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Jason Tonks
10-23-2002, 06:07 AM
In modern Aikido today we see a lot of soft flowing movement. This we can see from pictures and film footage available was the Aikido of O'Sensei as an older man. My point is that he had reached that stage of his Aikido over a lifetime of hard relentless training. There is no doubt in my mind that O'Sensei could have used this soft flowing style, but can someone who has just begun his path in Aikido use this to effect? Surely only through taking a similar path can a person's Aikido evolve to this level? This is not a question of martial effectiveness, just a collection of thoughts.

All the best
Jason T

Rev_Sully
10-23-2002, 07:32 AM
IMHO, Aikido is a modern Martial Art. Very young. Developed in the 20th Century by O-Sensei. Are we three-four generations of Aikdoka now?

SeiserL
10-23-2002, 08:54 AM
IMHO, yes in the old days many people came to Aikido from other arts. It had a more martial foundation. Later influenced by Omoto thought, Aikido became more spiritual. Some schools of Aikido emphasis the first, some the later. Development implies a goal or direction. So it depends on what you study for whether you personally are skipping a stage or not.

Until again,

Lynn

opherdonchin
10-23-2002, 08:59 AM
You expressed one perspective on this dilemma quite succinctly, Jason. There is a succinct expression of another perspective that I particularly like:

Karate students spend 15 years learning how to be hard and then have to spend the next 10 years unlearning everything they learned. Isn't it more efficient to start out by learning what you want to know?

I often wonder about these questions, but I think that what I basically come back to all the time is the sort of 'many paths up the mountain' idea. O'Sensei had his path up the mountain, but it was only his path. Your goal is not to follow his path but to follow your own.

Of course, there may be much to be learned by knowing or paying attention to his path, but that's not quite the same as following it.

Paul Smith
10-23-2002, 09:16 AM
Jason,I agree with you. One analogy my teacher often uses is that of Shakyamuni Buddha and Fudo-Myo, the fierce one, who with his sword cuts through delusion and with his rope binds passions. Seeing the image of the smiling, serene Buddha, we generally forget that this serenity was achieved only after 6 long and arduous years of deep shugyo, and it was likely accompanied by the goading of Fudo-Myo.

The corollary in Aikido, to me, is clear. One can only build an "evolved, ki-no nagare" Aikido on a solid foundation. Absent hard, fierce training, I believe it is likely one's Aikido may become what many of its detractors say it is - a stylized dance.

Paul

ian
10-23-2002, 09:32 AM
I'd go with these comments. I've known several talented instructors who seem to have quite poor students; in my opinion because the students are trying to copy the instructor and not getting a good enough understanding of why the instructor is like that, or a good enough grounding in basic (even static) techniques.

I have wondered whether the 3 stage aikijitsu approach is actually better - with the strikes and more linear form to start, then less atemis and more blending, and finally complete blending.

As I've learnt more about aikido I've realised just how important and amazing some of the techniques are, however you have to consider the options available to both you and the attacker during the technque before this can be fully realised.

However, if you consider how long it took ueshiba to improve to what we would consider 'aikido', maybe its not feasible to follow the same path?

Ian

MikeE
10-23-2002, 09:58 AM
"IMHO, yes in the old days many people came to Aikido from other arts. It had a more martial foundation. Later influenced by Omoto thought, Aikido became more spiritual. Some schools of Aikido emphasis the first, some the later. Development implies a goal or direction. So it depends on what you study for whether you personally are skipping a stage or not." -Quote from Lynn Seiser

Very succint Lynn. About 50% of my students come from other martial arts (usually many years of experience). IMHO, "ki-driven", soft aikido, can be as or more effective as the hard stuff. I think it is all IN & Yo, you have to find balance in what you are doing. None of us are O'Sensei. None of us have had his life. So for us to follow the development path of his art is a foolish waste of time. Repeating history is kind of like re-inventing the wheel. Why waste the time. O'Sensei put all aikidoka in the drivers' seat. We are the ones that need to further the art.

But, I digress.

In our schools we are looking for the waza that has the least physical strength, the most ki, and is extremely effective in real situations.

My point is:

All new students start by trying to use physical strength to effect technique. We try to move them through that stage quickly so they can develop more sensitive technique.

The stages are the same.....we just try to lead students through the stages so they don't spend a lifetime trying to find what O'Sensei already spent a lifetime to put in front of us.

Jason Tonks
10-23-2002, 10:04 AM
Opher I agree with you here to a degree in the sense that we all want that knowledge and ability we seek straight away. My point is that I don't think it can happen that way. Using O'Sensei as an example, he spent a lifetime forging his mind body and spirit developing his martial ability. By the nature of things no one else can be O'Sensei of course, but what I'm getting at is similar to what Paul is saying, his Aikido had been developed by planting strong routes. Without those surely what you are doing is vaccuous and built on very shaky ground?

opherdonchin
10-23-2002, 12:50 PM
What I was trying to say (I'm not sure how clear this was) is that I think it's a good thing to wrestle with and not necessarily a good thing to have an answer to.

