View Full Version : Where's the hara?
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02-06-2005, 04:49 PM
Well, I basically know where it "is". But in the books I've read, it's always portrayed as being on the surface of your lower belly. This doesn't really make sense as far as your center of gravity goes, so I was wondering: When you're focusing on your center, do you focus on a point on your lower abdomen, or a more three-dimensional point inside your abdomen?
02-06-2005, 05:28 PM
my shihan always says that your hara is 3 or 4 inches below your bellybotton and then three inches in (3 inches in from your skin surface)
does anybody else know something different?
02-06-2005, 05:46 PM
Yep, inside, not on the surface.
02-06-2005, 05:58 PM
From what I understand, (and you'll have to take my comments with a grain of salt cause I haven't been practicing all that long), it is inside your body a couple of inches down and in from your navel.
If you're really wondering exactly wear, try shadow boxing some techniques and get a feel for it. Try and let your mind clear and it will slowly take shape in your mind. At least, I found that it worked for me.
02-06-2005, 06:50 PM
It's really not very complicated. The "hara" is not some mystical location that only the masters know of. It's just the area of your midsection that your center of balance comes from.
02-06-2005, 10:18 PM
Take a straight metal rod. Balance it on its end. Notice that its center of mass is over its "feet". Bend the rod near the "waist". Attempt to stand it on its "feet" again. Watch it fall over in the direction that the upper half is bent.
02-06-2005, 10:41 PM
"hara" only overlaps with the "center of gravity" in terms of meaning here and there. So, in my opinion, it doesn't serve one too well to only think of the hara as the center of gravity. There are many more connotations associated with the hara that are not associated with the center of gravity. Also, the center of gravity is not a specific location in the body. It is dynamic by nature and is in a constant state of flux. This is because movement, which effects the positioning and balance of the body, is always in a constant state of flux.
When I first trained, I was always told things like "move from your center," "use your center," "concentrate on your center," etc. As a teacher, I realize that if you don't have your center already, these phrases are basically meaningless since there is no common point of reference being used - no shared context. I have only found them to be useful in terms of getting a student to grasp the concept that there is more to know and do than they already know and can do. For me, phrases like these have only become truly efficient when I combine them with some basic exercises which work to establish a common reference and/or context regarding "center."
For example, it is important to realize that the center of anything can only exist because there are at least two peripheries. It is also mandatory that these peripheries are in a relationship to each other - a co-dependent one. Thus, if you want to find your center, particularly before you know what that is and/or before you experience what that is, seek to establish a co-dependent relationship between the two peripheries which are the very things that mark and define "center". In particular, and most commonly, be sure that your head and feet are in a constant and co-dependent relationship to each other. When they are, you will have established centered movement. When they are not, you will have lost center. This is why awareness must not only go to some point abstractly located proximate to your navel - awareness must travel the length of one's body - from head to two - then center will be manifested naturally, almost of its own accord.
02-06-2005, 11:23 PM
Well..it kind of only makes since that the hara would be on the inside and not at skin level...
Oh yeah...and remember, "Computer programmers don't run a muck...they just become sarcastic"...
Sorry sensei :D...couldn't resist...
02-06-2005, 11:42 PM
The hara is where you move from when you're Tango dancing.
02-07-2005, 04:47 AM
Jeanne, please don't use this analogy - I once got confused early on in a tango class and my dancing partner didn't know how to ukemi... (it was a nice irimi+180 breath throw even if I do say so myself, but definitely inappropriate)
02-07-2005, 07:07 AM
It's more of a "feeling" than a physical place. A good tip from my sensei when I first started was to tense my tummy muscles - you will feel a bit that you can't tense and that is the spot you should visualise as your centre, or "one- point". As it happens, that is a point a few inches below the navel. I also tend to visualise my "one-point" within me, rather than on the surface of the skin but I don't think it matters that much - it's more the feeling of being co-ordinated that you are looking for.
At least that's how I do it :)
02-07-2005, 08:10 AM
I agree with what David Valadez has said here (and on his web site by the way).
