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Mike Sigman
06-04-2005, 10:19 AM
There's a saying about "all paths lead to the top of the mountain" that always grates on the nerves. It defies common sense and smacks of that false pseudo-sage relativism which tries to say that there is no wrong way to do anything. Obviously there are right and wrong ways to do things and while a lot of paths lead to the top of the mountain, there are also paths that don't go to the top of the mountain and paths that go to other mountains. :)

Broadly speaking, not all martial arts is the same, either. In fact, in a deliberately too-simplistic way we can separate martial arts into 2 categories... technique-oriented martial arts and "highest level" martial arts. It turns out that not all martial arts can be or are "highest level" (not a great term, but let's just use it for simplicity) because they don't train certain things. On the other hand, there are more arts that aim for (among certain segments of practitioners; not everyone) being "highest level" than a lot of people suppose.

The best way to approach the discussion is to avoid techniques and look at the basic premises in Aikido. Essentially, the basic strategy of Aikido is to avoid a direct engagement, take the opponent's balance, execute a technique. Even though different wordings are used, this same strategy is common in a number of other martial arts... yet they all have different "techniques".

There is another famous martial art comment which may be in Aikido, but I've never seen it published (that I can remember... someone correct me if I'm wrong, please): movement approaches stillness. What this means is that first you practice with large movements, but as you get better and better your actual movement approaches the ideal of appearing to be no movement. If you think about it, whether it's voiced or not, this is also an unavoidable development in Aikido and many of the higher-level practitioners exhibit this "movements become smaller" development of technique.

The ideal high level of a martial art is to touch an opponent and with no real movement avoid his attack, take his balance, and execute a technique (some of which are devastating). Of course, you can take this ideal level one step further (if you want to play one-upmanship, which many of the Asians have done) and sense the engagement before you touch, take his balance through a gesture, and do a "technique" (make him fall, for example), all without touching. But let's ignore this ideal "control of an opponent without touching" and stick with the substantive idea of touch, evade, control, execute.

The point of levels becomes generally:

Low level: doing "techniques" and not doing them too well.

Higher level: doing "techniques" and doing them very well.

Highest level: going beyond "techniques" in many cases, but having the ability to do techniques extremely well when circumstances call for it.

Notice that there is no implication that someone goes beyond "techniques" at a certain level and never has to use them again... that's simply unrealistic.

Another unrealistic idea to avoid is the idea that "no strength" is used. The idea is that no "brute force" is used; however, the power used in the highest-level martial arts is unusually high... that's what "ki" and the supplemental physical training is about. All of the highest level martial arts use "ki" and have varying degrees of control of ki, side-aspects of ki, and they use "ki" to effect that moment of engagement, avoid opponent's application of power, mesh with opponent's power in such a way as to take his power/balance away, effect the finishing technique.

It would be arguing needlessly to engage in a lengthy discussion about "no strength" versus "correct strength", but it's worth pointing out that hours of training produce strength, standing practice produces strength, and O-Sensei was quite proud of his strength... even having super-heavy garden implements made for him so he could maintain his strength. Strength is necessary, but it's a special kind of strength involving directing power from the middle, as opposed to using "normal strength". "Ki" is a part of, or an adjunct to, the strength from the middle (it's all considered to be "ki) and none of the "highest level" martial arts can effect the very-small-movement (sometimes "no movement") techniques without being able to manipulate "ki".

Anyway, watching some of the discussions within western Aikido that are heading off toward grappling, Systema, "my teacher", pecking-order, and so on, it seems like a clearer idea of what "highest level" means might have some effect on the practice and discussions within the segment of the Aikido community that is serious in taking the path toward the "highest level" via Aikido. The comment is not meant to be offensive to those who are in Aikido for other reasons. ;)

FWIW

Mike Sigman

bkedelen
06-04-2005, 11:49 AM
Interesting perspective, Mike. My idea of "highest level" training (to paraphrase some modern science fiction) is a knife fight in a dirt floored bar between myself and the fascist that lives in my soul. When my dark half knocks me down, I had better get the hell back up.

Mike Sigman
06-04-2005, 11:56 AM
Er, OK. Hmmmm. Boulder, eh? "Twenty square miles surrounded by reality". ;) I've trained there more than a few times.

I think a good idea of the perception of "highest level" controls can be found in that DVD "Shingi Denju" that I keep recommending. An example of falling back on technique in a pinch might be Takeda Sokaku going at it with those workmen using his sword.

Mike

Kevin Leavitt
06-04-2005, 12:31 PM
Mike,

Interesting thoughts....had to read it several times to see if I understood what you are communicating....maybe I don't have it, but any way these are some thoughts that came into my mind as I read.

I agree, all paths don't lead to the top. As you point out, not all of us may be on the same mountain, or climb the mountain for the same reasons.

What you define "highest level" /low level...I have typically labeled "internal versus external" martial arts in the past....however, these days I am not sure I even understand how you label something one or the other.

I think technique is based on principles of kinestics and the dynamic of movement. In the Highest level you work on understanding the principles. If you understand them well, then you have many options. These options are a broad range of techniques. The "higher" you are the more choices you have, from avoiding conflict, to resolving it at the lowest level possible.

"lower" (external) systems will typcially focus on ending a fight efficiently with as minimium effort or risk of exposure as possbile, but may not worry much about the application of excessive force. The goal is to learn a broad range of techniques quickly that will work in most common situations. I call this the "80%" solution. (pareto principle approach). In the past, you find this in "combat" oriented systems.

Why I am confused over internal versus external as it seems that many "combat" oriented systems that have come into popularity in last few years are really fairly complex and based on the same principles that aikido focuses on.

Strength and the relation to KI is always an interesting topic. I know the soldiers I work with are very strong, but have not realized when they first start martial arts training how to effectively apply that strength. They thrash, flail, grunt, and strain to apply it...as they get better, the center it and use is in a relaxed way from their core. You can literally feel the difference when the strength is aligned and focused properly. The same amount of KI existed in both cases, it is just being able to understand how to align it and apply it in a more effiicient and economical way.

Stefan Stenudd
06-04-2005, 03:44 PM
Interesting perspectives!
I have to say that I get very tired of too many too "realistic" discussions about aikido as self defense et cetera. We all practice aikido a number of times a week, year after year. The meaning of aikido is what happens in keiko, not what might happen in a bar brawl.

That said, what is the highest?
Awaking your center and making it grow, opening up the flow of :ki: and extending it. A Japanese concept that comes to mind is misogi, purification.
To me, for some time now, the highest of :ai::ki::do: is healing. Both tori and uke are healed in the process. And healing, repeated several times weekly, brings it reward.

A friend of mine with a very profound knowledge of metaphysical traditions, once told me: If the supernatural is real, then it's simply natural. No mystery to it.
Some people nurture an attitude toward the 'yet to be proven', which is rooted in the demand that it should remain supernatural, magical, unreal. But magic, when learned, is not that magic at all.
Aikido is one way of learning this.

One can also say that aikido is an art. That is not lessening it in the least.

As for the self defense perspective, I believe that the ultimate aikido is to have an attitude, a state of mind, that makes it impossible for others even to think about attacking. To disappear as a target for aggression.
This is done by relaxing.
It's not easy.

Kevin Kelly
06-04-2005, 04:19 PM
There is another famous martial art comment which may be in Aikido, but I've never seen it published (that I can remember... someone correct me if I'm wrong, please): movement approaches stillness. What this means is that first you practice with large movements, but as you get better and better your actual movement approaches the ideal of appearing to be no movement. If you think about it, whether it's voiced or not, this is also an unavoidable development in Aikido and many of the higher-level practitioners exhibit this "movements become smaller" development of technique.


I never actually heard the comment "movement approaches stillness" but we are routinely told about everything else you have stated in this paragraph.

Adam Alexander
06-04-2005, 04:49 PM
There's a saying about "all paths lead to the top of the mountain" that always grates on the nerves.

The only quote I've ever heard related to paths and mountains regarding martial arts is, "there are many paths to Mt. Fuji."


However, as I understand the saying to go, it applies to the goal of self-improvement in the arts, not, necessarily, martial prowess. In fact, as I've heard it, the saying only relates to self-improvement.

I agree with that in the sense that if you do the same thing, over and over again, regardless of what it is, as long as you "do" and focus, eventually it becomes meditative.

Whether or not you have the time to reach the top of the mountain in your lifetime is irrelevant...if you travelled forever with the intent of arriving there, then that path does eventually lead to the top--atleast if you believe it does.

eyrie
06-04-2005, 08:11 PM
..."all paths lead to the top of the mountain"...
Like all roads lead to Rome? ;)

...we can separate
martial arts into 2 categories... technique-oriented martial arts
and "highest level" martial arts.
Dave Murray
http://trinity.psnw.com/~dlmurray/basic.html
distiguishes this dichotomy as "technique-based hierarchies" and
"principle-based hierarchies"; all arts falling somewhere in between
in these two dichotomies.

movement approaches stillness...
First I heard/read a vaguely similar reference to this was from
Cheng Man Ching's 13 treatises.

"Being still, when attacked by the opponent, be tranquil and move
in stillness...Be still and wait for motion, for in motion there
is also stillness."


Low level: doing "techniques" and not doing them too well.

Higher level: doing "techniques" and doing them very well.

Highest level: going beyond "techniques" in many cases, but
having the ability to do techniques extremely well when
circumstances call for it.


I understand this as "going beyond form" or "letting go of form" -
i.e. not trying to apply a set response to a specific
attack, but to let the technique "happen" of its own accord,
through (my) stillness.

Mike Sigman
06-04-2005, 09:07 PM
What you define "highest level" /low level...I have typically labeled "internal versus external" martial arts in the past....however, these days I am not sure I even understand how you label something one or the other.
(snip)
Why I am confused over internal versus external as it seems that many "combat" oriented systems that have come into popularity in last few years are really fairly complex and based on the same principles that aikido focuses on.There are supposedly around 12-16 Chinese martial arts that are labeled "internal family", i.e., "nei jia", but the main 3 that everyone knows are Taiji (Tai Chi), Xingyi, and Bagua. What differentiates these 3 is that they use a system of movement called "six harmonies movement" and they use a "store-and-release" technique that uses the lower-back and dantien. It's probably easier to just understand that all the Chinese martial arts use ki/qi and their own assortment of body-mechanics tricks, training methods, etc. In other words, what is called "internal" is more of a certain accumulation of body tricks that are built around technique usages that favor that particular set of body mechanics.

Aikido is not by definition one of the "internal styles", but it uses ki in the soft-development mode and jin/kokyu, *similar* to what the so-called "internal arts" do. At its "highest level", Aikido, according to what Shioda has shown and according to what some interviews have said, uses the mind-controlled use of kokyu and ki to engage, neutralize, and apply technique. So while Aikido is not an "internal art", it also has the same "highest level", more or less, that an internal art like Taiji, Xingyi, etc., can have.

The general idea of the philosophy at the "highest level" of many Chinese endeavours is to remove the line between Yin and Yang (in the standard Yin-Yang diagram). All things become one and are in harmony. This idea of practicing Aikido, Taiji, etc., is that your level approaches the "highest level" through years of practice, misogi, suburi, Aiki Taiso, etc., so that your mind (the "Divine Will") ultimately brings your instinctive use of kokyu to where you immediately and unconsciously "harmonize" with an attacking opponent. That's the theory. ;)

FWIW

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-04-2005, 09:11 PM
As for the self defense perspective, I believe that the ultimate aikido is to have an attitude, a state of mind, that makes it impossible for others even to think about attacking. To disappear as a target for aggression.
This is done by relaxing.
It's not easy.Hi Stefan:

Are you saying that it's superfluous to practice the martial techniques of Aikido? That all you need to do is relax and develop an attitude??? :D

Cheers,

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-04-2005, 09:13 PM
I never actually heard the comment "movement approaches stillness" but we are routinely told about everything else you have stated in this paragraph. Sounds good, Kevin. The only caution I would mention is that everyone uses the terms, but that's not necessarily as good an indicator as the results. ;)

All the Best.

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-04-2005, 09:35 PM
I understand this as "going beyond form" or "letting go of form" -
i.e. not trying to apply a set response to a specific
attack, but to let the technique "happen" of its own accord,
through (my) stillness. Hi Ignatius:

I think there's two ways to look at the idea of "no form". One is that you have practiced a style and techniques so long that you instinctively apply some one or group of the techniques you have at your disposal. The other idea is that your skills of ki and kokyu (and attendant skills/body-tricks) are so automatic and so powerful that when an opponent's force touches you your body automatically neutralizes and responsed (usually with some very strongly developed method of releasing power).

Yiquan supposedly focuses on directly developing this sort of power. Taiji says it's highest level is "receiving power". And so on. In reality, the idea of "no form" almost always means a combination of automatic use of ki/kokyu and automatic application of well-practiced techniques. What I was saying was the "highest level" is an ideal, but it shows the importance of aiming your practice in the development of ki and kokyu skills as part of your Aikido (or other art). My 2 cents, FWIW.

Mike

eyrie
06-04-2005, 10:06 PM
Of course! When I say "happen", I obviously don't mean "magically". ;) "Naturally", perhaps... definitely not "magically".

All of the "attendant skills" (not just ki and kokyu extension primarily, but also ma-ai, timing, tai sabaki etc. etc.) come into play - I believe what some aikidoka refer to as "shuchu rokyu"?


...Taiji says it's highest level is "receiving power". And so on. In reality, the idea of "no form" almost always means a combination of automatic use of ki/kokyu and automatic application of well-practiced techniques....


Not disputing this aspect of "no form" or "formless-ness", however it is phrased. It's hard to explain in words. To me, this [beyond technique] means letting go of preconceived notions of response application to set attacks and letting the mind and will express the technique (rather than "no technique" or physically expressing the technique). Obviously, none of this is possible without the requisite preparation that comes from "correct" practice.

I feel, the concept of "receiving power" also exists within aiki. At a base level, this can be a simple "sutemi" technique, where one mechanically "sacrifices" oneself. To me, sutemi is a kind of "receiving power" as well as the other attendant "meta-physical" interpretations of what "sacrifice" means.


What I was saying was the "highest level" is an ideal, but it shows the importance of aiming your practice in the development of ki and kokyu skills as part of your Aikido (or other art).

As it should... as it should....even in a "traditionally external" MA, oh, for example, karate....? ;)

Mike Sigman
06-04-2005, 10:24 PM
All of the "attendant skills" (not just ki and kokyu extension primarily, but also ma-ai, timing, tai sabaki etc. etc.) come into play - I believe what some aikidoka refer to as "shuchu rokyu"? Well, yes, but let me caveat that I consider "body skills" like ki, kokyu, etc., to be differentiable from "tactics and strategy skills" like ma-ai, timing, etc. I feel, the concept of "receiving power" also exists within aiki. At a base level, this can be a simple "sutemi" technique, where one mechanically "sacrifices" oneself. To me, sutemi is a kind of "receiving power" as well as the other attendant "meta-physical" interpretations of what "sacrifice" means. IMO, we're talking about 2 different things because the use of power is quite different from that used in Aikido, but I take your meaning and I don't really disagree.As it should... as it should....even in a "traditionally external" MA, oh, for example, karate....? ;)
No, I don't consider karate to go to this level of sophistication. I think that some of the Shaolin variants (which ultimately "karate" derives from) used this level of sophistication, without a doubt, though. That's just my opinion, though. :)

Mike

eyrie
06-04-2005, 10:39 PM
Well, yes, but let me caveat that I consider "body skills" like ki, kokyu, etc., to be differentiable from "tactics and strategy skills" like ma-ai, timing, etc.


Ah yes, my bad... *makes mental note to remember to distinguish body-specific skills from strategy and tactical skills*


IMO, we're talking about 2 different things because the use of power is quite different from that used in Aikido


How is it different?


No, I don't consider karate to go to this level of sophistication....

Oh, without a doubt...but I used "karate" very loosely here. Perhaps if I used the terms "toudi" or "tode" more specifically, it may mean something ;). Although, I haven't seen/experienced enough of "di" too deeply, to be able to comment knowledgeably either way, as to the level of sophistication of ki/kokyu development.

Mike Sigman
06-05-2005, 08:40 AM
How is it different? (the power in Aikido versus the power in Taiji) That's too complex for me to discuss in a reasonable time, Ignatius. It has to do with "six harmonies movement", the hallmark of the so-called "internal arts". These sorts of things add power to the normal ki and kokyu type skills. If you have greater power, it can, in a number of cases, affect the ways in which you apply power/techniques... and that's what changes the comparison of "receiving power" as it means in Taiji and what you're indicating. Oh, without a doubt...but I used "karate" very loosely here. Perhaps if I used the terms "toudi" or "tode" more specifically, it may mean something ;). Although, I haven't seen/experienced enough of "di" too deeply, to be able to comment knowledgeably either way, as to the level of sophistication of ki/kokyu development. What I was attempting to say was that karate does not (and I practiced karate for 8 or 9 years) have anything that approaches the manipulation and control of forces that I'm talking about in this "highest level" discussion. Yes, they have ki and kokyu, but karate is a technique-oriented art (in the manner we were discussing, not a dismissive sense) and cannot go to this level. If you will accept that assertion by me as a working thesis, you can see why Ueshiba was justifiably proud of Aikido as something that approaches "The Way" as designated in Chinese philosophy.

You can also see why it is not, in my opinion, the correct thing for people who supposedly care about Aikido, to ... without having accomplished the ki and kokyu parts of Aikido because those items are somewhat hidden and hard to get to... begin leading people off on tangents of MMA, Systema, Wing Chun, and so on. :)

FWIW

Mike

SeiserL
06-05-2005, 09:54 AM
IMHO, not everyone wants to go to the top of the mountain. Some enjoy the valley and some just enjoy hiking different trails. But when you get to the top of the mountain, if that is where you want to go or think you already are, keep climbing.

Stefan Stenudd
06-05-2005, 11:28 AM
Are you saying that it's superfluous to practice the martial techniques of Aikido? That all you need to do is relax and develop an attitude??? :DIf it were only that simple ;)
I guess that a profound study and training of aikido is needed, in order to be able to do without its techniques.
Somewhat like the story about the Japanese archer, who got so advanced in his art that he finally forgot all about the bow and arrow.

Mike Sigman
06-05-2005, 11:40 AM
If it were only that simple ;)
I guess that a profound study and training of aikido is needed, in order to be able to do without its techniques.
Somewhat like the story about the Japanese archer, who got so advanced in his art that he finally forgot all about the bow and arrow. Hi Stefan:

I think you're mixing some popular ideas about Zen Buddhism, etc., into the idea of "no form". While I understand your drift with that thought, it's sort of a separate idea to trained body reactions and body conditioning that was under discussion.

Regards,

Mike

RebeccaM
06-05-2005, 02:19 PM
I've been told that the highest teaching in aikido is common sense.

Personally, I think the highest level of training is when, if you're in a confrontation, you have a choice. You are capable of destroying yet have the control not to. You can bend your partner to your will, but you don't necessarily have to. People throw you because you let them. And so on. In that sense, you can reachthis level through any martial art, but some are easier than others. It's much easier to not hurt someone live using an aikido technique than a karate technique.

IMHO, not everyone wants to go to the top of the mountain. Some enjoy the valley and some just enjoy hiking different trails. But when you get to the top of the mountain, if that is where you want to go or think you already are, keep climbing.
Speaking as a climber, once you've hit the top, unless you['ve got a rocket pack, the only way to go is down. If you want a higher summit, you pick a different peak. How do you know you're at the top? When you look around and there's no more upward slope.

Mike Sigman
06-05-2005, 02:25 PM
I've been told that the highest teaching in aikido is common sense.
(snipperooney)
Speaking as a climber, once you've hit the top, unless you''ve got a rocket pack, the only way to go is down. If you want a higher summit, you pick a different peak. How do you know you're at the top? When you look around and there's no more upward slope. It looks like you've reached the highest level, Rebecca!!! :)

Mike Sigman

Kevin Leavitt
06-05-2005, 03:22 PM
You can also see why it is not, in my opinion, the correct thing for people who supposedly care about Aikido, to ... without having accomplished the ki and kokyu parts of Aikido because those items are somewhat hidden and hard to get to... begin leading people off on tangents of MMA, Systema, Wing Chun, and so on.

Aikido to me is a very interesting a illusive art. As soon as I try and pinpoint what it is and isn't....I lose it.

I study martial arts for many reasons. Martial arts is now such a part of my person that I can no longer separate it from "me". I love the internal aspects of the arts. I have found them in karate, taji, aikido...I have also found them in meditation, zen buddhism, and yoga. What makes up "me" is complex...how I evolved is an amalgamation of experiences and events. To say that aikido gave me this, karate that...is not possible. Alot that makes up "me" came from my military experiences and training...it is equally important to my "internal" development.

Why do I mention all this? I find that some systems tend to focus more on internal development that others, but that internal development is complex. Developing the external or low level is just as important. I think you can learn a great deal about yourself by learning MMA, BJJ, compettive arts that focus on external gains.

Sometimes you find the answers you are looking for in the darnest places.

Mike, your point is well taken though, when diverting your intentions to "other things" becomes an excuse because it is "too hard" or you are not "patient" enough to learn the internal aspects of an art (KI and Kokyu, as you define it), then you are missing the point.

RebeccaM
06-05-2005, 03:25 PM
In aikido?

Uh, no. Hell no. Absolutely not.

But I've climbed lots of real rocky and icy mountains. Which reminds me. My boyfriend promised to try Longs Peak again this summer. I'm holding him to that. My lungs are itching.

p00kiethebear
06-05-2005, 04:02 PM
There's a saying about "all paths lead to the top of the mountain" that always grates on the nerves. It defies common sense and smacks of that false pseudo-sage relativism which tries to say that there is no wrong way to do anything. Obviously there are right and wrong ways to do things and while a lot of paths lead to the top of the mountain, there are also paths that don't go to the top of the mountain and paths that go to other mountains.

Think of this quote in it's original hindu context. The "path" doesn't refer to a physical "path" on the mountain but rather, your personal EXPERIENCE / JOURNEY towards brahmin. The idea is that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Everyone falls from the path. Everyone does something wrong occaisionally. But in the end, after several thousand reincarnations and lifetimes we arrive at brahmin (the mountain top). Everyone's JOURNEY was different though. I believe the quote refers not to martial technique, but to everyone reaching a "spiritual enlightenment" which is going to look different depending on the choices they made on their journey. But the idea is that everyone reaches "spiritual enlightenment" of somekind. not samekind. Just like when you show an ink blot to 20 different people. They'll all see something different.

Good post.

Stefan Stenudd
06-05-2005, 04:12 PM
I think you're mixing some popular ideas about Zen Buddhism, etc., into the idea of "no form". While I understand your drift with that thought, it's sort of a separate idea to trained body reactions and body conditioning that was under discussion.Well, I was trying to relate to the headline of the thread: "highest level".
My perception of the "ultimate" defense has little, if anything, to do with popular ideas about zen. Please, Mike, grant me some knowledge of both aikido and zen :)

If anybody expresses some interest, I will be happy to elaborate. Otherwise, I have learned as a writer to avoid wasting people's time with unwanted flows of words.

Mike Sigman
06-05-2005, 04:32 PM
But in the end, after several thousand reincarnations and lifetimes we arrive at brahmin (the mountain top). I don't believe in that reincarnation crap, Nathan. I did in a previous lifetime, but not now. ;)

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-05-2005, 04:49 PM
...your point is well taken though, when diverting your intentions to "other things" becomes an excuse because it is "too hard" or you are not "patient" enough to learn the internal aspects of an art (KI and Kokyu, as you define it), then you are missing the point. Well, a lot of people are not really interested in the point. The Taiji community has even more people in it for other than serious reasons. They're looking for the "Tao" (Taiji is not Taoist or Taoist-derived), a quasi-religion, a "martial art" that is fairly safe where no one will beat them up, they're doing it as a cry for help, etc., etc. And of course you have people who are mixed into that crowd that make a living "teaching", psychotherapyzing, talking about peace and harmony, playing Taoist sage, networking the community for customers, etc., etc. It's OK that all those people are there and any "easy" martial art will have a larger percentage of these types than a "hard" martial art... but the serious people can be put off by atmosphere if the less serious begin to dominate.

Reminds me of a curious thing that happened in the Taiji community. When the really "big dogs" started coming to the U.S. after China finally opened its borders, the New Age and less serious practitioners suddenly got a whiff of what Taiji the martial art was about.... and they won't come to workshops (as a rule) of the really skilled Taiji experts. It is hard to get people to attend a Chen Xiao Wang workshop, for example, while the guys spouting "peace and harmony" and "taoism" get large crowds. ;) In other words, it's not so much a problem with "distraction", in many cases... it's that a lot of a particular community wants to hear what they want to hear and they'll deliberately quash anything they don't want to hear. :) And of course many Chinese instructors simply play to what a lot of westerners want to hear.... they're here to make a living, not teach everything they know (and so many of them don't really know Taiji, but it's where the money is). Some parallels to this happen in the Aikido community, as most people know.

Regards,

Mike

Ketsan
06-05-2005, 07:39 PM
Hmm. I'm always baffled by this concept of "the highest level". I tend to take a pragmatic view, to me martial arts are largely just practical skills for solving a particular problem, yes while learning them you can gain insights into yourself and use those insights to make yourself into a better person but ultimately they're there for those occasions in life when you need to use violence, that's what makes them martial. Really the mental side should come with learning the physical or you've done something wrong. The mental is the soft back of the blade which supports the hard cutting edge of the physical in my book.
So my position is that if you learn a technique in order to throw someone and it throws them then they have been thrown and your goal has been accomplished.
In the same way that if you learn a leathal technique no matter how well you study it, once you've learned to kill you can't make your opponent any more dead than dead.
A bone broken by a imperfect technique is just as broken as one by a perfect technique.
As long as the technique can be relied upon to work when needed I consider it learned and I go on to do something else.

Mike Sigman
06-05-2005, 07:54 PM
Hmm. I'm always baffled by this concept of "the highest level". I tend to take a pragmatic view, to me martial arts are largely just practical skills for solving a particular problem, yes while learning them you can gain insights into yourself and use those insights to make yourself into a better person but ultimately they're there for those occasions in life when you need to use violence, that's what makes them martial. Really the mental side should come with learning the physical or you've done something wrong. The mental is the soft back of the blade which supports the hard cutting edge of the physical in my book. Hi Alex:

A lot of the "ki" stuff turns out to be some pretty nifty body tricks and manipulations of forces through the body (and some attendant conditioning, but enough said). As you get better and better at these skills you need less physical body movement and just do a lot of things by controlling forces within you. It looks like very small movements are making very great effect. Think of it like the stuff you see in the movies where someone rests his hand on an opponent and suddenly the opponent goes flying through the air without much initiating movement being seen (this can be done, BTW). Now take those kinds of force manipulations and engage/vector them with an incoming attack while making very little movement. What is done to the opponent is an "aiki", in that example. Do you see more clearly the picture that I'm trying to paint?

Regards,

Mike

eyrie
06-05-2005, 08:18 PM
...They're looking for the "Tao" (Taiji is not Taoist or Taoist-derived), a quasi-religion, ...

It's NOT? :confused:

Mike Sigman
06-05-2005, 08:35 PM
It's NOT? :confused: Not according to Chen Xiao Wang and other people from Chen Village. It's arguable whether some of the qi and jin training come from Taoist or Buddhist sources, but the "Taiji is Taoist" stuff doesn't withstand scrutiny. To make it short, the Yang-style (started by Yang Lu Chan who was basically an indentured servant to Chen Hu De in Chen Village) was sold to the public as a style different from Chen-style Taiji and supposedly (according to the Yang press) Taiji came via Zhang San Feng and Taoism. Unfortunately, historical records don't even come close to supporting that story and lately the Yang family has come out and publicly admitted that the Yang style is directly derived from the Chen style. It turns out that Yang Lu Chan was given permission to teach Taiji when he was set free, but he was not allowed to teach the full art. Bye-bye Taoism, I guess. It made for a good read. ;)

What's so funny is that even with that information now available, most of the wannabelieve people continue on with the Taoist stuff because they simply refuse to believe what they don't want to believe. Sort of like the people who are determined that Aikido is not a martial art but a way of promoting universal love, etc.... the idea and feelings are more important than any facts. :)


Mike

eyrie
06-05-2005, 08:53 PM
...It's arguable whether some of the qi and jin training come from Taoist or Buddhist sources, but the "Taiji is Taoist" stuff doesn't withstand scrutiny.....Unfortunately, historical records don't even come close to supporting that story

How interesting... I'm aware of the historical facts regarding Chen-jia and Yang-jia origins, however, IIRC, the claim to the Chang San Feng lineage was the other way round (i.e. by the Chen's)

I would be appreciative if you could point me in the direction of the historical evidence (you cite) which says otherwise. I'm intrigued... :confused:

Mike Sigman
06-05-2005, 09:30 PM
How interesting... I'm aware of the historical facts regarding Chen-jia and Yang-jia origins, however, IIRC, the claim to the Chang San Feng lineage was the other way round (i.e. by the Chen's)

I would be appreciative if you could point me in the direction of the historical evidence (you cite) which says otherwise. I'm intrigued... :confused:Hi Ignatius:

I've never seen any Chen document indicating Zhang San Feng. Actually, a quick glance at the known records (myths, most of them) about Zhang are very vague and say nothing about Taiji. Pretty much every traditional Yang-oriented book will lay the invention at the doors of Zhang San Feng.