Let's think about it another way: O'Sensei was inventing something (sort of). His way was characterizing by many turnings and false starts and periods of questioning. Clearly, you aren't proposing that we each follow each of these steps in order to learn. It wouldn't really work even if we did. Or take another idea: O'Sensei's cultural heritage was far more militaristic and possibly more violent than that of many of us. Perhaps in this sense he had much further to go than the rest of us before he could realize some basic truths. Trying to 'put down the roots' you are thinking about may actually be more detrimental (in that it fosters violence) than it is helpful. I had the same sort of response to Paul Smith's comments. I think I've got plenty of Fudo-Myo all my own to wrestle with without 'goading' or 'cultivating' it.

Interestingly, I think these same issues come up in Buddhist and Zen thought. In my mind, the one thing that makes the way hardest is the need to give up on the notion that anyone can ever show you the way or that you will ever know the way. Similarly in AiKiDo, the hardest part is understanding that it is you who decides what roots you need and what roots you trust, and that you will never really know. All you can do is make sure they are truly your roots, and it seems likely that then will be as strong as they could ever possibly be.

Paul Smith
10-23-2002, 01:40 PM
I think that this goes to a whole methodology, on the question of approaches to learning.

In the west, we presume there is an "I" which "builds things." In acting, my old background, "I" "build" a character. In the east, or more specifically in Japanese/zen thought and practice (in Japan, hard to distinguish the two, really), there is no "I" to build anything - in fact, the way to learn is to empty the self and emulate, completely and utterly, one's Sensei - one's "One Who Went Before."

I have chosen the latter as a means towards a betterment of the self. I cannot presume to know anything if "I," meaning a whole host of assumptions, patterns, fixed-thoughtedness, etc., resists in any way the teaching of my teacher.

It is not just a metaphysical abstract. When Toyoda Sensei (and now, Moore Sensei) would throw, one's mind could not hope to have the idea of what it was he was after - any sticking opened one up for a rude awakening, and the only way to (at times, it felt) to survive was to empty and give over completely.

Now, as he once told me, by doing this, by emptying completely, by, in fact, modeling completely on one's Sensei, paradoxically, it is believed, you learn how to truly create one's own art.

This is all a long winded way of saying: you cannot create true art with a stuck mind. The way to unstick the mind is to get out of the way. The only way to get out of the way is to immolate the stuck notion of "self" and although it can be done on one's own, it is more likely successfully achieved by learning at the feet of a master.

I know myself - I know my ego is both so strong, and so fragile (if this makes sense), that were it not for this approach I would never learn anything of true budo.

Paul

G DiPierro
10-23-2002, 05:26 PM
My point is that he had reached that stage of his Aikido over a lifetime of hard relentless training. There is no doubt in my mind that O'Sensei could have used this soft flowing style, but can someone who has just begun his path in Aikido use this to effect? Surely only through taking a similar path can a person's Aikido evolve to this level?According to Kanai Sensei (http://www.aikidoonline.com/Archives/2000/oct/feat_1000_mk.html), seeking to emulate O Sensei's style in his later years is flawed for two reasons. The first is O Sensei actually said that young people need to practice hard and hold on tight to make sure the technique works. The second is that despite the fact that O Sensei's technique looked soft and flowing, it was actually very strong and powerful. Kanai Sensei says that O Sensei would "bounce [him] off the mat when [he] took ukemi." If people just look at the soft part, he says, then they are missing an important part of what O Sensei was actually doing.

Based on what I have seen, I think that it is impossible to develop powerful, effective technique without hard practice. I can't rememeber ever meeting anyone who has done so. There are some powerful, effective teachers that I have practiced with who often talk about the importance of softness, but all of these people have actually had a great deal of experience with hard practice and are very capable of doing hard, martial technique. As I see it, the reason that they often speak of softness is that they themselves have reached a point where they understand the strengths and limitations of hard technique and have begun to move on to developing a similar mastery of soft technique.

I personally think that understanding both hard and soft technique is ultimately neccesary to developing truly effective Aikido. I have practiced with people who tend to focus primarily on soft technique and who have developed a good deal of effectiveness with that style, but they all have had at least some high-level exposure to teachers with harder styles. Even so, these primarily soft styles tend to be much more limited in application and effectiveness than the styles that incorporate harder, more martial practice. If one wants to actually develop effective, powerful technique like that of O Sensei, I think that hard practice is a requirement.

Deb Fisher
10-23-2002, 07:16 PM
This is really interesting, very relevant to me.

I have a limited perspective, but that never seems to stop me from having an opinion... After reading, I am left thinking about something my sensei talks about a lot, which is Paradox.

I don't (in my limited experience) think that this is as much of a dichotomy as Jason has set up. Often in my dojo we work from the perspective of resolving hard and soft, effort and effortlessness, receptivity and proactivity. I don't know if this is what my sensei has in mind, but it feels as if actively addressing this paradox-set has the effect of reverse-engineering the "Late O'Sensei Aikido", or developing both the hard and soft aspects simultaneously (?)

