PDA

View Full Version : Sword tip movement


Please visit our sponsor:
 

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


aikiSteve
03-08-2010, 09:52 AM
I've become obsessed with my sword cuts as of late. One thing has been driving me nuts for well over a year. When I swing my sword, watching my cuts in a mirror, I just can't seem to get the tip of the sword to go straight. It moves, ever so slightly, side to side as it goes down. It's super minor, but I can't stop thinking about it, which is probably making it worse! What I tend to do is stare at my own eyes in the mirror and try and swing the sword to pass between my eyes in the mirror.

I think I'd equate it to shooting a rifle or a bow and arrow and having the shakes. Has anyone else experienced this and been able to steady yourself?

NagaBaba
03-08-2010, 09:55 AM
Are you talking about iaido practice?

aikiSteve
03-08-2010, 09:59 AM
No. Just regular old boring Aikiken practice.

Bob Blackburn
03-08-2010, 10:07 AM
The sword amplifies your spirit. Sensei always knows when you have had a bad day because it is reflected in your cut.

Try relaxing and visualize the perfect cut. Then keep practicing. We all get frustrated which can make this worse.

JW
03-08-2010, 10:20 AM
I hope we can hear all kinds of advice-- although the question is simple I think it may be related to some really interesting, fundamental aspects of movement, so thanks for the question.

For my response-- I currently use the suburi not to practice cutting someone with a sword, but to help fix (unify or purify) my body. Sounds like maybe you feel similarly. So, from that point of view, I'm not thinking much about sword tactics (I'd have to find a sword teacher for that). So I don't worry too much about the cut's trajectory and things like that. But I do agree that when your suburi is wiggling in its motion, in ways that you didn't intend, then it must be a sign of something wrong.

The way I see it, our bodies are capable of complicated motions, but you are practicing making a very simple one. Those wiggles are like higher harmonics in a sound, when you are trying to generate a pure-tone. I think the answer has to do with relaxing away unnecessary tension throughout your body, and not doing movements that you don't need to do (it might not be in the arms, could be legs or hips or back). One way a smooth suburi can happen is if you just let it result from simple movements of your center, as opposed to thinking about "doing" the cutting.

I don't know, that might all sound like BS, let me know if you think so, maybe I could clarify what I mean.

aikiSteve
03-08-2010, 10:26 AM
That's one thing I've been trying to figure out. Is it a mental thing or a physical thing? Or maybe a bit of both. Then it begs the bigger question... how would you know?

For example, one thing I've been wondering about from the physical side is whether my bokken is simply too light to practice with? I bought a light-weight white oak bokken about 5-6 years ago because my shoulders were bothering me when I did numerous sword cuts. But now that I'm thinking about it, momentum=mass*velocity so if the mass is less, it would have less momentum thus react more to my body's minor lateral movements. Or... if the mass is less, I may end up swinging it faster, thus having exactly the same momentum. Physics is hard!

So does swinging a heavier bokken prove anything?

JW
03-08-2010, 10:44 AM
For example, one thing I've been wondering about from the physical side is whether my bokken is simply too light to practice with?

I don't have a lot of answers but one thing I STRONGLY believe is that it cannot be too light in the beginning. Borrowing a cheap chinatown very light bokken was very illuminating for me.
A variety of weights of bokken is nice, and you can feel different things with different weights, but I think the most important thing is to have a light one.

(in some ways heavy ones are too forgiving, and in some ways light ones are limiting.. I'll stick with my light one for a while.)

I think the reason is if you are trying to do things with as much relaxation as possible (as little muscle flexion as possible) then the light one lets you get less in your own way.

ninjaqutie
03-08-2010, 10:52 AM
This tends to happen with me if I cut using my right hand more then my left. It is like shooting a handgun. If you pull with your other hand while pulling the trigger, your shots will be off target. Make sure you are wringing the sword as you cut. Also, try not to use your arms so much when you cut. Let gravity do its fair share of the work. Drop your center via bending your knees into your wide leg stance and just use your power hand (left) to cut. This should help a bit. When I use too much right hand or too much arm that is when my cut goes off in iaido.

aikiSteve
03-08-2010, 10:54 AM
Oh no, I don't think it's BS at all and very likely my problem is an internal one and will be a pain in the neck to figure out.

For example, you're both essentially saying, if I'm reading it correctly, that if I stop staring at the tip of the sword, stop thinking about aikido, sword cuts or anything at all for that matter, I should end up with cleaner cuts.

Of course without paying attention to whether the tip is wavering it's hard to judge if it's working! haha. A perfect example of Quantum theory.

I'm not naive enough to expect finding the answer on the net. I just find this topic an interesting one to chat about.

ramenboy
03-08-2010, 10:58 AM
This tends to happen with me if I cut using my right hand more then my left. It is like shooting a handgun. If you pull with your other hand while pulling the trigger, your shots will be off target...When I use too much right hand or too much arm that is when my cut goes off in iaido.

+1
i was about to say the same thing. my iai instructor was watching me and said to try cutting with the left hand and let the right hand just go for the ride. then slowly start to bring the right hand back into play

nice post ash

phitruong
03-08-2010, 10:59 AM
So does swinging a heavier bokken prove anything?

prove that you can swing a heavier bokken.

try light up on the grips, if you knuckles turn white after awhile, you are gripping to tight. try bring the bokken up, with minimal amount of muscle, then let it drop (don't even think of cutting). see if the tip waving or not. if it is then you have tension in various parts of your arms and shoulders and the rest of your body. did your sensei tell you that you should be cutting with your body, not your arms?

aikiSteve
03-08-2010, 11:25 AM
I have no doubt my Sensei has told me exactly how to do it for years and I'm just not listening. That wouldn't surprise me one bit, I'm a bit thick headed. I've heard each of these things probably 100 times in my life yet just can't seem to consistently do them.

Could it be that Aiki-ken practice is just not precise enough to produce a clean cut? That would be interesting, because it would then shift this from a mental problem with my cuts to more of a physical problem.

How many of you Iaidoists (Iaidoka? not sure the name) watch us Aikidoka swing swords and want to barf?

ramenboy
03-08-2010, 11:36 AM
How many of you Iaidoists (Iaidoka? not sure the name) watch us Aikidoka swing swords and want to barf?

hahahah. all practice has its purpose.

but here's an intersting quote from ellis amdur's post on kuroiwa sensei's passing.
Kuroiwa sensei: I did go to one of the all-shihan meetings recently. Nidai Doshu asked if anyone had any more questions, and I said, "We should stop doing tachi-dori and jo-dori in public demos. There are lots of real swordsmen in the audience, people who've really trained with swords, and they know that we can't really do such techniques. We are making fools of ourselves." There was dead silence in the room. Finally Doshu changed the subject. Later, Saito-sensei came up to me. I thought he'd be angry, but he slapped me on the back and said, ‘Yoku itte kureta.'("Thanks for saying what needed to be said"). Well, maybe it needed to be said but nothing's changed, has it?

lbb
03-08-2010, 12:23 PM
For example, you're both essentially saying, if I'm reading it correctly, that if I stop staring at the tip of the sword, stop thinking about aikido, sword cuts or anything at all for that matter, I should end up with cleaner cuts.

Well...yeah :D Easier said than done, huh? But staring at the tip is the road to ruin, at least for me. Heck, staring at anything seems to not work all that well!