Even the Yang family source of "Wang Tsung Yueh" appears to be a fabrication by Wu Yu Xiang... the unfortunate fact is that at least 20 of the supposed "sayings" of Wang Tsung Yueh are known to be in the records for Zhang Nai Jou, a famous martial artist who did not do Taiji. I can send you a copy of the more or less traditional Chenjiagou history, if you'd like, so you can see what their oral tradition is.

Interestingly enough, the fact that a lot of the Taiji admonitions, qi talk, etc., is similar to what someone (Zhang Nai Jou) said, points to the fact that the qi and jin understanding is the same across multiple arts... just like what I'm saying in regard to Aikido, karate, Chinese arts, etc., all having a common basis in the ki and kokyu area.

FWIW

Mike

eyrie
06-05-2005, 10:43 PM
Found it! Thanks. It's interesting what romantic legends you can get a 10 year old kid to believe, especially when this cool a$$-kickin' Taoist immortal shares the same family surname with you. ;)

rob_liberti
06-06-2005, 10:59 AM
when diverting your intentions to "other things" becomes an excuse because it is "too hard" or you are not "patient" enough to learn the internal aspects of an art (KI and Kokyu, as you define it), then you are missing the point.
Kevin, I realize that you are not saying this, but I think it is important to note that everyone who diverts their intention is not necessarily doing so as an excuse. I have to investigate complex (multi-faceted) problems all of the time, and I find that I need to approach thongs from different directions. I find that some others who only approach discovery from a single approach get a perspective that comes from the blinders they were wearing to try to solve the problem. They basically create their own new problems that are really hard to see from within. It tends to lead to the unfortunate situation where one assumes the conclusion and then proceeds to conclude the assumption. I have to trust in the perspective of people I feel have already solved some of these problems with how to approach developing ki and kokyu. If they say there is a time to focus on other things more directly - I trust they have a good reason. If several of them say so, my trust increases.

I don't think anyone would disagree with the idea that it would be great to get to the level Mike describes as the highest level (assuming he meant and being able to do those kinds of things under the pressure of multiple attack). I think the only question is the approach, and the value judgments made on people approaching that mountain top from a different path. Unless there is a case where everyone who is on path 1 succeeds and everyone who is on path 2 fails, who is anyone to judge?

Rob

ironcoque
06-06-2005, 12:43 PM
Hi Mike,

I've just read a number of replays to your post, certainly not all, and I still wonder I don't understand what the real question is.

If it is all about some martial arts better than other, then I think that it depends on what you expect of them at the end: self-defence, be a powerfull fighter, or something more "spiritual".

It requires a number of years of practice to be able to use aikido as a self defence mechanism, so if you looks for it, I would recommend you another martial art. The same applies for the powerfull fighter. I think that when you choose aikido, you are looking for something different to what you see in movies.

What is more troublesome for me is to understand the meaning of the top of the mountain. I think it is clear that there is no such top. You will always have something to learn, if you are opened to, and there will always be someone who knows more than you. Even if you think you are the best, to show it you will certainly need to fight, phisically or not, and that is against the peace-looking philosophy of aikido.

In the end, does it really matter if an art is better than other? I think it does not. Just look at the surfers, they feel waves, they reach with the sea the kind of "communion" we look for in aikido. I think it depends on yourself. The shorter, or larger, way to get the improvement you look for (your top of the mountain) may also depend heavily on your sensei, how good he is, how able he is to teach, etc.

The aikido doesn't exist by itself, but by the people who practice it, may be people who practice some "low level" martial arts are just no interested in getting "stillness on movement". I think that is key.

Best Regards,

Roque

Mike Sigman
06-06-2005, 01:01 PM
I've just read a number of replays to your post, certainly not all, and I still wonder I don't understand what the real question is.

If it is all about some martial arts better than other, then I think that it depends on what you expect of them at the end: self-defence, be a powerfull fighter, or something more "spiritual". Hi Roque:

No, the discussion was firstly about the level of "high" martial arts and what is considered "high level" in Asian circles (and O-Sensei rightfully considered Aikido to fit that description). I have no idea where the discussion gave you the impression that some martial arts are "better" than others or that we were discussing the useability of Aikido... those were not really issues.

At worst and best, I was explaining why Aikido is considered one of the better martial arts (because it contains the elements that allow it to go to those heights... not all martial arts can claim that). I used that premise to indicate that the search for and study of ki and kokyu development is a worthy pursuit, as opposed to changing the focus to other arts, looking for what is missing. What is missing is the Ki and Kokyu parts. And note that I have never even suggested that ki and kokyu things are the most important or singularly needed focus in Aikido.

Koichi Tohei was arguably the best Aikido practitioner in Aikido at one time and he also feels the ki and kokyu parts are missing in too much of Aikido. Certainly when I see some of the Japanese Aikidoists exhibiting development of some skills I don't see in westerners, I get to thinking that there are other people than just Tohei, me, and a few others who think these things are important. ;^)

Regards,

Mike

bkedelen
06-06-2005, 01:16 PM
Aside from insulting my (and the forum administrator's) dojo, I still have not heard a convincing argument leading me to believe highest level training is the development of ki power rather than the development of human character. Without the morality and discipline to command one's prowess in a conscientious way, all the ki (or any other) power in the world is nothing but death magic. Many Aikidoka feel that in order to reach the highest levels of our art, one is required to be a good person. I sincerely hope that this is true, because if we choose to define the highest levels of our art in terms of the application of technique, ki, kokyu, strategy, or other combat prowess subtelty, we have certainly not learned from the story of Mr. Klickstein and similar tragedies. To paraphrase Saotome Sensei, the purpose of Aikido is to build better people in order to build a better world. In my mind, that is the only worthwhile quality of the death magic each of us secretly hopes to wield.

jonreading
06-06-2005, 01:18 PM
Aikido has a wide range of students with different paths and reasons for training. With so many different perspectives, its hard to draw any kind of objective conclusion about what is and is not success or what is or is not the highest form of training.

I argue that many paths do have one thread of commonality - self-improvement. Since we cannot change who we are, the better solution to improving our life is to become more efficient. I can't get bigger, so I must become more efficient at using my strength. I can't get rid of conflicts in my life, but I can become better at resolving them. And so on. The highest form of training is being honest with yourself.

That is a hard charge in aikido. We don't fight, we don't criticize, and some dojo promote for, "giving it the ol' college try." There is an old saying, "When you shovel horse manure long enough, you forget that it stinks."

I'm on a journey to be better. I get to pick what I want to get better at, no one else. I don't shadow box with an alter ego, I don't wrestle with UFC grapplers, and I hold myself to the physical and spiritual benchmarks of my instructor, my association and the teachings of the founder (as I understand them). I am critical of myself and my training and I honor my instructor and my dojo and I will not let them blemish in the eyes of others. I will not let myself become something that tarnishes the history and legecy of aikido. While I'm on this journey, I go alone with my dojo, my friends, and my family behind me cheering me on. When I get to the end, I will raise my arms and spin in a circle to see those that supported me, and who I surpassed. And Survivor's, "Eye of the Tiger" will blare...

I know that during this journey:
1. My instructors will criticize me if I lose focus or begin to lie to myself.
2. My peers will encourage me to improve and challenge me to improve physically.
3. My personal study will encourage me to grow spiritually to meet the the mysteries of aikido.

Oh, John Stevens has referred to movement in stillness and stillness in movement in several of his books. I believe he even uses images sometimes.

Ron Tisdale
06-06-2005, 01:49 PM
Aside from insulting my (and the forum administrator's) dojo

Hi Benjamin,

I'm just playing devil's advocate here (:)), but I was wondering if you have a quote for someone doing that...

Best,
Ron

rob_liberti
06-06-2005, 01:55 PM
Is there any chance of not playing the quote wars? I'm sure it was post 3, and I'm sure it can be addressed in private - if the private messages aren't later posted. The question was about character development as highest level - it's worthy of focus, and quote wars really aren't.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-06-2005, 02:12 PM
Aside from insulting my (and the forum administrator's) dojo,... I haven't said a word about your dojo. If you're not aware of that old saw about Boulder, which I mentioned in friendly jest, just say so. I don't think Jun took it wrong and I don't think Jun's sempai, with whom I am close friends, would do anymore that just wink and go on with the discussion. I have a fondness for Boulder and have spent many years practicing in Boulder. I still have not heard a convincing argument leading me to believe highest level training is the development of ki power rather than the development of human character. Without the morality and discipline to command one's prowess in a conscientious way, all the ki (or any other) power in the world is nothing but death magic. Many Aikidoka feel that in order to reach the highest levels of our art, one is required to be a good person. I sincerely hope that this is true, because if we choose to define the highest levels of our art in terms of the application of technique, ki, kokyu, strategy, or other combat prowess subtelty, we have certainly not learned from the story of Mr. Klickstein and similar tragedies. To paraphrase Saotome Sensei, the purpose of Aikido is to build better people in order to build a better world. In my mind, that is the only worthwhile quality of the death magic each of us secretly hopes to wield. Er.... OK, Benjamin. At least you put out your views in public. I was commenting on the traditional Asian take on the "highest level", though, and it is not philosophical.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
06-06-2005, 02:18 PM
Oh, John Stevens has referred to movement in stillness and stillness in movement in several of his books. I believe he even uses images sometimes. Hi Jon:

Hmmm. I must have missed it. Have you got any ideas which book(s) and where to look? Thanks.

Mike

Ron Tisdale
06-06-2005, 02:32 PM
Hi Rob,

I mentioned it because I had the same take on post 3 that Mike intended...it did not in any way seem to me to be a slam on any dojo. I just thought I might be able to help clear it up, seeing as I know both parties to some extent.

Ron (trying to be gentle, hope I didn't fail)

RebeccaM
06-06-2005, 03:23 PM
Post 3 confused me until I took a look at where Mike Sigman is from. Pay a visit to Nederland Mike. That place makes Boulder look positively normal. Not sure if they have a dojo though.

I also thought this thread was a little more philosophical than it was intended to be. Ah well, life goes on...

Mike Sigman
06-06-2005, 03:28 PM
Post 3 confused me until I took a look at where Mike Sigman is from. Pay a visit to Nederland Mike. That place makes Boulder look positively normal. Not sure if they have a dojo though.I've been to Nederland many times and I have friends there, Rebecca. Before I moved to Durango I lived in Golden. I have always had a suspicion that most of the people who live in Nederland do so because of the appearances. But they do have the best beer by a dam site. ;)

Mike

bkedelen
06-06-2005, 03:39 PM
I apologize for the incendiary response to Mike's post. It can be read that Mike was dismissing my opinion because I hail from Boulder (I am from Montana and I live in Northern Denver, but whatever). I personally have no taste for Boulder culture, but the perspective on martial arts training being used to combat the proverbial fascist within comes from Ellis Amdur's writings, not from some imaginary Boulder based imaginatism. Nevertheless, I revoke my indictment of the aforementioned post, and shall not speak of it again.
Moving on, I humbly submit that Mike's statement that the traditional Asian take on "highest level" is not philosophical will not withstand scrutiny. I offer as evidence that, to my knowledge, all of what are generally recognized as "highest level" martial arts texts are philosophical texts, not technical manuals.

Alfonso
06-06-2005, 04:26 PM
..talking about Boulder, during his seminars Ikeda sensei often makes the point of smaller movement from the center. He'll show a large spiral with the arms (beginners!!) then starts making the same movement with less and less limb movement, insisting that the same movement is taking place. My first seminar with him I couldn't see what was going on at all, years later I can perceive more , and I'd say that he's not talking metaphorically his center is moving.

Rick sensei (home dojo) usually says that the only way to get there is to train with the big exaggerated movements (pedagogical device) and then try working down keeping the same intent.

Lately I've discovered that this is paying off , I've noticed that I'm developing a bit of muscle control in an area where I hadn't had one before. (kind of like learning to move your ears , if you've ever done that).

AFAIK this is is only part of what is considered Highest level aikido. Other parts are IMO , the ability to use center movement to use the ground as a wall to effect unbalancing, lifting or puttting weight on someone, using the mind as a director for the resulting force (like watering with a hose ). The sensitivity to read the opponents "energy". Not thinking about what to do, but being aware and responding in a way that allows efficient movement. This includes ukemi and henka and oyo waza..

These are aspects of Aikido , which I think are a common theme in the seminars I've attended. I know I'm only scratching the surface here and there's more I am leaving off. Why do I think this shouldn't be so strange to aikido people here in the US?

Mike Sigman
06-06-2005, 04:34 PM
I offer as evidence that, to my knowledge, all of what are generally recognized as "highest level" martial arts texts are philosophical texts, not technical manuals. Then there's not much point in doing martial practice, I guess. Tatting and basketry can be done if all you're looking for is philosophic *ideals*. Those ideals are not the same thing as the level of martial art, Benjamin.

But aside from your philosophic ideals, what texts are you talking about and that you offer for evidence? Care has to be taken when mentioning the facets of Asian philosophy in relation to Asian martial arts. It's usually a case of the tail wagging the dog. For instance, to justify the logic of a martial art various relationships to Yin-Yang, Liangyi, the Luo River Charts, the Five Elements were traditionally used and a lot of the words like "harmony", etc., are misunderstood in those contexts by westerners. It's not philosophic and ethical ideals that are being encouraged, it's more like the raison d'etre for the martial art is to be found in the cosmos, the universe, etc., and the martial art fulfills the destiny called for in the ancient beliefs. I.e., the "philosophy" justifies the martial art and at the highest level the martial art mirrors some primal constancy. It's not like "do Aikido and your personality will develop"... heck, you can already see that doesn't work too well. ;)

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-06-2005, 04:41 PM
..talking about Boulder, during his seminars Ikeda sensei often makes the point of smaller movement from the center. He'll show a large spiral with the arms (beginners!!) then starts making the same movement with less and less limb movement, insisting that the same movement is taking place. My first seminar with him I couldn't see what was going on at all, years later I can perceive more , and I'd say that he's not talking metaphorically his center is moving. Exactly. Rick sensei (home dojo) usually says that the only way to get there is to train with the big exaggerated movements (pedagogical device) and then try working down keeping the same intent. I agree completely. However maybe it's good to look at it as a skill that just requires less movement and effort as it is practiced? The people who really "move from their center" have very well developed musculature in a focused area of the abdomen/stomach. AFAIK this is is only part of what is considered Highest level aikido. Other parts are IMO , the ability to use center movement to use the ground as a wall to effect unbalancing, lifting or puttting weight on someone, using the mind as a director for the resulting force (like watering with a hose ). The sensitivity to read the opponents "energy". Not thinking about what to do, but being aware and responding in a way that allows efficient movement. This includes ukemi and henka and oyo waza..

These are aspects of Aikido , which I think are a common theme in the seminars I've attended. I know I'm only scratching the surface here and there's more I am leaving off. Why do I think this shouldn't be so strange to aikido people here in the US? Wow. Excellent comments, Alfonso. If we're ever in the same neighborhood I'd like to see what you do.

Regards,

Mike

Alfonso
06-06-2005, 05:06 PM
:-) you're too kind sir, I'm not even dan ranked yet, and I do owe you thanks for your posts the last few months for making a lot of things click, things that my teachers (both american aikidoists BTW) have been really patient at teaching and they actually do and I get to experience at every class.
Of course it's usually something out of the ordinary that makes me see what Rick and Shari teach ( I can already hear them say.. hey I've been telling that to you for years! ). I'd be more than glad to meet you if you come over, my teachers are very friendly too. I even have a sempai (hi Bruce) who's supplementing his aikido with Yi-Quan , so I get to ask someone with practical experience about the standing postures (he's really hard to throw BTW) .

I have a theory, that this all hangs together. I'm pretty sure it does , when despite politics,.styles, age ,personality and talking points things hinge together and fit. It can't be coincidence, and the chinese arts thought different seem to be working with similar tools

Again, I don't think this stuff should be foreign to Aikidoists.. I admit I don't go out much, but a lot of excellent teachers have given seminars at my school, and none of the technical points you bring up seem outrageously different to me.. language maybe the biggest problem.

bkedelen
06-06-2005, 06:01 PM
It always amazes me that either at the end or the beginning of every post I make, I somehow manage to make a statement that either keeps me posting to the thread long after I have anything to contribute, or sounds asinine in retrospect, humiliating me. I apologize to everyone for getting this thread so far off track. I need a way to gray out the "Post" button so that after I type anything up I will remember to delete it rather than foist it on everyone here.

Mike Sigman
06-06-2005, 06:08 PM
:-)I'm not even dan ranked yet, and I do owe you thanks for your posts the last few months for making a lot of things click, things that my teachers (both american aikidoists BTW) have been really patient at teaching and they actually do and I get to experience at every class. Well good... you're part of the next generation. Already this generation has a reasonable segment of people who are beginning to spot the role of ki and kokyu in the rest of their Aikido; your generation will be a lot more knowledgeable about these factors. I even have a sempai (hi Bruce) who's supplementing his aikido with Yi-Quan , so I get to ask someone with practical experience about the standing postures (he's really hard to throw BTW) . Yiquan standing postures, *when done correctly* (harder than most people think) are actually pretty standard standing postures. The basic theory of standing postures is the same throughout all the arts, both "external" and "internal". But then again, the basic theories of ki and kokyu are the same.... hmmmm.... let me just say the basic principles are the same; some people have some weird theories, but they can't escape the fact that the principles are the same. I have a theory, that this all hangs together. I'm pretty sure it does , when despite politics,.styles, age ,personality and talking points things hinge together and fit. It can't be coincidence, and the chinese arts thought different seem to be working with similar tools I said something similar to a teacher of mine once and all he said was, "Of course". You're right. Occam's Razor prevails.

Regards,

Mike

jonreading
06-07-2005, 12:07 PM
Mike (re: POst 43):

You're testing my memory. Check, "Secrets of Aikido" and the, "Art of Peace"? Both are good books.

Mike Sigman
06-07-2005, 12:13 PM
Mike (re: POst 43):

You're testing my memory. Check, "Secrets of Aikido" and the, "Art of Peace"? Both are good books. Well, pooh.... I don't have those books, unfortunately. Does anyone with those books mind looking for a reference(s) to the motion-stillness concept? Thanks.

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
06-07-2005, 06:50 PM
Ack... forget it. I found it in "The Essence of Aikido". John Stevens just mistranslated it because he picked the wrong words out of the possible translations (and it looks like one of them was inverted either in the original or by Stevens). On page 33 of the book is "The Eight Powers", which are also called "The Eight Powers" in Chinese, but also they're called "The Four Polarities".

Stevens translates them thus:

Movement-Calm
Release-Solidification (inverted?)
Retraction-Extension
Unification-Division


Perhaps more helpfully would be this translation from the Chinese:

Motion-Stillness
Powerful-Relaxed
Contraction-Extension
Hard-Soft


I cannot claim to be a translator of any sort, but the "Eight Powers" are pretty well known. They look cryptic and useless, but they are the basis of Ki training.

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
06-09-2005, 09:28 AM
In an aikido context, I have heard these expressed as:

Unification-Separation
tension-release
holding in-pushing out
movement-rest

compared to:

Motion-Stillness
Powerful-Relaxed
Contraction-Extension
Hard-Soft

I am curious how you might try to connect the expressions.

Obviously,
movement-rest ==> Motion-Stillness
how about the others?

holding in-pushing out ==>? Contraction-Extension ?

tension-release ==>? Powerful-Relaxed or Hard-Soft ?

Unification-Separation ==>?

They are basically all shades of Unification-Separation in my opinion. It is interesting to get the Chinese interpretation of these.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-09-2005, 10:44 AM
Motion-Stillness
Powerful-Relaxed
Contraction-Extension
Hard-Soft

They are basically all shades of Unification-Separation in my opinion. It is interesting to get the Chinese interpretation of these.Well, actually, they are pretty specific to the training of the body. I already mentioned what motion and stillness refer to generally; in a training context you use various held kokyu forces to train the body in standing (stillness trains motion)... "Aiki" as Shioda did it is the obverse of motion returning to stillness. The other 3 "polarities" are different things you physically do with the body. For instance, someone previously (in a different thread) mentioned how he learned part of an exercise where they raise the hands over the and then pull down and in the arms and hands tightly making fists... I knew right away that he was describing the outward appearance of one of the "contraction-extension" trainings that go with traditonal martial qigongs. In other words, these 4 polarities (8 powers) are pointing out the 4 major components of martial qigong training.

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
06-09-2005, 11:00 AM
Do they come from chen style tai-chi? Where can these qigongs be more thoroughly explored?

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-09-2005, 11:09 AM
Do they come from chen style tai-chi? Where can these qigongs be more thoroughly explored?No, it's not specific to Chen-style. The use of ki and kokyu things is across the spectrum of martial arts. These sayings are known by all martial styles, insofar as I know. I realize it's sort of a stunner that the basic information is used by everyone, but it's a fact. I saw a post on Aikido Journal's forum where there was a discussion about some karate teacher (at Aiki Expo, I think) using kokyu.... sure, both "hard" and "soft" arts use these basic principles. It's the basis of the higher levels of all Asian martial arts that have been around a while. I tried to say it before... what Ueshiba was using was basic to Asian martial arts, it's just that he did it along the way that is considered the most sophisticated (if you do it in the direction of "motion approaches stillness" and you use that ability to "harmonize" with anything an opponent throws at you).

And as I've said before, it's really weird that this more or less "secret" information is still kept secret while at the same time it's so widespread across the arts. :)

Mike

Ron Tisdale
06-09-2005, 11:14 AM
For instance, someone previously (in a different thread) mentioned how he learned part of an exercise where they raise the hands over the and then pull down and in the arms and hands tightly making fists...
This is one way the AKI often ends class while sitting in seiza....it seems to have a specific breathing pattern that goes with it. Next time I do it I'll have more of a clue...thanks!

While we're here...there is an exercise at the beginning of class they often do while seated in seiza, where the hands scoop away the air in front of you to either side...does this resemble any traditional chigongs?

Best,
Ron

Mike Sigman
06-09-2005, 11:43 AM
This is one way the AKI often ends class while sitting in seiza....it seems to have a specific breathing pattern that goes with it. Next time I do it I'll have more of a clue...thanks!

While we're here...there is an exercise at the beginning of class they often do while seated in seiza, where the hands scoop away the air in front of you to either side...does this resemble any traditional chigongs? I'd have to see it, since just telling me they "scoop" it doesn't give me much of a picture, Ron. It's bad enough that there are always "style wars" of a sort between the various martial arts ("is Taiji better than Xingyi or Shaolin Long Fist", "is karate better than judo", etc.) but there's also a "style wars" of sorts that goes on about the best way to train ki and kokyu powers. The qigong (Neigongs, "internal exercises", are a subset of qigongs) approaches range from sort of "hard" to very "soft and relaxed". Some are more mental (kokyu and "field" manipulation). So what I'm saying is that there are numerous "qigongs" because of the varying approaches and everyones' preferred training methods.

The point is that the basic principles are immutable. My discussion with a couple of the Ki-Society members was more so I could get a handle on what approach they are being shown, what visualizations, etc. If they understood the principles, we wouldn't have to feel around like this, because the priniciples will always be the same, regardless of the preferred approach. And BTW, I'm just being clinical and literal, not "personal" in comments about the Ki Society. I look at these sorts of studies in the same way I would look at and discuss how to do good woodworking.

"Scooping" the air would be normal and in line with the voiced "breathe the qi" that is stated so often in qigongs, but functionally it always involves more that has to do with the "contraction-extension" and the "movement-stillness" basics. The applicable saying in terms of sort of scooping or pulling the air in is that someone is bringing in the ki *with external movements*... i.e., it's a giveaway that the body is being trained in movement in addition to pressure movements within the body being done.

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
06-09-2005, 12:46 PM
No, it's not specific to Chen-style. The use of ki and kokyu things is across the spectrum of martial arts. I never thought otherwise. I suppose my question should have been which system would you recommend to teach those specific qigongs best?

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-09-2005, 01:09 PM
I suppose my question should have been which system would you recommend to teach those specific qigongs best?Whichever one will teach you. :) That's the problem... finding someone who (1.) knows and (2.) will teach you the real way to do it. Just as an example, look how many Aikidoists have been led through various breathing exercises and other exercises and yet haven't really been shown how to do them in relation to ki and kokyu things? If you ask them, they "learned" something, right? It's sort of like Tai Chi..... lots of people "teach" it, few really know it, the ones that know it are careful how much information they give out. You should learn something that produces tangible results of some definable sort within a year or you're wasting time.

I know *some* things, but certainly not all... and I started looking in the mid-1970's, so you can see that it's not just a case of going somewhere and learning it. Although lots of people will take your money and *say* they're going to show you (and that's why I have this pet peeve about who's a teacher). So if you find someone in some style that is willing and will really teach you, I'd suggest that's the style to go for. The basic principles are pretty close, but you should go for one of the softer styles of qigongs.

FWIW

Mike

Brion Toss
06-09-2005, 08:34 PM
Hello,
Getting back to the original metaphor, the saying, "All paths lead to the top of the mountain" can be interpreted as "wrong headed", or it can be seen as what it is: metaphor. Kind of like, "Every cloud has a silver lining," or, "All roads lead to Rome," sayings that are obviously untrue from a strictly objective perspective, but which are useful nonetheless. Metaphor can be Zen whacky, like, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like figs." Or political, like, "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." They are there to get the readers attention, engage the mind. You could say, "All paths that lead to the top of a given mountain do, by definition reach the top of that mountain." This would be precise, but far less useful. It might be worth noting that, except for the last, all of the above examples form either a whole, or multiple, or half line of iambic pentameter; they are poetry.
I say all of this because martial arts aren't the only ones that seek to do more with less. Engineers are big on this (Fuller called it "ephemeralization"), and wordsmiths can employ it as well. This can take the form of Elmore Leonard's prose (he has expressed a tongue-in-cheek desire to write an entire book using no adjectives), or Hemmingway's famously spare prose. And so on. Poetry in general, and metaphor in particular, are ways to approach stillness.
Relating this to the idea of two types of martial arts, I'd have to say that the distinction might be wrongheaded, that all paths do indeed lead to the top of the mountain. To stay with the metaphor, one can stop anywhere along the path, but it's not up to me to say if the path stops there. A student at a stripmall TKD school might not be getting helicoptered to the peak, but it can be a step, at least, just as English 101 can be a step on the road to a Pulitzer, or just a way to deal with computer manuals. It might be more useful to examine how we can promote growth, promote hunger for the next step, than to distinguish types of arts. Or, as someone once said, "There are two types of people: people who divide people into two groups, and people who don't."
Yours,
Brion Toss

Mike Sigman
06-09-2005, 08:40 PM
Brion... what are you trying to say???? Or were you just stretching your fingers on the keyboard? :) Insofar as that "there are two kinds of people", all I can reply is that 90% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Mike

rob_liberti
06-10-2005, 11:36 AM
I think he is pointing out a bit of irony here in that
a) in the realm of "motion approaches stillness" - where a lot can be done with a little perceptive movement (the do more with less idea);
b) the expression "all paths lead to the top the mountain" (and "motion approaches stillness") is poetry which say a lot with relatively fewer words (another do more with less idea).

Whichever one will teach you. That's the problem... finding someone who (1.) knows and (2.) will teach you the real way to do it.I fully appreciate that. I was wondering if you had some personal recommendations out there in the world of people, their books or videos, etc. No is okay, just curious.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-10-2005, 12:00 PM
I was wondering if you had some personal recommendations out there in the world of people, their books or videos, etc. No is okay, just curious.I've been involved in a number side-discussions over the years about who is most qualified in the U.S. and who shows you enough to really put you on the road to acquiring those skills. The people that really know (there are gradations of "really know") don't really let it out. You can get varying degrees of information from people with lesser accomplishment.

Another discussion that I've recently been engaged in was a friend of mine commenting that a very high-level expert was a bit taken-aback at the skill-level of my friend's female partner... the comment was that a glass ceiling seemed to drop immediately into place. The training methods and the real skills are simply not openly taught. I'm still getting over the stunning impact of finding out that the Chinese let the cat out of the bag with the Japanese (and they in their turn are witholding it, etc.).

I recommended a video (DVD) trio by Bo Jia Cang
( http://www.plumpub.com/sales/dvd/dvdcoll_yiquqan.htm ) and I would recommend a book by Lam Kam Chuen called "The Way of Power" (these are both Yiquan-related, but yiquan tends to focus on developing this power more directly than any other art). The problem is that while the DVD's and book are helpful, they really don't do you a lot of good if you haven't been shown a few other things. That's the problem... although there is more information getting out, there's always something witheld. In fact, there's a couple of things on the Yiquan DVD's that are obviously witheld if you know what to look for, but there's also something that *may* be witheld or that Bo simply doesn't know.... but I can't decide which it is because I KNOW he's witholding some things (and surely a few things that I simply don't know myself).

FWIW

Mike

Quanping
06-12-2005, 06:40 AM
No, it's not specific to Chen-style. The use of ki and kokyu things is across the spectrum of martial arts. These sayings are known by all martial styles, insofar as I know. I realize it's sort of a stunner that the basic information is used by everyone, but it's a fact. I saw a post on Aikido Journal's forum where there was a discussion about some karate teacher (at Aiki Expo, I think) using kokyu.... sure, both "hard" and "soft" arts use these basic principles. It's the basis of the higher levels of all Asian martial arts that have been around a while. I tried to say it before... what Ueshiba was using was basic to Asian martial arts, it's just that he did it along the way that is considered the most sophisticated (if you do it in the direction of "motion approaches stillness" and you use that ability to "harmonize" with anything an opponent throws at you).