Another way to put this:

By admitting that there is both hard and soft and actively seeking to resolve them, I am consistently aware as a student that both parts are integral, that Just Soft Aikido is not the real goal.

Thanks, good thread!

Deb

opherdonchin
10-23-2002, 11:04 PM
Based on what I have seen, I think that it is impossible to develop powerful, effective technique without hard practice. I can't rememeber ever meeting anyone who has done so.Well, I'm not sure how much hard practice you think is necessary, but I think I've probably met people like that.

I can't help thinking that people who feel the way you do, Gian Carlo, are in one of two situations. Either you really wanted to develop a soft technique without 'needing' to be hard, and gave up on your ideal (and yourself) too soon, or else you never really believed in the possibilities of soft AiKiDo to begin with and are working to justify this position. I don't mean to be saying that either of these is you. I'm just saying that I'm not sure what other options there are.
The way to unstick the mind is to get out of the way. The only way to get out of the way is to immolate the stuck notion of "self" and although it can be done on one's own, it is more likely successfully achieved by learning at the feet of a master.I'm uncomfortable with ideas of 'only' or 'best' in this context. Perhaps for you the way to transcendence of self lies through the giving over of self to a master. Perhaps that is because, as you said, your ego is particularly strong and fragile. Still, one of the paradoxes of the path to no-self is that every self has a different one. Each self must recognize its own path, as you've recognized yours. Perhaps there is great wisdom and depth in your path, but my self will only be lost along my path.

I'd never quite combined these two notions (loss of self and walking our own paths) before. Even if you don't quite agree with me, Paul, thanks for helping me make that connection and see that lovely paradox.

Jason Tonks
10-24-2002, 04:53 AM
I personally like to visit other dojos and seminars when I can. When I have trained with people who have trained in this soft flowing style I have often found myself in a difficult position. What I mean by that is that the I'm taking ukemi unnecessarily. The technique is not on and the power is not there, ie - I'm going so as not to appear an awkard Uke. This is not doing my Aikido any favours and has to be lulling that Nage into a false sense of security. Different issue but relevant to what I'm getting at. Anyone had similar experiences?

All the best

Jason T

mike lee
10-24-2002, 10:50 AM
I have wondered whether the 3 stage aikijitsu approach is actually better - with the strikes and more linear form to start, then less atemis and more blending, and finally complete blending.

Agreed.

I was lucky I was already rock-hard when I came to aikido. Studied judo, karate, and played football.

But others my god! They get a little bump in the face and they stop right in the middle of the waza. They can't take a hit! My god, not a hit, A BLOODY LOVE TAP. (Whiners these days.)

It seems to me that in O'Sensei's time, the people coming to him already had some martial arts training and they were coming to him to work on the finer points. They at least knew something about ken and they knew how to punch somebody in the nose, and well as take a punch. In fact, I think a lot of them came to O'Sensei with a letter or recommendation in hand from some other martial arts teacher.

So, times have changed, conditions have changed. Hell; even in the early days in Chicago, most of us were a pretty rough lot, usually with at least a dozen street fights under our belt. But that's the way it was. People didn't pack heat they used their fists. Anything else was unmanly. Kicking was even frowned on. (Tells you how old I am!)

But now, everybody packs heat. Go out and try to get some experience fighting these days just gets you a gun-shot wound, or worse.

Times have changed in a lot of ways, but I agree; Maybe aikido training at the basic level needs to be changed.

That's one reason I'm adding some ken practice for kyu-level students. It gives them some way to train on their own. It teaches them posture, footwork, and it gives the weaker ones (the number of which seems to be increasing) a way to build up their grip, arm and shoulder strength.

I also start giving them breakfalls at the earliest possible stage (maybe 3 kyu) to toughen them up. We start out with just a few, and then as they start to get the hang of it, the number increases.

It's not a macho thing; we do it slow, gradual, over time, for the long-haul. The newer students see the older students doing it, and then, eventually, they WANT to do it.

The best way to teach is to get the students to want to do things that are tough; things that people don't normally want to do. :do:

Alfonso
10-24-2002, 02:11 PM
Must everyone have the same Aikido experience?

Should (can) Aikido produce an even range of similarly skilled "martial-artists", formed in a vacuum?

I came to Aikido with little previous martial arts experience (a couple of years of judo). I did, however play rugby for some 15 years prior to that and got chewed, bitten , stomped , dished and got back enough to discover what I could about that side of life.

I don't consider my Aikido learning lacking because I don't get abused in the dojo the way I did in the practice field. Should other people who train with me have to bear that sort of pseudo-military style of training to gain anything?

If 99% of Aikidoka are not considered UFC material does it matter? I do know Aikidoka who are fighters, should all of them be?