To expand on that a bit, I'd say that when students have no common point of reference, it is much better to talk about maintaining your posture and moving from where your legs attach to the trunk of your body (as the center of your movement). That will help people ensure that their "head and feet are in a constant and co-dependent relationship to each other," resulting in somewhat centered movement.
Several really good sempai have explained to me that "hara is emptiness" and that has been making more and more sense to me lately (in terms of feeling). It helps me work on keeping things intimate and not personal.
02-07-2005, 08:56 AM
Oh yeah...and remember, "Computer programmers don't run a muck...they just become sarcastic"...
Sorry sensei :D...couldn't resist...
"Hara" actually has connotations beyond the physical "Center of Mass". I'm a little fuzzy on it, but I think the term "Tanden" carries more the feeling of the physical center of mass.
I guess I shouldn't have tried to pose a "thought experiment". I honestly didn't mean to be saracastic...not that I have to try anymore after being in the industry so long.
I really hoped people would see the post and think about it...in the static-literal (what happens if I bend uke's body), in the dynamic-literal (what happens if I stop the bottom or top of a moving free structure) and in the allegorical (what happens if I momentarily "bend" uke's mind).
But, hey, it has long since established that the way that I think about aikido for myself and the way that I can convey those ideas to others is, in the words of Myers Sensei, not mutually inclusive.
The bottom line is: Keep Training.
02-07-2005, 09:02 AM
I agree with what David Valadez has said here
At the risk of wasting bandwidth, "Me too". David is a deep thinker.
I guess it's the sinus drugs, but I just had a visual of David and I talking aikido at an office party and the faces of those around us.
02-07-2005, 09:40 AM
Then we must be on the same medication - I had that same vision Greg. ;-)
02-07-2005, 09:45 AM
Whoops - pressed the submit button too fast - sorry. Meant to add...
Maybe Rob is talking about this from our web site: (if folks are interested)
02-07-2005, 10:29 AM
Thank you Jennings Sensei.
Didn't mean to sound that you were only being sarcastic...I knew you meant something behind it...
02-07-2005, 10:43 AM
Thank you Jennings Sensei.
Didn't mean to sound that you were only being sarcastic...I knew you meant something behind it...
Hey Bryce, I hope it didn't come across that I was correcting you. I wasn't.
I'm pretty wiped out today and everything I say should be taken with a grain...or a double-handful...of salt.
02-07-2005, 11:57 AM
Heh. Don't worry Jennings Sensei I didn't feel that way...
02-07-2005, 12:39 PM
That is a nice little blurb on having the center (which "sensei" said that?), but I was refering to something I read on your site about aikido being the reconciliation of all paradoxes, or something like that. It was well said and I can't do it justice.
I comment on it here, because that is how I see "center" too. Center exhists between unification and separation, between tension and release, between moving and rest, and between holding in and pushing out. Also, if you model your aikido technique after the kotodama (like O-sensei), then you never stop expanding during aikido technique. Since your arms (etc.) have physical limited to how much they can lengthen, to continually expand, you have to continually move your center (and consequently uke's center) to allow this to happen. I have a lot more work/research to do in this area!
David, please keep up the good writing!
02-07-2005, 01:11 PM
I think you summed it up extremely well - perhaps better than even I could. Moreover, I would agree with your take on it - that it would have to be included in any real sense of center.
The "Exchanges," which includes that writing on "center," are all based upon actual dojo interactions I've had with one or more deshi at our dojo. I take some fictional license here and there in order to make the conversations more universal - so they are not so much of an "inside" deal, more open to the other members who were not present at said time and/or to the general public at large. Nevertheless, the base of each exchange is a real conversation that took place between myself and one or more of my deshi. Hence, with a bit of embarrassment, I have to say the "sensei" is me.
Thanks for the encouragement. It always helps.
02-07-2005, 03:52 PM
Sorry, I didn't mean to set you up for embarrassment. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who is willing to explain such difficult things so well to aikido students is "sensei" enough for me. I only asked because if you said that was from XYZ sensei, I would try to find XYZ sensei's website and read what else that person had to say.
