movement for philosophical reasons then I respect your choice. However, I think that you will find that if you try to implement that philosophy in a martial context against any kind of resistance (meaning on people other than the overcooperative ukes in the typical aikido dojo) then you are basically going to be doing a marital art that consists only of techniques of evasion and disengagement.

eyrie
04-14-2008, 06:32 PM
you are basically going to be doing a marital art that consists only of techniques of evasion and disengagement. :D (Sorry, had to laugh at this one...)

Is the principle of connecting to uke's center in Aikido a universal one? I mean, is it something that is applied in all Aikido techniques? It is a core principle.. if that's what you mean...

Something else that I have pondered is that the principle of controlling the uke's center doesn't seem to vibe into Aikido as a "do" as well. Off the mat, in daily life, is this the Aiki way, to connect and control other's centers, hearts, and minds? I don't think so. Rather, it is to open one's own heart, mind, and center, accept others' attacks, and change one's own direction (tenkan). When you get into an argument with someone, is control the way, or acceptance? When you drive, do you avoid accidents by controlling others, or by controlling yourself? I think "control" doesn't quite convey the appropriate intent. It's more like "manipulation", in the sense of "influencing", which is perhaps more in line with the spiritual ideal.

Toby Threadgill
04-15-2008, 05:02 PM
Mr Matsushida,

With all due respect, martial arts of various traditions employ unique technical phraseology/language to represent defining characteristics or principles to its practitioners. Sometimes these even take the form of esoteric poetry, prose or mythological tales. To imply that aikido's use of something so simply stated as "connecting to the center" is somehow useless or inferior to other similar idiomatic conventions employed in aikido demonstrates that this particular phrase just doesn't speak to you personally. How do you reconcile the fact that it speaks very effectively to other very experienced aikidoka besides you?

Do you recognize these phrases? Are they similarly problematic for you?

Keep your one-point.
Relax completely.
Keep weight underside.
Extend Ki.

Sometimes idiomatic constructions are created for the purpose of speaking to those initiated into a particular experience or understanding. If such a phrase doesn't speak to you there could be numerous reasons why, none of which relate to such a phrases value to the greater aikido community.

FWIW...In Nihon koryu such idiomatic constructions are often much more cryptic than those employed in modern budo, The exact same concept/principle exists in the various Yoshin ryu jujutsu schools identified in the mokuroku simply as "musubi"

Toby Threadgill / Menkyo Kaiden
Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu

John Matsushima
04-15-2008, 08:16 PM
Hello Mr. Threadgill,


With all due respect, martial arts of various traditions employ unique technical phraseology/language to represent defining characteristics or principles to its practitioners. Sometimes these even take the form of esoteric poetry, prose or mythological tales. To imply that aikido's use of something so simply stated as "connecting to the center" is somehow useless or inferior to other similar idiomatic conventions employed in aikido demonstrates that this particular phrase just doesn't speak to you personally. How do you reconcile the fact that it speaks very effectively to other very experienced aikidoka besides you?

I understand the need for this type of language at times. I find O'sensei's poetry very useful to me for understanding the philosophy, and direction of Aikido. I also understand esoteric sounding concepts such as "be like the moon on the reflecting water" can be useful as well. But O'Sensei's poetry (that I can understand) and suigetsu, point to valid concepts, while this one does not.