Deb Fisher
10-24-2002, 04:29 PM
Jason Tonks wrote:

"When I have trained with people who have trained in this soft flowing style I have often found myself in a difficult position. What I mean by that is that the I'm taking ukemi unnecessarily. The technique is not on and the power is not there, ie - I'm going so as not to appear an awkard Uke."

Yes, I have had that experience. But you're not learning *that* aikido, right? Otherwise you wouldn't even notice that you're being too gracious as uke when you visit these Mama Bear Dojo.

I guess what I'm assuming is that most of us are in the middle somewhere between Soft Flowing Balls of Ki and Chiba Sensei's Nikkyo. That seems right to me - that feels like a good place to talk about what is interesting about this thread, which is the interplay, the resolution of hard and soft, which seem to happen fairly concurrently during any balanced practice.

Or at least that's my $.02

Deb

Edward
10-24-2002, 09:30 PM
I think that hard technique and hard practice are being confused. The problem nowadays is that aikidoka believe that because aikido is a soft MA then they have to practice softly. This is very far from the truth. You just have to watch a tape of an aikikai hombu training. Only soft techniques are used, but very hard practice, and the effect is very powerful. So ideally you should be soft but powerful. In order to achieve that, sometimes you surprise yourself using physical strength, but that's unavoidable. What I don't like is soft practice where aikidoka look like their joints are dislocated, attacking with a lot of "manierisme" and stumbling and falling without Nage's intervention. I think they give a bad image to our art.

jaime exley
10-24-2002, 10:17 PM
Edward raises an interesting question. What makes Aikido "hard"? Is it how hard Uke hits the mat? Is it how much Uke resists? How hard Nage is working? Is it the force of the attack? If Uke never resists but takes Ukemi until they get the dry heaves are they practicing hard or soft? If you go to the dojo every day and your buddy only makes it twice a week are you practicing harder than he is?

Anyway, you can see what I'm getting at.

Jaime Exley

ian
10-25-2002, 09:16 AM
Absolutely jaime,

a sensei I know gets quite irrate when people talk about 'soft' and 'hard' aikido. I think a good grounding in basic, static movement is useful - and I think this is the type of movement some people refer to as hard.

However I believe aikido goes beyond that (and this is why it is different from ju-jitsu), to blending. To blend, we have to realise WHY we blend - basically because someone can resist non-blending if they get the feedback from the technique.

Thus we have a strong, commited technique, however; if we feel ukes body changing or moving in a particular way we are fluid enough to respond to that change.

Also, I think you can throw someone hard whilst blending, and also throw someone softly without blending. It is about directing force at the weakest point of uke. For example, when ukes spine is bent (and balance broken), the choice is yours on how hard you throw them because they do not have the posture to offer any resistance.

Thus probably we should be arguing about 'blending' and 'not-blending' rather than hard and soft.

Not blending is a process of learning technque, which all beginners will go through to some extent. To some degree whilst learning technique, but more ONCE we are familiar with technique, that is when we can learn to blend properly.

ian

Paul Smith
10-25-2002, 11:21 AM
This is my simple view: "hard" aikido means a committed, real attack, waza which neutralizes the attack, and a finish which employs absolute focus, kime. It is my view that only hard throws/locks/pins can ultimately press one as uke to learn the paradox of a complete attack, coupled with the ability to hungrily sieze on nage's body/mind, so that whatever changes nage executes I can execute, instantaneously, without hesitation of body or mind (going back to my earlier thought re: getting out of the way), and without reserve, to take the fall, lock, or pin. And this ultimately gives me the sensitivity and ability to train, as O'Sensei urged, with a "fierce joy." Both fierce, and joyful.

As nage, my job is to lead uke to where I want them in order to effectively execute.

It is not to create a "harmony" where uke and nage are in essence, in complete agreement..."harmony" can be anything, almost. To illustrate bluntly: if someone wants to shoot me, I can "harmonize" by allowing it. Or I can kill the attacker with a break to their vocal chords/trachea. Or I can disarm the attacker by leading them into my orbit of control. All are versions of "harmony." Aikido teaches the latter, but I think it is often misunderstood to mean, as I earlier said, a type of dance where nage/uke, in seeking to build grace, do not really require much from each other. I don't find this useful.

Paul

G DiPierro
10-25-2002, 03:02 PM
What I mean by that is that the I'm taking ukemi unnecessarily. The technique is not on and the power is not there, ie - I'm going so as not to appear an awkard Uke.Jason, this is a difficult situation, and there are many factors that you must take into consideration. I had originally written a longer reply discussing some of these factors, but I decided not to post it because I don't know enough details of the situation to know whether the factors I focused on are relevant to your situation.

The bottom line, though, is that you should never take ukemi unnecessarily. If you don't feel that you should move, then don't move. Usually, doing this will at least gain you some insight into the reasons why you should or should not have been moving. You are right that doing what you think you shouldn't be doing isn't going to help you, but only you can change that situation.