A lot of sword work strikes me like the old saying attributed to Tolstoy, "Try not to think of a white bear!" Telling someone what not to do is easy, but how to not-do or not-think? Instead, the training aids that we use are of the "do this instead" variety...and they work, to a point (like the bit about wringing out a towel), but I can't think of a single one of them that it is not possible to overdo, and then you're back to looking at what to not-do. That's where suburi comes in: first you try, then you fight, then you tell yourself you're doing just fine, then you know you're not, then you struggle some more, then you try this, then you try that, then you think it's fixed, then you know it's not, then you try something else, and finally you just give up and cut. Maybe that day you get one or two cuts that you're really happy with. Maybe not. It takes an odd kind of mindset to struggle with all the not-do and not-try and keep coming back for more. Efforts to find the thing that fixes it, as a matter of deliberate and conscious effort, don't seem to work so well though.

JW
03-08-2010, 01:25 PM
For example, you're both essentially saying, if I'm reading it correctly, that if I stop staring at the tip of the sword, stop thinking about aikido, sword cuts or anything at all for that matter, I should end up with cleaner cuts.

Well, I wouldn't say I recommend empty-headed swinging. When I do it, I am concentrating quite hard, so I don't mean stop thinking. But "stop thinking about the cut" is more like it (like what Phi said).

I think of the sword, my center, the downward press of gravity, and the upward push of the earth. Those entities I concentrate on. The suburi motion is then kind of like the sword rolling down and up the "surface" of my center. At some times I am more under the sword and some times more over the sword I guess... but always some of both. (so it's more of a swirl than a ball?) I guess that means maintain musubi b/w the sword and self. I hope it's still not sounding like BS.


Of course without paying attention to whether the tip is wavering it's hard to judge if it's working! haha. A perfect example of Quantum theory.

Ah yes the Suburi Uncertainty Principle. Maybe we should leave the quantum interpretations aside though.... :D

aikiSteve
03-08-2010, 01:30 PM
first you try, then you fight, then you tell yourself you're doing just fine, then you know you're not, then you struggle some more, then you try this, then you try that, then you think it's fixed, then you know it's not, then you try something else, and finally you just give up and cut.

I laughed out loud when I read that, my wife says "What's so funny?" I read it to her she looks at me with a blank stare "I don't get it".

phitruong
03-08-2010, 02:06 PM
Ah yes the Suburi Uncertainty Principle. Maybe we should leave the quantum interpretations aside though.... :D

i believed you just hit the cat on the head with that principle. however, i am not certain whether the ki that powers the suburi is matter or energy or both? also, what sort of excitation energy level needed for proper suburi? :)

ninjaqutie
03-08-2010, 02:14 PM
+1
i was about to say the same thing. my iai instructor was watching me and said to try cutting with the left hand and let the right hand just go for the ride. then slowly start to bring the right hand back into play

nice post ash

Glad to see someone finds something I post valuable every now and again. :D I'm usually the one asking the questions or offering what is probably horrid advice. :(

AikiSteve,

Also, you could try standing in front of something that has vertical lines. Find a doorway or an edge of a window. Then try to cut straight down that line. You can easily see if you are off or not and you aren't focused on your sword, but what is beyond the sword. Sensei has us do that in the dojo to gauge how straight our cuts are. Seems to work because your looking further off into the distance.

JW
03-08-2010, 02:30 PM
You can easily see if you are off or not and you aren't focused on your sword, but what is beyond the sword. Sensei has us do that in the dojo to gauge how straight our cuts are. Seems to work because your looking further off into the distance.

I'm guessing, but I think it works exactly because you aren't focusing on the sword. (it's the attention not the visual part)

Ever notice that if you are holding something important, and you have to put it in an important (precise) place, you might start your move fine, but as soon as you get near the final place and go slow and careful, your hand starts to shake? I work with my hands so I've seen this happen to me.. but if I trust that I can do it without worrying about it, I can stop over-concentrating on my hand's location at the critical moment (make it just like a few seconds earlier, when I was only reaching toward the target), and my hand moves smoothly.
I know it's ki related but it's hard to parse it out. Maximal qi engagement with minimal li usage might be a Chinese-terminology way of saying it.

NagaBaba
03-08-2010, 02:58 PM
No. Just regular old boring Aikiken practice.

You are not practicing sword. You practice something with bokken. I don’t think you can learn how to cut correctly by practicing aikiken. Sign up to learn iaido (or some koryu ) with knowledgeable instructor, he will teach you how to cut.

You are not expecting to learn how to cut from advices by Internet, do you? :)

JW
03-08-2010, 03:44 PM
You are not practicing sword. You practice something with bokken. I don't think you can learn how to cut correctly by practicing aikiken. Sign up to learn iaido (or some koryu ) with knowledgeable instructor, he will teach you how to cut.

Szczepan- Toby Threadgill sensei is yelling at you, by proxy, through his reply (http://aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=251999&postcount=125) to me. OK that was a tongue-in-cheek statement, but that thread (and the posts after that one) really address your (and my) concern.

Even if we don't become swordsmen, we can learn something valuable from swinging a stick. I don't mean "make your taijutsu better" either, I mean: swinging a stick lets you practice something really fundamental. Among whatever other things it can teach you.

It's a simple motion, if you can't form a "bridge between heaven and earth" while doing that, then it tells you something is up with your body (and/or mind), right? Hence the OP. I think suburi is a very rich practice medium. After all, aikido is about perfecting the self, not just doing taijutsu.

NagaBaba
03-08-2010, 03:51 PM
After all, aikido is about perfecting the self, not just doing taijutsu.
Hi Jonathan,
I think you misunderstood a topic. This topic is not “how to improve your taijutsu with aikiken practice’. The author asked how to improve cutting with a sword. Please reread his first post.

JW
03-08-2010, 04:19 PM
Hi Jonathan,
I think you misunderstood a topic. This topic is not "how to improve your taijutsu with aikiken practice'. The author asked how to improve cutting with a sword. Please reread his first post.

Sorry to confuse you, my comments about taijutsu were referring to the content of the helpful link I provided, not to the OP.

In fact the OP says "When I swing my sword ... I just can't seem to get the tip of the sword to go straight." This is the point-- he is trying to make his body move an object in a straight line, but it doesn't happen. This is an important point about perfecting the self, controlling your body, being able to move in a special (useful) way. If it isn't clear to you, that's a different topic than the fact that this is indeed an important point to Steve and the rest of us.

It's not about swordsmanship, it's about failure to be able to make your body do a simple task the way one wants it done.

Keith Larman
03-08-2010, 04:23 PM
How many of you Iaidoists (Iaidoka? not sure the name) watch us Aikidoka swing swords and want to barf?

Sheepishly raises hand.

Now before anyone yells at me... ;) I also agree with the link Jonathan posted from Toby. It's all context. If you're swinging the bokken to do aikiken, well, talk with your sense about improving your form. There ya go. It is what it is. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just don't confuse that with traditional swordsmanship.

Go on-line and look up shomenuchi cuts aikido on youtube. Or Happo aikido. You'll see mostly person after person who does a shomenuchi that would only strike shomen if the target was a dwarf. Or 5-years-old. A short 5-years-old at that. So... Hypothetical. Why call it a shomenuchi if you can't reach the shomen of someone your same height? Second thing. Look at how much distance they cover. Let's assume the other guy has a sword too. You need to be out of range of a quick tsuki. Is their cut covering sufficient distance to even remotely get to the target? Are they reaching the head or is the cut starting mid-chest? Do they actually do a cutting motion or is it an axe hammering blow?

Or are they really demonstrating how to cut an unarmed child who's standing way too close to them...

Put something out at head height at the correct distance away. Now do a shomenuchi. Did you do it differently when you actually have a target? If so, are you actually doing shomenuchi when you do the kata without the target? What is your primary goal? Even if it is improving your aikido, do you *want* to do the sword cut correctly first and *then* work on all that other stuff in that context?

