View Full Version : Balance in Aikido, Inukshuks and Mobiles
01-20-2010, 12:21 PM
Balance and moving from center are an important part of Aikido, from my understanding. In your view, should one establish balance or center by stacking their body on their center or by means of balancing and counter balancing their body around their center?
----------Background/ Were I'm coming from----------------------------------
My wife is a Yoga teacher and my house is filled with books about yoga from the yoga sutras, to basic technical guides and books on the process of teaching yoga. I picked up a book about teaching yoga and ran across a passage describing how people view balancing their bodies. It described tow views of balancing your body. Either by stacking your body one part on top of another or by balancing and counter balancing weights around a center pivot point.
The first way, of stacking body "blocks" on atop another reminded me of an inukshuk. While the other reminded me of building a mobile with weights and counter weights. The article described poses that "stackers" found easy to do such as tree, mountain, eagle and chair and other poses that "hangers" found easy, warrior III, Half moon and Lord of the Dance. The article described these two methods of balance as just two different view points on how balance was being achieved and not as two different methods of balancing the body. It recommended that an instructor should try to describe each pose in both manners so that each type of person could find the proper pose. I noted to myself that I was evidently a hanger.
Recently while attending a seminar by Mary Heiny, she was describing positions for each technique as stacking your body. In the back of my mind I noted she was someone that thought of balance as stacking. I didn't think much of it again (I was too busy trying to do what she was demonstrating) until last Friday.
A sempei was correcting my Ukemi. As I adjusted what I was doing to what he wanted me to do, I realized that before I had been counter balancing and that he was asking me to do was stack my body. Before as he grabbed my arm and drew me to my left I shifted my hips, right arm and even my head to the right to counter balance my shoulders and left arm. He was asking me to shift my hips and body under my left arm and shoulder (this is an oversimplification but will suffice for now).
On my drive home, I was thinking more about these two types of balancing. From my experience Friday night, these two types of balancing aren't two different ways of describing balance but two very different ways of balancing and in Aikido create two very different results. Stacking when challenged shifts and settles or collapses while hanging has a tendency to set itself into chaotic gyrations and eventually settle or collapse.
In my mind, shifting and settling seems to fit with what I see on the mat and hear people describe as Aikido.
[This dichotomy of two types of balancing is of course a gross generalization. Each time on balances is in fact a combination of the two methods if not a myriad of other ways of staying upright.]
As a beginner in Aikido I'm left with a few questions:
1) Are these two different methods of balancing or are they just two different mental analogies? If I were to use counter balancing vs. stacking would the two methods result in different postures if your balance is challenged? Or would they result in the same posture just a different way of viewing the technique?
2) Does this make any sense? Is Aikido better suited to balancing by way of stacking your body and not counter balancing around a center?
3) As a person whose natural response is to counter balance. Does anyone have any exercises that might help change my natural response to balancing myself?
01-20-2010, 01:04 PM
I personally think both are correct but I find it helpful to think about it like this. When I stand or move I am using the stacking my body. When I am attached lets say with a grab, I deal with stress by counter balancing either by adjustments in my body or by moving my body. In either approach you are working on maintaining balance. Hope this helps:-)
01-20-2010, 02:10 PM
1) I think these are two extreme mental analogies, and that in any given posture in yoga or aikido, you have a mixture of both. The "stacking" concept makes perfect sense for the yoga poses you are describing: two feet on the ground, center of gravity pretty much right smack between those two supports (the feet), alignment set up such that body parts are stacked up on top of each other. I can't imagine trying to think of those poses the way a "hanger" would: where's the pivot point around which to balance things? Its rather arbitrary. Though if one were to start shifting your weight onto one foot, say in mountain pose, i could imagine having a combination of thinking of it as "stacking" and "hanging"
The opposite is true for Warrior III, Half Moon, and Lord of the Dance: now you have a single foot or support, and a very clear pivot or center with body parts hanging off either end. Its hard for me to imagine this as purely stacking things without having to still resort to counter-weighing those dangly arms and legs.
2) Having never thought about things exactly in this way, I can't say if aikido is suited for either way, or if its even appropriate to wonder. I'll just sit on the fence (stacking my weight on it as best i can, and counterblancing the parts that are hanging off it the best i can) and say a combination of both are probably useful, IF you want to think about it that much.
Stacking seems like the obvious paradigm when dealing with static positions on two feet, such as posture and hanmi. Like Bruce Wells says, I can imagine counterbalancing being a useful way of thinking of interactions between two people when there is a connection like a grab: now the point of contact is the pivot point.
3) Work on your hanmi. Stop thinking about it. Work on your hanmi more. A LOT. Relax everything and sink down into your legs. Stop thinking about it. Practice mountain pose. A LOT. Stop thinking about it. Stop thinking about it.
01-20-2010, 11:16 PM
If I read it right, the 'hanging' version almost sounds as feel as if you're doing a counter pull. The 'stacking' almost sounds like grounding.
If that is so, doing the hanging will leave you more than open for atari movements. Which may not be a bad thing for nage but not really good for you especially since it may put you in position that has your feet as dead weight.
Grounding would be a good way to start in approaching your center development.
Generally though, I believe we should move naturally and not try to think of balance as being able to withstand pressure without moving from a spot on the ground. Balance and movement from the center that reacts with an opposing force is for me that is probably more beneficial. To me it describes the best way of being in harmony and not fighting.
What if balance in aikido was none of what you mentioned? What if balance in aikido revolved around the concept of the body being centrally held in contradictory/opposing spirals?
Ask yourself how did Ueshiba Morihei resolve balance when he was sitting on the mat with three people pushing on his head? How did he resolve balance when standing and having people push on him? How did he take that state of balance and put it into a dynamic situation? How did Tohei resolve balance when he was standing on one foot and having someone push his outstretched hand?
Perhaps the martially balanced Ueshiba Morihei had more to do with the Daito ryu aiki body skill than with the modern spiritual "aiki"? And if so, wouldn't some research into the former aiki be well worth it?
There are many threads here on Aikiweb dealing with aiki as a body skill. :) But, in the end, one really needs direct hands-on training to get started learning it. It will, positively, answer your questions about balance.
01-21-2010, 12:17 PM
Thank you all for your thoughtful answers to my questions. I will get back on the mat and try to move naturally without thought (that doesn't quite sound right.)
Abasan-I'm not familiar with the term Atari. I found tai-atari by googling which comes up as "full body contact" or collision. I'll do less cursory research when I have more time and I'm not at work but if you have a chance would you mind explaining what you mean.
Mark-I have always had difficulty applying the spiral energy concept. Other than getting on the mat (I will) have you found anything that made this concept, shall we say, click for you?
To reassure you, I do train 3-5 days a week at the dojo.
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