About the center, the thing that eludes me is how to recognize where to make space such that the feeling of center contact is maintained along with the direction you have set (and are maintaining). I can do an *okay* job of this in basic waza (because someone already did a good job mapping out the general choreography), but I don't have to experience to do this in free waza yet (not on purpose). The center of that seems to exhist between desire and aversion (closer to the aversion side than the desire side) -- so it's not the "exact center". I've been playing around with the balance of this being that uke has to balance this out by behaving a bit closer to the desire side than the aversion side for this all to work out as a system with a center. However, what does that say about doing aikido with the kamikazi type attackers? (Like maybe it can't be done, or the nage has to completely avoid them, I don't know!
Sorry, I don't mean to hijack the thread. I just think "where's the hara" has difficult answers...
02-07-2005, 04:31 PM
Personally, I think this is really getting at the heart of the thread. So, please let me ask you to expand a bit more on this notion of desire and aversion (and the in between of those things). I believe I have a sense of what you are referring to but I would want to make sure I'm thinking of the same things before I attempt to add anything more to what you are saying.
Let me say this now however, your position reminds me of something I've been studying in the Heart Sutra of late - which also relates to the fact that you already mentioned "emptiness." In particular, your notions of desire and aversion remind me of the line in the sutra that reads, "no attainment and no non-attainment." But let me hear more please before I go on. I'm very interested in hearing what else you might be thinking.
Thanks in advance,
02-08-2005, 08:50 AM
I can explain what I mean regarding desire and aversion in the physical sense easily enough. When you move your body close to your partner's body and bend your arms a bit to get even closer - to get more control - you are WAY on the "desire" side. When you move or keep your body at arms length (or more) from your partner - to have more safety - you are WAY on the "aversion" side. I find I need to set things up to start with a little extra desire and then move away (or maybe I should say "expand away") so that my arms are almost 95% extended - so I can keep the center to center connection. If I were to get to 100% extended I'd be totally in "aversion" land.
I think you described the feeling of emptiness better than I could. I'm a bit dense, so please feel invited to elaborate! My limited understanding of the Heart Sutra is that it speaks to a the very sophistocated idea of how the "absolute" is *relative* to the "relative" -- *absolutely*. (Kind of like recursion!) This kind of monistic dualism or dualistic monism (however you like to think about it) is certainly the heart of the issue for going beyond the typical aikido practice of flow just enough to then crank them to the ground...
A whole lot of this is merky because of translation issues. For instance, the idea of separation and unificaiton is a little confusing in that when American's say "separation" we mean "100% cut off in all ways", and the Japanese words we are translating more have a sense of meaning "separated from the whole in some way(s), but still connected to the whole in some other way(s)". But I'm way out of my league in articulating this kind of thing.
I suppose I would sum this all up by saying that my hara is located around intestines which move somewhat freely. My physical hara is generally empty (unless I ate lunch - or I become the first male to get pregnant). Maintaining this very tangable feeling of emptiness is a good tool to help me move in an optimally connected and reflexive way. (That's what hara means to me, at my current level.)
02-08-2005, 10:58 AM
Thanks for replying.
If you will allow me to work my way through my own thoughts, using your ideas/terms…
I think I may get what you are saying. Definitely, it is very interesting and it has certainly made a simple question that wanted so badly to stay at the level of anatomical locations take notice of itself – forcing it to become more than it ever thought possible.
I think at one level you are using a binary logic (e.g. desire and aversion) to demonstrate a tactical optimum – one particular to the maai necessary to maintain both connection and a center-to-center relationship between nage and uke. At this level, which is deceptively simple, it almost seems as if your position is making use of a philosophy of balance and/or of middle ground. In particular, you are suggesting that one cannot be “too close” or “too far,” that one must be “just right” (in between “too far” and “too close”). Since we are talking about “center” here, or even “hara,” we are to understand that this “just right” is interdependent to both having a sense of center and an experience of center. That is to say, to speak of “hara” or of “center” (which we may or may not want to equate), but to not understand either one as part of an interdependency is to miss something huge about “hara” or “center.” If I may, I would say, to be stuck on the anatomically positioning of “hara” or “center,” such that we lose track of this interdependency, is to be stuck at a very mundane or embryonic level of understanding and experience regarding “hara” or “center.”