If you want to compare it with traditional swordsmanship, well, you need to get some traditional swordsmanship training. Or work with someone in Aikido who also trains in something like iai. Proper cutting mechanics is something that requires some very precise and consistent training. And it just ain't done on-line. Lots of small corrections. Lather, rinse and repeat.

Speaking for myself and myself only, I prefer to train with the starting point being proper form in the traditional Japanese Sword Art sense. So I work hard on my form. For me that is the starting point to all the rest of the aikido related aspects. But weapons is one of those things that is so variable across styles, dojo and even instructors within styles. So... Talk with your sensei.

Man, I must be getting old and crotchety -- I'm agreeing with Szczepan. :) At least I think I am...

JW
03-08-2010, 04:38 PM
Oh no, we are talking about real sword use compared to aikiken again!! (It's just "Aikiken vs reality" rephrased!)

I think that is an important topic, and based on what is in this thread, I think most of us agree about aikiken not necessarily being great swordsmanship.

But I really think the topic of THIS thread is valuable! I really would like this particular topic (can you make the sword move in a plane or is that impossible in aikiken) to be discussed because it is of great interest to me. Thanks for bringing it up, Steve.


Could it be that Aiki-ken practice is just not precise enough to produce a clean cut?

I say, "NO!"
I don't do "real" swordsmanship.. I may fail Kieth's tests-- I'll work it out at home tonight.. But I can make the sword go straight.

And I used to have a non-straight cut, especially when stepping backwards while cutting. (It used to wobble at the end) And I posted my take on how I improved. So, I don't know if my cut is "clean" but it is straight and dependable, unlike before. So I feel there is some value in this question, even outside of the context of cutting an armed opponent with a live blade.

Erick Mead
03-08-2010, 05:06 PM
{It's a simple motion, if you can't form a "bridge between heaven and earth" while doing that, then it tells you something is up with your body (and/or mind), right?

.... In fact the OP says "When I swing my sword ... I just can't seem to get the tip of the sword to go straight." This is the point-- he is trying to make his body move an object in a straight line, but it doesn't happen. ...
It's not about swordsmanship, it's about failure to be able to make your body do a simple task the way one wants it done.

My suggestion: The cut should be actively driven (from the center) from the rearward extreme (differs depending on who you talk to), to about the 45 deg. position of the fists as the cut is "thrown". At that point correct structure creates the dynamic -- not active futzing.

If at that point you do not feel a comfortable tension across the shoulder blades pulled passively by the momentum of the sword (some call it the upper cross), instead of muscular action, and which rounds and rolls the shoulders around the spine, forward somewhat, then structure is disconnected and the line of cut will wobble. Your job at that point is to hold your rudder fast -- not to steer.

With connected structure, shoulder stress at the recovery largely goes out of the cut. But if you are more actively stopping the cut at the end it is because the structure is not naturally balancing the recovery moments to come to rest at your belly, and this shows up in shoulder cuff soreness, because the shoulder is handling shear loads it was not made for.

You want to hold that dynamic load in a passive tension bearing at the spine, like your ape great (great^150,000th)-granddad held his weight in full tension swinging from the static limb -- only now you are relatively static and swinging the limb instead. Mechanics are the same, just reversed.

Keith Larman
03-08-2010, 05:08 PM
Oh no, we are talking about real sword use compared to aikiken again!! (It's just "Aikiken vs reality" rephrased!)

No, Jonathan, I was responding to the OP's question as quoted in my post. I explained that yes, I do barf a bit when I see some people swing bokken. I also explained why. I also explained that much depends on what is important to the person in question. Some don't care at all about much of anything regarding traditional swordsmanship. Cool. Some care a bit. Some care more. I'm not saying one is right and the other wrong for Aikido.

If you're trying to "fix" something that assumes something is broken. The fix will then depend on these larger questions. If the OP is trying to do a "cleaner" cut with proper hasuji and consistency of path then he is rapidly entering into the domain of a much larger set of skills.

You can cut straight without reaching the target. And that may be sufficient given your overall goals of training. However, people vary considerably in terms of their goals hence once needs to ask what those goals are. If the goal is a more fundamentally sound cutting form from the traditional standpoint one needs to pursue that accordingly.

JW
03-08-2010, 05:22 PM
Keith, I agree with your sentiment, so you are preaching to the choir. But I feel like we have a chance to talk about something simple and specific here, and we stopped doing it several posts back.
Distillation, by post number:
1. My "straight" cut goes to the side, any help?
2-10. Do this, do that, it'll be straighter.
11 and up. This isn't good sword work, most aikidoists couldn't even cut the air, much less an actual person. Slicing isn't bashing. Heads are head-height.

I know Steve made the barf comment. I see where this is going, it may just be the natural progression of the thread, so I can be quiet from now on. But I would love to hear any more comments on making the sword stop wobbling or straying to the side.

Fred Little
03-08-2010, 06:00 PM
You are not practicing sword. You practice something with bokken. I don’t think you can learn how to cut correctly by practicing aikiken. Sign up to learn iaido (or some koryu ) with knowledgeable instructor, he will teach you how to cut.

You are not expecting to learn how to cut from advices by Internet, do you? :)

Szczepan is largely correct. But I am really quite suprised that he didn't also advise you to forget iaido as a means to anything other than drawing the sword out of the scabbard.

As Sugano Sensei once said when asked about aikido and sword "if you want mochi, go to the mochi maker."

YMMV

Best,

FL

Keith Larman
03-08-2010, 06:50 PM
...I feel like we have a chance to talk about something simple and specific...

That is precisely what I disagree with, it is not simple and specific.

So please, carry on.

JW
03-08-2010, 07:25 PM
Well, ok, let's see if the thread is dead.
(this is a bit like the spirituality thread where no one can talk b/c everyone means something different by "spirituality".. we all have different goals with suburi so can we even converse?)

Steve, regarding your original question, which one of these fits most closely to what you meant?

A. You hold the bokken in front of you. You raise it up, then bring it down, hopefully with a little speed and power, in an arc. You meant the bokken to swing down in a vertical plane, but it sways a little to the side inadvertantly, and you don't know why it is happening, and want to move in a way that makes it go down in a nicer plane.

B. You hold a bokken in front, pretending it is a sword. You imagine an opponent about your height and skill level in front of you. You both have proper ma-ai. You see an opening. You try to prevent any telegraphing of your motion, and seek to both raise without presenting an opening and close distance at the same time, while you begin your downward cut. You try to get power without too much windup. You are pretending you have a helmet, so you keep the sword a bit away from you. You move into shikaku ever so slightly as you extend the sword at just the right height to slice into some vulnerable spot on your opponent's head, as you smoothly rotate your body to avoid his attack. As you slice (not chop), your arms and hands connect the sword to your body firmly but with suppleness as you receive the force of your blow, without compromising your control of the sword. The job now done, just as you are about to move to fling your former opponent's blood from your blade, you note to yourself that although most of the above worked fine (hence you didn't mention it in your post), your "blade" did in fact move a bit to the side instead of in your intended direction.

Ohhhh please forgive me everyone it's been a long couple of weeks. Anyway Steve if I read you right it was closer to case A, and we could in theory talk specifically and simply about your body motion as related to the not-as-straight-as-intended bokken arc-plane.

Josh Reyer
03-08-2010, 09:22 PM
To the OP,

It sounds like you're trying to steer the cut. Rather than worrying about the tip, visualize the target, whatever that may be. Then cut to the target. Your sword will straighten out.