I am aware of the fact that many experienced Aikidoka believe and use this concept. But I am also aware that even more experienced Aikidoka just don't seem to get it. In an effort to "connect to the center", I have found many to be overly aggresive, using bad posture while focusing too much on how to make uke unbalance, and confusing it with other terms, such as "suigetsu". I am guessing that maybe some in their experience may first find the correct technique and then give it the name "connecting to the center". which explains why it seems to be valid. Is it only applicable to those who are experienced and already able to accomplish some of the technical points in Aikido? What about the inexperienced ? It seems that to tell beginner to do ikkyo, or tenkan by connecting to uke's center is very confusing to them. It would be more beneficial, I think, to teach proper ashi, tai sabaki, posture, etc. Also, while the term is used widely in the West, I am not aware of this term being used in exactly this way in the Japanese language, (to the best of my knowledge and ability) which leads me to consider that perhaps it is something lost in translation. How do you account for the fact that if this concept is correct, why does it mean so many different things to different experienced Aikidoka? I don't believe in "Aikido is whatever it means to me". I am not saying that just because it hasn't worked for me doesn't mean that it isn't valid. I feel that I have deeply thought this through and when I attempted to make sense of it philosophically, spiritually, and technically, it just doesn't seem to work. I can understand how others migh grasp this concept, though. In practice, for example, by taking the slack out of a grab and positioning myself correctly, I can physically feel a connection to uke, and feel the weight behind his attack, direction of pressure and even intention. While I maintain that pressure and that feeling I move, and uke moves. I don't believe this to be a connection to uke's center, however. The difference lies in my intention, and in most cases, the application.

Do you recognize these phrases? Are they similarly problematic for you?

Keep your one-point.
Relax completely.
Keep weight underside.
Extend Ki.


The above phrases, while I find them to be problematic due to their own level of ambiguity do seem to at least correlate to valid concepts in Aikido. But actually, I do find other phrases very problematic such as "Blending" and "Kokyu", which I look forward to discussing in another thread.

FWIW...In Nihon koryu such idiomatic constructions are often much more cryptic than those employed in modern budo, The exact same concept/principle exists in the various Yoshin ryu jujutsu schools identified in the mokuroku simply as "musubi"

I am not familiar which any Japanese classical arts enough to be able to discuss them intelligently with you. In Aikido, the use of the word "musubi", doesn't necessarily mean connecting to uke's center. I mean, for example, in a grab, I have been taught in Japanese how to take out the slack and create "musubi points", but the focus was on different parts of uke, not on the center. Also, in a spiritual sense, I have heard musubi emphasized in techniques, such as in the "Ki no musubi" bokuto kata, but in referred more to timing. Depending on the kanji, musubi could also mean creation.

I find the concept of "connecting to the center" not only invalid in itself, but it creates problems in what to do after that in approaching how to interact with uke. I think it is becomes problematic when one's effort and energy is directed toward finding, connecting to, and controlling uke's center while an attack is being made, especially in a randori situation.

Walker
04-16-2008, 12:53 AM
I've pretty much stayed out of this once after it became clear to me that you really weren't asking a question, but I am compelled to point to the opening sentence of your first post, "I think one of the biggest problems in Aikido is its ambiguity."

My rhetorical question is if the ambiguity resides in aikido or yourself.

Erick Mead
04-16-2008, 01:43 AM
I understand the need for this type of language at times. I find O'sensei's poetry very useful to me for understanding the philosophy, and direction of Aikido. I also understand esoteric sounding concepts such as "be like the moon on the reflecting water" can be useful as well. But O'Sensei's poetry (that I can understand) and suigetsu, point to valid concepts, while this one does not. ... Dig deeper into those poems. -- Ame no minakanushi no kami -- the "divine" [ame 天] "controlling/manipulating/governing" [mi 御]; center [naka 中]; "lord/master" [nushi 主] Minakanushi is the creator and "Great Origin" of Oomoto. Minakanushi is considered to be both hidden and present everywhere.

I find the concept of "connecting to the center" not only invalid in itself, but it creates problems in what to do after that in approaching how to interact with uke. I think it is becomes problematic when one's effort and energy is directed toward finding, connecting to, and controlling uke's center while an attack is being made, especially in a randori situation.You are thinking of this in a conscious logical mode, if "A" -- then "B". It is rational -- and wrong. There is no time for it.

A reasonably competent punch can be delivered in 200-300 ms. An extraordinary punch can be delivered in about 100 ms. If you are depending on sensing the resultant motion at the periphery, then you are already behind the opponent by a good 100-200 ms. Visual cued reflexes are ten times slower than tactile neuron stimulated reflexes. Nerve conduction occurs at 50-60 meter/sec. Sound travels in air at 342 meters/ sec -- and faster in solid objects -- about 1500 meter/sec in seawater, which is 60% of our body. The vibration of the body beats the tactile nerve signal by several orders of magnitude. Reflex action based on vibrational cues can thus begin before conscious decision comes into play.