As for the people who are wondering what is meant by the terms "hard" and "soft" in this thread, I think Jason defined his use of those terms quite well in his intial post.

opherdonchin
10-25-2002, 11:44 PM
The bottom line, though, is that you should never take ukemi unnecessarily. If you don't feel that you should move, then don't move. Usually, doing this will at least gain you some insight into the reasons why you should or should not have been moving.As a real seeker in the softer sides of AiKiDo (as well of some of the harder sides), I really really agree with this. One of the nice things about a 'softer' school is that you know they're not likely to break your arm if you don't fall down for them.

I more often find myself taking 'unnecessary' ukemi for people who I worry might accidentally break part of me than for people who are too gentle with me. I worry about this when I am visiting some dojos, just like Jason discussed worrying about his own uke in the opposite situation. I think my interpretation of this is that I'm still exploring all the possibilities of what being uke can mean.

As far as hard and soft and blending and throwing, I have two thoughts. One is a common seidokan teaching and the other is my own:

In seidokan we often said that when AiKiDo is done properly, uke should feel like they stumbled and fell rather than that they were thrown.

I often tell people when I'm teaching that if uke isn't already falling, it's very hard to MAKE them fall. On the other hand, if they are already falling, then it isn't necessary to MAKE them fall. You just have to let them fall.

In my experience, most of AiKiDo study is about realizing that it is you who is preventing uke from falling and learning how to get out of their way.

Bronson
10-26-2002, 12:00 AM
In my experience, most of AiKiDo study is about realizing that it is you who is preventing uke from falling and learning how to get out of their way.

This is where I've been trying to take my technique. I've realized that my job is to fit into the spaces around the technique that uke isn't in. I need to make the path I want uke to take, the easiest path for him to take. If I'm in his way at all he won't go there so I need to completely let go of the idea of holding that space and give it to him while completely owning my new space (as long as it's correct...which it often isn't yet)

I'm not sure any of that makes sense. Opher's comments just kind of knocked some random thoughts and ideas I've been having into some type of place. I was thinking about it as I was writing it so be patient with me :D

Thanks Opher, once again you've given me things to think about.

Bronson...another seidokaner :rolleyes:

mike lee
10-26-2002, 04:06 AM
It's my understanding that the concepts of hard (external) and soft (internal) are related to ki, and not to what the technique looks like.

The clearest example of hard technique is karate. The opposite is tai chi chuan. The difference is that karate emphasizes a hard body, that is, the fist must be hardened, and the muscle and bone must be strenghtened.

In tai chi, smooth, continuous breathing is emphasized. The concept is the opposit of karate in that in tai chi, the body is strengthened from the inside out; that is, the nervous, skeletal and cirulatory system, the internal organs, the deep, inner muscles, the external muscles, and even the skin. Admittedly, this takes a longer time to learn. This is why for military and law enforement purposes, hard forms are often taught. This even includes hard forms of aikido.

If one wants quick results, one can practice a hard style of aikido. But if one wants to learn aikido as it was meant to be used, then breathing, hara, posture, relaxation, and the extension of ki should be emphasized in every phase of the training. :do:

G DiPierro
10-26-2002, 04:19 AM
One of the nice things about a 'softer' school is that you know they're not likely to break your arm if you don't fall down for them.That's an interesting point. I suspect that this may account for why some softer stylists often have a habit of resisting. In their schools, doing so is just not that dangerous.I more often find myself taking 'unnecessary' ukemi for people who I worry might accidentally break part of me than for people who are too gentle with me.Well, if you are taking the ukemi to prevent someone from breaking something then I wouldn't call it unnecessary. This is one of the reasons why harder schools discourage resisting.

By the way, I want to point out that my previous post should not be read as an encouragment to resist. There is a subtle but important difference between honestly believing that someone is not moving you and actively resisting a technique. An uke should always make a serious effort to not resist but follow nage because doing so is the best way to ensure uke's safety. It's when you really believe that you are following to the best of your ability and yet still don't feel yourself being moved that you shouldn't go anywhere. In that case, either uke is not following well enough, nage is not correctly moving uke, or the problem is some combination of the two. I have experienced it both ways, but if you don't know which it is then the most important thing to do is to find out.

I'm starting to get into some of the complexities of this situation that I mentioned in my last post, but there are many reasons why it is important to follow nage and not resist. One of the most important is that there are parts of the technique normally left out of dojo practice which could be used to cause a recalcitrant uke to move but which would not be very pleasant. The two I was thinking of are atemi and putting uke into a situation from which he cannot safely fall. I'm not sure if Opher's example of breaking things is part of the second category or if it is its own seperate category. In any case, successfully resisting a technique is often predicated on taking unfair advantage of nage's kindness in not employing these measures.

Often, one of the things to do when you feel like you aren't being moved is ask yourself if you are really in a safe position relative to nage. Chances are that, regardless of nage's technique, you actually have some vulnerabilities which you should be moving to correct.

MikeE
10-26-2002, 08:09 AM
Opher, we are of a like mind. Sosa Sensei always said that the longer he trained the less he "threw". He let them fall.