And as I've said before, it's really weird that this more or less "secret" information is still kept secret while at the same time it's so widespread across the arts. :)

Mike

Hi Mike,

I've enjoyed reading your posts here.

Your theory that there's a kind of unified theory encompassing a whole range of 'high level' martial arts like Aikido, Taiji, XingYi, Bagua, etc... is quite tempting... but as you say it would be remarkable or 'weird', especially considering the secretive nature of most martial styles, especially the further you go back.

That's what I can't get.

The sense I get from your posts is that you think all these arts have drawn from a same pot, so to speak.

To use the analogy of a 'pot' futher. In reality all Asian martial arts styles have a separte pot that they guard quite feircely.. isn't it therefore more likely that the 'famous' people in these styles innovated and developed their own methods for, basically, 'doing things more efficiently' and that since we all share a human body the best way for doing these things 'efficiently' will be, essentially the same or similar.

Perhaps these things, like Aikido, were developed to very 'high levels' without outside influence from this pot, and it is our human desire to see connections and meaning in isolated events that sees a 'pattern' start to emerge, when in fact there is none?

Mike Sigman
06-12-2005, 09:29 AM
Your theory that there's a kind of unified theory encompassing a whole range of 'high level' martial arts like Aikido, Taiji, XingYi, Bagua, etc... is quite tempting... but as you say it would be remarkable or 'weird', especially considering the secretive nature of most martial styles, especially the further you go back.

That's what I can't get.

The sense I get from your posts is that you think all these arts have drawn from a same pot, so to speak.

To use the analogy of a 'pot' futher. In reality all Asian martial arts styles have a separte pot that they guard quite feircely.. isn't it therefore more likely that the 'famous' people in these styles innovated and developed their own methods for, basically, 'doing things more efficiently' and that since we all share a human body the best way for doing these things 'efficiently' will be, essentially the same or similar.

Perhaps these things, like Aikido, were developed to very 'high levels' without outside influence from this pot, and it is our human desire to see connections and meaning in isolated events that sees a 'pattern' start to emerge, when in fact there is none?Hi Bryan:

Well, you're making some good points. In fact, I'd be arguing your guess at the most reasonable development of these skills in martial arts, except for a few things that pop to my mind (not in any order):

1. If there were many different developments of essentially different body skills, etc., they wouldn't all be based on the ki/qi paradigm... which they are.

2. In about 1982 I helped edit a translation of the "basics" of Chinese martial arts... weirdly, it turns out that these "basics" and the sayings and poems around them are pretty much accepted throughout all the martial art styles. I don't know why, but this unifying and codifying seems to recur in various areas of Chinese studies. Just to mention an example, Tai Chi has a famous saying that many practitioners talk about as if it were the hallmark of Tai Chi: "Using one ounce to deflect a thousand pounds".... that saying is common throughout almost all Chinese martial arts in relation to high level of skill.

3. The old "poems" etc., show up as markers ... perhaps a skill could have been "re-discovered", but if the skill shows up and the person showing it also knows the standard terminology (As Ueshiba did), that pretty much lays the question to rest. This is the main killer to your thesis... the recurrence of the well-known sayings and admonitions of ki development using the same or similar words.

4. There is only one way to do some of these skills correctly. The whole sets of skills took many generations to develop and it would be simply impossible for any one person to happen on the same skills or putative similar skills that I've never seen in a *grouping* that is like the standard grouping. Mathematically almost impossible.

5. Given the trading and cultural position of the Chinese in earlier days, it seems pretty natural that the countries who also acquired these skills got them from China.

Another point worth noting is that we are beyond the peak days of martial arts. Few people try to maintain the old traditions in the old styles and there is no new developments of skills driven by the need for martial arts, as it was in the old days. In other words, any suggestions of innovations since the peak days would require scrutiny... the probability actually leans in favor of most martial arts following a pattern when they exhibit similar characteristics (and if you've ever watched the qi and qigong demonstrations of a Chinese martial arts tournament, you'd know that the martial demonstrations fall always into certain well-known things that can be done with qi... nothing more.

The more troubling thing to consider is that there is a strong possibility that some of the old martial styles, the ones that are now currently called "external" styles, may have incorporated the more sophisticated techniqes of six-harmonies movement, but they have lost them. The way these things get lost is because the teacher is too sparing of what students he teaches these "secret" methods", and it doesn't take more that one generation of lousey students to lose things, if a martial art is fairly small. "Liu He Tanglang" (Six Harmonies Mantis) is an example of a martial art that probably was a sophisticated internal art at one time, but is now a more "external" martial art.... but one which still uses basic ki and kokyu skills. The basic ki and kokyu skills are the next thing to go, if they're not passed on. Ultimately you wind up with a "normal-strength" martial art, regardless of how effective it is, that has lost all but the rudimentary and easily-discovered aspects of kokyu skills. Aw.... I'm rambling. Too early in the morning. ;)

Mike

Kevin Leavitt
06-12-2005, 10:41 AM
Mike,

Good thoughts. I wonder if we are currently seeing a breaking down of Martial arts within the MMA paradigm that is prevalent today. It would seem that maybe a few of the really good guys as they get older and gain experience (like a few of the Gracies???) might assimilate their art back to an internal style. Could it be that the art would waiver from internal, to external, to internal? as tacit knowledge is lost and "rediscovered"?

Quanping
06-12-2005, 01:24 PM
Hi Mike,

Thanks for the reply - here's my thoughts on the various aspects you mention:

Hi Bryan:

Well, you're making some good points. In fact, I'd be arguing your guess at the most reasonable development of these skills in martial arts, except for a few things that pop to my mind (not in any order):

1. If there were many different developments of essentially different body skills, etc., they wouldn't all be based on the ki/qi paradigm... which they are.



Well, it could just be that since ki/qi is a catch-all phrase for essentially unknown phenomina, as you've been arguing on the forum, that it's therefore not a surprise that all these developements are based on the ki/qi paradigm, since they all occur in Asian countries?

Interestingly it makes me wonder if Western arts had anything like this before we lost them all (presumably because of the industrial revolution). However while I'm not very familiar with accounts of Western boxers and fencers, etc, there appears to be *very little* reporting of feats of unusual strength... I'm curious as to why that is. Maybe the church's culture of burning witches during the middle ages kin of made any motion towards the 'unusual' less attractive...?



2. In about 1982 I helped edit a translation of the "basics" of Chinese martial arts... weirdly, it turns out that these "basics" and the sayings and poems around them are pretty much accepted throughout all the martial art styles. I don't know why, but this unifying and codifying seems to recur in various areas of Chinese studies. Just to mention an example, Tai Chi has a famous saying that many practitioners talk about as if it were the hallmark of Tai Chi: "Using one ounce to deflect a thousand pounds".... that saying is common throughout almost all Chinese martial arts in relation to high level of skill.


Well, if I remember rightly.... even in the Tai Chi classic this phrase is quoted as if it was a phrase that already existed. It should be no surprise that it comes from an earlier time. Marnix Well's upcoming book 'Scholar Boxer' about Chang Family boxing (don't worry, not Chang Seng Feng - family :) ) as possible pre-curser to TCC may have more information here.


3. The old "poems" etc., show up as markers ... perhaps a skill could have been "re-discovered", but if the skill shows up and the person showing it also knows the standard terminology (As Ueshiba did), that pretty much lays the question to rest. This is the main killer to your thesis... the recurrence of the well-known sayings and admonitions of ki development using the same or similar words.


Well, if there's only one way to do somethig with a human body with a goal of efficiencey in mind.... and while looking into this with your martial art in mind you read an old 'classic' that points the way - you might rediscover this method for yourself, based on the 'pointer' from the past?


4. There is only one way to do some of these skills correctly. The whole sets of skills took many generations to develop and it would be simply impossible for any one person to happen on the same skills or putative similar skills that I've never seen in a *grouping* that is like the standard grouping. Mathematically almost impossible.


This is a powerful argument against my thesis I think. Would it actually be possible to discover *everything* that had been discovered before yourself? Well... as you say mathematically impossible.

Ask yourself this though - could the founder of Aikido, great though he was, have broken that stack of brings that Ku Yu Chang broke with a palm slap using iron palm? Probably not, I'd have ventured.

Of course, we have no way of knowing. My point being that while OSensi had developed ki skills extensively in one area - harmonising, and motion towards stillness, he may have had very little ability in other areas of what are also ki skills.


5. Given the trading and cultural position of the Chinese in earlier days, it seems pretty natural that the countries who also acquired these skills got them from China.


I'd agree - there can be little doubt about this.


Another point worth noting is that we are beyond the peak days of martial arts. Few people try to maintain the old traditions in the old styles and there is no new developments of skills driven by the need for martial arts, as it was in the old days. In other words, any suggestions of innovations since the peak days would require scrutiny...


I'm often in 2 minds about this. I guess it depends on when exactly in the 'old days' we were talking. For somebody practicing these sorts of skills a hundred years ago life expectancy would possibly be very short - they may have been expected to die on a battlefield, while these days we have all this leasure time and longer life times to persue these activities. Hard to say.


the probability actually leans in favor of most martial arts following a pattern when they exhibit similar characteristics (and if you've ever watched the qi and qigong demonstrations of a Chinese martial arts tournament, you'd know that the martial demonstrations fall always into certain well-known things that can be done with qi... nothing more.

The more troubling thing to consider is that there is a strong possibility that some of the old martial styles, the ones that are now currently called "external" styles, may have incorporated the more sophisticated techniqes of six-harmonies movement, but they have lost them. The way these things get lost is because the teacher is too sparing of what students he teaches these "secret" methods", and it doesn't take more that one generation of lousey students to lose things, if a martial art is fairly small. "Liu He Tanglang" (Six Harmonies Mantis) is an example of a martial art that probably was a sophisticated internal art at one time, but is now a more "external" martial art.... but one which still uses basic ki and kokyu skills. The basic ki and kokyu skills are the next thing to go, if they're not passed on. Ultimately you wind up with a "normal-strength" martial art, regardless of how effective it is, that has lost all but the rudimentary and easily-discovered aspects of kokyu skills. Aw.... I'm rambling. Too early in the morning. ;)

Mike

Nice, I like your ramblings. Perhaps equally likely that somebody in Six Harmonies Mantis may, in fact, 'rediscover' many of these skills, especailly now martial arts teachers are more open to sharing.

Great talking. I really think it's about time you produced a 'how to' book Mike :)

Bryan.

Mike Sigman
06-12-2005, 03:01 PM
Well, it could just be that since ki/qi is a catch-all phrase for essentially unknown phenomina, as you've been arguing on the forum, that it's therefore not a surprise that all these developements are based on the ki/qi paradigm, since they all occur in Asian countries? ;) Although qi/ki is a catchall term, it's contents are more specifically delineated than that. There is a set correlation between ki, acupuncture meridians, strength, and so on. It's not a shotgun term to the "anything goes" extent. Of course, we have no way of knowing. My point being that while OSensi had developed ki skills extensively in one area - harmonising, and motion towards stillness, he may have had very little ability in other areas of what are also ki skills. Very true. However, that's not uncommon.... if often occurs, because of all the secrecy, that some people know the basics and a few unusual aspects; other people know also the basics, but their addititive aspects are different.

Regards,

Mike

Quanping
06-12-2005, 04:39 PM
I think the compliment 'good wok qi' to show appreciation for a good meal has little to do with accupuncture meridians and internal strength ;)

Bryan

Mike Sigman
06-12-2005, 05:06 PM
I think the compliment 'good wok qi' to show appreciation for a good meal has little to do with accupuncture meridians and internal strength ;) "Good Wok Qi" is an extension of food qi and not the focused body aspects we were talking about. However, even food qi has a demonstrable link to the physical-skills qi of the body and the "etheric" qi that some people consider so mysterious (and they also focus on it as the meaning of ki/qi).

Mike

wendyrowe
06-14-2005, 06:00 AM
the 4 major components of martial qigong training.

Are you referring to peng lu chi an or something else?

I had the good fortune a year and a half ago of meeting a local taiji teacher who is classically trained in external and internal arts and has been studying karate and taiji/qigong for over 25 years, so I've been studying with him and reading books he's recommended since that first class. It's nice to see how things tie together. Everything I learn in the internal arts has been helping me tremendously in my study of aikido and karate.

Thanks,
Wendy

Mike Sigman
06-14-2005, 08:17 AM
Are you referring to peng lu chi an or something else?

I had the good fortune a year and a half ago of meeting a local taiji teacher who is classically trained in external and internal arts and has been studying karate and taiji/qigong for over 25 years, so I've been studying with him and reading books he's recommended since that first class. It's nice to see how things tie together. Everything I learn in the internal arts has been helping me tremendously in my study of aikido and karate. Hi Wendy:

The 4 things are called the 4 polarities and they're mentioned earlier in the thread in relation to motion-stillness, expansions-contraction, etc.

I don't know you and I don't know your teacher, so I'm just making a very neutral remark and I mean it to be helpful for your general knowledge... it's almost impossible that someone could be doing external and internal martial arts at the same time. Doing an "internal" art means that you have totally re-trained the way that you move so that it is instinctive (which is why the starting Taiji forms are done so slowly). If it's instinctive, you can't switch back and forth. If you see my point.

Regards,

Mike

rob_liberti
06-14-2005, 09:59 AM
Doing an "internal" art means that you have totally re-trained the way that you move so that it is instinctive (which is why the starting Taiji forms are done so slowly). If it's instinctive, you can't switch back and forth. That's a very interesting idea, but I think I am a living example of some middle ground between the two extremes.

I know I can do "techniques" with good footwork coordinated with normal strength. However, I also know I can "inflate" a bit which to me kind of feels like I fix my entire posture, and maybe at some points it kind of feels like my extender muscles are engaged as fully as possible without actually extending my arms or making them tight. I feel the back of my neck "open up", some muscles in my chest that I don't consciously control thoroughly relax and kind of get out of the way, my knees bend, I feel the weight of my body more directly on feet even though I feel light like I can move very fast, and my wrists pretty much feel a heaviness similar to how I described the bottom of my feet. I can do techniques where I feel much more connected to the partner's center, and maintain that feeling by kind of sneaking my body closer to the partner as my arms retract and twist, and then sneaking my body away from my partner in the new "combined" direction we set as my arms continue to maintain the connection (keeps something floating in the uke between our centers) by extending and twisting - until "something" in my unified body movement catches a bit more tangibly and uke can't directly feel why they are being so compelled into the technique. I'm still working on relaxing some strange muscle (muscle group) on my sides right under my arm pit. I can feel that gets in the way lately. Regardless, while I think what I am typically doing is certainly not "highest level martial arts", I'd say it is typically beyond normal-strength as well, and I can generally switch back and forth a will when I'm teaching people and they make a noticeable change when they feel me doing what I would call the normal-strength way versus the more kokyu power approach. Would your opinion be that my description is "advanced normal-strength" or "novice kokyu power"? It's definitely not "normal" with respect to all of the experience I have had with others, and it is certainly not a strong as some of the aikido sensei's and Chen style Tai Chi teachers I've felt.

Wendy, when I visited your dojo, I found opening up to be very difficult for me to do - but I admit that I saw and felt your aikido sensei doing it inspirationally well. I would say that I basically couldn't do much of that at all given the constraints of that class - which I think did a wonderful job of creating the opportunity for me to work on being able to do such things just inside of normal striking range.

I think developing this kind of thing in more of a combat type setting really challenges you to take the idea of "fudoshin" immovable mind/body to a whole new realistic level. I see it a a very physical example to approach the kind of "complete self trust" required in high level aikido.

I think that visiting your dojo and developing my comfort level to be able to hold myself properly under that much pressure might be the experience I'm looking for to make the physical break-through of always being able to move in a way that is beyond what I would call normal strength.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-14-2005, 01:23 PM
That's a very interesting idea, but I think I am a living example of some middle ground between the two extremes.

I know I can do "techniques" with good footwork coordinated with normal strength. However, I also know I can "inflate" a bit which to me kind of feels like I fix my entire posture, and maybe at some points it kind of feels like my extender muscles are engaged as fully as possible without actually extending my arms or making them tight. I feel the back of my neck "open up", some muscles in my chest that I don't consciously control thoroughly relax and kind of get out of the way,(snip)

Would your opinion be that my description is "advanced normal-strength" or "novice kokyu power"? Rob, it sounds more like a visitation by the Holy Ghost. :D

Sorry... I never pass up a one-liner if I can help it. ;)

Practicing the way to move also involves a lot of thought, reasoning, etc. It is, as I said, a willful change in the way you move. It doesn't just "come upon you" from nowhere. For instance, in one of the last suddenly-dropped conversations with the Ki-Society guys, I tried to introduce the consideration of the physics involved. I think they want to opt for the "suddenly came upon you" scenario, but a physics evaluation is probably the best way to look at these things, IMO. Unless, of course, someone wants to argue that we're circumventing the Law of Conservation of Energy... that could be very interesting, even though the conclusion is foregone.

When you look at the physics involved, the best place to start is with the kokyu power. Take for instance the case of Tohei standing on one leg with a partner pushing on his forearm. Is that Ki? Everyone says it's a good demonstration of Ki. Could he resist the same magnitude of push if he was floating in a swimming pool? No. He needs the ground to brace against. Knowing that, we establish that there a connection (path) between Tohei's forearm and the ground, obviously. Granted, it may be a rather odd path, but the physics is now well in hand.

Applying this small portion of "internal strength" to your statement, Rob, are you suggesting that under certain stimuli your body shifts the way you have moved since the beginning of your life? Let's take it from that point and see how the discussion develops.

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
06-14-2005, 04:22 PM
Rob, it sounds more like a visitation by the Holy Ghost.

Sorry... I never pass up a one-liner if I can help itOne liners are okay, but they make me feel a little nervous about talking about how I "hold myself" in aikido... :) But seriously, it's odd to talk about it as any kind of non-physical experience/feeling to me.

Rob, are you suggesting that under certain stimuli your body shifts the way you have moved since the beginning of your life?I would have to say yes to that. Obviously, I don't actually remember how I moved when I was born, but I can say that before aikido:

- I wasn't holding myself such that I instantly achieved center to center "feeling" with someone the moment they grabbed me. Setting up the proper angle, and extending just a bit more than where you want to meet them, and letting them push your slightly extended wrist/arm/etc... back to where you want to be solid really helps - but at the point of actually being as "solid" as I can achieve - that was dicovered (in my case) by doing a bit of static standing against pushing, seated kokyu ho, and many sword exercises. (Note: I can do this some of the time now, but not in ANY situation yet).

- I wasn't talented enough to move such that I could set up a such a connection as described above from a strike by percussing the striking arm and using that feedback to make the connection.

- I wasn't actively making bodily corrections to maintain a specific center to center "feeling" with someone grabbing me and set a new direction for the both of us (which, along with the set up mentioned above, I think is maybe the main focus of my response to your question).

- (Also) I wasn't moving such that the entire grabbing/conecting surface of the attacker was getting equal pressure.

- I wasn't moving where I could move freely and stratigicly to their diagonals so that the grabber had to give up safety to lose the grab/connection or give up balance to maintain the grab/connection.

- I wasn't moving so much from "my current place" as opposed to kind of going out to their place and trying to move them on their terms.

- And lastly, I wasn't keeping both sides of my body equally energized when touching someone with only one of my arms before aikido.

I think the swimming pool idea makes sense. However, I do think that if you feel a connection and work towards maintaining a connection, with those 4 ki society principles in mind, you probably can just get some of it. (Although I have no idea how ki society people set up their initial connections.) Also, I think that if I tried to do what I'm doing if I were treading water in a swimming pool - it seems likely that when I tried to establish a connection, would end up dunking myself. If it were shallow enough, I could probably still throw them from that situation - but that's getting pretty far from what I have experience with!

Regardless, the point is that there is normal strength, and I can try to muscle my way through techniques using that as well as anyone. There is the technique born out of holding yourself such that you can establish and maintain a connection with a person while you set a new direction for the two of you - which is nothing like techniques using only normal strength, and I'm sure there is something way beyond what I can do. But, I wouldn't say my technique is purely "normal" strength. Since people who only use what I would call "normal" strength cannot do what I'm doing in aikido at all. But, again, I think where I am is just more of a middle ground between really having something valuable and just pushing, pulling and cranking people with "flow".

Rob

wendyrowe
06-15-2005, 08:49 PM
I don't know you and I don't know your teacher, so I'm just making a very neutral remark and I mean it to be helpful for your general knowledge... Thanks, Mike. It's always interesting to hear different points of view.


Rob,

I'm glad our dojo and Jason DeLucia Sensei gave you an important experience -- and we're all looking forward to seeing you again -- but my taiji teacher is at a different dojo. I don't want you to get the wrong idea that I'm learning taiji & qigong from my aikido teacher. My taiji/qigong teacher used to spend pretty much all of his time teaching and training in karate, and over the years as he's progressed into his mid-50's he's moved from studying mostly karate to studying mostly taiji & qigong. He now teaches about half & half (karate to kids, taiji & qigong to adults).

Mike Sigman
06-15-2005, 10:21 PM
Thanks, Mike. It's always interesting to hear different points of view.Hi Wendy:

Someone just pointed me at this quick demo by Zhu Tian Cai doing a medium-to-small frame shortened Chen form:
http://www.wushan.net/taijiquan/zhu13er-web.wmv

Bearing in mind that the Yang family now publicly acknowledges that the Yang form is derived from this (they hid the movement mechanisms even more, shading toward a rigorous small-frame), you can get an idea of the flavor of difference between this type of movement and something like karate. ;)

Mike

wendyrowe
06-16-2005, 06:20 AM
Ack... forget it. I found it in "The Essence of Aikido". John Stevens just mistranslated it because he picked the wrong words out of the possible translations (and it looks like one of them was inverted either in the original or by Stevens). On page 33 of the book is "The Eight Powers", which are also called "The Eight Powers" in Chinese, but also they're called "The Four Polarities"...

Perhaps more helpfully would be this translation from the Chinese:

Motion-Stillness
Powerful-Relaxed
Contraction-Extension
Hard-Soft
...
Thanks for the pointer; I hadn't realized when I read it that this was what you were referring to. My main text when reading the T'ai Chi Classics is Waysun Liao's translation, and although I haven't seen a reference in it to "The Four Polarities" -- maybe I missed it -- it translates the eight powers as ward off power (pong jing), push power (on jing), rollback power (lui jing), press power (ji jing), roll-pull power (tsai jing), split power (leh jing), elbow power (dzo jing) and lean forward power (kao jing). It has italicized translations from the Classics that are more verbose but seem to describe the polarities you listed above, just not as succinctly.

So it sounds like the four powers I'd asked about that are listed in several qigong training videos I've used and in books including Y.K. Chen's TAI CHI CH'UAN: ITS EFFECTS & PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS as main qigong powers/movements (peng lu chi an) correspond with four of these eight from the Classics (pong jing, lui jing, ji jing, on jing), which in turn seem to correspond with the Eight Powers you listed.

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, but I have to wait til I get to a Windows computer since my Linux machine is unable to see that particular wmv video (let's hear it for standardization ... someday). The Yang long form as taught by T. T. Liang is what I study, incidentally.

Mike Sigman
06-16-2005, 08:45 AM
My main text when reading the T'ai Chi Classics is Waysun Liao's translation, and although I haven't seen a reference in it to "The Four Polarities" -- maybe I missed it -- it translates the eight powers as ward off power (pong jing), push power (on jing), rollback power (lui jing), press power (ji jing), roll-pull power (tsai jing), split power (leh jing), elbow power (dzo jing) and lean forward power (kao jing). Oh... different "8 powers". You get a lot of different things with the magic numbers of 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc.

The ones I was referring to are the ones that Stevens translated in relation to references made by O-Sensei and they're a standard "poem" that has to do with the development of qi power and how you exercise it.

The 8 things you're referring to are part of the so-called "13 Postures" of Taiji, although there is some discussion about what comprises the last 5. The important part of the 8 you're quoting is the peng, lu, ji, an (the other 4 are considered auxilliaries or maybe "emergency techniques" that still use the first 4 powers). Peng, lu, ji, and an are the basic directional powers of kokyu and mean basically kokyu up, toward the body, away from the body, and downward. For instance, if Tohei is standing to that people cannot lift him easily (or conversely he is applying power downward), he is demonstrating "an" power. If Tohei is resisting a push to his forearm or if he is pushing someone away, he is using "ji" power (as long as it is the correct, relaxed, solid power). And so on. Using the 4 directions of power you can describe any motion you make. E.g., to extend your arm in front and move it in a circle, to do it correctly, it will be powered with all 4 of peng, lu, ji, an. Since the middle is between the arm and the foot and because the middle, not the shoulder, directs those powers, you automatically "move from the center", etc. The Yang long form as taught by T. T. Liang is what I study, incidentally. Taiji uses the same basic power that Aikido is supposed to use. In both cases, many (if not most) practitioners think the secret is in the forms and techniques, but it's actually in how you move. I agree with Tohei on that one. :)

Mike

wendyrowe
06-16-2005, 09:21 AM
Oh... different "8 powers". You get a lot of different things with the magic numbers of 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc.
And 5, don't forget lots of 5's.

Thanks again; I don't have Steven's ESSENCE OF AIKIDO, so I couldn't do the direct cross-referencing. I'll have to get ahold of a copy.

Mike Sigman
06-29-2005, 12:51 PM
A friend of mine brought to my attention the 1st Aikido Friendship Demonstration part 1 (a DVD sold by Aikido Journal), particularly the demonstration by Kanshu Sunadomari. Essentially, Sunadomari is doing exactly what Gozo Shioda was demonstrating in the Shingi Denju DVD I mentioned in a few other threads. Shioda was doing some variations of the same kokyu control-of-center-and-kokyu-direction through the grab by uke of his gi (it had to be tight for the controls to work... it was more of a dog-and-pony show, in that regard). It's interesting to see that level of controls (it's more sophisticated than my simple description is indicating), but to see it in two early (or "earlier") students of Ueshiba makes me curious. Probably I'm missing something, but I haven't seen that level of controls in many of the more recent deshi... does anyone know of any other Ueshiba students who can use that type of mentally-controlled kokyu powers? Any DVD's? I'm bemused in seeing two "oldtimers" like Shioda and Sunadomari doing this high-level controls, given all the talk about Aikido "evolving", etc., as time went on.

Thanks for any pointers.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Ron Tisdale
06-29-2005, 01:34 PM
Both my own teacher and Robert Mustard Sensei have demo'd this technique, but I personally have no way of evaluating it from the video in terms of what you are looking for. I believe there is video on Mustard Sensei's site of him doing this techn. at the Doshinkan.

Best,
Ron

http://www.aikido.ca/burnaby/Gallery.htm has a link to the video under ...at philadelphia.

RT

Mike Sigman
06-29-2005, 01:55 PM
Both my own teacher and Robert Mustard Sensei have demo'd this technique, but I personally have no way of evaluating it from the video in terms of what you are looking for. I believe there is video on Mustard Sensei's site of him doing this techn. at the Doshinkan. Hmmmmmm. Mustard isn't doing anything at all close to the level I was talking about, Ron. I'm just realizing that I was the one who screwed up in asking the question... if someone doesn't have experience in what I'm talking about they're not going to see it. Well duh for me. Sorry, my mistake. If you'll remember that anecdote I posted in which Chen Fa Ke allowed a well-known shuai-jiao expert to grab his wrist and the wrestler immediately couldn't move (even his feet), this is also an example of the same technique I'm talking about. Shioda was playing around with it, Sunadomari was using it (or a variant of it)... that's what I'm looking for, but it dawns on me you won't see it if you don't know it. I guess my best question is to ask for the names of the top 4 or 5 deshi from the old days that are still alive. I'm curious to see if this level permeated the earliy students of if Sunadomari and Shioda got it independently from somewhere else. If I see one more of the "older generation" displaying this skill, then it's interesting indeed. :)

Thanks.

Mike

Alfonso
06-29-2005, 04:08 PM
Does the clip on the 1st demo DVD at aikidojournal show the techinque you mention? The clip includes Sunadomari sensei on a multiple attacker segment of his demo.

Mike Sigman
06-29-2005, 04:34 PM
Does the clip on the 1st demo DVD at aikidojournal show the techinque you mention? The clip includes Sunadomari sensei on a multiple attacker segment of his demo.Hi Alfonso:

Just watch a little bit from the beginning of his demo... he starts right off by telling people how it's done, but I know from experience that what he's saying and what people perceive him to be saying are two different things. At the moment uke grabs, etc., Sunadomari has their center and the direction of it already resolved by his own center. He's actually saying that, in so many words, if you listen to the translation. It's what Chen Fa Ke did with the wrestler and what Shioda did to his students who grabbed his gi. It's a high level of kokyu manipulation. Sunadomari stops his students a couple of times right at the grab (near the beginning of the demo) and says the technique is already done.... I totally agree; the rest is almost window-dressing. It looks like the start of the technique to a lot of people, but because of the "blending" of his kokyu combining with the opponent's force, everything is already resolved.

Another thing to notice is that Sunadomari actually stops his uke a number of times to show a point. Granted, Sunadomari could easily have done the technique with a non-resistive "flow", but while he's making these points and stopping Uke, you can see that his power is appreciable. My point being that being very strong with kokyu power is the way to go... not the "I don't want to develop any strength because it's against my Aikido philosophy". ;) Normal strength is a no-no; Kokyu strength is a must.