Also, there's a tendency for one's dominant eye to pull the sword off-center. For example, I'm right eye dominant, so if I try to center the sword visually, it'll tend to go to the right of my center. One centuries old fix for this is to then think about cutting along the line of the opposite nostril. If you're right eye dominant, think about cutting along the left side of your nose.

NagaBaba
03-08-2010, 09:57 PM
It's not about swordsmanship, it's about failure to be able to make your body do a simple task the way one wants it done.
He used word 'sword' - not for example fork, baseball bat or any other object. So we are talking here about swordsmanship. Cutting with a sword is not a simple task at all :D

It also means to me, he mistakenly thinks that bokken practice and sword practice is the same.There some quite strict rules how to use correctly a sword to cut.

I think you are reading too much from his post.

NagaBaba
03-08-2010, 10:04 PM
Szczepan is largely correct. But I am really quite suprised that he didn't also advise you to forget iaido as a means to anything other than drawing the sword out of the scabbard.

As Sugano Sensei once said when asked about aikido and sword "if you want mochi, go to the mochi maker."

YMMV

Best,

FL
I have no idea what he wants to develop with sword cutting. I believe he didn't say a word about it? ;)

Concerning Sugano Sensei, he practiced some time western fencing as well as meditation. It means to me that mochi can be found in some very unexpected places :cool:

NagaBaba
03-08-2010, 10:08 PM
To the OP,

It sounds like you're trying to steer the cut. Rather than worrying about the tip, visualize the target, whatever that may be. Then cut to the target. Your sword will straighten out.

Also, there's a tendency for one's dominant eye to pull the sword off-center. For example, I'm right eye dominant, so if I try to center the sword visually, it'll tend to go to the right of my center. One centuries old fix for this is to then think about cutting along the line of the opposite nostril. If you're right eye dominant, think about cutting along the left side of your nose.
Joshua, your advice(very valuable) can't help him. In aikiken practice they don't cut target, they simply swinging bokken in very strange ways.

JW
03-08-2010, 10:31 PM
It sounds like you're trying to steer the cut. Rather than worrying about the tip, visualize the target, whatever that may be. Then cut to the target. Your sword will straighten out.

Cool, that agrees with Cherie's sensei's tip.


If you're right eye dominant, think about cutting along the left side of your nose.

That's a nice tip, thanks for sharing! Next time we do kumitachi practice I'll try it out. (I'll probably need to increase the spatial resolution that I am sensitive to)

Abasan
03-09-2010, 12:59 AM
Are you cutting air or are you cutting a target. If your idea of suburi is to bring the ken up and down, then that's probably the reason your tip is all over the place.

Aikiken is about training the spirit. No, not the ghost in you. Your intention is part of that spirit. Face it, as human beings... all of us suffer from attention deficit disorder to some extent. How many of you have done what Osensei has asked you to, to contemplate silently in nature and observe. I bet no one has taken the time to do something like that. So, ok keep it at the dojo then. Cut something (an imaginary target). You will cut straighter. Oh don't use shoulders to power it, just center... but I bet that's standard for everyone here.

lbb
03-09-2010, 07:21 AM
Joshua, your advice(very valuable) can't help him. In aikiken practice they don't cut target, they simply swinging bokken in very strange ways.

Very helpful, this. :yuck:

Thread hijackers, you can all pat yourselves on the back, congratulate yourselves on a victory, and rest secure in your inherent superiority over anyone doing "aikiken". You win. Really, you're all that and a bag of chips. Now maybe you could leave the thread alone and go be superior somewhere else (like on a real-honest-to-god "swordsmanship" forum).

phitruong
03-09-2010, 07:38 AM
something to consider, how you raise your sword up affects how you cut down. the amount of muscle you use to raise your sword, is the same amount of muscle tension you have to overcome while cutting down (muscle fibers always pull, not push). tension often what is causing the wobbliness in the cut. that means the less muscle you use to raise, the less you have to deal with when you cut down. one other thing to consider, folks tend to think about stopping the blade while cutting, and usually trying to stop the blade with the right hand which contributes to the wobbliness. imagine that you have a third hand (won't use the third leg image :)) ) that sticks out from your hara to stop the blade.

so starting and stopping are, for me anyway, the things that make the blade wobble during the cut. interesting isn't it that the beginning and ending messing up the middle.

NagaBaba
03-09-2010, 10:23 AM
Very helpful, this. :yuck:

Thread hijackers, you can all pat yourselves on the back, congratulate yourselves on a victory, and rest secure in your inherent superiority over anyone doing "aikiken". You win. Really, you're all that and a bag of chips. Now maybe you could leave the thread alone and go be superior somewhere else (like on a real-honest-to-god "swordsmanship" forum).
Hi Mary,
I actually stick very closely to the topic. I don't assume what the author wants to develop with cutting, what he wants to cut etc.
Don't be upset by my posts. I decided to post to help him to get rid of illusions that by learning aikiken he learn how to use a sword.

Many people touch a bokken and imagine they become instantly a samurai. I believe, to practice correctly aikiken you must first master the use of a real sword. Many shihans(i.e. Nishio sensei, Chiba sensei, Kanai sensei) that developed extensive use of weapons in aikido, had excellent background(high ranks) in sword practice.
There is nothing superior in my remarks, I'm simply referring to the facts.

lbb
03-09-2010, 10:49 AM
Many people touch a bokken and imagine they become instantly a samurai.

Many people read posts on an internet forum and imagine that they know the intimate details of the poster's mind. I respect and value what you have to say, Szczepan, and I've stuck up for you in the past, but you know swordsmanship -- you don't know the contents of other people's minds.

Chris Covington
03-09-2010, 11:02 AM
A few years ago Kondo sensei (of Daito-ryu) told a few of us that one of the highest forms of aiki is being able to cut straight. He told us to study it over and over again. He also did not explain much more and left it at that... His English wasn't good enough and our Japanese wasn't good enough and we had no one to translate.

In Shinkage-ryu we spend a great deal of time practicing straight cuts. In fact the first set of kata called Hojo is almost exclusively straight cuts. One thing we work on is keeping our hips square to the opponent. If your hips aren't square (belly button or belt knot facing straight ahead) you'll likely pull your straight cut slightly gyaku or jun.

Another thing I've seen is people not used to swinging swords is they tend to have a weak grip in one or both hands. This can lead to poor cuts. You might just need to strengthen your grip some with more suburi. Something that I like doing is sledge hammer levering. Do that for a few weeks and even a Shinkage-ryu bokuto will feel like a feather!.

Keith Larman
03-09-2010, 11:19 AM
Very helpful, this. :yuck:

Thread hijackers, you can all pat yourselves on the back, congratulate yourselves on a victory, and rest secure in your inherent superiority over anyone doing "aikiken". You win. Really, you're all that and a bag of chips. Now maybe you could leave the thread alone and go be superior somewhere else (like on a real-honest-to-god "swordsmanship" forum).

I tried very hard to avoid any implication of superiority of anything. I practice Aikiken myself, usually daily as a break from my work. I do, however, also believe that some questions give the appearance of being easily answerable while hiding a myriad of vastly more complex questions that are not being asked. This is was one of those for me. In my training there have been many times when I've asked the same question only to be told to keep practicing. Over time you begin to realize that the question asked was not really answerable as there were 1000 things unasked, each arguably more important than the one asked. Or maybe a better analogy for me is the solving of a rubic's cube. People will get one surface correct and then ask what to do next. They don't want to hear that they have to destroy everything they've accomplished to "fix" the whole thing.

The cut doesn't exist in isolation.

A person with an incorrect grip will pull their elbows out to the side causing them to not get correctly "behind" the tsuka. This makes it very difficult to get a straight cut. Fix the grip.

