PDA

View Full Version : The Fundamental Principle of the Circle


Please visit our sponsor:
 

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


Sojourner
06-05-2015, 06:29 AM
:circle: O'Sensei on the Circle in Aikido,

https://dontmakemeangrymrmcgee.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/the-fundamental-principle-of-the-circle/

JW
06-05-2015, 06:53 PM
Whenever I read quotes I always wonder what is the source of the quote and who did the translation. Often this info is totally omitted.

FWIW:
It looks like the quote in this blog post is present in Saotome sensei's book Aikido and the Harmony of Nature. I shamefully admit I don't have that book yet. I think Saotome sensei wrote that in English, so it would be awesome if he includes there a translation of this quote that he did himself, or that he personally endorses (or hopefully the translation he presents there is exactly this one).
Also click here (http://aikidosantacruz.org/sayings_osensei.html) for the text from this blog post in a nearly identical form. Looks like the blog post is almost a direct copy and paste of the text on this page. Anyway this page indicates that this is Linda Holiday sensei's translation of a lecture given by O-sensei.

dps
06-06-2015, 11:17 AM
Not circle, spiral or vortex.
http://www.clker.com/cliparts/n/m/V/X/k/g/spiral-in-clockwise-md.png

dps

Erick Mead
06-06-2015, 01:09 PM
Not circle, spiral or vortex.
http://www.clker.com/cliparts/n/m/V/X/k/g/spiral-in-clockwise-md.png

dps.... Dual opposed spirals ...

http://i52.tinypic.com/23uq1c8.jpg

JW
06-08-2015, 03:31 AM
Circles and spirals are two different things, and the founder discussed both.
I don't understand the sentiment in the above posts, are you saying the founder was mistaken to be concerned with the idea of a circle? Or is it just cool to say "spirals" whenever possible?

Or maybe you believe the word "circle" is a mistranslation of the original Japanese? I don't think so. Circles enclose space and have a center. Spirals do not. This text is clearly not discussing spirals.

I think the excerpt simply has nothing to do with the spirals of your body, or the spirals in the application of martial arts. More likely, this and the famous "first draw a circle... in other words, opposing powers. ... Just to be able to do this one thing takes about ten years" (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/aikido-structure-universe/) quote are just much more general, big picture ideas.

Of course the workings of the body ultimately are relevant, so the ideas should be connected if you are following his teachings. But you can train spiral connections all you want, it doesn't mean you are necessarily training to stand in the center of a circle.

It sounds to me like the idea of the circle (the "fundamental principle") is of primary importance, and it encompasses all the details. The spirals of the body, and spirals in martial application, are important details but still just some of the many details.

dps
06-08-2015, 06:46 AM
Circles are on a two dimensional plane. As nage moves up or down while doing a circular movement he creates a spiral or vortex.

dps

Janet Rosen
06-08-2015, 10:28 AM
Circles are on a two dimensional plane. As nage moves up or down while doing a circular movement he creates a spiral or vortex.

dps

True. However I think Jonathan is on to something at least conceptually.
A few quite different things immediately jump into my mind.

1. When I sew bags I take flat planes of fabric and create 3 d shapes. For instance, the dojo bag design: a flat rectangle, when joined along parallel seams, becomes a volume-holding space that is very clearly a cylinder when joined to the round base. However.....there is always a flat round circle forming the base; without it, no integrity to the cylinder.

2. I admit to not being the most kinesthetically attuned aikidoka. When I visualize being the still circle, then yes spirals are formed as I add either up-and-down or in-and-out (and yes, I can run spirals through my body) but I retain a stable base....however if I abandon the visualization of the still circle, I literally follow a spiral, lose my sense of stability and am at risk for sacrificing my own balance.

3. I believe embodying the still center, which is a circle, is key to understanding proper structure. Not that it is grounded, dead, or trying not to move or respond....but that it is structurally sound in and of itself regardless of what happens around it.

dps
06-08-2015, 10:50 AM
True. However I think Jonathan is on to something at least conceptually.
A few quite different things immediately jump into my mind.

1. When I sew bags I take flat planes of fabric and create 3 d shapes. For instance, the dojo bag design: a flat rectangle, when joined along parallel seams, becomes a volume-holding space that is very clearly a cylinder when joined to the round base. However.....there is always a flat round circle forming the base; without it, no integrity to the cylinder.