Your position also asks us to realize that any sense of “hara” or of “center” should include a correct notion of body/mind. That is to say, we cannot find “center” by physical means alone – absent of spiritual, mental, and emotional considerations. While theoretically, it may seem very possible to “locate” one’s “hara” or “center,” in actual practice, where “hara” or “center” is most needed and most presumed, knowing where one’s “hara” or “center” is on or in one’s body amounts to little. Such an attempt opens one up to Korzybski’s critical statement of, "A map is not the territory.” If we look at your examples of desire and aversion, we can see that we are indeed looking at things of the mind – things that do have an affect on the body. For example, often we are too close or too far because we are anxious, or too insecure. It is rarely the case that we are just “too close” or just “too far.” There is usually an emotional content to our physical expressions. For example, depending upon our personal history and make-up, our insecurities can have us attempting to smother uke’s actions, rather than letting them complete themselves. Lacking in faith, we force techniques hoping that some sort of application of Target Creation will suffice in meeting our perceived idea of “success.” “Success” mistakenly being understood and experienced as an end to one’s feelings of insecurity. As a result, we stop relating to the whole of the situation, we come to neglect the interdependency that exists between our center, uke’s center, the center of the technique, the center of the encounter, and the center of the Universe. All that lies at the “center” of things is our insecurity and our attempts to quell it, but this “center” is no center since it negates all else that is in relationship to it. It is egocentric, and by that we mean that it is neglectful even of its own periphery. Thus, it is an anti-center, of sorts.
The same would apply for being too much on the side of aversion – it too may be seated in insecurity and anxiousness. That is to say, a particular state of mind can easily affect our physical use of center in the direction of either extreme. If we are of a personal history and make-up that has us more fleeing than smothering when we attempt to alleviate or address our fears, it is quite possible that we will lose the center of the technique, and the tactical center of proper body mechanics, simply because we adopt the anti-center of egocentricism (as we attempt to find ourselves a new “secure” state of body/mind via pushing or keeping uke away).
Therefore, it would seem to me that you are quite correct in suggesting that our notion of center could have, or even should have, these notions of “just right,” of body/mind, and of interdependency. I think these elements are definitely important and do indeed seem to be some of the major things missing when we instructors say to students, “Use your center.” That is to say, and referring back to an earlier post I made in this thread, it is the absence of these things that leads to a loss of mutual context or point of reference, which leads to a lack of understanding and/or immediate availability of center – which leads to the (practical) meaninglessness of such phrases. My early attempts to get students to focus upon the interdependent relationship that should exist between their head and their feet (and thus the center of those two peripheries) is my effort to get folks to realize that there is more to “hara” or “center” then mere location (as on a map). It is my attempt to get them to realize that there are also these other things involved: “just rightness,” body/mind considerations, and a law of interdependency.
At another level, one born out of your use of interdependency, your position is extremely complicated, but also extremely sophisticated. Earlier, I mentioned the center of uke, the center of nage, the center of the technique, the center of the encounter, and the center of the Universe. We may want to understand these things as permanent and individual entities. However, because of the law of interdependency, we have to acknowledge that these things do not exist until they all exist. Yet, equally, we must say, because that is so, because they have no independent nature of their own, these things do not exist. Because the latter is what we may misunderstand the most, we may be better serving ourselves by understanding center not as some thing or some things we should gain but as some thing or some things we should lose. I can acknowledge that to some, particularly those who train only or mostly in Shu level training and/or in Kihon waza, this last statement is absurd and even irrelevant. However, equally, I can acknowledge that to those who are fulfilling the Shu-Ha-Ri model and/or doing a lot of spontaneous training, pointing to a place on your body and saying, “Use that,” is equally absurd and irrelevant.
Thanks for the impulse to think some things through (a bit more).