If you have developed a sense in the connection of what is happening at his center, you know almost the same moment as he commences his center generated movement. How? Sound -- but what the body feels -- not what the ears hear.

What is kotodama ? The "spirit of words" -- The spirit is in their vibration. Vibration -- furitama. The first rustle of the leaves that precedes the big wind. A Doka speaks of the the demon snake Orochi in conjunction with the spirit of bees. Weird -- unless you consider it the juxtaposition of low frequency undulation and high frequency buzzing.

Look at some of the kokyu undo. Funetori (or happo undo) back and forth oscillation (low frequency). Tekubi furi (low-mid range), Furitama (hi-mid range) and then when we do beating on the limbs and torso (hi range). Tapping the microphone before the concert to find bad feedback "testing,... testing."

Responding to these cues is not mystical nor necessarily even that martial -- good ballroom dancers do it too. This is not conscious knowledge, and the body must be shaped into a literal instrument that knows and reacts like a violin responds with sympathetic vibrations to the harmonic tones of a more fundamental vibration.

But it is about connecting to the center where all powerful movement originates [the "great origin"] -- but not to control in the sense of impeding -- but to accommodate -- it just looks like control when what we assisted uke in doing what he wanted -- but not ending up where he intended.

John Matsushima
04-16-2008, 11:26 AM
Hello Erick,

You are thinking of this in a conscious logical mode, if "A" -- then "B". It is rational -- and wrong. There is no time for it.
Yes, you are right on that point, but that's not how I was thinking. I am thinking that when A,B,C,D all happen in a split second, I must conserve all my energy to use in 1 movement, at 1 time. Rather than exerting any mental or physical effort to establish and maintain a connection, I find it more effective to keep an open, and alive state of mind before, during, and after the encounter. I think that the mind in a relaxed state is much more receptive than one that is focused. In a state of mushin, there is no connection to uke's center or any one thing.


If you have developed a sense in the connection of what is happening at his center, you know almost the same moment as he commences his center generated movement. How? Sound -- but what the body feels -- not what the ears hear.
I can see what you're saying, but doesn't this relate more to other principles concerning awareness, and anticipation instead of to the center? It sounds like you are saying that one can anticipate another's actions by focusing on/listenting to/ watching another's center. But isn't the whole concept of "looking to Mt. Fuji" supposed to mean that we should see uke as a whole, and not focus on his eyes, hands, or any other part?


-- but not to control in the sense of impeding -- but to accommodate -- it just looks like control when what we assisted uke in doing what he wanted -- but not ending up where he intended.
Concerning control, I'm right there with you on that one!

Interesting stuff you said about O'Sensei's poetry. Thanks for your input.

John

mathewjgano
04-16-2008, 12:19 PM
...Rather than exerting any mental or physical effort to establish and maintain a connection, I find it more effective to keep an open, and alive state of mind before, during, and after the encounter. I think that the mind in a relaxed state is much more receptive than one that is focused. In a state of mushin, there is no connection to uke's center or any one thing.

But isn't the mind still connected, though not to any one thing? In my opinion, that's the great thing about the mind: it's always making connections. My view is that an alive mindset denotes connection to everything around (or near enough). I think the problem you're describing about mental connections is that the mind often fixates, which in fact destroys the depth of the connection. Instead of actually connecting to the center, it becomes an approximation (e.g. a lot of folks worry too much about the fist and forget the base it's launched from), and at that point if the other's approximation is less obstructed (ie-their mental connection is better) they will get the drop on you. My understanding of mushin is that it isn't a lack of mind, but rather it's a lack of fixation...instead of focusing on one or a few things, it's free to look at everything more equally and thus respond to the smallest adjustments in the environment the moment they occur. Those subtle "small" things are usually what make the biggest difference over time after all. It's not the guy who just tried to swing at you, it's also his friend slowly walking up behind you. Mushin means allowing the mind to connect itself freely to the environment around you so you can notice things like the sound change that happens in a noisy room when someone walks up behind you.