2. I admit to not being the most kinesthetically attuned aikidoka. When I visualize being the still circle, then yes spirals are formed as I add either up-and-down or in-and-out (and yes, I can run spirals through my body) but I retain a stable base....however if I abandon the visualization of the still circle, I literally follow a spiral, lose my sense of stability and am at risk for sacrificing my own balance.

3. I believe embodying the still center, which is a circle, is key to understanding proper structure. Not that it is grounded, dead, or trying not to move or respond....but that it is structurally sound in and of itself regardless of what happens around it.

I visualize myself not standing in the center of a circle but the center of a sphere and uke inside the center of a sphere and the interaction of our movements create spirals and vortices.

I would agree that it is the beginning of understanding movement in Aikido, but one should advance their thinking to include other dimensions beyong the circle.

Thanks to Sensei Gellum for the insight to Aikdo this has brought to me.

dps

Susan Dalton
06-08-2015, 11:22 AM
My shihan said something many years ago I'm still thinking about. He said when a person starts to run a dojo, the shape is a triangle, with one person on top and the other leaders/teachers below. But as this person learns to work with others and rely on their strengths, the shape becomes a circle with everyone working together to create harmony.

kewms
06-11-2015, 12:46 PM
FWIW:
It looks like the quote in this blog post is present in Saotome sensei's book Aikido and the Harmony of Nature. I shamefully admit I don't have that book yet. I think Saotome sensei wrote that in English, so it would be awesome if he includes there a translation of this quote that he did himself, or that he personally endorses (or hopefully the translation he presents there is exactly this one).

My copy of "Harmony of Nature" acknowledges Patricia Saotome as translator.

Katherine

Erick Mead
06-13-2015, 12:13 PM
Circles and spirals are two different things, and the founder discussed both.
...
Circles enclose space and have a center. Spirals do not. This text is clearly not discussing spirals.
It sounds to me like the idea of the circle (the "fundamental principle") is of primary importance, and it encompasses all the details. The spirals of the body, and spirals in martial application, are important details but still just some of the many details.

Your geometric distinction is not deep enough. The unit circle is a fundamental tool in understanding linear waves and a spiral is just a 3D wave. A point on a circle rotated along a line forms a sine-wave curve. A spiral is two circular rotations about the same center.

A vortex streamline (spiral) is the path of a point on a rotating sphere:

1) rotating around a vertical axis at a constant point on the surface; and
2) rotating around an axis at right angles (juuji) to that surface.

When the point rises by virtue of the second rotation from base of the sphere to its top it is the action of "fire" -- which rises -- a spiral line of tension pulling away from the the bounding earth toward 'heaven.' When the rotation passes the apex of the sphere it becomes the action of "water," which falls; forming a spiral action of compression pushing down from 'heaven' toward the bounding earth, and at right angles (juuji) to the rising spiral of tension or "fire".

The two combined create a torsional shear, and the whole system will buckle (precess) at its discontinuities (joints) with the addition of a relatively slight rotation in the third axis.

jonreading
06-16-2015, 08:38 AM
I tend to agree with Jonathan on this one. I think we can be reasonably confident that we are talking about two things - circles and spirals are different. There are a number of great threads on this site that talk in detail about the sangen concept, so I won't get into that. Obviously, depending on what context you can talk about a variety of things.

In the blog, I don't think we are talking about a spiral, mostly because spirals have a direction, whereas a circle is a shape. I think the context of this content is within shapes (triangle, circle, square). For me, the jist of the circle in this context is to create a supported space (the circle) and from within that space generate aiki. While not clear, there is some context to piercing the center and unifying forces of heaven (the infinite) and earth (life) through man (the spirit).

FWIW

JP3
06-22-2015, 07:41 PM
Whenever I read a quote from O-Sensei (don't hate me) I always wonder what his diagnosis was, but that's probably unfair. I honestly simply do not understand, and do not have the lifetime I want to spend on it to understand, the eastern mystical approach to teaching.