02-08-2005, 01:05 PM
I agree with your line of thinking almost entirely. I admit that the majority of my class is kihon waza - but what I'm researching is certainly not basics for the sake of basics. I've read several papers on shu-ha-ri but I think I have it well understood. My assumption is that the shu level is like the shoden level, the ha level is like the chuden level, and the ri level is like the okuden level, but that's just my guess from trying to figure it out from context. I keep hoping someone will write a shu-ha-ri for dummies book.
I love the idea of ego-centric being an anti-center to the way we are thinking about center. My thoughts are that ego is what separates you from your true self (the true self you are supposed to be working on manifesting by means of aikido practice). I suppose I consider my true self to be the center of how my mind and hara form an inderdependent relationship and therefore my ego can never truly be "centric". The term "ego-centric" seems to consists of antipodes.
"because of the law of interdependency, we have to acknowledge that these things do not exist until they all exist."
My thoughts to add about this are:
1) I think I call this the principle of corespondance. (As above, so below, as it is below, so it is above). Basically, all principles are meta-principles of that one.
2) I guess I feel that my center, and the center of the Universe exist, and the center of the technique, and the center of the uke all exist even if the uke is unaware that any of these centers exist.
So, while I see no disagreement here. I not convinced about "understanding center not as some thing or some things we should gain but as some thing or some things we should lose." Maybe - again I'm a bit dense. But I see it as you probably have to gain a few things - as well as - lose a few things for center. It's not very easy to give some things up. Some parts of my ego are really fun at parties. :)
(As an aside, there are very few books written in English about yin and yang. I'm looking for a good picture where there is a white circle in black side, and a black circle in the white side for an illustration of "anything to its extreme becomes its opposite" - as in iriminage).
02-08-2005, 01:44 PM
Sorry about the bad typo:
"I've read several papers on shu-ha-ri but I think I have it well understood."
was supposed to be:
"I've read several papers on shu-ha-ri but I think I DON'T have it well understood."
Sorry for my carelessness. - Rob
02-09-2005, 10:32 AM
Thanks for reply. Very nice points. Thanks for sharing.
Here's what you got me thinking...
First, please let me outright say that this is by no means the only way that one can think of center. It is just a tool – one of many I imagine. One may find it useful, one may not. Moreover, I think the utility of one’s concept of center will always have a lot to do with what wants center to be, etc. So, for me, there’s a lot of room for variation on this type of stuff. I am just trying to take advantage of some of that room. I do not think I would want to ever make more of it than that.
That said… I guess it is like this for me…
All of this stems from the direct experience of witnessing aikidoka who appear to be quite skilled while performing kihon waza and/or institutionally approved types of jiyu waza or randori, completely fall apart under what in comparison has to be called truer spontaneous conditions. Basic things go right out the window – things as basic as the capacity to clear the line of the attack, or enter into shikaku (especially when it is at the back of the attacker); even things as elementary as tenkan-ashi seem to be beyond the practitioner’s access. Undoubtedly then, something as essential and as sophisticated as “center” is also most often absent. Under such conditions, the problem does not seem to be one of “Where is my center?” as much as it is “How do I gain or maintain access to center?” The former question is going to have us looking for places on the body. The latter question is going to have us concerned with those things that prevent us from maintaining and/or gaining access to center. Thus, more than physical location is going to become significant. Naturally, then, we are going to have to simultaneously look for mental, emotional, and spiritual components since these things very often make us lose or have no access to our center.
In my opinion, this is a problem for both the instructor attempting to lead others to true spontaneity with the art, and this is a problem for any student of the art attempting such an accomplishment. I would not say that this problem is universal or even that we should make it universal – not everyone will or will want to train toward such aims. However, for those that do, the absence of center within spontaneous training environments and the reasons why it becomes absent are significant issues. With these concerns comes dissatisfaction with the usual discourse (e.g. “Put your mind in your center.” “Use your center.” Etc.). This is because under such training conditions, putting your mind somewhere is not the problem, is not something you are not doing. The problem is that you are putting your mind too many places, that too many things are fettering it. To put your mind in any place, it is quickly realized under such training conditions, is to lose center. We lose center when we put our mind in any place because our mind (and thus our body) becomes captured by the place where we allow our mind to rest. This is basic Takuan stuff but I feel it is still applicable and thus definitely remains insightful. Moreover, within intense spontaneous training conditions, the mind being captured by various places, things, feelings, etc., is readily visible. That is to say, this is a real problem. So maybe there is indeed something to Takuan’s caveat when he says, “You should not place your mind within yourself. Bracing the mind in the body is something done only at the inception of training, when one is a beginner.”
