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The following is a Ki exercise, not technique. Nage assume a right stance. As your partner delivers tsuki with his left hand, attacking your lead, execute tenkan. You are now facing the same direction. Your partner's arm is extended, left foot forward. Grab your partner's wrist and attempt to pull his arm toward you; your partner should resist. Notice how much effort is required to get your partner to move.
Now keep the same position only this time let your hand rest lightly on your partner's wrist without grabbing tightly. Extend Ki and lead his arm ever so slightly forward before bringing it around along an arc that spirals downward toward your body; your partner should resist. We call the slight forward motion taking up the slack. Again, notice how much force is required to move your partner.
Done correctly, taking up the slack opens his shoulder causing your partner's resistance to melt away as his arm is lead along a relatively complex curve which is much harder to resist than the straight line pull described in the first paragraph.
Lead and follow, follow and lead; the difference is perceived only from outside.
I have several analogies I use when teaching the concept of leading. I'll speak of leading uke's mind, grabbing her Ki, leading the attack, moving on the intent etc. My initial lead determines how well I will evade the attack and subsequently be able to redirect uke's energy along a harmless (to me) path.
But there is no leading without following. While I am leading uke I must also be following her and so to further lead her on. I don't switch from leading to following and back again; rather both actions are performed continuously. Leading and following are no more separable than mind and body.
Uke and I have different goals at the onset of each encounter. Uke seeks to intersect me at some point and apply either a grab, blow or both. My aim is to avoid said intersection and lead uke along a different path. This process involves my leading uke's mind/body along lines that will be unoccupied by me. At all times it is important for me to know where uke is going and so I must follow her lead as I lead her following.
When there is no one to receive it what happens to an attack?
I remember when I was with Maruyama Sensei that he always stressed that technique should be effective but that going out of one's way to injure an adversary was wrong. I teach my students the doctrine of least possible harm. It is my view that if walking away from a situation will avoid conflict then that is the correct technique to employ. If immobilizing an opponent will end the conflict then there is no point in injuring him. Of course least possible harm can escalate to killing an opponent if the situation warrants. It is my responsibility as a practitioner of Aikido to determine the correct response to a given situation. Gravely injuring or killing a person when a lesser response is adequate to defuse the conflict, and then blaming it on an 'instinctive reaction' is unacceptable. Why else am I training if not to learn to react to stress calmly centered?
As a student and teacher of Aikido I am called on to adopt to a high standard of conduct both in peaceful daily life and in a conflict situation. Yamada Shihan puts it this way in Aikido Complete:
"Uyeshiba discovered the spiritual potential of the martial arts. He believed that the basic principles of the universe are harmony and love and that these can be attained through the martial arts. He believed that a doctrine which does not teach these principles is not a true martial art."
"The main purpose of Aikido is to build a strong mind,
Motion is a universal constant, the tie that binds.
It is only through motion that the concept of time derives any relevance. Time is a construct I use to order the events of my life. It is how I construct my past and delineate my future. It has been said that time is what keeps everything from happening all at once. The fact is that everything that happens does happen all at once, at now.
Motion occurs because I remember now as the past and anticipate now as the future. The connectedness of my memories and anticipations gives rise to the illusion that now moves from past to future and that events follow one another in ordered sequence.
I am always centered at now. There are, however, degrees of centeredness. My body remains perfectly located at now. My mind defines the radius of my center. Dwelling on the past and future increases the radius of my center. When I let go of past and future the radius of my center shrinks. As the radius of my center becomes smaller, my mind and body grow more coordinated. Aikido training is the method I have chosen to help me realize coordination of mind/body and hence reduce the radius of my center.
What does the world look like when the radius of my center is zero and my mind and body are perfectly coordinated?
Can self awareness exist when the radius of my center is zero?
Light reveals what darkness hides, I hold my own candle to illuminate the path.
Aikido belongs to the world. With each passing day the number of people finding Aikido grows larger and more diversified. It is no longer possible for anyone to lay claim to being the final arbiter of what is and is not Aikido. The art itself has grown beyond the bounds that people or organizations try to enclose it in. And for that we should all be thankful. For the growth of Aikido, its multi-directedness, has only enriched the art and those who follow its many paths.
An art that does not change and grow to reflect the times in which it is practiced and taught will eventually wither and fade into relative obscurity. I do not believe that O-Sensei meant for this to happen to Aikido. He recognized that his art would change with the changing times and so embraced change as a natural consequence of growth.
The politics, the titles, the claim of legitimacy and the accusation of its opposite are all just window dressing. All that matters is training. Each hour I spend on the mat is another hour spent on the mat; another hour that moves me inexorably closer to the perfect unification of mind and body. That is my goal. Others have other goals and I wish them well.