I understand circular movement, tangential application of force, multiple accellerations on the linked body system, postural onstruction/destruction and why/how it works.... I do not understand, nor do I want to take a very large amount of time trying to do so, statements like: "The Budo of Aikido springs from the mastery of the spirit of the circle. The essence if this Budo is to embrace the complementary action of cause and effect and to draw into yourself all things as if they were held within the palm of your hand. You have a spirit, therefore you must realize that each person has a spirit. When the life processes are connected with the spirit and the fundamental principle of the circle is given birth in Aiki, all things are led to completion through the circle." just make me shake my head and shrug. Does someone have an O-sensei to physics-based English translation dictionary handy?

JW
06-23-2015, 01:05 AM
I understand circular movement, tangential application of force, multiple accellerations on the linked body system, postural onstruction/destruction and why/how it works.... I do not understand, nor do I want to take a very large amount of time trying to do so, statements like: ...

:D Thanks for the perfect illustration of what I meant before. There are lots of tactics that can be used in budo. I think what the quote in question is dealing with is something much higher level than tactics of any particular martial interaction. You can use those tactics from the point of view of maintaining a circle, or you can use them as a suite of serparate tools. The quote describes a singular "vision" that those tools operate in service of, rather than operating independently.

I think the quote (and the one I linked to as well) is about how you see the world and train yourself, at a very basic level. Then later, martial encounters can play out in the context of that pre-existing "big picture." The circle is the big picture.

More specifically, the big picture is that intent is used to create an inclusive state that is balanced in all directions. That's congruent with Jon and Janet's interpretations too.

Carsten Möllering
06-23-2015, 01:42 AM
Does someone have an O-sensei to physics-based English translation dictionary handy?There are several "dictionaries" from Daoist and Buddhist writers ...
Ueshiba didn't invent this stuff. When you study nei gong or even better nei dan, or when you practice certain ways of Budhism´you will hear the same words and your teacher will translate them into physical action. ;)

JP3
06-25-2015, 05:53 PM
There are several "dictionaries" from Daoist and Buddhist writers ...
Ueshiba didn't invent this stuff. When you study nei gong or even better nei dan, or when you practice certain ways of Budhism´you will hear the same words and your teacher will translate them into physical action. ;)

Really? "and your teacher will translate them into physical action."

My instructors did a lot of physical action in the near 40 years I've been practicing martial arts, and ~20 years of that's been in aikido and Nobody has ever talked to me using any phrases such as the one quoted. That's my point. I came up from an entirely different teaching methodology, I understand that.

Carsten Möllering
06-26-2015, 03:25 AM
My instructors ... Nobody has ever talked to me using any phrases such as the one quoted. That's my point. I came up from an entirely different teaching methodology, I understand that.This was also true for me at first. But after about 15 years I met a certain teacher from Japan who now and then used one of the keyword, and here and there one of the phrases ...
.. and showed how to translate them into movement.
This made me curious, so I started to follow him ...
... and learned a lot about this stuff.
Mostly, when asking him ...

This curiosity made me pay attention to the posts of a certain teacher from the US here on aikiweb who was highly controversial. But what he wrote sounde familiar. When I finally made it to meet him on the mat, I realized, that he was able to translate Ueshibas language into movement.

About the same time I got to know a teacher from the UK, who practices Chinese internal arts, especially nei gong and nei dan. He both, introduced me to the philosophical and religous background of Ueshiba's language. And also to internal practice that is meant by Ueshibas words, but usually not tought during modern aikidô Practice.

My direct teacher, who lives in Germany, like me, had wanted me to meet that Japanese teacher. And he has encouraged me, to see the other two teachers I mentioned above. When I finally came to him with some stuff I learned from them and with a lot of questions, he smiled - and started to teach me the stuff he had learned from his first teachers, both departed since longe, both being direct students of Ueshiba. One in the 1930s, one in the 50s.

jonreading
06-26-2015, 09:10 AM
I want to say so many things, but I am not sure how those things will impact this thread.

First, I think we need to understand that our instructors may not always be right, nor themselves prepared to advance their understanding of aikido. Your training in your responsibility and your instructor is there to help, but not necessarily constrain your understanding. To John's point, I think there are a number of instructors who felt aspects of training had more merit than others and so it is a rare student who gets the "whole enchilada," as it were. More than not, we are products of partial understanding with some opportunity to expand that understanding. This should not considered critical of our instructors (unless those instructors deliberately withheld instruction). But, it is to illustrate that just because I didn't learn it, doesn't make it untrue.