I think we may not be defining "hard" so everyone is thinking the same thing.

My context:

Hard: Physically driven, using strength. But others may have a different definition.

I think that hard and powerful are two completely different things.

Powerful is having mind/body unification and and the principles that that make it up. Utilizing this if uke resists they have no chance. The power generated by unification is always much larger than the strength uke has in his arm, wrist, etc.

I.E. I weigh 260 lbs. I'm pretty sure that no one out there has a 260lb arm. Therefore, my 260lbs working all together, generates more power than can be mustered by someones arm.

The technique I use is soft, subtle, and without strength as much as possible (strength is fleeting). Many times though, it may not feel soft to uke, if they resist.

I think intense training is important, not hard technique.

akiy
10-26-2002, 02:35 PM
The clearest example of hard technique is karate. The opposite is tai chi chuan. The difference is that karate emphasizes a hard body, that is, the fist must be hardened, and the muscle and bone must be strenghtened.
Not necessarily. Ushiro sensei (7th dan Shido-ryu Karate shihan who was at the Aiki Expo) specifically stated that he thought people who pounded their hands and feet on makiwara to build calluses was going about it incorrectly. His thought was that doing so revealed to your opponent your "abilities" (since your opponent could see your calluses and such) -- no good martial artist would reveal to his opponent his abilities, he said. His approach to karate was through the development of kokyu, not through calluses...

-- Jun

opherdonchin
10-26-2002, 02:51 PM
The technique I use is soft, subtle, and without strength as much as possible (strength is fleeting). Many times though, it may not feel soft to uke, if they resist.Reading this post, I also feel like we are probably agreeing. I actually do strive for my technique to feel soft for uke, partly because I think it's cool when you can get that to work and partly because I believe that this helps prevent unnecessary (and ultimately pointless) resistance on uke's side. Still, I would probably agree that 'many times' my technique may not feel that soft to uke and particularly if they resist. It's just cooler when it can feel soft and effective even when they do resist.
Well, if you are taking the ukemi to prevent someone from breaking something then I wouldn't call it unnecessary. This is one of the reasons why harder schools discourage resisting.Yeah, I worried that what I wrote would be read this way. Maybe there is some of that going on (of course), but I was thinking of a different aspect of things. Maybe I can clarify it with reference ot something you said: "successfully resisting a technique is often predicated on taking unfair advantage of nage's kindness." I find that the use of force and strength in a technique is often predicated on nage taking unfair advantage of uke's kindness. If I am less kind, it can create a situation of conflict between me and nage, and that situation can escalate uncomfortably. Ultimately, it can lead to real struggle and someone can get hurt. This is particularly an issue for me when I visit a dojo where people don't know me.

I still don't feel like I'm describing what I mean all that well.
I suspect that this may account for why some softer stylists often have a habit of resisting. In their schools, doing so is just not that dangerous.Yes. I think that's exactly right. It teaches you very different things than the 'uke has to be worried nage will kill him' schools of ukemi. It doesn't produce the beautiful flowing ukemi which I find so awe-inspiring, but it does teach an amazing sensitivity to what does and does not move uke.
The only way to get out of the way is to immolate the stuck notion of "self" and although it can be done on one's own, it is more likely successfully achieved by learning at the feet of a master.Paul, I hope you don't mind my going back to this for another second. I've been thinking about it a little bit, and I wanted to add that in the (miniscule) amount of reading I've done in Buddhism and Zen, it feels to me like the Buddhist writing had a lot of ideas of 'struggle against self,' 'conquest of self' and, like you said, 'immolation of self.' The little bit of Zen that I've read didn't have this quality. For me this attitude of immolation of hatred towards self feels counter-productive. It puts self at the center rather than allowing it to drift to the periphery where it can have its place in the universe alongside all those other things that don't really exist. Still, that's just me and, like I said, each person walks there own path.

eugene_lo
10-27-2002, 12:18 AM
Yes, this is a very interesting thread. The eternal question of hard vs. soft, what is "hard" and what is "soft", should aikido practice be one or the other... etc, etc. I really don't know where to start or what to add....

Maybe hard has quite a few definitions. Hard can describe the physical change of the body, using a clenched fist, and linearization (um, is this a word?) of the joints and bones. Soft, then would be the development of ki, or chi in tai chi for example. Developing flow of energy from within which then develops the skin, muscles, nervous system, etc. Based on proper breathing and not "blocking" chi by tensing the muscles.

Hard can also define practice in aikido. I suppose based on uke's commitment of attack. In other words, uke attacks, nage doesn't move, and nage gets a chop to the neck or a puffy lip. The idea of "Hard" and "soft" then is extended to how nage reacts, or say, blends, with uke. How much of a clash of muscle and bones, based on timing, or lack of, and angle of irimi/tenkan, etc. Based on he degree of obliqueness to the attack.

Blend more, then it's soft. Blend less or not at all, then it's hard.