Get in a right stance and offer your right arm to your partner, elbow and wrist slightly bent and relaxed. Have him grab your wrist just above the joint and push towards your shoulder. Relax and absorb the force so that it flows thru you and is dissipated into the ground via your rear foot. While your partner continues to push slowly pivot on both feet until you turn 180 degrees. Be sure to keep your hand in front of you as you turn. Your partner should follow your turn and move in so he can continue to hold your wrist and push. You and your partner are now facing the same direction. Your partner is still pushing but instead of the force coming at you, you feel yourself being pulled. Again, don't try to resist, just let go of your arm, settle into your center and redirect the force of the pull downwards and into the ground via your front foot. Your partner will now reverse the direction of the pull and test you by exerting force back towards your shoulder. As in the original push, absorb the force and let it travel thru you and into the ground via your rear foot.
It's important to pivot slowly in this exercise. A slow pivot allows you to really feel how the applied force changes direction and how your body structure and center are thereby affected. Your partner, as you become more comfortable with this exercise, should steadily increase the amount of force applied. Keep in mind that this isn't a contest and the object is for you to help each other find and enhance correct
Before the attack lies intent, upon which I can move with impunity.
This has to do with the physiology of the human body and its interaction with the mind.
There is a moment before I am attacked when I am able to move and my attacker is unable to do anything about it. I have a small window of opportunity between the time when the decision to attack is reached and when the attack is launched. Thought to action is not instantaneous. There is a slight lag while the signals from the brain are transmitted throughout the body to the muscles required to execute the attack.
I call this time interval the intent. Move on the intent. Sounds easy; but how do I determine when the intent is? There is no intellectual way of making this determination. The ability to sense the intent comes only through training. As I continue to train I begin to feel the intent viscerally. If I can banish fear from my mind, move without forethought and acquire mindbody I will be able to make use of the interval and not be there when the attack arrives. This ability requires many years of practice to develop to a point where I can sense the intent with any regularity.
Now does not permit motion. Now has no extension either into the past or into the future. Now is the dimensionless present and the motion I perceive occurs because I can never experience now in its completeness. If I could, then all motion would cease and time would stand still. It follows that I must exist close to now but never quite reaching now in its fullness. It further follows that if I cannot exist at now I must exist all around it. Around now are past and future wherein I exist both forward and backward from now. Since past and future are creations of my mind, necessary to make sense of now that changes continually, I am led to conclude that motion through time is an illusion. What I perceive as motion is remembrance of things past and anticipation of things to come.
Via Aikido, I am able to approach now in an ordered way. I can approach now without limit. I cannot, however, reach now in any real sense. I will be forever locked out of now, existing in past and future to some limitled degree. Training allows me to make the limit smaller and smaller as I learn to lose myself in the moment and consequently become less and less aware of my self.
Interpreting my sensory input I create the universe but it's physical only and who can believe that it's all there is?
The universe is vast beyond my comprehension. And yet, in a sense, I create the very universe that I can't begin to comprehend. The universe I experience is a result of my interpretation of what my senses gather. The interpretation in turn is affected by who I am and what I have learned over the years. Beneath it all lies the question: is there an underlying ‘real' reality?
You and I can look at the same apple and agree it is red. But when pressed for details we will not agree precisely on the ‘redness' of the red. We are both approximating the color red based on the limitation of our visual acuity. Who's right? Is there a real red beyond our field of vision? Does it matter?
Aikido is like the apple. I create my Aikido from sensory input provided by my partner when he attacks me. All that I have learned about Aikido plus how I view the universe and my place in it will aid me in interpreting that input, from which will arise technique of a certain form. You will go through the same process and the form of your technique will be slightly different from mine. Can it ever be otherwise? Whose technique is right? Is there a ‘real' Aikido that lies beyond our ability to perceive it? Does it matter?
Some believe unbendable arm is a trick, a ruse to fool the masses; still though, the arm doesn't bend, does it?
Unbendable arm is what hooked me on Aikido. As a life long resistance trainer, the fact that I could, without overt muscular resistance, keep my arm from bending while someone much bigger and stronger strained to bring my hand to my shoulder awakened in me the idea that Aikido held mysteries worth plumbing.
Unbendable arm is a Ki exercise. I learn, from performing this exercise, that strength isn't merely bulging muscles and that there is a profound difference between stiff and soft. Ki exercises provide me with a way to train myself to find a reliable state of being while being tested in various ways. There's no mystery here, just practice. Ongoing practice of Ki exercises sets up a feedback loop within me that continually corrects my efforts.
Ki development is attainable by anyone. There are no select few who possess arcane secrets that can be passed on to a further select few and so on. Maruyama Sensei told Mary and me that "Ueshiba did it, I do it and you can do it too." Anyone is capable of doing what he does, it's a matter of practice, practice and more practice.