If we look at the example of desire (i.e. too close) and aversion (i.e. too far away), and note how these things may very well be related to the egocentric or the anti-center of having to address our own fears and insecurities and thus being reduced to acting or reacting in a habitual manner, we can see that it is our mind (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, etc.) that is being captured by our fears or our insecurities. The thing with spontaneous training environments, in contrast to Kihon Waza training environments, is that they have a way of reducing us very quickly to our most habitual selves. When that happens we lose “center” because we are allowing our mind to “rest” in our emotions or in our subjective and habitual experience of reality (i.e. “I’m afraid, must smother” or “I’m afraid, must retreat or keep at bay”). When our mind (and thus our body) rests in the anti-center, for whatever reason, we lose touch with our uke, with the engagement, and even with ourselves. But what does it mean to be in touch with ourselves, with the engagement, and with uke? What does that mean in terms of center? Answering this, I feel, will bring us to this notion of interdependency and why we might gain more by understanding center as more akin to emptiness than to an anatomical position on or in the body.
When we ourselves are centered, it is assumed that we are centered in relation to our own body AND in relation to what action we are performing or attempting. This is what makes our sense of center practical (i.e. able to be employed under spontaneous conditions). When we understand “center” in this way, we understand that a center-to-center connection with another person warrants that any sense of center must include a notion of being multi-relational and/or harmonious with multiple centers. That is to say, if I am moving in a “centered” fashion in regards to my own body mechanics but my own body mechanics is not in harmony with what my opponent is doing, then my sense of center will quickly falter and become extinct or false the second I engage my attacker. This is a way that we can understand being too close or being too far – too stuck in desire or too stuck in aversion: our center is out of synch with uke’s and the center of the engagement.
However, in relating the center of our being to the center of someone else, because we are addressing the issue of possessing a practical sense of center, we are also relating these centers to the center of a tactical architecture. In the same way as before, when I am not connecting to the center of the tactical architecture, or when I am not using the properly “centered” architecture for how I am opting to relate my center to the center of uke, my center again falters and becomes extinct or false. For example, when I am too close, my center becomes too stressed and my posture may break; when I am too far, I may have to overextend in order to reach my attacker, etc. In the same way, this architectural center relates to the center of the engagement, since the center of the engagement determines the “rightness” of the tactical architecture. Continuing onward, the center of the engagement is itself determined by the center of the universe and/or what we might want to consider the natural laws of the universe. Thus, as an extension of the same reasoning, if I lose one center, I lose them all. If I have only one center, I have none. I must have them all in order to have any of them.
When I do not have my center, when I am not moving in a bio-mechanically efficient manner, I am weak and inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. When I am moving in a bio-mechanically correct manner but doing so irrelevant to what my attacker is doing, my movement becomes awkward and inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. When I have my center, and I am relating that center to the center of my attacker, but I am not relating these things to the center of tactical architecture I am opting to employ, my technique becomes forced and inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. When I have my center, and I am relating it to the center of my attacker and to the center of the tactical architecture I am opting to use, but I am not relating it to the center of the total engagement, my awareness becomes staccato or too narrow and my movement become inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. When I have my center, and I am relating it to the center of my attacker and to the center of the tactical architecture I am using, and when all of these things are being properly related to the center of the total engagement, but I am out of synch with the center of the Universe, Nature’s laws regarding movement, energy, the transference of energy, and even Chance work against me and my movement becomes inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. In short, I can fall from center nearly anywhere, and when I do, I fall from every center. Moreover, if it the case that my emotional experiences can pull me off center and toward the anti-center of egocentricism, then it is obvious that I will have to drop a great many things like insecurity, fear, anxiousness, etc., in order to remain centered.
