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I continue to find interesting things about what I can feel as I make progress with IS conditioning. Some recent points that have stood out in my mind:
1. I've talked about feeling connection in the arms before and how, after a period of steady practice, that feeling of connection started working its way into my torso, mostly under the arms. Well recently I've started to notice that feeling of connection across the back, down to my waist/belt-line. It's very subtle in comparison to what I can feel in my arms, but it's definitely there. I feel it from pushes and pulls to my arms and from little things like expanding my arms out (like you're going to hug someone) and even when walking the dog. It's a weird thing to feel to be honest. I'd be describe it as a slight tug, criss-crossing the skin of my back.
1a. Over the last few months I've been able to, for lack of a better word, "activate" that connection feel in my arms/upper torso using ki/intent and to some extent maintain that activity while doing stuff. That feeling is something I've read people of skill talk about, but never really felt before now. What I find interesting beyond the structural benefits is the things that we have in our style of aikido that produce this same feeling. For instance, tekubi shindo. We do this as part of every class and instructors often talk about feeling your weight settle in your hands and the "tingle" in your hands/arms. That activated feeling I mentioned earlier is very similar to that. It's almost a tingley feeling along with a sort of tightness in the skin. Also the whole water flowing from the arms thing causes the same thing. Much like I said in 1, it's a weird thing to feel from simply "thinking" about it. I wonder how anyone would ever actually get to this point just doing the aikido exercises though. I know the amount of work and thought I've had to put into my own training to get to this point. While it's a fraction of the amount of time I've spent in aikido, it has produced something that many years of regular practice and doing those exercises did not. I now find myself mentally working for this feeling, projecting ki, all the time.
1b. It's also interesting how that feeling can be completely wiped out by overt muscle usage. I can maintain that feeling doing techniques, but as soon as I tense up, pull with my arms, etc, it completely disappears. weird stuff...
2. I've also been putting a lot of thought into where exactly I carry my weight in my feet, not just when training but when doing anything on my feet. When I first got into the IS side of things, I was advised to just let it settle into my heels, as this removes the flex from the feet and makes it easier to maintain and feel that ground connection. I always knew it wasn't supposed to be that way forever and at some point you're supposed to get your feet solid enough that your weight point should be more centered. I've definitely gotten to that point, to some degree at least and it's made a very interesting difference on overall stability. One direct link to this area of the foot that I find interesting. In Shioda's book he talks about the big toe and how you should always feel like you're gripping the ground with your big toe. I'd played around with that idea before, but physically flexing the toe like I was gripping at the ground with it didn't do anything. It doesn't help at all from a balance or stability standpoint, but as I've worked this into my training, it actually makes a lot of sense. Once you have your weight comfortably in that bubbling well area, flexing the big toe just slightly, like you were grabbing at the ground with it, extends the area where you feel your weigth in your feet all the way through the foot, from toe to heel, right through the bubbling well area. It actually does feel like I'm gripping the earth with my feet, without physically tensing my "grip", so to speak... weird stuff indeed.