A person with a correct grip can still push out their elbows. With the elbows out the person cannot get behind the tsuka correctly during the cut. Keep the elbows in correctly.

A person with a correct grip and elbows in will often push the sword too far forward, basically pushing their shoulders out of proper alignment. As the arms come down the realignment of the shoulders being out of phase can cause wobble. Keep the shoulders correctly in place throughout the arc of the cut.

A person with incorrect alignment of the hips to their shoulders (hence to the target) will often find themselves rotating slightly during the cut causing the shoulders to come out of alignment. Fix the body alignment.

A person with poor posture will often have to compensate throughout the movement causing alignment issues.

Footwork is always an issue as too much movement in any one direction can cause the same issues of rotation within the body. Remember that power is generated from the one-point/hara/dantien/whatever and sent through the body. The sword cuts, you guide, and power is a result of the entire body. When that does not happen muscles have to compensate and it becomes extremely difficult to keep a consistent path to the sword.

Overextension in any part of the body tends to cause wobbles as balance is thrown off. Control, control, control.

Hand dominance is a constant issue. Often hints such as "focus on the left hand for power, right hand for guidance" are given to a person who needs that advice due to how they're swinging. The same advice to someone else will just make their cut worse. The reality is that the hands have to work together seamlessly with the entire body transmitting movement. So advice here usually has to be given very carefully depending on the person's needs.

For some a lighter sword will help fix issues, especially if they're throwing themselves off balance. Other times a heavier sword will make the difference for the exact same issues. Control is the underlying thing being addressed. Sometimes having a lighter sword allows the person to find the proper "groove" for cutting. Sometimes a heavier sword slows them down enough for them to find the proper "groove" for cutting. So YMMV.

Keep in mind that everything as described up above may be slightly different depending on what style you study. Some styles do bigger cuts, some smaller. Some slashing, some cleaving. Some are very fast with small movements, some are bigger, mean, cut them in half type things. Some emphasize being square (hips/shoulders) to the opponent, others not so much. Some emphasize foot alignment as well that is square, others not so much. Those changes alone will dramatically change how cuts are done. So each style will address most of the above issues slightly differently because each thing affects the other. The individual "tips" exist as part of a larger whole. What works with one will be absolutely wrong for another because internal consistency is what matters. Later styles of swordsmanship tended to emphasize draw/cut movements. Some earlier styles (some regional differences as well) will emphasize a slightly different grip which allows a more "leveraged" fast movement of the blade. Watch Toby Threadgill's demos on youtube with the sword. Compare how the sword moves with someone doing something like iai. Very different in subtle ways. Neither is incorrect. But each does what they do with an internal consistency that is critical to proper form.

In the end (after that long post) my point originally was that most advice regarding swordsmanship cries out for a larger context to ensure that the internal consistency is there. I do iai differently at times than I do my aikiken. Because they are different. And I've seen many aikiken demonstrations by high ranking people of many styles and there are more differences than similarities. Straightening out a cut depends on what you're doing wrong. What's "wrong" or "right" depends on who you study with and how they do things.

This is not an issue of superiority. I enjoy aikiken. I would not give advice to someone from another style, however, because I don't know what they might be doing wrong. Because I wouldn't know what is "right" in their style.

But yes, there are basic things. Smooth cut. Don't over muscle. Slow down. Get good extension without over-committing. For the rest? Ask your sensei to watch and fix what you're doing wrong.

Now I'm sure some think I'm being an elitist snob anyway (I get e-mail, yes, I get e-mail...) I don't think it is a highjack but an attempt to see the larger picture.

That said, please do not hesitate to put me in your ignore list. Or just scroll right past.

So please pardon the intrusion in your thread. I was trying to answer the OP's questions as sincerely as possible.

Erick Mead
03-09-2010, 11:40 AM
I don't assume what the author wants to develop with cutting, what he wants to cut etc.
Don't be upset by my posts. I decided to post to help him to get rid of illusions that by learning aikiken he learn how to use a sword.

Many people touch a bokken and imagine they become instantly a samurai. I believe, to practice correctly aikiken you must first master the use of a real sword. Many shihans(i.e. Nishio sensei, Chiba sensei, Kanai sensei) that developed extensive use of weapons in aikido, had excellent background(high ranks) in sword practice.
There is nothing superior in my remarks, I'm simply referring to the facts.There is little factual in those remarks. I don't fault the recommendation of swordwork and sword cutting, and it is much fun -- but to say it is sine qua non is simply silly. I never cut a makiwara until two years ago, and never did a darn thing but bokken work until then; my cuts are as clean as you please. I practice to cut through the partner and his attack in every kumitachi and in every tai-jutsu technique by the same exact principle.

The instrument is irrelevant, the nature of the action is critical. A man can bash someone over the head with three foot piece of steel as a well as of wood but he would not be cutting with his piece of steel in that instance. Chopping, mebbe ... and not even very well, at that.

A cut is not a collision -- it is a shear. Cutting is an action all its own. It matters not whether you do it with the sword, stick, hand or hip. If it is a cut it works as a cut to deeply sever structural connections, be it wood, steel or flesh doing the shearing or cutting action -- and if not, it does not work any better than the kinetic collision of mass on mass -- of whatever substance.

The difference is huge, and obvious once you see it. I cannot lay a blade against his neck and whack him with it, but I can surely cut him. Atemi, throws, pins, locks, are no different, once you see the operation of that same principle in them.

http://www.gifs.net/Animation11/Everything_Else/Money/2_cents.gif

ramenboy
03-09-2010, 12:53 PM
Very helpful, this. :yuck:

hahahahahaha

ninjaqutie
03-09-2010, 12:56 PM
Erick, I like your two cents animation :)

NagaBaba
03-09-2010, 02:07 PM
I tried very hard to avoid any implication of superiority of anything. I practice Aikiken myself, usually daily as a break from my work. I do, however, also believe that some questions give the appearance of being easily answerable while hiding a myriad of vastly more complex questions that are not being asked. This is was one of those for me. In my training there have been many times when I've asked the same question only to be told to keep practicing. Over time you begin to realize that the question asked was not really answerable as there were 1000 things unasked, each arguably more important than the one asked. Or maybe a better analogy for me is the solving of a rubic's cube. People will get one surface correct and then ask what to do next. They don't want to hear that they have to destroy everything they've accomplished to "fix" the whole thing.

The cut doesn't exist in isolation.

A person with an incorrect grip will pull their elbows out to the side causing them to not get correctly "behind" the tsuka. This makes it very difficult to get a straight cut. Fix the grip.

A person with a correct grip can still push out their elbows. With the elbows out the person cannot get behind the tsuka correctly during the cut. Keep the elbows in correctly.

A person with a correct grip and elbows in will often push the sword too far forward, basically pushing their shoulders out of proper alignment. As the arms come down the realignment of the shoulders being out of phase can cause wobble. Keep the shoulders correctly in place throughout the arc of the cut.

A person with incorrect alignment of the hips to their shoulders (hence to the target) will often find themselves rotating slightly during the cut causing the shoulders to come out of alignment. Fix the body alignment.

A person with poor posture will often have to compensate throughout the movement causing alignment issues.

Footwork is always an issue as too much movement in any one direction can cause the same issues of rotation within the body. Remember that power is generated from the one-point/hara/dantien/whatever and sent through the body. The sword cuts, you guide, and power is a result of the entire body. When that does not happen muscles have to compensate and it becomes extremely difficult to keep a consistent path to the sword.

Overextension in any part of the body tends to cause wobbles as balance is thrown off. Control, control, control.