Regards,

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-29-2005, 05:01 PM
Does the clip on the 1st demo DVD at aikidojournal show the techinque you mention? The clip includes Sunadomari sensei on a multiple attacker segment of his demo. I didn't answer the part about whether the clip shows "the technique", Alfonso. Sunadomari only does one technique during his whole demonstration and he describes it in those first few techniques... it's called "Aiki". ;)

What I was laughing at was that he did one of the best demonstrations in just those first few techniques that I've ever seen in Aikido, if you add in his explanations. I wonder how many thousands have seen that performance and missed that he was telling them the true heart of Aikido? I'm sure most people were more focused on watching for techniques that looked like their personal perception of good Aikido. I wonder what people like Saotome thought? Saotome, I fairly certain, knows exactly what Sunadomari was showing, but I can't imagine Saotome ever teaching that to anyone. (Er, if anyone wants to convince me otherwise, I'm more than willing to take a look and offer apologies if I'm wrong). ;)

Mike

Alfonso
06-30-2005, 03:43 PM
I guess I'll have to watch that demonstration, I've only seen the clip I mentioned.

rob_liberti
07-02-2005, 10:55 PM
I think that if I were at a seminar with Saotome sensei and I could show him the video in question and ask him about it. He'd be more than happy to show me. The problem is that then he might just expect me to now be able to do it myself, as if I could possibly copy him (instantly). I find it much more helpful to ask a sempai who is a bit closer to me in ability for help/hints than someone who was already a shihan when I was born.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-03-2005, 08:00 AM
I think that if I were at a seminar with Saotome sensei and I could show him the video in question and ask him about it. He'd be more than happy to show me. I would speculate and say that I disagree with you. This "whether they show you or not" topic has been a common discussion among some friends and me for many years. A Saotome-group friend of mine that has more experience than you do doesn't even think it's a discussion issue... Saotome simply doesn't show anyone some of the things he knows, in his opinion.

Secondly, I finally took the time to watch Saotome's demonstration on that friendship tape and I was a little surprised at it. The reason is that I have an impression of Saotome (bear in mind that while I've seen him demonstrate off and on during the years, I haven't really bothered to go to his workshops in recent years so a lot of my impressions are from earlier days and from knowing that Saotome gave "ki lessons" while he was still at Hombu Dojo). You can know basic ki and kokyu things without knowing the particular aspect that has surprisingly surfaced as being known by some of Ueshiba's earlier students. I would now, after watching Saotome's demonstration, take a more neutral position about his knowing exactly how this form of focused "aiki" is done. I just don't know and I don't mind retracting my earlier musing.

Thirdly, as an aside, I heard another friend of mine comment about how he gets tired of watching Saotome's "kill your opponent" approach, when the "blend with your opponent style of American Sensei X" is so much more Aikido-like. I dunno.... which is more legitimate, the pleasing Aikido a lot of Americans have come to expect or the Aikido perspective of a legitimate student of O-Sensei? ;)

Regardless, I'm more interested in what I've now seen done/discussed by too many direct Japanese students than I am in getting off on a Saotome discussion. :)

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
07-04-2005, 07:56 AM
Well, considering that I'm also talking to people who have much more experience with Saotome sensei than I do and I'm basing my opinions off of those sempai (which I believe is the main positive aspect of an organization).. I personally find that the message of "kill your opponent" is that you need to have the mind of attack and take action and maintain position from that mind set in order to be able to receive your partner, unify, and then do something non-destructive with them. I'm well aware that many people with more experience than I have would disagree with that opinion - but I suspect they might just have have a problem with over-applying reductionist thinking or something.

Regardless, I am more interested in trying to get to where I think O-sensei, Yamaguchi sensei, Saotome sensei, etc. were trying to go, as opposed to trying to follow any particular teacher to become just like them.

Rob

Walking the spiritual path is a very subtle process; it is not something to jump into naively. There are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can
deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. -Chogyam Trungpa, "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism"

Mike Sigman
07-04-2005, 09:10 AM
I'm well aware that many people with more experience than I have would disagree with that opinion - but I suspect they might just have have a problem with over-applying reductionist thinking or something. Those rascals! How do you think they got it so wrong? :) There are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can
deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. -Chogyam Trungpa, "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" A telling point.

Mike

rob_liberti
07-04-2005, 09:48 AM
Actually, my current thinking on that is that some Western parenting practices tend to result in people getting stunted at that point in childhood when everything is very black or white. When you combine that with the Trungpa quote, it comes together nicely to form a reasonable explanation of how things can get quite distorted in the States. Highly perceptive self honestly is the only chance as I see it - like when one asks someone to think outside "the" box, do they actually consider that they are probably thinking inside a differnt box of their own.

Oh well, I like the quote an aweful lot.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-05-2005, 07:41 AM
Actually, my current thinking on that is that some Western parenting practices tend to result in people getting stunted at that point in childhood when everything is very black or white. Sad, isn't it? :)

Speaking of "black and white" and getting back to the idea of defining "highest level martial arts". Let me see if I can frame a "black and white" example.... but instead of just labeling things, perhaps you (or others' thoughts would be welcome) can post an analysis, as you see it?

Let's take the example of suburi, bokken swinging. Suburi supposedly "develops the tanden", among other things. If someone named "X" watches a video of, say, Saito Sensei swinging the bokken, it appears fairly straightforward. You hold the bokken in a certain way and you swing it to and fro in a certain way. So X picks up a bokken and swings it, emulating Saito. Another third party, "Y", watches and compares .... and says X certainly appears to be swinging the bokken like Saito is.

So, some questions are: .... are there any results someone can expect from suburi swinging and will X achieve those results just swinging the bokken in a way that looks like Saito's swing? After all, the basic swing that X is doing will certainly enable him to cut something with a sword, so you can't fault him on doing the swing. Even if you did, he might tell you that "all roads lead to the top of the mountain" or that "his interpretation of correct bokken swinging is just as valid as yours" or that "Saito's swing was evolving his whole life and this swing done by X is just part of the "evolution" of bokken swinging. He might accuse you of thinking in boxes, etc., if you disagree with him and his opinions... heck, he might even call you a "pompous ass", god forbid! :)

Another person might say that it is practice that counts, suggesting that if X simply swings the bokken a lot he will arrive. "Practice is what counts"; "just practice and you will understand". Etc. Do you think it is true that ultimately X will arrive at the same bokken-swinging skills that Saito has/had by just practicing continuously?

Mike

guest89893
07-05-2005, 09:20 AM
So, some questions are: .... are there any results someone can expect from suburi swinging and will X achieve those results just swinging the bokken in a way that looks like Saito's swing? After all, the basic swing that X is doing will certainly enable him to cut something with a sword, so you can't fault him on doing the swing. Even if you did, he might tell you that "all roads lead to the top of the mountain" or that "his interpretation of correct bokken swinging is just as valid as yours" or that "Saito's swing was evolving his whole life and this swing done by X is just part of the "evolution" of bokken swinging. He might accuse you of thinking in boxes, etc., if you disagree with him and his opinions... heck, he might even call you a "pompous ass", god forbid! :)
Another person might say that it is practice that counts, suggesting that if X simply swings the bokken a lot he will arrive. "Practice is what counts"; "just practice and you will understand". Etc. Do you think it is true that ultimately X will arrive at the same bokken-swinging skills that Saito has/had by just practicing continuously?Mike

Hi Mike,
I would like to add my thoughts and my answers to your questions.(for whatever my thoughts/answers are worth). I have always had a problem and disagree completely with the statement - "just practice, or just swing the bokken a lot and you'll learn." So whatever bad habits you start with you will strengthen and ingrain so that will always be in your swing. No possible way can you learn to direct ki into and through the weapon. Does practice count? Yes. Good practice counts. But it's more than swinging a bokken so the bokken and you move technically perfect. I see/saw and hear/heard the same thing in playing the guitar and other instruments for that matter. Whether being taught and/or watching someone and learning that way the same thing can occur of no spirit or feeling behind the playing. And no matter how much they give for an excuse or reason no feeling or creativity ever shows in their music or playing. In classical music the main master guitarist lessons from Segovia's (guitar's #1 in classical music while he was alive) was in fact teaching them how to feel and express that feel through their playing. Musically the other spectrum exists that really sloppy playing that borders on bad and yet tremendous feeling pours out of the playing that it can almost overwhelm the listener. It is in my mind pretty similar to martial arts and Aikido in particular. We have skilled martial artists who can swing that bokken and look exactly like Saito Sensei, without ever understanding what is missing. The sayings (excuses?) will come out in your example. Like "all roads lead to the top of the mountain," yes except the view is different from each side of the road you walk on - let alone each road. "his interpretation is just as valid as yours," good than accept that my "interpretation is valid and every one else's" instead of meaning "my interpretation is right and yours is well so-so -cause it isn't my interpretation." The latter is more than likely what you'll hear.
This one though: "Saito's swing was evolving his whole life and this swing done by X is just part of the "evolution" of bokken swinging." I guess if you can see that Saito's swing evolved then don't you want to know how Saito was able to make his swing evolve? Because "just practice" is just that "just practice."
So as you may have guessed to me the answer to your last question: Do you think it is true that ultimately X will arrive at the same bokken-swinging skills that Saito has/had by just practicing continuously?
No.

Sincerely,
Gene

Kevin Leavitt
07-05-2005, 09:20 AM
interesting question Mike. Reminds me of baking a cake. A world re-knowned/master cake baker can spend years on refining baking the perfect cake. A novice, in theory, can follow the same receipe, replicate the same exact conditions, and bake that same perfect cake.

So what separates the master from the novice?

I think there is much more to mastery than replicating a single cake or perfecting a sword kata. It is the ability and experience to take a brand new set of conditions and create/resolve the situation in the manner you want.

Mike Sigman
07-05-2005, 09:47 AM
We have skilled martial artists who can swing that bokken and look exactly like Saito Sensei, without ever understanding what is missing. The sayings (excuses?) will come out in your example. Like "all roads lead to the top of the mountain," yes except the view is different from each side of the road you walk on - let alone each road. "his interpretation is just as valid as yours," good than accept that my "interpretation is valid and every one else's" instead of meaning "my interpretation is right and yours is well so-so -cause it isn't my interpretation." The latter is more than likely what you'll hear.
This one though: "Saito's swing was evolving his whole life and this swing done by X is just part of the "evolution" of bokken swinging." I guess if you can see that Saito's swing evolved then don't you want to know how Saito was able to make his swing evolve? Because "just practice" is just that "just practice."
So as you may have guessed to me the answer to your last question: Do you think it is true that ultimately X will arrive at the same bokken-swinging skills that Saito has/had by just practicing continuously?
No.Exactly. It's obvious when common sense and a little thought are applied. Yet, another way to trivialize what you just said would be that you see things too "black and white", Gene, if you're going to make a pronouncement like that which disagrees with some closely-held beliefs of a few others. :)

So how about if you do at least *some* things in your swinging like Saito does? How about if you grip loosely except for the finished down-swing? How about if you "don't rock back and forth"? How about if you "stop the bokken exactly in a horizontal position", etc.? What I'm getting at is that there are characteristics of bokken swinging which are indeed simple "variations". However, the loss of the few "essential" requirements, is not the same thing as a "variation". If someone leaves out or does incorrectly one of the *essential* components of bokken swinging that Saito (in our example) does, then the idea of "all roads lead to the top of the mountain", "just practice", etc., becomes an obvious fallacy... and the results are NOT just going to happen by divine providence.

If you don't know how to swing your bokken, for example, *really* using the tanden correctly, then 1,000 strokes a day is "wrong practice" in terms of the legitimate Aikido that Saito does/did, even though it will make you very strong, give you *some* ki (beyond your control, though), and enable you to add power to some of your Aikido techniques. In a "black and white" way, I'm pointing out that even if there is some small bit of vagueness about exactly where that line is, there is certainly a cut-off line between Aikido, Aikido-variations, and not-Aikido. "Highest level" Aikido is not on the same path as "not-Aikido", if you'll pardon the "black and white" statement. ;)

Incidentally, I don't know if it's just that a lot of people play the guitar semi-seriously/seriously, but it's amazing how many good guitar players are in Taiji, Aikido, etc.

Mike

guest89893
07-05-2005, 10:30 AM
Exactly. It's obvious when common sense and a little thought are applied. Yet, another way to trivialize what you just said would be that you see things too "black and white", Gene, if you're going to make a pronouncement like that which disagrees with some closely-held beliefs of a few others. :)
Yes Mike, however my pronouncement disagrees with some and by others it is their sentiment, too. And I am also interested in your little gathering idea on a different thread -I'll PM.

Incidentally, I don't know if it's just that a lot of people play the guitar semi-seriously/seriously, but it's amazing how many good guitar players are in Taiji, Aikido, etc.

Mike

I have a couple of observations/opinions (not sure they fit into theories) regarding the number of guitarists/musicians and also the number of visual artists and dancers. All three music, art, and dance have to, like martial arts, blend visual learning with kinesthetic learning and therefore have already been developing &/or are comfortable in learning in a martial arts environment. NAGE and UKE show the technique in motion, we watch and then we try to do. Same is true for musicians, artists to a degree-they take something and put to a medium or the "spirit" of something and put it to a medium, and dancers learn dance in exactly the same way as martial arts learn martial arts. But, more importantly are those who create in their other arts. Because the void that the music I write seems to come from and flow through me seems the same as that which flows through you in Aikido, Taiji, etc. -again this is just my own view, and who knows if I'm looking at the majestic panoramic view from along the mountain path I'm walking or if I'm looking at the mountain. Or perhaps I'm staring down as I walk at the dirt and my feet on the path thinking same up here as down there. ;) :)
Gene

Mike Sigman
07-05-2005, 11:18 AM
I have a couple of observations/opinions (not sure they fit into theories) regarding the number of guitarists/musicians and also the number of visual artists and dancers. All three music, art, and dance have to, like martial arts, blend visual learning with kinesthetic learning and therefore have already been developing &/or are comfortable in learning in a martial arts environment. NAGE and UKE show the technique in motion, we watch and then we try to do. Same is true for musicians, artists to a degree-they take something and put to a medium or the "spirit" of something and put it to a medium, and dancers learn dance in exactly the same way as martial arts learn martial arts. But, more importantly are those who create in their other arts. Because the void that the music I write seems to come from and flow through me seems the same as that which flows through you in Aikido, Taiji, etc. -again this is just my own view, and who knows if I'm looking at the majestic panoramic view from along the mountain path I'm walking or if I'm looking at the mountain. Or perhaps I'm staring down as I walk at the dirt and my feet on the path thinking same up here as down there. ;) :) Well, I take your meaning, but the essence, in my opinion, is the "different way of moving", involving several interrelated things, that I see as paramount... and it's the heart of that movement combined with another person that I see as the core "Aiki". In other words, I agree with what you're saying, but I'm interjecting something else in front of the line.

I played guitar for many years, including classical guitar, although I haven't done much for a number of years. But that's why it catches my attention about the number of guitar players who use guitar-playing as an analogy when talking about Aikido, Taiji, etc. :)

FWIW

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-05-2005, 11:21 AM
interesting question Mike. Reminds me of baking a cake. A world re-knowned/master cake baker can spend years on refining baking the perfect cake. A novice, in theory, can follow the same receipe, replicate the same exact conditions, and bake that same perfect cake.

So what separates the master from the novice?

I think there is much more to mastery than replicating a single cake or perfecting a sword kata. It is the ability and experience to take a brand new set of conditions and create/resolve the situation in the manner you want. Actually, Kevin, I would change your cake analogy to say the novice either leaving out an ingredient (like the tsp of baking soda) or changing the amounts of the ingredients. You still wind up with a cake, something that would pass muster at a bake sale, but there's something very different about the ingredients, even though the cake would provide sustenance as done by the novice. ;)

FWIW

Mike

Kevin Leavitt
07-05-2005, 11:54 AM
Good point. Also, cakes are typically much easier to replicate than correct martial technique! Also, in theory alot less to lose from making a bad cake than having bad marital technique hence why we should strive to constantly improve in budo!

Mike Sigman
07-05-2005, 11:57 AM
alot less to lose from making a bad cake than having bad marital technique hence why we should strive to constantly improve in budo! Or in bedo. ;)

Ian Thake
07-06-2005, 07:47 AM
So, some questions are: .... are there any results someone can expect from suburi swinging and will X achieve those results just swinging the bokken in a way that looks like Saito's swing?

Would it be reasonable to assume that our hypothetical master swordsman isn't just swinging his bokken, he's cutting with it instead? It's not just a physical action as there's also an intention associated with it. For the swordsman the act is about downing a foe, not about moving a stick, and this is an element this will be missing from X's practise of swinging the bokken.

(Baking a cake, on the other hand is about, well, baking a cake. Bake a given receipe a thousand times and I don't think anyone would argue that you wouldn't be really good at baking that cake).

So does it make a difference to the example if X starts off knowing what all the bokken swinging is about? If X knows what he's trying to achieve, what the practise is about, and knows what success looks like - the physical appearance of Saito's swing - I'd say the practise isn't going to be necessarily empty.

happysod
07-06-2005, 08:02 AM
Could I have some clarification here on something as I think my reading comprehension is going downhill again. Several posts seem to indicate that you'd never be able to bake a bokken properly unless you're taught?

I'd disagree with this in that, while it might take an exceptional student, you can teach yourself without the hands-on guidance of a teacher. I'd just expect it to take longer and that initially wrong alleyways would be followed. However it would depend more on how they were teaching themselves and more importantly, what aims and thus self-tests they could use during their training.

I agree, most people picking up Mrs Beeton's guide to sword cuts would make a complete hash, but I would presume someone competent could make a reasonable stab at it.

(Then again, I'm still a skeptic when it comes to spirit and ki power, in spite of Mikes illuminating posts)

Ian Thake
07-06-2005, 08:22 AM
What you said... only not nearly so clearly!

Mike Sigman
07-06-2005, 08:23 AM
Would it be reasonable to assume that our hypothetical master swordsman isn't just swinging his bokken, he's cutting with it instead? It's not just a physical action as there's also an intention associated with it. For the swordsman the act is about downing a foe, not about moving a stick, and this is an element this will be missing from X's practise of swinging the bokken.
(snip)
So does it make a difference to the example if X starts off knowing what all the bokken swinging is about? If X knows what he's trying to achieve, what the practise is about, and knows what success looks like - the physical appearance of Saito's swing - I'd say the practise isn't going to be necessarily empty.Sure... *both* people swinging the bokken are thinking of cutting with a sword. The problem is that "X" only knows of and can think of only one way to add power to the cut... let's say with strong arms and a lean. On the other hand Saito is also thinking about the sword as cutting on the downstroke, but he's also aware of powering the upstroke, clever ways to get power to the downstroke, weight and pressure shifts inside that don't show up in any outward "rocking" motion, breathing in such a way that he is building his "ki" while at the same time not using any tension, and so on. If you'll watch Saito and some of the others, various of their swings are not correct martially (the stroke goes too far back), but for the type of ki exercise that involves "contraction and expansion", they're just fine.

BUT.... if you watch X and you watch Saito and you don't have any particular experience with using the bokken for "tanden" training, you won't see the difference. My point was along the lines that Saito will build up his ki and his tanden strength while "X" will essentially build up his shoulders, arms, etc., not to mention his aerobic strength and *some* of what is called ki (some ki always develops as strength develops). With all this training, X will imbue ALL of his motions and techniques in the rest of his Aikido with arm and shoulder; Saito (whose name I'm using only as an example) will not only build his powers, but he will also train his body to move in a way that is not arms and shoulders.

Trust me, you don't want to point out to "X" that he might be doing the bokken-swinging wrong. If he is honestly on the Way of Aikido, he'll take a look at it... if he's worried about his status and position in the "community", he'll get a bit defensive. ;)

Regards,

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-06-2005, 08:29 AM
Could I have some clarification here on something as I think my reading comprehension is going downhill again. Several posts seem to indicate that you'd never be able to bake a bokken properly unless you're taught? (snip)
I agree, most people picking up Mrs Beeton's guide to sword cuts would make a complete hash, but I would presume someone competent could make a reasonable stab at it. How on earth can you make a hash when you've set out to bake a cake, Ian?? (Then again, I'm still a skeptic when it comes to spirit and ki power, in spite of Mikes illuminating posts) Well, pick some single point that you think might clear it up (or give a leg up) and, if it's not too complicated, I'll try and lay it out so that it sounds less like esoterica and more within the real world. :)

Mike

Ian Thake
07-06-2005, 09:00 AM
OK Mike, if I understand you now, then to try and paraphrase/grossly oversimplify your argument:

"Swinging a bokken - like pretty much everything else in aikido - has a bunch of subtleties that will be lost on the casual observer. Nobody is going to understand those subtleties just by watching a video and practising a lot. They are, however, still going to be able to give someone an almighty whack with the bokken at the end of the practise."

So it's not that Trainee Swordsman X is failing to improve because he's copying the move without some esoteric understanding, he's simply copying the move badly?

Which doesn't seem too controversial in itself...?

happysod
07-06-2005, 09:14 AM
HIya Mike, all I can say is don't try my shortbreads... but on to the point in question concerning ki use. [caveat, fully happy to realise I've just been misreading you and others thoughts]

From what I understand your view of harnessing this type of energy and breathing is relatively easy assuming both an open mind and a willingness to learn without preconceptions on the side of the student and a teacher who knows what they're doing. You have mentioned how this can invigorate and enhance the power of even mediocre specimens (such as myself) beyond what can be described through purely physical ways.

However, if this is the case, why has it never gained more ground in fields other than the internal arts. Ignoring obvious areas such as armed forces (who, going off their LSD trials, will experiment with anything), why not in athletics, sports in general? I suppose I'm in the "sounds too good to be true camp" if that makes sense.

Mike Sigman
07-06-2005, 09:24 AM
OK Mike, if I understand you now, then to try and paraphrase/grossly oversimplify your argument:

"Swinging a bokken - like pretty much everything else in aikido - has a bunch of subtleties that will be lost on the casual observer. Nobody is going to understand those subtleties just by watching a video and practising a lot. They are, however, still going to be able to give someone an almighty whack with the bokken at the end of the practise."

So it's not that Trainee Swordsman X is failing to improve because he's copying the move without some esoteric understanding, he's simply copying the move badly?

Which doesn't seem too controversial in itself...?
Roughly speaking, you've got it, but the problem is that although it is subtle in the sense of being able to see it, it is far from subtle in doing it and training it. Take for instance someone who knows how to use their body more or less correctly in applying a nikkyo... it's "subtle" (an outsider can't see the difference), but the effects are not subtle at all.

I once heard a story about Chen Fa Ke taking on a "bandit" who had a spear... Fa Ke had a staff. At the moment of encounter, Fa Ke did some sort of diverting move to the bandit's spear and then poked a hole completely through the chest of the bandit with his staff. When I heard that story, I discounted it as perhaps being an exaggeration. When I met Chen Fa Ke's grandson, I brought up that story and asked how he thought his grandfather moved when he did that hit. He showed me and it took me 2 years to figure out what he showed me. It was subtle, but it was a way of adding tremendous power, once you train it. Yet, if I had seen it earlier in my life it would have meant nothing to me.

My point is that these "subtleties" we're talking about in the bokken training are quite critical to the kokyu power in Aikido-proper. When someone says "Aikido doesn't use strength and you should relax", what that really means is that you should not use normal strength, but you should train the kokyu strength as high as you can and you can only learn kokyu strength by (a.) having someone show you how to train it and (b.) by relaxing and relinquishing all the old "normal" strength. Subtle to see, not subtle to actually do.

Regards,

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-06-2005, 09:48 AM
You have mentioned how this can invigorate and enhance the power of even mediocre specimens (such as myself) beyond what can be described through purely physical ways.

However, if this is the case, why has it never gained more ground in fields other than the internal arts. Ignoring obvious areas such as armed forces (who, going off their LSD trials, will experiment with anything), why not in athletics, sports in general? I suppose I'm in the "sounds too good to be true camp" if that makes sense. Hi Ian:

Well, let me re-phrase your question for you. What you really mean to ask is why this form of strength is not found in the armed forces, sports, etc., of the US, the UK, Europe, etc. In varying degrees, you'll find some aspects of this training in some Asian armies, sports, daily-life, etc.... but particularly in select parts of the Chinese army, Chinese sports training, and Chinese daily life. Think for instance of all the people who doing qigongs, Taiji, etc., in China. The trick is to find someone who really knows how to do these things and who will train you. At the moment, the West is just getting started (and there is a LOT of bullshit out there, too, so be careful).

Think of Aikido... it's in there. There was a good interview of Tohei in Aikido Journal in which Tohei mentions demonstrating that people couldn't lift him... O-Sensei was watching and was encouraging people because he seemed to be a bit miffed that Tohei had somehow learned some of these skills from somewhere else. In other words, someone having taught this sort of closely-held stuff to Tohei was something of an irritant to Ueshiba. So if there was a reluctance on O-Sensei's part for Tohei to have this sort of knowledge, what do you think O-Sensei's reaction would have been if Tohei, Abe, etc., had said, "Hey... let's teach this to the westerners... I'm sure they'd like it!" ;)

Another problem is that it's not that easy to just do. I can show someone how to do some things, but the academic knowledge is not the same as working it so much that it becomes your instinctive way of movement (which is why is just blow off these comments of "sometimes I do it rigth, sometimes I don't). It takes work. There are gradations of skill. Etc. It's difficult to make the transition and a lot of people simply stop trying once they begin to comprehend how much of a change is involved. Like the bokken swinger "X", they start thinking "so what if it helps me swing the bokken a little stronger... it's not enough more power for me to devote all this time", and yada yada yada. They miss the importance because they haven't taken the time to really understand it. :)

Mike

Ron Tisdale
07-06-2005, 11:56 AM
it's not enough more power for me to devote all this time,

I think the point is that this sort of power may not be as necessary when you are young and vigorous, but as you age, it becomes more and more necessary if you plan on holding your own with the young guns. I hear Shioda Sensei really started implementing the idea of 'soft' kokyu ryoku sometime in his 40s...I'm 44 as of yesterday, and I need a different way to do things. The 20 something brown and black belts can be a hand full without it. :)
Best,
Ron

Chuck Clark
07-06-2005, 12:53 PM
Happy Birthday Ron.

I met a teacher when I was 19 years old that made a huge impression on me with his overwhelming power coming from what felt like a soft but very heavy pillow sometimes and a sharp penetrating point at other times. He was somewhere in his late 60's or so and helped me to understand that I wanted to find the ability to do this as soon as possible so I had a long time to practice what really works when you get old before I got old and needed it. I've been searching for it every since... and I passed my 58th birthday six months ago. You have time to find it.

Best regards,

Mike Sigman
07-06-2005, 12:56 PM
I think the point is that this sort of power may not be as necessary when you are young and vigorous, but as you age, it becomes more and more necessary if you plan on holding your own with the young guns. I hear Shioda Sensei really started implementing the idea of 'soft' kokyu ryoku sometime in his 40s...I'm 44 as of yesterday, and I need a different way to do things. The 20 something brown and black belts can be a hand full without it. :)Actually, the level of this power can be unusually high (and I don't claim to be able to demonstrate it at that high of a level, either... not by a long shot) and even "young" people have been known to demonstrate a pretty high level. I remember one of my teachers mentioning one of his relatives in the 1800's was known to use a spear that weighed 24 pounds.... when he told me the story he said something like, "Of course, you can only use a spear of this weight if your qi is very strong; even normal very strong people cannot manipulate a spear of this weight".

Of course, these are just stories, but the idea of someone gaining this form of strength to compensate for age is very common... both Shioda and Ueshiba said similar things about the usefulness as you get older and it's a common idea in Chinese discussions, too.

There's a reason why you get strong doing these things. One reason, the qi/ki thing I'm not going to get into because it's complex and because .... well, just because. ;)

The other reason is the kokyu part and I'll make a quick stab at telling why that part increases your "power" as you get older. For a very simplistic example, picture Tohei standing on one leg with his partner pushing on Tohei's forearm to show that Tohei is difficult to move (we could just say that Tohei has "root" or "is rooted"). What Tohei has done basically (this is a very simple example; it can get much more complex) is rearrange the way his body is handling forces so that the responsibility for the force goes to his back leg. If he is letting his back leg handle the push, then he only needs enough strength in the rest of the body to transmit that responsibility. With a lot of practice, the "transmitting" portions of your body can be weirdly soft, but that's another story and it also involve the ki/qi I'm avoiding.

So think of it like this, one-legged Tohei kokyu demonstration: If you carry a large stone, it takes a certain amount of effort. If you put the large stone in a wagon and pull it, it takes less effort to move the stone over the same distance. If you automatically establish load-bearing paths through to the sole of your foot as you walk with the stone, you're sort of allowing the leg to bear more of the load, similar to the way the wheels carry the load in a wagon. As I've pointed out a couple of times in this forum, the essence of a lot of "from the middle" stuff is to actually let the lower body do all the work possible.

If Tohei used that same force all the way through his body while absorbing a push slightly and then pushing back, the path through to his rear leg will allow the real leg to do most of the work. So despite appearance of using his arms, Tohei is letting his lower body do almost all the work.

Anyway, I'll stop there because I'm already unhappy with the too-simplistic attempt to convey an idea of how you can be "strong" while you're not using much strength in your upper body. And remember, there's more to it than just this one part. :)

FWIW

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-06-2005, 01:04 PM
I've been searching for it every since... and I passed my 58th birthday six months ago. You have time to find it. Hi Chuck:

Out of curiosity, can you explain to me exactly *what* you've been looking for? What you described can be described as focused jin, one-grain qi, jin/kokyu, whatever. The question I'm trying to ask, even though I'm fumbling for words, is sort of along the lines of "there are a number of skills (not a great number, but a few) associated with these powers... what specifically interests you and why?". Poorly phrased, but hopefully you understand what I'm asking.