Hard and soft could also refer then to whether nage really took uke's balance, or whether uke is "overly cooperative." If nage is trying to pull or push uke in a certain direction and uke is fairly planted, then it's hard. If uke just needs some steering to be thrown, then it's soft.

I rather like the way some people here (Opher donchin I think) have discussed this.

But anyway, I think I have not even got to the point. I think people want to know if aikido should start with "hard" practice, then slowly progress to "soft" practice, ki no nigare. Well, IMHO, I say yes. But the differences between hard and soft open up so many questions.It is hard to say one or the other. When and how much should uke resist? Should uke take ukemi unecessarily? How much muscle is too much? How little muscle is too little, to the point that aikido becomes a "dance?"

Well, I feel that uke should never take ukemi if his/her balance is not taken. This is the over cooperation that Kanai sensei constantly refers to. Maybe the ideal uke has to wait, wait, wait, and sense just at that moment when he/she is entering a fall and is about to get close to getting intimate with the mat to finish by taking ukemi. Complete the loss of balance by rolling into then out of a circle. More then about timing than anything. Always timing involved in aikido. Start to roll or breakfall before the technique is even 60% (just a random number for some way to picture this) complete then too early and thus too cooperative. Meet the mat flat instead of round, then too late, and not so much an issue of cooperation anymore, as nage may have just witnessed what would happen to someone "on the street" who didn't know how to take ukemi.

So, a matter of fine tuning the timing. A matter of how much your balance is gone before you begin ukemi.

As far as a more difficult question: should aikido start hard and progress to soft? Well, these days, there are hard and soft dojos and styles and teachers that concentrate on one or the other, or a progression. I feel that there should be a progression. A start with hard. Kihon. Slow, basic, careful form. Flowing will/should come later. Foundation first. This is coming from someone raised in a very traditional Chinese household, where process and form were some of the highest values held to. Process. Japanese culture, and thus martial arts, is very similiar.

However, this doesn't mean that EVERYONE must follow this process. Why not? Because people take aikido for many reasons. Plain physical fitness, self-defense, just for fun, for stress relief. I think what is important to remember is what you want to get out of aikido. If simply to learn blending , perhaps through your dojo's "soft" techinque, later on to apply to relationships at home and in the workplace, then great. If to learn self-defense, perhaps through your dojo's "hard" technique, then great. But not to claim that you have got an idea of both until you go through the PROCESS.

The idea of process and progression is important to the Japanese culture, to Asian culture in general. It was how O'Sensei's aikido developed. As Americans, I think we have looked too eagerly for the short-cuts. This is our culture, like it or know it or not. But when it comes to aikido, we should not make this compromise. My family carries on a tradition of tai chi. No one would ever claim to have achieved "chi" in even 15-20 years of practice. I find it strange that so many aikidoka make this claim so easily, so quickly, that they feel their "ki" in their aikido practice and techniques. I don't think ki will come without hard practice. Ki will only come from the process of learning to not muscle through. Why else did aikido start this way? Because it is natural. And, NOT simply because that O'Sensei's students often came from other "hard" martial arts. The process is the same in every one of those arts too. The progression to ki development. And NOT simply due to the militaristic environment/culture of pre-war Japan.

O'Sensei had questions and doubtrs and unknowns. Yes. We maybe don't have to follow in those exact footsteps, to "reinvent the wheel." But he did formulate something for us follow. Even after the questions. A training method. A process. When did we get the right to question this? O'Sensei didn't want us to copy his aikido. I think a good way to think of this: we should learn aikido his way. What we do with it afterwards,how we use aikido, when we start to get a clue, then, that is up to us.

Apologies for being long-winded

Edward
10-27-2002, 12:51 AM
Not necessarily. Ushiro sensei (7th dan Shido-ryu Karate shihan who was at the Aiki Expo) specifically stated that he thought people who pounded their hands and feet on makiwara to build calluses was going about it incorrectly. His thought was that doing so revealed to your opponent your "abilities" (since your opponent could see your calluses and such) -- no good martial artist would reveal to his opponent his abilities, he said. His approach to karate was through the development of kokyu, not through calluses...

-- Jun
First of all, I am also categorically against calluses :)

However, I have always heard two arguments for and against revealing your "abilities to your opponent". One school thinks that by revealing your abilities, or by showing no oppening, you can prevent useless fighting and violence. The other thinks that you should always keep your abilities hidden so that the opponent attacks carelessly and it would be easier to beat him.

I was recently exposed to this when I went to a Tomiki practice. I was very uncomfortable with their "natural" stance keeping both feet parallel and hands hanging because it is very difficult to initiate movement from that position. The instructor explained to me the principle of "mushin, mukamae" where the absence of martial stance will fool the opponent to thinking that we do not know any MA. Of course I am not yet convinced because I believe Osensei's idea was to leave no opening hence the traditional stance of aikido is designed to close all attack angles to make it very difficult for the opponent to attack.