Hand dominance is a constant issue. Often hints such as "focus on the left hand for power, right hand for guidance" are given to a person who needs that advice due to how they're swinging. The same advice to someone else will just make their cut worse. The reality is that the hands have to work together seamlessly with the entire body transmitting movement. So advice here usually has to be given very carefully depending on the person's needs.

For some a lighter sword will help fix issues, especially if they're throwing themselves off balance. Other times a heavier sword will make the difference for the exact same issues. Control is the underlying thing being addressed. Sometimes having a lighter sword allows the person to find the proper "groove" for cutting. Sometimes a heavier sword slows them down enough for them to find the proper "groove" for cutting. So YMMV.

Keep in mind that everything as described up above may be slightly different depending on what style you study. Some styles do bigger cuts, some smaller. Some slashing, some cleaving. Some are very fast with small movements, some are bigger, mean, cut them in half type things. Some emphasize being square (hips/shoulders) to the opponent, others not so much. Some emphasize foot alignment as well that is square, others not so much. Those changes alone will dramatically change how cuts are done. So each style will address most of the above issues slightly differently because each thing affects the other. The individual "tips" exist as part of a larger whole. What works with one will be absolutely wrong for another because internal consistency is what matters. Later styles of swordsmanship tended to emphasize draw/cut movements. Some earlier styles (some regional differences as well) will emphasize a slightly different grip which allows a more "leveraged" fast movement of the blade. Watch Toby Threadgill's demos on youtube with the sword. Compare how the sword moves with someone doing something like iai. Very different in subtle ways. Neither is incorrect. But each does what they do with an internal consistency that is critical to proper form.

In the end (after that long post) my point originally was that most advice regarding swordsmanship cries out for a larger context to ensure that the internal consistency is there. I do iai differently at times than I do my aikiken. Because they are different. And I've seen many aikiken demonstrations by high ranking people of many styles and there are more differences than similarities. Straightening out a cut depends on what you're doing wrong. What's "wrong" or "right" depends on who you study with and how they do things.

This is not an issue of superiority. I enjoy aikiken. I would not give advice to someone from another style, however, because I don't know what they might be doing wrong. Because I wouldn't know what is "right" in their style.

But yes, there are basic things. Smooth cut. Don't over muscle. Slow down. Get good extension without over-committing. For the rest? Ask your sensei to watch and fix what you're doing wrong.

Now I'm sure some think I'm being an elitist snob anyway (I get e-mail, yes, I get e-mail...) I don't think it is a highjack but an attempt to see the larger picture.

That said, please do not hesitate to put me in your ignore list. Or just scroll right past.

So please pardon the intrusion in your thread. I was trying to answer the OP's questions as sincerely as possible.

This is excellent post !!! It gives you an idea why it is not possible to fully respond by Internet how to cut correctly. That is why I adviced OP to find a good sword instructor.

thisisnotreal
03-09-2010, 08:16 PM
How do you put aiki into a sword? How does ken become aikiken?

JW
03-09-2010, 10:06 PM
Keith- thanks for the post, that was very rich. The note about different styles having different sets of internally consistant "rules" or guidelines is important, throws a real wrench in the works for discussion. But also excellent fuel for discussion!
One thought, do you think there are any universal ideas that dictate some aspects of these rulesets? My thought-- the ability to minimize muscle use (maximize ki and "kokyu" use) is a sort of super-rule that lots of the other rules of any given style are sort of subservient to. To relax and use whole-body ki instantly puts huge restraints of what patterns of movements would be allowed. This is my theory-in-progress so any opinions appreciated.

Chris--
A few years ago Kondo sensei (of Daito-ryu) told a few of us that one of the highest forms of aiki is being able to cut straight.
That is a SWEET story considering the Mochizuki "You guys don't know $#!^ about the sword" story!


In Shinkage-ryu we spend a great deal of time practicing straight cuts. In fact the first set of kata called Hojo is almost exclusively straight cuts. One thing we work on is keeping our hips square to the opponent.
Sounds like something I've heard about Nishio Sensei's style. Definitely something that can be pretty divisive when conversing across style lines.

How do you put aiki into a sword? How does ken become aikiken?
I've thought about that too.. 2 lines of thought are tempting to me. #1 is what Kondo sensei said (above). That is, unification of living, behaving bodies (aiki) cannot be done unless you have met that challenge within your own body ("building a budo body" or "putting aiki in your body" etc). #2 is that I have been fascinated with George Ledyard sensei's writings for a while, and although I still have a lot to learn, I am seeing that some of the more difficult ideas that fall under the term "aiki" (the part that happens before and at the beginning of an encounter, before physical contact) could be something that paired weapons practice really can give you... what do you think?

aikiSteve
03-10-2010, 12:39 AM
Sorry for the slow response, I'm not caught up on all the discussion but before I hit the sack I thought I'd respond to Jonathan...

Definitely closer to A. I'm far more interested in the bokken as a tool to improve my Aikido. I've played around a tiny bit with both Iaido and Kendo, but for better or worse, Aikido is what I love to practice.

So this wobble concerns me, not because my sword cuts look sloppy, but because it's amplifying a problem in my movement. Which, I assume, is likely causing problems in various Aikido techniques.

Again, like I said early on. I'm not expecting to find the answer to this over the net. I'm sure Baker Sensei will get me back on the right track in the next week or so. I just felt like chatting about it as it was something on my mind.

MM
03-10-2010, 06:42 AM
How do you put aiki into a sword? How does ken become aikiken?

Reminds me of the joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

A: Practice.

:D :D :D

aikiSteve
03-10-2010, 09:05 AM
I was teaching a class a few months back where I had everyone move 1/4 speed on all the techniques. Aikido often appears more difficult going slow since you can't rely on the momentum of uke's speed to help move them where you want them to go. It also makes it blatantly obvious when you're using muscle or in the wrong position, etc.

I just tried this with my bokken just too compare the tip movement at a very slow speed. There was dramatically less, still extremely tiny movements, the same amount of flicker if I just hold the sword in front of me as still as I can (I'm sure my cup of coffee isn't helping this test!).

Phi mentioned stopping the blade can cause wobbling which I'm probably doing since going slow doesn't require much of a 'stop'.

Anyway, it strikes me as funny that going slow with the bokken is easier, yet going slow with Aikido is harder. Maybe harder is the wrong word, maybe frustrating is a more appropriate word.

aikiSteve
03-10-2010, 09:41 AM
Another thing I was just wondering. Let's assume at some point in the future, a month? a year? multiple years? Whatever. Let's assume I figure out this little tick that I'm doing and am able to more or less stop this little sword tip movement when I do my bokken cuts.

What do you think? Does improving bokken cuts actually translate to improving Aikido techniques? Or is Aikiken just a matter of losing yourself in the motion? Letting go of world through the movements.

Personally I think it will improve my Aikido techniques however minor that may be. I won't know until I figure out what I'm doing wrong. But... I ask because if it's the latter, then you have to wonder, why does perfect sword technique matter if the end goal is to improve one's Aikido?

jonreading
03-10-2010, 11:34 AM
Mechanically, the bokken is a lever and your hands are the fulcrum point; that means what happens at one end is reflected at the other. In my experience when the tip of the bokken is moving inconsistently with the cut, it is because I am moving my hands inconsistently with the cut... I try to focus on my right hand acting as a fulcrum point and my left hand acting as the motivation of the cut.

As for the impact on your training, I believe weapons work is instrumental in illustrating proper technique, which directly translates to proper taijitsu - distance, timing, footwork, body position, etc.