Regards,

Mike

Rupert Atkinson
07-06-2005, 08:38 PM
The other reason is the kokyu part and I'll make a quick stab at telling why that part increases your "power" as you get older. For a very simplistic example, picture Tohei standing on one leg with his partner pushing on Tohei's forearm to show that Tohei is difficult to move (we could just say that Tohei has "root" or "is rooted"). What Tohei has done basically (this is a very simple example; it can get much more complex) is rearrange the way his body is handling forces so that the responsibility for the force goes to his back leg. If he is letting his back leg handle the push, then he only needs enough strength in the rest of the body to transmit that responsibility. With a lot of practice, the "transmitting" portions of your body can be weirdly soft, but that's another story and it also involve the ki/qi I'm avoiding.
Mike

Excellent representation in words ! Use of words like ki just confuse simplicity.

Chuck Clark
07-06-2005, 10:29 PM
Out of curiosity, can you explain to me exactly *what* you've been looking for? ... what specifically interests you and why?".

I really don't think I can explain "exactly" what I've been looking for all these years... If I could, then I probably would be much better at "doing" it than I am.

What specifically interests me is to continue to practice and grow along lines that my teachers have led me. "Great Faith Tempered With Great Doubt..." along with a good practice system that includes a lot of testing each other to be sure we're really doing what we intend and the growing ability to do just one thing at a time. Each "one thing" then combines with another "one thing" and they become just one thing that is very dynamic and yet subtle. Taking the opponent's structure, including the mental aspects, making it very difficult for the opponent to do anything that is not predictable and having an ambush waiting. Adding just that four ounces of my force into the opponent's forces along with gravity so that they do not have any useful power to put in my direction but instead spend theirs and my appropriate bit in their own collapse of structure and will. Taking in information while creating techniques through intuitive, creative decision making and actualizing this intent in the most simple and efficient way while doing as little harm as possible is what interests me.

A lot of words that do not come close to what really interests me in this practice. And as for "Why"?... the only answer that makes sense to me is... because that's part of who I am.

I appreciate your interest and share the passion for the search.

Best regards,

Mike Sigman
07-06-2005, 10:33 PM
I really don't think I can explain "exactly" what I've been looking for all these years... If I could, then I probably would be much better at "doing" it than I am. Fair enough. I thought you were talking about the various skills associated with the physical expressions of ki and kokyu and I was wondering which ones interested you and why.

Regards,

Mike

Don_Modesto
07-06-2005, 10:37 PM
I think the point is that this sort of power may not be as necessary when you are young and vigorous, but as you age, it becomes more and more necessary if you plan on holding your own with the young guns. I hear Shioda Sensei really started implementing the idea of 'soft' kokyu ryoku sometime in his 40s...I'm 44 as of yesterday, and I need a different way to do things. The 20 something brown and black belts can be a hand full without it. :)
Best,
Ron

Happy Birthday, belatedly...

NagaBaba
07-07-2005, 05:32 PM
Be strong, not weak!!!! ;)

Be happy, Ron!!!

Mike Sigman
07-07-2005, 06:04 PM
Be strong, not weak!!!! ;)
Hmmmmmm.... isn't that like saying "Be rich, not poor!!!!!" ;)

Mike

rob_liberti
07-10-2005, 01:04 AM
>Even if you did[faulted X's bokken practice], he might tell you that "all roads lead to the top of the mountain" or that "his interpretation of correct bokken swinging is just as valid as yours" or that "Saito's swing was evolving his whole life and this swing done by X is just part of the 'evolution' of bokken swinging." [and later] If you don't know how to swing your bokken, for example, *really* using the tanden correctly

I guess I disagree with the whole idea that there can be a "highest level" to a "do" art. To me, highest level, has to mean highest so far. I think it's a matter of context. (There's the rub with absolutes in that: absolute is absolutely relative to the relative.) This all seems to be based on the premise that there is an absolute right way to swing a sword. I haven't practiced in all of the different sword schools and I have no idea if habits would be learned from drills designed to develop kokyu that would get you killed in battle or whatever; but I would imagine that might be the case - so I'm not sure if there is an absolute right way to practice swinging the sword (for all contexts). It seems like it would have to be contextual and need to be level appropriate while you continue to learn and evolve your understanding and ability. While I'm fine with the idea that some paths are just not going to the top of the mountain, the idea of that practice being either "Aikido-variations" or "not-Aikido" because some essential things are left out in that moment of training while building skills is taking things to the other extreme as I see it. If leaving out some essential things as other skills are developed with the idea of later re-integrating the things left out for the time-being from a potentially better place to do that is not "aikido" then logically doesn't it follow that no one is doing aikido unless they are doing everything perfectly? To me, that's not a "path", that's the destination. Maybe I misunderstood. I agree that no one is doing "highest level aikido" unless they are doing everything perfectly - by definition, but doesn't that imply there must exist lower level aikido too? For the example, I'm sure there are general principles that make some swings better than others, but that's as far I would go at this point.

>After all, the basic swing that X is doing will certainly enable him to cut something with a sword, so you can't fault him on doing the swing. <snip> He might accuse you of thinking in boxes, etc., if you disagree with him and his opinions... heck, he might even call you a "pompous ass", god forbid!

Again, I think it's a matter of context. If the person doing the faulting is significantly better at swinging the sword, understands the context of that specific drill, has the judgment to know how to tell what X is ready to hear, and so gives just the right message for the moment (in the most helpful way) I would say she is doing X a great service. Informing, discussing, disagreeing, etc. are all like swinging a sword - in that there are important subtleties associated with those actions that change how they are interpreted. Feedback is essential for learning such things. Seriously, all bickering aside - I would sincerely hope that X would speak up if she is faulted in a way that seems pompous (or seems out of context) to her - especially if X is disagreed with all the time and doesn't find those other people to be pompous (or apparently sees a very different context to that training which doesn't correspond with the specific fault mentioned). The person trying to "help" by faulting X might be totally failing at being helpful to X or herself for that matter. This is a very big problem in aikido in my opinion.

>Another person might say that it is practice that counts, suggesting that if X simply swings the bokken a lot he will arrive. "Practice is what counts"; "just practice and you will understand". Etc. Do you think it is true that ultimately X will arrive at the same bokken-swinging skills that Saito has/had by just practicing continuously?

I don't think that anyone will "arrive" from any *single* drill. I'd be up for a list of drills that other's have found to be helpful.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-10-2005, 08:56 AM
While I'm fine with the idea that some paths are just not going to the top of the mountain, the idea of that practice being either "Aikido-variations" or "not-Aikido" because some essential things are left out in that moment of training while building skills is taking things to the other extreme as I see it. In that case, you're leaving the door open to "all things can be Aikido", if you don't think there are basic criteria. And if there are basic criteria that must be present, then it's a given that there is such a thing as "Aikido" and "Not Aikido".

The example was simple bokken swinging. There are two basic reasons for bokken swinging: tactical training (swinging the bokken correctly so that it is combat effective due to technical correctness) and body training. To keep it simpler, I focused on the body training and asked if the guy swinging it with his arms and shoulders was doing it in an Aikido way (would O-Sensei have agreed that it was correct for Aikido or not?). If not, I would say that he is doing "not Aikido", even though he is certainly getting strong and has a useable sword chop.

There are very basic principles being used in a correct bokken swing. If you don't swing correctly you will get a stronger chop but you will not train or even "fall into" the correct way to do it. The people who somehow think that all practice will somehow wind up being correct practice and who don't consider that wrong practice usually winds up off the mark are using a strange logic. If you swing a bokken incorrectly for 20 years and it's the same basic type of movement (arms and shoulders) that you do in your regular Aikido (or Taiji or Karate, etc), you can't just "add the correct stuff in"... it's not some minor thing you just add to incorrect practice. I've mentioned that before as being a common error in thinking that I've seen many times over many years.

Using this simple example of bokken swinging, the correct way to swing a bokken (or any weapon) is not that simple to do. I recently visited an Aikido class with the idea of maybe joining just so I could add to my exercise regimen. I walked in when the instructor was leading everyone through bokken swinging and it only took a couple of seconds to see that his bokken-swinging was some sort of arm-oriented warm-up exercise. I waited and watched a couple of basic throws and could see that just as the bokken-swinging was empty, the throws were empty, too. External technique. I politely bowed out and left... and I'm sure the instructor is quite convinced that he'd doing everything just fine. If the instructor had been doing good or 'pretty good' bokken swinging, those movement basics would also have been in his techniques to some degree. There is no "absolute" correct way to do Aikido (of course there are variations), but there are indeed some basic criteria that must be present before there is the idea of variations, I think most people would agree.

Bokken swinging has some necessary criteria to be part of Aikido training; just arm swinging is "not Aikido". For all practical purposes there are "Aikido" ways to bokken-swing, Aiki-Taiso, execute techniqes, etc., and they will all have the same basic criteria present. They can have the basic criteria present and *then* have variations while still being "Aikido", but they can't not have those criteria present and still be called "Aikido" in the full sense of the word.

But if you think that all mimicries of Aikido are somehow acceptable as Aikido, we simply disagree.

I remember when I had the top Chen-stylist in the world visit once (I was hosting a seminar) and he asked me to do some of my Chen form. When he saw it, he laughed out loud and said "you are the first westerner I have seen who understands how Taiji moves. Now you should not have much problem learning real Taiji". I quit practicing all my Taiji forms that day and went back to movement basics.

In other words, I had a basic and not-too-skilled correct idea of the body movements, but everything else about my Taiji was wrong. After watching him and talking, etc., I began to realize the magnitude of my errors. You cannot go from New York to San Franciso if you find out you're on the ferry to Cuba... you gotta go back and re-start. The point being that there IS a correct and incorrect way to do Taiji, Aikido, and other good arts, and it has to do, at its core, with how you move the body. That way of moving is inextricably intertwined with an understanding of ki, kokyuu, etc., just as it is in so many other Asian martial arts. Without the basics, real experts will just look at you nod, smile, and say, "oh.... very good". Understanding when "very good" is nothing more than a kind pat on the behind is a crucial skill. ;)

Bokken swinging is a simple example of that same idea.

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
07-11-2005, 01:50 PM
I don't see it so much as I am leaving the door open to _any_ interpretation whatsoever. I would simply say that any process towards 'highest level aikido' counts as training aikido. No one is arguing that practicing the wrong thing indefinitely will not result in the desired outcome, or that there are some basic criteria that makes aikido be aikido. What the basic criteria are is always worth discussing. I have been taught you need inuri (verticality), tai-atari (full body connection), and musubi (tieing together, but can be thought of as a combination of tai-atari with kokyu). Any drill that works towards improving any single element would make my list of training aikido. There are other aspects of training aikido like zen, shin, bi (judgment, honesty, beauty) and highlighting any of them would be aikido training as well (in my book). I would further suggest that there are sub-levels within the self-coordination aspects of kokyu movement, and someone who isn't directly pushing, or pulling in general just might not yet know how to raise up the uke without directly lifting from shoulder. I wouldn't say they weren't practicing aikido while they were trying to figure it out.

Basically, any and all training done along the way towards a destination of martial action embodying aikido principles is all 'aikido in the full sense of the word' to me. In the case of swinging a bokken, doing it enough so that you are no longer able to do it from shoulder and arm muscles will help eliminate some things that we can all agree are problems with getting better - even if it is done mindlessly. No one would suggest that just swinging the bokken mindlessly would be the answer in and of itself.

From my point of view, I would say that when you were practicing Taiji before someone helped you better define real-Taiji that you were still initially practicing Taiji - just not optimally (but maybe level-appropriately for the time-being). When you discovered that you needed to go back and restart, was that the first and only time? It seems like where we primarily disagree is that this is normal in aikido. You seem to think that people normally do not go back and re-learn everything from the point of view of their current insights, and my experience is that this happens all of the time. I constantly see and feel the results of people doing just that, myself included. By going back to practicing the basic waza, we have a common baseline from which to compare our previously much more surface level understandings to our current level of progress/ability. I think all of that is aikido in the full sense of the word and I agree that none of that is "highest level aikido" unless you actually find an end to that process - which in that case wouldn't we have to call it ai ki - and then some word that means "place" or "apex" as opposed to "path"?

Well, that's my take for the moment.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 02:11 PM
I have been taught you need inuri (verticality), tai-atari (full body connection), and musubi (tieing together, but can be thought of as a combination of tai-atari with kokyu). That's actually pretty good, as a statement, although I have to caveat that many times I hear the correct statements being parrotted without it automatically implying that someone knows what they mean or can do "it" (this is in general; not about you personally). Moving from the center takes time and focus, but the real problem is training and conditioning the "connections" from the center to the hands, legs, etc. It helps if you can just power things from the center, but a lot of times the level of skill is directly proportional to how good are the involuntary "whole-body connections" that convey the jin/kokyu to the points of application, movement, etc. FWIW. I wouldn't say they weren't practicing aikido while they were trying to figure it out. I'm trying to figure out brain surgery.... would you say that makes me already a brain-surgeon?? :p Basically, any and all training done along the way towards a destination of martial action embodying aikido principles is all 'aikido in the full sense of the word' to me. You just used what I call "the magic phrase", i.e., "embodying Aikido principles". It's like the people who do BS choreography they call "Tai Chi".... they will all claim to "use Tai Chi principles". It's an easy phrase to slip off the tongue. Many people on this forum would swear that they "use Aikido principles", but in reality they don't... and I think most people here are aware of that.From my point of view, I would say that when you were practicing Taiji before someone helped you better define real-Taiji that you were still initially practicing Taiji - just not optimally (but maybe level-appropriately for the time-being). I wouldn't say that. Honestly. I wasn't doing Taiji... I was mimicking it, as are most people When you discovered that you needed to go back and restart, was that the first and only time? It seems like where we primarily disagree is that this is normal in aikido. You seem to think that people normally do not go back and re-learn everything from the point of view of their current insights, and my experience is that this happens all of the time. I constantly see and feel the results of people doing just that, myself included. No, I keep going back, but that's not the point I should make to you. Once again let me repeat.... the MAGNITUDE of the change is far greater than people are conceptualizing. That's why so few people can do it. Yet, if you have loyal students and a large enough peer group that is "in the same boat", it's easy to step around things and say "My Aikido/Taiji/Karate/etc., is already acceptable good so I don't need to do this." I've tried to make the point before.... it shouldn't be confused with making some beneficial change by "stopping and going back"; this is a *massive* change. ;)

Mike

rob_liberti
07-11-2005, 03:16 PM
Mike,

When I read "I'm trying to figure out brain surgery.... would you say that makes me already a brain-surgeon??" I immediately think 'well, if you were doing something called "brain surgery PATH" then yes, you would be on the path while learning.' I'm sure you would agree that doesn't challenge my loyalty or aikido position or anything like that; it just challenges my critical thinking (which I'm pretty sure you are a great proponent of).

I agree that using _some_ aikido principles is not too difficult; and I'm certain that non-aikidoka use some aikido principles all of the time. The problem is using all the appropriate ones at once regardless of the situation. I think this is a rather slow and difficult (but fun and interesting) progression - especially when a change is massive in nature. Come to think of it, every change I have ever made that made me go back and rethink/rework everything has been a massive change to me. (Of course that's subjective.)

You did a good thing by trying to objectify some level of proficiency with your "teacher-test" idea - but you wouldn't say that someone working towards being able to blow you back 20 feet or whatever with their no-inch punch from their leg/hip power isn't doing ANYTHING until they pass the teacher-test would you? What the heck would the student-test be?

I do appreciate your body movement insights. If we have to agree to disagree on what aikido training means, then that's okay.

Rob

Kevin Leavitt
07-11-2005, 03:18 PM
So how to you quantify or identify if someone is mimicking or actually doing it?

Are there vary degrees of it.? You can study from a good teacher and the first day you are mimicking or following the motions without understanding. I'd still say you are doing aikido, and doing it correctly, just not that correctly. As you progress you should get better and reach an internalization or understanding.

That said, sometimes doing Jo Kata, I really do feel like the Star Wars Kid.

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 03:49 PM
You did a good thing by trying to objectify some level of proficiency with your "teacher-test" idea - but you wouldn't say that someone working towards being able to blow you back 20 feet or whatever with their no-inch punch from their leg/hip power isn't doing ANYTHING until they pass the teacher-test would you? What the heck would the student-test be? Well, the "teacher test" is actually a good example of what I am trying to say (which is not to say I can't see and understand some of the semantic quibbles). The way the "teacher test" came about was after a workshop I did up in your neck of the woods, a number of years ago. There was a guy at the workshop who kept talking about how he was a "Xing Yi Teacher" and had "taught Xing yi for many years", etc. Afterwards, when we were all having a beer, he kept droning on about how he was a teacher, etc., and after a few beers I was desperate to get onto another subject (as were other people). So I asked him to put his palm or his fist against the right side of my chest and hit me as hard as he could *without drawing back his fist or his shoulder*. I forget exactly, but my impression was that he was only able to generate a fairly weak pulse of power and everyone watching could see that he did it by pulling his shoulder back and hitting with his shoulder.

If he had really been doing and teaching an art that used jin/kokyu that was controlled by the waist for x-number of years, he would have been able to hit me OK without using his shoulder. That simple "teacher test" (which means "test of someone who claims to be a teacher of internal arts") means that everything else he did and taught in Xingyi was wrong because if he couldn't do a simple hit with kokyu/dantien, then he wasn't practicing with kokyu/dantien ... ergo, everything else he was doing in terms of movement, power, etc., were, by logical extension, wrong. Do you see my reasoning?

The use of kokyu power, seika-no-tanden, etc., is not really a side-issue in Aikido, either. It is key (no pun). Could we quibble and say the Xingyi teacher was doing Xingyi but doing it wrong... yes, but you should also fully understand why we could just as easily and perhaps more accurately say that he was not really doing Xingyi.

Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that I can get *too* finicky with this area of definition and I'm not a member of the "Aikido Police". I bring up this topic because it's one that every Aikido teacher (not to mention Xingyi, Taiji, karate, Bagua, etc.) should be thinking about when they agree to accept money and loyalty from people. The students of that particular "Xingyi Teacher" were not only throwing their money away, they were also patterning their movements wrong so that they would have little chance of ever learning to move correctly in the future.

I personally don't teach because of that very reasoning above. But in the real world, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what's happening along those lines because it's going to happen regardless and it now has little effect on my pursuits. However, if I was one of today's students, it would be a valid worry. In reality I tend to ignore all of that and simply be friendly, share both ways, and stay aloof from any too-close relationships with people who call themselves "teachers" .... I'm not involved in that part and I just don't want to know much about that side of it. The tricky area is when people have been "teachers" for enough years to realize there is probably something important out there that they don't know very well... and they blow it off. You can see the implications for any students.

Anyway, though, your question about the "teacher test" was a good one... the question would be whether some such hard-and-fast criterion would be applicable to Aikido. I dunno. To some extent it does, but not in a "fa jin" sense like the "teacher test" (which is a light-hearted thing; not something to overblow).

My opinions, for what they're worth.

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 03:55 PM
So how to you quantify or identify if someone is mimicking or actually doing it?

Are there vary degrees of it.? You can study from a good teacher and the first day you are mimicking or following the motions without understanding. I'd still say you are doing aikido, and doing it correctly, just not that correctly. As you progress you should get better and reach an internalization or understanding. Yeah, it gets to be a semantics quibble. I simply say "I practice Taiji" or "I practice Aikido"... I try to avoid (literalist that I am) making a complete claim like "I do Taiji". Instead of those first-day people saying they "do Aikido", the most I'd say is "they're learning or attempting to learn Aikido". What they're doing is not yet valid Aikido. But again, let's not get too deeply into the "Aikido Police" mode. We have to realize that in the real world people will say what they want and it's not important enough to argue. That said, sometimes doing Jo Kata, I really do feel like the Star Wars Kid. I thought you *were* the Star Wars Kid! ;)

Mike

rob_liberti
07-11-2005, 04:14 PM
Fair enough. To me, "I do aikido" means what I do is a path towards "I manifest my true self which is in accord with univesal principles". I don't think you have to be at the mastery level to be a teacher, or a student-teacher, but I agree that you should be honest about where you are and let the students decide. As far as taking money, well, in my particular case, I pay the same dues as the members of my class. It all goes to rent and insurance. Anything left over goes to getting a better teacher and I don't handle any of it. I don't know how others do it, but I don't know many people making a living off of teaching aikido. I think the term starving artists applies.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 04:20 PM
Fair enough. To me, "I do aikido" means what I do is a path towards "I manifest my true self which is in accord with univesal principles". I don't think you have to be at the mastery level to be a teacher, or a student-teacher, but I agree that you should be honest about where you are and let the students decide. As far as taking money, well, in my particular case, I pay the same dues as the members of my class. It all goes to rent and insurance. Anything left over goes to getting a better teacher and I don't handle any of it. I don't know how others do it, but I don't know many people making a living off of teaching aikido. I think the term starving artists applies. Don't get me wrong... I'm not the "Aikido Police". But a legitimate concern for students and what you're doing to them is always present and part of the responsibility of being a teacher (I mean that in general, not directed at you personally). A lot of teachers are so involved with themselves, their status, role-playing, etc., that they don't understand the importance of concern about perhaps teaching someone something wrong for a number of years. I'll never forget listening to a saddened 54-year-old describe his feelings when after years of being a dutiful student he realized that his "teacher" had never understood even the basics. It was an unusual thing to listen to.

Mike

wendyrowe
07-11-2005, 04:43 PM
... I try to avoid (literalist that I am) making a complete claim like "I do Taiji". Instead of those first-day people saying they "do Aikido", the most I'd say is "they're learning or attempting to learn Aikido". What they're doing is not yet valid Aikido...
But Aikido isn't really something where you can ever say, "I have arrived -- this is Aikido and I know everything," is it? It doesn't have a finish line or a last page. No matter how good someone gets, isn't there always something s/he can learn to get even better? So, how should we decide where to draw the line between "learning Aikido" and "doing Aikido" and between valid and not-yet-valid Aikido? Is part of what you're describing here your criteria for what separates the learners from the doers? If so, where would you draw those lines?

Please excuse the flock of question marks. I mean them very seriously, I'm not trying to be a naysayer or troublemaker. It's just that so far, learning Aikido feels to me like the Cavafy poem "The Road to Ithaca," where it's the journey that matters rather than the destination. Of course, that may be because I'm so very, very far from the end of the journey.

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 05:12 PM
But Aikido isn't really something where you can ever say, "I have arrived -- this is Aikido and I know everything," is it? Hi Wendy:

I think my opinion was couched in the idea that there must be basic criteria that are fulfilled *at the least* before someone is doing Aikido. Until someone has fullfilled the basic criteria, there can be no legitimate "variations", "evolution", etc., as so many people try to imply as they attempt to justify the legitimacy of their own beliefs.

The idea of the bokken was not that someone practicing the bokken "has arrived and knows everything about how to swing the bokken", but more along the lines that they are at least fulfilling the basic criteria. If you remember, I was opining that someone who just swings the bokken with arms and shoulders was not doing Aikido. Someone legitimately using kokyu-power, the middle, ki-breathing, etc., that is required for "aiki" would, in my opinion, be doing Aikido bokken swinging, whether they have "arrived" or not. :)

Regards,

Mike

wendyrowe
07-11-2005, 05:23 PM
...I was opining that someone who just swings the bokken with arms and shoulders was not doing Aikido. Someone legitimately using kokyu-power, the middle, ki-breathing, etc., that is required for "aiki" would, in my opinion, be doing Aikido bokken swinging...
That makes sense.

It's interesting how closely this thread is related to the "Basic Elements of Aikido" thread. Not surprising, but interesting to see how they dovetail.

For myself, I can tell when I am using kokyu power and my dantien -- at least, I think I can, so either I am or I'm fooling myself -- and if I'm working with someone I think I can feel whether that person is. But I'm not sure whether I can tell by looking at someone whether that person is or not. If the person is doing something very poorly I can tell, but if the person appears to be doing it well I don't know whether I'd be able to know for sure if it was just the appearance of Aikido or the entirety of Aikido I'm seeing. Again, though, I'm a relative novice -- do you have ways of diagnosing at a distance whether someone is really doing Aikido, or do you mean you would partner with the person so you could feel it to decide?

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 05:43 PM
For myself, I can tell when I am using kokyu power and my dantien -- at least, I think I can, so either I am or I'm fooling myself -- and if I'm working with someone I think I can feel whether that person is. I would say that if you have more than just rudimentary kokyu power on a hit-or-miss random-showing mode, you should be able to demonstrate most of Tohei's "ki tests" on demand. That's probably a good criterion for someone to judge whether they really can demonstrate kokyu, power, in my opinion. But I'm not sure whether I can tell by looking at someone whether that person is or not. If the person is doing something very poorly I can tell, but if the person appears to be doing it well I don't know whether I'd be able to know for sure if it was just the appearance of Aikido or the entirety of Aikido I'm seeing. Again, though, I'm a relative novice -- do you have ways of diagnosing at a distance whether someone is really doing Aikido, or do you mean you would partner with the person so you could feel it to decide? I pretty much agree with you. I can tell when someone is NOT able to use kokyu power by the errors they make in movement. I sometimes have to watch movement for a few minutes in order to say or to hazard an intelligent guess (remember, I consider that there are gradations of ability, so often it's not only a matter of whether they use kokyu power but also at what level they use it). Often it's a matter of feel. In a workshop or dojo setting I may have people put both hands on my chest and push me at whatever strength they want... I can feel what their command of kokyu is immediately. Of course by far most people have little or no command of kokyu so usually there are not many surprises. Occasionally I hit someone with pretty good power... it's hard to judge exactly how good someone is at the upper ends, at least at my level.

FWIW

Mike

PeterR
07-11-2005, 09:34 PM
I would say that if you have more than just rudimentary kokyu power on a hit-or-miss random-showing mode, you should be able to demonstrate most of Tohei's "ki tests" on demand. That's probably a good criterion for someone to judge whether they really can demonstrate kokyu, power, in my opinion.
There are some top level Aikidoists that would have no idea about any of Tohei's "ki tests" are much less perform them on demand. Perhaps this is what has been bothering me about the thread from the inception. Is your/mine view of what top level Aikido is dictated by where you/I want to go with our Aikido.

Personally I watch how an Aikidoist moves and performs his techniques to judge the level of their Aikido - I really have little time for "ki tests".

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 09:45 PM
There are some top level Aikidoists that would have no idea about any of Tohei's "ki tests" are much less perform them on demand. Perhaps this is what has been bothering me about the thread from the inception. Is your/mine view of what top level Aikido is dictated by where you/I want to go with our Aikido. Could you give me a few names of some "top level Aikidoists" that would have no idea about any of Tohei's ki tests? I could see Sunadomari actually do what would be considered one of the ki tests and I could actually see Shioda do some of them and I've seen Saotome do a few in the past. Granted, I too think that there are some people who are called "top level Aikidoists" that may or may not understand how to manipulate kokyu like that, but to me that's part of the discussion about why some people get information (or go after information on their own, as some have done), while others don't.Personally I watch how an Aikidoist moves and performs his techniques to judge the level of their Aikido - I really have little time for "ki tests". Since a "ki test" is (for the majority of those tests) simply a kokyu demonstration, I'm not clear about why you have little time for them. Watch the Sunadomari demonstration a couple of times where S. simply stops his uke with a kokyu path while he's talking. His throws use kokyu. That's all a ki test is. Are you saying that you don't consider the usage of kokyu an essential part of Aikido?

Regards,

Mike Sigman

PeterR
07-11-2005, 10:07 PM
Mike:

I am saying that the ability to perform Tohei's Ki tests are not in themselves an indication of high level Aikido and that there are a number of Aikidoists whose lineage has no connection to Tohei or his particular sideline from Aikido.

Well we have to ask the Yoshinkan people about Shioda's incorporation of Tohei's Ki tests but somehow I doubt it never having heard mention of it. Closer to my home is Shodokan Aikido founded by Kenji Tomiki - we have an exercise that one Ki society person recognized as "unliftable body" but for us there is no test or demonstration just working on body mechanics. Do the Iwama people do Tohei's Ki tests? Or Aikikai Honbu? I think its pretty much a given that if you've been kicking around for awhile that you have heard about what Ki society dojos do but really that's about it. Your premise was that the level of Aikido was determined by ones ability to do those tests - I disagree.

Kokyu - another word for timing.

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 10:18 PM
Closer to my home is Shodokan Aikido founded by Kenji Tomiki - we have an exercise that one Ki society person recognized as "unliftable body" but for us there is no test or demonstration just working on body mechanics. Hi Peter:

I'm not sure about the exact relationship of Tomiki's version of Aikido to the historic tradition, ki, kokyu, etc., of Ueshiba's Aikido. And I mean that quite neutrally... I have not the slightest desire to get off into a "style" discussion. What I'm saying is that I can't see the value of debating kokyu basics with you unless you can give me more of an idea that you share the same perception of top level Aikidoists to some extent. Notice that the examples I mentioned were not Tomiki-style practitioners. You see the potential disconnect in our conversation, I'm sure.