Others might argue that by looking strong, you might also attract trouble and by looking harmless you will pass unnoticed. But it is equally true that by looking strong you can avoid trouble because you won't be attacked, and by looking harmless you might encourage and attract attacks.

But maybe this is a subject for another thread :)

mike lee
10-27-2002, 03:33 AM
But it is equally true that by looking strong you can avoid trouble because you won't be attacked, and by looking harmless you might encourage and attract attacks.

A general rule of thumb might be to take the middle path. That is, stand in hanmi, be ready, relax, breath, but don't be threatening.

But if the situation is extremely threatening, it seems that the optimum ready stance should be used.

On the other hand, if the situation is minimally threatening, such as when playing rondori with children, a relaxed, open stance can be used.

:do:

Erik
10-27-2002, 11:14 AM
I've always wondered about the whole idea of calluses. What exactly are they protecting and how do they keep parts of your hand from breaking? The whole idea just doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

So, a little Googling and one of my favorite web sites came to the rescue.

One fellow once told me:

"My school has rope wrapped makiwara. It toughens your nuckles up great. How can hitting a rubber pad do anything? A makiwara's purpose is to toughen the skin of the nuckles."

This is not the purpose of a makiwara. The purpose is to strengthen the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints to withstand the blow without collapsing and reducing the striking force. The purpose is also for you to experiment until you can generate a punch so powerful that you cannot stand the pain. The conditioning of the knuckles is an unfortunate, and ugly, side effect of an unbalanced makiwara with a weak, rough pad and a board that is too stiff. Your goal should be to strengthen your back, armpit, elbow, and wrist against an impact. Your goal is not to condition your knuckles. Conditioning your knuckles is useless. There are very few things on a human body that are hard enough to harm your knuckles, as long as you strike with a proper fist. The few things that can harm your knuckles, such as the teeth, will cut right through any calluses no matter how well you condition the skin anyway. So, conditioning the knuckles is a stupid idea.

http://www.24fightingchickens.com/shotokan/101/28_makiwara.html

G DiPierro
10-27-2002, 06:19 PM
I find that the use of force and strength in a technique is often predicated on nage taking unfair advantage of uke's kindness. If I am less kind, it can create a situation of conflict between me and nage, and that situation can escalate uncomfortably. Ultimately, it can lead to real struggle and someone can get hurt.Actually, I agree with you here. Using poor technique with too much strength is taking advantage of an uke, and a skilled uke will not allow a nage to do this. Since such situations are not uncommon in hard styles, we spend alot of time learning how to prevent ourselves from getting beat up without letting the situation escalate into a confrontation. Once you learn how to do it, it's not that hard. Kind of like Aikido in general.It doesn't produce the beautiful flowing ukemi which I find so awe-inspiring, but it does teach an amazing sensitivity to what does and does not move uke.I agree with this too. I am currently practicing in a softer style than the one to which I accustomed and I have learned some novel things about relaxation and sensitivity there. To me, though, those things would be useless unless I were able to apply them at full speed as well. Unfortuntely, people who only do soft styles sometimes cannot differentiate between what can be effectively applied to a real attack and what only works with a cooperating partner. So, some of what I have been taught will ultimately be useful but I expect that at least some will also have to be unlearned and discarded.

Kevin Wilbanks
10-27-2002, 07:20 PM
Conditioning your knuckles is useless. There are very few things on a human body that are hard enough to harm your knuckles, as long as you strike with a proper fist. The few things that can harm your knuckles, such as the teeth, will cut right through any calluses no matter how well you condition the skin anyway. So, conditioning the knuckles is a stupid idea.
...so is the above argument. Almost any part of the human skull can easily shatter or otherwise fracture the metacarpals - I can't count how many anecdotal accounts of this I have heard. A properly aligned and aimed elbow could likely easily do the same. That's just the potential for bone injury.

When it comes to soft tissue, teeth are a big one. I heard a guy tell a story of how he had an extended hospital stay and almost had part of his arm amputated from a tooth puncture wound to the fist. If you go wailing on skulls with the fist in particular, you could also end up with some nasty sprains and tendon strains if things don't connect quite right.

As far as the long term effects of punching boards and other hard objects 'until you can't stand the pain' with any serious frequency, I'd say it's a relative certainty that you'll be looking at degenerative joint disease and reduced hand functioning at an alarmingly young age.

All for what?

Unless you go around punching people a few times per week, I don't see that the cost/benefit ratio of conditioning the most delicate mechanical instrument on your body to function as a bludgeon works out. I like to use my hands for many daily tasks requiring a high degree of precisely controlled functioning which I am not willing to give up without pressing need.

People with experience who talk sense about fighting generally seem to advocate hitting hard targets like the skull with the palm, heel of the hand, elbow, or found objects/weapons. Add kicks, throws, pushing, etc... to your arsenal and the need for whacking things with your knuckles further diminishes.

While a fist can certainly do damage, from a long term health perspective, I see reliance on the fists as a primary weapon as an inherently flawed strategy, and beating on hard objects with them to condition them as a needlessly injurious practice.