As for your martial education, I believe weapons work also improves your wisdom and knowledge about the greater history and strategy of combat and combat system development. With greater about about the history of technique, you are more capable to discover more intimate knowledge about that technique.

Erick Mead
03-10-2010, 01:36 PM
Mechanically, the bokken is a lever and your hands are the fulcrum point; that means what happens at one end is reflected at the other. In my experience when the tip of the bokken is moving inconsistently with the cut, it is because I am moving my hands inconsistently with the cut... I try to focus on my right hand acting as a fulcrum point and my left hand acting as the motivation of the cut.

As for the impact on your training, I believe weapons work is instrumental in illustrating proper technique, which directly translates to proper taijitsu - distance, timing, footwork, body position, etc.

As for your martial education, I believe weapons work also improves your wisdom and knowledge about the greater history and strategy of combat and combat system development. With greater about about the history of technique, you are more capable to discover more intimate knowledge about that technique. Ditto the latter points.. But "lever?" I really try to get folks away from lever thinking when it comes to this stuff. Not that it is exactly wrong as stated, but I find it leads some folks in the wrong direction. When cutting what we really want is the center of action to move out along the length of the blade, like the center of action moves from my hara to my spine to my shoulders to my elbows to my wrists it should move likewise from the tsuka smoothly on out into the mono-uchi or kissaki, and then the into the target, ultimately.

It is a shifting center of rotation in a rigid object -- like the "rubber pencil" optical illusion. If the center of action is at the tsuba the kissaki will wobble basically unloaded and be very vulnerable to being shifted by very slight loads -- it is the free end of a lever and longer than the lever in your hands. -- Conversely, if the center of action is moving out the blade into the point of contact, the whole system is dynamically stabilized at contact. But of course if one "forces" the cut it is just applying a reversed leverage to it as that of holding it out -- and likewise defeating the purpose. Many people have this latter problem in cutting.

I try to have them imagine a cut like a weight on a string -- no leverage possible. In extension, I imagine holding the blade while some mischieveous kami is pulling the tip of the blade into my target, and holding that shape. It is more "tree-limb" like than static lever balance -- like the branch reaches out for more sun. In tai jutsu I try to analogize it to reach vs. grasp -- we cut by reaching not by grabbing -- and reach always exceeds grasp, as we know .:D

I think the more one practices to generate and modulate furitama and feel the resonance in things like tekubi furi and that same "live" vibe in performing technique, the more control you will have over that expression of what doctors call "essential tremor" which is physiological in nature, ( ~10 Hz) and can be exploited as well as controlled.

We did a drill (in an iaijtusu class) where we stood in extended seigan and maintained connection with the opponent's mono-uchi, close to the yokote -- for five minutes straight. Most of the folks there did find they had or developed a bobble or tremor knocking the other's sword periodically at the end, and this was an indication of insufficient and/or improper form of extension -- which was the point of the drill.

My partner (the class instructor) and I were perfectly still in that way, but we just kinda ended up creeping like mollasses ever so slightly deeper into each others respective sphere's of extension, until ultimately we had shifted from connecting at the front of the mono-uchi to connecting at the back, and each of us was just itching to cut first.

phitruong
03-10-2010, 04:01 PM
Mechanically, the bokken is a lever and your hands are the fulcrum point; that means what happens at one end is reflected at the other.
.

problem with telling folks the lever approach is they ended up using their arms and wrists, i.e. localize muscles to do the cut. ingrain bad habits. you want them to use the whole body for the cut from begin to the end.

jonreading
03-11-2010, 11:41 AM
Let me clarify. In response to the problem presented, I posted a particular exercise that may help isolate a poor mechanic. Both Erik and Phi are correct in outlining necessary sophistication in proper sword cutting. I provided no further elaboration in my post as I saw no advantage to discussing elements that [seemingly] are a little advanced for the poster.

Sorry for the confusion...

JW
03-11-2010, 12:38 PM
Anyway, it strikes me as funny that going slow with the bokken is easier, yet going slow with Aikido is harder. Maybe harder is the wrong word, maybe frustrating is a more appropriate word.

But doing a very short piece of an aikido waza slowly would probably be really great practice, and would be similar to how bokken suburi is easier to work on slowly.


What do you think? Does improving bokken cuts actually translate to improving Aikido techniques? Or is Aikiken just a matter of losing yourself in the motion? Letting go of world through the movements.

I believe in a direct benefit to techniques. I think the suburi can let you practice getting your body "right," and that is something you can put into any waza. It's the same as taiso, like the rowing exercise. The bokken gives you nice tactile and visual feedback though, that the aikitaiso lack.

aikiSteve
03-11-2010, 11:08 PM
In my dojo, we often practice Aikido techniques while holding a sword. It demonstrates how very minor movements can have a big impact. If your body is in the correct position, you slice uke, if you're in the wrong position, you miss.

For example, put a sword in your hand while doing Shihonage. If you let your hip drop back a tiny bit more, at the end of the technique, enough to straighten your elbow pointing your center at Uke, not only does the sword cut off uke's head but shihonage suddenly requires no force on the wrist or shoulder to drop uke. Try it sometime, it's eye opening. There are plenty of others where the sword either cuts uke or misses uke. Anyway...

To me, this type of bokken work has obvious correlations to improving Aikido techniques. But that's very different than standing by yourself cutting air with a wooden stick.

I spent 15 years cutting air with a bokken before I attempted to slice a Tameshigiri mat with a live blade. I had to break all sorts of habits to actually cut it cleanly.

Tenkan is the same thing. You could practice it for years by yourself, but until you feel the 6'5" guy and his two handed grip of death all that practice will likely be thrown out of the window.

I think Aikido requires the uke/nage relationship, otherwise you're just picking fights with yourself. Wow! I think i'll pat myself on the back for that deep thought. :D

danj
03-12-2010, 05:57 AM
i believed you just hit the cat on the head with that principle. however, i am not certain whether the ki that powers the suburi is matter or energy or both? also, what sort of excitation energy level needed for proper suburi? :)

truth and beauty

Erick Mead
03-12-2010, 07:30 AM
In my dojo, we often practice Aikido techniques while holding a sword. ... For example, put a sword in your hand while doing Shihonage. If you let your hip drop back a tiny bit more, at the end of the technique, enough to straighten your elbow pointing your center at Uke, not only does the sword cut off uke's head but shihonage suddenly requires no force on the wrist or shoulder to drop uke. Try it sometime, it's eye opening. That is one of our rote comments to students having a problem" What would you be doing if you were holding a sword while doing that?" Fixes shomenuchi ikkyo marvelously, too. "If his arm you just laid hands on were an O dachi with the blade extending out behind him past his head, how would cut his head off with his own arm?" Fixes it right up..

I spent 15 years cutting air with a bokken before I attempted to slice a Tameshigiri mat with a live blade. Good heavens! What did the air ever do to you ? :D

I had to break all sorts of habits to actually cut it cleanly.I think Aikido requires the uke/nage relationship, otherwise you're just picking fights with yourself. Concur. I spent it doing kumitachi and solo work that was basically shadowboxing kumitachi and variations, always cutting a cut. Swords properly operate in pairs -- like shears -- and work EXACTLY that way, too, even solo -- because the cutting or shearing point should always be moving continuously out to the end of the blade.

JW
03-12-2010, 02:10 PM
Hi all.
Steve and Erick-
I still agree with the idea that bokken suburi is useful and in fact should improve execution of all aikido techniques. But I have to take issue with some of the examples/ways that idea is interpreted here. To explain:
One of my favorite descriptions of aikido is "the gentle art of people folding." It is clear that whether one means the internal or external aspects of aikido, nage must take control of uke's body, often in ways that make him shaped in specific ways. These shapes are used by nage to put force in certain directions, at certain places. If a technique is done right, then uke should indeed go to the ground with minimal effort or motion on nage's part-- because everything is lined up right.