The "unliftable body" is one of those tests like the "unbendable arm" that, as I've stated before, I don't care a lot for as an example because we can be talking about two different things, both called "unliftable body". How about the straightforward example I've used before of Tohei standing on one leg while his "partner" pushes on his forearm. I don't know if you can do it or not, but how would you describe how it is done, out of curiosity?
Kokyu - another word for timing. Hmmmm.... is that all that kokyu means to you?

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 10:35 PM
Sorry... I left this off the other response:
I am saying that the ability to perform Tohei's Ki tests are not in themselves an indication of high level Aikido and that there are a number of Aikidoists whose lineage has no connection to Tohei or his particular sideline from Aikido.Tohei's Ki Tests are simply kokyu demonstrations. Some people say "ki demonstrations", but technically a physical demonstration of ki is "kokyu" regardless of any implications of "breath" and "timing". The point, though, is that Ueshiba also did a number of these type demonstrations of kokyu power (the stronger your ki, the stronger your kokyu, but that's a conversation for another time and place). Hopefully, all the Aikidoists you can think of have some connection to Ueshiba. What do you think Ueshiba's demonstration were meant to show, BTW?

Regards,

Mike Sigman

PeterR
07-11-2005, 11:19 PM
Actually Mike I'm not just referring to Tomiki practitioners - hence my list of other styles than Tomiki.

For us the difference between a half decent Aikidoist (I don't agree with the all or none premise either) and one of high level is how he manifests Ido-rokyo or the power of movement. I saw a great example with Kimura Shihan of Osaka Aikikai at a recent Enbu he gave at Shodokan Honbu - he was a student of Kobyashi H. and would have had very little contact with Tohei. Both Tomiki and Kobyashi H. were pretty directly connected to Ueshiba M..

To keep things simple Tomiki classed different powers

Power of Movement
Power of Focus
Breath Power
Muscle Power
and almost as a afterthought we have the more mystical Ki (I like to think of it as the greater part of the sum).

Interestingly I have found that when a Ki Society person talks about Ki they will be referring to a combination of the above which was the source of much confusion on my part. Kokyu is often referred to as a combination of the power of focus and timing but for us it is pretty much timing. Frankly speaking Tomiki wasn't too interested in the mystical side of things and probably viewed Ki tests as nothing more than parlor tricks - they sure don't have much tradition in any dojo (Tomiki or otherwise) that I have trained in here (the only Ki society dojos I visited were in the West although they do of course exist in Japan).

PeterR
07-11-2005, 11:32 PM
What I'm saying is that I can't see the value of debating kokyu basics with you unless you can give me more of an idea that you share the same perception of top level Aikidoists to some extent.
That actually was my main point.

Is your/mine view of what top level Aikido is dictated by where you/I want to go with our Aikido.

When I see what I consider top-flight Aikidoists move - I say to myself I want to move like that. There is a dynamic power generated by these people that takes my breath away.

Relatively static demonstrations of something less tangible don't really get my blood boiling.

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 11:40 PM
I saw a great example with Kimura Shihan of Osaka Aikikai at a recent Enbu he gave at Shodokan Honbu - he was a student of Kobyashi H. and would have had very little contact with Tohei. Both Tomiki and Kobyashi H. were pretty directly connected to Ueshiba M.. HI Peter:

Although I used Tohei as an example, I only did so because there are numerous still pictures in his books that we can draw a simple example from. As I noted, Ueshiba did similar or the same demonstrations in many cases. Forget Tohei... let's just go to the fact that Ueshiba did ki (kokyu) demonstrations. That makes it difficult for you to simply dismiss them, IMO.

I recently read a post that raised an interesting speculation about Tomiki and Ueshiba, so I'm unwilling to be drawn into a discussion which assumes Tomiki-derived Aikido is precisely the same as Hombu Aikido, etc. Mainly because there are too many unknowns that I don't feel necessitate me getting into what may become a "style" discussion.To keep things simple Tomiki classed different powers

Power of Movement
Power of Focus
Breath Power
Muscle Power
and almost as a afterthought we have the more mystical Ki (I like to think of it as the greater part of the sum).

Interestingly I have found that when a Ki Society person talks about Ki they will be referring to a combination of the above which was the source of much confusion on my part. Kokyu is often referred to as a combination of the power of focus and timing but for us it is pretty much timing. Frankly speaking Tomiki wasn't too interested in the mystical side of things and probably viewed Ki tests as nothing more than parlor tricks - they sure don't have much tradition in any dojo (Tomiki or otherwise) that I have trained in here (the only Ki society dojos I visited were in the West although they do of course exist in Japan). Although I realize that a lot of people indeed "mysticise" a lot of the ki aspects, I don't know that many serious martial artists who know much about ki and who buy into the mystical stuff. What I'm talking about is fairly straightforward, demonstrable and reproducible phenomena, so we seem to be at odds in our descriptions. If you take a simple example of O-Sensei having someone push their head into his stomach but not move him, or the filmed example of people pushing on O-Sensei's head and not moving him, etc., those are simple examples of kokyu-power. I read your comment about kokyu being "timing" but that goes against a number of translations and meanings that are in print. Even Shodo uses "kokyu power" and it's not "timing" they're talking about.

I don't have any problem with your list above and, if you include what "ki" actually is, it's a fairly complete list of general powers. What I'm not sure of is if you or I interpret that list the same way... but all we can do is give our opinions until we find some way to physically reconcile what we're talking about.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
07-11-2005, 11:49 PM
When I see what I consider top-flight Aikidoists move - I say to myself I want to move like that. There is a dynamic power generated by these people that takes my breath away.

Relatively static demonstrations of something less tangible don't really get my blood boiling. Static demonstrations are good learning tools. I tend to view movement and power as indicators as well, but there's that unfortunate tendency on my part that says all dynamic movement is subject to static analysis when viewed in increments.

Tohei's or O-Sensei's static examples of kokyu power are just that... demonstrations at a static level of a power that is used dynamically in all of Aikido movement. Shioda attempted some fairly good static and simplistic analyses on the way to explaining "dynamic movement". While I could have defeated Tohei or Ueshiba's "static" demonstrations (most people can, if they apply a little physics) I don't dismiss them as parlour tricks but see them as examples of basic power that is used in movement. I suspect Tohei, Abe, Sunadomari, et al were helped by having seen these static examples of kokyu force, but I realize you don't share my perception of this fairly common phenomenon in Asian martial arts, so I'll let it go.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Rupert Atkinson
07-12-2005, 12:03 AM
The idea for a seminar - the 'other' thread - is a good one. To me, it would be good to share: I'll show you mine if you show me yours etc. Everyone shows a 'trick' or two - for want of a better word - and then they show how such a 'trick' enhances their martial movement. Of course, if they fail to impress, there's always someone else to check out. People should approach this logically and rationally and collect and categorise stuff.

To bad it's too far for me.

(The UK used to have the Aikido Research Federation. Dunno what happened to it, but I travelled to a couple of courses expecting to LEARN SOMETHING but alas, same old stuff - no research at all. I was only a kyu grade at the time and figured that much out.)

maikerus
07-12-2005, 12:08 AM
Mike:

I am saying that the ability to perform Tohei's Ki tests are not in themselves an indication of high level Aikido and that there are a number of Aikidoists whose lineage has no connection to Tohei or his particular sideline from Aikido.

Well we have to ask the Yoshinkan people about Shioda's incorporation of Tohei's Ki tests but somehow I doubt it never having heard mention of it.

Just for the record...even if Shioda G. did something that looked like a *ki test* it was probably never called a *ki test*. I am not saying that some of the parlour tricks that these guys did as crowd teasers weren't real and I can see how some people might want to call them *ki tests* but I know for a fact that when you ask at least one of the senior instructors at the Yoshinkan Hombu about KI he will pull out his house keys and jingle-jangle them at you.

I think I have to go with Peter on the looking at the timing and dynamic feel of the demonstration rather than some static crowd pleasers gives me a better indication of someone's ability.

Its unfortunate how some of these things that look impressive really are quite easy and how the difficult stuff looks easy <sigh>

My few yen...

--Michael

PeterR
07-12-2005, 01:08 AM
I recently read a post that raised an interesting speculation about Tomiki and Ueshiba, so I'm unwilling to be drawn into a discussion which assumes Tomiki-derived Aikido is precisely the same as Hombu Aikido, etc
Can you point to the post but why would it be. Just like Shioda is not precisely the same as "Aikikai" Hombu Aikido, nor is Iwama, nor Ki Society, nor for that matter a good number of Aikikai dojos.

rob_liberti
07-12-2005, 07:56 AM
I have seen kokyu translated as breath = rhythm = form. That makes the most sense to me out of all the translations I have seen so far.

Doing easy kokyu tests like the iron-ring (where someone tries to pull your thumb and pointer apart first in front of your center where you are relaxed and strong as opposed to out to your side where the untrained generally have trouble maintaining that relaxed, lengthened and widened state) doesn't show much - until I decided to re-learn how to take ukemi - where I remained connected and flexible like before but also organized my body to maintain the level of relaxed, lengthened and widened state I needed for the silly iron ring test throughout all of the ukemi movements. I think this is a nice static teaches something tothe dynamic example. From there, the assumption is that as I train myselfto integrate that feeling into all of my movements (I don't know if I would call them involuntary, but hopefully consciously directed reflexives) I will be able to use that improved body movement on the nage side.

There are of course, other examples.

About teachers misleading. I think that as long as the teacher is continuing to go back and improve their fundamentals/basics there should be no problems like haveing someone spend 54 years or whatever to find out they didn't learn anything beyond the mundane. I suppose I have more faith in the process. I do agree that the students should be constantly pushing the teacher to improve by getting themselves as good as possible, I suppose that is an important part too!

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 08:13 AM
The idea for a seminar - the 'other' thread - is a good one. To me, it would be good to share: I'll show you mine if you show me yours etc. Everyone shows a 'trick' or two - for want of a better word - and then they show how such a 'trick' enhances their martial movement. Of course, if they fail to impress, there's always someone else to check out. People should approach this logically and rationally and collect and categorise stuff.Yeah, a workshop like I proposed pretty much lays it out into reality and out of the talk domain. Part of my position in debate has been that there are some real and viable skills that are masked under the heading of 'ki". Some people are peripherally aware this may be true and a willing to look and discuss further. Some people reject the possibility that there is anything that they're not aware of or body skills of some strange sort that are of any value in Aikido.

Generally speaking, a workshop like I'm discussing will go one of two ways: (1.) there's really nothing new there and/or whatever is there is of not-very-great importance. Mike Sigman looks like another too-enthusiastic reader of fantasy comix; (2.) There's something there and the majority of people at the workshop see/learn some skills that will be valuable in their Aikido practice, the skills fit all the descriptive lore of "ki", etc., etc. Mike makes a substantive point; most people learn skills that will apply directly to their Aikido and "high level" Aikido will be understood. People who took the "contra" position stand revealed as missing the same basic material that a lot of other people are missing. ;^) Incidentally, it needs to be noted that some of this material is already out there and some people in the Aikido community (more in a few other communities) are already off the blocks and running.

So a workshop would basically lay a lot of the discussion to rest and would, in my opinion, open a very real area of discussion and research in a lot of the Aikido community.

It's just interesting to watch the interplay, IMO. :)

FWIW

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 08:34 AM
Just for the record...even if Shioda G. did something that looked like a *ki test* it was probably never called a *ki test*. I am not saying that some of the parlour tricks that these guys did as crowd teasers weren't real and I can see how some people might want to call them *ki tests* but I know for a fact that when you ask at least one of the senior instructors at the Yoshinkan Hombu about KI he will pull out his house keys and jingle-jangle them at you. Hi Michael:

I'd be happier with perhaps "demonstration", but since Tohei calls a particular set of these demonstrations "ki tests", I just used the convenient.

Besides, even though I keep mentioning that Ueshiba did the same and/or the same sorts of things, you and Peter aren't discussing that part. As I suggested, let's drop the valid example of Tohei's demonstrations and move directly to Ueshiba's demonstrations in order to focus the discussion. All Tohei and others' demonstrations do, in reality, focus on the fact that it wasn't just O-Sensei that did these "parlour tricks" anyway.I think I have to go with Peter on the looking at the timing and dynamic feel of the demonstration rather than some static crowd pleasers gives me a better indication of someone's ability.

Its unfortunate how some of these things that look impressive really are quite easy and how the difficult stuff looks easy <sigh> Fair enough as a perspective. Using demonstrations where Tohei, Ueshiba, and others withstood pushes while in unusually "natural" positions (Ueshiba apparently demonstrated on one leg, long before Tohei ever did, according to accounts). Ueshiba demonstrated great power using "kokyu" throws. While "timing" is a portion of such a throw, it should only take someone a moment to realize that the obverse of being able to stand solidly ... being able to generate unusually strong power while relaxed... is an obvious step.

My point is that we're not talking about "crowd pleasers"... we're talking about a set of skills that add substantively to someone's power in martial arts. And we're not even discussing the complete spectrum contained in these skills.

As I originally indicated, if someone really has appreciable kokyu power, they should be able to demonstrate the "parlor trick" varieties without any great difficulty. Using the same powers within your Aikido is, of course, the next step up. What's interesting is to see these very widespread and common powers and demonstrations within many Asian martial arts being dismissed as "crowd pleasers" and "parlour tricks". ;) There's more to it. Just because some people have made "ki" into some sort of "woo woo" topic shouldn't stop anyone from looking around their wrong perspective and taking a look at why so many generations of martial artists in Asia have considered "ki" things so important.

FWIW

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 08:47 AM
Can you point to the post but why would it be. Just like Shioda is not precisely the same as "Aikikai" Hombu Aikido, nor is Iwama, nor Ki Society, nor for that matter a good number of Aikikai dojos. I *think* it was something on Aikido Journal with a comment by Chiba Sensei saying that Ueshiba didn't think judo and Aikido were compatible or something along those lines. If that's true, I'm uncertain about the relationship of Ueshiba to Tomiki, how much of the "core" things Ueshiba showed Tomiki (remember Ueshiba deliberately didn't show Tohei things, either... and other people as well), so a discussion of what Tomiki was shown by Ueshiba begins to get complex and I just don't want to go there. It gets too far off topic. Ueshiba didn't show everyone everything. Tohei doesn't show everyone everything. Abe, Sunadomari, Shioda, etc., didn't show everyone everything. But because Tomiki's Aikido is considered to be "a combination of judo and Aikido", that means that it is not pure Aikido... and that's outside of the discussion I'm interested in.

You've avoided my direct comments about Ueshiba's demonstrations of kokyu. Why do you think he did them and can you explain how he did them?

Regards,

Mike

rob_liberti
07-12-2005, 08:50 AM
I sincerely wish you success in your attempt to share your approach to understanding jin and kokyu with others. I think your approach would be very helpful and interesting, and I doubt such a workshop would hurt anyone's aikido progress.

I hope that the "interplay" isn't being interpretted as everyone who disagrees must have an invalid or incomplete alternate approach and therefore their disagreement must be them covering up their own inadequicies. I've had enough measureable results and witnessed enough results in my seniors to have some degree of faith in my current approach. I wouldn't say my disagreement with any of your comments of conclusions were based on my blind faith/loyalty or my relatively non-existant position as just another sandan in aikido. And I would suggest that might be the same of others in disagreement with you on some of your comments.

Now that I consider it, as a matter of fact, I'm quite fond of my aikido inadequicies. I think that if I figured it all out I would probably quit, and start something new. But I still wouldn't purposely avoid your workshop for that reason. I hope it goes well.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 08:53 AM
I have seen kokyu translated as breath = rhythm = form. That makes the most sense to me out of all the translations I have seen so far. It's difficult to get a direct one-to-one translation from an Asian concept/paradigm into a western-science paradigm because they don't have the same one-to-one concepts. "Kokyu Power" is perhaps a closer way to get at the power I'm talking about. There was an interview with Abe Sensei at http://www.page.sannet.ne.jp/shun-q/INTERVIEW-E.html that discusses kokyu in calligraphy, etc., using kokyu "power" more in the root sense that I mean it. Good calligraphers use the manipulation of kokyu by the dantien... it's not "timing" and their actual "breath" that they're talking about.

FWIW

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 09:04 AM
I hope that the "interplay" isn't being interpretted as everyone who disagrees must have an invalid or incomplete alternate approach and therefore their disagreement must be them covering up their own inadequicies. Well, we could also discuss from the other side and consider why ki and kokyu are being dismissed as parlour tricks and other implications of expertise. Trust me, I have no animus and I'm simply having fun with something I (and a number of other people) know I can't really lose at. As I said in the past, there's no way to avoid these things since they're gradually coming out. I'm in an extremely tenable position, can demonstrate these things, and so forth. I feel like one of a few of the hounds in a pack that have seen the fox and am trying to get the major pack to turn and look... nothing special, since I'm in the pack, too, but it certainly is funny to watch. If you understand that little comparison, then you'll have a more accurate idea of my real attitude in a lot of these discussions. I'm not *guessing* that there's a fox... I've seen him, smelled him, and chased him. And it turns out that in the real world of experienced martial arts, none of what I'm saying is particularly unique or curious. ;)

What's curious is how many clues were laid out by Ueshiba and many others and yet there's a denial that such things exist or are important.

Mike

rob_liberti
07-12-2005, 09:06 AM
Mike,

How is your calligraphy? I bet that if you added an aspect of calligraphy to your workshop you'd get more interest.

Rob

rob_liberti
07-12-2005, 09:11 AM
Please consider that 'denying the importance of a parlour trick' might be your misunderstanding. Take the classic example of a when you look at the finger which is pointing at the moon; the finger isn't all that important. My saying so isn't 'denial' of a moon. I can't imagine that one person on the thread wouldn't be interested in better movement.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 09:32 AM
I bet that if you added an aspect of calligraphy to your workshop you'd get more interest. Kokyu IS an aspect of calligraphy. Of course you can do calligraphy without kokyu, just like you can do external Aikido techniques. ;) Rob, I'm trying to be fairly neutral about the workshop. It's offered for what it is, nothing more. If it doesn't come off because there's not enough interest, c'est la vie... it just means I get to keep my weekend for myself. If enough people are interested, I'll go in good humour. But the interplay is interesting to watch. :)

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 09:43 AM
I can't imagine that one person on the thread wouldn't be interested in better movement. I can imagine it quite easily, if someone is fairly convinced that their current movement is pretty near as good as you can get. When people toss off the ki and kokyu demonstrations by Ueshiba and others as "parlour tricks", etc., they're essentially trivializing those demonstrations as being of little consequence or contributive value to Aikido as they understand it. If they understood that Ueshiba, Tohei, Abe, and a number of others were not just throwing out a few parlour tricks but were saying something important (in an oblique way), then yes, they would probably be interested.

Notice the dismissal of Tohei's approach... Tohei was the top instructor for Ueshiba. If someone was really interested, they'd be looking into what Tohei was doing (out of simple curiositiy and intellectual caution, if nothing else), not trivializing his approach. The same relaxed power that Tohei demonstrates is the same relaxed power that is supposed to be practiced in fune kogi undo and all the Aiki-taiso... and ALL Aikido techniques. There is nothing "parlour tricks" about the demonstrations Ueshiba, Tohei, and others. Just because you can't obviously see this kind of power (it's called "the concealed strength" in some places), many people don't grasp it.

Again, I'm just making a statement. I don't have any dog in the fight; I'm more of a bemused spectator yelling encouragement, etc. :)

Mike

rob_liberti
07-12-2005, 10:13 AM
Of course kokyu is an aspect of calligraphy (as least some Japanese calligraphy I have seen and tried to do). I wonder what their process for developing kokyu is in their students? I would imagine they start with the external forms and continue to practice with deep introspection, and help from their teacher(s). I wonder if any calligraphy masters can do the jo trick? or would it be the brush trick?!

Anyway, when someone talks about what some 10th degree black belt can do, I think wow cool trick, I'll keep practicing. I don't think I should be able to do that today (as I'm not 10th dan), and that certainly doesn't mean I think my movement is perfect. Regardless, if you are shaking up some people who actually think there movement is already perfect then good for you. I have personally never met anyone in aikido who said that there current movement is pretty near as good as you can get.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 10:36 AM
Of course kokyu is an aspect of calligraphy (as least some Japanese calligraphy I have seen and tried to do). I wonder what their process for developing kokyu is in their students? I would imagine they start with the external forms and continue to practice with deep introspection, and help from their teacher(s). I wonder if any calligraphy masters can do the jo trick? or would it be the brush trick?! Well you suggested some aspect of calligraphy and I gave it. :) There have been quite a few stories of calligraphies experts doing "ki tricks", Rob. One I particularly remember was challenging onlookers to try and pull the brush from the calligraphers hand while he brushed. As I've said, there are gradations of power and usage. The jo trick was what got me onto AikiWeb because I was looking for a certain picture. Although I tried various ways to rationalize in my mind how O-Sensei may have trained for that trick (i.e., a *portion* of what would be the standard practice), I think it's now fairly obvious that he knew the full method and it puts Aikido in a very different light from how I viewed it previously. Regardless, if you are shaking up some people who actually think there movement is already perfect then good for you. I have personally never met anyone in aikido who said that there current movement is pretty near as good as you can get. Well, I was referring to their "movement mechanics being as complete possible", not that they were nearly perfect. In other words, I'm talking about some added mechanics and some people don't think there are any added mechanics that they're not aware of.

FWIW


Mike

Alfonso
07-12-2005, 12:35 PM
Hi, just for fun I thought some of these quotes may be relevant for the discussion..

O-Sensei, especially in his later years, would often talk about the concept of Takemusu Aiki...
Sensei understood the word "takemusu" as the revelation of one of the kami. "Takemusu" is the basis for the creation of all things. Aikido represents the form which creates all things through the body. O-Sensei said, "Aiki is to teach the basis for the creation of budo in which techniques are born as one moves." So you have to understand the basis for the creation of techniques. The basis is kokyu power. There is nothing else. When you develop kokyu power, countless techniques emerge. You can't create techniques only by doing the forms of the past. They only represent one form. A practice of these old forms alone will not lead to the development of the next higher techniques. You can make your opponent's power as your own power freely according to his movements, whether he pushes, pulls, or raises up. This is not possible unless you become one with your partner.
(...)
The basis of Aikido is "kokyu power". The term "kokyu power" existed before the word Aikido began to be used. Therefore, unless you are able to employ your own kokyu power completely and demonstrate, explain and teach it clearly, it is nothing but a mysterious term.
- Kanshu Sunadomari (2)
Aiki News #65 (December 1984)

Saito Sensei has three things that he always does during training. Tai No Henko, the basic blending exercise, then he does Kokyuho from the two-hand grab, and finally Kokyudosa. He considers those to be the three basic exercises that you should always do. He always finishes the practice with Kokyudosa and begins the practice with Tai No Henko and Kokyuho.
- Interview with Bill Witt shihan

The subtle uses of ki is the parent that causes one's kokyu (breath or breathing) to change intricately. This is indeed the main source of bu with Love. When one unifies his mind and body by means of "the subtle uses of ki" and practices the Way of Aiki, the subtle changes of his breathing naturally start flowing out from this unity and technique appears freely...
- Founder of Aikido (26): Martial Way - Human Way
by Kisshomaru Ueshiba
Aiki News #55 (June 1983) quoting Morihei Ueshiba in Aikikai bulletin 1950 - 1960

Do you remember any episodes in particular from your younger years of training involving 0-Sensei?
There are many people who talk about how strong Ueshiba Sensei was. There was the time when he taught at the naval academy - I also would accompany him - at that time His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu was a student of the academy. Ueshiba Sensei took great care in instruct ing the class. Other officers came saying they would like to see his strength since they heard that he was very strong. At that time we had already finished training and Ueshiba Sensei and I had finished dressing and were about to go home. Sensei stood at the very edge of the tatami of the dojo and told us to push against him using our whole bodies. First, one, then two and then three of us pushed against him but he didn't move at all. Then, the officers said they wanted to try pushing him. Even though they were students they were about 30 years old. About ten of them push ed against us from behind with all their might but Ueshiba Sensei didn't move at all. The tatami on which we were standing on started to slip backwards, but the tatami on which Ueshiba Sensei was stand ing didn't move. Usually, if you push both the person and the tatami will move, but that wasn't the case with Ueshiba Sensei. We were standing on the inside tatami push ing but they started slipping back wards. As usual, when he gave a kiai (shout) they all fell flat. It was unbelievable! It was a very profound mystery! It was completely different from the normal case where someone is strong at budo or good at techniques. It was a completely different dimension. Mind and body unification, kokyu, ki spirit-body unification and the unification of the universe and humankind - these states exist just on the verge of becoming real.
Interview with Rinjiro Shirata (2)
Aiki News #63 (September 1984)


Let me quote from the "Aikido Newspaper" of November and December 1964, in which Tenryu wrote about their 1942 match.

(Partially quoted) ...I thought to myself, "This old man isn't much of anything." As you know he is a small-built person. However, as soon as I casually took hold of his arm. I could sense from my experience in Sumo that this man was really something. It felt as if I had grabbed an iron bar. I wanted to acknowledge defeat right away, despite the fact that everybody was watching. Then Sensei said, "You go ahead and do anything you want with my hand. You can twist it, push it or wrench it. I am not putting any strength in it." So I again went to grab it with all my might. Sensei then instantaneously evaded and before I realized it I said, "I'm beaten. Till now I had harbored a little doubt about your ability but your kokyu and the power you just showed have made me realize everything. Please allow me to become your student.' Sensei then replied, 'I appreciate a person like you asking in such a frank way. I will allow you to be my student.

In his memoirs, Tenryu wrote more:

In those days I was a bit too proud and nonchalant but my ego shrank when I faced the inexplicably strong, secret martial arts technique of Moritaka Ueshiba Sensei. He was already past sixty and I faced him with some confidence in my ability at empty-handed technique. However, the moment Sensei's hand touched my arm, my whole body was paralyzed, and I asked for permission to join the Kobukan dojo in Ushigome Wakamatsu-cho.

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 12:56 PM
Great quotes, Alfonso. As Tohei noted in his Aikido Journal interview, O-Sensei described his kokyu in esoteric terms; Tohei is closer in most instances to biomechanical terms. We're talking about biomechanics, even though some of it is a bit odd. If someone is indicating they can demonstrate consistent and reasonably-accomplished kokyu, they're saying they can demonstrate a certain kind of body mechanics. The so-called "ki tests" of Tohei are just simple demonstrations of kokyu power, so someone with kokyu skills should be able to do them.

I will caveat by noting that I've said in the past that there are gradations of this power and some of it can exist without the particular ki-association that Tohei likes to add. Other than that, all things are the same thing and there is only one real technique in Aikido. ;)

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
07-12-2005, 01:08 PM
Great quotes. Are there any quotes on what Kanshu Sunadomari sensei (or Bill Witt shihan, or Rinjiro Shirata sensei, or Tenryu) has to say about developing kokyu power?

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 02:13 PM
The discussion about calligraphy/shodo are actually pretty good comparisons with Aikido except for at the "highest level", IMO. There's an application of kokyu at the "highest level" of Aikido that may be the quintessential "aiki" and I don't know if there's any comparable usage of kokyu at the highest level of Shodo.

But here's a thought-starter. Who is more accomplished at Shodo: the person who doesn't use kokyu but has done Shodo the longest, knows the most intricacies about forming the characters, etc., or the person who has only moderate amounts of Shodo but knows how to use kokyu well in writing his pieces? :)

Mike

Alfonso
07-12-2005, 02:23 PM
:-) I'm very sure that I'm missing more than a little on those interviews..
I was thinking , at the time of looking for the quotes, that I've heard more than once, that there's only one technique in Aikido (kokyu)
so that has to be built into the practice..

I'm bigger than the few well known Shihan/Sensei I've taken ukemi for (well Ledyard sensei , is an exception, but he was showing the 6-12 kumitachi with Kevin Lam sensei and if that level of connection , intent, fliudity and speed is not part of the package then I'm really lost) and none have had any problems to apply what to me has felt like really much more power than is reasonable to expect from their body types.

I've yet to see a musclebound shihan ala WWF. So, I'm still not convinced that Aikido has "lost" the inner strength or that it is not known..

Ron Tisdale
07-12-2005, 03:21 PM
Its certainly an interesting question...but I have no clue what the answer is...It may well depend on your perspective. Great conversation, Thanks,
Ron

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 03:42 PM
:-)I've yet to see a musclebound shihan ala WWF. So, I'm still not convinced that Aikido has "lost" the inner strength or that it is not known.. Well of course there are always some Aikidoists who know all there is to know about kokyu *as it is used in Aikido*. And there are people that use nothing but normal strength... when you become skillful using normal strength with Aikido throws, it takes less effort, just like when you become expert at racketball it takes a lot less effort, etc. And there are people who naturally develop *some* ki/kokyu abilities, but not high enough to really be credible in terms of excellent controls, etc. In other words, there are gradations.

My comment would be that although there are gradations, there are far too many people who don't really know how to do or use kokyu and far too few who really know. Kokyu isn't "lost", it's just scarce as hell, even among teachers, IMO. That's just an observation, not a complaint... however, it's a bit of a concern that so many "teachers" actually don't know what kokyu power is or they dismiss the importance of it. It's not a concern for me, but it's certainly a concern for students to consider. Perhaps it's a topic that should be openly discussed, not dismissed or trivialized or attacked.... even though I suspect that most people "doing Aikido" don't really care whether they really have kokyu power or not. Just that few. :)

FWIW

Mike

Alfonso
07-12-2005, 06:01 PM
.. someone over here told me once that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink..

at least for me I'd like to find a way to discuss this matter intelligibly beyond the "just train" conversation stopper.