John Matsushima
04-16-2008, 12:29 PM
Hello Matthew,

I see what you're saying about mushin, but what's the difference between the mind being connected to the center and the mind being fixated on it?

Toby Threadgill
04-16-2008, 01:41 PM
I also understand esoteric sounding concepts such as "be like the moon on the reflecting water" can be useful as well. But O'Sensei's poetry (that I can understand) and suigetsu, point to valid concepts, while this one does not.

To you or to everyone? You seem to assume that just because an idiomatic phrase escapes your understanding, it therefore represents an invalid principle for aikido in general. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, I'm with Doug Walker. You seem to be stating a firmly held conviction, not asking a question or wanting an answer.

In an effort to "connect to the center", I have found many to be overly aggresive, using bad posture while focusing too much on how to make uke unbalance, and confusing it with other terms, such as "suigetsu".

Someone executing bad technique does not invalidate a principle. Similarly, someone not understanding a principle does not invalidate it.


Also, while the term is used widely in the West, I am not aware of this term being used in exactly this way in the Japanese language, (to the best of my knowledge and ability) which leads me to consider that perhaps it is something lost in translation.

My teacher was Japanese and used similar terminology in both Japanese and English to describe the same principle. I found the following in old notes I took during joden level training sessions with my teacher, Takamura Yukiyoshi.

"When I touch you I touch your center, the connection is made. From that moment you cannot move without alerting me."

"I can direct you anywhere because I connect to your center without you connecting to mine. You become like a puppet on strings"

"When my sword makes contact with uchitachi through the lightest touch I can feel his whole body through a connection to his center. I can even feel his toes. I can choose to cut him or throw him with my sword. His center or tanden is the gateway to everything so once I make musubi, he is defeated"


I find the concept of "connecting to the center" not only invalid in itself, but it creates problems in what to do after that in approaching how to interact with uke.

Ultimately, that's your problem, not aikido's. As I said before, you seem to be saying that just because an idiomatic phrase or principle escapes your understanding, it must be invalid. If thats the case its a rather myopic and inflexible viewpoint.

I actually know a guy that thinks the world is flat. I offered to send him on a cruise around the world but he turned me down. :)

Toby Threadgill /TSYR

Haowen Chan
04-16-2008, 02:00 PM
Rather than exerting any mental or physical effort to establish and maintain a connection, I find it more effective to keep an open, and alive state of mind before, during, and after the encounter. I think that the mind in a relaxed state is much more receptive than one that is focused. In a state of mushin, there is no connection to uke's center or any one thing.

Along the usual spectrum of between pure thought and physical result, the connection is more of a specific physical action than a general philosophy of how to react.

The pedagogy goes:
1. learn to connect your hands/feet/head/whole body to your center
2. learn to connect (your center to) to your opponent's center
3. waza: figure out how to strategically deal with your opponent given the previous abilities.
EDIT: obviously there is more sophistication after steps 1 and 2 in terms of physical "body" skills that can be used as primitives in waza construction, they are omitted for brevity and out of sheer ignorance on my part.

Difficulty with understanding the concept of "connect" may be due to misunderstanding it in terms of waza (strategy) rather understanding it as a core basic of movement.

SeiserL
04-16-2008, 04:48 PM
Osu Threadgill Sensei,

Nice to share cyber space again.

Some people can connect the dots and some are still learning to.

I agree, musubi, connection. Without it, nothing. With it, infinite possibilities.

Rei, Domo.

G DiPierro
04-16-2008, 07:19 PM
Rather than exerting any mental or physical effort to establish and maintain a connection, I find it more effective to keep an open, and alive state of mind before, during, and after the encounter. I think that the mind in a relaxed state is much more receptive than one that is focused. In a state of mushin, there is no connection to uke's center or any one thing.In that case, why do you exert any mental or physical effort to train in martial techniques at all? Surely practicing a specific technique (like ikkyo) requires a great of deal of mental and physical effort in order to focus on performing that particular technique, and this effort obviously impedes the ability of your mind to remain relaxed and receptive. So why do you do it? According to your logic, it should be "more effective to keep an open and alive state of mind before, during and after the encounter" than to waste all of your time worrying about these so-called techniques.