Second, O Sensei and several of his affiliates took time to write the things they wrote, crazy as they may seem. O Sensei tooks photos in deliberately crazy poses. Interestingly, there are strong similarities and recurring themes if you look for them. And don't we all love a good mystery. I think at some point a good question to ask yourself is, "O Sensei felt this was important, should I?" I do not believe this is a simple question, because I think earlier in my training I was not prepared to say, "yes," even if I wanted to. I think we sometimes think that aikido is something we do and everyone gets an "A" for effort. "Here's your white belt. You can tell people you do aiki." Meanwhile, we can't "aiki" ourselves out of a wet paper bag. I joke that teaching an adult is a difficult task because who wants to pay money to be told they are doing something wrong. So we end of with an "anything you do is fine," mentality. Throw in homework assignments and you can forget it.

rugwithlegs
06-26-2015, 10:40 AM
Somehow circles and triangles are very appealing. We have lots of imagery associated with these from other cultures, be they pyramids or Stonehedge or sacred native Indian dancing rituals. One of the Dokka that mentioned Circle, Triangle and Square mentioned the Square was the basis of solidity and applied control. As a one time worker in corrections, I was most interested in applied control, but very little has been written. hey, even calling someone a square or a block head is an insult.

O Sensei was very difficult to translate. He also had a voraciously open mind it seems with many sources of input.

FWIW, the first three lower Yogic chakra, all contained in the abdomen, starting from the root - square, circle, triangle.

Also FWIW, The three have also been used to describe the force application of Chinese internal arts. Xingyi - power exploding forward to one point, developed as a spear art - triangle. Baguazhang - power always in reserve in constant motion, with one small point forming the ground path in the center, able to turn in any direction - circle. Taijiquan - two ground points forming the basis for an interplay of push/pull,receive/Issue expressed through two upper limbs - four points - square.

Truth is, all of these images to play with - if I don't know what the image is of, or what inspiration I am supposed to take from the image, the image is probably meaningless or maybe even a harmful distraction that'll take me in the wrong direction.

JP3
06-26-2015, 07:04 PM
I agree with last two posts guys, so I reiterate my question. I am literally asking, has anyone taken the time to actually put down an open-source translation of the types of.... I have to call it this because that's what I have to call it, eastern mysticism-based teaching methodology? I understand that their terminology is meant to carry meaning other han that that I am taking out of it (which is very little, thus my problem). Without my having to dig up teachers who have passed away and perform séances... has anyone actually thought to write ut what a translation for the concept is?

For example, Sensei George Ledyard has spoken in the past of "opening up the heart chakra" which made all the western-based people in the crowd either roll their eyes (rude) or scratch their heads (simply ignornant, like myself). Then he translated, "Basically, stand with good posture as we typically understand it. Head up, shoulders back, chest open, natural relaxed but upright and open." You could literally hear the synapses locking in as the meanings matched up. That's what I mean. Who has done enough work to literally translate what O-Sensei is "saying" with that sort of originally-quoted (in this thread) writing?

Carsten Möllering
06-27-2015, 12:16 AM
You may start wiht historical Daoist texts about neidan. Plus commentaries on those texts.
Not one word about aikidô. But you will find the word, phrases, thoughts, Ueshiba used. For me it was eye-opening to realize, that he didn't invent this stuff but was "only" passing on a tradition.

A really good starting point is the blog of Chris Li.

To translate that into movement, you will actually need a teacher, who knows how to do this. Can be someone who is also connected to a certain koryû. Or can be someone who is also doing a Chinese internal art.

rugwithlegs
06-27-2015, 11:05 AM
A very good place to understand the difficulties of O Sensei quotes: http://members.aikidojournal.com/public/o-senseis-spiritual-writings-where-did-they-really-come-from-by-stanley-pranin-2/

I have had difficulty with the quotes too. Prankn's research also points to what I suspected - the "quotes" are paraphrased, out of context, heavily edited and sanitized.

People who tell me they have concrete explanations, because they are Japanese, or higher ranked or whatever - I find a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted. When I had a chance to talk to direct students, some admitted as native Japanese speakers they had difficulty understanding Ueshiba.