It seems to me that the chinese terminology is more sophisticated in analysis. Maybe that solo work that is not typically found in Aikido is conducive to understanding something... ?

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 06:14 PM
at least for me I'd like to find a way to discuss this matter intelligibly beyond the "just train" conversation stopper.

It seems to me that the chinese terminology is more sophisticated in analysis. Maybe that solo work that is not typically found in Aikido is conducive to understanding something... ? Actually, I think the training in Aikido is just fine, as long as it's explained well by the instructor... aye, there's the rub. Fune Kogi Undo is such a direct copy of a common jin/kokyu practice in China that I have trouble thinking it's anything other than a copy. Fune Kogi Undo is practice pushing away with the middle and pulling back in with the middle, letting the connection to the middle grow. Bokken swinging is at heart a vertical practice of the same thing (although there's a bit more to it, as I see it). All that's missing is a bit more side to side practice and you will have covered all the practice directions. Analysis helps in understanding the exercises, but the exercises are certainly there in Aikido. Unfortunately they're not done enough and too many people think they're "rituals" like "wearing a hakama". ;)

Mike

tedehara
07-12-2005, 06:33 PM
As a point of information:

The "ki testing" also called "parlor tricks" would be considered demonstrations of mind and body coordination according to the Ki Society. It might also be called ki demonstrations.

Ki testing among the Ki Society is quite different than the public demonstrations described on this thread. Its done very simply, usually with just two fingers. Passing these tests will allow the student a rank in ki development.

In the Ki Society, students need ranks in ki development in order to be eligible for ranks in aikido grades. In this kind of testing, the tester is as important as the student who is being tested, since the testing has to be done in an exact manner. There are also several levels of difficulty in the ki testing.

PeterR
07-12-2005, 07:55 PM
Not particularly avoiding Ueshiba M.'s demonstrations or putting down Tohei. In both cases the ability to do these "Ki performances" had very little to do with their ability to do good Aikido.

Both men did them on occasion - there is even one story of Tomiki demonstrating one of them to show it was no big deal. And Tomiki, his history speaks for itself. Joined Ueshiba M. in 1925 and was his first 8th Dan in 1942. Far senior to either Chiba and Tohei and one could argue that his exposure to Ueshiba M. exceeded both men but definitely Chiba. At his main dojo you practice Aikido not a combination of Judo and Aikido.

rob_liberti
07-12-2005, 08:05 PM
Well, the shodo (or shuji ? anyone know the difference? is there one?) question is a good one. I would like to think that have good kokyu in your movement would allow you optimal control to execute the fine details AS WELL AS learning to execute the fine details while doing shodo would help you develop kokyu. But I really don't know. It does go back to my initial quesiton about it in that does anyone know how these masters who can perform the brush trick develop kokyu in shodo? I mean, I doubt they are doing a lot of standing practice, etc...

Anyway, with aikido, you don't have a piece of paper, you have an entire other person who is hopfully giving you better feedback. I always thought it was interesting that the primitatives (inuri, tai-atari, and kokyu) were not presented as the required elements but rather as two primitives (inuri, and tai-atari) and one combination - musubi meaning to tie together, being composed of of two primitives (tai-atari and kokyu). Is this combination an aggregate or a composite? I don't know. I assume it is grouped like that for a reason with some depth to it. Without much thought, it seems that those elements require at least a second body for there to even be aikido. (Or the people translating were terrible at object-oriented design!)

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 08:11 PM
Not particularly avoiding Ueshiba M.'s demonstrations or putting down Tohei. In both cases the ability to do these "Ki performances" had very little to do with their ability to do good Aikido. Frankly, I'm at a complete loss at how you could justify that statement. You think that kokyu demonstrations have little to do with Aikido? I would say unequivocably that kokyu demonstrations have almost everything to do Aikido. Both men did them on occasion - there is even one story of Tomiki demonstrating one of them to show it was no big deal. When? Where? Photos? Films? I at least refer to demo's that are recorded on film, photos, etc. And Tomiki, his history speaks for itself. Joined Ueshiba M. in 1925 and was his first 8th Dan in 1942. Far senior to either Chiba and Tohei and one could argue that his exposure to Ueshiba M. exceeded both men but definitely Chiba. At his main dojo you practice Aikido not a combination of Judo and Aikido. ?? Tohei was a 10th dan. If you mean that Tomiki studied before Tohei, you're correct. "Senior" only if you're going by who studied first, though. Are you saying that Tomiki Aikido does not combining judo and Aikido, BTW? Perhaps I was under the wrong impression. Tomiki did not modify the Aikido of O-Sensei?

Regards,

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 08:19 PM
does anyone know how these masters who can perform the brush trick develop kokyu in shodo? I mean, I doubt they are doing a lot of standing practice, etc... You practice by moving with kokyu. Of course, it helps to have someone show you how to do that. Why would you doubt that they do standing? On what basis? I don't know or have a feeling either way.. but standing meditation is part of a number of meditation trainings. Anyway, with aikido, you don't have a piece of paper, you have an entire other person who is hopfully giving you better feedback. (snip) Do you think that it requires two people, one giving feedback, in order to develop kokyu powers???

Mike

rob_liberti
07-12-2005, 08:32 PM
Well I think it is a reasonable guess based on the simple basis that my doubt comes from the fact that I have seen plenty of shuji classes and everyone was sitting down. They didn't have the warm up exercises we do in aikido either! I didn't state it as a fact like I'm an expert. It would be nice to have some expert chime in on this one.

About thinking that it "requires two people, one giving feedback, in order to develop kokyu powers" - my mind isn't made up but those elements of aikido seem to imply how it should be practiced.

Rob

PeterR
07-12-2005, 08:47 PM
Mike;

The story is here. http://homepage2.nifty.com/shodokan/en/oshie3.html Not everyone seeks a camera.

I also wouldn't get wrapped up between 8th and 10th Dans. Don't have the time to go looking for it (I think its on Aikido Journal) but Tohei's own description of the promotions talks about the political nature. At the time (oh and Tomiki was in on the celebrations) Tomiki wasn't involved that much at the Aikikai Honbu anymore - he actually declined the position Tohei accepted.

According to Shodokan Dogma the techniques we learn are what Tomiki learnt from Ueshiba M. There is no talk of altering them. Every technique I have seen there I have seen in Aikikai dojos. Training methods are definately different but it is Aikido.

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 08:48 PM
Well I think it is a reasonable guess based on the simple basis that my doubt comes from the fact that I have seen plenty of shuji classes and everyone was sitting down. I have seen plenty of Aikido classes, but only through this forum did I get a number of responses (some private) indicating that a lot more "standing" was done in Aikido than I ever thought. Like I said, I don't know about calligraphy classes and only have a superficial knowledge of what goes on in really good calligraphy practice. About thinking that it "requires two people, one giving feedback, in order to develop kokyu powers" - my mind isn't made up but those elements of aikido seem to imply how it should be practiced. Does it require a partner to do Misogi exercises? I don't think so. Does Fune Kogi Undo require a partner? I think you can develop kokyu with or without partners and having a partner has little to do with kokyu specifically.

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 09:03 PM
The story is here. http://homepage2.nifty.com/shodokan/en/oshie3.html Not everyone seeks a camera. I realize not everyone "seeks a camera", but it's very difficult to tell from anecdotes told by loyalists. Maybe, maybe not, Peter. I can't make any judicious comments based on that story, unfortunately. According to Shodokan Dogma the techniques we learn are what Tomiki learnt from Ueshiba M. There is no talk of altering them. Every technique I have seen there I have seen in Aikikai dojos. Training methods are definately different but it is Aikido. I don't want to get into a styles war. You see no value in kokyu, apparently, or kokyu demonstrations. What little I've seen of Tomiki-style Aikido looked different from most of the other Aikido I've seen, although you're indicating they're the same thing. I guess we'll just have to disagree until we can meet sometime.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

maikerus
07-12-2005, 09:19 PM
My point is that we're not talking about "crowd pleasers"... we're talking about a set of skills that add substantively to someone's power in martial arts. And we're not even discussing the complete spectrum contained in these skills.

As I originally indicated, if someone really has appreciable kokyu power, they should be able to demonstrate the "parlor trick" varieties without any great difficulty. Using the same powers within your Aikido is, of course, the next step up. What's interesting is to see these very widespread and common powers and demonstrations within many Asian martial arts being dismissed as "crowd pleasers" and "parlour tricks". ;) There's more to it. Just because some people have made "ki" into some sort of "woo woo" topic shouldn't stop anyone from looking around their wrong perspective and taking a look at why so many generations of martial artists in Asia have considered "ki" things so important.

Hi Mike,

Your point is good and its fairly obvious that you have much more experience in the study of what is "ki" and what isn't "ki" than I do.

My understanding of the "ki demonstrations" that I have seen is that they look fairly difficult and make people go "wow" but are really not that difficult. I mean, I can do nikajo on one leg and have people pick me up and then sink so they can't hold me any more and I can be pretty unmovable...

What I can't do is move like Chida Sensei or Inoue Sensei or Ando Sensei. As you stated...that might be considered the next step...how to bring this "ki power" into your Aikido.

Since I can do some of these things I am looking for something more when I watch a demonstration of Aikido. And I think that both Peter and I are taking the position that when we see a "ki demonstration" and a dynamic, flowing "Aikido Demonstration" then we get more out of the latter than the former and a better idea of someone's ability.

That all being said...I also think you are right in that there is too much "woo-woo" wrapped up in this KI word and that there must be something in it somewhere. Which is why I would go to the workshop (aka...that other thread) if I was in a position to do so. I would like to know what should be and should not be put under the "Ki Category". Besides, anything that can help my Aikido is well worth looking at and can't be all bad :D

cheers,

--Michael

Rupert Atkinson
07-12-2005, 09:24 PM
Does it require a partner to do Misogi exercises? I don't think so. Does Fune Kogi Undo require a partner? I think you can develop kokyu with or without partners and having a partner has little to do with kokyu specifically.

Mike

Another good point. My take is that you need to both go solo and work with a partner to get to the bottom of it. Then, you don't really need a partner to 'keep' it, and if determined, to 'develop' it. That is what I have found. At least - it better be as since coming to Korea ten years ago most of my useful training has been in the mornings by myself. I have found I can now test kokyu stuff out by myself then go to class and make it work. Not perfect, but I feel I have a track ...

PeterR
07-12-2005, 09:34 PM
You see no value in kokyu, apparently, or kokyu demonstrations.
I never said either. I did say that that the ability to do a "Ki demonstration" has far less impact on how I perceive someones Aikido level as their ability to move.

On another note how can a picture show "breath power" when even film would have difficulty. There are a number of moments within, for example, Tomiki's Koryu Goshin no Kata where if you took isolated pictures you could say I was demonstrating Kokyu with as much certainty as many of the pictures of Ueshiba M.

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 10:57 PM
My understanding of the "ki demonstrations" that I have seen is that they look fairly difficult and make people go "wow" but are really not that difficult. I mean, I can do nikajo on one leg and have people pick me up and then sink so they can't hold me any more and I can be pretty unmovable... Hi Michael:

I more or less agree with you. The reason I don't say "yeah!" is because of the "gradations" thing I was talking about where I've been stung once too many times by finding out that what sounds the same can sometimes include variations that make me feel like I did a disservice by agreeing too much.

If you can do those things and gradually decrease any muscle that you're using, you're certainly doing some of what is "kokyu power" (problem is that it can contain several elements). Analysing it, refining it a lot, expanding it, learning to do it moving, etc., takes a long time, but I'd generally say that if someone *really* knows how to move with this sort of power, they can do most of the "ki tests" pretty easily. There's a caveat in that statement that has to do with standing exercises, but it's an aside.
Since I can do some of these things I am looking for something more when I watch a demonstration of Aikido. And I think that both Peter and I are taking the position that when we see a "ki demonstration" and a dynamic, flowing "Aikido Demonstration" then we get more out of the latter than the former and a better idea of someone's ability. I don't disagree with you about dynamic movement, it's just that I tend to avoid subjective judgements unless we're together and see the same things and then categorize. All I was offering was my opinion that if someone really has serious kokyu power, they wouldn't have any real difficulty with the basic kokyu demonstrations of Tohei (I caveat on a couple of his demonstrations because they can be duplicated by things other than pure ki, IMO).That all being said...I also think you are right in that there is too much "woo-woo" wrapped up in this KI word and that there must be something in it somewhere. Which is why I would go to the workshop (aka...that other thread) if I was in a position to do so. I would like to know what should be and should not be put under the "Ki Category". It's all interesting stuff and, as I've been reminded a few times by some pretty big dogs, "It's very deep". Anyway, I appreciate your comments. I learn and I'm forced to think a lot in these conversations, so it's helpful for me.

Regards,

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 11:05 PM
I never said either. I did say that that the ability to do a "Ki demonstration" has far less impact on how I perceive someones Aikido level as their ability to move. My impression was that you discounted "ki tricks" until I pointed out that they were kokyu demonstrations. Extrapolating from that there is an immediate question of what you perceive in "ability to move" and what I see in "kokyu movement". That was the genesis of my comment. On another note how can a picture show "breath power" when even film would have difficulty. There are a number of moments within, for example, Tomiki's Koryu Goshin no Kata where if you took isolated pictures you could say I was demonstrating Kokyu with as much certainty as many of the pictures of Ueshiba M. It's impossible to tell in all pictures, of course. However I have a reasonable chance of getting an idea with a still picture because so many of the kokyu demonstrations Asia-wide are the same. With a film I have an even better chance because I can see the movement, judge the reaction of the uke, etc.... but I'm not claiming 100%, of course.

Regards,

Mike

PeterR
07-12-2005, 11:11 PM
I still discount Ki tricks.

Mike Sigman
07-12-2005, 11:14 PM
I still discount Ki tricks. Then I'll try to never show you any. ;) It's all the same thing, Peter.

Mike

maikerus
07-13-2005, 01:51 AM
I still discount Ki tricks.

What about coin tricks? or maybe card tricks? :D

Death defying escapes? ;)

PeterR
07-13-2005, 02:10 AM
What about coin tricks? or maybe card tricks? :D

Death defying escapes? ;)
Hey I'm a Houdini fan - the man was a God. And anything that requires finger dexterity (I have none) I hold in awe.

Mike Sigman
07-13-2005, 02:34 AM
What about coin tricks? or maybe card tricks? :D

Death defying escapes? ;) I once saw a man driving a cow with a stick and suddenly he turned the cow into a pasture.

And then there was the time I saw a house fly.....

PeterR
07-13-2005, 03:27 AM
Anyway - Happy Birthday Mike.

http://www.judoinfo.com/images/video/media/taichimasters.mov

Ron Tisdale
07-13-2005, 08:17 AM
priceless... :)

Ron

Mike Sigman
07-13-2005, 08:35 AM
Anyway - Happy Birthday Mike.

http://www.judoinfo.com/images/video/media/taichimasters.mov
And just when I thought there was no one else left on the planet who would send me that clip, which has been around for years. ;)

Mike

rob_liberti
07-13-2005, 11:15 AM
My take is that you need to both go solo and work with a partner to get to the bottom of it too. We don't just do rowing exercise all class for a reason. Should more attention be placed on gaining deeper insight into those warm-up exercises, of course - just like everything else typically practiced with a partner. I'm not sure what is broken, as opposed to just discussing what we might want to be highlighting, and maybe determining level appropriateness.

Rob

tedehara
07-13-2005, 02:38 PM
I still discount Ki tricks.Then you're in good company, including those who can do these ki demonstrations. The analogy is like the Zen imagery of the finger pointing to the moon.

These ki demonstrations are like the finger. It is suppose to be a guide, not the focus of your awareness. The condition of mind and body coordination is the moon. The unity of mind and body is a goal in the martial arts.

We cannot see the mind. It has no shape, color or appearance. We can see the body. It has mass, form and color. So through the way the body acts, we can see a reflection of the practitioner's mind. That is what these demonstrations really show.

Mike Sigman
07-13-2005, 02:51 PM
Then you're in good company, including those who can do these ki demonstrations. The analogy is like the Zen imagery of the finger pointing to the moon.

These ki demonstrations are like the finger. It is suppose to be a guide, not the focus of your awareness. The condition of mind and body coordination is the moon. The unity of mind and body is a goal in the martial arts.

We cannot see the mind. It has no shape, color or appearance. We can see the body. It has mass, form and color. So through the way the body acts, we can see a reflection of the practitioner's mind. That is what these demonstrations really show. You cannot see the mind when someone is laying bricks or driving a car, either... and the mind and body are coordinated in these things, too. Ki demonstrations are the mind and body coordinated in ways the body does not naturally coordinate ("these skills are not intuitive; they must be learned"). I have seen these sorts of demonstrations for many years; they are done because someone wants to show that he can do them. Granted, there's not a lot of information out there (which is deliberate), but these things are not THAT hard to do and they don't have to be put on a pedestal or dragged out for years and years. They just have to be practiced.

Mike

tedehara
07-13-2005, 06:46 PM
You cannot see the mind when someone is laying bricks or driving a car, either... and the mind and body are coordinated in these things, too. Ki demonstrations are the mind and body coordinated in ways the body does not naturally coordinate ("these skills are not intuitive; they must be learned"). I have seen these sorts of demonstrations for many years; they are done because someone wants to show that he can do them. Granted, there's not a lot of information out there (which is deliberate), but these things are not THAT hard to do and they don't have to be put on a pedestal or dragged out for years and years. They just have to be practiced.

MikeOf course you can see someone's mind and body coordination in everyday life. That is the real test of a person's mind and body unity. A person's mind is expressed through the body. All you need is a good observer to see it.

I do agree that these ki demonstrations and ki testing have to be practiced. You can't give someone a ki test cold and expect them to pass. I think that was one of the reasons why the zen priests didn't pass Tohei's ki testing.

Mike Sigman
07-13-2005, 06:56 PM
I do agree that these ki demonstrations and ki testing have to be practiced. You can't give someone a ki test cold and expect them to pass. I think that was one of the reasons why the zen priests didn't pass Tohei's ki testing. Ah. Remember that in some of my posts a couple of months ago I said that although they are sort of intertwined, kokyu can be separable as a topic from ki? I have seen some really powerful qigong experts that couldn't do the ki tests of show any real jin/kokyu. Of course, I don't know why "zen priests" would be expected to be particularly proficient at ki things, but I wouldn't assume that they could demonstrate kokyu. (I *vaguely* remember seeing a picture of Tohei with some "zen priests" but I forget the story, if you'll remind me or point me to it). What I said was that if an Aikido practitioner is claiming to be proficient at kokyunage, that means they can manifest kokyu, which means they should be able to do "ki tests".


FWIW

Mike

Rupert Atkinson
07-13-2005, 08:50 PM
What I said was that if an Aikido practitioner is claiming to be proficient at kokyunage, that means they can manifest kokyu, which means they should be able to do "ki tests".
Mike

Not in my exerience.

Mike Sigman
07-13-2005, 09:03 PM
Not in my exerience. It boils down to the word "proficient", I would guess. O-Sensei showed that he could manifest that same (or better, if you count the jo trick) kokyu skills that are in Tohei's "ki tests". Shioda could do them. Abe could do them. And I'm sure there' s a number more that I don't even know of. If you can do one of the simple ones, let's say for example standing weight on back leg and partner pushing forearm, and you refine it, you should be able to realize and do most of the others fairly easily. Even "unbendable arm" is really just a version of the push-on-forearm one and can be done just as relaxed.

If your kokyu for a kokyu-nage is fairly clean and correct, it is from the same power as the "push on forearm" example. If it's not from that same relaxed power, then it's something else other than good kokyu power. If it is from that same power, then doing almost all the "ki tests" is easily in your reach. And remember, I keep mentioning "gradations"... I'm implying something about the "purity" gradient. :)

Regards,

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-13-2005, 09:08 PM
I think that was one of the reasons why the zen priests didn't pass Tohei's ki testing. This comment really sort of bothers me. Someone who really understands ki and the relationship of kokyu power to ki shouldn't have publicly challenged a bunch of priests, given that "ki" and real ki abilities does not necessarily require the ability to do kokyu-type "mind and body" tests. There is no reason for such a challenge, IMO, but for some kind of publicity. Although I'm willing to listen, if some one can offer some realistic other reason. It's one thing to show your powers; to show them at the expense of others is bothersome.

Mike

rob_liberti
07-13-2005, 11:56 PM
Am I just really tired or did a bunch of the quotes text disappear a page back or 2?

Rob

Rupert Atkinson
07-14-2005, 12:54 AM
It boils down to the word "proficient", I would guess....

Mike

What I meant was, I have seen people with 'the rank' try to teach stuff that they clearly cannot do. Unbendable arm etc. with tensed up muscles or otherwise garbage technique etc.

Mike Sigman
07-14-2005, 08:09 AM
What I meant was, I have seen people with 'the rank' try to teach stuff that they clearly cannot do. Unbendable arm etc. with tensed up muscles or otherwise garbage technique etc. How odd. ;) If you want to find out the true meaning of "harmony", just point it out to them.

Mike

rob_liberti
07-14-2005, 08:39 AM
About the "years and years": It seems to me like most of my disagreeing with Mike on kokyu and aikido has boiled down to how to best prepare a person in aikido to start moving in a more kokyu-like way. From where I'm standing people go through the kyu ranks to learn enough external form to be a shodan - simply because people who were initially coming to aikido were generally already black belts in other Japanese Budo. So that accounts for some of the "years and years" but not many. I see nidan as a rank about achieving some degree of flow using the technical leverage of the external form. All of that training can be from 2 to 12+ years depending on the student and the teacher(s). At that point I see sandan as the beginner rank where people should be so dissatisfied with the results of normal strength that they start to totally over-haul their movements to be more kokyu-oriented movements. It _seems_ like Mike wants people who are at this level to already be good at it, and well then we just might disagree about how to best prepare someone. I see so many people attain some profound (_at least_ to them, but maybe very legitimate) level of understanding and then make the mistake of trying to start out all new students from that point. Invariably they leave something out that either they just had without any training (sense of rhythm comes to mind) so took for granted as a given (and now only look for those "gifted" students who start out with a set of basic requirements before their first class). I don't claim that Mike is setting himself up for that trap as he is not teaching aikido, but I offer it as an explanation for why just getting to the point where Mike would like new people to start takes at least some years and years.

From that point, I have no problem with someone "focusing" on drills like Mike frequently mentions. I'm intersted in all of them. I'm sure that they would be very useful and helpful. I'm not sold on the idea that his approach is from the superset of knowledge in this arena and therefore anything less would be incomplete - but I'm not wholesale discounting it either. To me it is just not a given. I think a yondan should have pretty good command of the basics of what Mike is talking about (I've seen some pretty good people in Japan take 12 years between sandand and yondan), a godan and a rokyu dan should be moving from principle and - I totally agree that Mike is right in that many people with such ranks cannot perform at this level and over-compensate with normal strength (and we call them strong-arm bandits) - and I think that is primarily due to promotions based on "loyalty".

The only thing I would mention about this is that since aikido is supposed to be "transformational", the required changes should be massive. Other massive changes like not shaming juniors, and eventually just truly respecting people and having complete self trust should come with the training or I'm not sure the training is all that important. Many times I see people try to make a short cut martial art approach, and some of the big lessons seem to be the things which are cut out to save time on the short-cut road to martial proficiency.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-14-2005, 09:16 AM
Not bad, Rob. And pure debate, too!

About the "years and years": It seems to me like most of my disagreeing with Mike on kokyu and aikido has boiled down to how to best prepare a person in aikido to start moving in a more kokyu-like way. In my view, our disagreement really starts not a when people start moving with kokyu, but what kokyu really is and how different it is from normal movement, on the whole. I consistently see your argument as indicating that you're thinking of one thing as general ki and kokyu movement and I'm thinking something else. From where I'm standing people go through the kyu ranks to learn enough external form to be a shodan (snip) I see nidan as a rank about achieving some degree of flow using the technical leverage of the external form. (snip) I see sandan as the beginner rank where people should be so dissatisfied with the results of normal strength that they start their totally over-haul their movements to be more kokyu-oriented movements. It _seems_ like Mike wants people who are at this level to already be good at it, and well then we just might disagree about how to best prepare someone. I see so many people attain some profound (_at least_ to them, but maybe very legitimate) level of understanding and then make the mistake of trying to start out all new students from that point. Invariably they leave something out that either they just had without any training (sense of rhythm comes to mind) so took for granted as a given (and now only look for those "gifted" students who start out with a set of basic requirements before their first class). I don't claim that Mike is setting himself up for that trap as he is not teaching aikido, but I offer it as an explanation for why just getting to the point where Mike would like new people to start takes at least some years and years. I see godan's who are clueless about kokyu movement because they have practiced and reinforced normal movement over so many years. In my experience, not only in Aikido but in other arts using these strength/body skills, too... there are only a few people who can *really* do these things. In the normal course of Aikido, particularly among westerners, there is almost no grasp of these skills... so discussing "when to introduce these skills because we do it a little later" is sort of beside the point, IMO. In a way, Rob, you've been saying that (a.) people in western Aikido do understand these things and (b.) as a part of Aikido, these skills are of secondary importance. What I"ve been saying is that (a.) in "Ai Ki Do" these things are of paramount importance if you want to go beyond the superficial and really understand what O-Sensei thought was a big deal other than a bunch of nifty techniques and (b.) almost no one in (particularly western) Aikido has more than a rudimentary idea what these things are. And I'm offering to do a friendly show and tell which will give everyone (including me) a chance to lay out their cards. I think people would find that this is a more complex area then they think.

Incidentally, Rob... can you name a few of these "so many" people you know who have reached a "profound" level? I'd like to meet a couple. From that point, I have no problem with someone "focusing" on drills like Mike frequently mentions. I'm intersted in all of them. I'm sure that they would be very useful and helpful. Actually, I'm pretty convinced that you're WAY shortselling the importance of side drills in traditional Aikido and *I'm* probably short-selling them some. Repetitive simple drills done many times are essential. You can't just go to a workshop and "learn how to do these things" (which is why so few people who I've met in workshops over the years really make progress... they think that if they academically understand it and did it 3 times they got it). Swinging a bokken 500-1000 times a day isn't a "maybe interesting" thing to do, IMO... it's a "must do" if you want to get anywhere. And there are other things I'd do if I was a serious Aikidoist.I think a yondan should have pretty good command of the basics of what Mike is talking about, a godan and a rokyu dan should be moving from principle and - I totally agree that Mike is right in that many people with such ranks cannot perform at this level and over-compensate with normal strength (and we call them strong-arm bandits) - and I think that is primarily due to promotions based on "loyalty". OK, fair enough. That's your opinion. But I still think you don't really understand what I'm talking about, at least not fully enough. BTW... bear in mind that a lot of people learn a lot of these movement skills independent of any martial art... that might affect your idea of where and when in Aikido it "should" be learned. The only thing I would mention about this is that since aikido is supposed to be "transformational", the required changes should be massive. Other massive changes like not shaming juniors, and eventually just truly respecting people and having complete self trust should come with the training or I'm not sure the training is all that important. Many times I see people try to make a short cut martial art approach, and some of the big lessons seem to be the things which are cut out to save time on the short-cut road to martial proficiency. I dunno... you just slipped some ideas in that I think are "western Aikido" and border on the self-assigned definitions of ludicrous phrases like "verbal Aikido". What you're trying to inject is your impression of what Aikido is on a philosophical basis and all I'm tallking about is function. I think we both know that there is not firm support for things like "transformational", "verbal Aikido", etc., from either O-Sensei's words or his personal manner. ;) Let's stick with movement and the when's, where's, how's, etc., in order to keep from getting mired down, as a suggestion.

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
07-14-2005, 10:58 AM
Not bad, Rob. And pure debate, too!Hmm...the unfortunate implication here is that I must be some poor poster in general, but _you_ feel I'm improving. Giving you the benefit of the doubt that it was an inadvertent implication as opposed to a sneaky way to elevate yourself at my expense, my response is while I appreciate this approval, please be more careful because this is how those bickering matches you say you would like to avoid (to have pure debate) can start unintentionally...

If you want to try to further explain how kokyu really is and how different it is from normal movement or why you feel I'm thinking of one thing as general ki and kokyu movement and how you think I should be looking at it, I'm truly interested.

Incidentally, Rob... can you name a few of these "so many" people you know who have reached a "profound" level? I'd like to meet a couple. You got that from my writing "I see so many people attain some profound (_at least_ to them, but maybe very legitimate) level of understanding and then make the mistake of trying to start out all new students from that point." Well, while I think it would be in poor taste to mention the names of legitimate people who I believe failed their students; I can say that in general, I'll bet we all know many examples of people who make those conglomeration arts who are pretty good themselves but can't produce even one good student. As far as people who have reached a "profound" level - meaning _to me_ beyond normal strength (AND NOT in the context of people who failed their students), I would offer up Ralph Malerba sensei - a student of Gleason sensei. Ralph sensei had major problems with his shoulders (I think from a car accident) to the point he could not possibly do a push up, and he was throwing a professional football player all around the dojo with kokyunages. Given that I am certain that at least some parts of that cannot possibly be arm strength, I'd have to conclude that he was using power from somewhere else. Another example would be my sempai in Japan named Nishida san. He is a very under-ranked godan in Fukuoka. I would love for you to meet him. I'm positive he'd be more than happy to push hands with you, demonstrate his ability to perform any kokyu test you want - provided you ask with enthusiasm and humility. I asked him about the jo trick, and while he didn't hold a jo, he stuck out his arm to his side and resisted my pushing of his wrist from front to back and back to front pretty impressively. Anyway, I'm confident he has something beyond the mundane.