In the end, I am suggesting, it is the dropping off of things that will probably lend itself more to having a practical sense of center within spontaneous environments than anything else. If the problem is the abiding mind or the fettered mind, giving such a mind one more thing to locate and/or to think about might be doing the very opposite of what we wish. Alternatively, having fewer things to be fettered with, or more accurately, having more capacity to be unattached to such places, things, emotions, etc., might be the answer. It may be that by losing more we may gain everything.
Just an idea,
02-09-2005, 01:22 PM
Thanks for further explaining your perspective. I'll add some context to aikido given the 'spontaneous condition' that O-sensei supposedly said something to the effect of 'I lose my center all of the time; I just get it back faster than most of the people I am working with'. That's not an exact quote (as it is in English and all) but it makes sense to me and helped me with the way I think about these things. I think it is the same kind of 'balance - unbalance - balance again' pattern we have in walking where you have to break your 100% balance if you are going to move.
I've also read other discussions where they stopped talking about moving from center and started talking about grounding to the floor (which you reminded me of when you discussed the interdependant relationship between the feet and the head). Their reasons were that if you removed the floor, that the person wouldn't have much ability to do what we generally refer to as move from center. I think that has some validity as well except I can make the counter arguement that plenty of people stand on the floor and I can knock them over with a feather - so it is probably both (as you suggested).
Good discussion. If you have the time and the inclantation to PM me about the actual definitions of shu-ha-ri I would appreciate it.
Thanks - Rob
02-09-2005, 03:01 PM
That's a great line. I've never heard it - where is it from?
I have some stuff on Shu-Ha-Ri. Here is some of what's on our web site on this topic:
These are writings:
This is a video with a paragraph of explanation:
I guess you can find the literal translations for the words Shu, Ha, and Ri just about anywhere on the Net nowadays. But I like to define them as "Construction," "Deconstruction," and "Spontaneity."
Sorry about posting again - not sure how PM works, but if you would like to contact me privately then please feel free to write me any time. Our email address is on our web site.
Thanks for the discussion, take care,
02-09-2005, 03:40 PM
Pete Trimmer sensei says it often. My assumption is that Saotome sensei heard it from O-sensei. I don't know this for sure, but since I'll be seeing Pete this weekend for a seminar I'll ask him. If it turns out my guess was wrong, I'll correct it here on Monday.
I get the impression that Shu is the bulding of forms, Ha is the practice of multiple variations, and Ri is being able to spontaneously handle things in an aiki way. Ha is were I'm the most weak in my understanding. It seems like there are several levels of this. Like aren't nikyo and sankyo just variations of ikyo? Anyway, the most helpful think I have learned about spontaneously moving from variation to variation is that I have to move such that my attacker is not 100% in my center vision. When I have that little angle, I manage to avoid that "deer in the headlights" problem. I got the idea from what Henry Kono sensei seemed to be showing us about randori at a seminar. (He was able to speak to O-sensei a lot more than most because he spoke the language but was considered to be from Canada - so he had foreigner-status enough to be allowed to ask questions the rest just couldn't get away with asking.) It's been working pretty well for me.
Thanks again - great discussion! - Rob
02-09-2005, 04:51 PM
Yes, I've heard of that understanding of "Ha." I think my take has somewhat departed from that viewpoint - however. But that is what is great about these forums. Different folks with different views coming together.
02-10-2005, 03:28 AM
In answer to the question rather prosaically, in Japanese the hara is the abdomen, stomach, guts, belly. The tanden is by no means a well-known concept over here. People sometimes know where it is, but there are no vernacular expressions, and outside of the healing arts, some Chinese and Indian arts it's not bandied about much. According to varoous sources it's about two or three fingers' width below and behind the navel.
The Japanese have a few expressions regarding the hara that may be useful.
腹が立ってる hara ga tatteru: get angry, exasperated
腹が減って軍ができぬ hara ga hette ikusa ga dekinu: you can't do anything on an empty stomach (lit: an army can't do anything on an empty stomach... don't know if this comes from the western expression or not, but I suspect something way older, maybe Sun Tzu but I haven't checked).