How to translate O Sensei's life into coherent, logical teaching methods that are accessible to every student? That is and was the goal of every student of his who went on to form a teaching methodology. So, I like to look around at other groups. No one has a perfect translation, but everyone did mean to.

The quote you put up to discuss - it's a bit of word salad to me and maybe badly translated and badly edited. He had poor English, so it is not an exact quote at all. I read some sentences talking about Ma-ai being maintained and respected, a non-threatening non-invasive attitude that doesn't antagonize others or cause fights. Concrete ways to convey you actually want peace and have peaceful intent to others who might be concerned about you. very little sounds like physics, more interpersonal relations theory. I think. I don't know.

rugwithlegs
06-27-2015, 11:21 AM
I am also a fan of Sensei Li's work, I'll second the recommendation.

JP3
06-27-2015, 05:40 PM
Thanks, Carsten & John. I read Chris' stuff - but I find him understandable.

The explanation that even the direct students at the time may have found O-Sensei hard to understand when he went into theory does make me smile, however. It's not just me/us. They, also.

jonreading
06-29-2015, 07:55 AM
Chris' stuff is good.

Couple of things that helped me to slog through the frustration... Not everyone can understand Einstein, but that doesn't mean what he said was untrue. Lots of people say they understand Einstein, but that doesn't mean they do. It also doesn't mean they are wrong, inasmuch as they only "know" what they are told by someone else.

There are several documented interviews of direct students who acknowledge 2 general failings in their time with O Sensei: 1. They did not listen to what O Sensei said 2. They did not inquire enough about what O Sensei meant by what he said. People are human, they make mistakes. I believe that O Sensei wrote down much of what he said because he knew his students were not "getting it" and he hoped to leave a trail for them to follow once they were ready. I think that it is important to note that if aikido were easy, everyone would do it. If everyone can do it, you either have the best instructor ever or maybe not everyone is doing it.

Also, there are specific comments made by some of the older people (O Sensei, Sugawa, Kimura, Sunadomari, etc.) who speak about a simple requirement to actually touch someone who "has aiki" as a baseline for starting aiki training. Aikiweb has several threads on this topic, so I don't think it is necessary to add fuel to that fire, but I agree with Carsten that it is important to put hands on someone who can explain what is going on and say, "feel that? That is what you want."

One of the things I appreciate about George Sensei is that you can call BS on him and put hands on him. If he is using bad language, he'll also listen to you when you say, "George, I love ya man, but WTF are you talking about?" Not everyone does that and I want to give credit for his efforts in that regard.

Sojourner
06-29-2015, 06:28 PM
Interestingly, the circle comes up in both the Jewish Kabbalah and in Masonic Ritual. Its my view that I can see some parallels to Aikido philosophy here but will leave that to others to decide for themselves!

(WM - Worshipful Master)
(JW - Junior Warden)
(SW - Senior Warden)

WM – Bro. JW, whence come you?
JW – The East.
WM – Bro. SW, whither directing your course?
SW – The West.
WM to JW – What inducement have you to leave the East and go to the West?
JW – To seek for that which was lost, which, by our own industry, we hope to find.
WM – What is that which was lost?
SW – The genuine secrets of a Master Mason.
WM to JW – How came they lost?
JW – By the untimely death of our Master Hiram Abif.
WM to SW – Where do you hope to find them?
SW – With the centre.
WM – What is a Centre ?
JW – A point within a circle from which part of the circumference is equidistant.
WM to SW – Why with the Centre ?
SW – That being a point from which a Master Mason cannot err.
WM – We will assist you to repair that loss and may Heaven aid our united
endeavours.

jonreading
06-30-2015, 07:47 AM
Ben-

Unless you're following your post with the claim that O Sensei was Jewish, I think you are only validating John's concerns... In what way does a Jewish excerpt contribute to better translating what Saotome Sensei said about what he remembered of a lesson he heard from O Sensei? Even closer to home, what does modern aikido philosophy have to do with what O Sensei said?

I know this sounds like I'm being a jerk, but my point is to challenge to you look at the harder question. Don't be content with the easy answer, look for the best answer. The best answer is not gonna be in Jewish text. Carsten mentioned some great starting points.