Budd
04-16-2008, 09:14 PM
Are we perhaps overcomplicating this a bit? Connecting to the center . . . your hands, your feet, the other person . . . gets connected and joined to your center, under your control. Heck, you are the universe. Someone else comes into its gravitational pull, he or she gets annexed - plain and simple. It's a concept in plenty of martial arts besides aikido.

Train to maintain your frickin' universe - don't be bothered by them other jokers ;)

John Matsushima
04-16-2008, 11:31 PM
 I apologize to anyone who feels offended by the ambiguity of my original post. The irony! I understand that my viewpoint on this matter is different from what seems to be common knowledge in Aikido. However, I find it necessary that in order to thoroughly understand it, I must question, and investigate every aspect of it. In this thread, so far there have been many interesting things submitted; technical drawings, questions on how to teach and learn this concept, its relation to issues such as control and awareness, the spiritual and technical aspects of it and many others. I am very appreciative of others' counterpoints and views as they have led me to question my own viewpoint and see this concept in much broader light.

Regarding mental effort, as the years go by, the effort I exert on doing a certain technique seems to go down as its effectiveness goes up. Of course, it seems right to say that some effort must used in application. However, in my experience, it seems like beginners are ones who focus so much on trying to connect to uke, to make him move, to make him fall down, and struggle in doing so. It seems to me that as time goes by, we learn to lessen our focus off this, and open our minds to other things such as dynamic motion, direction of attack, distance, timing, and so on, and increase our efficiency. This is why I feel that mental effort in connecting to uke's center is not needed.

In connecting the dots of Aikido, I try to see the big picture; some dots I see, and some dots I haven't seen yet. This one, I'm wondering if it belongs on the paper, or if it was a spec on the glass of the copy machine.

SeiserL
04-17-2008, 10:35 AM
I find it necessary that in order to thoroughly understand it, I must question, and investigate every aspect of it. In this thread, so far there have been many interesting things submitted; technical drawings, questions on how to teach and learn this concept, its relation to issues such as control and awareness, the spiritual and technical aspects of it and many others. ... In connecting the dots of Aikido, I try to see the big picture; some dots I see, and some dots I haven't seen yet. This one, I'm wondering if it belongs on the paper, or if it was a spec on the glass of the copy machine.
Oh man, welcome to my world. Like it or not, I tend to lead with my head, connect the dots and begin to get a glimpse at the big picture. We wee the best we can from where we are, with further distance down the path, we see farther.

mathewjgano
04-17-2008, 03:14 PM
Hello Matthew,

I see what you're saying about mushin, but what's the difference between the mind being connected to the center and the mind being fixated on it?

I guess I'd say the difference would be that in a fixation, a person is simply thinking too much about it.

mathewjgano
04-17-2008, 03:40 PM
Regarding mental effort, as the years go by, the effort I exert on doing a certain technique seems to go down as its effectiveness goes up. Of course, it seems right to say that some effort must used in application. However, in my experience, it seems like beginners are ones who focus so much on trying to connect to uke, to make him move, to make him fall down, and struggle in doing so. It seems to me that as time goes by, we learn to lessen our focus off this, and open our minds to other things such as dynamic motion, direction of attack, distance, timing, and so on, and increase our efficiency. This is why I feel that mental effort in connecting to uke's center is not needed.


I think I see where you're coming from. I think this harkens to the idea of work smarter not harder. Perhaps the mental effort points more to the process of developing awareness than to some formula of how to perform waza. I'm no benchmark, but when I train I try to see the whole body at once. It's just that I'm a little more consciously aware of the center area than the rest of the body since it seems to be a sort of nexus of power.
I like what you're saying about simply maintaining a natural open posture because it speaks to my sense of things too. I've also found that technique (or anything else) just seems to happen (or happen better) when I adopt this kind of feeling. It's been amazing to me. That said, I still think it can be very useful to consider how to connect with a person's center, be it physical or otherwise. A person doesn't need to know of the concept in order to meaningfully interact with the reality, but it can help shape that person's approach and improve their process of learning.