腹は決った hara ha(wa) kimetta: made your mind up.
This post's getting too long, so I'll leave you with 小説は腹の足しにはならない。。。 shousetsu ha hara no tashi ni ha naranai: you can't eat a novel!
02-10-2005, 06:51 AM
Simplistically your hara is your centre (of gravity). The point from which you can most effectively physically affect your environment. Of course, to be effective it must be in the correct position and alignment in time and space, in relation to what you are trying to influence .
But! it goes deeper than that and its other meaning and properties is unique to each of us, something we have to discover for ourselves?
02-14-2005, 08:11 AM
Here's to things that came to my mind abotu this subject:
1) What happens if someone cuts you in half from head to tailbone? Where's your hara now? You'd have 2 new ones. Which means to me, it cannot be an actual point in and of itself, but rather a center point which is only defined by the balancing of its periphery. I don't bring this up to be difficult, but because the point is important to the context of aikido.
2) There is also term hara-raki (which I may not have romanized correctly) - which was used in the context of describing how the smallest cog in a big clock turns and everything else turns as a result of it.
02-14-2005, 10:55 AM
I'll add some context to aikido given the 'spontaneous condition' that O-sensei supposedly said something to the effect of 'I lose my center all of the time; I just get it back faster than most of the people I am working with'. That's not an exact quote (as it is in English and all) but it makes sense to me and helped me with the way I think about these things. I think it is the same kind of 'balance - unbalance - balance again' pattern we have in walking where you have to break your 100% balance if you are going to move.Hi Rob:
I think you're talking about 2 different concepts of center. The physical "center" is really a ball bounded by the abdomen, pelvic floor, lower lumbar region, and diaphragm. The "one point" is the center of that ball.
The other "center" is of course tied to that physical one, but the idea is that every movement you do contains the "center" as the impetus for that movement. For instance, if you do "sayu undo", every millimeter of movement contains the force of the center moving the body and the force of the center in your arms and hands. That's why the Aiki-Taiso and the Taisabaki are practiced. If you "lose your center", you momentarily lose the center's equilibrium and power behind every movement.I've also read other discussions where they stopped talking about moving from center and started talking about grounding to the floor (which you reminded me of when you discussed the interdependant relationship between the feet and the head). Their reasons were that if you removed the floor, that the person wouldn't have much ability to do what we generally refer to as move from center. I think that has some validity as well except I can make the counter arguement that plenty of people stand on the floor and I can knock them over with a feather - so it is probably both (as you suggested).Yeah, but the people you can knock over with a feather don't know how to bring the power from the ground through their center. ;)
02-14-2005, 02:12 PM
Well, the physical center is not interesting to me. When people say move from center, they mean the second definition you were refering to. If anything, on the physical side, the center of your movement would be where your legs attach to the trunk of your body.
Can you elaborate on "sayu undo" and "Aiki-taiso"? I am not overly familiar to those terms and I suspect I have alternative terms for their concepts. Thanks!
02-14-2005, 03:12 PM
Well, the physical center is not interesting to me. When people say move from center, they mean the second definition you were refering to. If anything, on the physical side, the center of your movement would be where your legs attach to the trunk of your body.Well, the body's fascial sheets are considered the connection that holds the body together and they meet, according to the Ki/Qi paradigm, in the middle of the body... that's where you want to control from. Some extended theories of these controls put the actual joining-together of these control sheets at the perineum or even the anus, in some schools of thought. But we're beginning to get into some areas of movement that are too complex for the written word.Can you elaborate on "sayu undo" and "Aiki-taiso"? I am not overly familiar to those terms and I suspect I have alternative terms for their concepts.Taiso are the various exercises people do, usually for warmup. Mostly I see people do these exercises wrong, too fast, and superficially. They're very important. They're how you practice moving with Kokyu. "Sayu undo" is the one where you sort of swing your arms in a circle so that both hands wind up pointing toward one side, elbows down, and you pretend you're dropping someone down with the elbow/arm off to your side. The whole circle and down drop should be connected to your center and your weight... it's more subtle than it appears, bringing your weight to your hands and arms.
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