Lastly, I don't think I so much "just slipped some ideas in" as much as I was talking about "Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido" in the "do" sensei as opposed to the jutsu sense. I understand that some would disagree with the polarity of the Don Draeger definitions and explain that the Japanese see the jutsu and the do as pretty much interchangeable - but I draw the confusion that this means that they understand it means both at the same time. I'm not sure this is so much a purely Westerner's opinion, but you have every right to disagree.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-14-2005, 11:22 AM
Hmm...the unfortunate implication here is that I must be some poor poster in general, but _you_ feel I'm improving. Not at all. Just trying to be disarming. What is more of a concern to me than "bickering" is "lack of facts". In this case, you're presenting reasonable opinions in your argument... but that doesn't get around the impasse we have about *facts* that keeps coming up. If you want to try to further explain how kokyu really is and how different it is from normal movement or why you feel I'm thinking of one thing as general ki and kokyu movement and how you think I should be looking at it, I'm truly interested. Well, I've been pretty extensive in explaining the mechanics of a number of things. I haven't seen any mechanics from you to support what you're calling "kokyu", how to do it, etc. I think we're fairly obviously at exactly the impasse I described (different perceptions) that can probably only be resolved by demonstration. I would change my mind if you could give some of your own examples, how-to's, etc., and we could arrive at a common ground. You got that from my writing "I see so many people attain some profound (_at least_ to them, but maybe very legitimate) level of understanding and then make the mistake of trying to start out all new students from that point." Well, while I think it would be in poor taste to mention the names of legitimate people who I believe failed their students I'm not concerned with their students, in my question. I'm asking about this "great many" in Aikido that have, in your opinion, "profound" skills. I'm unaware of any great many, particularly amoung western Aikidoists, so I was asking a straightforward question of who they were, leaving aside any question of whether they failed in their teaching methods, etc. I would offer up Ralph Malerba sensei - a student of Gleason sensei. Ralph sensei had major problems with his shoulders (I think from a car accident) to the point he could not possibly do a push up, and he was throwing a professional football player all around the dojo with kokyunages. Would that be a "profound" level, in your opinion? Did the professional football player actively attack Ralph or were these cooperative attacks, such as you usually see in a dojo?Another example would be my sempai in Japan named Nishida san. He is a very under-ranked godan in Fukuoka. I would love for you to meet him. I'm positive he'd be more than happy to push hands with you, demonstrate his ability to perform any kokyu test you want - provided you ask with enthusiasm and humility. I asked him about the jo trick, and while he didn't hold a jo, he stuck out his arm to his side and resisted my pushing of his wrist from front to back and back to front pretty impressively. Anyway, I'm confident he has something beyond the mundane. I know a number of people that can relaxedly put their arm out and the average person can't move it from side to side, etc., but I'm not sure I would label this level "profound". It just tells me that someone has told them something about correct standing exercises and they've practiced it. :)

Regards,

Mike

rob_liberti
07-14-2005, 04:15 PM
Well, maybe it's my poor expression. I attempted to qualify my usage of "profound" with "some profound (_at least_ to them, but maybe very legitimate) level" and when you take out all of the qualifying words I'm left with the impression that only O-sensei's 3 people pushing on the jo trick is "profound" enough for you. Regardless, if a guy who can't do a push up can throw the body mass of a professional football player around in even a semi-cooperative way, that's "profoundly" different than using just normal arm strength, in my opinion.

I suppose I just don't think there is any confusion about what normal strength is; and we all know some people who have exceptional amounts of normal strength. To me, anything in the range of just beyond normal strength and up to and maybe surpassing O-sensei's 3 people pushing on the jo trick is the range of "gradations" of kokyu strength. It seems like you want to have one more level in there, where everything that I may have seen/experienced and considered to be beyond normal is still not any gradation of kokyu in your opinion. I'm okay with that, but I'm really interested in narrowing down where you draw the line. As far as both of those people, I'm sure they could stand on one leg and resist a push, etc. What is the minimum gradation in your opinion?

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-14-2005, 04:23 PM
Well, maybe it's my poor expression. I attempted to qualify my usage of "profound" with "some profound (_at least_ to them, but maybe very legitimate) level" and when you take out all of the qualifying words I'm left with the impression that only O-sensei's 3 people pushing on the jo trick is "profound" enough for you. Why are you left with that impression, given the title of this thread and the initial posts about high level Aikido? It seems like you want to have one more level in there, where everything that I may have seen/experienced and considered to be beyond normal is still not any gradation of kokyu in your opinion. I'm okay with that, but I'm really interested in narrowing down where you draw the line. As far as both of those people, I'm sure they could stand on one leg and resist a push, etc. What is the minimum gradation in your opinion? I don't have a minimum gradation without any other criteria. What I was asking was what you were calling "profound".

Mike

rob_liberti
07-14-2005, 09:58 PM
Really? I was under the impression you were not asking my what I meant by profound. I thought you was asking me who I thought had some profound skills. Maybe I'm just too tired. Regardless, I'll answer that question but I don't want to get unproductive.

We agree kokyu movement is beyond normal strength. My opinion that power in movement beyond surface level "normal" strength in the aikido arena is at least a bit profound - meaning _to me_ "from the depths of your being" - to at least some relative degree since I think we continue to discover new deeper depths.. Again, I'll take responsibility if it was a poor expression on my part (meaning more confusion than helpful, but not necessarily flat out wrong. I agree that such quibbling doesn't drive anywhere useful.).

As far as the title of the thread, in my opinion since you have been writing about gradations, you opened a door to talk about less than highest level too. I have been of the opinion that there is no actual "highest" level - since I believe that O-sensei was still working ikkyo out on his death bed. Regardless, we can say for the moment that O-sensei can be the max (as it's high enough for my point) and we can agree that the minimum is at least beyond normal strength, there exists a range of kokyu ability. I give example after example of people doing things at least beyond what I would consider normal strength, and you seem to suggest that those examples are probably not quite kokyu movement yet. I'm fine with that opinion, but it would be good to get a better picture of what you consider the bottom of the gradations since it seems to be a bit higher than what I would define as the minimum.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-14-2005, 10:37 PM
We agree kokyu movement is beyond normal strength. My opinion that power in movement beyond surface level "normal" strength in the aikido arena is at least a bit profound - meaning _to me_ "from the depths of your being" - to at least some relative degree since I think we continue to discover new deeper depths.. The problem here is that kokyu strength can certainly be beyond normal strength (although a weight-lifter, to grab an example, can have strength beyond someone's kokyu strength, depending on how hard a practice, size, etc.... so we still have to stay in the real world), but obviously not all supra-normal strength is kokyu. [[ Incidentally, there was a cute old saying that someone with really good kokyu/jin could beat a normal man, but a not a brass man or a wooden man... there's a reason.]]

Where you and I continually go at odds in this type of debate is that I try to explain how these strengths work, etc., as part of my thesis and you discuss "kokyu" assuming we must be talking about the same thing, yet you don't give a factual explanation to support the idea. That's what I meant about "facts". If we're not talking about the same thing... and if we are, you must understand it enough to be able to provide some factual support, how-to's, etc., at the least... then it's tough to start into a discussion about "gradations" since we're not even sure we're talking about the same "kokyu strength", if you follow my blunt, non-emotional viewpoint. Regardless, we can say for the moment that O-sensei can be the max (as it's high enough for my point) and we can agree that the minimum is at least beyond normal strength, there exists a range of kokyu ability. I give example after example of people doing things at least beyond what I would consider normal strength, and you seem to suggest that those examples are probably not quite kokyu movement yet. No, if you go look even at your last example, I'm satisfied with the *possibility* that you're talking about kokyu... I just wouldn't consider that level "profound". Again, what stops me from making a commitment is that you describe things that must be kokyu, in your opinion, but you've never given me any information that indicates positively you would be able to differentiate kokyu from something else. There's a reason for saying there's "internal", there's "external", and there's "rattan" (combination)... some things are mixtures. I hope you see the stumbling block for me. I'm fine with that opinion, but it would be good to get a better picture of what you consider the bottom of the gradations since it seems to be a bit higher than what I would define as the minimum. "Bottom of gradations" for whom? Beginner? Nikkyu? Sandan? Teacher? Student? You see my problem with the open question of "minimum level". In my mind, since Aikido is a ki and kokyu art and not just a "technique" art, there has to be a certain amount of those skills, IMO, to legitimize a "teacher" of the art. That's my opinion.

In the real world, I know that Aikidoists, like Taiji'ers, Xingyi, Bagua'ers, etc., for the most part are clueless that they're even missing something. Also, in the real world, I think that's always the way it's going to be. For instance, most people doing "Tai Chi" are doing hogwash role-playing and very darn few people (although I'm sure it's in the thousands) know how to use portions of real qi and jin... and again, that's to be expected. There will always be the separation of sheep and goats. ;) So while I'll take a debate position, I'm not emotionally too concerned with it. The maximum worry I might have is that the "real true art" might be lost because there's so much not-Aikido around, but I honestly don't think that's a worry. I think there will always be a level of Aikido, Xingyi, Karate, etc., that will have the full skills and information and there will always be people with less-than-complete info. But it's good to talk these things through. :)

Mike

wendyrowe
07-15-2005, 07:40 PM
Although a smaller person's "technique" is very important, until a smaller person's ki, kokyu, and ability to manipulate kokyu are good, they won't have enough of an edge to beat larger people consistently, IMO. I guess I could argue that those things are a necessary part of really "good technique".
I read this on another thread and agreed with it, then realized I would be totally incapable of explaining to someone what I mean by these concepts -- and what I think of when I think of them may well be different than what others of you mean when you talk about them.

I get the feeling that's the same thing going on in this discussion, where the crux of the matter is that we can't even be sure we're meaning the same thing when we use the same words. Given that our only tool here in the forums is words, I'm not sure we'll be able to achieve clarity -- but I'm hoping we'll get close enough as people define the key points more clearly and give examples if possible, so we won't be like the blind men and the elephant describing an elephant as being like a wall or a snake or a rope or a tree.

I'm hoping that by the time this thread winds down, I'll have the words I need to be able to explain. Keep it up!

Thanks,
Wendy

eyrie
07-16-2005, 12:24 AM
Here's an interesting excerpt from the Thundering Aikido thread:
http://aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?goto=newpost&t=8535

My emphasis in bold.


Abe left a great impression on Matsuoka, imparting much insight into aikido spirituality, the relationship between the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Affairs, a Japanese historical text) and aikido, and the importance of kokyu (breath power) training. Indeed, what many aikido instructors simply write off as a warmup exercise, Abe spoke of in great detail.

He clearly explained how the “boat rowing” exercise built ki through its different vowel sounds, breathing patterns and rhythms. He also elucidated the section of the Kojiki from which the exercise was drawn. “We should feel a great effort concentrated at the hara when we practice it,” Matsuoka explained. “That is how we build ki power and what differentiates these kinds of strength-building exercises from weightlifting.”

Mike Sigman
07-16-2005, 10:10 AM
I'm glad to see that emphasis on the rowing exercise, regardless of where it ultimately turns out to have come from (Abe may be correct or he may be exhibiting some sort of nationalist fervor... the results of the exercise don't depend on where it came from). I think it's probably the most important exercise, although I think you have to supplement it with others, of course. Particularly correct bokken swinging.

Mike

rob_liberti
07-17-2005, 09:09 PM
okay. Well maybe my reductionist thinking has a flaw but here are the facts to me:
- ralph sensei doing a "kokyunage" throw of someone really large (filled the door frame not the 100 pound kicker or anything) and heavy like a pro football player (with the assumption that someone who likes the feeling of impacting someone full on is probably not throwing himself)
- the throw outwardly looked like someone doing a one handed push up - only rotated perpendicular to the floor of course. (not leading down so much, up and straight out)
- this person's shoulder damage prevents him from doing a push-up
Therefore it sees odd to me that it could be normal strength or a combination, but hey, that's the best example I can think of which seems to eliminate the normal or combination, but I won't continue to beat a dead horse.

I'm just not at the end of my "beyond normal strength" research, so I suppose we;ll just have to wait, forget about it, or you can further elaborate yourself. But it seems there is another thread on this now so I'll just happy go read that one.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-17-2005, 09:49 PM
- the throw outwardly looked like someone doing a one handed push up - only rotated perpendicular to the floor of course. (not leading down so much, up and straight out)
- this person's shoulder damage prevents him from doing a push-up
Therefore it sees odd to me that it could be normal strength or a combination, but hey, that's the best example I can think of which seems to eliminate the normal or combination, but I won't continue to beat a dead horse. Could be. Hard to say, frankly. A lot of applying power is, as Shioda noted, a function of timing, focus, and direction. I know people that can do such things as you described fairly well, but who have little or no jin/kokyu abilities. Often when I do a workshop I start off by asking everyone to put 2 hands on my chest and just push me... it's immediately obvious who uses the ground and who still uses shoulder/arm. Yet some of those people could launch me into the air with normal strength, some combination of skills, etc. I.e., it's just hard to attribute someone with having good kokyu skills from just the description, etc.[/QUOTE]

FWIW

Mike

Rupert Atkinson
07-20-2005, 11:37 PM
About the "years and years": From where I'm standing people go through the kyu ranks to learn enough external form to be a shodan... I see nidan as a rank about achieving some degree of flow - 2 to 12+ years. At that point I see sandan as the beginner rank where people should be so dissatisfied with the results of normal strength that they start to ... I see so many people attain some profound (_at least_ to them, but maybe very legitimate) level of understanding and then make the mistake of trying to start out all new students from that point.
I've seen some pretty good people in Japan take 12 years between sandand and yondan...
Rob
Rob - you make some good points but if I were you I'd thinkabout time carefully. If you think it will take 12 yeras, then it will. I now firmly believe that 'correct' knowledge and 'correct' teaching are fast routes to success. Part of the reason it takes so long is becuase we are all being led up the garden path: there is NO pre-determined way - known secretly by our senseis and divulged carefully as we progress. There is only what we realise through hard training and discover by accident. If someone could collect, pool, and classify this knowledege we could learn much more efficiently. It is part of what Bruce Lee said about escaping from the classical mess.

eyrie
07-21-2005, 12:22 AM
I totally agree. The corollary of that is, how long and to what level would it take for someone to know enough to be able to teach this knowledge effectively to students of differing abilities. I feel that not enough is being done to pass on the ability to teach (as opposed to simply passing on technical knowledge).

rob_liberti
07-21-2005, 08:58 AM
Well I agree with both of your excellent points. The numbers were rough estimates from my experience. I agree that when someone is talented they can make decent progress in a short amount of time. I was just trying to explain why some people legitamately take "year and years" before approaching kokyu from a background where they are not actually willing to put in that much effort toward rethinking their most basic movements, having the feelings 'to chase after' (of someone ahead of them on the path who threw them with kokyu and other things), and having their normal strength forms of kihon waza worked out enough to be able to compare and really really feel a difference. And it can all happen in the same class as brand new folks - with a qualified teacher as Ignatius points out.

Note that I am not saying that teaching this kind of way is the _only_ way. Conversely, I seemed to have gotten the implication that anyone who didn't just start out rowing and practicing suburi UNTIL they made some progress in those areas were wasting their time on invalid paths - and I disagreed. I think you can do your rowing and suburi with self reflection daily and have normal aikido class (again with self reflection) with a decent teacher and make all kinds of wonderful progress.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-21-2005, 09:35 AM
The corollary of that is, how long and to what level would it take for someone to know enough to be able to teach this knowledge effectively to students of differing abilities. I feel that not enough is being done to pass on the ability to teach (as opposed to simply passing on technical knowledge). I think there are a number of factors. One of them is "who you know that really knows". In my career I've seen that some rare people (sons, sons of friends or high-placed officials, etc.) get shown how to do things pretty early on. I.e., the "good" treatment involves showing the favored few how to do things right off the bat. The fact that so many of us had to work for tidbits of information is "The Way", it's just a sign that we didn't get the Star Treatment.

In serious traditional arts, you get shown the valuable starting methods of ki and kokyu things *before* you're allowed to start working on forms and techniques... everyone knows that going back and trying to correct fixed incorrect habits is very difficult. To me this whole idea of "it will come when it is time" bespeaks enormous naivete and misunderstanding of the situation.

The other factor is the idea that you gradually work this into your practice a little at a time, you change the class emphasis a bit and focus so everyone is doing a little bit longer Aiki-Taiso and so on. That is a HUGE misunderstanding. It just won't happen. Almost everyone has the idea that once they grasp the general idea, they're about 80% there and it will just take some buffing and polishing to finish it up. In actuality, you have to begin to deliberately move this new way at home, at work, in supplemental exercises (anyone who thinks you become skilled in ki and kokyu from going to 3 2-hour classes a week is in dreamland). If you think about the original uchideshi, etc., and how much time they spent per day, it should ring a bell. They didn't put in all that work just for "longer hours"... they worked at the basic skills for many more hours than most "Aikidoists" do in order to get those ki and kokyu skills. How many people do you know that even do the simple stuff like 500-1000 bokken swings per day? Dang few, I'd bet. :)

In reality, most of Aikido (and other arts, too), particularly in the West, has experienced dabblers teaching new dabblers. I hate to be cynical, but then again I wouldn't want to change my basic personality, either. ;)

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
07-21-2005, 10:25 AM
That reminds me of a story from Dan Mesisco sensei. He got to train in Korea and in Japan. He told me how some of his aikido friends from Hombu dojo didn't think that the Tang Soo do folks could have any kokyu power. So, he arranged for those friends to go to Korea with him and try to do kokyu tanden ho. The Tang Soo Do guys sat cross legged and were quite good - much much better than the aikido folks thought they would be. Dan sensei explained that these guys practiced doing every single movement from center from the time they woke up until they slept - for about 3 years (to the point of things being really absurd).

Anyway, I can't think of a time that self-coordination habits I was working on in the dojo didn't end up being practiced almost non-stop all day long either. From adjusting the mirror in my car to make sure I held my neck optimally while driving to making funny slow hand/wrist movements while walking down the hall at work (making some people wave back with a strange kind of look on their face), etc..

I don't know, really. I guess I'm just not sure who learns things in the dojo and then completely forgets about them until a few days later at their next class, but they are probably not ready yet for any kind of breakthrough.

Rob

Mike Sigman
07-21-2005, 10:50 AM
That reminds me of a story from Dan Mesisco sensei. He got to train in Korea and in Japan. He told me how some of his aikido friends from Hombu dojo didn't think that the Tang Soo do folks could have any kokyu power. So, he arranged for those friends to go to Korea with him and try to do kokyu tanden ho. The Tang Soo Do guys sat cross legged and were quite good - much much better than the aikido folks thought they would be. Dan sensei explained that these guys practiced doing every single movement from center from the time they woke up until they slept - for about 3 years I dunno.... if you ask every teacher on this forum, they'll all tell you that they and their students do their movement "from their center". And they're sure they do, I'll bet. ;)

Practicing Aikido correctly with your center and kokyu is like going to heaven..... everyone wants to do it.... but not yet.

Mike

Ron Tisdale
07-21-2005, 12:15 PM
I'm eating lunch, and had an interesting thought. Many of the early akikidoka were already proficient in judo, sumo, boxing, kendo etc. They already had ingrained body movements from arts other than aikido. Often in this and other discussions on aikido and kokyu, we talk about building new movement patterns from the ground up, and how difficult it is to train in one set of movements, and then later on, go back and 'rewire'.

But when you consider the fact that the early aikidoka (Tohei, Shioda, Mochizuki, etc.) were already experienced martial artists...isn't this exactly what they had to do? First they learned to move martialy (outside of aikido) then they had to repattern their movement to learn aiki and kokyu. Many aikido students today are already proficient in MA in general, but many are also completely new to moving in a martial environment.

How is say a 2nd dan, skilled in more or less moving in a relaxed and relatively powerfull manner, familiar with the outer form of the techniques in aikido, different from say, Shioda? Both at some point would have to go back and retrain their strongly ingrained movement patterns to do something different, right?

Best,
Ron

Mike Sigman
07-21-2005, 12:32 PM
I'm eating lunch, and had an interesting thought. Oh, Please, Ron.... next you'll be telling us, "Once I had a friend...." ;) But when you consider the fact that the early aikidoka (Tohei, Shioda, Mochizuki, etc.) were already experienced martial artists...isn't this exactly what they had to do? I don't know enough facts. We know that Tohei spent a lot of personal time re-learning how to move with Tempu Nakamura... so he had to make a large effort to change over. We know also that Tohei is reported to have commented about some other uchideshi's lack of ki, even though that person was above godan (at least sixth dan), IIRC. So there was at least a question of who knew how to move with ki. O-Sensei wasn't teaching it to Tohei and others, so probably the uchideshi had varying degrees of ki and kokyu skills across the spectrum. We just don't know for sure, though How is say a 2nd dan, skilled in more or less moving in a relaxed and relatively powerfull manner, familiar with the outer form of the techniques in aikido, different from say, Shioda? Both at some point would have to go back and retrain their strongly ingrained movement patterns to do something different, right? I agree. The difference would be that the average nidan is far-removed from any viable sources of this type of movement and Shioda had sources more at hand. BTW... I've read the Shioda books (well, 3 of them) and I'm not satisfied that the books (which I believe were not personally written by Shioda) reflect exactly Shioda's take on things OR that the full extent of his knowledge and abilities is conveyed.

I remember that in Taiji, Wu Jien Jen developed a "square form" which actually broke the movements of his Taiji down into almost robot-like motions.... this was done so that he could teach large numbers of people at a time. Nowadays, you have some Wu-style practitioners that do this "square form" (they look like Mr. Robot-to) thinking they "know the secrets". I'd suggest that Shioda's method of breaking things down into simple concepts may present somewhat of a misleading potential in the same manner. :) I.e., people can put almost religious faith in Shioda's deliberate and clever simplifications, but an open mind may need to be kept about what Shioda actually knew. That bit I saw him do on Shingi Denju DVD was well beyond anything I ever saw him mention in writing.

Regards,

Mike

Ron Tisdale
07-21-2005, 12:47 PM
BTW... I've read the Shioda books (well, 3 of them) and I'm not satisfied that the books (which I believe were not personally written by Shioda) reflect exactly Shioda's take on things OR that the full extent of his knowledge and abilities is conveyed.

I'm positive it isn't :) 1) words never seem to convey physical items like aikido completely, if it was that easy, we'd all just read the book! 2) I believe that others were often at least involved in parsing what finally got published...but I'd have no idea to what extent.

On the basic movements / square form type of thing, I'm sure there are people who do them in a manner that looks outwardly correct, but if they do it with a partner feels completely different from what you might expect. Same goes for technique I'm sure. Last night, when taking ukemi from my teacher, I found myself in a position where there was absolutely NO posibility to resist. Sensei did the technique slowly, with little or no overt strength, and before he thew me, I had no base of power. My knees were cut from under me, I was tilted to one side, and it felt like I had no base to push against to even try to resist the actual 'throw'. If he had wanted to hammer me, I would have been helpless.

Needless to say, my own 'version' of the technique left much to be desired. One of the brown belts likes to test me sometimes, and made a point of resisting when he was in a BAD position...at the time I tossed him anyway, and warned him about resisting in bad positions...but the fact that he had any power base to resist from at all shows the problem with my current "level of aikido"....

Best,
Ron (as in 'not very high')

tedehara
07-21-2005, 12:49 PM
I don't think it really matters if you learned movement informally as a child, or learned it formally through a previous martial art or other movement art, like dance. You still have to retrain for that particular art.

However movement with ki or kokyu is not just simple movement. It's the mind and body moving in unison.

I don't believe Koichi Tohei spent that much time with Nakamura Sensei. I don't have any documentation that K. Tohei spent time learning how to move from Nakamura Sensei. He mostly used Tempukai's concept of mind and body coordination to provide the framework for his concepts of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido.

Mike Sigman
07-21-2005, 01:03 PM
I'm positive it isn't :) 1) words never seem to convey physical items like aikido completely, if it was that easy, we'd all just read the book! 2) I believe that others were often at least involved in parsing what finally got published...but I'd have no idea to what extent. I think the intent was to get the basic idea across (at least that's my speculation). I do the same thing when I'm explaining things.... I'll avoid the real complexities and try to make the basic elements, and even then probably just the important aspects, as clear as possible. It's a good way to get people started, but more details are needed as progress is made. ...but the fact that he had any power base to resist from at all shows the problem with my current "level of aikido".... I dunno... artificial practice situations often give uke opportunity to screw with anyone's technique. I remember I was working out with Jay Portnow, one of Kanai's students, and I kept screwing up his bokken technique "because I could". Suddenly he moved at quick-speed and smacked me on top of the head with his bokken. I experienced enlightenment. QUACK!!!

;)

Mike

wendyrowe
07-21-2005, 01:06 PM
I dunno.... if you ask every teacher on this forum, they'll all tell you that they and their students do their movement "from their center". And they're sure they do, I'll bet. ;)
Sadly, I think my sensei wouldn't say that. He'd certainly say his students SHOULD do their movements from their center and are working on it, but I'm quite sure he knows most of us aren't there yet.

Sometimes it feels just right and works beautifully; but more often I still don't have that connection reliably. Still, there's plenty of time, and it's nice to have a goal.

Mike Sigman
07-21-2005, 01:10 PM
However movement with ki or kokyu is not just simple movement. It's the mind and body moving in unison. How about when someone warms up the palm of his hand by using biofeedback training and imagining his hand being in warm sand... isn't that mind/body coordination? Generally speaking, mind-body coordination means to me that you're learning to control things *with your mind*, i.e., voluntarily, functions of the body that are not normally voluntarily controlled. Moving with kokyu (as a manifestation of ki) is, in my opinion, one of a number of things you can train yourself to do... and from there practice it until it becomes a skill.

My opinion, FWIW.

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-21-2005, 01:13 PM
Sadly, I think my sensei wouldn't say that. He'd certainly say his students SHOULD do their movements from their center and are working on it, but I'm quite sure he knows most of us aren't there yet Well, I should have left off the "students" part of that comment, you're right. My error.

Mike

Ron Tisdale
07-21-2005, 01:26 PM
I remember I was working out with Jay Portnow, one of Kanai's students, and I kept screwing up his bokken technique "because I could". Suddenly he moved at quick-speed and smacked me on top of the head with his bokken. I experienced enlightenment. QUACK!!!

LOL!! ;) Yeah, had that kind of enlightenment a couple of times now...still waiting for the one that comes while you're standing by a well...

I don't fault the brown belt...I fault my technique. But I did want him to know he was open to going head over heels...and landing on his head. The real problem with this 'artificial environment' we create is that it only takes a split second of someone being obtuse or stuborn for someone to get hurt. I'm not in this to hurt my training partners. Screwing with people's waza can lead to some bad places.

RT (once I had a friend...)

eyrie
07-21-2005, 11:23 PM
In reality, most of Aikido (and other arts, too), particularly in the West, has experienced dabblers teaching new dabblers.

It's kind of a catch-22 situation - drawing a balance between raising the standard of ability, and teaching ability with expanding the organization - IMHO.

Ignatius (didn't get special treatment either)

Mike Sigman
07-22-2005, 08:15 AM
It's kind of a catch-22 situation - drawing a balance between raising the standard of ability, and teaching ability with expanding the organization - IMHO. I absolutely agree. Look at how many large and obviously organizational, money-making moves have been made within Aikido. Look how many yudansha ranks have come in spurts or organizational reasons. It's always tricky and I think it's a contributing reason to why some of the diehard purists don't want to share all they know within an organization.

FWIW

Mike

JasonFDeLucia
08-11-2005, 01:01 PM
I'd suggest that Shioda's method of breaking things down into simple concepts may present somewhat of a misleading potential in the same manner. :) I.e., people can put almost religious faith in Shioda's deliberate and clever simplifications, but an open mind may need to be kept about what Shioda actually knew. That bit I saw him do on Shingi Denju DVD was well beyond anything I ever saw him mention in writing.

Regards,

Mike
sure he could rely on shihonage alone but also had a variety of judo ,sumo and devoted application to daito ryu method of kokyu ryoku .

ikkitosennomusha
08-11-2005, 09:28 PM
Mike, it makes perfect sense to me and I can certainly see smaller movement progressing through experience. However, it my days training under Fumio Toyoda-shhan, one of the many things I learned from him was his very "big" technique. Yes, his tecnhiques were large and quite powerful. They were large and circular, not small and linear.

I tend to think that the smaller the movement, the more linear the technique has to evolve. Aikido to me, is very dynamic and I find more power, graceful, and fluid techniqies generated by large, circular ones.

Kevin Leavitt
08-12-2005, 02:53 PM
large or small...to me it depends on the situation. it makes no sense to use a large circle when a small one will do!

Economy of force/motion is a basic principle IMHO. use the right tool for the right job.

ikkitosennomusha
08-12-2005, 03:42 PM
large or small...to me it depends on the situation. it makes no sense to use a large circle when a small one will do!

Economy of force/motion is a basic principle IMHO. use the right tool for the right job.

Kevin, you are right. I was ainly thinking of the perfect scenarios in the dojo where everything works out nice and neat, in particlar, various types of throw, koshinage, etc.

Small and linear is definately called for when one has to be quick and dirty on special occasions! In a dojo setting, randori is the perfect example. Without quick, linear atemi, its over before you know it!

eyrie
08-12-2005, 07:22 PM
"Linear" could be a really really really BIG circle - I'm thinking "flat earth" here.... ;)