But, let's say you are ending shihonage (as in the example) and sensei puts a sword in your hand (which will demonstrate where your forces are going). If the "blade" looks like it is cutting the upper neck, or the lower neck, or into the head, or from the base of the head to the neck, who cares! The trick being illustrated is that there is a "right" alignment of forces and body parts. It doesn't have to be the case that "right" is always in agreement with a bokken being put into your hands and the blade ends up in a magic place (shihonage is not about uke's neck for instance). For any given technique, "right" might not be cutting uke's head. Or neck. Or anywhere in particular-- those are throws and pins, and it is about uke's balance, not about cutting a head with an imaginary sword. That's my take.


I spent 15 years cutting air with a bokken before I attempted to slice a Tameshigiri mat with a live blade. I had to break all sorts of habits to actually cut it cleanly.


And I spent years doing the rowing exercise without having any idea what its real goal is or how to make it do that for me. But I can't blame the exercise-- funekogi undo works; MY funekogi undo didn't. So, maybe it all comes down to having the right teacher again?

aikiSteve
03-12-2010, 03:12 PM
And I spent years doing the rowing exercise without having any idea what its real goal is or how to make it do that for me. But I can't blame the exercise-- funekogi undo works; MY funekogi undo didn't. So, maybe it all comes down to having the right teacher again?

Bruises are probably one of the best teachers. :p

me: "Doctor! doctor! It hurts when he punches me in the face"
Doctor: "Don't get punched in the face"

Erick Mead
03-12-2010, 03:15 PM
Steve and Erick-
... I have to take issue with some of the examples/ways that idea is interpreted here. To explain:
... If the "blade" looks like it is cutting the upper neck, or ... the head to the neck, who cares! The trick being illustrated is that there is a "right" alignment of forces and body parts. ... For any given technique, "right" might not be cutting uke's head. Or neck. Or anywhere in particular-- those are throws and pins, and it is about uke's balance, not about cutting a head with an imaginary sword. Since I have been delving in these mechanics (in fairness, lots of doing my thinking out loud at greater length than most people have patience to endure ... ;) ) let me make the connection a bit more concrete. A proper sword cut cuts because of a single mechanical principle.

There are several mechanical principles by which a body may be displaced, thrown or pinned. Among them -- in order of relative sophistication -- crushing, stretching, colliding, levering, and lastly shear. Aspects of each of them can be found in the others, but they are quite distinct in orientation, combination and application of action.

Only one of them is used in what we describe as aiki and it is the same mechanic as in the true cut -- shear. It is a spooky sideways cyclic, twisty thing because that principle scissors paper, severs makiwara, cracks whips, buckles columns, cuts men in half with severed cables on a flight deck, moves power through water, and flattens houses or lifts airplanes with nothing more than thin air.

So the act of imagination is not to find the sword in every canonical technique. It is grasping, intuitively, that relationship of shear that is to be applied consistently and innately and to distinguish between that mechanic and the others, which CAN ALSO be used (albeit less devastatingly or efficiently, IMO) -- but their use necessarily precludes or directly diminishes the application of the shear.

And I spent years doing the rowing exercise without having any idea what its real goal is or how to make it do that for me. But I can't blame the exercise-- funekogi undo works; MY funekogi undo didn't. So, maybe it all comes down to having the right teacher again?More important, I think, the correct concrete image of what it is meant to accomplish in your body and then how that action is translated into another body -- animate or inanimate. A good teacher gives you that concrete image -- hands-on physically and/or descriptively.

I am a firm believer in concrete images as teachers -- O Sensei's Doka are very rich -- if read in that way. Funekogi is the "spirit of the demon snake" and furitama and tekubi furi are the "spirit of bees," in his terms -- coherent oscillation driving the shear through a system -- like cracking a whip, shaking out a rug -- or driving the shear point of cutting out the blade length and through the target -- you do the same in uke's body -- (and stiff or loose) it finds any point of discontinuity that naturally wants to separate -- and then you help it separate. :D

The body deeply fears the destructive power of a resonant shear,(positive feedback -- like the whip-crack -- and the body refuses to volunteer for whip-duty) When presented with a credible rate of change of shear at certain rhythms (hint hint hint ;) ) -- even at low amplitude, it reacts -- reflexively -- and about ten times faster than you can think about it.

Keith Larman
03-12-2010, 06:27 PM
Or to use another explanation... You are slicing tomatoes, not chopping onions... It is a slice. So slice, don't chop.

On the rest... No comment. :)

Aikibu
03-13-2010, 01:26 AM
Wow....Allot of stuff going on here...Since we have an Iaido practice that was developed specifically for Aikido (After all Aikido is the Sword. :) ) I would suggest that you might want to feel where there is tension in your cut..If it's coming at the end and the tip is moving then there maybe too much tension in your forearms which is affecting your "follow through". Folks that are right handed have a tendency to "jerk" the tip until they learn to relax. My 2 cents and now you guys can go back to digit gnashing over Sword Practice in Aikido. :D

William Hazen

JW
03-13-2010, 01:57 PM
Hi guys, Erick you are losing me a bit, but that almost goes without saying! j/k. I do think about shear a lot in terms of moving uke (isn't holding a playing card lengthwise with thumb and forefinger, and then "popping" it away an example of very simple shear?).

or driving the shear point of cutting out the blade length and through the target -- you do the same in uke's body -- (and stiff or loose) it finds any point of discontinuity that naturally wants to separate -- and then you help it separate. :D

Well it might be that I overinterpretted your ikkyo/arm-sword example, because now it sounds like you agree with me. I thought of a good way to say why I take issue with the "put a sword in your hand while doing a technique to show if it is right" school of thought: depending on how uke has been twisted, there could be 3, 5, tens, or hundreds of little sword shear examples throughout his body. They are key, and they are what give you control of uke and take away his control.. but to suggest that there is one main sword that happens to be cutting the neck when you are doing it right (or that all the little swords sum to that neck-pointed sword) seems like fantasy to me.

If it's coming at the end and the tip is moving then there maybe too much tension in your forearms which is affecting your "follow through". Folks that are right handed have a tendency to "jerk" the tip until they learn to relax.

Thanks! That reminds me of two things, one is Phi's comment above, and the other is more right-hand related as you noted. Sometimes, to make sure my right hand isn't doing things it shouldn't, I take away some of its influence by holding the bokken without a good grip there. I basically don't use the thumb and just loosely cup the bokken, for the right hand. (This is halfway between correct grip and left-hand-only.) Right hand can still support the bokken (put upward force) and it can still exert some sideways force (to steady it), and it can still guide the bokken back towards me in its arc, but it cannot shove the sword forward or yank it back. Just a little "check" I do to see if I am doing what I think I am doing, and then I go back to holding it less wrong!

Rob Watson
03-14-2010, 01:57 PM
Silly me was watching the bokken tip the other day and that danged thing was all over the place (never really paid much attention to it before). The harder I tried to not wobble or to 'fix' it the worse it got.

So, I says to myself, fan all this BS, and just swung with the intent to cut through the target and what do you know straight and sweet as can be!

Now I'm no sword jockey by any stretch of the imagination but I've found in a great many cases that worrying about some little detail one tends to miss the bigger picture. Getting a feel for the whole movement and developing that 'flavor' in action without thinking about pinky here, toe there always results in a 'nicer' movement than not. None of this happens by any other means than lots of practice under the watchful eye of a master and when it is 'go' time then just 'go'.